This is a one-shot story. No sequel, no subsequent chapters. Just a little thank you to TUN for several reasons, including making me moderator at the Robin & Starfire Shrine, as well as recording episodes for me. Time-wise, I guess you could consider them around 17 or 18. There is no real plot, so good luck trying to find one. It's all basically just characterization and a hint of smut. I normally don't write these kind of stories, so I apologize if some things came out a little awkward.

For those of you who don't pick up on it right away, the opening was loosely inspired by the first scene in The Animatrix. I'm afraid I know next to nothing about sword fighting—my only experience comes from watching Rurouni Kenshin and other battle animes—so I kinda had to improvise.

Oh, and I think somewhere along the way, Starfire managed to channel her comic alter-ego's personality….

Harder to Breathe

"Are you sure about this, Star?"

The Tameranian gave a sly nod. "There are few things I have been more certain of."

It had taken months of pleading on her part before Starfire had finally convinced Robin to train her in the art of battle. He had been hesitant at first for reasons left unknown, but she argued that solely relying on her powers left her at a disadvantage. Should the situation ever arise where they were not at her disposal, she would be left helpless and unable to defend herself. And, as he knew well enough already, the last thing she wanted was to be left a damsel in distress.

She handled the katana loosely, powdered-covered hands trying to get a firm grip on the sword's hilt. The metallic reflection of the edge glimmered in the soft light. It was warm in the room, leaving her in nothing more than skin-tight, black leggings and a gray sports bra. Her hair had been pulled back into a high ponytail, the bright auburn bangs pushed to either side of her face. Bare feet padded across the wooden floor as she took her opening stance.

Robin, on the other hand, took his time in approaching the center of the room. He, too, was bare-footed, and dressed in nothing but a loose pair of red training pants. As always, his opaque mask was firmly secure, obscured in the slightest by his jet-black hair. Over the years, he had continued to refuse getting a haircut; it currently fell just past his shoulders.

The room was eerily silent as the two faced off, expressions solemn save for the hint of sparkle in their eyes. Coming mere inches apart, their swords lightly clashed together as they circled each other. Unwavering gazes met with cocky grins.

"Don't forget," he whispered, "No powers."

Her only response was a knowing smile.

He pushed her blade away in a circular motion with his before rapidly spinning away, preparing to strike to her left with both hands. But she was prepared for this, and easily blocked the oncoming blow with one hand, arm crossed over her body with the blade pointing to the ground. Robin grinned at her response, allowing for a fraction of a second's pause before striking again. Blow after blow, strike after strike, block after block, the deadly blades clashed in the increasingly humid air. It was like fighting in a sauna; the windows were small and close to the ceiling, allowing for very little breeze to provide relief.

Robin swung low at her ankles. Starfire jumped, simultaneously bringing her weapon down. He blocked it inches from his skull, one knee on the ground, and managed to push her back enough so he could rise.

As the seconds passed, their speed and strength increased as the pair gained more enthusiasm for the sport. Their footwork mirrored one another's with uncanny precision, shuffling back and forth with each tried to gain an advantage over the other. Any casual spectator would almost assume they were enemies rather than long-time friends training. Robin was naturally competitive by nature, and the level of experience Starfire was imitating for a beginner was nothing short of inhumane.

Then again, so was she.

For a brief period, it seemed as if the Tamaranian was gaining the upper hand. Strands of loose hair clung to Robin's sweat-covered face as he furiously moved to block each of her oncoming strikes. Swing, miss, jab, parry, spin, strike, dodge, block… If he hadn't been fully knowledgeable about her powers, he could have sworn that she was employing them, even if only subconsciously. But her strength matched her physique by any human standard, and that didn't chance the fact that she was gradually backing him into a corner.

There. Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted an opening in her defense. It was weak and left only a fraction of a second to attack, but his body moved reflexively and his goal was accomplished; with a cry of surprise, Starfire was forced back, falling to the ground. Her sword was instantly thrown from her grasp and spun in the air before landing several feet behind her opponent.

