To K: It is, isn't it?
To Max Peck: Thanks man. I'm glad you stuck with me to the end. :)
To Guest: Mar'i time!
To 2nd Guest: Yeah, you probably have a point. I probably could have handled that differently. My thoughts have always been that one of Grayson's gifts is his ability to step back and ascertain the situation. Starfire had been through a lot and even though her behavior was still strange I just didn't think he'd be looking to get on her case. Still I could have made better mention of his feelings in narration. Thanks for your input, and thanks for reading.
To Anonymous136: Don't know if you'll end up seeing this but sorry I missed you when I first posted this chapter. I like your view on Starfire. Thank you so much for reading and for all your reviews. I've really appreciated it. :)
It was among the final issues of business Starfire conducted while she was still Grand Ruler. She wished to honor her sister by giving her a decent burial (On Tamaran called a return). The Tamaraneans responsible for funeral arrangements were understanding if only a little hesitant. Still, despite Blackfire's past crimes, she was preserved (Dipped in a unique alien solution that sort of flash froze the body, halting decomposition) and given back to Starfire in a proper casket.
Back on the T4-E, everyone was ready to help Starfire say goodbye to her sister, and yet when Cyborg began setting coordinates to get them closer to Tamaran's sun, Starfire intervened.
"She will not be delivered into Tamaran's sun," she said. "The ceremony of delivering the dead is about reuniting the fallen with their people and their home by returning them to the light that birthed them. Blackfire was born on Tamaran, but she was not...of there. Tamaran never gave her the joy it perhaps should have and such actions I do not feel would properly honor her. If you would allow me, I have a different idea."
And so it was there past Mercury, past Venus that the T4-E got as close as it could to Earth's sun. Starfire made the rest of the journey alone. She carried her sister the appropriate distance and with a few parting words and a gentle push delivered her to her final resting place. As she burned her body would be transformed into the healing light. That light would travel far and wide, giving her a whole new universe to explore. It would be Starfire's last gift to her.
"The first Tamaranean to be delivered into Earth's sun," mused Starfire to herself once the deed was done. Somehow she felt it was something Blackfire would have greatly appreciated.
Back on Earth the black sheep of the Royal family would continue to be remembered. Her memory would be honored with a statue to be placed alongside other fallen Titans at the main entrance to the tower. This particular honor was a surprise to Starfire and when she saw the memorial for the first time she wept with joy. When asked what Blackfire might have thought of it she simply smiled and said:
"I believe she would have liked it, but most likely would have said it is not big enough."
It had been two weeks since the return to Earth, and Superboy found himself in the midst of battle. He recoiled as the massive mace barely missed him and collided with the floor, making a monstrous thud in the process. In truth he was more than a little shocked. Despite his opponents incredible size, he was far faster than he imagined. Still he kept his focused. Seeing his weapon wedged in the ground, the young man thought he had an opening. He went in for an attack, lunged for the old man's massive jaw with his fist, but the old man blocked the strike with his forearm and sent him reeling with a quick backhand. Retrieving his weapon, the old warrior made two quick horizontal swipes. On the second strike the young Kryptonian moved in and grabbed the man's tree trunk like arm, trapping it against his body. His aim was to get some leverage against his larger opponent, but the tactic proved ineffective as the burly warrior simply grabbed him by the shirt and with one mighty heave sent him sailing. Superboy halted in mid-air and quickly went racing back the way he came. With fists outstretched he dove at his opponent. The old man was crafty, however. He merely sidestepped and in an incredible show of speed, snatched the young man by the ankle and dragged him roughly to the hard, concrete flooring below.
"You telegraph your moves too much, young one," said the old man, putting a knee in the Kryptonian teen's back. "You rely too much on your strength. You rush into battle with no plan of attack..."
Superboy growled in frustration. He pressed his hands hard against the floor and pushed with all his might. He took to the air, sending his opponent backflipping off of him in the process. Soaring through the air, the young man raced at his opponent. He threw himself hard against him, attempting to pin him against the wall. The old man was wise to this though and shifted his weight accordingly. In a heartbeat he traded places with the teen. Superboy's back hit the wall hard and he wheezed slightly as the old man's massive palm pressed hard against his collarbone.
