Cyborg entered the living room only a few seconds later, surprised to hear Robin chuckling and Starfire absolutely raving about how cute something was. When he entered the room he found all eyes glued to the large TV screen taking up space near the windows. The robot joined his team for a moment before going to grab his own burger, (Finally, he was starving!) though he wasn't exactly sure what he was looking at. All he could see was a green blur running around some room- wait a minute. That wasn't any green blur, it was their blur. It was Beast. He was shifting into different forms at a seconds notice, jumping around the room in a frenzy, always after some small blue- the ball! He was playing with the ball.
Cyborg laughed, the sound coming out more relieved than humorous, though it was no less filled with joy. He filled up a plate and joined his friends on the couch. The small group watched the boy with varying expressions ranging from relief to downright joy. Even Raven had the almost-smile she got when extremely content. They watched until the boy seemed to exhaust himself of his game and curled up on his bed in the form of a lapdog and began contentedly gnawing on the hard rubber.
Starfire coo-ed at the small creature. "Please, may we take him to the park and play the fetch?"
Robin frowned. "He's not really a dog, Star. He's a psychologically damaged boy."
"I dunno Rob, I actually think he would like it."
"Or be too afraid and confused to move once we take him outside." Raven intoned, and Cyborg winced as he realized that she had a point. The larger teen squirmed as he tried to change the subject.
So Rob, you gonna grill the kid again tonight?"
The boy wonder nodded. "I'm no psychologist but I want a peek at the kid's mind. None of the files gave much information on Beast's mental state except a brief period when he was taught reading, writing, some physics, anatomy, and anything else that would help make him into the perfect weapon. I assume it's because none of these masters ever cared about what was going on up there as long as he was following orders." As Robin spoke disdain became more and more evident in his voice, finally leveling out to what could only be described as outright contempt.
The room was silent for a moment as the group stewed on his words, finally Raven spoke. "I can't tell you exactly what he's thinking but I can give you an insight on his emotions so far." She offered and Robin looked to her expectantly, silently urging the empath to continue.
"He feels everything very strongly, much more than one would guess looking at him. Even his fear, which is fairly visible, is much more intense in his mind. His primary emotions so far have been fear and confusion in equal amounts along with several instances of pure shock." No one looked happy at the news but the girl continued. "He felt the most fear last night. Now it’s mostly confusion and shock. The troubling thing is that the shock is most prevalent in cases where one would assume that the boy be happy, almost like he forgot what joy feels like to the point of not being able to experience it. However, he seems pretty happy now with the ball, so that is improvement."
She breathed deeply. She'd wanted to get all the bad news out first and now she was finally moving on to the good.
"Despite all this I keep on getting flashes of... humor from him at odd times or intervals."
"Humor?" Robin asked skeptically. The grey girl nodded.
"Yes. It is almost as though he were entertaining himself with jokes in his mind. His expression doesn't change at all. At first I thought my powers weren't reading it correctly but then it continued to happen."
"What does he find so funny?" Cyborg asked in confusion but the girl simply shrugged.
"I don't know. I feel it at odd times. Such as when you brought the boy his supper."
Cyborg's eyes lost focus as he delved into thought, attempting to discover what the kid had been thinking. A silence ascended upon the group, not broken until Robin said that it was time to talk to the shapeshifter. Cyborg eyed the video feed, feeling a brittle happiness at the sight of the boy chewing on the ball contentedly. "Not the interrogation room. He doesn't need that; plus I promised him that I'd convince you to do it a different room."
"I doubt that he cares what room it’s in," Raven interjected, eyeing the green boy. "He probably won't even notice."
"Yeah, but I don't like questioning him like some kind of criminal. Plus it'll be good for him if he sees me keep a promise, it'll help build his trust."
Robin nodded. "It'll help him to see all of us together too. I don't think he's seen us all since the fight at the warehouse."
Cyborg nodded and made his way back to Beast's room, stopping at the door to collect his thoughts. This time he was unsurprised to see the boy standing ready in the center of the room, shoulders straight and head bowed. Cyborg forced a grin, the expression becoming real when he saw the slobbery and slightly mangled toy on the bed. "Hey B, you like the ball?"
He saw Beast's eyes slide to the bed. A ghost of a smile flittered across his face for an instant and the boy nodded twice.
"Good! C'mon follow me to the main room, Robin wants a talk with you."
The green boy stepped forward until he was only a foot away from the cyber-teen, looking up at him expectantly. Cyborg led him to the main room, watching the boy as they made their way through the tower. Beast's eyes were continually moving, as though attempting to memorize anything and everything about the building. He paused slightly when the door opened to the main room, but continued before anyone would notice.
Raven was the only one still seated, Robin was standing at the computer and Starfire stood floating a few feet above the ground. The alien smiled as the door opened. "Greetings friend!" She called, looking at him in his new outfit appreciatively. The clothes were still slightly baggy but they fit much better than the old ones had.
Robin glanced up at the two and nodded at them as Cyborg led the green boy closer to the group. Beast looked tiny, his short and malnourished form dwarfed by Cyborg. The green boy walked stiffly, feeling fear blossom in his stomach. All four of his Masters gathered together, watching him. He trembled slightly. He had long since forgone the idea that he would be punished by these Masters for anything that he'd done so far, but the fear and worry remained.
There was a moment of tense awkward silence, as though the Masters weren't sure what to do. Finally Starfire flew over to the startled green boy.
"I believe we have not yet introduced ourselves to you, friend. My name is Starfire of Tamaran. These are friends Raven, Cyborg and Robin."
Master Robin, not Master Rob, the boy thought, sliding his eyes to the leader and taking note of the changed name. The lead Master looked surprised for a moment and nodded at the girl before continuing the introduction. "We are the Teen Titans. We aren't like the... people who had you before. They were criminals and we stop criminals, fight them and put them behind bars."
So they were the 'enemies' that his old Masters were afraid of. People like the police. But they weren't the police, they were the people that his Masters feared more than the police, the ones he was trained to fight against. "Heroes." He mumbled, jumping when he heard the words escape his lips. He hadn't meant to speak out loud. To his surprise Master Robin nodded. Beast relaxed slightly. At least now he knew why these Masters acted so weird. If they were the enemies of his old masters then it would make sense that they acted the opposite of them.
Master Robin was messing with a little yellow device, and a few seconds later Master Cyborg pulled out his own. He looked at it for a moment before regarding Robin strangely. Walking over to the couch, the robotic Titan sat down, patting the seat next to him. "Why don't you sit here B?"
The green child began to move to the seat, but then Master Robin's voice sounded. "No, I think you should stand." His voice didn't have its usual ring of authority, instead it sounded as though he were conducting some type of experiment. Still, Beast stopped, awaiting further commands. Out of the corner of an emerald eye, Beast saw Robin give Master Cyborg a meaningful look. The robot-man caught it and called again.
"It's okay B, just sit down."
It was a test! Beast didn't move. Master Robin told him to stand. He was the leader, Master Cyborg was not. Master Robin's rules were to be followed above all. The spiky haired teen nodded to himself but Master Cyborg just looked confused.
"Rob, what was that all about?" Robin didn't answer, instead staring intently into Beast's emerald eyes.
"Beast, why do you listen to me over Cyborg?"
Beast felt a stab of fear. Did he do something wrong? "Y-you are the lead-master. You have the most... the most authority." His words faltered at the end and he dropped his gaze, unsure of how his Master would react. However Robin just nodded, filing the information away.
"Whose next? Cyborg?"
"He is Trainer-Master. I-I think."
"What does that mean?" Cyborg asked before Robin could speak. Beast shot a glance at the Titan leader to make sure he had permission to answer before speaking.
"The Trainer-Masters are the ones that work with me the most that train me."
"Do you always have uh, Trainer-Masters?" Robin asked and Beast shook his head. Robin frowned at the response. This wouldn't work if the kid never talked. "Tell me more."
"With my first Masters there were only one or two Masters that were both Lead-Masters and Trainer-Masters but... I kept getting more expensive so more powerful Masters bought me. After a while they became too powerful to train me themselves and set up trainers for me. But I was to obey my main Master above all."
"You've had a lot of Masters, did they all have the same rules for you?"
"No." Every Master had different rules that was the worst part about being sold. The first few weeks were horrible until he learned how to act.
"How did you cope with switching so often?"
What was with all of these odd questions? "I followed the rules of my previous Master until told otherwise."
"That seems dangerous.” Robin replied, concern easing into his voice. “Didn't your Masters punish you if you went against their rules?"
Beast nodded, his mind flying in attempt to figure out where all this was going, why they were asking so many odd questions. The Titans shared a glance.
"How long did it usually take you to adjust?"
"A week or two." Although, he was pretty sure it would take longer to get used to these Masters.
Robin nodded, looking down at some papers. Finally he spoke. "You've had that collar far a long time. Tell me about it."
What was there to tell? He'd probably read all about it in the file. Beast wasn't sure what to say. Why did these Masters want him to talk so much? Usually Masters wanted him to say as little as possible. He hated the collar, didn't want to talk about it. But he had to obey Master.
"I- I- The collar was... put on me by one of my first Masters. The second or third I think.” He looked up at Robin and the spiky haired teen nodded for him to continue. “That same Master was also the one who first had me sleep in my cage. T- the collar can grow and shrink as I do, which means that it will never have to be replaced as I age. It’s purpose is to ensure a quick punishment should I not follow orders as well as prevent me from escaping." His words were dull and rehearsed, an advertisement he'd heard a million times. "The cage was made it so that if I tried to turn small and sneak between the gaps the collar would shock me. The same thing would happen if I tried to grow big and big and bust out. If I didn’t give up my escape attempts it was designed to keep on going until… until I died.”
Beast glanced up at his Masters. Was this the kind of information they wanted? The three on the couch were all staring at him with varying degrees of shock, anger, sadness and… pity? Was that pity? Maybe, it had been a while since Beast had seen that emotion, he barely recognized it. Master Robin however, seemed completely emotionless. He nodded as though beckoning the green boy to continue. Beast cast his mind out in attempt to find more information.
“It was also made to make me more… marketable. I was trained to obey the one who had the controller, not one specific master. That way if one of my old owners appeared to fight a new one, the current master would not have to worry about me betraying them. But sometimes that went wrong. If another master wanted me, all they had to do was st- steal the controller.” Like you did went unsaid, but each Titan heard it.
“So the entire purpose of this collar is to ensure that your masters would have complete and total control over you, correct?” Robin questioned.
“And you’ve had it for years, right?”
He nodded again.
“What would you do if it were gone?”
What? Beast stood stock still, gaping at Master Robin. What kind of question was that? He was Beast, he always had the collar on; he always would have it on. There was no ‘gone’ when it came to the collar, it was as much part of him as his arm. It was like asking what he would do if he didn’t have masters it- it- it was exactly like asking what he would do if he didn’t have masters. No collar meant no control, which meant he was free.
Free. It was like a foreign word, a bizarre concept. He couldn’t comprehend it. He was Beast. Beast was controlled by Master. There was no ‘collar was gone’, no ‘no master’, and certainly no ‘free’. Beast shook his head, taking a tentative step back as confusion gave way to panic and fear. He couldn’t answer his Masters questions. The only things these Masters had told him to do was answer questions and he couldn’t even do that. Oh, he was finally going to get punished now, he could feel it. He didn’t know what to do.
“Robin,” Raven cautioned, staring piercingly at Beast. Robin held up one hand to silence the girl as Beast began to stammer a reply.
“I- I don- don’t kno-”
“Don’t say that you don’t know. Calm down. I don’t want you to answer right away. I want you to think about it. Now, think and tell me what you would do without the collar.”
Beast looked down to the ground and fisted his hands, forcing his racing heart and mind to calm and slow. Calm down, he thought to himself, it is just a thinking exercise. Some Masters did those, giving him different scenarios and telling him to plan and think it through. He had to treat this like another one of those.
Okay, what would he do if his collar was off? Be free! A part of his mind interjected, but he cast it off. What would being free entail? He wouldn’t be with Masters anymore. But then where would he go? What would he do? He could go out and live with the animals, but that seemed lonely and boring. He also didn't know if his body could survive solely on plants and such. He couldn’t try and live with humans, he was Beast, not human anymore. Even if he was still human, he wouldn’t know how to act or live. He looked too different too with the green skin and pointy ears, no. How would he get food? He could always steal but that was what Masters liked to do and he didn’t want to be anything like the masters. He couldn’t pretend to be normal.
He couldn’t go back to the place of his past. His parents had died long ago. The man who had took him in before the masters got him had been very old, who knew if he was still living. Also, the first masters had caused much destruction when catching Beast for the first time that the boy couldn't be sure that he was still welcome.
With every option gone, he was forced to answer what he wanted to admit least of all. “N- nothing would change.” He whispered sadly. He would have nowhere else to go, trapped forever into bondage with his Masters even when given the token of freedom.
“What?” Robin asked, surprised at the boy’s answer.
“Nothing would change. I would remain loyal to my Masters.”
“Why?” Cyborg asked, sounding desperate and desolate.
“I-I have nowhere else to go.”
Robin was silent for a moment before nodding, but he turned to the boy. “Alright. So you have to stick with your masters, but they wouldn’t have complete control over you anymore. Are you sure that nothing would change?”
There was an extremely long, tense moment as they awaited his answer. Finally the boy spoke. “I wouldn’t be stolen so easily. I wouldn’t be sold.” He said in a tiny voice. “I wouldn’t follow the commands I really really didn’t like.” He whispered, almost inaudibly as though ashamed of revealing this truth to his Masters.
