She hadn't meant to. She really hadn't.
But he wouldn't take no for an answer.
"Enjoying yourself?" the reason for her consequential state inquired with a knowing smile.
"Oh indubitably," she rolled her eyes and he laughed.
Damn him. He would laugh.
"I'm rather immune to your sarcastic charm at this point," he told her, blue eyes flashing mischievously, like a five year-old running with scissors.
"Have a little humility and don't look so pleased with yourself," she half-muttered, half-ordered and he stopped laughing even if he didn't stop smiling. This was, he read well, Raven Roth's version of pouting.
"You think I'm capable of humility?" he queried, amused. She pretended to cough, a lame cover for what was clearly a derisive laugh, however short.
"Didn't say that," she retorted and clarified, "Said you should have some. Don't twist my words, sir."
And he kept on grinning, madman that he was.
"I'm really grateful you know," he whispered as their noses almost touched when he dipped her seamlessly in the middle of the never-ending waltz or whatever it was—something played by the orchestra across the way. Violet eyes glinted.
"Sure you are," she said, all cynicism with a wink of humor—humor that he, Dick Grayson could appreciate, unlike some.
"Glad we're on the same page," he replied, never missing a step or a space for a comment; he was rather intent on her not having the last word tonight.
"I always get the last word," she said without any inflection but the glint in her eyes had gone from flinty to what he dared to see as flirtatious.
"You empathic telepaths don't play fair," he said, the definition of victim sprawled shamelessly across his features now, melodramatic and cocky with it too.
He didn't fool her any. She saw that smirk creeping up through those sooty lashes of his.
"Empath, not telepath," she corrected nonchalantly and looked as if she had every intent of ignoring his antics even as they continued to whirl through the other men and women in their finery—silk, brocade, gold, silver, diamonds and so on.
Glitz and Gala went side-by-side, especially if the Gala was for a certain someone's ward...especially if it was thrown by Gotham's renowned billionaire Mr. Wayne for his almost-son Richard Grayson—or Dick as he was sometimes called for one reason or another.
"Careful, remember I'm supposed to be leading," he reminded her playfully. And she would have given him a sharp rap to the head at that moment if a kindly older gentleman type hadn't approached them, crystal wine glass in hand.
"Ah, Grayson!" the man greeted.
"Mr. Mayor," Richard—usually Robin but now without the mask of course transformed into the dashing and most-wanted blue-eyed bachelor for nearly three states—returned the courtesy.
"A prosperous twenty-fourth year for you, Grayson my boy," the mayor clapped him genially on the back.
Only Raven noticed Richard's terribly momentary shadow in his eyes and over his face.
"Thank you sir," Richard said, all graciousness again, the shadow gone...for now.
"And who is this beautiful young woman you have with you?" the mayor asked. Raven did her best not to flinch or give any other indication of her extreme displeasure as the attention somehow settled down around her shoulders.
"My friend Rachel," Richard responded and now his smile was more genuine than it had been so far in the exchange. Raven's smile on the other hand had become noticeably fixed but the mayor was too kind to comment on the lovely lady's presence of doom and her escort was far too entertained. So her seething continued in semi-controlled silence.
Friend? Part of her mind piqued in slight anger but why she wasn't sure. Best friend, would that have been better?
That must be it, she reasoned.
The only reason.
"...and you too, sir." Raven snapped back to reality as she saw Richard wave to the already turning back of the mayor—his glass was now empty and he was picking up another on his way to make nice with someone else...someone with a more hospitable date probably.
"Well that was fun," she said cheerlessly.
"Oh I thought so," Richard grinned down at her. "Come on, let's get some air," he said and pulled her arm slightly the desired direction. She nearly tripped on the damned heels but managed to pull off the illusion of measured grace at the last minute. Somehow she always delivered when push came to shove, Richard noted as Raven covered up her near stumble with an elegant and very subtle twist as if she were looking over her shoulder at something.
That was one of the reasons he'd asked her after all.
One of them.
The door's silence was as elegant as its gilded frame as Richard opened it, allowing Raven to pass before him before following and closing it behind them as they walked onto the balcony.
"Ah, feel that?" he asked her. She shrugged.
"Guess so," she said.
"Fall's falling," he smiled softly and she offered one back, sheltered in the night's secretive curtain.
"Everything is so temporary," she said a little sadly, he thought, and he watched as she moved to the balcony's edge, leaning over the side in a way that would have been precarious for anyone else.
