Chapter 4 - Grave Exaggeration
Outside on the streets of Jump City, life went on. Even in the later hours of the day transitioning into the night hours there was a vibrant energy in the air all around. The city lights aglow, the low rumble of the passing subway cars below. Typical ambience of metropolitan life.
But inside the museum, never had there been such silence.
The Titans looked on, each in their own disheartened and still disbelieving manner, looking to the lightly charred floor tiles and smoldering embers outlining where their friend and fellow Titan once stood. None of them prepared to acknowledge that BeastBoy had been standing front and center in the midst of such senseless destruction. Least of all Raven, who remained motionless and without a word spoken.
Normally, a blast from Control Freaks remote was hardly deemed anywhere close to fatal. It was traditionally used to augment living matter, and as a means of transport to and from another dimensional plane within television itself. And there was plainly no televisions or active monitors to lead to any conclusions of the contrary that he’d merely been transported, separated from the others into one of Control Freaks digital domains. But more than that, they had all observed its effects before. And this? This was nowhere near its standard operation.
Cyborg rubbed his eyes, looking again, trying to assure himself that this couldn’t be as it seemed. “That didn’t just happen, right?” he asked as calm as he could muster. “He’s… gotta be here somewhere.”
“Perhaps… a teleportation of some kind?” Starfire inquired.
“Yeah,” Cyborg gave a small nod. “Maybe some kinda’… containment beam. Sucked him up into the remote. Right?”
Robin just stared with a straight face. His silence speaking volumes against his friends dwindling hopes.
Starfire and Cyborg gave no further response, knowing full well just how deep into denial they were falling. They had a fair grasp of how most technology worked. No teleportation ever scorched the ground like that. Nor did it cause anywhere near that much visible pain and discomfort they had seen in BeastBoy’s face before he vanished.
They all just stared. None of them knowing what to do or what to say.
Slowly, Control Freak began to stir, sitting up from the ground beside the equally disoriented terminator who’d come crashing down onto him. “Ugh…W-Wha?” he groggily shook his head.
He looked to find four of the Titans visible, close to the center of the room. Three of them standing off to the side, and one of them standing short of a sizable seared section of the floor. Furrowing his brow, he looked more intently at the large burn marks. Slowly he looked to his remote in hand before looking back.
He remembered taking aim at an exhibit, the terminator coming straight at him, then pain, and then? Did he fire off a blast before he went down? He looked to his remote once more. Then looked back to the burn patterns on the floor. Then noticed the absence of one Titan. The math finally started to add up in his head.
“I… I got’em?” he asked. His face curled to a vicious sneer. “I GOT’EM!”
Oh, happy day for villains and ne’er do-wells everywhere. This was an event every bad guy dreamt of. Doing in a hero. Slaying a do-gooder. Granted, a younger, lesser-known hero. But hey, it was a start. He’d cut down a super hero in their prime. This was the path to stardom in the villain ranks. This was the Joker holding a gun to Batman’s head. This was Lex Luthor lording a chunk of kryptonite over Superman. This was big.
“I DID IT!” he beamed. Control Freak looked at his remote with the faintest of curiosity. “NOW… How’d I do it?” He looked back to what was clearly the spot he’d felled the teen hero, somewhat perplexed. He never remembered installing a feature like that and certainly no knowledge of a function like that before. “What button did I press? Agh! What was that function?!” He scanned the keypad of the remote.
Okay, so maybe he was sketchy on the details. Maybe it was a lucky shot. But in his book he still chalked that up as a win.
“Eh, details,” he shrugged. “For now is my time of ascension. NOW is the moment of glory. NOW begins the era of CONTROL FREAK!” he threw out his arms to the sky in celebration.
Just then, a thought occurred.
His eyes went wide as if snapping back to reality.
For the last few moments, Control Freak had been caught up in his own personal grandeur, shouting to the heavens, and cheering the downfall of a hero. And all while in the immediate vicinity of the formers four fellow heroes. Very much alive and well, and more than likely not in the most pleasant of moods in regards to him snuffing out one of their own.
