I swore that I would finish this early. I swore it wouldn't just be another holiday inspired piece, but fate and coincidence have conspired against me (with help from school and the wrestling season).

I'm not sure how 'original' this idea is. My guess is something like it has been done but never anything 'exactly' like it. Maybe that doesn't make sense, and maybe I'm wrong.

What is to follow is a blanket disclaimer. This is a fictional work and the property of Balkoth. While the creative work of Balkoth, this story has its roots in the popular comic and animated cartoon show, Teen Titans. Balkoth hereby affirms, by affixation of typed penname at the close of this statement, that the Teen Titans are the property of DC comics and Cartoon Network.

Robin, Cyborg, Beast Boy, Starfire, and Raven are not Balkoth's. Balkoth has never – nor will Balkoth ever – assert that these characters belong to anybody other than their respective creators.

I encourage all readers to enjoy the work and leave comments and critique. I would like to wish you all a pleasant reading experience,

Balkoth

PS. This entire story was spawned from Edward Young's (1683-1765) quote "Procrastination is the thief of time." The idea grew (obviously) but there you see the humble roots.


THE THIEVES OF TIME

The clock was ticking by at a tantalizingly slow pace. Every second dragged by as if with leaden feet, and there wasn't a single motion, action, or event that didn't feel like it was being lived frame by frame. Usually Beast Boy didn't care about time moving slowly. In fact, because it was night, an unnaturally stretched feeling should have been welcomed. And it would have been if Beast Boy could sleep. Instead, he had to live with the fact that everything was going slowly and he had nothing to do.

The moonlight crept across the floor of the changeling's bedroom and washed over its contents. Dirty rags of black and purple were balled up and tossed into corners. Once the corners had run out of room, the discarded uniforms had fanned outward onto the mottled carpet. The closet door hung ajar and hastily deposited clothing was slipping out into the relatively fresh air of the room.

Beast Boy was pacing back and forth across the floor, his feet tangling occasionally with his dirty clothes. He was fortunate (or skilled enough) not to be tripped by the grasping hands of deserted fabric.

The green changeling continued traveling back and forth across his room as the seconds ticked slowly by. This was made all the more painful by the fact that Beast Boy kept glancing at the illuminated display over his door every ten seconds. At least that was what the clock said. Beast Boy was certain that it was actually longer than that.

The reason, as has been said, for Beast Boy's unusual behavior was that he could not sleep. He had tried, but he just couldn't manage it. It was 1:27 in the morning (and thirty-eight seconds if Beast Boy's clock was to be trusted). The date was February the fourteenth, though most people were still asleep and didn't know it yet. For Beast Boy, the fact that it was the fourteenth was so utterly unimportant that it was funny. The only thing he could think about as he navigated around his room was not a date but a name, a title: Valentine's Day.

So instead of sleeping a deep sleep, or playing a video game until his brain was more thoroughly fried than any fast-food, or beating Cyborg in the usual morning race for who would cook breakfast, or planning ways to pull off practical jokes, Beast Boy was reflecting on the past and thinking about the coming day and what he hoped to finally do.

Like so many other teenage boys his age, Beast Boy spent a lot of time thinking about girls – girls' bodies, girls' feelings, and girls' minds and how they worked. Also like boys his age, Beast Boy could never figure out that last one. The girl in particular who demanded Beast Boy's attention was well known to him. She was well known to everybody in the city, actually. As was common for boys, Beast Boy was thinking about girls. As was common for Beast Boy, he was thinking about one special girl. Raven.

Valentine's Day. Valentine's Day and Raven were linked to Beast Boy. The two had been linked for some time, though Beast Boy could never figure out why. Four years ago Beast Boy had been a little scared of Raven. She was dark, she was creepy, she didn't really seem to like him (though she said she did), and she was just generally intimidating. He would never have thought about trying to have a relationship beyond that of roommate with Raven. After Beast Boy met Terra, being anything beyond friends with Raven seemed completely ludicrous. Of course, things hadn't panned out as expected. That had led Beast Boy to this day, though he'd tried to do the very thing that was keeping him awake more than once.

Three years ago, a little after Raven's unfortunate encounter with Malchior, Beast Boy had made Raven a nice card. He had wanted to give it to her. He almost had. The reason he never did was because he saw Raven's reaction to a television ad – simple, really.


