Disclaimer: I do not own the Teen Titans. I also don't own the phrase "do you love?" which might as well belong to Stephen King by now.
DO YOU LOVE?
"Do you love?"
That was the first thing she said to him that night. It was the last thing she said to him that night. Imagine his surprise when he woke up to find her there, practically lying on top of him, her eyes only half-open, her voice full of nothing but need.
"Do you love?"
Yes, he loved. He loved very much. And he showed her how much he loved. Their lips first met seconds after her question ended. His eyes slipped close and imagined hers did as well as he felt the soft touch of her lips on his. They were warm, comforting, loving. As was the rest of her.
It escalated from that point on. A simple touch became a kiss. A kiss became a loving embrace. An embrace became so very much more. He reveled in the feel of her naked skin on his, his green hands memorizing every inch and curve of her pale skin as they slowly moved lower and lower. He felt her heart rate speed up and her breathing become less steady; his animal instincts noticed right away the scent of her hormones and the longing that pulsed from her.
And yet, though hours may have gone by in that blissful state between rest and love, there was about her a sense of urgency. For every squeak that escaped her lips or moan that burst forth from her throat, she seemed to prolong each and every one, as if she believed each one to be her last. With each thrust, her gray hips shook, her purple hair flew through the air, those beautiful amethyst eyes opened and closed in pleasure and more. Together, their forms moved faster together, joined, and release brought only temporary relaxation, for moments later their dance would begin anew.
At last, after seconds, after minutes, after hours, he fell onto his mattress, completely worn, and he felt her do the same. Her pale hand lay on his chest, her soft form curled in beside him, offering to him everything she was and everything she would be. And he took it. He took it all and he wished for more, and in the morning he knew she would be there beside him.
"Do you love?"
The words echoed through his head as he looked down at her the next morning, her pale form just lying there beside him helplessly, pitifully. Her eyes closed and he knew then they would not open again. It was not a smile upon her face, but nor was there a frown; no, her expression was one of perfect contentment, of enlightened bliss, the expression of one who has made peace with who they are and what they will become.
After dressing himself, he woke Robin and Cyborg and had them examine her. His fears were confirmed; she had died in the night, right beside him, while he slept his weariness away. He asked for the cause of death and was given his answer: poison. Fast-acting, but painless. She had simply fallen asleep and never woken up. Chances are she had not felt a thing.
It was an exceedingly rare poison, Cyborg had told him with what little speech he had left. The ingredients were sparse and hard to obtain. According to Titan Tower files, only one known nemesis had access to such a devious weapon. The very nemesis they had faced the day before.
"Do you love?"
Those were now the words he pondered upon as he traversed the landscape on four green paws, the paws of a green cheetah with jet black spots. Robin had told him where he had to go; what's more, he had given him full permission to deal with the situation however he pleased. The rules had changed. The villain had changed them, had rewritten them. Dark days were ahead.
She had to have known, he thought as he kicked cloud after cloud of dust behind him, dodging in between cars and out of dark alleys as the city became but a blur around him. Had he not seen her struck by something during their battle the day before? He knew he had. At the time, he thought nothing of it. But she had to have known.
By the time she discovered it, it was too late. That must have been it. She had done the research herself, or else recognized the poison for what it was. Yet she did not seek a cure. Perhaps she knew a cure would only come too late? Perhaps she was not interested in a cure. Perhaps . . . perhaps, she had seen her last hours of life not as a curse, but a blessing.
Instead of alerting her friends, instead of seeking vengeance, instead of looking for a cure . . . she had come to him. She had come to him in the middle of the night and given him everything he ever wanted. Had he given her the same? He hoped so. Within his heart, he knew so.
She loved him. She had always loved him, but she could never bring herself to admit it. Not until she was forced to face her own mortality had she gained the courage (or abandon) to see her dream through to the bitter end. She loved him. And he loved her. He would always love her.
"Do you love?"
A green gorilla the size of a small bus tore through the steel-plated doors that guarded the entrance to the villain's base. Gigantic fists smashed into walls of stone and steel and crystal and tore them all apart. The beast left a trail of destruction in his wake, yet it gave him no pleasure. How could it? He was too far gone.
In another time, in another place, he may have taken the time to unplug the security cameras or scope out the interior or even prepared himself for what was to come. But the time for stealth and strategy was over now. There was no reason to do this any other way but his way. Not anymore.
Transforming into a peregrine falcon with a healthy plumage of olive green, he took to the steel corridors and swooped through the many connecting hallways. He knew where he was going; he could smell the villain's familiar scent, hear his method footsteps, even feel his heart rate through the walls of the base. There were advantages to being part animal. Part beast.
