Author's Notes: It's weird how spoiled I am. There's nothing more nerve-wracking than waiting for someone else to critique your work. And I'm so used to getting a big response that you can only imagine I was a little disappointed to only get a few reviews. Then it occurred to me that a lot of you Teen Titans fans reading have no idea who the hell I am.

I feel like an egomaniac saying that, but among the Inuyasha readers I've been around long enough to get some exposure and regular readers. A reputation, as it were. Now I'm reaching to a whole new crowd and have to build up from there. Again, I feel like a total egotist saying this, but I don't think there's a better way to say it.

For the record, I am grateful for the reviews I do get. As a writer, nothing irks me more than silence. Maybe I'm overreacting, but when my work gets passed over, I feel kind of cheated. Which also makes me feel guilty about how frugal I am with reviews myself.

Sigh. I'm a couple bounced checks short of a clock tower sniper, aren't I?

Temple of the Black Sun

Chapter 3- At Sea

That night, most of the colonists headed below deck for dinner with a few members of the crew. Everyone else stayed up to man the ship until it was their turn to eat. Normally, Dick was very reclusive and quiet. But in the presence of Starfire he felt more at-ease than he had in years. Something about her innocence and purity touched him. So it was a great relief to him when she sat next to him at the table. Dinner was basically vegetable broth, fish, and biscuits. Very light, but it was enough to fill you for the night.

"Uh, excuse me?" the Verdanian piped up from across the table. Dick noted that he was still chatting with the desertfolk girl. "Is there anything besides... fish?" He seemed almost sickened by the idea.

The cook gave him a very grave look. "And what would you prefer?" he asked in gravelly voice.

"An apple or something would be great," the Verdanian said with a nervous smile. "I don't eat meat."

"On this ship, you eat what's put in front of you," the cook said with finality and trundled off back to the kitchen.

Dick picked up the bowl of his broth and slid it toward the Verdanian. "I'll trade you for the fish," he said evenly.

The green boy looked up in surprise, but eagerly made the exchange. "Much obliged, mate!" He greedily gulped down two mouthfuls of the soup and sighed contentedly. "That hits the spot."

Several passengers looked at the boy strangely and Starfire furrowed her brows. "Friend Dick, what is he talking about?"

Dick just smiled lightly. "Verdanians speak an accented form of the Imperial Common. It's heavily-laden with colloquialisms."

That just caused those at the table to stare at the shapeshifter in even more confusion. The green boy rolled his eyes up and sighed in exasperation. "We talk funny," he deadpanned.

There was a small chorus of, "Oh," from the passengers who went back to their meals.

"Thanks again, mate," the Verdanian beamed, reaching a hand across the table. "I'm Gar of Verdania."

Dick shook his hand with a smile. "Dick Grayson of Gotham."

Starfire bowed her head politely. "And I am Starfire of Tamaran."

The desertfolk girl also bowed her head. "I'm Terra of the Sahl Clan. It's a pleasure to meet you all."

"It fills my heart with such warmth to be meeting so many new friends," Starfire cooed happily. "You must tell me, how did you come to be here?"

Gar scratched behind one of his pointed ears lightly for a moment. "Well, I figured it would be nice to see these new islands. I wanted an adventure... That's about it, really."

"You're as impulsive as the legends say, you know that?" Dick quipped.

"Stories gotta come from somewhere," Gar replied with a grin, getting more strange looks for his unusual grammar.

"What about you, friend Terra?" Starfire asked with her friendliest smile.

Terra looked away as if embarrassed. "I didn't have much worth staying for back home," she answered uneasily. "I decided I wanted to go some place I'd have a chance to start over."

"Where your people wouldn't be able to track you down," Dick added before taking a bite of fish.

Terra gasped and looked at him in surprise while Starfire and Gar just watched curiously. "How did you-?" she asked, unable to finish the question.

"Let's just say I was something of a scholar before I left Gotham," Dick replied off-handedly. "I'm very familiar with desertfolk customs. Only under the most extraordinary circumstances would they ever allow a Child of the Oasis to leave her home."

