Chapter 1: Entropy
"Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies."- Aristotle
"Hey Cy! Wait up!"
Cyborg stopped dead in his tracks and turned to find Beast Boy jogging toward him.
"Did you get Robin's message?"
"Yeah." He replied matter-of-factly as he waited for the changeling to catch up, "I was down in the garage tuning up the T-Car when it came through…" He put his hands on his hips and shook his head in irritation, "Had to come up to my room and clean the grease off of my hands…"
Beast Boy slowed his pace to a walk and continued toward the Common Room alongside Cyborg.
"I wonder what this meeting his about." He pondered aloud, "He didn't really give away any hints…"
Cyborg shrugged and yawned deeply. Though it was only three in the afternoon, he was exhausted. It was routine for him to keep himself busy and today was no exception. The T-Car's advanced circuitry required unwavering attention; though he was half-machine, focusing on it for so long left him feeling groggy.
"I dunno, B." He muttered absently, "You know how Robin can be. Sometimes I think he just likes to keep us on our toes."
Beast Boy chuckled at his friend's off-the-cuff remark; the sound of his laughter filled the winding corridor, building upon itself like a crescendo.
"Yeah… Remember the last time he called a meeting like this? He just wanted to see how long it would take us to get there…"
"And you were the last one there…" Cyborg sniggered. A broad smile lurched across his face, "And boy did he lecture you."
Instantly, Beast Boy's features stiffened. His walk evolved into a strut: he puffed out his chest, held his head high, and threw his shoulders back. Moreover, he tensed his muscles; he looked like a bellhop carrying an overloaded suitcase in each hand.
"Beast Boy!" He imitated Robin's voice as he continued strutting like proudcock, "You need to be more vigilant…prompt…disciplined. Like me… because I am awesome. My body is physical perfection. My work ethic is world class. Even my hair is immoveable. Learn from me, Beast Boy. Do as I do and maybe—with work—you will be half as cool and good-looking as I am..."
Cyborg giggled until his throat hurt and his eye watered. He gasped for air as he dried his face with the back of his hand, hoping to appear composed by the time they reached the Common Room.
"C'mon man…" He managed, fighting back the remnants of laughter, "You know Robin means well… sometimes he goes a little overboard, but I guess someone has to be strict, otherwise we wouldn't get as much done."
"I know, Cy." Beast Boy replied, rolling his eyes. He allowed his overwrought movements to normalize; his body loosened and his muscles relaxed. "Seriously, though…" A modicum of exasperation filtered in to his otherwise biddable tone, "I wouldn't be late to surprise meetings either, if I was the one calling them!"
Cyborg simply shook his head, dismissing Beast Boy's protests. They rounded the final turn. The double-doors at the end of the hall stared unwaveringly at them; their metallic sheen glowing in the low light. Both he and Beast Boy sighed heavily. Though it was just a door—a portal from one room to the next—it leered at them haughtily. Beyond its purview, listlessness resided.
As they approached, the doors swished open revealing the Common Room. The mid-afternoon sun vibrantly cascaded through the sweeping bay window, gracing all it touched, from the tile floor to the vaulted ceiling. The pale blue sky stood against the cityscape, its natural beauty a stark contrast to the manmade edifices. Thin, wispy clouds spread across the divine canvas, like passionate yearnings clinging to heaven's floor.
At the front of the room, in the black semicircular couch, sat Raven and Starfire. Raven had a large book spread across her lap. Seemingly engrossed, she continued to read without acknowledging their arrival. Starfire sat beside her, staring out the window at the wondrous display of nature laid out before her. Completely at ease, she hummed a cheerful melody to herself. Robin stood before them with his back to the window. His expression was unreadable; if he was aggravated, he was hiding it well.
"Cyborg, Beast Boy…" The Boy Wonder's tone was unfailingly winsome, "Sorry about the short notice on the meeting. It was a last minute decision. Still, there are a few important announcements that need to be made."
