Disclaimer: I do not own Teen Titans.
Where No Man Has Gone Before
Chapter 6: To See You Smile
Raven stepped lightly from the whirling vortex of energy into the tenebrous confines of her room. Surveying the gloomy interior, she noted with satisfaction that all was as she had left it. With a glowing tendril of dark powers, she flipped on the light switch, re-illuminating the room for the first time since the spectacular failure that was her attempt at a nap.
Taking a seat on the edge of her bed, she picked up the alarm clock from the bedside table and turned it towards herself. I wonder if Beastboy is back yet? It's been almost three hours, there is no way it could take this long, even for him. She absently placed the clock back on the table. He probably came by and knocked while I was in the mirror, I just wasn't here to answer the door. He's probably rotting his brain in front of the television. Resolved in her mind to locate the changeling, she stood from the bed and exited her room.
It was only a moment before she entered the living room, casting her expectant gaze towards the couch. It, and the rest of the room, was disappointingly empty. Neither was there anyone in the kitchen area preparing soy based meat substitutes in new, creative, and disgusting ways.
Raven's brow furrowed. That's odd. How could he not be back yet? She absently chewed her lip as another thought arose unbidden. I hope he's ok.
Shaking her head slightly to dispel this disturbing notion, she turned back to the door. That's stupid. It was just a trip to the store. What could possibly have gone wrong? He's probably in his room. With a hopeful sort of pragmatism she marched back towards the Titan's bedrooms to continue her search for the misplaced animorph, her egress from the living room marked by the quiet swishing of the doors behind her.
It is, perhaps, significant to note that, as she traversed the hallways of the tower, it never really occurred to Raven that she had spent nearly every second since returning from her mirror wondering about and attempting to locate the whereabouts of Beastboy. The fact that she was obviously concerned for him no longer weighed heavily on the empath. Her afternoon's activities had sufficiently reconciled Raven to the truth that she did indeed care for her green teammate, regardless of how unwilling she would be (at least outside of her own mind) to ever admit aloud to such a thing. Though, like any teenaged girl (superpowers or not), she did still worry about how she would act around him now, and if he possibly liked her back, and what their friends would think. But the simple idea of being romantically interested in another person no longer distressed the half-demon nearly as much as it would have the day before, or even that very morning. Not even when the object of that interest was Beastboy.
Finally arriving at his bedroom, Raven knocked on the door. After a moment of waiting for an answer, she again rapped firmly, this time calling out as she did. "Beastboy? Are you in there? It's me. Raven." Still receiving no response, she frowned worriedly. So if he's not in his room, or the living room, or the kitchen, then he's probably not in the tower. And if he's not in the tower, that means he hasn't come back yet. And if he's not back yet, then something is definitely wrong.
Determining that the best way to locate Beastboy would be by simply calling him, Raven turned and began walking back towards her own room, intent on retrieving her communicator from the pocket of her cloak. As she neared the door she reached out her hand to enter her access code. Before she had a chance to do so, though, she was stopped by a noise from the end of the hallway. It was the telltale "ding" of the elevator arriving at it's destination.
Raven spun and watched as the doors slid open, hoping for the emergence of the object of her search. Her eyes widened in unabashed shock as the person stepped off the elevator.
It was indeed Beastboy, but not at all as she had expected. He wasn't marching proudly down the hallway, head held high, wide grin on his face, the triumphant return of a conquering hero. Nor was he shuffling embarrassedly towards her, package behind his back, face adorned with a timid smile and a blush. No, it was nothing at all like that. It was nothing at all like anything she would have ever imagined.
Beastboy was tottering forward on unsteady legs, bracing one hand against the wall for support. His head and ears drooped low, his shoulders sagging. His eyes were trained downward, focusing on each step, still unaware of his observer. He was covered with a layer of grime, only relieved in those spots where his sweat had managed to cut through the dirt. His face was a mask of bone-weary exhaustion, occasionally cracked by a grimace of pain. The beginning of a dark bruise was forming on one cheek, and his chin was scraped raw. His other arm was wrapped tightly around his midsection, a brown paper sack clutched tightly in his hand.
Raven couldn't suppress the surprised gasp that escaped her lips or stop herself from taking an involuntary step towards the beleaguered changeling. At the sound, Beastboy's head shot up and their eyes met.
"Oh. Hey, Raven. What's up?"
Raven's eyebrows raised at the obvious effort at nonchalance. She could tell he was trying to stand up a little straighter and act as if he wasn't seriously injured. "Beastboy, what happened to you? Are you ok?" Dumb question, Raven. He can barely walk.
Beastboy waved her concern away airily with his free hand. "Oh, nothin'. Just a little run-in with Control Freak. No big deal. I'm totally fine."
Of course, this statement would have been much more believable if removing his hand from the wall to wave hadn't unbalanced him and made him wobble forward in a sudden swoon of dizziness. Raven rushed to his side and wrapped her arm gingerly around his waist, doing her best to help support him.
Beastboy gave a nervous chuckle as he dropped his arm across her shoulders and leaned his weight onto her. "Heh, ok, maybe not totally fine. But I did get your, um... these." He held the bag up to show her.
Raven could only stare at the brown paper sack for a moment. It was just as grungy and bedraggled as her green teammate. Parts of the bag were a bit soggy from where it had come into contact with some unknown liquid. Other parts had equally mysterious stains. And through the various rips, she could see the box of tampons clearly. That box was also scratched up and dirty. But the condition did not detract from the achievement.
