Disclaimer: Teen Titans, or any of its counterparts are not mine.
Usual disclaimers apply. Aussie, spelling is different, so is slang.
READ THIS FIRST:
This is very, very closely tied to my story called "Masks". As in, if you haven't read Touch, or Masks up to Chapter 11, you will not understand.
I figure if DC can reboot, so can I. A piviotal moment has changed (or will change). Everything else has a knock on effect.
How did this come about? Well, my computer picked up a rather nasty virus which wiped everything. And my husband has been working extra hard lately, so he doesn't have time for a complete rebuild and systems restoral, and I'd rather he spend his free time with the kids. So I've been working off my ipad the last two weeks. Because my novels are in backup, and I couldn't access my notes, I've been dicking about writing stuff to entertain Kater and Airdrie. One of the things I wrote involved what would have happened if Robin kissed Starfire in the closet. Which lead me to this. Which wouldn't leave me alone.
So, since its written on the ipad, I don't have any of my usual checks. Only basic (American) spelling, no grammar check. No formatting. Ugg... Forgive me for being less polished as usual.
Also, for once, this isn't finished. I have a basic idea where it is going, but mostly I'm just having some fun. So you won't be getting them daily. Prologue for Masks has absolutely no baring. Other Titans (except Raven) won't make an appearance.
Big Fat Warning: Some violence. Candid coversations. Adultish content eventually. Maybe. Rated M because of the possibility.
I sat on a chair, my back exposed to Red X as he inspected the wound I had received from Robin's birdarang. I had not expected to come to this place, to be here with Red X like this, it went against everything I believed in and yet, here I was. As I listened to the onesided conversation between Red X and the mystery person in his ear, I pondered how I had gotten here.
Robin being called back to Gotham on urgent business with Batman, then being evasive with me about what he was doing. The missed calls, the lies, the uncomfortable look in his face. The change of uniform, the shift in attitude toward criminals, the violence he now inflicted. The sudden kindred between him and Batgirl.
I had been worried, especially since Robin tried to lock me out from seeing what he was doing, but when I went to Gotham to investigate, I had seen my Robin battling with Red X.
Robin had not spotted me, but Red X had. Confronted me, followed me, helped me escape from Robin without being seen, even though I was hidden behind this black leather Tamaranian battle armour I wore. Red X found me the next night too, convinced me to aid him, or attempt to stop him, and I found myself following without knowing why.
Details had been let slip and then I had been given a reason to stay in Gotham...
Now, as I attempted to infiltrate Red X's organisation, named The Silver Hand and conducting criminal activities, without Robin knowing so I could find out information for Robin, I found myself in a place I wished I was not.
Red X's hide out, sporting a wound caused by my boyfriend, listening to Red X call me his partner to his bosses.
Red X had surprised me, in more ways than one. Flirty and fun, surprisingly easy to talk to about a myriad of things, including sex. Someone I would have called friend had he not been a criminal. My emotions were confusing me, clouding what I felt for Robin with what I was coming to feel for Red X. It did not help that he was being so very tender and caring with me at the moment.
"Sorry about that," he murmured, finishing his conversation with the man in his ear, his tender hands on my back.
I lifted my head. "I am not your partner."
"This'll sting." There was a small tearing sound. I felt Red X pressing the two edges of my wound together before he applied some medicinal glue to hold it together. I hissed, but held still. He applied an adhesive to my back to protect my wound and pulled my top back down. I heard him snapping off the rubber gloves. "Deny it all you like, cutie, you kind of are."
"No. Robin is—" I choked on his name, dropped my head back into my arm. Everything was compounding, my guilt, my betrayal, my confusion, how much I missed Robin, how nice Red X had been to me, the pain in my back. "Why would he do this?" I wept. "He does not injure criminals with the birdarangs."
Red X placed a hand against my back soothingly. "Hey, no, it's okay."
"No, it is not." I stood abruptly and gathered my gear. "I need to go."
"What?" he blurted, getting to his feet. "Where?"
"To Tamaran, I should not have come." I wiped my face, clutching at my corset and mask. "I should not be betraying him like this. He did not want me here, for good reason. I should not have come."
"I shall go in the morning," I told him, without knowing why. "I should not be flying long distances now." I walked purposefully toward the door. Then halted. Spun on my heel and threw my arms around Red X. "Thank you for everything."
