“Kory.” Raven’s voice came through the door tight with the effort of controlling her emotions. “Go away. I appreciate what you’re doing, but I do not want to talk to you.”
On the other side of the door the redhead nodded to herself trying not to feel hurt by her friend’s words. She remembered Dick telling her soon after the team had formed that people often seemed upset with everyone what they were actually only angry at one person.
“Is there anyone you would like to speak with?” Kory ventured hopefully.
“Yes.” And the tone of her voice told Kory that not only was Raven speaking through gritted teeth but she found the question itself to be stupid.
“Garfield.” Kory said biting her lip. “Please, friend, I’m sure he will see his mistake soon. Maybe it would help to talk about it in the mean time?”
“Go away, Kory.” The door glowed black for a moment and the alien princess knew that Raven was done talking.
“When was the last time she came out of her room?” Victor asked cutting a green bell pepper for the pasta he was making for dinner.
Victor has been undercover on a mission in Central City for the past week. He had returned home to find Raven locked in her room and Garfield acting as if nothing had ever happened.
“Two days ago.” Dick told him sitting at the island across from Victor. “Kory tried to talk to her but Raven wasn’t interested. She’s upstairs right now trying again but I doubt it will work any better than the first time.”
“And why exactly is she holed up in her room?” He scrapped the chopped peppers into a bowl and set them aside but not before Dick’s hand snaked out and grabbed a piece.
“Garfield broke up with her.” Dick said as if he still couldn’t quite believe it.
“Three days ago.”
Victor stopped dicing the tomato he had on the cutting bored. “No way. He had a crush on her for like, a year, before they started dancing. At least. What happened? Everything seemed fine when I left for Central.”
“I don’t know. Garfield won’t talk about it. He didn’t even give Raven a reason. He’s acting pretty normal except for refusing to acknowledge Raven.” Dick shook his head. “It doesn’t make any sense. One day they were fine and the next morning he had dumped her.”
“Why would Raven lock herself in her room though?” Victor asked. “I can’t believe she’d take him breaking up with her for no apparent reason lying down.”
“She didn’t at first. She tried to talk to him. Raven must’ve been outside his door for three or four hours trying to convince him to talk about it. He wouldn’t. He opened the door long enough to tell her he’d move out of the Tower if she blasted his door open. Garfield hasn’t said anything about it since then.”
Dick ran a hand through his hair and slowly Victor started to dice the near-forgotten tomato again. “She was out in the hall sobbing and he wouldn’t open the door.” Dick said quietly. “Whatever happened had to be bad for him to ignore her when she was that upset.”
“Have you tried talking to Gar” Victor asked.
“Yeah. He stared at me for a minute and then asked if I wanted to play Vampires Ate My Neighbors. He’s just flat out refusing to acknowledge that anything even happened. Gar’s acting like Raven doesn’t even live here.”
“I’m sure that won’t affect the team dynamic at all.” Victor said dryly checking to see if the water he’d put on was boiling yet. Almost. “I’m guessing you guys haven’t had any missions since then?”
Dick shook his head. “We’ve been lucky. Whatever happened they need to sort it out fast, though. The only problem is that Garfield won’t acknowledge that anything is wrong.”
“I’ll talk to him.” Victor said. “Don’t worry.” He assured his leader, tipping a box of pasta into the pot of now-boiling water. “It’ll all get worked out.”
“Dinner was great, Vic.” Garfield said dumping his dishes into the sink. “Thanks for making the pasta.”
“No problem buddy.” Victor said handing Kory a tray to bring to Raven. Garfield’s eye followed the tray but he otherwise ignored that anything unusual was happening. “Tell her she’s got to eat this. I’ll blast that door off before she starves herself.”
“I will be sure she eats it.” Kory assured him adding a cup of tea and a water bottle to the tray. “Is this everything?”
Victor looked the tray over carefully before nodding. As Kory turned around with the tray in her hands Victor said, “Thank you, Kory. You’re probably one of the only people she’ll talk to right now.” Briefly Garfield’s face took on a set, almost frozen quality.
Kory’s smile made it clear that had she not been holding Raven’s dinner Victor would have found himself being hugged half to death. “It is my pleasure friend. I am most glad I can help.” And with that she floated happily out of the room.
“It’s Dick’s night to do the dishes.” Victor said starting to put the leftovers away. “I was gonna work down in the garage for a bit, feel like giving me a hand?”
“Victor.” Gar said giving him a flat look. “I’m having a good day if I can tell the two types of screwdrivers apart.”
“Exactly.” He responded pointing at Garfield with a roll of saran wrap. “Everyone should know the difference between a Phillips head screwdriver and a flat head. You still want me to build you that moped?” The younger boy nodded eagerly. “Then you need to learn how to change your own oil.”
