The changeling stared out of one of the ship's windows into otherspace, mesmerized by the strange patterns that randomly appeared in the misty darkness outside. The ship's FTL drives hummed happily as the alien vessel plowed throw the logic defying void. His gaze intensified and he frowned at the seeming random shapes outside that replaced the stars visible when traveling at sub light speeds. He felt a hand on his shoulder and turned around. It was her.
"Do not waste your time trying to make the sense of the patterns you see, for there is none. Their appearance is quantum in origin, as a side effect of a natural body, our ship, being in otherspace."
"I know, I've seen them before, you know, when we travelled in the T-Ship. I guess it's like staring at a lava lamp. It's soothing, even though it's meaningless. How much longer until we get there? It's been two days now."
"Anniika set our speed to 1500 times light speed. We should be arriving within an hour."
He turned away from the window and looked into her smiling face.
"So, uh, what's the plan?" He asked with a hint of apprehension in his voice.
She drew him into a hug, which he reciprocated. He had never met anyone who was so tender, which in a way was a contradiction, as Starfire was also the fierce warrior who fell out of the sky on that fateful day when five teens who were strangers became the Teen Titans.
"It will be mid morning when we land at the palace. If you are ready you can meet our son then."
His face suddenly betrayed the anxiety he was feeling. She responded with a quizzical look.
"Star, I have butterflies in my stomach."
"Do you wish to postpone meeting our son?"
He shook his head. "No, I don't; I want to meet him right away. I'm just worried that I'll mess up our first meeting. I mean, how should I be?"
"You should be yourself. He already knows much about you."
"He does?" He asked in a clearly dismayed tone.
"Of course he does. I have told him all about you."
His ears drooped. "What did you tell him?"
"I told him that you are sweet and dear, but are also brave and strong."
"Does he know that I am a changeling? That I'm a freak?"
"He knows of your powers and is envious as he did not inherit them from you. He did inherit all of mine, however, which was to be expected as they are natural to me and not meta in origin like yours."
Beast Boy pulled a holoprojector out of his pocket and flicked it on. The four year old boy appeared in 3D, about 1 foot tall, floating in the air.
"Why don't you dye his hair? He would look normal. He must hate having green hair like me."
"He does not. For him, it is a connection with you, that and his fang are what he shares with you and he is proud of it."
"It's also a reminder to everyone else and himself that he isn't one of them. Do people insult him behind his back? Do they call him 'half breed'?"
She frowned. "They do not dare, because he is the crown prince. My sister has tried to discredit him as being a true heir to the crown because of his mixed heritage. Unfortunately, I had to exile her, again."
He chuckled. "She's like crabgrass, it's impossible to get rid of her."
The ship suddenly lurched. Gar looked out the window and saw Tamaran floating in the void, looking like a giant jawbreaker, white with thin colored stripes. Red Vega was shining brightly in the background.
"Everyone take your seats and buckle up. Atmospheric re-entry will commence in 3 minutes." Anniika's voice boomed over the intercom.
Starfire and Beast Boy took their seats and strapped themselves in. As promised the re-entry began and the ride became bumpy.
The changeling gulped. It wouldn't be long now.
-( - )-
The palace was as the changeling remembered it. The tall ceilings, strange furniture and grim faced guards were just as they were the time when Blackfire attempted to marry her sister of to the sklurch. The guards in the hallways, helmeted and carrying sharp, evil looking weapons, stood as still as statues, be he saw their green, glowing eyes following him as he walked with Starfire down a long hallway. Galfore accompanied them, and from the look on his face it was evident that he wasn't thrilled with the changeling's presence; but he mercifully remained silent.
After what felt like a never ending trek they reached the end of the hallway, where a huge double door, made of alien wood, was waiting. Four sentinels kept guard and one of them opened the door. Starfire entered first. The changeling was behind her, but was stopped by a guard who blocked his path with a beefy arm. Galfore entered next, after which the guard withdrew his arm allowing the green Earthling passage into the room. The changeling understood that there was a pecking order, and he was last on it.
The room was spacious and like all rooms in the palace it was full of strange artifacts and furniture. The only thing he recognized was a table. He suddenly felt the hairs rise on the back of his neck when he saw him. Gharfeeld'r was sitting at the table eating a meal. The boy was attended by a young Tamaranian woman, who while shapely she also looked scary beyond reason and not just because she had a sinister looking dagger tucked into her belt.
Beast Boy locked eyes with the boy, who suddenly seemed more interested in his mother. The Grand Ruler cleared her throat.
