AN: I've wanted to explore the Doom Patrol for quite a while now, but I don't have a ton of background on them. This, then, is just scratching the surface of daily life for the Patrol and their little green mascot. And of course, I'm keeping it in the cartoon universe because that's really all I know and I love it.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Titans, I don't own the Doom Patrol, and I don't own much of anything worth taking if you were thinking of suing me.
Before her accident, Rita Farr had been Hollywood's leading lady— not "one of," but the singular. Directors fought to cast her, screenwriters tailored their female leads to fit her, even some of the heavyweight male stars refused to sign on unless it was appearing opposite her.
Throughout her entire adult life, barring those few awkward years where her grip on her powers had been best described as tenuous, she had been rather accustomed to having control of every situation— or at the very least, the illusion thereof.
It seemed that when faced with the realities of motherhood, though, she found herself experiencing much more of the latter than the former.
Elasti-Girl could, on a whim, dwarf a skyscraper and crush it underfoot, but all of that power did very little when it came to keeping the little green whirlwind she and Steve had adopted in line.
Nothing on earth could have prepared her for the interminable barrage of questions about anything and everything, the bouts of hyperactive brilliance that led to hours of cleanup work, or the odd moments where Gar would just follow her around and stare, as though considering something incredibly important.
Every now and then, she found herself wishing for a few days of peace and quiet, without Garfield hanging around underfoot or popping out of cupboards to startle her.
Now that she had gotten her wish, though, it sat like a live animal in her stomach. Worry scratched and gnawed at her from within, reducing her composure to a tattered rag that she tried to keep wrapped around herself.
For the third time, she checked the temperature of the miso soup. It seemed all right to her, but what about for Gar? He didn't have a tongue deadened by years of scalding coffee every morning, so she might need to cool it down. Reaching for the bag of frozen peas, she hesitated yet again. Gar was running a fever at the moment, so everything would seem cooler to him...
With a sigh, Rita shook a small handful of peas from the bag into the bowl of soup. Better to err on the side of caution. The boy could stand to cool down a few degrees at the moment anyway.
Turning one hand to the size of a platter, Rita carefully stacked the bowl on a plate with some saltine crackers, then placed that on her enlarged hand along with a glass of water. Precious cargo in tow, she walked down the hall to Garfield's room.
She gave a gentle knock on his door before turning the knob. As she entered, the smell of sweat assaulted her nostrils. A bundle of blankets lay on the bed, twitching and mumbling.
"Gar?" Rita kept her voice low, trying to make it as soothing as possible. The boy gave no indication that he had heard, still caught in the throes of fever dreams.
She brushed his shoulder with one hand, and he jerked awake with a cry. The sound was so pitiful that it sparked an instant pang of regret in her stomach. Pushing that aside, Rita quickly fell to comforting her adopted child.
"It's okay, Gar. It's just me." Her free hand ran through his tousled hair, ignoring the dampness the action left on her fingers.
"Mom?" His voice was thin, tremulous. A pair of glassy eyes stared at her, blinking rapidly and seeing no better for it.
Rita fought a grimace at the one-word reminder that she was an interloper. "It's Rita, sweetie."
A near-beatific smile bloomed on his face, and he allowed himself to relax again. "Hey."
"I've got some miso soup and crackers for you, Gar," she said, swinging her gigantic hand around slowly to deposit its cargo on his nightstand. "If you eat something, you'll feel better."
"Not hungry," the boy said, waving an uncoordinated hand.
"Please, Gar," Rita insisted. "Just a little. We need to keep your strength up so you can shake this fever off."
With a groan, Garfield propped himself up on one elbow and reached for the spoon. His lack of coordination soon became apparent, though, and Rita took the utensil from his trembling hand, enlarging her other hand to wrap around him and gently lever him up into a sitting position.
Spoon-feeding a child was a new experience for Elasti-Girl, but she found herself enjoying it.
When the bowl was empty, she gently wiped the corners of his mouth with a napkin, careful not to nick herself on his fang. Like a puppy's tooth, it was razor sharp, and had cut both of them more than once.
As she began fussing with his blankets, tucking him back in, Garfield broke the silence. "Rita?"
A conflicted look passed over the green boy's face. "When I said Mom before... I meant you, not her."
Rita's breath caught in her throat.
Gar's eyes widened, and he shrank back ever so slightly. "Is... is that okay?"
Rita reached out and ran a hand through his hair once more, effectively closing his eyes to hide her tears from him. "It's okay... more than okay, Gar. I... thank you, son." She pulled him into a hug, bundled though he was in the blankets, and pressed a quick kiss to his forehead. The sweat left behind on her lips didn't bother her in the slightest; now it was a badge of honor.
"Is your mother somehow still alive and coming to visit for Thanksgiving?" Steve's voice carried from their bed into the bathroom where Rita was brushing her teeth.
Rita stopped and raised an eyebrow. "Uh-uh," she managed around the bristles.
