She knew she loved him, but that didn't stop her from wanting to fry him with a couple of starbolts on occasion.
These were the exact thoughts on Starfire's mind as she wandered the brighter lit alleyways of Jump City's southern district, clutching a pale manila slip of paper to her chest. The sheet was an invitation, of sorts. An invitation to a speed date. Raven had slipped it to her, saying that she had picked it up at one of the several café's she enjoyed. It was free, which was unusual for speed dates, but supposedly it had been funded by some country club. Spaces filled up quickly, Raven had warned the Tamaranian girl, and so she should call in quickly if she wanted to go. Somehow, the empath had talked her into this. Regardless, Starfire's mind was on anything but the speed date that loomed ahead. Her attention was, much to her dismay, focused on Nightwing.
It amazed her, really, what kind of internal torments the former Boy Wonder caused her. His obsessive side practically drove her out of her mind, not to mention his agitating need to protect her. Him protect her. Now that was a laugh. She had been the one enslaved by the Citadel, she had been the one tortured by the Psions, and yet here she was today, alive and well.
Him protect her? Not in this lifetime.
Regardless, Nightwing still seemed to feel the need to sit her up on a pedestal so he could be sure that she was one hundred percent safe while he took the brunt of the fight. While it was an admittedly sweet gesture, it was enough to make Starfire want to hurl him off the top of the Tower at times. They were supposed to be a team. It seemed he had gotten her roll as team member confused with damsel in distress. She'd rather eat an excessively large plate of Beast Boy's tofu concoction then wait to be rescued by some big strong man in shining armor.
She could save herself, thank you very much.
Starfire had reached the door of the building that matched the address on her invitation. She knocked twice, paused, then twice again as was instructed on the paper in her hands. The steel entryway opened with flourish and she was ushered indoors graciously. Upon reaching the reception table, a man checked her sheet on which a four digit identification code had been scrawled then instructed her to enter the next room and take a seat at any chair on the right side of the center line of tables. Starfire had barely even heard him, walking through the double doors in a thoughtful daze and taking the first seat she came to, at the last table, across an empty chair. She was too busy thinking of Nightwing to notice the man that came in a few steps behind her who sat all the way in the front, at the first table.
What had happened, really, to that boy that she had first fallen in love with? What had happened to Robin? The kind one, her teacher? He was becoming more like his mentor every day, and that didn't please Starfire at all. The pretty Tamaranian rested her chin on the heal of her palm and gazed across the room, the chair opposite of her still empty, wondering if it were selfish of her to hate the Batman, hero though he was. She supposed that she had him to thank for the existence of Robin as a whole, but she really was learning to despise this…this cold thing that her dear friend had been morphed into because of the Dark Knight's influence. The only reason she still found herself attached to the former Boy Wonder was those rare moments when her Robin would come out of the hardened shell called 'Nightwing', fleeting though they could be. Yet here she was, at a speed date, trying to let go.
Then why could she not stop the flow of thoughts about him?
Starfire was abruptly jerked out of her dreamlike state when a man no younger than forty five sat down across the table from her, with sandy blond hair and dark hazel eyes. Alarmed, the alien girl of twenty years glanced up and down the table.
What did Raven get me into? An old man hook-up convention?
Noticing at least eight men around her age seated in chairs to both her left and right opposite to her, Starfire breathed a sigh of relief and settled once again. The man across the table from her offered a warm smile.
"Sorry to disappoint you. There was nowhere else to sit on the guys side. I'm positive I'm too old for you, which eliminates the purpose of this round of the speed date, but I'm sure we can be friends. And no, I'm not a creepy stalking pervert, if that's what you're thinking." Starfire chuckled pleasantly, extending a hand.
"Very well, Mr. I'm-Not-A-Creepy-Stalking-Pervert, we'll just be friends." The man laughed and shook her hand.
"You're Starfire, of the Teen Titans, aren't you?" She nodded. "What're you doing on a speed date then? Aren't you with-"
"We're…taking a break." The Tamaranian interjected before the man could go any farther.
"Oh…so who needed the break, you or him?"
"I see." The man shook his head and sighed. "Well when you get home, tell him Morrie of Jump City's prestigious grocery store management association says that he needs to get his head in order, because he has a great thing going for him, so he shouldn't screw it up." Morrie, as Starfire was to assume was his name, smiled.
"Thanks for the kind words. I'm flattered."
"Didn't you used to never use contractions in your speech? What happened to that?"
"Oh…Rob-" Starfire flushed, correcting herself promptly. "Nightwing has been working on that with me for a long time. Now I speak normally…normal to Earthen people anyways."
