He insists that he'll never cease in his teasing until he gets her to laugh, and the notion alone nearly makes her laugh on the spot. She doesn't, of course, and her scowling persists. She fears that once he's gotten what he wants, he'll lose interest in her. It wouldn't be the first time such a thing happened to her.
Blackfire was undeniably pretty. A stark contrast to Starfire's light and effervescent atmosphere, there was something fierce and darkly alluring about Blackfire's person. She seemed to know exactly how to operate her hips suggestively with every movement and flutter her long, brush-like eyelashes at others just so. But whether smiling or sneering, there was an undeniably unsettling quirk to her mouth that one might not notice if they weren't expecting to see it. A small dimple of hateful pride. The tiniest quirk of disdain. An insincere shadow that fell over her round lips and emanated cruelty.
As astute as Robin fancied himself to be, he failed to catch it until the last minute.
He never imagined it would end like this. The lava is all around him, seeping straight through his armor like paper, chewing on his flesh and sucking him down to the marrow. In his final moments, he doesn't have the capacity to think of vengeance or even regret. His thoughts are consumed by pain, and then white magma fills his vision, pouring into his eye sockets like batter into a bowl.
This is it, he barely manages to think as the final thread of consciousness is about to be snipped. Killed by a mere child.
Death, he finds, however, is not the end.
Beast Boy is surprisingly displeased when he accidentally discovers how ticklish Raven's stomach is one day. When she follows the sulking boy out of the room and asks what the big deal is, he exclaims, "Figures that the only time I get you to laugh is completely by accident!"
It hurts. The burden of another's emotional and physical anguish hurts, but it's something Raven bears without complaint. She knows that if her teammates found out, they would never ask her for healing again. She can handle it, she tells herself, even on the days where it feels like it's pulling her apart at the seams.
She can handle it. She has to.
"Beast Boy, I swear to God, if you don't stop singing that song, I'm going to dropkick you with all the strength of a raging fire," Robin hissed, glowering at his teammate. Normally, he had more patience for his younger teammate, but this was day seven of Beast Boy: The Musical, and Robin's patience had expired two days ago.
"Aww, come on, dude. Don't be a sourpuss." The changeling morphed into a cat and mewed for emphasis. Robin only narrowed his gaze. Switching back, Beast Boy added, "It's not my fault this song is so catchy! Besides, Star digs it."
"Yeah, watch! Hey, Star! BE A MAN!"
Starfire looked up and sang on cue, "You must be swift as a coursing river!"
She and Beast Boy proceeded to reenact the entire sequence. Robin groaned and decided to just retreat to his room for the day.
"What's with that?"
"That little… hair-tuck you do." He gestures to the locks of hair nestled safely behind her right ear. "I've only ever seen you do it a few times, and it's all been within the last couple of months."
She fails to see where he's going with this, and her confusion spells itself out easily on her features. "What are you on about?"
"Like… I got so used to your face always being covered by a hood. And then when you started pulling it back more often, your hair was always in your face."
He brushes tentative fingers against her exposed cheek. "But now, sometimes when you're talking, you do that hair-tuck, and I can see your face way better."
"I honestly didn't notice, and frankly, I'm surprised you have."
"When someone's as routine as you, Rae, it's kinda hard not to notice changes."
"I'm sorry," he repeats with a broken expression and a clenched heart. "I don't… I mean, I'd love… to raise a child with you, but—"
"Cyborg," she interrupts, placing a silencing finger on his lips. "It's alright. It's not your fault. There's alternatives."
"I know." He tries so hard not to crumble in front of her, but this hurts more than he expected it to. Just another aspect of his life that will never be normal due to his body. And here he thought he'd finally learned to cope with being different.
Robin was always really obvious about when he was in a sour mood. Try as he might to put on a polite smile and appear as though he were enjoying himself, his entire person radiated obvious distaste for this situation. Starfire was not an empath, but she could almost physically feel his emanating anger.
