"Morning, Nurse Silvia!" Beast Boy greeted cheerfully, as he always did, the second he had stepped through the doors and into the lobby.
He had been volunteering at the Old Folk's home for just under two months now, every Wednesday and Friday for four hours every week. If he couldn't make it one day for some reason or another, Beast Boy always made sure to make it up as soon as he could.
Robin made it so that every Titan had to donate a certain amount of time to help around the city. To get more involved with the community, he said, so that the citizens of Jump City would feel more comfortable with accepting them as their protectors. Beast Boy had a feeling though, that even if Robin didn't make it mandatory, there was not one Titan that wouldn't be volunteering anyway.
Cyborg coached a bunch of disabled kids with prosthetic arms and legs, allowing them to have a normal childhood so that they didn't feel like they were missing out on all the excitement of being on a Little League Baseball team. Raven and Starfire both helped out at the battered women and children's shelter, just generally being there to listen and lend a helping hand was often more than enough for some of those women to find their strength and find new lives for themselves. And Robin could be found at the Soup Kitchen, ladling generous portions of thick, brothy stews and piling up loads of other foods onto trays. All the food was, of course, donated by Wayne Enterprises.
And Beast Boy, rather than volunteering at the animal shelter like everybody expected him to, looked forward to every day he spent at the nursing home.
He loved seeing their eyes light up, and their mouths break out into brittle smiles. Many of them were alone in the world, dumped into a nursing home by their kids who were too caught up into their own lives to even visit their parents and grandparents. Others were widowers, losing their lifetime long partners to old age or disease and simply waiting for their time to come to be reunited with their loved ones.
Beast Boy did whatever he could to brighten up their days, even a little. They played board and card games, watched old movies, listened to music, and just generally talked. Many, most of them, were great people. They asked questions about him, his powers, and asked for demonstrations.
Others were not so great. They had grown bitter over the years, or held onto old-age notions that were no longer acceptable in today's society. Beast Boy was pleasant with them, too, of course. No matter what.
But he did have his favorite.
"Morning, Beast Boy," Silvia, a nurse that worked there since its beginning and was probably old enough to be a resident herself, greeted back.
"Mr. Okayama is in the rec center," she informed him, and Beast Boy nodded at her. He wished her a good day and made his way to his destination. By now he knew the layout of the nursing home as well as he knew the Tower's.
He passed by a few residents, stopping to say hi and ask how they were doing. A pair of old ladies, Charlotte and Sherry, made him promise to come back to them soon so that they could finish his knitting lesson with them. Beast Boy agreed and finally made it to the rec center.
He scanned the room, and smiled when his eyes landed on the person he was looking for. Most of the residents were watching TV or napping, but George was in his usual spot. At the table by the window, a mug of coffee in one hand and the daily paper in the other.
Quietly, so as not to disturb the others, Beast Boy walked over to the old man and sat across of him.
George, an elderly, Asian man, smiled back and set down the paper.
"You're late," he commented, a deep, gravelly voice that Beast Boy found to be very comforting.
"Yeah, sorry," he apologized sheepishly, "Control Freak felt like causing some trouble this morning. Can you believe he tried to make electric, flying darts? I got hit by like, ten of those things."
Beast Boy was met with a blank stare behind those thick rimmed glasses of his. He only blinked back at him, nothing about his expression suggesting that he was kidding.
"That's... unfortunate," George finally said, taking a sip out of his coffee.
"Yeah, it was," Beast Boy agreed, then suddenly stood a little straighter as his face was lit up with an idea.
"Hey, wanna play some more chess?"
George had been teaching him how to play the last few visits. He wasn't very good, but Beast Boy discovered that he really liked the game anyway. Besides, sometimes he managed to pull off an advantageous move every now and then.
"That sounds perfect. Why don't you set up the board."
Beast Boy nodded and did so. Twenty minutes later, they were deep into their game. Beast Boy was losing badly, having already lost his queen, defeat was not too far away.
"You're getting better," George remarked, but the changeling couldn't tell if he was being sarcastic or not because he said this as he took another one of Beast Boy's pawns.
