Disclaimer: I don't own Team Arrow or any other DC characters, DC does. Please don't sue.
Night Before the End of the World
Rated PG for some minor swearing. This whole story is from Ollie's p.o.v.
Author's Note: I normally do this after a story, but this one requires a little explanation. This story is an answer to a challenge Gottaluvit issued up on her Live Journal page. Final Crisis is upon us, but there will also be a one-shot tie in issue by Brad Meltzer that basically answers what would all the DC heroes do if they knew they had potentially one last day before the end of the world, and time resets itself a la Crisis on Infinite Earths or Darkseid destroys the Earth or whatever. Meltzer, who loves Team Arrow, will no doubt be showing us his version of what happens to them along with everyone else, but Gottaluvit's challenge was to write your own version before the issue comes out. And since I already had some plot bunnies forming along those lines (great minds think alike) here's mine. It's slightly AU since it no doubt will contradict what Meltzer will write. I decided to make Connor okay again and no longer in that coma for my own sanity. I decided not to make this is part of my continuing GA short stories. It's not because this story ended up being rather long, but because of a few things I decided to include along the way that excited more plot bunnies including a big one at the end of the story that may lead to many more chapters or another story all together. But to say more would spoil this story. So read, enjoy, and please review!
This story isn't a songfic, but I drew some of Ollie's attitude about "yet another freakin' crisis" for this story from Armor for Sleep's "End of the World" which is on the Transformers 2007 movie soundtrack.
The Hall of Justice
Let me tell you something about the end of the end of the world. Every time the stakes get higher and every time it gets more boring. Superman gives his usual stirring speech about unity and courage and fighting as one, blah, blah, blah. We all know the drill. We've done this before. This time though, it's different. This time we lost some of our own in the opening volley. This time Big Blue's more or less going through the motions. We all know what we have to do, and we will…if we can. Go be with your wife like you really want to, Clark. God knows I'm not leaving the side of mine. If this really is the end, let's all make it count with whom it really matters.
Took me a long time to realize, but if you want to save the world, you have to start at home.
So much I still have to tell them. Most of it they already know.
12 hours to doomsday and counting
Dinah and I sneak off the first chance we get. We haven't had a proper honeymoon yet and we a taking it now! So naturally, Dinah leads me to the Kitchen, aka, the JLA's virtual reality suite up on the new satellite, connected via - oh joy - a teleport! What else? As we go up, I manage not to lose my last meal all over the floor…just barely. Clark always said I needed to relax more with the damn thing. Maybe having Dinah at my side finally makes me relax just enough. Being JLA chairwoman has its perks as we lock ourselves inside. Dinah calls up her favorite non-training program, an island getaway. Sneaky little…I wonder how many months she's been waiting to spring this one on me, (I'm sure she talked Babs into programming this little wedding present), but Dinah knows at this point she's got me too worked up in other ways to argue. Man, she's good!
5 hours to doomsday and counting
The doors open and we're interrupted by the sound of footsteps – two pair, one quick and staccato, the other following at a more leisurely pace, but still trying to keep up. So much for privacy!
"Sweetie, wait! They might still be - "
The quicker feet end as something familiar falls on top of me in a heap of giggles.
"Found you, Gran'pa! Wasn't hard though. You and Auntie Dinah were being really loud. Did you go swimming?"
I can only be thankful that Dinah and I somehow manage to be taking a breather and in a half decent state and for a five years old's innocent imagination of what can leave one this wet and sweaty in a beach environment.
"Something like that princess," I say as I catch Roy's apologetic but rueful eye that makes me want to throw something at him. He looks away and I hear Dinah quickly zip up her leotard. I set the tickle machine at work on Lian before I shake the sand out of my tunic and pull it back on.
After about an hour of playing with Lian, I take Roy aside for a private walk down the beach. We leave Dinah and Lian engaged in the task of making the world's ultimate sandcastle. I can't help but look back at both my girls. Lian's in her miniature Speedy outfit scooping up a hatful of sand that Dinah helps her build into a bigger tower.
Roy knows he has one fine kid. I do too. I spend the next ten to fifteen minutes making small talk, trying to figure out exactly how to tell him, the perfect thing to say. Usually, I'm one to never shut up. It's only when I need words the most that they tend to fail me. It only seems natural then that it's up to Roy to start.
