Chapter 17: 99 Problems
Robin pounded away at the heavy punch bag in front of him like it had personally wronged him in some horrific way. Each rapid impact upon the dense leather released a loud 'smack' that reverberated around the gym as it swung from each blow, never allowed to stand still.
Robin strained his eyes through the pain of his muscles, powering through his weariness and fatigue with a single mindedness that approached a Zen like state, zoning out the tiredness and hurt. He had been at this for near 45 minutes and the strain was beginning to show in his movements, regardless of his determination.
His hands were weighed down with weighted boxing gloves as this training session was dedicated to working his upper body and arms. He threw punches as fast as he could, focusing on speed and accuracy over power. Each snap forwards and backwards of his hand put immense strain on his arm as it worked to not only keep the weight at the end up but also moving quickly. His upper back muscles ached and throbbed while his biceps, triceps and forearms experienced more of a shooting pain with every strike. A hell of a workout.
Just what he wanted.
He wanted to distract himself from his current situation. Forget about the loss of his teammate, the reintroduction of his old mentor into his professional life and his strained relationship with his team. Forget about the infuriating fact he had no control over the situation. Nope, he wouldn't think about that, just focus on hitting that same spot over and over and over…
His right hand shot forward again and this time Robin didn't have the strength to keep it up high enough. The glove met the bag with a dull thud, two inches beneath where he had been aiming.
The titan leader frowned angrily at the gently swinging bag, staring at his inadequate contact and felt anger well up in him again.
Heedless of the cries of his body, Robin let out a strangled yell and attacked the punchbag with a ferocious vengeance. Kicking, punching, elbowing, kneeing, even head-butting the inanimate object in his aimless rage. He lasted all of sixty seconds.
After a wild haymaker glanced off the bag, Robin overbalanced and, unable to control the weights on his hands any longer, fell to the padded ground gasping for breath.
He lay there for twenty seconds silently cursing between gulps of air, before he raised his head and painfully got to his feet. It wouldn't do for his team to find him in such an undignified condition, given the current circumstances. He undid the clasps of his gloves and let them fall where he stood before making his way out of the gym on rubbery legs.
Five minutes later he stood beneath a stream of freezing cold water that pounded relentlessly into the top of his head. After three minutes of silently enduring the icy torment, Robin reached out and turned the temperature up to more tolerable levels.
He let out a sigh as the water turned warm and his tensed muscles relaxed under the soothing water. With a weary sigh, he rested his head against the tiled wall of his shower.
'How did everything get so screwed up?'
'Beastboy gone, Batman takes him, team at my throat. What the hell do I do?'
Robin shook his head quickly, cursed again and manipulated the shower controls to release a brief blast of frigid water once again, making him gasp and tense. After four seconds he set the temperature back to normal and started to relax again after his self-induced shook.
'Come on; get your head in the game. You're still leader, THE LEADER of the Teen Titans. You can work this out. Just analyse the situation and work it to your advantage. Now come on, start at the beginning. So, where to begin? Guess it all comes back to Beastboy…'
He had taken an immediate liking to Beastboy when he had first met him all those years ago, Robin reflected.…
"Zottai." The oddly attractive yet terrifying alien murmured with a smirk before lunging at Robin. He tensed, knowing he couldn't hope to match her in strength and prepared to try to dodge the attack.
Suddenly a large, green ram appeared out of nowhere and powerfully butted the girl through the air and down the street, before shifting mid-air into a lanky, green, masked boy, who promptly stood to attention and saluted Robin.
"Ex Doom Patrol member Beastboy sir! How can I help?!
Robin's eyes rose under his mask. He had never been called 'Sir' before. And he had certainly never been saluted or afforded that much respect in his life. He liked it.
Then the boy's eyes seem to bug out of his mask as recognition flared in them. "Wowzers, you're Robin, aren't you sir?!" He exclaimed with another salute.
