Delaying A Decision
By Telanu (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: Raven thinks she's made up her mind, but then something happens. Sequel to "Cold Reflections."
Notes: I've titled this series "Fire and Ice;" this installment will be Part Four of that, after Bedroll, First Kiss and Cold Reflections.
Disclaimer: The New Teen Titans are property of DC Comics, I make no money at all from this, etc, etc.
Raven pulled the hem of her sari off the ground to avoid sliding it through a puddle. The ice of last night was melting into New York City's finest brand of sludge under the morning sun. She shivered; her wrap was not really adequate protection against the cold. She should have brought something warmer. Better yet, she should have teleported directly to the hospital, but she had felt the need for reflection that the long walk afforded her. She'd gotten no sleep, which was an all-too-common situation recently; she had returned to her room at daybreak after her nightlong vigil over Koriand'r, spent an utterly useless day and night in meditation, and today was on her way to the charity clinic run by the nearest hospital.
Richard would be furious if he knew. Raven had been, not "forbidden" exactly, but "strongly advised" not to use her powers. And for the past month or so she had been attempting to do as he wished. But her powers had been given to her for a reason – to alleviate the suffering of others – and she could no longer ignore that, no matter the dangers.
Besides, she desperately needed something to focus on other than her own confusion and pain. That of others would suffice.
The Titans meeting was this afternoon. She had to have something coherent to say by then. Simply announcing that she was leaving seemed an…insufficient way to say farewell to those who had been her only friends during the past year and a half. Really, the only friends she'd ever had in her life. But she could not tell them the entire truth behind her departure. A mixture of truths and half-truths would have to do. That she was losing control over herself and feared for their safety, that she felt the need for reflection, that she simply needed a change of environment, that she was going to train chimpanzees to faith-heal – anything would do. Her friends would believe it. Perhaps not with their whole hearts, but they would be willing to believe it. They were already so afraid and uncertain around her that it would be a relief to have her gone.
Thankfully she was now coming to the front walkway of St. Mary's hospital, and was able to banish her melancholy thoughts in preparation for the business to come. Hospitals were difficult places for her. There was so very much pain all around, and in so many different forms. She couldn't cure a tenth of it. And yet, these places were where she was most needed, most useful. Far more useful than on a battlefield against some criminal fiend.
She shuddered as she took the stone steps into the hospital one by one, remembering the battle against the Brotherhood of Evil, when the Titans had stormed into Zandia to find her, no more than two weeks ago. It felt like much longer than that. She recalled the astonishment she felt when her teammates arrived to rescue her – she'd been so very certain she would never see them again after what she'd done to Wallace, after it became evident she was a monster. And then she'd lost control once more and had almost…it would never happen again. She was leaving. They would be safe. All of them, once she was gone.
It had been so long since anyone had spoken her name in such a welcoming voice. Raven never smiled, but she did manage to muster a serene look as she met the face of the plump, elderly black woman who hurried toward her.
"You're back!" Marcie said excitedly. "Bless my stars, it's too good to be true, child. Where you been? Out fightin' crime with those other young'uns?" Her small brown eyes gleamed avidly with the thirst for gossip, and her nurse's uniform strained across her ample breasts. "I heard you was in Alaska a few days back. Must'a been cold. Even colder than here?"
Far colder than here, Raven murmured.
"You must'a been freezin', if you was wearin' just that flimsy thing." Marcie indicated her wrap with distaste. "And you with no meat on your bones either. Don't those superheroes feed you, honey? You come to my house and I'll cook you a good meal. My youngest boy's not married yet, you know. You could meet him. Put a smile on that pretty face of yours."
Marcie was a kind, ebullient woman, but her ceaseless energy often wore Raven down. I am sorry I have not come for so long. There have been…personal issues I have had to deal with.
"Do tell." Marcie's eyes widened.
I would prefer not to. Where am I needed today?
The plump lips pouted in disappointment. "Where you not needed today? We got old man Wilkins back with a hangover that could kill a bear – but I don't want to put you to the trouble, since he'll have another one tomorrow." She shook her gray head. "The doctors had a look at his liver, Raven. Not good, poor thing. Not good."
Cirrhosis? When Marcie nodded, and looked hopefully at her, Raven could only shake her head. I cannot cure disease, Marcie. I am sorry. You know that.
Marcie sagged again. "I know, child. I really do. It's just I'm kinda fond of the man, I've seen him so many times…and to know he's sleepin' on doorsteps while his body rots away…" her eyes teared up. Distressed, Raven tried to distract her.
Who else is here?