He did it. He actually did it. And apparently went through a war zone to do it. I don't believe it. Her eyes moved from the item in his hand to his suddenly very close face. Her cheeks warmed at the proximity. "I... Beastboy, this is... Thank you."
Beastboy's face also darkened in a blush as he mumbled out a reply. "You're welcome, Raven."
They simply stood like this for a moment, eyes locked, faces close, arms wrapped around each other. Finally, Beastboy spoke in a soft whisper. "Raven?"
Raven could barely hear his words over the thudding of her heart, but couldn't bring herself to speak any louder than he had as she responded. "Yes, Beastboy?"
"Raven," Beastboy paused, and Raven's breath hitched slightly in anticipation. "Raven, could you help me get to my room? I think I need to lay down."
Raven continued to stare at him for a moment, his words taking time to break through the spell that had been woven around her. Finally, though, she realized what he had said. "Huh? Oh. Oh, right! Are you sure you don't need the medical bay?"
"Nah, I just want to lay down. But if you were to offer some of your glowy blue healing mojo, I don't think I would refuse."
"Of course. Let's get you to your room and then I'll see what I can do." Slowly, and as gently as she could, Raven guided Beastboy down the hall towards his bedroom. He was too busy concentrating on trying to walk straight to engage in conversation, so Raven was left with her thoughts.
God, Raven, get a grip! He can barely stand and you are too busy staring at his eyes to notice. Just because you like him doesn't mean you have to act like a stupid twelve year old at a boy band concert. Still, she couldn't really help the small pang of disappointment that had flashed through her.
Raven helped him down the hallway and into his room. Navigating the dirty clothes, take-out tofu containers, and stacks of comic books was a little more difficult. Eventually, though, she lowered him to his bottom bunk. With a heavy sigh, Beastboy lay back on his bed, eyes already closed. Raven, kneeling next to his bed, took the paper sack from his hand and laid it on the floor. "Hold still."
She reached out and placed both hands on his midsection. Suddenly the room was awash in the soft blue light of the healing powers emanating from them. After a few minutes of carefully tending to his injuries, Raven let her hands drop to the bed next to him and sat back on her heels. Beastboy's eyes were still closed, but he seemed to be in much less pain. The bruise and scrape on his face had disappeared completely. "You had a concussion and some bruised ribs. You might still be a little sore for a few days, but other than that you're fine."
He cracked one eye open to look at Raven as he replied, "Thanks Rae. You're a lifesaver."
"You're welcome." Raven was silent for a moment, not sure what else to say. Before today, she would have just left, or possibly have made a sarcastic comment about needing healing after a trip to the store, but now she just couldn't. An alternative option floated through her mind, undoubtedly the suggestion of a certain purple cloaked emotion. It was not something she would normally do. But I did promise I would try to listen to them about this. She kept her eyes on her hands as they nervously picked at his blanket and asked, "Is there anything else you need? I could get you some food or something."
Beastboy raised his head up and opened both eyes so he could look fully at Raven. She could tell he was obviously taken aback by the unexpected offer. "Um, no thanks. I'm not really hungry. I think I'm just gonna take a little nap. It was kinda a rough day."
Raven nodded at this and watched as his head dropped back to the pillow and his eyes slid back shut. She grabbed the package off the floor, quietly stood, and turned to leave. At his door, she looked back at the changeling once more.
He already appeared to be fast asleep, his chest rising and falling in time with his deep breaths. After watching him for a few seconds, she again stepped into his room and picked her way back to his bed. Reaching up to the top bunk, she pulled a folded quilt from the foot of the bed. Being very careful not to wake the slumbering teen, Raven gently spread it over him. She froze as Beastboy stirred, but he only snuggled deeper into the blanket. He looks so peaceful when he's sleeping.
Just as she was about to leave, another thought flitted through her mind. Raven anxiously considered it for a moment, unsure whether she should risk it or not. Eventually conceding to another prompting from Affection (and praying to whatever gods might be listening that Beastboy really was sound asleep) she took a deep breath to steady herself and leaned over him. With a racing heart and a shaking hand she brushed away the fringe of green hair before placing a soft, delicate kiss on his dirty forehead. She then stood and moved swiftly and silently out of his room without even a single glance back.
Had she taken the time to look back once more before leaving, though, she would have seen a small smile spread across the face of the still sleeping Beastboy.
Beastboy heaved a sigh of deep contentment as he stood under the steaming stream of water, allowing the hot shower to rinse away all the grit, grime, and soreness he had accumulated from his day's activities. He had woken from his nap a scant fifteen minutes earlier, slightly groggy but feeling exceptionally well rested. He had, however, recognized immediately that he was in desperate need of bathing and so had proceeded directly to the shower, where he now stood, body relaxing and mind wandering.
It wasn't long before his thoughts found themselves focused on his most recent return to the tower and the unanticipated, even slightly odd, reception he had received. To be honest, he wasn't exactly sure what he had expected, but it definitely wasn't what had actually happened.
It wasn't the fact that he had met Raven in the hallway rather than in her room. That was unforeseen, but it wasn't really unusual. She could have been going to the living room, or the kitchen, or anywhere, really. Her helping him back to his room and healing his injuries wasn't out of the ordinary, either. She had helped him in similar ways dozens of times. They were, after all, crime-fighting, superhero teammates.
