Author: betweenraindrops PM
What if Starfire had become Slade's apprentice instead? Slade has a plan to take down the Titans from within, and Starfire is the key to his success. Will she be able to find a way to save her friends, or will they all fall victim to his mysterious plot? Loosely follows original storyline. Rated M so I don't have to worry, but it will be T mostly. Robin/Starfire, Beast Boy/Raven.Rated: Fiction M - English - Adventure/Romance - Starfire & Robin - Chapters: 14 - Words: 61,996 - Reviews: 92 - Favs: 69 - Follows: 40 - Updated: 09-28-12 - Published: 08-18-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8443555
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: This is my re-imagining of the episode "How Long Is Forever?" as it pertains to this fanfic. I changed A LOT, just so you're prepared, but some of the dialogue is straight out of the original episode, so see if you can spot that too! This chapter is MUCH LONGER than any of the other ones, but I didn't want to split it into two or you guys would be mad at me for the unavoidable cliffhanger, so here ya go! I'm a little bit in love with this chapter, I hope you are too!
Chapters 6 & 7, being that they are companion chapters, will be up this weekend.
Songs: "Dead Hearts" - Stars (it's relevant pretty much the whole way through, but especially once she's in the intersection -yes, I am intentionally vague about this so as not to give anything away)
Chapter 5: A Matter of Time
It had been a few weeks since Starfire's encounter with Slade, and he had not contacted her since. She had actually gone so far as to check her closet a few times, the suit and communicator the only things to remind her that the event had even taken place at all. At the moment, however, she had more pressing concerns.
"Robin?" she asked, entering his bedroom after the door opened to her knock.
"What?" he answered curtly. He was sitting at his desk against the right wall, the glow of the screen illuminating his face. Aside from the stripes of light that slipped in through the edges of the curtains, there was no other source of light in the room.
She lifted a hand to the light panel beside the door and tapped the appropriate key. The main light in the center of the room came on and Robin let out an anguished yelp.
"Star!" He jumped up from the chair and leapt across the room, his hand smashing into the panel before she could even remove hers, pinning her to the wall.
The room returned to relative darkness, but not before she had gotten a good look at his face.
"Oh, Robin…" she breathed, alarmed.
Trembling, she brought her free, left hand up to his right cheek. Her tan fingers ghosted against his startlingly pale skin, which was unnaturally cold beneath her touch.
"Don't," he whispered, a hand shooting up to grab her wrist and pull her hand from his face.
She gasped at the chill his bare hand imparted on her skin, feeling the clamminess of his palms.
His ragged breathing puffed in her face before he abruptly released her and turned away.
"Robin," she began, her voice shaking, "A-Are you…unwell?"
"No," he growled, returning to the desk chair and resuming his typing.
"But," she warily continued, venturing further into the room, "you have been in your room for weeks now. You do not binge on the salty snacks or marathon the movies or venture to the corner of pizza or-"
"I get it."
She shrank at his cold interruption, but he would not have noticed because his eyes never left the screen. It was very important that she discuss this with him, however, so she did not leave the room like she normally would have when faced with his indifference.
"Robin," she spoke gently, trying to evade further wrath. "We are all very concerned for your well-being. You only leave your room for the occasional nourishment, and we hear you awake at all the hours." She sighed, unable to tell if he was truly listening to a word she was saying, but he had at least stopped typing.
"Robin," her voice broke with emotion, "I am worried about you." She folded her hands against her chest, subconsciously covering the gem on her chest. "The only time you are around us anymore is when-"
As if on cue, red lights flashed in circles around the room and the alarm blared through the intercom.
"Trouble!" he shouted, bursting back to life. He grabbed his gloves and ran past her, leaving her standing alone and dejected in his now-empty room.
She sighed deeply, shaking her head mournfully at the floor. She was just about to fly off after him when the accursed stone in her breastplate vibrated in its slight way. Her heart fluttered. Of course Slade would pick now, of all the times, to reappear. Figuring Robin would not miss her for at least the next few minutes, she shot down to her room, flying through the door before it was even fully open. She dug through her closet, flipping the communicator open as soon as it was in her hand.
