"Cimmerian Sunbeams"

Chapter XIV

Starfire felt herself go pale. A breath caught in her throat. It is me. The words kept repeating themselves in her mind. It is me, it is me, it is me. I am the one responsible. She could barely breathe, barely see before her. Before she knew it, tears were streaming down her face and she had fallen to her knees.

Before she could process what was happening around her, Starfire was surrounded by Happiness, Envy, Timidity and Wisdom. "Starfire, are you all right?" asked Wisdom, worriedly. She kneeled beside Starfire and put a hand on her shoulder. Timidity nervously wrung her hands, unsure of what to do.

"It is me. I am the one responsible," she finally vocalized through sobs.

"Starfire," said Happiness, kneeling beside Wisdom. "Starfire, honey, calm down." She affectionately touched Starfire's face, using her thumb to wipe some of the Tamaranian princess' tears away. "Please, calm down. It's not as bad as it sounds. I promise you. Please don't cry anymore."

Starfire looked up at the pink-cloaked girl, and wiped her face. "I cannot believe that I am the one that Raven… that you all have been running from. I do not want to believe it."

"Listen to me, Starfire," said Wisdom, a stern look on her face. "Please, take what I am going to say into consideration, all right?"

She sniffled, and nodded.

"Since you are the one who is the root of this, you are also the one who can stop it."

Suddenly, a small current of hope rushed throughout her body. "How can I stop it?"

Wisdom and Happiness exchanged glances. "You're going to have to confront Affection."

"What exactly is black magic?" asked Beast Boy timidly.

"It is essentially chaos magic," answered Raven. "It's magic that is best used around themes of death, separation, severance and entropy. It is the strongest and most dangerous, and therefore must be handled with extreme care and patience."

Raven was sick with worry. She knew how delicately this type of magic needed to be handled, but she was hardly sure she could pull it off. Her hands were shaking even as she read through spells in a book. Her stomach felt nauseated and she hadn't eaten since Starfire's disappearance. She wasn't sure what her emotions could be telling Starfire, or what Starfire could be telling them. Raven once again cursed herself for not being more normal. For everyone else, matters of the emotions were settled so calmly. Instead, her emotions gave a whole new meaning to emotional turmoil.

"Is there anything I can do to help?" asked her green teammate.

Raven replied, "Sorry, Beast Boy. I've already endangered the life of Starfire. I don't want to hurt you, too."

"But I don't want you to get hurt, either."
"You don't have to worry about me. Of us all, I am the most equipped to handle this."

Beast Boy took a deep breath. "You really like her, don't you?"

Raven's glance quickly flashed to his. "Of course I like her, Beast Boy, she's my team mate and I care about her. I'm the one who is to be blamed for what's happening, or what might happen to her, and therefore I am the only one who should really –"

He interrupted her. "I know you do, Rae, and I know you feel that way. But that isn't what I meant."

As the four emotions led the way to Affection, Starfire was overcome with anxiety. Just a small while ago, she had wanted to meet this emotion the most. Now, she wasn't sure what to expect.

"When you meet Affection," began Wisdom, "I want you to be very careful. Be careful of what you say, and how you say it. I'm only saying this because right now, Affection is the most highly charged of us all. If you say the wrong thing, she might take it the wrong way, and…" her voice trailed off.

"Oh, don't make it seem so terrible," interjected Happiness. "You have nothing to worry about, Star," she added, putting an arm around the scared girl. "You just have to remember one thing: be honest. Besides, Affection has been expecting you, and she has wanted to see you most of all."

Starfire's cheeks burned. She wasn't even sure what she was going to say to the other girl or even if what she was going to say would be wrong. She was willing to try anything, for Raven's sake. She had been thinking about it, and realized that she would even be willing to undo everything – undo the kiss, the trip to the spa, the movie, everything. If only she had stayed with Robin, and didn't meddle in her budding feelings for Raven, everything would have been okay. Raven would have been okay. She wouldn't have endangered the person she cared about most, her teammates or herself.