I did not wish to and that is why I had to. I kissed his metal mask where his cheek would be. "Goodbye," I murmured and turned away.
My wrist was grabbed and I was spun, forced up against the roller doors of his garage. I vaguely noted he held me carefully, his hand bracing my shoulders, my back lifted away from the door itself so as to not further injure my back. I squeaked in shock, barely time to complain as Red X's lips were against mine. How he had managed to remove his mask so fast, without me even catching a mere glimpse of his face, I shall never fully comprehend.
His lips were against mine. His lips. On mine. And I was kissing him back. He was... warm... tasted nice... a good kisser. There was something familliar about his taste, his scent... I should not be doing this! I should not! I was Robin's girlfriend, I should not be betraying him like this and conducting the making out with Red X! He should not be forcing himself on me like this.
And yet, I could not bring myself to break away. He moaned, pushing against my lips with his and his tongue swept against my lips... and they opened of their own vocation to allow him access. His hand moved until it cupped my face, tilting his head at the same time to deepen the kiss.
I lifted my hands and placed them against his muscular chest, looking through my eyelashes to see if I could recognise the face, but it was all out of focus. There was a wisp of black hair trailing across his forehead. Like Robin's.
I moved my hands to his shoulders and lifted my knee at the same time, placing a deliberating blow against the area that Robin taught me would incapacitate a male the most. Right between the legs. I added some of my strength to the blow to compensate for the armour.
Red X collapsed on the ground, clutching at himself and making pitiful noises.
"What do you think you are doing?" I shrieked, appalled at my body's reaction to him and so angry at him for presuming. "I am not yours! I belong to Robin. You had no right to do that!"
He was on his side, his face turned toward the concrete, sweating and panting and groaning in pain. He thumped the floor with his fist as he rolled to prop himself up like a canine, reaching with one hand for my ankle.
I danced away from him, staying out of reach. I shook my finger at him, so angry the rest of my arm shaking too. "I should go to Robin now, tell him where you are. That would be the responsible thing to do. You are a criminal, Red X, you will never change and you should not be trying to steal me too. I am not a prize to be won."
"Steal you?" he wheezed. "What a heist that would be. Greatest crime of the century."
"This is no laughing matter. When Robin discovers what you have done-"
"What we've done..." He groaned again, planting both hands on the floor, his head down and shoulders hunched as he panted. "Jesus, beautiful, you pack a punch. Let me catch my breath."
"I have no intention of-"
He looked up at me then, red rimmed, tear filled and pained blue eyes in a face I would recognise no matter who wore it.
My legs disappeared from beneath me and I landed on my rear with a thumb. "X'hal."
He gave me a pained smile. "Surprise," he said, sounding sarcastic.
I narrowed my eyes at him. Robin. My Robin. Who had recognisd me beneath the costume within moments and yet had still concealed his idenity from me. My Robin who had spent the last few days flirting and teasing me and stealing my thong. Who had kissed me without my permission, without me even knowing who he was. Making me feel things I was not prepared for. Messing with my emotions. Deliberately creating confusion. Eroding feelings and replacing them with others for the masked man.
He had lied to me. Over and over again. Betrayed me and led me to think I was betraying him.
And now he was being flippant with me?
"X'hal curse you. Again you attempt to play the games?"
"Wasn't my choice," he muttered, still clasping himself, his voice strained.
"Do my feelings mean that little to you?" I spat.
He flicked his head up to gape at me. "No!"
I glared at him, stony faced.
"Look, give me chance to explain."
"Why should I?" I spat. "You... you clorbag! Do you know what you put me through?"
He stretched out a hand toward me. "Star-"
"No!" I cried, scampering backward. "No! You do the shutting up. You knew how worried I have been about you. You knew. And yet you did not say a single thing about who you were. You knew! You knew who I was and you kept the truth hidden! Flirting and lying! How could you?"
I was furious. "You just continued and I asked you to stop and you did not and you stole my thong and we talked about things I was not prepared to speak to you about and then you kissed me!"
"I couldn't let you leave-"
"You kissed me! I have been hating myself and feeling the guilt and thinking I have betrayed you and all the time it has been you. You have been laughing at me! Toying with my feelings!"
"I would never-"
I was on a tirade, there was little I could do, little I wanted to do to stop the flow of anger toward him. "You have no right to do this to me! You manipulating zardnaf! How could you betray me like this?"
