"So you see, technically, Tamaranian ships do not really travel at the speed of light, for in all honesty, to physically travel that quickly is not possible; rather, they…"
"NOOOOOO! I ALMOST HAD HIM!"
Starfire cringed at the interruption of Beast Boy's primal scream; the changeling was sitting on the edge of the couch in the Tower's living room and staring slack-jawed at the TV screen, where the words "GAME OVER" mocked him mercilessly. Somewhere beneath that, Mario lay on his side with Bowser looming over him, laughing.
"I was sooo close!" he went on. "Two more seconds and I would've had him! If it wasn't for that stupid spike trap, I would've won!"
Robin glared at Beast Boy. "Keep it down a bit, would ya?" he said. He turned back to Starfire. "Sorry about that. So, you were saying?"
Starfire nodded. "Yes…anyway, rather than actually traveling at the speed of light, we instead…"
Starfire cringed again; this time it was Cyborg, bounding into the room in high spirits with five massive bags hanging over one shoulder. "Yo, Raven, get your butt in here!" he was barking into his communicator.
"Oh, to the purgatory with it," Starfire sighed.
"Look at this, Cyborg!" Beast Boy whined, still gaping at the GAME OVER screen. "Look how close I was to winning!"
"Heh…that's rough, man."
"Do you think you guys could maybe be a little louder?" Robin growled. "I think there's a few people across town that didn't quite hear you."
Cyborg ignored the Boy Wonder. "Check it out, y'all…FAN MAIL!"
He dropped the five sacks to the floor; each one was marked with the names of one of the five Titans, and each one was packed with envelopes. Predictably enough, the girls' bags were quite a bit bigger than the other three.
"Sweet!" Beast Boy said, stars in his eyes. Forgetting about his game entirely, he pounced upon his bag, opened the first letter he saw, and promptly began reading.
"Robin? What is this 'fan mail?'" Starfire asked.
"It's letters from citizens of the city," Robin explained. "People like to write letters to their heroes, telling them how much they appreciate everything those heroes do for them, kind of as a way to thank them."
Starfire brightened. "How wonderful! Would you like to read the fan mail with me, Robin?"
"Sure, Star," Robin said.
Robin glared at him. "What?"
"Nothin' at all, man, nothin' at all," Cyborg said, still snickering.
"Dude, listen to this!" Beast Boy said, brandishing a letter. " 'Dear Beast Boy: I can't thank you enough for the day you saved my life. You probably don't remember, what with all the lives you guys save every day, but I want you to know I'm alive today because of you, and it's always been my dream to meet you. I always thought you were the cutest of the group. Here's something to remember me by. XOXO, Amanda.' And check it out, she sent a photo! Isn't she hot?"
He held up a photograph of a stunning brunette in a bikini, smiling girlishly.
Cyborg let out a whistle. "Dang, man, she's a looker, all right."
"And she's allllll mine!" Beast Boy said, hugging the photo to his chest.
The doors slid open then, and Raven walked into the room, looking as irritable as usual. "Is there some sensible reason I've been dragged away from my meditation?"
"Yeah, girl, fan mail!"
"Hehehehehe…it is most glorious!" Starfire giggled.
"Oh," Raven deadpanned. "Goodie."
"Would you like to answer them with us?" Starfire said.
"Uh, Star, you don't have to answer them," Robin said. "People don't really expect their heroes to answer back. Besides, it'd take a long time to write back to all of them."
"But I would like to!" she insisted. "These people were kind enough to take the time to write these things to me, and it is the least I can do to return the favor. Would you like to join me, Raven?"
Raven's bag was suddenly encased in black energy and lifted off the ground. A second later the window sprung open under the same blackness, and the bag catapulted itself through the opening, where it sunk into the bay.
"All done," Raven muttered. "Call me when there's something worth bothering with."
"Party pooper!" Beast Boy shouted at her retreating back, but she was already gone.
"Ah well…I think I'm going to read these in my room," Cyborg said, snatching his own bag back up. "See y'all later."
"Yeah, good idea," Beast Boy said. "Besides, me and Amanda need some quality time together!"
"Oh, Beast Boy, that's just wrong!"
"DUDE! I didn't mean it like that!"
"Suuure you didn't…"
"I didn't! Honest!"
A second later the two boys were gone, leaving Starfire and Robin alone in the living room to read their own fan mail.
"This is…interesting," Robin said with a raised eyebrow as he scanned one of his letters.
"What is it?" Starfire asked. Robin shrugged and handed the letter to the alien girl, who took it and read:
I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you I love you.
Starfire frowned. "Why does this 'Sasha' claim she loves you so vehemently? She does not know you at all. And what is the meaning of all these O's and X's?"
