Terra went through her Saturday morning routine with a hint of worry. It had taken her time and effort, but she had finally managed to work her way out of Beast Boy's bed. Her partner was not very large, but when he slept soundly, holding her, he was like dead weight. More often than not, it was something she rather enjoyed—that he grew so relaxed and content with her by his side that he fell asleep completely. Although it was difficult to extricate herself from him once that happened. But left to their own devices, it might not be until lunchtime that they ventured forth from his room, and she had things she needed to do today.
Terra entered the bathroom of Beast Boy's apartment, turning on the light over the mirror. She must have slept well. Her hair wasn't terribly mussed, and while there was still some circling under her eyes, she had woken up to much worse in her time. She plucked her earth-tone toothbrush from the little stand on the counter and set to work on her teeth. She meant to take better care of herself, but some things had a tendency to feel tedious. Or perhaps it was only her own nervousness coming to light. Now that she had decided to approach Raven, it was as though she were pushing through a wall of Jell-O. She was moving forward, but there was heavy resistance. Emotional resistance, specifically. It was to be expected. A part of Robin had been living inside of her head for years, now. Asserting himself when he felt like it, making him nestled within her memories, sharing his strength when she needed it. That part of Robin left behind was now a part of her, influenced by her memories and the experiences of her life since that day he took up residence. And Robin was not going to quiet easily. He was too much of a hero for that. He felt that it was his duty to protect her and guide her. The saddest part was that he was sometimes invaluable.
Terra spit out her toothpaste and rinsed, running hands through her hair. It had grown down to her hips, sometimes getting in her face, but Beast Boy seemed to like it, and Robin preferred the way it framed her face. Shutting the door, she peeled off her sleepwear and stepped into the shower. It was not an elegant bathroom, designed more for utility than comfort. The shower was just a square stall with a slightly angled floor, channeling water to the middle. The Spartan design did have one big plus in Terra's book—the small size of the stall warmed it up quickly, making it much more comfortable to linger. Terra set her head under the warm, cascading water and looked upward, allowing it to beat against her face, rushing away sleep. She also took time with shampooing her hair, washing it twice, and also helping herself to some of the conditioner she left in her partner's apartment.
Saturdays were a day when she felt slightly more at ease—waking up next to Beast Boy, going shopping with Starfire and Rain, jogging with Robin, it made her feel a little more normal. Not that her everyday life was so bizarre. They were all a little older now, and they didn't rush into battle anymore. Not when there were so many others to take their place. Not that she would decline to fight if she was needed, but ever since the whole crisis with the Brotherhood of Evil years ago, that different members of her family had told her about, trouble just seemed to be something they had less of in their lives. Which was probably a healthy thing since someone so young and defenseless was living amongst them now. Terra was grateful that her days of being a hero and a villain were behind her. With luck, she would only have to use her powers in productive, landscape engineering ways from now on, although the tingling in her mind told her that, one day, Slade would likely come to them directly. He was a patient man, and preferred to wait until fruit ripened before picking it. She shuddered at her own metaphor. Suddenly, the shower didn't seem as warm and inviting as it had when she had stepped in.
Without hesitation, she shut the water off, stepping out onto the soft bath mats and retrieving an earth-tone towel that she left here, wrapping it around herself and tying it behind her like a makeshift garment. Her hair she tended to with a smaller, white sheet that she wrapped around the top of her head like a beehive. It made her look a little ridiculous, but then again, her life really needed that. Too much of it had been spent in pain and sorrow. She lived, today, because Robin had showed her how to, Beast Boy had given her reason to, and little Rain had given her what even the men in her life could not—hope.
Grinning, Terra scrubbed her hair with the towel around her head, getting rid of excess water. Sometimes, the cruel jokes could be the most fun. She grinned to herself as she slipped out of the bathroom, going back to the bed. "Beast Boy…time to wake up…" She cooed quietly, brushing her fingers against his cheek gently.
Not unlike a sleeping dog or cat, he moaned slightly, stretching, but at the sound of so pleasant a voice, reluctantly opened his eyes—a decision he did not regret at all upon seeing the love of his life in her current attire, or lack thereof. "I think I just found a new reason to get up in the morning!"
She threw him a coy, irresistibly cute look. "I really should get a more imaginative towel." She laughed.
"No, no, it…suits you." He reached out to lift his own chin up when he felt a trickle of drool beginning to form. Blinking, he rubbed his eyes to make sure he wasn't still having an unusually pleasant dream, and Terra took that opportunity to pull the towel around her hair free, throwing it over his face.
"And here I thought you'd like my natural color most of all." She purred.
The changeling felt as though he were about to boil over. This was the greatest morning of his life! Very carefully, as though he wanted to savor the moment, he began to peel the towel from his eyes, peeking out ever so slightly at the vision of beauty he had dreamed about nearly every night since first meeting her, only to see…Terra giggling with her towel wrapped around her. "Huh?" He asked, confused. "Wait, but I thought…"
"Aww, did I really make it seem that easy?" She asked, leaning over and stroking his head.
"That was a dirty trick."
"But it was so much fun!" She giggled. "Besides, you don't really want to see me without this towel on, BB. I look like a toothpick with hair!"
"Terra, you know that's not true."
The blonde laughed. "Then why can I eat almost as much as Starfire or Cyborg but it never goes anywhere?"
"Um, I don't pretend to know a lot about girls, but I'm pretty sure if you say that too loudly in public, someone might come running at you with a knife."
Terra sighed. "I just don't think—"
Beast Boy didn't even let her finish. "Terra, you know I will never push you to do anything until you want to. But I promise that, no matter what, no matter what you think of yourself or your body, you couldn't possibly disappoint me, Terra. You're the most important thing to me, and there's nothing about you that could ever change that. You know that, right?"
