A/N: And here we go...yet another of the challenge fics Kysra challenged me to create. The last of her OTP picks were Robin and Raven. Frankly, I was surprised since she had such a list of OTPs to choose from, and I write Robin and Raven pretty often, I thought she would go with wanting to make me write in some other fandom (she did that, too...see "After Her" and "Diversions"). But she chose Robin and Raven and gave me such a PERFECT song to base the one-shot on...and then she limited me right out of what the song naturally calls for. -heavy sigh- Anyway...the song she gave me was "Mystery of You" by Red and she limited me by telling me I couldn't write any character death or leavings...anyone who has heard this song knows just how HARD it was to do that...
Anyway...that said: I don't much like this. Not beta'd, but I can't look at this anymore. If I don't post this up now, I never will. And although maybe it's better if I didn't, I owe it to Kysra to post it up since she said she liked it (even though I think she was just being nice).
Disclaimer: Not mine. Shoo.
Mystery of You
"Where are you now?"
- Mystery of You, Red
Raven would always be a mystery to him. Robin had resigned himself to that fact within weeks of meeting her. Granted, back when they first met, he wasn't certain that he'd actively try to figure her out in any serious manner. Back then, he had thought himself immune to the possibility of a friendship so deep he'd want to know all her secrets. Back then, he'd thought that since he had secrets and darkness, who was he to require that anyone else shed light on them. He also fooled himself into thinking he didn't care.
In retrospect, if he was honest with himself, somewhere deep inside him, he'd wanted to know all about this reclusive, quiet girl with the startling amethyst hair and bright eyes. Despite everything he'd seen and experienced in his relatively short life as the Dark Knight's apprentice, he had never met anyone quite like her before. No small feat considering that even before he prowled the dark streets of Gotham, he had travelled all over the United States like a gypsy in the tail end of a circus caravan.
She was one-of-a-kind. He'd recognized that, deep inside, from the first moment their eyes had met probably.
Certainly, from the first moment he'd seen her meditating, floating gently several feet off the ground.
It wasn't until the whole fiasco with her birthday, however, that he faced up to the curiosity that had always existed inside him where she was concerned. And even after all the secrets he had been made privy to about her - all the shadows that had dissipated from the dark corners of her character - he had known it wasn't enough.
It hadn't been long after they'd met her father that he admitted to himself that she represented more than just a puzzle he couldn't crack...
He worried for her.
It was hard to tell when she went into her silences whether she was upset or tired or sleepy or simply ambivalent. She could read others like pages from a book, but no one could read her.
She had told him once that he knew her better than anyone else-ever. He had felt proud at that, as if she had complimented him rather than grudgingly admitted to something that rather perplexed her. He supposed it was somewhat true.
Most of the time, he knew what her non-expressions meant. He was observant enough to pick up on what he called her 'tells.' But this was usually during the times that anyone with a little patience and a modicum of observational skills could tell what she felt.
She wasn't completely expressionless all the time, after all.
There was that half-smile she offered up as a kind of prize to anyone who amused her or surprised her by saying something kind.
There was the raised eyebrows that had become recognizable even by the journalists.
She narrowed her eyes a little when she was disappointed and glared when she was angry.
There was even a shift in the lines around her eyes – a lightening, maybe or brightening of sorts – that showed pleasure.
He knew that when she pursed her lips just so it meant she was frustrated, when she clasped her hands together it meant she was inpatient, and that her shoulders bunched and she limbered up her fingers when she was nervous, or that when she sighed it didn't always mean she was exasperated or tired. He knew - could recognize - a thousand little things about her, yes.
But he didn't really know her.
And so what if he knew how she took her tea or at what time she liked to meditate? Again, these were all things anyone who paid just a little bit of attention could determine for themselves.
And then, Cyborg mentioned it one day when he was washing the T-Car and Robin was tuning the R-Cycle- how well Robin seemed to know her. When Robin mentioned that it was only things he'd noticed that anyone else could notice, Cyborg laughed.
"You're kidding, right?" Cyborg asked, turning his massive frame to pin him with his eye.