A smirk appeared on Robin's face as pride rose within him. He was liking this kid and the obvious admiration and awe he held for him. It was nice to have someone give him the respect he deserved. Robin held his head high as he answered.
"Well you can start by not calling me 'sir.' He said, raising an eyebrow in amusement and at the sheer joy in the young green boy's eyes.
Still saluting Beastboy spoke, "Well let me just say that's it's a real honour to be-"
"Beastboy? Was it?" Robin interrupted somewhat condescendingly. He was enjoying the near hero worship that this guy was giving him, but also sort of pitied him for being such a follower. Still, the kid clearly had some ability and talent, maybe he could use him in some way.
"Yes, sir!" The eager boy replied, staring in awe.
Robin raised an eyebrow and simply pointed to his left. Beastboy followed the path of his finger just in time to see a bus hurtling through the air towards him. The two heroes jumped out of the way, Beastboy barely making it as the bus passed close by.
Robin shook his head at the boy's unawareness, unless he heard a screech of metal and grinding of concrete behind. Turning, Robin saw a figure taking the full brunt of the airborne bus, actually standing up to it and stopping its path towards the ground. With a grunt, they tossed the vehicle aside and strolled confidently forward, revealing a hooded person that, judging from his hands and lower face was an African-American male. One red eye pulsed oddly in the shadows of his hood.
'Hmm, I'll have to watch out for that one.' Robin thought to himself, 'He seems like far more of a threat than that Beastboy kid and he doesn't look like the type to salute anyone and call them sir. But he's obviously a strong meta. Maybe together with him and Beastboy…
"Yo! Who's here messing up my neighbourhood?!" The figure called out loudly.
Apparently Beastboy also sensed the self-assurance and poise of the imposing figure and quickly tried to win him over. "She started it!" He replied, pointing at the raging extra-terrestrial.
The three males watched as the girl from space raised her hands and let loose a barrage of green energy bolts. The next minute was spent in frantic running and dodging as the emerald projectiles of power exploded all along the street, destroying and damaging all they collided with.
The boys found themselves taking cover behind the very same bus that had nearly taken their lives earlier.
Robin gasped for air as he watched a building collapse in on itself, a huge cloud of dust rising from the remains. 'Damn, my first week in this city and I'm up against some alien that appears as strong as Superman. Dammit!' This was not how he had envisioned coming here. Robin's hands curled into fists as the dark male spoke in a deep voice, "Girl's gonna' wreck the whole city!"
Robin narrowed his eyes and took a deep breath. He was not going to lose. He was going to show them all what he could do, show them all he didn't need Batman, show them he was a hero, not a sidekick.
"I won't let her," he said coldly, "I won't lose this fight!" He pounded a fist into his hand before swiftly rounding the end of the bus and charging at the girl. The other two boys looked at each other before following.
Suddenly a wall of black energy appeared in front of them. Looking up, Robin saw it was in the shape of a giant bird of some kind, complete with wings and beak. He shivered. It felt cold, unnatural, foreign. He didn't like it.
A shaky and insecure female voice spoke from behind.
"Maybe…fighting isn't the answer."
Robin turned to find a cloaked figure had suddenly appeared behind him. He immediately analysed them, deducing that the person was probably responsible for the force field and possessed powers of some kind. A blue cape covered the individual from head to toe; only the eyes and lower face showing through. The figure stood with body turned away and head down, projecting an image of vulnerability and uncertainty. 'Looks and sounds like a girl. And obviously a hero of some sorts as well. Probably not even as much of a threat as the green kid. Maybe I can turn this into something…' Robin thought to himself, a seed of an idea planted in his mind.
He felt the aura fade behind him and turned to face the smoking and obviously exhausted alien.
'Time to take charge of the situation.'
"Stand down." He stated in a commanding voice to the green kid, the black guy and the cloaked girl behind him. As he expected, Beastboy saluted and the girl didn't move but the other one spoke up.
"What do you; think you're boss or something?"
