A/N: So, it is now 2011, and I last updated this story in 2007. This is also the first creative writing I've done in a while, and it's quite refreshing to look at my word processor and not see MLA format framing my efforts. It's amazing that I have time to write now, and I hope I'll have the chance to update soon. I'm just glad I kept all my outlines in transferable electronic form!

Disclaimer: I do not own Teen Titans. If I did, the show would still be continuing today!

Time Changes

Chapter Twenty-Four- Essential Questions

Supper aboard the First Escape spaceship was far from gourmet. Most of the food was entirely tasteless, yet incredibly filling. If asked, Nightwing wouldn't have been able to tell the difference between the proteins and carbohydrates, as everything, both viscous and sturdy was gray in color, and grainy in texture. A soup-like substance bore a slight resemblance to baby food, or dog food, and despite being given an entire cup of the stuff, Nightwing could only stomach a few bites. He figured this could be considered socially acceptable as Eldalene, who was sitting directly across from himself, hadn't even touched the "soup."

"And now for your story, Nightwing of Earth? What was your great need that brings you to visit the princess of a warring planet, disregarding an inspection for dangers on your ship?" Jael asked, her eye contact with Nightwing's mask clearly demanding the answer, while the smile on her lips showed her hope for some sort of entertainment, even if the tale was to be grim.

"Well, to begin, I belong to a group of independent law enforcers stationed on the coast of the United States on the planet Earth. We're a young group, so we call ourselves the Teen Titans." Nightwing explained. "I suppose the most relevant information begins with the fact that Princess Koriand'r is one of the Titans, and she left some months ago after being poisoned with blood drones through which she could be controlled by our enemies. Her leaving was completely unnecessary of course, we could have protected her. She was simply afraid her infliction might hurt us."

"Ah. So you loved her."

"What? I never mentioned-"

"You love this princess, no? You seem experienced enough in the areas of logic and law enforcement that you would not be so blinded to the danger someone with such great powers could be wielded as a weapon in a city of humans if you didn't care for that person, personally." Jael broke down for him.

"Well, yeah, I do love her." Nightwing admitted, surprised, and alarmed that he could be read so incredibly quickly and with so little effort. "We were- we are engaged." He muttered, too low for anyone else to hear, and not even exactly in those words. He realized suddenly that he wasn't quite sure of the status of his upcoming nuptials. That thought was nothing short of embarrassing, and at the moment, he felt very young, and naive when in the presence of these women who had endured so much hardship. His outer blush was misinterpreted, and snickers erupted from around the table where other women sat, listening to his narrative.

"Do not be so shocked," Eldalene piped in, " My mother has a talent for seeing beneath the surface of things."

"That's probably why she makes such a great Capitan!" a third, unknown voice chimed in from somewhere near the far end of the table. The general jubilee made Nightwing feel as if he had missed some inside joke. Laughing herself now, Jael put her hand up, motioning for the end of the commotion.

"Enough, excuse us earth boy, I'm sure there is more to your story, and we'll all hear it, just as soon as we can stop- laughing!"

Still confused, Nightwing contented himself to being on the outside of whatever this was, with sitting back in his chair, to wait out the inexplicable fun. The evening continued, as did his story, slowly, and with many pauses whenever he broke some sort of unspoken code that for no foreseeable reason caused all the females to laugh uncontrollably. He later discovered that certain gestures, such as motioning with one's hands to explain a situation, or facial expressions for emphasis that he was so accustomed to on earth were unusual for this lot, and they found him strange. Aside from his natural behaviors, some of the women found it very entertaining to have a male in their midst, as they were hardly used to having any sort of man around.

Some hours later, Nightwing had explained everything that Jael and the crew of the First Escape could possibly have found interesting, or essential to his situation, including that he had been planning to marry Starfire, until she disappeared by lack of communication. On both counts, the women had born looks of disapproval, however, when he had told his tale in full, Jael stood to speak: "Very well, earth boy, as agreed, I will loan you a small transport when we near Tameran, however, that is the very most I can do for you. If any of us were to be captured by brigands, we would almost certainly be put to death."

Though a small part of his brain was beginning to resent being called "Earth Boy," when he had only so recently retired his old boyish name of Robin, Nightwing couldn't help but be grateful for her generosity, and his stomach began to tingle with the thought that maybe getting to Tameran, and seeing Starfire again would repair everything about their broken relationship.

"Two hours. Two. Entire. Hours." Raven punctuated each word in frustration. "When the pizza guy comes, remind me, he isn't getting a tip."

"Mmmhm." Beast Boy grunted in reply, once again intent on his game of Zombie Busters 3. "You did order cheese, right?" He asked turning about to face her, almost an entire minute later, leaving his game on pause with the controller resting on his leg.

"Among other things, yes. I figure with Robin gone-"

"Nightwing- right, he's changed his name over now." Beast Boy lazily reminded her. Raven shot him an annoyed glare for interrupting, but continued slowly as to best control her response:

"Yeah... Even with you and Cy's appetites, a dozen pizzas stand a chance at lasting a day or two."

"Cyborg!" the green titan exclaimed, remembering their earlier conversation, in which they had discussed the fact that neither of them had seen their semi- robotic friend since that morning, when he had been helping Nightwing pack for his mentor's house. "Have you seen him at all?

"No. He could be sleeping." Raven excused the matter, waving a hand.

"Raven, I hate to be the un-lazy one, but I can't help but wonder, what since the last time we all had some sort of suspicion about one of the Titans being gone, we ended up believing that Robin and Star had eloped when really, Slade had captured them."

"For goodness sake, it's hardly been eight hours!"

"So, give it another ten minutes, and Cyborg could have completed his longest recharge cycle. You and I both know though that he recharged last night, like a normal human being." Beast Boy became more desperate in trying to get Raven to at least share some of his worry. "If he was in the garage, working on something, you know he would have called one of us by now to come test it out. Rae, I think something might be wrong. It could be the Zombies messing with my brain, but I think we should go find Cyborg." He insisted. Raven stood still for a moment, when the essential question came to mind:

"Have you even tried, well, I don't know- Calling him!"

Beast boy stood, stupified. "No, I guess I haven't."

Well, I'm with stupid. Raven thought smugly.

Starfire had a bit more time to ruminate over her present situation, sitting in her cell with very little food or water. The swelling on the various parts of her body had both increased and decreased, though generally, she felt that if she didn't consume some sort of sustenance soon she wouldn't have enough body strength to power her mind. She was beginning to feel less and less self-loathing, as she gave more thought to the immediate problem of staying alive, or at the very least giving herself as a sacrifice in some way that could free her planet.

A very large part of her mind wished she had kept that necklace. The angst in which she had left it behind seemed so foolish now. Furthermore, she could see with more clarity each and every mistake she had made since leaving earth. Firstly, she had never asked her friends to come with. Even having one of the Titans as a companion might have given her the chance to make a bigger, less bloody impact on the war. What this last mission was supposed to have been could have been so easily completed with the her friends. This, however, she had not done.

She wished that she could have avoided being in battle altogether. Her people might have some innate sense of war-like bloodlust, but this she lacked. She was not the sort who could brush off each real-life kill without damaging a part of her own psyche. Not even those brigands in the fortress had left her soul totally unscathed. She had ended their existences. Now their friends kept her perhaps in hopes to wield a different sort of power over her. Perhaps, by letting herself be captured, and maybe even held for ransom, Starfire was a greater pawn of the Brigands, than the probes had ever subjected her to Slade.

All this floated in and out of her mind in those moments when she could pull her river of thoughts away from the pools that gathered for Nightwing and for Ph'yzzon. She was certain she loved her Robin, her Nightwing more, and it made sense that she should. The foundation of her relationship with him was built on years of friendship, and quiet, innocent love. She had once promised to marry him. Ph'yzzon was someone she knew for an incredibly short time. He was physically, possibly the most bewitching man she had ever met. When she looked upon him, she felt an instant connection, a chemically magnetic attraction that gave her the sort of fluttery feeling she had felt so long ago for Nightwing.

Whenever her greatest fear began to infringe on the corners of her conscious mind, Starfire concentrated on the thought I must first get out of this place, and later I may need to decide, but still, she was aware enough of the fear that was her greatest nightmare: I might be a person too different from who I once was that my friends would not know me- Nightwing might not be able to love me for who I am.

So, she lay there in prison, pondering, all the while trying with her best effort not to permit herself to truly think. In the dark and cold, she waited.

A/N: I hope that you enjoyed the chapter! It took me the last several days to re-read, and refresh my mind as to the wordings I wanted to use. The little editing I have done was mostly to make this chapter fit in with the style of the previous chapters, which is actually quite difficult, granted the space of time that has passed. I don't know if my brain quite thinks the same as it did before.

As always, reviews are much appreciated. I do hope that the space between this update and the next will be measured in weeks, not more than a month, and certainly not in years.

Thanks for reading!

~Erica Wattson