This was not betaed, so forgive me for the mistakes. For some weird, ungodly reason, every time I get a beta, something happens to them and they can't read over my stories…I really think I'm bad luck…I really, really need to find a permanent beta though…I'd ask again, but that's so getting redundant. So screw being inconspicuous…any offers? Anyone willing to risk bad luck just to look over my less-than-amusing chapters? That, or you can just flame me to hell with all the little things I missed. Either way.
The Wolf and the Sword
The streets were crowed with the laughter of children and the teasing of adults as the annual Jump City Festival bloomed into life. The scent of food clogged the air like a heady perfume, jumbled together with women's heavy fragrances and sun-kissed skin. The warm breeze was generous as birds chirped happily from their perched position on cable wires and door awnings. The mood was light and carefree as pedestrians meandered around the set up booths and poked through the merchandise. All in all, the day promised to be one of the happiest days Jump City had seen since the fall of The Brotherhood of Evil.
And Raven loathed it.
She scowled as two giggling children shoved her to the side, causing her to bump hips with an over-infatuated Beast Boy. He ignored her, as usual, instead focusing his attention upon the busty blonde clinging to his arm. He did, however, glance her way when Raven slipped into an array of colorful oaths when one of the boys managed to get a grab at her butt.
He grinned down at her. "Problem?"
Raven fought back the urge to bitch-slap the girl on his arm when she peered over at her with a smile that screamed 'He's all mine now'. Yeah, well screw you, Raven thought with a sneer in her direction. It had the girl pulling out of her line of view. Raven bit back the urge to gloat.
"Yes," she snapped, remembering his question. "All this damn…happiness is killing my mood. That and I swear the next child who shoves pass me or gropes me is going to get an earful." Raven carefully dusted off her corset-style tank-top and tried to pretend like all this happiness wasn't jabbing relentlessly at her patience.
Now, normally, happiness didn't annoy her like it did today. Usually, she basked in the joy of others, for it had been absent most of her life. But today…well, today Beast Boy decided it was his public duty to follow her when the team broke off to do their separate thing. Again, not even that was enough to kill her mood, but the blonde…hence the aggravation at anything breathing that crossed her path.
Beast Boy had the gall to pat her head like she was two instead of the proud nineteen she was. She turned on him with a snarl. "Don't worry," he chuckled, years of being on her team causing him to be unsusceptible to her temper. It poked at her ego that her once easy target had now become immune to her sarcasm. And all it freaking took was to lose his freaking virginity in stupid Japan.
Raven scowled at nothing in particular as she jerked to the side when the same annoying brats tried to run her over again, easily turning her body away from the grabbing hands of the oldest. She tried to be less obvious in her annoyance, but the blonde who had the IQ of a cockroach kept appearing in her line of vision. How was she supposed to be calm when everyone around her screamed of joy—especially the damn girl plastering her sculpted body to Beast Boy's arm—and have to listen to all the chatter? It was damn annoying, she decided as she bared her teeth in the children's general direction. Too damn annoying.
Beast Boy splayed his hand against her back and gave her a rough shove forward when she planted herself in the middle of the crowd. "Come now, Rae. Let's not take out our anger on little children. They're our future, you know."
"Yeah, well, if they don't stop running me over and/or groping me, I'll end up forgetting that fact—and why are you touching me? Shouldn't you be, I don't know, procreating with your bimboic blonde?" Said girl leaned forward again in confusion. Raven inwardly snickered. She bet her first kiss on the fact that the wench had no idea what she had just said.
The blonde leaned in toward Beast Boy. "What'd she say?"
Facade be damned, she decided as a demented chuckle spilled from her mouth. "You sure know how to pick 'em, Garfield." She ignored his withering glare as she stopped to poke around at a booth filled to the brim with books and pamphlets. She decided to forego reading the title as she pulled it to her face to sigh in content. Who knew that having Beast Boy fight back was so enjoyable? And to think she had spent the first three years on the team basking in his silent pouting.
He stopped along with her, glare still in place. His little friend looked so out of place amongst the books that Raven decided to hang around long after she had flipped through the selection.
"Raven," he ground out, eyebrow twitching in annoyance at her obvious slam at his bed buddy.
She slid him a slow smile, finding him utterly mouth watering when he was angry. "What? I was merely stating my opinion. It's a free country, am I right? I don't have to keep my opinion inside me."
He scoffed, idly plucking the pamphlet out of her hand to thumb through it. She raised an eyebrow when his face flushed "I preferred it when you did keep your opinion inside you."
Now it was her turn to glare. "I'm sure you do." Raven snatched the book from his hand and tossed it back into the pile, finding that this entire selection was nothing but abstinence booklets and reason why keeping your virginity was important until marriage. It was probably the reason a faint hint of a blush graced his cheeks, seeing as he decided to toss that suggestion out the window when he was sixteen.
Raven gave a small grunt. No wonder his friend seemed so out of place. There was no telling how many the girl held under her belt…ooh, that wasn't exactly the best play on words.
The saleswoman noted her putting the pamphlet pack and pounced like a tiger attacking its prey. "Tell me, child, do you hold to the principals of abstinence?"
Her dark eyes roamed over her figure before Raven had a chance to rudely ignore her, a frown settling over her thin mouth. Raven was instantly on edge. "I see," she said haughtily, nose jerking into the air as she waved Raven off as if she were beneath her. "Then you really do not belong here."
Under normal circumstances, Raven would have allowed the woman to think what she pleased, even if it was completely wrong and so totally biased. But Beast Boy was there, waiting for her response on the subject. If she walked away, he would think that she had thrown away her morals with one of those few guys she had dated and dumped. She didn't want him to think that she was no longer physically innocent. That, and he would end up telling the tower, which would end up in chaos and a long talk about the importance of waiting for the right one by Starfire, who still refused to let Robin have a go with her. She had no real patience to listen to Starfire lecture about following her own advice.
So, she whirled around, causing the woman to jump back in surprise. "Listen here, you prude of a woman. It's subjective to think that I would sleep with any random guy because I happen to enjoy flaunting my personality through what I wear. You have no right conclude that I have ever partaken in any type of fornication like most girls my age. I will have you know that, while you judge me by what I wear, I have never so much as kissed any guy I've been around. You don't have any right to know this, but I will not have you stupidly think that I would give myself to any guy that struts my way. So take that, and shove it up your ass." To get her point across, Raven shoved a stack of books off her stand and stalked away, feeling the fist trace of her power licking under her skin.
Despite her finally being free of her father's clutches, her powers will still unsure about her sudden display of any emotion now. It sucked, but Raven figured that after coasting gently into it, she'd be able to believe she was truly free. In the end, it was all worth it.
Beast Boy jogged after her when the speechlessness wore off and his mind was finally able to wrap around the fact that Raven had just earned her respect from all the nearby pedestrians who overheard her speech and were currently cheering for their favorite Goth.
"Raven, that was—that was—wow. I didn't know you had it in you. It never thought that you would actually do something like that, all to protect your virginity. That was…well, it just rocked." Beast Boy weaved his way through the crowed, all while talking to her. "You know, ever since that whole Japan thing and defeating Brushogan, you've become…I dunno, just…so cool. You're still a bitch, of course, and you still try to take hits at me even though I'm kinda used to your…well, bitchiness, but other than that, you're a far cry from the fifteen year old Raven I knew when we first got together. As a team," he added when she glared at him. "I didn't mean it romantically, 'cause everyone knows that there was never anything other that sarcasm and the occasional nice moment."
Raven liked where he left the possible hits. He was so easy sometimes when he had his front up. "Are you saying that a relationship with me would be impossible?"
Beast Boy dived between a cooing couple to keep up with her. "Umm, no…not really. But then again, I wouldn't have to worry about a relationship with you 'cause we never see eye to eye. That, and could you really see us together? I mean, seriously. Me and you? That's like…water and oil…cats and dogs…isn't that what they say? Hey! Hey Raven! Wait up!"