She responded by reaching out her arms and pulling him off of the bed into a scorching good morning kiss. "Keep talking like that and you'll charm the towel right off me."
"Hey, that was the idea." He smirked, earning a light smack on the cheek for his troubles.
"All in good time. Sorry, but I'm not quite ready for the complications…yet." She winked, frowning slightly as she found her standard outfit of tan cargo shorts and a black pullover. "But I'll make it worth your while when I am, okay?"
"Okay." He smiled, stealing another kiss before she disappeared back into the bathroom to change. Shutting the door behind her, she leaned her back against it dreamily. "Guess maybe I've got it after all." She grinned to herself.
Down in the common room of the tower, Cyborg was at his favorite station, the stove, happily making himself his weekend omelet. All manner of meat and vegetables were stuffed inside of it—bacon, sausage, ham, mushrooms, onion, pepper—it was as though there was no room left for the actual eggs. The burly robotic man hummed a familiar theme to himself as his breakfast simmered in a skillet, noting with satisfaction that the sounds of the assorted meat and vegetables cooking sounded like applause. "Thank you, thank you. I'll be here all morning." He smiled with satisfaction, testing the texture of the eggs with the edge of a spatula.
"I hope not. Part of the whole weekend thing is to go outside and play." Robin advised him as he entered the room from the staircase, Rain riding on his shoulders happily.
"Robin! Didn't think I'd see you so early on a Saturday."
"Rain is kind of an early riser." He grinned. "Comes with being a father." The girl tugged on his hair as if to emphasize his point, and Robin gently set her down on the floor so she could explore.
Cyborg shook his head in adoration. "She really got Raven's face, didn't she?"
"Yeah." Robin agreed. "You know, it's amazing how expressive her face is. It's easy to see in Rain, but I can see it in Raven, too. You just have to know how to look."
"She shares your bed, man. That's called an unfair advantage."
"No, it's more than that. It takes time, but learning her moods is something I pride myself on. It's the little, almost imperceptible things you have to look for. I see it most when she holds Rain. There's something special there. It's more than just a mother holding her child. I think, in Rain…it's like there's a part of Raven that flies free."
"Aren't you poetic?" Cyborg smirked. "Where is the lady of your house anyway?"
"Indisposed." Robin shrugged. "I thought I'd take Rain downstairs." He sniffed. "Making a weekend omelet, I see?"
"It's my reward after a long of week of doing custom work."
"I only gave you two cars."
"Yeah, but I don't believe in doing anything halfway. Besides, we could use the repeat business. I've got my eye on some new features for my baby. And we were supposed to talk about building you and the little lady a car."
"Little?" Raven cocked an eyebrow as she phased through the ceiling, towing a laundry basket behind her with a portion of her soul-self.
"He said it, not me." Robin smirked.
"You know better." She advised him, channeling the laundry basket to his chest. "You forgot something when you snuck out."
"I was going to do it."
"The road to hell is paved with good intentions. And I'm running out of things to wear." Raven explained, spreading her arms to reveal a very baggy T-shirt with a "Baby On Board" emblem across her stomach.
Cyborg laughed. "Hey! I remember that! Jinx and Starfire got that for you as a maternity shirt when you came home looking like you swallowed a bowling ball."
"I was not that big." Raven protested.
"Then why did you need Robin and me to help pull you up off the couch?"
"I could have flown, thank you."
Robin shook his head. "You were worried about the baby, remember?"
"Whose side are you on? I want my leotards back in my closet, by the by. The laundry isn't going to do itself."
"I don't know, Raven." Robin scratched his chin thoughtfully. "I liked the pregnant look on you. Those were some good times. You look good carrying my child. And I was able to read those old Nancy Drew novels to Rain, start honing her detective skills early."
"Because my pregnancy was all about you." Raven rolled her eyes. "Do you have any idea what labor feels like? Especially when you have a confused body that isn't cooperating as easily as it could? Try pulling your lower lip up over your head."
"No thank you. But I was very proud of how well you did." Robin praised her.
"Thank you. I survived by imagining contraception. Permanent, irreversible contraception that would take some of the spring out of your step."
Cyborg and Robin both narrowed their eyes at her insinuation. "Ouch" They said in unison.
"Exactly." Raven smirked. "Speaking of the fruits of my labor, where is she?" Raven levitated herself half a foot upwards, peering around the corner where she saw her daughter fascinated by the contents of a cabinet drawer she had somehow gotten open. Fortunately, it only contained some of Starfire's decorative knick-knacks, so she wasn't likely to hurt herself. Still, no need to wait for an accident. She floated across the room, scooping the girl up. "You can clean up the mess, Cyborg. Robin's too busy with the laundry."
Robin and Cyborg exchanged another look. Robin smiled playfully. "She who must be obeyed. And just think, I live with her."
"That was your idea." Raven reminded him. "Speaking of your ideas, where is our resident babysitter?"
Cyborg scratched his head. "On Saturday morning? Probably cuddled up with Beast Boy in his boxers."
"Now that was an image I didn't need running around in my head, thanks." Raven added as her daughter fussed in her arms, making the tiny dark tresses on her head bounce slightly between her own movements and those of her mother's. Her eyes seemed to widen somewhat as she squirmed, but Raven continued to hold her securely. "Someone needs some serious playtime. What about Starfire? She can't still be in bed at this hour?"
"She's not." Cyborg informed her. "She came down earlier; I think she was going to cook something. Fortunately, I happened to be in her way with my breakfast. You can thank me later."
"I'll thank you now." Robin grinned, hoisting the laundry basket. "You going to have Star babysit?"
"I've really got to get some proper meditation in. Plus, I've been a little distracted from my studies lately. I have a lot of incantations that I need to review and memorize. I've let myself become a dull instrument."
