These next few are Christmas presents for friends--I'm still not finished with the requests I've gotten, and will be working on the others soon. Basically, I put out an offer to my friends to request stories, and these are the results. I said that I would write any pairing, and write them I did (though some were difficult)! Stay tuned for more, including Raven/KF, Robin/Starfire, and Robin/KF (I swear coercion was not involved with that last one). Happy belated holidays, you all, and thank you very much for reading my stories.
(BB/Terra, for Rumpelteazer.)
Beast Boy didn't get mad when she ate the popcorn—really, ate more of it than she strung on the little piece of thread. Mostly because he was eating it, too. It was maybe the hundredth reason she'd thought of for why they were perfect together. Robin or Raven would have been mad—well, they probably wouldn't be here doing this in the first place. Raven didn't like decorating, and Robin didn't like holidays. Robin didn't have holidays. It was kind of scary.
"Don't poke yourself," he cautioned, leaning over her shoulder as if to make sure she'd listened.
The needle gleamed in Terra's hand, reflecting off the light overhead when she held it at just the right angle. "It's okay; I'm good at stuff like this. Did you know that I'm learning crochet?"
He blinked. "Crow-shay?"
"Yeah, it's like knitting, except with only one needle—and it's not a needle, more like a hook."
"You really don't strike me as the knitting type," Beast Boy said, reaching for another handful of popcorn. "Where'd you learn that?" He set three kernels aside for the string, then shoved the rest in his mouth.
"In a book."
The look he gave her meant that he wanted a better explanation, but Terra turned back to her popcorn, a tiny smile pulling at the corners of her lips. You were supposed to let boys guess things like that; it was good not to tell them everything about you, not right away. Of course, Beast Boy already knew way more about her than she'd ever wanted him to know—but maybe this was a start.
"What book?" he asked at last.
She kept her eyes on the popcorn, sticking a kernel with the needle and sliding it down the string until it met the others. "Raven loaned it to me."
Beast Boy laughed. "Raven really doesn't strike me as the knitting type, either."
"She said I needed a hobby." Terra shrugged, shifting her weight so her shoulder was almost touching his.
He gave her a cheesy grin. "You already have one: hanging out with me."
Terra's answering smile was a lot less tiny than before. Without letting herself worry about what he might think, she grabbed one of the kernels that he'd been balancing on his knee. "Popcorn tax," she explained, tossing it into her mouth. It was almost too salty, but not in a bad way.
"Nu-uh; you're just too slow!"
"Just so you know, the only reason I'm not chasing you around the room right now is because you're holding a scary-looking needle." The fake-glare was punctuated by a giggle.
Terra's fingers slipped through her hair, grabbing a strand that was falling down and tucking it back under the elastic of her ponytail. Cutting her hair had made it harder to put up, which was kind of annoying, but she liked it shorter. It made her look different—and she wanted to look different.
"Good thing: 'cos otherwise, we'd never get this done," she said. "You not chasing me, I mean. Well—not—we'd never get the decorations done, I mean. And…you know."
"Yeah. I know." His hand settled momentarily in the middle of her back, thumb rubbing her shoulder blade until he seemed to realize what he was doing, and pulled away.
"I—I just wanted to say—" She swallowed, the words sticking in her throat like too much peanut butter mixed with too much honey. The bad kind, when it got too sweet and thickened into something nauseating. "I'm sorry for everyth—"
"Terra. You've said it. And said it. And now it's Christmas. And we're not going to talk about that." He hesitated, then the cushions on the couch shifted gently, and he touched his lips to her cheek. It wasn't anything like how she'd wanted it to be before, how she'd dreamed about, but somehow that made it better.
"Okay," Terra said, pointing at the popcorn chain with her free hand, in an attempt to distract him from her blush. "So how do you know when you're finished with this thing?"
"When it's long enough, duh."
"But how do you know if it's long enough?"
"You will! Now it's your turn to make another bowl—no, it is; you know what Cy says: 'You kill it, you refill it'."
Looking him deep in the eyes, she sighed theatrically and rose from her seat, pretending to stomp over to the counter where they'd left the box of popcorn wide open. She didn't know, and it wasn't finished, and it wasn't enough. But it was a start.
(Raven/Starfire, for Amaigirl)
Sometimes she took her seriously.
