This is it. An epilogue, conclusion, and general wrap-up for the longest story I've ever written. So, since there isn't an academy to thank, I'll just have to go over the many people who have put up with quite a bit. My Spanish teacher of high school actually deserves some credit, for running such a boring class that I could write large portions of this story and still manage to get the highest grade in the class. (In April, she made the discovery that I was not writing anything related to Spanish- except a few parts that were written in for Kori.) My parents are still learning to cope with my odd habits that replace typical teenage pursuits. (My father is much farther along in this.) Even if she only has dealt with me since just the last week of August, my roommate has been more than tolerant for a few odd habits that result in many long periods of typing away and not hearing much of any conversation. My English teacher, however imposing in his demands, has ensured that my writing habits have improved, especially in trickier parts of grammar. (Thanks to his class, I can skip the university's freshman writing class and start with something a bit more interesting.)
This is going to be long, but I do have to acknowledge all contributing parties. First, there is the usual trio of suspects- Lauren, Sean, and Julie. Lauren listened to the rant that starts this story, Sean put up with many, many disjointed conversations, and Julie introduced me to fanfiction in the first place. Then, the online people- it's always a relief to meet other writers. They tend to be much more tolerant of rambling and eccentric habits. Knowing just why Raven and Starfire are different is a bonus. TheUbu (who wouldn't want to know a Mountie-to-be who can write like he does?), They-Call-Me-Orange (my first and only minion), Kayasuri-N (the best kind of crazy, and the best kind of writer and listener), and someone who's been there since before I posted this blasted story a year ago. So, you want someone to really thank for the insane story- thank dr.evil99, who made this idea not something resting in the (usually doomed to rest forever as something that won't quite work) Ideas file.
For any interested in the timing, these events occur one month after the last chapter. (In the story's timeline, 63 happened on April 13th (a Monday), and 64 occurs on May 15th, (a Friday).) This was posted exactly one year after the first chapter, and marks the fifth seventy-page notebook completely written through in ideas, plot, and characters. All involved notebooks have been honorably retired to the bookshelf.
For anyone who isn't tired of reading something of mine, there is a new story ready for viewing. Red will not be as long- but I hope it can be just as interesting as people have found this. It's another AU, but those are that much fun.
Thanks for reading- it's been my pleasure to write this story.
They-Call-Me-Orange- this chapter's yours. Rough weeks aren't all bad- and you're just awesome enough to get to claim the last chapter.
"Does anyone want to place bets? That's the only thing I can think of that would make waiting at all interesting."
"Victor, I thought your girlfriend was the bookie," Richard said. "As for bets- I bet that Kori was ready at six."
"When she told us to have the limo here, so we of course had to be here at five forty-five," Gar said. "And Jinx isn't a bookie, she's a- what was the term?"
"Odds specialist," Victor supplied. "She takes money, and only reports a few transactions the legal way- she was introduced to her employer with her work record involving Trigon. Mrs. Roth kept it quiet for awhile, that her parents owned that racetrack."
"I still wish I could show that reporter a thing or two about keeping quiet," Gar said darkly. "It was two weeks after the fact! There was no need to print the direct link between Rachel and Trigon, there just wasn't."
"It wasn't an appropriate headline," Richard agreed. "Bruce agreed with that, so he asked Tim to help him find a few personal things about the 'anonymous' author of the article. Oracle found him, and then Batman stopped by after hours to teach the reporter a thing or two about nice manners before handing him into court- violation of an FBI gag order."
"If Eve hadn't been furious, she might have approved- I know she let Rae, Jinx, and Mrs. Roth into the house to collect the personal things the FBI didn't need to grub over. She's tired of all the bureaucracy and people appropriating her agents, and will only be happy when they're gone- they still don't like the bullet trajectories, but they can't find any other evidence."
"You know, Gar, most people can talk about their girlfriends and never bring up the chief of police or FBI gag orders," Victor said.
"Yeah? I think Richard's the only one here who has any shot of that."
"Just because Kori's the closest to normal…" Richard said. "Well, as close as any of us get," he amended. "I don't think anybody who's going to be in this limo qualifies- except the driver, but he had his MP3 player blasting about half an hour ago."
"We have moments of being normal." Victor didn't try to make them seem commonplace. "We're going to prom, and in under a month, we'll all be sticking funny hats on our heads and listening to speeches before making the walk across the stage, and we're all going to be in a semi-dormitory next year."