"You kissed me back."
It was completely the wrong thing for him to say.
My hands shone with starbolts and I longed to release one in his face. I clenched my teeth together and spoke through a sneer. "Excuse me?"
His eyes went wide. "Um... sorry? That came out wrong."
"Did it?" I asked as I rose to my feet. "It did not sound like it was the slip of the tongue."
He swallowed nervously, still on his knees. "Um..."
"Do you really think kissing means anything more to me than simple language transference?" I snapped, my comment designed to hurt.
"Don't," he said, his forlornness slicing through my anger. "Don't cheapen what we do."
I growled at the rebuke, as correct as he was, I did not like being told that. "And that shall be the last kiss you shall get from me," I sneered. "I am done with the games and the lies. You do not respect me enough to offer the truth. You have been... flippant and dismissive of my feelings enough to last the lifetime."
He stared at me in horror. "Don't say that. Please. It's not like that."
I scowled and crossed my arms on my chest. "I do not think there is anything you can do that would convince me this is anything other than a hurtful game of yours. This is not the first time you have not trusted me with your Red X persona, you promised you would never use him again, and you assured us the criminal who stole your suit would never resurface. Here you are, wearing the suit, and you have been pretending for days that you are someone else and deliberately commenting and making remarks on our relationship in an attempt to have me reconsider things. And you dare to sit there and ask me to give you a chance to explain?"
"When you say it like that, it does sound bad."
"It is bad!" I exclaimed. "Were you testing me to see if I could remain faithful? Is that what this is?"
"How do I know that you are not the one who has strayed? That flirting, any girl would swoon over it."
"Including you?" he asked, looking hopeful.
I extended my arm. "Do not tempt me. I will starbolt you."
He looked chastised. "Sorry." He shifted from his kneel, placing one foot flat on the floor but did not rise. He winced and looked up at me. "Give me a chance to explain without the anger and fighting."
"Why should I?" I snapped.
"You're still here. You want the truth. You want the 'why'. And I want to do this right, you deserve to know and I want to tell you everything." He winced again and went green, swallowed several times in rapid succession. "But I'm in a little bit of pain right now and I need to ice my junk so I can think straight. Plus, I need to dispose of the tracker on the birdarang and contact Batman. If I don't, we're both going to be in a lot of trouble."
The anger slipped and died as I was reminded of the pain I had just dealt him. Contrite, my eyes darted down to where he cupped himself and I cringed. "Robin-"
"Dick," he said, then suddenly chuckled. "If the irony of this whole situation wasn't bad enough, that's my name. And don't apologise, I probably deserved it." He winced, scrunching up his face as he staggered upright. He paused and panted for a moment.
"Where is the ice?" I asked, feeling terrible.
"Pack in the freezer," he muttered, stumbling over to the table. He gripped the back of the chair and hunched over while I hurried to the refrigerator to retrieve the ice pack. Keeping my distance, I handed it to him, not meeting his eyes.
"Thanks," he muttered, slumping on the chair and placing the pack in his lap. "Could you do me another favour and break the birdarang?"
I nodded, crunching it up into a ball and then shredding it and finally burnt it with a starbolt.
He nodded, then looked over to his large television screen. With a sigh, he covered his eyes with a hand. "He's going to yell," he muttered, then said in a louder voice. "Terminal sixteen, contact Batcave."
The screen flickered and fizzed, before Batman filled the screen. He did not look up from what he was working on, he was not even facing the screen. The clack of a keyboard sounded.
"If you're calling to yell at me-"
The tapping noise stopped. "Dick, I warned you about bringing her in without permission."
"Aaand, she's standing next to me."
Batman turned to us, his face stony. I could not see his eyes, but I had the feeling I was being scrutinised. "What happened to you?"
"Tamaranian strength knee to the boys. I think I'll be coughing them up soon."
I cringed and bowed my head. To my surprise, Batman laughed.
Robin/Dick groaned. "Look, I didn't call you so you could joke at my expense."
"Then why did you call me?"
"Courtesy heads up, which I'm now pondering the wisdom of. I should've just let her come after you."
Batman's expression did not change.
"I'm telling her everything," Robin/Dick said."You can't stop me-"
"How much assistance was she at Hendersons?"