"Thank you, Ollie…"
I know I should stop him right there, but he doesn't let me.
"Thank you for the JLA, for, well, everything."
"Don't do this, Roy."
"Don't do what?"
"Don't thank me for something you earned yourself."
"Please. This costume. 'Red Arrow.' Like you, Dinah, and Hal hadn't been waiting months to call me that."
"I had nothing to do with the JLA's voting process."
"And that mayoral scandal with the dirty money so I could leave the Outsiders, like I didn't know what that was all about."
What do you say when you're hours away from going into battle side by side with your partner, your equal, your…
"Roy…son." I crush him in a bear hug before I know what else to do.
"Ollie, wha - "
"I'm so proud of you, son." I blurt out the words before I can regret saying something so obvious or sappy, something he should know…he did know… "You do know that right?"
Nothing… Then – Ha! That's one thing to remember about my eldest. He crushes back. I know I don't deserve it, not from him. But then he smiles that boyish smile that makes me want to tousle his hair. Maybe some things need to be said after all.
"Thank you, Roy Harper, for teaching me how to be a dad."
Red Arrow and Green Arrow! Together again, for the first and maybe last time.
But I'm not going to think about that, not tonight. I've said what I needed to say, what my son needed to know. For some reason, I've taken my bow and quiver on our walk. Maybe it's my fear for security in light of an island environment, but Roy has brought his along too. I get a crazy idea.
"Let's do ten paces."
"Last time we tried that, it didn't go so well, remember."
"We weren't in sync then. It'll work this time. Trust me."
Roy shakes his head, but knocks an arrow with a smile all the same, as do I.
"Ten. Nine. Eight." How many times did we get this right back in the day?
"Seven. Six." He's taller. Aim higher.
"Five. Four." Roy's not a boy anymore. He's a man.
"Three. Two." But he's always been mine, from the day we met. We chose each other as family.
"One!" Brothers of the bow!
Twin twangs of string. Red and green crack together mid-flight on the hairsbreadth of arrowhead points before dropping dead to the grainy sand below. We've still got it! I tell you, not even Robin Hood and Will Scarlet were ever this good!
4.5 hours to doomsday
As Roy and I return from our sojourn up the beach, I see Mia waving both arms in the distance. Connor looks up from the sandcastle and holds up a hand in greeting. Just the sight of the two of them together fills my heart with joy. To see my son alive and healthy again after coming so close to losing him… Thinking I'd never hear his voice again, never hold a conversation with him, never see him up and about just like new…no parent should ever have to go through that!
Then there's my girl, Mia, right next to him. Just one look at her smile and I can tell whether or not all's right with the world. It's the type of outward glow I'm learning that only a daughter can provide. I finally know what Roy sees every time he looks at Lian. I wave back happier than I can ever say that they've joined us.
I grab Dinah's up-stretched hand and give it a squeeze. She pulls me down to flop next to her on the soft sand and gives me a smile. I keep holding her hand, but my fingers brush over hers until our digits are interlocking.
Roy creeps up close looking over Lian's shoulder as she explains to him all about the details of her castle. Connor hands her the right shell she found to finish off her final tower. Lian proudly announces it done. We all applaud and Lian asks her daddy what he and her grandpa did down the beach.
"Just talked sweetheart, and did a little shooting."
At the sound of the word, Lian decides she want to see some ace archery, already bored with her completed sandcastle.
Roy looks at me. Neither of us is about to repeat our ten paces trick. Connor and Mia are good, but they wouldn't be able to keep up with that, not yet. Besides there are some things best left in the past. I suggest a little William Telling instead.
There's just one problem. No apples. I start looking for a substitute, but Roy calls up the virtual reality index on a wall panel and next thing you know, we have apple trees on the beach. I don't think I'll every get used to this alien technology stuff.
