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The Multiversity: Just Remember, Lian, It's Only A Comic

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“Let’s see… Justice Squadron, no looks like this is the middle of a crossover I won’t know what’s going on… a Hyperwoman graphic novel, hmm too heavy for light reading… Super-Americans but ugh Liefeld is still working on stuff how does he keep getting work… Teen Guardian #0, hey an origin issue she looks cool, and… wait. Wait is this…? Oh ewww…!” Navajo teenager Lian Begay couldn’t believe it. “I don’t believe it. Hey, Rei!”

“WHAT?” Rei Tanaka called back from his spot in the couch in the game room, trying not to take his eyes off the round of the “Justice 9” video game he was playing with Rachel Grayson.

“You actually buy DC comics?” Lian couldn’t comprehend such a thing as she looked at the stack of comics Rei allowed her to pull out of his backpack for some late night reading. She knew Rei was a dork (they were ALL dorks in her opinion, including herself) but she thought Rei had TASTE. Although judging from how all his pajama shirts were references to outdated internet memes, this should’ve told her something.

“They’re not THAT bad!” Rei tried to defend his purchase in graphic novels, being well aware of the reputation DC Comics had as a bottom of the barrel publisher manned by a bunch of grabby, maladjusted morons. They had a couple of okay writers, like the one who did that Eternity Girl comic.

“Rei stop cheating!” Rachel ordered as she struggled to land a point on her teammate and best friend in the teen super group called the Super-Stars.

“I’m not I’m just hitting the A button!” Rei defended his actions as, on the TV screen, his Red Racer beat the snot out of her Iron Knight.

“You’re hitting the A button with super speed,” Rachel kept trying to deliver a combo but Rei wouldn’t let up, “And you better not break another controller or else Tim’s gonna have my head.”

“Tim Wayne is a billionaire,” Rei reminded her as if Rachel didn’t know anything about the man who took her in after her parents and brother were murdered. “He can afford a new game controller.”

“Is that what you said after he found out about the Wingcycle Incident?” Rachel snarked and alluded to an incident involving a car Tim Wayne owned as part of his crimefighting identity Owlwing. Lian threw herself over the couch, coming between her bickering friends and distracting them from their ongoing onslaught by expressing her disgust in Rei's shopping habits.

“You know President Weenie uses that company to promote stories with his self insert knock-off!” Lian waved the offending comic in her hand as if to emphasize her point. Anyone with half a brain called current President Oliver Queen by that nickname, because it was true. He was the WORST president the U.S.A. ever had. “It’s all a bunch of straight white guy versions of our parents and partners, including my dad and Tim,” Lian quickly flipped through the book without paying attention. “I mean, look at this,” Lian practically shoved the cover into their faces as she pointed to a woman dressed in familiar armor and scoffed. “Who’d ever believe Superamazon was white?”

“The guy at the store told me that comic was hot right now, I was curious!” Rei offered up his side of the story, neglecting to mention the store clerk who helped him out looked as though he drank bleach while discussing that particular comic. “I haven’t even read it-RACHEL NO FAIR!”

“Shouldn’t have let your guard down, Rei,” Rachel smirked as she finally landed a killing blow on Rei’s character, “Thanks for the distraction Lian.”

“Thanks, Lian,” Rei muttered as he glared in her direction before asking “Wanna play with us instead?”

“Nah,” Lian got off the couch, straightening out her “Ask About My Dad’s Feminist Agenda” shirt as she stood. “If I start playing now I’ll be up the whole night, but thanks.”

“Just don’t spoil that comic for me,” Rei asked and then settled on another round with Rachel. He was prepared to kick her bat ass. “Okay this time, I get to be Iron Knight.”

“No way! I called dibs,” Rachel was offended.

“But I lost,” Rei pleaded, “I should get first pick of characters. Isn’t that the polite thing to do?”

“First time I’ve ever heard of such a thing,” Rachel rolled her eyes. “Besides, this is MY house and I get to be Iron Knight.”

“This is Tim’s house,” Rei threw back as he poked her Gotham Knights jersey.

“It’s my game.”

“It’s Tim’s game.”

“You’re on MY team!”

“It’s OUR team!”

“Guys, guys!” Lian threw herself between the Japanese American boy and the Romani girl again, planting a kiss on both their cheeks. “Come on, no need to fight, I think you’re both beautiful.”

“Yes dear,” Rachel and Rei groaned together and kissed her back. “Okay, you can be Iron Knight,” Rachel smirked at Rei as she decided “I’m gonna be Merman.”

“Pfft, you think I’m scared of Merman?” Rei laughed. Rachel didn’t have the heart to tell him she’d mastered the ULTIMATE combo technique for that character. Why spoil the surprise?

Lian heard them continue their game as she retreated back to the guest room she was staying in. She knew Koryak was out hunting for a late night snack (what kind of snack, exactly, she didn’t want to know) and Vanessa Kapatelis, her best friend in the whole world, was still asleep.

It still felt weird, getting to spend the weekend in a giant mansion with her four closest friends outside of Arizona. It wasn’t the first time the Super-Stars, the death-defying acrobatic Batclaw (Rachel), the upbeat archer Sunbeam (Lian), the living whirlwind Twister Kid (Rei), the aquatic vampire Typhoon (Koryak), and the sonic warrior Swanmaiden (Vanessa), had gotten together as friends, but it was the first time the five of them were together in Wayne Manor.

Rachel was slightly embarrassed about how rich her foster brother (she didn’t want to think of him as a dad) was. If she were honest with herself, she was still getting used to living with Tim after her family was murdered by the supervillainess Strawflower. She still missed her biological brother, Dick. She missed the way they supported one another on the trapeze in Hayley’s Circus, the way they performed in front of the crowd with their parents John and Mary, and how Dick said he’d always be there to catch her if she fell. No one was there to catch him when he fell, and it ate Rachel up inside.

But the Super-Stars were cool about it, and only playfully teased Rachel about her swanky digs whenever she brought it up first and only when she was in a joking mood.

Lian was having trouble sleeping in such an unfamiliar abode, and looked for something to help her relax. She would’ve read her own comics (she was a fan of Nuclea, House of Gems, and, not that she’d admit it, the reboot of Hello, Megan!) but forgot to bring them with her. Thankfully Rei was a fellow comic nerd and almost always had a copy or two on him whenever they weren’t fighting bad guys like Captain Conundrum or the Minor Arcana.

