Not much to say. I was a little caught up in last-minute applications and whatnot, so this chapter took longer than I'd anticipated. Thank you to all those who have loyally read and reviewed this story; I can only hope that this little epilogue meets your expectations.
As I realize that some of the discussions may get a little confusing to some, anybody who has further questions is more than welcome to either leave them in a review or PM me. I tried to make things as clear as possible, but time-travel can get a bit tricky at times; just ask Marty McFly!
A few things to note:
1) Some of the elements discussed in the first scene—and, in fact, a main theme of the story itself—were inspired by the series Noein. I doubt watching the show would help understand things any better, but the it does make for a good watch.
2) I've considered doing more Teen Titans episode rewrites. They're incredibly therapeutic, after all, and there are certainly more ideas that I believe would look pretty well on screen. I'll be putting up a poll in my profile soon, but I welcome any suggestions as to which episode I should take on next.
3) Be on the lookout for How Far We've Come, a side-story to Second Chance telling the tale of Tim and Rose, how they met, and how they were almost separated for good. Featuring the other future Titans, of course, as well as a few other surprise cameos.
"I promise you, kid, that I'll give so much more than I get; I just haven't met you yet." -Haven't Met You Yet, Michael Buble
It was late, but Starfire could not sleep.
Just as she had every night since her time-travel adventure two weeks prior, she sat cross-legged on the edge of her bed in deep meditation. The shadows beneath her eyes had taken up permanent residency, lines on her face telling of both fatigue and anxiety. Her body longed for rest, to the point where nearly every inch ached, but her mind refused to still itself. Plaguing questions haunted her every thought, and she had no idea who to ask.
At first, she figured she could try contacting the Justice League and see if they could help. Hadn't Conner mentioned something about three of its most prominent members encountering something similar? But when she had asked Robin about it, he gave her an odd look and told her that no such team existed. Not yet, anyhow.
Fearful she had already said too much, Starfire retreated into a shell of isolation, subconsciously pulling herself further away from her teammates. She wracked her brain trying to figure out what to do next. What exactly were the rules of returning from the future? How much information was she allowed to share without the threat of causing irreparable damage to the time stream?
On some level, she knew her friends were worried about her. That they were sharing sidelong glances each time she entered a room. She knew of the 'secret' meeting Robin held two days after her return, when she was busy not-sleeping in her room, and knew she had been the sole topic. Her retelling of what had happened to her in those few precious seconds—from their standpoint, anyhow, whereas it had been days for her—had been so purposely vague, they had to have known she was keeping things from them.
During the initial debriefing, she told them how she had located and found Warp in a time approximately four years into the future, aided by a new generation of Titans. A strong, close team that she had been proud to work alongside, even if it had only been for a short while. When the battle ended, they had called in a trusted friend and ally with a superhuman comprehension of technology who had been able to get Warp's time-travel device working just long enough to send her back. The amulet would have been destroyed immediately following. Aside from that, she gave no further details, made no indications of having met any of their future selves, and named no names.
For all her fears, she could not bring herself to break her promise to Tim; the following day, she gathered her friends together and begged them to locate what would be a now ten-year-old Rose. She knew almost nothing about her aside from physical characteristics and name, but insisted that it was imperative they reached her in time to prevent a most horrifying Fate at the hands of her own father.
The Teen Titans had agreed instantly and, after recovering from the shock of learning that Slade had a daughter, began setting up a network of contacts and resources in hopes of tracking her down. Even though the wounds of what the man had done to them were still fresh, they saw it as a chance to save another person from his ruthless clutches.
If she's out there, Robin promised, the Titans would find her.
But as the days turned into weeks, it was growing more and more likely that she wasn't out there. Cyborg's search engines and web systems offered little other than proof of Rose's birth, which they already knew about. None of Robin's Gotham contacts fared much better, nor Beast Boy's former associates, nor Raven's...whatever it was she did to locate the presence of others. It was as if the girl had vanished entirely. Starfire could only hope that it wasn't already too late.
Then there was the part of her that wondered if it would be better that they never found her at all. She had promised Tim, yes...but should she have? Was it right for her to mess with the time-stream just to save a single child? Or—and this is what she feared even more—would she be causing more harm to Rose than good? She didn't even want to think about what could possibly worse than what the girl had already gone through—would go through.
A sudden knock at the door offered a welcome distraction from her turbulent brainstorming. Sitting up a little straighter, she cranked her head back enough to catch a glimpse of the time on her digital clock. The bold, red letters stood out brightly in the otherwise dark room, telling her that it was just after one in the morning.
"You may enter," she called out.
