Author's note: Any perceived denigration of your favorite real life political candidate is purely intentional on my part as any feeling more positive than a deep ambivalence about any of them is almost certainly due to your not knowing better.
The fight was on but this was one of the few sorts of fights that Robin wasn't any good at. And Beast Boy, with Speedy's help, was becoming a master at it, so much so that he took over more and more of the running of his campaign from Speedy. He took the T-Jet and visited Tough party voters without even taking Speedy with him.
He thought he might have made some impact on Pantha, whom he and Speedy had categorized as a solid Robin vote earlier. And Superboy seemed at least open to the idea of voting for him. It was tough to figure exactly what Gnark's position was. All he ever said was "Gnark!". Speedy'd had him down as undecided but that was mostly because he couldn't figure out how the guy was responding to poll questions.
"In a matchup between Robin and Beast Boy, who would you favor?"
"Um . . yeah. Thanks."
Beast Boy also tried to smooth things over with the Titans who'd supported Bee in the Cool party's primary. Hot Spot seemed to be holding onto a bit of a grudge still but Wonder Girl and some others seemed to be open to shifting their vote to Beast Boy.
He tried everyone. At Titans East's tower, he approached Bee and gave her his standard pitch. He was real good at now. Two or three points with no exta info and each line honed to perfection. Bee seemed surprised that he would explicitly ask her for her support and said some ambiguous things that seemed supportive but there was a decidedly unfriendly look in her eye that told him she wasn't over his having beaten her for the Cool party's nomination.
Finally, Beast Boy made his pitch to the most hard core Robin voters. Aqualad was one. Beast Boy knocked on his door at East's tower after talking to Bee.
When Beast Boy did, he saw Aqualad over by one wall talking to the brightly colored fish in the giant aquarium that took up most of one wall of his room.
" . . you don't like that food as much? But it's got better plankton than . . . oh, Beast Boy."
Aqualad quickly turned to face him after seeing Beast Boy out of the corner of his eye. "What brings you here, Garfield?"
Beast Boy sighed. Always with the formality with this guy. "Yeah, um, Garth. I just wanted to talk to you about the upcoming election," he said and then started into his prepared lines. "I know I was once looked at within the group as someone who wasn't taken seriously but I hope that the change in my appearance and the role I played in overcoming the Brotherhood of Evil cause you to reconsider how-"
"Why are you speaking like that, Garfield?"
"I-I just want to seriously consider my candidacy for leader. In these times, we-"
"Oh, Garfield. Please don't speak like that to me. I heard you talking to Mas and Menos last week. You sounded silly. Besides, I mean you no disrespect but I'm going to vote for Richard."
"There's nothing I can say to change your mind?"
"I'm afraid not, Garfield. I . . please don't look so disappointed. You're an extremely handsome young man, more so than Richard. He made a mistake in the fight against the Brotherhood but even the best leaders make mistakes. It's a role he was born for. That doesn't mean you wouldn't be good at it but I think Richard is even better."
Beast Boy shook Aqualad's hand, thanked him and made his way out. As he was leaving the room, he thought he could hear Aqualad speaking softly to the fish in the aquarium again. " . . . I do not favor Puffer! How can you say that?"
He jumped back in the T-Jet and headed back to his home tower. There were only a couple more hard core Robin voters left to contact and he could do them at the same time. He knocked on their door. "It's open!" shouted Jinx. Beast Boy walked in and saw Jinx sitting in the sunny window, reading with a bottle of spf 70 sun screen next to her. Kid Flash was over in the corner sitting sideways across their leather chair, also reading.
"Hey Wally! Hey Jinx."
"What brings you here? Hey, didja see that that 'Changeling' movie's due out on DVD's in a couple months?"
"Yeah. Piece of crap. Didn't even have an actual changeling in it. I felt so cheated. Worst seven fifty I ever spent. But that's not what I'm here for. I wanted to talk to you guys about the election."
Jinx rolled her eyes.
"Come on, Jinx. I'm serious."
She marked her page and closed her book. "Gar. You're taller than him. You're better looking. You're more fun to be around. But he's a born leader. Even if you would be good at it, it's . . well, it's his life. It's all he does. It's kind of sick to take advantage of his obsessiveness. But he is the way he is and it's perfect for us."
Kid Flash zipped over from the chair and wrapped Beast Boy in a hug for a few seconds before stepping back.