"Did you just find out you're pregnant?"
Elasti-Girl was fortunate she had just bent down to spit in the sink; had the question come a second earlier, she would have been cleaning the mirror.
"What? No, Steve! You know what the doctor said." Rinsing away the toothpaste from her mouth and the basin, she strode back into their bedroom to find her husband sitting with his head cocked at an awkward angle as he tugged his hair in thought.
Handsome, rugged, debonair. No matter what the situation, those words could always be used to describe Steve Dayton. It was moments like these, though, moments that no one but she saw, that another one fit— cute.
This was her favorite side of Steve.
"Then why on earth has the word 'Mom' been bouncing around in your head in a happy context for the past hour?" Turning to face her, his hand fell away to begin tapping on the bed. "I knew Gar being sick might awaken your maternal instincts a little more, but—" he paused. "Oh." A slow, rare smile crept over his face. "Rita, that's wonderful."
Rita couldn't help the tears welling up in her eyes. "I'm a mom, Steve. I'm really a mom now."
Steve gathered her in his arms, and no more words were needed.
Later that night, with Rita long abed, Steve fussed over a pot in the kitchen. A cutting board lay on the countertop, a knife resting on its surface.
Mento didn't often cook, but when he did, the results were exquisite.
Bringing a spoon down to the bubbling broth once more and blowing to cool it as it approached his lips, Mento considered the flavor once more. It needed something... tarragon?
A cap was unscrewed, a touch of the elusive spice shaken in. A quick stir and another taste; now it was perfect.
Filling a bowl, he strode to Garfield's room, confident that his offering would be found worthy.
At that thought, he stopped dead in his tracks. Why was he so obsessed with Gar liking his soup? Was culinary prowess really necessary to be the leader of the Doom Patrol?
That mocking voice in his head reserved for cataloguing his failures reminded him that the best leadership in the world could never replace the affection of a father... and that was something he had no inkling of how to give.
Shaking off the nagging feeling, he strode toward Beast Boy's room and opened the door as quietly as he could.
Gar was sleeping on his side, facing the door. The sliver of light from Mento's entrance fell directly onto his face, and he woke with a grimace.
Steve took a deep breath. "No, it's me, Gar."
Even at the peak of health, Beast Boy's face was a billboard; with a fever, the reactions happened in slow motion. Disappointment twisted his face and made his ears droop, but he replaced it with as close to a blank expression as he could manage.
In spite of the pain that stabbed at his chest, Steve continued. "Rita's not here right now, Gar. I've got some ch—" Mento froze, a horrible realization dawning on him.
He was holding chicken soup.
Gar was a vegetarian.
In a near-panicked burst of telekinesis, the soup went out the open door and came to rest on the ground in the hallway, and the door drifted closed.
Digging in his pocket, Steve found the bottle he always kept handy for himself.
"I've got some aspirin for you. It'll bring that fever down and make you feel better. Here, let's sit you up... that's good." Reaching a hand under the boy, he propped him up to a sitting position on a stack of pillows. One round pill was pressed into the little changeling's hand.
"Water?" the boy croaked.
Cold panic drenched Mento once more. "I- I'll get you some, Gar. Just one second." He rose to leave, but a gloved hand stilled him.
"S'okay, Sir." The boy's mouth worked for a few moments, and he brought the pill to his mouth. His eyes screwed shut with painful effort as he tried to swallow.
The pill finally went down with a clicking gulp, and Steve felt as though he had let one of those pills dissolve in his own mouth.
"Thank you, Sir," Beast Boy said, making an obvious effort to enunciate around a fever-thick tongue.
"Gar, you don't need to call me Sir all the time," Mento said, trying to keep his tone light. He couldn't explain why, but he had to hear that one word from Gar.
Confusion passed over Garfield's face, then he gave a slow, small nod. "Okay. Thanks, Steve."
Steve Dayton couldn't remember a time when hearing his own name had ever hurt so much.
He was almost overcome with a compulsion to grab the boy by the shoulders and shake him until the right word came out. Instead he flexed his hands once, twice, and replied, "Anytime, Gar. Feel better." Mento strode to the door, stiff-legged with the effort to control himself.
As he shut the door to Garfield's room, Steve let his head rest against the wood. "It's for the best," he whispered to himself over and over. Beast Boy needed Mento more than Steve— he needed a leader more than anything else. It was the only way he would survive the enemies of the Doom Patrol.
Standing in the hallway, head bowed, Steve almost permitted himself the luxury of one tear, but decided it was too much. To play it out in his mind, though... that was permissible. The imaginary drop of water fell to an imaginary floor and burst, and an imaginary man gathered himself together to rejoin the real world.
Later, as he sat in his study with the lights off, holding the bowl of soup that so perfectly illustrated his shortcomings, he replayed the moment, unable to comprehend the nature of that little drop of water that had never been.
Had the tear left unshed been for Garfield's childhood, or his own chance at being a father?