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alderwitch

Moonshadow

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Date: early September, just after the field trip

After restlessly trying to settle yet again in her bed like a perfectly normal person, Robin gave up in short order. Sitting up smoothly and silently, she reached for the tattered black backpack that was never all that far from her fingertips, pulling it close. Her fingers ran over the fabric, checking in the dark to make sure the zippers were all closed and nothing might slip out in her escape. As she stood, all Robin had to do was find her sneakers with her feet in the dark. That was as far as she'd gotten in stripping for bed and even their absence was an uncomfortable one. Intellectually, she knew that the room was closed and safe - that no one would come take her meager possessions in her sleep but instinct was slower to follow. 

On quiet feet, she crept to the window and let herself out. The short climb from window to rooftop was at least beginning to be familiar passage, where to find her handholds and footholds in the dark and how to slip to the side to not be noticed in the windows along the way to the roof. 

Yes, perfect. The one thing that feels normal to me now is escaping to the roof of the dorm. Not the hot showers, not the bed, but the clambering up a wall in the dark. Robin's mouth curved in a smile that held little humor as she flipped up onto the dorm's roof, her feet light on the shingles as she dropped into a crouch. One knee pressed down as she reached for her backpack and swung it forward to feel for the hard edges of the book she'd uncertainly borrowed from the library. 

Rising slowly, she pulled the thick book on astronomy from the tattered black backpack and hugged it to her chest. With her backpack once again slung over both shoulders, she began to move across the rooftop on quiet feet with every intention of finding one of the better nooks to curl up and nap in until daybreak. 

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Riley heard the girl coming a mile away - well, maybe not literally. He watched her go, at first just to enjoy the view. But when he caught sight of the backpack, he found himself suddenly weighing his options. "Hey." He was stretched on his back by the side of a nearby chimney when she turned to see him, the angle cutting him off from the eyesight of almost everyone physically inside the Claremont campus, his body raised on one arm and head in his hand. She could see a bag at his feet, a standard-issue Claremont over the back carry-all, and what looked like a crossbow lain across it. When she caught his eye, he sat up with a single smooth motion, curiosity curling in his voice. "You running away?" Despite himself, he felt a faint twitch of satisfaction at the sound of his voice - the countertenor he spoke in (according to his double's music teacher) was higher than a man's voice, but it was deeper than it had been a month earlier! "They've probably got super-detectors around here or something." 

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The quiet voice startled Robin who, despite herself, had come to expect a degree of safety on the Claremont campus. As soon as a voice cut the night, she jerked back, dropping from a casual stroll into something coiled and dangerous. Despite her lack of training, she was nimble and the pitch of the roof caused her no misstep as she shifted, the book in her arms curled up in one hand like it might make a decent ad-hoc weapon. It was instinctual and almost as swiftly discarded as her brain registered the voice as not unfriendly. 

"No," Robin replied with, the word low before a reluctant smile curved her mouth as she amended, "Not tonight, at least."

Her gaze flicked over the young man and dropped to his weapon as she rose from her crouch to something more sociable and less combative. She scuffed one sneaker against the shingles on the roof, her gaze frankly appraising for a long moment. "I was looking for somewhere to sleep. There's some sort of detection-thing on the walls and gates at least. What about you? Are you running away?"

Robin shifted the book, moving it from hand to hand absently as she examined the young man. Her posture remained wary but not combative which might have just been a by-product of her uncertainty. Her night vision wasn't superhuman but it wasn't bad and she finally took a step closer. "I'm Robin."

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"Riley." He gave her a little wave, sliding his foot closer to his bow, but his hands were still resting comfortably on his knees. "Naw. Supposed to be sleeping with the teachers," he said, cocking his head back towards the administration building, "but that's not really my bag. Bed's too soft." He rolled his neck, the muscles cracking, and stood up, kicking the bow up to rest casually in his hand in what looked like a well-practiced maneuver. "And as for running away, not really my bag either." Vivid, bloody images flashed behind his eyes of the consequences of running away from your community as he held the bow out for her inspection. "You like?" he asked with a faint tone of hopefulness creeping into his voice. "Repeating crossbow with augmented bolts. Made it myself. Once hip-shot a bear right over the heart, laid it out dead before it hit the ground."