Robin stared into the hostile face of the hooded teenager. He didn't want to go toe to toe with this guy. 'Sincerity is probably my best bet.'
"Just give me a chance." He said. The teenager considered him a moment, before lowering his raised fist.
Robin turned and walked towards the downed alien, a small, satisfied smile on his face.
Robin smirked into the jet of water. 'It all went according to plan.'
When he had been first confronted by Beastboy, the thought of taking him on as some sort of sidekick or prodigy had occurred to him. It appealed to Robin's nature, not to mention his ego. Training up a successful hero and having a good relationship with them would put him on par with Batman even above him, as he could be a successful hero and not be completely socially miserable. However it was just an idea at the time and he probably wouldn't have acted on it if he hadn't encountered Cyborg and Raven shortly after.
It was when he had first seen Raven, the idea of forming a team had solidified in his head. His own version of the Justice League. Robin knew the value in teamwork, how a group of heroes could achieve and succeed together where one would crash and burn. He had decided, then and there to form a team; with himself at the helm of course. He had then immediately started setting himself up as leader of the group, subconsciously ordering Beastboy and Cyborg to charge Starfire from the bus, listening to Raven's advice and choosing to act on without consulting anyone and finally having a showdown with Cyborg, who conveniently had even brought up the term 'leader.' Robin had learned a lot from the protector of Gotham and manipulating and reading people was something he had excelled at. Within minutes of meeting the other heroes, Robin had already established himself as the leader, before the idea of a team had even entered anyone else's mind.
He had sized Beastboy, Cyborg and Raven all up in seconds and his first impressions had turned out to be true. Of course, he had never considered that the destructive alien they had been combating would become one of the members of the team he was dreaming up in his head. But she had fallen into place well within the team.
Starfire had had leadership thrust onto her her entire life and was pleased to be released from high expectations and duty. Even though she had been a princess on Tamaran, she had still had to answer to someone above her in the chain of command, meaning she had experience taking orders and following them without question. Additionally, she never seemed to cross Robin at all for some reason.
Raven followed a similar path. He had been correct in his first analyses of her; she had been shy, awkward and submissive throughout the founding of the titans. While her social discomfort had dwindled over the years, her docile and passive nature had remained and she had never once challenged his leadership.
As Robin had predicted from the start, Cyborg had been his first threat to the leadership of the titans. The two had clashed many times in first few months after the team's founding as Cyborg did not like having to take orders and often took on somewhat of a Lone wolf role in fighting, which Robin would make sure to admonish in mission debriefings, leading to yet more arguments.
There had been a few times where Robin had almost exerted his leadership too much, leading to the team almost losing Cyborg more than once. Things had come to a head after Robin had sent Cyborg to assist the Titans East after Cyborg had come back after quitting the team due to his and Robin's failed Sonic Boom attack and the ensuing argument. Robin's eagerness to re-establish his control and leadership had almost led to Cyborg leaving the team for good when the Titan's East had asked him to stay on as leader.
Much to Robin's relief, Cyborg had returned eventually in order to help the Titans take down Plasmus, saving Robin's life in the process. Conveniently, this had cemented Cyborgs place in the team as second in command as he saw the team and Robin needed him.
It had been a long fought battle, but Robin had eventually won Cyborg over and his team was complete under his leadership.
Robin frowned and turned the heat of the shower up a bit.
Beastboy had also initially fitted into the team as Robin predicted. Having served in a team for years, following had come naturally to the new titan and the rigid and strict mentality and attitudes he had been exposed to during his time in the Doom Patrol had translated into the first few months in the titans. This, coupled with his awe at working under such a renowned hero as Robin, had led to him being the perfect team member. Also, he was somewhat of a social butterfly during the founding of the team and had worked as somewhat of a catalyst to bring the team together, quickly befriending Cyborg and Starfire and being the only one stupid/brave enough to approach Raven.
