Special shout out to Shadico. Evidently, I torture him when I release incomplete drabbles. You poor, poor thing, you.
Robin and Raven had a system. Before, the acrobat and the empath had always been the first ones to wake. Generally rising just before the sun, he to exercise, and she to meditate. As the first of the sun's rays began to lift the veil of darkness they would meet in the kitchen and chat idly while waiting on their respective coffees and teas to finish. When their morning beverages were ready Robin would pull out three papers, local, regional, and national to go over any potentially troubling events with his teammate. Their talks helped him sort out his team's schedule for the day—an outrageously difficult thing to do, considering the amount of calls they could potentially receive.
By the time they were done speaking the sun would be up, summoning the next Titan. Starfire would fly in, empowered by the "glorious" light of day, and wish everyone a good morning. Shortly thereafter Cyborg would tromp in, set on beginning his daily ritual of creating a breakfast of meaty goodness. Finally, halfway through the metal Titan's meal prep, Beast Boy would drag himself in. Bleary-eyed and barely functional, he would shlump his way into the kitchen, hanging on to the refrigerator door like a crutch as he searched for his soy milk.
Around that time Raven normally excused herself from the kitchen table, floating off to her favorite spot on the sofa to read her latest book. She always left a second before Cyborg and Beast Boy began their daily "Tofu vs. Meat" war. Robin always suspected the empath sensed an emotional upswell when they were about to start and fled before she could be dragged into the middle of it. Most of the time she was only partially successful. Eventually they would rope her in by bellowing at her to referee their squabbles. The day would progress from there.
That was the routine.
The first morning Raven was gone began as it normally did for him. He got up, dressed, exercised, washed as he normally did. It was so routine, in fact, that he believed the empath was still in the tower. It wasn't until the common room doors swished open and the dimmed auto lighting spilled out on the empty kitchen counter before him that he remembered.
She was away. The quiet addition to his daily habit had been interrupted. The Boy Wonder sighed and ran his fingers through his hair. He tried to ignore the tension building in his shoulders as his very muscles rebelled against the idea of change. The hand that had been in his hair fell to his left shoulder as he tried to roll out the sensation. Massaging the muscle between his collar bone and the top of his shoulder blades he moved to the coffeemaker.
A shadow shifted in his peripheral vision and he whirled around, fists raised towards the source. His jaw fell open. At the window stood a figure he knew well, his back to him, arms akimbo, and still as a statue.
"Beast Boy?" Robin hushed his words instinctively, though he was on the opposite end of the room from the changeling.
An ear flicked in the early morning light, the only indication that he had heard his friend speak. Slowly, as if stone had breathed life, motion began to return. He turned at the waist to look back at his friend, his usual grin set firmly in place.
The Boy Wonder busied himself with the preparation of his coffee. "You're up early."
Beast Boy's voice drew closer as he made his way towards him. "Yeah, something's got my instincts acting up."
He raised an eyebrow as he searched through a cabinet for a coffee mug. His fingers hesitated briefly as they hovered over the series of ceramic cups belonging to Raven before traveling on. Her travel mug was conspicuously absent.
Light spilled out along the counter as the refrigerator was tugged open. "It's probably one of the nocturnal animals. I haven't changed into one of them in a while."
Robin paused as he reached for the pile of newspapers sitting at the end of the counter to glance at his friend. "You mean you were up all night?"
Beast Boy's eyebrows bunched together as he reached for his carton of soy milk. "No, not really. I was sleeping just fine until about two hours ago."
"Huh," He sat back in his seat as he unfolded the first of his papers. "I must have been too noisy getting up this morning. Sorry about that."
"I guess." The changeling settled in across from him with his bowl of cereal and shrugged. "No harm done. I still need to let out some of my animals, anyway. Mind if I did that during training today?"
"Sure. Why don't you use the simulator room? Cyborg could kill the lights in there for you."
There was a slight pause as he finished chewing. "That'd be great, thanks."
The rest of the morning went by without incident.