We must use up nearly a whole tree for Lian's amusement. Each shot gets more difficult. Mia and Connor get at least two at once off of each other's heads. Roy gets four stacked off of me. And Dinah gets a nice side part from me without so much as a split hair. Now that's trust! A kind you never want to betray. It's a type of trust I've never felt worthy of except when it comes to the way of the bow. It's the best way I can protect them, maybe the only way. If only I can trust myself in other aspects of my life the way I do when this bow is in my hands, then my life can stay on target. I can only hope the older I get, my aim is improving. It's easy for an arrow to be guided straight and true. It's not so easy with a life. I always tend to miss what's right in front of me. But I haven't missed for a good while now, not when there's so much at stake, and certainly not tonight.
Too bad virtual apples don't taste good, because we've got more than enough for half a dozen pies.
The fun doesn't end there though. Somehow, we get involved sparring each other as well. Maybe Dinah wants to get back at me for that last apple, but she and Connor proceed to kick butt on the rest of us. I go down more times than I can count, but I manage to flip Roy two out of three. I think he's surprised by all my recent "ninja" training. He can't take down the old man like he used to. Even Mia gets in a good throw or two, but I can tell she's currently getting frustrated against Connor. He's playing with her and she knows it, giving her openings then closing them before she can strike. I think he's having more fun than usual. It's not like Connor to tease, but having a new lease on life can make one more adventurous. Mia takes Connor's bait and ends up going down with him on top of her. Mia performs her own surprise tactic though as she pulls Connor down towards her and kisses him hard! I'm not sure who's eyes get wider, his or mine, but just as Connor reciprocates, a tap on my shoulder soon has me in my own lip lock with Dinah as she takes advantage of the moment to distract me too. We roll over once in the sand and for a "from here to eternity" moment I wish it was just the two of us alone again.
"I so need a date," I hear Roy mutter.
"Don't worry, Daddy. You've got me!"
I open my eyes in time to see Lian wrap her arm around Roy's neck and plant a big kiss on his cheek. Roy hugs her close and kisses her on the forehead saying, "C'mere, princess."
I cast a glance back at Connor who's still blushing from Mia, but when he catches my eye he just gives me a shrug and a smile and looks back at Mia. It's a look I have every time I see Dinah. I know it well. It's just not one I've ever seen from Connor before. Maybe a new lease on life has made my boy bolder after all. My son and my ward! Who would have thought? I give them a wink of approval that makes Mia blush too, but it makes me wonder just what exactly those two have been up to for the past several hours before they got here after all.
"So do I win?" Mia asks.
Connor replies with a husky, "Yes."
The end of the world can make us say and do things we may be afraid to do otherwise. Still, sometimes it takes a brave woman to make the first move. I prop myself up on both elbows and stare out at the makeshift water and back at the family surrounding me.
Somehow, all the defining moments of my life…it always comes back to an island in the end. This one right now is paradise. I want it to last forever – this, here, right now, with everyone who should be here…well, almost everyone. There's one missing. I whisper to Dinah and she nods understandingly. I tell my family I love them, hugging them each in turn. Then I leave as Dinah tells them I've gone to find him. Exiting virtual paradise for the real world again reminds me how little time we all may have left, before it all ends.
I can't help it. I look back. Dinah. Roy. Connor. Mia. Lian. I preserve a snapshot in my mind of what happiness looks like as the door closes and they disappear from sight.
3 hours to doomsday
I'm not surprised to find him alone. He's standing by a full length viewport looking out over the Earth below.
I know part of him wishes he could be back down there looking after his brother and family, the woman he loves, his home city. I want to tell him to go to them, but I know he can't., not when it's his duty to protect a whole sector of space. He takes comfort in knowing that if he saves the planet, he'll also be saving them.
I can't take comfort in something like that anymore, not when I know how alone such a "calling" leaves you. Yet, I also know that he won't let go of such a responsibility, so I let him be the part of my family he became long ago.
"Hal!" I call out to the green figure lost in thought when I'm only a few feet behind him. He turns around startled. "God, Ollie! You've gotten almost as bad as Batman since all that damn ninja training."
"I'll take that as a complement, I think." I pause. "You still have time to go check on them."
"I already have. Jim. Carol. I'm ready for whatever happens next." He looks off in the distance, fist tight and ring prepared.
"I wish I were," I suddenly admit.
Hal looks at me, puzzled. "You never back down from a fight. We've done this before."
"I know. Don't worry. I'm ready to give armageddon, hell."
