A.N. Not quite the rapid update I was hoping for, but at least it didn't take eight months, right? Right?
Chapter fourteen of "Like It Or Not," entitled "Thunderstruck"
Beast Boy stared up at the nearly cloudless sky, transfixed as gulls swooped around him, playing effortlessly in the gusty, crisp air. He shivered a bit against the chilly May morning, but the large, sunbathed rock he was stretched out upon offered him some warmth. Despite the cheery weather, dark clouds of unsolved problems hung thickly in Beast Boy's mind, but he tried to block them out and simply enjoy the sounds and smells of the bay on the edge of Titans' Island. He just wanted to forget everything, even if only for one morning, which was entirely impossible while inside the Tower. He was tired of sneaking about, avoiding Raven and thereby avoiding another explosive confrontation and all the psychological agony that would entail.
How many days had it been since Raven's birthday? Three, or was it four? Four, Beast Boy decided. But the days dragged on like weeks; tense moments were strung together into one endless chain of avoiding conflict with Raven and retreating to dress emotional wounds in the comfort of his bedroom.
Beast Boy hadn't spoken to Raven since their unfortunate meeting in her room on her birthday, which had ended with him leaving, distraught beyond words. It took a full day to feel human again after that and he had spent one of the loneliest nights of his life alone in his room, curled on the floor and suffering flashbacks of Terra and nightmares whenever he managed to drift into fitful slumber. The ensuing days had been both dull and tense. Several times Beast Boy had been alone in the common room or training room, flipping channels or spending some time on the treadmill, when Raven had walked into the room he occupied. For the briefest of moments the breath would seize in his throat and hope for reconciliation would bloom in his chest, but then Raven's face would go blank and she would quickly retreat from the room without so much as a greeting.
He had quickly become accustomed to Raven's refusal to speak or associate with him. He would not be able to come to terms with it, but it became more bearable as the time passed and it became the norm. Beast Boy even wondered if he had started healing from his broken heart, so deft was he becoming at blocking out the pain of Raven's rejection. The only thing in life he had to look forward to was the end of this dreadful honeymoon, when he could get back on the team and back into active duty. Even that small beacon of hope seemed bright in his cloudy world.
That is, it had until that very morning. Beast Boy had woken up that windy day and opened his door, only to find that Raven had finally removed the purple and green blankets from her bedroom and placed them in a pile in front of his door. Something about seeing that wedding gift thrown before his door in a heap was like carving fresh wounds into his heart. Beast Boy had felt unbearably lost and cried like he hadn't in a long time. It was this particular act of spurning that had caused the poor changeling to finally seek solace outdoors, effectively giving up on his life in the Tower for a while.
The changeling wondered why it had taken him so long to think of taking reprieve in the great outdoors, where Raven hadn't appeared the entire week. Here he was guaranteed time alone in the healing hand of nature, where he didn't have to think about Raven and how they had both forsaken their relationship. It hurt him to admit that he had given up for the time being, but there was nothing else that could be done. Lord knew it hurt too badly to hold onto even a shred of hope. What was the point? Raven would just keep abusing him if she thought he still clung to optimism, and he couldn't take that.
Beast Boy hopped up with a stretch and a sigh. He leapt from the rock he was standing on and into the bay, changing into a minnow half way through the fall. He splashed into the water and was off, more than ready to spend some more quiet time in the clear water of Jump City Bay.
Leave it to Beast Boy to even drain the comfort from meditation. Raven had to hand it to him; at least the boy was completely thorough in ruining her life.
"You're being unfair to him," Knowledge prodded, crossly and without looking up from her book.
"No, it is unfair," Raven bit back, "that I can't sit down in my own mind anymore without being in a field of flowers. I want the Nevermore that I grew up in, not this fuzzy, Beast Boy infused monstrosity I've been forced into."
"That makes perfect sense," Knowledge said with a curt nod, and Raven looked to her expectantly. "Beast Boy has unknowingly splashed some life into your morbid mind, so of course he deserves the silent treatment. And worse."
