To T.T. Darby: Good call! You are indeed correct, BB's line "And a check mark for Tuesday!" during the last chapter is a homage to the best comic strip that ever ran, Calvin and Hobbes. I was a devoted supporter even when I was a kid—I read it every Sunday and I now have all the collections in book form. I meant to mention the honorific in the author's notes and must have overlooked it. Thanks for catching my slipup, and it's good to see another Calvin and Hobbes fan! (toasts Darby with a smile.) Cheers!
Permission to act slightly exasperated for a second? Thanks: It's no secret that this is a Robin/Raven romance. You have been warned, folks! If you don't like it, don't read it! Or better yet, don't read itand then flame me for the pairing. That's just not constructive criticism, which is all I ask for.
Okay, I'm done (smiles) Thanks for that rant!
Now, where was I?
Oh, right—so Raven's slammed the door in Robin's face. It should be over...
But that wouldn't be any fun. (evil grin.)
Chapter Four: My Favorite Game
This is not a case of lust, you see
It's not a matter of you versus me
I really thought that I could take you there
But my experiment is not getting us anywhere
I only know what I've been looking for
Another YOU, so I could love you more
I should have seen it when my hope was new
My heart is black and my body is blue
And I'm losing my favorite game
(My Favorite Game)
Cyborg might have been the only man to ever get Raven in a position where her head was down and her ass was up.
"I can't find it," she yelled from under the hood of the T-Car, leaning way over so that she could shine her flashlight around. She was in a black tank top and a short black cotton skirt, which was her favorite way to lounge around the Tower when they weren't working. "I don't even know what I'm supposed to see."
"Keep looking," Cyborg said, not turning his attention away from the toolbox. "It looks sort of like a roast beef."
"A what?" Raven said exasperatedly. "Cyborg, there is nothing in here that looks even remotely like a ro—" Her eyes caught on something towards the back of the engine. "Wait, do you mean this thing that looks like a jelly roll?" Robin had been right about her sweet tooth.
Cyborg chuckled. "Yeah, we're probably talking about the same thing. Just jiggle it a little."
Raven obeyed. "What exactly am I jiggling down here?"
"The starter," Cyborg answered, moving around to the driver's seat. "Sometimes it acts up. Now get your cute little butt out from under that hood before you get toasted."
Raven hopped out from under the hood. She wiped a hand across her face, smearing oil across her cheek and forehead. Meanwhile Cyborg turned the ignition, and the engine roared to life. "Boo-yah!" he crowed, giving her a thumbs-up from behind the wheel. Raven treated him to one of her rare smiles, and Cyborg remembered why he'd really asked for her help.
"Here ya go, Rave." He tossed her a towel to clean up with. "Thanks for giving me a hand."
"Anytime, tinman." Raven wiped at the oil on her face, but only succeeded in smudging it across her cheek.
She seemed to be in a good mood, Cyborg thought. Now was as good a time as any to ruin it.
"You and Robin really beat the hell out of each other, didn't you?"
The dark bird jumped, caught. "What do you mean?"
"I figured he wasn't going to let it go," Cyborg said lightly. "Didn't want to ask you too much about the bruise, Rave. I figured you had it under control, especially when I saw that Robbie had some bruises of his own."
Raven was still visibly shaken, but she composed herself and nodded. "We were sparring," was all she said. "It was just a workout."
Cyborg laughed. "Yeah. I figured you two...worked it out."
"There is no need for you to worry about anything," Raven continued. "Everything is fine."
Cyborg chuckled darkly. "Betcha wouldn't tell me if it wasn't, would you, Rae?"
Raven's face was completely neutral as she said. "I wouldn't have to tell you. You'd probably notice something exploding."
Unable to help himself, Cyborg laughed out loud, smacking a hand on the newly-buffed hood of the T-Car.
"Made you smile," Raven said, just as deadpan but with a smirk.
Cyborg watched her as she left the garage, shaking his head. Something still wasn't right, but he was content for now. He'd gotten an answer he hadn't expected, but one that made perfect sense to him—it was small wonder Raven and Robin were constantly butting heads. They were a lot alike.
Robin had taken to sleeping with headphones on. He would take afternoon trips into Jump City and return with dozens of CDs that he would play long into the night, finding the tortured riffs of Guns 'N Roses or From Autumn to Ashes more soothing than his own thoughts.
After she had refused the flowers he'd offered her, Robin had kept a careful distance from Raven. He stopped watching her from across the room, stopped following her around, and whenever he saw her heading towards the training room, he made it a point to have an elsewhere to be.
And to his surprise and pleasure, this seemed to bother Raven most of all.
It was almost funny. He had followed Raven around for days, bending over backwards (literally, if the training room counted) trying to make her pay attention to him. But if he had wanted to elicit a response in Raven, all he had really needed to do was ignore her. The more he distanced himself from her, the more she came to him. Sometimes when she was at the stove, he would hear her murmuring a scrap of song as she brewed her tea. She began to spend almost as much time in the training room as he did—which made it difficult to train on his own in there, a fact which alternately amused and annoyed him—and she would inquire coolly about whatever case he was currently filing as if she were just trying to pass the time.
One night she happened upon him in the evidence room. He was staring at the broken mask he'd recovered from one of his bouts with Slade, shaking his head, not thinking about anything in particular. She slipped up behind him without a sound, and her voice broke into his thoughts, making him jump.
