Guess who's back after more than seven months? Me! Okay, yeah, I know it's been a few months since I updated this and I know I said it would be out sooner and I know you probably all hate me now, but I'm really, really, really sorry. I just didn't like what I had written for this chapter, and then I had this horrible case of writers block. So a little while ago I just decided I'd sit down and write, even if it turned out terrible. But… I ended up writing stuff for FTL instead… And then I wrote Once Again… And then I started a few other things and didn't finish those either… But here I am! Loaded with a new chapter and a pair of tennis shoes in case anyone gets violent because it's been so long (trust me, I'm ready to run). Just so you know, I tried to make it longer since you had to wait so long. And I put some fluff in there for you too, even if it is horribly written. So sit down, get comfortable, and prepare for a fluffy chapter from yours truly. Enjoy!
Dedicated to: Shade, for getting me out of my writing rut the first time, even if I did fall back in, and Kawaii Parisu1, for helping me fix my name.
Disclaimer: I hate this part. I do not own, nor am I claiming or receiving any profit from, Teen Titans, any such sub-productions, or anything related thereof. Happy?
The stones were sharp,
The wind came at my back;
Walking along the highway,
Mincing like a cat.
-Theodore Roethke, "Praise to the End!"
Walking the Line
Finally, they were walking through the perfectly manicured gardens, with the wind whipping at their backs and the cloudy sky above them. Okay, so it wasn't so romantic when you considered how cold it was and how likely it was that the rain would begin to pour down upon them at any given moment. But still… It had some merit, at least. Raven seemed to be more content now than she had in the confines of the hallway, which had seemed quite endless when the pair of them had been walking through a few minutes ago.
Now, though, with Raven walking beside him, he felt like it was worth it to withstand the cold that had, only two days before, been a rather warm temperature. Perhaps god hadn't yet distinguished between seasons in this century.
And just think, Robin thought to himself, only fifteen centuries to go until you get to use electricity again. Truthfully, Robin knew that wasn't quite fair. He really had no idea what century it was. But judging by the language and the not undelicate conversations, he was a little farther along than the sixth century, though probably still pre-double digits. And he hadn't heard of anyone heading off to look for the Holy Grail, and that was always a good sign when you didn't want to be heading off on any unorthodox- at least to him- "missions." Knight errantry hadn't exactly appealed to him when he'd read about it.
Still, now wasn't the appropriate time for this sort of contemplation. He seemed to be doing that a lot lately, that going off on random trains of thought. He was doing it again in fact. If it wouldn't have looked so strange, he would have slapped himself in an attempt to knock some sense into him. But he was in public, and in a different time completely, so that was out of the question. What wasn't out of the question, however, was starting a conversation with a particularly beautiful empath standing next to him.
Sadly, he was beaten to it once again.
"Lord Grayson?" came a murmured request from his side.
"Must I always correct you?" Robin asked her.
"Richard, then," she began.
"Yes?" he encouraged.
"Are you going to answer me now?" Oh please don't lie to me, Richard.
"What do you mean?" Oh please don't be asking what I think you're asking. You won't be able to handle it, Raven.
"I would like to know why you wanted me to walk with you when you quite obviously have your pick of the court ladies." I don't want to regret asking this. Oh gods, don't let this hurt me.
"I thought I answered already." Take the hint, Rae. Don't keep pressing it.
"Not really. Are you going to give me a real answer now?" Just tell me the truth.
"Not one that you'll be satisfied with." Will you ever let anyone keep their secrets?
"Well then, I suppose it would be rather fruitless to press you… You are a strange one, my Lord, and I've seen them all." I suppose it's better than a lie, though not by much.
"I get that a lot. And it's Richard." I probably ought to tell her about all of us… But it's so much; I don't want to blow her mind just yet. This Raven is so nice…
"I'm terribly sorry. Old habits are hard to break." Why won't he settle with tradition? Why does he have to be so difficult, this one?
"Don't be sorry. I'm the one throwing off the routine." It's "old habits die hard." Come on, Rae, you know that. Remember?
