Gar Logan was a happy young man. He had completed his daily lesson with Mr. Mueller, the private tutor his stepfather Steve Dayton had employed to teach the shape-shifting New Titan at their palatial estate. A few weeks more, and he’d finally be finished with his high school courses.
He also had been enjoying a rather heated romantic relationship with Jillian Jackson, and he hoped to surprise the heiress with a special gift. “When a guy can offer a babe great looks, killer charm, and the wit of a younger Steve Martin, it gets hard to find the right type of gift even loads of money can buy,” he said. “After all, you don’t want to spoil her. Still, I think Jillian and I have reached a really good place in our relationship. I want to do things right this time. When we were an item before, my psycho guardian Galtry nearly killed her. That sort of threw cold water on things for some reason. I don’t want to ruin things this time. I may appear to have all the answers, but between you and me, it’s an act!”
Vic Stone smiled and leaned forward to examine the small jewel box. He was rather pleased to hear how excited and happy his friend was. He knew Gar had been hurt before by the loss of his real parents, the loss of his stepmother Rita Farr, his temporary estrangement from Rita’s husband Steve Dayton, and perhaps above all else by the revelation that their teammate Terra had not truly been one of them. She had been working to destroy them for the Terminator and the HIVE. Gar had fallen for the psychotic blonde teen, and he had been hurt more than any of them by her actions. Vic hoped he could find some real happiness with Jillian.
“Careful, Vic. Don’t rust all over it!” said Gar.
Vic said, “Knowing your warped sense of style, I was trying to keep it from squirting me with water or turning my metal green!” He held up a small, heart-shaped gold locket. “Green-genes, this is nice. Really. I think you did good. Just promise me you aren’t planning to put some photo of yourself in your skivvies inside.”
Gar shrugged. “Hey, hey! I’m a classy guy. Do you think she’ll like it? Her old man is loaded. I had to go for sentiment. Matching Mr. Jackson dollar for dollar was kind of pointless, since you can’t exactly wrap Tiffany’s!”
Vic stood up and said, “Gar, seriously, you did good. Now, go give it to her and let me call Sarah. I got a life of my own outside of keeping you in line.”
Gar nodded and took back the package. “Thanks. I’d hate to delay you from your regular long-distance love fest. How’s it going? I didn’t mean to take up all your time. I know Sarah Charles is special to you. Having to live across the country from her because of her job out west has to be a real pain,” he said.
Vic said, “We’re working it out. I had no hope that it could work when she first moved because of her job at STAR, but it seems to be going all right so far.”
Gar said, “And the other Sarah? Is Sarah Simms still putting the moves on you?”
Vic said, “She and I are friends. She knows I’m with Sarah Charles. We just enjoy spending time together. It was weird at first, but we’re getting to a good place, too.”
Gar nodded and flew off in hawk form. “Well, I guess all we have to do is wait for trouble to strike as usual!” he said.
He said this jokingly, but deep inside Gar wondered just how happy any of the New Titans could be for long. Vic Stone had only formed a solid bond with Sarah Charles after suffering through some failure and rejection in earlier attempts at romance. Dick Grayson (Nightwing) and Princess Koriand’r (Starfire) had also been apart for too long due to hurt and confusion in their own relationship. The fact that they had put their estrangement behind them was still no guarantee of lasting joy. Donna Troy Long (Artemis) and her husband Terry Long had a wonderful and complex marriage, but they had suffered the loss of Terry’s ex-wife at the hands of one of Donna’s old foes, and he had been out of work until only months ago. The enigmatic Raven had freed herself from the constricting bonds her evil father Trigon’s ever-present threat had placed upon her, and now she was stepping tentatively into affection for Roy Harper (Arsenal). Considering Roy’s uneasy handle on parenthood and commitment, this situation could lead to trouble.
Gar swooped over the city and drew closer to a huge mansion in the Hamptons. “Boy! When you think about the Titans and their love interests, we all seem more like soap opera types in tights than crime-fighters!” he said.
He changed to human form and walked across the patio near the Jackson pool. “You know, I should not be so gloomy, though. Lilith and Azrael plan to marry in a couple of days, and I never thought she’d settle down with any one guy. That leggy ex-go-go dancer used to go through men like Michael Jackson goes through shiny socks! Let’s see. She had a thing for poor Don Hall, romanced that Italian dude Romeo Del Loggia, and had a thing for the caveman of her dreams, Gnarrk. Weird, all three of them are dead. Hope that doesn’t mean Azrael’s days are numbered.”
He turned to see Jillian Jackson standing by the pool. She was attractive and had spiked auburn hair and a pink swimsuit. “Hey, babe! Your ever-lovin’, high-flyin’, emerald-tinted dream machine is here!” he said.
Jillian smiled and gestured for him to draw closer. “And what brings you here on this fine day except to string adjectives in front of your self-appointed title?” she said.
Gar said, “Jillian, I wanted to give you this. It’s a locket. I want to thank you for being so special to me. I know I’m not the easiest guy to spend time with, although I hope my fans don’t pick up on that!”
Jillian opened the box and smiled. “Gar, it’s lovely! I’m so happy! You are wonderful! Now, let me bring you inside and show you something special, too!”
Gar grinned as she kissed him and led him into the manor. “Is your Dad home? I know he is not wild about me visiting so much. Sheesh! A guy breaks a chair or two while in rhino form, and he becomes persona non grata!” he said. Jillian pulled him into the living room and wrapped her arms around him. “Jill, I–” he began.
She hushed him by placing one finger on his lips. “Gar, I want you to know that during our time together, I’ve had one thing on my mind,” she said. “All I’ve wanted to do was to get you alone like this, and…”
Gar smiled broadly. “And what?”
Jill smiled coldly. “And make you pay for murdering me!” Her arms elongated as she changed form and began to crush him. She no longer looked like the lively valley girl he loved. Now, she was a mature woman with a look of pure hate in her eyes.
“Madame Rouge!” gasped Gar as her crushing embrace left him stunned. He had been taken completely by surprise.
She continued to exert crushing pressure upon him for a few more seconds before letting him fall to the ground at her feet. She fingered the gold locket and sneered. “Idiot!”