Okay, I'm really iffy about this one, because it's my first character death story that has a lot of impact. I'm not sure if anyone will like it, but tell me what you think.
Disclaimer: I don't own the Teen Titans or anything else...
"Kory, would it kill you to smile?"
"This could be your big break!"
So you say every time.
"It's this bigshot from Wayne Enterprises. Name's Roy Harper, and his partner Dick Grayson."
Kory fell out of her chair in her tiny cubicle. "What?!" She got up and dusted herself off, blushing faintly.
"Yep. Didn't I tell you? Anyways, they asked just for you."
He knows? But how? "Actually, Sarah, I am not feeling very well. It would be better for--"
"Nonsense, Kory! Come on, honey, don't be nervous! Wayne Enterprises will be a nice change for you, and you deserve a better job. At least go see how they are, what they offer."
Kory closed her eyes, willing this to be a dream, and then opened them only to find that it wasn't. Sarah wasn't going to let it go. Oh X'hal. "Thank you, Sarah. Perhaps I shall, just...nerves..." Her friend nodded sympathetically, patting her shoulder and then hurrying off to get papers copied. She didn't know, but it wasn't nerves at all.
The last time Kory Anders saw Richard Grayson, he was running around in a pair of tights and a cape as the Boy Wonder, Robin. Her 'best friend.' She had never known anyone more kind and patient, charming and mysterious. He had taught her everything she knew about Earth's ways. Besides the swearing. Cyborg had prided himself on teaching her that. But Starfire, the name Kory missed being called so much it hurt, knew he was perfect for her. But he obviously hadn't thought the same way.
It had started out small, miniscule differences that even she could not detect. "You need to use more power, Starfire. Don't hold back on me because I'm a teammate." Of course there was nothing wrong with that. In addition to being her best friend, he was the leader of the Teen Titans. It was his job to make sure is team was the best they could be. Whatever he said, she did. He knew best. Starfire worked her hardest, her powers possibly rivaling many generals in the army of Tamaran.
Stll, Robin was never satisfied. The simple comments grew, in a bad way, until there was no other word for them but insults. "Super strength? Is that what you call it? I hope you're just playing around, because you couldn't break a toothpick like that! Why can't you work harder?" he yelled at her. She'd actually cried about that. Starfire. Crying. It was nearly unthinkable.
Work harder. Get better. Then Robin would love her. But he was the one never getting better. But it wasn't like he was just screaming at her. At the whole team. She could hear him. But with her, he was the worst. She knew that. And it hurt her more than the yelling itself. Was she truly the weakest member of the team?
As if this wasn't enough, Robin came out of his room one day firmly gripping a suitcase. Starfire hadn't been doing anything, worn out as she was from training. Raven was reading, as usual. Beast Boy and Cyborg were planted in front of the television, locked in a heated race, but were competing without the usual sound accompaniments. The entire Tower nearly always felt grim and gloomy.
Everyone turned to look at him. It was a rarity for Robin to ever come out of the gym. But he looked even more serious than usual. "I'm leaving."
No one but Starfire had jumped up, shrieking, "Why?" Robin kept walking. "Robin, please..." She hadn't had a chance to prove herself. She hadn't had a chance to make him love her yet. Why would he go now? "Is it because we are not training properly? Oh Robin, however many more hours--"
"Star, just stop," Cyborg interrupted. Starfire hadn't noticed the game system turn off. Raven had put down her book as well, and all of the Titans were glaring at Robin with something akin to hatred. "Leave him. He's not worth it."
"Cyborg!" she cried. "How could you say such a thing? Robin, please do not listen! Why must you go? What--"
"Isn't it obvious, Starfire?" Raven asked coolly. "We aren't good enough." There was a dead silence.
"You don't know anything," Robin replied quietly. "Nothing at all."
Starfire was horrified. They did, she knew they did, why would he say they knew nothing? More than ninety percent of criminals stood no chance, and most of the others went down with maybe a ten to fifteen minute fight, except Slade.
Slade. Was it about him again?
"Robin..." she pleaded, but Robin wouldn't answer her.
"Let it go, Star. We don't need him," Beast Boy said. Then he started calling him things Starfire had never heard, but knew they were just too horrible for even Cyborg to say lightly.
"Stop..." she whispered, but Beast Boy didn't hear, he was yelling now. The other two Titans didn't do a thing, and Robin flinched just once, and walked out without a backwards glance. Starfire was sure her heart stopped beating for a second. Who knew? The boy she'd loved since first sight was not who she thought him to be. Not if he could say such horrible things to his friends, to her, and not if he could leave without even saying goodbye...
The Titans had officially split up a few days later. They all agreed that the Tower held too many bad memories, but that they would still stay friends. Kory had not been keeping in touch as much as she was supposed to, but her friends had always found a way to reach her, usually by the old Titan's communicator. She kept it with her at all times, in case he decided to check up on them. But they used it as seldom as possible; they knew it broke her heart to open it up excitedly and not see his face staring back at her.
But those days were long gone. It had been years, and Kory had lost all hope. When she was a teen, Starfire had hoped, by twenty-five, she would become one of the pretty models she always saw in the magazines. She could have, once, maybe. But too much stress, too much grief, and too much loneliness had nearly wiped away her beauty. She had discarded the Titan communicator, wishing only to never think of Robin again, and move on with her life. It was a lot harder than it sounded.
And now he was here. Kory concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other, and not on the dreaded meeting that they were leading her to. Slowly, she pushed open the door of the lobby.
There sat two men, both of whom she recognized instantly. One of them, a carrot top like her but with blue eyes instead of green, used to be a famous Titan himself. Speedy, the archer. She hadn't known he worked for Wyne Enterprises. The other sent a jolt through her heart. His handsome features were unsmiling, but he was leaning his chair back easily. At the sight of her, though, he toppled. There were a lot of people falling off their chairs today. I suppose he did not know. That thought shouldn't have disappointed her. Robin would not have gone looking for her. She gave up on that fancy years ago.
Speedy smiled. "Hello...Kory Anders, am I right? My name is Roy Harper, and this is my partner Dick Grayson. From Wayne Enterprises."
Kory forced herself to smile. "It is a pleasure to meet you." She wished Dick would take his eyes off of her.
"Pleasure's all ours. Now, we have a job offer we were hoping you would take. Your boss, Diana, is a very good friend of ours. She recommended you when we told her that one of our old secretaries had retired. If you would like to discuss the details over lunch...?" Kory had a feeling there was a lot more behind this offer.
"Actually..." She hesitated. She knew she could use the money, but it wasn't worth being around Dick every day. Not at all. "I do not think I can accept. I am very happy with my job here, and am not quite ready to switch just now. I apologize, but I am sure you will find another person who is better...better at..." She stood up. She needed to get out of there as soon as possible. "Good evening."
After all these years, he'd finally seen her...he couldn't believe it. Starfire, his Starfire, she was actually okay! He felt like whooping and yelling and cheering for joy. How long had he thought her dead for? That Slade had caught all of his friends, that he wasn't there to do anything about it? The torture of the past eight years was fading already. He'd seen her again.
"Dick, you're smiling," Roy had noted that day, half-jokingly. "Who are you and what have you done with my business partner?"
"Shut up, Roy. It's her! Starfire! How did you not see?"
"I did," Roy had answered smugly. "I knew."
"You're the best."
Now, Dick was no longer Dick. Under the cover of night, he and Roy were back in their superhero uniforms, patrolling the streets of Gotham. But today, he had taken a detour. Roy had gotten Kory's address from Diana, and Dick was bent on seeing her again. He had to talk to her. This morning, he'd been too surprised.
She had a balcony. That would save him the effort of having to hang on to his grappling hook while waiting for her to open the window. See, it was pretty hard for superheroes to just walk into random apartment buildings without being pestered. Windows were Nightwing's favorite ways to get in houses.
But this building was rundown and shabby, and it pained him to think that he'd been living in Wayne Manor when Starfire was just getting by. But he was sure she'd forgive him, after he apologized. He knew she would. That was Starfire in a nutshell.
He landed on the balcony, rapping on the window.
Kory heard the noise, and immediately pulled out the gun she kept under her pillow. She hadn't been able to use her powers lately, and wasn't chancing it with whatever burglar decided to raid her apartment. Criminals were very common around this part of the city. Too bad the Titans hadn't been here.
She walked to the window slowly, and pulled back the curtains. Her heart shuddered to a halt when she saw who was outside her window. "Nightwing," she breathed. Instinctively, she popped it open, and he jumped in, grinning from ear to ear.
Star. Her old name. Why did it sound so wrong, coming from him? She ached all over, and just wanted to go back to sleep. Maybe this was a dream, just like the millions of others she;d had about him. But no, it couldn't be, she'd been happy in those. "What...?"