He looked up to see the worried expression on her face and smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry. We all have our reasons for being here. For whatever reason you left, that's your business, not mine." With that he took another bite of fish and glanced over at Starfire whose face held a mixture of relief and sadness. Dick could only imagine what could make her sad, though. Whatever it was, he didn't like it. He felt a strange protectiveness for this girl. If it weren't for his self-discipline it might take control of his thoughts, which was something he definitely didn't want right now. He'd have time to think later tonight.

-x-

After dinner, Terra and Gar went up on deck to take their shifts at the rigging. The clockwork man and the cloaked figure were gone, and Terra felt her uneasiness over being surrounded by miles of ocean return. Another two weeks of this... it was enough to make her stomach churn.

"You feeling alright?" Gar asked with a touch of concern in his voice.

Terra just smiled and leaned against the mast with one hand. "I'll be fine. I just need to get used to this ship moving all the time."

Terra gasped when her nausea turned into a different sensation. She hung her head low and closed her eyes to conceal the golden glow coming from them. Her hair began to move of its own accord, but she was fortunate to have the wind passing by at the moment.

"Terra?" Gar asked as he placed a hand on her shoulder.

She felt it. All of a sudden, she could see Gar's form in her mind's eye. Or rather, she saw it outlined in the dirt that had accumulated in his fur, hair, and clothes. Starting at the hand on her shoulder, the outline of the Verdanian vanished as the dirt pulled off of and away from him, forming a solid clump floating in front of her.

She opened her eyes to see a fist-sized clod of dirt floating between the two of them. As Gar reached out to touch it, it abruptly shot up into the air and over the side of the ship. Fortunately, it was dark out now and nobody noticed. "Terra... what happened?" Gar asked, this time his voice practically dripping with concern.

"I'm sorry," Terra apologized ashamedly. "It's part of being a Child of the Oasis. We're touched by magic in the womb and gain strong elemental powers. But... but I can't control mine. At least... not fully."

Gar just nodded. "I see."

"Promise me you won't tell anyone," Terra pleaded. "If they find out, they'll send me back."

"I won't," Gar reassured her. That wasn't enough, though.

"Promise me!" she demanded, this time more aggressive than desperate.

Gar held up his hands defensively. "I swear I won't tell anyone!" With that he heaved a sigh. "But you know someone'll find out sooner or later."

"I know," Terra whispered. "I know. But I can't go back."

She gasped as Gar placed both of his hands on her shoulders. "They won't send you back. I'll make sure of it." His voice was so warm and comforting; Terra couldn't bring herself to do anything but believe him. No one had ever offered to stand up for her like that. Those that defended her at home simply did so because they didn't want to give up their Child of the Oasis.

Terra threw her arms around the shapeshifter and mumbled her thanks into his shoulder. He seemed surprised for a moment, but wrapped his arms around her shoulders in return.

The moment was abruptly brought to an end by the sound of someone clearing their throat. "If you two are finished," First Mate Thomas said flatly, "the decks need washing. Bear in mind that you'll be doing the same thing tomorrow morning and evening for the next three days."

The two broke apart. Terra felt as if her face had burst into flames, and a glance at Gar showed that he was blushing through the thin green fur on his face. They both had buckets and brushes shoved into their hands by the first mate, who then stalked off to see that everyone else was doing their assigned duties.

Terra smiled embarrassedly at Gar and kneeled down before rolling up her sleeves. "Might as well get to work," she stated in what she hoped was a conversational tone. After what just happened between the two of them, what was she supposed to say?

Gar smiled and got down on his hands and knees to help. "At least you get to work with a fellah who can make you laugh."

Terra laughed softly as she began to scrub the crusted salts and minerals of the ocean water off the deck. "Ever the charmer, aren't you?"

-x-

Starfire went back up on deck with Dick after they were done. When the rest of the crew was done eating, it would be their job to help clean up in the kitchens. Until then, they had a moment of peace.

Upon stepping out, she immediately spotted an old-blooded Tamaranian at the bow of the ship, his brick red hair being tossed about by the winds. The way he carried himself, Starfire guessed that he must have been a soldier. Before she could say anything, he began singing.

"Build a fire a thousand miles away to light my long way home."

It was the anthem of the Tamaranian army. The very thought of it made Starfire feel a little homesick. As the baritone voice filled the air, others looked up from what they were doing to see.

"I ride a comet
My trail is long to stay
Silence is a heavy stone..."