Her sight darted between her fallen weapon and the boy in front of her before she pushed back with her legs, back-flipping at a rapid pace to avoid Robin's continuous strikes. She was without offense, or so Robin thought, and he allowed himself to be caught off-guard when she spun-kicked his own sword away, her feet having barely touched the ground before her attack.

The Boy Wonder paused to blink at this sudden twist, staring at his now empty hand.

Starfire smirked proudly before positioning herself in a fighting stance, one arm extended to motion for him to attack. Robin grinned, realizing that she was mocking him, before mirroring her position. It was an unspoken agreement between the two that the battle would continue as is. Less than three seconds passed between their transition from weapon to no-weapon combat.

Sweat glistened off their bodies as they worked every possible muscle in an attempt to break through each other's defense. Weaponless battles were more familiar to the Tameranian, as was Robin's fighting style. Every punch, every kick of his was easily blocked, though she was finding it increasingly difficult to land a blow of her own.

Starfire was concentrating so hard on her defense, it wasn't until her back brushed against the far wall that she even realized he had managed to force her into a retreat. In a blind panic, she swung with one hand, only to have him catch it in mid-air. The other fist followed, but he caught that too and instantly held both behind her back.

She struggled weakly in his hold, vainly trying to free herself, but he held tight. After a few moments, she ceased all attempted escape tactics. Their bodies were pressed together tightly, and she could smell the faint scene of musk on him.

Beneath the mask, Robin raised an amused eyebrow. "You realize, of course, that you and I both know you could easily escape if you tried."

"Perhaps," came the reply as she lifted her head to meet his gaze. In spite of her current situation, she couldn't help the smile that slowly spread across her facial features. "But why would I want to?" The growth cycles of humans and her people varied greatly, and while she would one day tower over the boy in height, it amused her to realize that, for the moment, he held a good two inches on her.

In spite of the exercise, neither had been short of breath until that point. Robin leaned down slightly until their foreheads were touching, a few loose pieces of hair brushing against Starfire's face. She giggled softly as the silky strands tickled her nose, and he wondered how it was possible for her to seem so innocent, yet so alluring at the same time.

His grip had loosened considerably since on her wrists, and one hand found its way to Robin's cheek, tracing the outline of his jaw before trailing downward. Her index finger lightly brushed over his toned muscles, marveling at the physical result of years of crime fighting and intense workouts. As they reached his upper torso, she mentally counted all eight of his well-defined abs. Her exploration came to a halt as she hooked her index finger into the tie of his drawstrings, earning a sharp intake of breath from him.

"Starfire…" he moaned softly.

A voice in the back of his head kept telling him that he should stop, but he blissfully ignored it. In fact, he soon realized there was little control of his body left in his possession. His free hand had somehow found its way to rest upon Starfire's hip, while the other held tightly to her own hand at their side. At one point, he reached up and tugged the band holding back her soft hair, pulling it off and allowing the sweat-coated locks to fall across her face. And as the seconds passed, he could feel the tingling sensation as a rush of blood continued to flow towards his lower region.

He pulled his head back to meet Starfire in the eye, and she was pleasantly surprised to see that, as close as she was, it was possible to view his eyes behind the mask. Baby blue. A color she would cherish from that moment on.

Though it pained her in the slightest to tear her sight away from those sapphire pools, she leaned upwards and closed her eyes. Robin shuddered violently as he felt her gently lick his lower lip before moving in for a true kiss. His hand clutched hers tightly as he felt his lust taking over, pushing her body up against the wall to deepen the kiss. He didn't need to worry himself with the thought of hurting her, given her superhuman strength. In fact, he needn't worry himself with thinking at all. The only things registering in his mind were of the sensation of her lips against his…their hands clasped together…her bosom pressing against his lean chest…

With a sudden gasp, he pulled away almost violently, leaving a startled Starfire looking on in confusion. His eyes went wide as he stared at her for a moment, his breathing coming out in sudden, quick pants. Turning away, he headed to the nearby adjacent wall, where a fresh towel hung, and wrapped the cool cloth around his neck.

