Why is it that you can never find the right fictive when you need him?
I mean, I checked in all the usual places. The Legion Gym was empty. I hadn't really expected to find him in his quarters but I looked there anyway. Miracles do happen, okay? Zip. Zilch. Nada. Damn! Where could that man have gotten off to?
"Try Alpha Centaurii and then start heading outward," I thought with sardonic amusement. "As my Granny would have said: 'The boy's fiddlefooted. Doesn't like to stay in one place.'"
Shut up, Granny.
Well, he wasn't in the Legion garage either. I was hoping to find him there, buried in the warp drive unit of a Legion cruiser, but nooooo. Too obvious. By the time I made my way to Brainy's multi-lab I was NOT a happy camper. Querl was his usual helpful self, of course.
"Get out!" he howled, wiping the soot of yet another interrupted experiment gone bad off his face.
I gulped. "Um ... Querl? Have you seen Lar? I seem to have misplaced him."
The look he gave me would have frozen liquid nitrogen. "No! I haven't seen him! I haven't seen him since you brought he and Tasmia and I together for 'Brainy's Lab And What Happened There'," he said pointedly. I ducked my head in shame. "You Writers are all alike," he fumed. "Fickle, the lot of you."
"Hey look, I'm sorry, okay? It's not like you don't have other Writers who adore you, for Gods sake. Carmen .. "
" ... hasn't written any fic," he snapped.
"And whose fault is that?" I said, impatiently. "If she could figure out a way to get you to notice Lyle, she'd be sitting pretty, but you won't cooperate. Don't bitch about things you're not willing to change!"
He blushed a becoming Kelly green. "That still doesn't explain why you haven't written about me since 'Brainy's Lab', now does it?"
I bit my lip and sighed. He deserved an answer; that was only fair. "Querl," I confessed, "it's that sprocking ReBoot version of you. Every time I sit down and try to write a nice kewl story about the Levitz Era you .. . I just keep hearing that shrill voice. There I am writing a nice sweet little story about you and Kara or you and Lyle or Rond Vidar and . . POOF! It vanishes in a puff of lab smoke and a loud cry of 'Nass!' Brainiac 5.1's attitude is sooooo obnoxious; it drives everybody away. Including me."
"It's supposed to," he said in a quiet voice.
"I know that! You think I don't know that? Look, I promise to try harder, okay? I'll wear ear plugs or something. I swear." Wordlessly he turned back to his lab bench. I was halfway down the corridor before I felt the metal floor tremble beneath my feet then heard the resounding BOOM! emanating from the multi-lab, followed swiftly by a reverberating cry of, "Nass!" Hands over my ears, I fled.
Finding Jo without Tinya is problematical at the best of times, but I was hoping. So, of course, who was the first Legionnaire I ran into after running away from Brainy? Why, Tinya of course. Without Jo, worse luck. My eyes narrowed. This could get ugly. Sure enough, at the first sight of me she began stomping her way toward me, her air of ominous wrath almost visible.
"That was a sprocking nassy thing you did to me in 'Lar, Part Two: The Rest Of The Story', you know that?" She crossed her arms pugnaciously over her chest. "Jo would never do that to me," she declared confidently. "Only in your Lar-obsessed imagination would Jo leave me for Mon!"
"Look," I snarled, "the blasted thing was only supposed to be a PWP, for mercy's sake! Just because those stickers of Jo and Mon looked so hot. Chill already! But then 'rith pointed out that you might not be happy about the whole business and - "
"HA! The understatement of the Millennium. But 'rith managed to avoid making me look like an uberbitch in her Lar/Jo PWP. Why couldn't you?"
I sighed. "I guess I just don't understand jealousy." Her face clouded up like a stormy day and I threw up my hands in frustration. "Look," I cried in self defense, "I understand that Jo likes the way you are. That he needs to belong to someone or something. It gives him security. I understand that you wouldn't be *you* unless you were possessive. I just have a hard time writing about it is all. I have an idea for a story about you and Jo," I smiled placatingly. "Will that make you feel better?" Immediately she softened, smiling a dreamy smile.
"Jo ... " she murmured. "Jo always makes everything better." I smiled even more broadly in return. I had to love Tinya, if for no other reason than her fierce love for Jo Nah, Ultra Boy.
She glared at me in parting. "Promise?"
"Promise," I vowed.
"You won't forget?"
I stuck up my smallest finger in reply. "Pinky swear."
