Only Human

Rated T for mature themes


A sharp intake of breath. The puff of orange-tinted cheeks. The pressure of two hands, forcing a layer of infinitesimal fat to decrease in size.

This was Starfire's daily ritual. Every morning, just before she skipped into the kitchen, she would stand in front of the bathroom mirror and try to make the light chub on her stomach disappear. Each time she failed, and would pass on the mustard-coated toast that she had once eaten every morning. Robin, her closest friend and teammate, would stare at her with an anxious expression before he was distracted by the day's agenda. Fighting criminals, working out in the gym, organizing files- this was what truly mattered to him.

Starfire finally dropped her hands in defeat and walked out the door, stomach sick with hunger. That was the key to losing weight. Become so hungry that the sight of food makes you want to vomit.

"Hey, Star," Robin called when Starfire entered the common room, door sliding shut behind her. Starfire glanced up, smiling brightly at him. Instead of flying, she walked over, knowing that her disappointment would keep her feet firmly planted on the floor.

"Greetings," Starfire said, settling down on the stool next to Robin. Cyborg was humming to himself as two waffles popped up out of the toaster. He grabbed the golden circles and dropped them on a plate, still humming as he reached for the syrup. Robin raised an eyebrow before glancing back at Starfire.

"I made you breakfast," he said quietly, sliding a plate of toast in front of Starfire. Starfire winced as a yellow drop of mustard oozed off the small pile of blackened toast. Exactly the way she liked it. Or, use to like it.

"I am grateful, but I shall not be eating this morning," Starfire replied, staring down at the food. Finally she pushed it away and raised her head to smile fallaciously. Robin narrowed his eyes behind his mask.

"You haven't eaten breakfast for a month. What's up? You use to love toast and mustard."

"I believe the key term in that statement is use to," Starfire explained, eyes sliding to the opposite wall. "I no longer enjoy condiments, or the taste of blackened grain products."

"So if I went to the store and got some pancake mix-?" Robin stared intently at Starfire, though she was doing her best to not meet his gaze.

"I dislike the panned cakes as well." Robin smiled lightly at Starfire's wording, but it immediately dropped when he saw how careful her eyes were, how tight her lips were. How tiny her waist was.

"Do you like any food now, Starfire?" Immediately she stood up and turned her back on him.

"I am just picky! Do not jump to rash conclusions, Robin. If you do not mind, I wish to spend some time in my room of bed." Starfire then fast walked from the room, her strides long and quick. Her crimson hair disappeared as the door slid shut behind her.

"She's not eating," Robin stated, his voice dark with anxiety. Cyborg shrugged.

"The girl's a teenager, Rob. I'm sure she'll be fine, she's probably just dealing with some image issues." Cyborg took a large bite of waffle, syrup clinging to his lower lip. Hungrily, he took another bite, this time getting syrup on the counter. Robin groaned with disgust and left the room as well, his mind still on Starfire.


After a quiet day, where the only villain the Titans had to fight was a particularly crabby Control Freak, the Titans decided to turn in early. Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Raven were out cold by 9:30, and Robin was lying on his bed, staring into the darkness. Starfire was the most beautiful girl he'd ever met. She had perfect hair, perfect skin, and a perfect body. She couldn't possibly think otherwise…

…Could she?

Robin's mind slowly wrapped itself around those words as he fell into a deep sleep. Starfire's dark words swirled around in his head, bouncing into each other every now and then and giving him a quick dream. Around 2am, Robin was pulled out of his current dream by a strange gagging sound. Without thinking, he threw his blankets off and flew out the door, face unmasked and hair matted with sweat. He opened the door to the bathroom, and immediately felt as though his stomach had just been filled with a galleon of cold seawater.

Starfire was lying on the bathroom floor, red hair splayed out across the tiles. A few drops of vomit clung helplessly to her lips as she squinted up at Robin. Her knees were pushed into her stomach, which was covered by a loose white tee shirt. Without moving or even trying to explain, tears began to fall down her face.

"Starfire," Robin breathed, feeling as if he were about to vomit himself. He grabbed a towel off the counter and crouched next to Starfire. He dabbed at her lips and tossed the cottony green thing to the side, expression pained.

"I am okay," Starfire whispered between quiet hiccups. "I am just suffering from a sickness…" As if agreeing, her stomach moaned pitifully.

"Star…" Robin put his hand under her back and pushed up, surprised at how light she was. Starfire had always been skinny, but this was… different. "You haven't been eating. You spend hours on end in your room. You almost never smile." Starfire began to protest feebly, but Robin cut her off. He swiped a tear away from her face. "Those fake smiles would fool no one."

