All There in Black and White... and Pink
Jinx had to do an unplanned back-stinging somersault to avoid Robin's last birdarang in the barrage, sweat from her forehead lashing onto the floor at the sudden movement. This was a pretty intense workout, and Robin wasn't even going easy on her like Kid Flash always did. In a way, that was satisfying. But the longer she had to face and fight those blank white eyes, the more unnerved she got.
This hadn't been such a good idea after all. The harsh, uncompromising lights, the austere room, her 'friendly' opponent's almost predatory resolve to push her to her absolute limits... it all reminded her too much of the more unpleasant Hive training sessions. And Robin's masked eyes, for some reason, made her think of Blood, another jerk who couldn't be beaten in a staring contest. At least Blood had a sense of humor when he wasn't being all evil overlordy. Sure, she'd heard that Robin was a normal guy who laughed and joked sometimes, but she'd believe it when she saw it!
A whistling blow from his staff was just a bit too quick for her to dodge, so she had to block it inexpertly with one hand. The smack of metal into her skin left her palm burning, but she smirked and clenched her fingers around the weapon, letting out enough hex energy to reduce the staff to twisted shards.
"You getting weapons when I don't have any doesn't seem fair to me," she remarked slidely, enjoying the view of him clenching his teeth in aggravation before he let loose a series of punches that she danced away from, her merriment only slightly spoiled by her tired panting. This had gone on for way too long, she should have disarmed him right from the start. She was getting way too sweaty for her tastes, and at this point more of her was aching than wasn't.
Just when she was confident enough in her defensive stance that he wouldn't immediately smack her down, Robin did a sudden swooping charge and landed a kick right in her stomach that smooshed her against the wall, all air leaving her lungs in a pained exhale.
"Ow! That hurt! You can relax a little, we're not playing for keeps y'know!" She glared in resentment, charging up bad luck in both hands. He was still in fight mode, inching along in a careful, predatory way that made her think he was gonna try to pin her against the wall permanently to put an end to it. What a loser, he didn't even know the meaning of the word chivalry. Of course, if he had, she would have just abused his good manners by beating him up and winning the sparring match, but that was besides the point!
"This isn't a game." He was panting too, tired like her, but not nearly as much, annoyingly. His breathing was heavier than normal but still steady. Controlled. Like the rest of him. It was sickening to Jinx, a creature of chaos and impulse and instinct. His discipline, his training, his seeming lack of an identity besides that of 'I am Robin, hear me roar' were all beating her down, slowly but undeniably. It wasn't that she'd gotten much worse since their first encounter, back when she and Giz and Mammoth had kicked the spit out of Robin and Robin's whole tema. No, it was just that Robin had gotten better. Like he didn't have anything better to do with his life than train just like this, all the time, becoming a better crimefighting machine day by day. "You keep talking about how something's not fair or fun or nice, but at the end of the day what matters is whether you win or lose the fight, because real fights aren't any of those things." He punctuated that with another kick that she did managed to dodge this time, and his foot thudded loud against the wall. She had an sneaking suspicion that he'd let her dodge that one, as a freebie, to show off how hard he really could kick. There was a dent in the freaking wall! As if he was telling her, 'You see how much more badly I could be beating you?' It pissed her off.
"All life's a game, ya just gotta have the right outlook," she shot back, twirling away and flinging hex after hex just to wear him out and get some distance. He jumped and ran all over the place, but she couldn't keep him from closing in. All she could do was slow him down. With that knowledge in mind, she planned her next attack. "You just have to know when it's important to win fair... and when to cheat!" She pretended to keep up the defensive posture, making as if to fling more weak blasts while dancing further backwards, but at the last moment she shifted her weight forward. Landing on her hex-charged palms gave her enough momentum to spring through the air... and land painfully skull-to-skull on Robin, a crushing collision that gave her a headache she was certain would linger for at least an hour. Well, it was bad luck energy, after all, and she'd been ready for it to rub off on her. Grinning wickedly, she cemented her position as victor by using what weight she had to keep Robin awkwardly in place so she could deliver a super-charged bolt straight to his chest.
After a gasping cry, Robin tapped out emphatically on the floor. The twin slapping sound was one of the most beautiful, satisfying things Jinx had ever heard. When he got up and offered her a handshake, she raised an eyebrow.
