From Romanov 16 to everyone who has read this story.
Thank you. From the bottom of my heart thank you for your time and support. This was my second story on fanfiction...and I'm so happy you all enjoyed it. P.s I combined two chapter which shorten the story, sorry any confusion. You'll have to review without your accounts, as guests, sorry again.
"A pity beyond all telling is hidden in the heart of love" -Willam Butler Yeats
With aged (but nevertheless steady) fingers, Alfred Pennyworth pushed the hands of Wayne Manner's resident Grandfather Clock to the condemning numbers that had lead to it's creation, so many long unhealed years ago. 10:47 -the time the blood and bodies of Thomas and Martha Wayne had christened Park Row into Crime Ally. With a shuddering gasp, followed shortly by a wishful sigh, the clock sank into the before hiding itself away into a slot, revealing a gloomy descent into the dark abode of his young masters.
Grasping the cold railing (an addition Master Bruce had only agreed too once their youngest member -almost inevitable, the old gentlemen sadly lamented- had joined them in their...nightly enterprises), he went down nimbly, a tray of hot soup, cookies, and sandwiches well balanced in hand with long practice skill and a flare of -he dare think it- grace. Not quite at the level of young Master Dick, of course, but enough to properly conduct his meager tasks to a satisfactory level of excellence.
He had to achieve a certain level of excellence...the young Masters deserved nothing less, having lost so much...and then willing given up so much more.
The few steps near the bottom were illuminated in shades of silver-blue from the technological monstrosity generously called a Super Computer, and the relentless, missile like tap-tap-tap of the keyboard informed him the Master Bruce had once more chained himself to its cold embrace. Stepping willingly into the main hub of their base of operations, Alfred saw that his assumptions were correct, and his eldest ward was once more bent forward in his seat, still in uniform though his cowl was down, hands outreached as they compiled in their orders while Master Bruce's eyes remained locked on the sad, Ophelia worthy scene that remained unchanging upon the monitor.
Alfred had long prided himself on his stiff upper lip -taught to him by a mother who had endured the Blitz, and a father who had liberated Bergen-Belsen. But even he had to admitted it had its limits. And the image of a young girl slumped in lifeless mourning beneath a flowering tree of her home world, her expression lost in the pain he had seen up close and personal all too often...well, only the hardest of hearts would be unmoved. His certain was -and though he hadn't said it in so many words, Master Bruce's was as well. Master Dick's young heart ached with the rawness only a young person could feel, with a similar pain.
"There has been no improvement, I take it?" he asked mournfully, already knowing the answer. Two weeks ago, his wards had come home -the youngest in a fit of misery- explaining the tragedy that had befallen the young lady whose courage it was that Alfred had to thank, for the return of the Manner's residences, and how her teammates' attempts to comfort her had resulted in nothing, so great was her heartache. Eyes vacant, half trembling at the memory, Master Dick had softly told of how the girl had fled into the Watchtower's garden on foot, falling to the ground before what was evidently her namesake tree, before losing herself in a frenzy of crazed grieving.
Apparently the girl had torn her hair from her skull, ripped ribbons of skin from her arms and legs, and smeared her face with the dirt to show her mourning, which was soon marked partly clean by the endless stream of tears and mucus that flowed over her face, down her chin.
Her howls and self inflicted mortifications had reached such alarming levels that it soon became neassary for Master Kaldur and Master Superboy to hold her (they were the only ones allowed to touch her who could hold her, while Master Wallace and Master Dick looked on helplessly) until Master J'onn recovered enough of his strength to once more render the young lady unconscious...though according to the pained account of Master Dick, not even that had succeeded in giving the poor creature relief from her suffering -given that even in her sleep, the child had still sobbed, the tears leaking out like Rachel for her children, who were no more, the broken fragments of a utterly shattered heart...that had apparently loved both well, wisely, but far to deeply.
Since those first...memorable days, the girl had fallen quiet, retreating into her inmost self, still curled beneath the tree, unresponsive to any attempt to talk with her, her brokenness evident in her silence.
Master Bruce sighed deeply, one hand reaching up to rub his eyes. "No, there hasn't..."
Yes, he'd thought so. From a distant, Alfred had tried to do his small share, sending with Master Dick (all four boys had taken shifts at the girl's side, hoping to prevent her from taking any...haste action against herself) up on his watch watch with tea and treats in the vain hope to help.
Alas, like all the rest, his microscopic effort failed.
For a moment, there was nothing more to say...then the butler breathed a soft breath of sorrow, and set the tray down on a cart he'd prudently station in a place where his eldest ward would have no excuse not to eat it.
"Has...has everything been done try to stir something in her, sir?" the Englishman asked, looking upon the screen with well remembered sadness. Currently, Master Wallace was trying to coax the young lady into some semblance of civilized conversation...and failing. Suddenly he felt the years piled on top of himself, recalling the days he had spent in the speedster's position.
