There was indeed a ton of cleaning to do the next day, but as they say many hands make light work. By the time it was dinner the rubble had been cleared away and the wall fixed, largely due to Star’s and Raven’s powers and Robin’s mysterious wealth, the electricity was up, running, and better protected, and Beast’s clothes had been found and returned to their rightful places. The cabinets were once more fully stocked, as was the newly cleaned fridge. Robin seriously considered letting the Hive kids win every now and then just so that Mammoth would get rid of all the mold. To his surprise Beast actually snickered when he mentioned it, though the boy quickly stopped and resumed work with a panicked look on his face.
Beast was a good worker, following any orders and doing whatever he was told without complaint. They were done soon enough, Beast going back to his room once the work was done so that the Titans didn’t have to worry about watching him. Unfortunately Starfire had insisted cooking the night’s dinner, luckily for Beast the meal absolutely needed the flesh of gorklekin to get that musky flavor so he got his own meal. Cyborg was delegated to bring the boy his meal, mumbling as he went. “I don’t know what’s worse, this tofu crap or whatever it is that Star is making.”
“Hey B,” he called as he entered the room and was met with the familiar sight of Beast standing at attention. “Dinner, you hungry?”
The boy nodded once and gratefully reached for the plate, wasting no time in digging in once he received the food. Cyborg smiled at the sight, remembering the time when Beast had to be told he could eat. The teen ate with gusto, hungry after a long day of cleaning, and the plate was finished within seconds. Smiling as Cyborg left the room, the boy settled back on the bed, letting his mind wander.
He was glad that he was let out of his cell that day, it was so strange for him to have gone such a long time without any commands from his Master. Now he had actually been of use and it comforted him slightly. The more useful he was, the less likely it was that he would be sold and he didn’t want to be sold. As foreign as it seemed he liked these Masters. Usually he didn’t mind being sold, it scared him more than it made him sad, but he felt almost as though he would miss these Masters if he were forced to leave. It was a strange thought but for some reason he clung to it. He’d never thought about his masters’ lives after he was sold or stolen from them, but he wondered if these Masters would miss him.
He shook his head. No, it was better not to think like that, better not to get his hopes up. Because if he thought that they would miss them, it would make them less likely to sell him. Then he wouldn’t try as hard to stay and they would just get rid of him if he were wrong. No, it would be better not to assume anything. He sighed and opened his eyes, wishing he had something to distract his thoughts. They hadn’t had time to get a new ball yet, and now he had nothing but his thoughts to keep him occupied and they always eventually took a bad turn.
Fingering his shirt he lifted it up just enough to eye the spot where the burn had been. The wound had long since healed, leaving nothing but a large scar. It was kinda funny, in a sick way. The large scar from the Titans had cut off some of his others half-way. One particularly long one started on one end of the old burn and didn’t end until the other side. They were all just scars though, no injury remained. He was excited for training, oh so excited. Nervous as well of course- what if he didn’t do as well as they thought he would, what if he didn’t fight hard enough, what if- but excited none-the-less.
He wondered how hard his Masters would push him. A silent whimper bubbled in his throat as he remembered straight days of grueling workouts and training, Masters forcing him to go until he passed out, then prodding him awake and making him go even more. He remembered horrible fights back when he was young, fights he’d been completely unprepared for and had been completely decimated by his opponents. And then, when he was already well and truly beaten and in pain, his Masters would arrive and punish him for losing the fight.
He remembered being trained to avoid bullets by being shot at, the searing pain when he didn’t do it correctly. Survival training, being trapped in horrible extreme temperatures and trying to find a way to escape and survive. There was rapid-fire shifting, where he was forced to change so quickly and into such different creatures that his powers slipped from his control. And there was the- The boy shook his head, hands over his pointed ears as though attempting to block out the thoughts. No, he didn’t want to remember, didn’t want to think. The boy’s hands grasped for the ball, for anything to distract himself with, but his hands met with nothing but empty air
He shook his head and fisted his hands, gripping the blanket beneath him No, he wouldn’t think about that kind of stuff. These Masters wouldn’t do stuff like that, and even if they did it was better not to think about it. He was excited for training, he was. He was excited for training, he was. He was… the boy kept of a steady mantra in his head, the repetition warding off any unwelcome thoughts. Finally he broke off his thoughts and rose shakily to his feet as steps neared his cell. He knew that whoever it was would probably go right past his room, but the sound was a welcome change from the repetition.
To his surprise however, his door opened and Starfire’s head peeked in, the girl grinning broadly. “Greetings!” She called, and Beast smiled softly. “Come, we wish for you to partake in the tradition of the movie night with us.”
