Cyborg sighed as he made his way out to the main room, flopping across the couch tiredly. He couldn’t understand B. The smallest things seemed to set him off, most of the time the Titan never even knew what the problem was. Half the time he would seem to be making great progress, then it was like a switch would flip and it felt like they were back to square one. He’d managed to be pretty well throughout training, until that final freak out during the sparring. Oh well, a whole morning and most of an afternoon without a panic attack, it could be a new record.
He heard the door open as Raven glided into the room, watching Cyborg with one skeptical eyebrow raised. “I take it we’re calling in tonight.”
The robotic teen sighed. “How come we never go out for dinner anymore?” He felt like he hadn’t left the tower in ages, other than for missions of course.
“Oh, you want to leave Beast here alone while we all go out for food?”
The large Titan sighed. “No, of course not. Yeah, call out and order a couple of pizzas I guess. I don’t feel like making anything and we let Star cook yesterday.”
The girl nodded and began to drift to the phone, only for Cyborg’s voice to stop her. “How long do you think it’ll be before he can just come with us? I feel like there’s no way for me to know for sure if he’s really improving. One moment he’s cracking jokes and acting nearly normal, the next he’s quivering with fear.”
The girl shook her head. “He doesn’t seem to do well in large crowds. If it were simply a matter of his actions I wouldn’t worry. He would be perfectly behaved, I’m sure, but it wouldn’t be good for his progress. Not yet at least.”
“Yeah Yeah, he needs time bla, bla, bla. I know. It just feels like every time we get over a hurdle there’s another one waiting for us.”
“I never said I thought it would be easy.” The girl said, finally moving away just as Robin entered the room. Cyborg shifted from his laying down position to stand.
“Hey Rob, calls over already? That was quick.”
“Don’t know why I expect social advice from a man who spends most of him time in a cave.” The boy grumbled. “He wasn’t a lot of help, just saying a bunch of stuff we already knew. I did send him Beast’s files though; see if he can figure out who any of the old masters were.”
“Great. At least the training went fairly well. Until that freak out at the end, at least.”
Robin scowled. “He was taught to never stop fighting until either he or his opponent was completely unable to fight back. Mercy wasn’t an option. At least we figured this out now instead of on the field or something later.”
“About that Rob, what is it that we want for him? Are we trying to get him to become a Titan or just trying to get him over all… all this.”
The boy wonder frowned in thought. “I guess it had all seemed the same. But… getting him normal is first priority. If he doesn’t want to be a Titan I’m not going to force him, but I’m training him like a Titan until he decides.”
Cyborg nodded. “So you’re testing his animal forms tomorrow?”
“Not tomorrow. After so much time of inactivity he’s going to be sore. I’ll wait a few days.”
“Maybe tomorrow we can give movie night another go? I think repetition helps as much as anything.”
“No harm in trying it.”
Cyborg sighed and moved to start a video game, offing one of the controllers to Robin. The boy wonder took it without comment and Cyborg waited a moment for the game to commence before speaking again. “When I let him out a few days ago, I had him play video games before. He’d never played before so I had him play that one racing game. He was pretty bad at it, but you should have seen how excited he was when he passed that first car. For a moment, I think he forgot he was Beast, he was just a kid.”
Any reply Robin had was cut off as the doorbell rang, Raven coming up the steps moments later carrying several boxes of pizza. Cyborg and Robin ended the game, jumping to their feet excitedly. Starfire flew into the room, hair slightly damp from a recent shower. They were starving. Cyborg swallowed two slices before piling a plates high and going off to Beast’s room, snacking on a third piece as he left. As the door to the cell slid open the Cyborg started slightly in surprise.
For the first time since Beast came the boy wasn’t standing ready in the room. Instead he was sprawled across his bed, fast asleep. The robotic Titan paused for a moment in the doorway, unsure what to do. He leaned forward to place the vegetarian plate on the bedside bench, but as he placed it on the ground Beast’s eyes shop open, sensing the cyborg’s presence. He scrambled to sitting position, his eyes widening with terror when he realized that he hadn’t risen to greet his Master. Cyborg smiled.
