I do NOT own Teen Titans
Going to try to keep this story suitable for a 'T' rating. That might change, depending on the direction the story takes.
Terms: The Maximum-7 chip. The processor chip Cyborg used in one of the episodes that boosted his mental and physical capabilities.
Time: Around three months after Things Change. Excludes Trouble in Tokyo
A Game,... The Meeting,... The Decision,...
His hands moved swiftly over the game controller. On the screen, a realistic representation of a muscular human marched ruthlessly against hordes of zombies, performing combo after combo, leaving piles of the undead creatures in his aftermath. Fingers, not quite human, rapidly pressed buttons, sending the avatar effortlessly through an apocalyptic city.
The vacant expression on Beast Boy's face gave lie to the emotions that raged within him. He wasn't even paying attention to the screen, rather letting pure reflex play the game for him. Unlike his normal method of jumping around, giving minor victory dances as each undead minion perished, he was, other than for the movements of his fingers, absolutely still.
He clenched his teeth together, ignoring the taste of blood as one of his fangs sliced flesh. It had been a few months since Terra had awaken from her prison of stone and forgotten him. With each passing day, his position amongst the Titans had changed, making him feel more and more like an outcast amidst those he thought of as friends.
Friends? He considered the word, wondering if applied to the Titans anymore. Did friends make you eat meat? He wondered. With Slade still alive, Robin had become obsessed, insisting they train and improve their skills. With early morning being the time best suited to this, he'd commanded that they be at the obstacle course by six a.m, six days a week. That was fine with Beast Boy. Sure it mean no more sleeping in, but he could always nap afterwards. It wasn't a big deal. It wasn't even a big deal that they'd been assigned turns to cook breakfast. It was, their leader had claimed, more efficient. It meant only one of them had to get up extra early, once every four days. Starfire, of course, was exempted from this duty. Again, that wasn't something he disagreed with. Other than the orange-skinned alien, not one of them had thought even once about requiring her to cook.
Of course there'd been complaints about the meals he'd prepared. Tofu bacon and eggs. Most of those had come from Cyborg. Each morning he'd started to whine even before he sat down to the table, and didn't stop until he went to bed. For all Beast Boy knew, he'd moaned about it in his sleep. There'd been a few sarcastic comments from Raven, who'd refused to eat breakfast on his days of cooking. Robin had merely frowned, and ate. There hadn't been a peep out of Starfire. She'd just gladly greeted then with a 'glorious morning friends' and sat down to eat.
Cyborg had returned the favor with a ton of real bacon and eggs when his turn had come around. Beast Boy had learned his lesson, and had just cooked waffles during his next turn. That had been sort of okay. Cyborg had muttered ceaselessly, looking at the waffles, wondering if there was any tofu in them. Still, he'd eaten them. Raven had just dumped syrup on hers, and started eating with a small frown on her face. Obviously her thoughts mirrored those of the cybernetic Titan.
Had either of the others returned the consideration? No. In fact, each morning for the next three days, he'd found his plate covered in dead animal flesh. He'd ended up just pushing it to one side, and settling for cereal.
That hadn't been good enough for Robin. Actually it hadn't been good enough for Cyborg and Raven either. The former had made comment after comment, whining about the wasted food, along with numerous other complaints. Raven had taken each and every chance to be extra sarcastic. Maybe their leader had just grown tired of all the bickering, but, whatever the reason, he'd set a rule that breakfast had to be a balanced meal that included meat, grains, milk, and fruits.
To sum it up, Beast Boy had to eat meat and drink milk. There was no skipping breakfast, or substituting cereal. He fumed, with the only external expression of it being an especially swift set of combos by his avatar on the screen. The boss for that level was defeated in record time. The unfeeling grim reaper of the undead marched forward onto the next level. The shape shifter didn't really take notice, lost in his internal diatribe.
Then there'd been the training. It'd been pretty much the usual, but they'd also been ordered to upgrade their skills. For some it'd been easy. Cyborg had just installed another Maximum-7 chip. This time with a few safeguards. There was a default setting, and after an hour of usage it would reset to it. Plus, the chip could only be used for a total of eight hours per day, after which it would shut down until the next morning. Used carefully, it certainly added to the cybernetic Titan's abilities.