"Excuse me!" A woman at the front holding a clip board under one arm clapped her hands together to get attention. "It's time to get started, now that our final female has arrived." There was a slight buzz of conversation erupting from near the back of the hall, which quickly swept to the front. Starfire and Morrie remained silent. "Hey! Do you guys want to get started or not?" The woman had dark brown hair cropped at her shoulders and caramel colored skin. Dangling golden bracelets tinkled as she clapped her hands again, drawing the attention of the room back up to her. "Now, as you've been able to get acquainted with whoever is currently sitting across the table from you, we're going to have to ask all the males to stand up and move over one seat to the right. You, in the back! You come up here, to this front chair." There was a shuffling noise as all the men rose from their seats and moved down one. Morrie, the man the woman had been referring to as 'You, in the back', offered Starfire a warm parting grin.
"Good luck to you, Miss Starfire. I hope we can remain friends." Without another word, he rose and swiftly moved to the front of the room where his first date of the night awaited. A handsome young man who looked about twenty five took Morrie's place. He smirked at Starfire arrogantly, as though he knew he could get her. She hated him already.
"Now do we all know how this works?" The woman at the front got a wave of mixed answers to her question and explained anyways. "You have exactly five minutes to get to know the person sitting across from you. At the end of those three minutes, the men will rotate, just as they did now. This will go on for…" The woman paused to check her clipboard, "…fifteen rounds. After that, you're all free to rise and socialize a bit more with anyone you please. I hope it goes well for all of you, and if you don't find your one true love tonight, perhaps you'll at least pick up a friend or two." From her seat at the back of the room, Starfire saw the woman hold up a stopwatch. "Ready? Go!" The stopwatch beeped and the Tamaranian girl found herself face to face with the pinnacle of arrogant jerks.
"So, Starfire." The man smirked. "I'm Rod Lewis. Pleased to meet you."
"…Same goes to you…I guess…" Starfire had muttered the last part under her breath.
"Of course you're pleased to meet me. I'm the second richest twenty six year old in Jump City." Twenty six years. So she'd been off by a few months.
"So, Gorgeous, anything you want to know about me? I'm sure you're full of questions. My killer looks often have something to do with it." Rod Lewis grinned in a conceited manner, nothing at all like the smile of kind Morrie.
"Um…yeah, I have a question for you: Would you like some of that air extracted from your skull? It seems to be clouding your already warped sense of reality." Starfire laughed internally at the dumbstruck look on Rod's face. It seemed that Raven's lessons in sarcasm had not gone to waste. Then again, it was Raven who had gotten her into this whole 'speed dating' thing in the first place.
The rest of the night continued in monotony, each guy who sat across from her more boring than the last. Starfire found herself asking whichever man was sitting across from her to repeat what he had just said more than once per conversation. Her attention was drifting again, and she was barely able to carry on a smooth five minute chat without some thought of Rob…Nightwing. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, the last round was about to begin. Morrie sat diagonally to the left of the Tamaranian girl, offering her a small wink before the stopwatch went off; before she had even turned to see her final speed date.
The man sitting across the table shocked Starfire beyond levels that she had thought possible. He was ebony haired with deep blue eyes, only a bit taller than she. This was a man she also knew as Nightwing.
"Rob-" Starfire stopped and corrected herself. "Nigh-" Suddenly, the Tamaranian girl realized that she couldn't blow his secret identity. They were in a public place, and he was maskless. "Dick Grayson." Her voice was hard. "What are you doing here?"
"Introducing myself. What does it look like I'm doing here?" Dick eyed her critically.
"I…" She couldn't blow up on him, or everyone would know who he was. But oh, how she wanted to. It seemed that her final date was well aware of her predicament, judging by the knowing smirk on his face.
"So, now that we know who we are, let's begin, shall we?"
"If you think for an instant that this is funny-"
"I'm not laughing, am I?" Starfire's eyes flashed dangerously at this comment.
"You never are. Not anymore."
"Starfire! Stop it!"
"Stop WHAT?" Starfire stood up abruptly, raising her voice and getting several other people to stare.
"I was going to tell you to stop drawing attention to us, but it seems it's too late for that." Dick hissed, tapping a finger on the table.
"You…I…UGH!" Starfire turned away and burst through the double doors angrily, only one thing on her mind: getting out of the building and getting away from Nightwing.
"Star…" Dick rose as well, hastily apologizing to the other speed daters and following the wave of red hair out of the room.
"Well…um…perhaps we should start the final round over…" The woman at the front suggested hesitantly, resetting her stopwatch. As she did, several woman in the room began muttering to one another about how when they'd had their speed date with the young man who'd just left, he'd been a perfect gentleman, if not a bit distant at times. What had he done to make that red haired girl (and wasn't she a Teen Titan?) jump up and leave in such a temper…?
"Starfire!" By the time Dick Grayson, now able to be known as Nightwing, had yanked open the doors and stepped into the street, the Tamaranian princess had already taken to the sky. "Starfire! Wait!" She ignored him, soon disappearing from sight. Swearing at himself angrily, the former Boy Wonder pulled his mask out of his pocket and stuck it on his face, climbing onto the motorcycle that waited for him parallel to the street and taking off for Titans Tower.