Beast Boy had entered the living room, squinting against the early morning light, to see Cyborg lounging on the couch. The metallic Titan's legs were propped on the coffee table. Beast Boy clearly remembered wanting Cyborg to leave the room. If Cyborg was present when he made a move on Raven (and especially if Cyborg was in the room if and when Raven rejected him) there would be no end to it.

Raven had been sitting cross-legged on the couch, resting the spine of an open book against her inner thigh. A commercial ad had just come on as Beast Boy walked down the steps and took the card from behind his back. The cardboard flashed in the light and spilled a lovely crimson onto everything before it. Emboldened across the top in penmanship that would make a laser printer jealous was the simple heading "Happy Valentine's Day." Then it had all gone downhill.

The ad playing on the TV was for or about Valentine's Day. The voice-over had been done by some Italian immigrant with a rich ascent. It had gone along the lines of "Show your loved ones you care." Beast Boy didn't really remember the exact wording. There had not been anything obviously different about Raven in those few seconds. Still, Beast Boy, a person who had mastered how to push Raven's buttons but always knew when to stop short of getting himself maimed, saw quite clearly that Raven's face darkened. He wasn't sure why, he didn't learn for some time still, but without another thought he had turned back around and headed to his room. Once there Beast Boy had thrown the offending card out.

Two years ago Beast Boy had bought Raven a box of chocolates. The box had been shaped like a heart. The scene was, once more, in the living room.

Beast Boy had been sitting on the couch, for once neglecting the game controllers resting mere feet from his position. He had gotten up early to run into Raven. She usually woke up early and got herself a cup of tea, after all.

The doors slid open and Beast Boy nonchalantly picked his ears up. Sure enough, the slight flapping of Raven's cloak could be heard. Beast Boy reached under the large red pillow he'd been sitting next to and felt for the box.

Just as Beast Boy's hand closed around the parcel, Starfire's voice echoed off the walls. Raven wasn't alone. Beast Boy tried to make his riffling look natural and settled back onto the couch.

"So, today is the Day of Valentine's?" Starfire had asked, and Beast Boy could visualize how she cocked her head to one side and waited with wide emerald eyes in a combination of uncertainty and wonderment.

Almost too quietly to be heard, Raven mumbled, "Unfortunately."

Beast Boy shifted his weight on the couch, a little nervous because of the tone Raven employed. She sounded like she really just didn't like Valentine's Day and that could cause a problem.

Starfire, ever the curious alien in those years, was quick to inquire why Raven didn't like the holiday, though she did it without words. Raven and Starfire sometimes held entire conversations without saying anything. It must have been a look or a gesture because Raven elaborated.

"Valentine's Day isn't as great as people make it out to be, Starfire. It doesn't have any purpose other than to make profit for large companies." There was no mistaking that undertone, even as subtle as it was. Beast Boy had heard it a few times before, and it was not wise to irritate Raven when she used it. Raven was most certainly annoyed by the mere fact that Valentine's Day existed, and there was certainly more to her agitation then what she was telling Starfire.

Beast Boy had tuned out the rest of the conversation. The chocolates he had planned to give Raven ended up in his room later that day. Beast Boy had thought about throwing the chocolates out, same as the card. Before he could bring himself to throw out perfectly good chocolate, Beast Boy ate all the good ones. Believe it or not, every single chocolate in the box had been good.

Last year Beast Boy didn't even get to Valentine's Day before his plans were shot. February the thirteenth Beast Boy had overheard Cyborg and Raven talking. Apparently, Cyborg had met a girl he liked while taking the T-Car's auto-targeting proton cannons to a science fair.

It's weird, the things people choose to remember. Beast Boy remembered crouching in the shadows, trying to keep the paper wrapped around some roses he'd just purchased quiet. The only striking thing about the flowers was that they had blunt thorns. Beast Boy had seen to that personally after pricking himself.

The paper around the plants was a deep blue, nice and glossy, and crackled every time it moved. Luckily, the shadows of the third floor corridors were easy enough to hide in, so if Beast Boy was quiet, he could avoid drawing attention to himself. He didn't want Raven to see the roses before tomorrow. Beast Boy wasn't sure how he was going to keep them safe, especially in his room, but he would try with all his might.

"So, Raven," Cyborg had just said. A crackling sound rang forth as Cyborg paused, and Beast Boy was momentarily terrified that he had moved until he realized the sound had come from some crumbled up paper in Cyborg's hand. "What type of flowers should I get her?"