From the darkness of the Batcave the butler had watch one boy after another (save for Superboy) attempt the same -Master Wallace trying with humor, Kaldur with philosophy, and Robin with a incomplete sympathy that his secret forbade him from reveling fully...a situation that "ate at him" as was the common saying.
"Everything except what Robin wants to try," was Master Bruce's response; again what Alfred had expected.
The butler raised an eyebrow. "Would it really be such a dreadful thing, Master Bruce? For a compassionate young man like Master Dick, wishing to share a common suffering is natural. And it might be helpful."
Master Bruce firmly shook his head, gaze steely. "It's too risky Alfred," the younger man insisted. "I'm sorry for her too...God knows I know what she's feeling...but that not a good enough of a reason for Robin to risk his identity."
"Master Bruce, he does not wish to tell the girl his identity," the Englishman countered. "Master Dick only wishes to be allowed to empathizes with the girl fully. That's hardly a revelation of his identity."
"Pull one tread, and the whole thing could unravel-" Bruce answered, unmovable. "No. I can't allow Dick's emotions to get the better of his reason."
Alfred cleared his throat at that. "Well...it might be a tad late on that account, Master Bruce..." here the Englishman paused, trying to put this delicately. "Surely you've noticed that the young Master -that all the boys, but especially him- has become quite...attached to the young lady?"
The tapping slowed slightly. Bruce nodded once, acknowledging it. "Yes, Dick has always formed attachments easily. It's his nature, and after what they went through together, it's natural."
Alfred held back an exasperated huff. "Sir, I am talking about emotions that go deeper than mere attachments. For such a brief time together, he is remarkably in-tuned with her...to the point where her anguish and misery is very nearly his own-"
Bruce turned his head to him, partly, eyes shining with incredulity. "Alfred, you're making it sound like he's in love with her."
With that said, the billionaire turned back to computer, the tap-tap never halting. Alfred spoke slowly now. "With all due respect I think he is...sir."
The typing stopped. And the chair soon swirled to face him, face drawn in ready protest. And in a frightfully quiet voice Bruce replied,"Alfred...you can't be serious. He's barely thirteen for Christ's sake!"
"And yet Juliet, the most renowned of lovers, was only thirteen herself," Alfred mused aloud. Bruce snorted now, eyes cynical and disbelieving. "Alfred come on-" he started.
But the butler was already playing his trump card. "And you were thirteen years of age yourself, sir," he reminded him, "when you first made the acquaintance of one Selina Kyle."
Bruce stiffened, eyes flashing with both anger and memories of a young girl one year older than himself, with wild dark curls, a scrunched up nose, too-wise green eyes, and mischief making ways that had teased him relentlessly and without end...and Alfred knew that his aim had been true, and the mark had hit home.
"That is completely unrelated to the subject at hand Alfred," Bruce said lowly, eyes glowering. Alfred sighed -yes the mark had hit true, but whether or not the younger man would admit that was a different matter altogether.
"Of course sir, far be it for me to suggest that this particular acquaintance had any major impact whatsoever on your life," he deadpannedly retorted. "Or how you love. Heaven forbid it."
His eldest ward breathed in, and then exhaled deeply. "...What are you trying to say Alfred?"
Well that was an improvement. "What I am saying, sir, is that both you and Master Dick were very mature with your emotions at a much earlier age than most boys, though how you handle them is of course very different," he added sardonically. Master Bruce glared, but listened. So Alfred continued more softly. "What I saw in you then is what I see in him now...it's not unlike his infatuation with young Miss Gordon-"
"Barbara Gordon can't brake Dick's neck with her thumb and forefinger if she loses her temper-"
"-save that at the moment, this young lady seems to have responded more positively to his attention. It's a young love, a child's love...its likely he doesn't even recognize it for what it is- but its a love nevertheless -and whether it will grow as yours and Miss Kyle's did -and whether it will burn likewise- is for nature to decide. He is growing up...you can not protect him from it sir." Alfred finished with a note of finality.
And as with all things out of his control, Bruce had a hard time accepting it...but what Alfred didn't expect was the note of desperation and sorrow that entered his gaze.
"Alfred...I really hope your wrong. For Dick's sake I really hope your wrong."
Unnerved, the butler dared to asked. "Why sir? It's natural...what is so tragic about it?"
Bruce close his eyes. "Because there's a good chance this girl isn't going to make it Alfred. There's a good chance this grief is going to kill her."
The Englishman stared, his cool momentarily lost. "Sir, now is hardly the time for jokes-"
"It's no joke Alfred."
"But...how?" the butler demanded, mind racing. "Surely your not suggesting she's lost the will to live? Has she stopped eating?"