No, it was the other, less tangible things that his thoughts were hung up on. It was the weird moment in the hallway, after she had thanked him, as they stood staring at one another, both blushing slightly for no real reason. It was the surprising offer of food after she had healed him. It was the extra quilt that was covering him when he woke up, the very same quilt he knew for sure had been on the top bunk. It was almost as if something had changed between them. If he hadn't known any better, he might have thought that Raven actually...
Beastboy gave a quick shake of his head as he turned off the water. Dude, don't be stupid. This is Raven we're talking about here. You're reading way too much into stuff. It was probably just the concussion. It must have, you know, scrambled your brains or messed with your mind or somethin'.
That is, at least, what he kept trying to tell himself as he stepped out of the shower, dried off, and began pulling on a fresh uniform. But no matter how addled his brains may have been, he couldn't deny that she had treated him very differently than usual. She had actually offered to make him some food. The last time she did anything like that it was because she thought the whole world was about to go kablooie and we were all gonna die horrible deaths at the hands of evil, sadistic demonic hordes. Beastboy paused in his dressing to consider that, but finally decided that he was unlikely to see the end of the world twice in his own lifetime. Instead, his mind turned to the possibly significant fact that he had woken up on the bottom bunk under a quilt that had previously resided on the top bunk. The only explanation for that one was that Raven had actually spread the extra blanket over him while he slept. But that was just probably 'cause I was injured. It was just a medical, doctory type thing. But wasn't there something else... He gently rubbed a spot on his forehead as his mind tried futilely to grasp the slippery thought playing along the fringe of his memory.
Before he was able to apprehend the elusive remembrance, he was quite rudely interrupted by the deep, resonating growling of his own stomach. Placing one hand over the offending organ, he announced to his empty room, "Guess it's time to feed the beast. It must be gettin' close to dinnertime anyways." His room didn't seem to have any objections to that.
As Beastboy was marching towards his door, he noticed something lying atop all the other clutter of his room and hesitated. It was the dirty uniform he had taken off prior to his shower.
Now, it's quite common knowledge that Beastboy is not exactly a neat freak, and that his room could never be mistaken for a rose garden. But that particular uniform was not just normal dirty. It wasn't one he had worked up a sweat in, maybe crumbled some tofu on. It was one he had worn while fighting greasy popcorn, melted chocolate, and sticky soda. That particular uniform had been through a small war with an evil army of days old garbage. It had definitely come out the worse for wear. It wasn't nearly as bad as if he had fought Plasmus (those uniforms went to the incinerator rather than the washing machine), but it didn't take a rocket scientist to realize that it would turn rancid fairly quickly.
Stepping over piles of old pizza boxes and careful not to crush any empty soda cans, Beastboy waded through the refuse of his room and approached the corner where stood Mount Saint Dirty Laundry. Reaching up on tiptoes, he plucked the garment from the top. The whole pile wobbled precariously, a few pungent socks slipping down the sides, and he could only pray that it would not cascade into a tumbling avalanche of malodorous clothing. Finally, though, he was able to breathe a sigh of relief as the fetid heap stabilized itself.
Beastboy made it back to his door without further incident and exited, marching proudly in the direction of the laundry room, uniform clinched victoriously in hand. HA! And Robin says I never straighten up my room!
The green teen walked down the hallway whistling, not even bothering to glance in as he passed by the open door of the laundry room and flung the soiled uniform in the general direction of where the clothes hamper had been the last time he saw it. He had only gone a few steps when he was brought to a halt by a loud "Eeep!" from behind. Backtracking slightly, he poked his head into the room to discover the source of the disturbance.
Starfire was standing on one side of the small room, glaring suspiciously at the uniform now lying crumpled on the floor. When she raised glowing fists and trained them on the article of clothing, Beastboy rushed in to intervene.
He placed himself between the Tamaranian and the apparel, raising his hands and waving them wildly. "Wait, Starfire, dont!"
Starfire, fists still glowing, spoke quickly as she responded. "Beastboy, beware! Though the Zn'Haglion Filthworm looks and smells as though it has been dead for many weeks, it has just leaped through the doorway. Move aside so that I may destroy it before it can implant it's egg sacks into our nasal cavities!"
Beastboy took a tentative step towards the alien girl, hands still held up placatingly. "No, Star, it's not a, uh, Zing-whatever filth-thingy. It's just my dirty uniform. It needs to be washed, not annihilated."
Starfire peered warily over the changeling's shoulder at the object in question. "You are certain? It bears a great resemblance to a filthworm."
Beastboy rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Heh, yeah. I guess it is kinda gross. It was a tough day."
Starfire powered down her starbolts. Beastboy, noticing the open doors of the washer and dryer, asked, "So, I guess it's your week for laundry duty, huh?"
She nodded. "Indeed, it is my turn to do the washing of the clothes." With a last leery glance at the uniform, she went back to moving clothes from the washer to the dryer.
Beastboy walked over and picked up the uniform. "Look, Star, this thing is really kinda nasty. Why don't I just wash it myself."
Starfire turned and looked at him for a moment, as though deeply considering his offer. Finally, though, she resignedly held out her hand. "Thank you, friend Beastboy, but it is my turn for the doing of the laundry. It would be wrong to refuse the duty simply because the task is so exceedingly vile and odious. I shall wash it for you."
