The engine roared as he pressed down hard on the accelerator. He had never truly been able to escape the accident. Such was impossible when your own body served as a reminder. But as the wind tickled his face, and with nothing between him and the horizon but miles of empty highway, Cyborg felt something he hadn't for a long time.
He felt alive.
Beast Boy let out a defeated squeak as yet again Cyborg's pixilated sports car crossed the finish line ahead of his. Turning he faced his friend. His eyes pleaded mercy, but there was none to be found.
Smirking Cyborg scooped up the box from the floor and held it out towards Beast Boy who bowed his head and ever so reluctantly reached in.
Holding the 3x5 index card in front of his face, Beast Boy felt his body go numb and a swell of fear grip his heart.
"No, no," he said, shaking his head frantically from side to side. "Not that. Not 'Roll out the Barrel.' Please, anything but 'Roll out the Barrel."
He attempted to flee, but it was far too late. He felt himself being lifted up into the air, placed without any effort onto his friend's massive shoulder. His continued to beg and plead, but Cyborg would not be swayed.
It was an innocent question. One late night, having caught sight of the young Tamaranean sleeping soundly on the couch, listening to her gentle sighs, admiring the look of peace adorning her face, Robin couldn't help but wonder:
What does an alien girl dream of?
There's an old saying that goes one must reach up and grab that brass ring when one sees it. It comes from the olden days of carnival attractions. Operators running the carousel would hold out brass rings to riders passing by. If you were quick enough and managed to get one you could trade it in at the end for a free prize. The saying essentially means not to pass up an opportunity as it presents itself.
Despite his fear, despite how nervous he was, Beast Boy knew he would have been a fool to let such a tempting ring pass him by.
"Raven?" he said hesitantly. "I was wondering..."
For Slade it was always about control, being ten steps ahead of his enemies, anticipating their every move and thought. It was about being able to control any given situation as well he controlled his sladebots. Each time he failed to do so, he was reminded of the first time, and the pain and misery that followed.
Panic rose in her chest as she continued to struggle. Despite her best efforts she couldn't seem to break away. Her focus was wavering, her strength was all but gone, and more and more she could feel the disgusting muck working its way up her body as she sank deeper and deeper into the thick, stinking abyss.
Above her, the traitorous Terra looked down with cold contemptuous eyes, her face sporting an arrogant smirk.
As she took her last gasping breath before going under, one final thought lingered. That as much as she blamed Terra for everything that had happened, so too did she blame herself.
"Bumble Bee. No contest."
"No way. Starfire's got it all over her."
"I'm telling you guys. Raven."
The group groaned, collective grumblings of dissent on their lips.
"She's always wearing that cloak."
"Yeah, I know, but I'm telling you, I have seen the promised land. And it is good."
"No, no wait, guys guys. Wonder Woman."
There were goofy grins and nods of agreement all around. "Ahhh, Wonder Woman," they said together.
"What are you guys talking about?"
At the sound of the distinctly feminine voice, every male in the vicinity was instantly struck silent.
He'd always react. If he could he would prevent. But no matter what, Robin would never stop fighting.
"For the last time I'm not Elvis," Robin shouted at the group of Halloween party goers. "I'm the Man in Black."
"Tommy Lee Jones?"
It always scared her, those rare situations where things were dire enough to necessitate him transforming into The Beast. He really was a sweet boy. She never wanted to see him any other way.
More so than love, it was the one thing she absolutely refused to allow herself to do. For she knew, the moment she began to truly hate another human being, that would be the moment she succumbed to her father's will completely.
The Boy Wonder looked ridiculous. He knew he did. But at least he could take simple solace in the fact that no one was around to see him.
That was until he heard a voice call to him from behind. Turning he was suddenly blinded by a brilliant flash.
As his vision cleared he found a smirking Cyborg lowering his camera.
"That's a keeper," he said.
"It's just a little cough. Quit being a baby and get over it."
The words were said with little thought or foresight. And now, sitting there in the med bay, watching the young changeling, one of her best friends, fighting for his life, Raven never felt more disgusted with herself.
What was surprising was not how often they fought after finally getting together, but how much time they spent making up afterwards.
The answer was so simple. How had he not thought of it sooner?
"The ties that bind are not as strong as you believe, Titans. They can be broken. And then none of you will have any chance at stopping me."
She walked into the common room the picture of elegance and beauty. Her shapely legs emerging from out the bottom of a light and form fitting blue dress, her face flush with frustration and embarrassment.
