All fluff. A sort of last hurrah for these two. The structure of this chapter is also different, but hopefully not too confusing. The present moments are them on the airplane, and the rest take place between the events of "Birthday" and now.
P.S. I let drunk Nell write the last few pages of this. I tried to comb through it and pick out all the senseless and raunchy parts, but if something managed to slip through the cracks, I apologize on behalf of my boozed-up self. Now soberly revised for typos and choppiness! Enjoy.
"Hurry up, Jade." Roy glanced down at his watch. "Our flight leaves in less than two hours."
From the bathroom of the little apartment came Jade Harper's low, husky voice - the same as it had always been. "Give me five more minutes."
"We'll be on a plane for eight hours. Why exactly do you feel the need to do your hair and dress for a catwalk?"
She stepped out of the bathroom and leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed loosely over a very small and slim-fitting black dress. Roy sat up a little against the pillows on the bed.
"Red," she purred in her most sultry tone. "We've only been married a day. Don't tell me you're already going to give up on all the fun stuff."
He worked very hard to hide his gulp. From the wide grin that split across her narrow face, he guessed that it hadn't escaped her. Nothing ever did.
"Plane," he reminded her, and swung his legs off the bed before this could devolve into the kind of activity they were supposed to be saving for the honeymoon. They'd come close to leaving once already, only to be completely and utterly sidetracked. Not the plan.
Jade smirked and reached for her pile of bags next to the dresser and flicked off the bathroom light. "Spoilsport."
They were married the day after Cheshire was abandoned - blood pooling and heart barely beating - by the Shadows in New Mexico. Jade had signed Crock on the marriage license under "maiden name" as Jade Nguyen's "remains" were cremated, and she had become Jade Harper with rib splints on her chest and the bitter taste of the poison she'd swallowed only hours ago still on her tongue.
She was free. No more looking over her shoulder or waiting by the tiny silver cell phone, no more murdering or thieving or masters. No more Cheshire.
That part made her a little sad. For so many years, Cheshire had protected her, fought for her, kept her strong. Made sure she had money to feed and clothe herself, a place to go when she needed to sleep, and something to do when the world became so crushingly small and the guilt crept up on her, threatening to consume vulnerable little Jade Nguyen. Cheshire had made sure Jade Nguyen survived, always. And now she had died so that Jade Harper could live.
Jade smiled to herself at this thought. The night outside the airplane window was black and blue, a swirling pattern of bruised skyline. She turned to look at Roy - her husband - as he dozed lightly beside her. Predictably, he hadn't protested when she'd plopped herself down in the window seat. Big Red was afraid of flying.
He hadn't wanted to leave the country, but she'd insisted, and when Nightwing backed her up - something about lying low for a few weeks, but she saw how the boy had smiled at her - Roy gave in and paid two months' rent in advance, and gamely allowed Jade to purchase plane tickets with his credit card.
It was mid-December now, and even though they'd had their fair share of cold and snow in Michigan, it was nowhere near like where they were going.
"The Alps?" he'd asked, looking over her shoulder as she made travel plans on her phone only hours before - unbeknownst to them - she was to be summoned by the Shadows.
She'd grinned and tugged him onto the bed with her by his belt loops. "There's nothing cozier than Christmas in Switzerland."
"You're not going to throw up, are you?" Roy heard in his ear, and tightened at the accompanying poke in his ribs.
He cracked an eye open. She was turned towards him in her seat as the night outside the window over her shoulder was slanted at a dangerous angle, and he repressed the urge to raise an arm and swipe her back against the head rest.
That, and the sickening take-off sensation of all his inner organs dropping away, kept him from rolling his eyes or snapping out some tough or heroic comeback.
Her smile could have powered cities. With his fingers squeezing dents into the barely-cushioned arm rests and his teeth clenched so hard his jaw was hurting, he wondered if she knew she sometimes smiled like that. He still found it impossible to believe that Cheshire -
No. Not Cheshire. Cheshire was dead, scattered in the deserts of New Mexico. It was just Jade who sat beside him now, whole and undivided, gazing out the window at the world speeding away below them, one hand propping up her cheek and the other silently drumming patterns into her own arm rest. Roy's eye was caught by the flash of green and gold on her dancing fingers, and felt a different thrill fly through him.
He didn't know how she felt about rings. She had a few in the jewelry box that had appeared on his dresser not long after that first weekend that seemed like years ago, and she'd told him once - teasingly, so he hadn't been sure that she was serious - that she sometimes wore one on her fourth finger when she left the apartment if she was in a hurry and didn't want to be constantly stopped and asked for her number.
