Teen Titans: Dangerous Waters
Disclaimer: I do not own Teen Titans.
A/N: Welcome back, everyone! We've finally arrived at the ball, and suffice to say this is another chapter for the shippers. Enjoy, because this is where the fluff ends for this particular story.
Chapter 6: Belle of the Ball
Of all the things she knew she would be getting into on this unplanned vacation, Raven had been dreading the high society gala that was currently set to begin in about an hour above all else. Everything else the empath had put herself through up to this point on this ship had been entirely her own choice, but the ball was completely out of her hands, as she had learned to her chagrin. The empath emerged from the bathroom in her stateroom, having just finished drying her hair. Her brows were furrowed in consternation; the yellow bathrobe she was currently wearing was much too brightly colored for her liking. It also reminded her of that dress of the same color she had been forced to wear while mind-controlled during that incident with Mother Mae-Eye awhile back.
At her request, after first arriving on the ship, Robin had been kind enough to go to the guest relations desk in the grand atrium and ask if there was any way she could abstain from participating in the ball, but it seemed the terms regarding their stay on the ship left no room for negotiation: all five of the Teen Titans were expected to attend, and the event's organizers would be present and know to look for them.
Raven saw little merit in this endeavor. In her experience good deeds alone often weren't enough to persuade people set in their ways, and if the city council was intent on cutting off funding for Titans Tower, she figured it would only be a matter of time before that came to pass, regardless of what she and her teammates did to prove their continued worth to Jump City.
"Heh, Star would just accuse me of being 'the negative grumpy grumps' if I voiced these thoughts out loud to the team," the dark sorceress mused with a slight smirk as she pulled the dress she had bought for the occasion out of the closet in her stateroom. It had occurred to Raven that this would be the first time she had ever donned such formal attire, and she was grateful she had at least been allowed to pick a gown tailored to her personal sense of style.
She had just laid the dress in question out on the bed when she heard a firm knocking at the door. "Yes?" she promptly responded.
"Friend Raven?" the alien princess on the other side called out. "Are you, as an Earth girl would say, the decent?"
Raven had to resist a good-natured eyeroll at the question. She and the guys had learned early on in their time together as a team that Tamaraneans were much less prudish in regards to nudity than humans, and Starfire had in-turn learned to knock before barging into private spaces.
"I am, Starfire. You can come in; it's unlocked."
Starfire entered the room not a moment later. During the team's afternoon at Jump City's downtown mall the day prior to their departure, the alien princess had opted for a strapless mermaid gown that was hot pink in color and embroidered with cubic zirconium diamonds, and she had of course bought a set of matching heels. Her long and silken red hair was fastened into a large braid that stretched down to its usual length. She almost seemed to glow, which was obviously quite typical and fitting for her.
"How do I look, friend? Be honest," she inquired, her trademark warm and genuine smile blazoned on her face.
"It may not be my style, but you look amazing, Star," Raven told her friend earnestly. "I'm sure Robin will be left speechless at the sight of you, assuming he hasn't already," she added with a chuckle. Star's smile promptly morphed into a grin.
"Oh, he definitely has already," she informed the empath with a giggle. It was then that Starfire got a good look at the chosen attire of her present teammate. She smiled warmly in approval. "It is the most gorgeous of the ensembles you have chosen, Friend Raven! I suspect Friend Beast Boy will be rendered quite the speechless as well once he sees it upon you!"
The alien princess hadn't meant anything off-handed in her observation, but the implications still caused a faint blush to appear on Raven's face. The dark sorceress averted her gaze, hoping her friend hadn't seen, and she mentally cursed herself in the process.
"Thanks, Star..." she mumbled, "But Garfield assured me this is just to be an outing as friends. Nothing more and nothing less," she added, clarifying. The redhead wasn't convinced. She offered a retort with her trademark enthusiastic grin.
"That may be so, but it also doesn't mean something cannot... what's the word? Oh yes! The 'blossom' between the two of you."
"Starfire, please, this is Beast Boy we're talking about," the empath rolled her eyes with a scoff as she shifted her focus back to her friend, her flushed face finally abating. Starfire's own face fell back into neutral as she continued. "Just because we had a good time together yesterday doesn't mean I'm going to start having romantic feelings for him, and he knows that. I know he's smarter than he lets on at times."
