Earning My Stars (Part Five)
Disclaimer: Don't own these characters. This is the final chapter in the saga and boy is it going to be long. It's also told from the lovely POV of our heroine once again. Enjoy and R/R.
(Author's Note): There should be extra spacing between some of the paragraphs in this entire fic to indicate shift in scene, time, etc. For some reason it's not letting me put the extra space in.
For a second I look around and wonder where I am. Is it morning already? I stare around and find myself in my room. Wasn't I on the couch? I try to think back. Starfire got me a blanket and a pillow. I laid down on the couch and then I ended up here. I automatically move out of my room and into the kitchen.
"Hey, Terra," greets Cyborg, "Ready for my world-famous chocolate-chip waffles?"
"Sure," I reply a little hesitantly. I thought everyone was mad at me. Didn't I do something wrong? I try to remember.
"You'll need all the energy you can get," states Robin, "We're training today after breakfast." This all seems hauntingly familiar. A random thought suddenly crosses my mind. Where's Beast Boy? Suddenly I remember everything. I almost got Beast Boy killed and now he's in the medical wing. There was a fight on a rooftop. Slade was there.
"A pleasant little scene, isn't it?" asks a voice. I turn to find Slade standing behind me watching everyone else at the breakfast table. How did he get into our home and what the hell's going on here?
"Get out," I order him, "or I'll kill you right here." Slade smirks.
"You can't kill me," he replies simply, "I'm already a ghost, a ghost that haunts your poor, confused mind."
"No!" I shout, "I know you're real."
"Terra?" asks Robin, "Who are you talking to?"
"It's him," I tell the others, "Slade's here. Can't you see him?"
"Terra, Slade's dead," says Robin. God, what will it take? I grab my hair in frustration and almost rip it out. Won't anyone believe me for once?
"They can't see me, Terra," assures Slade as if our conversation was never interrupted, "Only you can. Now, where were we in our little discussion on the rooftop? Things happened so fast I forgot."
"Shut up," I tell him, "Stop haunting me."
"Oh but it's quite entertaining," he replies maliciously, "This way I don't even have to lay a finger on you. You're mine, Terra, and these little children won't keep you from my side."
"No!" I shout, "If you hurt them . . .." The ground rumbles with my anger. No, please not again.
"Stay back," I warn everyone.
"I don't need to get any closer, Terra," taunts Slade, "I'm already inside your head, your soul. Look at them, so blissfully ignorant. They have no clue who you really belong to."
"Please," I whimper as the ground grows more violent and uncontrollable, "don't hurt them. I'll do whatever you want."
"Of course you will, child," replies Slade. I look down to see I'm wearing the uniform again, the one I wore while in his service. It makes me want to vomit. The fabric burns my skin like acid. I scream and cry out in pain. I try to rip it off my body but the material won't tear. It's stuck on me just like I'm stuck being his slave. For a second I think that I'm going mad. Then suddenly, everything freezes.
"It's okay, Tara," I hear someone say. I look down to find myself in normal clothes.
"Beast Boy?" I ask. I can't see his image but his voice is everywhere. Everything else suddenly falls away and I feel serenely calm. Now that he's here everything is okay.
"Nobody's going to hurt you," he tells me. I feel an incredible warmth upon hearing those words. I can feel his arms around me, holding me protectively. I don't know where he is but I know he's with me.
"It's going to be okay," he whispers into my ear. I feel my eyes close heavily and I slip back into blackness.
When I can see again I am in a dark room and I'm seemingly alone. From what I can tell it is night outside this room. I can't tell if anyone is in here with me though.
"Hello?" I ask hesitantly. By now I'm quite certain that I am dreaming. For some reason this fact give me very little comfort.
"Hello, Tara," replies a voice. I haven't heard the voice in what seems like a lifetime. A patch of darkness fades as Raven stands before me. She still looks exactly the same. Her dark blue cloak envelops her like her own shadow. Her hood is pulled back and I can see her violet-colored hair and the gemstone on her forehead shining in the light of the room.
"Raven?" I ask. I am very wary now. This is the depths of my mind where nothing is what it first seems. Sure this looks like Raven but how can I be sure she isn't here to hurt me.
"Relax," assures Raven with a light smile as if she read my thoughts, "I'm not part of your imagination."