"That's not fair," Raven retorted tiredly. "Treating him this way is best for both of us in the long run."
"I'm sorry Raven, but you have yet to convince anyone of that. Honestly, you don't even believe it."
Raven closed her eyes and leaned back, blades of green grass tickling her face.
"I believe it," she said softly, as a feeble gust of wind rippled the field that she and Knowledge occupied. "I'm happy like this. Alone."
Knowledge shook her head and stared at Raven sadly.
"There's absolutely no reason to lie to yourself, Raven."
Raven's eyes opened tiredly.
"Why do you think I'm lying?"
Knowledge did not reply, but simply continued to look sadly at Raven as the wind picked up. Raven sat up as another figure slowly made its way through the grassy field towards them, donned in a dull pink leotard and matching cloak and boots. Immediately Raven knew what was about to transpire.
"Raven, you haven't spoken with Happy recently, have you?" Knowledge inquired lightly once Happy was near enough to be within earshot.
"It's been a while," Happy offered, her normally bright smile faltering as she plopped down on the grass near Knowledge.
"I just haven't been meditating enough," Raven offered apologetically. "I haven't been sleeping well and I've been neglecting my normal reading. If anything, that's why I'm unhappy."
"Again, why are you lying to yourself?" Knowledge inquired with a shake of her head. "Your unhappiness has nothing to do with meditation or books this time, Raven. It's because you've isolated yourself completely out of stubbornness."
"You should be with Beast Boy right now. Doesn't that sound fun?" Happy sighed wistfully. "You two could build pillow forts or make a campfire on a rock by the bay. And you could share secrets and he could tell those jokes you pretend to hate and everything would be wonderful."
"I'm sure that Beast Boy is busy with something," Raven brushed her off.
"Of course. Just like you've been so terribly busy this week," Knowledge said blandly.
She had a point, Raven realized. Since her fight with Beast Boy on her birthday, Raven hadn't done anything productive. No piece of literature seemed to hold her attention, and it seemed like she always ran into Beast Boy whenever she left her room, leaving Raven to sulk in her bedroom for the vast majority of the daytime, leaving only at night when Beast Boy was surely asleep. Alright, so she was bored to tears. That didn't mean that Beast Boy was too, though. For all she knew, he might be off in the city, maybe passing time in the arcade or at the park. He could even be fighting crime with the other Titans and she wouldn't know.
"Beast Boy isn't having any fun without you," Happy commented morosely, as if she had read Raven's thoughts.
"But he wouldn't have any fun with me either," Raven replied.
"Of course not, assuming you're intending to chew him out for caring about you until you two can get divorced," Knowledge added.
"Why can't you get along with Beast Boy?" Happy cried in distress, eyes misting up. "He's so cute and funny and he only wants to be your friend!"
"That isn't all he wants," Raven huffed.
"I think you'd be surprised," Knowledge offered. "You two have taken so many steps backward in your relationship recently that he would probably be ecstatic with friendship."
"I don't believe that," Raven shook her head.
Happy whimpered and started bawling. Raven looked to Knowledge in shock.
"What do you want from her?" Knowledge asked with a shrug, motioning towards Happy. "You're currently devoid of friends and powers, and it'll only get worse from here if you don't change your tune. Congratulations, you've made yourself as cheerless as humanly possible."
"He's so c-cute and nice and j-just wants to be your friend but you won't let him!" Happy stammered through her flowing tears.
Distressed, Raven stood up to take her leave, quickly passing by Knowledge and her sobbing emotion. She glanced back over her shoulder as she exited the field in favor of walking on the main dirt trail, and saw Knowledge place a consoling hand on Happy's shoulder as the weeping emotion hid her face in her hands, shoulders still heaving.
Raven's heart felt heavy as she walked, her mind quite troubled at seeing Happy break down. She had never witnessed anything like that before from her own emotions. She walked more quickly, combat boots scuffing on the dirt path. A shape leaning against a looming tree caught her eye as she scanned the bright area around her. Once she had travelled a little bit up the path, Raven turned to her right, where Brave was slumped against a tree's trunk, looking tired and hopeless. Her cloak was fanned out behind her, exposing her oddly emaciated, leotard-clad body. Brave looked positively withered, the gaunt skin of her face half shrouded by her drawn hood. The still emotion glanced up as Raven passed, and the vacant, accusing look in her sunken eyes haunted Raven for many hours, even after she had returned to her bedroom.
