Chapter 10: All Good Things Come to an End
Traveling, I only stop at exits.
Wondering if I'll stay
Young and restless,
Living this way I stress less.
I want to pull away when the dream dies.
The pain sets in and I don't cry.
I only feel gravity and I wonder why…
Flames to dust,
Lovers to friends,
Why do all good things come to an end?
"All Good Things Come to an End" by Nelly Furtado
Robin drummed his gloved hands on the solid yellow table. He seemed reluctant to speak, as if he was waiting for someone else to speak first. But Robin had called the team meeting, not the others, and his teammates just stared at him, waiting for him to say something. On the other side of the room, Batman stood motionless, facing the window with its view of the bleak gray sea, his arms crossed and his stance defiant. His dark presence made the room seem even colder.
Starfire sat primly next to Robin, her hands clasped delicately on the table. Her tanned orange skin contrasted sharply with his vibrant green gloves, and she looked at him anxiously, frowning when he didn't look back at her; he continued to stare at the giant windows, over Terra's head, as if he didn't notice everyone looking at him.
Next to Starfire was Beastboy, who seemed even tenser than Robin. He was leaning forward on the table expectantly, staring straight at Robin expressionlessly. His muscles were tight, as if he expected a fight at any second. Raven, who was beside him, looked at him worriedly. She touched his arm with uncharacteristic gentleness, and he briefly flashed her a stiff smile before continuing to glare at Robin.
Cyborg cleared his throat pointedly, the deep sound making Terra jump a little in her seat. She laughed nervously at her reaction, the sound awkward and unfitting in the tense atmosphere.
"Right. Uh…" Robin tore his eyes away from the window and looked at his team. "Well, it's been a week…and I've decided to go with Batman to help him out in Gotham City."
The others nodded, except Beastboy, who continued to gaze at him fiercely. This news was no surprise to them. There was no crime in their own city at the moment, since all their usual supervillains had been successfully defeated in their latest battle with Slade. The Titans had literally nothing to do, and Robin would hardly be needed.
"I'll be back as soon as possible," Robin promised. He fidgeted with his gloves, pulling at the fingertips.
"And when will that be?" Starfire asked, her voice ringing clearly throughout the room. Batman turned his head at the sound of her voice to glance at her briefly before returning to his former stoic pose.
"Two weeks max," He replied, not looking at her. "It shouldn't be more than that."
"Alright, that's cool," Cyborg said cheerfully. "It's not like we have any crime to fight here at the moment."
"Who're you fighting over there?" Terra inquired.
"I can't tell you," Robin said seriously. "After it's all over, I'll tell you guys all about it, but for now, it's confidential information…"
Beastboy let out a noise halfway between a derisive snort and a sarcastic laugh.
"Is there a problem, Beastboy?" Robin said irritably. "And why are you staring at me?"
He ignored the latter question. "Yea, Robin, I do have a problem with this. I've done some research, Robin, and there's nothing going on in Gotham City other than the usual burglaries and stuff. I find it hard to believe that a problem so large that the mighty Batman can't handle it alone isn't in the news at all."
Over on the other end of the room, Batman's cape rippled as he shifted his feet.
"That's because it's an undercover operation," Robin snapped, his cheeks turning red. "Don't be naïve, Beastboy."
"I won't," Beastboy said darkly. "If you—" He paused suddenly.
"If I what?" Robin said, sounding impatient. The others had shifted their attention from him to Beastboy; they were confused and slightly concerned about his wary attitude.
"Forget it," He muttered, leaning back. His entire countenance shifted as he perked up and said, "Just don't expect the tower to be in one piece when you get back, 'cause we're gonna party haaaard!"
Robin relaxed and grinned, relieved that Beastboy was sounding like himself again. The others smiled and loosened up as well. "Just try not to completely trash the place, okay?"
"I'll keep the little grass stain in place," Cyborg assured him, reaching over the table to ruffle Beastboy's hair. The changeling swatted at his large robotic hand lightly.
"Good luck with that," Robin said teasingly, standing up. "I'll see you guys in a few days."
"You're leaving right now?" Raven said, surprised.
"Yeah, I've already packed and put my bags in the Batmobile," He said as the others stood up too.
"Good luck!" Terra said brightly, giving him a brief hug.
"See you soon," Cyborg added on, administering a quick man hug.
"Be careful out there," Raven said with a rare smile, hugging him awkwardly.
Beastboy offered Robin a very formal handshake, which Robin took with a puzzled look on his face. In a very serious tone, he looked Robin straight in the eye and said, "Don't forget about us."
Before Robin had a chance to respond to Beastboy's unusual request, Starfire swooped down on him and hugged him tightly.
"Do not forget about me," She said admonishingly, squeezing the breath out of him. She let him down only after all the air had been pushed out of his lungs, and then, in a move that shocked everyone, pressed her lips against his.
Terra's jaw dropped, and Cyborg let out an approving whistle. Beastboy protectively covered Raven's eyes with his hand while proceeding to gawk at them. Even Batman seemed to notice and turned around to stare, and the Titans could've sworn that he let out a low chuckle.
She finally released him, and Robin gasped for air, his entire face bright red.
"I-I-I won't forget you, Star," Robin stuttered, the red spreading to his ears. "I could never."
She smiled sadly at him. "Please come back home as soon as it is possible, Robin."
"Yeah, of course," He squeaked, smiling back at her. "I'll be back before you know it."
Batman swooped over, appearing so quickly that it seemed like he had flown. "We should go."
Robin nodded, sobering up around his mentor. "Right. Bye, guys."
