The dead of night, and Titans Tower was dark and silent. The team had once tried night shifts so that somebody would always be ready for the call to action at unsociable hours, but it hadn't been very successful so the whole team just went to bed at the same time.
Raven was a light sleeper, so it was no surprise that at that moment she woke up.
As always, her awakening was swift and immediate. Groggy was something Raven didn't do.
She looked at her old-style alarm clock as was disgusted to see it was two o'clock in the morning.
"Why am I awake at this time?" she grumbled to herself.
It was then that she detected it. A minor glitch in the environment; a feeling of wrongness. Raven had been awoken by something in the atmosphere that her empathic powers had picked up. She frowned, narrowing her deep purple eyes as she searched for the heart of the distortion. It came to her easily, and as soon as it did her expression changed from its standard fish eyed glare to concern.
It seemed like only a second before she found herself in front of Garfield Logan's door, knocking gently.
"Beast Boy." she whispered quietly, not wanting to disturb anyone if possible. There was no reply, but the empath heard the sound of a whimper coming from within the room.
Familiar with the current situation, Raven used her powers to phase through the metal door into the changeling's bedroom. The whines of distress were clear on this side of the door, but Raven first hovered to the window and pulled open the curtain, allowing moon light to gaze through and let her see what she was doing.
On the lower bunk of his bed, Beast Boy was writhing and sobbing in the grip of a twisted nightmare, desperately trying to escape the images that haunted his past. Raven felt her stomach contract as the emotions coming from her green partner caused her to retch on the taste of despair. Putting aside her own problem, she concentrated on Beast Boy as she moved over to his bed.
"Wake up!" she said sharply, putting a hand on his forehead to grab his attention. She knew from experience that taking hold of his hands or arms only made him panic and struggle to get free. Beast Boy stopped moving so much, but it was clear from his muttered pleas and pained expression he was no more settled than before.
"Wake-up!" Raven emphasised both words fiercely and patted Garfield's cheek lightly.
Instantly he sat bolt upright, startling Raven enough that she darted back a step and something on the desk was tossed away by her dark power going rogue for a moment. Neither of the two noticed.
Beast Boy looked around frantically, as though he was lost and didn't recognise his own room. Raven felt a tug in her heart as she allowed him a moment to reorder his thoughts till he understood what was going on.
Garfield was the youngest member of the team, yet when they were hanging out together it was so easy to forget just how young they all were. It was times like this when Raven considered the relative youth of the Teen Titans members; seeing Beast Boy looking like a child lost in the dark with no hope of rescue. She wondered if she had the wisdom and experience to really be of any help to him.
Beast Boy calmed slightly as he discerned his sleeping fantasy from reality, but he looked as bad as ever. Sitting up, he curled his limbs into a foetal position and buried his face in his knees. The sound of muffled tears came from his shaking body.
A rusty feeling of compassion overrode embarrassment and uncertainty as the dark female approached the green skinned boy. He was only wearing a pair of shorts and a baggy vest, but she had no interest in his attire right now.
She sat down on the bed and placed a hand on his shoulder. As expected, he suddenly lunged at her and swallowed her up in a crushing hug that would have made Starfire proud. Uncharacteristically in the eyes of others, but perfectly normal for her, Raven accepted the embrace without complaint. The nightmare routine wasn't every night, or even every week, but it was painfully commonplace.
Ignoring the dampness on her neck as Beast Boy continued to cry, Raven asked "Was it your parents again?" and felt him nod. He clung tightly to her as his body shook with sobs.
To be honest, Raven was surprised he never cried harder than this. In a way she was glad that he did cry on occasion, because without some sort of outlet for his pain he would never be able to maintain his naturally cheerful nature that he relied on to cope with everything. Raven had vast experience on pain, and the need to relieve it after keeping so much bottled up for so long, and although she herself had never had it easy, Beast Boy also had quite a stockpile of pain that he had gathered over the years.
The thing that most people (including some of the Titans) didn't realise was that Beast Boy had lived a very sad life. He'd only been a child when it started- when he contracted the dangerous and painful disease from a Sakutia monkey bite. The illness would have been fatal, so it must have been difficult to know whether to be happy or sad when an experimental cure left him with his skin scorched green and his face with pointed ears and fangs, along with a corrupted genome that gave him his shape shifting powers. Still, someone like Garfield Logan could easily have laughed his way through that and seen the fun side of being able to transform into any animal he chose. That is, if the accident hadn't happened; the incident that he had nightmares about and was quite possibly the most traumatic experience of his life- watching his parents fall to their deaths from the top of an African waterfall.