"What do you want?" She snapped, not in the mood to play the games. "I am in the middle of a thing and do not have time for your-"
"Quiet!" he barked, and she remembered herself and fell mute.
"The criminal you're going to fight, his name is Warp," Slade explained hurriedly, as if understanding her need for haste. "He is trying to steal a clock -the details are unimportant," he cut in as she opened her mouth to question. "The only important thing is that he does not get it, do you understand?"
She nodded, but ventured a question all the same. "Why do you want to prevent this clock from being stolen?"
Slade leaned closer to the camera, and she could see the light from the screen reflecting off his eye.
"So I can steal it myself, of course," and the screen faded out with his laughter.
With a growl, Starfire snapped the communicator shut and threw it to the back of her closet, careful not to put so much force behind the toss that the device broke. She took a moment to collect herself before lifting off and shooting down the hall to meet her friends.
"You cannot defeat Warp," the villain said, handily disabling Robin's exploding discs. "I am from the future, and you relics are 100 years out of date."
He smirked at them, his hand phasing through the glass protecting the clock. He then turned on the spot and pressed a button on his chest, opening some sort of portal in front of him.
"Ta-ta, Titans" he tossed over his shoulder smugly. "I have enjoyed our time together, but I have a very bright future ahead of me," and he turned to walk through the black void.
Starfire's eyes glowed green, and she burst forward with a cry, determined not to let the man escape. She could not fail, not with her friends' lives at the stake. She tackled him just before he disappeared within the hole, both of them tumbling forward into the nothingness.
Starfire was so intent on getting the clock from Warp, she hardly noticed the strange surroundings. She could see in her peripheral vision that it was a blur of greys and whites, and there was a loud clicking in the air, but she was more focused on her scuffling with Warp.
"Let go!" he shrieked, desperately trying to wriggle from her grasp.
"You have endangered my friends and stolen that clock!"she growled in response.
"Stop!" he commanded, but his voice sounded fearful. "If you damage the suit before we reach my future- NO!" he shouted as Starfire latched onto the button at his chest, ripping it from the suit.
There was a flash of light, and she heard Warp's elongated yell fading away from her. She hovered there for a moment before she was swallowed by absolute darkness.
"AAAAH!" she screamed, suddenly falling. Looking down, she had just enough time to put her hands in front of her face for protection before she crashed into the ground, which was inexplicably covered in snow.
She rose up on her hands, snow cascading off her back. "Wha- What has happened?" she stammered, shivering. "Why is it cold? And where are my-" she stopped short, taking in her surroundings with a gasp.
She was on the edge of a city, if you could call it that. The nicer buildings were only half caved-in, and everything was covered in a thick layer of snow. She rose to her feet, trying to ascertain where she was more specifically. All she could see was a desolate, white landscape, however, so she rose a few feet into the air and began to make her way toward the city. She noticed she was still holding the button from Warp's suit, so she hooked in onto her belt to free up her hands.
As she entered the city, she saw very few signs of life. The buildings were dark and dirty, some even looked as though they had been burned, and there were no lights on anywhere. At the end of some of the alleys she passed, she could see small fires burning in the metal cans of garbage. Small groups of haggard people huddled around them, mumbling and rubbing their hands together. The main street, however, was deserted. She landed on the ground in the middle of what appeared to be a main intersection, hoping to find something or someone to tell her where she was.
"Hello?" she called, a little too quiet to actually be heard by anyone. She gulped, forcing bravery into voice.
"Hello?" No one answered. Nothing even stirred aside from a brisk wind, which whipped pieces of newspaper past her legs. One of them caught on her ankle, and she bent to pick it up.
She gasped, reading the torn, front page. 'CRIME RATE CONTINUES TO CLIMB IN JUMP CITY', read the headline, and the date was-
"This- This cannot be!" She spun around, unable to believe it. "No…" she breathed, her eyes widening as she caught sight of an unmistakable landmark.
There, staring out at her from the dirty, grey buildings, was a snow-topped neon sign in the shape of a slice of pizza. She staggered toward it, eyes stinging with tears. A trembling hand rose to her mouth as she let the newspaper section slip through her frail fingers and back into the wind. She buried her face in her hands, unable to believe what was so obviously true. As she bent, she saw the green gem glinting up at her, and a contemptible thought occurred to her. Looking around self-consciously, she gently tapped the surface of the stone.
