The green boy jumped to his feet as footsteps neared, his ears perking at the familiar clang of Master Cyborg. He must have gotten back from shopping with the female Masters. The door slid open only moments later, giving way to the form of a smiling Cyborg, Starfire floating over his shoulder to grin at the green child. Beast jumped slightly, keeping his face down to hide his curiosity. He hadn’t expected the girl, nor had he expected the large bags that each of them carried.
“Hey B!” The robotic man called kindly as the pair entered the room.
“Greetings to you, new friend B.”
Cyborg pat the stool that still sat beside the bed. “Sit down. Star and I have something to show ya.”
Beast obeyed, cocking his head to the side as he sat. He eyed the bags, fighting to keep his curiosity from becoming overtly obvious. Starfire and Cyborg both dropped the parcels to the floor beside the bed, and the girl immediately knelt to rummage in one. Moments later she pulled out a t-shirt and jeans with a flourish. ‘Tah-dah!’, her smile seemed to say, though she didn’t actually speak. The girl was content to watch Beast’s expression as shock and wonder took over.
His gaze turned from the outfit in the girl’s hand to the bags littering the floor. Could they really all contain clothes? And could they all truly be for him? No. It was impossible. But… His breath caught as the girl began speaking, explaining that the outfit she had been showing was for ‘the hanging out’. She pulled out another, one of purple and black spandex and spoke of training. Sweats appeared, socks, underwear, even a pair of boots. He soon became overwhelmed and could only sit in stunned silence as the girl emptied the last few bags, his eyes unseeing and his ears mute.
His mind went back to his earlier musings, now more confused than ever. The small inner voice vied for attention, but he was too numb even to notice. All those clothes, all for him. They looked so nice, comfy and new. It was unbelievable, incredible. It was… it was… He jumped when Cyborg’s hand landed on his shoulder, jerking Beast out of his broken thoughts.
The robot was smiling sadly at him, while the alien girl floated beside the bed, her grin stretching across her face. Cyborg shook the boy slightly. “Go on kid, it’s all yours.”
Slowly Beast rose, his legs shaky as he staggered to the bed. He leaned against the frame, staring in shock at the clothes that littered the mattress. There was a large hole in the fingertip of one of his gloves. He gently slid the finger over the clothes, marveling at the soft textures.
Slowly, a smile began to steal across his face, breaking out into a grin the likes of which no Master had ever seen. He grinned at the new clothes, his eyes lighting with happiness. These were his, all his. These Masters had given him all of these clothes and- Masters! He jumped, dropping the smile and cringing. Beast looked up to his Masters in fear, terrified that they had seen and would be furious with him, as any other Master would have been. To his surprise they were beaming at him. Cyborg’s smile fell when he saw Beast’s fear and the robotic teen knelt beside the green boy.
“Hey B, we like your smile. Don’t be so afraid to show it more often.”
Beast’s expression didn’t change, nor did his fear falter. He wasn’t supposed to smile. He was Beast, he wasn't supposed to be happy. He was supposed to obey the master and nothing else. Smiling would make the Masters think they were going easy on him, that he wasn't trying his best. It would lead to more beatings, stricter training, less food, until his joy was wiped out. Lucky for him they had never succeeded in destroying it completely, only in making him hide it deep within himself. That’s were his smiles belonged, hidden in his mind and heart, not out in the open like this where Masters could see and interpret them as they wished.
The boy grit his teeth and turned away from the Master and back to the bed, carefully constructing his face to become a neutral mask that Raven would be proud of. However, the look didn’t last long. His attention was caught by a bright sparkling on the bed. Cocking his head to the side once more, the boy reached out for the shine. He looked with surprise and interest at the metallic belt that he found. He hadn’t seen Master Starfire pull it out of the bag. It must have been after he zoned out. It was so… shiny. So pretty. He shook it slightly, feeling his heart leap in excitement as it threw light upon the wall. Gloved fingers brushed the smooth metal as the boy’s head continued to cock back and forth as he stared in interest.
Starfire giggled at his reaction and even Cyborg chuckled, finally understanding why the girls were so certain that the kid would like the belt. He was like a magpie, or a raccoon or fish, transfixed by the shiny metal and their own reflection. Beast looked up with a start as they chuckled, and his green face turned brown as he blushed.
Cyborg straightened, looking over the clothing with a critical eye before turning to the Boy. "Alrighty then. You can’t keep your clothes in here, but why don’t you pick out some sweats to sleep in for tonight?”
Starfire began helping to put the less sleep-friendly clothing away when she saw Beast staring at the sweatpants and T-shirts at a complete loss. The alien grinned and quickly came to his aid, pairing the some of the tops with the bottoms and chatting happily to the nearly silent boy. Unsurprisingly he simply chose the first outfit Starfire had recommended, picking out a pair of socks and underwear as well.
