An: Allrighty then, chapter three fresh from the oven! Enjoy! I don NOT own Teen Titans, that's property of DC Comics. Now, chapter three!
3. Animals and Auras
"I'm not an animal..."
Sometimes, telling himself the same thing over and over was enough to make Garfield believe it. It worked for the most part, if he told himself over and over that Raven didn't mean most of the things she said, that she actually seemed to enjoy his company, he could believe it for a few minutes and survive another day.
Animal. The simple word brought up memories so bitter that Beast Boy felt like spitting on the ground to rid himself of the foul taste of his own blood in his mouth. Animal. Freak. Stupid Beast. Do as you're told. Just shut up, I hate your stupid voice. Are you that much of an idiot? Shut up! Animal. Freak. You're a beast, a mindless beast. You were even before you turned green. Let your parents die. Selfish animal, like a hungry dog. Are you hungry, you stupid animal? Go on, beg. Beg and maybe you'll get something today. Can't you read? Are you stupid? It's hippopotamus! It's not that hard, come on! Steven, please – No! Come on, write it down, and I don't want to see any mistakes! You're an animal. Freak. Freak. Green freak. Most-
"Hey." A voice came from his left, breaking Beast Boy out of his reverie. Startled, he discovered he was just millimeters away from piercing his own lip with his protruding fang, again. He tried to smile, tried to summon his mask from somewhere, anywhere, but he came out short. There was just no joy left in Garfield, not for that day.
"Hey, dude," he answered, not really looking at Conner as the older man sat next to him and wordlessly observed the ocean. Even after moving from the T Tower, the stony shore was still Garfield's favorite place to come and think and try to rebuild his walls whenever they started to crumble. He had come here after Terra, after the Beast, after Trigon and the Brotherhood. The new titans were accustomed to seeing him down there, just staring at the waves as they clashed against the stones.
Conner sat there next to him, not really saying anything, just stared out into the blue waves with him. Beast Boy was thankful for the silence, for the understanding. Superboy knew what it was like, being called a freak, something evil, something not natural. More than anything, though, Conner knew what it was like to seek acceptance form one person, one single person, and get nothing but poison from them.
Beast Boy hated feeling sad, and he hated the silence most of the time. Sadness reminded him of his parents, before and after their death. Sadness reminded Garfield of those looks of sympathy from the tribe, of pure pity, those sad gazes they had given him in Africa. Poor little freak, their eyes seemed to say.
Silence reminded him of the cage; where he was to stay absolutely quiet. It reminded him of that man as well, that bastard who had stolen all of his family's money. It reminded him of the collar, of the electroshocks, of having to steal to survive. It reminded him of the Doom Patrol after Mento was done chewing him out. But lately, silence reminded him of Raven, and until very recently that had been a most welcoming change in his thoughts.
Conner didn't shift, he barely moved from his spot beside Beast Boy. Words had never been his specialty, but he felt no words were necessary at the moment. When Beast Boy felt like talking, he would let him know. For now, it was better to just it down and watch the waves, and remember.
"I'm not an animal…" repeated the younger Titan, feeling the sting of Raven's words clutch at his heart. It almost felt like someone had a tight grip on his chest and squeezed every time he thought back to her. Had he known the book was hers, he would have never even laid a drop of drool on it. Maybe he did know, though. Maybe he was getting tired of the silent treatment, maybe some part of him had wanted to tear it to shreds. He wanted her attention, whether it was good or bad, but he had crossed the line with her book, and she had crushed him.
That was why it hurt so much. Terra was one thing, but Raven?
"No," answered Superboy after a while, staring into the ocean. "You're not." It was the same as calling Conner a clone, or a thing, like the Man of Steel himself had referred to him from the beginning, and inferring it was all he was. Sure, Conner respected Kal-El, idolized Clark Kent. But Superman? He despised that man with every living fiber of his being. Perhaps that was the reason behind his fondness of the green changeling. Just as he had worshiped Superman, Beast Boy worshiped him. And it was clear, because there was no difference between Garfield and Beast Boy. There was no mask there to hide who he was, no S on his chest to give him authority or give him an excuse to be an ass.
No. Beast Boy was not an animal. He was a person, and a very good one at that, but a person with a very profound pain eating away at him. Self-doubt, low self-esteem, depression, anger. All of them were emotions Conner was very familiar with, and in a strange way, Beast Boy's interactions with Raven gave him a weird sense of déjà vu, reminded him of how he used to be, at the very beginning. Angry, volatile, immature and impulsive. He still was those things, just as Raven still was reserved, quite, a bit antisocial and awkward around people.
