Lance awoke slowly, as if rising to the surface from deep water. The dream had been so vivid, he was finding it difficult to remember where he was in the real world. It had almost seemed to be more true than reality. That slightly disturbed Lance.
His eyes opened and he peered all around. His hospital room.. Right, he had been hospitalized after a heart attack brought on by stress. After he had gone berserk about Gordon. His shame rose again, even though Petra and the others had already forgiven him.
His bladder nearly audibly screamed at him for relief, so he struggled out of bed, feeling heavier than he was used to feeling, particularly in this top half. He shrugged it off as general weariness and shakily walked into his private bathroom. He availed himself of the facilities, then went to wash his hands.
In the mirror, he saw what Travesty had meant by her last comment. '…take some time to get used to the change.' She hadn't been talking about puberty. In the mirror, looking back at him was his doppelganger from the dream. Except this one was azure where the shadow of the drake had been scarlet.
Scales adorned every inch of his visible skin and upon his back were the same wings the shade had sported. Save for his emerald eyes, they were the same as they had ever been, he was a completely changed man. He stared with wide eyes in shock and confusion at his own reflection.
He weaved to one side then the other, testing if the reflection would follow. To his chagrin, it did. It was really him in the mirror. He raised his hands, turning them over in front of himself. It was no trick of the eyes, either. He had really and truly changed.
That made his exhaustion and fatigue suddenly all the worse. He heaved a large sigh and buried his head in his now-clean hands. A thought occurred to him. If he and his doppelganger were now truly symmetrical of each other, did that mean they were literally more similar now too?
The thought added worry to his load. Travesty had said the shade had affected his emotions, quietly and subtly. Could it have been by his influence that Lance had gone berserk in the first place?
It didn't really matter, he decided. The ultimate choice was his, still. The shade didn't-or maybe couldn't- possess him.
Still, he was sure the shadow had affected things somehow. No doubt to attain its own ends, whatever they may have been. 'Great, as if I didn't have enough to worry about already. Like the whole darned city wasn't enough?' he thought.
Another thought struck him. How on earth was he going to explain this to the Titans, much less to Dani? He didn't envision the conversation going well.
But his brother and his team deserved to know the full truth, as much of it as he knew, anyway. There were a lot of things, it seemed, that he still didn't know. Like what Travesty had meant by 'a debt yet unpaid', for example.
Lance raised his green eyes to meet those of his reflection. The boy staring back at him bore the same expression he always did. Deep down, he was still the same person. Something about the action steeled him, steadying his determination.
He was going to confess to Dani how he had been transformed. And tell him everything he knew.
Lance sat in his bed, while Dani sat across from him in the reclining chair with his dark duster coat draped over the arm. Dani leaned on his elbow upon the remaining arm of the chair, supporting his chin with his hand. Glacier-blue eyes steadied on Lance as he recounted the tale.
Lance's twin sipped from a Styrofoam cup, having given one just like it to Lance, who had left it on the table and only taken a token sip of the drink his brother called Chai tea. It was sweet, but it left Lance more thirsty.
"So you woke up just like this?" Dani asked, waving his free hand vaguely towards Lance's body. Dani had not reacted well, at first, just as Lance had predicted. But after answering some questions only Lance would know, he had convinced his brother he was truly himself.
"Yeah. But the way she said it, I'm pretty sure she knew and intended that I would be confused."
"That's her, alright," Dani said grimly. His distaste for their godmother was even stronger than Lance's.
"My thoughts exactly. So what's your take on this?"
Dani took a moment to consider that. "She probably had multiple angles to play. She usually works like that. So maybe in addition to transfiguring you, she might have worked other magic while she was at it. Or knowing her, it was all part of one spell by design. She said the spell was to counter the shade of the drake, right?"
Lance nodded. "That's what she said. And she pretty much blackmailed me with my own consciousness for it, too. She said she wouldn't let me wake without it and she couldn't leave if I couldn't wake up."
Dani's mouth furrowed into a frown. "She's cunning. Assuming that's true, it would take some guts to work that kind of magic."
It was Lances turn to frown, this time in confusion. "How do you know so much about this?"
Dani barely blinked. But the hesitation was there. Lance had seen a split-second of indecision before Dani spoke. "Remember when I said she gave me Fae magic that was unsafe to touch, so I only use the telekinesis?"
Lance nodded. "Right, so that kind of gives you a database of information to work with?"
Dani half-shrugged. "Something like that." A moment of silence passed by them.
"There's something else she told me," Lance suddenly said.
Dani's face turned partway to panic before he got it under control, but he still appeared troubled. "What is it?"
"She said the shade living in my head had been influencing my emotions."
Dani leaned back in his chair, breathing a full sigh. "So that would explain the incident with Gordon."
"I wish I could blame it all on the shade. Truth is, I think something in my true self wanted to hurt him. To hurt anyone who stood in the way."
"But that doesn't make you a monster," Dani interjected fiercely. Lance blinked and went silent.
"Maybe not. But the desire was there. All the shade would have had to do was push a little."
"That's all conjecture. There's no way to know what could or might have happened. What happened is done and it's the only thing we can know for sure. The only thing for us to do is live with the consequences of our actions as best as we can."
Dani sounded like he had said this many times before. "Maybe you're right," Lance admitted.
Dani looked away from Lance's eyes and stared at the floor instead. He seemed resolute, his expression determined.
"There's something I need to tell you as well," Dani said. Lance's stomach instantly tied itself into several knots. He felt queasy, like he would vomit at any moment.
"What? What is it, Dani?"
"It's about Travesty. And the night mom and dad died."
Dread filled Lance and his heart began to pound rapidly. "Dani…"
Dani swallowed, looking as if the action was painful. "Travesty, when she granted me my powers, she put a price on it. One I was too foolish to pay attention to."
"No. Dani, please, no…."
Dani's eyes welled up with tears and he seemed to force himself to look Lance in the eye. "She made me swear to a day of servitude. I didn't think anything of it. What would one day be when I would have my whole life with new powers? Powers to be just like you…" Dani swallowed again. "In that day as her thrall, she made me-" His voice broke, tears welling from his eyes now, streaming down his cheeks. "She made me kill them, Lance. With my bare hands. Mom…the look of betrayal she had… I was so stupid!" He devolved into sobbing.
Lance had a moment of pure clarity. So many questions he'd had for so long were now answered. He now knew not only that his parents' passing hadn't been merely accidental, which he had suspected, but he also knew now the identity of their killer.
After so many years, and when so long ago he had sworn his vengeance upon the assassin, he now knew it had been his own twin brother. It didn't feel like he had thought it would. He had thought that knowing would have brought at least a little closure, but when the answer had been right before him all this time, he only felt his insides start to boil.
As the moment of clarity was passing away, his emotions began to have their say. Unchecked rage was flowing into him, causing his entire tense up as if to strike.
It had been Dani. Dani who had taken away his whole life, left him orphaned and alone, and caused him so much pain. It was Dani who was to blame for all the horrible parts of his life.
An errant thought crossed his mind, and he entertained it for a moment's time, while Dani held his face in his hands and continued to sob. The murderer had been right in front of him the whole time, and though he had been too blind to see the signs, it was now his chance to carry out on his intentions.
He had sworn that his vengeance would be swift and his justice would be unmerciful. He was going to torture and kill the person responsible for his parents' death. His mother would be avenged; his father could rest, finally.
As burning green eyes rose to watch Dani once more, Dani seemed to notice a shift in the atmosphere of the room. He lifted his head to direct ocean-blue eyes at Lance and his sobbing and tears seemed to stop instantaneously.
Dani's eyes spread open and his expression changed. Utter horror enveloped his features as he watched Lance like a spotted prey animal eyes it's predator. Wary of an attack, he sat up somewhat and Lance could practically hear his heart-rate increase.
Lance glared with deadly intent at his twin. Now was his chance. Dani was keyed up and ready for fight or flight. And Lance wanted the combat he had saved up to be on his terms.
Lance blurred from his bed.
The large wings and change in his body's physiological makeup didn't seem to slow him down as Lance rushed towards Dani. He wasn't moving with supernatural speed, or in any other way assisted by his powers, at least not for the moment. It was simply determination and exceeding wrath that drove him with such speed and ferocity.
Lance slammed into the still-hesitant Dani. The force of the impact carried them into the wall behind Dani's chair and beyond it. They broke through the wall in an explosion of sheet rock, white chunks flying out and power clouding up the adjacent room.
Fortunately, the neighboring patient room was empty for the moment. No civilians were caught in the middle of the struggle. Not that Lance would have noticed such a thing at the moment.
His focus was on Dani. He tumbled with his twin, each vying to come out of each roll atop the other. Lance won. His blue-scaled hands found Dani's windpipe and immediately squeezed down.
But Dani was no weakling himself and his will to live was dominant. He tried to overpower Lance's dual-handed grip, to pry enough space open to breathe, but it was no use. Physically, Lance was stronger.
For a few more seconds, it seemed to Lance like the deed might be done swiftly and the ordeal would be over in a flash. However, it seemed that Dani had other plans. A telekinetic wave, focused to a flat plane the side of a standard door hit Lance on his left side.
The force of the blast knocked Lance off of Dani and he lost his grip. He heard Dani suck in a panicked breath as he slid across the cool tile floor toward the window. He was already rising, but he saw, so was Dani.
They stood facing each other, neither one moved.
"I know you have every reason to do this, " Dani panted, still trying to catch his breath. "But I'm begging you. Don't do this."
"You took away my FAMILY!" Lance roared, charging at Dani again. Dani was ready this time, though. He crossed his arms in front of him and just as Lance would have stricken him again, he bounced off an invisible, but fully solid barrier.
Lance fell to his rear on the floor. Above him, Dani lowered his arms. "Then so be it," he murmured in a stoic tone. Then, without any further warning, he rose his knee to his twin's face and another mixed telekinetic-melee strike hit Lance in the face.
Lance flew back again, this time flying straight out of the window. He plummeted towards the ground as part of a shower of glass shards. He willed himself to take flight, but with no results. Stunned into the realization that Travesty's spell must have had a side effect on his power of flight, Lance was speeding towards a surely-deadly impact.
Desperation spread through him as he willed his wings to open and grant him lift. The muscles were slow to respond, which shouldn't have surprised him. Finally, after several torturous tries, he managed to unfold his broad, scaled wings and to flap them a few times.
But it had taken too long. Lance slammed with a sickening thud into the roof of a blue sedan. Pain immediately overwhelmed him and he struggled to stay conscious. He tried to push himself up from the caved-in metal husk of the vehicle, but he fumbled and fell back down again.
Nearby, Dani landed on his feet. How had he gotten down here so fast? Lance guessed it must have been power-grinding against the outer surface of the hospital walls to slow his descent.
Lance found the strength to rise to the occasion by focusing his attention on his hatred for his brother. Then, he found it almost effortless to rise and slide off the crumpled hunk of the vehicle that he had time to notice was illegally parked. 'Ha. Serve them right,' he thought.
Lance and Dani faced off once more. Lance clenched his hands into fists and launched himself forward on his toes. Dani shifted positions, unable to completely clear away from the blow, which was aimed at his face, and instead wound up taking the strike on his right shoulder.
Lance heard a loud pop, then Dani let out a short, wordless cry of pain and clutched at his right shoulder, his arm hanging loosely. Apparently, he had dislocated Dani's shoulder with one punch. Lance was stronger and tougher than his twin, but Dani was more agile and calculating.
Hitting him at all would be a true feat. Determination to follow up the disabling blow with something to keep Dani on the defensive and keep the battle in his favor came to Lance. He wound up for another strike, already having closed the distance between them.
He threw another punch, also directed at Dani's face, but Dani had been ready for this one. With too little space between them for a shield, he had opted to go with another diversionary tactic. This time, he used a point-blank blast of force launched into Lance's chest. The counter caused Lance's strike to go wide and miss him completely.
Lance's momentum carried him a few feet from Dani on the opposite side now, his feet stumbling underneath him to catch his balance in his new body-type. He carried his momentum into a spin, turning back on Dani and as he did, he kindled bright, hot fire in each palm and brought his wrists together.
His pyrokinesis being fueled by so many roaring, burning emotions pumped extra power into the standard fireball he favored. Now, it burned more intensely and reached farther. With a miniature pillar of fire in his hands, he sent it flying out at Dani.
Dani hardly had time to realize Lance was changing tactics and as such, his one-armed, last-second shield was only half-power and half-sized. The flames washed against it and pushed around the edge of the barrier, reaching within a few inches of Dani's face.
Dani seemed to panic and whipped his head to one side, wincing; the intense heat burned the skin on one side of his face so quickly the blisters were appearing almost before Lance's eyes. He screamed in pain and challenge and as he did, the energy barrier blocking the fireball seemed to expand and push out against the fire spell.
With his right arm still hanging limply, Dani clutched the burned side of his face with his hand and and snarled at Lance. "You selfish-"
Lance interrupted him with another flying strike, having full use of both arms and legs. Dani cut his sentence short and leapt back, not even bothering to summon a barrier for protection. He seemed to switch tactics and took up a ready stance, balancing his weight on the tips of his toes so he would be ready to move.
"YOU KILLED MOTHER!" Lance roared, rushing forward to meet Dani. "I'm gonna kill you!"
Lance swung at Dani once again, with all his force. Dani threw up a rounded shield to catch the force of the strike. The curved dome shape didn't shatter the way a flat plane would have when Lance struck it. Instead, the power of the punch seemed to ripple along the spherical shape, the geometry of the force field lending to the redistribution of the inertia of Lance's punch.
Once it had withstood the force of the impact, Dani immediately dropped the force field and charged forward with a kinetic uppercut. Lance, caught completely flat-footed and with no defense at all, sailed up and backwards through the air and landed hard on his back, with both wings folded underneath him.
Dani was instantly over him, covering Lance's entire body with a force-barrier, effectively pinning and removing all option for counter attack. Lance screamed in defiance and struggled for freedom, but he had too little strength to be able to break a barrier with no leverage or room for a direct blow.
"You've gone too far, brother," Dani snarled, raising his boot for a stomping blow to Lance's throat. "And it's time to put an end to this."