by Telanu (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Notes: Set in the original NTT of the 1980s (the best time, of course), sometime before Kid Flash's departure and Terra's you-know-what with the Terminator, but *after* Phobia sends Raven round the bend. Just for reference.
Also I used a made-up villain.
"Robin, I don't think that's a good idea."
As soon as the words left her mouth, Koriand'r knew she had made a mistake. Dick's blue eyes hardened until they became more of a steely gray. "Why not, Starfire?" he asked coolly.
Mindful of the watching eyes of the rest of the team, Koriand'r looked around the interior of the T-Jet. Victor was piloting and Garfield was, predictably, keeping him company and goading him to try outrageous aerial stunts. Donna and Raven were pointedly looking out of the windows from their seats. Wally stared at the floor.
Tara, of course, watched them with unabashed interest.
She *hated* this. This wasn't how things were supposed to go. Dick was supposed to be the good leader and always know what to do. But lately he'd been so cold and remote, especially to her. It gave her a cold feeling in the pit of her stomach. And Koriand'r hated the cold. "It's just," she stuttered, trying to find a way to phrase things without making him angrier. If he got angry he wouldn't listen to her at all, and it might even endanger the mission. "I mean, we're trying to stop Fedorov and this whole pipeline stuff. I'm more useful in the air. I don't understand why I can't just come around the mountain at Point B and use my starbolts to…"
"If I thought you could *control* yourself around these thugs, Starfire, I'd let you," Dick interrupted. "But you've shown time and time again how your temper gets the better of you. And we know Fedorov's connected somehow to the H.I.V.E." He looked at her meaningfully. "Don't tell me you've forgotten Franklin already?"
Kory felt her cheeks flush at the mention of her dead fiancé, who had first been a tool of the H.I.V.E. and later their victim. "This isn't personal, Di…Robin." This codename thing was getting irritating. She hoped that Dick would relent and allow Tara to know their real names soon. "Franklin was a long time ago. And I'm getting better at adapting to your ways. You can trust me to behave professionally."
Dick rubbed his forehead with an exhausted sigh. "Look, Starfire, I'll think about it, okay? But I think my plan is best. We'll have Cyborg operating the Jet for airborne maneuverability in case they try and helicopter away – he can probably stop them without blasting them into pieces. I want you on the ground by me to watch for armed resistance and to take out those detonators."
Shoulders slumping in defeat, Koriand'r nodded and turned away. "Ooh, look at Bird-Boy being the tough guy," Tara scoffed behind her. "Whatsamatter, boss, can't take your girlfriend's suggestions?"
"Put a lid on it, Terra," Dick snapped. "Unless you have something useful to say – which I doubt – I'll thank you to keep studying those schematics for the underground drills you have to get at."
Blanking her mind to the squabbling, Koriand'r headed down the aisle to where Donna was sitting next to Raven, intent on getting some support from her roommate. She sat down across from the two women with a heavy sigh. "That didn't go well."
Donna spread her hands apart in a don't-ask-*me* gesture. "Remember what I told you, honey. He's just trying to do too much at once. He'll come around."
"But what if he doesn't?" burst out of Kory in an anguished whisper. "What if he stays like this to me forever?"
Robin loves you. Both women jerked at the unexpected sound of Raven's soft voice. The quiet empath so rarely spoke up without being directly addressed, and never volunteered her opinion in such…emotional matters.
"Raven's right," Donna said slowly, after a moment.
"He doesn't show it," Koriand'r replied. "I'm sorry, Wonder Girl, but I'm not like you. I've tried to adapt, but some things I can't overcome, and I'm not sure I should. On Tamaran nobody is afraid to show love. That's the way I think it should be. I can't help it. And I look at you and Terry - "
Donna shook her head. "Uh-uh. Don't do that. Terry and I aren't the same people you two are. Everybody's different. And Robin just isn't the demonstrative type."
"But – "
There are many ways of showing love, Raven said softly, looking at the floor. Koriand'r, amazed, saw a slight blush touch the empath's cheek. It must be difficult for her to deal with all of these emotions…But Robin does care for you. As do we all, she added unexpectedly.
Donna's jaw dropped. She closed her mouth again quickly, but Raven felt her astonishment and, clearly embarrassed, rose from her seat and glided to the opposite window, out of comfortable speaking range. Wally glanced quickly up at her, and then resumed brooding as he watched the lights reflect off the floor tiles.