The door slid open with a mechanical hiss, and though the hallway was equally cast in shadows, Starfire's eyes were adjusted well enough to make out the familiar hooded figure that entered.
"Greetings, Raven." She forced a smile for her fellow female teammate. "Is there something I may assist you with at this late hour?"
Raven reached up to push back the hood of her cloak, allowing the door to shut behind her. "Actually, I was about to ask the same of you."
"What do you mean?" Though she already knew what the girl was talking about, Starfire tried acting oblivious.
Raven wasn't buying it. "I think you already know." She crossed the room with a great deal of ease for the lack of illumination, coming to take a seat on the bed. "By now, even Beast Boy is starting to notice that you're not yourself. You haven't been since the fight with Warp. It's been two weeks, Starfire. Everyone's worried about you."
The smile vanished instantly. Sighing, Starfire realized it was pointless to maintain a cheerful facade any longer. What the sorceress had not already garnered from pure observation, her telepathy would more than compensate for.
Her eyes lowered guiltily. "It is not that I do not wish to talk, but...that I do not know what I am at liberty to say."
"Afraid of telling us too much about the future?" Raven guessed.
"I can see how you may be concerned about interfering with the time stream," Raven agreed, folding her arms across her chest. "But, technically, haven't you already done so by asking us to track down that one girl?"
Starfire winced, unable to argue. "I am beginning to wonder if I was in the right by doing so."
Raven shrugged. "Your intentions were noble," she assured, her voice unusually gentle. "If what happened to Rose in the future you met her was truly met to be, then there is little we can do to stand in the way of Fate. But," she continued, "if Fate purposely gave you a chance to intervene...to save a life that may not otherwise have been saved...then, in my opinion, I think you should take advantage of the opportunity."
"But—" I would be responsible for preventing her from meeting the most important person in that life, was what she wanted to say, but couldn't. Tim and Rose's relationship was another detail she had refrained from sharing with them.
She could still see them in her mind, the image permanently engraved into her memory. The way Tim would lovingly stroke Rose's hair every chance he could, just so he could brush his fingers down her cheek. The sorrowful, yet determined look he had given her when he pleaded for her help. The fear in Rose's eyes when she learned of what he had done, and how they had clung to one another so desperately.
Raven saw the inner turmoil raging in her friend's eyes and sighed, leaning back. "Have you ever heard of the Theory of Universal Wave-function?"
Looking up at the sound of Raven's voice, Starfire thought for a moment before shaking her head.
"It's an interpretation of quantum mechanics first formulated by a man named Hugh Everett...at least, by Earth's historic accounts." She did not bother to simplify her vocabulary, knowing fully well how knowledgeable Starfire was in the sciences; sure enough, the deceptively bright Tamaranean followed her every word without batting an eyelash. "The short version is that his Theory believes our universe timeline to be, rather than linear, composed of an infinite number of branches based on an infinite number of probabilities in either direction."
"And what does that mean, exactly?"
"Well, take for example the future you saw. According to the events of that timeline, you no longer existed because you had disappeared during our fight with Warp. Am I correct?"
"Well, you've already proven that universe to be 'false' because you're sitting before me right now, alive and well." Raven made a slight gesture with her hand to emphasize Starfire's presence. "But if we were to believe the Theory, then that universe—the one you vanished in—still exists, only on a different plane. Our universe, meanwhile, will follow a parallel timeline in which you never disappeared for more than a few seconds. Likewise, there are countless more possible futures that will occur, whether in this universe or another, depending upon each and every choice we make here in the present."
Starfire's eyes widened. "So what you are saying is that the future I saw...is already no longer possible?"
"The moment you came back," Raven nodded, "Was the moment you steered our future down a separate path."
Starfire looked away, nearly breathless as the sudden revelation hit her with full force. She had not even considered the fact that her return would have affected the timeline in such a manner; if anything, Rose had had her believing the opposite would have been true!
"But," she murmured, though more to herself. "I had been informed that my presence in the future created a disturbance in the time-stream because it created a possible alternate future that should not have existed."
Curious as to what Starfire was murmuring about, Raven raised an eyebrow. "Who told you that? And, more interestingly, what would make them think such a thing?"
It was then Starfire realized her error, hands flying to her mouth to muffle an audible gasp. Rose's powers were yet another thing she had omitted from her already hold-filled testimony. She spared a sideways glance at Raven, hoping the girl had not noticed her reaction. But Raven was staring right back with a stern, unwavering look that told her she would not let this one slide.
Starfire's shoulders slumped in defeat, hands falling to her lap. The weight of keeping everything inside was beginning to take it's toll on her, physically and mentally.
"The girl I told you about. Rose." She finally explained, voice low and weary from stress. "She possessed a Second Sight that allowed her to witnesses events having yet to occur. Not long after my arrival, her Visions began to merge multiple images together, as if she were seeing more than one future occurring simultaneously."
Both Raven's eyebrows shot up. "She was seeing multiple futures?"
"Two, that I was aware of. One in which I remained in their world, and one in which I did not."
"That's...incredible!" Raven breathed, at a near lost for words. "Given her young age, I wonder if such a sudden growth in power could result from the drugs you said were introduced into her system?"
"Growth?" Starfire repeated, surprised. "You mean...her Visions were not a warning?"
"Not in the way she interpreted them, I don't believe so." A finger rose to the sorceress' lips in deep thought, looking genuinely astonished at the unexpected revelation. "If anything, they offer further proof of the existence of multiple universe timelines."
"Then—" Starfire sat up a little straighter as her chest swelled with hope. "Then it may still be possible for certain events to occur in the future, regardless of the change in circumstances?"
"Anything's possible when Free Will is taken into account," was Raven's initial answer. But her voice seemed to soften as she added, "I'd be lying, though, if I didn't admit to believing that there are some things in this world that are simply meant to be."
Starfire's lips pressed together in a thin line when she detected the traces of sadness in her friend's tone. She knew what Raven must have been thinking of at that moment: the consequences of her heritage, and the inevitability that the Seed within her would one day threaten to consume her.
In the time since their encounter with the Puppet King, the two girls had formed an unspoken bond of trust between them. Yet there was still so much that had yet to be shared, if only because the time for sharing had yet to present itself.
This would be another one of those things that would remain unspoken...for now.
But then Starfire thought back to the supposed Fate of her other teammates. The traveling Beast Boy, who had changed both physically and in name, searching for something he couldn't explain. Longing for someone he knew he wouldn't find. A Fate he had willingly accepted, if in self-sacrifice. Of Cyborg, whom had seemed content with leaving the crime-fighting business to work under his father. And then there was Nightwing...
"Take this back with you...as a reminder that the future can change."
As surely as the Clock of Eternity was now sitting on its pedestal in the museum, Starfire's mind was made up.
"I...wish to tell you what happened. Will happen. Might." This time, she met Raven's gaze with an air of confidence. "All of you."
"Are you sure?"
She nodded, smiling faintly. "It is as you said before. I would be a fool not to accept the chance to save a life that may otherwise not have been saved."
The girls' eyes met, and in a fleeting moment of understanding, Raven smirked. "Why do I have the feeling you're not just talking about Rose?" She shook her head, continuing before Starfire even had a chance to answer. "Never mind. I suppose I'll hear about it soon enough. Shall we wake the boys now, or wait until the morning?"
Starfire gaze returned to her clock. It was half past one. "I do wish to be given the chance to explain myself as soon as possible."
"I have no doubt that they'll be eager to hear it."
"As will you, Friend Raven." The corners of Starfire's lips twitched mischievously as she rose to make her way through towards the exit.
"Oh?" Raven asked, also standing.
"Oh, yes." Just as she was about to open the door, Starfire called back over her shoulder. She had to refrain from giggling. "I believe you, in particular, may find a certain tale regarding Beast Boy most...interesting."
Raven raised an eyebrow.
Four Years Later...
Kori Anders let out an uncharacteristically loud yawn as she exited the plane terminal, stretching her arms over her head until she heard the muscles pop. The flight had been fairly uneventful, if a bit on the boring side, but the several hours of immobility had taken their toll. Her emerald eyes were clouded with sleep as she lazily scanned through the hoards of people for several moments, searching for a familiar face.
A second wind came over her when she, at last, located him among the thick crowds. Smiling brightly, she waved him over, having to stiffen a yawn as he approached.
Dick smirked at her sleepy expression. "Long flight?"
"It was not a terrible experience," she waved her hand dismissively. "Though I fear I can not say the same about the food."
"That sounds about right." He chuckled lightly, guiding her towards the baggage claim area. The first wave of luggage was already coming through the shoot. "Next time, remember what Gar told you about ordering vegetarian meals in advance. They taste better and you even get served first."
"But I am not a vegetarian," she reminded him with a smile.
"They don't know that."
"Oh, you!" Holding back a bout of laughter, she covered it up by giving him a gentle swat on the arm. Of course, given her strength, the wince he gave was more than likely genuine.
Rubbing his arm over-dramatically, Dick was able to distract her long enough with his antics to keep her from noticing when both her large roller suitcase and equally large tote bag passed by on the conveyer belt. He grabbed them both on the first try, smirking victoriously when she shot him a glare.