She knew he still blamed himself for what happened, convinced that he could have used his powers to save them, even though it was obvious that at such a young age and still adjusting to his shape shifting ability, he would have drowned with them if he'd tried.
From there, it seemed that Garfield's life had been mostly downhill- sure the Doom Patrol had taken him in and spared him from governments and corporations taking him away for experimentation, but as a result most of his childhood had been taken away in place of training and discipline. I was still unclear exactly what had happened to convince Beast Boy to leave the Doom Patrol, but they knew that a part of it was that he didn't live up to their standards, which is to say Beast Boy refused to be cold hearted and ruthless, opting to be compassionate and caring, something which Raven felt immensely grateful for as she couldn't imagine Beast Boy taking after someone like Mento.
Then of course, there had been Terra. The name still burned with anger in Raven's mind. It wasn't about the treachery; if, as Beast Boy had claimed months ago, that Terra was alive and well and one day the Titans crossed paths with her again, Raven could forgive her for falling for Slade's tricks since she renounced her evil ways and risked her life to save the city. The source of her resentment was the pain she caused to the team members. She felt a lot of pain for herself since she'd secretly felt a link between her and the blond girl because they shared the problem of powers that resisted control, but in truth it was the pain she caused Beast Boy that got to her most. She sensed his feeling of loss and failure where Terra was concerned, and it enraged her that he was forced to feel guilty because she'd turned her back on the people who'd offered her friendship and had used the changeling's affections for her to her own ends. Still, for her friend's sake, she kept her reservations to herself.
And finally, the Beast. Who could ever forget that problem? The little devil that constantly peered over his left shoulder, tempting him to embrace the power of the Beast at the cost of humanity- Beast Boy's personal demon, which in a few ways (albeit not many) was more difficult to fight off than Raven found it to fight off her demon heritage. At least with her, the demon inside was nothing more than a taint; a stain on her spirit that always threatened her and demanded her obedience, and it was easy to see the evil that she risked embracing. The Beast, on the other hand, was a part of Beast Boy, body, mind and soul. In its own monstrous way, it wasn't an enemy but an ally, and it offered power, comfort and reassurance in place of threats and demands. In a sense, Beast Boy stood to gain more than he'd lose if he handed control from his subconscious to the monster within, and so rejecting the Beast was more about self control and denial than about protecting oneself from an evil takeover.
As Raven considered her friend's harsh life, she couldn't help but feel a surge of admiration for the fact that Beast Boy continued to maintain his optimistic and caring personality instead of lapsing into depression and envious resentment of others. She knew she really ought to tell him that she honestly felt proud of him, but now was not the time.
She focussed all her energies on projecting the feeling of her care and comfort into Beast Boy, helping to slow his tears and calming him a little.
"It's okay Beast Boy. It was only a nightmare."
Raven felt the grip on her tighten, and heard Garfield's voice whisper "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."
This was the part of the nightmare routine she hated most. The one that made her feel guilty.
She understood what he was apologising for. Not for waking her up, but for being himself. In the light of day, Beast Boy was a barrel of laughs, determined to see that the tower was never dull or gloomy, and took the rejections of his jokes on the chin, seemingly not noticing when people lost their patience with him.
At night though, when he was alone and had no excuse to ignore his thoughts, the insecurity set in. Almost to the degree of paranoia, Beast Boy feared losing his place among those he loved and constantly joked and laughed to both try and make people happy to be with him and to avoid possibly getting left out. But that too led him to fear sudden rejection by the Titans; fear that they'd get sick of him and want him to quit the team. In secret he doubted himself in every way, and it terrified him to think that one day they might not forgive him for slipping up or being annoying.
Raven felt the guilt coursing through her, knowing that her put downs and short temper with the changeling had left him more afraid her than anyone else. She listened to his apologies silently, berating herself as she knew that given the choice, she wouldn't want him to change. While Beast Boy was blinded by the thoughts that he couldn't bare to lose his friends, he didn't see that he gave a certain degree of life and joy to the tower, and the Titans wouldn't want to lose him for the world. Even she slightly enjoy his bright and positive attitude to add a bit of variety to her dark and negative way of thinking, even if he did go too far sometime. Again, she felt guilty as she remembered how she'd sometimes absorb- even leech at some of his abundant happiness for her own use when dark and gloomy got too much for her.