"Bye," The others echoed, shrinking slightly as Batman turned to look at them.
"Nice meeting you," Batman growled, looking at each of them in turn. He paused at Beastboy, who gave him a stiff nod. The large superhero considered for a moment, and then went ahead and spoke to him. "Good seeing you again, Mr. Logan. You've grown up." Batman turned around and stalked towards the elevator.
Beastboy paled as the others did a double take and gaped at him.
"You—and him—you've met—when did…what?" Robin stammered.
"Robin," Batman said calmly.
"Coming," Robin responded quickly. He turned back to Beastboy and pointed a finger at him. "We need to talk. I'm calling you later."
"What, that won't give away your secret location?" Beastboy said scathingly as Robin got in the elevator with Batman. Robin pretended not to hear as the doors closed with a hiss.
"When did you—" Cyborg began.
"How did you—" Terra said at the same time.
"Why—" Starfire started.
Beastboy held up a hand, as if to physically stop their questions from forming. He snarled, "I don't want to talk about it, and I don't know why he brought it up. Please don't bring this up again. I'm going to my room and don't bother me." He turned on his heel and walked towards the door to the hallway. When he reached it and the door opened, he looked over his shoulder and forced an apologetic grin. "Sorry to be dramatic, but…really, do not ask me about it." He stepped through and the door slid shut with a hiss.
It was midnight at Titans Tower, and four of the five Titans inside were still up. They were gathered in Starfire's room, sitting on her circular purple bed. The impromptu rendezvous in the alien's room was initially to discuss Beastboy's unusual antagonism towards Robin, his questionable relationship with Batman, and his recently depressing behavior, but all the gossiping had somehow transformed the gathering into an odd type of sleepover party. Cyborg was attempting to braid Terra's hair with his thick fingers, with Starfire coaching him and Raven watching with amusement. Starfire had seemed to cheer up significantly since her kiss with Robin, and seemed to be back to her old self, and the team was starting to feel as normal as it could feel with the absence of two of its members.
"Dude, how does anyone do this?" Cyborg fumed as Terra's fine hair slipped through his fingers yet again. "I can't even hold her hair without dropping it!"
"Cyborg, that is because your fingers are clumsy," Starfire scolded with a smile. "You must have patience and work delicately."
"Ow, you're gonna pull my hair out!" Terra laughed, squirming. "You suck at this!"
"Hey, I'm no girl Terra, I've never done this before—"
"You sure about that?"
"That's it! No more braiding for you. Gimme that pillow, Star."
"Why do you require a pillow, Cyborg?"
"So I can WHACK HER HEAD AND HER STUPID HAIR OFF!"
Amid all the laughter and pillow fights, Raven watched from the edge of the bed with a small smile. Terra offered her a pillow, but Raven shook her head somberly.
"I think I'll go check on him," Raven said quietly.
The smiles faded from the other Titans' faces.
"Okay," Terra nodded. "Try to find out what's going on with him if you can. I'm really worried… For a moment today when Robin called that meeting, he was acting normal, and I thought everything was gonna be fine…but then…"
"Life is not the same without Beastboy's humor, even though it is not funny," Starfire agreed.
Raven stood up. "I'll try and figure it out."
"Hey Rae," Cyborg joked, "make sure to come back now. Don't get…distracted." He wiggled his eyebrows at her and Terra giggled.
Her cheeks turned pink. "Shut up, Cyborg."
On her way out, she heard Starfire ask curiously, "What do you mean by 'distracted'?"
Beastboy answered the door sleepily when Raven knocked. He was wearing black sweatpants and a worn white t-shirt, and spent several seconds blinking into the bright hallway lights until he woke up enough to recognize who was standing there. His eyes widened as he croaked in a voice deep from sleep, "Raven…? Is there an emergency?"
"Beastboy, can I come in?"
"Yeah...is something wrong?" Beastboy stepped aside to let her in, his heart starting to beat faster as she passed him, her cloak brushing against his ankle.
"Not that I know of…yet," Raven said quietly, facing him and gazing directly into his eyes. "Is there something you'd like to tell me?"
Beastboy stared back at her, reaching for one of her hands with his. For the first time, Raven noticed the extreme warmth and roughness of his bare skin; he didn't have his gloves on.
"Yeah," he responded, touching her face with his other hand. "I love you."
He leaned in for a kiss, and Raven let herself enjoy his touch for a few moments before gently pushing him away.
"I love you, too, Beastboy, but uh…I didn't come to…to…" She struggled to find the right words and blushed.
"Right," Beastboy said instantly, understanding. He took a huge leap back and shoved his hands behind his back, ashamed of himself. "Of course not. That was stupid of me."
"No, I liked it," Raven insisted, which made him blush. "Seriously, though…what's going on with you and Robin?"
"Nothing," Beastboy said innocently, walking towards his bed and sitting down on the bottom bunk. He yawned and patted the seat next to him. Raven sat down, feeling slightly uncomfortable; she had never spent more than five minutes in Beastboy's room before. In fact, none of Titans had; it was usually too messy to even enter, let alone hang out in. Now that it was clean, it made her feel as though she was in a stranger's room; everything was unfamiliar. For the first time, she noticed the small white bedside table by his bed and the worn, red velvet covered book on top of it.
"Why were you so suspicious about his trip?" Raven asked casually, reaching towards the book. She looked at him for permission, and he nodded.
"I just…" Beastboy watched her intently as she opened the cover. "…I don't know. Listen, can we not talk about this?"
