Funny How Love Is
This is a team effort, so let's break it all down and find who's responsible for what.
Title by Freddie Mercury Alas, poor Freddie. I knew him, Horatio.
Based on the story by William Shakespeare Hack playwright Willy S.
Adapted to TTA universe by Iain R. Lewis. That's me. Hi.
Characters by Marv Wolfman, George Perez, Bob Kane, and some other dude that no one remembers. Geniuses, all of them. Even no one remembers dude.
Best Team Book Ever by Keith Giffen, J.M. DeMatteis and Kevin Maguire. No! Not Teen Titans. Formerly Known as the Justice League. Go and buy the Trade Paperback now or live your life deprived of the wonders of Maxwell Lord's accessible Super Group. 1-800-Superbud, the power of Hoppy the Marvel Bunny compels you.
"From the Earth below and the Heavens above, that's how far and funny is love... That's what love is, that's what love is"
The October weather took a turn for the worse as Starfire's howl tore through the Tower. The Titans ran to her side, as she sat reading a letter almost disbelieving. "This, this is most horrible! Most horrifying! Most saddening!" she cried. Robin moved to her side.
"What's wrong, Star?" he asked. He placed a hand comfortingly on her shoulder, but she shrugged it off flying towards her room quickly without answering. The Titans looked to one another. "Am I the only one wondering what just happened?"
"No," Raven muttered, rolling her eyes. "She's feeling an intense wave of grief. I don't know why, but it's overwhelming."
"I see." Robin frowned, he took to the door. "I'll go talk to her."
"That'd be wise," Raven muttered. He hurried up to her dormitory room. He almost rapped upon her door when he found himself overwhelmed with doubt. There was no reason for him to be so worried. It was Starfire after all. But he just didn't find any resolve in him to knock on the door. "Something bothering you?" He turned around to see Raven looking on coolly. "Maybe you should have someone go talk to her."
"Could you?" Robin asked with a generous smile. She rolled her eyes and walked down the hall. "Please?"
"No." She turned to eye him over his shoulder. "Do not ask again." He frowned. Then he began poking the knob for reasons even beyond him. It didn't poke back. She paused again. "Ask one of the guys."
He thought it over and then went to ask Beast Boy. "Could you, uh, you know, talk to Star?"
Beast Boy looked him over like he had grown a horn in the middle of his head. And then he looked around him carefully. Robin squirmed under the scrutiny. He then sat back down, very calmly, and collected himself. "I have come to the conclusion," Beast Boy began, "That you're a pod person."
"What?" Robin demanded. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"What I mean is," Beast Boy said, "That the real Robin would have no trouble rushing into the girl's boudoir --"
"--Do you even know what that mea--"
"-- And take her in his arms and kiss her and make her swoon all movie-style." Beast Boy nodded, "Thus, your need for a middle man is," he laughed, "Insane."
"What do you mean?"
"Dude," Beast Boy retorted, "You're obviously into her." Robin didn't contest this, looking bashful. "But c'mon. You're like the Son of Batman for all intents and or purposes, James Bond Jr. and stuff, so it should be easy for you to comfort and woo the babe."
"Look," Robin said. "That's a popular misconception that I am, in fact, dashing. In reality, I'm about as dashing as a pepper. It's just women are, I don't know, they make me all nervous and confused."
"Dude," Beast Boy said, "I didn't want to know that!"
"You know!" he answered. "Look. I'll go talk to her. My smooth BB moves will woo her easy for you. But be careful, I could take her right from under your nose."
"But you wouldn't," Robin said.
"But I could."
"But you wouldn't--" Robin said, again, less sure.
"But I could," Beast Boy said, again mysteriously.
"Okay. Could you please find out what's wrong at the very least?" Robin pleaded. Beast Boy rolled his eyes and nodded. "Thanks! Thanks a bunch, man."
"No problemo." Robin began to wait for Beast Boy. He returned about five minutes later. "Her brother."
"She has a brother?" Robin asked.
"She has a large family," Beast Boy responded. "Didn't she tell you about Ryand'r?"
"No, she didn't," Robin responded. "That's her brother? What happened?" There was a heavy atmosphere. "Is he--?"
"Dead?" Beast Boy asked. He solemnly bowed his head. "Yeah. Died fighting the good fight somewhere out there in that big universe out there. She's really torn up about it. She's not even going to prepare one of her bizarre alien traditional puddings."
"No way," Robin said. "We should, we should give her space until she's over it."
"Yeah," Beast Boy said. "I think so."
Snow hit the ground in December. The loud drone that came from Robin's drone had been almost constant through-out November. Beast Boy and Cyborg looked from one another and to Raven whenever they passed. "You know," Cyborg said, "This really can't be healthy. Robin's been okay with coming out of his room every now and again, but he's really stricken."
"Yeah," Beast Boy agreed.
"But Starfire," Cyborg continued, "Still mourning after two months." The Titans shook their heads. "I'm going to drag him out of his room now. He's starting to," he shuddered, "Wax poetically." The Titans shook in fear. Whenever Robin moved into a poetic mood things began to get a bit strange. "Okay, wish me luck."
"Please," Raven groaned. "I don't believe in luck."
"But I do," Beast Boy said. "Good luck!"
"I'll see if I can't," Raven shivered, "Cheer Starfire up."
"Yeah," Beast Boy, "Good luck with that. Even if you don't believe in luck."
Raven hesitated. "Just this once, I'll take it." She headed towards Starfire's room. Cyborg turned to knock on Robin's.
Robin, meanwhile, sat in his room without moving. He muttered to himself, "If music be the food of love, play on. Play, play, play so that maybe I'll eat so much love that I'll puke up this emotion." He heard Cyborg's knock and looked up. "It's not locked." Cyborg opened the door. "Hey, Cy. What's up?"
"Well, besides the fact that things have been, I dunno, utterly depressing here the past," he looked pensive, "Let me see here. Two days? Weeks? Oh! I know, the past two months? Nothing really."
"That's good." He mulled over what to say next. Then he turned off the CD player violently, "That song really riles me up."
"I," Cyborg paused, "I can see that. Robin, we're going for a little ride."
"I've been on countless," Robin said. "I just wish she'd stop running from me."
"Not that ki--" Cyborg groaned, "You know what we said about your poems, right Robin?"
"You like?" Robin asked, meekly. Cyborg was about a few parts too human to answer that plea truthfully.
"Er, yeah, but don't overdo it. Dude, I mean really. She's gotta get over this soon. And would you just go talk to her? Maybe she just needs comforting from someone who cares about her enough to -- " he looked through the room, "What did I tell you about rifling through Raven's home supplies last time?"
"Great," Robin said with a roll of his eyes, "The robot-man with his garage for a room is giving me furnishing advice."
"Ouch, you wound me," Cyborg said. "Look, let's just go out, us guys, and we see if Raven isn't successful when we get back."
"Raven?" he asked.
"Yeah," Cyborg explained. "She's trying to cheer up Starfire. I'm only upset that I don't have my video cam watching to see how that goes."
"Sounds good," Robin said. "Okay, let's go."
"I suggested that, maybe, we should have gone with a giant robot," Gizmo complained. "I said we'd be able to control it, but no! You wanted Chemo. Chemo or bust, she said. Well, sistah'!" They were being held above the ground by the corroding hands of the monstrous Chemo, "I hope you're happy!"
"I am," Jinx muttered. "I always wanted to go down all King Kong style."
"Well good!" Gizmo retorted. "Because that's how we're going to go. All ker-splat on the pavement."
"Why can't we all just get along?" Mammoth asked, feeling the risk of being burned by Chemo's poisonous, acidic, and possibly even basic composition. Whatever the case, he knew he was going to be glowing in the dark for the next fortnight.
"Shut it, Mammoth," Gizmo said. "The Cludgehead got us into this mess, maybe she should get us out."
"But--" Mammoth was more concerned about his well-being. He didn't want any radiation poisoning, and that thing was glowing like no one's business. He turned to Jinx, who was being equally as stubborn as Gizmo.
"I'm not doing anything until Gizmo apologizes for conjecturing that my mother was a prostitute," she retorted.
"When did I-- what do you mean conjecture?" There was a pause, "Oh!"
"Shut it," Jinx said. "Unless, of course, you're going to apologize."
"In your dreams!" Gizmo yelled. "Heck, I'll only apologize when you're dating some kinda superhero."
"Jerk!" Jinx yelled.
No one did pay much attention to Chemo himself, who was currently looking for an oil refinery to take a big old drink from after a long period of hibernation. He moseyed through the sea while the HIVE Graduates continued to complain about whose fault was whose. Mammoth looked set to scream, and soon, so did Chemo.
"You better watch your back," Jinx yelled, "Because one of these days, I am so going to have you whacked."
"Sure, whatever," Gizmo said, "You'll have to whack me quick, because soon I'm going to terminate your breathing transactions, snot-for-brains!"
"Oh, really intelligent, there," Jinx said. Chemo's scream distracted them for only a second. "What was that about? Anyway. You should try signing up for a Comedy Night in Gotham. Maybe you'll impress the Joker enough that he'll murder you."
"That would be an honor," Gizmo said. "But I'm thinking I should get you a transfer to St. Mary's All Girl School so you can practice being a good girl for once in your life."