"Oh." Marcie shook her head to clear it. "We got a kid, no money of course, in some kinda bike accident…his left leg's tore up pretty bad…"
This time Raven nodded, and followed the fat woman down the corridor, ready to begin her painful, necessary work.
She was so tired. Weary unto death. Raven thought she might drop like a stone if she let herself stop moving, but she couldn't yet. There was one more patient to see.
Her steps dragged as they pulled her out of the charity clinic and into the regular hospital. Marcie's concerned voice followed her but she ignored it, reaching the elevator after what seemed like eons and sagging against the wall as it began to rise.
She just needed a few moments. Then she could recoup herself and face this final person. In spite of her exhaustion, Raven felt a distinct sense of triumph; her healing powers had come to her as effortlessly as they had used to before her troubles began. Healing the wounded was always a painful experience, but this time their pains did not linger inside her as they had done in the past. And not once had she felt the voice of her father. She'd been helpful. Useful. Thank Azar.
Her strength was ebbing back into her. In the solitary cubicle of the elevator, away from the pitiful needs of the hospitalized, she could regain what she had lost; by the time the elevator stopped at the eleventh floor, she was nearly back to normal.
In Room 1106, Father Peter Mallory of Saint Peter's Cathedral lay recovering from a fall that had cracked his hip. At the moment his eyes were closed and his breathing was deep and even. Raven could feel the tension creeping into her muscles as she watched him from the doorway, unsure what to do.
Suddenly, his lips opened and he asked in an amused voice, "Were you planning on coming inside, miss?"
Raven jerked slightly in surprise, and then wobbled inside the small room on legs that were suddenly unsteady. Forgive me. I thought you were…
"Asleep? Just resting my eyes, child." Those same eyes lazily drifted open. "A trick I've perfected to keep track of ill-behaved choir boys. And your voice is familiar, in fact, so I…you?" As the priest fully beheld the woman standing at his bedside he struggled to sit up, and then groaned as his injury reasserted itself.
No, do not move, Raven said quickly, reaching out to lay a hand on his arm. Do not make the fracture worse than it is.
"Sorry," Mallory said weakly, smiling at her. "I certainly wasn't expecting you, young Raven, not after what happened…how long ago is it now? A week or two?"
Something like that, Raven said wearily. Father, I…went to Saint Peter's to find you a few days ago. I was informed that you had injured yourself…and thought it only proper to come here and offer my services.
"Ahh," Mallory sighed with a slight grin, "if only I were younger…no, that's not a priestly thing to say, is it? Well, I take it that you came through all right, then, after those hoodlums in the outrageous costumes attacked you?"
Raven blushed in shame. If you recall, Father, it was I who attacked them. One of her worst moments. The Brotherhood had found her meditating inside Saint Peter's and she…had taken the offensive. Unthinkable. She owed an apology to this man, who had been so kind to her before the disaster had occurred. I can never make amends for so desecrating your place of worship. Even Phobia, it seemed, had had more decency than that.
He patted her hand lightly. "The Lord forgives, my girl. We can do no less. Although the Church might be less magnanimous if there had been actual property damage." He chuckled, then grew sober. "Something troubled you that night, Raven. I offered to help you. Is that why you've come now? Can I help you with whatever burdens lay on you?"
N-no, Raven said, suddenly nervous. No, when I heard you were hurt, I decided to come and help you. As I said, it is the least I can do.
Hush, please. I promise you, there will be no pain. She sat down and reached over him, placing one pale hand on each cheek, gazing deeply into his wide eyes before closing her own. Please try to relax.
"W-what are you going to do?" Now he sounded nervous. "Forgive me, my dear, but I…"
I will heal you, Raven said simply, and then touched his spirit with hers.
At once an aching pain exploded in her hip and she twisted up in the chair with a harsh cry; still, she kept her hands on his face. The pain got worse, brighter, sharper, and she could feel her hipbones, her pelvis, crushing and grinding against each other. She moaned again in pain – and then, it receded.
Breathing heavily, Raven sat back in the chair, her hands falling to her lap, her hip still feeling a bit sore, but well within the realm of tolerable.
Mallory stared at her, his mouth hanging slack in shock.
"I heard…I read in People that you could do strange things…but I never imagined…I never dreamed I'd know what it felt like…" he shook his head. "What a gift you have, Raven. What a wonderful chance has been given to you!"
Oh, yes, Raven said, closing her eyes and rubbing her forehead. How is your hip?
"Why, it's…" the priest shifted experimentally in his bed, wincing in anticipation of pain that never came. Amazed, he wiggled further, then sat up. "It's perfect! It feels fine! How on earth did you…?"