“Hey B, sorry. I didn’t mean to wake you up. Hungry?”
The boy was watching him worriedly, cautiously, before nodding and accepting the plate. He kept steady eye contact with Cyborg until he received the plate, after which he devoured the meal in mere moments, his hunger rivaling and even surpassing Cyborg’s. The robotic Titan laughed as he took the empty plate. “Well then, guess you were. I’ll let you get back to sleep then.”
Beast looked up at him tiredly and collapsed onto the bed, allowing sleep to overtake him. Cyborg watched the boy for a moment, smiling. This was the first time since the first night that B had ever fallen asleep with one of the Titans in the room.
Beast groaned as he woke, his eyes fluttering weakly and he turned, groaning even louder when the movement pulled at his stiff muscles. He was so sore. Training today would be murder. If he had it at least; these Masters didn’t seem to hold to any normal schedule. He scowled as he rotated his arm, working on the shoulder muscles. He used to hate his old Masters for making him train every day no matter what, but he thought he could forgive them now. With a third and final groan he sat up, wondering idly what time it was. He went to bed awfully early last night, but then he’d been so tired he might have slept more than usual. He had no clock in the room so he would just have to wait until he heard his Masters to figure it out.
The green boy grimaced when he heard footsteps coming from down the hall. Grunting he tried to rise to his feet despite his body’s protests. He allowed himself to fall back as steps neared with no sign of slowing. This wasn’t good, he was almost too sore to get up. He began to stretch, pulling at his aching muscles. He had to get a handle on this before his Master came in; he had to be able to stand at attention. Or… or did he?
Meeting his Masters at attention was something that had been ingrained into his mind from his very first Masters. It was supposed to be a symbol of respect, subservience, and ready willingness to obey. But he’d been asleep when Cyborg came in the night before, the exact opposite of willing and ready. Yet he hadn’t been mad, not at all. Maybe these Masters didn’t care about that kind of stuff. Or had he just been giving Beast a break because he was exhausted?
The shape shifter settled back on the bed. Maybe he could try and make sure, not stand up when Master Cyborg came in and see how he reacted. No. No that was stupid. He should just abide by the rules and… Wait, what were the rules? These Masters had never given him any rules other than not turning into anything smaller than a rabbit. And to obey of course, but that was a given. He didn’t really know what was expected of him, didn’t know what the boundaries were. Maybe he could… test them.
No. No no no no no. What was he thinking? This was crazy, Beast wasn’t supposed to test the boundaries; he wasn’t just supposed to avoid crossing the line he was supposed to be so far away that the line didn’t know he existed. He didn’t find rules by breaking them. Not intentionally at least. But he’d thought he’d broken rules a dozen times already and they hadn’t done anything. And didn’t Cyborg say that they wouldn’t beat him or anything as punishment. Though he only made promises for himself. This wouldn’t be the first time one Master handled training while another handled punishment. But somehow that didn’t feel right.
Maybe these Masters didn’t have as many rules, didn’t think of explaining them. Maybe they actually wanted him to figure them out by himself. Maybe it wouldn’t be bad to try testing the boundaries, just this one time. To stop the confusion and figure out what the rules are. No, that was stupid. He shouldn’t test these Masters, no matter how kind they seemed. He didn’t want to get sold. But yet… he could try, couldn’t he? It couldn’t hurt to try. Okay, technically it really could if he was punished, but it couldn’t hurt any more than he was accustomed to.
He straightened when he heard footsteps nearing, instinct screaming at him to stand, but he didn’t move, testing his theory. Before he could however, there came a loud blaring that made Beast instinctively curl up and protect his ears. Robin yelled something he couldn’t hear, but apparently it was bad because the next thing he’d hear was a platter falling in the hall and Cyborg running out.
