Two Years, Nine Months and Four Days
Africa, eighteen months beforehand
Beast Boy sighed as he felt the plane land. After his argument with Robin, he'd just flown to the west, trying to fly away from the hurt and the pain. How could Robin think that of him?
Alpha weak... Pack needs new Alpha. Challenge...
He looked and was horrified to see that claws had extended from his fingers and dug into the luggage that he'd been napping on. After Raven had... disappeared, the Beast had been getting more and more vocal, and the last three months had been the worse. In between the Beast and Robin, he was mentally and emotionally drained nearly all the time.
Beast Boy had decided that the only course of action was to head back to Africa. There, just maybe, he could learn how to tame the Beast inside of him and maybe even deal with Raven's vanishing. He bit down a quick curse as the cargo bay doors suddenly unlocked. Shifting into a mouse, the emerald rodent quietly slipped into a nearby cardboard box and waited for the men to unload it.
He could faintly hear the men talking, and the language was familiar, if distorted. After a few minutes of listening, he could recognise the language as Swahili, a language that he'd learnt in his childhood. He continued to listen as they unloaded the rest of the plane until they finally arrived at his box – he'd mostly remembered the language and while he was by no means fluent, he could remember enough to get by on.
The men handling the cargo, Beast Boy discovered, were talking about one of their great loves. Women. He waited until they were off the tarmac and into the hanger before he scurried out and hid behind a work bench. He managed to hold on until the workers left before he shifted back to human and cried.
Raven... what happened to you? I know that you're not dead... I just know it in my heart. Dammit Rae, I love you.
Beast Boy abruptly sat up and wiped away his tears. I... I love her? I know that I've got a thing for her, but do I really love her?
- - - oOo - - -
"So wait, why were you crying?" Raven held her hand up, pausing his retelling.
"I was... sad that I'd miss the release of Monkey Ninjas VII: Assault on Banana Temple. Yeah, that's it."
Raven looked at him. "I'm an empath, Bea-Changeling. That means that I can tell when you're actively trying to deceive me." He just continued grinning that same smirk, the one that she'd learnt over the years to mean that he was hiding something.
"You know, I don't mind if you call me Beast Boy. Or you can call me Garfield. That's my name, you know. Mind if I finish now?"
- - - oOo - - -
Three days later...
Beast Boy flew over the African jungle in the body of an Egyptian Eagle. He'd always found the body comfortable – it had been one of the first forms that he'd ever taken, at his mother's request. He caught a thermal and felt his spirit soar with him as he flew along a river's path. He had seen the river nearly a day ago and had recognized it instantly. The Mkata River eventually ran right beside a village called Upper Lamumba. Beast Boy allowed his thoughts to drift as he followed the thin ribbon of blue far below...
Although he had been born in the United States, he had always considered Africa his homeland. His earliest memories were of running through the village with the other boys, and the fuzzy figure of his father reading to him at night. Of King Tawaba and the other villagers.
He landed in the village to find it relatively untouched by time. After talking to the new king for an hour or so, he was told to see the shaman.
"So old Akada is still alive? He was old when I was still here."
"He is, Green One. He said that he had a vision of you returning two months ago, and that you were to see him as soon as you got here."
How could he have possibly known that I was going to come here? I didn't know that I was coming here until a few days ago.
- - - oOo - - -
Beast Boy walked into the grove. It, much like the village, had remained untouched by the hand of time. There was a bend of the river on the far edge, and a hut propped against a large black stinkwood. He slowly walked farther into the glade, slowly rotating and observing the entire area.
"Boy! Come here!"
He turned to see an old, wizened man hobble out from the darkness of the hut. The skull of a lion decorated his skull and its mane and hide descended down his neck and back. He leaned heavily on a dark wooden staff, and beckoned the changeling with his free hand.
"Master Akada, it is a surprise to see you still with us."
"The spirits haven't taken me yet, boy. They've set me out a task for you before I go and join them. You, changeling, must go on a vision quest."
"Did you forget everything that I taught you, pup?"
"...It has been more than a decade since I saw you last, you know."
Beast Boy cringed as the old man swept his cane through the air, narrowly missing his head. "Pah! Time is in the eye of the beholder! You must visit the sacred lodge of your spiritual ancestors and mediate on their demands. Now, go! The sooner you go, the sooner the spirits will let these old bones sleep."
Beast Boy found himself shoved out of the grove by the old man. When he turned to protest, the cane smacked him on top of his head.
"I said go!" As the man hobbled away, the green changeling could have sworn that he heard him muttering something about bananas. As he started back into the woods, he stopped and groaned.
"What the heck did he mean by spiritual ancestors?"
