Chapter 5: Out of Touch
It was late that night as the Titans returned to the tower, assembled in the main room. The standard living arrangements that typically made up their central viewing/recreation area gave way to rows of monitors and control consoles. Numerous apparatuses hung down from the ceiling, suspending wires and cables beneath them. The center table gave way to a large central control hub rising up from the floor.
Cyborg stood front and center quickly dialing in numerical codes and calibrating the equipment. Robin beside him assisting as he was able. Starfire behind the both of them, looking on in as hopeful a manner as she could afford.
A few feet away stood Raven, quietly but anxiously tapping a finger against her arm as both arms remained crossed under her cloak.
And shortly beside her, BeastBoy. The only one unable to be accounted for. At least physically.
BeastBoy nervously rubbed his arm, somehow managing to keep his cool for the time being. Scarcely able to keep from imagining how much more panicked he’d be if not for Raven able to see or hear him.
Raven picked up on his all too quiet demeanor, darting her eyes beside her from time to time. This wasn’t exactly putting her nerves at ease either.
“Keep it together, B,” Cyborg called from the console breaking the silence as optimistically as possible while remaining fixated on the controls, taking Raven’s explanation to heart that he was right there with them. “Hear me? Just keep it together, man.”
BeastBoy slowly curved his head to the side, looking up at Raven. “Really?” he said in a sarcasm almost identical of her own. “He just told the guy without a body to ‘keep it together’?”
Raven shut her eyes with a light scoff, shaking her head. It was nice to know BeastBoy could still ease the tension of the moment.
The tower had long been outfitted with the most efficient sensory and detection hardware. From within the tower they could monitor everything from within the city limits to half way across the globe. From the lower levels of the sewer system to the upper atmosphere of the planet.
Enhanced forms of radar, sonar, thermo scopes, and spectral analyzers could pick up just about anything outside the tower. Therefore it was their hope it could just as easily identify something within. Even if that something was beyond sight. Beyond sound. And presently beyond much of their own level of understanding.
The others believed Raven’s explanation that BeastBoy was somehow without a physical form. They believed their friend and teammate was still with them to some capacity. But the first step to identifying a solution was verifying the problem. Hence, the first thing they had to do was figure out if there was any way to confirm his current state in a means more grounded in logic and scientific reason.
Cyborg hurried to set the last parameters of the various instruments. He wasn’t the least bit hesitant to admit this situation was a little out of his comfort zone. But if there was a way to pick up BeastBoy on something other than a weegie board or a crystal ball, he was the guy to find it.
“So… how much of this is guess work?” Robin asked quietly.
“Ya don’t wanna know,” Cyborg shrugged. “But we got some of the most cutting edge tech on our side. If this gear can locate my car keys in low orbit, it can pin down BB.”
Robin furrowed his brow. “Your car keys were…”
“Again, ya don’t wanna’ know.”
“Permit me to summarize,” Starfire began, clearly needing to expand from Raven’s explanation of the present circumstances. “Friend BeastBoy, who is… still alive and here with us now, however without his body. And Cyborg is now attempting to diagnose and confirm his existence, which we ourselves cannot hear or see, except through Raven?”
Robin and Cyborg shared looks of silent agreement, double-checking mentally that the previous statement was plausible. “That’s about the size of it,” he nodded.
Starfire blinked twice. “I believe the applicable Earth term is… ‘That is the crazy excrement’.”
The console beeped, turning Cyborg’s attention back to the main screen. “Okay, the equipment is finished warmin’ up. Search parameters are locked in.” He flicked a few switches before holding his hand, palm flat over a button. “We’re good to go here.”
“BeastBoy,” Robin called, panning his gaze across the room, unsure where he was. “Whenever you’re ready.”
BeastBoy shared a fleeting glance with Raven before taking a deep breath and then slowly exhaling as he walked across the room to a large lead barrier that rose up from the floor. He stood in front of the barrier so as the scanners wouldn’t interfere with the surrounding equipment behind him.
A large array of antennas, sensory plates, and optical lasers dropped down into position, beginning to hum to life as they took aim at the dead center of the barrier.
Um… on second thought, let’s just call that the ‘exact center’ of the barrier. We’ve already made that error before, and no need to jinx it now.
The antenna’s tips began to slightly vibrate.
The laser’s lens pulsed a bright red glow.
BeastBoy gave a small gulp. This was like the dentist’s office. If the dentist doubled as a firing squad. It felt like there may as well have been a bull’s-eye behind him.
“This will not hurt him, will it not?” Starfire asked concerned.
“Not if I can help it.” Cyborg gave a shake of his head, not taking his eyes off the barrier. “Ya ready, B?” Cyborg called.
BeastBoy held his hands behind his back, closing his eyes half way, forcing a smile. “Cheese,” he said between his teeth, trying to make lighter of the moment than he was letting on.
Raven nodded on his behalf.
He looked to the others for a silent plea of hope as Cyborg brought his hand down activating the scan sequence.
The scanners aligned their target, sending out invisible pulses of energy. Drawing samples of light, heat, sound, air, right down to the tiniest molecule and microorganism present.
