Running From Sin City
Chapter 10: The Mask Breaks
Disclaimer: Stop asking me! The Titans are not mine!
I dedicate this chapter to all the patient readers and reviewers out there and hope they come back to this story again.
There goes a saying, words of wisdom, if you will, to look at life through rose-colored glasses. The meaning of this saying is things appear to be better than they truly are. If an average passerby was asked to examine Kory's life through rose-colored glasses; they would see a beautiful woman with an amazing job, comfortable home, the physical embodiment of Prince Charming as her beau and a very pretty and sweet little girl in her care. With this description in mind, life appears to be perfect for Kory, absolutely flawless as a matter of fact.
Yet in reality, life wasn't so wonderful for the crimson-haired flutist. Even though she walked with poise, grace and a smile, Kory was miserable. That brilliant grin she had pasted on was nothing more than a mask hiding away the fear and restlessness that she had pumped in her each time her heart beat. Kory felt as if she could never have her back turned for long before icy shivers would trail their cold fingers down her back for lengthy amounts of time; endlessly wondering if Ares or one of his lackeys would leap from the shadows and attack her in an attempt to kidnap Miranda.
The emotional toll this new "lifestyle"—as one might put it—was taking on Kory was not only destroying her state of mind, it was affecting her career and relationships. Kory was leaning against one of the Corinthian style columns of the Jump City Theatre surrounded by Joey, Carmela and Tula while listening to the petite woman talk about her latest date with Alan Rivers, Chief Financial Officer of Wayne Enterprises. Actually, Kory was there physically, yet mind was elsewhere, thinking of Richard and the way their relationship had been changing.
At first Kory had felt like she was in some kind of fairy tale when she was with Richard. Yet with the obstacles that have suddenly been hurled at her; Kory felt like she was trapped between a comic book where she was the damsel-in-distress and a soap opera as the overworked pregnant woman of a cheating husband. Not that Richard was cheating per se, whenever they were together there weren't any strange phone calls that made Richard seem mistrustful. However, he had seemed distant in their phone conversations for the past few dates. Kory supposed Richard was beginning to retreat because of the way she had acted on their last date.
A young model-like green eyed woman and an equally model-like ebony haired man were at Bailarías, a small Spanish café located across from Jinx's Hex. Richard had been telling Kory of his family that were still in Gotham; Bruce Wayne, his adoptive father, and Alfred Pennyworth, his butler, though grandfather was a more fitting role for the wise and welcoming old man. Richard had been using excited hand gestures, his sapphire eyes alight in resplendent recall as he told Kory about the time Alfred was struggling to teach him how to make treacle tart, a dish Kory has only heard about through Harry Potter.
Unfortunately, despite the combined efforts of the elderly cook and his student, each attempt Richard made at mastering the delicate dessert, it would result in only a treacle tart…en flambé. Under usual circumstances, Kory would have laughed at this. But not in a scoffing way, rather with a kindred mirth as she remembered her own cooking disasters.
Sadly though, Kory was in what were the farthest of normal circumstances, and Richard's words sounded garbled to the fatigued young woman as her emerald eyes stared beyond her boyfriend and focused on the man standing a good ten feet away from them. The man was tall and somewhat lanky in a grey business suit. He was talking on a cell phone. The man's ice blue eyes kept drifting back to Kory, making her heart pound. If he was trying to be covert, then he was anything but.
Richard noticed Kory's silence and looked at her intently. Her eyes were cloudy with other, troubling, thoughts; a glazed look had washed over them. Her mouth was open slightly and her tan skin had paled several shades lighter. Concern pierced his blue eyes as Richard took Kory's suddenly cold hand. Feeling a large, warm hand envelope her own slim one caused Kory to snap out of her trance.
"Are you alright?" Richard asked. "You looked as if you were somewhere else."
Kory smiled slightly completely abashed. "I-I'm sorry." She began. "I-it's just been completely hectic these past few days, what with work and putting Miranda into school." She smirked a bit, a nearly invisible playful gleam coming into her eyes. "Who knew that first graders could be piled up with so much work? And then there are—"
"Wait," Richard interrupted. "First grade? I thought you had told me Miranda is eight."
"Miranda is eight," Kory clarified. "Yet she's never been to school. Luckily she didn't need to start in Kindergarten; Miranda would probably pull her hair out if I had placed her amidst all the chaos that comes in the forms of four and five year olds."
"I see now," Richard said. "You were saying?"
Kory sighed. "Sometimes Miranda has these nightmares and although I've told her she can stay with me, it hasn't proved to be enough to coax her back to sleep. By the time four-thirty rolls around, then she finally falls asleep from sheer exhaustion and I'm usually still awake from sheer worry."
Richard whistled softly. "I wonder how your sister handled all of this." Kory shrugged. "Do you think you can handle a movie or would it be better if I took you home?"
And there it was. The opportunity to tell Richard the whole truth was sitting in front of Kory on a shiny, silver platter. Well more like a tarnished silver platter as it were. Richard didn't specifically ask if there was anything else bothering her, however it did appear that way. Kory would have loved to just burst into tears, sob in Richard's arms and tell him the whole truth about Ares and how Koma had inadvertently dragged her whole family into his sick and twisted schemes. To shift a part of her heavy burden from her thin shoulders to Richard's broad strong ones.
But Kory was terrified that Richard would become overwhelmed and leave her helpless. Pasting a rueful smile on her face Kory said, "I'm sorry, but could you please take me home? I really need to sleep. I'm starting to feel a migraine rearing its ugly head and trust me; you don't want to deal with me when I have a headache." Richard chuckled and went over to her. He wrapped his arms around the stressed red-head and kissed her forehead.
"Don't worry Kory, I'm not mad. I'm just glad you don't find me boring."
Kory smiled a genuine smile, "I could never find you boring." Reassuring him of this, Kory twisted in her boyfriend's grasp and him down for a fiery kiss.
Kory had thought that everything was okay between Richard and herself when he had driven her home, yet the phone calls were making her think otherwise.
"So can I take advantage of the rain check tonight?" Kory had asked while packing Miranda's lunch.
Richard sighed. "I'm so sorry Kory," he sounded truly remorseful. "But it's my turn to take a rain check. We've just become flooded with work and it's too risky to leave Rachel by herself with so much to do." In a lowered voice he added, "You do not want to leave Rachel with an overwhelming amount of work. There are very scary consequences."
Kory had smirked at that; but every phone call after that had to be cut short because Richard had to be whisked away to an important meeting with somebody prestigious or take an important call. Each time Richard hung up the phone, it left Kory with a stronger urge to tell him the truth. To be released from the burden and to feel safe.
With a somewhat sickening and horrifying realization, Kory noticed that Richard was retreating into his work. Just like he had done after his relationship with the police officer Barbara Gordon. Were…were they through?
Kory tried to focus on Richard's face. His handsomely carved cheekbones and the way his unruly jet black locks sometimes fell into those mesmerizing sapphire gems. His features made her heart melt and break at the same time. Richard, where are you when I need you most?
She focused on his voice. That warm, rich tenor of his. "Kory, you haven't been listening to a word I've been saying," he admonished. Oh no, have I been spacing out again? "Kory, senorita, are you there?" Senorita? Wait, what? Since when does Richard speak with a Spanish accent?
Kory snapped out of her reverie and focused on her surroundings. She wasn't with Richard; she was with Joey, Carmela and Tula. All three of them had expressions of concern on their face. At least their emotions are genuine, she thought wearily. Not like this mask I wear that I call a smile.
"Kory sweetie, que pasa? Why are you like this?" Carmela questioned worriedly. "This must be the tenth time you've slipped into a trance these past three days."
"I haven't been getting a lot of sleep is all," Kory replied while trying to pass off her behavior.
"They must have been horrific nightmares," Joey signed. "You keep on spacing out, not to mention your hands tremble a great deal and sometimes your flute has fallen out of your hands." Tula nodded solemnly.
Kory stammered, struggling to quell that yearning to tell someone the truth.
"We-well, you see…I h-haven't been getting a lot of sleep b-because…"
"Has Miranda been having nightmares?" Joey interrupted.
Joey smiled knowingly. "Same thing happened to Rose the first few months she was with us." At his friends' puzzled looks he explained, "Rose's mother is not my mother. When she was six, our father took custody of her. "Being separated from her mother caused Rose to have anxiety attacks and ruthless nightmares. The blonde cellist frowned. "For some reason that is still unknown to me; our father ignored her cries, believing those dreams to be character building. But I refused to let Rose think that she was alone, so I snuck into her room every night and stayed with her until dawn."
Tula smirked slightly. "It's kinda funny how she's the therapist and not you."
Joey merely grinned and gave a slight nod.
Carmela turned her attention back to Kory, fixing the young flutist with a stern brown eyed gaze.
"Kory, I think you should go home," she suggested gently. "Get some rest. We'll tell Mr. Robinson that you weren't feeling well and probably wouldn't be at your best during rehearsal."
Kory tried to protest, "But I—"
"Kory," Tula interrupted in a surprisingly stern voice. "Go home and get some rest." Shock forced her mouth closed as the red-head spun delicately on her heel and began to walk toward the exit.
"I'll take Miranda back to my apartment after-school," Carmela called. "Juanita looks forward to playing with her again." Kory nodded as she pushed the glass door open into the warm, brilliant sun.
Kory stepped into her apartment and blew out a long, exaggerated sigh. She knew it was an immature thing to do; but it was one of the few things that would deflate her tension a bit. She threw down her flute and keys and began pacing her living room like a caged tiger. Her breathing became faster as her frustration grew. Kory let out a growl as she quickened her speed. She felt like a pawn in some kind of twisted game of chess. Her whole family was pawns. Miranda was the king or princess if you will. The most sought out piece in the whole game and therefore the one that required the most protection.
Kory sighed; sleep was certainly not coming to her. She trudged over to the refrigerator. Milk always seemed to calm her down instead of relying on alcohol and the "comfort" it brings. When she opened her refrigerator she noticed that the milk was absent. Sighing, she closed the door and grabbed her keys. "At least I won't be sitting around doing nothing."
Unbeknownst to the flutist, her hand was trembling violently.
Kory was miserable as she hunted for milk in the local convenience store, Bobby's. Her posture was slightly bent as her shoulders began to slump in sadness. Kory's mind weighed heavily as she dwelled on the fact that her relationship with Richard was beginning to crumble and on the fact that she was harboring a fugitive. No, not a fugitive, it's just…your adorable eight-year-old niece is being treated as some psychopath's prize…yeah, that's it. How much longer will I be able to keep up this happy go lucky façade?
As Kory exited the store, she noticed that the sky had gone from a gorgeous blue to a melancholy gray, dreary and torrential. That was fast, it fits my mood too.
Kory was drenched as she neared the sidewalk across from her apartment complex. Before she could reach for the button to signal for the walking sign, a large hand came out of nowhere and clamped itself over her mouth. Another hand snaked its way around her waist and roughly yanked her into a dark alley.
"Mmph!" She tried to protest. Her attacker didn't listen. Instead, she was thrown against a brick wall grimacing as her head collided with the hard surface.
"Where is she?!" A male Russian voice demanded.
"Wh-where is wh-who?" Kory gasped out even though she knew fully well who the Russian was talking about.
"Don't dance around the question!" He snarled. As lightning ripped through the sky, Kory could see the murderous look in his smoldering charcoal eyes. "Master Ares doesn't like it when people keep him waiting! Now tell me, where is the girl!"
"I don't know what you're talking about!" Kory cried. "I am a single woman! I have no child!!"
The Russian was enraged. "Liar!" He roared. He took his free hand and placed it on her throat hard. His body was pressed against hers, enabling her to inhale the spirits and cigarettes that were exhumed from his mouth. She started to gag, desperately trying to pry his hand from her throat.
In a low, slithery voice he whispered, "There are ways of making you talk." With that, he removed his large hand that had pinned her wrist to the wall and began to slide it up her shirt.
"NO!!" Kory screamed. She bit his hand causing him to bellow in pain. The Russian slapped Kory then sent her sprawling into a puddle where she lay sobbing. Ares' lackey rolled her over, his image blurred by her tears. He examined her body, his charcoal eyes taking their time as they looked over every inch of her figure. In that slithery voice he rasped again, "There are ways of making you talk." The Russian kissed her throat; Kory repressed the urge to gag once again.
He began to tear off her shirt, the material ripping with ease, the wet gravel biting into her delicate skin. And that's when Kory was gone. Her eyes went blank, her breathing slow and hitched as her mind went to a completely different plane of existence where no rain poured and no stranger's hands roamed her body. Vaguely Kory felt her belt being unbuckled and her jeans sliding down. I'm so sorry Koma, she thought. I failed both you and Miranda. Her underwear began to slide over her hips when a battle cry followed by a thwack pulled Kory back into reality.
Focusing her vision, Kory saw a man dressed in black standing over the Russian man whom he had thrown onto the ground. A blue bird was emblazoned onto the man's chest emanating some sort of comfort to Kory. Wet black hair lay plastered to his cheeks whereas his eyes were covered by a black and white mask.
"If you lay another hand on her," Kory's savior said in a deadly voice, "Forget justice. I will personally make you pay."
So it's true, Kory thought wearily, there really is such a thing as a knight in shining armor. Then everything became mercifully black.
When Kory returned to consciousness, she found herself in the arms of the man who rescued her. However, given the fact that he was wearing a mask, male and she had almost been raped Kory wasn't particularly pleased with being carried, let alone touched. Instead her breathing became heavy and erratic as she struggled to get out of the masked man's grasp. She began thrashing and screaming, "Put me down!"
The man stopped and said in a soothing voice, "Miss, I'm only trying to help you get to a safe place. I'm not here to harm you, I swear." Unfortunately his words did nothing to assuage her as she increased her efforts to flee.
"Put down! I do not trust you! Stop touching me! Just let me go please!" Kory's voice became wracked with sobs.
"Miss, my job is to protect," her hero said in that still calm voice. "I'm not going to hurt you; I'm just getting you to safety." This time Kory listened to his voice. His tone was filled with determination followed by a gentle undertone, it reminded her so much of Richard and that time when they first met at the Flying Crane Café and how she just knew that Richard was the protective type. Believing that this man was also the protective type, Kory forced her body to relax. She observed her surroundings and realized that they were on one of the landings of the stairwell inside her apartment building.
"How…?" She asked.
"Found your address on your driver's license," He replied smoothly as he continued walking.
"Oh." Kory remained silent, letting everything that happened to her sink in. That's when reality hit her with the force of a sledgehammer. Her eyes widened in shock as vivid images ran through her mind. She could see that Russian's soulless grey eyes burn into her, smell the cigar smoke that emanated from his breath, feel his cold hand upon her throat; the other one caressing her leg. She remembered her belt being undone. If it hadn't been for this man…dear X'hal, she would have been raped.
Kory burst into hysterical sobs. Never had she felt so dirty, so slimy, from the inside out. She felt as if she was going to vomit. She felt dizzy and weak as her body was wracked with more sobs. Her rescuer's voice was barely audible as she continued to cry. Kory didn't even notice that he stopped in front of Carmela's house and knocked. She just wanted to be in the arms of the one person other than Miranda who mattered most, and she had no idea as to where he was.
Carmela had been observing her daughter Juanita play with her best friend's niece. They were playing with Barbies. Carmela had been trying to help Miranda pull a dress onto the blonde plastic doll's body when a knock came from the door. Carmela rolled her eyes, muttering Spanish curses thinking it was her ex-husband asking for money again. She was sent into a stunned silence as she opened the door to find a man in a black and blue uniform holding Kory in his arms as she cried her heart out.
The Spanish woman gasped out, "Ay míos dio! What happened to her?! Why is her shirt torn?!"
"I was on patrol when I found her," The masked man began in a grave voice. "She was almost raped."
"Please, may we come inside?"
"O-of course, where are my manners?" Carmela stepped aside. She studied the man as he went over to set the still weeping Kory onto the couch. He looked vaguely familiar. He was a superhero that much Carmela was sure of. Which one was he again? Oh yes, that's right, Nightwing. Nightwing was instantly bombarded with questions by the two little girls as soon as Kory's hair brushed the couch.
"Why is my Aunt Kory crying?" Miranda demanded in a terrified voice, her own chin beginning to tremble.
"What happened to Miss Anders?" Juanita asked softly.
Nightwing looked over to Carmela for help, clearly telling her that he didn't know how to deal with little girls. Putting on a brave face, Carmela walked over to Miranda and Juanita and said gently, "Aunt Kory's going to be all right. She's just a little sad, that's all. Why don't you move your toys into Juanita's room and I tell you when she's happy again."
Doubt filled each of the girls' dark eyes, yet they did as they were told. Once they had exited, Carmela knelt down to Kory who still had streams of tears running down her face. "Milk," she murmured. "All I wanted to do was buy milk." She turned her red-rimmed gaze toward the flutist, "Please call Richard." Tears threatened to choke her. "Please."
Carmela nodded, "Of course, Sweetheart." She brushed back a piece of Kory's red hair. As she turned to the phone she noticed that Kory's savior had left.
Within five minutes of her phone call to Richard; a loud, panicked pounding filled Carmela's ears. Swiftly, she went to the door. Richard was standing on the other side, his spiky hair had plastered to his face, and terror could be seen through his sunglasses. "Where is she?!" He demanded, tenor voice cracking. Carmela gestured to the couch, Richard kneeling beside it in a heartbeat.
"K-Kory…" The red-head turned to face Richard, her emerald eyes completely devoid of their normal warmth and sparkle. "Oh God, Kory." He buried his face in her hair, murmuring an incessant amount of apologies.
Kory merely lay still for several minutes before murmuring, "I want to go home." Wordlessly, Richard swept her into his arms. When the couple reached Carmela, the woman gently touched Kory's arm and said, "I'll keep Miranda for the night." Kory nodded.
Once inside her apartment, Kory's composure crumbled. She burst into tears once again. "Kory…" Richard said sadly.
"Where did you go?" She wailed between tears. "I have been absolutely miserable for these past few days! I needed you! You were never there!"
"I know," Richard replied softly. "And I hate myself for it. I was so stressed with work and…and I don't know…I just didn't want to burden you."
"Richard, you could never burden me," Kory hiccupped as they entered her room. "I just needed your presence."
"I'm so sorry," Richard said as he lowered his girlfriend onto her bed. He covered her shivering form with a blanket and kissed her cheek. "I'll be in the living room." He murmured. "Please forgive me." As he moved away, Kory's hand wrapped around his.
"I'll start forgiving you if you stay with me," she said in a quiet voice.
He looked at her confused, "but after what just happened, you would want a guy…"
"You make me feel safe."
Smiling softly, Richard lay down next to Kory and wrapped his arms around her waist. "Don't you worry my love; I swear I'll keep you safe."
Tears streamed down Kory's face once more as a combination of doubt and relief clashed within her heart.
Finally! This chapter is done! I am so sorry this chapter took forever; I just didn't know what to do! So I branched out into other stories. Thank you so much for waiting. I can't promise that chapter 11 will be up any time soon because I have to deal with papers, finals, prom and graduation. Yikes! So much is happening in such a short time!
And yay! Nightwing finally makes the scene! And Juanita speaks! Albeit, she only says one line, but it was kinda last minute. She'll talk more later on.