The Boy Who Has Never Been

Summary:
November 6, 2014: The Unreality Storm hits, and Keith is wiped out from existence. Or, rather, the universe simply forgets he exists.

The Titans' Castle

It's A Castle!


Characters

NPCs

  • None

Mood Music:
The Girl That's Never Been


Thursday morning, 6AM. Gar's up early, running… he chose to be a cheetah so he could get his two miles done in sprints and get back in time to fix breakfast. The 8am class he's teaching, after all. He kisses Keith on the forehead at 7am and leaves breakfast waiting on the table, heading out to jump in the Cr and zip back to NYC and ESU … yeah, there's definitely something weird about how Gar manages to get into New York in that thing without getting caught in traffic. Maybe it's some kind of animal-effect. Ants to the Hill or something? Who knows.

The class is full of the usual … Gar gets to explain once again to the football player that there really is a difference between turtles and tortoises, although the guy seems to do well enough otherwise. The quizzes from Tuesday are shared around, and there's a brief question by the #heroFollowing fan about the taxonomy of the Thunderbird. Gar gives him the stinkeye and doesn't answer it.

"OK, lab time. Hello, little planaria… have you learned anything from your brotheroids and sisterlikes? No? Well, eat another two or three and we'll see … "

Gar does not like some of the experiments that are being run. He feeds animals, checks on weights and so forth, and it's the end of the lab time, and now his lab partner trails in, like the common leaf slug.

"You. Were. Late," Gar says in that half-growl voice that the tv-actor playing him always turns into a weedy kid's tenor. It's more like a low rumbling baritone with wolf edges.

"Sorry, my roommate went missing last night, I had to track him down… he's been having stress like you would not believe."

"I believe it, but why didn't you call me?"

"I did, I left a message."

"You did? Who with?"

"I dunno, some guy … I had to run, it was time for class."

Gar looks confused. Some guy? Impossible. There's no 'guy' is there? Robin isn't around, Bunker still hasn't finished moving completely from Gotham because too far, Zach would have turned them into a toad for calling him before ten… Oh god, not Angry Bird … no, that couldn't have been it.

Gar sighs, and hauls his stuff down to the Cr. Time to hit the Castle again, and then to Gotham. Good thing it's only a half hour from the train, right?

Keith, on the other hand, has had a sluggish day. The kiss from Gar woke him up, but only briefly. It takes him half an hour to come to his full senses and then he's groaning off the bed. When he comes down to get his breakfast, he's still mostly asleep and dressed in a haphazardly-assembled outfit: khaki shorts, no shoes or socks, and one of Gar's shirts. He doesn't quite knowe why heisso low in energy- perhaps he got up multiple times at night due to bad dreams? If he did, he didn't remember. He makes a note to ask Gar when he comes back if he woke him up…

Everything is quiet at the Castle- because its inhabitants haven't finished the move in yet. He and Gar are the ones who spend the most time here… except for Raven. She has a room, but Keith has been giving her a wide berth while she cleanses herself of the taint of her father. Maybe she appreciates that, who knows?

Breakfast consumed and appreciated, the young man goes about the tasks of the day. Today it is all about unpacking and getting things settled in- the kitchen was done, but the library needed some attention: the books that had come with the Castle were in disarray, out of order, something that probably drove Robin up the wall. So, for most of the time, he has been organizing books in piles and making a list on his StarkPad so that he can eventually make the library functional.

His phone is charging in their room, so he has not noticed the fact that the screen of the phone shows a very interesting thing- NO ACCOUNT DETECTED.

Gar parks in the underground tunnel… yes, there is an entrance, yes, it was one of the first things he fixed, no, it's not hidden behind a bush and an abandoned mine sign … it's a rock, actually, and there's a gravel rake that makes it look normalish. Whistling, he makes his way to the planning room in the down-below, looking at the water gleaming fitfully.

The wall blinks at him several times, and he says, "Hey Octy. What's up?"

The eyes whirl a bit as it skitters up and down, not quite emerging from the fourth-dimensional space. It seems perturbed. Gar shrugs. It's got plenty of mice, so it's not underfed. It's not big enough to eat people, not that it would do that anyway. Gar tried to be one of it and got some impressions, even though he couldn't quite accomplish the form, and it apparently views the other creatures that it lives with that aren't food, as pets or protectors, to be avoided or blinked at.

