Friday, June 9, 2017

Chapter Fifteen: The Princess and The Squire

Interlude: October 31st

Chapter Fifteen: The Princess and The Squire

Robin came in on his R-Cycle seconds after Batman got out of the Batmobile. He had taken to not riding with the Dark Knight after his team's arrival. Neither spoke to one another or even remotely acknowledged the others' presence. Needless to say, Batman was not happy nor pleased with the Titan's surprise visit. Nor was he pleased with their activities since.

And Robin was getting the brunt of all it.

The glares. The grunts. The sneers. And somehow Batman knew how to make all of that seem like it wasn't childish. It was so not fair and at this time of day, Robin had no intention of dealing with it. Changing quickly, the first thing on his mind was to go straight to his room. But to his surprise, Batman actually spoke to him. Shocker!

"Robin," He singled out of the otherwise empty audience.

"What?" Dick asked, not at all trying to sound noncompliant.

"What are you doing tomorrow night?" Batman asked.

Dick raised a brow, "Um, don't know. A little work I guess and mostly just patrol. Why?"

"I'll be at a late meeting. If you could go out early, you could cover the area till I get out," Batman told him.

"Why bother?" Dick asked.

"Have you forgotten what day that is?"

Dick thought for a moment and then it hit him, but Batman continued not giving him the chance, "Halloween. A perfect night for theatricality in the minds of the insane. Correct me if I'm wrong."

The sarcasm in his voice was rich and Dick hated it, "Fine, I get it. I'll go out as soon as I can tomorrow."

Without another word, Dick walked up the long staircase. They really needed a elevator. When he could remember how many more steps there were by the way the groves cut into the cave, then he knew that he had climbed these steps one too many times. He had stayed out all night and was ready for a good sleep.

Coming up, he was met by the black and orange decorations for Halloween that Alfred had put up. He forced a smile. There wasn't really a reason for having Halloween decorations up. No one but he and Bruce would see them. Not even children in the neighborhood came trick or treating. Wayne Manor on Halloween could look like one of those Victorian haunted houses with all of Alfred's work. And Dick had noticed that for some reason, the bats liked to fly around outside more on All Hallow's Eve. He shrugged and continued towards the main hall.

Dick walked up the elegant staircase, his hands brushing the cold pearly marble banister. Would anyone believe that the stairs themselves where actually all one piece? Probably not. They had to be cut out of a mountain and shipped half way across the country. He sighed, letting himself remember what it felt like to have enough energy to climb up the stairs and slide down the banister. He wished he was ten again. Being ten was so easy. It was all relatively much more simple back than. And Bruce didn't hate his guts back then, either. Then again come to think of it that wouldn't be much as he pretty much was sick of being around Bruce anyway, what with his attitudes towards him and his team.

There was no way around it. The man saw the Titans as amateurs that weren't getting any better. Dick shut his eyes as he remembered Batman coming back from the scene of Ehtan's murder. None of them had talked; they had all sensed that they shouldn't as a solemn mood had enveloped them. When Batman had come back, he had spoken quickly to a police officer nearby to have them deliver a message to Gordon, and had managed to demand a proper introduction out of his sense of courtesy and nothing else.

While Robin had breathed a sigh of relief when Batman had at least heard of Beast Boy from the Doom Patrol, Cyborg, Raven, and Starfire were another story. Cyborg got off relatively easy compared to the girls. No bad ties, but no outstanding good ones either, outside of Star Labs. For Raven, the daughter of an inter-dimensional demon that had attempted to take over the world, probably the only reason why she had gotten any respect at all was because she had stopped her father's attack on the world. Starfire, though... To Robin, the mystery as to why Batman hardly even acknowledged her was beyond his comprehension.

Probably wasn't for any good reason, though.

Now in his room, Dick blearily got under his covers and kicked off his shoes. Why did it have to be so early in the morning? That just makes it difficult. The light from the curtains. The bright colors in his room. Now he understood why Bruce had darker colors in his room. But despite all of this, his eyes were almost entirely relaxed when he succumbed to sleep, sweet sleep. He was getting used to doing this. If he slept all day, so what?

