Chapter Eleven: Closer To You
Though Robin was keenly aware of his mate's disturbing emotional state, he found himself walking up the many stairs quite normally. This wasn't going to be a pleasant confrontation he was certain, and he felt a weight on his shoulders as he reached the floor that housed the living accommodations for his teammates, walking with trepidation towards the quarters he and his family shared, a modified apartment that Jinx had dubbed the Nest some years ago when he and Raven had returned home—her very pregnant and him with a lot of awkward explaining to do.
Robin stopped in front of the door to their apartment, taking a deep breath. He didn't need his bond with Raven to feel the maelstrom coming from the other side of the door—but having it only made things that much clearer. Knowing that delaying the moment would not make it pass; he finally thumbed the passcode on the door panel and watched it swing open. Instantly, he regretted taking his time, things were worse than he had suspected.
Raven was not, as he had assumed, brooding. Quit the contrary, his brief search led him to the darkest part of their apartment, a part originally made from her room that housed her various books and scrolls and artifacts, windowless and with a touch of foreboding. But the carnage was actually far greater. Countless books were floating, their pages lolling out like tongues, pulsing with the black matter signature of Raven's soul self. There were also angry dark marks on walls of the kitchen, and Robin was unsurprised to find that the toaster, electric can opener, and microwave had all met with sudden and traumatic endings.
But the wounded mother herself was suspended over their four poster bed, looking altogether distraught ant massaging her temples—the proverbial toothpaste having been squeezed out of the tube while she struggled valiantly to put it back. Robin sighed upon seeing her in this state. Truthfully, he did like it when she expressed her emotions clearly, even if it could be a bit hazardous. But this seemed a little childish to him. Then again, it was clear from the emotions she was projecting at him, consciously or not, that Raven was indeed a wounded bird; one who loved her daughter very much and was feeling decidedly unloved by her child.
Being careful not to approach her too quickly, he instead entered the war-torn kitchen and opened the refrigerator, withdrawing a bottle of cranberry juice and finding two suitable plastic cups to pour some into—glass wasn't a good idea to put in Raven's vicinity at the moment. Projecting an aura of calm, Robin replaced the bottle in the fridge and returned to the bedroom holding both cups, a kind of peace offering. "Raven, you need to settle down." He stated calmly, not wanting it to sound like an order.
"You shouldn't pour that juice out onto the carpet; it will leave a nasty stain." Raven replied blandly, keeping her focus on her emotions and the need to rein them back in.
"I beg your pardon?"
"I'm sorry; I thought we were doing a thing where we exchange patently obvious advice." The sorceress deadpanned.
"I'm trying to be supportive."
"And I'm not in the mood for platitudes."
"Alright then. So when do you intend to apologize to Terra?"
"Ah, yes. I see your support of me only goes so far when your girlfriend is involved."
Robin felt his body stiffen. "That's a low blow, Raven."
"Or does it just hit too close to home?" She asked, opening her eyes, deciding that perhaps letting a few of her emotions run free was for the best, despite the risks. She couldn't force them back inside so easily.
"There is nothing going on between the two of us."
"Not physically, no. But the way she looks at you is obvious to everyone. Even Beast Boy. She'd throw herself into your arms if you would take her."
"Don't you dare blame her for that. It's all my fault. My arrogance forged that bond between Terra and I, my refusal to let her go a second time brought her memories back. She was just along for the ride, frightened of living out the rest of her life as a lie. I did it. And that made her fall in love with me. So if you want to be angry at someone, you be angry with me and leave her out of it."
"Protective too, I see. Afraid to let her fight her own battles?"
"She's suffered enough, Raven."
"And yet she has the love of our only child."
"We chose her as Rain's godmother. She's spending a lot of time raising our little girl. That's only natural."
"I don't object to Rain being affectionate towards Terra." Raven bristled. "I object to being replaced."
"Terra is not replacing you. Raven, this is ridiculous. I understand how you would feel-"
"No, Richard. You do not understand."
"I'm trying to support you here!" Robin threw up his arms, exasperated. "Terra is not Rain's mother. She's not trying to be!"
"That only makes it worse. If she were trying, I could focus all my rage on her."
"But she isn't. Look, you know what there is between her and I. But we've set rules. You know, Raven. You know what would happen if Terra and I were together. It would hurt too many others—and perhaps worst of all, it might destroy us both in the end. Don't think it was so easy to just set her to the side. But I knew it was for her own good, for mine. Terra and I are too much…alike."
"There are those that would argue you and I are too alike." Raven allowed her cloak to billow behind her as she turned sharply, not as eased by his words as Robin had intended.
"Sometimes. Stubbornness certainly runs through our veins. Along with a consistent belief that we're always right, the tendency to obsess on the things that upset us."
"I'm not in the mood to banter with you right now, Richard. Poke me and the living room is going to meet its end."
"It wasn't a taunt, Raven, it's a fact. You're stubborn. Obstinately so. I'd find it annoying if I wasn't the same. As it is, I find it rather endearing, if a terrible fault in both of us. We don't back down when we feel we're right."
"I'm always right."
"Raven, just…see reason." He asked her bluntly, feeling a headache coming on.
"I liked her better when she was treacherous." Raven maneuvered to the ceiling, focusing a great deal of her soul self, which spread among the surface like veins, then slowly began to retract, pulling in floating lamps and books towards their master. Robin watched quietly, knowing she was trying to reassert her carefully measured control of her emotions, but looking for a reason to lash out. "I knew where I stood. Where she stood."
"Life has a way of changing all of us, Rae. Go back three or four years, did you ever picture yourself being a mother?"
"Not especially. And with you? What was I thinking there?"
"You don't really want me to tell you everything you say in the throes of passion, do you?"
"The other side of me is primal. I take no responsibility for its mutterings."
"I'm going to remind you of that the next time you wake me up in the middle of the night with that 'now or never' look."
"Richard, I'm working here." Raven grunted in frustration, feeling her soul self begin to move outward again, and a cacophony of emotions vying for control over her.
