A/N: Here is another of the one-shots originally planned, and mostly written, for It Only Takes a Moment, but which did not fit in the whole scheme of things as the Moment-Verse stands right at the moment.
I am working on Part XV: Wishes, II (actually, it's about 40 pages or so in the computer with a good bit of it (at least a whole section of it) written out in paper, which I need to transfer. As far as the advancement of it, the first draft is probably about 90 done. I think I need to actually write out one, maybe two more scenes before it's done, in first draft form. I will still need to go back and fill in gaps and holes and flesh some stuff out, but mostly, it'll be done.
Anyway, I think there are at least three more of these Coulda-Been Moments one-shots already written in first draft form. There are a few snippets of other Coulda-Been Moment one-shot ideas, which got a few paragraphs written, but no conclusions. I'll see if I don't make something of that soon, I promise!
Thanks: Okay, I'm going to admit something horrible. I'm sure I've had the usual suspects read this, aka, Kysra and Absentia, because its first draft form has been in existence since before I wrote Wishes, I even. But this version I had someone comment on for me. In other words, I had someone plot-beta this for me, and I didn't write down who it was.
Do you remember who you are?! Please let me know. I'll give you proper propage.
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters described herein, I don't own the book Raven's reading from, but I did make up the game "Goblin King" so there! Pfft.
"How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?"
- Othello, William Shakespeare
She blinked a few times and the words on the page in front of her stopped melding together as if by magic. It wasn't really magic, of course. If anything, it was proof of her humanity. And as much as she normally cherished the few instances when proof of her humanity did not put her or her friends in danger, she really hated it when her humanity showed itself in this particular manner. It wasn't so much that she was physically tired because her mediation usually took care of that, but sometimes, after a long while, her eyes got tired and refused to cooperate. There were ways to absorb the knowledge of the book without having to physically read it, of course, but that defeated the purpose.
Next to her, the blips and blobs of the game stopped and she looked to find Robin's eyes on her. "You're tired," he announced, a slight frown on his lips.
"No," she replied, "I'm fine."
"And yet you have to blink to keep yourself awake?" he asked knowingly.
"It's my eyes that are tired," she explained haughtily. "I'm fine."
He smiled and the slight pity in it irritated her. "You don't have to stay," he told her.
She scoffed. With that kind of attitude, she really should up and leave him to hold vigil by himself. When her eyes fell on his face once again, however, even the idea of doing such a thing fled. She would not leave him to pass out and die in his sleep. Not when she could prevent it.
"You have to be up for 24 hours, doctor's orders, and someone has to be up with you," she repeated monotonously.
The look on his face told her that he must have realized what the emotionless tone to her voice meant. It hadn't taken her long to realize that her friends had mostly caught on to her ways. They knew, for example, that when she woke up and went straight for the tea bags, they should not talk to her until she'd had her first sip and they knew, that when in an argument or discussion her tone went completely emotionless, it was because she was feeling some emotion she didn't wish to divulge.
"I feel fine," he insisted for the umpteenth time that night.
"How you feel at this moment is irrelevant," she insisted stoically.
"I don't know why doctors always make such a fuss," he mumbled. "I just got a little bump on the head."
"A bump that made you lose consciousness for nearly a minute," she pointed out.
"I still say I feel fine," he looked at her defiantly. "I'm not dizzy, I remember perfectly well what happened before and after the fall," he ticked off on his fingers. "The doctor went through all of those items on his little checklist and I have none of the symptoms of a concussion other than the headache I've got, which could very easily be from lack of sleep."
"If he weren't worried about the possibility of a concussion, he wouldn't have ordered you to stay awake for 24 hours just to make certain."
He scoffed. "He's just afraid we'll sue him."
She frowned. "You're a horrible patient."
He quirked his lips. "Like I said, you don't have to be here."
"Who else is going to take the job?" she countered. "Beast Boy would fall asleep before you would," she continued. "Cyborg has to recharge, and Star needs to rest herself, also doctor's orders, so I'm afraid you're stuck with me, Boy Wonder."