"How many times must I tell you, you do not have to carry my things for me?" Her hands went to her hips in disapproval. "I could bench press several times the weight of those bags without breaking a sweat!"
"You know that. I know that." He called back over his shoulder, already heading for the airport exit. "Even Alfred knows that, and yet he'd still skin me alive if he ever found out I didn't—oh, how does he put it—'perform my gentlemanly duty'."
Kori rolled her eyes and tried to frown, but was thankful that Dick's back was to her so he could not see the failed attempt. It was just too difficult to stay mad knowing that Alfred was the one responsible. She liked Alfred; he was kind, wise, and one of the most generous human beings she had ever encountered. Even if his old-fashioned ways tended to borderline patronizing at times.
"How was Brazil?" Dick asked once she caught up with him.
She knew he was purposely trying to chance the subject, yet she smiled anyway. "It was lovely. I met up with Garfield in between photo shoots. We had lunch together."
"No kidding. He still determined to set foot on every continent before he turns nineteen?"
A slight giggle escaped her lips. "That he is. He and Raven send their regards, by the way."
The two shared a grin at the thought of the unexpected couple. It had been less than two years since Raven and Beast Boy left Jump City together, surprising nearly all who knew them. They never outright stated the reason why, though there were more than a few theories floating around the superhero gossip circle. Some of the more imaginative women had passed the word "elope" around the circle, while their male counterparts tended to prefer the word "kidnapping."
Starfire, of course, had a good idea as to the real reason behind their abrupt departure, but figured it was something for them to admit when they were ready.
Exiting through the main doors, Dick darted his head at the several vehicles passing through the pickup lane. A black limousine pulled in several moments later. Shortly after the engine cut, an elderly, grey-haired man stepped out of the driver's seat. He approached them with his head held proudly high, shoulders back, and a warm smile on his face.
"Miss Anders, always a pleasure." Alfred walked right up to her, taking a hand in his and placed a fatherly kiss on her knuckles. Kori smiled at the man's greeting, resisting the urge to envelop him in a tight hug. Alfred them turned to Dick, raising an approving eyebrow when he caught sight of the bags. "And young Master Dick! I am pleased to see you have been listening to my lectures on the aiding of a lovely young lady whenever possible."
"You see?" Dick turned to Kori with a sheepish grin. "Take it up with him." He made a show of 'struggling' to bring the roll-on and tote bag to the trunk, though his muscles showed no real signs of protest, but refrained from any less-than-wise cracks at their size. More than likely, the majority of items had been strictly business-related.
Alfred opened the door to the backseat, motioning an invite for Kori to step inside. She smiled her gratitude as she entered the limo. Once he secured the trunk, Dick joined her.
"On the subject of friends, by the way," he stated once the door had been shut. "I got a call from Tim earlier this morning."
"Is something the matter?" She asked, turning to him in concern.
He shook his head. "Not at all. In fact, he wanted to know if we had time later this evening to go meet the newest Titan."
"The...newest..." Kori's voice trailed off, gasping as realization dawned on her. "You mean—?"
"I think so."
Kori's hands flew to her mouth, and she had to turn away so that Dick would not see the tears threatening to floor her vision. She closed her eyes, inhaling deeply in an attempt to calm herself.
While she had eventually shared everything about her time-travel experience with her (now former) teammates, they had all mutually agreed to never tell the younger generation. Hopefully, it would allow them all to live their lives and grow as Fate intended. So the senior members watched and waited as the years passed, and sure enough, each new Titan came into their lives in manners similar to the stories Starfire remembered...with one noticeable exception.
Kori didn't realize she was trembling until Dick placed a gentle hand on her shoulder.
"But...how?" she asked, somehow keeping her voice steady. "We wore out every resource try trying to find her, with nothing to show for it."
"You can ask her yourself, if you like." Dick told her. "If you're up for visiting, that is."
Not trusting her voice just then, she merely closed her eyes and nodded. Dick responded in kind by taking her hand in his, placing a loving kiss along her temple, and pulled her head to rest on his shoulder.
Starfire and Nightwing, each dressed in their respective crime-fighting costumes, stepped into the main common are of Titans Tower. A wave of nostalgia swept over them as they glanced around the room, taking in the sight of Miguel and Manuel, the tiny twins known as Más y Menos, quarreling over video games. To one side, the trio of Donna (Wonder Girl), Conner (Superboy), and Tim (Robin) looked to be having a discussion.
Or, rather, Donna was having a discussion while the boys were listening.
"Señorita Kori!" Manuel was the first to notice their sudden appearance in the room, dropping his Gamestation controller mid-race. He zipped to Starfire's side, a lovely long-stemmed rose in one hand and hearts in his eyes. "It is a delight to see you again. You look lovely as ever."
