By Alan Quicksiliver
I've been watching her for a long time now.
She's one of my best friends, but I hardly know her. She's not the most open person in the world, and even after all that's happened in the past few years, she's still hesitant to talk about herself. I think the only person who she really talks to is Starfire. Okay she talks to Robin, but I think she's more obliged to keep him informed than anything. But she talks to Starfire voluntarily. She sometimes works with Cyborg on his car, but they don't talk much when they do it. That is to say that Raven doesn't talk, Cyborg rambles on – mostly technobable – and she just nods and hands him things. She's so mysterious and shrouded. It's a good thing she can't hear my thoughts, she'd wonder just where I've learned all of those big words I've been using. It's lucky for me too that I'm the most outwardly expressive person on the team, I've always got my heart on my sleeve, so she rarely bothers to pay attention to my emotions.
She's making tea, like she always does. Every morning like clockwork. How do I know? Like I said before, I've perfected the art of Raven Watching. 'But wait!' you might say, 'You're always sleeping past noon, and always half asleep when you wake up.' I'll let you in on a little secret – It's an act. My foster mother was an actress, she's given me lessons. She'd always said that it might come in handy in a difficult situation. She was right. Just because the other Titans don't see me before noon doesn't mean I'm not awake. I can't count the number of times I've heard people wishing they could be a fly on the wall. Fortunately for me, I can be. I have to look away suddenly, she's done making her tea and she's leaning against the counter, watching us eat breakfast.
Herbal tea. It's not really tea at all, did you know? It's a misnomer – its all roots and leaves of plants boiled together to make a tea-like substance. Thats how I know that the tea she's drinking isn't herbal. It's chamomile. I can smell it – she's switched recently. She used to drink green tea, but Robin's stopped buying honey because Starfire becomes addicted to it as a drink. That's why she switched. I'm taking glances at her when she's not looking. I can't help but admire her – her beauty, her grace – but if she ever caught me... I shudder involuntarily at the thought.
"Are you alright B?" Cyborg must have seen me shudder.
I shrug at him. "Just a little cold is all." Before he can ask me any more questions I fake a yawn. "You know," I begin, finishing the rest of my tofu eggs with gusto, "Today's training took more out of me than I thought." I turn slowly and saunter towards the doors to the hallway – emphasizing the exhaustion I don't really feel. I raise one hand in a half wave as I go, "I'm gonna take a nap." I knew that Robin would get us up at the crack of dawn for training today, so I feigned sleep so that he could tell me to 'wake up'. I didn't have to be a fly today.
Once the doors slide shut I transform into something small, a beetle, and slide back under it. My father always told me that eavesdropping was a bad habit, but my foster parents didn't like to tell me much, even though I was a member of their team too. If I wanted to know anything I had to be sneaky – and I know how to be sneaky. I'm not proud of it, and don't ask me how I learned it, I'm not fond of those memories. I know it's wrong, and a hero should know better, but I can't help but wonder what they talk about when I'm not around. Most people do, but again, I can do things that most people can't.
"Is Beast Boy truly all right?" Starfire – she's always so sweet and innocent – is concerned that I'm not feeling well. "He has been acting quite – what is the word? – melancholy as of late." She's more perceptive than most of us give her credit for, and it's easy to see why Robin likes her. She's kind and caring, something he barely remembers about his family. After living with the Bat for so long he finds her refreshing – and it doesn't hurt that she's easy on the eyes.
"I'm sure he's fine Star," Robin reassures her. "He's not used to getting up so early and we've had a couple of late nights this week." And Robin's not as perceptive as most of us make him out to be. But it's true, we have been in some early morning fights this week. Mostly the villains that are lowest on the food chain – Mumbo Jumbo, Doctor Light – small fry. I'm not about to correct him and have my cover blown. If they knew I was secretly a morning person I'd never get any peace.
"Are you sure?" If beetles had mouthes, I'd be smiling right now. It never fails to make me feel warm and fuzzy when Star's being concerned. She's just that cute.