"Truth or dare, Robin?"
It was only her voice that had startled him, not her presence there. He had gotten used to her finding him at the odd moment. And somehow he had known that when he was tangled in his deepest, darkest thoughts, that she would be there.
"Truth," he said automatically, not looking at her, reaching out to straighten the mask where it hung on the wall to mock him.
"Why does it bother you so much?" she said, walking around to stand at his side. She also reached out to touch the mask, caressing its metal cheek with one hand like a lover. "We have many enemies. We have won many battles. Why this one and not the others?"
He had a sudden urge to take off his own mask. The better to see you with, my dear—
He answered her question with a question. "Have you ever been to Gotham City?"
She shook her dark head. "No, never."
He smiled. "Sooner or later, everyone goes to Gotham City. It's where everything is. You ought to see the night there, Raven. Neon lights, dark skies, the moon as big as you've ever seen it..." He sighed. "I never loved the night until I was swinging from jumplines through it." He closed his eyes, remembering, and then he answered her question more directly.
"Everyone goes to Gotham, Raven. Socialites, philanthropists, heroes and criminals, saints and sociopaths. I have faced off against a rogue's gallery of psychos, killers, hoods and costumed megalomaniacs. And I was smart, Raven, smarter than them, all of them. I just don't like to think that Slade might be...smarter...than me."
She didn't say anything for a few moments. She began to walk around the room, examining all the bits and pieces collected in that room, evidence of triumph used to beat back the pain of defeat.
"I have never been to Gotham City," was all she said as she made the complete circle and returned to him. "I have never seen the night there."
He felt the smile tug at his lips, let it come. "You'd fit right into it, Raven, like a missing piece. I'd be afraid to follow you into it."
"I don't think so," she said, walking past him to leave the room, to leave him as she always did.
"You don't think you'd fit into the night?" he asked, still smiling until he heard her answer.
"No." She actually looked over her shoulder. "I don't think you'd be afraid."
Here we go again, Cyborg thought with a smile.
The Titans were seated around the table playing a game of Risk. It wasn't going well for Starfire, who, while an excellent fighter, had no head for strategy. Her yellow pieces were sadly outnumbered on the board. Right now she chewed her soft lower lip and glanced worriedly down at Siam, the only area she was currently unopposed in.
Beast Boy was also having a rough time. He was having no luck with the dice, and his thought processes were far too erratic for him to plan a way out of the hole he'd dug for himself. His green men were scattered over the board, usually only one in a country, sitting ducks for a more ruthless player.
Cyborg wasn't doing too badly for himself. His black pieces were comfortably settled in the land of the free and the home of the brave, and it wouldn't take much effort to oust BB out of South America. Besides, the man-machine cared little for the game itself. He was having too much fun watching the war taking place on the other side of the world.
Robin's red pieces were at maximum strength in Europe, usually in direct conflict with Raven's blue ones. Cyborg could practically hear their synapses firing as they tried to psych each other out. After Robin had jokingly referred to Raven as the "axis of evil", everyone knew it meant war, and when they had battled over Russia for the fifth time it was obvious neither was backing down.
Robin moved one of his red men down into Egypt. "Hey Raven, knock knock," he teased. "Who's there? An asskicking!"
"You wish." She handed him the dice.
"Should we order a pizza?" Beast Boy wondered aloud.
"Probably," Cyborg chuckled. "If we can get Hitler and Stalin over here to quit long enough to eat."
"We can't quit now, Cy," Robin said, rolling the dice and not looking up from the board. "I'm just about to kick Raven out of Egypt." The dice came up on the high side for Robin. "Yes!" he cheered, raising his arms in victory. "You're outta there, Raven! Have fun wandering the desert for forty years."
"A plague on you," Raven hissed, moving her blue pieces.
The other Titans did order pizza, Beast Boy calling under careful supervision from Cyborg to make sure at least one pie had meat on it. Starfire volunteered to fetch it, appointing Cyborg to play in her absence with a wary glance at Beast Boy's decimated troops. The game continued normally until, during one of the changeling's turns, Raven gasped loudly, clutching her head, and tipped out of her chair to the floor.
Everyone started yelling. "Raven?"
"Rave, you okay?"
"What is it, Raven?"
Robin slammed both hands on the table, making the game pieces shudder. "Raven? Are you having a vision?"
Raven seldom had actual visions. Her empathy usually just fed her information from people—more like she could get a sense of their general mood. But sometimes she hit the bingo and and an actual prediction was pressed into her head. Robin had the feeling they were about to get lucky.
Raven was sucking in deep breaths, her shaking hands pressed over her eyes as if to keep out whatever she was seeing. "I can see...Robin..."
The owner of that name walked around the table and leaned closer. "What is it, Raven?"
"Yes?" He could barely hear her whisper.
"You're...going...down!" Raven yelled into Robin's ear. The Boy Wonder tipped backwards, crashing to the floor.
The Titans burst into laughter—all except Robin, who frowned. Beast Boy actually held up his hand to Raven.
"Good one!" the green Titan crowed, proud of his friend's jest. They high-fived—something that had never happened before.
"I declare war!" Robin roared, pointing at Raven, but was interrupted by Starfire returning with the pizza.
"Sit down, Alexander the Great," Cyborg ordered with a laugh. "You, too, Cassandra."
