A Pause, Before...
Archive: Ask first, please.
Warnings: M/M and F/F slash implication, but nothing explicit.
Disclaimer and Thanks: At end.
The brightly clad throng was comprised mostly of members of the Titans and the Legion of Super-Heroes, which was bad enough, considering her classic Legion was about thirty-six members and the Titans numbered around fifteen, counting all the ones she really had an interest in. There were also a couple of dead-in-canon characters, some YJ-ers, and a few members of the BatClan. Add in the variations, though, and things were *really* starting to get out of hand. Three Garths, three Graysons, *four* Roys (##oh, good Lord, one is bad enough##), three Tasmias--one with an aura of sorrow so painful even the Writer had to glance away, a few other duplicated Legionnaires....
Time to put this house in order. The Writer put two fingers to her mouth and whistled, a bright clear sound that she only wished she could duplicate in real life. "Hey! Conference time."
Most of the fictives glanced up, resigned. Some looked eager; a few, annoyed. Well, tough. "Legion HQ--Jan, there's enough space in the rec room to spread out, right?"
Element Lad considered. "Yes, I think so."
"Perfect." She concentrated and the "waiting room"--the place in her head where unfinished fics lived--vanished, to be replaced by the elegantly clean layout of the Legion's huge rec area; part gym, part living room, something for everyone. She glanced over at the Brainys. "Good job, guys. Nice design."
They nodded and continued their discussion. Hrumph. After "Anamnesis," you think she'd have earned *some* regard from Querl Dox, anyway....
Jan came over. "What's the occasion?"
"Just touching base, really; taking stock." She regarded him fondly. "I liked how you interacted with Nura and Dick in the Legion/Titans cross. You've got a gift for that."
"With this group, someone has to." He smiled gently. "It's also in my best interest to facilitate a smooth fic; I *have* noticed that for one of your supposed 'favorite' Legionnaires, you hardly ever call on me."
"I wrote you that snippet with Sean!" she protested, then trailed off. After a moment she sighed. "That *was* criminally short. I do owe you, I know, but..." The Writer looked up at him with an apologetic expression. "You're...hard for me to write. It's because I respect you so much, I don't want to mishandle or misrepresent you at all."
He nodded. "In your own time. I have faith."
He did, that was really the most amazing thing. It warmed her. "Thanks. And Jan? Thanks for being the first one to come over. If I'd had to deal with one of the Roys first....." She shook her head. "You really do have a talent."
He spread his hands. "It's only how you see me, after all."
She grinned. "Oh, let's not start *that* debate again, okay? Hm. While I've got you here..." She called over the other nineteen participants in the Legion/Titans fic. "Just so we're clear, you guys know you're in a *very* long-term Work in Progress, right?"
She looked around, gauging reactions. The Legionnaires first: Jan, of course, looked supportive; Jo and Jacques, accepting; Tinya, like she was about to say something catty (##but when *doesn't* she look that way?##); Cham, unreadable; Mysa, serene as always; Dirk, impatient; Brin, bored; Dreamy, *definitely* annoyed; and Shady, unconcerned, looking off toward her suffering "twin."
The Titans ran the same gamut, though with less intensity; well, she hadn't written much with them yet, so they weren't as emotionally involved. She caught the faint murmur of, "As if we had any choice..." and the source surprised her; it *wasn't* Harper.
"Just hang in there, everyone. We'll get there. Nura, you've got a starring role; don't fret." Dreamy sighed, then winked and turned her attention to surveying the Titans men. The Writer rolled her eyes.
##Business as usual, where Dreamy's concerned.## The group began to break up, drifting to different parts of the room, which was kind of a shame. She'd hoped they would stick around and begin to socialize a bit more, give her some clues for that fic-wise. But nothing came that easy, and she couldn't force it. One thing, though. "Uh, Kory?"
Starfire glanced over with a bitter expression. "Yes?"
"Let's...can we call a truce, here? I promise to do right by you."
"You don't *like* me, that's clear enough. Why am I even here?"
"True, but you're one of the classic Titans; can't have the team without Starfire." The Writer breathed out once, sharply. "And over in 'Sea & Sky,' I'm going to make it very clear how big a debt Dick owes to you, emotionally."
