Garfield fought back a yawn as he sat at the kitchen counter, his left arm resting in a sling and a bowl of oatmeal waiting in front of him. He had a file folder laid out, and every now and then he'd set down his spoon to write a note. Around him loud, mechanical noises polluted the air, and he did his best to ignore the enormous construction crane moving outside the Tower windows.
It had already been five days since Raven's apocalyptic breakdown, and Gar couldn't really tell if time was moving too fast or too slow. So much had already happened in such little time, and yet it seemed like things weren't changing fast enough. For the last forty-eight hours a team from S.T.A.R. labs had been reconstructing the Titan's home base, and the unusual amount of commotion made the island seem crowded. Machines had been ferried over since the day before, and their abnormality on the island warped reality even more.
Garfield tossed his pen aside and closed his eyes, trying his hardest to ignore the noise. He was irritable from the racket, but the dull ache in his head wasn't just because of the construction. It had been days since Raven's spell had hit the team, but every now and then his head would still throb from the after effects. He felt weak for not bearing through the pain, but in his defense there had been little time to recuperate. From the ritual in the temple to him sitting at the kitchen counter, Gar couldn't think of a moment when any of the Titans had been able to properly relax and rejuvenate.
The moment the symbol had gone dormant Starfire had shattered the marble door into dust and flown into the room. They had found Raven in yet another catatonic state, and even though they had gotten her into the T-car and driven like madmen through the city, nothing they did seemed to be fast enough. But getting her to the infirmary wasn't the end, because the Tower had been a battle of a different sort; power needed to be brought back online so Cyborg could get the medical equipment working, but the team was still too injured to tend to the generators fast enough. They worked into the next morning, hobbling into electrical rooms, nursing a barely living Raven, and trying to patch one another up when there was a chance. It wasn't until Gar was staggering through the hallways did he finally pass out from the stress.
He woke up a few hours later on the couch in the main room, an IV in one arm and an icepack strapped to his dislocated shoulder. Starfire was fast asleep on the opposite end of the sofa, and Robin had been limping around the kitchen making coffee with a travel bag slung on his back. Gar had blinked at him before squinting towards the broken windows. The sun had been setting, betraying an entire day devoted to exhausted slumber.
"What are you doing?" Gar had groggily asked. His leader sighed, dragging a tired hand through his hair.
"Damage control," had been his raspy reply.
Garfield didn't give the response much thought, (since he had abruptly passed out again a second later), until the next morning had come and it was Cyborg bustling around the kitchen. This time Beast Boy had woken Starfire and the two had approached their bionic friend for news; and Cyborg had delivered, although sparingly.
He said that Raven was alive, but comatose. She was stable, for the most part, but she wasn't waking up.
He said the Tower was running on the back up generators, but it would need a couple weeks and a lot of grunt work before everything was in working order again.
And he said Robin had preemptively gone to the Justice League to inform the 'big guns' of the situation, all in hopes to bypass any rumors about Raven that could reach their ears.
Both Starfire and Gar had started to passionately, (and loudly), voice their concerns on everything, but Cyborg had wearily raised his hand and asked his friends to please shut the hell up.
"I'm tired, I'm hungry, and I don't know anything more about anything, especially Robin," he had explained. "All I know is that I need to keep an eye on Rae until the girl opens her eyes. That's all."
And that was how the next three days had passed.
With their leader playing ambassador and Cyborg busy being the family doctor, Beast Boy and Starfire had taken it upon themselves to piece all their livelihoods back together. Their days were filled with video conferences with the other Titans, cleaning out the worst parts of their massacred home, and sustaining their duties of patrolling Jump City; because even emotionally spent and physically exhausted heroes didn't get days off.
The crane outside made a particularly loud sound and Garfield threw his spoon down, too aggravated to finish his food. He got up and strode over to the open window, leaning out and waving his good arm at the team below.
"Just one hour," he yelled, giving them a less-than-thrilled face. "Shut down for one hour and I will give you anything you want! Money, food, hell even pony rides for the whole crew!" Only silence met his request, (probably because no one could hear him from that distance), and Beast Boy just growled in defeat and walked away, already too tired to argue his needs further. His comm let out a singular beep from the kitchen counter and he snatched it up, flicking it open with a furrowed brow. It was a message from Starfire, letting him know that she was back from the city. Since Robin and Cyborg had been so negligent with their communication, Star and Beast Boy had made it a point to keep the other well informed of their goings on. It was a minute sense of stability, but it helped, and Gar appreciated it greatly at the moment.
"Star? You there?" he asked, wanting to call her up to drown out the sound of the crane. "How was patrol?" Her voice sounded tired despite her attempt at levity.