Robin and Raven sat down glumly, their game interrupted. They stayed silent until the pizza was distributed, and then Robin held his hand up to Raven, the same way Beast Boy had done before.
"Good one," he said, and the dark bird smiled almost imperceptibly. Instead of high-fiving him back hard, she simply placed her hand against his in a slow movement that was not lost on the other Titans.
"Good game," was all she said in return.
They ate their pizza in relative silence, but Robin had a contented smile on his face the whole time that seemed to have nothing to do with the food.
Another evening at Titans' Tower was in full swing, and Starfire and Raven were tangled together in the middle of the rec room floor.
Starfire's hair was tickling Raven's stomach. The Tamaranean giggled when the dark bird squirmed. "Be still, Raven, or you shall lose this game!"
"It's not fair," Raven cried, wobbling. "Star's got longer hair than I do and she's tickling me. Can someone call out a new color?"
Beast Boy chuckled maniacally as he twirled the Twister spinner. "You guys are turning me on down there. If only the board was covered with pudding!"
The two girls twined around each other growled at the changeling. "Beast Boyyyyyyy—"
"Right hand green! Right hand green!" Beast Boy yelled quickly.
Both girls shifted. Star took her right hand and flipped her body over so that she was basically bridged across her side of the Twister mat. Meanwhile Raven ended on all fours. Maybe Cyborg wasn't the only one who could get her in such a position—Beast Boy chuckled at the sight and spun again.
"Right foot yellow!"
Raven and Starfire both moved on the board. Starfire was closer to a yellow space, but Raven was more ruthless, hip-checking the Tamaranean in an attempt to prove the first rule of physics. "Waiiiiiiiii!" Star squealed, wobbling, teetering, and then finally tipping over.
"Woo hoo!" Raven said from her side of the board. "I am the Twister Queen!" She had already conquered Beast Boy and Cyborg, despite the metal man's enormous size and the changeling's ability to transform into an octopus.
"Not yet," Robin chuckled. "You still haven't beaten me!"
Raven hopped to her feet. "You're on, Bird Boy. Let's go."
Beast Boy leapt to the top of the sofa and puffed out his chest, using his best announcer voice. "In this cornerrrrrrr," he intoned, pointing both hands toward Robin, "The Boy Wonder, Scourge of All Evil, the Caped Crusader, Rrrrrrrrobin!"
Robin clasped both hands over his head like a prize boxer, grinning. "And the crowd goes wild!"
"Aaaaaaaaaand in this cornerrrrrr," Beast Boy continued, pointing to Raven, "The Punk Rock Princess, the Nightweaver, the Dark Darling of Jump City, Rrrrrrraven!"
Raven pointed an arm at Robin, hand curled into a fist with her thumb parallel to the floor. Smirking, she turned a thumbs-down, as if the Twister mat was the Roman coliseum. "You're going down. Oracles don't lie."
Beast Boy raised the spinner high. "Lllllllllet's get ready to rumbllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllle!"
"Robin, you are our last hope to defeat Raven at the Twisting game!" Starfire called, smiling. "She has defeated Beast Boy, Cyborg, and myself!"
"You went down fighting, Star." Cyborg soothed, patting the sofa next to him. Starfire sat down happily, offering the metal man some Reese's Pieces as they watched the spectacle.
"Left hand blue," Beast Boy said. Robin put one hand down on a blue spot, looking like a football player waiting for the snapback. Raven had to reach across the mat, arching her back gracefully as she put one hand down. "Right foot red..."
Beast Boy continued to call out colors and the two birds continued to twine around each other. "This isn't fair," Robin whined. "I'm wearing jeans and I can't stretch that far."
"I'm not having any trouble," Raven gloated, extending one pale leg across the board, exposing a long line of thigh. Robin wobbled, trying to crane his neck to see the spectacle.
"I do not think Robin would fit into your skirt, Raven," Starfire said innocently. Beast Boy and Cyborg stifled laughter, earning them a glare from the Boy Wonder.
"Shut...up," he grated out, looping one arm through the crook of Raven's to get to a green spot. The rest of the Titans doubled over with laughter.
"You guys look like a bad porno!" Beast Boy squealed from the top of the couch, holding his belly as if it hurt to laugh.
"I think they look like a good one!" Cyborg chuckled.
Robin and Raven joined forces in commanding their friends to shut up, and Beast Boy retuned to calling out colors. Raven eventually ended up bridged across the mat, her arms behind her and her legs bent double to hold her up. Robin was arched above her, his legs on either side of hers, his strong arms trapping her shoulders.
"You're going down, Boy Wonder," Raven teased.
"I know you like to be on top, but there's no need to be so demanding," he teased right back.
Raven stared up into his grin, a blush coloring her pale cheek. "Robin!"
Cyborg had to chuckle at that one. Meanwhile, Beast Boy was smirking, looking pointedly at the position he had his two teammates in. After a moment's thought, he considered the board, wondering what would be the best move to topple them both. With a mischievous look, the changeling tossed the spinner aside. Raven and Robin didn't notice, locked in their staring contest as they were.
Beast Boy smiled seraphically as he announced, "Right hand blue," without consulting the spinner.
Raven and Robin each had a foot on blue, and only one more blue spot was within their reach. Raven tried to beat Robin to the space, her hand slipping across the board. She lost her balance and hit the floor, inadvertantly kicking Robin's leg out from under him. He landed on top of her, arms still holding him up slightly, his lower body snuggled down between her legs.