She stalked off down the corridor and I managed a gust of relieved breath. So far this search was not going well. Not only had I failed to find the object of my quest, but I seemed to be doomed to run into every single Legionnaire I had good reason to avoid. This was not the best day I ever had. I found Cosmic Boy in the Legion cafeteria.
"Have you seen Lar?" I began.
He didn't exactly cut me off, but when he cleared his throat experimentally, I paused and waited for him to speak.
"Could I have a word with you?" he asked, earnestly. Cos is always earnest. It's his nature.
"I don't see why not," I growled. "Everybody else has. Feel free." He frowned and I contrived to look quite a bit more contrite than I felt just then. A nice guy like Rokk was not the right target for my bad temper, though. I had other fictives for that.
"Hey," he urged, "ease off there! I just wanted to tell you I liked 'Heart Of A Champion', that's all."
"You - you did?"
He nodded. "Not many people think about that aspect of me. To most I'm just the boring goodie goodie. Even when I'm kicking butt." His smile broadened.
"I even forgive you for liking me simply because of my power; because it reminds you of Magneto."
My face fell, I was sure of it. Damn! Was I that transparent? I didn't like to think so. "You know about that?"
He waved a hand in dismissal. "It's not as if it's an easy thing to miss, I'm afraid. I'm not a fool. Of course I know the major reason you like me is because of Magneto. My power reminds you of him."
I blushed. "Is it that obvious?" I wondered.
"Pretty much," he agreed, still smiling which I took to be a hopeful sign.
I continued to study the floor avidly, unable to meet his blue eyes. "I'm sorry! I do like you for yourself, you know," I apologized.
Christ, I hate the whiny sound of my voice when I do that. And If I had to begin just one more sentence with the words, "I'm sorry!" I was apt to start yelling and I didn't want to do that. Not at Rokk anyway. He held up his hands to forestall more inanity.
"It's okay," he assured me. "At least you're writing about me. It's not easy being a good guy sometimes. Clark and I have talked about it a lot. That helps. We're thinking of starting a club: Good Guys Anonymous."
I had to chuckle at that. "Won't be too many members these days," I quipped and he nodded his head in amused agreement.
"Well, the Legion still stands firm on THAT question. And As long as I'm around they always will. The Kingdom Come Clark once told me, 'There's a right and a wrong in the Universe and it isn't that hard to tell the difference."
I hugged him and, startled, he colored vividly before he returned the tentative embrace.
"See!" I cried. "That's why I love you." My smile remained steady but my voice became quite serious, much to my own astonishment. "Yes," I acknowledged, "I love Magnus. He stirs me deeply and makes me weep. He's a tragedy and tragedies need to be wept over. But you! You give me hope because you never lose hope. And you never lose your focus. The biggest reason I love you, Rokk Krinn, is because you remind me of what Magnus could have been. You suffered privation, too. But you put it behind you. He ... can't seem to do that. He loses sight of simple humanity in the grip of his fear. You don't. You have passions, feelings, as strong as his ... but they don't spill out your hands with the blood of your enemies. I was so proud of you when you stopped yourself from slaughtering those terrorists who killed your mother. You could have, you know. Easily. And you even forgave Violet for Pol's death at Venado Bay during the Braal/Imsk War."
His face fell, suffused for a moment with pain and misery. It was easy to remember how much he'd loved his little brother Pol and his family.
"That was ... hard ...," he admitted after a moment. "That whole thing was so terrible I - Well, I'm just glad that it finally came to an end is all. Sometimes retcons are a good thing. Can - can we talk about something else?"
"No problem," I conceded. "That's probably my least favorite Legion Era. Everything was so dark and just awful. It was mondo depressing. The Adventure Era may have been silly but, damn it was fun, wasn't it? Garth was 'Lightning Boy', Tenzil was from Bismoll and the most frightening thing about Mordru was that stupid hat of his."
He laughed. "And Chuck's power was 'super-inflatibility', Computo looked like a refrigerator on wheels and the Persuader's 'atomic ax' could cut through anything! Gods we enjoyed ourselves back then."
"And remember how po'd Brainy got when the first thing you guys did with that new 'super computer system' he'd just installed in the Clubhouse was to use it as a match maker?" We laughed together for a long time and it was a good feeling. Warm and comfortable like Rokk himself.
"I have got to find someone to pair you with," I declared. Still laughing Cosmic Boy shook his dark head. "No thanks," he exclaimed. "I'm happy with Lydda, really."
I chuckled impishly. "You sure you don't want Imra?" I questioned.
He looked horrified and raised his hands protectively before his face as if to shield it.