Not on earth, Raven replied seriously. I am pleased I could be of service, Father Mallory. Again, I ask you to accept my apologies for the events of two weeks ago. Now I must be on my way.
Mallory reached out and grasped her hand. "Must you, Raven? Are you sure you would not care to talk to me?"
Thank you, but… she paused, and glanced sideways at him. Actually, may I ask you a personal question?
Raven lowered her eyes, quite unable to look him in the face. How do you do it? How do you live without love?
She kept her eyes fastened on the pink silk of her sari, but she could sense his astonishment. "Live without love? What do you mean?"
You are a Catholic priest. You have been sworn to live alone. Indeed, you made this choice voluntarily. She looked at him hopefully. That is what I have been told. Is it true?
"Well, yes, but…"
Then perhaps…if it is not asking too much…you could tell me how you manage it. How you go through each day without reaching out, connecting to the others all around you.
Father Mallory's jaw again hung open. "I think you've got some strange notions, young lady," he said slowly, "notions that need clearing up. And fast. It's true I'm sworn to a vow of celibacy," Raven blushed, "but I've in no way forsaken loving! Love is what my job is all about, child. Love for my God and love for the people in my community, and beyond. That includes you," he added kindly, but Raven did not respond. "I'd never consider myself a man lacking for love, or joy. My vocation is my life, it is true, but it has filled me with a sense of…completeness that many sexually active people never find."
Raven stood abruptly. I have obviously misunderstood, she said hollowly. Again, I ask your forgiveness. I should have known…I sensed such contentment in your aura… She had been a fool. To think that such a serene, well-grounded man could be anything like her – of course the man didn't live without love. No one did, except for outcasts like herself. Seeing that he obviously intended to advise her further, she managed, You have helped me much today, Father Mallory. I thank you.
"Thank you, Raven. I imagine the nurse will be quite surprised when she comes in for my next check-up."
Well…yes. Perhaps. She glanced at the clock on the wall, and was astonished to realize that it was ten till four. Azar! The meeting! I shall be late!
Mallory raised an eyebrow. "Will you be vanishing in another puff of smoke, then? I thought that was a rather nice special effect."
Yes, I - in consternation, the empath glanced around, …I have forgotten my wrap. I must go back to the clinic first. Goodbye, Father. Without another word, she rushed out of the room and down the hall to the elevators. She had learned quickly that teleporting into the clinic was not wise, as it only alarmed the patients, who could ill afford further shocks to their systems. She waited in a fever of impatience as the elevator descended, worried more about the meeting itself than her punctuality. She still had no idea what to say to her fellow Titans.
Hurrying back inside the clinic, she heard Marcie's voice happily raised in conversation. "…no sense, is what I say. Not like you. I can tell you've got brains in your head, young lady. Don't no young man mess with you, I bet."
Raven suddenly got a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach as her empathic senses began to tingle. Reluctantly she reached into the part of her mind where the link with Koriand'r lay dormant, opened it, and…
"Raven!" Marcie announced as she bustled round the corner. "Here you are, girl. Got someone who's been lookin' for you."
She was shortly followed by Starfire, Princess Koriand'r of Tamaran, standing over six feet tall in heeled winter boots, magnificent hair glowing in the harsh light of the clinic. "Hi, Raven. I was sure I'd missed you, since it's almost time for the meeting. But I thought I'd check. For some reason…" she looked confused, "for some reason I thought you'd be here. I'm not sure why. Does Robin know you're doing this?"
Koriand'r, Raven murmured, trying desperately to hang on to her calm in the face of her pounding heart. No, I did not tell Robin. What I do in my own time is my own business. Ignoring the wide-eyed stares she got from both women at that, she cast her eyes around, looking for where she might have left her wrap.
"Lookin' for this, honey?" Marcie asked, and opened a nearby cabinet. "I saw you left it. Thought you'd be back for it. Not like it's gonna do you any good."
Thank you, Raven said primly, pulling it about her shoulders like a shield and wishing fervently she had her all-encompassing cape. But I will not be walking back. I plan to teleport…
"Oh, don't," Koriand'r said suddenly, taking her arm. "Walk with me. I'll keep you warm. It's okay if we're a little bit late." When Raven started to look stubborn, she added, "C'mon, Raven. I came all the way over here to find you."
Deliberately not meeting Marcie's suddenly fascinated gaze, Raven nodded slowly, and the two women left through the nearest door, still arm in arm.
Why did you seek me out?
"I don't really know, actually," Koriand'r admitted. "I just wanted to, that's all. I haven't seen you in a few days, and I wanted to make sure everything was okay, I guess." The sun was descending lower in the sky, creating a blinding glare off the snow and sludge. Koriand'r paused and fished in her pocket for a pair of sunglasses. "Do you need shades? I have a spare set. No?…All right. Well, let's go." They walked for about a block without speaking. Raven's arm seemed to glow with heat where Koriand'r touched it; the rest of her was cold as ice.
"I dreamed about you," Koriand'r said abruptly. "Last night."
Raven wondered absently how she could be so cold and still break out in a sweat.
"It was weird. I dreamed you were sitting by my bed and watching over me. Really nice." She smiled down at Raven, who continued to look stoically ahead. "I felt safe."
You are not safe with me, Koriand'r, Raven said quietly. You know that.
Koriand'r stopped abruptly, holding tightly onto Raven's arm and nearly causing the empath to slip. "I don't think that's true," she said forcefully. "Raven, I know you don't believe in violence, but I've learned that doesn't mean you're weak. In fact, you're one of the strongest people I know. And I also know you would never hurt your friends."
Raven met her eyes, unable to stop the vicious surge of anguish. How can you say that? You saw what I did to Wallace! How can you possibly believe I am anything but a menace?
"I believe you're my friend, Raven," Koriand'r said calmly. "And I love you."
Raven swallowed hard and looked away, but a warm gloved hand soon rose to cup her cheek and force her head back around. "I dreamed you said you loved me," Koriand'r said gravely. "And I know you do. You can't say it, but you do. You love all of us, don't you?"
You…you are all my friends. My only friends. I care for you deeply, of course.
Koriand'r grinned and dropped her hand. Raven hated herself for missing the contact. "That'll do, I guess. I don't mean to push you, Raven. I just noticed you've been…withdrawn lately, I guess. I wanted you to know I'm here to help you."
Thank you, Raven said faintly.
"Isn't the sunset beautiful? I just wish it were warmer. Tamaraneans aren't meant for winters like this, you know. I'm wearing about a hundred layers and I still feel – "
A shrill rat-a-tat-tat rent the air, and screaming broke out further down the street. Herds of people abruptly broke away form the sidewalk to flood the streets, which started horns honking all over the place. And the horrible noise continued, noise that obviously came from a machine gun. "X'Hal!" Koriand'r gasped, pulling away from Raven. "What's going on?"
I do not know, Raven said, grateful to able to concentrate on business, but we must investigate. Look – it is coming from that apartment window over there. I sense such anger!
"Makes sense, if people are firing guns," Koriand'r said absently, and then pointed suddenly at the window Raven had mentioned. "There's the muzzle of the gun, but I'll need to move closer to get a bead on it. My starbolts would be too destructive at this range." She rose into the air, her hair trailing a cloud behind her.
Be careful, Raven said urgently, squinting but unable to see the gun as Koriand'r's sharper eyes could. I will teleport into the apartment.
"No, don't!" Koriand'r paused in the air to look down at her. "Remember about your powers – and we don't know how many people are in there. He may have hostages or accomplices. Follow me down the street. If I can get a look in the window I'll signal you."
Chafing at the restriction, but acknowledging its sense, Raven picked up her skirts and ran down the sidewalk after the airborne figure of her friend. It was difficult going; the panicked crowds were, of course, running in the opposite direction. The gun was still firing, but only at empty air now. Everyone in the area had run indoors or hidden behind something. With a shudder, Raven saw two bodies lying in the road, blood pooling around them.
As she approached the apartment building, Raven darted to the side, pressed herself against the wall and carefully extended her senses. The roiling anger was still present, but she did not think anyone knew she was there. Koriand'r hovered over the building, wary of the gun that had withdrawn inside the window but no doubt lay in wait. Even she wasn't fast enough to dodge a bullet. As Raven wondered what to do next, the faint sound of sirens penetrated her ears; it grew louder and two police squad cars finally rounded the corner. She glanced up at Koriand'r and tried to catch her eye. Should they let the police take care of this? She felt almost amused as she realized her teammate probably wouldn't allow it. Koriand'r thirsted for action. She could sense it and, in a dark part of herself, sympathize.
Koriand'r finally looked down and their eyes met. She pointed down to the window and held up three fingers. Raven nodded. At least three people inside – but were they criminals, prisoners, or both? With the adrenaline coursing through her body, she could not trust the link between Koriand'r and herself enough to probe it for more details.
A uniformed officer jumped out of one of the cars and, holding a revolver in the air, squatted down behind a dumpster. "Police!" he called out to the people in the apartment. "You guys in there with the gun – there are cops here as well as two Teen Titans! You are advised to lay down your arms and surrender peacefully!"
"Fuck you!" Somebody, a male somebody, bellowed from inside the apartment.
"Lay down your arms and come out of the building! You will not be attacked if you do so immediately!"
"Fuck you!" The man cried again. "Come and get us!"
That, apparently, was the invitation Koriand'r had been waiting for.
The Tamaranean Princess swooped down in front of the window, and paused just long enough to stop Raven's heart for a moment. Then she darted away. "He wasn't kidding about the Titans," she called. "We don't want to hurt you. Come on out!"
This time, the answer was another round of bullets fired into the air. Raven saw Koriand'r grin recklessly and she instantly began to pray to Azar for a hundred different things, chief among them her friend's safety. Be careful! she cried.
But Koriand'r, propelled by some kind of warrior's urge, was no longer listening. She flew down to hover to one side of the window. "You've killed two innocent people," she yelled. "Do you think I'm going to hold back with you? Last chance or I'll blow your window out!" Her hands began to glow in anticipation of that very thing. "I'll melt your guns to slag, you scum!"
The link between them flew wide open now, whether she wanted it to or not, and Raven was paralyzed by the strength of Koriand'r's emotions. Chief among them were anger and battle lust, of course, but the rest of her, the brightness that was Starfire, burned steadily in the background, warming the empath from head to toe. She opened her mouth again to cry a warning, but no words would come. She was an absolute captive.
Frozen as she was, everything seemed to happen in slow motion then.
She saw the shining red of Koriand'r's hair as the alien swooped out again in front of the window. She heard the shots ring out. Then she felt the shocking pain and pressure at her collarbone as if it were her own, saw her friend spinning out of the sky and on to the concrete below, her fall slowed only by the thin awning over the building's entrance seven floors below, and, finally, heard the terrible crack as Koriand'r hit the ground.
The brightness in the link snuffed out suddenly, like a candle.
Raven might have screamed. She felt her soul-self roar out of her body, but had no idea what happened next.
"What's on TV?" Dick asked absently as he wandered into the massive screening room of Titans Tower.
Donna jerked, startled, and swiveled around in her chair. "Great Hera, Dick, can't you stop sneaking up on people like that?"
Her oldest friend grinned. "Lifetime of training." He leaned down, supporting himself by his elbows on the back of the sofa. "Cartoons? Donna, please tell me you're kidding."
She blushed. "I'm only passing the time until the meeting," she said defensively. "Antiques Roadshow just got off, is all. They were pricing a statue of Hippolyta that some old lady found in her attic and…why am I explaining myself to you?"
"I am your fearless leader," Dick intoned. "Without my approval, your life is worth nothing."
Donna snorted. "Oh, I get it. Hey, it's past four o'clock. Shouldn't we be starting?"
Dick rolled his eyes. "You forget that our team is made up of teenagers, Donna. We can never get anything started on time. Vic and Gar are still chasing each other around the Tower about something, and Tara's probably egging them on. No idea about Kory or Raven. Wally's the only one actually in the meeting room."
Donna chuckled in spite of herself. "Poor Wally. Poor you. Cursed to be the responsible ones – "
Tom and Jerry suddenly faded from the TV screen to be replaced with the sour face of Bethany Snow. Donna broke off her tirade to finish, "Eww."
"Very professional," Dick complimented.
"That's why they pay me the no-money."
But all joking stopped a few minutes later as Snow said, "We interrupt your regular broadcast to bring you a special report. Downtown Manhattan is even now in chaos as police are barricading a major road because of a terrorist crisis situation." Her face disappeared, to be replaced with a live feed of the blocked-off street. Sawhorses impeded the traffic, as police officers and civilians milled around in the confusion. Bethany Snow's disembodied voice continued, "Shortly before four o'clock an unidentified man began to shoot into the street below with a machine gun for reasons that remain unclear. Four people have been wounded and two killed," a quick camera pan to the bodies lying in the road, "with one of the wounded being no less than a Teen Titan, the one identified as Starfire." At these words, Snow's voice took on an almost malicious tone of satisfaction. "Why the Teen Titans are involved in this conflict has yet to be determined."
Before Dick and Donna's stunned gazes, another shot revealed Raven kneeling over Koriand'r's crumpled body, clutching one golden hand as two policemen hovered over them both, looking nervously upward, guns raised. Raven – Raven – was biting her lower lip bloody, face pale with anguish and tears streaming down her cheeks, her slim body trembling all over.
Donna shot out of the chair before she could process another thought. Dick had already hit the emergency alarm. "All Titans to downtown Manhattan!" he barked into his communicator. "Emergency situation! Starfire has been wounded in a terrorist attack!"
He turned again to the television for just an instant, and Donna caught her breath at the fire in his gaze. "Hang on, Kory," he whispered, and ran out the door. Still in shock, and praying for all this to be just a dream, Donna followed him, unable to get Raven's face out of her mind.
She'd seen Raven looking unhappy before, and she'd seen that normally calm face twisted with madness – but she'd never seen Raven actually panicked, never seen such open emotion of any kind being displayed by the empath. If Raven was really that upset, then Koriand'r must be…
Forcing such thoughts out of her head, the young Amazon flew down the stairs and out of the Tower.
Raven would later remember very little of the ambulance ride back to St. Mary's. She could feel only the soft palm of Koriand'r's hand as she clasped it tightly in her own, keeping their link open with a ferocity few would have expected of her, sending entreaties, encouragements, wishes, prayers, anything she could think of through it into the mind of the unconscious woman on the stretcher.
She'd done all she could for Koriand'r, but her healing powers had been so drained by the day's efforts that they responded only sluggishly to her commands. In addition, her terror and desperation had beaten her concentration to pieces, leaving her able to do little more than funnel energy into the injured woman and alleviate the worst of the pain. Most of the work was now being done by other hands, the same ones that had ushered them both into this vehicle.
"Should we have let her come?" Somebody asked. Raven distantly supposed they were talking about her.
"I wasn't gonna stop her. You see what she did to those guys?"
"She's certainly not hurting anything now. The gold girl's looking a little more perky, you ask me. She'll pull through."
"Hell of a fall she took…"
The words wound their way in and out of Raven's mind. The empath ignored them for the most part. The only important thing was the golden flesh lying so still on the stretcher, the precious heart that beat beneath it, the burning mind that now lay hushed. Raven prayed, but not to Azar, continuing to send her pleas into that silent spirit.
The strength was slowly and surely draining out of her body and into her friend's, but she did not release Koriand'r's hand, even as they set the bone, even as they cut the bullets out of the smooth flesh…even as she collapsed on the hospital bed beside the other young Titan, depleted at last.
Donna paced with feverish impatience in the waiting room, in stark contrast to Dick, who stood still as a statue. They'd left Vic in charge of clean-up back on the street; the only other one in the waiting room was Wally, who kept glancing between the window, looking over a now-starry sky, and the door to Koriand'r's room.
So, you don't care, eh, Wally? Donna thought. Right.
Finally, just when Donna thought she would lose her mind with worry, the door opened and a nurse led a shaky-looking Raven into the room. The young empath was even paler than usual, and her lower lip had a dark scar where she had bitten it earlier. Her sari had disappeared and she was wrapped in a white robe that seemed far too large on her thin frame. She was trembling slightly with fatigue.
Dick immediately charged forward, but the nurse held up a hand. "The other one's still unconscious, Mr. Robin," he said, not sounding very intimidated by the four heroes in the room. "Stable, but unconscious. The anesthesia's pretty strong. I'm afraid you'll have to wait. This one shouldn't even be up yet, but she insisted, so I'll leave you to it." He withdrew, closing the door back behind him.
Dick immediately turned on Raven. "How is she? What happened?"
"Dick, slow down," Donna objected. "Are you okay, Raven? Sit down."
Raven shook her off determinedly. I merely needed…rest, Wonder Girl. I will soon be well. She glanced over at Wally, obviously surprised at his presence. Kid Flash…
"How's Kory, Raven?" he asked, staring deliberately at a painting on the wall. Donna winced, but Raven hardly appeared to notice his brusqueness.
She will recover shortly. She will…will be just fine. Raven swayed a little on her feet, and this time did not object to Donna's helping hand on her arm. Robin, I would like to return to the Tower to…
"Just a second, Raven. What were you doing to those thugs in the apartments? By the time we got there we just found two gibbering guys lying on the floor and one seriously frightened hostage. The police said your soul-self went up there – which it's not supposed to do, by the way – "
I did what I had to do, Robin. I will not answer to you for it. And I will not apologize for saving Koriand'r's life.
Dick blinked in astonishment. "No one's asking you to apologize for anything, Raven. Hell, we're all glad you saved Starfire – I know I am. We just wanted to make sure nothing…odd happened with your powers, like…"
You may rest assured, Robin, that my father was far from my thoughts today. As for what I did to the men, I…am afraid I do not remember precisely what happened. I was confused, and…concerned…for Starfire. I am pleased to say that I overestimated the extent of her injuries. Now, if you have no further questions, I will go to Titans Tower. I am very tired.
"Well, just wait a – " He never finished. Raven disappeared in a burst of smoke. "…I'll be damned," he muttered. "Just like in the early days. I'd try to ask her about something and she'd just puff away on me."
"What a surprise," Wally said sarcastically. Sensing the pain beneath the words, Donna and Dick looked at each other in concern. "Wally," Dick began, but at that moment the door opened again. The nurse poked his head out. "She's waking up. You guys want to – "
"We'll talk later, Flash," Dick said, interrupting himself and turning eagerly toward the door. "I promise." He hurried into Koriand'r's room behind the nurse.
"Sure we will," Wally muttered and glanced sidelong at Donna. "Since Kory's gonna be all right, I'm going home. I guess the meeting's cancelled?"
"Yes, I guess it is," she said quietly. "We'll call you when we get the next one set up. Should be soon."
"Yeah, fine." He glanced distractedly around the room again, and headed out the other door into the corridor. Donna shook her head and followed Dick into Kory's room.
Her friend had an icepack on her head and two nurses were fussing over her leg, but otherwise she seemed to be in remarkably good shape. So Raven had "overestimated" the injuries, after all. Donna sent a silent prayer of thanks to the gods. "How are you, honey?" she asked.
Koriand'r turned her head toward Donna and blinked. "Don…Wonder Girl? Robin?" Her voice was hoarse, but strong.
"It's us," Dick said, taking her hand solicitously, and looked at the nurses. "Could you guys give us a few minutes?"
"No problem, kid," one of them, this one a woman, said with a grin. "Hey, you really work with Batman? Does he really – "
"Please," Dick said impatiently, and with a little grumbling the two nurses withdrew.
"Where's Raven?" Koriand'r asked.
"She's gone," Dick began. "Kory…"
"Where is she? She was here when they brought me in. She was holding my hand." Koriand'r's face was taking on a distinctly querulous expression. "I want her here. I want to see if she's okay."
"She's fine, she just left to…"
"Well, bring her back," Koriand'r said peevishly. Donna had to smother a grin at her friend's childlike pout. "I want to see her."
"Kory, Raven's gone back to the Tower," Dick said testily. "The doctors released her. She said she was really tired and needed to rest. Do you understand me? How's your head?"
"My head's fine. It just hurts a little. Honestly, Dick, I'll be all right. I'm not an invalid."
"You had a real fall, I heard. Seven stories, was it? You're lucky you didn't land on your head," Donna said. "Even Raven couldn't have saved you from that."
"I don't know," Kory mused and glanced at Donna briefly. "What about the gunmen?"
"We don't know," Dick said. "Raven did something to them. Physically they're fine, I guess, but they're in some kind of mental shock or something. We've got to do something about her."
"She saved my life and stopped those criminals," Koriand'r replied a little snappishly. "What more did you want her to do?" She shifted on the bed, rolled her head back and forth on the pillow and sighed heavily. "I feel pretty good, you know. Are they going to let me out?"
"Probably, now that you're awake," Donna said.
Dick squeezed the hand he still held. "Glad to have you back with us, hon," he said softly. "When Donna and I saw the news, we were afraid of the worst. You had me really worried."
Donna expected Koriand'r to look as pleased as she always did whenever Dick allowed himself a rare display of public affection. The green eyes would brighten and the smooth cheeks would blush. But instead, Kory turned to look at Dick with a solemn, thoughtful expression on her face; then her eyes took on a look of firm resolve.
For some reason, Donna got a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach.
"Donna, could I talk to Dick alone for a minute?" Koriand'r asked quietly.
Swallowing hard, Donna rose to her feet. Dick looked surprised, but unconcerned, and her heart ached for him, even as she hoped she was wrong about what was going to happen.
"I'll just be in the waiting room," she murmured and left. She ought to go to the Tower and check on things, or even go home and call Terry…but in case she was right, she wanted to be here when Dick came out of that room.
He'd need her.
Exhausted beyond words, but refusing to sleep, Raven knelt on her meditation mat, inhaling the scent of incense and desperately seeking her center.
Koriand'r would be all right. She chanted the words over and over to herself, making them her mantra. But it had been so very close. If the alien princess had landed on her head, or if the bullets had struck even slightly closer to her heart…no. These were unproductive thoughts. What she needed to think about was her own role in all of this.
Koriand'r's injuries had not been fatal, but they might well have become so had she, Raven, not been on hand to heal the worst of them immediately. She had not been functioning at peak efficiency but Raven knew beyond a doubt that she had saved her beloved friend's life. That was something she had not taken into account when resolving to leave the Titans: if she were not around to hurt her friends, she could not be there to aid them either. And if they died because she wasn't there, she would feel it as keenly as if she had done murder. If Koriand'r died…it would feel akin to suicide.
