So Let the Pendulum Swing
"…Well I've never prayed,
But tonight I'm on my knees, yeah;
I need to hear some sounds that
Recognize the pain in me, yeah;
I let the melody shine, let it cleanse my mind,
I feel free, now;
But the airwaves are clean and
There's nobody singing to me, now;
No change, I can't change, I can't change, I can't change,
But I'm here, in my mold, I am here, in my mold
And I'm a million different people from one day to the next
I can't change my mold, no no, no, no, no, no…"
—"Bitter Sweet Symphony", The Verve
Note: I've never written for Teen Titans before…but I love the show to death. Beast Boy is just too cute, and I think pairing him with Robin is simply adorable. I hope this isn't too painful for you guys…and there's more to come if you like this, so don't worry!
I guess it was because I was the youngest of the five of us, and because he was the leader, but for some reason, I had always felt that Robin had all the answers. In every battle, he always seemed to know how to come out on top; how to kick butt, how to grind our enemy's nose into the dirt of justice. He could see their weaknesses like a veteran teacher can tell just who's chewing gum in the back of the classroom. He could pinpoint what we needed to do, always, even if it took him a little longer in some cases when compared to others. He knew what we needed to do to taste sweet victory. Every time.
And for that reason, I suppose, I looked up to him.
He and I were not the best of friends. None of them really considered me their best friend, I knew, because I was stupid, and I had a hard time connecting with them. They were all too serious, except for Star, who was too naïve, really, to consider me anything more than what Robin or Rae or Cy were in her eyes. She thought that everyone should be loved equally, because that made happiness. That girl was always about happiness. Like me, only more controlled; less annoying. At least, in Robin's eyes, she was.
In Robin's eyes, she was beautiful.
We all knew how he felt about her. We could all sense it, from day one, except for Star herself, because she was how she was. Raven said nothing about it, but the moment I had it figured out, I could see a little smirk on her face, like she had a secret, only I knew it, too. Cyborg grinned, and I know now that he, at least, was thinking that Robin and Starfire would end up together. I felt a little pang of it, too; premonition, I suppose you could call it, that after the dismantling of the Teen Titans, the two of them would live happily ever after, together. And I accepted that, though I was saddened, as well, for some other reason that I didn't grasp until much, much later.
I joined when I was fifteen. The five of us worked together to keep crime at bay, going through our ups and downs like passengers on an endless rollercoaster, through two years of hardship and good times. And all the time, Rae, Cy, and I all saw that little blossom of romance between Robin and Star bloom and flourish into something fantastic and beautiful. But the two of them denied it, the three of us could tell; Star because of her belief that it was not possible to love any one person more than everyone else, and Robin because he felt that he wasn't good enough.
He never did feel like he was good enough for anything. He always had to be better, because he could be better; there was always room for improvement. And when it came to Starfire, his beautiful alien princess, he could never be the best. And he knew that as well as the rest of us, even though we all urged him on; told him to go for it, come on, man, you know she likes you.
I remember one night, when I woke up at around two in the morning, and felt that something was just wrong; like when you get the feeling that there's someone else in the room with you, only you can't see them, and they're watching you. I got out of bed and, after looking around my room for trespassers and finding no one, I got dressed and went up to the roof to cure my goose bumps. The warm summer air made me feel good, for a little bit. I leaned against the railing and looked down into the water rushing around, lapping against the shore of the island, going off forever into the ocean. I closed my eyes and rested my chin in my arms, smelling the thick, salty air, and I remembered my parents for a brief moment. My disease. My breaths caught in my throat, horrible and painful, and I wanted to cry. But I didn't, because that feeling of being watched returned. Only this time, when I turned around, I saw Robin standing by the door that led back down into the tower.
I smiled at him and swallowed my tears. "…Hey, dude. What's up?"
"What are you doing up?" he demanded. "It's two in the morning."
"I was about to ask you the same question," I replied, innocently enough, and, when he refused to smile back at me, I turned back around to face the water yet again. He approached me after a moment, his heavy boots clunk clunking on the cement, and then I saw him lean against the banister to my left out of the corner of my eye. He sighed deeply and started playing with his gloves, and I knew just what he was thinking about. For some reason, it made me feel a little bit angry inside, even though I knew it was foolish to feel that way.