Koriand'r and Donna stared at each other, then Donna patted her hand comfortingly and sat back in the chair, clearly awaiting a change in topic. Koriand'r dutifully asked about the wedding plans. Then she smiled with genuine pleasure as her friend's face lit up; it seemed that Terry's ex-wife was going to allow their daughter to attend after all, which had been an enormous relief.
But as Donna spoke, Kory couldn't help glancing over at Dick as he studied maps with a frown on his face. She hated that preoccupied, tension-filled frown. She'd kissed it away so many times…
Unbidden, Koriand'r wondered if Raven had ever been kissed. Probably not. That "Azar" woman probably wouldn't like it. What a shame. What a waste! That anybody should go through life without a kiss…! Kissing was something that translated beautifully between Tamaranean and Terran culture, she'd discovered. Her own first kiss had been at age ten, with her cousin Fyand'r…such tender, innocent bliss…
She blinked as she realized that the kisses she exchanged so frequently with Dick had not been very tender, and certainly not innocent, for a long time.
"Starfire? Are you there? Hello…?"
With a guilty start, Koriand'r realized she'd completely stopped paying attention to Donna. "I'm sorry," she murmured. "I was…"
"I know," Donna said gently.
They were flying over Alaska now, with about fifteen minutes until landing. Vic had turned the heat up, but Koriand'r could still feel the chill seeping in. Her body armor didn't cover much. This mission wasn't going to be pleasant.
Dick had just finished going over the last-minute details. He'd just gotten a radio in from Washington warning them of changed plans. Their spy in Fedorov's group had suddenly stopped transmitting information. It would be a miracle if he was still alive. The Titans were therefore expected to be ready for anything, and were authorized to use deadly force. Koriand'r welcomed the decision.
The detonators Fedorov was planning to use to destroy a substantial section of the Alaskan oil pipeline were arranged in rows beside the pipes, set to go off each at five seconds after the other. There was the danger that a simultaneous explosion could cause an avalanche. While Fedorov didn't stint at killing the pipes' maintenance and security crews, he did value his own skin.
"Not a martyr then," Donna had commented.
"Nor a fanatic," Dick replied. "I think he can be reasoned with…if we get the chance." His sour expression indicated his opinion of *that* possibility. The Titans rarely wound up negotiating with enemies. Beating the crap out of them was much more common.
Koriand'r preferred that. She was slowly getting used to Dick's preference for avoiding violence, but in the end, criminals were still criminals, weren't they?
Vic maneuvered the T-Jet through the mountain range, quickly engaging the cloaking and stealth features. "Sensors don't indicate any infrared scanners," he reported back to Dick. "They can't catch our body heat."
"Great. Wonder Girl, you and Changeling do some air reconnaissance. Cyborg will keep the Jet here in reserve – be ready to leave in a hurry if those explosions get out of hand. I want Kid Flash, Terra and Starfire by me on the ground. You all know your tasks. Everybody ready?"
"What about Raven?" Koriand'r asked.
I am to observe from the ground and will offer assistance only if necessary. Was there a note of bitterness in those cool tones?
Dick actually looked apologetic. "Raven, I'm sorry, but things are a little too touchy with your powers right now…well, we're not going to go over all that again. Just keep your eyes and ears open. Be ready to adapt if we need you. Now let's get going."
The hatch opened. Garfield transformed quickly into a small bird, and he and Donna darted out into the freezing air. Koriand'r shivered, feeling goosebumps rising all over her skin. "Damnit, that's cold," Wally said, the first words he'd spoken in hours. "Hurry and close it, Cyborg!"
"Keep your shorts on, Fleet-feet," Vic snapped as the hatch closed with the hiss of decompressed air. "I'm doin' my job. Get ready to do yours."
"That's enough, people," Dick interrupted sharply. "Are you ready? Can we make a break for it?"
"Just a sec," Vic muttered. "We'll be comin' round the mountain when we come…oh, we'll be comin' round the mountain when we…ah. Hold up…a minute till we're in sight of the pipeline. You gonna wait for Wondy's call-in, boss?"
"Yeah." Dick frowned down at his wrist communicator. "She should be – " A beep. "There we go. Robin."
"Wonder Girl reporting in, Robin. The layout still looks the same, but they have more armed guards than we were led to expect. A lot more."
"Enough to be a problem?"
"Maybe. I think the guards are the distraction, though – they know we can fight through manpower. If they are expecting us, this can't be all Fedorov has in store."
Koriand'r knitted her brows together. "Robin, you mentioned helicopters. Maybe I should – "
"I think you should stay right here and do things according to plan," Dick said firmly. "Until we know what's coming, we need to press ahead. The current plan gives us enough flexibility to prepare and adapt. Cyborg, you ready to drop us off?"
