Props And Acknowledgements: A great big bow and scrape to my wonderful beta-readers, Dr. Jekyll and DeTroyes. Much of the sparkle in this story is due to their suggestions/additions (some of which were used verbatim), and I don't think this fic may have been possible without their invaluable assistance. We went through multiple read-and-correct cycles to fine-tune the story. I cannot thank either of them enough. THANK YOU! Everybody go out and read their fics! (Shameless plug)
Dedication: This story is dedicated to my beloved beta-readers and to K.A. Maples and Mad Mauser, quite possibly the world's greatest Bart Allen fans.
A/N: This is a short, fluffy piece that takes place between parts 2 and 3 of the Twilight Child story arc. I wrote it during a fit of writer's block on Coyote (Part 3).
Twilight Child story arc so far:
and coming later... Dawn Child
Please let me know if it made you laugh!
WARNING: The characters in the story are professional superheroes. Do not attempt the feats described here at home or anywhere else. And don't read this while you are drinking anything.Stair Luge Samurai
"I don't know how I let you talk me into this."
"Oh, c'mon Rave," Gar replied with a wink. "You know you want to. Besides, you look absolutely adorable in a bicycle helmet." He connected the strap under her chin and then adjusted the folded silk scarf tied around his forehead, looking all the while like a refugee from one of the many martial arts movies the younger Titans seemed so fond of. "I have to protect that precious noggin of yours. Besides, you are in dire need of some fun. You're getting a chance to learn the fine art of goofing off from a real pro. I mean, I'm great, but Bart is the master."
She peered over the spiral stair railing at the landing below. Far, far below. Ten stories. Oh, dear. She eyed the sofa cushion that Bart was parking at the top of that long, long path.
"Are you sure this is safe?"
"Babe, you're with me! I'm a fifth-floor samurai! Of course it's –"
"A-Ten-SHUN!" Bart commanded. He tugged on his own headband as he began to pace in front of them. "Okay, team, get ready for some serious fun. We're ready to begin the official induction of your favorite empath and mine, Ms. Rachel 'I don't teleport' Roth, into the Titans' Tower chapter of the Stair Luge Samurai."
He cleared his throat and continued. "We're going to have a great jump today. I, Stair Luge Shogun Bart, will be steering in the bow. Gar Logan, shapeshifter extraordinaire, will be anchoring us in the stern. Cleopatra here will be safely ensconced in the middle." He raised his communicator to his lips. "Houston, is the airspace clear?"
"Stairwell is a go," Robin's voice came back.
"If everyone will board?"
Beast Boy settled her into the middle of the cushion behind Bart. "Sit up closer to him, m'dear. He doesn't bite. This boat doesn't have a lot of leg room." She moved up, knees to either side of Bart's hips. It was an uncomfortable closeness, but the speedster did not seem to notice or care. Raven tried to shut out her discomfort and center on the task before her, the task of "serious fun". She felt Garfield squeeze in behind her as he wrapped his arms around her waist. His unmistakable scent curled around her as if it were a third arm. He rubbed his cheek against her jaw line while Bart's back was turned.
"Mmmmmm," he drawled into her ear. "I could get used to this."
Her body jerked at the sudden affectionate contact. A warmth spread up her face from his touch, half-gratitude, half-blush. Is it possible to get used to this – this familiarity? Should he – touch me – in front of others? Should I push away?
She closed her eyes. I certainly don't want to.
She wondered briefly if Bart noticed, but the only emotion she sensed from the younger Titan was an intense, solemn focus. And even that was difficult to pick out from the wave of feeling from the extremely happy being behind her: a tasty blend of open affection, contentment, and just a teasing hint of . . . fear.
Bart spoke without turning around: "Prepare for liftoff."
No, this is definitely not safe.
"Cue the soundtrack," Bart ordered into the radio.
"What's the theme today, O Shogun?" Gar inquired.
