Disclaimer: I do not own the Teen Titans, or the song "Learn My Lesson" by Daughtry
A/N: They're older here. How much older? You decide.
Learn My Lesson
It was midnight when Raven finally gave up on ever getting to sleep.
All was quiet in Jump City, and so Titan's Tower was silent, even peaceful. Sleep was a luxury not always available when your occupation was fighting crime, so it was the tendency of the five teenage heroes to take what they could get when they could get it. Nights such as this one—no sirens or aliens or honorary Titans breaking into the tower—were rare, sadly enough, and Raven desperately needed to get some rest.
But she knew that she wouldn't. It had been three days since the news had reached the tower, and hence three nights since Raven had gotten a wink of sleep. She knew that the blame for her current predicament fell squarely upon the shoulders of a certain monochromatic changeling, but for once in her life, Raven couldn't bring herself to blame him.
After all, it wasn't as if he could control his dreams. If anything, she was the one who was at fault, for failing to control the situation. She knew how to handle nightmares. It had been, by necessity, one of the first things she'd learned after joining up with the Titans. Nightmares were disturbingly common between her four teammates, thanks to the large number of atrocities and horrors they had all had to deal with in their short lives, and if Raven, an empath, hadn't learned how to shut them out, she would have gone insane in a very short time.
Now she usually didn't even notice her friends' bad dreams. Every once in a while one of the Titans would experience a nightmare of monstrous proportions, but even though such dreams succeeded in keeping her awake, she was always able to meditate her way through the storm and come out on the other end feeling more or less refreshed.
These nightmares were different. The first two nights Raven had tried to meditate and found herself completely unable. Tendrils of fear and pain snaked around her and tightened sinisterly around her heart, breaking her concentration until it was all that she could do to remember her usual mantra, let alone speak the words aloud. And when meditation failed, Raven resorted to the next best thing.
With a sigh, she shoved off the covers and pulled herself out of bed, reaching for the heavy tome resting on her nightstand and carrying it out into the common room. Half an hour later found her curled up on the sofa with the book open on her lap, having read the same sentence close to twenty times as her attention drifted away from the pages in front of her to the changeling whose nightmares now filled her with negative energy.
They'd expected him to take the news of Steve Dayton and Rita Farr's deaths hard—whatever issues Beast Boy had had with them, they were still his foster parents—but something about the degree of the emotions that currently plagued Raven had her convinced that there was more to it than simply the loss of two people who had barely known him. Most likely something inside of him had finally cracked under the weight of everything Beast Boy hid from the world.
He didn't know that she knew, but she did.
It was easy to forget, sometimes, just how complicated Beast Boy actually was. As skilled as she was at reading others' emotions, his constant display of cheerfulness and his sense of humor—his defense mechanisms, she knew—often masked his inner insecurities so well that she forgot they were there. Even during those times when she focused all of her energy on reading him, Raven got the feeling that she was barely scraping the surface of everything that was bottled up inside of him. There were things buried so deeply inside of Garfield Logan that even she couldn't reach them.
And for some reason, one that was buried so deeply inside of Nevermore that she didn't dare seek it out, that really bothered Raven. It was more than just an issue of injured pride, but beyond that...for once the empath was content to remain ignorant.
Raven was so wrapped up in her thoughts that she didn't immediately notice it when the terrors dancing around inside of her began to recede. It wasn't until the nightmare had all but evaporated, leaving behind a dull ache that caused her gut to clench unhappily, that Raven realized that Beast Boy was waking up. She knew exactly what would happen next—it happened whenever he had trouble sleeping—and she quickly looked back down at her long-neglected book, pretending to be engrossed in the story as she waited.
The hydraulic doors to the common room hissed open and Raven heard him grunt as the light hit his eyes. She watched out of the corner of her eye as, bleary-eyed and pajama-clad, Beast Boy felt his way over to the refrigerator and his soy milk, seemingly unaware of her presence. Raven resisted the urge to roll her eyes and fought down a smile as she watched him take several deep swigs straight from the carton in typical Beast Boy fashion. Then, wiping at a sheen of sweat visible even from her position, he turned and leaned absentmindedly against the counter, the carton of milk still clutched in hand.
Raven had planned on remaining silent, waiting for him to notice her or leave, whichever came first, but his weary, pained expression, the frightening unfamiliarity in his quiet seriousness, changed her mind.