"Still not good enough against Raven. She's a whiz at this. Her and Robin sometimes play, and she almost always beats him," Beast Boy replied absent-mindedly, pondering his next move.
George was silent for some time, watched with his old eyes as the young kid moved his knight.
"You mention her a lot, this Raven girl," the old man pointed out, making Beast Boy blush as he realized that he did. For once, he was grateful for his green skin tone as it managed to hide the sudden blood rush.
"Yeah, I guess I do," he sort of mumbled, in a faraway voice, "I mean, she's really awesome. She's strong, and smart... and really pretty." He couldn't help smiling when he thought about her.
They had been growing a lot closer lately, she able to tolerate him more and he able to understand her better. As it would turn out, once they got over their differences, they got along pretty well.
"Oh?" George asked, inwardly smiling at this display of young love. It reminded him a lot of himself, and his own first crush which later turned out to be his wife and partner of over fifty years.
"You should tell her what you think about her," he advised, countering Beast Boy's move.
"No way," the Titan almost scoffed, "she doesn't think much about me. I just annoy her more than anything."
"You can't know for sure, and you're never going to find out if you never tell her. If you don't, then you're going to regret it for the rest of your life. You'll always end up wondering about what could have been," George said, in the infinite wisdom that he has gained over the years of his long lifetime. What was the point of being old if he couldn't give out good advice to people who needed it?
Beast Boy, though, merely heaved a sigh and seemingly forgot about the game, playing with the bishop piece that he had captured from George.
"But what if she doesn't feel the same? Then it'll just be awkward and because of what we do," Beast Boy explained, referring to the whole superhero thing, "it's better if relationships are as simple as possible. And that would totally complicate things."
He ranted, absentmindedly pushing his rook without giving much thought to strategy.
George looked down and analyzed the move whilst Beast Boy was still fuming and tapping the bishop repeatedly onto the surface of the table.
"Check," the old man commented. The tapping stopped suddenly.
"Huh?" Beast Boy asked and looked down to study the board as well.
"You checked me. Life works out that way sometimes. You play the game and when you least expect it, a good thing comes out of an action that you wouldn't think twice of."
Beast Boy sat back silently and pondered over his words. The rest of the game went by without a word, in just a few more moves, George had beaten him and took his king. They went on a short walk around the facilities after the game, the conversation moving to other topics.
George told him about growing up Japanese in America, recalled being transferred to an internment camp as a very young child with his family, and everything else that came to mind.
In turn, Beast Boy told stories about some of his adventures with the Titans that haven't been made public by the media, and even about his time in the Doom Patrol. He would crack some stupid jokes that George thought were funny. They had the same lame sense of humor.
Finally, they reached a bench where George rested, his old bones tired and made weary from the short walk.
"All right, I guess I should go see the others now. I have a knitting lesson that I can't miss."
George smirked, and nodded in that dignified manner that seemed to come with old age.
"Next time," he spoke up just as Beast Boy was about to leave, "Why don't you bring your friends over. I'd very much like to meet them."
"Oh. Umm, yeah, I can probably set that up. I'll see ya next Wednesday, all right?"
They exchanged good-bye's and Beast Boy walked away, leaving George on the bench under shade with his hands folded over the top of his cane. He seemed content. Peaceful.
Beast Boy thought that Raven would like him.
The week came and went, rather uneventful for once, minus a little spat between the sky brothers that the Titans had to interfere with before Lightning burned down half the park in a fit of rage.
Finally, it was Wednesday and everyone was in the car, driving down the highway and towards the old folk's home.
"You're gonna love him," Beast Boy kept saying, he was sat in the backseat, between Starfire and Raven. Cyborg was driving and Robin had shotgun.
"He's like the smartest guy I ever met. I swear, there's this other guy there that he doesn't really get along with and they always get into these arguments. But George always has the last word, I don't think I've ever met an old guy that's so quickwitted. He could probably teach Robin a lesson in smack talk."
The others laughed at this, with the exception of Robin of course.
"You guys, my puns are not that bad. I think they're tasteful and appropriate," the Boy Wonder defended himself, smiling because he knew that his puns were in fact that bad.