"Does it ever get better?" Garfield asked, still staring at the visage in front of him. The waves offered no answer. In the short time he had known him, Conner didn't remember seeing the boy so sad or defeated. It seemed as if someone had told him his grandmother died. "The pain, I mean."
Conner sighed, looking over his shoulder. Robin was standing at the foot of the Tower, still not ready to approach them. "Beats me." He answered gruffly. "You tell me, you've been alive longer than I have."
Beast Boy gave him a mirthless chuckle, retracting to himself even more. "I guess it does," he rasped miserably, trying to keep the tears inside. "Do you really think she doesn't give a shit?" The question came with a tone of pure despair; Beast Boy flinched and shut his eyes tightly, dreading the answer.
"I don't know, don't think so," said Conner. Boy, words were really not his forte. "She was pretty upset about that book, you know..." he offered, noticing the change in his young friend immediately, just as he expected. Garfield was still seething under his sadness, angry beyond anything, and if Superboy read his file right, just bottling up all that anger was going to make him unstable in the team, and bottling up was Garfield's specialty. The boy needed to let off some steam.
"Are you kidding me, dude?!" answered the green Titan, his eyes open and glaring towards the kryptonian. "I never wanted to break her book, I even ran all the way to the city to get her a new one!" Without knowing, Beast Boy was on his feet, his fists clenched as Raven's words echoed in his brain again and again. Suddenly there was hot fire in his chest, in his stomach, and it fueled every muscle in his young body. Deep down, the beast roared in anger, but to Beast Boy it felt like strangled wail of despair.
"You knew the book was hers, you can smell her scent, can't you?" Conner countered, he watched amusedly the many emotions Beast Boy went trough in a few seconds. Anger, denial, sadness, shock, mistrust, disbelief and finally anger again.
"Dude! You threw the damn book!" accused the younger teen, his glare turned extremely aggressive, as if the mere notion of him having any responsibility in the matter was ludicrous. So far, Conner's plan was going great. "You trashed it, though," offered the hero, nodding at him.
"We were playing catch and destroy! Come on, sometimes I can't control it, are you telling me you never trashed a wall, or broke a gate by accident?!" He was both denying and bargaining, somehow that fact made Conner want to whistle in amazement.
"Sure I have, but this was different. You wanted to tear that book apart, because she kept paying more attention to it than to you. She's been doing that for a while. You got jealous of a book, I just happened to throw it." And that was it.
From his spot near the door of the T tower, Robin saw all the signs. Beast Boy bared his fangs, fisted his hands, his stance turned terribly aggressive and his entire frame clenched. His muscles bulged from his suit, making the masked hero wonder if for a wild moment Beast Boy's grip on the beast was wilting. But when the green shape-shifter simply exploded, Tim looked down at the ground. A certain kind of shame washed over him as he heard the screams of his friend.
"And she called me an ANIMAL! She said she didn't give a shit! Are you kidding me, dude?! Are you telling me that I mean less to her than a fucking book?! It's not like I didn't run all the way to the damn city and looked through every damn bookstore for the damn thing! I even made her a cake! With eggs! And Milk, god-damn it! What's with the books, anyway?!" He was winding down, Conner noticed, running out of fuel very fast. Just like comedy had never truly befit Conner, anger did not befit Beast Boy. He sat in a strange state of tranquility even when Beast Boy glowered over him, even when his frustrated screams drew the attention of the younger Titans in the Tower.
"What do I have to do, huh?! Do I have to tear down Terra's memorial, or bring her father in chains and with a clown suit on?! Throw myself off a cliff?! How come its soooo easy for Cyborg or Rob to make her smile, but all I get is a splash into the sea?! What does it take?!" Unbeknown to him, bitter tears had started to leak from his eyes. Beast Boy's vision blurred, but all he could see was Raven's glare anyway. He hadn't seen her so upset in a long time.
"What does it take?" He asked again, feeling his shoulders slump and his arms fall uselessly to his sides. "How many times does she have to get upset for me to get it?" Feeling utterly defeated, Beast Boy sniffed and turned his eyes towards the ocean. Blue. Both the ocean and the skies, though the latter were starting to turn orange. Blue. That was her favorite color.
"She hates me."
Conner sighed, taking the sight of the sad young man who was Garfield Logan. His eyes looked weary, old; as if his bubble had just exploded and he was suddenly exposed to all the evils of the world. The young hero wondered if the words would have been as hurtful had he been the one speaking them, or Robin, or even Superman himself. He somehow doubted it.