Bruce shook his head. "No old friend, she eats what is put in front of her...but her body refuses to take nurturance from it. Green Lantern saids that this isn't unheard of for Tamaraneans...if they face a lost like Manhunter saids she has...their subconscious longs to be with their loved ones so much it wills their bodies to shut down...if anything, she's willing herself to die."
Alfred's mouth moved without sound for a moment. "Do the boys know, sir?" he said finally.
Alfred was about to tell him preciously what he thought of that...when footsteps down the stairs halted his speech. Soon enough Master Dick appeared at the bottom of the stairs, in full uniform save the mask, which he held in his hand.
"It's my shift to stay with Star," he said seriously, attaching the mask, becoming Robin. "Could you power up the zeta tube?"
Bruce nodded without a word and did so. His son nodded, and turned to leave.
"Master Dick, please," Alfred suddenly burst out, causing the boy to halt with a start at the unexpected noise. His brow furrowed in immediate concern. "You okay Alfred?"
Gathering himself, the butler nod, "Of course sir, I was merely worried I wouldn't catch you before you departed," the Englishman said smoothly. Dick's face immediately became relived, his shoulder' relaxing. "Good...last thing I need now is another friend down for the count. What'da need?"
"Nothing for myself sir...but here," the butler grabbed a handful of cookies, wrapping them in a napkin before handing them out. "I know we've tried this before, but surely it couldn't do harm to try again."
A smile tugged at Robin's lips and he moved to take it. "Thanks Agent A."
He turn to go. But Bruce stood. "Robin."
Again the boy stopped, and looked to find his guardian's gaze soften to rock hard instead of steel hard. "If you believe it will help her... share. But only that. Nothing more."
For a moment, the boy just stared. Then he grinned up at his father, thankful.
A short while later, there was a flash, and their boy was gone.
"...I don't know man," Wally confessed in a quiet despair, as the speedster meet him outside the garden, disheartened by his fail efforts. "Its like everything that was in her isn't there anymore...she's lifeless...it's awful." he added in a whisper.
Robin felt his jaw twitch, and his cape press tighter against his adam's apple as he swallowed. Hard. Lifeless was right...for the pass two weeks Starfire could've passed for a corpse, motionless and pale and empty in the eyes. If it wasn't for the tears that still flowed, she could have been a statue representing devastation. Nevertheless he squared his shoulders, and leveled his gaze.
"I know dude...but we got to keep trying," he told his pal, trying to believe it himself. "It's up to her whether she wants to keep living or not...but we got to keep reminding her that its still worth living..." pausing, he ran a hand through his hair. "That there still good things in it...even without her family."
But even as he said it, the youngest boy knew in his heart that this was a tall order to fill. Maybe impossible. It had seem like that...for him.
Wally's hand was on his shoulder now, tightening once, his expression soft. "Good luck bro-" he wished him genuinely. "You'll need it."
"Hey," Robin greeted the girl at her tree, coming down to sit at her side, resting an arm on his leg. He nudged her gently. "How you feeling today Star?"
In answer he got a shuffle that could've meet anything...or nothing...which was better, he supposed, than the screaming sobs of two weeks prior, though not by much. At least then, Star had been mourning, really mourning- even if her means of doing so had been a little...frightening.
...And not for the first time the raven hair boy wondered if they had done the wrong thing, in holding her, restraining her, knocking her out -again he groaned to himself- like some out of control animal...at least then there had been fire, passion, anger, emotion. Not a husk. Maybe if they had just let the fire die down naturally, instead on snuffing it out...maybe Starfire wouldn't be like this.
She wasn't mourning now...she was hiding. He knew...oh God he knew. And did he ever want to tell her...to let her know that he knew too...knew that this ripped you apart before smashing you to dust and then demanding that -somehow...you put yourself back together again. And that the world would deem you unfit if you couldn't. It wasn't fair.
And he didn't want to see that happen to her. It couldn't happen to her. "A friend of mine made these..." here he opened the napkin, and showed her treats inside, daring to feel a little hopeful. Before he had brought tea and soup...these were Alfred's prized cookies, freshly made with oatmeal and chocolate that would make your mouth melt and leave you running your tounge over your teeth for more...
Nothing. She didn't even look at it, her own arms remaining firmly lock around her legs, her slim frame leaning against the tree, so still and motionless, the purple-white flowers falling down from the branches stayed put in her hair, shinning like stars...like she was getting ready to be a child-bride at a wedding (he was still having a hard time believing that -who the heck wouldn't?) ...or the corpse at a funeral.