Beast cocked his head to the side slightly and followed, unsure of what was going on but happy to escape the silence of the room. As they entered the main room Beast’s nose crinkled as it was hit with a peculiar scent that he wisely chose not to comment on. The remaining three titans all sat on the couch eating popcorn with relish, as though to cleanse their mouths from some other taste. Starfire floated over to the group and grabbed some of the snack as well, though she was much less frenzied. Beast remained standing beside the couch, his heart thudding nervously. While he was more at ease with the Titans when it was one on one, being around the entire group still intimidated him.
Cyborg glanced at him from where he was scarfing down the popcorn. “Hey B, come on and sit down.” He said, patting the couch next to him. The boy looked over to Robin, remembering the last time Cyborg had tried to tell him to sit on the couch the Titan leader had protested. This time however, the spiky haired teen just nodded and Beast made his way around the couch to sit next to the large teen. Cyborg held out the bowl. “Here, have some popcorn.” Beast took it obediently, still sitting stiffly and ramrod straight.
He remained that way throughout the movie, confused and uncomfortable as he wondered what purpose his Masters had in calling him out to the room. It didn’t help that several times throughout the show Robin had his intense gaze trained on the green shape shifter, as though expecting him to run or lash out. Beast did neither, never so much as twitching except when Cyborg gave him popcorn, which he would toss into his mouth as though swallowing an uncomfortable pill. When finally the ending credits began to roll Cyborg yawned tiredly and turned to Beast, trying to pretend that he hadn’t seen the boy’s extreme discomfort.
“Not a bad flick, so B, what was your favorite part?”
Beast froze, his gaze going from tense to terrified. There was a test? They were asking question? Why didn’t he pay more attention? Now they would be mad. He began to attempt to stammer a reply but Robin cut him off. “Cyborg, just…” The Titan leader sighed and shook his head. “Just take him back to his room.”
Beast’s ears drooped. He had disappointed his Masters somehow. What had he done? The green boy was subdued as Cyborg led him back to his room, though the instant the door closed he turned into a dog and placed one ear to the door, straining to listen to the Titans as they spoke in the main room.
“I swear Rob,” Cyborg was saying as the doors swished shut behind him. “He is getting better. I can see it when I’m with him alone. He just gets freaked out when we’re all their together.”
The boy wonder sighed. “Raven?” He asked, as though looking for another opinion.
“A much broader range of emotions, and as I’m sure you’ve noticed he shows them much more readily. He is improving but it will take time. He’s only been here a little over two weeks, and we’ve only really started making an effort yesterday. This isn’t going to happen overnight. He’s still scared of a lot of things.”
Cyborg’s voice chimed in agreement. “I think I’ve pretty much got him over thinking we were gonna beat him into a bloody pulp every time he takes a step out of place, but he still seems pretty freaked about breaking the rules.”
There was a second or two of silence before Robin sighed. “Well, I guess there’s nothing else to do but continue what we’re doing and wait for training in the morning. I’m going to make some calls though and see if anyone would know what to do about him.” Beast heard the door open and close behind the boy wonder, followed soon by the other Titans as they all made their way to bed. He crawled away from the door as Cyborg shut off his lights, curling into bed and wrapping his arms around his knees.
So he was doing something wrong. He didn’t know what it was though. Apparently he was ‘getting better’ at it, but he didn’t know what that was supposed to mean. His Masters were disappointed in him though, and that was what really mattered. Robin’s last words rang in his mind ‘see if anyone else would know what to do about him’. It wounded like if he didn’t get a whole lot better at whatever it was soon, he was going to get sold. He didn’t want that, he really didn’t want that. He would just have to figure out what it was that he needed to get better at before it was too late.
With the sun next morning came waffles and excitement as the Titans anticipated really seeing what Beast could do for the first time. The boy’s tense atmosphere the night before hadn’t faded from their thoughts, but they pushed it to the back of their minds and focused on other things. Robin was surprisingly late for breakfast, not making it down until well into Cyborg’s third plate of food. The boy wonder didn’t exactly look happy either.
“So I take it the calls didn’t go well?” Raven asked as Robin sat down grumbling to himself.
“Never got to them.” He answered, spearing a waffle with his fork. “Someone hacked into my computer last night. They got over two dozen files. Most of them were completely random too so I have no clue what they were really after. I spent all last night trying to find the guy but whoever did it was good, they completely disappeared from the radar.” He bit into his breakfast savagely and continued to chew angrily for a while before speaking again. “I’ll try calling again later, hopefully I can get some advice.”
Cyborg took Beast his breakfast after that, promising to meet the others in the training room when he was done. He went into the room and found the boy wide awake and grinning. Beast’s excitement had been renewed with the good night’s sleep and now he was ready to get out of the small room and test his strength. After all, if he was strong enough, maybe they would keep him. The small boy swallowed breakfast in a few large bites. Soon the plate was empty and Beast stood nearly quivering with excitement. Cyborg grinned again as he led the shape shifter to the room with his clothes, telling the boy to pick out a training outfit.