"No, no!" he blurted. "I mean - I love Imra and all ... but that would be like my sister - if I had one. Incest almost! Spare me."
I let him wriggle some more on that hook. "I don't know ... " I contemplated. "The ReBoot you seemed to like her a lot. And not as a sister, either." I hoped he didn't see the sparkle in my eye when I said it. That would ruin the jest.
"The ReBoot me is young," he defended his counterpart. "He's only fourteen for grife's sake. He'll learn. Although his taste in partners isn't totally bad." He grinned like a well fed cat licking canary feathers off his whiskers. "He thinks M'Onel is pretty hot," he informed me.
My jaw hit the floor. "He likes Lar? Where the sprock did that come from?" I demanded.
Rokk shook his head. "Cursed if I know," he replied. "But would it be so bad? And The ReBoot me was on the short list to be the gay Legionnaire who was supposed to be outed, you know. M'Onel could use a steady guy like the ReBoot me as a lover. Think about it, okay?"
Stunned I could only nod as he moved off down the corridor. I was still basically non compos mentos, story ideas whirling around in my head, hopping like plot bunnies on a hot griddle, when strong arms wrapped themselves around me from behind, picked me up and tossed me in the air effortlessly. Light as a feather, I was caught and pressed to a broad chest, a stubbled cheek sandpapering mine.
"Jo!" I squealed, joyous. "And without Tinya! This is my lucky day."
"You spocking wish, lady," he growled merrily. In my ear he whispered, "Just wanted to thank you for getting me and Lar together in that story. You have no idea how long I waited for that." His smile turned serious for a bit. "Just don't tell Tinya I said so, okay?"
I buried my head in his shoulder. "Wouldn't dream of it, Ultra-Dude!" I assured him and he relaxed a bit. "You really didn't mind?" I muttered into the tanned flesh of his neck. "I mean it turned out pretty badly ... "
His smile was blinding. "Yeah," he said, "but it was worth it."
I tangled my fingers in his cinnamon and ginger colored hair, tugging playfully. "I have the worlds biggest lech for you, you know that, right?"
"You and the rest of the female population of the United Planets," he cracked. But I could see the wonder in his earth brown eyes. It still surprised him to be wanted, to be desired. I was tempted to swat his shapely butt as it moved away down the corridor. But I restrained myself.
"Me-ow," said a small midnight black cat and arched itself shamelessly against my legs, purring like a contented motor boat.
"Bubastis," I cried, delighted, and picked her up. "What are you doing here? Did you wander out of that Magneto fic I put you in?"
"I thought I saw a Puddy-Tat!" remarked Bubastis. "I did! I did saw a Puddy-Tat!"
Startled, I dropped the small feline and watched as she landed on her feet and then transformed herself.
"Jesus H. Christ on a Cruise missile!" I admonished. "Don't do that!"
"Why not?" Reep Daggle, Chameleon Boy, inquired, wiggling his antenna at me. Suddenly, he was a tse-tse-fly with a Humanoid/Durlan face perched on the end of my nose staring at me. My eyes crossed themselves and with my waving hands, I tied to shoo him away. No such luck. Trust me, you haven't lived until an albino lab rat takes up furry, ticklish residence in your underwear.
"Reeeeeeeeep! You are soooo dead!" I shrieked.
"Pic- a- chu?" cooed the small, lecherous voiced sandy yellow colored Pokemon now sitting on my right shoulder.
"Oh riiiight," I snarled. "That's just what I need. Images of Poke, poking. Excuse me while I vomit." I espoused gagging noises from deep in my belly and made as if to plunge my finger down my throat.
"Maybe you like this image a little better?" he queried. When I found myself facing Mon-El, gazing into his sapphire blue eyes, I got angry. How dare he!
"Reep, that isn't funny, damn it!"
He looked crestfallen but not a bit repentant. "No? Well, I thought it was. Hmmmm. Gotta work on that. Speaking of funny ... I know you like me, so why haven't I gotten even so much as a silly fic from you in all this time?"
Now it was my turn to look crestfallen. "I'm sor -" Damn it, I was not going to say it. I refused.
"I can explain," I amended hastily. "I really can."
"That would be nice." He began tapping an impatient foot.
"Reep," I confessed, "the problem is that I can only think of two kinds of stories to put you in. That sillyfic you mentioned is one. The kind of bawdy sillyfic where you make love to Ayla in the living room and in the kitchen. You're in the living room. She's in the kitchen. But you deserve better."
