HUGE AMOUNTS OF FANTASTIC TASTING ICE CREAM AND/OR CAKE and of course, THANKS to those who have reviewed and read or read and reviewed or even just read. I really am grateful. It's good motivation and makes me smile when I think all I've got to come home to is more work and instead I see some 'review' e-mails in my otherwise spam-ified inbox. THANK YOU SO!

Teen Titans doesn't belong to me because...I don't know why. But I know it doesn't. Damn it.


Winner Takes All

Epilogue: Rush


They'd decided from the beginning that it wouldn't be smart to try and hide from their comrades. They'd decided it would be best to just be straightforward. If anything, the team would appreciate their honesty. If anything, they would be happy for them.

Right.

As might be expected, neither Raven, nor Robin was shortsighted enough to really buy into any of those idealistic thoughts concerning how their feelings for each other would be received for more than a maximum of five minutes and they put their heads together to try and figure the most painless and also the kindest way to go about letting the others know.

Raven was sensitive to Beast Boy, who after the Terra incident—however long ago it might have been—had relatively returned to indirectly expressing some interest in her. Robin was sensitive to Starfire who had nursed affections for him since nearly the beginning. Raven was concerned about Cyborg's feelings since although he was often coined as the big brother of the group, she knew him to be lonely often and felt her relationship with Robin might bring that into unnecessary focus for the bionic young man. Robin was concerned about Cyborg in precisely because of the big brother tag that applied often more specifically to his relationship with the dark girl and his over-protectiveness of her.

There was, needless to say, quite a bit to be both sensitive to and concerned about. So, the two birds agreed on keeping quiet for a while, a week, no more.

A week turned into two weeks, turned into three, became a month, ran into two months...and nothing was said. When there was trouble the team would go out and take care of business as usual and if Raven was a little more in tune to when she ought to throw a protective shell of black energy around her leader when he might not have needed it at all, no one really gave much notice. When the morning war of tofu versus real eggs commenced Starfire continued to try and play peacemaker and if Robin worked around them to get the kettle steaming and ready for the soon emerging sorceress, no one really gave much notice. Not much anyway.

And they were careful, very careful. Seldom were they even seen in each other's company that much more than was usual. Raven still sat by herself on the couch buried in her latest thick read and Robin still frequented his research lab more than any other part of the tower, save maybe the training room—also by himself. But sometimes...sometimes Starfire was out at the mall of shopping and Beast Boy was off looking for new video games and Cyborg went out to either take the T-Car for a spin with its new add-ons or get 'real food' as he would pseudo-delicately put it.

Those times, during the beginning months, were pockets of intensity for the masked leader and quiet empath. It was then that he would join her on the sofa and listen as she read him verses about he could only guess what, but enjoyed nonetheless because it was her voice speaking them to him. It was then that she would spar with him, having taken personal offense when on one particular outing Beast Boy made a tactless joke about her physical fighting incapability—he didn't mean any harm, it should noted. He never did, but Raven being Raven had to take it to heart and then train to, more importantly, prove him wrong.

And during the poetry-laden sits in the living area or the heated sparring matches, sometimes amethyst eyes would meet blue ones for longer than intended. That was when the pages of the book rustled as the tome fell from her hand as he crawled almost catlike to rest over her and cause her to lose herself in something other than fine words, or just to lose herself. That was when the sounds of kicks or punches in the training room suddenly halted as she triumphantly pinned him beneath her in a newly mastered technique and then, realizing their position and their proximity, realizing the tenderness in the way he traced fingers down her shoulder and arm, began a new kind of duel—one of seeking lips and hot breath.

Then the others would return; sometimes the timing was too close for comfort. But they were never caught. Maybe it was because they were never caught that they argued so intensely about telling them at all.

"We have to!" Raven crossed her arms, annoyed and defiant and Robin scowled to match hers.

"We've been doing fine until now. What's changed?" He did not fancy confronting Starfire and while it was no little known fact to him that he was being somewhat unfair about the whole thing, the idea of an angry—or worse, a depressed—Starfire quelled that self-loathing smartly. At least a little bit anyway.