As they continued walking, they came across a small palace.

"That's where she lives," said Wisdom.

"It is beautiful," Starfire commented. It was one of the prettiest buildings she had ever seen. It even rivaled the palaces of Tamaran. A large black gate protected entrance to the palace. "But how am I to get inside?"

As if responding to her question, the gates themselves began to move. They slowly opened, granting access for the Tamaranian princess to tread along a path surrounded by garden, leading to the front door.

She moved forward, but realized that her four newfound friends hadn't moved. "Are you not going to enter?"

Timidity spoke up. "We… we shouldn't go with you."

"This is something you must do yourself," Wisdom added.

Happiness opened her mouth as if to say something, but instead just closed it and ran toward Starfire, embracing her in a tight hug. "You're my favorite person ever," she said to Starfire. "I can't wait for things to be okay between us again." She pulled away from Starfire and smiled.

Envy, keeping true to her namesake, approached Starfire as well and gave her a small hug. "Best of luck," she muttered, giving Happiness a sideward glance riddled with jealousy.

"Thank you all, for leading me here. I hope that I will not disappoint you, or Raven."

She took another deep breath and turned around to face the palace. She was officially on her own, and she had never been so scared before. She hovered a few inches off of the ground and made her way to the front door.

Instead of being greeted by Affection, the door opened itself to Starfire.

"Hello?" she called, hearing her voice echo throughout the palace. There was no answer. The palace was dark, as the insides of Raven's mind could not quite be considered 'daylight', and so Starfire noticed that one of the rooms on the second floor had a light on. Following her instincts, she took the stairs, timidly approaching the dimly-lit area.

"Starfire, is that you?"

The voice startled her. Starfire looked up and saw Affection. She was wearing a dark purple cloak.

"It is lovely to meet you," said Starfire politely, bowing. Although Affection might have been 'highly charged' but she certainly didn't look it. Instead, the embodied emotion looked tired, and sad.

Affection approached Starfire and reached out her hand to stroke the Tamaranian's face. "You are beautiful."

Starfire felt herself turn red. "I am worried about you."

"I am worried about myself as well," the emotion confessed, breaking contact with Starfire and letting her glance fall to the ground.

"I have come to save you."

"Are you sure you want to do that?" Affection glanced up to her again, making contact. Her eyes were so sad, Starfire observed.

"Of course I do, Raven. It is all I have been trying to accomplish. I acknowledge now that this has been my fault, and if I could somehow reverse the events of the last weeks, I most certainly would, if only to keep you from losing control of the other emotions, and to keep you safe."

"Do you remember what you said to me, that night at the pool? Do you remember what it was that caused that quake to happen?"

Starfire took a moment to think. It wasn't hard to recall the events of that night, as they had haunted her every night since.

"Perhaps we can help you. Together. Your powers may be too strong to take on yourself, but together we may discover a way to—"

"You don't know what you're talking about!"

"Why do you doubt this so much? Is it that you don't want it?"

"That's not what it is! You can't understand!"

"Raven, I am in love with-"

Raven took a moment to think. "No, I don't think I understand what you mean. Beast Boy, I appreciate the concern but this is really no time to discuss this."

"You can't keep running from the way you feel," he said.

Raven began to get annoyed. This really wasn't the time to be discussing this, not when something so much worse might be happening. And besides, since when did Beast Boy get all deep and conceptual? "I don't think it's any of your business."

"It might not have been at first, but it is now." He was obviously feeling bold. "I think it's everyone's problem, now. Especially Starfire's."

Raven stopped what she was doing, and stared at Beast Boy. "What exactly are you trying to say?"

"Forget the black magic, Rae. You're thinking about things too rationally. Love isn't rationally."

She scowled, and without thinking, she blurted back, "And just what do you know about love?"

Beast Boy's green cheeks tinged a light pink. "You weren't supposed to ever know about this… but… there was a time when I felt the same way about you."