Nightwing found his (was she really still his…?) girlfriend exactly where he thought he would, on the roof. She was huddled on the edge; in what he was sure was the approximate area they'd sat together in so many years before, just after Blackfire had left.
"Nightwing?" Her voice was stony and hard. She didn't turn. This wasn't going to be easy.
"You what? You'd like to apologize for being such a complete bastard to me for the past few weeks, totally ignoring me when you go into your little dark, introspective modes and practically excluding me from fighting whenever there's trouble?" Nightwing winced.
"For the record, I taught you the word 'bastard' so you could use it on villains, not me."
"Well it seems rather fitting right now, doesn't it?" Starfire finally rose and turned to face him. "Why are you doing this, anyways?"
"Trying to 'get me back' or whatever. Why? I don't seem to mean much to you anyways, not when there are 'more pressing matters' on your mind."
"Hey, I protect you all the-"
"Didn't you hear what I just SAID?" Starfire's eyes burned with ferocity. "I don't NEED your protection! I can protect myself! I need you to stop being so dark and moody all the time. I need you to stop pushing me away. I need you…" Starfire crossed her arms defiantly. "I need you to stop acting like Batman."
"Starfire, I'm sorry if I've been ignoring you, and you have to believe me when I say that the LAST person I want to act like is Batman. I look up to him, sure, but he's a rock. Rocks have no emotion. I could never be that."
"I beg to differ."
"Starfire, come on…"
"You still haven't answered my question."
"What question?" By this time, Nightwing was positively exasperated, yet it was this fiery personality that had attracted him to Starfire in the first place.
"Why are you trying to get me back?"
"Because I need you Starfire! Don't you get it? Without you, I would be a rock!"
"It seems I've failed then. Miserably."
"Maybe I'm on the edge right now, I don't know." Nightwing sighed, rubbing his temples gently. "I'm just saying that whatever emotion's left in me, I owe it to you, and I don't want to loose it. You make me human, Starfire. You're what's keeping me from going over the edge, from being Batman. I love you, and I won't let you go. Not like this." Starfire's eyes softened, but her expression remained cold.
"Words only mean so much. It's your actions, not your words, over the past few weeks that have been driving me out of my mind."
"What do I have to do then?" Nightwing looked Starfire straight in the eye. "I'll do whatever you want."
"Really?" There was a mildly amused look on Starfire's face.
"Then throw yourself off the Tower. I've wanted to do it myself for some time, but I suppose beggars can't be choosers. You want me back, then jump. I can't guarantee you'll live, but I'll know that you really loved me."
Without a moment's hesitation, Nightwing stepped off the edge of the roof.
"ROBIN!" Starfire's eyes became wide with shock, and she didn't even stop to correct herself before soaring off of the top of the Tower and after the former Boy Wonder at top speed. She caught him with ease, but that didn't mean her heart was beating any slower.
"Nice save." Nightwing looked a bit ruffled, but unharmed nonetheless. Starfire deposited him back on the roof before rearing.
"What were you THINKING? Are you CRAZY? You could've DIED! I didn't think you'd really do it! X'hal, you gave me a heart attack!" Nightwing merely shrugged, a small impish grin on his face.
"I knew you'd catch me." Starfire examined his face. The smile…the playful smile…it so reminded her of years ago, when they were still fourteen and fifteen…this was Robin, not Nightwing, but Robin.
"You…you…" Starfire let out a noise that sounded like something between a scream of aggravation and a laugh of relief. "What would I do without you to drive me crazy?"
"Don't know. Shrivel up and die?"
"You're a riot, you know that?" Her words were sarcastic, but Nightwing was laughing, which was making Starfire laugh as well. The boyish laugh that she remembered all to well was infectious. As their gales died down, however, she had to ask… "Why can't you always be like this? Carefree and happy?"
"Because I'd shrivel up and die." Nightwing bit his lip as his girlfriend shook her head.
"That would be funnier if I didn't know you were serious."
"I'll work on it, okay?" For some reason these words comforted Starfire, and she found herself melting into his gentle kiss as the sun set on the horizon.
She knew she loved him. She'd figure out exactly why later.
Wow…that was…interesting. Reading it over, I'm actually REALLY happy with this piece. I got the idea from this fic from three places:
My friend Chelly and I talking about the Nightwing/Starfire relationships. (Chelly is so…philosophical sometimes…and she doesn't even realize it!)
The movie "Hitch".
On The Couch with Dr. Jen and Bradley, a funny therapy radio talk thingy that I listen to every night before I go to bed.
I am really proud of this thing, which is pretty rare for me to be truly happy with my writing. But this one shot…I really like it. My favorite one shot that I've written so far. Well…tied with Shootout. But they're different tones of writing, so…yeah.
I hope you all liked it, and don't forget to review!