"You're uneasy too, just look. You're tapping your foot," Raven inclined her head. Robin s hook his head.

"So? Sometimes...it falls asleep," he said lamely but made a point to stop tapping his foot; such dead giveaways were the reasons he never won an argument.

"Liar...when you tap your foot you're nervous or unsettled," Raven smiled, amused now and her companion shrugged with something of a sheepish grin on his face.

"Maybe," he said and she laughed softly at him. Robin marveled. The first time he had heard her laugh like that, he hadn't been able to place the sound; it had been in the quiet time of their paired solitude. It was apparently a rather humorous part of her book and she'd let slip some expression. Since then he'd taken to reveling in the sound; it was infectious but quiet, vaguely mysterious, as if she were always laughing at you in a I-know-something-you-don't-know kind of way. She wasn't, well not always, but it wasn't an offensive thing in any case.

In fact, Robin felt it was quite possibly one of the most delightful sounds he'd ever heard and it was these new things about her he was slowly coming to discover to be his most favorite. He had fancied he knew her well before they began this relationship, only to discover he'd been quite mistaken; there was far too much to know about a person you loved after all. There was everything.

"So when do we tell them?" she asked and he sighed. He wanted escape for once, but she would have none of it, it seemed.

"Today?" he suggested and her eyes widened visibly.

"Turning on a dime, I see," she noted and he waved his hand dismissively.

"If it has to be done, sooner is better and we've waited pretty long as it is." Robin admitted his own hypocrisy there, but he didn't mind so much, not with her anyway.

"I told you so," Raven said, unabashed.

"Don't get conceited," he admonished teasingly. She threw him a 'and what makes you think you can tell me what to do?' look. "Or I'll have to take you down a peg," he warned, but he was still smiling as he advanced upon her. She retreated. It was his turn to laugh. "We both know I'll catch you sooner or later, Rae," he said even as she disappeared through the floor.

Her laughter threw itself at him in a mocking fashion and with somewhat of a feral grin, he sprinted out the door of the training room—they'd been meaning to spar, but had started to talk instead. Down the halls of the tower, through the kitchen and the common room, the research area, his room and hers he ran and when he still could not locate his fellow bird, he rolled his eyes at himself. Of course...she would have gone the only place he wouldn't think to look. It was far too obvious and thus, the perfect hiding spot.

A record-breaking 15.3 seconds later he threw the door to the tower's roof open and was greeted with a highly amused smile.

"Yeah, yeah, shut up," he said in a pretense of sulkiness.

"Me? I haven't said a word," she said with all the innocence of a newborn and he chuckled.

"But you were going to," he pointed out and she shook her head.

"Nope," she insisted and stuck her tongue out at him playfully.

"Careful with that tongue," he teased. In what seemed to be one swift and fluid motion—though it couldn't scientifically, possibly have been—Raven closed the distance between them, stood on her toes and brought him down for a breathless kiss; it wasn't even a duel for dominance. She had the upper hand from start to finish, at which point she broke apart from him out of necessity for air and short of breath, she still managed a somewhat gasping retort.

"Why? Afraid?" she taunted now and he returned her challenge with a falsely considering expression.

"Mmm...well I'm not exactly sure if I have anything to be afraid of...better to do some reconnaissance and find out for myself, I think." And he whirled her around so that she was against the wall. Absently, he closed the tower's door with his left hand even as his right tilted her chin up for another kiss, even deeper, even longer, even better than the last...well, maybe he was biased. He did want to win after all. Soon his lips traveled to pay special attention to the base of her throat, a spot he'd noticed in recent such 'reconnaissance' that was of particular pleasure for her. The arousing moan of approval more than confirmed this and he smiled against the softness of her skin. He was winning. And he might have continued to elicit similar sounds of delight from his dark lover if not for...

"WE'VE GOT PIZZA!"

His motions halted and Raven's previously closed eyes shot open as she all but shoved him off of her, paranoid.

"Paranoid?" he asked her from his new residing place—the floor. She offered him an apologetic shrug.

"Uh, no?" she quirked and after assessing that Cyborg's voice was just very loud and that no one was actually out there on the tower finding them out, she helped her leader back up onto his feet.