The first thing Beast Boy wanted to do was laugh, and he quickly slapped his hand over his mouth to prevent a raucous outburst. Really! Cyborg asking Raven for dating advice! That was just priceless. Beast Boy never got a chance to torment Cyborg about it, though. Raven's answer had taken all the fun out of the situation.

"Do you know her favorite flower?" Raven's sweet monotone danced through the air. Beast Boy's jaw dropped at the absurdity of the question. How would anybody find that out? It's a little weird to just go up to somebody and ask them their favorite flower and not too many conversations naturally went in that direction.

Beast Boy couldn't see Cyborg's face from his hiding place. Raven gave a resigned sigh, so Beast Boy guessed that Cyborg was just as floored as he was. "Whatever you do," Raven said, and Beast Boy saw her start rubbing her temples with her index and middle fingers, "don't get her roses: they don't show a whole lot of originality or thought on your part. Anybody can buy roses. Putting the extra effort into it makes a difference."

Beast Boy had fed the flowers to Silkie that night. As Silkie munched away at the offending plants, scattering soft petals and splintered stems onto the already destroyed carpet of his room, a single flower off to the side caught his attention. Beast Boy still didn't know why.


Beast Boy groaned and looked around his room for the umpteenth time. The moonlight was still washing over the carpet and bathing his abandoned uniforms in cool light. On the wall was a large picture of the Titans taken just after the tower's construction. As with all of their early pictures, Raven was off to the side looking as if she wanted to be somewhere else.

Right next to the picture was a tall yellow vase filled with water. Sitting in the water, drawing in the dim light and casting it back out brighter than before, was a single white hibiscus – Raven's favorite flower. It wasn't actually as hard as Beast Boy had thought to ask a girl what her favorite flower was.

The petals flowed in the still air like down dancing in a light breeze. The center gazed out at Beast Boy with a solid crimson eye. All else was pure white, glowing in the moonlight.

Beast Boy sighed and went back to his pacing. It was a lovely flower and Raven would hopefully like it. The thing of it was, not even Raven was up at 1:30 in the morning. Beast Boy continued to pace; he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep.

ooooo

The sun rose with uncharacteristic zeal, dispelling darkness with one fell swoop and delivering warmth where it usually didn't have enough strength to reach. It was Valentine's Day, and Mother Nature herself had decreed that is was to be a perfect day. The bay glistened in the morning light, casting rich blues and greens for all to see in a glimmering display reminiscent of fine jewels. The sky was nothing but the best shade it could muster with the fattest, fluffiest, and friendliest clouds in its arsenal dancing across the horizon in the rich salt breezes.

The streets had taken the night to clean themselves up, and even the back allies had managed to put out their cleanest trashcans and hide their most grotesque cats from the view of descent young couples. The flowers smelt all the more sweet, the nag of a shop owner on the corner of 23rd and Walsh was all smiles, and, by noon, it was obvious that there was nothing for anybody to complain about – all in all, a perfect day.

Beast Boy opened his eyes slowly, trying to figure out why it didn't make a difference. He sat up and the uniform that had been blocking his view fell limply to the floor. Beast Boy stretched his hands over his head and yawned. Both his arms were stiff and painfully moved. Both his legs were in little better shape. His neck, however, had, by far, suffered the worst: he had a hard time looking to the right, because of the position he'd slept in.

"Oh, come on!" Beast Boy whined to nobody in particular. Of all the rotten things that could conceivably happen this was the worst. He had to waste time now medicating and icing his neck. Looking with bleary eyes at his clock, Beast Boy found yet another reason to shout his protest and he did just that. It was already noon. He needed to talk with Raven today, ideally when the other Titans weren't in the room, and the morning had been his best shot. He'd slept through it.

Beast Boy staggered to his feet, surprising himself with how difficult the simple action was. He really needed to get his hands on some Ibuprofen: every move he made upward was accompanied with a silent screech from his aching muscles.

The sun was flying into the room and sailing with practiced ease from one wall to another. The hibiscus was still sitting in its yellow vessel. Both sun and moon alike seemed to grant the flower a magical luminescence as the whiteness was too pure and pretty to be natural. Leaving the flower where it was, Beast Boy grabbed the uniform trying to escape from his closet, draped it over his shoulder, and headed for the bathroom.