Beastboy blinked and handed the uniform to the alien girl. "Oh, um, thanks, I think." Starfire grasped it tentatively between two fingers, a poorly concealed look of queasiness marring her features.
Deciding to leave her to it, Beastboy set out for the kitchen once more. He had just about made it out the door of the laundry room when he was again stopped by her voice. This time, though, she didn't sound scared or angry or disgusted. She sounded confused.
He rotated in the doorway. Starfire was still holding the uniform in one hand. She had something else in her other hand, but Beastboy couldn't really tell what it was. "Yeah, Star?"
She glanced down at the object in her hand, and then back up to his face. "Robin has told me on many occasions that when I am doing the laundry I must check the pockets prior to their washing. He has been most adamant on this point."
Yep, that sounds like Robin. "Yeah, he always gets on me about that too."
"In the checking of your pockets, I discovered a most unexpected item. I am afraid that I do not understand the significance of it." Raising one hand, she showed him the object.
Beastboy's eyes widened and his jaw dropped, his face flushing heavily. Oh God! Why did I... How could I... Oh crap!
Held in Starfire's upraised hand was the front section of a tampon box. It was the portion Raven had torn off her empty box so that Beastboy would know what type to buy. He had forgotten about it and left it in the pocket of his uniform, and now Starfire had found it, holding it up and staring quizzically at him. "Friend Beastboy, perhaps my knowledge is incomplete, but I was unaware that human males also experience the cycle of menstruation."
Beastboy could only gape at her for a moment, the blood continuing to rush to his face at her words. Eventually, though, he found his voice. "NO! Starfire, guys do not experience the... the that!" Beastboy sincerely hoped that this would be the end of the conversation, and was in fact edging towards the door in an attempt to escape, but unfortunately his response just confused the girl more.
"While I am pleased that my knowledge of human physiology is not flawed, I still do not understand why you would possess such an item if not for your own needs." She continued to glance between the cardboard and the animorph. "Perhaps it is a hobby of some sort? Do you perhaps collect products of feminine hygiene?"
Beastboy, face contorting through a wide range of expressions, rushed to disavow her of this thoroughly disturbing thought. "Eww! NO! Gross! NO! Geez, Star, why would anyone collect something like that!"
Starfire furrowed her brow as she responded. "I am sorry if I have offended you, friend, but I must admit that I do not fully understand the hobbies of earthlings. Many of them seem most strange. I saw on the television that some collect insects and display them as decorations. Others find simple rocks and hoard them as trophies. Just yesterday I received a letter of a fan that requested I send him a pair of my underpants for his collection. I do not know why anyone would want a pair of used underpants."
"Star, you didn't offend me, it's just..." Beastboy did a double-take. "Wait. What? Some guy asked for your underwear?"
"Yes. It seemed most important to him that he receive them."
A distressing notion that he couldn't quite dismiss forced Beastboy to ask, "You didn't actually send them, did you?"
"No, I have not."
His relief, however, was very short-lived as Starfire continued, "I have not had ample opportunity to travel to the office of post yet. Perhaps tomorrow..."
Beastboy began gesticulating wildly as he cut her off, hoping to dissuade her through sheer energy. "Ack! NO! Star, you can't send that guy anything. Nothing! Ever! Especially not your underwear!"
Starfire, apparently baffled by his manic reaction, asked in a very reasonable tone of voice, "But Beastboy, we often send the souvenirs to people. There have been many occasions that I have sent photographs and signatures. Robin has sent even one of his masks to a child. Is this somehow different?"
"Star, it's just..., he wants to..., this guy is...," Beastboy knew that he should approach this maturely and explain rationally to Starfire why it was inappropriate to send your underwear to strangers, regardless of how nicely they asked. She was not at all stupid, just a little naïve sometimes. Surely she would understand as long as he kept everything sophisticated and clinical and avoided slang and euphemisms. Really, it was the least he could do as her friend and teammate.
Or, he could pass the buck to someone else. Hmmm... decisions, decisions...
"Look, why don't you ask Rob..." Beastboy changed his mind in mid sentence. "Raven. Why don't you ask Raven. She can explain it a lot better than I can, ok?" While watching Robin try to communicate the answer of that particular question to Starfire would be absolutely hysterical, Beastboy thought that the team worked really well with five. If Robin were serving a life sentence for murder, it would just mean more work for everyone else.
Starfire was obviously still confused by his reticence, but conceded anyway. "Very well, Beastboy. I shall ask Raven."
Beastboy nodded and once again turned to leave. He hadn't even taken a single step, though, when Starfire pointed out, "But still you did not explain the reason for having this item in your pocket."
He didn't even bother to look back as he rapidly answered, "Ask Raven about that too. She will explain everything, I promise. I need to... I have to go to, uh, somewhere not here." And without giving the Tamaranian a chance to say another word, he beat a hasty retreat out the door and down the hallway.
He maintained his quick pace until he made it around the next corner. There he stopped and leaned against the wall, taking a moment to collect himself and allow the blush to fade from his cheeks. Geez, how could I forget about that? I'm just glad it was Star instead of Cyborg or Robin. They would hold it over me forever. With a sudden shock, Beastboy realized the truth of this last thought. They really would tease him forever about it. Maybe even longer than forever. It would be unbearable. He knew that, no matter what, those two could not find out, ever. Beastboy quickly took stock of any other evidence he may have overlooked.