"We're going old school today. 'Dancing with Myself' is so choice for this. Gar, push us forward from the gantry."
Drumbeats began to rip through the air. The picture frames on the wall around the landing began to vibrate.
"He thinks the tower is his own personal stereo system," Gar observed.
"This is so undignified," Raven whispered back as softly as she could over the raging strains of Billy Idol.
"It's all about the dignity with you, isn't it? Where's my little tattooed rebel?" He squeezed her again before scooting the cushion forward. She watched Bart brace his arms on the top stair. "Trust me. And stop scowling."
"I am not scowl—"
"We are go for launch! Five!"
"Yes, you are so scowling."
"No, I am not."
"Three! Quiet on the launch pad. You two sound like an old married couple."
"Yes, you are."
"Oh, be silent."
Bump, bump, bump . . . the cushion began rattling down the stairs, jostling its three occupants as it went. As they rounded the first turn of the spiral, they began to pick up some speed.
"This is calmer than I thought," she observed. Her speech vibrated with the thumping of the cushion.
"This is just the warm-up," Bart replied. "But hold on to my shoulders. This gets a little—" They began to accelerate. Faster. "--FAST!"
The makeshift sled was beginning to careen out of control as they rounded yet another turn.
"Seven stories to go!" Gar yowled in her ear. She winced as she began to clutch Bart's shoulders.
"Feel free to scream," Bart informed her. "Woo-hoo!"
The world was a blur around her. She'd traveled this fast before, faster, even, when the former Kid Flash had carried her somewhere, but the ride had never been so . . . bumpy.
Thump. Thump. Thump. Whooosh. In tune with the music shaking the foundations of the tower, with the lyrics belted out by Mr. Idol:
Well there's nothin' to lose
And nothin' to prove
It was so difficult for her to think: So fast, so fast, and Bart's not steering, Sir Isaac Newton is, oh, oh, Azar . . .
And she let a scream roll out from under her control. A deep growling of a bass guitar punctuated their rolling and turning. Suddenly, her screams were in stereo as Gar began wailing like a terrified banshee behind her.
"Hey, we're doing great, team," Bart called over his shoulder, "especially since this is my first attempt at ten stories!"
"First?" his passengers yelped in chorus.
"Yee-ha!" was his only reply. "Four stories to go!"
This music is more felt than heard. Raven felt it vibrating through her every cell, louder and louder as their speed accelerated during the descent. She felt not only her own stomach but all three of their stomachs lurch as the rolling cushion appeared to approach ramming speed. Her ears rang, and the lyrics of the song were barely intelligible. The chaos of it sifted through her empathic barriers, making it difficult to continue to feel that warm bath of amused affection that was wrapping its arms around her waist.
Robin backed away from the bottom landing, expecting them to emerge at any moment. He barely heard the beep of his communicator over the hammering of the stereo. He adjusted the volume on his earpiece.
"Say again?" he shouted.
"It's Batman," the other replied, the radio vibrating in his hand.
"Well – I – Uh – kinda in the middle of –"
He wandered away from his spotter's position as he attempted to find a quieter spot to explain the finer points of a ten-story stair luge. What he didn't see was Cyborg wandering in from the garage and walking up the stairs to seek out the rebellious stereo controls.
"What the hell's all this noise? What are the three stooges up to now? Damn window is gonna crack—"
Too fast, she thought, this is too fast – too—not safe – not – it's – this is – exhilarating –
"Lean into the turn!" Bart ordered as they rounded another turn. Shiny steel glinted close to them. Too close.
"What the-- Cyborg! Move!"
Not enough time, nowhere to go, she thought.
"Cyborg!" she screamed at her friend, one hand cupped around her mouth and the other clinging for dear life to Bart's shoulder.. "Do. Not. Move!"