Beast Boy and Cyborg exchanged puzzled glances; their brows rutted in confusion. It was unlike Robin to apologize for calling a team meeting, short notice or no. To him, duty trumped all else. Responsibility to the city was of greater importance than personal agendas—being a Titan meant dropping everything at a moment's notice for the greater good. Why, then, did he so quickly forgive their transgression…the loathsome sin of being late?
At a loss for words, they took a seat on the couch beside Raven and Starfire. Cyborg scratched his head perplexedly. He could tell that something was afoot, yet—despite his best efforts—he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Beast Boy took a deep breath and held it. His stomach fluttered uneasily as uncertainty wheedled its way to the forefront of his mind.
"All right, team…" Robin began, "As you are probably aware, crime has been way down lately. All of the usual suspects are in jail or keeping a low profile. As a result, we have had a lot of free time on our hands… Time that could be spent giving back to the community…" He looked at his teammates, panning from face to face. "So, at the mayor's request, we are going to be visiting local schools to inform students of the evils of drugs, violence, and bullying."
Not surprisingly, he was greeted by a collective of blank and befuddled faces as opposed to a chorus of support.
"Man, where did you come up with an idea like that?" Cyborg asked. He wracked his brain, trying to see the logic behind his leader's decision. "I mean… isn't there something else we could do? Volunteer at a shelter? Clean up Jump City Park? Anything?"
Robin rubbed his temples roughly. He knew the idea would be a tough sell, but he hoped that they would at least be receptive to it, impractical though it was.
"It was the Mayor's idea…" He muttered hollowly, "He brought it up when I met with him the other day. He thinks that, since we and the students are close in age, they would be inclined to listen to what we have to say."
"What makes the Mayor assume that we are qualified to put on assemblies?" Raven rasped, raising her eyes from her book, "We are heroes, not guidance counselors."
Robin felt a lump form in the back of his throat. He rubbed the back of his neck roughly as his keen mind panned for a definitive answer like a miner sifting for gold.
"Look… To be honest, I'm not crazy about this, either. It places constraints on us. If a villain knew we were speaking at schools, they would have time to plan an attack and have the whole student body as hostages… But, the art of diplomacy sometimes requires us to take on responsibilities we'd rather not…"
"I'm with Raven on this one, man." Cyborg chimed in. His brow rutted as he contemplated the Mayor's request. "I mean, what do we really know about drugs and alcohol?" He looked from face to face. Everyone held their tongues, preferring silence to the uncertainty of conjecture, "What do we know about the psychology of bullying?" Again, reticence flourished. "Look y'all, I'm not saying we shouldn't give this a shot, but we know as little as those kids do."
"No worries, dude." Beast Boy warbled, dismissing Cyborg's concerns with a wave of his hand, "Robin, when is our first assembly?"
The Boy Wonder's expression blankened, fading away like a puddle in the sun. He was not a strong proponent of the Mayor's idea. For Beast Boy to be so strongly in favor of it was an unexpected—albeit overwhelmingly pleasant—surprise.
"Uh… Next Monday at William Payton High School."
"Really, guys," Beast Boy continued, "This is no big deal. That gives us around nine days to learn a little bit about this stuff. Besides…" He smiled brightly as he gestured over to Raven, "If anything goes wrong, we'll just have Raven scare some sense into them!"
Raven turned her head and glared at him menacingly. "Funny. I had a similar idea. When things go wrong…" Her eyes widened emphatically, "And they will go wrong… You could always practice your stand-up comedy."
Cyborg and Robin erupted in laughter. The former buried his face in his hands, muffling his snickering as the latter held his sides, doubled over… gasping for air.
"She's right, B!" Cyborg managed, "THAT will straighten them out!"
Beast Boy's ears drooped slightly, however his countenance betrayed no emotion. Shaking away the hollow sting of Raven's calumny, he cracked a weak smile, feigning amusement.
