This story was inspired by the distressing lack of Jericho fic out there. It was originally meant to be a comparison between Jericho, who can't talk, and Beast Boy, who can't shut up, but I think it derailed somewhere. The result is better than the original plan though, so enjoy the story!
Jericho could not talk, so instead he would think. He had thought long and deep about anything and everything at some point, and knew exactly what he thought about everything he'd ever thought about. He couldn't talk to other people about it, being mute and living in a remote place, so he'd had no other topics to derail his thoughts from the subject. He was willing to bet that he knew himself better than anybody else on the planet because of it.
He'd lived on the mountain for three years, and in that time he'd somehow forgotten how much the people who still had voices talked. They talked about everything, but never for very long and rarely very deeply. Several minds made for easy topic switching, especially when the topic got too serious. No one seemed to like to talk about serious things all that much.
Jericho could talk, in a way, but only with sign language, which he didn't know that well. He'd never had much chance to practice it. Since his mother had left him on the mountain with a kiss on the forehead and a promise that he would be safe up there, he had seen four people.
They were his mother, once every few months, bringing him more supplies (and books, she knew he loved to read, and made the effort of hauling heavy books up the mountain with her for him), a mountaineer who'd been thoroughly annoyed at not being the only one on top of the mountain (it was apparently holy in the local folklore – who knew?), the boy who'd come to give him a communicator in case there was trouble (what trouble? No one knew he was here), and the boy who'd taken him off the mountain to fight (be a hero, be brave, leave the safe place his mother had made for him).
He didn't count the two who came to attack him. People who'd tried to hurt him, personally, when he had done nothing to them, didn't count as people in his opinion. It had been three hours of thinking about it before he'd finally decided that.
Jericho had to do a lot of thinking before he could say anything – about both what he wanted to say, and how physically to sign the words. Now that he lived with the Titans, he was becoming more practiced. Where before his fingers had fumbled the letters and his face screwed up in concentration, they were now deft and nimble, though his phrasing was awkward.
The only people he could actually hold a conversation with were Robin, who knew sign language, and Cyborg, whose computerized brain did a running translation for him. But neither of them wanted to talk about the things he wanted to talk about.
Perhaps he should have been naturally attracted to Raven, because she thought as deeply as he does, and was as quiet as he was, but he never could deal with her company very long. She was very nice, and interesting when she did actually decide to talk, but she was too quiet.
Jericho hated quiet. He taught himself guitar so that he could play it all day, and not be reminded of the silence – his silence. When there was noise all around him, it was easier to forget what he had lost.
That was why he liked to spend time with Beast Boy. The little green changeling could talk enough for both of them, and it made Jericho happy. He had a terrible sense of humor, a tendency to say rude or insensitive things, and an almost total inability to notice when he'd put his foot in his mouth.
In short, he was perfect.
Jericho knew that nobody else really understood it, the way he sought ought Beast Boy's company. He kept a pad of paper and a pen with him so that when he was listening to Beast Boy talk he could occasionally say something of his own, but most of the time he would just listen as Beast Boy talked – for hours – enjoying his captive audience. He would chuckle silently at Beast Boy's stupid jokes, not because they were funny, but because they were so fundamentally him that it was endearing.
He never took offense when Beast Boy made fun of him. Stupid comments about being a hippy, or looking girly, usually. Sometimes he had more creative ones.
The day Beast Boy's teasing went too far, he'd learned his lesson.
He made a tasteless joke about Jericho's muteness. Objectively speaking, it was hardly bad, and more dumb than anything mean. The last one he'd made about Jericho's girlishness had been more offensive, but that was so much worse than the other subjects.
Jericho' jaw clenched, and that was the only warning Beast Boy got before he took possession of his body and made him bang his face into the table a few times. Beast Boy came up with a bloody nose, and Jericho wrote him a message, scrawled hastily and angrily on the notepad.
'Never, ever, make fun of that again.'
Beast Boy clutched his nose and read the note, astonished – as was everyone else. Jericho was generally thought to be the most even-tempered of them all. Jericho glared once more, and turned on his heel, walking away before Beast Boy could squeak out his startled apology.
