Robin was awake well before he opened his eyes.
It was the other sensory information that woke him, the feeling of too many things out of place. The uncharacteristically hard surface beneath him. The feeling of both chill air and warming light on his skin. The sounds of birds and surf against shore, far off in the distance. And the fact that he was alone – which oddly shouldn't have woken him, as sleeping alone was the norm for him, but this time it did.
And so, wading up from sleep through an odd yet pleasant weariness, the young man opened his eyes and raised his head – and gazed on one of the most beautiful sights he had ever seen in his life.
Starfire was floating in the air just over the edge of the Tower rooftop, her head tilted back, her arms spread to the sky. The rising sun shone though the fall of her hair, bringing out the deeper red tones from the brighter, and played over the lines of the sleek, supple body he was beginning to remember, seeming to light her skin from the inside with a hue of burnished gold. Legends of goddesses ascending, of phoenixes in flame, flitted through Robin's mind, there and gone – but the only thing that escaped his lips was a soft, awed whisper.
" …wow… "
Starfire looked back over her shoulder, opening her eyes to him, and smiled brightly as she saw him awake. Still hovering in place as she turned, the dawning light becoming a backdrop to a body that was no less lovely from the front. Robin felt himself blushing, coughing as he tried for speech again. "Uhh – good morning."
She laughed softly, and floated down to him; Robin discovered that sometime during his sleep he had drawn his discarded cape over himself like a blanket. He drew it aside now, waiting for the Tamaranian girl to settle atop him before drawing it back over them both.
"It is a glorious morning!" Starfire replied, her eyes dancing brightly, all but purring as she touched her nose to his, familiar and comfortable and playful all at the same time.
"Not half as glorious as you looked just now," Robin noted, feeling himself relax a little as he grinned up at her, arms slipping around her beneath their makeshift blanket. "Do you do that every morning?"
"On most mornings, yes. When I am not 'in the sleeping,'" Starfire added with a sheepish look, as being that way was something she did more often than she should.
"Is that a Tamaranian custom?" Robin tilted his head a bit, looking curious. "Greeting the sun every morning, I mean."
"No. It is something I myself enjoy," Starfire admitted. "Perhaps because my body absorbs solar energy as fuel for my power. But when I feel the first rays of the sun touch upon me, it is as though I am truly awakening within every part of my being."
"I thought emotions fueled your powers?"
"Emotion allows us to discover the joy of flight," Starfire explained. "In that sense it is indeed fuel, for without that joy there is nothing. But the energy that makes that flight possible comes from the stars and the sun."
"That makes sense. I'm guessing that how your starbolts work too?" Robin paused, something occurring to him. "Come to think of it, I've only seen you and Blackfire use them. Is that something unique to the royal line?"
The question was simple enough, maybe a little clinical given their situation. But the response was startling; Starfire bit her lip and looked away, the light that had been dancing in her eyes suddenly shadowed, her body curling lightly atop his. Robin blinked at the sudden shift – somehow he doubted it had anything to do with spoiling the mood, or with the mention of her estranged sister. "Star… ?"
"Robin… perhaps I do not have the right to say this, given what we have shared," Starfire said quietly, not looking at him. "But there are parts of my past I am not yet ready to share with you. Things I am not eager to relive in doing so… " Curling up a little more as she added in a quieter voice, "I am sorry."
Robin blinked, but quickly squeezed his arms tight around the girl. "You have every right to say it, Star," he assured her firmly. "And I don't need to hear about your past to live with us in the present. Whenever you feel like talking about it, I'll be here."
Starfire glanced up at his face, saw that he meant every word of it as he gazed down solemnly at her, and was immediately reassured. Smiling softly and shifting, pressing her head down to his chest. Which drew a chuckle from him as he shifted a bit himself to readjust – then winced. "Ow."
"'Ow?'" Starfire repeated, blinking and raising her head once more, immediately concerned. "Did I injure you?" At one point in the night she had been worried about her alien strength spinning out of control, the worry buried beneath a whirling flood of sensation.
"Nah. Just a little stiff."
Starfire grinned impishly. "Is that what humans call a 'double intention?'"
"Heh. That's 'double entendre,' and no. Not right now, anyway," Robin amended, trying not to blush. "I'm just not used to sleeping on the roof."
"On Tamaran, we believe that things of importance should be done beneath the open sky." Starfire folded her hands on his chest, resting her head atop them as she peered up at him through lowered lashes. "Beneath the gaze and blessing of X'Hal, the Supreme Goddess who gives all life."