The green child quickly began to change into some green and black spandex, tripping over the legs of his pants and getting his arms stuck in his haste. Cyborg chuckled at the shape shifter’s enthusiasm. “You’re like a cooped up dog going for a walk.”
Without a second’s thought Beast transformed into a dog, grabbing the silver belt in his mouth like a leash and barking, running around the robotic teen’s legs. Cyborg laughed and patted the boy’s head when he popped up, looking mortified at what he had done. The boy joined the laughter slightly when he saw that his Master approved of his antics, some of the last nights residual tension slipping off of his shoulders. The robotic Titan watched his green friend sadly. If only the others could see him like this, see how well he was getting along. But, like Raven said, it would take time. Just knowing that the kid was improving was enough for him for now.
“C’mon B, let’s go.” Beast followed, seeming relieved about something, but as they neared the others he seemed more nervous than ever. The boy was practically shaking before he entered the room, something that Cyborg hadn’t seen him do in a while. The Titan stopped, looking Beast up and down. “Okay, what’s eatin’ ya? You didn’t used to be this freaked out.”
Beast shook his head, not meeting Cyborg’s eyes. When they had neared the other Masters, all of Beasts fears from the night before had risen up again. How was he supposed to tell his Master how worried he was that he was going to be sold, that the thought of leaving this tower scared him more than the thought of punishments ever had? He bit his tongue and shook his head even harder. Cyborg sighed and knelt down beside Beast but, like an upset child, the green boy refused to meet his eyes.
“Hey, I don’t know what’s got you so worried, but you don’t need to be. C’mon kid. You were so good back there and now you’re falling apart. Does Robin still freak you out cause he yelled the other day?”
Beast shook his head no. “Is it Starfire? Or Raven? I know she can scare some people.”
Again the boy shook his head. “Does all of us being together freak you out?”
Beast began to shake his head no before pausing and moving his head side to side in a so-so expression. “Kinda? But that’s not why you’re panicking is it?” Another shake. “Well, I’m not gonna force you to tell me, but do you think you could relax a little? You being all tense isn’t going to do anyone any good.”
Beast forced himself to relax, nodding to Cyborg once his heart’s frantic beating slowed. “Okay, you ready?” The boy nodded and followed Cyborg into the large training area. His eyes roved over the dozens of practice machines and equipment and began to relax in earnest. This, he was used to.
Robin nodded at Beast as the two entered, walking over to them. Beast stood readily, awaiting commands. “For now I want to start you on some basic stuff, see how you do before moving on to the more complicated tests. Why don’t you start on one of the treadmills?”
Beast nodded but bit his lip and shifted from foot to foot nervously in the way that the Titans recognized as meaning that he wanted to ask a question but didn’t dare speak up. “What is it?” Robin asked.
“W-what form do you wish me to use?”
“Uh, I guess stick with human for everything today; we’ll test your normal capabilities.” The boy nodded and moved towards the equipment but Robin’s voice stopped him. “And next time you have a question just ask. I don’t like having to guess when you’re confused about something.”
Beast nodded. “Yes Robin.” Robin nodded once and Beast made his way to the machine, the Titan leader following behind. The boy wonder walked over to the controls. Beast stood on the pad, waiting for his Master to start the machine.
“I’m going to start it a little lower than what your file said your average speed was, just to be sure, and I want you to increase the speed until you’ve reached your limit.”
Beast nodded in understanding, anticipating the start of his training. As the treadmill began to move and pick up speed, going much faster than an average person’s, he matched it with unparalleled ease. He went up in speeds quickly, amazed at how good he felt. This was the first training in years in which he was in good health, a full stomach, and no wounds. He didn’t have any cricks or muscle soreness from sleeping in a cramped cage and his clothes weren’t ragged and no longer stuck to his skin. He was feeling the effects of two nearly motionless weeks, but for the most part he’d never been in better health.
He passed his old high in no time, comfortably running at what was once his top speed. Robin kept him on the treadmill for a while, testing his endurance as well as his speed, before finally telling Beast to get off. The green boy was sweating and panting heavily, but seemed all the happier for it. The other Titans had lost interest in the running boy at various points in time and were doing their own workouts. Beast found his gaze dwelling to where Cyborg was struggling with unbelievably huge weights. No wonder dropping on him as a hippo in that first fight hadn’t worked.
Robin had Beast lift weights first, thankfully ones much smaller than Cyborg’s, and Beast found himself pleased to be succeeding in this as well. He felt his confidence growing as the day wore on, especially because Master Robin seemed pleased with him. Maybe he wouldn’t have to worry about being sold after all. The thought made him work even harder, blowing previous records out of the water. Beast had a moment to appreciate the irony that these Masters, who really pushed him the least of the Masters, made him want to do his best.