Once Beast Boy arrived in the bathroom, he flung open the medicine cabinet and grabbed a large white bottle. Twisting off the child-safe top (with a small amount of difficulty), Beast Boy dumped two large burgundy orbs into his palm. With one swift motion – and renewed protest from his stiff neck – Beast Boy downed the pills. Then he went about showering and dawning his clean uniform. Afterwards, Beast Boy didn't leave for ice as he had planned. Instead, the gangly boy stood in front of his reflection. After taking in his usual frazzled post shower and dried appearance, Beast Boy started to speak.

The words now exiting Beast Boy's mouth were well known to him. That was only to be expected since he had been practicing the dialog for weeks. He still wasn't sure he had it right.

"Um, hi Raven," Beast Boy addressed his reflection with a nervous wave. "Look, I know you're not a big fan of Valentine's Day, but I was wondering…" he tapered off after that. It sounded stupid to him and Raven was a much more critical audience.

Taking a deep breath and drawing a mental line through the dialog, Beast Boy tried to re-invent hours of work in a last minute panic. Words flew through his mind and he started mumbling them under his breath to test how they sounded in concert. Beast Boy was slowly chewing a hole through his lip as he kept practicing.

"Raven!" Beast Boy started again only to stop himself before going any further; he sounded too eager. If he seemed desperate or anything other than one hundred percent sincere everything could blow up in his face.

Beast Boy leaned back until he was supported by the wall and cradled his head in his arms. His neck sent up renewed protest as his chin slumped onto his chest. Beast Boy winced, but did not move to correct the uncomfortable position. Eventually, he became numb to the pain.

Now that he was trying to revise his approach toward Raven, Beast Boy was discovering that he actually had no clue how he was going to do this. He had spent three years on planning this and every time something had dissuaded him. How much would an extra year really matter? Beast Boy knew what he wanted to do, but exactly how to achieve his objective was just a little mystery to the changeling. The only thing Beast Boy knew for sure was that, for better or worse, regardless of the outcome, he had to get this off his chest. Being uncertain for another year was just not an option.

Beast Boy straightened up, his resolve finally finding the strength it needed, and headed out of the bathroom, an undeniable confidence pervading his movements. He would go to the living room first. If Raven was there, he would come up with a reason for the two of them to have a moment alone. If she wasn't, he would check the roof and then her room. Regardless, he would find Raven, and he would talk with her.

The living room doors slid open to reveal the room's contents. Robin was leaning against the kitchen counter while his music crashed forward and did its best to throw the gel out of his hair. Beast Boy winced at the unexpected audio assault and swept his gaze over the room. Robin was listening to his music, apparently in a world of his own, and Cyborg was messing with the Game Station, but Raven was nowhere to be seen.

Beast Boy turned on his heel, intent on heading to the roof, but stopped as Cyborg called to him. "Yo, BB, where you headed?"

Beast Boy turned back toward Cyborg, planning to give a quick answer and leave. He never got the chance to follow through with that plan. Cyborg was standing next to the Game Station, a smug smile in place and a plastic case gleaming in his hand.

Cyborg cut off anything Beast Boy might have wanted to say or even think. "I just got Need For Speed: Super Sonic Pulse! Do you want to give it a spin?" Cyborg asked while flipping the enclosed game into the air and catching it lazily.

Beast Boy wasn't thinking clearly over the next few moments. He couldn't. Need For Speed: Super Sonic Pulse had been a game scheduled to be released the previous November but problems with production staff had set it back. Beast Boy had been stalking the video game's progress on every credible blog, and several questionable ones, he could find for months.

"Do I ever!" Beast Boy responded while launching himself into the living room. He rushed to Cyborg's side and held his hands out pleadingly. "Let me see it. Let me see it. Can I touch it?" Beast Boy pleaded, temporarily forgetting the last time Cyborg had gotten a new video game and videotaped Beast Boy's reaction to it. That had not been very fun for Beast Boy.

Cyborg ignored Beast Boy's pleads and popped the disk into the Game Station. In moments, both Beast Boy and Cyborg were hunched protectively over their controllers as they waited for the game to load. Once the game booted up, Beast Boy and Cyborg launched into a race.

ooooo

The constant beeping of a repetitive soundtrack rang through the living room as Cyborg and Beast Boy hammered away at buttons, threatened each other with bodily harm, and mocked each other in ways that would make third graders feel sophisticated.

Robin was hunched forward as he cheered Cyborg on. He'd called winner and wanted to race Cyborg. Starfire had come in moments after the first race and separated Beast Boy and Cyborg from what would have resulted in a very expensive tussle. After that, she had stayed to prevent any other future fights. Once the second race started, Starfire had begun cheering on Beast Boy. The second race had passed with Cyborg as the victor, as had many other races.