Crossing the busy dance floor, managing to only get stepped on once or twice, she approached the boy who was currently glaring at the punch bowl as if it had peed on his wardrobe and called his mother fat. "Robin, why don't you come do the 'mingling' with me?" she suggested gently, resting a hand on his upper arm.
He shrugged away from her touch, taking a vengeful sip of the offensive punch. "I'm gonna kill Bruce. I can't believe he made us come to this stupid party. Tricking us into thinking it was a gift… These people are all industry leaders. He's using us as schmoozing tools."
Starfire nodded in a way that she hoped looked sympathetic, sensing that Robin was in no mood to define 'schmoozing.' She just guessed it was something bad and left it at that. "Well, despite your father's deception, at least one good thing has come of this."
"You look most fetching in a suit," she answered, flashing a sly smile. Robin found himself laughing and couldn't bring himself to sulk anymore that evening.
After a good ten minutes of arguing that milking a cow is actually good for it, and therefore there's nothing unethical about drinking milk, she finally persuades him to eat regular ice cream with her. Two bowls later, they discover that Beast Boy is intensely lactose intolerant; she is subjected to twenty minutes of him screaming, "I TOLD YOU THIS WAS A HORRIBLE IDEA," even as he's locked himself in the bathroom.
When Robin opens his eyes, he's falling. There is nothing but him and the sky all around; it seems to have engulfed him completely, leaving him disoriented and uncertain of whether he's falling up or down. The ground is like a faint smudge, eons away. He's aware that he should be scared—terrified—but for the time being, he just thinks with a calmness that's almost disconcerting in itself.
Oh, right. The spaceship… While engaging some aliens who were causing inter-dimensional mischief, one of the monsters had opened a hatch and kicked Robin off. Robin remembers that he stumbled about clumsily for a birdarang, but his hands found one just a bit too late. The wound in his side was a distraction.
The wound seems to make itself present the moment he remembers it. It stings, open and exposed to the air flying by. He watches blood stream upwards from it with a morbid sort of fascination. No one saw him receive the injury, and for all he knows, no one's even noticed that he's gone yet. He hopes that they're fending off the invaders better than he did. He wishes that he were there to help. He regrets…
"Robin!" His name seems like a muffled whisper on the ceaseless howl of the wind, and before he knows it, another body is pressing up against him and holding him in strong, secure arms. They're flying, maybe. It's hard to tell anymore, and he's feeling rather dizzy.
"Stafire," he utters, squinting up at his savior and instinctively nestling against her warmth. His vision is beginning to blossom with black spots and everything wants to shut down, but he takes a momentary refuge in the knowledge that he's safe now.
"I knew you'd catch me," he manages before succumbing to sleep.
It wasn't just the nice words and the pretty smile that won Jinx over to the 'good' side; she's a little more resilient to masculine charms than that. Rather, it was the appearance of complete sincerity behind those compelling eyes, the mask of concern, accompanied by the encouragement that she really could be better.
Too bad for her when she learns that she's not the first girl he's won over with a puppy dog face and some cheap speeches of reassurance. So much for being better.
"Have you ever considered cutting your hair short?" Robin asked, armed with a brush and a bottom of spray, navigating his way through the tangled jungle Terra called a mane.
"Star keeps her hair long," Terra rebutted defensively, folding her hands. She hissed quietly as he worked out a particularly stubborn mat, but otherwise remained still and patient.
"Star doesn't have powers that involve dirt and mud." He mumbled a quick apology as the brush snagged on another mass and spritzed a few swift sprays of water. "Seriously, this is like trying to cut through a jungle with a butter knife."
"I like my hair," she insisted. "It's one of the few things… pretty, about me."
"Hey. That's not true." Robin leaned over her shoulder to see her face. His mouth was crinkled reprovingly. "You're a pretty girl. You'd be pretty even if you were bald."