The elevator whirrs taking him up to the Library, and he steps out of the concealed panel, and wonders why there are books stacked strangely.

"Huh. Robin must REALLY be bugged by this whole out-of-order thing, but I thought he was still in the hospital in traction."

Nah. The Bats are all crazy. Gar pushes books aside and spreads the team training plan out…

"Now wait a minute. This is entirely the wrong layout. Even if Phobos did come back I wouldn't put him in those places… I … must've been … OK, Gar. No more using the helmet, not even if it WAS an emergency."

He scratches his head, folds up the training plan, and walks down to the kitchen, barefoot, leaving his shoes behind. He's in the kitchen cleaning up the mess from last night and this morning… Bunker must've gotten in and gone.

The redhead is sitting on one of the windowsills, jotting down some of the latest books he's gone through, when the elevator opens and a welcome figure steps through. He grins, without looking up, because he wants to finish writing the title. "Oh, I figured I'd fix that before he got here, you know how he is, the moment he can wal-" Keith blinks at Gar as he mutters something. Human ears aren't good at eavesdropping. "Come again, hon? What was-"

A puzzled stare and some blinking as Gar just walks out.

~That's odd… he's usually not this distracted unless something big is on his mind. Maybe the preparations for the Waller mission?~

He grabs the shoes after putting the StarkPad down and heads towards the kitchen, where he catches up with Gar.

"I'm sorry about the mess, I forgot to do the dishes before doing the library. I'll make it up to you- dinner's on me tonight. Also you forgot these," Keith smirks and lets the shoes drop next to the counter. "You forget your manners? I haven't even had a peck on the cheek yet."

Gar … doesn't seem to notice. At first. He frowns, and his nose wrinkles, and he sees his shoes … "OK, Octy? No moving the shoes."

Silly oculeggis. He rubs his cheek absently and shakes his head.

"Wake up, Garfield. Nobody else is here, get some stuff done before it's time to go help Bunker move. Man. Too bad he wasn't able to afford that place."

The Changeling opens the door to the courtyard, and goes out, and turns into something kind of repulsive: a termite the size of a small dog. He starts in on the blackberry bramble, going directly at the roots first.

Keith freezes in place and watches as Gar walks out. Did he forget abd accidentally change into the Cheshire cat? Was he invisible? He looks down at himself. No. Still pink. He runs up to the refrigerator, looking at himself in the smooth, metallic surface, his reflection is pristine.

He was there. Right there. "We're all mad here!"

Green eyes open wide. He said The Words, but his voice didn't change. Nothing happened. "We're all mad here! We're all mad here!"

He grabs the frame of the refrigerator, shaking it slightly as his voice raises to a cry- "We're all mad here we're all mad here we're all mad —" he steps back with a horrified expression, until he stumbles against the counter. He whirls and grabs one of the dirty plates, throwing it with fury against the refrigerator- "Damnit, why won't you work?" he cries, the plate shattering spectacularly.

Termite hearing is not great, but they do sense alarm pheromones, and Gar wonders for a moment as he nibbles on tasty tasty blackberry stalks why there are alarm scents … Uh oh. Maybe something's attacking the oculeggis? He swallows, backs out from under the half-eaten hedge, and shifts into human again, demonstrating that he has 'Tarzan Foot' when the spikes from the blackberry utterly fail to penetrate the skin of his feet.

"OK, who broke the dish…" Gar looks around, but there's nobody here, and the oculegs is scuttling around in the downbelow, Gar can hear it creaking… And it's not distressed. Its distress comes with that weird wailing sound.

"Someone here?" Gar says. He shifts again, a fruitbat, and screams an ultrasonic shout that … doesn't show him anything. It all seems just as it should be, except for that broken dish… Dammit. Maybe he left it piled wrong…

Gar returns to human, picking up the dish and grabbing a broom to sweep up the mess. It goes into the bag in its special covered bucket and he says, "Note to self: figure out what to do with non-compostable garbage."

He absently brushes by Keith, then grabs his arms around himself. "Dammit, now the hormones are going nuts. OK. Maybe it's all a side effect of the helmet. I'll ask Raven to check when she's done with her cleanse. Maybe I need a nap."