- - - oOo - - -
The hot air blew across the sun soaked savannah. Beast Boy had flown the dozen kilometres necessary to clear the jungle and find open land. Akada had mentioned a vision quest, and from what he could remember of those long-ago teachings, he remembered one vital thing: you had to follow your heart. Ignore your mind, because it was cluttered with human thoughts and distractions. Only the purity of your heart, your animal instincts, could lead you.
He knew that going to... that waterfall wouldn't help him, because the old shaman had specifically mentioned his spiritual ancestors. He figured that that meant not his actual parents.
Okay, so this is some sort of spiritual mumbo jumbo. What would Raven do? Spiritual has something to do with the spirit of the thing, so who could my spiritual ancestors be?
Without realising it, Beast Boy had started humming a familiar song. It was a song from a Disney movie that he'd seen with Star not long after they formed the team. One of the character's words floated unheeded from his mouth.
"When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life."
He slapped himself on the forehead. "Of course! That's it! I've got to think less literally! What would Qui Gon Kenobi from Clash of the Planets say? Probably something like... 'We are not only the descendants of those whose blood came before us, but whose ideals we follow'. Pffft. How does that help?" He hesitated a minute before taking off to the air again. Let's see... the nearest town with a phone is only a few dozen miles north east of here. I know someone who can help...
- - - oOo - - -
Larry groaned as he lifted his head from the counter. Insomnia was an old friend of his, but that didn't mean that he had to like it. He grimaced as he saw the coffee soaking into his bandaged hands. Ever since the accident, he been forced to... live like this. It was rare that he actually considered his continued existence truly living – after all, what defined life? He had no need for food, nor air, though he could eat.
Worse yet, his soul, so to speak, could literally fly free from his body. He'd begun to feel better about that after meeting Beast Boy's friend from the Titans, Raven. They'd shared more than one conversation over the many months that they'd known each other before she'd vanished talking about their soul selves.
His attention was torn away from his private musings by the ringing of the telephone. He instantly went to the communication station and automatically started the tracing program before he realised that the phone was still ringing.
Not the comm system – the telephone. The number that very, very few people knew, let alone knew even existed. Fumbling with the controls, a hidden panel on the wall slid back and revealed the phone.
"Larry." He heard a note of satisfaction in the caller's strangely familiar voice.
"Kid? Is that you?"
"Good to see that you can still recognise my voice. Anyone else around?"
"Beast Boy, don't you know that it's five in the morning? I know that it's 'only' two in the morning over there on the west coast, but it's god-awful early."
"...I'm not in the US anymore, Larry. I left the Titans."
"What! Hold on, let me wake the Patrol."
"No, you really don't need to-" The emerald teen's voice was cut off by the klaxon of the Patrol's alarm. "...Never mind, Larry."
"Negative Man! Report!" Mento yelled as he hurried into the main room, taking his helmet out from under his arm and securing it in place. "What's the situation?"
"Steve, calm down." Rita laid a hand on her husband's arm. She was dressed considerably more cavalier, only in a dressing gown and robe. Cliff trundled in a heartbeat after, quirking a metallic eyebrow at the dead main screen.
"Guys, it's Beast Boy."
"Oh." Mento deflated, mentally stepping down from the role of leader and trying to step into his reluctant role as step-father.
"What's happened to Garfield?" Rita, on the other hand, instantly became more tense as her hands gripped Mento's arm.
"He's left the Titans."
"What? No way the little guy would ditch his buddies like that!" Cliff slammed his fists down on the table, denting the reinforced surface with little effort. "Tell me that you're joking."
Larry laid a sympathetic hand on Cliff's shoulder. The big man had always had a fondness for the kid bordering on near-paternal. "He's still on the line, Cliff. Tossing him on the speakers... now."
"Oh yeah, he called the land line, Mento. Forgot to mention that."
"I left my Doom Patrol communicator in the Tower before I left, Mento. Couldn't risk the Titans tracking me."
"Couldn't... boy, what on earth have you gotten yourself into?"
"Look, can we not talk about this now? I needed help with a problem, but now I'm thinking that I called the wrong people."
"No, we cannot talk about this later. What on earth compelled you to leave the Titans? I'd offer you a spot here, but how do I know that you wouldn't abandon us again?"
"Steve, enough! Can't you see that he's hurting?"
"Look, Rita, thanks but it was a bad idea to call. I'll be in touch, okay? Love you guys."
The Patrol stared in horror at the suddenly dead phone. Mento picked up the same thoughts from every member; What the hell was that?
