Exits and Entrances
Dedicated to JodieJelloCube
(who is standing in as my Muse today)
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New and additional Author's Note: A fellow by the name of explodinghead has indicated that I was in violation of Da Rulz because this story contained the complete lyrics of the song "Exits and Entrances". I have therefore eliminated the lyric elements in order to bring it into accord with the FFnet guidelines.
That is all.
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A/N: Once again I claim not to be a songfic writer as I sit here and write a songfic. THIS time, however, it isn't my fault. No, really! I recently discovered the work of JodieJelloCube, pretty much fell in love, and told her of my appreciation … whereupon she suggested this song (by We Are The In-Crowd) as a possible kernel for a story (a LOT of her stories are based on songs). There was one line that kept gnawing at her brain, but the plot bunny just wouldn't hop. So I'm (temporarily) taking up her mantle.
This story (Story? Yes, I suppose it is a story, of sorts.) is arranged in alternating, internal, point-of-view exposition. Precisely who is speaking will be obvious, if I've done my job.
And, as always, I have no financial commitment of any kind with the Titans, DC Comics, Warner, or any other commercial or fiscal entity that is in any way connected to the concept of a bunch of teen heroes living in a giant "T" on an island off the California coast.
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We're so much alike sometimes it's scary. Scary perfect! At least I think so. We're the same age and we're both orphans and she likes my tofu and … well, okay, she won't, you know, turn up her nose at anything. Nearly starving a whole bunch o' times will do that for ya. But, yeah, we can fly together. Sure, for her it ain't exactly flying, it's riding a rock that's flying, but you understand.
Sometimes I wonder, though, what's goin' on in her head. She's friendly an' stuff, but … well, so far anyhow, that's all. I'm hopin', though. I'm hopin' she'll stay this time. Hopin' she'll maybe open up some. She doesn't like to talk about her past much, an' I try to respect that. I just … I wish she'd give me something to work with. Something to hold onto.
. . .
If she calls me 'Rae-Rae' one … more … TIME …
Terra needs at least to attempt to internalize this: I am not her friend. Maybe Starfire wants to fawn all over her. Maybe Robin, for whatever reasons he deems sufficient, thinks she has something significant to offer the team. Maybe Victor is simply too trusting.
And maybe Garfield is … blinded by what he thinks is …
Whatever he thinks it is … he's just wrong.
She's using him. Toying with him. I get hints, a slight soupçon of something … something a little off. And it's more than just hesitation about discussing her history. A lot more. But Robin doesn't want to hear it. I'd probe deeper if he'd give the okay, but …
" Give her another chance. Everyone deserves another chance. "
Maybe it wouldn't bother me so much if …
… if I hadn't …
But it does. His emotions are not hidden. He hasn't the first idea of how to go about it. He can't even conceive, apparently, of the slightest need to damp or disguise or …
Not his fault.
His … position is plain. He seems willing to wait on her, however long it takes.
I thought he felt that way when we …
No. Don't go there.
Azarath … Metrion … Zinthos …
I do not need Victor harping at me about how much light fixtures cost. I already told him he should invest in polycarbonate rather than glass. It is much more durable.
She doesn't appreciate him … him, or his feelings. He thinks it's because she's been hurt so many times before and guards her heart from damage.
As if I've never been hurt? As if any of us hasn't?
Look at us. An orphan, taken in and trained – and soured, if you want my opinion – by a man who dares not express love … or even approval most of the time. A princess, an actual member of a royal family, given as a slave to a race of monsters and banished from her home. Another orphan, one with a fatal disease that currently just so happens to be in remission. A kid who never wanted anything more than to be a sports figure, but who has a mostly-robotic body now instead. Oh, and no mother, and a father he can't really bring himself to talk to. And then you have me. Yet another orphan – sort of – who also is forced to deal with a possibly-world-ending heritage, and whose childhood was a blighted wasteland of criticism, condemnation, and neglect.
Her so-called problems are paltry in comparison.
And even with all that, she doesn't …
… I don't know … maybe she can't …
… appreciate him.
She doesn't understand what he has to offer. She doesn't value him. Doesn't cherish him. I can feel it, as plainly as I see my reflection in my mirror. And it galls me almost beyond endurance.
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Damn Raven anyway.
She thinks I don't see those looks she gives me. But I'm not stupid.
BB never sees it. But then he doesn't look for it. She's his "good friend" and "loyal teammate" and all that crap.
All the little digs, all the snide remarks. I'd love to wipe that oh-so-superior smirk off her face.
I wish she'd just leave me alone.
At least BB's there for me. Like, all the time. Like, sometimes it's a little … well, not creepy. He could never be creepy. That's Raven's job. But he's … he's always just … there. No matter what.