Robin wouldn't have given the change in Beast Boy's routine much thought if it hadn't happened again the very next morning. He'd actually made a game of it, using his training to sneak past everyone's rooms on his way to exercise. He was certain no one had hear him. Yet, as he came through the common room doors there the changeling was, standing at the window, completely still and silent.
Instead of calling out to him right away Robin chose to attend to his coffee, somewhat miffed. Once he had a fresh mug he wandered over to stand next to his green friend. He blew at it a few times before gingerly touching the mug to his lips. The heat of the rim warned him that it was still too hot to sip but he did anyway and winced when he nearly scalded his tongue.
The silence stretched out between them. When Beast Boy showed no inclination of speaking the Boy Wonder was the one (for a change) to grow uncomfortable and speak. "So, I woke you again, huh?"
The green teen frowned and shifted his feet. "Nah, dude, it definitely wasn't you."
He scratched the back of his head absently, his hair still damp from his shower. "Instincts bothering you again?"
Green eyes narrowed at some point in the horizon. "Yes. No. I dunno." He crossed his arms over his chest, shoulders hunched forward. "Yesterday should've taken care of it."
Robin raised the much cooler mug to his lips, his gaze shifting to the side to regard his friend. "Think you picked the wrong animals?"
The boy gave a noncommittal grunt. "S'possible. They're not always easy to pin down…"
"Try again tomorrow." He drained his cup in a few chugs and moved away for a refill. "In the meantime, would you like to go over the news with me?"
"Yeah, sure. I can't get back to sleep like this, anyway."
The moment Starfire appeared Beast Boy was back in his usual mode. The quiet, almost brooding quality he exuded was gone. He smiled and joked as much as he normally did, and fought with Cyborg over video games and meat products and the like. He was so normal, in fact, that Robin completely forgot about his earlier advice.
It wasn't until lunchtime that the strange behavior started up again. When Beast Boy failed to show up Cyborg was sent to flush the teen out of hiding. The metal Titan came back several minutes later shaking his head.
"He's out in the hallway pacing around like a caged animal."
Robin quirked an eyebrow, "What for?"
The big man shrugged. "I dunno. He says he's not hungry ye—"
The common room doors slid open and a voice called out. "Man, I'm staaaaaaarving! You better not have hid my sandwich, Cy!"
Crisis averted, the issue was, again, dropped.
For the next week a series of little things piqued the Boy Wonder's curiosity. They were never enough to raise concern, but enough to take notice. Starfire discovered by accident that Beast Boy could be found most every night out on the roof gazing off into the bay. When asked, the same scary-still posture would loosen and vanish, morphing into the carefree boy everyone knew. Cyborg took note that the changeling chronically showed up late for lunch and, when sought out, was always found lurking in the hallway by the bedrooms.
And then there was that new morning ritual. At first, Robin had been put-off by Beast Boy's unintentional intrusion into his morning routine. He had expected him to be wildly unhinged or outrageously whiny over his inability to sleep. Instead, the green boy was remarkably subdued. Every morning without fail, the Boy Wonder would arrive to find him standing in the same place at the window, quiet and ever-vigilant. Once greeted, the changeling would animate just enough to come to the table and talk about Jump City with him.
Robin was surprised to discover that Beast Boy had an uncanny ability to think outside the box when it came to potential crime leads. Quite a few times the boy accurately strung together obscure facts from news articles and linked the events to larger organized criminal efforts. Granted, there were some theories that were patently Beast Boy in their ridiculousness like the time he became convinced Red X was a Slade-bot turned sentient and compelled to a life of high-level thievery. Still, the new perspective was pleasantly surprising all the same. He began to look forward to the morning, much like he had with Raven.
It was on one such morning that Robin decided to mention it.
"Hey, Beast Boy."
The changeling looked up from his bowl of cereal, held with great care over a copy of the Jump City Tribune he was busily scanning. "Yeah?"
"I wanted to say thank you for hanging out with me like this."
"What for?" He paused as he leaned back and drained his bowl of soymilk before adding, "S' not like you ordered me to meet you here every morning."
