Disclaimer: I do not, nor will I likely ever own the Teen Titans in any way, shape, or form. This much should be patently obvious.
Author's Note: This tale has grown both in planning and in writing it, and the chapter below represents only the begining of the story I have in mind. Nevertheless, it is my sincere hope that you will enjoy reading it, though I make no pretentions of being an excellent writer. Credit must go to The Lady Bonny and GuardianSaiyoko, though neither of them know it, for their stories on this website were what convinced me to finally give writing my own story a shot. Whether or not that is a good thing is something I leave completely up to you. Please, whether you hate or love it, leave a review so that I may profit by your opinion. Once again, thank you very much for reading.
Oh, and it has come to my attention that apparently when I created this story, it went up and down several times within a minute or two. I'm not sure what happened but all seems to be well now.
Chapter 1: The Sound of Silence
"Don't talk of love,
But I've heard the words before;
Its sleeping in my memory.
I won't disturb the slumber of feelings that have died.
If I never loved I never would have cried.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries. "
- Paul Simon, "I am a Rock"
Raven was certain of one thing. The tower shouldn't have been this quiet.
The half-demon sorceress was sitting alone on the couch in the common room of Titan Tower, a leather-bound book laying unopened in her lap, a mug of untouched, ice-cold herbal tea sitting patiently on the table in front of her. Around her, everything was as silent as a tomb. Not a peep could be heard from anywhere else in the tower, and even the usual background noises that constantly pervaded the Titans' home, the soft hum of the refrigerator, the clicking sound of the security systems cycling through their automated routines, the distant crying of seagulls outside the window, even these were subdued, hushed as though commanded to do so.
Normally of course she would have welcomed the quiet. For a change, she did not have to lock herself in her room in order to achieve the peace required for a meditative state. She could come out here, into the common room, and meditate while watching dawn break over Jump City. She could read in peace for once, not being interrupted every half-second by Beast Boy's latest antics.
And yet… for nearly half an hour now she had sat motionless and listened to the sound of her own breathing, her own heartbeat, the deafening silence crushing every attempt to shove it aside. She knew why. If it had merely been peace, she would have had no troubles.
This wasn't peace. It was a vacuum. It was an empty gaping void. And she knew what was missing.
Without even meaning to, Raven slowly opened the communicator she had been fingering for several minutes. Glancing down into it, she watched as the static on the viewscreen faded out to be replaced by the face of the Boy Wonder himself.
"Raven? What is it? Is something wrong?" asked Robin over the communicator. He, Starfire, and Cyborg were on morning patrol, investigating sketchy reports of sightings of some kind of strange creature somewhere in the northern suburbs of the city.
"No…" she said into the communicator, wishing that she had actually bothered to think up a reason to call them before doing so. "No, nothing's happening here. I was just… wondering if you guys had found anything yet."
If Robin detected her ad-libbed question, he made no sign of it. "Nothing yet. Everything's pretty quiet so far except for the news helicopters. We'll probably make a few more passes through the area, just to make sure, and then head home."
Raven smirked slightly. The battles between the Titans and Slade had been so violent and public that the local media had gotten into the habit of simply following the Titans whenever they left the tower, under the reasonable assumption that it was a good way to get interesting stories and excellent footage. It did make for a lot of anticlimaxes though whenever their patrols came up empty-handed.
Robin took a deeper breath and lowered his voice a notch or two before asking his next question. "How's Beast Boy?"
There were several seconds of silence as Raven lowered her eyes slightly. "I don't know. I haven't seen him yet today."
Robin nodded slowly. "Maybe you should see if he's OK, if he needs anything."
Raven had enough self-awareness to scoff at the notion. "You were the one telling us to leave him alone."
"I said leave him alone to work things out, not pretend he doesn't exist Raven," said Robin in a tone that was a bit harsher than he had planned it to be. Raven scowled, half at Robin and half at herself for agreeing with him.
"I'll make sure he's alright," she said, with just enough of an annoyed tone in her voice to maintain appearances.