"That's exactly what you said" He arched an eyebrow, noticing that Raven was unwilling to take the bait. "On second thought, I think I'd miss that TV. Rain will cry if I don't watch cartoons with her." As though punctuating his statement, a book fell open in front of him, no longer a victim of Raven's emotional spell. He watched in fascination as she slowly pulled tiny pieces of herself out of the storm of objects surrounding her, one by one watching them fall to the ground, his lightning reflexes moving to catch any objects that seemed fragile or breakable. "That's my girl." He whispered to himself, glad to see her coming back from the abyss, glad to know she was still reachable. But words, he knew, wouldn't be enough.
Robin allowed the silence in the room to grow until the objects stopped dropping, and Raven herself had assumed a meditative state, her breathing notably increased. Waiting a few minutes longer, eyes darting around the room at the carnage, before settling once more upon the sorceress who held the largest portion of his heart, her eyes looking down at him pensively. Silently, Robin gestured to her with the cup of cranberry juice, and Raven gave an imperceptible nod, floating back down to the floor level and taking the proffered drink. Robin watched as she drank from it in a greedy yet somehow dainty matter, no doubt eager to replenish herself after her exertion. He had no sooner taken the cup out of her hand and set it aside with his own, then embraced her strongly, catching her off-guard and nearly setting off a new wave of emotional side effects. She struggled against him for several moments before finally relenting, allowing herself to be held in the sanctity of their own space. She braced her middle finger against her thumb, flicking the longer digit at his forehead in annoyance.
"What was that for?" Robin asked, touching his forehead to hers.
"That little comment back there. 'That's my girl.' I am no one's possession, Robin. You of all people should know that."
"You honestly took that literally?"
"Do I seem in the mood to spar with you right now?"
"No, but that would prevent us from talking. Our conversations are like minefields."
"No one's found a safe way through one yet." Raven deadpanned, finding herself settling into his arms a bit more than she had intended. Something about that admission between the two of them made her feel more at ease.
"You're the woman I love." Robin whispered into her ear. "Nothing past with Starfire, nothing present with Terra, nothing in the future with anyone you can imagine, will ever change that. No one can take from you what I've already given you, Raven. You're the one person I've trusted with my pain. You've got to stop running yourself down so much. Where did this inferiority complex come from?"
"I wasn't made for this world." The words spilled from her lips so easily, betraying her. "For any world. I wasn't born to create, I was born to destroy."
"Only if you choose to." Robin returned. "You are this beautiful contradiction. I've always admired you for choosing to be who you are every day. Don't stop now."
"It can be so hard sometimes…and the darker path is so much easier. Every day I choose not to take it, but sometimes, the path through the forest of my subconscious becomes unclear and I wander from the trail."
"Then we'll make it easier." Robin whispered, holding her tightly, tilting her chin up to kiss her properly, a maneuver she only briefly resisted, admitting to herself how good it felt in the moment to have the physical reassurance, the manner in which his lips probed her own so gentle and agreeable, a rhythm she had learned years ago, each wave of emotional empathy dissipating into the ether harmlessly as she redirected it with little effort, allowing herself to be opened up by the only man who had ever truly glimpsed the well of darkness and pain she hid away.
Gently he guided her to the bed, toppling them both, and her eyes gave a start. "Not now." She whispered, freeing her lips. "I don't have full control…"
"We don't have to make love." He massaged her neck gently. "We can cuddle."
Gently, Raven raised a palm to his forehead. "You're feeling alright?"
"I want to cuddle with my beautiful fiancé who has just been through an emotionally turbulent experience with our only child. We can copulate another time."
"Done." Raven nodded with only a moment's hesitation, pulling at the top of his uniform. "But I want to feel you, not the hero or the businessman."
Robin smiled, letting her peel back his brightly colored duty uniform. "Done."
Terra sat patiently as Rain climbed over her body, never seeming to be quite content, as though she could pickup on the earth mover's emotional distress. The small child's arms wandered Terra's lean frame, more than once the tiny girl's hands had clinched her chest in uncomfortable places, but the blonde's attempts to make her charge settle were met with resistance—Rain would not settle down, how could she, when her favorite caretaker was so uneasy?
"Rain, please." Terra picked the small girl up from under her arms, standing up to hoist her over her shoulder in a classic burping position, shifting her arms to Rain's middle to hold her steady. "Terra needs a little break now." The action made Rain squirm against the attempt to hold her in one place, and Terra sighed longingly, taking a deep breath to find patience. "Rain, I know you don't want to, but please, do Aunt Terra a favor and settle down? Please?!" Terra begged, lifting the girl forward again to stare directly into her eyes. "Quiet?"
A silent staring contest, followed by some strange blinking of the child's eyes, seemed to indicate that an agreement of sorts had been reached. Sighing with relief, Terra moved back to the couch and sat down again, setting Rain next to her. "Thank you." Terra spoke, one that nearly formed into a groan as Rain moved again, this time climbing into Terra's lap. However, the little girl leaned backwards against her babysitter this time, finding a relatively comfortable position and stopping her writhing. Something that sounded like "pulk" came out of the little girl's mouth, and Terra decided not to question it, petting Rain's black hair gently. "Thank you." She whispered again, leaning her head back. "Mommy is really upset with your Aunt Terra." She sighed.
"Zilthus." Rain said to her, as though it were the answer to all of her problems, pushing the back of her head into Terra's abdomen affectionately.
"I'm not your mommy, sweetie." Terra whispered, passing her fingers through Rain's dark hair gently. "I know why it must be confusing…"
Rain did not respond, other than a tiny yawn, and the blonde girl realized after all the excitement, it must be time for a nap. "I think you're the first kid I've ever seen go to bed willingly." Terra smiled, moving her hand in a soft, slow rhythm to stroke the little tresses that framed the tiny girl's face. "Sleep tight."
The sensation of feeling Titan's Towers greatest joy slowly settle her breathing into a gentle rhythm, all within the confines of her lap, made Terra feel very fortunate. And also guilty. Since Rain had come into her life, the precious little girl had awakened a desire for children that was absent previously. Still, she didn't entertain the notion much. Terra remained unconvinced that she would make a good mother. Rain seemed to adore her, yes, but the child was not hers. And as much as Terra loved Rain, she did not want to be her mother. It was logical, yes, but also cruel and unfair, that Raven had been unable to bond with her own flesh and blood in the same manner. And now Raven hated her for it. Who wouldn't? "Driving people apart is my one true talent." Terra sniffed, whispering to herself. "I can't even be true to him, what kind of monster am I?"