"Most freshmen don't get custom-made rooms," Gar said, still very pleased with the arrangement. With joint efforts from his mom and Mrs. Roth, his room was relatively sanitary. It actually was easier to navigate, that way- and wasn't a makeshift black hole. Rachel had made him promise his new room would stay at least that clean.
"Most freshmen have sent their majors in, though. Is Rachel finally done burying herself in brochures at lunch? Reading everything they shove at you at orientation can't be good for you." Richard didn't want to know how many forests had been destroyed in his stack of reference materials alone.
"She just sent in the letter this afternoon," Gar said. "Before Kori stole her, we dropped it off at the post office."
"What's her major?"
"Undecided? That's a good choice," Kori said, busily making near-invisible adjustments to the lay of Rachel's skirt. "I have a major all set, but it's pretty clear what I wanted to go into. Besides- I'm used to being a bit odd, so my languages major is nothing out of my usual lack of ordinary."
"Just how many languages are you majoring in?" Rachel asked. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're a Chinese-Swahili-English-Spanish translator?"
"Yes. The dean didn't believe me, when I called. He speaks Spanish, English, and Portuguese, so he could test two of my claims. He thought that maybe I was looking for scholarships, and would switch my major."
Rachel kept her smile at Kori's indignation minimal. "What happened to change his mind?"
"The Chinese professor passed his office just when the dean thought I perhaps had learned some words, or was just an imitator who could nail the accent. The Chinese professor made it very clear that I was speaking correct Mandarin. By that point, they were interested enough to call the African languages professor in. He speaks with an accent more commonly found in Zulu, but could verify the Swahili."
Rachel didn't bother to stop a smile. Only Kori could cause havoc just by calling in to ask why her major was not listed on paperwork. "It did go well, in the end?" She saw no change in the dress, but knew better than to mention it. Kori was still perfecting the drape, and she wouldn't ruin whatever effect there might be.
"They already have assured me that they will work with the advising board to fix my schedule to best fit what I can do with so many languages," she said. "Richard is looking into a career that will let him keep something a little more physical involved, and has been talking to advisors about that."
"Victor has been relentlessly pursued by the electronics engineering program," Jinx said, when twenty minutes of silent protest (it was not sulking) had gone unnoticed. "It seems that a few people at the police department accidentally let it slip just who was behind their new transmitters, and the college was interested."
"There was no need for that sulking," Kori said, ignoring the severe death-glare. If she and her sister could share a bathroom in the morning, one semi-reformed criminal with dress issues was nothing to worry about. Kori had survived the hairdryer wars, after all. "The dress looks lovely on you- and your hair looks much better now that the dye has finally rinsed out." Kori saved the comment about Jinx's eyes. Since that day a month ago, Jinx hadn't gone back to the pink contacts. It had taken two weeks of persuasion to get Jinx to ease away from the pink hair dye, and two hours at a hair salon to scrub out the last of the pink color. The lurid shade would have clashed with the dress Kori and Rachel had agreed on.
"Do you think that I should fix your hair?" Kori asked, tilting her head thoughtfully. "I do believe that your left side is a trifle higher than your right."
Glaring, Jinx put a defensive hand to the pale blonde hair the stylist had spent an hour curling, spraying, and otherwise maiming. "You, Kori Anders, are an evil, evil girl."
Kori only smiled contently. "I know, Jane."
Rachel laughed. "Kori, I don't know whether to be proud or horrified that I've influenced you so much."
"Proud. Definitely proud."
Rachel wondered just whose misfortune was behind that smirk. "What did you do now, Kori?"
"I told the boys that we would be ready half an hour ago," she said, making a final tug at the skirt. "There- look in the mirror."
Rachel had a platitude ready to appease Kori (she did not need a repeat of skirt-twitching), but she stopped. She blinked as hard as she dared with an unfamiliar coat of mascara in place. Whatever she had done, it worked. "Kori, you are an evil genius."
She beamed. "I know. Now that they've been waiting a half hour, their reactions will be a bit more genuine- not that they could hide much from us."
Jinx gave herself a final look in the mirror. Okay, it wasn't the usual look- but she wasn't necessarily trying to look like she could kick anyone's ass without really trying. For something like prom, she could look like she could kick anyone's ass- but they just weren't worth her bother.
Kori saw the small changes in posture. Half of language wasn't in words. Body language said much, much more. "Let's go," Kori said. "All three of us at the same time, so they can be fully impressed."