She closed her eyes and focused all of her thought on the warm bodies surrounding her, on the speeding upholstery beneath them. Vic held up his arms in a purely instinctive attempt to block the oncoming sofa-missile. The impact never came. It disappeared into a puff of inky smoke – then reappeared on the other side of him to continue its relentless quest for the ground floor.
Its search was almost over.
"Sor-ry, Vic-tor –" she screamed over her shoulder, the words bouncing out of her mouth. Cyborg continued up the stairs to locate the stereo, shaking his head.
"Some day I've got to have a long talk with that girl," he muttered to himself as he shook his head in their wake.
"Wooo-hooo!" Bart howled. Raven and Gar just kept screeching as they jolted their way down the stairwell. The register of Beast Boy's scream was bouncing off the stratosphere.
The chaotic jangling of the music died suddenly as they rounded the last turn. With her ears ringing in the sudden silence, she could almost hear the inevitable wreck lurking in their immediate future.
The landing opened in front of them as they flew off the end of the staircase and skidded out onto the smooth floor, spinning madly out of control and spilling off speed – but not nearly enough of it. The immovable bolted-down bookcase at the other end of the landing loomed ever closer ahead, approaching faster than she would have thought possible, looking certain to encounter the all-too resistible force of their sled.
Curse me for a fool. I knew this was not safe.
The metallic taste of fear flooded her mouth as Gar squeezed her even more tightly against him, and her own hands tightened on Bart's suddenly tense shoulders as they braced for the inevitable impact. But just as the leading edge of the cushion was about to redefine pain and suffering for its three screaming passengers, it leaped into that elsewhere between dimensions and emerged onto the beach below the tower. Instead of a bookcase leering at them with sadistic glee, she saw a low sand dune glowering at them. She squeezed her eyes shut, bracing herself for the crash-landing looming ahead of her. The world whirred by so fast, and their whirling had yet to stop. Plowing hard into the dune, backwards, it finally shuddered in a sudden, gut-wrenching, teeth-gnashing, bone-jarring stop that all but sent them flying again. A spray of sand showered down as inertia had its way with them.
Bart fell backwards onto Raven, who spilled into the lap of Beast Boy, who found himself buried in the dune. The bizarre domino effect knocked the wind out of them. Gar coughed and sputtered as he began to dig himself out from under the sand. They lay there in the bright sun, a pile of pale Titans fatigued from a fierce battle with momentum. A cloud of nervous relief covered them.
"Officer thinking, Raven," Bart stated flatly. He jumped up from her lap as quickly as exhaustion would allow and dusted the sand from his shorts. "And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes today's event." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue silk scarf. He began folding it into a headband with great care and reverence.
She didn't move. She savored that brief stolen moment of contact with the warm knot of amusement and relief buried under her shoulders. It covered her like a furry blanket. His hand folded around her elbow as he sat up with her head still in his lap.
She blinked at the face gazing down at her; the taste of relief was giving way to that of concern.
"Perfect," she purred.
Gar rolled out from underneath her, spitting sand, and helped Raven to stand, both on somewhat shaky feet. He began brushing at her clothes to remove sand from her shoulders and legs. Unnecessary, she thought, but . . . still . . . oh, let him . . .
He chucked her under the chin as he undid her helmet snaps. He removed it from her head and studied her flushed, grinning face.
"You're beautiful when you smile, you know that?" he whispered to her. He tousled her growing ebony mane. "And you've got helmet hair."
She lowered her eyebrows in mock agitation but said nothing. The light touch on her scalp was welcome; even his teasing comment made her heart jump. I could get used to this, myself, she thought.
"Silk scarf from Chinatown, thirty bucks." Bart turned around and began walking to them. "Replacement couch cushion, meh, three hundred bucks." He stopped in front of the pair. "Hearing Beast Boy scream like a school girl: priceless."
"You say anything about that to the Flash, and you're dead, kid."
Bart ignored him, turning his full attention back to Raven instead. He beckoned to her with his arms spread wide.