He heads up the stairs, for the guy's rooms. If he wasn't freaked out and feeling weird, he'd just turn into something that can fly or climb and go up, so he must be sick, or freaked out or something…

"Gar, can't you see me?" Keith asks when Gar comes in and-

Nope. As Changeling brushes past him, he stands perfectly still, listening to Gar talk to himself. It was perfectly normal, he did it, too. Of course, usually, someone tended to answer back.

The Cait Sidhe was strangely silent, as was Vorpal, the two other aspects of his threefold soul. There is a creeping, horrible suspicion that is dawning at the edge of his mind, but he pushes that aside- "No, it's got to be some sort of spell, or curse. I'm sure. Maybe the Oroboros circle is trying to do… I must call Fenris!"

Of course. It made sense. The Oroboros made him invisible. Curse on him, yes, That's what it was. He wants to run up the stairs, but he has to wait for Gar to get up there first, but as soon as the Green One hits the lading, Keith blazes past him and runs into their room, opening the door so quickly that it slams open and knocks against the wall, almost shattering the full-length mirror.

"C'mon c'mon where did I leave my-" His phone. His brand new phone, that Gar had helped him get after Hawkgirl took his. He rushes up to it and grabs it, still connected to the wall charger.

NO ACCOUNT FOUND

He doesn't mean to let the phone drop, but drop it does when he reads the words. Fortunately it has that nice rubber casing that is supposed to protect the phone from everything except a cannibal holocaust, and it bounces off safely and knocks against an ornate box by the foot of the bed. Keith steps back, hand covering his mouth.

"No… not this. Not this, please…" he's afraid. The first time this happened, it was as if the entire universe had forgotten that he was there. It had passed, and it had only happened one more time after that in six months, but the question always nagged him: if it ever happened again, would it go away?

"I'm here. I'm here-"

Gar wonders how the wind blew the door open so hard, when the window is barely open, and he looks back to see whether it's blowing the tree around, but it's not… so it must've been a fluke. Something thumps in his bedroom though, so he turns into a large cat and sneaks through the door, diving under the bed to come up with a 'thump' against something.

There's a box on the floor. Weird. It smells like him, but he doesn't remember … it? The decorations on the outside are meaningful. The elf-cat, the mirror, the infinity, the eye all-seeing, the three hands clasped. It was elvish work. It cost him… why did he trade for it? The note from the weird dream-things was probably worth more as a magical talisman to the right person… why would he just give that away for a box?

Gar creeps out from under the bed, when he notices there's nobody else in the room with him, and he touches the box with one paw, and turns into something not quite really like the cat.

"This shape wasn't that good against the Druids," he mutters with an elf-tainted voice, "But the cats sith were always like the story of their king, getting around the edges of things and seeing what was really there, and making mischief from it."

He looks around the room. It's still empty, but something smells off.

"So what was I about putting into here?" he says in a terrible travesty of an Irish accent.

The box opens as he presses the secret spots and slides it a bit. The lid opens…

Keith doesn't pay much attention to what Gar is doing due to the fact that he needs something- water. Yes. Water. He goes into the shared bathroom that is just across from their bedroom and begins to get himself a glass of water.

Why? Who knows why people want to offer each other a glass of water in moments of crisis- ever hear someone say 'Thank god, the water is here?' He turns on the faucet and lets the water run while he looks for a glass.

Baubles. Trinkets. Some necklaces, a bracelet, some rings, a locket. And then there are the pictures- photocopies of ones, at least, showing a young red-headed man with his someone who, by resemblance alone, must be his mother. She is wasting away and it is evident to anyone who looks at her… except, perhaps, to the young man.

There are some newspaper clippings as well, mention of the Titans mostly.

And there is an envelope. Inside that small envelope, there is a SD card, the kind you would normally put into a StarkPad. The words "If I Am Gone" are written on the envelope in pen, in an unfamiliar handwriting.

Gar has a Starkpad lying around… a couple of them actually, in varying states of dignity and quality, since Stark insisted on releasing a new model every six months with different nifty features… avoiding the Lexpad trap of selling the same thing at a higher price with a minuscule improvement, or the Fruitpad with its designer prices and bad habit of offering a better and cheaper version every year, which made people decide to wait…

He reads the things out loud. "O'Neil. Huh. Poor woman looks like she had cancer for years."

He picks up a suitable (if a bit slow) Starkpad from his 'inductive charging' bin — thanks Tony, for having that well ahead of the rest — and slots the card, brushing the dark-and-light-green fur on his hands around.