A chill ran down his spine at the image...the girl stretched out in an ebony box on top of red velvet, hands on her chest, the flowers in her hair, wearing the new uniform he and Wally had found and sewed (though Wally had protested that tailored was the more masculine term) together for her from her Tamaranean chest, having the experience from making Halloween costumes. He could see her lowered into the ground below her tomb stone...never to see the light again, after fighting so dang hard for it...
No. The boy clenched his fists. No. No. That wasn't going to happen to her. It wasn't going to happen to her. Robin wouldn't let it...he didn't know how he wouldn't, but somehow he wouldn't.
But...thinking about that got him thinking about something she told him...something about eternity...memory...and stars.
He nudged her again, setting the treats aside.
"Chakano," he whispered. He swallowed hard, and then talked faster, despite knowing they weren't going to be interrupted. "Do...do you remember what you told me 'bout memory...when we were looking at the sky a few nights ago? "Bout why Tamaranean's loved stars and memory so much...because...because it p-pure. And good...and the one place...the one place where the people you love can't ever die..."
He blinked here, and rubbed at his mask quickly, old emotions coming to the forefront. God, what was wrong with him? His parents death's was old new...he'd accepted it, he'd moved on...he had no right becoming blubber eyed when his friend's world had fallen apart less than a month ago.
Pull yourself together Grayson, he ordered. It's your turn to take care of her now. She needs you.
"So-o," he stammered slightly, trying to make his voice deeper, more reassuring. He grasped her shoulder."So their there...Star. Your family I mean. Their in your memory, a-and you can see 'em any time...any time you want..."
At this point, Robin want to either hit something, or pull his hair out...he settled for the first, punching the ground with such force his fist ached and left a small indent, cursing loudly so that his choice word echoed in his ears.
And wouldn't you know, now she looked at him...hazy like, as if she was trying to see him through fog. She blinked owlishly, her lips forming the word he'd said, looking confused. Probaly because she'd hadn't really seen him curse before. His face redden.
"Um, sorry," he muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. "Do yourself a favor...don't repeat that."
She blinked...and then slowly began to return to nothing.
Panicked, Robin's hand shot out and grabbed her own, trying to keep her with him. After a moment hesitation, he hastily yanked his glove off so that his skin touched hers, his palm's rough callouses from the trapeze bars tingling a little when the meet her remarkable softness...but what scared him was how cold her own palm was, compared to the last time he held it -then he could feel the heat of her power through his glove.
"Star come on...you gotta snap out of it," he said lowly, his voice trembling. And against his will, his eyes began to grow hot. "Star...I...I know how much it hurts Star. I know...and I'm so sorry Star. I'm so sorry. But you can't just give up...i-if I could trade places with you, if I could take what your feeling, and give you mine I would, so you can have a break..I would. Cause I know...and can take it...and I'm sorry Star. I'm sorry...
For some reason those two words stuck in her grief crazed mind, putting water on the fire that race through her bones and her soul. What she didn't understand was...why though. Why now, why this boy -whose sweet features looked vaguely familiar- when so many others had said the same thing...some with tears in their eyes...some who had held her...but left her cold. Why did those words matter, coming from him?
There had been a woman with shiny black hair, a man with a light bolt on his chest, a man with red eyes, a red-haired boy, a dark skinned one...she had felt that she should know them, as they had all told her they were sorry...sorry that she was alone, but not the how and why behind it. She should know them, but their names had slipped away...away...away.
Forever away. Like her. She knew what was happening...that she was dying...she could feel it in her bones, the weakness in her limbs, the cold spreading...and while she was frightened, she couldn't find it in herself to rouse the strength to fight it off. Why should she fight? There was nobody to fight for anymore...and she wanted to go home...this was bringing her home.
She wanted them. She wanted them so badly it was an ach in her gut, an actual pain in her arms, like a mother who had labored seven days, only to deliver a still-born. Nothing...all for nothing. She was close now...she had nearly forgotten herself, which was the point of no return. All she had to do was...let herself drift away...away...
And she would have, if someone hadn't shouted so loudly it reached her down in the cell she'd put herself in, pounding on the door with an unfamiliar, angry word (angry...there had been a silent angry one) that she didn't know...and even in her death mist it roused her curiosity and she had, with star dragon effort, lifted her head to look.
And saw the boy, a young boy...handsome, with black hair, looking rather sheepish as he rubbed his neck. But his next words had been soft, so she'd lost intrest, and began to sink again, ready to drown. Then he grab her hand. Skin to skin, not letting her sink, not letting her go...none of the others had done that (those that had held her fully had felt more like they were trying to imprison her rather than help her).
Now his words had been pain filled, passionate, trembling with old fire. They reached her.
I know how much it hurts, I know.
How...how could he know...how could anyone know how much this hurt...it wasn't...wasn't possible. Wasn't possible. Surely...
And yet the way he said it...the pain...it made her believe, distantly, that yes he had. And her heart hurt for him, more than it hurt for herself...more than it had hurt for anybody...