"Slade?" she whispered, despising herself for sinking to this. "If- If you can hear me...engage in the vibrating of the stone now, please." She found herself disappointed when he did not respond, and this reaction only served to make her feel worse.
She whimpered, sinking to her knees in the snow. The cold stung her skin, but it was so unimportant now. Her head hung limply as she began to cry; soft sobs echoing off the deserted buildings.
"Hello?" inquired a cautious, male voice from behind her.
She stiffened, hear head rising up abruptly. The tears stopped as adrenaline began to pump, preparing her to combat this stranger, if necessary. And yet, there was something about that voice…
"Are you alright?" The man spoke again, and she heard his light footsteps shuffling closer through the snow.
She turned her head just enough to get a glimpse of him, and then promptly jumped up and spun around, hands igniting.
"Who- Who are you?" she demanded, trying to keep the fear and confusion out of her voice as she glared into the mask of Red X.
The man stepped backward, reaching for his belt, before abruptly freezing. One arm rose up in front of him, the hand shakily pointing at her.
"You…" he breathed, staggering backward even further. "No… No, it can't be. You- You're-"
His reaction further confused her, but the potential danger was the more pressing concern.
"Who are you?" she reiterated, more forcefully this time, the glow around her hands intensifying.
Red X lifted his hands to the level of his shoulders, palms facing outward in a gesture of surrender.
"Star," he whispered, and her heart completely stopped, "it's me." He touched one of his hands to the center of his chest to emphasize the point. "It's Robin."
Her breathing was shallow, the glow of her hands flickering with indecision. He sounded like Robin, and yet not exactly. Robin had masqueraded as Red X before, but, beneath the mask, she could not be sure.
"Here, I'll- I'll prove it to you," he assured, his hands lowering.
She stiffened her arm, green glow back in full, and pointed it directly at his chest in warning.
"Easy," he coaxed, slowing his movements. "I'm just going to get something out of my suit. Okay?" he added, seeking permission.
She hesitated, and then nodded slowly, but she did not lower her hand.
Red X reached under his mask, pulling down the collar of his uniform with one hand while the other fished around underneath.
Starfire watched his hands intensely, every muscle readied to dodge an explosive or an adhesive 'X' or-
She gasped, her arms crumpling to her sides. There, hanging from a chain around his neck, was the crystal star pendant Robin had purchased for her last Christmas. She remembered him pushing it across the table at her early that morning, before anyone else had awoken, and mumbling an explanation of how he thought she would like it before choking out a 'You're welcome' at her bone-crushing gratitude.
"I- I couldn't let them throw everything out," he muttered, pulling the necklace up in front of his face and turning it between two fingers. "Just in case you weren't-" He cut short, sighing heavily, and let the necklace drop onto his chest.
Tears welled up in Starfire's eyes as she ran at him, snow flying behind her purple boots. "Robin!" she blurted out, wrapping her arms around his neck. Tears of relief rolled down her cheeks and fell onto his-
She stood back, a quizzical expression on her face. "You are-" she hesitated, biting her lip as she questioned how to finish.
She blushed, but nodded.
He simply laughed his wonderfully familiar laugh. "Yea, ten years will do that," he answered, his tone growing mournful as the sentence progressed.
"Robin," she ventured, turning to look at the bleak cityscape surrounding them, "what has happened to our city? What has become of our friends? Why are you-"
"Slow down, Star," he interrupted, hitting a button on his utility belt, which glowed red in response. "I'll explain everything, but I warn you," he said gravely as a black motorcycle sped toward them of its own accord, "you won't like what you hear."
The motorcycle pulled up beside them and he climbed on, handing her the only helmet. It had always been fruitless to argue the logic of this arrangement with the Robin she had known, so she simply took the helmet from him and clambered onto the back. Feeling slightly uncomfortable holding him around the waist like she would have usually done, she opted to grip his shoulders instead.
He chuckled, shaking his head slightly, before turning the handle and taking off down the road.
They did not speak through the course of their journey, partly because the frigid wind was whipping the breath out of her, and partly because she did not know what to say. This was Robin, her Robin, and yet a stranger at the same time. The concept made her head spin.