Raven twisted around a curve, smirking when she heard Beast Boy call out for her to wait. But she did have to admit Beast Boy had a point. Not with the relationship, but her entire personality change over the past three years. She had always thought she would be broody and cruel, with no chance at life. It had always been carved into her mind that emotions killed and violence prevailed. For awhile, she had believed it. When she couldn't bring herself to use violence against anyone save to protect herself (and teammates when the time came about) hiding her emotions was the only thing she felt she could do for her planet. No emotions equals controlled Raven, which sums up to no people dying. It had all worked, but it had slowly been killing her inside. Her emotions wanted to become one, wanted to know what it felt like to have others see them as one, wanted to know that her father would no longer have the ability to rip one of them away from her just to torture her mind more than it already was or have her use them as an excuse to keep from opening up.
Having his hold shattered opened up a new world for her. She couldn't bring herself to believe that everything was over, that she was free and safe and loved without having to resort to using her powers as a scapegoat. In one instant, her life had been flipped around and turned inside out. For fifteen years of her life, she had hidden within herself to the point where she balanced on the brink of losing everything that made her Raven.
And then it was over. Her nightmare had dispersed in a light so bright that it made her blood feel weightless and her heart weep with the joy of it all. It had been amazing and frightening all in one, and left her, on more than once occasion, lost in a haze between dreams and reality.
She gradually allowed herself to open up. During the saga with The Brotherhood of Evil, she had chipped away at her own barrier, gently letting herself shine through the years of shelter she had cast around her entire soul. When they were defeated, she allowed herself to crack a smile while the Titans of the world celebrate their victory. It had been a step into a real, solid life.
Japan had been a building block for her. She really let herself shine them. She lathed on the sarcasm like she had always wanted, and really got a chance to snap at Beast Boy instead of merely taking guarded hits at his IQ. She had stayed on his tail more than anyone else, and it had felt so good, to know that she could be a complete bitch without blowing up her target.
And even after three years, Raven had not fully allowed herself to open up to anyone. Her laughs were few and far between, but her smiles, be they cocky or sincere, were frequent. Her smirk was now her trademark signature, but as Beast Boy joked a few months back, at least it was something.
So yes, she was different. And she was proud of it. She couldn't just pop out with a real laugh, but she sure as hell could smile until she actually looked approachable. So it all worked in her favor. She was allowing her emotions to slowly make their appearance in her life, which made her mind so much tamer.
Though she really could do without the jealousy.
It had all started with Japan, she mused with a frown. And all because Beast Boy happened to be the type of man foreign girls wanted to take a bite out of. It didn't bother her at first, the fact that he would stumble back into the room with hearts in his eyes. Even the constant disappearances he made when they weren't at a press conference did not faze her.
It was the damn hickeys he came home with.
For some reason, when he finally walked into the room with a multitude of dark marks along his neck (and one on his hip, of all places, that she had spotted when he reached up to fix a broken light bulb in her hotel room and his T-shirt had risen over his jeans), Raven had decided she had had enough. It was one thing to be able to be able to brush off the fact that short, annoying, skinny Beast Boy was getting laid rather frequently—and illegally too, if those women that cocked their fingers at him looked their age—but to have visible proof every time he walked into a room was really pushing it.
She knew it had been odd for her to get so angry at his new favorite hobby, but something within her had just…snapped. Like a rapid dog finally breaking free from his chains to attack his cursed foe, Raven had pounced on him with little care that they were in a club where he was currently being stalked by what had to be a woman at least ten years his senior. It had pissed her off that he could go from this innocent, crazed little boy who still drooled over anime women to this…this…man that flirted and seduced older girls with a slow, wolfish smile that promised all sorts of surprises. It hadn't been right. One the way to Japan, he had tried to pick her nose, for crying out loud, and just a few days in Japan had ripped that immaturity away?
Well, she knew that sex would change anyone's perspective on innocence, but to change him that much? He had turned down a video game brawl with Cyborg. Turned him down, as if playing games with the older teen was too childish. Not only had that shocked Cyborg to the point where he couldn't form any coherent thought, but Beast Boy added more rise to the fire when he winked at Raven. Winked. As if flirting. It didn't help that this new, whorish Beast Boy was another mask to add to his arsenal.
That might have been a reason why Raven had been so peeved with him. He had just…changed. Over night. Once action had taken him away from her—her team, she meant her team—and made him this… sexy little man who suddenly looked a whole lot better to her than any other guy she had laid eyes on.
She would have been lying if she said Beast Boy was hot. His features were just too child-like to be anything more than adorable. But oh was he adorable. So adorable, in fact, that Raven found herself comparing him to each attractive guy she passed without really thinking. It was second nature to her to see what others lacked in appearance. She wouldn't go so far to say as she was interested in him romantically—she didn't count the fact that he was a lead role in any and every dream she had, wet or dry—but it was hard not to think that he was the epitome of the perfect man…minus a few bugs: his jokes. His tofu. That damn smile that had your heart galloping and your mind turning to a gooey mush and made sure your vocabulary did not exceed "wow" and "uh" in any form or fashion. It was just wrong that he could invoke that annoying emotion inside her, especially when he was causing it without removing his facade. Jealousy, she decided as she ducked behind another stall to poke through a vast array of Goth-like jewelry, was a useless emotion.
Raven was slipping on a large ring the shape of long sword protected by thorny vines onto her ring finger when Beast Boy caught up with her, hands immediately darting out to play with the jewelry. She cracked her palm against the back of his left when he tried to grab her hand to see what she wore.
"How much?" She asked the vendor when he turned to her. He was old, maybe in his late sixties, with a shock of gray hair that puffed around his head like unruly clouds. His clothes were clean, a simple t-shirt and jeans, and sandals sported his feet.
His weathered dark skin crinkled when he smiled at her. "For a pretty lady like you, it's only ten. Originally, it's thirty."
Raven ran a finger over the gold stone in the middle of the swords hilt. Upon closer inspection, Raven noticed some sort of animal reflected within the gleaming body. "Twenty off," she murmured, captivated by the unrecognizable shape. She knew she had to have it. "Well, how can I say no to that?"
As Raven fished her money out of her pocket, Beast Boy leaned over her to pick up a short chain buried amidst a pile of corded silver. A growling wolf dangled from it.
"What does this cost?" He asked as he ran a claw down the animal's carved neck. The matching golden hued stone shone from the wolf's eyes and Raven snatched it from his hands to compare the stones. She made a low sound in her throat when she noticed they were the same, both in shape and color.
"Ah, I see you picked a complementary creature to your woman's ring." Both opened their mouth to deny his claim, but the man merely waved them off with a large, aged grin. "They say that when two people pick the blade ring and wolf crest from my family's history, their fates are entwined with one another. The wolf is the protector of the sword of ancient times. Any who try to take the sword are battled by the beast. None have failed in taking the sword from its sheath. Only the beast has touched the sword, so it is forever his possession. He would die protecting his sword. Or so I'm told."
Raven raised an eyebrow at the man, briefly wondering how long in took him to make up that story. Wolf protecting a sword? Sure. And their souls—or whatever the man had said—being tangled? Like that would ever happen. "Really?" She asked, trying not to let her pity for the old man shine through her voice. "So why would you sell this if it is a family heirloom?"
The man's dark eyes flickered sadly for the briefest moment before his expression became joyful once again. "Ah, well, gotta live somehow, right? Besides, what's the point of having all this junk when I can't even hold up my rent? Kinda pointless, huh?"
Raven glanced down at the sword and wolf in her hand, her conscious beating back her demon with a rock when it tried to make her pay only the ten dollars he offered. But her emotions—damn them— made her reach into her pocket and pull out thirty dollars. She handed it to the man with a blush. "Take it," she snapped when he opened his mouth to refuse the offer.
Beast Boy studied her for what seemed like ages before he pulled out his worn wallet and handed the man a wad of ten dollar bills. "Eh, I was going to use it to buy Bambi something, but you need it more."
The old man looked near tears as he took the money from Beast Boy's callused palm. "I…you are too kind, children."
