I. Nick Fury
The first thing Lian remembered about meeting Nick Fury was having his gun pointed directly at her.
To be fair, Lian was sure that having a portal open up and deposit anyone - even a little girl - onto your secret hideout was a good reason to be suspicious about what fell out of that portal.
Also to be fair, Lian wasn't so sure he's a good guy, either. The eyepatch reminded her of Slade Wilson, who used to be a good guy, but her daddy kept telling her Slade was even more evil than Mommy.
So, the eye patch made her scrunch her nose up and hug herself, and wish she knew where Aunt Mia was.
"But I don't know who Osborn is so I can't be part of his plan," Lian protested.
"She's terrified, Fury. C'mon, she's just a kid," one of the women next to the old man argued.
"Can't let that matter. I've seen enough wars that I know that kids get used as traps all the time."
"And I've seen enough guns not to be afraid of yours," Lian answered defiantly.
To her surprise, it made him laugh. He still had her checked, to be sure she wasn't part of a trap, though.
"I just want to find my Aunt Mia and go home," Lian told him, after she'd been poked and x-rayed and examined. Lian didn't know exactly what's going on, but she knew this wasn't Grandpa Ollie's city.
"We're in the middle of a war, kid," the old man told her. "So wherever your Aunt Mia has gone, it'll have to wait til after we take Osborn down."
He kept his word and he really did try to find Aunt Mia. When that didn't work, they tried instead to find a way to send her home. When that option failed, he offered to find her a home and a family.
But by the time that offer came, Lian had been staying with Nick Fury for four months. She had a little cot to sleep on in the room next to Fury's main office and she'd gotten used to the Avengers, S.H.I.E.L.D. agents and Secret Warriors coming and going.
It was almost like living at the Tower again. Lian missed that almost as much as she missed her daddy.
"I want to stay with you. You can be my family," she argued.
"That's a bad idea, kid. I don't do family."
"That's a lie," she scoffed. "You've got lots of family. They keep bringing me presents, just like my Titan aunts and uncles."
One of the Captain Americas brought her a teddy bear. The other brought her a toy gun. She told the second one the toy wasn't realistic enough.
He brought her a more "realistic" one on the way back from his mission. Lian let her teddy bear hug it while she slept.
"Aunts and uncles." Fury shook his head. "What am I supposed to do with a kid while I'm busy saving the world?"
"Teach me how to save it, too," Lian answered. "Just like daddy did."
"I guess you could be a Secret Warrior," Fury mused. "We'll have to work on your aim, though. 'Uncle' Barnes says that it still sucks."
"We'll make it not suck," Lian promised.
She practiced her aim every day. It was, after all, the only thing she had left that connected her to her daddy and the home she couldn't get back to. She practiced sometimes until her fingers were sore and it hurt to move her arms.
Fury never made her stop practicing. He just told her she wasn't being very smart about her training and offered suggestions on how to improve.
Most of the time, Lian didn't listen.
But that didn't keep her aim from improving, and eight years after Lian arrived in the new world, her aim was up to what Lian viewed as Harper standard. If she made her living with a gun instead of an arrow, she figured her father would have understood - he'd been Arsenal once, after all.
Besides, arrows were clumsy when you were a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent.
II. Jessica Jones/Luke Cage & Dani Cage
Six months into her stay in the new world, Lian started to think of Danielle the way she'd think of a little sister. At least, Lian was pretty sure; she'd never known her little brother, but Lian couldn't deny that she loved the little girl. Of all the people that her new family included, Dani was the easiest one to love.
But no matter how much Dani giggled and cooed in Lian's arms, she was too small to have sleepovers in containment cells, and every time Dani tried to say Lian's name, it made Lian think of Iris and Jai.
By the time Lian was twelve, she started thinking of Danny Rand as Uncle Danny. Uncle Danny was a lot of fun, and Lian enjoyed the time she and Dani spent with him.
But no matter what anyone on this new planet claimed, Uncle Danny wasn't as good of a fighter as Uncle Dick had been.
By the time Lian was twelve and a half, she started thinking of Misty and Colleen as her aunts, and she would even begrudgingly admit that they were pretty awesome fighters.
But Lian thought that Aunt Dinah's Birds were better.
Jessica was also pretty easy to get along with, but of all the people in her new family, it took Lian the longest to let herself think of Jessica as a mommy. Lian's reluctance didn't really have anything to do with the fact that Jessica was replacing her mother. Jessica was a much better mother than the one Lian had known.
