Chapter 39: The Sweet Escape
"Here, drink this."
"What is it?"
"Yeah? And what else?"
"…Subcutaneous micro tracker or two."
"Knew it. And why would you need to track me?"
"Just in case."
"You think I'm going to die don't you?"
"One day? definitely. But if you're going to die while you're away, it'll probably be in the next few weeks. And I hate funerals without a body."
"It's touching how much you care, you know that?"
Cassie grinned. "I have a big heart."
"Yeah and a bigger head."
"Just drink the water. Or I'll make you."
Beastboy eyed the girl sitting opposite him, then evidently decided it wasn't worth it as he tipped the contents of the glass down his throat.
"Good boy." Cassie praised, a teasing glint in her eye.
Beastboy swallowed and considered the Batgirl.
"I'm not sure I care for all this sass, Cassie."
"Sucks for you," came the swift reply.
Beastboy shot her a wide smile. Things had changed. No doubt about it. And not just between him and Cassie. A lot had changed. And like all change, part of it was good. Part of it wasn't.
"You've been out for three days."
Beastboy didn't hear or if he did, gave no sign of it. He was too busy inhaling food.
The impressive spread that Alfred had had on standby for 24 hours was rapidly disappearing into the hero. Beastboy pushed food into his mouth like he hadn't eaten in weeks, ravenously tearing at whatever he could lay a hand on. His eyes were fixed on the feast in front of him that was slowly being consumed with savage efficiency.
"Blood samples taken during-"
Alfred placed a hand on Batman's arm and a miracle happened.
Batman stopped talking.
The butler looked steadily at him, completely unaffected by the glare directed his way.
"Wait," he said simply.
There was a struggle. Cassie could see it out of the corner of her eye. This was wasting time and Batman was not in the habit of wasting time. On the other hand, he also knew that this was a sensitive moment and needed to be handled delicately. And Alfred was the expert in that area. She was dimly surprised when Batman remained silent and Alfred went back to gazing at an ignoring Beastboy with old eyes.
The boy had said one word upon waking. "Food."
He had yet to look any of them in the eye, instead following mutely to the kitchen in his loose hospital gown and heading straight for the loaded down table.
Since then a nervous tension had permeated the air.
Batman, fully costumed as usual, was as stoic as ever. Alfred felt his age, knowing what had transpired and weighed down with the possibility that yet another person that had come through the Batclan was on the verge of going the same way as so many others.
Cassie just wished he would look at her.
She sat on the other side of Batman, trying her best not to fidget as she watched Beastboy eat. Something had changed, she could read it in the ferociousness of his bites and the look in his eyes. She didn't know what it meant and that scared her.
The air seemed to get thicker as the mountain of food slowly grew smaller. Eventually the last morsel was swallowed.
Beastboy looked down at the wiped clean plate as if trying to make more appear.
Then he closed his eyes and leaned back into his chair with a massive exhale.
"Thank you Alfred. That was possibly the best meal I've had in my life."
The butler cracked a smile. He hadn't been expecting that. Nice to know some of his lessons had been remembered. "You are quite welcome Master Beastboy."
The green hero rotated his head around until cracking and popping noises filled the air. Then he opened his eyes.
'They changed too,' Cassie realized, reading the minute changes in the way they moved. There were no more small adjustments, no more tiny flicking back and forth. Just a cool, steady gaze. The apprehension tightened in her chest.
Beastboy stared unwaveringly into the mask of Batman.
"You set me up."
The words were said simply, plainly and with no inflection. A statement, not a question.
Batman replied with the same tone.
"Yes. I did."
For a moment, a real flash of rage, pain and betrayal flashed through Beastboy's expressive eyes. But it was doused just as quickly as it appeared.
Beastboy rolled his stiff shoulders as he looked down at himself and became aware of the loose hospital gown he wore and how damned uncomfortable it was. He pulled at the front of it, but it was tied around his back and wouldn't be moved.
With a loud ripping sound, Beastboy wrenched the garment off of himself and threw it behind him where it fluttered gently to the stone floor. He was left in just a pair of black boxers Alfred had put on him when he had come in. Beastboy didn't seem to notice his state of undress.
He looked back up at the blank mask.
"Because I judged it would yield results."
Beastboy eyed the man with a curiously dead expression.
"Results," he repeated, voice dull.
Batman's expression didn't change.
"I told you when I offered to train you. I don't care about tact, privacy or consideration-"
"I care about results." Beastboy finished for him.
Beastboy stared dully down at his empty plate, eyes glazed.