"I'm sorry, friend," the other girl amended, "I do not mean to do the presumption, I just-"
"It's okay, Star, no harm done," Raven reassured her, before adding further, "Even if I had a type, he just wouldn't be it."
"A 'type?'" Starfire was visibly confused. English was her second language, after all.
"As in, the type of boy I would be interested in, romantically-speaking," the empath clarified further. "Besides..." her voice fell as she began to recollect something rather unpleasant, "I've learned from experience it doesn't pay for me to put my heart on the line."
The alien's eyes went wide in realization as she quickly caught on to what her friend was referring to. Her tone shifted to one of concern and remorse, "Oh, Raven..."
"I told you it's fine, Star. You didn't say anything wrong. Believe me, I'm happy for you and Robin, and I hope you both have a great time tonight. But, everyone is different, and I just don't think I'm right for a thing like romance." "And certainly not least of all because of my lineage," Raven couldn't help but add silently as she finished.
Now it was her turn for her eyes to go wide as she felt her friend envelop her in a tight hug. Despite her normal aversion to physical contact, she returned the gesture slightly after a moment.
"I don't know if I can go through with this, man," Beast Boy stated as he paced about his temporary bedroom nervously.
"Dude, relax. You told me you two were just going to this thing as friends, remember?" his cybernetic best friend tried reassuring him.
The green shapeshifter took a deep breath in an attempt to calm his jittering nerves. He was already dressed in his finery for the evening, a tuxedo suit complete with shirt and tie he picked out with help from Robin. Apparently their team leader had to attend a few fancy parties alongside his former mentor in Gotham years back, and had some experience with the dress code. The jacket that went with the tux was currently splayed over the back of the chair that stood at the desk beside the bed.
"I know, man. It's just, this is different from just casually hanging out, ya know?" he countered. "This is... I dunno... "
"More of a date-like setting?" Cyborg chimed in teasingly, curling his remaining eyebrow in the process.
"Please don't say that!" Beast Boy pleaded with an audible groan. Victor merely gave a hearty chuckle in response before trying again.
"Seriously, relax already. If you overthink this you'll make a mess of things for sure. I mean, it's not like you actually think about Raven in that way, right?" He nudged his friend playfully, but Garfield's denial was not forthcoming, and so Cyborg felt his organic eye go wide. "Dude..."
Beast Boy's blush said it all.
"It's not what it looks like, Cy!" he stammered promptly while waving his hands in front of himself, before breaking off into an uncomfortable silence and letting out another deep sigh after a moment. "I don't know how I feel about, Raven, to be honest. She's still such a mystery, but lately... and after everything that happened yesterday and the night before that..." he trailed off and looked down as Victor placed a hand on his shoulder, gently and reassuringly.
"I get it, man," the cybernetic hero stated simply, and took a moment to think carefully about what he should say. He was still unsure when he continued, "Hey, it's probably just a crush, anyway. It might go away in time."
That didn't make Beast Boy feel much better, understandably.
"I'd honestly intended to ask her to this thing as just friends, and that's what I did. I just... I don't want to mess this night up... and I know I mess things up a lot..."
"Beast Boy... you can't-"
"I'm afraid, Cy. What if this does turn out to be more than some crush, ya know? The last time I had any interest in a girl... she wound up dead..."
Cyborg could only imagine the heartache his best friend was feeling right about now. The pain in his voice was clear as day. Memories of the immense depression the latter went through following Terra's betrayal and subsequent demise played through his mind. It took weeks and a combined effort from everyone on the team to bring the green shapeshifter back to a semblance of his former self. Cyborg knew Beast Boy still blamed himself, as irrational as it was.
"Look man, like I said, you're overthinking this. Just approach this like you did with her yesterday, and you'll be fine."
"You think?" a glimmer of hope returned to Garfield's voice as he looked up.
"Hell yeah!" was the cybernetic hero's immediate reply. "You got that girl to sit down with you and play a video game for three hours yesterday, remember? After seeing that, I'm pretty much convinced nothing is impossible," he finished with another chuckle.
Beast Boy couldn't contain the smile and laugh that followed.