He looked down, across the room, finding all four teens still with their backs to him. Whether overwhelmed by grief or oblivious to his presence due to the gravity of recent events was hardly his concern. Slowly he turned, beginning to tip toe away, choosing to exercise some restraint before further boasting of his victory.
“Take a moment to gather yourselves, Titans,” he said calmly, in a soft whisper, trying to brand his hasty retreat as an act of pity as he began to slink away. “For when next we meet…”
The terminator beside him exploded into a burst of flame, scattering fragments of his metal frame like confetti.
Control Freak froze, turning to the side, visibly startled.
Cyborg’s arm was outstretched, his sonic canon cooling down alongside a secondary shoulder mounted launcher with mini rockets primed and loaded. His cybernetic eye glowing bright red.
Starfire gave a matching look of spite, fists clenched, eyes burning bright green as a single tear flowed down her cheek that evaporated under the intense heat of her anger before reaching her chin.
Robin narrowed his eyes, doing his best to maintain his composure.
Control Freak jumped back, trying desperately to conceal his fright. “H-Hold it right there!” he shouted as he aimed his remote. “I was more than willing to prolong this until our next fated encounter but… d-do not think I won’t hesitate to…”
Control Freak furiously tapped the remote’s buttons, at the most hoping to duplicate the prior blast. At the least a warning shot or another transformation to stall long enough to beat a hasty exit. Unfortunately it seemed that last blast had depleted the remote’s energy entirely as the light atop the device faded to black to a falling beep.
He shook the remote. Then shook it again more vigorously with both hands, almost strangling the device.
“Uh… eh-heh!” he nervously chuckled. “Battery’s dead.”
Poor choice of words.
The Titans just stared him down in the most ominous silence and a quiet unyielding anger.
These were no longer the proud, dedicated, one lining heroes of the city whom he’d been battling. No, these were emotionally distraught teens reacting to the loss of a friend and teammate. Distraught teens with powers. And blunt objects. And glowing fists. And oh so many methods of potential pain and suffering waiting to be visited upon him.
Control Freak took a step backwards. Then slowly took another. Finally he turned, breaking into a full sprint, trying to put as much distance between him and his pursuers as possible.
A bird-a-rang flew from Robin’s hand, a grapple line trailing behind it, ensnaring one of Control Freak’s hands. The line went taut, jerking him to a complete stop, tugging him by the arm. He pulled desperately trying to slip free, but the line was tightly dug around his wrist.
Robin grabbed onto the line with both hands, leaning forward to let out just enough slack before swiftly yanking back, reeling Control Freak off the ground and into the air back towards them.
Starfire took to the air, zipping forward in a power dive straight for him, extending her arm to her side. She connected, clothes lining her forearm right across his chest, spinning him wildly in midair, somersaulting several times before landing flat on his face at the others feet.
He simply lied there. Sore and aching. He could feel the Titans standing over him. But he just didn’t have the energy to care anymore. He knew there was nowhere to go. No grand plan of escape. No harrowing fight to the finish.
Control Freak pushed off against the ground, rolling over onto his back. A few bruises and scrapes lined his face, but as far as the Titans were concerned, it was an improvement. He curled his face before spitting to the side onto the floor. There was just one thing left for him to do.
He sighed before curling a boastful smirk. “I still got’em.”
Robin grabbed him by the collar, pulling him forward, nose to nose with him, briefly catching him by surprise. He stared a hole right through him, boring every thought and gesture of disdain and cruelty right into his eyes.
Mildly shaken at first, Control Freak quickly eased back into his cocky demeanor. If they were going to take vengeance, they would’ve done it by now. He knew they weren’t going to do anything. Hero etiquette. Moral code. Right and wrong. Yadda yadda yadda.
They might’ve gotten him, but he permanently got one of them. He still bagged one of the good guys. He still won.
“So what now, Robin?” he grinned. “Fallen hero speech? Self-proclamation how you won’t cross that line to avenge a fallen comrade? Cause seriously, that stuff is SO done to death. I mean, COME ON! Take last issue of Captain Laser, number one fifty-nine… which in my opinion was really starting to turn the series around. Till they got wind of the movie deal and then…”
Robin released one hand from Control Freak’s collar, holding it out beside Cyborg.