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Some subtle tension went out of her shoulders at the comment on the bed and she nodded her agreement before she could catch herself. It was with equal interest that she watched both the movement and the weapon itself, watching with curiosity bright in her surprisingly light eyes. Her sneakers carried her over across the roof at the implicit invitation and although she didn't touch the weapon, her hands hovered over it like she was clearly holding herself back, "Made it yourself?"

Her voice warmed, smoothing out the uncertainty as she lowered her head to examine it. Robin was average in height, more or less even with Riley she noticed as he rose to his feet. "That's... impressive. Both the bow and the bear - although I can't say I've ever seen a bear up close."

Robin straightened then, her interest moving from the bow to the boy that held it, "Or a crossbow, but yes. I like it. It seems like it would be a hard thing to make, balance and moving parts and getting all of that right. Did it take a long time?"

 

 

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"You gotta choose your weapon carefully," he said in a tone that said he was speaking a simple, often-repeated truth. "Guns need a lot of tools to keep them working - longbows need space and you've gotta draw and fire in a hurry if you're surprised. Crossbow'll take care of you every time." He ran his hands over the bow, his long dark fingers tracing the outlines of the obviously much-loved machine. "This one was easy," he said with a ready smile. "I had a real workbench and everything." Flipping the safety on, he tentatively extended it for her to touch - the painted green-and-brown metal of the bow cool against her fingers. "Turning the crank here, I can wind up enough tension that I can put a bolt in something bulletproof. But that takes forever, right?" He snapped open a lever on the side of the machine and cocked it back and forth, producing a faint clank-clank noise from a grey rectangular box mounted to the top of the bow. "So that's when I switch to repeating fire. Every time I pull this back and forth, it drops another bolt in - and pulling the lever pulls the string." 

He shot Robin a curious look. "You really never seen a bear up close? Not even in the zoo?" 

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At the continued encouragement, Robin gave in to the temptation and let her fingers drop to slide along the metal of the weapon with sincere curiosity. Like bears, a crossbow was something she'd not seen in person let alone touched and she peered at it with interest, trying to wrap her mind around the way the thing worked. Being able to make weapons would be a handy skill. Heck, just simple tools could make her life infinitely easier. Robin jerked her hand back then at the clanking sound before she offered a smile.

"I'll take your word for it on proper weapon choice. I'm more used to wielding whatever I get my hands on in more of a 'crude blunt force trauma' sort of way," Robin admitted with a smile. She dropped back, hugging the book to her chest once more but this time the gesture was more absentminded than protective and gave a small shake of her head, "I don't think so. Maybe. I haven't been to the zoo since I was five. Maybe six?"

Her voice lilted upwards, turning the statement into a question as she tested the ages uncertainly before giving a small, almost uncomfortable shrug. "Small, though. So, are you not from Freedom City then? We don't see a lot of wildlife around here."

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"Naw, I'm from North Bay." He held the crossbow at rest for a moment, then began the careful process of strapping it to the leather harness he wore at his back over a bulky green sweater. "Never actually been further from here than the old Wharton line. I just grew up real differently than anyone else here." His eyes flicked to her, hard and penetrating for a moment - but the bolt of tension in the air passed like an arrowshot. He grinned again, feeling the relaxation of the moment. "So how about you, you super-strong?" he asked, hazarding a guess after her description of her fighting style. She certainly didn't have the look of the people he knew who fought things hand-to-hand. "Heard they had a girl here a couple years ago who could put her fist through a steel door if she wanted." 

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Surprise flickered across her features, her brow creasing as she tried to reconcile that background. Thankfully, she'd had a week now of people with super powers and their varied histories so she didn't reject that explanation out of hand. Robin still wasn't used to it, though, and so the emotions played across her features until she accepted that explanation with a nod and without further prying. 

"The Fens," she replied, her tone mild when tension briefly sharpened the air. "I'm from the Fens. Lived there my whole life."

Robin shifted then, resting her hip against the chimney that had previously been his backrest and gave a small shake of her head, "I... I don't know." Robin finally settled on, uncertainty shading her tone for the first time. She'd thought, after all, that she'd known herself and her skills but after the whole thing in the museum, she wasn't sure what to think, "I didn't think I have any powers but I have to go have some 'assessment exercises' now."

