Earning My Stars
Disclaimer: Don't own the characters. I haven't actually seen Aftershock yet but I know the basic gist of it. Also, despite what you may think after reading this I actually like Raven. R/R and cheers.
I can picture it sometimes when I close my eyes. It all just replays in my head like a video nobody wants to watch. Sometimes I wonder if I'll ever be able to get her last words to me out of my head. It's because of those words, those haunting and damnable words, that I'm the person I am today. Not that it's any big change but it's little steps, you know?
Nobody ever said life was easy, especially me. I remind myself of that fact just about every day since it happened. Nobody ever said being a Teen Titan was easy either, especially after you've royally screwed up once and everybody's got their eyes on you, waiting for you to stick a knife in their backs again. I guess it's no big deal. It's definitely what I deserve for betraying them all and joining Slade. It still hangs over my head, the one stain on my record that I can't get rid of no matter how hard I scrub.
I'm not her replacement either. I know it seems that way but all of us know it's not true. Raven was one of a kind and I'll never be that good of a friend or teammate to them. In all honesty, sometimes I wish they'd turned me down when I asked to rejoin the team. At least then my head wouldn't be on the chopping block every time we go into battle. There wasn't much else I could do though. This girl gave her life to save the entire city. Pretty tough act to follow but she told me to watch out for them. What else could I do?
I lay in bed and think about it. I can still remember it as if it only happened an hour ago instead of a month ago. I close my eyes and let my mind do the seeing. The whole incident may be a video no one else wants to watch but it's a video I need to see. Sometimes you have to be reminded of why you're here and why you're doing what you're doing.
Whenever I watch it unfold again the whole scene replays itself in slow motion. The first thing I see is Beast Boy getting struck down by Slade. It should've been me on the receiving end of that blow. Slade wanted to teach me a lesson about respect. I was ready to take whatever punishment he had, the pain I felt for betraying my friends greater than anything he could dish out. Then something shoved me aside and I heard him cry out in pain. The next thing I knew Beast Boy was on the ground. That's when it happened. I thought in that moment he was gone, that Slade had dealt him a killing blow. I wasn't the only one thinking that. Raven saw Beast Boy go down and she let out this inhuman howl. It was like something deep inside her had been mortally wounded and whoever the unlucky offender was would have the unholiest of hells to pay. I saw her turn towards Slade and the fire in her eyes was something I'd never seen on this Earth.
The darkness came after that. It washed over everything like a tide. It was so dark I couldn't see my hand two inches in front of my face. I was trapped in that darkness for I don't know how long. I could hear someone crying out in pain and for some reason I thought it was Slade. On some deep level I was glad that bastard was finally getting the torture he deserved but on another level I was worried. If something could take apart Slade that easily then what chance did I or any of the Titans have against it?
I heard Raven's voice then, not in my ears but in my head. The darkness began to flow in reverse; sucking itself back into the focal point I knew had to be her. Her voice was strong in my mind but it was beginning to fade.
'Take care of him, Tara,' Raven told me, 'He won't understand why.' He wouldn't understand? To be honest, I didn't even understand what was happening. Where was Raven going and why did she need me to take care of Beast Boy for her? She was always the one who warned everyone about trusting me. Why would she trust me now when she had been right about me all along? I was nothing more than a wolf in sheep's clothing.
'Tell him I loved him,' pleaded Raven, 'and tell them all that I'll miss them. I still trust you, Tara. Don't let me down.'
"Wait!" I cried out vocally, "I don't understand." Then the darkness was gone and all I can remember seeing was Raven's lifeless body. Slade had completely vanished, probably sucked into oblivion by Raven's powers. In the end, Raven's powers were too much and they took her as well. I can remember staring into those pupiless, lifeless eyes and feeling a cold chill run up my spine and tears running down my face. Raven died on that day, died to save us all.
My eyes pop open and I find myself breathing heavily. The rawness of that day never goes away. It's pretty hard to find out that you're not very important in the grand scheme of things. She gave her life for me. Nobody asked her to, especially after what I'd done to them all but still she saved me and she trusted me enough to watch over Beast Boy for her. It's all too much though. What was my life compared to hers? Nothing. I was a tiny speck of dirt just waiting to be blown away on the wind. Why trade away your life for a tiny speck of dirt?
I suddenly have the urge to get out of bed and do something, anything to get my mind off the past. I wander down the hall and into the kitchen. My mind still won't wrap itself around what happened that day. I still can't believe I'm able to call Titans Tower home after what I did to all of them. How can they take a traitor like me in? How can they just forget the past and what's happened between us? I guess the big question is: when am I going to forget the past? I sigh, already knowing the answer. She is dead and I am alive. As long as I live that fact will never escape me.
I sometimes wonder what things would be like if I was the one to make the sacrifice instead of Raven. I should've been the one to go, really. Everybody would've been better off. It would probably be the only good thing I've ever done. At least I wouldn't have to have everybody watching me during training like a specimen under a microscope. In all my thinking I wander into the kitchen. The place looks good even after we had to have a lot of it rebuilt. Robin wouldn't say where the money came from for the repairs. All he said was that he called a friend and asked for a favor.
So let's see what's in the fridge that'll take a girl's overburdened mind off things. Ice cream, perfect. A girl's best friend during times of emotional crisis and then her worst enemy when she looks in the mirror the next day. Oh well, c'est la vie. I'll work off the extra calories in the gym. I grab the carton out of the freezer and study it for a few seconds. Most kids probably don't have to check every box or jug in their fridge. Most kids don't live with Beast Boy though. I'm relieved to find that the ice cream is neither non-dairy nor soy and reach into the drawer for a spoon.