It felt so good. So lulling. Like he was being flown away from his bed on something, something much softer than a magic carpet and a lot more comfortable. But what was there to dream about? Going home? Home. Even as he glimpsed Jump City before him, his first thought was of Gotham. But no one even wanted him there. And sadly, Jump at this point seemed like a resort to run away from because of Bruce, though it had never been originally. It killed him.

Somehow, the two cities sat next to each other, separated by a mountain range before him. He had to make a choice. He had to... The ground beneath him crumbled and he fell. Dick landed on cold, icy-hard ground. There were no more dreams. It was cold and he shivered. Something landed on his head, like water. But when he looked up, he didn't see any cool refreshing water. Instead, something red landed on his cheek. He felt it with his hand and swallowed hard as the iron smelling substance gleamed like the liquid in his own veins. He got up but a rumble stopped him. As it continued to rain blood from black skies, the sound of something, thundering through the canyon, had grown into a roar.

A red sloshing river aimed straight for him and Robin felt it hit him as though he had hit his chest directly into a pool of water. The difference? Now he was tumbling around and getting hit against rocky walls as he tried desperately to reach for air. But he couldn't and as he opened his masked eyes, he saw larger objects tumbling with him. They seemed metallic, round, precisely shaped ellipses. Silvery, with an engraved 'S' on each side of them.

Then he lost sight of them and his head reached air. He heard the sound of something draining the blood from the river. He suddenly landed on a grate as the blood flowed past him, over him, and onward. He choked and sputtered, the blood soaking his clothes and chilling him as it ran down his sides, scaring him half to death. It surprised him that he was still alive.

Then a clap. And another clap. And another. And another.

"Well done, Robin, well done," said the almost bemused, sly, voice.

Robin gasped and choked as he looked up to see the masked man standing over him, whose voice was far too familiar for comfort. Not him! Robin looked down at the floor. Anything, not him, please, please, just not...

"Come now, look me in the eye, Robin," Slade said picking him up by his blood soaked tunic.

"This isn't your blood, is it Robin?" Slade asked and Robin felt himself squirm. Stop! Leave! He had to get away, had to... "No, you have no wounds."

Robin felt himself hold his breath in fear of what Slade would next say, "We can change that though, can't we?"

The words chilled the blood running down his skin. Robin shook his head frantically, but it didn't stop the sting of Slade's fist against his jaw sending him flying across the floor. His heart beat rapidly in his chest, fighting against hope that in some way, he could run, get away from the monster. But man, that nightmare, it hurt. His vision finally focused again from the shock. He gasped as he looked up at his opponent, his enemy, his nightmare.

"You shouldn't have left me, Apprentice," Slade said, coming closer, his fist raised, ready for another blow.

But Dick didn't feel it as he gasped and woke up, finding himself still in his bed, safe. The only noticeable difference was that he could still feel the cold sweat that had engulfed him and he was still trembling from the nightmare. His breath was stunted as he breathed hard and quick. Getting up, he headed straight for the shower. Had to calm his nerves. Had to.

The hot water ran letting steam fill the room. He hated these nightmares. Hated them. But at least they didn't come as often as they used to. Slade hadn't been heard of since his disappearance after the defeat of Trigon and Robin had no reason to think that he'd be back. Besides, perhaps once you see the city you set out to destroy, well, destroyed, it loses the appeal. And the nightmares had left. So considering that Slade hadn't even remotely been or tampered with Jump City, that was a good thing.

The nightmares used to be miserable. It scared him what his mind could come up with sometimes. And to think, he had been dreaming about the probes. He shuddered. That apprenticeship was the most miserable time of his life. And no, he hadn't told Alfred, or Bruce about it. He wasn't about to do something that stupid. Not that Bruce would care. If he did, Bruce would probably scold him for being so weak, so incapable, which he wasn't. He wasn't.