Starfire's voice chimed in from the seat next to Robin's. "Be sure to tell friend Beast Boy that when we have all returned, we may spend the rest of the day together at the Light Projection Screens, or perhaps if he is still feeling poorly, I will make him Pudding of Sadness to ease his mind?"
"Was that a promise or a threat?" asked Cyborg from the front seat. It was meant as a joke, but Cyborg's voice did not sound particularly jovial. In fact he sounded downright angry. Raven ignored his tone. In theory the shifts for the daily patrols were doled out randomly, and yet somehow recently Cyborg's name kept coming up and Beast Boy's almost never did, much like how Starfire and Robin always seemed to draw the same shift. Cyborg never complained or cursed his luck, and Raven was certain that he and Robin had wordlessly come to some kind of arrangement. Still it was hard for him, but Raven wasn't sure if it was the extra patrol shifts or the reason he had to take them that upset him the most.
Raven considered all these things in half a second before nodding to Robin and closing the communicator. The silence of the tower swept over her again, reminding her that all was not well. Normally, with Beast Boy in the tower, silence would have been impossible. If he hadn't been blasting the sound of his video games all over the tower or singing hopelessly off-key at the top of his lungs along with some ridiculous song, he would likely be bugging her to play a game or watch a movie or just pay attention to him.
As it was, she hadn't heard him speak a word in three days, and had barely seen a glimpse of him for a week.
Well that wasn't quite true, after all he still stopped in for meals, sometimes, and he still went on patrol along with the rest of them whenever his name DID come up. Robin had cancelled their training sessions for the next couple of weeks, after the events with Slade and Terra they needed the break, but Raven imagined that if he hadn't done so, Beast Boy would have probably shown up for those too. But during those few moments when he was around, it was like he was merely going through the motions. Most of the time he would leave his food nearly untouched, save when Robin or someone else forced him to eat. On patrols he was quiet, replying to questions in single syllables, never cracking a joke, never pulling some immature prank, never harassing her or anyone else to the point of insanity. She assured herself that she didn't miss it, that her sole concern was that he wasn't acting like himself. Sometimes she believed it.
She mentally moved the mug of tea into the sink and stood up, tucking her book under one arm as she walked out of the common room. The silence permeating the tower seemed to follow her as she walked down the halls towards Beast Boy's room. It took no more than a minute to arrive at his door, and she raised her hand to knock, then hesitated. For several seconds she listened intently for a sound from within, and heard nothing. For a moment she wondered if she really should be doing this. After all, it wasn't like SHE welcomed interference whenever she was having some kind of difficulty coping with things.
'But then Terra didn't rip my heart out twice,' she thought to herself. The geomancer had betrayed them all, had tried to kill them all, but with Beast Boy it had been different. Terra had played him for a fool, betraying his unconditional trust in her in the most flagrant way possible. He had faced her nearly killing him and all of his friends, only to suddenly win her back and then lose her again just as suddenly, and this time forever. When they had laid the plaque on her statue, Raven had said something about reversing the effect, but she knew how unlikely that was. Terra was dead and gone, and while they all still felt the sting of her betrayal, they didn't feel what he did.
Thus convinced, she knocked on the door.
There was a shuffling behind it and the sound of someone walking (or wading) towards the door through mounds of dirty laundry and assorted junk. The door slid open at last, revealing Beast Boy, who was blinking in the bright light that filtered through the doorway. "... Raven?" he asked, obviously surprised to see her. "What are you doing here?"
To her abject horror, Raven realized that she had neglected to come up with a reason for paying him a visit. Thinking quickly, she came up with one that at least sounded reasonable. "You missed breakfast." she said neutrally.
"Oh... er yeah..." he said, nervously scratching the side of his head and trying to smile. "I wasn't really hungry." His voice was more subdued than it should have been, more reserved. He stood at the door in his purple and black uniform, obviously trying very hard to look like nothing was the matter. He failed. His grin was obviously forced, and his green skin had salt-crusted red-ish streaks around his eyes where he had been crying, though she couldn't tell if it was recent or hours-old.