"Not this time." I think back to "paradise" and smile.
"Then what, Ollie?"
I shouldn't say it, but it makes me realize how much I've changed. "Like you said, we've done this so many times. Do you ever wish this would be the last one?"
"All the time."
"No, I mean…do you ever wish you were just one of the people who was being saved, just going about you're life instead of doing all the saving, able to just stay at home for the end of the world?"
Yeah, I know that Hal could never stand for just being ordinary when he could do something more.
"Do you?" I hear the curiosity creep into my best friend's voice.
Do I? I hesitate. I'm so tired of the never ending battle. I told myself before Connor was kidnapped I was done being Green Arrow. If the world really did end, if we fail, would it really make any difference where I was? Why not say screw the universe and stay at home with my kids and in bed with my wife.
That's when I see my Pretty Bird as if right on cue silhouetted in the shadows cast in between the viewport windows. Then I know that wherever I die it doesn't matter, only that if I do she'll be right there by my side until, well, the end of the world.
"I'm just glad I don't have to choose. I don't want you to have any regrets either, Hal."
"You're saying I should be with my family? I'm fine, Ollie. I don't have any regrets either. I'm back. I'm finally me again. My family is also right here, but that's what you came out here to tell me, right?"
Hal is right, but then you don't need telepathy for your best friend to read your mind when he's like a brother.
"Unless…you two want some more privacy?"
"Stay, Hal." Dinah says as she comes out of the shadows to join us.
I clap Hal on the shoulder with one arm and slip the other around Dinah's waste. It feels right, the three of us together. We're like our own private trinity of JLA members, just like it was on that road trip all those years ago, before my own world started to come crashing down…
Not this time, I tell myself. Not this time! The world may be ending, but everything's right with my own little world.
We are family! None of us is alone.
Connor and Mia show up a little while later, holding hands. They have Kyle in tow. Like father, like son. I'm not the only emerald archer with a lonely ring slinging Lantern for brother. Despite the pain that Kyle can be, I'm glad to see him. I let him know with a handshake that becomes a manly hug. Hal just settles for a handshake, sparing Kyle the embarrassment. Those two have come a long way together too.
From what I hear, Kyle's been to hell and back recently. He was possessed by Parallax, the same monster that nearly destroyed Hal. We heard nothing about it until it was over. Otherwise, Connor would have been there for Kyle, but Connor was in a coma, then he went missing. Kyle knew nothing of it. Otherwise, Kyle would have been there for Connor. Just like Hal's always been there for me, and I've been there for Hal.
We are family! No one gets left behind again. Still, we're a family incomplete until Roy shows up again and he's not alone. He too has a found a Pretty Bird of his own. Smooth talking charmer using that line, just like his old man. Ha!
When Dinah and Hal first told me about Roy and Kendra, I wasn't sure what to think. I mean, Hawkgirl? But I see the way she and Roy look at each other. More importantly, I see the way she looks at Lian. Kendra smoothes Lian's hair out of her face as she tries not to fall asleep against her daddy's shoulder as Roy carries his tired princess.
Roy. Connor. Mia. All my kids deserve to be happy with someone they love.
I remember the first time I ever saw an "Earthrise." There's nothing quite like seeing your planet from up in space to make you feel so small, but not small in an insignificant way. Small in a way that makes you feel connected to everything, peaceful, so peaceful you can get lost, forget the individual people in your own back yard. It's why I never feel completely comfortable up here.
My mind drifts to a little boy in Japan with green eyes who doesn't even know I'm up here saving the world for him too – my son, Robert.
Home isn't just a planet. It's being with the people you care about, even though sometimes that family must be carried in our hearts – my Robert, Hal's Carol, Connor's mother, and so many more, those who place such trust in us to protect them. We can only hope to be up to the task.
So much responsibility. Saving the world means nothing if you can't say who and what you're fighting for.
Dinah. Roy. Connor. Mia. Robert. Lian. Hal. Kyle. Kendra. I'm fighting for them, for a future where the world doesn't end just so I can spend a little more time with all of them. One more hug. Another kiss. One more road trip. Another smile. One more arrow to shoot. One more day! Because I've always been a selfish, stubborn old man. I never know when to quit. I'm going to fight to preserve that future with everything that's in me for as long as I can, whether that ends up being for decades to come or for only the a few short hours we may have left. I realize I could never just "stay at home." It's such a cliché, but if home is where the heart is, then those in my heart fight right beside me.