So, no breakfast today. Oh well, he had a good few hours before they returned at least, he could try and get rid of his soreness. The boy looked over to the sink, his eyes specifically moving to the hot water tap. Standing gingerly Beast plugged the sink, filling it with scalding water. As it finally filled he shifted into a small dog, still larger than a rabbit, and submerged himself, sighing in relief as the hot water soothed his sore muscles. As he closed his eyes and relaxed the boy realized how odd this was. He would never consider anything like this with another Master, especially with a rolling video camera in the corner, but he felt more… at ease… with these Titans than he had any other Masters. It was odd. But as he sank deeper into his small pool he decided that he didn’t care.
The Titans didn’t reappear for hours and Beast was sitting on his bed attempting to stretch, his emotions switching back and forth from worried to bored. They hadn’t gotten him a new toy yet so now there was nothing to do in the sparse room. At all. He was getting hungry too. The boy grimaced at the thought. He used to go days without eating; now it hadn’t even been twenty-four hours since his last meal and he was already craving food. He hoped his Masters would return soon, as lunchtime passed and faded into afternoon his hunger only grew.
Finally they returned, well into the afternoon. The boy jumped up when he heard the door open, his ears perked as he pressed one to the door to ensure that it truly was his Masters who entered. To his extreme relief it was. He listened as his Masters talked, the conversation mostly complaining and grumbling. It sounded like they beat the original villain just in time for lunch, only for a second to strike just as they were leaving the pizza parlor. Beast frowned, slightly put out that his Masters went to eat without getting him anything.
He shook his head. He didn’t know if they had gotten him anything or not, they’d been stopped before making it home. Besides, his other Masters would have several meals without giving him anything. At least with these he would most likely get dinner. The boy smiled and went back to his bed to relax in earnest, knowing that his Masters would usually rest for a while before anyone came to see him.
After a moment he heard the sounds of Robin walking towards his cage. His earlier resolve left him, and he began to quail at the thought of testing his Masters. The green boy stood immediately, scrambling in panic. However, he relaxed and sat back down when the colorfully dressed teen stopped in the middle of the hall, calling back to the main hall.
“Why are there waffles in the middle of the hallway?” The boy wonder called and there was a moment of silence before Beast heard Cyborg curse loudly. The robotic teen was running down the hall and in Beast’s room so fast that the boy couldn’t have stood if he wanted to. Cyborg burst into the room, babbling semi-coherently.
“Oh man, B, sorry. You must be starving. You haven’t eaten all day and after that intense workout yesterday…” His apologies faded as he took in the scene before him. For the second time that Cyborg could remember Beast wasn’t standing at attention. However, this time the boy wasn’t asleep. He was sitting on the bed, his expression shocked at first but quickly morphing into something more similar to calculating as he watched the Titan’s reaction. Cyborg, for his part, fumbled over his words for a moment but otherwise pretending not to notice. “So, yeah, sorry. Why don’t you come with me to the kitchen and we can find you something to tide you over until dinner.”
Beast nodded and followed the teen, his gaze still calculating. He had noticed when Cyborg tripped over his words. The Titan had noticed, but hadn’t reproached him in any way. Beast decide to make his own set of rules in his mind, telling him where the boundaries lay. The first two rules were the ones his Masters had given him, but after that was stuff he had figured out on his own, like how they like him talking and didn’t mind when he smiled. As Cyborg led him to the kitchen he added another rule to his mental list. He didn’t have to be standing ready when the Masters came in.
Cyborg led the boy into the main room, heading straight for the kitchen with Beast in tow. As they neared Cyborg eyed the dinner supplies he’d gotten out before Robin had reminded him about Beast. He’d been planning a big meal to celebrate a hard day’s work, but it wouldn’t be ready for another hour at least. On the other hand he didn’t want to spoil Beast’s dinner. Not that the kid ever had a problem with eating. He sighed, “You mind just grabbing a snack for now? Dinner will be ready in about an hour and I promise I’ll make you an extra big helping.”