"Good match," he offered with clear reluctance. No one got hit point blank with a hex that big and came out grinning.
"It'll be better if you don't push me that hard next time," she replied, shaking. She didn't really want to shake, it wasn't her style or anything, but it was better to be safe than sorry. As head Titan, he could give her all sorts of annoying chores if he decided he didn't like her.
Well, it was probably already too late for her to ever be liked, Jinx reflected, studying the boy's sweat-glistening, faintly scowling face. But not being hated would do. If she wanted to be liked, that was what Kid Flash was for. She didn't need anyone else to like her.
Independent, self-sufficient, modern women didn't need friends, right?
"I only push you for your own good," was Robin's predictable comeback as he wiped the sweat from his forehead with an arm. "Kid Flash is too soft on you. I've seen how you two mess around while sparring, you can barely call it training. If you're too relaxed and casual about being a superhero, you could get hurt or killed. Or someone else could get hurt or killed. You know that."
She took offense at that, putting her hands on her hips. "Hey, just because I'm not some lifeless thug-bashing machine doesn't mean I'm sloppy! I do the best I can every time! I'm accomplishing things and getting stuff done!"
"There's a difference between the best you are right now and the best you could be, if you wanted to be better. You know what I see when I look at you?"
She rolled her eyes. Being lectured by someone so close to her own age was just about the most annoying thing ever. Did the other Titans have to put up with this, or just 'lucky' her, the ex-Hive member turned sort of good? "No, but I'm sure you're going to tell me," she deadpanned, choosing chilly hidden irritation over pure acid as a preferable verbal weapon. "Because you're the kind of person who always tells everyone what's wrong with them." A mock-innocent Cheshire cat smile curved her lips.
He actually looked taken aback by that, which she hadn't expected. "That's not true."
"Okay, I'll bite. When was the last time you saw a superhero doing something you didn't like in a fight and you just didn't say anything about it?"
Robin started to open his mouth, then closed it, staring blankly.
Heh. Gotcha. Now that he was feeling nice and guilty, time to reel him in. "So, what's wrong with me, Rob? What do you see when you look at me that needs to be corrected by a nice, well-meaning hero like you?" She kept her tone sickly-sweet and her face the same. It was only spoiled slightly by the fact that she was still panting a little, and still sweaty. As soon as this little lecture was over she was hitting a shower. Although being naked in the home of her former enemies would be a little weird... but nothing was worse than feeling this hot and icky for longer than she had to.
He knew it was a trap, but he walked in anyway, face set and determined like a mule intending to plow that field, no matter that the ground was solid rock. "I see someone who wants to treat being a hero the same as she treated being a criminal. As something to do to get ahead in the world and make yourself safe and comfortable when you're not on a date with Kid Flash, or shopping, or clubbing."
"Yeah? So? I still do the same good as you, even if I think about it different. What's the problem?" She and Kid Flash didn't so much date as they had random spontaneous makeout sessions and shared junkfood binges, but she didn't mention that. Researchoholic that he was, Robin probably already knew anyway. Which was, in itself, a bit creepy.
"You don't think think there's something wrong that even though you've changed sides, you haven't really changed at all as a person?" he asked quietly.
All planned comebacks fled Jinx's mind, and it was her turn to be the one opening her mouth and then closing it again, silently. Was that true? Had she really not changed... at all? Was she just playing for the opposite team because they actually got things done and a cute guy had flirted with her?
In all those missions she'd had since she'd joined the Titans, in all the battles fought and crimes stopped, she hadn't really given it any thought at all, had she? She'd just assumed that she had changed, because, well duh, she was a hero now instead of a crook. But was she helping people because she cared about them, or helping them because it was just another convenient way for her to get ahead in life? Was she happier now because she was doing good things and making a difference, or just because she was winning for a change?
She didn't know, she hadn't thought about it before, and that was maybe the most upsetting thing of all.
She wasn't going to show any doubt or weakness in front of Robin. She was barely comfortable with it with KF, and the two were about as different as two boys could get while still being the same species. Presumably.
"Look, it's a job, I do it fine, and I have a nice life too, what's wrong with that?" she snapped, trying to cover her moment of doubt before he caught it.