"Then what are you?" I ask.
"I think that's a little too complicated for you to handle right now," decides Raven, "Let's just say I'm here to help you."
"Okay," I reply with a hint of nervousness, "Uhm, how?"
"Well for starters," began Raven, "Whoever or whatever you saw up there on that roof wasn't the real Slade."
"How do you know that for sure?" I ask her.
"You can't get out of where I put him," explains Raven.
"Where's that?" I ask.
"You're a smart girl," replies Raven, "You can probably guess." Hell? Did she send him to Hell? For the first time I really start to wonder what this girl can do with her powers.
"So what was it I saw then?" I ask her.
"Beats me," replies Raven with a shrug, "Maybe it's one of those evil robot aliens or blood-sucking zombie clones Beast Boy keep rambling about." I giggle a little and even Raven cracks a smile.
"Hey, Raven?" I ask after a pause, "Are you mad at me?" Raven stares at me with an expression of mild confusion.
"Come again?" she asks.
"I mean are you mad that you had to sacrifice yourself when it should've been me?" I ask her.
"Things are how they are," explains Raven as she shakes her head with a smile, "I would like to ask you a favor though."
"Anything," I reply. I don't know what exactly I can do for this girl but I'd do it in a heartbeat. She's already done more for me than I could ever repay.
"Stop living in the past, Tara," she tells me, "Everyone makes mistakes. Deal with it and move on." Yep, that's Raven. She always was the rational one.
"I understand," I reply. It's stupid of me to keep wishing things were different. No matter how hard I wish, the past will still remain the same. If I let my mistakes hang over me then I'll just end up repeating them.
"Raven?" I ask her, "What's it like being dead?"
"It's a secret so I can't tell you," replies Raven, "Wouldn't want me to spoil the surprise, would you?" I smile and shake my head. Even though we didn't get much of a chance to really know each other, I'm glad Raven's my friend.
"I gotta go now," Raven tells me, "You're going to be okay, Tara." I nod as she disappears. I feel everything start to dissolve and once more there is blackness.
My eyes open slowly and I stare around my room. My room? I feel a sudden rush of panic. What if I'm just dreaming again? What if it's another nightmare? I look around and slowly get out of bed. I make my way into the hall. The TV's on. I can hear it even from here. There's some other noise too. Someone humming in the kitchen?
"Hello?" I ask as I enter the living room, "Anybody up?" Someone gets up from the couch. I blink in disbelief. He's up?
"What?" asks Beast Boy with a smile, "You act like you've seen a ghost." I let out an incredibly girlish cry of joy as I run across the room and throw my arms around him.
"Ribs, Terra," he warns me, "Cracked ribs here. . .don't squeeze so tight."
"Can't help it," I reply as I let up a little bit, "If I don't hold on you might leave me."
"I won't as long as you don't leave me, Tara," he replies as he hugs me back. I know in my heart that everything will be okay now. Everything's okay as long as he's here.
"I'm so sorry," I tell him, "I didn't mean to hurt you."
"It's alright," he tells me, "It wasn't your fault. Slade was up there too." I break the hug and look at him in disbelief.
"You saw him?" I ask. Even Beast Boy wouldn't pull a prank like this. Finally, someone believes me.
"Yep," replies Beast Boy with a smile, "and after I straightened Robin out I got him and Cyborg out lookin' for him too." His chest swells with a little pride. I may not be his girl anymore but he likes the idea of gallantly coming to my defense. I kinda like it too.
"I regret to inform," says Starfire, "but I was the one who mended Robin's crookedness."
"Hey, I helped," interjects Beast Boy. I see his manly ego deflate a little and can't help but smile.
"Thank you, both of you," I tell them. It's then I notice that Beast Boy's not wearing his shirt. His chest is most taped up but still it's kinda. . .I don't know what the word I want to use is.
"Uhm, heh," he stumbles as he notices me noticing him, "Couldn't get my shirt back on, hurt too much."
"Uh huh," I nod and feel myself blush. He's been working out more lately. It shows a little too. There's an awkward silence as I avert my eyes and try to disrupt myself.
"Tea?" asks Starfire, "I regretfully did not make some for you, Terra, but I can."