Robin shifted again, a little uncomfortable with the idea of their night together being treated as a sacred act… although thinking about it, he couldn't deny how appropriate it seemed. "It… it was important to me too, Starfire."
"You have said so already, Robin. Last night, after… " Starfire trailed off, and instead raised her hand to touch his bare face, the mask normally covering it having been laid to the side along with the rest of their clothing. " …this was important to you as well," she finally said, gazing up at him. "You did not have to remove it."
"You might have been okay with it, but it didn't seem right to me," Robin replied quietly, reaching his hand up to touch over hers. "To share all the rest and not that, too. It's okay, Star… really it is. I'm glad I could show you."
"And I am glad for everything." Starfire suddenly giggled, the sound bright and joyful. "Oh, I cannot wait to tell everyone!"
That made Robin start, his mouth falling open. "Wh-what?"
"That we have become lovers! The thought gives me such joy that I cannot keep it all within myself!" Starfire sat up, tucking her knees under her as hugged her arms around herself, giggling again with the a schoolgirl's giddy cheer. "I wish everyone to know delight it brings me! I will sing it to the skies, to X'Hal herself!"
Robin coughed. "Uhhh, look, Star – you think maybe we can keep that… you know, on the down low for awhile?"
Stafire blinked, looking back over. "The… down low?" she repeated, looking blank.
Robin paused… then brought up a hand to smack over his face. "Been hanging around Cyborg too long," he muttered. "I mean, just keep it to ourselves? Between you and me? Just for now, I mean."
She blinked again. "Do you not wish our friends to share in our happiness and good fortune?"
"Of course I do! Well, not in that exactly," Robin added hastily, "I mean, not share as in share, you know, us – I mean – " Pausing as her look just got more and more confused, and he sighed again. "Look, Star… I like what we've become. Lovers, I mean." Mentally cursing as he felt himself blush – they'd done it, why was he still embarrassed to say it? "But it… it's important to me, like I said. And personal… and really, really meaningful. I don't know if I want to go around parading it for the whole world just yet. It's… it's new to me, and I kind of want to figure out exactly what it means. Does that make any sense?"
He looked at her for long moments, waiting, hoping for comprehension to come. When it did, it wasn't at all what he expected. She seemed to wilt, her gaze lowering from his, the arms hugged around her body tightening, as if for warmth.
"Yes Robin," she answered quietly. "I do make sense of your meaning. But I think you have already figured out what you wish us to be."
"What do you mean… ?"
"You do not mind having the sex with me… being lovers with me. You just do not wish anyone else to know that you do," Starfire murmured.
Robin blinked. "Star… ! That's not what I meant at all!" He reached for her – then stopped. Starfire glanced at him, saw him staring at a point past her, and looked over her shoulder to see a patch of shadow welling out from the rooftop, a form beginning to rise from it. "Raven!"
Starfire gave a little 'yeek!' as the cape that had fallen over her lap was suddenly whisked away, looking back – and staring as she saw Robin on his feet and somehow already fully dressed, adjusting the mask over his face. "I –we were just – "
"As much fun as it'd be to see you try and finish that statement," Raven remarked dryly, stepping out from the ebon pool as the shadows faded away behind her, "you don't have to. I just came up here to tell you Cyborg was looking for you. Thought you might feel better with me finding you before he does."
"Cyborg?" Robin frowned, turning to look at the sun that was still making its ascent past the horizon. "What's he doing up this early?"
"Seems like someone forgot to reset the alarm on the bay window after closing it after them last night. Guess your mind was on other things." Raven smirked a bit before continuing, "Cyborg picked up the alert when his maintenance cycle finished this morning, and he's convinced we've had a break-in. You might want to go talk to him before he turns the Tower upside-down."
"Got it." Robin gave a short nod, before turning to the Tamaranean girl. " …look… Starfire… "
"Go, Robin," Starfire said quietly, looking away. "You would not wish Cyborg to see us together like this, yes?"
Robin winced, but found there was nothing he could really say to that. Not to mention the fact that she was right, though not in the way she meant. " …we'll talk later," he finally promised, turning and darting for the rooftop access door.
Which left the two girls alone on the rooftop, Raven dressed in her dark blue cloak, Starfire sitting on her knees with her hands folded in her lap, not a stitch of clothing on and apparently not the least bit concerned with it, just blinking at her friend.
Who finally decided to speak. "So... things went well, I take it?"
Starfire blinked, then blushed as she recalled just how well things had gone. "Yes. He is definitely not 'into the guys.'"
"Well, I picked up that much," Raven replied, her face wry beneath the hood. "You two kept me up all night."
Starfire blinked again, more apologetic than embarrassed. "Forgive me – I did not think we had become loud enough to wake you."