"Easier. The East Tower has contacted me, and Aqualad and Speedy shall be arriving here soon to play as the back-up."
"Hallelujah," Gar grumbled. "When do they get here?"
"Good. I'm in the main room. Are you heading up?"
"I will be there soon. Have you heard from Robin or Cyborg?"
Gar was about to reply, but the construction outside was too noisy. Instead he just yelled out a, "We'll talk when you get up here", and then clicked his comm closed and chucked it across the room, right out the open window. There was yelling that followed the action, along with a lot of words about the inconsiderate nature of superheroes. Gar just rolled his eyes and decided to feel bad about the action later.
He sat and stewed in his own bitter silence for a few minutes, vaguely wondering what he was going to do now that he didn't have a communicator. Everything seemed to irritate him, and he hated the negative nausea that it left in his gut. He knew where the bile was coming from, knew that it was his frustration of 'not knowing' that was making his nerves on edge, but it didn't take the bite away. If anything, knowing that he didn't know anything just made him hate the uselessness of logic.
He was so absorbed in his own roundabout thoughts that he didn't hear the main doors sliding open, or register that it was Robin's steel-toed boots that were making such a significant thumping on the carpet as he entered.
"Did we give clearance to all those people outside?" he asked, tossing his bag onto the floor. Garfield twisted in his seat, thrown off by his voice. "I know the Tower needs repair, but we shouldn't just invite every employee of S.T.A.R. onto the island."
"Rob," was all Gar could say. "You're back." It was a horrible case of 'stating the obvious', but seeing the guy stroll nonchalantly in was the last thing Beast Boy had been anticipating, especially after a three day absence.
"I'm back," he confirmed, although the response came with a heaviness that sounded foreboding. "And there's news, but I just need some food-." He was cut off by Garfield's hug, too surprised to do anything at first.
"Sorry," he apologized, letting Robin go. "It was either that or a punch to the face." When his leader just stared at him Gar shrugged. "You left, you didn't call, and it's kind of a hellish time right now."
"Then no need to apologize," Robin said. "I'm just glad it wasn't a punch." The two boys simultaneously started walking for the kitchen, with Robin making a beeline for the fridge. He cast a wry glance at the crane outside the window. "I don't like this. That thing is loud," he grumbled. Gar felt himself grin for the first time in days.
"You're not limping," Beast Boy pointed out, settling back at the kitchen counter. He frowned. "Actually—and don't take this the wrong way—you look great…what's up with that?"
"All healed," Robin shrugged. "Took a shot from Wonder Woman's Purple Ray*."
"That thing still works?"
"It smelled weird, to be honest." He went about setting up his coffee and fell into a sudden quiet. Garfield watched him, his forehead creasing the longer Robin went without saying a word. He started to feel nervous.
"You know I'm going to give you the third degree sooner or later."
"Because you can't just up and tattle on us to the JL without getting heat for it."
"You know that's not why I went," he sighed, his tone more tired than argumentative. "They would have learned about Raven sooner or later. Rather the truth than some fabricated story where she doesn't come out so heroic." He flipped the switch on the coffeemaker and leaned back against the counter, his arms folded across his chest and his head slightly bowed. Usually he was a master at pulling a good poker face, but now he looked like an open book whose pages had just been ripped out and shredded into confetti.
"Still," Gar said, his bitterness unwilling to let the subject go. "You could have included us in your plans. It's not like your mission was a secret." He knew there was something wrong before he had even finished his sentence. Robin's eyes flicked up and then down at the kitchen tile, blatantly nervous. Robin rarely looked nervous. "Oh crap," Gar sighed, rubbing his forehead. "You said there was news, didn't you?"
"I did," he confirmed. He opened his mouth to say more, paused, and then stopped. He turned to stare out the open window. Beast Boy cringed.
Robin rubbed at the scar on his neck and didn't answer.
The main doors opened again and Starfire came striding in, already calling for Beast Boy and asking why he wasn't answering her calls. When her eyes fell on Robin she froze, her face plainly yet calmly surprised.
"You have returned," she said quietly, which made Beast Boy feel better. Maybe genuine shock brought out the Captain Obvious in everyone. "When did you arrive?"
They didn't run for one another, as Gar had thought they would. Instead Starfire drifted over calmly and pulled him into an embrace, her head pressing gently against his. He cradled her there, an endearing gesture that Robin almost didn't seem capable of performing. Beast Boy looked away, allowing them a few moments of silent comfort. When he heard Star sigh he turned back again.
