Rating: G (really!)
Feedback: Yep. Like it, love it, want more of it. Any kind, anywhere, but you should know that I print out flames and use them as targets.
Disclaimer: None of the characters mentioned herein belong to me. They belong to DC Comics and are used by me without permission. No copyright infringement is intended. Please don't sue, I only have a Starman action figure with a defective cosmic rod and a Black Canary action figure with only one of the heads.
Roy Harper took another sip of beer and checked his watch. It was almost time. He pushed his drink away and gazed around the bar. It was dark, smoky, and easy to blend away until no one even noticed the shadows moving around the side of the room. Roy checked his watch one more time and moved toward the men's room, but slipped out the side door to the alley. He turned up his jacket collar against the brisk wind.
His contact stepped from the shadows an instant later, pressed something into his hand, and was gone. Roy tucked the package into his jacket and stepped back into the bar. He dropped a ten onto the counter and left via the front door.
"Daddy! Daddy, wake up!"
"Mmmph? What sweetie?" Roy pushed the covers off his head to find his daughter Lian sitting on his stomach.
"It's my birfday! C'mon, c'mon!" She was off the bed and tugging at his hand. "C'mon downstairs! Auntie Donna made pancakes with chocolate chips in 'em, and Unca Niwwing is here, and Unca Gar is being a monkey for me today!"
"What?" Roy blinked, stupefied. "It's your birthday?"
"Daddy! You're being silly! I'm five today! I'm a big girl and you said we could have a party!"
Roy slapped a hand to his head and groaned. "No! You're right! I forgot all about it!"
"You forgot?" Lian eyed him carefully, not sure whether he'd truly forgotten or was just pulling her leg.
"I totally forgot," he confirmed, kicking the covers off his legs. "In fact..." He sat up and looked around the room. "Aha!" He jumped up and threw open the closet doors. "Here." He offered her an arrow. "Happy Birthday."
"Daddy!" By this time, Lian had realized she was being teased and giggled happily. "Daddy, c'mon, Auntie Donna's making breakfast."
"Ok, Princess," Roy promised, returning her grin. "I'm on my way." Roy shrugged on his robe and let Lian drag him downstairs to Donna's pancakes and a kitchen full of visitors.
"And then Flamebird whipped out a roll of duct tape, but then it disappeared because we were in the past and duct tape hadn't been invented yet, but then the Speed Force—"
"Enough," Nightwing decided, cutting off Gar's story. He carefully maneuvered an outrageous forkful of pancake into his mouth.
"But I was just getting to the good part," Gar protested.
"Speaking of the good part," Donna cut in smoothly. "I think Lian's waiting for her presents."
Lian's face lit up as several of the breakfast participants went about patting down pockets and searching utility belts for small packages that had been squirreled away. In minutes there was a pile of wrapped gifts sitting in front of her.
Roy sighed as she tore into them. Wrapping paper flew about the kitchen as Lian unearthed toy animals, books, puzzles, play earrings and nailpolish, and pile of electronic toys designed to be used only by kids. Roy was glad he'd stocked up on batteries the day before. He wasn't quite as happy when Lian unwrapped a stack of metal disks which resembled mini-Batarangs.
"What do you say?" he prodded Lian, looking pointedly at the stack of... stuff.
"Thank you!" Lian shrieked, running around to grant each gift-giver a hug and sloppy chocolate-tinged kiss.
"Good girl," Roy said, even though he knew she wasn't listening. And it was only... 7:30 a.m...
I'm good at this kind of stuff, Roy lamented to himself. I'm good at making ponytails and fastening overall clasps and tying shoelaces. I can be good at this, too.
"Hurry Daddy!" Lian insisted, ignoring Roy's plight.
"Working on it, sweetie," he told her mildly, trying to get his fingers untangled from the twin braids he was attempting. "Just... give me a minute."
"Ok," Lian agreed. "But hurry!"
Roy smiled and finished the braids with neatly tied yellow bows. Mentally, he breathed a sigh of relief. He hoped it would be a while before she asked for *that* hairstyle again.
"You ready to go, punkin'?" he asked her, holding out his hand.
She took it happily and bounded off the bed.
"Yup!" she exclaimed. "To the park, then out to lunch, and... a *movie*. With Auntie Dinah!"
"That right," Roy confirmed. "Only the best for my little girl on her big day."
"And I get Grandpa Ollie's chili for dinner?"
"You know it, kiddo."
"Time for chili?" Lian had been unbearably good at the playground, through lunch at O'Shaugnessey's and all the way through the singing and dancing of the latest animated movie to appear in theatres.
"Yep," Roy confirmed, setting three glasses near her place. One was filled to the top with water, one with milk and one with soda. He spooned up two bowls of the flaming red substance and sat one in front of each of them. "Now Lian, this is a time-honored tradition. You're finally old enough to try Grandpa Ollie's Atomic Chili. It's a little spicy—" Roy paused as he considered the understatement of that line. "—so feel free to drink as much as you need. Not even Hal Jordon—he was the Green Lantern when I sidekicked for Grandpa Ollie—was able to make it through an entire bowl of the stuff without running for the water spigot. We had some good times, Ollie and I," Roy continued, smiling into his chili. "In fact, the only person I can think of who can eat it without blinking was—"
"Daddy? Can I have some more?"
Roy looked up from his ruminations to see Lian sitting at her place with three full glasses and an empty bowl. He beamed.
"Sure thing, princess."
"Daddy, I'm 'eepy," Lian yawned, not too much later.
"You've had a big day, punkin'," Roy noted, scooping her up to take her to her room.
"Mmm hmm," Lian agreed, resting her head on his shoulder.
Once in her room, Roy stood Lian on her bed and helped her get her pajamas on and brush her teeth.
"Did you have a good day?" he asked her, tucking the covers up around her shoulders.
"Umm hmm," Lian assured him.
"You ready for your present from Daddy?"
Lian nodded enthusiastically.
Roy produced from under her bed a large, flat package. Lian eagerly ripped off the paper. Roy watched her face light up when she realized what was underneath.
"My own?" she asked, oblivious to the fact that the bow was much too small for Roy to use.
"Your very own," he confirmed. "And tomorrow we'll start learning how to use it."
"Goody," Lian declared sleepily, her eyes still shining at her new acquisition. "So now I can be just like you when I grow up!"
Roy smiled at his daughter and sat down on the bed. "Are you up to one more present?" he asked, gently taking the bow from her and setting it next to her bed.
"Another one?" Lian asked, looking up at him questioningly.
Roy nodded and pulled another package out from under her bed.
"This one's from your Mommy," he said carefully. "She wanted you to have something on your special day."
Lian looked up at him, eyes wide, but didn't say anything. Instead, she turned her attention to the package and carefully—almost warily—pulled the paper away.
"What is it, Daddy?" she asked, staring at the assortment of tubes and boxes on her lap.
"Let's see, sweetie," he replied, studying the items. "Hmm. Makeup... false eyelashes... colored contacts... this is a wig... honey, she got you a disguise kit! You can play pretend and see who you can fool!"
"Wow..." Lian smiled sleepily at the assorted things. "Tomorrow Daddy?"
"Ok." Lian let Roy move all the pieces of the kit to her bedside table. "But after the bow, right Daddy?"
Roy smiled at her. "Whatever you want, sweetie."
"Ok," Lian agreed. "Daddy? This was the bestest birfday ever." She paused. "I wish Mommy was here."
"I know," Roy said quietly, sitting down on Lian's bed again and tucking the covers up around her shoulders. "Me, too, punkin'. Me too."
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