|Goodnight Sweet Princess
Author: Marla Fair PM
A tale from the 1970's Titans 'glory' years when Nightwing and Starfire were together and all was right in the DC world well, almost. Starfire's nightmares are coming true, placing all of the Titans in danger especially her love. Who's to blame?Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Adventure - Chapters: 4 - Words: 11,649 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 1 - Published: 03-23-07 - Status: Complete - id: 3455526
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter One - GOODNIGHT, SWEET PRINCESS
Men while in their beds do oft dream things true
A chilling rain pelted the timeworn path her booted feet trod. Withered leaves and rotting papers skipped across the broken bricks, playing a sort of mad hopscotch before finally coming to rest in the muddy gully that separated the walkway from the rest of the moonlit field . A steel-grey sky, water-colored blue and rose betrayed the dawn. Soaked to the soul, the woman shivered. A child of the light, she distrusted this dark, depressing place, and wondered once again why her lover had chosen it for their rendezvous.
Kicking through knee-high grass and turning a corner, she suddenly understood. Inexorably drawn, she moved forward with goddess-grace, long copper hair brushing the soft fabric of the raincoat she had hastily tossed about her bare shoulders to mask her identity. On the side of an old abandoned wagon was a poster. On the poster, a trio of acrobats winged through a wet-washed world, pale imitations of what once was. Two adults. One child. A finely tapered arm, adorned with a pale violet bracelet, reached out. Golden fingers caressed the image of the small boy, dark-haired, smiling. So innocent and full of joy. So unaware that his youth would soon be sacrificed upon the altar of greed, and that he was soon to be catapulted not into space, but into despair. As her fingers touched the cracked and faded paper, releasing colored chips that littered the ground like confetti, a muffled cry kissed her ears, compelling her turn back the way she had come.
The rain-soaked earth yielded grey ghosts of fog, but no answer. Moving forward, she returned to the path, but before she was able to call out again, there was another cry; boisterous this time, almost delighted. Remarkably wide emerald-green eyes narrowed as she spied a large brilliantly arrayed tent blocking her way. It had not been there moments before.
"X'Hal," she breathed, unnerved. What was going on?
As she drew near the colorful structure, the wind whistling about her, she began to discern voices. Men's. Women's. Children's…. Martial music was carried by the breeze along with hushed whispers, followed by applause. Something struck her face, and when she pulled it away, she realized it was a playbill, brightly colored; it's ink wet like fresh paint. Puzzled, she glanced about, startled to find that the day had tempered. Sunlight fell in broad beams through patchwork clouds, and the wind, which had been hostile and ice-cold, felt warm where it struck her exposed flesh. Even the bricks beneath her feet had been healed, forming a solid walkway that led to a doorway marked 'Entrance'. Gathering her coat about her shoulders, she shivered. Despite the growing heat, her heart was troubled. Was Dick here? In the tent? Was this the circus he had been a part of? Were they touring once again? Perhaps they had called him in to solve
Outside the canvas flap, which was closed tight, she hesitated… unexpectedly frightened.
Savagely shaking her head so that her ankle-length tresses fell about her like living things, Princess Koriand'r, warrior born, growled deep in her throat. What was wrong with her? This was so unlike her. Since when had she been afraid of shadows? Of unseen things? With characteristic impatience, she grasped the heavy canvas curtain and thrust it aside, stepping unexpectedly into a world of light and life.
Before her enormous eyes a kaleidoscope of color exploded. Sounds assaulted her. Voices screamed with delight. Little children cried out in fear, but begged for more; all part of the expected hush and hurrah of an audience brought to its feet by the extraordinary. At the same time, the scent of a certain earth delicacy Garfield had introduced her to assaulted her extra-sensitive nose. What had he called it? 'Pop' corn? And something else? Oh yes, the candy that had caused the green-skinned youth to laugh until he became a small green hyena the first time he had watched her try to eat it. Candy from cloth, wasn't it? Cotton candy?
