A/N: By request, I risk taking the plot one step forward into more mush and less of my signature humor. I hope I get my attempt right ehehe. This one is for the three kind reviewers who made me feel very much at home with my first non-anime fandom: PillzBerryDoughFrEaK 1, swisscheese, and Dreammistress Jade, thank you very much.
Two Hearts, One Vow
He didn't know when it began, more so when it would end. Darkness swept in to his consciousness like a sudden giant wave, disabling him from reacting with the presence of mind expected of the commander of the famed Teen Titans. His body grew numb, his body quivered in cold sweat, and his throat suddenly felt deprived of oral fluids.
The deafening silence was not making it any better. The total stillness was threatening to burst his eardrums and penetrate his brain, challenging the very limits of his sanity.
He threw in every effort he could muster to remain acutely aware of his normal respiratory counts and pulses. Like a mantra, he repeated to himself over and over that he must remain in control. He had been trained to withstand all kinds of physical and mental torture in order to prepare for the inevitable meeting with his fate worse than death. He must not fail now. His destiny awaits.
He would kill Slade, or he would die trying.
As if a taunting joke, he heard the familiar chuckle of malice ringing in his ears. Low, deliberate and evil.
"Slade!" he yelled amidst the blinding darkness. He threw out of the window the last ounce of his futile self-control and punched wildly. All the while, the laughter only amplified, filling his ears, filling his brain…
"Slade, damn it!" Frantic urgency reverberated in his tone, his own boiling emotions threatening to swallow him whole too. His violently tremulous anger was slowly strangling the breaths out of his lungs. The ruthless zero visibility was starting to bite on his senses like the venomous fangs of a deadly cobra. "Where are you?"
"Funny you should ask that." A silhouette appeared in front of him. His fate.
"I am within you, Robin. In the obscure shadows of your mind and soul, I am."
His eyes crinkled in wrath. "You're insane!"
"You will find me too…soon." A quiet mocking laughter. "I will just be bidding my time until then."
The last of the chains holding him back broke. In blazing fury he launched an attack against him. "Take this!"
To his shock, the impact of his fist reflected, making him fly a few feet away.
"Do you still not get it, foolish soul?" Slade smiled malevolently. "The enemy you had been looking for all this time is closer than you think."
"You will die by my hands, Slade. I swear you will, damn it!" He wiped the blood dripping down the corner of his mouth. He raised his fist to deliver another punch, but to his surprise, something held it back.
His eyes flapped open, and then closed instantly. The usually dim environment of his room was a virtual flood of bright lights compared to the murky inferno he came from.
Then…it was all a lurid dream?
He reluctantly opened his eyes again. The familiar ceiling of his room met his weary gaze.
Yes, it was all but a nightmare.
Something pulled his gaze to his side. And then he felt himself swallow with difficulty.
Long crimson locks curtained his hand, his wrist imprisoned by ten candle-shaped fingers.
Hers was the voice that saved him from that darkness.
"S-Starfire…" he murmured.
The sound of her name made her look up. To his surprise, her eyes were swollen, her cheeks still holding visible trails of tears.
Why was she crying?
"R-Robin…" Her lower lip trembled, along with her eyes that pooled fresh tears again. "A-Are you feeling well?"
"A little…tired," he admitted. "I had…a bad dream, that's all—Starfire?" His voice grew anxious when he saw her shoulders quaver, sobs escaping from her throat. Instinctively, the hand she was holding with both of hers traveled to her chin, tipping it up to scrutinize her tear-streaked face. "What's wrong?"
"You received some severe injuries from the lasers shot at us. One of them hauled you off into a wall, making you lose your consciousness, a-and…" She pulled her head back from his touch and looked down, crying all over again. "You were asleep for four days… R-Raven told me you were under coma…and she said you might never wake up again…"
He winced as memories of hitting his head very hard against something harder formed in his mind. "Oh."
An incredulous look materialized on her face. "Y-You nearly met your demise, Robin! Is that the best word you can offer your friend?"
He sighed. He was not gifted with gab when it comes to dealing with highly emotional women. "Starfire…"
"Four days…those were the most frightening four days of my life," she whispered, her voice breaking. "I could not stop blaming myself all those time. Had I been stronger, I could have knocked out those creatures that fired at you. Had I been stronger, I could have done something to protect you…"
He fell silent.