"I'll settle for that," he piped in a voice filled with hope. "I'm desperate here!"
"The other, " I warned him, "is the kind of dark, grungy fic, I usually hate, where somebody uses you and your power to fulfill a really perverse fantasy. The kind of sick fic where you make love to Ayla disguised as her brother Mekt. Or as Garth."
" ... but not that desperate," he admitted in a small voice.
"Didn't think so. Look. I'll think about the sillyfic, okay? But even that won't be easy. The Pro Writers can't seem to make up their minds about you. They've either got you as the ultimate monster-movie stuntman in your spare time from the Adventure Era or the Pope."
He frowned and his flesh rippled with the first signs of transformation. "Do I look like the Pope to you?" he demanded.
Staring into the cherubic features of Giovanni Roncalli, Pope John XXIV, I stamped my foot in irritation.
"Not until you promise me a fic!" he insisted.
"All right! All right! I give up! I'll commit fic. I promise."
His self satisfied look of smug triumph was truly nauseous to behold as he sauntered down the corridor. Unsuspecting, I turned to leave.
The melodic, baritone voice of Dirk Morgna, Sun Boy, stopped me dead in my tracks and I grabbed firm hold of my raging hormones. Do you have any idea how hideously embarrassing it is for a thirty some odd (some of then VERY odd!) mumblety-mumble year old woman to be so totally in lust with a comic book fictive almost young enough to be her son? It ain't a pretty sight and there's the Gospel truth on that subject. But is it my fault if he's hot enough to attract a Sun-Eater ten light years away?
"Dirk," I said weakly, trying not to stare at that mane of red-gold hair shining brighter than his name sake. Rakishly he leaned against the wall and grinned at me.
My heart stuttered and my breath grew shallow and rasping in my throat. "Dear God, woman!" I chastized myself severely. "Get a grip! And for Christ sake, stop drooling! You're leaving puddles on the floor. You've got clean underwear, right? I hope so. You'll need it, it looks like. Feh! This is dis-gust-ting! We have GOT to talk about this mid-life crisis thing. Soon" I wrinkled my nose at myself.
Smiling, Dirk lifted my chin and nibbled playfully at my lips and chin.
"I was just thinking," he whispered, nibbling my earlobe now, "that we should spend more time together. Get to know each other a little better, you know?"
Entirely boneless now, I melted against him and tried to chemically bond myself to him. "Uh huh ... " I murmured, weakly, oblivious to everything but those caressing lips and hands.
"But we can't do that if you don't include me in a fic, now can we?" His fingers danced lightly down my spine.
I moaned. Depending on your point of view, this was either going really well or really badly.
"N - n - no," I gasped. "I guess we can't. I - oh, help ... "
"In fact," he sounded so very sad it tugged at my heart just to hear him, "I might have to leave, if you don't write something soon. And that would be ... tragic ... " His lips trailed down the column of my neck until he brought them to rest on my breasts.
"Uh huh ... " I groaned again.
"So you'll write something soon?" He pulled me closer still, stroking the back of my neck.
"Uh huh," I gurgled.
His hands ghosted down to my buttocks and cupped them. "A nice long series of stories would be great. With lots of adventure and action," he whispered. "And sex. Don't forget the sex. Can you do that for me?"
"Uh huh ... "
He swept me off my feet, carried me down the corridor into his quarters and deposited me firmly in front of his computer.
"Let's get started then! I'll talk and you take dictation." He lost himself in thought for a moment and then launched himself into his missive, full throttle.
"I knew she was trouble the minute I laid eyes on her. You can't fool Dirk Morgna, Private Dick. A hot babe like that just had to be trouble, I'm telling you. But I knew how to handle frails like her. Within minutes, I had her naked, spread out over my desk and whimpering for more ... "
I think it was about then that I came to my senses and my fingers stopped moving over the keyboard. I like to think it was a little earlier than that ... but not really.
"Tell me something," I asked myself. "Did you, or did you not just promise Sun Boy tons and tons of this mindless drivel?"
"Uh huh ... "
"It'll be fun" I pleaded. "It'll be ... it'll be -"
"It'll be humiliating!"
"But it's ... Dirk ... " I tried to explain to no avail.
"I thought I just said that."
"Um - Dirk?" I interrupted his monologue. "I can't do this."
"But you promised," he cajoled, "and well ... why not?" I sighed and pushed myself away from the computer.