The answer to that question came in the form of a pounce—a distinctively green kitten landing on her shoulder, claws digging in only very slightly for balance. A purr emanated from the tiny cat's throat as he nuzzled her neck. "Beast Boy." She whispered, exposing more of the nape of her neck to his gentle fur, large eyes widening at his ability to comfort the girl he loved so intently. He jumped from his shoulder to the cushion beside her, morphing into his human form. "Hey." he said quietly, not wanting to disturb Rain's rest.
"Hey." She responded simply, wishing all of her complex feelings could be explained in a word so simple.
"I know I'm supposed to be doing laundry, but I heard this commotion, and I thought I should check up on you. You okay?"
"No." She whispered, petting Rain's resting head to give her hands something to do. "No I'm not BB."
"You wanna talk about it?"
"Am I in the way?"
"No." She freed her right hand and reached out to seize his. "No. Just, stay. Okay?"
"Yeah." The changeling swallowed, sensing something serious was happening. "I'll always be here for you Terra." His words were like a knife in her heart, knowing that when she was honest with herself, she wasn't being truly faithful to him. In action, yes. But not in thought, not in desire.
"Yes?" He asked with trepidation, the hesitation in her voice betraying an unpleasant conversation.
"You'll always be my friend, right? No matter what?"
"Terra, what's wrong?"
"Say it! Say you will…even if you knew something really, really bad about me."
The words hung in the air between them like a wraith, echoing off their hearts like a long remembered and best forgotten conversation from years earlier when circumstances of their own choosing drove them apart. That horrible night she had first broken his heart by revealing her relationship with Slade and her ruse as a Titan.
"Terra?" He whispered, feeling his heart rate increase.
"I'm sorry." The blonde screwed her eyes shut, scooping Rain up in her arms and placing her awkwardly into Beast Boy's lap, the girl stirring fitfully at the noticeable change. Terra stood and ran out of the room opening a window and jumping out.
"Terra!" Beast Boy called after her, awkwardly trying to follow with his precious cargo, reaching the window and seeing Terra land on a sizeable rock she had summoned, her lithe legs bending at the knees to soften the impact, the trajectory of the stone carrying her further away from the tower, away from him. "Terra…"
Beast Boy longed to take the form of a bird and give chase, but he couldn't while he had Rain to think about. Paralyzed, he simply watched her form grow smaller as she headed out to the city. He couldn't lose her again.
"I see." Starfire's emerald green eyes darted back and forth over an elementary school worksheet. "The rules of English grammar are most complicated compared to other Earth languages I have encountered/"
Yeah, and we keep coming up with new words and Slang." Cyborg grinned. "English evolves faster than we can learn it."
"But you will be able to help me improve?" The redhead asked hesitantly. "I do not wish to feel so left out."
"Star, we like you as you are. The way you talk is just part of your charm. We wouldn't make fun of you for talking differently. That would be like making fun of any of us for how we look. Accept Robin." Cyborg amended. "The rest of us were born this way, or in my case, my accident made me this way. Robin chooses to dress like a goober."
The remark sent the two of them into a giggling fit. "You are most kind, Friend Cyborg."
"You miss him?" He asked, aware of the touchy subject.
"It is complicated. I simply wish for my friends to be happy. But sometimes I cannot understand why I was not the one he wished to engage in procreation with. Perhaps I did not interpret correctly. My knowledge of human courtship rites is limited."
"I don't think you misunderstood, Star. I think he just…changed."
"I should have gone with him to the city of Gotham."
"Maybe." Cyborg shrugged. "But I always believe that things happen for a reason. I mean, think of how many times we should've been toast, and we're still here. The right thing always seems to happen when it needs to. What if there's someone out there you haven't even met yet that makes Robin look like a total loser."
"I used to console myself by saying he was the loser for losing out on me." Starfire smirked.
"You did let him off kinda easy."
"In words, yes. Not so in my heart. There is still…emptiness. Friend Jinx offered many distractions, but they were unable to compete with the hole left within my heart. Yelling at my friends for hurting me would have made me feel…righteously angry. But it would not have returned things to the way they once were. I was left to find my own path. I have cried for what I have lost enough. I have chosen…not to feel bitterness. I love my friends in spite of what they did. With the years that have passed, I have accepted that they did not do what they did to hurt me. Do you think it is wrong for me to behave this way?"
"No." Cyborg said gently, finding himself swelling up with a new respect for the Tower's resident alien. "I think that makes you very mature, Starfire."
"You would not have said that long ago when I was using his picture as a krolpraw." Starfire explained with a casual smile.
"I'm gonna assume that's a bad thing."
"Indeed. Still, I have other means of fulfillment. The Silkie is wondrous company; he always seems to understand my feelings. Having Rain around, I sometimes consider if I will ever have children."
Cyborg's face began to pale. "Um…yeah, y'know Star, maybe that's not one of my areas of expertise…"
"You do not wish to engage in procreation with an appropriate mate?" The alien asked, curious.
"I…ah…never really gave it a lot of thought."
"I understand." Starfire nodded. "In the magazines for earth women I have endeavored to study, male commitment is often a problem that is written about."
"Um…could we talk about something else Starfire?"
"You are uncomfortable." Her words were more of a statement than a question.
"Look, I just…have my own things I haven't completely worked through, you know. I try not to tune myself out to the possibility of a significant other, at least not entirely, but-"
Starfire raised a hand. "You need not say anymore. I remember your…reservations about your appearance when we all first met. I would not wish to push you into something you are not ready for, but you must believe that you are worthy. I have found through a friendship that you have much to offer."
Cyborg felt his organic eye begin to twitch; beginning to worry the alien was referring to herself.
"Starfire? Did you mean..?"
"Think nothing of it. On my world, matchmaking is sometimes a royal duty." She blinked, not realizing her hand had fallen over his in what many on Earth considered a form of intimacy. Cautiously, Starfire seized his beefy hand in her slender one, pumping her arm in one of the first Earth gestures Robin had taught her—the handshake. "My apologies if I upset you. I wish for you to remain a boy who is my friend but is not my special boy who is also a friend. Did I say it correctly?" Starfire asked, her brow furrowing slightly in trepidation.
"I think you said it perfectly. I know this may seem kind of weird, but you've always felt like a sister to me."
