Beastboy waited until Robin had stalked to his room (trailing tattered red-and-yellow Kevlar in his wake), slammed his door, and settled in for a nice long sulk. Then he waited some more. Then he took a slow, thorough stroll around the main room, because, dude, with Robin, you could never be too sure. Specifically, you could never be too sure that he wasn't putting on some big antisocial sulky act so he could pull his whole "I was trained by Batman and I have no footsteps" routine and pop up behind you when you were incriminating yourself. Because Robin was devious like that. Robin had no problem with entrapment.
Robin was . . . not in the room. Which was good, because Beastboy was about to totally incriminate himself. Casually, he kicked the door to the (Robin-free) pantry shut, and even more casually, he cleared his throat.
"So . . . is it just me, or is Slade hitting on Robin?"
Nobody jumped in and answered, but Cyborg's video game made a beepy little pausing noise. Which was just – wow. Cyborg never paused his games.
And Raven, still pretzel-knotted and suspended in midair, cracked one eyelid at him. "Well . . . now that you mention it . . ." She left the sentence dangling, but did condescend to open her other eye.
"Yeah. I've been kind of wondering about that for a while now," Cyborg finished.
"Oh." Beastboy collapsed backward onto the couch and reeled. He didn't even feel vindicated, just kind of . . . unclean. Things like this were supposed to be only in his head.
Except, apparently not. And apparently this particular thing had been unsettling minds other than his own for some time now, which, really, was more than Beastboy could say for himself and his own powers of deduction. The unhappy notion that Slade was even capable of coming down with a case of the hots hadn't occurred to him until maybe forty-five minutes ago, when he'd glimpsed the man with his fingers hooked under the collar of Robin's cape, bent over and leaning in close.
Beastboy'd had time to think that the two of them looked like they were performing some particularly ambitious tango move, and he might have followed that thought further – imagined a rose threaded through the slits of Slade's Darth Vader mouthpiece, or something equally awful – but then there had been evil robots that needed smashing.
"Slade does tend to . . . focus on Robin, doesn't he?" Raven said as she de-levitated herself onto the couch. Under any other circumstances, this would call for an exaggerated yawn-and-stretch routine, just so Beastboy could watch her eyes go all white-hot-glowy, and maybe manage to brush the back of her neck with his wrist, but they were trying to have a serious discussion, here.
Cyborg leaned in conspiratorially. "And he does that awful smug purring thing when he's talking to him. Like a cat with a canary."
"I think you mean, like a cat with a robin," Beastboy said, because come on, the joke practically made itself.
"I mean, like a cat that wants to drag him back to its evil cat-cave and lick him all over."
. . . Okay, maybe not so much with that serious discussion.
Beastboy groped for some sort of clever repartee, and totally failed, because thank you, Cyborg, worst image ever, searing itself into his long-term memory. Raven's ever-so-slightly curled lip suggested that she was more than usually appalled, and Beastboy knew that this really wasn't the time for a game of gross-out chicken, but Cyborg was the one who had upped the ante, and heck if he was going to back down. "Yeah, and how would Slade do that? Stick his tongue out of the mask-holes?"
Cyborg snickered. Raven radiated such a degree of obvious disgust that she almost had a facial expression.
"Look, smarty-pants, all I'm saying is, I've worn Robin's tights, and it's a good thing they've got those built-in bullet-proof panties."
And Beastboy knew that this made him, like, the worst friend ever, and an all-around terrible human being – because, seriously, he was worried about Robin, he cared, he knew that there was nothing remotely amusing about Slade being in any way interested in Robin – and he also knew that Raven was probably about to clobber him – but. But not laughing was out of the question. His laughter was a totally involuntary and innocent spasm of the diaphragm, like a sneeze, or a hiccup.
"What," he choked out, "you think Slade can build an army of killer robots and he doesn't know how to work a zipper?"
