[The following story is fan-fiction, written purely for entertainment purposes. It may not be reprinted in any form without my permission and may not be reused for profit. I don't own any of these characters; copyrighted hero names belong to DC Comics. This takes place before the return of Oliver Queen to continuity.]
"BRRRRRRUM-RUM-RUM-RUM-RUM-RUM-RUM! Oooh-hoo-oooh-hoo-ooo-hoo! Get out the way! Get out the way!"
The bright red fire truck rolls over every obstacle in the room---including my legs---as my little girl, Lian, creates her own rescue scene. It's the first package under the Christmas tree that she opened up this morning and she hasn't quit playing with it yet. Can't say I've seen her as captivated with anything since the miniature bow and arrow set I fashioned for her birthday gift a couple of months back. Sure, she's only four years old, but there's nothing wrong with a little arrowsmith starting out early in life, and she's already got a great head start, what with having a bowman like me for a dad. That's about the only good thing my daughter inherited at birth, 'cause with her mom being a notorious international terrorist and her dad being a member of a hero team, The Titans, this poor kid didn't have a chance in Hell of having a normal childhood.
"A fire truck, Roy?" comes the comforting voice of Donna Troy, the Wendy-Mother to this dormitory of Lost Boys-in-Spandex. "Why did you buy a fire truck for Lian?!"
"Look at that smile on her face, Donna," I reply as I stretch out across the rug to form a toll bridge to block the gallant miniature fire fighters from reaching their destination. "She loves fire trucks! She's having a great time and hasn't put it down once this morning. Heck, she even took it to the table when she had breakfast."
Donna smirks, shaking her head. "Hmmm...I wonder why? Could it be your overall macho influence on an impressionable little girl, you big goon?"
I feign being hurt by her remark just as the fire truck bumps into my side and comes to a halt. "Beyond the fact that she happens to think trucks are cooler than dolls," I remind her, "there's certainly no reason she can't play fire fighter just 'cause she's a girl. There are lots of female fire fighters these days. And besides, her grandfather died saving the people of the Tachini reservation from a fire, so it's in her blood. The folks on the reservation are always telling her what a hero her grandfather was. She's just learning to be a hero, too. It runs in the family."
"Ok! Ok!" Donna agrees with me, grinning broadly, "but you just wait 'til she opens my gift. I'm going to make sure that she's well-rounded, in spite of you, Daddy Dearest."
"I hope she'll like my gift as well," announces a voice from behind Donna.
I don't even need to turn around. I recognize the distinctive accent---a curious mix of a sort of a Russian tone, a bit Greek and a dash of Scottish burr---as belonging to our resident aquatic Prince, the Atlantean hero called Tempest. I still like to call him 'Aqualad' just to tick him off. Weird...he doesn't think that's funny, but then he never did have a sense of humor. Must come from swimming with the fishies all his life, plus living with Aquaman who REALLY doesn't have a sense of humor. They must never laugh in Atlantis.
"Uncle Gillhead, ummm...Uncle Garth! Look!" Lian calls to her favorite uncle as she demonstrates that the Titans Tower Fire Department never lets an obstacle stop them from getting to the scene of the fire...as she rolls her truck right over my stomach!
"Ouch, Babycakes! That truck is heavy!" I cry out in pain and a bit of discomfort.
"Oh, all wight, Daddy; I'm sorry," she says apologetically. "Here, YOU hold it!"
Leaving the scene of the disaster in favor of the warm hug waiting in Garth's arms, Lian jumps over my legs and runs across the floor to him, leaving her big red fire wagon parked on my chest. I should be insulted, but I'm more than happy that unlike my orphan upbringing and that of my friends here, my little girl has an extended family of loving and caring uncles and aunts available to her at any time. It's even better that they are all heroes who'd do anything on Earth to protect her. That gives me great peace of mind.
"Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!" Lian screeches. "Look at what Uncle Garth gave me! I'm a little mermaid!"