"That wasn't fair!" Beast Boy cried as the flashing lights lit up the television screen with an obnoxious declaration of "PLAYER I WINS!"

Robin held out his hand for the controller, but Beast Boy clutched the device to his chest and refused to surrender possession. After thinking for a moment and ignoring Robin's hand just long enough for everyone to rule out the possibility that he didn't see it, Beast Boy continued. "You cheated! I don't know how you did it, but that's the only explanation!"

Cyborg's smug smile slid off his face as the accusation hit home. Turning his head so he could fully see his pouting teammate, Cyborg growled, "Oh, really? BB, I could beat you even if you had a head start."

Beast Boy scoffed and glared at Cyborg. "You so could not, dude."

"You better believe I could, grass-stain," Cyborg shot back as the smugness returned to his voice and face.

Robin cut in to stop what appeared to be an impending fight. It was obvious Starfire wasn't going to make a move to prevent it. "Maybe he could, maybe he couldn't, Beast Boy. But right now, I called winner."

Beast Boy just tightened his grip on the controller. "Come on, Beast Boy. Be reasonable," Robin snapped as he reached out to grab the device.

Starfire placed a hand firmly on Robin's wrist and forced it back to its owner's side. "Robin," Starfire said warmly with the smallest hint of a warning inching into her voice, "I believe that you should allow Beast Boy to challenge Cyborg to the re-matching."

Robin moved to take the controller again, but stopped when Starfire said "It will only take a little time. We should let Beast Boy race Cyborg. It is his choice, his time." Beast Boy couldn't make heads or tails of that except that maybe Starfire was trying to make him feel guilty about how much time he spent watching TV or playing video games. Surprisingly, Robin consented. Had Beast Boy been looking at Robin, he would have seen a look of dawned comprehension quickly sliding off his leader's face.

From there Cyborg was beaten by Beast Boy and demanded a rematch of his own. The pattern continued like that for a while. It could have been minutes, hours, or days. Beast Boy honestly couldn't tell. His perception of time was completely warped.

Once the two boisterous video gamers had reached their thirty-seventh re-match the doors to the living room slid open to admit the last Titan. Beast Boy wasn't paying that much attention to who was around him as he continued to exchange taunts with Cyborg. Or, more correctly, as he continued to get taunted.

"Come on, BB, you'll have to do better than that," Cyborg chuckled as he manipulated his controller so that his car kept in front of Beast Boy's. Cyborg wasn't going faster than Beast Boy. He was just making sure that Beast Boy didn't have the opportunity to pull out in front.

"Just wait," Beast Boy shot back. "I'm only in second place, and that can change real fast." He followed up by accelerating until he slammed into Cyborg's car. It didn't make a difference.

Beast Boy finally became aware of Raven's presence as she walked up to the back of the couch and asked, "Aren't there only two racers?" It would have been hard to make it more apparent that Raven wasn't really asking a question. The fact that both Cyborg and Robin started laughing didn't help conceal the jab.

"Hey!" Beast Boy fired up in defense, "there might only be two racers but…" it was only after he got this far that Beast Boy realized that he didn't have anything to say.

"But," Raven picked up when Beast Boy fell silent and he prepared himself for the worst, "there's a lot more to this game than where you place. You have to keep your car on the road and keep the frame damage to a minimum." Beast Boy couldn't have heard that right. Raven just took one of his stupid mistakes and helped him out instead of dishing out the expected biting remarks.

Beast Boy wasn't the only person who turned around to look at Raven as if she'd just sprouted an extra head. In fact, everybody was paying attention to Raven now. If Raven was aware or cared about her friend's behavior, she didn't show it.

Beast Boy tried to think of something to say but the only thing he could manage was "How do you know that?" and the question came out more accusatory than he had intended.

Raven rolled her eyes and a small smile tugged at her lips. "Just because I don't play those brain-numbing games doesn't mean I don't know the concepts behind them. I have been in the room when you three," Raven briefly used her finger to point accusingly at Cyborg, Robin, and Beast Boy, "are arguing about them."

While that answer cleared up what Raven said, it didn't clear up what she hadn't said. As soon as Raven finished speaking, Cyborg asked the real question on everybody's mind.

"Raven, are you okay?"