BeastBoy turned his head, shutting his eyes tight.
After about twenty seconds that felt like twenty minutes, the devices gradually slowed to a gentle hum.
BeastBoy peeked an eye open. He patted down his chest and waist, having felt no discomfort and taking stock of everything where it should be.
Cyborg traced his fingers across several monitors, all of them comparing drawn readings to BeastBoy’s vital statistics on file. He was looking for any kind of discrepancy. Any kind of trace that there was something there. An audible beat of his heart or pulse. A rise in thermal levels to indicate his body heat. Brainwave activity (or lack thereof). Even the slightest trace of any of the thousands of co-existing strands of animal DNA in his bloodstream.
“Well?” Raven asked dryly but with the tiniest speck of anticipation.
Cyborg tapped a few keys, pooling all results from all instruments. His eyes moved rapidly from one column of the screen to the next.
Shortly before his face fell.
All results concluded negative.
Robin patted Cyborg on the back. “We know that’s not accurate.”
“Course not.” Cyborg shook his head as he dragged a hand over his metallic scalp. “Maybe I just need to boost the output sensitivity. Or maybe the instruments need to be recalibrated.” Cyborg adjusted a few knobs and dials. “Maybe I just need to fix the…”
He rapped the underside of his fist bluntly across the top of the console.
Starfire nodded in agreement with a smile, not about to give up either.
She repeated Cyborg’s technique, though denting a portion of the outer housing.
“Shall we fix it more?” She cheerily inquired.
Robin politely ushered her gentle touch away from the console. “Why don’t we take a quick break? Process this and then come back fresh.”
They begrudgingly nodded in agreement.
“Do I at least get a lollipop?” BeastBoy asked as he started to walk away from his impromptu checkup.
Cyborg turned, about to leave his station. But just then he stopped one foot cold, leaning back to peer closely at the monitor. He squinted his organic features as if trying to make certain his eye wasn’t playing tricks on him.
“Wait!” he called. “Rae, did BeastBoy just step out from behind the scanners?”
Raven looked from Cyborg to BeastBoy who was halfway across the room, making his way to the kitchen. “Yes?” she responded, somewhat puzzled.
BeastBoy came to a stop, looking back at the others.
Cyborg came about face to the console once more, typing in a few commands.
“Find something?” Robin asked.
“Not necessarily. More like something missing.” He looked back to the center of the room and the sensor barrier. “B? I wantcha’ to move back in front of the scanner.”
BeastBoy reluctantly walked back in front of the barrier, the sensory devices still running.
“Okay. Now, step out of the scanners.” Cyborg instructed.
BeastBoy casually took three steps away from the focus point of the scanners.
“Now step back in.”
BeastBoy returned to the scan position.
“Now step back out.”
“Ugh! Dude,” he groaned impatiently at Cyborg’s seemingly unwillingness to make up his mind, “He tells me to do the hokey-pokey and I’m outta’ here.” He crossed his arms in contempt.
“What is it you have found Cyborg?” Starfire asked, hovering over his shoulder trying to see.
“Look,” he pointed to the screen. The screen split into a side-by-side comparison. “The system still can’t register anything pertinent to BeastBoy’s vitals or bio readings. BUT… there is this small discrepancy that’s consistent when he is and isn’t in front of the scanners.”
“It… looks like… some sort of feedback.” Robin leaned in, scratching his chin at the miniscule climb in readings.
“Exactly. And if I’m right…”
Cyborg opened his chest compartment, pulling Control Freak’s previously seized remote and attaching a small connection line between the remote and a readout on his forearm. A small needle rose and fell as it carefully measured the remote’s digital output.
“BOO-YAH!” he exclaimed, throwing a fist in the air. “The feedback the system is registering? It’s a perfect match for the output of Control Freak’s remote.”
“So, all the remote did was split BeastBoy between his physical and non-physical forms.” Robin surmised.
“Essentially, yes,” Cyborg agreed.
“What I’m in contact with now must be his spiritual form,” Raven looked beside her to BeastBoy who was starting to show signs of unbridled enthusiasm.
“Aww Yeah!” he exclaimed. “You heard right. I’m spiritual, baby,” he held his hands out beside him, pinching his fingers between his thumbs in mock Zen position with a grin.
Raven hung her head, lopping off a smile. But even she couldn’t completely mask a small sense of relief.
“And my guess is, THIS is the little doozy that did it,” Cyborg gestured to a button on the remote marked: Split Function.
Typically used to toggle between various formats on a single device. Like trying to watch two channels at the same time. Except in this case it toggled between the two halves of a single being. And in between a jumbled press of who knows what other function, it completely split off one from another.
“So, that means…” Starfire began.
“It might not be ‘BeastBoy’s’ vitals, but it IS a signal.” Cyborg continued to compare readings.
“And if it has a signal, it can be traced,” Robin continued.
“And on the other end of that signal could be BeastBoy’s physical form,” Raven added with a glimmer of optimism.
“And then it should just be a matter of piggybacking off that signal to rejoin the two parts of BeastBoy back into one.” Cyborg concluded.