She shifted back into the shadows to allow several performers in garish costumes to pass by her as they lifted the canvas door and let it flap like a bat's wing behind them. Outside the sun was now blazing, and the field beyond the tent was littered with circus-goers. Curious, she turned follow them, but was stopped short when the flap lifted again, and a tall well-built man entered, blocking out the now brilliant sunlight. Squinting against its intensity, she was startled to find a familiar face. Handsome, regal as her father but cold as the Warlord's of Okarra, Bruce Wayne passed her by as though she were simply another roustabout. At his side, a beautiful if inarticulate women hung off of his well-tailored arm like a jewel, gazing at him lustily, chattering about nothing. But his eyes were fixed on the top of the tent, a slight frown creasing an otherwise perfect forehead. She opened her lips to challenge him, only to fall silent when she realized what he had been staring at. the Aerialists. They were in preparation, their act about to begin; each one swinging with ease from pole to pole, their bright green and red costumes flashing like the tropical birds of her home planet against a falsely blackened sky.
Unable to control her movements, Koriand'r stepped into the light, her bright eyes riveted to the slight male form that waited casually forty feet above her head for the trapeze bar to return to him. Almost as if he had sensed her interest, he turned and glanced toward the ground.
"Dick…" she began. But it wasn't Dick. The man might have been his brother…. Or his father. She drew a quick breath and spun to glance at Bruce Wayne where he sat in the bleachers not far from her. His dark gaze was the same: driven, intense, full of purpose. Full of pain. But something was different about the pain.
It was unrelenting.
"How?" A moment later all questions lay frozen on her tawny lips as a slender boy appeared from out of the folds of his father's cloak. The costume was wrong, but the colors were those he had worn when she first met him. Even without them, she would have known him anywhere. As she watched, he spun out into the air to the delight of the audience, grasping the arms of his loving, raven-haired mother, who then carried him to the opposite platform across the crowded tent. John and Mary Grayson. The people in the photograph on their dresser in the tower. Dick's parents.
This must be the night they were to die.
She couldn't imagine how she had come to be here or why. She only knew she had to save them. As the young boy turned, ready to perform his own solo, death-defying somersault, Koriand'r shed the ordinary raincoat that masked her burnished lavender costume. And as the power of the stars began to course through her veins, glinting off the alien metal and revealing her curvaceous form, she readied leave the shadows; intention catching the couple before their fragile bodies could strike the cruel unyielding ground. Before bone could shatter and blood spray, tainting the white skin of their only child who had just descended to the earth to watch them complete their final swing.
But then she hesitated. If she saved them, what would become of Dick? Would fate still join him to the Batman in some other way? Would he still become a Titan? Would she ever meet him? Glancing at the handsome man in the bleachers who stood, mouth open, skin as white as paste, she wondered – who would there be to save his soul? Would there be another to act as buffer between the righteous vow he had made the night his own parents were slain, and the madness that sought thereafter to consume him? Even as the boy before her screamed and the two people who meant the world to him began to plummet towards the tent floor, she hesitated. What would become of her? Who would find her when she fled the Gordanian ship and hurtled to Earth, lost and alone? Who would teach her English, hold her tight and fill the emptiness in her own soul?
A loud thud and the sound of a thousand voices stilled made her look up. Too late. Too late. John and Mary Grayson were dead or dying, and their son, eyes deep as black holes, was rounding on her, his familiar but high-pitched voice screaming, "How could you do this! What were you thinking of! How could you let them die!" He moved like lightning from the center of the tent until he stood before her, anger fueling
his child's strength so the blows that rained upon her soft flesh actually smarted, like the sting of an enraged insect.
"I hate you! I HATE you!! I HATE YOU!"
Koriand'r sucked air and sat up in bed, her alien heart pounding, her long supple body trembling. Not since her father had handed her over to the Okarrans in exchange for a forced peace between their warring planets had she felt so terrified, so…helpless.
Drawing a breath and holding it she glanced quickly to her side and was relieved to find Dick's muscular form lying next to her. They were in their shared room in the TitansTower. He was just beginning to stir; aware of something amiss, but still slightly groggy. Years as the Batman's partner had taught him to wake at the slightest noise, prepared for the worst. If she didn't speak, he would be up and out of the bed, and that was not what she needed at this moment.
"Kory," he blinked and hesitated, his white hand ready to throw the dark coverlet aside. "What's wrong?"