As Lian entered the guest bedroom, she tiptoed in and turned on a small light by the nightstand. Vanessa was in the bed opposite her, and Lian didn’t want to disturb her slumber. You try dealing with a cranky Valkyrie in training. Lian propped herself up on some pillows and got comfortable. Looking at the comics, she sighed. Well, if anything, DC comics were good for a laugh at how bad they were. And they weren’t as offensive as that God awful dreck W. Simmons wrote about Lian’s late grandfather, Brave Bow, and his friends in the Secret Seven. Still, Lian couldn’t believe anyone would support or pay attention to comic where her dad was not only white, but Oliver Queen’s sidekick.
She held up the DC comic in question and read the title aloud.

“Heroes In Crisis #1…”

(To Be Continued)

Chapter Text

“So yeah, make yourself at home while I get the tea ready.”

“Are you sure I’m not imposing?”

“Not at all, Diyata. Besides, I hate coming home to an empty house. Well, it’s never really empty.”

Roy Begay, the tall, beefy archer who also went by Blazing Bow, unlocked the front door of his Arizona abode and invited inside Diyata Disari, a.k.a. the Grey Tiger of Star City.

“Sorry it’s a bit of a mess,” Roy turned on a hall light and apologized before turning to a framed photo on the wall and greeting it with a cheery “Hey dad.”

As Roy took off his mask, quiver, and jacket, and hung them in the hall closet with his bow, Diyata got a closer look at the photo Roy spoke to. She saw a much older man with graying hair, and a short, skinny redhead she could only assume was Roy when he was younger. The two were standing in an archery range and Roy was flashing two “V” signs with his hands. The older man, Roy’s foster dad Raymond Begay, looked proud.

“God I can’t believe you were so tiny,” Diyata marveled as she took off her grey jacket and then her white wig, revealing her muscular arms and black curls. “Or that you had short hair,” she added, casting her glance to Roy’s thick, magnificent mane of red hair that flowed down past his broad shoulders.

“I was a shrimp alright,” Roy laughed, wondering how he’d ever been so small and skinny before. He’d definitely filled out as he got older, horizontally AND vertically.

“I’m guessing that was your punk phase?” Diyata laughed as she pointed to the spiked bracelets mini-Roy had on.

“Do not remind me,” Roy groaned, but smiled. Despite what he said, and despite how bad the music was back then, those were good times.

“Where can I put these?” Diyata asked, motioning to her wig and jacket. “I mean, I don’t want to leave them just anywhere.”

“Oh don’t worry about it,” Roy assured her, motioning to the messy living room littered with toys and junk belonging to both his daughters. “Just drop ‘em where you feel. You can go wash your make-up off if you want while I put the water on. You take honey, right?”

“Yes please,” Diyata was grateful as she placed a hand over her throat, “Helps after a long night unleashing my growl.”

“I can imagine,” Roy called back as he busied himself in the kitchen. “You want something to eat too?”

“Just tea is fine!” Diyata answered back from the first floor bathroom.

As Roy put the kettle on the stove and let the water boil, he took the opportunity to head into his and his wife Donna’s bedroom to finally change out of his clothes. After a long day at the ranger station and then a night fighting supervillains, nothing felt better than getting into a pair of sweats and a comfortable t-shirt.

While getting his boots off, Roy dialed Donna and put her on speaker phone.

“Hey Ranger Roy,” his wife replied in that beautiful Irish accent that drove Roy wild with passion.

“Hey Butterfly,” Roy replied using his nickname for his beloved spouse, “I’m not waking you up am I?”

“No, I’m just putting the finishing touches on this display,” Donna explained. “I’ve been up most the night.”

“Is the museum paying you overtime for those photos?” Roy inquired, hoping they weren’t taking advantage of her skills as a photographer and artiste.

“They better be,” Donna replied, “After all the harping they’ve done about this new exhibit.”

“How’s our Moongirl?” Roy asked about his and Donna’s baby girl, “Not driving the grandparents nuts is she?”

“Phoebe? Of course but they love it,” Donna laughed as she explained “They’re spoiling her rotten though. I keep telling them not to spend so much but they insist on giving her whatever she wants.”

“She’s one,” Roy couldn't help but smirk. “Whatever she wants means anything she can grab.”

“You should see her aim though,” Donna recalled how often Phoebe would throw around her stuffed animals as Gran and Gramps kept trying to take pictures of her with them all. “There’s no doubt she’s your daughter.”

“She’s OUR daughter,” Roy said. “I wish we could get those two stateside so they can spend time with Lian, too. She deserves to have ONE set of grandparents in her life.”

“Speaking of,” Donna tried to change the subject since it annoyed her too how little her parents were interested in knowing her older daughter, even if they weren't related by blood. “How is our Sunshine?”

“Oh she’s spending the weekend with Rachel and the kids, driving Tim nuts I’ll bet,” Roy mentioned, stroking the beard on his chin in careful contemplation. Ah they were all good kids, Roy believed. “But I haven’t gotten any calls yet so I assume the Super-Stars didn’t blow up another of his cars.”

“Or they just got better at hiding the wreckage,” Donna proposed. “So you’ve got the house all to yourself? Lucky guy.”

“Please, you know I can’t stand it when I’m alone,” Roy sighed and revealed “I’ve actually got Diyata over.”

“That’s nice,” Donna loved Diyata though she didn’t understand her taste in music. “Syndicate business?” Roy, Donna, and Diyata were all members of the super group the Justice Syndicate of America. Roy was even a founding member alongside Tim Wayne.

“We just wrapped up a case,” Roy started to give Donna the details. “Diyata was tracking an East Coast guy, goes by the name Candyman. He was trying to set up a drug lab a few miles outside of Oljato. Some super steroid, ‘Tar’ I think.”

“Ugh!” Roy could only imagine the disgusted expression on his wife’s face at the thought of more drug traffickers trying to invade their home. “But you guys took care of it no problem?”

“They weren’t a match for the dynamic duo of Blazing Bow and Grey Tiger,” Roy flexed his muscular arms in a heroic pose even though Donna couldn’t see it. “Too bad they didn’t get to see Blazing Bow and Etain in action,” Roy referred to Donna by her super name and the name of her past life incarnation.