As I turn towards the couch, I realize that the TV's been on since I came in. I guess in all my thinking I wasn't paying attention. Either that or I can just chalk up my air-headedness to my hair color. I grab the ice cream and my spoon and walk over to see who else is up to keep me a little company.
"Hey," I whisper to the still form sitting on the couch, "you awake?" Beast Boy jumps a little bit and then realizes it's me. Things between us haven't been that great since I rejoined the team. I guess it's pretty much my fault because I broke his heart. To be honest I wish he and Raven had gotten together. Maybe then it wouldn't have hurt so much to betray him.
"Yeah," he replies simply as he looks at me. There's so much awkwardness between us now. I wish I could make him see that I really did care about him. What I felt for him wasn't an act and neither was the friendship I had with the rest of the Titans. I want him to know that I really do love him.
"Mind if I join?" I ask him shyly. In a much happier time, seeing me blush a little would've brought a goofy grin to his face. Not anymore though.
"Free tower," he replies as he scoots over way more than he should. I sit down and dig into my ice cream. Nothing happens for a few minutes. The ice cream has a cold, numbing effect on me. It helps me forget, helps me to heal. Still though, there are some things that won't heal if you forget about them. Sometimes you need to talk.
"Hey, B?" I ask him, "Can we maybe talk?" I stare at him across what must be an ocean's worth of dead air. He sighs as he mutes the TV.
"All ears," he replies. Normally I'd expect a joke to follow that. I'd expect him to do something goofy like turn his ears into elephant ears or something silly like that. I remember a time when he'd do anything to make me smile. We can't go back to that though, not after all that's happened.
"Beast Boy, I'm sorry," I tell him, "I'm sorry for betraying you and causing Raven's death." Nothing. No response, no emotion.
"Yeah, I know, Terra," replies Beast Boy as he turns back to the TV, "You've told us that like a million times."
"I'm not telling everyone this time," I snap a little more indignantly than I meant, "I'm telling you."
"Well, you'll forgive me then if I don't suddenly jump for joy or anything," replies Beast Boy coldly. I flinch a little. A lot of people think that Beast Boy's just an annoying little kid. He has teeth though and when something hurts him his humor bites back.
"B, I had no choice," I try to explain to him, "I never wanted to hurt you, I promise. You know me, I . . ." The rest of my sentence sticks in my throat. It's such a casual phrase. You know me. You know me, good old Terra, always the one screwing everything up. Yep, that's me alright. Truth is I don't think anyone knows me, not even myself.
"No, Terra," replies Beast Boy as if to confirm my thoughts, "I don't know you." I sigh and turn back to my ice cream. Beast Boy goes back to watching TV and it's another awkward silence for us. I think about a lot while I stare into that carton of frozen, vanilla goodness. I never knew things would get so out of control. I just wanted Slade to help me and he did. I thought everything would be cool after that, thought that I could somehow manage to double-cross him and stay with the Titans. When the heat was on though I caved in and agreed to do what he asked. I've never been more ashamed of myself in my life.
"It'll never get better, will it?" I ask him as I stare morosely into my ice cream, "We'll never be like we were."
"I don't know," he replies truthfully as he looks at me, "I trusted you, Terra. I loved you. That was the truth. I never pretended like you were anything but the most important person in my life."
"I didn't pretend either," I tell him quietly, "I love you too, B, and turning my back on that was the most horrible thing I've done in my whole life." Everybody thinks I made a choice, thinks that I chose to betray the Titans. They're wrong. There are some times where there is no choice, at least not one you can easily see. Sometimes you get backed into a corner and you have to do things that will hurt the people you care about. Maybe there was a way out of that corner, an option I didn't see. I took the only option I thought I had but it doesn't mean I didn't regret it every second of the rest of my life.
"Tara?" asks Beast Boy, "Did Raven say anything about me before she died?"
"Yeah," I reply with a slow nod. I never told him what Raven said. Sure I told all the Titans that she said she'd miss them but I never had the guts to tell Beast Boy that she loved him. I don't really think he'd believe me if I did tell him anyways. Who really believes anything I say anymore?
"What'd she tell you?" asks Beast Boy.
"She told me to tell you that she loved you," I tell him, "and that I'm supposed to take care of you." I don't really know what else to say after that.
"I miss her so much," he tells me.
"Yeah, I miss her too," I agree as I take another bite of ice cream, "Beast Boy, can we try this whole couple thing again?"
"Maybe someday," replies Beast Boy truthfully, "but you have to earn it, Tara."
"I know," I reply as I close the lid on the ice cream carton and return it to the freezer, "You comin' to bed?"
"I think I'll just sleep here," Beast Boy tells me.
"Try not to get hair on the couch," I tell him with a little smile, "Robin hates that."
"Yeah," he replies with a grin, "G'night, Tara."
"Night," I reply as I walk back to my room. Nobody ever said life was easy, especially if you're a Teen Titan and you've got something to prove to the rest of your teammates. Nobody said all the choices in life were easy or that you never hurt people you care about. I know all that but there's also something else nobody ever said. They never said no one is past redemption. The road may be long and rocky but I'm used to traveling roads like that. Even if I have to prove how much I care about the Titans or how much I love Beast Boy every day for the rest of my life I'm still going to do it. I owe it to Raven for still believing in me. I owe it to her to pay my dues and earn my stars.