"And you remember what I said after that?"
Batman stayed silent.
"I said, 'I'm really putting myself in your hands, aren't I?"
Batman's face remained rock hard.
"And you did so. Quite admirably."
"And then you did this."
"Yes," Batman said, no inflection in his voice. "And I'd do it again."
Beastboy lifted his eyes and focused on the Dark Knight like he was really seeing him for the first time.
"I know somebody else that only cares about results," Beastboy said slowly. "Like you, he's also a master at manipulation and coercion."
Alfred frowned, looking across at Batman while Cassie looked confused but Beastboy didn't notice either of them, only having eyes for the man opposite him.
"Like you, he's also entirely single-minded, probably entirely dead inside and has absolutely no problem leading those who follow him to into torture and worse. Like pieces on a chess board."
"Mento cared about you Beastboy," Batman broke in. "He still does. But this was for your own good and he would agree with me."
Beastboy didn't react, just kept staring with those dull eyes.
"It seems he's more intelligent than you, though." Beastboy went on, ignoring the interruption. "After all, like you, he doesn't have any superpowers. The Brain is just a genius."
There it was.
Batman's head shifted backward a bare centimeter. A reaction.
"The similarities are eery, aren't they?" Beastboy went on, a new light in his eyes and emotion on his face at seeing Batman's minuscule flinch.
"You're just like him."
Cassie watched intently as Beastboy started showing cracks. His brow twitched and his jaw clenched wildly.
The words grinded through the air like sandpaper on rock.
Beastboy watched for any reaction in the Batman's face with desperate eyes. No change. None.
"You don't deny it?" Beastboy asked, eyes wide.
Batman remained still a moment, examining the nearly naked hero on the other side of the table.
"It's a meaningless statement."
"Wha-?! No, it's-
"The real question is," Batman cut across him, voice hard as nails. "Do you wish I hadn't done it?"
Surprise briefly flitted across Beastboy's face. Then his whole face darkened and he was suddenly on his feet, mouth open to scream about the pain and the agony of the experience in the damned man's face. To throw the crumbling of his world and the questioning of everything he had ever held dear into Batman's dead, emotionless face. To hurt him with it.
But he couldn't.
A moment passed as Beastboy stood, face mottled dull red and eyes bulging.
Then his eyes slowly closed as his whole body relaxed and he sagged down on his feet.
Cassie was alarmed at the sudden shift and made to get out of her chair but a firm hand from Batman who hadn't even glanced in her direction stopped her.
The most unexpected sound, a low laughter, came from beneath the stringy fringe of Beastboy's lowered head. It grew stronger as his whole body shook and he half fell into his seat again.
He devolved into a brief coughing fit before catching his breath again, while the three opposite looked on.
With a heavy sigh, Beastboy finally raised his head. A reluctant and pained smile on his face.
"No." He stated with a shake of his head. "I don't."
"And that's why it's a meaningless statement," Batman said steadily. "I do what needs to be done. I do what others don't want to do, or can't do."
Beastboy sobered again, the smile sliding off his face.
"And you think that's a good thing?"
Batman stared across the table at the hero opposite him. "I never said that."
Beastboy nodded slowly, eyes dropping to the table yet again.
"You just… watched," He said lowly. "I smelt you. You watched it." His voice had taken on a new tone. One of barely concealed tragedy and pain. One of betrayal.
"It was necessary," Batman reiterated.
Very, very quietly, with eyes still down Beastboy said, voice breaking, "I know. But…how did you just watch?"
Cassie stiffened instantly, reading his body language. The knot in her chest feeling as though Superman himself had just tightened it with all his strength. Her eyes felt hot.
"Like I said-"
"He's talking to me."
Cassie's voice cracked as she spoke. She swallowed, trying to get rid of the lump in her throat but it didn't help.
"Beastboy I'm sorr-"
"Cassie has nothing to do with this." Batman cut across her. "I ordered her to stay back."
"Was that it?" Beastboy asked the table. "An order? So you just watched as she- as she…"
"No," Alfred stated strongly out of nowhere, making Beastboy look up.
Alfred turned to Cassie, voice still brokering no room for argument. "Show him."
For the first time since he had woken up, Beastboy lifted his eyes to Cassie. Who avoided his eyes and looked down, the thick spikes of her messy hair the only thing visible.
She didn't know what to do.
Her friend was hurting. And the only way to stop or help that hurting was to show him. But… She was scared of showing him. Scared of what it meant and entailed. She hadn't regretted her actions but now, she wasn't so sure of them. And the indecision was killing her.