"I don't understand why you can't tell me," Raven said softly, gazing down at the first page. It was a photo album, with plastic sheets protecting the fading photos. The first page only had a single picture, stained and slightly wrinkled, of a man and a woman she assumed were Beastboy's parents. "Don't you trust me…Garfield?"
The name still sounded strange on her tongue as she flipped the page. She and the other Titans occasionally called him Garfield, but not often, and usually as a joke. Robin had made it clear that real names were not very welcome on this team. Raven stared down at a picture of a young Beastboy in the Doom Patrol, without his mask on. The green boy in the picture grinned up at her toothily, his fang shining in the flash.
"I trust you," Beastboy said simply, not letting himself become pressured into talking. "Do you trust me?"
"I do," Raven replied, her voice hardly audible as she flipped through the pages of the album. She knew what his next point would be.
"So…trust that I'm not insane, and respect my privacy," He said cheerfully, draping an arm loosely around her. "You taught me that lesson before, remember?"
"Right…" She mumbled, leaning into him slightly. Raven continued to browse through the book; it seemed strange to her that there were so many things about Beastboy's past that she was ignorant of. There were people and places in the photographs she had never seen in her life, and for the first time, she wondered how much she really knew about the green-skinned boy beside her. "Hey…what is this picture from?"
He glanced at the photo of the five original Titans. "Oh, it's from the first time we fought together. It's a newspaper clipping. I thought it was pretty cool that I was in the paper, so I saved it."
"You were in the news all the time for the Doom Patrol," Raven pointed out, her white finger tracing over the outline of old photograph.
"Not without the mask on," He responded, grinning. "This was the first time my handsome green face was displayed to the world—a truly special moment in history."
She chuckled. "You mean a truly torturous moment in history."
Beastboy leaned his face closer to hers and smiled. "What, you don't think I'm handsome?"
"I…" Raven's breath got caught as she found herself staring straight into his clear jade eyes. She could feel her face flushing, and found it extremely difficult to come up with a clever retort with him so close to her. "I think you're kinda handsome…"
"And I think you're kinda the most beautiful girl in the universe," He replied, placing his free hand on her cheek and kissing her softly. Raven gave in and allowed herself to melt into him; the photo album slid to the floor with a small thud as the kissing got more heated. She wondered where he had learned to kiss like this, and prayed it wasn't from Terra.
Somehow, Beastboy managed to maneuver Raven onto the bed so that he was on top of her. He kissed her passionately, his hand leaving her face to wander lower, making her feel weak in a delightful way. However, she suddenly remember Cyborg's little joke about making sure to come back and resisting distractions.
For the second time that night, she pulled away from him. "You're lying."
"What?" Beastboy was genuinely confused, and looked at her with hurt eyes. "No I'm not."
"You're just trying to distract me," Raven said, and though she could see how her accusations hurt him, she continued, "Honestly, Beastboy, I want to know what's going on. Don't try to sweet talk me."
Beastboy shrank away from her like a kicked puppy and sat up, his voice squeaking in indignation. "I can't believe that you'd think that I'd…" He shook his head and stood up. "I mean what I say, Raven. Apparently you don't. What happened to the right to keep secrets?"
"Beastboy…" Raven sat up.
"I would never hurt you, Raven," Beastboy said softly. "You really thought that I…that I was trying to…" As if unexpectedly recalling an unpleasant memory, Beastboy trailed off, his eyes downcast. "I never wanted to hurt you, Raven. Never."
He stood up and faced the wall, his head in his hands.
Raven realized that Beastboy had taken her comment in a terribly wrong way. "Oh no, Beastboy, that's not what I meant—"
"I've always been hurting you," He said quietly, "in one way or another. Bothering you all the time, the whole Beast incident, kissing Terra, the stabbing, and now this… You shouldn't be with me, Raven. Maybe it's best if we didn't—"
"No, Beastboy—" Raven stood up and reached for his shoulder. "Beastboy, nothing would hurt me more than us not being together. That was just a dumb comment about the distracting, I shouldn't have assumed that—"
"You seemed fine to me," Beastboy said, talking over her. "All those years we weren't together. Maybe we should go back to that."
"Beastboy, I'm happier now with you than I have ever been in my entire life," She said desperately. "I love you, Garfield."
"And I love you," He replied, finally turning around. He smiled at her sadly, as if he didn't believe her. "It's getting late…maybe you should go."
Raven surprised them both by flinging herself into Beastboy's arms and kissing him full on, whispering, "Or maybe I should stay?"
Beastboy nearly stumbled backwards with surprise, and let out a nervous laugh. He stroked her hair affectionately and kissed her on the forehead. "I don't think you mean that, Rae. I'll see you tomorrow."
He released her, and she left the room slowly. "Good night, Gar."
When Raven returned to Starfire's room, they were all still awake and playing with Silkie.
"Did you get anything outta him?" Cyborg asked excitedly.
"No," Raven said solemnly. "But I think I managed to screw up completely and make him more depressed than ever."
"I doubt that's even possible with the way he's been acting lately," Terra replied, pushing Silkie away from her. "Did you find out if Robin called him?"
"I forgot to ask," Raven said, lingering by the doorway.
"Too distracted?" Cyborg asked, grinning.
"No," Raven snapped. "I'm going to bed. Bye."
The others looked at each other and shrugged as Raven left the room. It seemed like they would never understand her.