"I wouldn't say that." Robin remarked. "You can be as liberal as Jinx when it comes to doling out punishment."
"Curses and hexes are not my specialty." Quipped Raven. "I try to use my spells for good. You know; healing, inner sight, levitation…" Rain fussed a bit more in her mother's arms, as though she were begging for release. Raven clutched the girl a little tighter, not wanting to have to chase off after her. "…sleep spells." Raven mused.
"She takes after me." Robin said proudly. "She wants to explore and find her next adventure."
"And here I was hoping that my genes would overpower yours." Raven mused. "Come on, Rain. Let's go see Aunt Starfire for awhile. I'm sure Silkie will play with you…" Raven spoke aloud as she floated up the stairs.
Cyborg shook his head as she left. "Man, I don't know how you do it. I mean, she's a fine girl and all, but she's…"
"A challenge." Robin finished for him. "That's okay. I've always enjoyed a good challenge. And the reward was something more than either of us could have considered. I've never really been all that good at letting other people in, you know? Maybe I really needed someone like Raven—she forced her way in. Maybe she didn't entirely mean for things to be the way they are now, but, I couldn't imagine them being a different way. With everything that's happened in my life, for better or for worse, it seems like there's always been a reason.
"Then keep it up, man. I'm glad it was you. You know, I doubt she'd ever admit it, but she really does need someone. Hell, we all do. Without that feeling of family, it's like you just don't belong. I lived too much of my life after the accident feeling that way. I used to worry so much about how I looked, that I shouldn't be alive. It took people like you to make me realize that it's all part of the adventure, you know?"
"Yeah." Robin agreed. "I do know. Thanks for supporting us, Cyborg. I really wasn't sure how this whole…me and Raven thing would go over when we moved back here. For awhile, I thought we'd have to find our own place."
"It was an adjustment. As I recall, you owe Jinx quite a bit. And Starfire. You know that she wishes you the best, but she still…"
"I know." Robin admitted, gripping the laundry basket more tightly. "There are some things you just can't take back." He hated to think about it, but it was a part of who he was, and always would be. The day he cleft Starfire's heart in twain.
XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoThirty-Three Months Ago…
Robin pressed his palm against the door of Starfire's quarters, his heart thundering in his chest. There were so many things he needed to say to the redheaded alien, and all of them sounded woefully inadequate in his head. How could he possibly make it right between them? But he had to try. He owed her that much. "Star, it's me." He said simply, pressing his thumb to her door chime.
"You may enter." She said in an uneasy voice, letting the door slide open.
"Hi." Robin gulped, feeling rather timid. It was fearful to think of facing Starfire's wrath, but even worse to imagine her hurt and disappointment. But, he had to face up to it. This was the bed that he made, he had to accept that.
"Hello." Starfire said quietly, huddled on her bed with Silkie in her lap, trying very valiantly not to cry.
"Look, Starfire…I know there's nothing I can say to make it right, and I'm not going to lie. What can I do?"
"You could find a way to go back in time and take me with you to Gotham." Starfire whispered. "If you wished it, I would have gladly borne you the strongest and most prized children."
Robin stiffened, wishing there was something meaningful he could say to her. "It was never about that, Starfire. Raven and I having a child…is not why we're together now. It's kind of an unexpected, life-altering…happy byproduct. I mean, I've never been more scared of anything, but at the same time, it just feels right, like it will all work out as it should. Maybe it already has." He sighed. "But Star, we didn't do this to hurt you. I know it must seem that way, and regardless of my intentions, you deserved better treatment. I'm not going to ask for your forgiveness. But I would like to know what I can do to make it hurt less. You can as me anything you want to know, I won't lie to you."
"Do you find…she is more pleasing to you?" Starfire asked, her voice half-breaking.
"Raven is a part of me, Starfire. I just didn't realize it. I never knew, really knew, what she's been through in life before meeting us. It's like the two of us were cut from the same cloth. She showed me things…beautiful and horrible things. I don't know how she managed. I think of my own past, and then I look into hers…and I'm grateful. I had it better than her, in spite of everything. And yet…it's still not that simple. It's more than just being relieved about my own pain. I'm grateful that I can at least relate to her, that I can stand next to her, say nothing…and there's still that understanding between us."
"I was unaware that you ever had these kinds of feelings for another."
Robin sighed. "I was unaware too. I…I should have told you, when it started. It was selfish and wrong of me not to. You deserved better."
Starfire turned away, cradling Silkie in her arms gently. "I had hoped that…that I could take you home to Tamaran again. And choose you as my partner. Perhaps I have misunderstood—"
"No." Robin cut her off. "You didn't misunderstand. I just…changed course is all. I had thought for so long, that you were what I wanted. No, that's still wrong. What I mean is…you were what I desired, Starfire. I was comfortable with you. I didn't realize something was missing until I went back home to Gotham—until I skulked the rooftops of that dark city late at night, on my own, searching for myself. Everything I've become, everything I've left behind. I didn't realize any of those missing pieces were in Raven, that she was the part I'm missing. I didn't realize it, because I never got to know her until then. Not really. Oh, I knew her better than the others, I'm sure. What's the simplest way to put it? Twice nothing is still nothing. And that's what I had, nothing. It was foolish of me. I had thought that the whole Trigon thing, that it was the key to knowing her, the root of her issues. But, I was wrong. Her father issues may have helped mold who she is, but, there was so much more. So much that synced up with me, and before I knew it, I was spending all my free time just talking with her. Somewhere along the line, the ice broke, and she opened to me, and…."
"And you discovered feelings for her you had not considered before." Starfire nodded.
"She resisted, Star. She really did. It was my fault. I wasn't…content with finding a soul mate, I wanted, I needed, to complete it. I couldn't share all I was with her, and then give my heart to someone else. So I gave it to her, and I'm sorry. I know an apology can't ever wave this away, but…"
"I am willing to believe that it was not your intent to hurt me." Starfire said quietly. "But I do not know how I should feel."