- - - oOo - - -
Beast Boy sighed as he hung up the simple phone in the police station. "Asante, afia" he nodded to the officer on duty, a young looking man. The man held out the titanium belt that he'd demanded in trust in exchange for using the phone. Beast Boy grabbed it from the man and quickly belted it on as he saw the man try and surreptitiously wipe his hands on his pants. With a low growl that startled the officer, he stormed out of the station and took a half dozen steps before launching himself into the air and shifting into a eagle, flying away into the sky as random citizens made the sign of the cross on their chests.
Ignore them, Gar. You know as well as anyone that people fear what they don't understand. It's not the first time that you've dealt with it, and you know that it's not going to be the last. Just... fly away, and leave your concerns on the ground.
Beast Boy never let slip to the other Titan boys how bad he felt for them, not being able to experience flight. With a mighty cry, he folded his wings and saw the earth rushing up to meet him. A heartbeat before impact, he shifted into a hummingbird, relishing in the split second of agony that accompanied every shift. Hovering barely a foot above the earth, he dropped in his natural form and began to run in the savannah.
Alright, the Doom Patrol was no help. I should have known that Mento would go mental about me leaving the Titans... heh, mental Mento. Focus. So, if they can't help you, and you can't turn to the Titans for help, who can you turn to?
As he reached a stream, he seamlessly shifted into cuckoo form as he cleared the river, assuming the form of an antelope as he touched back to ground.
Wait, cuckoo, that's it! He stopped abruptly, shifted back to human then slammed his palm into his forehead. "Of course that's what he was going on about! They might not be my parents, but who, or, rather, what are the parents of all the animals inside me?" He laughed as he spun around in a circle before falling to the ground. "Mother Earth. All animals evolved on you, from the lowliest toad to the mighty T. Rex. So where would your 'heart' be? I can't go to the centre of the earth, obviously, so I have to think less literally. Akada said something about the Heart of Africa, years ago. What did he say?"
Remember boy, though she is a continent, our mother Africa is as alive as you or I. The rivers; her blood, the mountains; her bones, and the savannah her soul. But her heart boy... her heart is Lake Victoria.
"Lake Victoria! That's it! I've got to go there. Fastest way would be catching a shuttle bus, but I don't exactly have any of the local cash... or any money, for that matter. Guess we're going for another green-tinted discount." He shifted into a sparrow and flew back towards the town that he'd just departed, heading for the bus depot.
- - - oOo - - -
Nearly ten hours later, a green snake uncoiled itself from its resting place in the spare tire. Ignoring the startled shrieks, he slithered away into the nearby ditch before shifting into a green hawk again and flying out of the ditch and towards the lake.
Even at this distance, the lake was stunning. Subconsciously partitioning off the flight centre of his brain, he just took in the beauty of the clear blue waves. Rae would have loved this... Shaking off the thought, he felt himself... pulled towards the western shore. As he approached, his superior avian eyes spotted an odd discoloration in one of the cliff faces, the one that he was drawn to. Following the odd pull, he flew down to it before shifting to a gecko and climbing over the sheer surface towards it.
No-one was more surprised than Beast Boy when his foot sank straight through the discoloration. Curious, he popped his head through the illusion. Finding himself in a small cavern, he shifted back to human form and took stock of his situation.
"Alright Beast Boy, let's see; you've left the Titans, returned home to Africa, gone on a crazy vision quest-thingy that lead you to a creepy secret cave in a cliff face. What's the worst that could possibly happen?"
As he'd been ranting, a soft greenish glow had been creeping up the walls from the ground, forming abstract pictographs of various animals from around the world, both prehistoric and current. He finally noticed the tracings as they came to a head directly in front of him, quickly tracing out a humanoid figure.
"Uh oh... that's me, isn't it?"
The eyes of the drawing suddenly opened, flashing a pure green light. As Beast Boy blinked the glare from his eyes, he noticed the pictographs beginning to move in a slow circle around him.
"Yup, definitely big trouble now. Way to go, Beast Boy."
The pictures started moving faster and faster, until they became a blur, then a solid cylinder of green surrounding him. Then a vaguely human-shaped... thing emerged from the wall. Lacking features of any sort, its form was only defined by a series of pictographs molded around its shape.
-Garfield Mark Logan... Welcome to the Heart.-
- - - oOo - - -
A/N: Welp, nothing can be said of this. At least it wasn't as long as the title, eh? My interest in the TT world has been rekindled, so dammit I'm going to finish this story.
For the curious, I imagine Akada sounding near IDENTICAL to Rafiki from the Lion King. It makes the entire thing much more amusing, I find. I've always imagined Beast Boy as having a pretty good relationship with the Doom Patrol (well, Mento is sketchy). It might also be because of Jack Mirembe, but I'm not sure.