"Right," he said wryly, matching some of her lighter sarcasm's degree. "So, want to tell them now?" She paused, considered, and nodded. He sighed. "Alright then," he made for the door but paused as he looked at her again. "You might want to readjust your cloak...and your belt, by the way," he whispered, lips barely brushing her earlobe and it was only thanks to years of emotion-masking and meditation that Raven Roth restrained a very, very fierce blush from knitting itself across her delicate cheekbones.

Downstairs, well, in the common area, Beast Boy was fiddling with the boom-box's volume and the pizza boxes were open on the counter. (Cyborg and Starfire were hastily searching for earplugs while eating their slices of pizza.) The two birds exchanged looks. Now or never was the basic phrase they decided to focus on.

"Um, guys?" Robin coughed politely—not that that had ever gotten their attention before, but the polite ways were usually best when dealing with touchy situations—and when that, of course, failed to alert the others, he was about to speak again when...

"Hey," Raven said. They all stopped what they were doing and turned.

Robin scowled. Just because she rarely talked to all of them as a group, she got an immediate reaction. It wasn't his fault he was leader and as such had to give somewhat corny—or really corny—pep talks or go get 'em speeches and the like, wasn't his fault he was as such, often tuned out when it could be done without being too pervasive. Mentally, he sulked...just a little. But he paid attention when one of them asked what was going on and he squared his shoulders. Straightforward and to the point, that's how this had to be done.

"Well..." he began and it petered off there. Raven let her eyes wander sideways in a half-perplexed, half-exasperated question mark as if to say 'What the heck are you doing? Do I have to tell them all by myself?' He returned her look with his own one and it was indignant at her presumption but she simply rolled her eyes at him so he tried again. "You see," he began instead and thought, there, that was better. He suspected the resident goth of hearing that thought, because almost instantly following it, Raven gave a short cough that might have been a cover for laughter...laughter directed rather pointedly at him. Of course he couldn't be too sure and did his best to ignore the amused glint in her eyes as she watched him try to explain him and her to the others.

"What is it, friend Robin? Is something wrong? Do you have the stomach of aching?" Starfire misread his uncomfortable expression for indigestion, it seemed. Raven sent him a wry affirmation through their bond: well, she's right. You do look it. Now he turned to directly glare at her and this drew the others' interest more intently. "Friends?"

"Yo, dudes," Beast Boy started and at a rather penetrating glower from Raven he amended, "Er, dude Robin and...uh...hi Raven...?" He laughed nervously and hurried on, "What's with the awkward silences? Who died?" he joked.

"Well, actually—" Raven said and was then cut off.

"No way! Someone really died? Who? Oh man, oh man, I didn't mean—mph!" Cyborg clamped a hand over the changeling's mouth and put him in a harmless, if effective, chokehold.

"Can it man," Cyborg waved the green one into silence as he changed back to his normal form and perched on the back of the couch—Beast Boy had previously morphed into a snake and slithered out of Cyborg's grasp. Raven offered the bionic man a grateful smile before trying again.

"No Beast Boy, no one died. What I was going to say is—" But she couldn't. Someone else interrupted her.

"We'rekindoftogetherherandIerherandmeuhImean…yeah!" It was Robin's voice, definitely, but the breakneck speed at which he spoke was more like Starfire's way of speech when she got really, really jazzed about something. With pointed slowness, the empath turned to eye her leader speculatively and a little bit annoyed.

"Way to go, boy wonder." She threw her hands up in the air and began to walk away, at which point Robin gave the three other titans—whose jaws had dropped, having understood every word of what should have been incoherent—a disarming smile before shooting after Raven's retreating form. Beast Boy looked up at Cyborg.

"Did you just hear what I think I heard?" he asked, eyebrow quirked with intense skepticism.

"I mean I figured maybe, but...geez," Cyborg muttered to himself, more thoughtful than anything else.

