Chapter 3

Raven awoke from a deep, dreamless sleep that left her feeling rested for the first time in weeks. Pale morning light seeped through the window, the soft yellow color an indication that the world was still waking. The girl sat up in bed, putting a hand to her temple as a feeling of dizziness suddenly washed over her. Why am I so lightheaded? she thought. And then the memories came rushing back.

Nightmares. Nightmares that pushed her to this room, this room that belonged to the one person who understood. She had stayed, but the nightmares continued. She woke up. There was a cat. A cat that had comforted her. A cat that had been …

Oh please no …

Scrambling out from under the covers, Raven peered up at the top bunk, at the spikes of messy green hair and the single arm that hung limp over the side. Her chest constricted. She remembered a puff of warm fur curled around her head last night, warm fur that had belonged to a cat.

A cat that had been Beast Boy.

It took all her strength not to sink to her knees in chagrin. Several items in the room were suddenly surrounded by a veil of energy, but Raven forced herself to remain calm lest she destroy half of Beast Boy's property. She, the half-demon girl restricted from feeling the majority of her own emotions, had been no less than an emotional wreck last night. And he had seen … Beast Boy had seen. It was as if he'd glimpsed one of the most off-limits fractions of her soul, a place she didn't even wish to venture. Raven felt violated. Violated, humiliated … and at the same time, she also felt better.

Ignoring an open wound for too long led to infection. Her own sores had been festering for some time now, she'd just refused to acknowledge them in hopes that they'd heal on their own.

Slowly Raven's heartbeat returned to its regular pattern, although the embarrassment churning inside her wasn't about to disappear anytime soon. A soft groan escaped her lips. Emotions of every kind ricocheted through her mind, almost painfully so, making it hard to tell exactly what she was feeling.

I definitely need to meditate, she thought.

Careful not to wake her teammate, Raven quietly threw the sheets up over the bottom bunk in a manner that mimicked the bed's initial disarray. Why bother making the bed when Beast Boy obviously liked it messy?

When she'd finished, Raven levitated off the floor until she was on equal ground (or equal air in her case) with the sleeping Beast Boy. She hovered beside the bed for almost a minute, contemplating her teammate as he slept. For such a happy-go-lucky character, he could be surprisingly profound. And nestled amongst all his corny jokes and pranks was a serious side, one she truly appreciated. She reached out a hand, let it linger just above his shoulder, then thought better of it and retracted her arm. Silently, Raven encased her body in dark energy, wearing the magic like a second cloak, and took the form of her namesake. With that, she disappeared from his room, leaving no trace that she had ever entered.

Azarath Metrion Zinthos … Azarath Metrion Zinthos …

Raven calmly repeated her mantra as she floated inches above her bed, just as she had done for the past three hours. Meditating usually didn't take so long, but her lack of concentration for the past few weeks needed a little catching up. The five hours of sleep she was able to covet last night had done wonders for her focus. She wasn't naïve enough to think all her problems had vanished, but a significant weight had been lifted from her shoulders. And Raven couldn't believe who she had to thank for that.

Streams of emotion swirled and knotted around inside her head like tangled strings, making it very difficult for her to know what to think about the situation. On one hand, Raven was grateful and a little bit touched at the compassion and attention she'd received regarding her issue. On the other, she was mortified that Beast Boy of all people had seen that side of her, and she was considering reopening her search for memory-erasing charms.

But even though part of her wanted nothing more than to never bring up the past night again, Raven knew thanking Beast Boy would be the right thing to do. As much as she didn't want to admit it, his presence had been an enormous help. Besides, I can't stay in my room forever, she thought. She'd already mastered the art of hiding her feelings; if any of the other titans suspected something was wrong, all the attention would turn to her. It was enough having one person know how much Malchior was affecting her, but four people? She shuddered.

Well, let's get this over with, Raven thought with a sigh. Grabbing her cloak from on top of her dresser, she strode out of her room and down the hall toward the tower's main room.

The familiar whoosh of the common room doors announced the entrance of another titan. Raven surveyed the area as she walked in, noticing that everyone else was already spread out over the room. Robin and Starfire sat across from each other at the table, an array of breakfast foods in front of them. Silkie squirmed under Starfire's feet like a little mutant dog begging for food. And Beast Boy and Cyborg were locked in an epic battle for dominance … on the gamestation.