"Riga is Gharfeeld'r's knorfka."
The woman stared at the human icily. "It is my understanding that you are the Prince's father."
The changeling felt his mouth go dry. "Uh … yes, I am his father."
"Your son is curious about you … human."
The changeling was at a loss for words. An uncomfortable silence hung in the air, until the changeling coughed softly before speaking.
"I thank you for being his knorfka. I can tell that he is in good hands."
The woman narrowed her eyes. "You need not thank me. It is an honor to have been chosen. I would gladly give my life to protect him."
"Which is why I thank you. I know that Blackfire … I mean Princess Kommand'r, wishes to harm him."
The woman tensed visibly, balling one of her fists. "As long as I draw breath, the traitor will not harm the prince."
Starfire took the changeling's hand and led him to the table. With great deference Riga stepped away. Starfire picked up her son and turned to face the changeling. The boy stared at him and Beast Boy felt a lump form in his gut. He took a deep breath.
"Gharfeeld'r, your father has come to meet you."
The changeling did his best to smile. "Hi … I'm sorry it took so long for me to come see you."
The boy shot out of his mother's embrace and slammed into the changeling. Though he was a toddler he could fly and packed a wallop as he almost knocked his father over when he crashed into him. As the green Earthling recovered his balance the boy wrapped his arms around his neck and hugged his father. They pair remained in tight embrace for a moment, until Beast Boy began to rasp.
"Star … can't … breathe."
The Grand Ruler undid the super tight hug around the changeling's neck. "My son, remember what I told you about humans and hugging."
The boy smiled sheepishly, then addressed his father. "Mother says you can turn into animals."
Beast Boy grinned while he massaged his almost mangled neck. "You got that right, slugger. I can turn into any animal."
"Can you turn into a griznak?"
The changeling's face fell.
"A griznak? Uhh, after I see one I'll bet I can."
Starfire smiled and placed a hand on his shoulder.
"Garfield, perhaps you could show him an Earth animal. Preferably something big, something that boys like."
The changeling snapped his fingers.
"I know what you're thinking." He handed the boy to his mother and stepped back.
The changeling bowed his head and stretched his entire body. All adults present, except for Starfire, gasped as a huge T-Rex appeared before them. The changeling reared his massive head from which erupted a deafening roar that made the whole room shake. Riga drew her dagger and the guards aimed their pikes at the alien monster. Starfire raised her hand, gesturing everyone to stand down. The changeling reverted to his human form.
"Well, what do you think, champ? Did you like it?"
The boy squealed with delight. "Do it again!"
"No!" Everyone but Starfire shouted.
More guards came rushing into the room, brandishing their weapons. Galfore waved them off. He then cleared his throat. "I would ask the prince to only become smaller and quieter animals. At least while we are inside the palace.
The changeling did a double take. "Did you say prince? Since when am I a prince?"
"Since the Grand Ruler declared that you are a prince." Riga replied as she sheathed her dagger, putting it away. "Don't ask me why, you're an outsider." She muttered sub-audibly.
He turned to Starfire. "Why?"
The Grand Ruler of all of Tamaran smiled, she smiled just the way she did when they first congregated on the island, before the Tower was built. A smile that melted his heard back then.
"Because your son is a prince. It is only fitting that you too are a prince."
The changeling was dazzled by the news. "Whoa! You mean I'm an honest to goodness prince?"
She handed the boy back to him. "Yes, my beloved, you are."
A young woman who was wearing what looked like a bikini, ran into the room. The stopped before Starfire and bowed. "Your Majesty, the feast is ready."
"Feast?" The changeling gulped, remembering the menu the last time he attended a Tamaranian banquet.
"Do not worry; I have brought the tofu and vegetables from Earth. The palace chef has studied the Earth recipes and has prepared dishes which should be acceptable to you."
He regaled her with a toothy grin. "Have I ever told you how wonderful you are?"
She smiled back. "I believe that you did, the night under the stars."
The feast that night was one that was later remembered in story and song long after Starfire's reign and her life ended.
-( - )-
One year later …
Cyborg sat in the cockpit of the overhauled and upgraded T-Ship, which was now equipped with Tamaranian thrusters and FTL drives. Unlike in years past the ship no longer required booster rockets to rise into orbit and could fly into space unassisted. The tin man was going through the pre flight check list when Raven arrived in the hangar. He finished the checklist and stashed it away.
