I all but barricaded myself in my room at the Tower the moment we returned. That wasn't too difficult to achieve; everyone was tired and heading home, anyway. Kory had flown off with Dick before anyone could say anything, effectively delaying any potential fallout from her return for yet another night. Raven hesitated, then opted to give me time to work it out myself, vanishing to the apartment she and her mother had shared prior to their capture by Brother Blood. The others departed none the wiser, leaving me alone with my misery.
I took a shower and went to bed, but there was no way I could sleep. My anger had long since faded into depression, and that meant insomnia. I reached for my sketchpad on the nightstand and began drawing, allowing my hand to move without thought as to what I was creating. The outcome didn't surprise me; the picture was of Dick as he might have been had his parents never died, swinging from the trapeze with effortless joy -- the star of the Flying Graysons. Dick as he would have been, without the harsh control of Bruce or the harrowing demands of crime fighting. Dick as he should have been, had he never met Kory. Well, in that case, he never would have met me, either, but art isn't something that needs that sort of logical analysis.
My anger returned so abruptly it startled me. Why was it a given that I had to be the one who lost? Dick couldn't accept being in love with two people at once, that much I knew, but why choose her over me? He wasn't religious, and even had he been, the church wouldn't have condoned his relationship with an alien woman any more than his relationship with a man. She'd been first, yes, but then, I wasn't the one who'd up and married someone else, leaving Dick in the lurch. I wasn't the one who put duty before love.
But I was going to be.
The team had a group vacation scheduled for the next morning; I had originally planned to attend, but I was in no mood for it, now. I politely declined, tersely explaining that I had paintings I wanted to complete. Raven wasn't fooled, but she made no comment. Everyone else took me at my word -- amazing, what people miss when they aren't of a mind to look. Not that I wasn't used to fading into the woodwork; between being shy and being mute, it was all too easy for others to forget I even existed. For once, that suited me just fine.
Despite staying in the Tower, I didn't feel like being in costume. I pulled on my Pearl Jam T-shirt over a pair of khaki walking shorts and slid my feet into my comfortably battered old leather sandals. Having nothing to do but sulk, I dropped onto the couch and listened to the haunting music of Vladimir Vysotsky for an hour or so.
When the door buzzer sounded, I knew who it was. I almost didn't answer it -- why bother? -- but then my manners reasserted themselves and I opened the door for Dick. He stood in the hallway, hands jammed into his jacket pockets, looking as depressed and uncomfortable as I felt.
I was the one who broke the silence between us. 'You still love her, I know.'
He didn't deny it. "I love you, too, Joey; you know that." His voice was barely above a whisper, even though we were the only two people in the Tower.
Of course I knew he loved me; that was the whole problem! But he looked so miserable about it, I just couldn't stand it. Besides, I'm not the vindictive sort. I leave that to my parents.
I leaned forward, brushing my lips lightly over his in a gentle farewell. 'Go back to Kory,' I told him. There, it was official; he had my permission to abandon me.
"What about you?" He stopped just short of asking me to come with him; there were things we would each have to work out alone, and the sooner we did so, the better.
I smiled. 'I'll be fine.' Liar. At least Dick was feeling too guilty to notice it, though. That was a first, seeing how bad I am at lying to begin with. 'Whenever you need me again, I'll be here for you, always.'
He tried to say something else, but I held a finger to his lips, silencing him. Tapping my watch, I said, 'Go. You're already late.' He caught my hand and held it tightly. He always did have a thing about my hands, I remembered wryly; they were nicer than Kory's, he'd said. Be that as it may, it would be Kory's hands touching him from now on.
He brought my hand to his lips and kissed my fingers before allowing me to slide free of his grip. Our eyes locked for the briefest of moments, acknowledging all we'd been to each other and all we still were. Then he turned and walked toward the stairs that would take him out of the Tower, out of my life. I closed the door silently and bowed my head against it.
I'm sorry, regardless of birth, I make a lousy Brit. I'm too damn emotional, and even if I wasn't, there was no holding back this wave of sorrow. I buried my face in my hands and cried until I ran out of tears. Eventually, the last of the anguish drained away, leaving me empty.
At least I no longer felt sad; after so many years, after so much heartache, I was finally safe.
My walls were complete. I felt nothing at all.