"Whatever it is," Cyborg begins, "I'm sure he'll bounce back from it." Cyborg knows me the best, and yet he still has no clue. "And when he does, I'll kick his but in Ultimate Race Wars like I always do." He's also really overconfident. I know how Cyborg loves to win, even after the 'Tournament of Heroes' he's still really competitive. I've let him win against me so many times I've stopped counting. I don't really care that he wins, but I make a fuss anyway so he doesn't get complacent. If only he knew how many strategy sessions I've been through with my adoptive family. If I ever cared enough to try, I could wipe the floor with him at Metal Warfare – its a real time strategy game and the hardest one we own – and have time to spare for another training session like today's.
As the conversation drifts to other things so does my attention. I could attempt a pun at this point, something related to Poe of course, but since nobody would hear it I don't. Honestly, my jokes aren't that bad. It's just the way I tell them. I could be so much funnier than I am, but I keep all the best jokes to myself. If I really were funny, I'd throw off the balance of the team. It's a fragile dynamic, and throwing it off for the sake of amusement would not go over well. If my behavior seems uncharacteristic for too long, I risk becoming a serious person. We already have two serious people on the team. I have to provide the levity, and that means bad jokes. Good ones wouldn't work as well for reasons no one but I will ever understand.
They all chatter on, and Raven has yet to say anything. She so introverted, keeping her thoughts to herself and saying very little. When she does speak, it's always in that monotone. So dull and uninteresting. I wish she'd speak with feeling. She's done it before, but it's always fleeting, never for more than a few moments. That's when her voice is as beautiful as the rest of her. She doesn't talk now, just slowly sips her tea and watches. She seems to be staring at the doors I walked through before. How I long to find out what's going on behind those deep violet eyes. When I'm eavesdropping, I often get lost in them. I wish I could do it as a human, but she'd never let met get that close.
She's finished off her tea now, and she's just standing there now. She's probably trying to decide if she wants to read or meditate. She's always doing one or the other, always deep in thought over something. I stare into those eyes for a few moments more before I remember something. She's made plans for today. How do I know? Raven Watching is complex. You have to have a deep understanding of body language, and detailed knowledge of Raven's usual activities. She's fidgeting with her communicator, a sign that she's thinking of something related to people or places outside the team and tower. When she pulls her cloak a little tighter to her like she did just now, it's something that she feels very strongly about. The only people she feels that strongly about outside of our odd little family here are 'her kids'.
She's going to visit Melvin, Timmy and Teether. Oh, and I almost forgot about Bobby, he'll be there too. She's almost ready to go, she's shuffling her feet a little. All the little indicators come together to give me a picture of what's happening. How can I know all of this? One of my 'uncles' has a lot of the same mannerisms as Raven. He always was the hardest to read, what with all the bandages. She pushes off of the counter and starts heading for the elevator.
Cyborg turns as she walks and asks, "Where you goin' Rae?"
Without stopping or turning she simply replies with a clipped, "Out."
So she's gone. Leaving me with nothing to watch. So I leave too, and head to my room. Once in the hallway I revert back to my natural form. I surprise myself with a yawn – staying in an altered state can be tiring – and I decide I will take that nap after all. With another yawn I beat feet for my room, knowing there will be plenty of time to Raven Watch later.
Cyborg and I are competing again. I've put my 'happy face' back on again and we're playing Ultimate Race Wars. My mom was really thorough with those acting lessons, so it's easy for me to make Cy believe that he's so much better than me. He wins again, not that I really care, but I have to be mad so that he doesn't get a big ego. Well, a bigger ego. "Dude you so cheated!"
"As if I need to cheat to wipe your green butt all over the floor." He's doing his victory dance. It truly is an amusing thing to watch, and if I didn't have to be mad about loosing, I'd be laughing too hard to breathe.
"No way man, I could beat you if you'd play fair." He gives me this wide grin that plainly reeks of superiority.