Robin- Red X- Whomever, pulled into a garage that opened as they approached, apparently linked to some sort of sensor. The door was a heavy metal; something Starfire guessed was a method of protection from those rising crime rates. The R -or was it X now?- Cycle squealed to a stop in the center of the room, which was startlingly bare.
"Um…" she began, voicing her confusion.
"Titans, Go" he said, his voice loud and clear.
Her eyebrows rose as she worried for his sanity, but then she noticed one of the walls was rolling away into the ceiling.
"Password," he explained, getting off the motorcycle and offering her a hand to do the same.
She took it, stepping off the motorcycle and returning his helmet.
"Come on," he beckoned, walking toward the revealed opening, hanging the helmet up on a hook as he went.
"It's a little…uh…messy," he apologized. "I don't exactly get many visitors. Secret hideout and all." He shrugged, lifting a pile of folders off a chair and gesturing for her to sit down.
Starfire was frozen, however, gaping at the room before her. It was absolutely massive, the walls shiny and metallic, with hundreds of screens, computers, scanners, and other pieces of technology Starfire had never seen before littering the walls. Where there was not an electronic device, there were newspaper clippings tacked to the walls, or the boards of white that one writes on with the disappearing markers. There were no rooms to speak of, just a kitchen in one corner and a bed in another, the space entirely open. Aside from the bed and the chairs at each of the several computer stations around the perimeter of the room, the only pieces of furniture were a grey sofa and a low, metal table set between the sofa and television. The table, and half of the sofa, was piled with yellow folders, sheets of paper sticking out at odd angles. Starfire shivered, feeling as though she were in a prison more than a dwelling
"It's not much," Robin added as he noticed her surveying, "but it's home."
"It is…" she faltered. Unable to think of a way to continue without being impolite, she changed the subject. "Robin, why do you live here? What has happened to our home?"
He hung his head, scratching the back of his neck uncomfortably. "Star…Titans Tower, The Teen Titans… They- They don't exist anymore."
Her throat went dry. "What- What do you mean? Our friends, what has happened to our friends?"
"Your friends," he countered. "They haven't been friends of mine for a long time…" he trailed off sadly, seemingly lost in thought.
She could not understand what she was hearing. She tried to formulate a response, another question, but her mouth only opened and closed with failed attempts.
"Sit down," he gently invited a second time, "I'll explain. But, remember," he turned serious, "I warned you. Things are different now, Star. A lot different."
She nodded to show she understood, sitting down and folding her hands in her lap.
"Alright, just-", he knelt down in front of her, and she awkwardly looked into the black holes of his mask, "promise you won't hate me."
She felt her face contort with confusion. "Robin," she answered gently, "I could never hate you." She smiled, but he turned his head away from her and stood up.
"We'll see," he said ominously, and the smile fell from her face.
"After you disappeared into that wormhole with Warp, we looked everywhere. For months we scoured the city, the county, the state. We contacted everyone we knew, organized search parties. I even called in a Batman favor," he said with added grandeur, as if that one statement explained the gravity of the situation. "But, we couldn't find you. After a few years, we just sort of assumed…" he trailed off, turning toward her.
She nodded to confirm she knew what he meant, and he seemed relieved that he did not have to say it.
"We were…boxing up your room," he voice faltered slightly, "when we found the...stuff in the back of your closet."
She gasped, a hand smacking over her mouth with a clap. She thought of Robin, her Robin, finding that, thinking she was dead. The betrayal he must have felt.
"Robin," she began to explain, but he raised a hand to stop her.
"Just, let me get through this, okay?" he implored.
She closed her mouth and nodded, the guilt making her insides squirm.
"So, we found…that, and, when we opened it," his hands clenched into fists, "he was there." Robin spat the word as if it were poison, making Starfire wince.
"He said he wanted to meet us, all of us. Said he would explain everything. And, when we got there," his voice dropped, "he did."
Starfire trembled, imagining how angry he must have been at her.
"He told us about that day with the Chronoton Detonator, about the nanobots, about how he blackmailed you, everything." His voice was getting frantic, his movements frenzied.