"It's not a job." His pronouncement was as solid and weighty as a prophecy spilling out a fortune teller's mouth. "It's a..." He stopped there, clearly struggling to vocalize his feelings. "It's a calling. A way of life. A way of being." Even with a mask on, there was no hiding the passion in his face, his voice. It was a little, just a little, eerie. Jinx felt like an alien thing next to him now, or maybe he was the alien... either way, it felt like a fundamental barrier between the two of them as strong as anything that had ever existed back when she'd been part of the Hive.
He believed in all that light and goodness and self-sacrificing heroism stuff.
He really believed.
And, like staring into the sun, Jinx had to blink and look away, unable to stand it any longer. She knew she either disliked him intensely or liked him intensely at this moment... or was scared of him, or jealous... but couldn't figure out which things she was feeling. His was a way, not just of living, but a way of thinking, that she had abandoned so long ago that even remembering it was like sticking her hand on an oven.
KF never made her feel like that, he made her feel comfortable, secure, happy. KF had asked for one little change, and she'd given in, and he was happy now. But Robin wasn't like that. Robin was the kind of person who would expect you to change yourself for the better every single day you woke up. It was either a kind of heaven or a kind of hell, and she wasn't sure which to call it. Whatever it was, it definitely wasn't normal.
Her brain only zoned back in from being mystified to pay attention to the second half of Robin's speech, which had probably been boring anyway. Hopefully he wouldn't do a pop quiz on it later.
"...and one of these days you're going to come up against something that'll force you to make a decision, whether you want to sacrifice some of yourself to be a hero, or keep that part of yourself and lose a mission, maybe cost some people their lives, maybe let a monster get away."
"Is that what you think of them as? Monsters?" she blurted out, offended on behalf of all less-insane superpowered criminals everywhere. She almost said 'us' instead of 'them,' which would have been a horrible, terrible blunder, especially since even she didn't think of it as being accurate anymore! Her tongue curled around the word and barely rejected it in time for a more suitable one at the last second. No point in incriminating herself in Robin's eyes for no reason other than being creeped out by his self-righteousness.
"Some of them are literal monsters. Then there's the figurative ones. The ones who'll hurt anyone for any reason, even for no reason at all." His eyes narrowed. "I know you weren't that type. But Blood was. And whatever he told you to do, you did."
"Well, I couldn't exactly help that, I was hypnotized at the time and all."
"You could've helped it if you'd wanted to enough. Cyborg broke free from strength of will alone, remember?"
She bit her bottom lip. Personally, she'd never really bought that whole junk Cyborg had tried to feed everyone on how the strength of his humanity or whatever had broken Blood's mind control. She still thought it way more likely that it had just been his half-computerized brain. Still, there was no telling him that... or Robin, apparently.
She tried out a wry smile. "If you want it hard enough, it'll happen? You don't seem like the kind of guy to believe in miracles."
"The world is molded by people with strong enough wills to really change things for the better... or the worse. You've got skill, you've got ambition... you want to be important and respected and comfortable... but I'm not seeing any self-sacrifice in you. I'm not seeing you willing to give up anything of yourself for the greater good. Maybe I'm misjudging you. I'd be glad if you told me I was seeing you wrong."
"Do you give this quiz to everyone you invited in to your illustrious team, or am I just lucky?"
"I give it to people if it seems like they need it. So, am I wrong?"
"...I don't know," she said after a moment of thinking about it, hating how tiny and sad her voice sounded. Like a lost child's. All she'd wanted... all she'd ever wanted... was for someone to like her and approve of her, while she got ahead in life somehow. She hadn't signed up for any of this holy crusade crap. After spending so much time being someone's lackey or minion, she was ready to do things for herself while technically doing things for other people, still. Was that so wrong, to just stop worrying and let herself be happy?
"What do you mean, you don't know?" he probed, words like a razor to cut and dissect.
"I mean, I don't flipping know," she snapped. "Maybe you've spent hours missing sleep to brood at your ceiling over junk like this, but I never thought about it before. So what? Maybe the answer's no, you're not wrong, you've got this bad luck witch totally pegged. Would that mean you wouldn't trust me anymore?"
That last line had been totally impulsive, and she regretted it the instant she said it. She was terribly afraid he'd instantly respond with 'I never trusted you,' but what he did say was just about the next worst thing.
"I'll trust you as much as I have to, Jinx," he said impassively.
Which was just a nice way of saying that no, he wouldn't trust her. Not unless she gave him the answer he wanted.
