Smile That is a Mask
Disclaimer: Don't make me get my fly swatter, the Titans aren't mine.
Thanks goes to...ma soeur!!
Psst: This is after The End part 3 but before Go! Just a little FYI.
The metal was cool and slick to the touch. The point was sharp; tantalizing and dangerous. Starfire grasped the small dagger in her hand; a small smile flickered across her face as she drew the knife across her exposed wrist. The cut was pencil thin, a sigh of relief emitted from her lips as the blood trickled out and danced down her tan arm. Cutting herself was Starfire's way of purging herself, ridding all that was tainted and evil within. It made her feel cleansed and whole. It gave her a sense of comfort, a placebo of the truth. It made her think that she was still the pure and innocent Tamaranean princess everyone believed her to be.
Another cut joined the first fresh one, yet it was merely one of many that decorated her arms. As if Starfire truly cared. She had gauntlets to cover the scars and a smile that covered her pain. Her smile; it too was a mask. Robin wasn't the only one on the team to have one. Starfire's smile kept her going; it fueled her power. Without the smile that was typically fixed upon her face, the mask would fall away and her secrets would be exposed for the others to see.
The dagger was poised, ready to sink into delicate flesh once more when the door to Starfire's secret sanctuary opened. Robin walked in, not completely focused on the scene in front of him. "There you are Star!" Robin began. "I've been looking all over f—" He broke off mid-sentence with a strangled gasp as he now focused on what his best friend was doing. "Starfire! What do you think you're doing?!"
At the sound of his yell, Starfire looked up. The dull, haunted almost dead look in Starfire's normally sparkling emerald eyes terrified Robin.
In a hoarse voice she responded, "Making the pain go away."
"Star…" Robin said in a concerned voice. "What pain?"
"So much pain…pain that has been felt for years."
Sitting next to her, Robin asked, "What happened to cause you so much pain? And when did all of this start?"
Starfire remained silent for a moment, unsure if she was willing to divulge all of her secrets to Robin, despite their bond as best friends. Finally she relented. "I started this about five years ago."
"And the cause?"
"When I was the age of ten years old, my planet was reaching a critical point in war against the Gordanians," Starfire began, bile building up in her throat as memories of her horrid past resurfaced. "In order for Tamaran to keep from suffering further damage, a peace treaty; a
contract rather, was made. A prize had to be given to the Gordanians, a Tamaranean sacrifice. That sacrifice was me."
Robin's masked eyebrows shot up to his hairline. "You were a prize?" Robin asked incredulously. "A sacrifice?"
Starfire ignored the venom in the Boy Wonder's voice. "A slave actually. I begged and pleaded with my parents not to let me be taken away. I thought I was being punished, for what wrong I did not know. My parents' expressions were stony as they watched the Gordanians take me away. Yet as I looked into my mother's eyes, I saw great sadness, heartbreak perhaps. I believe I also saw an apology." Starfire paused for a moment. "My parents were murdered soon after my departure. I suppose I cut myself to feel the pain my mother felt. To bring me closer to her and to assuage my own pain."
It took Robin a moment to find his voice. "I-I'm so sorry," he managed to splutter.
Starfire tilted her head and asked quietly, "Why do you apologize? The death of my parents and my becoming a slave was not your fault."
Robin grinned sheepishly, "It's a sort of peculiar tradition. One usually says, 'I'm sorry' when another has experienced loss. It's a sign of sympathy."
"A most peculiar tradition indeed."
"Yeah," Robin agreed. "So you've been grieving for your mother like this for the past five years?"
Starfire hesitated in giving an answer, but knew that Robin deserved the truth. "There have been other occasions when I would cut myself." She couldn't bear to look him in the eye.
"How many more times?"
"I do not know."
"Do you at least remember when?" Robin queried.
She nodded. "When I first joined this team, I knew something was out of place. It was me, I felt like I did not belong! I felt as if I was, oh what is the term? Out of the loop? Yes, I believe that was it. I had not cut myself for nearly two of your earthen months; yet it was the only way I knew how to rid myself of pain. I know it sounds silly, inflicting physical pain on oneself to be rid of the emotional agony, but it has made sense to me."
"It makes sense to a lot of cutters," Robin remarked quietly. "Star, why didn't you come to me? Why didn't you come to any of us? We would've helped. We would've made a bigger effort to make sure you felt like you belonged."
Starfire smiled sadly. "Oh Robin, you did try. I remember that conversation we had on the top of the roof after my sister had been taken away by the Centauri police. Your words did remove
the pain for a little while; however to me they were just words with no meaning. They hung in the air like decorations, but that was all they did."
Silence hung between the two as Robin contemplated his next question. Many emotions were being felt. Sadness that he couldn't help his best friend. Pain that she refused his help whenever he could give it to her. Shame that he wasn't able to perceive her anguish and guide her. He was focused on too many things. Starfire knew this and readily gave him the support and comfort he needed, no questions asked and she never wanted anything in return. Or so he thought. Robin struggled to get his words into a cohesive sentence. "S-so…I-I-I'm guessing that th-there are more occurrences in time where you cut yourself?"
"Yes," Starfire pointed to a tiny scratch on her right forearm. "This is when I found out I was getting married against my will."
Robin frowned. "I thought you said that was tradition."
Starfire smiled weakly. "It is an ancient tradition, but that does not mean I like it." She then pointed to another cut on her left arm. "I believe I became a little carried away here." Robin gaped at the size of it. It was a thick scar that ran down the length of her arm from wrist to nearly touching her elbow.
"Starfire!" Robin cried. "What…how could you…I mean…don't you realize how much damage you could have done to yourself?! You could have sliced through arteries and veins!"
"Tamaranean skin is slightly thicker than a human's." Starfire explained. "Also, this was merely a surface wound."
"Like it matters," the Boy Wonder muttered darkly. "When did this happen?"
"After we had met and said good-bye to Val-Yor."
Robin sucked in a sharp breath. "When he called you that name?"
Starfire nodded, fighting off the blush that rose to her cheeks, the tingling feeling of flattery that settled in her stomachs. Somberly she continued, "Troq. A nothing. When Val-Yor called me that it reminded me of the stony expression my father wore when he sent me away with the Gordanians. To think I held no higher value than planet dust to my own father."
"He must have no heart then," Robin mused.
"My father did have a heart," Starfire said. "I have always questioned if I belonged in it."
Robin held off on what he was going to say to the princess, that she belonged in his heart, for he sensed that she had more to let out. Instead he spoke in a pleading voice saying, "Please tell me you didn't pierce yourself with that makeshift arrow you used when we were stranded on that planet."
Starfire shook her head, a soft smile touching her lips for the first time that day. "I was too concerned with finding you and our friends all in good health despite how sad I was."
Robin frowned, "So you've been cutting yourself today because…?"
Starfire let out a sigh. "Remember how today you went with Slade in search of Friend Raven?" Robin nodded. "Well, as Cyborg, Beastboy and I confronted Trigon, he unleashed evil incarnations of ourselves."
"Which you had to swap amongst yourselves in order to defeat," Robin noted.
"Yes, this is true," Starfire acknowledged. "But I am fine with switching incarnations. That is not what made me so upset. It is what my evil incarnation said that hurt me."
"What did she say?"
Hugging her knees to her chest, swallowing the tears that threatened to spill over Starfire said, "The evil me said that I do not belong in this world. I never had and I never will. Those words shook me to the core. I believe I would have preferred being experimented on again."
Robin's voice was deadly as he uttered one syllable. "What?"
Starfire's eyes widened. Oops. Apparently she hadn't mentioned that during her time as a slave she was experimented on. "A tale for a different time if you please," she said, signaling that the subject was to be dropped.
"I hope you'll tell me," Robin muttered, slightly sulkily. Starfire gave a small smile.
"Starfire, I know these words may have no effect on you," Robin began. "But I'm begging you, please listen. You belong on this team. You complete us, all of us. Without you, we'd fall apart." He hesitated. "I'd fall apart."
Unable to hide her blush Starfire murmured, "Thank-you." A comfortable silence fell over the two for a moment before Robin asked:
"When we were at Kitten's prom," At the sound of the bratty teenaged villainess' name Robin heard a growl from his scarlet-haired companion. "How was it that I didn't notice your scars?"
The growl was replaced with a light giggle. "I was wearing long gloves."
The Boy Wonder frowned thoughtfully, gloves…He reached for the glove on his left arm and carefully peeled it off; revealing scars so old, and no one had seen them for years.
Starfire gasped. "Robin! You used to cut yourself?"
He nodded. "I started with reasons similar to yours. I was grieving over my parents' death. Then it was due to pressure. The pressure of being the perfect adopted son. For that goal I needed top grades, fluency in several languages, be adept in the world of business." He paused for breath and looked at Starfire who was listening attentively. "It was stifling, I felt like I couldn't breathe, like I had no room to be me. To me cutting myself was my only outlet, my means of escape. There were times when the desire to take it far and end it all was overwhelming. I could practically taste the temptation. But then I realized all of the damage I was causing. While I was hurting myself physically, I was hurting others emotionally. I wasn't fixing my problems, I was causing more."
Starfire eyed the dagger still grasped in her slim hand. Robin was right; she was dancing a deadly tango with both Death and Temptation. The craving to end it all was strong. She could taste it. But she would be causing more pain, just as her leader said. She cast the dagger away. That was not how she wanted to be healed.
Starfire flung herself into Robin's arms. Burying her face in the crook of his neck she whispered, "Please be the one to heal me. To help me remove my metaphoric mask."
Robin held her tightly as if fearing that his grip was too loose, she'd run for the knife again. Laying his head on top of hers and rubbing her back he murmured, "You don't even have to ask."
Um, okay. I just wanted to say that I can relate to this story a lot. I've had thoughts just like Starfire and Robin's but under different circumstances. Unlike them however, I've done nothing to myself. But just because I haven't taken any action doesn't mean that the temptation to end it all wasn't there. It was. And it stayed with me for a while until I realized there were things I still wanted to do in life and that I was going to end my suffering at the expense of somebody else's. Very stupid thoughts indeed. Don't worry, I'm okay now. I promise.
Oh and I know things with Troq and The End are already in stories aplenty, but I couldn't resist! And the metaphoric mask is her fake smile/happiness. Sorry if that made zero sense.