He shook his head and winced a little as the motion made the pain in his head twinge, but he remained serious and focused.
She wisely refrained from pointing out the wince as further proof that their precautions were necessary. 'Who ever said I don't know the meaning of tact?'
"I'm not trying to say that there is anyone other than you that I want here with me," he argued. "I just meant that you look like you should get some rest yourself."
She was rather shocked at his simple statement and even more shocked to realize that part of the ire of her response to him had been because she had taken his attempt to get her to leave him alone personally, as if he really were rejecting her presence. The realization made her just as irritable as the misconception had.
"Mean it how you like," she snapped in frustration. Seeing the slight surprise in him by her verbal dismissal, she forced herself into serenity once again and realized that she should say something so he didn't think her irritation had been directed at him…at least, not directly at him.
"I am not exerting myself physically," she said reasonably, motioning to where she sat comfortably on the sofa. "I am at rest."
He sighed. "I meant sleep."
She shrugged. "I don't need sleep," she said with the overly calm and patient voice one uses with a toddler. "I told you that it is only my eyes that are tired from focusing on the words."
He looked summarily unconvinced. "Rest your eyes, then."
She, on the other hand, was once again starting to get annoyed at his insistence. 'Could anyone other than Robin annoy me so much without being obnoxious like Beast Boy?' she wondered. "I cannot."
"Why is that?"
She narrowed her eyes at him, hating the fact that he looked unperturbed. "Because if I do, I will not know if you fall asleep."
It was obvious that he almost physically refrained from arguing again about whether or not he needed watching over and instead turned back to look at the paused game on the screen before them. Just as she started to turn back to her book, a hand holding out a Gamestation controller hovered above the pages invading her line of sight. She blinked for a moment, wondering if she was starting to see things, before realizing it wasn't her tired eyes playing tricks on her at all. Her eyes followed the line of the strong hand to the sinewy arm up to the broad shoulder and eventually to the hopeful look on Robin's face.
"We could play the game together, then?" he said cajolingly. "It'll keep you entertained without having to strain your eyes on the small print of your book," he reasoned.
She looked back at the control. "Eh…" she looked up at him, allowing him to see exactly how very much that notion did not appeal to her. "…no." She glanced momentarily at the paused game as he took back the controller and then looked up at him suspiciously. "Haven't you already beaten this game?"
He looked sheepish. "Yeah…but I'm bored."
"It is beyond me to understand how you boys can play the same games over and over again…" she said stoically. "Once it's no longer a challenge, what's the thrill?"
He grinned and the look was utter mischievousness, the likes of which he rarely allowed to grace his usually serious features. She knew that look could only bring trouble and she probably wouldn't like what he was about to say.
"There are many different kinds of thrills and challenges," he countered. She looked unconvinced. "You're a challenge in your own right."
She narrowed her eyes. "What exactly are you saying?" she asked.
He looked as if he were trying to decide what he was going to say. "Only that even conversations with you are…challenging."
She crossed her arms over her chest. "So you're saying I'm difficult?"
He opened his mouth and realized exactly how much of a corner he had backed himself into. "No…" he said slowly. "I'm not saying that at all…" he frowned as he thought. "Maybe challenging isn't the right word…"
"So," she prompted, "what would you say is the right word to describe conversations with me, then?"
"Intriguing," he decided, obviously pleased with his choice.
"You mean like a puzzle of some sort?" she asked, and her calm, unperturbed tone should have warned him. It didn't.
"Exactly," he agreed.
"So, what you are saying then is that my mental acuity and verbal skills are the equivalent of a piece of cardboard sold to entertain children?"
He didn't even bother looking surprised when he realized that she had oh-so-adeptly taken him into another verbal landmine and waited until he stepped into it. He merely lowered his head, inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly. A response occurring to him, he lifted his gaze to find that she had already gone back to her book. "More like a complicated 3 dimensional puzzle like one of those beautiful and intricate shapes that you have to figure out what makes them tick and how to get them to move."