"Oh!" Raven cried, blushing harder.
"Bullseye!" Beast Boy cracked up, his plan having worked perfectly. "You should see your faces! I wish I had a camera!"
Robin turned his head to yell at Beast Boy. "No cameras!"
Raven squirmed under Robin. She was only dimly realizing that he was heavy. The rest of her senses were filled with just him—her breasts were pressed against his chest, her heart rate picking up at feeling him, all of him—and she could tell that he didn't mind having her beneath him at all.
That makes two of us...she thought without realizing.
It didn't make sense. This was Robin. There was no way the Boy Wonder desired her that much—but there was the evidence, pressed against her through his jeans and her thin cotton skirt. His breath was warm on her cheek, and he didn't seem inclined to move any time soon. She could feel her heart knocking against her breastbone, the beats synchronizing with the pulse of his heart. It was the closest she'd ever been to him. Why did she keep ending up in his arms lately?
She had to fight to keep her mind calm, because being pinned beneath him was exciting; the aura of strength and masculinity he exuded was somehow mesmerizing. She wanted only to press herself harder against him; instead her hands found his chest and pushed at him. "You're heavy," she said, the only sentence her dizzy brain could come up with.
He only grinned down at her. "So you do like to be on top."
I wouldn't mind being on top of you...
"You'll never know," she gasped. "Get off me!" Her words were shaky, because in truth that was the absolute last thing she wanted him to do.
Robin didn't obey; instead he laughed. "You hit the floor first, Raven. Don't be a sore loser. Winning isn't everything!"
"No," she snarled, and with one swift move rolled them over so that she was straddling him. Robin hissed in a breath as the motion forced her hips to grind against him. Raven leaned in close to purr his own words back into his shocked face. "It's just the only thing that matters."
Beast Boy laughed aloud. "Look who's hit the floor now!"
Raven stood up calmly—or, would have, if Robin hadn't tried to hold her hips. As she got to her feet, his hands dragged lightly down her bare thighs, which set her pulse to racing again. She hoped the others didn't notice that she was trembling—and walked around the board. "So, I guess that's game?"
Starfire clapped her hands. "Well played, Raven. You fought admirably!"
Beast Boy was still laughing. "You should have seen your face, Raven."
"I hate you," Raven said calmly. "Although you did have one good idea." She turned to the other Titans. "Anyone in the mood for pudding?"
"That depends, will you be bathing in it?" Beast Boy grinned cheekily. Raven pushed him off the sofa.
Robin twisted the cold tap on the shower, closing his eyes and raising his face to the icy spray.
What had she been playing at on that Twister board? Throwing his own words back at him, taunting him, rolling his body over so she could ride him as she dared him once again. You're going down...
In a way it was absurd to even consider it—Raven flirting, teasing him. She didn't do things like that...
But what was that? Every exercise, every game they played, she seemed more determined than ever to rise to his challenges. And then when she would seek him out, that quiet curiosity, her wanting to get inside his head...
I'd be afraid to follow you into it,he'd teased her.
I don't think you'd be afraid, she'd answered.
Was it another dare—another challenge?
...No. She had said it herself.
So you do like to be on top,he'd teased.
You'll never know, she'd cried as she struggled to push him away. She'd said no, it was never going to happen.
He let the cold water numb him as much as it could.
The days were getting warmer. Training sessions were held outdoors more often, and movies were saved for rainy afternoons. Many a day saw the Titans outside enjoying the nice weather, and today was no exception.
It had been Robin's idea to play football. He had drawn the teams up himself. Ever since the game of Twister in the rec room, he hadn't been able to get Raven out of his mind. But Raven had gone out of her way not to touch him physically, not to put herself in close proximity with him.
So he was going to force her to come to him, any way he could.
"Fourth down, Titans," he said, dropping to a crouch. "Blue thirty-two! Blue thirty-two! Hike!"
The ball was snapped back to him, and Raven began to count for the opposing team. "One Gotham City...two Gotham City...three Gotham City..."
Starfire ignored the count and pounced, tackling the Boy Wonder to the ground. They rolled over and over, a blur of casual clothing. Star ended up on her side, giggling at Robin as he spit grass into the air.
"Starfire, you're supposed to wait until I count to five," Raven yelled from across the field.
"You were taking far too much time to count," Starfire defended herself.
"That's all well and good, Star," Robin chuckled, getting to his feet, "but you're on my team."
Starfire blushed with a smile on her face that said she had known exactly what she was doing. "Oh! How silly of me!" She giggled, and Robin couldn't help smiling back. Starfire could be naïve at times, but she wasn't entirely guiltless of the wisdom of the serpent. And it was nice to know his plan had worked—too bad he'd ended up with the wrong girl on top of him.
He wasn't sure what to make of Starfire. She enjoyed his company, was always happy to be around him. She was generous with her affection, as cheerful as sunlight. And definitely beautiful. But...
There were deeper reasons that he couldn't see himself with the bubbly alien princess. The dark corners of his mind were no place for Starfire. She would never understand the things that made him smash his fists into mirrors, the things that kept him awake till dawn.
Starfire would be very out of place in a Gotham City night.
