Disclaimer: I do not own the Teen Titans.
Author's Note: I thought I could do Vicious Cycle by this time but alas, I could not. The project requires deep writing and thought and to quote fairy of irrelevence "it's not a project to give a deadline" and she's right (as usual. Smirks). So I decided to give a coda for Valentine's Day. Something different as always. And make for a deep entry for the Forbidden Love board's Valentine's Day contest.
The betaed version will be done soon. fairy of irrelevence has real life mucking up her schedule.
Timeline: the final minute of Betrayal.
The stench of fried oil and melted metal wafted throughout the Tower. Even the salty sea coming through the broken windows couldn't overpower the smell.
Inside was the ravage of the spoiled. The entrance hall still smoking from the destroyed drones, strewn all over the floor along with the furniture. A stairwell having only a crater in the adjacent wall seemed to be the least damaged place in the entire tower. The training gym was littered with robot parts. The garage filled with a heaping pile of the indigo androids.
"Well, looks like we won." Cyborg's gruff voice disrupted the silence.
"Then, why does it not feel like a victory?" Starfire's honeyed voice sounded forlornly.
"I knew it. I knew it! We never should have trusted her." Raven spat out.
"But we did. We all did." Robin's voice laced with regret.
Several beeps broke the quartet's thoughts as they sat in the devastated living room as Cyborg worked a few controls on his forearm. "I've regained access to the computer. Security codes and encryption strings have all been reset." Cyborg said tired.
"And all enemy surveillance technology has been located and destroyed." Starfire stood by him, her voice deadened.
"Problem is, Terra gave Slade more than secret codes and hidden cameras. She gave him us." Raven's cynicism was slowly rising. She turned to Robin's direction. "Our flaws, our weaknesses, everything he'd ever need to know." Robin felt her eyes bore through him.
"It doesn't matter. When Slade makes his next move, we'll be ready." He gripped his knuckles.
"And Beast Boy?" Cyborg asked.
"He will be…all right?" Starfire asked hesitantly.
"He just needs a little time." Robin dredged up sympathy.
"Good. Then he can reflect on what a mistake it was taking in a stray." Raven narrowed her eyes.
"Raven, it was my choice. It's rather hard to do a background check on someone who doesn't have an address." Robin's tone matched his mood; he was too tired to deal with this now.
"Then you should have picked up on her moods. You're a detective right? I'm sure he trained you to pick up body language and changes in voice." Raven folded her arms, standing her ground.
"You're psychic aren't you? Weren't you able to pick up on her thoughts?" Robin tensed his muscles and his mind. He saw Raven do the same, if ever so slightly.
"Between all the distractions and the foolish emotions distorting me, I apologize if I might have been off into perceiving an emotion I had no understanding of in the first place. Until now, that is." She stood up and began to walk away and stopped midway.
"Actually, I was wrong. I should have meant two emotions. One from her and one from you and you can see the lovely effect they both had." She stormed out of the room. Robin gave off a sign.
"She's right. I should have been more mistrusting and I didn't."
"Rob, don't beat yourself over this, you said "Everyone deserves a second chance" and Raye will see that your intentions were in the right place." Cyborg got and placed his hand on the Boy Wonder's shoulder while Starfire walked behind him.
"Yes, Robin. Friend Raven will come to see; after all she gave forgiveness after you were Slade's…" She couldn't finish the word, the pain still lingered, months later.
"Yeah, she did—in her own way." 'Except I never heard her say anything like that, she said nothing and we went back to business.'
'Like I should be surprised, I never really paid attention to her until Terra.'
"Don't sweat it man. You know how moody she can be and who can blame her? Not after this." Robin felt a little less tense as Cyborg removed his hand.
"I know. But I should talk to her." Robin got up and felt the kinks in his back. "After some sleep. You two should get some two. Tomorrow we'll be starting repairs. Although I doubt we'll get this done anytime soon."
"Be about a week and work throughout Valentine's Day too." Cyborg commented. Robin then widened his eyes.
"I forgot. That's in two days, isn't it?"
"Yep." Robin made a simple murmur.
Starfire tried to suppress her newfound joy, as she and Robin can finally celebrate that holiday of lovers known as Valentine's Day for the first time. The customs, the presents, the mustard, she suddenly wished she had Superman's strength and push the planet's rotation forward so the day would arrive already.
"So, should we include BB in all this?" Cyborg asked.
"For right now, no. I want to give him some time plus he may get in the way. I'm going to need you two as a distraction for him so he doesn't run into Raven or Terra's room. I don't need another fight on my hands."
"I'll see you two later." He began to walk towards the doors.
"Rob?" The Boy Wonder stopped to Cyborg's calling.
"If you need help with Raven, I can talk to her for you and help explain things." Robin hid his body from showing his tension.
"Thank you no; I should do this myself." His tone had tints of determination. He walked out the doors, leaving the synthetic teen and the alien behind.
Robin walked into the corridor and more drone parts scattered on the floor. 'I always knew you would hit home, Slade but not literally.' He kicked a head out of the way. 'All I do is rebuilding. It would be nice to have something and not have it blow up in my face.'
"Robin?" The honeyed voice that could only belong to…
"I was thinking that you may need an escort in case one of these robots was playing the marsupial." She offered a warm smile.
"That's play possum and I think they're quite offline. Only danger there could be is I slip on oil leaking from them." He turned away and stared ahead.
"Rest assured, I shall make certain you do not trip and stutter."
"Stumble but yes."
"I recall you and Friend Cyborg said that the Day of the Saints of Valentine is coming soon."
"Valentine's Day. Two days." 'Please don't let her go where I think she's going with this.'
"Yes, have you any plans?" She gave off a hopeful look. Robin finally looked at her. A bright ray of sunshine, strong and intense and given Robin's current state, he'd buckled at the knees easily. But now the brightness felt hollow or perhaps too intense lately. After the date with Kitten, something changed about the alien who just saved him from being Slade's Apprentice.
'If I say no, will I live to tell it again?'
"With the rebuilding I doubt I'll be doing much of anything else, you should know that." His tone was nearly condescending.
"I apologize, Robin. It's just that this holiday has much significance with Earth couples and I'd like to research why since it is only a year. I would like to try and duplicate the effects of one of Beast Boy's and…" She realized her error.
"Yes. Slade's timing always perfects."
"It certainly seems to." She turned away from his tone.
"Perhaps Slade never had a pleasurable Valentine's Day and wished to make certain that no one he knows would have one either."
"Could be. I've given up trying to figure him out."
"Then it seems both of you have moved on."
'I doubt that will ever happen.'
"Given Terra, I'd say that's true." Robin suddenly felt crestfallen by that but couldn't understand why.
"How do you feel now that…she is his Apprentice?" She almost mumbled.
Robin suppressed the urge to sigh. The echoes of the pain he felt when he played the errand boy still reverb within him. He was fortunate he had the mental fortitude to resist but he knew Terra was weak as she indulged into her emotions and be easy prey for the one eyed saboteur.
"I'm sure he made her an offer she couldn't refuse."
"But was not our offer enough?" Starfire tried to suppress her outrage.
"I'd say you know the answer now." He walked over a broken android.
"I hope she knows the choice she made." A statement Robin was rather intimate with.
"Time will tell. I fear for Beast Boy, he was rather smitten by her." They passed a corner.
"An understatement. He fell head over heels." Robin nearly laughed.
"He was upside down?"
"No. I meant how to put this—he fell in love rather quickly."
"Ah, yes, the emotion called love. Many couples attach that to Valentine's Day but why?"
Robin nearly choked back on his own spit. 'Oh, boy.' "Well, it's a time where couples are allowed to express their love openly."
"Yes, but what about the rest of the year? Does that mean that those expressions of love made in that time are pointless?" Robin blinked rapidly.
"Oh, yes. My apologies. That was some of Raven's words toward the subject."
Robin's ears perked up at hearing Raven's name. He burned the dark empath's words into him and suddenly loathed himself. Raven, who was finally feeling more and more like a person this past year, instead of that shell he met back then, and Terra went and took it all away. Beyond the sympathy, Robin wished he was able to feel indignation which would be proper if he were involved into helping her with that in the first place.
"Anything else she said on the subject?" Robin suddenly had a flash of curiosity burst from him.
"Beyond why she failed to see the reason "why people need to express love so openly and making fools of themselves while spending every dime they have", no." Robin nearly burst out laughing, that wit of Raven's always amused him.
"Sometimes, the simple approach is best. I can see her point."
"I am not certain that I do, As for an example, it is proper custom on Tamaran for both participants to shower each other with presents when it is time for the mating dance." The first time he heard anything of an opposite view come from the alien (and by the grace of God, suppressed his blush). She usually agrees with everyone all the time.
"There is such a thing as smothering, Star."
"What is that?" They passed another corner.
'Have to tread carefully.' "Well, it's when you love something too much and cover them with your affection they could not breathe."
"Oh, I see." She sounded disappointed.
"Don't worry, you're learning. I've seen you mixing new emotions and tempering that."
'Including rampant jealousy.'
The alien suddenly perked up. "Thank you, Robin. I pride myself in my ability to learn."
"You do it very well." She let out a small giggle.
"Thank you, Robin." He allowed a wisp of a smile.
"But some women don't take from your example, and they smother their boyfriends or…husbands or want themselves to be smothered. Some like Raven see that behavior associated with the holiday and view as a pointless exercise."
'As do I anymore.'
"I see. But if the "smothering" can be controlled then should they deny themselves a chance to express their love in a day when that is allowed and not become an exercise in futility?"
Robin refused to blink. "Well…if controlled, then yes, I suppose then it wouldn't be futile." 'I hate logic.'
Starfire showed a sly smile to grace her lips. "Then in that case Robin, I wish to ask for your—"
"Apologies. My door is around the corner and I'd like to hit the hay." Robin tried to hide his relief.
"Oh, I do not understand how hitting a pile of straw will serve any purpose." She hid her disappointment.
"It means I just want to go to sleep."
"Then why did you say "I am going to go to sleep."?" She said confused.
"Well, I was simply using an apt expression. Just fit." They were walking to his door.
"I understand now. I hope you have a pleasant slumber and the dreams that come." She said in a soothing voice.
Robin slipped in a small blush. "I hope I do, and I say the same for you. We certainly deserve it."
"After the events of last night, I believe that is true. Robin?" She sounded hesitant.
"Do…you miss her?"
Robin was silent for a minute. "I'm not sure. Ask me after I look at Beast Boy in two days. On second thought, ask me after I look at Raven." He remembered those amethyst eyes boring into him.
"Yes, she rather endeared herself to Fri—former friend Terra, I can imagine her grief." Her honeyed voice resumed its' melancholy tone from earlier.
"As can I and I'll make it a point for all of us to check on her and help her know that her remaining friends aren't going to betray her and hurt her." Robin wanted to choke on his platitude.
"I know she will take that as comfort. After all, the same event happened back when you were Slade's Apprentice and you found your way back to us. So there is a chance for it not to become despair." She placed her hand on his shoulder. Robin sucked in a breath.
"Yes, I remember a phrase: "in life there is always hope." "
"Then she or we shall not immerse in despair and I shall leave you on that notation." Robin let a small chuckle.
"Okay, you get some sleep and tomorrow we start anew."
"Yes, we shall. Pleasant slumbering, Robin." Her voice had a toned down, melodic quality to it.
