Genres: Angst, Drama
Warnings: AU, mentions of abuse, muteness
Disclaimer: Don't own any of them except Karen and Derek.
Summary: AU fic. The Titans are children in a daycare program, whose friendship with eachother is worth more then anything else in the world.
A/N: First in the Childhood Arc. For those of you that don't know,
Rachel Roth is Raven
Garfield Logan is Beast Boy
Richard Grayson is Robin
Victor Stone is Cyborg
Kori Anders is Starfire
Roy is Speedy
Garth is Aqualad
Once upon a time, there was a magical place called Earth. And upon this Earth there were many cities. One of the best known was Jump City. It was plagued by crime, denied by heroes...and yet, people thrived, lived their lives, had and raised children. Many times, however, the parents could not always be there for their children, because of work, or family troubles, or any number of other reasons. Fortunately, there was a place they could leave there children while they were busy. Jump City Children's Center, which, concidently, is where our story takes place.
"And what is the child's name?" A harried looking assiastant stood behind a counter, shoving the sign-in book towards a tired looking woman.
"Rachel." She mumbled, writing quickly, then pushing a small, pale girl foward. The assaistant glanced up at the tone in her voice, and his expression softened. This was not just the look of a woman late for work. She was desperate, obviously just trying to get her child out of the house, even if it was only for a few hours. 'Abusive father...' he thought and shook his head, then smiled at the small girl.
"Hi Rachel. How are you?" He asked gently, holding out his hand. She looked up at him mutely, her eyes too weary, too knowing for a child so young. His stomach clenched and he supressed a glare, knowing the child would think it was aimed at her, even though it was really directed towards whatever it was that had caused her to look like this.
"She doesn't talk. The doctors think she's mute." Her mother kneeled and hugged the girl quickly, then stood and looked at the assistant, "Thank you." she looked back at her daughter, started to say something, then simply turned and walked towards the door.
Rachel watched her go but, unlike so many other children her age, she didn't protest or cry. Just stood, and watched. When her mother was out of sight she turned back to the assistant.
"I'm Derek." He said, the motioned towards a near-by doorway, "Come on. I'll introduce you to the other children." She glanced at the door nervously, but didn't object as the young man took her hand and led her inside.
The Children's Center was a bright, cheerful place. It was always filled with the smell of fresh-baked cookies, but had an underlying scent of disinfectant. The Center itself wasn't in the best of shape. It was located in one of the backstreets of town, not quite a 'bad' part, but definately not high-class. It struggled to keep above water, relying on donations and volunteers, but managed to do the best it could with what little resources it had.
The younger childrens room was one of the bigger ones, painted in bright greens and yellows and filled with an assortment of toys. There was usually a director and three volunteers watching this room alone, but two of the volunteer's had called in sick that day. Derek and the director, Karen, were exhausted, trying to keep twenty-six four-and-five-year-olds under control. It wasn't going too well.
"Derek!" Karen waved at him, trying to get his attention, then pointed towards a corner, "Garth's missing!"
The boy winced and shook his head, glancing at the corner where the young boy was supposed to be taking a time out, "Okay, Karen, I'll find him. Just let me get Rachel settled in." Karen nodded then turned back to her task of making snacks. The volunteer led the frail girl towards a small group of children sitting toward the back of the room. The group consisted of one girl and three boys, and was unusually calm.
"Rachel, this is Garfield, Richard, Victor, and Kori." He introduced her, watching closely for an reaction. She seemed so disconnected from her emotions...unfortunatly, just then a small fight broke out. He sighed and pushed her towards them gently, "Play nice. Garth, Roy, stop that!" he darted off towards the fight.
The five stared at each other, one standing, the others sitting. After a long minute the red-headed girl stood and smiled, "Friend!" she announced, before hugging the other girl. Rachel froze, then pushed Kori away and stumbled back a few steps, her violet eyes wide.
Kori blinked and turned to the other three, confused. None of them had refused hugs...in fact, she had never encountered anyone who had disliked hugs. Her face twisted awkwardly, and it was clear that she was going to burst into tears any second. Just then, Garfield hugged her and grinned, "Don't cry, Kori!" He made a face at her, trying to get her to laugh. She sniffed but smiled and her tears were gone almost as soon as they had appeared.
The ebony haired boy studied the newcomer, then smiled, "Hi! I'm Richard."
The small African-American boy grinned and waved, "Hey! I'm Victor!"
Rachel watched them both, her odd-colored eyes still wide and scared. She was slowly starting to calm down when the boy with the intenseblue eyes stuck his face right in front of hers and grinned, "I'm Gar!"
She scrambled back a bit farther, then lost her balance and fell backwards, hitting her tailbone. Oddly enough, she didn't cry, or give any indication of pain. Gar, however, seemed to feel it for her. He paled and dropped to his knees next to her, "I'msorryI'msorryI'msorry!" he whimpered.
The others watched as she edged away, crossing her arms over her bright blouse in a defensive gesture. Richard frowned, "Do you ever talk?"
She shook her head slowly then pulled her knees up to her chest and laid her head on them, squeezing her her eyes closed. She wished she was back home, and unconsiously movied into the position she used when she hid in her closet after her father had hit her, or when it seemed like he was about too. Her protected, safe stance.
Gar frowned and plopped down next to her, "Why not?" The others moved closer, re-forming thier original circle, but including Rachel.
She looked up at him, then blinked and allowed her eyes moved around the circle as she realized what they had done. She shrugged in response to his question.
Derek watched them from the other side of the room, making sure that nothing happened. He had almost gone over when she had fallen, but Karen had held him back. He scowled then turned back to the Director, "Why won't you let me go over there?"
Karen didn't even look up from her work, "Because you've done all for her that you could."
He frowned and leaned his head on his hand, watching her closely, "What do you mean?"
She sighed, "You wouldn't know this, considering this is your first time voluntering in the young childrens room, but I've known that child for about a year now. I've been trying to get her to talk almost as long. She refused to, and refused to play with any of the other children. I'm positive that someone in her family is abusing her, but I can't prove it." She glanced at him and smiled slightly, "One year, Derek. That's how long the other volunteers and I have worked on this child. She doesn't come in often...I think her mother just sneaks her here when her father is it work. I don't know. What I do know, however, is that on your first day here you managed to take the most unresponsive child I've ever met and convinced her play with the others."
Derek blushed slightly, then rubbed at the back of his neck, grinning weakly, "Wow. I wasn't even thinking about it...I just wanted her settled in with a group before I left." He looked over to where the five were, "She isn't exactly playing though. She's just...sitting there."
"Yes, but when we used to try to do that she wouldn't even pretend. She would just get up and sit in a corner until her mother came to get her." Karen glanced over and smiled as Rachel nodded in response to something Victor had said, "I think that group will be good for her. Most of them just started going here recently."
He stared at a spot on the wall, lost in thought, "So, this is kinda like fate?"
She laughed, "You could call it that if you want. I'm glad that it's working in that little girls favor for once, instead of agianst it. Now, help me hand out these snacks, or we'll be fated to dealing with twenty-six hungry children."
Derek grinned and shuddered playfully, then picked up one of the trays, "Gladly." He followed her around the room, handing out food, but his thoughts kept returning to Rachel, and ways to help her. He glanced over and saw the group, then smiled. Maybe she wouldn't need his help...it seemed like she already had Fate's.