Like a visual aid, Raven shook her dark hair back from her face and announced, "I'm not going to play football with a super-strong alien who would rather tackle than win."
"It's too hot to play football anyway," Beast Boy whined. "Anybody want to go swimming?"
Starfire giggled. "Beast Boy, I am close to reaching your destination!"
"What?" the changeling asked.
"She means she's way ahead of you," Raven said. "In fact, we both are." And the dark bird pulled her t-shirt over her head, revealing the two tiny triangles of a black bikini top. Robin, being a young red-blooded male, couldn't help but stare at the curve of her breasts as they strained against the shiny fabric. Where had she been hiding those?
"Raven and I decided we would like to swim when we saw how sunny it was," Starfire added, stripping off her own tank top and dropping her denim shorts to show she was wearing a lavender bikini. In contrast to Raven's voluptuous figure, Star was taller, more lithe than the dark bird. She giggled cutely at the sight of her stunned friends, who couldn't seem to take their eyes off her.
"I love swimming," Beast Boy said dreamily, drooling at the sight of his female teammates.
"You girls should have told us," Robin said. "I'm going in and getting my suit."
Raven unzipped her jeans, sliding them over her hips as she listened to her friends. "Did you bring out towels, Star?"
"In my haste, I fear I have left them in the hall," Starfire answered. "I am sorry, Raven."
"No big. I'll go in and get them." Raven stepped out of her jeans and headed for the Tower.
"Nah, I got 'em, Raven," Beast Boy said. "I'm going in to get my suit too. Coming, Cy?"
"And get water in my circuits?" the metal man chuckled. "Nah, I'll play lifeguard today. But I will come in and stock up a cooler. How does soda sound to everybody?"
By the time Beast Boy and Robin returned, Starfire and Raven were already in the water. The Tamaranean's eyes were closed, her arms stretched out in front of her. "Marco," she called.
"Polo," Raven answered, backstroking away from her friend.
"Polo," Beast Boy teased, kneeling at the bank and splashing at Starfire, who whirled, eyes still closed, to see where the noise was coming from.
"There is a fish out of the water!" she cried, laughing.
"Not anymore!" Beast Boy leaped into the water, transforming into a marlin in midair. He resurfaced in human form, waving to Robin. "Come on in, dude!"
Robin obeyed, diving in from the highest part of the bank gracefully. When he broke the surface, Raven was staring at him, frowning.
"What?" he asked, confused. "What's the matter, Raven?"
Raven made a sign, tracing a dripping hand in front of her eyes. "Your mask," she said. "Do you ever take it off?"
Robin's hands flew to his face. In truth, he hadn't even realized he was still wearing his mask. He barely paid attention to it anymore, he had grown so used to it. "The mask is a part of me, Raven. Live with it, because I have to." He hadn't meant to sound so bitter.
She blushed. "I didn't mean—"
"Forget it." To stall the conversation, he dove beneath the water, swimming away from her.
What was her problem with the mask? She was always asking him about the mask...
He came up for air, and two wet, tanned arms locked around him from behind. "I have got you!" Star crowed. Her hands slid over his chest, trying to guess who she had in her clutches. "All right," she announced. "It is not Raven."
"What tipped you off?" the dark bird laughed, cradling her own breasts in her hands. Robin's eyes widened behind his mask at the display. She was doing it again—
"Oh, do that again, Rave!" Beast Boy laughed. Raven flipped him the finger, but she was smirking. Robin wondered what had gotten into her. She wasn't usually so easy, so teasing, so...
Starfire heard her friends talking and by process of elimination figured out who she was holding. "Robin!" she cheered. "Have I guessed right?"
"You did, Star," Robin said, and the Tamaranean hooked her chin over his shoulder, squeezing him in her arms.
Raven was watching them, her eyes dark with some emotion that she wouldn't allow to spill onto her face. Robin glanced at her, how the sunlight on the water sparkled around her muted color, the way the water glowed on her pale skin and rolled down into the valley between her breasts. He decided to do something completely unkind.
"Want a ride, Star?" he asked cheerfully, lifting the Tamaranean onto his back. She squealed with glee, looping her arms around his neck.
Raven splashed clumsily to the shore, refusing to look at them. She climbed onto the bank and mimicked Robin's earlier dive, breaking the surface of the water with barely a splash.
"Nice dive, Rave!" Cyborg said, emerging from the Tower with a cooler in his hands just in time to see it.
Raven smiled and waved to him. "Thanks."
"My turn!" Beast Boy yelled. "Watch this!" Transforming into a swan, he lifted himself out of the water a few feet, then fell gracefully back into it. "Get it?" he laughed, resurfacing. "Swan dive!"
"You think that's good, watch this," Robin challenged, assisting Starfire off his back and climbing onto the bank. He had left his shirt and sneakers by the Tower, but there was one thing he always carried just in case—a spare birdarang. Finding it now, he rigged a jumpline to it, then threw it in a graceful arc towards Titans' Tower, where it anchored firmly into the side of the structure. Taking a running start, he swung from the jumpline out over the water, letting go at the end to dive in.
"Glorious!" Starfire cheered, clapping her hands.
"Nice one!" Beast Boy agreed.
"Might I try as well?" Starfire asked, levitating out of the water and touching down on the bank. "Cyborg, will you assist me?"
