To Claim and Possess
Chapter Ten

)O(

Raven stared at the brightly wrapped package in front of her bedroom door with something akin to surprise mixed with revulsion. Sighing, she dropped down on her haunches and poked at the ribbon with a small amount of reservation, waiting to hear a strange ticking sound like something out of a children's cartoon.

"Most people usually giggle with excitement when they get a gift on their birthday."

Raven glanced up into her leader's face, her lips tugging down into a frown. She raised an eyebrow and grumbled under her breath. "Most people aren't me."

"True."

"And when have you ever known me to giggle?"

"Never." He snorted and shook his head, a smirk playing on his lips. "I came to get you up for breakfast this morning, Cyborg's making waffles for you… so act surprised." There was a long pause between them, and he crossed his arms over his chest as he leaned against the wall behind him. His eyes roamed over her face for a moment before he broke the silence, smile falling. "Can we talk?"

"About what?" Raven feigned ignorance.

"About what's been going on lately." Pause. "Specifically between you and Beast Boy."

"Okay. And…?" Raven's face was blank, but she inwardly winced. Robin was smart, and as annoying as he might be, he wasn't oblivious. Of course he would have known about what was happening between her and Beast Boy.

"Can we talk in private?" He sighed and motioned to the open door behind her, obviously signaling that this wasn't something he wanted to talk about in the middle of the hallway. Raven bit back a few choice curses and ushered him inside the darkness of her room, closing the door behind him. He looked uncomfortable, as if he was waiting for the shadows to jump out and attack him at any time. They wouldn't, but he didn't need to know that. Sometimes it was good to let her leader sweat it out for a bit.

"So, what do you want to talk about?" She crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back against the door, staring at him.

He met her blank stare with a steely one. "I know that you and Beast Boy are… together."

"Well, that was certainly blunt." Raven raised an eyebrow, but knew her face betrayed no emotion. She shrugged and moved deeper into her room. "You're right, we're testing waters to see if we're compatible… in a relationship sense. Nothing serious has happened yet, but I don't exactly see how this is a concern for you."

"It's not… I just…" His words trailed off and he sighed, running a hand through his hair. "I know you're trying to take this slowly."

Raven continued to stared at him, silently willing him to get to the point. "And...?"

"I'm worried about the two of you together." Robin sighed and moved to sit on the end of her bed, looking up into his friend's face as she approached him. "Let me just lay it out on the table, Raven. I know. I know the details of what exactly is transpiring between you two, I know about the brand, I know about Adonis, and I know about the need for both of the beasts to claim a mate. I also know that his brand affects you in ways that you can't or don't want talk about. Or at least talk about without you know… sending me into complete and utter embarrassment. But I don't want your relationship, or this retreat into the safety of Beast Boy's dreams, to be the driving force behind your relationship."

Raven's mouth fell open in shock, and she was grateful the darkness of the room hid her blush. "What?"

"Beast Boy and I had a long talk last week, after the fight with Red X, and he told me everything. I mean, he told me a lot last week after your second encounter with Adonis at the park, but he told me a lot more. I know everything." Robin sighed again and looked away, fidgeting with one of the seams on her comforter. "What I'm trying to say is that I want the best for both of you, I want you both to be happy, and if this is what it takes, then who am I to stop you?" He gave a long pause and cut off Raven's protests with a wave of his hand. "But I don't want you two to force yourselves together because you think that's the only way to protect your sanity. I don't want you to break each others hearts over misunderstood feelings."

Raven blinked and swallowed her curses before they could spill from her lips. What an arrogant bastard her leader was. As if she hadn't thought about these own consequences by herself? As if she hadn't seriously sat down and considered the potentially serious repercussions of being in a relationship with a man she was bound to in ways she didn't always understand, let alone not understanding the actual repercussions of the bond itself? Did he seriously think she was that stupid and naive?

Her lips pressed together in a thin line. "You think I'm going to break Beast Boy's heart?"