"You too, Star. Night." He entered into the cavernous darkness of his room. He slowly removed the mask, the material ripped from his skin. He rubbed his fingers on the lenses slowly.
'Maybe wearing this made me blind to her.'
He dropped the mask on the floor and joined its discarded position on the bed, sleep quickly overcoming him.
''I wonder if it's worth the pretense anymore.'
Raven stirred in her bed, she finally slept after staring at the ceiling and memorizing all the dots of paint for countless hours. All she could think was Terra, her flesh dissolving by her father's heat vision, her bones ripped apart by Raven's tendrils, her...
'Uhh. That's enough of that.' She thought as she was drifting back to consciousness. She was too tried to suppress her musing on her lingering dreams.Raven stared ahead at the ceiling again, the only part of her room intact.
'It would be so…no, too easy. Although…no. I need to calm myself. But I'm not in the mood in tea.' She tried to dismiss and close her eyes until her stomach slowly grumbled.
'Timing perfects.' She sat up to see the debris and the gaping holes in her wall.
'So much for keeping this room shut off from all at all times. Terra did in a few months what everyone tried in a year to do. All the more damning.' Raven levitated her cloak to her and teleport to the only stable ground of the corridor. She opened the door and walked down the corridor and seeing the decimated automatons.
'Well, Slade, I'm sure you're toasting it up tonight with your drifter. I hope the champagne or Terra's case, a six pack, tastes good.'
She tried to ignore the thousand irises less eyes staring at her as she walked deeper into the darkness. She huddled deeper into the cloak. 'White eyes remind me of Robin's mask.'
Raven suppressed the ensuing feelings and the tired expression on the Boy Wonder's face as she berated him and in front of his best friend and girlfriend no less.
'That fool should have seen it and her coming. I certainly warn him.' A nearby drone exploded, the dark empath gave off a sigh.
'And I thought I had felt enough tonight. Apparently not.' Another drone exploded.
'"Second chances." "Second chances" What did he see in her worthy of that? I didn't see anything like that with her.' She levitated over the debris.
'I'll never understand him. To my last breath, I will not.' She simply hovered there. 'Perhaps that is the problem. I interacted with everyone but him. How could I?' Raven teleported and floated down to the end of the corridor and stared into the eyes of another fallen drone.
'But should I bother? After his stint as Slade's errand boy and now this, I don't know. I do not want to be hurt again.' She suppressed the urge to feel regret and morphed through the broken door and the final corridor.
'Won't be any time soon, I'm sure he and Starfire have a celebration planned for Valentine's Day. Please.'
She walked in the living room and stared at the rubble where they sat hours ago.
'I suppose I should have waited until we were possibly alone. Tact never was one of my strong points. No matter, she can cure of whatever ails him in the ensuing few days.' She walked by the kitchen and surveyed it mostly in tact. She opened one and found a box of herbal tea.
'Huh. Finally something pleasant happened today.'
She then placed the box on the counter, filled the kettle with water, and heated up the stove. She loosened her tension as she placed the kettle on the burner. 'I suppose I can apologize to him for the lack of discretion but that's all I'll give him. I'm not forsaking my image for someone…
For someone I don't even know.'
Her eyes widen and felt another presence coming from the corridor, they felt disoriented and something else—an emotion the dark empath couldn't identify. She turned off the stove, grabbed the box of tea, and hid in the shadows and waited.
The intruder walked in mumbling and feeling rather disoriented. He walked by the stove and opened one of the cabinets and then felt the slight heat of the burner next to him. He slowly shifted his hand down to his waist and pulled out a small cylinder, and immediately threw it in his right!
Raven melted into the wall before the tool connected and made a clinking echo as it fell on the floor. She quickly morphed from the floor of the kitchen and about to grab from behind when the intruder dodged, caught her arm, and twirled her to the counter. "Ugh." She would not give the fool the satisfaction of her growling further in pain.
"What are you doing here?" He let her go and suddenly felt relief that she was couldn't see him blush in embarrassment.
"Making tea, until I was accosted." She rubbed her twisted arm.
"I'm sorry, just with all the robots, I wasn't sure. Can rig the stove to be a bomb, you know."
"I'll remember that if we're attacked by small white doughboys." Raven let her current anger subside.
"I hope I didn't hurt you." Robin said, with compassion.
"I am fine. Pain is only a measure of discomfort one has."
"In that case, I certainly am full of it." Robin went over and turned on the stove.
'Too easy.' "It's not hard to imagine why." Raven returned to her classic position of folding her arms.
"Since you asked me, why are you up?" Her tone lowered slightly. She swore she heard Robin suck in a breath oh so faint.
"Couldn't sleep." Raven felt him to be telling the truth.
"Yes, seems to be contagious. I can't sleep either apparently."
"Who can after last night? Yet you're dead from exhaustion which I find ironic." Robin tried to smile.
"I find it irritating." 'Her trademark venom dripped.
"Well, speaking as a veteran of sleepless nights and irregularity, you'll find that droll later on."
"Well, you definitely look like a night owl." Robin finally allowed himself to smirk.
"At least you're more fitting using a bird pun than Beast Boy."
"I wasn't going for the irony." Robin relaxed his muscles.
"Isn't that more ironic then?"
"I think so but you're the one who reads all those books, so you tell me." Raven's eyes narrowed a bit.
"If I were so well read as I have led you to believe, I would have known how to catch that traitor in a lie. Her body language, the timber of her voice, I would have read her like a comic book. But I didn't and neither did you."
Robin tensed up again. "I made my choice. I thought she earned a second chance and I let my guard down. If you were still up in arms about the subject and didn't trust her then why did you let her in like the rest of us?"
Raven turned away and said nothing. Robin could sense her tensing. "It's because you let her in too and proved that you're human. You shouldn't feel regret about that."
"But I have. And I have damned us all." That emotionless voice she used when they first met returned.
"No, you haven't. If that were true we'd all be dead now. But we're still here." He gingerly placed his hand on his shoulder. She didn't move.
"No, we're still alive so we won't make the same error again." He could feel her tense.
"That's…true but what happens if someone who truly needs our help comes to us? Do we turn them away because of one mistake?"
"Yes, until we're absolutely sure of their motives. I do not take the risk of betrayal as blasé as you and the others seem to." Her tone was ice cold.
"I was opposed to her too you know." Robin said defensively.
"Yes, but still you let her in despite my warnings anyway."
"She was anorexic and living in a cave, on top of Slade after her. I was supposed to dismiss all that and show her the door? That's not how I work." Raven brusquely moved and Robin slowly lowered his hand.
"No, if I had known you'd accept every stray that comes along, I would have made myself more vocal and stopped this while I have the chance. I thought your common sense would have told you the mistake you were making. Yet another falsity I made about you."
Robin gave a sigh. "Well, I knew you felt strong lingering doubt about her but I didn't know how strong."
"That's right, you didn't know." Raven interrupted.
"But it's not like you told me outright. Not like I can sense you and your patented glares and know immediately what your mood is."
Raven was silent for a minute. "You're right. If we only had a rapport like we do with the others then we would have nipped this at the bud. So we have no one to blame but each other."
"That may be Raven, but at least we know what the problem is. And we're still alive to fix it." He thought he heard Raven snort.
"Why bother? We were fine ignoring each other back then, so why ruin a tradition?" She was about to walk away when the kettle began to whistle.
"Raven, wait. It doesn't have to be like that." He walked to her, her back still to him.
"Why shouldn't it? We made our beds, like we did with her, might as well lie in them." She teleported as the kettle began to whistle its high shriek. Robin sighed, exhausted.
'And I thought being his Apprentice was the longest night of my life.'
Robin slowly opened his eyes and tried to ignore the feeling that the clippings of Slade were staring at him.
'Maybe I should redecorate.'
He slowly sat up and closed his eyes, ignoring the artificial eyes staring back at him. 'She's right. I missed her, after all this time, I just…missed her and I don't know why.' He massaged his temples before lying back down again.
He thought about how busy they've been: from Terra and the return of Slade to Raven's powers malfunctioning to that wretched date with Kitten and just lately the Tournament of Heroes. 'I couldn't have been that busy to not say hello or how are you doing but still... Last year was one thing: everything was new and fitting in was important and I couldn't afford to deal with pleasantries but now that I'm comfortable, I still haven't gotten to that. Why?' He opened up his eyes and stared back at the ceiling.
'As she would say "It's pointless to dwell, what happened, what happened." And it's time I took my own advice.'
Robin had no other thoughts as he got dressed.
Raven felt the cool air sooth her as she meditated on the roof: the only place of the Tower not turned to debris.
Her thoughts keep drifting back to the Boy Wonder and his cut off attempt "to fix the error."
'Don't see why he should want to fix our arrangement, such as it were. I am perfectly content.'
She remembered a trickle of his concern and wanting to correct drip on her. 'I suppose I can't damn him for his willingness to try.'
In all the time she knew the Boy Wonder, he hardly spoke two words to her so it was hard to fathom why he would start now. Yet there he was last night, willing to try.
'At least it's refreshing, in that he wanted to try and not force me to talk or open myself like the others. Perhaps I underestimated him.' Her calm state was suddenly replaced by contemplation.
'Or never thought of him at all. If I did, then maybe we could have avoided the entire sordid incident with her.' She felt a slight pang of uncertainty.
She turned to meditate to the empty space her mind was manufacturing. 'What fueled that new spark of concern of him and me and our relationship? It has to be the traitor; he never made any other overture. But how and why?' She opened her eyes and soured her face. 'I am beginning to obsess, like he does with the one eyed loon. So much for the only other place to get away from it all.' She sat up and walked down the stairs.
"Well, as cruel as it is to say, at least there is one good thing about Beast Boy's moping: some actual food." Cyborg bellowed as he broke the delicate shells of the eggs and the yolks sloshed their way into the frying pan.
"Enjoy it while you can, you know what will happen when he's over this." Robin gave off a smirk as he hovered by the kettle.
"Yeah, yeah, back to licking the crud under the fridge. Why are you heating the kettle? You never did that before."
"I'm trying something new. That herbal tea Raven well…raves about." The Boy Wonder said nonchalant.
"Wow, I didn't think you'd drink that. You seem content eating or drinking whatever noxious thing Star cooks up."
"Exactly. I'm immune to anything."
"Even the pudding of sadness?" Cyborg adopted Robin's smirk.
"Um…anything is a funny word."
"I can't wait for lunch. I got this meat sauce I've been experimenting with; I think I'm ready for the big time." The synthetic teen said, enthused.
"I'm glad that betrayal gave you that chance to improve the food around here." Raven's sardonic voice echoed behind them. The pair turned around hesitantly and saw the dark empath glowering, arms folded.
"Well, Raven, it was an opportunity that…" Cyborg tried to explain, the kettle blew its whistle and Robin interrupted.
"Raven, care for some tea?" He gave off a small smile. Raven arched an eyebrow and walked to the counter. She noted the box and cup already out.
"Someone else planning to drink this beforehand?" She went to Robin and grabbed the kettle.
"I was." He tried to hide his obvious pride from her.
"I wanted to try something new." He could feel a slight blush coming.
"Did you try it yet?" Raven let out her curiosity.
"Here." She poured the water in the cup and left in a teabag, permeating the water and handed it to him. "Have fun." She did the same for herself and walked to the table. Robin let out a smirk, and sipped the liquid. 'Plasmus tasted better.'