"And then- then he told us that he sent you after the clock. He told you to keep it from Warp. It was his fault. All of it!" he shouted, making Starfire jump.
"He- HE KILLED YOU!," he screamed, kicking over a nearby chair. He then stilled and fell silent, breathing heavily.
"I- I lost it, Star…" he continued, his voice soft and broken now. "I could've saved you. I could've stopped him. But I- I failed you. I let him-" he faded off, unable to say it again. "If I had been more decisive, if I had stopped him when I had the chance-"
"Robin," she interrupted, a fearful suspicion growing in her mind. "What- What did you do?" She had not intended it to come out as accusatory, but she could not keep her suspicion out of her voice.
He was still for a moment, his back rising and falling with a deep, steeling breath, before turning to face her, his body straight and tall.
"I had failed you as a hero," he concluded, "so I stopped being one."
She felt her brain go numb, unable to believe what she was hearing. Robin, her Robin. He would not. He could not.
"Ro-Robin," she stammered, shaking her head, "you- you did not… Robin?" She was pleading, willing it not to be true.
"I killed him," he confirmed, his voice like ice. "Killed him like the rat he was."
She shook her head violently now, her hands coming up to her ears as tears streamed down her face, but she could not block out his voice.
"The others…they couldn't accept that, couldn't understand. They rejected me, so I became Red X, enemy of The Teen Titans. At least, until they disbanded and moved aw-."
"No, no, NO!" she shrieked hysterically as she leapt up from her chair, unable to look at the watery figure in front of her. "You would not do such a thing! My Robin would not do this! You are a liar, an imposter!"
"Starfire, calm down!" He moved toward her, hands outstretched toward her shoulders, but she roughly pushed him away.
"DO NOT TOUCH ME!" Her throat felt like it was ripping in half as she screamed through the sobs. "Where is Robin? What have you done with him? WHERE IS ROBIN!?"
"Dammit, Starfire!" he shouted back at her, his deep voice echoing off the metal walls. "Don't you understand? I am Robin! I looked for you, I cried for you, I lost you, and I killed the man that took you from me!"
She cowered under his fury, collapsing back into the chair and pulling her knees up under her chin.
"He killed you, Star. He killed you, and I- I never got to-" he choked, turning his back to her.
Starfire was furious and astoundingly hurt, but what she heard in Robin's voice just then broke through that somewhat. He was…crying? She would swear he was, but, when he turned back to her, all traces of it were gone from his demeanor.
"I'm sorry," he said softly, "I shouldn't have told you." He walked over to one of the computers. "We should be focusing on getting you back." He hit a few keys and the screens burst to life, various maps appearing.
Several minutes of silence passed, Starfire breathing deeply into her knees. Her eyes were closed as she tried to process what she had heard. She could not believe her Robin would do those things. She could not believe her friends would turn on him. She could not believe the one event of her disappearance had caused so much to unravel.
Her head jolted up, hope rising in her chest.
"That is the solution!" she cried, and Robin spun around in his chair.
"What?" he answered, startled and obviously confused.
"If we can find a way to return me," she rose from the chair and walked over to stand beside him, "we can ensure none of this ever happens. We can change our future!"
She pulled Warp's button from her belt, holding it out to the still-masked man in front of her. "I removed this from Warp's suit. I believe it is why I am only ten years into the future as opposed to the hundred Warp intended to travel. It is badly damaged," she said regretfully, dropping the device into his outstretched hand, "but, perhaps, if we can repair it…"
"I think I know just the man for the job," and she heard the smile in his voice.
He rose from the chair, walking over to a different section of the computer-covered wall.
"I held onto this," he said quietly, hitting a button in front of him, "just in case."
A panel of metal in the console in front of him slid back, and from the opening emerged a Titan communicator.
Starfire smiled at the sight, her hand automatically reaching down to slide her fingers against her own communicator.
Robin took the communicator from its stand, dialing a number from memory. He then held it out in front of his face, awaiting an answer.
"Yo, man, I told you, you can't just call me up out of the blue! What if I was with-"
"Nice to see you too," Robin interrupted, and Starfire heard a grumble of response that was unmistakably-
"Cyborg?" she asked, stepping forward curiously.