"Don't you dare!" Jinx yelled.
"Er, guys," Mammoth butted in. "I think you're making him mad."
"You? Think?" Jinx and Gizmo looked at Mammoth cockeyed. "Shut it."
"Look, I'm sure there's a reasonable compromise," Jinx said. "You could shut your big trap, and I could get an apology."
"No!" Gizmo retorted. Chemo screamed again.
"Uh, really, guys. He sounds mad."
"Shut. Up. Mammoth."
"No, guys!" Mammoth tried to warn them, but Chemo had finally had enough. He took the three of them, aiming towards the city, and threw them as hard as he could. He took a sip of the oil from the gushing platform, counting down to One-Mississippi, and then turned to wreak havoc on the defenseless Jump City. Whatever was going on in its limited intelligence was screaming that the city had to crumble.
In retrospect, it was likely offended by the poorly designed Titan Tower.
Raven entered Starfire's room a bit quietly. Terra followed close behind asking, "Why am I coming along again?"
"Because," Raven explained, "If this doesn't work, I'm going to need a scapegoat, and you're it."
"I am?" Terra asked. Then she paused. And then she looked about to say something. Then she became quiet again and let the events take place. She could turn that around on her later.
Starfire looked up from her bed at the sound of someone entering. "Who is there?"
"Just us," Terra said. "Raven and me."
"Oh," Starfire said, sounding both relieved and disappointed. "Good."
"Are you still," Raven muttered, "Mourning your brother?"
"Yes." Starfire sounded resigned. "I mourn him for he was as close to me as any brother was. He was as kind as the starlight and as brave as the sun burned."
"Impressive," Raven said. "So you're being an idiot."
"What?" Starfire said, rousing anger. "How dare you call me a fool for mourning the demise of a loved one! You are the fool, Raven!"
"That may be so," Raven said. She didn't really mind being the fool. "However, I can prove that I, I am the lady and you the fool so easily that, well, it should be about as difficult as pointing out that Beast Boy is green."
"Very well," Starfire said, looking a bit incredulous towards Raven. "Speak this logic to me."
"You mourn your brother, right?"
"And that in turn must mean that your brother's death was a cowardly one."
"No!" Starfire said. "He died fighting with the Omega Men to free their galaxy! He was a hero!"
"But he must have been cowardly at his death," Raven said, "Because you mourn him. In so much that, if I were in your place, I would not mourn this long. If you believe in the Hereafter, did he not deserve Heavenly things? Because the way you're talking, it makes me feel he must have deserved something much, much, much worse."
"Is that so?" Starfire said. "So you believe I should not mourn."
"You've mourned enough," Raven said. "I'm sure his memory's pleased, but he must be in a better place to have lived as you said he did."
"That is, that is very true!" Starfire said. "Oh, you have made me feel much better, friend Raven. You are truly a wise and just soul."
"Aw," Raven said, monotonously, "Shucks."
"Well, that went better than I expected," Terra said. "So, you guys up for some Pizza?"
Jinx moaned. The sound of the sea was nearby, but she was on dry land. Whoever had saved her had saved her good. She didn't even feel that cold. There was the sound of footsteps nearby, and she turned to look at who it was that was approaching. She didn't recognize him, but the noble brow and the handsome features certainly were enough to make her recognize him if she saw him again. "You're awake."
"Uh, hi," she said. She giggled spontaneously. "Did you--?"
"You were thrown by that monster pretty far. I managed to get you to shore."
"Was there anyone else--?" Jinx asked. "No one?"
"No, I'm sorry," he said. "I'm Aqualad."
"I'm delighted," Jinx said. "Er, I mean, I'm, uh, never mind. You, uh, say, you're not from the Teen Titans by any chance, are you?"
"Not exactly," Aqualad said, "But I'm on their reserve team. That beeper thing they gave me has been going nuts too. But it's too far in shore for me to be any real help." The image of the fish boy running around on dry land trying to summon up fish amused Jinx for a minute. "But, if you're looking for them -- are you here to join them?"
"Why, uh, yeah!" Jinx said. He probably wasn't stupid. But he also wasn't familiar with the dry land. If there was one thing he was, it was gullible. "Was looking for them when I ran into that, er, that thing. And then it threw me and a few super villains I had run across clear. It was scary."
"Well, you're safe now." Aqualad looked towards the city. "That thing is still causing some trouble. I was going to suggest you help them in my place, but you're probably still shaken. I remember when Tula --" there was a nasty glance from Jinx, " -- she's not exactly a hero type but she sometimes comes along with me on less dangerous assignments you see -- she once got into a nasty situation with an octopus, and if Arthur hadn't been in earshot, I'm not sure what would have happened."
"Gee, that's fascinating and all, but I think I'm going to go get some revenge on the Chemical Disaster over there. Thanks for the rescue, talk to you later, ta ta. G'bye." She headed off towards the city. She thought for a second -- she'd need a super-hero costume, and that should conceal her identity. The only thing she was worried about was her voice.
Then an idea hit her.
"It's just," Robin continued, much to Beast Boy and Cyborg's chagrin, "Anyone who could mourn a brother like that, imagine what she'd be like to a boyfriend. She'd be the perfect girlfriend."
"Thank you," Cyborg said, "For elaborating on that for the entire ride."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Robin said, coolly. "You asked."
"That I did," Cyborg said. "And I'm sorry for it. Happy?"
"Quite," Robin said. "I feel a bit better. It's just, I can't get her out of my head."
"Fine, fine!" Beast Boy yelled, "Just keep her in there and not talk about it for five minutes maybe?" Cyborg looked at the road. "What's taking so long, Cy?"
"I don't know. This giant chemical monster is taking up three lanes and is just standing there." They looked at each other, and then announced in one voice, "A Giant Chemical Monster?"
"Okay," Robin said, "I'll hit the signal. You guys get clearing the civilians. Let's go Titans!"
"Right!" the Teens agreed. Cyborg ran to the civilians, helping them away from Chemo, while Beast Boy provided speedy retreats as a stallion running down the street and over several cars. Robin, meanwhile, it the signal.
"Hurry up, guys," Robin said. "Don't know how long I can hold this guy." He threw a freeze disc at Chemo, which successfully frosted the giant chemical beast for all of five seconds before the materials began to leak through the container to burn away the ice. "Well, that's one doubt that's been relieved."
"What's wrong?" Cyborg asked.
"My ice disc isn't enough to hold him for more than, say," Robin estimated, "Four seconds."
"Not good," Beast Boy said. "And to make it worse, it's just really clogging up the streets."
"Right," Robin said. "We're going to have to hope reinforcements arrive soon."
"You rang?" An arrow tore through the sky and lodged itself into Chemo. It froze up the interior chemicals quickly and immobilized the beast. Speedy leapt to the ground next to Robin and gave a quick salute, "Was in the area when I got the call. Call it a hunch, but I figured that thing was the reason."
"Good hunch," Robin said. "Any idea how to dispose of it permanently?"
"Not really," Speedy said, "But I can keep it stalled while you work on that."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Robin answered. "I have a nasty feeling that shattering it will only multiply our troubles."
"That's not leaving us with many options. Heck," Beast Boy said, "The only thing I know how to do is smash things into little pieces." The girls arrived after that. "Hey! Terra!"
"BB!" she laughed, "What is this thing? A reject from the Silver Age?"
"I'm guessing it's a space monster, but," Beast Boy stressed, "But it hasn't said anything yet so it may just be an abomination of science like all the rest of its kinds."
"This is most disastrous!" Starfire said. "We must destroy it!"
"No!" Speedy yelled. "We're only containing it. We're probably just going to make more of them if we shatter him. Just leave it be. I'll freeze it if it starts moving again."
"Who's Robin's evil twin?" Raven asked, emerging behind Cyborg.
"Speedy. We met him when this Master of Games guy decided it'd be fun to steal all our powers and go Super Skrull on Robin's rear." Raven rolled her eyes. "I know, insane."
"Not really," Raven said, "Remind me to tell you about the Tournament of Heroines sometimes."
"Sounds like a fun story." Cyborg looked at the monolithic Chemo ice sculpture that they had preserved. "Okay, anyone got any idea what to do with this thing?"
"I could probably move it," Raven said, "But I doubt that we have a container big enough on hand to hold it."
"If only we could neutralize him. But there's no clue as to what he's made of," Robin said. "I'd take a gamble that some of that's radioactive, but getting bit by it's not going to make us super-heroes again."
"Yeah," Cyborg muttered. "Okay, we can't shatter it, we can't contain it, all we can do is call STAR Labs and see if they can't deal with it."
"Sounds like a plan." Robin said. "Star, give me a lift to STAR Labs. Meanwhile, Speedy. Keep him stalled."
"Aye aye, mon capitan!" Speedy said. There was a twitch from Chemo that he caught from the corner of his eye. He drew the bow as quickly as he could and aimed. He waited, patiently expecting the creature to lash out when it broke free. Chemo twitched again. The ice fell to the bottom of the case. Speedy kept his bow drawn. The creature moved faster than he expected, throwing a lump of the chemicals he was composed of out of the case and at Speedy, who fired at it. He drew another trying to catch him off guard, and managed to knick him. The frozen projectile fell to the streets, damaging the pavement.
