So, like I promised: Thursday is for "Catch Me." And here it is—the final product of chapter three. Oh yeah! Hahaha! So, please read and enjoy, for I have worked my fingers to the bone, typing this up. I hope you like it.
'Another day, Robin…another day.'
Slade twisted the handle, eye never leaving her friend, until the very last, possible second. Robin started forward, glaring in hateful frustration as the lair began collapsing around him. She could almost see the immense fury building on the Boy Wonder's face, knowing that after all this torment, the villain was going to go unpunished…the anger was vibrating from his thin form, and she was almost afraid of him for a moment or two…there was so much potency trapped inside his heart—it was like the manmade weapon, the "bomb"? It appeared calm until the moment where it exploded, annihilating all of its surroundings…
As well as destroying itself.
Was that the side of Robin that Slade desired to see untapped? To watch her leader lose himself in the furious heat of battle, to allow him to vanquish and eradicate life, until the darkness ripped his soul to shreds and left behind a discarded, empty shell, one that had fulfilled its purpose, and was no longer of any use?
She couldn't let that happen…she wouldn't be able to go on if it did.
Gears plunged to the ground, smashing craters upon the floor, and steam rolled into the shadows in thick jets; metal groaned as immense weight hammered down relentlessly on it, causing it to bend nearly in two, then snap in exhausted effort.
…As if it were portraying what Slade had wanted to do to Robin—no! She had to stop thinking about the ordeal her friend must have gone through and focus on what was occurring now. Swiftly jerking out of her thoughts, she scanned the vast space and located her leader, running from a gear that was about to crush him. Without a moment's hesitation, she dove towards him, arms stretched out to grab him and fly to safety—
The young girl jolted in surprise as the dream—still vivid in her mind—vanished to be replaced by Robin's face peering at her. She gasped, emerald eyes wide in shock, and wrenched the bedcovers up to her chin automatically.
"Friend Robin! What are you doing in my—"
He pressed a hand over her mouth, and she noticed the absence of the cloth gloves that he usually wore; at the same time, an odd, tingling feel rushed down her spine and ended somewhere in her stomach.
"Please, don't ask me any questions, Star. Just come with me…I want you to be with me while…"
His voice faded away, and a second later, he took his hand off her, smiling nervously. She wasn't quite sure how to respond, so she returned the grin, hers perhaps even more lopsided and awkward than his—within her mind, she cursed herself in Tameranean.
"Where are we going?" She questioned, once she was done mentally ranting and had begun to pull a light blanket around her shoulders. Robin didn't answer and chose to stare at one of her walls; Starfire noted the tension in his shoulders, and the package that lay at his feet, wrapped in rough brown paper.
As the two teenagers crept along through the hallways of the Tower, the alien couldn't help staring at her companion's face, with the way his masked eyes darted this way and that, and the crease in his brow…the unkempt, black hair that swept back from his hairline; the locks that looked even more careless than usual, which was a sign of restless nights, of tossing and turning in his bed, desperately longing for sleep when none would come. Sometimes, as none of their room were far from each other, she thought she heard him moaning—begging with an invisible adversary that none of them could rescue him from. How afraid he must be, and yet so unwilling to admit it!
Robin stopped and glanced here and there, as though he imagined a noise, or the flicker of a shadow across the wall, but as Starfire watched and waited for him in silence, a thought drifted through her mind, one whose truth startled her: He looked like a ghost. His skin was rather violently pale, and it contrasted against the night that surrounded both of them—his cheeks shining like an eerie beacon, while his hands trembled as he clutched the package to him.
What nightmares haunted him in the dead of the evening?
"Shush. We're almost outside…"
There was no answer to her question, for the Boy Wonder had already slunk forward, slipping in and out of her vision, and it was all she could do to keep up with him.
And so they stood, side by side, while the fire crackled and burned, orange and yellow fingers leaping at the star—studded sky eagerly.
They were so close together—much too near to be called teammates or friends…so what were they, Starfire wondered, as the blaze fed on itself, rising and advancing to the heavens.
Are we in love?