"Because it's not you," I said sorrowfully. "You're not that shallow and it's not fair to make you look that way. I hated the Gap Era you, that self serving, hedonistic turkey. There's more to you than that. You can be kind and gentle; you never hurt your lovers ... any of them. And I refuse to write a story with little more to it than you clad in a penis ring and a lustful expression, okay?"
"I'd settle for that," he said.
I tried hard not to look as sad as I felt. "I know you would," I returned. "But I won't. I'm sor -" I bit my lip to keep from saying it.
He looked pretty upset and I didn't blame him. "Well nass take it," he shot back at me, "if being a hedonistic playboy is the only way I can get attention ... "
"Rith managed to make you more than that in 'Firedance' and so did Bonita Del Rio in 'Life On A Dead World'," I comforted him. "And someday so will I. Just be patient is all I'm asking."
"That's not my strongest point," he grimaced. But after a moment he brightened and kissed me chastely on the forehead.
"Make it good," he told me.
I never intended to run into Brin Londo at all. But then .. does anybody?
My meeting with Brin was as brief as it was intense. But ... that's Timber Wolf for you. I decided to check the Legion Gym again and, this time, there he was. He minced not a single word.
"I'm not Wolverine, you know. I'm not a sprocking thing like Logan." Before I could move a single muscle he was inches from my face, glaring at me with those strange pupiless eyes of his. "To begin with, I was here first"
Struck dumb, I could only nod in agreement. Winning through intimidation has nothing on Brin. He's been there, done that ... invented the tee-shirt.
When I looked up again, he was gone, vanished into the thin air, it seemed.
"Oh no," I thought, "not a thing like Logan. My arse! They stole Wolverine directly from you or I'm a Lightning Beast from Korbal."
Still, he did deserve more fic and he was way too proud to ask for them. I made a mental note to write more Brin fic. And old idea about a congenial game of holo-Dungeons and Dragons turning into something a bit more interesting floated to the surface of my mind. I could almost see Brin's predatory smile now. Someone was in for a total surprise. It was up to me to decide who and I had a few ideas kicking around now in that direction. Humming happily, I moved off down the corridor again. I should have been looking where I was going.
"Oh! I'm so sorry." Leaning down, Element Lad, Jan Arrah, helped me to my feet with a concerned expression in his blue eyes. His curly blonde hair shone like polished gold in the bright light of the corridor. Behind him two young boys, one of them no older than twelve or so, stuck their heads around the older Jan to see what the excitement was all about. They were the image of Jan, each of them.
"Are you all right?" inquired Alchemist, the youthful SW6 Batch Jan.
"Carbon. Dense. Hard to change," muttered the other youthful survivor of Trom accompanying Element Lad. The ReBoot Jan, put his hand down on the floor and frowned in studied concentration. He was slightly older than Alchemist, unless I was mistaken.
I winced. "He's me, too, you know," Jan said gently. With that he knelt and took the ReBoot Element Lad's hand in his, smiling softly and touched his own hand to the floor. Slowly, the metal floor began to shimmer and transform itself into pure, clear crystal. The ReBoot Jan's eyes widened and he caressed the small crystalline spot.
"Crystal. Many bonds. Linked. Beauty ... beauty ... "
"See?" instructed the older Jan, still smiling, but serious now. "It's not as difficult as you think. Concentrate, focus. Picture it clearly in your mind ... then reach out and change it." Alchenist knelt and nodded at the ReBoot Jan and they began to talk in low murmurs.
"You're very good with them," I remarked, trying hard to avoid what I knew was coming.
Jan smiled that enchanting smile of his. "Why shouldn't I be?" he wanted to know, a bit puzzled. "They are me, after all. A part of me just as surely as my hands or eyes. I understand them. With them, I'm not alone." He cocked his head to one side, regarding me with gentle grace and understanding. "That bothers you, I think," he said and I swallowed hard.
Damnation. How could he know these things? What innate insight laid my heart and many others so bare before him? Was it a gift of nature? Recompense for the loss of his world and all he knew at such a young age? He was not a telepath. Or at all psychic. I knew that. From whence, then, came such empathy? It had lead him to be the best Legion Leader in the groups history; that much I did know. But it was another of the many things about Jan Arrah that I would likely never know.
"I'm sorry," I blurted and I meant it. Somehow, saying those detested words to Jan, they lost their usual sting completely. I'm a proud woman. Too proud, at times. There are Legionnaires I'd rather have died than utter those words in their presence. Element Lad isn't one of them. When I found my voice again I tried to continue.
"Jan, I do love them. Honestly, I do. Especially Alchemist. That was such a great name for him. You are the Philosopher's Stone; every medieval alchemist's wet dream."