"Yeah, and Raven is a ray of sunshine," Cyborg replied, the sarcasm absolutely drenching his words. A small round of laughter filled the car again. When it died down, Raven asked a question, and rather seriously too.
"... What's that supposed to mean?"
Before anyone had to answer, Cyborg pulled up the car into a parking spot in front of the nursing home. Beast Boy all but urged everyone out and tried not to rush them inside.
By now, they were pretty excited to meet this George guy already. Beast Boy brought him up every now and then during dinner and had sort of built him up. He seemed like a great guy.
They opened the door to the lobby and Beast Boy threw out his usual greeting.
"Morning, Nurse Silvia!"
The second he walked in though, he knew something was wrong. Nurse Silvia didn't greet him as she usually did. In fact, her eyes were a little puffy as if she had been crying. When she saw him, something like dread took up her expression.
"Ah, Good Morning, Beast Boy. I-I'm sorry, I meant to call you earlier and tell you. Mr. Okayama passed away last night," she explained rather miserably.
The room had suddenly turned cold and a slab of ice seemed to slide into his chest.
His smile broke. His eyes quickly smarted with tears, but they didn't fall.
The others behind him tensed, as the shock hit them and they were being slowly overwhelmed by pity for their friend. They watched cautiously, waiting to see what Beast Boy's next move would be.
"Oh," he said inaudibly, and painfully he managed to fix a tight smile onto his face. He had to smile, if he didn't, then he would cry.
"That's too bad. Did he... Was he in pain?" he asked, unsure if he wanted to hear the answer.
"No, not at all. He passed away peacefully in his sleep. He did leave you this though."
Silvia produced a small parchment of folded paper, with his name scrawled on the front of it. Beast Boy numbly reached out over the counter and took it. He played with the edges of it, daring himself to open it, but finding himself unable to do so.
"Do you mind if I come in another day, Silvia?"
"No, of course not. I know how close you were with him, take all the time you need."
Beast Boy nodded, and he could feel a large, heavy hand rest on his shoulder.
"C'mon," Cyborg mumbled and began leading him out of the building, the rest following closely behind. They got back in the car, and began driving home.
The atmosphere inside the car was solemnly quiet, as they paid respect to both George's life and Beast Boy's loss. Starfire kept glancing over at him, and whispered comforting words that he barely registered.
For the rest of the day, Beast Boy refused to leave his room. He hadn't known George for very long, and they only had a handful of hours that they spent together, but his death seemed so sudden to him.
He knew that George wasn't going to be around forever, but neither did he suspect that he would be leaving so soon.
Near nighttime, Beast Boy finally ventured outside and went to his usual spot outside the Tower. At the shoreline, on that giant boulder. In his hands, he held the note that he still hadn't read yet.
"I'm sorry for your loss," a voice said softly behind him. He already knew who it was, he had heard her footsteps a while ago.
"... Thanks," he replied hollowly, his gaze not coming off the waters. Raven walked up to him and sat directly beside him.
"He seemed like a great guy. I wish I had the chance to meet him."
Beast Boy smiled sadly and had to swallow before speaking.
"You would have liked him especially. You and him would have really gotten along."
It was quiet after that, and Beast Boy realized that he found Raven's presence comforting so they stayed like that for a while. Then, gently, Raven held his hand and intertwined her fingers around his, giving his hand a light squeeze. He looked at her in surprise, only to find that she was still staring out into the ocean and the stars.
Then he simply smiled and returned the squeeze. They stayed out there, hand in hand, for what felt like hours, and they both seemed content to stay out there all night. Eventually, a chilly fog rolled in though, and Raven commented that they should probably go inside soon. Beast Boy agreed.
As they got up, the note tumbled out of Beast Boy's lap. He picked it up and glanced over at Raven who had her back to him and levitating to the entrance. Carefully folding it open, he read it. Inside was scrawled:
Don't give up on that purple-haired girl yet.
Beast Boy almost laughed. Neatly, he refolded the paper and slid it into his pocket.
He may not have won the game yet, but he certainly was making a move in the right direction.