|Learning to Breathe
Author: Insanity 101 PM
A one-shot, dedicated to raeandrob4eva. When Raven gets sick, a certain Titan is going to do his best to show her that everyone needs someone they can rely on. Pairings...do I really need to say it? No raerob haters, I am getting annoyed with you people!Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Romance - Words: 3,858 - Reviews: 58 - Favs: 45 - Follows: 8 - Published: 03-13-05 - Status: Complete - id: 2304197
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Ok, this is a little...actually a long one-shot...dedicated to raeandrob4eva! 1) For the gift of His Mask, a totally awesome story, 2) for being such a faithful reviewer and 3) just cuz you're awesome. You had better read, and hopefully, you like it:) I didn't want to add the song in, but the name was inspired by the song Learning to Breathe, by Switchfoot. If you listen to it, it actually sounds a lot like this story.
Robin's eyes snapped open for the fourth time that night as yet another coughing fit drifted through the walls and into his room. Someone was sick...and it sounded like they might need some help. He was the leader, after all.
The Boy Wonder rolled out of bed, his foot becoming ensnared in the tangle of blankets and nearly tripping him. He always slept in his full uniform, in case there was an emergency in the middle of the night, so he slipped on his shoes, attempted to smooth his crazy hair, and set out for the kitchen.
Robin didn't bother to turn on any lights; he knew the tower like the back of his hand, so tripping was out of the question. He grabbed a bottle of Nyquil from the cupboard and poured a glass of cold water...then dumped it back out again. He had a strange impulse that tea would be far more effective, so he heated the water, dropped in an herbal tea bag, and made his way back up to the bedroom level, careful not to spill any of the scalding liquid.
He crept past each of the Titan's doors in turn; the sound of a video game and loud snoring issued from Beast Boy's, Starfire's classical CD could be heard, still plugging along, while a peaceful silence reigned in Cyborg's room. So that left...
Half-suppressed coughs drifted through the metal door marked "RAVEN" as Robin halted in front of it. He was extremely nervous about going in Raven's room in the dead of night, though he wasn't sure why. Raven was his teammate, she was sick, so he was checking on her. Nothing wrong with that.
Robin tapped lightly on the door, and when no one answered, he opened it, surprised to find that it was unlocked. He hesitated, staring into the pitch-black room, wondering if Raven would be grateful, or blast him to the Andromeda Galaxy. He would just have to risk it.
A fit of painful coughing issued from the bed as Robin inched inside, armed with Nyquil and tea, and prepared for a struggle. "Rae?" he whispered, shocked that he had used a nickname.
A small lump of covers shifted slightly, and a tousled purple head emerged from their depths. "Robin? What are y" Raven choked, and coughed even more, doubled over and helpless.
Without really thinking, Robin strode over to her bed, setting the tea on her nightstand and pouring a capful of Nyquil. When the coughing diminished, he handed her the medicine wordlessly. She stared up at him, her eyes searching his face, then accepted it, her nose wrinkling slightly as she gulped down the bad-tasting liquid. She couldn't for the life of her figure out why he was even bothering. Since when did anyone care if she was sick?
"I made you some tea", he offered, handing her the cup. "It should help with the cough."
So that was why he was here. Her hacking was probably keeping him awake. "So you think I can't take care of myself?"
Robin flinched at the harshness of her voice. "No! I just thought you might"
"I know how to make my own tea, Robin. I don't need your help, so why don't you just take your tea and go back to bed, so I can?"
Robin was hurt by her words, but there was no way he would show it. "Everybody needs help at some time or other, Raven. Everyone needs someone they can count on. Even you." He turned and left without another word, the tea still sitting on the nightstand.
Raven flopped back onto her pillow, standing up at the ceiling and trying to define her mixed emotions. She was the type of person who liked to know exactly what she was feeling when she was feeling it; knowingwhat the emotion was made it easier to defeat. Was she angry with Robin? In a way, yes...but not because he brought her tea. She was angry at Robin for being...Robin. For catching her off guard like this, for the fact that he had seen her in this condition, for the way he said "Rae" in that soft, almost hopeful tone, for the way he still looked perfect even when his clothes were rumpled and his hair was poking up in all directions. She felt a blush creep into her cheeks as her eyes fell on the tissues scattered all over her comforter. She couldn't believe he had seen her like this!