She quirked her lips, but it did not become a smile. "Nice save," she conceded, her tone still dry.
He smiled. "And teaching you another game would be fun, too."
She went back to looking skeptical. "I don't think so."
"It's not that different from Goblin King," he tried cajolingly.(1)
She just barely resisted sighing. Ever since Robin had found a game on the Gamestation she actually didn't hate playing, the game had become like a holy relic. (It was even known in some circles, namely Beast Boy, as 'The Game That Got Through Raven's Ban On Video Games.') In all honesty, she had thought Beast Boy would tease her more about it than he actually did, even though his efforts to get her to play another game had doubled.
She looked at the screen where two fighters faced off against each other across a virtual landscape. "I think it is considerably different." She turned back to look at him. "As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to call this a beat-each-other-into-a-bloody-pulp kind of game."
"Okay," he admitted unapologetically. "So maybe it's just slightly different."
She pursed her lips together and shook her head, turning her attention back to the open book on her lap. When she did not hear the game begin anew and he was still next to her, her attention was immediately drawn back to him to make certain he had not fallen asleep.
Although he was awake, the air of concentration about him did not bode well for her peace of mind, she realized. She could almost hear the gears in his brain shifting as he thought of what other activity he could attempt to provoke her that did not involve reading. "How about we play Goblin King, then?"
She crossed her arms over her chest. "We've already beaten it," she stated simply.
He sighed in defeat. "Well, we could play a game of checkers or chess or something, but those games would involve much more brain power than I think either of us have disposable at the moment."
She looked at him. "Speak for yourself, my mind is fine."
Now he looked unconvinced. "Sure, okay," he intoned skeptically. "In any case, any of those games wouldn't really rest your eyes."
She shook her head. "You don't have to worry about my eyes, Robin," she told him bluntly.
He looked at her, surprised. "But I do…" he said simply. She was about to argue when he grinned again. "Plus, why are you allowed to worry about me but I'm not allowed to worry about you?" When she closed her mouth, unable to argue, he looked smug in his knowledge that at least that round had been his. "If anyone should be the one that is allowed to worry, it should be me…I'm the leader."
"We're a team, we're all supposed to worry about each other," she said automatically.
"Right, so then what's wrong with me worrying about you?" he countered happily.
She thought about it, but gave up with a shrug. Sighing, she looked down at her book again where it was still lying innocuously on her lap. It had been getting interesting, she mused, but as she looked at the fuzzy squiggles and lines her eyes were currently refusing to bring into focus she frowned.
Unless she had something to entertain herself, she would be hard pressed to keep herself from falling asleep, let alone the Boy Wonder. The book she was reading would do it, if only she could get around to actually reading it.
The idea came to her like an epiphany from on high.
She closed the book and looked at the picture on the cover for a few moments before exhaling and lifting it up to show to him. "Ever read this?"
He scrutinized the title on the leather bound volume for a few moments before raising an eyebrow at her. "Isn't that a kids' story?"
She raised her own brow in slight imitation of him. "So what?" she challenged.
He grinned. "I just didn't expect you to be the type that would read a children's story."
"I would have you know that most of what is commonly considered to be children's stories were originally morality tales for adults when they were first penned," she informed him, her tone the kind he could well imagine she would use to teach a class. "In any case," she continued when his only response was to raise the other eyebrow to join the first. "My interests in literary works are quite varied, I assure you," she finished sanctimoniously.
He just kept smiling, unruffled. "I guess I should know better than to assume anything about you."
She wasn't certain how she should take that. "Have you only just realized this?" she asked, perking an eyebrow.
He chuckled. "Maybe," he said playfully. "Maybe not."
She extended the book. "If you're so adamant that I rest my eyes, you could read it aloud."
Before he could help it, his jaw dropped. Not that he could really be blamed for his surprising lack of protocol. After all, it was not every day that Raven asked anyone to do anything at all, let alone asked someone to do something usually done for children too young to read to themselves.
For her part, Raven pursed her lips and waited as Robin collected himself. He had had a rough day.
