Pet and Owner

Explicit Exploration

Cyborg looked up from his spot on the couch, barely hiding a grin as he pretended to non-committedly flip through channels. Starfire was out on patrol and Robin had to talk with the chief of police about Beast. Now all he had to do was wait until Raven left to go grocery shopping and he would be alone with B. The empath was all out of tea and flatly refused to let anyone get it for her. She could only get it at this one creepy bookstore and usually stayed there for hours after getting the tea. Cyborg had almost the entire day before anyone else came to the tower.

He looked up as the girl made her way to the door, shopping list in hand. “See ya Raven!” He called out but the girl didn’t look up. He jumped to his feet the instant she left the room, making his way to Beasts cell. It had been two weeks since Robin had interrogated him in the main room and the shape shifter hadn’t been allowed to leave the room since other than to take the occasional shower. The Titans had all taken some time during those weeks to go into the kid’s room and talk to him, Cyborg and Starfire going the most often. In fact, Cyborg had taken to spending almost all of his free time with the green boy. He took whatever he would have been tinkering with in the garage into the room and worked on it while he talked.

Beast was almost completely silent during the talks, sometimes Cyborg would swear that he was talking to an empty room. That led to some awkward confessions at times when he forgot that someone else was listening. It was almost like in the movies when someone was getting ‘therapy’ or advice from someone who turns out to be asleep the entire time. Except the complete opposite. Cyborg would say some big secret or give insight in the depth of his mind, almost speaking to himself, only to see a pair of bright green eyes staring at him intently.

It was the worst the first few days. Beast would be standing at attention when the titan entered the room and would remain in that position until Cyborg told him to sit, then the teen would sit at attention. At first Cyborg told the kid to relax, but seeing someone force themselves to appear at ease because they were ordered to was almost painful to watch. He would only answer direct questions too, ones that had no chance at being rhetorical and if it were obvious that Cyborg was speaking to him. He never responded to anything.

Beast was getting better though. He still stood at attention when Cyborg entered, but he began to sit with no prompting. After a few days he began to really relax, leaning against the wall of his cage as the robotic titan kept up what was still basically a monologue. He had even taken to throwing the little blue ball to himself the day before, his gaze locked onto Cyborg as though expecting to be reproached. About a week into the talks he answered his first indirect question, grunting in agreement about some statement. The Titan wasn’t sure who was more surprised at the time, him or Beast. The kid looked like he expected to be killed for the noise but Cyborg smiled and continued what he was saying. As the days wore on the boy became more and more at ease. He would make some sort of noise or gesture for nearly every question Cyborg asked.

Eventually, about three days before, the kid worked up the nerve to comment on something without being asked. This time Cyborg tried hard not to hesitate too long, knowing that the silence would give the kid time to panic and think he’d done something wrong. He’d smiled and agreed, trying and see if the kid would elaborate but he’d closed up slightly after speaking.

Cyborg wished that each victory, each step in the right direction, didn’t scare the kid so much. Every time he stepped outside the box his old Masters put him in he seemed terrified, as though expecting to be reprimanded or punished for every little thing. Yet the little guy was working through the fear enough that he’d made three comments the day before, one of which might have even been a joke. He was smiling occasionally now too, something that he used to be terrified to do.

Despite what Cyborg saw as big improvement, Robin was still paranoid about letting the kid around the tower. He kept on promising to take Beast to the training room “soon” to see what he can do, but he’d started saying that ten days ago and the green kid was still stuck in his little cell. As “trainer-master” Cyborg decided it was his job to show the kid around, so he would. What Robin didn’t know wouldn’t hurt him.

Cyborg knew something was off from the moment Beast’s door opened. The kid was standing at attention as usual but he had a distinctly guilty air about him. As the Titan entered the boy gave a small gasp and moved his foot to cover something. Frowning, Cyborg stepped closer to the child.

“B, what are you hiding?”

“I-It’s nothing important.” Beast replied, squirming slightly under pressure. The larger teen eyed him dubiously. If the kid was this bad at lying his masters probably caught him every time he did something wrong.