They worked for most of the day, stopping only for a small lunch before going again. Robin cited the reason being that they hadn’t had much practice the past few days for various reasons, but Beast didn’t mind. He began to grow tired as the day wore on, but it was nothing compared to the complete exhaustion he sometimes worked with. Finally Beast had been tested using each of the machines, and was pleasantly surprised to find that he’d excelled at every test.
Robin nodded at the boy as the others finished their last reps of whatever they were doing. “Good job B, I was impressed.” Beast grinned at the boy wonder, his heart soaring at the words. “Just one more thing before you rest, I want to spar with you a little. Think you can do that?”
Beast nodded eagerly, stretching his tiring muscles. He was going to be so sore tomorrow, he just knew it. Yet it was like all of his energy from the past two weeks had been released at once, he was ready for anything. “Good. Stay human though, I just want to check on your hand to hand. Your file said you had a lot of training in that, right?”
“Yep!” Beast answered with a grin, forgetting for a moment that he was trying to be careful around his masters. Robin smiled anyway and led the boy to what looked like a boxing ring at the center of the room. The other Titans all clustered around the ring, watching interestedly but non-expectantly, as though they all knew that Robin would win. Remembering the fight from when the Titans stole him, Beast couldn’t find it within himself to disagree.
He crouched low when the fight started, much lower than a normal person would have, causing Robin to watch him with confusion for a moment. However the confusion lasted not even long enough to give the boy an opening as the boy wonder quickly readied himself. The opponents circled for a while but Beast, the more impatient of the two, leaped forward in an attack. Robin deftly avoided it, jumping to a side and catching the boy with a kick to the side. Beast rolled as the kick sent him across the mat, rising up to his feet and attacking once more.
Robin paid close attention to the boy as they sparred, more watching him fight than lashing out himself. The green child was better than he thought, the files hadn’t been lying when it mentioned his tutelage under many fighting masters. But the boy’s fighting signature was… unique to say the least. Though he kept correct technique and form, the boy seemed to get wilder, more animalistic as he fought. It kept him in the fight for longer than Robin expected, but it was also his downfall.
It was almost like Beast was intertwined with his animal instincts no matter his form, as though even as a human he was an animal. He ignored some of the more obvious pressure points, instead nearly always lunging for the neck. When he made punches and jabs he was as fast as a striking cobra, but his attacks almost always came in swipes or swings. Sometimes he would swing an inch or two short of hitting Robin, as though expecting there to be a claws at the ends of his fingertips. It slowed him down just a fraction of a second, but it was enough for Robin to land a blow hard enough to send the boy flying. Before he could rise again Robin was upon him, making it clear that the fight was over.
Beast snarled, seeming to forget a moment that he was simply sparring. In fact, he looked ready to fight again before Robin spoke. “The fight is over. Stand down.”
Immediately the fight left him and Beast was nothing but an exhausted boy, panting and defeated. Robin reached down and offered Beast a hand to help him up. At first the boy hesitated, but after a second’s pause he accepted the hand, allowing Robin to pull him to his feet. The boy wonder nodded to him. “That’s enough for today. In a few days we’ll test out your animal forms, but for now I you can just head back to your room and rest.” The Titan leader told the boy, his mind on Beast’s reaction at the end of the fight and the sparring he had seen on the DVD, battles ending only when one party was too injured to move and where surrender was no more an option than mercy. He wasn’t sure how he had expected his fight with Beast to end, but he realized that he shouldn’t have been surprised how it did.
Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, the colorful teen turned to Cyborg. “Will you take him back? I have to take care of those calls I was talking about last night.”
Beast froze at the words, his eyes going wide even as Cyborg led him out of the room. The calls from the night before? Were they the ones that they were thinking of selling Beast to? They still wanted to sell him? He thought he had done so well. He had worked so hard. Was it the battle; was Master Robin angry at him for losing? For not ending when he was supposed to? Beast whimpered to himself as he walked into his cell, deaf to Cyborg’s words of encouragement behind him.Beast collapsed onto his bed, despondent. He had worked so hard to stay but apparently it was not to be. He wasn’t good enough, he was too weak, too unreliable. He was… he was … he was tired. Beast slid his eyes closed, attempting to blink, but they didn’t open as he fell into an exhausted sleep.
Far away on a distant part of town a man sat at a computer screen, a fearsome smirk forming beneath a two-toned mask. Slade sorted through dozens of files he had stolen from Robin’s computer, deleting some of them immediately and saving others for later viewing. However, at the moment he had mind for only one file. He clicked on a video simply titled Beast and sat back with a malicious title to watch.