"I have not had good relations with my sibling. I would enjoy being a sister to one I could trust."
"Hey. Starfire. Stop me if I'm being nosy, but…have you ever thought about…dating someone else again? As your honorary brother, it kind of worries me if you're not happy."
"I suppose I have not made a satisfactory effort." The redhead frowned. "I do not believe that I know what I am looking for in a special boy who is a friend."
"Maybe you don't have to know, Starfire. Maybe you should just…make more friends. Who are boys, I mean. And see if one of those friends might be on you find, y'know, special."
"It feels like a more difficult concept than it is. I fear that I will leave something behind."
"Closure." Cyborg nodded. "That's it. You've always cared deeply for Robin. And while you've acknowledged the fact that you two are no longer an item, you never did that last step. You never let go of that feeling in your heart. You know, it's okay that you still care for him Starfire. Just…learn to let go and feel something else, though. Just because you decide to be with someone else doesn't mean you have to stop being a friend or a teammate to Robin. He cares about you too. He wants you to be happy…he just doesn't really say anything on it because he's the one who hurt you. He doesn't have the right to tell you how to feel."
"Perhaps not. Still, I believe I would welcome his input. I prefer to offer forgiveness for transgressions, even to those who often prove themselves unworthy, like Blackfire. It is just my way."
"It's a good way, Star. A real good way."
She offered her friend a small smile. "Rain. She looks much like her mother, and yet, I sense there is something very different about her."
"Probably got it from her father." Cyborg chided.
"No, I mean…she is…Rain…there is something about her that I am not certain Raven fully realizes. Something I cannot put into words. She will do great things."
"With you as one of her role models, Star? She can't be anything but great."
"Have you always had these scars on your back?" Raven inquired as she absently felt at the bare skin beneath her hands. This doesn't feel like a bruise or a cut."
"That's because it isn't. A bit of frostbite. I ended up on the wrong side of Mr. Freeze's gun once. I tried to dodge out of the way, but he still managed to tag me. I thawed out in a tank in the Batcave. No real permanent damage, except for some numbness."
"It feels smoother than it should." Raven frowned, deciding not to press the issue. The two of them lay together in the bed, Robin devoid of his top, Raven without her cloak, but the rest of their clothing was still on. Raven hadn't wanted to get carried away in her emotional state, and Robin was careful to respect her wishes. Still, the "cuddle" had done her some good. Her breathing had slowly synced into a proper rhythm, and their close proximity brought their emotional bond to a full effect, Robin being able to give her reassurances about their daughter, and Raven's own place in their family. Not that she was overreacting. Raven did not overreact; it was one of the things she was insistent on. She merely had certain subjects that she felt extraordinarily passionate about. Robin always chose not to question her on this; it wouldn't prove to be of any use. Besides, there was something about her stubbornness that he found incredibly endearing—perhaps it was because he could see so much of himself in his mate.
"So do you." Robin smirked, running one hand through her shoulder length lavender hair and while the other maneuvered down her left arm, the sleek material of her leotard giving a supple finish to the feel of her skin.
"I'm not really the cuddly type." Raven rolled her eyes.
"I don't see you objecting."
"I am allowed to draw on you for emotional support as a basis of our upgraded relationship."
"I love you too, Rae."
"That's my misfortune." She said quietly, slipping her hand into his. "Still, I guess I'll make the most of it."
"The last time you said that we ended up with Rain."
"I'll bet you thought that was an accident." She chided.
"I adore our little girl. And her mother. Her biological mother." Robin emphasized.
"Nice save, Boy Wonder. Maybe you'd like to show me how much?"
"Was that an invitation?" He arched an eyebrow, daring to hope.
"I am sometimes prone to lapses in judgment." A smile flickered on her face, and she leaned in to stroke some of the wilder hairs sticking outward from his scalp, her face close enough to his to inhale his scent, her breath tickling his nose slightly.
"Maybe you'll make one now…"
"I think I'm about to…" She admitted before a door chime interrupted the moment.
"You've got to be kidding me." Robin growled, drawing back.
"Apparently, Fate looks out for my lapses." Raven reminded him, brushing a hand against his cheek.
"Oh no, this isn't over."
"You like me more at night anyway." Raven stated, sliding out of his grip and towards the door as it chirped a second time. Her lavender hair bouncing slightly as her slender legs hit the floor, bouncing on the pads of her feet. Raven thumbed the pad to open the door, blinking twice in confusion at the sight of a distraught Beast Boy, who seemed only barely capable of holding onto Rain's right hand, the little girl trying to get away.
"Yes?" The word was drawn out, as though she was already regretting the visit. Before getting a response, she reached out and took hold of Rain's left hand before her daughter could tear away, gently pulling her into the room. The little girl struggled somewhat, but capitulated quickly, realizing she wasn't going to escape. Like most developing children, she adored exploring her environment and hated being kept in one place for more than minutes at a time.
"Raven. Terra bolted!" Beast Boy looked distraught, and began tugging at the hair on his head now that he had both hands free.
"She's gone?" Raven asked.
"Yeah. She just…left. She was pretty upset with the whole…you and her and the mommy thing."
"I suppose I didn't behave any better." Raven sighed.
"You didn't have to be so hard on her. She doesn't try to be you, y'know. All she ever does is help and you give her a hard time. I never knew you were so selfish!"
Raven blanched. "That was not my intention. I admit that I was wrong to leave things as I did, but try to see it from my side. My child is treating someone other than me as her mother. How would you feel if you and Terra had a child and it called Robin 'daddy' instead of you?"
"Um…maybe not so good."
"Then I'm glad we had this talk"
Robin sauntered to the door, scooping up his daughter and hoisting her upwards. She did not seem to protest, keen on the idea of being lifted into the air, the pleasant sound of laughter emanating from her as Robin made swooping motions with his arms, giving her more of an airborne effect. "Where is she?" Robin asked, never taking his eyes off of his little girl.
"I dunno." Beast Boy sighed. "I thought you might."
"Sorry. I did talk with her briefly, but Terra never indicated she was going anywhere. Try calling her on the communicator."
"I did. She's not answering. She…she might if you call." The changeling looked up at him hopefully. This communication was not lost on Raven, who looked between both men.
