Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans.
Author's Note: I'm playing around with the first-person perspective a little bit- it's my second time, and there might be the occasional pronoun mix-up as a result. I know for a fact that I'm jumping verb tenses like a madman, but I really can't find the wherewithal to care.
There are worse crimes than burning books.
One of them is not reading them.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
This is the rule by which I live my life.
Everything I do, everything I have done, everything I was raised to be has been to prevent something.
I am a superhero, and prevent innocent people from getting hurt.
I maintain rigid control over my emotions, and prevent unleashing an Apocalypse upon this world.
I guard my secrets closely, and prevent my friends from finding out what I really am.
I avoid horror movies, to prevent another 'episode.'
I meditate, to avoid losing control of my powers and wreaking havoc upon my surroundings.
And during the month of March, I do everything in my power to prevent myself from murdering Beast Boy.
Saint Patrick's Day was bad enough. The first year that the team had been together, he convinced Starfire that it was an Earthly celebration of the color green.
Two hours later, the common room and everything in it (including a sleeping Cyborg) was painted the exact same shade of green as his skin by the enthusiastic alien. Ten days later, he finally finished scraping the last of the paint off of the ceiling.
The second year that the Titans had been together, he began enforcing the "wear green or get pinched" rule. Robin always wore green anyways, pinching Cyborg was a lost cause, and pinching Starfire was a great way to find yourself doing four hours of extra training every day for a year. Guess who that left?
I was almost insulted that Robin inspired more fear than I did.
No matter- I returned the favor, with considerable interest. Being green and wearing green are two different things, after all. He hasn't tried to pinch me since then, although I've taken to wearing a green wristband, just to be safe.
Never mind the fact that I wear it on days other than Saint Patty's Day. An ounce of prevention, after all. You just can't be too safe these days.
But Saint Patrick's Day is only one of the reasons that March makes me want to murder the team's resident changeling. The second reason technically takes place in April, but the week filled with dreadful anticipation prior to that horrible day in April all takes place in March.
I speak, of course, of April Fools' Day.
The atmosphere in the Tower suddenly changes when March twenty-fifth comes around. We do not know how he does it- we almost never let him out of our sight. We've locked his door and window, placed incredibly sensitive motion sensors up and down his hallway, and Cyborg even went so far as to plant a tracking device in his tofu every morning.
And every year, on the first of April, all Hell broke loose.
I will admit (to myself, and no other) that I admired him for it, just a little bit. Such a rare display of resourcefulness demands it, even if it is turned against us. He is creative too- three years, and he has yet to repeat a prank. Still, I wish he would turn that energy towards something other than making his friends pull their hair out.
Or trying to make me laugh and smile, for that matter.
It is March thirty-first, at three in the morning, and I have been monitoring Beast Boy for the past half-hour from my bed. He is a deep sleeper, with troubled dreams that he never shares with any of us.
Even Robin will tell Starfire if he's had a nightmare. But never Beast Boy- he shares with nobody. Of all the Titans, he is by far the most secretive- going so far as to hide even that fact from prying eyes. I only know because his emotions wake me up at night- feelings so loud and desperate and pained that it takes every ounce of willpower I possess to stop myself from running down the hallways to comfort him.
But I can do nothing to prevent his nightly terrors, and were I to ask him about them I would soon find myself being confronted with my own nightmares. I know he knows about them- I have frequently felt his emotional signature standing outside my door as visions of my father rip me from a restless slumber.
He has not knocked yet. I should dread the night he finally will, but I don't.
My mind wanders to thoughts of tomorrow, and I desperately try to think of some way- any way- to prevent…
Fight fire with fire.
My eyes narrow and I allow a smirk to find its way to my face. There will be no need to worry about April Fools' Day. I lie back down and go to sleep, confronting my nightmares once again.
It was not unusual for me to spend the last day of March in me room in deep meditation. After all, I was the most frequent recipient of Beast Boy's April Fools' attentions, and every little bit of inner peace counted. So, to say that my presence in the common room all day was a surprise to my friends would be an understatement.
But there I was, all the same. Even Beast Boy was too shocked to harass me as I quietly read my book on the couch. He must have assumed that the story was riveting (it was), as I missed breakfast as well as lunch. I was surprised when he brought me a cup of tea, quietly reminding me that I was still safe today as he handed it to me. Aside from that, however, I ate nothing all day.
At six o'clock sharp, I snapped my book shut and stood up from the couch, raising my arms in the air as I stretched. Setting my reading material down on the sofa, I looked around at the Titans staring silently at me. A slight smirk gracing my features, I monotonously inquired as to what a girl had to do to 'get a proper meal around here.' Cyborg and Beast Boy immediately sprang into action, each fighting the other in their attempt to dictate the contents of the night's meal.
