Disclaimer: If I owned them Beast Boy would shift into a dragon quite frequently, because if I could shapeshift I'd damn near never leave that form.
The knack of flying is learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss.
She can't remember the last time she slept the whole night.
A lot of the time she sleeps for an hour or two and then makes up for the missed rest by meditating until dawn. It isn't sleep but sometimes it's as close as she can get.
She drinks more herbal tea than before and eats less than before. When the tea isn't strong enough she makes coffee, strong and black. She didn't care for the taste at first but she downed it anyway for the accompanying buzz of energy. That was how she learned that it was an acquired taste, because now she's fond of the bitter flavor. It's comforting. It clears her head.
She sits up on the roof at night, drinking her super-strength coffee and listening to the crickets and the waves. She's ridiculously, immeasurably glad that they live on an island. On an island there was no one to spot her spending every night on the roof of the Tower, no distractions that couldn't be thinned by the barrier of the ocean. Sometimes with the water all around she feels like the Titans are separate from the rest of the world. It's a restful feeling. A calming feeling.
Then her thoughts drop to the empty room before her. The Titans aren't an island. She isn't an island.
Because if they were- if she was- they'd be sinking. And islands don't sink.
They're not an island; they're a boat that has sprung a leak, and no matter how fast they bail the water out it keeps rushing in.
It isn't too hard to keep her an insomnia a secret, not at first. Cyborg recharges for the night and she can't imagine Starfire having difficulty sleeping. Star deals with her emotions in a much more straightforward way. Robin sleeps much less than he should, much less than any human should, but he does sleep and when he's awake he goes to watch the sunrise and then locks himself in the evidence room until the others wake. All she has to do to avoid him is be off the roof by dawn.
He'd never find her even if he realized her room was empty. He'd never guess her willing retreat, even if it does happen to be the only room with more than one bed. There is one Titan her nighttime forays are no secret from, because she pauses often in her meditation to watch him winging out over the dark ocean. Once he took dragon form in a storm and played with lightning, catching it in his claws and aiming it into pretty patterns- pretty, but meaningless. There is a heady sort of freedom to be found in flight, as addictive as the black coffee. Sometimes she took to the air with him, and if the others noticed their suddenly intricate aerial maneuvers in battle they don't comment.
She knows what they are doing. They both do. They know it isn't healthy. Neither one of them particularly cares. It's a rebound relationship, both of them hurting and unwilling to show it. Robin may have suspected but he wouldn't have said anything because he knew he was almost-not-quite beginning to cling to Starfire just as desperately.
The little sleep she does get these days is snatched in his bottom bunk in his messy room. He offered to clean it the first night but she shook her head. The mess was bizarrely comforting. She knew what cast the shadows in this room, and dirty laundry and broken video games weren't the least bit threatening.
She doesn't tell him she understands. She doesn't understand. She doesn't want to understand. The Titans are more than her team; they're her family. They're her home. Terra had once saved the Tower, but the Tower without the Titans was just a building. Nothing more, nothing less. She had risked her lives for her little makeshift family and they had done the same for her, repeatedly. Had Terra ever done that? Ever taken a hit in battle that was meant for someone else? She couldn't remember and she wasn't sure she wanted to.
There were days when she lived for Starfire's gentle laughter and Beast Boy's corny jokes and Robin's soft masked smile and Cyborg's love of waffles. As much as it terrified her sometimes it was all she had ever wanted out of life. She loved them, even if she could admit it only to herself. She slept in Beast Boy's room when she slept at all and she still hadn't managed to tell him the smallest piece of what she felt for him. What she felt for all of them. And Terra had been a part of that. And she had thrown it all away.
It was beyond Raven's comprehension. She still had nights where she woke in a cold sweat and checked that she really was in the Tower, that it wasn't all some strange dream. She had thought she'd never find a place that felt like home. She had thought she'd never fit in. Beast Boy and Cyborg had felt the same. The three of them would never be able to be normal teenagers, never get to go somewhere like the mall and just blend in. Starfire could, with effort, pass for human, and Robin is human. With Robin preoccupied with Starfire she found herself spending a lot more time with Beast Boy and Cyborg. She made sure to include Cyborg because the two of them had been left on the sidelines when Terra was around and she knows what it's like to be working on the T-car in the basement while laughter echoes from upstairs. She was with him. He's her brother. They're her family. She can't really put her relationship with Beast Boy into words anymore, and she doesn't try, but she would never willingly hurt him. Any of them.