"Oh, you weren't. But your emotions were plenty loud. It was like trying to sleep next to a bonfire." Raven grinned lightly as she added, "Don't worry about it. I'll just get Beast Boy to help me relax later."
Starfire still looked sheepish, but was quickly beaming again at the recollection of that night – and just as quickly, her expression falling as she remembered the events of the past few minutes. "Unfortunately, it seems that Robin does not share in my happiness," she noted softly.
Raven cocked her head. "What do you mean?"
" …I am overjoyed that Robin and I have finally become lovers," Starfire noted, looking up at the other girl. "And yet Robin does not seem to share in my joy. He says that he does not wish anybody else to know of what we have shared. I have already told him that you and I have spoken of this before," she added, "so I do not think he will mind if I speak of this now. But why would he wish to keep our union hidden, if he does not regret it?"
"I don't think 'regret' is the right word," Raven replied slowly. "I think it just has a lot to do with the way he sees things… with the way a lot of humans see things."
"I do not understand."
Although she earnestly did want to help her friend, Raven couldn't help but sigh at finding herself once again playing the role of 'Professor Raven' to the Tamaranean girl. "Come down to my room," she offered. "I'll make us some tea. And then I'll tell you about a group of early human settlers called the Puritans… "
Robin sighed as he made his way through the hallways, having managed to assure Cyborg that they hadn't been infiltrated without giving away too much. But his own thoughts were far from assured; he had hurt Starfire, and deeply, he could see that. What he couldn't see was how to heal that hurt, how to make her understand what it was he'd really been trying to say. "I'm sorry" didn't seem anywhere near good enough – partly because it wasn't true. He'd meant it when he'd asked her not to tell the others about their night together, but it hadn't been out of any sense of shame. How could he make her understand that people on Earth just didn't talk about some things as openly as she did?
He needed someone to talk to, someone who could be a sounding board for him, someone he could get advice from.
Cyborg was his first thought, but immediately he discarded it; physical intimacy would probably be a touchy subject with him, not just because of his teammate's nature, but because of the handful of potential relationships he knew Cyborg to have considered and had his own share of difficulties with. Robin couldn't see himself bringing his romantic troubles to someone who was acutely aware that most girls wouldn't enjoy snuggling up to something cold and metallic – and aware that the ones that actually might were either time-displaced, villainous, or close enough to being a teammate to make things awkward.
That left Beast Boy, and Robin paused in front of door left open, peering past it and through the mess inside.
" – BRAAAAAAAAAAAP!" click
The tail end of a belch faded as Beast Boy clicked the button on a stopwatch, sitting on his bed as he checked the numbers. "Two minutes, forty-five seconds! At this rate, the world record'll be a cinch!" he crowed.
" . . . . " Robin kept right on walking.
"So do you understand?" Raven asked quietly. The two of them had retired to Raven's room, both of them sitting on her bed with a tea tray in front of them, a burner of incense sending up wafts of scented smoke in the corner. Raven sat meditation-style, her hood pushed back; Starfire had redressed herself and sat with her legs tucked under her, listening intently as her hands clasped a cup of tea.
"I believe so. You are telling me of a group of early human colonists," Starfire said slowly, "that settled upon this continent many centuries ago, and that their philosophy of discarding material matters for spiritual enlightenment became exaggerated to the point that they considered all physical joys to be evil, since they were obstacles to that enlightenment. And this ideal has passed down through the centuries, and it is why Robin does not wish to speak of our joining."
"That's part of it, but only a small part," Raven corrected. "And the ideal hasn't been passed down completely, but enough of it is left that most people in this part of the world don't believe sex is something to talk about in everyday conversation."
"You have no difficulty speaking of the sex," Starfire noted, sipping at her tea.
"But notice I'm not talking with you about it in front of the whole Tower," Raven replied calmly. "Even so, that doesn't have anything to do with it – you're forgetting I wasn't raised on Earth."
"You are correct… you seem so much more used to this world's ways that often I forget that you were not raised here." Starfire's expression was curious as she asked, "On Azarath, do people there regard the sex in the same way?"
"We don't talk about it, but it's not because it's something we see as evil. When two people have sex, it can either be just for fun, or it can be something deeper. Either way, it's very personal – it's trusting another person with your body, your safety, and your pleasure. Trust like that is important, so even if it's something that happens more than once," Raven added, "it's not something we think of as casual. We don't talk about it like it's just another everyday thing."
" …then… when you asked that I not tell anyone else about you and Beast Boy .. ?"