"I can see why you like this brand, clears your head with its horrible taste." Raven nearly let out a small smirk.
"Tea is not meant to be enjoyed."
"That, no but this is, dig in everybody!" Cyborg broke their thoughts and scooped out scrambled eggs from the pan on to their set plates. "I have to make some bacon while I can. If it isn't covered with that blue stuff."
"Speaking of which, where is Starfire, our queen of ptomaine?" Raven asked.
"I don't know, she's usually early." Robin took another sip.
"Oh well, more for me." Cyborg scooped up more into his plate before sitting down.
"You go ahead and have mine, Cyborg. I'm more poached anyway." Raven handed him her plate.
"Come on, Raye! All I see you eat or drink is that tea, you'll going to be a stick, just like…" Cyborg suddenly realized his error. Raven snorted.
"I know what you're referring to, I understand. As long as you understand that I have divine right to tear you down bolt by bolt for that if I so choose." She said emotionless.
"While you do that, I guess I'll go see what's holding up Starfire." Robin sat up and walked to the corridor.
"Never thought I'd see the day." Cyborg spoke before he shoveled eggs into his mouth.
"You being civil to Robin. You never give him the time of day normally."
"Yes I do."
"So why the change? I'm glad you are finally but why?"
Raven continued sipping her tea. "Something last night, involving Terra."
"Oh, continuing that blowup yesterday?"
"Something like." She deadpanned.
"So what changed?" Raven stared at her tea for a moment.
"Not sure, but what we have isn't perfection."
"Maybe not but I wouldn't complain that much." Cyborg got up and took his plate with him.
"I do not understand."
"Well, one of the things you stress is that you like your privacy. I haven't seen him breaking that or forcing us too."
Raven showed no reaction but she was starting to have an epiphany. 'He's right. Robin is the only one that hasn't tried to pry me open and find out my life story like the others have, by accident or their own faults. He has never made any demands on my need for privacy, just given it to me, no questions asked. I wonder why he did that.'
Keep underestimating him. Becoming a motif lately.'
"Raye?" Cyborg broke her from her thoughts.
"Oh, sorry. Lost in thought." She suppressed the blush.
"That's alright. You're certainly allowed to, more than most." He said compassionate.
"Thank you Cyborg." She finished her tea and glanced at the tea cup before leaving it in the sink.
'First time where something evolved from nothing. Should I change that?'
Robin was walking and knocked on Starfire's door but his thoughts lingering to before: Raven actually engaged in conversation with him.
'I expected a shutout. Can't believe she turned human on me.' Robin suppressed the smirk. 'Then maybe this will—' He never finished as Starfire interrupted opened the door.
"Robin? I am sorry that I was detained. I was sleepovering." Starfire let her door open a crack.
"That's oversleeping and that's fine, after yesterday. But I'd get a move on, you have to eat and we have to get to work."
"Move on? Ah, yes, I should be moving on. One moment please." Starfire shut the door and Robin heard the sounds of rummaging.
Robin thought he may have heard whispers, a Tamaranian profanity or two. The door swooshed open. Robin tried not to blink. Starfire had on a carnation sundress with ivory sandals and her hair pulled back to a half pony tail.
"Starfire, you look…" Robin tried to hide his deep blush.
"Yes?" Her emerald eyes were sparkling with hope.
"Radiant." He tried to hide his worry. 'Wonder how much did the clerk rake her for?'
"Thank you Robin." He wondered if she blushed. He couldn't tell with that skin of hers.
"This is different than what you usually wear. What's the occasion?"
"Oh, I believe a change of robe of ward was needed to signify a new direction in our lives now that…" She lowered her gaze from him.
'I wonder if she's trying to tell me something.'
"I understand. It does look good on you, I got to say."
"I thank you, Robin. I was contemplating about today and the clean up chores. Do you believe that our Tower can not be cleaned all in the time span of one khronoton?" They walked down the hallway.
"Given that the entire Tower is covered with those drones, I'd say definitely not in a day. Three if we really push it."
"Oh. I see." She sounded disappointed.
"But I wouldn't object to a lengthy break every now and then. No sense killing ourselves." Starfire's eyes lit up again.
"Yes, one shouldn't overexert themselves too much. There should always be time for relaxation."
"Ideally but I got all the rest I needed, last night, so I don't have to waste that much time with it."
"Robin, you believe relaxation is a waste?"
"I can't afford to relax now. We have wounds to salve and the cliché "speed is of the essence" comes to mind. For all we know, Slade and…Terra might arrive to the Tower and finish the job. We can't have our guard down. Any lower than it is now." Robin's voice had a tinge of frustration.
"No rest for the evil, yes?"
"Hm? Oh, no rest for the wicked."
"If that were true, wouldn't Slade and fri—Former friend Terra already have arrived and attempted to "finish the job"?" Her emerald eyes kept boring into him.
"Well, after destroying two hundred of those…still trying to figure what they are, I'm sure Slade is drained as we are."
"Then by that logic, he has relaxed?"
"Then you have every reason to relax since he has as well."
'Damn, she's been hanging around Raven too much.'
"I suppose so, given that."
"Then why do not you? In the time I have known you I have not seen you relax and have…fun like the others have. Even Friend Raven relaxes with her books."
Robin sucked in a breath. The alien had a point: he had never relaxed since he arrived; it was one task after the next: keeping the Titans in line, adjusting to life here, then Slade and the minor criminals along the way. He couldn't waste time with that.
"It's a luxury. I can't do that or the team would fall apart."
"Robin…" Her honeyed voice sounded forlorn again.
"I can't. Not…yet, alright?"
"From what I have seen, the team is not as fragile as you think. We endured when you…turned."
"Come on, breakfast is probably cold and we got work to do." Robin rapidly walked away from her. Starfire decided to do what he has been doing for the past day and let out a small sigh.
The two walked in, Cyborg was busy at the stove and Raven was at the counter, drinking another tea.
"What a delight aroma, what is that?" Starfire chirped and came to the stove. Raven arched an eyebrow.
'Who is she trying to impress?' She glanced to Robin. 'Oh yeah.' She felt a wave of displeasure streaming throughout the Boy Wonder.
'Impatience mixed with frustration. How…Robin.'
"It's bacon. Thought I'd make you something to tide you over before we went to work." Cyborg's bellowing voice cut through Raven's thoughts. Starfire picked up an undercooked piece from the skillet and took a bite.
"How delicious. I never knew pig flesh was so pleasing to the palate, even more than the hot dog."
"Y—you know that's not properly cooked yet, right?" Cyborg couldn't contain his shock and soon his stomach contents as the memory of his nausea from Starfire's documentary about hot dogs came churning up.
"Is that important?" She took another bite.
"Hold it in Cyborg." Robin commanded.
"I don't…" Cyborg covered his mouth. "Go." Robin gestured his hand, dismissing him. Cyborg ran to the sink and wretched.
"Anyway…I'm—" Robin was interrupted by Cyborg's vomiting. Robin rolled his eyes and folded his arms. Cyborg got away from the sink. "I'm sorry." He tried to hold it down.
"Fine. Anyway, since Beast Boy doesn't look like he'll be here, we can begin. We got cleanup to do."
"And I got some tech in the hangar that should help clean up." Cyborg choked down the bile.
"Good. I say we'll start with the upper levels today and work our way down. We'll do two teams, Starfire and Cyborg, you handle the east wing. Raven, you and I will do the west." Robin commanded. Starfire looked disappointed.
Raven didn't bother with feeling Starfire; it was rather obvious how the alien felt. She tried to feel the Boy Wonder but couldn't sense on what he was feeling. Felt like aching, needing,
"What about Beast Boy?" Raven interrupted. Robin tensed briefly.
"We'll work around him. I want to give him time but I plan to…take down Terra's room. He may be a problem. Cyborg, I trust you to find a way to distract him."
"I'll try my best."
"You have your assignments. Let's get to work." Robin gestured everyone to the corridor.
"Robin?" Starfire walked over to him.
"I believed we were going to be…working together on this project today." She whispered.
"I'm sorry, Star but I'll need Raven and her abilities for this. Raven?" He called out loud. Raven rolled her eyes at the display and walked over to him.
"Come on, let's go."
Raven had a barb in mind but did not have any voice. She curtly nodded and joined them into the corridor.
"In case anything happens, use your communicators. Some of these…things may be playing possum." Robin warned.
"Sensors would have caught them if that was true." Cyborg pressed a few buttons on his arm.
"But Slade could have updated his technology. Terra: the gift that keeps on giving." Raven gave a sneer.
"Can we focus? We can complain about Terra later." Robin signed as they entered the elevator; Raven leaned on the wall, arms folded as the car descended.
"Anything before we separate?"
"Do we get bathroom breaks?" Raven said in her deadpan. Robin sighed again while Cyborg chucked. Raven felt a trickle of negativity from him. She knew the cause.
'Have to learn how to keep my mouth shut.'
"I have to admit, that's a quite attractive dress, Star." Cyborg looked with his human eye, bemused after a brief period of silence.
"Yes, I believe that a change would do me well."
"It shows." Robin was feeling impatient, the elevator stopped.
"We best get the dumpsters. And we can melt down the parts with your powers."
Raven still held her tongue as the doors opened. 'He makes it so easy to insult him, yet…' "Right." She walked out with the Boy Wonder.
"I've been trying to work out the bugs out of the new…" Cyborg was explaining his new robots but Robin's mind drifted back to Starfire and that dress.
'I can't believe she wore that. We have to work to do and she's dressed like she's going on a –' Robin had an epiphany.
'—Date. That can't be. Can it? Impossible. Starfire knows that my duty comes first. Doesn't she?'
Raven now felt doubt wash over him. 'Now what has his knickers in a twist?' She tried to feel him more when Cyborg's voice interrupted her concentration.
"Here are my dumpster-o-matics. Made them last night. They can hold up to five thousand pounds of metal and light enough and small enough to fit in the elevator without any problems." He gestured to several small dumpsters with the same ivory and sky blue technological makeup as the synthetic teen.
Raven rolled her eyes. "And yet you couldn't think of a better name."
"They'll get the job done. One each is more than enough for today's task."
"It's fine. Raven and I will take the elevator and get to work. Call us if there are any problems." Robin pulled one out and pushed the container to the elevator. Raven followed, folding her arms. Robin pushed himself against the dumpster-o-matic and pressed the button.
As it ascended the two Titans stared at one another in silence.
"I can see what you mean about the tea." Robin blurted out, the sunshine from the windows reflecting off his mask.
Raven nearly arched an eyebrow. "What?"
"That you're not supposed to enjoy it. Ruins the cleansing effect once sugar and other preservatives are added, like every beverage company seems to do."
"Indeed it does. And creates a rotting addiction." Raven felt an emotion from the Boy Wonder she couldn't identify.
"Anything is an addiction. Even tea by itself." Robin showed a crack of a smirk.
"An addiction means indulgence, I presume. And that means pleasure. So how can it be enjoyable enough to create addiction?" Raven wondered how he would escape that rationale. She suddenly felt a flash of emotion.
'What is this I'm feeling?'
"You tell me. That's all I see you eat or drink." The smirk grew an inch wider.
"That is meditation purposes." She nearly adopted his miniscule smirk.
"Then you must meditate quite a bit."
"A necessity at times, especially as of late."