But Jessica was strong and she could fly - just not as well as Aunt Donna. And if that wasn't enough of a reason to be reluctant to completely accept Jessica as a parent, Jessica was the one who told her bedtime stories. It was at bedtime that Lian missed her daddy the most.
Jessica understood, though. She told Lian about the family she'd lost and how much that hurt. "Sometimes, it's okay just to cry it all out," she assured Lian.
Sometimes Lian did. But the tears became less and less frequent with each additional hug Jessica gave her.
By the time she was 14, Lian started thinking of Luke Cage as ...something pretty close to a father. Loving Luke was easy, but accepting him as a father...well, part of Lian screamed that to be a betrayal of the father she left behind. He didn't seem to mind too much, though. In fact, Lian spent evenings playing with Dani while he cooked, while he listened to her stories about the world she came from.
"Tougher skin than mine?" he questioned, scooping the spaghetti onto plates for them. "Kryptonians sound pretty impressive. Doesn't sound like we have anything like 'em in our world."
There were a lot of things that weren't like anything from Lian's world in the new one, but that didn't keep her from loving it - no matter how much she tried to hold onto the world she'd left behind.
"The thing you have to do," Jessica told her, "Is just show this world all the good parts yours had. That way, you'll still be carrying on the legacy."
It was a pretty good plan, from Lian's view.
Which was why, when Dani came to ask Arsenal's advice on what Dani should call the little rag tag team of warriors she and Uncle Danny's kid were putting together, Lian immediately vetoed anything related to the Avengers.
"The Teen Titans," Lian voted, "is the best name you could ever have."
III. Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes & Aunt Sharon & Uncle Sam
The first thing Lian learned about Steve Rogers was that he gave really wonderful hugs. They were really the best hugs Lian had ever had, a fact that made her cry all the harder into his shoulders when he broke the news that she was never going home.
"I'm sorry we can't get you home, little one," Steve murmured into her hair. "I'm so, so sorry."
The second thing Lian learned about Steve Rogers was that he really liked to give serious talks - even when they weren't strictly necessary. The first time he did it, Lian absolutely thought she was in trouble.
He took her hands in his and held them tightly in his own and waited until she looked directly in his eyes before he began to speak.
"We're not a very...traditional family, Bucky and I," Steve said solemnly, and Lian wanted to know what that meant, but if she was in trouble, it probably wasn't a good idea to interrupt. "You'd probably be a lot happier with someone else."
Bucky was standing behind him during the conversation, and rolled his eyes. "She's a hero's kid, Steve. She'd be bored stiff with anyone else. And if her dad's life was anything like ours, her new set would ship her off to a shrink the minute she started talking about the world she came from."
"You said I could live with you and Bucky," Lian said softly. She might have sniffled, too. She didn't like crying, but Steve didn't seem to mind it too much, even if it usually made Bucky uncomfortable.
"Look what you did, Steve," Bucky muttered. "Fix that. I'm going to go...somewhere else."
He ducked out of the room, while Steve's expression softened and he pulled her close. "I'm sorry, honey. I didn't mean to upset you. Of course you can stay with us. If you're sure that's what you want."
"I want to go home," Lian sniffled into Steve's neck. He really did give the best hugs. Well, second best, maybe. They were the best on this world, though. "But since I can't do that, I want to stay with you and Bucky."
"Then stay you can," Steve promised.
The third thing she learned about Steve Rogers was that he always kept his promises. Lian eavesdropped a lot, listening to both Sharon Carter and Sam Wilson try to explain that the life Captain America and Bucky kept wasn't a healthy one for a kid to grow up in.
"She should be getting her meals from her parent, not from Jarvis," Sharon argued.
"You've died twice. That took a hell of a toll on us. Never mind what it will do to a kid," Sam agreed.
"I made a promise to her. Breaking that will do a lot more damage than letting her stay here," Steve answered firmly. "And that's the last time I'm going to have this conversation with either of you. I know you mean well, but I'm not going to hurt that child. Not on purpose."
The fourth thing Lian learned about Steve Rogers was that no one argued with him when he put his foot down.
Lian wanted to hold their arguments against Sharon and Sam, but after they saw Steve wasn't giving in, they started coming around more and more often.
She learned, despite the grudge she wanted to share, that Sharon made a pretty decent meal that was better than Steve's, if not as good as Jarvis'. She also learned that hanging out in Sam's office while Bucky and Steve were on a mission was a lot of fun and that he helped a lot of people even when he wasn't being a superhero.