Beast just smiled and nodded, following the larger teen to the counter and eyeing the ingredients for dinner appreciatively. Cyborg grinned at the smaller boy. “Great, sorry about all this. Go ahead and take what you want from the kitchen.”
Beast’s eyes raked over the food, slightly overwhelmed by the choices it offered. It was still fairly well stocked from the day before and the options were practically limitless. Beast had never had the opportunity to choose his own food before, and now he was so hungry that everything looked good. He didn’t know what to choose. The boy paused, biting his lip and rocking back on his heels as he tried to decide. Cyborg sighed, interpreting his hesitation as the insecurity that so often plagued the shape shifter. Beast, recognizing the sigh as one of wearied disappointment, made a move to grab something randomly, but Cyborg moved before he did. Thinking that the boy was uncomfortable with being asked to choose, the cyber-Titan decided for him.
“Here, how about an apple.” He said, tossing the fruit to Beast. “If that’s not enough you can always get something else too.”
Beast took a large bite out of the apple the instant he got a grip on it, eyeing the fruit in his hands as he chewed. The white of the bite, the red of the apple skin, and the green of his hands made an interesting contrast. He peeked up at Cyborg as he took another bite. He knew that the Titan was upset that he didn’t chose for himself. Beast rolled his eyes slightly, these Masters got disgruntled or happy at the strangest things. Still, he didn’t want Master Cyborg upset anymore, even if he wasn’t angry at him.
Beast’s eyes scanned the room. All of the other Titans had disappeared into various parts of the tower. That was good, he wasn’t as comfortable talking in front of them as he was with Cyborg. With Starfire it didn’t matter as much, she could practically hold a conversation with herself and it was easy for him to answer to her kind smile. Raven liked silence, that was obvious, but because of that the quiet was never awkward. Beast wasn’t instinctually a creature of silence, but his Masters had trained him to be seen and not heard so he was accustomed to not speaking. Still, he treasured every conversation he could get out of the girl, every half-smile.
Master Robin was the worst though, if for no reason other than that he was the leader. It got Beast tongue tied in a way that had everything to do with the boy wonder’s authority position and nothing to do with his personality. Especially because he would be the one who would ultimately decide to sell Beast. However, he certainly felt much more able to talk with Robin than any other masters.
Cyborg was still the easiest to talk to however, the one who was the most eager for Beast to talk back. The green boy cradled the fruit in his hands, glancing at the robotic Titan as he stepped out on a limb to cheer him up. “Hey Cyborg.” The boy called softly, his voice low as he shifted nervously. “What’s worse than finding a worm in your apple?” He asked, and Cyborg gaped at him, uncomprehending and confused.
“Finding half of one.” The boy finished with a timid grin. Cyborg stared at him for a moment before laughing uproariously, making Beast jump. It wasn’t really that the joke was that funny- if anything it was lame and overused, he’d heard it a million times before- but Cyborg could hardly believe that timid little B would just say a joke like that. Raven said that she’d sensed humor in the boy, but there really had been no hint of it before other than a few small things that may or may not have been jokes.
Beast’s grin widened at Cyborg’s reaction and he took another huge bite of the apple, cleaving it in half. His eyes fell to his hands again as the grin turned into a small smirk. “I have one about bananas too but it’s not as a-peel-ing.”
Cyborg chuckled and ruffled Beast’s hair as the ginning boy finished his snack. “Alright, alright kid. Good ones. I’d better get started cooking though if you want dinner anytime tonight. If you want you can head over there and play video games again. I think it’s still set up from Robin after breakfast, you just have to turn the TV on.”
Beast began to move only to stop, looking back at Cyborg. That was one of the weird commands that didn’t sound like they were really commands, they almost sounded like suggestions. With a deep breath the boy moved back to where he’d been standing and directly disobeyed the suggestion, instead choosing to watch Cyborg cook. He’d never watched anyone cook before, he was curious. Also, he was supposed to be testing the boundaries today, and finding out if he was really supposed to obey the not-commands would really help ease his confusion.