Both teens blushed when he bowed lowly. "Yeah, well, don't mention it," Beast Boy chuckled, sheepishly scratching the back of his head. "It's the least I could do since you gave Raven such a surprising discount."
Beast Boy started to turn away from him, already clasping the necklace behind his neck when the man reached out and clutched gnarled fingers over Raven's slim wrist. It caught Beast Boy's attention quickly. "Before you go, I wish to given you something." At Raven's uneasy look, he chuckled, adding easily, "As a token of my gratitude. I think you will need this more than I."
Raven shifted uneasily on the balls of her feet when the old man dipped behind his stall. She heard him rummaging around and couldn't help but crane her neck in curiosity. When he stayed on his knees, hunched over, Raven panicked, thinking that his old bones might have given out on him. On her way to reaching over to poke him gently to see if he was still breathing, he popped up quickly, causing Raven to give a surprised curse. Her back slammed against Beast Boy, who had yet to leave the booth after the old man had grabbed Raven. He sat his large palm on her shoulders to settle her so both could regain some form of composure.
"Ah ha! The little bugger was hiding from me, it seems." He held out a small, unadorned wooden box in the palm of his wrinkled hands, eyes dancing with mirth. "Here," he said, reaching out to grab Beast Boy's right hand. He placed the box on his large palm. "It's yours. It belongs to the lovers."
Raven jerked at the name, noting Beast Boy's not-so-subtle cough of embarrassment. "Lovers? What are you talking about? I thought we were talking about a sword and a wolf. Kinda impossible to be…lovers when one is an inanimate object..."
The old man smiled patiently. "Child, being lovers does not necessarily mean sex is involved. Lovers mean there is unbending love between two people, whether they are active sexually or not. In this case, the wolf loved the sword enough to risk his life, all without any sexual activities." His kind smile turned devious as his blue eyes jumped between the two. "I could say you two are lovers."
Raven bit back the urge to blush. "I—we—there's no—I mean—we can't—that's preposterous." She jerked her head to the side haughtily. "Beast Boy and I are teammates. There is no love between us. Maybe understanding, even comfort, but…Besides," she added, scowling when the old man continued to smile at her as if she were a slow child, "Beast Boy doesn't love. He screws. There's a difference."
Behind her, Beast Boy stiffened and he slammed the box down before settling his hands on her. "What does that mean?" His clawed hands tightened slightly against her shoulders, nails digging almost uncomfortably against her collarbone.
"It means that you feel nothing about those girls you're with. Tell me," she asked, completely forgetting the old man watching them with avid interest, "have you loved any girl you've slept with?"
Beast Boy turned his head away from her, eyes on the bustling crowd that overflowed with laughter. For a moment, his mask dropped and his eyes went hard. "I don't have to love anyone to sleep with them, Raven."
She made a soft, smirking sound in the back of her throat all while trying to understand why he was upset so suddenly. "You proved my point. So see? We are not lovers—"
"But I'm not the only one who refuses to love." There was a bite to his voice that had Raven's eyebrows snapping together. The old man, smile still in place, gently fingered the box Beast Boy had slammed down when he snapped at Raven.
She glanced back at him, frowning when he locked angry eyes with her. Raven knew that if she continued with this argument, someone was going to get hurt. Raven really didn't feel like crushing him, so instead she turned back to the old man and tried to ignore the angry waves rolling off him. "We're not lovers," she repeated, "sexually or not."
Beast Boy dropped his hands to his side and stepped beside her, taking the box back when the old man offered it once again. "Okay," the old man said, but there was a light in his eyes that set Raven on edge. "But you never know what the future brings." He smirked heavily at her. "Sexual lovers or not."
A strange tug pulled at her stomach as her mind digested his words and the images they invoked. "Look here, you screwy old man, poking into customers' business is not a smart thing to do when they're the ones with the money."
Raven knew his cheeks were probably screaming at him as his smile widened. "Maybe. But you can't deny the fact that you've thought about it."
That uncomfortable tug turned into an avalanche of bewildered emotions. She felt Beast Boy's eyes on her, the question on his tongue practically radiating off his skin in heady waves.
Raven somehow managed a withering glare. "So what if I have? Does that mean anything? Just because I've had a questionable past does not mean that I don't have the mind of a teenage girl." Suddenly, her frown appeared full force. "And why am I telling you this?" She wondered aloud, tone annoyed with herself and the old man for making her bring unwanted ideas out into the open.
The old man shrugged, nonchalantly brushing off the velvet coverlet that housed his jewelry. "Just trying to be helpful. It's always good to be prepared for the future."
What little patience she had managed to muster up while talking to him vanished in a puff of smoke. "That is it. I'm tired of you trying to add more to what Beast Boy and I have. There will never be anything…sexual between us. We're just too different from each other for there to be anything between us."
Beast Boy wisely kept his mouth shut as the old man chuckled. "Diversity in ones personality means nothing when it comes to a relationship."
"Dammit." After finally reaching her breaking point, Raven threw her hands in the air and stormed off, movements screaming her annoyance. How dare that old man insinuate about her and Beast Boy? He had no right meddling in her personal affairs. All she had freaking done was purchase his stupid, cheap ring. Did she really deserve some old, perverse old man poking into her life because of that?
"It's in your eyes!" Raven whirled around at the old man's voice, oddly clear despite the chatter clogging the air. But as her eyes scanned the venders and booths, she found that he had disappeared from her sight. Raven frowned slightly, unconsciously fingering the ring.
Must have run off farther than I thought, she mused, teeth sinking into her soft bottom lip. But why had she heard him call after her? Raven sighed. Just as well. She did tend to brush off what happened around her when she got angry. Her mind was probably so ruffled that it made her think she heard his voice, just to grate more on her nerves. So she gave the man no more thought as she meandered about the streets, eyes caressing over the booths in search of something to catch her attention.
"Hey Rae, wait up." Raven turned to see Beast Boy jogging up to her, the sun glinting off his necklace. The amber eyes of the wolf glowed with life and for a brief, disturbing moment, she could have sworn the wolf turned those golden eyes to her. Raven frowned slightly as Beast Boy approached, her eyes trained on his collarbone, where the wolf dangled gently.
"Look," he said with a sigh, drawing Raven's attention away from the necklace, "things got off to a bad start between us." He refused to hold his gaze to her, instead finding interest in the nearest booth. "I don't want things to go wrong today. I just want this day to go right without us jumping down each others throats. So, until we get back to the tower, what'd'ya say we make a truce?"
Raven eyed the hand he supplied wearily. "How 'bout you just stop following me? Then, we won't jump down each others throats, as you so deftly put it."
Beast Boy grinned boyishly as he used the hand he had offered to wrap around her shoulders and pull her to his side. He ignored the snarl she sent his way. "Awh, but I want to spend my day with you. Is that such a crime? I happen to enjoy your lovely company."
Raven snorted, pinching the skin of his ribs with her fingers. He jerked out of the way with a yelp, but if anything, his grip around her shoulders tightened. "Beast Boy," she snapped, "there is no way I can be within your presence without wanting to maim you."
He chuckled, reaching over to flatten her hand against his side when she tried to pinch him again. "You flatter me. So, here do we go next?"
"We," she grunted, tugging her hand from beneath his, "are not going anywhere together. Go…I don't know, find your bimbo blonde." Raven blinked, finally taking note that his friend was nowhere to be seen. He must have lost her when taking off after her when she had stormed away from that abstinence booth. "Speaking of…aren't you missing something?"
Beast Boy glanced down at her with a slight frown marring his brows. "Hmm," he said with a shrug. "Guess Bambi decided to do things solo."
Raven arched a brow, eyes on his hand still draping from her shoulders. She plucked it off her almost as if it were something filthy. He merely smiled. "Bambi? Pet name, I presume?"
Beast Boy shook his head, planting his arm around her once again and ignoring, once again, her annoyed glare. "No. That's the only name she gave me. I think it's her real name."
