AN: "Stop it Cajun."
"But Remy ain't doin' anytin' Chere."
"Ya know what ya doin'. Stop it."
"Whatever could you mean, Roguey?"
"Don't call me that. And stop trying to touch me!"
"Remy ain't touchin' ya Chere. He'd be unconscious if 'e was."
"Ya touchin' me."
"Non, he ain't."
"Yeah, ya are."
"So this is what you guys do when I'm not around?"
"Blackberry don't sneak up on us like that! Ya scared meh half ta death!"
"And Remy rather be doin' somethin' else, but Chere seems to t'ink it'd be unsafe. But where have you been, Petite?"
"Stupid writer's block. It held me up for forever! And it's only going to get worse. School's coming back and that means less time to write."
"Yeah, yeah, very sad. So where's this chapter? Ya kept us waitin' long enough."
"Remy thought ya didn't like de Petite's story Chere."
"She's gotten us this far, might as well see what happens."
"Your vote of confidence is amazing. Anyway, you're going to like this chapter Rems, I already know it. But since you're in a hurry, Rogue, will you do the honors?"
"Fine. Blackberry doesn't own, jeez it's gotten longer, the following: Teen Titans, Mexico, IHOP, Baskin Robins, Bazar de Sabádo, Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico, The Black Swan, The Fallen Sparrow, Vogue, Life&Style, Home and Garden, or Archie, DC, and Marvel comics. Or the song… Chiquitita?"
"It's on my Andean Fusion CD, it's all instrumental. This chapter's extra long, so I hope it makes up for my absence!"
"I know I'm good looking but is it really necessary to stare?"
He could feel the eyes boring holes into the back of his head go icy. She hadn't said anything since he slipped the civilian clothes over his suit, once again slipping off the mask and replacing it with the tinted sunglasses before facing her again. Surprisingly she had her back turned to him facing the entrance to the crowded streets, as if she was concerned about his need for privacy. It had been an act of kindness he honestly hadn't expected.
But the fact that she wasn't speaking at all didn't bode well with him. Sure he could understand not wanting to fraternize with the enemy, but in light of the matter, he had just saved her life. Probably. There's no telling what those thugs had wanted with her. But he doubted that this was just some random back alley jump. It was way too planned. They had to have known that the only way to get at the Titan would be to catch her unaware. And just how fortunate for them she had appeared to be having an off day with her empathy powers. Yeah, fortunate. Somehow, he just didn't buy that. And he knew she was smart enough not to. So why wasn't she talking?
So this was awkward. It sounded like some cheesy joke in the making. A professional thief and a world renowned super hero go walking down the street…
The streets themselves were hard to navigate. If getting through the streets before uninjured had been difficult for Raven, it was nearly impossible to move with the ever flowing tide of people swarming past them. She obviously tried to maneuver around them but it was a useless effort. Every so often someone would run across her path and shove her back into someone else. It was after this had happened for about the sixth time that she realized that instead of just falling into someone, this time the person behind her had caught the back of her arms. She looked over her shoulder to face a pair of metallic glossed sunglasses. She blinked back her surprise. She hadn't even seen him move from in front of her.
"You sure you're alright?" his brow had furrowed as he studied how she was still hunched over. He had noticed that every time someone had run into her she had cringed. Before she had a chance to protest he grabbed her right forearm, being sure to stay as far away from her left side as possible, and hauled her over to the edge of the street. He continued to drag her until they walked in the shadows behind the vendors' booths. Once there, he quickly released her, but continued to follow right behind her. Now when the passing few travelers down this pathway walked by them, he took the brunt of the damage from the shoving and jostling.
As they made their way through these back ways, picking their way over crates cluttered into every available space, they came upon what could only be described as a traffic jam. A swarm of floral-printed, camera wielding tourists were jamming the area behind an obviously frustrated and hassled tour guide, apparently making use of the 'short cut' instead of venturing into the crowded street themselves.
It was so sudden that Raven swore it must have been on instinct alone. As she was just inches away from being assaulted by a tourist clad in a hideous blue Hawaii shirt and Bermuda shorts, her view was suddenly blocked by a much darker, t-shirt covered chest. A very well-toned t-shirt covered chest. It took her a moment to realize that her now aching back was against a wall and two arms had materialized undeniably close to her vulnerable position. She turned her head slightly to the left to see X's mirrored visage meeting her own gaze. She barely heard his low whisper over the clamor of the city as he tilted his head scarcely toward her own.
"Shh." She could hear enough from his tone to catch the warning in his voice. It made her catch her breath as her eyes widened, her mind racing trying to figure out what threat could have made him react so suddenly.
As the final tourist had noisily made their way around them he leaned back just enough to give her some sorely missed personal space. But only just enough. He kept his arms easily leaning against the walls on either side of her as he studied her unmistakable discomfort. And of course, he was the one to break the silence.
"You're just a little too popular for comfort, Reá. Wouldn't want to cause a rampage with all those tourists trying to get a superhero souvenir now would we?"
She narrowed her eyes up at him as she huffed. It wasn't her fault if people wanted to be idiots. But before she could reply as much he interrupted her again. That was seriously going to have to stop before she hurt him.
"Now even though I have no problem spending more time with you, Reá," he said as he clearly scanned their positions again. She began to feel the urge to slap that smirk right off his face. "Why, exactly, are your friends missing in action? I thought you guys had to come in a matching set."
"And I thought a criminal would realize that he had better mind his own business. Now. Let. Me. Go!" the last word left her lips at a hiss past her gritted teeth. What she didn't know was how much the man in front of her was enjoying watching that spark grow in her eyes. But he relented, lazily dropping his left arm as he straightened fully, allowing her to slide along the wall and away from his arrogant figure. But he wasn't done with her yet.