It was about ten minutes later when Garfield emerged from his stateroom, all dressed up with only one place to go, and one person to go there with. The second he stepped out of the doorway, a familiar monotone called his attention.
"You know Beast Boy, it's rude to keep a lady waiting."
"Hehe, sorry Raven. I-" the green shapeshifter felt his own voice get caught in his throat as his eyes settled on her.
Raven's gown was a a mixture of dark purple and rouge in color, and stretched from her neckline to mid-calf. It also had cut shoulders and laced long sleeves. Her feet retreated into a set of matching heels, and her fingernails had been painted in black polish. A matching choker adorned her neck, and her lavender hair was done in its usual every day style, but her companion couldn't care less about that. He knew she was already stepping outside her comfort zone as it was, despite the brave face she put on. Beast Boy was well aware this was the first time he was seeing her in a dress, and he successfully closed his jaw shut again after a moment.
The empath couldn't help but shuffle her feet about nervously. Garfield had always been pretty open with projecting what he was feeling and she had picked up on his emotions a lot more easily than the others ever since they formed the team. This moment was no exception to that norm. She would have averted her gaze had she not focused intently on his own appearance before she could stop herself. She had to admit, he could actually clean himself up quite well.
Beast Boy's tuxedo suit was navy blue in color, now complete with the tailed jacket. A matching tie was draped over a red formal, buttoned-up shirt, and his feet were resting comfortably in a large pair of black, formal pleather shoes. His green alpine hair still had some tuffs in it, but it had also been combed to the side neatly. The tinge of pink on his cheeks seemed to mirror hers perfectly, and the shades intensified when her violet eyes locked with his emerald ones.
"Ahem," Raven cleared her throat, as she found herself eager to end the awkward silence. Her companion snapped out of his trance in an instant.
"Umm... you look great, Raven," he told her sheepishly, rubbing the back of his neck as he did so. A ghost of a smile tugged at her lips for a second.
"Thank you, Garfield. You didn't do so bad sprucing up yourself," she told him sincerely, earning his trademark wide grin from him in return. It was then that a firm knocking at the door to their suite drew their attention away from one another.
The green shapeshifter hero was the one who strode over to open it, with his reserved, shy, magic using teammate coming along behind him. Sure enough, the rest of their team was on the other side to greet them.
"Are you both all set?" Robin inquired as he looked them once over, and they nodded. "Good, then we'd better head out and get this over with."
"Lookin' good, you two," Cyborg couldn't help but tease, causing the both of them to look away in opposite directions. Luckily, Starfire could always be counted on.
"Oh yes, Friend Cyborg is the correct! You both look the fabulous! Now let's go! The charity sphere awaits us!"
The alien princess looked over as her boyfriend offered her his arm with a smile, which she accepted happily with a feminine giggle. They departed first and Cyborg did so after them. Finally looking back to his roommate, Beast Boy echoed their team leader and offered Raven his arm as well. She eyed him quizzically.
"If we're going to this thing together, we may as well do it right, right? Hehehe," he reasoned, half-hearted and nervously.
As if on cue, the dark sorceress rolled her eyes, but acquiesced to his offer a second later, startling him for a second. Then they stepped out, closed the door behind themselves, and followed their teammates into the unknown.
The Crown Royal Ballroom was one of the most opulent locations on board the MS Skyward. At the center was a large, glossed mahogany wooden dance floor, with smooth marble columns on both sides connecting from the floor to the ceiling, which held up numerous intricate golden chandeliers. The largest of these was hanging smack dab in the middle of the ballroom over the dance floor. Numerous chairs and couches with deep red cushions and adorned in brass along with similarly-decorated tables lined the outside of the dance floor adjacent to large circular windows that allowed wide views of the moonlit ocean waves on either side of the ship, and the star-studded night sky above. At the far side of the ballroom was a stage made of strong, solid oak dressed in curtains of the same deep red color as the seating arrangements. A black and white grand piano stood off to the right side on the stage, and beside it across the stage were numerous seats and stands that held sheet music. Other musical instruments including but not limited to a cello, violins, a tuba, and trumpets were all present, as were the neatly-dressed band that was presently playing them. It was the sweet sounds of lavish, high society classical music that filled the air and permeated throughout the ballroom, and a plethora of couples and partygoers were already present, some dancing along to the melody, while others were seated comfortably and conversing over drinks and hors d'oeuvres.