What was the word… 'unrequited'? Raven had once read aloud a sad, dramatic tale about a young woman who'd been so deeply, passionately in love with a man…but he'd never known, and in the end, she'd killed herself, writing a letter that told him everything. The words in the story had depicted the sinking, awful emotion of rejection so powerfully, that Starfire could undeniably relate to the protagonist. Did Robin love her? If this was so, she had to commend him on his remarkable lack of hiding feelings, much like Raven herself did. And…what did she know of 'love' anyway? Maybe she was misguided—swayed by marvelous fantasies of what it meant to care for somebody…in the end, this could just be a false sensation she had whenever she was about him, her mind manipulating her into thinking this way so that her heart would not have to ache with the knowing of eternally being alone…
Then why am I here, standing with him?
The bonfire grew higher, wood snapping in half, and she drove her troubling thoughts away as she and Robin fixed their gazes on the uniform that was being devoured by the greedy inferno, the orange and black cloth fading steadily as a wall of fire overtook it.
Starfire didn't know of all the customs of Earth, but the symbolism of this single event was much too apparent to be missed, even by an alien like her. He was doing his best to destroy memories he hadn't wanted in the first place…
There was an insistent hammering on the door, as if whoever was outside was putting all their will forward into breaking it down. The room's occupant groaned wearily, and ran his fingers through his mussed hair, blinking stupidly.
"Come on! Wake up—I know you're in there, and I'm not going away until you open the damn door! Now let's go!"
Dick Grayson gave a muffled moan, touching his head lightly only to wince in pain. Oh jeez…not another hangover…they were the worst…
Somehow, he rolled out of bed and dragged himself over the floor exhaustedly—he winced as a few bottles beside the table clinked together—before wrenching at the handle and coming face to face with his landlord, Mr. Phillips.
"Hello David," The young man said as nonchalantly as was possible, despite the throbbing ache in his brain. God, did it hurt…Mr. Phillips, however, cast a critical eye over his customer, a glint of suspicion flicking in the dark irises.
"Where's my money?" He asked calmly, something that Dick really had to commend him on.
Grayson gave a half chuckle and brushed his black mane of hair back again. Nightwing or not, he desperately needed a haircut; it was one of things he missed from his days as Robin—the short, simple spikes he never had to bother with.
That's the only thing you miss? a voice questioned.
"Look, David…it's extremely early in the morning, not to mention that I'm hung over—"
Phillips made a disapproving noise with his tongue as he checked his watch.
"I told you about that, Dick…the wife doesn't like to see a kid like you getting drunk—"
Yes, yes: you told me this about a hundred thousand times…and I don't ever remember asking Mrs. Phillips to stick her nose into what is my personal business.
"—She hates to see youth corrupted by the effects of alcohol. No offense," He added apologetically. Dick shrugged.
David paused and seemed to be evaluating the younger man, and Grayson felt a spasm of panic.
What? What! Am I still wearing my mask? Did I leave my uniform out on a chair?
"Hey, man…what exactly do you get up in the evenings?"
Nightwing blinked, and then tried to recollect his bearings, while attempting a casual chuckle.
"Oh, not much. Work is…" He searched for a good way to describe it. "Work is murder."
Not a bad way of putting it.
"I come home later on in the day, and I'm exhausted. I…I pretty much hate my job, but it's the only one I've got…I write letters to my family, then crack open a couple of drinks, and before I know it, I'm out like a light; however, I do go out at night at times."
Try, "almost all the time."
"Do you party?"
Dick Grayson laughed again.
"Why so curious, Dave?"
"Because…it's one in the afternoon."
The man once known as 'Robin' felt his jaw drop in amazement.
"Nope. That's why I was wondering what you do at night: Men like you seem to get your kicks by going wild and crazy, and having a huge party…see, you sleep in a lot. And sometimes you don't even come out of your rooms on the weekends—"
In the background, Richard heard a soft beeping sound that alerted him of problems in the city.
"Oh, shoot. Dave, that's my cell phone, and it's probably my boss. I've really got to go—but we can continue this conversation later!"
Phillips shook his head in exasperation and waved a hand to shoo him off.
"No, just go. I'm sure it's important…"
Ugh: Drug dealer scumbags, bringing in a shipload of new junk to sell to poor addicts.
Nightwing had positioned himself below the dock that was bringing the new products in, watching as different pairs of feet stomped over the wooden planks, and casting shadows over his somber features. Masculine voices drifted to his readied ears, and there was a loud scraping noise that told him the crates and their illegal contents had been removed from the ship's cargo.