Cyborg removed a small wrapped white package, unwrapping it before depositing its contents into Robin’s hand with an audible wet glop.
Robin reeled back his hand, just as Control Freak; previously distracted by his own rambling took notice. Robin shot his hand forward and…
A thick mass of tofu was shoved in its entirety into his mouth, effectively corking any further dialogue. Allowing them the tiniest of satisfaction. It was only right that BeastBoy, even in spirit alone, be the one to shut him up.
Cyborg seized up Control Freak’s remote, inspecting it to make certain it was fully inoperative before placing it into a storage compartment in his chest. He then grabbed the gurgling villain who was attempting to dislodge the hunk of soy product from his mouth by the back of his coat as he proceeded to drag him towards the exit.
Robin followed close behind.
Starfire turned, about to accompany them. Until she saw Raven out of the corner of her eye, having not budged an inch from where she stood. Even with her back to her she watched for any kind of movement. But she was stiff and unmoving, almost like a statue.
Starfire’s face fell, not that it had that much farther to go as of late. She reached out for her, to call to her.
But she stopped, finding Robin’s hand on her shoulder. She looked to him as he just quietly shook his head.
Star opened her mouth to speak, to protest, to plea, but then she just looked back at Raven and her unmoving stature. She closed her eyes as Robin put his arm around her and led her outside, looking back at Raven one more time. She needed her friends, but the shock was still far too fresh. She needed some time. They all would.
And with that they exited the building.
Never had there been such silence.
To Raven silence had always been golden. So peaceful, so pure, so absolute. But for the first time she could recall, this silence…hurt. Her eyes burned, having barely blinked. Her throat felt like it was gagging like she was forgetting to breathe. Her chest felt tight. Her stomach felt uneasy. Her knees softly shaking.
Raven stood glued to the spot where she had been for what felt like an eternity. As if everything else had stopped all around her. As if sound itself had gone away. She just stared. Stared in disbelief. Stared in shock. Stared at the floor where BeastBoy had stood not long ago, faintly able to make out the tiniest inklings of footprints among the singed floor panels.
Her knees finally gave way, collapsing to the floor, barely catching herself, holding herself up from the floor on her hands and knees. Her breathing was becoming shallow. She looked over at that same one spot on the floor, slowly reaching out, tracing her fingers across the seared marks and scorched serrations.
It was still warm.
Raven bit the corner of her lip, sinking her head between her shoulders. She pressed her hands firmly against the sides of her head, shutting her eyes tight, shaking her head vigorously. She wanted to yell. She wanted to scream. She wanted to break something. She wanted… to cry.
But she wouldn’t. She couldn’t. Raven had to suppress these surging feelings of sadness, grief, and anger before they boiled over and completely overwhelmed her. And it was proving more and more difficult by the moment. All that emotion seizing up inside of her and if she wasn’t careful it could reach critical levels.
The charka stone centered in her forehead sparked and crackled, black energy seemingly trying to force its way out like the side of a dam about to give way.
Raven tried furiously to quiet her thoughts and center her mind, to ease her state of being. But all she could do was keep flashing back to that one instant. That look on BeastBoy’s face right before he vanished in a flash.
So much pain.
She shut her eyes tighter, almost starting to hurt. It felt like she was on the verge of pushing them inside her own head. She gritted her teeth, her lip shivering, as a warm dampness began to seep from her eyes.
Raven’s eyes snapped open, alerted to the faintest groan.
Everything stopped inside of her. Her thoughts, her breathing, even her heart felt as though it was put on pause for an instant. She waited a few seconds as she flared her nostrils, resuming the flow of oxygen. She slowed her breathing, but still dared not to look. She just focused her gaze squarely on the floor, listening intently.
Raven slowly turned her head about ten degrees, at a snail’s pace, peering out of the corner of her eye.
There, staggering slightly into the open was BeastBoy.
Completely intact. Uninjured. Not even the slightest trace of blood or bruising. He showed signs of slight disorientation as evidenced by hobbled footsteps, but for all intensive purposes he appeared to be fine. And very much alive.
