AN: This is a glimpse at a slightly more flawed version of BBRae. We're all human, and it's fun to explore the less perfect side of that sometimes.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Titans, the Doom Patrol, or the plot line referenced here. If I someday figure out how to make money off of these guys... Heck, I'll still probably write for free. Reviews are my currency, and I really do appreciate them.
Sins of the Surrogate Father
Standing over an enormous wok, Elasti-Girl prepared another culinary delight in quantities enough to feed an army— or a ragtag band of misfits the army wouldn't accept. Steve, Cliff, and Larry would be on their "men's retreat" for at least another two days, playing poker and whatever other "guy things" they had planned this time, but since she was cooking for herself anyway, she might as well have some leftovers.
The majority of the stiry-fry, still undercooked enough to go back in a pan with some meat, went into several large containers to cool. These were set aside, and Rita began chopping a little white block into cubes.
No one in the Doom Patrol had ever brought it up, but there was always a package of tofu in the freezer for the times when Rita missed her son and wanted to feel a little closer to him.
Just as she was scraping the chunks of soy from the cutting board into the pan, a scratchy voice behind her made her jump and send the last couple of pieces flying onto the floor. "Got enough for two?"
"Gar!" she exclaimed, whirling around with knife and board still in hand. "What are you doing here?"
Her boy chuckled, a deep baritone now rather than the squeak she remembered. "What, I'm not allowed to come home for dinner?"
"California's a long way to come for some tofu, Gar," she said, eyebrow raised. "You could have at least called and warned me. I'd have had a chance to cook one of your favorites."
He smiled. "Everything you cook is my favorite, Mom."
Rita fought the moisture that swam to her eyes unbidden. She was not going to get all weepy just because Gar was here! To combat her sudden surge of emotion, she took in his appearance.
He was tall now, almost but not quite lanky. There was a certain grace to his bearing now, and it hadn't come from his time in show business. He was more like a lion or a wolf, a confidence and fluidity in his movements derived from pure instinct. Fine hairs covered most of his face— not quite a beard, but certainly noticeable.
And with another breath, something else became noticeable as well.
She must have wrinkled her nose or otherwise reacted, because the next words out of Gar's mouth were, "Yeah, could I maybe... use the shower real quick? I've kinda been away from running water for a week." From behind his back, he pulled a grocery bag containing a disposable razor and a bar of soap.
Half an hour later, two plates with a few stray noodles had been placed in the sink, and Rita was sitting next to her son on the couch in the living room.
"So," she said, "I saw in the tabloids that you've managed to impregnate yet another desperate fangirl you've never met. Quite a talent, that."
He chuckled. "I know, right? Especially while I'm officially in a relationship."
"How's that going, by the way?" she asked. Rita always loved to see her boy light up as he talked about his relationship with the sorceress, the glow on his face as he extolled her virtues and highlighted his plans for their next big date.
Instead, Gar stiffened and closed his eyes. "Mom?" he said, keeping them shut, "I have a question that's going to suck for both of us. But I really, really need you to give me an honest answer. Okay?" When his eyes opened again, they were clouded with a painful secret.
Rita's smile disappeared. Beast Boy never went for the serious heart-to-heart unless something life-changing was going on. "Of course," she reassured him. "You can always trust me to give you the truth, Garfield."
Her little changeling— not so little anymore; he was a man now, and it showed in the angles of his face that had finally caught up with his eyes— chewed his lip for several seconds. She watched as some dark emotion worked its way slowly out of his gut and settled into his mouth, then was swallowed back down, only to return with a vengeance. "How... how did you start trusting Mento again after you found out about... how you first fell for him?"
A spike of electrified ice slammed into Rita's chest. No, not that... not Gar. He was too kind and sweet to have to doubt every ounce of emotion he experienced.
Before she could regain her composure, Gar gave her one of those world-weary smiles that broke her heart. He'd been giving her that same smile from time to time for as long as she'd known him, but it never got any easier to see. "Yeah," he said, a slight nod his only movement. "She did it."