I really think he likes me.
You know … ' like' likes me.
I can work with that. I'm pretty sure I can get him to ask me out without too much trouble. That would be so cool. And maybe …
… yeah. Maybe I can even get him to come with me when I have to go.
Man, if he'd do that! Win!
Yeah. I gotta see if he's free later …
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There're lots of things about having this huge spread of animal senses that the others just don't get. Yeah, they know about my sense of smell, and they know it's really keen, lots better than a regular human's … but 'keen' just scratches the surface.
Everything has its own unique smell, and that includes emotions. To give just one example, do you have any idea how many different kinds of fear there are? I can tell you: a bunch.
There's the basic fear that something is after you and wants you dead. It's cold and has a bitter tang. Fear for your life is … well, it's kinda like the bottom rung on the ladder or the base of the pyramid, and it has to be there for most of the rest of 'em, too.
There's the fear of rejection, and you'd be amazed how much that smells like the fear of death. Humans are herd animals when you get right down to it, and for a lot of people rejection feels like death.
There's the fear of loss. It's not as … eh, not as sharp as the fear of death. Kinda slow, but it's a fear that won't leave you alone.
There's the fear of screwing up – minor screw-ups, not the major, life-changing things – and that one smells all prickly, like a whiff of nitric acid. Makes your eyes water.
And the fear of the unknown. It smells dark. And then there are specific phobias, and every one of 'em smells a little different. Fear of heights, or being around too many people, or spiders or cats or needles or … yeah. Shades and flavors and … what's that word Raven's always using? Nuisance? No, wait, that's what she calls me. Umm … Nuances! Yeah, that's it. There are different nuances in the smells.
But it isn't just fear, even though that's the easiest thing to pick up on. Contentment has an aroma. It's kinda like bread baking. Anger smells like hot metal, all coppery, like the taste of fresh blood. Confusion's a little like old pinecones after they've been on the forest floor for a year. I get that one off Terra a lot. Not real sure exactly what she's confused about, but I'd like to help her with it.
(O' course none o' this applies to Starfire. She just smells waaaay different no matter what she feels, and sometimes it sorta messes with me. You get her an' Raven an' Terra together in a small room? I might just hafta leave.)
But then … then there's jealousy. I know what THAT smells like, for sure, being around Robin whenever some guy tries to hit on Star. It's sour an' rough an' bumpy an' it makes my throat want to close up if it's really strong. I've smelled it on civilians a few times. Usually when Star or Raven saves some guy and delivers him back to his girlfriend or wife, an' the guy can't stop ogling the one that saved him. Yeah, I've run across that one a lot.
But … never from Raven. Not 'til recently. Not 'til Terra came back. An' it confuses me. It confuses me a lot. An' I've been gettin' that smell from Raven almost every day here lately. Every time she gets around me an' Terra.
I've thought it over and thought it over 'til my thinker was sore. There's this one … well … this one kinda obvious possibility. But I just can't quite make myself believe it. 'cause the only one Terra's shown any interest in is … me.
But that's just stupid!
… Isn't it?
Why would Raven …
… We did have that 'moment' thing.
And she did hug me after …
And she said she trusted the Beast because …
But … seriously? Raven? Did I miss something? 'cause she's, you know, really great an' stuff, but …
But she's always smackin' me down for something an' she says my jokes are stupid an' she …
… an' she smells like jealousy. And I just don't get it. I know I'm not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but come on!
Did I really … just give that away?
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She's been back this time going on three weeks. It will be three weeks tomorrow.
He spends ALL of his free time with her.
Doesn't she understand how damaging that is to the team?
I doubt she cares.
But I care.
I can feel what her indifference does to him.
I can feel his ache, the hollow remnant that longs to be filled.
I have one of those, too.
I won't be telling him about it, though. He'd never believe …
Don't do that, Raven.
I have much practice – many years of practice – at being nothing more than a shell.
It's what I was trained to be.
I'm used to it. I'm good at it.
Serenity … . . . …
There. Calm achieved.
But he isn't good at it. He doesn't know how to be a shell. All he can be is real.
I think it may be killing him.
One mustn't dwell on that, though. He's made his decision. I have to let him ride it out, and live with the consequences.
He actually told me one time that it isn't something that I would understand.
He's wrong. I understand all too well.
I understand betrayal. And secrets. And a doomed future.
I understand all that better than most.
What I DON'T understand is his willingness to tilt at her windmill.
I suppose he feels at this point he doesn't have a choice.
But it's going to be a slow-motion train wreck … and I can't bring myself to watch.
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The tabloids are at it again. Stinkin' rags.