Raven had focused on learning how to be more precise with her powers. She'd already had brute power, but now she could react more subtly to a situation. Instead of ripping up the road to slam it against a villain, she might just trip them. It required less of her dark magic, which meant it had less of a chance of running amok. Having seen Rage running out of control within her, that was something Beast Boy could certainly vote for.
It'd been him that had even suggested a way to use that new found control against Plasmus. While not the toughest foe to take down, he was definitely the dirtiest and most disgusting. Who in their right minds wanted to touch something that ate sewage? Handling the villain was a nightmare in grossness. Or had been. Get rid of enough of the plasma that surrounded him was the key to defeating the vile creature, and Raven's new control made that easy. Rather than tossing a car at him, she could now pick one up and spin it. Each time the front or the rear of the vehicle passed through the nauseating material that comprised the villain's body, it would knock some of the foul substance away, eventually returning him to sleep in his human form.
Starfire had worked on using the ability of her eyes to emit beams of energy in conjunction with her starbolts. That, along with working with Robin to learn a few martial arts moves, had made her considerably more formidable.
Robin, already a master of the martial arts, had focused on developing more toys to use. Most were just variations of what he'd already had. But watching practice one day, in the form of an eagle, Beast Boy had studied the birdarangs their leader used. Simple projectiles. Making then able to change direction in air like a bird could, just by shifting a few feathers, had been his suggestion. He'd had no idea how to accomplish that, but between them Robin and Cyborg had developed the idea. The new creations went where they were aimed, using small surfaces to counter any air movement. Minor, but an improvement.
That left Beast Boy himself. How could he improve? Well, he couldn't. The size of his shapes depended on his size along with the DNA he'd learned it from; so he couldn't make a larger T-rex. He was already the second best martial artist on the team, next to Robin. The animal forms he adopted weren't exactly the best at using tools. There were limits to that. A giant ape might, at the best, be able to use a club. Plus, if he tried to use tools it would just slow him down. An animal's reflexes were often built-in, and trying to get them to go too much against their nature meant things just weren't going to go as planned. You ended up with the worst of both worlds, rather than the best.
He paused the game, and looked down at his hands, flexing his fingers. Even in his human form they were no long quite as nimble as they'd once been. In Africa, even at the age of eight, he'd once loved helping his parents set up the solar arrays that powered their laptops and provided light at night. He'd even been able to manage very simple repairs with their supervision. Then had come the Sakutia virus and the death of his parents. He was no longer quite human, and had no family. Even some of his memories were gone, wiped away by his parents' attempts to save him. The genetic changes had altered his brain, and that was where a person's identity lay. Garfield Logan had died that night.
He pressed the pause button, and the game resumed. On the final level his character was still alive and well. His fingers may not be as nimble, but his mind could analyze a fight, and react faster than just about any human could. Gone was the ability to assemble a basic solar array, replaced with an innate knowledge of combat.
Playing video games was something he'd been told not to do. At least not until he could find some way to boost his ability to aid the team. That, he figured, just wasn't going to happen. Sure, there were bigger dinosaurs than the T-rex. But DNA from sixty odd million years ago wasn't something you could go to the nearest zoo to find. And to change into one of them that was what he needed. It'd been just luck he'd found enough genetic material from a T-rex preserved in amber.
Then there was the little fact that the bigger the animal, the more effort it took. Even if he found the DNA of something like a hundred ton Argentinosaurus, changing into it might be a little bit difficult. Or more likely impossible. Internally he fumed some more, sending his avatar to almost certain death against a squad of powered-up zombies. They fell before his attack like a snake before a mongoose. The final boss appeared and he charged it, sending combo after combo into its nearly indestructible form. It fell.
He dropped the controller, not caring to even look at the score. There was a meeting and that was where he should be at right now. Rising, he left the room, still as upset as when he'd started the game. Nothing inside him had been resolved, and his impassive expression would have done Raven proud.
"Where's the little grass stain." Cyborg chafed. "I've got better things to do than wait on him."
"As do I." Raven added, sounding indifferent.
"He's late again." Robin mused, looking around the table. He closed his eyes and wrinkled his face, as though annoyed. "Doesn't he care about the team anymore?" He wondered out loud."