"Now, now," he says, "There's no need to be upset." That grin only widens, "We could always go again just to make sure?" He's challenging me to another go so he can win again, but I'm done for the day.
"No way I'm gonna sit here and watch you cheat again. I'm going to the roof." I toss the controller onto the couch beside me and hop over the back. I don't feel like waiting for the elevator, so I take the stairs. I push the door open at the top and the cool sea breeze washes over me. The salt tang in the air has always comforted me and I always come up here when I want to be alone. But it doesn't look like that will happen today.
Raven's already here, sitting at the edge of the platform with her feet dangling off the side. She's not meditating, which surprises me, and she doesn't have a book with her. She must be reflecting on her visit with 'her kids'. The more I think about the bond she has with those three mini-heroes the more I like it. It shows a sort of motherly instinct, it makes her seem more human. We all know about her heritage, we survived the end of the world and she drove her father back into the pits of Hell. It had been a nightmare come alive. But we all know she's not like him in the slightest. She's probably one of the most gentle people I've ever met, and one of the most caring – even if she doesn't show it very often.
I try to close the door quietly, wanting to give her the privacy she deserves, but it's too late. She heard me come up and she turns to see who it is. "Beast Boy?" I stop, not sure what to do. Do I leave her to her thoughts? Try to make a joke, a horrible attempt at levity and then try to talk to her? Or do I walk over and sit in silence?
"I'm sorry," I apologize, "I didn't know you were up here." I've decided to leave her alone. It's not like she wants me around anyway, and I don't like to watch her unless her attention is on something else. If she's reading she doesn't notice me staring, and she doesn't notice much of anything when she's meditating.
"Its okay," her voice is soft, quiet. I almost didn't hear her, and I'm shocked. "You can sit with me if you want." I stare at her in disbelief. But I shake my head and decide not to look a gift horse in the mouth. Walking over, I take a seat near her. I sit close enough to take in her sent, downwind so as to get the full effect, but far enough away that I'm not in her personal space. I take a big breath through my nose. I've heard that people think she smells like lavender or lilac. It's weird, that people would associate her colors with her smell, but they don't live with her. She smells like sage and leather. The incense she buys is a mixture of smells, but it's mostly sage. Her books are mostly old, leather bound tomes from ages past and the smell rubs off on her. It's intoxicating.
I don't say anything to her. If I started talking it would have to be annoying chatter or bad puns, and I don't want to ruin the opportunity by driving her off. I wonder what she's thinking, and as always I can't really tell. She's pulling her cloak closer around her again, but I can't tell if she's feeling strongly about something or if she's just a little cold. I'm stealing glances at her again. It's not a crime, but I still don't want to get caught at it. I've stolen worse things in my history, far more serious things, but again – bad memories. We all have long histories of bad experiences, we never talk about them because we don't need to. When we got together, it was decided that we wouldn't need to reveal our identities. When the Doom Patrol showed up a year ago, they called me by my name. They're my adoptive family, so they feel close enough to me that they're not worried about code names. But even though they know my name now, the Titans still call me Beast Boy.
We've all had it rough, that's for sure. I think Raven's probably had it worst of all of us. She's had to face such hardship, and make so many tough decisions. But even though she's the spawn of evil, and had been destined to bring an end to the world – she still chooses to be a force for the light. She fights so hard to be seen as one of the good guys, and she's often misunderstood by some of the civilians. She perseveres against odds that I would have been crushed under. When I think about what she's been through, and how much she has to do to function like a normal – or what passes for normal with heroes – person... well.
She makes me feel so inadequate.
I'm lost in my thoughts, so I don't hear her calling at first. She's calling my name softly, just loud enough to be heard. "Beast Boy?"
I jerk my head up in surprise and look at her. The look on my face must be bewildered because she frowns. Inside I cry a little, must I mar her perfect face by making her worry? I'm always doing that. I'm always the one that makes her angry or sad. In my mind I'm so eloquent – Negative Man used to read to me as a kid, so I've heard a lot of Shakespeare – but when I try to string together a sentence it comes out jumbled and wrong.