The Boy Wonder's finger tracked across a paragraph that had caught his attention in his own paper, not bothering to look up. "I know. But it's nice anyway. I didn't think I'd miss having someone to talk to in the mornings as much as I did."
Robin heard the soft tink of the bowl as it was set down on the counter. "What do you mean?"
He pulled his eyes away from his reading to regard his friend, gesturing to the piles of papers scattered across the table. "Well, you know, Raven used to do this with me."
"Raven was up at this ungodly hour with you?"
"Well, yeah, she's always up this early. She meditates first thing—"
Beast Boy cut him off abruptly. "What time does she get up?"
Robin's eyebrows swept downwards as he thought back. "Earlier than me, I guess. She was always here by the time I got done exercising. She's like clockwork."
Before he could say any more the changeling was on the move. His bowl was left abandoned on the counter as he pushed off from his chair and strode to the doors, gloved fingers tugging the communicator off his belt as he went.
The doors slid shut behind his green friend with a pneumatic hiss.
Off. Everything felt... Off.
"Azarath. Metrion. Zinthos."
Raven's normally impassive voice twisted into a scowl. Even her mantra tasted strange on her lips. She had been trying to fight her own mental disconnect for the past hour with little success. With a small sigh of exasperation she unfolded her legs from her lotus position, wincing when her bare feet met the cold stone floor of her dormitory. The second day of her emotional funk she had expended a great amount of energy doing a soul sweep of the magic commune. Still, the feeling of miniscule wrongness continued to weigh her down. On the third day there she had Jinx perform her own search for hexes, yet still nothing came up.
The empath turned her face up to the modest window beside her bed. Though she never did it at home, she had started leaving the window open a crack. It was the waning days of summer, and the cool breeze at night in the weakly air conditioned dormitories was certainly welcome, yet, she knew that it wasn't as simple as that. Azarath had been a stiflingly warm dimension and the monks there strictly denied the modern conveniences of other worlds. She had tolerated far warmer nights and places with the Titans without the need to leave a window open.
So why am I doing it now? She wondered, lips pursing together into a thin line. It's like I'm waiting for something.
The faint hum of her communicator set to vibrate pulled her from her thoughts. Her heart jumped into her throat as she stumbled over to her bed. A tiny curse in Azarathian escaped as she fumbled with the straps of her black leather backpack.
I know I put this thing at the top of my bag… how does it manage to migrate to the bottom like that?
She almost said "Aha!" when her fingers finally brushed the smooth surface of the device. Grasping it, she yanked it out, ignoring the few articles of clothing that spilled out with it. Schooling her features, she flipped open the cover.
"Robin, I told you I'd report in at n—Beast Boy?"
She tried to ignore the way her stomach seemed to jump into her throat, nesting there with the beat of her heart. Wondering at the strange emotion she watched as his green face morphed into a confused frown.
"Uh… yeah that's me. Is um… Raven there?"
Her own lips turned downward and she fought the urge to cross her arms over her chest and glare. Doing so would only result in giving the changeling a bird's eye view of her elbow.
"Yes, I'm here. What do you want?"
His green eyes narrowed at her. "No you're not."
She was seriously questioning that bubbly feeling from before, fading as the changeling tested the limits of her patience. "Yes, I am, Beast Boy. Isn't it obvious?"
He made a face at her and rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right. Look, I need to talk to her, it's important. She's the short one with purple hair and gray skin. She's got a cool gem thingy in the middle of her forehead. Very pretty. Can't miss her."
Irritation flared to life and caused a pillow on her bed to be encased in black, slowly twisting in on itself into an impossible knot. She began to pace as she waved her free arm over her face. "Are you always this dense? Beast Boy it's me I'm Ra-"
She stopped as she stared at the pink arm before her, then glanced down at her simple civilian attire of black jean shorts over purple and black striped tights and a violet V-neck t shirt. No leotard or cloak, pink skin, brown hair. "Hang on a sec."
She ignored Beast Boy's impatient huff as she hurried across the room to check the lock on her door. Assured that she was safely concealed in her own room she set the communicator down on her bed. With both hands free she was able to work off one of several rings adorning her fingers. As soon as the ring left her hand her skin color faded to gray and her hair returned to its natural purple hue. Scooping the communicator back up, the empath frowned at the device.
"Yeah. Uh, where'd your friend go? Is she still here?"
Raven clapped a hand over her eyes and groaned. "Beast Boy, I was wearing Cyborg's concealment ring."
"Oh." The green boy's eyes widened. "OH. That. That was you. Yeah you. I said that thing to… you. Um. Hi there, Rae."
Raven was utterly baffled at the strange jumble of words that assaulted her. What in Azar's name was wrong with him? She grew even more alarmed as the color in his face rapidly changed from green to rosy red. He was fidgeting too, if the shaking of his screen was any indication. Narrowing her amethyst eyes at the device she concentrated hard at it for a moment before mentally facepalming herself. Empathy wasn't going to work through a communicator. She couldn't feel him out as she normally would. What had him so frazzled?
The communicator's screen jerked again. "Dah! Um. W-what's up?"
"Why did you call me? Did Robin order you to bug me?" A dark eyebrow rose high on her forehead, irritation coloring her normally monotone words.
Emerald eyes darted away from the screen, flicking in several directions towards objects unseen. "No, no. Robin didn't send me."
Is that a bead of sweat on his temple? "If you're not here to get a report out of me then, why did you call me?"
His eyes shifted downwards, the color in his cheeks rising all the way up into his ears. "I just… wanted to check on something. I wanted to see if you were awake."
For the first time in her life she wished she was close enough to her teammate to utilize her powers. She knew enough about body language (especially his) to know that he was holding out on something, but she wouldn't confront him without first gauging which underlying emotion was really involved.
"Was that all?"
He scratched the back of his head absently, still not quite making eye contact with her. "Are you always awake at this time?"
This is the strangest conversation I have ever had with Beast Boy… and that is saying something. "Yes, I am. I spend the first two hours before daylight in meditation."
"Well that explains it…" He muttered, running a gloved hand through his messy hair.
Again, a look of panic crossed his features. The communicator's screen suddenly shifted away from his face towards a spinning wall. Is that idiot waving his hands?
"R-Rae, ah, uh—"
"Hey, Rach, I found something." A knock on the door and the familiar lilt of Jinx's voice interrupted him.
Raven glanced up to focus a glare at her door. "What is it with you people and nicknames? It's Rachel. Ra-chel."
A lamp on a small table next to her bed lost its shade to a demonic discus throw of dark energy. It bounced off the wall harmlessly. The empath jumped as faint clunk that followed as it hit the floor. Sucking a long, slow breath through her lips she released it through her nose. Breathe in. Breathe out. Calm. Calm. Amethyst eyes shifted back to the little yellow disc as his voice broke through.
"I'll let ya go."
Narrowing her eyes at his tiny green face she wagged her free hand at him. "This discussion is not over."
"Rachel, shake a leg!"
"I'm coming, Jenny. Calm yourself!" She hissed at the door, Rage tempting her to rip the damnable object off the hinges. Redirecting her gaze back down she added, "We'll talk. Later."
"Okay, okay, just go… and be safe." His tinny voice chirped back.
Raven was barely listening as she busied herself returning her concealment ring to her finger, intermittently cursing in Azarathian. "I'm always safe."
With a snarl she snapped the communicator shut. "All right! I'm coming!"
Raven stomped over to the side of her bed, crouched down, and jammed the device deep into the bottom of the bag. Straightening, she spun on her heel and headed for the door. She all but flung the door open, a frown firmly in place on her lips for her tormentor.
Jinx was utterly unfazed by the empath. "'Bout time, lady." She was on the move as soon as the door opened.
Raven moved to follow. Her feet faltered at the threshold when an errant thought, supplied by an observant emoticlone, finally caught her attention.
Wait. Did Beast Boy call me pretty?
Um… this might need a second chapter…