The title comes from the song "Big Yellow Taxi."
The premise comes from The End: what if Raven hadn't conveniently turned back to her full-sized self after defeating Trigon? The Teen Titans have dealt with quite a lot in their time together, but this is an entirely new kind of fight. This time around, they're going to make sure Raven has the childhood she deserves.
Chapter One: "You never get a second chance at a first impression."
Cyborg looked between the miniature version of Raven and his teammates, hoping that somebody would have an idea, but they looked as confused as he did.
The Teen Titans had been able to make fast decisions about fighting Trigon, but they were good at fighting. They could even deal with prophecies and creepy warnings and the world having a hiccup with Raven at the center of the mess. In a true sign of the end of the world, Robin had worked with Slade to try getting things back to where they should be.
The Teen Titans weren't so confident when the city was magically better and the people were moving around again and there still was a problem. They had spent the better part of a day losing a fight against Trigon before Robin showed up with a tiny Raven. The mini-Titan had gone on to knock Trigon back through a giant glowing portal-thing, but even when the city looked completely fine she still looked about half of her usual size. She also looked just as lost as he felt.
Robin was frowning, Beast Boy was staring, and Starfire had already left the group. Before anyone else had the vaguest idea about what they should do, she had knelt on the pavement ten feet from Raven.
Starfire's voice was very soft, especially compared to her usual exuberance, but from her first words she had Raven's full attention. "Are you Raven of Azarath?"
Raven's eyes looked even wider when she nodded slowly. "I'm not dreaming?"
Starfire shook her head. "No, Raven, I fear that you are not. I am Koriand'r of Tamaran, called Starfire in your language. Will you accept our hospitality as we try to find what has happened? You have vanquished Trigon, and that is the mark of a great fighter. We would happily offer you a place to stay."
It was enough to break Cyborg's heart, more than anything in the last few days, because his friend was still trying to hide her emotions. Raven had a pretty good blank mask in place when she couldn't be more than ten, but he had known her for two years now, and he had watched her at her sixteenth birthday party. He could read the nervousness and the uncertainty warring with shy disbelief that Starfire was looking at her that way.
It made Cyborg want to sit every last one of Raven's guardians down to talk about decent childhoods. When Raven's eyes flicked his way, he belatedly remembered that this little girl didn't know who he was just yet, and that the last thing she needed was a giant angry half-metal black guy. He used a couple tricks she had taught him to calm down quickly, and she looked back at Starfire. He felt only moderately better when he noticed that she was sneaking glances at Beast Boy and Robin, too. Raven had mentioned once that it still was hard for her to 'turn off' her empathy, and easier to just walk away from intense situations. He was about to mention it to Robin and Beast Boy, but Starfire settled back on her heels with the distinct air of someone about to lay down a royal flush when the other poker players had been impressed with a full house.
"Raven." Starfire's voice was calm and coaxing, and so warm that it tempted Cyborg into moving a little closer. She was facing Raven, and he could just imagine the look that had to be in her eyes. Raven visibly wavered with the intensity of it.
"I understand that there is no reason for you to trust me, and I know that it is very wise of you to be careful of strangers. Still, I hope that you will be able to look at my emotions and realize that I would never allow you to come to harm. I would swear this to Azar herself."
Raven didn't seem to realize that she had taken two small steps forward. Her eyes were fixed on Starfire, and the wariness was slowly fading away to leave a cautious hope. "You know about Azar?"
"I know many things about Azarath, and perhaps the first among them is that you are Arella's gifted daughter, and that the monks quietly speak of how remarkable it is for a child to embrace their teachings so fully. May I ask your age?"
Raven flushed faintly, but he could see the first traces of a smile developing. "I'm eight."
"That is why you have not heard, then. They hope to let you to continue with such a long success in controlling your emotions, and they plan to tell you when you turn twelve. I, however, am bound by no such rules, and I think that you have done immensely well. You have defeated Trigon, Raven, and you will know it. Look within yourself- he has no further claim on you." Starfire's fingers were crossed behind her back, but Cyborg was paying much more attention to Raven as her eyes closed.
A few seconds later, Raven's eyes opened as wide as he had seen them yet, and she was looking at Starfire with an entirely novel expression. Cyborg didn't know what to make of it, but Starfire held her arms forward and apart. Raven stumbled forward, and didn't make a single bit of protest when she was gathered into Starfire's arms.
Raven stayed a little stiff, and kept her arms at her sides, but her cheek was resting against Starfire's shoulders and she made no move to step away. When Starfire straightened, she brushed a strand of Raven's hair back, and the battle against Raven's reserve had been won.
The miniature version of his friend was looking at Starfire like she hung the stars, and when Starfire stood she had Raven's small hand clasped in hers. "Friend Raven and I shall fly back to the Tower now, if she will let me carry her."
Raven was nodding even as some other fraction of distance melted at the first pronouncement of 'friend.' That wasn't helping Cyborg's strong desire to line up every last monk in Azarath to watch a video recording of this scene, but he'd have time to be angry in just a few minutes. Right now, his careful, aloof friend that had almost died in some prophecy made about her birth was looking up at Starfire with open wonder.
Robin had the sense to agree instantly, but Beast Boy did one better. BB- who barely could be in the same room with Raven without doing something to tweak her tail- had turned his attention to Raven, leaving Starfire and Robin to decide that it would be for the best if no one knew that Raven was currently fun-sized.
"We'll come back a little later, after Starfire's had a chance to settle you in." Beast Boy didn't crouch or do anything else to make him closer to Raven's eye level, but he also kept enough space that she could look up at him without getting a crick in her neck. "We can bring whatever you want back for dinner. You kicked Trigon's butt, so you definitely get to have your favorites."
Raven bit her lip, and looked ready to close off all over again, but Beast Boy had long experience in the art of angering and appeasing his friend. Cyborg kept out of it, mostly, but he knew that BB and Rae were getting better about not trashing the common room.
"I'll pick something that I really think you'll like, then," Beast Boy said.
Raven nodded, looking shy all over again. Beast Boy was unperturbed. "We'll do introductions later, but this is all the people you'll have to deal with for a while. Tell Starfire to call us if you get hungry before we're back."
Starfire and Robin had negotiated the police briefing already. Robin usually handled that without much input, but Starfire had ended up as the only teammate besides Raven with a good understanding about Azarath, if not Metrion and Xinthos. Cyborg and Beast Boy knew about Nevermore, and a little about Trigon, and Robin had heard a few other things, but this time Starfire had the information they needed while Raven was without most of her memories.
Finding a way to turn her back wasn't going to be fun. She was their researcher for all things magical, but she'd probably forgive him for flipping through her safe shelf of books if it resulted in getting her height back.
He waited for Starfire to fly away, with a blushing Raven held gently on a hip, before looking to his other two teammates. He let himself be angry with Azar or Arella or whoever else was at fault, this time, but that wasn't the only question. "Didn't know you were good with kids, B."
Beast Boy shrugged uncomfortably. "Doom Patrol thing. Rita did the Starfire thing, when I showed up, and Negative Man was... it helps, that's all."
Cyborg didn't need a bigger hint than that to drop it. "Do you want to handle dinner? It's your turn to get the groceries, anyway, and Rob and I are probably going to give ourselves headaches figuring out if we need to explain this to the chief. I'll pick you up from the store on our way back, unless you want to pterydactyl the groceries home again."
That prompted a grin, at least. It was weird enough having a half-size Raven, they didn't need a gloomy Beast Boy on top of that. "Just that one time, and it was completely worth the return trip. The one bag I dropped ended up right on the front porch of a homeless shelter, and they didn't care if the new bath towels dropped out of the sky."
Robin still had the little brow-furrow, but Cyborg wasn't cutting short joke-time for that. Robin seemed to think it was useless joking around, but it was the time-honored way of making sure that Beast Boy was alright. The kid didn't admit to problems, and it didn't help that Robin had flipped his lid and refused to apologize when Beast Boy had been forced to talk about the Beast thing, but BB would usually slip a hint into conversation if he felt chatty enough.
Cyborg wasn't about to explain any of that, and wouldn't have much hope in Robin's abilities to function as somebody other than Batman Lite until he and Starfire did something. It was getting ridiculous. Starfire liked Robin, Robin liked Starfire, and yet absolutely nothing was happening. It made Cyborg want to have hair to rip out, but he had to admit it could be worse. Raven had fled into the garage several times to get away from the emotions. Starfire was 'loud,' as Raven told it, and Robin's emotions were sharp. Empathy was the kind of thing Cyborg's mom would have done backflips to study, the way it seemed to manifest itself in every other sense, but his mom would never get to hear stories about all the crazy stuff they did.
It didn't matter that he was distracted. Robin had been checking all the recent police bulletins, and nothing had come up. Nobody else seemed to remember the sky doing gymnastics and the giant demon that had put holes in their now-immaculate tower.
By unspoken agreement, they headed over to the grocery store. By yet another unspoken agreement, Robin stepped aside to let Cyborg handle the matter of the over-filled grocery cart that seemed to involve much more processed foods than necessary.
"Um, B? I thought you were getting Raven's favorites."
"I already called for takeout, they'll have it ready to pick up in five minutes- I don't know what's happening, but she might not change back overnight. She probably won't. So I have enough stuff for the next few days."
It sounded logical. It even sounded practical. Cyborg might have been nervous, as logical and practical had never been Beast Boy's strong points, but the shopping cart was loaded with sugary cereals, fruit snacks, processed cheese... in short, everything that Raven wouldn't touch unless she had already discounted starvation as an option.
Cyborg looked from the cart to Beast Boy, then back to the cart. Robin had wordlessly added in a few of the foods that Raven actually ate on a regular basis.
Beast Boy sniffed. "You'll see. I got some of her usual stuff anyway, just in case, but... I know this one, okay? You're eight and you're in the wrong dimension and suddenly you're not eating anything that looks right at all. Sugar, processing, and food dye are a lot easier to get used to than you think."
"BB, you're from Earth," Cyborg corrected patiently, only to get a grin in reply.
"Dude, I moved from middle-of-nowhere Africa to Rhode Island. It might as well have been a dimension change." He pushed the cart up to the check-out lane before anyone could stop him. "Just trust me. Let Raven have enough time to really get in close with Starfire, we start her off with a dinner she's guaranteed to like, and by this time tomorrow she might have the first sugar-high of her life."
Cyborg felt extremely skeptical, and knew it showed on his face, but Beast Boy was sure. Even if it didn't work, this was making B happy, and it wasn't like Beast Boy and Starfire wouldn't eat all of that stuff. If that hadn't been enough, Robin was nodding slowly- and if Batman Lite could agree that mountains of refined sugar and artificial coloring were good for the soul, Cyborg wasn't going to argue.
He was going to stand back and watch, because of all of them Beast Boy had always been able to get reactions out of Raven. Sometimes they were angry, sometimes they were indignant, and sometimes they were loud, but every once in a while they were smiles and moments that were cute enough to really make Cyborg feel like he was going to rot the teeth right out of his mouth.
For a little while, Cyborg's team was going to have a little kid in their keeping. It had been pretty rough for Raven the first time through childhood, and if Beast Boy thought that breakfast cereal coated in frosting would help, then Cyborg was going to stand back and be glad that his memory came with a playback feature. They were going to want pictures as documentation when Raven was back to her usual size and self, and with any luck it would be after he had coaxed her into trying a video game.