Alfred's smooth voice interjected. "Show him, Cassie ."
The teenage hero nodded shakily once. Slowly, she reached down and started rolling up the long black sleeves of the top she was wearing. Beastboy's wide eyes slid down to her hands.
Reluctantly her fingers pulled at the fabric until they revealed her wrists.
Dark purple lines crisscrossed over her flesh. They looked like they were healing well, but the original injuries must have been deep.
"Disobeyed an order."
For the first time ever, Beastboy saw Cassandra Cain visibly flinch. And then he understood.
Batman had effectively saved Cassie's life. He had taken her in, trained her, given a new purpose in life. He had saved her from her guilt and suffering. Her loneliness. Probably more. Beastboy hadn't really asked much about Cassie's past, and she his.
But now. She had disobeyed him. She had gone against an order and he had had to physically and by the looks of her wrists painfully, restrain her.
Because she had been trying to save him.
Suddenly an avalanche of shame and guilt crashed into Beastboy. He had basically accused her of watching him suffer as heartlessly as Batman had and now… now he saw how wrong he was.
Without quite knowing how he was on his feet and walking unsteadily around the table.
Then he was in front of the girl who still hadn't met his gaze and without a thought or notion as to what he was doing, he leaned down and hugged her.
Cassie froze for a moment, a breath catching in her throat. Nobody moved in the Batcave.
Then she leaped up throwing her arms around her best friend and crushing him close to her.
"I'm so sorry," Beastboy choked out. "I didn't mean-"
"It's alright," Cassie interrupted in a thick voice, "Understand."
It was a new sensation and she instantly hated it. The way tracks of tears made their way down her cheeks, tickling her skin as they slid down. Mucus stuffing up her nose and sobs forcing their way up her chest. It was the epitome of showing weakness and vulnerability.
But somehow… it felt incredible.
Cassandra Cain felt the heaviness, the oppression rise to the surface and force it's way out of her eyes in the form of tears. It was… relieving. All the tightness inside unwound itself. All the tension flowed out her eyes and all the hurt was soothed.
She pulled tighter on Beastboy's body, forcing him closer as she cried without reserve for the first time in far, far too long.
He seemed to sense it and wrapped his long arms further around her in a cocoon of acceptance and reassurance. Tears pricked his eyes as well as held the girl securely to him.
"You, you really… for me?" Beastboy whispered, completely overwhelmed.
Cassie just pulled tighter.
Beastboy buried his face in her shoulder like she had in his.
"Thank you," he murmured, cheeks wet with emotion.
The two held each other tighter until both were aware of damp spots on their skin caused by the other's tears. The bat cave had never before seen such an outburst of emotion.
And for good reason.
A harsh, grating noise filled the air as batman cleared his throat like there was gravel in it.
Reluctantly, with one final squeeze, the two unfurled from each other's arms. With a last lingering look of deep-hearted gratitude, Beastboy returned to his seat. He wiped his face on his arm as he sat back down.
Normally, he would be squirming in embarrassment but now… well, he had no idea. It just didn't seem that embarrassing now.
Beastboy heaved a deep sigh and rubbed his eyes with the palms of his eyes. He had no idea what happened now, but he did know one thing. He lowered his hands and looked at Batman with freshly red eyes that held a touch of sadness.
"You know I can't stay here after that."
"You were never going to stay here." Batman crisply replied, lip curled ever so slightly. Alfred hid a smirk. Apparently, there was a little protective father somewhere in Master Wayne.
"I said I would train you and I have. Your time here is over."
Cassandra looked rapidly from Batman to Beastboy and back again with swollen and puffy eyes, taking in the cool acceptance of the situation they both displayed. That was it. It was over. The only real friend she had ever had in her life… was about to walk out of it.
"You know, you kinda remind of myself, you know that?"
"Annoying?" Cassie suggested with a mocking eyebrow.
That wiped the smile from her face. Cassie's height, or lack of it, had always been a sore spot for her.
Beastboy laughed at her furrowed brow and irritated eyes.
"Haha, You're not on my level yet young padawan."
Cassie glared at him playfully.
"Maybe not, but I can still kick your ass."
Beastboy felt the hairs on the back of neck stand up as she leaned forward aggressively, tasting the battle that was to come on the tip of his tongue.
Then the straps over his chest dug in.
He looked up to find Cassie smiling smugly across from him.
"I'll make you prove that when I get back."
Cassie's smile faded slightly but also seemed to grow warmer. Beastboy found himself liking it.