"Um…Robin?" she heard Cyborg inquire nervously.
"Yes, Cyborg?" Robin answered in a cocky, knowing sort of way.
"Are you watching home movies or something in there? Because, dude, I gotta tell you, that is just plain-"
"Oh, for crying out loud!" Robin interrupted angrily, turning the communicator around.
"Cyborg!" Starfire exclaimed, floating over to the communicator that displayed her friend's face. "It is glorious to see you!"
"Star?" he whispered, leaning so close to the screen, only his eyes were visible. "Is that really you?"
She nodded excitedly. "Indeed, friend! I have-" but Robin interrupted her by turning the communicator back to face him, ignoring her dejected pout.
"She ripped this off of Warp's suit," he raised the device into view. "It's what he used to create the portal. We think we can use it to send her back, but we need your-"
"On my way. The usual place?" Cyborg probed, his tone earnest.
"The usual place," Robin affirmed with a nod, and Starfire heard the beep signaling the call had concluded.
"Shall we go?" Starfire prodded, eager to return to her friends.
"Not yet," he replied, his fingers already dialing another number. "We have a few more calls to make."
Starfire paced across the concrete floor, the abandoned warehouse echoing with her steps.
"You could sit you know," Robin suggested for the eighth time, tapping next to him on the pile of plywood he was perched on. He had removed the Red X mask, replacing it with a slightly different version of his Robin one, so she could clearly see the smirk on his face.
"I am still angry at you," she scolded. "You are still very much in the house for dogs!"
He laughed so hard, he nearly fell off his makeshift seat. "I forgot how funny you were," he wheezed through fading laughs.
She glowered down at him. "I am not intending to be humorous," she said flatly.
"No, of course not," he said quickly, clearing his throat. "Sorry," he added, and she nodded to accept the apology.
"Seriously though, could you sit down for a second? There's…something I need to say."
She stopped her pacing, her eyes narrowing apprehensively.
"No new bombshells, I promise," he assured, placing his right hand over his heart.
Not without trepidation, she settled down on the plywood next to him, making sure none of her bare skin was touching the splintered surface.
"There's something that's...haunted me, ever since you disappeared," he began, his head turned away from her. "Do you remember- well, of course you do, it was this morning." He chuckled at himself, and Starfire could not help but smile faintly as well.
"Ya know that- that fight we had?" he hesitated, his fingers twisting around one another in his lap.
"I believe two parties are required to participate in order for it to be considered a fight," she snipped bitterly. "But, yes," she let the anger fade from her voice, "I know what it is you are referring to."
"Right…" he acknowledged uncomfortably. "Well, I just wanted to say-"
"Robin?" came a low hiss from the opposite side of the warehouse.
"Over here," he whispered with mock urgency, and the way his head inclined toward her, she could tell he had winked.
She barely suppressed a giggle at the anticipation, rising from the planks to stand beside him.
"Where?" The voice drifted over to them from somewhere in the darkness.
"Rob?" Another voice broke in, also whispering.
"What?" the first voice answered, obviously confused.
"Who's there?" the second visitor demanded.
"Robin, this isn't funny," the first person grumbled.
"Robin, you in here?" cut in an entirely new, third voice.
"Okay, what the h-" but the owner of the second voice, now at a normal volume and full of frustration, fell silent as the main warehouse lights came on.
Robin leaned against the wall next to her, one hand on the light switch and a coy grin on his face. She stood beside him, trying to exude the same level of smugness.
"Raven, Cyborg, Beast Boy," he listed, in order of appearance, as he inclined his head to each of them. "Long time no see. Well," he amended, pushing off the wall, "not together, anyway."
"You said you were going shopping!" Beast Boy fumed, pointing accusatorily.
"And you believed that?" Raven goaded in an obvious attempt to distract his condemnation. "Besides, you said you were going to the movies with Cyborg!" She pointed back at him, redirecting guilt.
"Woah, B, not cool," Cyborg admonished. "You can't lie to your-"
"Hem-hem!" Robin interjected pointedly, shooting Starfire a sidelong glance.
The three new arrivals fell silent at the sight of her, all arguments seemingly forgotten.