Kory shrugged, only slightly mollified. "That's very nice, but you'll forgive me if I don't jump for joy about *that* whole idea."
"Wasn't me who decided it was over between you two. And I don't expect you to. But you know, if I can talk Carmen into actually writing it, she's got some ideas about helping you through it...."
"That's...good." The wary expression hadn't entirely disappeared, but it was a start.
"Look, I'm not an angst writer. I don't torture characters for the hell of it. If I don't like you, you don't show up, unless I really need you. And I do need you to make this thing work."
"All right." Starfire suddenly grinned. "Just let me kiss one of the cute ones, all right? To 'learn Interlac.'"
The Writer laughed. "Agreed!" She watched Kory take off, hair trailing behind like a comet, and looked around. ##That takes care of the fic with the most players; who's next?##
The voice came from behind her and low, which was surprising, since just about everyone here stood taller than her mere 5 feet. She turned. "Hi, Barbara."
Barbara Gordon raised an eyebrow. "Roy Harper?"
The Writer felt her lip twitch. "Yeah."
"Oh, c'mon, Babs; it's a spinoff from Aya's 'Truth or Dare,' I didn't see you complaining when you kissed him in that one."
The Oracle blushed but held her ground. "But I'm supposed to be with Dick. Everyone knows that. I know *you* shrieked for joy when we finally kissed in canon, so what's this about?"
"It's just for fun. Trust me. Just think of it as warm-up." The Writer couldn't help the grin that spread across her face. "You'll have a great time. It's Roy, after all; what that man doesn't know about sex...."
Babs held the stern expression for a moment longer, than cracked up. "Sure doesn't seem like it in the one you've been writing recently!"
"Oh, yeah. '...With You in Any Water.' Shoulda known you've been reading that one over my shoulder, after the way you reacted to catching Dick and Garth over in S&S."
"Couldn't help it. They were just too perfect." She looked up, obviously troubled. "Do you *have* to do that to them? Dick isn't usually so..."
The Writer nodded. "I know. I feel awful about it, too. But Dick has issues, you know that. He needs to get through them before they can really make it work. I'm glad you took it so well, though. I was worried."
"Worried about me?" Barbara shook her head. "Oh, as far as S&S goes, you've got the 'big sister' thing going. I can live with that." She glanced around to make sure that no one else was within earshot. "Besides, I know you've got that piece half-written where I *really* catch them...."
"Uh-huh." The Writer and the Oracle exchanged a look in total agreement. "I just wish I could *see* it as well as write it!"
Babs chuckled. "The benefit of being in fic, rather than just dreaming it. I'm grateful, believe me." She made a shooing motion. "Go on, you've got lots of others to talk to before this piece ends."
"Right." The Writer walked away a bit, musing. Like most comic fans, she'd played the "what if you could be any hero" game in her head, and Oracle was on the list. The very short list. *Despite* the wheelchair. ##God, I admire her.##
A red-and-yellow blur stopped in front of her. "Why haven't you posted it yet?"
"The one about you in Gotham? Um, because it still needs some transition pieces, and a beginning, and a *title.* Gimme a break, Jesse."
Jesse Quick nodded. "Okay. Don't take too long, though."
The Writer raised an eyebrow. "Why? Got a hot date?"
"A little fast with the answer, there. Wonder why that is?" The Writer got that faraway, "thinking about possibilities" gleam in her eye. "Maybe you should?"
Jesse started backing away. "No, really. It's like I told Wally, I don't want--"
"--to be anyone's girlfriend, I know." She smiled. "I'm joking. Mostly. I *like* the way you are, silly rationales and all. You're safe."
"Whew." Jesse turned to go, then came back. "It's really true, though? Dick and *Garth*?!"
"Yep!" The Writer paused. "That's the third time it's come up, in the space of three conversations. Dammit. I'm really gonna have to talk to them now, aren't I?"
"You're the one with the 'silly rationale' about the number three." Jesse shrugged. "It's obviously on your mind."
"I guess so. And Jesse? You've gonna deal with the revelation a *lot* better than Wally will. You'll be able to hold that one over him for months."