Well, she supposed that would be self-evident by the mere fact that they were—doing this. Here. Now. The cold sand stuck to the undersides of her thighs, and she wrapped her cloak around her shoulders, wishing that she'd worn something warmer like an intelligent person. It was never a problem for Starfire, whose body temperature ran at a constant one hundred and fifteen degrees. She didn't get cold. It was one of the things that Raven liked about her.
As a blind man loves the light…
Raven shook the thought away with the stray grains of sand covering her knees. Drove herself back to reality, back to the present, back to the girl at her side who'd just uttered something uncharacteristically profound. Or rather, something not nearly as uncharacteristic as Raven had often thought it would be.
"Are you alright? I said that I like it this way. The silence. There is no separation between you and everything." Her speech was slurred around some dreamy trance, the same one that could be induced by anything from a fresh bottle of mustard to a supernova.
"I'm fine," Raven managed, the crashing waves punctuating exactly how much she wasn't fine. She couldn't tell if she was better or worse than fine, but it definitely made her uncomfortable. "I can't believe I went along with this."
"I can," said Starfire, shrugging, her top becoming slightly off-centered with the movement. "It was a good night for flying—and then, it was a good moment for the ocean. I could tell, you know. From the way your eyes shifted to the window and your brows drew together."
"Could tell what?"
"That you felt like flying." She dug a toe into the sand as the bitter edge of a wave stretched itself toward her, barely missing her exposed feet. Her boots lay in a twisted heap beside her.
Raven quirked an eyebrow. "Oh right. I'd been wondering why you made up something about scanning the coast for threats and then yanked me out a window. Rude of me for not asking until now."
"There could have been a threat." Starfire pretended to be scandalized. Or maybe she actually was. Raven could never tell—Starfire's capacity for lying was wound around an impossible spider web of honesty that made distinguishing truth from falsehood more tiresome than it was worth—and never found herself wanting to know which.
"Because we don't have technology for threat-scanning, or anything."
"Sometimes eyes are the best." And Starfire's own conjured a glowing green, slow and warm, cutting through the foggy night and burning a lazy, bubbling path through the water.
"Romantic clichés. Be still, my beating heart."
The glow faded so that Raven only got the after-image of the illumination when Starfire swung around to stare at her, slivers of red hair falling over her shoulders. "Raven, I am going to like you whether you want me to or not."
And Raven didn't need empathy to get the stubborn optimism, the statement of everything that was about the world, that existed because Starfire made it that way. She didn't need it to take her seriously. To understand. To let Starfire take the unqualified, doubtless assertions and trickle them into her. Even when she shouldn't. When she couldn't. Because Starfire didn't care about shouldn't and couldn't.
The empathy helped, though, when Raven put her arms around the other girl and kissed her with something that could have been desperation, except Raven wasn't desperate, didn't need the security and pleasure and permanence that flowed from the deep recesses of Starfire's mind. Always open for anyone who wanted to look, her emotions were even more unfastened when they kissed, and Raven tangled her hands in Starfire's hair, the scent of lemon strong from her turn at washing dishes—closed her eyes the rest of the way and wrapped the other girl's assurance around herself, pretending it was hers.
When they broke apart, it seemed as if the fog had thickened, though that could have just been her poor memory for anything that had happened prior to kissing Starfire—or anything that had happened since kissing Starfire, or would ever happen again that did not include kissing Starfire.
Starfire smiled, as the last fragment of physical illumination from her eyes faded, leaving only eyes. "Considering that I am usually the one to initiate such gestures, might I take this as your full acceptance of our relationship?"
She breathed in salty, heavy air, the sarcasm rising to the surface with the froth on the waves. "I thought I accepted that two weeks ago."
Starfire nodded, her smile widening slightly. "That was what I was hoping for."
(KF/Jinx, for LyricalEcho)
Jinx had expected a lot of things for her life, but never rotting piers and the stench of dead shrimp.
Before, she was going to be a heart surgeon. That's what she would say when she watched the medical documentaries on television, curled up on the couch with a faded stuffed rabbit in her lap. It wasn't to help people. It had never been to help people, or to make the world a better place, or any of that Superman crap. She'd wanted to be a surgeon because people noticed surgeons. Because she would be able to walk down the street, look at the people passing by, and think about how much better she was. How clever. How successful. How hard she worked, and how she'd damn well gotten everything she deserved.