Raven sighed, lowering her head slightly as she forced herself not to smirk at the ironic situation, that it should now be her standing outside Beast Boy's room, trying to get him to come out of his shell. She couldn't tell if Beast Boy recognized the irony or not, but she was pretty well certain he knew why she was here. His eyes held an almost expectant look, as though he had been waiting for one of his friends to come and pull him out of the pit he had fallen into.
"So... can I come in?" she asked finally, forcing herself to make it sound like an actual request and not an assignment. She wanted to help him, she wanted to see him recover from this, but she had no idea how. Beast Boy had always seemed completely inured to pain, one of the reasons she got so angry with him. She knew it wasn't true, that if anything he sometimes bottled his real feelings up more effectively than she did, burying them in immature gags and a happy-go-lucky attitude that drowned whatever pain he was in and subsumed it. She didn't know how he managed to do it, how he didn't just collapse from the crushing weight of his suppressed fears of loneliness or loss, but he didn't. In fact he made it look easy, which she never could forgive him for.
Beast Boy paused for a moment before replying. A guilty look came over his face, as though he was sorry for having brought this on. "Sure," he said softly, and opened the door wider. Raven carefully entered, not entirely convinced that there wasn't something growing in the middle of the mess that was Beast Boy's room. Beast Boy let her in before closing the door and flipping the lights on.
"How can you find anything in all this?" she asked, momentarily forgetting everything else as she waded over towards the bunk bed on one side of the room, stepping over knee-deep piles of junk.
"Well I was gonna clean it up," replied Beast Boy, "but I was afraid you guys would think I'd really lost my mind."
It took Raven a second to realize that he was joking, and as she did, a large weight seemed to vanish from the room. Maybe Robin had been right. Maybe Beast Boy had just needed some time to work it all out. The joke was delivered monotonously, without Beast Boy's usual self-satisfied flair, but it was a great improvement over what she had heard from him before. Perhaps just knowing that his friends cared enough to worry about him was helping.
Raven cleared a spot on the bottom bunk of the bed, and sat down. Beast Boy sat down next to her, not bothering to clear a spot beforehand. His face was glum and he tucked his knees up against his chest as he stared off into the cluttered space of his room. Raven watched him for a second, wondering what to say, when to her surprise he took the initiative and spoke.
"So, did Robin send you here?"
Raven debated for a moment what to say, and then decided on honesty. "Sort of. He was worried about you, wanted to know if you were OK, and so did I."
"I see," said Beast Boy distantly.
Raven knew he needed her help to navigate through this, but she wasn't sure what the best way to help him was. Was she supposed to just be understanding and let him vent? Was she supposed to draw it out of him? Was she supposed to give him some kind of speech? Robin knew how to motivate people and cheer them up when they were down. She was no good at this sort of thing. But still, she was here, and her friend was hurting, and she had to try something. Largely by habit, she decided on the direct approach.
"So... what?" asked Beast Boy, puzzled.
"So are you OK?"
Beast Boy blinked several times before he registered that Raven actually meant the question seriously. "I..." he stammered, not certain what to answer with. "I don't know..."
Raven sensed that more was coming, and she waited for it.
"I mean... I thought she was part of our team. I thought she'd become part of our team, and that... it would stay that way. She'd become one of us, you know? You guys are... you're my family, you're everything I have. And I just... I wanted her to be a part of that. I REALLY wanted that. And I thought she wanted it too..."
He lowered his gaze to the floor and sighed sadly.
"And... now I'll never know if she did or not."
"She didn't know either," replied Raven quietly. "She didn't know what she wanted, and she wound up losing everything to Slade because she couldn't figure it out. That's why she was able to fool us for so long. That's why we didn't see it coming."
Beast Boy just shrugged. "You did."
"No, I didn't," said Raven, "If I had, I would have tried to stop her."
"But you never fell for it. Not really I mean. You never liked her. You never really trusted her."
