Stone creatures emerged from all sides, leaving Ben, Gwen, and Dawn surrounded.

Ben let out a laugh. "I have to admit, you had me worried for a minute, Hex, but fortunately, as the old saying goes, you can't teach an old dog new tricks. I have been crushing these stone things since I was 10. Humungousaur!" Ben slammed the watch and turned into the alien humanoid dinosaur.

"Patience," Hex whispered with a grim smile.

Humungousaur grew in size and began to decimate Hex's stone creatures. "Gwen, try to hit Hex. I've got your back."

Gwen, with little Dawn in her arms, began firing blasts of mana against Hex. The dark wizard was floating in the air, protected by a red bubble of mystical energy. Gwen's blasts didn't even scratch Hex's protective bubble.

"Crap!" The redhead yelled, very frustrated.

Meanwhile, Humungosaur continued to destroy the stone creatures, punching them, kicking them and crushing them against the ground and against the walls. But the creatures kept coming. With a quick glance, Humungosaur noticed a stone creature he had just destroyed reforming into a new one, "They are regenerating! Gwen, we have to focus on Hex, no use destroying the creatures."

"I can't, Ben! His protective magic is too strong," Gwen replied.

Hex made a gesture with his hands for his creatures to stop attacking for a moment, "You can't defeat me. You will tire yourselves to exhaustion and then die. Give me back my daughter, and you will die a mercifully quick death."

"Never!" Gwen held Dawn even tighter in her arms.

Humungousaur hit the Omnitrix symbol on his chest and turned into Atomix. "My lady, take our daughter away from here," he spoke in the alien's formal manner.

Gwen, knowing what Ben was planning, teleported herself farther away.

Hex just laughed, "Go ahead, child."


Atomix' mighty nuclear explosion devastated the whole castle where they stood, and turned all the stone creatures to dust. But Hex remained without a scratch, protected by his magic shield.

"Not bad," Hex said, "But as I said, useless. My powers are now infinite."

"I can't believe it." Atomix turned back into Ben and fell on his knees, frustrated and completely exhausted.

Hex stretched his hand toward the young hero, who was engulfed by a bright red light and began to utter loud cries of pain.

"Gwendolyn," Hex said, letting his words and Ben's cries flow through the air and reach all the corners of Ledgerdomain, "He doesn't have to suffer. Give me my daughter and we'll get this over with quickly. No use hiding and delaying the inevitable. I'll find you anyway."

"AAAAARGH Gwen AAAAAAARGH No! AAAAAARGH Don't come! AAAAAARGH." Ben tried to warn his cousin to stay away amid screams of pain.

"Do you know the best part? I'm using magic to torture you, but I'm not physically hurting you," Hex said, taking sadistic pleasure in that, "I can keep you like this for hours."

A few minutes later, Gwen appeared carrying Dawn in her arms.

"Excellent, you made the right decision." Hex stopped torturing Ben.

"No, Gwen, don't do this!" Ben pleaded, still too weak to do anything else.

"I know you want Dawn's powers, Hex," Gwen said calmly, "So take them."

Gwen stretched her hand toward Hex and fired a huge and continuous blast of mana that immediately shattered the dark wizard's shield and made him scream in pain and agony. Seconds later, Hex disappeared.

"... Is he dead?" Ben asked.

"I wish, but no. He is weak but managed to escape," Gwen complained. Then she ran toward Ben, "How are you?"

"Much better now." He gave Gwen a quick peck on the lips and planted a kiss on Dawn's forehead. "But how did you beat him?"

"It was Dawn." Gwen patted the little girl's head.

"I borrowed Mommy my powes!" Dawn said giggling.

"Did you know the spell Hex used to take her powers and did the same?" Ben asked.

"No, I have no idea what kind of black magic he used. I just asked Dawn to give me her powers and it worked. Can you believe that? It was all her," Gwen replied, proud of the little girl. "Now I can create a portal for us to go home."

Ben's Tower

Less than an hour after arriving, Ben and Gwen were already getting ready to leave again.

"Wait," said Rook Blonko, a cat-like alien and Ben's Plumber partner, "What are you two going to do?"

"We'll go back to Ledgerdomain, while Hex is still weak and the effects of the powers Gwen got from Dawn haven't yet worn off," Ben replied, "Rook, I trust you and the other Plumbers here to keep an eye on our daughter for us."

"But you are exhausted. You just came back," Rook tried to say.

"It doesn't matter. We have to put an end to this once and for all. It's the only way we can have any peace in our lives again," Ben said, and Gwen agreed.

But before Ben and Gwen left, a Plumber ran to them with a report to give. Hex had been found dead, his body left exposed publicly in a very crowded street. Nobody had any idea who was responsible for it.

A couple of days later, Ben, Gwen and Dawn were visited by Joel, Camille, Lucy and Jack. Joel was married to Camille, a Lenopan. Lucy was Camille's younger cousin, but she was more like a daughter to them, and had lived with the couple since she was ten. And Jack was a handsome three-year-old dark-skinned little boy, Joel and Camille's adopted son. Humans and Lenopans couldn't have biological children together, but that was no obstacle for Joel and Camille to build a beautiful family.

Jack and Dawn were playing together. Jack had brought his Star Wars action figures, including some Stormtroopers and a Darth Vader.

"Jack, I tell you how Mommy and Daddy beat bad wizad!" The little girl said excitedly.

Dawn picked up a stuffed dinosaur and knocked down some Stormtroopers. "Daddy 'Mungosau beat stone monsters!" Then she picked up a redhead Barbie, placed a baby doll in her arms, and had Barbie hit Darth Vader. "Mommy and I beat bad wizad!"

Ben and Gwen giggled at Dawn's retelling of the adventure they had in Ledgerdomain.

"Hey, guys, I heard you will be getting married! Congratulations! I'm going to love to mess up your party," Lucy laughed, half joking and half sincere.

"Do that, and I'm going to regret asking you to be the Maid of Honor," Gwen said, also half joking and half sincere.

"What?" Lucy's eyes widened in surprise. "I'm going to be the Maid of Honor? Awww, thank you!" She hugged Gwen tight.

"Who's going to be the best man? "

"Rook," Ben replied, "and Dawn and Jack are going to be the Flower Girl and the Ring Bearer. I mean, if you guys agree, Joel and Camille."

"Of course we do!" Joel and Camille said happily.

"The wedding is probably still going to take a while," Gwen said, "I want it to be after the lawsuit is over."

"What lawsuit?" Lucy asked.

"Yeah, what lawsuit? I'm confused too," Ben said.

Gwen smirked, "I want the expenses of our marriage to be all covered with the compensation money that Will Harangue will pay us, and the rest will go to charity. My parents and I have already filed a lawsuit against him, for all the hateful comments and false accusations he has been openly throwing against us on television."

Some time later...

"And the verdict is ... guilty! The compensation that Mr. William Harangue will have to pay for defamation of character to Mr. Benjamin Kirby Tennyson and Miss Gwendolyn Tennyson is set at $100,000," the judge said as she hit the gavel.

"This is absurd!" Harangue protested, "A coward attack on the freedom of speech in this country!"

"Silence, Mr. Harangue, or you will be escorted out of here in handcuffs!" The judge threatened.

Harangue reluctantly sat down again, huffing and puffing.

Ben, Gwen and Dawn were taking an 'air tour' through the city.

"Congratulations, Dawn! You're awesome at flying," Gwen praised the girl.

Little Dawn, now five years old, could naturally fly with her magic, but, of course, Ben and Gwen were following her very closely. Gwen was flying on top of a mana construct, while Ben had turned into Big Chill. If Dawn's powers failed for any reason, either one could easily catch her.

"Of course she is! Her handsome dad taught her very well, didn't he, Dawn?" Big Chill said, talking about himself of course.

"You did nothing, Doofus. I was the one who taught her to fly," Gwen protested.

"Cut it out, Dweeb. You know she managed to start flying after my tips!" Big Chill replied.

Dawn giggled and enjoyed all the playful arguing between Ben and Gwen.

Then they noticed a woman floating a little further in the sky. Gwen immediately grabbed Dawn, and Big Chill took a fighting stance.

"Who are you?" Big Chill asked.

The woman was fully covered, with a silver cloak and a golden mask. She threw a piece of red and black cloth at Ben and Gwen.

"It's a piece of Hex's cloak..." Big Chill said, "Did you kill him?"

"Yes," the woman replied dryly, "Come with me." She was wearing a necklace with a blue shining crystal. The crystal shined brighter, and a portal opened in the middle of the sky.

"Wait a minute! Why would we go anywhere with you?" Big Chill asked suspiciously, but the woman had already entered the portal.

"Ben..." Gwen said in a worried tone, "The stone in her necklace is a very rare mystical artifact, a time crystal. We better go and see what she is going to do."

Big Chill and Gwen (with Dawn in her arms) entered through the portal too.

"Where are we?" Big Chill asked. They were flying over a deserted street at night. "I think I recognize this place..."

"This is the street where the car crash that took the life of Dawn's mother took place years ago," Gwen replied in a whisper.

"It will happen in two minutes," the mysterious woman said, still hovering in the air, "You can save her... or not."

Gwen and Big Chill glanced at each other. There was no hesitation to make the decision. They were heroes, they were going to save Margie. But... they did not know what was going to happen.

If Margie survived, Dawn would not have been adopted by Gwen.

That would change everything.

When Big Chill noticed a truck approaching from one side and a car from the other, he flew toward the car, turned intangible and grabbed the young woman from there before the collision.

"You're safe, Margie," Big Chill said, and shortly afterwards he turned back into Ben.

"Thank you!" She said, looking at her shattered car in flames, "But how do you know my name? Hey, wait a minute, you're Gwen's cousin, right?" Then Margie glanced sideways and noticed the presence of Gwen and Dawn there as well, "Dawn? My baby? You're so big! How?" she asked, even more confused.

"Mommy?" Dawn was a little confused too.

"What's going on?" Margie asked, arching her eyebrows.

"We are from the future." Gwen bit her lip. "Where we came from, you died in that car crash ... Your parents told me you wanted me to keep Dawn, and I... Ben and I…" Gwen took her fiancée's hand in hers. "We're raising her."

Margie noticed the rings on their fingers. "You two are together. Don't worry, I will not judge the guy who just saved my life and my best friend. "

Ben and Gwen smiled, still holding hands. "Yes, we are."

"Where is that mysterious woman? I can't see her," Ben said, looking up, "Has she disappeared? Are we going to disappear too? The timeline must be changing now, right? We... these versions of us... will we just cease to exist?"

"I don't know, but if we're going to disappear, we better say goodbye," Gwen said with a sad smile. Then she crouched down and looked at Dawn, "Dawn, I love you so much," the redhead couldn't hold back her tears and began to cry.

"I love you too, Mommy!" Dawn hugged Gwen. "Why are you crying?"

Gwen didn't answer. She just kept hugging Dawn very tight for a long time.

"Come on, Dweeb, I want to hug her too," Ben said, and Gwen finally let Dawn go.

"Daddy, why is Mommy crying?" The little girl asked and was surprised to see Ben tearing up as well.

Ben repeated Gwen's gesture and hugged Dawn very tight for a long minute. "It'll be alright, honey. You're going to grow up with your mom Margie."

"But I like Daddy Ben and Mommy Gwen too. I don't want you to leave!" Then Dawn herself began to cry.

After the hug, Dawn walked to Margie, "Mommy, Ben and Gwen are my mommy and daddy too. You can stay in the Tower with them. It's pretty big! No one has to leave," the little girl said, still in tears.

Meanwhile, Ben and Gwen said their goodbyes to each other.

"I really hope we still find each other somehow," Gwen said, holding Ben's hands, "I know that taking care of Dawn together just woke the feelings we were already harboring deep inside. I've always loved you, Ben, and I always will."

They mashed their lips together passionately, as if that would be the last kiss of their lives - because they really believed it would be.

After the kiss, the two of them pressed their foreheads together, and Ben whispered, "Maybe we still have enough time left for a quickie!" even in the face of imminent 'erasure', both burst out laughing.

"What happened to Hex?" Margie asked, holding Dawn in her arms.

"He's dead," Ben said, "A woman killed him."

"Good," Margie said, "I don't think your future has to change. On the contrary, Hex is dead, you two love each other, and you were the best parents I could ever want for my daughter. Maybe... I could still die tonight."

"What?" Gwen said, "No, we will not let you die."

Margie laughed. "Relax, I didn't mean to actually die. Can't you make it look like I'm dead?"

"Oh, my God," Gwen realized what would happen - or what had happened, "The mysterious woman is you."

"I have no idea what you're talking about," Margie said.

"But you will." The mysterious woman reappeared, and removed her golden mask, revealing Margie's face.

"Ok, I think I'm dreaming," Past Margie said.

"Now I have three mommies?" Dawn asked.

Future Margie handed over a letter to her past version, "That's all you need to know." And then she turned to Ben and Gwen. "Let's go back. The time crystal has no unlimited effect. We need to leave soon."

"Hey, wait a minute," Past Margie said, "How am I going to fake my death?"

"I already took care of it. There's a magic construct with our DNA in that car," Future Margie replied.

"Wow, you're really good," Past Margie was impressed.

"We are. Read the letter. It'll tell you how to find the greatest wizard of all times, Bezel. He taught me - he will teach you - everything you need to know," Future Margie said. Then she re-opened the portal, and entered it with Ben, Gwen and Dawn, leaving Past Margie alone there.

Back in the present, Ben, Gwen, Dawn and Margie landed on a mana construct. They were still floating high above in the air, far away from the eyes of the people walking down.

"What just happened?" Ben asked.

"You've been alive all this time, Margie. Why didn't you tell us anything?" Gwen asked, "To make sure absolutely nothing would change?"

"Kind of, but not exactly. I did things I shouldn't have done. Before you and Ben moved to that big tower, every once in a while, I went to your old apartment while you were asleep and took Dawn to stay a bit with me in Ledgerdomain while I was still training with Bezel. I mean, she was too small to understand, and I didn't think that was going to make any impact, so... "

"She drew the two of you there," Gwen whispered, remembering one of Dawn's old drawings.

"... But some things I had to make sure wouldn't change at all no matter how much I hated it. I wanted to kill Hex, but he was using magic to hide himself very well. I had to let him kidnap Dawn so you could weaken him enough for me to finally find the bastard and finish him once and for all. I didn't tell myself the exact dates in the letter, because I knew I would be tempted to prevent the whole thing, and things could go very wrong in any other way."

"And how did you find a time crystal?" Gwen asked.

"Long story. Full of dangers," Margie said, holding the mystical stone - now no longer shining, evidence that its power was gone after it had been used.

"We could have helped you," Gwen said, "Did you think you could do it alone because you told yourself to do that in that letter? I think that was pretty irresponsible."

"On the contrary. I wanted to go alone because if anything were to happen to me, Dawn would still have you. I didn't want to risk her losing you too."

"Last question, why did you take us to the past?" Ben asked, "You didn't really need our help to save yourself."

"True," Margie said, "but I - my past version - had to see with my own eyes how much you two and Dawn love each other, so I would know Dawn would be in good hands during my absence."

"Speaking of absence, now that you're here, I'm sure you're going to want to stay with your daughter, aren't you?" Gwen said, with Dawn in her arms, "Ben and I would love to visit you always. We're very attached to Dawn. We feel like we are her parents too."

"You're her parents as much as I am, and I don't want to separate you from her," Margie said with a smile, "I was thinking about what Dawn told me a few years ago and a few minutes ago. That the Tower where you live is very big ... "

"We can kick out Gwen's mother and you get her room," Ben suggested.

"Oh, but I don't want to have to-" Margie started to say.

Gwen elbowed Ben lightly, "Don't worry, Margie, we have plenty of free space in the Tower. Ben was just being a Doofus as usual. We would be very happy to have you there living with us," Gwen said.

"Let's go home," Ben held Dawn in his arms as he smiled.


In a secret base of the Rooters

"So, Kevin, are you ready to get these cuffs off?" Servantis asked.

"I don't know ... I've done a lot of bad things ... Maybe I should stay in prison," Kevin said.

"Nonsense. You are better now. The monster is locked up, and he won't leave," Servantis replied and removed Kevin's power-inhibiting handcuffs.

Then Kevin cracked a grim smile and grabbed Servantis by the throat. "The monster is free. Your mental tricks no longer work on me. I remember everything and I destroyed the pathetic hero personality you built inside my head. Goodie Goodie Kevin is gone forever. I know exactly who I am now."

"Kevin, you need to be strong. You are a hero. I…" Servantis tried to argue.

"SHUT UP!" Kevin slammed Servantis' head against the wall again and again until he was dead.

The guards approached. Kevin just smiled.

A few minutes later Kevin was gone, leaving only a number written on the wall in blood: "11,000."


* If you re-read chapter 5, you will see the part about Dawn's drawing. Yes, I had the time travel thing planned for a long time, it wasn't a last-minute decision. (I wish I had foreshadowed it more than just with the drawing though). I love time travel stories, and I couldn't resist using the concept. If you still don't understand what happened with Margie, google "Stable Time Loop" on TV Tropes and read about it. A mainstream example of the kind of time travel I implemented here also can be seen in Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban.

* Thanks a lot, to Aurora Nightstar for beta reading this story and to all of you who read, reviewed, favorited and/or followed it. This was meant to be nothing more than a small side project and turned out to be my most successful story so far, and now I keep thinking, "How can I write another story that people will like as much as they liked After the Dawn?" THANK YOU.

* While I have no plans to write a sequel, I might write a few "post credits" scenes. For example, I've been thinking about a scene in the future, featuring the redhead Kenny Tennyson and Devlin Green Levin (from chapter 9), alongside an older Dawn. So even though this story will be marked as complete, don't be surprised if you get an update notification for it eventually...