The usual disclaimers apply. Pure fluff. Feedback appreciated, including concrit.
Happiness is a Warm Snickerdoodle
Raven couldn't cook.
To her friends, it was actually one of the more endearing things about her - provided, at least, that they weren't presently recovering from one of her fortunately few forays into the kitchen. In some strange way, it was refreshing to know that she, master of magic and self-control, a young woman who read and spoke and wrote with knowledge decades beyond her years, wasn't good at everything.
Her failure was not for want of effort. Having identified a lack within herself, Raven had set out to address it with the single-minded, intense focus that ensured her success in virtually every other arena. She'd read - extensively - of course, read everything from Larousse Gastronomique to Cooking for Dummies, making copious notes all the while. She'd watched, too, covertly, watched endless repeats of Iron Chef, watched Cyborg deftly separate albumen from yolk to make waffle batter, watched Robin make sandwiches, watched Starfire and Beast Boy do things to produce that man - or alien - certainly did not intend, but made them tasty all the same.
Well, for a given value of 'tasty', anyway.
Experimentation followed, furtive sessions in the dead of the night when even Robin was sleeping. No one was more sensitive to failure than she, and she rightly assumed that her failures would be many, at least initially. She took great pains to ensure that, come morning, the kitchen was just as it had been left after dinner, if perhaps inhabited by an entirely new and lingering smoky aroma. If any of the other Titans had cause to suspect that anything was out of the ordinary, they'd had the very good sense not to say.
The failures, however, had not abated with time.
In desperation, she'd resorted to tuition, and then only from a source sworn to secrecy on pain of pain: Jinx. Jinx, once mortal enemy, now grudging, barely trusted ally. Jinx, living in the Tower under sufferance and hating it while three teams of Titans tracked former HIVE and Brotherhood members who'd made several attempts on her life. Jinx, who'd come down for a glass of 'milk' in the small hours of the morning and caught Raven in the act of baking.
Well, attempting to do so, anyway.
The cat-eyed former criminal could still bring the scene to mind with incredible clarity. There was no moon that night, but the cloudless sky provided her enough illumination anyway, in the stars and glittering lights of the slumbering city across the bay. She'd always had excellent night vision. Her footsteps, thief-light and cautious at the best of times, had been swallowed entirely by the plush hallway carpet as she'd made her approach to the common room and kitchen.
She'd noticed the mess, first, in the darkened kitchen. Eggshells, dripping the remains of their contents off the counter and onto the floor. Bowls of every size, shape and description, piled precariously atop each other. Spoons and spatulas and measuring cups, all guncked up with unidentifiable substances. Bags of flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cocoa, most knocked over to spill and intermingle their contents. Batter on the ceiling, somehow, and on the walls and the floor.
The disorder and mess and smell of burning almonds had reminded Jinx powerfully of her one of her earlier HIVE class streams: Applied Chemistry for the Young Anarchist. Those sessions had typically been messy, loud and full of noxious fumes. More than once she'd left class without her eyebrows. HIVE being big on practical lessons, some of her slower and stupider classmates hadn't left class at all.
It was only after taking all of this in that she'd noticed the cause: Raven. Raven - her primary adversary of several years - liberally dusted with flour. Raven - who not two weeks ago had given Jinx a chilling little lecture about the repercussions of betrayal and then refused to have anything to do with her - with her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth in concentration. Raven - who urban legend said was some sort of stupidly powerful demon bound to human form - mixing batter with a ferocity that suggested she thought the bowl's contents needed to be whipped and creamed as well as beaten.
Raven had looked up then, and their eyes had met, and Jinx had watched the expression of fierce concentration run away from her face. It had then been replaced, first by horrified, pink-cheeked embarrassment, and then by towering, terrible rage.
At that point, Jinx, on the receiving end of Raven's wrath on more than one occasion, had recognised the signs and remembered another early HIVE lesson, one about discretion, valour and the better part thereof. But at that point, too, with impeccable timing, the bowl of batter had exploded.
Jinx didn't remember a great deal of the next couple of minutes. She'd been too busy laughing at the stunned Titan, her face and hair so coated in chocolate goop that only the whites of her blinking eyes were clearly visible. She'd laughed, too, at the perfect, Raven-shaped silhouette of clean refrigerator. She'd laughed so hard that her knees had buckled and she'd wound up on the floor, holding her sides in agony as the tears poured down her face. She'd laughed so hard for so long that Raven had apparently given up on being angry and was trying bemusement on for size instead.
Starfire could cook, the Titan had explained later as the two set about cleaning up the mess in a surreal state of comradeship. Adapting Tamaranean cuisine to the human palette was a hit-and-miss affair, but, by the standards and to the tastes of her own people, she was at least competent. Cyborg had learned the basics from his grandmother, but had natural talent, reigning undisputed king of the Titans kitchen for as long as any of them could remember. As a vegetarian living with three omnivores and one (utterly unrepentant) near carnivore, Beast Boy had a choice of cooking for himself or ordering takeout if he wanted to eat anything half the time. Robin only did a few signature dishes - pastas, mainly, and other things high in carbs and protein - but did them extremely well.
Jinx could cook - and cook well, if she did say so herself - but was entirely self-taught. Her mother, from what she remembered, had been no great shakes in the kitchen, and her father had never been around long enough to demonstrate one way or the other. Both the orphanage and HIVE had gone heavily into cheap, mass-produced slop, while her former teammates tended to consider frozen fish sticks and stolen, re-re-re-heated Chinese to be the height of culinary achievement. Much like Beast Boy, she'd learned that if she wanted to eat, and eat well, she'd have to cook for herself. She liked sugar and spice, creating bold, uncompromising dishes that leapt off the plate and grabbed your tongue, beating you with it until you begged for mercy. She made curries that could melt steel and rich chocolate fondants that oozed in unspeakable, knee-quaking ways when split by spoon or fork.
She'd surprised herself by making a spur of the moment offer to teach the Titan the basics. Raven had rather surprised both of them more by accepting, even if only under conditions of utmost secrecy and aforementioned pain of pain. Perhaps the most surprising thing about the whole affair, however, was that they'd both quickly come to enjoy the sessions. Quite a lot.
Their enjoyment was certainly due to any great success at the endeavour. Raven proved an almost catastrophically inept, if attentive, student. When tasked to boil an egg she had actually managed to set the kitchen on fire, nearly blowing their cover in the process. In the smouldering wreckage of that particular disaster, Raven, seemingly forgetting who she was talking to, had wondered aloud if being made to destroy meant she wasn't able to create. It was a question that had creeped Jinx the hell out and added all-new credence to the demon theory.
It had also made Jinx wonder if her own powers weren't subconsciously influencing proceedings. Mr Murphy was their far too frequent guest for something out of the ordinary to not be behind it, and there was something deeply entertaining about watching the normally unflappable Titan become flustered and frustrated. But, on the flip side of that, Jinx had her pride as a teacher too, and the constant disasters reflected poorly upon her. Hells, if she could teach Mammoth to make a passable butter chicken, she should damn well be able teach someone who had a brain and an attention span of more than five seconds to cook pasta without burning it!
No, accomplishment was not at all the reason why they'd both begun to look forward to their secret sessions. Their enjoyment was ever and only derived from the challenge they presented each other.
They fought. They argued. They traded ever more elaborate insults in heated whispers over cooling hotplates. They probed hungrily for weaknesses and mercilessly exploited gaps in the other's knowledge. Their exchanges were brutal, no-holds-barred affairs, laced with black humour and drenched in shared cynicism, exchanges that would not have been possible with anyone else.
And they were, above all else, honest. Refreshingly so. Raven disliked and distrusted Jinx, and Jinx disliked and distrusted Raven right back. Neither made any attempt to pretend otherwise, here in the midnight kitchen, or to hold back or conceal what they really thought. Pretence was something to be saved for daylight, and the other Titans' clumsy attempts at friendship and acceptance. They had something better than that.
So when it came to pass that See-More was apprehended and Jinx finally free to go, the pair found themselves equal parts relieved and disappointed, concluding the lessons in a tutorial devoid of their usual sparring. Under Jinx's careful direction, Raven had measured, poured, mixed, rolled and dipped in total silence. Together they'd sat, motionless, on the kitchen floor, watching the oven and its contents like hawks, waiting for just the right moment to pounce.
Trays were snatched from the inferno. Contents transferred to cooling racks. Warm morsels subjected to close visual and olfactory inspection. A sacrifice chosen at random from the dozen-odd survivors for a bounce test. A second to confirm the result. A third for a cautious taste test.
An approving nod.
Raven couldn't cook.
To her friends, it was actually one of the more endearing things about her - provided, at least, that they weren't presently recovering from one of her fortunately few forays into the kitchen. But, as it turned out, with a lot of practice, constant supervision and judicious goading, she could bake.
Together they cleaned the kitchen in silence, leaving the small plate of surviving snickerdoodles out on the counter for whomsoever was brave enough to dare one come sunup, before heading for bed. When they reached the junction separating the two accommodation wings, they stopped and turned to face each other in the pre-dawn light.
"This doesn't make us friends, you know," Raven said dourly.
"Why on earth would I want that?" Jinx shot back with a sly smile. "Fighting's much more fun."
And that was something they could both agree on.