"So you have spoken to the Justice League," Starfire said, stepping back. "And you have told them what has happened here?" Robin nodded once. "What did they say?"
"They said…a lot." The sadness was back in his tone, and an underlying sense of resentment. "Too much to be told in pieces. We need to have a meeting. An all Titans meeting." Starfire and Beast Boy exchanged glances. "We need to send out a call to the other Towers for a video conference tonight."
"Bad," Gar said plainly. His friends didn't disagree.
"We're not out of the woods yet," Robin said, rubbing his eyes. He let out the most exhausted breath. "I need sleep."
"Perhaps you should rest," Starfire said, touching his cheek. "Even if it is just for an hour."
"I will, after I visit the infirmary."
"I am sure Cyborg will understand if you wait," she insisted. "He has promised to let us all know when Raven will arise." Robin looked up, frowning at her.
"Yeah, I know," he said, confused. "Why do you think I came back just now? I got a message from him last night. Raven's awake."
If Robin hadn't warned Cyborg via communicator, the cybernetic genius would have been blind-sided by an infuriated Tamaranean and one pissed off gorilla bombarding him in the infirmary. Thankfully he had been able to head the pair off in the hallway before they got anywhere near the doors, and the weariness of his posture was the only thing that stopped the two from mauling him.
"I know what you're going to say," he said, throwing up his hands as the Titans ran up, with Robin trudging silently behind. "But I can explain."
"She has been awake since last night?" Starfire demanded, her eyes still glowing from anger. "And you did not think to tell either of us at all? We have been so worried, you are aware that we have been so worried, and yet you do not speak to us for so many hours!" She went to hit him in the arm, hesitated, pulled her punch, and yet still succeeded in denting his metal shoulder. Cyborg shot her a fairly unhappy expression.
"Thanks a lot, Rob," he grumbled. The Boy Wonder just shook his head, his exhaustion getting the better of him.
"I honestly didn't know. I figured you told them."
"Why?" Garfield demanded, and the team could hear the hurt that he hid behind his gruff growl. "Why didn't you tell us the second she opened her eyes?" He looked at Cyborg with unwavering expectancy, and his best friend had the decency to look meek.
"Promise to listen before you beat me up?" The team waited with bated patience. "I called Robin because she asked for him. Her idea, not mine. I don't know why she wants to talk to him, but that's who she called for."
Garfield felt a hand on his shoulder, and instead of being angry with Robin he chose to accept the small apologetic gesture. It wasn't like he had asked to be the one Raven looked for when she reawakened. It wasn't his fault.
It wasn't his fault. It wasn't his fault. It wasn't his fault. It wasn't his fault.
"That still does not explain why you have kept this a secret from us," Starfire said, still clearly upset. "You were there to see her open her eyes. Are we not still her friends who wish to be at her side at such a moment?"
"I'm just trying to give her what she needs," Cyborg insisted, but then his breath hitched, and his shoulders slumped just the slightest bit. "I just…I'm not working off of a handbook here. There wasn't any preparation, and none of us were planning on...any of this…." He was so clearly struggling with his words, and that was when they all realized that Cyborg didn't look tired because he hadn't been sleeping, but because he had been crying. His good eye was bloodshot, there was a roughness to his voice, and the way he was standing seemed emotionally drained. Beast Boy felt his entire body turn into lead, and next to him Starfire's anger seemed to physically dissipate. She took a half step forward.
"It's not what I expected," he said quietly. Garfield had never seen his friend look so helplessly defeated. "It's almost like…. She just stares at me, like I'm nobody. Like I'm nothing to her. Do you know what that feels like? After all these years?" His words were so quiet, as if he was speaking only to himself and the others just happened to hear. Starfire bowed her head, and Garfield felt like throwing up. Robin quietly stepped forward between them.
"Can I go in?" he asked. Cy nodded.
"Just…I don't know. Be prepared," he warned. "It's jarring. More than you'd think." His leader nodded solemnly and then strode towards the infirmary doors.
"She is physically well though?" Starfire asked, her head still bowed. "She is no longer harmed in any visible way?"
"None. She's recovered enough to heal whatever I couldn't. Medically, she's perfectly fine."
Starfire nodded and drifted towards the infirmary doors, hovering just outside the entrance. Cyborg took the moment to turn his attention to Beast Boy, watching as the changeling stared blankly at the floor. "I couldn't tell Starfire without you knowing, and I didn't want you to know. Not yet, not right away. I get that you hate me right now, but damnit BB, I could barely handle it. It's the look in her eyes-,"
"How much?" Beast Boy interrupted, finally tearing his eyes from the floor. "How much was lost?" He locked eyes with his best friend and he hated the fear that he saw there.