"Oy!" Someone shouted out loud, and the young man could have laughed out loud at the amateur's ways. "Be careful with that—if the boss finds out you damaged any of his stuff, there'll be hell to pay!"
Well, he was right about one thing—there would be hell…hell for bringing this kind of crap into his city and thinking they could get away with it.
Nightwing gave a tight smirk and made his way in a spider-like fashion along the pier, growing closer to the men that were bickering like children. From their behavior, he could already tell that this job was going to be only too easy; which was fine for him, since all he really wanted to do these days was go home and crash after so much fighting…on the other hand, though, he was starting to get bored with petty villainy and was on the verge of praying for challenge.
Almost. That was the key word.
The vigilante buried these thoughts and focused on the job at hand.
When he reached the end of the dock, Nightwing swiftly removed a grappling hook and hurled it with all his might at the ship; the steel claws gripped the side of the boat, burying their points into the metal. The man gave a brief tug on the rope to test if it would hold or not, and then jumped.
Like the first hint of dusk, casting itself across the world, Nightwing glided up the side of 'The Seabird' (it was one of the minor ships at port, used only to deliver a small amount of supplies…or a way to transport something discreetly, the man added) and took up his new perch on the deck, his relentless gaze fixated on his targets.
The dealers below had almost completed their task of dragging and stacking boxes near the front of the wharf; one of the males—he appeared to be in charge—beckoned to a delivery truck, and Nightwing heard an engine come to life.
It was now or never.
He took a running start…and leapt over the edge of the boat like a track runner might over a hurdle; he flew through the air, one leg poised in a flying side kick…and fell, slamming his heel into the back of one criminal's spine.
His companions had no time to respond; as his first victim prepared to slump to the ground, Nightwing grabbed him under the arms and flung the limp form at the thugs. The body—thank God he'd gotten a fat one—crashed into and pinned two enemies flat, but the rest kept coming forward. 'Robin' smiled like a Cheshire Cat and pulled out his bo-staff; quick cracks on the skull knocked out another one.
The leader and his cronies charged him, fists at the ready: But the leader was the only one with a weapon (a lead pipe).
Nightwing assessed them in the blink of an eye, by size, speed and strength, then moved to the goon on the left. He drove the staff into the hoodlum's jawbone, and turned gracefully, plunging the other end through the right hand man's (A/N: Lame pun. Leave me alone) leg.
Unfortunately, he wasn't as fast with the guy in charge.
The pipe collided with his skull, causing colors and patterns to swirl and melt in his vision.
Stupid…should have seen that coming…
"Heh, heh, heh," the man laughed lowly, watching as Nightwing spun in confusion. "Not so tough now, are you? …Robin."
The hero stiffened, and no matter how dazed he had been before, he now came slamming back to earth like a meteor. How—?
"Whatsammater? Can't remember your own name?"
Where did this lowlife find out about his old identity?
"My name…" Robin hissed, delivering a fatal blow to the slimeball's neck, "IS NIGHTWING!"
The boss crumpled at Grayson's feet, and the young male watched him in contempt.
So this is what you've transcended to: From an obsessive, messed up kid, to a filthy murderer.
"I'm not proud of it," he whispered, as he strode over to the crates (whoever had been driving the truck had vanished, most likely running off in fear).
His better side remained unconvinced.
Nightwing slit the ties that strapped the crate shut and peeked inside, frowning in puzzlement.
Extinguishers (they looked like they spouted out gas, though) and containers of a curious looking dust were nestled in the packaging.
He'd have investigated further, but police sirens were already wailing to him in the distance; no doubt some idiot dock-worker had seen him trashing the drug dealers and had called the cops.
He snatched up the nearest vial of dust, retrieved his grappling hook…and then he had swung off into the night, the darkness blissfully enveloping him.
"Well, well, well…what have we here?"
The villain already knew who it was: After all, he'd been the one to pay that mindless fool to address his old associate by his former name.
Far beneath the soil, the mastermind lurked, surveying the scenes from above on his plasma screens. He had to admit—he was deeply amused. It'd been so long since he'd glimpsed…uh, "Nightwing's" fighting style…and now it was ironic, that the boy choose to brawl this way.
He's turned into a killer…how perfect.
And he had taken the vial as well. If that wasn't enough of a hint, the evil plotter didn't know what would lure the young man back to him…to his impending doom.