"Starfire," Dick whispered beside her, "that's the soldiers' anthem, isn't it?"

Starfire nodded slowly. "Yes."

"I fight the world and take all they can give
There are times my heart hangs low"

Starfire began to feel as if her own heart were weighed down. She had forsaken her life as the princess for this. She wanted a new life among the people, not over them. She would tell herself that she went on this voyage to aid the empire and the colonists in this wonderful mission. But that would always be only half of the truth. Dick was right. People had many personal reasons for making this journey.

"Born to walk against the wind
Born to hear my name
No matter where I stand I'm alone"

Without thinking, Starfire slipped her hand into Dick's. She did not want to feel alone. She had friends on this voyage. But the reality was beginning to come to her that they didn't know who she truly was. Would they treat her differently when they found out? Would they stop behaving as friends and start acting like servants or subjects?

She didn't know. And that's what scared her.

"Stand and fight
Live by your heart
Always one more try
I'm not afraid to die
Stand and fight
Say what you feel
Born with a heart of steel"

The Tamaranians were a race of warrior-poets even long before the empire was established. They were proud and fierce, but also sensitive souls. It was a dichotomy that they strived to preserve throughout the years, and even their soldiers were trained in the fine arts. This song only reminded Starfire of everything she was leaving behind.

"Burn the bridge behind you
Leave no retreat
There's only one way home
Those who laugh and crowd the path
And cut each other's throats
Will fall like melting snow"

"It never ceases to amaze me," Dick remarked beside Starfire.

She looked over at him curiously. "I do not understand."

"I've known a lot of old-blooded Tamaranians in my lifetime," Dick explained. "And the way they blend the spirit of warriors with the soul of philosophers is unlike anything I've ever seen."

Whether it was intentional or not, he gave a gentle squeeze on her hand, and Starfire felt her face grow warm. She smiled softly and looked to the ground, mumbling a soft thank you when she realized that the comment was directed at her as much as the rest of her people.

"They'll watch us rise with fire in our eyes
They'll bow their heads
Their hearts will hang low
Then we'll laugh and they will kneel
And know this heart of steel was
Too hard to break
Too hard to hold"

Starfire could practically hear the music that was always meant to accompany these words. As the princess, it was one of her duties to preside over military ceremonies with her mother and father. She soon found herself softly singing as well, an action soon mimicked by Dick and some of the sailors.

"Stand and fight
Live by your heart
Always one more try
I'm not afraid to die
Stand and fight
Say what you feel
Born with a heart of steel
Born with a heart of steel!"

At the second recitation of "steel," the soldier held the note out in a long vibrato, surprising many with such a display of lung capacity. Starfire almost envied him that. It wasn't that her singing voice was poor. She just wasn't good at holding a note for more than a few beats.

All the same, it was an empowering song. And the looks on the faces of those who had joined in the chorus showed that they apparently agreed.

"Stand and fight
Say what you feel
Born with a heart of steel
Stand and fight
Live by your heart
Always one more try
I'm not afraid to die
Stand and fight
Say what you feel
Born with a heart of steel"

As their voices faded into the night, Starfire felt the strangest mixture of emotions. She was homesick already, true. But she also felt a strange confidence and warmth. She looked over at Dick, and realized that she was still holding his hand. She withdrew with a light blush. "My apologies," she laughed nervously.

For an instant, it seemed there was a light blush on Dick's face as well, but it was there and gone like a shooting star. His face once again became the perfect example of calm composure. How could he be so confident in himself all the time? He had an air of detachment, yet quiet bemusement as well. Like a wolf completely secure in its own superiority over the other creatures in its territory. There was nothing sinister about it, but it created an odd mystique that played havoc with Starfire's natural curiosity. She was royalty, however. She had been taught to control herself.

-x-

Victor finished the last of his meal and moved to the kitchen to help with clean-up duty. The captain had told him to simply dry and put away the dishes, concerned for Victor's clockwork arms. Naturally, they were waterproofed, but it wasn't like Victor had to tell him that.

He tied a leather apron around his waist when the old-blooded Tamaranian girl and the Gotham boy he saw earlier walked into the kitchen. "Evening," he greeted them with his friendliest smile.