"I have often wondered how you meditated. I have seen my share of techniques but they pail to yours."
Raven was so surprised; she nearly let a blush slip past. "I picked up a trick or two along the way."
"I'm sure, Starfire told me how some of your meditations go and I was curious."
"I wouldn't know why it would be such a concern for you." The elevator stopped, the doors opened.
"Ladies, first." Robin said in that cheesy tone he uses for his one-liners. Raven simply turned away and move out of the elevator. Robin went back and pushed the dumpster out of the elevator.
"Where do you start?" Robin asked.
Raven stared at the debris and the scrapped androids littering the main corridor.
"You're so good at decisions, you choose." She said in her deadpan.
"The right." He pushed the container into the right section of the corridor.
"Shall we get to work?" Robin asked as he opened up the lid. Raven shrugged, her eyes glowed and moved the parts of a nearby drone into the dumpster.
"Okay then." Robin said, dumbly.
They became coordinated as Raven moved drones with her powers and Robin picked loose parts up and threw them in down their section of the corridor. Raven saw Robin was slowly getting tired.
"Out of breath already?" Raven finally spoke after what seemed like hours.
"No." He slowly carried a drone and threw it in. He tried to control his breathing as he tried to pick up another fallen android, which suddenly became lighter.
"Raven, I'm fine."
"I've heard that before." She stared through him as she placed the shattered machine into the bin. Robin suddenly remembered his exchange with Starfire.
'I hate when I'm wrong.'
"I suppose a break won't weaken the war effort any."
"Wunderbar." Raven levitated a few more parts into the bin and leaned against the wall, arms folded. Robin had his back to her and leaned against the bin. Raven felt his displeasure wash over her.
'Making me more cranky. Thought Beast Boy had the penchant on that.' Robin gave off a sigh. 'I could drop this and maintain my privacy. But this…bizarre feeling with him, it lingers. And we are alone and it's an opportunity. Not knowing each other started this mess.' Raven saw a drone's eyes stare at her in her peripheral vision.
'Be interesting possibly sharing myself with someone with my consent for once.'
"So how many of the drones you think we'll clear today?" Raven's voice felt scratchy from non use.
Robin turned around and nearly double took. "Um…I think that we'll clear about a hundred."
"What Cyborg said about melting down the robots is a good idea, could use the metal for his inventions."
"No." Robin said firmly.
"Why not? I would think the irony of the materials Slade used to destroy us being used to destroy him would be most…appealing to you."
"No, it wouldn't."
"It would just be me turning into him, just to use it against him. Like he used…"
"She made her choices. I don't think she was used against her will. She knew what she was doing." Robin turned away.
"What makes you so sure?"
"I felt Beast Boy. His feelings about Terra leaving him to Slade were quite clear…by her face." Robin turned around again.
"I believe so, given his involvement."
"I don't blame Beast Boy for falling for her. She had…quite an act." Robin loosened his muscles.
"Indeed she did."
"Fooled all. And us. The smart ones." Robin sighed.
"If by us you mean you, then yes."
"Don't insult my intelligence. You were deceived too."
Raven let out a small internal sign. "Perhaps."
"And given the chance, we'd do it all over again. Because that's who we are."
"Even if that were true, I would not be as gullible." Raven folded her arms.
"No, but you are trusting." Raven raised an eyebrow. "And how do you know that?"
"Because the way…I see you with the others. You may not like them but you trust them."
"I have to, with my life but it doesn't mean I have to like them."
"You really believe that? Starfire tells me all the time about how you and she just hang out everywhere or about your bull sessions with Cyborg in the garage. You must like him."
"I…bite your tongue." Raven tried to suppress her embarrassment. But a faint explosion in the background told otherwise.
"I don't know. You spent a lot of time in the garage when the T-Car was first wrecked." Robin allowed a small smirk to touch his lips.
"Let's just say I saw his point about the car."
"You rebuilt that?" Robin said, impressed.
"No. I'm not that technological." She ignored his impressed feelings.
"You were fine on the computer when you caught that clue on the…Khronoton detonator." Robin suddenly had a wave of regret wash over him.
That, Raven couldn't ignore. "For all the good it was. Fake anyway." Robin said in a whisper.
"We didn't know that at the time. It's past tense." Raven said in an attempt to dampen the volcano building in the Boy Wonder.
"Except when it comes back to haunt you."
"Unless you can see into the future, I doubt you can prevent that."
"Unless I make a mistake again. Like back then."
"Was it? I agree what you did was damn reckless but…I can finally see why you did what you did because it had to be. You had to stop him somehow."
"Since when do you defend me?" Robin was surprised.
"Since I now know what it's like to truly deal with him. Because of her. Because I can understand obsession rather well."
"You never did berate me for my…issue with him like the others have."
"No, I did not, the only thing I loathe from that was recklessness based on emotion and the depths it made you fall into."
"It wasn't the greatest time, with him. And I do regret some of the decisions I made. Depths would be a good phrase."
"Like Red X?"
Robin visibly winced. "That was a mistake."
"Yes, it was." Robin's voice became a whisper.
"No. I think your chance to know, to find out what it would be like to become him but not lose yourself."
"You traded one mask for another and you nearly lost everything while doing it. Was it worth it?" Raven tried to suppress her rage.
Robin was silent.
"I'll take that you don't deny it."
"But you don't hear me confirming either." Robin turned away from her.
"You don't need to answer." Raven glared at him.
Robin hung his head down. "Like I said, it was a mistake."
"I don't think so. You knew what you were doing and didn't care. You may hide under your crusade as some justification but really, it showed you didn't believe in us or the Team. You did in five minutes what took Slade all year to do."
"Since when did you care about the Team…back then? All you wanted to do was to hide in your room." Robin narrowed his eyes.
"I didn't exactly have the option to avoid you all what with your crush or villain de jour bothering us every five minutes."
"If you couldn't take it, then you should have pulled a Cyborg and left. As you said "people come, people go. It's pointless to feel anything." " Robin's rage was spiking.
"I wish I had."
"Why didn't you?"
"Because I…didn't have anywhere else to go. Satisfied?" She said in her emotionless voice.
Robin gave a sigh. "Now you see why I let her in. To give that second chance to someone else since…you couldn't for me."
"I don't understand."
"You forgave Terra for her crimes so quickly and you just met her but with me, you knew me longer but you couldn't give me that second chance."
"It was deeper than what she did. It was more…" Raven closed her eyes and tried to subtly meditate.
"More…"How could you do that?" You have an image Robin, not as a leader, but also a friend. You kept us in line and…helped each of us in your own unique way. And then seeing all that thrown away in a second, after how many months of building up? You couldn't be that blind to the effect you have here." Her eyes opened and bored through the Boy Wonder.
Robin turned away, afraid to look at her. "That's what he said."
Raven looked intensely. "He said "Trust is easy to destroy but takes time to build." I couldn't get that out of my head."
"He may be psychotic but he makes a good point."
"Yeah. But as much as I wish I had second thoughts about that line, I didn't."
"Did you even bother to have them before?"
"I wish I did but no. I just…"
"Not like…I had much reason not to do it."
"I don't understand."
"Well…not like I had friends in the true sense."
"I still don't understand."
"Well, Cyborg threatened to leave at the drop of a hat because of me, Beast Boy I can't even talk to him, you ignore me and Starfire? I don't even want to think about what happened there. Given all that, I didn't think there was need to consider your thoughts into it. Plus the high possibility of wrecking the charade if I had."
"You sound as if we're incompetent."
"Honestly? A bit. Some of the team's techniques have much to be desired and I know you're not trained to mask your fighting abilities."
"I could point out that you could have trained us better but then you'd have to approach us and given what you said, I suppose I can see why you couldn't."
"We screwed up. On both sides. I failed with you all, and you all failed me. And we just did it again, doesn't get simpler than that, doesn't it?"
"What am I supposed to say?" Raven let a small sigh.
"Nothing at all. But that's not an answer is it?" Raven was silent for a while.
"No." Robin turned away.
"So do we remain like this and fall apart like in the future as Starfire said would happen or we try again? For real." Raven's melancholy voice cut through the dead air. Robin turned and saw sincerity in her eyes.
"Optimistic are we?"
"First time for everything." She deadpanned.
"I'd certainly like to try." Robin finally relaxed.
"Alright, since we're on this and I admit, I'm curious to know. Why make Red X?" Raven's voice tried to keep her emotionless timber. He stared into her eyes, so deep, staring into an abyss.
'I'll take her at her word. Holding back was one of the problems in the first place.'
He took several breaths. "It's a way to get to him. I couldn't as Robin." He was talking so low she barely heard him.
"No. He was always ten steps ahead; X was a way to get ahead of him."
"But it didn't work."
"No. But I didn't think I was that obvious."
"But to him, you were."
"If I was as similar as everyone thinks, I would have known he would have known. Another mistake."
"What would have happened had you not been uncovered?"
Robin adopted a pensive look. "I guess get close to him and stab him in the back. Stop him that way."
"Keep you all in the dark as best as I could. I figured by the time someone uncovered it I would have gotten what I needed. And then go from there."
"Interesting. Sounds like your plot would be held together by wishful thinking."
"Sometimes that's all you need."
"Perhaps for you. Not for myself."
"No, you don't look the type to have hope."
"No. I do not."
"Did you ever have it?"
Raven tried to stare through his mask but to no avail. "I'm not sure."
"Well, not everyone has it. You…have to learn it."
"Sounds like experience."
"Yeah, it is. The only thing that kept me going at times."
"Never understood the impact such an emotion. Seems to make people do reckless things."
"Or can make life worth living. I guess I felt that when I was him. The hope I'd get him finally."
"I did sense something like that from X. I suppose I can see the allure. But it still didn't make it right to hide it from us either."
"No. But…are you ever going to drop that and move on? That's not me anymore. I've changed. Or you still want to linger back to those times? You have to move on Raven."
Raven felt Robin's sincerity. "It's pointless to dwell on the past. And…I don't want to create another mistake like that or her again by ignoring each other. It has to change."
"Then let's make it change."
"How?" Raven said, confused.
"By talking, or berating each other if that's how you want to get your jollies. Like you and Beast Boy." Raven rolled her eyes.
"Yes, but that gets tiresome after a while, don't you think?"
Raven adopted a pensive look and about to talk when her eyes began to glow. A few pieces floated into the bin
"For such smart robots, I wish they were smart enough to pick up after themselves." Raven spoke in her deadpan.
"Oh, yes." Robin tried to hide his shock of Raven's forwardness. "He just doesn't build like they used to." He picked a few parts and tossed them in.
"I wish I knew why he had these things around. What good are they? Slade looks the type to do it himself."
"You know…I have often wondered that myself." He noted as Raven picked up another drone with her powers and placed it in the bin.
"You don't know? You worked for him, surely you must have found out." Raven failed to hide her curiosity and Robin caught another tone hidden within that as he was pushing the container. 'She's sounding bemused? I'll bite.'
"I think I missed that memo. And you know Slade." He picked up a head and threw it in.
"Yes, schemes within schemes that I doubt even he would understand them."
Robin just looked at her and unleashed a killer smirk. "I just don't know what I saw in him."
"It was the black industrial look wasn't it?" Raven retrieved another fallen android.
"No." Robin immediately dismissed.
"How else would you explain X's gothic design? You said it was a way to get closer to him. So I'm sure that went into fashion sense as well. I must say, interesting fashion choice coming someone who dresses like a traffic light all the time."