...i-if I could trade places with you, if I could take what your feeling, and give you mine, I would, so you can have a break...I would.
That jolted her, shook something inside her loose and free from freezing in place and dying...and now that it was loose...she wanted to know more...who could possible want to trade with her...to take this? You would have to be mad...or... kind, beyond any length she could measure it by.
Cause I know...and can take it...and I'm sorry Star. I'm sorry...
Then...something warm and wet hit her hand, and the boy gasped in a watery breath, cursing again. And she moved, her heart making her move, compelling her. Slowly, she unfurled herself, ignoring how it made her body ach after being so still, and detached her hand to reach up, and brush his face, touching the tear trail...
"...Boy," she said, as this young male's name still escaped her. But he must have cared very much for her, because at her voice's call, his head shot up like a comet, eyes wide, and it made a pulse go through her wrists, up through her arms. "Why are you crying?" her brow furrowed, trying to think, "-are you hurt?"
Her hand went lower, to touch a cut on his cheek...but he stopped her, grabbing her hand again. "No Star," he said firmly, shaking his head. He looked suspicious of her term used to addressed him...but wasn't going to address it now. "I...I'm fine."
She shook her own head back, feeling stubbornness returning, like water to a starved tree root. "Then why are you crying?" she pressed. "Please tell me, I want to help you."
He stared at her. She stared back. (Oh, she really wanted to know his name...she knew she knew it...it was right there...something wonderful).
"S-Star, you can't be serious," he told her, stuttering, jaw open. "I'm trying to help you."
She felt like ripping her hair out. "Then why are you crying?"
His face burned red, and his free hand immediately swiped at his cheeks (as though that would erase the evidence). He wouldn't look at her now, his throat pulsing. But he was still holding her hand, palm to palm, together like a temple prayer, or lip contact...what...what earthens called a...kiss.
-In the middle of a village, her hands newly free, his shocked breath, his hands on her back, funny words, and new friends around them... then the feeling of...hope-
Robin. That was his name, and he was Hope, hope that there was something left. Someone left. Someone to care for...and care for her.
She leaned forward a little. "Robin?" she whispered, just wanting to hear it, as much as she want him to speak.
He shuffled, still looking away. "I...it's just...it's sad Star," he finally said. "It's sad what's happen to you...it's shouldn't have happened to you...I wished it hadn't...cause...I know."
She shook a little, mouth open without words, mouthing his own...knew...how could he know unless...unless...
Unless he knew, really truly knew. Knew what she suffered, had suffered, was suffering, and what was yet to be endured. And her newly awaken heart broke again.
"Oh...Robin," she said, softer than moonbeams. She swallowed back unhelpful tears. "Your...your family too, then."
It wasn't a question. And slowly...her young friend lifted his gaze to meet her own, still in the truth, no longer hiding. He nodded. "Yes Star, my family too."
She stared...her laughing, charismatic friend...she never imagined -where in X'hal name did he get his strength?
"How old were you?" The question was out before she could stop it. Robin hesitated, his hand twitching in her. "Young, Star...I was young...a kid."
She sucked in her breath and whipped her head around, facing dead ahead, throat burning. "Star?" Robin cried out, alarmed.
"Robin...you still are a kid," she whispered hoarsely, throwing her hands in the air. "...how much younger could you have been?"
"...I can't tell you that, Star," Robin told her softly. "I'm sorry."
Hesitantly, he reached for her hand again. She gave it. Then she spoke. "No...I'm sorry...I can't stand this now...I can imagine enduring this younger than I am...not as a child."
"I had a lot of good people to look after me Chakano," the boy told her reassuringly, with a small grin. "I'm over it."
She watched his face...and knew that to be, at the very least, a half lie...but she let it lie...something else had suddenly become clear to her. In her mind's eye she saw the Batman, wrapped in his cloak of mourning...so very different from his son. A son who had lost his family...oh.
"Robin..." she said slowly, realization dawning. "Batman is not your blood father...is he?"
...he looked away again..."I can't tell you that Star...I'm his son in every way that counts."
"...he's like us too...isn't he?" her voice was quiet here.
"...I can't tell you that either."
They were silent for a moment. Then...
"Robin...will it every stop hurting the way it does now?" she asked softly, barely getting the words out. Gasping, she pressed her fist to mouth. "I feel like I have a blade in between my ribs." she managed between moans, her vison blurring.
Suddenly there was a hand beneath her chin, lifting it up. She blinked, and slowly, her friend came back into focus, more serious than she had every seen him. "That depends on you Star," he told her, his voice forward in its facts. "...it can get better, if you give it time...it can get worlds better...but only if you let it. Does...does that make sense?"
Slowly she nodded. "Yes."
