"Reflections and the Return to Normality"
In the room next door, Raven was sitting in a cushioned chair beside Beast Boy's bed, her nose buried in a dark-covered book. The changeling was in bed, slightly discouraged. This was probably the most uneventful and uncomfortable visit he had ever had. Neither of them had said anything in over an hour and for all Raven knew (engaged in whatever fascinating reading material he wasn't privy to) he could have been dead. Something had to be done, "What'cha readin' Rae?"
She jumped slightly, having seemingly forgotten she wasn't alone, and blushed. "Something from Bruce's library," she said quietly, hugging the still open book close to her chest, as if she didn't want the words to leap off their pages.
"What's it about?" he asked slyly, trying to get a good look at the title of the novel.
"N-nothing…" she stammered, turning an even deeper red.
"What kind of nothing?"
"The kind of nothing I don't want to talk about with you," she said.
"Ohhhhh…so, Robin-and-Starfire 'nothing', eh?" Beast Boy asked, pointing at the wall behind him, "I never knew you were into that kinda reading, Raven. You naughty little girl, you." He finished, putting one mocking hand up to his mouth.
Without thinking, she threw the book at him angrily.
He managed to catch the flying piece of literature with his good hand and let it fall on his legs, opening to a page that made his eyes widen, "That looks dirty…" he commented mildly, scanning an image on the page. Casually, he flipped over to the next page (entitled: Chapter 4: Maximizing Pleasure while Minimizing Effort!) and began to read.
"Give that back!!!" she cried, panicked, reaching for the book. Damn her curiosity! Why had she even thought to pull that off the shelf?? She should have known something like this would happen! And now who knew what would happen next?
"But I'm just looking-" he started, trying keep the novel away from her by twisting his body around. This action proved to be a mistake, and he dropped the book as a jolt of pain went coursing through his right arm, "Owww!"
"Omigod!" her anger dissolved instantly and she clambered on the bed next him, "I'm sorry! Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I just made a wrong turn, ya know?" he told her, smiling weakly and blinking back tears that had rushed to the scene to embarrass him.
She gingerly put a hand on his arm, "I am so sorry…I don't know what I was thinking…I just…didn't want you to know I'd been reading that…"
"Yeah, I know. I was just playing with you."
"Great…now I feel bad…" she muttered, hanging her head.
"Don't be," he used his left hand to hand the book back to her, "Here."
"Gods…" she said, taking it back and setting it, closed, in her lap, "Bet you thought I wouldn't be caught with trash like this in my hands? The more I think about, the more pathetic it seems."
"I never thought you'd actually read about things like this, but I had hoped you might think about every once in a while," he told her, twiddling his thumbs and staring up at the ceiling.
"More now than ever before…" she said, "And I don't know what image of me this might shatter, but I've started reading because…I really wouldn't have any idea what I was doing if we ever…you know…" her voice trailed off and she buried her face in her hands, "I can't believe I just told you that…"
Beast Boy laughed a bit nervously, "Hey, the only reason I'd know is 'cause I can cheat. Animal instincts and all that," he put a hand on hers, moving it away from her face, "And until you're ready for that kinda stuff, I'm cool with your decisions." He was only vaguely aware that this sort of thing wouldn't seem like him to say, but he had to make sure Raven knew he was serious about this subject.
"Thank you," she said, leaning in and pressing her lips to his, "I appreciate it. And I'll be sure to let you know when I'm ready."
"Good." That'll be one fine day…
"Until then," she said, snaking her arms around his neck, "This'll have to do…" She kissed him again, good and long.
They broke away after a moment. Beast Boy grinned, going slightly red, "I think that'll be just fine…"
* * *
Cyborg leaned forward on the railing of one of the many balconies jutting off of Wayne Manor, and it bent just slightly under his weight. The afternoon sun was still high in the sky, and if it wasn't for his built-in cooling unit, the heat of the season would have definitely been getting to him. On the floor above him, the other members of his team were no doubt busy projecting a heat of their own. He shook his head, surprised at himself for the tiniest twinge of jealousy that had shot through him at the thought.
It wasn't that like he liked either of the female members of the team – at least not in that way. They were like kid sisters to him, and he enjoyed the big brother role. But it was in times like this, when they spilt off like that and just seemed so damn close, that he couldn't help feel a little left out. He straightened up, stretching, silently admonishing himself for even caring.