"You don't need to be sorry Beast Boy; I've told you that before. The others will never want you to leave the team, and I'll always be here for you when you need me, okay."
Beast Boy pulled back and nodded, scrunching his eyes closed as he tried to control himself, as though afraid Raven would think less of him for giving in to tears.
Raven lay a hand against his cheek to comfort him, and he quickly pressed his own hands against it to gain as much from the physical contact as possible. Raven guided him to lie back down on the bed, and after pulling the sheets over him, leaned towards her green friend's face and began to hum a sweet melody.
The tune instantly helped Beast Boy relax, smoothing out the lines of stress and restoring his breathing to a normal rate. He, of course, didn't know that the song he heard was a calm inducing spell, and he quickly drifted into a dreamless sleep.
Raven watched her friend to make sure he was now certainly dead to the world. Satisfied, she stretched forward just a bit more and planted a small kiss on Beast Boy's cheek. She doubted he would derive anything from the affectionate act, but the boy's mouth did look as though the corners were twitching with the hint of a smile.
Raven stood up and turned to leave, using her powers to close the curtain and replace the object she'd knock over.
Before she left, she stood in the doorway and looked back at the sleeping form, thinking on the heartache that he'd endured. Her own heart went out to him, wishing that he would understand that the Titans would never abandon him and that he didn't have to dwell on the past. His friends were always on hand to offer comfort and compassion, and while the past could not be changed, they all wanted to help build a better future for each other.
"Don't doubt us." Raven pleaded to the sleeping changeling. "You think you're alone Beast Boy, but you're not..."
Echoing the words of the past, Raven turned and glided back out of the room and headed back to bed.
"Is anything wrong Beast Boy?" Robin squeezed the words round a mouthful of bacon roll.
"You seem quieter than normal; like you're distracted or something."
"Yeah man. I just took a dig at your tofu garbage and you didn't say a thing."
Beast Boy placed his thoughts beside with a sigh and said "Sorry, Cyborg. What were you saying?"
"I was sayin' that you eggs look like The Brain on a bad day."
Beast Boy looked at his scrambled tofu egg on toast and scowled.
"Dude, my tofu looks fine! I really don't need you to compare my meal to my archenemy."
"Can't help it if ya meal looks gross, BB." Cyborg laughed and took a colossal bite out of a sandwich with at least five different meat fillings.
The green kid scowled again and went back to his food and his thoughts.
"Hey man, what's up? You never give up that easy after a shot at your junk food."
"Maybe Beast Boy has gotten down with the sickness from watching Cyborg eating such a large, meaty sandwich." ventured Starfire. "Even I am starting to find the sound of squelching flesh and leaking of excess fluid slightly repellent."
Beast Boy grew tired of the conversation. He left the breakfast table and scraped the remainder of foot into the trash.
"I've got a load of stuff I need to sort out. I'm gonna be in my room for an hour or two, 'kay?"
There was a marginally raised eyebrow from Robin, but they seemed to except his explanation.
"Yo, BB! While your down there ask Rae if she wants me to make anything for her."
Beast Boy waved his hand in acknowledgment as he dwelled on the very Titan who had failed to appear for breakfast. It sometimes happened that Raven wouldn't show for breakfast, attributed to her need to meditate to keep her powers under control. All the Titans accepted the need for Raven to maintain solitude, except for one.
Beast Boy didn't really know why he took Raven's problem so personally. Maybe because there had been times in his life when he was alone and had hated it. Or, maybe because he had a strong desire to be happy and to share that happiness with those he cared about, and it bugged him to see the ghostly pale girl looking left out. Either way, he could never just put up with the idea that Raven had to be deprived of the lifestyle enjoyed by the rest of the Titans, regardless of the fact that in many cases she actually preferred it. And as far as her 'problem' was concerned, he didn't really have much of an excuse to worry about that as she was skilled at dealing with her dark energy and was used to them, and had rarely ever indicated that having her dark energy upset or angered her.
But Beast Boy did worry, and Raven wasn't always completely in control of her power.
Naturally there was nothing in his room that Beast Boy had to sort out (at least nothing he intended to sort out; the whole place needed to be tidied urgently). He walked past his own bedroom, as well as Robin's, Starfire's and Cyborg's. He then walked past the spare room and stopped outside the door that was chosen because it was further away from all the others.
"Er, Raven?" Beast Boy tentatively knocked on the door and stepped back to make room should Raven choose to float straight through the door rather than open it. There was no answer.