Apparently, Cyborg was also having an attack of diaphragm spasms, even though he probably didn't have a diaphragm, and really, Beastboy needed to stop thinking the word 'diaphragm,' because it was only making him laugh harder. And he needed to stop laughing so he could come up with some devastatingly witty comment involving the phrase 'bat chastity belt,' before Cyborg beat him to it.
Beastboy had long since braced himself for a less-than-playful smack on the back of the head, courtesy of Raven. He was not, however, in any way prepared for the gentle tap that he felt on his left shoulder. He yelped, in a way that sounded a bit like all of his internal organs trying to leap out of his throat at the same time, which they probably were – because the part of his brain that obsessively cataloged any touch he got from any female, ever, had just cross-referenced that shoulder tap, and how dumb was he, checking and double-checking to make sure that Robin was gone, but never even thinking to worry about –
"Starfire," he squeaked. "Hi."
Starfire beamed at him. She was carrying a bowl full of something that looked suspiciously like mayonnaise sprinkled with cornflakes and seriously, he didn't want to know. "Please, what is the source of such merriment?"
"Uh. . ." He looked frantically across the sofa at Cyborg, who looked just as frantically back at him. "We were just . . ."
"Uh, yeah." Cyborg supplied, unhelpfully.
Raven arched one dagger-sharp eyebrow. "Beastboy wanted to know if Slade was hitting on Robin."
"I do not see why the thought amuses, but of course he was." Starfire floated unnervingly closer. "He was hitting on all of us, no?" She scooped up a spoonful of - whatever it was - with total nonchalance.
He needed a minute or ten to process that one, and Cyborg's loud spit-spraying sputtering like, two inches away from his ear did not facilitate the whole processing process, so really, he could be excused for not getting it until Starfire cut Cyborg off – um, not me, you don't think he's hitting on me, right – by pressing a finger to the dent in his space-age-plastic chest. A dent that was more or less the shape and size of Slade's boot-heel.
And oh, right. Beastboy could almost hear the synapses firing as his brain ground toward a belated epiphany. Starfire's English was about a billion times better than his Tamaranean, but sometimes she interpreted figures of speech kind of – well, kind of literally. A sideways glance confirmed that Cyborg had reached the same conclusion.
"Oh, right, yeah. Forgot about that." Cyborg made a noise that could almost pass for a chuckle. "That'll, um, buff right out."
Starfire said something happy-sounding around her spoon. Beastboy let himself melt back into the cushions a little, because praise sweet jeebus, maybe they were all going to get through this more or less unscathed, as long as –
"You do know that 'hitting on' doesn't mean 'hitting,' right?"
You know, there were times he could believe that Raven was actually the daughter of the One True Ultimate Evil or whatever, and that evil was totally genetic, and this was one of those times. Oh sure, she pretended to be all emotionless and enlightened and above the social conventions of mere mortals, but really? She was just a sadist. Some cave-dwelling part of Beastboy's brain flashed on an image of Raven wearing nothing but black leather straps and her nastiest smirk – a thought that had the interesting effect of making his testicles try to crawl back into his body cavity, even though certain other parts of him wanted to sit up and pay attention, except he was too busy bracing for the oncoming train wreck–
"It means 'flirting,'" Raven continued. "They wanted to know if Slade was flirting with Robin."
Starfire's huge green eyes went huger and greener. And glowier. "'Flirting' as in . . . engaging in preliminary mating rituals?"
"Yup," Raven said.
There was a kryptonite-green light gathering around Starfire's fingertips, and glowing green cracks were starting to zigzag through the bowl, and oh hell, that glop was never going to come out of the carpet. Beastboy, not for the first time, wished his tongue would just crawl out of his mouth and go ruin somebody else's life for a change.
"Then he will rue the day his parents encountered each other," Starfire said matter-of-factly, and really, maybe the whole debacle was worth it because he got to see what a starbolt looked like passing through a bowl of mayonnaise – yup, it was definitely mayonnaise – and it was pretty cool, actually. Kind of like a lava lamp. But messier. A lot messier.
"I'll, just, um, go get some paper towels," Beastboy volunteered, and edged away as quickly-but-unobtrusively as was superhumanly possible.