“Alright, alright.” Garfield held his hands up in defeat. “I’ll learn how to change my own oil…do you need to take the engine out for that?”
Victor gave him a pained look. “We’re gonna need to start small.” He put the last plate into the fridge and dragged his friend down to the garage.
They worked for almost two hours talking about nothing in particular. Garfield had stopped giving Victor suspicious looks after about 20 minutes and was now just looking bewildered.
“Can you hand me the number five screwdriver?” Victor asked. “This is smaller than I thought.” He was fiddling with a new type of communicator he had been working on. Garfield hesitated before handing him a screwdriver. Victor glanced at the screwdriver before handing it back to Garfield. “This is a seven.” He said pointing at the case. “See, they’re numbered.”
“Sorry.” Garfield said sheepishly. It was the fourth time he had given Victor the wrong tool.
“Not a problem.” Victor said easily reaching for the correct screwdriver. “I heard you had a pretty interesting week.” He looked up briefly and saw Garfield’s dace tighten momentarily before smoothing out.
“So Dick told you about Mad Mod breaking out of prison the day after you left, huh?” Garfield asked cheerfully.
“Yeah.” Victor said acting as though that was exactly what he had meant. Garfield’s avoidance worried, but did not surprise, him. “I heard you guys kicked his ass though.” He said with a grin.
“Oh we did.” Victor looked up again from the proto-type communicator to see Garfield grinning right back at him. “It was pathetic. We kicked his ass and then Raven made him – ” He cut off abruptly looking miserable, all the cheer gone from his face. “She made him cry.” He finished quietly.
“Gar,” Victor set the proto type communicator down. “What happened with you and Raven while I was gone?” He asked quietly.
“What do you mean?” Garfield asked trying to look confused. Instead he just looked upset.
“We broke up.” He shrugged looking more upset than ever. “It happens, Vic. I’m only 20, it’s not like we were engaged.”
“I guess that’s true.” Victor agreed easily obviously surprising the changeling. “I just didn’t realize that you had stopped loving her.” He said lightly. “You two always seemed so in love.” He went on. “I had no idea you stopped caring is all.”
“I didn’t stop loving her.” Garfield broke out bitterly.
“Oh?” Victor raised his human eyebrow. “Did she fall out of love with you?”
“No!” Garfield said looking horribly lost. “She will soon though. I broke her heart. She’ll stop loving me soon enough. Hell, Raven” His voice caught on the name as if just saying it hurt. “Raven,” He repeated. “Will hate me soon enough.”
“Well that sounds like the stupidest thing I have ever heard.” Victor said mildly.
“What?” Garfield turned blazing eyes on him.
“You love her. She’s in love with you. And, knowing how hard it is for her to connect with people, how hard it was to start dating you, how scared she was, you go and break up with her.” Victor gave him a level look. “Stupid.” He said flatly.
“Do you think I like this?” Garfield asked in a low voice. “That I enjoy upsetting her and breaking her heart? I made her cry, Vic. Raven never cries. She thought she was bringing about the end of the world without so much as a fucking sniffle and I made her sob.”
“Then why break up with her?” Victor asked gently.
“I had to.” And even though Garfield looked ready to crumble underneath his misery he looked sure about the works he had spoken.
“Why?” Victor asked again.
“I had to.” Garfield repeated as If he hadn’t heard Victor. “What else could I have done?” He asked himself.
“Gar!” Victor said loudly breaking his friend’s train of thought. The other boy looked at him as if he had forgotten Victor was there. “Why did you have to break up with Raven?”
“I fucked up.” Garfield said looking away from his friend. “It was the only safe thing to do.” He insisted. “She wasn’t safe with me. I would have hurt her, actually hurt her.”
Victor stared. “Gar, you carry spiders out of the Tower and threw all of our bug spray away. You cried that time you broke Control Freak’s arm by accidently you felt so bad. I’m having a hard time seeing you hut Rae.”
“You don’t understand.” Garfield mumbled.
“Then explain it to me.” Victor urged gently. “Talk to me, Gar.” He said after a moment when there was no response. “Maybe I can help.”
“No, you can’t.” Garfield said miserably. Silently Victor reached out and put a hand on his knee.
“I turned into the Beast.” Garfield admitted in a small voice. Victor tilted his head to the side clearly confused. “The injection you gave me must have worn off or something.” He added as a sort of explanation.
“Why would you turn into the Beast?” Victor asked uncomprehendingly. “He’s tied to anger isn’t he?”
“No.” Gar said shaking his head. “Primal feelings, like anger, pain, protectiveness, sadness.” He swiped hard at his eyes.
