Beastboy's return to Titan's Tower was marked by a period of quiet rejoicing. Quiet, because no one wanted to put the green boy through too much too fast. Better to ease into it, and hold a monster party in his honor in a week or so. Instead, Starfire cooked every vegetarian dish she knew while Cyborg rented all the best games. As preparations were being made, Raven quietly led Beastboy to her room- no one quite had the courage to ask why.
Once their privacy was guaranteed, Raven planted her lips on the changelings own, and kissed him thoroughly until oxygen became an issue. Finally separating from him, she was somewhat pleased by the dazed but happy look on his face. At that point, one of her statues exploded, raining plaster across the room.
"So, I guess you missed me huh?" was all he had to say.
Instead of answering, the empath pointed at the remains of her statue. "Look at this Garfield. This is the result of my emotions going unchecked. Even with my father gone, I won't be able to…demonstrate my affection as often as either of us would like. So kissing, hugging, and so forth will be fairly rare events. I can't even guarantee handholding. As for sex…I'm not sure when I'll be ready for that; given what happened to my mother, it's a pretty frightening topic for me. I'm telling you right now- if this is a problem, then we can end this before we be-mmmph."
Beastboy, no fool, silenced her with a kiss. After a while he pulled away and calmly said "I knew all that before, Rae. I know that you can't always show your feelings- it's enough for me that you have them. And it'll make those displays of affection from you all the sweeter. And I'm not quite ready for sex either, so that works well for both of us."
Raven blushed and nodded "Well, that's settled then. Now, there's something else I want to ask you. I can sense a lot of turmoil in you- not surprising, I guess, given what that monster did to you. You should know, he made a tape of his fun. We all saw it- but we won't bring it up if you don't want us to. My question is: Are you all right?"
Beastboy was silent for a moment and then "I don't know, Rae. It's too soon to tell. I don't want to talk about this right now. It's- It's a little too soon. When I'm ready, I promise you'll be the first one to hear about it."
"All right, take as much time as you need. I can be patient" Raven said "Just remember I love you and I'm always here for you"
"Cool" the green boy said, his smile returning "Er…any chance of a, uh, demonstration of affection?"
Raven raised an eyebrow, and the corner of her mouth twitched "I suppose I can find the time"
Out in the common room, Cyborg and Robin sat on the couch picking movies for the night's entertainment. The team would be late enjoying their reunion, and that called for quality cinema.
"Godzilla?" Robin said, holding up a DVD.
"Yeah, kid's always liked those Nature's Revenge movies" Cyborg said, rooting around in a large pile of boxes "So what did the doctor say? Ooh, Ninja Clown 7!"
"No way. The last thing we need to see is a killer clown. The doctor? He said that Beastboy is having some problems. He's obsessed with hygiene, won't stop showering and washing. He's having nightmares- real screamers. Most disturbing of all, he's having trouble being alone- solitude frightens him."
Cyborg grimaced. "That ain't fair- Beastboy's one of the nicest guys I know. He doesn't deserve what happened to him. Dumb and Dumber?"
"Yeah. A good mindless comedy sounds right- try to find some others. As for fair, since when do we expect that from the world? I think the Joker is basically the universe's way of showing us that life isn't fair. Bad things happen to good people, Cy- that's why we're around. All right, we're never going to find the right movie by just shuffling around the DVDs. We need to pick a movie FIRST and then find it."
"Okay" the metal man closed his eyes and thought. "We need a movie that's lighthearted without being sappy, that's funny without involving clowns and that has a happy ending."
Robin leapt to his feet. "I got it! The Naked Gun!"
"Yeah! Perfect! Now, let's get the lovebirds out here before they make us all godparents!"
"We are already out" Raven's voice came from directly behind Cyborg "And I will remember that comment, Cyborg."
The metal man leapt about a foot into the air and spun around. Raven and Beastboy were standing behind the couch, holding hands. While they weren't visibly mussed, his sensors showed elevated heartrate and blood pressure. Deciding not to press his luck with Raven, he kept silent and prayed for something to interrupt this moment. God chose to answer.
"Friends! Our feast is prepared!" Starfire called from the dining room.
The meal was enormous- a veritable vegetarian banquet. Pasta, casserole, two kinds of soup, tofuburgers, a colossal salad and for dessert, a fresh baked strawberry pie. Starfire glowed with happiness as her friends complimented her cooking not only with words, but also with deeds. All the Titans ate well, but Beastboy was like a man possessed- he filled his plate four times, and still had room for dessert.
As they ate, the conversation turned to the city's recovery efforts. It had been almost a week since the Joker's capture, and the city was only now starting to recover. The damage he'd caused ran into the millions, and there was as yet no official body count. The trouble was in finding out how many of the many missing people had been killed by the Joker, and how many were the normal disappearances common to all large cities. The Titan's had offered their aid in the repairing the damage, but the city council had refused.
"They said that we had done enough" Robin said, as he finished the last of his pie. "And that we deserved some time off."
"Geez String Bean" Cyborg said at last, leaning back in his chair and wiping his lip "You inhaled that food! You'd think you hadn't eaten in months"
"Dude, I barely did! I mean, hospital food is seriously nasty and before that…well, let's just say the cuisine at Chez Joker was somewhat lacking" The changeling laughed, but it sounded forced, and a little nervous.