Johnny Rancid grinned broadly in satisfaction as he stepped back to admire his work and wiped his greasy hands across his stained pants. His project was coming along very, very nicely. In fact, he was ahead of schedule. The towering steel figure, all twisted and sharp, glinted beautifully in the light that flooded in through the barred window of his workshop. After four solid days and nights of hard work and barely any sleep, his commissioned project was practically completed, and only required a few… special features.
The grey-skinned mechanical genius glanced about the spacious room and quickly spotted what he was looking for. Rancid lumbered across the worn concrete floor and carefully grabbed up a menacing contraption of metal, pipes and tubing. After casually checking it over, he gripped the head of the device, flicked off the safety and squeezed the trigger. A stream of fire immediately roared out of the flamethrower, filling the bunker with scorching heat for several seconds. Satisfied that his weapon was functioning properly and apparently unworried that he might have singed quite a bit of his workshop, Rancid returned with the weapon to his steel masterpiece, picking up a soldering gun while en route. He immediately went about installing the flamethrower in the belly of the huge animal, taking great care to secure it perfectly.
He definitely wasn't taking this project lightly, and with good reason. Assuming that everything went according to plan, this would be the very last weapon that he built to combat the sniveling Titans. It was to be his magnum opus, the contraption that would be lauded––or condemned, it didn't really matter to him––in the history books as a pivotal instrument of the Titans' demise. The arrival of justice was near, and soon, very soon, he and his partner would be the gods of the whole miserable city.
Rancid finished sealing the flamethrower into the machine and scrambled over to the small control box he had assembled. He depressed a red button on the device and his eyes glinted with joy as the machine shot fire from its gaping mouth, immediately charring a portion of the room's concrete ceiling. Heart racing, Rancid went about locating the secret weapon that his boss had specifically ordered him to include.
"Heh heh, found ya!" he exclaimed, picking up the small bit of metal and holding it aloft like a trophy. He could already taste victory. At this rate, the mechanical monster would be completed by the end of the day, leaving a good few days for trials and minor modifications. Rancid could barely contain himself. He had waited so long to see the Titans fall and couldn't believe that their demise was finally just around the corner.
Newman leaned back from his worktable and wiped at his forehead, completely exhausted but unable to take a break. He was a bit behind schedule and could not afford to dally. How many days had he been like this, spending long hours in the laboratory with barely any reprieve? He was making progress in the task the villain had assigned him, but work was slow and frustrating. As he had told the villain, never before, to his knowledge, had someone attempted a project of this degree, much less executed it successfully.
This work would go much more quickly if Newman did not need to concern himself with the long-term impact of the serum he was creating, but because it was Beast Boy who would have to live with this affliction, it was mandatory that the inoculation carry as few side effects as possible. It was also crucial that the product could be later amended using an antidote without causing deadly trauma to Beast Boy. His product had to be absolutely perfect––just effective enough to satiate the villain, while susceptible to the prospect of alteration or replacement. That way his family would not be in danger and Beast Boy could later be cured. Very worrisome, however, was the possibility that before an antidote could be administered, the serum would have caused Beast Boy to fall into some irremediable fix. That thought never ceased to haunt Newman while he worked.
Apart from fear for his own safety and the safety of his family, although Newman was not entirely conscious of it himself, there was another reason that he didn't give himself a moment of rest. Every second that his mind wasn't filled with analysis of the functions and impacts of select ligands and neurotransmitters and whatnot, his mind would wander to the boy he was essentially aiding in murdering, and he could barely find the resolve to press on. Newman was not a bad man. That was why his project was tearing him apart.