"Her parents couldn't be that cruel. Obviously, she decided the name was cute and only supplied that name to herself. Stripper name or something. Unless her parents knew she was going to be an air-headed floozy, they wouldn't call her that."
Beast Boy hissed in a breath as if wounded. "Ouch. I take it Bambi's not on your list of people you tolerate?"
"Whatever gave you that idea?" She asked, voice coated in a sickly sweet tone that had him wrinkling his nose.
"You're attitude, for one thing." Suddenly, his face broke out in a teasing smirk. "Awh, Rae, do you hate her because I slept with her?"
Raven rolled her eyes, thumping his hand away from her when it nearly slithered down to her chest. "Beast Boy, if I held a grudge against every women you brought home, I'd have to hate half of the female population. And don't think you mean that much to me," she added coyly, breaking free from him to eye a food stand. When her stomach demanded food, she stepped in line, a tic forming beneath her eye when Beast Boy stood next to her.
"That hurt," he pouted. "You know it bugs you when I bring home another girl. It rubs you raw that I went from a straggly, annoying, green shape-shifter who no one looked twice at to a popular, straggly, annoying green shape-shifter who every one wants a piece of, excluding you, because you can't see the hotness standing before you because you still have something unpleasant stuck up your butt to notice how hot, sexy, and absolutely yummy I am."
The tic turned out into a twitch as Raven tried to rein in her annoyance. "First off, Beast Boy, that sentence would have made an English teacher cringe. Second off, I don't care if you screw the entire planet, for I don't care what you do. Thirdly, the only reason you're so popular is because you're famous. All those girls are only with you because there could be a chance that some random camera will catch you with them and possibly make them famous."
She scooted forward when the lined moved. "So it's time you deflate that ego of yours. Besides," she added, "you're not even that attractive."
Beast Boy said nothing, merely turned away from her, eyes searching over the crowd as he weighed his words silently. Raven bit back the urge to glance at him when he remained silent. It was only until she had ordered her huge slice of pizza and tea that she decided to broach his quietness.
"Look," she sighed as they settled down on an empty bench, plate resting in her lap as he picked apart the crowd with his eyes. "I don't want to spend the rest of my time—"
"Is that what you really think?" He asked quietly, voice almost too soft for her to hear.
She blinked at him slowly, but before she could ask what he meant, he questioned, "That the only reason a woman would want to be with me is because I'm part of the Titans? That no one would want to be with me just because I'm me?"
Raven paled slightly. "Beast Boy—"
But suddenly, he smiled happily. "Well, that settles things. And here I thought I was the only one who realized that." His eyes, however, were dark with pain that he couldn't hide quickly enough. She knew him almost as well as he did now, and knew that she had hurt his heart of glass.
Raven cursed inwardly as he pushed off the bench and scratched the back of his head. "Well, I'm off to poke around at the stands, see what I can find that might interest me. See you at the tower."
"Beast Boy, wait!" She scowled at him when he turned back around, face devoid of all internal conflict. He looked just like the goofy, clueless boy who she had first met so long before. He was starting to become so good at hiding who he really was that Raven sometimes feared his mask would never come off again around her.
"What? I want to start looking around before people start picking up all the good stuff—"
"How can they like you for who you are when you always put up a front?" She asked, casually picking up her tea when her throat felt raw with nervousness. She hated saying anything wise to him, for it always made her feel like this. It was one of those rare moments when she stopped pretending and he stopped hiding.
Beast Boy blinked at her before sighing, plopping down once again beside her. He eyed her food, noting that she had gotten pepperoni, and reached over to pull a meatless section from the pizza. She scowled at him as he popped it into his mouth. He smiled around it as she moodily plucked a pepperoni from her pizza. "Well, that's true too. Guess 'cause I figure if I don't show them who I am, it won't hurt so bad when things go sour."
She picked up the huge slice of pizza and bit into it, mulling over her words before saying, "You're the one to break it off, though."
He chuckled, drawing the attention of a group of giggling teenagers. They blushed when they spotted him, causing Raven to scowl and roll her eyes. "I know. It's better that way. I get what I want, and they get what they want."
Raven bit moodily into her pizza again. "You get pleasure, and they get to say they were one of the many who slept with the shape-shifter of the renowned Teen Titans."
Beast Boy sighed, reaching between her to peel off the crust of her food. He knew she hated it, and since his stomach was currently growling, figured she wouldn't mind. She still glared, however, and smarted off with a, "Why don't you go buy your own food, you glutton?"
He fluttered his eyelash flirtatiously. "'Cause everything you have tastes so much better."
She grunted. "You're a whore, you know that?"
He smiled happily as he munched on the crust. "I know. But I hate to be alone, so I have to find human contact somewhere."
Raven felt her eyebrow twitch. "You have to have sex to be happy?"
He chuckled and shook his head, sending the group of girls across from them into another fits of giggles when a stubborn spike of hair drooped from the carefully applied gel and into his eyes. "No, no, I'm not that bad. But they offer it when I go for someone to talk to other than you, and I, being a healthy, nineteen year old boy, just can't refuse. But you realize I do date girls just for someone to talk to. I don't sleep with everything that comes my way, ya know." He raised an eyebrow as he snatched her drink from beside her to take a healthy swallow. "But seriously, do you really think I would say no to anyone who noticed me?"
She snarled when he started to chew on her straw, forcefully yanking her drink out of his arms reach. "But bringing home different girls every week starts to get old. There are only so many young women in Jump City, you know. And why can't you just get into a stable relationship with one person?" She briefly wondered why she even cared as she polished off her food and tossed the paper plate into a nearby bin.
They eased into the crowd once again, Raven plucking at the straw and Beast Boy winking at girls who batted their eyelashes flirtatiously. "For one thing, like you said, most of the girls I know only want me for my profession—and charming looks, no matter what you say—so there's no need to be with them for more than a few days time. Another thing is I haven't come across a girl I want to be with for more than a few days time. So, for now, what I'm doing is enough for me."
She grunted as she lifted her drink to her lips, completely forgetting that Beast Boy's mouth had previously occupied the said object. "You're going to end up with an STD or a baby Beast Boy sooner or later."
He watched her momentarily, wondering if she knew she had just willingly drunk after him before saying, "Ah, but I am not stupid. Not only do I make them show me valid proof that they have gotten tested and were negative, but I have a healthy supply of condoms."
She forced down the sinking feeling in her stomach as Beast Boy jerked to a halt at a booth piled high with Japanese anime. "Condoms don't always work, you know."
She eased a hip against the side of the table while Beast Boy poked through the section with a geeky grin. She sighed inwardly. At least his love for comics and anime hasn't changed.
"Hmm, I know. But if it happens, it happens. I'm willing to live up to the consequences of my actions. Besides, I wouldn't mind having a kid of my own."
Raven blinked at him. "You want children?"
He grinned goofily when he came across a box set and tucked it against his chest like it was a baby. "Well, yeah. I mean, I do want to settle down with someone, you know. All this running around isn't as cool as most people make it out to be. It gets redundant, being with so many different people, no matter how oxymoronic that sounds. I'd rather be with one girl than have a chain of them."
"That's my kinda man." The vendor leaned over her booth with a smile, propping her elbows on the wood and cupping her heart-shaped jaw in her hands. Raven studied her as she slid hungry eyes over Beast Boy's lanky form. She had to at least be twenty-five, if not a little older, with sultry brown eyes and smooth flesh. She was of medium build, a mite on the skinny side, but what she lacked in curves she made up in bosom. Raven smothered a sigh as Beast Boy blinked innocently at her, not grasping onto the fact that she was eyeing him like she wanted to devour him on site. For someone so talented in the ways of women, Beast Boy was still innocent when it came to picking up on signs from women.
"Huh?" He asked unintelligently, blinking rapidly as if waking from a dream. "Did you say something to me?"
The woman laughed heartily, leaning closer to him until her generous chest threatened to fall from her skimpy tank. "You're so cute!" She slipped a sultry smile over her mouth. "Say, aren't you Beast Boy? You know, from the Titans?"