Without warning, he stepped closer and embraced her. It was so unfamiliar, his warm body against hers, his fingers running through her hair, the smell of the colonge she remembered from eight years ago. But then he let go, probably because of the cold metal of the gun pressing into his chest. "Star?" he asked worriedly, his breath quickening.
"Leave," Kory answered, her voice hollow. "Do not ever call me that name again. Leave, now." Nightwing's hands flew up in surrender, and he stumbled backwards.
"St--Kory, what are you doing?"
"What am I doing? Nothing out of the usual. This is what I do to every intruder who comes into my apartment and touches me!"
"Kory, hold on! You know me, Nightwing, remember? I know it's been eight years, but...Star, I've missed you all so much. I didn't want to go, you guys didn't know, but Slade, he reached me, he said he would hurt you--"
"I do not want to hear excuses," she hissed, hiding her surprise. Was that what he meant, all those years ago? Had he been insulting them, or not? 'You don't know anything, nothing at all.' His exact words. Could they possibly have misunderstood?
"Starfire, you know I would never hurt you. I lo--"
"Never hurt me? Is this what you call happy, Robin? I HAVE NOT SMILED IN YEARS! I DO NOT EVEN REMEMBER THE LAST TIME I SAW RAVEN AND CYBORG AND BEAST BOY! I SLEEP WITH A GUN UNDER MY PILLOW! ALL BECAUSE YOU HAD TO WALK OUT, AND MAKE THE TITANS DISBAND!" Kory was breathing hard after her outburst, but Nightwing had not moved an inch. "Leave! I do not ever wish to see you again! You have ruined my life!"
He stepped back towards the window, and Kory saw that he was shaking slightly. "I...I didn't know. I'm sorry." He was on the ledge now. "If there is anything I can do to...to fix it, let me know. I love you, Starfire." And he was gone.
She'd been waiting to hear that forever. Now he says it. Of course. "You can go to hell, Robin," she muttered.
"Nightwing, do you read me?" Speedy's voice crackled over his communicator. Nightwing shakil held it up to his mouth.
"Listen, there's a gang fight, nearby the Asher Building. Help me out?"
"I'll be there as soon as I can." He cut the connection.
Starfire...she was angrier than he'd ever seen her. Angry at him. She hated him. She hadn't even given him time to explain. And then...that look in her eyes, dull, dead, and hopeless...it was enough to send him over the edge. It was his fault. His fault for trying to protect her, for staying up late every night trying to bring Slade down, for running away from his friends to ensure their safety. It was his fault. That made no sense. He'd been doing what was right.
But he'd missed her so much. He'd missed them all, but her especially. And now this. She didn't even want to see him...
He heard the fight long before he saw it. The gunfire was deafening, and screaming citizens were evacuating the area. He hoped Speedy was okay.
When he landed on the top of the nearest building, though, he felt reassured to see the telltale carrot-colored hair reloading and shooting five arrows at a time, freezing half the gang members. A loud cry went out, and another volley of gunfire bounced off the brick of the Asher Building, missing his partner by inches. He had to get down there.
Jumping down easily, he landed in a crouched position in the middle of the fray. "Glad you decided to join in," Speedy grunted, releasing a few arrows at the same time. Nightwing gave no answer, and one brief glance at his face told Speedy that something was wrong. "You'd better tell me later. I guess now's not really the best time."
Nightwing aimed a bird-a-rang carefully, sucessfully pinning a boy to the brick by his sleeve. The boy looked up, and Nightwing caught a flash of green eyes.
He knew it wasn't her. It wasn't a girl, for one. But he spent one crucial millesecond staring, one millesecond that changed everything.
"NIGHTWING!" Speedy yelled.
Kory cursed herself, cursed Nightwing, cursed everything. She was wrong to have said all that. Whatever Nightwing had said and done before, she should have given him a second chance. Now what? It was too late, she'd been idiotic and messed it up. She cursed herself again.
"Oh X'hal, what now?" She didn't know she had started to sob, but it became obvious when the tears landed on her bare arm. She shivered in the cold loneliness of her apartment, her anxiety and doubt clawing at her.
But wait. Nightwing had told her he loved her, hadn't he? He wouldn't give up that easily.
For the first time in years, Kory had hope.
"Nightwing, man, talk to me. Say something," Speedy pleaded.
"Idiot. I'm not unconscious," Nightwing grunted, his face twisted in pain. Speedy had just managed to subdue the last of the gang members and call up 9-1-1 on his cell phone, and was waiting for the paramedics to arrive. But Nightwing looked bad. Worse than bad. Horrible. The shot had gone straight through his stomach, and no amount of cloth would slow the blood flow. Speedy tried to grin.
"Insult me all you want, man, but I'll come back at you when you're up again."
Nightwing shook his head. "Shut it, Speedy. You know I'm a goner. I know it, too."
"You shut it! If you don't fight, of course you are!"
Nightwing's eyes clouded over. "What's left to fight for?" And Speedy figured it out.
"What'd she say?" he asked quietly, anything to keep his friend talking.
"'Go to hell,'" Nightwing chuckled, blood trickling out of the corner of his mouth. He winced in pain. "I guess I am, now."
"Stop. It's not funny. Save it."
Nightwing's face was growing paler, and still, the ambulance hadn't arrived. "Thanks, Speedy. For everything. Everything..."
His eyes lost focus. The pain must have been terrible. Speedy gulped, prodding his shoulder lightly, willing him to come out of his stupor. Nightwing grabbed his hand suddenly, his eyes never refocusing. "Speedy," he said, in a cheerful, though hoarse voice that didn't fit at all with the scene they were in. "She'll be happy now, won't she? Starfire will be happy now that I'm going..."
Speedy's eyes widened. "What? Of course not, Nightwing, she doesn't want you dead!"
Nightwing glared, though at what, Speedy had no idea. "Why are you calling me Nightwing? My name is Robin." His face relaxed into a smile. "She will be. I know she will..." His eyes closed, but the stupid grin never left his face. Flashing lights alerted Speedy, and in seconds, paramedics surrounded them. One felt Nightwing's pulse, and gazed sadly at Speedy.
"I'm sorry...but he's gone."
Kory had reached a reasonable solution. Nightwing wouldn't give up, of course not. And the next time, she'd be smarter. She would apologize with all her heart, she just wanted her Robin back again. And maybe they would even get married...X'hal, she'd wanted to get married for so long.
The phone rang. It is him, calling already! she squealed in her head. Kory rushed to the phone, holding it against her face and whispered excitedly, "Hello?"
"Starfire? This is Speedy." His voice sounded different. Threatening to crack at any second. "I just thought you'd want to know...Nightwing is dead."
The day of the funeral, Kory couldn't even find it in herself to dress properly. Raven, whom she'd met after so long, had to come in and help her. Kory felt like a child, and a miserable one at that. But Raven understood.
She and Roy, along with the three other original Titans, had met later, and Roy had explained everything, all that Dick had told him. That Slade had spoken with Robin about becoming more powerful. That Robin had been pushing them to their limits just so they would survive. That in the end, Slade had threatened to kill them if Robin hadn't left. Or if Robin said a word about it. The guilt was almost too much to bear. He'd been trying to save them the whole time.
The whole city knew that Nightwing and Dick Grayson were one and the same, now. Roy, though his sadness was great, put up a passable act of being surprised when he fond out the 'news.' A rumor was flying around that Speedy had left the town after his partner's death. This was spread by the five of them, as Roy just couldn't do it without Dick. It wasn't that he was not physically able, but the memories were still fresh and sharp...especially Dick's death.
Every single good citizen in the city was going to be outside the funeral home, or waiting in the graveyard. The service passed slowly, and Kory couldn't remember a thing. She didn't even shed a tear. She was too empty to cry. Raven did plenty of it, and quite a few things exploded with no explanation whatsoever.
All of a sudden, they were at the graveyard. Kory had no memory of getting there, or watching the casket being lowered into the hole, but she did remember running her fingers over the stone, tracing the engraved letters. Roy approached her solemnly.
"Do you know what he told me?" Roy said quietly, breaking the mournful silence. "Right before he died? He went crazy, crazy with pain--"
"Stop," Kory mumbled. "Please. I do not want to hear."
"You need to. He asked me if you would be happy. If Starfire would be happy because he was gone." He paused. "That was all he wanted, Kory, for you to be happy."
She got up and ran. Ran far, far away, though it was no use. She knew she'd be back, she'd come back every single day of the rest of her life. But for now, she needed to run, run away from it all. No, Nightwing. I am not happy at all.
So that's it! Yeah...um...bye?