As always, Garfield Logan considered leaving and giving Raven some more time to prepare herself for the world, and as always, Garfield Logan quashed the idea without taking a single moment to think about it, for both the sincere reason that he wanted to greet his friend and make sure she was generally okay, and for the small minded reason that he was too nosy to not try and find out why she wasn't answering the door.
He was about to knock again when he heard a movement from inside.
The metal sheet slid away and Raven stood in the door frame.
"Raven!" Beast Boy exclaimed, before his face fell. "Whoa, you look rough."
Raven scowled horrendously, which did nothing to improve her appearance.
Raven looked dishevelled in just about every way possible. Her face was drawn and crumpled with an expression of discomfort, and her hair looked frazzled, clearly not yet washed with locks pointing in random directions. The girl's posture was loose and feeble. Her eyes, half concealed behind drooping lids, were partially unfocused and dreary. Raven looked seriously tired, but her temper was wide awake.
"If you're going to start dishing out your so called compliments in regards to my appearance, I'm going back to bed, jerk." she hissed as she stepped back again and reached for the door controls.
"Hey, wait a moment! I'm sorry; I didn't mean it like that." Beast Boy quickly clamped one hand over the edge of the sliding door before it could shut again, waving his other hand to pacify his empathic friend. "You had a bad night, right?"
Raven visibly forced herself to calm down and put her irritation into perspective.
"I barely got a wink of sleep last night." she explained as she put a palm to her forehead. "I spent most of the time meditating, and I'm still not completely calmed. It's my own fault for reading that final chapter in one go."
"Yeah, I know what ya mean." Beast Boy grinned cheekily. "Harry Potter; get's me every time too."
Raven's hand moved away from her head and her eyes snapped onto the boy in front of her, pulsating with evil. Beast Boy quickly changed the subject.
"Sooo... Cyborg was asking if you want him to cook anything for you."
"I can't even think about eating right now. If I so much as look at a plate of food my powers'll probably pulp it."
"How about scrambled egg, then it won't matter?"
Raven raised an eyebrow, not entirely sure if he was joking or being serious.
"No. I'm going to the roof to meditate."
As Raven swept out of her room, the changeling looked inside and wasn't surprised to see objects strewn about and the bed looking like Cinderblock had crawled under it in search of a dropped pen.
"Do you need anything at all?" he asked, and wasn't surprised by the blunt "No." that answered.
"You sure? You don't want me to clean your room or anything?" Beast Boy tried again.
"For the first time in my life, I hope you're joking. No one goes in my room." she reminded him.
"There must be something I can do!"
Raven stopped pacing down the hall and turned back at the sound of agitated outcry.
The green teenager braced himself for dire retribution, but surprisingly it didn't come. Raven looked at Beast Boy as though considering him curiously, and Beast Boy couldn't begin to fathom what she might be thinking about.
The empath watched her partner silently for a moment. Though her face betrayed nothing, Beast Boy had the feeling she was trying to decide on something. Seeming to come to a conclusion, she suddenly said "There is something you could do for me."
"Really?" Beast Boy's enthusiasm soared, but he tried to control himself so as not to put Raven off. "Wadda ya need? You want breakfast, or tea? Or a sparring partner." the changeling flexed his biceps heroically, then froze and looked back at Raven, worried that she might think he was messing around.
However, Raven ignored the gush of words completely.
"I was... wondering," Raven gazed down at the floor, looking almost embarrassed "if you had time-
"Yeah, sure I got time. What is it?" Beast Boy asked, confused as to what his female friend had to say that made her so nervous.
"Would you... be able to help me meditate?"
Time seemed to freeze in the corridor. Beast Boy was trapped in place as though under a spell, which broken only when Raven looked up at him.
"You don't want to?" she asked in a blank voice that Beast Boy recognised as feeling dejected.
"No it's not that." he said quickly. "It's just, I'm surprised. You've never asked for anything like before. Why now?"
"Well, I having trouble getting my thoughts in order and... I really could do with some help from a... close friend."
Now that did take Garfield aback. In the past it had only ever been in extremely serious situations that Raven had sincerely acknowledged her friendship with the other Titans. And of all people to make a special exception for, him- the green skinned prankster of the team who drove her up the wall.
"Um," he said, feeling a little embarrassed himself. Now was the time for a joke to defuse the situation, but he was feeling too confused by the turn of events to think of something, which considering Raven's opinions on jokes was probably the best, though he did try.
"Well, till a close friend arrives, I'm available." he grinned widely.
The empath just scowled and said "Don't joke about things like that. Are you going to help or not?"