He nodded nonchalantly, eyes riveted on her wares instead of her chest. Raven watched as a pout poked its way through the flirty expression before she painted on the charm more thickly. "You're a fan of anime, I take it?"
"Uh-huh." He picked up a DVD before turning to Raven. "Hey, this looks like something you might enjoy. Looks creepy and distributing and so you." She ignored his little jab at her personality as she took the set from him, slightly touched that he would even think to look for something for her (even if he had come across it by accident, but hey, she had still crossed his mind) as she skimmed the title. "Hellsing, huh?"
He smiled at her, causing the vendor to huff out an impatient breath. Raven cocked a brow while the redhead eyed her, making sure she kept her face neutral when the women finally made eye contact.
"And you're Raven, right?"
"Hn." Raven sat the DVD back on the stand while Beast Boy oohed over a new item. She felt a sarcastic remark bite down on the tip of her tongue, but shoved it down. Her sarcasm was only to be aimed at Beast Boy and Beast Boy only. So she kept her snarky comment buried when Beast Boy giggled as he plowed through the display.
"Dude, I wanted to get this in Japan but it didn't have English subtitles, and every time I get on eBay, it screws me over and says that the password is wrong, so I've never been able to get it. How much?" He shoved two thick box sets in the woman's face with a large, excited grin. "Is it over a hundred? 'Cause of it is, then I can go poke around my room and see if I can scrounge up so more, cause I have to have this."
The woman slid a long, hot pink fingernail over the top of the DVD, pushing it down so she could lock eyes with him. Somehow, Beast Boy was still oblivious—or just happily ignorant— to her look, for her blinked innocently at her again, smile still in place. Raven rolled her eyes.
"Normally, it runs at about ninety, but seeing as my sister seems so fond of you after your date a few months back, I'll give it to you for…how about thirty?"
Raven choked on her breath. Thirty? That was sixty dollars difference! "Thirty?" Beast Boy repeated slowly. "No joke? You'd let me buy this for thirty dollars, even though it's really hard to get? Why? And wait…I dated your sister?"
The woman smiled coyly as her eyes—once again—trailed down Beast Boy's frame. "Rachel Summerset. Short, kinda plump, dark red hair and always giggling at something or other?"
Beast Boy blinked as he tried to peer back into his past. "Umm…oh," he said as something clicked. "Oh."
Raven glared hotly when a lovesick expression clouded his face "That Rachel. Wow. I definitely remember her."
The redhead smirked. "She's been talking about that night for a while now. Says a lot happened. And you know her, always giving details." Her eyebrows danced suggestively as Beast Boy flushed red, sheepishly scratching the back of his head as he murmured, "She told, huh? Umm, I…wow."
"She's," the woman stated slowly, "very descriptive." She let her eyes drop down to the belt of his jeans with a smile. Raven had heard—and imagined—enough. She scowled at him as she pushed herself from the stand.
Beast Boy's eyes jerked from the flirty vendor at her sudden movement. "Raven—?"
"I've had enough. I can only handle so much, Beast Boy. She is disgusting, you are a slut, and I'm going to leave you to your job. Hope she pays well." Annoyed at herself for making it seem like she was jealous—which she was not, merely aggravated that he paraded around Jump City like some common street whore in hopes for some action—Raven plowed her hands into the pockets of her loose, baggy jeans and eased her way into the crowd.
He called out to her, tone slightly offended with a dash of unease, but she ignored him. She was going to spend the rest of her day by herself, and for once, she was going to enjoy it. She didn't need to be around him and have all those fangirl's drool over him. She's had enough of them slobber across her in attempts to push her out of the way to take a hunk out of him to last a life time. It sucked that their previous obsessions were currently taken. Robin was in a happy, sex-free relationship with Starfire, Cyborg was ripping out his nonexistent hair out trying to decide between Sarah Simms and Bumblebee, and Kid Flash was currently procreating with the pink-haired villain-turned-hero, Jinx. All the other Titans were not residing in Jump City, which left Beast Boy.
She couldn't see what they saw in him. He was too tall for his lanky form, green, loud, obnoxious, always making light of any situations, and had an uncanny obsession with anime and manga. He was constantly playing video games—Cyborg and Robin played too, but she wasn't ranting about them, so that didn't count—and loved tofu. Of course, it made sense, since he could become any animal in which they ate, but so not the point. He was always poking fun at Cyborg for something or other, constantly forcing the older man to turn and pelt him with more insults, and he was always taking showers so Cyborg couldn't accuse him of smelling of tofu. He was messy, unorthodox, and just plain annoying. He wasn't even that cute, Raven amended as a black clad boy appraised her openly from a booth she had passed. Just because he had a baby face that tinkered on being obnoxiously cute didn't mean it was something a girl would want to look at all the time. Who wanted someone who was boyish instead of manly, like Robin or Aqualad? Only someone like…Jinx would want a baby-faced boy. But Jinx was dark like she was…And, dammit, they hadn't even seen the side of the real Beast Boy. Why would they want the package he offered when he was so much more attractive without the façade…well, at least they would think he was attractive without the fascia.
Raven cocked a brow when the boy who was staring at her sauntered up to her with a cocky smirk dancing on his face. "Tell me, do you believe in love at first sight or should I walk by again?"
She could only stand there, dumbstruck, as he wagged his brows at her. When sanity did come back, she blinked at him before a scowl adorned her features. "That…was pathetic."
She felt her nose wrinkled when he stepped closer. "Ah, come on. You know you like it."
Raven rolled her eyes and shoved past him. She didn't have time to deal with people like him. "Say, are do you happening to be wearing Windex 'cause I think I just saw me in your pants."
A tic formed on her forehead when the damn guy jogged to her side, the same sick smiled playing over his mouth. "You're an idiot if you really think pickup lines like that attract women."
"Awh, come on, babe. You know you want this. I may not be Fred Flintstone, but I can promise I can make your Bed Rock."
Raven suppressed a shiver of disgust. "Leave me alone, you creep. One more sick pickup line and I'll beat you into the ground. No one can be stupid enough to think that pickup lines like that are going to get you laid. And do you have a freaking booklet of the worst pickup lines on your person or are you just spouting these off from that brain of yours?"
The boy planted himself before her, fingers dancing over her hip as he completely ignored her comment. "Come on, baby. I promise I'll do your body good."
Raven took a deep, calming breath as her temper threatened to flare. The boy didn't take the hint, however, and plastered his body to hers. He purred another pickup line—something about him wondering if he told her she had a great body, would she hold it against him—before she let her eyes open.
He yelped and leapt away from her as black energy coated her eyes. "Holy shit, your Raven from the Teen Titans! I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"
Raven smirked as he darted away from her, eyes bleeding back into amethyst. A brief surge of pride swamped her. She hadn't killed the idiot, thankfully, but she was proud that she scared the daylights out of him. Maybe now he would refrain from using such derogatory comments to pick up women.
"Men are so pathetic in their quest for physical pleasure."
Raven glanced down to find an old woman shaking her head slowly, sighing as the boy's figure disappeared. "It's been like that since the dawn of day, I suppose. It's worse now, though. Women are breaking free from their previous restraints cuffed on them by society." She sighed again, lazily scratching her wrinkled forehead. "'S'plains all the teenage pregnancy, though. Society has gone to the pits, I tell you."
Raven raised an eyebrow when the woman made no move to leave her side, merely stared at the crowd of citizens while patting her gray head of hair. "Old fashioned appeal, though. I grew up in an age where it was scandalous to so much as give someone a peck in public. Now, you see people sticking their tongues down each others throats with no care as to who sees."
The old woman shrugged. "No matter. Can't change society anymore than I can go back in time. So, what are you looking for?"
Raven stared at the old woman with a slight tinge of uncertainty. Old people weren't exactly on her list of favorites after dealing with that pestering man she bought her ring from. "I…am just looking around. I have nothing in particular in mind." Unless I can find a stand of books that aren't promoting abstinence…
Raven blinked down at the old woman, frown tugging at her mouth. "Well…it was nice…meeting you…" Even if you are biased on today's blatant display of sexuality in young people…
Raven moved away from the woman in hopes of going about her day without anymore interruptions, but a cold, wrinkled hand wrapped around her wrist. Her eyebrow twitched. Why was it that people was so chummy on touching her today? "Got stuff for you."
