Friends and Lovers
By Christopher W. Blaine
DISCLAIMER: Many of the characters and situations depicted in this original work of fiction are ©2003 by DC Comics Inc. and are used without permission for the purposes of fan-related entertainment purposes. Christopher W. Blaine created this original work of fiction and any work published by DC Comics Inc. that has striking similarity to this will no doubt be labeled as "coincidental".
If he ever stopped to take a good look at his life, he would realize that it was an existence based solely on surviving tragedy and emotional calluses. Roy Harper hardly ever stopped to ponder such deep thoughts, because doing so made him sad and being sad often led him to do very stupid things. And if there was one thing Roy Harper did not enjoy being, it was stupid.
The apartment still had her smell, but perhaps, he thought to himself, he was only imagining it. Maybe he was just willing his senses to playback a memory for him just like watching your favorite DVD over and over again. He didn't mind the thought that it was just fantasy; his fantasy world was not such a bad place.
In that world, that microcosm that he kept locked away in the darkest corners of his mind, his mother never died when he was an infant and his father never died when he was a child. He would have been raised a normal American kid and never would have become a thrill-seeking adrenaline junkie that required attention 24 hours a day. He never would have turned to drugs or the lifestyle associated with a rock star when he formed his own band.
He never would have had to go through a 12 step program to get his act together, never would have had to realize that he was a perfect killer, gifted with the unique ability to turn any object into a weapon. In that universe of his own creation, he never became an undercover agent for the government and most certainly never would have fallen in love with the world's most dangerous woman, a terrorist responsible for thousands, if not millions of deaths.
And whenever he found himself wanting to go out and shoot-up so he could return to that dream world, he would suck in his gut and remember the wonderful things he already had in his life, the good things that made him get up every morning and put on the costume of Arsenal and play super-hero, defending the innocent from the terrors that bumped in the night.
In the real world, he had good friends, teammates he had fought with and almost died with. He had a daughter; a wonderful little light in what would have been a very bleak existence.
And then he also had Donna.
In the real world, Roy Harper could never be with his first true love and what bothered him now as he slowly walked through the empty apartment was that he couldn't figure out whom that love was. Is it possible to love two women so passionately that you can lose all reason? He often wondered that now, especially since both women were now taken a way from him.
Jade, the mother of his daughter, Lian, was finally incarcerated. Since the events of 2001, many countries understood that harboring terrorists was not good for business and she had no place to run except straight to jail. It was better than the alternative. Several countries wanted her dead and Roy himself had defeated several assassination attempts on her.
True love, he supposed, required a certain amount of tolerance and a whole lot of forgiveness. Despite everything she had done, Roy could not deny that his heart would skip a beat whenever he saw her and at night, his last thoughts were of the times he would hold Jade in his arms, both of them breathing hard after the exertions of lovemaking.
He would never experience that again.
Then there was Donna, his first crush back when he had been called Speedy and she had been the first Wonder Girl. Off and on over the years they had hooked up, never taking their relationship to the point where they knew deep in their souls that it was going to become something permanent. No, he thought with a grin, she always backed off at the last moment.
It didn't matter, though, because in his mind, they never really stopped caring for each other and that only made this little exercise in angst all the more painful.
Donna was dead now.
She was supposed to be immortal, the twin sister of the Amazon princess Wonder Woman, but she had been taken away in battle, sacrificing herself so that others could live. She died fighting the good fight and her name would go on that list of fallen heroes that was growing much too long. That list held names like Barry Allen. Hal Jordan. Al Pratt.
The apartment he now strolled through, his hands touching the walls here and there so he could somehow absorb a memory or two through his skin, had once been hers. After her death, her sister, Diana, had cleared out her things, donating much of it to a local women's crisis center. Roy had dug into his personal bank account, which was more substantial than he ever let on, and gave a cash payment that would allow that refuge for battered women to keep operating for a year without help.
It wasn't because he had a particular agenda to fight for women's right; he just wanted to be a part of Donna again.
"God, I miss you baby," he said into the air. The tears started to well up again and he wiped them away. He was only doing that four times a day now and his eyes were starting to match his red hair on a daily basis. It was harder still because he had to present a strong front for his daughter, who had loved Donna very much.
But they all had, hadn't they?
