The Problem With Orange

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Teen Titans characters. I just twist their lives for my own enjoyment. I do, however, own the storyline.

Chapter 1: Nothing to Be Alarmed About

It had seemed so harmless at first. Just a friendly little Tamaranian peculiarity, nothing to be alarmed about. After all, Tamaranian women had been dealing with it for thousands of years now. Certainly Starfire could handle it for a handful of months.

Right.

It began with Starfire's seventeenth birthday. The team had managed to slip away from watching the city long enough for a day at the beach, complete with sun, swimming, a picnic, and, of course, presents for the birthday girl. Starfire had been so excited about the picnic that actual presents had simply overwhelmed her. The thoughtfulness of her friends never ceased to amaze her. She received a digital camera from Cyborg ("Don't know why we never thought of getting you one before!"), a pretty silver locket from Beast Boy ("You're pretty, the locket's pretty...I thought it'd be a good match," he said a little bashfully, earning him a kiss on the cheek.), a new book from Raven ("Don't worry," she'd said with a smile at Starfire's dubious look, "it has a happy ending. I checked."), and a chess set, the pieces depicted by all sorts of magical creatures, from Robin ("Magic just seems to be a part of you, Star," he said in a soft voice that made her heart skip a beat.). Starfire had spent the rest of the day using, wearing, or reading her presents as often as she could. She couldn't have asked for a more perfect day.

The "Problem," as she'd come to think of it, started a few days after Starfire's birthday. The Titans were halfway through breakfast, chatting about the previous night's fight, when suddenly Beast Boy noticed something odd about her skin.

"Hey, Star," the little shape shifter managed through a mouthful of tofu, "what's up with your skin? It's, like, turning orange or something."

Starfire drew her arm near her face, and then gasped in alarm and dismay at what she saw. She stood up so fast that she knocked over her own plate of eggs and Mayonnaise. Not noticing, she began to examine her arm and both legs, while the other Titans looked at her with varying expressions of inquiry, worry, and amusement. There was no question about it; the skin not covered up by her usual purple outfit was beginning to show a very light tinge of orange in a peculiar mottled pattern.

"Uh, Star? Wanna clue us in?" Cyborg finally asked. Starfire looked at him, and then at her other friends for moment, considering. Then she sighed and sat back down.

"Everyone, I am going to have to ask for your patience with me for a while. The presence of these...markings will signify many mood swings for me whenever they are on my body. I apologize with much sincerity in advance for anything of an angry or frustrated nature that I might say to you. And also," now she began to blush, a slow rush of orange that didn't look so out of place now that most of her skin had the same light tint, "I must warn you, Robin, Beast Boy, Cyborg, that you should not be left alone with me when you see me like this. The outcome would not be pleasant."

By this point, the boys were all looking very confused, while Raven merely arched an eyebrow. "I don't suppose you're going to tell us what this is all about, are you, Star?"

"No, Raven, I will not. All I will say is that it is a Tamaranian problem, and not one that I wish to discuss openly. Now, if you will all excuse me, I am not feeling a hunger for eggs anymore." And with that, Starfire got to her feet and nearly bolted from the dining room.

The rest of the Titans exchanged glances.

"Well, that was weird," came Beast Boy's comment, and nothing more was said. Only Robin, who had said nothing since the strange conversation had started, continued to shoot worried glances at the door.

- - -

Raven had finally found her friend on the roof, gazing up at the sky. The sun was just beginning to set, sending streaks of gold through the amethyst and navy expanse. The sun was ready to sleep, but their day was just beginning. Dusk lent its flames to Starfire's own coppery hair, red shot with gold in the sun's light. Raven unconsciously touched her own head. She wondered if the sun made the dark purple shine like her normally good-natured friend over there. Then again, maybe it just absorbed the light the way her power could. Sighing, she pushed the dark thoughts from her mind.

"So, now that the boys are all safely in other parts of the house, are you going to explain to me what this is all about?"

Starfire shook her head and kept her eyes on the sky. "No, I really do not want to talk about it."

Raven's eyebrows shot towards her hairline. "Star, you want to talk about everything. The things you've seen during the day, the new people you've met, the ones you see everyday. Even silly ordinary stuff. I remember a conversation we had just about your shoes. Although I will never admit that I would talk to anyone about their shoes."

Starfire glanced over at her. How could Raven possibly understand this? Despite the closeness they had continued to share over the years through meditation and the occasional shopping spree, the other girl kept such a tight rein on her feelings that there was no way Starfire could try to explain the Problem.