She held his eyes, tears evident in her own. A slim golden hand crept out tenuously to move a stray lock of jet-black hair back into place. He was so beautiful. She started to speak, but found she couldn't as his younger self's scream echoed in her ears.
Madder-red locks shook.. She closed her wide green eyes for a second, and releasing a soft sigh managed to whisper. "It was a dream…just a dream."
"You look terrible."
That roused her. She cuffed him on the side of his head, irritated. "Thank you very much!" Then when she saw the concern in his deep blue eyes, and understood the gesture, her lip trembled and she repeated, "Thank you."
Dick Grayson shifted in the bed, pulling her close. He placed his hand on top of hers and held it there. "What can I do?"
She turned, fitting her back into the curve of his arm and chest, and then pulled his other arm over her ample breasts. With the strength born of a warrior who was not accustomed to being afraid, she drew him close whispering savagely, "Hold me. Hold me tightly."
Dick complied, puzzled, but willing. And he didn't even complain when the power she exerted made the muscles in his upper arm scream in protest.
"Kory…." He tried again.
"Shh," she whispered, leaning her head against his shoulder, "Shh. Just hold me."
And even more quietly, just above a whisper, as though she were afraid to let anyone, even her lover hear, she added, "And don't ever let me go."
Over the next few days, as the Titans moved through their normal routine of testing, practicing and polishing their various combat skills, Koriand'r remained curiously silent and withdrawn. Dark circles rimmed her eyes revealing lack of sleep and as Donna Troy, her friend and sometimes roommate, noted as she watched her friend sitting uncharacteristically alone, those eyes never wavered from the form of their leader, her lover, now attired as his alter-ego, Nightwing, the former partner of the famous (or was it infamous) Batman. She had not entered in to their war-games with her accustomed energy or zeal, saying little but revealing much. Donna had also noticed that the alien spent more time protecting Robin than she did honing her own abilities. As the black-haired beauty finished tying a knot in her golden lasso, leaving her teammate, Gar Logan, the Changeling, trussed on the ground, she brushed off her hands and headed to her friend's side.
"Ah, come on, Beautiful," the Changeling called, "You got me where you want me. The least you can do is take advantage of the situation. Use me. Use me."
Donna Troy shook her head. "Gar, why don't you try turning into a clay pigeon and I'll be happy to use you for target practice. You figure out how to get loose. You never know, you might have to fight Wonder Woman some day."
As she started to move away the small green-skinned teenager began to shift shapes, alternating between a dozen different animal forms, each one of which found itself held fast by her magic lasso. "Haven't you heard?" he cried, shifting ever faster and with less hope of escape, "Been there. She couldn't resist my natural charm. Talk about 'bondage'."
Donna Troy's blue eyes rolled and she glanced back at the now six foot long apple-green python that wriggled in the golden lasso's coils, "Gar…"
"Yeah, Wonder Doll?"
Due to the lasso's magic effects, Gar Logan fell silent, his ready smile gone. Next to him his friend Victor Stone snorted, "I warned ya, Greeny. Don't cross that one."
Donna drew alongside her friend and sat stretching tired limbs in the warm sunshine. For a moment she remained silent, watching Nightwing easily elude Cyborg's powerful mock-attack. She smiled as her longtime friend flipped in the air, rotating several times before making a perfect landing ten feet away from the cyborg. "Beautiful," she whispered. "Poetry in motion. If he wasn't spoken for…" With a grin she turned
to Koriand'r, only to be startled by her friend's pale skin and trembling form.
"Kory, are you sick?"
The red-haired alien shook her head.
"Then what's wrong? You haven't been yourself. Even Dick" She paused when Kory's eyes narrowed as though she had been struck. "What is wrong?"
Kory swallowed. "Nothing…I haven't been sleeping, that's all," she admitted quietly.
Donna glanced at Dick where he stood wiping sweat from his arms and face. He had mentioned Kory's restlessness. Only the night before he had shared with her his growing concern. Koriand'r seemed withdraw. Several times over the last week he had awakened to find the golden beauty watching him pensively, tears in her large emerald eyes. He was worried.
