Second Chances

A Tale of the Legion of Super-Heroes

by Greenygal

This vignette occurs immediately after LEGIONNAIRES #8, "In Heart and Conscience Free," in which the SW6 Brainiac 5 almost quit the Legion because of pressure to "do his duty" and serve the Coluan government, who eventually tried to drug him when he changed his mind. Needless to say, Andromeda wasn't happy about any of this....

These characters are the property of DC comics. No copyright infringement intended. I'm not making any money off this, and I'll give them back when I'm done, I promise. :-) Send feedback to -- please!

He's sleeping, now, curled up on one of the cruiser bunks. Fighting off that damned mind-control drug really took it out of him. He's okay, though, just exhausted. He was telling me that; explaining how there were no long-term effects, Secretary Yarrin would never have risked his safety with a dangerous drug.... All logical and calm, like everything was normal, like he wasn't so weak he couldn't even stand up by himself--the hell with logic; I told him to sit down and made Jan run the medical checks. Brainy didn't argue, just sat there leaning into me, while I held him tight as I dared.... He was right; he's always right about stuff like that. So he's fine. Really.

Mother-God, but he scared me on that balcony. He came out looking so stiff and blank, like a stranger, and right then I knew it was over, he was going to say he was staying -- my one last desperate hope, and it was gone. He was really going to leave me -- just walk away without any warning. One of the best things in my life, and I was going to lose him, because some stranger said so. I wanted to scream. And then he gasped, and fell over, and I realized I really *could* lose him here, the way I lost my parents.... Next thing I knew I was on the balcony and he was curled up into a little ball, shaking, and I couldn't do a thing except hold him. I haven't felt so scared, so *helpless*, since the day the Khunds attacked.

But it's all over now. He beat the drug, and he told Colugov to shove it. "I... will not violate... my heart and conscience... I will... return... to New Earth... as a Legionnaire...." I can still hear that stubborn, gasping voice, still feel the tension in his body as he forced each word out past what they'd done to him. Watching it nearly broke my heart, but I was so proud of him, too... next person I hear call him a wimp, I'm decking them. So what if he can't punch out supervillains? Half the Legion can do that; I don't know anybody but Brainy with the strength to fight his own body this way and win. So he's back, and he loves me, and everything's fine.

Isn't it?

He said he was going to leave the Legion. Leave me. I couldn't believe it -- Mother-God, it was only supposed to be a one day trip! How could he *do* that to me? He wasn't even going to *talk* to me about it -- he wasn't even going to say goodbye! I wanted to cry and scream and smash things. I *did* cry and scream and smash things, and I said some awful things to Imra. I hope she's not too mad. And the whole horrible time, I couldn't stop thinking about the older us--

That sounds so strange. But that's what they are, isn't it? Us, twenty years from now. It must be real, Brainy says so -- both of them.

We've all talked about it -- are we going to be like them when we grow up? Can we *not* be? They tell us sure we can; just because we started from the same place, doesn't mean we have to make the same choices. And I guess that's right. But . . . they're still *us*, you know? And our older selves, that other Brainy and Laurel -- they're not together anymore. So what does that mean for me and the boy I fell for the first moment I saw him?

I don't think about it all that much, really. We're together now, and that's what counts, right? But sometimes, I remember her face, and how she looked at him -- and how he looked back at her, and then walked away.... And I get scared, because that could be us.

It bothers him, too. Sometimes, after he's spent too much time locked in the lab with his older self, he'll come find me, and he looks -- haunted, I guess. And I'll give him a hug and tease him about how much time he spends in there, and we talk and kiss and the look goes away. One time he showed up at my room in the middle of the night -- I can hear Dirk snickering now, but it wasn't like that. I'd just come back from a mission, and when that chime woke me up I was ready to kill whoever was outside unless we were being invaded again. And I opened the door, and there he was, and all my mad just went away. He looked awful, like he'd been up for days -- I found out later he had -- and lonely and scared, and when he saw me he just kind of -- lit up. Like I made it all okay for him, just by being there. And then he realized what he was doing, and he blushed and stammered and apologized and tried to leave. I grabbed his arm, and told him that it was okay and I didn't mind, and anyway I wasn't letting him walk back to his room like this, he'd probably fall down the stairs and break his neck. He might've, too, but I couldn't have sent him away anyway. And we fell asleep in each other's arms....

What happened, that they could give that up? They still love each other -- maybe nobody else can tell, but I can. What could have gone so wrong with them that they treat each other like strangers when they're still in love?

Is this how it happened? Did he make her think he didn't care, didn't want her? Did he just walk away, and leave her wondering why?

He stirs on the bunk, long blond hair falling into his face. "Laurel?" His voice is sleepy and worried -- he's dreaming, I guess.

"Shhh," I soothe, stroking his face. "It's okay, I'm here. . . ." He stills, and I smooth the hair back out of his eyes, and smile.

Yeah, I'm here. And you know, it doesn't matter how it happened for them.

Because in the end, he didn't walk away from me today. He didn't choose science or logic or duty. He chose me.

And I choose him. Now and always -- I choose him.

We'll talk about it, when he wakes up. But it'll be okay. We'll make it work -- if we can get through today, we can get through anything. Whatever could have happened, or might happen -- right here and now we're together. And that's all that matters.





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