“Rita.” Garfield paused for a moment. “Rita and Larry and The Chief were all dead that day I came back. I found their bodies. But Cliff – Robotman – Cliff’s body was missing.” Tears were threatening to spill down his face. “All,” He shook his head. “All I could find was a piece of him.” Garfield pulled a gold-colored piece of metal out of his pocket. “Each of Cliff’s fingers had two parts. This is one of them.
“The police found another piece of his body further away. And they kept finding more and more pieces of him further and further away. Someone had put him in pieces and spread him all over the continent
“Every few months I’d get a phone call. ‘We found Robotman’s upper right arm…his lower left arm…a kneecap…’ always some new piece of Cliff they had found.” Tears were crawling down his face now even as he wiped them away.
“Finally they were only missing two pieces; his face plate and some inside part that Cliff always called his mechanical heart. They found the face plate in perfect shape. Whoever it was though,” Garfield took a deep, steadying, breath. “Whoever it was had smashed that inside piece of Cliff. It was in a million little pieces, some of it had actually been reduced to a powder.”
Garfield looked down at the piece of Cliff he held in his hand. “I’m so sorry.” Victor said trying to ignore the whir of his own mechanical parts. “Is there any way he can be rebuilt?”
“No.” Garfield shook his head. “Cliff only looked gold because he was painted with a thin coat of it to hide the metal underneath. The Chief used a type of metal that he either made or discovered. Whichever it was he was the only person who knew how to get the metal. No one’s ever found a record of it anywhere in his lab.
“Cliff’s gone.” Garfield looked completely lost. “He’s dead. They all are.”
“Garfield.” Victor reached out with both hands. “I’m sorry.” He repeated. “I can’t imagine how hard this must be.”
“I found out.” Garfield went on in a hollow voice. “And I just couldn’t stop it. I was absolutely destroying the room and – I don’t even know – keening or something. I just got everything in my room cleaned up this morning.
“Raven came into my room; she must’ve heard me our rooms are right next to each other. She kept trying to talk to me, to figure out what was wrong I guess, but,” He shook his head. “I don’t even know what she was saying. It’s hard to understand anything when I’m like that.”
He ran his hand through his hair. “I don’t remember what I did exactly but I know it wasn’t anything nice. I just remember feeling so upset. It’s like approaching an injured animal. Primal instincts,” Garfield said softly, more to himself than anything.
“Gar,” Victor began.
“No.” The other man cut across. “I can’t control it and I’m not putting her in that kind of danger. I won’t do it.”
“And Raven doesn’t get a say in this?” Victor asked skeptically. “We don’t let her lock herself away because she’s half-demon. Why do you get to cut her off because you’re scared? Just for something you’ve become twice?”
“Three times.” Garfield corrected quietly. “I became the Beast for the first time right after I found their bodies.”
“You’ve never hurt her.” Victor said gently. “Never, even when you were the Beast. Don’t do this to yourself, Gar. Please. She loves you and what you’re doing isn’t helping anyone.”
“I can’t risk it.” He said firmly. “I can’t risk hurting her, Victor. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened.”
“You. Haven’t Hurt. Her.” Victor repeated firmly. “Actually that’s not true.” He amended. “You’re hurting her right now. In fact you’re being unbelievably selfish right now. You’re taking her say in your relationship away and deciding you know best.”
Garfield shook his head. “That’s not what I’m trying to do. I’m trying to protect her. How is that selfish?” He demanded.
“It’s okay,” Victor said slowly. “To be scared. It’s okay to not know what, exactly, to do about the Beast.” He stared hard at Garfield. “It’s not okay to shut yourself off or treat Raven the way you’ve been treating her.
“It’d be one thing if you weren’t interested in dating her anymore but we both know that’s not true. You’re freaking out and punishing not only yourself but her. You owe Raven enough trust to at least try and explain things to her.”
But – ”
“She loves you!” Victor cut in curling his hands into fists in his lap. “She loves you and you are treating her like shit.” He said harshly. “Do you have any idea how scared Raven was when you two started dating? She was terrified something would go wrong and now when she finally learns to trust you and knows how much you love her you turn around and break up with her.”
Garfield put his head in his hands. “Fuck.” He said after a moment and Victor felt a brief moment’s hope that he had finally gotten through to his friend. “I really fucked up, didn’t I?” He lifted his head to look at Vic.
“It’s not too late to fix things.” Victor said gently. “Go talk to her.” He urged. “Just don’t be surprised when she tries to kill you.” Garfield looked up at him and Victor thought he had paled but it could be hard to tell. “I’m kidding, Gar.” He said with a smile.
“She’s never going to forgive me.” Garfield said faintly.