The Titans had no school, no work, no authority, and plenty of fame and fortune—basically, the Titans could have played and partied all they liked. But though they tried to take advantage of the situation, things just weren't the same. Cyborg set up their favorite activities—video game tournaments, volleyball on the roof, shopping excursions, even celebrity appearances, and the teens had fun—but something always seemed off; there was always a serious undertone, a sense of feeling that something was wrong. Between one missing member and Beastboy's occasional gloomy fits, the team felt uncomfortable and divided. One sunny day, Cyborg managed to usher the team to the park, where they settled on an empty patch of grass for a picnic. The park was nearly empty; it was the middle of a Monday afternoon.
"So, Star," Cyborg said cheerfully, rubbing his belly, "what kind of weird food do you have for us today?"
Starfire looked up at him, and responded distantly, "I am sorry, but I did not bring any food, Cyborg. I…was not in the mood to cook Tamaranian food, now that..." She trailed off sadly, remembering the death of her people.
"…Oh," Cyborg said, looking down at his feet in embarrassment. "Right. Sorry to bring it up."
During the ensuing silence, Terra awkwardly cleared her throat and glanced towards the food vendors.
"Uh…well, that's okay," Raven said, attempting to lighten the mood. "We'll just buy from the people over there. You can try some Earth food…that'll be fun, right?"
"I have already tried the hot dogs and sandwiches," Starfire said softly. "Robin used to purchase them for me when we visited this park…"
"Is it just me or did we just eat breakfast?" Cyborg said loudly. "I'm not really hungry now that I think about it."
Raven and Terra nodded their heads emphatically in agreement.
"Hey BB, why don't we play fetch?" Cyborg suggested enthusiastically. "Remember how much fun we had last time?"
"Sure," Beastboy said lightly, and the others smiled; there were some days when Beastboy acted completely like himself, and others where he just moped around the house, but today seemed like a good day. "What animal?"
"A dog?" Terra said dubiously. "What else would you be?"
"Bad question," Raven remarked, as Beastboy morphed into a giant grizzly bear and roared in her face. Terra squeaked in terror and stumbled backwards.
"BB can play fetch as pretty much anything." Cyborg tossed over a stick at Beastboy, who caught it in his teeth and instantly mashed it to pieces with one bite.
"Woops," Beastboy said playfully, momentarily transforming back into a human and spitting out pieces of wood. "Agh…there's splinters in my teeth."
"Go long, BB!" Cyborg crowed, picking up another stick and hurling it through the sky. "And don't break it this time!"
Beastboy instantly transformed into a cheetah and sprinted after it. At the same time, Starfire shot after him, her laugh ringing through the park.
"I've got my money on BB," Cyborg said, watching with a grin as the two zoomed towards the stick. The stick soared over a hundred feet away, and the Titans could distantly hear Beastboy growling as he ran.
"No way, Starfire's definitely got this," Terra said, and within seconds, Starfire returned with the stick triumphantly in her hands.
"I win!" Star said happily. "I believe it is time for the gloating."
They all turned towards Beastboy, who had turned into a golden (well, green) retriever and was whining pathetically at his loss.
"Do not be a loser who is sore," Starfire sang, twirling the stick in her hands. "Let us race again for the stick."
Beastboy resumed human form and stuck his tongue out at her. He shouted from afar, "You cheated! No starbolts allowed!"
"I did no such thing," Starfire said prudishly, sticking her nose up.
"Then why is the stick singed?" Raven pointed out, pointing towards the burnt end of the piece of wood.
As the others laughed, Beastboy's communicator rang. He quickly picked it up, but the others had heard it already.
"Is that Robin?" Starfire asked immediately.
Beastboy ignored her and walked even farther away. The others followed him quickly, straining their ears.
"Is it a bad time?" Robin's voice asked from the communicator.
"Yeah," Beastboy said gruffly. "Good job."
"Can you get away?"
"No," Cyborg answered for him, snatching the communicator from Beastboy. "What gives Robin? Why are you calling BB and not the rest of us?"
"Cy, please give Beastboy back his communicator."
"Dude, I don't like this secrecy," Cyborg said, but he handed Beastboy back the communicator anyway.
"Can you tell the others to give us some privacy?"
Beastboy waved his hand at the others in a shooing motion. "Sorry. You heard your fearless, all-knowing leader. Back off."
"I don't appreciate your attitude, Beastboy."
"I don't appreciate your face, Robin."
"This sounds like it's going to be a fun conversation," Raven said sarcastically as she walked away with the others.
Robin cut straight to the chase as soon as the others were out of earshot. "How do you know Batman?"
"I met him years ago," Beastboy replied, his eyes wandering over the screen of the communicator to look at his retreating teammates. He could tell Cyborg was going to eavesdrop using his technology. "Right before I joined the Titans."
"I was doing the same thing you're doing now," Beastboy replied, focusing on Robin. "You're a horrible liar, dude."
"You got offered this opportunity before you were in the Titans? I remember when you got the offer from Mento, but that was a year into the Teen Titans…" Robin said dubiously, his masked eyes looking at Beastboy suspiciously.
"Yeah," Beastboy said quietly, his tone angry. "But I didn't take it because I probably wouldn't have made it at that point, and the years of work it would've involved… Besides, the offer isn't going anywhere. If you're really going to do this, Robin, at least have the decency to tell the others."
"Don't tell me what to do, Beastboy," Robin snapped. "This is my decision."
"And you're the team leader," Beastboy retorted. "Your decisions affect all of us. You're seventeen, Robin. No matter how tough you act, you're still a kid. Wouldn't you rather live out the rest of your childhood here, with your friends, than over there, where it's basically all work and zero play? You have the rest of your life for that."