Well. That was before. Before the uncanny parade of improbably bad events that kept her off the honor roll, out of the middle school graduation ceremony, led her away from high school with the normal kids and to the academy. The academy where the bad things could flow through her and be used for something, the academy that gave her hope that maybe the sickness hadn't really ruined her, hadn't ruined it all. And, in the end, the academy that turned everything on its head so she didn't get any of the things she'd wanted.
Except for one: everything she deserved. She had gotten that. Because the anti-luck had had something to do with it…but it was mostly her.
"Kinda cold out."
Every time Jinx thought that the curse was getting better, it had a way of smearing the silly, stupid wish in her face.
"Might storm tonight, y'know, and this isn't a good place to be."
"Get lost." She kept her gaze locked on the wharf, staring into the barnacles that caked the rocks at the bottom of the pier.
"I'd rather not, if it's all the same," said Kid Flash, stepping forward to lean gently against the railing. "Last time I did that, Beast Boy didn't let me forget it for a week."
"I really, really don't want to hear it right now, Kid Flash."
He nodded seriously. "Well, what do you want to hear?"
"You'd say it, whatever it was, I'm sure," she spat, shuddering as the wind pulled at her skirt.
Kid Flash shrugged. "I only say things that are true. And right now, I'd like to say that it's about to storm, and you shouldn't be out here."
"Don't give me the hero routine."
"C'mon, Jinx. Just let me take you home."
She glared at him. "This is home."
"There's other places that could be," he commented. "Better places. Places that don't smell like fish."
"Shrimp," Jinx said, glancing behind her at the stained, oil-encrusted boats.
"Shrimp are fish."
"They are not," she retorted, as if that excused everything, from why she was standing here to why she'd let the last three years of her life trickle down the drain like dinner leftovers. "They're crustaceans. So shut up."
A gloved hand settled over hers, much warmer than she'd been expecting—and somehow, it seemed strange that Kid Flash had a solid body underneath the streaks of speed. Well, she knew he had a body, of course, because she'd been distracted by it on more than one occasion…but it wasn't supposed to be this real. This much like all the other boys she knew—except completely not.
"I'm not going to shut up," he said, blue eyes staring into hers, almost like an apology. "Not till you start helping yourself." He exhaled sharply, the condensation from his breath gathering in the air. "You're better than this."
"You don't know rat shi—"
"Don't swear. You're not so pretty when you do that."
The lamp post above her flickered, or maybe that was the blur of hot tears as she tightened her grip on the railing. "You don't know what I'm better than. Or worse than. You—you don't know." She couldn't decide if she needed his hand over hers to survive or couldn't stand it for another instant.
A thousand possible answers lurked just under her tongue, all of them wrong, and she was grateful for the clap of thunder that drowned out the need to respond, for the unexpected wave that struck the railing and threatened to spray them both with salt water.
"Go home, Jinx."
"This is home." There wasn't any home. Couldn't ever be.
He nodded soothingly, weaving his fingers through hers and tugging her away from the railing. "Then come with me—you don't even have to call it home. You can call it anything you want. I'll even let you swear."
"Don't tell me what to do!"
"I'm not," he said. "But I am telling you that I know where you can find a place that doesn't leak, blankets that aren't dirty, and soup that doesn't have leather in it."
She froze, watching as he stopped in his tracks to look after her, looking for all the world like he honestly could not fathom why anyone wouldn't accept such an extravagant offer. Except he probably could fathom it. Thick pellets of rain splattered onto her shoulders.
"It—" She stared at her shoes, the rainwater mingling with the dirt. "It wasn't supposed to end this way."
Kid Flash's eyes were suddenly inches from her face, as he took her other hand in his. "It doesn't have to be an ending. But only you can decide that."
Jinx listened to herself breathe in and out, then followed him off the dock.
(BB/Cyborg, for Cervyy)
Cyborg would have said that Beast Boy was dying inside, but Raven would have killed him. And, redundancy aside, he didn't want to be martyred on the cross of literary clichés.
He was dying inside anyway.