I volunteered to wash the dishes after dinner that night, humming quietly to myself as soiled plates and glasses flew through the air and into the sink before emerging clean and stacked on the countertop. The rest of the team was slightly unnerved by my behavior- what was perfectly normal behavior for any other time of the year (except for the humming- that was new) was definitely not normal today. Beast Boy in particular was worried, but I suspected that he consoled himself with the thoughts of the many pranks he'd pull off tomorrow.
I felt my green friend's unease and forced back a smile. Everything was going according to plan.
The Titans watched a movie that night at my suggestion, further confusing them all. As the ending credits rolled down the screen shortly after midnight, I stood up and headed towards the door, audibly stifling a yawn. As I reached the entry, I looked back over my shoulder at my teammates.
"Beast Boy," I asked, "is my book over there?"
This is it, I thought to myself. The Moment of Truth.
I had spent the entire day trying to confuse the changeling, in an attempt to make him stop questioning my behavior. Normally, I would simply lift the book over to myself with my powers, and he knows it.
But not tonight. Tonight, I need him to-
Beast Boy lifted the book in question into the air with both hands. "You mean this one?" he asked. I allowed myself a small smile (to keep him off-balance, of course!) as I floated back towards him.
"Yes," I said. "Thank you." I stretched my arms out to take the book, but as my hands neared his I altered their course and grabbed his instead. A brief surge of power flowed through me as the spell took effect. Doing my best to force down my triumphant grin, I released the changeling and stepped back, dropping my arms to my sides. A flash of confusion flitted across his eyes as I moved away from him, and he waved the book slightly as though to bring my attention back to it.
"Don't you want your book?" he asked, not knowing at all what I had done.
"No," I replied. "I changed my mind. Could you please put it on the floor by the couch for me?"
His left eyebrow arched in confusion as he moved to do as I ask. Turning around, he bent down and placed the book on the floor, then stood back up. "Alright, Raven- what was that about?"
I shook my head, a smirk breaking free from my control. "Beast Boy, why did you pick the book back up?"
He blinked and looked down at his hands. Sure enough, the heavy book remained firmly in his grasp. Paying more attention, he bent over again and laid it on the ground. Tentatively, he placed his left hand behind his back and tried to stand up. As though under a power other than his own, his right hand snatched the spine of the book and shakily held on. It started to slip from his grasp, and his left hand flew forward to catch it.
I'd given him a book he couldn't put down.
"Happy April Fools' Day, Beast Boy," I said as the realization of my trickery struck him like a thunderbolt, leaving him speechless.
The next five minutes were spent waiting for the others to quiet down. Robin, Starfire, and Cyborg were beside themselves in congratulating and thanking me- with his hands full and unable to sneak around as an insect, Beast Boy was going to find it next to impossible to pull any of his elaborately planned pranks. Beast Boy, realizing this same fact, simply stared off into the distance and mourned for the loss of all his hard work. Finally, after five minutes of celebration and stunned silence, I quieted everyone down and got their attention. Turning to Beast Boy, I explained the terms of his imprisonment.
"You are holding there a collection of all of the works of George Orwell, one of the more famous authors of the twentieth century. You only technically have to keep one hand on it at a time, but you'll probably end up holding it with two hands for most of the time you're reading it." Beast Boy gasped in surprise, not liking the sound of this at all. "I'm only requiring you to read one of his books, but you're going to have to read it carefully. The only way I will release you is if you can engage in a coherent discussion of what you've read."
"But," he interrupted, "what do I do if the alarm goes off?"
"Don't get my book dirty," I replied. Reaching over, I opened the book to the table of contents. "These nine," I said, gesturing to the last entries in the table, "are his books. Pick one and read it. Personally, I recommend Animal Farm, as I think it would be the one you would enjoy the most. The choice is yours, though."
He paused for a few seconds before speaking again. "So, as soon as I finish and talk about it with you, you'll let it go?" I nodded my confirmation. "Cool! I'll get started now."
"No," I said, shaking my head. "Get some sleep- you'll read and remember much better if you're rested, and I won't go easy on you with the discussion. You're going to have to meet my standards." He blanched briefly, then hung his head in defeat and headed off to get some sleep.
After he left, the other three Titans turned to me with awe in their eyes. "Rae," exclaimed Cyborg, "you are a genius!" Further exaltations and praises flowed from their mouths as the high-fives flew furiously. After calming down, Robin turned to me.
"You realize, of course, that you can't let him go until tomorrow's over." The other two nodded in agreement. I, however, thought otherwise.