"It's because what goes on between me and Beast Boy is our business, and nobody else's," Raven said simply. "But I won't pretend that it didn't happen, and I won't deny it if someone asks me about it. I'm not ashamed of being with Beast Boy... and if I had to guess, I'd say that Robin feels exactly the same way about you."
He didn't want to do it. But there just wasn't anybody else.
Robin made sure the door to his room was locked before fitting his headset into place, and keying in the frequency for a secure channel that only he knew about. And a moment later, a gruff voice sounded in his ear.
"It's me. I… need to talk about something."
"Oh." Robin sighed. "Never mind. It's not that important… "
"Obviously it is, or you wouldn't have called. Since you did, you might as well go ahead."
The face Robin made didn't stop him from proceeding. "I… I need some advice." Swallowing hard before adding, "About girls."
Dead silence came from the other end of the line for a moment. When an answer came, it surprised him. "Hm. You're asking sooner than I thought you would. But it makes sense that you would."
Robin blinked. "It does?"
"You're a young man at the peak of his physical prowess who shares his living space with two attractive young women. It was only a matter of time before you came looking for sensible advice about the opposite sex."
Having this matter talked about so casually was making him feel awkward, but Robin was relieved all the same, eager at finally being able to have an answer that would make sense of all this. "I'm listening."
But on the other end of the line, the shadowy figure paused as he peered through a set of high-powered binoculars. Watching his quarry skirt across a rooftop clad in sleek black leather, the ambient lights gleaming on metal claw-tips capping long gloves, and on the barbs of the whip coiled at her waist.
"As soon as I have some, I'll let you know," he remarked dryly before shutting the comm line and reaching for a grapnel instead, already anticipating the chase and despising the temptation to let her go afterwards.
Back at the Tower, Robin stared at the screen for a moment as the line went dead… then went flat-eyed. "No way I'm talking to Alfred about this… "
"But Robin is not from Azarath!" Starfire protested.
"Robin may not have been raised like I was, but I think the issue with him is the same," Raven explained. "We've already seen how hard it is for him to trust people. It's because he's keeping a lot of secrets, and a lot of them aren't his. Letting one of them slip could not only hurt him, but the people who believe in him enough to entrust him with those secrets. So trusting any part of himself to another person is hard, because he feels like he risks more than just himself by doing it. That he could end up hurting people he cares very deeply for. It's not about shame for him, but about trust… something he doesn't give to just anyone, or talk about it like he would."
I trust you with my life. Starfire remembered the words he had spoken the night before. He had been oddly hesitant, almost desperate for reasons not to complete the union they both longed for – but those words, he had spoken without hesitation.
And had done more without hesitation, she realized. She had seen his face, and his hand had not so much as faltered when he raised it to remove the mask along with everything else. She didn't have a name to the face, it was true – but she had the feeling it had been more an oversight than anything else, that if she had but to ask he would give it, and even look surprised at the realization that he hadn't already done so.
Raven had once shared a psychic link with him, Starfire knew – she had entered into Robin's mind to help brace it against a madness that had been spreading there. But as far as Starfire knew, even Raven had never seen Robin without his mask. One of his deepest secrets, and he had given it over to her without pause, like some rare and unspeakably valuable gift.
"I would not have shared this with just anyone either," Starfire noted quietly.
"And I'm sure he knows that, Starfire. But even though the two of you can be together, the simple truth is that you two are different. We all are – not just the Titans, but everybody on this planet and everywhere else. Nobody sees things the same way. That doesn't mean," Raven added, "that you can't have feelings for each other, or be important to each other."
"Then… Robin does not regret being lovers with me?" Starfire looked at her friend, hope beginning to dawn on her features.
"I said you two kept me up all night," Raven replied quietly, looking at Starfire. "It wasn't just your emotions that did it. Robin felt it every bit as much as you did, Starfire. All the things he feels for you… how deeply he does… regret doesn't have any part of it."
Starfire bit her lip again, suddenly looking as if she had to fight not to cry – but the look of sheer happiness brightening her features was like a beam of sunlight breaking through the clouds, making them tears of joy.
Raven smiled, set down her teacup, and reached across to squeeze her friend's hand. "Come on. Let's go find your boyfriend and get this mess straightened out."
With no one to talk to about it, Robin was left to puzzle it out on his own. Which was fine with him, he decided grimly – it'd be just another mystery to pin down and solve. Only this time, no amount of forensic testing or martial arts training would help him. It left him pacing back and forth across the length of his room, hands clasped behind his back, head ducked down as he scowled at the floor.
