A/N: This was pretty much written entirely on impulse this morning whilst I was unsure of what to do relating to planned Boostle I'm writing. I wanted to focus a bit more on Lily after her initial introduction as Crescent in my Jason Todd centric oneshot, as well as just write something a bit more personally related. Lily is my little Bisexual Bean, who tends to be quite confused where her romantic affections are laid, but I think she'd find a degree of solace in Jack Moore - aka Rankorr, a red Lantern. This whole thing is just emotional fluff and not-quite-love. It'll become love though...give 'em time ;)
Shipping wise, Lily took AGES in terms of who I imagined her being with. I wanted to spotlight a more obscure DC character through her, and considering she's fairly motherly - although Tim finds her a nag (not entirely untrue) - I thought she'd be able to have a calming influence on someone who belonged to the Red Lantern Corps. I've also had a huge fondness for Rankorr (he was a British Lit student; I'm a British Lit student!), and feel he's been criminally underused by DC, so through their relationship, I plan on giving him more character introspection. Namely, more fleshing out where his loss is concerned; and showing how his love of books helps quell his rage. Plus he helps me express more of my love for Bleez, as she is so wonderful!
Non-beta'd, I'm afraid, and written in like 3 hours on a massive writing boost (whilst also watching a K-Drama with my best friend), so any mistakes will be cleared up in due time I'm afraid! I just hope you enjoy reading, and that I characterised a calmer!Rankorr adequately enough?
At times such as these, Lily had told herself - over and over - secrecy was for the best.
Optional amnesia - that's what dad always called it (when he was inevitably questioned about the location of any matter of biscuit related missing grocery in the house; and how the empty boxes always drifted into his man-cave). And what was it Mrs Greenborden had like reminding her budding language analysts? You were bound to inherent specific dialectal features from your parents?
Therefore, no-one could call her a liar.
What was there to lie about? It wasn't a date. It wasn't even anything of amazing interest (hence why Tim, Dick and Barb - never mind the rest of them - didn't need to know). She was simply retrieving an item she'd leant to a friend. A male friend. Girls could have male friends! That seemed to have become her catchphrase where Dick - and his sideways glances - were concerned. And if you couldn't call a Red Lantern with a semi-waning Surrey accent, appreciation of poetic literature and blinding red fire for hair your good male friend, who could you use as your example?
Besides, Bruce had always encouraged them to broaden their horizons - in terms of the heroic scope. She'd merely taken initiative.
Granted, it was easier to put on the brazen indignance (and telling denial) where her surrogate siblings were concerned. It was near impossible to ignore the knot her stomach managed to twist itself into at the prospect of seeing John 'call-me-either-Jack-or-Rankorr' Moore - one infused with tittering butterflies in possession of wings that batted perfectly in synch with her suspiciously more erratic heartbeat - following their initial meeting.
The early embers of late September were beginning to kindle at the official start of her gap year - allegedly to help prepare her for formally studying English Language at Gotham State where the headspace was concerned; in actuality a rouse to expand her horizons in the independent superhero business, now she'd formally departed from the Teen Titans (helping Tim gain some much clamored after breathing space; and less playful scrutiny at all the time he spent off with Connor Kent...) - when they'd first encountered one another.
Things hadn't been quite as antagonistic as Hoff's melodramatic recital had led Bruce and Alfred to believe. It was a given the old reasonable explanation route didn't go down as smoothly with Red Lanterns as it did with other budding antihero sorts - the whole overburdening noose of rage, uncontrollable embrace of anger, perma-menstruation hormones of fury altered the temperament unfavourably so - but Rankorr had been a little easier to talk to than some of his cohorts she and Hoff had later encountered. After the initial business of him spitting napalm at her (it hadn't quite gone full projectile vomiting mode; as if burning a soon-to-be-nineteen year old girls' face off was a bit much, even if you were trapped in the throes of blindsighting aggression).
After encountering Hoff, the interstellar teamup roaster seemed to have begun multiplying itself with little concern for Lily wanting a five minute break.
The insectoid-meets-aardvark snouted Broddvian - whose skin was a pale minty colour, had an extensive firearm impression (one large and complicated enough to make Jay jealous), inky saucer like eyes that took up most of his face (bar the snout), and who had a weakness for adorning himself in Lily's misshapen knitted jumper failures (the smallest ones of course; Hoff was barely three foot tall, so his wardrobe largely came from her overzealous practice runs for Ralph and Sue Dibny) - was spending his evening with Barbara, turning his hand to her extensive surveillance systems. The redhead apparently appreciated a guy with six arms giving her a hand; and, truthfully, it made Lily herself brighten - the reality her alien buddy (and guide around the universe's nether regions) was being integrated into the Bat Family in his own way (even if he and Jason had almost gone to war over the ice-cream bars on multiple occasions).
He'd looked more than a little relieved when Lily had finally announced she was heading out, leaving him to fly over to Barb's place ('as inconspicuously as possible', was all he'd been able to say in the wake of Bruce's apprehensive glower).