But things changed over time as Beastboy relaxed into his role in the team. No longer subject to the harsh and stringent rule of his old team, he had enjoyed his newfound freedom and the more laid back attitude to crime fighting immensely. Robin had noticed this, but was happy to let him lose his more serious tone as long as he didn't slack off.
However, during the first year of the titans operating, Robin found himself running into problems with the green titan. As Beastboy had grown more comfortable in his position as a titan he had started to… express himself more. Originally Beastboy had been very easy to control and predict, but with his growing confidence he had started taking more risks, telling bad jokes, becoming more curious, pulled pranks, thought of consequences less and started deviating from orders slightly. Sometimes, he just acted straight up stupidly.
Robin had watched as Beastboy's changes started to affect things. On the one hand, Beastboy beginning to trust himself had aided his fighting skills immensely, even if he didn't follow orders to the letter as much, he got the task he was given done which was what Robin cared about the most. He also played the part of comic relief well, keeping the team relaxed, easy going and not too tense. However, while his evolving attitudes had helped on the field and tower, they had caused problems elsewhere.
For example, Beastboy had once thoughtlessly tried to install a computer game on the Titan computer mainframe, inadvertently triggering a virus in Cyborg's software and making him go haywire – a complete disaster. But Beastboy had come up with his own unique solution to the situation and in a moment of brilliance Robin had not suspected he was capable of, had transformed into a microscopic germ and cleansed Cyborg of his virus himself.
While he was becoming a double edged sword of sorts, Robin was content to curb his more extreme behavior while helping him reach his full potential. It wasn't until the Beast incident that Robin had learned that Beastboy wasn't just expressing himself more. He was becoming more like himself.
His true self.
Robin had first seen it when Beastboy had taken on Adonis alone, after the vain villain had managed to combat the whole team singlehandedly. Beastboy had become enraged for some reason and his jokester persona had fallen away, leaving a determined and serious hero behind. Robin had watched as the new Beastboy had systematically and viciously taken Adonis apart, literally piece by piece. He remembered seeing a focused ferociousness in the hard emerald eyes and an unforgiving wildness and savagery that had forced Robin to completely re-evaluate his view of the green titan. He had had no idea Beastboy had such contained power and potential and was eager to see it again.
The others had seemed to have forgotten about the fight in the wake of the Beast's emergence, but Robin remembered it clearly. He remembered that Beastboy had changed into an entirely different personality before being exposed to any of the chemical that had supposedly brought about the appearance of the Beast. He remembered Beastboy's announcement, 'I'm not a man. I'm an animal!' He remembered the caged beasts cowering in fear as the changeling stalked from the room after standing up to Raven for the first time, without a hint of fear or weakness present.
For the next few days, Robin had tolerated the new behaviour Beastboy exhibited, letting him throw his weight around and pick fights, knowing it work out in his favour soon enough. He was right of course. After taking an argument too far with Raven, Robin found himself with his team at his back facing an alone Beastboy. From his strategic position Robin had been able to exert his leadership over Beastboy in a way that was fair and just. He had assumed that the issue had been dealt with and Beastboy would follow the same route Cyborg had taken, but hadn't expected the entire Beast situation to occur. It provided Beastboy with an excuse for his actions and Robin realised that his putting of Beastboy in his place had become null and void. His annoyance at this led to his poor handling of the situation which got out of hand fast.
Robin flinched at the memory and turned around in the shower. Cyborg was right in his accusation. As leader, Robin had let his emotions dictate his actions during the event and was paying the consequences now. It would require some strategic thinking to smooth over the dispute tomorrow.
'But back to Beastboy.' Robin thought as he turned the temperature up again, heedless of the thickening haze of steam in his private bathroom. After the Beast incident, he had resolved to keep a closer eye on Beastboy now that he knew there was a side to the half-human that was both powerful and uncontrollable.
Raven had managed to take Beastboy out of his post-Beast slump and the Green Bean had been back to his old wise-cracking self in no time. But Robin had again noticed a difference in his behaviour and only had himself to blame for it.