Oh, and they could both kick a lot of butt. Which was reason enough for Lian to let go of her grudges against them.
The fifth thing she learned about Steve Rogers was that Bucky was the only person who really could argue with him effectively. Oh, others tried - especially the Hawkeyes and Iron Man- but Bucky was the only person who really won those arguments.
She learned that lesson many times over the years. As happy as Steve and Bucky were together, Bucky was the only person who argued with him in a way that made Steve really listen.
And while there were many examples Lian could have pointed to, it was during her teenage years that it mattered most. She sat in her room, listening to them argue over her recent exploits, tapping her feet irritably against the wall.
Fifteen minutes later, a tired Steve Rogers knocked on her door. Lian thought about telling him to go away, but she reluctantly told him to come in.
"I'm not gonna quit," Lian informed him, but she grew silent when he held up his hand.
"I'm not going to ask you to quit," he answered quietly. "You should be glad Bucky was in your corner on this one. He seems to think I was being harsh. And possibly hypocritical."
"In that case, I apologize. I have a lot of...issues with sidekicks." Steve pinched his nose. "You're grounded for two weeks for sneaking out without telling us."
"But that's not fair!"
"It is fair. After that two weeks is up, Bucky, Sharon, Sam and I will start your training. If you're going to do this, you're going to do this right, and with our supervision."
She leapt forward and hugged him. "Thank you."
He hugged her back. "Now, since it's four o'clock in the morning, I think someone needs to get to bed."
"Yeah. Goodnight, Steve."
IV. Clint Barton/Kate Bishop
Clint and Kate weren't Lian's first family in the new world.
Her first family included Bobbi, who had a gorgeous costume that looked a lot like one of the old ones Aunt Dinah used to wear. Aunt Babs had shown Lian pictures in a scrapbook, once.
Lian used to love that scrapbook.
Clint and Bobbi had one, too, and Lian sat on the floor of her bedroom, flipping through it as she listened to them yell at each other the night that Bobbi said goodbye.
A month later, Bobbi came to hug Lian and to tell her of the new job offer Bobbi received. "It's one I can't turn down, sport. But I'll visit as often as I can."
Clint drove Bobbi to the airport, then he came home, ordered a pizza and he and Lian sat down on the couch to cry together. "I really messed the parenting thing up," he muttered. "I'm so sorry."
Lian hugged him tight. "It's okay," she assured him. "At least you didn't get dropped into a whole 'nother universe."
Clint laughed, finished his pizza and set up a target in the living room. It required moving a lot of furniture, but Lian got to help by moving the small stuff.
After it was set up, Lian sat on the couch, watching him shoot. He was good. Not as good as Daddy, Lian didn't think.
But she thought that Daddy would love to compete against Clint - just like he used to with Uncle Connor and Grandpa Ollie.
Clint might have been better than Grandpa Ollie.
"You look sad, squirt," Clint told her. "Nothing a little time with the bow can't heal."
They spent the rest of the night - well past Lian's bedtime - taking turns hitting the target. Or, in Lian's case, trying to.
Bobbi kept her promise and called as much as her job would allow. That was probably why it took a full two additional years before Kate joined Clint and Lian in their archery practice. Lian loved Kate from the first time they met, because she was a female Arrow, and those were much more rare than male Arrows.
"The world couldn't handle more of us," Kate answered flippantly. "We're much more extraordinary than male archers. And Hawkeye? You need a bigger living room to accommodate the two archers you've got competing with you."
It was only two weeks before Clint and Lian did move into a bigger living room - with Kate in tow.
They started their own scrapbook then. It was full of kisses, hugs, Avengers, Young Avengers...and a lot of purple.
The last page, before they had to switch over to a new book, was a dash of red and yellow - colors appropriate for Red Arrow.
V. Elektra Natchios
Before she fell through the portal, Lian used to get frustrated at her archery abilities. Sometimes, she would get frustrated at her martial arts abilities, too, because they weren't nearly as good as those of her family members.
But a week after landing in the new world, Lian was using her skills, what little existed, to escape her would-be kidnappers.
She didn't get very far, but as it turned out, the kidnappers were part of a gang of baddies that one of the best assassins in the world had gotten paid to eliminate.
Elektra bandaged Lian's wounds, wiped the tears away, and weighed her options. "Their friends will be coming for them soon. If they find you, they will kill you, and perhaps worse. Nothing yet weights on my conscience that I would change; leaving you here for them to find would alter that. You will come with me."