Tired, depressed, and disgusted, Jinx walked out of the gymnasium without another word. Robin called out to her, said something with a reconciliatory tone, but she deliberately didn't listen.
Naturally, by the time she got to the bathroom, it was occupied. Groaning, she mumbled a swear fit to blister paint waited impatiently, tapping fingers against the wall. Why did this huge tower only have one bathroom, anyway?! Training robots, a gymn, an indoor pool, a wall-sized tv, and more other random luxuries than Jinx could count on both hands and her feet... but one bathroom. The friggin' moron architect should've been fired.
Great. This was supposed to have been a fun visit to get to know the five people she'd been fighting on and off with so everyone would feel more comfortable around each other. Instead, Robin probably hated her, her head hurt, and she was soaking in her sweat because of poor building design. Could the day possibly get worse?
The next moment, it didn't really get worse, but it definitely got weirder, and ever after Jinx promised to be more careful about what thinking thoughts that tempted capricious goddesses of misfortune. Beast Boy came hopping along (he was a jackrabbit for some reason), stopped and reverted to normal when he saw her, a bright expression on his face. Then he rushed forward and rubbed a wrinkled sock all over her arms, especially underneath. She was too shocked to do anything but freeze up gawking for a second, then she spat out through gritted teeth:
"Beast Boy, you little perv, just what do you think you're doing?" Hex bolts sparkled in her palms, ready to fly; she was not in the mood for this immature crap.
"I'm not a perv! I'm just making a stankball, dude!" He grinned nervously, but backed off a bit, so she let her hexes fade. "Now you're officially part of the Titans so this is like a minor rite of passage thingy. Way better than the stuff we normally do, trust me! You don't have to ride the unicycle or wear the chicken suit or anything! You should be thanking me."
"Okaaaaaayyyy," she replied, deciding to take him at his word. It was less trouble than starting an argument. Just indulge the little weirdo and everything would be fine. "I know I'm going to regret asking this, but what's a stankball?"
The little green shapeshifter launched into an enthusiastic explanation about this game he and Cyborg had made up that seemed to mostly involve grossing out your opponent till they forfeited. He topped it off by loudly sniffing the dirty sock now damp with her sweat and let out a happy sigh as if he'd just smelled a pie. It was the grossest thing she'd ever seen, and she'd spent years hanging out with a lunkhead who thought mold was edible!
"Ooohhh, yeah. This is gonna be a good one," he murmured almost religiously, eyes slightly glazed. "Ow! What'd you hit me for?!" he demanded, rubbing the side of his head where she'd clocked him.
"I know you're too socially inept to know that that was creepy, BB... but seriously. That was creepy."
"Oh. Heheh. Sorry." He blushed and grinned, and she felt a little better after that. He grinned big Cheshire grins like her, when he wanted. It was probably the only thing they had in common. "So I'm BB now? Can I call you something? Like, I dunno, Jinxy?"
"No," she said flatly.
He pouted. "Why not?"
"'Cause I'll hit you again if you do."
"Oh. Guess I can't argue with that." He deflated, pointy ears actually tipping downwards somehow. It was like his body was just a cheap comedy prop. Which would explain a lot, now that she thought about it. "Uh, if you're waiting to get in there it's gonna be a while I think. Cy ate some bad corned beef hash or something... at least, I think it was corned beef, it was right next to some of Star's food, and some of her cooking likes to invade other close by containers that don't have lids on..."
There was nothing for it but to slap a hand over her face and groan in dismay. Terrific. She hoped Cyborg was suffering in there. "Oh, that's just great."
Beast Boy thoughtfully knocked on the door for her, leaning closer and calling through it. "Cy? How you doin' in there, buddy?" Whatever he heard through the door wasn't good, though, because he winced and took a few steps back. "Oohhh. Doesn't sound like he's gonna be out any time soon. Sorry."
Letting out a sigh, Jinx started walking aimlessly. Plodding, really. Each footstep was a smack of resentment against the floor. "Nice. Now I get to wallow in my own filth like an animal indefinitely."
"Hey, there's nothing wrong with that," Beast Boy replied predictably, following behind her all lively and perky. "It's all nature, baby."
"Call me baby again and I'll hex you into next week," she shot back, but it was a threat without bite to it. She peered back at him briefly, smirking. "I know your rep, shrimp."