"Most things," he amended for her and hopped onto the wide stone rail, perching on it, legs hanging over the side, swinging. She arched a brow and glanced over her shoulder before levitating up and over the side to also sit on the ledge, a few good paces to Richard's left.
He noticed the distance but didn't comment.
"You looked sad in there," she said suddenly and he lost his long train of thought.
"What?" He felt simplified by her.
"When the mayor called you his boy," she said and tried to remain serious but a very brief laugh escaped her anyway. The very thought of Richard—no, of Robin, being the son of the mayor was nothing short of preposterous. His laugh came on the heels of hers but it was very hollow. She thought it echoed oddly in the space of evening.
"Well, I'm not anyone's," he said. She frowned.
"But surely..." Raven trailed off in spite of her initial response and it was Richard's turn to arch his own brow as if to say 'but what?' "Your...previous teammate," she decided on, confused at herself now.
"Oh no," Richard said quickly and her eyes clouded. "Never his, though I'd once hoped for it. I think he knew too, tries to make up for it with these," Richard threw a careless hand gesture in the direction of the ongoing Gala.
"I'm surprised," she admitted.
"You wouldn't be if you knew him," he said quietly and she fell into the quiet beside him.
Her gaze went skyward as it was prone to doing and the heavens seemed like glassy water this night, rippled with liquid bevels and glistening with droplets of starlight. It was very beautiful, she thought.
She is very beautiful, he thought as his stare locked onto his comrade against crime, not caring that she might turn and catch him at his favorite pastime, almost wishing she would and having the suspicion she actually felt his gaze and that that was why she never turned.
Did he make her uncomfortable, he wondered. She never made him feel that way, ever, and he hoped suddenly that he did not make her feel that way either. It would be hardly fair when he in fact felt possibly most comfortable of all in her company. Raven, civilian name of Rachel, Roth was his very dearest friend, most trusted confidant and loyal support when all else seemed to have gone to Hell.
And often it did.
It wasn't that she was an overabundant source of good cheer, no, of course not. It wasn't that she put him in his place, though she could easily have done so if she'd had the desire. It wasn't even that she had a darkness as he did that made him turn to her time and again.
No it wasn't really any of that, not quite.
She was like the rain when it was cold out, making it colder but also clearer, crisper, and fresh in ways the sunlight couldn't manage and the fairness of a lucid midday would never offer. She was Raven and he loved her very much.
Of course he hadn't told her.
That was another matter entirely, one he'd been giving thought to for years now, 2 to be exact, 2 in a week actually. So much was left to be desired for in not knowing and knowing, believing and hoping...and so on.
"Penny for your thoughts?" her clean voice broke over him and he blinked.
"You look beautiful," he said and it must have been the smoldering quality his eyes had taken on that made Raven bite down her typical reply...or maybe it was the baritone in which he now spoke.
Whatever it was she thought her stomach was doing things of its own accord, which was never good.
"You don't clean up too bad yourself," she said after an awkward pause.
"Don't escape me with humor when I'm trying to be romantic," he warned half-teasingly.
"My mistake," she said and hadn't meant it to be a whisper, but a whisper it was.
"For once," Richard added, inching over to her, entranced as the moonlight set her face aglow with a holy silver-whiteness that transformed her features from lovely to positively radiant.
"For once," she nodded and she thought he was close enough now to kiss her if he wished.
She hoped he wished.
"I love you," he breathed the words against the nape of her neck and she shuddered, different pleasures coursing through her from his words and the subtle action.
"I think I knew," she said not unkindly as she felt his lips trail her neck hungrily and she groaned.
"I think I knew you knew," he responded, suckling on the juncture at her collarbone and base of her neck and Raven arched into the sensation, a gasp escaping her.
"So this—" but she couldn't finish. His lips...his hands...his hot breath...his voice...his everything was pulling her reality into a strange helix-shape.
"This is something I've been waiting to do for nearly 2 years," Richard told her leaning her down against the balcony somehow, arms pinning her.
And she wasn't afraid. In fact, part of her rejoiced and then lost coherency as Richard's lips traveled lower than her collarbone area over the silk. Neither one seemed to remember that the doors a few feet away from them were transparent but a polite cough alerted them just as easily.
"Master Grayson," a well-to-do British accent floated humorously across the air as Raven sat bolt upright and said Mr. Grayson actually lost his cool and almost fell of the balcony.
"Alfred, you startled us," Richard said, regaining his hold on the balcony. Alfred chuckled.
"I merely thought you would like to know Master Bruce is about to make the dedication," the kind butler intoned dryly and Richard laughed his thanks, to Raven's personal mortification.