The boy bowed his head politely and smiled back as the girl did likewise. "Nice to meet you. I'm Dick Grayson of Gotham. This is Starfire of Tamaran."

"I'm Victor Stone from Jump," Victor said with a slight puff of his chest. "You two got stuck on KP duty tonight too, huh?"

"Yes," Starfire answered as she retrieved a pair of aprons for her and Dick. "But with friends I do not think it will be so bad."

Victor made a note of her unusual voice. He had never heard an accent like that before. She also had a strange child-like innocence. She was an interesting contrast to Dick who was dark, laid-back, and collected. Actually, contrast wasn't the right word. The two actually seemed to compliment one another very well. Even more impressive that Victor get that impression from the two of them considering he had just met them less then 30 seconds ago. He liked to think he was a good judge of character, but... And he was going off on a tangent again.

He made a quick shake of his head to clear it and surveyed the dirty dishes. Tonight wouldn't be too bad least. Another three days of this though may not be too pleasant, though.

Dick and Starfire began their task of washing as Victor stood by, quickly drying anything they handed him. "So what brings you two out here?" he asked conversationally.

"I thought this would be a glorious chance to help the empire," Starfire answered enthusiastically. "It is such a wonderful discovery and is bringing people together."

Victor couldn't help but smile. "How about you, Dick?"

Dick paused as if thinking about his answer before he just shrugged. "There wasn't much left for me to do in Gotham. I figured a new land should have plenty of opportunities. So I hopped on the first caravan to the Stone Coast and... here I am. What about you?"

Victor smiled slightly at the two of them. "Well... I just wanted to get out on my own. Make my own way. I learned everything I know from my father, and I figured this new world is going to need mechanics and engineers."

The three of them made small talk for the rest of the evening, until Victor decided to turn in for the night. He went to his bunk and eased himself down into it, his metallic limbs nearly tripling his normal body weight. The frame groaned lightly in protest, but held together.

Victor didn't know if he would ever get used to this. His limbs were artificial, but he could somehow feel with them. And they were perfectly articulate as well. He could have played an instrument with those hands if the fingers were a little thinner. Of course, he'd never be able to go out swimming again. Despite his newfound strength, his body just lacked the buoyancy to stay afloat anymore. It made being on the ship a little risky, but he made no excessive moves to stay away from the railings or keep below deck. If nothing else, the greatest piece of advice his father had ever given him was "Feel the fear and do it anyway." He certainly wasn't telling his son to do anything stupid. On the contrary, he was trying to explain what courage meant. It was a lesson Victor had taken to heart.

It wasn't long before the shapeshifter Victor had seen earlier that day came in looking weary, but content. He trudged into the room and lazily climbed into the bunk above Victor's. "Rough day?" he asked.

"Something like that," the Verdanian mumbled. "Cleaning the decks all night. At least I get to work with that foxy desertfolk girl, Terra."

Foxy? What did that mean? "Beg your pardon?" Victor asked with an arched brow.

He heard the Verdanian sigh lightly. "Oh yeah. Forgot," he grumbled with mild exasperation. "Verdanians talk funny. We use a lot of slang. Foxy means she's cute."

"Oh." Victor mulled it over in his head a bit. "Foxy... I like that," he mused with a small grin.

The shapeshifter poked his head over the edge of his bunk and looked at Victor in surprise. He then smiled. "I'm Gar, by the way."

"Victor Stone." He reached up one large clockwork hand to shake.

Gar accepted the gesture, but looked at his own hand when it was done. "Hell of a grip you got there," he remarked.

Victor furrowed his brow. "Does that mean... impressive or something?"

Gar nodded. "You catch on quick, metal man," he said with a wink. "That means 'yes.'"

Victor laughed lightly. "I'm guessing that Terra girl you mentioned was the one you were talking to earlier when you turned into a squirrel?"

"That's the one," the Verdanian beamed.

Despite the fact that a few minutes ago, all Victor wanted to do was sleep, he found himself chatting with Gar for the next half-hour. The two of them talked about women and exchanged euphemisms until several other colonists came in to "call it a night" as Gar put it. Before they both decided to go to sleep and continue their conversation in the morning, Victor had learned twelve new words to describe a pretty girl.