"Woah Raven," Beast Boy said with a bewildered smile.
"Beast Boy, I swear if you utter so much as one syllable I am gonna-"
"You look amazing."
"...uh... beg your pardon?"
It was his own little secret, his own little slice of solitude. Whenever things got too hectic at the tower, or when he just wasn't feeling his best, he would come here, to this small section of forest. There was no goal, no destination, nothing to be won. Only him and the wild.
With a deep calming breath, he picked a direction and began to walk.
The waitress was terrified.
"Sir, you can't," she squealed. "No one's ever so much as finished one bite of our mondo-super-ultra-supreme triple bacon burger with four kinds of cheese. You'll never be able to handle it."
Cyborg smirked and raised the dripping bloated sandwich to his lips.
"Well how would you like it if you were minding your own business, about to sink your teeth into a waffle, and out of nowhere some big goon wearing a stupid hat pulled a hook through your lip?"
"Beast Boy, I swear, if you don't shut up and let me enjoy myself you are not going to like where this fishing pole ends up."
Beast Boy's eyes darted back in forth in utter confusion as Control Freak giggled in delight.
"The Control Freak, his television remote has caused Beast Boy to freeze in place," said Starfire.
Raven studied the motionless changeling. She smirked and said, "I think I like him better this way."
Beast Boy could only do his best to give the girl a death glare.
The moment her arm first ensnared his, he felt himself ready to lose it.
From the other side of the room, Beast Boy folded his arms and narrowed his eyes. This fresh faced young punk, this First Circle Wizard (Whatever the hell that means) from across the 12th dimension, this long haired pretty boy, what could she possibly see in him?
The way Robin saw it, he was the captain and Jump City his ship. With his last breath he would either protect her or he would go down with her.
Ever since his resurrection and subsequent disappearance the thought had always been in the back of their collective mind. Now as they stared at the broken remains of the sladebot laying on their shore they knew it could mean only one thing.
"I never tossed him out any window!"
The flock of reporters jumped at the sudden outburst, backed away slightly from the now red eyed empath.
Raven cleared her throat, gathered her composure and said, "Just wanted to make that clear."
Everyone was family, everyone was a friend. There were no such things as loners or outcasts. Love, friendship, togetherness: these things were held in the highest regard. The Tamaraneans had fought too long and too hard, had never retreated even from their most fearsome enemies. Why then should they retreat from one another?
"No they do not. And I am still puzzled as to why the males of your species do. Do they serve some practical purpose I am not aware of?"
"Uh... not that I know of."
Too embarrassed to continue, Robin quickly elected to change topics.
"No," replied Raven flatly.
"What? Oh come on you didn't even look," said Beast Boy. "Here," he said. He pushed the sun glasses back up his nose, folded his arms. He faced off right to center, did his best to look aloof like so many coverguy fashion models. "Okay, what about now?"
"No," replied Raven.
"I don't look cooler to you."
Robin groaned as yet again his bright red ball rolled awkwardly into the narrow ravine and disappeared from sight at the end of the lane. Cyborg and Beast Boy broke out into gasping fits of uncontrollable laughter. At long last, they thought, at long last they had finally found something that the "Great Robin" couldn't do.
His large metal feet clopped loudly, made a low and lonely sound against the hard linoleum floor. He was alone now, truly alone. The only occupant in the overly spacious tower. A single man in a country devoid of citizens.
Raven often wondered how such a small, inconsequential feature could yield so much frustration and yet so much intrigue.
"Now, now Raven, I know what you're thinking. But I swear I can fix this."
The violet haired woman's eyes turned a deep and terrible red at the unfathomable mess before her and all at once the tower shook as she let out the most terrifying and gut wrenching scream.
It was fire and death and misery that filled her eyes as she stared uselessly at the city below. The most horrifying images man could conjure could not compare with what she saw that day. Worst of all, there was nothing she could do to stop it.
"It's a promise."
"Yeah. A ring is like a small circle,right? And circles go on forever. There's never an end to it, right? Well that's like my feelings for you. This ring says that I love you. And that I'll always love you. Forever. And that nothing will ever change that. This ring promises that as long as you wear it you'll always have someone who loves and respects you and will always be there for you. And...uh...I guess...I guess that's what it says I think."
Tears brimming in her eyes she embraced him. Robin's words may have been clumsy and rambling, but such was of little consequence to Starfire. It was always how she knew he was being genuine.
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
It was a popular saying on Earth and one that Raven could never truly believe. Good intentions? Somehow she doubted the path she walked on was the result of anything good.
