A/N: This is a missing moments story which refers to an event referenced as a flashback in Nightwing Annual #2, published by DC Comics in 2007.
Don't let the title fool you - this is anything but pretty.
On one of those nights I wanted to be permanently spared the agony of eyes on me for the wrong reasons, to spare those around me the trouble of treading on eggshells around the girl who can no longer tread on anything, he showed up on my doorstep.
For so long I'd been the strong little soldier. I'd been the one to smile and say, "It's OK Dad, I'm just glad to be alive." I'd kept my hopes up longer than anyone, and that day I found out that my condition was irreversible.
I was trying to figure out how I could tell Dad that the most likely medical miracle could not help me. How would I tell Bruce that I could never again have the choice of donning my recently abandoned cowl? How could I tell Jason that I couldn't spar with him ever again because of what that monster did?
Looking in my mind's eye into the barrel of that gun and wishing it had killed me, I answered the door. I was prepared for anything but seeing HIM. Any words but hearing his grief.
I lost it. My resolve crumbled before his eyes as though it never was.
He held me, caressed me; he told me it would be OK.
I kissed him. And he kissed me back.
I'd always loved him so much. In that moment and those that followed, he made me believe it would really be OK.
The next morning, waking in his arms, I was renewed. I knew I could handle this. If he loved me, even as broken and as damaged as I was, how could I falter? How could I let him down? How could I ever put that grief in his eyes again?
The gifts he'd given me were hope, strength, faith, and love. And I was determined to be strong for him - he deserved that.
And then he handed me an envelope.
"Nice stationery for a 'Dear Babs' letter," I joked. For someone with an eidetic memory, it's strange that I can't remember what I thought might be contained in the envelope.
It held a lovely engagement announcement.
For him… and Koriand'r.
In a heartbeat it was all torn away.
No, that's not fair - it never was. It was only an illusion and I was the fool who fell for it.
I wanted him to go, to leave and never come back. If I could have, I would have wiped him from my life.
I screamed out the most horrible things. I threw everything I could lay my hands on at him. Various knickknacks shattered as they hit the door behind him as he ran out still doing up his pants. The room's only lamp was reduced to tiny shards next to the wall. He's lucky I didn't yet sleep with a gun under my pillow.
When I heard the silence echo through my pitiful little apartment, I knew I was left alone again and I fell once again to pieces. The screaming eventually stopped; moisture still leaked from my eyes. I was out of breath from it all and yet I could only feel… emptiness.
For a long time I just sat there on the bed. I couldn't move at all. Now that my hate of him had been purged through violence both verbal and physical, I realized that I hated myself more.
Out of bed, into a robe I took hold of the reacher and pulled my chair closer to the bed so that I could restore some pretense of order to my thoroughly trashed bedroom. Without ceremony I gathered the remnants of those little smashed hints of humanity to throw them away.
And with the room halfway clean, the other half a disaster area I saw it.
Atop the carnage on my bed was the now crumpled invitation.
I could only stop and stare at it. I didn't want it to exist but there lay the very symbol of my stupidity. How could I be so damn stupid as to think I could have a normal life? False hopes. But there were no other hopes to be had.
And yet somehow I knew that damned crumpled piece of pain was the only link I had to the last night I would ever know a lovingly offered touch.
I picked up the embossed card and smoothed it out between my hands.
It might all have been an illusion but it seemed so real. It was more real than anything since the bullet tore through me.
I may have hated my earlier weakness and stupidity, but at the same time I couldn't help but cling to those symbols.
I wanted to live in that illusion. Unfortunately, I had to live in the real world. A world where I'd received a wedding invitation from the love of my life moments after reaching the pinnacle of joy after he'd rescued me from the depths of my despair.
I placed the invitation carefully on the dresser and wheeled myself out, closing the door behind me.