I kind of have my own chronology of events going on here. Don't let it throw you off. Bottom line: the Cave still exists and Arsenal is still just Roy the first. Also... it breaks my heart too much that Original!Roy is so... broken. So I'm kind of pretending that he isn't. As much.
He never was a religious man, but he'd experienced a few miracles in his time. Not destroying the League with Shadow sleeper programming in his brain was pretty high on the list of near-impossibilities.
He made a point of visiting the Watchtower regularly now. It was important that he lend a hand where it could help, even if it meant suffering toned-down but still wary glares from Batman and overly-cheerful pep talks from Superman whenever he was around. It had been years since he was in their midst, and it was fair to say that he had more than a few things to prove. He volunteered for simple missions: recon, protective detail, crowd control. They put him back in the public eye and helped build up some of the trust and confidence he'd crash-landed into the pit of his identity crisis. They weren't the most challenging deployments, but somebody had to do the dirty work, and it might as well be him.
Managing to not have completely hacked off his friends - against all the odds - was definitely something else to be thankful for. He started running a few miles with Ollie in Star when he could and accepting some of Dynah's lunch invitations again. Not all of them - there were only so many times he could handle her scrutinizing gaze and prying questions over BLTs in a month - but enough.
More surprising than almost anything else, Red Arrow appearances at the Cave were no longer the stuff of legends and jokes. It wasn't like he went for the weekend slumber parties now, but M'gann got to the point where she would stop smothering him in one of her super-strong Martian embraces every time his League number was announced by the beta tubes. Besides, he owed it to Connor to break up the monotonous teenage squealing that only ever let up in those halls whenever Batman was around. And maybe - just maybe - he went because nobody could kick his ass at chess and hand-to-hand sparring like Nightwing could.
Of course, there was the obvious accomplishment. The real Roy Harper was alive and as healthy as an armless archer could be. Angry and traumatized, but alive and free. And somehow, the kid didn't seem to hate him.
He never did get a call from him, but when he visited Roy - first at the hospital, then at the Cave when Ollie's offer of the old room at the penthouse was rejected - the boy never raged or shouted or so much as lost his temper with him. They were far from close, but Roy never once sent him away. They had their fair share of silent awkward moments when mention of the missing years cropped up, or when someone called their name and they both looked up, and their conversations were usually limited to simple phrases, but considering that Ollie couldn't get within twenty yards of the kid, it could've been worse.
And then there was the most unbelievable twist of them all.
"Her head needs to be up higher."
The hand that poked his elbow up was both frustrated and relieved. "You fixed it less than five minutes ago," he grumbled, but allowed his arm to hold the new angle. There was nothing he wouldn't do for his new purpose in life. He adored Lian - no matter how many times it took, he'd get the tilt of her neck right. Preferably before she was old enough to not need his support.
Cheshire's answering eye roll did not go unnoticed.
They were on the couch - a new one that Cheshire had had delivered, he still didn't know where from - and for once he had claimed control of the remote before she did. The news - in English, finally - was on low. He didn't want to risk waking the warm bundle of blankets cradled to his chest, or there would only be another, later naptime, and then there would be no point in trying to sleep that night.
"I hate how every Asian anchor's name on American TV is Chang," Cheshire complained, frowning at the overly-powdered woman on the screen. "Bunch of racists."
"Not everyone has a serious name like Nguyen," he tossed out without a thought, and if he didn't know himself, it might've sounded like playful banter. Might.
A whisper of a chuckle snuck through her lips, and Lian wriggled in her blanket at the sound. "Don't tell me you forgot already, Red."
She turned away from the TV to look at him, and for once her eyes didn't ooze the sneering boredom that was her characteristic expression. Leaning in with one hand reaching out to rest against the curve of Lian's small body, she - to his immense shock and confusion - allowed her body to rest against his, and even propped her pointed chin up on his shoulder so she could get a better look at the tiny face sleeping peacefully below.
"At least here," she said, softly so as not to disturb Lian, "my name is Harper."
He hadn't forgotten - how could he? - but the subject of their marriage status hadn't exactly been a hot topic since her return and subsequent takeover of his dusty hole of an apartment and even dustier bank account. He wasn't naive enough to think that Lian would magically make their union legitimate; he may still be young, but he was savvy enough even in this department to know that things just didn't work that way.
"Is it?" he asked. Now might as well be the time to straighten it out.
It was strange how black could be such a warm color.
Instead of answering, she simply closed the small gap between them for a careful kiss, the hand between the bottom of the blankets and his lap nudged his elbow back up a few degrees.
In that brief moment, it was almost impossible to believe that this was the same she-devil who had seduced him in a dark theater. Hallelujah, indeed.
No, he wasn't a religious man. He'd never been to church or temple or so much as cracked open a Bible. Those had always fallen under the category of things he didn't have the time or luxury to indulge in, let alone participate in. He'd thought he'd seen Ollie praying once, though it just as easily could have been meditation. He had no experience with asking for things or expressing gratitude to anyone who couldn't be physically found. He believed in actions and reactions and the general goodwill of regular people; celestial or omnipotent beings weren't really part of his arsenal against injustice.
But after the last few months, he began to wonder if maybe he had a few things to thank someone for.