"Perfect. Thanks." She sped off. The Writer grinned. Jesse really had become a favorite; she'd definitely have to follow up on the idea Carmen had mentioned, about Grant and his genetic relationship to Jesse. ##Be fun to see how she reacts to suddenly having a "brother."##
She steeled herself, and went to talk to her boys.
They'd found a quiet corner, but they weren't talking; Dick was staring off into space with a faintly disturbed expression, and Garth was watching him patiently.
The Writer sighed. "Okay, look. This isn't going to be easy for any of us, so can we just get through it as fast as we can, please?"
Dick frowned. "I'm in denial, but I can't admit it, and no matter how you short-cut it I'm going to come off as a total jerk. Thanks a lot."
"Come off it. You *are* being a jerk, and you will until after the thing with--" the Writer cut herself off; no need to make this conversation any harder. "Dick, it has to be this way. It's all been set in motion."
"Yeah, but I don't have to like it." He stalked off, refusing to give either her or Garth a last glance.
The Writer sank into a chair and put her head in her hands. "Oh, boy."
Garth's voice cut through her self-recriminations. "We'll get through this."
She raised her head. "How can you be so sure?"
"Because you promised KayJay it would be that way, and because you said yourself: scroll up. 'I'm not an angst writer.' It will work out."
"God, Garth--you so don't deserve what I'm going to put you through."
"No, I don't. Which is why you're writing '...In Any Water' as a stopgap, yes? To placate me." He grinned. "It's working. Look over there." She followed his gaze to where one of the Harpers stood, looking at the jacuzzi with a bemused expression. "My counterpart is enjoying that one very much, believe me."
"That one's a lot of fun." She still felt terrible, though. "But even so. 'Sea & Sky' wasn't meant to hurt you, either of you, it's just...."
"There's a quote, isn't there? 'Going through the bitter waters to reach the sweet.' I understand that. And...he *is* worth it."
She sat back and just looked at him for a minute. "You're too good to be true."
Garth shook his head. "I'm only as you made me. I'm not precisely in canon, after all."
The Writer started. "You and Jan! I thought his meeting Joey would be a shock. But you two...you're closer than I'd realized." His purple eyes really were extraordinary. Deep, and....
She bit her lip. "It's in terribly bad form to fall in love with your own fictive, isn't it." It wasn't a question.
"It just means you care about what happens to me; I appreciate that." He reached over and took her hand. "You have been more than fair to me. One 'version' will have the chance to show off his magic if I read the crossover notes correctly; the piece with Roy is long overdue--at least as far as the conversation is concerned, and the rest is a pleasant surprise; and I myself am promised a life's companion far better than the one imposed by canon." He smiled. "And Tula approves. So the rest is irrelevant."
"I..." she stood, resolute. "I should go on before I do something adulterous with you right here on this table. Thanks, Garth."
She walked away quickly and started making a circuit of the room, touching base here and there.
She winked at the "Water" Roy as she passed. "Having fun?"
He tossed her a look, then an unwilling grin. "Yeah."
"Well, *I'm* not." Angst!Roy stood there, glowering. "What the hell's up with my fic, anyway?"
The Writer winced. "Uh...it's in for revisions...?"
"You're not gonna revise it *that* much. At least *his*--" he waved toward his counterpart, "--encounter with Gillhead is kinda sweet. "
She frowned. "I thought you agreed not to call him that anymore."
"*He* did; I didn't." The scowling Roy crossed his arms. "But you didn't answer the question. What ever gave you the idea that I'd lunge at Robbie like *that?*"
"Because you're lonely; because you said yourself it was either kiss or kill him; and because it's SlashFic, and it makes sense in that context." The Writer scowled a little herself. "Roy, it actually accomplishes more than just a bit of smut. Lots of good communication there. And you *do* go after Donna in the end, so you shouldn't complain too loudly."
Before he could respond, the third Roy--Babs' Roy, by his casual outfit--came up, chuckling. "Don't hear me complaining!"
##I'm gonna kill one or all of 'em, I swear....## The Writer caught a glimpse of the fourth Roy, busy flirting with Nura. ##Go figure the two biggest flirts on either team would find each other. Least it keeps him out of this mess.## "Okay, listen up!" She nodded to the first Roy. "You've been very cooperative, I appreciate it. *You*--" she pointed at the second, "--could take some notes from him. Unclench, Harper, it'll be fine. As for you..." the Writer tried for a glare, then lost it. He was just too cute. "Stop rubbing it in. You be good to Barbara, you hear me? Or I *will* do something nasty."
The third held up his hands. "Hey, no problem. She's great, I'm happy, I'll behave." He grinned wickedly, his trademark. "Unless she doesn't want me to."
Despite herself, she had to laugh. "You're a charmer. Talk some sense into this one, wouldya? I've got some others to catch up with."
She'd been neglecting the Legion lately; had to change that. She swung around to where Shrinking Violet and Lightning Lass were cuddled together on a big floating chair. "That looks cozy."
Ayla giggled while Vi just nodded complacently and said in her slightly throaty voice, "Took me long enough to find her, I'm not letting her go anytime soon."
"I'm so glad." After all she'd been through, Vi deserved a happy ending. "Ayla, anytime you feel like talking to me, just give a yell, all right? It's rare enough that I have a good title idea, I don't want to waste it."
"Remind me?" Ayla blinked up at the Writer, blue eyes bright.
##Just *too* sweet.## "'Love, Like Lightning.' Suits you. Seriously, I think it'd be good to get the story from your point of view, since I already did Vi's. Even if she did skimp on the details a little." The Writer winked. "I haven't forgotten I owe you a PWP, either."
"Good." Vi turned back to Ayla; the redheaded Winathan smiled and mouthed over Vi's head, "I will."
Over in that corner Dirk and Shady were chatting quietly. "I'm glad to see you guys talking. Resolve anything?"
Shady shook her head. "Not really; although we both agree that we'd like to see you actually *write* the scene between us, rather than just pass over it in transition." She smiled slightly, the expression highlighting the beauty of her face. "It's rare enough I have the chance to...enjoy myself with anyone other than Mon, after all."
Dirk grinned. "And, well, you know me."
"Oh, absolutely!" The Writer suppressed a giggle. He was just like Roy; too charming for his own good. "I'm still feeling my way through 'Movements.' For all that you've been a Legionnaire forever, Dirk, you sure don't get many spotlights...."
He shrugged. "I can live with being a team mainstay. It's the ones who take center stage that get tortured."
Tasmia cleared her throat. "Speaking of that..."
The Writer nodded. "I know. 'Aftermath,' unless I change the title. I *have* to finish that one; Dannell's story 'Mon-El' was the one that got me writing, after all. I couldn't leave you--her--like that."
"Could you...hurry it up, just a little? I'm concerned."
The Writer looked at Tasmia candidly. "I wish I could. But this one...it really has to be perfect. It's too important not to. It was the very first fic I started. I've finished others in the meantime, but I'm always thinking about it. I'll talk to her. "
But first.... "Hi, boys!" Robin and Superboy were playing a little one-on-one basketball. ##Appropriate, that.##
Kon-El gave her a pouty look. "Thought you forgot about us."
"Oh, no. KayJay would never forgive me." The Writer hesitated. "So, uh, you're impatient for the next piece...?"
"Uh-huh." He nudged Rob. "We had fun, right?"
Robin blushed. "Uh, yeah, right." Something in his eyes made the Writer say, "Kon, do me a favor. I think I saw Hel--the Huntress sneaking around somewhere. Would you see if you could spot her for me?"
"Sure." He flew off.
Robin bounced the ball once, twice, before looking up. "I don't want to do this."
She sighed. "I know, Rob--Tim. I wrote the first two in fun, and never thought about the consequences. You can't help how you are, and if you don't return his feelings, that's the way it has to be."
"He doesn't deserve--"
The Writer nodded, resigned. "I can't leave you in limbo, and I can't make you stay together. It's a bad situation all around. I wish I..."
He shrugged. "You're the Writer, you can do anything you want!"