"I… I am sorry," was all she could whisper. A strangled sob escaped her lips. Taking a deep breath, she raised her head and met Robin's eyes. She gasped, losing herself in the pools of deep azure. "Robin, your eyes…"

"Yeah," Robin mumbled, momentarily distracted. Starfire smiled and dropped her head in the crook of Robin's elbow, eyes sliding shut. Robin stared down at her, frowning, before turning to flush the toilet. The sight of what was inside caused him to gasp and yell for help.

The strange yellow mixture he found was tinged with red.


3 months later.

Robin stepped into the common room, eyes scanning the room quickly. Cyborg and Beast Boy were playing one of their latest video games, and Raven was sitting in the corner, completely absorbed in what appeared to be a century old tome. She glanced up at him briefly.

"She's on the roof," Raven called, eyes on her book.

"Thanks," Robin called back, turning away and disappearing once more.

When he made it up to the roof, his steps immediately slowed. Starfire was sitting as close to the edge as possible, legs folded up Indian-style. Her hands rested in her lap, eyes on the sky. She wore a loose white tee shirt, like the one she had been wearing when Robin found her. (Actually, she had borrowed it from Robin, but neither of them had mentioned it outloud). On her legs were cotton purple pajama bottoms, something Raven had purchased for her when she was in the hospital. Robin walked over wordlessly.

"Can I sit?" he asked quietly. Starfire nodded, not surprised by his sudden arrival. Robin took his usual place next to Starfire, eyes carefully assessing her. "How are you feeling?"

"I am well." Starfire's eyes never left the setting sun. Something about it always made Starfire feel… peaceful. The way it slowly sunk into the faraway hills. The way its rays reached out to the clouds, setting each one it touched on fire. The perfect ending to another imperfect day on Earth.

"Something tells me that's not completely true," Robin murmured, pulling his knees up to his chin. "It's only been a few months, and we still haven't talked about it."

"I was sure you would not wish to hear about it," Starfire murmured, pulling her knees up as well. She allowed herself to glance briefly at Robin.

"Of course I want to hear about it. Do you think that just because it's horrible and sad I won't want to understand?" Starfire sucked in a deep breath, closing her eyes to the beautiful images around her. Robin's concerned expression, the sun's departure- they were both sights that she treasured greatly, and couldn't bear to see at that moment. How was she to explain her… her sickness to Robin?

"This world," Starfire slowly exhaled and opened her eyes. "Everything… it is unbearably beautiful. The greenery, the colors, the inhabitants… I merely wish to be a part of it all. I wish to be a part of Earth's beauty."

Robin felt the weight of the words he wanted to say fall on his tongue. He winced, not wanting to interrupt.

"I use to participate in the leafing through magazines," Starfire continued. "They presented women in a very different way than I am use to- breasts more ample than they should be, waists so small they greatly resembled rails- and I envied them. These were the human females that would always have what I never would; true, human beauty. Eventually, I decided I would attempt to make myself as human as possible, by refusing food for as long as I was able." Robin frowned, shaking his head quickly, almost violently. Starfire stared at him, eyes widening. She opened her mouth to explain more, but Robin cut her off.

"No, Starfire. No! You've got it all wrong." Robin grabbed her hand and ripped his mask off, sharp blue eyes penetrating her bright green ones. Starfire jumped back; once or twice since the incident, Robin had taken off his mask in front of her. She knew that he didn't do it often, and was honored to be the only one allowed to see them. "You are the most beautiful person I have ever met. You're perfect in every way, and those girls? They're kidding themselves if they think that's what looks good. They dye their skin dark orange, they highlight their hair, they starve themselves and get implants- that's not you, Star."

Starfire bit her lip, looking away. Robin continued anyway.

"It's fake. All of it. You're real. You don't need to starve yourself, you don't need to change. I lov- I like you just the way you are." Starfire flushed, smiling with happiness. Robin smiled back, blue eyes twinkling. He squeezed Starfire's hand, and she squeezed back, cheeks stained red.

"Thank you," Starfire whispered, eyes wet.

"If only I'd said that four months earlier," Robin murmured, "then maybe none of this would have happened."

"Robin, please do not blame yourself!" Starfire let go of Robin's hand before enveloping him in a warm hug. She didn't let go. "This is my burden to bear." Robin frowned and let go of Starfire reluctantly.

"I'll help you in any way I can. You're not alone, Star." Starfire's cheeks warmed up again. Robin stood up, ready to leave – the sun had disappeared, and night was settling in – but Starfire stood up and grabbed Robin's wrist. Robin raised his eyebrow questioningly before Starfire put both her hands on his face. She pressed her lips to his for one quick moment before pulling away, eyes filled with a light that Robin's hadn't seen in months. She grabbed his hand, pulling him towards the door with a sly grin.

"Hey!" Robin said when he regained his senses, pulling her back to him. Starfire giggled happily when Robin pulled her close, leaning in for another kiss.