And Terra had tried to kill them.
More than tried, Terra had thought she'd succeeded. Raven thought they'd all been running on pure rage when they went after her then. She'd never seen Beast Boy so driven in a fight. She'd never been so driven in a fight. When they reached Slade's base and she'd seen Terra poised to attack Beast Boy-poised to kill Beast Boy- poised to kill her friend, her teammate, her family- the words had snarled out of her throat unbidden.
"It'll be the last thing you ever do."
And she'd meant it. Let the little geomancer harm her family and Raven would have torn her apart. With her bare hands, if necessary.
When Slade had Robin they had gone after him willing to die. When Slade had Terra they had gone after her willing to kill. Robin had been coerced; Terra had betrayed them.
And the vision of Beast Boy trapped, rock hovering with a point at his throat, was burned into her mind forever. She felt a perverse pleasure in that Terra had closed her eyes and Beast Boy had not. Beast Boy had never looked away, even knowing that the girl he had loved was about to kill him. He had never looked away. Not once.
Some nights they don't sleep at all. Some nights she phases him into his- their- room and then levitates to the top bunk and they sit up resting against each other's backs. She feels safe with him at her back and he feels safe with her at his. She meditates, but in a light trance, so she can feel his wandering early morning chatter at the edge of her consciousness. She treasures the sound of his voice because of the image trapped in her mind, the reminder that his voice had very nearly been silenced.
She thinks what really drew them all closer was the time they spent sleeping in a cave beneath Jump City while Terra and Slade ravaged their home. They had to heal, they had to regroup, and they couldn't return to the Tower; but for a while the cave was home because that's where they all were together. Beast Boy had hunted food for the rest of them in a predator form without complaint, without being asked. He was a vegan but he wasn't about to see his friends starve for his ideals. She didn't what he'd been eating. She didn't think he'd been eating.
They only lived in the cave for a few days, but it felt like years. They'd gone into that cave children and they'd come out of it by adults, for all they were still the Teen Titans. It was their trial by fire and while they hadn't come out of the experience unscathed they'd come out of it alive.
She thinks they visit that cave more often than they do Terra's. It isn't a large cave. They hadn't fit in it well. It branches off into a couple of smaller caves, one with a stream that had been her water source and one that had been used as a latrine. A smile formed and faded as she remembered how Beast Boy used to beg to go on a camping trip together. He didn't ask anymore. He didn't want to anymore.
Starfire had slept curled up against Robin, ostensibly to save space. Cyborg had no choice but to shut down each night; he couldn't recharge in a cave. He'd taken up a good chunk of the cave, even staying to the wall, and she had slept between his mass and Robin and Starfire's spot on the opposite wall. With no space remaining, Beast Boy had changed to smaller forms to sleep. More than once she had awoken to a small green cat curled up against Cyborg and on top of her. He never took canine forms there; they were too closely linked to Terra. She thinks that cave is the last time they really slept, and it wasn't a restful sleep but an exhausted one. Those were the nights of pure emotion that she had to fight to keep under control. Rage, and hurt, and the complete lack of any of them to understand.
The first hint she has that her and Beast Boy aren't the only insomniacs in Titans Tower is the realization that movie nights have become much longer and much more frequent. Three a.m. longer. They've been taking turns dozing on the couch, finding it easier to drop off with the others around them.
So she isn't too surprised the night that she is flying with a green osprey and Starfire flies out after them. The end of the world has come and gone and it didn't leave as much of a mark on them as the betrayal from within did. A few nights later Robin leans against the door to the roof and watches their acrobatics until Starfire swoops down to grab him and tug him into the air. Cyborg watches sometimes, but says he'd rather keep his feet on the ground. Some nights they go swimming instead, slicing through the dark waters as they do the dark sky. Beast Boy entertains himself and them by changing into different creatures, like the night he became a giant sea turtle and they all climbed on his back and he pulled them out to sea until Jump City was a speck on the horizon and dawn was just streaking the sky. That had led to a simple day where they just floated out in the ocean until nightfall when Raven teleported them back to the Tower. There had been no Titan alerts, good weather, they had all just sprawled on their backs on Beast Boy's massive shell while he drifted. There had been no talking, for that matter; Robin held Starfire's hand and Raven laid in the shade Cyborg's metal body cast. Like Raven's meditation, it hadn't been sleep but it had been rest. Aqualad even joined them one night, attracted by the noises they set off underwater, and afterward continued to do so occasionally. He didn't come often; they were healing from a tragedy he had no part of.
It wasn't the best way of healing. Really, it wasn't even a good way of healing. Their battle reflexes were beginning to feel the lack of sleep and it wasn't long before Raven wasn't the only one addicted to black coffee. Actually, Beast Boy was the only one who wasn't, but he sucked down her herbal tea as readily as their pizza dinners.
She tried to teach the others to meditate, but only Starfire had the patience for it. She started to play some videogames with Cyborg and Beast Boy, finding that the mindless repetition some of them offered was almost as calming as meditation. They all worked on the T-car until there were no more improvements to make. Then they built Beast Boy a new moped. That took a few times, because with all of them together someone would invariably screw up, but it was worth it. She thinks the day they complete it is the first time she's seen him really smile since before the cave.
Sometimes they all deliberately go to sleep in the main room after a movie night, with the screen still a faintly glowing dark, even if none of them is about to admit it's deliberate. Starfire's head resting on Robin's shoulder is an accident. Cyborg's arm along the back of the couch, behind Raven's head, is an accident. Beast Boy sleeping at her feet with his back against the couch and his arm wrapped around her leg is an accident. It's the only time Raven ever gets anything like a full night's sleep and she knows the same is true for Beast Boy, though she can't speak for the others. Inevitably there were nightmares, they were superheroes, they'd seen more than enough blood and gore and death to torment their dreams; someone would cry out in their sleep and wake the others. Robin and Starfire would comfort each other while the others pretended to still be asleep. Raven would stubbornly insist she was fine. Beast Boy would crack jokes at Cyborg, mostly teasing him about how it wasn't like he needed the sleep. That wasn't true, and everyone knew it, because dreams are what keep people sane or at least a reasonable facsimile; but he said it each time anyway. Beast Boy himself never cried out. He never made a sound. He cried silently in his sleep, which only woke Raven, and she would find herself stroking his hair as he clutched her leg tighter and sobbed silently into the cloth of her cloak. It always reminds her of the frightened child she was and that he may very well still have been, scared that there is no place to call home, that the yellow brick road doesn't go anywhere and the shoes have nowhere to take them. She had taken to draping a blanket over her lap so that it wrapped around him as well. Sometimes he poked his head out and laid it against her though, but more often he pulled himself all the way under the blanket, hiding. Not from anything specifically, just hiding. He told her it was because it was something he had done as a little kid and she told him he was still a little kid, and then regretted her words because there was some truth in them. She never tells the others about his crying or his hiding, and he never tells them that she comforts him and sleeps in his room when they haven't accidentally-on-purpose slept on the couch or all stayed up flying and swimming and...running. Running away.
There is an unwritten rule that no Titan ever tells the others what the last thing Terra said to them before she 'killed' them was. They all know enough about therapy to know they should discuss it with someone, but no one ever does.
No, it isn't the best way to heal, but it's their way to heal.
Betrayal from within always has one of two consequences: either the team grows closer, or it falls apart.
They were lucky. They'd grown closer. They'd come through…through everything alive and intact. They were lucky, dammit, it could have been so much worse.
…But sitting on the couch at night, staring into the darkness of the Tower's living room while Beast Boy's hair brushed her bare leg and listening to Robin's soft snoring and feeling Cyborg's arm and side give off warmth and cold at the same time, she did not feel lucky. She felt…she didn't know what she felt. Home and family, if those could be called feelings, but not lucky.
And she knew she never would understand.
And she knew she didn't want to.
GuardianSaiyoko: Born mostly of homesickness and partly of some bad personal experiences. Please review. It makes me forget I have no food in the fridge. An ouroboros is the name for the symbol of a snake or a dragon devouring its own tail.