“Let’s hope there won’t be a next time for them,” Donna said when suddenly Roy heard a shrill whistling sound.

“Oop, water’s done! Gotta go, love you hon, and tell Moongirl her daddy loves her too.”

“Love you too, say hi to Di for me and the same to Sunshine,” Donna finished before hanging up.

Roy couldn’t help but smile as he thought about how much Donna loved Lian, even though she wasn’t her biological mother. That honor went to Jade Nguyen, a mercenary who operated under the persona non grata of Queen of Hearts. Roy was happy Lian was as close to Donna as he’d been to Raymond Begay, his dad who took him in when his birth parents died in a forest fire. There was no doubt Lian considered Donna her mom, although she still acknowledged Jade had a presence in her life as her birth mother even if Roy no longer loved her.

Roy hurried into the kitchen and got the kettle off the stove just as Diayata left the bathroom. She’d finished wiping off the tiger stripes she painted on her face to complete her heroine ensemble, revealing brown skin a similar shade to Roy’s. Only she didn’t have freckles like him.

“Donna says ‘Hi,’” Roy mentioned to his Justice Syndicate teammate as he began to pour water in two mugs.

“Cool shirt,” Diyata complimented Roy on his pink tee that said “Ask About My Daughter’s Feminist Agenda.” Comfortable around the belly AND political, what more could a man want in a shirt? “So where is Donna?”

“Helping out with some museum in Ireland,” Roy began to stir honey in the two mugs, “Some archaeological discovery. It’s a lost civilization similar to Phil’s people,” Phil meant Phillipus, as in the Amazon general who operated as Superamazon. “They have Donna on site taking photographs, and since her parents live nearby she brought Phoebe with her for a mini vacation.”

”They just happened to be living near the exact site of a lost civilization of proto-Amazonians,” Diyata found that hard to believe.

“Eh, they rented a room,” Roy admitted as he handed Diyata her tea. “They have enough to spend on an extended stay hotel room and to shower Phoebe with gifts, but they can’t afford plane tickets to visit us.”

“Why not get Dominique or Julio to help?” Diyata inquired.

“Donna’s parents are not really fans of us being superheroes,” Roy scratched the back of his head, remembering more than a few awkward conversations and the way his in-laws acted during the wedding. They had a hard enough time accepting Donna was the reincarnation of a figure from Celtic mythology.

“Oh sweet relief,” Diyata sighed as she took a small sip of tea and exhaled. “You have no idea how much I needed this. Using the Tiger Growl can be such a drain whenever I’ve got a show coming up.”

When Diyata wasn’t working at the Star City police station or growing roses or dressing up as Grey Tiger, she sang in a heavy metal band called the Birds of Prey. Roy and some of their teammates went to her shows whenever they were in the area. Lian was much a fan as he was of their latest song, “Queen Killer Shark.”

“You sure you don’t want anything to eat to go with it?” Roy blew the steam off his own tea before asking “Did you have dinner or anything tonight?”

“I’m fine, really. Don’t trouble yourself on my account,” Diyata gently turned down his offer. “The tea’s enough for me, Roy.”

Roy grinned and got up close to Diyata, whispering in her ear “I made corn muffins.”

“Hot damn!” Diyata set her mug down and looked excited. Among all of the Justice Syndicate of America, everyone knew Roy was a great cook. He had to be in order to take care of Lian by himself, before Donna entered the picture and before Phoebe was born. Whenever someone in the Syndicate had a birthday, Roy supplied the cake (or pie, if need be). Sometimes people looked for excuses just to get him to bake, and he was all too happy to oblige though he was modest about his skills. He never had a problem whipping something up at 3 in the morning at the Syndicate’s HQ. He loved taking care of people and being there for them, especially his family.

“Funny you should say that cuz I did burn them a little,” Roy revealed as he opened a container of slightly dark muffins. “Not too bad is it?”

“Hon they’re gorgeous,” Diyata was practically drooling, realizing she was indeed hungry.

“Want jam or anything?” Roy asked when his phone began to buzz. The caller ID said it was Lian. “Un momento. Sunflower, hi! Why are you sti-“

“Daddy?!” Lian practically screamed. “Are you okay?!”

“Lian?” Roy set his mug down and Diyata stopped eating when she saw the concerned look on his face. “Lian, what’s-“

“I, I just, you, it had, y-you were, you were!” Roy could hear Lian sobbing over the phone before she began babbling in what Diyata figured was the Navajo language Roy and Lian both spoke and were raised on. Trouble is she had no idea what Lian was saying, but Roy did.

“Lian, Lian!” Roy replied back trying to get her calm down, looking more and more anxious but trying his hardest not to panic.

“Roy what happened?” Diyata placed her hands on Roy’s shoulder. “Is she okay?”

“I-I don’t know, she’s hysterical,” Roy explained as he heard his oldest daughter’s cries. “Lian calm down you’re not making any sense! Who died?”

YOU DID!” Lian shrieked as she started crying even harder, and Roy had to move the phone away from his ear. “YOU’RE DEAD, I SAW IT! Y-YOU WERE ON THE FLOOR, C-C-COVERED IN B-B, B, I-I-“

The last thing Roy heard was a retching noise over the phone before the call suddenly ended.

“Lian? Lian?!” Roy ran his hand through his hair steadily looking more upset before he took a deep breath. “Okay, okay,” he told himself, “Keep calm. Keep calm and figure this out.”

“Roy what was that all about?” Diyata further inquired, though Roy was as lost as her. “Why does she think you died?”

“I could barely follow what she was saying,” Roy tried dialing another number, “Something about a book and sanctuary or something and somebody named ‘Harley Quinn.’ Come on, pick up, pick up!”

“Hold on,” Diyata advised, “Where is she exactly?”

“She’s in Gotham at Tim’s house,” Roy was waiting for the person he called to answer.

“If she’s with her teammates, she’s with Arthur’s kid, right? Koryak? He uses magic I think? He teleports,” Diyata remembered.