Cyborg looked up after a moment when he realized he hadn’t heard the video game start. He jumped slightly when he saw Beast, but the boy’s eyes seemed to be transfixed on the Cyborg’s hand which was rapidly chopping onions, going faster than any normal person because he didn’t fear getting cut. After a second the green boy sensed the Cyborg’s gaze and met his eyes, resuming the wary but calculating look he’d had earlier in his room. The large teen smiled but otherwise chose to ignore the boy and continue cooking dinner, letting Beast do as he pleased. After a while however, he grew uncomfortable with such intense scrutiny.
“You know, you could sit down if you like.” Cyborg offered. Beast blinked at him and shuffled slightly, but otherwise didn’t move. He’d been sitting all day pretty much, and standing stretched his muscles a little bit. Also, he had yet to truly feel comfortable sitting around his Masters. When they were in his cell and he was in his bed it was different. That was his territory, he was at ease there. As for the rest of the tower, not so much. Like most pets he usually wasn’t allowed on the furniture. Even though he knew that the Titans had different rules than his old masters, it still felt unnatural.
Cyborg looked down at the enraptured boy, a small smile hinting at his lips. “Well then, if you’re going to stand there watching me, do you wanna help out?”
Beast brightened, a huge smile appearing at his lips. “Can I?” He asked excitedly and Cyborg chuckled.
“Sure, why not. C’mere, I’ll teach ya how to make some of your gross tofu crap, that way I won’t have to make it.”
Beast just grinned, watching intensely as Cyborg showed him how to work the stove. The Titan chuckled at the Boy’s enthusiasm. “First time in the kitchen?”
Beast nodded. “I’d never even seen anyone cook before.” He admitted, poking his tofu patty with a spatula warily. Cyborg laughed, returning to his own preparations.
“Just stick with me kid, I’ll make you a regular Bobby Flay in no time!”
Beast looked up to him blankly, not understanding the reference, but Cyborg just waved the boy’s confusion off, telling him not to worry about it and just cook. Beast did as he was told, internally musing as he watched his food. He was happy with the progress he’d made today, he’d learned a lot about the “rules”. It bothered him slightly that, as far as boundaries went, he had yet to reach any, but he managed to ignore the misgivings in favor of being content with knowing what he could do rather than fear what he couldn’t. Still, he decided that he would obey his Master’s next order, direct command or not. He was done being brave for the day.
Dinner was finished soon enough, the scent of food drawing the other Titans into the room. Many of them seemed surprised to see Beast cooking, but got over their shock quickly. In fact, Starfire seemed almost excited, immediately offering cooking lessons for the boy. None of the Masters seemed to think that it was a good idea, but Beast couldn’t decline.
The teens decided to watch the movie while they ate, settling into the couch with food and drinks scattered around. Beast took a timid seat next to Cyborg, relaxing when none of the Titans seemed to mind. He was still slightly tense when the movie began, feeling Robin’s scrutiny, but as the story progressed and Beast’s empty stomach filled he was able to forget the Titan leader, losing himself in the show. He didn’t laugh out loud as some did, nor did he tear up at the sad parts, cheer at the action, or gasp at the suspenseful scenes. He wasn’t that relaxed yet. But, he allowed himself to lose his tension, falling back against the couch and watching the movie. And to Beast’s joy when Cyborg asked him his favorite part, the boy could actually answer.
Deep in the bowels of a villainous lair, Slade was watching a movie of a different sort. He smiled as he the green boy on the screen completed a rigorous training sequence in seconds. This was the third time watching the file he’d stolen from Robin. The first time was for fun, the second in case he missed something, and now he was watching the Masters, the men who had trained the boy. He grinned, watching for tells or hints to their identity. No matter how many informants Batman boasted, he’d never have nearly as many as a villain such as Slade. He grinned as he circled a name, eyes locked on the screen as he finally discovered the identity of the boy’s second Master. His eyes lit on the boy’s collar with a grin. Maybe he would give the man a call.