A/N: Special thanks go out to The Cretin for all his kind words and support. You don't know how much I appreciate it.
Dedicated to Novus Ordo Seclorum
The pain in his ribs was still blaring it's warning as he slowly managed to raise himself up off the concrete. With his head clearing and his vision beginning to regain focus he could soon make out the figures of the men and women just in front of him. They were his fellow Doom Patrol members. They were his family. Immediately he could hear the hiss of the strange electrical devices that held them in place with their deadly current. Furthermore he could see the agony in their faces as they struggled to free themselves. Feeling fear for their safety welling up inside his small body, he could think of nothing more to do for them than to call to them. Before he could, however, Mento, his leader, the man he hesitated to call his father, worked through the pain just enough to shout one last order.
"Beast Boy," he groaned through his tightly compacted teeth. "Destroy the machine! Now!"
So caught up in his family's plight was he that he'd nearly forgotten why they were there in that haunting old castle deep in the English countryside. Looking over his shoulder, his eyes once again fell upon the horrible machine.
It was like nothing ever witnessed before by mortal men, and, coming from such a devious mind as The Brain, one truly could expect no less. It was a large, black, heartless machine, built with the intent of generating miniature black holes and, unfortunately for the world, it was indeed fully operational. It crackled and hissed with an unnatural and frightening intensity as slowly but surely it spawned a small but rapidly growing cataclysmic anomaly that would undoubtedly destroy everyone and everything in its path if not stopped. Put simply it was a nightmare come to life.
Gazing up at the dark monolithic device Beast Boy felt whatever confidence he'd managed to hold onto, diminish into nothingness.
"I can't," he whined in the weak and squeaky voice he'd come to despise over his lifetime. "It's too big."
"You have to," answered Mento as another torrent of pain shot through his body.
As Mento and the others groaned and cried out in pain, Beast Boy could feel his stomach tense and his heart sink in his chest. As much as The Brain's black hole machine terrified him, at that moment there was something else that scared him even more. It was in that moment, in his mind's eye, that he could suddenly see the image of the riverboat, weak and helpless against the unstoppable pull of the river; He could hear the screams of horror as it disappeared over the water's edge, and immediately it was as if the pain and sorrow he'd worked so hard to put far behind him was once again nipping at his heels. At that moment there was only one thought that resonated within the walls of his mind: Not again. He could not and would not let it happen again.
Swallowing deeply he squeezed his green eyes shut and grit his teeth. Every muscle in his body constricted as his gloved fingers clawed at the ground in front of him. He had to do this. He had to. He had no other choice. They had taken him in, given him a purpose in life, treated him as one of their own; he could not bear the thought of losing them. They were his family; he had to save them.
"Think big," he pleaded to himself again and again. "Think big. Think big."
It was then, like a gun going off inside his head, that he felt it. Something inside of him popped and immediately he could feel the change coming over him, although this time far different than anything else that had come before it. His body burned as it stretched and contorted. There came a bit of pain as his bones grew and his muscles expanded, and he couldn't help but let loose a tiny groan.
He thought big, but more than that, he thought ferocious, he thought unstoppable, master of his domain. He thought of a king. For his first major transformation he held nothing back, and now in the middle of the science lab he stood a tall and powerful Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Paying no heed to the terrible machine raging behind him, the massive creature instead barreled headlong in the opposite direction, his feet shaking the lab and making a sound like thunder with each step. No sooner was he within range than he immediately spun on his dinosaur feet and sent his massive tail smashing into the two electrical devices before the imperiled Doom Patrol, smashing them to pieces and bringing an end to the team's entrapment as well as their pain. It was only after that that Beast Boy allowed himself to release his grip on the transformation. Immediately his body snapped back to humanoid form and he collapsed to the floor with a thud.
Once again it was lights out. As he struggled to bring his conscious mind back to the world of the living he couldn't help but overhear the voices of his teammates around him; this in itself brought a modicum of relief as at least he could be certain that for the moment they were alright. There then came an explosion followed by more voices, and soon he felt gentle hands on his shoulders. Their warmth and the way they cradled him immediately told him it was Rita. The team knew her as Elasti-Girl, and she was the woman he took pleasure in calling "Mom."
"Are you okay, Garfield?" she asked him, her concern for him evident in her voice.
"Yeah," he managed to squeak as he finally made it to his feet. "Yeah, I'm okay." He then smiled. "I got bigger," he said happily. "I got bigger and I saved you guys."