“Killing.” He whispered, remembering Master Rob questioning him about it the night before. “Stealing, kidnapping, terrorizing, torturing. Training guard dogs how to attack to best immobilize an intruder and where to bite to cause the most pain without killing them. O-one Master made me turn into and find rare animals and lead them straight into a trap so that he could have them as trophies. I wouldn’t do that anymore. I wouldn’t do any of it.” His voice had gone louder and louder as he spoke, until he was nearly shouting at the end. When Beast realized this he dropped his voice down. “I wouldn’t do any of that, but I would be loyal to my Masters for anything else.”
“Who would your Masters be?” Raven asked, causing everyone to turn to her. "If your collar was gone you could go to any master you wanted. Who would it be?”
Robin nodded, seeing the logic. “The truth.” He commanded as Beast once more paused to think.
He would follow the Master he liked the most. He realized. The one least likely to do any of the things he didn’t want to do. The ones who treated him best. That would be these Masters, who had given him clothing and plenty of food and a bed and took care of his wounds and got him a toy and didn’t punish him and- suddenly his mind cleared and with it came with the peace of finally understanding. That was why these Masters had been so kind. They wanted him to stay if he ever got out of his collar. If his collar was gone he couldn’t be stolen, it would ensure that he always belonged to them. It finally made perfect sense.
“I would remain loyal to you.” He answered. Masters Cyborg and Starfire grinned at him, but Masters Raven and Robin remained expressionless. Cyborg stood, seeming surprised but excited about the night’s revelations.
“So Rob, do you want me to go get some tools and-“
“No.” The colorful teen commanded, not looking away from Beast. The green boy was looking at Cyborg with large startled eyes. Surely they didn’t really mean to take off the collar, did they? Not now. The collar was the only thing consistent to his life before these Masters, they couldn't take it away too. Luckily, Master Robin had no intention of removing it. “I told you, this was just to figure out where his mind is. I don’t trust him yet. He still has his Beast-Master mentality. I’m not taking the collar off."
Robin watched as Beast seemed to relax, disturbed that fear of the unknown was greater than his fear of pain. He turned to Beast. “You have a long way to go before we get to that point. For now, you listen to me on everything, got it?”
The boy wonder frowned. “Let’s start with that. I want you to listen to us, but we aren’t your Masters. Call me Robin.”
“Yes, Master Robin.” The boy answered, flinching when his Master sighed in irritation.
“No, no Master, just Robin. Got it?”
“Yes, Robin… Sir?”
“No. Don’t call me sir. Just Robin. Got it? Robin.”
“Yes, Robin.” He cringed. He would be beat to kingdom come if he dared to address any other master like that.
“Same goes for everyone else. They aren’t Master, aren’t sir or Madame or miss. Just Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire.”
“Yes M-, Si- R-Robin.” That was going to take getting used to. He hoped he wouldn’t be punished too badly when he messed up.
“What are you going to call us?”
“R-Robin, Cyborg, Raven, Starfire.”
Suddenly a red light flashed and alarms began to blare. Robin flipped open his communicator with a panicked look. His eyes scrolled across the screen and he turned to Cyborg. “Take him to his room and meet us on main as fast as you can. Titans go!”
He and the girls were gone in an instant. Cyborg rushed through the halls with Beast hot on his heels. The green boy was brimming with curiosity but did not question his Master about what was going on, simply followed as he was hurried back to his small cell. He watched with wide eyes as Cyborg slammed the door shut and ran away. Slinking up to the door of his cage, the green boy sniffed the air. There was a hint of fear in the scent of his Master now, one that had been invoked in all of the Masters when the alarms started. Not as though they were terrified though. It was fear mixed with adrenaline. They were going into a fight.
He made his way to his bed and curled up in a corner against the wall. For the first time ever he felt afraid for his masters rather than of them. He knew that these Masters were strong, they had proved that in their fight with him, but if his Masters were so strong than their enemies must be just as strong it stronger. He didn’t know what was going on, if they were okay. He didn’t know if the kind female with the smiles and clothing was uninjured, if the soothing one with the healing magic was harmed. He had no way of knowing if commanding but not harsh Robin was faring well or if kind and concerned Cyborg was okay. He didn’t know the fate of any of them. His fingers found the blue ball and he clutched it in both hands, curling into a ball and hoping that these Masters, the first to be kind to him in years, would be okay.
When the sounds of them returning met his ears hours later, the titans sweaty and tired but none the worse for wear, Beast officially decided he did not like the alarms.