Robin shook his head, wincing again at the pain it brought, but hardly paying it any heed. "Did I hear that right?" Robin asked, turning to her in an attempt to better give her his attention. "You want me to read to you?"
"Is that a problem?" she asked, although she obviously understand why he was so astounded by the possibility.
Robin thought for a moment. "No – no, only it's…"
"The only way I'll consent to closing my eyes and resting them, which you seem so resolute about, is if I can make certain that you remain awake. And," she continued. "the only way to do that is for you to read aloud so that I can hear you." She shrugged. "Technically, it could be said that I wish for you to read to me, but it is more that you are reading aloud to the atmosphere and I am listening." He looked like he didn't know what to say to her logic and was, at least temporarily, weighing several options. She shrugged again. "Or we could continue as we have been, it's up to you."
He reached out for the book and she extended it into his hand. He took it and she leaned back against the sofa, resting her head on the back of it and closing her eyes. After a few moments of silence, Raven opened one eye to look at him. "You can start anytime."
"That's not really resting, is it?" he asked.
"My eyes were closed," she argued.
"But you weren't lying down," he pointed out.
"I said I'd rest my eyes, not lay down," she argued.
"Well," he seemed momentarily unsure of how to counter-rationalize her point. "I think you should lie down."
"There is apparently much difference between what you think I should do and what I think I should do," she pointed out.
He frowned, "I won't read until you do."
She narrowed her eyes to peer at him. "Why?" she asked. "It doesn't matter whether I'm sitting or I'm lying down, my eyes are still closed and that was the whole point of this exercise."
He blinked at her blunt question. She was obviously losing her patience. "Stories are always read with the listener lying down," he offered.
She was un-amused. "I'm not going to fall asleep if that's what you're hoping."
Robin was clearly surprised by her logical reasoning as if he hadn't even considered the possibility. "Do you think I look forward to women falling asleep on me?"
His tone had seemed innocent enough, but it was too easy an opening to leave alone. "I don't know," she crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow in challenge, "Does it happen often?"
Robin's eyes opened wide in realization. It hadn't occurred to him the way she might have taken his comment, but more surprising was that she would call him on the double meaning. He couldn't help it: he smiled, then chuckled, the irritation gone. "I can honestly say that it never has."
They were silent for a few moments, unsure of how to continue and he knew that she wouldn't really get comfortable until he explained what the real reason he wanted her to be comfortable was. He sighed. "You're staying up because of me," he broke the silence, his tone sincere. "Because I zigged when I should have zagged and got knocked in the head for my stupidity," he shrugged and put the controller down on the coffee table away from him, refusing to meet her eyes during this confession. "If someone else has to pay for my stupidity with me, I..." he shrugged again, but forced himself to meet her eyes, "I just want you to be comfortable."
She straightened and turned to regard him, her scrutiny drawn to the white bandage around his head, contrasting blatantly to the dark of his hair and the tan of his forehead. She tried to keep the memory of the day's battle, the image of his body being thrown against the concrete pillar and the resounding sickening crack as his head made contact out of her mind.
She also tried not to think about why she, the one who could heal herself, was the least injured. But one thought wouldn't leave her alone: He had thrown her out of the way when Rancid's pet robot came after her and she hadn't noticed. His protection of her hadn't been what ultimately caused his own meeting with concrete, but it had been why she was the only one who was healthy enough to stay up with him. Not that she wouldn't have felt it was her responsibility to stay up with him, even if she had broken or bruised something.
Shaking the thoughts away from her, she focused instead on the color of the bandage. It was pure white, without any tell-tale red spots, almost glowing in the dim lights from the reading lamp she had placed close to the sofa. Satisfied that he hadn't re-opened the wound, she felt that maybe it couldn't hurt to lie down on the couch after all. Not that she needed to be any more comfortable, but if it would make him a little more comfortable, she supposed she could live with it. She felt she owed him that much at least.
So, she reached behind her for the throw pillow and laid it next to his leg. In one smooth motion, she had shifted her axis so that her head came down to rest on it, and her legs were extended out across the couch. Without another word, her face relaxed, her hands came to fold at rest on her solar plexus and her eyes closed.