Robin/Dick hesitated, then narrowed his eyes at Batman. "About that, your intel was wrong. So was mine. More cameras, a laser maze and the floor beneth the door was hollow and had alarms on it. I wouldn't have gotten out there without her."
"Hmm... Starfire, thank you for assisting Batgirl."
I was most surprised to be addressed and shifted uncomfortably. "Oh... I... did not wish for her to be injured."
"Batgirl said she felt you were holding back, were you?"
"Of course she was, otherwise we'd have splattered Batgirl," Robin/Dick answered, looking at me. "What happened with Batgirl?"
"Scaffolding collapsed," Batman said. "They were on it at the time. Starfire picked her up and darted to safety. Alright, fine. We'll bring her in. I'll be there in ten minutes."
"I can do it," Robin/Dick said. Batman simply gave him a look which made him cringe. "Okay. Ten minutes."
The screen went dead and Robin/Dick sighed. "We'll have to wait. He'll pout if I don't."
I nodded, going around the table to sit opposite him.
He sighed, mournful. "I don't bite."
He flashed me a smile then realised I was not joking. Repositioning the ice pack he said, "Would you mind if I went and changed? This isn't really getting through the armour."
Mute, I shook my head.
"Thanks," he said and staggered off toward the curtained area.
I watched him go, then turned my head and looked at the door, contemplating whether or not I should just leave. I was hurt, more than hurt. Heart pain and back pain and too many emotions to get a grip on a single one. I was angry at him for deceiving me, but it was starting to look like perhaps he had not had a choice in that respect. I was upset that I had not seen who he was beneath the mask. I anguished over the damage I had caused him. I was teeming with questions too, if my Robin was Red X, then who was the Robin that injured me?
I turned my head back to the curtain, seeing Robin/Dick's silhouette moving around behind it. I saw him stagger as he appeared to change his pants and heard him curse.
Abruptly, I was fighting tears, emotions swamping and unbalancing everything. Lifting my feet so they were flat on the chair, I hugged my legs and buried my face in my knees and cried.
Shuffling near me and I fought to quell the tears, but they would not be dissuaded. A hand against my shoulder, "Oh, Star, it's okay."
I shook my head. "It is not okay. I fear... X'hal, it is all wrong."
He squeezed my shoulder. "C'mere."
I lifted my head and he wiped my cheek with his thumb, then opened his arms in invitation. I dropped my feet to the floor, I curled my arms against my chest and let him put his ams around me as I buried my face in his stomach.
"Shh," he crooned, rubbing my back. "I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, I never meant for any of this to happen. I wanted to tell you, really I did. Please don't cry."
My fingers grasped at the white T-shirt he was wearing, tears flowing and unable to be stopped.
"I missed you," he murmured, stooping down a little.
He kissed the back of my head and stroked my hair and just let me cry. When it became easier to stop them, I hugged him around the waist. He shifted uncomfortably. "Beautiful, I really need to sit down."
I dropped my hands from him instantly. "Oh, I did not mean- I apologise- I never-"
He smiled and patted my cheek then he headed back to his seat. "It's okay."
I hesitated, watching him and wiping at my face. He winced, then muttered, "Sorry," as he stuffed the ice pack down the front of the grey tracksuit pants he now wore. He shifted and wriggled, repositioning several times, then finally sighed and pulled his hand from his pants, leaving the ice pack there.
"I am most sorry for that," I murmured.
His lips twitched upward. "Hey, at least I know what's going to happen if anyone else tries that on you. Armour got most of it, I'm just a little squashed."
"I should not have-"
"You didn't know it was me," he said. "And you absolutely should have." He chuckled. "I thought you'd finally recongised me, then wham. Hello floor."
I cringed. "Robin-"
"Dick," he corrected gently.
I was uncertain.
"Try it," he prompted.
"My apologies, but... is that not also slang?"
"Yeah... okay, if you want to be technical, my name is Richard, but everyone just calls me Dick."
"Not so hard, was it?"
I lifted an eyebrow at him. "Hard?"
He went red and laughed. "I'd expect that from Beast Boy, not you."
I smiled, then let it fall from my face. I clasped my hands on my lap and studied the table top.
Dick sighed. "Where to start..." He grabbed the spare seat beside him and turned it around, painfully lifting his legs until they rested on the chair. "'Spose I should start with Robin."