It wasn't as if they'd talked in-depth about getting married. His proposal had been as much a surprise to him as it had been to her. But that week, he spent all his lunch breaks hunting through jewelry stores, being wooed and flattered and bargained with by salespeople who couldn't believe that he didn't carry a picture of his lady love with him wherever he went. It was tiring, and by the end of the week he'd lost his patience with them all. Not to mention that he had yet to see anything that didn't look like a cheap piece of crystal or wouldn't leave him destitute after signing the sales slip.
Finding the jade ring was a complete accident. He'd been walking through the international district, searching in vain for the smoky salon that he'd been dragged into all those weeks ago - call it a hankering or an addiction, but that Al-Qahwa was good - and had passed by a display in the window of one of the many Chinese antique stores.
He didn't care if it was tacky. The ring was beautiful; a perfectly rounded cut of tiny polished dark green jade set into a thin, intricately designed burnished gold band. The old woman in the shop had gone on and on about it's unique history in some Chinese emperor's family - which he doubted anyone would ever believe - but in the end hadn't asked for anything outrageous, and he'd bought it that day.
If she thought it was tacky - a jade ring for Jade - she hadn't said so when he gave it to her later that evening. Far from it; if the way she'd dropped the plate of stir fry - on the counter, thankfully - and leapt at him when he'd popped open the little cloth box was any indicator, she was more than willing to overlook the play on her name.
A few hours into the flight, when the plane had leveled off and he'd recovered from the last bout of turbulence, Roy turned his head and caught Jade's eye, gazing back with dark warmth out from beneath the thick cowl of her hair.
"Christmas in Switzerland?" He would've asked earlier - probably should have, knowing her affinity for heavy spending - but they had been fairly busy the last few days.
She shrugged against the airline cushions. "I've been a few times," she said softly. It was dark outside the window again - they'd caught up to the sun and passed it by not too long ago and most of the passengers around them were asleep. "It's nice. Especially in winter."
Roy nodded and took a steadying breath through his nose. He really should stop looking out the window.
Leaping between trees or off skyscrapers with nothing but his grapple and foam arrows to save him from a crushing death? Just fine. But being strapped into an unnaturally-shaped seat on a giant mass of iron and steel puttering along at forty thousand feet? No matter how good his aim was, no arrow could save him from a fall like that.
He'd gotten the call the night Jade scooped up her bag and traipsed out the door. After, of course, taking her time to give him a sweet and lingering goodbye. One last fuck-you to the Shadows, she'd said, even though it was him who'd been fucked.
He was still in bed when his phone went off on the nightstand. Grabbing it up - it was probably Dick, calling to quadruple-check everything with him again - he hit the talk button without looking at the caller ID.
"Dick, it's late, and she just - "
"What the hell, Roy?"
He froze on top of the sheets, phone pressed against his ear. High-pitched, shrill, voice thick with anger and worry and hurt.
She didn't even pause.
"How long did you think you could keep this a secret, exactly?" she screeched through the earpiece, and Roy groaned inwardly.
"Wally told you," he growled, and pressed a hand to his eyes. Damn that kid. It was a wonder he ever held onto a secret identity.
"Does it matter?" She was really upset. "How could you not tell us? Tell me? And Cheshire? She's a murderer, Roy!"
His grip on his brow tightened. "She - "
"Don't give me any 'she's changed' bullshit. She's a killer and a criminal and she's dangerous."
"Dinah, I - "
"You just never think, Roy, and that's how you get yourself into trouble! Do you have any idea what this means? For all of us? And don't think that I haven't figured out that she was the one behind Vladivostok, because I'm not stupid, Roy, and - "
The shouting finally stopped. Roy pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers and took a breath.
"We're getting married."
And then, in the background - it would've been more faint if either of them on the line were making any noise whatsoever - came an unmistakable roar of surprise.
"He said they're what?"
Great. Ollie was in the room.
"Roy." His old mentor's voice was gruff with shock.
He sighed. "Yeah?"
"What the fuck is this about you getting married?"
Roy let out a frustrated breath. "It's happening. Get over it."
"You're too young to get hitched. And she's evil."
"She's still a person, Ollie, and not everything's in black and white!"
He was a little surprised at his outburst. Probably because he'd been caught off-guard. This was bound to happen sometime, he just hadn't been ready for it that night.
There was a muffled sound, and Dinah's voice sounded through the phone again, calm and soothing this time.
He didn't respond.
"Roy, you know that we love you. And we want you to be happy, we really do." It almost sounded as if she were pleading with him, and for a second he felt the wild impulse to tell her that he knew what he was doing, that she didn't need to worry, that she was a great adopted-mother but he could handle himself.