"Robin?" She called out to him, "Are you—?"

"I think you should go now." He interrupted, not turning to look at her.

"I am sorry?" Her eyebrows furrowed together in understandable confusion.

Robin shut his eyes tightly, willing himself to look at anywhere but her. He could hear the almost noiseless sound of her feet coming in contact with the wooden floor as she pushed herself away from the wall. His heart felt like it would pound through his chest at any moment, no matter how hard he tried to will its beat to slow.

"Please, Star. Just…leave." The words came out harsher than he had intended, and he regretted them the instant they escaped his lips.


More startled at her abruptness than anything else, Robin forgot himself for an instant and turned to face her. He couldn't remember the last time she'd outright disobeyed him, let alone in such a blunt manner. "Excuse me?"

He had expected tear-rimmed eyes and hurtful stares. But nothing could have prepared him for the frustrated, almost angry glare the Tamaranian girl was sending in his direction. She walked right up to him with a determination she'd only ever shown in battle, and the boy found himself retreating a few steps in fear.

"You heard me, Robin." Her voice was eerily calm, which only unnerved him even further. "There may be things of this planet that I still do not understand, but that does not mean I will continue to allow you to treat me as if my own feelings do not matter."

The Boy Wonder found himself at a loss for words. "I…"

Without another word, she stepped forward and placed a finger to his lips, silencing any further pleas on his part. Her eyes softened as they met with his, almost as if in understanding. She brought her hand down so that her palm rested against his chest and stood on her toes so she could reach up and delicately brush her lips against his once more. The feel of her touch left Robin weak in the knees, and he found himself responding to the kiss before his mind could even register what was happening.

It was seconds later when his brain finally caught up with his…other brain…and he reached up to clasp her delicate hand in both his own, lightly pushing her back.

"This is why we can't do this," he murmured into her ear, his voice low and husky with unsatisfied needs, "I lose control when I'm around you. You don't even realize what you do to me sometimes."

"Oh, my dear Robin," she sighed, gently raking her fingers through his damp bangs, "Why must you continue to torture yourself in this manner? Surely, one can not try to bury his emotions away permanently."

"I have to." Came his answer, before he could stop himself.

There was a noticeable pause, then Starfire took a step back. Her eyes shone a hint of sadness behind them. "Our friend Raven must do so because of the fear of her own powers. Tell me…what is it that you fear?" Her head tilted to the side in question. "Do you fear me?"

He stared at her for a moment, eyes glossed over. The look she held reminded him so much of when they were younger. Back then, she would always turn to him for answers. She held a hero's worship for the young boy, one that he was more than happy to oblige to, reveling in the confidence that such a position gave him. It didn't matter that there were dozens upon dozens of young fangirls who probably felt the same. It never had.

A hand rose to her cheek, delicately brushing across her smooth, soft skin. Starfire closed her eyes as he continued, tucking her hair behind her ear. He leaned in close and whispered, "What could possibly make me fear something so beautiful?"

She shivered at the sensation of his hot breath against her earlobe. His voice no longer sounded gruff, but had regained the sensual tenor she had long ago fallen in love with.

His fingers slowly stroked through her long, auburn tresses, pulling a few strands forward as they trailed across her shoulder blade, to the hollow of her neck. From there, he continued down, just barely brushing against her left breast. She let out a happy sigh under his extremely gentle touch. The neckline of her training bra was still soaked from the intensity of their workout.

After a moment, her eyelids fluttered open with a serene smile. She leaned up on her toes and planted a soft kiss on his damp bangs. "I believe I shall venture to the bathroom for a shower now." With the announcement came a series of subtle stretches to loosen her muscles from the previous, intense workout. It was an innocent gesture, though Robin had a hard time tearing his eyes away.

Grabbing the unused towel off the rack, Starfire proceeded to dab a few beads of sweat off her forehead, running the cloth across the back of her neck a few times, as she turned toward the exit. When she reached the doorway, however, she briefly paused turned back.

"Are you not coming?" She asked casually.

Robin did a double take.