I'm trying to limit myself to writing short, cute things instead of something long that just makes me feel guilty every time I look at it because I know it'll take forever to finish. So, ever chapter will be a little mini-story, all on its own.
THE PATH TO GLORY, AND OTHER PARTS OF A BOY'S ANATOMY
The Tower had been devoid of food for two straight days – not a good thing – but strangely, no one had noticed. The teen titans had been consumed, so to speak, in their own agendas, having nothing to do but wait around for the next catastrophe to emerge.
Raven was reading up on some new lore. It was interesting, but ultimately, she knew a lot of the stuff she was looking through would be ineffective in most battles, and others were serious overkill. Cyborg was updating the crew's vehicles, absolutely absorbed in attaching a new blaster cannon by noon. Beast boy was dying of tension in front of the Titan's huge television, hovering two inches above the couch as he battled man-eating necromorphs. He just could get past them. It was driving him insane. Another Titan who had been going slightly insane herself was tucked away in her room and had been for a week. Starfire hadn't been seen for a long while, but none had noticed, being as distracted as they were.
It was Robin, who had just finished organizing his utility belt, that realized there was no food whatsoever in the tower. He'd received information on new equipment – something innovative and compact, with less boom. What it lost in destruction it made up for with finesse. After he'd finished, and packed everything away, he was hit full force with the gnawing, aching emptiness he'd been kept at bay far in the back of his mind.
With an obligated sort of listlessness, he shuffled into the kitchen, watching Beast Boy crouched over his seat, tilting far to the side as he jabbed at the buttons on his controller with a jittery, lightning-fast speed that set his teeth on edge. He raised his eyebrow at the red haze that went across the screen of the first-person shooter as an ugly-ass creature swiped and snarled. He turned away from the malformed nightmare, and opened the refrigerator to find absolutely nothing.
Nothing. (nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing... that was an echo…)
He reached inside, halted, and waved his hand around inside in disbelief. The Tower's fridge had never been this empty before. There had always been something inside it, even if it had only been a weird deformed alien substance that no one but Starfire would dare touch. But there was nothing. Strangely, everything was clean too. No dirty dishes, no streaks of spilled anything that might have hinted at someone scarfing something down, no crumbs – nothing.
"Ah," he murmured. "Great."
Cybog trumped into through the sliding door, wiping his hands on a dirty rag. His eyes lit up on Robin standing in front of the fridge.
"Hey, Robin. Anything to eat in there?"
Robin leveled him with a serious stare and kicked the door open wider to show Cyborg the tragic predicament they were in. He didn't take it well.
His eyes boggled. "What?!" He rushed forward. "Where'd all the food go?"
"I don't know," Robin frowned. "I could have sworn we were good for another week or so."
"Maybe a couple of days ago," said Beast Boy from the couch, where he was slumped, the screen before him flashing "GAME OVER" mockingly. "I ate a celery stalk a few hours ago, I think." His stomach rumbled loudly, joined by a crashing tumbling roar of demand from Cyborg's own belly.
Beast Boy raised his head and turned to smile reverently at Cyborg. "That was epic."
Cyborg glowered. "Who was supposed to get the groceries? Where's that schedule?"
Robin closed the fridge door, and opened a cupboard drawer (empty as well) and retrieved the list from under the empty cookie jar. He flecked a bit of fluff off the page and examined it.
"Ugh," he went, as a pang went through his stomach. "Well, technically, it should have been Raven."
Beast Boy's ears perked. "But…"
"But your week for food runs has started as of today, Beast Boy."
He groaned, and Cyborg's eyebrows went up. "Him? He always gets crap. You can't send him. He's already hungry. He'll get stupid stuff that'll last us five seconds and leave us high."
Yeah, Robin though grimly. If they sent Beast Boy, he'd come back with sodas and chips. Nothing substantial. Robin met Cyborg's eyes. "Well do you want to go?"
"Pfft. Why don't you go?"
Robin grimaced and ran a hand through his messy black hair. "I can't, I… Uh. It's Wednesday… You know."
Cyborg rolled his eyes. "They'll both go."
Beast Boy rolled his broad shoulders and shut off the game system. They space in his stomach felt hollow and lonely. "Thanks for all the confidence. Bunch of assholes. I'll go get her."
So that's how Raven was summoned out of her room and exited into the bright morning like a vampire from a crypt. She hadn't seen sunlight in a while, but she hadn't eaten in a while either, and while she was grouchy as all hell, she accepted that she'd just have to get this over with.
They went into the supermarket, armed with Robin's credit card, which seemed to have unlimited funding that came from no one knew where. His parents? An estranged but caring uncle? A lover??? No one had ever asked, and Robin offered no explanation as to how they paid for their food, shelter and stuff.