"You should feel however you want." Robin said. "If you're angry, you should be angry. Just…try not to destroy the Tower, okay?" He smirked. "I'll be happy to give you plenty of free shots on me. I deserve it."
"Blasting you with star bolts will not make me stop hurting."
"Then be sad if you're sad. Cry if you need to. All I ask is that you not blame yourself at all. You did nothing wrong, Starfire. And there is nothing wrong with you. Raven is not better than you—she's just a better fit for me. But I beg you to leave her out of it. It's not her fault, it's mine. Blame me, punish me, hate me if you must…but leave her be."
"No." Starfire said quietly. "I am grateful for your honesty. But I am also relieved that, if we were not meant to be, it ended now rather than with more complications. But I don't know how to be happy for you. I am sorry."
"I don't expect you to be happy." Robin explained. "You can take all the time you need. But, just the same, when the baby comes, we want you to be a part of it."
"If both you and Raven wish it, then I will be present." Starfire nodded.
Robin stood, not knowing what else to say. "I just want us to be okay, Starfire. I know that it won't just happen overnight, but I want to believe we will be."
"I do not know." Starfire shook her head. "Robin, there is something I wish to tell you. Something Raven said."
"Go ahead." He nodded.
"She said…that she took you from me. Not to hurt me, but because she…wanted to. I could not believe it. But now, I think I understand why. You, too, offer her something special—something that possessed her to reach out for you possessively. I would urge you…not to let go of that. "
"You're a better friend to me than I have been to you. I'm sorry."
"I am too. I will…ponder the things we shall no longer share." She dismissed him. "Go to her, Robin. I will find a way to heal. I am not without help." She smiled weakly. The masked boy got her meaning more clearly when the door opened to reveal Starfire's roommate. She blanched slightly at being caught eavesdropping, but recovered quickly.
"Well hey there, Lover Boy. Broken any homes up lately?"
Robin frowned. "Nice seeing you too, Jinx."
"Hmm. Not at the point where we can make jokes yet, I see." She noted.
Robin literally pushed the smaller girl out the door, letting it close behind both of them. "How is she, really?" He asked.
"You know, Robin, you really should have thought of that before you decided to knock up the gloomy chick."
"It's not that I didn't think of Starfire." Robin sighed. "I just…found something I wanted and couldn't take the time to be more proper. I should have, I know that. But I felt as though I'd been denying myself any real happiness, real completion for so long. What better place was there to lay it all down and wrap myself up in something new than Gotham?"
"She's hurting pretty bad, but she'll pull through." Jinx shrugged. "You should have told her sooner."
"But at least you told her the truth. Some guys wouldn't have."
"Other people, Jinx. Not me. Besides, Raven would have accepted no less. But you'll keep an eye on her for me? I just want—"
"For everything to be okay again, sure. But we both know it isn't that simple or easy. Fortunately, you're pretty good at the only ends to what you seek."
"And that is?"
"Time and patience. That's the only thing that will make it better. I've never been much for either of those myself. I pride myself on my impatience. Granted, it might help if Kid Flash weren't also so impatient and…hey, wait, we're talking about you here!"
"I didn't say anything." Robin smirked.
Jinx grumbled, giving him a look as though there were several choice hexes she wanted to try out on him. "You're lucky that I like you."
"I could say the same thing to you."
"Yeah, well…" She let out a breath. "Alright, fine, so I owe you. But you called in that favor when you left for Gotham."
"Then how about for the knowledge that I'll owe you one? I figure that's got to be worth something."
"Fine, but I choose the terms under which I collect." She bargained. "You're just lucky Starfire is so…"
"It's not like I wanted to like her!" protested Jinx. "She just…wouldn't let me not like her. She kind of insists upon herself."
"Yeah, that's Star. She gets in your heart and just kind of stays there. You know, even though I've found I don't want to be more than friends with her, I still find her friendship to be something I really treasure. It's different than with the others."
"Just don't go breaking her heart again, okay? I'll take care of her for you. Just remember, you owe me."
"I owe you." Robin nodded. "Just let me know when you come to collect."
"You'll never see it coming, Bird Brain." She chided, moving past him to enter Starfire's quarters. "Hey, Red, I hear you're having some guy troubles…" She introduced herself, the door sliding shut behind her.
Inwardly, Robin wondered if he had just done himself more harm than good.
The girl was watching her. Raven hated being watched. Gawked at. Ogled. Even if it was by someone she knew. She had shut her eyes, hoping it would be easier to go away. But the almond eyes continued to bore into her through the darkness. She could not find her center like this. "What?" Raven finally asked, opening her eyes to look into Terra's blue orbs, opened wide with wonder.
Terra shook her head, as though coming out of a trance. "Sorry." She blushed. "I just…I've never seen someone so…pregnant."
"Neither have I." Raven groused, looking down and frowning at the way her entire stomach seemed to stretch out before her, despite the fact that she was leaning back in a recliner to support her back.
"What's it like?"
"Annoying." Raven said, and earned a kick inside her uterus, as though her unborn child were sassing her. "You stay out of this." She told the large bump, but it only kicked twice more and then settled. Raven sighed. "I shouldn't say that, it's just…harder than I expected."
"You should have seen me in the first trimester. I was sick all the time."
"Noon and night. I couldn't keep anything down, I was sneezing and aching like I had the flu, I got dizzy all the time…"
"I can't even imagine."
"You wouldn't want to if you could. My entire body betrayed me. It was like my body was saying 'Hey, Raven, screw you, we're making a baby down here.' That was the worst part. The fact that I currently occupy twice as much space as I should, that's just annoying by comparison."
"I'm sorry it was so hard."