From behind him he could hear the approach of the rest of the Doom Patrol. He smiled as Negative Man droned out a, "Nice job, kid" and Robot Man offered him a firm congratulatory pat on the back. The sight of the decimated, smoldering and completely out of commission black hole generator gave him a further feeling of elation. He couldn't remember another time he'd been more proud of himself. Such feelings wouldn't last, however, as his attention soon fell on the form of Mento perched on top of a small catwalk near the machine.
"Mento," he called happily to the team leader. "I did it. I got bigger."
It was true he wasn't expecting too much of a fanfare from the stern and serious leader (Mento had never been the celebratory type) but what he did get soured what was otherwise a shining moment for him.
"The only thing you did was disobey a direct order," growled Mento, clutching the metal railing of the catwalk tightly in his gloved hands. "I ordered you to destroy the machine, not save us."
Beast Boy could hardly believe his ears. He didn't know what to say, so instead he said nothing. His head became heavy and he cast his eyes down at the floor. Behind him he could hear Robot Man asking Mento to "Give the kid a break." Elasti-Girl also made a small attempt to defend him, but Mento would hear none of it.
"Rita, the boy won't listen," he said firmly, levitating up off the catwalk and down to the floor.
Without looking up Beast Boy could already feel Mento's cold and disapproving stare fall upon his body, burrowing into his skin, tearing him down. He hated that stare; he had felt it's power far too many times.
"Beast Boy," said Mento sharply. The sudden call of his voice forced the dejected changeling's gaze upward until the two of them made eye contact. "Until you learn to follow orders, you'll never be a part of this team. Do you understand me?"
A wave of anger and frustration washed over Beast Boy's small body as he once again lowered his eyes to the floor. It wasn't fair. He hadn't done anything wrong. He had only wanted to save them. At that moment all he wanted to do was scream, but instead he held silent, only raised his eyes until they once more met Mento's and submissively responded with a weak and quiet: "Yes, sir, I understand."
Nothing else was said to him after that; nothing more was spoken in his defense; he remained silent the entire way home.
The entire ordeal was only about five hours old, and Beast Boy had yet to come out of his quarters. Unless there was an emergency he did not have it in himself to face the rest of his team (Nor did he particularly want to). Laying on his bed he did his best to lose himself in the world of his comic books. In the end, however, it seemed that no matter how hard he tried he still found his thoughts drifting back to the day's events. It was here for the first time in his life that he really began to question what he was doing.
When Beast Boy had first met the Doom Patrol he could not have been happier or more excited. Real live superheroes, defenders of truth and justice, protectors of the peace; the sheer magnitude of such a discovery; it was all almost too much for his little heart to take. When they then asked him to take up an honorary position on the team he felt he had truly died and gone to heaven. For so long he had been alone, wandering with no real direction and no real purpose. He had no one; he had nothing; it almost felt as if he no longer existed. With the Doom Patrol it was like he mattered again. He had friends and family; he had a reason for living; he was using his powers to help people. It was indescribable how happy he was. Good times were once again upon him.
Over the years, however, Beast Boy began to grow more and more disillusioned with his new life. It wasn't simply the fact that Mento was harder on him than anyone else and never seemed to be satisfied with anything he did, rather it was something else, something that, up until now, he could never quite put his finger on. So much time was spent simply chasing The Brain and his cohorts; certainly they were dangerous and Beast Boy understood that they needed to be stopped, but that didn't stop him from feeling that it was becoming less like saving the world and more like settling a personal vendetta. Mento's obsession with putting a stop to The Brain at all costs only exacerbated things. Often times Beast Boy would find himself wondering if they were truly a team at all, if Mento saw all of them as anything more than simply pawns in a game, to be used how he saw fit and, if need be, sacrificed for the greater good. Was this really what being a superhero was all about? Was this really the family he wanted for himself? Maybe that was the problem. Maybe he was the only one who looked at The Doom Patrol as a family before a team.
His trip down memory lane was halted when there suddenly came a gentle knocking at his bedroom door.
"Garfield, it's me," came a soft and muffled voice from the other side. "May I come in?"
It was Elasti-Girl and probably the only Doom Patrol member Beast Boy could have bared speaking to at that moment. With a soft and raspy, "Okay" he granted her access to his room. There was a slight pause as she activated the electronic lock and then the automatic door swished open.
Rita Farr, otherwise known as Elasti-Girl, had been the closest thing Beast Boy ever got to having his mother back. Much like his mother Rita was soft spoken, kind and warmhearted; her smile brought him comfort and when she spoke to him he never heard anything but truth. As an added bonus she was also quite beautiful. With her silken, chestnut hair, perfectly proportioned features and gym sculpted body (The highlight of which being her long and slender legs) she was the picture of strength and elegance, and, despite the fact that he would eventually come to think of her as his mother, he would have been lying if he had said that he'd never had a dream or two about her. However, despite all of this there was one thing about her that had always bothered him. The best way to describe it would have been a kind of sadness that was ever-present in her day to day activities, coating all of her words and actions. He couldn't be sure of the cause of it, but he felt he'd only be in denial to pretend it wasn't there.