Back upstairs, back to his room, back to alone, back to silence, and Jericho wanted to scream, yell, cry, something as long as he could make a noise. He sat down hard on his bed, and seized his guitar, because he could feel the silence closing in around him and he was starting to think about having hurt Beast Boy. He didn't want to think about that because he knew that he would decide he had been wrong, and he was too angry at the moment to want to think about being wrong.
He plucked angrily at the strings, feeling the hot tightness in his throat and the pricking in his eyes that threatened tears. He pushed it away, because he was a boy, and boys don't cry even when their good friends make a joke that feels like a knife to the throat for a second time.
A few chords played, the half-remembered tune of a song he heard on the radio a little while ago, and Jericho felt better.
Or at least, better enough to not pretend he wasn't there when the tentative knock on his door came. He stopped playing and listened as Beast Boy spoke.
"Hey, Jericho, you there?" Beast Boy said, and Jericho felt a little guilty when he noticed that it sounded like his nose was stuffed up.
Jericho pursed his lips, and strummed the guitar.
"Okay, that's a 'yes'…" A pause, and then, "Are you mad?"
Twang. Jericho plucked his E-string so hard it almost broke.
"Thought so," Beast Boy muttered, "Hey, I'm sorry, okay? I mean, I really am. I didn't mean to say that. I just don't think before I talk. And I know I just put my foot so far in my mouth I've got tooth marks on my knee, so sorry probably doesn't cut it, but I really am sorry cause I didn't mean to hurt your feelings and I feel really bad about it so I'm sorry and would you let me in because I feel really weird talking to you through the door?"
Jericho considered this for a while – just long enough that he knew he was making Beast Boy uncomfortable, but not long enough for him to start speaking again. He got up and opened the door.
Beast Boy held up a couple of DVDs, kind of sheepishly, "I brought some movies. Are you still mad?"
Mute he may have been, but Beast Boy's wince told him that his expression spoke clearly enough.
"Yeah," Beast Boy rubbed the back on his head, looking at his feet, "Look, I know what I said was stupid, and I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings and I shouldn't have said anything about you not being able to talk. I guess I just didn't think that it was such a big deal to you, cause you can write us messages and you know sign language and stuff. Oh yeah!" – he pulled Jericho's notepad and pen out of his pocket – "you forgot this."
He held up the notebook, like a little peace offering, and Jericho felt angry again, irrationally. He wished he could talk without that stupid thing, but he took it and stepped out of the way to let Beast Boy into his room. He went over to the bed and sat down, uncapping the pen and writing.
'I hate being mute,' he wrote, 'I miss being able to talk with people without this.'
"Yeah, I kinda got that. I'm sorry. I won't tease you anymore."
'The teasing itself didn't bother me. "Girly-boy" is fine. I do look pretty girly. "Hippy" is fine too. I sort of am one.' He sidestepped Beast Boy, trying to read over his shoulder as he wrote, 'But those are things that I don't mind. I may be mute, but I hate being that way, so it's not an okay line to cross.'
He handed the pad to an uncomfortably waiting changeling, who read it quickly.
"I know that now. Do you forgive me?"
Jericho looked at Beast Boy, who was staring at him earnestly and nervously, shifting his weight from foot to foot. He really hadn't meant anything malicious by his comment, he'd just been being his usual insensitive self. Slowly, he smiled, and nodded.
"Great!" Beast Boy said happily. He grabbed the stack of movies, "So, which do you want to watch first, Mystery Science Theatre 3000 or Plan 9 From Outer Space?"
Jericho smiled, rolled his eyes a bit, and pointed at MST3K.
"All right! Where's your remote?"
Jericho settled on the floor as Beast Boy set up his TV, chattering all the while. He'd been forgiven, and so his guilt had totally disappeared. Typical. But not actually bad, he decided, as Beast Boy sat down next to him and chattered all the way through the theme song.
Jericho couldn't talk, so instead he had to spend all his time thinking. Beast Boy could talk, and never seemed to think much about anything, but somehow he was still Jericho's best friend, and they fit together very well.
How very strange it was. But it seemed to work, and so for once, Jericho was not going to think about it.