When they arrived at what Elektra called home, Lian finally found her voice. "You have a lot of blood on you," she said. "You should bandage it up. I could help, if you need it."
Elektra sat the kit on the bed and lowered herself to Lian's level. "Show me what you can do."
The conversation was a good indication of how much of Lian's future training went. Elektra didn't give the praise Lian's family did, but she wasn't as cruel as Lian's mother was - even if Lian knew, deep down, that Elektra and her mother had a lot in common.
Elektra informed Lian that she would not be any one's mother, and true to her word, she kept a detachment that was foreign to the Arrow family Lian had left behind. The ruthlessness that she taught Lian was also foreign, but the first lesson Lian had received in this new world was that it was much more cruel than the world she came from had been.
It did not take a lot of persuasion to adopt that path.
By the time Lian was old enough to go out on hunts herself, she was conscious of the fact that her family would not have approved. She couldn't quite suppress the belief that if it had mattered that much to them, they would surely have found a way to save her and not left her in such a vicious world.
Since they hadn't...well, she could hardly be blamed for becoming vicious herself.
So when she dressed herself, head to toe in red leather, she did not claim a name that anyone in her family had carried before her. She chose an old, almost forgotten nickname instead. Because a dart was small and could be deadly, if laced with the right kind poison.
That described Lian perfectly.
And the one time her daddy found her
As it happened, Mary Jane told Lian's father two weeks after the fact, she was on her way to catch a flight out of California and head towards New York when Lian fell onto the sidewalk in front of Mary Jane's apartment.
"I've been accused of being selfish, of being impulsive, and of a lot of other bad things that have probably been true, but I could hardly just leave her on the sidewalk. Not when she was bleeding and crying," MJ also explained.
Daddy just squeezed Lian even tighter - his hugs weren't quite as good as they used to be, but Lian had missed his hugs enough that she'd take even the not-quite Daddy hugs over none at all.
Two weeks was a long time to go without daddy hugs, in Lian's opinion.
"Thank you for taking care of her," Roy murmured. "I can never, ever repay you for that."
"It was my pleasure," Mary Jane answered softly. "She was a wonderful child, and her stories about your world were more entertainment than any acting part I've ever gotten."
"I bet." Daddy laughed - two weeks was forever to go without hearing Daddy's laugh - and ruffled Lian's hair.
"I guess you'll be returning to that exciting life of yours now?" Mary Jane asked.
Lian felt really bad for her. Without Lian here to keep her company, Mary Jane would be all alone. "You should come with us," she offered. "It's much better there. And no stupid Spider-Mans live there."
Lian had heard a lot about stupid Spider-Man over the past two weeks.
"That's the best endorsement I've ever heard for any real estate," Mary Jane laughed.
"I'm afraid there's not going to be any going back," Daddy said gently. "The deal I made to get here - it's a one way ticket kind of thing. So, we're kind of stuck, etai yazi."
"But what about Aunt Dinah? And Grandpa Ollie? And Aunt Mia and - Iris and Jai and Uncle Dick and... " Lian stopped, seeing the sad look that came onto her father's face.
"I know, kiddo. I'm sorry. But finding you was more important than anything. When you love someone, you do whatever you have to in order to find them."
Lian sighed. "I'm glad you found me, Daddy. Even if it means we have to stay here forever." She grinned at Mary Jane. "We get to practice your new play more!"
"I guess we do," Mary Jane answered, and she looked much happier than Lian's daddy did. "You'll probably be needing somewhere to stay? Lian's got the bed, but I've been told my couch is pretty comfortable. At least until you get settled."
"You sure about that, MJ? I wouldn't want to impose."
"Trust me, Tiger. It's not anything close to an imposition."
Lian wriggled off her father's lap then, because her father was giving MJ the kind of smile he usually only gave Aunt Donna or Uncle Dick. Since MJ was giving him one of her own, Lian figured that meant they'd be staying at MJ's apartment for a while.
True to her predictions, Lian and Roy (who had long since upgraded from the couch) were still living in MJ's apartment eight years later, when Lian headed off to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s training program.
She didn't have a lot of space in the tiny sleeping quarters she was given, but there was enough room for a change of clothes and a picture of her mother, her father, and her baby sister on the desk beside her bed.
They were three of the best reasons a girl could have to wake up every day and save the world.