I always like to blame someone when I write something, but I'm not sure who I can really pin this on. It all started when Frankie
Hey guys, there's this game called roads_untaken in which you play Alternate Universe versions of canon characters! You should join!
And I said to myself
, I said
you haven't got time for a new game,
but it was too late, an idea for Dinah Lance had already formed. Seeing as her history over the past forty years has been so strongly linked to her love life and its fallout effects, and as she herself manages to steer the course of the people she loves, how would things be different if she'd loved someone else? What if this scene
had gone the other way? What if, in fact, she'd chosen the other non meta member of the Justice League?
From then I couldn't stop thinking, and Rick
enabled me to a ridiculous degree, and over Twitter, John
asked me to post it.
Please don't hate me?
I could have had any of them. I'm not trying to be crazy ego-girl there, but it's true, or at least, I thought it was true, which is probably what counts. We were all young, of course, but I was the youngest by a few years. A naive little girl who thought being a divorcee at nineteen meant I was wise in the ways of love, surrounded by dedicated, passionate men who were all at the absolute top of their respective games - and all, I have to say right now, as good looking in person as they are on the TV. And there was I, walking around in what amounted to being my mother's underwear. I won't lie; at some point I imagined myself with each one of the men in the Justice League, even the cocky archer who back then was twice my age.
I ended up with the silent broody one. I guess, like so many other girls, I was drawn to the dark.
He hadn't been a member long, and we were still learning about each other when the two of us ended up in the Watchtower together, not talking so much as keeping each other company in maudlin.
He was new, but not as new as our new headquarters: after the location of our Rhode Island base had been betrayed to the Joker, we'd just up and moved the entire Justice League headquarters to a Satellite in orbit around the Earth: we bought ourselves safety from Earth-bound villains and a view that is simply unparalleled in its beauty, but at the cost of a ratherdesperate kind of isolation. There's nothing like being on your own with nothing but a bank of computers, twenty two thousand miles separating you from the rest of humanity, for when you really want to get into a very good brood. And for all the excitement of my high flying world saving superhero lifestyle, I had my own things to brood about.
My dad had died a few years ago. The story hit the new at the time because Larry Lance, who was a perfectly ordinary civilian private investigator and not a masked hero at all, died on the moon with the Justice Society, while helping them protect the earth against Aquarius. Even in the good old glory days of the JSA, the news pundits leaped on the story, asking why a civilian was with the Society in the first place, and what his widow and daughter thought of them. Of course, back then no one knew that the widow in question was the Black Canary, in whose footsteps the daughter would soon follow.
I say he wasn't a hero, but he was to me. I grew up surrounded by superheroes and costumes and masks. Capes and superpowers didn't impress me as much as integrity, hard work and dedication, and my Dad had them in spades. So too, did my new teammate. His parents had died when he was even younger; torn from him right in front of his eyes in an horrific act of mindless violence. One minute he was the happiest child in Gotham, the next the unhappiness. He hadn't grown up with the same inevitability that I had, with parents and a whole legion of uncles in dangerous jobs, knowing that some day the bad news was going to come. His life was ruined in two seconds.
At the time, though, even knowing that, I had envy for his situation. He had to watch his parents die in a matter of seconds. I was having to watch my mother die over a span of years.
She tried to keep it from me, in the same way that she'd hidden all those cracked ribs and extensive bruising when I was little. In the same way that I covered my face every morning before she saw me, and made light of any injury she happened to notice. I was risking my life every night, and she'd started suffering intense stomachaches, for which she blamed the menopause, but I was becoming more and more convinced something more serious was wrong. This was five years before the cancer finally killed her.
At the time, though, she was grouchy with the pain and bitchy when I asked about it, and was still taking a backseat driver's approach to my twin careers of florist and costumed hero; both following in her footsteps and both, in her mind, something I needed maternal advice about. I was still a child, you understand, and not sure how else to cope with it except for taking on extra monitor duty to avoid going home.
He listened. He didn't do so without taking the opportunity to play - albeit a brief play - the 'my life sucks more than yours' card, but he also didn't try to distract me with laughter, or with a show of his great manly skills or anything else the others might have done; he stood there while I looked out at the Earth and told him all my fears, and when I was done, he shared a little of his own pain, and before we really knew what we were doing, a mutual hug for comfort had turned into what was very nearly our first kiss. Until one of us - or both, I can't be sure - decided that really wasn't a good idea.
It could have ended there. In many of those endless alternate Earths we now know are out there in the multiverse, I bet it did. And maybe it's better in those worlds. For me, it was just the beginning.
Remember when I said I could have had any of the guys in the League at the time?* Our first joining member was still trying his luck, and to be fair to him, I wasn't doing a very good job of discouraging him. Twice my age he might have been, but he was still very good looking (he had a nice behind. I'm a sucker for a good behind), very persistent, and to be honest, I liked the attention. But I also liked Bruce, and when it came down to it, after that nearly-maybe-could have been in the Watchtower, it was Bruce, not Oliver Queen, who I began obsessing over in my downtime.
The thing about Batman and Green Arrow is, they have so much in common that it throws what they don't share into sharper relief. They were both, back then, the only members of the league who didn't have superpowers, although some of the time I included myself in that number, as I've always considered myself a martial artist first, and someone with a sonic scream second. It was new to me then,not having manifested until puberty, and I wasn't sure what to do with it. So in those two teammates I saw something I could relate to: a lot of work trying to get an 'ordinary' non meta body to do something extraordinary, and the courage and confidence to stand alongside Superman, Martian Manhunter and Green Lantern and be just as important as any of them. Both of them were rich in their personal lives (although Oliver Queen lost his fortune shortly after joining, through terrible bad luck), and both Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen had reputations as devil-may-care ladies men. The difference, as I was discovering, was that for Bruce, that persona was as much of a character he played as the dark, mysterious Batman. Neither was him, and he was a much more complicated character than any I'd met. For Oliver, it was who he was. In costume and out, he played the same part, and his attentions towards me didn't seem like anything more than his habit of Playing the Playboy.
There are a thousand and one ways I could have let this Lothario down gently when I realised I wasn't ever going to be as interested as I let him think, but being the idiot I probably will always be, I let him make assumptions and jump to conclusions and treat me like I was already his, because that was easier than figuring out a way of saying "Hey, you're a nice guy and everything, but honestly you're old enough to be my father and frankly that beard looks ridiculous on you", without hurting his feelings. Which is why it came to what it did, and I'll always regret it.
The three of us - Batman, Green Arrow and myself - had split up from the rest of the League on a side quest which, for the life of me, I can't remember the details of right now. It happens a lot even now, of course. Not all the League business requires all the League members, and sometimes its best to split our efforts. This being only a few days after the incident in the Watchtower, about which no one knew but myself and Batman, the tension in his plane - which Irefuse to call the Batplane out of the misplaced principle that we need to maintain some sense of dignity even in spandex - was almost tangible. I couldn't stop thinking about it - Batman could have been thinking about anything but I like to think he was thinking about me - and GA wouldn't stop talking. By the time we landed, and with no sense of appropriate timing, I knew I had to have an answer from my Knight in Black Kevlar.
I pulled him to one side almost immediately, to Green Arrow's obvious, and vocal, annoyance. In his mind, I was already his, and seeing me take Batman to the side, that was tantamount to Batman stealing his girl. So I snapped.
"I'll walk - and talk - with whom I feel, Oliver! And for your information, if I was going to step out with anyone in this league, it would certainly not be you!"
Yes, I'm pretty sure I used those words. Not only was the youth lingo of choice decidedly strange back then, I'd picked up a few bad habits from over exposure to Oliver Queen. I got better.
He spluttered - he literally spluttered, which didn't help to make him any more attractive, but did make me feel considerably guilty that I'd led him on so much that this was a shock.
"Who then - Bats?"
"As it happens..."
Of course, this was what I had wanted to talk to Bruce about privately, but didn't have the chance before GA shot his mouth off. I hesitated, feeling suddenly like a stupid little girl, and turned to the cowl that hadn't tried to interrupt the little altercation.
Under the mask - and I know you won't believe me, but trust me, I'm going to describe this a lot, so you'll have to get used to the fact it happened on occasion - Bruce was smiling.
*At the risk of disappointing the remarkably large number of supporters of this across the internet, the chances of my jumping into bed with Wonder Woman remain at a firm slim-to-none. Not speaking for her, my inclination is firmly towards the other half.