"Hey Raven, you're up late," Robin commented from the table. "Want anything to eat?" Starfire suddenly appeared in front of her, holding a large plate of pancakes.

"Friend, you must try some of the cakes from the pan!" she offered cheerfully. Raven studied the plate's contents with caution, aware of the effects alien food had on her stomach, but the golden brown circles looked like perfectly normal pancakes. Robin had made them, she guessed.

"Um … thanks Starfire, but I'm not really hungry right now," she said. "Maybe later."

Starfire's face fell momentarily, but she never stayed upset long. Within seconds, she had flown back to her seat and was offering (force feeding) Robin something bright blue, squishy, and definitely not from earth. Raven grimaced and moved away from the table (and the gagging sounds that accompanied it), instead focusing her attention on the two couchbound teens.

Raven summoned one of her novels from across the room, cracking it open as she sat down on the sofa several feet away from Beast Boy. She muttered a quick "hey" to the boys to gauge their reaction and was met with two collective grunts of acknowledgment, nothing more. While Raven tried to pretend like everything was normal, the fact was, it wasn't. One of her friends had seen the most vulnerable side of her, something she wanted no one—no one—to ever see, and was proceeding to act like she didn't exist. She definitely didn't want him to coddle or cater to her, but avoiding her was insulting.

For twenty minutes, Cyborg and Beast Boy went through various rounds of their game while Raven attempted to read. With thoughts as chaotic as hers though, she only managed to finish a couple pages in that time frame. Not once did Beast Boy glance over at or speak to her, his mind completely absorbed in the virtual world. Even though this was very typical behavior for the shape shifter during video games, all Raven saw now was him blatantly ignoring her. And she was infuriated by it.

After the final battle ended, flashing lights on the big screen TV declared Cyborg the champion.

"Awww yeah baby! New high score!" he shouted gleefully.

"Dude, you totally cheated! You're not supposed to use combos like that on the track!"

"Man, you're just mad you didn't think of it first and you know it."

"Oh yeah!? Well we'll see who comes out on top when I crush you at Mega Monkeys 4!"

"Bring it on, Green Bean!"

Between the noise of typical game-induced boasting and a mosh pit of jumbled emotions, Raven had developed a searing headache. Snapping her book closed (perhaps a little louder than intended), she rose from the couch and stalked away, away from the cacophony of overzealous cheers and gibes.

Robin and Starfire looked up from their breakfast as she passed the table. Raising an eyebrow, the boy wonder asked, "Everything okay, Raven?"

"I need to meditate," she said, the bite in her voice enough to stop him from pressing her.

Beast Boy was still rummaging through the games as Raven approached the common room door, but his search stopped short when he had a sudden revelation.

"Oh right, Mega Monkeys 4 is in my room," Beast Boy groaned.

"Just pick one of the games here then, B."

There was a pause in the conversation, just long enough for Raven to shoot one last glance over to the shape shifter. Surprisingly, he was looking back at her with an unreadable expression. The moment, however, didn't last long.

"Heh, you wish I'd choose another game, but you know you're just scared to lose to me," Beast Boy taunted loudly. "I'll go grab it from my room and be back before you can beg for mercy!" He hopped over the couch, dodging Cyborg's comebacks while he sped toward the exit. Raven heard him coming just before the door closed behind her.

Well, this worked out well, she thought bitterly.

When the common room door hissed open seconds later, Raven turned toward Beast Boy, ready to fix him with her fiercest glare … until she saw his expression. Worry and sympathy were plastered all over his face, to a point where he practically oozed these emotions. If she could see his aura, it would be the color of compassion. The sorceress was struck speechless.

"So … how are you doing? Any better?" he asked.

Raven blinked back her shock. He hadn't even acknowledged her presence this morning, and now all of a sudden he cared about her emotional state? But the concern in his eyes was genuine. He was truly worried about her … so why had he ignored her so easily?

The answer came to her almost instantly. It had all been an act. Had he acted strangely around her this morning, the other titans would have caught on that something happened. They would question, possibly pry. And Raven wasn't ready to answer any questions about her feelings; she'd done enough of that last night.