"Star?" Beast Boy gently laid a hand on the Tameranian's shoulder; she had not spoken, only stared sadly at the floor. "You alright?" Cyborg also directed his attention to the friendly alien girl, his own features mirroring some of the loneliness he knew she must be feeling. And he felt bad about that. He felt bad because he already knew what it was like to go through what Starfire must now be going through and knew it was in no way an enviable plight to be in. The big brother in him soon moved him to kindly mess the top of Starfire's hair up playfully.

"Cheer up Star. It gets easier with time, no lie," Cyborg smiled down at her. She did not look up, but she did respond.

"Truly it does?" her question was very quiet. Beast Boy brought his hand from her shoulder to Starfire's hand and held it with all kindness.

"Definitely," he said and he didn't need to mention Terra for his two present comrades to remember he too knew what he was talking about, for all his joking manner and such. He had suffered a similar pain of the heart and it was no secret he had small feelings probably for the purple-haired sorceress, so this was mostly another blow to his psyche as well, if smaller.

"I trust you are right," Starfire said finally and even though she had tears in her eyes when she smiled at both of them, the thing about Starfire was that almost 99.9 of the time, the girl was positively genuine. Her smile was for many things: for the hope that her two friends who comforted her now, for the hope that all three of them might find that special someone to share happiness with, for the fact that she had these two and the others to rely on and call friends...for even, the other two's happiness as well, though it hurt her on some level.

It was real and it is not unlikely that it is this exact kind of resilience that made Starfire such an indispensable and adored member of the titans. She was steadfast, beyond all things—even her jealousy, which after the prom and kitten escapade had been made quite evident, was monumental—and she was loyal. So if her own feelings for her leader were not to be returned, while she could not honestly say she was overjoyed at the result, or with his choice, she also could not find it in her nature to interfere.

And she could have made him love her; she knew that as much as the next person; it wasn't a matter of unable or able. A person's heart, if taken by one, does not mean it can no longer be swayed. In fact, it is often quite the opposite for then the forbidden, that which is no longer available to you, becomes that much more enticing. No, it was definitely not because she couldn't do it.

It wasn't that. She wasn't blind to that possibility in the least and it took a great deal of moral strength on her part to throw that option into the fire.

But she was wise, for all her silly antics and Tameranian ignorance—growing to be less and less each day now—and her wisdom was such that it told her to leave well enough alone, to leave doors open, and to keep also an open heart. Then maybe she could truly say she was happy for Robin—her first love, if unrequited—and Raven—her friend and often, confidant. Maybe someday.

She would wait for someday.

"You want to go to the mall, Star? I got the T-car juiced up and ready to go, some new additions too," Cyborg offered genially and she shook her head gently.

"No thank you, friend Cyborg. But I am grateful to you and friend Beast Boy," she inclined her head as she often did toward the changeling and said, "For your kindness, and I am very glad to be on this team. I will be in my room should you be in need of my assistance." And she flew in a graceful, unhurried manner to her room from whence the two remaining titans soon heard the equally soft swish of her door opening and closing behind her.

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"Think she'll be okay?" Robin asked, concerned for the redhead a few halls over and doors down.

"In time," Raven replied honestly. "I'm glad it didn't seem to upset Beast Boy or Cyborg, even now I can't really feel any disapproval coming from them."

"And Star?" he probed and it took him a moment to recognize the guarded look that fell over his lover. When he did see it for what it was, he took her hand in his and softly kissed the palm of it. "I am worried about her. I do care for her. And none of that is anything like I feel for you." He paused. "Better?" The guarded veil faltered and then reduced itself to ashes at his words, replaced by a softer expression of vulnerability and love—the two often went hand in hand.

"I know this, but I forget," she tried to explain. He squeezed her hand.

"So do I, and I hope you remind me I haven't got a thing to be worried about, well not really anyway, when I forget too," he grinned and she batted his hand away in playfulness as she regained her confidence and decided now was a good time to goad him a bit. It was always more than a little bit fun.

"But really, that was brilliant," Raven said, now referring to his obviously mangled admission to the group, and making blatant mockery of him. Robin clicked his tongue irritably.