"Yes, yes!" Miguel joined his twin, also holding out a rose. "How have you been?"
Starfire giggled, graciously accepting both flowers from the flirtatious pair. She paused to take in the subtle, sweet aroma while pretending that Dick hadn't grown tense with jealousy beside her. Quietly slipping her hand in his, she gave his fingers a light squeeze; to her relief, Dick relaxed at the touch.
"Thank you, boys." She told them.
"Star!" Donna cried out from her seat atop the back of the main couch. She waved the both of them over. "Thank goodness you're here. You too, Dick. Maybe you could talk some sense into Tim."
"Why? What'd he do this time?" Nightwing somehow managed to keep a straight face as he asked. It seemed like everytime he visited, Donna had something or other to complain about one of the boys. Tim and Conner were her two favorite targets.
The resident 'Princess' rolled her eyes. "It's barely been three days, and I'm about to go into a diabetic coma if Romeo over here doesn't tone it down a notch." She gave a sharp head jerk in Tim's direction. "Will you please enlighten him on the proper way to control his overly-excited hormones?"
"Donna!" Tim exclaimed, voice squeaking in embarrassment. His face was turning an interesting shade of red.
"It's true. Right, Kon?"
"I am so not a part of this argument." Conner held his arms up in defense, backing away.
Starfire managed to just barely contain her laughter. "I take it this has something to do with the new team member?"
"You got it." Donna rolled her eyes again. "At first, I was thrilled we were finally getting another girl on the team—boys only have so much use, you know—but now, I'm seriously starting to reconsider."
Nightwing shook his head with a smile, knowing she was joking. Mostly. "Where is she now?"
As if on cue, the back room doors slid open. Virgil, dressed in his full Static gear, entered having what looked to be an amusing conversation with a girl slightly younger than he. She wore a long, black cape that shielded most of her body from view, but the delicate features of her face, framed in soft waves of shockingly white hair that fell past her shoulders, were more than enough to warrant a second glance. When she turned to greet the room's inhabitants, her eyes sparkled a brilliant shade of green.
Both of them.
"Hey, Rose!" Donna was the first to speak, as usual. "Come over here and meet Nightwing and Starfire. They're two of the original Teen Titans."
Rose appeared to glide across the room, pausing just long enough to send Tim a shy smile. The boy's face took on a new hue, and Donna snickers could not be contained.
Starfire's breath caught in her throat as she watched the scene, hardly believing what she was seeing.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Nightwing," Rose greeted the older boy as she approached, the softness of her voice making her sound younger than her fourteen years while her eyes had the opposite effect. She then turned to Starfire. "Hello, Kori. It's good to see you again."
"Again?" Nightwing echoed, mirroring everyone's surprise, if for a different reason.
Starfire was visibly taken aback, jaw dropping at the strangely familiar tone Rose carried in her voice. As if they really had met at a time and place in their respective pasts. But...that was impossible!
Then Starfire took another look. Her eyes met with Rose's, and in that moment, she saw something completely unexpected. Knowledge. Recollection. A growing suspicion stirred deep within. Wanting to confirm it, Starfire darted her gaze over to the still-flustered Tim, then back to Rose in silent question
Understanding at once, Rose gave a shy smile and light nod of the head.
"No matter how much a person may change..." she began.
"...for better or worse..." Starfire added.
"...the things that make us love them will always remain the same." Rose finished.
Inhaling sharply, Starfire was no longer to contain her excitement. She smiled brightly, enveloping the younger girl in a tight, warm hug. Rose returned the gesture with equal enthusiasm, hardly wincing at the Tameranean's superhuman strength. When they parted, she took Starfire's hands in hers.
"I do not understand," Starfire stated, still in partial shock. "How?"
"Four years ago, I had a massive Vision," Rose explained. "Stronger than any I've ever had before or since. I Saw everything." A sudden flush rose to her cheeks as she recalled some of the more intimate details. "I...knew you would try to look for me, and why. So I left, choosing to lay low until the time was right."
"And...er..." Starfire not-so-subtly pried, jerking her head towards a particular member of their (still speechless) audience.
Rose shook her head. "No, he doesn't know. I haven't told any of them." Her head lowered as she gave a slight giggle to cover her embarrassment. "We'll see, I...suppose."
"Okay, I'm officially confused now." Conner spoke up, scratching the back of his head. His sight darted between the two girls, trying to follow their conversation. "What are you two talking about? Have you two met before, Starfire?"
Starfire shared a knowing glance with Rose before turning, wearing a thinly-veiled smile of innocence.
"Yes." Starfire answered simply. "We've met."