Pile driving onto my stomach, Lian bubbles over with excitement about a handful of things Garth has just gifted her with: a beautiful strand of got-to-be-expensive-as-heck matched pearls, a shimmering keepsake box made of what I guess is abalone and a regal crown fit for a sea princess, made of sea stars in graduated sizes.
"Thanks, Fish Face---that was really nice of you," I call out, suddenly falling under his shadow.
"I'm glad she likes them; I made them myself. And DON'T call me 'Fish Face!'" he calls down to me as he waves to Donna.
Seems I can't remember a time when I didn't call poor ol' Garth something along those lines. He's finally learning to put up a fight about it...dang it. I never thought that would happen.
"Here Lian, why don't you open my gift, sweetie pie?" Auntie Donna entices her with a wave of a package from the Christmas tree pileup.
"Ooo-kay!" is about all Lian has time to get out before she starts ripping the package open with those tiny hands of hers that are just making the transition from little hunks of clumsy ham into the useful digits which will someday make her a great archer. Eventually she stops, sitting with a quizzical look on her face which turns into a frown she doesn't seem to want Donna to see. I didn't think she was trying too hard to open the plastic wrapping under the Christmas foil wrap, and it didn't take too long to discover why that was.
"Here---let me help you get this open," Donna offers. As the box is opened, something rather unfamiliar to Lian pops out: a ten inch tall fashion doll. "See, Lian?" Donna coos, "She comes with three changes of outfits and a little comb for her hair, too."
Lian, ever the little lady, tries really hard to look pleased and kisses Donna on her cheek, adding a moderately cheerful "Thank you, Auntie Donna." Picking up her new doll, she crosses over to me to show it off with as small amount of enthusiasm as she can muster up. Poor kid: I know she was really hoping for a hunting knife, like I was at that age.
"Guess you can add her to your game, huh, Princess?" I try to cheer her.
"She's not dressed for play, Daddy," she says with a frown. "She's wearing a business suit and high heels."
Something about that thought causes her face to light up and she jumps over my torso to grab her fire truck again. Suddenly, the clanging alarms and the howling siren effects flow freely from my baby's imagination and with glee she drags the truck off of my chest and rolls it onto the floor...and right over her new dolly.
"Lian, that's not nice!" I sharply whisper to her, hoping that Donna's feelings aren't crushed.
"It's OK, Roy, honestly," Donna says in a hush, looking a bit hurt. "I guess she just doesn't like it. I should have listened when you said she didn't like dolls, but I thought that was just you talking."
Trying to smooth out her ruffled feathers, I remind Donna, "She likes SOME dolls, like her Sacajawea dolly. She must like this one 'cause she's put it into her game, right?"
Lian never stops playing but we finally stop to listen to her and find that she is, indeed, having fun with her new doll...in her own way.
"Help! Help! Oh help!" Lian calls out in mock terror, her wee cartoonish voice alerting us to her game. "Errrr...errrr...bang! Oh help---save me, Superman!"
"Oh, are you playing 'Superman' now, honey?" I ask as I sit up to watch.
"Yep, Daddy," she nods, "The firemen were driving on the way to the big fire and there's that silly Lois Lane standin' out in the middle of the road and got her goofy self all runned over! Now she needs Superman to come help get her out from under the truck."
A chorus of giggles comes from the trio of Garth, Donna and a third onlooker, the just-woke-up-with-bed-hair-after-an-all-night-sleuth-fest, Nightwing, AKA Blüdhaven police officer Dick Grayson.
"Guess we'd better watch what we say about the hero world around her, huh?" Dick whispers to the rest of us. "She may repeat the wrong thing to the wrong set of pajamas and capes."
