AN: The title of this piece is taken from the Hans Christian Andersen version of The Little Mermaid; it's what he calls the youngest mermaid since she can't speak. The original fairytale that Starfire is reading here is far different from the Disney version, so if you're not familiar with it, you'll probably want to take a look before you start this. It's just a couple pages and can easily be found by Googling.

Disclaimer: You already know I don't own the Titans, but I guess I have to say I'm not Hans Christian Andersen either? Probably a good thing since that'd make me 209 years old.

The Dumb Child

"…and she danced again quite readily, to please him, though each time her foot touched the floor it seemed as if she trod on sharp knives." The book trembled in Starfire's hands, but still she continued reading aloud. In the privacy of her room, with only Silkie as an audience, she did not fight the tears that welled in her eyes, merely blinking them down her cheeks so as to leave her vision unimpeded. When the last word had been uttered to the silence, the Tamaranean took a deep, shuddering breath, closed the book, and rose from her bed.

The walk down the hall was not a long one, but not floating made the journey seem interminable. Raising a hand to knock on a door not often touched, Starfire was only partly surprised when it opened without prompting on her part.

Raven sat in the lotus position on her bed. "Come in," she whispered, indicating a spot next to her. Starfire complied, hugging the book to her chest as she crossed the room. As she took a seat, Raven gestured with a black-wreathed hand, and the door slid shut.

Silence hung between them as the words in Starfire's stomach slid up to compress her lungs, then her throat. "You are right; the story was quite accurate. That is… exactly how it feels," she finally managed to whisper. "Every moment is like walking on knives, and yet I continue. It is all I can do. I fear that if I do not, he will find me… unworthy. And yet, for all that I do, for all my suffering, he still does not see me the way that I wish him to."

A purple head bobbed in acknowledgement. "But unlike the girl in that story," Raven replied, "You can stop hurting yourself and just embrace who you are. That's why I refuse to correct you when you do something outside of Earth's cultural norms… and why I get upset when you suppress everything you think is 'too alien'." She sighed. "You hide it well on the outside, but I can feel what it does to you when you push aside the parts of Tamaran that are important to you, when you try to become something other than yourself just so that you can fit in. And I'm not going to help you do that to yourself. I'll tell you when there's a hiccup in your English, because I know learning linguistic subtleties makes you happy, but that's as far as I'm willing to go."

Starfire gave the empath a sad smile as she set the borrowed book down on the comforter. "You are better to me than I am to myself, Raven."

"Which, by the way, means you need to start being better to yourself," Raven admonished, pointing a finger at the princess. "I have a very finite amount of being good to people that I can stomach, and lately I've been using most of it up on not murdering Beast Boy in exceedingly painful ways."

A giggle slipped from Starfire's mouth. "I believe he seeks to crush you."

Raven cocked her head to the side. "I think you got something a little mixed up there. Is there a word you meant instead of crush?"

The empath's confusion only elicited further giggles from the princess. "Oh, no, I am quite certain of that word. I overheard Cyborg teasing Beast Boy about the crushing as it relates to you."

"Okay," Raven replied, oblivious in her determination to explain English slang to Starfire. "So that means the phrase you're looking for is to have a crush on someone. For example, you said that Beast Boy has a crush… on…" Raven trailed off, blinking like a newborn. "Oh, Azar."

"I believe," Starfire said with a slowly-spreading grin, "That it is time to have the 'girl talk,' yes?"