Finally he noticed the new gloves. He gently held them, treating them with the all the deference and care as if he were handling the crown jewels. Wonder shone in his eyes as he breathed to himself, "They aren’t even leather,". Immediately the child’s head shot up, his gaze shooting to Cyborg in fear. The Titan pretended not to hear, picking up the rest of the clothes and dumping them into a bag before handing it to Starfire.
“Can you go put these in a room? I’m gonna take the kid to the bathroom to take a shower. By the smell of things he needs one.”
The red-head nodded, flying down the hall to an empty room. Beast followed the cyber teen as the Titan led him to the bathroom. He watched as his Master puttered around the room uncertainly, grimacing as he looked down the drains and at the vent in the ceiling. Cyborg turned to Beast uncertainly for a moment before straightening and screwing his face into an expression of stern command. “Alright kid, I’m gonna let you shower but I need to know that you won’t change into something small and slip down the drain or something. No shifting until you’re done, got it?”
Beast nodded, smiling in his mind at the irony. He would never even have thought of escape had the Master not mentioned it. Not that he would consider it now, of course. He had several scars proving how useless it was to attempt to escape from Masters. Cyborg frowned, not entirely satisfied with his response.
“I mean it B. I gotta know that I can trust you to stay in here.”
“Yes, Master.” Beast said with another nod. Cyborg jumped. He began to say something before he visibly deflated, his words dying in his throat. He gestured at the shampoos and soaps lining the tub.
“You, uh, can use whatever you want. I wouldn’t recommend Star’s stuff though; you might end up smelling kinda funky.” He opened a cabinet and pulled out a towel, tossing it to the boy. “How long do you think you’re gonna take?”
“I can bathe as quickly as Master wishes.”
Again Cyborg jumped at the title, but Beast pretended not to notice.
“Look B, you don’t have to… I’m not… none of us are your…” He sighed. “Fine. Just take as long as you need; no time frame for now. Knock when you’re all done.”
Cyborg left the room, leaving Beast alone. The green boy gently placed the clothing on the sink counter, keeping it well away from the water splashed around the basin. He glanced uncertainly at the shower as he began to remove his clothes. His masters had always given him a set time to shower, promising punishment and pain if he were to go over. He wasn’t sure what to do now. Then again, that was becoming pretty common with these Masters. He never knew what to do anymore.
With an internal sigh he bit his lip and made his way to the shower. Just because his Master didn’t tell him to hurry didn’t mean that Beast should keep him waiting. The boy turned the shower nozzle to as red a setting he could get, experimenting slightly. He stepped into the spray, smiling in ecstasy as the water began to warm and only turning the dial down when it became absolutely scalding.
He bathed quickly, as years of two to three minute showers had trained him to do, and simply stood under the cascading hot water until he decided that his Master would soon become impatient.
The boy's ears perked as he finished drying off. Master Rob was speaking to Master Cyborg in the hallway. For a moment he considered eavesdropping, something frighteningly easy to do with his sensitive ears, but he knew that the action would be frowned upon, even with Masters as strange as these.
The boy couldn’t stop a small smile from lighting across his face as he put on his sleepwear. For a moment his happiness overshadowed the confusion that seemed to constantly surround him. The clothes were just so warm and comfy. And the gloves fit perfectly. They felt stern and strong, and no poor animal had to give their life in their making. He flexed his fingers experimentally in the silver fabric, enjoying the way the cloth melded with his movements. Finally he knew that he had kept his Master waiting long enough.
He sighed as the happiness dissipated slightly, confusion taking its proper place at the forefront of his mind as he felt the small dart of fear that always came from being in a Master’s presence. The green teen knocked twice before stepping back and awaiting his Master.
Cyborg had waited until he heard the shower running before leaning against the wall and relaxing, pulling out a gaming consul to play the original Mega Monkeys. He had to pause it only seconds later when he heard Robin’s crisp steps coming down the hall. The boy wonder’s mask was tilted in a quizzical expression.
“What are you doing out here?”
“Just waitin while B takes a shower.”
“He’s in there alone?” The boy wonder’s wide eyes turned to the door, his mind obviously running through the many escape options Cyborg had checked only moment earlier, and doubtless several others that the robotic teen would never have considered. “Did you at least set up some kind of surveillance or something? Anything?”
“Relax Rob. Green Genes was practically in shock at getting his new clothes, not to mention he’s scared to death of us. Besides, we still have that remote.”
Robin frowned, obviously not convinced that the boy wouldn’t take his chance at freedom. Cyborg took the moment to drive in another point. “What do you want me to do Robin, spy on B while he showers, keep him from bathing until you know we can trust him? The kid is trained to follow orders. I told him not to try any funny business, he’ll listen.”