"And you have no control over your emotions," he added calmly after a moment. He then smiled at the defiance in Superboy's eye and said, "But I must admit you have a lot of heart." He released the young man and gave his shoulder a firm pat, telling him he had done well and to rejoin the others.
There was a lot of heckling as Superboy made his way back to where the rest of the Titans stood at the far side of the training room.
"Oh man," laughed Robin. "That was brutal."
"And the winner for biggest public shamming goes to...Oh my God, It's Connor Kent!" teased Kid Flash.
"What happened to showing him who's boss?" asked Wonder Girl cheekily.
All the laughing stopped however the moment Galfore set down in front of them. Tapping the head of his mace in his palm he looked upon the quartet and calmly asked, "So, who's next?" Not a word was spoken as the new training instructor smiled almost devilishly at the young heroes. His eye fell on a rather ghost-like Kid Flash and he was just about to speak when...
"Aren't you finished torturing these poor little ones yet?" The voice came suddenly and quite unexpectedly. All eyes fell to the training room doors at the front of the room as Vira swiftly made her way in, carrying a large, covered serving tray.
"I am teaching them to be better warriors," corrected Galfore, stressing the word 'teaching.' "And no, our training session for the day has not yet concluded."
"Oh yes it has," answered Vira. Setting the tray down on a nearby exercise bench, she pulled a small electronic tablet from her belt. "According to my schedule, the one laid out by Lord Cyborg mind you, training ended fifteen minutes ago. These poor little things were supposed to be washed up and at the table having lunch by now. Wouldn't want them to be late for today's festivities now would-"
"Lunch?" Kid Flash nearly leapt at the word. He was at Vira's side in a microsecond, long before Vira even had a chance to finish her sentence. "You got lunch?" He removed the lid from the tray and nearly melted at the sight of a couple dozen still steaming burritos. "Ohhhh you are the best, Vira," he said, and gobbled up three of the little pouches in a blink.
"Hey, hey, don't hog them all," called Robin as he raced his way over. Wonder Girl and Superboy quickly joined him.
"Now, now, there's enough for everyone," said Vira. She smiled in delight as the group of superpowered teens tore into the tray of food with the kind of energy only seen at a Tamaranean dinner table. Shifting her attention to Galfore she frowned and put her hands on her hips. "And may I ask just what you think you are doing with all this running around? That was a near fatal wound on your chest you know."
"My chest is fine," answered Galfore. He tried to brush aside the woman's concern but Vira was having none of it. Before he knew it Vira was there in front of him, saying, "Well we'll see about that," and reaching for his still bandaged chest. He tried to protest but the moment he did, he found a burrito stuffed in his mouth and Vira saying, "Oh hush up."
Things went quite between the two as Vira studied Galfore's injury. She "Hmmm'ed" and "Uh-huh'ed" once or twice before arriving at her conclusion that, "Yes. Yes, it's coming along. Coming along nicely even."
Galfore swallowed what remained of his burrito in one large gulp. "I told you," he answered almost childishly.
Vira shot a playful glare at the towering former guard captain then continued her examination. After a few moments she smiled softly and said, "You know with everything going on I never did get the chance to scold you properly."
With gentle fingers, Vira carefully reapplied Galfore's bandage. "It was a damn foolish thing you did..." she said. "...challenging Kessa'd like that."
"Is that so?" replied Galfore somewhat amused. "More foolish then taking the Empress's child and attempting to flee the kingdom, I suppose."
"Now, now, don't you start with that again."
"Start with what?"
"I told you, you big blortla, that was my duty, an order from the Empress herself."
"So it was." Galfore paused for a moment and his gaze became a bit more serious. "Was that the only reason?"
"What do you mean?"
"You had to have known what you were doing was completely unorthodox, not to mention outright dangerous."
"So why undertake such a task?"
For a moment Vira was silent. She looked at her hands as they still fiddled with Galfore's bandages. "Because Koriand'r needed me." she answered plainly.
Galfore couldn't resist the smile. "Forgive me," he said. "I really admire your devotion."
"Not many are worth so much. It's important to always keep close the ones that are."
Vira's gaze met Galfore's and for a moment the two stood in silence.