Ok, the cardboard piece Star already found, but Raven will explain it to her. I gave the box of stuff to Raven when it was just us in the tower.. The nose hair trimmers are, um... Ok, I'm not really sure what happened to them, but they were probably lost or blown up or somethin' in the fight with Control Freak. Either way, they can't be tied to me. It didn't even bother Beastboy anymore that he was out fifty bucks on the trimmers, just so long as no one else found out about his trip today. I have a clean uniform on. The other one is being washed. Raven took care of all my scrapes and bruises and stuff.
Beastboy continued to rack his brain for several more minutes, desperately searching for anything else that had the potential for embarrassment. As far as he was concerned, he had reached his quota of embarrassment for at least the next millennium or so. Finally, absolutely convinced that he hadn't missed any incriminating details, he resumed his journey to the kitchen in search of sustenance.
Stepping through the door to the living room, Beastboy saw Robin on the couch, television remote in hand, watching the evening news. Sitting next to him, quite obviously returned from his trip, was Cyborg. "Yo, Cyborg! When did you get back?"
Cyborg turned to look at the entering changeling as Robin continued to watch the news. "Hey, BB. Got back a couple hours ago. Where you been, man?"
Beastboy walked over and stood behind the couch. "Oh, just takin' a little catnap. Had to catch up on my beauty sleep."
"Hate to break it to you, mi amigo verde, but you better go back to sleep for a few more hours. Or years."
Beastboy crossed his arms in mock offense. "Haha, very funny, tin can. Not all of us get to take vacations to Steel City for no reason."
"No reason?" Cyborg, incredulous at this statement, pointed an accusing finger at Beastboy. "Look here, grass stain, I was updating their security systems, ok? That means that I, unlike some people around here, was actually working. What exactly did you accomplish today?"
Even Robin turned around at this overzealous response. Beastboy, tugging nervously at his collar, did his best to backpedal. "Hehe, I mean, uh, not much, just chillin', just hangin', you know, doin' my thang." Noticing the odd looks they were giving him, Beastboy hurried to change the subject. "Uh, I'm just gonna go get somethin' to eat now."
Cyborg and Robin exchanged questioning glances, but could only shrug as the changeling walked away..
Arriving in the kitchen area, Beastboy opened the door of the fridge and browsed his options while internally berating himself. Whoa, Beastboy, gotta be more careful. Almost gave it away there.
He pulled out a loaf of bread, a block of tofu, and the mayonnaise and laid them on the counter intending to make himself a sandwich. As he was pulling a knife out of a drawer, Robin called from the couch. "Hey, Beastboy, while you were asleep we got a call from the cops. Control Freak turned himself in earlier. He was acting pretty strangely, even for him. He kept mumbling something about 'Don't let them get me'." Beastboy couldn't help but chuckle at that as Robin continued. "But they questioned him and it appears he was working alone, not as an apprentice to Slade, so it turns out that you were wrong."
Beastboy gaped at the Boy Wonder. Cyborg turned and looked at Beastboy in disbelief. "You thought Control Freak was Slade's apprentice? Man, BB, you have had some wild conspiracy theories before, but that one takes the cake."
"But it wasn't... Robin said that... I was just... That's not fair!"
Robin gave him a particularly smug and condescending look. "Hey, not all leads pan out. But you have to admit, that was a pretty far-fetched idea."
A wide smile spread across Cyborg's face. "Yeah, man, you might want to be careful. If you don't watch it, you may end up even more paranoid than our fearless leader."
Robin threw a pillow at the metallic teen. "Shut up, Cyborg."
Beastboy sulked while beginning his sandwich preparation. My stupid theory? Yeah, right. And even if it was, he thought it was a pretty good idea earlier. So first I'm a genius while he's trying to get me killed with Starfire, and an idiot now that Control Freak is caught. Besides, I'm the whole reason he turned himself in. You'd think I'd get a little credit sometimes. Stupid Robin. I hope his tights bunch.
Beastboy continued to slather mayo on his bread and insults on the Boy Wonder until his sharp ears happened to pick up something from the television.
"...leave you with this last clip. It's security footage from the Jump City Superstore, complete with synched audio of the store's PA system. Our thanks go out to Doug Johnson, a long time employee of the store who submitted the footage..."
The knife froze in Beastboy's hand as his head jerked up to look at the screen. Jump City SuperStore? Security footage with audio? Doug? No... it can't be...
Cyborg and Robin were both still sitting on the couch, eyes glued to the pretty anchorwoman on the screen as she continued to speak. "It's none other than one of our resident superhero celebrities, and what he is doing... well, we'll just let you judge for yourselves. Be sure to join us again at 10 as we bring you your late news. Until then, so long, Jump City."
The phrase "resident superhero celebrities" was all it took for Beastboy to realize that he only had a few seconds before he might as well pack up and move to Siberia. Considering that he was not at all fond of the cold, it's perfectly understandable that the phrase was like the crack of a starting pistol for him.