"Try me," was all she said. At the redhead's surprised look, she smiled, just a little, and said, "Your face is an open book. Now, spill it."

"Well...I guess it cannot hurt to talk about it." She cleared her throat. "Tamaranian girls, at a certain age, begin to go through what we call the cycles. The orange coloring only lasts for a year or so of these cycles, but it shows up for several days once a month. The orange signifies the girl's readiness to, ah, provide children." Now a blush once again stained her cheeks. She didn't dare turn to look at Raven. "It also causes her to be...aggressive. She attempts to take what she wants."

Now Starfire finally managed to look at her friend. "Um, you do realize what she wants, yes?"

Raven's lips quirked. "I have a pretty good idea."

"After a year, the orange patterns disappear. The girl continues to feel a...restlessness...every month, but she can begin to control it."

"So, let me get this straight. You're going to be turning orange once in a while, for a while. And whenever the orange shows, we've got to make sure you're not alone with the boys because of you'll suddenly try to...take what you want from them." That was definitely a smile on Raven's face, Starfire decided.

"It is not a matter for laughter, Raven! I would change it if I could, but I cannot stop it, and it is very embarrassing!" she said, tears beginning to form.

And there's the moodiness, Raven thought. Out loud, she said quickly, "Please don't cry. You're right, it's not funny, and I'm not laughing. And I can see why you didn't want to tell the boys. They're good for the fights, but when it comes to girls, they're clueless. They'd fall all over each other trying to understand it, and then they wouldn't be sure what to do with it."

Starfire smiled happily, tears evaporating.. "I'm glad you can understand. Tell me, on Azarath, do the girls experience something similar to the Tamaranians?"

Raven thought for a moment. "No, nothing like that. But now that you mention it, there is a time of the month when I eat a lot more than normal."

Starfire frowned. "Well, that does not seem fair at all."

- - -

Several floors below, Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Robin were pummeling each other cybernetically via Beast Boy's newest game, Monster Trucks II: Total Destruction. And naturally, since this was their way of bonding, they gossiped in between triumphant exclamations, sighs of defeat, and battle cries.

"So, what do you think Star meant when she said we can't be left alone with her?" Beast Boy asked.

"I'd say she means she doesn't want to be left alone with us," came Robin's reply. His sarcasm was always subtle, but highly effective. Beast Boy glared at him, and consequently lost the match.

"Hey, no fair! Anyway, I know what she was saying, what I mean is, why?"

"Girls are strange creatures, BB. Sometimes, what they say doesn't have to make sense as long as a guy has the good sense to stay out of her way when she tells him to. And Star can be as strange as they come," Cyborg managed to say even as he took Robin's monster truck head-on in the ring.

"Yeah, but--"

"Maybe she just doesn't want to talk about it. I mean, it sounds a lot like...well...period stuff to me. Earth girls'll go on about them until you beg them to stop, but maybe they treat it differently on Tamaran," Robin said.

"Wow, I think that's the most you've said since sometime yesterday, dude. You feelin' okay?" Beast Boy asked the question with the typical caution of a guy wandering into the "feelings zone," but Robin waved the concern away.

"I'm fine, I've just been thinking a lot lately."

"Uh-oh. You're not gonna start obsessing about Slade this early in the day, are you?" Cyborg asked.

"No, it's not about that. It's just...stuff," Robin said a little uncomfortably. Beast Boy's monster truck was running circles around his own; how did that little mutant always manage to find the fastest one?

"Stuff?" Cyborg asked with a grin. "Does this 'stuff' happen to have long red hair and pretty green eyes?"

"And wear purple almost every day?" Beast Boy added with his own grin. He and Cyborg were now closing in on Robin's truck from both sides. Any minute now, he'd be crushed with no chance of return.

"Actually, I was thinking maybe I should ask Raven out on a formal date. You know, something fancy, like Armadette's, and then maybe go dancing. Do you think she can salsa?" he asked with a completely straight face. In the time it took both of his friends to gape at him, Robin managed to crush both opposing trucks and rack up a few bonus points.

"Dude, if I weren't so completely stunned by what you just said, it would be the funniest thing ever," was all Beast Boy could say.

It was only later, after their humiliating defeat, that Cyborg turned to Beast Boy as they walked to the gym and said, "Dang it, he never answered my question. The boy's smooth."

End Chapter