Special A/N: Another one that I totally forgot I'd had done. As a matter of fact, at some point, I even did the A/Ns and disclaimers and all that other stuff for it, but just didn't post it. Hm. I better go digging through my archives to see if there's anything else that I meant to put up and forgot...
A/N: Another of the would-be IOTaM chapters that didn't quite make it. The tone isn't right for where they are right now. I hope you enjoy it anyway!
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the bundle of rights associated with the characters Robin or Raven or the world in which they live. I don't even own ice cream. Although I could certainly go for some right about now…
"Without ice cream, there would be darkness and chaos."
- Don Kardong
For a moment, the image before him was beyond his comprehension, so he blinked stupidly without saying a word, feeling that if he blinked often enough the image might dissipate like shadows in dreams.
Five minutes later, when Raven was still standing on the other side of his open door, he had to accept he wasn't seeing things. Perhaps he was dreaming? He looked back at his room, half-expecting to see himself asleep on the bed or at his desk, but the sun was shining brightly.
"Do you want me to pinch you?" Raven asked sarcastically.
Robin turned back to look at her and blushed at being caught. "Sorry, it's just..." It wasn't exactly that it'd never happened before, but Raven never really sought him out in his room unless there was some sort of emergency. The instant worry broke through the surprise and his expression sharpened immediately. "Is something wrong?" he asked, ready to make split second decisions or go into action.
"I'm going into town," she announced, monotonously.
Robin frowned. "Ookay?" And it was a question really, not an affirmation and certainly not a concession. There was no getting around the fact that it was pure confusion and nothing else. It wasn't like Raven to be so forthcoming about her whereabouts and consequently, in being so she had managed to throw him completely off balance.
Again, it wasn't that Raven never thought to let them know when she was going to be out of the Tower but it was usually through a curt note on the message board they had in the kitchen or more likely, when she was caught leaving the Tower and was asked directly. She never offered the information and she certainly never had felt it necessary to seek him out in his room to tell him.
"Do you need something?" he asked uncertainly.
She looked suddenly uneasy and absently pulled at her button-down blouse. The action, of course, drew Robin's attention to her clothing and he realized for the first time since he had opened the door, that she was dressed in civilian clothing.
"I thought..." she trailed off and looked down at her hands.
Robin had just enough time to wonder if he had agreed to go somewhere with her and had forgotten, but even before she continued to speak he knew that was impossible.
She squared her shoulders and looked up to meet his masked eyes. "Would you like to come along?" she asked unemotionally.
There was a sudden rush of thoughts in his mind, fighting for dominance. Thoughts that pointed out that this was the first time Raven had sought him out to ask him to go somewhere with her. Thoughts that reminded him that any time he had gone somewhere with her previously, he had more or less included himself in her plans or asked her out himself. Thoughts that wondered why she was asking now and what it meant.
He almost asked her where they were going, but then he realized that it didn't matter. So, instead, he smiled at her, "Sure." He watched as she nodded. "Give me five minutes to change."
"Five minutes," she confirmed and walked away down the hall.
He watched her go for a moment before letting his door close and looking for a pair of jeans and a clean shirt.
There was an almost ritualistic quality in the way she gently circled the upper layer, the silver in her hand gleaming a little in the sunny but chilly afternoon sun. She lifted the creamy spoils of her toil, careful of the dripping bits, and brought it to her lips where it was promptly and reverently admitted entrance.
He watched her repeat the process a few times before she glanced at him, and the shock of seeing her eyes shook him out of his semi-trance.
"You're staring," she pointed out and he watched as another spoonful of White Chocolate was raised to her lips and savored on her tongue.
In front of him, his banana split melted quietly while he thought of something to say.
She paused and raised an eyebrow, looking meaningfully at his plate. "Don't you like it?" she asked.
He looked down at his ice cream which was basically untouched. "I've..." he looked up at her and had to clear his throat to continue, "I don't think I've ever seen you enjoy something so much."
She blinked for a moment, obviously caught off guard by his statement. She swallowed and set her spoon gently inside the bowl and leaned back in the wrought iron chair to regard him. "I don't know what you're talking about."
He laughed long and hard at her prim denial. "Raven," he said when he finally managed to control himself, "I have known men that would pay a year's salary to have a woman look at them the way you're looking at that ice cream."
She narrowed her eyes at him and crossed her arms at her chest. "And how might that be?" she asked.
"Like it's the last glass of water in a desert," he answered. "Like you are savoring each and every aspect of each and every mouthful because you know it can't last and you want to stretch out the pleasure as long as possible." His lips quirked in a wry smile, "Like you've never tasted anything quite as wonderful."
She looked as if she wanted to argue, but in the end, decided against it and leaned back toward the table, taking up her spoon and dug back into the melting treat. "That's because I haven't," she answered simply.
He shook his head, "You know, I gotta admit to being very surprised." When she raised a brow in question, he smiled. "I didn't know you liked ice cream that much."
She swallowed the spoonful she had taken and looked at him. "Neither did I."
He frowned. "What does that mean?" he asked.
She shrugged almost imperceptibly and took in another spoonful of ice cream. "Don't you like yours?" she asked again once she was able.
He looked down at his banana split and noticed the scoops of chocolate and vanilla and strawberry -- which had started out nicely rounded -- had degenerated into smushed mounds around the slices of banana. He thought about reaching out and taking some but he couldn't seem to make himself grab the spoon. "It's not that I don't like it," he admitted quietly.
"Then?" she pressed. "Do you not like the taste of this particular shop?" she asked.
He looked up at her in mild surprise. Raven was doing quite a bit of things that were somewhat out of character for her. A thought suddenly occurred to him and he realized that he had never seen Raven eating ice cream before. He couldn't be sure, of course, but whenever they happened to have ice cream at the Tower, he'd never seen her eat any of it. She never chimed in on what brand or flavor she wanted and she was never really around when the others had their ice cream-a-pa-loozas. "Have you never had ice cream before?" he asked, the stirrings of a realization in his eyes.
Raven met his gaze steadily for a few moments before lowering her eyes back to her dish, "No," she answered succinctly.
He couldn't believe it. "Why?" he asked.
"It is a rather pointless food," she answered, looking up at him across the wrought iron table. They were relatively alone in their corner of the Ye Olde Ice Cream Shoppe's back courtyard since most people who came in stayed indoors where the temperature was more controlled and the booths were more comfortable. The few groups who had joined them outside sat closer to the stone fountain decorating the center of the courtyard, where the sun shone down on it most of the day, keeping it comfortably warm.
"Pointless?" he echoed questioningly.
She shrugged. "It is empty calories," she answered. "There is no nutritional value to it."
"It has calcium," he pointed out.
"The ratio of calcium to sugars, cholesterol, and fat is so minimal, it hardly seems worth it," she countered easily.(1)
"But it's tasty," he provided.
She nodded. "Yes, I never doubted that it would taste good," she admitted. "But if it had no other purpose than to simply taste good on the pallet, added calories and fat to my body but yet gave my body hardly nothing it could process into energy or usable materials, it was not a priority for me to ingest it."
She sounded suddenly to him the way she had when he had first met her. Lately, it had seemed to him, she had lost some of the properness to her speech. It had been months since she had called anything pointless. At least, with him around to hear her.
"You were taught not to ingest things that served no nutritional purpose, you mean," he said, more than asked.
She nodded and looked back at the ice cream mostly eaten in her bowl. "Food serves a purpose, ice cream and other sweets serve no purpose."
He shook his head at the kind of upbringing she had been exposed to, but made no further comment. In the end, there was nothing he could say about it. She was trying, anyway. "So what made you change your mind about it today?"
She looked at him, obviously confused.
"You wanted to come here this afternoon, that was your purpose of coming into town today, wasn't it?"
"Then why did you decide to try ice cream today?" he pressed.
She looked at him as if wondering why he couldn't see what was right in front of him and whether or not she should explain it if he couldn't see it.
"I didn't want to come here today because of me," she finally answered.
"Then why?" he wondered.
"Because of you," she answered simply.
He frowned in confusion. She couldn't possibly mean what he thought she meant...could she? "I'm confused," he admitted.
Her face relaxed into the soft lines of concern. "Today is..." she trailed off, seemingly unable to finish the sentence without some outward sign from him.
Robin sighed and smiled, but it was not happy. "You know," he said, almost under his breath.
"I..." she trailed off searching for the appropriate description. "I felt it, I suppose."
He looked down at his melting ice cream, "How did you know about the ice cream?" he asked.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw her look toward the bubbling water of the fountain. "I just...do," she answered. She must have seen him look up at her because she turned back to him. "I don't know how to explain the way it happens, but ever since I went into your mind it's like I know things about you I don't even know I know."
He raised his brows at the uncharacteristically confusing explanation. "What?"
She sighed. "I don't go around knowing things about your past on a day to day basis. I don't even know that I could summon the memories if I tried to, but today I woke up, looked at the calendar and I just...knew." She looked at the ice cream. "And when I thought of what I should do about it, if anything, it was like I remembered..."
Robin looked off to watch the group of three kids and their parents who had just entered the courtyard, brimming with energy and happiness. He watched in silence as they settled into their seats, the two brothers fighting over one seat until their mother settled it for them and the sister sticking her tongue out at the other two until her father chastised her.
"I shouldn't have presumed," she spoke into the silence. She started to stand up but Robin reached out and took hold of her hand, stilling her.
He glanced at her and when she sat down again, he turned to his ice cream and picked up his spoon, picking up a slice of banana and some of the less melted strawberry.
"I don't even know how it started," Robin admitted as he swallowed. "I don't even remember what upset me that first day either," he continued. "I just remember being in my room in the trailer and my father knocking on my door and sticking his head into the crack he made when he opened it. He looked at me with these eyes full of mischief..." he smiled at the memory. He stopped speaking for awhile as he took a few more spoonfuls of half-melted ice cream. "'I know just the place to drown your sorrows.' That's what he'd always say." He looked at the vanilla and took a spoonful of the chocolate, "From that moment on, whenever I'd had a bad day, or whenever I hadn't been able to do something I tried hard for or if someone beat me at something, he'd come into my room or stop me from training or practicing or studying or whatever I was doing obsessively and say, 'I know just the place to drown your sorrows' and off we'd go, the three of us, to the nearest ice cream parlor. And they'd never ask me to talk about it, they never pretended they could do anything else, but it wasn't until later that I realized they spent the whole time we were there talking alternately about stupid things they'd done as kids, stupid things they'd done as adults and all the things I'd done that made them proud."
By the time he finished his dialogue, he was surprised to notice that he had eaten every bit of the ice cream on his dish, even the melted bits, except for the non-melted vanilla.
"The vanilla was her favorite," Raven said before he could even remember that.
He nodded. "Three scoops, she used to say," he spoke. "Chocolate for me, Strawberry for dad and vanilla for her."
After a while, Raven spoke again. "And the banana?"
He looked at her in confusion. "What?"
She looked at him, "What does the banana stand for?"
"I don't think it stands for anything," he admitted.
"So it's just a pointless banana?" she asked, her tone almost incredulous.
He looked at her in some surprise, "Well, yes, I suppose so, except that it is a banana split."
"I must say that I am severely disappointed in the Grayson family creativity if you couldn't come up with something for the banana."
She was so serious in her delivery that for a split second, he actually took her words at face value. Then, he noticed the cocky angle of her chin, the defiance in her folded arms and the line of her lips pressed tightly together. It was with some surprise that he realized he was being teased by Raven.
"I thought perhaps the banana might stand for love or familial affiliations or something..." she continued in the same unemotional tone.
He looked down at the vanilla ice cream on his plate and the bits of banana left and couldn't help but smile. "Nope," he said, looking up and letting her see the smile on his lips, "Just banana."
She frowned. "I never did like bananas."
"They have nutritional value," he pointed out.
"I realize it," she allowed. "I just don't like the consistency of it," she admitted. She looked pensive for a moment, "Of course, it might have something to do with the fact that the first time I saw someone eating a banana it was Starfire and she didn't think to peel it first."
He laughed. "I asked my mother once how monkeys knew to peel the banana before eating it," he said reminiscently.
"And?" Raven prompted.
"She said that animals have a sense about things dealing with life and death that humans have lost...that animals in the wild tend to have a diet perfectly balanced for their bodies simply because they have an instinct about what they need to eat and when."
"She sounds like a very wise woman, your mother," Raven said softly.
He nodded, then smiled again as he met her eyes. "But she never did give me a straight answer."
Raven smiled. "Well," she said, pushing her empty ice cream dish away from her toward the center of the table. "I don't like bananas," she repeated as if the subject had been up for contention. "And I think it has no business being put together with ice cream."
"Oh?" Robin raised his eyebrows. "Are you the ice cream guru now?" he challenged.
She shrugged. "I merely state an opinion." She looked pointedly at his dish. "Are you done?" she asked.
He looked at the ice cream for a minute and picked up his spoon again, picking up the remnants of vanilla ice cream. "You already had all of yours, don't go drooling over mine."
Raven narrowed her eyes warningly, but said nothing, until he was almost done. "Why do you think she liked vanilla ice cream above any of the others?" she asked.
He shrugged, "She said once that all the other flavors of ice cream took away from the original flavor of ice cream."
Raven nodded pensively. "I can see that."
Finished, Robin put down his spoon and pushed the dish away from him, leaning back to look at Raven consideringly. "I think she would have liked you," he announced, seemingly out of the blue.
She looked at him and her expression was soft and there was the hint of a smile that was more than a smile in her eyes. "I think I would have liked her."
Robin exhaled, amazed at how much lighter he felt. He never would have thought just talking about his parents and having ice cream again would do him so much good. He looked at Raven and took in the sight of her profile as the sunlight filtering through the courtyard's trees and shadows of plants played on the planes of her cheek. "Raven?" he asked. She turned from her inspection of the water bubbling fountain back to him. "Thank you."
She smiled for a moment before it was gone and the casual expression was back on her face. "For what?" she asked. "You paid for the ice cream."
"I don't mind," he said. "Whenever you want ice cream, you go ahead and tell me and we'll come back."
She nodded somberly. "Now that we know of a place to drown our sorrows, right?" she asked.
He nodded and smiled brightly. "Exactly," he leaned on the table, his eyes glittering with mischief. "But next time, it's up to you to get us here," he sighed playfully, "I'm tired of always being the one to drive."
She raised both eyebrows at him. "Unless you want to fly here, I don't see how I can."
"You could always drive," he argued.
"Drive what?" she asked. "You didn't let me keep the rocket-bus."(2)
He laughed. "Well, that was a safety hazard."
She shrugged. "Cyborg will kill you if I drive the T-Car."
Robin raised his brows, "Kill me?"
She nodded matter-of-factly, "He likes me too much to kill me." She almost smiled, "And I don't think Beast Boy's Moped could hold the two of us." She looked a challenge at him. "So that leaves the R-Cycle." He shrugged and she raised her brows, "Are you saying that you would let me drive the R-Cycle?"
"Do you know how to drive a motorcycle?" he asked.
She shook her head.
"Well, when you learn to drive a motorcycle, I'll let you drive the R-Cycle," he promised.
"And how am I supposed to learn to drive a motorcycle?" she asked logically.
"If you want to learn, I'll teach you," he replied honestly.
She looked at him consideringly for a few moments before nodding as if she had just decided to accept his proposal. "Done," she confirmed.
Robin quirked a brow. "Do you want to learn?"
"Now?" she asked.
He shrugged, "Why not?"
She thought about it for a moment before standing up. "Are you coming?" she asked, starting to walk away.
Robin laughed and followed her. This certainly wasn't the way he had planned to spend the anniversary of his parents' deaths, but he couldn't deny that it was much, much better.
(1) Not a personal belief, mind you...I think Ice Cream is ambrosia of the Gods, and can do no wrong, personally.
(2) Reference to the episode, "Revved Up"