"Sure thing, Star," Cyborg laughed, realizing what she wanted to do. Backing up as far as where Cyborg had left the cooler, Starfire took a running start towards the shore. When she reached him, the man-machine grabbed her around the waist and threw her out over the water, where she splashed down, laughing.
Robin grinned. "Okay, you guys, you all think you're hot stuff, but I'm about to show you all up!" Hopping onto the bank, he tugged on the jumpline he had left at the Tower, and his birdarang fell to his hand, ready to be thrown again. This time, he tossed it as high and as far as he could, striking the top of the Tower itself. Tugging on the line to make sure it was secure, he began to climb.
"Uhhhhhh," Beast Boy said warily. "Robin? Are you sure that's a good idea?"
"What are you doing?" Starfire asked. "That does not seem...safe!"
"Can't hear you guys, I'm too far up!" Robin joked, laughing down at his friends.
"No, seriously, Rob, don't go up there," Cyborg said. "It's too high."
"Come on, Cy, what do I look like? Some kind of coward?" Robin said, hauling himself up the grappler hand over hand. "I can do it."
"You're going to get yourself killed," Beast Boy said, frowning. "Idiot!"
"Robin! I beg of you, do not go! It is far too dangerous!" Starfire pleaded, flitting up alongside the Boy Wonder as he climbed. He flashed her his best dazzling smile.
"No worries, Star! Don't you trust me?"
The Tamaranean looked doubtful, but she sank slowly down towards the earth again. Back on the ground, the other two boys looked at Raven, waiting for her to protest. The half-demon's dark eyes watched Robin, wary, waiting. She looked utterly calm and completely unimpressed by his show of bravado, but there was something in the depths of those eyes.
"Stop, wait, come back," she said, almost boredly, not like she meant it at all.
"Friends! We must not allow Robin to do this dangerous thing!" Starfire said, touching down again.
"Raven," Beast Boy said, turning to the dark bird. "You can levitate. Go up there and get him!"
Raven shook her head, giving Beast Boy a Look. "Don't be silly," she said calmly. "He's just showing off. He's not really going to do it."
Cyborg remembered that necklace of bruises on the Boy Wonder's throat. "He might. Talk him down, Raven. We don't want him to get hurt."
"Why are you all looking at me?" Raven asked exasperatedly. "Why should I be the one to go get him?"
The other Titans looked at each other, then back at Raven. It was Cyborg who said it. "Because he'll listen to you."
Raven looked puzzled, her mouth falling open to argue, but it was too late. A shout interrupted them.
"Hey, guys! You ready to be amazed?"
Raven's violet eyes widened. "He'll come down," she said, but this time she sounded entirely unconvinced. "He's not really going to do it..."
"Who're you trying to convince, Rae, us or you?" Beast Boy asked darkly.
"He won't do it," Raven said, louder now, with more conviction. "He wouldn't."
Robin grinned and waved from the top of the tower. "All right, watch me now," he called. "Cannonball!"
Much to Cyborg's surprise, Raven grasped his cybernetic arm tightly and gave a soft cry as soon as Robin actually jumped. No one breathed until he hit the water and came up, laughing in triumph, shaking water back from his hair.
Cyborg, now that no one was hurt, was laughing too. He turned to Raven, ruffling her hair with his free hand. "Get a little scared, dark bird?"
Raven frowned, tossing Cyborg's arm to his side and turning away. She sniffed. "I wasn't scared."
"Robin!" Starfire called, rushing towards the water. "We were worried about you!"
"I'm fine!" Robin called. "In fact, I'm the man!"
"You're a moron!" Beast Boy corrected. "You could have split your skull open!"
"You're just mad 'cause you can't beat that," Robin exulted, getting to shore. "Can't go any higher than the top of the tower!"
Raven smirked. "Is that right."
Everyone turned to her.
Robin's grin dropped off his face and crashed to the ground. "You can't go any higher than the top of the Tower."
Raven's eyes hooded themselves. "Maybe you can't." She tightened the ties on her bikini top, then lifted slowly off the ground.
"No, Rave, don't," Beast Boy groaned. "I'm gonna have a heart attack."
But Raven would not be deterred. She levitated upwards, moving out over the water. "You're pretty good, Robin," she admitted, "but you're limited." She demonstrated exactly how he was limited with a wave of her hands towards the air she was floating in.
"Oh yeah?" the Boy Wonder challenged. "You think you can do it from the top of the Tower?"
"I can do better," Raven said, continuing to ascend.
"What?" Robin asked from the ground. "How?"
But she was still in midair, climbing higher almost languidly. "High enough for you?" she called, as soon as she was above the tower's roof.
"It's way too fucking high, is how it is!" Cyborg called. "Come down from there!"
"Friend Raven, this game must stop!" Starfire agreed.
"Very funny!" Robin called, laughing. "She just wants us to tell her to come down. Are you scared to jump, Raven? We should call you Chicken!"
"Laugh while you can, Boy Wonder. Watch me!" Raven stretched her arms above her head and allowed herself to fall in a picture perfect swan dive towards the bay.
If Raven hadn't been not quite human, even she might have come to a rather gruesome end. As it was, everything probably would have been fine if Robin hadn't screamed, "Raven!" right before she hit the water.
Startled, Raven lost her concentration. Her body twisted in midair, and she met the bay in a rather ungraceful belly-flop.
"Ohhhhh!" Star gasped, covering her eyes.
