Author's Notes: I've been kicking this idea around for a while. A lot of my one-shots have been focused on the BB/R relationship, which I love, but I don't want to forget R/S! I think both couples have their own elements that appeal to people. I happen to like them both, and please don't ask me to pick a favorite; I could never do it! Anyway, this story was partially inspired by "How Long is Forever?" But then again, not entirely. There will be a slight mention of the episode, though.
Weird title, I know. I thought of the saying someone's playing with fire, and I liked the idea that they're on the edge in this story.
Playing with Time
"Are you going to tell us another story, Grandpa?" a small child asked, tugging at his grandfather's pants. His grandfather gave him a tired smile.
"Not today. I'm feeling a bit sleepy, and I'd like a nap."
"Aww!" his grandchildren chorused from his feet. Even the oldest, just about to enter their teenage years, had been enthralled with his stories, and groaned in protest. He smiled at them, waving them away.
"I promise a story when I wake up. A good one, a long one." Cheers met this statement. A slim woman entered through the doorway. She smiled gently at the scene before her.
"OK, everybody out! Grandpa said he needs his rest."
"No buts. If Grandpa says he's tired, then he's tired and deserves a nap. He's earned one," she said, smiling knowingly at her father. He nodded in agreement, the skin around his eyes crinkling slightly to show he was pleased. The woman herded her children and their cousins through the door, then turned back to the old man.
"Do you need help with your chair?" she asked, indicating the man's wheelchair. He shook his head slowly.
"No, no, I'll watch a bit of TV before I rest," he said, turning to point lazily at the small television set up at the foot of his bed.
"Of course!" his daughter exclaimed at once, and began bustling around to turn the table where the television sat so that it would face the man. She gave a sigh as it slid into place, and flipped it on with the small press of a button. She grabbed the remote from atop the glowing box, and handed it to her father. He reached for it. His daughter's eyes were drawn, for what had to be the thousandth time in her life, to the small scar running down his hand. He had gotten it when he was a teenager. She had been told the story many times; her father had been attempting to leap from the roof of one skyscraper to the next, but had misjudged the distance and slipped. He had struggled to grab onto something, anything, to stop his fall, but had only many to bruise and bang his body. Luckily, something stopped his fall.
The woman shook her head clear of the story. She grinned at her father as he began flipping through the channels, half concentrating. She stood by his side with her arms crossed contentedly over her chest before speaking quietly.
"There's a special on the life of Batman on the History channel in about twenty minutes, if you're interested."
The older man snorted. "Like they're going to say anything in there that I don't already know. In fact, they probably won't even know half of what I know. I can't stand these uppity reporters, thinking they know everything about everyone. Who do they think they are?"
His daughter grinned down at him. "Sore you didn't get interviewed?"
Her father snorted again. "Hardly."
He flipped through the channels again, his body listless and deflated. The woman knew their conversation reminded him painfully that his former mentor was gone, but she had spoken to her psychiatrist; he had recommended speaking as if there was no emotional attachment to the man about to be shown on television, and that would help her father cope.
She turned to leave the room to go take care of the children, but just as she put one foot over the threshold, she heard the man gasp behind her.
"Dad?" she asked, looking over her shoulder, concern in her voice. The old man was leaning forward from his chair, straining to look at the news program more closely. The woman shifted her gaze to see what had caused this reaction in her father.
"… and join us now, as we see the ship approaching. Within this seemingly small vessel are the ambassadors to various other planets, who have journeyed quite far to be with us today. They are here for a meeting with all the world leaders in a few days to discuss the concept of intergalactic trade and possibly commercial vacations. This would vastly expand the economy, opening up many jobs for the unemployed and an entirely new way of combating overpopulation problems.
"And here they come now, emerging from the depths of their ship. This is the ambassador of Gornon Prime, he's been around for quite a while," - a very thin creature emerged from the ship's hull, looming above the dozens upon dozens of reporters and curious audience members - "and here we have the ambassador from the Centauri Moon" - a large red being clambered out of the ship with dignity, merely nodding in acknowledgement at the hundreds of people surrounding him - "This is a new member of the group, all the way from Digishi," - a very small creature materialized from the depths of the ship. Shaped like a cat, but with longer ears and apparently having evolved to be bipedal, she stood among her companions, trying not to be overshadowed by the giants on either side of her. She held her hand up to the crowd - "and here folks, we have a familiar face!" The reported chuckled. But the old man stopped listening long before. A thin old woman had appeared from within the ship's interior. The Centauri representative offered her his hand, which she accepted with a serene smile. She floated down to the ground, visibly breathing deeply to steady herself. Her face was still smiling calmly at the crowd, the wrinkles in her beautiful face only accenting how much she must have smiled in her youth. Her long mane of red hair flowed around her, giving her an almost angelic appearance. Her green eyes sparkled warmly at the hundreds of people now waving at her.
"Dad?" the woman in the room said quietly, but her father gave no indication that he had heard her. "Dad, is that her?" she asked, but she didn't even need to hear the answer. She knew it from the moment the woman on the television had emerged from the ship.
The old man reached out to run a finger down the screen, where the cameraman was now getting a close-up of the woman. The reporter was now talking amiably about the "gorgeous ambassador from Tameran," but the man paid him no heed.
"Starfire," he murmured.
"You don't understand," the woman said, wiping her hands on a dish towel and balancing the phone on her shoulder as she tried to clean up after lunch. It was two days later, and after much difficulty, she had managed to get the number of the exquisite hotel Starfire was staying at. But now that she had finally been patched through, she was reaching even more obstacles. "My father is an old friend of hers. Yes, I'm quite sure they were."
"My name?" she repeated, turning around to wipe the nose her youngest son, much to his protest. "Amanda Grayson."
The woman named Amanda listened again. "Yes, he is my father," she said, allowing herself a proud smile to grace her features. "He'd like to see her before she leaves for the city. No, we're not far. About a forty-five minute drive. I'm sure she could make it here very quickly. We would take very good care of her, yes." She listened again. "Only for a little while. And only if she wants to, of course. But I daresay she'd like to catch up with an old friend." Amanda gave a hollow laugh. "Sure. Sounds great. Thank you very much; you've just made an old man extremely happy." She gave the man her address and described her house to him, then hung up.
Amanda leaned against the counter, her head in her hands for a minute. Then she got up and walked over to her father's room.
"Tomorrow, Dad. She'll get here at around 10:00, thereabouts. She can stay for lunch, obviously, and you two will have plenty of time to chat. David has to work, so he won't be able to join us."
Robin looked up at his daughter. He blinked at her for a few moments as if he had forgotten who she was, then nodded. "Right. Thank you. Of course."
Amanda paused, as if she was going to say something else, but decided against it.
'Could this be it?' Starfire thought to herself. She landed on the stoop. She tried to breathe in and out through her nose, but she was winded. In her old age, flying had become more difficult for her. Her body was made for flying through the Tameranian atmosphere, not Earth's. She regained her composure and steeled herself for whatever she might find within. She knew Robin had a family. She had to prepare herself.
She rang the doorbell, then began to straighten out her dress. Why did she have to pick this one?
The door opened slightly and an eye peered out at Starfire. There was a gasp and a cry of, "She's here!" and that door swung open. A small child stood, staring up at the alien, a huge grin spread across her features. Starfire attempted to match the little girl's grin, but she found she could not. Apparently, the little girl didn't really care, because she threw her arms around Starfire.
"I thank you for your warm welcome," Starfire finally managed to mutter. But she was spared having to say anything more, because a woman had appeared behind the girl.
"Chelsea! Let go!" The small child grudgingly released Starfire. "I'm terribly sorry about that," Amanda said, extending her hand. "I'm Amanda. Robin's daughter." Starfire shook her hand, taking great care not to crush the woman's fingers.
"He's back here. He's very excited to see you," Amanda stated plainly, and beckoned Starfire to follow her through the house. The other children emerged from different rooms to stare rather openly at Starfire. "They've heard all about you," explained the younger woman, turning another corner. "Their grandfather takes great pride in the work that you've done, and will tell long tales about your adventures. Needless to say, they've never met you, and were really eager to."
"I see," Starfire finally spoke. "I apologize, I am so overwhelmed. I… have really wanted to visit Robin, but we have not seen each other for so long, I hardly know what to expect. Everything is so… tremendously disconcerting."
"Understandable," Amanda said without much feeling. She finally reached Robin's room. "Well, here we are," she said with false cheeriness, but at this point, Starfire couldn't care less. She was finally here. She had, admittedly, dreamed of this moment for years… would she even be able to face him? How much would he have changed? She wasn't ready for this; her breath caught in her throat as Amanda swung the door open.
The two women stepped into the room. There sat Robin, perched in his wheelchair, raising himself to as much height as he possibly could. Starfire almost flung herself into his arms, but she restrained herself. Despite the fact that age had taken its toll, his eyes were shining brightly at her; the same clear blue she had only seen once before in her life.
The three adults remained in uncomfortable silence until Amanda cleared her throat. "I'll let you two catch up," she said, and exited the room, closing the door behind her.
Robin did not remove his eyes from Starfire's face. She had aged, that was certain, but she had done so with such grace, he was amazed. He suddenly felt very ashamed of himself, sitting in a cozy chair with wheels to get him around. He peered into her emerald eyes, eyes that used to gaze at him with fierce admiration at his strength (for a human) and his sheer will to do whatever was necessary to bring down the villain de jour.
'She's gorgeous,' he thought. And it was true. Her beauty had not diminished with age. She had grown old, but had remained beautiful. Robin, on the other hand, seemed to have shrunk away, leaving his skin behind to sag around his smaller body. He often dreamed of his former self, the physically fit one. Why had he allowed himself to go to seed as he had?
"Robin," Starfire whispered. She was at a total loss for words. What should she say? What could she say?
"Starfire," said Robin warmly, smiling at her. "I've missed you so much."
Starfire could bear it no longer. With a slight cry that died halfway through her throat, she threw herself forward to land in Robin's arms. She was careful, but she needn't have been. His strength seemed to return to him slightly as he hugged her close.
"Robin, you have no idea much I've missed you," Starfire breathed. Robin only responded by holding on tighter. They stayed like that fro a few minutes, allowing each other to readjust to the other's presence. Robin took a deep breath, inhaling Starfire's sweet scent. Starfire felt the warmth of Robin's old body beneath her arms. Finally, she laughed slightly.
"Look at what you've reduced the ambassador of Tameran to!" she exclaimed, wiping her eyes. Robin chuckled. He took hold of her hands as she straightened up.
"Pull up a chair," he said, and she did so. He only released one of her hands as she reached behind her, grabbing a small folding chair.
"So much has happened since we've seen each other last," Starfire said, gazing at Robin's face. He nodded. "Tell me, how have you been? What sort of career did you take on? When did you… find yourself blessed with children and grandchildren?" Starfire asked with a bit more difficulty. But Robin waved a hand over his shoulder, dismissing her questions.
"Later. It's not half as interesting as your story. Tell me everything," he implored, and Starfire smiled at him.
"Very well, I'll go first…"
An hour passed. The youngest grandchild knocked on the door, and Starfire let her in. She grinned at the older woman, then ran down the hall to brag about it to her siblings.
"She is quite adorable," Starfire managed. Robin nodded.
Starfire waited, but Robin said nothing more. She sat back down, and Robin took her hand again. She was inwardly pleased by this, but she tried not to show it. 'I feel so young,' she thought, but quickly shook the thought away. "So I have told you my story, Robin. Now it is your turn."
"What is there to say? I didn't need to work, but I did anyway. I didn't need to marry, but I did anyway. I didn't need to have kids, but I did anyway." He shrugged. "There's not much more to it."
"Do you not… don't you…" Starfire couldn't find the words.
"Listen, Starfire," Robin said. His eyes were blazing. "I love my family. When I married Angela, it was great. I felt happy on the outside. I had a stable career. I soon had kids that looked up to me like I was the sun and the moon. That was a pretty incredible feeling. Life seemed to be perfect for me. But it wasn't," he said, and he tightened his grip on her hand. "It wasn't. Starfire, not a day has gone by when I don't think about that day when we were forced to go our separate ways. You said there was something you wanted to talk about. You asked what the future held in store for all of us." Tears sprang to Starfire's eyes as the memory washed over her. "I told you I didn't know. You waited." Robin took a deep breath.
He could remember it as if it were yesterday. They had stood in the main hall of the Tower, the sun having set a little while ago, streaks of pink and orange adorning the floor around Starfire. Robin had only been able to stare at her utter beauty.
She wanted to know what the future held. She spoke as if she were referring to the entire team, but her eyes said otherwise. She wanted to know what expect for the two of them. She was asking him what he wanted to happen between the two of them. They had been through so much, they had grown so close, but Robin had been unable to tell her. He had let her float away, looking slightly crestfallen.
"I didn't tell you what I wanted to," Robin murmured. Starfire gazed at him. "I let you get away. I didn't tell you." He narrowed his eyes, looking down at his lap. "Not a day has gone by that I didn't hate myself for it."
"No, Robin!" cried Starfire, but he didn't seem to hear her.
"I couldn't believe how much of a coward I was. After all we'd been through… I let you slip right through my fingers. I didn't know if you would even feel the same way, but I should have tried. I realized this after I'd been forced to live without you for a while. You filled up the Tower with so much energy, when you were gone, it tore me apart. There were times when I seriously hated myself." He closed his eyes, remembering the self-loathing feelings he had.
Starfire could only blink at him.
"Starfire, I should have told you. I should have told you every single day of my life." He looked up into her face and she gazed back at him.
"Robin…" she whispered so quietly he didn't hear her.
"I love you, Starfire."
Starfire felt something inside her explode into feathery wisps. The thing inside her was exuberant. It had waited the better of her life to hear those words.
"I… Robin…" she stuttered. Starfire had no idea what to say. But Robin saved her.
"I know you must be overwhelmed to hear all this. I should have told you right when I figured it out. But I didn't. I was a coward. And now look at us," he said quietly, looking to the side. "Here I am, on the last stretch of my life, with no chance left to be with you."
The tears that had been threatening to spill over finally did. Starfire sniffled slightly as she put a hand up to her face. Robin looked up immediately and instinctively wiped away a tear. "Oh, Robin," she whispered. He gazed at her, his expression meaningful.
"All my life, I've been trying to replace you. I wanted to be able to cope with the loss of you, and I got married. I thought that Angela would be able to drive away all my lingering thoughts of you. I was wrong." He grimaced, his wrinkled face contorting. "I did love her. But I wasn't in love with her, as I am with you."
"Robin, you mustn't say such things," stated Starfire quietly but firmly. "It isn't fair to her memory."
"She must have suspected," he said quietly. Starfire blinked at him. "I think she figured out long ago that there was a reason I became so interested in stargazing."
Starfire smiled in spite of herself. "I distinctly remember picking up that hobby as well."
"But I was a coward!" Robin cried, growing angry. "All I could do was stare at the heavens and wish you were there next to me, instead of above me! I needed that distance, I was so cowardly. And I've paid for it."
"No, Robin. You did not… I mean… you were not even sure if-"
"If I had told you I loved you when we were young, what would you have said?" Robin interrupted. Starfire looked straight into his eyes. They were surrounded by his wrinkled flesh, layers upon layers of skin that no longer had a purpose. But the eyes were as clear as they always had been. Their blue irises burned with such a passion, it looked as if someone younger were trapped within Robin. It was as if his teenage self were still sitting inside him, trying to get out. Starfire held his intense gaze.
"I would have told you I loved you as well."
Robin's mouth hung open slightly. It felt as if he had been smacked across the face as he realized they had both said it. Their words hung in the air like a heavy perfume, filling their senses. Robin and Starfire had finally admitted to their love for one another, something that their fellow Titans had known would happen for years. But Robin and Starfire were about eighty years too late.
It hurt Robin terribly to gaze at the woman he loved, sitting across from him. He, who was stuck in a wheelchair, bound never to walk again. She, who had always been known for her youthful strength, growing tired from a short forty-five minute flight. Their skin was furrowed, no longer having the same healthy glow. They could not do what they had taken for granted in their youth. They could no longer save their city.
Robin knew people got married very late in age. It was certainly not unheard of. But even if he remarried, what could that do? He knew his time left of earth was very limited. Marrying Starfire would only essentially gain her a portion of his inheritance, and he didn't want to leave Starfire to have to deal with his children. He knew they wouldn't take too kindly to the thought of this strange alien suddenly entering their family. Besides, Starfire deserved a grand wedding, something so spectacular, he could never manage something like that. He probably wouldn't even be able to stay awake for the ceremony.
But it depressed him most to realize that they were too late. He knew his life was almost extinguished. He could share a few blissfully happy months with Starfire, but then how would he leave her? Alone, made a widow? He didn't want to subject her to that.
Robin reached up to stroke Starfire's hair. "If only, if only…"
Starfire sniffed again. "If only we could return to the point in our lives where we left one another. If only we could have made better choices."
Robin nodded sadly. He gazed down at their interlocked fingers. He began to trace over her thumb idly, thinking. Suddenly, his head shot up. "Star… that's it!"
Starfire looked up at him, confused. "What are you-"
But the opening of the door cut her off. Amanda was standing in the doorway, grinning broadly. "Lunch time!" she said in a sing-song voice. Robin looked from her to Starfire, then removed his hands. Starfire glanced at him. He was gazing at her desperately. Apparently, he thought he had an idea. Amanda didn't seem to notice the meaningful look shared by the two former Titans. She only smiled as Starfire walked by her towards the kitchen. "I'll bring your lunch in, Dad!" she said with enthusiasm. He nodded, smiling at her. Amanda closed the door behind herself.
"I thank you for this meal," Starfire said, her hands clasped together. "I would also like to thank you for your hospitality. I have wanted to have this reunion for quite some time."
"No problem," muttered Amanda. She swept past her into the kitchen, and began distributing the sandwiches perched on the counter to her children. She passed the oldest two. "Give one to Grandpa." The boy nodded and walked back towards Robin's room. The children began picking at their lunches, and just as her eldest son walked through the doorway again, Amanda stated, "You can eat in the family room and watch TV." The kids cheered, and ran off, clutching their plates. Starfire gazed at the younger woman, unsure of what was coming.
Amanda wordlessly handed her a plate. Starfire took it with a grateful smile and took a bite of the sandwich. "Quite good!" she said appreciatively. Amanda only nodded, then leaned over the sink. Starfire peered at the woman with a worried look on her face. "Are you feeling well?" Starfire asked. Amanda didn't answer.
But after a few minutes, she spoke. "You know, my father would always tell stories about you. He was so proud of how strong you were. He never failed to remind us how brave you were. We would hear story upon story about your adventures. At first, you were my favorite Titan."
Starfire continued to gaze at Amanda, not wanting to interrupt.
"But then I started to realize he didn't just admire you. He… loved you." Starfire's jaw dropped. "It really scared me. I didn't even want to think about the fact that he loved you in a way he didn't love my mother. There were times when he'd get really quiet, and when you tried to talk to him, he would look at you like he didn't know who you were." Amanda sniffed. "My mother called it 'one of his moods.' She always told us not to disturb when he got like that. We were supposed to leave him alone and just let it pass over."
"Robin believes that your mother suspected-"
"Ha," Amanda snorted derisively. "She knew. Without a doubt, she knew. Oh, she never said what she knew, but it was clear she was aware of his infatuation."
"Oh," Starfire managed to murmur.
"She probably knew since the first day they met. He got this faraway look in his eyes whenever he looked at the night sky. He drifted into these strange moods. But my mother loved him with all her heart. She didn't mind the fact that he didn't love her in the way she loved him; she only wanted to be with him." Amanda sighed deeply. "I think she was willing to do whatever it took to make him happy. She knew he wanted a family, so she gave him that." Starfire felt her fists clench uncontrollably. She could have easily given Robin a family too. But she brushed the thought away as Amanda continued. "He worked long hours, but my mother never complained. But I know… I know, without a doubt, had you returned to him, my mother would have gladly stepped away to allow you two to be together." Amanda's shoulders visibly shuddered. "She knew that you were the one he was meant to be with. She knew she was interrupting true love… but she was too blinded by her own love to have avoided it completely."
"My dear…" whispered Starfire, but Amanda continued as if she had not heard her.
"I grew up hating you. I wished that something bad would happen to you. Did you know my father tracked your progress through your entire political career on Tameran? It may sound impossible, but every newspaper article that you appeared in, he'd save. He kept an eye on you, just in case something ever happened to you. He would be able to leap up and rescue you once more."
Starfire put her lunch back on her plate. She didn't feel hungry anymore.
Amanda sighed, straightening up to look Starfire in the eye. "But I realized, after a while, I can't hate you. You didn't seduce my father; you didn't force him to love you. You didn't ask him to cheat on his wife. You didn't even try to come between them. He just loved you; always has, always will. And I know now you love him too. It's clear," she said, raising a hand as Starfire opened her mouth to protest. "So don't bother."
Starfire closed her mouth. Then she said, "Your father and I were very close when we were part of the Titans. We were best friends. After a while, I found myself caring about him in entirely different manner. It might have been love at first sight, as humans say… but if it was, I did not realize it until later. I thought… what we had gone through, all of the battles we fought and the happy moments we shared would have been enough to help your father admit there was something between us. But… I was wrong. Your father (as we both know, so there is no denying it) felt something, but would not… could not say it. So I left," Starfire finished quietly. "I left my friends and teammates because I could no longer bear to see Robin and not be with him."
Amanda gazed at the older woman. She reminded her of a wilting flower; beautiful in the past, but now beyond the spring, into the colder months. She had suffered, all these years without her beloved. Robin had too. His body had deteriorated. Amanda knew he could have stayed in much better shape, but he hadn't had the motivation to.
"Look," sighed Amanda. "I won't spoil what you two might forge beyond here. I want my dad to be happy. It just hurts, you know… knowing he would look at me and my siblings and wonder why we couldn't fly." She wrung her hands. "He'd look at us and wish he saw some of your features, rather than my mother's."
"Amanda, I am so sorry-" Starfire began, but Amanda held up another hand, silencing the Tameranian.
"You guys can't help that you were made for each other," she said with a small smile. "Go ahead. Go finish catching up, or whatever the heck you guys are doing in there."
"Robin?" asked a small voice form outside the door.
"Come on in, Star," Robin answered. The door swung open and Starfire swept in, sitting herself in the chair across from Robin again.
"Your daughter is quite lovely," commented Starfire conversationally.
Robin smiled. "Thank you."
"You had an enjoyable lunch, I presume?" queried Starfire. She nodded at Robin's plate. He shrugged, then leaned forward.
"Starfire, I came up with a plan."
Starfire was hit with a flood of memories. How many times in her life had she heard him say that? How many plans had he come up with? She swallowed then asked, "What is it?"
"We should have said something to each other before it was too late. Now, I had the chance, the final chance when we were just leaving, and I didn't take it."
"I could have taken this chance as well, Robin," Starfire reminded him, but he brushed her words aside with a wave of his hand.
"Well, regardless, we had opportunities, both of us, and we never took them. We came so close, so many times, but we never did. Why? Well, I think we were both afraid of rejection. But we shouldn't have worried, because the feelings were mutual." He took Starfire's hand again with a grin. She smiled back. "But we didn't know we felt the same way until too late. If someone had only told us to admit it, we would have - and we would have been together."
"Do you think so?" questioned Starfire. Robin nodded.
"I know, as scared as I might have been to say anything, if I'd have felt like I had a chance, I'd have taken it. So that is what we must do. We must tell ourselves not to be afraid of it. We must let ourselves know we must take that chance. We must demand ourselves to open up, for the rewards will be more than we could ever imagine."
"But what are you talking about, Robin? How can we tell ourselves such things?"
Robin smirked. "We have to go back in time."
"What?" Starfire leapt to her feet. "Robin, we cannot! It is impossible!"
"You managed it," Robin said softly. "Do you remember?"
"Vividly," said Starfire forcefully. "I could never forget what I saw in that future. It was entirely wrong!"
"And so is this!" Robin said, slamming his fist down onto the table. His empty plate and glass rattled. "This future is wrong too! We shouldn't be old and decrepit, seeing each other for the first time in over fifty years! We should have seen each other every single day of our lives! We should have confessed our true feelings to each other, not hide them away until our lives are almost over!"
Starfire stared down at him. "Do you realize what you are suggesting, Robin?" she asked faintly. "You wish to completely rewrite our lives."
"Yes, I do. There is no life without you."
"But Robin… what about your family?"
Robin paused. He stared at his fist. He cared for them so much, words could not express it… but… they weren't Starfire. He knew that if he changed the past, he would be happy with the Tameranian, but his family, those he had raised from infancy, would vanish. He'd never marry Angela. He'd never sire Amanda or any of her siblings. They would not exist in the future he was planning to alter. Was that fair to them? Could he ever really do something that would obliterate what he had created?
He tightened his fist. His children would never be born. He'd probably never even meet Angela. He wasn't really destroying them; he was destroying the chance for them to exist. He knew he was being very selfish, but he couldn't help it. It wasn't fair, though, to Angela that he married her in the first place. He should not have put her through that. She might have been in love with him, but he could never love that way. He should be kind to her in this new future, and leave her heart in peace. She could find someone else in that future, there was no doubt in Robin's mind. And he would have Starfire. And that was all that mattered.
"Starfire," he said, looking up into her expectant eyes. "I love you. And I'm going to do everything in my power to be with you. We told the local scientists about Warp's disk. They said they'd look into, and remember? They told us they reproduced it? I'm sure they'll still have it. Well, their lab will. I seriously doubt any of the men we worked with are still around."
"Let alone still working," added Starfire.
"Exactly. But we get ourselves to that lab. We let them know who they're dealing with. They set the dial, and we're back."
"But when would we return to?" Starfire asked before she could stop herself. She inwardly slapped herself. There was no way this crazy plan could work.
"When we're leaving the Tower. No! Before that. I want time with you while we're still there. I'll think of a time on the way. Right now, we must write these letters."
"You'll see. Just write what I tell you…"
"Amanda!" Robin called through the house. Moments later, Amanda appeared in the door.
"You need something, Dad?"
"Yeah, I do. I need you to drive me and Starfire to the labs in Jump City. Star Labs, if the old thinker is still working."
"OK, that's fine," stated Amanda, a little confused at the weird request. "When?"
"Now? Dad, the kids-"
"Call a sitter. Please. Amanda, I need you to do this for me. This will be the last thing your old man will ever ask of you." He gazed up at her. She felt tears well up in her eyes. She knew what he said was true. This probably would be the last request he'd make of her. She stared into the crystal blue eyes she had grown up knowing. She peered into the eyes of the man she had spent her entire childhood trying to impress. She had always wanted to see her father's eyes light up with pride when he looked at her. She did everything in her power to accomplish this.
"Of course, Dad," she murmured. She was too busy looking at Robin's face to notice Starfire slipping two folded sheets of paper into the back pocket of Robin's wheelchair. Amanda stood up to get the telephone, not realizing she was headed down the path to her own undoing. And all to please her father.
"Well, I must say this is an odd request, sir," said a young man in a white lab coat. He was accompanied by the odd procession of Robin in a wheelchair being pushed by his daughter, followed by the Tameranian ambassador. "But no demand that you make of us shall ever go unanswered. After all you did for this city? Absolutely not. Of course, I didn't actually live here during your time; I wasn't born yet. But my grandfather remembered you. He'd tell us how you saved the city time and time again. Naturally, we are in your debt, and if this can help repay it…"
"We do not ask that you repay us anything," Starfire said from behind him. "But we are very appreciative of your willingness to help us."
The young man smiled. "Of course. Now, I'm to understand you actually brought this to the lab, years ago?"
"No, we didn't actually bring it here. We told the lab about the disk, however, and they did some extensive research. I know they were able to reproduce it exactly."
"They sure did. A few tests have been run, of course. The initial tests sent mice ahead a few weeks, and sure enough, a few weeks later, we found the mice right where they were supposed to appear. There was no real way to test going back in time without using humans, so we weren't able to work with that."
"Back in time does work. Our friend Cyborg was able to do it in another future. He sent Starfire backwards to about thirty seconds after she left."
"Then I'm sure we can send you to whenever you want to be."
They had reached the correct room. The young man pressed a series of buttons on a small pad, and the door slid open. Inside was a small room. There was only one table. There was a large filing cabinet in the corner and one raised platform where the disk lay. The man got to work disabling the security system. The only light in the room was coming from an unknown source above that shone down directly onto the disk. Starfire felt shivers run down her spine as she stared at the contraption on the platform. That tiny machine had already changed their lives drastically; could it do it again?
"OK," the scientist said, picking up the device. "I've got it." He walked over to the filing cabinet and opened the bottom drawer. He pulled out a small machine where the disk could be loaded into. "Do you have the exact date and time?"
Robin told him.
"OK, stand there," the man instructed, waving his arm in the direction of a clear patch of floor. "Here we go."
Starfire tossed in her sleep. It was 2:30 in the morning, and the moon was sitting high above the bay. The beams shone through the window, illuminating the room where the alien girl was trying to sleep. She was dozing, having fitful dreams about her sister, a unicorn, and a large men screaming "Ni!"
A sound at the foot of her bed roused her slightly. She turned over, half awake, half asleep. Her mind was running a hundred miles an hour, and she barely distinguished the muted voices in the room from the strange noises in her dreams.
"Look at you… you're beautiful."
A tinkling giggle floated through the air. "I never really appreciated my youth when I had it."
"I can make sure that I do. I can go change the letter-"
"No, no, I don't want to tell you to say it; you have to think of it on your own."
The first voice chuckled. "Let's make it hard for me, then."
"Here, put it on your bedside table, you'll be sure to look there…"
"Oh, of course, of course."
There was a slight rustling around the bed. Starfire furrowed her brow. A faint creak sounded from the foot of her bed, and she shot up to the sitting position. "Who is there?" she demanded. She peered through the gloom, trying to spot an intruder. But her room looked exactly as it had when she'd gone to sleep; the light of the moon was lighting up the entire room. There was no one there.
Morning dawned. Starfire rose just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. She stretched her arms over her head, yawning in the process. She flew up out of bed, eager to greet the new day. But something caught her eye. She turned in midair to see a small folded sheet of paper sitting on the table next to her bed. She floated down, picking the paper up and opening it. It was addressed to her.
You must go up to the roof tonight at 7:00, precisely. There, you must be ready to reveal a very important secret. It may seem odd, and it may seem rushed, but you must do this. You shall reap the benefits of this revelation, you will see. It is crucial that you tell the truth. When you are up on that rooftop tonight, you must say what you really feel. No holding back.
'What?' thought Starfire to herself. 'What is this?' She flipped the letter over, but here was no name. Utterly perplexed, Starfire felt a little nervous. Should she listen to this anonymous letter? She sat down on the edge of her bed, thinking. After a little while, she stood up, pleased. She knew their security systems were top-notch, so no one could get into the Tower to plant the letter. Even if they had made it past their alarms and it was a trap, Starfire could handle herself, this she knew. So she concluded that one of her friends must have placed the letter there. She was still very unsure about what the letter was referring to, but she supposed she would find out later.
Starfire was still puzzling over what the paper's advice held in store for her when she opened the door that led to the roof. The sun had just set over the horizon. She floated over the roof, wondering what was to come, when she caught sight of a lone figure, gazing out at the water. She gaped at the person.
"I am so going to get you this time!" Beast Boy cried excitedly as he pressed the buttons on his controller. Cyborg only shook his head, smirking. Their characters continued to throw kicks and punches at one another. Raven rolled her eyes at the boys, disgusted by their immaturity.
It was an average evening in the Tower. They'd had a fairly busy day, with a few petty crimes and one slightly more serious one, dealing with a missing child. Luckily, they had tracked the kidnapper down within two hours and returned the child to its grateful parents. Raven had taken one nasty blow to the head, however, and was currently nursing it with a cool washcloth while she idly flipped through a writing magazine. The boys had been watching a movie earlier, but Robin had excused himself with a vague mumble, so Beast Boy and Cyborg and turned on the Gamestation.
The door behind them slid open to reveal Robin and Starfire. Robin examined them while Starfire hovered behind him, her arms crossed over her chest. "OK, who planted the letters?" Robin demanded.
"What?" Raven asked. Beast Boy paused the game and he and Cyborg turned around to stare at their leader.
"What are you talking about, dude?" questioned Beast Boy.
"The letters. Starfire and I both got them. You know, 'up at the roof at 7:00?' Who sent them?"
Everyone shared glances. "Robin, none of us sent you any letters," Raven stated for all.
Starfire narrowed her eyes at her teammates. "Please, friends, tell us who sent these letters during the night."
"Star, it wasn't any of us!" cried Cyborg.
Robin gave them all a scrutinizing look. They all stared back, incredulous. "OK," he said finally. Beast Boy, Raven, and Cyborg all visibly relaxed. They turned back to their respective tasks. "We just wanted to say thank you." Everyone whipped their heads around, but the door was already closing, but not before they caught a glimpse of Robin and Starfire walking away, hand in hand.
"Hey! Hey! Be careful out there!" Raven shouted out the window. Starfire smiled from her place at the counter.
It was many, many years after Robin and Starfire had gotten together that fateful night. A lot had changed since then. The Titans had, sadly, disbanded, but instead of being a terrible catastrophe, it marked the beginning of something entirely new; Robin had proposed. Starfire was elated, and their wedding was magnificent. They had been almost impossible to live with in the months preceding the event. Cyborg had threatened many times to build a portable curtain to hide them whenever they got too mushy. They'd only laughed.
Then everyone was surprised when Beast Boy proposed to Raven. Of course, the other Titans knew they were dating, even if they had been very covert about it. But they had no idea it was that serious. It seemed Raven hadn't even been aware it was that serious, but she accepted. But the other Titans had been extremely pleased, because it seemed to make Raven very happy. They'd been surprised when the two had started dating, but as they got used to the idea, it struck them that they should have known from the beginning. So Raven and Beast Boy were married about a year and half after Robin and Starfire were.
Now, it was years after that. It was a few days before Christmas, and although none of the Titans were very religious, they always held get-togethers around the holiday season. They tried to see each other as often as they could, and they were largely successful. Right now, Robin, Cyborg, and Beast Boy were outside in the snow with the children. Raven had volunteered to stay inside with the twins, who were still infants, and Starfire was finishing up their Christmas cards, a tradition she had at first not understood, but soon grew to loathe as she quickly grasped the concept.
"We are careful, Mommy!" cried a small girl, waving a gloved hand over her head at Raven.
"Think fast!" her father shouted, becoming a huge green polar bear. The girl squeaked, then transformed herself into a large beast, equipped with miniscule wings and large claws. She was a pale green. It appeared that Raven and Beast Boy's powers had mixed to give her the ability to become any demon creature.
"Hey!" yelled Raven again as the father and daughter rolled around in the snow. "That's my daughter you're pushing around!"
The demon squirmed out of the polar bear's clutches to change back into the giggling girl. She then zoomed over to where everybody else was constructing a snowman.
Beast Boy got up, shaking himself off and laughing. He sauntered over to the open window to smirk up at Raven, his one protruding fang glinting. "You're awfully overprotective," he said teasingly. She rolled her eyes at him.
"You were playing awfully rough." Beast Boy laughed again and stood on tiptoe so he could brush his lips against Raven's.
"I thought you liked it rough."
Raven blushed crimson, hissing, "The children are right here!"
"They don't understand it yet," chuckled Beast Boy. Raven pushed his shoulder dismissively, but she was struggling to suppress a grin and Beast Boy knew it. He ran off to join the group again, and Raven pulled herself back in, shutting the window.
Starfire laughed merrily at Raven's expression. "You two…" she said, shaking her head at her best friend. Raven rolled her eyes again in agreement.
Starfire opened her mouth to say something else, but at that moment, a small grunt came from one of the baby chairs. Raven's eyes opened wide. "Please don't wake up, please don't wake up…" she whispered under her breath. But she did not get her wish, for one of her sons began crying, which caused the other to awaken and wail too. Raven groaned. "They're hungry," she almost whined. Starfire clucked sympathetically. Raven gave a great sigh, then unclipped their belts and hoisted one up, then the other. She grabbed a large towel and sat down in a kitchen chair, preparing to feed them. Starfire turned away respectfully.
"You're handling it well, Raven."
"Twins! I nearly killed Beast Boy…" Starfire laughed.
"Get him!" The women turned their heads to glance out the window. Robin and Beast Boy were pointing at Cyborg, and their children were leaping at the robotic man. Cyborg let out a high-pitched yell as he fell backwards into the snow. There were cries of, "Make him tell!" and "Force it out of him!"
Cyborg had promised to bring his girlfriend to the Christmas Eve party fro superheroes. The rest of the former Titans didn't even know her name, and Robin and Beast Boy had become hell-bent on forcing it out of him. All they had learned, however, was she might be familiar to them, and she was "someone he seriously considered marrying." This did not satisfy them, however.
"Do you think he's happy?" Raven asked quietly. Starfire turned to look at her. She knew what Raven was referring to.
"Yes, I do, actually. This one, whoever she might be, seems to be what he needs." Raven allowed a small smile to grace her features. Years and years ago, while they had still been living in the Tower, Cyborg had asked Raven out on a date. She'd been so surprised, she'd accepted. They'd gone and had a fun time, but Raven knew she didn't feel anything towards Cyborg. She'd told him they shouldn't go out anymore because they were both Titans and it would be very awkward. But later, she'd started dating Beast Boy, and had always felt guilty that she'd contradicted herself. Cyborg had assured her it was OK, but she'd still felt bad. Now, she was really hoping this girl would be the right one.
In truth, Cyborg knew there was no "might" in knowing her. They did know her; and they had faced off against her many times. He wasn't sure if they'd be able to forgive her of the crimes she'd committed as a teenager (many of which she hadn't exactly paid for). But he knew a different side of her, and was determined to show that side to his friends.
Starfire bent over her cards again, signing her name after Robin's. It still amazed her, seeing their names right next to each other. It was such a simple act, and yet it symbolized so much. It was proof of their love for one another, and of their bond. She folded the card and had just about slipped it into the envelope when she froze. She whipped the card out and stared at what she had just written.
"Star?" asked Raven, but Starfire didn't reply. Still gawking at the card in her hand, she sped from the room at top speed. She entered the master bedroom and flung open the closet. She threw the card onto the bed and floated to the top of the closet. She snatched an old box from the upper shelf and placed it on the bed beside the card. She practically threw the cover off, and began digging through her life's treasures. Finally, she pulled out a slightly wrinkled piece of paper. She smoothed it out as she read it. She had memorized its contents. It was the same letter that had guided her to the roof of the Tower, that magical evening so long ago. Right now, however, she was not concerned by the message. She compared her own handwriting where she had penned her name to that of the mystery writer where he or she had addressed Starfire. The Tameranian gazed at both of the papers, her eyes shooting back and forth between her name on one and her name on the other.
The writing was exactly the same.
Author's Notes: Whew! Got it done, just in time. I'm leaving for a vacation tomorrow. We're off to Arizona fro about ten days, so I'll be later. Everyone can expect an update of "True Love" not long after that. Anyway, I gotta run, but please let me know what you thought!
By the way, I apologize for any mistakes. I got a bit rushed and didn't have the chance to check it over. D'oh! My apologies ahead of time!