Yuletide Gamble

What? A Christmas story? Are you quite sure? Well alright then.

Beast Boy stared at the bookshelf. Raven (as usual) was the last person he needed to buy a gift for this Christmas. Not because he considered her less important but because, for him at least, she was so difficult to buy for. In fact, for the last few years, he had given up and taken suggestions from the others. The fact that they were readily able to choose something for her made him frustrated and, if he was honest, a little jealous. Every year he had tried and every year he had failed to find her something on his own. He turned from the book display in frustration. A book seemed like an easy and obvious choice, even if Robin had directed him toward a particular series of mystical texts. All of the gift ideas he had taken over the years had been suitable and practical and had been received gratefully by Raven. The worst part was, even though no-one had ever said anything, Raven likely knew Beast Boy had needed help: none of the gifts really fit with him. His frustration was multiplied by another feeling he held.

He loved her.

Well, perhaps 'love' was a bit too strong but he knew he wanted more with Raven than friendship. A lot more. So his failure to find a meaningful, personal gift for the girl tortured him every Christmas. He just wanted her to look at him and know that he had given her something from him. Wanted some sort of connection.

"I just want her to..." he trailed off, almost unaware he had spoken aloud until:

"Want who to what?" Raven asked, peeking her head around the bookshelf. Beast Boy's heart almost shot out of his mouth.

"R-Raven?! W-what are you doing here?" he asked, a little higher in pitch than usual. In reply, Raven held up a gift bag.

"For Robin. His old copy of the Book of Five RIngs is falling apart. I bought him a new one." A stab of envy at her and Robin's effortless understanding of each other passed through Beast Boy, perplexing Raven, even if she didn't mention it. "Anyway, I was on my way out when I sensed your troubled emotions. Is everything alright?" Her simple question triggered a warm surge in Beast Boy's heart, melting away his previous stress. Once again, Raven wondered at his emotions, though she chose not to guess. The implications frightened her.

"Um, yeah. Just stressing about gifts and stuff." Suddenly realising he was stood right next to the book he intended to buy for Raven, he tried to change the subject and began to march toward the exit, encouraging Raven to join him. "So, you got any more shopping to do, Rae?" he asked. Raven bristled at the pet name but he was oblivious.

"No, I'm all done now. Ready to head home," Raven said. In fact, she wondered why she hadn't already taken to the air instead of walking with Beast Boy. She watched him as he prattled on about some nonsense he had watched on TV. She may not have cared for the subject but he spoke with passion... and she loved the way his eyes shone. Reining herself in, she closed her eyes shut for a moment: her growing fascination with the changeling was a source of increasing stress. Sometimes she wanted nothing more than to just sit with him, listen to his voice and watch his face. Other times, she wanted to find a faraway place where she would be free of him forever. RIght now, she was on the fence between those two urges. She realised he had stopped talking and she was still staring. Fortunately, his attention was fixed on something behind her.

"Come on, Rae, let's go see!" he said, sprinting past her to a crowd milling around a large stall. Raven joined him, peering between the people in front to see. The stall was selling toys. But not modern toys: they were old fashioned, wood and fabric. They had toy trains and tools and little toy ovens. And dolls. Countless dolls of all sizes. Then Raven saw the real attraction. Each doll was being customised by the customer, size, shape, clothes and even skin colour. No wonder there was such a long line. A tap on the shoulder from Beast Boy's finger directed her sight toward a table filled with demonstration models where children played and laughed. A glanced showed a mirthful grin on Beast Boy's lips.

"What?" Raven said. He looked at her like she was stupid (that felt backwards).

"Just what it looks like, Rae. Kids and toys it's... nice, y'know?" he answered. A look of sadness ghosted across Raven's eyes and, just before she turned away, she spoke quietly.

"That isn't something I'm familiar with." Beast Boy blinked for a moment before following her, his concern outweighing his usual awkwardness around her.

"What? Children in Azerath didn't get toys?" he asked. She met his eyes for a moment before looking down.

"Just one child," she whispered. Beast Boy's earlier feelings of contentment were swallowed up by sympathy. His own childhood had been difficult but even he had played with toys. "I'm going home, Beast Boy," Raven said suddenly, vanishing in a black raven. Beast Boy stared at the spot where she had stood, then turned to walk back to the book store. Then he stopped, a look of grim determination on his face.

Christmas Day

The Titans sat in a circle, gifts in front of them. They each took turns presenting and opening gifts to each other. By and large, they gifts were typical but most appreciated: electronic gifts and music for Cyborg; clothes, beauty products and anything shiny for Starfire; Robin got Raven's book, some training gear and an eye-watering sweater (from Starfire); Beast Boy got the usual mix of games and DVDs and Raven got her usual lot of books, incense, crystals and other quasi-mystical ephemera. There was only one gift left: Beast Boy's gift to Raven. The others had mostly lost interest, enjoying their own gifts - whch was exactly why Beast Boy had waited. He trembled a little as she tore at the wrapping, pulling out a plain cardboard box. When she opened the box, she stared for a few moments and then, with wide eyes, pulled out a doll. It was female, had a cloak and hood, wore armour and had a little wooden sword on its belt. It also had grey skin and purple eyes. She looked up at Beast Boy for a moment. He smiled uncertainly.

"This is Raven, warrior princess of the Titans. She has a faithful companion as well," said, glancing at the box, filled with packing foam. Raven dug through the critters as Beast Boy continued. "Somone who always has her back. Who will be with her whenever she needs him." Raven finally pulled out a tiny wooden tiger. It was green. Her eyes locked onto his again, her expression unreadable. Beast Boy nervously offered her an alternative: "If you don't like them, I can take them ba-"

"No!" Raven interrupted. "No. I... I want them," she whispered. She looked down at the pair with watery eyes. She had never had a toy in her life and yet, now that this boy had given her this pair, she wanted them more than she remembered wanting any single thing. Still sat on the floor next to Beast Boy, she gently placed the toys in the box and rose to her knees, awkwardly shuffling across the floor and throwing her arms around his neck. She held him fiercely, tears flowing silently. "Thank you, Beast Boy," she said, her voice cracking. Beast Boy's voice had failed him so he merely hugged her back. At this point, the others had taken notice. Robin, sensing the importance through his bond with Raven, turned to the others and ushered them to the kitchen.

"Shhh, give them a minute," he said. Raven spoke without breaking the embrace.

"Does the companion have a name?"

"It's your toy," Beast Boy responded, thickly. "Call him what you like." She relaxed a little so she could pull back and see his face.

"A loyal friend I can always count on? How about Garfield?" she asked, pointedly. He laughed a little, rubbing his newly moist eyes.

"Sounds good, Rae," he said. Raven reached around and picked up the green tiger.

"If he gets a kiss from the princess, does he become a handsome prince?" Raven asked, her voice shaking a little. Now feeling incredibly nervous, Beast Boy's words abandoned him.

"Um..."

"Let's see," Raven said. Holding the tiger up. Beast Boy's eyes followed it until his view was blocked by Raven. Gently, she pressed her lips to his, relieved at the joy and amazement she sensed from him. When the kiss broke, he grinned dopily at her.

"Handsome prince?" has asked hopefully. Raven made a point of looking him up and down critically before shrugging her shoulders.

"Close enough," she said, eliciting a laugh from Beast Boy, which she quickly silenced with a second kiss.

Fluffy as a fluffy thing! Merry Christmas, readers :)

-Jack