Raven felt her nose wrinkle in annoyance as she tugged on her wrist. The woman's grip tightened, however, and Raven found herself being dragged into the throng of people.
"Ma'am, I'm going to ask you nicely to let me go." I have no desire to hit you, but I will if you don't let me go. Please don't give Beast Boy a reason to think I really am heartless…though I'm almost positive I am…
"Quiet whining. You're a Titan, right? If I wanted to do something stupid, I wouldn't grab you, of all people. You'd kick my old ass in no time flat. I just have something that I think will be worth your while."
Raven scowled at her back of the old woman's head, but let herself be dragged toward a small street that branched off the main road. It was less crowded here, almost desolate. The buildings jutting up toward the expansion of the flawless blue sky were stained from years of weather, the old brick grimy with age. Most of the buildings sported black windows cracked from rocks thrown by nasty children while others were painted with graffiti that proclaimed gangs that often frequented the place. Raven sighed. She really hoped she didn't cross any of said gangs. She didn't really feel like fighting off bullets and knives at the moment.
"Where are you taking me?" Annoyance—and a hint of dreary exasperation—deepened her voice as the old woman gave another sharp tug on her wrist.
"My shop," she stated as if she had told Raven many a times. "Where did you think I was taking you? To an ambush of gang members who are still sore about you locking up their members?"
Raven frowned. "Well, this isn't exactly the happiest part of Jump City."
The woman cackled. "Ah, but you see, rent is cheap here. Not many people are brave enough to set up shop here."
Raven made a quite sound in the back of her throat. "Most people aren't stupid enough to come by merchandise down here. How many people actually come to your store?"
The woman shrugged. "Not many."
A flint of pity sparked in her. "So you dragged me down here because you knew I wouldn't turn tail and run, given my occupation. But how are you to know that I even have money? Your mission could have been for naught if I have no money. Risky, don't you think?"
The old woman stopped in front of a two story building, brick grayed and cracked. A cheery banner, scribbled on with paint, displayed Gitana's Tomes and Knickknacks in a bright hot pink that made Raven's head ache just looking at it.
"I take it your name is Gitana?"
She watched as the old woman fought to poke her key into the door. "Uh-huh. I know, I know, my store's name is ditzy, but ah well. I like it, so screw everyone else."
Raven felt a smile tug at the corners of her mouth at the woman's comment, but smothered it when Gitana turned to her, hands on hip and annoyance flashing in her eyes. "Well, you gonna come in or just stand there? I ain't got time for you hovering outside my shop."
Raven blinked rapidly at the woman, shock forcing her eyes to widen. Well…that was…not expected…Raven managed to scowl at the old woman. "Last time I checked, you were the one who dragged me here. I wouldn't suggest being—"
But Gitana ignored her as she scurried into the shop. Raven sighed, eyeing the door with muted unease. She had really gotten enough of old people today, but, at least, Beast Boy wasn't with her. She didn't think she could handle more coaxing into a physical relationship with the scrawny shape shifter. So, against her better judgment, she stepped into the doorway. Instantly, she was assaulted by the tangent scent of musty books and warm leather.
"Come back here," Gitana said, waving a hand through the dust motes floating within the meager light streaming through the front windows. Raven followed her through a maze of mahogany shelves crowded with books of all shapes and sizes. For a moment, Raven paused, eyes roving over the spines of tomes centuries older than herself. Uncaring that the old woman had noticed she had stopped, Raven ran a pale finger over an old Egyptian scroll crinkled with age.
"Are you coming or not?" Her tone was edged with impatience, but Raven ignored it as she plucked a book from the shelf filled to the brim with ancient African folklore.
Gitana sighed, scratching her wrinkled temple in agitation when Raven continued to browse through the shelves without so much as a glance of acknowledgement in her direction. Raven distinctly heard the old crone mutter about rude teenaged superheroes beneath her breath, but she was too wrapped up in the majesty around her. Never in her life had she seen so many books on ancient witchcraft or mythology. Intrigued, Raven meandered around the shelves, greedy eyes scanning titles or parched scrolls with more interest than she had ever shown at the tower.
"Come here," Gitana called from somewhere behind her, voice muffled as if she were talking through piles of something. Sighing, Raven replaced a book she had been thinking of purchasing and followed the sound of the old crone's voice.
She found her digging thorough a stack of books yet to be shelved that appeared older than the owner herself. Cocking a brow, Raven watched as Gitana tossed them aside with no care that they were probably centuries old. Raven flinched when a particularly old Wiccan book cracked to the hard moss green carpet onto its spine.
"What are you looking for?" Raven was tiring of such blatant disrespect for ancient works, so she figured it was best to offer her assistance.
"I'm looking for a book, genius."
Her eyebrow twitched. "I get that. What book? You know, maybe if you told me the title of it, I could help find it."
Gitana crawled to another stack of book while tossing her an aggravated look. "I've got it. Just gimme a minute."
"Why did you call me back here if you had yet to find what you wanted me to look at?"
When the old woman merely grunted, Raven relented and moved back to the shelf that held old lore from a country she had never heard of before. It was interesting, to say the least. Prophecies, witches, mythological creatures. It even went into detail about a race of cat demons and their ruler. It was probably all nothing but legends, but it grabbed hold of her curiosity, so it was all that mattered. Raven was pulling her book to her side when a book suddenly crashed down beside her. Raven jumped slightly, whipping to the side to glance down at the large tome bathed by grime lying innocently on the floor.
"Here it is," Gitana cackled. Raven blinked, turning back to the shelf and pushing aside a group of book to find the old woman's face grinning from the other side. "I had it all ready and waiting, but I guess my old mind forgot. Whatcha got there?" She asked, snaking her finger to point at the book Raven had clutched to her chest.
"Oh. This. It sounded interesting, so I think I'll buy it, if it isn't out of my price range."
Gitana smiled. "Doubt it. So, get your books and check out."
"Books?" Raven asked hesitantly. "I only want this one—"
"Nonsense!" Gitana said voice tinged with offended shock. "You have to buy its complementary book too, you know!"
Raven eyed the book Gitana had shoved from the shelf. "I don't think I can afford both. Heroes aren't rich, you know."
But the old woman merely waved an uncaring hand. "I'm not expensive. Come on, if you're ready." Raven watched as the gray head disappeared, only to pop up beside her moments later.
She scurried behind Raven to get the book. Raven winced when she shoved it into her arms, the spine digging painfully into her chest. "Why do you want me to have this?" She asked with a quite exhalation of breath. "Is there something in particular you want me to read, or do you just want to get rid of it and I'm the poor sap you grabbed from the crowd?"
The old woman gave a liquid cough. "Stop complaining and just check out, will ya? You'll understand when you read it." Gitana planted herself on a stool behind a counter pilled high with knickknacks that gleamed dully with age. She sat her books on the only empty space near the woman, gingerly picking up a carved statue that seemed to be half cat, with pointed ears atop its armored head and a bow and arrows slung over its cloaked back.
"How much will this cost me?" Raven asked as she sat the figurine down, wincing as the woman scribbled down numbers and figured taxes.
"How much you got?"
Scowling, Raven planted her hand on the counter to fish through her pockets. Gitana's eyes caressed her ring as Raven laid her money on the counter. "I have eighty, but I will not pay that much for two books, one of which I don't want—"
"Where'd you get that ring?" She asked, picking up Raven's small hand in her own and tilting it so the gold stone caught in the sunlight.
Eyebrows drawn, Raven told her where she got it. "Hmm," she said after a pregnant pause. "Pretty. Twenty dollars."
"Twenty? For two hard back books that are probably centuries old? Kind of…cheap, don't'cha think?"