“Yes she will.” Victor assured him. “But you’ve got to start apologizing first. Talk to her.” He repeated. “Tell her what happened and start apologizing.” His hand rested on Garfield’s shoulder. “It’ll work out but you’ve gotta be the one to start it.”
“You’re right. I know you’re right. I can’t even believe…” He trailed off. “Thanks Vic.”
“No problem, man. You go talk to Raven; I’m going to find a way to extend the length of that shot. If I can’t we’ll just start a schedule to re-administer it once every five years.” Garfield nodded getting to his feet.
“Hey, man.” Victor pulled Garfield into a hug and was a little surprised by the force with which the other man returned it. “I’m sorry about, Cliff. If you need anything let us know, okay?”
“I will thanks.”
Kory was at Raven’s door when Garfield got there. Raven was too her dinner tray held firmly in her hands. “It’s okay, Kory.” She was saying gripping the tray a little tighter. “I’ll bring it down to Dick myself. Thank you.” Raven murmured.
“Actually,” Garfield walked down the hall towards them shoving his hands in his pockets. “I was hoping we could talk, Raven. If you’re willing too, that is.” He added nearing the door. Raven’s whole boy tensed but she nodded.
“Would you mind taking this downstairs after all, Kory?” She asked.
“Of course, friend!” She took the tray, gave Raven’s hand a gentle squeeze and smiled hopefully at Garfield. He tried to smile back but it didn’t feel that convincing.
“Come in.” Raven said stiffly not meeting him eye. He followed her into her room sitting on the bed next to her. She looked at his hands, now folded in his lap, her face a total blank.
Garfield had grown used to reading the small signs of Raven’s emotions over the years. A slight tightening on the eyes when she was worried. The miniscule quirk of her lips when she was amused. That slight movement in her jaw that meant anyone else would be biting their lip. The fact that he could see nothing on her face now was troubling.
“I’m sorry.” He said without preamble resisting the urge to grab her hand. “I – something happened and I got freaked out and I just – ”
“What?” she cut across looking at him for the first time. “What happened that was so bad you felt justified in breaking up with me? What did I do, Garfield?”
“You didn’t do anything.” He said hurriedly.
“Then what happened?”
“Cliff.” Garfield said and Raven stilled. She had known the authorities had been slowly finding him piece by piece. “They found the last piece of him, his mechanical heart.” He clenched his hands to keep from reaching for her. “It was smashed to pieces.” Garfield heard Raven’s sharp intake of breath and blinked his tears away.
“It’s not an excuse.” He said thickly wishing his voice didn’t sound like he had peanut butter on the roof of his mouth. “I know that. It’s just – I had this insane vision of getting him back and now,” Garfield shook his head. “I’m sorry.” He said again.
He was surprised when he felt her hand envelope his. “I’m sorry.” She said quietly. Garfield felt his eyes widen in surprise. “Not for anything I did, or how you acted.” Raven clarified with the smallest hint of a smile. “You acted like a total ass and I’m not okay with that. If you had just told me…” She shook her head.
“But,” Raven folded her legs under herself turning towards Garfield. “I’m sorry to hear about Cliff.” She squeezed his hand. “I know you were really hoping they’d manage to save him. I’m sorry.” Raven repeated.
“I’m sorry.” Garfield said looking miserable. “I know I’m a total idiot but please believe me. I seriously fucked up and I’m so sorry.”
“Garfield.” Raven interrupted his wave of apologies. “I forgive you. But you can’t do this again. Not,” She went on as he tried to say something. “Turn into the Beast. That isn’t your fault and only an idiot would demand you have total control of it.
“You can’t just quit on me like that again.”
Raven’s voice caught and she swallowed breaking his gaze to look at their joined hands. “I was terrified when you broke up with me. Especially when you wouldn’t say why. It’s not like I can’t survive without you.” She smiled self-consciously. “But I like my life now, with you in it. And you just stopped with no warning or reason. At the very least,” She looked back up. “You owed me an explanation. You scared me, Gar.”
“I’m sor – ” Raven put a hand over his mouth.
“Don’t.” The crinkle of her eyes told him she was almost smiling. “I know. And I do forgive you. I just wanted to make sure you understand exactly why I was so upset.”
Garfield nodded and she dropped her hand. Raven curled up on the bed and Garfield formed his body to fit hers grabbing her hands where they lay on her stomach.
“Raven?” He asked grinning a little wickedly.
“Mmm?” She turned her head to look at his and he kissed her briefly.
“Would you go out with me?” He kissed her neck.
Raven wiggled away from his kiss taking time to give him a critical look and raised a single eyebrow before shrugging carelessly and answering “Why not?”
Garfield sputtered indignantly until Raven kissed him into silence.