"Koriand'r is a fine girl. She was lucky to have you as her guardian," said Vira after a moment.
"And she was lucky to have you as her friend," answered Galfore.
There was a comfortable pause as the two stood smiling at one another. Vira then looked at her hand and realized it was still resting against Galfore's still bandaged but otherwise bare chest. She "Ooped" softly and quickly pulled back, blushing in embarrassment.
Galfore went to speak again but was interrupted by a loud clattering sound as the serving tray abruptly hit the floor.
"Hey, Bart, share some of those!" shouted Wonder Girl.
"But I need them."
The two seasoned Tamaraneans turned in time to see Kid Flash bolt out of the room, leaving a trail of burritos in his wake. The rest of the team followed.
"Now don't forget to get changed," called Vira quickly. "There's only an hour before everyone..." Seeing the futility in her actions her arms dropped. She smiled and sighed and faced Galfore once again.
Mirroring Vira's smile, Galfore said, "Come on then. Let's go round them up."
As they made their way through the halls of Titans Tower their gait was slow and relaxed.
"Do you miss Tamaran?" asked Galfore eventually.
Vira sighed and answered, "Yes. But...I'll live. This place is...strange, but..." she looked at him and smiled as their fingers slowly entwined. "...it's comforting to know I'm not alone."
Tying a tie was not one of Beast Boy's greatest talents. He could do it, but it wasn't exactly something he had a knack for and it still took him a few tries to get. When he was a kid fighting monsters and catching bank robbers he never assumed he'd ever have to learn how. As they say, however, things change and at the moment he was helping Brandon with his. Leaning over, facing the boy's back he worked slowly, careful not to make a mistake.
"Why can't I just wear my clip on?" the youngster asked eventually.
"Cause..." answered Beast Boy, hesitating for a moment as he worked one of the tails through the loop. "Formal ties are just...nicer."
Beast Boy fiddled with a small unwanted knot he'd accidently created and said, "I don't know, but your mother likes them so why don't we make her happy? Okay?"
Beast Boy finished up. He gave his son's shoulder a gentle squeeze and said, "All set. Now, you go get your shoes on. Uncle Cyborg will be here soon to pick us up." As the boy left the kitchen and returned to his bedroom, Beast Boy turned to the tea kettle on the stove and poured himself a fresh cup. Tea was just one of the many new tastes he'd acquired from his relationship with Raven. With just a few drops of honey, he had to admit it was quite delicious.
He was standing at the counter, looking out the window when he sensed a familiar presence at his back. There was a brief chill and then a sudden warmth as a pair of strong but loving arms circled his waist. He smiled as delicate hands soaked in healing light began rubbing his chest and soft lips pressed against his cheek. This was not exactly usual behavior for Raven, but since returning from her mission she had been rather...amorous. It was strange, but Beast Boy certainly wasn't complaining. Turning he found his beautiful wife dressed in her favorite blue dress. Her hair shined and her face betrayed only the slightest hint of makeup.
Grinning like a dope, Beast Boy said, "Wow. You look...really...good." Even after seven years of being intimate Raven still tended to muddle his words from time to time.
"You don't look so bad yourself," she answered with a small smile, reaching up and making a tiny adjustment to his properly combed hairline. Her gaze became somewhat serious for a moment as she looked at him and said, "You really mean a lot to me, Gar."
Beast Boy smiled warmly. "Right back at ya," he said.
"You know how much I love you, right?"
"You know I didn't want to leave you behind."
Beast Boy's shoulders slumped as he rolled his eyes. "Raaaveen," he droned.
"Because it's not that I think you couldn't have contributed, or that you're not important. You are. You're one of the bravest, most capable people I've met. You're a real hero and we would have been lucky to-"
It had been bothering her ever since returning to Earth. Somehow, even though they had both agreed it was for the best, Raven was convinced he had felt slighted somehow, being the only Titan not to go on the mission to rescue Starfire. It had always been true that he was kind of a klutz in his younger days, usually blundering right into danger while in the heat of battle. He got his butt kicked a lot, and she used to tease him about it something fierce, occasionally even calling him useless right to his face. Of course things weren't like that anymore and hadn't been for a long time, but clearly something on the mission had gotten to her. She didn't want him feeling like he didn't matter.
Raven's words ceased the moment Beast Boy's lips found hers. She gasped and then relaxed into his arms, placing her hands on his shoulders and giving herself over completely to his embrace. After a few heated moments he pulled away.
"Raven," said Beast Boy, looking her straight in the eye. "It's okay."
Rave smiled in embarrassment. She nodded and embraced him, resting her head against his chest. They stood like that for a few moments until Raven somewhat reluctantly stepped back and said, "I should go get my notes. Otherwise I'll probably forget them." She kissed him one last time and then made for the stairs. As she exited the kitchen she passed by Brandon on his way in. Stopping she fiddled with his suit for a moment before kissing him on the cheek and sending him on his way.
As Raven disappeared upstairs, Brandon returned to his father. "Did you tell mom yet?" he asked innocently.
Beast Boy stood silent for a moment as recent memories once again entered his mind. He then shook his head and answered, "Nah."
"But it was soooo cool. How come you don't want her to know?"
Smiling at his son, Beast Boy hugged him to his hip. He ruffled the boy's hair and said, "She already knows."
"How did she find out?"
Beast Boy shrugged and said, "She's just good like that."
Shrugging his shoulders too, Brandon left and went into the living room to watch cartoons. As the sounds of over-the-top slapstick and silly voices filled Beast Boy's ears he turned his attention back to his tea. He smiled as his thoughts drifted to the past. He thought of his scrapbook, the one he kept in a drawer in the upstairs bedroom, the one he'd been keeping since he was a teenager, the one he used to keep track of all Teen Titans related exploits. He thought of the last entry, the one he'd added while Raven was away, the lavish front page spread sporting a full color photo of a green gorilla scaling the side of a burning apartment building and a headline that read, "Former Teen Titan Saves 12 from Four Alarm Fire." He thought of how funny it was how quickly he would have touted such an accomplishment when he was younger and how the glory just didn't mean that much to him anymore. He knew what he was. His friends knew. His son knew. And Raven knew. For him that was all that mattered.
With a stomach full of butterflies Grayson paced slowly back and forth in the stairwell, just before the main entrance to the roof. He stopped, adjusted his tie for what must have been the hundredth time, stood for a moment then went back to his pacing. He couldn't remember the last time he had been so nervous. His communicator beeped giving him a good start, probably the best one he'd ever gotten during his decade of crime fighting.
"We're ready when you are," said Raven on the other line once he answered. Grayson said okay, and for a moment went back to his pacing. He then stopped and tried to calm himself. Batman had taught him a series of breathing exercises to use should he ever find himself trapped with very little oxygen, but Grayson figured they'd work for this too. They did and after a few moments he felt better. With one last calming breath, he opened the door.
They decided to do it on the roof. There was plenty of room in the tower but with the sun shining the way it was it just seemed more appropriate. Cyborg with Vira's input had gone out of his way to make the whole event as true to life as he could make it. There was a long purple carpet leading from the door to the center of the rooftop. Starfire waited at the end alongside Raven, and in between them rested an elevated purple cushion. On that cushion was Starfire's daughter. Grayson's as of yet unseen baby girl.
Smiling, Grayson slowly made his way across the rooftop, passed the dozens of guests. Current and former Titans from all over had come to see this, and all sat in their chairs mirroring the same quiet smile. As Grayson got closer the little bundle, gurgling away on the cushion became more and more defined. He could see her little arms and legs kicking and waving against the air. He could see her beautiful peach colored skin and the little tuft of black hair on the top of her head. He saw her wonderful little face smiling up at him. He saw her and knew without a shadow of a doubt that she was his and for the first time in his life he knew what love at first sight truly meant. Slowly, cautiously, he reached down and gently took the child into his arms.
Slowly Grayson turned and faced the crowd. "My name is Richard Grayson of Earth," he said after a moment. "And this is my daughter."
Starfire appeared at his side. "I am Koriand'r of Tamaran. I love this man. I trust him with my life and I wish him to be the father of my child."
Grayson stepped close to Starfire and together they shared the child's weight as they turned and faced Raven.