"A traffic light?" Robin tried to contain his laughter.
"Red, green and yellow. You never looked at a mirror have you?" She levitated a torso in.
"I don't think it's that bad." He tossed in another drone.
"Oh, well, I still have the one thing that makes it all work."
"Not the boots." She moved a few loose parts.
"I meant the mask." Robin rolled his eyes.
"Right. I only hope you don't sleep with it."
"I can ask the same with your cloak. You never take it off either." He tossed in a detached arm and a handheld laser blaster.
"I do when I sleep."
"Really?" Robin gave the dark empath a curious glance. She turned away and placed another drone in. Robin pushed the cart wondering if Raven would continue on that. She was becoming silent again.
"I never thought you were the expert on fashion protocol." Robin tried to contain his nervousness.
"I pick up things."
"Interesting, considering you seal yourself away like a hermit most of the time, I didn't think you would."
"Bite your tongue."
"Just a point of interest." He pushed the cart to the end of the corridor into another corridor with the ubiquitous droids and the room sized windows adjacent to the Titans looking cracked.
"They never end do they?" Robin sighed. "I fail to see how my lifestyle is a point of interest." Raven said with a tinge of anger.
"I fail to see how my lifestyle is a point of interest to you." Raven began to tense up her muscles.
"I was merely making an observation. You don't have to get defensive."
"My business is just that: mine. I don't want anyone questioning me on that." Raven's eyes briefly flashed crimson.
"I'm not. I was just noting how you would know that. Your business is your own, I know that."
Raven massaged her temples. The headache was getting strong. "I trust you to do what you have to. You don't have to explain to me." Robin said compassionately.
"Then don't analyze me. I'm the picture of sanity. I think you can sweep the rest of this up, I need to meditate." She morphed into the floor.
'I still got it.' Robin picked a shattered head and once again sighed as he stared into its dead eyes and threw it into the pile.
Raven morphed into her ravaged room. 'The nerve of analyzing me. Surely he knows what happens to little birds that get close to the window. I should have known this was a mistake, why did I think he would be any different?' Raven removed her cloak and held on to it.
'Fool, what does he know?' Raven began to think about her statement as she rubbed the fabric with her fingers. 'He's no better than that fool Beast Boy.' She let the cloak fall on the floor. Raven closed her eyes, sat down on the bed Indian style, and began to meditate.
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos."
'Not even Beast Boy's level. Beast Boy was inside me, and he saw what would happen if he would pry again.' Her eyes felt like bleeding, the crimson effect was taking over.
"Azarath Metrion Zinthos."
'And that will not happen to me again. Perhaps the Boy Blunder will see his regret and find…' The meditation was having its effect as his words and emotion trickled down on her.
'Absolutely nothing. I don't have a leg to stand on. Impressive job on shunning someone who actually wanted to try to get to know you, stumpy.' She opened up her eyes and extended her hand out.
'Damn it.' She levitated the cloak to back her hand and enclosed herself with it as she soon teleported out of the room.
Robin was digging around the corridor throwing machine parts into the container.
'Just another one of my jokes no one laughs at. And I really thought I had something good going on. Finally. Serves me right. I ignored her and got what I had coming to me.' Raven morphed by the corridor near Robin.
'Wonder if I'll get that second chance or fourth the way I'm going. But do I deserve a chance from her?' Raven felt his regret and couldn't suppress his emotions flooding her. Several machine parts were glowing.
'Suppress. Azarath…' She couldn't maintain her mental shield as his regret and guilt consumed her.
'I wouldn't blame her if she just left me alone again. I failed…yet again.'
Several explosions were made. Robin turned and ran around the corner and nearly collided with the dark empath.
"Raven." Robin said in surprise. "Robin." she said emotionlessly. Robin tried to hide his nervousness. He was about to speak when his communicator beeped its familiar tune. He picked it up from his utility belt.
"Robin, I've been registered several explosions around your area, are you alright?" Cyborg's worried image carried on the line.
"Cyborg, everything is fine, just a few booby traps. We're fine." Robin reassured the synthetic teen. Raven was surprised.
'He's covering for me?'
"If you're sure. Star and I are about done with our wing of the Tower. Going for a break. Anything we should do while we're free?"
"Yes. Do the hangar if you can. We might be late, loads of drones here, so don't worry about us. You go ahead."
"Alright, man. If you're sure. Out." Cyborg ended the transmission. Robin put back the communicator and began to speak. Raven still unsure over the fact he lied for her.
"I—I wanted to say that I'm sorry. I didn't mean for it to come out like that. I was just observing that about you and was trying to make a joke but it was wrong and stupid of me to for me to try. I'm sorry I upset you." Robin was about to walk off back to the bin and toil alone when that melodic, melancholy voice rang out.
"On the contrary, it is I who should be sorry." Raven nearly whispered. Robin stopped into his tracks.
"You don't have to be. It was a stupid crack. And I should have known better."
"That would only be true if you had known more about me. But I can not fault you on not knowing when you haven't had the chance to know anything." Raven was surprised how sincere she sounded. Robin just nodded dumbly.
"And I've dispensed enough truthful words and well made observations over the years; I can certainly take a few."
"So have I. And I should have noticed that before I shot my mouth off."
"You can stop with the platitudes; don't turn Beast Boy on me. Notorious for that." Robin tried to contain his smirk.
"If I were Beast Boy, the only platitude I'd say would say "God help us all, dudes." " He tried to mimic the emerald changeling's voice. Raven sighed.
"Oh please, as if bad grammar and surfer banter will make villains cringe. On second thought."
"It wouldn't be the same without him, I'll say that much. Even you have to admit that."
"I reiterate, bite your tongue."
"I know. He can be a pain at times."
"In many ways."
"Although, I do appreciate his concern at times."
"That's because he's not…flirting with you all the time." Raven nearly spat out the word.
"One good thing about Terra, eh?"
"I suppose. I…never thought of it like that." Raven tried to contain her surprise at the statement.
"I had noticed you were more relaxed since she came aboard. At least in regards to him."
"Yes. I admit I enjoyed the respite."
"I'm sure you did but you have to wonder…what did you do to earn such attention?" Robin turned away from her and walked to the windows.
"A good question. Wish I had the answer."
"Could be the temptation, the fact you'll never get it. Creates an attraction."
"The only possibility I can find for this but for his sake, he best look elsewhere. I don't think I can see him in any relationship beyond this…flirting one we seem to have."
"Well, he does it with every girl he sees, so at least he doesn't consider you his "pet" project, so to speak. He did it with Terra especially."
"Yes, in some twisted way, I somewhat miss how he was when he was around her."
"A little too love struck but yeah, happiest I've ever seen him."
"I feel she may have returned the feelings but…I believe my sensors have been rather off lately, I don't know." She hid her surprise of the admittance off her statement.
'I just admitted weakness to him. To someone period.' Her eyes glanced around. 'And the world didn't end.'
"Is that why you didn't detect anything from her?"
"I believe so."
"Was that video wasn't it?"
"I don't understand, oh." Raven realized he meant the "Wicked Scary" video they just saw a month or so ago.
"Your powers were going haywire back then. And then she returned soon after. That could be why your sensors didn't pick the truth about her."
"I didn't realize you're such the expert on my powers. Even back then, you knew." Raven joined him, standing next to him.
"I try to know some things if I'm to be working with you. Be easier if you told me but wasn't in the cards to so speak." Robin tried to downplay his guilt. Raven felt him doing that.
"No. So much for traditions." Raven said bemused. Robin thought he saw a smirk on Raven's lips in the corner of his eye. And her eyes glowing back to normal.
"Well, can always make new ones." Robin flashed a smile. Raven felt his bemusement.
"I suppose you have some ideas." Raven felt his emotion taking over her.
"Oh, I'm sure we can think of something, but won't be this." He kicked up a detached arm, juggled, and tossed it into the dumpster. Raven ignored his little show.
"True, clean up duty is not my forte."
"Neither is mine. No wonder we're taking forever." Robin smirked.
"No, I've been productive." Raven nodded behind him. And the entire corridor was clean, save a near mountain of android parts near the container.
"I'll say. The whole time."
"Let's just say I can do several things at the same time, thanks to my training. I'll leave you alone so you can play king of the mountain." Raven was about to walk away.
"Um…Raven, how am I supposed to move all this?"
"Use some of that "wishful thinking." " Raven said bemused as she left. But she stopped for a minute.
"Whenever you are finished, I'll be at the kitchen having tea, should you need me." She disappointed in the shadows.
Robin was torn between feeling anger for lifting all those parts to nearly smiling at Raven's playfulness. He was about to start when both the pile and the dumpster took on an indigo glow and the parts neatly floated into the bin. Robin looked in astonishment.
"I thought I'd try some of that "wishful thinking" of yours." Raven's voice echoed throughout the hall.
He walked into the corridor Raven was and couldn't find a trace of her. Robin just stood there, felt a smile, and sighed as he pushed that cart down to the elevator.
The sun had set as Raven drank her second cup of tea. 'Probably one of the best conversations I've had in years. Deserves another tea.' She walked up and poured another cup. She felt another presence. But it wasn't the brotherly love of Cyborg's or the muted concern of Robin's, it was…
"Beast Boy, I didn't think you would be up."
The emerald changeling looked quite disheveled, staggering towards the kitchen. His eyes looked bloodshot.
"Raven." His normal ebullience was missing.
"Beast Boy you look horrible. When was the last time you slept?" Raven took a whiff. "Or showered?"
"Who needs sleep? I found the ultimate drug. The greatest drug of all." He took a teabag from the box on the counter and placed it in the cup.
"You're…?" He poured hot water from the kettle in the cup. "You're drinking tea? Don't you usually drink your soy milk?"
"I thought I'd try something new. Always wondered how this worked for you." He took a swig.
"Yuck! Plasmus tasted better." Raven tried to hide her glower.
"You're drinking it wrong."
"Yeah, I just keep doing everything wrong don't I? Like you a—and her." He took another sip.
"Like me?" She was too concerned about his words about her rather than the earth psychic.
"Yeah, just…finding those magic words so you'd smile for once. I just keep screwing up."
"Beast Boy, I can smile. My glower to the contrary notwithstanding, I just…don't have reason to." She suddenly thinking about Robin's words. 'The temptation, mixed with sorrow, what is this feeling? Robin had it too.'
"Doesn't that hurt? You frowning all the time? You know, you waste forty three muscles by frowning. Wouldn't it better if you used seventeen of them to smile instead?"
"Beast Boy, not everyone can have a cup of instant smile and be better. Life doesn't work out the way." Raven suddenly felt another presence, a mute concern coming down from within the deep corridors.
"No, I guess, I see that now. So, like, how do you get used to be all gloomy all the time?" Raven felt off putted by Beast Boy's comment yet felt strangely comforted that Robin was nearby.
"I prefer the term realistic myself. The key is while you know that the world will be cruel, you don't let it bother you and you continue on your merry way."
"How can you not let it bother you? It hurts so much."
"It does but it's pointless to dwell on that. You have to make change if you want to stop that pain." Raven suddenly felt that same feeling she felt from Robin and wondered if that would placate the emerald changeling.
"How can I do that?"
"I'm not so sure. I'm beginning to see that friends can help you. Trust in them. Even if they're gloomy." She flashed him a rare knowing glance.