Upon running into his first legion of robot guards, the peregrine falcon quickly became a velociraptor and fell from the sky with both toe-claws extended. What followed was a nightmare of screeching steel and slashing claws. Oil splattered against the far wall and wires were scattered across the floor. When it was finished, he was covered from head to toe in black oil and the metal trappings of his enemies. But he didn't care.
"Do you love?"
A green bull smashed in the final doorway and there found the villain he had been looking for all along; the masked, one-eyed man in the armored suit. The villain stood from his chair silently and narrowed his one good eye as he watched the bull approach. Realizing the time for disguises was over and done with, the bull disappeared.
He was replaced with a ropy teenager with green skin, the young man known as Beast Boy. Not a day over fifteen if he was a hundred. But the look upon his face showed no youth there, no innocence, none of the fun-loving, happy-go-lucky attitude for which he was known. All that was left was hurt. Pain. Grief.
You killed her, he had yelled at the villain in a blind rage. You killed her. You took her away from me.
I did, the villain had said in that cold, controlled voice that sent shivers running down your spine. The young man did not know if he was smiling underneath his mask; probably not. But it didn't matter if he was smiling or not. Not anymore.
He ran at the one-eyed villain and watched as the criminal mastermind carefully shifted his center of gravity in preparation for a dodge and counterattack. As he was charging, however, the Teen Titan noticed how everything suddenly began to slow down. His thoughts became dull and incoherent, his eyesight red and sharpened, his muscles larger and more dangerous. It was a sensation he had felt few times before.
He was becoming the Beast. And this time, for the first time . . . he welcomed it.
"Do you love?"
Once again, he thought of Raven's lips pressing against his the first time, that first soul-shattering kiss that turned his entire world upside down. The feel of her skin on his, her hips moving against his, her silky purple hair through his green fingertips. They were memories that flooded his consciousness.
He lost all sense of who he was and who he would become when next he regained his senses, for but right then and there he did not care. She was alive again, and that was all that mattered. He felt her warmth, her urgency, her desperate need to experience with him everything she had dreamed about and more before the poison kicked in and she would be unable to experience anything ever again.
She gave herself to him. And he accepted her.
His green hands had roamed over her body as their lips remained locked for seconds, minutes, hours, days, nights, weeks, months, years, an eternity and beyond. They were joined together that night, without anything to impede their journey; thoughts, inhibitions, weariness, clothes, all were discarded for that one beautiful night.
He remembered lying down and feeling her lie down beside him; she had not urged him to continue nor whispered in her ear that she wanted more. No. She had pressed herself into his side, rested her hand on his chest, and kissed him one last time. Just a soft, simple kiss. The best kind. The kind that says 'I love you.'
"Do you love?"
When the Beast finally subsided and Beast Boy's senses returned to him, he found himself atop the man who had taken everything away from him. His mask was gone now, as was a large amount of his blood. His breathing was ragged as he looked up though one blood-soaked eye and saw the green teenager atop him, the teenager who only seconds before had been a savage and wild Beast.
And the young man looked down into the eye of the man who had taken his Raven away from him and saw there the soul of another human being, but it was a dark soul stained with the blood of the innocent. The soul of one who has done great evil and will never repent, never change, never see the need to redeem themselves.
He saw all this and more in the man's eyes and realized, for the first time, that perhaps the villain truly did understand what he was going through. Perhaps he too had felt the pain of grief, of love and loss, of life . . . and death. Perhaps he wanted this. He wanted to die. And so it was not with anger in his voice that Beast Boy spoke, but with pity.
"Do you love?" he said to the one-eyed man.
Yes, the one-eyed man said through a haggard breath. I love.
And with that, Beast Boy delivered Slade into the darkness he had for so long sent others. The pain of life, of living with the stains of a thousand sins . . . was no more. He need no longer love. And yet, as the light faded from the man's eye, Beast Boy felt not one tinge of envy. To face death and accept death, as Raven had done, was true courage. But to ask for death, to see it as an escape . . . that was something only men such as Slade could understand.
With blood on his hands, and a hole in his heart, the young man stood and turned away. He closed his eyes and suddenly he was gone, gone from the blood-stained base of a blood-stained man, and back in his bedroom at Titans Tower. And suddenly she was there with him, gazing into his emerald eyes with those amethyst irises of hers, her purple hair hanging about her beautiful face as she rested her pale hand on his chest.
"Do you love?" she asked.
Yes, he answered to no one but himself. He loved.