I looked fondly at Alchemist as he covered the ReBoot Jan's hand with his. "That's it!" he encouraged. When another crystalline spot appeared on the floor, he hugged his younger "brother". "I knew you could do it!" he enthused. Jan also smiled and knelt once more to hug his ReBoot self. The picture the three of them made, embracing with foreheads touching, blonde heads gleaming in the corridors bright light, came perilously close to melting me into a small puddle of chocolate goo on the metal/crystalline floor. The older Jan nodded and rose gracefully to his feet with a single motion, waiting for me speak. True to his nature, he knew that I hadn't said all I needed to say. It took me several moments, but he's a patient man, is Jan Arrah.
"It's just that the ReBoot you is so spacey! Nass, Jan, it's worse than when they sent you back to the ruins of Trom to be some kinda philosopher monk or something. One of the big reasons I dislike the Gap Era. I mean, Jesus! That whole thing with your lover Shvaughn turning out to be Sean, a guy using a gender altering drug called Pro-Fem so that he could have a relationship with you was ... was ..." I couldn't find the words.
"Did it really matter?" asked Jan.
"No, not to you. That's the point. It didn't matter to you whether she was Shvaughn or he was Sean. And you told her/him so about a dozen times. So why all the to-do about it?"
Jan sighed and gazed at me sympathetically. "It wasn't important to me," he agreed, "but it was important to others. It just might have been very important to some young comic book reader struggling with his or her sexuality and looking for a beacon in the darkness. And that was one of the few ways the authors involved could raise the issue in a mainline comic, you know."
"Okay," I grumbled, not wanting be sullen about it. I didn't entirely succeed if the look in Jan's bright blue eyes was any indication. I hate it when I ... disappoint ... him. Jan sometime makes me feel so inadequate when it come to my own personal store of the milk of human kindness. The amazing thing is that not once have I resented it. Never even close. I'm not usually so forgiving. And that's Jans influence too. "I understand that. And I guess I can accept it. It's just hard to adjust to." I bit my lip and got to the heart of the matter.
"But watching the ReBoot you zone out and lose himself in 'deep thoughts' no one else can fathom is painful, sweetie. It hurts me to see you like that. How can you stand it?"
"Fate never burdens us with more than we can bear," he said, simply.
This from the man who lost his world, all his people, his everything; cast alone into the Universe at the ripe old age of twelve. But he coped, didn't he? With all that and so much more. Such strength of spirit shamed me deeply and it must have shown in my face. If I didn't leave soon, I was going to cry, that's Gospel I doubt that there's anyone else in the world, real or fictive, that I would even have considered doing that before.
Jan took my hand.
"I'm a man," he told me. "Just a man. No different than any other, really. My heritage gives me the power to change any substance into any other substance." He paused. "Anything but the human heart. Not even I may change that. Only people can do that."
I squeezed his hand and entwined my short fingers with his longer, elegant ones. "There's someone I want you to meet, someday. Mind you, it could be awhile, I warn you. Joey isn't much of a talker. In fact, he doesn't talk at all. He can't."
I nodded with a blossoming smile. "His name is is Joseph William Wilson..He's called Jericho by his teammates, the Titans. You're going to like Joey a lot, I promise. You two have a great deal in common. Like you, he's kind and gentle and very strong spirited. Joey is mute; he can't speak. But he hasn't let that stop him. He's an artist, a dancer, and a musician. But most of all, Joey is a hero and a good man."
Smiling his thanks, he collected Alchemist and his ReBoot self and moved off down the corridor. Watching him I peered down at his parting gift. The single rose was perfect, glowing with a soft inner light that made the petals seem to breathe and take life. Was it mere illusion or did my nose really bring me the faint scent of attar of roses? It was only my traitorous fingers that brought me the truth of deepest blood red crystal and jade in my hands.
I believe I've already mentioned that I was going to cry.
Well, now that I was good and depressed would be the perfect time, I expected, to once again grow serious in my quest to find Mon-El. I certainly wasn't doing all that well knocking about the Legion Clubhouse, I had to admit. Merde. Heh. Doesn't that sound ever so much more cultured and elegant than the English translation of that French expletive? Yes, indeed.
The Fire Rings of Beta Carinae are a long way from Earth But then, I've been venturing out into space in my imagination since before I was five years old, so I suppose it wasn't that long a trip. My guides back then were wonderful people like Robert A Heinlein, Poul Anderson, Andre Norton, Isaac Asimov and Leigh Brackett. I still cherish those memories. And those of grand comic writers like Gardner Fox, Mort Weisinger, Bob Kane, Dick Giordano, Julius Swartz, and Elliot S! Maggin. Most of them were gone now and that was fairly depressing in itself.