"Whenever you're ready, Short-Pants."
Tara snickered. Dick ignored it. "Okay. Everybody ready? One – two – three!
The hatch opened again, this time directly over the pipeline, which was, true to Donna's report, swarming with guards. Still seething, and fully prepared to unleash her anger on the enemy, Koriand'r scooped up Robin in her arms and darted out into the bitterly cold air. True to plan, they flew low, almost skimming the ground, coming in hard and fast at the unprepared guards.
"Drop me now!" Robin commanded, and Koriand'r tossed him up into the air, continuing to fly forward, knowing the acrobatic team leader would easily land on his feet and begin working on the thugs, trying to find Fedorov. Her job was much less complicated. She was to take out the detonators with her starbolts in a carefully timed sequence – the Titans didn't want an avalanche any more than Fedorov did. All right: there was the first one. She could see the other one about fifty feet farther down the pipe. X'Hal, but it was cold! She reached out her hand and felt the sun's energy course through her, unleashing a starbolt and striking the detonator in a very specific spot, hoping against hope that Vic's tech readouts of the devices were accurate.
Apparently so. The detonator gave a surprised hop, and then the top blew off, but it didn't explode, set off any of its brethren, or damage the pipeline. Not to mention that nobody had even shot at her. She breathed a sigh of relief and flew higher in the air, waiting for the time she could attack the next one and seeing if any of her teammates needed help.
Everyone seemed to have things well under control. Changeling was causing the usual confusion with his myriad of shapes; Kid Flash was taking down tens of guards at once with his super-speeded rushes that simply bowled them off their feet. Wonder Girl and Robin were fighting the men hand-to-hand. Koriand'r couldn't see Tara, but from the seismic shifts and periodic eruptions of dirt she knew that the younger girl had tunneled underground to get rid of the deadly drills Fedorov had planted there. No sign of the T-Jet. Koriand'r supposed that was a good thing.
Just as she was thinking that, she heard the steady thrum of many, many helicopters. Looking up, she saw no fewer than fifteen coming abruptly around the ridge of the opposite mountain, where they must have been lying in wait. Even from this distance Koriand'r could see that they were mounted with extremely powerful guns and armor. It wouldn't be enough to stop her starbolts, though. It wouldn't –
Then she remembered the detonators, and sighed. Donna and Gar were already rising in the air to meet the choppers, and she could hear the whine of the T-Jet as it uncloaked and speeded forward to meet the adversary. She wouldn't be needed up there; she had a job to do. Just like Dick said. Realizing that the proper span of time had passed, and then some, she took out the next detonator. Pop, hop, thunk. Only five more to go.
Explosive noises rent the air; the choppers had started firing. Unfortunately for them, however, they were killing more of their own guards than Titans. The well-trained team members dove for cover as Fedorov's men panicked and milled around in terrified confusion. By X'Hal, there was blood everywhere, spattering over the white snow…she could smell it and it heightened her senses, tensed her muscles, caused her to clench her fists and long to take part in the battle. But no. Pop, hop, thunk. Four left.
She heard the shrill warning buzz of her communicator even as the whirr of one of the choppers grew closer. Looking up, she saw it heading straight toward her, guns trained on her every movement. At last! Exultantly Koriand'r readied her starbolts and soared into the air to meet the deadly machine. She fired two starbolts, intending to take out the guns directly –
A brilliant burst of light. Pain, then a sudden, shocking numbness spreading throughout her body and making her go limp. She was falling, her bolts had hit some kind of energy shield – she'd been set up – ground was coming too fast and she was going to hit it hard, no time to stop –
Suddenly, she was surrounded by dark smoke. Two slender arms encircled her waist. There was a rush of air and the world went black.
Then another rush…dazed, Koriand'r felt rather as if her body were being pushed and pulled in opposite directions. She couldn't see or feel anything except for those arms holding her so tightly…abruptly, the darkness parted to reveal snow right before her, and she tumbled down into it, weak as a baby, but alive.
Those arms still encircled her, and she could hear another's breath panting in her ear. Then she felt slim fingers touch her temples, move anxiously over her arms, and she knew. "Raven…?" she murmured groggily.
Hush, the empath soothed. You are safe, Koriand'r. Rest and let me heal you.
"No…I'm all right." Or she would be, in a minute. Already the numbness was beginning to drain from her body and she felt more alert. And Raven wasn't supposed to use her powers. "I'll be fine. What happened?"