In a matter of minutes, Beast Boy and Raven were sitting on the roof of the tower, staring out to sea.
"Just please don't discuss this with anyone. I don't like people discussing my difficulty with my powers behind my back."
Beast Boy frowned and replied "Hey, the others would understand. You don't need to hide these thin-"
"I don't like people talking about it." Raven interrupted. "I asked you to help me because I feel I can trust you more than anyone else not to discuss it. Can you please do that for me?"
This was just turning into a day of surprises. Beast Boy didn't expect that Raven would trust him more than the others. He decided just to clarify the point with her.
"What exactly do you mean that you know I won't discuss it? Because if you think I don't care enough to worry about it then-"
"I know you care, Beast Boy. That's why I trust you with this; I know you care enough that you'll help me however you can, and that if I ask you not to talk about this you won't. I'm not accusing you of not caring, and for what it's worth of very grateful to you for doing this."
The explanation was carried out in a monotonous monotone, but Garfield could sense the emotion she felt, just by what he could see of her eyes from where he sat next to her. She was truly grateful, and by the look of it a tiny bit guilty, either for taking up his time or making him think she doubted how much he cared about her.
"Hey, what are friends for?"
"Quite, now please be silent for a moment while I concentrate."
The green guy forced himself to shut up as Raven closed her eyes and adopted her meditation pose. She didn't chant or float this time, just stayed quiet and calm. Beast Boy made as much use of the moment as he could.
Raven was an attractive girl. Well, actually she wasn't really, but Beast Boy had come to see her features as pleasant to behold. Every factor of her appearance that he too had once found unflattering and plain now looked very appealing to him.
Her disturbingly pale skin- he found it eye catching.
Harsh facial features- he saw it as a sign of her inner strength.
Un-styled and oddly purple hair- unique and naturally beautiful.
It was a shame he couldn't spend more time with her, but he accepted that things were the way they had to be. Raven was just different from the others in almost every way. She didn't join in with them much when they hung out in their free time, even when she didn't have to meditate- a book was a far greater pass time than anything the changeling liked to do. Nevertheless, Beast Boy did all in his power to make time for Raven, and always tried to give her opportunities to take part in their leisure activities, not because he wanted to change her, but because he wanted to make sure she never felt left out or forgotten. He wasn't so stupid that he didn't know Raven had very different interests and tastes to the others, but he knew that Raven didn't want to end up alone, and as long as he drew breath, he promised that he wouldn't allow her to be.
"Beast Boy?" the voice of the empath, already a little softer, dragged him from his thoughts. "Could you do something else for me?"
"Sure, what?" he asked.
"Could you tell me a joke?"
Raven looked at the boy, and the expression he wore was akin to the one he might wear should it be announced that a turkey free Christmas had come early and a heavy shower of tofu burgers had been forecasted on the weather.
"You wanna hear one of my jokes?" said an elated Beast Boy.
"This isn't going to become a permanent thing. I just need something to help put my mind in a more casual state; and it would help if the joke was funny."
Ignoring (or perhaps not noticing) the jib, Beast Boy said "Don't worry, I've got a brilliant one!"
And he proceeded.
"A guy driving down the road suddenly sees a chicken running next to his car- a three legged chicken- and three legged chicken who's keeping up with him. So he speeds up, but the chicken still keeps up. So he speeds up again, but the chicken overtakes him. The guy chases this chicken all the way to a farm, where there are like loads of other three legged chickens. So the farmer says to him 'I bred these chickens because they're supposed to taste better than ordinary ones.' and the guy says 'Well are they?' and the farmer says 'I don't know, I haven't caught one yet.'"
Beast Boy exploded with hysterical laughter, while Raven just watched him rolling around in his fit of amusement. Beast Boy was so caught up in the hilarity of the joke that he only just spotted the faintest trace of a smile on Raven's lips, which she quickly disposed of.
"Oh... Raven..." Beast Boy choked out breathlessly. "I... knew... you'd... like-"
"Not bad. At least it wasn't a pun on why the chicken crossed the road."
"Come on... Raven. You know... that was a wicked joke"
"Evil perhaps. Diabolical maybe. Wicked isn't strong enough to describe your jokes, Beast Boy."
Garfield paused to think about this for a moment, then-
"Wow, thanks Rae!" he exclaimed. "I've got a load more jokes to tell you!"
Raven sighed and started to put herself into a trance, while Beast Boy explained that he couldn't tell her the one about the disease because he didn't want to spread it.