"Why do you care? He chose to come in here, it's his fault if he locked eyes with the Thing from Jones Lake. Why should you care what Robin thinks?"
Raven groaned, massaging her throbbing head. She didn't have the answers to these questions...or maybe she was just ignoring them... It was too late for decent thought, and the Nyquil was making her head fuzzy. She glanced over at her nightstand, and sure enough, there was the cup of tea. It was red, and emblazoned with Robin's trademark. Raven rolled her eyes. She sometimes wondered if his boxers were marked with the circled R. This thought brought a smile to her pale lips as she reached for the cup and took a sip, surprised to find that it was still deliciously warm...her tensed muscled instantly relaxed, her throat was soothed as the liquid trickled down it, warming her from the inside. She barely stayed awake long enough to drink her tea, and when she slept, her dreams were haunted by a mask...
Still grumbling, he picked himself up from the floor and was halfway through pulling on his shoes when he remembered Raven. She was in no condition to fight...there was no way he was letting her go anywhere today. He raced down to the living room, arriving out of breath and still slightly disoriented to shut off the alarm. A quick glance at the screen revealed that they were dealing with a simple robbery not too far from here. Cyborg, Starfire, and Beast Boy could definitely handle it, and then he could check on
"Where is friend Raven? Shall I go fetch her?"
"No!", he yelled, grabbing Starfire's arm to stop her. When she gave him a reproachful look, he added. "Raven wasn't feeling well last night. It's just a robbery, and I was hoping you three could take care of it so I can be here if she needs anything."
Cyborg got a goofy grin on his face, and Beast Boy stifled a giggle, but they lost all thought of teasing when Robin sent a fiery glare their way. "Yeah, sure, no prob, Rob!", said Beast Boy, nervously rubbing the back of his head.
Robin chose to ignore the nickname. "Good. Titans, go!", he yelled, then started to follow out of habit, before realizing that he wasn't going. Beast Boy grinned over his shoulder and yelled, "Good luck, dude, cuz you're gonna need it!" before peeling out of the range of Robin's fists.
Robin frowned slightly. What did he mean by that? Good luck with what? He shrugged it off, realizing that he had much more important things to do than try to make sense of Beast Boy's gibberish.
A few minutes later, Robin was once again gently tapping on Raven's bedroom door, a tray loaded with orange juice, mush, tea, Dayquil, and a thermometer balanced precariously on one hand. Not a sound issued from her room, and Robin felt an overwhelming anxiety curl around his stomach. Careful not to spill anything, he opened the door and peered into her room. It was as dark as it had been last night, a heavy black velvet curtain draped across the only window. Thinking she might still be asleep, Robin entered silently, approaching the bed with cat-like stealth. He froze as his eyes came to rest on one of the most beautiful images he had ever seen. The purple comforter was pulled up to her shoulder, a tiny bit of white t-shirt peeking out the top to contrast with the dark color. Her head was snuggled deep into the huge black pillow, purple hair fanned out all around her face. A look of ultimate peace rested lightly on her lips and eyelids, accented with the dark curl of thick lashes. One arm was snuggled under the covers, while the other was stretched out, her hand dangling over the edge of the mattress. Five perfect white toes poked out at the bottom of the bed, like little stars in a dark night sky. He stood there, speechless, happy merely to take in the beauty of this dark angel, and never move again for all eternity.
Sadly, Robin did not get his wish, for the angel stirred, her eyes fluttering open. A weight seemed to fall on her before his very eyes; the weight of reality. He would have given the world to free her from that burden.
Raven felt an uncomfortable lurch in the pit of her stomach as Robin came into focus, a strange look on his face. He had been watching her sleep...Raven was extremely tempted to blast Robin out into the hallway and get those calculating, unreadable eyes off her once and for all, but she felt too weak to get angry. "You just can't seem to take a hint, can you, Boy Blunder?" Were her eyes deceiving her, or was that a blue-ribbon blush flaming its way into his cheeks?
"Nope", he said, in what he hoped was a casual voice. "The Titans are out for the day, so it's just you and me."
"Super." Why was she being so mean?
The blush deepened. "I thought you might like some breakfast...the mush should be easy on your throat." He motioned to the cup of water. "You get to put in the teabag." A tiny smile curled around his lips.