His only response to this was a smile and a sigh. Neither noticed the pair of green eyes in a glassless window, staring out into the courtyard; nor did they notice that the face attached to the eyes was contorted in fury. What they did notice, was how they seemed to stay in step with each other, though neither of them meant for it to happen. And how the clouds above them, instead of being a somber presence, made everything seem softer, or less defined around the edges; it was as if it took the harsh edge off reality… or whatever this was, since it certainly wasn't reality.
But just because the couple in the courtyard didn't see the eyes of the queen, that didn't mean the eyes of the queen were oblivious to the couple. In fact, it was quite the opposite. And the sight before her was making said queen rather irate. It is not in the nature of human beings to enjoy sharing the things we like- particularly the things we think about in an obsessive, almost stalker-like nature- with others, particularly those who we don't even enjoy being within a ten mile radius of. The same can be said of citizens in many alien nations, even if they are unaware of their citizenship in said nation.
And now, gazing upon the pair in the garden with what was believed to be a righteous fury, her hands felt as if they were on fire, but in a good way; she felt as if she could lift the entire castle, if only it would land on the woman walking the pathways with the man who would soon be hers; there was a burning sensation that seemed like it was right behind her eyes as well, which felt as if it would evaporate any raindrops that fell near them (and indeed it did, though this went unnoticed). How dare she take the man that would have been hers in a matter of days? How dare she try to replace her own affections in another man's life once again? How dare she, a slave, who had lived with many only to be loved by none, move in on the dangerous grounds of courtship when, not only had she no right to do so, but had been warned on the same offense a year previous? How dare she? But this question would have to be answered later, when she could spy at a more convenient time, as well as a more comfortable location. The raven-haired god was escorting the demon of a girl inside, having only just noticed the gently falling rain. (AN- Her thoughts were over a longer period of time than it looks like here. She was watching them for a while.)
Back to the lovebirds…
A comfortable silence followed the verbal exchange as they walked along the well-manicured walkway. The chill from the wind was starting to be unbearable, but neither wanted to be the one to ruin the moment; nor did either one want to know why they were so suddenly afflicted with this terrible bliss, this wonderful pain. It was as if they had fallen into a pillow-lined whole; it was rather dark and sort of cold down there, but it was so comfortable they didn't mind. In this strange, alternate universe, the two hadn't even known each other a week, and already they were falling for each other. Then suddenly both of their minds came to a screeching halt.
Falling for him? How could I be "falling for" him? I barely know the man- er, boy- er, person. I can't possibly be falling for someone who, only days ago, just danced into my life, upset half the traditions I've been raised with, and lied outright to the queen. From what I hear, he's a flirt; and if he was willing to lie to her, who's to say he wouldn't lie to a mere slave… No, it would be best to shut these thoughts away and never dwell on them again. No use yearning for poison…
This isn't possible. That's all there is to it. I can't be falling for her; I live with her, and this has never been a problem before. It's just not rational. It's simply the byproduct of being thrown from my life into this… whatever this is… Besides, she obviously doesn't like me like that; I've lived with her long enough to know that. And Star would be jealous… I just need to get over this. It's a fluke, that's all. Ignore it, Rob, ignore it.
Sadly, this didn't work. After a few more minutes of continued reflection, they both realized that they were becoming rather wet and, therefore, hurried inside, where they were greeted by a manservant holding towels for the pair of them. Or rather, Robin was greeted by a manservant who had one towel for him. Raven, it seemed, didn't rank far enough up on the feudal scale to merit a towel, even one as roughly made and coarse as the one he had.
As the man turned to walk away, Richard pretended to be engaged in drying off, but when he was out of sight Robin just shook the water out of his hair and handed the nearly dry towel to Raven. For a moment she looked disbelieving and didn't take the towel.
"Well, do you want to stay wet and die of pneumonia?" he asked her impatiently.
"Pneumonia…" she murmured softly, as if it was something she half-remembered but couldn't quite place. Which, in fact, was true. At the moment, he mentally banged himself on the head; pneumonia hadn't really been discovered yet, let alone named! But she didn't pursue the matter, so he just left the issue alone. It was then that he noticed her deep frown.