“Mmmph,” he stretched with one hand against his side before rubbing his head. “I feel like Cy just broke in new floor mats for the T-car. With me under’em.”
Raven carefully rose to her feet, turning to face him.
“Hey, Rae,” he said casually. “What happened? I miss anything fun?”
She began walking towards him.
“Where’s Control Freak?” he glanced around the museum, which was partially in shambles. “We get’em?” He looked at the sizeable blast radius short of where Raven had been standing. “Or maybe got’em and a half?”
Raven was now walking at a slightly brisker pace.
“Um… w-where are the others?” his voice faltered at Raven’s lack of verbal response. Always a concern when Raven was this quiet.
Raven was drawing closer without a word. And a look in her eyes BeastBoy had never seen before. And BeastBoy had practically mapped a color wheel worth of distinct looks in Raven’s eyes.
“R-Raven?” he asked timidly. “Raven, are you mad at me or somethin’?”
She was now in a full sprint towards him.
“Yyyeeah…YOU’RE MAD!” he froze, starting to lean back, beginning to raise his arms in defensive blocking position. “W-Whatever I did, I didn’t do it! And if I did, I didn’t mean it! And if I did anyway, I’M SORRY!”
Raven sprang from the ground, diving right for him. She didn’t know if she was going to strangle him, hug him, or any combination of the two. But she figured it would come to her when she got there.
BeastBoy shut his eyes, looking away as he crossed his arms over his face, bracing for assumed standard disciplinary impact.
Raven was coming right for him. The faintest of smiles curled to the side of her trembling features. Arms thrown out in front of her, prepared for imminent hug… strangle… hangle.
Raven hit the museum floor, skidding across the tiles a foot or so before grinding to a halt.
She looked up, eyes squinting, clearly in a daze. However she was quick to shake it off, pushing off the ground to her hands and knees, blinking in confusion. Eyes wide, Raven quickly looked back.
BeastBoy was still right where she left him. Eyes shut, bracing himself in silence. “Um… Raven?” he asked, somewhat concerned, seemingly curious as to the lack of overdue contact.
Raven blinked, mouth slightly agape, clearly confused. What had just happened?
BeastBoy peeked out from under his arms, finding Raven nowhere in sight. Gradually he eased out of his guarded position, scanning the surrounding area. “Raven?” he called. Quickly looking behind him, he spotted Raven rising off the floor. “What gives? You never been that lousy a shot.”
Raven rose to her feet, still visibly have trouble processing what had just occurred. No way she missed. Not by that much. Not at that range. She started towards BeastBoy again, much slower.
“Uh, Rae?” BeastBoy asked hesitantly, still somewhat baffled by her behavior. “Raven? You feelin’ okay?”
Raven stopped short of BeastBoy, leaning her head to the side. Then to the other.
“Raven?” he asked.
“BeastBoy…” she began, a bewildered look on her face. “I-I… I can see right through you.”
BeastBoy blinked. “Uh… come again?” he tilted his head. “You’re sayin’ I’m shallow or something?”
“No, I mean I can literally SEE right THROUGH you,” she said, having trouble believing it herself.
BeastBoy raised an obligatory eyebrow. “O-kay,” he rolled his eyes to the side. “I think it’s time to switch to decaf, Rae. Don’t know if ya keep track, but I make up the weird crazy stuff and you’re all about ‘crazy smart’ sense making. So why don’t we try…”
BeastBoy reached out to assuredly pat Raven on the shoulder. Only for his hand to pass right through her shoulder and sink into her arm.
Raven looked down, speechless.
BeastBoy none too vocal either, but unsure whether by choice or by capability.
He pulled his hand back for a second, pausing briefly before making a second attempt.
As before, his hand phased right through her, this time sticking his hand out straight, out the other side of her back.
Raven gave no indication of pain or feeling anything resembling physical contact. She just quietly looked down at BeastBoy’s forearm cut off right at her shoulder.
BeastBoy quickly pulled back his hand again, holding it up to his face. Rotating his hand from one side to the other, he focused his eyes squarely on his hand, able to see everything around him right through it as if his hand wasn’t even there. It was completely transparent. He looked down, arms out wide as he examined himself from his feet to his chest. He was entirely transparent. Almost ghost like.
“BeastBoy?” Raven asked in as a calm a tone as she could.
He lowered his hand taking a deep breath. “Heh,” he let out a small weak chuckle, “For a second there, it kinda’ looked like… I was… just a little…sorta’… dead.”
Raven exhaled slowly, closing her eyes as she held her hands out in front of her. She couldn’t sense him. Not as she always had before anyway.
She could vaguely make something out. It was faint, but…
BeastBoy’s pupils darted from side to side, clearly struggling to wrap his head around this development. He wasn’t dead. He couldn’t be. Even he would remember something like that. Nope. He was definitely, absolutely, positively NOT DEAD. Probably.
“A dream,” he said. “A DREAM! Yeah, that’s it! This is all just a late night movie marathon binge with one too many double chocolate sugar frosted num num bars in my tummy.” He started walking towards a nearby wall. “Just need to wake myself up.”
“BeastBoy,” Raven called.
BeastBoy held out both hands, palms flat to the wall, taking aim. He reeled his head back, throwing himself forward, head first into the solid stone barrier.
BeastBoy’s head disappeared into the wall, passing right through it. Everything above his neck vanished from sight into the wall.
He pulled himself out. “Okay, THAT didn’t work.”
“BeastBoy,” Raven called again a little louder.
He paced back and forth a few steps. “Alright. Time to face facts here,” he took a deep breathe, steadying his nerves. “I’m… I’m dead. And… that is… okay.” He paused. “WHO AM I KIDDIN’? NO, IT’S NOT! I’M DEAD!”
“I’m as expired as five year old tofu! Dead!”
On impulse Raven reeled back her arm, swinging it sharply across BeastBoy’s head. Unfortunately, briefly lost among the circumstances, it passed right through him. However he stopped all the same.
“Well,” she looked at her hand with a dry stare, finding her traditional methods were now of little use. “THIS is going to be a setback.”
“Well, it still kinda’ tingles if it makes ya feel any better.” BeastBoy blinked, calming himself from the welcome distraction, if only for the fact that Raven was still here with him.
“BeastBoy, you’re not dead,” she said.
“B-But…” he held up his hands and all of their transparent glory, feeling another erratic panic coming on.
“No,” Raven cut him off, keeping him on the level. “You’re not dead.”
“NOT dead. Listen to me. Stay calm, and just listen,” she spoke firmly but caringly. “Which of us tends to make the least amount of sense on a daily basis?”
“Who?” Raven turned her chin up at him.
“I do.” He reluctantly replied, sheepishly lowering his head.
“Which of us makes more sense, can think logically, AND is in tune with existence itself on a spiritual level?”
Raven narrowed her eyes, instantly snapping BeastBoy to attention.
“Uh, Y-You do.”
“Yes. So, listen carefully. You. Are. Not. Dead.”
BeastBoy took a few deep-cleansing breaths letting it sink in. He was still uncertain. Just a touch of hysteria still lingering somewhere in there. But he was now more calm and susceptible to Raven’s understanding. If she didn’t think he was dead, who was he to argue? Especially from someone who’d held his life in her hands so many times before.
“So, then… what am I? How come I can see through me? How come I can pass through stuff? How come you can’t hit me? How c…”
It just clicked.
“Hey,” BeastBoy gave a genuine smile with a lax demeanor. “You CAN’T HIT ME,” he beamed with a sense of glee.
Raven rolled her eyes. “Good to see you haven’t lost sight of what’s important,” she sarcastically remarked.
“Sorry. But, How can I be… ‘not’ dead, when I’m…THIS?”
A valid question. One that deserved a valid answer.
“It’s hard to explain,” Raven scratched her chin, trying to understand it herself. “All living creatures give off a certain resonant life energy. Think of your body like a candle. And life energy as the flame. If you were in fact dead, the flame would go out and the candle would slowly start to deteriorate. In your case, it’s quite the opposite. The flame is still burning, just without a candle.”