"You are getting replaced?" I asked, worried.
"But... I do not wish for you to be replaced! Where will you go? What will happen to the Titans?"
"Nowhere. Nothing. Calm down." He glanced at the door. "Look... um... I have a brother. An adopted brother. Batman's been training him to take over from me as Robin. That means I can move on to Nightwing. No more ties. But Batman being Batman, he's got to run a test. For me, when I became Robin, it was a gauntlet. Since there can't be two Robin's at once, I had to come home while the test was being run, in case my brother failed. I agreed to be the test. Red X, a criminal greyscale enough to be a threat, but someone that's not actually going to try and kill him."
"So... Hendersons was a test?"
"Well, no, that was real. They're a weapons manufacturer all right, but they're on the side black market weapons. Not enough concrete evidence for Batman to publically denouce them, that's where we came in. We got the evidence."
"And Red X? The Silver Hand?"
"A fake organisation. I was to plant enough clues for... Robin... so that Batman could test his detective skills. Since it was already in place, I thought I could use it on you... when I saw you at the wharf, Star, I couldn't believe that you'd come. You didn't want me to know, you'd gone to all this trouble and you weren't interfering, just watching. I couldn't let you leave either. I liked having you around."
I was not sure what to say.
"Batman's been having issues with Robin," Dick continued. "You saw the videos. He's got anger management issues, he blows up at the slightest provocation and he's willing... well... you copped the brunt of it. He's willing to maim instead of capture. He was a street kid before he was adopted, he's got a hard edge but his heart's in the right place. It's been a bit of an adjustment for us all. I couldn't tell you, not until everything was going smoothly. There's still a chance Batman will say no, and I'll be Robin again for a while. Or move straight to Nightwing, I don't know."
"Oh..." I hung my head and looked at the floor.
"I... you must be ashamed of me. I am sorry I did not recognise you."
"Ahh, no, Star. Don't be like that. Full face mask makes it difficult, plus you had preconceptions of Red X. I was dropping all the wrong hints and you never got close to Robin... we do look similar from a distance. I'm not concerned you didn't recognise me."
"But you recognised me..."
"And you knew I would, which is why you disguised yourself. Can I mention how sexy that look is on you?"
I pressed my lips in a line.
"Maybe later," he said, then noted, "You're really mad."
I nodded. "I am feeling many emotions right now, fury is one of them."
Dick sighed. "I guess I deserve that."
I twiddled my thumbs, then looked up at him. "May I have the moment?"
He nodded. "You can have as long as you need, I imagine this is probably pretty tough to work through."
"Bathroom?" I asked, pointing at the curtained area.
He nodded again.
I removed my gloves and placed them on the table to show him I would be back. I went and picked up my corset from where I had dropped it on the floor and headed to the curtained area. I took care of the unpleasantaries first, using his toilet, then carefully washed the blood from my corset. Glancing at his discarded uniform in the corner, I hung the corset over the curtain so it could dry. I removed my leather shirt and wiped that free of blood too, studying the rip in the back of it. Using his mirror I twisted so I could look at the bandage he had placed on my back, but there really was not much to see.
"Um... Robin?" I called, then winced. "I mean Dick?"
"Yeah?" he called back, his voice sounding strangely muffled.
"Do you perhaps have a shirt I could borrow?"
"Sure, there's a beater in the bag at the end of the bed there."
I poked my head out of the curtained area, seeing Dick leaning forward with his arms flat on the table and resting his head in the crook. I hastened to the bag he indicated and found a blue beater, which I pulled on, then went back into the curtained area. I hung my shirt to dry, washed my face then went back out to Dick. "Are you okay?"
He lifted his head and smiled. "Don't worry about me," he said. "I'm just beating my self up for being an idiot."
"You were trying to help your family, yes?"
"There is no shame in that."
He sighed. "The Titans are my family too. And I've been lying to you."
I tapped my lips. "Perhaps we should call it, withholding information rather than lying."
He gave me a half hearted smile. "Changing the name won't help. I've bungled the explanation too."
I sat down in the chair beside him. "Not truly. You have a brother, who wishes to become a hero. Obviously, you would be worried for him, but the persona of Robin would possibly offer him some protection, yes?"
"More like plant a big target on his chest," Dick remarked.
"Nevertheless, you would wish Robin goes to good hands, you have worked hard on him."