"No wonder they call him Speedy," Raven muttered. "And I thought that was only a reference to his performance in the bedroom." There was a chuckle from Terra. Beast Boy blushed.
"Girls aren't supposed to make dirty jokes!" he complained. "It's conflicting with the very image of my dear departed mother."
"Aw, don't be such a wet blanket, BB," Terra said, bringing him into a bear hug, "You know I probably should talk dirty more."
"Please!" Beast Boy said, "You're scarring my innocent brain!"
"You're not innocent and your brain is harder than a diamond," Cyborg reminded him.
"Oh, right." Beast Boy laughed, "Sorry."
"Never mind," Raven said. "That was close, Speedy. Could you be a bit more careful."
"Be more careful, she says," Speedy said rolling his eyes. "Let me see her try and shoot this thing." He took his bow and drew it back in preparation. "Whatever that thing is made of, it's fast. It managed to catch even me off guard the first time, but it won't be so lucky next time."
"That's good to know," Raven said. "Prove it."
"Is she always this antagonistic?" Speedy demanded.
"Yes," Beast Boy and Cyborg chimed in. "She's even managed to make Robin cry once."
"Okay," Speedy said. "That's impressive."
"You boys are flattering me," Raven said, her voice carefully a drone. "Now be quiet and keep an eye on him until we've got STAR Labs back-up here." Speedy gritted his teeth. Chemo was either playing dead or truly frozen now. "Look out!"
Smaller Chemos moved towards the Titans, having emerged from the chunk that had been frozen. Whether or not this thing had a primitive brain was now being debated. The monstrosities leapt at Speedy, who dove to the side, only to be leapt at again by another smaller group. "I'm surrounded!" The Chemos slowly chewed away at the pavement beneath them. Raven picked the ones closest too her up and suspended them mid-air. Speed dove under them and pulled out his trick arrows He stabbed at the nearest Chemo Jr. and it froze in place, dropping to the ground with a shattering sound.
"Well," Beast Boy said, "Now we know it was a good idea not to shatter that thing."
"Yeah," Cyborg said. "Real good idea. You okay, Speedy?"
"Yeah," Speedy said, breathing heavily. "Real good. Could they be any slower?" Chemo twitched again. "Oh great, and Monster Sr.'s beginning to move again as well." He loaded his bow and aimed, "Well, pard'ner, draw."
Chemo did, removing the arrows that had previously tore into his container. Speedy's eyes widened. He quickly fired and then jumped on top of a nearby car. The others followed suit. "I don't believe it. He's leaking."
"This is great," Beast Boy said, "Is there anything to that thing but chemicals?"
"No," Robin said, descending from above on Starfire's careful grip. "It's called 'Chemo', and it's unique composition of elements given life by a mad scientist."
"Abomination of Science," Beast Boy said. "Oh yeah, I'm good."
"Anyway," Robin said, "This thing was released by our old friends Jinx, Mammoth, and Gizmo and it promptly carried them off."
"No kidding," Cyborg said. "They bit off a little more than they could chew, that's for sure." The chemicals began to thaw again. "You sure you ain't losing any power on those arrows."
"No, more surface area," Robin explained. "More of it is getting heat now. This is a big problem The STAR labs guys can't get here with the containment unit with this stuff on the street."
"What do we do?" Terra asked. Someone ran up to the group.
"Dilute it in water," whoever it was explained. "That should do the trick." Robin's face brightened.
"Got it. Terra! Break open the street. Make it fall into the sewers!" he commanded. Terra nodded, and her fists began to glow bright yellow as the pavement was pulled aside to reveal the sewers beneath. The chemicals that were once Chemo fell into the sewer and began to dilute in the water flowing through the sewage. "That was a close one. Thanks for your help, uh...?"
"My name, yes, that's right. My name, uh, is," he hesitated, "The name's Cesario, that's right. Cesario."
"Well, Cesario. You really helped us out of a pinch," Beast Boy said. "What brings you here?"
"Uh," he hesitated, "Aqualad told me that you guys needed help and I was looking to see if you were looking for, uh, any part-time help?" The Titans looked at each other, and then turned to look at Cesario.
"Hey, just for having the courage to have hot pink hair, we'd have given you a try," Beast Boy chimed. "And you're Aqualad's friend, so I guess that makes you okay."
"And you did help us out against Chemo," Robin said. He extended a hand. "We'll give you a try." Raven looked on a bit concerned. There was just something not right -- something even familiar about this boy. That, and his voice sounded almost blatantly like a girl trying to make her voice deep. She followed close behind Cesario, just to make sure.
"Okay," Gizmo said, coughing up water. "That was fun. Remind me never, ever, to indulge her ever again."
"Sure," Mammoth said, "Whatever that means." He shook the water from his mane, "Water is wet. I hate water. Especially when it's wet." Gizmo stared at Mammoth vacantly for a second before turning back to the sea. "Where's Jinx?"
"How should I know? Maybe she got thrown to the left some five miles. I don't know."
"We should find her," he said.
"Probably," Gizmo said. "But I don't know. She screwed up this mission pretty bad. How are we going to beat the Teen Titans if we can't even control a mindless piece of goo in a plastic human bag."
"Er," Mammoth said. "But you didn't complain."
"Yes I did!"
"After, yeah, but before you were all for Chemo." Mammoth shrugged. "I hate Chemo."
"Yeah," Gizmo said. "I do too."
"So, what do we do now?" Mammoth asked.
Gizmo thought on it. "We should try and destroy the Titans. Let's regroup at HIVE HQ, and try and work together a plan that doesn't involve Chemo." He grinned, "Then those snot-eaters will really be in deep crud."
"Yuck," Mammoth complained, "Never say that again."
Three days then passed. Speedy had stayed with them for the period of time, seeing as he was in the area he claimed, and Cesario had begun to get acquainted with the tower and all its leisure. Carefully, Cesario placed himself into the confidence of all the Titans, making progress with all except for two -- Terra, who acted oddly suspicious, and Raven, who did not trust him. The morning saw him getting some coffee when Robin had entered. They had grown particularly close, finding they shared a strange sense of humor.
He sighed. It wasn't easy to be playing the role that he was. "Hey, Cesar," Robin said. "How are you doing?"
"Not bad," Cesario admitted. "Things could be infinitely better, but with the current situation, I couldn't complain." He sat down with his coffee and looked to Robin. "Something seems to be bugging you, boss."
"Cesar," he said. "You've become one of my best friends since you've come here. You know that?"
"No," Cesario said, "I didn't. I'm flattered, Rob. I really am." Robin looked him over closely. Cesario squirmed under such scrutiny, and tried to get some conversation going. "You're also looking particularly moody today."
"Am I?" he asked. There was something going on in his head. Cesario tried to derail whatever train of thought that may be going through his head.
"Is it that girl again? You really have difficulty when it comes to those heart-to-heart things. When it's friends you're there, but try and get romantic and, well, you just stumble."
"Yeah," Robin said, still distracted. "You know, maybe you could do me a favor!"
"I could?" Cesario asked. This was going to end in tears, he just knew it. He could easily back out, he knew, but still, he was compelled to. "Okay. What's the favor?"
"Well," he said. "Could you go ask Star out on a date with me? I just, I just keep getting nervous whenever I try and--" Cesario looked crestfallen. "Something wrong?"
"No." He rose from his seat, "Okay, I'll go ask her. I guess." He whipped his pink hair back and rose from the seat. "Seven o'clock tonight?"
"Yeah," Robin said. "I'll take her to a movie."
"Okay," Cesario said. "I'll tell her that then. Don't worry." He took a deep breath and headed out to the hall. He ducked into his room and threw off the mask. "What sort of mess have you gotten yourself into, Jinx?" The disguise had fooled them enough for her to infiltrate them. She had initially planned to stay there to complete the mission, but she had forgotten about that by now.
She really liked Robin. She had discovered that fairly quickly. He was a nice guy, an honest-to-goodness nice guy in a world of frauds, and being quite a good fraud she was an expert. She was taken in by the heroic act, and the fact that he was too bashful to ask Starfire out in person was, to her at least, cute. Plus, they had gotten to talking and he had led quite an interesting life for someone her age.
She began reconstructing the illusion of masculinity. She fixed the padding down below and tightened the bindings. She looked incredibly pained to do this and muttered a silent curse. She then replaced the mask, said, "Et Viola!" and walked out the door to Starfire's door. Jinx didn't very much like Starfire. She knocked on the door and the door opened slightly. Terra peeked out. "Yeah? Oh, it's you. Starfire's been wondering about you. C'min."
"She has?" 'Cesario' asked. "How am I supposed to take that?"
"I don't know," Terra admitted. "C'mon." Cesario followed into Starfire's room, where Raven was currently meditating alongside her. "They're in middle of their bonding session."
"What the--?" The Titans were truly insane.
"Don't ask," Terra whispered. "Just play along, and don't ask."
"Okay," Cesario said. "She need you as a doorman for any particular reason?"
"She's screening her callers, just to be on the safe side. Robin's been sending the guys here," she explained, "And it's just gotten really annoying. I love BB, I do, but he feels the need to knock out 'Shave and a haircut'." Cesario nodded, understanding.