A bit convoluted, but BeastBoy could somewhat understand. “So… I’m a dud?”
“In a manner of speaking,” she curled a smirk.
BeastBoy gave a sour look. But he was also starting to feel a little more reassured if Raven could afford to make verbal jabs at him like that.
“What I mean is, your life energy is still radiating from within you. Its not as strong, but it is still there.” She explained with her hand held out in front of his chest, lightly glowing, able to sense a definite trace of his life energy.
“Then where’s my candle? I mean, where’s ME?” BeastBoy shrugged.
Raven shook her head. “I can’t say for certain.”
Outside, Cyborg dragged Control Freak past a gathered crowd of onlookers and reporters trying to ask for comment or clarification of what had transpired inside. However they were quickly made to step back by police moving to cordon off the scene.
He came to a stop short of an awaiting paddy wagon with its rear doors already open, as if expecting its new cargo. Cyborg flung the villain inside, landing him flat on his stomach and at last dislodged the previously stuffed chunk of tofu gagged in his mouth.
“Pa-toohy!” he spit the lingering taste from the back of his throat. He quickly crawled to the rear of the vehicle, holding himself up by the doorframe. “Remember this day, Titans! A day to be feared. For NOW, you must live on in shame and horror, knowing not when our next fated encounter will bring one more of you to your fated demise! At the hands of, CONTROL FR…”
Cyborg slammed the doors right in Control Freaks face, taking the force of the impact square to his nose and knocking him onto his back as was evidenced by the transport mildly rumbling and shaking. It then drove off, en route to deliver him for prompt incarceration.
Cyborg wore a constant scowl, holding strong as he watched the transport round the corner at the far end of the street and disappear from sight. Watching even still for a few seconds more.
Finally, the moment passed as he let out a weary sigh.
Starfire and Robin approached on opposite sides, sharing in his dismal mood.
The crowds slowly began to disperse. A few reporters made attempt to speak to the Titans for insight. But were just ignored, shut out completely. Their minds and hearts clearly elsewhere.
Another swift end to a bitter exchange between good and evil. The day was saved. The night was won. Calm had been restored. The city safe, and its people protected. But somehow, it just didn’t feel like much of a victory given the price.
They cast their eyes down, fatigued by guilt, sorrow, and shame. Every hero was always prepared to make that ultimate sacrifice for the greater good. But someone else taking it in your stead? There was no bracing or preparing for that.
Cyborg was the first to break away, starting to slowly walk towards the main street.
“Where ya goin’, Cy?” Robin asked.
He stopped, letting out a deep breath, letting his shoulders droop. “I just lost my best bud,” he spoke solemnly. He turned, looking over his shoulder. “I need pizza. Lots and LOTS of pizza. And a few dozen milkshakes,” he sniffled. “…And a box of tissues.”
Everyone had their coping mechanisms. Cyborg favored food. Choosing to stuff his face to his friend’s memory.
Starfire wiped her eyes, forcing as hopeful a smile as she could, flying out beside him. “I wish to join you in the remorseful consumption of grief and junky foods in large portions.”
Cyborg offered a small smile with a nod as if signaling the more the merrier.
Star put a comforting arm around him to which Cyborg did the same as they began to walk off side by side.
“Guys?” Robin called.
They stopped, looking back.
“…First round’s on me,” he added.
Cyborg and Starfire nodded. Robin walked up beside him as the two allowed him into the fold.
“Perhaps friend Raven would care to partake as well?” Starfire inquired optimistically, feeling obliged to make this a complete and proper event.
Robin and Cyborg traded unconvinced looks of skepticism. Knowing full well just how much this had to be affecting her.
“Star,” Robin began, rubbing his shoulder, “I… don’t know if…”
The soft sound of approaching footsteps turned them to face the museum, finding Raven walking towards them. Calm and clear.
“Raven!” Starfire zipped out past the others, throwing her arms tightly around her no doubt grieving friend. “It is okay. We shall share the sadness and pain together.”