"We're good to go little lady. Strap yourself in, we're going to Tamaran."
The T-Ship didn't look all that different from the day of its maiden flight, which had been over ten years earlier, even though under its skin it was an entirely different vessel. Raven levitated and floated into her compartment. There were three other empty compartments, which normally were occupied by Red Robin, Wonder Girl and the new Speedy (Mia Dearden). The younger Titans would not be traveling to Tamaran. Raven buckled herself into her seat and placed the headphones over her ears.
"Can you hear me?" She tested the audio system.
"Loud and clear, little lady."
"Is he going to come?" She asked in an irritated voice.
"He said he would."
As if on cue a door opened into the hangar. A silhouetted figure stood in the door frame and was carrying a duffel bag. He stepped into the hangar and walked up to the T-Ship, tossing his bag into one of the empty compartments before climbing in.
"Sorry I'm late." Nightwing apologized as he shut the canopy on his compartment. "To be honest, I'm surprised I got invited on this little trip."
"Shut up. If it was up to me, you wouldn't be coming." Cyborg snapped at him. "I'm surprised that you accepted Star's invitation."
"I'm not the only one who got invited by an ex."
Raven glared at him, but said nothing.
"Listen, I don't need your attitude. This trip is going to take two days. If you can't behave then get off." Cyborg reprimanded him.
"What did I do?"
"Just keep your mouth shut, OK?"
"Fine." Grayson snorted. "As if I want to talk to you."
"And don't bug Raven."
"Hey, she's a big girl. If she wants to talk to me …"
"I don't want to talk to you." She interrupted.
"Hey! Don't take your crap out on me. It's not my fault that …"
"This is your last chance, Grayson. Shut up or get off. And if you give us crap during the trip, I'll make sure you spend the entire visit in the dungeon … I don't get it, why are you coming anyway?"
"Why? Isn't it obvious Cyborg?"
Grayson laughed before answering his own question. He leaned back into his seat, his arms folded behind his head.
"My wife is getting remarried."
-( - )-
Three days later …
Vega was setting on the horizon, glowing blood red as the twilight began to take hold. Raven was levitating, her legs crossed in the lotus position, with her eyes closed and repeating her mantra as she faced the red sun on a balcony off of her room. Her concentration was interrupted by a rapping sound on the balcony doors, which were open. She opened her eyes and rotated as she lowered her legs to the floor.
Standing at the door, dressed like a Tamaranian nobleman, was none other than Garfield Logan. He smiled at her.
"Hi. It's good to see you again. I wasn't sure you would come."
Raven glided over to him and kissed him chastely on the lips as she hugged him.
"And miss your wedding? And before I forget to say it, you look great. You're almost as lean as when we first met."
"That isn't all that hard to do here. You remember what Tamaranian food is like?"
Raven snickered. "How could I forget?"
The changeling wrapped an arm around his former sweetheart. An unhappy sigh escaped her lips.
"Gar … our time together …"
"It was the best." He interrupted.
"Until it wasn't."
"I don't regret the time we were together, Rave, and I'll always fondly remember it. Sometimes I go exploring the wild here, to get familiar with the fauna. Sometimes I'm gone for days. At night, I stare at the sky."
Vega had already set and the stars were twinkling. He pointed at a yellow star above.
"Do you see that star? That's Sol, our home star. Every night when I see Sol, I think of you, because I know you're there. And then I remember all the time we were together. I remember that we were engaged."
"Do you also remember the bad? Do you remember how I pretended to not be your girlfriend? How I would kick you out of my bed every time we had a fight? How I refused to go to the Ball with you and how I cheated on you that night?"
He took her hand and squeezed it. "No, I haven't forgotten that. But there were also good times."
"We were great lovers." She interjected.
"Oh you'd better believe it." He grinned. "You were the best."
"It's all I was good for." She remarked in a sad tone. "I was the worst girlfriend in the world."
"Hey, don't say that. You know that isn't true."
"Everything I said is true. I treated you like garbage and I was unfaithful."
A sad look appeared on his face. "You changed, but I let my wounded pride blind me and I couldn't see it. If anyone should be sorry it's me, I didn't give you a chance. Rave, if circumstances were different, I'd …"
She covered his lips with her fingertips. "Don't say it. Even though it's what I want more than anything, don't say it." She took his hands into her own. "You have a son, and tomorrow you're getting married to a wonderful woman, who I believe is pregnant with your second child."
He became slack jawed.
"What, how did you know? We haven't told anyone. Not even Galfore knows."