Beast Boy seemed genuinely bemused by that. And then, a little proud. "I... have a rep?" he asked slowly, eyes shining.
"Don't say that like it's a good thing. Everyone knows you hit on anything without two pucks and a hockey stick."
"That's not true! I haven't hit on Raven. Or Starfire. Or you. Or... Bumblebee! Or... uh... Madame Rouge. Or... ummmm..."
"Don't strain yourself. Fine, so you don't flirt with people in the same biz. You still try to pick up every girl who even looks at you outside of the biz, though. Kinda sad, really."
She was being mean, but she was in a mean mood and had to take it out on somebody. She never asked him to steal her sweat and follow her around! And anyway, he was gonna have a lame jokey comeback any second now. Any second...
The seconds ticked on and on and there was only uncomfortable silence as Beast Boy seemingly thought over what she'd said. The urge to apologize was strong, but apologizing for telling the truth was dumb. Someone had to run this by the furry lima bean sooner or later, and it might as well be someone he wasn't friends with, so he wouldn't take it personal.
"Okay, fine," he surrendered, surprisingly. "Maybe I flirt too much. It just sucks being alone, that's all. I thought you'd understand, 'cause, y'know..."
Kid Flash. They were both thinking it, even if neither of them said it.
She had to give them that, even if it was opening up in a way she didn't care to. It did suck being alone. And it was easy to be alone even when you were surrounded by friends.
"I'm not saying, give up, or anything..." she tried to mitigate her earlier harshness without sounding too sorry, "but maybe have a little class?"
"When I try to be classy, chicks laugh at me. Not in the fun way. So I'm the hiLARious comedian, and then they laugh the fun way."
That made her wonder if the little guy knew his jokes weren't that funny and just kept saying them anyway because... well, at least it lightened things up. She didn't ask. His psychological issues weren't any of her business. They were side by side now, and it felt that way more than just physically... he wasn't treating her any differently from anyone else, despite the fact that she'd tried to hex his face in on numerous occasions.
"You don't feel weird or anything hanging out with me, do you?" she asked spontaneously.
He peered at her with mild confusion, scratching the top of his head with a finger. "Uh, no. Should I?"
"I could be a double agent. A plant. Still under Blood's mind control. Something like that." She wasn't sure why she was trying to make him not trust her. Maybe after Robin it was hard to feel like anyone but Kid Flash was really capable of getting along with her, and she'd rather have Beast Boy show his true colors sooner than later, after they'd gotten to be friendly. It was hard to think clearly through all her aggravation from the spar and the conversation after it and the missed shower. She wanted nothing so much as to just run out of the stupid tower and tell KF it'd all been a bad idea.
"Could be," Beast Boy answered noncommitally, picking his teeth with one gloved finger. He didn't look at her, or sound concerned.
"I'm serious," she pushed, "that Blood guy was really good at what he did, who knows what kind of subconscious mental triggers he's sneaked into my brain? I could blow you into next week right now if I wanted. Push you out that window and hex you during the fall so you couldn't morph to survive it," she said, waving a hand wildly at a passing window.
Beast Boy swung his damp gross sock idly in one finger. On the hand opposite from her, thankfully. "Go for it, then."
It almost seemed too much to hope for. "You really don't care? At all?"
He stopped to lean up against a window. Starfire was outside, doing some kind of aerial training with stork-legged robots, a graceful but chaotic series of spins and twirls. They both watched, and of course eventually Star came out the victor, the robots reduced to smoking heaps. It made Jinx wonder how pricey they were to repair.
"People will say and do all sorts of things... but you can't really tell what they're thinkin' on the inside," he said finally, quietly dignified. "I'm not dumb, I know that you could just screw us over. But I'd rather trust everyone and take that chance than never trust anyone, and hurt a bunch of people who really wanted to do stuff right."
"Bird boy seems to take up a different philosophy," she said equally quietly, throat tight.
"Oh. Yeah. Hey, if you'll keep quiet I've got a lil secret about our noble leader I'll share with ya, dude." A significant, momentous pause, then Beast Boy put a hand up in front of his mouth theatrically, eyes twitching this way and that. "Sometimes, he can be a real douche," he stage-whispered.
It took a second for Jinx to actually comprehend the meaning of the words, and then she giggled hesitantly.