"I'm a superhero. I'm not supposed to play," Robin said scathingly. "You don't understand that, Beastboy, because you're too immature—"
"You're a teenager in a spandex uniform!" Beastboy said heatedly. "You think I'm immature?"
"Is that even a legitimate question?"
Beastboy nearly crushed the communicator in his green hand. "I've been in this business as long as you have, Robin. I may joke around, but I'm not an idiot, and if you think that—"
"I don't want to talk about this anymore, Beastboy. I called you to find out how you knew Batman, and I've accomplished that. Goodbye."
Beastboy angrily closed the communicator, and Cyborg instantly appeared next to him. The others followed close by.
"BB, let's just cut to the chase," Cyborg said briskly. "I'm not even gonna pretend that we didn't just completely eavesdrop on that conversation. So what's goin' on with Robin?"
"What is this opportunity he speaks of? Is he going to leave us?" Starfire inquired, her voice trembling.
"It's his business," Beastboy said dully, looking at the sky. "He'll tell you when he chooses to tell you."
"Do you know what's going on?" Terra asked.
"I know exactly where he is," Beastboy said, his voice rising, "and what he's doing. He thinks we're all idiots. He always has."
"What are you talking about?" Raven said calmly, reaching out to touch his hand.
He grasped her hand. "He thought he could keep us all in the dark, you know, since we don't have his experience in the superhero business. I know I've been laconic about my past, but I guess he forgot that I've been in the Doom Patrol for a long time…"
"You are not making sense, Beastboy," Starfire said, crossing her arms. "And I do not appreciate the way you are speaking about our friend and teammate."
"Teammate?" Beastboy scoffed. "Star, a real teammate cares about his team, especially if he's the leader. And a real teammate would tell the team if he wanted to quit, instead of lying and sneaking around."
"Robin would never quit the team, "Starfire said, starting to get irritated. "You should have more faith in Robin."
"He quit the night Batman showed up at our door," Beastboy said darkly.
"He will be back in less than one week from now," Starfire said firmly. "He promised us."
"Sure, Starfire," Beastboy said with an expressionless face. "Whatever you wanna believe. Hey, let's forget about all this for now, okay? I don't wanna argue. Let's play some fetch!"
Starfire reluctantly dropped the subject, and the others gradually let themselves put the issue of Robin's activities out of their minds as they enjoyed themselves in the sun and fresh air of the park, though the mystery still lurked unhappily in the backs of their minds.
However, when Robin's two weeks were up, he had not returned. Starfire had insisted on baking him a welcome home cake, and, with Terra's assistance, had spent hours slaving in the kitchen to produce a lopsided three layer angel food cake. Terra had collapsed, exhausted, on the seats next to the kitchen table, and Starfire sat across from her, checking the time on her communicator and glancing at the door. Cyborg was playing video games against some unknown opponent while Raven read a book, and Beastboy had curled up as a Labrador next to her, fast asleep.
"It is almost the mid of the night," Starfire said softly, running her finger along the edge of the plate that held the colorful cake. "Perhaps he is in trouble."
"You could call him," Terra suggested, sitting up with a groan. Teaching Starfire how to bake using human ingredients had drained all the energy out of her.
"Yes, I think I will," Starfire agreed, and she flipped open her communicator. Cyborg paused his game and twisted around on the black couch to watch as she called their leader. Raven looked up from her book and turned around as well.
"No answer," She sighed, closing it. "Do you think he requires help?"
"Even if he did, we wouldn't be able to find him," Cyborg pointed out, putting down his video game controller to walk towards the girls. "I already tried. He disabled the tracking device on his communicator."
Raven put the book down. "He's probably just running really late. I wouldn't worry, Starfire."
"But I cannot help myself," Starfire said sadly, looking down at the cake woefully. A tear slid down her cheek. "He is all that I think about."
"Don't cry, Star," Terra begged, reaching towards her. "He'll be back soon."
Beastboy cracked open his eyes and barked as if to laugh sarcastically at Terra's comment, and Raven swatted his head. Now was not the time for Beastboy to say "I told you so." As if to make up for the bark, Beastboy leaped off the couch and trotted towards Starfire, where he leaned his head on her hand and licked it. Raven followed close behind him.
"BB, I think you should tell us the truth now," Cyborg said, bending down to pet his friend. "It doesn't look like he's gonna tell us himself."
Beastboy let out another small bark, and then transformed back into himself. "If you really want to hear it."
"Believe me, BB, the curiosity's been killing me," Terra sighed, leaning her head on her hand. "The last week's been torturous. Please tell us."
"Well, let's see if you can figure it out… First of all, Batman personally came to pick Robin up," Beastboy explained, looking serious. "There's no reason for that. He says he came to help Raven, but he could've just told us his idea by communicator and anyone could've tried it out on her. Therefore, it must've been something personal, something that really mattered to Batman—and only two things matter to Batman: stopping evil, and teaching his beloved Robin how to stop evil. Batman wouldn't come take Robin away from his own crime-fighting team unless he needed Robin's help to stop a bigger crime—and why would Batman ever need Robin's help when he's got like a million other allies on his side of the country? So he must've taken Robin for a personal reason. And let me tell you something…Robin is not in Gotham City. He's in Washington DC."
"But why would he be there?" Cyborg asked. "There's a zero percent crime rate."
"And why is that?" Beastboy said, looking down at the cake. It spelled WELCOME HOME, ROBIN in messy red icing.
"Because the Hall of Justice is there," Cyborg replied, starting to see what Beastboy was getting at. "Where the Justice League meets."