"Excuse me, uh, Miss Starfire?" Starfire looked up. "If you, uh, could, er, I kinda had to be the bearer of," Cesario rolled his eyes, "Bad News, but Robin sent me here to ask you if you'd come with him tonight to a movie."
Starfire frowned, looking Cesario over carefully. "I do not wish to see a movie if he will not ask me himself. However. Friend Cesario, come closer." Cesario looked from one side to another, and then cautiously took a step forward. "Ah! You must be the," Starfire searched for the colloquialism, "Lady-Killer I believe the term is?"
"What?" Terra asked. "Oh, that. Yeah. Cesar here's got the delicate effeminate features that make the girls go wild these days."
"Like you should talk," Raven said. "You find Beast Boy, ugh, amusing."
"Thanks?" Cesario responded. This didn't look to be going in a favorable direction. Taking a step backwards, Cesario planned his escape. "Well, Starfire, it's been great talking and all. I'll tell Rob you're washing your hair or something," he studied the length of Starfire's hair carefully, "Yeah, that should take all night. Okay, well, be seeing you around!"
Starfire watched as Cesario retreated. She pouted. "He is very attractive."
"No he's not," Raven said. "I swear, he's all Aerosmith."
"What?" Terra asked. "Even I didn't get that and I like Rock n' Roll."
"Dude," Raven spat out, "Looks like a lady?"
"Oh!" Terra said. "Yeah, kinda does. Kinda cute though, in that girly way. Do you think he's gay?"
"Wouldn't doubt it," Raven said. "Definitely moves kind of effeminately. That bounce in his step."
"Silence!" Starfire said. "Now! Let me find a ring, and I shall have you return it to him. And then, of course it not being his, he will return to return it. And in that return he shall return to my company and then I will have him!"
"You sure about that?" Raven asked. "That seems like an awful lot of returns."
"Yes!" Starfire declared. "Most trusted friend Terra! Please give this ring," she produced a nice, if somewhat gaudy and cheap, looking ring and placed it into Terra's palm, "To good Cesario and say that he had left it in my room."
"Okay," Terra said. "But I still think he's gay."
Terra paused when she saw Speedy. She couldn't find Cesario anywhere. Or any of the guys for that matter. "Where are you goin', Mr. Sureshot?" Terra asked, sweetly. He looked briefly suspicious before settling into a Lothario stance.
"Just down to the garage. The guys are souping up the T-Car and afterwards we're going down to the tracks."
"Oh god," Terra said. She rolled her eyes. The sight of Beast Boy in a wife-beater was one of the things in life she was still coming to terms with, the idea of seeing the rest of the guys dressed in similar fashion with the smell of sweat and motor oil permeating the air was just too much. "Please, do me a favor?"
"Yeah?" Speedy asked, smiling.
"Use Febreeze. Oh," she paused, taking the ring she had been given. "Give this to Cesario if you see him. Star thinks it may be his."
"A ring?" Speedy asked. "Is he, uh...?"
"I don't know," Terra said. "I think so, but it's not exactly something we should go around saying. That's how rumors start."
"Right, right." Speedy parted with Terra and headed to the basement. He walked up to Cesario, who was looking positively sickened at the scene of Robin and Cyborg tuning up the axels, and handed the ring to him. "You a D&Der, man?"
"What?" Cesario asked. "Dee and Deer?"
"Dungeons and Dragons," Speedy said. "You know the geeky game where you get to be an elven archer and shoot up evil fire-breathing damsels and rescue beautiful dragons?"
"I think you got the order mixed up there, Wing Commander," Cesario pointed out.
Speedy mysteriously raised his brow, "Don't be so sure about that. So, are you?"
"No, I'm not."
"Oh," Speedy said. "Then I doubt this is your ring."
"Of course not!" Cesario said. Inside, Jinx was screaming at the gaudiness of the ring. Whoever bought it needed a lesson from the fashion police quick. Preferably one that left them in the hospital considering all possible meanings of Over the Top. "Why would I need a ring?"
"That's what I thought," Speedy said, tossing it aside. "Probably just some junk anyway."
"Yeah." Cesario looked at the T-Car. "What is that hunk of junk there?"
"This," Cyborg said hotly, "Is the T-Car. My baby. She handles better than the Batmobile on steroids, can climb walls, withstand bullets, missiles, Heck, even a tactical nuclear launch. My baby's the best car in the world. But it has this unfortunate tipping problem that I can't quite, y'know, work out."
"I told you SUVs sucked," Robin said. "The Batmobile could beat this puppy in a race."
"The Batmobile couldn't beat the T-Car off-road."
"Says who?" Robin retorted.
"The four-wheel drive the T-Car sports, oh, and the fact that the Batmobile's suspension is about as tough as Beast Boy's left arm." Beast Boy looked at Cyborg angrily. "Hey, that's the one that was in the cast for the last year, right?"
"I fell, I broke it, and then later I broke it again because it was still healing. I was a frog at the time. Stop picking on my left arm," Beast Boy retorted. "It has feelings too!"
"So that's which hand you use," Cyborg said, laughing. Cesario looked horrified. Jinx didn't treat half the girls she hated like this. It was almost bizarre. "Oh, stop that. I'm just messin' with you. You're still my boy, BB."
"Why are you making so much fun of him, then?" Cesario asked.
"Because," Cyborg said, giving BB a noogie, "He's such an easy target."
"Heaven help us," Jinx said internally, "The world is run by testosterone." Cesario, however, said, "Oh. You going to start insulting me like that anytime soon?"
"Nah," Cyborg said. "Robin can if he wants, but making sure BB's ego is in check, now that's a full-time job."
"Anyway," Robin said, trying to get the conversation back on track. "Let's take the test. At the track, the Batmobile versus the T-Car. No holds barred."
"Yeah right," Cyborg said. "Where are you going to get the Batmobile?"
Robin dangled the keys in front of Cyborg, and said nasally, "Dad lent me the keys."
"Dude!" Cyborg announced. "No way!"
"Yes way," Robin corrected. "And seeing as I'm left dateless tonight, I'm going to whip your derriere into shape to cheer me up."
"You're so on, man. Cyborg's going to show you a whole new meaning of the word humiliation."
"This," Cesario muttered, "Should be good."
"Hey, Cesar," Robin said. "You can ride with me. Speedy and BB can take the T-Car. Then we switch up round two."
Speedy and Beast Boy shrugged. "Go ahead," Speedy insisted.
Cesario looked nervously at Robin, "Is it, uh," hesitated he, "Safe?" Robin laughed. "Well? What? What's so funny?"
"It's safer to be inside the Batmobile in the case of a crash," Robin said, in a Zen-like pose, "Then to be the thing the Batmobile crashes into." Cesario looked pensive for a moment, before giving an answer.
"You," Robin said, pointing at the disheveled Cesario, "Scream like a girl."
"And you," Cesario said, pointing a wild accusing finger at him. "You drive like a madman!"
The Titans laughed as they came tumbling through the door later that night. Cesario was the only one who looked at all affected by the trip, unused to riding in the Batmobile, especially when Robin was driving. Cyborg poked Robin. "I beat you! I beat you!"
"I think the cow was the deciding factor in that last race," Robin retorted. "And the clown with the chainsaw was an unpredictable distraction."
"Wah," Cyborg said, pretending to wipe away tears, "Look at me, I'm Robin! I'm a sore loser. I can't admit that I got beat bad in three races."
"You're all horrible drivers!" Cesario accused. "Especially you," he rounded on Robin. "You're the worst."
"Oh come on," Robin said, "I told you to buckle up. The acceleration on the Batmobile's crazy. And at least the T-Car didn't get hijacked again." Cesario looked like something was familiar about that. Jinx remembered Gizmo complaining about being sent up the creek after stealing some car that just so happened to beat his mini car and also, by some degree of coincidence, was the one that Cyborg owned.
"Yeah," Cyborg muttered. "If I ever see that little twerp Gizmo again, I swear I'm not sure what I'm going to do, but it's likely going to be patenting one of his inventions before him."
"Ouch," Robin said. "You know, never figured why Gizmo was evil. If he wanted to make easy cash, he could just sell patents left and right." Cesario blinked.
"That does make sense," he said. "A lot of sense."
"Thanks," Robin said. "Anyway, I better get the car back to Gotham. I'll be back soon."
Cesario yawned. "I'm going to hit the hay. I don't think I'll ever feel like I'm laying on a mattress ever again after that."
"Me too," Speedy said. "Night guys." The two of them headed upstairs. Beast Boy and Cyborg looked from side to side then at each other and laughed.
"Super Movie Night Matinee!" they yelled simultaneously.
"I'll get the pop corn," Beast Boy said.
"I'll get the Ginger Ale and Root Beer." Cyborg whooped, "And together we get the triple movie feature!" They walked into the main room to find the lights were dimmed and Raven was awake, watching a dark screen. "Aw man."
"What?" Raven said, looking at them nastily, "You were expecting maybe privacy?"
"Well, we were kind of hoping," Beast Boy said. He spluttered out in his fluster, before finally settling on, "You hate our movies."
"Who's to say that?" Raven said. "I'll pick the movies. You'll like them. You get the root beer and ginger ale, and the popcorn."
"You," Beast Boy said, eyes watering, "You understand! You really do!"