Though he wouldn't have changed her for anything, Starfire's ways sometimes left him so frustrated. Having to explain concepts that should be simple, that he had come to accept as matter of course during his years of life, often left him at a loss for words. Why couldn't she just see this was something people didn't talk about openly? Why couldn't she see that he couldn't just talk about this in front of everybody –
Suddenly he stopped, blinking as he straightened up.
Why couldn't he talk about this in front of everybody? What was he afraid of? Beast Boy's sniggering? Cyborg's teasing? Raven's knowing smirk? Of the disapproving scowl from that voice at the other end of the secured comm? Of society as a whole staring, frowning, accusing, objecting?
Even though he had spent years training in the shadow of another, Robin considered himself being very much his own person. Becoming a crimefighter, becoming a leader, pushing himself to the edge of physical and mental endurance time and again, testing his limits only so he could surpass them – despite the risks, the warnings, and the objections, nothing had ever stopped him from doing the right thing.
Being with Starfire last night had felt more right than anything else before. Being with her now, bringing that new aspect of their relationship into their everyday lives, felt right just thinking about it.
So what was going to stop him from doing the right thing this time?
Nothing, he decided. And deciding that, turned on his heel and strode for the door to look for her.
They both entered the main room at the same time, Cyborg and Beast Boy already on the couch playing a game of "Great Robot Super-Battle," Raven just a couple of steps behind Starfire.
"Robin?" The Tamaranean girl blinked as she saw the young man approaching her, cape flared lightly with his long stride. "If it is all right with you, I would like to speak to you about YEEK!"
This last uttered as Robin seized her by the shoulders, dragged her to him, and kissed her full on the mouth in plain view of everyone in the room.
"MMMPH!" Starfire's eyes widened as she gave a muffled squeal into the kiss… then slowly slipped closed. Her body swaying in to press lightly against his, her arms coming up to slide around his neck as she felt his slip down from her shoulders to her waist.
"Uhhh… " Beast Boy's eyes were as wide as dinner plates as he turned on the couch, staring at the two of them.
"Whoa." Cyborg stared as well, his controller sitting forgotten in his hands.
Raven said nothing, her smile flashing briefly from the shadows of her hood.
After a long moment Robin broke the kiss, touching his nose to hers in an echo of her gesture earlier that morning. "I'm not ashamed of you," he said quietly. "I'm sorry I made you think I was."
"I was wrong to think that you would be," Starfire replied softly, raising a hand up to press to his cheek, feeling dizzy and flushed and completely, absolutely wonderful. "I am sorry as well."
"Can we start over… ?"
"If it is all the same, I would much rather continue from where we just were." And slipped that hand to the back of his neck, drawing him in for another kiss.
" ….well… it's about time, if you ask me," Cyborg finally said, though he still stared a bit. But eventually turned, grinning ruefully as he nudged Beast Boy in the side. "Guess that means you and I are the only swingin' bachelors left in this pad, huh B.B.?"
Beast Boy coughed, glancing over towards the doorway. "Umm… "
"Actually… " Raven began, feeling color rise in her cheeks.
Cyborg blinked, looking back and forth between the two of them. " …..aw, maaaaan! Everyone's gettin' it on around here except ME!" he exclaimed.
"Please do not worry!" Starfire had broken the kiss to nuzzle happily against Robin, and now spoke up as she sought to reassure her teammate. "I am certain we will find someone to be a sweetened heart for you! Perhaps Bumblebee, or even the Jinx – "
"Yo, don't even go there, Starfire," Cyborg warned with a scowl.
"Maybe you should take out an ad in the personals?" Beast Boy suggested. "'Tall, athletic do-it-yourselfer, REALLY into heavy metal – '"
"Keep it up B.B., and you'll be into heavy metal when I put this foot up your – "
"Lighten up, Cyborg." Raven smirked as she added, "With the right modifications, you wouldn't be able to keep girls off you."
" …do I wanna know what kind of 'modifications' she's talkin' about?" Cyborg asked Beast Boy, warily eyeing that smirk.
"Um… depends." Beast Boy shifted uncomfortably, rubbing behind his head. "Remember that Japanese cartoon we rented by mistake that one time? The one with all those ninja girls and the big demon?"
"That reminds me Raven," Robin noted with a scowl. "You and I need to have a little talk."
"Talking for later, please," Starfire murmured, reaching her hand up for him again. "More of the kissing now."
Thanks to everyone who gave such wonderful compliments to the first story, and sorry it took so long to get this one off the ground. Sorry also to those who were hoping for a lemonfic sequel, but I felt making one would kind of be missing the point. Much thanks to the faithful readers, and hope you've had as much fun reading this as I did writing it!