"Why do have to try so hard?" Asked Conner at last; he watched, baffled, as Beast Boy scrubbed his face clean of tears and shifted uncomfortably in embarrassment. "Why does it matter so much to you that she smiles, that she spends time with you? I don't think you'd really care if I said I didn't give a shit; don't think it'd get you this worked up. You don't keep trying to make M'gann smile so much, either."
Garfield chuckled drily. Yeah, the cat was out of the box, the green cat to be more specific. Was it so obvious, was he so obvious? "M'gann isn't Raven." He answered with bitterness; even speaking her name made him hurt.
"Have you ever seen Raven smile ever since you know her?" asked Beast Boy, he watched the sea with a sense of strange detachment, barely bothering to feel ashamed for making a temper tantrum in front of the younger recruits, and to Superboy of all people.
Conner was pensive for a moment. "Not much, maybe once or twice." `But then again,' thought Conner absently `I don't smile so much either.´
"There you go," said Beast Boy, looking at his feet. "It's easy being the funny guy, it's always easier to smile than to cry, you know. To be the walking joke… it's easy to be around people if they're laughing, even if they're laughing at me." The green changeling exhaled, feeling a rare bitterness in the pit of his stomach.
"Raven barely tries, though…" he kicked a pebble to the ocean absently, pocketing his hands in his suit. "All she used to do was read and stay in her room and meditate and now she helps Cyborg and talks to Robin, she even goes shopping with Star from time to time, but if it's me she sees, it's always a frown."
Beast Boy kicked the next rock with a bit more force than necessary, sending it flying though the air to crash into the waves. "Why can't she ever take some time to so something with me? Why can't she smile at me in the morning from time to time? Am I really so obnoxious to her? Does she really hate me that much?! Am I such a dirty animal in her eyes than she can't stand me?! All these years, and all she's done is pretend to put up with me?!" He kicked the next pebble with fury but his momentum was such that his left foot slipped, making him fall on his butt, hands still in his pockets.
Conner gave a few barks of laughter at that, even more so when Beast Boy glared comically at him with his lower jaw sticking out and his eyes flat and dry of humor. The kryptonian sobered up soon enough when Beast Boy's eyes and ears dropped again, and the young boy's demeanor changed from enraged to depressed.
"You're not an animal, Beast Boy." Conner sighed, looking out into the ocean. "Why do you care so much, anyway?" asked the young man of steel again. "Why does it matter so much to you if she hates you or not, or if she pays more attention to a book? What's wrong with Cyborg or Robin making her smile if she's smiling at all?"
Beast Boy clenched his teeth. Wasn't it obvious already? Did he have to spill his guts as well, raw for everyone to see? "It matters because I want to make her smile." he answered tersely, as if admitting the words to himself was harder than stating them at all.
"Why?!" insisted Superboy, glaring at him. "Why does it have to be you?"
"Because I like her, okay!?" Back on his feet, fists clenched, Beast Boy looked just about ready to strike Conner in the jaw. Robin finally moved from his spot on the tower, that was his cue. "Is that what you wanted to hear?! I do, I like Raven! More than a friend! More than I ever liked Terra, more than anything! That's why I'm jealous of a book, all right?!" Snarling, teeth clenching, it hit Garfield like one of Conner's punches.
He had just admitted he liked Raven. More than a friend. More than anything. He groaned, loudly. "Aw crap…"
Defeated, he slumped back to his spot, feeling more tired than he remembered being. The memories, the cage, the collar, they faded away under the epiphany that slammed into his psyche. Boy, did he have a nasty taste for chicks. If they didn't think he was green and gross, they betrayed him, tried to kill and bury him and his team, only to leave for a life of blessed nothingness, not even bothering with a good-bye.
Now he liked the girl who hated him, the girl who had called him a dirty, stupid animal.
"I like a girl who hates my green guts. Ughh…" Pinching his eyes in frustration, Garfield allowed the shame to filter through his anger. "And now the whole Tower knows it, you know it, he knows it," said Beast Boy, motioning at the approaching masked figure. "And she's probably known all along. I guess she really doesn't care." Great, just great.
"This is why she can't stand me, I guess she's right…" muttered Garfield dejectedly, pulling his knees up to his chest. "I'm loud, obnoxious, can't keep anything to myself. Guess that's why she likes books better than me… books don't get on her nerves; don't take her out of her comfort zone…"
Silence reigned over them for a while. With his hearing, Conner listened to Robin's footsteps as the younger hero neared them, taking his sweet time. He understood, somewhat. Until quite recently, the respect Beast Boy gave him had been directed at their leader; the almighty Robin; but then Robin had treated Garfield like a beast and a criminal, making the trust and adoration the younger Titan felt for his leader shatter to a million pieces, never to be repaired again. Sure, they were still friends, they fought alongside one another, protected each other, but the hollowness in their stressed friendship remained.