I reach over to the couch and hand off the little plush Superman doll some reporter named Clark Kent gave to Lian one day when we were visiting Metropolis. My baby's mother, Jade---she uses the criminal moniker 'Cheshire'---had just been apprehended and she asked to see Lian just once before being taken to a maximum security facility. Some Lord High Muckamuck decided that one of the reporters from the Daily Planet would be present as a sort of chaperone, a fact I never agreed to and didn't appreciate. I don't like my daughter being exposed to the press or the public, especially when her mother is involved. Anyway, Kent seemed like a nice guy and was pretty concerned about how all this would affect Lian. They have Superman toys as souvenirs in their shop at the Daily Planet---being that they're the paper who dubbed Big Blue as 'Superman' in the first place. When the ordeal was over and the tearful Jade had waved goodbye to our crying daughter and was led away, Kent pulled the Superman plush dolly out of his pocket and promised Lian that the flying hero would keep an eye out to protect her in place of her mom if she ever needed help. I was really grateful that this thought comforted my baby in her time of need and the little plush Superman has never been far from her side since that day.
Lian makes her Superman fly in over the scene of carnage with a hail of swooshes and soaring motions. "I save you, Lois!" she cries in a shower that came out more like 'Lo-ith.' In her little hand, Superman swoops in and saves the day as expected, pushing the truck over with a mere nudge of his head. "There, Lois---you be okay now!" the little Superman says as his big flat hand pats the slim, trim Lois fashion doll on her perfectly coifed head.
"That's all fine if Superman is free, Lian," giggles Dick as he kneels down next to her, coffee mug in one hand and a doughnut in the other. "But what would happen if he's busy and someone else had to come in to save her?"
"Hey, Bat Boy," I chide him, "Don't be stifling my kid's imagination, 'kay?"
"I'm just ASKING, Speedy!" he snarls mockingly, just aching for me to pop him one for calling me by a name I abandoned long ago for the much more savvy codename Arsenal. Hey, I'm no 'Aqualad,' right?
"That's easy," Garth joins in. "There are other heroes capable of saving her. It doesn't take superhuman strength just to pull one busybody reporter out of the path of a truck. Let's see... Who else would be good?"
I roll my eyes and smirk at Garth. "Well, I guess we could always call up your buddy Aquaman and he could bring an octopus to pull the truck off of her."
"No, Daddy!" my daughter corrects me, waving me quiet. "That's not right 'cause octopuses would get sick out of water. Besides, the firemen would have to flood the street for the octopus to get there. Aquaman saves sailors, not reporters, Daddy!"
"Ok, then, Miss Smarty Pants!" I say as I tickle her. "What would happen if Wonder Woman was there instead of Superman?"
"Oh that's easy, Daddy! Wonder Woman...she can lift up the truck...and then... and then she'd say to Lois, 'You better not be in the street no more, lady! You better look where you are going! Gettin' runned over is NOT smart, young woman!'"
We all burst out laughing at the sight of Lian's stern Amazonian warning to the errant doll. I have a feeling if Wonder Woman waggled a finger at me the way Lian mimicked her doing so, there's no way I wouldn't think better of my actions the next time around.
"Well, if Wonder Woman could do it, then what about Auntie Donna, here?" I ask Lian. "She's strong too." I have a wink at our former Wonder Girl who blushes in her girlish way. Yep...still got it!
Lian screws up her little face in exaggerated thought. "Ok..." Lian prepares her answer, “Auntie Donna can push the truck over too, but then she’d find out the fire truck was took over by a crook so then she'd use her powers and make him confess. Then the bad guy go to the slammer big time for A.D.W! Homeboy goin' up the river for twenty-five to life 'cause he's a Neapolitan Sundae!”
"A...a what?" asks Garth, clearly confused.
The staccato explanation begins: "Three strikes felon. Automatic ticket back to the Big House. Twenty-five to life. Possibility of parole after fifteen with good behavior," Nightwing clarifies with all the enthusiasm of the deadpan Joe Friday of 'Dragnet' fame. We all stare at him blankly until Lian breaks the silence. Impressed by her own inventiveness, she falls over in a fit of giggling as Donna beams with pride, clasping her hands over her head in a victory cheer.
"What if the Batman saved her instead?" Garth asks Lian as he happily enjoys hot cocoa and warm German Butter Stollen on this chilly Christmas morning.
"That's easy," Lian calls out to him, lowering her eyebrows and voice to attempt the sullen tones of the Dark Knight. "He just stands over her and tells her she wouldn't get into so much trouble if she weren't so damn nosy. Then he radios the paramedics and disappears!"
