Author's notes: Yes I know I've been gone a long time, and I apologize for that. Over the last year or so, a whole lot of real life has gotten in the way of my playtime, not to mention the mother of all cases of writer's block. Just so everyone knows, all the stories that I was working on before are still ongoing, and will be updated eventually. Oh and this story is unbeta'd, so I apologize in advance for the errors.
This one's for CalliopeMused and Kayasuri-n... thank you for all the help.
Raven sighed, as she floated her teacup up from the floor to her hand. The common room of Titan's Tower was quiet, save for the hum of the air conditioning. The pajama-clad Titan looked out the window into the early morning darkness, and considered her situation.
As far as superpowers went, Raven had come to the conclusion that empathy had to be just about the most... annoying. Her childhood had been somewhat different from most, to say the least. Raven had been dealing with her powers and their pitfalls almost as long as she could remember. But even with this experience, there were times that being able to feel the emotions of everyone within a several hundred yard radius of her was just aggravating, to say the least.
Case in point... Beast Boy.
Even in the best of times, the young man's unbound feelings were a distraction, and lately hadn't been the best of times. For the last few weeks, her normally gregarious teammate had been acting distinctly out of sorts. He was only venturing out of his room for meals, training, and what few criminals they had been forced to face. And even when had to interact with his friends, Beast Boy's usual joking and banter were absent. He was quiet, withdrawn, and seemed at times to be only semi-aware of what was going on around him.
There had even been a team meeting (sans Beast Boy), in an attempt to decide what to do about this strange behavior. After much debate (most of which Raven tried to keep herself out of) they had decided to simply wait and see what happened. Robin had asserted that this was the best course; Beast Boy's personal life was no place for the team to go poking their collective noses into, at least while he didn't jeopardize the team's activities. And after all, Beast Boy seemed calm, if unusually quiet.
But although his mood seemed calm, Raven's empathy was telling her otherwise. Her mental senses heard his mind's cries of sadness, loneliness, fear. It was as though he had been standing inside her skull reciting lyrics from a bad emo song for the last month, day and night.
And hence, here she was, kept awake at 3:45 AM by her mentally suffering teammate. It wasn't that Raven didn't want to help her teammate, quite the opposite, but who was she to intrude into someone's personal matters? She was the first person to object when people got too nosey with her life.
When Beast Boy wants to talk, I'm sure he'll talk. Still, it's really too bad that empathy doesn't come with an off switch, I'd certainly sleep better, Raven thought to herself as she finished her third cup of tea. She looked down at her empty cup and grimaced. Not that the caffeine from all this is going to help matters.
Raven stood up and stretched. If she was going to have any hope of sleeping before the inevitable morning call to practice, she had to make the attempt soon. Just before she was going to turn towards the elevator, she glanced once more out the window, and a movement on the grounds below caught her eye. Someone was walking out towards the rocky shore of the island that the tower stood upon. And though the moonlight was faint, she could see enough detail to tell that it was the source of her current problem.
What is Beast Boy doing?
As she watched, she could see her teammate clamber over the last few rocks near the the water's edge, the task made more difficult by a large, oddly-shaped black object that the young man seemed to be lugging along with him. He paused for a moment, then sat down upon a large, flat boulder, and moved no more.
Raven paused, biting her lip as she considered a course of action. She could simply leave the matter be, as Robin had told them to do, but there was a chorus of voices in her mind that seemed to disagree with her on that. Finally, she shook her head.
I don't think this is going to get better, not by itself. If I want to get a good night's sleep again soon, I have to take matters into my own hands. Besides, Beast Boy would help me, even if I didn't want him too. And if I'm going to do this, this might be my best chance.
Raven sat down her empty teacup, and with a moment's concentration, called her magic power to her. It would be a bit rude to simply teleport right next to the young man, so she opted for a location perhaps twenty yards behind him. As the magic faded, she felt a chill in the soles of her bare feet and frowned.Getting dressed beforehand might have been a good idea, but she was here and didn't want to give herself excuses not to go through with this.
As she walked towards Beast Boy, surprised that his keen senses hadn't alerted him to her presence, she saw him open the large case he had been carrying with him, and withdraw an acoustic guitar from it. It was clearly quite old, it's finish battered and chipped, but she could still see gleaming snowflake-shaped pearl inlays on the guitar's neck and body. Battered it may have been, but in its day, it would have been a princely instrument.
A guitar? I didn't know he played. Raven wasn't normally given to eavesdropping, but curiosity got the better of her, so she paused to watch for a moment. Beast Boy settled the guitar into his lap, and assuming a practiced stance, began to play.
Raven had to almost physically stop her jaw from dropping. Beast Boy's playing was masterful. The melody was slow and gentle, a mournful air with chiming high notes ringing out over a complex line of lower tones. Raven didn't consider herself a music afficianado, but she was amazed by her teammate's virtuoso performance. Finally, the song ended, and Beast Boy sat still, cradling the guitar in his lap.