Right there on the front cover of "Heroes Exposed" they've got this big stupid photoshopped – a really bad photoshop, if you ask me – picture of Raven and Terra gritting their teeth at each other. It's so stupid!
"TITAN CHICKS IN WAR OVER GREEN WONDER"
Makes me wanna throw up. They don't have anything real to talk about so they just make stuff up.
I just hope Raven doesn't see this. She'd go ballistic all over their asses. She's done it before.
You'd think they'd learn. Maybe they got a new editor.
Terra won't mind it so much. She thinks they're funny. Maybe she doesn't know how much stock some people put in that trash. Robin ain't gonna think it's very funny either.
I just hope it doesn't screw things up between me an' Terra. Not that there's anything to screw up yet. But honestly? If she left again … I really don't know what I'd do. Follow her, probably.
. . .
I know the way this plays out.
I suppose that – perhaps – I may be able to understand his need to keep her close. He has had so much loss in his life.
I know he secretly blames himself for his parents' deaths. Even though he was only a child, brand new to his shape-shifting abilities, he harbors the fear that he let them down. But he didn't know! He didn't know about pterodactyls or whale sharks or any other creature that could have effectively saved them from drowning! How could he? He was, what, eight? Maybe nine? And they were in a sudden crisis situation that would have derailed most adults!
He is so ready to shoulder blame, and I don't really get that about him. It is at once admirable and maddening. He never blames others, even when he should.
Plus, his stint with the Doom Patrol wasn't much help, either. With what I was able to glean from my brief experience with them, Mento is an even bigger jerk than Robin. And that's saying a lot.
But I can see history repeating itself with Terra. I have the strong suspicion – no, make that a certainty – that she's going to break his heart. I just haven't figured out yet how she's going to go about it. I only know I will have to be there for him when he falls.
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Okay, so I called you 'creepy'.
Sorry about that. It wasn't … I didn't mean it in a bad way. Really.
But, see, I tried to get you to open up, an' everything I did just … well, I guess it just pissed you off.
I wanted you to like me.
And I wanted to see that smile again.
You've got this really pretty smile, but you don't use it hardly ever. It lights up your face. You got no idea, I can tell. I guess nobody in Azarath ever told you how pretty you are. Okay, so maybe they had "saving the universe" at the top of their to-do list … but that doesn't mean they couldn't have said something once in a while!
Maybe I shouldn't criticize 'em. I mean … I never told you either.
And I could have.
But instead I just said you were …
Man. I can really be stupid sometimes.
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I wish I could determine the best course of action with regards to Terra.
She's lying. She's lying to all of us.
But mostly she's lying to Gar.
Because lying is done with words, but also with silence. And there are things she is hiding. Important things. Crucial things. Things I am going to find out, sooner or later.
Hopefully I will know the truth before it is too late to salvage the situation.
Gar doesn't want to think about it, so he ignores it. He just buys her explanations at the wholesale price and doesn't ask questions.
That is a mistake.
The more lies she gets away with, the more readily she passes them out.
I'd love to do a full interrogation … but Robin won't authorize it. And I'm apparently the only one on the team who hasn't fallen under her spell.
Nevertheless, I can't help feeling like there's this big 'Pack of Lies of Damocles' that is poised to fall on us.
To fall on Gar.
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See … the thing is …
Okay, Raven is, like, unapproachable. I've tried and tried, an' she just won't crack.
Yeah, maybe she does have a little bit of … oh, I dunno … possessiveness goin' on where I'm concerned. I don't understand it, but I can read it, plain as day.
But she's a closed book otherwise! She won't talk about her feelings – other than to say that she doesn't have any, which I know is total crap 'cause I can smell 'em – an' she ain't interested in talkin' about mine.
But Terra's … well, she's different. She don't mind talkin' about the here an' now, an' she's dropped a few hints about maybe liking me sorta the way I like her. An' she's not stingy with her smiles, either!
Yeah. So, if Raven has anything to say about it, she can just come out an' say it. Otherwise, I'll do what I want to do!
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His infatuation is wearing me down.
He refuses to see the signs.
He refuses to call her on her obvious inconsistencies.
And the others are all behind him.
" Give him time, Raven!" and " Let him make his own decisions, Raven!"
Maybe his … his inner life, his emotional well-being isn't any of my business. I have no claim to stake. I've never made any overtures that could be construed in any way as romantic, or even possessive. I have no ties on him.
Even though it pains me, truly, to see him being led down this path, when I know there is nothing good in store.
He wants to make his own decisions? He wants to learn from personal experience, no matter how unpleasant it might be? He wants to believe her lies?
But don't expect me to watch. Train wrecks really aren't that interesting. I have better things to do.