"I look forward to it." She said softly.
"It won't be that long," Beastboy said kindly, "I'll hightail it back in no time."
She smiled and opened her mouth.
Cassie felt a cavernous void open up her chest.
She looked rapidly between Batman and Beastboy and saw their acknowledgment for each other in their faces. The two understood each other. And so did she. How could she expect Beastboy to stay and train under someone who had voluntarily put him through such an experience, even if it was to his benefit?
She couldn't blame him.
But that didn't make it any easier.
"But that doesn't mean I'm done with you."
Beastboy's accepting look hardened, but he didn't say anything. Batman took this as an invitation to continue.
"As I was saying, blood tests taken during your unconsciousness show elevated levels of activity in your pituitary gland and hypothalamus. testosterone and gonadotropin levels are rising and-"
"Let's skip to the bit where I ask you what that means, shall we?" Beastboy interrupted, an annoyed look on his face.
He expected Batman to narrow his eyes into the famous 'Bat-Glare,' but instead, he just spoke in a voice that carried just a hint of satisfaction.
"Looks like we are already seeing effects," Alfred interjected with a small smile.
"It means, I was right."
"And you, my boy, are in for a rather trying time soon," Alfred again cut in, smile still in place.
Beastboy leaned back in his chair and Cassie found herself again noticing the differences in his position that only she could. He moved with a fluidity that told her he was relaxed and calm but also steady and balanced. He was different.
His face, usually so expressive, either with genuine emotion or to cover his real feelings was curiously relaxed and blank. No goofy smile, no angry frowning, just collected reservation.
"How do you feel?" Alfred asked when Beastboy didn't take the bait of his last comment.
Beastboy considered for a moment before speaking.
"I feel… weird."
"In a positive or negative way?" Alfred asked.
"I, I'm not entirely sure. But I think a better way." Beastboy raised a hand in front of his face and gently rubbed his thumb over his fingertips. "Everything feels…" he frowned, searching for the right word, "Brighter. Clearer," he clarified. "And inside I feel…alive, full of energy." A new light came into his eyes. "I want to fly. Like really badly. And run. A run sounds awesome right now."
"Then I have a suggestion," Batman said. Everyone turned to him in surprise.
Beastboy cocked an eyebrow, "Since when do you make suggestions?"
"Since now. Your training here is over, you're free to do as you like."
Beastboy's eyes widened as the reality of being able to return to Titan Tower fully set in. He could go home. He could see his family again! He was expecting a tidal wave of excitement to swamp him, but it never came. Instead, there was just a strong desire tempered by the thought of what he would be losing when he left here. His eyes flicked from Alfred to Cassie on the other side of the table. He would miss them. A lot. He had a family here now as well…
"But I do have a recommendation I would advise you to consider."
Beastboy shook his head clear and leaned forward. He would be a fool to refuse to hear the superhero out.
Beastboy and Cassie glanced up as a bright green light lit up the small cabin they were sitting in.
The seat restraints sprang off of them automatically and as they both climbed up a small panel slid open beside them. Wind rushed in violently from the sapphire blue expanse beyond.
The two heroes cautiously approached the opening, using handholds on the roof above them.
Together they reached the hatch and looked out onto beauty itself.
They were hovering some three thousand feet up in one of Batman's small planes. Spread out before them was a sea of thick, lush greenery, bright as polished emerald. The green ocean met the cloudless, blue one above it in a collision of color. Nothing else seemed to exist but the green beneath and the blue above.
Well that, and the person beside them.
Beastboy tore his eyes away from the sight and tried to control the raging excitement in his belly.
The look in Cassie's eyes dimmed that joy.
"I don't think I ever thanked you!" Beastboy shouted over the roar of the engines.
"For what?!" Cassie yelled back, pulling her wild, dark hair from her face.
Cassie tilted her head to catch the word and smiled when she caught it.
'You're welcome,' she mouthed back at him, knowing he would be able to read her lips.
Indeed his eyes did focus on her mouth and hers on his when he smiled and mouthed back 'See you soon.'
Beastboy turned to the hatch and breathed in the warm, humid air. He could feel thrills of elation and anticipation searing through him.
This was Batman's suggestion.
He was being dropped into the south side of the Amazon rainforest, the largest jungle on Earth. From there he would have to make his own way back to Gotham.
Staying as an animal the entire time.
Batman had insisted that this was necessary to facilitate the melding of his animal and human side into one. He had theorized that staying in animal forms for an extended period of time would bring about a balance of animal instinct and force with human higher thinking and consciousness. While he had at first hated the idea, Beastboy now found himself agreeing.
