Disclaimer: I don't own Teen Titans. By now, this should be obvious.
A/N: Just a short story, kinda silly, kinda not…It's intended to be a one-shot...and uh, it is…and there we are. It was inspired by the mystique of a mask, that's all…I don't know…something about it doesn't feel complete to me, and I might have to come back and re-write it. But regardless, here it is! Reviews and/or criticisms welcome.
Behind the Mask
"Don't you ever wonder what Robin looks like without the mask?"
Starfire looked up from her tea, startled. "Without the mask?" she asked, her eyes narrowing as she pondered the question.
Beast Boy nodded earnestly. "Yeah!" he affirmed, setting his water bottle aside and leaning across the table conspiratorially. "I mean, what's he look like without it? If we were walking down the street and he was coming at us without the mask, would we even recognize him?"
Raven snorted lightly before taking a small sip of her own tea, her face buried in one of her books. "Of course we would recognize him."
Folding his arms indignantly, Beast Boy brought his gaze to bear upon the cloaked girl. "And how are you so sure?"
Raven gave him a sidelong glance, as if determining whether or not he was actually doubting her judgment. Carefully, she set her book aside. "I would know him because the sense of his personality is completely recognizable to me."
Cyborg shrugged. "I'd be able to analyze his voice pattern…as well as any and all external recognizance functions that I can perform."
Crossing his arms and pivoting in his seat, Beast Boy turned away. "Well," he said huffily. "Pardon me, if I'm the only one around here that relies on the facial-recognition functioning of the brain."
"Relying on any function of your brain sounds like risky business."
"Shut up, Raven." Beast Boy directed a scowl at her and then turned away once more, this time in concentration. "Although," he began, "I suppose I would recognize his smell."
"His smell!" Cyborg sounded disgusted. "Too much information, B.B.!"
"Everyone has their own unique smell!" the green changeling protested. "I could tell who each one of you is, based on just your smell."
"I did not know that this was possible," Starfire said slowly. "What do we smell like then?"
"I don't know. It's hard to describe." Beast Boy obstinately took a swig from his water bottle.
Starfire sighed, running her fingers around the base of her mug. "I've never considered what Robin might look like." She looked up, her green eyes thoughtful. "Why does he not ever take the mask off? Are we not all friends?"
The group looked around the table, passing glances from one to the other. But it seemed that no one had a clear answer. Or any idea as to what the answer might be.
"Maybe," Raven started after a moment. "He wants to keep his crime-fighting life and his other life separate."
"But he lives here!" Beast Boy exclaimed. "His other life must include long vacations."
"Maybe," Cyborg interrupted excitedly, "he looks like someone famous."
"Maybe he is someone famous," Beast Boy added.
"You mean someone famous like Robin, the Boy Wonder?"
Both Cyborg and Beast Boy glared at Raven. She shrugged in return, a quirk of a smile pulling at her lip.
"Well, it probably doesn't matter anyway," Beast Boy folded his arms. "I mean, we know what most of him looks like. We're just missing his eyes."
"What color eyes do you think he has?" Cyborg asked.
"Black! Black as his soul!" Beast Boy declared dramatically. No one bothered to ask him to explain himself.
"Probably brown, though," Cyborg conjectured. "It is the most common eye color."
"Maybe they're really creepy. Like red or something."
"Or maybe he's missing an eye or something!"
Raven sighed. Once Cyborg and Beast Boy got started, there was little that could be done to stop them.
Starfire turned to Cyborg in innocent curiosity. "Couldn't his eyes just be nice and what passes as normal for humans?"
"Robin isn't normal."
After a moment, Raven answered Beast Boy, spitting him with a significant glance, "He is, if only by virtue of comparison."
"Do you suppose that Robin does not reveal his eyes because he does not trust us?"
Those gathered at the table turned to Starfire in surprise. "Wow, Star," Beast Boy finally said while shaking his head. "I don't think that's it at all."
But they all shifted uncomfortably, wondering – even if it was only slightly – that perhaps Starfire's question held more credit than they would like to admit.
"Robin does keep to himself," Raven acknowledged in such a way as to not sound as though she were giving Starfire's comment any credence. "But that's just his nature." And when she spoke those words, she herself was very familiar with the subject matter.
"Yeah," Cyborg added quickly. "And he probably doesn't even think about wearing it. The guy probably sleeps in the thing."
"That's right," Beast Boy nodded his agreement. "I bet he even showers with it on."
With an expected amount of relief, Starfire sighed. "Yes, I suppose that makes sense."
"I don't shower with the mask."
Shocked surprise filtered through the gathered Titans, but it was rather quickly replaced with sheepish guilt when they turned to find Robin. He was standing in the doorway behind them, a knowing smile on his face.
"Can you even imagine how gross it would be?" he continued, almost laughing. "It would probably be all moldy or something."
"How long you been listening, dude?" Beast Boy spoke up.
"I caught most of it," Robin said, stepping closer. He came around the table and sat with them.
The Titans each averted their eyes in their own way. Beast Boy found that one of his fingernails was just fascinating. Cyborg studied the tabletop with enthusiastic interest. Raven read her book's dust jacket. Starfire met Robin's gaze, however, saying, "Then, why do you wear it always?"
He shrugged. "It's not a matter of distrusting you. I wear it for the same reason you guys wear your outfits all the time. This is who I am."
"Then you don't have any other outfits?" Beast Boy asked, skeptically.
"You've seen my closet," Robin replied dryly. "You all have even worn my clothes before."
Embarrassment passed all around the table.
"I wear the mask, because…I want to. It's a part of who I am."
"That's almost a cop-out," Raven murmured absently.
"And you wear your cloak all of the time," Robin pointed out. "Besides," he went on, "if it was important, I'm sure you would know me, even without the mask."
"But you sort of hide behind it, you know," Cyborg said slowly. "Why can't we see you without it?"
"That would be like seeing you with out your mechanical components," the other reasoned. "We all hide parts of ourselves. But I don't hide behind the mask.
"I live behind it." Robin spread his hands. "You know me. What you don't know…I don't tell because it's extraneous. It would clutter your impressions of me. It would hamper our efforts together. You know the only me that's important."
The others slowly nodded, each one thinking of what he or she kept for only his or herself. Perhaps the wearing of a mask was a shared experience, even without the physical adornment of one.
Now that Robin had joined them – and they couldn't talk about him anymore – the conversation turned to brighter and lighter things, like going out for pizza or even going to see a movie.
But Starfire found her thoughts returning to what lay behind the mask.
And she wondered if she would ever see the eyes that resided there.