Okay! So this is my first fanfiction. A oneshot about Cyborg and Starfire. I came up with the idea after watching 'Troq' one day and I thought about what Cyborg said to Starfire while they were "bonding". So, this came up. Rated T for racial slurs, but that's about it. Anyway, reviews are welcome.
Summary: Cyborg and Starfire have a heart-to-heart about names.
What's in a Name?
"Star, could you help me with these bags?" The human-robot hybrid said, sounding a little strained as he balanced five or six brown paper grocery bags in his arms. Normally Cyborg could carry twice the amount of bags he was carrying at the moment, but the heat distressed everyone, including him.
"I am happy to be of assistance," Starfire said, surprisingly cheerful. She quickly plucked three bags from her muscular friend's arms and held them in her own as if they were nothing. Sweat beaded on her forehead, but it was because of the sun, not the bags.
"Are summer days on Earth normally this unbearable?" Starfire asked. She heard the robot chuckled and wondered briefly what was so funny.
"Unbearable doesn't even begin to cover it, Star. But yeah, they are mostly like this. But places like Africa and places in the desert get even hotter. Don't they have seasons on Tamaran?" Cyborg asked as they neared a corner. They were close to the car, which was parked in a garage a few blocks away.
The alien shook her head. "On my planet, the weather does not change. You remember what my planet looks like, yes?"
"It stays like that. Occasionally we will get—they are called 'clouds' here on Earth, yes?—those will sometimes grow to be as huge as a Glofmorg. But it never does the raining or the snowing on Tamaran."
Currently occupied by the thought of no seasons on a planet, Cyborg wasn't watching where he was going. There was a loud metallic thud and, while he didn't fall to the ground, the person who had been walking towards them crashed on their behind in front of the two.
Cyborg blinked, and then registered what had happened. "Whoa, man, I'm sorry. Not too many thoughts get up here, you know?" he tapped his forehead, the part that was dark-skinned and human. He bent down and extended a hand out to help the other man up.
The man recoiled. Both Starfire and Cyborg frowned.
"I wouldn't expect someone like you to think much anyway. Why don't you just watch where you're going next time, you stupid ape?"
Cyborg froze. Starfire looked at Cyborg and then at the other man, her eyebrows furrowed. She didn't understand.
"Sir, my friend was only offering you assistance. And he is not an 'ape' or any other form of animal. He is a human being," the alien quipped, placing her bags on the floor so her hands could migrate to a rather defensive position on her hips. "You should not yell at him and you should accept his kindness!"
The man's eyes flashed to Starfire. His lips curled up into a vicious smile and he started to laugh sarcastically.
"Me? Let a stupid nigger like him touch me? I don't think so, girlie. People like him are better off kept inside, where they don't interrupt the traffic," he was playing up Cyborg's massive size. Starfire tilted her head. What did that word mean? She'd never heard it before.
Cyborg stiffened. This man…Cyborg felt his fist clench tightly. "Star, let's just leave."
"No. He has been rude to you, and I expect him to apologize," Starfire said sternly. She fixed her eyes on the man. "Now."
The man let out a howling laugh. "I don't apologize to niggers." He turned and walked away.
Starfire looked at the man. He'd said that word again. What did it mean? She turned to look at Cyborg so she could ask, but the older, larger Titan was already walking away. He had picked up the bags that the girl had put down and seemed to be on a firm and determined walk towards the parking garage.
Neither of the two said a word on the way to the Tower. When they got home, it seemed to only take a couple of steps before they heard that annoying harbinger: the alarm.
Like clockwork, they heard Robin's signature, "Titans Go!" and soon Beast Boy, Raven, and Robin were racing towards the door that the other two titans had just entered. Raven and Beast Boy left, while Robin just stared.
"Cyborg! Star! We have to go!" he ordered. Cyborg stiffened again.
"I'm not feeling up to it, man. Sorry," the human-robot hybrid shrugged.
Sensing her friend's feelings and feeling rather dejected herself, Starfire answered, "I, too, am feeling unwell."