She puts a hand on my shoulder, she must really be concerned. "What?" She frowns deeper.
"Is there anything wrong?" She is concerned. Usually it's Cyborg that tries to psychoanalyze me into being better. "If there's something you need to talk about..." She leaves it hanging there, and we both know she's offering to listen. Ever since my inner beast came out to protect her from Adonis she's been there when I needed someone to listen. She always knows what to say to help me. Cyborg just gives me useless advice or off topic anecdotes. Raven listens, and that's all I ever need.
I'm touched that she's offering to listen, but I'm torn between spilling my deepest secrets to her or just laughing it off. She must sense the internal war I'm having with myself, because her hand grips my shoulder just a little tighter to comfort me. That prompts me to compromise with myself. I'll tell her what's bothering me, but I won't give away everything. I won't mention that it's her that's causing my distress, but I'll tell her what I'm feeling.
I don't look up at her, instead watching the waves rolling in the bay below. "I'm feeling a little lacking." She senses that there's more and waits for me to continue. "I can't help but think that I could be more..." I trail off. I can't say the last bit, and hope she follows it to a less embarrassing conclusion.
"...Involved?" she finishes for me. I almost smile. She's hit very close to what I'm thinking. She just doesn't know how close.
"Yeah," my answer is as lame as some of my jokes. But she simply waits for me to go on. "I can't help but think that I could get a little closer to the team, be a little more involved in discussion." I'm searching for the right way to say it. "I want to be able to do more than just tell jokes and be annoying."
"That's reasonable." She nods her agreement and stops to think for a moment. "Your jokes, bad as they are, help a lot more than you think. I can't count the number of times one of your ill-timed attempts at humor have broken dangerously tense atmospheres." She's looking out to sea, so I allow myself the barest hint of a smile. It's gone when she looks back. "But I think I understand what you mean." She looks me in the eyes, and I have to suppress a gasp. She never looks me in the eyes and I've never looked into hers as a human. That makes the moment all the more special.
"You have trouble relating to people on a personal level. It's most likely because of some past experience, something that made you distance yourself from such close relationships." She squeezes my shoulder one more time before letting her hand drop to her side. I feel a keen sense of loss at the absence of her touch. "Your bad jokes are probably a defense mechanism – a way to keep people at an arm's length." She's still holding my eyes with her gaze as she speaks, "You and I are alike in that way."
I have to fight to keep my jaw from dropping. She's never told me anything that personal. It's nothing I hadn't guessed at before, but to have her confirm it so plainly and with the circumstances being what they are... "You think so?" She allows herself a small, mysterious smile and my heart races. I have to swallow a lump that's rising in my throat.
"Yes," She places that hand on my leg, and the contact makes me light headed. "We both yearn for a closer relationship with the other titans, but we're afraid that the others won't like what they see if we open up." I'm nodding, I can feel my head bobbing up and down, but I'm not really in control right now. She's getting too close to seeing what I'm hiding. Every moment brings her a little closer to something dangerous. If she found out about my feelings – my obsession with her...
My heart is beating so heard I fear it may explode from my chest. I can't look away from her, I'm trapped so deep in those violet eyes that I may never find my way out again. My breathing is becoming ragged, and I'm probably close to hyperventilating. The atmosphere is crackling with tension and I can feel the air weighing heavily on my shoulders. Her hand on my thigh is warm and soft. I've never had a panic attack before, but I'm almost positive I'm having one now. We're sitting closer to each other than we ever have. Barring a few spontaneous hugs, we've never really been this close to each other before. Her eyes are piercing so deeply into my soul. Can she see what I'm thinking? What I'm feeling?
Something is welling up inside me, my chest is tight and my throat is dry. I can feel something rise from my lungs. I'm not in control anymore and I'm terrified about what I might say. Damn that she has this affect on me. Damn that I feel so strongly about her. Damn that we're so close I can feel her warmth pleasantly at my side. The tension builds and builds until I feel as though I'll explode into mist. And then without warning...