"Oh you're in a fine fettle for this little trip, aren't you?" I thought.
But it was my decision to make the trip alone with none of my old friends to accompany me. The most miraculous thing about literary friends is that they never truly leave you. To enjoy their company once more, all you have to do is open the pages of a book.
Sitting on his solitary asteroid, Mon-El stared into the kaleidoscopic explosion of blazing color and energy that was the Fire Rings of Beta Carinae, frowning. That's when I knew just how much trouble I was in. If he could be here ... quite literally his very favorite place in the Universe ... and still be unhappy ...
"Hi," I said meekly. "I thought you might be here."
Not once did he even look away from the burning fury of the sight before him when he answered me. He shrugged.
"Why wouldn't I be here? It's where you put me most often. Not counting the Phantom Zone, of course."
"That's not fair!" I cried. He looked at me balefully, finally pulling his attention away from the cosmic splendor before him.
"No it isn't," he replied in his dry, deep voice. "Nice of you to notice."
"Lar ... " He turned back to the Rings, wordlessly, chin in hand. I searched for something to say and couldn't think of a damn thing. An uneasy silence descended like the fall of night. I sat down beside him. But not too close.
At least he didn't move away from me. Not physically, at any rate.
After a minute he spoke and surprised me. I was rather proud of myself when I managed not to jump out of my skin. Even without his PostBoot reputation as Valor, Lar can be intimidating.
"Why me?" he asked. Behind his eyes I could see a storm gathering; anger building into rage. "Why did you pick me to favor with your attention?" he snarled. "Surely there are flies in need of having their wings pulled off."
"Damn it, Lar!" I exploded to my feet, hands fisted into knots of temper. "I wasn't the one who decided that you had these fits of depression! Or that you do most of your thinking with your fists! And I sprocking sure didn't decide that you were frightened of going back to the Zone. Everybody agrees on that."
"No," he said, "but you certainly didn't mind exploiting those canonical things, did you?" I had rarely heard his voice so venomous. "And you weren't content to send me back to the Zone, were you? No. You killed Shady." He looked so very lost and alone that I lost my anger completely.
"But I gave you Jo," I reminded him. He nodded slightly, then rested his head on his knees.
"But then you took him away," he murmured, closing his eyes. "Do you have any idea how painful that was? I've loved Jo for a long time."
I stroked his hair. "It couldn't have ended any other way, Lar, you know that."
He turned away from my caressing hand, with slow deliberation. Then he turned back and stared at me, hard.
"Is that supposed to make it hurt any less?"
I bit back a sharp reply. I was starting to get angry again and I didn't want to do that. I don't like it when I get angry. Lar and I are alike there. Despite what he undoubtedly believed, Lar was not one of the fictives I vented my anger and frustration upon.
"I gave you Kal, too," I pointed out to him in desperation.
Immediately he softened, smiling with an almost visible inner light. "Kal was always there. He never left me." His face collapsed into well worn lines of grim sadness. "Not ... not until he died."
"Lar ... I didn't do that, either."
"Yes, you did!" he accused relentlessly. "Or have you forgotten about 'Fairy Tale'? I mean, I know you'd like to ... And how about 'Straight On 'Til Morning'? You killed Kal and Tasmia both in that one."
"I was just following canon," I muttered in a miserable voice.
"Riiiight. And I suppose the stasis collar and ten years of imprisonment in 'Fairy Tale' were 'just following canon', too?"
"As a matter of fact, yes!" I snapped, my voice much more belligerent than I liked. "The sprocking story is an Elseworlds! I had to find some fantasy equivalent of the Phantom Zone, for God's sake! So I locked you up in a dungeon up for ten years! At least it wasn't a thousand!"
"You're too kind," he drawled.
"I'm just tired," he said, continuing after a moment. "Tired of being sad and afraid all the time. Tired of being alone."
I swallowed a huge lump I hadn't realized had risen in my throat. With his hands, Lar casually tore off a piece of the stony asteroid he sat upon and tossed it like a meteor at the flaming inferno of the sun Beta Carinae. It made hardly a flicker in the surrounding brilliance, but, nevertheless, I watched it for a long time until it disappeared.
"And it's not going to get any better, is it." It wasn't really a question. This time I was the one to look away. I had to. I'm not good at lying and the truth was not what he wanted to see in my face just then.