"Sounds like your 'dad' all right, Bat Boy," I laugh, scooting up onto the couch. "Bet he'd figure the whole thing was for the best if she did end up under a fire truck. One less reporter asking stupid questions and nosing around in police work."
"Aye," Garth adds, "And besides, he wouldn't want to hang around anyway. He'd probably have a hot date. Arthur says he kisses and tells when he's bored on duty at the Justice League Watchtower."
"Naaaaaahhh!" comes a chorus of unbelievers.
"No way, Flounder!" I laugh. "Ain't no way the Bat's dating!"
Dick's nose turns up and he shakes his head knowingly. "He gets more action in a week than you've gotten in your whole life, Eagle Eye," he says with a hearty laugh. "He's dating that blonde chick who was on the cover of that bathing suit edition of that sports magazine last month. You know the one---all legs. Alfred said that she left hair and towels all over the Master's master bathroom the next morning."
"Hey! No dirty talk in front of my 'etai yazi'!" I yell in the Dineh language of my Navajo caretakers, covering my 'little girl's' ears to protect her from objectionable references. "Ok, move on. Who else can we nail?"
Garth's purple eyes roll upward and a broad smile breaks out over his eternally babyish face, strangely still pleasant-looking to the female Titans despite the remnants of two garish slashes over his right eye.
"O' Roy, you just love to pick on your betters, don'tcha?" he sighs as he reaches over to poke my arm. "Now, we know the Batman is quite the honorable one and he would not leave Lois Lane to her fate, even if it would cheese off Superman...which it would."
"Says you, Gillhead," I sneer back at him. "What? People don't ever do an 'Animal House' down where you come from and screw up for the heck of it?"
I flop back onto the floor to help Lian assemble her little crowd of onlookers for her playtime disaster. Apparently, the witnesses to the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist's rescue are to be a teddy bear, a talking Bugs Bunny plush toy, five Lego figures and her pet turtle, 'Fred,' the latter seemingly resigned to nap through the entire hair-raising ordeal. Reaching over to Garth, I clasp a hand on his knee and shake vigorously.
"Well, clutch the pearls, Davey Jones," I chide him, "but I just betcha that the two things ol' Batsy would love to do is loose off a few rounds at The Joker and waggle a middle finger at the Big Blue Boy Scout. Right, Bat Boy?" I flash a toothy smile at Nightwing, who, as always, isn't amused. Duh!
Dick waggles a middle finger in my direction and walks toward the kitchen, sighing, "Whatever, Red. Batman doesn't do guns, so that's the one thing that The Joker doesn't fear, plus he's OK with Superman, even though they attack crime differently. You're not better than me or Garth, dude. You grew up with a mentor who was a few bricks shy a full load too, or don't you remember?"
His voice trails off and the room he's left lulls into an uncomfortable quiet. Garth and Donna look at each other and then switch to surveying the carpet. Hey, Garth, Dick and I could write a book on living with looney senior partners, true. Yeah, I remember what a crazy ol' coot my mentor was, all right, but it was dirty pool for Dick to take a swipe like that. And here I thought the Bat-family credo was to always play fair. The Green Arrow definitely had a screw loose here and there, but I always tried to separate that from his alter ego, Oliver Queen, my mentor and guardian. Ollie was no saint either, but I always thought of him as being better put-together upstairs than the Batman is in either of his personae. Even Gillhead can't talk 'cause at least Ollie never tried to kill me in cold blood like Aquaman did to him, though they are about equal when it comes to abandoning a helpless teenage ward. Guess that's why I'm grateful my kid has all of the Titans to rely upon as extended family. We may have our faults too, but all in all we're a pretty well put-together bunch in spite of our kooky mentors and insane upbringing.
Donna reaches down and scruffs up my hair, jarring me out of my memories and back into the moment. Meanwhile, Garth leans across me to give Lian a little building he's been skillfully constructing of Lego pieces. She squeals with delight, puts it down on the floor and promptly makes with the crash noises necessary to illustrate that more disaster has struck. Her fire truck hops an invisible obstacle and plows right into the Atlantean constructioneer's best efforts, but Garth takes it in stride.