Raven thought for a moment that Beast Boy was accusing her of having driven Terra to her betrayal, only to realize that there had been no bitterness in his words, no implications. He wasn't angry with her for having suspected Terra. He was angry at himself for not having done so. Raven had seen this before. For weeks after Terra's true colors had become known, Robin couldn't bear to so much as glance at anything that reminded him of Terra, not because he missed her or felt anything special for her, but because he felt responsible towards the rest of his team. Because he felt that he SHOULD have seen the signs, that he should have better protected his family. Raven had let Robin work that one out by himself and with Starfire, she wasn't going to be able to change Robin's pathological need to try and be the perfect leader, shielding his team from every threat. That need was too deeply engrained in his psyche to be parsed out.
Beast Boy wasn't precisely talking about the same thing. He wasn't angry because he had let the team down. He was angry and hurt because he had opened himself up to Terra completely, had trusted her implicitly, had even refused to believe that she was capable of such a thing when the evidence slapped him square in the face... and she had torn it all to shreds with a wave of her hand.
"No, I didn't like her," admitted Raven finally. "I thought she was a pushy, arrogant, show-off. I didn't think she could ever really be a Titan, that she was too self-centered and worried about herself to do that. But that's not the same thing as not trusting her. None of us saw this coming Beast Boy. Not even Robin or Cyborg."
She reached over and put a hand on his shoulder, and felt him relax slightly as he raised his head and looked at her.
"And all of us liked that she made you happy, even me. She liked it too. Why do you think she drew you out of the tower when the Slade's robots attacked us? Even though she had already decided to betray us, she obviously wanted to try and make sure you didn't get hurt. I never thought she'd be capable of that. I certainly never thought that she could be brought back and would turn out to be... well... more than a traitor."
Beast Boy closed his eyes as he blinked the tears out of them, before reaching up and placing his hand on top of Raven's. There was a time, a recent time, where such a gesture would have been met by a cold stare or perhaps even something exploding in the nearby vicinity, but not now. Not here.
"And the only reason she did turn out to be more," continued Raven, hoping that she didn't sound like a babbling idiot, "is because you forced her to see that she could be more. If you hadn't done that, she might have killed us all."
Beast Boy winced at that, which stopped Raven from saying what she had meant to follow it up with: 'or we might have killed her.' Indeed she thought that was more likely. The shock of her treachery had been bad enough; the pain of being defeated by her so totally and left to die was a terrible humiliation, not to mention a source of righteous rage, but that moment in the cavern when Terra seemed ready to kill Beast Boy before all of them... Raven couldn't speak for the others really but she had seen the look in their eyes. It was the same desperate look of fear at the prospect of losing someone infinitely close to them that Beast Boy had in his eyes when they had stood before Terra's statue. The same look that he had periodically whenever one of the Titans were injured or in trouble. The same look he had had the day they thought they had lost Robin forever. All bets were off at that moment. Blood was going to be repaid with blood.
They sat in silence for a few minutes. Beast Boy continued to stare into nothingness motionlessly as Raven simply watched him. The more she got to know Beast Boy, it seemed the less she actually knew him. The green changeling was sometimes as thoughtless and careless as a spoiled child, and other times as serious and solemn as a priest. It never ceased to astonish her how he could go from one to the other so quickly, or even embody both simultaneously. He could be infinitely caring, even with hardened villains, as exemplified by the incident with Thunder and Lightning, to say nothing of his repeated and ultimately successful attempts to 'rescue' Terra, and would follow his friends quite literally to Hell and back without so much as a second thought. He was always there for all of them, even for her, despite the way she knew she sometimes treated him, and yet at the same time he was immature, persistently annoying, overemotional, and utterly and completely unable to EVER shut up and leave someone alone, even when they really truly needed to be.
Except of course, for right now.
"So what happens now?" asked Beast Boy, finally breaking the silence. He still sounded hurt, but she could tell from the tone of his voice that he was feeling better, still not recovered of course, she didn't think any of them ever would REALLY recover from this, but better nonetheless.
Raven allowed herself a small smile (for professional reasons only, of course) and gripped his shoulder a bit more tightly. "Now we move on." she said, knowing that it was in a strange way what he had wanted to hear.
"How?" he asked, turning to face her directly for the first time since they had sat down, five week-long minutes ago.
A professional at this sort of thing would probably have found a concrete answer, however Raven wasn't here as a professional but as a friend. "I don't know," she said directly as she stood up and offered him her hand, "but we'll figure it out. We'll all figure it out together."
Slowly, a small grin began spread over Beast Boy's face as he took her hand and she pulled him to his feet. "Thanks Rae." he said.
"It's Raven." came the half-demon's reply giving the green changeling a warning look as she moved gingerly around the piles of laundry and garbage towards the door. "Now come on, you should eat something before Robin calls us both out for some kind of emergency. You're no good to any of us if you pass out in the middle of a fight."
It may have sounded harsh to an outside listener, but Raven knew that Beast Boy understood what she really meant.
Beast Boy followed Raven out of the room and down the hallway. She could tell just by the way he was walking that it had worked. His posture was straighter, his stride was more purposeful, and his face, though still more composed than usual, was at least not the dead blank stare that was all she had seen of him in the last few days. It occurred to her that she had actually missed Beast Boy's grin, his optimism, and even his stupid antics, though she was fairly certain he would remind her why this was a mistake shortly.
The two Titans re-entered the common room and Beast Boy stepped into the kitchen to get himself some kind of late breakfast. Raven sat back down on the couch and opened her book again, a great feeling of relief coming over her as she heard the sound of Beast Boy scrounging around in the refrigerator for something to eat drown out the piercing silence of the tower, and suddenly she realized that Beast Boy wasn't the only one who was hoping things would return to normal, or rather the warped version of 'normal' that they all were used to.
She had managed to finish only a few pages when Beast Boy sat down across from her on the other couch with a large plate of tofu eggs and a side of toast with soy butter. He ate quickly and with gusto, obviously ravenously hungry after having skipped both breakfast today and dinner yesterday, no matter what he had claimed before, and the noise of him eating completely destroyed all possibility of Raven actually getting anywhere in her book. Still, she wasn't angry. This here, this was the reality she recognized. This was an indication that despite Terra's betrayal and death and the terrible events of Slade's year-long campaign against them, that things were slowly returning to normal.
Lost in her own thoughts on the nature of reality, Raven gave a start as Beast Boy spoke. She turned to see him sitting back on the couch, watching the television which he had apparently turned on while she was daydreaming. She did notice that he had turned the volume on it down to a low whisper, perhaps so as not to disturb her? Probably not.
"You think… maybe after the others get back, we could all go somewhere? Like to the park or something?"
Normally, words could not describe how little Raven wanted to go to the park or any other sort of public place. As it stood however, while she was still not wild about the idea, she had to admit that it was a relief just to have Beast Boy ask. "I suppose if the others want to you all can…
"Aw c'mon Rae," he said, giving her the first example of his pleading smile that she had seen since Terra abandoned them. It usually made her want to fling him across the room, both because it looked so stupid, and because it often worked anyway, not that she was about to let that on. "It'll be fun. You don't have to play football or whatever; you can just sit and read if you want."
Loathe as she was to admit it, the prospect didn't sound all that bad. As she was considering whether to agree or to refuse a few more times (she already knew that she wouldn't hear the end of it until she eventually said yes), her eyes caught something on the television, and she glanced at it for a second. Moments later her eyes flew open wide and the book fell from her hand.
"Beast Boy, be quiet," she said quickly in a tone that was hurried and startled.
Beast Boy stopped pleading in mid-sentence and his gaze turned to puzzlement as he stared at Raven. "Huh?" he asked. "Raven what do you…"
"Shut up and look!" she snapped as she snatched the remote control out of his hand and aimed it at the television, cranking the volume up until it filled the room. Beast Boy turned around to face the television, and the words died in his throat.
On the television screen was news camera footage, evidently shot from a moving helicopter, of a large section of suburban development that looked as though it had been leveled by a tornado. Buildings were torn open; their sidings cleaved off and cast into the streets. Streetlights and traffic signals had been ripped up and flung about like bowling pins, while trees had been snapped in half or even uprooted and left to block the various streets. As the camera panned slowly to show more of the swatch of destruction, Raven saw fire hydrants shorn clean off their moorings, leaving fountains of water in their place, and full sized cars smashed flat by a tremendous force, as though they had been beaten into the earth by giant hammers. Clouds of brown dust and smoke obscured much of the scene, even as the helicopter struggled to find a clearer position, while a small symbol in the bottom corner of the screen showed that the images were being transmitted live.
"Once again," said the admirably calm voice of the news reader, "at this time we have no estimate on the number of casualties from this disaster, nor are we certain exactly what happened to cause this much destruction. Jump City police are ordering a complete evacuation of the entire Almond Hills region as a precaution, pending consultation with the Teen Titans, at least three of whom entered the affected area several minutes ago presumably in pursuit of the agent of this terrible catastrophe. We have no information on their whereabouts at this time, but our helicopters are attempting to find a better vantage…"
"What?" shouted Beast Boy at the television. "They went in there after someone? Why didn't they call us?"
Raven was equally astonished and equally perplexed. She glanced down at her communicator just to ensure she hadn't inadvertently missed their signal. She had not. "Maybe there wasn't any time to call for backup," she surmised.
"Well they could be in trouble! We've gotta go help them!" shouted Beast Boy, springing to his feet. He grabbed Raven by the wrist and took off down the hallway, dragging her along with him as he ran for the exit.
"Beast Boy! Wait! We don't even know where they…" began Raven, only to be interrupted by the simultaneous beeping of both of their communicators. Beast Boy ground to a halt as both he and Raven flipped them open.
Robin was on the screen, sitting in the backseat of the T-car, his hair and face lightly streaked with dirt. Behind him, out the rear window, they could see scenery flying past as the T-car raced at top speed towards wherever it was headed. Evidently Cyborg was driving, as they could hear him in the background speaking to the car itself, his baby, urging it to go faster even as he hurtled it through the streets of Jump City. Starfire could not be seen, but her voice could also be heard in the background, speaking with urgency to someone, though only snatches of her speech could be heard, something about "getting help" and "over soon".
"Robin calling Raven and Beast Boy, come in!"
"We're here!" cried Beast Boy. "Dude, what happened?"
"No time to explain," said Robin hurriedly. "I need you two to get the medical bay ready. We're coming back to the tower as fast as we can and we've got someone badly hurt."
Beast Boy's eyes flew open wide with fear even as Raven felt an icy chill run through her as she instantly envisioned the worst. Evidently Robin noticed their expressions turn to mortal terror, and he quickly explained as best he could.
"No!" he said, "Not one of us, someone else. A bystander in the fight, we think. He needs medical attention right now."
"Then take him to Jump City General," replied Raven. "They're closer to you than the tower is and they've got an emergency room for…"
"We can't," said Robin quickly, cutting Raven off, "there's no time to explain now but we need to take him back to the Tower. We'll be there in a few minutes, get ready for us."
The communicators went dead as Robin closed his, evidently having more pressing matters to worry about. Beast Boy and Raven looked at one another for a moment, before both running off towards the medical bay as quickly as they could. As soon as they had entered, Beast Boy rushed around the room switching on all of the assorted equipment and clearing off the examination table, while Raven closed her eyes and began chanting her mantra quietly to herself, marshalling her inner focus, preparing for what was certain to be a difficult task of magical healing, if Robin's assessment was to be believed.
Neither one spoke a word. Neither one wished to. They both had felt the exact same terrible fear for a second, the fear that another one of their number had just been taken from them, and it scared them both to silence as they waited expectantly for the others to arrive, bearing whatever casualty they had picked up from the scene of the disaster.