"For now." Raven picked out three movies and them aside. "Okay. Are we ready?" There were five two liter bottles set down by the couch. A giant tub of popcorn was put down in front of it. She looked duly impressed and sat down.
They were laughing uproariously through The Birdcage, especially with Beast Boy's jokes at Robin Williams's expense. They were about halfway through To Wong Foo when they were disturbed by Terra. She looked tired and glared at them. "You know, at this rate you're going to wake everyone up with this. And Raven," the girl in question shrunk back, "I can't believe I even heard you laughing."
"It was more of a weak chuckle, but it still counts as a victory," Beast Boy said. "But relax, have some Root Beer."
"No," Terra said, eying him. "I'm just warning you. Next person may not be as open to this."
"Ha," Beast Boy said. "I dare find a man who doesn't find men in drag funny."
"Didn't you say we were banned from watching Big Momma's House?" Raven asked coolly. Beast Boy eyed her.
"Making fun of plump old kindly grandmothers is not funny," Beast Boy said, "It's Un-American to make fun of them!"
"Amen," Cyborg said. "Bless their sweet hearts."
"Otherwise, it's funny," Beast Boy said. Terra groaned and turned back to her room. The Matinee-ers just returned to watching the movie. By the time they came to their last movie, a Disney movie, they were interrupted by Speedy, who came up to them wearing a nightcap and a nightshirt. He looked positively ridiculous. There was also, Beast Boy noticed, a stuffed bear in his arm.
"What are you doing up this late? It's three in the morning!"
"It's morning," Raven said, "So we should be up. What are you doing sleeping this late?"
"Nice one," Beast Boy said, under his breath.
"You're going to wake everyone up. Stop watching these movies and get to sleep." He sniffed the air, "I smell root beer."
Beast Boy raised his hand, "That would be me. I drank two liters just now and, wow, does it get you."
"That," Speedy said, "Would explain Cyborg yelling 'Chug' repeatedly."
"And Raven," Cyborg said. "Just quieter and more embarrassed."
"Really," Speedy began, "I don't care who said it. Just be quiet. Some of us are trying to sleep." He eyed them until they each got out of their seats and headed towards their rooms, like a stalwart father.
"I think," Beast Boy muttered, "He forgets he's a guest."
"I think," Raven returned, "That he should be taught something."
"I think" Cyborg irritably added, "That I have a plan."
"Okay," Terra said. "Let me get this straight." She took out a pen, looking over a series of letters that the three Titans had scrounged up over the past few days. "You want me, for some reason or another, to forge Starfire's handwriting and write a love letter to Speedy." There was a lengthy pause. "Why?"
"Well, Raven's left handed," Beast Boy said, "And I can't even begin to copy it, and Cy refuses on the grounds that he'd feel dirty writing a love letter to Speedy."
"And what about me?" Terra asked. "Don't you think I'd feel dirty about it?"
"I was thinking you wouldn't care?" Beast Boy pleaded.
She paused, before answering, "It's a good thing you're right. Let's get writing." They cackled evilly as they began to put together a love letter to Speedy. Cyborg stood guard for Speedy while they did so. He had passed dangerously close around dinner time to seeing their forged letter and it had spooked them.
Meanwhile, Robin had noticed that the others had been missing the entire day. He took to asking Cesario what he made of it, and he replied, "They're probably hatching some practical joke or something. It wouldn't surprise me in the least. It's about the only thing that I haven't seen here in the last couple of days."
"Oh great," Robin said sarcastically, "Another one." He paused. "I almost talked to Star today," he said, "Almost, but she moved away before I had a chance to even say hi."
"Good to see you're taking the initiative," Cesario said, making little effort to hide the tone of his voice. Jinx was screaming jealousy.
Robin looked him over, "What's that mean?"
"Just what I said."
"I'm really," Robin insisted, "Not sure what that means. Humor me."
"Okay, Rob. I mean that it's good that you're taking the initiative," he said, stressing each word.
"You don't need to patronize me," he complained. Cesario laughed. Robin noticed something about the laugh. The mannerism was very feminine, not effeminate, but feminine. He brought his hand to his mouth before laughing almost instinctively. His lips were full as Princess Diana's, and for a brief moment it seemed that Cesario wasn't all he said he was. Both something more and something less.
"What?" Cesario said, noticing the stare. "You're looking at me like you've never seen me before."
"Sorry," Robin said. "Just caught you in a strange light."
"I get that a lot," Cesario said, trying to shrug it off. "I'm hungry!"
"Hey, let's all get some pizza." Robin got up and stretched. "I'll go get the guys. Maybe, just maybe I can talk to Starfire." He walked off, leaving Cesario alone to sigh longingly.
"Robin, if only--" she cursed internally, "--If only I wasn't such an idiot. Sure no one recognizes me as a guy, but now I'll look really weird and suspicious if I start drooling over a guy in this disguise. And worse, if Rob reciprocates, then... ugh, confusing, crazy madhouse." She jumped up as she head someone move a chair. "Er?" she said, articulately. "Oh!" Starfire sat across from her. "Hi."
"Hello, friend Cesario!" she cooed. She then rested her head in her palms, looking over the assumed male. "I was wondering what you were doing today. If you are interested, we could see the Pictures that Move and enjoy a meal at a local restaurant."
This really was going to end in tears. "We, well Star. That's a great idea, but you know who'd really like that?"
"You?" she asked, hopefully.
"Er, uh," Cesario panicked. It was hard enough keeping her voice from squeaking without these unpredictable advances. "No! Robin! He'd love that. I mean, he was just looking for you."
"He was?" Starfire asked. She frowned. "But I do not wish to partake of a moving picture show with him right now."
"Look, if this is about how he's been sending go-betweens and stuff," Cesario squeaked, "That's because he's kinda sheltered, living without a female influence in his life. He really, really likes you. I mean, lots."
"But I like you more." Cesario gawked.
"No, no you don't," he said, eagerly. "You really don't. Trust me. If there's one thing you don't like, it's me."
"Why do you say that?" Starfire asked, pouting. It was an expert pout, and Jinx took notes on it for later use. "I do very much like you. I wish to learn more about you."
"This can't be --" Cesario was jerked from his seat and taken to the door. "Wait! Wait!"
"Come! It shall be fun!"
"Slip it under his door!" Beast Boy whispered. Raven rolled her eyes and took the letter in her telekinetic grasp and threw it under the door. "Yes!"
"Please," Raven said, "It's not that impressive. I could stick a needle in your medulla oblongata and I bet you'd smell burnt toast." Beast Boy took this into consideration before speaking again.
"How much would you bet?" Raven muttered under her breath.
Cyborg hushed them. "Wait, wait. Here he comes." They all went to acting inconspicuous as Speedy walked past. He noted them, and their irritating whistling as he passed, but paid them no mind. He opened his door, and the others leaned in close to watch his reaction. He picked up the letter. "Come on."
"Bite, fishy, bite!" Terra harshly whispered. There was a disbelieving gasp from Speedy's room. The Titans all voiced their approval at this. He ran out clutching the letter. The others again tried to look busy.
"Is this true?" Speedy asked. "Did any of you see Starfire?"
"Hey," Beast Boy said, his lines carefully rehearsed, "I did see her nearby a little while ago. Didn't you, Cy?"
"Oh, yeah," Cyborg said. "Terra said she had a letter in her hand. What did it say?"
"It says," Speedy insisted, "That she wants to see me."
"Well she can do that from a distance," Raven commented. "Or do you mean she's voicing interest in you."
"Yes, that's it," Speedy said.
Raven seemed impressed, "That you have interest is more amazing than her voicing it." Speedy noticed the insult. "I'm joking."
"You're a really vicious joker, you know that?" Speedy said. "What I mean is that this is a love letter."
"Oh!" The Titans said at once. "Got it."
"She's been very embarrassed about something, recently," Terra said. "Maybe you should keep it under wraps." Speedy nodded, understanding. About this time, Robin found the group and called out to them. They all turned and bid him hello as he ran up to them.
"Hey guys, how does pizza sound?" They voiced mild interest. "Great. Has anyone seen Starfire?" They all shrugged. "Okay. I'll go find her. Meet me downstairs in about five minutes."
"Hey," Speedy said. "I'll help you look."
"Thanks," Robin said. The two set off. The Titans broke into laughter as soon as they were out of earshot.
Beast Boy grabbed Terra and put her into a big hug. "I love this girl!" he announced. "You did it!"
"Of course I did," Terra said. "I'm the best."
"I'm prepared to believe it," Cyborg said. "I didn't think it'd be that easy!"
"This should be good," Raven muttered.
"And then!" Starfire bawled, "And then she died! It was so sad!" Starfire cried into Cesario's shoulder, but he was also on the brink of tears. The movie had been so hopelessly romantic that it even seduced him into it, and Jinx thought she would hate any movie with Meg Ryan in it.
"Don't worry, it was just Meg Ryan. The world's a better place now," he said, consolingly. Starfire muted her bawls to nod, her face set on cracking again into a flurry of sobbing in seconds. "Let's get going home."
"It was so romantic," Starfire said. "I wish someone would sweep me off my feet like that." Jinx groaned inwardly. Starfire was fishing for a response. If this keeps up, she continued inwardly cursing, Starfire would be fishing period.