Teenage annoyance filtered into her tone at the words. The hands around her book flexed once before she forced them to relax. "Before I got the whole 'Hogwarts letter', I had been mostly chalking it up to training and practice. I don't really have another explanation for it so... I'm pretty sure I couldn't put my fist through a steel door. I am positive that it would hurt if I tried."

She forced her tone to lighten, deflecting away from more problematic lines of conversation. "Are you hungry? I have food."

They weren't supposed to keep food in their rooms but Robin had snuck extra into her backpack at dinner, scuttling it away. She didn't think it had been noticed. At least, she hoped it hadn't because she'd have felt awkward if pity had stopped the teachers from commenting on her minor theft.

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"Trade you?" Riley sat down to enjoy the company, resting his legs against one side of the roof. His movements were slow and precise, taking up the same position against the brick chimney that kept him out of the line of sight of most people below. While Robin dug into her backpack, Riley did the same, and offered her a sampler of chocolate granola bars. "Good thing I work out," he commented, unconsciously flexing his bicep as their hands momentarily touched. "Or I'd turn myself into a pig on these things." It didn't look like a likely fate for the muscular young man. He didn't know what a Hogwarts letter was - but he wasn't going to ask. He thought about mentioning the Fens, but had a pretty good idea they wouldn't have much to talk about. "Astronomy, huh? You gonna be a scientist?" he asked her. "My mom's a nuclear engineer. She's, uh, the plant director up at Raymond." He pointed towards North Bay, where Freedom City's small nuclear power plant remained. 

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Robin slid down to join him, her leather jacket scraping against the chimney audibly. Folding her legs up under her, tailor style, she settled the backpack in the crook of her legs, the book tucked carefully against one foot. She was used to keeping things close at hand so they didn't go sliding off of rooftops. Unconsciously, she tucked the book against the sole of one foot to block it from any sort of unintentional free fall and turned her attention into digging out her meager collection to divvy up. 

"They have so much food," Robin said, the words quiet as she offered a banana in trade for one of the granola bars. There were a few squished dinner rolls wrapped in napkins but the fruit wouldn't keep as long. The wrapping crinkled under her fingertips and she certainly noticed the solid arm that brushed hers but her gaze skittered quickly away, not so much frightened as off kilter. Robin was a healthy sixteen year old with a healthy interest in attractive people her own age. Unfortunately, she had no frame of reference for 'kids her own age not currently committing crime and needing to be punished'. It really limited her scale of appropriate responses.

She accepted the granola bar with a small smile, trying to find her balance in this whole new process of making friends. "Thanks. If what the older kids say about the gym is true, there's plenty of space to get a work out in. I'm looking forward to that part. I'm really hoping there's some sort of high-low bar set up. Maybe rings."

At the question, her gaze dropped to the book and she touched the spine, "I... probably not a scientist, no. I'm kind of playing catch up at the moment."

Robin paused, hesitating before sighed, "It's dumb," she told Riley as she went to open the wrapper of the granola bar. "I don't know the names of them."

With her free hand she gave a wave towards the stars, clearly trying to down play the statement. This mattered to Robin but she cloaked it, blunted it as she chose her words carefully, "And I've spent enough nights watching them change so I figured... Hey, got to start somewhere, right? It's either that or just make up all my own names and get funny looks when I'm all 'that one's called Peter'."

She picked the granola bar apart, forcing herself to do it slowly. "Do you want to be a scientist like your mom then?"

Edited by alderwitch

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"There's Polaris," said Riley automatically, pointing towards the North Star. "And over there's Sirius, and Canopus..." He trailed off, putting his hand back on his lap. "I only know them for navigation, which is not easy with this much glow around." He made a general gesture at the many lights on the Claremont campus, then at the half-obscured sky overhead. He took a few bites of the roll, tossing it back and forth in his hand. "Maybe. I'm not real good at sitting still. I'll probably do it just 'cause somebody has to." Turning his head, he shot Robin a speculative look. He'd figured out there was probably a reason she wasn't talking about her parents - she certainly wouldn't be the first orphan he'd ever met. So it was better not to bring up that subject, not unless she wanted to. So he fell silent, just enjoying the company and the strange noises of the city all around them. "You gotta roomate?" 