He easily kept pace beside her fuming figure and surprised her once again by continuing to talk.
"So how'd you like Tokyo?"
That made her abruptly freeze as her wary eyes found his smug grin still plastered on his face.
"How do you know I was in Tokyo?"
"Please, I'm surprised that walking out the front door doesn't make headlines for the Titans. Bringing down an organized crime ring is more than enough for world news."
"Then why do you need to know?"
"I didn't ask why you were in Tokyo. I asked if you liked it."
She studied him for a minute before turning to continue on her way. But she did call over shoulder, if not a little hesitantly, "It was okay. Not a lot to do if you don't like shopping."
"Aww, Reá, shopping's fun if you've got all of the discounts!"
She shot him a look that he could describe as poisonous but just served to entertain him more. But surprisingly enough she answered.
"You've apparently never been to the mall with Starfire. That in itself is an insufferable pain no matter the 'discounts'," she laced the word with every implication it could hold as she finished shooting him a hard glare before continuing on her way.
He was stunned for a moment or two, before he raced to catch up with her. "Did you just make a joke at the expense of one of your teammates?" He made his voice sound affronted, but the humor wasn't easily masked.
"Ugh. Are you still talking?" she sighed as she began to massage her aching forehead.
If possible his smirk only grew wider as he easily replied, "I'm sick. My medicine is to talk to you."
He was shocked to a complete stand-still as she just as easily replied.
"Unfortunately there is no cure for stupidity. And you can't afford the treatment."
And as he saw their positions swapped right before his eyes, her now wearing the smug grin like a medal of honor, and him, the notorious Red X, standing there with his mouth wide open, he felt the all too familiar tug of appreciation. There weren't a lot of people who could keep up with him. This might just get interesting.
But before he could properly recover from his floundering, he saw that she was just about to turn a corner. He raced to catch up to her, mind racing to find some sort of retort. After it seemed pointless he just decided to move on to a different topic.
"Why didn't you even bother to call the Brady Bunch?"
"What did I say about it being none of your business?"
He finally managed to make a grab at her arm again and it slowed her down enough for her to face him. "Listen okay. You were just jumped in an unfamiliar city, where you could have been fatally injured, and you still didn't call for back-up. Now correct me if I'm wrong, but don't you think that one of them would have cared enough to come to your rescue?"
She glared at him a little before heaving a sigh and pushing some of her violet hair away from her face. She leveled him with a heavy stare before going on, "Okay. One, I'm a superhero. I can take care of myself. Two, it's not my friends' job to be at my beck and call. Three, even if they would have come, and they would have and still can, I don't want them to. That's my decision, my business. Can you at least live with that?"
He studied her expression for a little while before nodding his head and releasing her arm. But as she started to walk away it was at a slower pace this time, just enough for him to walk easily beside her.
After a while of walking in silence he began again. "So it's your decision to stay with me?"
"Ugh!" her head fell back as she moaned and he laughed at her reaction. "You're impossible!"
"Well let's face it, you could have been stubborn and not taken my help back there."
"I was injured, and your point was logical."
"So I was the logical decision? Man, there really is a first time for everything."
"Yeah I'm sure you get that all the time. Can't you go two seconds without trying to talk?" she replied dryly.
"I've never really tried. Why, can't you go longer than just average banter in a conversation?"
"If the conversation's worth having, yes."
"And what deems a worthwhile conversation in your book, Reá?"
"You're going to run that name into the ground now aren't you?"
"Avoiding the question is not the same as answering it."
"Fine. Why are you in Mexico?" she half-expected this to derail him.
"Business. Pleasure. More on the pleasurable side now that you're here though." She could hear the flirtatiousness in his voice but she decided to ignore it. So the guy thought he had found a new toy to play with, so what?
"More like I'm keeping you from 'business' since I forbade you from doing anything illegal."
"Who said my business was illegal?"
"You're a thief. Anything illegal is you're business."
"Now you see that's the kind of stereotype I expected you to be above. Do you really see the world as black and white?"
"Seeing as I'm the one who's responsible for the safety of an entire city, I think I have to say yes!"
"Uh huh. So how are you going to explain this particular set-up to the rest of your teammates? Because I'm just so sure that Chuckles is gonna love us hanging out together."
This made her pause mid-step as her gaze looked past him. He arched an eyebrow as he waited for her to respond. He got kind of impatient though.
"Hello? Raven? Anybody home? Hey Sunshine!"
Her gaze snapped to his face immediately and she frowned at him. Without another word she kept on walking down the alleyway. She really had to stop leaving him behind. "C'mon Reá, spill. What was the big epiphany?"
"If they're not there to see you then I really don't have anything to explain, now do I? If we don't hurry up though, someone's bound to show up before us."
"So we're keeping our relationship in the dark? How sweet, this'll be just like Romeo and Julie-"
"Complete that thought and I swear to you, injured or not, we'll find out how far I can throw you with my powers."
"All right. So if you're friends aren't there, what are you gonna do?"
"What do you mean?" She gave him the liberty of actually facing him when she asked him this time, though she didn't hesitate in her pace at all. It was then that he noticed not only had the vendors' booths all faded away, but they were making their way further and further into the historic, upscale district. Just where were she and her friends staying?
"I mean, what about your back? You're still going to need someone to at least bandage it. And then what? Hide in a hotel room until someone comes to find you? You've gotta eat sometime."
Why are you even concerned? She wanted to ask it, but she really wasn't expecting that she'd get a straight forward answer. "I'll order room service. Besides, even if I don't, no one's starved in a day. And as I said, my powers should be taking care of my back. Look my temple's already healed." She turned her head to just a degree so he could see that the previously bleeding open wound had already closed up. He made her stop as he stilled her movements with one arm on her shoulder, another one cupping her chin as he studied the still-red lump on her head. She was once again surprised by the gentleness of his movements.