“SWEET!” BeastBoy cheered. “So let’s fire this baby up and zap me back to…”
BeastBoy swiped at the remote, eager to return to the physical plane. Except that his hands phased through the device with every grab.
“Awgh! And the sooner the better. This whole ghost rules thing is gettin’ old fast.”
“Easy, BeastBoy,” Raven put up her hand, motioning him to be patient. “I’m not sure it’s quite that easy.”
“Lemme’ guess. Little dude’s a little anxious?” Cyborg interpreted Raven’s one-sided conversation.
She nodded. “A fair assumption. But then, I don’t think he’s the only one.” She glanced at the others.
“Well, she’s got ya there, B.” Cyborg responded somewhat dejected. “Not quite that simple.”
“It is not?” Starfire asked surprised. “Forgive me, but if the remote made friend BeastBoy like this, it is only fair to assume it can equally restore him. Correct?”
“Not sayin’ that it can’t, Star. It’s just that this thing doesn’t exactly have an ‘undo’ button,” Cyborg explained, as he verified no such labeled function to be present. “This remote ain’t exactly standard home entertainment fare either. And if it took away BeastBoy’s body, I ain’t willin’ to go button pressing at random and risk him losing somethin’ else.”
BeastBoy gave a hollow chuckle. “What else I got to lose? My complexion? My rugged good looks?” He wiggled his eyebrows at Raven.
“Your bottomless delusions?” She dryly chimed in, cutting off his lax, joking attitude at the knees.
“Regardless, I ain’t channel surfin’ this thing anywhere near BeastBoy until I know EXCATLY how this remote works. Meaning I strip this thing down, piece by piece, circuit for circuit, until I can reverse engineer how it works,” Cyborg flipped the remote over, checking the back.
BeastBoy’s shoulders drooped in impatient pouting. “What the heck am I suppose to do till then?” he lightly whined to himself, impending boredom on the horizon. “Set a world record for throwing myself through the most walls without medical attention?”
“Anything we can do to help?” Robin asked.
Cyborg shook his head. “Nah. The dismantling shouldn’t take too long, but… everything else? Mapping connections, tracing wires, THAT is gonna’ take time. I need to know how this device works inside and out. Which means I got a long night ahead.”
“Are you sure?” Robin asked in more concerned demeanor.
“Surely there must be some way for us to assist you,” Star added.
“Yeah,” he sat down, setting the remote on a vacant console to serve as his workspace. “Maybe brew a pot of coffee. Or three. And grab my portable systems re-charger from my room. Gonna need both my fuel cells percolatin’.”
Robin gave a nod as he headed for the door and Starfire dashed into the kitchen. They didn’t like one person pulling an all-nighter when they were ready and willing. But they plainly knew this was a delicate matter, far outside of their areas of expertise. And that just hanging over him waiting to hand him something would only be a hindrance and a bother.
“Anything I can do?” Raven asked.
“Nah. Grab some shut eye, Rae,” he smiled over his shoulder at her. “And try not to worry. After all, you got yourself a little green guardian angel,” he lightly teased.
“I can leave BeastBoy to keep you company,” she replied with an empty stare.
“NO!” he frantically held up both hands before darting his eyes around the room, briefly forgetting he might very well still be there in front of him. “Uh… No offense. But I think it’d go a lot quicker if the thought of BB the friendly ghost hauntin’ me through the night wasn’t on my mind.” He relaxed his shoulders, turning back to the remote. “Quicker the better to get that little grass stain back to where I can see’em.”
Raven nodded as if silently wishing him luck, turning for the door. “Goodnight, Cyborg.”
Raven stopped short of the door as it opened, turning to make sure BeastBoy would not linger.
Sure enough, there was BeastBoy, standing directly behind Cyborg and staring down at the back of his head. An un-amused stare at his friend’s previously joking statement curled into a devious grin.
BeastBoy lifted his hand, extending his index finger and popping it into his mouth. He swished and swirled his cheeks briefly before popping his digit out of his mouth, coated in a thick layer of saliva. He then shoved the tip of his finger directly into Cyborg’s human ear, twirling it a few times for good measure, delivering the wettest of willies.
“Ugghggh!” Cyborg shuddered, glancing around the room. “There a draft in here?”
Clearly unable to make physical contact but leaving an impression all the same. And with that, he proudly sauntered past Raven and out of the main room.
Cyborg popped off the remote’s outer casing, overcome by a sudden shortness of breath and his eye widening at the sight that greeted him. “…Oh boy,” he sighed as his index finger on his left hand flipped open to a flat head screw driver and his ring finger on his right popped out a pair of wire cutters.
Raven casually walked down the corridor, BeastBoy beside her. She watched out of the corner of her eye as he stared at the ground as he walked, slightly kicking his feet into the air with each step.
No doubt something was on his mind.
And indeed there was.
BeastBoy was far more resilient than one might suspect. It took a lot to truly get him down. And even if it did, he could get right back up with the best them. But this? This was something he was never truly good at. Never fully equipped to deal with.