Gitana reached over to pluck the cat warrior from the counter, turning the smooth wood in her hand. "Want me to add more? I can—"
"No, twenty is a fair deal." Raven laid out the money as Gitana slid the books into a plastic bag that cheerfully displayed "Thank you!" in big, red letters.
Raven walked out of the shop, wares in hand and frown tugging at her mouth. She had the strangest urge to stop and flip through her free book, but before she could so much as lift her hand, a voice called out to her.
"Hey, Raven! Finally found you," Beast Boy said as he jogged up to her, bag in hand. He glanced around at the surroundings. "Wouldn't expect you to be here, of all places, though…"
"How did you find me?" She asked, slightly annoyed that he had followed her. She had wanted to spend her day alone, but from the looks of it, things weren't going to play well in her court today.
Raven had the insane urge to sniff her skin as she ground out, "What?"
He blinked slowly before it dawned on him. Hastily, he said, "Oh no, I didn't mean it like that! I meant your scent is easy to find because you only use soap and detergent, not any weird spray like most people do. It was hard, because your scent is hard to find over all the other colognes, but, well, your skin has a unique smell that I can pick up on…I should shut up now, shouldn't I?"
"Please do," she muttered, and after a brief thought, shoved her bag into his hands. At his baffled glance, she added, "Let's get this day over with, shall we?"
"So, when's your date?" Raven asked almost casually as they walked into the Tower garage, Beast Boy's arms loaded with their bags.
He glanced down at her, brows furrowed. "Huh?"
"You're date. With the redhead. You know, in exchange for your DVDs?"
"Oh, yeah, told her that I wasn't interested in dating right now. She said she didn't want a date, just a little action—"
Raven scowled. "Enough said, Beast Boy. Let's not go into detail about the evening you have planned."
He cocked an amused brow as Raven coded in the password for the elevator with a bit too much enthusiasm. "I told her, if you'll let me explain, that I don't want just action anymore. She got kinda mad, so I had to pay full price for the DVDs…"
"Beast Boy, you'll sleep with any female that offers themselves. Getting turned down by you for sex is the greatest insult you can give a woman."
Beast Boy sighed dejectedly. "Why do you play me off as a whore? You realize that I don't have sex with every woman I come across. In fact," he added when she opened her mouth to interrupt, "most of the time I'm locked in my room with one of them, its strict kissing, maybe foreplay, but never full blown sex. I can count the women I've slept with over the years here in Jump City on two hands."
She folded her arms over her chest. "And in Japan?"
"Four," he stated proudly. "Only four girls, who, might I add, always initiated it. Not me. I'm not stupid enough to hit on girls myself, not after getting turned down by those two girls here when that stupid, idiot alien mistook me for his dog—hey, I think I made out with that blonde one last month—never mind," he said, clearing his throat at Raven's exasperated look. "But seriously…I'm not a whore…I just…like attention, is all." He pinned Raven with a glare. "We all know I don't get it here."
Raven bit back a snarl. "Oh, so I'm the reason behind your prostitute lifestyle?"
Beast Boy wasn't fazed by her insult. Instead, he shifted the bags in his arms as he sent her a mischievous smile. "Tell me, why do you care so much? You don't do this to Cyborg."
Raven glared at him before giving an aloof shrug and masking her features into solemnity. "Cyborg has two women—"
"Who he can't decide on, which means he's dating both of them—"
"He's not two-timing, Beast Boy. He's treating both like friends—"
"With benefits. Lots and lots of benefits," Beast Boy mused with a pleased smile at his best friend's lifestyle.
"And they are both aware that for the moment, what they do doesn't count as a relationship. He laid out the plan to both of them. They know that what they do is not a relationship. Merely…"
"First off, why are we discussing Cyborg's sex life? Secondly, can he even…? Never mind. Don't want to think about that." Raven rubbed her temples to get rid of the unwanted images. "Besides, the only one he's really…doing that with, is Bumblebee, who knows about Sarah. She's decided that she will be with him until he decides on his future girl, and though she's not happy with Sarah at the moment, she's handling it…"
"Brave girl," Beast Boy said as the elevator doors opened to their destined hallway. But instead of branching off toward his room, Beast Boy followed behind her. Raven thought nothing of it. Over the years, it was Beast Boy's second nature to come to her room. Neither one thought about it, nor did they try to change it. When it her room, things changed between them. His mask dropped, she stopped using her powers as a shield, and they were two ordinary teenagers with more on their plate than they could handle alone. So, they shared it together, to lessen the load.
"What do you mean?" She keyed in her code, not even bothering to angle her body so he couldn't see it. He knew the code by heart, just as she knew his, so there was no reason to hide it from him. Knowing Beast Boy, he could probably key in her code with his eyes closed.
Raven didn't even really think about it when he followed her into her haven, not now that he was closer to her than Robin ever had been. She didn't mind having him in here, anyway, since she was in here with him. Otherwise, she would pound him to the ground and he knew it.
Beast Boy sat the bags down on her bed and made himself comfortable on her bed, arms folded behind his head and booted feet crossed at the ankles. She scowled at him. "Boots off the bed."
He smiled at her as he slithered down her bed to toe off his boots. "I mean that she's brave, kinda stupid too—but don't tell her I said that—for being with him, even knowing that he might not choose her in the end."
"She…loves him," Raven grimaced, the word sounding foreign on her tongue as she pulled the tie from her hair. "People do stupid things when they're in love, I guess."
"Yeah," he murmured, easing back into his previous position and staring out her window, gaze unseeing as it drifted over the ocean. She didn't press him as his eyes darkened, memories of Terra undoubtedly swamping him.
Raven had learned long ago that Beast Boy was nothing but a broken façade shielding him from the world. He was a jokester, spouting off stupid comments and horrible pranks, yet behind it all, behind the laughs, the smiles, the forever happy expression, was a broken boy who knew nothing but pain and anguish. Raven had known, deep down somewhere within her, that Beast Boy never really showed who he was to others. He was an actor playing a part in a world that never spilled light onto his script, a shell of a man who only acted how others portrayed him. If they wanted him to be stupid, he was. If they wanted him to be slow, he was. If they wanted him to be a hero, he was. If they wanted him to be everything he didn't want to be, he was. It was how he hid his past from everyone, how he helped himself move along in life.
But things changed. After Japan—a turning point in everyone's life—Beast Boy found that it was pointless to hide from her. He knew, without words, that she was aware of his front. He knew she didn't pity him, didn't loathe him, merely understood him. So around her, in the safety of her presences, his façade dropped, and he was Garfield Logan, a boy who had lost everything before he was even a teenager, had gained a power that made him different from others, had a heart that shattered as easily as glass. He was Gar, who wasn't all light and jokes and stupid comments. With her, he could drop his costume without having her judge him, could be the unsure boy who had doubts, and fears, whose thoughts could be heard without jokes to cover up his uncertainty of who he was, and his place with his teammates. He was just him. A boy on the brink of adulthood who still whispered to his parents when shadows danced around his room, a boy who still wept when the loneliness became too much, a boy who buried himself in the attention others offered him, because it was the only place he felt anyone would want him. He was just…Beast Boy with Raven.
Maybe that was why she let him into her room. When he stepped through her threshold, his façade shattered. He stopped holding his shoulders high, instead letting the slouch as if they world weighted down his bones. When in her domain, his smile, always present, dropped, and he could finally let his mouth stretch into a comfortable line. With her, the jokes stopped and he could be sarcastic, could be mean, or broody, and she wouldn't question him. None of the others knew he was the only one to ever be within her room. They never knew that there were times when he would ease under her door when the façade started to break, and he needed solace. They didn't know that he had spent most of his nights with her, curled against her, and she let him without sarcastic bites, without scorn, merely pulled back to covers and let him hold her to him as if she were his only lifeline. There was no kissing. No sex. Just a boy who needed the comfort of the only person who knew who he was and did not hate him for it and a girl who knew his pain, knew his fears, and wanted nothing more than to give him release from it all.