Beast Boy let out a sheepish laugh. "Yeah, I'll try that. But I don't know when I'll do that though, I have to get over…"
"I—I wish Slade could have waited a few more days so I could have pulled off my big Valentine's Day special meal and impress the pants of her."
'Too easy and he's grieving.' "Sadly, I don't think Slade would be the type to halt an expensive operation just so two people could get together like that." She was astonished by her restraint.
"Yeah. What a workaholic. No time for romance." He went to the fridge and grabbed a carton of soy milk.
"Business before pleasure."
"Yeah, but you got to play too. You don't want to turn into that and forget everything that's fun. Like needing a good woman to get you through the day." He went to the counter, placed the carton on the counter and rummaged the cabinets for a cup.
"I hope you're not recommending a prostitute for everyone."
"No. No! Just, a good woman helps you through the day."
"Like Terra with you?"
He picked up a clean one and placed it on the counter and poured the milk. "Well, yeah, really. Well, before anyway. But mostly if the relationship is strong enough to take all kinds of stuff and still shine." Robin's presence was getting closer. Raven was strangely at peace.
"If the two are strong enough to endure. The question is more on the people and the level of attachment."
"Yeah, one good test is after you talk to your crush over something something, you stay up all night thinking about them." He drank his milk.
"Doesn't that sound like obsession?" Robin was quite close now.
"Well, maybe it can be. Depends how much you've fallen over your guy."
"I doubt I'll ever have that." The kettle was cold, she turned on the burner.
"Oh, Raven, you never know. The future is funny like that. I didn't think I'd be that ga-ga over her until that first night. Bags under my eyes and everything."
"I thought that was one of your video game benders."
"Nope. Just showing you never know how bad it is until it hits you."
"But that works for you, not me."
"Well, anyway, I'm okay now. I'm going to bed or play a game or something. I'm a shark, always moving." He put away the soy milk.
"I get your point."
"Hopefully we'll see if there are any little bags under your eyes tomorrow." He gave off a bemused smirk.
"If I do, it will be how to scatter your soul across the winds." She countered with her trademark glower.
"At least you're thinking about me. Good night." Raven felt him overcompensating. Raven had a return sardonic enough but she felt that muted concern washing over her. She wondered what it be like to drown in it.
"Good night, Beast Boy. Oh? Are you still staying in Terra's room?" Raven regretted asking.
The emerald changing stopped. "Yeah. I took what I needed. So if you torch it, I don't care. Night, Raven." He entered into the shadows of the corridor, chapfallen. Raven let out a sigh.
'Now I chomp on the foot.' "You can come out Robin."
Robin appeared from the shadows a few seconds later.
"How did you know I was there?" The kettle started to whistle.
"I could hear you breathe." She barbed in her deadpan.
"So much for stealth." Robin smirked as he walked towards Raven. She took the kettle off the burner, put it on a deactivated burner, and turned off the stove.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to eavesdrop. Just came in too late. I didn't think he'd ever leave that room."
"Neither did I but Terra didn't have any food in there so he had to come out eventually to eat." She rummaged the cabinets and found a cup.
"At least he's fine with us tearing up the room."
"If I had the strength now, I'd do it here and now." She poured hot water in the new cup. Levitated a teabag from the box and dipped it in. She handed the cup to Robin.
"Thanks." He took a sip. 'Still tasting like bile but now I think I'm getting used to it.' "Tomorrow, we can tear up her room."
"Wonderful." Raven slowly drank her cold tea.
"I was down there with Cyborg as he dumped them out. He and Star cleared out the East wing and several shafts in record and yet chided how we took so long." He took another sip.
"Well, those two powers that can do the job, and God forgive me, lickety spit. And no doubt they probably didn't talk as much as we did. Or needed to." She tried to see through that mask again.
"No. They're pretty good. I hope we are." 'There is that feeling again, what is it?' Raven took another swig.
"I think we're fine now. Most satisfactory."
"Indeed. How much did you hear perchance?"
"Oh, the not sleeping part really." Robin had another drink.
"As if lack of sleep will be an indicator of future romance."
"Well, that is true, you're so nervous about something, someone you like for example, your stomach, your head, everything acts up."
"I never heard about that." Raven finished off her drink.
"When was the last time you were nervous about something?"
"I guess…when Terra returned."
"Then, you were nervous?"
"Yes." She said after a pause.
"I don't blame you, she made me nervous too." Robin loosened up.
"I never thought you of all people would be nervous about someone."
"That image you were talking about?"
"Well, true, I have that, but I'm not a machine either."
"No, it's not your department. Just like me with romance."
"I don't know about that. You make guys turn their heads." Robin flashed her a smile.
"Oh please. Name one man I do that to. Not counting Beast Boy." She interrupted before he could finish. Her cynicism was clashing with her blush.
"So much for my standby. Ok, how about that goth kid I saw you in the warehouse party with?"
"Him? Too much of a coward for my tastes. Plus I hate show tunes."
"Show tunes? That's new." Robin couldn't hide his bemusement.
"Yes. So to date, I have one coward and one attention hog wanting me. Great track record." She deadpanned.
"At least you have two. I just got one." Robin blanked out.
"The most important one of all. Wait, didn't you have Kitten in that as well?"
Robin laughed. "Her? I like to forget her and that odd demand her father made. Looks like we're neck to neck."
"Not really. You have Starfire. That puts you out of the race doesn't it?" Raven suddenly felt disappointment.
"Indeed it does." Robin hid his disappointment but Raven felt it. She suddenly felt confused.
"Perhaps the next one, I'll find what you have."
"Yeah, well, I don't know about what we have but I hope you get that special someone because you deserve it. Any male that would be with you I dare say, would be the most fortunate male on Earth. I certainly would be if I were him, if you want to go for the true platitude." Robin said, genuine. Raven couldn't think of something to say. She still felt the strange disappointment but it paled in comparison to washing in his genuine concern—for her.
A few dishes then broke.
"I'm sorry, too much?" He tried to stare into her amethyst eyes; she tried to return the favor.
"A bit but mostly overworked. Been a long day."
"It has, you better get some sleep. We have a room to tear down. Good night Raven. Thanks for the tea." He finished off the lingering tea, placed the cup in the sink, and walked away.
"Good night." She nearly stuttered.
'He seems so…concerned about me. And this feeling he stirs in me, of possibility and optimism. And we…connected, despite my mechanisms and shunning him. He still kept returning, despite his fears. What does it mean?'
She massaged her temples and put away the cups and the box of tea and walked back to her room. 'He opened to me and I to him. We seem so…similar. I never felt this from another being before. And said he would be most fortuitous if we were together. I don't see how he would be, yet…' She levitated across the remaining debris.
'Was I so blind? So blind that I half the chances already and didn't even know it? It would be nice if he was talking about himself. It wouldn't matter; she has him, doesn't she?' Raven rounded the corner of the corridor that was her room
'But then why did I feel disappointment radiating from him when I spoke of her? Does that mean that he is unhappy with her? It's moot anyway; these feelings are pointless, this must be a flight of fancy, no doubt from my subconscious. The wretched holiday is no doubt to blame.' She levitated over the chasm and entered her room through one of the fissures on the wall.
'This feeling must be from fatigue. All I need is sleep.' Raven tossed off her cloak on the floor and lied down on the bed.
'What a stupid litmus test.'
The clock turn four, and Raven laid there eyes wide open staring at the ceiling.
The sunlight was shining through his windows. Robin tried to turn away from the sun, and sleep with he heard loud knocking. He prayed it was a dream.
"Robin, it is the time for awakening. Robin?" Starfire's cheery voice rang throughout the room. Robin groaned.
"I'm coming, I'm coming." He stumbled out of bed and staggered to the door. He opened it and saw the alien in her usual uniform, which looked like Plasmus to the disoriented Boy Wonder.
"What time is it?" He asked groggily.
"About seventeen Khronotons."
"No, what time is it now, in Earth terms? I don't need a lesson in Euclidian geometry."
"I believe it is seven half past nine."
"Yeah. I shouldn't have slept in." 'If only that were true.' He let her in.
"So, Robin, what is our itinerary for today? Perhaps you and I can do a task together, yes?" She batted her eyes as she sat on the bed.
"Oh yeah, I got to check some things first. I'm going to shower. You can go ahead and tell them I'm up." He was walking to the shower.
"Oh, you need not worry; the others are merely devouring their fast of break. They are not concerned with time." She flashed him another smile as she began to follow him.
"Breakfast. Yeah, usually they're off on their own little worlds. Um, Star? What are you doing?"
"Oh, I thought I assist you in the Tamaranian custom of undressing and tending to a fellow warrior's wounds after a major battle." She said in a-matter-of-fact tone.
'Where does she come up with these customs?' "I can handle this by myself, thank you." He shut the door.
"Oh…indeed." The alien said, dejected.
Robin pealed off his clothes and mask and turned on his shower. The shower woke him up as the water rapidly blasted off the dirt of the previous day's work. The memories of yesterday with Raven sluiced through him while the water attempted to do the same with his skin.
'Despite the awkwardness and the explaining myself, I actually had…fun. Is that possible? She really feels on my level on things. But I didn't think she'd be so forgiving with me. I overestimated her.'
He built a good lather with the soap and began to wash himself. 'Maybe it was because she saw that I really wanted to prove that I've changed and earned that second chance. Or first chance really. With her.'
As the water washed the soap away, Robin reflected on the uniqueness of yesterday. 'I think with everything, that's the first time I really enjoyed myself since I got here. Not even…the date with Starfire which I enjoyed gave me so much. Maybe it's because I got to know her just a bit and she and I loosened up. I can't even remember what Starfire said back then and…I've never been that relaxed with her either.' As he washed away the grime, his thoughts returned to Raven.
'I hope Raven gets that special guy. She deserves someone who would understand why she does what she does and care for her just the same. She'd be a great girlfriend to him and so much more.' Robin realized his epiphany.
'Yeah. She would.' He turned off the water, dried himself off, reapplied his mask, and covered himself with a towel. He slowly opened the door. Starfire was lying on the bed.
"Oh, Robin, finished with your cleansing?" She sat up and her eyes took a gander at the nearly nude Boy Wonder.
"Yeah, just need a new uniform." He was trying to suppress his blushes from her glances, which was failing miserably as he walked to his closet.
"I noticed your lack of possessions personal in here, beyond these articles on Slade and some of the other opponents we have faced." Her wandering eye kept on the Boy Wonder.
"Seems rather moot to have any if you're always under attack and have to keep moving and leaving them before they kill you." He suddenly wished he had a walk in closet as he grabbed a uniform.
"I see. But have you not had time to collect possessions and make them your own or have you decided not to?" Starfire said in hidden confusion.
"Time isn't the problem, just haven't bothered." He rapidly walked to the bathroom; he juggled the door with holding his uniform, his towel and turning the knob simultaneously.
"Robin, is not time you made a house for yourself?" The alien focused her eyes at the back of his head.
"You mean a home, well I…" He got the knob and slipped in and shut the door but not before the towel slipped off giving Starfire a rare, sneak peek. Starfire raised her brows in astonishment.
"That's house. I just haven't the insight to get around to it with all the insanity, that's all." He quickly blushed as he felt a draft. 'Oh God.'
"When are you going to?"
Robin stopped after dressing himself and couldn't realize the answer.
"I don't know."