I am not sure, Raven said, as her hands slowly fell away from Koriand'r's body. Opening her eyes at last, Kory could see the pale, concerned face of her friend hovering just above her. I saw you attempt to strike at one of the helicopters, and then you began to fall.
Ah. Yes, I see. I teleported up to catch you, and we landed here off-balance. I apologize for the roughness of the landing.
"Not a problem." Holding her head, Koriand'r sat up and looked around. They were sitting in a tiny crevice, hidden away from the fighting, though she could hear the sounds of battle perfectly clearly. "Why didn't you use your soul-self to get me?"
Raven looked away. I was afraid to do so, she said shortly. I was unsure that I could control it, as…concerned as I was for your safety.
"Oh." Koriand'r shook her head to clear it. "I should get back. Thank you, Raven."
I did only my duty, Starfire.
That was *definitely* bitter. Koriand'r, aware that critical time was passing, nevertheless turned to look sharply at the empath, who refused to meet her eyes. The shadows of the crevice fell over Raven's face, outlining the harshness of her cheekbones, her angular jaw, her high forehead. When had her friend gotten so bony, Koriand'r wondered absently, as she watched her own hand drift up to cup one thin, pale cheek. It didn't matter. Raven was still as beautiful as she had been the day she'd nearly died trying to rescue Koriand'r from the Gordanian slavers, when she had been the first friendly face Kory had ever seen on Earth.
Raven had never been kissed…
Suddenly sensing the change in mood, Raven looked up, her lips parted slightly in confusion. Koriand'r took the chance. She slid her arms around the slender waist, feeling the warmth protected there by Raven's heavy blue cloak, and pulled the other woman's body close to hers. Raven's tiny breasts squished almost flat against her own far more substantial ones, but she barely noticed, because she'd lowered her head and was kissing her friend.
She tried nothing fancy; she just pressed their lips together, running her tongue lightly over Raven's lower one, before pulling back. Raven had frozen, and was staring at her with a dazed expression in her blue eyes. Koriand'r leaned forward again, but only pressed their foreheads together, as she stroked the other woman's long black hair. How fond she was of this quiet girl, so different from herself! Allowing her deep affection to flow through her, knowing that Raven would feel it, Koriand'r stroked once down the other woman's back before pulling away.
"Thank you, Raven," she repeated quietly.
Her communicator buzzed. Koriand'r closed her eyes and fought to tamp down her sudden frustration, knowing it would only discomfit Raven. "Starfire," she said shortly.
"Robin here. Kory, are you okay? Where are you? I saw Raven come and get you. Are you two together? Are you all right?"
The concern in his voice warmed her. "We're fine, Robin. I just needed to get back on my feet. I'm coming now."
"Actually, we're mostly mopping up. After you disappeared, Cyborg took out five choppers with the Jet and the rest retreated. Wonder Girl and Kid Flash have gone to pursue."
"Oh." Feeling somewhat deflated, Koriand'r frowned, only peripherally aware of the still, silent woman next to her. "What about the detonators? And, uh, the drills?"
"Terra did fine. You know, I think she's really going to work out. Gar's taking care of the detonators. I think he turned into a mouse so he could chew up the wires."
In spite of herself, Koriand'r smiled. "I'm glad it worked out then. Be there in a sec to help clean up."
"Fine. Is Raven okay?"
I am well, Robin. How quiet her voice was, even more so than usual.
"Great. Why don't you come along, too. We have a couple wounded guys here I'd like to get some information from."
As you say.
The communicator beeped off, and Koriand'r stood up to stretch. "I guess we'd better be going then," she said cheerfully. She'd done it. She'd kissed Raven, and she thought she'd done it just right, too. Maybe Azar could chew on that one for a while. She held out her hand. "Come on. I'll carry you. The view's beautiful – you should see this place from the air."
Thank you, but no. Raven rose, and drew her hood over her face, engulfing herself in its shadow. I shall go directly to Robin and assist in the interrogation of the men.
She should have known. "Whatever you think is best." She reached out and gently squeezed Raven's arm. "Thanks again. I wouldn't have made it without you."
Raven opened her mouth as if to say something; then she shut it and looked, almost wildly, around their small enclosure before disappearing in a cloud of smoke.
Koriand'r stretched again and flew up into the open air, exulting in the sunlight on her chilled skin, her lips still warm from the kiss. It had been perfect. Tender, innocent. She hoped Raven had liked it.
Time to help this mission wind up.