Cyborg's first instinct was to call his friend on this- if something was wrong, he wanted to know. But then he remembered how he'd felt just after his accident- and how he'd always reacted to people asking if he was all right. Better to give his buddy time. "Who's up for a movie?"
"I am! Nothing like a little cinema after a big feast!"
The teenagers ambled into the common room, made sluggish by their huge meal. They settled back and turned on the first movie. At first, everyone chuckled at the antics of the elderly 'super' cop Frank Drebben. Then chuckles turned to out and out laughter. And that's when it all went wrong.
Beastboy laughed happily at the idiotic bumbling on screen. He was back with his friends, and everyone was having a good time and laughing…laughing… suddenly it seemed to him that the tone of the laughter changed. It went from the amiable and warm laughter of his friends to the cold shrieking laughter of his nightmares. He looked to see what the problem was.
Seated to his left were Starfire and Robin, and at first he was reassured. 'Just hearing things' he thought to himself. Then, his friends began to change. Robin's face began to grow paler and paler, and his mask seemed to melt into his face. His mouth spread into a toothy smile, and kept spreading until it was almost unnaturally large. His nose became longer and more hooked, while his hair rearranged itself and turned a bright green. He gained about two feet in height, and his frame became even skinnier.
Starfire had undergone a similar transformation. Her skin faded to merely human tone, and here eyes became a bright sparkling blue. Her hair became blonde and did itself up in pigtails, while the spots over her eyes vanished. He tore his eyes away and looked to his right, hoping his new girlfriend and his best bud would be able to help him. But they had undergone the same transformations.
Copies of the Joker and Harley Quinn surrounded Beastboy.
With a scream he leapt from the couch, and shifted form before he even hit the ground. He might be a prisoner again but this time he would fight! He chose the form of a large panther, and landed in a crouch ready to spring on his tormentors. He looked up…
…and saw his friends staring at him in shock and fear. No Joker. No Harley. Just his family. He shifted back and stood up, rubbing the back of his head.
"Eh heh heh. Uh, must have dozed off for a second. Um, lets forget the movies, huh?"
"Ooookaaay" Cyborg said, a little disturbed by his friends behavior "Who's up for Super Pound Siblings?"
Beastboy took his place on the couch and tried to calm himself down. 'Just a dream, that's all. Just a dream not a hallucination because sane people don't hallucinate. I'm not crazy, I'm not crazy. Please don't let me be crazy…Please…'
Raven awkwardly took his hand in hers and whispered "It's Okay, Gar, it's okay"
Much later that night, Beastboy settled down in his room to sleep. It was funny, he supposed, how a place he'd spent so long in now seemed so alien. He felt extremely uncomfortable being by himself even here. The shadows seemed menacing, as though the Joker was just waiting to pop out and start the nightmare all over again. Ever noise sounded like approaching footsteps, and every smell seemed as rank and stale as those in the Joker's torture room.
Still, he forced himself to stay in bed. 'I'm a big boy now' he told himself 'I can't refuse to go to my bed because I'm afraid of the dark'
Cyborg had long ago rigged his systems to wake him immediately under certain circumstances. This was done because unless he was electronically revived, the machine man was totally cut off from the world during his recharge time. If, for example, someone were to be injured or the alarm were to go off, the other Titans would have no way to rouse him. Hence, the 'ultimate Wake Up Call' program, as he called it. In response to certain stimuli, his recharger would awaken him early. Among these stimuli was a knock at his door. So it was that Cyborg found himself roused from his slumber at three seventeen in the morning, by a hesitant tapping at the door.
He got up from his 'be d' and scowled at the clock. "This better be good." He growled before walking to the door and sliding it open. In the hallway stood a very disheveled and weary looking green changeling. "Hi, Cy, how're ya doing?"
"I WAS sleeping" the metal man growled "What. Do. You. Want?" He asked, and somehow made the question into a threat.
"C-Ca-Can I sleep here tonight?" the green boy asked. He was clearly ashamed to ask, and couldn't even look his best friend in the eyes as he did so.
Cyborg's mouth dropped open. He didn't know what he'd been expecting, but that hadn't been it. "Uh…why?"
"I…I can't sleep in my room. It, it's complicated but long story short I don't want to be alone." Beastboy looked like he wanted to die from embarrassment at that moment. He felt like a little kid running to mommy and daddy's bed after a nightmare.
"Okay, I won't push it. But why me?"
Beastboy gave him a pleading look. "Dude, who else is there? I can't ask Star, and Robin doesn't strike me as the 'come-on-in-make-yourself-at-home' type. As for Raven, we just got together; I can't just walk up and ask to sleep in her room! Besides, you're like my brother man. Please?"
Cyborg looked at his friend a moment, then sighed. "All right, I guess it won't hurt anything. Not like it really matters to me anyway; once I'm out nothing that happens in my room wakes me. As you already know- remember that time I woke up and SOMEONE had glued a training bra onto me?"
Beastboy chuckled weakly and entered the stark room. Changing into a cat, he climbed onto the top of one of the larger machines and curled up to sleep. Within moments, he was asleep.
Cyborg prepared his recharging station, deeply troubled by what he'd just heard.
And we're off!
For those following my other story Legacy Of the Bat (shameless plug), the conclusion will be up soon. For those who aren't SHAME ON YOU! Go read it now!