"I'll go this way," Raven said, pointing left. "You go over there." They each took a basket.
"Divide and conquer," Beast Boy said dramatically, crouching low and darting off in the direction she'd indicated. Raven pressed her lips together and turned her back, deciding not to comment, and hoping he wouldn't embarrass her by the end of this.
He was older, they all were, really, but he still managed to keep his annoying boyishness.
Maybe one day he'll mature, Raven though as she went down one aisle. And then maybe next, the world will explode.
She got sandwich ingredients for Cyborg whose appetite had only grown in the past years. He could shovel food into his mouth in frightening quantities. And it was showing him off to great advantage. He'd had to update his robotic parts to match his new enormity. He'd been a major presence before, but he was massive now. Massive and intimidating. She turned another corner and there he was in the magazine covers. Strong, secure, wide and powerful. He looked so serious.
She imagined him with his big goofy grin and wondered how much the public didn't know.
A pair of girls beside her giggled and she turned, then immediately wished she hadn't. they were holding a magazine between them, and over their shoulders she could see a smattering of photographs of Robin. Leaping, running, rolling, being sexy and heroic.
Urgh, she thought. Fangirls.
She continued on her way.
Robin was a hot commodity on the magazine stands: Who was Robin? What made him tick? Was he single? Did he and that cute alien girl have a thing? Or was he dating that gloomy chick? What was his perfect girl? What would be your perfect date? Embarrassing/romantic moments? Could we take a picture of you? Photo shoot? Could you tell me something about you? Please? Just a nibble?
So far, he hadn't been coerced into an interview or anything. Just bringing that sort of stuff up was taboo to him. He was so serious, really serious. That sort of thing didn't appeal to him at all. And his coldness only seemed to spur on those raging girl hormones. He was sexy, sure.
He'd gotten leaner, less wiry as the years rolled on. He was solid and knife-like. All lethal edges and mysterious brooding expressions. Even Raven had to admit, he was a bit of a heartthrob.
She put Robins' looks out of her mind with minimal effort and perused another aisle, looking for the things he usually ate. He wasn't a picky eater, but he didn't like eating empty calories. He wanted something that would give him what he needed.
Maybe pasta, she thought, then cursed because that was back in another aisle she'd just left. She turned around and went back, passing the magazine aisle again, which was unfortunate.
The girls were still there, giggling. Then, one of them said something that she immediately wished she hadn't heard. "Do you think he's green everywhere?"
Dear God, she reddened at the question, and hurried her steps, trying to get past them as quick as possible. But they were still ahead of her, and as she got closer, she could hear even clearer.
"He has to be." (giggle) "I mean… even…" (giggle) "Down there?"
Raven's face was a deep burgundy. Even the tops of her shoulders and chest felt hot.
"Oh, I wish those pants were just a little lower…" (giggle) "Look at that, don't you just want to drool?" (giggle) "It's called a happy trail… haha. Get it? Cause you'd be happy just to – "
Just then, they clamped up. One shoved the other, and they stared at something past her shoulder, then, startled, directly at her. They took in her steamy, red face and sent another panicky look over her shoulder, then dropped the magazine and streaked off, squeaking like idiots.
Raven watched them round the corner, stopped walking as she came up on the dropped magazine and saw yet another thing she'd rather not have seen.
Is it too late to erase these things from my memory, cut them out, cauterize the wound and go on with my life…?
Maybe there was a spell somewhere in the world that could help her out, but she felt there was no hope of ever completely obliterating this image from the world: it was Beast Boy, in a pair of his loose-fitting pants and a smallish shirt. This was before he'd been forced to get a new wardrobe to replace what he was growing out of.
The shirt was too short, too tight, and the pants were the same. He'd lowered them in those days, opting to have them ride low on his hips rather than show off his ankles. Not only that, but he had his shirt lifted and was bent slightly, showing the ripple of his abs off to maximum effect as he wiped at a cheek with one hand and held a dripping ice-cream cone aloft in another. He hadn't noticed his picture being taken which was evident by his blissful boyish expression.
It was a totally candid shot of him being messy and enjoying a cone like there was nothing wrong at all – like he didn't sizzle up the double-page spread like the sun was sizzling up the environment around him.
And there it was, like those girls had been giggling about. A dappled trail that curved around his bellybutton and disappeared into the edge of his low slung pants. They clung to his lean hips and set off the green of his skin, slightly lighter around the curve of his hipbone and lighter still the lower it went. "Do you think he's green everywhere?"
A hand clamped down on her shoulder, making her jump and drop the big loaf of French bread Cyborg preferred for one of his massive sandwiches.
"Whoa," Beast Boy snatched it out of the air just before it hit the ground and straightened with a self-satisfied grin. "Awesome."