Rita swallowed hard, considering her next words. She didn't want to make it sound as though she didn't trust her son's opinion, but if there was any possible way he could be mistaken, she had to find it. She refused to let herself believe it was true until there was no other choice. "How did you... find out?"
"It was pretty much an accident, really," he said, slouching under the weight of his own words. "I mean, I always knew we started fast: one day I was still hung up on Terra, and then the next I was crushing on Raven hardcore. We were dating within a week or two after that. I didn't think much about it then, though; we were happy, and that was it." He sighed. "Then, a couple weeks ago, our anniversary was coming up, and I was thinking about how it all started, and... suddenly the pieces just kind of fell into place."
Elasti-Girl gave one slow nod. "Did you confront Raven?"
"Yeah. She admitted it when I asked her directly, at least. Lying would have let me know there was no hope..." He ran a hand through his hair, longer and shaggier than Rita remembered. "Would have made this easier, though."
"Easy doesn't always—"
"Always mean better. I know, Mom," Gar finished, frustration on his face. "It's just... I don't know what to do."
There was no good answer to that, and Rita knew it. So, taking a leaf from the mothers' handbook, she stuck to asking questions to help him sort it out. "Did she explain her reasons?"
He gave a little snort. "If she tried, I sure wasn't listening. As soon as she gave me the answer, I left her room, told Robin I needed an immediate week and a half of emergency leave, and went to my room to grab my DP communicator. She was waiting there... and so I told her if she even thought of following me or influencing me in any way, I'd tell Robin what she did and get her kicked off the team completely."
"Ouch. From what I understand, she doesn't exactly have another place to go."
"At that point, I was mad enough I didn't care. I flew straight out the window and didn't stop till I got to the redwood forests."
Rita nodded. "And that's where you spent your week, I assume. That would explain the..." She cleared her throat delicately. "Need for a shower."
A sheepish grin broke through the gloom on Gar's face. Mission accomplished. "Well... yeah." Then the smile was gone, and the serious expression was back in its place. "The week in the wild helped me sort out my head, though. Any feelings she planted there would have faded at least some... and that didn't happen. I'm really in love with her, even though finding out about this shook me up and hurt me so badly." He shook his head slowly. "The worst part of this is, if she had just been willing to give me time, I'm sure I would have ended up loving her on my own... but it's like..." He swallowed hard, trying to even out his voice and failing. "She didn't trust me to make the right choice."
Just like Steve. "So then," Rita said, "What do you plan to do now?"
A bitter half-laugh sprang from his mouth. "If I knew that, I'd already be back at the Tower, one way or another." He sat brooding, eyes on his feet, and the silence stretched to its breaking point. Just as Elasti-Girl was about to speak, his head snapped up. "How do you know if it's real or fake? When you're with him, I mean. How can you tell if what you feel is really coming from you?"
There is was: the question Rita had been dreading and expecting with all the certainty of motherhood. Taking a deep breath, she eased her way in. "I could talk to you about telltale signs, indicators that you're being manipulated... and it might help a little. But really, if Raven's anywhere near as good as Steve was, it's almost impossible to tell a fake from the real thing. All you can do is decide whether you're willing to trust her again, whether you can believe that she's going to be honest with you from now on."
Gar looked at her, and that smile she hated was back on his face. She'd failed him. "Y'know," he said, trying to force some levity into his tone, "It wasn't that long ago that you had magic powers and knew how to solve all my problems."
It was a credit to her years in front of the cameras in Hollywood that Rita didn't flinch at that. It was a joke, she knew, but the jagged truth it concealed stabbed all the deeper into her heart. "I wish I still could, sweetie," she whispered, bringing a hand up to brush back a wayward lock of his hair.
His smile turned to something genuine, and the wound his words had left began to close ever so slightly. "Thanks, Mom," he said.
The boy— no, young man— shifted nervously. "Uh, kind of an odd question, but... can I crash here for tonight? I just... I think I need one more night to sort through this before I go back."
Rita's heart soared. Circumstances were what they were, but her son had come to her for comfort and advice, and now he was staying the night. It was more than she could have asked. "You'll always have a place here, son."
There's a second installment forthcoming...