The best thing to do now was merely gain something that would ensure Robin's return.
And he knew just where to find it.
It has been a very long time.
When he had departed, his hair had become matted, and the spikes had fallen to swoop over his forehead like black commas, hiding his eyes even more than usual. His good-byes had been brief and as empty of feeling as Raven's monotone voice…she had cried the night that he left them all behind for good.
Recently, Roy (A/N: AKA, Speedy. He changed his name to Arsenal later on) had brought them a picture—to be more accurate, a newspaper clipping about some heinous crime, and Nightwing's even more heinous solution to put an end to it. She recalled the sick feeling that had gathered and settled in her stomach like a bad meal. She had cried again the same evening that she'd seen the headline.
…Surely…surely, after so many years, her friend would have become lonely and missed her, along with Raven, Victor, and Gar (A/N: Victor—Cyborg—, and Garfield/Gar—Beast Boy).
This idea had spawned from her hope, and had given her the bravery and daring to do what she was about to attempt now.
There was a pause on the other line, as the phone waited to be picked up. Then, once more—
The young woman paced nervously about the main room of a familiar Tower, though the interior had changed drastically as its inhabitants grew older with the passing years…she had changed too, learning to speak English more fluidly; her uniform had been molded from the original skirt and tank top to a much more sophisticated fashion of a metallic purple skort that barely extended past the very top of her thigh and a tighter shirt than before, one that exposed a bit more skin. It was complete with the same high boots as before, and the metal armbands that wrapped around her muscles. A band around her forehead had been added and her flaming crimson hair had grown longer as well.
She had changed in many ways, and in more than appearance. She was no longer the teenage girl that he once knew…
Bri—"Hello, Richard Grayson speaking. Who is this?
A splutter of surprise came from the other end of the line, something that boosted Starfire's confidence a bit more. It had been so long since they had talked, she was afraid that he may have forgotten her. Little did she know that the last thing he would ever do is forget about her.
"Starfire? Is that really you? Or…do you go by a different name now?"
"Yes! This is Starfire!" she cried in utmost delight, "although, Raven and Arsenal have suggested that we go by our actual names…I am referred to as Koriand'r now, or—"
" 'Kory Anders,' " Robin grumbled thoughtfully. "Yeah…Roy told me all about it when he contacted me awhile ago…"
Starfire beamed happily at no one in particular (The rest of the Titans were up in their rooms, all concerned with their own personal issues).
"Yes. Roy showed us a picture of your…your workings in the new city you are inhabiting. You are called, uh…Nightwing?" So he had followed the path of the Robin that she had met in her trip to the future.
He sounded distracted. Starfire, thinking fast, quickly blurted out:
"Many things have changed since you left! Victor—"
"—Yes," Starfire said hurriedly, trying to breeze over his words. "He has met a young woman named Sara Sim who is a computer specialist. They are dating currently…and, um, Garfield—"
"—Of course, he has been quite busy. Raven has been visiting Azarath constantly, which leads us to think there might be a conflict back in her home—"
The firm note in his tone made her voice fade off into nothing, as she listened attentively, not daring to cut him off.
"Why did you call? I know it's not to keep me 'updated' on what's going on with the Titans. Is something the matter?"
Starfire bit her lip hard, not sure how to put her thoughts into words. It had seemed so much easier when she had been practicing her speech in her bedroom. The Robin she had envisioned was the one that had gone all those years ago. This new person—whoever he was—was so very different from who she once was acquainted with. She tried to put forth her argument gently.
"I—well—it has been a few years since you have left us. There…there has been no sign of Slade is all this time…I…I was wondering whether you would wish to come back—"
"But, please Robin!" She begged helplessly, attempting to keep him on the phone. "Do not hang up! Please, just listen to what I have to say—"
"I made up my mind a long time ago, Star. I have no intention of returning to Jump. There's too many things that have happened to me there, and I don't want to have to deal with it anymore."
"Then you are being selfish!" She yelled back hotly, a lump rising in her throat. "You are afraid, Robin! The Titans truly need you—"
"Do they really need me?" He asked quietly. "Or is it just you?"
Starfire felt as though she had been slapped.