"Well, she doesn't love me, so to speak," Robin tried to explain. "She just…has a really big crush on me, I guess. And the O's and X's means 'hugs and kisses.' It's supposed to mean that the person is giving them to you through the letters."
"I see," Starfire said, though she clearly did not.
Robin chuckled. "Don't worry about it, Star…some people get a little weird about writing to their heroes anyway."
Starfire shrugged, a human gesture she'd managed to pick up, and dug into her own bag, pulling one out at random. Robin returned to his own stack of letters and scanned through them quickly, a couple of which were quite similar to Sasha's.
About half an hour later, Robin was almost done with his own bag, but Starfire was barely halfway through hers. He glanced over at her, and saw that she was blushing.
"What is it, Star?"
"Oh, well…this letter…it is quite similar to the one Beast Boy shared, in that the sender included a photograph…hehehe…"
She held up the photo, and Robin had about half a second to register the image of a muscular dark-haired man in a Speedo before he covered his eyes in horror.
"DAH! Put it away, Star!"
Starfire looked startled. "What is the problem? Do you find him unattractive?"
"Well, no…I MEAN, YES…I mean…er…um…just…never mind, Star."
"I thought he was rather handsome," she said.
"H-handsome?" Robin stuttered.
"Well, not as handsome as y…eep!" She clapped a hand over her mouth, blushing again.
"Not as handsome as what, Star?" Robin said.
"Nothing!" she said quickly. "Erm…let us continue with the fan mail!"
Both nodded, glad to be away from the subject. Robin dug into the last letter in his bag, flipped it open, and read:
You rule, dude! When I first heard about the Titans, I thought, 'man, that Robin guy doesn't have any powers, that's so lame!' But then I saw you in action, and dude, you kicked some serious ass! Those are some awesome moves you got! I guess I should've known, since you're Batman's old partner and all, and he's totally badass! You gotta teach me those moves sometime!
Robin chuckled again. It wasn't the first time someone had commended him for his martial arts, and he was sure it wouldn't be the last. He flipped over to the back and saw a postscript:
PS: That Starfire chick is a real cutie! Are you two going out? Big score for you if you are, man!
Robin's face turned pink, but he couldn't help smiling. He glanced over to Starfire again, and saw that she looked thoroughly puzzled by something in her current letter.
"Robin, I have never heard this word before. What is its meaning?" she asked, showing him the letter in her hand and pointing at the word in question. Robin leaned forward and squinted his eyes so he could read it.
It was a four letter word that began with an 'F.'
Robin's eyes bulged behind his mask. "Let me see that," he said, snatching the letter and glaring at it. It was unsigned.
Ooh, baby, you get me so HOT! You gotta come over to my place sometime, sweet-cheeks, I'll show you a good time, I promise…oh yeah, first I'm gonna-
Robin stopped reading at that point, shredded the foul letter into pieces, and more pieces, and more pieces, until it resembled confetti.
"Robin, what on Earth was the matter?" Starfire asked.
"It…just…gross…idiot…totally uncalled for…" he muttered incoherently as he shredded.
"I was concerned," Starfire said, "when he said I caused his body temperature to rise; did I perhaps cause him to come into close contact with my star-bolts? They do generate a rather large amount of heat, and…"
"No, Star, nothing like that…" Robin said. "Look, forget about that one, you didn't want to read the rest of it, trust me."
"Oh…very well. But Robin, what was the meaning of that word?"
"Um…well…it's…man, how do I explain this…" he muttered. It was quite hard; Starfire was looking at him like a curious child that had just asked her mommy where babies come from. It didn't make matters easier for the Boy Wonder. But then an idea came to him.
"Star…in the Tamaranian language, do you have…y'know…bad words? Swears? Curses?"
"Well…yes…" Starfire said hesitantly. "I would rather not repeat them, however."
"No, you don't have to…but, well…that word you saw…that's an Earth curse. A bad one. Probably one of the worst there is."
"What does it mean?"
Crap, Robin thought, redness quickly creeping onto his face. "Umm…you see…it's a really…really derogatory term for…um…y'know…ahem…well, uh…having…y'know…sex."
Starfire's own face flared red. "Oh!" she said. A look of shock and indignation crossed her face. "How rude! Why would someone write such foul language in a fan mail?"
"Well…some people are just…creeps like that. Bad people. That stuff isn't really fan mail, it's just…well, garbage. You shouldn't waste your time on that sort of thing. Real fan mail is like…it's when there's some person that you really look up to and admire; someone who you wish you could be more like; your 'hero,' I guess. It could be anyone…your brother, your best friend, a political figure…a superhero," he added with a smile. "When you write fan mail to this person, it's to tell them how much they've affected your life for the better. To thank them for everything they've done for you; to tell them, even if they're not aware of it, how big an impact they've had on your life."