"But that's just the thing; I can't. I can't have you act that far out of character, and that's really the problem. No, it's not your *fault,* don't give me that look! It's who you are, Tim. I wouldn't change it for anything."
He went quiet for a moment before asking, "So what happens now?"
"Well, the last thing you said after the talk with Dick--' But the next time I saw Kon-El, that all flew out the window.'--that pretty much implies there's at least one more scene between you two, a fun one, before the situation comes to a head. Try to enjoy it, huh?"
He still looked miserable. "That's not the problem, it's thinking about it afterward, and knowing about the talk that comes later. The 'break-up.'"
"That's been holding me up, too." The Writer considered. "I think we're both just going to have to ignore that foreknowledge to make the next part work."
"Easier said than done."
"For both of us, I know. You'll end up friends, if that helps any."
Robin nodded toward the ceiling. "He's back."
Kon-El landed and pointed. "She's over there. What's up?"
"Nothing; just wanted to make sure. I'll try to get back to you soon, all right?"
She headed off toward the Huntress, feeling Tim's eyes boring into the middle of her back. ##Teach me to start something like that without thinking it through first. Rob will be all right, but Kon...that stinks.##
Helena dropped down from a ledge. "Good to see *someone's* on my side."
"Surprised me, actually. You have a point about the approval thing. He's not *always* right, regardless of how canon's treating the Bat these days."
"Yeah." The Huntress got that "starting a rant" look. "How dare they..."
The Writer held up a hand. "Helena, don't. I sympathize, but it only goes so far. Especially after you were such a bitch during NML. People would be a lot more understanding if you'd leave Dick alone."
There wasn't a bit of contrition on that face. "What can I tell you, he brings it out in me. Not my fault half the official Writers cast him as the slut of the DCU." She grinned ferally. "Did you see? He was with *me* on New Year's. Not her."
"I saw. I *hated* it. Keep it up and I'll lose patience too, and then you'll never get to tell your side, because I won't want to write it. And to be honest, there are a lot of others who take precedence."
"Oh, that's nice. Threatening your own fictive. Very enlightened."
The Writer opened her mouth to reply, then stopped. No point, really. "Excuse me. I have a few others to talk to--with bigger problems than yours."
She left the Huntress fuming behind her. ##Damn. She brings out the worst in me, I guess. That could have gone better.##
Two conversations left to go, two of the hardest. ##Let's start with the one I'm more confident about.##
Here Tasmia stood, staring into the fireplace, while Jo and Tinya looked anxiously after her. The group of Brainiac 5s clustered nearby, one of them occasionally casting a glance in her direction. ##His guilt really must be eating him up. Nice to see confirmation that he cares.##
The Writer took a deep breath. "Shady--Tasmia--I'm sorry I've taken so long resolving your situation." It was bad. Her lover and love Mon-El had gone insane due to lead poisoning, forced to return to the Phantom Zone with no sure hope of a cure, and the physical and emotional damage he'd done would be a long time healing. But Tasmia's own strength and the help of her friends virtually guaranteed she'd recover. In time. Still... "Once you get through the conversation with Jo and Tinya, the rest should be..."
"I know." Tasmia's voice reflected her pain. "Can you tell me if he can be helped at all?"
The Writer cursed inwardly. "I'm not sure. It's never been easy for Brainy to devise an antidote, and I don't want to make a promise I'm not positive I can keep." ##Plus there's the fact that I don't love Mon anyway. But for her sake, I'm tempted.## "At this point all I can do is say that you're still my favorite Legionnaire, and that means I can't leave you without a resolution." She waved to Jo and Tinya and they came over, taking Shady into an embrace between them. ##I *have* to get back to this one. I think we all need the closure.##
She took a few steps over to the group of Brainys. "What do you think?"
The one who'd been watching Shady answered. "Less than even odds, I think. The first serum was exceedingly difficult to synthesize, and it eventually failed." He hesitated. "I also believe your own feelings are getting in the way. You've always argued for a relationship between she and I, and you think this may be the place to do it."
"Querl, you're...right, as always." That was both his blessing and curse. "I can see a couple of different endings, and I'm just not sure which one to go with."
"I can't help you with that."
"No, I suppose not. Oh, that reminds me." She glanced at the others. "If one of you sees Carmen's Brainy, tell him to cooperate, would you?"
One of them grimaced. "Postboot, faugh! Do you have any *idea* what the reboot did to the metaphysical underpinnings of--"
The Writer interrupted. "I'm sure it's awful. But she's trying to get your young postboot twin together with Lyle, and he's being a pain. You can probably empathize." He had the grace to blush--cute, against green skin.
A third Brainy spoke up. "I'll talk with him. Perhaps he could use some perspective." Odd--the Writer wasn't sure which fic he was from. One hoping for an "Anamnesis" sequel, maybe, or...waitasec. "You're Carmen's, aren't you. The older one, with Rond."
"Hoping to be, yes." He smiled slightly. "You've spoken with her so often about it, I hope you don't mind the intrusion."
"Oh, no, it's fine. I hope it works out."
And that was all, except for a few random ideas that hadn't really taken form. And him, of course.
She couldn't leave it. She just couldn't.
The Writer found him working on the high trapeze bars, the ones Brin used. No net. Of course, the Legion gym was equipped with an invisible force-field net that would activate if needed; but he didn't know that.
She sighed. Such a typical response; he was hurting, so he was putting himself in a situation where he might get hurt rather than taking it out on anyone else. "Dick? Would you come down?"
He did, seemingly effortlessly, graceful as breathing. He spun and leaped and ended with his famous quadruple summersault, landing in front of her. Lord, he was beautiful. But upset. "Can you at least tell me why this is necessary?"
"It's the whole premise of 'Sea & Sky,' Dick. There are things you need to come to terms with before you can really be comfortable with Garth. The reasons behind the denial about how deeply you're feeling about him."
"And those would be?"
The Writer shook her head. "You know this already. Fear about losing someone you love again, that's the biggest thing. Bruce-issues, those play a part. But mostly fear, because of what happened with Kory."
He groaned. "Why does this always happen? Even the other thing you're writing with me, the Roy thing, isn't exactly 'nice.'"
"Because you 'suffer beautifully,' as the angst Writers put it. Your counterpart is *perfectly* compassionate with Roy once you get past the angry part, don't worry about that. But...look, Dannell's already written most of the next parts, it's only me having trouble getting you there. It isn't an extended thing, Dick."
He gave her a glance out from under a fringe of dark hair. "You're telling me this all has a happy ending?"
"I never made any secret of it. If you don't want to believe me, think about this: KayJay had faith enough to integrate you and Garth into her 'Dracoverse,' and that says a lot for your chances. Mel obviously agreed, because she wrote about you guys too. *I* was flattered as hell; you should take it as a sign." The Writer smiled a little. "In fact, you should make a point of thanking Dannell. If she hadn't written 'A Sea Change,' none of this would be happening. This little bit of pain aside, can you tell me it hasn't been good?"
"Sure. It's been...." she saw that despite himself, a little bit of a smirk was creeping around the corner of his mouth. "He's really...."
"I know. You don't have to say it. Yet." She paused, listening. "Poi Lass says I should write you a 'placating' fic as well, to make up for all this angst. The nerve of that Writer, demanding fic when she hasn't written anything herself in.... Well, it's a good idea anyway. Poi has great instincts."
"I'll settle for a quick resolution so Garth and I can get back to..." he trailed off, eyes going unfocused, and the Writer just grinned.
"Hold that thought. We'll get there."
He sounded a little desperate. "*Hurry.*"
...There was that *look,* and the unspoken promise of cooperation, and it was enough to make the Writer reach for her keyboard. ##You asked for it, Grayson....##
She laughed out loud, and began to type.
The unfinished fics (I have a problem with titles, can you tell?):
* (untitled) Legion/Titans: ten Legionnaires, ten Titans. Time-travel fun. A big WiP.
The Writer, Carmen, Dannell, KayJay, Poi Lass, Mel (Sweet Polly! ;) ), and Aya belong to themselves. All other characters belong to DC Comics. No infringement of copyright is meant by use of any of the above.
If you've gotten this far, thanks to you for reading; and for caring about "what happens next." You'll know as soon as I do! :)