"I will do no such thing, Robin. I said that I would release him once he fulfilled his task, and I am not one to go back on my word. If he finishes quickly and meets my expectations concerning comprehension and interpretation, then he'll be free to wreak havoc on us until the day is done." Judging by how their faces fell, they were not pleased to hear this- all of them knew that he could very well pull it off. Once he set his mind to something, he was almost immovable. "And," I continued, "he is to be allowed to read without harassment. If he reads out here, feel free to be as loud as you usually are, but if I catch the slightest hint of anybody deliberately interrupting his reading- yes Robin, that means no training- then I'll let him loose then and there. And I will know. Trust me on that." They nodded in understanding before we all stood up and headed for bed. As I passed Beast Boy's room, I let a tendril of thought reach into his room.
Go to sleep, Beast Boy.
I felt his surprise as he heard my voice in his head, followed by the usual emotions felt when one is caught doing something they're not supposed to be doing. Silently, I floated down the hallway and entered my room, before following my own advice and lying down beneath the satin sheets.
The day that followed was the first quiet April Fools' Day I had experienced since the Titans formed. Pranks were pulled, of course- Cyborg and Robin added some more photographs and videos to their considerable collection of incriminating evidence on each other, and even Starfire got in on the action once. I was left alone, as appreciation for neutralizing the threat of Beast Boy for the day. Beast Boy too, was left alone as he read in his room, for fear of me letting him loose to bring chaos and destruction onto their heads. It was eight thirty when he finally appeared in the common room, book in hand.
"Hey Raven," he said quietly, "I think I'm ready."
I looked over at him, my expression neutral. "Are you sure? I don't want to waste your time if you're not." He waved off my concerns with his right hand, before quickly snapping it back to the book.
"I've read Animal Farm four times already, if I'm not ready now I never will be."
I was impressed. Four times? He was taking this seriously.
"Very well," I said. "Follow me." I led the way down the halls back to my room and entered, leaving the door open behind me. After a few seconds of silence, I turned back to see him standing expectantly outside the door. "You can come in, Beast Boy. I won't bite. Hard."
His eyes betrayed his surprise. "I thought you were… never mind." He took a tentative step into the room and, finding himself still in one piece, relaxed and closed the door behind him. I floated over to my bed and sat down upon it, cross-legged.
"Come over and make yourself comfortable," I said, patting the bed beside me. He followed my instructions, propping himself up against the headboard and facing me.
"So… let's talk," he said, indicating that I was to initiate the discussion. Very well, I had no problem with that at all.
"Sure. First off, tell me what you thought about the story as a whole..."
Three hours of one of the most fascinating literary discussions I'd ever had later, we finally found ourselves out of things to talk about. I was very impressed- I hadn't expected Beast Boy to have known nearly as much about Stalinism as he had. While I hadn't actually believed him to be stupid for quite some time now, I found myself in awe of how much I had underestimated him.
I was pulled from my thoughts as Beast Boy yawned loudly. Floating his way, I sat myself down beside him and laid my hands on his. "Beast Boy," I started, "you did a fine job, and I'm very proud of you. I hardly expected you to read it carefully, much less read it carefully four times." I felt the magic withdraw from his hands, releasing the hold that the book had on him. As I pulled my arms back into my cloak, he started talking again.
"Raven," I corrected automatically.
"Raven, to be honest, I kinda resented this, at first." That was not unexpected, but I still wasn't happy about it. "You know, April Fools' is my thing, and falling for your prank pretty much killed it."
I don't know how he did it, but he managed to make me feel guilty about protecting the team and myself from his pranks. He was good.
"But you know what Rae?" he asked.
"Raven," I answered.
"Having done this, and knowing what I know now, if I could go back to last night I would still pick up this book."
Alright, that was unexpected.
"Really," he continued, "I had a good time just reading and relaxing and talking with you. I can see actually why you like these things so much." He looked away, and I could swear that I saw a faint change in color in his cheeks. "Anyways… I don't suppose I could, uh, borrow this book for a little while?" Yes, I definitely saw his cheeks flushing.
"Of course you can," I said. He turned back to face me, and I gave him a genuine smile, laughing inwardly as his eyes widened and his blush intensified. "Keep it as long as you want." Looking over to my bedside table, I took note of the time. "By the way, you have fifteen minutes of April Fools' Day left. I think you might be able to pull off at least one prank this year."
He grinned from ear to ear before dashing forward and catching me in a hug and surprising the daylights out of me. "You're the best, Rae!" he exclaimed, before nabbing my book- his book- and dashing out the door before I could even correct his misuse of my name.
I needed to meditate.
An hour later, I emerged from my trance and made my preparations for sleep. As I did so, I reached out and checked on my teammates. All of them were asleep, although Robin (for reasons I suspected Beast Boy played a part in) was feeling particularly uneasy. When I came across Beast Boy's mind, however, I found myself pleasantly surprised. For the first time since Terra had left us, his sleep was untroubled. I let that thought soak in for a few seconds before crawling into bed. If he could have pleasant dreams, perhaps there was hope for me yet.
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
I think I ripped someone off.