It was into this myriad of glitz and glamor along with social interaction that the Teen Titans entered. First Robin and Starfire, the picturesque couple still linked at the arm, followed by Cyborg, and behind him was Beast Boy and Raven, no longer linked at the arm but still side-by-side. Some of the other partygoers took notice of them instantly, as was to be expected. It was the first time that a team of superheroes attended this annual event, after all. At once, a man, one of the well-dressed partygoers raised his hands and started clapping, and it wasn't long before his date and countless others joined in, their applause heralding the arrival of the team. Robin smiled and nodded politely in acknowledgement, while Cyborg, Starfire, and Beast Boy all took on wide grins and waved appreciatively. Raven, meanwhile, lowered her head shyly, silently wishing she could just retreat into her cloak like she normally would. But she couldn't; it had been left back in the closet in her stateroom. Garfield seemed to notice this as he glanced over at her, and his expression fell and his eyes grew soft.
It was when the applause died down that a fair-skinned Latina woman in a red gown approached the team, and she promptly introduced herself.
"Greetings, Titans. I am Gloria Gonzalez, the Voyage Director on the Skyward. I was told to expect your arrival."
"Hello, Ms. Gonzalez," Robin nodded again as he shook her hand, "Where's the Deputy Mayor?"
"He is currently backstage with a couple of the organizers," was her reply, "We still have about an hour until the commemoration speech, so please feel free to enjoy yourselves in the meantime. Just head on backstage half past the hour and he'll call you out once he starts speaking. I'll be over at the seating area just off to the right of the stage if you need anything."
And with that she walked away, leaving the five superheroes to the festivities at hand.
"I'm off to sample one of everything at looks good at the serving table!" Cyborg told his teammates enthusiastically. He was already walking away before he finished speaking.
Robin separated from Starfire and took a step back, extending his hand to her. She eyed him curiously.
"Well then, may I have this dance, my lady?" he asked her charmingly. She beamed at him affectionately and accepted his hand gladly, and promptly followed him over to the dance floor.
The empath looked over at her companion for the evening, who in-turn eyed her curiously. She allowed herself to sigh; she was convinced she knew what he was thinking. She saw him glance in its direction, after all.
"If you want to gorge yourself over at the serving table with Cyborg, don't let me stop you," she stated simply, and was surprised when he shook his head with a soft smile.
"Tempting, but nah," was his straightforward reply. He then looked off to their left and continued, "Come on, I think I saw a spot open up over there."
Raven understood what he meant a few moments later when they arrived at one of the leatherback couches along the wall, just to the right of one of the large windows. It was a bit more secluded than one might expect, several feet away from other seating arrangements. A low wooden table also adorned in brass was positioned in front of it, and was the only other thing in the immediate vicinity. The dark sorceress took a seat, and so did Beast Boy beside her.
"Any particular reason we're over here, now?" she asked him in her usual monotone. The volume of the voices in the crowd around them along with the music were both dampened now that they had put some distance in between them. The latter also made it a bit easier on Raven, she noticed immediately, since the whirlwind of emotions that came from large gatherings of people was of course the main reason she didn't like crowds.
"I know you don't like crowds," he told her in a soft and sympathetic voice, as if reading her thoughts. "I knew coming here that you'd definitely want to be somewhere to lessen the impact of feeling things from all these people, right?" She nodded slowly in reply, both perplexed but grateful he had this insight about her. About a minute ago she had been on the cusp of a sharp headache, but now the sensation was comparatively a dull roar. He smiled at her again, evidently pleased his intuition was correct. He then spoke up again, this time with a hint of enthusiasm. His confidence was coming back now, it seemed. "So I'm thinking that you can wait here if you want, and I'll quickly go see what looks good at the serving table. Don't worry, I'll bring you back something if I think you'll like it! Is that okay with you?" he asked her, not wanting to just get up and leave without explaining his reasoning. He didn't want her to feel like he was ditching her, after all.
"I don't mind, Garfield. Thank you," she gave him another coveted, brief smile while reassuring him, prompting yet another wide grin from himself in return.