"I keep telling myself it will be worth it. To be honest, I was kind of freaked out when I first realized I was pregnant. That feels like a lifetime ago. Now I can't help but think how much this is going to change my life for the better. Although I think this kid is going to grow up to play a lot of soccer." Raven winced as she got another kick inside her womb.
"You, a soccer mom?" Terra asked, envisioning it in her mind.
"Hey, it could happen." Protested Raven. "And that's Gothic Soccer Mom."
"Right." Terra smirked, still gazing at her friend's disproportion.
Raven took a deep breath, realizing she wasn't going to get any peace, and moving to another room would require entirely too much physical effort…and possibly a forklift. She had reluctantly agreed no more flying or levitation after falling on her butt last month while meditating. She didn't want to risk stimulating premature labor. "Do you want to feel him kick?" She asked the blonde.
"Oh could I?" Terra practically jumped off of the sofa, bounding over the recliner that had been setup for Raven's benefit. "I…um…you really don't mind?"
"I'm not going to get any real peace until everyone gets to ooh and ahh over the miracle of life. So I might as well let people get their fill. Give me your hand."
Terra did as she asked, and Raven guided it her rounded belly, skimming it back and forth and finally resting it near her navel. "Hmm, probably around there. He's been kicking a lot in that general vicinity today." Raven explained.
Terra stood expectantly, waiting to feel something. "Am I doing it right?"
"He's not cooperating." Raven rolled her eyes. "Of course."
Robin chose that moment to enter the scene, a grin plastered on his face as he saw what Terra was doing. "Showing off our little bundle of joy, Raven?"
"And failing." The sorceress explained. "He's been kicking me all day, now that I actually want him to, he won't."
"Eight months of growing inside you, some stubbornness is bound to wear off." Robin quipped.
"Keep talking Boy Blunder, and you can sleep on the couch tonight."
"Your bed isn't big enough for the two of us in your current condition."
"Terra., you have my permission to clobber the comedian." Raven bristled.
Robin immediately protested. "Oh no you don't! She's on my side!"
The baby gave a kick of support. "Hey! I felt it!" Terra beamed.
"Oh sure, now he kicks. What is this, some kind of conspiracy?" Raven complained.
"No conspiracy." Robin told her, closing the distance to Terra and his partner. "How are you feeling?"
"I was feeling great until you got here."
"I was only teasing." Robin stroked her arm gently.
"I brought M&M's…." He trailed off
"Give them to me." She demanded.
"First you have to behave…and accept my humble apology."
"I don't have to apologize. You're the reason I'm in this mess."
"Don't act so proud. I've seen you eat M&M's off the floor, remember?"
"That was a family secret."
Terra stepped backwards, caught in the middle of their argument. "Um, maybe I should go—"
The birds ignored her. "Have I ever told you how sexy you look when you're angry?" inquired Robin.
"Is that why you spend half your day baiting me?" Raven asked.
"That, and it's fun." He grinned, producing a large bag of M&Ms from inside his uniform. "I thought you could use a pick me up. They're fresh out of the freezer…" He tempted her.
"And warmed by your body heat."
Robin shook the bag. "You know you want them."
"If I could get up, I would hit you."
"Just say you forgive me."
Raven let out a low moan. "Fine. I forgive you."
"Blessed are those who forgive." Robin smiled, opening the bag and taking a handful of M&Ms, then handing it to the goth. "For they shall receive."
Terra cleared her throat. "Are you two always this…"
"Perfect?" Robin finished for her.
"You should see us when we're alone. We can destroy one another." Raven explained. "This is just pillow talk."
Terra blanched. "Maybe I'm just a little more traditional…" She hesitated.
Robin shrugged, moving to put a hand on the blonde girl's shoulder. "As long as it feels right for you and him, that's what matters. Besides, beneath all that banter, there's a woman I really think the world of. It's just a little hard to find her under that baby bump." He chuckled.
"Be on notice, Robin. I am going to wake you up for every 3AM feeding after this kid is born." Raven told him sharply.
"See that?" Robin explained. "That's just her way of telling me she loves me."
"Whatever helps you sleep at night." His partner muttered, helping herself to a generous amount of the candies. "Make yourself useful, order out some food. Something Thai. And some fried chicken. And maybe a pizza."
Terra narrowed her eyes. "Wait, you're going to eat all that?"
"No." Raven stated, stretching and running bother of her hands very tenderly over her womb. "He is."
"She's been eating just as well as Cyborg for the last month." Robin told her. "As long as it means our baby is growing healthy and strong, I say she can have whatever she wants."
Raven felt a kick in response to Robin's comment, a smile playing at the corner of her lips "Finally, he takes my side." She rubbed the spot where she felt the kick with affection. "You and I are going to be a team."
"Terra, can you go order the food? I need a minute with Raven."
"Take your time. I'm just so glad you're back." Terra told him earnestly, throwing him into an awkward hug. "Thai, chicken, and pizza, right?" She asked
"And could you get some ice cream?" Raven asked. "Cookies and cream. With peanut butter sauce." Both Robin and Terra turned to look at her. "Don't look at me like that. It's your son's fault."
Terra rubbed the back of her neck nervously. "I think I can get it all. It might take me a little time, though."
"Take Beast Boy with you." Raven advised. "He can help you carry things."
Terra nodded. "See you soon. And congratulations again, Raven."
Raven sighed as the blonde left them. "It's easy for people to say that. They're not the ones who have to give birth."
"I'll be there with you." Robin promised.
She nodded, adjusting her position slightly to relieve her aching back. "It's finally happened, hasn't it? I've become a fat, humongous pig."
"I think you look sexy." Robin told her, and it nearly elicited a laugh from the sorceress, or as close as she was willing to dare.
"That's a little below the belt."