All his mind could do was constantly remind him over and over without delay what was sure to follow. The night ahead of him. And what would occupy that night?
So… much… Boredom.
Oh sure, sleep was the obvious thing to do. But just because he could lazily snooze hours on end didn’t mean he could just will that sort of thing on command. He needed to wind down. To gradually deplete his physical (or even sometimes mental) energy.
As hard as it might have been to believe, he wasn’t sweating the lack of physical form, not anymore. Now that there was seemingly a light at the end of that tunnel, that only left the more immediate concern of occupying his mind until the others could bring him back. And coping with inactivity was never a pleasant experience for him.
He wasn’t hungry. He wasn’t really tired. He just needed to wrap his head around something. And for once nothing around him could facilitate that need. What was he going to do to pass the time? Talk to the others? They couldn’t hear him. Play a video game? He couldn’t hold the controller. Read a comic? He couldn’t turn a page, let alone lift the book.
BeastBoy let out a soft sigh.
“So…”Raven began, “Since no one else is going to ask, what’s it like being… like that?”
BeastBoy glanced at her, momentarily relieved to refocus his thoughts on something else. “What? Ya mean the whole no body thing?”
“No, I mean having more space between your head that doesn’t occupy your brain,” she said in a dull tone as she stared through his intangible skull with a quarter of a smirk. “Of course the ‘no body’ thing.”
BeastBoy looked off with a sour half smile of his own. “Kinda’ trippy,” he extended his arm, dragging his hand along the hallway, his fingers phasing right through the wall. “But, I mean, come on. No big, right? You can do this kinda’ stuff too.”
Raven tilted her head slightly. “Well, yes. In a sense. Though astral projection is more of a process really. By channeling the energies of my body through my mind I can freely channel myself through the world around me. However, I’ve never completely vacated my physical form before.”
BeastBoy slowly nodded. “It’s weird. Not like, bad weird. Just ‘weird’ weird.”
“Well, it makes like zero sense,” he rubbed the side of his temple.
“And coming from you, that’s saying something.”
BeastBoy silently ignored that last remark. “I mean, if I can pass through stuff, and walk through walls, how come I don’t just fall though the floor out the other side of the planet or something?”
Raven somewhat admired the momentary analytical thinking. “Probably the same way your head doesn’t cave in on itself despite there being nothing inside it.”
“Oh, ha ha,” he responded dryly.
“In all seriousness, I have little knowledge on the properties of an existence without a physical anchor to return too. Perhaps it’s a matter of stability within the world itself. Maybe you’re somehow able to will some manner bearing on your surroundings,” she surmised.
“Maybe it’s like in cartoons. Ya’know, where the guy doesn’t fall after he walks off the cliff till he looks down? And…” BeastBoy looked down without even thinking, “DUDE!” he panicked, petrified momentarily that he may have inadvertently just triggered his own aimless fall.
Instinctively he leaped towards the nearest thing to grab onto, throwing his arms around Raven as he shut his eyes tight, gripping tightly as he trembled.
Raven merely stood there. Blankly looking from the floor to BeastBoy and his in-ability to take any kind of hold. She merely rolled her half opened eyes at his own imagination running away with him. Again.
Yet she took only a moment to look more closely at his face. Eyes closed, mouth shut tight, bracing for the unknown written all over him. Despite beginning to grasp the situation it would be easy to forget that for the most part he was alone in this. And could not even imagine what he might be going through.
Raven slowly lifted her hand, reaching towards his trembling face.
BeastBoy peeked an eye open, looking back to where he stood and if he had descended any considerable distance.
Instantly Raven yanked her hand back to her side, remaining as blank faced as before, completely unnoticed by her non-interactive companion.
“Well… that didn’t work,” BeastBoy remarked with an equal sense of relief and surprise as he pulled himself away.
Raven gave a forced cough, clearing her throat and diminishing the brief rise in her facial temperature.
“Ya know the more I think about it, the more this seems like… I don’t know,” he looked down at his hands, seeing right through them to the floor, “Being under some kinda’ spell, ya know? Like from a fairytale?”
“Oh really,” Raven mused, straightening her cloak. “And which dwarf are you?”
BeastBoy lightly scoffed. “Actually, I was thinking more like the handsome prince.”
“You sure you’re not thinking of the steed?” she crossed her arms in doubt.
“You mean stud.”
Raven shrugged. “Well at least we can agree on what animal. Though which end is clearly up for debate.”
“No, think about it. I’m the handsome prince, totally cursed by an evil wizard. An evil, socially awkward, poorly dressed, obsessive fan based wizard,” he mentally pictured Control Freak in wizard garb. “His magic wand that moves channels across worlds banished me right outta’ the kingdom,” BeastBoy pointed both fingers at his head as if playing the scenario out in his mind.
Raven gave an unimpressed deadpan stare at his interpretation. Though she could admire his playfulness with the scenario. Especially given his current state. Maybe he was entitled to a lighter side of recent events.
“And his only hope of rescue is a princess.”
Raven leaned her head to the side. “And this princess? She smacks him so hard that it breaks the spell?” she pulled back her arm as if prepared to backhand him, but humoring him all the same.