As Alfred returned to the inside, she eyed her more-than-a-friend thoughtfully.
"I'm not going to ask how you got good at that," she said simply and he offered her his arm before sweeping them both in the direction of the grand staircase inside where Bruce would salute his twenty-fourth year with champagne and the others would join in while Raven tried to be invisible at his side, failing noticeably only because most of the eyes of every young man who was eligible—and a few who weren't—were glued to her. Of course when Richard's arm snaked its way around her waist some of the eyes diverted themselves and the other gazes became more infrequent.
Hours later on the way home...
"So you're really not going to ask?" he asked and the only thing that kept Raven from hitting him was the fact that he was driving—a car for once, not that deathtrap he called a cycle. She frowned. He could be very reckless.
"No I'm not," she answered balefully.
"Alright," he replied and added, "So how long did you know?"
"I'm not sure," she confessed.
"But you knew," he clarified and detected her slight nod out of his peripheral vision. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"Why didn't you say anything?" she countered a little testily.
"Rejection is painful," he said but it was only half light-hearted.
"You thought I would reject you?" She nearly sputtered, looking at him like the crazy man she kept forgetting he was from her passenger seat.
"It seemed likely," was all he said though.
"Yeah well—" but he cut her off with:
"Thanks again Rae, for coming with me tonight. It meant a lot."
And her heart collided with her stomach. Was that it? What was it to begin with? What did he mean?
She couldn't remember another time she'd felt so uncertain and decided she didn't like the feeling.
"It meant a lot to me too," she said and wasn't referring to being the ornament on his arm.
"Did it?" he asked almost wistfully and she scowled now.
"Stop being an idiot and take what I give you," she ordered imperiously and this earned her a deeper, more cheerful laugh now, an accepting one.
"Alright, I'll try," he acquiesced.
"You better," she muttered under the cover of Richard's light chuckle as he pulled the car over to the bay. "I'm your flight home," she mumbled more to herself than to him but no less threateningly.
"You'd maroon me at the edge of the bay and go back to Titans' Tower all by your self?" he inquired.
"Quite possibly," she deadpanned as they got out of the car and Richard circled back to stand behind her.
"I could give you a reason to take me with you," he whispered against her right ear. She shut her eyes tightly.
"I doubt it," she said, working hard to show no emotion. He wouldn't get the best of her oh no he wouldn't...
"How about a few good reasons then?" he suggested, planting a firm kiss against the delicate curve of her jaw.
"And you say I don't play fair," she breathed unevenly.
"Oh well, you know," he murmured, face nestled in the crook of her neck and shoulder, inhaling her exotic mix of vanilla and something spicier...cinnamon maybe. "Do you wear perfume?" he asked lazily.
"No," she answered.
"I thought not," he admitted and his arms circled around her waist, pulling her back against him. "I like us like this Rae...and it's taken me a long time to tell you...so when we get home, will it be this way or not?" His question was so blunt it threw her off and she had to consider more than normally she would have but her answer was rather quick nonetheless.
"No, it won't be the same but I like us," she said at last, leaving the 'like this' part out.
And he understood.
"Maybe that's enough," he said and felt it to be truer as Raven let herself settle more warmly against Richard's chest with a very un-Raven like sigh.
She hadn't meant to. She really hadn't.
Falling in love was not for her she'd decided long ago, least of all with a teammate...with her leader.
Love wasn't it; it just wasn't. And he hadn't meant to either, truth be known. He hadn't.
Richard hadn't meant to find himself looking at her as more than the friend or sister he'd deluded himself into thinking he saw Raven as for so many years. He hadn't meant to at all.
But he'd done it...watched her, grown to understand his love for her over the past two years especially when they went out on more and more missions together when less than the whole team was necessary. They were older after all, more experienced, more adept even than in their teen years and so they'd taken to going in threes or twos and if he and Raven were most often the pair that went, no one had noticed really except the two of them and even then they hadn't acknowledged it.
There was something to be feared in acknowledgement of something like this.
But Richard had admitted it to himself a little over a year back when Raven had been gravely injured and he could do nothing to help. He'd known then the desperation one felt when one was faced with losing what meant the most to them in the whole world, losing that person.
And know she knew, well, she knew he knew she knew.
And shed liked them, liked them, and again he thought that maybe that was enough.
He kissed her temple and he noted her lips curve upward slightly.
Maybe it was.
But either way, they'd figure it out because now they meant to.
They really did.
Review please if you have time. Sorry about not updating other stories, soon I hope! School kills!