Raven's empathy picked up yet another wave of sadness coming from Beast Boy, reminding her of why she had come down her in the first place. She cleared her throat and walked towards where the young man sat.. "I never knew you played guitar, Beast Boy."
His head whipped around in surprise at her words. "Raven! I uh... didn't know you were... uh...how long have you been standing there?"
"Long enough," She replied. "You must have been really into that song, if you didn't hear me or smell me with those animal senses of yours."
He looked at her with a quizzical expression. "Going out to a pajama party, or something?"
She shook her head. "What's stranger, that I'm dressed for bed at this hour, or that you're not?"
He looked down at the uniform he was wearing. "Oh, I just couldn't sleep, that's all." He looked away from her, back out at the water.
"Clearly." She sat down on the rock next to him, with the guitar case in between them.
"What brings you down here?" he asked.
"Well... you, actually."
"Oh, like I said, I just needed to get some air, that's all. I couldn't sleep, so..." he trailed off as if unsure of what to talk about.
Raven closed her eyes. Here goes nothing. "Beast Boy, I'm really no good at these sorts of conversations, so, I'm sorry if I do this wrong, but... what's been going on with you lately?"
"What do you mean, Raven? I'm fine." He didn't sound very convincing, at all.
"No, you're not. For the last few weeks, you've been... quiet. Too quiet."
He looked at her with a cocked eyebrow. "Thought that you liked it better when I leave you alone," he said. Was that a trace of hurt in his voice?
She sighed. "Beast Boy, we've lived together for over five years now. And in that whole time, you've never been quiet. And the truth is, I'm almost never as annoyed by you as I make out to be. Emphasis on almost. When you start acting quiet and spending every waking hour you can in your room, that's not you. That's..." she frowned, "...well, more like me, I guess. The point is, you are clearly not yourself. And on top of that, you may have forgotten you're living with an empath."
He looked at her, his face unreadable. "So... you can tell, huh? You can feel that I'm..."
"Sad? Lonely?" she finished for him. "Beast Boy, we can all tell that's something's wrong, I don't need empathy for that. But trust me, you've been driving that particular part of me nuts."
He looked away from her. "I'm sorry, Raven."
"You don't have to apologize," she said with annoyance, "It's not that you're doing something wrong. It's just got everyone worried and... if you want to talk, I'll listen."
"Did the others put you up to this?" He asked.
"No, but I think I may be best qualified," she said. "Robin won't ask you, unless he feels you're a threat to the team. Cyborg wants to talk to you, I'm sure, but he's afraid of intruding. And Starfire...she'll certainly be more than happy to listen to you, but her solutions would all involve eating some sort of horrible Tamaranean pudding. I can spare you that, at least."
He was quiet a moment. Then he strummed a soft chord on the guitar. "So, you want me to talk?"
"That's right, and we aren't going to get much more privacy than this."
He strummed the chord again. "Okay..." He continued to look out over the water, strumming idle soft chords as he spoke. "You remember I turned eighteen last month, right?"
She nodded. "I distinctly remember the party, and being forced to play video games with the birthday boy. You were most insistent."
He smiled just a bit. "Yeah well... remember that I went on a vacation for like a week after?"
"Yes, visiting family in Los Angeles, or something."
"I'm afraid that's not quite what I was doing," he admitted. "When I turned eighteen, I became a legal adult, and had to go meet with some lawyers about my parent's estate."
The word 'estate' stuck out to her. "Your parents... they're gone?" She hadn't known about that. Though the Titans were all friends, they tended to avoid getting too personal about certain things.
He nodded slightly. "They were genetics researchers. They died in a boating accident in Africa, when I was about eight."
Another surge from Beast Boy's mind hit her. "I'm very sorry, Beast Boy."
"It's alright, but thank you. Anyhow, the meeting with the lawyers was pretty much a waste. My parents did leave behind a bit of money, but they also left quite a bit of debt, so that's all gone now. And most of their personal possessions were lost in Africa. All that I did manage to get, though, was this." He held up the guitar. "It was my dad's."
"It's lovely," she said. "And you played it very well."
"Oh, I used to plink around a bit when I was in the Doom Patrol, but I kinda gave up when I left them," he said. "But dad... he played a lot. He was very good, and when I got this, it reminded me of a lot of old memories. He used to play for me and mom, every evening." He ran a gentle hand over the guitar. "This is the last... connection that I have to them. They died ten years ago, Raven, and... I'm worried I'm forgetting them."
Now things were starting to make sense to Raven. "Beast Boy, I can tell that your parents meant a lot to you, and I honestly don't think that you could ever forget them. And I'm sure they'd be very proud of you. Their son's growing up into a wonderful man."