"What's wrong?" he questioned mildly.
"Uh, it's nothing, really," she said in a distracted manner. "I just don't have anything to wear. It will be at least three more days until my clothing is ready, but these clothes are soaked. But I suppose that nothing can be done right now."
With a grin, Robin told her, "Think again." Now she looked more confused than distracted. He took a hold of her wrist and began towing her off to their rooms.
A few minutes later, the strange pair could be found sitting in Raven's room, trying not to laugh at her ridiculous outfit. Robin had loaned her a small white shirt and a simple pair of pants, which used to be a tan pair of the puffy over-shorts or whatever they were called, but he had ripped the seam out of this pair so that he would have a more comfortable pair of pants. While he knew better than to wear them in public, he had let Raven borrow them while her own garments were drying. In all honesty she didn't look so bad in his clothes, and he decided to tell her as much.
"You look hot, Rae," he teased her without thinking.
She grinned and played along. "Just because you think you can boss me around, that doesn't mean you can say- Wait, what? I… I don't feel warm…" she said uncertainly.
He only then realized his mistake. "No, I meant… pretty, in a way."
She nodded absently. "Yes, I know…" This caused him to raise his eyebrows. She knew? He decided not to make her any more unnerved for the moment and excused himself.
When he reached his room, he could almost hear the wheels turning in her head. He had just accidentally started the windmill in Raven's mind, and even though he knew he ought to be trying harder to bring back her memories, he was enjoying being around a kinder, less hostile Raven. But this wouldn't last; that woman never let sleeping dogs lie, and she proverbially chased the woken dogs. She would recall her true identity soon enough. But really, that wasn't such a bad thing. He could use help in his mission, and she would be the best one for the job. And so with mixed thoughts and feelings, Robin laid down. After all, what good would he do if he didn't get any sleep? (Yeah, the day went quickly, but I don't have any more ideas that would work for it. But now I have plenty for the rest of the story…)
Robin, or Richard Grayson, as everyone seemed to know him as, growled in frustration. He had been dodging Starfire's attempts all week. She had tried almost every trick in the book to get him to bend to her will, and he was running out of excuses. Thank god he lived with Beast Boy, the king of evasion. He had learned many useful ways to avoid the queen's obvious intentions, though he would never tell the changeling that as it would only serve to encourage him to try to skip out on more chores. It was the night before Raven's dresses were supposed to be ready to pick up, and the red-headed girl was trying once again to entice Robin up to her room.
"But I would really enjoy the company of one such as yourself. I have had no one to talk to as of late, and I am feeling rather lonely. I believe that someone with whom I may have a good conversation with would be helpful in remedying my bout of gloominess. Do you not agree?" persisted Starfire. I bet you'd enjoy my company, but not for the conversation. You just want to get me alone, Robin thought. He was on the brink of becoming angry with his alien friend. He just wanted her to stop. Any normal person would have seen that by now, but she was spoiled to the core in this world and couldn't even fathom not getting exactly what she wanted, not to mention that she had still retained a tad bit of her naïveté.
"I'm quite sorry, Your Highness, but I'm afraid I… uh… I'm afraid… I need to prepare for my journey to town tomorrow! Yes, I really must get ready for the trip. Those annoying errands always take so long, don't they? I was actually planning on making quite a day out of it," he said in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner.
"And what is there to offer there that you find so much more appealing than at the castle? A whole day would be much time wasted, as there is nothing of much importance," she responded with a semi-pouty note in her own voice.
"Oh, well, you know… I'd just like to get to know the area… I don't come around all that often…" he struggled.
"You used to come visit me often. Now I don't see you for years at a time. Is it too much to ask to talk with me for a bit?" the queen requested with such innocence that he almost forgot who he was dealing with.