"I don't see how they could avoid it." Jinx made a final adjustment to a gold-colored shoe. Her skirt made a rippling line that didn't follow any pattern she was familiar with, but she did like the shoes- they looked almost like a few illustrations from Grecian myth she had seen, with a few modern twists. When her date was that much taller, heels were nice things to have. "Okay," she said, a little begrudging as she gave the mirror a glance. "I like the dress."
Kori only nodded, satisfied. Victory was best enjoyed silently. The fact that it brought less reprisals was only part of the bonus.
"You're sure they said six?" Gar said. He was too bored to yawn. "The housekeeper wouldn't even let us in, but I know that she and Kori are close. This was premeditated. Kori's making us sit around in a rented limo, in tuxes, in front of her house."
"She probably wants us to have properly shocked reactions," Victor said. "I know that Jinx has been letting her hair get less and less pink, but I can't tell what color it is- any time I look, she gets defensive."
"I knew I should have shoved a pack of cards in the inside pocket- but Selina would have killed me. She really would have- she was staying over, and she just happened to smile like the Cheshire cat when Kori dropped a tie in my hand." Richard couldn't look too bored. His date was behind the waiting, and he had to walk the thin line between looking not bored enough and being the most bored of the group.
"Well, they can't take too much longer," Victor said. "I know that Jane won't stand for too much primping- even if she probably is protesting silently. Anyone else would call it sulking- but trust me, we have established that she does not sulk, emphasis needed. When she's off frowning, it means she's-"
Gar waited for a moment. Victor wasn't finishing his sentence. "Victor?"
Richard knew. There was only one thing that could stop someone mid-sentence like that. "Turn around." Suddenly, he was very glad that they had rolled down all windows in the limo in an attempt to get some breeze. He knew that Kori would be most put out if he didn't look properly stunned.
Jane felt very gratified to get a proper reaction- and was quite happy that Victor had ended up facing the house. The housekeeper had told Kori that the guys had been shifting around nervously for over an hour.
"Anyone ever tell you you'll catch flies like that?"
He offered an arm, almost automatically. She blamed the damn dress, but she took it far more comfortably than she usually did. She could have gotten into the car herself, of course- but she might as well give him something to do. Besides- it was an excuse to get a little closer. Maybe, if she was a little closer, she could hear just what he was saying- she didn't detect any words, but his mouth was moving a little. She leaned a little closer- and he stopped. Well. That hadn't worked.
"Kori?" Jane said, not that her remark would be heard. Kori was rather focused on Richard, at the moment. "I take back what I said. The dress isn't even pink." Out of the overly bright lights, it looked a proper shade of burgundy- and it matched his tie. She took the moment to straighten it, and decided that she just might take back a few choice comments uttered during the "up-do." Then again, she might not- she had sat through something called an up-do. She was entitled to a bit of coarseness.
"Wow." It wasn't the most coherent declaration of admiration, perhaps- but Richard had learned that blurting out the first thing that came to mind in these situations actually worked. "Kori- you- and that- I mean- you look incredible."
She smiled. "Sit down, Richard, you're going to trip over nothing at all." She helped him. Contact didn't do much to help him resume full brain function, but neither did leaning against him a little. Both were fun anyway- he would recover in time, maybe even in time to remember that he had the tickets and would have to give them to the person at the door. She straightened his tie, then held it against her shoulder for a second to compare the color. It was a perfect match- not that it was very hard to match black to black.
Rachel was starting to get a trifle self-conscious. He still hadn't said anything, and she knew that she still had a scar showing. The back was too low, and she still didn't think that so much leg should really be out in the air, and the neckline was lower than she would have chosen, and she just would look like a bleached out black-and-white movie poster, and-
No, that was a completely different look. The neckline was just fine, he had noticed her scars long ago, she could see just where he was looking, and there was nothing wrong with where the neckline fell. Besides, it was time to try something new- and all white was definitely a new look for her.
She smiled, and it wasn't completely shy. She took support with the handhold, just in case, and took a seat in the limo. Gar would probably stop shaking a little in a minute. She slipped her hand into his- which didn't completely help, but maybe he could wait a minute. He would recover. She felt only a trace of a blush, and it felt good.
"Rae?" he said, a few minutes later. His voice was only a little choked, and it wasn't the moving limousine making something sound a bit odd.
"I do get a minute to come up with something that even starts to describe how amazing you look, right?"
Her smile widened, just a touch. "As many minutes as you like."
"Good, because I might need all night."
"So- is there anything else to do?" Rachel asked.