He watched the whole thing in awe at how smoothly she managed the usually awkward task of laying down and then he smiled. She wasn't particularly short, but it amused him to realize that even with him taking up space on one end of the sofa and with her stretched out entirely, her bare feet barely touched the arm rest on the other side.
"What?" her monotonous voice demanded.
He looked at her face and found her eyes closed and her face relaxed. "What, what?" he asked.
"You're smirking," she announced, her eyes still closed with only the barest movement of her lips.
He narrowed his eyes. "And you're cheating," he looked down at her, trying to see the slit between lid and lid that had allowed her to notice him smiling. "You're supposed to have your eyes fully closed."
This time, her lips quirked into a small smile, "They are fully closed."
"Then how can you tell if I'm smirking or not?"
"I'm an empath, remember?" she asked her tone amused. "I can feel it."
"Oh," he replied, sufficiently chided.
"So, why were you smirking?" she pressed.
He chuckled at her tenacity. "You don't usually seem short, but I just realized that you're small enough to fit in two-thirds of our sofa."
She frowned. "It's only because you're so puny," she countered dryly. "If it was Cyborg sitting there, half my legs would be dangling off the side."
Robin narrowed his eyes. "Should I take that as an insult?" he asked.
She flashed a grin and then it was gone. "Should I?"
He pressed his lips together and sighed. "Can you sense what I'm feeling now?" he challenged sarcastically.
She quirked an eye open and she was so adept at 'the glare' that the one eye was sufficient to let him know what she thought of his sarcasm. "Those kinds of thoughts don't become you, Robin," she said calmly.
He cocked his head to the side a little. "You might be surprised about some of my thoughts, Raven."
Her eyes (both of them having opened) regarded him for a moment, and she hated that she couldn't see his in order to gouge his meaning. She allowed herself a moment to feel the strangeness of the position, looking up at him upside down as he looked down at her. She found herself unable to resist the compulsion to cock her head to the side a little and try it at a different angle.
He was still looking down at her, obviously waiting for her to say something, but the truth was, she didn't know what to say. She didn't think there was anything she really had to say. But he seemed to be expecting her to say something so she sighed a little, a short exhale of breath that didn't really insinuate any sort of emotion on her part other than the need to breathe (perhaps the feeling that she had maybe forgotten to breathe until then, but certainly nothing more).
"Maybe," she replied, echoing his own statement from earlier, but without the playfulness to her tone. "Maybe not." She was wondering where this line of conversation might lead, and tentatively treading onward. "We might never find out."
His expression around the mask didn't change and again she cursed its presence. "Would it scare you to know that I've thought about trying to?"
His soft words caught her more off balance than if Beast Boy had sudden sprouted Einstein's Theory of Relativity, and known what it all meant. She shifted her head again and caught the strong line of his chin, the sweep of his jaw, the shadows and light playing and highlighting the shape of his cheek in ways she had never really considered before.
She felt disconcerted enough to want to sit up, but knew that doing so would alert him to her discomfort and she didn't want to give that away. She also didn't want to admit to being discomforted at all. (Not to mention that moving would undoubtedly break the intimacy, but she wasn't considering that at all…not really.) But more than anything else, she wished she could see his eyes. She just knew that if she could see his eyes, so much confusion about what he really meant when he said such confusing things would be non-existant. He wouldn't be able to keep his reactions from her if she could see his eyes.
"Are we still speaking hypothetically?" she asked, her voice only slightly softer than normal.
He sighed and wasn't looking at her. "Hypothetically," his facial expression was withdrawn, as if he had somehow forgotten he was talking to her for real and not just talking to himself. "I know it would scare most people to know some of the things I think about, some of the things inside my head."
She blinked and reminded herself not to give in to the desire to probe him empathically. It was one thing to pick up what he projected but quite another to dig around for what he was keeping to himself. "I'm not most people," she offered softly. "And I don't scare easily."
He looked down at her and she still couldn't tell what his expression was about. "I know," he answered. "But wasn't it you who once told me that there are places inside you where even you don't want to go?" She nodded, her head still against the pillow. "It's the same concept, I think…"
Something about the moment made it seem to Raven as if they were the only two people in the whole of the world. She was reminded vaguely of the sensation of total alone-ness when she used her powers to phase somewhere. Only, it wasn't loneliness…it was more like shared seclusion.
"I won't compare myself to you," she said sincerely and simply. "We all have our own darkness to carry around," she shrugged a little, still lying down and it wasn't as awkward as it might have seemed. "And it won't affect anyone the way it affects those that carry it." She shifted a little and looked past him and to the ceiling above them. "When I said what I said…it wasn't that I thought you couldn't handle it but that I didn't want to face it," she sighed.
"Sometimes I think I don't want to face my past either," he admitted. "Sometimes I wish I could just pretend like it never happened…like I never had parents and never saw them die…" he swallowed and she was back to watching his Adams apple shift under his skin. "And sometimes I wish that I could just talk about them all day, talk about everything that's happened and not have to…"
"You can," she interrupted when it seemed he was at a loss.
"I shouldn't," he countered, his tone changing, hardening a little. "They're all my own problems and if I can't…" he looked down at her and must have seen something in her face because his expression softened almost immediately into one of near release. "But…you already know so much about my past, don't you?" He looked relaxed and at ease, much more than she would have thought he might considering the subjectmatter.
She knew instantly to what he was referring, of course, and although a part of her had always expected him to ask her or confront her about the mind meld she had performed, he never had. Part of her had lived with that expectancy, however, like Damocles waiting for the sword to drop. "I didn't mean to invade your personal thoughts like that," she said. "I hope you know that."
He was utterly still as he stared at the television screen. "That's not what I meant."
"Then what did you mean?" she asked. "I know it must bother you that I saw so many snippets of your past…"
"That's not it," he insisted, looking down at her. "I…" he seemed unsure of how to express himself, unsure of what words to use.
She felt some of his emotion reaching out, almost probing her in his attempt to find the right things to say and she held her own instinctual response of allowing him access and probing him in return in an attempt to understand him. How much he wanted to tell her and how he wanted to tell her it were things he had to figure out without her interference.
She knew this instinctively, too. And she didn't need her empathy to figure it out, either...just knowing Robin and his need for privacy was enough.
"I don't mind that you saw what you did," he finally decided.
She blinked in surprise. There was no doubt that he was bothered as he spoke about her knowing about his past. She had always assumed it was because she had invaded his privacy and hence had acted like it never happened. But Robin never said anything he didn't mean and if he said that he didn't mind her look into his mind, then she was certain he didn't. And although the thought should have comforted her, it only left her surprised and confused.
"Something does bother you about it, though," she insisted.
He exhaled. "What bothers me is that I wanted you to see it," he admitted.
She shifted and finally sat up, looking straight at him. He had been leaning a little toward her so that he could look at her when she was laying down, but now that she was sitting up, she had expected him to move away, to give her room. The fact that he didn't added to her confusion and surprise. What was more, the intimacy created by the moment was never broken, even though she was sitting up now and on an equal level with him. If anything, it was heightened.
She should move away from him, but she couldn't. They were leaning so close that if he exhaled hard, she would be able to feel it on her face.
She frowned, focusing on the conversation at hand and realized that she could ask the safe question, the one that would draw him out slowly, giving him a chance to tell her or not tell her what he meant. 'Why should it bother you?' The phrase formed in her mind and she almost allowed herself to utter it, to be subtle and unobtrusive, discreet and altogether cautious.
But she was beyond that. She knew why it bothered him and it had nothing to do with her empathy or her foray into his unconscious. She simply understood it. She knew what it was like to fear and hate the part of you that didn't want to be always alone, that wanted to rest your burdens on someone else's shoulder, even if for a little while. She knew how it made one feel weak and useless. And she knew she couldn't lie about it or take the safe approach. What she didn't know was what to say about it.