She wiped her tears with her finger gingerly. "I tried to understand that we are poles apart when it comes to our beliefs in battling for justice. You are more passionate about it because you are an inherently good-hearted person. But sometimes, when I watch your anger take the Robin I look up to away into the abyss of hatred, I feel so helpless."
"I want to stop you…to hold you back. When you enter Slade's realm, there is no turning back. Either I lose you to him or to your own lust for revenge." She hugged herself. "I know…I know my limitations. And I know I don't have any right to keep you from executing your personal mission…but…but…" More tears cascaded down her cheeks. "Please don't leave us…We can only go so far with you in your task, but we want to be behind you, supporting you. Please don't shut us out." The rest of her words drowned in silent sobs. "Please…"
Impulse made him defy his body's serious lack of strength and gave him the power to sit up. His hand landed on her nape, stroking her silky mane that tumbled down her shoulders.
"Sorry," he whispered softly. "I can be a real asshole sometimes."
"It's not that I want to leave you… it's just that it's my fight alone," he explained. "It's dangerous. It may cost you guys your lives. And that's something I don't want to even think about."
"Do you know…" she began.
"D-Do you know…that in our customs, the battle of a man is his wife's battle too, the same way they share joys and pains and whatever is left in between." She lifted her eyes up at him. "Because they are two hearts bound by one vow."
Had she told him that in lighter circumstances, he could have burst out in laughter. But seeing how earnest her emerald eyes were, he felt he lost any power to think properly. All that mattered was the frozen eternity amidst the semi-darkness between them.
"I cannot speak for the rest of the team, Robin," she continued quietly. "But after those four days…I have resolved to make partake in your mission whether you want it or not. If it means challenging the point of no return, I do not care. From now on…" A shaky smile formed on her face. "…I will be stronger. Never again will I watch anyone take an important person away from me. Never," she vowed solemnly.
He shook his head slowly, powerlessly succumbing into a smile. It was impossible not to, whenever he was talking with her. "I don't really know what good thing did I do before to merit such loyalty from my team member."
The minute he uttered those words, he realized it was a mistake.
Starfire's eyes widened, and then lost their shimmer.
"I-I have disturbed you long enough," she said hurriedly. "P-Please recover your strength soon. The team misses you."
"Starfire, wait! I meant—oh damn." He got up, ignoring her surprised gasp and her pleas for him to return to his bed.
In one swift movement, he grabbed her shoulders and pulled him to her.
"R-Robin—" The rest of her words were sealed by his mouth.
Silence reigned the room for a few moments.
He slowly lifted his face from hers, gazing at the dazed girl with amusement. "Why so surprised? Don't your customs believe in a man kissing a woman if she refuses to listen to him just because he acted like a jerk for two minutes?"
She blinked. "W-What?"
"Or maybe I was the first jerk you met," he smiled contritely. "I'm sorry for kissing you unexpectedly."
"O-Okay." She stepped back and headed for the door. "G-Good night—"
He groaned. "Okaaay…. so I'm not so sorry for the kiss. In fact, now that I did it, I felt I should have done it earlier. Oh man!" He rubbed the back of his head when she still refused to look at him. "Star…"
He settled back on his bed. "Thank you." A shy smile formed on his face. "For making me understand that I'm not alone."
She laughed softly, making him look back at her in puzzlement.
"All this time you were walking, your eyes were only on your shadow." She placed her hands behind her waist. "I am with you, for always."
He felt something touch his heart—a sense of peace. When had he last felt this kind of tranquility?
Only moments before, he was on the verge of self-destruction. How could he not, when there existed a possibility that the very person he wanted to destroy was actually himself?
Yet Starfire's solemn promise pacified him, in a way that balm can soothe a salted wound.
How could it not?
She saved him from the suffocating darkness where even his sanity was threatening to break.
She reminded him that he still had other reasons to live for aside from the obsession to kill Slade.
His eyes shut tight. His angel, his salvation.
"You will never lose me, Star," he promised solemnly.
This fight wasn't his alone anymore.
This one was for her too.