"It's cool," I reply, silently thanking Star for breaking the silence and keeping me from having shirtless Beast Boy fantasies. Starfire hands Beast Boy a mug and I accompany him to the couch.
"So, Robin and Cy went to check out my lead?" I ask over my shoulder to Starfire. I feel a little twinge of pride. MY lead, MY contribution to the team. I know I should stop keeping score but one more point couldn't hurt.
"Yes," replies Starfire, "Robin called earlier before you awoke. They have found something but Robin does not believe it is significant enough. They were going to return shortly."
"What about the H.I.V.E.?" I ask. I completely left them out of the picture. I've been so busy concentrating on Slade I left them alone completely. I stop for a second and run over my last thought.
"They have not been seen since the attack," Starfire tells me. Why would they be laying low? We've been so busy with Slade and Beast Boy they could be running rampant but instead they. . .. I stop and think.
"Call them back, Star," I tell her, "Something's wrong."
"What is it?" asks Beast Boy.
"Don't you see?" I tell them, "Slade wanted us to focus on him and on taking care of Beast Boy. Why else would he have goaded me into causing that accident? We pay too much attention to him. . .."
"And we don't notice the H.I.V.E. until they're on top of us," finishes Beast Boy, "You think it's an ambush?"
"Call them, Star," I tell her, "If I'm wrong then good but I've got a bad feeling about this." Starfire nods. She attempts to use her communicator and frowns.
"There is something wrong," she informs us in a fearful tone, "There is only funny, static noises."
"They went to the rooftop where Slade was, right?" I ask. Starfire nods. Already her eyes are beginning to glow with anger.
"Then that's where we go," adds Beast Boy.
"No," I reply, "not you. Please, B. I don't want you getting hurt again." He nods. I know he doesn't like it but I couldn't handle seeing him get injured again or worse. There's also another reason I don't want him along. I don't want him to see what I'm going to do to Slade. That's a side of me I don't want him seeing.
"Terra," says Beast Boy as I turn to leave. I turn and stare at him. I can tell he's worried about me. It's nice to know he still cares after all that's happened.
"Be careful," he finishes.
"I will," I promise him. I turn away before he can say anything else. It's hard sometimes. There are so many things I want to say to him but I can't because we don't have that kind of relationship anymore. I can tell it's hard on him too.
"We must hurry," calls out Starfire as we make our way to the roof. By the time we're outside, Starfire's already in the air.
"I'll follow you," I call after her as I take a running leap off the roof. A huge chunk of rock rises to me and I land on it with ease.
"Do you think we'll make it in time?" asks Starfire as I cruise alongside her.
"Yes," I reply, "I just hope there's enough left on Slade when I get there because after I'm done he'll wish he was just a hallucination."
The city block is a complete mess by the time we arrive. I have an odd sense of déjà vu as we approach the area.
"They're down there," informs Starfire as she points to where Robin and Cyborg are holding their ground. I watch as the H.I.V.E. goons charge.
"Let's take 'em out," I tell Starfire as I swoop down towards them. Jinx spots me first and lets out one of her hex waves aimed at my platform. I remember how this goes from our last fight. I flip off the rock before it explodes. The ground underneath curves upward, making a ramp that I use to slide down to the street.
"Don't tell me you boys had all the fun," I call out to Robin with a smile. My eyes sweep the area. Where is he? I want Slade.
"We saved you some," replies Robin. He turns and jumps away before Gizmo can step on him with his mechanical legs.
"You just don't know when to quit, do you?" I ask Jinx as another hex causes a car next to me to explode.
"Might ask you the same thing," replies Jinx as she cartwheels to dodge a chunk of pavement I hurl at her, "You're almost as good as me when it comes to making disasters." That one was low.
"Now, now," chides a voice, "I wouldn't be too harsh, Jinx. After all, she might be your new teammate."
"You," I hiss coldly as my eyes lock onto Slade, "are mine."
"Not quite, my dear," he replies, "I believe you have that backwards." I stare at this man, if he can be called that anymore, that I have waited forever and a day to take revenge on.
"Come, Terra," challenges Slade, "Show me what these pathetic children have taught you that I could not."