"What happened, Angel?" he asks in that lilting voice of his. "Superman didn't throw the truck, did he? I don't think he would do that...or at least I would hope not unless Darkseid was standing there."
Lian cocks an eyebrow at him, scoffing at the idea. "No! That was Lobo!" she shouts, shaking the lecture finger. "Bad, bad ol' Lobo! He's goin' to the 'Time Out' corner now."
"Hey, this kid is GOOD at this game!" I crow. I can't help my fatherly pride swelling at how clever my child is, just as Garth and Donna nod in agreement.
Donna looks thoughtfully at Lian, then states, "I can't help notice that you haven't had one member from OUR team try to save Lois except me, Lian. You're not being disloyal, are you?"
Lian takes a pensive look around at us. "Ok, Titans play too...if I get a cookie...please?"
"I think that can be arranged, Pumpkin," Dick says, handing a decorated sugar cookie to her. "Now, how about Uncle Nightwing getting in on the action, huh?"
Lian laughs as she munches away, her adventurous mind already winding away in full gear. "Ok, ok! Uncl' Nightwing gets there first an' he swings in on a batarang just before Lois gets whacked by the truck an' they swing way way up to the top of a building an' then he swings away to save some other pretty girl."
Dick grins, justly proud of his timely, thrilling rescue. "And then what happens to Lois?"
Lian signals that she's already moved on to the next rescue. With a wave of her hand, she adds, "Awwww, she just takes the stairs down."
The room erupts with laughter and, in a timely manner, Lian now has no shortage of cookies. Good thing it's a few hours 'til dinner time. I'm never all that strict about when and what Lian eats anyway. It's probably fine for a kid to have dessert before dinner. After all, it's all going to the same place.
Garth leans forward to her, plying her with a snowflake-shaped treat. "What about The Flash? What would he do?"
"Oh, that's easy!" she offers, "Uncle Wally, he'd vibrate through the truck and carry her out the same way. Then he'd put her down and say, 'Hey babe! How 'bout a date, honey?"
We all look at her with blushing faces. "Hey there, Squirt---Wally’s married now!” I correct her. "He and his wife will be joining us for dinner later. He said they had to run out to his in-laws' farm to eat there first. He'll be starving by the time he runs back here."
"Wally had better not be trying out pickup lines on strange women or Linda will tell on him all over the evening news," Donna laughs. "Even the fastest man alive can't outrun a woman's temper."
Lian waves away the interruption. "Oh yeah...ok, then he just folds his arms and says, 'Glad to be of service, Ma’am.'"
I can't help it: I could just see Wally in a situation like that. "Oh, that'll make her feel really old, callin' her 'ma'am' an' all! Hahahahaha---I like it!"
"Quiet, Daddy!" Lian says, trying to cover my mouth as I pretend to munch on her fingers.
"Hey, what about Green Lantern, my girl?" I ask as someone else comes to mind. "What if that showoff got there first?"
"Which Lantern is a showoff?" asks Garth, the innocent who never has a bad word to say about anyone in the hero community, despite the way he's been marginalized by many of them over the years. "Mr. Stewart seemed to be nice but I know you said that Guy Gardner is a bit of a jerk, Roy..."
"Kyle!" is called out in unison by everyone in the room, including Lian.
"Ok, Munchkin," I say to Lian. "Can Kyle save the day with his power ring?"
The kid is fast on the draw. "Naw!---she's wearing yellow today, Daddy! All he can do is watch!"
"Yeah, but the fire truck isn't yellow, etai yazi," I remind her.
"DADDY! It's MY story!"
"Ok ok ok, bossy little lady!"
"I know you are, so what am I?"
"I know you are, so what am I?"
"Nah-uh, Daddy! I know you are, so what am I?"
Before I can reply, Donna jumps in. "Ok! Ok! Let's move on, children!" I note that she looks directly at me when she says that. She's so cute when she's being demonstrative. "Now," Donna begins anew, "What would Tempest do to save Lois, Lian?"