"You had something better planned?" he challenged. She gave him a look. "Fine, fine, I know. But I got the feeling that maybe if we didn't say it right away, you know, really right away, that something might distract us or keep us from it and you yourself said we had to say something!" This was all said in a rush, though not so much a rush as his confession ten minutes earlier to the rest of the team. Running her fingers through her hair absently, Raven shrugged nonchalantly.

"I know. I didn't say you didn't do what we we're supposed to. I just...commented on the technique," she decided upon and smirked.

"Yeah, yeah," he muttered.

"Stop sulking," she said and turned away from him to look out the window; they were in her room and the sun was doing that setting thing it tended to do every day around 6:21 p.m. and the gold-red glow it cast across the room was almost magical...almost.

"I'll do what I want," he half-joked, half-proclaimed as the sun fell further down in the sky.

"Clearly," she parried and half-smiled as she suddenly found his arms looped around her waist. A pause in which two heart beats synchronized themselves passed, and another, andthen another before she asked in a half-whisper. "And what is it you want?" Dusk was upon them.

"Isn't it obvious?" he returned her question for question as he brought his lips to just barely brushing her own, his hot breath mingling with hers. When she drew his lower lip in between hers and suckled on it, making a 'nn-nn' sound as if to say she didn't think it was obvious at all, he suppressed a groan and drew away from her a few crucial inches, just enough to say, "I want it all." And after taking in her knowing smile, he let her draw him back down then to see if he really deserved it. The moon reflected in crystal beams now, night having finally drawn in on the pair, but they were so engrossed with each other that they hardly took any notice.

They were caught up in another kind of rush, the kind with rapid heartbeats and loving whispers, sensual affection and primal desire, the kind of rush that left them with no sense of up nor down, much less the state the moon was in or the light that it shed. But there would be many more nights to notice the moonlight together, and that would be, beyond all other things, more than enough.

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Long author's note, apologies, but hey, it's the epilogue. What did you expect? Brevity? Psh.

YAY, EPILOGUE. Heh. Let me know what you thought. I tried my best. I don't think Starfire would be the same jealous type with Raven as say, Kitten...ew. She is a kind person and a good-hearted character and not two-dimensional as to treat a friend the same as an enemy, regardless of circumstances. I thought about mentioning X, but again, that would've had to be an epilogue taking place a few years later and since this was not years later, it seemed out of place for them to know since my last time actually stated it would be 'years' before Raven saw X again. Haha, TRYING for some continuity...how novel. Anyway, thank you so, so, so VERY much for all the encouraging reviews. I really appreciate them. ALL of them, every single one and also, thank you for all the input and helpful criticism. I tried to do better with everything—well, almost everything—mentioned. (Some were stylistic choices or plot choices however, and so, sometimes I did not adhere so strictly to those suggestions, because I am biased with my own ideas...apologies.)

I've more ideas for a couple new stories, Robin and Raven or a triangle but since I've already got a somewhat disputed triangle going on in my other chaptered story, maybe I'll just focus on the birds again. The one idea is kind of an intense rewrite of Beauty and the Beast (I've been taken with an almost obsessive fascination with roses lately, you see.) There would not be a 'beast' per say, but rather more like a shade/ghost probably—Raven—or, more strangely perhaps, just a cursed man—Robin—depending on who I decided to thrust into which role. It could be done either way, frankly, I think. Of course that would make it AU and I KNOW how many people despise them...not that that's ever stopped me from doing something I wanted to before...haha…people despising things I want to write. Psh.

"I'll do what I want!" THAT'S RIGHT ROBIN! …er sorry. Let me know though if you're interested in more. I'll finish the other story of course, but it's a more complicated one than I thought I was tackling at the beginning and it's much harder for me to write, so more slowly it is coming. In the meanwhile, another story would be fun to start.

Thoughts?

-Rei, grateful for all the support and ready to finally start on that pesky homework that's been staring at her from the ground for about five hours now—where she threw it five hours ago, of course

P.S. Special thank you to castle in the air for putting up with my rambling about writer's block. You're the one who told me I should write fanfiction if I liked teen titans so much, so I did, and I am really, really glad you have started too. I admire your writing a lot and am thrilled to notice your stories are getting some more of the attentions I felt they should have had from the start. Thanks, dear.