Beast Boy did not return to the Tower until late in the evening when the sun was beginning to set. The sky had severely clouded up around noon and the wind had picked up even more, chilling the air considerably. He was very sleepy as he dragged himself onto the island in his human form, such that he wanted nothing more than a hot drink, a snack and a long night of sleep. Mind fixed on those simple desires, Beast Boy staggered into the kitchen and didn't make note of Raven's presence there until he retreated from the cupboard with a bag of chips and sat down on the opposite side of the table from the empath.
He made a point of not greeting her or doing anything to make note of her short of making brief eye contact with the girl. Frankly he was positive that she would rise and leave momentarily anyway, if her behavior over the past few days was any gauge. That's why he was supremely surprised when Raven turned her focus back on her book, continued nursing the contents of her teacup and made no movement to leave the room. Curiosity filled Beast Boy, a reluctant flicker of hope striking him. He wouldn't say anything though, or she'd certainly grow annoyed and depart. It was sad that simply sharing a room was a massive accomplishment, but he wouldn't be the one to risk disrupting the delicate balance between them by speaking. And so he chewed his potato chips in silence, staring off into space and letting his mind wander to his warm bed.
"You look cold," Raven said lightly, pulling Beast Boy's attention to her immediately.
Beast Boy blinked in shock. Had Raven actually spoken to him? He was very tired, so perhaps he had imagined it. But no, she was looking at him now, expecting a reply. Beast Boy's heartbeat sped up as he searched for something innocuous to return.
"I am. I've been in the water all day," he said quietly.
"So I surmised," Raven replied. It wasn't until then that Beast Boy realized that his uniform was still drenched with water from the bay. Come to think of it, he was quite cold indeed. He ran a hand through his slightly dripping hair.
Raven licked her lips nervously, an act that Beast Boy picked up on but didn't dare call to attention. In fact, he deliberately turned his attention away from her, focusing instead on folding up the bag of chips he had been consuming. A few moments of thick silence settled over the room before Raven spoke again.
"Do you… want tea?" She offered hesitantly, making a little motion to the teacup beside her.
Frankly Raven could have offered him fried chicken and he would have gladly accepted. That's how stunned yet appreciative he was of her peaceable gesture.
"That'd be fantastic," he quickly returned, doing what he could to mask his astonishment.
"The kettle should still be pretty warm. I'd suggest chamomile, assuming you'd appreciate something without caffeine at this time of evening."
Beast Boy rose and prepared a cup of tea, feeling as though he was in a dream. Raven was being cordial, and that was the only thing he was currently capable of thinking about. He soon returned to the table with his cup of tea in hand. The warmed porcelain felt good through his cold, soaked gloves, and he wrapped his fingers around the cup. If he hadn't been petrified by the thought of making a single injudicious move, he certainly would have stripped off his uncomfortable gloves by now. The room was quiet as Beast Boy set in on consuming his beverage and he struggled to think of something completely harmless to say.
"So," he began uncertainly, "have you… been up to anything interesting recently?"
Raven shook her head slowly.
"Reading and cleaning mostly."
Beast Boy tried to swallow away the lump that formed in his throat.
"Which reminds me, I got the blankets you left in front of my door."
"I figured you would," Raven remarked impassively. A beat passed. "I was meditating for most of the day today," she offered, trying to redirect the subject. Besides, she didn't want to let Beast Boy in on how unproductive she had been lately.
"How's Nevermore?" Beast Boy asked. Raven faltered.
"Not so good," she admitted, "but about the same as last time I visited."
"Well, not much has changed since then," Beast Boy nodded. Raven didn't seem to be willing to elaborate without prodding. "So what's 'not so good' there?" he inquired.
Raven studied Beast Boy for a moment and he could see her laboring to determine how much she ought to tell him.
"I've never seen my emotions so distressed," she admitted at last. She felt a bit ashamed at revealing the truth, but it felt… oddly cathartic.
Beast Boy raised his eyebrows.
"I didn't know they could get distressed," he offered amicably.
"I was a little surprised too," she nodded sadly. "Happy was… devastated. And Brave looked completely depressed."