-x-

Raven sat cross-legged on her bunk with the back of her hands on her knees and her fingers extended and held together. She needed several hours of meditation each day to not only control but also strengthen her powers. Surprisingly, the captain of the ship agreed to abstain her from excessive manual labor when she explained this to him. He must have dealt with sorcerers before.

Raven had refrained from eating that day. She had to fast once a week as part of her exercises. It was a ritual of purification, and while it certainly wasn't pleasant, it was more convenient than some of the others which required certain... materials and a level of privacy Raven would be hard-pressed to attain, especially on a ship or among an up-and-coming new colony.

She noted in the back of her mind the entrance of two of her fellow passengers, but it did not distract her. A brush across the surface of their minds revealed them to be the desertfolk girl and the run-away princess. Against her better judgment, Raven opened one eye.

They were both staring at her in mild confusion before the princess broke into a large grin. "Good evening, friend!" she exclaimed cheerfully. "I hope we are not interrupting anything."

Raven opened her other eye. Much as she hated socializing, it would not be a good idea to foster any enmity between herself and other colonists. She would observe common courtesy, but that was it. "Not at all," she said in her gravelly monotone.

"What were you doing, anyway?" the desertfolk girl asked.

Raven turned her eyes to the blonde girl without moving her head. "Meditation." She had very little use for tact. Her bluntness even surprised some of her teachers when she was younger.

"You are a sorcerer then?" the princess asked.

Raven nodded once. "I am Raven of the House of Trigon."

"Wonderful! I am Starfire of Tamaran, and this is my friend, Terra of the Sahl Clan. We are very pleased to meet you, friend Raven." Where did that girl get her energy?

Raven politely inclined her head once at the two. She felt a little uncomfortable with the honorific title placed on her name by Koria-... by Starfire. This girl seemed very trusting, somewhat naive. Terra on the other hand seemed a little suspicious. Not that Raven blamed her. She knew very well that she didn't appear as a paragon of trustworthiness and honor. Many people took her quiet nature to mean she was hiding something, which actually wasn't at all far from the truth.

"Well... anyway..." Terra started nervously. "Sorry if we interrupted anything. We're just going to go to bed now... Good night." With an uncertain shrug, she moved to her bed and laid down facing the wall.

Starfire hopped rather than climbed into the bunk above Terra and smiled at the two of them. "Good morrow to you, friend Terra. Friend Raven." After that, it was only a matter of seconds until she drifted to sleep.

Raven blinked away her disbelief. She had never seen anyone so quickly shift from one extreme of energy to the next. Even though people with such happy personalities normally irritated Raven to no end, she didn't feel that way about Starfire. True, her bubbly attitude was off-putting. But there was a sincerity to it as well. Perhaps it was a part of the Tamaranian culture? Hard to say, as Raven had never ventured out of the Shadowlands until now.

No matter. There would be time to learn more later. She had now met two of the five extraordinary people on this ship. They had thirteen more days at sea, and unlimited time on the Kain Islands. And if there was one thing that Raven could pride herself on, it was her patience. With that in mind, she lay back on her bedding and slowly slipped into a light sleep.

-x-

Author's Notes: I think the weirdest part about writing this was the realization that Beast Boy's slang-heavy wisecracking lexicon didn't work in a fantasy setting. I mean, how many of you would honestly believe hearing the word "dude" in a setting like this? So I had to make up a whole new one by bastardizing the idioms and slang of a lot of different cultures and periods. But I think I've got something we can all live with. And it gives me an interesting way to bring in exposition and character development. It's interesting how little things like this can help you flesh out the story in ways you didn't think to before.

Also, yes the song in this chapter was Heart of Steel by Manowar. I'm a music geek, I freely admit it. I promise not to make a habit out of that though. I just thought that it would help to provide some background color to the story.

fand: Teen Titans is a really character-driven series to begin with, so as you can imagine I'm doing my damndest to make sure I get their personalities right.

Lady Katreina: Of course, once I go back to school, the updates are probably going to be few and far between.

Starre: For some reason, I just work best with AUs. I don't know. I guess it's because everything I write is character-driven already, and AUs just give me an opportunity to work with a lot of different ideas in terms of setting and conflicts. Or maybe I should just quit trying to analyze my own writing and just friggin' write.