"Okay, be right back!" he bounded off from where he sat at once. She let herself close her eyes and shake her head slightly at his antics, but the smile returned to her lips as she did so.
At half past the hour, the Titans reassembled and made their way backstage as previously instructed. Robin had met him once before earlier in the voyage, but this was the first time the other four met with Mayor Zaman's second, Deputy Mayor Darby Keehan. The well-dressed, red-headed caucasian male shook each of their hands one by one.
"A pleasure to make your acquaintance, Titans. I spoke with Mayor Zaman a couple hours ago. He wanted me to assure you each of the three commissioners will be receiving a transcript of tonight's proceedings in the morning."
"Thank you, Mr. Keehan. We're ready when you are," Robin nodded as he informed the local-level politician.
"The sooner the better," Cyborg added.
"I agree," Keehan returned the gesture before asking, "I'll go warm up the audience for you five. Is your speech ready, Robin?"
"It is. I just finished it this afternoon," was the prompt reply from the former Boy Wonder.
"Excellent, now just wait here for your cue."
For the next several minutes, the Deputy Mayor of Jump City was true to his word in warming up the crowd. He talked about each of the nonprofits in the city benefiting from the money raised in the months leading up to the ball, and briefly about what were the best things about the city according to himself and his husband, and he used that opportunity to work in a clever joke about rice-a-roni that had Beast Boy laughing along with most of the partygoers. It was after that when he shifted gears toward the team of superheroes, and gave them their awaited cue:
"Mayor Zaman very much wanted to be here tonight, but in his place he sent five of our city's finest. No introductions are necessary, but I would be remiss if I didn't introduce them, anyway. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming onto the stage, the Teen Titans!"
At once, the couple hundred or so passengers in the ballroom erupted into another applause, and it was louder than the one from before that had greeted them. Some cheers were even thrown into this mix this time around. A stagehand pulled back the curtain and the heroes strode out onto the stage. Each of them waved with one hand appreciatively as they made their way over to the podium, even Raven, albeit meekly.
Keehan shook Robin's hand again, this time for the crowd, and then stepped off to the side, allowing the team leader control of the stage. Starfire looked on with a glimmer of pride on her eyes as her boyfriend pulled a set of notecards from his coat pocket, and cleared his throat.
"Good evening, everyone. As I'm sure most of you know, my team and I have been operating out of our tower in Jump City for a little over three years, now. A lot has happened in that time," he looked directly into the audience as he spoke, his voice confident and assured, "We've faced many enemies, some tougher than others, but we've never wavered from our commitment to keeping the citizens of the city safe. And now, I do believe we've come to see Jump City as our home, same as yours," his tone shifted into something more lighthearted as he continued, and he glanced over at this girlfriend, and then to the rest of his teammates. "After all, a home is more than just a place you reside. A home is place where you feel a sense of belonging, with the people you care about." Robin allowed the corners of his mouth to curl up as he saw Starfire clasp her hands and lace her fingers together, her warm smile beaming at him. Cyborg, Beast Boy, and Raven all nodded with appreciative smiles of their own. He then turned back to the audience and finished, "A home is a place you're willing to protect, because it just means that much to you. Which is why I know my team and I will never relent in our pursuit of justice for everyone who calls Jump City home, and anywhere else where we are needed. And that is also why each of us is proud to be standing up here tonight, because charity means doing what's right above all else, and that is a cause we can all stand together in support of, no matter what challenges the future holds. As long as we believe in our home and each other, good will always prevail!"
The crowd burst into yet another round of applause, but this time it was the loudest and longest of the night. The deputy mayor clapped in approval as well, and for the first time in days Robin felt some confidence in his team's situation. There was no way the city council would force them out now, not with the people on their side. The young man took a couple steps back and off to the right as the applause and cheers settled down once more, allowing Keehan to return and take back over from there.
"All right, one heck of a speech If I do say so myself. I think I speak for everyone here when I say our city can sleep better at night knowing brave and accomplished young heroes like these five have our backs."
The fourth round of applause from the audience indicated they agreed with the deputy mayor's assessment. For the five superheroes, it was as if a heavy weight was being lifted off their shoulders. The good cheer was infectious for Raven in particular. Perhaps she could allow herself to hope after all, if only for one night.