"That makes sense," Beast Boy said pensively, lazily twisting his spoon through his fingers. "Without your powers, you can't fight. There's no outlet for your bravery. And happiness… well, you're not happy, are you."
Raven studied the tabletop, agitated because of where her conversation with Beast Boy kept going. And yet… she owed it to him. She owed it to her emotions. The status quo hurt everyone too badly to maintain, and if this was the only way she could make a change, so be it. Four days of isolation and gloom had certainly taken a toll on her and given her ample time to consider its impact on the changeling as well. Everyone and everything seemed to agree: She wasn't being fair to her husband.
"So what are you going to do?" Beast Boy asked cautiously. Raven continued to look at the table, well aware that the ball had been thrown into her court. This is where she usually managed to go wrong and turned the conversation into a fight. But what could she do differently? Her instinct was to go on the offensive when her comfort and wellbeing were under attack, which usually meant yelling at Beast Boy. Since that had only brought her (and everyone else) misery of late, she clearly needed to alter her strategy. She couldn't help that her instincts were telling her that Beast Boy was the enemy. All she could do was suck it up, even at personal cost. Something had to give, and unfortunately it looked like she had to sacrifice her happiness. Azar, what better display of the marriage spirit was there?
"I think it's time I listened to someone other than myself," Raven tersely replied and glanced up at the changeling. She was wary and unhappy, but she tried not to let it show. It was no use voicing a conciliatory sentiment if her expression would only negate the effort. Beast Boy was obviously stunned by her words; he suddenly stopped playing with his spoon and didn't immediately reply.
Beast Boy could almost feel his heart skip a beat. It was against his better judgment that hope overwhelmed him. Could he be dreaming? Raven had just admitted her selfishness, even though she never, ever admitted to personal shortcomings. Was her conscience finally kicking in, then? If they were on better footing he might have snidely inquired, but he refrained out of his better judgment.
"Someone like me?" he asked hopefully. He blushed. He knew he was suddenly being immature, but he was just so… elated. Or perhaps elated was too unqualified a term for the occasion, but he was certainly blissfully surprised.
"I realize that I haven't been treating you fairly, Beast Boy," Raven replied seriously, not appearing even slightly as beatific as the changeling. "I still feel that I've been acting with our long-term best interests in mind," she hesitated for a moment then continued, "but it isn't fair to you if that means sacrificing your happiness."
Beast Boy looked dubious.
"Don't get me wrong, it's nice that you're thinking about my happiness, but… what about yours?" he asked. As an afterthought, he continued, "And please don't try to convince me again that it's impossible for us both to be happy."
"But what if that's true?" Raven asked somewhat gloomily.
"It's not," Beast Boy replied with conviction. "To say that would be like saying we've never both been happy at the same time, while we definitely have."
"Excluding when the Titans win a battle, tell me when we are ever happy at the same time," Raven challenged.
Beast Boy looked thoughtful for a minute, and Raven momentarily thought that she had stumped him. But then he looked up and spoke.
"It's over little things, I guess" he mused. "Like when Starfire tries to get Robin to eat some creepy crawly thing from Tamaran and it's funny, or when Cyborg makes lasagna on Tuesdays, or when that pizza joint gives us free pizza just because we're us."
"It's noteworthy that all those things are related to food, but go on," Raven interjected with a smirk.
"The point is," Beast Boy continued, "it's okay that we disagree on some stuff, even if some of that stuff is really big. The important thing is that we have a bunch of common interests, likes and dislikes, and stuff that makes us laugh. Our differences make us human, Raven, and even if there's a lot of 'em, that doesn't mean we're not cut out for each other. It just means we have to work harder than most people to get along."
"Unfortunately, getting along is not a strong point of either one of us," Raven replied.
Beast Boy looked at her skeptically.
"Hey, I'm trying really hard to get along," he retorted, crossing his arms over his chest. "You just mistake my attempts at friendship as… something perverted."