"Oooo yeah, we make Uncle Garth the hero!" Lian rises to the challenge, clapping her hands. "Uncle Garth would send a whooooosh of water and wash the truck off of Lois Lane!"
"Yeah, but wouldn't that wash her away too?" I just had to ask, of course.
"No, Daddy, 'cause Uncle Garth's gonna put a big bubble around her, like this to protect her!" and Lian puffs up her cheeks to illustrate. Hmmm...hadn't thought about that and I'm betting Garth hadn't either.
"Can you really do that, Fish Face?" I ask him, puzzled at the notion that our diplomatic little Aqualad might indeed now be pretty darn powerful with more than just his fists.
"Errrrr...apparently so," Garth replies, eyebrows arched, "if Lian says I can. And DON'T call me 'Fish Face,' Fuzz Face." Turning to Lian, he adds, "What would happen if your daddy rescued her...presuming he's conscious during daylight hours?"
“Daddy'd use a armor-piercing arrow and shoot it into the truck and then take the other end and tie it around the bumper of a bus and that would pull it off. Then he'd say, "Hey baby, how 'bout a date?"
Well that's more than I can take, especially with Dick and Garth holding their collective breath and Donna erupting into fits of laughter at me!
"Hey---Lois Lane is too old for me," I protest in vain. "'Course she ain’t bad lookin' and she's got a nice pair of stems, but I got way better pickup lines than Wally and don't think I didn't notice that you used the same one, young lady!"
Donna looks huffy and sniffs the air, declining to comment, since she's been the object of several of my better pickup lines over the years. This gives Lian plenty of time to add, "Seeeeeeee, Daddy!"
Dick and Garth can't hold back any more, and frankly neither can I. In short order, we all begin to collapse with laughter once again.
Dick, ever the tactician, calls for a 'point of order.' "But Lian, how would all of us know that Lois is in trouble?" he asks, to her astonishment. "I figure she's got some communication device which alerts Superman, or so you'd think from all the times he's dashed in to save her. But how would the rest of us know that she needed to be rescued?"
Lian rolls her eyes, incredulous at Nightwing's lack of vision. "Now THAT'S silly, Uncle Nightwing!" she laughs. "OWACLE would tell you. She knows everybody's business. You know that!" She smacks her little forehead with her palm and shakes her head in disbelief.
We again howl with laughter at this 'Mighty Mite' who knows a bit too much about the superhero world, including about the secretive Oracle, best friend and magic messenger to many a hero in need. I pick up my baby girl and hug her tightly, marveling at how she never fails to lighten our hearts and challenge our minds.
"Ok, ok, Princess," I say with a kiss on her cheek. "You got us! But take out the part where I ask Lois out, ok? I'm more professional than that on a mission..."
Donna and Garth beg to differ. Garth pipes up, "You hit on that nurse who was nice enough to bandage your head after that bout we had with The Mad Mod..."
"So what?" I ask, trying to roll my mind back to the incident.
"You were FOURTEEN!" Donna cackles, throwing her hands into the air. "She was like...thirty!"
"Strike three: You're out!" says Dick, drawing a finger across his throat.
Garth shreds one index finger over another in the 'shame on you' signal and Donna shakes her head like a mother ashamed, but my darling daughter and I ignore them, far too caught up in our own sparring match to take any notice.
Lian protests as she throws her arms around my neck. "You're not the boss of me and it's MY story, Daddy!"
"Am too, Lian!"
"Am not, Daddy!"
In full surrender, Donna and Garth decide it is time to look into getting this afternoon's dinner together and leave us to it, waving Dick to join them in the kitchen. Donna takes one glance back at father and daughter as we play. Lian runs her fire truck up and down my back as I lay flat on the floor, still professing my place as her authority figure just as she dispels any such belief.
Looking to Garth and Dick, Donna shakes her head and in a bemused tone, she adds, "I'm always left wondering which of them is the child in that relationship..."
What a silly notion: that would be me, and proud of it.