In the end, she decided on the blunt approach. She would not play stupid or make him explain things she already understood. "You can't think it makes you weak," she told him firmly. "Because then that implies that I'm weak too, and I refuse to be weak."
She was attentive to the slight shift of muscles and nerves around the mask that announced that his eyes had opened wide. 'So,' she decided, 'maybe she didn't need to see his eyes.'
"Why would it make you weak?" he asked, after a few moments.
"Because you wanting me to share some of your burden sometimes is the same kind of desire that prompted me to wake you up from the time freeze on my birthday," she admitted, her voice calm and collected even if her eyes told another story. "I needed you to go through that with me, I didn't want to be alone then, and you were there for me," she admitted, fighting against the urge to look away. "Don't say that that's a weakness. If there's one thing I've learned in my years with the Titans its that there is no shame in needing your friends, no weakness in knowing when to draw your strength from someone who cares about you."
He was dumbstruck. "It's different…" he finally managed, his voice soft.
"I fail to see how," she challenged.
He looked away again, back at the screen and his hands fiddled absently with the buttons on the remote. "You didn't tell me or anyone what was going on with you until you absolutely had to," he explained. A hand rose absently to the bandages around his head, but didn't touch the sore spot so much as seemed to need reassurance that it was still there.
She felt his words like a physical push. She still refused to open herself empathically to probe what he was feeling. He was purposefully keeping it to himself, he wasn't projecting it and she would not use her empathy to try and find out what he was really feeling. She hated using her empathy that way, it always felt like the supreme invasion of privacy.
She had never been so tempted, however. She had never wanted to know what the emotions behind someone's words were as much as she did at that moment.
She didn't give in. She resisted. Just as she resisted the immediate desire to admit that it had been out of a certain sense of cowardice that she had kept the prophecy of her birth from them and not because of any sort of self-sacrifice. Not really.
"I don't know if you mean that the way it sounds to me, but if you're thinking that I'm somehow stronger than you because I didn't tell any of you about it, you shouldn't," she said instead. "If it were really commendable how selflessly I tried to keep you out of it, I would not have broken you out of the time freeze spell, would I?" Her tone came out slightly more caustic than she had intended, and she hoped he realized it wasn't directed at him. "At the time, I reacted without thinking, just as you let me into your memories without thinking." She finally looked away and found herself staring blankly at the same screen he had been staring at. "If you don't want to talk about it, we don't have to," she continued. "I'm horrible at approaching people…it's no secret that I like my privacy so I tend to think everyone else wants theirs as well, but if you ever need to, I'm here…" she looked back at him. "You can always talk to me whenever you want," she offered sincerely.
"Do you mean that?" he asked, the expression on his face unreadable. "Even if you wouldn't like what I have to say?"
She felt the twinge of something inside him, almost as if he were amateurishly attempting to probe her, to grasp whether or not she was being sincere or spewing empty words that she didn't truly mean. 'Does he have something already in mind?' she wondered.
"You're my friend, Robin," she answered simply. "Just because I might not like what you have to say doesn't mean I'd be any less willing to hear you out if you need me and help you if I can." She did her best to calculate where his eyes would be and focused her own gaze right on them. "No matter what you have to say."
He was silent for a few moments, "That's a pretty hefty thing you're promising," he half-warned. "I may come to you one day but you won't want to hear what I have to say…"
"I'll hear you anyway," she assured. "And it won't change who you are to me," she explained, then faltered even as she tried to explain further. "You have my word."
They faced each other for a few more moments before his lips turned into a soft smile. "I might just take you up on that," he admitted. "Someday."
Her lips moved into what on someone else might have become a smile. No other words were needed.
Instead, she nodded briskly and shifted to allow herself to fall back onto the cushion next to him.
Anticipating her movements, however, Robin picked up the cushion and when her head hit the couch, it was pillowless. She glared up at him to find him grinning. "You think that amusing?" she asked monotonously.
He made a show of patting the pillow on his lap. "You'll be more comfortable like this," he explained. "Better for your neck."
Raven shook her head. "Just give me the pillow Robin," she said, sitting up again.
Robin laughed and placed the pillow back on the couch. She lowered herself back onto the pillow, but not before Robin shifted the few inches until his lap was right under where her head would lie with the pillow on it awaiting her. Much to Raven's surprise, when her head hit the pillow, it was to find that she had landed right on his lap. She tensed to move, but his hands were in her hair, gently lifting her head a little and brushing her hair out from under her head so that she wasn't pulling on it and she froze.
"Do I start at the bookmark?" he asked, raising his feet to rest on the coffee table and opening the book. He shifted a little until he was comfortable, the weight of her head on his lap and his fingers slightly touching her hair where he had spread it across his legs. If he picked up on her tension, he didn't show it.
She thought about moving. She knew she really should. But hadn't she just told him that it was all right to want that closeness sometimes? Hadn't she just made a big speech about it? Maybe not in those exact words, but that's what she had meant, anyway. Could she really push him away when he'd made an attempt to extend that closeness?
And there was nothing particularly wrong with this position. It was an innocent position that mothers and their children usually assumed. Not that she'd know from personal experience, but didn't children in the movies lay like this on their mothers' laps?
"How about you start in chapter one?" she spoke aloud, her voice calm. "I'm not that far into it yet and I wouldn't mind hearing the beginning again."
She watched as his arms moved above her, opening the book and turning the pages carefully to the beginning. She had yet to close her eyes again, but she couldn't seem to make herself move at all, even the slight shift that would be necessary to look up at his face or at his actual hands. Consequently, all she saw in her line of sight was the shifting and movement of his arms.
Slowly, she started to realize a warmth was spreading comfortably around her, like a soft and worn in blanket and it wasn't until she heard him clear his throat that she realized that what she was feeling was his aura settling and becoming accustomed to having her so close. It came as quite a surprise to realize that his aura was not only welcoming her, but also encompassing her in its folds, reaching out and including her in some mystical attempt to…what? Hold her? Protect her? Include her. It was decidedly strange. She had never quite felt this kind of welcome from anyone's aura, even in those rare moments when she had been this close with another person.
"Chapter one," his voice interrupted her reverie. "Down the Rabbit Hole,"(2) he cleared his throat again. "Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do:" his deep voice was steady and strong, with just the right amount of inflection to make the words real and more than just a variation of sound. "Once or twice," he continued. "she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, 'and what is the use of a book,' thought Alice, 'without pictures or conversation?'"
Raven found herself smiling a little to herself and relaxing, ignoring her instinct to sit up and take back some of her personal space. She would never have guessed he had such a nice reading voice.
"So she was considering in her own mind," his voice took on a bit of amusement, enough to assure her that he already liked the beginning of the book and that it would not be a chore for him to read through it. "(as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid)," She realized that she was also starting to feel rather languid and comfortable, only she suspected that it had nothing to do with anything other than the company she was keeping that made her feel that way. His voice continued quietly and intimately above her, "whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies…"
And although she knew that perhaps feeling this comfortable and allowing her own aura to get used to him couldn't really be such a good idea, she found herself wondering, much like Alice had, whether it was so bad of an idea worthy of getting up for. So when her eyes fluttered closed, finally getting the much needed reprieve they had been aching for, she couldn't seem to decide that it was.
"When suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her."
She smiled to herself a little as the images his words created flashed behind her closed lids.
(1.) This is a reference to It Only Takes A Moment, Part II: The Game. Obviously, as I mentioned before, this one-shot was supposed to be an addition to the It Only Takes A Moment – verse, but it didn't fit, so, it is now one of my coulda-been-but-wasn't. That's why the reference to "The Game" is there.
(2.) The book Raven and eventually Robin are reading is (in case you couldn't figure it out before hand) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. You can find an online e-text version on Project Gutenberg's website here: http: / www . gutenberg . org / catalog / world / readfile ? fk files 34623 & pageno 5 (remove spaces)
This is the version that I used to quote.