Without another word Garfield lowered his gaze and walk away. Cyborg called after him, said that this wasn't the end, that she would get better, that they could see her once she had finished speaking with Robin and they could fix this as a team.
He didn't turn around.
He spent the next few hours patrolling the city.
After making it back into the main room he had taken one look at the open window and ran for it, throwing his sling aside as he tore through across the carpet. The construction crew freaked when he went sailing through the sky, and when he was flying away on albatross wings he let the rushing wind drown out the sound of that godforsaken crane.
He flew through the skyscrapers and rooftops of Jump City, ignoring his sore shoulder and looking for wrongs to be made right so he didn't have to think about anything else.
A mugging on 7th Street.
A kitchen fire downtown.
An actual cat stuck in an actual tree in the park. Go figure.
The pickings were scarce, but Beast Boy stopped whenever he could, even offering to help a pair of teenage boys move their broken down car from the middle of the highway. And although there was always something rewarding after helping, he couldn't seem to find the brutal fight that he had unknowingly been scouting for.
All his pent up energy eventually led him back to the industrial district, and before he knew it he was standing in front of Trigon's temple and staring at its harrowing entrance. He was walking through the black tunnels before he even realized he'd considered it, and when he was in the vaulted room with the stone hand he felt like vomiting all over again. Around him the remnants of what had happened were left behind, and when he stood in the stone palm he frowned at the melted mounds of wax that still made a somewhat recognizable circle.
He stared at the fading drawing he had scrawled into the rock, vaguely amazed that he had made something so intricate in such a short amount of time. He noticed the edge where the candle circle had been broken, and the word he had drawn there was 'Oblitus'. He didn't even know what that meant, and yet he had written it.
For some reason that thought alone, the idea that he had written something that he couldn't even understand, drove him crazy. He saw nothing but red, and in his mind he couldn't stop thinking how stupid he was and why he had never tried to be better. It wasn't until he was dry heaving on all fours did he realize he had gone on a pointless alpha male rampage, and now the stone hand that had been a ritualistic relic for years had become a massacred piece of rubble. His ape's fists were bleeding, he was drenched in sweat and covered in dust, but he still felt like destroying something.
Instead he waited until he caught his breath, swiped the grim from his eyes, and made his way back to the surface.
As he flew the wind stung his fresh wounds, and his bad shoulder was getting stiff from the constant beating. He wanted to take a break, to drop out of the sky and rest, but instead he forced himself to fly higher, faster.
Dusk was settling over the bay, and the dropping sun threw warping shadows over everything. It distorted the roof of the Tower, making it a twisting mosaic of orange light and black shapes so that when Beast Boy landed he thought he was alone.
But, of course, he wasn't.
Because Garfield lived a fairly interesting life, and how interesting would that life be if the roof had been empty?
He transformed back into himself and hesitated when he looked up. He didn't breath for a second, and then he hid his hands behind his back, hating that they looked so bloodied and menacing; so vastly inappropriate for a first meeting, even if it was for the second time.
He wished he didn't look so dirty and unkempt.
He wished his eyes weren't red from crying.
He wished this moment had come at a different time, when he could prepare himself, fix himself, make sure that if this became her first memory of him then he could make it a good one.
He swallowed hard before he spoke.
He tried to smile. It didn't work.
He took slow, calculated steps forward, towards the slender shadow that hadn't even bothered to look his way yet.
"Hey Raven," he said.
She stood along the railing, her back to him as she faced the open sea. Her hair was blowing in the salty wind, and he caught the scent of her shampoo on the breeze. She wore civilian clothes and sneakers on her feet, and the rigid posture of her shoulders didn't match the dreariness of her aura. She turned and stared at him, the look in her eyes so focused on remaining empty that she could have passed for a lifeless statue.
He felt like screaming.
"I know you," she said, her voice low and raspy. Garfield raised an eyebrow, pretended to play coy. Tried to distract from the fact that he looked like a wreck.
"Do you?" he asked, vying for nonchalance, failing in its delivery. She nodded once.
"You're Beast Boy," she said. He blinked.
"Robin told me."
She hadn't remembered. She had been reminded. It wasn't the same thing.
"You remember Robin?" Did he sound jealous? He hoped he didn't. He was afraid it would frighten her, a stranger sounding jealous.
He didn't know what he was doing, and he was scared.
"I remember Robin from the news," she said plainly. "He worked with the Batman. The Dark Knight of Gotham. I was told he knew me, so I asked for him." The information could have comforted him, but it didn't. It only begged the question of how much of her memory was lost, and it reminded him that the percentage was vast. "We talked. His voice sounded like it was familiar."
