until you awake from the dream

new teen titans (dcu), raven

date posted: 2024-05-11

summary: With her eyes shut, standing in the dark of her room, illuminated only by the television set that she should turn off soon, Raven embraces stillness, the rattles and hums of the cassette tape in the tape deck, the low hiss of the tape and television coupled together: imperfections.

word count: 906 words

notes: this is so self indulgent it's not even funny. sorry.

glitched screen shot from a faye wong video CD file, showing faye herself turned to the side, her face not visible and only the back of her head; this part of the image is barely visible, the rest highly glitched into pale vertical bars across the rest of the image

In her room, legs crossed on the floor, sat in front of the television and tape deck that Richard had insisted on purchasing for her, Raven gazes at the tapes in her lap, the weight of them collapsing the thin layer of her dress stretched between her legs, feels the hiss of the television static, the fuzz of it making the thin hair of her arms stand, and ponders imperfectionism.

The tapes in her lap were gifts from her fellow Titans, who seemed to have conspired to either buy or create them for her through a process she still doesn't quite understand: Garfield, with his sloppy, slimy grin, presented his tape to her, the words "for you" scrawled in what she can only assume is his attempt at cursive on the card inside the tape's case; Donna, presenting a sort of video tape — a VHS, she recalls — for a Disney film, of which she had seen none, and at which Donna had expressed her shock and surprise, and with this seemed to attempt to mend something that had always been broken in her.

Then, there was Joseph, with his carefully crafted cassette tape, the card inside delicately written in small text on each line, for each song on the tape. Raven, most of all, found his attempt the warmest, a warmth she knows she doesn't deserve.

In front of the television set, the white noise searing into her eyes, illuminating her face in the dead of night, the quiet hum of the unit like a cicada outside a window in the summer night, Raven thinks about the imperfections of such tapes, how they must crackle, and how they definitely rattle, as she's heard, whenever she picks up one of them, hears something in them move, something she isn't sure of.

Since her torrid release, her transformation into her true self, and her subsequent ressurection, her rebirth, Raven, slowly, has learned to embrace such imperfections, the quiet interruptions of humanity, the rattles and noise in her head between blinks, the low whirr of her breath rising and falling within her chest.

Donna insists that, more than anything, it is human to try. Koriand'r, despite her pointedly alien self, insists that heart and spirit is what will make her human, what makes herself human. That humanity is a state, something to achieve.

Raven realizes, then, how long it has taken her to become human.

Like the crackle of a television turned on after a long slumber, it hits her.

She blinks, stares into the abyss of the white noise on the screen, the fuzz blanketing her.

Raven looks down, then, at the tapes in her lap, the VHS tape of the Disney film bought for her by Donna, the cassette tapes created by Garfield and Joseph. She brings her hands to them, carefully, and her thumb brushes against one tape, the one with small words inscribed carefully, Joseph's, and right then, she feels something rise in her eyes, something warm, something delicate, something crackling.

The last time she cried, Raven cannot remember. It had been too long since she last felt this uncomfortable sensation, of warmth building in her, eyes swelling and squinting and blurring, cheeks rising, lips pursing. It's irrelevant, though, because nevertheless, here she is, tears slowly streaming down her face, her head lowered, the noise of the television glinting and reflecting on the cassette cases, and surely, now, her tears.

After everything she had been through, even then, Raven still does not know if she truly deserves any kindness her way. Especially after everything, she thinks now.

But, she also knows, the Titans would hate for her to hate herself so terribly. Donna would find it sad, dreadful in too kind of a way than she really deserves, but that's the kind of thinking that led Raven here, isn't it?

Looking down at the tapes in her lap, tear tracks surely staining her cheeks, she sniffles, and slowly, shakily, with her eyes closed, picks up a tape, undecided, and holds it up, and opens her eyes.

Removing the cassette tape from its case, ejecting the tape door as Victor had shown her, and inserting the correct side, the A-side, as Richard had instructed from her side, crouched and patient, while Victor did most of the teaching, and now, pushing the door closed, and pressing play on Joseph's recorded cassette, Raven turns the dial of the player, connected to cords and machines by Victor, in ways she did not understand.

Raven shuts the cassette case closed, and gathers the remaining tapes in her lap, picking them up. She stands, slowly, and as the music begins to ring out in gentle guitar strums, the television still on, still hissing and humming quietly, with her free hand, she wipes her tears.

In the dark, as Joseph's selected song plays, in gentle but building guitar melodies, an androgynous voice singing softly, Raven shuts her eyes, but still sees the piercing white of the television.

With her eyes shut, standing in the dark of her room, illuminated only by the television set that she should turn off soon, Raven embraces stillness, the rattles and hums of the cassette tape in the tape deck, the low hiss of the tape and television coupled together: imperfections.

In the dark, Raven sits at the edge of her bed, in front of the television, and, her face still tear stained, softly smiles to herself.