Running on the treadmill he did his best to keep his eyes straight ahead, on his mileage counter; did his best to stop stealing glances at the woman on the belt beside him, the glistening grey beauty with the gently bobbing violet pony tail.
How surprised he would have been to discover how hard she was trying to ignore the sweating, shirtless green man as well.
"Someone has to tell him."
"It's gotten way out of control. It's like he's not even himself anymore."
"I believe we must be gentle though. We should not wish to hurt his feelings."
The common room door swished open and the now nine foot tall metal behemoth bowed and squeezed his way in, slightly banging the door frame as he did. His numerous attachments, the laser canons and sound blasters, all the bells and whistles and ricketa racketa he'd soldered and snapped and screwed onto his person over the past several weeks caught and bumped and smacked against everything even remotely near him as he made his way to the kitchen.
"Hey guys," said the barely recognizable Cyborg. "What's up?"
"So there I was, surrounded. Fifteen, no twenty-"
"More like five."
"-of the roughest toughest hombres ever to pick up a laser rifle this side of Jump City. A bunch of them came at me, but I was too fast for them. I stared them down and sent those cowards running with one flash of my fangs."
"The rest were a bit more on the gutsy side. They were looking for a fight, and things were about to get dangerous. But, hey, danger's my middle name."
"I thought "Mark" was your middle name."
"They attacked. I snapped into action. Woo wah, hi yah. A bear here, a tiger there. Bang pow, the goons never stood a chance."
"Don't forget the part where you tripped over your shoelaces and fell on your face."
At that there came a chorus of high-pitched laughter. Cheeks burning with embarrassment Beast Boy watched as the group of young ladies turned and walked away, leaving him in the dust. Turning, the changeling leveled a long and bitter gaze at the still reading Raven.
"I never tripped over my shoelaces," said Beast Boy.
"I know," said Raven
"So why'd you tell them I did?"
"If you're gonna make stuff up, then so will I."
He looked so miserable. Not that she could see his face, but the way he sat, the way his neck disappeared into his shoulders, it told her enough about how he was feeling. He needed her. He needed somebody, but most especially her. And though he could still annoy her, she could never turn her back on him.
It was a nightmare she had from time to time. The hole was deep and she was without her powers. She didn't even possess the strength to sit up, to even scream as the dirt began pouring over her body. She'd always wake up screaming and Robin would need to do his best to comfort her, to assure her that she was free, that no one would trap her again.
"I'm a coward."
The green boy looked down sadly, his own words stinging him far worse than any sarcastic barb from her ever could.
"Beast Boy, you're not a coward."
"I'm always getting scared. There have been so many times when we're out there, all I want to do is just go home. I just wanna run away."
"Then why don't you?"
"Because you guys count on me. I can't just leave you alone out there because I'm scared."
"Beast Boy, do you know who Ambrose Redmoon is?"
"Didn't think so, but you should hear this anyway. A lot has been written on the subject of courage and fear. Old Ambrose once said that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear. And if that's the case then I'd say you were pretty courageous."
The boy raised his head and his eyes brightened.
"Really? Wow, thanks Rave."
Raven nodded before adding, "Just don't let it go to your head."
"Then I saw her face-"
"Now I'm a believer."
"Not a trace-"
"Beast Boy, I'm serious."
"Of doubt in my mind."
"I'm in love. Oooooh. Now I'm believer, I couldn't leave her-"
"Maybe not but if you don't stop singing that song I'm out of here."
The green teen's eyes were full of tears. He dropped to his knees and cried out in the most pained and anguished of voices, "This is the worst thing to ever happen in the history of forever."
Watching her boyfriend's pathetic display, Raven rolled her eyes.
"Oh for Azar's sake, it's just a TV show."
Young Justice, this new group of young heroes. Watching their exploits on the morning news always brought a small smile to Nightwing's face and a warm sadness to his heart.
No one can really be sure what the future holds. It is a long walk across a seemingly never-ending plain. None of us can ever be certain we will find the edge, but seeing it through as far as we can before our ultimate fall, before we lay down and leave others to carry on in our wake, is the goal of each and every one of us. It is a journey we must all take, but one that need not be taken alone.
Palming the small velvet box, Garfield Logan gathered his courage. "Raven..?" he said.
Raven gasped as his hands traveled up and down her slender body.
"You locked the door, right?" she said between kisses.
"Yeah," hushed Beast Boy in return, kissing the crook of her neck and grabbing her backside.