"He's my best friend Gar. And Jinx is right. It's him. It's what he does. It's nothing at all against you. We take you seriously, honest we do!" he said and added another hug before taking only a half step back. "You did great against the Brotherhood. Sometimes you have . . you have two good choices. Picking one isn't any denigration of the other."
He added one more hug. Beast Boy sighed as Kid Flash finally let him go. Wally could be so emo sometimes! He thanked them and left. Back at his room, Speedy was waiting.
"Where've you been?"
"Getting hugs from Kid Flash."
There was a moment's pause and Beast Boy could tell Speedy was imagining himself in his place. "Mmm . . oh yeah, we need to make more visits to voters, especially, Bee supporters and the less committed Robin supporters."
"I just did 'em."
"I just got back in the T-Jet. I just did 'em. Wonder Girl, Arrowette, Super Boy, Gnark, Kole, Pantha, Herald, Hot Spot, Bee herself even."
"Well, what about the other people we think are solid Robin votes maybe you can shake loose a few of them?"
"I visited them, too. Aqualad, Kid Flash, Jinx and a half dozen others. I've done all that."
"I'm gonna have to lead without you. Besides, I don't need you around to make my pitch."
"Oh . . . okay." The teen archer seemed to visibly sag.
"Oh, god, Speedy. Don't look all depressed about it."
"I'm not depressed. I just thought we made a great team."
"We do. But I have to be in charge. I have to run things, okay? No more bossing me around. If you have more good ideas I'll be happy to act on them but that's the way it's gotta be, okay?"
Speedy nodded. "Sure, boss. I've got some new ideas."
For his part, Robin still couldn't quite shake the notion that the other Titans wouldn't seriously consider Beast Boy to replace him. He'd heard from Kid Flash that Beast Boy was going around visiting everyone, shaking hands and spouting prepared lines about why they should elect him. He sighed thinking of it at the Tower's communications center. That was probably the sort of thing you had to do in a campaign if people weren't sure about you, he decided. Then, out of the corner of his eye he saw it for the first time of many. The giant Tower tv screen suddenly turned on and showed an image of dozens of little kids in identical t-shirts emblazoned with the simple message "BB08!" on a hillside, singing.
"Beast Boy's gonna change it,
he's gonna rearrange it,
Beast Boy's gonnnnnna lead!"
The song went on for a minute as an incredulous Boy Wonder puzzled at what the hell the relvance of the stupid song was and why anyone should listen to little grade schoolers about who should be the leader of anything.
And that was just the first time. To Robin's complete exasperation, the ad played over and over, a couple times each hour right up to the election, so much so that the stupid song got into his head and he heard children's voices warbling "Beast Boy's gonnnnnnna lead!" everywhere he went.
But that was only a small part of Beast Boy's campaign. In addition to what Speedy called a 'feel good piece', there was an attack ad. The evening after first hearing the children's chorus for Beast Boy, Robin was typing some revisions to case files at the communications center when he heard Beast Boy's voice booming out from the giant TV, "I'm Beast Boy and I approve this message."
He spun around on his chair.
There followed an ad with stirring background music and a voiceover narration from one of the voices you always hear in movie previews that began "In a world . . ". It contrasted Robin's messing up the fight against the Brotherhood of Evil with Beast Boy's leading the Titans comeback. A humiliating image taken from the Brotherhood's security cameras of Robin frozen in place, was contrasted with dynamic footage of Beast Boy rallying the remaining Titans and leaping toward Madame Rouge. There was another image of a humiliated, frozen Robin and then Beast Boy sprinting into action.
Robin was taken aback that Beast Boy would fight for the leader's spot like this. And this ad, too, played over and over leading up to the day of the election, not just on the main TV in both towers, but it was also sent as a message to every Titan's communicator.
And then, there was the steady drumbeat of Titans TV reports. Beast Boy leading 52 percent to 48 percent! Beast Boy leading 55 percent to 45 percent! Beast Boy! Beast Boy! Beast Boy!
It was unfair! Argent was totally favoring Beast Boy! Totally! Robin wrote a computer program to review the Titans TV coverage of the election and how many positive things had been said about him versus how many positive things had been said about Beast Boy. He brought it up when Argent interviewed him for Titans TV. She asked him how he felt about the polls showing him trailing Beast Boy. She asked him what part of Beast Boy's message did he think had been appealing to Titans voters. And then when he tried to bring up her bias in favor of Beast Boy, she told him they were out of time.