Raven rolled her eyes. "Yay."
Robin busied himself with setting up the tray while Raven struggled to a sitting position. "How are you feeling? Any better? Any worse?"
"Thanks for your concern, Nurse Robin, but I'm just fi" She broke off, coughing and choking for air.
A tiny frown of anxiety darkened Robin's features, and a strange desire to hug her welled up inside of him until he fought it back down with a disdainful "Don't be stupid." What he did allow himself to do was reach out and lay a hand on her forehead...fever, just as he suspected. The frown deepened, a worried crease etched into his brow as he reached for the thermometer. "Tilt your head a bit", he gently instructed, and to his surprise, Raven obeyed. The numbers 104.6 flashed before his eyes, and his stomach lurched uncomfortably.
"What is it?", she asked, her voice hoarse from coughing.
"Let's just say it's enough to keep you in bed for a while." He struggled to keep his worry suppressed. "You should probably take a cold bath after you eat. That should bring down the fever a little."
Raven nodded, then winced as it made her head spin. A tiny part of her mind was still screaming defiance, but the majority of her was ready to give in to his pampering...she scoffed. "Pampering"? He wasn't "pampering" her, he was just doing his job!
"Eat, It'll make you feel better." It was hard to keep his voice steady when electricity was sparking through him and his stomach was doing back flips. Not to mention that overpowering...fear? He was so incredibly afraid for Raven, but why? This was just a flu bug, nothing life threatening! Then why did he feel so darn worried?
A tiny smile found its way to her lips, lighting up her dark purple eyes as she looked at him with something that might have been gratitude...or maybe something more... His face felt like it was on fire. Why did she have to look at him like that?
The more he blushed, the more Raven doubted her assumption that he was "just doing his job". When Beast Boy had that horrible cold, had Robin gone out of his way to help him? Of course, he was in no condition to help anyone at that point, but still...would he really do this for any other Titan? She took a bite of mush and let it slide down her throat, easing the pain. "Robin?"
He looked up warily. "Yeah?"
She opened her mouth, then shut it again, speechless for the first time in a long time. She wanted to apologize for being so mean, to thank him for caring, but she just didn't know how to say it. "This isn't half bad", she muttered, nodding towards the food.
His heart sank a little, though he didn't know why. "I do what I can."
"Now there's a concept", she remarked. Again with the biting wit! It seemed like every time he looked at her, she felt the urge to throw insults.
"Yes, Father Robin." She smirked, watching him go red. For some reason, she got a kick out of making him uncomfortable. Being sick had its perks.
Raven finished her food in silence, while Robin stood awkwardly next to her bed, letting his eyes wander around the room. This was the first time he had been in here long enough to look around. The decor was spooky, to say the least, yet strangely appealing. He recognized a few paintings by Vincent van Gogh, among them Starry Night, one of his favorites. His eyes roved over her bookshelves, which were mostly filled with weathered old tomes inscribed with strange, spiky symbols, but he did recognize a few books which turned out to be by Shakespeare and Edgar Allen Poe. They weren't exactly his taste, but he could certainly appreciate works such as Hamlet and The Tell-Tale Heart. A cough from Raven snapped him out of his daze, and he was immediately embarrassed for staring at her things. Raven was such a private person. He assumed that the only reason his head was still attached to his shoulders was because she was too weak at the moment to blast it off.
She had eaten most of her breakfast and downed the Dayquil, and was now staring at him with an odd expression, as though about to tell him something but unsure of how to do so. Robin's eyes widened in understanding. She was trying to ask for help.
Without a word, he was at her side, gently pulling back the covers as she shifted her legs to the side. He all-but lifted her out of the tall bed and supported her into the small bathroom, too focused on the task at hand to feel awkward. The heat radiating from her only fueled his determination; he would make her better.
Raven leaned against the counter as Robin busied himself with the tub, making the water cold enough to counteract her fever but warm enough to keep her body from going into shock. He laid out two dark blue towels and a washrag, then turned to Raven...and froze awkwardly.
"I think I can take it from here", she mumbled, a hint of embarrassment rising to the surface of her pool of emotion.
His face had finally succeeded in out-doing the red of his uniform. "Right...um...I'll just be out here if you, uh, need anything..." He shut the door behind him.