He raised an eyebrow, but chose his words carefully before responding to her. "I think you're both… emotionally challenged and that can be a serious roadblock."

"Says the man who took three years to finally admit his feelings to Starfire." She crossed her arms over her chest and forced her anger back into submission before something blew up. "Look, Robin. I appreciate what you're doing here. I appreciate that you're trying to protect us, specifically me, from what is happening. But don't you think that we've considered all of this already? Don't you think that we are mature and adult enough to seriously and objectively think about all possibilities of our relationship together?"

"I never said that."

"No, but you implied it." Raven raised an eyebrow. "We've talked about this, Robin. We know what this relationship entails from all aspects, both from the bond and the impact it will have on our lives and the team. Trust me when I say that we are not taking things lightly and rushing into this without thinking."

He opened his mouth as if he were going to give her a scathing response, but he managed to hold his tongue and gave her a short nod. "Well, alright. If you believe that you've thought this through as well as you can, then who am I to stop you?" There was a long pause and he sighed. "I just don't want either of you hurt."

Raven tried to keep herself from rolling her eyes. "Can't you let us make that decision?"

"Alright." There was a long pause between them and he pulled out a small, brightly wrapped package from behind his back. He stretched out his hand and waited for her to take the birthday gift from him. A small smirked moved across his lips and he chuckled as she continued to stare at him in a mixture of anger and horror.

"Jeeze. Not you too." Raven groaned and took a step back, holding out her hands in defense. "Can we please act as if today is just another day?"

"Nope." He shook his head, a low chuckled on his lips. "No can do, Rae. You're just going to have to deal with the fact that everyone of your friends wants to celebrate your birthday."

Raven glared at him and took the package from his hands, trying to ignore his excited eyes. "You really want me to open it?"

"Well, that's usually what you do when you receive a present. You open it."

Raven sighed, an indication to him that she took no joy in unwrapping the gift and was already sufficiently annoyed enough to knock his head from his shoulders. She pulled off the paper to see a smooth, dark red gem the size of a golf ball underneath the soft, cotton lining and looked up with surprise. "It's a meditation stone… one to help me focus my powers."

He offered a small smile and stood up, approaching her. "I had to call in a few favors to pick out the right one, but it was worth it. Although next time you see Zatanna, I would thank her." He gave her a small hug and moved toward the door. "Happy birthday, Rae."

"Mm." She rolled her eyes and pushed him out the door to reclaim her solitude. Raven looked down into the unusually thoughtful gift and smiled as she placed it next to her bed on the nightstand. Although, she did have to admit (just a little bit) that she appreciated the kindness, it didn't stop her from being upset that he had managed to weasel his nose into her business again. What happened between her and Beast Boy should have been no concern of his.

Ignoring the anger building in her stomach, she went to her bathroom and showered quickly before dressing in a pair of jeans and dark t-shirt. As she opened the door, she was assaulted by the sweet, delicious scent of fresh waffles. Her stomach growled and she was forced to wander down the halls, following the delicious perfume and walking into an undeniable beartrap of "happy birthdays" and well wishes.

Steeling herself against the energy swirling around her, she opened the door and stepped inside. She felt four pairs of eyes turn and look at her, each accompanied by bright smiles and a cheerful disposition. "Happy Birthday!"

Raven frowned and rolled her eyes in response as she moved past her friends to the plate of waffles sitting at her usual spot on the kitchen table. Beast Boy glanced up at her with a soft smile and returned to shoveling his face full of breakfast, knowing that wishing her a "happy birthday" a second time would have likely landed him in the hospital. Instead, he gently nudged her ankle with his foot underneath the table.

"Morning, Rae."

She sighed and poured syrup over her pancakes. "Yeah, yeah."