"Yeah… Good one, Raven…"
A moment passed and the laughter died down, slipping into memory. Why then, was it echoing incessantly in his mind and burrowing malignantly into his core? He had heard the 'sticks and stones' adage countless times and knew that words couldn't hurt him. Why then, did he feel as though he had been punched in the gut?
Perhaps it wasn't the words themselves that wounded him, but the individual to whom they belonged: Raven. Somehow, her words—intangible though they were—had great potency. After all, words express thought and give form to feelings. They communicate beliefs, ideas, and all that comprises the self.
No… It wasn't the words that hurt him. It was knowing that Raven—someone he cared for deeply—thought so little of him. To her, he was an afterthought; a silly, immature kid and nothing more. Though his smile had not faded, all he wanted to do was slip into his shadow and disappear.
"Anyway," Robin continued seamlessly, recapturing his teammate's attention, "Beast Boy does have a point. If we are going to do this, we may as well make the best of it. We have just over a week and I expect each of you to put some time in every night learning a little about this stuff. And on that note…" His lips curved into a wide, exuberant smile, "Starfire and I have an announcement of our own to make."
He gestured to the Tamaranian, who had been sitting quietly, a look of excitement etched upon her face. She stood and took her place beside him, her eyes alight with enthusiasm and rife with excitement. She cleared her throat and began to speak.
"Yes! After much consideration, both Robin and I believe we are ready to dedicate our lives to one another… We are betrothed!"
Words, intangible though they may be, hold great power. Though Starfire's declaration was succinct and direct, its impetus was undeniable; moreover, it affected each of her friends in different ways. Raven, who was thumbing through the massive tome splayed across her lap, stopped reading and directed her attention to the couple standing in front of her. Her brow arched in astonishment, vivifying her staid countenance. Beast Boy, who shook away the repugnant sting of Raven's rebuke, seemed to recede into himself. His faint smile faded and his eyes, which often held both vigor and ardor, were as cold and lifeless as lumps of coal. Cyborg deftly leapt to his feet, beaming. His features softened; a wide smile spread across his face as he walked over to Starfire and wrapped her in his arms.
"That's fantastic!" He exclaimed, "Congratulations!"
"Thank you." She chirped merrily, "Robin and I agreed that there would never be an ideal moment to wed and that now was preferable to later."
Raven's eyes traveled to Robin. Her lips curled into a sly smirk.
"This seems like an awfully bold decision for someone so abstemious…"
A rubicund tinge graced Robin's cheeks as he chortled heartily. She was right, after all. He was the one who thought everything through. He was responsible… logical… practical. He wasn't especially prone to impulsivity. Yet, this decision—arguably the most pivotal of his life—was uncharacteristically so. As he looked at Starfire, however, his fears and doubts were allayed. No one had ever made him feel the way she could… the way she did. To her, he was the only man on Earth…and from her fervent gaze—the jewels that were her eyes—he found the love he lost many years before.
"I know it seems hasty." He explained, his eyes remaining on his belle, taking in her radiance, "But I've never been this sure of anything before." He looked to his friends, "We wanted you guys to know before we told the media."
"I would hope so…" Raven droned. She closed her book—which shut with a thwop—and turned her attention to the couple standing before her. "Congratulations, both of you. I guess there is hope for the world after all…"
Cyborg threw his arms around Robin and Starfire and pulled them close.
"Man, I thought this day would never come! I mean, look at how long it to Robin just to make a move! At that pace, you guys would still be rounding first base…"
"OK!" Robin interjected. He pulled himself from his friend's strong grasp and straightened his cape, "That's enough sharing…" His smile faded as he caught Beast Boy out of his periphery, a vacant—almost morose—expression upon his face. "Beast Boy…is everything okay? You look like you just got beat at Mega Monkeys Seven…"
"Yes, Beast Boy," Starfire added, "You look most despondent..."
The changeling swallowed hard as all eyes rested on him. Though and uneasiness settled within him, coiling around his innards like a constrictor, he tried mightily to appear ebullient. Despite his efforts, all that whirled within him torrentially sullied his visage, tacitly vocalizing his anguish. Without pause, he mustered his toothiest smile, hoping it would deflect suspicion and assuage concern.