"Yes. Why?" Raven answered after arching a delicate eyebrow at her still baffled teammates.

Robin ran his hand through his hair while finding the right words for what he was about to say. "It's just that Beast Boy just left himself wide open…"

"And you did not do the insulting as usual," Starfire finished Robin's thought.

Unless Beast Boy was very much mistaken, he could swear he saw Raven's eyes dancing with laughter. Then it left, leaving only a very small upward turn at her lips as evidence of its passing.

"I thought about it," Raven admitted and the other Titans relaxed a little – that was the Raven they all knew and loved. "But sometimes picking on Beast Boy is too easy."

Beast Boy was drawn back to the TV when it started playing annoying victory music. Cyborg was holding a controller and the screen was once again flashing the declaration "PLAYER I WINS!"

"You cheater!" Beast Boy yelled. The event progressed from there. Only three of the Titans saw Raven leave and those not involved with the fight were mysteriously doing nothing to stop it.

It took so long for Cyborg and Beast Boy to stop fighting that Starfire started cooking… some type of food at any rate. Edible was another issue but it had the shape and consistency of Jell-o filled with what looked disturbingly like congealed blood.

Beast Boy finally disentangled himself from getting attacked by Cyborg and stole a look at the clock. 7:17 winked at him from the oven's display. Beast Boy was troubled by the fact that it was already quarter after seven and it took him a few moments to remember why. He had wanted to talk to Raven. Raven had been in the room and he'd forgotten. He'd forgotten and wasted an entire seven hours.

Beast Boy hopped to his feet and started for the door. This was really bad. Today was supposed to have gone better than this. He was supposed to have woken up early, talked to Raven, given her a flower, and hopefully spent the rest of the day just enjoying her company. Instead he'd slept too late, wasted time talking to his reflection, and gotten dragged into hours racing Cyborg. The only interaction Beast Boy had with Raven so far was to find out how she knew so much about video games. On any other day, having that discussion with Raven would have counted as a win in Beast Boy's book. Today it was the stupidest waste of time he could imagine. Beast Boy reached the stairs and had taken two steps before Starfire called him back.

"Beast Boy, I require a moment." Beast Boy squeezed his eyes shut and pushed back the urge to scream. It was only a moment; he could afford that.

"What's up, Star?" Beast Boy asked, relieved that his agitation had stayed out of his voice. He turned around to face the Tamaranian but stayed on the steps.

Starfire motioned to the blood filled Jell-O she had been making. The thing wiggled under it's own steam and a thin sheen of purple goo was reflecting the overhead lights. Cyborg was already sitting at the table. Robin was standing next to him for moral support. That was part of his purpose there, at any rate. The other was that Cyborg was a flight risk when it came to stomaching Starfire's cooking – everybody was.

"I have prepared the traditional Tamaranian Xarlg, the food of peace. On my world it is eaten to celebrate the bond of respect between a conquering warrior and the one who is vanquished. You and friend Cyborg have just finished a wondrous battle and we must now consecrate the occasion!"

Beast Boy tried to think of a good reason for why he couldn't eat the Xarlg. He kept trying to come up with a reason even as Starfire latched onto his arm and dragged him to the table. The only thing Beast Boy could think of was that he couldn't eat food that didn't stay still on the plate, but that didn't seem like a reason that would get him out of this.

Beast Boy sat down in the chair and faced Cyborg. Both teenagers looked like they had just been told that they would die in twenty-four hours. The only difference was in the degree of fear. Judging by the look of the Xarlg, twenty-four hours was a generous estimate.

Starfire flew over to the sink and drew out a small cleaver. With one swift motion, she cut the Xarlg into two even pieces. Then she gave one piece to Cyborg and the other to Beast Boy. All four of them were motionless, waiting for somebody to move. Cyborg eventually stuck his finger into his piece and drew it back out. The Xarlg sucked the metal appendage into its heart easily enough and only let go after a drawn-out battle resulting in a noise similar to a boot being pulled out of deep mud.

Tentatively, Cyborg licked his finger. His face lit up and he licked the rest of the juice off. Beast Boy followed Cyborg's lead and tested the Xarlg. As soon as he tasted the exotic dish all his inhibitions toward it were thrown away: the thing was delicious with a tangy aftertaste similar to a freshly squeezed lime.