“B,” He said warningly, feeling distinctly like a pet owner chasing a dog yelling ‘what is in your mouth?’. The kid’s ears drooped. He moved his foot, revealing a tiny piece of mangled blue rubber. Looking down at the piece then back at the kid, Cyborg finally noticed a small bump on the bed under the covers. He tore off the blanket, revealing the rest of what had once been a heavy duty bouncy ball. Beast looked to the ground, ashamed and terrified, but Cyborg just laughed.

“Is that all? Don’t worry B, I knew it wasn’t going to last much longer. I even put it on the grocery list this morning. You should have a new one in a couple of hours, don’t sweat it.”

The green boy looked up at him with wide eyes. His Master wasn’t mad? He expected this to happen? The tension flooded from his shoulders and the boy relaxed, only to tense up again as the Titan’s expression turned serious. Cyborg sat on the bed and pat the mattress next to him. Beast followed the silent command, refusing to meet his Master’s eyes. The larger teen laid a comforting hand on the boy’s shoulders.

“Look B, I’m not mad at you about the ball, but I don’t want you to hide this kind of stuff from me, got it? I’m not going to hurt you for something as stupid as this. I’m not going to beat you or punish you. The worst I would ever do is yell, I swear. I would only hurt you if I had no other choice, got it?”

Beast nodded, keeping his eyes down. He had never had a master promise something like that before. Cyborg smiled softly and ruffled his hair. “Okay then, pick up as much of that junk as you can so we can throw it away.”

Beast did as Cyborg said and scrambled to his feet, the ball pieces collected in his hands. Where was he going to throw it away, there was no trash can in his cell. Was he going out? Was he going to take a shower? It couldn’t be, he usually showered at night, right before going to bed. It couldn’t be night already could it? He’d only had one meal today. He smiled mentally at the thought. Never would have thought he’d use only and one-meal-a-day in the same sentence.

Cyborg seemed to sense his confusion. “I’m gonna show you around the tower today. Must be boring stuck in that room all of the time. None of the others are here, but I can still give you the grand tour. So what do you say, should we go from the top down or the bottom up?”

Beast started when he realized that he was supposed to answer the question. “Uh, whichever way you want, Cyborg.”

The larger teen frowned, considering for a moment making the younger boy decide before deciding against it. “Alright then, why don’t we start at the bottom? We can check out the garage and I can show you my baby.”

A baby in the garage? Beast thought, confused. He eyes the teen’s robotic parts. What? Did he make one?

However when they arrived the garage was curiously lacking in children. Instead, Cyborg pointed a flourishing hand at the vehicle stationed in the center. “There it is! The T-car! I made this baby with hours of work and my own sweat and blood. I know you were already in it once, but you didn’t get to see any of the awesome enhancements it has.”

He led Beast to the car as he spoke, detailing all of the advancements his car had to offer. Beast hardly paid attention; he didn’t know anything about cars. Usually when traveling he was in his cage in the back with all of the rest of the cargo. He didn’t know a steering wheel from a cup holder. Cyborg seemed excited enough though, so he pretended to listen. His eyes searched vainly for the bloodstain he had made that first night, but it was gone. Master Cyborg must have cleaned it up already.

Next the large teen showed the green boy into the loading dock where the T-sub, which could apparently turn into a T-plane, sat. The robotic Titan once again went on a rant about technology as Beast inspected the small pods curiously. There were five for some reason, despite being only four titans. He looked to Master Cyborg in confusion. The large teen caught his glance. “Oh yeah, I made the sub so that the pods can all come apart and work separately and it just happened to work better with five than four. Besides, if we ever needed the sub then we’ll need the extra space for the bad guy we catch. Maybe someday you can come with us.”