“Hgh!” Raven gave a contorted grunt at the force of Star’s debilitating power hug. “Yeah. Nothing like a little outer pain to distract from inner pain,” she gritted through her teeth as Star lessened her hold just enough for her to break free.
“You wanna come with?” Cyborg stuck out his thumb towards the main street and the late night diners and restaurants. The ideal binge worthy prospects.
“For what?” she straightened her cloak.
“Honor the loss of a friend,” Robin said.
“Pay tribute to a fallen hero,” Star followed.
“Eat pizza till the pain in our stomachs matches the pain in our hearts,” Cyborg added.
“It is what he would want,” Star bowed her head lightly.
BeastBoy stood behind Raven, waiting for her to brace them for the shock, but unable to keep from shedding a single tear at the sentiment. “You know it, dudes,” he sniffled, “You know it.”
“Pass,” Raven responded. “I need to…”
Starfire let out an audible gasp. “Do not be this way Raven. You must not deny yourself the hurtful sadness over our departed friend. It cultures the body with mucus of tragedy that then seeps and festers from within.” She franticly cried, mildly shaking Raven by the shoulders. “It is a preventative measure on top of the expression of loss.”
“Star,” Cyborg called, easing her off of Raven. “If Raven doesn’t wanna’, it’s cool. This ain’t her kinda’ coping mechanism. Not like she can just smack around BB till she feels be-be-be…” Cyborg stuttered briefly, tearing up at the sudden recollection that BeastBoy wasn’t with them anymore. “BWAAAAAH-HA-HA-HAGN!
Star cradled Cyborg, allowing him to blubber into her shoulder as she lightly patted him on the back, encouraging him to let it all out.
“Guys!” Raven raised her voice enough so as certain to be heard. Sure enough, the others silenced immediately. “BeastBoy is fine. More or less,” she shrugged. “Look.”
Raven gestured beside her, to which BeastBoy stepped out into the open giving a timid wave.
The three Titans were silent, blinking their only response.
“This is… the coping mechanism?” Stafire whispered to her friends, somewhat confused.
“Nah, Star,” Cyborg sniffled once more, almost as if humoring the notion. “I can see him.”
“Prove it,” BeastBoy said, sticking out his tongue, razzing and making faces at them.
He felt somewhat hurt that from their statements of care and devotion earlier didn’t match their response. He was expecting to be greeted with celebratory high fives and cheers by now. Heck, he was even open to one of Star’s circulation stopping mega hugs.
“Raven, it’s okay,” Robin held up his hands, attempting to ease the situation delicately. “Why don’t you take some time back at the…”
“Wait!” Raven threw up her hands, raising an eyebrow. “You… can’t see him? You really can’t see him? Or hear him?”
They all just looked at each other.
“Should we?” Robin asked.
BeastBoy and Raven looked at each other briefly before BeastBoy marched out in front of them. “HELLO? Dudes! I’m right HERE,” he flailed his arms, jumping up and down, calling to his friends.
But it was all for naught. They just looked right past him to Raven as if he wasn’t even there.
They couldn’t see him. Or hear him.
BeastBoy looked back to Raven with a shrug, unsure of what else to do.
It wasn’t an act. They really couldn’t see him.
Raven held her head with one hand briefly, running her fingers through her hair, clearly trying to fathom the situation. Looking to BeastBoy, looking back at the others, her eyes soon wandering between the ground and up into the air, her mind racing. It didn’t make sense. How was it that she could see him and the others couldn’t?
Maybe this… wasn’t real. Maybe she was hallucinating. Maybe her grief-roasted mind was making her see what she wanted to see. Maybe… BeastBoy really was gone after all.
BeastBoy noticed the somewhat bewildering look in Raven’s eyes as she rubbed her temple. And it did very little to keep him calm in an already tense situation. The only reason he wasn’t still in full-blown freak out mode was because of her. And if Raven was having her doubts, maybe his earlier fears were justified.
No. That couldn’t be. If she believed he was still here, HE believed he was still here too.
“Raven?” he pleaded. “Come on. S-Say something. Say somethin’ so smart they’d have to believe it. C’mon, whip out those big words. Whatever it is, I’ll agree. Even if I can’t understand it. ESPECIALLY if I can’t understand it.”