"Then a letter containing such…foul words as that," Starfire said, gesturing to the shredded letter, "is not a true fan mail?"
"Not even close," Robin agreed vehemently.
"I see," Starfire said, and this time Robin could tell she meant it. "So…anyone can write fan mail, yes?"
"Yeah, of course, Star," Robin said.
"Even we superheroes?"
"Well…yeah, I suppose so."
"Then…who would you write to, Robin? Who is your hero?"
A glazed look came over Robin's eyes at that moment. Some sort of shadow seemed to suddenly fall over the Boy Wonder as he answered.
"As much as I hate to admit it…I guess Batman would have to be the one. He was like a father to me…and I'd never be where I am today if it wasn't for him." Robin stood up. "Well, I'm done here. You go ahead and finish your mail, Star, I have some reports to fill out before I go to bed. Good night."
"Oh…good night, Robin."
"Urgh…no, that isn't right…Cinderblock hit the park, Plasmus went for the power plant, and Overload hit the nuclear plant…NO, that's not right either…urgh…"
Two hours later Robin was still slaving away at his reports, trying to get them all organized and filed away where they belonged. They were being unnecessarily difficult about it, however. Loose pages somehow kept finding their way into the wrong files.
"Robin? Are you still awake?" Star's voice floated through his door.
"Yeah, Star, come on in," he called. He heard the door swish open and closed again, and heard the alien girl's dainty footsteps as she came over to him. "What is it?"
"Well…erm…I just wished for you to know, you...have one more."
"One more what?" he said, facing her.
"One more of the fan mails," she said, holding up a letter sealed in an envelope of a very faint pink color.
Robin sighed and turned back to his work. "Just leave it on the table there, Star…I have to finish these reports. I'll get to it later."
"I think you should read it now, Robin."
"What's so special about it?" he asked, not looking at her.
This time Robin did turn, and he was met with a most unusual expression on the Tamaranian's face. It was some giant mass of conflicting emotions; fear mixed with nervousness mixed with daring mixed with excitement, and everything in between. He glanced at the letter she held, wondering what was going on, and why this particular letter was so important to her. Slowly, warily, he took the letter from Starfire's trembling hands, opened it, and began to read.
I cannot even begin to describe how thankful I am to have known you. My time here would have been dull, quiet, and worst of all, lonely, had it not been for you. You did not have to take the strange girl from another planet into your home and teach her everything she knows about Earth, but you did anyway, and rest assured I am thankful for it. Though you may not realize it, you have changed my life for the better in every way I can think of. You have been the best of friends to me, the most trusted of allies…and even though some might think you weak without superpowers, I have never felt more safe in my life than those times when you stepped in to protect me. Know, Robin, that I am grateful beyond words for everything that you have done for me, and that as a result, I cannot help but care for you in ways stronger and deeper even than what best friends share. I do not know if it means anything to you, but I simply wished you to know this. You are my hero, Robin. Always and forever.
Your dearest friend,
Robin was, for once, utterly speechless. He read the letter over again just to make sure he'd understood it correctly, and it was no different the second time through. His mouth was moving, trying to say something, but his voice wasn't cooperating.
"Robin…?" Starfire whispered.
Robin turned to look at the alien girl. "I…I don't know what to say…"
"Oh, you do not have to say anything, Robin," she answered a little too quickly. "As you said, the recipients of fan mail are not expected to respond to them…"
"No, it's not that, Star…" Robin assured her. "I…I'm just…well…surprised. I…I had no idea you felt this way."
"Is that not the point of fan mail? To inform my hero how much he means to me, even if he is not aware of it?"
Robin couldn't help but smile at that. "Well, yeah, I did say that…"
"And that anyone, even superheroes, could have heroes they look up to, yes?"
"Yeah…that's how it works."
Starfire smiled. "Then I was successful!"
Robin smiled too. "Yeah…really successful." He glanced at the letter again. "By the way…XOXO?" he said with a raised eyebrow.
Starfire blushed. "Erm…well…I would have written more, but I did not wish to be greedy."
Robin took her hands in his. "Be as greedy as you want, Star. Goodness knows I won't mind."
And before Starfire had a chance to be surprised, his lips were on hers. Their fingers intertwined, and before they knew it they had both relaxed into the kiss as though they'd known how to all along. It was a good half-minute before they parted, both seeing stars.
"I guess answering my fan mail isn't so bad," Robin managed to whisper.
"Hehe…no, it most definitely is not so bad," Starfire agreed.
"But you know…" Robin said. "That was only one 'X'…and you did ask for at least two…"
Starfire grinned eagerly, and pulled the Boy Wonder forward again.