He could feel them inside. From the moment he had woken up. Clawing, biting, scratching, roaring to get out. Needing to fight and win. To survive and flourish. To live. Needing to get out.
And for the first time in a very long time, he wanted to let them out.
Going back to the Batcave wasn't an option when the scent of the dirty, delightful, dangerous jungle hit his senses. Not even going back to Titan Tower appealed to him at the moment.
All he wanted to do was let the animal out.
And so that was what he was going to do.
And he couldn't wait.
He turned and flashed a gleaming smile at his friend, then leaped out the hatch.
He was gone.
Beastboy was gone.
Who knew for how long?
And suddenly she felt very empty inside.
Was this what his team had felt when they had first learned of his training with Batman?
Cassie hoped so.
It meant she was making progress.
Glumly, she reached out a hand to close the hatch again.
But then she was tackled by a green blur that wrapped itself tightly around her.
"Beastboy!" She gasped as she felt the sudden pressure of his body against hers as he embraced her in a massive bear hug.
"I'll miss you, Cassie!" His voice shouted in her ear. "Keep annoying Alfred for me and I'd better find Bats engaged to Catwoman by the time I get back, you hear me?!"
Cassie laughed aloud and returned the hug full force, burying her face into the crook of his neck and breathing in his scent in full appreciation for the first time.
"Leave it to me," she laughed into his collarbone.
She felt hands gently grasp the sides of her head and allowed herself to be pulled nose-to-nose with Beastboy.
"Really Cass, I couldn't have done this without you. Thank you."
What was that in her throat? Why were her eyes stinging so badly? This was an entirely different feeling to what she had felt when they had embraced in the Batcave a few days ago.
"You're welcome." She managed to croak out.
Beastboy smiled in delight and kissed her soundly on the forehead.
"Take care of yourself! Don't go dying on me, ya hear?" He said cheekily with a quick grin and a cheeky wink before throwing himself out of the airplane.
Then blinked again.
A voice crackled over the speaker and the pilot's voice sounded.
'That's another for the album I believe."
As Garfield Logan fell from the sky and Cassandra Cain blushed bright red for the first time in her young life, Deathstroke AKA Slade Wilson tested the toxin Poison Ivy had developed for him.
And flew into a rage.
At the same moment, Raven of the Teen Titans had a wet kiss placed upon her cheek.
She too, flew into a rage…
The story shall continue in:
…Rated M for Mature…
So, just a moment of your time so I can explain.
I started this story with no experience but an idea that sounded kind of cool. So I starting writing. And I had really good fun for the first 60 or 70 thousand words. But then I got bogged down in plot holes and details that I had made up as I went along and it all got very stressful very quickly.
So I took a break for a few months (or longer) before I came back to this with a fresh mind and a desire to just get it done.
So that's what I've done.
I've made a detailed plan for the next part of the story. I am very excited to write it and hopefully produce a better product than this.
I have also decided to make it "M" because I think I can do more with the story that way. I had to hold back a good bit in recent chapters because of the rating, but that will no longer be an issue. It'll also be more fun :D
And that's what it's all about right? Fun?
I lost the fun of it when I started trying to complicate things and punch (or write) above my weight.
Thank you to everyone for the encouragement and reviews and stuff. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate it. And as thanks, I would like to offer you an opportunity.
Your opportunity to contribute to Getting Greener!
So this story has a good few bugs in it. Also some missed opportunities.
I am asking for ideas from you lot for scenes or even events that would make Getting Greener a more cohesive, comprehensive or just better story. You can even write entirely if you want!
If I like your idea or outline or you're convincing enough, I will write it and add it to the story giving credit to the scene to you somewhere in the chapter.
It can be crazy, funny, sad, whatever. Go nuts. If you have ideas for how a scene or interaction can be rewritten or redone to make it better, I'd love to hear about that too.
You can leave your ideas as a review or you can send me a PM with a bit more detail.
I do want to improve this story and who better to help me than the people who actually read the thing? :D
Thanks guys 'n gals,
I shall return.
P.S - Also, just another quick note. I hate coming up with chapter names. It's the last thing I add before posting chapters. So Instead of coming up with a name, I just scroll though all of my music until I find the name of a song that vaguely relates to the chapter. Sometimes, even the tone of the song matchs the chapter as well. No doubt somebody has already picked up on this, it's hardly been subtle, but there you go. Go explore some new music.