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"It's the light pollution," Robin agreed as she tipped her chin back up to follow the line that he pointed, the crown of her head against the rough brick of the chimney. Absently, she reached up to smooth her braids away from getting snagged on the brickwork as she talked, "No matter how late it gets, there's always some light somewhere that makes it hard to make out much. Every now and again, there will be a massive power outage and there's more to see but usually that's because something bad's going on in the city."

She smiled then, glancing back down at her granola bar. Robing paused to finish it up and when she'd swallowed, picked up the thread of conversation again. "But when the city's gone dark, I don't usually have time to enjoy the scenery. Too many people in the Fens who just see it as an opportunity to try and get away with crap."

There was clear scorn in her voice as she twisted to pull a bottle of water out of her backpack. It was just a plastic disposable bottle that had clearly been re-used and refilled many times. Shaking off the less pleasant topic of criminal antics, she addressed the final question, "I didn't for the first week. Just got one, actually. Which is cool. It's a big room and so far she's not bothered by my quirks. You?"

Edited by alderwitch

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"Did. Guy was a jackass. Gonna get a new one tomorrow," said Riley shortly, chewing his way through his bread methodically, as if trying to extract every ounce of nutrition. "Prolly that Matt guy, the one with all the dogs? His first roomie had allergies or somethin'" Riley smirked. "Give the guy credit, at least he didn't bitch about the dye bomb I left him. Alien bastard thinks he can talk crap around my back, like I don't have ears, either." He shot a look at Robin's way, judging her response to what he'd said, before he went on. "So. They got you in any of these developmental classes?" As they talked, he unhitched the hatchet at his belt and pulled out a small multitool, and with a small series of metallic scraping sounds began sharpening the former with the latter. "Damn stupid if you ask me. I spent my whole life around high-tech or super-tech stuff, hell, I make my own binary explosive arrows, and I need remedial English just because I never went to a damn regular high school."

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Robin took that in stride, giving Riley a thoughtful look at his short, sharp words on the subject. Her nose scrunched when he reached the end of the brief story, her expression sympathetic. It wasn't easy to figure out exactly what Riley had been through but if he was used to fighting bears and what all without leaving Freedom City, it probably wasn't any sort of normal life. After all, he was here now. 

"Sucks. I'm sorry," was her succinct response about the matter with his ex-roommate. "I guess just because people are going to be superheroes someday doesn't mean that they aren't a whole bag of jerkoffs now, apparently. There's this whole clique-thing that seems to be going on too. Screw him."

Her hand flipped up, the gesture rude and dismissive as she promptly lumped Riley's ex-roomie in the same category of waste of space that she'd mentally stuck Sofia in. Judgemental? A little. Some of the fight went out of her and she sighed, "Yeah, some. I haven't really been to school a whole lot in the last six years so I have a lot to catch up on. I've got some classes that from what I can tell are all remedial. I have therapy sessions stuffed in between like they're regular classes, but they're not. It's a lot of time that I'd rather be spending doing something else, so I get what you mean."

Robin ran her fingertips over the knuckles of her other hand, "But, I dunno. Hopefully there's some use to be gleaned out of it. I mean, there are things I'm not good at. Stuff I don't know. There may be something in these classes I can use so I'm giving it a chance. If its all worthless, I know where the door is, you know?"

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"Not a lotta demand for creative writing where I'm from." said Riley, still sharpening the hatchet. "I mean, people still do it, but it doesn't keep the lights on, you know?" He tossed the hatchet smoothly back and forth from hand to hand, then replaced it at his waist. "I guess we'll probably see each other in class. Everybody's gotta take superhero ethics and stuff." He smirked again. "That's gonna be fun. Wanna know a secret?" he asked, leaning close. He distinctly smelled of men's aftershave. "I don't actually have any powers, at all. Only reason I have the costume was for scavenging. At least that means I don't have to wear that blue and gold crap, man, those things, you can..." He was looking at Robin, but seemed to be looking at something else. "You can spot them for miles, even in the trees."  

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"I thought you were from Freedom City?" Robin asked, her brow creasing briefly. Interdimensional antics was a largely foreign concept to her and she had to briefly reevaluate her current theories of an underground bear-fight club or perhaps the supernatural fairy land monsters roaming the land at night. She still leaned in companionably. Under her leather jacket, her shoulder was muscular and solid without much padding beyond the old leather she wore. 