Raven pondered Beast Boy's statement seriously. All his determination to get her to open up, all those times he wouldn't leave her alone and ceaselessly wanted to talk about their relationship… she couldn't be flat wrong, could she? Her gut told her to feel uncomfortable because of his advances, and she had never been wrong at reading people before. Of course, before this situation she always had her empathic powers to rely on, which couldn't honestly be discounted. But if she was mistaken then she had wronged him terribly. Raven's eyes widened, a sinking feeling hitting her stomach as she honestly considered for the first time that Beast Boy was telling the truth. The vague possibility alone that she had been wrong made her feel absolutely despicable.
"Beast Boy," she said soberly, looking at him squarely, "are you telling the truth?"
The changeling held up his hand.
"Scouts honor," he replied and looked at her expectantly. "I would never lie to you about this."
Raven swallowed. An invisible war was still raging that pitted her instinct to distrust Beast Boy with the virtue of his word. She didn't want to believe that she had been terribly in the wrong concerning Beast Boy's motive and intentions, but not to believe so would be to blatantly call him a liar. She knew him. He was a truly lousy liar, and if the earnestness of his visage was any sign, he wasn't lying now.
Shame and guilt began to overwhelm Raven, breaking over her like the first thunderclap of a dreadful storm. She had been considering him a lying monster for weeks now, and it had visibly been destroying him. If anything, she was the monster for inflicting so much on him without remorse. He had gone out on a limb to save her life, and this is how she repaid him. Words that she had spoken in anger over the last few weeks came back to her now, along with the crushed look on Beast Boy's face that she had taken as artful deception. And she had been so selfish, only brooding over how their marriage had hurt her instead of considering that Beast Boy was confused, lonely and hurting too. And yet he managed to be proactive in trying to pursue reconciliation, while all she had done was chase him away. So many fights, so much yelling. What had she done?
Raven didn't know what to do next. Could words express the shock and anguish she felt over what she had inflicted upon Beast Boy? She didn't know where to start in apologizing for her selfishness, such was her humiliation.
Beast Boy watched Raven as she sunk down in her chair, visibly vexed. She obviously felt overwhelming remorse for something, a fact that strangely thrilled him. It meant that Raven had finally seen him for what he really was. Only a perspective shift of that magnitude could explain Raven's sudden and highly uncharacteristic speechlessness. Then he noticed the tears gathering in her downcast eyes that silently began to streak down her colorless face.
"Raven," he exclaimed in astonishment, quickly standing up and moving to the other side of the table to be near her. He half helped her stand as he drew her into his arms, and she stiffly but willingly fell into his embrace. Beast Boy's arms crossed over her tightly and he stood, too shocked to utter words. For the longest time he simply stood in the silent kitchen, startled by Raven's breakdown and highly unusual realization and admittance of personal wrongs. Her warm body was stiff and still, except for when she shook with her silent sobbing. Her head rested against his shoulder, a fresh wet patch forming on his still-damp uniform as her tears collected there. He finally breathed out in speechlessness, allowing his eyes to close and his head to bow near her lilac-scented hair, unaware of how long they stood there. All he knew and cared about in that moment was that Raven understood him, at long last. She knew that he would not try to harm her and she trusted him. He couldn't and wouldn't ask for anything more. It was weird, but for the first time in a long time, he felt himself relax and experience contentment.
Eventually Raven's tears slowed and her shoulders stopped heaving with silent sobs, but even for a while after that she made no movement to pull away from Beast Boy.
"Beast Boy, I'm––" she finally began, voice slightly muffled against the changeling's shoulder, but he spoke over her.
"Rae, wait," he cut in, "let's just… forget about it."
Raven finally pulled away from him so that she could look him in the face, his arms still looped behind her. She looked at him skeptically.
"I owe you an apology," she replied incredulously, "and I can't recall ever having to apologize to you before. I find it just a bit unbelievable that you don't want to hear it."
Beast Boy grinned nervously.
"Well," he replied hesitantly, drawing Raven to him again and causing her eyes to widen in shock, "believe it, okay?"