"I love you!"
My eyes widen in shock and my hand flies to my mouth. She's staring at me, too surprised to say anything. I'm beginning to shiver. She can probably feel me now, my fear and anxiousness. She's just sitting there staring, probably overloaded by my emotions and my outburst. I can't help myself – I bolt. I hurl myself off the edge of the tower and angle outward. I flap my arms once, turning them into wings. I glide far enough out and then wings become fins, feathers become scales, and I'm falling. I hit the water and I disappear into the depths of the ocean. My head is a mess, my nerves are shot, and I can't think strait. I need some time to myself.
It's later. Midnight if I've read the position of the moon right. Once again my skills in stealth – the ones I wish I didn't have – aid me well in avoiding confrontation. I won't wake anyone up, I'll just sneak into my room and go to bed. I might even sleep until noon for once, so I won't be acting for a change. I'm already dreading tomorrow, I'll have to play hide and seek with Raven. I probably upset her, she doesn't see me that way, and I know she'll try to let me down easy. But I just can't bear the thought of being rejected. It's bad enough I've lost Terra for good, but to have Raven tell me that she's not interested would probably break me. I don't know why, but her opinion means more to me than is healthy.
I'm close to my room now. I only have to sneak around one more corner. And right past Raven's room. It shouldn't be hard, she's a light sleeper, but I'm good at moving silently. With each step I fight to remain loose. I can't tense up or being silent will become more of a chore. I have to maintain my cool, but my nerves are still strained. I don't know what she'll say if she catches me, and I don't want to find out. It's just a few inches left before I'm past her door and home free until morning. I take one more step and sigh in relief.
That's when something grabs my shoulder. Before I can turn around it yanks me backwards and pins me against the wall. I struggle, but in my panic I'm unable to really put up a resistance and I can't get away. Whoever it is is strong, but then I live with four superheroes, so that's not surprising. My assailant moves closer to me, I can feel their body heat and their hands pressing my shoulders against the hard steel of the wall. Violet eyes pierce my own. It had to be her.
I felt like hyperventilating again. She's so very close, her smell is intoxicating as always. "Raven," I sputter out, but her eyes drown out any excuse I can come up with. Any attempt at covering up flies from my head as she stares into my very being. She's looking through me, searching. I feel like she's reading my mind, even though I know she can't do that. She's probing the deepest darkest parts of me and I can't stop her. I find myself not wanting her to stop. She's touching me again, and even though the wall is uncomfortable, I can only focus on her warm, soft hands.
"Beast Boy," she's talking to me. I'm so out of it that it's hard to focus, but I manage a nod. "Did you mean what you said?" I can't say anything. It feels like someone shoved a stankball down my throat and kicked me in the gut. I can't breathe. She shakes me, the movement making my stomach churn. "Did you mean it?" she asks again. She's staring at me with those eyes and I can't breath.
I manage to choke out a strangled, "Yes" and I feel like passing out. She keeps staring at me, like I've stolen something from her and she wants it back.
She sighs forcefully and cries, "Thank Azar!" and before I can ask her what's going on she's upon me.
Her lips are on mine. Her face is there and our lips are touching. My brain can't handle all the information so my body takes over. My arms, free because hers are now around my neck, circle her waist. I'm still not sure what's going on but I'm reacting. My mind is a jumbled mess, but it doesn't matter any more, because Raven is kissing me. I don't know why, and I don't really care at the moment. I've dreamed about this, but the reality is so much better.
When she finally pulls back, she looked at me with tears in those sparkling violet eyes and a wobbly smile on her face. "Thank Azar!" she says again. "I should have known you would never break my heart. But I was so afraid that you hadn't meant it, that you didn't feel the same way, but I should have known." She was rambling, and I still wasn't sure what had just happened.
In this moment, I am happier than I've ever been.
And I still feel just a little inadequate.