If any point of the cyborg’s argument got through the boy wonder’s thick skull, it was the last one. He had seen part of the boy’s training firsthand via the video. If the punishments for attempting to escape were half as bad as the training itself then the changeling would probably have given up a long time ago. Finally Robin nodded. “I guess we don’t have much of a choice. Just keep an eye on him.”
“Will do. Hey, when you go back to the kitchen would you mind getting a pan ready? I grabbed stuff for my famous Cy-burgers for dinner. Get one out for the kid’s tofu crap too, would ya?”
Robin nodded and began heading back to the kitchen as his stomach growled faintly. Just because he remembered to give Beast lunch didn’t mean that he wouldn’t forget to feed himself. Cyborg called after the spiky-haired teen before resuming his spot against the wall. “And don’t let Star near the food.”
The cyber titan had just begun to resume his game when the small rap-tap of knuckles on wood sounded from behind the door. Cyborg frowned as the knock sounded, tucking away the small device. He hadn’t been paying attention to the kid at all once Robin arrived, he didn’t even notice the shower turn off. So much for keeping an eye on him. The robot’s frown deepened as he realized how short his conversation with the boy wonder had been. He looked at his internal watch. Seven minutes. The kid had been alone in the bathroom for only seven minutes and he was already done, showered, dressed, and everything. The robot forced a smile as he led the boy back to his cell, but said nothing.
Nothing was really wrong with it, no moral problems, no emeotional scars tied to quick showers, but to Cyborg it was just another thing that these “masters” had done to the kid to mess him up. The robotic titan could almost hear them ordering the boy, caked with layers and layers of sweat, dirt, blood, and grime to finish his shower in five minutes. Four. Three.
He sighed as he locked the kid in his cell, making his way back to the common room to make supper. He just had to remind himself that it was still early on and they had a long way to go. It was just the first day. The kid would relax, he would heal. It would just take time.
Beast looked nervously at Cyborg as the large teen left the small room. His Master hadn’t said anything after Beast got out of the shower. Had he done something wrong? Did he take too long? Most Masters would have just punished him already and he wouldn’t have to sit here and worry about what he did. Was that it? Was he going to be punished, for whatever reason, and that was why Master Cyborg was quiet?
But if they were planning on punishing him why had they waited so long? Beast sighed to himself, he was just as confused now as he had been that morning. He shook himself, mind going back to the resolve he’d made before they had given him the clothing, to serve his Masters just as he had all of the others and not think as much.
The green boy leaned back slightly, bringing up one hand to brush through his slightly damp hair only to stop when a flash of silver caught his eye. He smiled and the new gloves, flexing his fingers and moving his hands in all different ways to test them out. They were great; supple and comfortable while remaining stiff and strong.
He jumped to his feet, bouncing slightly to get the feel of his new boots. They matched the gloves! He chuckled to himself before running in place slightly to get a feel for the new footwear. The boy stopped almost immediately when he remembered Master Rob’s command not to work out. The shoes weren't bad, they were sturdy and had good arch support he supposed. The problem was they felt so weird. He’d had his old shoes for ages; they were so well broken in that he doubted anyone else would ever be able to wear them. Then again, he couldn’t see why anyone would ever want too. They were close to falling apart; at least these were strong and firm. They fit good too, the old ones were just starting to pinch his toes.
The boy jumped when the door began to slide open, scrambling around to stand in ready position. He’d been so concentrated on the new clothes that he hadn’t noticed his Master’s footsteps. In fact, he had no clue which one had come this time.
The shape shifter was slightly surprised when Master Raven came into the room, her face expressionless as usual. “Sit.” She commanded coolly and Beast sat. Luckily he was close to the bed or else he would have simply fallen to the ground.
She came up to him, her hands glowing white as she neared. “Cyborg said that your wounds were healing well, but I wanted to see for myself.”
Beast forced himself to sit still as the white magic flooded into his mind, checking for traces of the concussion she’d healed yesterday. He wasn’t unaccustomed to magic, some of his old masters had wielded it, but it was something you never truly got used to. As her magic probed his body for injuries he felt a flash of humor run through his mind, recalling his thoughts from when Master Rob had given him lunch before treating his injuries. The words were at the tip of his tongue, though he knew he would never dare to speak them aloud.
Hey, if you’re gonna play doctor then where’s my food?
Just that moment the door opened again, heralding Master Cyborg’s arrival. “Hey B, brought you some dinner. Eat up, it’s some tofu crap, but there’s no meat so you’ll probably like it.”
For a moment the room was silent, Beast staring at the cyborg in shock. Suddenly his head shot down and the boy stared intently at his lap, his shoulders shaking with suppressed laugher. He bit his lip, struggling to keep from busting a gut. No, he couldn’t laugh now. His Masters were watching. He dug a thumb into one of the wounds on his legs, breathing in sharply as the pain radiated through him and put an abrupt end to his humor.