If Cyborg had that fluid grace that Raven did, the one that made every thought a piece of poetry, he'd know better ways to describe it. But he wasn't, and he didn't, so he just said what he knew. And he knew how to recognize it. He'd seen it on the kids, back there, back then, from behind bruised eyelids and dirty cheeks, who lived in cardboard boxes that some people called homes and ate what they could get from begging. It was different, didn't come from the same source, but the hopelessness was there. The assurance, the total security that nothing would ever get better. And bitter hatred of that security, but at the same time the inability to shake it.
And Beast Boy had that hopelessness. He never talked about what was said back at the school, but he didn't need to. It seeped from him anyway, like motor oil in all the wrong places, made the irreverent laughter and inappropriate pranks and inconceivable optimism a distant memory.
It was hard not to be angry at her. She'd done the best thing for herself, and Cyborg knew it; the only thing that would allow her to keep moving forward with the decisions she'd made. But when that thing made Beast Boy say that no, actually, he was too tired for video games and just needed to sleep for awhile (and he'd never sleep)—it was hard, when it wasn't supposed to be. Cyborg was supposed to understand, to be objective, to weigh and measure and raise a calm voice over everyone else's screams. And he did. And he would. But this time, it hurt. This time, when it was about someone that he—he couldn't go down that road.
"I like this one," he said, running a fingertip over the top of the frame. "It was last Thanksgiving, remember? She kept trying to help you cook."
"And put salt instead of sugar in the cookies," Cyborg finished, trying to call up the smile he needed. The solemn, reverent one that was more like the red-headed stepchild of a frown.
Beast Boy set the picture in the cardboard box. "Best cookies I ever had." He tilted his chin down into the box, eyes still focused on Terra's glossy image: standing behind Raven's chair with her hands on the other girl's shoulders, her hair in a French braid that Starfire had done earlier that afternoon.
Cyborg didn't answer, hoping that the silence said what he needed it to say.
"She doesn't remember," he continued slowly. "I showed her, and she said it was somebody else. She said it couldn't be her 'cos she doesn't like that shirt. Doesn't like black. 'Cos it makes her look too pale. I never thought that it did."
"Maybe you should take a break and start getting these clothes off the floor for awhile instead."
"Nah. I like it messy."
Some things never change. "Okay. Do you want to take a break and mess up the living room, too?"
"I—" His fingers tightened slightly around another picture, with him and Terra making faces in a photo booth. "I think I should just stay here for awhile."
And what hurt the most was that he couldn't help, couldn't say the things he usually did because he didn't know how much of it was tangled up in how he felt, how he wanted things to be—and he couldn't risk the unwanted emotions bleeding into sympathy. Beast Boy didn't need that right now. Didn't need anything like that at all right now.
So he knew that he'd be kicking himself for the words that somehow found their way out of him: "C'mon, I have a new game…"
"There's monster trucks in it…"
"You can rearrange the boxes so they're not in alphabetical order, and I won't even tell Robin that you did it."
For a long moment—too long—he didn't respond, threatened to retreat back into the hopelessness and certainty that nothing would ever be better, eyes locked on the box of photographs. And then, thankfully, the spell was broken, though it obviously took every ounce of determination that he had to heave himself out of it. Beast Boy turned his gaze back to Cyborg slowly, eyes shifting into some manufactured horror. "He alphabetized them again?"
"Yep: by title, and there is exactly one centimeter of space between each title."
He was on his feet at the word 'centimeter.' "That is not cool! Don't worry, Cy: I'll fix it!"
The excitement and mischief that had died when he last saw Terra were false and unreal, but it was better than nothing. And Cyborg vowed to make him smile again, even if it would never be the same.
(Rob/Star, for Hooliganette)
"That was fun!"
"Fun? No. 'Fun' is something completely incommensurable with getting stuck on It's A Small World for thirty minutes."
Terra rolled her eyes. "You're such a grouch, Robin."
"I'm only a 'grouch' when a guy dressed up like a cartoon character decides that I'm his new best friend."
"You're always a grouch."
"Not helping, Beast Boy."
Cyborg took a breath, sensing the possibility of an unwanted argument, and interrupted whatever Beast Boy was going to retort, "So. What are we going on next?"
Terra's eyes rounded with excitement. "Ooo! Look! Winnie the Pooh!"
Next to her, Starfire raised a quizzical eyebrow, pointing to a sign above one of the other rides. "Why is the older woman offering the younger an apple?"
Raven crossed her arms over her chest, nodding sagely. "She's just met giant mice in suspenders and frilly dresses, and it's the apple she's concerned about."
