DISCLAIMER: I – in no way – own the Teen Titans.
CHAPTER EIGHT – WHAT HURTS THE MOST
Richard gently placed the bouquet of yellow roses onto the grave site. Kneeling beside it, he looked at the name beautifully etched onto the headstone: Kori Anders. She was the girl he let get away. She was the girl that had changed his life in a moment. She was the girl that always understood his problems no matter what. She was the girl Richard was able to call his best friend.
He looked at the green grass that surrounded her grave. He sighed as he went from kneeling beside her grave to sitting down beside it; Richard figured that he would be there for more than a few minutes. He glanced back at the two dates etched below the name, tears still falling from his eyes.
Opening his mouth to speak, Richard found himself closing it quickly. He could not find it in his heart to even begin talking to the slab of concrete that sat before him. He was finally coming to grips with reality; Kori Anders, his best friend and girlfriend, had died on April 22, 2002, and the last words he said to her were words he – to that very day, April 22, 2006 – regretted more than anything.
Tears fell onto the grass as Richard sat in front of Kori's headstone with nothing but memories of their broken friendship. He felt the guilt overpower his mind once more; he knew he didn't deserve to visit Kori, but he felt as though he had too.
"I'm so sorry…" Richard sobbed harder and harder, "… for everything."
"But it was not your fault!" Kori tried to reassure Richard. "There is nothing you could have done. There will always be people that say mean words because you are different. And sometimes, their minds cannot be changed. But there are many more people that do not judge a person based on how they look… or where they came from. Those are the people whose words truly matter."
Richard clenched his fist still angered at what had happened. "But, Starfire… still; I should have stopped it… or at least tried to."
Kori sighed to herself as Richard began beating himself up about what had happened between her and the man that offered to mentor Richard. She hated seeing Richard in such a distressed state – especially if it was because of something she somewhat caused.
"I miss you so much…" he confessed, tears still pouring from his eyes.
"But… I'm right here," Kori laughed. "How can you miss me now?"
Richard rolled his eyes playfully. "Shut up, Star. I missed you, okay? Are you happy now? I swear though, Kor, life is such a living hell without you!"
Richard looked up at the forming clouds for a moment. Smiling to himself, he recalled how the weather always seemed to match Kori's mood. Even the slightest change in emotion would somehow (as if by supernatural force) spark something in the skies above. Instantly, it began raining lightly in Jump City. As the rain began to pour, Richard looked at the roses he had lay down, trying to gather his words properly.
"Hey… Kori," he started. "I just came to talk to you… about life. Funny, isn't it? I'm the one going to you about life and such. Naturally, it would be the other way around. You were always the one who wanted to talk about the random things that life had to offer and I would just sit there, listening to you."
A gentle breeze kicked in as Richard went on. He closed his eyes as the wind danced on his cheek; Richard sighed to himself, trying to imagine Kori's presence beside him.
"You know," he sighed, "I wasn't the Valedictorian of our class. Sadly, that title went straight to Xavier. Ya'know… I stopped getting straight A's in high school since you… umm… left. The more and more I think about it you were the only reason I had those perfect grades. You took the time to help me with all those confusing assignments that I failed to understand. Heck! You even did some of the assignments for me!"
"Um… can I copy your homework?" Richard wondered, nervously as Kori jotted notes down onto her notepad.
Kori looked up from her notes with a look of disapproval. "Seriously, Richard?" she hissed. "What's your excuse this time?"
"I didn't have time to do it," he whined. "The flight from Gotham City to here-."
"- should have been enough time for you to do the assignment," Kori scolded, before handing Richard her papers. "But I know you… so here."
"Thank you so much!" he remarked. "What're you writing?"
"We're supposed to be taking care of a fake baby in my child development class," Kori informed, continuing to jot down notes. "Alongside with caring for the child, we're supposed to come up with a name for the baby and give our reason as to why we picked that name."
Richard smiled as he took a glance at the names Kori had written down. "What about 'Mary'?" he offered, thinking of his late mother. "That's a pretty name, right?"
"I've always liked that name," Kori chimed, scribbling 'Mary' into her notes.
"What name!" Richard shouted angrily. "You're not making any sense!"
"The name that I gave you," Kori whispered, softly. "The nickname I gave you… I put it into your name project. I hope you don't mind."
Richard looked at Kori with a grateful grin. "You actually did the project for me?" he wondered, suddenly easing up.
Kori giggled. "I told you I would do it," she reminded. "After we hung up on each other, I got straight to work on the project. It only took a few hours, but I sure do hope you like how it turned out."
"Thanks," Richard said as he pulled Kori into a tight hug. "I owe you a lot for this one… and the one before this."
"For what?" Kori wondered, taken aback by the surprise hug from her best friend.
"For saving my grade once again!" Richard remarked happily.
Smiling to herself, Kori shook her head. "Richard, it was nothing."
Richard shut his eyes, exhaling. He knew how much Kori's grades had suffered because she was always doing her best to help him with whatever work he failed to do on his own. He bombarded her with assignments that he usually had months to complete, only giving her days – sometimes hours at a time – to finish on her own. In return for all of those times, Richard had nothing to offer her.
"I owe you a hell of a lot more than I'm giving you right now, Kori," Richard acknowledged. "I remember all the crap I put you through from the time that we became friends up until the time when… well, you know."
"No, I'm sorry," Kori said harshly. "I don't understand what you're trying to get at exactly."
"You screwed up…" Richard hissed with just as much venom.
"I screwed up?" Kori questioned with a death glare. "How is it that I screwed up when it was you who gave me the false information? Everything you ever told me was a lie, wasn't it? Dick, why are we still even together?"
"I'm leaving," Richard announced, turning to leave.
"You cannot walk away from me this time, Richard Grayson," Kori pleaded. "You just… can't. We're not done talking here!"
Richard watched as Kori sobbed on the ground in front of him. Only a few days ago, Kori had received words from her younger brother, Ryan, that she had gotten an offer to take an acting course in Hollywood. She, of course, was happy for her chance at fame; however, Richard reacted differently.
"Well," he replied icily as he tried to walk away from her, "I'm done talking to you."
Kori did not move from her spot on the ground as she continued to cry. She didn't understand why Richard couldn't be as supportive as her family and other friends. "Richard, please! I need you to understand this from my point of view!"
"What's there to understand?" he yelled, turning around to face her. "You're leaving Jump City for Hollywood in a few hours because of your stupid callback! Just go!"
"I know that you're not happy for me," she continued, "but could you at least try to be?"
"Why don't you go and ask your new friends in Hollywood?" Richard sneered. "They'll probably tell you exactly what they think and feel about you with no problems."
Kori looked up to see Richard hovering over her. She had been crying for – what seemed to be – hours now. She and Richard had been screaming at each other since she found out about her Hollywood offer. "Richard… no," she begged. "I want to know what you think. What do you feel?"
"… I don't think I love you," Richard admitted to the already crying Kori.
"I am so sorry, Kori!" Richard said, sobbing harder than before. "I owe you so much for everything! You were right about the extra period we took on during our sophomore year… After that day, I was dropped from the class because I was always at the Student Leadership workdays.
"I wish you were still here, Kori. Things would be so much easier. Everyone seems to hate me now… and quite frankly, I don't blame them. Oh God, Kori… why did my last words to you have to be 'I don't need you either!'?" Richard asked himself. "You know… I never answered your question. Kori… Starfire, I saw you in my future… You always encouraged the better side of me.
"Kori, I-I-I-I wish I could just take back everything that happened four years ago."
"Master Grayson," Alfred said urgently, "Master Wayne wishes for you to wait for him in the car this instant."
The date was April 22, 2002. Richard looked up from his history book intently as he watched Bruce zoomed around the hallways. "Wait," he said, still trying to finish reading the paragraph he was on, "I have to finish studying for my history exam in two weeks. Hold on a sec, Alfred… why?"
"Sir, it's about Miss Anders," Alfred sighed.
Richard shot up from his computer chair immediately. "What's wrong with Kori?" he wondered.
Just then, Bruce burst into Richard's bedroom. "Dick, get in the car… NOW."
Richard looked at Bruce, still very confused. "Bruce, what's going on?"
"Kori's in the hospital."
Richard's eyes widened as Bruce's words escaped from his lips. It wasn't possible for Kori to be in the hospital. She had just been over a half an hour ago. There couldn't have possibly been something that happened within that time frame to send Kori in the hospital, right?
"But I just saw her…"whispered Richard to himself as he raced after Bruce.
The car ride to the Jump City Hospital Center was a quite one on Jared's part. Bruce, however, continued to bombard Richard with questions as to how this could have possibly happened.
"What usually causes Kori's attack?" Bruce asked, concerned for the girl his adopted son was dating.
Sensing that Richard didn't want to answer the question he had previously asked, Bruce proceeded with the questions. "Does this happen a lot? The panic attacks, I mean," the billionaire wondered.
Only when she's on emotional high… which is something that I usually cause by yelling at her out of the blue or by making her jealous when I purposely flirt with Kitten to get her attention…
Finally taking note of the fact that Richard hadn't said anything, Bruce ended the conversation with, "Dick, it will all be okay."
I sure hope you're right, Bruce.
"Miss Anders," Bruce called out to Kori's older sister – and currently, her only living relative.
"Mr. Wayne," Koma responded softly, "thank you for coming… I didn't know who else to call. You were the first person that came to mind…"
Richard watched as Koma sent him a death glare from behind her tears. As terrible as Koma was to other people, she always had a soft spot for her younger siblings. And now that she was Kori's legal guardian and only sibling, Koma's "soft spot" had gotten much softer.
"How is your sister?" Bruce asked the nineteen year old girl.
Koma ran her hands through her raven black hair – the same way Kori did with her hair whenever she was stressed out. "The doctors here don't know what to do… they say that there has only been one other case like this one and it was my brother, Ryan's," Koma sighed, wiping her eyes. "How… are you doing, Dick?"
Richard knew that Koma didn't approve of his relationship with her sister. But he also knew how much she cared about Kori and how much she loved seeing her baby sister happy. He didn't know how to respond to Koma's question; how was he doing exactly?
"I'm… doing…" Richard paused between words, trying to pick them carefully, "… I'll be… okay. I guess."
Koma nodded as she approached Richard. She awkwardly wrapped her arms around her sister's boyfriend. "It'll be okay, Dick. Kori will be fine in a couple of hours. These attacks are usual nowadays, right? I know she'll get through this," Koma reassured. "Kori will be all right."
Richard sobbed, "They were wrong!"
"Miss Koma Anders…?" the doctor said.
"Yes, sir?" Koma replied, standing up from her seat in the waiting room.
"I'm so sorry…" he sighed.
The three guests of Kori Anders seemed to already understand what that apology had meant. The news, however, seemed to brutally affect Richard more than it had anyone else in the room.
"Kori," Richard whispered as the rain continued to pour, "Starfire, I love you and I'm sorry."
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is officially complete. I hope you guys enjoyed it. I understand that the twist was actually too much of a twist, but remember that's how I originally wrote it (and I remember writing this during a dark period in my life). Originally, the death was more brutal than a simple "anxiety attack"… granted, I know you can't die from an anxiety attack, but asdfjkl; it wasn't supposed to be an anxiety attack (I just labeled it that) ;_;
So… this story was written and published on August 8, 2012. Please, feel free to check out the other stories I have available. :] Don't forget to review! :D
~ May Vulcan