He stared at her, and when he spoke now, his voice was small. "Do you want it to get better?"
Starfire paused... suddenly aware of...everything. The flowers in her hair, the ach of her limbs. The flutter of the gardens birds...the strength in Robin's hand. She breathed in. Life. Life was...was a gift. The greatest gift. Life was...here now, even when her family wasn't. Life was where love was...and there was still love here, in her.
Yes. Yes she wanted to be alive. Come what may.
"Yes..." she said, the louder she repeated it, "Yes, I do."
She looked at the boy, trembling with the sudden rapid beating of a newly energized heart, making her dizzy. She was a little embarrassed of what she was about to ask...but she literally had no strength. "Robin, I want to get out of here," as far away from this tree as possible -she never wanted to see it again- "I would like to see the others," as soon as possible- she had to see them, to make stronger link back to the living world, now that she had decided to remain. "Where are they?"
Robin was staring at her, looking like he couldn't believe his ears...but then he sprang up, grinning to the point where his every tooth showed, positively cackling and she felt that warmth slip through her again.
"Their back at the Cave, Star," he told her, delighted, "God are they going to be happy to see you...we got a surprise. Lets go."
...Starfire looked pointedly at a spot near his feet. "I..."
She couldn't say it. She'd been to much of a burden already. "Alright."
She tried to stand, using the truck for support...flying was out of the question...but despite her determination, her brush with nothingness had left her with absolutely no strength...her who body tingled like a limb did when it fell asleep. She couldn't feel it. And it wasn't long before her legs gave out beneath like a newborn baby gorback, knocking the air out of her.
Her face burned. So much for not being a burden.
"Star!" Robin was suddenly back besides hers, his face bewildered at the weakness in the Shieldmaiden who had once smashed her enemies effortlessly. "Star what's wrong...can't... can't you walk?" As he spoke, his voice had gotten softer.
"...No Robin...I can't." She didn't elaborate.
"Can't you fly?"
She shook her head. "No...to fly I need two things...sunlight and happiness. I have one..." here she gave a bitter little smile. "But I'm rather lacking in the other."
She looked down again. "I need help."
Robin didn't hesitated before nodding his head, accepting it, his face gentle. "Of course...here."
Earthens were different than Tamaraneans...on Tamaran, she would be left to endure on her own after throwing a fit like she did-it would be her trial to prove she was strong enough to serve her tribe...earthens coddled people. But...she supposed she couldn't complain, not when Robin was slipping one arm around her legs, pinning them to his side; the other going around her back.
"Do ya think you can hold onto my neck?" he asked her seriously. The Shieldmaiden breathed in, considered her strength...before nodding a fierce affirmative.
"Yes," she said stoically. She had said she was going to get better...and she meant it. So she was going to start right now, with however small a step. Looping her arms around her friend's thin but nevertheless steady shoulders, she had one hand grasp her opposite wrist. Then, with a small sound of effort, Robin got back to his feet with her effectively seated in a makeshift chair, her legs dangling uselessly.
"Ready to get out of here?" Robin asked, adjusting his grip, and he seemed to sense that she was well enough to take a joke, because she felt him grin against her cheek. "Cause, we could stay, and sightsee some more."
To her own surprise she giggled a little, before determinedly shaking her head.
"No thanks, Robin," she answered softly, tightening her hold on him. The warrior girl breathed out again, redness coming back into her face from this thoroughly humbling circumstance...and yet at the same time... she was immensely thankful, more so than words could say. Earthens certainly weren't weak, no in any sense of the word. "...Lets go."
"As you wish," he said lightly.
As he went back out of the garden the way he came, Starfire looked around her, the warrior's girl solemn eyes taking in the beauty of the various trees and fauna gathered here. It truly was lovely...which made it frightening to think this place came very near to being her tomb. She resolved to never tell the boys that. She never wanted to think about it herself, though she supposed she sometimes would.
"You okay?" Robin asked her uncertainly, as they came out of the garden, and began to walk down the hall to where the transports called "zeta tubes" would take them down to earth.
"Yes," she hastened to assure him. "Yes I'm fine...considering that is."
Robin bit his lip. "You know, Star, maybe I should take you to the medic ward instead, and have them look you over-"
"No Robin," she countered firmly. "There's nothing wrong with me -that they could fix you imp," she added with a mock growl as her friend arched an eyebrow at her statement, as though to ask 'Really?'. "For what is wrong with me...there our only two cures. Time...and friends...I think you know this."
Robin looked down for a moment, considering. "Fair point I guess. But you're sure their nothing for the medics to see?"
"Solutely," he corrected her teasingly. And right then and there, the girl knew that her decision to continue her life was a choice well made...she wouldn't miss a minute of this for the world over, she thought warmly, feeling the sparks of a heath fire in her veins again.