From the very beginning, when Robin, Kid Flash, Aqualad, Wonder Girl and Speedy formed the first team of Teen Titans, it was apparent that they all had some feelings for Donna. Kid Flash, Wally to his friends, and Garth, good old Aqualad, eventually turned their attentions to others. Which was ironic because both of them were married now while he and Robin, now the Bludhaven hero Nightwing, couldn't find the right relationship to commit to.
Maybe it was because the two of them had been the closest to Donna.
He entered the bedroom and for a moment, he heard her giggling and he was taken back to several nights spent enjoying each other's love and affection. His arms, so steady in the heat of battle as they wielded whatever weapon he chose, were now shaking with fear. He was afraid to experience those memories because he knew at some point he would have to stop.
And then the hurt would rush right back in.
And the pain was awful. He had a lump in his throat constantly and he found himself wanting to cry everywhere, from the empty bed he now occupied to the shower where he tried to wash away the night sweats. His chest ached and he couldn't eat. He snorted when he remembered a television show where a psychiatrist had stated that funerals gave people closure so they could move on.
Roy couldn't move on.
Instead, he moved to where her headboard used to be and he could distinctly remember standing in that exact spot another time, looking down at her angelic face as she lay sleeping. He knew right then and there if Trigon himself, the demonic father of former Titan Raven, were to rise up out of the ground and offer him just five minutes with Donna, he'd sell his soul. And because of that weakness, because he knew how utterly helpless he felt, the tears simply began to pour.
He sank to his knees there, landing where the bed they had shared so many times had been and he cried. He pounded his fists softly, trying to get the Almighty's attention. "Take me instead!" he wanted to call out, but then he thought of Lian and realized that he couldn't leave her. He was in an emotional turmoil and limbo at the same time and a part of him just wanted to curl up right there and die.
How he wished he could just pull the knife from his belt and cut out the piece of his heart that Donna Troy had signed her name to, because then living life would be so easy. Life was about pain, he decided, from the pain of childbirth to pain of death and all of the pain in-between.
Sobbing like a child, he slipped down onto the carpet and inhaled deeply, but the room had been totally cleaned he realized now and instead he just looked around the room at ground level.
It was then he noted the loose trim at the bottom of the wall in the corner of the room. He got up, wiped his running nose on his sleeve and went over to it. He would fix the problem; he would do this one last thing for Donna and then he could leave he told himself.
When he got to the misplaced piece, he saw that it was actually covering up a small hole and when he examined it further, he found a small diary. It was not uncommon for super-heroes to keep diaries and then hide them in elaborate places, because the secrets they wrote down as a way of clearing their minds could very well be used against them if their enemies ever got a hold of the little journals.
Roy never was one for respecting privacy and using his knife to jimmy the lock, he popped it open. The dates on it showed it was a few years old, from around the time that Donna was engaged to her dead husband Terry. He and their child had been killed in a car wreck years before, shortly after the divorce. He sat back and cleared his eyes before settling into the first page.
By the tenth, the tears had returned and he slowly sobbed, shaking his heads at the words he was reading. He wanted to believe that some other hand had written them for it would have made it so much easier. As he read each word, every sentence he began to understand that he never really understood his friend, his comrade, and his companion.
After an hour, he couldn't take anymore and he closed the book. His swollen eyes took in the entire room once more and he stuffed the diary into the folds of his costume. He wasn't sure what he was supposed to do now; was it right to be angry with the dead?
He sighed, a heavy wet sigh of frustration. He'd give anything to have her here to just argue over the facts with her. Nothing he read mattered as far as his feelings for her, but he wondered what would happen if he sat his friends down with it. What would their thoughts be? Would it simply prolong the agony of Donna's death?
He would hide the diary because he couldn't bear to destroy it. He would be the one to protect his friends from the truth.
At least, that's what he told himself.
Dick Grayson reached over without looking and picked up the glass of brandy his butler had left for him before retiring for the day. It was Sunday and Dick always let the servants of Grayson Manor, formerly stately Wayne Manor, off at noon with pay on this traditionally holy day.
In recent years, ever since his bride had died, he had taken to drinking brandy in the early afternoon. Were she still alive, he would have received a verbal barrage of complaints about his drinking. Being an old widower, however, had its advantages.
His hair was completely white now, but his face still had the youthful jaw line that had originally attracted his wife to him. His eyes were also sharp, despite the reading glasses and he had the body of man half his age. Except for the pacemaker installed just under his skin to keep his damaged heart running, he was the picture of health. His heart, however, broken so many times in the past, was his Achilles Heel and always had gotten him into trouble.