“Ya know, in a weird way, I would welcome that right about now,” he joked, lightly holding his fist in his palm. “The warm sting of her fingers striking against his skin. The affectionate way her knuckles line up before they bang against the soft spot in his head,” he spoke in the third person as if narrating on the prince’s behalf the pummel of true love.
Raven cocked an eyebrow in disbelief. She didn’t know what was more confusing. BeastBoy speaking so eloquently or him sounding as if longing for her to hurt him? Maybe the effects of being without a body were starting to wear on his mind more than she thought.
“You do realize you’re pretty much saying I would have to hurt you to help you?”
He looked over his shoulder at her. “Who said ‘you’ were the princess?” BeastBoy curled a smile at her teasingly.
Raven’s eyes narrowed indiscriminately at him. As if she would make his bad day worse right about now if she were capable. But she was quickly reminded that she was not. That this was just his coping mechanism. He needed to joke. To have his fun where he could to be able to take his mind off things.
She took a breath, giving a soft sigh, letting it roll off her shoulder. Azar only knew what she might do in the same situation.
“But… as long as you’re offering,” he paused, shyly rubbing his head with a small grin. “There… might be… another way.” BeastBoy tilted his head upwards, angling his chin and softly puckering his lips.
Raven frowned, looking off to the side, as if trying to pass off the subtle redness in her cheeks as anger. Leave it to BeastBoy to take advantage of the situation. This was the second time in one day he’d peddled for a kiss. Maybe it was a bit flattering. But he was clearly starting to get a swelled head.
Besides, even if she wanted t…
Her eyes momentarily went wide.
Raven curled a small mischievous smirk.
“Ye-Wait, what?” BeastBoy double-taked, uncertain if he’d heard that response correctly. Clearly not expecting that.
“Under the circumstances… and… if it’ll keep you quiet,” she looked down at the ground before closing her eyes and leaning outward, tilting down just enough to compensate for BeastBoy’s height.
He took a step back, his mind going blank as he briefly stared at Raven’s lips seemingly being presented to him. No argument, no resistance, no one else around.
Definitely not expecting that, nervously tugging on his collar. But this was hardly the time for doubts or second thoughts. He had to act before she changed her mind.
BeastBoy started to close his eyes, trying to keep the pucker on his lips on cruise control as he leaned in.
Leaning in farther.
BeastBoy teetered, phasing right through Raven and fell over landing in a heap on the floor.
He slowly rolled over onto his side, leaning his head on one hand, dryly tapping an annoyed finger on the floor with the other. “Walked right into that one, didn’t I?” he looked up at Raven, sporting an amused look on her face as if broadcasting ‘we’re even’ in her smile.
“Literally,” she rolled her eyebrows.
BeastBoy got to his feet, dusting himself off before resuming their walk down the hall.
His heart sank as they rounded the corridor, the door to Raven’s room in plain view.
BeastBoy let out a small sigh, hanging his head. It was nice while it lasted. But his first long night without a body and no defense against boredom was still ahead of him. And nothing in his room, in the tower, heck the entire physical world could aid him. Like the entire world was out of reach. Because incidentally, it was.
Nothing to do. Nothing to occupy him. And somewhere deep down, maybe a little scared too.
And not even the least bit sleepy. But he would have to try. At present it seemed sleep was the only thing he could do. Was it really okay to try to sleep without a body? ‘Could’ he sleep without a body? After all, he’d never slept without one before.
Raven stopped short of the door as it swished open.
BeastBoy just causally walked past. “Night, Raven,” he feigned a yawn hoping it would hasten the mood by the time he got to his room.
He could do this. This was something that came naturally to him. He could sleep days away before. Why not now? He could out sleep entire mornings. He could sleep through Robin’s lectures. He could certainly sleep through this.
He had to.
Raven half turned, peering over her shoulder as he continued down the hall.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
BeastBoy stopped. He turned looking back over his shoulder. “Um… my room?”
Raven gestured to the door with her thumb. “Inside.”
He blinked. He looked back down the hall. Then back again towards Raven’s room.
No. No, this couldn’t be what it sounded like. No, this… this was just blowback from the kiss fiasco just a short while ago. Just Raven trying to get once last rise out him. Just before…
“Now,” she said casually yet menacingly with half her face peering at him through the doorway.
BeastBoy jumped back a step before lightly jogging back over to the door. He came to a halt, stopping in front as he looked from all sides around the doorframe, then taking one last verifying look at Raven who still lingered in the doorway.
“A-Are you sure that’s a good id…”
“I turn my back on you for one second and you lose your body. I’m not letting you out of my sight again until you’re back to normal,” she folded her arms as if visually refusing any argument. “Or at least as far normal as is applicable to you.”
BeastBoy bit the corner of his lower lip, angling his pupils to the side in thought. It wasn’t as though sharing a room with Raven was a foreign experience. Not after everything they’d already been through. But somehow this just seemed… different. Being invited, almost forcefully, by Raven, to her room, at night?
He vigorously shook his head, shaking it off before he could fully analyze that thought. He’d thought he saw a horror movie that started like that before.