"Ouch!" Cyborg groaned.
"I give her a nine on the dive, but a two on the landing!" Beast Boy yelled. "She's gonna feel that tomorrow!"
"It's what she gets for acting like such a jackass," Cyborg grumbled. "Jeez, Robin. Don't you two know when to quit?"
Robin growled in his and Raven's defense. "It's just a game, Cy—"
Starfire interrupted, floating about ten feet off the ground to get a better look. "Why does she not come up?"
Robin jogged towards the shore. "Raven?"
No sign of the dark bird.
"Raven?" Beast Boy called worriedly.
"Raven!" Starfire cried, a note of terror in her voice. "Raven!"
"Ignore her," Robin snarled. "She's messing with us. She's trying to psych me out." But he walked along the shore, looking for any sign of his teammate.
"Robin, I don't think she's messing with us," Beast Boy ventured. "Even I don't think this is funny."
"He's right," Robin murmured, almost to himself. Cupping his hands around his mouth, he called, "This isn't funny, Raven. Where are you?"
"Fine! You win!" Robin yelled, fear winning out over anger in his voice this time. "I'm scared, okay?"
The four remaining Titans exchanged worried glances for one more second, and then everybody was plowing into the water, except for Starfire, who shot upwards for an aerial view.
"I see her!" the Tamaranean screamed, pointing to a shallow section of the water. "Over there."
Robin's movements, like his namesake's, had always been bird-swift. But this time he flew. Seconds later he was staggering to shore with a very unconscious Raven in his arms. Was it his imagination that she was so much paler than usual? Almost...blue?
"Is she okay?" Cyborg called, sloshing his way closer in the shallow water.
Raven was relaxed in Robin's arms, head thrown back, breasts thrust forward. Her eyes were shut tightly, the lashes starred together. Her pale lips were parted.
Oh my god, she's not breathing...
"No," Robin called, his voice rising in barely leashed panic. "She's not breathing, she's not fucking breathing!"
Beast Boy had brought towels from the Tower when he had gone in to get his bathing suit, Robin remembered. Unrolling one, he lay Raven carefully down on it and knelt at her side. Voices rose around him in fear, making it difficult to not panic himself.
Robin laced his fingers over Raven's chest and began CPR. After fifteen compressions, he locked his mouth on hers and pinched her nose, giving her two quick breaths. Nothing. He tried again.
"I'm calling someone," Cyborg announced quickly, gesturing with the arm the phone was built into.
"You can't call a paramedic, we're on a friggin' island," Beast Boy shouted. "What are they gonna do, Medivac their way out here?"
"She's going to die if we don't," Cyborg shot back, shutting the changeling up.
"Do not say such things!" Starfire hollered, dropping back to the ground. "How could you?"
"I didn't mean—" Beast Boy started, but Cyborg interrupted him.
"Eyes on the crisis, here, guys," he said, turning back towards Robin. "Any luck, Rob?"
"No," Robin growled in frustration, repeating the process. Was it his imagination she felt colder by the second?
"We must do something," Star cried.
"I'm doing all I can!" It was almost a scream as Robin pressed his mouth to Raven's once more.
Not like this, Robin thought. Please, not like this.
It was all wrong, everything was all wrong. He'd wanted to hold her, but not like this, not with that perfect chest empty of breath, not with that soft skin so cold against his. He'd wanted to press his mouth to hers, but not like this, not to force his breath into her body.
Raven...I didn't want our first kiss to be like this.
He knotted his fingers over her chest for another fifteen compressions, because once you started CPR you didn't stop until medical help arrived, even though he knew Beast Boy was right. Help would never get there in time. No one was coming; he was alone.
"God damn it, Raven, don't do this to me." He gave her two more breaths, ready to give up, his eyes sliding closed and his forehead against hers, leaving just the warmth of his lips against her mouth.
Robin's eyes snapped open, and he drew back. Water spilled from Raven's mouth, her chest heaving with the effort it took to try to breathe. Her violet eyes were ringed in red, tears streaming down her face from the strain. She spasmed in his arms, trying to sit up. Robin cradled her carefully against his shoulder, letting her try to rip air into her lungs.
The other Titans immediately gathered around the two birds, but Robin held up a hand in warning. "Give her some space! Don't crowd her." Raven weakened in his arms and struggled to breathe for a few more minutes, eyes sliding shut.
"Raven?" he asked softly. "Talk to me, Raven."
"I can't breathe," she whispered, starred lashes fluttering.
Beast Boy let out a huge held breath in a whoosh. "She's okay!"
"Glorious!" Starfire cried, clasping her hands over her heart.
Raven forced her eyes open, her chest rising and falling laboriously as she relearned how to breathe. She stared up at the Boy Wonder, as if searching for something.
"What's wrong, Raven?" he asked, a look of concern on his face. "Can you hear me?"
She raised shaking hands to his face, her fingertips pressing gently to his temples, and then her nails scratching gently at his mask. She pulled it carefully off, surprising him. He blinked down at her, not used to the unfamiliar sensation of having his eyes exposed.
"Robin," Raven sighed, as if she hadn't recognized him until she had taken off his mask.
But she'd never seen him without his mask before…
He didn't have time to think about it now. "I'm here, Raven," he soothed, patting her hand. "Who else is here? Tell me."
Obediently, Raven pointed to each Titan in turn. "Beast Boy...Starfire...Cyborg."