Fifteen years before, a scientist turned criminal had captured Dick, back then he had been the third Batman, and had subjected him to a dose of electricity that it made his heart stop. The damage done had been permanent and only his strong body had kept him from dying. Being a super-hero was traded for becoming a full-time writer.
All of that had occurred only months before Bruce had disappeared, adding even more mystery to the Batman legacy. Jean-Paul, the man who had preceded Dick as Batman decades before had long since perished and the mantle ended up being passed on to Dick's daughter. Of course, she was the Batwoman now, but the idea was still the same.
Now, all Dick Grayson had to do in his life was read books and maybe write one once in awhile. The Wayne family fortune, which he inherited upon Bruce's being labeled as deceased by a court, kept him in a lifestyle that he had to admit he enjoyed very much. Being a recluse was sort of fun.
The doorbell rang and he looked up at the grandfather clock that once hid the secret door down to the Batcave. The Cave was gone, replaced with an orbiting headquarters that his daughter shared with the always-young Wonder Woman, but the clock remained. It was just one of those small reminders of a life better left in the past.
Dick Grayson had been three heroes in his life, starting out as Robin the Boy Wonder and later becoming Nightwing, the watchful eye of Bludhaven. Responsibility and love had brought him back to Gotham City where he eventually became the Batman. So, he was a man used to dealing with surprises; except the ringing of his own doorbell it seemed!
He never had visitors anymore. Most of his friends were dead; the super-hero lifestyle was especially hard as you got older it seemed. Clark, Superman, would pop in every once in awhile, but he would never use the front door. He started to get up when he heard his daughter moving to the door. He had thought she left.
He smiled as he laid down his book, an old Jonathan Law mystery he had read a hundred times before, and inwardly remarked on how she had learned to move as silently as her grandfather.
There was some speaking from the entrance and he could tell that whoever it was, his daughter was happy to see them and Dick assumed it was for her. He hoped it was a suitor, somebody to marry her off and make her legal. He did not want her following exactly in Bruce Wayne's footsteps. Dick had hoped to see some grandchildren before he died, but it didn't look like it was going to happen.
Sometimes he suspected his daughter was gay the way she hung out with Wonder Woman all of the time.
He was pleasantly surprised to see his daughter escort in Roy Harper. His oldest remaining friend, he just didn't get to see enough of the former marksman. Dick set the book aside and held out a hand to Roy. Roy's head was nearly devoid of hair; his famous crimson mane having fallen back to the dust of the earth over the years. His handshake did not seem as powerful as it had been last time, Dick noted, but then he hadn't seen Roy in almost three years.
Dick's daughter excused herself and as Roy sat down, Dick offered him some brandy. Roy held a hand up and reached into the pocket of the out-of-date trench coat to pull out a silver flask. In fact, it seemed that Roy's manner of dress was all wrong and Dick realized that they weren't twenty years old anymore and fashion was probably the least of Roy's worries.
"How's Lian?" Dick asked as he took his seat.
"Pregnant…again. She's pushing forty and still dropping the damn things. Little bastards always getting into my Great Fog XD's," he complained. Dick had not been aware that the albums of Roy's former rock band had been transferred over to the latest digital medium. He made a mental note to pick them up if just for novelty. He never liked Roy's music. "She inherited my love for the spice of life, that's for sure!"
Dick chuckled. Lian must have had eight kids by now. "So, I suppose that your eldest grandson is the new Green Arrow then?"
Roy took a swig from his flask and Dick noted the scent of Kentucky bourbon. "Yeah, stupid SOB." Roy glanced down at his right hand, which had suffered severe arthritis as he had aged, causing him to lose the marksman abilities that had characterized his youth. "Needs to become a lawyer…something honorable…"
"Is this really the son of Oliver Queen speaking to me?" Dick asked.
"Piss off, Grayson," Roy said. He pulled out a pack of Canadian cigarettes. He had taken up smoking a few years back when Dinah Lance, the former Black Canary and his surrogate stepmother, had died. Cigarettes were now banned in the United States, but if you had the money, which Roy did, you could get them north of the border. He offered Dick one, but he declined. "I didn't come here so you could laugh at my family problems. At least I didn't raise a fascist."
Dick winked. "Yeah, but she's a damn cute one."
Roy paused for a moment, holding his lighter in front of his smoke and nodded. "She looks a lot like her mother."