"They taught me how to live again," I answer fiercely as I charge towards him. I don't want to use my powers. I want the pleasure of beating this man senseless with my own two hands. Slade readies himself. He has no idea what's really coming. As long as his feet are on the ground he's playing my game.
I leap towards him and realize who's playing whose game. He quickly rolls to the side and suddenly my world is turned upside down. A huge arm the size of a tree trunk slams into my head in what can only be described, if watching pro wrestling with the boys has taught me anything, as a clothesline straight from hell. My feet fly upwards as my head reels back. I'm honestly surprised that it still stays attached to my body. I land with a thud and avoid falling on my neck.
"Afraid you'll have to have an appetizer," explains Slade although I'm knocked so silly by Mammoth I can barely understand and process the words.
"Tasty," growls Mammoth as he grabs me by the collar of my uniform and lifts me up. It takes a few seconds for everything to come back into focus and the stars to go away.
"Be gentle with our little butterfly," orders Slade. The name he calls me burns in my ears. Beast Boy used to call me that when we were dating and in more affectionate moments he still does. Hearing Slade use that word in reference to me is pure profanity.
"Maybe I should just pluck her wings off then," suggests Mammoth with a cruel smile.
"Leave her alone," orders Starfire. I see a starbolt slam into Mammoth and send him flying backwards. I'm unceremoniously dropped on my butt. There goes that tailbone again.
"Are you injured?" asks Starfire as she lands next to me.
"I'll live," I reply. Something inside me realizes that Slade is on his own now. That same something makes my body do what my brain tells it to do.
"Wait," suggests Starfire, "We will defeat him as a team." No. No more teamwork, no more waiting. This is my fight. This is something I have to do alone. I shake my head violently in response to her suggestion. I use my powers to lift a chunk of pavement.
"Slade!" I yell at him, "There's only one person in the world who calls me 'butterfly'. Guess what? It's not you!" I hurl the chunk at him. As expected, Slade dodges the attack. Good. Let him think I haven't changed. Slade leaps upwards over the massive projectile and attempts a flying kick. The ground beneath my feet literally moves me sideways to avoid the attack.
"Very good," he applauds as his other leg shoots out in a spin kick towards my head. I bend backwards and feel the gust of air as his foot sails by. He moves to punch me but a wall of rock suddenly appears between my face and his fist. Strangely, there is no crunch of bone as his fist hits the solid rock.
"This is pointless you know," he tells me, "I'm a much better fighter than you. Sooner or later I will strike you. You can't hide behind your rocks and dirt forever."
"I wouldn't talk about hiding," I return as I throw a punch at his face. He grabs my fist and squeezes it hard. His grip is inhumanly strong and I let a cry of pain slip from my gritted teeth.
"You haven't changed, Terra," he tells me, "You are still quite the novice." He wrenches my arm behind my back and almost tears it out of its socket.
"Give this up, little Judas," he hisses, "You belong with me, belong to me."
"I belong with the Titans," I reply as I reach up and grab the back of his head. I suddenly throw Slade over my shoulder. He lands on his back. I shake my arm a little to make sure it still works. Before Slade can get back to his feet, the ground he lays on turns to thick, viscous mud. Slade fumbles in the sticky glop as he tries to get back up.
"Let's try this again," I suggest as I heft a chunk of rock. I lob the chunk straight at Slade. He's so busy trying to work his way out of the mud he can't dodge the attack. The chunk hits him and sends him flying into a building.
"No comeback?" I ask as I approach him, "No condescending remark? How very unlike you." I savor this moment. For once, this man is at MY mercy. After all the abuse he has heaped on me now I will settle it once and for all. I grab him by the collar. A giant stalagmite takes shape behind him at my request. It would be so easy. He's wounded, won't give much resistance. I could just stick him on that thing and leave him there to rot.
"Go on, Terra," he prods me, "I told you that you were worse than me. Prove it."
"Terra!" I turn to see the rest of the Titans. I should do it. They'd thank me for it. He caused Raven's death. He almost got Beast Boy killed. If he goes to jail he'll just get out again and repeat the process. I should just end this madness right now. I want to so badly too. I want to but I can't. The team would hate me forever if I did and to be honest I'd hate myself to.