"How much did he tell you?" he asked, trying to sound calm. He moved to stand along the rail. He wanted to be closer to her, but he kept a large distance between them. She didn't move from her spot.
"Very little," she replied. "He asked me what I remembered."
"And how much is that?"
"Very little," she repeated, and he pretended to have expected that answer. When she didn't emphasize he pulled in a deep breath, leaning his body against the metal railing.
"Do you know what's going on?" he tried, even though he didn't really want to hear her reply. He just wanted to hear her voice. She took her time in finding the words she wanted to say. Gar let her.
"I know that I did this to myself," she said blandly. "I know that I have aged, that I have learned, and that what I have done could be for a good reason. I don't know what that reason is." She turned to look at him and Garfield couldn't help but flinch. She looked as if she were bored. With him. The way a person glances at a stranger on a subway. The way a clerk helps their hundredth customer at the register. There was no meaning, no feeling, no attachment. "I know that I know you." Lies. "I just don't remember." False hope.
"You do know me," he said quietly, but she had turned away and he wasn't sure that she heard him.
"Robin told me about the Teen Titans that live in this Tower. He said your name. It was familiar, too." She placed her hands gently into the pockets of her jeans. "He said that we're good friends." She stared straight ahead, the words hollow. "Are we?"
"Yeah," he sputtered, and he chuckled to hide the choking sensation in his throat. "Really good friends."
"Hm." She continued to stare at the ocean. "That is strange. Having friends," she said quietly. "It seems out of character for me." She closed her eyes. "And yet I am talking to you. To the Beast Boy."
"My name's Garfield," he heard himself say. He hadn't intended to say anything, but the words just spilled out. "You'd call me Gar for short." At first he thought she hadn't heard; she didn't acknowledge his words for almost a minute. But then she looked him in the eye and nodded.
"Garfield," she said, softly, emotionlessly. "Fits."
"Yeah," was all he could say in return.
"There is a meeting," she suddenly told him, turning to look at the door that led to the stairwell. "With everyone."
"When?" Gar asked, pacing away from the railing. Raven looked up at the sky.
"Then why are you out here?"
"I needed time. Alone."
"Sorry. I guess I ruined it for you."
She shrugged. "This is your home."
"It's yours too."
"I don't remember it." She looked around the rooftop and then pulled her hands from her pockets, staring at her open palms. "Do you know me well?" She glanced at him and he stared back at her. He knew his eyes were brimming with tears, knew that he looked like a dirty, wild animal, but she didn't seem to acknowledge any of it. So he nodded.
"I like to think so."
She looked back at her hands. "Was this right?" she asked. "Were my memories so dangerous that I had to get rid of them?" She waited for his answer, and Garfield wished she hadn't asked him.
Because what could he say that would even sound remotely convincing? How could he say yes without making her out into the villain she had grown up thinking that she'd become? How could he make her realize how utterly selfless she had been in sacrificing her years without reminding her of all the turmoil that had prompted the act? Because he knew Depravity was still in there. She had been stripped of the experiences that had made her powerful, but she was a part of Raven, a part that could still grow, could still latch onto the wrong thing and build into a fire that could consume Raven all over again. Reminding her of everything that had led to the wiping of her memories could unknowingly provoke Depravity, and that would make the entire ordeal fruitless. Like Cyborg had said, there was a plan to rehabilitate Raven, and it didn't include all the baggage of the past.
"You did this to save people," he said instead. "And that's what heroes do. They save people."
"Heroes." When she said the word it sounded dead, and he wasn't even certain if that was intentional or just a result of her raspy demeanor.
"We're heroes," he said tiredly. "Us. And you."
She didn't look convinced and he didn't blame her. Despite her stoic mask he could see that she was worried, lost in wondering why she had done something so monumental and fearing that an evil inside of her was the catalyst.
And that was when he realized that his pain and his torment and his angst and his heartbreak and all the things that were tearing him up inside were nothing. The sadness he felt was an insignificant speck in the spectrum of Raven's problems, and his need for her to remember that she cared for him—loved him—paled in comparison to all the work she had to do to rebuild her entire self.
All the confidence, all the self-awareness, all the good she had discovered about herself during her time with Titans had to be refashioned from scratch, and that was infinitely more important than…
He dropped his gaze, frowning at the painfully obvious yet still shocking realization. He couldn't be sure if he felt like an idiot or if he was just mad at both himself and Raven for some inexplicable reason.