"But we also want you to live to see thirty." Mushy feelings gone. "Whatever's going on, how do you know Cheshire isn't involved with you just so she can take on a hit for the Shadows?"
He could see them in his mind in their room on the Watchtower; Ollie probably pacing back and forth, clenching and unclenching his fists, mustache and goatee bristling with agitation, and Dinah, perched worriedly on the edge of the bed or the couch, blue eyes staring fixedly into space as if staring straight at him, blonde brow furrowed with concern.
"I know it's really Jade," he began, and a list flashed unbidden through his head of all the things he knew about Jade that nobody ever knew about Cheshire; that she was a vegetarian, that she hated cuddling, that she sang in French in the shower but only in the mornings, that she curled up into a ball when she watched TV, that she loved to read, that she secretly adored her sister, that she hated being a slave to her master's will. "I know it's her and not the assassin that I'm marrying, because Nightwing is going to help me kill Cheshire."
He hit the end button and put the phone back on the nightstand before flipping over onto his stomach and closing his eyes. He didn't want to hear the heavy silence, and was too tired to explain anything else that night.
Jade listened to the hum of the plane's twin engines, filling her ears and drowning out any irritating snores or grunts of her fellow passengers, and her fingers fidgeted restlessly over her dress with the thin but hard layer of plaster covering part of her rib cage. It was beginning to itch again. She would have tried to catch a few hours of rest before landing, like her ever-attentive husband next to her, but she never slept in public, as a rule.
Alright, that wasn't fair. Roy could be very attentive. She could think of a few times very recently when he had been selflessly and completely attentive...
"Why haven't you been out being a hero all week?" she'd asked one night. They were on opposite ends of the couch; she was watching some German mystery flick, and Roy was fiddling around with his arrow kit some more, scratching out diagrams and equations and piecing together the instrument out of delicate-looking parts that was to pierce through Cheshire's heart.
Not really, but that was the scene they were putting on, so it counted.
He looked up from his work, eyes stuck in mid-squint. The bright blue of them was still striking, even when caught between scrunched-up lids.
"I told you," he said, and his voice was thick from disuse. He'd been in the same position when she left hours ago for the gym, and looked like he hadn't moved when she'd come back. "I'm going to try cutting back on patrols."
She sat up. He'd told her no such thing. "When did you say that?"
He sighed and rubbed his forehead. He really wasn't looking too good. "In Palo Alto? You said you'd stop being Cheshire if I stopped stepping out on you every night." Under his ragged T shirt, thick shoulders rose and fell casually as he turned back to his work. "You're keeping up your end, so I should keep up mine."
"What about saving the city and your white-knight syndrome?"
He scowled at the red shaft in his fingers as he applied a fletching. "I worked something out with Commissioner Reiner. He hired more officers to perform night patrols in high-crime areas, and I've been going by the police department a few days a week to train them."
Jade raised her eyebrows. That sounded... strangely pragmatic. And like it might actually work as a Red Arrow substitute.
When she crawled across the couch and tugged the arrow parts out of Roy's hands, he looked up almost angrily, and there were dark shadows under the edges of his eyes.
"Just because you don't run around at night anymore doesn't mean you don't have to relax," she reminded him, and silenced his grumbling about still have to take care of the Shadows and keeping you alive with a deep kiss.
She meant to take care of him that night. She really did. He'd been busting his balls for weeks - at the expense of sleep and play and even showering, which she'd been very quick to pick up on - and she knew it was all for her. Well, for them, but it wasn't his death they were staging to ward off a powerful and far-reaching gang of assorted ninjas and assassins, and she sure hadn't been losing much sleep to the scheme, since all she had to do was wait for the call.
But, like every other time in recent weeks - or ever, if Jade was being honest with herself - she let Roy wrestle control from her, and allowed him, against her initial intentions, to push her backwards from her knees until her back was against the cushions, and even let him tug her shorts down as his mouth attacked hers with a ragged fervor she'd been missing for the last day or so.
He was just so... attentive. He never asked her to do anything for him, never complained, never forced her. He almost constantly made sure she was taken care of, before even considering his own needs. She practically had to fight him those nights she wanted to ease his tension, to make him feel how he always made her feel.
"Roy," she breathed as his fingers coaxed her up into her high. His name had become easier and easier for her to say, until she never even had to think about it anymore when they were making love to each other. Which she also allowed herself to admit - that they made love now. Though never aloud, and especially never to him.
She couldn't let everything go to hell just because they were getting married, could she?
"Let me - "
She wouldn't forget.
The seatbelt sign flashed on - finally - and a flight attendant's cheery voice came over the intercom to request in English, German, and French for everyone to please return to their seats and settle in for landing. The plane began to rumble and rock as it dipped forwards, and people strapped themselves in hurriedly.
Roy's hand fumbled around until it found Jade's. She rolled her eyes, but allowed him to lace his fingers with hers on the arm rest.
"Big baby," she said under her breath, and only escaped his scowl because he was keeping his eyes firmly shut.
The plane landed at Zurich International, and everyone disembarked without panic or incident, though Jade couldn't help but remark that her husband routinely chased after and apprehended criminals and villains of every flavor and stripe, not to mention herself, and yet was scared shitless by a little international plane ride.
Besides glaring at her and wheeling an airport hand cart to the baggage carousel a little more quickly than would have been polite to his new wife, he ignored the jibe.
"So your superhero daddy knows?"
Jade was hunched over on the bed, chin resting on her knees, as she painted her toenails - despite what felt like the hundreds of times Roy had told her to do it somewhere other than where they slept.
It was late - or early? - and they'd just gotten back from New Mexico less than an hour ago. She had just showered all the rusty red gunk out of her hair - her own blood - and had relented in her protests and allowed Roy to stick a stiff patch of gauze and medical tape over the purpling bruise on her chest, right above her heart. She insisted that she was completely unhurt, but he wasn't taking any chances.
"It's better than your supervillain daddy knowing."
Her two gold rings - one adorned with jade, the other a simple woven band - flashed on her fourth finger in the light from the lamp on the nightstand, and she seemed to consider this for a moment. "Touche."
Roy continued opening the dresser drawers, folding and tossing clothes into an open suitcase on the other side of the bed, and Jade finished painting all the toes on one foot before she spoke again.
"Is there anybody else?"
Roy looked up. "Anybody else what?"
Her face was unreadable. "Anybody who knows about these." She held her left hand up in the light and pointed at his own band.
"Oh." He didn't know what she wanted to hear. Was she afraid of the Justice League finding out? Or her father, whom he'd so gallantly pointed out was a super villain? Or her sister? "No, just Nightwing and GA and Black Canary."
"She's like your mother, isn't she?" Dark eyes were watching him closely as she said this.
He didn't cease packing. "I guess. Why?"
She lifted one shoulder and let it fall before returning to her ministrations on her other foot. "You have a few photos with you and her in them. She looks a little old for you, and the whole world already knows she's with Arrow Senior." He waited while she paused. "I guess I was just curious."
Roy felt his eyes widening. Not a lot, but probably enough for her to notice if she would look at him.
She was asking him about his family. In a roundabout, evasive way, but still.
They almost never talked about their family lives. Not that Roy really had one; his biological dad had died almost twenty years ago, and the old man who'd raised him until he was fourteen was dead and buried in his past as well. No mother, siblings, uncles or aunts or cousins. And for a long time after Ollie had found him and adopted him, it had been just the two of them. From the way Jade used to taunt him when she had been Cheshire, he knew she was aware of his more recent family history - it could hardly be a secret when a teenage boy started running around with a masked hero at all hours of the day and night.
But he'd never asked about her family. Sure, he'd learned from the Team and the League that she was Artemis' sister, daughter of Sportsmaster and Huntress; that was common knowledge now. He'd never asked, though - he never thought she would want to talk about it.
"Do you want to tell Artemis?" he asked, and was surprised at how soft his voice sounded.
She didn't even look up from her red toes.
It was well into February when the Harpers returned from Switzerland, but the weather in Palo Alto was still warm, if a little wet.
They were only stopping by for the weekend; both Artemis and Wally had made it very clear that since they were seniors, they were being ruthlessly assaulted with thesis work, not to mention those pesky midterms. But Jade wouldn't take no for an answer, and so she had wheedled a ride out of the college students for a Friday soon after Valentine's Day.
"You're such an asshole," Artemis complained to her sister in the car, and Wally was silently glad he'd snatched the keys from her fist. She was a horrible driver when she was upset. "I can't believe you guys didn't tell us you got married!"
Jade smirked, and behind the seat - out of sight of both her grumping sister and her nosy boyfriend - she reached for Roy's hand. He smiled, too, not even taken aback at her willful contact. His wife had become a little more affectionate in the last few weeks.
"That's not all," Jade said teasingly, and made an obvious move to rest her hand on her stomach.
Always the drama queen.
Artemis' eyes bulged in the rearview mirror, and she whipped around so fast that her ponytail hit Wally in the face.
Wally almost slammed into the airport shuttle in front of them.
Nothing like a nice long chapter to say "El fin." Thanks for reading, thanks for reviewing, and if we all wish really hard together maybe we'll get a happy ending for Roy and Jade, Young Justice-style. - Nell Fratelli