Fandom: DC Comics, merfilly and ilyena_sylph's "A Darker Path" AU
Pairing/Characters: gen; Lian Harper and Roy Harper
Disclaimer: DC doesn't belong to me (note the fest) and neither does this AU!
Summary: Tomorrow is Lian's eighteen birthday, and in Slade's household this means she must join the family business.
Author's Note: I wrote this ages ago, when I first read A Darker Path, and it's been haunting my hard drive ever since. merfilly and ilyena_sylph have kindly given me permission to post it for merfilly's "Lian Deserves Better" ficathon.
Word Count: 1,140
Lian Harper was good.
Trained-from-birth, innately-skilled good. There was no fighting style she had not studied, no aspect of military strategy unlearned, no weapon she had not held in her hands. Her aim was flawless, be it with sling, bow or bullet. Her teachers had been many, and exacting, and she had never known a way of life other than fighting. The pull of a bow, the sharp retort of a pistol, the peace of a perfect kick or flip, these motions defined her.
Tomorrow she would turn eighteen, and mark her thirteenth year in Slade’s household, under Slade’s tutoring and protection. Thirteen years ago the world had nearly ended in a Crisis, a Crisis her fathers helped stop, with Slade, Rose and Dinah by their side.
The latter haunted Lian’s thoughts. Not even Rose knew what became of the woman, once she left the Wilson household when Lian was twelve. The only time she confronted the patriarch about it, he’d simply said she was “broken.”
Though the house around her was quiet, she knew there were others up and about. The light in the study meant Slade was up late, Rose probably with him, which meant they had a job. Her fathers turned in early after coming back from a useless mission and a run-in with the new Titans team; that always left them drained and silent, with no patience for any company but each other’s. Rose’s on-again/off-again boyfriend Eddie was apparently off-again right now, or he and Rose would be making noise down the hall.
She turned eighteen tomorrow . . . Lian buried her face in her hands. There was, of course, another reason why Slade and Rose might still be up. Their people--the costumes, the metas, superheroes and villains alike--all had a flair for the dramatic. A rite of passage involving an actual job was something Lian suspected was in the works for quite some time. Despite living how and with whom she did, she had only ever killed once, that once in self-defense. Her fathers put their feet down when it came to that, and because Slade valued his family, he let it go. Eighteen, though--eighteen meant she surrendered her fathers’ protection, and Slade would expect her to enter the family business.
For more than six years, one person taught Lian a value of human life not involving dollars and cents. Oh, Slade was more picky than that, and he and his followed his code to the letter, but Dinah Lance was different. Her voice never left Lian’s head, be it her steady lecture on hand-to-hand or the sharp edge on those occasions she chose to defy Slade.
There were other things. Her father’s--her birth father’s--tendency to maim rather than kill, all other things equal. Tales of both her fathers’ time with the Titans, of Rose and Slade with the Titans. Books she read, too, words on a page that struck more true than the code she grew up with. If she wanted a chance to change the path her life was on, if she did not want blood on her hands--she had to choose, now. Tomorrow would be too late.
Looking up from her hands, Lian laughed, soft and harsh. A duffle bag and her weapon’s case, both packed with every possession she cared about, lay next to her bedroom door. She was kidding herself. This choice she’d made already.
Picking both up and slinging them onto her person, she walked out into the hall and toward the back. Sneaking out of the house was easy; sneaking off the grounds, not so much.
She almost stopped, walking past her fathers’ room. It was quiet, but they were there, her Daddy was there. Leaving without telling him why, leaving for him only to know what happened to her when she showed up on the news, in a suit with his old colors . . . She swallowed her terror, her impossible hope, letting it settle instead as a weight on her chest. She could hold it there and still get everything done.
Lian made it out the back door and halfway down the path, just out of sight of the house, when a hand clamped over her mouth and someone much larger than her grabbed her from behind. She lashed out with her elbow and her feet, striking with the steel in her heel. The easy evasion from behind, the broad body she was pulled against . . . she relaxed, recognizing it.
He let her go as soon as she stopped struggling, let her turn around to face him and put his hands on her shoulders. Green eyes looked down at her, flicking over her bags and her clothing, stealth wear easily convertible to civilian clothes. Lian just looked back, unsure of what he was seeing, what she wanted him to see, what he thought of what he saw . . .
He closed his eyes and squeezed her shoulders. “Leaving, etai yazi?”
“I . . . Daddy . . .”
He shook his head. His voice cracked on the whisper, a thread of despair. “I can’t go, baby. I can’t leave him. Never could.” Lian watched her father take a shuddering breath before his eyes opened again. “Here.” He handed her a slip of paper, and Lian tucked it into a safe pocket without thought. “It’s--her number. Or the last one I could get, anyway.”
Her eyes widened. “Daddy--but Slade said--”
A small, tired grin flashed across her father’s face. “Old friends are worth more than new enemies, and Oracle would move heaven and earth for her. No one beats the master at her game. Not even him.”
The smile lingered a moment as he brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. “You are beautiful, and wonderful, and so much better than this.” His smile fell away, fingers behind her ear shaking.
Tears streaked down her father’s face as he hugged her tight. Lian clutched his back, burying her face in his shoulder. She knew, they both knew, they would probably never be on the same side of a fight again. “I love you, etai yazi, my baby girl.” He pulled back just enough to put his mouth next to her ear. “Run.”
Lian darted away, up and over the wall. She could not cry, she needed to be able to see where she was going, needed to stifle her sobs so she could breathe. Somewhere out there, perhaps on the other end of the phone number her father gave her, was a woman who would take her in and teach her new things. Somewhere, there were people who might see her as long-lost family. Away from everything she’d ever known, there might yet be a new life.
Lian Harper was good.