"Given he made me eat tofu I doubt it." Came the whining reply from the cybernetic Titan. "I'm sure that stuff is still clogging up my systems. It's unnatural." He shuddered, disgust running across his face.
"Can't believe I actually ate it." Raven admitted impassively.
"So what are we going to do about him?" Cyborg asked.
"I don't know." Robin replied, rubbing his temples. "He's getting to be an headache. And it's disrupting the team. Everyone else has stepped up, so why can't he?"
"Too lazy." A reply came from the cybernetic teen.
"He does put a whole new meaning to the word." Raven said sarcastically, her expression unchanging. "Not to mention annoying." She added.
"Friends, is friend Beast Boy going to be from the team dismissed?" Starfire asked, looking anxiously around.
"I'm not sure what will happen." Robin replied, looking at her. The annoyed look vanished from his face as he did so.
Raven, seeing the change in expression, frowned slightly. "It would serve him right." She said.
"Being unfair, you are." Starfire spoke, looking upset.
"Everyone else has done their part." Robin pointed out.
"Yes. I know." The alien replied. "Their share of the complaining." She stared at Cyborg. "Eating his food did you no harm." Her voice held no room for argument. "You are part machine, with a digestive system much more advanced than a biological one. Yet you consume much dead meat just to annoy friend Beast Boy. You need at most half of what humans need of the food. But you eat six times that."
"It tastes good." The boy defended himself.
"Friend Beast Boy met you half way." She continued, ignoring his defense. "He cooked waffles rather than this tofu so repugnant to some. Did you return the favor. No. You cooked more dead meat, knowing he would refuse to eat it. That is not being a friend."
"We always joke about it." Came the angry reply. "We both know ..."
"Know what?" She interrupted, in a manner very unlike her. "That he can change into the creatures you eat? That he has a reason to find it repulsive. It has been nine weeks since he last cooked eggs of tofu and bacon of tofu. Yet you still whine like an ungrateful Gornak. I am tired of it. One more word and I will with starbolts blast you." She frowned at the boy who remained quiet.
The orange-skinned alien turned her attention to Raven. "You reek of emotions." She told the impassive looking girl.
"My emotions are under control." The violet-haired girl replied.
"Then why must you so much sarcasm employ at friend Beast Boy's expense?" Starfire demanded. "Your joy at humiliating him is not that of a friend. Are you no longer a friend of Beast Boy? Have you told this to him?" Her green eyes pierced those of the demoness.
"We're friends." Raven insisted, for once sounding unsure. A small frown hung on her lips. A few months back she would have been sure of the answer. Now, it wasn't so clear. Beast Boy almost never bothered her, choosing instead to avoid her. But then he avoided most of the other Titans too. Starfire was the only one he didn't.
"I sense uncertainty in your reply." The red-haired alien spoke, interrupted the violet-haired girl's thoughts. "I do know that if you are not now unfriends, you will soon be."
Raven opened her mouth to reply, but she had no answer and the alien had turned away from her.
"And you friend Robin. Why did you friend Beast Boy make eat meat?"
"It was best for the team." Came the quick and sure reply. "Humans need a variety of foods to remain healthy, and the bickering was causing strife within the team. It had to end."
"So you choose to end strife by place all the burden on friend Beast Boy." Starfire claimed.
"No. He was subjected to the same rules as everyone else." Robin replied defensively.
"Friend Beast Boy is not the same as everyone else." Her eyes glowed with fury. "The rules you made on eating milk of cow and dead flesh of animals were repulsive to him alone. And not one of you let go a chance to mock him when he follows your wishes to do so. Certainly not Cyborg." She turned her gaze on the cybernetic teen who didn't say a word.
"I couldn't allow exception. The team ..." Robin started.
"Oh." She interrupted again, turning back to her boyfriend. "You made an exception for the cooking of breakfast. I was told not to cook." She pointed out. "Why is that?" Her eyes glared into his.
"Well. See ..." There was no way to explain to the emotional alien that her cooking would have killed them all.