"Those things are awful," Robin said, scrunching her nose up in dismay. She had one and it wasn't the tight fit she objected to - it wasn't unlike her old gymnast costumes in fit. "Not to mention, who wants to go running around in their school uniform and risk bringing attention back to the school. I figure I'll just continue to let my clothes get messed up when I get shot. I've gotten pretty good at patching them. See?"

Robin shifted, flipping up her arm to demonstrate the very careful stitching that had pulled jagged ends of the leather back together. The battered jacket had more than its fair share of those little stitch marks in it but at least the leather was durable. Her fingertips plucked at a stray thread, pulling it out. "Though I bet you could take one and dye it something else if you could get your hands on it to do so. That might make them less 'here I am. Please shoot me now!'. Maybe. So do you get attitude about not having powers?"

The last question was almost an abrupt shift, her head tilting to the side. "There seems to be a whole lot of 'hey, look what I can do' that I just don't know how to participate in. Which is sort of what I'm getting used to. It's a good day if I can get through a conversation with a classmate. This is the longest conversation I've had in years."

That was not an exaggeration.

Edited by alderwitch

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"I get attitude about a lot of things," said Riley frankly. "But it's OK. These little...kids here, I don't care what they think. They're a bunch of pompous, spoiled jackasses who wouldn't know what to do in a real fight if it was biting them in the goddamned face." The words simmered with a teenage boy's angry bile, but they had the ring of truth, too. "Things are different here than where I'm from." Deciding he had to trust somebody, he went on, "I'm from a...a different Freedom City. Same place, most of the same people, different history." He looked out at the school, and Bayview, and thought of the stories he'd heard about the ruins of Claremont, den of one of the largest nests of Ferals in all of Freedom City. Woodsmen who came through there had a way of not coming back. He thought of the argument, no, the fight earlier, and looked at Robin. "You're real pretty. You have a boyfriend?" 

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Robin had glanced over, her gaze sharpening at the first, not inaccurate, statement. She generally agreed that most of the kids here wouldn't have known what to do in a real fight although to Robin, that was generally the way things ought to work. It was always a tragedy when childhoods were lost to war and really, that seemed to be the alternative. Opening her mouth to offer her thoughts and opinions, the last question took her by surprise. Whatever she'd been about to say turned into a harsh cough.

"Hah. No. Ah, thanks," Robin said, the words awkward enough that she winced. Clearing her throat once more, Robin's fingertips ran over the stitching in her jacket absently. "Dating, all of that, it hasn't really been part of my life - you know? I don't- I haven't-"

Robin's sighed, "I live on the streets. When people ask you out, it's not usually something you really want to take them up on as they generally are thinking more 'cash for services offered' than going to the movies."

She shifted then, picking up the trail of the conversation and hoping that hadn't been too painfully awkward. Robin knew that some people had put together what her life had likely been like before coming to Claremont but that was her first even tacit admission of it and she shifted back to more solid conversational ground, "That's got to be rough - I mean, it sounds like your Freedom at least involves more wildlife than ours but it must be hard to know the city and yet have it be completely different. Like a constant deja vu."

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Riley, not one given to poetry, fell silent as he tried to think of a good way to describe his home timeline that would impress this very pretty girl. It was hard. He was imagining what it would be like to kiss her, and lay her down on the roof, and - "I don't, uh, have any cash," he finally offered, a little lamely. He ran his head over his closely shaven head. "We don't really use money.  I guess I could borrow some from my other mom, but she's not really my mom." He looked speculatively over at Robin. "I think your jacket's really cool, by the way. A lot of people do that back home." With his eyes on her, he touched the stitched parts she'd put back together. "Everything here is different," he finally said, slowly taking his hand away. "Some of the people are the same, but almost everyone who's alive here..." He made a gesture out at the school, the town, the world. "is dead. Or worse. For a long time now." 

He suddenly seemed to flinch, as if he'd drawn too deeply from some inner reserve, and looked away. "...anyway, if you've never had a boyfriend, you want one?" he asked. 