Beast smiled softly at Cyborg, amused. If he was really going with them, he wouldn’t need to be in any submarine. He could always just shift and swim alongside. He didn’t point this out however, simply following as he was led into the next room. The robotic teen led Beast up the tower, showing various storage rooms, a small library, the place where they kept the sparing material, and an evidence room that he wasn’t allowed to go in because Master Robin would find out and get mad. They skipped over the main room because Beast had already seen it, simply walking through it on their way to the rest of the building.

Beast was led to the hallway where all of the bedrooms were, peeking into Robin’s and Starfire’s and completely avoiding Raven’s. Cyborg proudly showed off the machinery in his room, showing the boy the tech that kept him up and about. Finally they made their way to one of the many empty guestrooms, where Cyborg showed him the closet and chest of draws that held all of Beast’s clothing. It was a nice room, bigger than his cell with walls of dark colors and a small bunk bed against one wall. Cyborg smiled when he saw the kid in the room. It looked like a good fit. Too bad it would be a while before he could stay in it as long as Robin had a say.

After the guest rooms Cyborg showed Beast the gym and training area. Beast had spent a while amid the machinery, studying it and mentally comparing it to that of his old masters. After a while he looked to Cyborg expectantly, as though waiting to be ordered to start doing something, but the Titan shook his head. “Not today, B. Maybe some other time. C’mon.” He led the boy out, Beast casting one last glance back into the room. It had been such a long time since he had tested his muscles, checked his strength. He shifted slightly before following his Master, his eyes still roaming the halls. He had kept careful observation of the tower, making sure to memorize each window, door, vent, and power box, just as his Masters had always trained him to do.

Cyborg stood beside a final door, looking unsure and nervous. His hands kept glancing towards where he kept the controller. Beast cocked his head to the side, wondering if he truly wanted to see what was behind the door. Cyborg shook his head at the boy’s confused look. “What am I doing?” He mumbled. “I’m being ridiculous he’s not gonna try anything.”

With a last shake of the head he opened the door and walked up a final set of stairs, Beast following after him obediently. At the top of the stairs there was another doorway and Cyborg once more looked nervous. “Okay, I need you to be good now, got it? Make sure to behave.”

Beast nodded, curious now. Cyborg opened the door, letting in a stream of sunlight so bright that Beast found himself having to squint. The robotic teen made his way outside, the shape shifter following hesitantly. When his eyes adjusted he found himself on the roof of the enormous building, looking out on the clear skies above and open waters below. The city stood a slight distance away, it’s buildings half of their natural size. Beast stumbled out into the sunlight, a grin breaking the surface as he felt the rich sunlight touch his skin.

He laughed joyously and made his way to the edge of the roof, quivering with excitement. He wanted nothing more than to shift into a bird and fly into the sky, feeling the wind beneath his wings and sun warming his feathers. He wanted to jump of the roof, diving as a dolphin into the waters below. He wanted to take to the sky, to the sea, to feel a bit of the wild animal go free. But he couldn’t, he knew that.

Looking back to Master Cyborg, Beast saw that the teen was nervously fiddling with the remote, appearing sick with worry. The green teen smiled softly. Master Cyborg didn’t want to hurt him, he’d said so earlier, but he would if he had to. If Beast turned into a bird like he desired, the Titan would have no choice but to push the button and Beast knew he didn’t want to do that. The green boy wouldn’t do that to this Master, the one that had been so kind to him and was so against hurting him. He wouldn’t. So, with a sad smile he walked away from the edge of the roof. He made his way next to the larger teen, not looking at him but still facing the sun, reveling in it.

Cyborg smiled sadly as he watched the boy relish the warmth. It was the first time the green bean had seen the sun in two weeks. He remembered the cold, dark, windowless warehouse where they’d found him and faltered. Who knew how long he had been in there? Or how long it had been since he’d seen the sun regardless of where he was. When was the last time he’d been outside, Cyborg wondered.

Sure, he was outside for a few seconds when they moved him from the warehouse to the car, but it had been nine o’clock at night at the time and he’d been terrified. He probably hadn't even comprehended that he was outside. Cyborg frowned, still watching the child. Beast looked up to him, becoming shocked and worried when he saw the expression on the larger teen’s face. Cyborg shook his head and replaced the expression with a grin. The kid looked so happy now, out in the sun.

His hand, which had been playing with the remote, stilled. Beast wouldn’t do anything, Cyborg knew that. He thought for sure the shape shifter was going to take off at first, he’d had every opportunity to, but instead he had come back to stand by him. The Titan ruffled the boy’s green hair before deciding to take a rather large leap of faith. He looked over the tower’s edge to the city and, seeing neither the R-cycle nor red-haired alien in sight, he turned back to Beast. Taking a deep breath, he caught Beast’s eyes before speaking.

“Five minutes. You have five minutes to become any bird you like, don’t get out of sight and come back the instant I call.”

Beast stared back with huge, uncomprehending eyes for a millisecond before deciding he was wasting time. In an instant he was a hawk, gliding around the towers. He gave a piercing cry as he flew, circling the building and feeling the wind rush through his feathers. He hadn’t flown, really flown- the occasional wing flaps in his cell didn’t count, in ages. Five minutes seemed to go by in an instant and soon enough Master Cyborg was calling for him, looking almost as happy as he was.

Beast landed on the teen’s shoulder like a parrot for a moment before shifting back human, a face splitting grin glued on his face. “Th-thank you.” Beast spit out breathlessly and Cyborg’s grin broadened. He ruffled the boy’s hair.

“No prob grass stain. But uh, let’s keep this between us, got it?”

The boy nodded, following obediently like a puppy as they left the roof, toting behind Cyborg. Finally they ended up in the main room, the place with the food and the couch. Cyborg led the way into the room. “I guess I never did really give you the formal tour of this place. We spend most of the time in here. We’ve got the TV, which doubles as a supercomputer, video games, fully tricked out media player, world’s comfiest couch. We also have the kitchen, fully stocked and sometimes moldy. It’s kinda bare now but Raven is grocery shopping so we should have more food later. Speaking of, it’s almost lunchtime. You hungry?”

Beast nodded, following the large teen into the kitchen. Cyborg grinned at the boy. He was proud to say, thanks to his cooking and a lot of good food, that you could no longer count the boy’s ribs. Sure, the kid was still unbelievably scrawny, but at least he no longer looked like he was a second from death. The cyber-teen glanced through the cupboards, finding them all empty before deciding to brave the fridge.

Beast’s nose crinkled as Cyborg opened the door, getting a whiff of mold and rotting. The Titan looked to him apologetically. “Now I’m sure we can find something salvageable.” However, he gave up when some of the blue sludge decided to try and attack. “Never mind, I’ll just order pizza. Meat lovers okay with you?” He asked jokingly, laughing when the boy shook his head, a look of disgust on his face. “Fine, fine. Large meat lovers for me and a veggie for you it is then.”

He was rewarded with a smile from the green boy as he made the call. He watched the shape shifter as he placed the order. Beast, much more comfortable with Cyborg now than he had been the first night, had begun to wander around the room. He was hovering around the couch when Cyborg ended the call.

“You’ll probably have to head back to your room after we eat. We got a half hour till then and I bet I could kick your butt in Mega Money Kart while we wait.”

Beast just looked up at him in utter confusion. Cyborg laughed and motioned for the green boy to sit on the couch while he set up the game. He handed the green boy the player-two controller and sat down beside him. “Alright, this is a practice round; I’ll show you what to do.” He moved the toggle and Beast’s ears perked with interest as the car on the screen moved accordingly. “This is a pretty simple game. You move that for the direction and the button with the ‘A’ on it to go. If you think you’ve got the hang of it, you can press the B button once in a while, it gives you a small boost. Ready? See if you can do it. Don’t worry, this is still the practice round.”

Beast pressed A, smiling when the car moved. He watched the screen intently, starting when he saw the “road” curve. He yanked the toggle to the side and- crashed into a tree. His looked at Cyborg nervously but the large teen smiled comfortingly. “Don’t worry, just try to make your way around the tree.”