Dick warmed at the compliment. He reached over and smacked Roy on the knee, hiding his initial reaction when he felt nothing but skin and bone underneath. Roy had always seemed so vibrant, so alive. "So, what can I do for an old Titan?"
Roy took a drag and laughed. "It's funny you should mention that, because I guess I'm here on official Titans business." He scratched his head. "Is there a Titans now?"
"I'm not sure; after the 27th reformation I lost track. I mean, it was starting to get ridiculous," Dick said as he leaned back in his chair. It gave him a better view of Roy and his detective's eye gave the other man a quick once-over. Roy looked so old.
"Anyway, with Wally…"
Dick only nodded. The final fate of Wally West, the second Flash, was something Dick did not like to discuss and had not spoken of since the last time any of them had spoken to the speedster. "And Garth spending his days on Atlantis…"
"And Donna is dead…"
Roy's bottom lip trembled and Dick realized what a powerful reaction just saying her name had on the both of them. Roy had always been the more volatile, quicker to show his feelings, while Dick had learned from the original Batman to internalize everything. "Yeah, Donna; you know, I always kind of thought she would come back. Wait," he said, correcting himself with a violent shake of his head. "I wanted her to come back. I mean Superman came back from the dead. Wonder Woman did, too."
Dick nodded, listening as Roy echoed his own feelings. It had taken Dick a long time to finally put Donna Troy, one of his best friends ever, behind him. Her death had left such a large gap in his life that was only finally filled after he had married and his daughter was born. "I guess it wasn't in the cards," Dick offered lamely.
"Yeah," Roy said, drinking from the flask once more. "She was a pip wasn't she?"
"A pip? I suppose so, but I think she meant a little bit more to all of us," Dick offered. "Well, at least we're getting closer to being with her again."
"Funny you should say that as well," Roy said, looking away. "I'm dying," he said softly. "Cancer. I've got maybe a year left."
Dick's lungs seemed to deflate and he had to struggle to breathe. "There's nothing…"
His friend turned back to him and smiled weakly. "I've got just about as much dough as you and the doctors have said I'm doomed. That's okay, I suppose. I've got a live-in prostitute…"
"What?" was the quick response. "Like I'm afraid of the effects of syphilis now!" Then he added very quietly. "Never bothered me before."
"I'm so sorry, my friend," Dick said, wishing his concerns didn't sound so rehearsed. He was getting to the age where news like this was becoming more and more commonplace. "What can I do to help?"
Roy reached into his coat's inner pocket and produced a well-worn book. He handed it over to Dick and he read on the front cover that it was a diary. "Yours?" he asked.
"Donna's," Roy replied. "It covers the time right before she married Terry."
"Where did you get this?" Dick asked, his hands trembling as he held it. To him, this was more precious than finding the Holy Grail. This was a part of someone he had lost so long ago, someone he had even thought could have been his wife. How different his life would have turned out then he mused! "Have you read it?"
"Several times; hell, I could probably recite it to you if you wanted," Roy joked. At least, Dick hoped it was a joke. "I've held it all this time because of the things in it, the truths she never really let out. Donna was always good at not saying things."
"She was a woman of mystery," Dick offered, trying to follow Roy's train of thought. "Are you saying there are things in here that are unpleasant?"
"Depends on who you are. For instance, she never really trusted Gar Logan because of his appearance and powers." Gar Logan had been a Titan back in the old days. His unique abilities left him with green skin and the power to transform into any animal he wished. "She was always afraid he would turn into a fly or something and crawl into her room while she was changing."
Roy stomped out his cigarette into a decorative ashtray that had not been used since Thomas Wayne had been master of the home. "She thought Wally was childish and that he whined too much, but she also thought that Kory was perhaps the most beautiful woman she had ever met. I believe the word she used was 'flawless'."
Dick could understand that. Kory Anders, an alien princess who had been the second Starfire, had also been Dick's fiancé at one time. She had been very beautiful. "But you held onto it for so long. My God, Roy, it's been over thirty years!"
"I was hurt," Roy said, his voice remaining even. "I learned that while she cared for me and she knew I was nuts over her, she would never have considered me marriage material. As it was at the end of our relationship roller coaster, so it was at the beginning it appeared." He shook his head and pinched the bridge of his nose. "I always thought that I at least had a chance. I was wrong. You see, Donna had a secret that dictated her entire life and colored it."