"Oh, I have seen similar creatures before: the Sylvian Nardrat resides in warm, slow-moving water and carries its young inside the ear canal…" Her forehead wrinkled in thought. "Though they typically do not wear clothing."
"It's—it's just a story; I'll explain it to you in line." Robin didn't quite smile: it was more of a warmth that came from everywhere and nowhere, fading too quickly to pin down into a single gesture. Cyborg had come to recognize that Starfire was the only one who could cause it.
"But I want Winnie the Pooh!" Terra insisted, latching onto Beast Boy's hand and tugging him in the direction of the other ride.
"You guys go on that, and we'll meet out outside next to Ariel," Cyborg said.
At the suggestion, Terra swung her head around, a grin crawling across her face the size of Florida. "Ooo! I want her picture—and her autograph—and I always liked her the best because she was like me; she liked exploring and finding new things, and in the end she got to—" She glanced at Beast Boy and blushed.
He grinned, taking her hand—delicately, as if he was afraid it might disintegrate if he held it the wrong way. "I'll—umm—stand in line for you. For the autograph. You know. We can do that after the ride—if you—y'know—still want to do that."
Terra linked their arms more closely together, leaning into his side with a barely audible, contented sigh. "'Course I do. And maybe they'll want our autographs, like last time! See you guys in a sec!" She waved, heading over to the other ride with him in tow, free hand adjusting the princess crown that she'd had to have the minute they set foot in the Magic Kingdom.
A year ago, Robin would have been annoyed at the suggestion that they take a vacation. Well, he was still annoyed, and kept reminding them that they weren't on vacation—there had been some unexplained bombings in the Orlando area, and they were here to make sure it didn't happen again—but he might have refused the diversion to Disney World outright. Out of principle. Out of obligation. Fear. Something. Of course, that was before Starfire had caught a glimpse of the park while flying over the city and surrounding areas. Before she'd turned to Robin with that smile that Cyborg had never seen him refuse.
"It's a poison apple. She was trying to kill Snow White."
"Why?" Starfire shifted in the air, resting the bottoms of her palms lightly on the handrails.
Robin faltered, brow wrinkling in thought, and a line of near-panic crossed his face that was entirely inappropriate for someone who simply couldn't answer a question. "I—I'm actually not sure," he admitted slowly. "I never saw it. The movie."
"It seems a story that most every human child is well acquainted with."
"Yeah, I just—that kind of thing was never really important." He grinned, and it didn't even look forced. "Kind of like getting Ariel's autograph."
"I see no reason why it should not be," Starfire said, one hand rising from the rail and touching his, brief and subtle, but Cyborg saw it. He was glad. It made things a little clearer, somehow.
Robin didn't respond for a moment, attention claimed by the screech of cars slamming into the station breaks; the harried mother doubling back to retrieve half-empty bottles of water, stuffed animals, and a diaper bag that could have carried a fully grown golden retriever; the children in line behind them who were arguing about which car they wanted, and how they wouldn't ride if it had to be Sleepy's.
"Maybe—when we get everything straightened out here—maybe we can watch it together." It wasn't a question, and yet it was, something effervescently vulnerable underneath the simple words that sounded so unlike Robin. Who was never vulnerable. Except when Starfire nodded, touched down gracefully onto the concrete, and moved to stand beside Robin.
Cyborg didn't get it. Couldn't say when it had begun, when it had changed, when Robin's concerned vigilance and strangely comfortable companionship with her had stopped being the same as it was with him and everyone else on the team. Half the time, he hardly noticed. Robin wouldn't let them notice. But for some reason, it fit together today into something that didn't matter when it began. Maybe it had something to do with this day, this place—the sticky, cotton-candy-and-bright-light chipping away at whatever sadness you thought you had, and the way you could breathe in laughter and acceptance and peace and random splashes of water from some mammoth-sized flower.
Maybe it had something to do with that. Or maybe it was just them. Maybe it had been them all along.
Raven smirked and poked him in the shoulder. "Who's the fairest of them all, Robin? That's what the apple was for."
He flashed a half-glance at Starfire, almost as if he was seeking the answer in her face, then finally admitted, "I don't get it."
"We'll work on you," Cyborg said, stepping aside and inviting the kids behind him to go in first, because the next car after this one was Sleepy's.