"You must inform us of your plans for celebration on this day of your birth, Raven!" Starfire's voice was so joyful and high-pitched, that Raven was almost certain that the glass in the windows rattled. Starfire continued to tug on her friend's arm. "I wish to do the makeover with you so we may go forth and use our paint brushes to color Jump City a crimson color! It will be most enjoyable!"

Raven's jaw fell open in horror. "Whaaa…?"

"Uh, Star? I don't think that's exactly what Raven wants to do on birthday." Beast Boy pushed Starfire out from between them, ignoring her downtrodden expression. "Besides, I already planned out a day with her. So, maybe you can paint the town red another time."

Raven jerked around to look at Beast Boy, feeling her face darken in embarrassment at his statement. "Whaaaa…?"

He shrugged and offered her a smile that disclosed absolutely nothing. With a wink, he turned back to his waffles and continued eating them as if nothing had happened. "Although she still has plenty of time for a makeover if you want. But, I need her back by three."

Starfire jumped for joy, another shriek peeling from her lips before saluting her teammate. "You can do the counting on my personage!"

Raven felt like a deer caught in headlights as she desperately searched for a measure of understanding for what was happening around her. "What is going on?"

Cyborg chuckled, glancing over his shoulder at her. "Apparently you're getting a makeover by Starfire and then going out on a date with Beast Boy this afternoon." He sat down across from her and laughed, obviously enjoying her torture. "Happy birthday, Raven. Why don't you go and do all the things that make you cringe?"

"Uuugh." She let her head fall to the table, narrowly missing her plate filled with syrup.

)O(

Her skin felt unusually strange, like it had a layer of grease and oil sliding over it, then packed down with powder and mascara. Oh, right. Because it did. Raven stared up into the face of her friend, whose tongue poked from between her own, pink lips as she tried to master eyeshadow on a body other than her own. A fluffy brush descended on her eyelid, blending the black and silver into a more pleasant gunmetal color.

"There!" Starfire pulled away and grinned brightly as she reached for something else hiding in her seemingly endless arsenal of torture devices. "You are most becoming, Raven! I am greatly appreciative of this time for us to spend together. It is so rare that we have this particular opportunity to bond over common interests."

Raven somehow managed to not remind her that they bonded all the time over both common and uncommon interests. If Starfire wanted to have the idea that this was some kind of special occasion, who was she to stop her? She pushed at her hair and sighed again, feeling a bobby-pin poke her in the scalp with the movement. "I'm just glad you're happy, Star."

"Mm…" There was a moment of silence before she spoke again. "And you are spending this evening with Beast Boy?"

"I guess…" Raven shrugged, feeling something both warm and cold slither around in her stomach, tightening at the idea that this was her first real date with Beast Boy outside their dreams. If she truly thought about it, that idea scared her halfway to death. In the past few nights, they had both spent time together in Beast Boy's dreams at various locations, like the fields outside his home, or his favorite vegetarian restaurant. But during the day, they were completely separated. Beast Boy would make a few comments to her, and she to him, but there was no romantic interaction. No dates. No kissing. Not even a gentle touch here and there. There was nothing that indicated that they were actually in the beginnings of a real relationship.

To be perfectly honest, Raven liked it that way. It gave her time to recollect herself. It gave her time to seriously think about their relationship and how it impacted both of them and the team as a whole. It gave her distance to not kill him when he annoyed her. But still, when she went to sleep alone in her dark room, she had the strangest hollow feeling that sat in the middle of her chest, and she would stare at the empty pillow next to her with confusion and dismay.

And then today happened. Even though she was frightened by the prospect of a real date with the boyfriend she only enjoyed in her dreams, there was something incredibly exciting about it too. Like going on an adventure for the first time.

She looked down and closed her eyes as her friend ran a black pencil over her upper lash-line, fighting the urge to rub it off. "I wasn't exactly expecting for you or Beast Boy or Cyborg to dote on me today. In fact, I was actually hoping to just have a quiet day by myself. Maybe go out and get a new book or something."