"Are you okay?" asked Elasti-Girl as she crossed the thresh hold of the room.
"Fine," answered Beast Boy his eyes still buried in his comic book.
Sighing softly and giving a weak smile, Elasti-Girl cautiously traversed the short distance of the room. When she finally reached the young changeling's bed she gently sat her self down.
"Garfield, I want to talk to you about what happened today," she said softly, placing a comforting hand on Beast Boy's knee.
"What's to talk about?" answered Beast Boy flatly. "I screwed up; it's as simple as that."
"No, that's..." Elasti-Girl hesitated, her sorrow once again becoming evident. "Steve...I mean Mento...you know how serious he is about The Brain and leading the team. Sometimes he gets so wrapped up...he tends to forget things...things that are still important to him even though he may not show it."
A strong and bitter silence settled in the room. Finally putting down, his comic book, Beast Boy slowly pulled himself into a sitting position.
"I was only trying to help," he lamented sadly.
"You did," she answered.
"You guys were in trouble."
"I just wanted to save you..."
"We're all very grateful..."
"We're a team. Aren't we supposed to look out for each other?"
"Garfield, we do look out for each other."
She spoke the words with true conviction; she believed them, and more than anything he wanted to believe them himself, but still something held him back. For the first time his belief in her faltered.
As Beast Boy spoke he could gradually feel the emotions that had been building up inside of him for the past several hours finally beginning to make their way to the surface. He wasn't sure if he wanted to scream or cry, but regardless he did his best to do neither, rather he simply bit his lip and turned to face the woman beside him. With straight sincerity in his voice he spoke the question he'd been so afraid to ask.
"Mom," he said quietly. "If the roles were reversed..." He hesitated for one last moment. "If I was the one that was in trouble, and Mento said to leave me behind... would you...?"
Beast Boy wasn't sure if she knew he had seen it (He couldn't even be sure she had even realized it herself), but truthfully it didn't matter. In that one critical moment, that one crucial instance where, more than anything, he needed complete and utter reassurance, Elasti-Girl had hesitated. It was only for a mere moment, only a second or two, and then she had given him the answer he wanted, assured him that he was the most important thing to her, that she would always choose him over everything else, that she loved him. The words she offered and the tone in her voice were honest enough and the warmth of her embrace filled him with the kind of love he'd sought for so long, but it was all too little too late. He had seen the conflict within her and it was something he just could not abide.
The whirr of the large metallic doors of the secret mountain stronghold made a nauseating grinding noise as they slowly came together, announcing their meeting with a loud, almost deafening, clanging noise. It was a sound that he had heard many times over and he found it impossible to deny that it saddened him to think that he would not be hearing it again.
Standing just outside the fortress, Beast Boy gazed wistfully at the dense nighttime forest before him; thanks to the starry sky and the brilliant moon overhead, from up on the hill, he could see the entire length of it, stretching for miles before becoming miles more of green field. Digging his claws ever so slightly into the straps of his worn, green backpack he took one last moment to contemplate his decision. It was strange. He assumed the idea of once again being on his own, alone in the world, would have terrified him enough so that he would have gone back inside, torn up the parting note he'd left on the conference room table and simply gone on as if nothing had happened. However, much to his surprise, he found himself feeling quite the opposite. In truth he felt more than fine with the idea. After all, he was older now than he was before, he was wiser and stronger thanks to his Doom Patrol training and the survival tricks that he'd acquired from living on his own prior had not yet left him. In short he felt more than ready to once again journey out into the great, wide world and the unknown that lay beyond.
Turning he faced the large metal doors of the stronghold and offered one last sympathetic smile.
"Sorry to up and leave like this, guys," he said quietly. "But I guess I'm just not Doom Patrol material."
With that he took his first step. Marching without fear and with head held high across the soft soil, he journeyed into the dense foliage of the forest. As he walked, he smiled brightly to himself, the scant amount of regret he'd had about his decision quickly fading with each step.
The Doom Patrol had been gracious enough to offer him a home; it was something for which he would always be grateful. The truth of it was, however, that while it was a home, it was not his home. Was there some place in the world that was just for him? with people he could be proud to call his family? Of the answers to such questions he couldn't be certain. One thing he was sure of, however, was that if such a place did exist, there was not a doubt in his mind that he would find it.