And that gotten her to thinking...she had chosen to carry on living...Robin had done likewise. What had Batman chosen...because while his lungs drew breath...Starfire wasn't convinced that the man lived so much as existed.
They were near the zeta tubes now. Robin hit the level with his elbow to get it ready.
"Robin?" she asked hesitantly.
'Yeah?" he replied, paused just short of stepping on the transport. She paused, wondering if this would be another thing he 'couldn't tell her'.
"Starfire? What is it?"
Oh, out with it, the alien girl thought. She took a breath. "Robin, Batman...he...he didn't allow it to get better...did he?"
The youngest boy froze at the question, stiffing. For a moment he was very still. Then he relaxed, his breath leaving him like steam off a pot of water.
"No, Star," he answered her. "He didn't."
Then he stepped on to the tube.
"Recognized Robin, B01. Recognized Starfire, A03."
The words caused Wally to choke on the soda he'd been sipping, spraying it out his nose (eww). Meanwhile, on the sparing court, Superboy and Aqualad had frozen in the middle of trying to throw each other the ground in triumph. Jaws slake, disbelievingly, they stared at the zeta tube as it shone like the sun before diming down to revel their friends.
Wally felt a broad smile slit his face, his limbs lighten as though the whole dang mountain had been lifted off them. No way...
It didn't seem possible...after two weeks of total nothing, it didn't seem possible...and if they were being honest here, a part of the speedster had been expecting the worse. But lo and behold, there they were, the youngest members, one carrying the other (that made him raise an eyebrow, but Robin shook his head and mouthed that he would explain later).
And for look like she's been on death's door the past two weeks, the warrior girl look pretty darn good. There was light back in her eyes -kinda a sad light, but he'd take it. A smile on her face -a small smile but give it some time, and Wally was sure they could make it bigger. And just a generally awareness that before had been totally lacking.
Star clearly wasn't one hundred percent fixed...but she had clearly started, and that was all that mattered.
"Well look who here!" he crowed, speeding over to stand at his friends side. He bounced on his heels, wanting to help but not sure how...this wasn't something food alone could fix (though considering how little the girl had eaten, it might do her some good).
"Your looking good, Gorgeous," he told her. And he mean it. "Really you do."
A wider smile was crawling on her face, and suddenly her legs swung down to hover an inch off the floor. It seemed to take more of an effort than before, but she did it. And soon the redhead was enclosed in a soft hug.
"It's good to see you, Kid," she said softly, patting the back of his head. "Really it is."
Chuckling and a little red face, the speedster returned the embrace. "Call me Wally," he said, having permission from his mentor to do so.
Pulling back, she gave him a curious look. "Wally?" she asked, testing the sound.
"Yep," he grinned, popping the p, "That's my name."
She smiled again, pressing her fingers to her lips. "It...suits you. It means loyal on my world."
"Then indeed it does," said Aqualad, having crossed over to them, his eyes boundless in their relief at seeing the Shieldmaiden returned to herself. "It is very, very good to see you recovered, Starfire."
Her smile turned wryly at that, as she moved to hug him as well. "Recovered might be a little generous...but I'm trying Aqualad...I'm trying."
"We will be here to help you when ever you need it," the oldest boy promised her soberly. "Us and the League -you have my word."
The warrior girl nodded, blinking rapidly before turning to Superboy, who linger hesitantly before coming up, face soft, though his body's tenseness making it clear he didn't want to be hugged.
"I'm glad you're back," was all he said. It was all he needed to say. Star nodded, eyes understanding. "It's good to be back...Robin said you had a surprise for me?"
Wally's eyes nearly left his sockets. "Oh yeah!" he beamed. "Star, your going to love this!" Grinning like crazy, the speedster grabbed her like he had when he'd saved that day on the street, and bolt her to door of her room, setting her down before it.
"Go on Star, open it!" he urged her. Bemused and giggling, she did so...though the moment the door slide open...the giggles stopped.
"X'hal," she breathed, eyes wide. Her room...her room was-
"We know you can't go home like you wanted too, Star," Wally told her gently. "So we looked through that chest the lizards gave you and talked to the Lanterns...and with a little elbow grease, we-"
"We feel that we've managed to bring a small piece of your home to you," Aqualad finished, coming up to the door with the other boys.
That was an understament...at the foot of her bed the chest laid emptied, it contents filing the space around her. On the walls, bright Tamaranean tapestries of the morning and evening sky, of Tamaran's beautiful land, and of her family, looked down at her -loving reminders. On the bed, gorback-skin blankets had replaced the sheets, and small glass vases of green and purple shaped like trees and stars sat on the bead stand.
