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author: magi ([livejournal.com profile] helike)


Do not interfere.

The rule is carved into Gwen's brain long before her vague feelings of anxiety and uneasiness transform into something more complex in their nature. Whenever she stops in her tracks, overwhelmed by the incomprehensible feelings filling her mind, her mother will pull her hand, give her a hard stare, and then drawl through her teeth, "Do. Not. Interfere."

The truth is that Gwen doesn't understand. She doesn't know what her mother doesn't want her to do and what kind of interference she is supposed to avoid, but she does as she's said.

She ignores how her stomach churns when she sees a man talking to a little girl on a playground. She ignores the uneasy feeling she gets when she sees a young boy whose dark eyes are filled with something she can't name, but which sends shivers down her spine. She also chooses to ignore a petite woman playing with torches every now and then, who looks like an angel until you see her smile at you and you notice something in her gaze that says you’re nothing but prey.

Every time such a thing happens, once she's back home, Gwen runs to her father.

He crouches, opens his arms and closes her in a tight embrace.

"Did anything happen, princes?" His voice is soft and warm.

Gwen doesn't need to look up at his face - not anymore - to know that he gives her mother a questioning look while stroking Gwen's hair and pressing his lips to her forehead. Neither does she need to look to at her mother to know that she shakes her head in the answer to her father's silent question.

She buries herself deeper in her father's embrace and mumbles quiet, "It's all right," although they all know it's not and never will be. However, unlike her parents, she doesn't really know what to expect.

Gwen is too young to watch the news, so it escapes her attention that the body of the little girl is found in the drain just behind the playground. The murderer remains unknown, but everyone who's heard what state the body was found in agrees they should get the death sentence.

She does hear something about the boy and his death. It's spoken only in whispers and when adults think their children are not around. All she hears is bits and pieces, nothing that would allow a child to actually understand, but it's all enough for her to figure out that whatever happened to him, it was bad. So bad that even an adult would suffer from nightmares.

Then, there is the time when a house burns down just two streets away from their home. No one is sure how exactly the fire started, but everyone mentions in hushed voices the woman they saw dancing among flames. People keep talking about it when Gwen goes shopping with her mother. Her mother pulls her hand and quickens her step, making it hard for Gwen to keep up. She's so focused on walking and making sure that she won't trip and fall down that very little from what she hears sticks in her mind.

***

It takes years before Gwen's ability evolves. It's still far away from the visions her mother gets every now and then, but much stronger than the hard to define feelings she used to have.

She discovers it when a new female student joins her second grade class.

The girl is from a city much bigger than the town they live in, but she doesn't differ from them. She likes going out with friends, but dislikes crowds. She watches a few shows that every one of them knows, but likes reading books as well. And - what matters the most - the very first time Gwen sees her, she knows - just knows - that the girl will be her lifelong best friend.

"My name is Ellen," the new student says as she takes the only empty place in the classroom, coincidentally next to Gwen's desk.

"Gwen," she replies.

Ellen smiles at her, two dimples showing in her cheeks. "Friends?"

Shyly, Gwen smiles back at her. "Friends."

***

Not even one week later Gwen brings Ellen home and introduces her to her mother. Only after Ellen mentions travelling with her parents and complains about little inconveniences that happen every now and then, does Gwen's mother take a look at the girl and for a split second some unidentifiable emotion shows on her face. "You poor thing," she says and invites Ellen to have some tea with them.

Gwen watches her mother, a sinking feeling slowly building in the pit of her stomach. The nagging thought she has managed to push into the back of her mind, comes back, finally free of any restrains. It feels as if a clock was ticking somewhere near her.

Just how long exactly is "lifelong"?

She shudders at the thought. The imaginary clock doesn't stop ticking even for a while.

***

Time passes, but nothing happens. The longer it lasts, the more hopeful Gwen becomes and closer to Ellen she gets. They hang out together, go shopping together, talk about boys and future plans - the usual stuff you would expect from good friends. But they're more than that.

When one of them starts to say something, the other ends the sentence. When one of them thinks about something, there is no need for her to tell it to the other one as she already knows. It all is enough for their contemporaries to call them "twins" and they both laugh at it. If anything, they feel more like soulmates. Or kindred spirits. There is nothing that Gwen doesn't know about Ellen, and just one thing that Ellen doesn't know about Gwen. However, Gwen does plan on telling her about her... gift, sooner rather than later.

Only sometimes, on nights too dark and too long, no matter how hard she tries, she can't fall asleep, and tosses and turns in her bed instead. It's then that the ticking of the invisible clock is back - quiet, so quiet it's almost impossible to hear and yet it's there. It's during these hours that once again the feeling of anxiety is back.

Maybe she’s overreacting. Maybe she misinterpreted her mother's reaction. It must have been her imagination, Gwen tries to convince herself.

In a way she succeeds. Once the sun has risen, the thoughts are pushed to the back of her mind and stay there until the next sleepless night a couple months later.

Then, one day Ellen announces she's going on a trip with her parents.

The very moment the words leave her lips, the ticking of the clock is getting louder.

"When?" Gwen bites her lips.

"In two weeks. I should be back before July ends." Ellen replies and pats Gwen's hand, smiling. "It will be fine. I'm not leaving forever. It's just a bus trip."

Gwen shakes her head. Her mother's words resound in her head.

Do not interfere. Do not interfere. Do not interfere.

DO. NOT. INTERFERE.

"Yeah, I know," Gwen finally says, smiling weakly. "We're throwing a party after you've come back."

Ellen laughs cheerfully. "We sure are."

Gwen's heart sinks.

Soon after Ellen leaves, Gwen dreams about fire, the screech of ripped metal and the worst of all - terrible screams which end abruptly as if cut by a knife. She wakes up, gasping for air and clutching the blankets covering her.

Gwen stays awake for the rest of the night.

Early in the evening the bus that Ellen is riding crashes into a tanker. Gwen doesn't need to listen to the news to know that no one survived.

"I could have changed it," she tells her mother, her voice flat. "I could have stopped that. No one would have died."

"No, you couldn't." There is no warmth in her mother's voice. She watches Gwen, her face devoid of any emotion. "Future can't be changed." Then she adds in a deadly, cold voice, "And don't you dare to think about interfering with these matters again."

Stopping in the door, her mother turns to look at her. For a split second her expression softens and her usually cold eyes fill with warmth. "I know it's hard, Gwen, but such things are bound to happen," she says in a soft voice. "It might seem to be the end of the world, but it's not. You have to live and get over it."

With these words she leaves.

***

For next few weeks Gwen doesn't live - she barely exists. She still goes outside, even though she limits her "outings" to school only. She forces herself not to look at the desk next to her, at which no one sits, and finally the teacher takes pity on her and makes her change the seat.

However, it's not days that cause her the most pain; nights are much worse. Whenever she closes her eyes, the dream she had that night is back. Changed. Now she can see Ellen standing in the flames, her skin and cloths dirtied by soot and blood. She watches Gwen with empty eyes.

"You could have saved me," Ellen says in a soft voice. She looks as if she is about to cry. "I thought you were my friend."

Then the flames start to engulf Ellen and she starts to scream.

Gwen wakes up. "I'm sorry," she whispers. Tears slowly flow down her cheeks. "I'm so sorry."

Day after day Gwen appears at breakfast with her eyes red and puffy and her face slightly swollen. The shadows under her eyes grow darker instead of disappear.

Her father smiles at her reassuringly and mouths some sweet nothings to her, at which Gwen can't help but smile back. She's more grateful that he's never tried to comfort her, saying, "Everything will be okay." These are empty words to both of them.

Her mother sends her a glance filled with concern, even though her expression hardly changes. "Silly child," she says as she puts a mug of herbal tea in front of her.

The tea works miracles for Gwen's growing headaches.

***

Half a year later Gwen finally breaks.

To turn Ellen's death into something meaningful, she decides to break the rule. She makes the decision - next time she sees anything, she'll interfere.

She gets the first chance on a sunny yet cold day, when for a second she has a vision of her neighbour, a lovely older lady living next door. Gwen doesn't know what exactly happens. All she can say is that the woman is supposed to end up in the hospital with a broken bone. Soon. Very soon. And everything will go terribly bad after that.

She is there when the lady slips, close enough to catch the woman's arm and support her so she wouldn't fall.

Unfortunately, she slips on the ice herself and falls down together with the woman.

The lady next to her moves with a groan. "Are you all right, sweetie?" she asks Gwen.

Gwen stares at her. "I guess?" she replies as she tries to stand up. Then she helps the lady to get to her feet.

Her neighbour almost falls down again when one of her legs gives in.

Gwen freezes, her heart sinks. The voice of her mother resounds in her head.

Future can't be changed.

Her mother watches her suspiciously when 10 minutes later Gwen enters the kitchen, limping.

"There was some ice on the pavement. I was caught in our neighbour's fall when she slipped on it," Gwen explains. She fears to think what her punishment would be if her mother suspected something.

"Unfortunate," her mother winces. "Was it serious?"

"A sprained ankle... I think," Gwen replies, realising she doesn't know the details, although she does know it's not a broken bone. The woman didn't even have to be taken to the hospital.

The huge bruise on Gwen's leg seems to be a low price to pay for the future changed.

Her next tries are hit or miss. Sometimes they work out perfectly and sometimes they don't. Gwen has no intention to stop, though.

The more time passes, the better she gets at preventing mishaps or tragedies instead of turning them into something less than they originally would have been. And everything under the watchful eyes of her mother, who every now and then looks at her in the way that makes Gwen think that her she must know something. However, in the end it appears that Gwen's little meddling with Fate remains unnoticed.

***

Come summer, the one when she turns 16, Gwen starts suspecting she's got herself a stalker.

First, it's the feeling of being watched, which Gwen initially ignores. Then it's the realisation that she indeed has been watched. It takes her more time to realize that the one stalking her is a boy, younger than her by 3 or 4 years. She doesn't recognize his face, and she's sure he doesn't live here. Gwen can only hope the boy doesn't realise what she does.

Well, he does realise apparently.

"Are you a hero or a villain?" the boy asks her one day, his eyes watching her curiously and maybe a bit speculatively.

Gwen flinches.

"I have no idea what you are talking about," she replies as she turns around and walks away, hoping the boy will leave her alone.

The boy follows her.

She knows he would. Just one look at the boy is enough for her to tell he's not the type to give up easily.

"I think you do," the boy says, a ghost of a smile on his mouth.

Gwen stops. Her eyes narrow slightly. "What do you know?"

The boy's eyes pierce through her. "Mishaps happen when you're around. So which one are you?"

Gwen blinks, taken aback at first. She watches the boy, a lopsided smirk slowly appearing on her face.

"And which do you think I am?" She raises her eyebrow.

The boy regards her thoughtfully, his head tilted. "A villain wouldn't be so upset with the mishaps," he says and then he grins at her. "What superpower do you have?"

Gwen must force herself not to laugh. "You're watching too much cartoons, kid."

"I don't think you're much older than me." He scowls at her. "So, are you hexing them or something?"

Gwen's torn between feeling amused and offended until she remembers how poorly some of her attempts end. But hexing? Really?

She watches the boy speculatively, wondering how much she can tell him. All her mother always says is 'do not interfere'; there is no word about not telling anyone about the gift. Quite the contrary, if she were to judge by how much her father knows about them both.

"I can see their future," she explains. "Sometimes I try to change it for the better."

The boy stares at her as if she just told him that pigs can fly. "You're doing a shitty job at it in that case." He shakes his head.

Gwen feels her blood rush to hear head, her cheeks getting warmer. "Watch your mouth. And don't talk as if you know anything," she drawls, clenching her fists. "It's not as easy as you think."

The boy raises his hands. "Sorry," he says. "If it really was that easy we probably wouldn't have any accidents, catastrophes and so on."

Gwen watches him suspiciously, doubting his sincerity.

"Whatever," she mumbles and turns around, intending to walk away.

"Wait!" The boy catches her hand, his fingers clutch around her wrist. "Do you need an accomplice?"

Gwen only winces at his choice of the words, but she agrees.

The next few weeks are the best she's had since Ellen's death.

The boy is not a soulmate, don't misunderstand. She wouldn't call him a friend as well, but he does appear to be a good partner.

Despite the fact that he's younger than her, he's much better at planning and putting together all the pieces from the overly vague visions she happens to get. Sometimes, he also directly intervenes with the Fate, as Gwen calls it.


Shortly after they first met, the boy suggests that they need some nicknames, because every super hero has them apparently. Gwen’s not the expert here.

She accepts the one that the boy gives her, although she does think that calling her "the Oracle" is like a bad spell. Isn't an oracle's prophecy something... infallible?

"It's not," the boy tells her when she shares her concerns with him. "You see the future, but the prophecy you give is about the future changed."

Gwen doesn't argue anymore.

"What should your name be in that case?"

The boy smiles at her, his eyes twinkle. "Robin sounds perfect."

Gwen only shakes her head.

They continue to use the nicknames.

The first time he calls her "Babs" instead of "the Oracle", she stares at him in surprise.

Robin mumbles "less impersonal", his cheeks turning the faintest shade of red, when she confronts him about it.

She doesn't press the matter any further.

***

One evening they're trying to figure out one of her dreams. All she gets from it is a thick mist and some car crash. There are so few details that even Robin with his superb deductive ability gives up at some point and admits his defeat. Frustrated, he keeps throwing small rocks into the pond they're sitting by.

"It's not your fault, you know," Gwen murmurs, ruffling his hair.

"Doesn't mean it makes me feel any better." His jaws clench. He glares at the water surface. "Just how can you be so calm?"

Gwen shrugs. "Even this is better than doing nothing."

He snaps his head, turning to her. He draws his eyebrows together, thinking about something deeply. "If you do prevent the mishap from happening, then what have you seen? It's not really the vision of the future, is it?"

Gwen stares at him. "Never thought of it."

The boy moves his eyes to the pond. "Say, Babs, if somebody is supposed to die, but you save their life, just how much does it change everything after that?"

Gwen glances at him, million thoughts running through her mind. "I don't know, but I care more about here and now," she replies.

Two days later Gwen bids her farewell to Robin.

"Will we meet again?" He smiles at her, but the smile is so sad that it actually makes Gwen's heart hurt.

She shakes her head. "I don't know."

The boy nods and wraps his arms around her, closing her in the tight embrace. "I'll miss you, Babs," he mumbles into her arm.

Gwen flinches at first, but she embraces him back. "Stay safe, Robin," she whispers. "I'll miss you as well."

The boy leaves next day to visit some other relatives on his way home.

Not even one week later an accident happens on a highway - in a thick fog several cars crash into each other, a few people die, even more get hurt. It happens far away from her town, but it's really close to where Robin was supposed to go.

Gwen gets dizzy when she sees the news. She hopes that the boy is safe.

It's only then that she realises they never got to know each other's real names.

***

Just as spring comes, trees getting green and flowers blooming, the invisible clock starts ticking again.

Gwen is confused at first.

The feeling that something is to happen gets stronger with each day, but she still hasn't seen anything and can't even say who will be affected. Not surprisingly it brings back the memories of Ellen's death.

It continues for days, making her feel as if the death was hiding just behind the corner. Her mood must have started to affect her family as even her mother gets jumpy and her father casts her worried glances.

When the vision finally comes, once again in the form of a dream, Gwen almost breaks.

Her father knows the moment he sees her.

"It's your mother, isn't it?"

A pang of pain shoots through Gwen's chest. Tears sting her eyes. "Just how am I supposed to do nothing and watch her die?"

Her father smiles at her in a way that breaks her heart.

"It's not a crime to wish for the beloved ones to be saved," he says. He wraps his arms around her and closes her in a tight embrace. "Do you know when?"

"No," Gwen mumbles. "But I think it's going to happen really soon."

Her father strokes her back and kisses the top of her head. "Whatever will happen, remember that I love you and I always will."

Gwen rests her forehead oh his shoulder. Tears slowly flow down her cheeks.

"Everything will be fine," her father whispers.

But it's not.

***

Gwen ignores the dizziness and the feeling of the world shifting around her.

She knows it must have happen the very moment she gets a phone call and order to come to the hospital. Quickly.

She thinks she's ready to face it.

She is not.

She doesn't expect to see her mother, with her face pale and her eyes dead.

She turns to Gwen, hearing the footsteps, her face devoid of any emotion.

"What have you done?" Her mother's voice is flat and completely emotionless.

Gwen stops. She doesn't understand.

"He wasn't supposed to die today," her mother says, staring at her with lifeless eyes.

Gwen's stomach churns. Tears start flowing down her face.

"To save one life, you kill somebody else. That's how it always works." Her mother's voice is cold. "You're a murderer."

Gwen feels as if she was punched. Robin's words resound in her head.

If somebody is supposed to die, but you save their life, just how much does it change everything after that?

Gwen starts to shake.

As soon as they get home, her mother locks herself in the bedroom. When she finally leaves it next day, her face is pale and blank.

She stops in the door of the living room, her dull eyes sweeping over the interior and the family members gathered there.

"I didn't know we're having guests," her mother says, smiling apologetically. "What a silly man I married. He fails as a host if he's left you all alone here. I shall have a word with him when he's back."

The room sinks in silence. Everyone stares at her, their expressions varying from shock to disbelief.

"Mom? Dad... dad is..." Gwen's voice breaks.

She turns to Gwen, her head tilted, and eyes her curiously as if it was the first time she saw her.

"Is it a joke?" A forced smile appears on her mother's face. "We don't have any children."

Nobody corrects her.

***

Days, weeks and months pass in a blur. Before Gwen realizes they turn into years.

She doesn't live with her mother any more. She calls home every few days, but every time the answer is the same. There is no change. Not only does her mother not remember anything, but she also keeps on living in the world where there is no Gwen and where Gwen's father still lives.

When they ask Gwen when she'll visit, her answer is always the same. One day, but not yet.

It's not that the life she has now is bad.

She has a job she likes even though her family always ask how she can be satisfied with selling flowers and not earning much.

She doesn't mind. Not even when she sees things from other people's future. The job actually raises her chances on that.

She doesn't interfere when she sees couples in front of her getting married some day in the future. There is that one time when she does suggest to a man that he gets his girlfriend dark red carnations instead of the roses he initially planned to get. The next vision she has is the man marrying a woman with a bouquet of white and red carnations in her hands.

Her life is peaceful now. Maybe more peaceful than she's deserved, she thinks when she remembers the words said by her mother in the hospital.

They always haunt her.

***

It's a day like many others when Gwen wakes up from her usual nightmare, which is the constant replay of the hospital scene.

It takes her some time to realize that she can hear the clock ticking again. She bites her lips, her fists clench. She's not ready for it.

Her first thought is to ignore the ticking. To not interfere like she was always supposed to.

The vision appears when she's outside. She knows the place, she doesn't know the man. She also doesn't know the girl lying at his feet, with a knife in her chest. Her open eyes stare at Gwen.

She can't ignore that. Even though she knows the price, she can't.

Gwen stumbles.

Somebody catches her before she falls.

She mumbles some apologies and steadies herself before she looks as the person who helped her.

Her saviour is a policeman. There is something familiar about this man, but she can't really place it. He eyes her curiously, his eyes slightly narrowed, which gives him a calculating look. As if he was deeply wondering about something.

As she stares at his face, a crazy plan starts to unfurl in her head.

"Any problem?" A deep male voice comes from behind and Gwen turns to look at the man. Another policeman.

"Not really," her saviour replies.

"There might be," Gwen says in the exact same moment.

The policemen stare at her.

"I saw a suspicious man," she says and describes the man from the vision, starting from a checkered shirt and dark jeans and ending with the description on his wild eyes which seemed to gleam with a scary light. She also tells them that the man was mumbling to himself and that she heard the word "kill". It's not true, but it might make the policemen believe her.

"Does he have any weapon?"

Gwen blinks. Then she frowns. The man had a knife, but he wouldn't just walk around, showing it to everyone.

"I think he might have some... blade?" She hopes the statement sounds believable.

She bites her lips. Just as she wonders what else she should say, she catches a glimpse of a familiar silhouette.

"It's him," she whispers.

The policemen exchange glances.

"Cost nothing to check," the man who helped her says.

His companion sighs and starts walking toward the man.

Gwen watches them both, hoping it's enough to change the future.

It's then the world around her shifts and a new vision appears.

Horrified, Gwen sees the blood and dead bodies on the ground. They stare at her with empty eyes, the girl from the first vision among them. So are the policemen.

"A gun..." she whispers. "Not just a knife."

The policeman at her side curses and says something into his communicator.

The world shifts again. Visions fill Gwen's head, changing like in a kaleidoscope, where one future replaces the other only to be replaced again. Suddenly it ends.

She comes to just in time to see how the first policeman approaches the man, they exchange some words, and then the policeman falls to the ground, clutching his stomach.

The other policeman runs toward the man, taking out the gun.

The man raises his hand and the shooting starts.

First falls the girl, then the policeman.

It's then that Gwen catches the glimpse of a familiar face. She recognizes it - the only man whom she saw in all her visions, dead in every one of them.

She does the only thing she can think of. She steps in front of the man.

***

When Gwen wakes up, she's lying in bed in a place she doesn't recognize. Her head hurts - as if it was about to split if anyone were to ask her - and so does her arm. The pain is bearable, though.

Her unfocused eyes sweep from the white cellar to the walls of the same colour, desperately looking for something familiar and trying to ignore the way that the world seems to dance around her. She fails at the first task, but somewhat succeeds at the second, when the walls stops dancing samba around her and slow down to waltz. She closes her eyes, trying to fight back nausea.

After a minute or so, she finally registers hushed voices coming from the corridor through the open door.

"This wasn't supposed to happen," a man says in an angry voice.

"Are you telling me you are not glad to see your own daughter alive?" A tired female voice replies.

Gwen gets a strange feeling that she should know what the talk is about, but no matter how hard she tries, her brain refuses to cooperate, apparently more eager to stay in some hazy state of disarray. She moves her head just enough to take a peek at the almost-quarrelling couple.

The man's face is red, but at the same time there’s that look in his eyes, something that reminds her of a hunted animal. The woman looks as if she hasn't slept for quite few days, dark circles under her eyes.

"You don't understand anything! This changes everything. Everything!" The man exclaims. "My life... Just how is it going to turn out now?"

The woman presses her hand to her face and doesn't reply.

"Fucking watchers," a quiet voice comes from some place by Gwen's side. "Always standing by and only looking at disasters and doing nothing even though they could have prevented them. I would divorce the man if I were her."

The man casts a quick wary glance in the direction the voice came from and quickly walks away, his face even redder than before. The woman slowly follows him, pale as a ghost.

"Hope he won't hurt any of them." The same voice, definitely a female one, speaks again.

"She'll be fine," Gwen mutters when a vision appears in her mind. "The man in her wedding photo is not this guy and her adult daughter seems almost as happy as her mom."

There is a quiet clank and Gwen assumes that something must have fallen on the floor.

"Are you awake?" There is a quiet rustle of some fabric and an unfamiliar female face appears over Gwen.

Gwen stares at the woman, who, judging by the scrubs she wears, must be a nurse. "Quite a redundant question, I believe."

The nurse watches her curiously, with a glint in her eyes that Gwen can't interpret.

"How are you feeling?" The nurse's fingers brush over Gwen's forehead gently.

"Dizzy. Head and arm hurt," Gwen mumbles.

The nurse nods as if the answer is exactly what she expected to hear. Her eyes remain on Gwen. She looks as if she wants to ask about something, but says nothing in the end.

"Did anybody die?" Gwen whispers. She dreads the answer she might hear.

The nurse blinks and tilts her head as if wondering why exactly Gwen needs to know it. "Just the attacker. There were some injured, but they'll live."

"Thank goodness," Gwen mutters as she closes her eyes.

The fingers touch her forehead again.

"You should rest, sleeping beauty," the nurse says, her voice soft and soothing.

Gwen can hear her quiet steps.

"It's not so easy to change the future," Gwen murmurs, not sure why exactly she's saying it. "One life saved equals to the death of somebody else."

The steps stop. Gwen is almost sure that the nurse turned to look at her, but her eyelids are too heavy for her to open her eyes.

"Beware of the rain," Gwen mumbles before she falls asleep.

When she wakes up again, it's raining.

***

After two days at hospital, Gwen is more than glad when she's finally allowed to leave.

She's packing her stuff into a small duffel bag when she feels as if somebody's watching her.

When she looks over her shoulder, there is the nurse - the one she remembers from the time she woke up in the hospital - leaning against the doorframe, with her arms crossed over her chest.

"Hey," the nurse says and gives her a lopsided smile. "I came to apologize."

Gwen stares at her, her eyebrows knitted. She can't remember anything that would require apology. Not from the nurse at least. "What for?"

"For what I said about Seers." The nurse's lips twist in disgusts as she says the name.

Gwen gives her a sideways look. "You spoke nothing but truth."

"But I also insulted you, didn't I?"

Gwen only shrugs in reply and continues to pack her belongings. Somehow she isn't surprised that the nurse knows about her gift. She must be like Robin, she thinks. Smart and quick to understand hints. The thought makes her remember how much she's missed him for all these years.

"You're the Oracle, aren't you?" The nurse breaks the silence.

Gwen stiffens as she hears the name, a pang of pain in her chest, and slowly turns to look at the woman.

"Where did you hear that name?" Her voice trembles as she speaks.

The nurse watches her thoughtfully.

"It doesn't matter." The nurse shakes her head, a soft smile curling her lips. "You are a Seer, but unlike them you do interfere and try to change what you see. The Oracle must be you."

Gwen pursues her lips. "There must be more people who fit the description," she suggests.

The nurse raises her eyebrow and snorts. "Are there?" She enters the room and grabs Gwen's hand. "Come with me."

Gwen is pulled out of the room before she can even react.

"Where are you taking me?"

The nurse casts a quick glance at her and smiles secretively. "You'll see."

Half a minute later they stop in front of the door to a room similar to the one Gwen's been occupying during her stay in the hospital.

The nurse glances at her. "Wait here for a second," she says before she pushes the door and slides into the room.

"Yo, Kenny-boy! How are you doing today?" The nurse chirps cheerfully.

Before the door closes behind her back, a low, somewhat familiar, voice answers her.

"Oh, please, didn't we agree on not using this name?" The man she called Kenny groans.

Gwen almost can see him - sitting in the hospital bed, pouting like a little kid and scowling at the nurse.

If he says anything else, it doesn't goes through the door, even though she can hear some bits of the nurse's cheerful chirping.

Gwen stares at the door, half-determined to take the chance she's just got and simply run away. Go back to her room, grab her stuff, leave the hospital and just forget about everything that happened during past few days. Assuming she could manage to take even one step.

Just as she's about to turn around and walk away, the door opens and the nurse practically drags her into the room.

Gwen stumbles and almost falls down. Fortunately the nurse catches her before she hits the floor.

"Oooops," the nurse says, somewhat concerned. "Are you okay?"

'I'm fine' is what Gwen wants to say, but she has the words stick in her throat as soon as she raises her head.

There, in front of her, in a hospital bad, lies the young policeman who helped her. There is a band aid on his cheek, his head is wrapped in a bandage, and his left arm rests in a sling. He's watching her now, his brows furrowed. There is a speculative glint in his eyes and all in all he looks as if he’s trying hard to remember something.

"The girl from the street," he finally says and a ghost of a smile plays across his mouth. He eyes her curiously, his head tilted.

It's then that Gwen finally recognizes him.

"Been a long time, Robin," she says. Her lips curve in a gentle smile. "It's nice to see you again."

The man gapes at her, his jaw drops slightly. "How do you..." Then there is a glint of recognition in his eyes and his face breaks in a wide grin. "Babs?"

Gwen nods in the reply.

The nurse stares at Robin, her eyebrows raised. "Babs? I thought you called her the Oracle?"

His cheeks get a bit redder than they were before.

"Both names are valid," he mumbles. Then he moves his eyes to the nurse, shooting daggers at her. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I am telling you now. Kinda." The nurse laughs, a devious glint in her eyes. "Now, take your time, kids. You can thank me later." She smiles at them both as she leaves the room.

Robin stares at the door for a few seconds, his eyes narrowed. He mumbles something under his breath, but Gwen can't hear even one word. However, judging by his expressions, she's not missing much. Maybe a few curses.

Then he moves his eyes to her and Gwen flinches. His stare is... intense.

"Playing a hero, I see?" Robin gives Gwen a pointed look. Then he smirks. "You're still doing a shitty job at it, though."

"Oh, shut the fuck up." Gwen tries to glare at him, but she fails miserably. "More people were supposed to die. You, too," she says, but chooses not to mention that the event changed into a full scale tragedy only after she tried to save one girl.

Robin stares at her, his eyes wide open. "I take back the statement about the shitty job in that case." He laughs nervously, paling a bit.

Gwen shrugs, paces toward the bed and sits down on the chair standing next to it.

"We've got quite a lot catch up with, haven't we?"

"Mhm, so it would seem. We could start from our real names perhaps?" he suggests, something mischievous showing in his face for a second.

"I know yours," Gwen replies with a sly smile on her face.

He blinks at first, but then he gapes at her. "How...? Does your ability work on names, too? Like you saw me telling you my name or something?"

Gwen bursts out laughing and waves her hand at him. "Like it ever would, silly. I heard what the nurse called you. Your name is... Kenny, I assume."

"It's Kenneth. Or Ken." He says in a deceptively soft voice. With the way his face contorts, his eyebrows draw close together, his eyes gleam with flames and his lips twist in disgust, it's easy to say how much he likes the nickname.

Gwen has to pursue her lips not to smile, seeing his reaction. If looks could kill, she would have been dead already, burned to crisp or looking like a pincushion. Or both.

"Yes, yes, my bad. Sorry." Gwen waves at him. She doesn't feel sorry at all, more amused if anything, but makes an attempt to look at least a little bit apologetic.

Judging by that little twist of his lips and the way he eyes her suspiciously, she's not really succeeding.

However, quickly enough his expression softens. "What's your name?" He asks, his head tilted and the ghost of a smile appearing on his mouth again. "I can't keep on calling you 'the Oracle' or 'Babs' all the time."

"It's Gwen," she replies as she extends her hand towards him.

He smiles at her, his hand slowly travelling toward her.

The very moment their fingers touch, the world shakes and twists. And then it shifts.

Something appears in her mind, like glimpses or pictures, but they change way too fast for Gwen to really see any of them. She gasps and sits back, feeling rather lightheaded. Her heart is hammering in her chest.

"Are you fine?" There is a concerned look at his face. "Maybe I should call a doctor?"

"I'm fine." She shakes her head. "I... I think that the future has just been changed again."

He stares at her with disbelief clearly written all over his face. "How?"

"I don't know," Gwen replies and takes a deep breath.

"For better or worse?"

Gwen glances at him. "Who knows," she says. Slowly her lips curl into a smile. "We'll find out sooner or later."
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