"Why did the Caits Sith look so much like Cheshire Cats? Was Tenniel channeling the Fae? No answer to this and more, tonight at eleven," Gar says in a television announcer voice, while he waits for the Starkpad to … ah.

Whatever is on it, should be accessible … now.

There's still water running in the bathroom. Keith hasn't found his mug yet. Where did it go?

"-Are you sure this is how I?" the voice comes out loud through the speakers. Blurry images, a hint of something red and yellow- Robin? the image finally centers on… it's definitely Miguel's apartment. But that's not Miguel sitting on the futon (there were two futons at the apartment- was it in case Miguel got lucky?). It's the red-headed boy from the pictures.

Older, though, and filled out, the T-shirt he is wearing is filled out rather nicely.

"Sorry about that, still trying to get accustomed to how this works." He shoots the camera an easy grin and brushes his hair back from his eyes. "I'll take care of it from here, thanks for the setup," he says off-camera, and waits until someone leaves the room. Then, he leans forward, knees resting on his lap and arms crossed, and says, "Hello, Green. I guess that if you're seeing this video, things haven't exactly worked out with the Druids…"

Gar pauses the playback. Something in the bathroom? Carrying the Starkpad, he goes in, and turns off the water, looking around… "What the poltergeist," he says, still looking like a green Cait Sith, though not like the Cait Sidhe. He looks in the mirror, and his reflection is him, but not reversed.

"What the frock," he says, "is going on today anyway?"

The reflection shrugs, and points to something next to Gar… but he looks and there doesn't seem to be anything there.

"Fine," Gar says, getting his glass down from the shelf, and running it full of water. He sips it down, empties it, and refills it, leaving it on the counter for no reason he can understand. It just seems… like the thing to do. He turns the playback on, and listens to it as he slowly wanders back out of the bathroom.

"… haven't exactl worked out with the Druids…"

Gar shakes his head. "We beat their asses. I don't remember how … something about a sacrifice …"

He stops in the door so anyone going past him would have to push him.

"That's my water, you kno- why am I bothering, you can't even hear me!" Keith says, exasperated as Gar downs the glass. But then he refills it. So Keith takes a sip of it. Then, he looks mortified as he hears what Gar is playing back.

"Oh shit, I forgot to take that out! You can't watch that, it's… it's embarrassing!" He stands, tiptoe, behind Gar. He reaches around his body, trying to get at the Starkpad. Easier said than done.

The video continues. "… it's not how I wanted it to go. I put this card in The Box because, well… I wasn't quite sure what would happen once the magic ran out. Would I die and leave a body, or would I just-" he snaps his fingers "-vanish? Would you even remember me? I don't know. But I guess that since you're watching the video, now you know."

He rubs the back of his neck, clearly looking uncomfortable as he speaks to the camera. "There's a lot of things I'd want to tell you. About how much you mean to me, how much I love you… but you already know all of that. I'm sure you do, you can read me like an open book." the redhead smirks. "… look. There is something you need to promise me, and it's very important that you do."

Meanwhile, the flesh-and-blood (as far as he knows) Keith is trying to get to the Starkpad, but Gar stopping at the door means it's very difficult. Once or twice he manages to brush one of Gar's arms, but he's trying not to touch him, so as not to alarm him.

Gar is … well. Thunderstruck? Wasn't that the name of the replacement Thor? Anyway. He sniffs.

"My whiskers itch. This means something. What does it mean when a Cait Sith has itchy whiskers. 2000 year drought? No, that's dry tail. Hairballs? No, there is no warning for cait sith hairballs. Something hidden? Well, duh. Who is this Keith guy, and … yeah, he's not bad looking at all, but … OK, what do you want me to promise, ghost Keith who may or may not exist … that's a preservation box. Of course he exist…ed. Did they vanish him? Is that how we beat the druids?"

Gar slumps against the wall and presses 'play' while he tries to figure out if he feels anything more than numb.

"Oh god, this is a mess." Keith mutters to himself. Seeing Gar slump, Keith sighs and watches him.

The video resumes. "In that locket, in case you forget, there's my hair and my blood. I figured that that was the safest place to keep those things, if I disappeared. That box was the first kind thing you did for me- braving Faerie just so that I could keep my mom's things from disappearing." The redhead smiles, and brushes at his eyes. "I like the idea that, in a way, it might keep part of me safe. There's no guarantee that you can bring me back, though- I'm not a wiz at magic." Pause. "See what I did there?"