And...on her pillow...her hand flew to her mouth. On her pillow was a new uniform. It was different than her old one -seeing that this consisted of a loose sleeveless tank-top and a skirt, purple like the old one, with royal strips, but hemmed with gold lining -there were new black leggings, and her old armor. It was...perfect.
Shaking her head, she picked it up...touching the gold part -"...This is Tamaranean...where did you..."
"Oh yeah, that part was a little torn, so we patched it," Robin explained a little quickly.
"But where did you get the gold?" she asked again. Wally grinned wickedly, and with out a word disappeared, before returning split second later with a cape identical to the one Robin wore now...only with strips of the yellow underlining missing. She stared, aching with a sweet sort of joy this time.
"It's nothing Star..." Robin told her in a rush, his ears burning. "It just it was the only fabric we had that could stand battle...if you want to be on the team I mean -nobody's forcing you, you can do what ever you want...your free now."
"Oh, I'll fight," Starfire told them undoubtedly, eyes glowing with fire. "I want nothing more than to fight besides you...all of you, for the rest of my life. This is my home now...that makes you my clan...and I'll defend it, by your rules, with all that I am."
Slow smiles came onto the boys faces at her announcement, victors smiles, for warriors that had returned from battle together, ready to live and laugh and love while they could, until the next one came. Aqualad stepped forward.
"Then welcome to Young Justice."
Yes...this was her home now. Her clan...but before she full accepted this new one...she had to fully relinquished the old, and lay them to rest.
"Mother...Father...Ryand'r...it's your sister...and your daughter."
She was back on the rock Robin had shown her, alone this time, save for the three lit Tamaranean candles in front of her (again, from her chest). They flickered sadly in the nighttime sea breeze, reflecting in ripples off the gold in her new uniform that she wore to fully honor this event. She...she might not have her loved ones bodies as she'd like too...but it was a funeral nevertheless, and as their only living daughter, it was her duty to send their spirits off.
"...Mother...I'll start with you," she whispered to sky, to the stars that saw everything, and bore witness her Mother's passing when she could not.
"You were always so beautiful. The most beautiful woman on Tamaran. I always wanted to be like you, graceful and black-haired...but instead I had 'common hair' as Koma called it...not even red really." Here she laughed, feeling a sweet pain at the memory. A healing pain.
"I used to cry and cry...thinking how I would never be like you...remember how I took your eye kohl? And smeared it in my hair to make it darker? When you found me I though you would be mad, furious...but you weren't. You laughed -you have a beautiful laugh- and washed my hair, stroking it over and over, asking why I wanted to change it...that was beauty Mother. True Tamaranean beauty...loving you...and being loved by you. Say hello to Aunt Pri for me and Galfore."
She turned to the next candle. "Father...you were so strong, always so strong...no matter how tired you were, you would take time to correct my battle stance in training, to make sure I remembered my shield...you helped me with aiming my starbolts...you never put yourself before any of us. I...hope to be half the warrior you are. First onto the battlefield and the last of it." here she bowed her head. "Rest ease Lord King...you have finally seen the end of war and blood. In the presence of your father and his father, do not be ashamed...no one could have seen what was coming. It wasn't your fault."
Now the third candle. "Rya," she breathed, her throat already closed and tight. "I'm here to say goodbye to you properly. Losing Mother and Father was hard...but they lived a long life, a full life...you? You never had a chance to live...really live. But in the little time you had...you lived well brother, so very well...and I'm so proud of you. You were more of a man at ten then most are at thirty. You loved, laughed, and protected...what kind of king would you have been, baby brother? What kind of husband, what kind of father? It's not fair that you'll never get to know...it's not fair."
Her fists were trembling now, tears flowing...but this time, her mind was in control. "I don't know why you were robbed of the chance to grow, live, have a family...I don't know why I was spared...I'd give anything to have you where I am and I where you are...but as it is...I won't blow it little brother -I'll take the life denied to you, and make the most of it...I promise. Your name will go to my son, if I have one. I love you...and this isn't really goodbye is it? It's only "see you later"."
She stood, believing this with her entire heart, her entire mind, and all her soul. "I'll see you again..." she vowed, a small smile of stars and hope shining against her lips, while more silver tears slipped from her eyes. "-and when I do, I plan on having many, many stories to tell you."
With that said, the Shieldmaiden leaned down and blew out the green flamed candles...and light-years across the galaxy, on a starship of freedom fighters against the Citadel empire, an impish boy -clothed in the loose jumpsuit and ragtag armor of his new friends and saviors- did likewise, with the same hope burning like a nova in his heart.
If you keep hope alive, it will keep you alive.
Reviews make me happy, so tell me what you thought.
Four years to finish this story...started at fourteen, ended at eighteen. Again you guys were the best part of it. Thank you for your time and reviews. It is my fondest hope that some day, we'll see each other again. Though, that wound't be soon as I have collage.