His laughter gone, the boy looked up, seeing concern and confusion on Master Cyborg’s face and pure confusion on Master Raven’s. Cyborg came closer and set the plate down on the bed next to him. “You okay? If you don’t like the tofu…”
Beast shook his head, picking up the burger to show that it wasn’t the food that had bothered him. He sniffed the patty experimentally, his heart soaring as he realized that there was no meat in it whatsoever. He hid the smile threatening to show by biting into the burger, relishing in the flavors that flooded his mouth. Three meals a day, he thought with humor as he took a few more large bites, I’d better start watching my weight. A few more days of this and I’ll start to look normal.
Suddenly he froze, the last bit of the burger centimeters from his open mouth. This was his third meal that day. He’d eaten more in a day and night with these Masters as he had in a week or two with others. He wasn’t hungry. The thought hit him like a brick wall. He wasn’t hungry. He had never not been hungry. It was incredible. Why were these Masters giving him so much food? Such nice clothes? Such a large room? A bed? Why were they so different?
“You okay B?” Cyborg asked, and Beast jumped.
“You Masters-“ He stopped himself, his heart growing cold as he realized that he had almost said you Masters are so weird. Kind or not, no Master would allow that without punishment. “I… Thank you.” He finally settled on with a whisper, his eyes going to the ground as he swallowed his last bite of food. Cyborg put a gentle hand on his shoulder, and Beast was shocked to find that he didn’t even flinch at the contact.
“No problem, B.”
Raven shook off her confusion and began healing the boy again, though her expression still had a streak of bewilderment behind her stoic mask. She frowned when she reached the wound on his leg that he had re-opened. Glancing up at him she narrowed her eyes, but his bowed head gave nothing away as she healed the small injury. None of the other marks merited and powers, they were healing too quickly on their own. Even the large burn on his side would be gone in a matter of days.
She stood and nodded before silently leaving the room. She was almost out the door before turning around and addressing Cyborg. “Here,” She called, tossing a plastic bag at him. “I think you forgot about this.”
The robotic Titan looked down to see the pet store bag. “Oh, thanks Raven.”
The girl nodded before walking out. Beast cocked his head to the side, looking all the world like a curious puppy before realizing what he was doing and putting his head down once more. This time when Cyborg touched his shoulder he did flinch, worried about some breach on conduct. The robotic teen sighed before picking up Beast’s plate before rummaging around the bag and standing up to leave. He was almost to the door before turning around with a grin and throwing something at the boy.
Beast’s hand shot up, closing around a fist-sized blue ball made of dense rubber. He stared at it with something akin to shock. Cyborg grinned at his expression.
“Advertisement says it’s the strongest bouncy-ball made to man. Supposedly it was tested against lions, tigers, sharks, you name it. It should last you a few days. I figured you’d have a lot of down time while we tried to figure stuff out… plus you’ll have to stay here when we’re all on missions. Hopefully it'll keep you from getting too bored. From what I hear from Robin, you aren’t exactly comfortable with free time anyway, this’ll give you something to play with.” He trailed off, realizing that he’d begun rambling. “Enjoy, B.”
Beast didn’t move as Cyborg left the room. His eyes were locked on the small round ball. It was… a toy. There was no ultimate goal to it, no training involved, no work or punishment. It wasn’t a reward, he had done nothing significant enough to be rewarded. It had no practical use like clothing or food, no purpose. It was a toy, a… gift.
His breathing quickened. He had never been given a gift. His hand went numb and the ball fell out of it. However, his ears perked and his shock dissipated as he heard the sound of rubber bouncing and the ball jumped back into sight. He reached out a hand and snatched the toy before it could bounce again. His confusion and shock dissipated as animal instincts, primarily a dog’s, took over. Well, Master Cyborg did give it to him to play with after all.
He threw it up in the air. The ball rose to about an inch away from the ceiling before falling to the floor. It began to bounce when suddenly it was caught in the maw of a large mastiff. With a trust of his head the dog threw it again, changing into a lime Dalmatian before tossing it again. He pounced as a cat, turning into a monkey to throw it against the wall, watching it ricochet around the room before leaping and snatching it up it the jaws of a ferocious wolf.
He gnawed on the bit of rubber for a moment, pleased that even his powerful wolf teeth didn’t damage his new toy. Struck with a new idea he laid the ball on the floor, batting it with his paw to send it rolling across the floor. With a leap he jumped in the air, transforming into the form of a hawk he dive bombed the ball as though it were a field mouse. He rose to the ceiling before diving on the bed, rolling on the cushion and laughing breathlessly to himself as he shifted to his human form. This was the most fun he’d had in forever! He cackled for a moment in joy, cradling the ball in his green gloved hands before throwing the ball and starting all over again.