"Of course I wish for you to come back, but I am not the only one—"
"You're the one being selfish, Star!" Robin suddenly exploded, words pouring out from him in a torrent, and the alien could hear him storming about wherever he was living now. "You're demanding that I come back, but I can't deal with the memories and the pressure that I face whenever I enter that place! Not to mention that if I do, I'll still always be labeled as 'Robin, Batman's kid,' instead of who I am now! I'll just always be a kid there… I need to make something new for myself. Now goodbye!"
He was about to hang up when Starfire whispered, using her last effort:
"I do want you to return here…because I…I hoped that…maybe—there was still a chance for us to be together once more—"
But her words did not have the effect she had desired. Instead, Robin only became more enraged.
"Stop it, Starfire, or Kory Anders, or whatever the hell your name is! I don't care about that! But if you think we EVER had something, you are wrong! We were never together, and we never will be! Nothing ever existed between us, so just stop PRETENDING!"
The receiving end was slammed down with a loud crack, and Starfire threw the phone down as well, burning tears of fury and shame coursing down her cheeks.
Richard sat back at his kitchen table, heart and mind heavy with the words he had just uttered.
If only she knew that all he was saying was a giant lie. But he had to protect her…even if it meant driving her away from him forever… He wouldn't let her get hurt…
Mr. Grayson shook his shaggy head and tried to forget their conversation; he turned his attention to the vial of discolored dust in front of him, rolling it back and forth between his fingers—
The container had hit his newest bottle of alcohol, and the liquor gleamed temptingly in the faint light of the room. Richard stared at it, contemplating, and his brain turned back to Kory…what she would say or think if she found out about his little problem…
He pushed the booze away and, with a weary groan, laid his head in his hands. It seemed that he was never thirsty when he thought about Starfire…
My Starfire, my gorgeous alien…
It was late at night, and the inhabitants of Titans Tower were all fast asleep, aside from Raven Roth, who was still deeply alert, waiting for someone in Azarath to respond to the question she had recently sent through her mind. A gnawing presence grew at the corner of her mind like a tumor, but she ignored it. Little did she know how much it would cost her and the rest of the team…
In the next room, Garfield Logan—or 'Changeling,' which he had modified after 'Beast Boy' had grown old—was snoring loudly, much to the annoyance of Victor Stone, who was slumbering (or at least trying to) across the hall. Other rooms had been cleared out, waiting to be occupied by new members of the Titans who would soon come to join.
Only Starfire—Koriand'r, Tameran's princess—remained wide awake, tears still running down her face in streams to flood the pillow where she rested her head. The window to her room was flung wide open, allowing beams of moonlight to streak through and onto the floor, dramatically illuminating part of her pale, sad expression like a spotlight. Near the foot of her bed was a small bag that she had packed (rather, thrown a few belongings into). She didn't care what it took—she would make Robin listen! He had to come back!
But he's already so gone…
"Promise me, something Starfire…"
The girl's eyes widened as he squeezed her hand tightly and turned to face her; he was looking directly at her, and suddenly she felt as if her thoughts were visibly floating out from her scalp, and that any 'secrets' in her were instantly revealed to all. They'd never willingly been this close to one another…
"Yes, Robin?" She said quietly. It seemed to her that, should she speak too loud, she would shatter the fragile barrier that closed the rest of the world off from this moment…that if she said anything than what was necessary, this spell that held them together right here, right now, would be broken…and she couldn't bear it.
"Promise me, Star…that you will be there forever. It's unfair of me, to ask you—I know that…" He sounded so desperate, so pleading; in the glint of the firelight, she could see the tears that were starting to fall.
"I know it's unfair to be leaning on you all the time, but I need you…or I'll slip and fall, and I'll never stop. Please, Starfire. I never want you to change: You're so…"
The young woman reached out her free hand and put it on his cheek; the boy started beneath her touch, before relaxing. His own hand came up to cup the outside of her palm, and the next thing she knew, she was caught up in his careful embrace.
"You're so perfect…"
Her own cheeks were wet with tears, and she buried her head in his shoulder.
"You're my angel, Starfire…my savior. Promise me…"
She nodded and, to both their surprises, brushed her lips against his cheek.
I don't know him anymore…
She never saw the dark figure creeping through the window…
Cliffy! My signature trademark—ha! (Don't hurt me.) So, I want to know whether this was as good as the other chapters or not. And for those of you that are currently reading "Immortality," I will see you tomorrow. (By the way: Only two more chapters left to go on this story!)
Catch ya later: