by Hitman 44077
Within a matter of an hour or so, King Faraday and his men arrived in Mexico to begin the cleanup efforts. As his men went on their way to complete their jobs, Faraday met with Arsenal and the New Titans.
“Even with what we learned from our informant, I never could have imagined that such a drug existed. I’m glad you and the Titans took care of things,” Faraday said, pleased.
“Well, I wouldn’t even be here if they hadn’t managed to track me down,” Arsenal said, relieved. “But I’m glad, too, that no one else will ever be tempted by a drug of that nature.”
“Same here. Look, I’m pretty sure we can handle what’s left. You Titans are free to leave, if you wish. Same with you, Harper. By the way, glad to have you back in the fold,” Faraday said, extending his hand to Arsenal. The archer extended his own hand, and the two men shook. “Well done.”
“Thanks,” Arsenal responded, even as his mind tended to other matters. “Just two things — one, are you going to take the kids back to Denton?”
“Yeah, we’ll deal with that. Hopefully, with what they can tell me, as well as your report, we can convince our witness to cooperate fully as well,” Faraday responded.
“That’s the second thing, now that you mention it. Bane was encased in a crystal block by Kole. You want to be extremely careful when it comes to him. The Ambrosia has turned him into a one-man army,” Arsenal warned.
“I don’t think we have to worry about him. Once the men search through the wreckage of the house and locate him, we’ll remove him from the area,” Faraday stated.
“That’s good to know,” Nightwing said. “Are you sure you don’t want us to stay around in the meantime?”
“Your team has done a great favor to our country and its citizens. Don’t worry about it. If there’s a problem, we’ll get ahold of you,” Faraday said with a smile.
“I guess that’s it, then,” Nightwing said to Faraday before turning to his old friend. “We’ll be taking off, Arsenal. I know it hasn’t been that long, but it was still good to see you again, even under these circumstances.”
“Likewise, Nightwing. I’ll be in touch,” Arsenal said with a small smile.
“Arsenal, I would like to speak to you before we leave,” Raven said, her haunting voice emanating concern. “You do not have a problem with that, do you, Nightwing?”
“Go ahead. We’ll wait inside the T-Jet,” Nightwing said, as he had a sense of why she wanted to speak to her ex-boyfriend.
Arsenal turned to Faraday and spoke. “I think Faraday here might need to–”
“Don’t worry about it, Harper. I’ll still be here when you finish your talk,” Faraday interrupted.
“All right,” Arsenal said, his voice trailing off.
Raven and Arsenal walked just far enough away so that they could speak to one another in private. It was Raven who initiated the conversation. “Roy, I was surprised at your decision to leave the team a few weeks ago. Dick said you told him and Donna about your decision to leave, but you did not stay long enough for me to say goodbye,” Raven said, removing the hood that covered her head. Her eyes were full of emotion as she asked him another question. “Are you… are you angry at me?”
Arsenal looked at Raven, saw the hurt in her eyes, but he finally answered her. “No, I could never be angry at you, Raven. I have some anger inside me, but in no way is it towards you.”
“I know things have changed for us,” Raven stated, remembering the encounter with Eros.
“Just hear me out,” Arsenal said aloud, civilly. He looked away for a few seconds, then turned back to Raven. He walked toward her and spoke to her face to face. “I left the team, and yes, you’re the reason I left. But like I said before, I’m not angry with you.”
“Then… why did you leave?” Raven asked, trying to understand.
Arsenal took a deep breath of air and spoke calmly. “Honestly, it’s because I still love you, Raven. I know you were manipulated by Eros, and I accept the fact that we managed to break up, yet still remain friends. But every time I look at you, I see the woman that I shared so many fun times with, the woman I shared hugs and kisses with, the woman who made my life so much brighter with what I thought was her love. I still love you, and it tears me up knowing that you don’t feel the same way I do.”
He paused for a moment, feeling as if his heart was breaking again, when Raven placed her hands on his shoulders. “I — I am so sorry, Roy. I never knew,” Raven said compassionately.