He leans closer to the camera now. "You need to promise me that… you'll take care of yourself. If you can't bring me back- I swear I tried my best- I screwed up, I screwed up bad, and you're going to be hurt."

He grabs a tissue from next to the futon and blows his nose, and takes a moment to center himself.

When he finally speaks again, it is with a quieter voice. "My time with you has been the best time of my life, Gar. You've shown me things I thought I wouldn't see… kindness, trust. Companionship. Knowing that someone out there remembers your name and waits for you to come back? That's amazing, and you've been the best boyfriend someone could have ever asked for…" He fiddles with the napkin. "I always had the impression I was living on borrowed time. You know… with me dying and getting my powers that way? I hope I am wrong and I hope that this all ends well. But if it doesn't…" he looks at the camera and frowns. "… I want you to promise me that you'll take care of yourself. That you won't shut yourself up inside and curl up…"

Video Keith shakes his head, "You're a wonderful guy, Garfield. You deserve to be happy. However this ends, you must promise me you won't stop looking for it." A slight smile peeks at the corner of his mouth. "-and if all things turn out well, then maybe I'll be there with you. And if I am…" he waves a finger at the camera and frowns slightly "-then you shouldn't be watching this video at all. Right?"

Gar abruptly turns the video off.

"You're right. But why would a mortal… Oh. If he died to get his powers, then Death was cheated. So she probably takes the Cheat off to play checkers or somethingwith them every once in a while, because there's nothing more tedious to be forced to play board games with Death, as the Troll-King Bergman has taught us all," the temporary cait sith says. "Terrible, the first through sixth seals. Snakes-and-ladders and it Just. Got. Worse."

Gar frowns. "All right. So he doesn't exist for the day. But if he truly didn't exist, time would've rolled back, and everything except the protected things would be completely gone. But something moved my shoes, and broke that plate, and turned on the water. And I smell no poltergheist other than Raven, and she's quietly in her room. I should remember to take her tea and crackers tonight, she forgets to eat, and then she has to devour children … or their lunches anyway."

He looks around, before saying, "All right, then, Keith O'Neil. You've left me a truly touching and beautiful present, and the way to bring you back, presumably, if it comes to it, but I think you'll be back soon. Death likes to draw out her games, but she doesn't usually go more than a day."

Changeling shivers and turns back to himself. "And I've been an elf-cat too long because that was creepy and I don't wanna know that stuff. OK, Keith, if you're still here, I probably won't recognize it if you touch me or whatever, but it's OK. I'm going to put this stuff back in the box, and then I'm going to go downstairs and, uh. Work on the library. Come with me if you're here, I won't freak out much. I mean… How long did we even know each other? Am I doing that crazy fast-track jump-down-the-rabbit-hole I did with Dirt Girl?"

"This is the second time you've been a Cait. It's not good to be one for long, not without some grounding. The Fae are unhinged," Keith mutters with a slight smile. Gar knew more than he knew he knew. It was probably the Cait transformation. Or something else.

At the mention of her, Keith hehs, stepping up next to Garfield. "Rabbit hole, eh?" a moment of mischief, and he reaches out to Garfield's neck, only because he saw something.

The chain that holds up the Cheshire Cat pendant around Garfield's neck comes undone as the clasp goes loose, and the grinning silver cat falls to the floor by Garfield's bare feet, making a silvery tinkling noise. Maybe he'll take it as a sign. A hand reaches out to brush Gar's cheek lightly before pulling back. "I'll go anywhere with you. But if you're going to work on those plans… you're going to be angry tomorrow when you remember I exist and that you redid the whole thing…"

IF he came back tomorrow. What if he never returned to normal?

"… I've got to come back. I've got to."

Gar picks up the chain and pendant.

"Huh. OK. Message received, if garbled. You know, if I work on the training plan and you come back, I'm gonna have to redo everything. How about I, uh, we, just sort books."

He re-clasps the pendant and puts it back on. Because he almost forgot he was wearing it and it feels wrong not to. And he starts putting books back in stacks.

"What were we using anyway? Alphabetical, topical? Dewey Decimal is terrible for a small library like this."


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