Until he saw the magazine on the floor. "Oh." He went. For a horrifying moment Raven could do nothing but stand and watch him. She could not move, could not breathe.
He bent, shifting his loaded basket over to one arm, and picked it up. It was the seriousness on his face that let first the muscles in her shoulders relax, and then slowly release the tension in the rest of her body.
Focusing, this time, on something other than Beast Boys' exposed midriff, she shifted her eyes to the picture again. On the top in big red letters it read, "WHAT A BEAST". Was that it? What was he looking at?
"Damn," he said. "You guys were right, I should have gotten some new clothes. I look fucking ridiculous." He sighed, then flipped it closed. "Man, that day was hot. That ice-cream was good though. Do you think Robin would get pissed if we bought a bunch of ice-cream?"
Raven stood dumbfounded for a moment, then relaxed and shook her head. Same old clueless dope. Beast Boy may have changed on the outside, but he was still so very immature and not-all-there-just-yet. She started off for the pasta stuff and Beast Boy followed after her.
"Sure," she said. "I guess we can get ice-cream."
"Yeah," he said. "What can he do after we've already bought it, right? I'll go get some. What do you want, vanilla?"
He snapped his fingers. "Cool, I'll meet you in line."
Raven brushed an imaginary wisp of hair out of her eyes, and went to get in line. The cashier had just finished handing the customer before her the change, when she realized who it was.
Joanie. Crazy stalker. But it was okay, because she only stalked Robin.
"Hello, Raven," she said brightly. "Robin isn't here today, huh?"
Like he would ever. Not while she had a shift.
Raven shook her head slightly, offering no invitation for further conversation. Beast Boy bounded up the walk, placing his selections in the conveyer belt, cutting off a woman who had been closing in.
"Opps. Sorry," he said, flashing her a large-eyed apologetic smile that just about warmed the woman's heart 38 degrees.
"Oh," she went, patting her blushing cheek. "It's alright."
Beast Boy smiled then turned back to Raven, busy trying to avoid Joanie's pointed questions about Robin and his next visit.
"He's such a frequent buyer," Joanie was saying. "If he came by… in person… I could slip him a discount."
Raven shook her head, swishing the card through its slot quickly. "That's not necessary."
The girl, much too pretty, with chocolate almond eyes, to be so delusional, kept up her intrusive, plying questions. "Maybe I should help you carry those. If you want, I'll help you take them all the way to the tower. It seems like a lot. My break is coming up soon."
Raven scrambled to gather all the bags into her arms, suddenly getting worried for her own safety. Joanie was known to be persistent. It was time to blow this joint. Before someone got hysterical.
"That's okay," Beast Boy cut in, looking uncomfortable as well by Joanie's odd stalker behavior. "I've got it covered."
He reached over Raven, who had lurched forward uneasily, encumbered as she was under all that crap, and grabbed most of the bags out of her hands. She flinched as his arms had come around her, making the tops of her shoulders bump into his forearms. In one crystallized moment in time, she'd seen perfectly clearly the shape and strength of his hands.
There was always something particularly delectable about a man's hands. She'd decided this when she and Starfire had together perused the pages of a particularly racy magazine. (I'll give you five points to guess which one…) The photographs depicted a man, leaning back in a lounge chair, gripping a slender model by the waist as she straddled him, both staring very intensely and lustily into each others' eyes. Starfire had cooed, staring at the two of them, and the romantic image they made together. But the image that stuck in Raven's mind was the way the man's hands had gripped the woman's hips.
So secure and masculine. Full of the promise of power and something visceral. She couldn't get it out of her head, no matter how much she tried, and so she'd locked it away in a place all her silly fantasies went, like the one where she'd dreamed some man would hold her like that someday, with those same powerful hands.
Only, when did Beast Boy, adding stress on the boy, manage to get hands like those?
He raised the bags up and over her head, then shifted them all to one arm and placed his free hand at the small of her back to move her forward. She thought of snapping forward at the contact, but her body seemed unresponsive and so could do nothing more than listlessly be led forward out of the store.
They were half a block away from the store, and Beast Boy drew parallel to Raven, unconsciously leaving his arm around her as they walked forward. "She's such a weird chick, huh?"
Raven nodded numbly.
"I thought she was going to stab my face in when I said we were okay."
Raven wasn't paying much attention, too shocked by the mulishness of her own blasphemous thoughts as they made their way to the tower.
What was going on with her? She couldn't begin to answer that question without getting an image of Beast Boy with his shirt drawn halfway up his abdomen, and that provocative trail that led to places better left unknown if she had any sense.
Okay, I said I was going to finish this, but I'm bone-dead tired, and I want to get this out there before I change my mind. So… to be continued.