"I mean, don't get me wrong or anything," Beast Boy went on in a more normal tone, "he's a great leader. We'd be goners without him. And we've been through a lot together and he can be fun when he wants. I love the dude. But..." He hesitated, face getting serious again. "...I don't ever wanna be like him." Another hesitating moment, and he glanced at her nervously, then went on when she couldn't think of anything to say. Or was even sure if she should say anything. "I know what it's like when people don't trust you even though you're doin' the best you can. I so know what that's like. What it feels like. And I'd rather get backstabbed a kajillion times than make one dude feel like that, ever."
Looking at his stubborn, delicately sad face, Jinx decided Beast Boy wasn't such a loser after all. And she could see how he had managed to be a sort of leader when Robin had been kidnapped, and how everything hadn't completely fallen apart. Something in the way she was looking at him made him blush and turn away nervously, and she chuckled at that. Boys never were any good at staring contests. "You know what?" she said finally. "Your rep's wrong. You're actually kinda sweet when you wanna be." Then she deliberately spoiled the moment by smirking and patting him condescendingly on the head.
"Hey, watch the doo, dude!"
"Oh, please, like you ever spend time on your hair."
That was the end of serious conversation, and they bickered goodnaturedly until they managed to subconsciously bump into Titans' video game system. Which provided its own happy little distraction up till suppertime.
Thankfully, by that time, Cyborg was all recovered from food poisoning and it was a nice happy normal meal. Robin acted like their little sparring encounter hadn't even happened, which she supposed was his way of dealing with things. She returned the favor and immersed herself in the epic personality clash that was dinner with the Titans with ease, mocking all and sundry regardless of whether or not she agreed or disagreed with any particular conversational point. And ate enough to make half the team stare openmouthed, since it was on their tab, and nothing was more fun than eating at someone else's expense. It was great having the metabolism of a squirrel.
Afterwards she managed to sneak in a little private time with Cyborg, cornering him while he was working on his 'baby.' He was the only one she really felt totally comfortable with besides KF, and she wanted to end the day on a good note since her 'ride' (yellow-spandex arms moving at superspeed and holding her gently to their chest) would be around shortly.
"Oh, hey there miss Jinxy!" he said when he noticed her, wiping grease off his arm... which only spread it all over his hand, of course. "What can I do ya for?" He grinned a big oafish grin, and she held back on the urge to kick him in the face for calling her Jinxy.
"Not much. Just thought I'd chat a bit. That okay with you, Stone?" She started the conversation on an immediate note of superiority, leaning lazily (and probably disrespectfully, to his machine-fetishizing mind) against the hood of the T-Car. The guy always looked a little ashamed when she called him that. Little did he know that she used it as an affectionate nickname instead of an insult. She let him keep his misunderstanding, it was useful to have a psychological upper hand.
"Y-yeah, of course," he mumbled, shuffling awkwardly. He kept on working on the vehicle, which was probably for the best. Cyborg was the kinda guy who talked better when he had something else to look at and occupy half his attention. That way he didn't get nervous or fidgety.
It was nice to just relax and listen to the sound of him tinkering away for a little bit. Cyborg didn't scold her for leaning on the T-Car, either, which was probably the most flattering thing he'd ever done... well, not done... for her. She wondered if she was the only one who could get away with it. Wouldn't that be fun? Probably not, that twit Bumblebee could probably get away with it too. But it was nice to dream and pretend she was special.
"Had some weird conversations today," she said at last, preening her fingernails idly.
A frown crinkled that mostly smooth brown flesh and white-gray-blue metal face. "No one gave you any trouble, did they?"
"Robin worked me like a mule. I guess that's how he is with everyone, though. No biggie."
"I know things can get hard here, but it's gotta beat bein' a petty thief with clowny cohorts always on the run from the fuzz, right?"
"Yeah. Yeah, it does. It's just... well... I don't really belong here. Any more than I did there." She waved a hand vaguely. "That slick-haired birdy you guys have depended on to lead you through a metric ton of bad guys just like me... he doesn't trust me much."
He eyed her with an incredulous grin. "Girl, lemme tell you somethin' 'bout Robin. He don't trust nobody. Not you, not me, not Star, not Batman. Not even himself. Especially not himself. He loves the team, he loves what we stand for, and he'd die for it. But there is always a tiny part of his bird brain clickin' gears and calculatin' how likely it is for team member Joe Smith to fail in circumstance X, under conditions Y. None of us're exempt from that, that's just how he rolls, and if you think you don't belong here because of that, honey... I am happy to tell you, it's practically an initiation rite. Minus the chicken suit and unicycle."