“Yeah but I don’t have Koryak’s number if he even has a phone, I’m calling-Hello? Dominique?” Roy turned away from Diyata to speak to his other teammate, Dominique Wayne. “Listen something is wrong with Lian. She’s with Rachel and the others at Tim’s house and she sounds hysterical. I’m with Diyata at my house, can you-“

“Roy, Diyata, good evening.”

“-Pick us up,” Roy hung up as he watched a tall woman wearing a broad brimmed hat, wielding a deadly looking scythe in one hand and a smart phone in the other, manifest inside his kitchen.

“Are those corn muffins freshly baked?” Dominique Wayne, a.k.a. Ankou, psychopomp to lost children and the Spirit of Vengeance inquired.

(To Be Continued)

Chapter Text

“You, you-“ Rei sputtered in outrage as Rachel did a little victory dance with her controller in her hands.

“Oh come on Rei, you said you weren’t scared of Merman,” Rachel chuckled as she waved the controller in the air.

“I didn’t know Merman could do THAT!” Rei pointed an accusatory finger in Rachel’s direction. “Liar! Deceiver! Batcheat!”

“I know and I’m still doing my victory dance,” Rachel laughed as Rei began tossing throw pillows at her with super speed. “Wanna play again?”

“With you? Never again in my life!” Rei harrumphed and sank back into the couch. Rachel threw a pillow at him. “Can we get a snack first?”

“If Aunt Harriet made brownies do NOT eat all of-“

“Lian come back! Lian!”

Rei and Rachel were distracted from their faux arguing when they heard someone shouting in the hallway, followed by a door slamming shut. Before Rachel could blink, Rei was gone and zipped up to the side of Vanessa Kapatelis as she banged on the bathroom door.

“What’s up, Nessquick?” Rei asked while using the nickname everyone knew Vanessa loathed, but she was too worried to care.

“Lian, come out of the bathroom!” Vanessa pleaded as she knocked on the door. “What happened in there?”

“What’s going on?” Rachel joined her teammates and Rei could only shrug, being just as lost as her but not as lost as Vanessa. “Vanessa, what’s happened to Lian?”

“I have no idea!” Vanessa started to explain, brushing away strands of her wavy brown hair from out of her face. “I was in our room trying to sleep, when I wake up to the sound of Lian sobbing. I get up, turn on the light, and she’s in bed holding a comic and she looks like somebody murdered her pet cat or something!”

“Lian doesn’t own a pet cat,” Rei mentioned.

“NOT. THE POINT,” Vanessa emphasized. “I tried to ask what was wrong and the next thing I know she’s running into the bathroom with her phone.”

“Guys shush,” Rachel quieted them and pointed to the door. The three of them could hear Lian babbling in Navajo to someone, before she began screaming that someone had died.

“Is she talking to her dad?” Rei asked, catching disturbing snippets of the conversation. “She thinks her father’s dead? Vanessa, do you know what she’s saying? She’s taught you some of her language.”

“She’s talking too fast for me to understand. Guys did something happen while I was asleep?” Vanessa asked, trying to get to the bottom of this and gradually losing her patience because of the state her best friend was in. “Is Roy okay?”

“How should we know?” Rei asked. “The two of us,” he pointed to Rachel and himself, “Have been playing video games for the past couple of hours.”

“She was fine a while ago,” Rachel told Vanessa as she took out her phone. “Hold on, I’m gonna call Tim so he can call Roy.”

“No need for that,” a voice manifested out of nowhere. Rei let out a little frightened shriek and backed up into the next room as Ankou, Blazing Bow dressed in his pajamas, and Grey Tiger (minus her make-up, wig, and jacket) suddenly appeared in the hallway next to the two girls.

“Oh no,” Rachel moaned, “If Ankou brought them then-“

As if on cue, Diyata doubled over, clutching her mouth and trying not to puke. Dominique’s teleporting had that effect on people, mostly because she was more used to travelling with people who were dead. Rachel hurried and pulled open a hall window before Diyata hurled on one of Tim’s family’s antique rugs. Diyata rushed to the open window and retched.

“Sorry,” Diyata apologized to Rachel, “I just had half a corn muffin. And carrots, apparently.”

“Children,” Dominique tipped her hat to the two teens and smiled warmly. She had a great affinity for children, and in years past had babysat many of the young Super-Stars. “Always a pleasure.”

“Guys where is Lian?” Roy immediately asked as he got his bearings, thankful he only took a sip of tea before Dominique teleported them to Wayne Manor.

“Thank God,” Vanessa sighed and actually hugged Roy out of relief. She'd spent many nights sleeping over at the Begay house and cared about Roy a lot, since he acted as a father figure to her following the death of her own dad. She’d honestly been scared something happened to Roy. “You aren’t dead. But now I’m more confused. Lian’s in the bathroom and she won’t come out.”

“Roy what is going on?” Rachel referred to him by his real name, as he insisted all of Lian’s teammates call him that. It was one of the reasons they liked him so much. “Lian apparently thinks you’re dead?”

“The best I could get out of her was something about a book and me on the floor,” Roy scratched the back of his head as he was still not sure what had caused all this.

“A book?” Rachel replied. “She specifically said a book?”

“Sort of,” Roy sighed, “I was having trouble understanding her.”

“Did she say ‘Book’ or ‘Comic book?’” Rachel was getting an idea of what happened.

“I think it might’ve been comic book,” Roy admitted.

“Pretty sure she said comic book,” a voice from down the hall said. Everyone turned to see Koryak, Inuit teen vampire, son of the undersea werewolf Aquawolf, and the fifth Super-Star, standing beside a guilty looking Rei. Kory held a comic book in his hand.

“Where’ve you been?” Rachel wondered.

“I was out looking for something to snack on,” Kory’s fangs gleamed a bit as he spoke, not mentioning said snack was a raccoon. “And when I came in I heard you guys shouting about Lian. Then I saw Rei sneaking into the bedroom and found him looking for this,” he finished explaining as he motioned to the aforementioned comic. Now all eyes were on Rei.

“Rei what did you do?” Vanessa folded her arms across her chest and glared at him.

“Nothing I swear!” Rei defended himself. “If I knew what was in that comic I would’ve never bought it, honest!”

“WHAT comic?” Roy finally asked, but then he groaned. “Is it a W. Simmons book?”

“Oh God,” Diyata bristled at the name, “What did that hack do this time?”

“I would NEVER buy something written by W. Simmons!” Rei got angry at the mere implication of being associated with that name. “And even if I did I would never let Lian read it! I may be an idiot most of the time, but I’m not heartless!”

“Easy Rei,” Roy assured his daughter’s teammate, “No one’s mad at you.”

W. Simmons was an author of speculative fiction who made a name for themselves capitalizing over the cultural phenomena sparked from the deaths of the Secret Seven. Roy’s father as well as six other heroes, Snow Owl, Ultimate Man, Supervalkyrie, Johnny Cyclone I, Power Lantern, and the Saturnian Stalker, had all been killed in a mysterious explosion alongside their archenemies in the Crime Club. The clownish Iago, the super genius Larissa Lennox, the depraved Prof. Rothbart, the sociopathic biker Dead Heat, the alien energy wielding Paradox, the carnival freak called the Flame Eater, and the British mercenary known as Witch of Pappelwick. The last one was Raymond’s self-described “Arch-enemy,” but Roy only met her once or twice.

No one could find any evidence to prove what caused their deaths, which led to many discussions, newspaper articles, and investigative specials asking “Who Killed The Secret Seven?” Then a few years ago, a comic company called Seagull Press started releasing books offering hypothetical scenarios on what may have happened aboard the S7’s satellite headquarters. Every tale was penned by W. Simmons, and they almost always ended with a different killer. Sometimes it was one of the heroes, sometimes a villain. It was almost never Brave Bow, but that was because W. Simmons portrayed him as useless, a cheap knock-off of Snow Owl who died fairly quickly because he lacked any “Real” skills.

Roy hated those books, as did the other founders of the Justice Syndicate since they were all close to or related to someone in the Secret Seven. Tim Wayne’s mother, Marta Wayne, had been Snow Owl. Many of the other heroes loathed those comics as well, and they were frequently trying to find out who W. Simmons was in order to stop their slander. But even a great detective like Owlwing or, say, the elastic private eye called Gumshoe, couldn’t track them down. It was like W. Simmons didn’t exist beyond their name.

The one bright spot Roy saw in this mess was at least they weren’t dealing with W. Simmons.

“W. Simmons’ name isn’t on this book,” Kory explained as he held up the offending comic in question. “It’s written by somebody named King.”

“Ewww, it’s a DC comic?!” Vanessa looked at the cover like it was diseased. “They’re almost as bad as W. Simmons.”

“Pfft, can you believe what an egomaniac Ollie Queen is?” Diyata pointed to the cover. Specifically to a blonde woman standing next to what was obviously Oliver Queen ripping off Raymond Begay. “President Weenie had them make a stand-in for his dumbass wife, Mia.”

“Mia’s the daughter, Dinah’s the wife,” Rachel explained.

“Well they’re both morons,” Diyata reasoned.

“Excuse me,” Roy took the comic from Kory to see for himself what the problem was and what had scared Lian so badly. From first glance the writing was atrocious and the artist was incapable of conveying any real emotion. But that was DC. He didn’t expect less from a company that lived to serve Oliver Queen’s petty hate on for Roy’s family and the rest of the Justice Syndicate. He knew all about “Arsenal,” the whitewashed counterpart made to look like Roy if he’d lived with “Green Arrow,” Queen’s attempt to mock everything Raymond Begay did and stood for as a civil rights and Native rights activist.

Roy felt disgust getting a sense this book was supposed to be about PTSD but was loaded with bloody imagery including what seemed to be a person getting eaten by crows. Then he got to the page as the Ultimate Man stand-in, Super-something, discovered two more bodies and…

Rei and everyone else took an involuntary step back as Roy swiftly ripped the comic in half as if it was a single tissue. The look on his face was horrifying, enough to make even a ghost like Dominique Wayne fearful. Though what was truly startling was the simple fact Roy Begay never, NEVER, got angry. When people thought of him, the first word to come to mind was “Sweetheart.”

Looking at him now, the first word they thought of was "RUN."

“Rei what did you do?” Vanessa repeated, zeroing in on her teammate once again as if this was his fault. Vanessa did tend to argue with Rei on a daily basis, but that was just the way their friendship was. However, getting an idea he might’ve hurt Lian and she was truly pissed off.

“I didn’t do ANYTHING! And it’s not like I wrote that stupid thing!” Rei defended himself.

“But you couldn’t have looked through it before you bought it?” Vanessa continued, getting angrier because of what might’ve happened to Lian. “You just blindly get any comic someone recommends?”

“I was in a hurry at the store!”

“You’re the Twister Kid!” Vanessa got up in Rei’s face and poked his chest, “You’re always in a hurry!”

“Guys! Enough!” Rachel got between them before a fight sparked. “This isn’t about Rei’s spending habits, Vanessa. This is about Lian getting upset, and we aren’t gonna help her by blaming each other over a dumb comic.”

“Yeah, Nessa,” Kory stepped in to defend Rei since he knew his teammate well enough to trust Rei would never willingly hurt his friends. “Rei rushes into stuff but he’d never do something to upset Lian this badly.”

“Roy,” Diyata placed a hand on Roy’s trembling shoulder as his breathing intensified, the two halves of the offending comic held tightly in his big fists. “How bad was it?”

“Bad,” Roy seethed.

“Ahem,” Dominique cleared her throat and everyone turned to her. “I don’t mean to interrupt, but I do believe Lian is still in that room and would like to see her father now.”
Roy sighed and let the torn pages of the comics fall to the floor as he loosened his grip, kicking himself for not immediately going to his Sunflower’s side.

“Thanks Dominique,” Roy quietly said before taking several deep breaths in order to steady himself before gently knocking on the door. “Lian? It’s me, Etai Yazi, can you-“

There was a sound of footsteps running towards the door and frantically undoing the lock. Roy took one step back as Lian yanked open the door and threw herself into her dad’s arms and sobbed.

“You’re okay,” Lian’s tears soaked her dad’s shirt as she hugged him. “Thank God you’re okay.”

“Of course I am, Sunbeam,” Roy held her tightly as his daughter kept crying.

“I saw,” Lian gasped, “I-I saw you-!“

“I know, I know,” Roy tried to soothe her. “But I’m here, okay?”

“Uh, Dominique,” Rachel tugged on Dominique’s shawl, “Maybe you should lose the scythe and everything for the time being.”