He shook his head in despair. "Some of the things you've been considering lately ... I mean, Mordru, for space sake?" I threw up my hands in frustration and made ready to stalk off. In fact, I did stomp away, turning my back; leaving him a lonely solitary figure in the distance. Unfortunately, since it wasn't a very big asteroid, I didn't get very far.
Okay. So I lied. I knew exactly how to get home, so that wasn't what kept me there. Arms akimbo, I stormed my way back to him. "Do you like the name Marisa?" I demanded. For such a small person, I have a loud voice when it pleases me.
Taken aback, his smooth, angular features were a study in puzzled incomprehension.
"I like the name Marisa a lot," he said. "It was my Mom's name; you know that."
"That's right," I nodded, "I do know that. So how does the name strike you attached to a beautiful little girl with raven dark hair, big blue eyes and a moops-ball pitching arm like Sandy Koufax? Not to mention invulnerability, laser vision, and enough superstrength to lift Mount Everest."
His confusion seemed to deepen.
"I don't under - " he began. Then his eyes widened, his lips parted in wonder and he smiled like the rising of the sun.
"My - my little girl?" he whispered, as if he were afraid to believe it; afraid that his happiness might vanish if he touched it.
"A family? You're going to give me a family? No - no one ever did that for me before."
"It'll mean dirty diapers, sleepless nights with two AM feedings, and coping with burning questions like 'What do you mean one of the strongest beings in the galaxy is a two year old?', you realize that, right?" I warned.
He pulled me down into his lap and pillowed his head on my breast. "I don't care!" he exclaimed, "I don't care!" I've never heard him sound happier. I kissed his hair, inhaling the scent of sunlight and deep space that clung to him.
"All I ever wanted to do was make you happy, Lar," I said softly. "I could just never figure out how to do it until now. I tried to give you Jo in a nice, sweet little PWP, but that turned into a mess. When I wrote 'Me, Myself...But No I', it was because I hoped to give you a friend - Valor, the SW6 you. I thought I came closest to making you happy in 'Straight On 'Til Morning'; sending you out to explore the galaxy. You love it so. You'll have to give that up, you know. You're sure this is what you want?"
"Oh Gods, yes!"
"Then start laying in a good supply of Pampers and baby bottles, guy, because she's on the way. And you're gonna be a single parent." His eyes were shining even as he did his best to look stern.
"Pampers?" he declared in mock horror. "No way! Anybody tries to put one of those torture devices on my daughter is a grease spot. Cloth! Cloth all the way!"
"I think I'll keep her a kid for a loooong time," I decided as I grinned in reply. "I am so not ready to deal with her first date and bringing the boyfriend home to meet UberDad here ... I can just see it now ...
LAR (catching Marisa and boyfriend necking in the back seat of boyfriend's astro-cruiser): Cruiser run out of fuel? Here! Let me help you ... " *Lar extracts Marisa from the cruiser, picks it up and tosses it into low Earth orbit*
Heh. Nope. Definitely wait on that one."
I embraced him again. "Lar, I need to go if I'm gonna get started on Marisas story. You'll be okay, now, right?"
He stood with me in his arms and set me down gently, blushing all the while. "Yeah," he assured me, "I'll be fine." He studied his boots for a moment, evidently fascinated with them. I let go of his hand and moved off, already meditating and preparing to wish myself back home. It had been a long day. Mon-El's voice was low, but never the less, it stopped me.
Slightly nervous now, Ituned to face him. What if he changed his mind? What if he were still angry with -
"Thank you." he said.
"You're welcome," I said.
"Whew!" I thought in relief, pressing my harassed back to the door of my study. "Home again, home again, jiggety-jig! And not a moment too soon, either." I'd had enough for one day of fictives and such. I ought to be safe here in my very own little private Domain, right?
With sinking heart, I saw them, arms crossed aggressively over ample chests, surrounding my computer like a military phalanx at the ready. All of them were there. Every single female Legionnaire ever created. And all of them were very unhappy. Imra Ardeen, Saturn Girl, stepped forward.
"We'd like to talk to you," she informed me sharply, tapping her foot with impatience. "It's about this nasty habit you have of neglecting us in favor of our male teammates ... This is to let you know that we demand equal time." They tightened their circle, firmly barring me from my computer. "No more writing for you," Imra threatened in a cool voice, "until we get fics. Do we understand one another?"
With a loud cry, I threw myself on the couch, covered my head with a pillow, and whimpered.