"Exactly. Clearly, Robin is not working on tracking down any criminal. You'd have to be an idiot to try and commit a crime in the same city where a league of the most powerful superheroes is based. Batman is practically the freaking leader of the Justice League, and Robin is the closest thing he has to a son…if Robin got chosen to be potentially incorporated into the League, you can bet Batman would want to witness Robin's tryout himself, and maybe even give him a few pointers on the way. They make new potential members train like crazy and do insane stuff before they let them in the League."
"So Robin got chosen to try out for the Justice League," Cyborg said slowly, "and he didn't tell us because if he made it…"
"…he would have to leave our team," Beastboy finished. "At least for awhile, anyway."
"Wait," Raven said, looking confused. "What exactly does the Justice League entail?"
"It's a team of the universe's most powerful superheroes," Beastboy expounded. "There's a group of main members who live in the Hall of Justice…like Wonderwoman, the Flash, Green Arrow…but the rest of them live on their home turfs and just come whenever they're needed. Like Batman lives in Gotham City, but he's still part of the Justice League. They handle the really big stuff, like wars between solar systems and huge things like that, so it's basically a league of the most elite superheroes. They also handle problems between superheroes, and they have a huge database of all the superpowered people ever to exist."
"So it's sort of like the superhero government?" Terra said.
"Yeah, I guess… So Robin got an offer to join them. The only way to join is if you get an offer to try out, and the process of trying out could take years… They do hundreds of tests on you, and if you make it, you have to live a few months in the Hall of Justice to learn the ropes of everything… Robin joined this team to prove himself as a real hero, not just a sidekick, and with this opportunity…I guess he achieved that goal."
"How do you know all of this?" Starfire inquired quietly, mistrust in her voice.
"Because…I got the same request from them," Beastboy said, crossing his arms. "A long time ago. Once right after I quit the Doom Patrol, and once while the Teen Titans were just starting out."
"You turned down the Justice League for us?" Terra said.
"Seriously, Terra, do I look like the kinda dude who wants to spend years training to hang out with a bunch of grown men in costumes?"
"Perhaps Robin could not turn down this amazing opportunity," Starfire said defensively. "You know how much the fighting of crime means to him."
"Sure," Beastboy said icily. "But when I got invited to join, I didn't tell anyone but him. And you know what he said? He said this team was more important, that the invitation would still stand when I was twenty and too old to be a Teen Titan. And he told me to try out then. And I agreed with him. But when he's the one getting the 'amazing opportunity,' he packs up and leaves without even having the courtesy to tell us."
There was a stunned silence.
"Whatever," Beastboy said bitterly. "Whatever. I hope he's happy. I didn't tell you guys because I was waiting for him to tell you himself…but I guess he's never going to. This team means nothing to him."
"I...I cannot believe he would do that to us," Starfire said, tears welling up in her enormous green eyes once again.
"What are we supposed to do without Robin?" Cyborg said.
"Listen," Terra said bracingly. "It's not the end of the world. So we're short a member. So what? There are plenty of undiscovered great superheroes out there that we can replace him with, and even if we don't replace him, well, the Teen Titans always did well with five members. We'll just vote for a new leader. It'll be hard at first, but…we don't need him."
"This team may not need him," Starfire said emotionally, "but I do."
"And Terra," Beastboy said, throwing off his gloves angrily, "I agree with you, but there's just one problem."
"And what is that?" She picked up his gray gloves from the floor and looked at him curiously.
"The Teen Titans never worked well as a four person team."
"…What?" She said softly. "You…you can't. You're not. You can't quit!"
"I never wanted any of this crap," He said, looking around at the team wildly. "None of it. I'm not a hero. That's the real reason I didn't join the Justice League. It's not 'cause Robin convinced me not to. I just didn't want to make that commitment...that lifelong commitment to crime-fighting."
"Beastboy, what are you talking about? You're one of the most famous superheroes in the world," Terra protested.
"That doesn't matter," Beastboy said, looking down at his bare hands. "All this stuff…fighting crime. Always in a uniform. A superhero. Sometimes I just want to wear normal clothes…go by my real name…not have my ass kicked on a daily basis… And there are so many risks involved in this lifestyle that I just…don't think I can deal with…" He glanced at Raven, recalling the look on her face when he had stabbed her.
"Beastboy," Starfire said firmly, her voice ringing clearly in the silent room, "or perhaps you prefer the name Garfield. I believe that if you did not desire to be a superhero, you would not have remained one for so long. You would not have sought out a new team after leaving the Doom Patrol. You would not have stayed in the Doom Patrol as long as you did, either. I believe that you—"
"That's what you believe, Starfire!" Beastboy's voice began to rise. "I had to join the Doom Patrol—I had no choice! It was either that or jail. I wasn't going to school back then, but I wasn't stupid. Which would you choose—fame and glory, or prison?"
"What are you talking about?" Raven said sharply. "Jail for what?"
"And it would be juvie anyway," Cyborg added, his eyebrows slanting in puzzlement. "You were just a kid, right?"
"Yeah, I was just a kid, but I worked for two of the biggest thieves and drug dealers in the black market for years," Beastboy's voice cracked. "They kidnapped me from Africa after my parents died and made me work for them. You can't even imagine how much stuff I stole, how many people I hurt in order to get their valuables—"
"You were just a kid—" Cyborg tried to say soothingly.
"That's no excuse!" Beastboy turned away from his teammates to face the window. The gray clouds loomed ominously over the familiar silhouette of buildings far away. "Mas and Menos are children. So are those kid heroes Raven babysat for. My parents taught me better than to steal while they were still alive. What kind of kid was I, anyway?"