"I'm fine guys, honest." He lied through his teeth, "I was just zoning out." He got to his feet. "I'm going to go get some air…"
He turned to the door and walked out of the room, leaving four baffled teens in his wake. It was unlike him to succumb to sorrow, even when things were at their worst. Why now—when everything seemed propitious—did he seem troubled?
"I'm sick with the worry for friend Beast Boy." She turned to Robin, "Do you believe that our announcement upset him?"
Robin shook his head. "No… Beast Boy' s not that kind of guy." He turned to Raven, who met his gaze. "I think you might have upset him."
She wrapped her arms around the large book lying in her lap and pulled it to her chest, holding it tightly against her body.
"It was just a joke…"
"Be that as it may," The Boy Wonder continued, "I think we owe him an apology… all of us. We shouldn't have mocked him like that."
Robin began to walk toward the door when a hand on his shoulder—a thick, heavy hand—stopped him. He turned. Cyborg stood behind him, his brow knitted contemplatively.
"I know you wanna make this right, Rob" He spoke softly; his head hung abashedly, "But BB needs some space right now… Just give him a little time, you'll see…"
Reluctantly, Robin nodded assent. Though he wanted to be sure Beast Boy was alright, he knew that Cyborg knew best. When Beast Boy was upset, he liked to be alone. Solitude had an uncanny way of healing his pain.
Beast Boy sat on a boulder overlooking the ocean—his head bowed, his eyes closed—lost in thought. The cool, brackish breeze flittered against his skin and through his hair, counteracting the oppressiveness of the mid-afternoon sun. Gentle waves rolled in, pattering against the ragged coast, babbling incoherently. Birdsong lingered overhead. Nature clamored for his attention, yet he refused to concede to her. Hope abounds in nature and at the moment, he felt anything but hopeful.
Guilt, like a dense fog, suffused him; his thoughts became unintelligible, incessant ramblings. Though he tried to rationalize his pain—and by extension his actions—he could only think of those he had hurt. Robin and Starfire were two of his closest friends. Over the years, they shared his joys and triumphs as well as his hardships. After leading the honorary Titans effectively against the Brotherhood of Evil, they offered him praise. When Terra had broken his heart, they offered him comfort… Why then, when they proclaimed their love for one another did acerbic pangs of jealousy scurry up his spine? Why was he unable to smile and wish them well? Why couldn't he mask his discontent? Deep down, he knew the answer. Though it nagged at him without relent, he refused to acknowledge it. If he did—if he gave form to his thoughts—he risked breathing life into the abstract and allowing his unspoken fears to escape and torment him directly.
Beast Boy opened his eyes and whirled around. The golden fire of the sun overwhelmed him, forcing him to squint and rendering the world—for a moment—a blurry haze of indiscernible shapes and silhouettes. Still, he did not need keen vision to recognize the massive form in front of him.
As the world came into focus, so did Cyborg's features. He stood straight—stiffly so—his arms hanging limply at his sides. His countenance was soft, yet clouded by something deeper… and almost imperceptible undercurrent that came across sternly in his gaze.
"Rob was gunna come out here and smooth things over with you, but I know better…" He averred sotto voce, "What is this really about man? One minute, you're gung ho about the school assemblies and the next you are down and out…"
Much can linger on a moment. Some slip by peacefully into the unknown, unnoticed or unheralded—seeped in banality. Some however, draw onward… They stir the sleeping ashes of our sentiments and kick up the smoldering embers lying dormant therein. These are the moments—when our emotions swell—that we feel alive. Though they are few in number, we discover more about ourselves in these moments, as they force us to face what we are feeling… and the truth.