“I couldn’t tell you, Raven,” Arsenal admitted. “I knew I had to accept the facts, but seeing you every day, with all that happened fresh in my mind… it was becoming increasingly harder to deal with. I need to accept the fact that you don’t love me in the same way that I do. It became an unhealthy and dangerous obsession. For both of our sakes, I quit so that I could learn to come to terms with the pain, to accept the loss, and then when I finally dealt with it, I could see you again and not feel as I have been these past few months.”
“Will you return to the team?” Raven asked him.
“No, though, truth to tell, I feel better speaking to you about it finally. Maybe eventually, but not in the foreseeable future,” Arsenal said. “It was good working with the government again, but I don’t know if I should continue to do that. Without you and the others, Lian would have been without a father today. I’ve thought about taking her to the reservation and maybe visiting Oliver Queen in Star City.”
“I think both of those options would be wise. I’d better head back to the T-Jet. I know the others have business to attend to in New York,” Raven said.
“No problem. I’ll see you around, Raven,” Arsenal said, feeling somewhat better.
“One more thing, Roy — do not be a stranger. You and Lian are still very important to me,” Raven admitted.
“Like I said before,” Arsenal said, smiling and feeling as if he’d finally taken the first steps toward a new direction. He walked over to Raven, and the two shared a long hug. Once it was over, there was only one more thing for Arsenal to say. “Goodbye, Raven.”
Separately, Raven and Arsenal returned to the villa. Raven boarded the T-Jet, even as Arsenal made his way to Faraday’s side. And once Raven had secured herself aboard the small vehicle, the T-Jet took off, returning to Titans Tower in New York.
Once the T-Jet was secured within the Tower, the New Titans exited the vehicle. “That was a messed-up adventure,” Changeling said aloud. “I’m used to nuts like Brother Blood or the Brotherhood of Evil.”
“Well, one thing I’ve learned is that there are more villains than heroes,” Cyborg responded.
Nightwing glanced at Starfire, and both of them knew it was time to address the team. “Normally, I’d just wait to speak to you in the meeting room. However, Kory and I have an announcement to make,” Nightwing said.
Changeling smiled, thinking he had the answer. “Well, it’s only been, what, four-and-a-half years now? I’m sure you’ve only just begun planning the event.”
“Not quite, Gar,” Nightwing stated somberly, as he shared another glance at Starfire. She, too, was equally somber. Nightwing finally continued after a moment of silence. “We’re leaving the Titans.”
All present had never expected to hear the words spoken by their teammate and leader, but it was true. They all heard him. And all were shocked, most beyond words. “What?!” Changeling shouted. “You’ve gotta be kidding me!”
Starfire closed her eyes and answered her friend. “It’s true, Gar.”
“Why?” Artemis simply asked. “Dick, Kory, we need you both.”
“Donna, I was going to announce my decision earlier tonight. It’s been something on my mind for several weeks now,” Nightwing explained. “Bruce offered me a job as a projects manager for the Wayne Foundation, and I decided to accept.”
“I, too, had a decision to make,” Starfire said sadly. “My brother Ryand’r asked me if I would join him and the other Omega Men in an effort to free Tamaran from Komand’r’s grasp during the invasion we fought against this past summer.”
“Is this permanent?” the Protector asked, feeling awkward speaking.
“For now, yes, Jay. These are things Kory and I need to do ourselves,” Nightwing said honestly. “But that doesn’t mean we’ll forget about the team. All of you are friends. I hope you understand.”
“Look, if anyone’s deserved a break around here, it’s you, Dick,” Cyborg said reassuringly. “You’ve been doin’ your thing longer than all of us. We’ll support you and Kory no matter what.”
“That means a lot, Vic,” Nightwing said appreciatively. “There’s a few matters I’d like to deal with before we leave. One is leadership of the Titans. Donna, you’ve held the team together even when I wasn’t at my best level. I’d like you to take over.”
“All right, I’ll do that,” Artemis said, her voice shaking a little. “You’ve been with me every step of the way, Dick. You helped me learn who I really was. You’ve been like the brother I never had. I’m going to miss you so much.” Artemis wiped some of the tears from her eyes as Nightwing hugged her.
“I’m sure I’ll be back eventually. I always am,” he said, reassuring her. “And anytime you need me, all of you, just give me a call.”
Nightwing released the hug and made his way to Kole and Jericho. “Joe, I have a small P.I. firm here in Manhattan. Is there any way you and Addie could take watch over it, maybe use it as an alternate firm for Searchers, Inc. while I’m in Gotham?”
Jericho used his sign language to answer his friend. “Yes. I will speak to my mother about it.”
“Thank you, Joe,” Nightwing answered.
“I wish you weren’t leaving, either of you,” Kole said nervously. “But I do wish you both good luck.”
“Thank you, Kole. You’ve proven yourself as one of our own, and that makes me proud,” Nightwing said.
“What about you, Kory? Do you know when you’ll return?” Kole asked the golden-skinned Titan.
“I wish I did, but there’s no telling what’s going to happen,” Starfire said uncertainly.
Nightwing walked over to the Protector and spoke to him. “Like I said earlier tonight, you’re welcome to stay as long as you want here at the Tower. Now, I understand that we’ve taken care of the pushers of Ambrosia, but does that mean that you’ll continue as the Protector?”
“I don’t know, Dick. I feel weird about saying this, but I didn’t do that good a job protecting,” Protector admitted solemnly. “Ted’s dead, and so is Casey. I feel I failed them, even in the aftermath of this nightmare.”
“That’s a dangerous road to travel, Jay. It’s a road that’s consumed Batman at times. I don’t want you to travel down that same path. I can’t decide for you, but I think they would want you to continue fighting the good fight as the Protector, so that others don’t suffer as they did,” Nightwing recommended.
“I think you’re right, Dick,” Protector realized. “When I designed this suit, it was more of a comic-book feel. And that damn cape nearly got me killed earlier. It’s time I adopted a new costume — something sleeker, more who I am now, and minus a cape.”
“Tell you what — I’ll design you a new suit and ask Batman himself to design you a utility belt with more sophisticated equipment. It’s the least I can do. And if you’re going to continue as the Protector, I’d like to ask you to join the New Titans officially, taking my place on the team,” Nightwing said.
“You sure about that? I don’t want to feel like Coy and Vance replacing Bo and Luke,” Protector said with a nervous laugh.
“Bo and Luke held out for money. I’m not like that,” Nightwing said with a smart-ass grin. “So, you in?”
“You bet I am!” Protector said with a smile.
“Thank you, Jay,” Nightwing said appreciatively.
“Anytime,” Protector replied.
With those, things became serious. As Nightwing packed his bags, Starfire used her small communicator to summon the ship that would take her off-planet. Hours passed, even as the other New Titans went about their business, when finally the time had come.
Starfire stood upon the roof of Titans Tower when the ship finally was in transportation distance.
She waited a few seconds to activate her device, when Nightwing made his way to her. “I guess this is it, Kory. I’m going to miss you a great deal,” he admitted.
“I will miss you, my friend, and Earth a great deal. But I know that it is for the best right now,” Starfire said. She looked into Nightwing’s eyes. “More than anything else, I hope we learn for sure the nature of our feelings for one another.”
“Here, take this in case there’s trouble out there on Tamaran,” Nightwing said, handing her a strange-looking device to Starfire. “And even if you don’t use it out there — when, or if you return, use it to signal me. OK?”
Starfire smiled as she answered Nightwing. “I will.”
There was an awkwardness between them, as if both sensed that they had already said their goodbyes while in Mexico. Giving each other one last look, Nightwing turned around and made his way back inside the Tower.
Minutes later, after changing back to Dick Grayson, he used the T-shaped barge to take himself across the East River to a waiting taxi that would take him to the airport. He watched Starfire through a set of binoculars, when she finally was beamed aboard the ship.
Starfire glanced at the small blue planet that had been her home as Ryand’r noticed the sadness on her face. “Sister, it is good to see you. I know it is hard, but you’ve made the right choice. Together, all of us will free Tamaran and restore order to our world,” Ryand’r said, determined.
She slowly nodded her head, realizing that even though she’d made the right decision, it was going to be hard to accept.
Dick Grayson, by this time, had exited the barge and entered the taxi. Even as he shut the taxi door, and the vehicle made its way to the airport, he felt sad as well. I made the decision for me. I wanted to do this. But it doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier, he thought with a heavy heart. I’m really going to miss them all.