"But Beastboy, you still wanted to fight crime after leaving the Doom Patrol—" Starfire began.
"No, Starfire!" Beastboy's hands began to shake. "I don't know that I did! Look at me!" He turned around, his green eyes wavering. "I'm freaking green! What else could I possibly be besides a superhero? What else am I good for? Sometimes I feel like even if I did have my powers, but I wasn't green, I probably wouldn't choose be a hero at all!"
"Dude, don't say that! You know that's not true! You—"
"You guys are all so morally…morally righteous," Beastboy continued. "You choose to use your powers for good, to fight injustice and save people. Me? I don't know why I'm here. I'm not even moral enough to keep myself from killing an innocent girl..." Beastboy turned around, covering his face.
"You idiot, BB, don't you remember I wanted to kill Raven and Starfire too?" Cyborg said harshly. "I'm half metal, BB, how do you know I'm not just here because I don't fit in anywhere else?"
"You have that ring thing—"
"You know I could make one for you anytime you asked, BB," Cyborg retorted. "You could have quit this team at any moment, but you didn't, because you are a good person!"
"Good people don't murder—"
"Beastboy, I'm the daughter of the devil," Raven said sternly. "It doesn't get more evil than that. If I can be a superhero, then so can you."
Beastboy was silent.
"This Slade thing really affected you, huh?" Cyborg said gently. "Even when he's dead, he haunts us… Don't let him affect your mind. You don't need to question your own morals. You're a good guy. Right now you're just feeling guilty for something that wasn't your fault."
"Beastboy, I know what you mean," Terra said softly. "I never really used my powers to fight crime until I met you guys. It was mainly just for fun and when I needed it… I never really considered being, like…a superhero. But once I tried it…I never knew helping out others could be so rewarding, you know? That feeling you get when you return a kidnapped child to his mother…when you give people back their stolen valuables…you just know it's the right thing to do. And I know you feel that way too, Beastboy. We were given these powers, accidentally or not, and we can choose what we want to use them for…but I don't think you should ignore them and not use them at all, not when you could be helping people. Sometimes it's hard to live like this, but…you know it's worth it."
There was a long silence before Beastboy finally heaved a sigh and finally admitted, "Yeah. Maybe you're right, Terra…but there's no crime in this city. Let's just face it...our golden days are over. Either we move…or we disband."
"We will not become separated again," Starfire said firmly. "We are more than simply a team. We are family."
"Even families get separated, Star," Beastboy said resolutely. "Kids move out, people get divorced… We can't stay this way forever. We formed a team to stop the crime in this city. We've done that. Our mission is done. I think it's time to move on to something new, someplace new."
"Without Robin?" Raven said quietly.
"With or without him," Beastboy said tightly. "Things have to change around here."
"Either way, we have to contact Robin somehow," Cyborg said. "Let's see if he tells us the truth."
As if by magic, Robin's face flashed on the giant screen. Starfire let out a gleeful squeak and flew towards the black couches, and the others followed at a slower pace.
"Robin!" Starfire cried, delighted. "How nice it is to see you! Except…why are you not back here with us?"
"I have some bad news, Starfire," He said, looking around curiously at the other members' stony expressions. "What have you guys been up to? Why do you look so upset? I'm sorry for calling so late, but I was caught up in some other things…"
"Don't worry about it, Robin, what's the bad news?" Cyborg asked, his tone vicious. He knew what was coming.
"I'm going to have to stay here a few more days—" Robin cut himself off, waiting for the exclamations of surprise and dismay. When none came, he continued slowly, "Just like two or three more days, five max. You're not having any problems over there, are you?"
"No, but—" Terra began.
"Then there's nothing to worry about," Robin said, grinning. He seemed strangely happy. "You guys seem to be doing well."
"We would be filled with even more of the cheer if you were to return rapidly, Robin," Starfire said sadly.
Robin was thrown off by Starfire's comment. "Well, I—uh—I'd…like to return, but…the circumstances…" He shrugged, seeming troubled. His next words seemed to be a struggle to get out. "Hopefully…I…hopefully this will be over soon."
"So when are you planning to tell us what you're doing over there?" Raven asked calculatingly.
"It depends on…how things work out," Robin replied, starting to feel worried. "Why do you ask?"
"I thought you said there'd be no more secrets," Raven responded, crossing her arms.
"And no more lies," Terra added, putting her hands on her hips and narrowing her eyes.
"I…I'm not lying," Robin said, his voice rising defensively. "At this point, I just can't tell you the details of the situation. It would jeopardize the mission."
"I'm so sure," Beastboy said sarcastically. "That's what matters, right? The mission. The goal."
"Well…yes," Robin admitted, sounding unconfident. "Basically, yeah."
"I thought we mattered to you, Robin," Starfire said quietly, her previous happiness at seeing Robin fading. "The team…your friends."
"Of course!" Robin said insistently. "But stopping evil matters too. What's up with you guys, anyway? I'll be back soon, really, and it's not like you guys need me, so—"
"Listen, Robin, don't try to bullshit your way out of this," Beastboy said fiercely. "The mission of this team is to stop crime in this city. We've done that. There's no more crime here that the police can't handle themselves, and the crime rate is practically 0%. So our mission is done."
"What are you saying, Beastboy?" Robin said nervously. "Just because nothing major has popped up recently doesn't guarantee that the city is completely—"
"I'm saying that I quit," Beastboy said determinedly. "According to you, the mission is what matters, and our mission is accomplished. So this team is no longer needed."