He smiled. "Yeah."
"So, you returned to Gotham to assist your brother and Batman in the transition. And you could not tell us in case he failed?"
"One of the reasons. Batman called it family business. He forbade me. I would have told you all once I returned to Jump."
I nodded. "I believe you."
He smiled, relieved.
"Explain the flirting."
The smile dropped from his face. "I... it just sort of happened, and then I couldn't stop. At first, I wanted to keep the Red X persona, because that's what you knew... and we know how much he likes to flirt... and then, you started responding and I couldn't stop. I kept hoping you'd figure it out."
I narrowed my eyes at him.
"I was dropping all these hints," he said, sounding hopeful.
"You were questioning my relationship with you," I snapped. "X'hal, I was not ready to speak with you on some of those things."
"Like sex. Why can't you talk about stuff like that with me?"
I gave him a shrewd look. "When you said 'he probably does'..."
Dick winced. "Remembered that, huh?"
"It was not that long ago."
Dick glanced around, obviously wanting to avoid the conversation. "Where's Batman when you want him."
He sighed. "There's a certain anominity in a mask, isn't there? We can hide, tell people things we'd not dream of telling them face to face. Yeah, occasionally I do. Yeah, I probably will again, especially when you pose lying in my unbuttoned shirt and you let me take a picture. There's nothing wrong with that." He hesitated, then regarded me. "Is there?"
I shook my head. "It is natural for a male with teeming hormones."
"Do you?" he asked, sounding curious.
He looked a little crestfallen at that. "Oh."
I raised my eyebrows. "Did I just ruin a fantasy?"
He looked sheepish. "Maybe. You're... rather open about that sort of stuff. I never thought you would be."
"Humans do not like to discuss those sorts of things, Raven informed me of that quite quickly. Besides... the mask was on, I did not wish to encourage that part of our relationship until you were ready. I wanted you to remove it because you wished to, not because you wanted to advance our relationship. It would not have been very fair for either of us."
He flashed me a smiled. "It's not on now."
I gave him a bland look. "Now is not the right time to discuss this."
He sobered. "Yeah, you're probably right." He chuckled. "Although, I did try to take it off."
I nodded. "I know. So... what now?"
"I guess that depends on you," he said. "And Batman. When he gets here. Where is he, anyway," Dick wondered. "Knowing my luck, he's probably outside listening to us and having a good old laugh at my expense."
That concerned me. "Would he?"
Dick shook his head. "Batman doesn't laugh."
We dropped into silence. I rested my forearms on the table in front of us, waiting my hands, while Dick repositioned the ice pack again.
"Sorry, not very glamourous of me," he mumbled.
"I do not mind."
He leant forward and took one of my hands, twining our fingers together and I allowed it. "Am I forgiven?" he asked, hopeful.
"I do not like that I was decieved," I said, without looking at him. "But I think what hurts more is that I did not know it was you."
"I didn't expect you to," he said.
I hung my head. "I felt so guilty, because my body was responding to you in ways I did not approve of. I thought I as betraying you."
He lifted my hand and kissed my fingers, shuffling closer to me. "I think some part of you recognised me. You wouldn't have gone with me otherwise. I didn't mean to go as far as I did. I tried to tell you, so many times. If you'd let me show you my face before, you would've seen... I'm really sorry, Star. Forgive me."
The door banged, the imposing figure of Batman striding into the room. I leapt to my feet, dropping Dick's hand and took several rapid steps backward. This was Batman's city, I was here without permission and I only knew the myth, not the man, but what I knew of him... he would not approve of my presence.
He nodded at me. "Starfire. Dick." He reached the table, grabbed a chair and swung around, straddling it and placed his arms on the back of the chair. "I assume you didn't wait."
"She needed answers. There's still things to discuss, but she's got the gist of things." Dick held out his hand to me while he answered Batman's question, silently beckoning me to sit back down. "I haven't done identities," he continued. "Just my name."
Batman's face didn't change. "I'm assuming you want to bring her into the test."
"She's been a big help so far. Robin knows Red X has a partner, he'll be on the look out for her now." He glanced back at me, then beckoned with a finger.
Hesitantly, I took his hand and allowed him to pull me back to the table.
Batman regarded me. "Skittish."
"Your reputation proceeds you," Dick said.