Raven sighed, pulled off her t-shirt...then hobbled over to the door and locked it. Not that she thought Robin would walk in on her, but somehow she just felt more comfortable with a solid barrier between them. This was the longest she had ever entertained company in her room, and even though, deep inside, she was glad he was here, it was still very strange and new. She shut everyone out for fear that, if the door was opened, they wouldn't come in.
"So I'll just sit here, quietly, and not touch anything." That was the first ten minutes.
"Maybe I could just have a look around...it's not like I'm going to touch anything." That was after fifteen minutes.
When Raven got out of bed, her pillow slid down several inches, revealing the black leather corner of some kind of book...
"I'll just take a quick look and then put it back where I found it. No harm in that..."
He slid the black book from its resting place, and opened it to the page that was marked by a black feather. When he saw the words "Dear...whatever" scrawled across the top of the page, a wave of guilt broke through. He had no right to be reading this...especially if it was in fact a journal. Raven had trusted him in here, and this was how he was going to repay her? But...he just had to know! He wanted so desperately to know Raven, to find out who she truly was. No masks, no secrets, just Raven.
When I first met the Titans, a small part of me truly thought I had found my home, the one place where I could belong, where no one would persecute me for my lineage. At that point, I believed that I had found my family.
I was wrong.
Robin felt as though someone had just swung a weight in his face.
Even here, I am still different. Strange. Creepy. When a green shape-shifter thinks you're weird, it gives you a harsh look at reality.
Do they think I like being this way? Do they think I enjoy pushing them away? Do they think I choose to suppress my emotions? Or maybe they think I don't have any. Maybe they think it doesn't hurt when they talk about me behind my back. Maybe they think I don't mind being called names. Maybe they just don't care.
This isolation...I hate it. I hate this constant fear of losing control. The thing that they want from me is the thing that could destroy them. I will not hurt my friends.
Robin swallowed, feeling as though a golf ball was lodged in his throat. A horrible aching spread through his chest as he read on.
Every day spent here is another day that I risk their lives. I just wish someone could understand that! If one of them, just one of them, could finally see, I think I could make it through. But right now, I'm just...torn.
Guilt and sorrow and regret and despair. How could he have been so blind? Why hadn't he seen her, really seen her? All along, she was lost. Alone. Afraid. "Just like me." The impact of those simple words sent his mind reeling as he stood frozen, the evidence open in his hands. He never heard the door open, never felt her standing behind him...
Raven was shocked at the emotion coming in waves from her fearless leader. What had upset him to such an extent? And then she saw it. The book, he had been reading the book. A plaster mask shattered into a thousand pieces. "What do you think you are doing?"
Robin whirled around, his face streaked with tears as he gripped her shoulders. "Why didn't you tell me?"
Her eyes widened. He was...crying? "I..."
With absolutely no warning, Robin ripped off his mask, locking eyes with her for the first time. "I could have helped you! Why wouldn't you tell me? Why didn't I see it? Why was I so stupid?"
Raven stared, afraid to keep looking but unable to break away. His eyes...they were a deep storm cloud gray, layers upon layers of hurt hidden there. Just the sight of them sent a shiver down her spine.
"I understand, Raven! I know exactly what you feel!" He fell silent, his eyes swimming in tears and still boring into hers, as though an invisible line connected them. His grip became gentle, caressing. "I'm so sorry."
She blinked, and felt a solitary tear run down her flushed cheek. She had caused him this pain... "No. This pain was always here. He just buried it all away...like you."
For the first time in minutes, he broke her gaze, and released her arms. "I failed you. I was blind, so wrapped up in myself that I couldn't see your pain. I'm sorry."
Her hands moved of their own accord, though she knew when she felt the warmth of his hands that it was right. "Robin, you knew me better than anyone. You never pressured me to extend myself, never asked for what I couldn't give. Back then, you knew me well enough to leave me alone." A small smile spread across her face as she looked up at him, truly seeing him for the first time. "Now, you know me in an entirely different way. You found me...in yourself."
Robin stared at her, shocked at her words, yet knowing them to be true. It was amazing what a little knowledge could do. Today, Raven seemed to glow with a new light, the light of understanding. "But...why me? Why did you let me in?"
Raven's face was serious once more, but her eyes spoke volumes. "Everyone needs someone they can count on."