Raven tapped the side of her head with her finger. "I can sense things, or have you forgotten?"
He smiled sheepishly. "Duh. I guess I have been away for a long time."
She smiled. "You certainly have. You almost look Tamaranian." She chuckled. "You already dress like one."
"I still won't eat like one. I introduced little Gar to pizza. It's taken the planet by storm. Everyone eats it now, but don't look at the toppings they use, you might hurl if you do."
"I'll remember not to do that." She wrapped her arms around him. "Gar, I'm happy for you, I mean it."
He wrapped his arms around her and held her tight. "You'll find someone who's perfect for you."
"Lightning doesn't strike twice."
"Don't say that. You'll find someone, and where and when you least expect it."
He released her and held her hands. "I know you already said no, but Starfire's offer still stands. While it isn't common on Tamaran, plural marriages are allowed."
She shook her head. "We've been over this. I can't do that."
"If you ever change your mind …."
"I won't. So don't ask again. Please."
He nodded reluctantly. "OK … I have to go, there's stuff I have to do before the wedding tomorrow."
In a sudden move he pulled her into a fiery and sensuous kiss, which lasted almost a minute.
"I love you." He gasped.
"I love you too. And I always will." She replied.
Without saying another word he bolted out of the room. Raven walked back to the balcony's edge and stared in to the valley below. Tamaran's three moons were shining brightly in the sky. She stared into the void for a while, lost in herself, until she sensed his presence.
"Good evening, Richard."
"I keep forgetting, it's impossible to sneak up on you."
"What can I do for you?" She asked.
"I … uh … just wanted to talk."
"You've already apologized, more than once."
"I know, that's not why I'm here."
She turned around and locked eyes with him. "Why are you here?"
"Star invited me to the wedding."
"That's not why you're here, and you know it."
Nightwing leaned against the wall and crossed his arms.
"Fine, you busted me. I came because I want to talk with you. You never return my calls on Earth."
And angry sigh escaped her lips. "What do you want?"
"I want to start a new team. Bruce has forgiven me and will fund a new team."
"And you want me to join this team of yours? Are you serious, or have you become a drug addict?"
"I'm serious, Raven. Come on, everyone knows that Superboy and Impulse, who happens to be the new Kid Flash, are joining the Titans and that it's only a question of time before you and Vic move on and leave the Tower to the next generation. Star Labs has been very upfront in wanting to recruit Cyborg."
"I can stay at the Tower as long as I desire, and you know that … Richard, why do you want me to come with you? You could recruit other heroes."
"OK … busted. I'll get to the point. Raven, remember when we had our fling?"
"How could I forget that?" She replied morosely.
"I was willing to dump Star for you."
"Yes, I remember that. What are you saying? That you've been secretly pining for me all these years?"
He pulled away from the wall and approached her.
"I won't insult your intelligence with a lie like that. What I'm saying is that you and I are both considered damaged goods in the super hero community, at least as relationship material."
Raven frowned at him. "I don't believe this … you're saying that we should settle for each other?"
"We could do worse, and I'd hardly call it settling. We could have a good life together, Raven."
"You're forgetting something, Dick. I never loved you, at least not as a man."
"So you're saying that you're too good for me?"
"Yes, that's what I'm saying. And no, I'm not going to lower my standards."
Nightwing groaned. "You realize this might be the best offer you're gonna get. I've talked with people in the superhero community. You're still considered damaged goods, and we both know that heroes can't have relationships with civilians, it just doesn't work."
Raven pursed her lips. "I am painfully aware of that, but that's no reason to settle for you."
"Raven, come on, there was a spark when we had our fling, admit it."
She frowned at him. "There was no spark. You're good in the sack, I'll admit it. But that isn't the foundation for a relationship. And to be honest, Dick, with your track record, I'd have to have rocks in my head to accept your offer."
"I've learned my lesson. Even Bruce is convinced."
Raven turned away. "I'm sorry, Dick; I'm not interested."
He glared at her. "Is that what you want? To be alone? Because he's gone Raven, he belongs to Star now."
"If it is my fate to be alone, then I will accept it."
"I don't believe in fate." He retorted.
She turned back to him and made eye contact. "You should, and you can't change it."
"Why can't you change it?"
She paused, not answering him as she turned her gaze back to the valley below.
"Why?" He needled her.
After a prolonged pause she answered.
"Because it's carved in stone."
OK, I know that I made you BBRae shippers suffer with this story. I promise I won't do that again.