"My apologies for entering your city without permission," I murmured.
"I suppose we gave you enough cause to be concerned," Batman said and looked back at Dick. "Thoughts on tonight?"
Dick was suddenly angry. "You mean besides him having little care for his partner and stabbing Starfire in the back with a steel cutter?"
Dick rubbed his face. "He's got to be more considerate of his equipment. He let the R-Cycle navigate a twenty foot drop on its own, without engaging autopilot first. He's still relying on upper body strength too much, and he lets criminals get to him."
"Well, you are annoying."
"Ha ha, very funny. He needs more training. Or his own identity and not mine. He's not respecting all that comes with the costume. He's got a short temper, a shorter attention span and he's narcissistic. He needs to care about others, especially the people around him."
"That will come."
"Are you prepared to risk that?"
Batman didn't say anything.
"Did you leak my position tonight?"
"Warning would have been nice."
"You didn't need it."
"If Starfire'd gotten a good look at Robin, everything would have been blown then, you realise."
Batman just looked at Dick.
"Trust goes both ways," Dick mentioned. "But... Hendersons... we need to have another look at them."
Batman nodded. "I'll look at what data you've retrieved... where is it?"
"You can have it later. Regarding Starfire."
"Okay. Fine. Bring her in. I'll organise access to the cave and other safe houses."
"No. Not yet."
Dick narrowed his eyes.
"Alien, Dick. We have other staff there. She's too recognisable."
"Um..." I murmured, but neither of them paid attention to me.
"Okay, fine, but I'll be staying here. She doesn't know Gotham that well yet. I need to be close."
"It'll be a test for the two of you too, you realise. And you'll have to make an appearance occasionally at home, otherwise he'll know something's up."
"Dick?" I tried again, but was ignored.
"I'll contact you tomorrow about your mission for the night. There's a couple I can see she'd be good for. And for God's sake, get her something bullet proof."
"Don't you think the leather's hot?" Dick tease, then his face dropped. "Don't answer that."
Batman stood. "I need to patrol. Come see me in the morning."
"Nice to meet you, Starfire," Batman said and then was sweeping away, his black cape following him ominously.
Dick turned to me, grinning broadly as the door shut behind Batman. I regarded him with a frown and his smile melted. "What?"
"Do you not think you should have asked what I wanted? I only meant to come here for a few days, I do not have clothes or food for any longer, although I guess since you know I am here, I can use my cards to-"
"I've got money, we'll buy what you need," he said as if that answered everything.
"And the motel? I-"
"You can stay here if you want. I was worried about you, that place you were at before, its in the middle of Crime Alley, the worst part of the city. Some ass tried to get into your room that night."
I frowned. "You stayed?"
"Um... yeah... sorry."
"Don't you want to stay?"
"I do not belong here. I only wanted to confirm my fears were unfounded, which apparently they are, then go to Tamaran."
He looked astounded. "But... you're here now, you could stay. I'd like it if you did."
I looked away. "I... need to think."
I stood. "I should go."
"What?" he blurted. "No-"
"This is a lot to process."
"Yes, but you don't know everything yet."
"I know enough."
He wilted. "You don't forgive me, do you?"
I sighed. "It is not that-"
"Then stay," he pleaded. "Talk to me. I can order us a couple of pizzas. You don't know how much I've missed just talking to you."
I frowned at him. "You are being the fluid transported in xylem cells, yes?"
He pulled a face at me. "Fluid...oh, you mean 'sap'. And yeah, I kind of am. Stay? Please?"
I was undecided. "Dick..."
He removed the ice pack and dropped it on the table, standing so he could face me. "I'm not opposed to begging. Besides, there's still one thing I think we need to discuss."
"And that is?"
"What you said over the phone."
I shuffled uneasily and took a step backward. "I... ah... only said that to disuade you from continuing the flirting."
"You're a bad liar, Star," he said with a gentle smile and stepped closer to me. He reached for my hands and tugged, making me take a step toward him, before he placed both hands on my hips. "For the record, I love you too."
My heart fluttered like a caged bird, threatening to burst from my chest. "You do?"
His eyelids were drooping, his face leaning toward mine and I found myself leaning toward him. "I do," he murmured, then backed off completely. "You're not going to knee me again if I kiss you, are you?"
I blushed and smiled. "No."
"Good," he said and kissed me.