"No," I reply as I stare into the eyeholes on his mask, "You aren't worth it. You're not worth me losing my soul." I reach towards his mask. He's not getting off clean. If I can't rob him of his existence then at least I can destroy his pride. I grab his mask and rip it away. It's then that things reach a whole new level of weirdness.
"Not what you expected?" asks the voice. A mechanized man stares back at me from under the mask. Its eyes suddenly roll back and are replaced with numbers. For a few moments I can't do anything. He was a robot, a damn robot! I'm so mixed with emotions it doesn't hit me what's happening. Suddenly I realize the self-destruct sequence has been activated. I feel the strong cable of Robin's grappling hook wrap around my waist and suddenly I'm jerked backwards. A second later, the robot explodes.
"Well, that was weird," says Cyborg, "Somebody wanna tell me what just happened?"
"It was not Slade we fought?" asks Starfire with disbelief.
"No, it was a body double," explains Robin, "I should've figured it out sooner. Slade has used that trick before. It wouldn't be too hard to create a robot that was a perfect duplicate of him. The robot probably even thought it was the real Slade."
"But where is the real Slade?" asks Starfire.
"Gone," I reply, "He's where he can't hurt anybody."
"You're sure?" asks Cyborg.
"A little Raven told me," I reply, "I trust her." I turn to Robin, still unsure where the two of us stand.
"How'd you figure it out?" I ask him. Robin smiles a little. He loves to show off all these cool detective skills he's picked up from somewhere.
"Well, there was the oil Cyborg and I found," he explains, "At first I thought it was from Slade's boot but it was from him. Can't run a machine smoothly without oil. Then there was the fact that Cyborg couldn't get a reading from him even when he was standing right in front of us. That was just weird."
"You're right," adds Cyborg, "I couldn't get a bio reading from him because he wasn't actually alive at all. Why didn't I think of that?"
"Why would you though?" asks Robin, "We all already assumed it was the real Slade we were dealing with. It wouldn't have occurred to you to scan for non-biological life forms."
"I should've figured it out," I tell them, "I know Slade better than any of us."
"No, WE should've figured it out," replies Robin, "and if I hadn't been a jerk we would've. I should've trusted you, Terra." Robin extends his hand.
"No biggie," I reply casually as I shake it, "We all make mistakes." Starfire and I stare at each other for a second and exchange smiles.
"Home?" proposes Starfire.
"Home," replies Robin, "I think we're through for the day."
"See, I told you," declares Beast Boy, "How many times have you guys laughed at my evil robot clone theories? How many?" He looks back over the couch to the rest of the team with an 'I told you so' look on his face.
"Well, for once you were right," replies Cyborg, "So go ahead and gloat about it."
"I'll wait," says Beast Boy, "Hard to do the 'I told you so' dance with cracked ribs." Cyborg shakes his head. I smile as Beast Boy returns his attention to me.
"You okay?" he asks me. I never get tired of hearing him ask me that. I don't think I ever will.
"Yeah," I reply as he slides his arm around my shoulder. I snuggle a little closer to him as we both watch the TV for a little while.
"Hey, B?" I ask him, "Is this going to be one of those 'just friends' things or something more?" What happens next is definitely unexpected. It happens so fast I don't really have time to think about it. The next thing I feel is his lips on mine. He kisses me like he means it with all his heart and I return in kind. I've waited forever for this and I've walked through fire for it. No small little peck on the cheek this time. I get my reward in spades and it's everything I had hoped it to be.
"That answer your question?" he asks softly.
"Yeah," I reply, feeling deliriously happy and a little light-headed at the same time. His arm pulls me closer and my head, to weighed down by all the stress of the day, finds its way to his shoulder where it's safe and warm. I feel my eyes get a little heavy and I sigh contentedly. I've slept longer than I should've today but I'm still unbelievably tired. After your adrenaline shuts down, battling to the death is pretty tiring.
"I love you, Tara," Beast Boy whispers in my ear. I take stock of myself a little while sitting there on the couch with him. I have earned many things. I've earned the trust of my teammates, my friends. I've earned the heart of the love of my life. I have earned the assurance that I have redeemed myself. There's another thing I've earned though. Right now, it's the most important thing on my list. I've earned a nice, long, nightmare-free rest. As my eyes begin to close, I decide that now's the time to take one.
(Author's Note): Well folks, that's all. Hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it.