AN: Wow, it's been a while since I've written much of anything. I have lots of pieces in the works, including another multi-chapter piece that's about 80% complete, but they need some fresh eyes. Any beta readers who are willing to be brutally honest with me, I'd appreciate your help in polishing them.
Disclaimer: I don't own Teen Titans, and I don't make any money off of them. The people who do make money off of me.
Secrets and Self-Medicating
"Rule number three: the fact that Raven is capable of healing your every headache and hangnail does not mean that Raven has a desire or obligation to do so." The empath's grumbling was barely audible even to her own ears, so she was not particularly worried about being overheard as she stalked down the hall to her room.
The Tower's resident magic user understood the team's need to function at peak condition, and a sprain or fracture would certainly interfere with a superhero's performance. Nonetheless, Cyborg's constant requests for help with phantom limb pain after every fight were growing tiresome.
The half-mechanical teen was still growing accustomed to his modifications, and prolonged strenuous use of his new limbs seemed to aggravate the psychosomatic response. Following the Titans' recent introduction to the Hive Five and the revelation of Raven's previously hidden talent, Cyborg now came to her for help dealing with the pain.
If it were a mere matter of energy expenditure, she would have had little issue, but the nature of her healing was more taxing than her teammates apparently understood.
Every healing, from a mosquito bite to an otherwise mortal wound, compressed the discomfort of the natural process into the space of mere seconds. If this burden were borne by the wounded party, the ordeal would be far easier for Raven, and she suspected she would have fewer requests for her "services". As luck (or Trigon) would have it, however, she took the full concentration on herself. She couldn't help but wonder if this was her father's not-so-subtle way of telling her that caring for others would only bring her pain.
Hence, Raven felt it would be prudent to find an opportunity in the near future to explain the cost of her power's use to her partners.
As she retreated to her room to decide when best to make such an announcement, though, she was stopped short by a cloud of self-loathing and reproach unlike anything she had felt in the Tower. Automatically suspecting Robin, she set off for their leader's quarters, only to find the feeling dissipating. As she backtracked down the hall, she found the feeling was strongest outside the door of her youngest teammate. Eschewing decorum for the moment, Raven pressed an ear to Beast Boy's door.
"Stupid, stupid! You get hurt, you fall behind." A gravelly voice was muttering in rasping, gasping fits. "Not gonna... be there for your teammates when... they... need." The last word was forced through gritted teeth, followed by panting. "Just... a little... more..." the boy said after nearly a minute of trying to bring his breathing back under control.
Raven rapped on the door. "Beast Boy, open up."
A spike of fear plowed into her, and a loud groan came from the other side of the door before it was abruptly muted. After a moment of shuffling sounds, a panicked, "Just a sec!" came through the closed door.
It took far longer than "a sec" before the door opened to show a wild-eyed Beast Boy with his hands behind his back. "H-hey there, Raven. What brings you to my room?"
The empath stared her teammate straight in the eye, watching as he all but cowered beneath her gaze. "I want to know what's going on in here."
"Going on?" The green boy's voice cracked. "Uh, nothing! Nothing at all is going on, why would you think something was, uh, going on here?"
Frowning, Raven gave her temple two pointed taps.
"Oh. Um, well, whatever it is, it must be, uh, down a floor or something. Everything's perfectly all right now. I'm fine. I'm just fine here now, thank you. How are you?" The waves of panic rolling off of her teammate would have been palpable even without the slightest hint of empathy.
"Beast Boy, you're the worst liar I've ever met, so stop trying. Tell me what's going on, now." Raising a finger, she jabbed it into his sternum with the last word.
While she had expected any number of reactions to the prodding finger, the shapeshifter's cry of pain had not been among them.
"Ahhnnnnng! Ha, ha, haha..." He blinked back tears as he tried unsuccessfully to fake laughter. "Sorry, I'm, uh, ticklish. Very ticklish." Moving away from her with slow steps, never turning his back, he took a seat on his lower bunk bed, on the verge of hyperventilating.
The trail of white fabric running from the floor to a spot beneath his uniform top escaped his notice, but not hers.
Picking up the roll of gauze from where it had dropped at her feet, Raven pinned him to the spot with an icy glare. "Explain."