Too tired to think properly, Raven hid her face in her hands as her thoughts chased themselves in dizzy circles. What should she do? Stay or go? Either choice carried an unacceptable risk. How could she be expected to make such a decision?
Well, she thought as she tottered to her feet, almost knocking over a lit candle, I will not make it tonight. She would sleep, hopefully without dreams – after two nights spent awake and such an exhausting day, it was not an unreasonable wish. Then she would see how events unfolded. If it appeared she was more of a danger than an asset to the team, she would go. If not, she would stay. Personal considerations would not enter into it. It was time to put all this foolish "emotional" business aside, as Azar herself had taught her to do.
Besides, she had to stay long enough to truly make certain that Koriand'r would be all right.
It had been over an hour. Donna had almost nodded off in her chair, in spite of the indistinct voices that rose and fell behind the closed door. Whatever Dick and Kory were talking about – and Donna was pretty sure by now that her hunch was right – it was emotional, causing sometimes shouting and sometimes whispers. She shifted on the hard plastic, trying to find a comfortable angle for her behind, and not succeeding very well. Ruefully she wished Kory had picked some other time to talk to Dick – right now, Donna wanted only to go find comfort and rest in the arms of Terry Long.
Even as she thought it, the door swung open and Dick stalked out, his face dark with anger and sorrow. The door slammed shut behind him. Her heart in her throat, Donna jumped to her feet. "Dick," she said urgently, "what happened?"
"She's delirious," Dick said curtly as he swept by her, towards the other door. "She doesn't know what she's saying. I'll talk to her again tomorrow."
Uh-oh. This was really bad. "They're keeping her overnight?"
"Yes. No. I don't know. They ought to – she's completely out of her head." Almost running to keep up with him, Donna caught his arm at the elevator, ignoring the stares of the patients, doctors and orderlies around them. She watched with dismay as he slammed the "down" button with his fist.
"Robin," she murmured gently, reminding him of who and where they were.
He quieted, but did not apologize, staring fixedly at the elevator doors until they opened to reveal a blessedly empty car. Once inside, with the doors hissing shut, he slumped back against the wall.
"What happened?" Donna asked again.
"She said it's over," Dick replied quietly.
"What's over?" But she knew the answer.
"Us. Her and me. She said it's not working, that it's not what she needs…Christ, Donna, she's the one who's always telling me how damn much she loves me! Now, all of a sudden, it's 'over?' I'm not enough for her anymore?" He thudded his head back against the elevator wall. "I know I've been withdrawn lately. But we talked about that. I thought she understood. I thought we were okay. And now, out of the blue, she just says…" his voice trailed away.
"I'm sorry, Dick," Donna murmured, laying a hand on his arm.
Dick shook his head determinedly. "I'm not giving this up, Donna. I love her. I really do. I – "
"Dick," Donna said gently.
He turned to glare fiercely at her, and went a little pale at the sorrowful, yet compassionate, expression on her face. His eyes turned glassy. "I don't even know why," he said thickly.
"You were in there a long time. Didn't she tell you?"
"She tried. I didn't understand any of it. Something about the 'nature of love' or…I don't know." He shook his head again, and the elevator slowed to a stop.
"Maybe…there's someone else," Donna suggested delicately. She certainly had her own suspicions, though she fervently hoped she was wrong.
"For Kory? Nah, that's not it." The doors slid open to a near-empty hallway. Visiting hours were over, and only the night nurses and staff roamed the halls. "She's a monogamous kind of person. I've always known that about her. It's me, or something I've done. And I don't even know what it is, much less how to fix it…" They made their way down the eerily quiet corridor. "Look, go home. See Terry." He smiled weakly as he opened the main door for her. "I need to do some thinking. We'll talk later, okay?"
She squeezed his arm and smiled as cheerfully as she could at him, stepping into the night air. "You better count on it, pal."
She watched him walk down the sidewalk, reflecting that his bare legs must be freezing in the chill, and then glided up into the air, her lasso a warm glow at her hip. She would go see Terry and glory in her own happy relationship, trying to forget the problems of her friends, just for tonight.
But even after they made love that night, and snuggled in each other's arms, she couldn't stop thinking about Kory, or about Dick. Please, great Athena, she prayed silently, don't let Kory be making a mistake, lend her your wisdom. And lend Dick your strength, Queen of the Gods, mighty Hera, if Kory doesn't change her mind…
She quashed the urge to pray to X'Hal into the bargain, and held Terry close. He mumbled sleepily and she smiled. Whatever happened, she still had this, still had him.
She just had to trust that this mess would work itself out somehow.