one: emotion's hostage
"What exactly are we doing here?" Raven asked quietly, staring blankly ahead at her bedroom door. It was closed, and the room was nearly dark; only the moonlight coming in through the windows (which were, as always, uncovered) provided a source of light.
"Define 'here'," Robin said, running a hand through her hair. They were on the bed, Raven's cloak covering them. She was leaning up against him, one hand pressed against his bare chest, her head against his shoulder. "Like, evolution? Place in this world?"
"Don't avoid the question," she snapped, pulling her head away and looking up at him. "What are we" – she gestured to the two of them – "doing" – she motioned to the bed – "here?"
Robin sighed heavily. He could think of a thousand answers to that question, but none of them would have been the one she wanted to hear. Their relationship was completely separate from what happened at night, in his mind; the simple fact being that daytime was love, and that nighttime was stress relief.
"Well?" Raven prompted, and Robin had to think fast, or something was going to wind up exploding.
"You want a word?" he blurted. A few moments of tense silence passed, and then, as her head settled back against his shoulder, "Yes."
After a brief brain-wracking, Robin offered the only word he could think of.
The silence between them stretched on for several minutes, and Robin hoped that she had fallen asleep.
"That would imply that you wanted to get married," she said eventually.
Robin bit his lip and said nothing. It wasn't that he didn't love her and wouldn't like to marry her at some point; just that it was a few years before he wanted to star thinking about something that serious.
"Care to revise your statement?" she asked when he hadn't answered after a minute, and he didn't have to look to know that she was smirking.
"No," he replied stubbornly, shaking his head. "No, I hold to my story, your honor." Raven gave one of her deep chuckles, and Robin smiled; that had been his aim. "Anyway," he continued, "if courtship is what you chose to call it, that's even better – that way, I'll already have my claim on you. No one else'll be able to take you away from me."
"Nice cover," she deadpanned, but proceeded to wriggle closer to him.
"Always knew my skill with rhetoric would come in handy," he said in an offhand manner as he wrapped his around her.
"You learned a new word. I'm very impressed," Raven replied, laughing a little.
"How about a kiss for the good student?" he asked hopefully. She yawned.
"Maybe tomorrow," she said, her voice noticeably smaller. "Now sleep is imminent. That's your next vocab word, by the way."
Robin settled back against the pillows, holding Raven tightly against him, trying to get used to the idea that he was more than just her boyfriend now.
Four Months Earlier
"The story of Raven?"
Robin jerked his head up and instantly muted the TV. It was well past midnight, but he didn't think he'd ever be able to sleep normal hours after what had happened. Whenever he closed his eyes in the dark, he saw Raven giving herself up to her father; saw Slade leading her away while he, Robin, was powerless to stop him; saw her, terrified, reduced to a child. He had thought that his sleeplessness after her birthday was over – unfortunately, he was wrong.
"Yeah," he said, smiling. "What, bad title?"
Raven walked completely into the room and took a seat beside him on the couch.
"Could've been better," she agreed. They shared a quiet laugh before she added, "Still…I can't believe you risked everything for me the way you did. Trusting Slade, chasing me around some pit…not many friends would go that far. That wasn't even the first time, either – on my birthday –"
He cut her off with a rapid shake of his head. "Stop," he said firmly. "I'm not a normal friend. When my friends need me, I'm always there, all the way through. No one means more to me than you."
Robin's eyes widened behind the mask. How had that slipped out? He didn't even realize that that had been what kept him up at night until his subconscious had betrayed him like that. It seemed to make sense; yes, thinking about what could have been was enough to keep you awake into the small hours of the morning, but that wasn't what had occupied his attention – it had been her. Common sense, really, now that he was focusing on it.
He glanced at Raven, saw her perplexed expression, and hastily added, "And Cyborg, and B.B., and Star."
She nodded, turning her eyes to the floor. The mute TV was still glaring at them, and even though mouths moved on the screen, they might as well have been closed – they weren't saying anything either way. Inwardly, Robin felt the same thing was happening between him and Starfire, now that he had mentioned her. They kept talking, but nothing substantial was coming out; their relationship – if that was what they had – was just a lot of flapping of tongues and no action. He noticed that he and Raven were sitting closer than he had originally realized.
Robin put a hand on her shoulder an tried to smile reassuringly at her, putting everything he had just thought about to the back of his mind. "I just meant that my friends mean more to me than anything. I would do anything for you" – he'd done it again! – "and…the other Titans."
"Would you?" she asked seriously, and he nodded, confused.
"Yeah, of course," he said, somewhat warily. What was she getting at?
"Then would you answer one question truthfully for me?" Robin tried to see if she was laughing in any manner, but one look at her grave expression got rid of that idea.
Without hesitation, Raven asked, "Do you love her?"