"It wasn't a dig." He explained, reaching out to stroke her hand. When you stand next to me, with your belly hanging out because you're carrying our child, it makes feel so proud, and I think it makes you look beautiful and alluring."
"Careful not to start something you don't intend to finish, Boy Wonder. It's been a long time, and my hormones are hyperactive with this pregnancy."
"Who says I won't follow through? You and me, tonight, you're room. We'll light your favorite candles, cuddle up, and see what happens."
"When you really want to be, you can be quite the romantic, Mr. Grayson." She whispered.
"I'm not the only one. I still have very fond memories of my birthday."
"You do realize that was probably the night that led to this." She reminded him, moving his hands down to her abdomen.
"I couldn't think of a nicer way for that night to have ended."
"My birthday has usually been a celebration of death." Raven stated. "That first year after Trigon…I was just existing. I wasn't sure how to handle anything. I felt guilty that I was alive, like it was wrong somehow. You and the others, you gave me the finest birthday ever the year after. You helped me realize that I really had my whole life ahead of me. That I could become whatever I wanted to become. So when it was time for your birthday, I wanted it to be a celebration of life. I know it always makes you think of your parents, and it's good to remember them. But I thought it was high time for both of us to let go of the past and dwell on the present. That was my gift to you."
"And what a gift." Robin flushed. "I had no idea exactly how limber you—"
"Just don't forget that I'm not at the moment." She interrupted his reverie.
"Of course not. But you're still just as beautiful." He promised, kissing her forehead.
"Flattery will get you everywhere. Now, do you mind helping me up? Because I really need to use the little sorceress' room."
"Raven, you have a way with words." Chuckled Robin as he helped pull her out of her recliner to her feet.
"And you wouldn't have me any other way."
"Man, I never thought I could imagine it, but you look good with a bun in the oven." Cyborg grinned at her as he slid out from beneath the T-Car.
Raven arched an eyebrow. "Bun in the oven? I hate that expression."
Cyborg rubbed the back of his head awkwardly. "Any special reason?"
"It sounds so…domestic."
"Having a baby isn't domestic?"
"No. It is. That's what scares me."
"He's treating you good, right?" The burly man inquired, fingering a wrench.
"Honestly, I'm rather impressed at how well he's adapted. If he's done any freaking out over impending fatherhood, he's kept it away from me. I prefer to do my freaking out in quiet, empty rooms where there's no collateral damage."
"So you have become domesticated?"
Raven sighed. "I don't know when it happened. I've never felt like I've needed others to be complete. I'm just me. It's easier that way. But…somehow, Robin's been inside of me—and I'm not referring to the act of sex. It's like there's some fundamental component I was missing that I wasn't even aware of. So if this is the adventure that life has in store for us, who am I to argue? It's a little late now."
"That's poetic." Cyborg told her, looking up from the work sled. "No second thoughts then?"
"None that I'm seriously entertaining. I'm not exactly a pushover. I've let things come this far between us that couldn't have been an accident. So, we've decided to just go the distance and see where it takes us.
"Of course, you probably won't feel that way when you're giving birth. I mean, you look…"
"Well, I don't know if I'd—"
"Spare me the platitudes. I'm perfectly aware that I've ballooned to comedic proportions. My back reminds me every time I move. I'm not entirely certain I was built for this."
"You must've been, otherwise it couldn't have happened."
"No, I think it's some kind of punishment. The whole hassle of being pregnant thing I mean, not the baby."
Cyborg nodded. "You name him yet?"
"Actually, we've been thinking a lot about that." Raven replied. "But we haven't found anything we're really attached to yet."
"It'll come to you. Hey, maybe you could ask Starfire. I'm sure that gesture might make her feel more welcome."
"Or more awkward. I still haven't figured out how best to deal with Starfire. I've tried to be open with her, but, it's hard to imagine how she must feel. I think she's taking it fairly well."
"You're not coping well with this, are you?" Jinx asked, sitting on the far end of Starfire's bed.
"I do not know how to react. When I become sad, the sadness turns into anger. When I feel the anger, it changes into heartache. And the heartache makes me sad again. Never have I felt so…"
"Lost?" Jinx offered.
"Yes. Thank you."
"Okay, so you're a mess. It's no big deal. I mean, getting your heart broken is just a part of life. I've had it happen to me before." Jinx patted the red-head's shoulder. "Of course, revenge was always one of my specialties. With a little bad luck, I've ruined some guys' lives forever." She said with a giddy expression. "Oh, sorry. Some of the old me is still kicking around."
"I understand." Starfire explained. "It would be easier if it were not my friends who had…changed things."
"You held onto Robin for as long as you could, Star. Just because it turns out he isn't the perfect match for you doesn't mean that you don't have one. You know there are plenty of eligible bachelors in the city. And hey, you know, you're not alone. You'll get through this."
"I thank you for your support. I just…"
"Don't really know how to feel?"
"Yes! That is it. I do not know what to feel."
"There's an easy cure for that. When in doubt, shop."
"The mall of shopping? It will make me feel better?"
"There's no feeling that shopping can't cure. Except maybe the feeling that you're broke. Come on, Starfire, I promise it'll help you forget for awhile."
The alien girl seemed to process this statement and then nodded with some determination. "Then let us go. I will endeavor to set aside these confusing feelings."
"Now you're talking. We're gonna get you a whole new look, Star. I promise."
Cyborg clapped Robin on the shoulder startling him back to here and now. "You were spacing out."
Robin nodded solemnly. I was thinking about that day, when I had to tell Starfire. I've never really felt right about it."
Cyborg shrugged. "Maybe you're not supposed to. The important thing is that she got over you."
"I hope so." Robin sighed. "I'm not even sure I'm over it myself."
Cyborg balked. "What?"