"I'm sure someone will," Cesario muttered, rolling his eyes, "Someday. We should get back soon."
"Yes," Starfire said. "We should get back." She took off into the air, holding onto Cesario, who looked worried for dear life. "Tell me, Cesario. Am I pretty?"
"Er," Cesario looked at the situation he was in and then the question asked. A quick calculation in her head gave Jinx the knowledge to foresee that if she said otherwise, the pavement that was getting farther and farther away would likely get a lot closer than she would like. "Yes! Most beautiful!"
"Then," Starfire began. Jinx was beginning to wonder why she hadn't just destroyed the Titans from the inside like she had originally planned. "Am I not appealing, then?"
"Of course!" Cesario nearly squealed out. "Please, let's get back to the Tower quickly."
"Is something the matter, friend Cesario?" Starfire asked. She didn't see any cause for Cesario's panic.
"N, nothing," he said, clinging on for dear life. "Hey look! We're here!" he announced, and then under his breath continued, "And I'm still in one piece."
Starfire cooed as she landed and took Cesario's hand and said, in a tone of a child repeating what she heard on the television. "I had a most wonderful time. We should do it again?"
"Uh," Cesario hesitated. And then felt her lips brush against his cheek. Jinx screamed, but outwardly Cesario only acted somewhat surprised. "Ma, ma, maybe." Whether she was trying to make Robin jealous or not, she didn't know, but Starfire was beginning to become more affectionate as time went on. Starfire giggled as she went up to her room and Cesario just lumbered forward. Stumbling to the living room, he ran into Raven, who only looked with mock surprise.
"My, my. If it isn't Cesario. Quite the man of the hour," she said. "But, then again, maybe you should try to grow a bit of hair on that chin of yours before we call you a man."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Cesario asked, suspiciously. It was almost as if Raven suspected that he wasn't all he seemed. "Maybe I just don't like facial hair."
"Maybe," Raven said. "But anyway, Robin was looking for you."
"And so is Speedy," Raven added, darkly. A shiver ran down Cesario's spine. "He didn't look happy."
"Oh no," Cesario muttered. "Just, just let me deal with this later. I need a shower." He headed up to the bathroom and locked the door, disrobing quickly. Standing in front of a mirror, wearing only undergarments, Jinx inspected herself. "I could lose myself in this Cesario disguise sometimes. Okay, Jinx, Bad, and this part I stress, Girl to the Max, get a grip." She slipped into the shower, stripping herself and turning on the water to think.
Then the doorknob turned. Jinx panicked. She had forgotten to lock it. Outside, she could hear Robin talking to someone. He laughed and then turned to completely open the door. Jinx looked at him, towel half wrapped around herself, and he at her. He then calmly closed the door. There was a pause. He opened the door again. Jinx hadn't moved. She blinked. He blinked. He then turned and closed the door.
She quickly decided to lock the door and finish up her shower.
Outside, Robin wasn't fairing too well. It may have just been his imagination, but Jinx had been in the bathroom. Almost naked except for a towel. "Beast Boy," he said. "Did we suddenly let Jinx use our bathroom for no reason in particular?"
"No," Beast Boy said. "Are you finally losing it?"
"I swear to God I just saw her there." He pointed at the door behind him. "She was in a towel."
"You," Beast Boy pointed out, "Need a girlfriend."
"I, I, I do not!"
"Yes," Beast Boy said, knowingly, "You do. Trust me. I used to have strange fantasies like that before I met Terra, and now look at me."
"You still have strange fantasies," Robin pointed out. "Just yesterday you ran to me complaining about seeing tiny fairy girls doing synchronized swimming routines in your morning coffee."
"That was different." Beast Boy sidled aside, "Now if you'll excuse me. I've got things. Yes. Things to do. That don't involve visions of sugarplums dancing in my head." Robin rolled his eyes and turned to waiting for the door to open.
The door finally opened when Cesario stepped out looking wet. Robin looked at him, and in turn Cesario stared back. "What?" he finally asked. Robin put his hands up defensively and edged slowly into the bathroom. Cesario gave out a long sigh and decided that talking with Robin and Speedy could wait a day.
There was a rule about disguises among the Hive. It was that there had to be care taken to make the one disguised unrecognizable to anyone who would know them. Jinx, in her way, had aced the class. On the other hand, Gizmo and Mammoth had a lot more difficulty with the subject. One could easily just invent a duplicate to elude his enemies, and the other could just stand while an enemy punched him. It wasn't something they needed.
Until now. Mammoth wore a small schoolboy's hat and curly haired wig, with a huge lollipop and an oversized school uniform. The illusion would not have been as ridiculous, however, if Mammoth hadn't kept his beard. Meanwhile, Gizmo wore a staple of the disguise world - the fake beard. The end effect was of a munchkin with facial hair.
Still, they were unnoticed in the crowd, passing along -- skipping in Mammoth's case as he had gotten far too into the character -- towards the T-Tower. Gizmo kept a small 'Game Lad' console, but it was in all reality a shell for a highly advanced mapping handheld that would, he had admitted to his genius, allow them to find a hidden way into the Tower to deal with the Titans one by one.
"Okay. I'll go and set this up," Gizmo said. "Mammoth, you find a good base of operations. A warehouse, an abandoned train-station, anything will suffice."
"A what will what?" Mammoth asked, his face drawing a blank.
"Find hideout. Empty box-place or train place." This brought Mammoth to a bit of a realization. Mammoth and Gizmo walked, parting company. Where they had just been standing proved to be a crossroad for Robin and Cesario. They were in the middle of a flurry of conversation.
"So she took you out on a date?" Robin asked. "And didn't accept you saying no?"
"Yes," Cesario said. "And then I had to watch Meg Ryan." He shivered.
"She's cute," Robin said. "Are you saying she isn't?"
"No, it's just I didn't want to watch her pretending to be a doctor with Nicholas Cage playing some angel," Cesario said. "It's just not good material for a movie. Miscast and misplaced."
Robin laughed. "You did try and get out of it."
"Good," Robin said.
Cesario hesitated, "Do you know, by any chance, why Speedy's looking for me?"
"No, I don't," Robin answered. "Are you worried?"
"Kind of." Cesario hesitated. "Say."
"Yes?" Robin asked, curiosity piqued. Cesario hesitated.
"What would you do if--" he stopped. Something had caught his attention. "Wait a second. I'll be right back." He disappeared behind an alleyway and Robin just watched, confused. He did a double-take as Jinx seemed to run from out near where Cesario had disappeared. Robin's eyes narrowed. Something was rotten in the State of Jump City.
Starfire took to cooking like a moth to the flame, as the old adage went. And she enjoyed preparing a variety of meals. Now that she had finally come out of her grieving, she prepared the customary Feast of a Thousand Feasts. Speedy swung in nearby. She barely paid him any mind before he asked to help. "Of course you may," she said. "I am preparing a traditional feast for the remembrance of my dear brother, so that we may celebrate his grand accomplishments."
"Sounds great," Speedy said. "What's needed?" The list he had been given had only one adjective, which was absurd. "Where am I supposed to get that stuff?"
"I have a good stock of said ingredients in the cupboard. If you would?" she asked. He obliged. She took it with a smile and began to mix it up. Speedy moved in closer. "What is the matter?"
"Nothing, I was just wondering if you would like to sit down with me?"
"Ah, the meal will take a while still to prepare," she said. "We may take a leave from the kitchen for a brief minute so we may join in watching the television set and entertaining dialogue between one another."
"Sounds, er, good," Speedy said. "How are you doing today, Starfire?"
"I am," she said, "As well as can be expected. I am eagerly waiting to share the Feast of a Thousand Feasts with you." Speedy's heart did a flip. He moved in closer, but Starfire was much oblivious to it. "And you?"
"I'm," Speedy began, hesitating, "I'm very excited."
"Are you?" Starfire asked, chirping happily. "I am glad to hear that! Excitement as to what?" She found him taking her hand much to her surprise, but did not know how to react.
"I'm excited to be with you." She began to become nervous. "So, what are you doing after dinner."
"I am, er," she thought of an excuse, "Washing my hair." Speedy looked at her length of hair, and before lodging a complaint realized that it had to be quite an endeavor.
"Oh," Speedy began, "Tomorrow?"
"Er, uh, I am becoming busy. Busy with girl related matters that you would not and could not begin to comprehend."
"Ah." There was a sound of something catching fire extremely quickly. Then the fire alarm went off. Speedy jumped five feet, before realizing that it had not startled Starfire, but rather excited her.
"It is nearly ready!" She shooed him off to find the others as she began to take whatever he had helped concoct and place it into the oven. "Go!" He eventually complied, though not with several pleas otherwise. Feeling deflated that Star hadn't responded well to his advances, he nonetheless walked to Raven's room and knocked. She cracked open the door to peek through, then there was the sound of a concealed giggle, as the door closed again. When the door opened again, she opened it further.
"How'd it go?" she asked, but there was no disguising the certainty of what had happened.
"Well," Speedy began. "Never you mind." Raven chuckled again. "What?"
"My lady is unkind, perdy," she sang quietly, "Alas why is she so?"
"She loves another." She grinned. "Why are you here anyway."
"She's preparing some feast," he said. "It's almost ready."
"Indeed." She opened the door and took down. As she did pass, so did Beast Boy and Cyborg, looking a bit concerned. "What is it?"
"Don't worry about it," Cyborg said. "Beast Boy just noticed something in the database and I'm just not happy about the virtual graffiti we just got." Raven feigned exasperation, leaving Cyborg to his rants. "I mean, seriously. 'Neener Neener'? Whoever wrote this stuff could be more original."
"I don't know," Beast Boy said, "I think it's a perfect strategy. Catches us off-guards with their inability to graduate beyond third grade insults and instead let us, the reader, believe we're dealing with a buffoon." The increased vocabulary wasn't lost on Cyborg, who looked at Beast Boy with a mix of awe and fear.
"You should know, huh?"
"What gave you that idea?" Beast Boy innocently dodged, giving a big goofy grin. "Whatever."
"Yeah," Cyborg said, returning to the subject at hand. "The main thing that gets me is that there is probably no way anyone could hack into our systems without being inside. And who's been near the system in the past few days."
"Just us," Beast Boy said. Then paused. "And Speedy. And Cesario."
"What kinda name is Cesario, anyway." There was a moment of suspicion. "We'd better get into contact with Aqualad," Cyborg said. "I think we've just had a fast one pulled on us."
Speedy returned with Terra trailing behind him. "Starfire's going to feed us some feast." In response to this, Cyborg and Beast Boy began to look violently ill.
"I'm almost afraid to ask what you two are doing here," Jinx asked, once she had wrangled together Mammoth and Gizmo. She pulled the red beard off of Gizmo's face, "And why are you in those garish costumes?"
"I dunno," Mammoth muttered, "I like my clothes."
"Shut up," Jinx and Gizmo chimed.
"Look, Jinx," Gizmo said. "We thought you either went ker-splat like a booger in a windshield, or drowned. So I figured it'd be good to just continue. What have you been doing?"
"Infiltrating the Titans and destroying them from the inside, making the best of a bad situation," she said. "The Titans think that I'm a guy, and so far no one's caught on to the inconsistencies in my stories."
"Is that so," Gizmo said. "But I just copied their entire database and left a cruel left hook of an insult on there. See, my methods always work better." Jinx paled. "What's wrong?"
"You idiot!" Jinx yelled. "I haven't even earned their full trust yet. I'm not even a full member in their eyes yet. Even that shifty Terra girl is more trusted than I am."
"Ouch," Mammoth muttered.
"Shut up," Jinx said, continuing without missing a single beat, "Now they'll know I'm lying and I'll be exposed. Thanks a lot, genius."
"Serves you right," Gizmo said, "Chemo Fangirl."
"Take that back, half-pint!" she growled. She lunged into a brief skirmish which was interrupted by the sound of a can being knocked over in the streets. They all looked over, but no one was there. "I call dibbs on beating the Titans, got that?"
Robin, however, saw them and walked down his way, his mind pensive. It explained a lot, especially his appearance, but now knowing that the he that he had once considered Cesario was in fact a she that he should consider an enemy was a bit hard to swallow, even after all that. Things were coming quickly to a head. He hurried back to the Tower, to prepare for the inevitable.
This can, all in all, only end in tears.
The dinner table was set like a doctor's operating table right before a malpractice suit. It was covered with a variety of junk foods, burnt objects, unrecognizable fluids and double burnt objects that had begun to take a life of their own and were beginning to consume the junk food as a slow pace. The Titans looked positively petrified.
"So, er, Star," Speedy said, not one to give up his course. "I was thinking--" he moved his hand over to hers. The other Titans pried their eyes from the mess that was their table to see how badly Speedy would pay for the undue interruption.
"I believe you have gone perhaps just very slightly mad," Starfire said. "Why are you persisting?"
Speedy laughed and gave her a Lothario-style wagging of the brows before kissing her hand. Starfire finally became a bit annoyed and knocked Speedy to the side. She didn't account for the power her body had and the ill preparation for Speedy to get ready for the attack. He went soaring a few feet and landed with a soft thud against a sofa.
"That," Beast Boy said, "Was worth it."
"Do you think he's okay?" Cyborg asked. Starfire was panicking.
"I am most sorry, I did not mean to hit you. It was merely a reaction. Please speak Speedy! We are still friends, yes?" He did not immediately respond due to the fact that he had been knocked out cold. But he was still alive, and that was a relief for the moment. Beast Boy grinned and took a small sheared shaver, and began to write letters into his head.
"Back slash, Front slash, Apostrophe, aycsh?" Terra asked. "What does that mean?"
"Idiot," Beast Boy answered sincerely.
"Oh no, my man, you did not just," Cyborg asked. Then he looked. Then he laughed. "Idiot!" The others peeked at the writing. To their surprise, even Raven burst out in laughter. Several lights broke before she regained her composure, cleared her throat, and eyed each of them, daring them to mention her outburst.
They then went to awake Speedy, who came to rather quickly. He was greeted by faces barely able to contain their amusement at him. "What?" There was a general consensus that it was nothing. He walked to the table and sat down again, looking a bit jittery. He missed the seat the first time he tried to sit down, causing a series of bemused snickering. He got up and gave the Titans an evil eye and finally maintained his seat. The others sat down, and were faced with the grim feast before them. Starfire waited patiently, and happily, for them to devour the beautiful meal she had prepared.
Robin entered the room, looking a bit spooked. He sat down, and took a bite of the food without questioning. He then got up, went to the bathroom, and returned sickly and spooked. The others looked at him. "Robin, you are late," Starfire noticed. "What is wrong today?"
"You look as though you've seen a ghost," Speedy commented.
"Some, er, coke and say what's going on?"
"A ghost you say?" Robin asked, "A ghost maybe. More difficult to say." He didn't want to blurt it out.
"Where's, er, Cesario?"
"Coming," he said. "Sh-- He should be coming." He tried to sound interested.
"Wondrous!" Starfire chirped. "I have something I wish to ask of him."
"Sure," Robin said, deadpan. Raven looked him over, quickly, before resuming to looking in a depressive manner at her plate. "Er, why is this thing still squirming?"
"Warriors eat wriggly foods," Starfire answered, matter-of-factly. Robin looked at his plate, and then at Raven's. He whispered to her quietly.
"Wanna switch plates?"
Jinx entered the tower in disguise as quietly as she could, creeping along the path to her room while maintaining her cover. She didn't make it far before she ran into Robin. He looked at her, and asked, "Cesar, what does the team mean to you?"
"I remember that," Jinx said, maintaining her Cesario voice, "You asked me that when I wanted to join. You were rigorous."
"And you were firm, but now you're just evasive. What does the team mean to you?"
"I'd," Jinx said, hesitating, "I'd do anything for you, Robin. You're the best friend a guy could have." Robin looked unfazed. "The rest of the team I don't know if I get along with as easily. Cyborg's loud, Beast Boy's immature, Raven's freaky, Terra's shift, and Starfire's... er... Starfire, no offense."
"None taken," Robin said. He continued, undeterred, "Would you die for anyone on the team?" That was a new question. Jinx was tempted to answer in a blatant lie. But she held her ground, wondering if Robin was testing her in some way. Desperately, she answered.
"Who?" Robin asked again.
"I see," Robin said, unaffected. Jinx swallowed hard. "Would you betray the team?" He hadn't asked that the first time, for sure. Jinx paled, further. "Well?" He didn't speak with malice. It surprised her considerably.
"I couldn't betray you," she said, making a sweeping gesture. However, her eyes were dead set on Robin's, trying to read it. He moved out of the way. Jinx decided to continue the character, "Why the questions?"
"I wanted to make sure of something," Robin answered, vaguely. "I'm not sure what it is, but I had to make sure of it." Jinx nodded, and headed towards her room again, Robin leaving in the opposite direction. Jinx found her door to be blocked by Cyborg, who looked none too pleased to see her.
"Cesario," he said. "If that's even your real name. What's the big idea?"
"What?" Jinx asked. Then it hit her, "Oh no."
"Oh yes," Beast Boy said. "What's with the 'Neener Neener' written in our database?" He looked suspiciously at her, one eye looming larger through a magnifying glass and smoking a bubble pipe in a deer hunter uniform.
"Oh geez," Jinx said. This time it her voice was filled with disbelief. The little pint-sized genius really hadn't graduated from third grade insults. "I don't know. How should I know?"
"Because you're the only one here without a real background. We checked with Aqualad. He said he found a young lady on the shore who wanted to join the Titans. So, Cesario, who are you and what did you do to the girl?" Cyborg looked menacing.
"Oh Lord," Jinx muttered. She couldn't believe them. "What do you mean what did I do to the girl? I didn't do anything to any girl!"
"We won't let you get away without an answer." Cyborg was serious. "You hacked into our database, and you may even have copied or deleted important details that we haven't even noticed. This is a serious offense."
"I'm sorry," Jinx yelled, "But I didn't do it!"
She cursed her many years of lying. The Boy always did get ignored when he really did cried wolf.
"What's wrong?" Robin asked, Starfire. He seemed calm and cool. She looked happily at him.
"Robin! Have you seen Cesario?"
"What is with this thing you have for Cesario," Robin asked, quietly. Starfire paused, and then blushed.
"Well," she said, "To be truly honest, I was hoping that I could in turn, by showering affection on an attractive young man, gain your attention again. I feared that you had become afraid of me."