"You know," she started, causing him to jump in surprise and spill the milk, "if you ever really want Cyborg to try that, you should probably consider not drinking straight from the carton."
"Geez, Raven!" he protested indignantly, reaching for some paper towels once he'd gotten over the shock. "Don't do that!"
She smirked. "Then again, I think there's a significant chance that Cyborg is more afraid of fake food than of Beast Boy germs."
"Dude, don't knock it until you try it." Dumping the soggy paper towels in the trash, Beast Boy grabbed what was left of the soy milk and collapsed next to her on the sofa, waving the carton in front of her face. "You know you want to."
Raven watched the carton passively, nothing in her expression betraying the distaste evident in her voice. "Thanks but no thanks. Fake milk is bad enough without your germs."
Beast Boy shrugged and swallowed the rest of his milk in one go. "Your loss."
Ignoring Affection, who was wondering quite loudly whether Beast Boy meant that she was missing out on the soy milk or his germs, Raven watched as he lobbed the carton over his head and straight into the garbage, a skill born of many days spent in front of the television.
"And people think I'm not talented."
"You can turn into any animal you want, real or imagined, and you consider that a skill?"
"That is a skill." Beast Boy yawned. "What are you doing up anyway?"
Raven had been hoping he wouldn't ask that very question, but she was grateful she had an answer readily available all the same. "Reading."
Beast Boy looked at the book on her lap, smirking. "Ah, of course. Is that why you haven't been getting enough sleep lately?"
His perception surprised her, though it shouldn't have. "You haven't been sleeping well either," she pointed out, ignoring his question. His lazy, teasing manner evaporated as quickly as it had come.
"No. Not really."
Raven paused, recognizing that they were crossing into unfamiliar territory now. "I know this isn't normally my thing, but...if you need to talk to someone—"
"I'd rather not."
His abrupt response sparked something inside of her, and Raven found herself snapping back. "I'm just saying that if you talked it out instead of bottling it up, maybe you wouldn't be up all night with such bad dreams!"
Unfortunately, this was the very last thing Raven had actually wanted to say, and she realized it instantaneously. Beast Boy had gone very still. "I forgot," he said at last, his voice quiet. "You...would know I was having nightmares, wouldn't you?" He stood up abruptly, for one brief moment looking truly anguished. "You were reading because my dreams were keeping you up."
"Beast Boy..." Raven watched helplessly as he turned his back on her, walking towards the giant picture windows that overlooked the bay and, in the distance, the lights of Jump City.
"I'm sorry, Rae. I wish I could control this...but I can't."
"Gar!" Raven said sharply, using his given name if only to get his attention. "I know you can't help it. I'm not upset about that."
"But you are upset."
"Not about being tired," Raven emphasized, once again surprised at just how much he noticed.
"Then what?" Raven's mouth opened, then shut again, the answer to his question dancing on the tip of her tongue. "Raven," he continued when the silence had gone on a little too long. "Please. What can I do to make this up to you?"
Raven stood up abruptly. "You idiot," she breathed, dark energy crackling in her ears as her emotions flared. "I'm not angry because you're hurting! I'm angry because I can't do anything to help! You think you're fooling everyone with this happy-go-lucky act you've got going on, but I can see right through you, Garfield Logan." Raven recognized the danger signs and closed her eyes, taking several deep breaths to calm down and hopefully limit the number of things that would be broken by the morning. When she opened them again, it was to find Beast Boy staring at her in something akin to shock. Raven sighed. "Look. If you really want to make amends for keeping me up, then tell me what's really wrong here. Where are these nightmares coming from?"
For a moment Beast Boy looked even more stricken, but then his face became determined and he nodded. "Fair is fair." He turned to the window again, seemingly lost in thought. "I've always thought of myself as a lucky guy," he began at last, his voice far away. "I mean, look at the life I live, and the people I know. I survived the Sakutia, for starters, and all the mutations my DNA had to go through when my parents gave me that serum. I've always had more than enough and people that I care about around me. But when I heard about Rita and Steve I realized there's a pattern in my life that...is the furthest thing from lucky."
Raven waited while Beast Boy paused, his hands clenching. "The people I love die."
So that's it. "Gar..." Raven chose her words carefully. "Everyone dies eventually. It has nothing to do with whether or not you love them."