But hey; knowing that something was stupid had never stopped me before.
He laughed suddenly, under his breath, just for a second, and I turned to look at him. He met my gaze and finally returned my smile. "This is ironic, sort of…I mean, I came up here because I wanted to talk to someone, and here you are…though you weren't really the person I was hoping for."
"Gee, thanks," I replied, rolling my eyes. "Let me guess…you were wishing for Star, right?"
That was one of the few times that I ever saw him blush. He went quiet for a bit, peeling paint off of the metal railing, and then he stared accusingly at me. "…How did you know?"
"Because it's obvious, duh," I said, breathing roughly out of my nose. "Ever since you two met, you haven't been able to get enough of her. You're always at her side, always protecting her, like some lapdog."
"That's not true!" he growled, startling me. "I'm just trying to get her accustomed to life here on Earth!"
I grunted and changed my head into that of a dog's, barking teasingly at him a few times. "Oh, I'm Robin, the Dog Wonder, watch me attend to Starfire's every beck and call at the speed of light!" I woofed, morphing back with the sour look he gave me. I laughed in his face and he punched my arm.
"Shut up," he hissed, his eyes narrow and aggravated as he turned back toward the water. I nursed my arm and glared at him.
"It's the truth, man, just ask Raven and Cyborg," I muttered, avoiding contact with his gaze and staring down at my own green hands. He mumbled something indiscernible and hunched his shoulders, shaking his head. I picked at my teeth thoughtfully. "…Dude, you'd do anything for her. Admit it."
"I—!" he started, holding up one finger as if to accuse me of something, then I saw his eyes flash through his mask and he ground his teeth together, changing his mind. I smiled weakly at him once again, shrugging.
"Dude, it's okay to be in love. It happens to everyone at one point or another."
"Oh really?" he asked, finding his voice once again. "Then who have you ever been in love with?"
I looked at him in contemplation, cocking my eyebrows. I considered Raven, and the thoughts I had once had about her. How I had once tried so hard to impress her in particular, and how much it had hurt me when I had realized that it was all for nothing; she would never look at me as anything more than half-friend, half-slime on the bottom of her boot. I considered Terra, who had sacrificed herself for us not too long ago; that beautiful girl who had deceived us all and played with my heart in the process. I frowned for a second, remembering those painful weeks when I had been devoted to them.
Then I grinned at him. "Like I'd tell you, Boy Blunder."
He shook his head and rolled his eyes, looking up at the stars and the moon overhead, and he sighed again. "…You're right, though," he whispered, as if afraid that Star might be listening in on us. "…I do love her. A…a lot, actually."
I kept grinning, though on the inside, I felt it falter as something panged in my brain. I wished I could stop feeling so strangely. "See? Now was that really so hard?" I asked, stretching and joining him in looking up at the sky. I felt him smile beside me.
"Not really. And…I do feel better, I guess. Now that it's off my chest," he said. And he redirected his smile at me, forcing me to look back at him. He was slightly taller than me, and the wind had tussled his hair during our conversation, a raven lock now dangling rebelliously in front of his right eye. Something caught inside of me, looking at him, and I suddenly felt warm all over, inside and out; warmer even than the summer air had made me feel when I had first stepped out of our air-conditioned haven. I didn't understand it, but I liked it a lot. My grin became full-fledged again, and he laughed a little under his breath once more. "…You're great, Beast Boy. I don't know why I never saw it before, but you are. Maybe we should talk like this more often."
"Yeah," I agreed, feeling safe there next to him. Because he was perfect, and he knew just how to do everything. He had all the answers. He knew all the tricks and always had a master plan. I knew his plan for Starfire. What plan, then, I wondered, did he have for me? "Maybe we should."
Whatever it was, I was sure that it was perfect.
We stood there in silence for a while after that, just looking at each other, and I found that I liked that little piece of hair in front of his eye; it made him look as if he had been in battle, and someone had messed up his 'do. And thinking about him in battle, with his moves executed with elegant, almost ballet-esque precision, made me shiver. He blinked at me, noticing my tremor.
"Are you cold?" he asked, confused. I shook my head, quickly thinking up a lie to tell him.
