by Hitman 44077
Nighttime in Manhattan, New York City:
Within the T-shaped compound known as Titans Tower, most of its occupants slept — all except one. Koriand’r, the exiled princess of Tamaran, stood within the quarters she shared with her lover Dick Grayson. She stood by a window and stared outside, looking at the stars that filled the sky. What she was feeling was, in a way, familiar — but not quite the same as she’d remembered.
So much has changed over the summer here on Earth, she thought, placing her hand on the window. We managed to save Earth, and even parts of the galaxy, from those who sought to invade. And still, there is so much that still tugs at my heart. Seeing my brother Ryand’r again and aiding him and the Omega Men in the long battle — I hadn’t realized just how much I missed him and the world I gave up. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See DC Universe: Invasion, Book 3: The Return.]
Koriand’r closed her large green eyes as she remembered the many events that led her to the present. She opened her eyes slowly and turned her head toward a desk that held a small communications device, something Ryand’r left with her in case she changed her mind. Ryand’r sought my help, asked me if I’d join him and the Omega Men in an effort to free Tamaran from Komand’r. I considered it, but what about Earth? What about Dick? she thought, turning toward the bed where her lover was sleeping.
The times I returned to Tamaran haven’t been the most endearing, but my people — what horrors has Komand’r committed in my absence? How much blood has she spilled to taint my planet? Koriand’r walked back to the bed and slowly slid onto it, being careful not to wake her boyfriend.
Dick, I wish I could just say something to you, but I just can’t right now. I’ve been a warrior most of my life, trained by the Warlords of Okaara, but I can’t even make the choice I know is right! But maybe… the choice has already been made for me. The people of Earth have grown leery of alien beings, including myself. I pray to X’hal that whatever I decide to do, I’ll do it in the best interests of those I care about most.
With the heavy thoughts weighing on her conscience, the princess drifted off to sleep. What she didn’t know was that Dick Grayson had observed her while she was staring at the night sky.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen her like this. So much has happened in both of our lives lately, there just hasn’t been any time to hash it out, Dick thought, as he pretended to be asleep. I love you, Kory, and I know that there’s a change in the air. I haven’t told you about the offer Bruce made to me. If I accept, it’s going to change a lot of things. I’ve thought about it for a long time now, and I think I’ve made a decision. But I still want to tell you first… before I tell the others.
Dick fell asleep himself with the completion of that thought, cuddling up to the woman who’d played such an important part of his life, and she did likewise.
Morning arrived at the Long household as Donna Troy Long cooked breakfast for her husband Terry and her stepdaughter Jennifer. Still wearing her robe, she found herself enjoying the simple things of living a normal life. “I hope you two are hungry!” she said pleasantly to her family as she cracked open a few eggs onto a skillet.
Terry Long was already dressed for his job. Teaching classical mythology and English literature at Raeburn University had been a blessing to him, especially with the extensive background he’d studied on during his own college days. It didn’t hurt that his bride of nearly three years represented a portion of what he taught, either. “Well, I can’t speak for Jen, but I know I’m hungry,” he replied to his wife. He jokingly added, “I just hope I’m not doing any damage to my figure!”
“Not with my cooking, you won’t!” Donna said in mock anger as she walked over to her husband and playfully swatted his arm softly.
Jennifer Long was unusually quiet, something that had been slowly building since the visit to Paradise Island shortly after the murder of her natural mother, Marcia Long, at the hands of the second Cheetah. (*) Donna’s mood changed to concern as she looked at the girl she loved as her own.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Showcase: Artemis: Cat and Mouse Game.]
“Jenny, are you OK?” Donna asked as she turned the stove off. She picked up the skillet, walked to the table where her family was sitting, and placed some of the eggs onto her stepdaughter’s plate. She then did the same with her husband’s plate.
Jennifer looked up, somewhat in a daze. She quickly snapped out of it and answered the woman who was like both a mother and older sister to her. “Yeah, Donna. I think so,” the young brown-haired girl said. Her voice had an uncertainty to it, which told both adults present that something was up.
“Jen, how’re things going at school?” Terry asked, thinking maybe another child might be giving her some problems.
“Things are OK, Daddy. It’s really been good seeing my friends again, and my new teacher is really nice,” she replied, trying to reassure her parents.
“That sounds good, dear,” Donna said as she kissed her stepdaughter’s forehead. But even she knew that there seemed to be more to it than just that.
Before anything else could be said, the school bus arrived. Jennifer heard the bus horn and grabbed her book bag quickly. “I’ll see you two tonight, OK?” the girl said, flashing a smile.
“OK, Jen. Have a good day.” Terry said confidently, though he had reservations concerning what little had been spoken by his daughter. He stood up, hugged his daughter, and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
Jennifer opened the front door and ran toward the bus. Once inside, she sat in her assigned seat and waved to her family. Terry and Donna walked to the front door and waved back. Once the bus began driving off, Terry shut the front door softly. “That was really odd,” Terry said, concerned. “It doesn’t take a detective to see something’s troubling her a great deal.”
“I saw that, too,” Donna replied with equal concern. “For the life of me, I don’t know what’s on her mind.”
“I’d like to get to the bottom of this, but I don’t want to be confrontational about it. I don’t want to alienate her and drive her further away. I’ve seen too many kids take that route, and it’s not a good ending,” Terry confessed.
“I wonder — maybe this has something to do with what happened over the summer. The large alien invasion that I and the rest of the Titans helped repel. I was gone days on end, so soon after Marcia was murdered,” Donna said as she started to feel strong guilt.
“Donna,” Terry began reassuringly as he walked over to his wife. He hugged her and gave her a lengthy kiss. “Both of us know and understand your role. We accepted it when you were Wonder Girl, and we’ve accepted it since you became Artemis. Of course, some days are better than others, but I know we would be so empty without you in our lives. I love you so much.”
Donna looked at the man she loved, the man to whom she had pledged to live with always, and placed her hands on her husband’s cheeks. She then tenderly kissed her husband. “For better or worse, right?” Donna said, once the kiss had ended.
“Exactly,” Terry said confidently. “Til death do us part.” It was then that Terry noticed the time on the clock on the wall of the kitchen. “Shoot!” he exclaimed, almost wondering just where the time went. “Sorry, love, but I’m late! I’ll see you later today!”
“No problem. I’ve got work, too,” Donna said smiling, then planted one more quick kiss on the cheek of her husband. “Try not to work too hard.” With that, Terry quickly exited the Long home. Once he’d entered his car, he quickly pulled out of the driveway and headed toward Raeburn University.
Donna shut the front door and cleaned her table off. Once the garbage had been thrown away and the dishes washed, Donna herself dressed for her day’s work. She also placed her costume in a duffel bag, along with other photo setups and film. It’s so good to have family, she thought as she brushed her hair. The New Titans, Hippolyta, Diana, Nubia and the Amazons, and the Evans — they’ve all been so important to me. I’ve learned so much from them. And I’m a part of Terry’s family, too.
Once her hair was done, Donna put her shoes on and grabbed her purse, duffel bag, and car keys. She walked to her car and placed her bags inside. I just hope that whatever it is that’s bothering Jenny, I can help her with the matter. Marcia would have done the same, even if she and Terry had their own set of problems, she thought as she pulled out of the driveway. But no matter what, we’re a family. And family help family. With those thoughts, Donna headed to Manhattan to start her day’s work.