Letting the knife and bread drop from his hands (the bread landing on the floor, mayonnaise side down, of course) he sprang over the counter and sprinted towards the couch. As he ran, his eyes homed in on the remote still held tightly in Robin's hand. Nearing the couch, Beastboy launched himself over it, hand outstretched as he flew through the air. He was so focused that he didn't even notice the absolutely thunderstruck looks on both Robin and Cyborg's faces as he tucked himself nimbly into a somersault and came up on one knee with the remote pointed at the screen.
It's a credit to Beastboy's speed and reflexes that he accomplished all of this before the anchorwoman had even completed her sign off. With a triumphant gleam in his eye, he jammed his thumb down on the power button before the news channel could broadcast his humiliation to his friends.
But, as Beastboy had already observed once, this was not his day.
The television did not turn off.
He pressed the button again.
When the picture changed to a black and white, slightly grainy, but still totally clear view of the checkout lines at Jump City SuperStore, he pressed the button again.
Eyes still on the screen, he could see the little boy, Michael, and his mom were just finishing their transaction. He could see himself on the screen, box pressed tightly against his leg, getting ready to check out.
Frenetically, he mashed the button again and again with both thumbs. Still the television would not turn off.
He took a quick peek at his friends. They were both staring at him in wide eyed amazement. And that was when Beastboy saw it. In his desperate lunge for the remote, ripping it out of Robin's hand, Beastboy hadn't even noticed that the battery cover had slid off and was still firmly in the grip of the Boy Wonder. Flipping the remote over he saw that, indeed, the batteries were no longer there.
He frantically cast about for the wayward components, but soon realized that it was too late. On the television, capturing the attention of all the Titan's in the room, the audio started.
"NO! NO! You can't do this to me. I have been blushing almost since I woke up! You can't embarrass me with a price check on TAMPONS!. No! I don't care if you have been a cashier for a bazillion years and stuff like this doesn't bother you. I don't care if it's against 'official store policy' for a customer to touch the stupid phone. I will not let anyone else embarrass me today! I already had to fend off one stupid employee guy who wouldn't leave me alone. Do you know how? I had to spend fifty bucks on some damn nose hair trimmers! I don't have any frickin nose hair. Up until a few years ago, I didn't even have any pubic hair! But I bought it anyways to try to save myself some grief, and now you want to do a price check on tampons! I saw the price, they were $4.79. You can trust me, I swear. Look at me. I have green skin, I have green hair. I can change into any animal you name if you want me to. I'm Beastboy, of the Teen Titans. The heroes of the city, we live in a giant T on the bay, we fight crime and the forces of evil and all that. You can trust me, the tampons are $4.79. There is absolutely no price check needed, do you understand! Just type in the amount and..."
It was odd for Beastboy to see the whole mortifying experience from earlier in the day played out on the television screen. It somehow seemed less real this way, almost as if it was just a part of a show rather than the awful reality of his life. And the voice he heard, the frenzied whisper of his slightly hysterical self, didn't even sound anything like him.
Of course, none of this was any consolation at all. Not once the laughing started. Before his on screen self even finished with his diatribe, Cyborg and Robin had literally collapsed in uncontrollable fits of gut busting hilarity.
Once again, for what was approximately the billionth time that day, Beastboy felt his face warm in a radiant, terrible blush. Beastboy's whole body slumped as he dropped the remote to the floor and began trudging his way to the exit. He thought that perhaps he should spend some time in his room alone. For the whole rest of eternity sounds about right.
Before the dejected changeling could make it far, though, Cyborg impeded his progress with an arm around his shoulders, doing his best to speak through his laughter. "Hey, where are you off to in such a hurry? Have to go trim your nose hair?"
Before Beastboy could even make an attempt at explaining himself, Robin spoke up through his own chuckles. "Don't be silly, Cyborg. He doesn't have any nose hair, remember?"
"Oh, that's right. He must have spent fifty bucks so he would have something to trim all that pubic hair!"
Beastboy, face still brightly aglow, shrugged off Cyborg's arm and flopped down on the couch in resignation, slouching low with his arms crossed. Might as well let them get it out of their systems.
"Hey, Cy, don't be too hard on him. You know he gets cranky during that time of the month."
"Yeah, you're right. Maybe we should hook him up with some Midol!"
"Oh, BB, I forgot to tell you, there was another call while you were asleep. It was Tampax, they were hoping you would be their new spokesperson!"
By this time, both Robin and Cyborg were positively howling with laughter. Clutching their sides, they fought to catch their breath, only to launch into another series of jokes that once again ignited their humor. After several rounds of this, Beastboy began to realize that it might be quite some time before they actually did get this out of their systems. He closed his eyes and dropped his head back onto the couch, doing his best to tune them both out.
"Hey, maybe we should mark this week on the calendar so we'll know when to expect..."
Cyborg's words were cut off abruptly, as was all the laughter. In the new silence, Beastboy heard two quick, consecutive thumps. Opening his eyes, he saw an interesting sight.
Cyborg and Robin were no longer standing in front of the couch delivering a steady stream of crass jokes through their strangled laughter. They were now both standing flat against the wall, arms outstretched, no sound at all escaping them. Their strange stance and sudden silence was undoubtedly due to the fact that each of them was surrounded by a glowing nimbus of dark energy. It encapsulated each of them from chest to toe, with an accompanying strip across their mouths.
Beastboy, more than a little surprised at this new development, looked around the room. Standing behind the couch and glaring venomously at the two pinned Titans was Raven. She was once again dressed in her uniform, complete with cloak, though her hood was down at the moment. Levitating around the couch, she stopped right in front of her two prisoners and spoke in a voice that threatened to single handedly reverse the trend of global warming.