I spend the rest of the night hypnotized by blue, green, white, and the love surrounding me.
59 minutes to doomsday
It's time. Time to return to the Hall. Time for Lian to be put safely to bed. Time for Dinah to find Babs. Time for Roy to find Dick and the Titans. Time for Hal and Kyle to find John and Guy. Time to make final battle preparations.
We're all here. Earth's Mightiest Heroes! Every last one of us…almost. J'onn's already gone. So's Orion. And they may only be the first to fall.
But where there is death, there is also life. New life.
Aquaman stops Dinah and I in the hallway, just after we're the last two to teleport back down. I don't really know what's Curry's deal is these days, whether it's good old Arthur up there in his head, his son A.J., or both. It's kinda freaky to tell you the truth. The look he gives us is one of shock and wonder. He stretches out his hand out towards Dinah as if sensing something.
I just nod dumbfounded as Curry and Dinah seem to suddenly know something I don't. Dinah can't move, her eyes ever widening as Aquaman's fingers touch Dinah's stomach.
"There is life in the water of your womb," he confirms after spending a few moments determining contact. His smile grows as a deep voice I know is suddenly Arthur's says, "Congratulations!"
Dinah gasps and both hands fly to tenderly touch her stomach. I feel lightheaded again and this time I know it's not from that damn teleport.
"WHAT?" I yell loud enough to probably reach the ears of anyone still back up on the satellite.
I feel Dinah's hand reach for mine and I see what we've created in her eyes, eyes full of mixed emotion – shock, fear, happiness, and tears.
She needs me! My Pretty Bird needs me! I reach past my own fears welling up inside me. My hand closes around her own. To my surprise, I'm ready for this!
"We're ready," I pull her close and whisper.
Those tears become tears of joy for both of us.
I'm ready to be a father! To raise a child with the woman I love more than anything! To be there from day one for her and my baby and never leave their side!
I kiss away some of those tears and wrap my arms around my wife, trying to feel whatever Arthur felt, even though I know it's way too early for that yet.
"Boy or girl?" I ask the king of Atlantis.
"I don't know." Aquaman chuckles from what must be my overeager expression. "Your child is only a few hours old. I almost didn't sense it at all."
Of course! Who needs to use protection when it may be your last night alive? Dinah and I have done something very, very dangerous.
All the more reason to survive the end of the world.
New life must be protected! Part of me wants to ask Dinah to stay behind, to stay safe.
New life needs a fighting chance! There's no where safe left to run. Besides she'd never agree to it. Not my Dinah. I could never ask her not to fight.
Together forever. Side by side. Till death do us part!
I expect my little outburst from before to draw some attention, but the outspoken archer amid such chatter and preparations around us is nothing new I guess.
We decide to keep this news our secret for now.
Because, this isn't the end of the world, or the end of our story. This is only –
Notes: Okay a few more now that you've read the story. I had the plot bunny the show Dinah and Ollie having a kid of their own for a while now, but I wasn't sure best how to do it until this story challenge came along. Using Aquaman for the reveal was something that came up out of fan speculations about Aquaman's powers on the DC message boards one day. When I heard that possible use of Aquaman's telepathy I knew I just had to use it! I enjoyed getting Connor and Mia together too, if I do a sequel their relationship will progress as well. I'm a little disappointed I wasn't able to focus on some of the other "family" or best friend relationships like Dinah/Babs or Roy/Dick, but I didn't have room for everything. You can assume Roy was hanging out with his Titan buddies for those first seven hours or that Dinah was with Babs while Ollie was alone with Hal. If I do a sequel, Babs, Dick, etc. will be in future chapters. Finally, Ollie's final words of this story are taken from Ollie's words to Clark at the end of the Smallville episode "Justice." A paraphrase seemed appropriate somehow.
Till next time…Gottaluvit – hoped you liked it. I'm eager to read your story for your own challenge now.
Rouge-Phoenix - I'll have even more Mia coming for you.
Allronix - I'll see what more I can do with Connor too.