"Is something troubling you, Master Victor?" an elderly, calm voice inquired from behind him.
Cyborg turned, not used to being addressed by his proper name. "It's nothin'," he shrugged, "Just thinkin'."
"Containing disquieting thoughts within one's mind may, more often than not, lead to further confusion," Alfred admonished, taking a step or two away from the door towards the young man.
The android lets his arms fall limp at his sides. The old butler certainly had a way with words, that was for sure. "Well…" he began, then found himself blushing, and turning back towards the open sky, "It's silly…"
"But obviously of some importance to you," the lone servant of Bruce Wayne said, smirking ever so slightly, "Or else it would not hold such command of your current stream of contemplation," he stepped up next to the android, looking out into the afternoon sky, "Does this subject pertain, perhaps, to your comrades recent interest in one another?"
It was all Cyborg could do to keep his jaw from dropping. He'd never met anyone quite as canny as this man who stood beside him now. He rubbed the back of his neck embarrassedly, "Yeah, maybe…"
The old man smiled, "Don't concern yourself with them too much, Master Victor."
"It's not really them I'm concerned with," he admitted, "It's me. I mean, I'm happy for them and all…but it just makes me think, ya know?"
"I understand your concerns, Victor," Alfred said, turning his head towards the young robot, "But do not dwell on them. Mistress Kory and Mistress Raven are but two females in a world of six billion beings. Just because you did not find contentment within your Tower as Master Tim and Master Garfield did does not make you any less a man. Rather, once you find your true partner, you will have proven stronger than the two of them combined, for you ventured away from the safety of your home to explore the world," Alfred's face grew concerned, "Do you understand, Master Victor?"
It took a moment for the full extent of the words to sink in, but the android nodded slowly. "Yeah…" he said, a small smile tugging at his lips, "Thanks, Al."
"My pleasure, sir."
* * *
Another short week later, Robin and Beast Boy were deemed fit to travel and the Titans were gathered in the multi-car garage of Wanye Manor, reloading the T-Car with whatever scant items they had originally brought with them, as well as a whole trunk load of things purchased during their stay in Gotham.
"Did we get everything?" Cyborg asked as he shut the trunk door.
"That's the last of it," Raven said, tossing her duffel bag into the back seat. The book from Bruce's library was inside it, wrapped inside her old blue cloak.
Starfire shook Alfred's hand in farewell and then turned to Bruce, "I was sad to come here at first, but now I am sad to leave," she told them, "I hope very much that we will see each other again."
Bruce Wayne smiled, his pearly white teeth showing, "Of course we will. Let's hope that next time can simply be a visit, eh?"
"Yes, indeed," she said.
Robin hobbled over to them on crutches, "Maybe we can make it sooner than five years next time, too.
"You kiddin'?" Beast Boy asked, joining the group as well, his right arm in a sling, "There's no way I'm waitin' five years before I get to live in a mansion again – I'll be old by then…"
Wayne sighed, "What'll that make me?" he asked, grinning at the young man.
"I dare not think of it," Alfred stated firmly, shaking his head, "For that would make me five years older as well."
The sound of the revving engine echoed through the garage and Cyborg called out, "Come on guys, all aboard! It's a long drive back to Jump City."
All but Robin headed towards the car. "See ya later, old man."
"Take it easy, kid," Bruce nodded, "And try not to get kidnapped again. I think a certain female member of your team would go insane."
Robin grinned, "I'll work on that," he turned to go, "Later, Alfred."
The butler smiled, "Do not be a stranger, Master Tim. I don't continue to dust your things because I enjoy the task, you know."
"Gotcha," the last member of the Titans slid into the front passenger seat of the T-Car, shut the door, and Cyborg backed it out of the garage. With all of the teens waving out the windows, the car turned and rolled down the sloping driveway out to the open highway.
As Bruce and his loyal servant turned to return to the house, the millionaire said, "You could've fooled me about that dusting thing."
"Very funny, sir."
A Final Word from the Authors: Yes, the end has come. Thank you to all for your support - we hope this has been as enjoyable for you as it has for us.
Upcoming Events: After this longer story (not our longest, by far), we have decided to experiment with short stories - still starring the Teen Titans! These stories will take place after "Maturity", so be prepared for references to it! And after we're finished with those, we're going to go back and give the long-story another try. Hopefully that one will be longer than this one was. ^_^
Until then...::waves:: See ya!
-The Invaders Sam & Shaun-