"You had enough time, have you not? Why don't you start? We can begin the search on Valentine's Day."
Robin felt the air in him being deflated. "Yeah. That's a plan."
He suddenly felt sick to his stomach. A Valentine's Day outing with Starfire would sound most pleasing but…
'A plan for some reason makes me nervous. But why? Why do I feel so…'
"Oh delightful, Robin and I shall play with the Zorka berries. You'll enjoy the sweet bitterness." She clasped her hands together.
He opened the door and looked straight into her emerald eyes. "Looking forward to it."
"Wonderful. I'm still contemplating on our schedule for tomorrow."
"Star…I don't know yet, I think the clean up is more important now. We can celebrate later in the week."
"But Robin, it is a holiday specifically made for ones in love. Are we not allowed to pay tribute?" Starfire said defensively, she turned away from him.
"Star, you have to see, there are other priorities than that." He walked towards her.
"Yes. I do see that but you can not always focus yourself only on our team or Slade for example. It is not healthy for your mental well being."
"Well, I have to make our team secure. I can't let it slip away. The priority is the Tower and the team." He said, echoing Raven's words. The irony didn't escape him.
"Perhaps but some priorities are more important than others. Including the right to celebrate special holidays and customs and enjoy yourself in the pleasures of the events after a long, tiring day of fighting."
"But to focus one day while the Tower is still open and we're not ready? I'm sorry I can't indulge you. It's just…pointless. We can't go and savor it while we have this to worry about." He put his hands on her shoulders.
"You sound just like Raven." She whispered as she pulled away.
"You sound just like Raven, saying that celebrating this holiday is pointless."
"That's not what I said." 'I'm like Raven? I have to admit, that doesn't sound…' Robin couldn't dwell on his sudden pleased feeling.
"Yes it is. You said it's pointless. Pointless to pay tribute to this festive day." She turned back to him.
"Not while we're busy with this. We don't exactly have an army of men or resources to do the job." Robin was getting angry.
"Cyborg can make mechanical assistants for the tasks. Like he did in the future."
"Not for complicated tasks like resetting the security systems."
"Oh, I see. Are you doing this tomorrow then?"
"I plan to tear down Terra's room today, I don't know about to—" He realized his error.
"Then we can celebrate." She said firmly.
"Star, I can't."
"Or is it will not?"
Robin looked down and sighed. "We must go. I'm sure the others are concerned for us." She walked out of the room. 'I should have said "yes" and just be miserable. But then…wouldn't I be miserable anyway?' He went to his closet and put on his boots and walked out of the door.
'Now I'm thinking like Raven, aren't I?'
And he started his long mile to the living room.
Raven was drinking her tea again. She felt half dead to the world.
"Raven, you ok? You look like you haven't slept at all." Cyborg was at the oven frying some bacon.
"No, this is my beauty mask." She took another sip.
"Yeah, for a coffin maybe."
"And a half face full of metal would be better instead?" She spat out bitterly. Cyborg gave her a hard look. Raven sighed.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to. Just…been a long night." She took another swig.
"It's alright. We're all on edge. Here." He gave her a plate of bacon.
"Yes. Some more than others." She bit into a piece.
"Any reason why for the all nighter?" He sat down next to her.
"Oh, just thinking about this and that?"
"Like Robin maybe?" That got her attention.
"No. Why would you think that?"
"Our talk yesterday and the fact you two turned to Claude Rains. Didn't see you two at all, except Robin for like five minutes."
"There were many drones there. Just took longer is all." She finished off her tea.
"Maybe. But was why it took so long because of what we discussed?"
"Well, maybe. I don't know. But now I do feel closer to him. I realized we are most…similar."
"You are actually. Just took me a while to put two and two together. Mostly Terra and Slade kept distracting." He took her cup, got up and put it in the sink.
"Don't worry…it took me some time to realize that, among other things."
"Anything in particular you can tell me?"
"I'm…not sure but…" She never finished as Starfire and Robin walked their way in, with blank expressions. Raven felt them. Both of them felt drained, but Starfire was more smoldering anger and Robin, frustration and despair.
'Almost…attractive in its own way.'
"Hey, Robin, Star. Want some breakfast?" Cyborg interrupted the tension Raven was feeding off of.
"Thank you please, Cyborg." Starfire's cheery voice did a nice job masking her feelings.
"Can you make it on the go? I decided I want to get to work. Raven, you and I will take care of Terra's room. I'll go to the garage and get the scrapers and whatever else you need. Cyborg. You and Starfire take care of the staircases." Robin hid behind his authoritative voice.
Starfire adopted a look of surprise, while Cyborg nodded. "Uh, Robin, do you think that's a good idea what about—?"
"Beast Boy won't be a problem, he told me."
"Not that, what about Raven, she hasn't—"
"It's fine, Cyborg. I can handle it just fine." Raven interrupted.
"Good, Raven, you can wait for breakfast and bring it along while I go to Cyborg's workshop. I'll meet you at Terra's room." Robin was about to walk out.
"Okay, so I'm your waitress now." She said in her deadpan.
"Okay, do you know where the scrapers and trash bins are?" Robin turned his head to her.
Starfire followed Robin in the corridor. "Robin, I thought perhaps we would spend today's task together and discuss them in further."
Robin stopped. 'Now how am I going to get out of this?' "I figure if I get it over with now I can plan for tomorrow." 'Great, Grayson, lying. Good touch.'
"Does this mean you're reconsidering about the morrow?" Her emerald eyes regained their usually hopeful glimmer.
"Let me worry about that when we get there. Just…remember, no promises." Robin hoped that would placate her.
"Very well, but I hope the outcome for tomorrow will be favorable."
"You never know. I'll see you later." He couldn't bear to look at her. He continued down the corridor.
"Yes. Later." She sounded uncertain.
"You can keep silent about this but in the long run, does it help?" Cyborg poured orange juice in a thermos. He muttered to himself. "I can't believe we have a thermos."
"I have no answer. Therefore I say nothing."
"I think there is an answer, just you have to get to it on your own terms." He gave a lunch box with the Titan logo on it.
"I can't believe we have this." She accepted the lunch box.
"You know BB and his urge to make publicity and merchandizing."
"Wish I didn't. But thank you, but yes, this is something I have to solve myself. I just…don't know the true problem. Let alone the situation."
"I'd say just let it flow. It will come to you. Whatever it may be."
"What happens if…something negative is the answer?"
"Then we'll roll with the punches. We seem to be good at that. Now get going. Have fun." He shooed the dark empath away.
"We're stripping off wallpaper, how fun can it be?"
"You'd be surprised." Cyborg smirked. Raven just rolled her eyes.
"Boys. But thanks." She muttered as she entered the corridor.
Raven was walking down the corridor when she thought about what would happen today.
'I'm sure nothing will happen. Yet…' Her thoughts from her insomnia came creeping out. 'I wouldn't be disappointed if it did.' She rounded the corridor and entered the elevator.
'Is this infatuation? I felt that from Beast Boy with the traitor but…this isn't it. It's something...deeper. I wonder if this is…romance. It can not be. Robin and I are…' The sunlight from the window bounced off her face and gave her hair an incandescent glow.
'Quite compatible. Truly. I feel a muted concern from him. Everything he does is muted. Nothing like Beast Boy and his loud childishness. It's…' The elevator stopped. Her floor was here. 'Oh well, if nothing else, maybe he can tell me that feeling he seems to have whenever he and I talked. Quite confounding.'
She walked down the corridor and saw Terra's door open. She noticed the hallway drone free. 'Interesting that they left this room alone. I would think he would have them burn the evidence.' She walked and saw Robin working a laptop in there.
"Hey Raven." She immediately noticed his mood improving.
"Robin." She walked towards him. "What are you doing?"
"I found this here. I think this what she used to contact him. I've been trying to hack in and find out how to connect to this mail server and maybe unleash a virus to Slade's computer systems." Robin was tapping in commands.
"I'm sure at this point Slade closed that off. I doubt you'll get anywhere. Don't frustrate yourself over this. It's not worth it Robin." She was astonished by her softer tone. Robin took a glance at her.
"Yeah, you're right. But still had to try."
"I guess we should get to work." Robin stood up.
"Ideally. But you don't have to pour yourself into it. It's wallpaper." She quipped, Robin let out a laugh.
"I know but it will create the closure we need on her. And we do need this." Raven suppressed her indignation at his presumption.
"I suppose. But wouldn't it be also fitting if we all did this? Or at least Beast Boy with us?" 'Why did I say that? Wait, isn't that what I want? More people here means I won't have to dwell on it. But then if I don't…damn it!' It didn't help matters when an explosion was heard from in the distant background.
"Yes. Sorry. Just being in this…room. That, that traitor plotted and schemed from here and nearly sent us to our…" Raven took a deep breath. "I apologize."
"Don't be. I can certainly understand your feelings. I feel the same way to be honest." Raven felt his understanding and felt like wallowing in it.
"And to answer your question: anything Beast Boy was going to do, he already did it. And considering we were the only ones who had any issues with her in the first place and showed how bad our own relationship was, I thought it fitting we do this together." Robin explained.
Raven felt a strong undertow with his emotions, pulling her in, yet drowning in them. "I'll get a scraper." She levitated a scraper in her hand.
"Thank you. Saves me the trouble." Robin tried to take the scraper from Raven. She melted into the floor and reappeared by the garbage can.
"Get your own, Boy Blunder."
Robin rolled his eyes and laughed. "Well I couldn't use my grappling hook here. Put your eye out."
"You can try. Here." She levitated the tool to the Boy Wonder.
"Thank you much." He grabbed it. Raven walked to a corner. "Shall we begin? Begin the bin." Robin nodded and brought it to her. And standing side by side, they began to dig into the paper.
"Not quite how you wanted to spend your last hours before your Valentine's Day date or whatever you had did you?" Raven interrupted the silence as she levitated and dug at the top of the wall. 'Might as well do the direct approach. I…want to resolve this.'
"Compared to what we normally do, it's nice to do something that's usually exclusive for normal, ordinary people." Robin had a small smile.
"And here I thought being normal is overrated." She floated down slowly and the wallpaper pieces were sticking out.
"It depends on the what really. And as for Valentine's Day, Starfire told me about your views about the so called "holiday." Robin dug around and torn off little pieces of wallpaper off the wall and dropped them into the trash bin.
"Really?" 'Great, now he'll tell me how I'm wrong I am and he's hopelessly in love with her. Yet I'm not feeling that from him.'
"I agree with you. Why focus only one day to celebrate love, what about the rest of the year?" He dug out several traces of paper with his scraper and torn them off.
"Exactly. It's a pointless holiday. Created by the greeting card industry. I should form a resistance but you can blame One Eye for why I can't." She grabbed several loose tears and ripped them out.
"After the nanoprobes, I think you'd have a legitimate claim to blame him for the common cold."
"At last." After tossing the loose paper in the trash, she hovered for more.
"Unfortunately, you'd have some resistance in your takeover. Starfire is…quite the devotee to it."
"Yes. She was quite vehement about her position on that." Raven's subtle bemused voice suddenly dropped back to its normal emotionless voice. Robin realized his error.
"Yeah. I think she sees it as one of her Tamaranian traditions and she feels she must "pay tribute."
"Yes, she made it sound like she had to sacrifice a goat." Raven repeated the motion.
"Unfortunately my realism or maybe cynicism clashed with that." He dug onto another spot and scraped.