Raven settled in a wing-backed chair close to her bed, pulling her knees to her chest and resting her chin against them, only to watched him. There were times when he would open up as himself, with genuine smiles, warm laughs, and amusing jokes that even had her cracking a smile. There were times when he was so happy that he would just grin and stare out her window, with no words, no gestures, and when he turned her eyes to her, they were a bright, warm green, like wet grass in the spring. She could never understand why he did not show this to others, but when she asked, he merely said, "Why show them what they will tear down?"
"You know," he said softly, voice deep now that he wasn't lacing it fake amusement, "I hate her sometimes."
Raven said nothing, didn't need to, as he sat up, cocking up one knee and resting his forearm against it as he stretched out his other leg. "Sometimes, I wish I never met her. I wish that she would have stayed in the stone coffin. I wish…that she would remember me."
Sunlight softened his spiked hair, casting his face in a glow that brought out the man in him. "It's stupid, I know, but sometimes…I wonder why I wasn't good enough. I mean, I know that I'm not much in any aspect, that even then, I was hiding, but I would have thought…if she loved me like she said she did…why didn't she see me…like you do?"
Raven swallowed against the painful lump growing in her throat, heart clenching in a way that had her stomach fluttering wildly. She kept her eyes cloaked as he turned to her, resting his cheek against his knee and locking agonized eyes with hers. "You saw the real me without loving me. You pushed aside my barriers and found me, without asking, without wondering if maybe things between us would be strained because of it. You…don't love me, and yet you let your own guard drop around me. She didn't do that. She didn't even try to see beneath the mask. Maybe she didn't know. Maybe she didn't care.
"I loved her." He smiled, but it was pained, broken around the edges from too much time hiding away. "It wasn't some childish crush, or puppy love. I loved her. I would have given my life to save her…nearly did…and she crushed me. That pain…was worse than anything I'd felt before. Losing my parents was hard, but their memories kept me from breaking. But Terra…god, it hurt. I would have taken physical pain over that any day, because it's not something you can soothe with medication. You can't sleep it off, because it's always there, waiting to spring up and drag you back down when you think you finally have a hold on your life. It's been four years…four fucking years and I still hurt.
"Someone said—I think I read it in a book of yours—that a broken heart will sting at first, and then make you strong, but it didn't. I'm not strong, and the pain hasn't gone away. You know, I never kissed her," he chuckled, but the sound was dull. "Never really touched her. Sometimes, when I'm with a woman, it's her I'm with. It's her I'm kissing, her beneath me, her crying out my name…and then I feel disgusting. Absolutely filthy. Not because I pictured Terra instead of the nameless girl I was with, but because I've been using sex as a way to get back at her. You won't want to know this, but I'm never gentle. I never have been. It's always hard, and nearly painful for us both. Claws, teeth, blood, and their excuse for me is that I'm part animal, so it's only natural that I'm primal in sex…but it's not… I do it because I want her to hurt, like she hurt me. I get to hurt her again—emotionally this time— by dropping her even though I'm hurting someone else, someone innocent of Terra's crimes…that's sick, isn't it?"
He gave a long sigh, flopping back against her pillows and throwing his hands above him, eyes on the ceiling. "Another reason why it's hard to handle myself. I'm a beast, without having chemicals screw me up. I'm a beast because of her. Dammit…"
Raven gnawed on her lip before dropping her own façade and sliding beside him, mimicking his position, their bodies lined up from hands to feet, though her body ended at his calves. "I wonder if I'll always be like that," he sighed. "Always cruel, always punishing her when I'm supposed to be looking for pleasure. Not pain."
Raven stared at the ceiling, at the spider webs she had missed in her usually monthly dusting. "You'll find someone who won't remind you of Terra. You'll find a girl who you don't want to hurt, who you'll want to…please, and not punish. I won't tell you to forget the past. You can't. But you can build yourself up from it. It'll be your building block."
She eased onto her side, front flush against his side, and plowed her fingers through her hair to rest her head against her palm, elbow keeping her balanced beside his head. He turned to her, face calming from its previous run of emotions that he couldn't keep under control. "You'll never be able to forget what Terra did to you, Gar. But you can use her to make yourself better. You can take the hurt she caused you and mold it until it becomes a goal. You can use it to find a woman who will see beneath your exterior, who will know you for who you are, and who will be with you because she loves you, Garfield Logan, and not Beast Boy the prankster."
Raven kept her eyes locked with him as he searched them, a trait that Garfield had an uncanny knack for. Beast Boy never looked beyond the surface. Gar looked past the skin and into the soul, which Raven felt unnerving, but comforting at the same time. It astounded her that what lied within the boy before her was two people, so different, yet still one in the same.
"You know," he said easily, his body softening and playfulness chasing away his fears, "for someone who acts like she has something unpleasant shoved up her shapely ass, you are quite the philosopher."
Raven scowled at him, but before she could say something back, he leaned up and brushed a tender kiss against her brow. "But thank you, Rae. For everything."
He scrambled off the bed in case she had something evil planned for him, instead scooting to the floor to plow through the bags. Raven closed her eyes, willing the blush away, and eased down on her stomach so she could watch what he did. He pulled out his anime DVDS, a handful of comics, as well as an array of cologne that, once she picked up to sniff, smelled absolutely delicious.
"Is that why you take so many showers?" She wondered as she lifted the next bottle to smell. Dark, sultry, yet light enough to where when he wore it, it would only give a hint of what lurked beneath. "Because you feel filthy?"
"Hmm, yeah. It was never about the tofu. Just the fact that I was tainting myself willingly." He shoved aside his comics to dig through her bags, giving one glance behind him to make sure she was okay with it. At her uncaring shrug, he pulled out her two books from Gitana's, thumbing through the one she willingly bought.
She was distastefully flipping through his comic as his eyes skimmed over a random page he had landed on. He made an interested sound in his throat. "Hey, this is cool. Says something about a demon taking control of its pack and leading it into a war, then settling it into peace. Really interesting. Can I borrow it after you're done?"
Raven made a sound of agreement in the back of her throat. Another thing Garfield liked that Beast Boy didn't was genuine reading. He wasn't an avid reader like she was, but he would take interest of the plot was good enough. It usually meant that he would come to her room to read, or read within the depths of his. Raven wasn't too fond of him carting off her possessions into the dumpster he called a room, so she was fine with letting him stay in here.
He sat the book aside and bent at the waist to reach for the one Gitana wanted her to have so badly. She had forgotten about it after Beast Boy had met her at the store entrance and had piddled around with him most of the day at the festival. It had yet to even cross her mind. Raven sat up, pulling her legs beneath her and leaning across his shoulder as he ran a long, clawed finger against the gold writing. "The Book of Garion? What's that?"
Raven shrugged, scooping her hair to the side so she could lean down farther without it getting in the way. She had let it grow out, the longest piece hitting just above the swell of her breasts, but usually kept it pulled away from her face in a French braid Starfire was so enthused to plait in her hair.
Beast Boy pried open the cover, cringing when the spine creaked from misuse, and laid it open in his lap. He flipped a few pages, eyebrows mating together when every page he turned to was blank, pages yellowed and crinkled with age and water stains. "Umm…why did you buy a diary? Especially one this big? Most girls get books that you can actually hide…then again, this is you we're talking about—" He chuckled when she cuffed him over the side of the head and reached down to pick the book from his lap. She leaned it against the back of his skull as she flipped through it.
Ignoring his complaints about dusty getting into his carefully styled spikes, Raven muttered, "Stupid old crone. Why would she give me an empty book?"
"Why would a diary have a name?" Beast Boy wondered, finger tapping against his lip. "That's…weird. You'd think it would say 'Diary' or something like that. Maybe nothing at all…"
Raven made sure to snap the book closed, basking in his wince as the sound thrummed through his sensitive eardrums. "Some old woman shoved it on me, saying that it would be worth my while and stuff like that. I think she just wanted to get rid of it, so she gave it to me." Raven tossed the book on her shelf, and never gave it another thought.
"Get your crap off my floor and lets get something to eat."