After much work and a good deal of time he finally got free, only to immediately crash again. He crashed a total of 18 more times before finally reaching the end of the practice level. Though he was getting better by the end, he could go a full seven seconds without running into anything, Cyborg offered him the chance to try it again before the real game. To his surprise the boy refused.

“Alrighty then. You ready?” Beast glanced at him, clutching the controller in a death grip and never truly turning his gaze from the television, and nodded. “Let’s do this."

The game went fairly predictably. Cyborg won in a landslide with Beast coming in last, well behind even the slowest of the computer-generated cars. On the bright side, he only crashed about ten times, nearly cutting his old record in half. Cyborg watched the boy, worried about him becoming put out, but to his surprise the shape shifter seemed even more determined than ever. This time when Cyborg asked if he wanted to go again, the boy responded with a verbal yes.

The second game went about the same as the first, as did the third. The only difference was that Beast’s crash record was getting drastically lowered each time. And the boy seemed to get more excited each time they played. It was the fourth game, in which Beast only crashed once, that he finally wasn’t last. In fact, he came in second to last. It would have been third except when he passed his first car he started shouting “I’m beating it! I’m beating it!” And got so startled when he realized he was yelling in front of a Master that he forgot to keep a hold of the A and he almost lost the placing that he had.

Cyborg cheered for him, clapping the boy on the back. “Way to go B! You’ll be actual competition in no time.” Beast grinned at the teen before turning back to the television, ready to go for another round when the doorbell rang. “Pizza’s here.” He looked back to the door before turning back to B and giving him the player one control, quickly changing the settings to a one player game. “You stay right here. I’ll be back. I gotta go get my wallet. Don’t move.” He disappeared out the door leading to the rooms, leaving Beast to play alone.

The boy had just started the first race when the other door opened, revealing Robin carrying two pizzas. “Hey Cy, you owe me money for this. I saw the delivery guy just as I was coming in and-” He froze, finally noticing that it was not his robotic friend playing video games but a green, tiny shape shifter. The pizzas fell to the floor as the boy wonder leaped for the green teen, vaulting over the couch. With one hand he gripped the metal collar; the other grabbed the child’s wrist and wrenched it behind his back as Robin forced the unresisting boy to the floor.

“How did you get out?” He demanded.

Beast whimpered and was about to answer when the door Cyborg had disappeared through opened. “Rob, what are you doing to B?” The robotic teen shouted, rushing over and pulling the boy wonder off of the shape shifter.

“He escaped! How did he get out? You were supposed to be watching him.”

“I was watching him. And I decided that he shouldn’t be stuck in that tiny room for a month.”

Robin froze. “You let him out.”

“Yes I did.”

“And you left him alone.”

“He was fine! I bet he wasn’t doing anything worse than playing video games when you came in.”

“That’s not the point. I don’t trust him enough to let him wander around the tower and-”

“And what? Keeping him locked in a room was gonna make you trust him more? Besides, he wasn’t wandering. I was with him almost the entire time. He was perfectly behaved, even out on the roof he-“

“You took him on the roof?”

“Calm down, like I said he was fine.”

Robin growled and seemed to finally notice that Beast was still with them, cowering against the couch. “Go back to your room.” He ordered and Beast went, pausing as Cyborg’s voice sounded behind him.

“No. You’re fine where you’re at. Stay.” Beast paused, but Robin was the leader Master so he continued to his room. However, the hesitation was enough for Cyborg to grab onto his arm and make him stay. Beast looked to Robin for guidance to see if the Master would command him to escape Cyborg’s grasp, but Robin wasn’t looking at him. He had eyes only for the large teen.

“Let him go.”

“No, he’s just fine right here.” The two continued to argue, Beast shrinking back more and more as they yelled. Finally Cyborg, moving his arms in an angry gesture, let go of Beast. The freed boy hurried to follow his Lead-Master’s orders and escape to his cell, leaving the two yelling voices behind him.

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