Reading from a clean sheet of paper, the empath raised her chin and addressed the group in the language of Tamaran. "May X'Hal look upon this child always with good graces," she said. "May she always be blessed with family and friends, and may she always have a place in the hearts of her people. May she never be alone. May she love and be loved. May she be happy and healthy. May she always find the strength within her to face the inevitable dangers of life. For this we thank thee." She smiled slightly and returning to English said, "Ladies and gentlemen, let us give a warm welcome...to "Nightstar" Mar'i Grayson."
The new family faced the crowd as they broke out into a soft and respectful applause.
The newly christened Mar'i was asleep, resting comfortably against her father's chest as he sat gently rocking her. The gathering had disbanded and he was currently resting his weary legs in Starfire's room. She had officially moved back into her bedroom and would be living at the tower full time. As for where Grayson currently stood he still wasn't sure. There were certain issues that still needed addressing.
Getting up, Grayson gently laid Mar'i back in her crib. She stirred but didn't wake. He gently brushed her hair with his finger tips, made certain the baby monitor was on and functioning properly then made his exit. He found Starfire a short time later in the common room, standing in front of the window and watching as the sun slowly set. "Hey," he said as he approached.
She turned to him and smiled, but said nothing.
Grayson asked her how she was doing. She replied fine and for a moment the two simply stood in silence. Grayson knew it couldn't last however. There was too much to talk about and now was the perfect time. He wasn't going to mince words.
She turned to him, said, "Yes?"
"I want to talk about something. I want to talk about us. I think there's still something there, and I want to know if...maybe we could try again. Maybe make it work this time."
Starfire's expression had remained unchanged during Grayson's confession. She appeared calm yet thoughtful. For what felt like a long time she was silent. Finally, hesitantly, she spoke. "I am sorry, Richard," she said. "But I think things should remain as they are for now."
It was not the answer Grayson was hoping to hear. "I see," he said. "Can I ask why?"
"Richard, you have made me very happy. But...you have also made me very angry. And I know the same is true for you as well. All that has happened between us. The things we have said and done to each other... What if it never stops? What if we are only fated to keep hurting one another? Driving each other away only to run right back and do it all again? I am happy with the way things are at this moment. I do not wish to have it lost."
"You think we make better friends than lovers."
"Perhaps. For now I can only think of what might be best for Mar'i."
"I understand what you're saying, but I swear things are different now. I'm not the same guy I was. All this started because I didn't trust my emotions."
"And you trust them now?"
"Yes. Yes, and I love you. What I feel for you, it's real. I know it is."
For a moment Starfire was silent. Her thoughts were her own as she stared at Grayson. "May I ask you something?" she said eventually.
"Before you met me was there ever any one in your life? An Earth girl perhaps that was special to you the way I was?"
"Not really. No."
"And when I first left Earth. I was gone for a long time. Was there anyone then?"
Grayson could see immediately where she was going with this and his heart sank as he quietly answered again, "No."
"So little experience with love and yet you are certain I am your one and only. I am sorry, Richard, but I am not sure I believe that."
Grayson could only sigh and turn away, redirect his attention out the window. "Just tell me one more thing," he said after a moment. "Is there a chance?"
"I like to believe so. Perhaps with a little time. Perhaps when you and I are more certain..."
Starfire turned to leave but stopped when she felt Grayson gently take her by the arm. She turned to him and their eyes locked. Their heart beats quickened and heat flooded their insides as slowly they leaned into one another. Their eyes closed and their lips touched and for thirty glorious seconds they kissed.
It was something they both needed. Neither was sure what it meant but at the moment neither cared. A keepsake to remember the incredible connection once made between two people from across the stars or a spark to keep flames alive until they found each other once again: only the future would reveal the answer.
A/N: While writing the climax to this story I started thinking about a possible sequel. At the moment I'm not positive when I'll get to it (I still have a couple other Titans story ideas I want to get to and I've been giving serious thought to doing some Young Justice fics) but at the moment I'm certain I'll be visiting Nightwing, Starfire and Mar'i again. I hope you enjoyed this story. It was my biggest one yet and I'd like to thank everyone who stuck with me to the end. Take care. - Sir Alwick