What's the best way to apologize for a late Avatar update? Why, a one-shot, of course!
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A Sense of Raven
"Didn't I warn you to cut it out?"
Beast Boy listened with only half an ear to Cyborg's jovial I-Told-You-So as his friend worked him out of the wall's broken plaster. Still, half of the ear of a one-man animal kingdom, blessed with the heightened senses therein, amounted to much more than the average ear heard in its entirety. For instance, despite the fearsome brass band marching between them at that moment, Beast Boy's ears nevertheless picked up on the smothered chuckle left behind in Cyborg's throat, abandoned by semi-paternal words that hoped to convince Beast Boy of the lesson he should have learned.
With a grunt, Cyborg dug into Ops' wall with his plastic spatula, trying to dig Beast Boy from the prison that the shapeshifter had made for himself the moment he opened his big mouth. "All I'm saying," continued Cyborg, "Is that you should know better than to bother her when she's in one of her moods. Now she's ticked off, and Robin's gonna yell at you for this hole in the wall."
A triumphant grunt of Cyborg's heralded the release of one of Beast Boy's arms. Emboldened by success, Cyborg set about freeing its twin. In the meantime, Beast Boy stuck around at an altitude roughly half a foot higher than he usually frequented. "Dude," Beast Boy groused, "When is she not in a mood?"
A subtle musk of true concern flitted within the pungent humor and choking drywall dust that rolled in the air. Beast Boy had smelled it from Cyborg before, and appreciated his friend's concern, no matter how unnecessary it was. "Look, just give her time to cool off, and then go apologize. Okay?" The pleading look in Cyborg's face matched the supplication in his smell.
The second arm popped free. With something to grab hold of, Cyborg jerked Beast Boy out of the wall in a hail of drywall chunks and coughing green spasms. Beast Boy's sinuses swam with the miserable dust, until a merciful sneeze repaired his sense of smell. Then, Cyborg's overwhelming scent of worry became painfully apparent, mixed with the usual smells of motor oil and barbecue sauce. Robin and Starfire's scents lingered in Ops, leftovers of times past. But above all the smells in his sharp nose, Beast Boy sensed her scent. It hammered into him like an olfactory freight train, just as it always had, and always would.
"Sure," Beast Boy answered off-handedly, too engrossed in her overwhelming fragrance to stop his feet from wandering where they would. Unsurprisingly enough, they carried him toward that which he was immersed in: the scent. Her scent. It held within its potent core traces of must from old books, and a tender touch of roses that no one else seemed to notice. But what concerned him then was the lingering threads of anger that hung off of her scent.
Cyborg said to wait. His nose told him to follow. The nose won.
Darkened corridors led him through Titans Tower. Their shadows held no secrets from his eyes, which could spot a field mouse at two hundred yards on the blackest moonless night. Given his destination, he could have closed his eyes and let his snout guide him. Day or night, near or far, Beast Boy could always smell her. Right now, the flickering wisps of her anger that clung to her scent were like enormous beacons guiding him to the stairwell.
Beast Boy couldn't help but chuckle as the anger in her scent grew. He had once tried describing to his friends exactly how he could smell emotions. Words were never his strong suit, and both parties had come out of the experience more confused than before. The problem lay in analogies; there were none. Anger didn't smell bad any more than it did pleasant. Happiness didn't have a woodsy aroma. Sadness didn't smell like rain. The subtle workings of pheromones rested far beyond Beast Boy's limited grasp of science. He simply knew that when someone was happy, they smelled happy. Right now, she smelled angry.
While his feet mastered the stairs, his nose reigned in the air. There, as he followed her path back to her lair, he detected the first trappings of…guilt? He believed so, yes. She felt guilty. But why? Even Beast Boy could admit when he had it coming. Everyone knew Beast Boy didn't know when to quit. One sniff of the air, one tiny iota of her scent, always reminded Beast Boy why he could never quit.
Beast Boy reached the Habitat level, where quarters for existing and future Titans stood in silent observation of the night. Here, Beast Boy thought he sensed a growth in her trail's guilt in tandem with a decline in its anger. It became difficult to tell; something sought to interfere with his tracking, a powerful set of scents coming from a light cast down the hall. Intense though his focus remained, Beast Boy's senses nonetheless eavesdropped on a conversation that crossed between an open bedroom door around the corner.
"Thank you for accompanying me to the movie, Robin," a feminine voice purred, weighed heavily with longing.
Another voice, strong and even, replied, "No problem, Star. It was fun." To all others, the tone would sound unyieldingly confident. Beast Boy could hear the uncertainty that lay beneath only because of the acuteness in his elfish ears. Not only that, but he could smell it in every word.
"So…" Everything behind the word begged, pleaded, screamed out for attention. Desperate desire nearly overpowered Beast Boy's lock on her scent. He actually felt the hall spin for a moment, before his nose grasped onto the sobering core of her musk. He righted himself as the feminine voice drawled, "Uh…"
"Um," the other voice hummed. "Um, yeah. I guess…"
"Oh. You are going, then?"
"It is pretty…pretty late. We should probably…"
"Yes." Disappointment polluted the anxious air. "Then…goodnight, Robin."
"Night, Star." More disappointment joined the first wave, garnished with self-recrimination while the spillover light on the hallway floor slid shut into shadow. Beast Boy heard the pop of the soundproof doors sealing before the sound of a forehead thudding against the wall convinced the shapeshifter to quit stalling. He left Robin to wallow in the air's dissatisfaction, and resumed following her scent.
All too soon, her door loomed in front of him. He spent a moment staring at its five-letter name plate, allowing her scent to soak into his clothes. With trembling knuckles, Beast Boy tapped gently on her door and girded his courage as best he could. The most he could manage before the double doors parted was to lock down his knocking knees.
A wave of her essence pounded into Beast Boy Raven appeared from behind the door's split. The sorceress wore a look of unutterable distaste, but Beast Boy detected a great deal of guilt lingering about her. Raven's rising heart rate couldn't escape his ears, even when masked by her biting monotone. "What?"
Beast Boy's voice betrayed him, failing to translate his thoughts into actual, meaningful words. It meant a continuation of the status quo for all their conversations. "Oh, I…uh…whoa. Hi."
"Hi." A wisp of curiosity fluttered through her guilt-ridden scent. That curiosity disappeared in a silenced hurry, replaced with the more familiar stench of annoyance. Raven afforded him a moment more of muttered hemming and hawing before she reached for the door's control. "Okay. Bye."
Now Beast Boy's own panic flooded his nose, mixed with her scent. "Wait," he cried, and grabbed the closing door. The safety override kept his fingers from being scissored off, and retracted the doors with a bitter hiss. "Raven, wait," he said. "I…I'm sorry. Y'know, about what I said."
"Oh." Raven stared at him. The lingering guilt around her evaporated when she added, "I'm sorry too. I didn't mean to…I'm…glad you're okay." Now only her core scent remained, growing stronger by the second. A nigh-imperceptible softness teased her hardened eyes. Beast Boy heard the beginnings of a question die in her throat as her jaw clenched shut.
More uneasy quiet floated between the teenagers. Beast Boy became engrossed in the growing battle raging between Raven's emotions: a longing for some unsaid desire, and a fear of actually receiving it. "Um, Raven," he asked, "Do you want to talk, or something?"
Yes, her pounding heart thumped.
Yes, her quivering eyes shook.
Yes, her omnipresent musk scented.
"No," she said, and shut the door.
Green eyes blinked at Beast Boy from the warped reflection of her door for a long, hard look. Raven's choice didn't surprise him, but it made him sad. His friends thought he didn't know when to quit. Beast Boy knew better. They couldn't smell what he smelled. Maybe he couldn't describe it, but his nose could feel out emotion just as well as Raven's empathy could.
"Okay," murmured Beast Boy to his own reflection, and then turned away. He couldn't see or hear Raven, but she remained within him always. Beast Boy could smell her wherever he went. Day or night, near or far, Beast Boy could always smell her. He could always smell those emotions she claimed to have exorcised. That's why Beast Boy knew he could never give up.
Because Raven always smelled exactly like loneliness.
Inspired by Issue #16 of Fables, the amazing comic series that you should all be reading right this very moment (now that you're done with my story, of course).