Dick looked down at the diary. "Page seventy-four," Roy told him.Dear Diary…
I suppose there is no denying it any longer; very soon, Terry and I will be married and that will be that. My ship will sail from port and there will be no return trip.
I wish I could just be happy.
Terry is a good man, a fine man, and he makes me happy. He cares about me. He is gentle. He is a gentle soul. I should feel honored that he would want to spend the rest of his life with me.
So, why am I so sad?
Is it because I'm only doing this because I've come to realize I will have to settle for second-best or end up all alone for the rest of my life? Is that even a fair assessment?
Oh, Diary, it's so hard to be the one that they all come to when they have problems; what will happen after Terry and I are married? Will I be forced into a situation where I'll have to choose between my husband and my friend?
Will I have to choose against Dick?
Its funny, now, to be writing about him because I never even allowed you to hear my most private thoughts regarding the dark-haired young man who simply takes my breath away. Terry, as I said, is sweet, but Dick is the person who ignites my passions. When I'm with him, I forget there is an outside world; I am able to completely lose myself in those James Dean eyes of his.
Gods! He doesn't even realize what he does to the women around him! He simply can't comprehend that when a woman fantasizes about the man who will pick her up, just to throw her down on silken sheets to ravage her again and again, they are thinking of Dick Grayson.
I love him, but if I were to tell him that, eh would simply tell me he already knew, claiming that we had that special kind of love between friends. Does he really believe that, or is he like me, simply afraid of what it would lead to? Is it possible for two persons to be so perfect for each other that it becomes unnatural?
Is love simply a feeling, or is it a destiny? Can three simple words, "I love you", convey all of the emotion, all of the commitment that it carries with it. It isn't just a statement. The hard part is if Dick were to come in here right now and ask me to run away with him, to put the Titans and super-hero stuff behind us forever, I'd go with him.
So is my love for Terry a lie? Is it fair that when I make love to Terry, I want it to be Dick? Is it right that when I gave my virginity away to Roy, something I would never, never tell anyone else but you diary, that I only did it because he was as close to my true heart as I thought I could ever get.
Every time it seemed Dick and I could finally work on being together, some other woman would step in. Kory. Batgirl. Betty. Someone else, someone prettier, someone smarter. Does he avoid me because I'm not good enough?
My heart is breaking on the eve of my new life with Terry. I want to be a good wife; what woman doesn't. Only, I don't think I want to be his.
Oh, Dick, sweet, sweet Dick, how I wish I had the courage to tell you how I feel, to let you know that every moment I'm with you goes by too quick, and every second you are away is an eternity. But, I've made a promise and I have no choice but to follow through with it. It is the honorable thing to do.
My soul is a kaleidoscope of emotions right now and I have half a mind to call off the wedding. If I did, you'd only try to counsel me into going through with it, wouldn't you, Dick?
It would kill you if you knew you were the reason why my marriage, why any relationship I ever have tried to get serious with, never worked.
Dick slowly pulled away his reading glasses. Roy pursed his lips and rocked slightly in his chair. "She was madly in love with you from the beginning. There are a few more entries, but it's basically the same thing over and over."
Dick looked away and bit on his lower lip. "I was always intimidated by her…goodness?"
"Yeah, used to drive me crazy thinking I was nailing the good girl, you know," Roy said. He started laughing, but it turned into a coughing fit that took more than a minute to subside. "I'm sorry I didn't let you know earlier, champ."
"I never realized…"
"Would it have made a difference?" Roy asked as he stood up. Obviously, he felt he had completed his mission and was taking his leave. Dick knew he would never see the man alive again. "If you knew how she felt, would it have mattered? Surely you weren't that dense were you?"
Dick's face told Roy everything he needed to know. They exchanged a hug after Dick stood up, an embrace that was longer than expected, but too short for the occasion.
When he was alone, Dick reread the passage again and ended it with the remainder of his brandy. He looked over, a tear in his eye, at the row of photographs he had on a far table, something he had set up after his wife's funeral to keep him company during his readings. At the far end were pictures of wife's family; at the head was a picture of his daughter.
Between his daughter and his wife, was an old photograph. From the expression, one could immediately tell it was not a rehearsed photo or staged, just a simple picture taken to capture a single instant in time.
Dick started bawling as the weight of it all fell upon his shoulders, his pacemaker working double time to keep up with his broken heart.
He continued to stare at the picture, a snapshot of Donna Troy, long into the night.