Robin sighed, carrying Rain to the bed. He flopped backwards onto the mattress and proceeded to 'bench press' Rain over his head, much to her own delight, giggles flowing out of her happily. "She might." Robin acknowledged, letting the adults know he wasn't ignoring the situation. "But I can't keep being that for her, I have a family. And as much as I love Terra…I can't love her the way she wants, and she knows that. She cares about you, you know. A lot more than you think." Robin added, sitting up to look directly at Beast Boy, pulling Rain down into his lap. "Go after her."
"But what if I can't-"
"Trust your instincts. Go to her. You'll find her. If you really need me, if you really have trouble, you know who to call." He grinned.
"Thanks dude. You're right. No one knows Terra better than me! I'll find her." He beamed proudly, his chest puffing out a bit before he took off down the hallway, morphing into a cheetah en route.
Raven stood, a feeling overcoming her that she was unaccustomed to. Raven was stunned. "Richard…"
"You just put me before Terra."
"I love you, Raven. While I do love Terra…it's not the same thing. You always see her as a rival. That's why you were so upset when Rain was treating her like a mother. You honestly think she'll replace you."
"I am not that insecure."
"Yes, you are. That's all right. It means you're scared of losing us. It makes you human." He smiled, standing up and walking towards her, Rain happily going in tow.
"But Rain doesn't…like me." Raven sighed.
"I'll bet we can fix that easy."
Robin smiled warmly, taking Rain's hands and placing them into the much larger ones of her mother. The girl seemed to accept this, but soon began struggling. She did not seem uncomfortable or scared so much as she did bored. "She loves to be in the air, Raven. Indulge her. Float."
"She could get hurt." Raven sighed.
"Would you ever hurt your own daughter?"
"Then there's nothing to be afraid of. Hold her hands and just float. Lift her up off the ground; fly around just a little bit. She'll love it."
"And if we find out she develops the ability to fly?"
"Not likely." Robin advised. "You don't just fly, it wasn't an accident. It was something you learned. Maybe she'll learn one day, like you, but I don't think she's about to just start floating over her crib.
"She wasn't supposed to start walking into mirrors, either, but she did." Raven glared; concerned at the flippant way Robin seemed to be addressing the stimulation of their child."
"Kids love this kind of stuff, Raven. She's an adventurer! She damn well should be, she's my daughter. When I was only four, my father would take me up on the trapeze with him. Always with safety nets, and never really high, but he wanted me to know the joy of flying through the air. He gave that to me. I didn't get into the whole trapeze act just because it was a family thing. There was nothing I enjoyed better than challenging gravity. Don't hold her back. Kids can sense when you're scared for them. It makes them uneasy. Why do you think Rain likes Terra so much?"
"Because blondes have more fun?"
"In this case, you're right. Have fun, Raven. With your daughter."
Raven hesitated for a moment, but held Rain's little hands tightly and levitated off the floor a bit, pulling their child with her. Rain dangled below her, a lopsided grin on her face as Raven pulled her up, hoisting the girl up and gently holding her by the torso. Beginning to get more comfortable, Raven allowed herself to rotate so that she was floating on her back, holding Rain up over her and then slowly allowing herself to rotate, little squeals of mirth and delight coming from her daughter at these new sensations neither her father nor Terra were quite capable of giving her.
"See that Raven, you're a natural." Robin praised her, and Raven found herself surprised that she was, actually, enjoying this.
Returning her daughter's smile, Raven allowed herself to dart around their apartment, making small swoops and ducks. Raven knew she probably lacked the same kind of grace that Starfire brought to flight—the Tamaranian twenty-something truly experienced flight as a joy that was beyond Raven's grasp, her aerial movements defining form over function. Even in combat, Starfire's flight maneuvers had an unmatched elegance that Raven knew she could never match. Even so, Rain seemed very taken by her own simplistic maneuvers, and when the sorceress finally floated over to the bed and brought them both down upon the mattress, a bond seemed to have been formed that was missing previously.
"Was that fun?" Raven asked, questioning the child now resting happily in her lap.
As though understanding, Rain's smile grew into a furious nodding of her head, standing up and clutching at her mother tightly, stirring Raven to awkwardly return the embrace. She had never been much for physical intimacy, but today she seemed to be getting it in large doses.
"See how easy it can be?" Robin offered, wrapping his arms around mother and child, plating his chin on Raven's shoulder. "And you thought she didn't love you."
"I've been wrong before." Raven admitted, causing Robin to sputter.
"You? Hah! Even when I'm right, I'm always wrong/"
"That's because you're the man. Don't forget, we outnumber you."
"Yeah? Maybe we should have another kid then, even up the score…"
"Now you're simply fantasizing. Passing your DNA on was a total lapse in judgment on my part."
"Oh yeah? I think Rain came out the better for it."
"That's because my demonic DNA beat up yours when Rain was just a zygote and showed it who the boss is. Why do you think we had a girl?"
Robin smirked, pointing a finger at his mate. "You exist to torment me, don't you?"
"No. I was born to murder the world. Fortunately I've settled on just tormenting you instead. It's less messy. And more fun."
"For you maybe."
"Oh, Richard, you know you'd be lost if I wasn't here to challenge you at every step of the way. It makes your little triumphs so much more meaningful." She leaned backwards against him, allowing him to literally play the role of the supportive male.
"Who says we aren't a normal family?" Robin shrugged, enjoying this moment he had. As though answering his question, Rain looked up from her mother's lap and stuck out her tongue, giggling.
"Ah, Blondie. This is an unexpected surprise. Though I must say, you've come to the right place." Jinx leaned happily in the doorway of her apartment, a wry grin on her face as she looked the blonde over, cocking an eyebrow at the significant chunk of rock turned onto its side nearby like an oversized lawn ornament.
"I don't even know why I came here. I just…did."
"Well, I'm not much for the hospitality thing, but you may as well come in. Just remember, my house is my house." The petite witch shrugged, turning sideways to admit the wayward Titan.
"Doesn't Kid Flash live here too?"
"When I let him." Jinx smirked, shutting the door behind her as Terra entered. "Is this a social call, or are you looking for a place to stay?"
"I don't really know. I thought you said you weren't into hospitality?"
"I'm not, believe me. But we sisters have to stick together. All the others, they were born into this hero stuff. You and me? We're hard cases."
