Author's Note: I was going to wait a week to post this…and then it started snowing where I live (a very rare occurrence) and it knocked out the satellite in my room – but only in my room (well, the computer room I've relocated to until my sister and her friend leave). So I'm bored. I'm hoping to come up with a new plot for another story soon, as I've really enjoyed writing Changing Times more than I remember ever having with any previous fanfiction I've written. I do still hope to draw a comic of it at some point. But in the meantime, if anyone has just a snippet of a suggestion for a story that they would not mind my writing, or even a springboard (heck, suggest something like 'broccoli' if you want), I'd appreciate it. Hopefully I'll get my own idea. Changing Times came to me right in the middle of watching the Paradox episode. Originally, the future Kevin was going to kidnap Paradox's old lab partner and have the lab partner taking him through time, having learned from Paradox. But then I couldn't remember his name, and after I got around to looking it up, the idea didn't interest me anymore.
Kevin's arm automatically flew up to shield his eyes as he got ready to exit the portal. As such, the incredible light disoriented him a bit, but did not blind, as he arrived into the future. He glanced around, stuffing his hands into his pockets as he shuffled along.
Deep down, he figured he'd known he would fail. Paradox had said it was for the better, but he still couldn't help but feel miserable. For just a few brief hours, he'd had his old love back. The girl he had fallen in love with so quickly after meeting, taken so long to ask out. He let out a derisive laugh at himself. She had bugged him for so long to take initiative, even going so far as to take the reigns herself. But for years, it hadn't worked. He was just too stubborn, too confused, too worried.
There were always so many different reasons not to ask, so many reasons to ask her to wait. She had had her share of boyfriends while she waited on him, and he had even bothered with a few girls here and there, but none of those relationships were serious. Not for either of them.
When the day finally came, Kevin hadn't planned on it. The words just tumbled out of him, and he couldn't take them back after that. He didn't know what had done it. He'd just finally come to realize that how badly he wanted to be with her, how much he would care for her were enough to outweigh the risks. Maybe that hadn't been true until that day. He still didn't know.
Kevin glanced up, his thoughts having distracted him from where he was going. He had accidentally brought himself to Ben Tennyson's house. He stared at his friend's house. They hadn't talked to each other in years. Not since their return from the null void. Without Gwen, their friendship had fallen apart. Not that Ben had wanted it to. He desperately tried to keep Kevin from falling off the edge, but Kevin resisted until Ben was too tired to fight anymore.
"Memories can be such a strange thing," Kevin groaned, slamming his palm to his forehead. He knew that voice. Paradox was standing right in front of him somehow. "We remember what we think we need to remember. But sometimes if we don't let go of the past, we can forget our own futures. Or even…our present."
Kevin rolled his eyes. "I'm in no mood for riddles, Paradox. If you've got something else you want to tell me, then spill it."
"You mean you haven't noticed?" Paradox smiled, then shook his head. "Oh, of course you haven't. You're too moody and self-absorbed. You'd think you would have noticed when random jewelry appeared out of nowhere."
"…Random jewelry?" Kevin repeated. "Where?"
"Why, on your left ring finger," Paradox came closer, and lifted Kevin's left hand closer to his face. "Looks an awful lot like a wedding band, doesn't it?"
Kevin looked horrified. "No. That's not possible. I wouldn't have moved on from Gwen. I couldn't marry anybody other than her, especially not so soon! Why would I have done something like that?!"
"Again," Paradox said, rolling his eyes, "You are focused on a past so distant that it's no longer reality."
"English, Einstein, English!"
Paradox put a hand on his chin, rubbing it there, carefully selecting his words so that Kevin might understand them. "It's really very simple. If you would stop focusing on your old memories for a moment, you'd get it. I could have stopped you from time traveling. I knew it could have had dire consequences. So, why did I let you do it?"
"You're insane and you wanted to see what would happen?" Kevin suggested.
"Insanity is in the eye of the beholder, and one would probably say I'm much more sane than you," Paradox returned, "No, Kevin. Your future, the one you were so obsessed with, was one of the least likely paths for time to have traveled along. It was only a fifteen percent chance it would have come true."
"But I still had to go through it! I lost her, and I-"
"You're still not listening. Be quiet and let me finish explaining. When you went back in time, the dire consequence was that you set in motion the very events that lead to your losing Gwen," Paradox gave Kevin a sympathetic look. "I know that's a harsh reality, but I had to let you continue to believe it was all right, because the fact was that if you went back in time and were defeated, those events would repair themselves. You, Ben, and Gwen are very important to our world's time line."
"If what you're saying is true, then why isn't Gwen alive anymore?" Kevin demanded.
Paradox smirked. "I never said who it was that you married," Before Kevin could ask anything else, the scientist was gone.
"He said let go of the future I was so focused on…that it didn't come true," Kevin concentrated on those words, closing his eyes. His life seemed to play inside his eyelids, showing him what Paradox had meant. The memories came to him in intense flashes, so vivid they might have all just happened yesterday. He opened his eyes, and stared at Ben's place again. He was supposed to be inside now, but he was still a little fuzzy on the details. Why was he supposed to be over there, again?
"Yo, Kevin!" Seemingly responding to a cue, Ben came running out of his front door. "You coming inside or what?"
"Might be 'or what'," Kevin admitted. "Just doing some thinking."
"Well, that's not like you at all," Ben teased. "But Gwen made me come out and get you. Something about how if you don't come inside and help with the baby, she's going to divorce you."
Kevin laughed. He surprised himself by this. It felt like so long since he had laughed. But then, that had been a different future entirely. One he was safe from now. More importantly, Gwen was safe.