"I'm so sorry, but I must get ready. If I don't pick up the clothes tomorrow, they may sell it to someone else, and I really can't let that happen. So if you'll excuse me, my dear queen," he extended his hand, which she took, and kissed her hand gently, "I really must be going." And then he turned around and proceeded to walk to his quarters, leaving behind a slightly pleased, slightly confused redhead.
As Richard stepped up to the door of his room, something happened to him that hadn't happened in a very long time. A migraine hit him so hard and so fast that he stumbled to his knees and had to clutch at the doorframe to keep from completely collapsing in the hallway. The blinding pain was so intense that he couldn't even utter a sound of agony. He should have been expecting it, of course, as his headaches were triggered by stress and this had been a rather stressful time. But because he'd become used to the everyday stress of being a Titan, it had been so long since he'd gotten one that he'd half-forgotten about them. Now however, he remembered all too well.
Suddenly the door swung inward (lucky for our Boy Wonder, or he'd have gotten smashed into the wall, too) and Raven was standing there and looking down at him. She quickly pulled him through the entryway and shut the door with her powers. After that, he began to feel the pain receding, and soon he was clear-minded enough to realize that she was using her powers to heal him as well. "Robin…" she murmured softly.
With only the bare dregs of a mild headache still heckling him, Raven let her hands fall away from his face and looked at him with concern. He just smiled at her. "What?"
"What?" she repeated him.
"What did you say?"
"Nothing. I didn't say anything."
"I heard you say something…"
"No, you didn't. And you had better tell me what's wrong with you, or so help me, I won't be doing that again," she scolded.
"It was no big deal, just a little headache is all," Robin told her with a sigh.
"Excuse me? I felt that, you know, and it wasn't 'just a little' anything. I thought you had gotten your head slammed into a door," she argued.
"Look, don't worry about it. It doesn't happen often, so you won't have to deal with again, more likely than not." She reached out a helping hand as he started to get back on his feet, and he took it gratefully.
Unfortunately, the unexpected migraine and subsequent healing had left them both with lowered subconscious barriers, and Raven's mind was assaulted with a few disturbing and incomprehensible images. Her body grew stiff and her hands clenched around his own. "Rae? Raven? Raven, answer me. What's wrong? Rae!" Robin said with increasing alarm. All of a sudden, she blinked and looked at him as if he had grown another head.
"What… what was that? I saw… red. And green and yellow and black and purple and blue… It was so mixed up and I was spinning and I think I saw you and I think… I think I was there… Not just then, but… sometime… But those weren't my memories. They were yours…" she rambled softly, more than a little alarm in her voice.
"Shh…" he soothed. "Yeah, those were my memories. I guess they would be a little confusing to you right now…" Robin paused a moment, trying to decide whether or not to tell her. "Rae, you were there. You were with me. Don't you remember any of it? Don't you remember what it was? Starfire was there too. And Garfield. Come on, you have to remember something!"
In the middle of his little speech, she began to shake her head, growing more violent by the second. "No! No, I couldn't be there. She couldn't be there! Stop it, it's not true!" Raven exclaimed. He tried to take her hand, but she jerked back and ran through the door to her own room.
"Okay, so maybe that was a little too sudden for her… And I guess I might have over-done it… Damn it all, why can't she just remember!" he growled to himself. With an angry feeling in the pit of his stomach, he started rummaging through his drawers, looking for something to wear the next day. Deciding he didn't even care at this point and that it wasn't too early for him to go to bed, he stalked over to the bed and slid under the covers. As he mumbled incoherent things about stupid mistakes and stubborn girls, he drifted off into what would be a very interesting dream.
All too soon he was wakened by the sound of pounding on a door and, when that ended, he was being shaken awake by a slightly irritated Raven. He tried to grasp back at sleep once again, but now he couldn't even remember what he had been dreaming of; only the vague recollection of something enjoyable remained.
"Whaddya want?" Robin mumbled groggily.
"I felt something from you… again. But this time it was… strange," she informed him slowly.
"Strange? Strange how?" he asked as he pushed the blankets off his warm body.
"I… I haven't felt it coming from you before," she told him with her head cocked to one side.