Raven's mind flashed back to that morning that she had caught Beast Boy in the living room, transformed as a mouse. She'd suspected as much, but she just brushed it off. Even now, she found it hard that anyone could harbor those kinds of feelings toward her. Hearing it straight from his mouth, it made her feel a little uncomfortable, but also a little sad.

"But don't worry about it," he quickly spat out, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. "That was a while ago. And besides, I know how you feel about Starfire."

"No, you don't," she said, defensively.

"Raven, I do. I even spoke to her about it."

She froze. "You w-what?"

"I think you should trust me when I say that she really, really cares about you. Stop worrying about black magic because like I said, love is irrational. It's a kind of magic all on its own. Starfire needs you just as much as you need her, so I think maybe you should stop running from that. Remember, I was in your mind once too. I met all the different parts of you, so I have an idea of what Starfire is going through right now. You should just be true to yourself."

Beast Boy had rendered Raven speechless. He decided that it was time for her to be alone.

Starfire looked to the floor, unable to keep eye contact with Affection. She felt embarrassed. She didn't want to think of how such a selfish confession caused so much trouble.

"Yes," she mumbled.

"Why did you say that to me?"

Happiness' advice echoed in her ears. "Remember one thing: be honest."

"I said that to you because… when I first met you, Raven, I always looked up to you. I always wanted to be like you, and I also thought that you were very pretty." Starfire's cheeks burned, but she continued. "After spending all of that time with you, in the past couple of weeks, I realized that… that this might be what Earthlings call… love."
The grounds began to quiver, much like they had that night.

"Did you mean it?" Affection asked, raising her voice above the rumbling around them.

Starfire swallowed. "Yes. I meant it. I'm sorry if that was an inappropriate time to express myself, Raven, but I wanted you to know exactly how I felt. I cannot help it of I anticipate the time I spend with you. When I am with you, I cannot help it if I think about holding your hand, or wanting to sit a little bit closer to you. And Raven, I want to kiss you. I enjoy kissing you in a way that I never enjoyed kissing Robin. If that is not love, then I do not think I will ever understand what it truly is."

The ground stopped moving, and all fell silent.

Starfire hadn't noticed it before, because she was so focused on choosing her words right, but Affection was crying. Tears were streaming down the purple-cloaked girl's cheeks.

"Raven! Please don't cry… I'm sorry, I'm sorry…" Looking at the other girl's tears brought out tears of her own.

"Starfire, I'm not crying because I'm sad," Affection explained, and before Starfire could respond, Affection had moved forward and pressed her lips against Starfire's. As the kiss deepened, Starfire felt as if she was being swallowed whole, and then everything went dark.

Raven was crying, flooded with sadness at Beast Boy's words and what they had revealed to her. If he was right, then it really was her that endangered Starfire. If he was right, then it was all due to her stubbornness and uncertainty. It was hard for her, as she had never been one to allow herself to feel such things, willingly, but she knew it was true. Beast Boy was right, there was no use in denying it: she was in love with Starfire.

Everything about Starfire. The bubbliness, the cheerfulness, the enthusiasm, those green eyes and soft hair, her scent, her body, her touch, her kiss. Even her idiosyncrasies, the way she spoke, her adorable disbelief at such simple earthly customs… Raven wanted them. She felt attached to Starfire in a way that she never believed she'd feel for anyone.

Closing her eyes, she focused on steadying her breathing. Then, she focused her energy. Her tired voice said, "Azerath, Metrion, Zinthos."


Author's Note: Hi there! I can't believe I'm actually beginning to wrap up this story. I think I began writing this in like 2005 or 2006. Then I carried it over to this account, rewrote it and now here I am. I originally planned to end the story in this chapter, but it's going to take one more. I'm not sure if I'm happy with this chapter or not, but I'll let you be the judge. Hopefully I'll finish up the final chapter and have that posted soon. Thank you everyone for all of your encouragement! Please let me know what you thought of this chapter, if it was too sappy, not sappy enough, etc.!