"What?" Robin asked. "Why would I?"
"You were sending Beast Boy and Cesario to me instead of seeking me yourself," she said. "I was afraid that you were afraid of being near me."
"That was never it!" Robin said. "I'm just not exactly the most natural with talking with girls. It's scary," he explained. "I'd like to think I sound a bit more sincere than Speedy when I do." He paused, "Where is he?"
"He is hiding in his room. I fear he is mortified by being, what is it Beast Boy described to friend Speedy a multitude of times? Ah! 'Beat Up by a Girl'." She sighed, "I do not understand the gender roles of Earth. Is there a weakness associated with the female of the species of human?"
"Er, no!" Robin said, again. "Look, Starfire." He hesitated. "I'm sorry."
"What are you sorry for?" Starfire asked, cocking her head to the side in a birdlike jerk. "Is there something you have done?"
"I've fallen in love for the first time," Robin said, "And this time I think it's for real."
"You have fallen in love?" Starfire asked. "With whom?"
Robin shook his head, and put a finger to his lips, sealing them. Starfire looked confused, torn between a frown and a giggle at Robin's perplexing behavior. That was when the elevator door was torn open by a very angry Mammoth --
-- Who just so happened to be still in the angelic school boy outfit, wig and all.
He licked his lollipop in a fashion that made empires tremble. Then Cesario came tumbling in. He looked disheveled, his costume in tatters and his cleavage revealed. Gizmo appeared, still sporting the fake looking red beard, a laser cannon strapped to his power backpack, aiming at Beast Boy and Cyborg. "I take the rear, Mammoth takes the front, and together we take the tower where Jinx took too long. Hah! Eat that, snot-for-brains girly."
Robin rushed over to Jinx, "Are you okay?"
"No. My cover's blown, I'm not even sure where I stand anymore thanks to you, and currently I'm getting laughed at by the guy who thought a giant robot would be a cooler way of taking on you guys than Chemo."
"Chemo was pretty cool," Robin said, thoughtfully, "But that's neither here nor there. Are you hurt, your costume's falling to pieces."
"That was an accident," Cyborg insisted. "This little twerp blew us apart when -- wait a second. He's a girl." Raven appeared, alongside Speedy and Terra. Terra was busily putting her wallet away while Raven was putting a ten dollar bill into a safe area.
"What's going on?" Speedy asked. He did look utterly mortified, and he had the katakana symbols for Ha and Ka in his hair. Robin remembered to laugh at him for that when he didn't look at miserable. "Hey, Gizmo."
"Hey, Speedy," there was a beat. "How did you recognize me in my ultra-secret disguise?"
"I recognized the shape of your unique skull," Speedy answered. "What are you doing here?"
"Beating the Titans, business reasons and all," Gizmo said. "So, you ready?"
"Let's go!" Mammoth screamed, charging at the Titans. Robin dodged and fired some projectiles at the giant. They bounced off without so much as scratching the surface of his outfit. Robin muttered to himself, and dodged a punch. Beast Boy took over, taking on a Triceratops form to combat Mammoth. The two faced off in a brief grapple before Mammoth was knocked into a wall by the sheer might of the rear legs of the Triceratops. Gizmo meanwhile leapt to take out the transformed Beast Boy with an electro-shock from the laser cannon. Beast Boy squealed and transformed back into his own form, paralyzed. Starfire fired Starbolts at the escaping Gizmo, who managed to avoid being hit long enough for Mammoth to get up and block the blasts. Pushed back but not out, he continued to move forward.
Raven tossed several random objects at him, but found herself on the wrong side of a laser cannon attack. Terra snuck around, getting behind Gizmo and tapping him on the shoulder. He turned around and right into her face. She smiled, and pointed behind him. A potted plant had been uprooted as the soil had made an effective battering ram, knocking the genius to the ground.
"This is just pathetic," Jinx muttered. She ducked under flying arrows and dodged a thrown Terra. Finally she found herself with her back against the wall, watching the fight go back and forth between the two teams. Cyborg seemed to hit Mammoth down, but found himself rubbing the dents in his fists. "End this now!" she screamed. Her hexes flew everywhere, and everyone began to find themselves tripping over one another.
She sighed, and went to Gizmo. "I called dibbs, remember? Next time I won't be so nice if you don't play fair."
"You're never nice," Gizmo said. He found himself being picked up and shook up. "Hey! D, don't!"
"You can't shake the baby!" Mammoth yelled. The Titans managed to get up and shoot strange glances at Mammoth before tripping all over again.
"Okay! Okay! You had dibbs!" Gizmo admitted. "Sorry! You just made me put all that database information to waste, though, so next time we do this, I get first dibbs of back-up plans."
"Fine!" Jinx said. She muttered to herself. "Stupid Gizmo."
"Excuse me," Starfire said. "But I am still somewhat confused. What has all this been about, again?" Jinx just sighed and walked towards her room.
Speedy showed the letter to Starfire, "Is this your handwriting?" he demanded. He looked honestly infuriated. And Starfire, after reading the letter agreed.
"No, it is close, but I do not know the meaning of the word can't," Starfire said. "I believe that this is Terra's hand. It lacks the sinister implications of Raven's, and the writing is obviously done by a dainty hand, so Cyborg is ruled out. Beast Boy cannot write a straight line on his 'i's. It is Terra's." Speedy whistled. "What is so impressive?"
"You should try a job as a detective," Speedy said. He looked angrily at the letter and crushed it in his hand. He stormed out, muttering to himself, "I'll be revenged on the lot of them."
"This does not bode well." She called for Cyborg, who appeared in a minute, "Could you follow Speedy and bring with him the peace of our friendship so that he may return and be happy once again?"
"Of course," Cyborg said. "I should apologize."
Beast Boy looked timid as Starfire loomed over him, "You were very mean to friend Speedy! You should be more polite!" she chastised, in a motherly tone. "Cyborg is going to apologize now, and when they return I expect an apology." She hovered away, leaving Beast Boy to let the shivers die down. Terra's voice could be heard from behind a potted plant.
"Is she gone?"
"Yes," Beast Boy said. "Why did you not get chewed out?"
"Better hiding skills," Terra said.
"Did I mention I love you," Beast Boy said in a melodramatic tone..
"Yes." Terra laughed, "Say it again."
She had been completely exposed. Still, the ruckus that Gizmo had made allowed her to easily slip out and get on with her life. Standing at a distance, she could easily forget how easily she lost the resolve to carry through with her plans. Dropping down from window to window, Jinx eventually reached the ground.
She didn't get too much further before someone called out to her. "Hey."
"Hey," she muttered. "Come to take me in?"
"As far as I know, you've done nothing," Robin said. "Legally, I can't do anything to you." He put his hands up as to say that he came in peace, and she let him come closer. But not too close, as she shot him a glance as he approached her. "So, did you mean everything Cesario said?"
"I can't say for certain," Jinx said. "Cesario's long gone."
"You've been here twelve days," he said. She shrugged. "I don't want you to leave." She paused. But continued. "I mean that."
"I love you," she muttered.
"I know," Robin said.
"Never were the debonair type? Ha." He gave her a look, and she amended, "Or do you just like quoting Harrison Ford?"
"Can't say for certain," Robin said.
Jinx continued without missing a beat, "Though I'm sure Starfire would be jealous, of who I don't know, but let me tell you, her idea of meaningful conversation is the ingredients on a package of fruit snacks."
"Seriously?" Robin asked.
"That's," Robin laughed, "That's not what I would have imagined." He paused, looking a bit flustered. "Er, I don't know what to say next." Jinx looked to think on it for a minute, before bringing a suggestion to the table. She slinked along like a black cat, and whispered in his ear softly.
"How about 'I love you' and then 'And they lived happily ever after'?"
"I love you," Robin said, finding himself coloring red, "And then we lived happily ever after." There was a droplet of rain. And then another, and more with increasing frequency. He walked to the door and opened it. "Come inside."
Jinx hesitated for a minute, and then walked through the door. "Thank you, My Lord."
"You're welcome, M'lady." They walked in, letting the door close on the rain. And the others, from where they stood, whether alone or together with another, watched the rain, while Raven thought of a song.
"How did Feste word it again? Oh, yes. When that I was and a little tiny boy,
With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy
For the rain it raineth every day.
"But when I came to man's estate,
With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.
"But whe I came, alas, to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive
For the rain it raineth every day.
"But when I came unto my beds
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With tosspots still had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.
"A great while ago the world begun
With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain
But that's all one, out play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day."
Well, I hope you enjoyed this rather odd fic. It's an adaptation of Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, one of my favorite plays. It's a rather odd comedy in the fact that it's really, really gloomy. The movies watched by Cyborg and co weren't picked for any other reason than Nunn's adaptation used it as a tagline.
The characters were obviously: Robin as Orsino, Raven as Feste, Beast Boy as Toby Belch, Terra as Maria, Cyborg as Aguecheek given a backbone and a cool factor, Gizmo as Sebastian, Mammoth as Antonio, both roles neutered sadly, Star as Olivia, Speedy as poor Malvolio, and, of course, Jinx as Viola.
I hope you enjoyed it, and I'll strive to please you every day.
- Iain R. Lewis