Beast Boy dove into the Xarlg after that. It was enjoyable, a quality unexpected from Starfire's food. Still, it had its price. Beast Boy didn't recognize the feeling at first but after eating the first half of his piece, Beast Boy realized that he was exhausted. As if his body had been waiting for that admission all along, Beast Boy's head slumped onto the table, only narrowly avoiding the uneaten food, and he succumbed to a deep sleep. Cyborg's head was quick to follow.

ooooo

Beast Boy woke up slowly. He picked his head off the table and looked around. The first thing he noticed was that he was alone, Robin, Starfire, and Cyborg had left. The second thing Beast Boy noticed was that it was dark. The third and final thing Beast Boy realized, with a sinking feeling in his stomach, was the time: 11:49.

As quickly as he could, Beast Boy jumped away from the table and sprinted to the door. Beast Boy barreled down the halls, heading ultimately for his room. As he passed through the hallways, Beast Boy berated himself over and over again for the way the day had gone. This wasn't the Valentine's Day he had convinced himself he would have. This wasn't the ending he had wanted.

Beast Boy ran into his room and snatched Raven's hibiscus from its yellow carriage. He was careful to avoid damaging the plant but he was in a hurry. Just as before the flower seemed to draw in ambient light, multiply it, and then cast it back out, a gift of warmth and beauty for the world.

Beast Boy sprinted through more hallways, this time heading for Raven's room. When he arrived, Beast Boy knocked on the door. Then he knocked again upon not getting a response.

"Raven," Beast Boy called. "Raven, are you in there?" Still, he didn't get an answer. Beast Boy reached out and opened the door. The hydraulics hissed as Beast Boy was granted entrance. Raven wasn't in her room.

Beast Boy pivoted, intent on rushing to the roof before he ran out of time. When he came to bear, Beast Boy discovered that he didn't need to rush to the roof. Raven was standing right behind him, frowning at his invasion of her privacy. Beast Boy stepped away from the open door, as if that would make it clear that however it had gotten open he hadn't been responsible.

"Hi, Raven," Beast Boy said, somehow managing to keep his breath even through his panting. "I was looking for you." Raven didn't say anything, but her physiognomy clearly stated that he was stating the obvious.

"Right," Beast Boy chuckled, "anyway, I was trying to talk to you earlier and I never got the chance." Beast Boy took a deep breath before continuing. "See, the thing is that we've known each other for a while and…" Beast Boy stuttered, racking his mind for all the things he had planned to say and coming up blank.

"We've known each other for a while," he picked back up, "and we're good friends," once again Beast Boy stopped. He stared at his feet, willing them to speak for him.

"I guess what I'm saying," Beast Boy said, taking his eyes off the ground, "is that…" Beast Boy never finished that thought. As soon as Beast Boy's eyes left the floor, Raven leaned forward and pecked him on the cheek. Warmth spread through his entire body, lifting him off the ground as if he was filled with helium and leaving him with the feeling that he'd been lying comfortably in the sun all day.

Raven drew away, deftly slipping the hibiscus from Beast Boy's loosened grasp. "You're sweet, Beast Boy. Thank you." Beast Boy couldn't respond; he was too stunned.

As Raven got farther away the warmth faded, and Beast Boy regained his senses. His first instinct was to blush. He'd been caught messing up again and Raven had helped him out. It was a new feeling and it left him searching for solid ground. The fact that he was still buoyed up didn't help. Beast Boy smiled at Raven for a moment, feeling happy with how the day had gone after all. Raven returned the smile.

"So," Beast Boy cleared his throat, "I like you a lot and you like me. Would you be my Valentine?"

Raven's smile grew as she shook her head. "You missed the deadline."

Beast Boy looked into Raven's room and spotted her clock. It had just ticked to 12:06.

Beast Boy sighed, whether out of defeat or relief he didn't know. And in that instance Beast Boy was struck by insight beyond anything he had experienced before. The crumpled green paper in Cyborg's hand last year, the interventions and distractions that had plagued him all day, the reason Raven didn't like Valentine's Day. It was all linked together.

Beast Boy looked up at Raven, preparing to ask a question as she slipped into her room. Before he could say anything, Raven mouthed "good night" and closed the door, her smile never fading. Beast Boy stood there for a few minutes, processing everything, before heading to his own room.


This was a nice little one-shot that invaded my mind during math class in late December. I hope my reader's enjoyed it. I played around with narrative voice in this piece and wasn't sure how it would be recieved. Anyway, please give me a few ideas of what you enjoyed and what could use work for future projects.