"Beastboy, you're being irrational—"
"No, he isn't," Raven spoke up. "I quit too. It's time for a change."
"Please, friends—" Starfire pleaded. "Just because Robin will not be here does not mean we all must leave—"
"I'll be back in a few days!" Robin said adamantly, though his voice was weak.
"You're never gonna come back!" Cyborg shouted, losing his cool. "You're joining the Justice League, and we all know it!"
"I…" Robin was at a loss for words, shocked that his team had discovered his secret. "Cyborg…"
Cyborg shook his head in disgust. "Dude, I can't believe you would lie to us like that. You know what? BB, Rae, don't quit, I think we should just move and pick a new leader, since this one doesn't care about our team."
"Cyborg! I care about the team—" Robin protested.
"You don't give a—"
"Please, friends!" Starfire's voice shook with passion and she soared upwards to float beside Robin's image on the giant screen. "Do you not see? It is happening again."
"What's happening, Star?" Terra asked gently.
"We are becoming separated again," She said, her voice choked up. "Will we never learn? When we are apart, we are nothing. We are easily defeated. That is how Slade nearly killed us all. We must stay together, Robin, if you desire the Teen Titans to remain as a team."
"Starfire, we're not falling apart!" Robin said earnestly, attempting to look at her from his position on the screen. "I'm just going to be away for…for a little awhile. I'll be back. I've gone away before, Starfire, don't you remember—"
"But not for months!" Starfire cried, lifting up her face. Tears were now openly streaming down her cheeks. "Or even years. So many things can change in a year, a month, even a week... I do not want the Titans to fall apart again!"
"Starfire, we're not going to fall apart—" Robin tried to say.
"Robin, you do not understand!" Starfire said tearfully. "The process always begins with one Titan leaving—and then another must go—and perhaps another member shall want to follow the one who left—and soon the whole team has separated."
"I fear that it is impossible," Starfire said in a depressed tone, "to remain a Titan forever."
There was a silence as all the Titans mused over her statement. The Titans, and superheroes in general, tended not to think of the future, of growing old and retiring from the hero business. It was too bleak, too uncertain. A superhero could die any given day in any battle, so to fantasize about a future, of marrying and having a family, was generally not done, especially with heroes who had powers too freakish to allow them to one day fit into normal society or have kids. Starfire's point about remaining a Titan forever…for the rest of their lives…seemed pretty valid. How could anyone remain part of a good thing forever? It did seem impossible, and maybe now was the time the Titans should end and go their separate ways.
"Starfire…" Robin said, his voice tender. He then did something that shocked everyone. Slowly, his hand reached up, fingered the edge of his mask, and lifted it off, revealing clear robin egg blue eyes, projected fifty times their normal size on the giant television screen. "You may be right. Maybe we can't be Teen Titans forever…especially when we're over nineteen years old. But we'll still always be Titans at heart, and I know that, even if we're apart, we'll always be friends forever, even without the uniforms and the Tower and the crime-fighting together."
"Robin…" Starfire said tearfully. "I wish the Teen Titans would never have to end."
"All good things come to an end, Starfire," Robin said softly. "And…call me Richard."
There was a profound silence that was abruptly interrupted by Beastboy perking up and asking hopefully, "Dick?"
"No." Robin bit back his smile. "Richard."
"So does this mean…that we're disbanding?" Terra asked, confused. "The whole Justice League thing…that's a long time without a leader."
"No, not now…" Robin said thoughtfully. "In fact…" He stood up straighter, suddenly resolute. "Not for awhile. I'm coming back home."
"But what about the League of Justice?" Starfire said, sounding like she didn't believe him at all. "We cannot take away your opportunity from you...and there is no crime to fight in this city."
"No, Starfire, this is my own decision," Robin said determinedly. "I have an entire lifetime to join the Justice League. I can always join later…maybe you guys will be joining with me by then. I'm young…we're all young, not even eighteen yet. For now, I'm coming home, back to the Teen Titans…back to my best friends."
"BOOYAH!" Cyborg crowed, his voice booming over the others' cheers.
Starfire let out a squeak of joy and twirled up into the air. "That is joyous news, Robin!"
"I'm glad you've seen the light, my friend," Beastboy grinned. "But uh…we still don't have any crime to fight here."
"Hey, you like beaches, don't you, Garfield?" Robin said brightly. "If you guys are willing to travel a little, I heard that there's a new supervillain in Hawaii that we could go take care of…"
"Hawaii!" Beastboy shouted. "When can we start packing?"
"Just remember that this isn't a vacation, Gar, we still have to work hard—"
"WOOOOOOO! PARTY TIME! HAWAIIN LADIES IN BIKINIS!"
"Excuse me?" Raven asked sharply.
"Uhh…by that, I meant...fully clad, respectable Hawaiian women that pale in comparison to your beauty?"
"Dude, you are so whipped."
"What does the phrase 'whipped' mean, Terra?"
"Just ask Robin, he should know the feeling pretty well."
"Watch it, Terra, I may not be over there right now but when I do get back…"
"What are you gonna do Birdbrain, peck at me?"
Snickers filled the room, and the Titans momentarily forgot all their troubles as they talked and laughed with each other. They still had to find some major villains to occupy their time, which meant possibly moving to an all new location and building a completely new tower. Their lives had been changed forever since their battle with Slade, and more than one Titan had been left emotionally scarred. They knew new conflicts would arise, and that one day, they would be too old to be the Teen Titans anymore. But whatever happened, they knew they would find a way to stay together—maybe not as a team, but as friends…and as family.