“Oh!” Dominique felt awful, realizing if Lian saw her in her full “Ankou” regalia standing next to her father she might freak out even harder. “How rude of me,” and with a wave of her hand she turned into a normal looking woman in a dark purple blouse.

Diyata picked up some of the torn pages to make out what had happened. She felt her heart sink into her stomach as she recognized what appeared to be a skinnier, whiter version of Roy sprawled on the floor, dead and covered in blood next to what she assumed was the Johnny Cyclone knock off.

“Someone needs to murder Oliver Queen,” Diyata muttered as she watched Roy tried to comfort Lian in his arms.

With that, everyone in the room was in agreement.

(To Be Continued)

Chapter Text

“Oh my Goooooood,” Tim Wayne moaned as he made his way up the stairs from the Owl’s Nest into Wayne Manor. “I hate it whenever Mud Pack is in town,” he groaned as he ripped off his mud and clay drenched costume. He decided to leave the articles of clothing on the stone steps and worry about them later. Sure Aunt Harriet was going to murder him, but he’d welcome death after the next hour long shower scrubbing mud out of his-

“-are you hungry? You want a pair of socks? You itch anywhere?”

Entering the doorway hidden by the old grandfather clock, Tim, wearing just his pants and boots, was surprised to see someone was throwing a party at his house and no one told him ahead of time.

“Uh…”

Tim entered the parlor to see Rachel, Vanessa, Koryak, Rei, as well as Diyata, Dominique, and Wayne Manor’s housekeeper “Aunt” Harriet Cooper, were hovering around Roy and Lian Begay seated on the couch. All of them were dressed in pajamas except for Diyata and Dominique. The only three people who didn’t look up to see Tim enter the room were the Begays and Vanessa, who kept her focus solely on Lian.

Tim felt foolish standing there, his black hair drenched with mud and dirt caking his face and getting stuck to his five o’clock shadow. Obviously this was a serious moment and he made it awkward.

“Mud Pack?” Rachel guessed from the gunk in Tim's hair.

“Did you leave your costume on the floor, Master Tim?” Harriet was immediately about to get on his case about it, but thought against it with the situation at hand.

“Yeah, and yes, but what is…” Tim motioned to everyone seated around the Begays. “This?”

“I told you I invited the guys over this weekend,” Rachel reminded him.

“Yes but… you guys blew up another car, didn’t you?” Tim guessed as he rubbed his temples, expecting some more exasperation heading his way.

“I’m never living that down,” Rei threw his arms up in defeat, “Am I?”

“In fairness Rei,” Kory began to point out, patting Rei on the back in consolation, “You DID blow up his car.”

“IT WAS POSSESSED, KORY!” Rei shouted, getting sick of having to justify what happened to the last Wingcycle.

“No one blew up a car Tim,” Rachel clarified.

“Yes, Miss Lian just had a very bad fright,” Harriet explained after she herself woke up and found out what was causing so much shouting. Harriet was well aware of her employer’s nocturnal habits as well as that of his friends. “Miss Dominique brought over her father and Miss Diyata.”

“Roy, Lian?” Tim hurried over to his friend and teammate, afraid of what transpired while he was out in the city.

“It’s nothing,” Lian avoided Tim’s gaze, “It’s stupid. I got worked up over nothing.”

“No you didn’t, Sunshine,” Roy assured her.

“Got worked up over what?” Tim inquired.

“Nothing, I’m fine,” Lian replied, though her bloodshot eyes from all her crying betrayed her. “Please, I-I don’t want to talk about this again in front of Tim.”

“Guys, I think Lian and I have to talk in private. Tim,” Roy looked up, “Is there a room we can use where we won’t be disturbed?”

“Of course,” Tim offered immediately, confusion be damned. “Follow me.”

“Come on, Lian,” Roy gently helped Lian up off the couch.

“Do you want me to come with you, Lian?” Vanessa asked, not wanting to leave her best friend alone in such dire straits.

“Lian?” Roy calmly asked his daughter. “Is it okay if Vanessa joins us?”

“I’m sorry Nessa,” Lian apologized, “I just wanna be alone with my dad for a bit.”

“I understand,” Vanessa accepted, though she felt like she was betraying Lian for not staying by her side. She held onto Lian’s hand a bit longer and added “But call me if you need anything.”

“Thank you, hon,” Roy nodded at his daughter’s best friend before Tim led them to another area of the mansion. “Come on, sweetie.”

Tim led Roy and Lian into a room on the far end of the mansion, one they were certain not to be bothered in. It was Tim’s brother Bruce’s old bedroom, which had been empty ever since the night Bruce, as well as their father Tomas, had been shot to death. While Marta Wayne had left the room like a shrine to Bruce following his death, Tim had turned it into a guest room as he was tired of dwelling on Bruce’s passing. He had enough on his hands dwelling on Marta’s death.

Roy led Lian inside the room while Tim turned on the overhead lights. The young girl sat down on the recently cleaned bed when Tim pulled Roy aside.

“Roy, what’s going on?” Tim whispered. “Was there some big emergency and I couldn’t be reached?”

“Nothing like that, Tim,” Roy quietly assured his teammate and friend, “I’ll explain later. Thank you for the room and the privacy.”

“Of course,” Tim shrugged off Roy’s thanks, “You know mine and Rachel’s home is always open to your family.”

“Same to you, bro,” Roy hugged Tim, not worried about getting any of Mud Pack’s residue on his shirt since it was already wet from Lian’s crying.

Once Tim left the room, Roy sat down next to Lian on the wide bed. She was hugging a pillow to her chest and staring at her feet.

“Hey,” Roy laughed as he gestured to their matching tees. “Serendipity or what?”

Lian didn’t laugh.

“Sorry,” Roy added, “Not the right time.”

“Its fine dad,” Lian didn’t look up, “No. No it’s not.”

“Well I know my sense of humor is kind of-“

“No!” Lian quickly replied. “I don’t mean that. I’m sorry. I just,” Lian struggled to figure out what to say. “I feel so stupid, scaring everyone like that. Over a dumb DC comic book. I feel like such a baby.”

“Lian, you don’t have to apologize for anything, not to me or your friends or anyone,” Roy explained as he tried to rub her back in order for her to relax a little. “You got upset because you thought I had died. You had every right to feel that way.”

“I thought you were dead in a comic book,” Lian groaned. “And it wasn’t even a good comic.”

“Ugh, I know, does anyone at DC even bother to try?” Roy agreed and then he realized something. “Damn, I should’ve brought some of your books with me. I wanted to mention I read that Justice Cabal Annual, the Legends of the Dead Earth one? It was pretty good.”

“It’s okay,” Lian muttered, “I liked the Nuclea annual better.”

But then suddenly, Lian let out a cry of utter frustration and threw herself over the bed, burying her face in the sheets.

“What am I doing?!” Lian cried. “I just completely embarrassed myself in front of you and my friends over a stupid book, and now I’m talking about a totally different one like nothing happened?! What is wrong with me?!”

“Sunflower-“

“I-I mean who does that?!” Lian kept going. “So what if I was upset because it was a character based on you?! S-so what if it made me think about what might happen if, if anything bad could happen to you in real life?! So what if, if seeing him like that, all bloody and his, his, his eyes were closed and I closed my eyes and I saw you like that and…” Lian gasped, “And…”

She couldn’t get the rest of the words out of her throat.

“Well, I did that.”

Lian sat up, wiping the new tears streaming down from her eyes, not sure what her dad just said.

“Oh,” Lian said and it started to hit her. “Oh my God. Daddy I,” Lian tried to apologize as fast as she could, hugging him tightly. “I’m so sorry. You, and the stuff W. Simmons wrote about Grandpa Raymond. Of course. And Tim and his mom, and Sally’s brother, and,” Lian groaned. “How could I forget?”

“I wasn’t just talking about your grandpa, Lian,” Roy held her close.

“What do you mean?” Lian looked up at him and couldn’t believe the pained expression on her father’s face as he started to remember. It hurt Roy just to look her in the eye as he said this, but she needed to know he truly understood how she felt so she would stop beating herself up for what happened.

“You know DC’s been around for a while, right?” Roy began to explain his past experience in this matter. “Well, a few years ago when you were about 3 or 4, they released this book called Cry for Justice. It was another attempt by Oliver Queen to look like God’s gift to the unwashed masses. His ‘Green Arrow’ teamed up with a Power Lantern knock off saying they were gonna take a proactive stance against crime. The writing was terrible and the art was a mess. All the characters did were saying ‘Justice’ over and over again.”

“Eww,” Lian agreed.

“Well,” Roy scratched the back of his head, “One day at the ranger station, somebody mentioned the comic to me because it looked like Ollie Queen was trying to get another rise out of me.” Oliver Queen had a long standing grudge against the Begays due to all the protests and lawsuits Raymond Begay led against Queen Industries, back before he unfairly became President. Oliver was even the reason Raymond gained his so-called arch enemy the Witch of Pappelwick. But though Raymond was long dead, Oliver tried to find ways to take out his petty anger on Roy. Seems being President was slightly hindering that from how bad it got before.

“What did President Weenie do this time?” Lian inquired.

“Heh, Weenie,” Roy chuckled at the nickname but then he began to frown. “Well, his stand-in for me, that ‘Roy Harper’ guy, he kiiiiiinda lost an arm.”

“No!” Lian gasped.

“Fifth issue,” Roy recalled.

“Ugh, I hate Queen!” Lian threw a pillow at the wall imagining she was hitting Queen’s head. “Why is he always trying to mess with us like this?”

“You know Ollie Queen,” Roy threw a pillow alongside her, imagining the same target. “The minute someone gets on his bad side he won’t let up until they’re dead. God I remember how much trouble your grandpa gave him when he tried to build that condo outside Window Rock. He,” Roy started to laugh, “He could always get ol’ Ollie’s face to turn that special shade of red.”

“He’s such a butthead,” Lian harrumphed, “I can’t believe he did that to you. I mean, to Roy Harper.”

“That... wasn’t what got me upset, Lian,” Roy sighed.

“It wasn’t?” Lian asked. “Then what happened?”

Roy didn’t speak again for a full minute, closing his eyes and trying to steady himself. He held onto Lian’s hand.

“In the last issue of the comic, the bad guy’s machines malfunctioned and caused a bunch of earthquakes,” Roy spoke in a low voice. “One of them hit Star City, which is where all the characters associated with Green Arrow lived.”

“Did Roy Harper die?”

“…his daughter did.”

Lian felt as though she’d been stabbed in the chest as her father’s grip tightened.

“A house fell down around her. She’d,” Roy swallowed, “She was crushed to death.”

Lian immediately hugged her father, and he hugged her back. Neither of them said anything. Roy began to clearly recall the scene where that bastard Queen found his Sunshine’s, found Lian Harper’s body, after she’d been left alone by her idiot babysitter so there’d be an excuse for her to die. Roy hadn’t thought about it in years, but it was clear as day in his head the moment he remembered.

“What did you do?” Lian asked. “After you found out?”

“I left the ranger station without saying anything, picked you up from daycare, brought you home, and held you in my arms for hours,” Roy recalled. “I was terrified of letting you go. Oh Lian, I was a mess back then. I hadn’t felt that bad since your grandpa died, but the thought of losing you drained the life out of me. The next few weeks were pure Hell. I barely left the house. I wouldn’t eat. I wouldn’t sleep. I’d stay up all night keeping an eye on you and then I’d make sure we were always in the same room together when you were awake. Even when I tried to eat I couldn’t keep anything down. I lost like 20 pounds. Everyone at the ranger station was worried about me, and so were the guys in the Syndicate.”
“You were that upset?” Lian knew it was a stupid question to ask, but she couldn’t believe it.

“Lian, Etai Yazi,” Roy looked at her with profound sadness in his gaze. “Back then it was just the two of us. You were the only family I had left. Losing my dad was horrible enough, but the thought of losing YOU would’ve brought my world to an end. And seeing that image of your, of her, of…” Roy put a hand over his mouth, “Even if it was just a comic, Oliver Queen knew what he was doing. He based those characters off of me and off of you deliberately to hurt us. I could’ve handled it if he only attacked me, I even laughed when I saw the picture of Red Arrow without his arm. But attacking you was something I wasn’t prepared to deal with.”