"You all right, Rae?" Cyborg asked gently.
"I don't know," Raven said absently. "What...what happened?"
"We were playing a game," Robin whispered. "It just...it just went a little too far, that's all."
"Oh." Raven blinked dizzily. "Who won?"
The Titans exchanged that worried look again, glances flitting from one bird to the other. It was Robin who answered.
"Let's just be glad we didn't lose anything. Okay?"
She seemed to accept that answer, leaning against him. "I'm tired," she murmured.
"I know. I'm going to take you inside. Just...just don't close your eyes, Raven," Robin said, his voice sounding like a little boy's. "Raven? Did you hear me? Don't close your eyes..."
Raven wasn't listening. She was nuzzled against his shoulder, bleached from lack of air, his mask still clutched in her hand. Robin lifted her in the standard threshold position. Normally she would have hated being carried, but she barely stirred as he brought her back into the tower, trailed by four unhappy-looking Titans.
Like four worried parents, the Titans had immediately put Raven to bed in the Tower's makeshift infirmary. Cyborg had helpfully checked Raven's vitals, and save for running a low-grade fever, she seemed fine. But everyone was hesitant to leave her side.
Robin was sitting in a chair beside Raven's bed. He was pretending to read a book, but not pretending very well—his still-unmasked eyes kept jumping from the pages to the sleeping girl.
"She's not gonna like you being in here, Rob," Cyborg called from the hallway. "She won't like you watching her when she can't watch back."
"Tough," Robin answered, not looking up from Fight Club.
"She'll eat your face when she wakes up," Beast Boy pressed.
"She'll be awake, that's all I car—that's all that matters," Robin said, tripping over his words.
"Robin," Starfire faltered, sensing another reason for the Boy Wonder's concern. "You must not blame yourself."
Robin did look up from the book then, favoring Star with a small, sad smile.
The Tamaranean patted her thighs, and Beast Boy morphed into a green cat, leaping into her arms. She carried him down the hall, absently petting the green fur.
Cyborg lingered a minute longer, staring at Robin. He'd never seen his best friend look so...defeated. Raven was fine, wasn't she? What was bothering him? What had been making the two of them act so strangely lately?
"Robbie? Do you wanna talk about it?"
No answer from the Boy Wonder.
Cyborg sighed in frustration. "Fine. There's no expiration date on this offer if you change your mind. Try not to fall asleep in that chair—you'll get a crick in your neck." He turned to leave the room, but something pushed him to add one more thing.
"In case this interests you, Robin," he said, "You scared Raven when you jumped from the tower. When you hit the water, she was squeezing my arm pretty hard."
Robin raised his head and blinked at his friend. Cyborg wasn't sure if he was even listening. There had to be a way to get through that thick skull, the metal man thought.
"Star's wrong, you know," he rumbled. "I think maybe you ought to blame yourself."
Robin suddenly came to life, a spark of anger flaring in his dark eyes. "What the hell? I didn't throw her off the tower, Cyborg!"
"Don't encourage her is what I'm saying," Cyborg shot back. "You know she jumped because you did."
"I was playing," Robin growled, his voice thick with some feeling Cyborg couldn't place. "How was I to know she would try to outdo me? I didn't tell her to try to go higher."
"You didn't have to tell her!" Cyborg roared, indicating that the discussion was closed. "Anyone could see how happy it made you."
The only sound in the room were the machines monitoring Raven's heartbeat and respiration, until the sound of Robin pitching his book at the wall split the air like a gunshot.
Robin calls Raven the "axis of evil" while playing Risk, which is one of my favorite games. I encourage everyone who's able to vote to do so, because we need to get Bush out of office. Cyborg also calls Robin "Alexander the Great"—Robin strikes me as a world-conqueror type. (smiles).
And then there's the legend of Cassandra. For those who don't know it and are in the market for a little Greek mythology, Cassandra was the beloved of the god Apollo. To woo Cassandra, Apollo gave her the power to predict the future. But then when they were in bed, Cassandra chickened out and said she didn't want to sleep with him. She already had the power of premonition by then, but the aggrieved Apollo found another way to punish her—Cassandra would always be able to predict the future, but no one would ever believe her; everyone would think she was mad. The moral of the story: don't anger the gods. (smiles) Personally, though, I like to think Cassandra had the last laugh—during the fall of Troy.
Beast Boy referring to Robin as The Caped Crusader is a nod to the old Batman TV series, starring Adam West and Burt Ward. I'm trying to get some DVDs to watch late at night. Some people drink warm milk. I watch old Batman episodes. In the same breath, BB also calls Raven the Punk Rock Princess, which is actually the title of a song by Something Corporate.
Raven counting "One Gotham City, two GothamCity…" is taken directly from Beast Boy's line in the episode called "The Sum of His Parts". Likewise, when Beast Boy says, "I give her a nine on the dive, but a two on the landing!" is a reference to "Only Human". I just like those lines, I guess (shrugs, smiles).
Lastly, Robin is reading Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club in the infirmary. I don't know, it just strikes me as up his alley (smiles).
Okay, that's it for this chapter. Feedback is greatly appreciated, since this was a long chapter—it took forever due to technical difficulties and I hope it turned out all right!
Next chapter: What, you thought there wasn't going to be any crime in JumpCity for the duration of this fic?