But still, knowing that Slade had been a threat had caused Robin at one point to go paranoid. Slade wasn't a threat anymore. The man had moved on. If he hadn't, he would have struck by now, Robin was sure of it. As much as Slade enjoyed the shadows, he still would have had his own goals and they would have been presented by now. At least now he could enjoy himself more and he could be confident that his team could hold up against the worst of the worst. Dick rubbed a towel over his wet hair, and with his pants on and his shirt over his shoulder, he stepped out of the bathroom, finally noticing it was near sunset. He was turning into a night owl again. He shrugged and was about to throw on his shirt when his communicator rang.

Picking it up, Dick saw it was Starfire on the other line and his heart skipped a beat. He ran to get his mask on and opened the communicator, "Hey!"

"Greetings, friend Robin, you slept at the ease?" She asked, happily.

Robin laughed at her cute diction and answered, "More or less, you?"

"Oh, I slept well too... We attempted to call you earlier but you did not respond," She mentioned with an implied question.

"Um, yeah, sorry 'bout that. I sort of sleep during the day now. Happens when I work here and am relieved from school," Robin explained, "But yeah, um, how is the hotel?"

A loud crashing sound of something breaking was heard in the background and Starfire tensed, "Um, it is going as you would say, as well as it could."

Robin felt a wave of guilt, "Yeah, I would have brought you guys here, but well, I don't think Batman is exactly prone to letting me invite guests over at the moment... And Alfred would murder me for the mess that Cyborg and Beast Boy would make."

Starfire smiled (though she was still confused at who Alfred was) and replied, "I suppose, but Robin, why do you not believe that the Batman would not want guests?"

Robin sighed, "Just trust me, Star. He's not exactly the most social person and I don't even think he... particularly... even wants me here at the moment."

At her surprised look, Robin added, "He's stressed, that's all."

He didn't exactly want to tell her about that. No need to worry her. Definitely no need to do that. Starfire nodded in understanding, though she sensed his reluctance.

"It was really, really amazing, last night: your knowledge of Gotham," She told him, changing the subject to a lighter one.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, well, that's what happens when you grow up someplace. You know it by heart I guess," Robin told her.

Starfire nodded, "Yes, Tamaran is the same for me. And for a first time in Gotham, it was very much so a fun one."

Robin laughed and Starfire did the same, but soon silence followed between the two. Robin looked down at his feet. Now what? He hated these awkward silences; it always felt so unbearably long to handle, to take. Starfire was the one to break it.


"Yeah, Star?"

"Does, does your mentor, does the Batman not like the 'teams'?" She asked.

Well that was a surprise question. At first. When he thought about it, he realized why she had asked it. Batman had neither been friendly nor accommodating to any of his teammates the night before as the Titans had patrolled the city with the Dynamic Duo. It had nearly been a disaster, but then again, when no one talks, no disasters can begin. He and Batman hadn't said more than ten words to each other. But he could still tell that Bruce wasn't at all happy with the team up and was glad when the teams dispersed.

"Um, not, no, it's not that. I mean, he's part of the Justice League and all, you know, but he, he just doesn't like all the, uh, variables it creates for him. He likes it simple, you know?" Robin tried.

He hoped that helped and thankfully Starfire seemed to drop the subject after that. Then he saw her eyes looking off behind him and he turned to see nothing but his bedroom. Confused he raised a brow and she replied.

"Um, you are in your room?" She asked.

"Yeah, why?" He replied.

"It is, the grandeur," She told him.

"Oh, yeah, Batman and I, we, we kind of... yeah," He answered, blushing slightly.

Identities. Secret identities. None of the Titans knew he was Dick Grayson, but he knew who they were. Starfire had always been so patient with him. She never asked, never prodded. She respected him and was content with what he told her. Maybe he should tell her. Why not? She'd never given him a reason not to trust her and he... He should. She was special to him. While evidently, if he told her, the rest of the Titans would discover who he was, but that still didn't seem like a big deal either. It was time he was honest with her. He might not be a knight in shining armor. He might be just the lowly squire in this comparison to a fantasy, but, somehow, he didn't think she'd care. He... An idea hit him and somehow, it came with confidence.

Robin questioned, "Um, Starfire?"

"Yes, Robin?" She asked.

He felt his hand get sweaty. Great, he had just showered too, "Do you... do you want a real tour of Gotham?"

"Huh?" She was caught off guard by the question, but... did he? "You would give us a tour?"

"Well, I, um, I meant, do you want a tour?" Robin emphasized and bit his lip.

"Like a date?" Starfire asked and she felt her own heart flutter momentarily. Was he? Was he asking her...

"Yeah, do you want to, go on a date with me?" He asked.


"The real me?" He asked, interrupting her, "Without the mask?"

Starfire's eyes widened and she looked around the dismantled empty hotel room (the others had all gone down to breakfast), almost guarding the question from anyone else and answered enthusiastically, "I... Yes, I would like that. I would like that very much, Robin."

Robin beamed, "Great, I'll, I'll pick you up at your hotel. Eight sound good? Tomorrow?"

"I, yes, it, that is good with me," Starfire replied, feeling herself begin to fly involuntarily.

"Great, great, do you, I don't know, I could treat you to a five star for dinner," Robin told her.

"That sounds, that sounds oh so glorious, Robin. I, I thank you," She replied, blushing.

"Alright, well, okay. I guess I'll see you later, kay?" He asked.

"Yes, of course. I shall you the soon then, Robin," She answered.

"Okay then, well, I'll see ya," He told her.

"I shall see you," She answered back.

The connection disabled. Seconds later Raven entered the room in her gothic clothing, looking very disgruntled at what had probably become of breakfast. But as soon as Raven walked into the room, she caught sight of Starfire's glowing eyes and the inescapable feeling of joy that the empath could sense in her.

"What..." She started hesitantly, but never finished as she found herself in one of Starfire's signature bone-crushing hugs and being lifted into the air.

"I have a date with friend Robin!" Starfire exclaimed, "You must help me prepare!"

Raven looked up at her in shock, but that did nothing to dull the pain in her back. Meanwhile, on the outskirts of the city, Robin did a back-flip onto his bed.

"Yes!" He yelled.

Finally! Something good was going to happen! He was going on a date with the girl of his dreams. Maybe this would turn out to be a good Halloween for once. But while he took off the mask and continued to smile while he threw his shirt on, someone watched him.

How deluded that sense of joy was.

Slade chuckled. What a perfect night to finish this, come to think of it. So theatrical, to kill the demon lurking in the shadows of Gotham on the last night of the chilly month of October. This city was wearing off on him. Everything was going according to plan. The Dynamic Duo could be considered clueless at this point, but then again, Slade would never leave anything up to assumptions like that. Still, with everything that was going on, it was a pretty safe bet. If Dick looking like he could go out skipping at this point wasn't reason enough to assume such a thing, well, he didn't know what was.

And the Joker had played his role. He had promised the Clown Prince of Crime his role in the game and he had gotten it, along with state of the art robots designed to his ludicrous and insane tastes. Not that it mattered, but still, that was too close. Joker had come too close to shooting the Boy Wonder, something he would have to rectify later.

At the moment, with Joker in Arkham once again, it was not a problem that needed an instant solution. Meanwhile, he could care less about Two-Face's displeasure; the hypocritical mental case would just have to deal with these restrictions till November came. After that, he had no interest in the former Gotham D.A. Ultimately though the important thing about Joker's theatrics was that nothing had happened and he didn't expect to be able to get rid of Ethan so easily. In that regard, Joker had sped things up. Wouldn't Luthor be happy?

Then again, who cared about that maniac business man, anyway?

And sooner or later, his... employee would log on. Slade smiled at the thought. When it had come down to it, he needed someone smart, but fairly stupid. Someone who could take complicated orders without question. Strength over brawn. Insane, but focused. He knew of only one and it embarrassed him to actually be related to them. The line on his computer screen crackled to life. Shame, that name could mean a lot more if someone else was using it. Ravager couldn't see him, but he could see Ravager's smug face on the screen. The moron.

"Wade Defarge," Slade said, "You're ready for the information?"

"No problem, s'longs the pay's good. And you say this will hurt Deathstroke?" He asked, greedily.

Yes, Wade didn't know that he was being hired out by his brother, that's how much of an idiot he was, "I'm sure. Deathstroke's been hired by Luthor to take out your target. You need to take him out first."

"No need to worry about that. Much better than that worthless..."

"Mr. Defarge, please, this isn't the time for small talk," Slade told him, "I'm sending the location of where to pick up your map of Wayne Tower, instructions, and equipment. Don't lose it. Do exactly what you were ordered to do, not a half way job."

Ravager laughed, "Don't worry, it's as good as done."

"I'm sure," Slade told him and just as quickly the line was disconnected.

He had to let out a low laugh. 'Even after all these years, Wade.' Well, there was no time to reminisce. Not like he even wanted to, anyway. He sat back in his chair. Everything was in place. Everything. He looked back at his hidden camera. It had taken him ages to perfect the microscopic spy camera and ages more to be able to get it up to speed and capable of getting past Wayne's security witfhout being noticed. His eye followed the face of the young teen. His eyes were marked with happiness.

"Enjoy yourself while you may, Dick," Slade said, "It won't last long."


Starfire pushed the green dangling diamond earrings through her ears. She remembered being so nervous when she got them pierced with Raven, but that had been nothing compared to the butterfly feelings in her gut right now. She smoothed her purple silk dress and propped up her large curls, just to make sure they stayed, despite the can of hairspray. Raven looked over at her passively, her hood down and her eyes turned downward.

Being Starfire's friend was sometimes hard for her. She was not one to express herself as Starfire did, making their conversations somewhat awkward and abrupt for them both. Still though, she felt some... gratitude towards Starfire, for that emotion that she could never feel, she thought. That was probably why they didn't hate each other. Starfire told her what it was like, to feel (as Raven saw it) and Raven was content with listening and being able to feel empathically what Starfire felt.

"Don't be nervous," Raven told her, plainly.

"Oh, but Raven, he, he is going to tell me who he is. And this is our, it is my first date!" Starfire explained and Raven nodded.

"About time too," Raven told her, "That boy is so slow sometimes."

"Hm?" Starfire asked.

"I'm an empath Starfire; I feel every one's emotions," Raven said, getting out the gloves that Starfire had packed in her suitcase, "It's amazing that you two haven't gone out on a date already in the first place."

"You really believe so, friend Raven?" Starfire inquired as she took the gloves.

Raven looked at her as though that was the dumbest question in the world, "Would you like me to lie to you?"

Starfire laughed, "I suppose not. Thank you. Thank you for helping me prepare, and for being such a good friend."

Raven pulled up her hood, "You're welcome."


"Yes?" Raven turned her shadowed face to see Starfire smiling.

Starfire looked down at her silver heels, "I hope that, I hope that you feel as happy as I do."

Raven let out a dry laugh, "Thanks, Star, but don't get your hopes up. Besides, I can feel how happy you are right now."

"Well, I am glad then," Starfire told her.

Raven shrugged, "It's a perk of being an empath... Hey, so when's..."


"---VEN!" Two yells came from the other room, following some rampaging ruckus.

Bursting through the door between the rooms, the two Titan boys barged right in and were about to receive Raven's wrath for invading the girls' room when she saw who was with them.

"No..." She said shaking her head in disbelief and annoyance.

Starfire gasped, "Red X?"

"Hi!" Red X said, waving and indicated Cyborg holding onto his cape, "Can you tell them to put me down now?"

"What is it that you are doing here?" Starfire asked.

"This creep stowed away in our luggage!" Cyborg exclaimed, almost sounding indignant about it.

"How did he fit and survive in your suitcase?" Raven asked, half angry, half bewildered.

"Well, I got out when you guys made pit stops and I was able to fit in their gaming bag, which was good because the next biggest bag was Beast Boy's and I don't think he did his laundry before..."

"Raven, I thought you told him to stay put!" Beast Boy accused.

"I told Red X that he was to stay at the Tower," She said, forcefully.

"Hey, I don't have to listen to you. And besides, no one knows me in Gotham. I could almost pass for a Titan here, not that I'd want to," Red X countered and then he caught sight of Starfire in her formal dress, "And man, if I get to dance with you in that, I'd say that it was all worth..."

The phone rang and startled them all. Starfire flew over, thankfully for Red X, who would have been the victim of her impulse to incinerate him, and answered the phone, "Hello?"

"Yes, Ms. Anders?" A patron asked, using Starfire's code name that she was using while staying at the hotel. They had all taken up these names so that could keep a low profile in order to not draw the attention of an attacker's eye.

"Yes, this is I," She answered.

"I believe there's a young gentleman waiting in the entrance hall for you. He said he was looking for a young lady with red hair and 'golden' skin. Is this you and shall I inform him that you will be down soon?"

Starfire gasped and replied back promptly, "Yes, yes, tell him I shall be down the stairs immediately."

"I shall," the patron responded.

With that, the patron hung up and Starfire squealed, "I must be off, friends."

"You're not going to help us with this dude?" Beast Boy asked.

"No, I must go, you shall be able to handle him. Farewell friends! I shall be back late," Starfire exclaimed, before rushing out the door and into a maid, who handed her a newspaper and continued on.

She looked at the front page in which a man stood with the mayor, and a teenage boy by his side with jet black hair. The caption read "Bruce Wayne and ward, Dick Grayson, meet with Mayor about Project Firewall."

She shrugged and put the paper by the door. She had to get downstairs where Robin must be waiting. And in fact he was. Dick paced back and forth, rubbing his hand against his neck and checking his cologne. He hoped it wasn't too much. He remembered everything up until that point. He remembered getting ready and having Alfred run through half the house trying to find his good jacket. Poor Alfred, he had never seemed so rushed. Bruce hadn't noticed. He had just walked out the door on the way to his meeting. Shame he had to work on Halloween, but then again, Dick's concern for Bruce's meeting was about as much as Bruce's concern for his night out with Starfire. He hadn't even told Bruce about it. He really hadn't thought to and Bruce hadn't thought to ask.

Dick looked around. He knew people were looking at him. He wasn't totally unrecognizable in Gotham. And why not? The fact that he happened to be a multi-millionaire's ward wouldn't add to that at all, oh no. He pulled at his collar while others watched him. From a hidden camera, Slade watched as he sat back in his chair in his office and flexed his fingers. Just a little while longer. Another watcher though, felt excited with anticipation, and as anxious as Dick did. Starfire felt her heart beat in her chest and hoped that the coconut-cherry spice perfume wasn't too much. She stepped down the steps towards a teenager with gel-slicked, jet-black hair.

Hearing someone coming down, the teen spun around and Starfire caught sight of the Boy Wonder's eyes for the very first time. Blue. Clear. Brilliant blue. They sparkled as a large grin came to his face and she suddenly recognized him. Starfire made her way down the steps slowly as they faced each other.

"Hi," He said.

"Hi," She answered.

"Um, Star, I... I don't know what to call you other than, well..." Robin whispered.

Starfire smiled, "My formal name is Princess Koriand'r of Tamaran, but, here, I have decided to go by 'Kory Anders'."

"Kory," Dick said, the name felt so right for her too, "Um, well, Kory, my real name is Dick, Dick Grayson."

Starfire beamed, never looking anywhere but his eyes, his wonderful eyes, "Dick... It is, it is glorious to meet you."

It felt good to use his real name for the first time.

Dick smiled, "Well, shall we?"

He held out his arm for her and she took it with a smile. They made their way out of the hotel and into the limo where Alfred was waiting with a warm smile. Starfire looked at Dick who returned her smile. This was going to be the best night of her life.

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