Raven just shut her eyes. Trying to think.
“Tell’em I’m a body without a candle. Or a flame without energy. Or… WHATEVER!”
Raven was now starting to question her own senses. Was it possible that on top of seeing what wasn’t there that her ability to sense was betraying her as well?
Raven looked up at BeastBoy’s strained hopeful expression, his eyes losing their luster of optimism and beginning to sink into fear. He was scared.
Sure she wanted to believe this was what it seemed. Desperately. But if the others couldn’t see him, couldn’t hear him, couldn’t sense him, how could she know her mind wasn’t just playing tricks on her?
She lowered her head for a moment, mentally taking a step back to review everything she had witnessed thus far. Raven may have doubted what she was seeing, but she knew what she sensed. And what she sensed, what she felt, was real.
She had to cement her instincts. And prove to the others that their friend was still with them beyond their own senses.
Raven quietly gestured BeastBoy over to her.
BeastBoy looked at the others briefly before walking up beside her. He leaned in as she whispered to him.
The other Titans just looked on, occasionally sharing concerned looks with one another, uncertain where this was heading and growing more concerned for Raven’s state of mind.
“It’s okay, Rae. We all miss the little guy. And there’s nothin’ wrong with that,” Cyborg held out his hands in support.
“Oh yeah?” he said, unconvinced. BeastBoy leaned in whispering in her ear. Even though the others seemingly couldn’t hear him was no reason not to take any chances.
Raven gave a nod, turning to face the others giving only a quick glance back at BeastBoy before slowly opening her mouth to speak.
“BeastBoy says he rigged your controller in your last sudden death battle of Lone Samurai Showdown six.”
“WHAT!” Cybrog exclaimed in outrage. “I knew that no good cheater couldn’t beat my high score level! Not in a fair fight! How’d he do it? Low batteries in the controller? Glue around the buttons?”
“And he also says when he finished the last of Star’s favorite mustard on his veggie burger, he discarded the empty bottle by Robin’s door.”
“WHAT?!” Robin and Starfire shouted in unison.
“So it was friend BeastBoy that soiled my snack of the afternoon in between the working out?” Starfire frustratingly balled up her fists at her sides.
“And left me to take the blame?” Robin finished in equal parts shock and annoyance, recalling the incident with full clarity and how long it took him to apologize for something he never even did.
This was sounding more reassuring by the moment. To Raven at least. Just because she had a keen mind was no reason to assume she could anticipate how someone else’s, least of all BeastBoy’s would work.
After all what better way to prove BeastBoy was here than to be told things only BeastBoy would know. Not even the most convincing hallucination could recreate that.
Raven leaned to the side as BeastBoy whispered into her ear once more. “BeastBoy says he can’t help if there are times when you’re really easy targets.”
The three Titans cast cold, angry stares aimed squarely at Raven, being there was no one else to focus on. To which she took a step back, momentarily startled but maintaining her neutral state. “So, this is what its like to be BeastBoy,” she whispered to herself.
The Titans only further narrowed their gaze at her, fuming.
Raven leaned to the side, receiving one more message whispered in her ear.
“And that’s just one of the reasons that he loves you all.”
The Titans anger broke. Their stares softened. Looking at each other before looking back at Raven with a sense of reinvigorated hope. Overlooking the previous nature of incidents past to the more important fact. BeastBoy was still alive. Their friend was still here with them.
Just moments ago they had thought it preposterous. But then, the hero line of work was in the business of preposterous. Other worlds, other planets, technology beyond our own. Superhuman abilities, magic, and everything in between. Surely there had to be some leeway between logic and the unknown.
They felt a dip of guilt for having jumped the gun so quickly. If only for the fact that Raven believed it with such certainty.
“He’s…He’s here? For real?” Cyborg asked.
“He is not uprooting the Earth daisies?” Starfire asked softly in turn.
Raven gave a nod, much to her own relief as well as the others.
Robin relaxed his stance. “Raven, start from the beginning.”
To be Continued…