"You locked the door, right?" said Raven again, running her fingers vigorously through his hair, not entirely convinced but still not willing to stop.
"I locked the door," said Beast Boy planting another hard, forceful kiss on her quivering lips.
There was a beep and an audible whooshing sound and suddenly Cyborg was standing in the doorway.
"What the f-?"
Learning he wasn't infallible was not easy, but things were made better when he realized that, so long as he was with his friends, he didn't need to be.
"Rave, I'm not so sure about this anymore," said Beast Boy, weakly rattling the restraints against the headboard.
Raven stepped out from behind the divider. Clad in a black and blue corset and thigh high boots she cracked a riding crop against her gloved hand and smiled a most malevolent smile.
"Trust me, Beast Boy," she said. "This is going to be a night you'll never forget."
Beast Boy, enamored with her scandalous outfit could only nod dumbly as she slowly made her way over to where he still lay chained to the bed.
She placed a gentle kiss on his forehead and said, "Your safe word is chakra."
"I love you."
She had him in her sights. With a simple wave of her hand she could have disassembled him. His metallic body was strong and powerful, damn near impervious, but it was no match for the reality bending will of her hex blasts. She could have put an end to him; it would have been easy. So why then was she finding it so bloody difficult?
There they were, crouched and squatted, the four of them behind the common room sofa, watching, waiting. Then they saw him enter, long green hair, shaggy and unkempt, hanging long and stringy in his eyes; ugly, patchy beard hugging his face; long bushy sideburns concealing his ears.
Robin shouted, "Attack," and the four leapt from their hiding place. They charged the bewildered teenager with scissors and combs and shavers. He screamed, tried to run, but it was too late. At long last they had him right where they wanted him.
Raven handed Robin an electric razor as Cyborg held the green teen down. "Trust us, Beast Boy," said Robin. "This is for your own good."
"No, Star, the guy's name is Who."
"That is what I am wondering. Who is this man on first base?"
"That is his name."
"His name is That?"
"No, his name is Who."
"How am I to know? I have never seen this before."
"I'm trying to tell you. Who is the name of the guy on first."
"I do not know the name of the man on first, Robin. It is why I am asking."
Robin groaned. "It's a joke, Star." He pointed to the TV screen where the old vaudevillian routine was still unfolding. "It's baseball. See the tall guys is trying to tell the short guy that the name of the first baseman is Who. Who is his real name, okay? But the short guy's not getting it, so he keeps asking and the tall guy keeps telling him. You see?"
"I think so," answered Starfire after a moment. "So then who is the man on second?"
"No, What is the man on second."
"I don't know."
"He's on third."
"Some first date this turned out to be."
To say that Beast Boy felt terrible would have been an understatement. After months and months of working up the nerve he had at long last nutted up and asked Raven out on a date to which she remarkably agreed. He'd had everything planned out: dinner at a five star restaurant, followed by dancing and a moonlit stroll in the park. He'd even rented a limousine. First rate, classy, that was how he wanted it to be. Raven deserved no less.
Needless to say things did not turn out as planned.
With another defeated sigh he pulled the scorched and tattered remains of his rented tux from his shoulders and tossed them to the ground.
"It was supposed to be perfect," he whispered. The cool ocean breezed drowned his words.
"There you are."
Turning, he suddenly found Raven approaching him. Her dress, the torn and grunge covered number, fluttered in the breeze as her once neat and styled hair did the same.
"Raven, wha-what are you doing here?" said Beast Boy.
She took a seat on the rock beside him. "You never said goodnight. By my understanding that's kind of an important part for any date."
Beast Boy scoffed. "What date? Tonight was a complete disaster."
"Yeah, you're right."
Beast Boy's heart sank.
"But at least the ride over was nice."
Beast Boy smirked and nodded, said, "Yeah."
"Here," said Raven and from her mud stained purse she produced two slightly crushed dinner rolls. She handed one to Beast Boy. "It was all I managed to save from our meals."
Beast Boy smiled weakly, accepted the offering. He bit into the piece of bread. "Still pretty good," he said.
As they ate, Beast Boy was somewhat surprised to find Raven suddenly loop her arm in his, slide closer to him so that their hips and shoulders touched. Once finished she rested her head gently on his shoulder.
"All things considered, I had a really great time tonight," she said with a small sigh. "Thank you."
Beast Boy smiled, rested his cheek against the top of her head. "Anytime, Rave," he said. "Anytime."