"No, no…it's not like that. I have lingering feelings for Starfire. Not romantic ones, more like…she's this great girl that I did something bad to. I didn't mean for things to happen this way, and I never wanted to hurt her. But that doesn't change the fact that I did. Part of being a hero is to make the world a better place. It's not always about just riding out to save the city. Sometimes, it's just one life at a time."
"Have you been doing that zen thing again?" Cyborg asked. "Because you're getting poetic. I like it on you, though."
"Thanks." Robin told him, letting out a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. "I'd better do the laundry. If she checks up on me and finds I haven't moved, I'm in for it. Trust me, you don't want to be grounded by Raven. It isn't pretty. Or fun."
"I'll keep that in mind, but I'm fortunate enough not to have that little problem. That one is all you, man."
"Fortunately, I happen to like it that way."
"We still up for tonight?"
"I convinced her to go." Robin smiled with his comment. "Should be fun."
"You're not gonna turn this into some kinda mushy-pseudo dating thing, are you?"
"This from a guy who drools over cars?"
"Hey, you know how I feel about certain vehicles. Especially my baby. They're labors of love and works of art."
"So is Raven."
"Now you're just being unfair."
"Fine. You tell her I'm wrong on that one, then. I'll be in the laundry room. Far away from any blunt objects she might start flinging around the room."
"Let's not and say we did. I'm just saying, is all. She's gotta be cool."
"I think we both know that Raven is the coolest girl around. That's why I'm marrying her. But, I am glad there's only one of her."
"Too much of a good thing?"
"Something like that. Besides, I'd rather have the genuine article."
"You're right about that one, Robin. There's only one Raven."
"Why so fussy?" Raven asked as her daughter continued to try and squirm out of her arms. Much as she hated to admit it, Rain was quickly becoming an explorer by nature. She wanted to run through the tower and explore every nook and cranny. Unfortunately, the tower proper was not necessarily the safest environment for a toddler to wander, and Rain did delight in seeing areas of the tower other than the living complex the three of them shared as a family unit.
Raven rapped her foot gently against Starfire's door—her hands to occupied with her daughter to ring the chime, and she didn't trust her concentration enough to use more resourceful methods at the moment.
The door slid open to reveal Starfire in a green, two piece bikini and a crème-colored sarong. "Raven! You are most unexpected. I was contemplating visiting the mall of shopping this afternoon and, as Friend Jinx would say, I am, ah, making it easier to meet new friends."
"I'm sure." Raven rolled her eyes. "Look, I hate to impose, but Terra is a little busy doing things I'd rather not think about at the moment. Could you look after Rain for a little while? Terra will watch her after lunch, so you won't miss your chance to go out."
Starfire seemed to ponder for a moment. "I would be willing to look after Rain for two hours." She nodded her assent.
Raven lowered her daughter to the ground, grabbing her hand before to girl could run off. "That would be perfect. Thanks, Starfire. Rain, you be good for Aunt Star, okay?"
Rain looked at her mother as though she had sprouted a second head, and was immediately scooped up by the red-headed alien. "Sorry, Starfire. She's being fidgety today. She's been trying to get into everything."
"It is not a concern. I believe that I have many things to occupy her interest. And there is always Silkie. Will you be eating lunch here?"
"Yeah, after some meditating and some studying. I kind of have a full day. If you give her back to me at lunch, I can watch her in the afternoon. Her father is going out."
"She will be in good hands." Starfire smiled, and the look exchanged between the babysitter and the youngling seemed to settle Rain down a bit. Starfire raised the girl's small arm and made a waving motion to Raven. "There we are now. Say bye-bye, Rain."
"Grhchuk!" Rain exclaimed, smiling with delight as though she had just told a very amusing joke.
"It's a start." Raven let out something that looked suspiciously to the redhead like a smile, stroking her daughter's black hair gently. "I'll see you later." She reluctantly turned and walked away. She really did need to meditate, Her emotions were stable, yes, but living in an increasingly crowded tower, especially when she shared living quarters and even her bed with another, meant that she had to keep constantly reinforcing the barriers. Still, the extra effort was worth it. She was no longer the team's solitaire—the girl everyone else wondered about. True, it was a part of her identity that she no longer had, but the trade off, indeed, opened her to new possibilities that she was still discovering each day.
"Promises to keep." She thought to herself, phasing upwards and to the roof for some quiet.
The laundry room in Titans Tower had begun to resemble that of an apartment building. There were four separate washer and dryer units, a small expense that had been made to end conflicts over who got to use the machines when. Under the current setup, it was very unlikely that they would all be busy at one time. This was something Robin was grateful for. His hero costume needed a washer all its own, as did Raven's leotards. Fortunately, their casual wear, and Rain's tiny little outfits, could occupy a machine together. But this still meant that he had three machines going at once. There was going to be a lot of folding to do later, one of his least favorite chores.
"She stuck you with the chores, huh?" A familiar voice called out.
A lesser man would've flinched, but being raised for a significant portion of his life by the World's Greatest Detective and his signature entrances and exits, taking Richard Grayson by surprise was an order of considerable magnitude. "It's a living." He shrugged. "And it has the bonus of keeping me out of trouble. I thought you'd be having breakfast. Or still snuggling." He chided.
"At some point, if you don't get out of bed, you get a headache." Terra explained. "Besides, I have some things to do today. Like the rest of us. Where's Raven?"
"Meditating. We're going out tonight." He grinned.
"Does that mean I'm babysitting?"
"Yeah. But I think tomorrow, I'm going to spend some time with Rain. I don't really see her enough during the week."
"You do your best. She definitely recognizes you."
"That may be true, but I can give up some of my time for her. Heck, how long until she grows up enough to not want to spend time with me?" He chuckled. "I figure I should get in all the quality time that I can."