"We should go to the meeting," she said, crossing her arms and looking back at the doorway. Garfield pulled himself out of his thoughts and swiped at his eyes, taking a millisecond to regret being so weak in light of Raven's unintentional strength. He started to reach for her, stopped, and pulled back.
"I have to clean up first," he said. She offered a simple nod as her acknowledgement and then disappeared into shadows, not even bothering with the door she had been staring at. Garfield stared at the empty rooftop for a while, thinking too many things in too little time. At one point he finally closed his eyes, cradled his torn hands, and headed for the elevator that would take him down into the Tower.
He wanted to take his time getting ready, but he knew that his absence for a majority of the day was already more than enough time to wallow. So he showered, dressed down in civilian clothes, and hurried to the conference room despite a powerful need to watch 'An Affair to Remember' in the solitude of his room. But when he got to the right floor his steps grew less forced and more confused. He could see Raven standing just outside the conference room, her face inches from the closed door and her hands shoved into the pockets of her thin hoodie. She made no motion to enter the room, and when Gar came level with her she didn't look away.
"Rae," he started to say, frowning. He wondered if she was even lucid, and reached out to poke her. She glanced at him before he could touch her, and then reached back to draw her hood over her face. "What are you-,"
"You said we were friends," she told him. He dropped his hand and his expression softened instantaneously.
"We are," he said, and he hoped she could hear the sincerity in his tone. She blinked at him.
"I need a favor."
"Don't go inside." She took a step back from the doorway. "Come with me."
"I don't know."
If Beast Boy hadn't spent so many years watching Raven then he wouldn't have been able to see the thin layer of unease that barely tinted her eyes. But he had, and he did, and he knew that its presence wasn't something to ignore.
"Okay," he said. "Let's go."
She held his gaze and her shadows crept up from below. Gar involuntarily flinched, still so unused to the chill that the darkness brought, but he held no fear in the black tendrils that stretched from beneath Raven's feet and swathed him in nothingness.
When the dizziness settled Gar found them standing on a sidewalk in the middle of the city. He looked around at the tall buildings of the downtown area, where neon signs and glowing windows illuminated the streets. A few people were strolling around the block, entering shops and restaurants and hotel lobbies. Raven stood next to him and watched a father and his daughter cross the street to their left.
"What's here?" he asked, looking down at her. She had ended up standing closer than in the Tower, and Beast Boy fought the habit to hook her shoulders with his arm or rest his chin on the top of her head. They weren't the romantic actions of a boy who loved a girl, but affectionate nuances that Garfield had always done with Raven; yet he knew they were dangerous no matter the connotation. The way her mind was now made touch into something elusive and extraordinary, which meant that it wasn't something he could easily fall back into.
"A place," she said. "That I know."
He looked down the sidewalk and sighed. There had been countless times when the team had taken a stroll downtown, hoping to unwind on a supervillian-less night. They knew almost every shop on every block, so pinpointing one that Raven had no memory of would be difficult.
And although he normally would have relished an evening with just the two of them, her current mental state and his current emotional state were not ideal for a carefree date.
He was about to say something when she started walking, and he had no choice but to follow. A few people recognized them on the street, and Gar had to politely yet quickly ward them off. Every glance of recognition made Raven go rigid, and Gar had to slip between her and a group of girls who were too excited to meet her. There were few interactions, but he could see the immediate fear on her face at each one. He wondered what she was thinking, how confused she must have been, thinking she was a faceless nobody and yet be noticed by strangers.
Maybe not confused.
She moved in determined silence, and her hood hid more and more of her face as they walked. He caught himself staring, at her messy hair spilling from beneath her hood and her sallow cheeks. Days without a proper meal showed in the way her skin clung to her collarbone, and her clothes hung awkwardly on her frail body. He wondered why stupid cliché movies always had the man loving the woman no matter how she looked, because Garfield found no love in the way Raven looked now. She was decrepit and broken, and he prayed for a time when she'd look healthy and alive again.
They had been walking for almost half an hour when Raven suddenly and abruptly stopped. It took him a few steps before he realized she wasn't going to catch up with him, and he turned back to see her standing at a shop window. He looked up and saw the familiar sign of a bistro that Raven had frequented for years; just a hole in the wall sandwich place that she preferred because of their Cream of Earl Grey tea. He frowned and went back to stand next to her, watching as she stared at an empty booth on the other side of the glass. He waited, and it took a while before she spoke.
"Here," was all she said, and then brushed past him and walked through the front door. Gar watched her through the glass, watched her ignore the head nods from the workers that she should have been familiar with just to settle down at the booth. She sat deliberately, as if her one task in the city was to be at that particular table and stare blankly at its wooden finish. Gar didn't move, wondering why coming to this place was worth blowing off an important meeting. She skimmed an open palm over the table, her hood obscuring whatever expression she was wearing on her face. She seemed mesmerized by the grains in the wood for eons before she looked up and met his eyes. He raised an eyebrow, waiting for her to do or say anything that gave an explanation. But she just stared at him until he finally gave in and entered the bistro himself.
"Were you just jonsing for a classic Rueben or something?" he tried to joke, sliding into the seat across from her. Raven ignored his words, her eyes still trained out the window. "Because if Robin or Cyborg find out I helped you sneak to a sandwich shop, then I will be in so much-,"
"This is wrong," she said, scooting further down the bench until she was right against the window. "You're on the wrong side."
"Here." She laid a hand on the empty space beside her. Her eyes never left the street. "This side."
Garfield started to say something but no words came out. He didn't move right away. He waited for her to say it again, to look at him and insist that he come sit beside her. Minutes passed, she said nothing, and Gar quietly abided her deadpan command.
He rested his elbows on the table and clasped his hands together, wondering if she could feel the heat boiling in his chest. There was very little space between them, and sitting next to her was like sitting next to a grade school crush in study hall.
"What are we doing?" he sputtered, staring at his hands. Raven touched a finger to the glass.
"Is this a memory?" she asked quietly. She finally turned and looked at him, and he swallowed the nerves in his throat. "Has this happened?"
"I don't know," he said, caught between wracking his brain and suppressing his awkwardness. "It could be. You used to come here a lot with Starfire-,"
"Uh, yeah. With me too," he added. He had no idea what she was trying to get at, or what she was trying to puzzle out, but he still felt guilty for his lack of useful information. A waitress came by and set two ceramic cups on the table. She smiled at the pair and Raven stared at her.
"I didn't order anything," she said, but Gar just held up a hand and thanked the woman. When she left he slid the cup to Raven, along with the cream and sugar that had been left as well.
"She knows you," he said. "You don't exactly change your preferences." He took a sip of his own tea as it was, letting the smooth taste wake his senses. Next to him Raven stared at the dark liquid, her thoughts as opaque as they'd ever been.
"I overheard Robin in the conference room," she said, and Beast Boy set down his cup quietly. "Talking to the others. Telling them important things." She picked up the cream and let it swirl into her tea. "Your Justice League is afraid of me."
"No," he automatically said, even if it wasn't the truth. "They're cautious about things they don't know. It's their job-,"
"They should be," she interrupted. "Afraid. It keeps people alert." She took a sip. "The spell that I cast to wipe out my memories backfired, didn't it?"
"You're proof that it didn't. It worked." Too well, in his opinion. But Raven shook her head.
"Something went wrong. The spell was only supposed to work on me. But it worked on you. And the others." She gripped her cup. "I erased your memories."
"You erased my locker combination," Gar said, leaning closer to emphasize his point. "And the password to my email account. Small things. Insignificant things. That doesn't mean it backfired."
"Not all of them were small things." She bowed her head and breathed. In and out. In, then out. "Robin lost things that were important, and it was my fault. Things that put lives in danger." Beast Boy's eyes went wide.
"It was my fault, and the League knows that. I'm dangerous. What I did was dangerous. What I could do…." She folded her hands in her lap. "They are allowing the Teen Titans six months to prove their capability of my situation. I'll follow the program I supposedly designed with Cyborg, and my rehabilitation will be tested after the six months are over." She looked up, her eyes grazing over the people around them. "If the Justice League is satisfied with the results then I will be allowed to stay with the Titans. If they are not, I will be put under the care of their Doctor Fate**. I will leave the Tower."
Gar couldn't help the look of horrified surprise on his face. "They can't do that. They can't force you into anything."
"It is my understanding that they can," she replied. "And that they will, no matter the obstacles."
If there had ever been a more hateful series of unfortunate events, then Garfield would have traded Raven's for anyone else's. He was struck with the unfairness of the situation, for the League to demand more after she had already given so much.
"But you're not a threat anymore," he exclaimed, hoping that his enthusiasm would hide the bitter taste of his white lie. "You proved that when you erased your memories." She looked at him and he wondered if she could tell, if her powers could see into his mind, at the scenes of carnage and violence that he couldn't seem to suppress.
"Proof," she repeated. "That's what they are looking for. Proof. That I am not something evil-,"
"Then these next six months should be easy." She drained her cup and held it tightly in her fingers. If anyone looked hard enough they would have seen her shaking.
"It actually will be," he said. He wasn't saying it to comfort her, or in any lame attempt at voicing a complicated philosophy about her as a person. It was just a simple truth that he simply believed, and because it was so simple it slipped from him easily. "I've known you for a long time now, and you have one defining trait that will convince the League no matter who's judging." She waited and he gestured to her entire being. "You're boring."
The unhappy wrinkle of her nose was so abrupt that he burst out laughing, gaudy enough that it drew a lot of attention from the other patrons and made Raven blush beneath her hood. She waited patiently for him to stop, and when his mirth finally dispelled she fixed him with an icy glare. "That was loud," she said. Garfield wiped tears from the corners of his eyes and gulped down his tea.
"And you were priceless," he cooed, breathing heavily. "I haven't laughed like that in ages."
"You just called me boring. It was unexpected."
"You were waiting for me to say something a little more flattering, weren't you?"
"Liar." He grinned and she huffed at her teacup.
"I am being very serious right now, and I had thought you were too."
"Who says I'm not?" he countered. "Rae, you order the same thing every time you go out. You read books like they're going out of style, and you spend more time meditating than eating or sleeping. I've known you for the last decade, and you are the most boring person I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in my entire life." He moved so that he was fully facing her, hoping his words were making it passed her perplexed stare. "All the weird stuff that you've ever had to tote around were anomalies, and you've proven that you're willing to do whatever it takes to fix them. Everything else is just dull filler, and when the Justice League sees that they'll keel over from the mundane way you drink your tea, and leave you to relax and fight crime with your vastly more interesting friends. So, you know…just be the lame you that you've always been and the next six months should be a breeze." He shrugged. She frowned.
"You are being funny," she said. It wasn't exactly a statement. It wasn't quite a question.
She blinked and turned away, looking out the window. Any other onlooker might have thought she was ignoring him, but he knew better. He could see how the tension had left her chest, how the shaking had left her fingers. He knew her mind was still weighed down, but she had never been empty of concern. He had just done his best to take the pressure of the unknown from her shoulders. She didn't know who she was anymore, so he felt it was his responsibility to remind her.
"I wonder," she said.
"What you say about me."
"That you're boring?"
"Not that. Not just that." She met his green gaze. "I used to watch people from afar. When I watched I would learn things. I started to know a lot about people." She blinked. "You know a lot about me."
"I do," he said. Her head tilted to the side.
"Were we more than friends?" she asked bluntly. Her eyes narrowed, her frown deepened. Garfield felt suffocated and anxious, and all he wanted to do was scream yes.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.
"Yes," he said, the muscles in his neck tightening.
So much more than friends.
Shoulders for crying.
Ears for listening.
Offering sympathetic smiles.
And silences that understood.
Or just a body to fill the empty space that surrounded them.
She was a girl, and he was a boy.
She was a half-demon, and he was a Beast.
She was a storm, and he was only a raft on the sea.
They were a maze-work of stories, colliding and crashing and binding and twisting.
One into the other.
"We were Titans," he said plainly. "Together. Nothing can change that, not even magic." He wanted her to see his strain, see his struggle, acknowledge his effort and pat him on the back for all his heroism.
"Titans together." She breathed the words, and they seemed to bring her some sort of resolve. "We should go back," she said, looking around the bistro. She started to slide down the bench and Gar rose to his feet, letting her slip past him and stand at his side. "I can get through this." Her words were firm, but the smallest inflection made it sound like a question. Beast Boy nodded.
"You can get through this."
"Because I am boring."
"In the best way possible." He waited and she smiled. The same, non-existent Raven smile that he loved so much.
"Thank you," she told him. He shrugged, looking around the bistro.
"Can I ask you something now?" he tried, even as her shadows started to creep up their legs and spiral around their knees.
"Why did you want to come here? With me?"
She turned her head, her eyes falling on the booth by the window and the teacups sitting on napkins. "I had thought this place was important. A memory she—I—didn't want to let go." They both stared at the window, their eyes meeting in the glass. Shadows swaddled their shoulders, and the familiar chill ran down Gar's spine. "I guess I was wrong," she said, and then her darkness encased them, wrapped them in black, held them entirely, and carried them away.
And even after everything, after the words and the actions and the twists and the turns, after the endless nights and acres of dark woods, Garfield knew that they had miles to go before they could sleep.
Miles to go before they could sleep.
To be continued in the sequel: Novo.
First chapter to be posted on September 8, 2013.
*Wonder Woman's Purple Ray: Healing ray
**Doctor Fate: a succession of sorcerers who gain their powers by wearing the Helmet of Fate, which possesses them with the spirit of the Egyptian wizard Nabu.
"Miles to go before they could sleep." – quoted from the poem "Stopping By The Woods On A Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost