"So you think it's broken for good now?" Terry asked as they both stood staring up at the huge electric pillars.
The explosion that had shattered the globes had left the top of it scorched and parts of it melted. The menacing aura the machine had held before now seemed to have disappeared. Now all it looked like was a piece of junk from some bygone age of technology.
Max shrugged. "I dunno. I fixed it pretty easily. The computer still functions. Who's to say someone couldn't or wouldn't try to reuse it. All I know is I don't want to have anything to do with it ever again. Something like that should never have been built."
"I suppose we should tell Bruce it's finally over. Can I borrow your phone?" Terry sighed. He had since put his street clothes back on over his costume. The security might have found it odd that Batman came out when a tall dark haired guy had been the one to go in. There was no more need for Batman here anyways.
Max handed over her phone and Terry punched in the numbers with practiced ease.
"Yes?" Bruce's gruff voice barked over the phone.
"Bruce, we did it. We sent him back," Terry told the old man with a satisfied smile.
There was a long pause. "Did what? Sent who back where? Where the hell are you?"
"What? Max and I are in Star Labs. We just sent Nightwing back to the past," Terry explained, looking over at Max in confusion.
"Nightwing's been in Bludhaven for the last twenty-five years. You've been missing for the entire afternoon. We've been searching everywhere for you," Bruce growled at him.
Terry scrunched his eyebrows up in bafflement. What the hell? "Bruce, what're you–?"
A sudden look of clarity crossed Max's face and she grabbed his arm to get his attention. She shook her head to cut him off. "Get off the phone."
"Bruce, we'll be back in a few hours. We just had to take care of something," Terry tried to end the call smoothly.
"You better tell me what it was you found so important to worry everyone for," Bruce snapped.
"Right–," the line went dead before Terry could say anything else. "Jeez, crabby much."
"They don't remember anything, Terry. He went back and everything was set back the way it should have been." Max explained to him.
Terry shook his head, still confused. "That doesn't explain why we remember."
"I think it was because we went through the machine. We were in the past and the future so of course we remember. There was a mention of that in Lois Lane's interview about her experiences with the machine." Max told him.
"Ok, I'll buy that," Terry shrugged. "Do you think Nightwing remembers since he went through too?"
Max looked uncertain. "I don't know. Maybe."
"I hope he did." Terry remarked, shoving his hands into his pockets.
"Why?" Max inquired.
"I felt like we kinda understood each other. I'd have liked to know him under better circumstances," Terry answered with some embarrassment. "Besides it seems less crazy if someone else remembers it."
Max rolled her eyes. "That's all that's important right."
"No!" Terry snapped defensively.
"Whatever. You know we still have that paper to do. To bad it's due tomorrow and it's worth 40 of our grade," she said with a sarcastic smile.
"The paper!" he groaned. "We haven't even started it. What are we supposed to do?"
"Chill, Ter," she grinned up at him. "I've already written it. I even dumbed it down to make it look like you helped."
Terry gave her his suffering martyr look. "Haha. Why didn't you just tell me instead of freaking me out?"
"I wanted to make you sweat," she replied, turning away from the machine and walking out of the room.
Terry stood there for a moment later then jogged after her. "When did you get time to write it?"
"Terry, you don't ask a girl to reveal her secrets," she admonished him, glancing back with a smirk.
Terry shook his head as he walked along beside her. He didn't think he'd ever be able to figure her out completely. And seriously, when did she get the time?
"Terry and Maxine, your paper was very good. Informative, factual, and very well written. I'm very impressed by the information you included as well as the pictures. Your speculation of why Nightwing became a vigilante seems more like actual fact. I'm interested to know where you got your information and how you drew these conclusions?" Mrs. Whitman inquired after the two students had presented their research paper to the class.
Max seemed to puff up a little with pride. "Well, we did a lot of research through old archives in library data bases as well as through old police records, interviews of people that were saved, interviews of perpetrators, and even a few interviews from the hero himself. We tracked his movements through out his entire career (which I had added in the night before this was due, she thought with a smirk) all the way back to when he was Robin. After pulling information from when he first appeared as Batman's partner we estimated his age and began to work out a possible explanation of why such a young boy would want to become a vigilante. It was a lot of information to go through, but it was very rewarding in the end."
"Well, I must say the effort you put into it is very impressive. Terry do you have anything else to add?" Mrs. Whitman turned to the dark haired young man, who'd been standing quietly trying to look like he knew what Max was talking about.
"What can I say? Max is awesome at this kinda of stuff. I helped where she asked me too. I tried not to cramp her style to much," he grinned. "Besides I don't want to get in the way of the girl trying to make valedictorian."
The rest of the class burst out laughing when Max shot him a scathing glare. The teacher smiled, apparently satisfied.
"Well, your enthusiasm is certainly commendable–both of you. Your presentation was very good as well. You both get 100 's on your paper. Excellent job!" Mrs. Whitman beamed at them.
Max and Terry glanced at each other before grinning broadly. "Thank you very much, Mrs. Whitman!" Max exclaimed before they retreated back to their desks. "Jeez, after all that trouble all we get is a freakin' 100 . We should have gotten an award or something." she grumbled as they slid back into their seats.
Terry smirked. "Well, Robin, if you wanted that kind of thank you you're in the wrong business. Playing hero is not a rewarding career."
"Don't call me that," she hissed softly.
He held his hands up in a surrendering gesture. "Whatever you say, Max."
She 'harumphed' loudly before turning her attention to the next presentation, but Terry thought he saw a small smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
Max sat next to Terry in the grass out in front of the school. It was to beautiful a day to waste inside in the cafeteria for lunch. Terry was sprawled on his back beside her, one arm thrown over his eyes to block out the sun. It was seemed like the first time in a long time that they had gotten to sit still and just hang out together without some project or crisis looming over their heads.
"It seems kinda surreal, doesn't it?" Max asked, quietly.
Terry lifted his arm and glanced over at her. "You mean with Nightwing?"
"Yeah. I mean yesterday we both nearly got injured or worse because of him. But it looks like nothing happened at all. The school grounds aren't damaged. There's no record of the news reports all over the TV yesterday. Nothing. It seems like some kind of freak dream," she remarked, pulling at the blades of grass under her hand.
"I still have the bruises to prove it if that makes you feel any better," Terry grinned up at her.
Max shook her head and hit him on the shoulder. "You get those every night. That doesn't prove anything."
"What's bothering me," Terry said after a minute, "is whether or not Nightwing remembers or not. If he didn't that wouldn't make any sense at all."
"Yeah, I remembered," a familiar voice cut into the conversation.
Terry bolted upright and stared in shock as Max gapped at the person standing in front of them. Dick Grayson stood a few feet away, dressed all in black, with his hands shoved deep into the pockets of his jacket. His hair was cut short and was shot through with streaks of steel gray. His features were worn with age and the harsh life he had lived through. His eyes still shone bright and sharp as ever. Even aged as he was he still had the aura of a man no one dared mess with.
"Looks like you still need some practice in staying vigilant at all times. I snuck up on you way to easy," Dick smirked.
Terry shrugged. "Maybe not but I bet I could get your ass now."
"Sure you could, kid," Dick chuckled then sobered. He glanced away as if he felt uncomfortable suddenly.
Max smiled up at the older man. "We're glad you remembered," she paused, and then asked sadly. "I guess you and Barbara never made it huh?"
"No," Dick answered tensely. After a moment he relaxed again and gave her a sad smile. "I guess no matter what time I was in we just weren't meant to be together." It seemed age had mellowed him out far more than it had Bruce. Bruce would never have answered such a private question.
"At least you gotta a chance," Max said.
Dick nodded, looking uncomfortable again. "Listen, I never got a chance to thank you guys for what you did. Everything all happened very quickly," Dick took a deep breath and let it out with a sigh. "If it weren't for you two–."
"It was worth the bruises," Terry grinned.
"I'm sure. Well anyways...thank you. It seems strange to be saying that 30 years later for an event that 'never' happened," Dick smiled in embarrassment.
Terry looked up at him and answered sincerely. "You're welcome."
"We'd do it again if we had too," Max promised fervently.
Dick nodded and cleared his throat awkwardly. "Look, Terry. No matter what the old man says or anyone else, you are Batman. You proved that. You earned the right to wear that cowl and you earned my respect for what you did for me."
Terry stared in surprise at those honest words before stammering out a thank you.
"Well, I'll be seeing you guys around. If you ever need me...call. Stay safe," Dick imparted before he turned to leave.
"Hey! I could have kicked you butt, I was just holding back," Terry gave him a cocky grin.
Dick shook his head with a laugh. He glanced back, still smiling, "In your dreams, kid."
Terry smiled as the older vigilante disappeared out of sight with the same deft ease he always had. Someday, Terry was gonna figure out how Dick and Bruce did that. Beside him, Max sighed sadly.
"So I guess that's the end then? We won't see him for a while," Max said and looked over at him. She frowned at the sudden awkward hunch of Terry's shoulders. He looked uncertain and that was so rare she felt a sudden sense of unease creep over her.
"Listen, Max, there's something I've been wanting to say to you for a while now," Terry told her in an almost shy voice.
He paused and bit his lip nervously. "I…I wanted to tell you…"
"Tell me what?" she pressed.
He cleared his throat. "Just that…" He stopped and sighed. He shook his head when she smiled at him encouragingly. How am I supposed to say this to her? He wondered. After a moment of no inspiration, it came to him. He leaned forward and kissed her. It was tentative at first, and he was afraid that he had done the wrong thing when she made no move in return. God, I was such an idiot! What had possessed-? Then Max was kissing him back with a fervor that destroyed all his previous doubts. His hands found her waist and he drew her closer to him, as she slipped her arms around his neck. He was so glad he'd finally worked up the nerve to do that and wondered at how stupid he was to have waited this long for it.
Max pulled back after a minute and smiled at him. "I had wondered how long it would take for you to do that."
"W-what?" Terry stammered.
Max laughed softly. "I think if you'd taken any longer I would have had to beat some sense into you…but then you are kinda dense sometimes."
Terry frowned, looking slightly offended. "And what is that supposed to mean?"
"Nothing, Terry," Max smirked before stealing another kiss.
It's finally over. My God, it took how long to get the whole thing posted? I'm a little sad it's done but now I can move onto other things. This story got so much more notice then I really thought it would. I have all of you reviewers and readers to thank for that. You guys kept me going, kept me inspired to keep posting, and helped out so much in the refining of some of the details that were driving me nuts.
I wanna give special thanks to:
VeltaIO- You really helped me work out this ending for one. You asked some questions that got me thinking and fixing things. I really have to thank you for all the help you gave whether you realized it or not. Thanks for sticking with this story from beginning to end. That means a lot to me.
trecebo- You stayed with this story from the beginning to end as well. You gave me such great reviews. And you always encouraged me to keep it going. For that I wanna thank you.
Thanks to everyone else who read and reviewed from start to finish. Thank you to every one who reviewed period. Even if you didn't I know all you guys out there liked it because I have the hits on my stats to show for it, the amount of people who put it on their favorites list and alerts. Thanks for sticking around for the whole story.
Special thanks to those of you who deemed my story worthy enough to put in their C2 groups. That's very flattering.
I can't promise you there will be a sequel. I left it a little open for the ability to do so but whether I do or not is a whole different story. So keep an eye out. I'll give notice if I decide too.
So once again...THANK YOU!