"Doesn't it?" Beast Boy's voice was thick with emotion. "Raven, my parents died in an accident that I could have prevented. Steve and Rita were on a mission that I had asked them to take. And Terra..." He swallowed. "I know you didn't like her, but...she was my friend at one point, and I betrayed her. My harsh words drove her to Slade, and...well, you know how that turned out."
"Terra died undoing something that never should have been done," Raven said, trying her hardest not to let her irritation show. "She made her own choices, and she paid for her mistakes. It had nothing to do with you."
"It had everything to do with me! She felt bad, you know? The night that Slade's robots got into the tower and she took me away, she asked me if I would still be her friend even if she had done something awful. I told her yes, and then...turned my back on her the moment I found out the truth. She wouldn't have had to die if I had just—"
"No," Raven interrupted, shaking her head. "No, I won't let you do this to yourself. It wasn't your fault. None of those deaths were."
"Regardless of whether or not that's true, that's not the real issue. I know I can't do anything about the people I've loved who have died. It's the ones who haven't yet that I'm worried about. They're the ones that I dream about so vividly."
That stopped Raven in her tracks, wiping all angry thoughts of Terra from her mind. "You mean...us."
Beast Boy nodded once. "And the worst part is, you'd think I'd have learned my lesson by now. You'd think that I'd realize that love is...is pain and heartache and that I'd give it up, but...I can't. I'm too selfish to stop loving, even to protect the people I claim to love."
It took Raven a moment to reply, his words were so shocking. "I wouldn't call that selfish," she said quietly. "That's just you being yourself. You're naturally friendly and outgoing and you need to have people to love in order to keep going. You're right about one thing, Gar, and that's that love is pain, but it is also joy and friendship and laughter and life. The pain that you feel is what makes the happy ending so wonderful."
"I can't help but wonder if you would be saying that if you knew how I feel. How I really feel."
"How you...what?" Raven asked, wondering if she'd heard him correctly.
"These nightmares are about you, more than anyone else, Rae," Beast Boy confessed. "It's you that I fear losing the most, because it's you that I love the most."
Raven stared at the green changeling's back in dumbfounded shock, feeling truly simple for the first time in her life. Beast Boy...loved her?
Beast Boy loved her. Her.
That warm feeling suddenly radiating from her heart, was that what it felt like to truly be loved, or...
Or was that what it felt like to truly love someone else?
"Is love still life and joy when it's me loving you?" Beast Boy asked, and his tone was far too cynical and pained for Raven, who had never felt anything like this before. In that instant she was overcome with a desire that she had only had twice in her entire life, only this time the desire was so powerful that Raven was moving before she could remember telling her feet to step forward.
She had always hated touching other people. It made their emotions so much louder and short periods of contact were often more than she could handle. But despite that, Raven did not hesitate as she wrapped her arms around Beast Boy from behind and hugged him to her tightly, resting her cheek on his right shoulder.
"Yes. Yes it is."
She could feel it then, all of the pain and confusion of the last few days, the surprise at her sudden forwardness, and underneath it all, the love he had already confessed. She rode the waves of his grief and despair with him until the roiling sea inside of Beast Boy had ebbed and he was left with a weary calmness that he hadn't felt in days.
"Don't worry about us too much," Raven suggested at last with a small smile. "The Teen Titans can take care of themselves pretty well. And..." Here she flushed slightly, and was glad that Beast Boy couldn't see her face. "I think it's safe to say that I might love you too."
Beast Boy turned around then, and pulled her into a proper hug.
Breakfast the next morning in Titan's Tower was a typical affair. Robin was running late, working out training programs in the gym, Starfire fed Silkie one of her traditional Tamaranian dishes that she was certain would not induce another growth spurt, Cyborg argued with Beast Boy over whether or not tofu counted as a food group, and Raven sat in her corner with her cup of tea, ignoring all of them at large as she read—really read—her book.
And if anyone noticed the way she smiled to herself when Beast Boy won his argument, or how her cheeks were tinged with pink when he sat down beside her, smiling himself, not a word was said.
A/N: When I first had the idea for this it was going to be a lot more angsty and a lot less cuddly, but the idea morphed from one about Beast Boy being in love with Raven and her constantly hurting him to...this. Not sure how I like it, but there you go. Input appreciated!