Even without being psychic, Conner knew some nasty things had transpired between Tim and Garfield, but since the young kryptonian didn't know the team so well, he didn't stick his nose where it wasn't welcome.
"I used to get so pissed off when M'gann was dating Lagon." Conner admitted quietly, earning a lightly surprised gaze from the changeling. "Even started hating fish, heh," the hero smirked at the memory. "I wanted to squeeze the guy's neck and see if his head would pop like a balloon, every time I caught him making out with her."
Beast Boy snickered good-heartedly at the last comment. "Sometimes I wanted to stick my fist to a wall just so she'd look at me. I even started missing her touch in my mind; missed it to a point where I purposely put myself in situations where she had to speak telepathically to me."
Earning another chuckle, Conner let a small smile draw itself to his lips. It was all bittersweet when he thought about it. "I hated the silly little names they called each other, hated to see them together, and even hated the smell of fish or the sea for that matter." Oh, he had been a crappy boyfriend all right, but Beast Boy didn't need to know that. "I wanted to punch the walls every time I saw them, did it a couple of times, just so she'd talk to me in my mind."
The very reason he had first broken up with M'gann was because of her uncaring use of her mental powers, but that was one of the things he had missed the most about her. Even now, talking to her adoptive brother, he could feel her, her touch light as a feather on his face.
`Is he all right? ´ She asked him, worry bleeding over their connection. `Should I go to him now? ´ Conner chuckled in his head. They really were quite alike, her and Beast Boy. Both ready to lay their own peace of mind on the line for those they cared about, hell, even for complete strangers. `It's okay, M'gann´ answered Conner, sending as much confidence as possible to his statement. `We got him.´ On the other side of the link, he almost felt her give a sigh of relief.
"I'm shutting her out." Admitted Beast Boy after a long silence. Conner stared at him, knowing the boy had little else to get off his chest. There was nothing Conner or Tim could do to take back Raven's words, or take away the memories and hurt said words brought to their youngest teammate. But a friendly ear and a strong hand on a shoulder, that much they could do. "What do you mean?" asked Superboy, perplexed.
"The same you did with M'gann at first, but it's kinda…" Beast Boy scratched his head, trying to put into words the strange connection between his and Raven's emotions was difficult, even more so when he had severed it completely only moments before. "Kinda… spiritual, I guess. I can feel her… her, what do you call that thingy over you that tells your emotions?"
"Aura?" provided Robin, finally reaching the pair. "That thing! Dude!" the green shape-shifter gave a ghost of one of his laughs before settling back to depression and anger, and feeling self-conscious shut his mouth as well for good measure.
The Boy Wonder sat to Beast Boy's left, positively sandwiching their green friend between himself and Conner. Beast Boy gave him a sulking frown, addressed his eyes towards the ocean and remained stoically quiet, as if it had been Tim himself who had insulted him. Robin sighed, he expected no less; after all he had been eavesdropping on them, but both Garfield and Conner had been aware of his presence the whole time, so it wasn't really eavesdropping. He doubted Beast Boy had a problem with his presence at the moment, either.
Watching his younger teammate, Robin realized whatever friendship he and Beast Boy had shared before the incident with the Beast had been destroyed forever. The fact that he had a closer relationship with Raven didn't help matters at all, either. Right now, the younger Titan probably saw him as a confidant to Raven, a representative of her interests and a protector of her integrity. Under normal circumstances, Beast Boy would have been right, but these were not normal circumstances.
At best, Beast Boy and Robin shared a strange camaraderie, neither completely trusting the other, but in Beast Boy's case, he still harbored ill feelings of betrayal, hurt, disappointment and more than a bit of jealousy towards their leader.
The three heroes stayed silent, watching the ocean turn brighter and then darker as the sun went down. After what it felt like hours, and getting annoyed at Beast Boy's obvious discomfort, Tim took a breath.
"You can feel her aura? Wow, I've never been able to do that." He watched as Beast Boy rolled his eyes, snorting in derision.
"Yeah right, dude," muttered Beast Boy, hugging his legs tighter. "Don't you that bond thingy with her?" Robin chuckled at the boy's reaction. In some part of his soul though, he felt a profound sadness root itself at the fact that Beast Boy preferred to spill his guts to Superboy, a hero they had only recently met, than to him, his leader and teammate.