He followed Ben back into the house, running up to his wife and hugging her almost too tightly.
"While the affection is appreciated," She admitted, "It's not getting you out of diaper duty. Hop to it."
"Yeah, I know," Kevin's smile was practically glowing now.
"Is he freaking you out any?" Ben asked Gwen in a stage whisper. She smiled, and nodded, but didn't seem to be truly worried by her husband's sudden change in demeanor.
Kevin grabbed his newborn out of the play pen and held him close to his body. "Hey, Devlin," his memories of his son were in tact. He remembered how freaked out he had been at first about the baby, and then how happy he was when Gwen delivered. "Wow…somebody made a stinky…pee-yew, kid!"
"All right Kevin, what's up with you?" Gwen demanded. "You hate diaper duty. I've had you hand Devlin to Ben or me so many times I can't even count it. Why no complaints today?"
"Because I could have it so much worse than having to change diapers," Kevin finished cleaning Devlin, then put the fresh diaper on, double checking that he'd secured the sides. "I could not even have him…or not have you. I think I can put up with a few diapers if it means I didn't have to face that reality."
"Kevin, that's so sweet," Gwen said, giving him a kiss on the cheek and picking Devlin up.
"Kevin, have you been hitting the uh, southern comfort egg nog?" Ben asked.
Kevin rolled his eyes. "I still hate egg nog. Even more so after two certain people decided it would be funny to fill a Santa hat with it and put it on my head a few years ago."
Ben and Gwen exchanged looks. Then Ben said "But Kevin, we had a deal that you had to drink some egg nog before you could leave, and it got your quota nicely out of the way. Otherwise you would have had to spend the night."
"Devlin, trust your dad on this," Kevin grabbed Devlin's tiny fish in his own hand, gently holding it. "Never, ever trust your Uncle Ben. Especially not when it comes to taste in clothing or smoothies."
"Hey!" Ben protested. "Don't turn the kid against me already. I already fought one eleven year old Levin once, I don't need a repeat of the past."
"Sometimes, we kind of do," Kevin said softly, pulling Gwen into him. He grabbed Devlin back from her and set him back in the playpen. "I love you. And I'm sorry for any time I ever made it seem like I didn't."
"I never for a second thought otherwise," Gwen said, giving him a sweet kiss on the lips. "Now, are you joining us for Christmas carols or not?"
Kevin groaned. He still hated that Tennyson tradition that he was still being suckered into every year. "Can I at least not stand beside Ben this year? Last year was awful…"
"Hey, Echo Echo sings really well!" Ben defended himself. "I thought it would give me an edge."
"All it did was break the piano," Kevin responded. He was quiet for a moment, thinking. "Anyways, Ben, merry Christmas. You're a good friend."
"See, now I know you've been hitting something too hard. Only question is whether it was alcohol or if you were fighting someone before you headed over here," Ben said, staring at Kevin in disbelief. "Last time you admitted we were friends it was because I was your best man and you forgot your wedding vows."
"Correction – I never wrote the wedding vows," Kevin said, perhaps too proudly. "You wrote the whole thing for me. And, uh, I appreciated it. You've really been there for me. I'm sorry for any of the times I wasn't there for you, okay?"
"All right. Apology accepted, I guess," Ben said, shrugging.
"Okay," Kevin clapped his hands together, his business settled. "Back to the fun stuff. When do the in-laws come in?"
"ETA's fifteen minutes from now," Ben said, checking the watch on the mantle.
"All right," Gwen said, making a last minute adjustment to a pillow, "Ben cleaned up his house pretty well, Devlin's ready…and I put our plumber badges away for the night."
"Gwen, what if an emergency comes up?" Ben pointed out. "I mean, you never know…"
"Nah, Ben," Kevin shook his head. "I think Gwen's right. We'll just spend this holiday as normal people. Then, you know, we'll go back to kicking major alien butt tomorrow. Deal?"
Ben looked to be deeply contemplating his decision. Then he simply smiled. "Deal."
Author's note: This may have seemed an awkward point to end, and some parts of the story may even be kind of confusing. For one, why does Kevin remember what happened, but Gwen and Ben don't? Well, I figured that since Kevin went back in time, he'd remember his motivation, but since the act of going back and being defeated also made it so that the event that motivated him never happened, technically, he never went back (thus why time traveling is so confusing).
I tried to age Kevin realistically – the journey made him grow up a lot (especially considering he's now about, probably…around twenty-five or so). Losing Gwen made him lose some of his maturity level, but getting her back, and being so grateful about it, restored that to him. As for where we ended off, well, I wanted to make sure that they got their normal holiday, and still made it very clear that they were ready and willing to kick butt. No, I don't think both Gwen and Kevin will stop fighting aliens after they have a baby. Heck, Grandpa Max had two kids and didn't stop, and Kevin's a lot more reckless than Max was. And Gwen's not one to take a back seat, though if Devlin gained either (or worse, both) of his parents' powers, I bet they have a horrible time finding a baby sitter.
Oh, and you may have noticed that Julie was absent from this chapter, and there was no mention of Ben dating or having a girlfriend – while I really do like Julie (I think she's a great character, and I have a hard time understanding why I keep running into people calling her 'cardboard' or 'flat'), I read somewhere that Ben would have a couple of relationships. I was going to break that and put Julie in anyways, but somehow I couldn't find a way to write her in without the whole chapter turning to mush and everyone falling scarily out of character. I apologize to all other Ben/Julie fans out there. I suppose there was just too much to focus on in this chapter, and the less characters, the easier it was to focus on everyone.