Notes: I have no idea, but I'm fascinated by the strange relationships between the members of the Teen Titans. The show's one of my favorite American cartoons that's come out in the past few years. And there's a sad lack of coherent fanfiction for the show, so I figured I'd contribute, and add yet another incomplete fic to my repertoire. This story is intended to explore some of the themes of growing up that the show kind of touches upon occasionally. It's also centered around Beast Boy (who's absolutely adorable) and Raven (who's funny as hell, despite all her efforts). So for those of you who can't bear to see these two paired in any manner beyond platonic, this is probably not the story for you. I'm also looking for some serious feedback here and possibly someone very capable to do some beta-reading and editing for me. That is, of course, if I ever get around to writing the rest of this.
Oh, and this first chapter starts soon after the events of "The Beast Within" and is a response of a sort. There's also some dialogue ripped straight from the episode. It's the section in italics. I don't own it, 'kay?
Insert appropriate disclaimer here
The Man Without
Chapter 1 – In Dreams
It wasn't until a few days after the Man-Beast Incident that Raven realized her mistake.
"Make way for Beast Man!" the green shifter crowed as he sauntered into the common room one morning.
"What the hell did you just call yourself, BB?" Cyborg asked, looking up from his skillet full of scrambling eggs.
"Oh, it's totally my new superhero name," Beast Boy replied, pulling open the fridge in search of some sort of soy-based protein. "I'm a man now," he added smugly.
"Says Raven," Beast Boy replied with a smirk.
Silence descended upon the room as Cyborg, Starfire and Robin immediately turned to stare at Raven, who contemplated melding into the shadows and making a run for it.
"Raven?" Robin asked, sounding both amused and curious.
"What has happened that makes you consider Beast Boy a Beast Man now?" Starfire inquired. "Is there some sort of rite of passage that I have not been informed of?" She brightened. "If this is the case, then perhaps we should celebrate our friend's newfound manhood very soon, yes?"
Cyborg slammed a hand over his mouth and doubled over in a fit of choked laughter.
"I said nothing of the sort," Raven grated out.
"You did so!" Beast Boy rejoined. "You said I was all manly for suppressing the beast the other night and stuff!"
Raven's pale cheeks flushed suddenly. "I didn't mean it like that, you twit. I just meant that it was very adult of you to get control of your inner beast." She glanced sideways at her other teammates. "I didn't mean anything weird by it and I'm certainly not going to start calling you Beast Man either."
"Aw," said Beast Boy, looking woefully and falsely disconsolate.
"And I'm not calling you Beast Dude or Beast Guy or any of the other stupid names you came up with either," snapped Raven as she rose from the table, cradling her mug of tea in her hands.
"You're no fun," Beast Boy told her, his gaze catching and holding hers.
Raven felt strangely self-conscious with him staring at her like that, as though he could decipher the meaning of her blushes, so she pulled her hood forward to shadow her face and scurried away. Upon reaching her room, Raven locked the door behind her, set her tea on the night stand and flung herself down onto her bed.
What an idiot he is, she thought in frustration. He knows I didn't mean anything when I said that to him that night!
Raven frowned as a paperweight on her desk exploded. "Guess that means I need to calm down," she murmured before folding herself into a lotus position and entering her meditative trance.
Once it became painfully obvious that she wouldn't be able to clear her mind of her irritation at her shape-shifting teammate, she realized that it was perhaps best that she try to sort out her tangled feelings in some sort of logical manner.
This was a bit of a tall order, however. Her friendship with Beast Boy had always been one of those things best left unanalyzed. Sure, she knew he had a lingering crush on her that had been leavened, but not entirely erased by his brief relationship with Terra. Of course she knew that he looked up to her as probably his closest friend and confidant. And it went without saying that he would never take advantage of her confusion over him.
But the fact remained that his presence baffled the hell out of her. Aside from his patiently flirtatious behavior, there were the dreams to consider.
Raven had never been completely honest to her friends about just how far-reaching her powers were. Since her arrival in the tower she'd been privy to occasional dream visits from various teammates. She never had any control over the dreams; instead she was dragged unwilling into at least one foreign dream every night. It was awkward, but still an admittedly great way of learning about just what made her friends tick.
Robin's dreams were rather as Raven would have expected. She was treated to what she could only assume were reruns of Robin's assorted escapades with Batman, who was apparently seven feet tall, could fly and regularly taunted Robin about his inefficiency. Sometimes Robin dreamed about the night his parents died and she would awake weeping and shaking and biting the inside of her cheek so hard it bled in an attempt to keep the shades of Sorrow and Anger at bay. Often Robin's dreams echoed the real world. Slade was a frequent visitor, though he often wore Robin's own face and ridiculed the Titans with Robin's own voice. Sometimes Robin would replay the memories of the days' fights and Raven would be treated to a play-by-play critique of everyone's technique. She liked the nights that featured these boring, mundane dreams, except for those that featured Starfire (and on occasion, Raven herself) wearing much less clothing than usual.
Robin was, after all, still quite young and at the peak of his manhood. Such dreams were to be expected, even if they were ultimately embarrassing for the unwilling outside viewer.
Cyborg's dreams were somehow even more predictable. They were full of workshops and metal. Even the scent of motor oil and heated plastics permeated the dreamscapes. Raven understood after witnessing a few of his madly constructive dreams why he sometimes awoke at 5 am and rushed to his workshop to tinker with something until noon. Cyborg's dreams were those of an artist, full of angles and bold washes of muted colors. The T-Car featured prominently in quite a few of these dreams. And fortunately, his dream women tended to be featureless archetypes, tall and full-figured and good with a wrench. He had recently started applying the face of Jinx to some of these fantasy females, however, something Raven found ultimately just as disturbing as his idle fantasies of herself in a lace teddy.
Surprisingly, Starfire's dreams were Raven's favorite. While it was obvious that Star loved her new home on Earth nearly as much as she loved the people she now lived with, nearly all her dreams took place on what Raven could only assume was Tamaran. The colors were different, the light cast by Vega was faintly bluish, rather than golden like the sun, and nights were much shorter. Starfire's dreams were populated by the Titans and a slew of tall, golden-skinned Tamaranians. In Starfire's dreams, there was no petty bickering among the teammates, and even dream-Raven was apt to proclaim her eternal love to any of the other Titans. Starfire's dreaming version of Raven was as cheerful as her pink-cloaked emotional archetype, Happy. It was during these gentle, sun-kissed dreams that Raven discovered just how much Starfire loved all of her teammates. Star had, of course, the usual assortment of adolescent sex dreams, and while Robin was generally the star of such dreams, Raven herself appeared in them enough times to make it significant. Even Beast Boy and Cyborg occasionally showed up in the bedroom dreams, though not as frequently as even Raven herself did. Raven adored Starfire, no matter how much trouble she had showing it, and it was nice to be reassured that Starfire returned the sentiment, no matter how unconventionally.
It was Beast Boy's dreams that were the most disturbing to Raven, and the most persistent. She was dragged into one of his dreams nearly every night, quite against her will. His dreams frequently featured Raven, when they weren't fuzzy, golden memories from his childhood in Africa, and the Raven dreams weren't all romantic. Sometimes it was just the two of them battling shadowy villains on the streets of Jump City. Sometimes he was rescuing her from some madman. Occasionally she was rescuing him from a similar situation. Often they kissed afterwards, with the sweeping sound of violins in the background. Sometimes the dream melted into an adolescent bedroom romp that left Raven wide-eyed with the aftershocks of Beast Boy's pleasure. Sometimes the dreams featured a more animalistic Beast Boy, and the sex that followed was much the same. These dreams made Raven rather itchy herself, and likely to blush when she first saw Beast Boy the next morning. Fortunately, he never asked why she was so embarrassed around him on those mornings and she never volunteered the information.
What made Beast Boy's dreamscapes truly disturbing, however, was the trend that she noticed as the years passed. The Titans, like any other group of young people, struggled their way through puberty and into a sort of tentative adulthood. Robin gained a bit of height (though it was clear he would never match Bruce Wayne's stature) and some breadth in his shoulders. He was an exceptionally fine-looking young man, much to the delight of Starfire, who remained (particularly since her stint in her chrysalis) one of the most beautiful creatures anyone on Earth had ever seen. Cyborg didn't bother with growing up so much. He made a few upgrades to his systems and managed to somehow deepen his voice without the usual humorous cracking that generally took place. Raven herself had a rough time of puberty, but at the first sign of hormonal imbalance, she took a six-month sabbatical in Tibet, despite her friends' worries and Beast Boy's amusing attempt to stow away in her luggage as an emerald-green cockroach. In Tibet she faced a minor case of acne and some really strange dreams, but she returned home to Jump City feeling whole and ready to face crime or whatever followed.
What made Beast Boy odd, however, was that he did not grow up. He'd always been small and slight. But by the time he and the other Titans hit their eighteenth birthdays, he still looked like he was twelve, and a scrawny twelve at that. No one ever made an issue of this, as he was generally sensitive about his appearance. So he cheerfully continued to look and act like a child while the rest of his teammates settled into young adulthood.
His dreams, however . . . well, they told a different story altogether. Raven began noticing the subtle changes in Beast Boy's dream self. His face grew a bit spotty for a while, despite the fact that his waking self had some of the clearest skin she'd ever seen outside cosmetics commercials. Then the dream changeling had a couple growth spurts, the first one added several inches to his height, and the second left him even taller, with a sort of wiry musculature that Raven found oddly appealing. Dream Beast Boy was a little taller than Robin, even, though perhaps not as broad of shoulder or deep of chest. And his new features were narrow and sharp, his dark eyes deep-set and his smile just as ready as always. But he was different in those dreams. The somehow older dream boy was less joking, more reflective, though his devotion to Raven was still just as painfully obvious. Raven figured that Beast Boy's dreams reflected a deep desire to grow up, just like his friends. She also figured that whatever his scientist parents had done in order to save his life when he was a child, well, it had most likely stunted his growth somehow, along with turning his skin green.
In recent months, however, Raven found herself looking forward to the nights when she shared Beast Boy's dreams. Was she crazy for enjoying her time with a clearly imaginary version of Beast Boy? It certainly wreaked havoc on the fine control she held over her emotions. She'd been initiating contact with him more frequently during the past few months, such as that desperate hug she'd given him after that night when Fear had slipped its bonds and stalked the Tower.
And that night after the Man-Beast had been suppressed. Oh, that had certainly been a disaster.
Raven had finally located him down on the rocks, exactly the same place he'd gone with Terra all those times. She knew this because she'd watched them.
"So . . . he was the one who hurt you, right?"
Raven started. He must have heard her approach, despite her attempts at stealth. He sounded pathetically worried, desperate for reassurance. She couldn't resist it, really.
"He broke into the tower to attack you," she told him, clutching her shoulder, steadying her shaky hands in her cloak. "And wound up attacking me too."
There was a long silence, so she sat down next to him and glanced surreptitiously out of the corner of her eyes at him. His facial expression was unreadable, which frightened Raven a little.
"Ugh!" he muttered in sudden disgust. "I can't believe I ate meat." He frowned and finally gave Raven a quick, sad glance. "I acted like a jerk. I'm sorry." Then he resumed staring down at the water sluicing up onto the rocks.
"You weren't yourself," Raven replied as gently as she could manage.
"Cyborg says the chemicals at the lab messed with my DNA," Beast Boy continued, refusing to meet her gaze. "Unleashed something . . . primal."
Raven shivered. She remembered the mix of fear and . . . something else . . . she'd felt when the green Man-Beast had hauled her up off the floor, cradling her protectively to his thickly-furred chest, so close she could feel his growls rumbling next to her cheek. She ground her teeth together against the remembrance. Mind on the present. "And he gave you an antidote," she said. "You're better now."
Beast Boy grimaced. "Yeah, but that thing, that beast, it came from inside me," he said quietly. "And it's still there. I can feel it."
"Good," snapped Raven. She was suddenly angry. "If it wasn't for that beast, I might not be here right now." She sighed and calmed herself a little. "Having that thing inside you doesn't make you an animal. Knowing when to let it out is what makes you a man." Damn, she knew she shouldn't have said it the moment the words left her mouth.
It was worth it, she realized a moment later, when he suddenly beamed at her, his cocky grin resurfacing for the first time all day. "Hmm," he said, a thoughtful expression on his face. "Maybe you should call me . . . Beast Man from now on!" He posed, a big, stupidly cheesy grin on his face.
Raven managed to keep a straight face throughout it all. "We're having a moment here," she deadpanned. "Don't ruin it."
He dropped back down to his seat on the rock, perhaps a few inches closer to Raven. She could feel heat radiating from him.
"Beast . . . Dude?" he suggested with a smile she found both aggravating and endearing.
Raven rolled her expressive eyes. "Ugh."
Instead of responding, Beast Boy simply sidled closer and leaned his head against her shoulder. Raven instantly stiffened. "What are you . . ."
Beast Boy smirked charmingly at her and cut her off. "Shh," he said. "Moment, remember?" His hand covered hers, a sharp contrast to the cool stone beneath. "Don't ruin it."
Okay, looking back on it, it hadn't been a disaster in the traditional sense, but Beast Boy seemed to have taken her friendly concern as something more significant.
And I may be a little attracted to him in dreams, she told herself. But I'm certainly not interested in the immature little brat he usually is during waking hours.
It was a statement to cling to, she realized. If she reminded herself that she was not interested in Beast Boy in that way, then it would be easier to stave off awkwardness. And if he, at any point, decided to try for something more, well, she'd just deal with it when the problem arose.
He was her best friend (aside from Starfire, of course), and she would do her best to let him down easy.
Raven smiled and stood up from her meditative stance, stretching her back out with a series of loud crackles.
It felt good to have things settled.
Next Up: Months later, a series of events lead to a reevaluation of Raven's resolution. In other news, Robin gets laid and Beast Boy stares down the front of Raven's shirt. Ahem.