With that, he kissed her. The touch was earnest but gentle, the suddenness of the gesture causing Raven to make a little noise of disbelief against his vaguely musky lips. She didn't pull away from Beast Boy though, and although she seized up in surprise, she returned the kiss with commensurate willingness. He kissed her again, tickled by the rapid puffs of air against his cheek as she breathed. And that feeling… oh gosh, that indescribable feeling of rightness that he had experienced the other two times they had kissed, that feeling was there again, a sensation of sheer fieriness and intimacy that he had never experienced before except for with her. It was beautiful and addicting, such that he couldn't believe he had gone so long without pursuing it again. One of his hands moved up to rest against the back of her head, fingers tangling in her hair as his lips moved eagerly against hers in kiss after shallow kiss. Although he craved the long-forbidden sensations of touching her further, Beast Boy kept his other arm loosely slung against her back, determined to act with utmost gentleness and reservation for her benefit. He was incredibly attentive to her reactions to his ministrations, and at the first indication that she wished for their rare contact to cease, he broke away from her with a last chaste kiss.
The empath pulled away and tried to catch her breath. There was an unmistakable tremor in her hand as she reached to steady herself against the table, eyes not meeting his as she sunk into her chair again, her chest still heaving as she rapidly took in air.
"Let's call it square," he said after a beat, turning and sitting again because he didn't know what else to do.
"How can it be square," Raven lamented a bit hoarsely, looking at the table. "I was self-centered, only worried about how our marriage impacted me."
"Raven," Beast Boy said seriously, catching her gaze. "Let's just put it in the past."
Raven shook her head and looked at him strangely.
"If I was so mistaken for so long," she replied, "why are you willing to forgive me without even an apology?"
"Because, Raven, I… care about you," he faltered. "And, c'mon, I know you've been through a heck of a lot recently, and I'm just glad you aren't going to think of me as a jerk for two years."
"No, I'm not," Raven consented weakly. She reached for her teacup, hand still shaking. Her fingers gripped it tightly as she fought for composure.
She felt dizzy, confused and slightly nauseous. All of her resolve and self-respect had been founded on the principle that she had Beast Boy figured out. To discover that she had deluded herself so greatly was to have a rug yanked out from under her feet. There wasn't really a way to pick herself up again short from admitting that she had been flat wrong, which she had done. And then he had kissed her and she had tasted his relief. Raven was still devoid of her powers, but the changeling's kiss had undeniably reflected his unadulterated joy and contentment. There had been passion there too, ardor that left her heart fluttering and her mind dazed. It was as if he loved her, to be able to forgive her so readily. It was certainly beyond the calling of any mere human, at any rate.
"You don't look so good," Beast Boy remarked in concern, taking in Raven's still trembling form and almost frightening pallor. Raven's gaze moved up to his own once again.
"You could say I have a lot on my mind," she replied simply. "But we have a lot to discuss."
"It can wait for the morning," the changeling assured her understandingly. "We could both use a little time to adjust to things."
The empath nodded her agreement and stood unsteadily, using the table to support her. She felt weak with shock and hunger, and didn't particularly feel like talking much.
"Mind if I crash in your room?" Beast Boy inquired timidly, going out on one heck of a limb. He was unbearably tired of feeling lonely in his bedroom, staring at the piles of wedding gifts that represented Raven's rejection. Besides, his urge to be near his wife was overwhelming. He probably couldn't get enough of basking in their newfound reconciliation.
Raven's eyes snapped up again and she appeared to size him up seriously.
"I'll take the floor," Beast Boy offered diffidently with a shrug, reconsidering his brashness.
Raven bit her lip, another surge of regret rising in her throat. What kind of wife would make her husband sleep on the floor like a dog?
"No," she replied carefully, and Beast Boy looked at her with consternation. "I don't mind if you share my bed," she decided. "Just… keep your hands to yourself. And don't even think about getting bay water on my good sheets."
Beast Boy grinned, his eyes seeming to sparkle with a vitality that they had lacked for a long time.
"I'll shower first, I promise," he assured her gratefully, already on his way to the bathroom and eager to get out of the clammy clothes that reminded him of the past.
Finally, the tension is broken! Lots of good stuff to come, so stay tuned. And there will be more romance in the next bunch of chapters. You've been warned.
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