"Huh," was all the reply she got, as he finally released her and stepped back. He stood there still studying her entire figure as if she was some object on a display case. It was kinda unnerving how his hidden eyes seemed to be divulging so much from her now prone form.
She quickly picked up the pace back on the path that he kept delaying them on and was rewarded with a few precious moments of silence. This wasn't bothering her at all. Let the thief be alone with his thoughts for a while, it wasn't going hurt her feelings. But it was kind of unsettling how silent he could move beside her. He really was cut out for his profession.
And as they moved along she began to truly enjoy the scenery around her, now that they were moving in the less crowded part of the city. She felt more open, freer. She was able to appreciate the old buildings with the architecture that was stressed with exquisite detail. This was the part of the town she liked. It had an older life, a deep rooted culture. If others liked the light and life Mexico could offer with its flamboyant festivities and eye-catching attractions, then she could admire it for the history that poured from every nook and cranny. It swallowed her up and immersed her in powerful legends and ways of people long gone. Even with her present company, she couldn't repress her small smile as she felt herself being caught up in the enticing environment. She was practically oblivious to everyone around her, so she missed her companion's own watchful demeanor.
Red X watched as Raven became enthralled in her own little world, as her eyes would flit around on new sights and come alive. He watched as her small smile grew on her serene face and he could feel the corners of his own lips turn up in response. The girl loved this. It obviously fascinated her to no end, and the thief couldn't stop himself from wondering just what it would take for him to get such a smile from her. It would definitely be a challenge, and it had endless appeal. She was beautiful when she smiled like that. He briefly wondered if she even knew it.
But first he had to convince her to spend more time with him. Which was going to be difficult in and of itself. He pondered upon that for a while as the tree lined street stretched before them as long as their silence. But then brilliance struck. Let's see who wants to make a deal.
"So, you still didn't tell me what you were planning on doing for the rest of the day."
She looked back up at him with a startled expression, as if she had just crash landed back on Earth. He caught her by such surprise that she even answered without thinking, "Why do you care?"
He smirked, but once again took her off-guard. He kind of ducked his head a bit and smiled at the ground as if he was in on some big secret. But he quickly focused his gaze back on her, and she could feel his eyes gauging her response. She briefly wondered what his eyes looked like.
"What would you say if you could keep a criminal off the streets today without doing any fighting at all?"
"What are you suggesting?" she asked as she pondered his question. Surely he wasn't giving himself up, was he?
"All right I'm gonna be as blunt as I can with this. Do you wanna hang out?" she watched him with her eyes wide-open and once again their progress came to a complete standstill. Was he serious? But that's not what she asked him.
"Are you crazy?"
He genuinely smiled at that, revealing a million-dollar smile that she was sure had made tons of girls swoon before her. But she wasn't most girls. And she knew he wasn't like most guys. This was a thief wanting to spend time with a superhero, one who had on more than one occasion tried to apprehend him. So just what was he thinking?
"Maybe. Are you above hanging out with crazy people?" he asked with mock solemnity.
"You have met Beast Boy right?"
"You're avoiding the question again. Do you always do this when you feel threatened?"
"I-" she was standing there gaping at him again, before she caught herself. "Are you threatening me?"
"Still avoiding the question. I mean, I'll understand if you're afraid of the risk involved with hanging out with a fugitive of the law. Fear's a completely natural response-"
"I am not afraid," she wasn't about to admit to this guy that her fears were more than he could handle.
"So you're just not up for the challenge then. Yeah, I kinda figured that you were more hurt than you were putting on. The best thing to do would probably be to get in contact with one of your friends. I can just imagine Grass Stain's bedside manner," to keep up the act he was putting on he had to quickly repress a chuckle at the shudder that visibly went down her spine at that particular mental image. But it was just so hard.
"I'm fine," she emphasized the word with dire finality. She wasn't getting back into that particular discussion.
"So you just think you couldn't keep up with me then? I am the best… I actually wouldn't blame you for backing down now. It might save some of your dignity."
"Listen, I am perfectly capable of spending an entire day with you. I'm just not sure you would be alive at the end of the day," she said as she flipped the short strands of her hair over her shoulder so that he got a perfect view of the defiance radiating in her eyes.
"I'm game if you are Reá. I'm sure I can take whatever you can dish out. And at the end of the day, you get to say you proved me wrong. The famous Red X wrong. Can you just imagine it?" it was his turn to shudder at the thought, but his was obviously just him over acting. But would she take the bait?
Raven stood there for a moment considering what potential threats or benefits such a deal could offer. But her ego was practically screaming at her to take the challenge. Or maybe that was just Bravery. Whatever the case, was she really willing to let Red X hold this over her like this? Owing her rescue to him was one thing, but could she really back down from such a simple challenge?
"Alright if we're going to do this, we're doing it by my rules." Obviously not.
He couldn't help the smirk, honestly he couldn't. Probably some sort of nerve condition that he should get checked out. Later.
"What did you have in mind, Reá?"
"Nothing illegal, sorry to disappoint you." she said, expecting a crestfallen look. His continued attempts at flirting shocked her, but she'd never let him see that.
"You could never disappoint me. So where are we going?"
"Well I guess I just eliminated the museums, the pyramids, or any street vendors, so honestly, what's left?"
He snapped his fingers and sighed in mock disappointment, "Well darn, that takes out all of my plans for the afternoon. Guess we'll just have to wing it."
She couldn't imagine what could compel her to 'wing it' with a known thief in a city full of valuables. She must have suffered some kind of head injury in that fall.