Beast Boy was having such a moment. Inwardly, his emotions were screaming…begging to be heard; feral beasts tearing at their cages and shackles. He wanted to tell Cyborg everything; to confide in him. Something, however, stopped him. Though one side of him yearned to divulge everything, the other pleaded for reticence. After all, there was much about him the others did not know. To them, he was simply Beast Boy: the carefree jokester; the lighthearted, jubilant, optimist. If he revealed all that comprised him, would they still look at him the same? Or, would things be different? Would pity hide behind their eyes and mock him from afar? He knew not, but he chose not to tempt fate.
"It's not important. I'll be fine."
Undeterred, Cyborg walked out onto the boulder beside his friend and took a seat. He stared at the gently rolling waves and watched as the sunlight played off of them, dancing from crest to crest.
"Look, man… If something is bothering you this much, it's important to me..."
Cyborg's words warmed him, bringing him a semblance of comfort amidst his confusion and listlessness. He had not expected his mechanical friend to be so unwaveringly persistent. While he was appreciative of his efforts, the inquisition left him scrambling for an explanation for his unusual behavior.
"I just get tired of it, Cy…" He began, his voice a mere echo of itself, "I know I'm not perfect… but I don't need to be reminded all of the time…"
Cyborg turned and looked at Beast Boy, who averted his eyes to the water brushing against the shore. His feet dangled over the side of the boulder, rocking to and fro as though they were swaying freely in the wind.
"Man, you can't let Raven get you down. We all know how hard she is on you. All you have ever done is try to get her to open up…" He shook his head from side-to-side, "But… maybe that's not meant to be. Maybe she'll never realize how special you are—a lot of people would have given up on her by now—but if that is the case, it's her loss B, not yours."
Beast Boy pondered this. His goal from day one had been to get her to laugh or at least smile. In the years he had known her, he had yet to succeed. Nonetheless, it was difficult to be diffident; she had opened up considerably since. Still, something prevented her from letting him into her life… Something unseen, unspoken, and ubiquitous.
"I guess you're right, Cy…Thanks."
Though he smiled weakly, tears stung his eyes. All he ever wanted was to be a part of her life—to bring her happiness and to show the world how wonderful she was. Now, though, it seemed impossible. To her, he was—and would always remain—a nuisance.
How can anyone love a thorn in their side?
This realization, however unsettling, resonated. If Raven never warmed to him—if she continued to see his flaws and nothing more—was it really her loss? Or, was it his?
"Just promise me one thing..." Cyborg continued softly, his words barely louder than the rhythmic waves sloshing against the surf. "Don't change. I love ya the way you are, and I hate to see you like this. I know sometimes we laugh at you instead of with you, and we take it too far… but it is because you're the strong one… The way you take everything life dishes out… it's like nothing ever hurts you…"
Beast Boy felt his lips pull into a smile. It took a lot for Cyborg to speak so freely. Most people have difficulty articulating matters so close to the heart. Cyborg, however, always spoke earnestly; it was one of the many qualities that separated him from everyone else.
"And besides…" He trilled with a smile; he threw his massive arm around the changeling's shoulders and pulled him close. "We have an engagement party and a bachelor party to plan. I want it to be a surprise, so Star and Rob can't know… and I doubt Raven will be too much help. I'm gunna need you to bring you're A-game."
Beast Boy knew that he had a choice. He could either dwell on his sorrows and allow them to linger or he could celebrate the majesty that surrounded him. His smile widened. A surge of excitement shot through him like quicksilver, pushing aside his sadness.
"Dude… Can you imagine Robin at a bachelor party? His face would totally turn as red as his uniform…"
"You know we're gunna have to trick him to get him there." Cyborg replied, giggling uncontrollably, "He's SO uptight…"
Both teens laughed until their sides hurt and tears streamed down their faces. Though things were far from perfect, a myriad of possibilities lay within reach and the future seemed like a blank slate upon which anything could be written.
Raven lay splayed out on her bed, her arms and legs spread wide from her core. She had tried fruitlessly to put what happened from her mind… to stop dwelling on the look in his eyes and the tone of his voice as he walked away. She told herself that her words had not hurt him. After all, words only have the power afforded them by others. She told herself that he was resilient… that he was strong… that it would take more than a careless comment to puncture his veneer of sanguinity.