"Hrmph." She turned around to face the whole group. "And then there is this improvement of which you speak. Have even one of you told Beast Boy how to improve?" Silence greeted her. "Do even one of you know how he can become a better fighter?" She glared around the table, once again greeted by silence. "So then, tell me friends, how does he make this T-rex form of his bigger?" The table was silent. "His own size and the DNA used dictates the size of the T-rex. He has this pointed out to you several times." She went quiet, eyes still blazing dangerously.
"Will friend Beast Boy be dismissed from the team." She demanded.
"Of course not." Robin replied. "He's a part of the Titans no matter what."
"He's very helpful to the team." Raven hurried to add. "He can scout from the sky better than any of us, and is better at tracking most criminals." She paused. "I would miss him." She added.
"We're his family." Cyborg insisted. "He's like a little brother to me. Besides, where else would he go?"
Raven's frown deepened to a level none of the other Titan's had even seen before. "He left the Doom Patrol." She pointed out. "They were almost like family to him." Worry was starting to nibble at the back of her mind.
"They were oppressive." Cyborg countered. "They had no hesitation to sacrifice one of their own, even when it wasn't necessary."
Raven recalled the occasional glimpses she'd gotten of Beast Boy's feelings lately. The joy was gone from them, replaced by anger and resentment. Why hadn't she realized that earlier. Because she'd been so obsessed with ... She push the thought to one side. "He doesn't like it here anymore." She realized, and spoke the thought out loud. "We're being oppressive. He's forced to eat what we tell him to eat. His biology isn't even fully human, so how can we even know what he needs? And he alone has been restricted in what he can do. Games are now forbidden to him. All because we insist he do something he can't. At least not yet, or perhaps not without help. He helped us. He came up with the idea on how to improve Robin's birdarangs, and he showed me how to defeat Plasmus without any aid." She finished her long speech, still frowning. A sudden sense of foreboding made her look at the door. Was he there listening? She wondered. His ears were very sensitive. No, not now, but he was. She decided. How much did he hear? Did he hear us talking about him being dismissed from the team, bad mouthing him. They talked a lot like that around each other, at least he and Cyborg did. But this was different, it'd been done behind his back. Her frown became more evident. She had a bad feeling about this.
"Forcing him to eat meat was a bit overboard." Robin admitted, looking worried. "I just hoped that well ..." He shrugged. "We're all teenagers and still growing. We don't know what he needs, but we don't know what he doesn't need either. Lack of the trace elements in meat might stunt his growth."
"True." Raven replied, stilling frowning towards the door. "But there are other ways around that. Vitamin supplements for example. And we never stopped to worry if Cyborg was getting enough veggies. We only focused on Beast Boy." A look at the cybernetic Titan silenced any remark he might have had. She turned back to the door. How much had he heard? She wondered.
"He does put in a lot of time on the training course." Robin added, sighing. "More than any of us actually. He often runs through them in various animal forms for the fun of it. He's obviously putting in the effort, and can almost match me in hand-to-hand combat when I'm not using any devices. He's stronger; I'm a little bit more skilled." He shrugged. "But it's not much use to him since he rarely fights in human form, and can't use weapons as well as I can. That's not for lack of trying. His hands just aren't as suited for it; the bone structure is just a little off."
He turned towards Raven. "Can you talk to him? Tell him he can eat what he wants for breakfast, and can play his games. That we're sorry."
Her expression became a full frown, abandoning any pretense at being impassive. "I think he heard us." She replied. "His ears are sharp, and he would have been on his way here while we were talking. He would've heard us talking about him leaving the team." Her stomach felt like lead. "I think it might be too late. What can I say when he's already heard us saying he should leave."
The others stared at her in shock.
He stared out the window. He'd heard them talking. Everything from Cyborg whining about tofu again, right up to when Raven had said, 'It would serve him right.' Even the girl who supposedly expressed no emotions thought he should be kicked off the team. At that point he'd just turned away, and came to his room to think. He stared at the clear blue sky that beckoned him. So easy to just leave, but was it the right decision? Sitting on the floor just in front of the open window, he considered what he should do.
End of Chapter.
Does Beast Boy leave the team? Well yes and no. He's 'gone' for a while, but not in a way anyone will expect. Wonder if anyone can even make a guess at it. And what was Raven so obsessed over the last little while?
Was going to leave this at a better cliffhanger, but I think this will do.
Many thanks to those who read and review.