"Ahh…no…I just…got a chill, there," I said. "You know, just…I just got a feeling. Nothing to worry about."
He looked at me carefully for a few more seconds, considering, and then he shrugged it off, peeling his gloves off and cracking his knuckles before gripping the banister with his strong hands. I stared at them, tracing the curves of his bare fingers wrapped around the metal with my green eyes, taking in all the calluses, the scars, the color of his skin. I wondered, all of a sudden, what he looked like without his mask, and I put my hand next to his on the bar, trying to make the action seem unintentional. I studied the differences between our hands, and it made me sad, for some reason; the fact that my hand was smaller and seemed so much less masculine, when compared to his. The fact that I had no scars, and that my skin was as smooth as a frog's; soft and not chaffed by battle, as his were. I closed my eyes and hated, for a moment, the fact that my skin was green.
The fact that I was not like him.
"And Cyborg wonders why you're the leader," I breathed, shaking my head. I felt him turn to look at me, and I realized with a bit of a sickening feeling that he had heard me. He chuckled.
"You're telling me," he responded. "…Why do you think I'm the leader, Beast Boy?"
I swallowed and kept my eyes closed, smelling him, for a moment, and he smelled like something indescribable; something warm and comforting and accepting and powerful and wise, which was precisely what he was. And for some reason, I didn't feel odd thinking these thoughts. I suppose because I had always thought them; only I had never smelled him like this before. The smell made me feel lightheaded and confused. "…I suppose…it's because you know what you're doing," I said quietly. "And because you're the strongest of us all, even without superpowers. You're…you're smart, Robin. I guess that's why you're in charge."
I felt his strong hand on my shoulder, and my eyes opened, startled. He was smiling at me. It was quiet for a few seconds, and I enjoyed his hand for as long as it was there; then it squeezed, and left me. "…Thanks, man. I…I needed to hear that from someone. It's good to know…that you, at least, still respect me."
"Of course I do," I said, staring down at my hands again. "We all do. If we didn't…why would we still be here?"
"Because you care about the people in this city, and in the rest of the world. That's why we're here, after all," he answered. His hands found the railing again, and he touched my hand with his, not on purpose. I fought my body's urge to tremble again. "We're here to protect the innocents, and bring justice to those who deserve it."
"…I know," I said. I sensed that he had heard my self-doubt in my words.
"And…hey, man…you're as big a part of this as anyone else on this team. You do your fair share, and you've saved hundreds of lives. Beast Boy," he said firmly, "what's wrong? Why are you upset? What happened to you in the past ten minutes?"
I refused to look at him. "…If I'm just as important to the team…to you…as Raven and Cyborg and…Starfire…are…then why do you sometimes tell me to just 'stay out of the way'?" I asked, only then realizing how much it hurt me that he had been doing that ever since I had joined two years ago. "…Am I really an important part of the team, or am I just…in the way, to you?"
I felt him grow angry with me for a second, then it lessened, and dissipated completely. He thought for a moment, searching for the words. My heart hurt, in a strange way. I had never known that I had felt this way. His hands found my shoulders, again, out of nowhere, and he turned me to face him. I didn't look up. I couldn't meet his eyes. "…Beast Boy, please. I…the only reason I do that…is because you're not as experienced as the rest of us are. You're not as serious about battle as the rest of us are. And honestly, because of that, you…you could get hurt, if you tried to get involved. Just…a bit more training…and I promise, I'll let you go. I just…I want to protect you, all right? I don't want to lose my friend. You know what I'm saying?"
I sighed, staring at the "R" on his chest, wishing I could stop feeling like this. I knew that he was lying, for my sake. He did that a lot. "…I know, Robin," I murmured, and his name was sweet on my tongue. I wished, before the feeling would go away, that he would embrace me, and accept me as his equal. That would be perfect, for me, I decided. To be at his level, at least, in his eyes. But I knew, the moment that he let me go a few seconds later and ruffled my hair, telling me that he was going to bed and I should go, too…that it would never happen. I would never measure up to him, I knew. I watched him head back down the stairs, looking over his shoulder once before he closed the door behind himself, knowing that, no matter what he said, it would always be a lie. I would never be good enough for him.
Just like he would never be good enough for Star.
I cried and hated that I was so pitiful to him.