Robin's mouth opened automatically, but he didn't know what he was going to say. A thousand thoughts were running through his mind, and the fact that she had easily targeted what he had been reeling about set him off-balance. As well, he still had no idea what his final resolution would be – was he supposed to give her a definite answer? She had said truthfully, but how could he decide in a split second?
Then, without prompting, a single moment came to him. He saw himself putting his arms reflexively around Starfire as she hugged him while he watched Raven sacrifice herself. He was holding Star, but all he could think about was Raven. The end of the world was definitely forerunner for problems in his mind up until and immediately after then, but for that moment, he couldn't think of anything except that, no matter how hard he had tried, she hadn't let him help her. He could still feel her hand in his, still felt like he was looking straight into her eyes and begging her to see that she could avoid something if she wanted to. He was holding Starfire, but your physical actions are only the manifestations of your thoughts, right? And if his thoughts weren't with her, then what?
"No," he said bluntly.
He didn't wait for her to answer before leaning in and kissing her.
"I've got your tea," Robin announced as he came into Raven's bedroom after a brief excursion to the kitchen following a shower. It was hardly six-thirty in the morning, but Raven's uncovered windows had betrayed them, and the rising sun had woken them up.
"Thank you," she said, putting aside the book she'd been reading and gratefully accepting the mug he held out to her. The door had already slid shut, but she still glanced over at it before delivering the kiss he'd been expecting.
"Why do you still look? Everyone knows; it's not a secret. The worst is behind us," he said, sitting beside her on the bed. Instead of answering, she buried her face in her cup.
Robin heaved a sigh and crawled up next to her; this caused Raven to roll her eyes, but she set her cup down on the floor beside the bed nonetheless. He accepted the invitation she had silently offered and rested his head against her chest. She ran her fingers through his hair, which was flat and sleek; he hadn't spiked it yet, and after the shower, it was blessedly clean. Otherwise, as she knew from experience, it would have been thick and crunch from all of the gel that he used. When she had asked him why he constantly touched her hair, he had answered, "Because it's so soft and smooth. I'm not used to it."
"I'm not afraid of anything, I've told you before," she said after a minute, somewhat harshly. He said nothing, and she briefly considered that he was falling back asleep; not hard to believe. "I just keep wondering if Starfire…or Beast Boy…if they see us together one more time, they'll snap. I know what it's like to be a slave to your emotions. Coming from me, it may seem strange, but I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings if I don't have to."
"That's because you're a good person," he murmured, finding her hand and lacing his fingers with hers. She was back in her leotard, and he had sweatpants on, but now that they were under the blankets on the bed, the image it provided was misleading – as proven when Cyborg and Starfire invited themselves unexpectedly into Raven's room.
"Friend!" Starfire bellowed from the doorway. "Cyborg and I –"
Robin raised his head slightly and Raven's eyes widened slightly, but neither had time to dispel the image that Starfire and Cyborg were going to see and, inevitably, interpret.
"Oh" was all Cyborg could say, his eye darting back and forth, as if looking for a place to hide. He managed a shaky smile, saying, "S-Sorry, didn't think…um…" He swallowed, looked to Starfire, and saw that he wasn't going to get any help from her. "Well, breakfast's getting cold! Come on down if ya'll want it…uh…later." He gave a nervous wave before darting out as quickly as he had come in.
Robin had been falling asleep when Raven had been talking to him (as she had predicted) and methodically stroking his hair, but he found himself wide-awake now. Sitting up and scratching the back of his neck, he glanced over at Raven, who had her eyes closed. Robin knew without asking that she was meditating; the embarrassment and guilt she must have felt were threatening to overwhelm her and she needed to get it under control.
"I am sorry to have interrupted you," Starfire said quietly after a few seconds. "I did not realize you were having the sleep-over." She turned to leave, but looked one last time over her shoulder at the two of them. In her eyes Robin saw hurt and pain, but rather than feeling guilt for having caused it, he could only discern a slight tightening in his chest that he related with a sort of pity for her that she still got upset every time she saw he and Raven together. He wasn't trying to be scornful, he realized, but Star would most likely have interpreted it that way if she had heard what he was thinking.
It was only for a second, and then she was gone. Raven let out a long breath and opened her eyes. She looked at Robin and groaned before promptly falling into his arms, her cheek pressed up against his shoulder. He held her tightly, teeth gritted. He understood completely how she felt, after all, it was easy to deal with your friends in your mind, but it was different in person. She had had a point about what she had said just minutes earlier.
Raven certainly wasn't crying, but she was frustrated, and holding onto Robin seemed to be her stress relief so that she wouldn't expend her emotions enough to cause damage to anything.
"It'll be alright, it'll all work out," he promised in a vain attempt to soothe her well-deserved aggravation.
He could only hope that he was right.