"But we're not the same."
Jinx paused before speaking, stepping into the kitchenette to put some water on to boil. "I was there when you were reborn, you know. When Birdboy went into your noggin?" She tapped the side of her head for emphasis. "I used to believe that I was miserable, when I was young and foolish, before the H.I.V.E. Academy. You made me realize I didn't know what real suffering was. I thought I did. But I was wrong." She shrugged. "Look, let's not get into some kind of miserable pissing contest. We both still have a long way to go. Normally I get off on schadenfreude, but come on, tell me your troubles. I can be a good listener."
"Starfire speaks highly of you." Terra smiled weakly.
"I don't really know why. The Princess has her ways, I guess. I spent countless months ministering to her after the Birds broke her heart. Sometimes I'm not sure if any of it got through."
"You'd be surprised. She's…different, since you left. It's been awhile, hasn't it? I thought you were heading East with Kid Flash?"
"Home is relative to him—we're talking about someone who can run between raindrops. Where we live isn't that important to him, he can always get there in a few seconds. Me? Dreary and pathetic as Jump City can be, it's kind of homey. Plus, I figure I kind of owe it. I spent a lot of years terrorizing this place. That stupid conscience of mine won't feel right until I've spent just as much time making a difference for the right team, I guess."
"You? A conscience?" Terra laughed. "I thought you had killed that years ago."
"You and me both. Turns out, I forgot the cardinal rule. Always make sure you identify the body."
"You look good." Terra inclined her head to Jinx's new hairdo, which still came up, now at an elaborate point above the center of her head.
"I've been trying a few new things. I always want to be striking, you know? When Kid Flash and I go out there and bust a few bad guys, I like to make sure they remember me."
"You ever run into your old crew?"
"Sometimes. But I never really bother. They're idiots. Lazy too. Without someone as brilliant as me to lead them, they're of no real consequence."
"But of course." Terra smiled wryly.
"Besides, they're still kind of pissed at me for that whole Brotherhood of Evil thing. I turned against them that day."
"The great and mighty Jinx, turned inside out by a boy?" the blonde girl teased.
"Hey, hey—get the story right! I switched sides because my idol, Madame Rouge, turned out to be way uncool. Kid Flash was just a delightful bonus."
"Mmm-hmm. I see."
"Don't push your luck, Blondie." Jinx charged pink, kinetic, bad luck energy between her fingertips. "Or I'll make it all bad."
"I make enough bad luck on my own already." Terra sighed, putting her head down on the table.
"That's right; we are here to talk about you, aren't we?"
"If we have to." Terra pouted.
"You came to me. Which makes you…what, exactly? Desperate doesn't quite seem like the right word."
"Everything back home just feels so…wrong."
"Alright. I'm pretty sure I've been there before. Wrong how?"
"It's about Rain?"
"Baby Blues, eh?"
"Of a sort. I'm her godmother. And with Robin actually working and Raven needing to meditate a lot, she can't be there full time, you know? So I do a lot of the heavy lifting. I get help from everyone, though. It's just…"
"You're worn out?"
"No, not at all. I guess you could say I'm the problem, but, it's not me that's the problem."
Jinx snorted, blowing a few low-hanging strands of hair out of her face. "You give an aspirin a headache, Blondie. Mind making sense?"
"Raven thinks that…that Rain prefers me to her. And the worst part is, I'm worried that she's right."
"Well, the kid obviously has good taste. You're the whole package, next to the gloomy chick."
"Raven is emotionally distant. It's not her fault. Rain likes me because I'm…warmer and softer, I guess."
"And the sorceress is handling this development really maturely, I take it."
"If looks could kill, I would've dropped dead today." Terra frowned.
"Ouch. I guess it's to be expected, though. Coming between a mother and her child."
"But I'm not trying to!"
"No, but you still are. And she's definitely the possessive type. The quiet ones always are."
"It gets worse."
"Maybe I should go."
"No way, you can't just bait me like that." Jinx rose to answer the whistling tea kettle. "Tell me the details."
"Only if you swear never to discuss this with anyone. Not even Flash!"
"Huh? Look, I know I'm not the Humanitarian of the Year or anything, but I'd never tell anything really dirty that could compromise a friend." Jinx responded, turning off the burner and finding some mugs in a cabinet.
"Friends? We're friends?" Terra blinked.
"Well it's not like I'm in the habit of letting strangers into my place."
"No, it's just. I thought we were more like…allies? Acquaintances, perhaps?"
"Like I said, you and I, we're hard cases. I was there when you were reborn. Maybe I didn't play that big a part, but we have something of a common past. Come on, spill. Would this face lie to you?"
"Wasn't deceit one of your specialties?" Terra arched an eyebrow.
"Yeah. But I'm working on it." Jinx grinned, pouring water into a pot and brewing some China Black. "Look, you either take me at face value, or you don't. But you came here, which means you must think I'm something to you."
Terra looked away, placing her arms on the table and hiding her head in them, muttering. "I'm in love with Robin."
"Come again?" Jinx asked, placing the pot on the table with a wicker disc beneath it, making the return trip for their mugs.
"Robin." Terra acquiesced, raising her head enough to say it clearly. "I'm in love with him."
Jinx blanched, dropping one of the mugs on the floor, the sound of splintering ceramic punctuating the earth mover's declaration. "But I thought you and the wild child-"
Terra shook her head. "We have something, but…it's not like all those years ago. I keep trying, I really do. But it's just…not enough."
"When you say love, as in Robin, are we talking an 'I love the way his body fills out that ridiculous costume;' or an 'I think about him holding me in his arms every night before drifting off into a fitful sleep?"
"Definitely the second one."
Jinx picked up the largest fragments of the shattered mug, fetching a dustpan and hand-broom from beneath the sink to deal with the smaller ones. "Not that you probably need me to tell you this, Blondie. But I will anyway—this isn't going to end well for you."
"I know. It's been building for years now, ever since he rescued me…rebirthed me, I guess. I've always been able to make it work until now. I know we can't be together like that and I accept it—honestly, I do. But then this whole thing with Rain getting attached to me, and I feel like I'm…I'm replacing Raven. Why shouldn't I? That part of me that wants him so badly would like nothing better! But my wretched existence has caused too much pain and suffering to others already. Most of all them. I did the worst thing I ever could have to each of them all those years ago. To come between that family the three of them share…there won't be anything left of me if I do. Nothing worth saving."