The whole situation was fraying Robin's nerves, even before he noticed the low level, viral campaign started. The offices of the nearest building across the bay from Titans Tower were lit up so that the offices with lights on at night spelled out "BB08" night after night. The same thing was true of the skyscraper closest to East's tower. Little "BB08!" stickers started appearing everywhere, sometimes in the most surprising places.
Aqualad, Speedy and Wonder Girl were all visiting Titans Tower the day before Robin and Beast Boy were to debate. Aqualad came into the kitchen for breakfast.
"You've got something on your butt," said Raven pouring tea as Aqualad stepped onto the tile floor.
Aqualad twisted around and saw that the dark blue rear of his unitard was dotted with little "BB08!" stickers. He sighed in exasperation and tried to pull them off but there were so many. He quickly gave up as the other Titans all chuckled.
"You, uh, picked up on that right away, didn't you Raven?" noted Speedy.
The gray skinned sorceress actually visibly blushed, causing more chuckles. A few minutes later, Jinx came into the kitchen followed by Kid Flash.
He was just a step onto the tile when Raven got his attention. "You have stickers all over your-" Raven stiffened and put one hand over her mouth as the others laughed. At first, Kid Flash thought they were laughing at him as he twisted around noticing all the "BB08!" stickers on the red backside of his unitard. But all the attention was actually on Raven.
"He wasn't in her sight more than a second!" laughed Cyborg.
"Targeted advertising," said Beast Boy, at whom a blushing Raven shot an angry glance.
"That is where to put the messages to make sure friend Raven sees them,"chuckled Starfire.
Finally, Wonder Girl strode into the kitchen and Cyborg, Kid Flash and Aqualad all started to point toward her bust which had somehow become covered with "BB08!" stickers. All three pulled their hands back and adopted the same pensive hand on chin expression as a moment later everyone burst into laughter.
But, even if some elements of the Beast Boy campaign were sort of frivolous, the other Titans had come to regard the prospect of his becoming leader as very real by the time he and Robin squared off in a debate at Titans Tower. Some more auxiliary Titans flew in for the occasion till there were nearly 30 in attendance. The debate took place at 8 pm in the great room with the background of a darkened sky outside. Raven served as moderator and asked a series of questions chosen randomly from among a pool of them that she, Jinx, Kid Flash, Speedy and Hot Spot had written out.
It was an odd debate. From the beginning, it seemed superfluous that Robin and Beast Boy were even in the same place. They didn't seem to be answering the same questions even though they were. In response to one question, Robin gave a 17 point answer, nearly putting the other Titans to sleep till they finally heard him say "And, seventeenthh and last . . " before explaining how using a certain wash cycle in the Tower laundry more often would save up to 0.8 percent on the Tower's energy use.
But, where Robin responded to every question with a mind numbing blizzard of different details, Beast Boy responded to every question the same way, and with no details. I'm not an insider. Change. When we began this campaign two weeks ago, down on the 13th floor . . .
Jinx was amazed at Beast Boy's discipline in not really answering. She muttered to Kid Flash on her left, "That was totally unresponsive!"
Speedy, to her right, sighed like a proud parent. "He's so coachable!"
Robin and Beast Boy shook hands at the end of the debate and everyone clapped. Robin felt certain that he'd kicked the changeling's green ass. He hadn't said anything the whole debate. Nothing. He was shocked, the next day, when Titans TV reported that their polling was showing that Beast Boy had widened his lead after the debate. Robin called Argent on her communicator demanding to know if there wasn't some mistake. No mistake, she told him. Beast Boy's up 57.5 percent to your 42.5 percent.
Robin slumped down into the chair at his desk. How?
And then Beast Boy's children's chorus ad played on his communicator. Robin found himself screaming at the device in his hand "Gonna change what?! Gonna rearrange what?! Say something specific about something, please! Aaarrrggghhh!!"
The next day, he walked around the Tower going about his business as usual, noting the occasional snicker from the others but not realizing till 8 pm that there was a foot high BB08! sticker on the back of his cape. He found a pamplet "The Audacity of Green", a puff piece bio of Beast Boy at his door and looking down the hall saw one at every other door. Inside his room, he checked his communicator for messages and gritted his teeth as another Beast Boy ad, featuring the slogan, "Beast Boy! Change You Can Count On!" played.
How was this happening, wondered Robin. Why does campaigning even matter? Don't they care about everything I've done?
It took a long time for Robin to get past his anger and confusion to his normal, in control, goal oriented frame of mind. He thought long and hard about things, about the campaign and about Beast Boy. Finally, he got up from the desk in his room and went down the hall to Beast Boy's room. He knocked twice hard. Beast Boy opened the door expecting Speedy with some last minute campaign suggestion to get some sort of edge in the voting the next day. Instead, he saw Robin. Beast Boy gulped. The two of them faced each other for a moment without speaking. He knew the shorter Boy Wonder had reason to be upset about how his campaign was portraying him. He expected angry words, maybe a demand that Beast Boy retract some statement.
Instead Robin shocked him by stepping forward and awkwardly hugging him. Beast Boy was startled. Robin then directed them both to go inside Beast Boy's room. He took a chair and sat it down near Beast Boy's bed where the green changeling sat.
"It . . looks like you're going to be our leader tomorrow, Gar. So I thought we should talk."
Beast Boy said nothing, just stared, uncertain of where Robin was going with this.
"The seven of us in the team, the Titans in East and the auxiliary members all need you to hit the ground running. Someone could be hurt of even killed if the Titans aren't ready for whatever villains throw at us. You know all the attack formations we run but being leader's different from being another team member. It's kind of like being quarterback and coach instead of just another player. As leader, you'll have to stay back a little more to call out formations and to coordinate our responses to what villains do in a fight. But, with me not being leader, I can do a lot more reconnaissance work, scouting and fighting at the front of the team. Just keep some things in mind as you choose formations. For instance, you have to let Jinx and Kid Flash fight close by, because they always check to make sure the other's okay. If they're far apart, like if you call for scorpion formation with him in the #7 position and her the #1, they end up fighting distracted because they can't see each other. And he doesn't fight that well until one of us is hit. It's . . it's just the way he is. Starfire tends to be that way too."
Robin went on for a half hour about the particular strengths and weaknesses of all the team members and how best to deploy them. Beast Boy listened intently to what he said but slowly, in the back of his mind an incredulous reaction was building. This is his life! This is his entire life and he's coaching me on how to take over for him! He's not sulking about being treated unfairly by his friends and teammates. He's pushing that down and doing what's best for the team.
Robin went on to talk about how careful Beast Boy would have to be when interacting with the Jump City Police, Interpol, the FBI, NSA, CIA and other law enforcement groups. "They're predisposed to look on us as stupid, irresponsible kids, Gar, so we have to be more on top of things than them. We have to know their regulations better than they do. We have to know all the protocols better than they do. We're Titans. We have to be the best."
Finally Robin stood up, Beast Boy followed suit and Robin stepped forward with another awkward hug.
"I didn't think you liked to do this," said Beast Boy.
Robin stepped back and looked sheepishly downward.
"I . . well, Wally kind of sold me on doing it now and then. People like it, don't they?"
"Yeah, they do."
"I just . . . I wanted to tell you that I'm-I'm sorry I didn't see how much you've grown . . in every way," smiled Robin looking up at the taller changeling, "from when we first met. The job you did against the Brotherhood of Evil was fantastic. But maybe people don't like to sort of recalibrate how they look at people. I'm sorry if I haven't given you the credit you deserved, Gar. I never meant to be unfair to you. I-"
Robin tried to continue but now Beast Boy was hugging him. "Dude, you've been a great leader. Nothin' to be sorry for!" he mumbled against Robin's shoulder.
Finally, the two separated and Robin started for the door telling Beast Boy to remember everything he'd told him about how to best use his teammates.
Beast Boy sat back down on his bed as the door shut behind the Boy Wonder. His eyes were almost tearing. He tried to imagine being in Robin's place and putting his last minute efforts into preparing someone who would take his place. He sighed and reached for his communicator. He and Speedy had planned out a series of last minute calls to all the Titans asking for their vote the next day.
Voting began just after midnight. Red Star was in Siberia, nearly 12 hours ahead of them and was voting at noon his time. It had been set up that Titans could vote through their communicator by pressing a certain sequence of buttons and then adding a voice signature. "Red Star, voting", said the auxiliary Titan after pressing the sequence. His vote would still be anonymous but his voice signature could be confirmed to show that he'd been the one entering it.
Raven and Cyborg were in charge of tabulating the results. But they didn't really pay much attention till after lunch. Everyone was surprised at breakfast how completely calm Robin was. And contrasting that, Beast Boy seemed frantic. Kid Flash asked him why he was so uptight considering he was solidly ahead in the polls but Beast Boy just waved him off. He kept trying to reach auxiliary Titans on his communicator even as he wolfed down tofu.
When night time came, the two candidates had two separate parties planned. Beast Boy had let Speedy plan his party.
They could hear the booming sound system in the small side room that was being used for Robin's election night party. Between trays offering wheatgrass juice and bran muffins, Aqualad, Jinx and Kid Flash were playing scrabble.
"And I have the triple word score. That's 96 points," grinned the Atlantean.
Kid Flash sighed, looking at the wall separating their "party" from the Beast Boy party.
"How did Speedy get Lil' Wayne to show up for this? That's what I want to know," grumbled Jinx.
The door to the room opened and Lil' Wayne's biggest hit came booming into the room as Starfire entered and then just the bass line came through as she closed the door.
"What's going on out there?" asked Jinx.
"Now they are doing the jello shots off the, what is the earth word? Oh yes, the cleavage of the female models brought in by Speedy for the male Titans, off the abdominal muscles of the male models for the female Titans and hehe, both for friend Speedy," said Starfire with her typical nod of the head.
"Is it almost time," said Robin from the corner of the room.
Just as earlier in the day, he seemed to have completely resigned himself to his loss and mentally moved on. He seemed perfectly relaxed.
Jinx flipped open her communicator. "Seven fifty eight," she pronounced. That was close enough. The hard core Robin supporters left his party and went out into the nearly deafening noise of the party. Just as they did, Raven was making her way to the microphone. There were a few moments of confusion as Lil' Wayne seemed upset that she was going to interrupt his performance. He turned away from the microphone making it hard to hear exactly what he said but the word "bitch" seemed to have been part of it. A black hand of energy then grabbed Lil' Wayne and carried him out an open window holding him by one foot 14 stories above the rocks at the edge of the island. Again, his specific words were hard to make out but "sorry" seemed to be one of them. The black hand of energy pulled him back into the building but he seemed to have urgent need for a bathroom and didn't hang around for the reading of the election results.
As thirty some Titans of various statuses moved in toward the temporary stage, Kid Flash found himself next to Robin.
"Beast Boy was making calls like crazy last night and this morning," he told his friend.
Robin sighed. Of course. It's just what Beast Boy should do to win the election. He said nothing but puzzled at how Kid Flash was smiling. He didn't know what to make of Kid Flash proceeding to hug him and seeming, somehow happy for him. It was so hard to figure out emotional people sometimes.
"Okay," said Raven. "Now that that's out of the way. I'm going to read off the results. And I want you to know that Cyborg and I double checked these and triple checked and even called a couple Titans whose names we won't divulge to confirm that the results really are what we're going to report."
"Okay, the votes are," the drummer in the band behind her started a drumroll, "Forty votes for Robin and zero votes for Beast Boy."
The room filled with shouts of "What?!", "Oh my god!" etc.
Robin stood there perplexed. Finally, Beast Boy stepped through the crowd and hugged him as shouts continued all around.
"Dude," he whispered in his ear. "When you came to my room and prepped me for being leader, when all you cared about was the team instead of the election, well, that showed that you're the guy who should be leader. Since then I've been calling everyone telling them to vote for you."
Beast Boy stepped back and the room filled with shouts of "Speech! Speech!"
Robin stepped slowly up to the micropone on the stage.
"I don't know quite what to say."
"Just don't say it in 17 parts!" shouted Jinx from the back of the crowd to great laughter.
"I-I know that sometimes I'm not very sensitive and I don't always have the nicest management style-"
There were joking responses of "Nooooooo!" in various parts of the crowd and laughter all around.
"-but I'm honored that you would choose me to be your leader and I'll do my best to give all of you the leadership you deserve."
Cheers filled the room.
Robin stepped down from the stage and back over to Beast Boy. "Thank you," he said softly.
"This is who we are. The Teen Titans, led by Robin," said Beast Boy.
Robin nodded slowly. The others all felt quite certain that behind his mask his eyes were teary.
"Now, if I could just get this damn BB08! sticker off the back of my cape!" he said spinning it around to show the others. They all laughed and patted his back and things were back to normal.