“What happened then?” Lian wondered, imagining her dad had to have snapped out of it.

“The guys in the Syndicate decided we needed a vacation,” Roy explained. “A long one. It was their way of trying to keep an eye on me and you. We spent a few days on Sally’s ranch, visited Julio at his apartment in Central City, Jillian invited us to the air base, Jia took us on a tour of Ivy University, we were everywhere. We capped off the trip by spending a week here in Tim’s house, back when he was still transitioning.”

“Jia Choi did something nice?” Lian could hardly believe it, knowing Jia, a.k.a. the size shifting heroine Atomic Star, was a benign but high functioning sociopath known for her emotional detachment to most things around her.

“She tried,” Roy mentioned, “Thank her when you get a chance.”

“Ah, I’m sorry,” Lian apologized again, “That was rude. I know she tries. I’m just really tired. I think I remember the ranch,” Lian started to recall. She’d been to Sally Selwyn, a.k.a. Ultimate Woman’s ranch, a couple of times before, but she was specifically remembering the time her dad was describing. “Was that when there was that really bad thunderstorm?”

“Yes!” Roy’s eyes lit up as she recalled, “And you got scared thinking ghosts were gonna come inside the house if the power went out so-“

“Sally got out those old sheets we cut holes into to pretend we were ghosts so they wouldn’t scare us!” Lian laughed. “We spent all night wearing those things.”

“Honestly, that trip was what I needed to get out of my head and back to work,” Roy clarified. “I mean, I was still worried about you, but I had an easier time reaching out to Tim and the guys, and I started speaking with a therapist for a few months.”

“What about Oliver Queen?” Lian frowned.

“The one form of revenge I settled on was how poorly that comic did,” Roy explained. “It sold so badly DC almost went bankrupt, like a lot of Queen’s companies did. It made me feel slightly better everyone was angry about Lian Harper’s death, just not as upset as I was. Apparently she was pretty popular,” Roy nudged his daughter, “Who’d have thought?”

“Well I am wonderful and lovable,” Lian smirked.

“And so huggable too,” Roy enveloped her in a bone crushing hug.

“Daddy don’t choke me!” Lian gasped but kept laughing. “You’re such a dork!”

“Genetics, Sunbeam,” Roy warned her, “You’re doomed.”

“Wait if she was so popular why haven’t I heard of her before?” Lian asked.

“After DC did that stupid reboot where they turned me, I mean, Roy Harper, into an alcoholic, they got rid of Lian altogether to try and avoid mentioning Cry For Justice ever again,” Roy recapped. “Typical Queen to pretend a problem doesn’t exist.”

“Was that all you did?” Lian began to clarify “All you settled on?”

“Well I also punched the writer,” Roy added in an offhand manner.

“You did not!” Lian gasped.

“Central City Comic Con,” Roy mentioned. “While we visited Julio. Down in one punch. But after I explained to the guy who I was he apologized saying his editors told him what to do. I felt bad so I gave him a free shot and told him he had a good right hook,” Roy then leaned forward to whisper in his daughter’s ear. “He didn’t.”

“I can’t believe you’d get in a fight with someone,” Lian shook her head. “I mean someone who wasn’t a supervillain or wasn’t wearing a MAGA hat. Wait,” a thought occurred to Lian, “What did Jade have to say about this?”

“Your birth mom?” Roy shrugged. “I don’t think she ever found out. I never told her. And if she did she never said anything to me.”

“That sounds like her,” Lian muttered.

“Do YOU want to be the one who tells her?” Roy asked.

“No,” Lian scoffed at the notion. “I don’t need to make her freak out. Isn’t that my darling brother’s job?”

“Ah Tommy’s not so bad,” Roy referred to Lian’s half brother Tommy Nguyen, a.k.a. the Knave of Hearts, a son Jade conceived with the Polynesian mercenary who went by King Cat. He… did not have the best relationship with Lian. Roy thought he was funny. Lian didn’t.

“If he’s not so bad, does that mean you’re finally gonna invite him to live with us, Mom and Phoebe?” Lian ribbed her dad.

“Do not even joke about such things,” Roy said in total seriousness. He was still aware of what a destructive little hellion Tommy could be. Like, who lets a kid that young play with knives? But Roy’s change of tone got a laugh out of both of them before he sighed again.

“Listen Lian,” Roy ruffled her hair as he spoke, “I can’t promise nothing is ever going to happen to you or to me. Or to any of us. I’d be a rotten parent if I said something like that to you. Your grandpa promised me he wasn’t going to leave me like my birth parents did and… but I know he was trying to be a good dad, so I forgive him.”

“What I’m trying to say is, it was okay for you to be upset by what you saw in that comic, and I understand perfectly how you feel because I had a similar experience. At least, I think I understand. You can tell me if I’m wrong.”

“No, you’ve got it,” Lian assured him.

“You’re entitled to feel upset about these things, regardless of what I or anyone else has to say about it. But all I can tell you is, for as long as I am around, I’m going to do my best to make sure I stay around and be there for YOU. And Donna and Phoebe too. Someday, I’m gonna leave, and hopefully it won’t be soon. Until then I am here for you. Just like your mom and your sister and your friends are here for you too. I am not going yet, no matter what Oliver Queen or DC Comics or W. Simmons or anyone has to say on that. Feel free to get upset and I’ll do my best to be here to help you get through it.”

“I’ll help you too,” Lian replied as she hugged him, “And I’m sorry you spent so long being scared for me. I wanna be there for you too, and if you’re ever upset I wanna help you get through it.”

“You’ve always been there for me, Etai Yazi,” Roy assured her, “You’re my Sunbeam. You light up my life just by being you.”

Lian said nothing as she let go of her dad and looked up at him.

“’I light up your life?’” Lian repeated in stupefied disbelief.

“Li-“

“AHAHAHAHAHA!!!” Lian practically bust a gut laughing. “I-I’m sorry, I’m sorry daddy,” she giggled, “That was just so corny ahahaha!! Did you have that one written in advance?!” And then she hugged him again. “Th-thank you,” Lian kept saying, “That really did make me feel better.”

“Not the reaction I was planning on,” Roy patted her back, “But I’ll take it.”

“You’re a good dad,” Lian said.

“You’re a great kid,” Roy said.

(End)