“Don’t try to be a hero,” Henry said to her once. What is, perhaps, most surprising about it isn’t that he told her this as Henry, rather than his usual Starling demeanor, but that she had learned to tell the difference between the two.
“What?” She had asked, so oblivious then, yet so unwilling to take the advice given to her. This, however, she had listened to even if she hadn’t fully understood it at the time.
“It’s something my mentor Firefly told me, when I first began training,” he explained, as best he could. Someone trained into this life from childhood trying to communicate with a near-civilian, their backgrounds so different. “Our purpose isn’t about being a hero, it’s about surviving what other people can’t. Not because we’re invulnerable, but because we can outsmart whatever is thrown our way.”
He smiled then and Leanne thought–or will one day think–that it may have been the first time he ever smiled at her. And it may be the only time he ever did.
For that moment, he wasn’t the perfect prodigy student of a legendary vigilante and she some random bystander unwittingly blundering onto the team. For that moment, they were–not equals, exactly, but similar. Empathetic.
Like he said, they weren’t invulnerable; didn’t have accelerated healing rates or full-body energy shields. They were both human, trying to survive on a team of powerhouses and meta-humans.
It’s not about being a hero, he had said, it’s about survival.
She wouldn’t fully understand it until after she had stopped being the former, and had been consumed by the latter.
Caleb had been kind to her, when Leanne was first starting out, mostly because he was the most sympathetic to her. Not because they were in any way alike, but because they were so different as to nearly be opposite. And they both knew it.
He was almost literally born to the life of a vigilante: his father had been one and he, along with Caleb’s step-mother, had raised him to be, if not a vigilante himself, then very aware of the lifestyle and what it meant to society. It also didn’t hurt that he was a meta-human from birth–invulnerable, with enhanced senses and strength.
He grew up expecting that he would one day step into his parents’ world, had been preparing for it his whole life, it would seem. Knew the ups and downs of it, but had deemed it–not an obligation, something to be taken up as part of his family’s legacy–but rather a responsibility. Something that he, with his abilities, had a duty to use on behalf of those less fortunate.
Which is perhaps the mindset that he had with her all along. A little unflattering, but probable: it’s not like he had ever been swept up by a random doctor and thrown onto a team with strangers without warning. She had far less knowledge, experience, and capability than him and everyone knew it. But rather than acting superior–though he was, in fact, in all senses of the term–he had tried his best to reach out and help her.
Too bad she had been too stubborn to accept it until it was too late.
Tetsuki? Oh, now, there’s a story that’s hardly worth the telling.
They were like fire and ice, oil and water, cats and dogs; as incompatible as all the cliché sayings one could think of. They were two gears asked to work together, but one was for a clock the other an engine, and all of their teeth merely scratched and jammed rather than clicked in synch.
After time and experience and many failed attempts–mistiming and miscommunication and some embarrassing crashes sprinkled about–they would learn to, if not read each other, then at the very least predict each other’s actions. They were functional, at least, if not compatible.
They never would be friends, but they had been teammates and that meant something more.
Hari is the one who she had been most uncertain about–mostly because he had seemed so uncertain of her in turn. Almost… scared of her, occasionally, which seemed so ludicrous at the time because what could she possibly do to a four hundred pound adolescent lion with the claws and teeth to match when the only thing she had was a wonky pocket watch?
Of course, it took her about ten years–in both directions, coincidentally enough–to realize that it was because her first time meeting him? Was definitely not his first time meeting her.
“There, there, it’s okay. I’m here, Hari, I’m here,” she murmured to the side of a familiar little boy’s head, crouched down so he could wrap his skinny arms around her neck. It was soothing nonsense, she didn’t think her presence could actually make this situation acceptable. He answered her with a sob, but tried his best to muffle it into her shoulder, the fabric of her top already becoming damp with his tears.
The police officers swarming around the scene barely sent a glance her way, most likely too focused documenting the evidence and preventing a crowd to worry about a woman who had managed to calm the only survivor. Or, perhaps, they knew her.
One of the older detectives looked familiar, like the relative of someone she had met previously; or the same person aged several years. After all, she had a brief stint as the fourth member of a vigilante team before her watch had whisked her away. For once it had been fairly chronological, if not entirely continuous: after four months of fighting alongside Apex, Griever, and Silverfang, she had disappeared only to reappear about two years later, a block away from where she was now.
Hari’s crying was tapering off, it seemed, though he wouldn’t relinquish his hold on her. “Shall I carry you, then?” she asked him, and did so when he slowly nodded in return; his short hair ticklish against her cheek.
“Anachron,” the familiar looking detective called to her once she stood, waving her over to join him. It seemed so strange, having people in the past know her by the name she had yet to take up. She hadn’t thought to come up with a new vigilante codename–it had taken her long enough to decide on that one, let alone a second one.
… Although, that would explain why everyone ‘in the industry’ so to speak had looked at her oddly when she announced her choice. To them, it had probably seemed like she had just taken some outdated minor hero’s name and tried to pass it off as her own. Then again, Hari had been rather supportive of her choice so maybe he had known all along.
Considering the weight in her arms, it’s a sound theory.
“Yes, detective?” she prompted, once she got close enough not to need to shout across the crime scene.
“It’s good to see you again, even if under shitty circumstances,” he said, a small smile twitched beneath his mustache, “Thought you had gone for good.”
“So did I,” she said, with a shrug, or as much of one she could manage with a child wrapped around her torso.
The detective nodded, before sobering up, “This is a fucking nightmare, though. The kid shouldn’t have to stay. I know some of the rookies are going to have trouble sleeping tonight.”
Leanne nodded, unsure what else to do.
“Could you keep an eye on him? He seems to like you well enough, and if he is what I think he is, none of my officers will be able to handle him if he acts up.”
She could feel her mouth flatten into a displeased frown. For all that the intent was good, his word choice could be improved, “What do you think he is?” she asked instead of correcting him.
The detective’s own mouth twisted into a frown for a different reason. He gestured at the crime scene, barely visible through it’s partition of yellow tape and police officers. At the other children, less lucky than Hari, with iridescent red scales or feathery wings or even, she noted with a shudder, with skin the same waxy green of leaves.
Some sick bastard building a menagerie of meta-human children. And while, for now, Hari maintained his human form, it wouldn’t be hard to infer the reason behind his presence.
After the pointed silence, she decided, “I’ll bring him to Kaiza’s. He ought to be checked out by a doctor, anyway.” While she doubted she’d up and disappear so soon after a jump, it’d be better if she set up alternate supervision just in case.
“I’ll let Social Services know,” the detective agreed, before dismissing himself and heading back into the fray.
As she walked away, undeterred by officers beyond a few cautious gazes, she heard Hari mumble quietly, “Anachron?”
It’s the first word he said since she found him, surrounded by corpses and uniforms, not a kindness in sight. She gave herself a moment to compose herself.
“Yes, it’s my codename. The one the police use so I don’t have to tell them my real one,” she explained.
“So the real one is a secret, so the bad people don’t find you,” Hari responded and she could feel her heart breaking.
She smoothed a hand up and down his back, the thin material of his shirt soft from being so threadbare. “Yes, something like that.”
He pulled away from her then, but only enough to look her in the eyes. “What’s your real name, then? You already know mine.”
She smiled at him then, tight and painful, and hoped he wouldn’t notice the difference, “You can call me Ann.”
A/N: This is longer than I thought it would be… but I’m rather satisfied with it. Some team fic feels, because… ripping her away from her time wouldn’t be nearly as terrible a fate if she didn’t love her team. 🙂
Also, I FINALLY CHOSE A VIGILANTE NAME FOR LEANNE! 😀 ‘Anachron’
Man, why didn’t I think of that sooner? It is both ‘not chronological’ which is basically her life and her power, AND you can give her the nickname Ann for both names. IT’S PERFECT!