Donna, as usual, had played cheerleader, mentioning her own night-time penchant for playing with Terry's curly red beard and his habit of braiding her hair. But the tears bothered her. They simply were not Kory, and now, looking more closely, she noticed dark circles beneath the other woman's expressive green eyes, and worry lines marring her smooth forehead.
The statuesque alien looked chagrined.
Looking down at her hands, Koriand'r said quietly, "I am afraid to."
"Afraid, whatever for? Are you"
Unexpectedly, a great hairy green paw wrapped itself about the Amazon, a giant Kodiak bear the color of pea soup hauling her back into the middle of the Lair's expansive lawn. "Thought I couldn't do it, eh? Ego to big to believe the green kid had it in him? Magic-schmagic," he taunted.
Donna squirmed in his embrace, shifting so her foot came down with superhuman strength on his wrinkled paw, at the same time jamming her left elbow into his grizzly hide. Gar Logan 'oomphed' and let her go. As he sat on the ground holding his now-human stomach, Donna nodded knowingly at Nightwing who offered her the golden lasso.
"Nightwing let you go," she said matter-of-factly, and taking the lasso she moved toward the door to the Tower, glancing back at Koriand'r who only shook her head and mouthed the word, "Later."
Donna returned the gesture, vowing not to let the matter go.
On the ground Gar Logan had shifted to one knee and called after her, "Yeah, he let me go! But I forced him to do it! I have talents you haven't even begun to dream of."
Koriand'r offered him a hand as she moved past him. "Gar, will you not ever learn?"
He sniffed. "Seeing as they don't let green kids in school, I guess not."
That night Koriand'r sat quietly beside the bed, watching Dick Grayson sleep. She had deliberately massaged his aching muscles and kissed his soft skin, sending him off to slumber. For herself, she knew she must not sleep, but must find a way to master this fear that was so much not a part of her. She had faced the warlords of Okarra, fought and defeated her mad sister and battled such monsters as Trigon the Terrible and Brother Blood. What power had one little dream to terrify her so? Searching the Titans vast database, she had found a few articles relating to the subject and sat now with the hard copies clenched in her hands. Opinions varied, but most agreed that dreams were often an expression of subconscious desires and fears. Was she afraid Dick would cease to love her if she failed him? Was that it, or was there more? In a strange way, she felt these misgivings were not her own. But then, she and Dick had talked about fear, about their shared loss of home and parents and, in her case, siblings. Dick had often talked about his own concern that he would let his guardian down. The papers said such things could influence your dreams, conjuring images both sweet and sour. That had to be it.
Perhaps she was simply becoming too human.
Opening the window to their suite, she took off into the air, feeling the exhilaration of flight, letting the pure freedom of it sweep away all cares and worries as she exulted in her natural born ability. Sometimes Earth, with all of its curious customs and qualifications, weighed her down. Sometimes, like now, she longed for the simplicity of wild Tamaran with its lack of convention and honest abandon. But then, she would think of her lover, and the brilliance of that vision paled next to his clear blue eyes and perfect lips. Now, at this moment, he was her life.
That was all that mattered.
Quietly returning to the room, she landed and crept into the bed, sliding between the sheets so that her unclothed form rested next to her lover's. He sighed and rolled over to hold her tight.
"You okay?" he whispered, planting a kiss between her shoulder-blades.
"I am now."
Hours later she awoke. Dick was gone. His absence had frightened her out of the first deep sleep she had had in a week. Had she missed the Titans call? Was there some danger - a new foe or an old one come back to haunt them?
Drawing Dick's robe about her golden flesh, she crossed to the open door to listen, hearing nothing but the usual sounds of the Titan's Tower at night. From Gar's deep sighs of contentment to Vic's soft snore, from the multiple beeps and whistles that confirmed the security system was in place and working, to the hum of the computers that cycled on and off, never sleeping, ever alert; ever ready to wake them when there was a need for their services; everything seemed in order. Puzzled, she dressed quickly and leapt into the air, making a quick survey of the building.
Dick…or Nightwing, was no where to be found.
\Joey Wilson, keeping the night watch, lowered his acoustic guitar and turned from the Monitor Board when he heard her light footfall behind him. He was a mute, but his large expressive eyes showed concern even before his quick hands spelled out the words.