Beastboy had lost his respect for Robin.
It had seemed that during the Beast incident, Robin had pushed too hard, been too forceful, interrogated too much. Whatever the reason, afterwards whenever Beastboy looked at Robin, there was no more gleam of awe in his eye. No more was he star struck. No more did Beastboy look up to the leader of the titans.
It had started out small but symbolic. Beastboy disobeyed a direct order and kept a back a small larva that he was convinced would make a good pet, despite Robin clearly telling him not to. By the time the titan leader had found out about the insubordination, Starfire had already christened 'Silkie' her bumgorf and the new mascot of the titans. His hands had been tied. Beastboy had gotten away with it.
And he had gradually grown bolder. When Robin had left on his quest to become stronger, he came home to learn Beastboy had broken into his room and put on Robin's costume before convincing the others to do the same. Robin had responded weeks later by refusing to buy him his own moped and things had only escalated from there.
Beastboy had taken Cyborg's place as the biggest threat to Robin's leadership. Jokes became more disrespectful. Orders became more like guidelines. Pranks became more personal and humiliating. Robin had struggled immensely trying to quell Beastboy's attack on his person without coming across as a dictator, unreasonable or someone that couldn't take a joke, which was difficult as Beastboy always had the support of the team on his side when poking his 'fun' at the leader. Like with Starfire and Silkie or the rest of the titans and Robin's costumes. Robin had been blind to this at first and it had taken the single biggest conflict of the titans for him to open his eyes to it.
It had all started when that locator pod had smashed its way into the common room of Titan Tower, stating that the Doom Patrol was in trouble. Beastboy's demeanour had immediately changed. No more goofy smiles, no more immaturity, no more mister nice guy.
This had continued throughout the mission. Questions were met with short, sharp replies. Orders had been barked and criticisms dished out, 'You're moving too slow!' For all intents and purposes, Beastboy had led the investigation and search for his old team even going so far as to shout Robin's signature order, 'Titan's, go!' and Robin could do nothing to stop him,
It was like his personality matched his persona during his fight against Adonis. Strong, assertive and serious. The mask of the happy-go-lucky jokester had again been removed. And Robin was trying to figure out who and what was underneath.
When The Titans had eventually met up with the Doom Patrol, Robin watched the interaction between Beastboy and his former leader Mento carefully. And he hadn't liked what he saw. Beastboy stood up to him without a hint of doubt or feebleness. He had looked Mento in the eye and defied him. And when Mento had asked Beastboy to accompany the Doom Patrol in their pursuit, Beastboy had looked at the titans then turned back and said he would go. He straight up left the titans to go work with his old team, his only excuse being that it was 'something he needed to do.'
That had really set alarm bells ringing in Robin's head.
It was shortly after that those alarms bells turned into sirens.
During the entire following conflict with the Brotherhood of Evil Beastboy had remained more closed off than before, more independent, more responsible. He had been a fighting asset to the titans and Robin had been too focused on combating the threat to pay much attention to him. But that had changed when Robin had hit on the idea of distributing titan communicators to the rest of the young heroes in the world as the team was flying back to Jump, by splitting up to keep it efficient.
Beastboy had strongly disagreed with the order, saying 'It's better if we stick together. I've been fighting those guys most of my life and I'm telling, you can never underestimate them.'
All of Robin's past suspicions had returned with renewed force and he had been quick to stamp his authority down on Beastboy, who remained silent but went along with the order.
Robin cringed as he remembered the moment the T-ship had split up, almost sending each titan to their deaths. Beastboy had been right. The whole thing was planned. A trap that almost resulted in the destruction of the titans. Destruction that Robin had been powerless to stop after being taken down by Madame Rouge.
But Beastboy hadn't been stopped, hadn't been powerless and in the end, had been responsible for singlehandedly saving the entire Titan network.