Slowly, BeastBoy stepped inside as Raven took a step back allowing him inside. He surveyed the room almost as if looking at it for the first time. Or rather the first time from a new perspective.
BeastBoy never forgot the first time he set foot in Raven’s room. It was kind of spooky. But now that he himself was a spook it felt… kind of cozy. Inviting even. Maybe it was the relief of not being alone for the night. Maybe it was just the death, spirit mojo aligning.
Raven walked over beside her bed, unclasping her cloak and hanging it on a nearby dresser.
BeastBoy turned instantly, quickly directing his view elsewhere with a low awkward cough to clear his throat. Even if it was just her cloak, it was still essentially Raven undressing. And he had enough problems if he was going to be able to sleep without THAT entering his mind.
Raven stopped in front of her largest bookcase, slowly dragging her index finger across the backings of several large bound books. She paused, pulling two particularly large volumes from the shelf. She then walked over beside her nightstand, setting them down.
“Ooh, bedtime story? I’d love one,” BeastBoy remarked. “Thanks.”
“Hardly. These are for study in the morning,” Raven answered in dull reply.
BeastBoy leaned to the side. “Uh… there gonna’ be a test on this in the morning?”
She shook her head. “No. This is just something to fall back on.”
“I don’t get it. Fall back on what?”
“Just because the remote made you like this is no reason to assume it can restore you just as easily. I want to at least have a plan B,” she climbed onto her bed, reclining against the baseboard as she cracked open the first book and began sifting through pages to get a head start.
“Well, just don’t push yourself too hard, Rae,” he said gratefully. “It is kinda’ late ya know.”
“Just want to narrow down where I can start looking,” she rubbed her eyes before looking up at him.
He moved to a small corner of the room just opposite of the bed, lifting his arms over his head with a stretch before sitting on the floor with his legs folded.
He looked up.
“You don’t have to stay on the floor.”
BeastBoy quirked an eyebrow.
“We can… share,” she said plainly, but burying her face deeper in the book at the same time.
He nervously shook his head. “Oh, no no no NO!” he waved his hands in front of him with a courteously shy smile. “I-I’m good right here.”
Raven lifted her head enough for her eyes to peer over the top of the book, a sterner look than one might have imagined. “I don’t mind,” she said dryly.
“L-Look, Raven I… I don’t mind bein’ here and all. Really. And, I’m actually kinda’ relieved I’m not all alone in my room. But… I-I just don’t think I should… ya know?” he twiddled his fingers.
“BeastBoy, what are you going to do? Cop a feel?” she mused.
BeastBoy looked down through his palms. Even if that notion were present, BeastBoy wasn’t capable of any monkey business if he tried. Heck, his monkey business wasn’t even in the same physical plane as he was.
“W-Well, what if I say something weird in my sleep?”
“As opposed to the weird things you say when you’re awake?”
He puffed his cheeks in mild aggravation. He was starting to take this rather personally. BeastBoy just stared hard at Raven.
She stared right back.
“You. Bed. Now.” Raven pointed to the vacant side of the bed beside her, continuing to train her sights on BeastBoy, growing more intense by the second.
A moment passed as he mentally scurried in thought trying to think of something to say, a counter argument to be made. He opened his mouth, accusatory finger aimed.
He stood, drooping his shoulders in surrender as he let out a sigh in defeat. Dragging his feet across the floor as if resenting every step. Raven reduced her stare pressure to minimum strength, her eyes half open turning back to the book only once BeastBoy begrudgingly hopped onto the bed, reclining beside her. She always did have that sort of blunt charm about her. Passively threatening yet mildly arousing.
“Hugh!” he huffed. “I forgot how impossible it is to win with you.”
Raven batted her eyebrows with a nod of her head into the book. “And yet, you wanted to date me.”
He pulled one arm behind his head, resting the other at his side. “Only win that counts.”
Raven darted her eyes to the side at him, holding on him for an unseen moment as he shut his eyes. Slowly she turned her attention back towards her book, turning the page.
“Hmm?” he cracked an eye open.
She paused, lowering the book just an inch or so from her face. “Why are you… ‘with’ me?” she asked as if never having thought to ask until now.
BeastBoy tilted his head at her. This was an unusual thing to ask at a time like this. If Raven were asking herself or at least musing hypothetically why she was with him would be one thing. This was another entirely.
“Do I… really need a reason?” he asked as if he couldn’t really think of a suitable answer.
“No. Not really,” she looked away. “It’s just this incident has made me sort of… re-think things. Try to put things in perspective.”
“Second thoughts?” he shyly turned away. “Got your eye on someone else? Cause if ya do I could…”
“No,” she was quick to respond. “Nothing like that. It just sort of brings certain things to light I never really thought to consider.”
BeastBoy furrowed his brow. “You mean… you never ever even kinda’ sorta’ thought to ask ‘why’ I would wanna’ try dating you?”
She returned her hard gaze in full force to him, making him almost jump. He made it sound so thoughtless. Made her sound thoughtless.