Starfire laughed heartily, as if Raven had told a funny joke. "Friend-Raven, you must not jest! You know as well as I do that this is a day to be celebrated. This is the day you came into being and therefore into our lives. This is the day you defeated your father. This is a day that we will never not do the doting on you. Surely after all these years you must know this?"

Raven looked up into her friend's warm smile and felt herself return the gesture. How could she not? Her honesty and cheerfulness was infectious, and Raven found a small smile creeping across her lips against her will. For the first time in the past few weeks, she was beginning to feel truly happy and content.

"Ah, done!" Starfire pulled away and smiled brightly, packing the rest of her make up into something that resembled a tackle box. "Now, we must choose the appropriate apparel for your outing this afternoon and evening!"

Raven looked at the stranger staring back at her in Starfire's mirror. She didn't look anything like herself. She didn't look bad per se, but she didn't look like anything she had ever seen before. Biting back a few curses, she turned and looked at Starfire as she moved towards the closet. "I don't even know where I'm going or how I should dress."

"Beast Boy informed me of the itinerary, and I selected the appropriate garb accordingly." Starfire opened her closet and pulled out the black dress Raven had bought with her last week, laying it on the bed with a pair of ballet flats. "This should be suitable."

"Wait." She held up her hand and slowly approached her friend, confused by her statement. "You know where we are going?"

"Oh, yes!" Starfire clasped her hands together, a grin peeling across her lips as a wistful look invaded her eyes. "He informed me this morning after breakfast! You two will have a most wonderful afternoon and evening, and I am wishing the best for both of you on your excursion."

"He told you, but not me?"

"It is meant to be a surprise, Raven." She looked confused for a moment before crossing the space between them. "Do not feel upset, he has put much effort into this date and he wanted your birthday to be something special. I was merely informed so I can choose the correct garb to dress you in. That is all."

Raven raised an eyebrow and sighed, leaning back on her heels. She knew that there was a small part of her that should have felt a little bit betrayed at the idea that he had told Starfire where their first date was and what it was going to be, but she was so nervous that the idea of being upset over it seemed so silly. She looked back up into her friend's face and shrugged in defeat. "Fine. Let's get this over with."

"Glorious!"

)O(

Raven fidgeted as she walked down the hallway, her eyes glued to her feet as she stepped down the long, echoing corridor. At the entrance to the Tower, she could feel Beast Boy's concern and apprehension swamp his senses. He was just as nervous as she was, fully understanding that this was their first date, and he didn't want to mess it up.

He was tinkering with his cellphone, looking down at it and then out the window again before shuffling on his feet. He looked… cute almost.

Raven felt a blush cross her cheeks and she ducked her head lower. How in the world had this happened? How had she gone from being nothing more than a distant friend to a girl who was excited to have her first real date with her boyfriend? And why did this transformation not bother her in the slightest? No, it felt liberating, exciting, wonderful. It felt a million different things, but none of it was bad.

She stepped up to him, tapping her foot. "So, are you ready? Or did I put this stupid dress on for nothing?"

Beast Boy looked up, a blush filling his face as he shoved his phone back into his pocket. "Um… wow. I wasn't exactly expecting you to agree to Starfire."

"She has ten times my normal strength, what else was I going to do?"

He smiled and glanced around the hall, as if looking for the rest of their teammates. When he was convinced it was empty, he leaned down and captured her lips in a searing kiss, his mouth moving over hers just as expertly as it did in their dreams. Raven, through the sudden haze that filled her mind, managed to grasp one shining idea:

This was their first, real kiss, and that was certainly something to celebrate.

)O(

Please don't be upset. I know it's kinda short, but I had a hellish few months (and the past few weeks have been the worst) and I wanted everyone to know that I have not abandoned any of my stories. Specifically this one. I promise that the next chapter will have more romance and more action, but I needed to bridge a little between the last chapter and this one.
Anyway, let me know what you think. Thanks for reading, you are AWESOME!