One of these days she was going to ask what the heck the chicken suit and unicycle thing was all about. But not today. Frankly, she was mildly terrified that asking would wind up with her finding out in the most unpleasantly direct way possible.
"Beast Boy's not like that," she pointed out. "But he's as much a part of the team as Robin, he's been around just as long, he's participated just as much. Why is he still here if he disagrees with your leader that much?"
The rolling laugh he bellowed made her lean back. Boys were so boisterous. No volume control, tch. "Did you bother talkin' to Raven or Star about this lil trust issue thing?"
"No, not really. Should I have?"
"We're a diverse lil family. Rob and Raven are birds of a feather, they're always trying to think about the worst possible situations before those things happen, to prevent 'em. Ol' BB and Star are on the other side of things, they wanna keep things great by always lookin' at the upside. Without Robin and Raven, we'd be dead by now. Without Beast Boy and Starfire, we'd be lonely and depressed." His one real eye sparkled with enough life to make up for the computerized other one. "You need both sides to make a whole coin. Yin and yang, peanut butter and jelly, eggs and bacon. That's why Rob and Star are together. That's why Raven and BB sometimes have those really meaningful conversations they never tell anyone else about."
"If they don't tell anyone about them, how do you know they have the conversations?" she asked reasonably.
One of his fingers moved up away from all the rest and the tip flicked to reveal a tiny camera lens. "Spy cam hand," he explained with a grin.
She grinned back approvingly. "Sneaky. I still think you would've been an awesome crook."
"Of course I would've! I'd be an awesome anything I put my mind to, thank you very much! But I like doin' this just fine."
"So where do you fit on the little trust war? Team paranoia or team warm'n fuzzy?"
Metal fingers drummed briefly on some internal part of the car, making a ringing echoey sound. "I dunno. Haven't made up my mind yet. Sometimes it's not all there in black and white... and pink, heh. It's a lot to think over an' it only gets more complicated the more bad guys we pound through. Whatever road you end up takin', it's gotta be the one where you don't leave regrets behind, and I haven't figured out which road that is for me so far. Guess I could always be Switzerland."
"So you're hiding Nazi gold?"
"I wish! That'd be one time I could steal money guilt-free." He leaned out of the car and closed the hood gently, then studied her for a moment. "Hey, thanks for comin'. I know visiting us couldn't've been on the top of your to do list. But Star loved having an actual girly girl to talk with... Raven pretty much gender-neutral unless she's forced into being feminine at starboltpoint... and BB seemed to like you fine, and Rob's a little more relaxed now that he's gotten up close and personal with you and scanned you out. Even Silkie..."
"I am not petting that little monster," she stated firmly. They'd tried to get her to play nice with the horrible bug thing, who seemed to just love her, but there was no way. No freaking way. "I don't care what you threaten to do to me with alien cooking and whatever other torture devices you keep in your moldy old fridge, there is no way I am voluntarily touching that slimy thing."
"Okay, okay! I'm just sayin', you're fitting in just fine. And we all appreciate you coming around. We'd love it if you did it again sometime. Maybe even bring your boy along, too. I bet between him and me and BB, we could think up some positively epic pranks..."
"Okay, the evil gleam in your eye is really making me nervous. You do know any pranks on me will be returned with violence, right? I wasn't just bluffing back at the academy!"
"Weren't you? I guess we'll just have to see sometime..."
"Cyboooorrrrg, I'm warning you..."
Jinx's ears popped lightly, and she felt a familiar brief, sharp swish of air. And then two arms were around her waist and a chin on her shoulder.
"Is someone pickin' on my little enchantress?" Kid Flash asked with his usual devil-may-care grin. "Just say the word and I'll leap to your defense, darling."
"First, I'm not yours. Second, I can leap to my own defense if I feel like it. Third, get your hands off me before I ask Cyborg to sonic blast you a new orifice," she replied sweetly.
"Not much of a cuddler," Kid Flash said to Cyborg with a mournful, melodramatic sigh. "One of these days I'll wear her down, though."