Slightly ashamed that she had been angry at him, Raven mumbled, "A lot better than yesterday … thank you."

Beast Boy grinned. "If you ever need company again, you can come to my room whenever, okay? I'll keep the bottom bunk clean for you, heh."

"... you would do that ... for me?"

"Well, I already did it once, so I'm not sure why you're surprised," the changeling shrugged. Raven stayed quiet, her eyes on the floor.

"Look, Raven," Beast Boy said slowly, "it doesn't take one night for everything to go away. Even if you feel better now, all the stuff you're going through is still there and it's still hurting you. I don't want you to have another one of those pendulumy times you were talking about (Raven couldn't stop the look of surprise that crossed her face at this—he really had been listening). You could probably get through all this by yourself if you wanted since you're, well, you, but it's a lot easier if you let someone else help."

The telepath's eyes shifted upward, meeting his. He was completely serious, his gaze filled to the brim with empathy. Raven realized how terribly she had misjudged him in the past. He wasn't just a jokester or an annoying kid-brother type; he was in possession of an incredibly and genuinely kind soul.

"Thank you," she whispered, meaning it with all of her heart.

He beamed, then suddenly seemed to remember something. "Heh, well I should go get the game from my room now … Cyborg's waiting and all."

"To be honest, I thought that was just an excuse to follow me."

"Oh it was," he chuckled, "but the game really is in my room. Wasn't lying about that." With a smile and a salute, Beast Boy morphed into a cheetah and took off in a spotted blur down the hallway.

Raven watched him go, the edges of her lips turning upward in a small but genuine smile, the first one to reach her eyes in a long while. Of all the other titans, Beast Boy was the one whose personality clashed with hers the most. She had hated him at first for his obnoxious jokes and unwavering optimism, but slowly warmed up to him enough to consider him a friend. Still, they were as opposite as night and day. It was hard to find ways they could connect or things they could agree upon. Shaking her head, Raven realized she'd underestimated the strength of a connection forged by mutual sadness.

All of a sudden, she remembered a question that had been lingering in the back of her mind since morning. "Wait!" she called out right before he reached the corner. "Can I ask you one more thing?"

Beast Boy skidded to a halt, transforming back into a human even before he'd stopped moving. "Yeah?"

"... why a cat?"

Although his cheeks reddened slightly, he still managed to grin. "You seem like a cat person," he said before returning to his cheetah form and sprinting away.

Late that night, Raven followed up on Beast Boy's offer. She wasn't nearly as lonely or depressed as the night before, but the comfort of sleeping so close to someone who cared was hard to pass up. She phased into his room quietly and claimed the bottom bed once again. It was past midnight when she arrived, with her teammate already fast asleep on the top bunk. Raven moved like a shadow, slipping silently under the covers in hopes that she wouldn't disturb him … even though he was very clear that she was always welcome, she still couldn't shake the feeling that in some way she was intruding.

From above, she heard Beast Boy roll over and mumble something unintelligible in his sleep. Raven lay motionless and listened for any sign that he had woken. She couldn't hear his steady breathing anymore … did that mean he was awake and listening? Had he heard her?

As the seconds passed without change, she concluded that he must still be dreaming. With a sigh of relief, Raven pulled the covers up to her chin and shifted to a more comfortable position. But just when she thought she was safe, a sleepy voice from above slurred, "Sweet dreams, Raven."

The sorceress's eyes shot open, the flush of embarrassment at having been noticed coloring her cheeks a light pink. She held her breath until Beast Boy's breathing returned to the rhythmic patterns of sleep, then exhaled softly, closed her eyes, and nestled into the pillow.

That night, she slept without waking, without nightmares, and without the bitter sting of loneliness. She wasn't healed. Not yet. But for the first time in two weeks, she had found peace.

Aaaaaaaaaand done! :D That was way too much fun to write. All of it. Every chapter. It was like writing junk food for my favorite crack pairing. I can only hope those of you who stumbled across this story found as much enjoyment out of reading it as I did creating it.

Please let me know what you thought! Whether you liked it, loved it, or hated it, I'd really appreciate a review. Pretty please?

Have a wonderful day, my lovelies, and I will be back with more stories in the future. ^^