"We have much more important things to worry about at the moment," Robin continued, walking toward the threesome, Starfire following him dutifully.
"And, for the record," he added, a smile dancing at the corners of his lips, "you're all filthy, rotten liars."
A three-tone chorus of objections broke out, forcing Robin to shout over the din.
"Hey! HEY!" he bellowed, and the group fell silent. "Don't even try and deny it. You all kept in contact with me, and you all lied about it," he expatiated. "Now, if you three don't mind," he condescended, "I'd like to try and rewrite some history." He folded his arms over his chest, staring them down.
Her future friends guiltily avoided one another's eyes before grumbling to a tentative truce.
"Now, Cyborg," Robin began, revealing the piece of Warp's suit, "what can you do with this?"
"Work miracles," he answered confidently, grabbing the circular device out of Robin's hand and beginning to examine it immediately.
"Raven, Starfire thinks Warp might have landed in this time period too. Do you think you could-"
"Whoa, hang on a second!" Beast Boy railed, pushing himself into the center of the group. "I get that we have to get down to business here, but aren't we forgetting something?"
The three Titans in front of her exchanged knowing glances, and that was the last thing she saw before she was entirely enveloped in bodies.
"EEEEP!" she squealed, the sound smothered by what she thought was Raven's shoulder. "Friends, please!" she pleaded, wriggling uselessly in the pile. "It is difficult to respire in this position," she wheezed.
"Sorry, little lady," Cyborg winked, releasing her.
"We just missed you is all," Beast Boy added, grinning at her as he pulled away.
Raven, however, did not remove her arms from around Starfire's neck.
"Raven?" Starfire inquired, but her friend did not reply.
"Raven?" she reiterated, her concern growing, and she attempted to shift positions so as to see Raven's face. As she did so, a small sniffle emanated from the girl, and everyone froze.
"Raven…" Beast Boy breathed, his mouth agape, "are you…crying?"
"No," she whimpered, her voice muffled by Starfire's shoulder.
"Raven," the shape-shifter insisted, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder.
At his touch, her head rose up, and Starfire caught a glimpse of her friend's slightly older, glistening, violet eyes.
"Oh, Raven!" she blurted, gripping the girl anew and squeezing her tightly, tears welling up in her own eyes.
"Starfire!" Raven puffed weakly, tapping her shoulder.
"Oh, my apologies!" She lowered the girl back to the ground, and they exchanged small smiles before Raven returned to her position at Beast Boy's side.
"Told you she had a heart," Beast Boy jested, elbowing Cyborg gently in the side.
Raven responded with a smack to the back of his head, but it did not appear to be as forceful as the ones Starfire was used to seeing.
She eyed the pair curiously, her mouth opening to question, but she was interrupted by a loud explosion over their heads.
Before she could even look up, she was on the ground several feet away, Robin hovering over her protectively.
"The Teen Titans, together again," a gruff, male voice scoffed.
Robin rolled off to the side, staff unfolding as he rose up in an attack position.
"Pity it's the last time!" Warp cried, sending a blast of electricity toward Raven, who deflected it with her own, black energy.
"Give me the component you stole, girl!" he demanded, pointing a closed fist at Starfire, who still lay sprawled on the ground.
She raised an arm in front of her face protectively as Warp's hand glowed white.
"Over my dead body," Robin growled, stepping in front of her.
"If you insist," Warp granted, firing a blast toward them.
Still wearing his Red X suit, Robin shot a large, sticky "X" back at him.
"AGH!" Warp cried, quickly creating a shield as Robin's attack pushed his explosion back toward him.
"Ha!" he called triumphantly. "You still cannot defeat me, boy," he brandished the gold clock in his hand to illustrate his point. "I am Warp, Master of Time-AH!" he yelped as a green gorilla tackled him to the ground.
"Cyborg!" Robin yelled, rushing forward to join the fray.
"I almost got it!" the half-robot called back, working with the blowtorch contained in his index finger.
"Well, hurry!" Robin dodged a flying Beast Boy and hit Warp with his staff, metal sparking on metal. He then jumped out of the way as Raven's black band of energy shot past him.