"Yeah? Well, can you describe it a bit more, because-" He suddenly stopped in mid-sentence as he realized what emotion she had felt from him. And with that unfortunate epiphany, he quickly jerked the covers back over his body.
"Is something the matter?" Raven questioned with mild concern.
"Uh, no, not really, just… you know. It's nothing. Cold. That's all. Don't worry. Um, you can, uh… you can go back to your room now. If you want, I mean. But you probably don't want to be in here anyway. So just go. I mean, you can. If you want to. But, um, yeah…" Robin stuttered with a rising fear that she would discover his dilemma.
The woman beside his bed frowned deeply at his arrant lie. "I'm not an idiot, you know," she began. "Now what is wrong?" When he didn't volunteer any information she gave him a warning look that, had it been anything else, would have wrought the truth out of him in moments. But with the situation as it was, she would have to force it from him. "You had better tell me, or I can assure you, you will reap the consequences."
"Rae, just don't worry about it. Go back to your room, and get some rest," he urged her.
"You think I'm going to be able to rest with your emotions so… so… so volatile? I think not. Now, Richard, either you tell me, or I make you tell me," she intoned in a low voice that could be mistaken for something other than the threat it was meant to be. With a deep, long-suffering sigh, he pushed the covers back down again. For a minute silence reigned. Then- "What's wrong with it?" Raven asked quietly.
His eyes had previously been engaged in glaring at his problem, but after her words he looked up sharply. It had sounded like something Star would say, not Raven. She wasn't nearly naïve enough to ask something like that. "Excuse me?"
"Do- does it need to be looked at? There is a doctor near the Queen's quarters. Should I go-" Raven began.
"NO! I mean, no, it'll… it'll work itself out," Robin muttered with a faint blush.
"I really think you should see someone about this. It could be serious…" she urged.
"Really, it's fine. Don't worry about it," he insisted.
"If you won't let a professional look at it, then at least let me," she muttered, reaching her hand out.
"NO!" he exclaimed. Before her fingers could get anywhere near their destination, he grabbed her hand and pushed it back. "Don't."
"Look, there's something wrong, okay? You need to let someone look at it…"
"I said no!"
Regardless, her hand was reaching once again, and once again he reached out and grabbed it. This time though something else happened. It was like his brain was being flooded with every memory he had of her, and it seemed that they were in no specific order. First she was falling down an elevator shaft until he'd caught her; then she was a small child with her arms wrapped around him; next he was standing in front of her hospital bed trying to protect her from the Beast; now a barely clothed Raven was being caught in his arms after Slade had dropped her from a building; then a white clothed Raven was hugging him tightly in the middle of the street. They were all jumbled together, some he remembered and some he didn't, all jumbled together and shoved into a split-second timeframe so that he could barely see one before another rushed in.
Robin looked up at her face. "Hm…" he murmured, cocking his head to one side. Then he pulled her close to him and kissed her gently. It was a short, sweet kiss, almost innocent in nature, and they separated after a moment, both feeling more confused than anything. Then Raven leaned forward and kissed him back.
Yes, I know I'm evil. But… I'm about to get kicked off my computer and it's the middle of the night and I'm worried everyone will hate me for taking so long to update and I'm trying to leave off at a place that will give me somewhere good to start for next chapter (which WILL be up sooner, even if that means it sucks and is a LOT shorter). SO… I know I promised fluff, but you got a little (ahem, sort of). But that means there will be more in the next chapter! I promise! I just couldn't get this where I wanted it in less than five hundred pages, so I cut it off at ten. Don't complain; I'm planning on getting out faster updates.
On another note entirely, I've decided that I need a beta. Anyone want to volunteer? I'm just tired of spending for-freakin'-ever on editing my stories and then post it, only to look at it fifteen minutes later and see twenty more errors. And the plus for being my beta is you get to see it before everyone else, and maybe even give me ideas for the stories… Oooooohhhhh, lucky you, lol. But seriously, I do need a beta and I would really appreciate any offers. Thanks!
Ciao i miei amici