"Well, what have we done?" Jane wasn't about to proclaim herself expert on all things prom. Until just over a month ago, she hadn't thought seriously about attending such a thing- let alone going with people who called her by her given name just as often as her taken name. "We did manage to all arrive with tickets," she said, avoiding the rather interesting fiasco when Victor had managed to misplace the tickets she had casually swiped from his inside pocket.
"And dinner passed without too many issues," Gar said. Nobody mentioned the meatball near-tragedy. Someone bright on the committee of eleventh graders organizing the prom had added spaghetti with meatballs to the meal. One oddly cooked meatball had bounced and come hazardously close to landing on Rachel's dress. He had caught it with the napkin he had been using to casually wipe up a spill from his over-filled water glass. He had been ridiculously proud of the odd feat- but had earned a kiss, so he couldn't have been completely exaggerating.
"We danced," Kori said. That was an understatement, to the others- she and Richard had (of course) done more than the time-honored method of swaying slightly while moving just enough to maintain the illusion of dancing. He had bribed the DJ enough to get a slow song that could actually fit some kind of ballroom dance that may or may not have been the tango. All Jane needed to know was that Kori and her cross-backed dress had lived up to all expectations- there was no shift in that dress's bodice, even during a very dramatic bend. Since Jane had created that (fictional) point to help Rachel coax Kori into trying it on, she was pleased to know that she hadn't been lying.
"Well, some of us slow-danced," Victor said. He hadn't stepped on Jane's foot, which had been his point of worry- but she had rolled her eyes at his concern. She had pointed out her metallic shoes. They were easy to see- and if he couldn't see them, then he would just have to trust that she would keep dancing even with a broken toe. At that, she had pressed close enough to make him keep his eyes on her instead of her toes. After that, she enjoyed dancing much more.
"We did manage to either ignore or antagonize irritating people in range," Richard said mildly. Gar's spectacular offense towards an encroaching cheerleader was a thing to discuss when there was a suitable trophy engraved to celebrate the occasion- the look on her face had been priceless. He and Kori were older news, in the school's gossip- but he still directed cursory glares at anyone staring too much at Kori.
"We're set, then?" Rachel asked. From their chosen table in the back corner, she didn't need to hurt her throat by yelling to be heard. "Because they stopped playing decent music three songs ago, and we'll have other times to dance."
"What do you have in mind?" Richard didn't know exactly what was normal, after prom. There was no way any of them were renting a hotel room, for obvious reasons. Bowling would be crowded. There were no good movies out. Most places in the city closed before midnight. It couldn't be a supermarket. There was no way he was going to a twenty-four hour supermarket.
"Perhaps Jinx could borrow a Halloween mask, if she wishes to conceal her identity," Kori said thoughtfully, when Rachel only shrugged. "The Titans can always make a final run, correct? Even if Tr- even if there is less crime," she continued, before she could touch on something that still hurt, "we can ensure that people remember that Forston is home to the Titans."
"I don't know," Rachel said hesitantly. "We haven't been Titans for awhile, and- well, I just don't know."
"For old times, Rachel," Victor said.
"Just to prove that no one should set up shop in this town," Richard added.
"To help the police." Gar didn't push her, but he would offer a reason.
"So we are not forgotten too soon." Kori did not want all they had done to be undone by something as simple as not appearing.
Rachel folded her arms over her chest, refusing to watch how the necklace Jinx had found spread light to her ring. Jinx wasn't going to contribute to the argument, but Rachel still had a position to keep. Someone had to play the devil's advocate, after all. "Aren't you forgetting something? One of the important reasons that this team was started?"
"Well- yeah. The common good."
"To do something right."
"To fix up this town- which we did."
"To be an example."
"No," she said, but the act of mock sternness lasted only for that word. The act split into a smile- her straight face was horribly out of shape, but she didn't care. "We lived out some kind of fantasy that most people would normally leave suppressed, ran around in outfits that contained some spandex, kicked some butt, and had a blast doing it." Her smile was a nearly wicked expression that no one would have pictured just a year ago. "And, one other thing," she said, looking from teammate to teammate. Jinx was a part of the team, sort of, and was watching her with the rest, waiting for some wise word. "Shotgun!"
They laughed, but no one could make more than a half-hearted protest. That had been a constant from the beginning, after all, and no matter what upheavals their world would go through- some things never changed. They always would be friends, they always would be the only people to understand the collected inside jokes, the first person to call shotgun always earned the passenger seat, and they would always Titans. The Titans would change, over time- but never that much.