I am called Nightwing. Now. I was called Robin, a long time ago. And as I watch her go into the time warp tunnel that Cyborg holds steady for her, I wonder if my very existence is about to be extinguished. Because Starfire has seen a future that was made without her in it. And from the expression on her face as she looked at each of us before she left, I am going to believe that she will do all in her very capable power to make sure this future does not happen. I watch the tunnel begin to close behind her and hold my breath. In a moment, we will all vanish, and very likely, we would be glad of it.
Before Starfire came, I didn't think of the past at all. Many things had happened to bring about the situation that she saw. And the primary thing was her absence. Whether Starfire was aware or not, and I doubt that she was, it was the fact she had been snatched from us that led to our eventual failure as a team. If I am going to be snuffed out in a moment, I might as well admit that I had...feelings for Starfire, our little alien. Seeing her again brought them painfully back. She was exactly how I remembered her, when I dared to. She was so much like a star, her namesake. She was bright. She could blind you with her smile and her joy would radiate from her to fill a room. She was powerful, and likely to become more so as she matured. Her powers could explode like a nova, like a supernova if she was really angry. It was awesome to behold. All of that power held in one slim girl with masses of red hair, and brilliant green eyes.
I have to admit, that although I was the unofficial leader of the Titans, it was Star who held us together as more than just a team. She was the peacemaker, who hated to have any bad feelings going on. That last day we spent with her she had been so upset with us all for arguing. It was a small thing, a minor argument. None of the disagreements were important, and it all would have blown over in time. But Starfire wanted to celebrate some Tamaranian friendship festival, and we let her down. I have often wished that we had been able to have that celebration with her before she had left us. Maybe it would have helped.
But, on thinking about it, I doubt it. Because Starfire was gone. There was no one to soften flaring tempers, to ease the sting of burning sarcasms, to calm raw emotions on a joke gone badly. None of us had that ability. None of us saw how we could eat away at each other without meaning to, because Star had always made things come out right. Without Starfire to temper things, my authority became too harsh. Cyborg's temper became too hot. Beast Boy's jokes became too cruel, and Raven's moods became way too dark. It was only a matter of time before we began to dislike each other.
I never let my thoughts travel the "what if" road. That was pointless and painful. My feelings for Starfire had been complex and a little frightening for someone so young as we were. There was also the matter of what we did, and the fact that we were only two members of a team. I couldn't show favoritism, even when it meant she was going into danger, and I had to send her. I couldn't run to her aid when others were in just as much trouble. And I couldn't tell her to back off when I expected everyone else to charge forward. It made things...difficult. Whether she knew I battled with those things, I'm not sure. She never hinted at it, and she never shirked the danger or the battles. She was one hundred percent a Titan. She believed in what we did, and us probably more than any of us. She was proud of us, and proud to be one of us. I think we lost some of that too, when she never came back to us.
The memory is very clear of that day, of coming back to the Tower in total shock after Starfire followed Warp into the time vortex he created. We had waited and waited for her to come back, but nothing happened. Cyborg raged. Beast Boy paced. Raven stood in silence. And I just stared at the place she had vanished into, her name still echoing in my mind. When we finally gave up and went home, we were all numb. Not a one of us could believe that Starfire was gone, really gone. After all of the things we had gone through together, to have her swallowed up by a vortex and vanish was just not possible. But we had seen it happen. And we knew she wasn't here anymore. I think that was the moment when I, personally, realized that the Teen Titans were no more.
The days passed, then the weeks. Without Star to coax her, Raven grew more and more withdrawn and into herself. She no longer even bothered to socialize with the rest of us. She stayed in her room, lost in meditation. Even her fighting took on an edge of hopelessness. Because Starfire had always given each of us hope, even Raven. For Star, nothing was impossible. We could succeed at everything. Without her to cheer us on, our focus became very limited. At first, we might have even been better at beating the villains. But we were better only because we were all, every last one of us, driven by anger, because we had lost our joy.
Cyborg missed Starfire's gentle humor and her attempts to follow his video game exploits. Now, he played in silence, not even smiling. Probably not even knowing what game he had to play. If Beast Boy joined him, it was a humorless competition that often ended in hard feelings. Myself, I had lost interest in the games. I had lost interest in a lot of things. I spent my time staring out of the big window over the city, and trying to remember how her voice sounded, how her laughter had floated through the Tower, how her Tamaranian customs had amused, fascinated, and even sometimes, appalled us. I missed her. I missed her very much.
We quite literally came apart at the seams. The bickering grew more frequent and more heated. Without the gentle words of Starfire to soothe Beast Boy's frequently wounded ego, he became bitter and angry. He lost his sense of humor, his playful mood, his love of fun. There was no one to show off for, no one to have an innocent flirtation with, and no one to laugh with him. He resented me. I think that he resented all of us. Starfire could have helped him. She had always understood Beast Boy's moods better than anyone. She cared for him like a big sister, and he had adored her. If Starfire was angry with him, Beast Boy would drive himself crazy until he made it right with her. In all honesty, none of us could handle her unhappiness.
First Beast Boy left. Then Raven, who had retreated so far from reality none of us could reach her. Who would have guessed that those few little kind gestures of Starfire's had meant so much to her. And finally I had to leave. The Tower was oppressive with too many memories of better times. Cyborg was morose and angry, spending his time with his computer and machines. I couldn't do it anymore. So I left, and I created Nightwing. I never saw the others again, until she came back.
Of course it would take Starfire to do it, to reunite the Titans. After twenty years, there she was. I had almost ignored the sounds of the fight, but a misguided sense of curiosity drew me to the snow-covered street. The first thing I saw were star bolts. I never believed I would see those star bolts again. I watched, frozen in total disbelief as she fought Warp, all the way to the point where she was nearly defeated. Then I was moving, still somewhat numb, but moving to take him out and get him away from the miracle of Starfire's return.
What a moment. She had not changed. Of course not. She had just arrived through that vortex. At the other end of it, we were all twenty years younger, staring at the place she had vanished. She stared at me, part in wonder, and part in confusion. I could see it playing over her features. How lovely she was. We spoke, and I took her to my hideaway. It was there she told me what happened. She was so sad. She had seen the others, and it hurt. Of course it would. I couldn't say what had happened. I couldn't lay the blame on her, even though it had been her fault. Her fault, because of who and what she was, because of her kindness, her love, her smiles, her laughter. No, I couldn't do that to my little Starfire.
And so, with the Teen Titans, no longer teens by any definition, together again, we succeeded in vanquishing Warp. And we prepared to send out Starfire back home. Back to...us. Maybe she could fix it, and make it right this time. As I stood and looked into her eyes just before she left this time, I believed she could do it. I wanted to tell her so. And I wanted to hold her once, before I was erased. But, there was no time, so I had to let her go, or see her trapped in our time and all chance of changing it destroyed. And now, the vortex is closing. That means that if she is successful, if she does make it back to our past then this future may vanish. I look at the others, at the hope now renewed in their faces. Yes. We all want the same thing. We may finally get to celebrate the Tamaranian Festival of Friendship. Starfire is coming home to us.