"Hold your breath," Jinx dared him smirkingly. "Please." She turned to Cyborg. "Well, it was fun. Maybe I'll do it again sometime. Take care of all these weirdos, Cyborg. They seem like they need it."
"Tell me about it, I oughta hire a babysitter one of these days." He gave her a thumbs up. "Be cool, guys."
"And now you can put your hands on me," Jinx told (well, ordered, really) Kid Flash innocently. Getting carried around was sometimes, like now, the easiest way to travel, but she made sure he never did it until she asked. Couldn't have him getting too comfortable with her or he'd take her for granted.
They left with the typical scenery-blurring speed that had taken Jinx so long to get used to before she overcame the accompanying nausea. It was better once they were out over the ocean. Nothing like being carried by a guy who could do a Jesus imitation. It was almost romantic, and she allowed now that there was no one else to see, leaning into his chest and letting out a content sigh.
"So how'd it go?"
"About like I expected."
Whatever road you end up takin', it's gotta be the one where you don't leave regrets behind...
"Hey, d'you mind if we stop by juvy on the way?" she asked impulsively.
"Uh, sure, no problem. Gonna visit some old friends?"
"Something like that."
As it turned out, only Kyd Wykkyd was behind pre-adulthood bars at the time. Just her luck, she felt like blabbing all philosophically for a change, and the only one on the other side who was around to listen was the one who didn't talk. She still didn't know if he was mute or just really really quiet.
It was the first time she'd talked to any of the old gang since her defection.
It was awkward.
"Uh, hi. They treating you okay in here?" She smiled weakly, and Kyd just glared, sullen. Probably still bitter about being caught. Normally the gang would've broken him out pretty quick. At least, the gang would've with her heading them. Without her around to organize things and keep everyone focused, who knew how long they'd let the mute rot in here. "Yeah, I guess it's not that great," she admitted, running a hand through her hair. "I've been where you are, I know how it is."
One eyebrow raised, incredulous. Or maybe just mocking, as if to say, 'Yeah, you WERE here, but now you're on the other side and getting medals and adulation and crap, are you here just to rub my face in it?'
Okay. She'd come here for... a reason. Hadn't she? She couldn't remember why she was here. Only that she'd wanted to come, and talk to some of the old gang, very badly. Well, now was the time talk. Though she hadn't a clue what she'd say. "I guess you've got every reason to hate me after what I did to you guys," she heard herself say, as if the words had come from someone else's mouth of someone else's volition. "I beat you up with a smile on my face and got you all frozen and then jailed, all because I got a new boy toy. I just wanted to be... competent. And important. I wanted people to look at me, and..." She paused, now knowing what she wanted to say but unsure whether she should actually say it or not. But why not, she'd come this far. "I just wanted people to care," she said softly, ashamed, looking at him with wistful regret. "And you guys... you guys never cared. About anything. Maybe that's my fault. I dunno."
Her silent listener was definitely paying attention now. Totally blank, totally alert, totally still, a thing that wouldn't so much as twitch. he was drinking it all in but she had no idea what he was thinking about it.
"I guess I just came here to say I'm sorry. I'm sorry I was such a jerk to you guys. I'm sorry I switched teams on you like that. And I'm sorry for anything else I did that might've hurt any of you. I mean, you're tough, you have to be to do the kind of stuff we do... I mean, that you do and I used to do... and I guess none of this matters because you don't care, after all. But in case you do, I'm sorry. And even if you don't I'm sorry anyway. I just wanted to say that."
For a little bit, Kyd Wykkyd kept his impassive face. Then he softened, a bittersweet half-smile curling his mouth, head tilting in an understanding nod.
It's okay, he mouthed silently. I'll tell them.
And a sudden heavy iron weight that had been chained to Jinx's back without her even knowing it had been there was suddenly gone, leaving her feeling almost deliriously light and free.
"Thanks," she said gratefully, wishing she could hug him through the transparent plastic screen. "Try not to get shot up or anything, okay? And... um... maybe I can look the other way a teensy bit if you guys stick to grabbing game consoles and hotdogs instead of, you know, gold bars and junk. I won't tell Robin if you won't."
He winked slowly and put one finger to his mouth, smile widening.
Jinx skipped out of juvy with a carefree heart, and when KF asked her what she was so perky about, she gave him a big kiss and demanded they go out for karaoke.