"Is something wrong?"
Kory smiled. "Nothing I can't handle."
Kory laughed. "That's not the problem tonight, Joe."
He held her eyes, but understood her need to find her own path. "Let me know if I can help," he signed.
She laid a hand on his shoulder and squeezed. "Always."
Returning to their room, she felt drawn to the open window and the vast world beyond. Dawn was approaching. A rosy glow lit the black horizon, transforming it into the deepest of purples. And within the far-off harbor, at the very edge of her enhanced vision, a single boat docked, its operator moving with unimagined swiftness to disappear into the shadows that masked the edge of the waking city.
By X'Hal, what did he think he was doing? Obviously he hadn't told Joey anything or the other man would have mentioned it. Dropping her borrowed robe, she donned her Starfire costume and set out into the awakening sky, flying fast and free, hoping to make landfall before Dick got too far inland for her to find easily. Shortly, her booted feet hit the docking platform, and wide alien eyes without pupils scanned the immediate area.
As she feared, there was no sign of her teammate. Glancing behind, she didn't see the Titans boat either, but then, perhaps he had taken an unmarked craft in case he was being followed.
It had to be a case. Sometime during the night, when she slept like the dead after so many days of deprivation, he must have been called – perhaps by the Batman. That would explain why he hadn't awakened her. She and Bruce did not get along. Oil and water. Day and night. Fire and ice. She loved Dick Grayson, but his guardian? He would have left a bad taste in a Skaar's mouth. Chewing her lip, she tried to decide what action to take as shafts of light broke through dark clouds, heralding the new day.
An unexpected sound, to the left and ahead three or four hundred yards drew her attention. Someone was screaming. A child cried. Faster than lightning, Princess Koriand'r took to the sky, the power of several suns running hot in her veins. She thought she heard Dick's voice, and then the child screamed again, making her heart pound and her blood burn.
Coming upon a dingy cluttered alley she witnessed the aftermath of a crime. A shadowy figure loomed over the form of a woman who lay unconscious. Beside her a small child wailed, staring wide-eyed at the perpetrator who reached out towards her, his black garment flapping in the chill breeze of morning. Koriand'r landed with starbolts blazing. Scarlet fire tore into the man, propelling him across the alley where he crash-landed against the rusting hulk of a dumpster that hugged the side of an equally abandoned tenement building. Kory immediately took the small child into her arms and cooed reassurances, noting with thanks that the woman on the ground was moaning and not dead.
"Hush, little one. Your mother is alive." The girl's dirty tear-streaked face turned towards her in horror, as though she were an ogre. Terrified, the child tried to wrench free of her grasp. "Little one, what is it?"
"Stay away from me! You're bad! You're bad! You hurt him!" Sobs wracked her tiny frame as she sniffled into Kory's bare shoulder. "Why? Why did you hurt him?"
Koriand'r frowned, wrinkles forming beside her wide green eyes. "Hurt who?"
"The man who was trying to help us. Someone hurt my Mommy. They ran away and then he came. He was trying to help and you…. You…hurt…him !" The child dissolved into tears as Koriand'r realized with horror that she had misread the situation. The man she had blasted had been rendering assistance. Suddenly her heart sank to her toes and with trepidation she turned around.
Disguised in a black coat several sizes to large, Nightwing hung bleeding, impaled by a long sharp spike of iron that had pulled free from the dumpster's side.
He was quite dead.
Koriand'r's scream brought Joe Wilson to his feet even as Dick Grayson awoke to find her sitting rigid in the chair beside the bed, papers scattered all about her on the floor. Her eyes were wild and her hands clenched in horror. Rolling out of the bed, he moved toward her, concern etched in his handsome features.
"Kory… Kory, what's wrong? What can I"
Eyes wide but unseeing Koriand'r woke with a start, releasing the pent-up energy that had flown through her veins in response to the adrenaline rush of seeing her lover slain.
Unfortunately, as in her dream, her lover was in the way.
Dick Grayson flew across the room, his body engulfed in star-fire. By the time Joe Wilson arrived in the room Dick and Kory had shared for several months now, Dick's skin was white as paste and his heart had stopped.
Catatonic, Koriand'r believed it to be a dream.