"So then you'll do what? Run away?"
"If I leave, it will hurt that innocent little girl. And if I stay, I feel like I'm risking everything. For what it's worth, I never meant to fall for him so hard. He did everything for me, everything. And BB has been so loyal to me, so patient. Waiting for the day when I turn completely around, come back to him the way he wants. I'm always there halfway, and he just…just takes it. Never complains. Why isn't he enough?"
"It's not your fault, you know. Who you love. Love." Jinx rolled her eyes. "Now that's one thing I was never really looking for. If he hadn't been so obnoxiously persistent…" Jinx sighed. "Never mind, we're talking about you, like I said earlier. And what matters most is that you're being honest. Have you been honest with both of the men in your life?"
"Robin knows how I feel, and BB knows how I feel about Robin. He wants to wait for me, and Robin encourages me to go after BB, tries to be a friend, tries to encourage me without giving me false hope. But he's in my head, literally. I have conversations with him, that echo of him that's a part of me. He is not just a man. He's the man that saved me when no one else could. The boy who held me in his arms when I had tried to make him kill me just to ease my suffering. The boy who believed that I could still be more. That was willing to lose himself in my mind just to give me a chance to be whole again. I still remember him holding me in the med lab when I would drift in and out of consciousness, wanting to die because of my memories. And he kept me alive. Whispered in my ear that it wasn't over, that there was so much of a story worth writing with my life, holding me through the night and telling me I couldn't go yet, not like that. No one in my life had ever cared for me. Not like that. How could I not help but seal my heart to him from that experience. I get it. I get that he was saving me, out of love. Not the love a boy has for a girl, but the love a brother has for a sister. He was Slade's Apprentice once too. He couldn't let me go. And he didn't. My heart belongs to him now and there's nothing I can do about it except try to forget. Now Rain comes along treating me like a mother…and I just can't cut it! What am I supposed to do? There's enough temptation in my life and I temper it, keep myself pure, never tread where I know that I shouldn't. But this is more than I can bear. Why is this happening to me? I have so much to make up for and I try so hard, and now it's like I'm being deliberately tempted with the family I can never have. I'm not that sweet girl's mother but there's this undeniable part of me that wants to be so bad, that would've given anything to have been the girl that got to bear that child, call it her own."
"Geez you're really in deep." Jinx stated when the fragile girl finally seemed to break, blubbering into tears after all the emotions that had come out of her. Even in her days as a confirmed villainess, the witch never would've wished this kind of thing on her enemies. Jinx emptied the dustpan into the garbage and returned it beneath the sink, moving to stand behind the sitting, quivering girl and gently stroking her back. "Hey, come on now. Let it out. If it's this bottled up, just let it out."
"I am so sick of being so pathetic!" Terra howled through her tears, no longer caring about keeping up appearances, broken sobs interrupting her breathing.
"Okay, okay." Jinx placed her hands on Terra's shoulders, massaging gently. "Easy, easy." She took a napkin out of the holder and held it in front of the blonde. "It's okay now. This is just girl talk, alright?"
"Yeah…girl talk." Terra wiped at her eyes. "Does it ever get any better? Will this ever get any easier?"
"I don't know." Jinx expressed honestly. "Just breathe, okay. Don't let it all crush you. These things all have a way of working out in the end. You just have to be patient."
"I have been patient. It's not fair. Are my sins so great that I have to be tortured like this? If I am so unworthy, why couldn't he have just left me?"
"Are you mad at Robin for saving you, or mad at the universe for your current predicament?"
"I have to pick one?" Terra sniffed. "I know life isn't fair. But this is still cruel. All I want is just something for myself. I had that, once. In Beast Boy. I had it, and I lost it, because of Slade. That was my stupidity. And yet he loves me still. And now that I'm able to do something about it, my heart has been changed, set hopelessly into someone I can never have. Why? I didn't ask for these feelings? I just wanted a chance to find my own happiness, and it's moving further away from me every day. I tried to do the right thing—even gave Robin a damned push towards Raven because when we were joined his feelings to her were so obvious to me. I wanted him to be happy. I was okay with that not including me…not as his life partner, anyway. And yet the more I try to be honorable, the deeper I fall. And the more I try to find a way off this path, the more it traps me like a web."
"Does Raven know?"
Terra nodded. "That makes this…issue with Rain all the more painful for all of us. I know that look in her eyes. Raven feels like I'm doing this on purpose. And there's that dark part of me that wants to. I just want this all to go away!"
"Alright, alright. Relax. You're getting all worked up over things you can't control." Jinx frowned. Starfire had never needed this kind of help, after losing Robin. The alien girl had been a wreck, sure, but she held a lot of it in. Terra was more like a ticking time bomb—filled beyond capacity with emotional turmoil and exploding all over the witch's quiet little slice of suburbia. Much more of this and the earth mover was liable to start, well, moving earth, and her security deposit would be shot to hell. Jinx poured a cup of tea from the plot, carefully placing it in Terra's hands. "See? Feel that? Warm, soothing. Come on now, come back down from this ugly train of thought…"
"I don't even know why I'm telling you this." Terra exhaled, pressing the warm mug to her forehead, not caring that some of the tea spilled out.
"Because you want the opinion of someone who isn't directly involved."
"Yeah, I guess that makes sense. You're a pretty good listener, you know that?"
"I find it just as surprising as you are. I think it's just because I spent all those years with those idiots from the Academy. When Robin took me in, around the time you came back? I thought rooming with the Princess was going to kill me. Turns out, she can actually be kind of fun. And then when he broke her heart, well, someone had to pick up those pieces. You were sort of involved, obviously she couldn't talk to Raven…so I got nominated. I'm not entirely sure I fixed that. She says otherwise…but I'm pretty sure she's still carrying a torch for Robin."
"Robin told me, back when I was with Slade, that I could only save myself. Maybe Starfire can only get over him when she's ready to get over him."
"Yeah, I guess. Still. It isn't healthy of her to hold on for so long. There's plenty of fish, as they say."
"Just so you know, that line is really annoying when it's said by people like you,"
"Because I can be capricious?"
"Because you're with someone. Happily, I might add."
"Not all the time. Happily, I mean. But, I suppose in the greater scheme of things…"
"You're so going to marry him?"
"Have I really been that domesticated?" Jinx asked, sputtering.
Terra gestured with her arms to the small but cozy apartment for two around them. "You tell me, Hex Girl."
"Yeah, well, don't expect me to be going all Betty Crocker. That tea isn't even organic."
"Perish the thought!" Terra chided, suddenly feeling…better, she supposed. She was far from over it, but she didn't feel as though she were going to start hyperventilating anymore. That was as good a start as any. "But thanks."
"Going to make it work with the Wild Child? Or hold out for Robin? I mean, the Gloomy Chick has got to mess things up with him sometime, right?"
"Anything is possible, I suppose. But all the same, I don't think I can spend my entire life like that."
"Of course not. Want me to give her a push for you?!" Jinx asked, becoming excited.
"We're the good guys, remember?"
"Oh, yeah. Right." Jinx snapped her fingers in disappointment. "Well, I'm sure it'll all work out okay."
"It probably won't. But, I'll survive. I just…need a little time off before I go back there."
"I can give you a couch." Jinx offered.
"I was thinking more like a five star hotel?"
"Oh, sure. We're the good guys, remember? Unless you've got that kind of cash legitimately."
"What do you suppose ten bucks will get me?"
"My couch and some Chinese take-out."
"What about Kid Flash?"
"He won't mind. Unless you sit in his chair. Not that he sits for long, anyway, the damned showoff." Jinx cracked a smile.
"You guys like fried wontons?"
"When they're fresh. Maybe some Moo-goo-gai-pan. Chicken chow-mein, spare ribs…"
Terra blinked. "Listen to you! Are you pregnant?"
Jinx twitched slightly, not rising to the bait. "Who says this is all for me. If we don't over order there won't be enough when that guy gets through. Trust me. Once he ate my toast!"
"It's a long story."
"And I've got nothing but time. I'm not going back there until there's less tension."
"Hey, hey, this isn't a hotel. You can stay a night or two. Okay?"
"But aren't we sisters?" Terra pouted.
"Yeah, that's why I'm not charging you rent."
"You're all heart."
"I know. Don't spread it around."
"Deal. So, the toast?" Terra asked, finally sipping her tea, blanching to find it didn't have any sugar.
"It's a funny story, actually. So we were sitting in this little luncheonette…"
All of a sudden, I just got furiously inspired to finish the next chapter of this story, so here it is. After posting chapter ten, I got to work on this and got about a third of the way through it, then I just seemed to slow down for quite a while, adding paragraphs here and there, but not really certain what exactly this thing was going to be. Then I got the idea for yet another story, Miss Misery, for Jimmy Two-Shoes, and I got a prologue banged out to that so quickly. So I figured if I could write that so quickly, what was keeping me from getting back to real production on Seized With Life? I opened this file up again, and the story just start coming hardcore, my fingers flying over the keyboard. All I needed was a quiet day at work, and boy, did today fit the bill. I'm really quite pleased with how well this worked out.
Ironically, this new chapter also taught me how little control I have over my own work. This entire Jinx and Terra visit? It was never part of the plan for an instant. I don't know where the idea came from, but a few lines became a throwaway scene became an absolute cornerstone of this chapter. And it all just came. I was really happy with the way Terra's emotional breakdown came out. I've been making that poor girl carry around a lot since the start of this story and I didn't know how she could ever uncork those emotions without really upsetting or distressing some of her fellow Titans. Jinx just felt like the right person to unburden herself to, someone who wouldn't really have a horse in the race and try to tell Terra whether her feelings are right or wrong. Sometimes, you just need to go with things.
Of course, that wasn't the only thing I liked about this chapter. When I look it over, I really like, well, everything. Most of the character interactions felt relevant to me, and each scene had something to say. That's the most important aspect of this story to me, that it's actually saying something. There are a lot of my own personal beliefs and demons and little things mixed in throughout it, so it's one I'm really rather proud of. I strive to make every chapter rather long, too. Not just in quantity, but in quality. I know you all end up being kept waiting for new chapters far more than you would like to be, so I try to make sure that each one is worth your while and not published for the sake of just saying I updated the damn thing. Each new chapter should grow the story in some ways and make you connect with the characters. This one, I feel, is full of those little moments.
I also ended up writing a lot of as-yet-unpublished Terra material that I may not even end up using, but I just end up with ideas for the blonde. Ironic, since I know most people either love her or despise her. I see her as this beautifully fragile young girl who has a lot of love to give, but can't seem to find the right place to put it. Btu hell, let's face reality. This story goes so far against the grain of most Teen Titans fanfics that I doubt it makes much of a difference at this point. Like I almost always end up saying in these notes, I really am trying to tell a story you can't find told a thousand other ways. Maybe that's interesting to you, maybe it's boring. But it is what it is. This is far from the most popular story in the archive, or even that I've written, but I sure do seem to have a great deal of fun with it. With any luck, if you're reading this far, you are too. If you approach this story with an open mind, you'll probably get the most out of it.
Speaking of which, I've been considering something a little different for a while now. I was going to pen yet another story—related to this one. Tentatively titled Gotham Nights, it was going to be about exactly how the hell Robin and Raven ended up together to begin with. Now I'm considering just doing some special chapters of Seized to fill in that backstory, like I did with The Human Stain chapters way back in 2011 (was it really that long ago?!). I'll probably put up a poll on that—I've needed to overhaul my damned, hideously out of date profile for years anyway. With this epic snow and ice storm bearing down on me that is guaranteeing I punch ten digits into my phone and tell them I'm not showing up, so maybe I'll be able to work on that tomorrow. Or not. I suppose it all depends upon whether or not the power stays running or not. But keep a watch for that poll; I'll put it up as soon as I reasonably can.
So, I guess that'll do it for now. A lot of different stuff went into the proverbial soup that is this chapter, so if it isn't too much to ask, do me a favor and tell me what you think of it? Even if you hate it, hey, it made you feel something, so I'd still consider that a moderate success. Constructive criticism is accepted, I only throw out pointless flames. Read, review, you all know the drill.
As always, you may feel free to send your questions, comments, compliments, complaints, love letters, death threats, marriage proposals, and ransom demands to:
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