"Come to me, grasshopper," he ordered with a gravely solemn look. He wrapped the silken band around her forehead, covering her chakra jewel. Gar took the ends from him and secured them in place with a ceremonial air.
Bart rested his hands on her shoulders. "With the authority vested in me as Shogun, I now pronounce you a properly inducted member of the Stair Luge Samurai, Titans' Tower chapter." He bowed to her, Japanese-style.
She returned his bow with a graceful dignity. She stood up straight, face every bit as solemn as his.
"Domo arigato gozaimashita, Shogun Bart. I shall strive to uphold the ancient traditions of the Stair Luge Samurai with respect and honor," she replied, head held high, voice grave. I may now 'goof off' with impunity, she thought to herself with pride. So this is what fun is like. She felt her heart leap within her as the realization finally hit her: I can have fun. I can. I can.
Bart turned to Beast Boy. "Fellow samurai, you may bestow your most sacred blessing upon the newly inducted warrior of this most secret of societies."
"Uh, okay," Gar replied, scratching his ear. He paused for a moment, staring at the silk scarf tied around her forehead and muttering the words "Stair Luge Karate Kid" under his breath. He moved around to stand before her so she could see his eyes. I am so proud of you, they said to her. Very slowly, he rested his fingers in her hair and began to chant.
"Bop-bop-a-lee-bop. A-lop-bam-boom. Louie, Louie, Oh, no. We gotta go. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Boogidy-boogidy-boogidy. Um …Uh…Glooten, Gleben, Glouten, Globen. It's better to burn out than fade away. Uh . . .Welcome, young Jedi—er, samurai." Giggles were starting to erupt from him as he struggled to keep a straight face. He raised his right hand, his middle and ring fingers separated to form a thick "V". He cleared his throat. "May the luge be with you, always."
What an odd ceremony, she mused. I wonder just what sort of blessing I have received.
He removed his other hand from her head and bowed to her. She returned his bow. Then she bowed to Bart with a sober elegance. Bart bowed once more to the both of them. Gar turned to face Bart. As the trio leaned forward for one last somber obeisance, their heads crashed together in a three-way bow collision.
"OW!" they yelped in stereo. Their arms became entangled as they each reached for their injured crowns. It took a few confusing moments to disengage and tend to their wounds. Her silken headband, pushed out of place by the sudden clash of craniums, slipped down to cover the empath's eyes as her ears rang from not only her sudden soreness but that of her fellow conspirators.
"Ouch-ah! I thought this was the Stair Luge Samurai, not the Marx Brothers," Gar whined as he reached over to adjust Raven's displaced headband. He slyly slipped a kiss onto her cheek while Bart was looking down at the sand, still rubbing the top of his own head with vigor.
Bart finally looked up and signaled for their attention once more. "Now that the initiation ceremony is complete, we must now proceed to the ceremonial feast of the Ben and the Jerry's, courtesy of our new sister warrior. Do you have any questions for me, Raven-san?"
"Just one, O My Shogun. If I may humbly request a favor..."
Bart answered with a regal nod. "Speak, young Samurai. Speak with the boldness of she who has tamed the fierce dragon of the ten-story stair luge and braved the burning sands to carry her companions home safely." He touched his sore scalp again. "Well, mostly safe, anyway."
Her eyes sparkled with an adrenaline shine below her newly bestowed badge of honor. With one last, slow, dignified bow, she allowed the corner of her mouth to turn up in a naughty half-smile.
"Can we do it again?"
A/N: "Curse me for a fool" was Raven's favorite way of fussing at herself during the Wolfman/Perez era.
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the song lyrics mentioned in Garfield's blessing. I don't own Ben and Jerry's (more's the pity). I do not own the Three Stooges or the Marx Brothers. I do not own Billy Idol or any lyrics that he sings. I don't own "Star Wars" or "Star Trek" (Vulcan salute by Gar). I do not own "Kung Fu" (origin of Grasshopper).