She shot him one more glare just for good measure, but his cocky grin remained firmly planted on his face. She sighed as she made her way down the sidewalk. And as she walked she could swear she could feel him smirking at her. There just wasn't going to be any living with him after this.
X, in the mean time, was running through every single line ever used. There had to be something that Raven would react to. So immersed was he in his thoughts, he almost ran over her as she came to a sudden stop in front of the entrance of an ancient building that was literally tiered with classic brown stone pillars. The sign above the doorway proudly proclaimed it's heritage as the embossed "M" was flanked by imposing lions, while the impressive name was asserted as Gran Hotel Ciudad De Mexico.
He whistled out his breath as he glanced at the elaborate entryway. "Wow, you guys sure do travel with style don't you?" he said, his tone surprisingly appreciative. He took a glance at Raven to find her a bit uncomfortable at the scrutiny of his stare. Was the dark bird shy?
She shook it off as she shrugged. "I don't think Robin fits the whole superhero thing with mediocrity. It was his idea, not mine."
He thought about this until he realized that she wasn't moving towards the door. Today was definitely going to be interesting, "Well, ready to take me to your room Reá?"
She narrowed her gaze at him in a glare that was becoming oh so familiar before muttering, "There are just so many things wrong with that statement." But she must have scrounged up enough courage for a game face because she casually pushed her way through the door, barely turning her head to call over her shoulder, and "Coming?"
Oh yes, he thought, as he followed her into the veritable lap of luxury, today was definitely going to be interesting.
If he had thought the outside was impressive, then the inside of the massive building left him dumb-struck. The three levels of the building were a spotless white which left the dark paneled doorways to the rooms in stark contrast. Every balcony and ledge was covered in just more and more elaborate curls and folds, to the point where you were sure everything was hand-wrought and priceless. And the encasement of wrought iron that draped over the glass-covered elevator and the balcony rails left a feeling of more eloquence rather than the captivity iron bars usually dispelled. But that wasn't the best part. Towering above them in an endless swirl of color and light was the roof, which appeared to be completely made of delicate and detailed pieces of stained glass. Every where he scanned his eyes was more light filtering in every color imaginable. It was breathtaking.
He realized belatedly that Raven was easily leaning against a pillar in the foyer, smirking at his open-mouthed expression. But right then, the normally level-headed thief was gone. He was still lost in the way the light was almost gently touching her gray skin, as if it the brightness was trying to lose itself in her normally dark depths. He was so lost in thought, that he initially missed what she was saying.
"… that is, if you're done gawking at the pretty glass?" There was that smirk again, the one that barely tugged at the corners of her lips, but lit her eyes up with mischief. He mentally shook himself as he lazily shrugged his shoulders, trying to not draw attention to the object of his new stare.
"I'm ready anytime you are, Sunshine. Just lead the way."
She visibly deflated at the use of the hated nickname, and he caught sight of the familiar spark that lit up behind her eyes. But he couldn't resist. The timing was just too perfect. But he was starting to like "Reá" better.
She huffed something inaudible before turning around in striding away. He easily kept up on their way to the elevator, his eyes scanning the invaluable objects. He was barely suppressing the urge for his hands twitching at the longing to run his hands over some of the unique décor. He had to behave for the day. Nothing illegal, that was the deal, and he was fairly certain that Raven was perfectly capable of enforcing her rules.
It was safe to say that it was a quiet ride up to the third floor with a ticked-off Raven and Red X trying to fight off withdrawals. It wasn't until they had made it down the off-white hallway and to the dark-paneled doorway that either of them spoke. And that was laced heavily with hesitancy, as the atmosphere became rather uncomfortable.
He could practically feel her waging emotions. It was written in every line on her face, her tensed posture as she had one hand pressed firmly against the wood grain and another with the key all ready in the lock, but most of all in her luminous eyes as an almost tangible fear haunted their depths. He could feel something stir at the base of his consciousness, the very faintest imprint of concern washing over him as he reached out one hand to touch her shoulder.
She visibly shook herself and new determination lit her eyes up again. With quick movements lined with grace, she quickly unlocked the door and pushed against it into the dark room beyond. Leaving him standing there with his arm still raised as she called in cool confidence, "Come in."
His hand dropped and he easily glided into the room as she shut the door behind him and flicked on the light switch. She steadily moved around the room to a duffle bag sitting on one of two full beds, both identical from the dark green comforters with crimson embroidery twisting across the material to the lighter green hues that made up the mountain of pillows that tumbled over the head of the beds. He watched her as she sorted through the clothing in the black duffle and almost attempted to pull out another leotard, before he halted her progress.
"Hanging out usually doesn't include heavy-duty crime fighting. Do you have anything a little less conspicuous?"
Instead of his usual glare he received, she looked thoughtfully at the bag before she sighed and started sifting through it with new resolve. This time she pulled out what appeared to be a loose t-shirt and a pair of dark denim Capri's. He was still kinda alarmed when she pulled out gauze but she sent him a glare that made him bite his tongue. With that she gathered up her possessions in a loose bundle in her arms before heading to the only other doorway in the room.
"Don't touch anything. I'll just be a minute." With that she shut the door behind her and he heard the faint click of the lock turning.
He shook his head as his eyes scanned the room, noting the hefty purple luggage that sat at the foot of the adjacent bed, and the few shopping bags that were lined up beside the entertainment center sporting a rather large television set. The girls were obviously roomies for the vacation.
His thoughts however, weren't on his surroundings. Rather, they were all focused on the girl he was spending the rest of his day with. She thought that she was shielding her demeanor reasonably well but it was his job to read people, to read situations. It's what honestly kept him alive. And he knew she was more worried than she was letting on. She was probably second guessing herself about their little bargain, seeing as she was in a way betraying her friends. He was going to have to work extra hard to get her mind off of that. But suddenly his thoughts were halted as a faint sound began to work its way into the room.
His sharp ears caught the sound easily enough, seeing as he had nothing else to do besides studying the room while he waited for Raven. His eyes roamed around the small bedside table until he saw that the drawer was slightly cracked open. There. He made sure the hinges didn't make a sound as he pulled it open. Please, he wasn't a professional thief for anything. As soon as he saw the little black cell phone, his initial wariness turned to his usual smirk. Of course Raven had a cell phone, she was a teenage girl. His thoughts began to take a different turn at that, and his quick hand snatched the device up on the next vibration. His grin only grew wider after he checked the I.D. He may have known of Jinx, but the pink-haired ex-villainess didn't know him that well, or at least not enough to recognize his voice.
There was an obvious pause on the other end of the line, "Hel-lo? Is this Raven?"
"No, I'm sorry, this is Henry. Sounds like you dialed a wrong number. What was it, maybe I can help you out?" his voice was seeping with unmistakable concern, as he grabbed the hotel pen waiting on the bedside table.
X's smile was probably rivaling that of the Cheshire cat's by now.
"Oh I see, my number is 9754. Your hand must have slipped, that's all."
"O-k? Um sorry about the mix-up. Bye."
"No problem." The last words were kind of rushed out as Jason eyed the now turning door knob to the bathroom. He flipped the phone down and placed it back into the safe keeping of the drawer and stood as Raven entered the room, her eyes still a little distracted as she tried to arrange the shirt to just fall over her damaged shoulder. Wordlessly, she handed him back the jacket he had lent her. He took it, slipping the valuable scrap of paper into the folds while she was still off in la-la land.
"Better?" his polite tone shook her out of her reverie.
"Yeah, thanks," her voice was still quiet, almost hesitant, "Are you ready to go?"
He just nodded, and gestured for her to go first. Raven simply walked forward, completely missing the grin that came to her companion's face. He may have had to work to get a girl's telephone number before, but he had a feeling that the dark enchantress's number was going to be worth the trouble. Besides, he still had to get her to smile. This was simply insurance that he'd get that chance.
It was a rather quiet walk as they made their way out of the hotel and out onto the historic street. He briefly noted her longing gaze towards a building only a block over that was definitely outstanding. It faintly reminded him of an Indonesian Palace he once stole from. But he was torn away from his thoughts as Raven began to make her way in the opposite direction. He raised an eyebrow at the abrupt mood swing, but left it alone.
"So what do you wanna to do, Reá?"
She had just opened her mouth to answer him, probably with another smart-alec comment, when a rather loud rumbling filled the air around them. Her mouth snapped shut faster than he thought possible as her eyes widened in surprise and a faint blush spread across her cheeks.
"I guess food would be a good idea, huh?" he chuckled at her flustered appearance.
"I'm fine. What I could really use, though, is a cup of tea. I don't think I've had any since we came to Mexico."
"Well, I'll tell you what. I happen to know of a little place that happens to serve tea and food, so we'll kill two birds with one stone. Figuratively speaking," he joked, hoping for a reaction.
"Ha. Ha," she commented dryly as he led her back down the maze of back alleys. It took them a while but she was happy to spend the time absorbing her surroundings, enjoying the fresh breeze that gently lifted her hair off her shoulders. The historic district of down town began to fall away as they left behind the shiny tourist trap businesses; and they began to descend downwards to the more colonial homes and quaint neighborhoods. Around them little kids played amusing little games in the early autumn sun as their parents talked with neighbors or joined in the entertainment. And she could actually feel a little relaxed with the quiet that had befallen them. But she froze completely when he started dragging her towards what looked like a new market area.
"Come on, Reá, I swear I'll behave. Besides, you won't find a better cup of tea in the city."
She continued to eye the crowded traffic swarming in between stalls and skeptically studied him. Yeah, that so wasn't going to happen.
"I'm not going anywhere near there until I have some insurance that you're not going to steal anything."
"Well, if you insist…"
He shocked her as he made a sudden grab for her hand. She jerked it back as if she had just been bitten by a snake.
"Hey! Don't touch me!" He couldn't help but smirk at the dangerous spark that was ignited behind her eyes. Her entire body was tensed, already in defense mode as she scanned his face. What did he think he was doing? No. One. Touched. HER!
His nonchalance about her irritation was only stoking her fury. "Listen there's only one guaranteed way to keep a thief from stealing, and that is to keep his hands busy."
"Then put your hands in your pockets!" she hissed, as she swatted a stray violet lock out of her eyes, simply so the icy amethysts could penetrate him more.
"Nuh uh, uh," he said, his tone as if he was reprimanding a small child. He demonstrated as he slipped his hands into his pockets, slowly starting to step backwards and further away from her. "It's too easy for me to move off by myself then. I might lose you in the crowd, and well, I might get pretty tempted with all the shiny stuff around and no one to hold me back…"
She narrowed her eyes at him and he thought he could faintly here a growl come from her snarled lips. His smirk just became more pronounced.
"So unless you want me to put my arm around you, Sunshine," the old nickname fell off his lips like bitter cough medicine, "the best way for me to stay close would be for you to hold my hand, while I promise the other one stays in my pocket."
She continued to stand there arms crossed over her chest, an elegant eyebrow arched over her eyes that were simply screaming defiance.
"Fine, have it your way then, Reá, but when you're accused of aid in trafficking stolen artifacts…" he started as his hands crept closer to his pockets as he turned away from her.
He barely heard her frustrated sigh over the din of the surrounding bustle but he felt as she snatched at his hand.
"Fine, but I'm dropping your hand as soon as we're out of the market."
He gave her a genuine smile as he easily laced his fingers with her own, "Fine with me Reá."
With that he led her into the crowded den of moving bodies and loud voices, hand firmly clasping hers as he followed some path he seemed certain of. As they moved further along she finally spotted what must have been their destination. In the very center of the entire mayhem, was a bright yellow concrete building that had open patios. Surrounding the small building, groups sat underneath umbrella covered tables in the heat of the day. She caught sight of various waiters running around balancing trays overfilling with traditional delicacies. X squeezed her hand just a little as if confirming her thoughts as he led her over to one of the few vacant iron wrought tables, thankfully under the shade of one of the ancient trees overhanging the plaza. She was sufficiently surprised when after releasing her hand, he pulled out her chair for her before sitting across from her.
And though he might have noticed the surprise on her face, he made no comment about it as a rushed waiter hurried over to serve them. X had apparently been there before. She didn't even have a chance to speak before he quickly placed an order and the waiter was off to the kitchen. It wasn't until he had left that the thief settled back into his chair, and addressed her staring figure.
"So I hope you're okay with Mexican food."
She snapped out of her daze as he smirked at her.
"Yeah, it's fine."
"So what is your favorite food to eat?"
She eyed him with a raised eyebrow.
"And why would you need to know that?"
"No reason," he shrugged, "Just wondering, if you could eat anything right now, what would it be?"
She actually thought a bit before answering him. What could it hurt?
She made a derisive sound as she leaned her elbows on the table. "Not likely. I can't cook to save my life."
"Me neither. So where's your favorite place to eat?" he said as he smirked at her.
"What is this, twenty questions?"
"Okay, okay. It'd probably be IHOP following the whole waffle thing," she interrupted him before he could start his favorite little topic. "What about you?"
"Really anyplace that serves dessert, preferably ice cream. I'm pretty sure I've had all of Baskin Robin's 31 flavors."
"Oh really?" she said with slight skepticism.
"Yes, really. Ice cream is awesome."
Before she could reply to that their waiter returned as he placed down a couple of trays of what looked like finger foods, before setting a steaming mug in front of her and a bottled water in front of him. The conversation dropped away as they began picking their way through the spread before them.
As she reached toward the glistening fruit, he grabbed her hand back. She stared at him for a moment like he had grown a second head. At her raised eyebrow he said, " What do they wash fruit with, Rae?"
Her eyes widened as she snatched her hand away, muttering, "I didn't even think of that . . ."
He chuckled at her expression, and muttered something about saving her for the second time that day. Soon enough all that was left was the untouched freshly washed fruit, until the waiter came and whisked that away. This left them sitting in the silence as Raven absentmindedly stirred her tea and Red X spent his time gazing at the passing crowds.
She paused amidst her stirring the tea just a little longer to stare directly at him, frown lines starting to form across her brow as if something was bothering her.
He eyed the area off beyond his shoulder and returned to face her still scrutinizing gaze. "What?"
"How can you stand leaving your hair like that after you take your mask off? Doesn't it bother you?"
He rolled his eyes and his forehead met the palm of his hand before he turned his incredulous gaze back on her. "Do I look like The Fonze? Seriously, my hair being messy is bothering you?"
"Robin freaks out if he gets helmet hair, Cy doesn't have any to worry about, and Beast Boy's too lazy to care… and don't get me started on Starfire's straightener. That thing blows more fuses in the Tower than Beast Boy and Cyborg's videogame tournaments. I just figured that someone who seems so fascinated," here her eyes rolled, sarcasm falling easily from her lips, "with their appearance would be pickier about their hairstyle."
His smirk grew with more amusement as she labeled off the various examples of her teammates vanity along with his own. He didn't miss the neglect towards her appearance.
"I happen to be roguishly handsome, and the disheveled look works perfectly with that, right Reá?"
He noted her frustration, and the very, very brief tinge of pink that graced her pale cheeks before he quickly cut her off with another question.
"And what about you? No secret stash of lip gloss and hair products hidden in your room?"
This earned him another eye roll. "Please."
"Not even one copy of Vogue?"
Here one of her delicate eyebrows arched over her expressive eyes as a coy look settled on her features. "Should I be concerned that you even know what's in a Vogue magazine?"
He played it off as if he were offended, arms crossing as he huffed out, "Stop avoiding the question."
"No, no Vogue. You?"
"Vogue, me? Please, I'm more of a Life & Style kind of guy. Or better yet Home and Garden."
"I'm sure you get all kind of thrills from reading the home security ads."
"How do you know how I get my kicks and giggles?" She smirked at that.
"So this is how low our conversation has degraded, we're talking about magazine ads?"
"Well since you're obviously not a magazine kind of girl, what do you like to read?" he said as he shifted his position to better stare at her.
"How do you know I like to read?" She said as she settled her chin into the palm of her hand as she sipped at the still warm tea.
"Hmm, well it's either that or you're an undercover rock star."
"Like being a superhero isn't enough? Besides I have no singing talent."
"So what instrument do you play?"
She sighed as she ran her hand over her face. He was persistent she'd give him that. "I like to read, happy?"
"Fiction or non-fiction?"
She eyed him curiously as she tried to figure out why her interests were just so entertaining to him.
"It depends. Most of the legends that people tend to forget about actually do exist, so some things people may blow off as fiction are very much reality for me."
"So I should keep an eye out for the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot?"
She shook her head as if she'd expected as much. "Not unless you're talking about Beastboy. I'm talking about really old myths the kind you find in archaic texts."
"Such as fables that include a land's past instead of some man-made hoax?" At her shocked expression, he tapped his forehead, "I do use this noggin for more than heists and good looks. Continue."
"Sometimes I'll pick up a few newer novels at a bookstore if they seem to have a decent plot instead of just angst."
"Substance over flash? Would that include the new vampire seri-"
"Please don't." She cut him off with a raised hand before he could finish the sentence. "I have nothing against the books personally, and I might have enjoyed them initially, but after all the hype and fan craze…ugh" She shuddered as she closed her eyes. "I don't even want to look at another vampire ever again."
"Darn there goes my Halloween costume."
She eyed him with an 'oh-please' look before she asked her next question. "What do you read?"
He actually had the guts to look a little embarrassed as he rubbed the back of his neck with one hand, "Do Archie comics count?"
Her expression was priceless. She stared at him owlishly, the cup of tea forgotten as she had it half-way raised to her parted lips, and he couldn't help it. He laughed. It was the first time he had derailed calm, cool, and collected Raven.
Obviously his laughter brought her back to reality. She shook herself as she managed to come up with a glare.
"What's with the interest in my hobbies anyway?"
"Well, what's not to be interested in?" he said completely solemn once again.
"I'm the freak on the team. I'm not the leader or the pretty one. I'm not funny like Beastboy- okay, yeah, that might be stretching it but he tries- and I'm not smart like Cyborg. I'm the creepy Goth."
"Why does that make you a freak?" What shocked her was his genuine expression; he wasn't making fun of her.
"I like dark things, I'm not social at all, I spend most of my time reading archaic myths, and people just tend to judge me on first glance. And as frustrating as that is, I still think that I have a right to do the things that make me happy."
"That's deep." He said as he appraised her slightly agitated state from her little tirade.
"Not really, I just like the things I like, and if no one else appreciates them like I do, well, that's their concern not mine."
"Where I'm from, that's deep enough to possibly need a floatation device. You don't meet a lot of people like that anymore Reá."
There was a brief lull in the conversation as they both seemed to digest what all was said around them. But the atmosphere dissolved as he once again smirked, tilting his head to the side.
"What about old movies?"
"What about them?"
"Alright, everyone, and I'm certain of this, everyone has a secret classic old movie that they adore. What's your favorite classic? I'll tell you mine first."
She was hesitant with her, "Okay," but her curiosity was starting to eat at her.
"The Black Swan." At her blank expression he deflated in his chair. "Oh come on! Tyrone Power and Maureen O'Hara? Okay so the story goes that the notorious pirate Henry Morgan becomes the Governor of Jamaica and agrees to end piracy. Obviously this doesn't go over well with everyone, and it's up to Morgan's old pirate friends, including Captain Jamie Waring a.k.a. Tyrone Power to get to the bottom of things, while kidnapping Lady Margaret a.k.a. Maureen O'Hara, so she can get to know him better."
"Why am I not surprised that you like pirate movies? And he kidnaps her, really?"
"Reformed pirate. And she was previously engaged so how else is he going get a chance at her?"
"How reformed can he be if he kidnapped her?"
He paused for a moment as he thought of a comeback.
"All right, Miss Smarty Pants, what's your favorite classic?"
"The Fallen Sparrow."
"And it's about…?" he prompted.
"It's about a man named Kit, he was captured during the Spanish Civil War, and tortured for vital information. Anyway after he escapes, the friend who helped him suddenly dies and when he goes to investigate more disasters unfold. He tries to piece together what his time spent as a prisoner connects to whoever is causing the murders of his friends."
"Ah so you like mysteries."
"Hmm, more or less suspense," she corrected as she finished off the last dregs of her tea, "and what, criminals don't have to be the 'heroes' of all of your movies?"
"Basically any adventure will do. But the thieves are a plus if you ask me. Are you finished?"
At the nod of her head, he stood up, tossing some money on the table, and offered her his hand. She barely repressed her startled expression at the almost gentleman-like manner he displayed as she rested her hand in his own.
"Then we might as well see how much more damage we can do to Mexico." With that her opinion of him returned. He was slightly better than an idiot.
They headed off into the throng of people surrounding the little café and edged around the permanent stalls that sported their colorful wares. As Raven studied the handmade crafts, she was amazed at the vivid colors in the traditional masks and the detail in the tiny toothpick cases that had murals plastered on them. Red X walked with her, the link of their joined hands never breaking as he pulled her over to various oddities or booths sporting unique dishes. He quickly drug her to a little street show where a trainer was entertaining some of the children several large parrots. He would ask the parrot a question and the children would burst out laughing as the colorful bird would answer his question.
Unexpectedly, one of the birds took off from his resting place to swoop over to Raven's shoulder. She was obviously shocked to a stand-still as the bird started to nuzzle his head into the crook of her neck, but she gave a shaky laugh when he began to caw.
"Hermosa chica, hermosa chica!" *Beautiful Girl, Beautiful Girl!*
Red X laughed with her and held his hand out to the bird. The bird stepped off of his perch on Raven's shoulder and was willingly handed back to his apologetic trainer as the children around them laughed.
As the show resumed, X took her hand back smiling at her as he said, "Welcome to Bazar del Sábado, Reá." *The Saturday Market*
They continued to walk around the market enjoying the joyful atmosphere that had more of a neighborhood feel instead of the normally rushed atmosphere of a shopping center. They would occasionally stop and watch a group of street magicians play an upbeat Marimba that filled the air. And though he offered, Raven turned X down when he asked if she wanted to dance. As they were making their way towards the edges of the stands, several were beginning to pack up for the day. But they did stop at a lone flower booth where he ended up buying a bright orange blossom.
"I don't need a flower."
"Then how are you going to have something to remember the day? Besides, you don't find flowers like this back home."
"Flowers don't last forever. They wilt and die."
"So do people, but I tend to think we ought to enjoy them while we can."
She took another glance between him and the delicate blossom in his hand. She tenderly took it in the hand that wasn't residing in his, and started to move back towards the streets with him in tow.
All too soon, they exited the maze of wooden stalls and Raven carefully untangled her hand from his. He looked around their surroundings as if he didn't miss the warmth of her hand. But is eyes did land on something in particular that made him freeze and he snatched back at her arm.
"What?" Her voice didn't hold the same bite that it had earlier in the day; instead it was laced with curiosity.
"Look right in between these buildings." He moved her to stand right in front of him as he looked over the top of her head. And past all the growing shadows of the evening that were encasing their surroundings in deep purples and blues, the sun lay glittering with its fierce orange light as it began it's slow decent into the ocean. The sky around it was an explosion of color as the clouds gently laced the horizon, some catching the last vestiges of light while others swirled with the growing colors of the night, coming from brilliant amber until fading into a deep indigo. They stood there for a while just watching the scenery around them change. It wasn't until the very first few pinpricks of light began to appear in the night sky before they started to move again.
"So it wasn't such a bad day was it?" he questioned her as they moved down a side street.
"Besides being jumped, blackmailed, and hit on by a parrot? I guess it was a pleasant afternoon," she replied as she shrugged her shoulders. They had finally stopped aching altogether.
"You know it's alright to admit that you had fun."
The corners of her lips might have turned up in just a ghost of a smile, but it still wasn't the reaction he was looking for.
"You actually behaved decently today," she made it sound like an off-hand comment. He took it as a compliment.
And said as much.
"Why, Reá. I had no idea you had such a high opinion of me. Especially coming from a wonderful person such as yourself."
"Don't make me laugh. You steal for a living." He chuckled at that, before studying her profile that the dim light provided.
"Ok, what's your hobby?"
She didn't miss a beat. "To laugh at corny pick-up lines."
That caught him off guard. He stood there in the darkness and had to wonder if she had actually smiled.
"Oh come on, they have to be better than BB's jokes!" He said trying to sound offended.
"I said I laughed at them, didn't I?" And there it was that edge of amusement in her voice. He was sure she was smiling now. And he was missing it. Sometimes life was just not fair.
Before he knew it they were back standing under one of the street lights in front of her hotel. And if the day had started out awkward, this was just plain uncomfortable. They stood there, their gazes seemingly everywhere but each other, but secretly stealing glances from the corners of their eyes. Finally he caught one of her stares and he smirked. She kind of smirked back but no real joy touched her eyes. He held out his hand to her and he hesitantly placed hers in it. At first it seemed like he was just going to shake and he did.
"Thanks for the day, Reá. We have to do it again sometime." She could catch the flirtatious humor in his voice, but he didn't leave her time to comment.
He quickly turned their hands and leaned down to plant a swift kiss on the back of her hand, before looking her directly in the eyes. She wondered for about the umpteenth time that day just what his eyes looked like.
"Sweet dreams," he whispered to her. She might have thought she imagined it altogether.
And he just as quickly released her hand and turned around, headed back for the shadows of the unlit alleyways. But before his outline completely disappeared from her vision she saw him turn around.
"Don't worry, Reá, all you'd have to do is dream of me."
She rolled her eyes at that. Nope, she didn't imagine it. But by the time she had thought of a comeback, he was already gone.
The door snapped shut behind her and obviously alerted her friend to her presence.
"Friend Raven, how joyful I am to see you! I have had no one to have the talk of girls with and I fear I may be at the point of exploding with happiness!" the red-headed alien princess greeted her exuberantly, sitting up from her spot on her own bed.
"Hi Star. I take it you had a good day with Robin?" she smiled as her friend's eyes lit up with happiness and she seemed to glow with pure giddiness. At some point this might have made Raven feel a little sick, this show of affection. But she knew how long Starfire had been pining over their fearless leader, and so she showed some restraint for this particular case.
"Oh it was glorious! We participated in the touring of various landmarks of significant importance and did the 'shop until you drop' practice that I have found extremely pleasing! This land is very unique in all of its attractions is it not?"
She thought back to the Bazar and all of the various fares and entertainment seeped into the small place. "Yeah Star, it really is one of a kind."
She caught Starfire looking at something with her head tilted to the side curiously. "Friend Raven that is a beautiful flower you have in your possession."
Raven jumped slightly as she lifted the flower to view it again. She had forgotten that she was still carrying it.
"Where did you procure it?" Starfire's eyes were alive with bright green curiosity.
"I just picked it up in one of the markets. No big deal," she shrugged it off as she laid the delicate blossom on one of her pillows. She quickly turned back to the other girl, hoping to change the subject.
"So what all did you see? I want to hear about it."
Starfire did not object to the change as she animatedly related all that had happened to her and 'Boyfriend Robin' throughout the day. She was so enthralled in her retellings that she completely missed Raven's distraction as she pondered the events of her own day. And every so often her eyes would wander back over to the flower, basking in the light from the bedside lamp.
She couldn't help noticing that it was the same color as the sunset they'd shared.
AN: "Remy approves."
" 'course ya do Swamp Rat, he's a thief!"
"But Chere, he used his skills to acquire the phone number of a fille who was in need of some down time."
"Kind of like when ya kidnapped meh?"
"Ya never goin' let that go, are ya Chere?"
"Focus you two. Rogue did you notice anything you did like?"
"She has her own Kitty apparently. She's just as peppy. Guess I kinda like that she's a good friend."
"Okay good. This is progress. Remy anything else you like?"
"Remy likes that de garcon was an actual gentleman. He treated Raven as a lady as he should."
"Yeah, Ah guess he was rather polite when he was tryin' to pull off a line. And that he's tryin' to make her smile."
"Did you jus' agree wit' Remy, Chere?"
"Alright and hold it right there. We're ending this note on a miracle. So review! Sorry it was so late, but I'm trying I swear!"