"That does that explain the look she had from in the living room?" Raven ripped off a tear and floated down.
Robin sighed. "Yeah."
"I'm sorry." Raven suddenly felt a wave of sorrow smash into her. She tried to not to choke on the guilt in the undertow.
"Don't be. It's not your fault." 'Or is it?' "Just…another issue we seem to clash over." He dug deep into another section of wallpaper.
'Another?' "May I ask what else? Perhaps I can help. If that's alright." Raven tried to lower her shield and absorb into the torrents stirring within her, a lesson she learned from the video distorting her powers.
Robin felt her concern and pouring into him, almost cleansing him. 'She would understand.' "Well, that was one of the main issues. That I couldn't spend time with her tomorrow because of reconstruction. I feel that's more important."
"I agree. Time to rebuild is of the essence, we don't have time to stop now. Even for "special" holidays." She threw the paper she was holding into the trash.
"No, we can't. And she can't see that. But…I can't put down everything just for her."
"No, you can't. But to play Devil's Advocate I can see her side of it, it's been a while since your date with her as I recall. I'm sure she just wanted to indulge, with you." She channeled her own empathy to drive down her rising emotions.
"Yes, but her timing is lousy. And…yeah." Robin stopped before he revealed too much.
"Sounds like you were going to say something to complete that." Raven once again tried to stare through that mask.
"No, I had a train of thought, and I lost it." Robin turned away and tore out the tears of the wallpaper.
"No, you're lying. You also said there are other issues. How are you going to solve your problem if you don't open yourself?" She stood her ground.
"The kettle calling the pot black."
"Do you really think me as a hypocrite? After everything we've just been through to get over our problem?" Raven's amethyst eyes' cold glare cut through the Boy Wonder.
"I'm sorry. Defense mechanisms and all that. But yeah, something, something been happening…with her and now I finally see it." Robin threw away the loose paper and dug into the wallpaper again. The scraper began to take on an indigo glow. It flew out of his hand and into Raven's.
"That can wait. What do you see?" Robin sucked a breath, he felt so uncertain.
"Robin, I can't help you if you don't tell me the problem." 'Tempted to use my powers to help him relax but it would be artificial. A lie. I have…too much respect any more to do that to him.'
"I—I know. Just...never thought I would ever admit this to anyone, not even to myself but there it is. The evidence exists." Robin felt torrents of emotion flood him.
"Robin, what is it?" Raven asked, in the return of her soft tone.
"The date with Kitten. The way Starfire acted while I was on the date. I never saw such…rampant jealousy. It…was something to see." Raven was surprised Robin sounded so frightened and disconcerted.
"Jealousy?" Raven used all her mental shields not to devastate the room. 'I never knew such a sweet innocent would have that within her. And another problem creates.' She tried to focus her shock and not dwell upon the depression.
"Yes. It was brutal. I didn't think much at the time with Kitten and her boyfriend but lately the more I think it, the more I'm…shocked I never saw it."
'A case of blindness? Even more similarity?' "You didn't know. It's only during the times of duress do we uncover the truth about ourselves or other people."
Robin nodded. "It was a stressful time, but I never saw any inklings of it before."
"Anyone can hide their base emotions as you and I can attest. Some use a mixture of…obvious friendliness and hidden withdrawal as you do. I use my lack of emotions and cynicism and she? She hides it out into the open within her naiveté. Quite rare."
"She did a great job. She even fooled me. And I'm supposed to be the detective here." Robin said in regret.
"Don't blame yourself for her. You had more than enough on your plate." She suddenly had the urge to hold his shoulder. But the fear held her back, until something exploded again in the fair background.
"You alright? I'm sorry it's too much." Robin's compassion took over.
"I'm fine. What about you?" Raven focused on his emotion. She suddenly felt calmer.
"I don't know. Just upset at myself for she fooled me. Just like Terra fooled me." Robin's self deprecation was getting stronger.
"In either case, it was an act, one that they have been perfecting for years. They played on your friendliness and…other things."
"Yeah. Quite the role reversal here. I didn't think I'd see it from you. You're quite…stubborn when you want to be."
"The way you cling on to ideas and won't budge. Like your fears of showing emotion and paranoia. It's nothing new to me. Because I am." Robin quietly chuckled.
"We're not stubborn now, are we?"
"No, we're not." Robin gave a small smile.
"And in either case, you caught it and you're still alive to correct." Raven said in a tired, reflective tone.
"You're not winning brownie points for quoting me." Robin's smile started to grow.
"I'm merely stating truth. Whatever conclusions you draw from that isn't my concern."
"Well you can't fight truthful words."
"Paraphrasing me isn't going to help you either." Raven said, hands on her hips.
"Then we're even." Robin had on a light tone.
"Indeed we are. Now that's settled, what are you going to do with Starfire?"
Robin sighed. "I don't know. Between this and the recent fighting, I don't know anymore."
"At least now the problems are coming to life early so you can detect and repair if possible. And if not…then you move on and hope the attachment isn't deep enough for permanent scarring." She felt drained saying that.
"Yes. That's the only way to go about it and lately…I haven't felt attached in a while, finally noticing the flaws, the differences. We're too different. I see that now. I just…can't be myself with her." Robin returned the drained feeling and leaned on the wall.
"But lately I've been feeling something else. Just…a possibility. Out of reach."
Raven felt that strange emotion of his returning. "A possibility? Interesting. Do you know what it is?"
"No. Still trying to figure it out. I don't know what it is."
"Is it a who?"
"Yeah, just thinking flights of fancy. The what might have beens."
"At least you won't be alone on that. I do seem to be feeling that."
"Oh? I thought you weren't one for romance." Robin said, bemused.
"Again, paraphrasing won't help you. But lately, I've been thinking about a recent event, something that has opened up…deep feelings in me. I don't know if it's love but I won't dismiss it." Raven joined the Boy Wonder's position.
"Yeah, my feelings are like that too. I don't know it's love but I out rule it." Robin rubbed his eyes as he could beneath the mask.
"We're completely simpatico. Yet again."
"Yeah, we seem to be that way. And I finally noticed those bags under your eyes. Beast Boy's theory?"
"Yes. I think I think too much." Raven sighed.
"So do I. You get used to it." Robin said in sympathy.
"You seem tired as well. You did the same thing didn't you?" Raven felt a slight smirk coming on.
"More or less. And yes, it wasn't about Star."
"Each of us seems to think the same thing before the other thinks it."
"Seems to be that way. Too bad I'm not a mindreader like you." Robin laughed.
"No, but just thinking at all is the best pleasure, especially given the appearance of our chasers."
Robin chuckled. "I'll buy that. Although Star can think, I just…don't how she does it."
"You dated her. Or is that present tense?" Raven asked, adopting that feeling of Robin's.
"Honestly. I think I'm going to take a break from her, hopefully she'll understand."
"If things go disastrous…" Raven sucked in a breath, and latched on to that feeling. "I'll be here if you need me."
Robin just stared into Raven and those deep amethyst eyes. "That means more to me than you know. And I'll help you sort your feeling. Mine may be distorted because of her but there is no reason why yours should be. I'll help you find that special guy." Robin's muted concern finally became a roar.
"You don't have to."
"I want to. You're the only one who seems to understand me and I want to help you find that."
"And you seem to be the only one to understand me, which is quite the rarity. We seem most compatible." Raven began running those words into her head, building up courage from that feeling.
"Yeah, we are."
"If we're so similar, and we know what we want, be easier to spare the lot if we just dated." Raven said emotionlessly and closed her eyes, she was afraid to see his reaction.
"Actually…that would be more ideal with me."
Raven opened them. "R—Really?"
"Yeah. I can be myself when I'm with you. I never thought that was possible, that I would find someone like that." Robin loosened up.
"And I am understood with you. You may question but you know when to back off and you don't judge. But…would this be casual?" Raven kept siphoning off that feeling.
"I doubt anything with you would be simply casual. And since neither one of us have been in a relationship, it will be catch as catch can."
"There will be perils. Including my…emotions."
"I'm not going to back down if that's what you're hinting. You know me better than that." Robin said determined.
"I do, which makes this easier and who knows what will happen?"
"Could break up and destroy the team."
"Or could deepen into something neither one of us thought possible." Raven said in a whiff of optimism.
"Second time you've been optimistic."
"A pattern now. Dandy." Robin laughed at her barb.
"I'm not complaining. And the irony is it fell right before that "pointless" holiday so we could celebrate it. If we were a normal couple." The two Titans simply looked at each other.
"No." They said in unison.
"But we can work tomorrow, by ourselves again." Raven said with an evil glint in her eye.
"Too true, I'll think of an excuse with Star." Her mood suddenly dampened.
"Yes, she'll be a problem. More so with this jealousy."
"If anything, Star is…unpredictable. I think as long as we tell her it's you I'm dating, I think your friendship shall dampened that. And Cy will understand since we're best friends. Beast Boy? He'll get over it."
"And if not?"
"Then, so be it, we'll deal with the tension and hope for the best."
"Hope?" Raven asked, confused.
"Yeah, hope. I was hoping that you might agree to a relationship. I clung to that, I don't know why but I did. And I'm going to, when dealing with Star or just the future." Robin gave off a warm smile and drunk in that feeling.
"So that's hope." Raven whispered.
"That's the feeling hope. I never experienced it before."
Robin was surprised. "Never?"
"It's the only thing that keeps me going really."
"Just another emotion I wasn't allowed to know." She said emotionlessly.
"Do you want to know it?" Robin asked with hope and compassion.
"I—I do strangely enough. You create emotions alien to me, yet...you make me feel at peace and with you and your muted concern, I can absorb and control them without harming myself or others."
"I see I have my work cut out for me. But I don't care, I'm still staying." Robin's determination made up for his lack of energy.
"That means much more to me than you'll ever know." Raven said in muted emotion and her lack of sleep caught up with her. Their legs both sunk them down slowly onto the floor, their backs to the wall.
"I doubt that." Robin smiled. Raven showed a glimmer of a smile.
"We should send that traitor a gift basket from the two of us." Raven smirked.
"Yeah. Wonder where she is now."
"Doesn't matter. She's away from here. But I still wouldn't hesitate to give her the scaring of her life if we see her again."
"Yes, I am." Raven said without a beat.
"Well, I wouldn't adverse to some good old fashioned mind games." Robin smiled.
"You'll have to help me with that."
"Done. So how about while we work tomorrow, I can help you with that and your new emotions if any?"
"Is it a date?"
"Date, outing, what does it matter?"
"Exactly. Something else I've been thinking about. I'm not quite sure if a kiss or a hug is appropriate right now, I don't know the proper…etiquette."
"I'm not sure either. So…" Robin removed his glove. "How about we hold hands?" He held out his hand.
"I think I can handle that much." Raven said in deadpan as her hand joined his. She levitated the lunch box to them and the two began eating. One hand trying to cut cold eggs and eating cold bacon, while the other held on another's hand, sharing the newfound warmth.
All in comfortable silence.
This was a challenge and I worked through the nights and the mornings. And a lot longer than expected. Sometimes they just build up on that. And to play with the fact I didn't participate last year.
Special thanks for desolatorpixie and her views of Valentine's Day for helping me gel my thoughts.
I hope you enjoy this in lieu of Vicious Cycle and leave a review on the way out.
And all of you have a happy Valentine's Day.