Robin hands subconsciously clenched into fists, hot water running in rivulets through his bare knuckles. He had demanded to know every detail of what had transpired during his capture and had read the reports so many times, he had them practically memorised.
Beastboy had managed to get to an emergency titan base where he had met Pantha, Mas, Herald and Jericho. The escapees had been discouraged and had practically given up hope before Beastboy displayed what Robin had suspected and feared was in his blood: leadership.
Beastboy had taken command naturally and effortlessly and brought out the best in those he led. He had taken a group of titans consisting of a teleporter, a strong woman, a spiritual possessor and one half of a speed team and united them. Led them. And most of all, Inspired them. His strong dedication, unfailing optimism and strength of will had shown he possessed a leadership trait that Robin had always struggled with – inspiring and motivating his team. He stood his ground, showed his backbone, never gave up and came out on top. But at the same time managed to win his team over to his side, just like he had done with Star and Silkie and the rest of the titans with his uniforms, albeit to a lesser extent. He had gotten four random heroes to believe in him, trust in him and stand by him all in a very short space of time. It had taken Robin years to feel comfortable and secure in his role as leader, but Beastboy had seemingly fell into it naturally.
'Maybe his natural ability is linked in some way to the Beastly side of him somehow? Who is he really underneath that stupid grin? And what the hell is he doing with Batman!?'
Robin groaned in defeat and irritation and went to turn off the shower, fed up with this train of thought as it was leading him nowhere. His hand had just touched the cool metal when, in a collision of neutrons in his brain, a thought popped into existence in his head. Robin raised his eyebrows as he considered it. He spoke slowly to himself.
"He's with Batman."
Nearly 60K words into this and I'm still using flashbacks and such to establish character relations. Whew!
So, I hope you now have a clearer understanding of Robin and Beastboy's relationship, specifically Robin's 'problem' with the green machine. If not, leave comment and I'll be sure to try to address you, either on a personal level or working any advice or feedback you may have into future chapters.
Let me know what you think! Good or bad!
Jesusfreak124 – You're just full of questions, aren't you? :) Stay tuned to find out.
LiumD – Well here's another!
Mincymina – Yeah, I think the show oversimplified a lot with Beastboy, shame really.
Liketotescray – That's great! I think being fresh on this site is definitely a must and I'm glad I am in your eyes! Alas, the pairings will probably not be coming for a time, some development in the making though :)
Shugokage – More relations!
BartWLewis – Probs not. But I'm glad I'm keeping you guessing. Couldn't you see them being happy for their friends though, if Batman was promising to help him?
N9tjhl – I'm not sure either, how does that relate to this though? And the official virus Beastboy got was called Sakutia. I have kept writing and enjoyed life, thank you! I shall not beware of small dogs however, as I own one.
EX3451 – I'm glad you approve, that sort of brought about this chapter, although I needed to address the BB / Robin relationship at some point anyway.
No, I'd say you're right. Raven has to suppress her emotions, which in turn means she is repressing her powers. Have you ever cried ridiculously hard at something and then felt oddly drained afterwards? I know I have. That was what I was going for and my logic being that drained emotion meant drained powers. Anyway, I'll be sure to try to address that in future.
And sorry for disappointing ya
The Brod Road – Sorry to crush you're hopes, but it was neither :) And yes, I get what you're saying.
Haebris – Oohhhhh. Wikipedia sir, Wikipedia :)
Renton–Torston - Me alegro de que haya disfrutado de este capítulo. Y que definitivamente van a hablar de esto!
Newboy – Just small things I'm leaving about the place, setting up stuff for the future :)
That's a ways off yet, but it will happen!
So what do you think?
A bit boring, bit slow? I can get that, but things shall start happening again now!
For those of you with intricate knowledge of the show, I'm sure you picked up on the time discrepancies in this chapter in regards to episode timings and whatnot, I did switch some events around to better suit this plot.
Questions, comments, concerns? Leave it below!