"N-Not like that's a bad thing. It... actually kinda' makes me glad to think you don't always think before everything." He smiled proudly. "I'm your first impulse then. Well, maybe not the first 'impulse' impulse. Like, physically." he recalled of few of her choice corrective moments. "Mental impulse mayb-"
“Stick to the question at hand,” she passively directed. “Why are you with me?”
BeastBoy nervously tugged at his collar as his eyes wandered to the ceiling. He looked again, but only finding Raven having set the book down on her lap allowing him her undivided attention.
“I-I don’t know,” he quivered slightly. After a second or two he finally managed to realign his face to Raven, looking straight into her eyes. “Why do you let me?”
Raven’s expression softened to a casual stare, totally silent. Her pupils shifted hesitantly back down to book momentarily before rubbing her eyes as she leaned back setting the book on her nightstand. “We should get some sleep.”
It had been a long day and Raven was far too physically and emotionally drained to yield any kind of answer. At least not one that she might regret later. No doubt BeastBoy was thinking the same thing.
Raven gave a wave of her hand, dispersing the lights before leaning onto her side facing away from BeastBoy. “Good night, BeastBoy,” she said gently.
BeastBoy turned away; figuring if Raven was ducking the question now might not be the most opportune time to push for an answer. Even with physical amnesty from corrective and disciplinary measures. Plus, this was her room. To which he was a grateful guest under the present circumstance.
“Night, Raven,” he said simply as he rolled onto his side with his back to her.
BeastBoy looked back for an instant. “Raven?” he whispered. “You say somethin’?”
He just stared briefly at the gentle rise and fall of Raven’s breathing with no physical or verbal reply. After a moment he hesitantly rolled back over and shut his eyes to attempt to resume his still uneasy slumber. Though he had to admit he felt a lot more secure being so close to her.
Raven lay on her side, eyes peering aimlessly into the darkness.
Her insides were all churned up. Worry, sadness, resentment, and a deep sense of guilt simmered in her heart. While her finger hadn’t been on Control Freak’s remote, she had inadvertently redirected the blast. She was the reason BeastBoy was without a body.
She did this to him.
And deep down she could feel like he knew.
Slowly, she closed her eyes and gradually nodded off to sleep.
It was almost four in the morning as the main room doors swished open, allowing only the tiniest amount of ambient light from the corridor in. The room was barely lit. Only a few working monitors and their luminescent glow outlining Cyborg and his workstation, right where he had been left earlier in the night.
Robin walked further inside, his footsteps only warranting a turn from Cyborg in his chair, acknowledging his presence before turning back to his workstation. As he got closer he could see Cyborg’s labor evidenced by the array of organized chaos on the table. The remote was almost entirely disassembled, yet remained connected via wires and connectors. Great care had been taken to analyze the device’s inner workings without severing any one piece completely from the rest of its assembly. Crudely drawn diagrams had been constructed on the adjacent monitors in 3d space with post-it notes stuck onto the various sides of the screen.
“Couldn’t sleep?” Cyborg was barely able to stifle a yawn.
“Could,” he shrugged. “But not really putting much effort into it.” Robin noticed the systems re-charger still securely connected to Cyborg’s back and two empty coffee pots by his feet.
Cyborg unscrewed a small cap atop his left shoulder, taking a swig of his coffee mug before pouring the rest into the opening in his arm. His circuitry jolted a brighter glow of blue for a few moments.
“Good coffee?” Robin smirked.
“Bout average,” he returned, screwing the cap back on. “The caffeine just gets absorbed faster through my organics this way. Doesn’t hurt the capacitor either. I’d offer ya a cup, but that was the last of it.”
“I’ll manage,” he gave a wave of the hand. “Any luck?”
“That depends. Ya mean like good?”
Robin gave a small puzzled look. “Problem?”
“Man, problem ain’t the word. I been runnin’ every kind of test and diagnostic I can think of on this thing. And I STILL ain’t any closer to pinnin’ down how this thing does what it does.”
Robin was somewhat taken aback. Tech was Cyborg’s specialty. If he was having trouble understanding it, that was quite the statement. “You mean you can’t figure out how it works?”
“I can’t figure out WHY it works,” he frustratingly shuffled through his notes. “Rational and logically designed technology I can take apart and put back together with my eyes closed. Technically, mechanically, and theoretically speaking, this remote is the granddaddy of every shot in the dark that ever was.” He rifled through his notes and schematics. “This thing violates most rudimentary laws of electronics, fundamental engineering, and even a law or two of physics I think. So far, I found a circuit board from an old VCR, repurposed calculator parts, soldered components from a few outdated portable video game units, and foil wrappers used for conductors. And I’m pretty sure if I keep lookin’ I’ll find a wad of bubble gum and a paperclip.”
Robin hung his head, more than a little disappointing to hear. “What are the odds of us rigging up something of our own not based on the remote’s functionality to restore BeastBoy?”
Cyborg leaned back with a sigh. “Not bad. If ya got a couple decades on your hands.”
Robin turned his head, looking out the window across the city. He held his hands behind his back. “So being able to detect BeastBoy, his signal, is pretty much useless without the means to pull him back to us?”
“Pretty much.” Cyborg staggered his response, their earlier achievement sounding more like a hollow victory now. It felt like they were losing him a second time.
Robin was silent, deep in thought.
“So what’s the move?” Cyborg asked.
He began pacing back and forth. “We could pool our resources. I have a few contacts we could bounce ideas off of, maybe one or two might be able to point us in the right direction. We could try to re-build the remote anyway, cross our fingers, and hope for the best.”
“I don’t mean to sound like a killjoy, but that’s a lotta’ ‘what if’ scenarios. And none of’em sound like they’re gonna bring back BeastBoy anytime soon,” Cyborg unhooked his charger.
“You’re right.” Robin turned, narrowing his eyes as he leaned against the window. “But I can think of one person who can.”
The sun was shining brightly as Raven sat up. She looked all around finding herself in a wide-open, grassy hilltop. Just beside a large tree with wide spread branches. Their thick bunches of leaves shielding her from the bright sunlight, leaving a broad patch of shade on ground all around her.
A cool breeze flowed through her hair as she turned finding the tower and much of the city in view as well as the deep blue waters of the bay below.
She closed her eyes as another gentle breeze blew gently across her face. She lowered her hands to the ground finding a thick picnic blanket beneath her. On top of which beside her was a small picnic basket. Through the opening in the top she could plainly see a few of her books tucked inside, as well as a small assortment of snacks and neatly wrapped sandwiches.
To her left came the soft melody of tea being gently poured into a cup. She could smell the blend of herbs through the gentle waft of steam that seemed to slink past her nose.
Raven looked beside her.
There, sitting next to her, was BeastBoy.
He set down the kettle beside him before lifting the freshly poured cup to his mouth. Gently blowing across the rim of the cup, parting the rising steam, cooling the tea.
He held out the cup without a word, a warm smile prompting her to take it.
Slowly, reluctantly, Raven took the cup into her hands, giving a brief twitch in her wrist as BeastBoy’s fingers grazed her hands as she removed the cup from his grasp.
She lifted the cup to her mouth, sipping the tea. She could feel her whole body seemingly go limp as the tension dissolved from her being as she downed the warm liquid. Her muscles relaxed, her posture slouching. She leaned her head back, slowly exhaling.
She turned back, opening her eyes.
But BeastBoy was nowhere to be seen.
Raven looked to her left, then to her right. But still, no sign of him. She turned all the way around, only finding the surrounding sunlight growing dimmer.
She peered up from underneath the tree, verifying the sky growing more and more gray with the rumble of thunder in the distance.
The patter of raindrops against the bay behind her started to sound. Droplets starting to seep between the leaves.
Raven looked down finding the picnic spread gone. Only lumpy patches of exposed dirt.
She looked around her. The once grassy hilltop was now a cemetery. And the tree that once sheltered her was now withered. Its branches barely clad of any leaves at all. Rain began coming down more steadily with larger droplets massing on top of her head, clumping her hair before dribbling down her face.
She looked up beside her.
There, in the spot that BeastBoy had occupied mere moments ago stood a tombstone.
She slowly re-centered her sights on the tombstone beside her.
‘Here lies BeastBoy. It wasn’t meant to be.’
“Hhnngh!” Raven sat up in bed with a shallow gasp.
She scanned the room. Dark, stillness, silence. Raven brought a hand to her chest as she lightly huffed, slowing her breathing. She then lifted her head as if in sharp realization, quickly looking beside her.
BeastBoy lay at her side. Still without his body. Still asleep.
Still with her.
Raven breathed a sigh of relief, rubbing her eyes. It was only a dream.
She laid back down. Taking a few deep cleansing breaths before closing her eyes once more, trying to go back to sleep. Trying being the operative word.
She rolled onto her side, eyes still closed, trying to let sleep come to her. But worry found itself seeping deeper into her thoughts.
Raven restlessly peeked over her shoulder, verifying BeastBoy to indeed still be there. He had rolled onto his back and save for a few impulsive twitches and an occasional low groan or mumble he was sound asleep.
She rolled onto her side watching him carefully. Raven found it difficult to take her eyes off him, worried if something else was going to happen to him.
All she could think about was the walk home from the bookstore. How BeastBoy reached out and took her hand. And how she pulled away.
Now he was so close she could hear him breathing and she couldn’t even squeeze a finger.
Raven rolled onto her back, staring up at the ceiling. But once more she found her eyes drifting beside her.
She looked down at her side, finding BeastBoy’s arm resting close to her. She gazed down at his transparent hand, resting just beside her waist. Raven slowly lifted her hand over his. Gently she rested her hand down onto the bed, watching as it phased right through to the mattress.
After a few seconds verifying it hadn’t woken or stirred him from sleep Raven lifted her hand, raising it up onto her fingers just enough to obscure most of BeastBoy’s hand from view. And even if just from her perspective it looked as though her hand was resting on top of his.
She closed her eyes once more as she mentally reassured herself. Taking a deep breath as she tried to get whatever sleep she could.
This would get better.
It had to.
To be Continued…