"It's purely on a mental level." admitted Robin, swallowing down the strange heaviness. "I've never been able to feel her aura when she's feeling mine." A strange memory came to him, of their first months as Teen Titans. "Actually, she kinda made me think I was in love with her, by subconsciously believing she had a crush on me, her aura sort of… coaxed mine into believing that. I never felt it doing it, though."
To Garfield's right, Conner palmed the right side of his face while giving Robin the universal `You're not helpiiiing´ look. Beast Boy's glance was just about the same. "Dude," growled the green Titan. "I so didn't need to hear that."
Robin chuckled, enjoying the fact that the tension was slowly dwindling from the air. "Sorry," he offered apologetically. "The point I was making it's that it's noteworthy, the fact that you can feel her aura, I mean. I don't think many people can." Beast Boy gave him an ugly grin then, something forced, bitter, angry, nasty, ashamed and overall the truest smile he'd seen on the changeling's face in a while.
"It's an animal thing." Garfield answered, turning to look at the ocean. Yes, he could feel her aura, boohoo. It was because of his animal senses, after all. In a pathetically poetic way, it made sense to Garfield. `Doesn't really matter…´though the green-skinned hero. `She hates me. Can't stand me. She called me stupid. Called me an animal. I know what I am; don't need to be reminded of it every day. Why did it hurt so damn much when she said it? Do I like her that much? How come she can't stand me? I thought we were getting closer, making progress, but I guess I'll never be as good as dear old Robin or pretty like Aqualad! Damn it, damn her and damn me too. Stupid Garfield, always go for the impossible. Arg... I guess they're right, all of them. I AM stupid. Stupid little Beast Boy, thinking he's more important than a book. Stupid little Beast Boy, thinking Raven of all people might someday get to like you. Stupid little Beast Boy, falling in lo -´
Beast Boy blinked. He hadn't realized the sun had almost gone down. It took him a moment to digest his surroundings. He felt the stone beneath him, strong, resistant, eternal, saw the ocean; relentless, unforgiving and powerful, and felt the hand of his friend on his shoulder. Robin offered him a knowing smile, squeezing his shoulder for good measure. He felt it too, his support, his friendship. It was still there, after all. They were still family.
Garfield turned to his right, and saw his newest idol staring calmly into the sea, still there sitting next to him. How long had he stayed quiet? Had they seriously spent all this time just sitting and talking? Had Robin of all people spent the entire afternoon addressing his personal issues of all things?
"What about crime, dude?" He asked, staring straight into Robin's mask.
The young Boy Wonder chuckled, surprised at how a few words managed to immerse him in his own memories. If Tim tried hard enough he could still see it, that night, the dim lights of his room in Wayne Manor. He'd taken a nasty beating, broken four of his ribs and cracked two more for good measure. After taking a bad fall which had been his fault for not using his reflexes right, he'd dropped straight to a metal dumpster and dislocated his shoulder, leaving Robin at the mercy of Dent's men. Before he had blacked out, he'd seen the dark shape of the Bat as he flew over his assailants.
When he'd woken up; God knew how many days afterwards, the last thing Robin had expected to see was an unmasked Batman sitting next to his bed, going over police reports while he monitored his vitals, gave him water to drink and offered spoonfuls of hot soup. It had all been terribly confusing to Tim at the time, knowing Bruce could have simply had Alfred or Barbara look after him.
"What about crime?" He had wheezed, trying to ignore the crashing pain of his midsection. Bruce had offered a sort of strange growl at that, looking at him straight in the eye as he put a large hand on Tim's shoulder.
"Crime can wait." Bruce had said; his undertone made of steel. "Family comes first."
Tim squeezed Garfield's shoulder, knowing that wherever he was, Batman wouldn't care one bit about the Teen Titans taking a day off to ease the tension between two members of their strange team.
"Crime can wait," said Robin, materializing a six-pack of something seemingly out of thin air. He offered a can to Garfield, threw one to Conner and opened one for himself.
"Family comes first."
Beast Boy gave him a true smile then, a sincere one, and looked down on his can.
"Dude! Root Beer?! So not cool, Rob."
AN: There we go, chapter three all done! I wanted to make this one bigger, but decided at the last moment I'm gonna split them in two hehe.
Coming up in chapter four: The mighty clash! M'gann speaks to Beast Boy, M'gann speaks to Conner, M'gann faces Raven! OMG! The dreaded hour approaches, the encounter draws near! Stay tuned, and don't forget to review on your way out!