With a weak, watery smile, the boy began scrambling for lies again. "Uh, I have a little cut on my side and the bandage wouldn't stay on and so I started wrapping myself up and y'know how when you start wrapping up with gauze it's hard to stop cause you feel like a mummy and—"
Raven strode to the bed and yanked her teammate's shirt up.
Beast Boy fell backward, letting out a scream that died to a choked gurgle. Eyes rolling wildly, he clutched at his bedsheets as his torso was wracked with spasms. Gauze, tightly wrapped, ran all the way from just above his sternum to below his navel. It was obviously applied by someone with extensive experience.
"This is not a cut, Beast Boy," the purple-haired girl said. Summoning a tendril of black energy, she lifted the bandage up from his skin and sliced it away.
A vast sea of purple in varying shades ran all the way along his right side, punctuated by strips of white tape.
Raven gasped. "Beast Boy, these ribs are broken. Why didn't you come to me?"
The green boy was babbling incoherently, sweat streaming down his forehead to mingle with the tears on his cheeks. "Be fine, jus'... bandage it up... ready t' go... won't let you down."
Erecting a quick mental block to ward off at least some of the pain, Raven brought her powers to bear on the injury. She gritted her teeth as agony flowed into her arms; it was all she could do to maintain sufficient presence of mind to fuse the bones back together properly.
Interminable seconds passed like hours, but eventually even the bruising faded from her teammate's side.
The green boy's sigh of relief, coupled with the surge of overwhelming gratitude that came with it, was more than a sufficient reward for the pain she had endured. Worry and self-doubt soon wriggled in to replace the pleasant feelings, though, and Raven had to suppress a scowl.
"Why didn't you ask me to heal these?" she demanded.
"You were healing Cyborg," he replied, shrugging from his supine position. "Didn't want you to get tired out." His emotions screamed at her: I didn't deserve it.
"Cyborg," Raven said, taking her time with each syllable so as not to destroy something, "Had pain in limbs that don't exist anymore, and can't cause him any harm. Not cracked ribs that could easily puncture an organ if they broke by another centimeter."
Another shrug. "He's not used to superhero stuff yet... I am."
"I noticed." She nodded at the wad of gauze. "Where did you learn to bandage yourself up like that?"
His face clouded over. "My old gig." He looked at her face, but couldn't quite make eye contact. "Look, I appreciate the help a whole lot, but I'd rather not talk about this. Can I just maybe... be alone? Please?"
Nodding, Raven stood to leave. If she understood anything, it was the occasional need for privacy. As she walked toward the door, she nudged aside a pile of dirty clothes with a foot to clear her path.
The box hidden beneath the pile made her stop dead in her tracks.
It was an old tackle box filled with gauze, rubber gloves, medical shears, a pair of hemostats... as Raven took inventory, she noted that the majority of the equipment was more at home in the infirmary than a teenage boy's bedroom. Most people's personal first aid kits didn't include a syringe and a bottle of morphine... or a tourniquet.
She turned back to the now-seated Beast Boy, who gave her a pitiful attempt at a grin.
"Don't suppose you'd forget you saw that?"
Striding back to tower over the green boy, she grabbed his head in her hands and tilted it upward to look in her eyes. "I don't want to check you for injuries every morning, Beast Boy, but I swear by Azar I will if that's what it takes to make you stop doing this. If it's anything larger than a paper cut, I want to know about it immediately. If for some reason I decline to heal it, then you can come here and play doctor. Not before. Understood?"
"Eep." The youngest member of the Titans tried to nod unsuccessfully, restrained as he still was by her hands on either side of his head.
"Good." Releasing him, Raven walked straight out of the room, not looking back.
Back in her room, door closed, candles lit for meditation, Raven made a decision as she settled into the lotus position.
She could never tell the team the cost of her healing; Beast Boy would never ask her for help if he knew.
One little secret for the good of the team... and the good of someone who was slowly becoming her first real friend.
AN: Yes, I like to imagine that Beast Boy quotes Star Wars in moments of stress. Also, I think another author may have at least hinted at the pain from Raven's powers being a punishment from Trigon for helping others. It's tough to remember where these things come from, but I'm very willing to give credit if someone reminds me.