Raven later blamed the effects of feeling that overwhelming good cheer for why she accepted one dance and one dance only with her escort for the evening. There was no way she would have otherwise agreed when he asked her, she told herself.
Beast Boy was on a roll tonight, as far as he was concerned, and his good spirits at this point likely couldn't have gone higher. Not only had he actually managed to find something Raven enjoyed at the serving table, he was able to sit and converse with her for over half an hour without putting his foot completely in his mouth. Now, he just had to make it through one dance with her. Frankly he was still surprised she actually said 'yes,' but he wasn't going to push his luck by asking her why.
When the band shifted gears and began playing another classical piece in triple time, Garfield immediately knew what dance to try. He steeled his nerves and did his best to recall the last time he performed it. It had been almost several years. Once they were on the dance floor, the familiar monotone of his companion pulled him from his thoughts.
"You get this one warning: don't step on my feet," she told him flatly, to which he chuckled with that familiar grin.
"I wouldn't dream of it," he replied, daring to place his right arm around her just above her waist, and take her left hand in his own and raise them aloft, about shoulder-height.
Raven's eyes conveyed her continued skepticism as he began to lead her, but after a moment they widened in surprise. She caught herself before her mouth could fall open in disbelief, but the shock and awe was still present nonetheless. She couldn't believe that Beast Boy of all people was leading her in the waltz, and he wasn't even doing a half-bad job of it, either. He seemed to notice her surprise, and his grin returned, wider than before. She suddenly felt flustered, seeing how proud of himself he was, like he knew this would happen. Still, she kept up with him in near-perfect sync, but felt an explanation was due once she collected her thoughts.
"How on Earth do you know how to do this?" she tried, and failed to keep her disbelief out of her voice. She berated herself mentally for that.
"Back in my days with the Doom Patrol when I was still pretty young, I had to go to a couple of these things while I was in the care of Mento and Elastigirl. She was the one who taught me, actually," he confessed. "Seems I'm not as rusty as I thought I'd be," he added as they continued going through the motions all the while.
As he explained himself, it occurred to the empath that she seemed to be learning more about the green shapeshifter in the last three days than she had during the last three years together on the team.
"That's because you never really tried to get to know him," her Knowledge pointed out inside her head.
It wasn't an accusatory remark or a condemnation in any way, but Raven couldn't shake the sudden feelings of guilt and remorse that caused her to suppress a shudder. Beast Boy seemed to pick up on her change of mood as the music ended. He brought the two of them to a halt as it did.
"What's wrong?" he asked, worry visible in his eyes. She quickly swallowed back down the lump in her throat before answering him.
"It's nothing. Don't worry, Beast Boy, you didn't mess up," she reassured him. He played the part of a fool well enough, but he could also be quite endearing, especially when he showed concern for others. And her.
And there was something else too, a thought that made a warm, unfamiliar feeling blossom in her chest.
There were many women at the ball, and Raven was used to being outshined by the lovely and captivating alien princess wherever the team went, but this boy who had his arms around her was focusing solely on her. He had asked her to this ball, he had gone out of his way for her, he wanted to dance with her, and his concerned and affectionate eyes were locked on her, alone. The empath would be lying if she said it didn't make her feel special.
The next song began a moment later, and through the movements in the crowd on the dance floor around them, their Tamaranean friend and her date had caught sight of what just transpired. Starfire smiled warmly as she looked back to Robin and resumed their slow dance, and he smirked, knowing what was on her mind.
"I never thought I'd say this, but those two really do look good together," he admitted.
"Indeed, I very much am doing the looking forward to my next talk of the girls with Friend Raven," the alien princess exclaimed, to which the former apprentice of the Bat chuckled slightly in good nature as they continued to move and sway together, their eyes locked firmly together.
None of the young heroes had any idea what they were in for the following day...
A/N: Well, I hope you all got your fill of lightheartedness, because things are shifting into high gear for the rest of the story. After all, no superhero story would be complete without some high octane action and suspense, am I right? I intend to deliver on that, soon. Thank you as always to all of my readers as well as my beta, Wikked Grin. Be safe and well, everyone!