"If either of you has anything you would like to say about tampons, I suggest you say it to me and leave Beastboy out of it. He was buying them for me. He was kind enough to offer to help out a friend. He went out of his way to do something he didn't really want to do just to save me the trip when I wasn't feeling well. He has done nothing but behave as a gentleman, certainly nothing that deserves your ridicule, and if you two cretins have a problem with that, then I will be happy to hear what you have to say. I think it's only fair to warn you, though, most people don't generally find it advisable to piss off a PMSing demon."
Beastboy watched in wonder as, with a wave of her hand, the strips of power at their mouths disappeared. Still pinned to the wall, neither one of them seemed to be in a hurry to say anything. Raven continued to stare at them for a moment before continuing. "Nothing to say? No jokes left?"
Robin and Cyborg very wisely kept their eyes down and their mouths shut.
"Fine. Now I think you two owe Beastboy an apology."
Beastboy stood and made his way to stand next to the empath. "Uh, Raven, they really don't have to..."
"Yes, they do have to. Now!"
Robin and Cyborg simultaneously muttered a quick, "Sorry, Beastboy."
Raven nodded in satisfaction. "Good. Now, Beastboy and I are going out for pizza..."
All three boys looked at her quickly in surprise and all starting talking simultaneously.
Choosing to respond to Beastboy, Raven said, "Yes, we are. You did me a favor today, so the least I can do is spring for a pizza."
Beastboy was thoroughly nonplussed, his eyes glazing slightly as he attempted to process this new information.
Raven addressed Cyborg and Robin again. "We are going for pizza. The two of you are going to stay right where you are until we get back. Maybe then I will release you."
Robin quickly protested. "But.. we apologized!"
"Yes, you did. But that doesn't excuse your behavior. So, unless you want to sleep standing up tonight, I suggest you accept your punishment."
Robin opened his mouth to speak again, but was interrupted by the entrance of Starfire. She quickly made her way over to them and took stock of the situation. There was obvious worry in her voice as she asked, "Raven, for what reason have you detained our friends?"
Beastboy noticed the suddenly hopeful looks on Cyborg and Robin's faces. He couldn't really blame them. Starfire actually had a pretty good track record of being able to calm Raven down. He should know, he had sought her intercession countless times. Well, it was kinda funny while it lasted.
Raven answered the alien with a question of her own. "Starfire, you know what we were talking about earlier?"
"The inadvisability of sending ones undergarments to..."
Raven quickly cut her off. "No, not that. The other thing."
"Ah, you mean the favor that friend Beastboy performed for you?"
Raven nodded. "Yes, that. Robin and Cyborg found out about it and were making fun of him."
Starfire's eyebrows raised. "They were doing the teasing of him for performing the favor?"
Raven nodded again.
Starfire glanced at the two stuck on the wall, at Beastboy, and then back at Raven. "I see. In that case, I shall go and prepare dinner for myself and Silkie." And much to the astonishment of the male Titans, she turned and went into the kitchen area without another word.
Raven began moving towards the exit, obviously considering the conversation finished. Cyborg, though, still had a complaint. "Now hold on a second. You can't just leave us here while all y'all go off to eat. We're hungry too!"
Raven stopped, a pensive look on her face. "You know Cyborg, you're right. That really wouldn't be very fair, would it?"
Cyborg smiled at this apparent breakthrough. "Nope, not at all. So, you're gonna let us go?"
Much to the disappointment of the two wallpapered superheros, Raven shook her head. "No, you still have to be punished. But I think we can at least let you eat."
Raising her voice, Raven once again spoke to Starfire. "Hey, Starfire, since it's dinnertime would you mind fixing these two something to eat?"
Both Cyborg and Robin very quickly tried to express that this would not be at all necessary, and that they weren't really all that hungry anyways, but Starfire spoke over them. "Oh, I would be delighted! It is ok that I do this?"
Raven smirked evilly at Cyborg and Robin. "Oh, I think it's fine. But since they can't move their arms, you will have to feed them."
"Glorious! I shall prepare them a traditional Tameranian feast. And do not fear, friends Cyborg and Robin, I shall be happy to feed you and will be certain that you swallow every bite!" With this happy (or ominous, depending on your point of view) pronouncement, Starfire started preparing their dinner.
Cyborg and Robin wore looks of pure dread. It was Robin, though, who was able to express what they were both feeling. "Raven, you are a sick, twisted, evil, sadistic person."
Raven, as she headed towards the exit, threw back over her shoulder. "Yes, well, flattery will get you nowhere. Are you coming, Beastboy?"
Beastboy, not in any hurry to sample any Tameranian cuisine, followed swiftly in Raven's wake. As they exited the room, Beastboy turned back to his two former tormentors and waved. "Bon appetit, dudes!"
The door swished closed behind him, and he was once again alone with Raven. As they walked down the hallway, Beastboy looked over at her. "Thanks."
She glanced back at him, but seemed unwilling to maintain eye contact as her gaze quickly darted away. "For what?"
"Helpin' me with Robin and Cyborg. Who knows how long they coulda kept that up."
"Don't mention it."
After this short exchange they lapsed into silence as they continued walking towards the elevator. A rather awkward and uncomfortable silence. As they entered the elevator, their hands momentarily brushed against each other, causing both to blush noticeably. All of this served to thoroughly confuse Beastboy as they rode the elevator down, neither one willing or able to break the silence.
I don't get it. Why is it so weird bein' around her all of the sudden. Beastboy tried to trace back when the dynamic between them had changed. The day had started off pretty normally. He had pestered her until she got really angry and screamed at him, he had gone and apologized, she had accepted. That was all pretty much par for the course. It was after that, when I got back from my trip. That whole thing in the hallway.
Having identified when he first noticed the difference, Beastboy found that that information did not help in the least with his current situation. As the elevator neared their destination, he decided that maybe it would be best to try to get things back the way they used to be. He could only think of one way to do that. Ok, I will just give her an easy one. A perfect setup for her to slam me. Then maybe I can tell a few jokes and she'll call me stupid and we'll be back to normal again.
When the elevator arrived at the bottom, and the doors slid open, Beastboy executed his plan. Putting on his cheesiest grin and bowing with an exaggerated flourish, he stuck his arm out to her. "Might I have the pleasure of escorting the fair lady?"
Beastboy waited for her sharp retort, for the stinging barb that would mock him for the silly bow, or the lame compliment, or even just for the idea that she would possibly allow him to escort her anywhere.
It never came.
Raven looked at him, glancing back and forth from his arm to his face. Finally, though, with a bright blush, she placed her hand through his arm and stared straight ahead, totally unwilling to meet his gaze.
Beastboy was dumbstruck. He absolutely couldn't believe it. He had given her the perfect setup, but instead of a withering insult, she had done the unthinkable. She had called his bluff and taken him up on his offer.
The elevator door began to close again. Before it could, Raven reached out with her other hand and stopped it. Walking forward once more, she gave a slight tug to his arm, and he had no choice but to step out beside her.
Beastboy just couldn't understand. He didn't understand what could have possibly caused this change. He didn't understand how, in the space of less than a day, the entire dynamic of their relationship could have so drastically altered.
It was as they were stepping out of the tower that a realization hit him. Hard. Ton of bricks, runaway train hard. Here he was on a perfect autumn evening, a cool breeze playing through his hair and the sun just setting over the water, with a beautiful, smart, funny, amazing girl on his arm. It didn't really matter that, before today, she had never acted this way around him. It didn't really matter that, before today, he had never considered her as anything more than a friend. All that really mattered was now. And for now, he was just happy to be going out for pizza with Raven.
Beastboy placed his free hand on top of Raven's and gave it a gentle squeeze. She turned to him, looking nervous and tentative, but somehow hopeful. Their eyes locked. He smiled at her, a small, contented, understanding smile. And then it happened.
It was a bright shining sun finally fighting free of the clouds on a dreary, depressing, overcast day. It was the first glimpse of an oasis after traversing miles over the hot burning sand of a barren desert. It was a cheery fire crackling merrily in the fireplace after braving the howling, screeching wind of a blizzard. It was a smile. A warm, genuine, happy smile. It was Raven's smile, and it was directed at him.
Beastboy couldn't help the big grin that spread across his face or the warmth that spread through his heart as they walked arm-in-arm out of the tower, hands and eyes still joined, both finally comfortable with their silence, into the deepening sunset just beginning to set fire to the bay. And as they walked, he couldn't help but ponder this most unusual of days. The mundane beginning. The embarrassing conversation with Raven and the ensuing trip to the store. The encounters with Doug, with the three teens, with the little boy and his mom. The whole debacle at the register. The fight at the movie theater where he was almost killed, first by projectors and popcorn and then by Starfire. The battle with Control Freak in the alleyway. His concussion and bruises and scrapes. Then being embarrassed yet again, this time by his team, first in the laundry room by Starfire, and more maliciously by Robin and Cyborg just a few minutes ago in the living room. And now, the ultimate culmination of an arduous day, a simple smile. Raven's smile.
Dude, it was totally worth it...
A/N: Thus ends my first ever chaptered fic. It took me entirely too long to finish it, ended up being MUCH longer than I expected (this was originally envisioned as a one shot, and even after deciding to make it chapters I never dreamed it would end up at well over 35000 words), and the wait between chapters was unconscionably long, but I got there in the end.
Speaking of the end, I hope no one is too disappointed. I realize that it may be a bit tame for some, and it's possible I shortchanged poor Beastboy a little after the harrowing day he had, but I just couldn't help it. The first couple of endings I wrote actually did have the whole big climactic kiss scene, but they just didn't feel right. They came across (at least to me) as rushed or unnatural. Maybe that was due to a deficiency of the author, but regardless, I didn't care for them at all. After several tries I landed on this ending, and really liked it in a less-is-more kind of way. It also gave me my chapter title. So, while I won't apologize for the way I ended it, I do hope that most of you found it sufficiently satisfying and enjoyable.
All things considered, I am pretty pleased with how this all turned out. It was a definite learning experience, and one that I enjoyed immensely. My most sincere gratitude goes out to everyone who has read the story, and especially those who took the time to review. The response I've received has been nothing short of amazing. I look forward to hearing what all of you have to say about this chapter and the story in general. I will be sure to reply to all signed reviews, unless specifically requested not to. Any and all reviews are appreciated and criticisms are viewed as an opportunity to improve my writing.
Once again, thank you.