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"Like in the abstract, do I want a boyfriend? Sure, but I wouldn't know what to do. Or how to act," Robin admitted, turning towards Riley with a smile that was bright in the shadows. She still had her shoulder companionably tucked against his and although the question seemed abrupt, Robin had inferred it to be more abstract than an actual suggestion. Because a life lived without anything other than the most casual contact with her own age had left her a bit out of practice with reading between the lines. Which might have been best as at least she was relaxed rather than turning stiff and awkward. She turned her wrist up under his examination of the leather. Beneath the fabric, her arm was firm and almost too lean - the bones of her wrist just a bit more pronounced than they should have been. "I'd probably screw it up in a week or less."

As Riley turned away, Robin nudged his shoulder then very lightly with her own. The flinch was something she recognized, at least and she didn't ask further questions about the died, or 'worse'. "People that say time heals all wounds are full of crap. It just becomes a different sort of pain. What about you? Are you dating someone?"

 

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Riley grinned, remembering the men in Raymond who'd been especially successful with the ladies - and swashbuckling heroes from flickering movies he'd watched on battered old televisions. "Do you want one?" he asked, putting his hand directly on hers. "'Cause if you are, I think you're really cute, and I really think I want to kiss your lips." He swallowed hard. "I'll catch you the best game, and...and I guess that doesn't mean anything here," he admitted, "but I'll do lots of other stuff for you. If you want," he added, a little abashedly. "I, uh, I know a lot of girls like regular boys better." Riley had never actually had a girlfriend, not really - not that he was going to admit that now! 

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Robin's gaze dropped to the hand on hers, her expression uncertain as the conversation veered without warning. The relaxation that had softened her muscles dropped away as adrenaline spiked, leaving her tightly wound but without an outlet. There was no fight here, nor anything objectively to flee from. Those, Robin at least would have known what to do with. This whole... teenage hormonal response, however, was new and uncharted territory that left her feeling off balance and unsure. Robin wasn't sure she liked the sensation.

"I'm really... not sure that you'd actually want that?" Robin said, which was neither refusal nor agreement. She didn't jerk her hand away, merely frowning at it like she wasn't sure what to make of it. Kissing always looked like it would be fun and Riley certainly was attractive. That part she could manage, sure. The rest of it was murky waters but roof top making out she could probably manage. "I mean, for the rules of 'this world', I am by no means a catch. Even outside of this weird school."

She finally shifted, touching the back of his hand with her free one, her fingertips light and almost skittish before she pulled back, "But, seriously, don't sell yourself short. You're handsome and, hey, you don't fall off of rooftops." Robin offered him a small smile. "I like you just fine."

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"Oh, I want that," said Riley with a cocky smile. "And I want this, too." The same part of Riley that kept him alive while climbing high tree branches and fighting dangerous monsters reminded him that he actually had very little idea what 'this' was - just the occasional glimpse of romance in pre-Millennium movies and lonely observations of happy couples in the lost world he'd left behind. But then he realized that didn't matter - what mattered was that he had a girlfriend, she was cute, and her lips were just calling out for him to lean over and kiss her on them. "I think you're pretty cool." And so he did kiss her, planting a long, slow kiss on her lips, reaching up to run his fingers through her thick dark hair. She tasted like...she tasted like...his first kiss. And it was great. 

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In uncertainty, they were at least well matched. Robin watched somewhat warily although she was appreciative that Riley telegraphed his intentions. Others had tried to kiss Robin before. The last one, she'd broken the nose of without a single regret. Riley, however, had asked about her interest and while she wasn't sure that this was a good idea, or if she even really understood what the tenants of this was beyond a tacit agreement to maybe make out intermittently, Riley was handsome. Seated by his side in the moonlight was the first time Robin had felt for the first time that maybe she might not be entirely and utterly out of her element at this wacked out school. Maybe she could be just a little less alone. 

So, for the first time, Robin left her hands in her lap and let a boy cross into her personal space. Uncertainly, she tipped her head up and then to the side - not entirely certain how one went about all of it until warm lips closed over her own. Well, that part was certainly more than nice. After hesitating, Robin's hand came up at seemed like she ought do something with them, before lightly landing on Riley's ribs with just the tips of her fingers. Hesitation gave way to interest and when she pulled back it was clearly to catch her breath.

"Huh," was Robin's first comment when it ended. Not the most scintillating of wit but her cheeks were flushed and her eyes had gone dark, the pupils blown wide until the iris was just the thinnest of grey rings in the moonlight. She offered an uncertain smile, "Uhm. S'okay?"

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