Terra flushed slightly, but she dispelled any potential tension with a snort. "God forbid that ever happen. Thanks though. How about you? You ever try growing your hair out?"
Robin paused to imagine it before shaking his head. "Nah. That'd be weird. Wouldn't look as nice on me as it does on you."
14. Under the Stars
"And that one's Major Ursula," he informs her, pointing at a cluster, "the military bear of the skies…"
"You're just making things up now," she remarks with a roll of her eyes and a faint upwards twist in her mouth.
"Dude, I've been making things up all evening. It's more fun that way."
15. Dear girlfriend,
Hi… Uh, you probably know better than anyone that I'm bad with words when it comes to this kind of stuff. Okay, bad is probably a gross understatement—I'm horrible. But I'm going to do my best here, hoping that writing words is a little easier than saying them, so bear with me.
Well, to start, I don't know what I did to deserve someone as nice and faithful as you. You've seen me at my worst, not just once or twice, but so many times, and I feel like I've failed you just as many times. All the times I've lost my temper, or made a bad decision, or got my priorities all messed up… you've always trusted me and shown me grace. When things were at their darkest, you were still there for me one hundred percent.
And I've gotta say, if it weren't for you, I don't think I'd be the person I am today. I was… a little lacking, in the encouragement and affection departments as a kid. I just wasn't raised that way, and when you came into my life, it was like, I don't know. Like I had been in a desert without water for years and years, and then suddenly I tripped into a lake. Except, less startling, I guess. More pleasant. You know what I mean, I hope.
Basically, you're just this bundle of joy in my life, and I've really grown to depend on you for that. You find wonder in even the most simple things, things I would have never even noticed before, and I hope that we can keep finding happiness in new experiences together.
I hope that I can provide everything you've ever dreamed of, because it's the least I can do for the girl with the patience to have faith in someone like me.
I want to keep giving you things to say "glorious" over.
Even after Cyborg's obsession with hyperactive multitasking has subsided, he continues to receive the occasional lesson in Tamaranian from Starfire, finding that it's both interesting and enjoyable for the both of them. In return, he helps her weave her way through the trickier colloquialisms of english, and overall, it's an educational bonding experience.
"It is a shame you cannot simply learn languages through lip contact like I do," Starfire remarks one day as they're wading through some complicated grammar rules. "Granted, there are still a great deal of things I do not understand, despite my instantaneous language transfer. But still, it is more convenient."
Cyborg hums noncommittally, not entirely sure he'd be comfortable with engaging in 'lip contact' with Starfire, anyway. Besides, learning it the traditional way is fun. "Hey, speakin' of languages, Raven knows, like, six or seven. German and Romanian and all sorts of other crazy stuff."
It's a harmless comment that he only brings up for the sake of being conversational, but the twinkling that crosses Starfire's eyes immediately alerts him that he's just set something potentially very bad into motion. Before he can even backtrack, Starfire's standing up and saying, "Most fascinating. I will be back in a moment, I believe I am about to… 'broaden my horizons' a bit."
He's proud of her for using the phrase properly, but not particularly thrilled about the thrashing sounds he hears from down the hall a few moments later.
When stripped of his armor, Robin is still strong. Still strong, but still woefully human, a fact that weighs heavily on him as the boulder comes down and he reacts just a moment too late. In this line of work, accidents are not an option, but it seems he just didn't have a choice this time.
In his state of desperation, he focuses on breathing. In and out. The basics. If he's alive, there's still a chance. Even if his chest feels like it's caving upon him like a sandcastle left to the tide, even if his bones ache against him like old gears, rusty and forgotten, the least he can do is keep breathing. His arms feel like columns of shattered glass, but still, he pushes because there's no way he's going down without a fight.
"Don't leave me behind, you guys," he breathes into the dusty air as he struggles, despite being alone. "I'm—I'm right behind you."
Robin's strength lies perhaps not as much in physicality as it does in determination.
"Stop," she says, and as usual, he defies.