Starfire rose up from the floor, eyes glowing as she launched herself forward. She caught Warp mid-air as he was blasted back by Raven's energy. Whirling him around with a cry, she flung him into the ground, the concrete cracking where he landed. She fired starbolts as soon as he landed, hoping to make contact before he enabled his shields.
All the Titans froze, watching the cloud of dust clear. When it did, however, there was no Warp to be revealed. All that remained of him was an empty suit, crackling with electricity, and the golden clock sitting neatly beside it.
"What-" Starfire began to ask, lowering herself to the ground beside the gathering group, when a loud -crack- interrupted her.
Above Warp's destroyed suit, a portal had opened; the black void glowing white around the edges.
"Cyborg!" Robin called over his shoulder.
"BOOYAH!" came Cyborg's enthused reply, and a blast of blue came rocketing past them into the portal. "I'm reconfiguring the wormhole," he explained, hitting buttons on his arm. "It should take you back, but I can't keep it open for long."
Robin rushed past her, grabbing a wrist to drag her along with him as he ran to the portal, scooping the clock up as they went.
"Here," he said earnestly, placing the clock in her hand.
"Robin, wait!" She grabbed his wrist to keep him there. "What were you going to tell me?"
"Starfire," he hissed, impatient, "there isn't time."
"Speak with haste," she challenged.
"Ugh, you're impossible! Fine!" he stammered rapidly, throwing his hands up in defeat before hurriedly continuing. "I'm sorry. I hated myself for those being the last words I ever said to you, and past me probably won't apologize for it, but I want you to know that I'm sorry," he finished, panting.
"Why have you been acting the strange lately?" she spoke equally fast.
"Star, seriously?!" he pleaded, exasperated. "Look," he sighed at her resolute glare, "I can't tell you that. It could affect the past. All I can tell you is I'm working very hard to protect you the only way I know how."
"Being a clorbag valblernek," she qualified.
"What? Sure, yes, let's go with that," he rambled. "Now go!" He pushed her backward toward the portal.
"My favorite color is green!" he mockingly anticipated.
"What will become of you if you do not turn into the Red X?" she asked, completely ignoring his outburst.
"I don't know, Star," he moaned, fingers kneading his forehead. "My plan was to eventually go solo and dump the Robin persona."
"What person would you adopt instead?" she inquired, feeling a slight satisfaction at his weakening resolve.
"Nightwing, okay!?" he shouted again, proving her wrong. "I like the name Nightwing! Now, GO!"
"I can't hold it!" Cyborg yelled, and Robin frantically twisted his head back to look at him before turning back to her.
"OH, FOR CRYING OUT- WHAT!?" He was practically screaming in her face now, but she simply smiled up at him.
"I am fond of Nightwing as well"
And, with that, she stepped through the portal, smiling softly at his gaping expression before it all swirled to black.
She looked up from the clock clutched in her arms to see Robin, her Robin, kneeling in front of her.
"Robin?" she asked weakly, gazing up at him.
"Star?" he answered, his voice full of worry.
"Is your favorite color really green?"
"Huh?" he mumbled, and she was once again giggling at his bemused expression.
"And then, Nightwing gave me the clock and I entered the portal," she concluded her highly-edited story.
Her friends' faces were all inches away from hers, as they had slowly leaned further and further in during the course of her retelling.
"Woooooah," Beast Boy droned, dazed.
"You said it," Cyborg affirmed, rising up off the couch. "So, who wants pizza?" he beckoned cheerily, abruptly changing gears.
Beast Boy's stomach grumbled loudly. "Count me in!" and he leapt off the back of the couch to follow Cyborg.
Raven simply shrugged and floated off after them.
Starfire rose to follow, suddenly realizing how hungry she was, when a light pressure on her wrist stilled the movement.
"Star," Robin started softly, and she settled back onto the couch next to him. "About…earlier, I- I didn't mean to- I've been really busy and I haven't been sleeping and- Well, I just-"
"It is okay, Robin," she comforted, placing a hand over his on the couch. "I believe I understand. There is no need to apologize."
He looked at her quizzically, but did not press the issue further. Rising up off the couch, and offering her a helping hand, he headed toward the door as Starfire walked beside him.
"So," he mused, his mouth curving up into a smirk as he held the door for her, "Nightwing, huh?"