Robin looked at the two of them. "Cyborg…Starfire, we can't—"
"We've handled battles without Cyborg before. Starfire, too. Just leave them alone, Robin," Raven's voice echoed in their ears. Soon, a raven of black energy rose up from the floor, wrapping around the Titan's leader before he had a choice and bringing him through the floor.
The alien and the robot were left alone in the Tower. Starfire was the first to speak up.
"Um…Cyborg?" she started, rubbing her arm awkwardly. He turned to her, his face still set in a frown.
"That man…the word he used…" her face scrunched up in confusion as she tried to remember the word. Then she did "He called you a ni—"
"Don't say it, Starfire," Cyborg said tensely, much more sternly than the alien had expected. What was it about that word that made her friend so angry?
"I do not understand. All you did was bump into him. And he called you a name. And from what I saw…it was a…bad name, yes?" the red-head said unsurely. "What does it mean?"
Cyborg sighed and looked at Starfire. He was silent for a while and then asked, "Do you remember Val-Yor and how he would call you—"
"Troq," Starfire answered, looking away as the memory of that despicable man flashed into her mind. "Are there people on your planet who think that robots are inferior?"
"It's not because I'm a robot, Star."
"Then what is it? Why would he call you a bad name?"
"There are people who think that people like me—African Americans—are inferior to everyone else. In their minds, we don't amount to anything. "
"So it is like the word 'Troq'. That name that he used…he is calling you 'nothing'," Starfire sad unsurely, not really understanding.
Cyborg tensed. "It's not just that. It's not just one name. There are others. All of them hateful, Star."
"So when he called you an 'Ape'…that was another name?" Starfire inquired. Cyborg nodded. Starfire stared at him and then went over to sit on the couch. Cyborg sat down with her. Starfire stared straight ahead into space.
"What is it about names that make them so…" she started, but faltered.
"Hurtful?" Cyborg offered. He shook his head. "I don't know, Star. Maybe it's something we'll never understand."
"We are supposed to be…equal, correct?" Starfire asked, tilting her head.
Cyborg nodded. "We want to be equal, but some people just don't want to acknowledge the existence of other people. They place themselves too high…"
"And in the end, they need something to distinguish themselves from the people they left behind…they need a name to refer to them as, so that they can flaunt their attitudes…" Starfire said. "Just like Val-Yor…"
"And that man on the street," Cyborg added. "There are people like that all over the world, Starfire. It's not just because they hate you. Or me. There's always going to be someone who calls someone else a terrible name."
Starfire frowned. "Why must they call us those names?" She didn't understand it.
Cyborg was silent for a while. "Maybe it's because there's more in a name than there is in just hatred."
"I do not understand. What is in a name?" Starfire asked. They were both silent, as if they didn't know the answer. A name could be anything anyone wanted it to be. It could be hateful, spiteful, angry.
But a name could also be happy, kind. A name didn't have to be it was such a hard concept to explain in an answer to a question.
Cyborg finally answered.
"I guess there's everything in a name. In a name, there's emotion, thoughts, and first impressions, too, I guess. When you think about it, the name of a person…"
"Decides everything about them. About how people will think about them…" Starfire finished. She sighed. "Like when people hear 'Tamaranean', they think of the word 'weak'."
"Not us," Cyborg said. He looked at Starfire and smiled. "When I hear the word 'Tamaranean', I think of Starfire—alien powerhouse. A kind team member. One of my best friends."
Starfire's face broke into a grin. "And when I hear the word 'African-American', I think of Cyborg. A…robot who saves the city. Who dedicates his life to protecting the people who like him…and those who do not. He believes that everyone should be saved. Regardless of their thoughts…"
They looked to the window, staring at the sky until they heard the door slide open.
"Cyborg, Starfire," Robin said. "Are you two feeling better?" He looked concerned.
They nodded, glad to have friends like each other. And glad to have friends like their teammates. Because with them, names didn't matter.
Ta-dah! I really like that the show decided to do an episode about racism. Because it inspired me to do this fanfic. Didn't mean to get all philosophical on you guys. It just happened. Again, this is a buddy-fic, not really a romantic pairing. Because I hate this pairing romantic-wise. They make awesome buddies, though!