Why, then, did every word escaping her lips feel like a lie? Why did the air in her room seem heavy and thick? Why did contrition, like an infirmity, linger in her gut, churning and twisting interminably?
She sighed, bringing herself momentary solace; a calm quickly dispelled by her next breath. She knew she hurt him, no matter how fervently she told herself otherwise. He had made a simple joke. It was not scathing or mean-spirited by any means, just a lighthearted remark among friends. He was known for his humor—however base it was—and took more shots at himself than he did anyone else. She knew this yet still allowed her tongue to race faster than her mind.
As she lay supine, staring at the ceiling—the blackness looming over her—she wrestled with herself. She knew what she had done was condemnable, but what she did not know was why she had done it.
Ever since they met, Beast Boy had been nothing but kind to her, even when she treated him badly. He always took the initiative and went out of his way to make her feel as though she belonged—as though she were special. When she was lost, his toothy grin and emerald eyes guided her to safety and wrapped her in their abundant comfort until she quavered no longer. When she felt agonizingly alone, he would be there to crack a joke or ask her a seemingly innocuous question. Every time, though she often considered his persistence intrusive, he reminded her that there were others who cared for her, if she only took the time to call upon them.
No… he did not deserve the callous insults and harsh words, nor did he deserve to be repaid in derision for his amity. She knew it was wrong, yet she did it all the same.
She pulled herself into a seated position. Her extremities tingled, aching dully from disuse. Slowly, she stood. The stiffness in her legs faded as she walked from her bed to her bureau in the darkness. She laid her palms against the wood's cool, glossy finish and ran them over it until she felt the serpentine curvature of her meditation mirror's embossed handle. She took the mirror and returned to her bed. As she sat back down, worry suffused her. She had always wondered—albeit inwardly—whether her behavior was a byproduct of her parentage. She loathed all Trigon stood for and worked tirelessly to combat evil. Yet, was it enough to overcome her demonic heritage or would she always be naturally predisposed to violence, disorder, and iniquity?
She drew in a breath, filling her lungs until they burned. Then, like a geyser erupting, she exhaled. For a moment, the room spun and she could not tell up from down. Taking advantage of her disorientation, she pulled herself into the lotus position. With a few cadenced breaths, she found her center. Then, she began chanting her mantra:
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos… Azarath Metrion Zinthos…"
A mass of dark tendrils sprang forth from her mirror and enveloped her. Soon, her opaque form became translucent and disappeared—pulled into the nebulous realm beyond the looking glass.
A/N: Thanks so much for reading! My apologies on the wait…I have been busy (as all of you are, I'm sure) so my creativity has suffered a bit. Hopefully, you enjoyed this chapter and are looking forward to what is to come. If you were left thinking 'Where the hell is this guy going with this?' Fear not. My stories usually take a few chapters to warm up (In 'Collateral Damage' it was about ten or so.)
On that note, let me know what you thought good or ill. I am trying to polish and improve my writing (I am formulating plots for original stories) so any constructive comments will be greatly beneficial.
On that note, here are some tales to read!
Opening the Closet Door a Crack- by still too old for this: A gripping story which is nearing its dramatic conclusion. The Titans have been asked to help find a missing professor. When their search leads them down a dark and eldritch path, will any of them survive or will they be torn asunder by an ancient evil?
Whispers- by Sir Alwick: Recently completed. A suspenseful story that surrounds the ever-developing relationship between Beast Boy and Raven. When Terra returns—her feelings for the changeling rekindled—will she steal him away or have to resort to more desperate measures?
The Special Connection- by multicoloredmango: A BBxRob friendship fic. I stumbled upon it a few days back and enjoyed it. It is fairly well-written and engrossing. When Robin and Beast Boy are separated from the others during a mission, they must rely on one another to make it through.
I suppose that is all for now (pickings have been slim lately.) Thanks again for reading!
Until next time…