"You're a good man." Terra smiled, leaning against one of the tables used for folding and sorting. "And a good father too. Sometimes it makes me remember…"
"I know you think it's your fault, but it's not." He said softly. "You know what happened to my parents."
"But you weren't the one who killed yours." Terra whispered, hiding her face.
"No, but even that doesn't make it your fault. Sometimes, you wish it was, don't you? Because then you'd have someone to blame. God knows I used to feel that way."
"That doesn't make it any easier."
"You're a special girl, Terra, who was given special powers for some reason and it took you a long time to learn some true measure of control over them. What happened to your family was an accident. I know that doesn't just make the hurting stop, but sometimes, things just happen. And I'm proud to have you as a godmother to my child. Don't be like this."
"Thanks Robin, I needed that." Terra composed herself, turning back towards him. "I…did some talking with Beast Boy…and I think it's time I ask Raven for some help with this whole…thing."
Robin nodded. "You feel like you're ready?"
"I had to learn to live without you being nearby when you went away to Gotham with Raven. It wasn't easy. I wasn't sure I could even handle it. I don't think I would have, if I didn't have this little version of you running around in my head all the time. He kept me composed when all I could do was cry. Letting go of that crutch feels so hard. But if I don't…I can't ever really give myself to him."
"Are you asking my permission?"
"Yes. No. I don't know." She palmed her forehead.
"Then you have it either way." He smiled for her. "I want you to find your happiness, Terra. I wanted that years ago, when we only just met. I always wanted what was best for you."
Terra nodded, feeling a smile appear on her face. "You know, if we're not meant to be lovers, you make one hell of a big brother."
"I think I would like that very much."
As was her custom, Terra closed the distance between them for a hug, kissing his cheek. "So I guess this means there's only one person that can help me."
"She's meditating at the moment, remember. She needs it, and so do I." He smirked.
"Well, since Rain isn't here, I'm guessing you suckered Starfire into watching her."
Robin shrugged. "Probably. I wasn't in charge of her. Raven had her last. I'm sure she found someone to babysit."
"But if you weren't with her, how do you know she's meditating?"
"I can feel it in her aura. We're connected too, remember? Just not in the same way you and I are."
"That must come in handy."
"It's our way of communicating thoughts and emotions without risking any sort of problem on Raven's end. It took me awhile to get used to. When we first started to get serious, we talked about how we could overcome certain things. You should've been there when we first established this connection. She would never admit it, but I could tell Raven was more nervous about it than she ever was about, um, physical intimacy."
"She values her privacy, silly." Terra giggled. "And she was letting someone into a place she had never let others intrude. She was giving you her heart and soul."
"I know. It was…I knew what it was like to be her, for a moment. She's the girl." Robin explained. "That was when I knew, without question, that this was girl I belonged with, belonged to. I think she knew as well."
"Sounds romantic." Terra said dreamily. "I hope I know that feeling one day."
"You will. Hey, since the other girls are busy, what do you say the rest of us rustle up a game in the living room until lunch?"
"What, and give me the chance to prove to Beast Boy that I'm better than him at every game in the house? Sure, why not?" She laughed. "We'll still run later, right?"
"In the afternoon, I promise."
"Okay then." She blushed. "I'll meet you in the common room with BB after you're done playing housewife." She giggled, picking up a pair of unfolded boxer shorts and deftly rubbing them in his face. She ran off before he could recover.
"I am not a housewife." Robin mused to himself as he began folding the undergarment, waiting on the next dryer to finish so he could get another load folded before playing with his friends. "I'm just self-sufficient. Besides, scoring brownie points is always important for a man who wants his Saturday night cuddle…" He wondered to the thin air. Yeah, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Several stories above, a young woman who was levitating slightly in the process of her spiritual meditation had her concentration broken suddenly with a sneeze.
This chapter took a lot longer to write than I expected. So many different things to pin it on. Work was considerably more full of, well, work in the past few months. Nearly all of my writing is done on the job, so I guess in a sense, I do get paid for it. But it also means that it's something that I pick and peck at. Some days, it's quiet, and I'm able to write for long periods at a time. While others, I don't even have the strength to look at the bloody thing, much less let the creative juices flow freely. The result is sometimes a hodge-podge.
In many ways, this is a story about nothing, but it's about the human condition, I feel. There is something more to it waiting in the wings, a more cohesive plot than a bunch of people just sharing their lives. I just don't want to rush into such things. I'm slowly but surely letting this weekend unfold "as is" in the story, and I will be following that up with more of a real plot. I'm leaving little breadcrumbs here and there which will slowly manifest themselves into a story proper over time. In the meantime, I suppose the very nature of this fanfic makes it somewhat unique. It's a crowded archive with a lot of writers writing a lot of stories in a lot of different genres. My overall goal is to give you something that you can't find in every other story. Maybe I succeed at that and maybe I don't. It's hard to tell. But there it is anyway.
I'm hoping that, with summer more or less underway, things will continue to lighten at work, freeing me up to dedicate more time to this craft. My free time outside of work is dedicated to being with my friends both online and off, reading, gaming, and GBTV. It's a full and diverse schedule, and all of these things are interactive. Unfortunately, I just don't have more time to give. Hence why I have a folder of unfinished stories that I promise myself, one day, will all get completed. But that's neither here nor there.
Special thanks to everyone who supports me with daily encouragement both in my work and my writing, as well as you special people who take the time to review and give me some indication as to what you like or don't like about my story. I don't really know how the average person feels about this thing. Maybe it's hard to put into words because it's just not like most other stories out there. That's okay, but I do hope that people continue to find it at least a pleasant diversion.
I'm going out of town in a week, so I expect the next update in late June or early July. But anything could happen. I just go with the flow. As always, I value your feedback and your communication. So, send your questions, comments, compliments, complaints, love letters, death threats, marriage proposals, and ransom demands to: