Author's Note: "The One that Got Away" by Katy Perry. You know the drill guys, before and during. Also, I would like to thank everyone that reviewed~ You guys make me happy! (And I'm really, really sorry about this ending).
The sidewalk is slick with water. He thinks, afterwards, that that's the reason this happened. Because the ground is slippery, and he's running at the speed of sound for god's sakes, and it is really very hard to make a clean turn in those conditions. The rain water pelting against his goggles really isn't helping with visibility either, and so when that lamp post pops out of the ground somewhere between loading bay one and loading bay twenty-three, he's barely given any time to avoid it. So really, it's not his fault when he crashes headlong into the side of a metal storage crate. It's raining hard and the wind is howling and the waves are crashing with such ferocity against the pier that it is most definitely not his fault that the sound it makes alerts the one, lone patrolman. Or patrolwoman as the case may be.
He can feel the fabric of his costume being strained as he's pulled, slightly dazed and suddenly confused by the faint, conflicting scents of the pier, stumbling, through a rusted side door and into loading bay twenty-three. He turns, ready to confront the forces waiting to greet him, but the bay is empty. The roaring of the wind and waves is muffled here; the loudest sound is the pattering of raindrops as they're hurled against the roof. His eyes are narrowed but his heartbeat is steady, and he stands at the ready – defensive and alert.
It isn't until he sees the flash of gold at the end of the long row of crates that he realizes he recognizes the scent – faint and delicate beneath the overwhelming stench of seawater and metal. He gives chase, because really, that's what he does, and he catches up in a matter of seconds.
It doesn't really come as a surprise then, that she's already got the upper hand. Crouching on the top of a nearby metal crate, she kneels, shadowed. Her arrow's been pulled and notched, and it's pointed, he notes, directly at his heart.
He stands there, in silence, staring up at her. It's been such a long time; he's not even sure how long. Years, at least. He can't really see her, not while she's ninja-crouching on the metal crate, but he can smell the faint whiff of jasmine and spices and knows simply by the way the bow is held, unwaveringly, on target, that it's her.
"God KidIdiot, what the hell are you doing?" she hisses. It's so familiar – such a throwback to the days spent hero-ing together, as a team – that it makes his heart skip an involuntary beat. But his face remains stoic and guarded as he responds, "What the hell are you talking about? You dragged me in here!" And she gives an indignant huff, because really, he's turning this on her? Again?
"I see you still take every chance you get to blow your cover." Her voice is cool.
"Apparently you haven't changed at all," he throws back. "Since you're still skulking in places you're not wanted."
It stings, even if she doesn't show it, but he can tell. It's been years since they've needed M'gann to tell them what they're thinking, and apparently, it's a skill that hasn't been swept away with the passing of time. He almost feels guilty about the pleasure he takes in knowing that he's hurt her. But for her to just burst back into his life, unannounced, like this, right now is unfair in itself. The days, the weeks, the months, the YEARS, that he – they'd – spent after her disappearance trying to get it together again. Without so much as a 'Goodbye' or 'Sorry' or even 'I'm leaving forever, don't look for me'. And he wants so much to scream at her, and tear into her, and rip her heart from her chest that the force of his feelings barrels through him and nearly pushes him forwards; but while he may be oblivious, he's not stupid, and he knows drawing attention to their little corner of the world is the last thing he needs to do. So instead, he balls his hands into tight little fists and says, redundantly, "You left."
And she would have laughed, actually, because it's just so like him to state the obvious, and even more so because she wasn't really sure what else to say or do, but she catches sight of the bump beneath his costume and it stops her short. He can feel the shift in her attention and it takes him a second to understand what it means, and when he does, he tries to casually shift it from her line of vision, but it's difficult to do while maintaining an inconspicuous demeanour, and eventually he just stands still. And then, like it's just another day, another meeting between old friends, she offers a casual, "How's everyone doing?" And the question is so mundane, and normal, and out of place, that he's actually startled into answering. "They're doing fine."
And the silence is stretching, and he realizes she's actually waiting for him to elaborate. The question isn't just a space filler, not really, because he can see in the expectant way she shifts her weight that she genuinely wants to know – that even though she isn't part of the team anymore, she still cares. So he continues on (albeit warily) with, "Robin's doing well. Giving the Bats a run for his money, actually."
"More than with you and Flash?" she asks, and it's kind of funny because she's right, really and hey, he doesn't realize how much he's missed her and her snide little witticisms and just hearing it again very nearly makes him feel like she hasn't actually been gone for that long. But she has, and they both know it, and it's made all the more glaringly obvious when he continues with his little update.
"Aqualad's been doing really well for himself. He's been going the solo route with Red Arrow actually." He stops and scratches his head, wondering how much he should say. "He actually told Aquaman that he was going to strike out on his own. I believe he said something along the lines of 'kicking ass.'"
"Wow," she breathes, and he can tell she's impressed. "That's great." And she means it. And she's amused and pleased for him, because Kaldur must have changed since she's been around. And she knows he's struck out on his own via the Red Arrow route (she doesn't live under a rock, god, she watches the news still), but to hear he's actually starting to speak out for himself and learned to loosen up more is so amazing that it pulls a reluctant smile from the corners of her lips. "How's Miss Martian been doing? And Superboy?"
"Pretty much the same, I guess." His eyes are still trained on the area where he knows her face is, but no matter how much he squints, he still can't see her. "They're not together anymore, if that's what you're asking, but they're still friends. Miss M. could probably open a gourmet restaurant now, actually, she's gotten really good at cooking." (And here he can tell she's suppressing a chuckle because he would know, wouldn't he). "And Superboy and Superman – well, it's better. They're kind of, close, actually."
The silence stretches and he realizes he isn't really done, yet, is he, so he continues with, "Zatanna's been good too. Really good." And then, because he's forgotten that they aren't really on the same side anymore, and that he shouldn't be so relaxed with her, and it's always just been so difficult for him to know when to stop, "Robin and Zatanna got married."
It's not a surprise, not really, but she raises an involuntary eyebrow (not that he can see it), and says, "Oh?" And then, "I don't believe I received an invitation to the wedding."
And suddenly he's all too aware of the metal burning beneath his costume, and the barely concealed ice in her voice, and the temperature in the facility drops nearly twenty degrees and he fidgets a little bit, and it's a testament to how unbalanced he is – how uncomfortable, that's he's managed to stay still for so long anyway. The ridge beneath his costume represents something so large and conflicting and strange that it hangs like her arrow between them, bitter and intrusive. He raises a hand and in a half-hearted, breezy motion, responds with, "We would have sent you one, but you didn't leave a forwarding address." And he can hear the string of her bow as she pulls it just that little bit tauter and knows that really it's her heart that's being stretched to its limits, and the arrow is pointed so solidly at his chest that he almost misses the fractional beat where it quivers, just a little bit.
"Congratulations are in order then, to the happy couple." And suddenly he knows that they're walking a very, very thin line and if he didn't know her so well, he wouldn't have been able to catch that slight inflection at the end of the sentence that means she's trembling under her skin, and he starts to lift his arms and take a step forward. But the arrow is still between them, so he stops, haltingly, and looks up at her. And he reminds her so much of the boy he used to be, years ago, when he would meet her when she walked into the mountain and his face would light up and he'd come over with his arms raised meaning to give her a hug. And he'd stop short, and he'd look a little bit lost and uncertain, arms still awkwardly raised, because he didn't know if he could hug her, since she'd never really been that big on PDA.
And right now, he wants so badly for them to meet each other halfway. For it to be okay for them to reach each other – to stop and talk and not be enemies. And sure, they're kind of in that moment right now, but not really. He'd being targeted and their words are clipped and loaded and they both know they're on opposite sides of a tall, glass wall.
She pivots on the spot, and disappears. He starts, and the facility suddenly seems so much emptier and quieter and cold and he feels that awkward numbing in his chest that often accompanies those periods when he's just completely still. And it's just so draining that he doesn't even notice when she comes to stand three lights down from him. But she clears her throat, and he looks up and sees her, standing there. And she's older, and stronger, and lean and more mature, and yet she's somehow exactly the same.
She walks up to him, closer and closer, arrow still drawn, but they both know she won't shoot him. Soon they're only an arm's width apart, her arrow brushing against the tip of his chest. And he can see her, and she looks so beautiful and strong and now that she's closer, he can see her eyes. And they're so different – still fierce and strong and striking – but they're missing that light and that laughter and that smile and it's just so wrong.
And then her arrow is dipping and she leans closer, and he can suddenly see the trapezoidal arrowhead hanging around her neck, and realizes that this is where it's gone. He'd lost it a little while ago, but things had been so busy and his life had been moving so quickly and things were just changing all over the place that he hadn't thought about it for very long. He reaches out a hand as though he means to take it from her, or simply confirm that it's real, but she moves out of the way, and although her tone is teasing, there's no masking the sadness in her voice or in her smile when she says, "You don't belong to me anymore."
Her arrow is lowered when she turns around. He wants so badly to stop her, to run to her and drag her back and force her to come with him, but he can't. So he stands there, frozen with emotions that are fast rising and powerful, and he can feel his shoulders and legs vibrating with the sheer force of them.
She pauses at the door. "Goodbye." And it's the most heart-wrenching thing that's happened tonight, this goodbye. It's decisive and definitive and final and they both know what it means. If they ever see each other again, it will be in battle; a battle to the death. And they both know what they outcome of such a fight would be.
He wants to toss out a 'See you around' or a 'Later' or more of a 'It's not really Goodbye', but he knows anything like that is a lie, and they've had enough of those between them to last a lifetime. And maybe she can tell, because she turns around and lets an arrow fly, and it embeds itself into the wall inches from his head. And she's gone when he looks back, so he just stands there in the giant room and listens to the staccato beat of rain. His hands are clenched into fists and they're pressed to his eyes so tightly he thinks he's probably imprinting his flesh, through his costume, with his wedding ring. And then the emotions are just too much, and he can't contain himself anymore, and he bursts from the bay with all the pent up energy of years spent waiting and hoping, and he runs.
He can't go home, not now, not like this, but he really doesn't know where else he could go, not now, not like this, so he runs without direction or thought. He just runs and runs and he keeps speeding up and he thinks, idly that maybe he can go back in time and just stop this all from happening. Everything, all of it – not just this night but the night before and the one before that and all the nights he's spent without her. But he can't because it's already been done, and he can't change the world and really, he would only be postponing the inevitable. So he just keeps running and running and running, and knows that even though he's going so far, so fast, he's really just standing still.
She watches him leave from her perch in the shadows, and she doesn't cry – it's been so, so very long since she's cried – but she wants to and she wants him back and all she can do is stand there and let the rain wash down her face, cold and hard. She leans back against the wall and looks up at the sky and fingers the pendant around her neck, and knows that if she'd never left, she'd be wearing the matching ring.