He looked at her a moment, then smiled. "Thanks, Raven. I guess I'm just missing them a lot right now. They feel kind of far away, if that makes any sense."
"Kind of..." she thought a moment. "You could try talking about them. That might make you feel more connected to the memories." She paused. "And... I don't exactly have a great history with my parents, so... I think I'd like to hear about yours."
"Really?" he asked with surprise.
"Yeah,:" she replied. "I'll listen, if you want to share. That's what friends do, right?"
He smile grew a bit broader. "Okay... I'll tell you my favorite story that they told me.
"My dad was kind of a whiz kid, one of those guys that was good at nearly everything. He graduated valedictorian of his high school at fifteen, got his PhD at twenty-four, and went to work for Wayne Medical in genetics. But his real first love was music. He played like five instruments, and the guitar was his favorite. He was very very good at it, too."
Raven nodded. "Seems to run in the family."
He smirked. "Guess I had to pick up something from him besides my dashing good looks."
Raven rolled her eyes, but was privately happy to hear a little of the old Beast Boy creeping back. "Yeah, whatever. Back to the story."
"Right. Anyhow, this particular guitar was the first thing he bought for himself with his first big payout from Wayne. He discovered some sort of special process, or something, and they gave him a huge bonus." He ran a finger over the headstock, the where the name 'C.F. Martin' was inlayed in block letters. "He really loved it, and it went everywhere with him.
"So one day, he's having a bad time at work, and when that sort of thing happened he'd take his guitar out during lunch break and go out into the park in front of the building he worked in. He'd sit out there and play to calm his nerves. I guess it was kinda for him what your meditation is for you. So, he's out there, playing, not paying too much attention to what's going on around him. He finishes a song, looks up, and there's this beautiful brunette woman standing there watching." Beast boy chuckled a bit.
"What's funny?" Raven asked.
"My dad was a lot of things, but not so much of a lady's man, so he's not real sure what to say to her. She stands there a second, then she nods and says, 'very nice.' And she drops some money in the case, and walks away."
"So, I guess your father was good enough to play for tips, then?" Raven asked.
"Well yeah, but that's not the best part, " Beast Boy said with a smile. "The lady's tip is still in the case. Why don't you take a look?"
Puzzled, Raven opened the case that was sitting between them, and looked inside. There was a two dollar bill sitting at the bottom.
"Your father was quite thrifty," she noted, "But I sense that's not what's really significant here."
"Look on the back of the bill," Beast Boy said with a grin.
She picked up the bill, and flipped it over. There were words written in a small, neat letters on it's surface.
Care to go out for a drink sometime? Give me a call!
"Would your mother's name happen to have been Marie?" Raven asked.
"Right in one," Beast Boy replied. "Mom had been working for Wayne, too, and she took her lunches right around the same time of day. She had been watching him for some time, and she liked what she saw. But she was just as shy as dad was, so... she got creative. She claimed it was the best two dollars she ever spent."
Raven couldn't help but laugh a bit as she put the bill back in the case. "And the rest is history, I suppose?"
Beast Boy nodded. "Dad took her up on that drink, and they clicked. They were married six months later, and I was born a year after that."
Raven smiled. "Thanks for sharing that, Beast Boy. That was a wonderful story."
"No problem, Raven."
They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes. Then Raven spoke.
"I really enjoyed hearing you play. Would you... play me a song?"
"Well, sure, ah... what would you like to hear?" Beast Boy asked with some surprise. "My selection's a little limited, I'm afraid."
"Oh, I'll let you choose," she said.
Beast Boy nodded, "Okay." He seemed to consider for a moment, then readied his guitar. "Oh, uh, Raven?"
"When we're alone like this... would you call me Garfield? I think I'd like that," he said.
"Sure... Garfield." She said with a gentle smile. She closed her eyes as another beautiful melody began to play, this one seeming much happier than the previous one.
As the song finished, Beast Boy looked over to where Raven had been sitting next to him, but found her gone.
Guess she finally did get sleepy, or something, he thought to himself. He really owed his teammate; talking to her had indeed been good for him. Even though Raven could be a little distant sometimes, times like this reminded him how close the two of them really were.
He finally felt ready for bed, so he moved to place his guitar back into its case. As he did so, he noticed something laying in the bottom of the case, next to the two dollar bill that his mom had given to his dad, years before.
It was a five dollar bill.
Intrigued, he picked it up, and noted that there were words written upon it, in elegant, flowing script. When he read them, he couldn't help but smile foolishly.
(You already have my number)
Same time tomorrow night? You bring the music, and I'll bring the story, this time.
...Keep the change.
Hope that wasn't too terrible. Oh, and you all can thank CalliopeMused for the title.. that girl's got a way with words. Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed this. It's not the best thing I've written, but I I had fun.
30 May 2007