Robin looked up at him from his crouched position some short distance away next to his bike. "Why would I be joking?" he asked seriously. "I know you all think I'm the 'observant one' and all that, but if you just paid attention—"
"You really don't get it, do you?" Cyborg asked, shaking his head. When Robin stood and waited for an explanation, Cyborg sighed. "The rest of us will never have a chance to observe the things you've observed," he said. "Man, we could stare at her until she gets sick of it and walks away and we wouldn't be able to see what you see." Robin started to protest, and Cyborg cut him off again, this time with a grin. "She doesn't show any of us, that's why," he answered the unasked question. He walked passed him on his way to the tool bench and tapped his chest as he did. "Just you."
Once he'd picked up his tool, he turned to find Robin staring at him as if he'd grown another head and he laughed. "You're not all that observant if you hadn't noticed that much, Boy Wonder."
It had taken him some days of thought and observation to realize that Cyborg had been right. Yes, she did show the most subtle of all her tells even in mixed company, but without having seen the more obvious tells, no one would have been able to put the more subtle ones together. And she didn't show the half-smiles or the eloquently raised brows when there was anyone else that could see.
Anyone that wasn't Robin.
What he couldn't figure out was whether she did that knowingly or unconsciously, and the more he thought about it, the more important that question seemed to become.
On his own, he probably would've never come to a conclusion.
If it hadn't been for that afternoon he came upon her in the common room, staring off into the space just beyond the window while Starfire chatted away. He heard her murmur sounds of agreement or encouragement to Starfire, but it was obvious (at least, to him) that she wasn't really listening.
When Starfire had finished parsing through her most recent purchases, gaining what she thought was the opinion she had been asking for from Raven on them, she packed up the wash of pinks and purples and reds back into the stiff paper bags and flew out of the room, Raven hardly stirred.
He watched her watch the scenery outside the window and couldn't figure out what she was thinking and it occurred to him that she was very obviously not present in the room, even if her body was sitting there, lotus position, in front of him.
"Raven?" he called.
She started - just a hard blink and a tightening of the muscles of her shoulders - and turned to look at him, her face as calm and serene as it ever was. "Yes?"
He could have teased her about how she obviously hadn't been paying attention to Starfire, could have tried to convince her that she had been so out of it that she had agreed to go with Starfire to the mall for a marathon shopping session the next day - probably would have any other day - but for some reason, he didn't.
"Where were you?"
She blinked. "Pardon?" she asked. She frowned. "When?"
It was obvious she was trying to think if she missed some appointment or meeting they had agreed to by the look in her eyes.
"Just now," he explained. "While Starfire was speaking to you until I called out to you."
Her frown deepened and she quirked her head to the side. "Are you quite alright?" she asked rather than answer what she thought was an obvious answer.
He shook his head and took a few steps closer to her. "You weren't here," he told her. "Your body was, but you weren't."
She was surprised by his observation - it was written in the slight widening of her eyes and the shift in her breathing. He had never confronted her with the things he knew about her through observation, and that he observed her was obviously a surprise.
The fact that the seconds ticked by and she didn't seem to know what to answer told him his question - his observation - had given away more than just the fact that she hadn't been paying attention to Starfire and he had been paying attention to her.
He took the last steps until he was close enough to sit on the sofa next to her. "Is everything okay?" he asked.
She nodded, rather jerkily to his keen eye, and swallowed. "I was just thinking," she answered. "Starfire rarely needs my full attention when she's showing off her purchases, she doesn't really want my opinion, just wants a chance to think aloud," she explained. "So I tune her out."
"And where do you go?" he pressed.
And there must have been something about the way he caught her by surprise, or something about the moment, because rather than change the subject, or walk away, she answered.
"Not always the same place," she answered.
"Like when you meditate?" he asked.
"No," she answered, shaking her head. "Meditation is complete immersion," she explained. "And more often than not, I go to Nevermore when I meditate," she admitted.
He knew about Nevermore from Cyborg and Beast Boy's report, of course, but other than a brief and perfunctory explanation when she was debriefed, she never spoke of it.
"So, where did you go now?" he asked.
She thought about it, looking out through the window, as if a visual might help her remember or find the words to explain. "You've been watching me," she said instead, her voice soft and non-accusatory.
It was his turn to be surprised and at a loss for words. He really shouldn't have been - after all, Raven was as good at piecing together puzzles as he himself was when it came right down to it - it was only a matter of time until she put any of her own observations of him (as casual as they might have been) together with his admissions that day and started to figure it out.
He doubted she had the full picture, though. Still, he didn't think she was talking about only the one instance.
"Yes," he answered, his voice just as soft and more, achingly careful.
"Hm," she spoke, her eyes still on the landscape outside the window. He thought she'd ask him why or who gave him the right. Instead, she surprised him yet again. "And what are your conclusions?" she asked.
When he didn't answer right away, she turned to look at him, her expression smooth and blank, only her eyes giving away the curiosity of the question. He tried to read her, regardless.
"No conclusions," he answered. "You're far too complex for conclusions," he admitted. She raised a brow and he found himself smiling. "I could watch you until we're both old and gray and I don't think I'd ever come to any conclusions."
"Is that so?" she asked. He nodded and she turned back to the window. "So, you've wasted your time then."
"Do you think so?" he asked, still smiling. She looked at him again and he didn't try to read her this time. He knew she was being especially careful to keep her expression neutral. He'd seen her do this when she didn't want to give anything away. It didn't help him figure out what she was trying to keep from him, though. It could be anything from annoyance to amusement. Still, he'd be honest. "I don't think so," he replied to her comment. She raised a brow again and he explained. "Although I haven't come to any conclusions about your nature, I have come to a few conclusions about my own."
"Such as?" she prodded.
"Such as, for example," and although he hesitated for a moment, he jumped in regardless. "One conclusion about my own nature is that I could happily spend the rest of my life just trying to figure you out."
There was something like amusement in her expression, like the wisps of fog even as the sun burns it away. "Sure," she allowed, as if she should have known. And there was a lessening of tension in the air, as if the fact that he'd given her an excuse she could believe without disrupting her perception (of him, of herself, of them) brought her relief and ease. Like an exhaled breath. "I'm a living, breathing, perpetual puzzle," she mused. "I can understand that."
"There is that, yes," he allowed. "But it's not the only reason."
"No?" she asked, and the tension was back and because he was aware of it's having gone once before, he was aware of its presence then unlike the first time.
He shook his head. "No."
"I see," she said, turning away and back to the window.
When the seconds ticked by and she didn't speak, he steeled himself. "Won't you ask me what the other reasons might be?" he asked.
There was silence as she considered her options. "I don't think I want to know," she finally answered.
"Are you sure about that?" he asked.
"Not everyone needs answers to every question," she said, her tone a little sharper than it had been. She took a visible breath and exhaled and when she spoke again, her voice was once again lacking in any vocal cues as to what she was feeling. "Some of us have learned that sometimes having no answer at all is better than having an answer we can't live with."
He frowned. "Do you really believe that?" he queried.
She sighed again. "I don't like change," she admitted.
To an outsider, it might seem as if they keep changing the subject to their conversation, but both Robin and Raven knew that the conversation was keeping to a very precise thread indeed.
"It comes anyway."
"All the more reason to prevent it when we can," she argued.
He thought about it for a moment and considered arguing with her. Considered telling her anyway, but in the end, he just shrugged. "You don't need to know," he allowed. She looked at him and he smiled softly, reassuringly. "There's no reason to push things," he said, and he might have been talking to himself or to her, except he really was fine with it. Whether she knew or not, it wouldn't change how he felt at all. "All things change eventually," he warned her. "But until they do so naturally, we can keep on as we have been."
There was relief painted plain in the depths of her eyes for a quick moment, the length of a breath, and then it was gone and she looked away.
"I can wait."
She caught herself before looking at him and stopped from doing so. Instead, she limbered up her fingers and kept staring straight through the window.
"It'll be dinner time soon," she said into their silence. "I think it was Cyborg's turn, wasn't it?" she asked.
He exhaled and nodded, only part of him disappointed and then only because he had been so close. The other part of him knew he had been right when he told her he could wait and that he didn't need to push things. They would happen in their own time, he had no doubt about that. And in the meantime, he really was okay with things staying the way they were. He still got to watch her, after all, and she continued to reveal things to him she didn't reveal to anyone else. And everyday she'd reveal another little piece of the mystery that was Raven to him and he was content to be patient.