Maybe it was being treated like a date if you took fifty-seven minutes picking out your outfit ensemble, then taking another forty-eight out for your hair and makeup (throwing crescent discs really helped with the old eyeliner application); but Lily had firmly told herself it was a mere interest in presentation that'd resulted in such a long process. Not like this tended to happen every time she met up with Rankorr out-of-costume...
She'd beaten the unruly, saffron sheet of her hair into submission with the allies of a hairbrush, fix-spray and some good straighteners (courtesy of Steph for her seventeenth), before opting to pin back the front strands (just avoiding the risk of exposing her dreaded ears), and then spending an extra five minutes on which nose ring to loop through the right-side punctured hole (the simple gold hoop with a faux azure bead). Her dress was a simple white slip - anything too flashy or detailed could've given off the wrong impression (well, wrong where Jack's mind was concerned at least... a little voice had decided on piping up) - with a green turtleneck placed under it (Gotham tended to spring the cold on you with little warning).
Her trusty shoulder bag - the battered up faux leather satchel, coloured a rich brown (granted parts of it were scratched up beyond recovery) that'd faithfully accompanied her into space; and she'd once used to sneak Hoff into the JSA's headquarters so he could take an idle peruse about Ted Kord's experiments - hey, they hadn't broken anything - which had more turned into her and a Broddvian refugee melting slightly, in the emotional manner, at the overwhelming sentimentality of the second Blue Beetle keeping every unbearably sweet Valentine's Day card his flash, time-travelling boyfriend had purchased for him (who knew Booster Gold had such enviably neat handwriting?) - hung loosely off one shoulder, ready for housing her Selected Poems copy of Vladimir Nabokov's writing.
The echoes of her boots tapping against the concrete rooftop were helping to calm her nerves (just match your pulse up to the clacking, Lils!). She'd worn heels - despite the climbing required - mainly to bolster her frustratingly small stature. Jack Moore was 5'10" - the exact same height as Dick - but at 5'1", almost everyone looked tall next to you. That's why Hoff had been such good company - he understood the pains of shortness, even more so than Lily Madill.
She was still working on a tiny pair of ankle boots for him (the manly variety, he'd been assured); ones similar to her favorite pair - black, thin heeled, velvet fabric - that were currently at home on her feet.
So...maybe she had a crush on her friend, who just so happened to a Red Lantern, and who was three years her senior? So what? It wasn't like they were an item. Abi Harrelston - another hopeful linguist on a gap year destined for Gotham; thank you Facebook, for providing such connections - was cute, witty, and very single. Still, the 'lifestyle' wasn't exactly an easy one to get by most people.
Even Taryn Freeberg - the girl she'd come closest to admitting her true nighttime activities to; that they weren't devoted to helping organise mom's legal paperwork, or spaced out on the sofa minding Liam and Lucas - had seemed apprehensive when she'd attempted breaching the subject by 'hypothetically' asking about what dating a costumed crime fighter would be like. Then again, Taryn usually seemed preoccupied working on her own costuming's those days; the variety directed at performing blinding musical escapades in a not-Kiss-tribute-glam-rock-band (although the face paint was very Gene Simmons). Maybe broken basses and alcoholism seemed easier to tackle than Two-Face or Larfleeze?
Taryn still seemed interested in getting back together, the last time they'd Skyped.
She'd looked amazing - Lily wasn't going to deny that. Hair shaved off entirely on the left hand side of her head; the right spray of sapphire curls teased to brush against her jaw, any signs of the natural light brown (formerly infused with deep indigo, then gentle lavender at the ends) stamped out with the newfound blinding shade; pointed septum ring now a daring safety pin replica. Her eyes a darkened in their shade of grey; a brush of black crow's feathers tattooed alongside her pale neck; leather jacket further adorned with badges and pins. - but the old rush of delighted adrenaline had been shamefully stagnant on Lily's end.
That endorphin filled high - accompanied with the rush of heartbeat and ugly mottling to burst onto pale cheeks - was treacherously beginning to reserve itself for Jack Moore.
And Guy Gardner loved saying bisexuals had it easy.
Lily so owed Fire a fruit basket for setting his beard on fire that one time.
Still, at least she could count on Taryn remaining one of her best buds, even if they never ventured into dating territory again. She was bright and vibrant, with a jubilant cackle for a laugh, and gallons of confidence. It was impossible to imagine she'd not find someone - who didn't have a thing for men who chundered acid - by the time old feelings had quietened down properly.
Not everyone's a Christian Matthers, Eff had assured her after that nightmare had finally stopped toying about Lily's emotions with all the interest of a half-fed cat with a dead bird. Namely after she'd threatened to nail gun his dick if he game by her locker one more time to murmur deceptive sweet nothings.
It was reassurances like that which had made Eff the only choice as to whom out of her school friend circle was responsible - as well as sane - enough to know poetry junkie and Feminist Society secretary Lilith 'Lily' Madill operated as the superhero Crescent, and belonged to Batman's list of trainees (meaning she got the full pizza night experience; bickering about the validity of pineapple as a topping included). Efemena Opaeri was too good for most people, as far as Lily was concerned. It wouldn't be a shock if she turned out to have a hidden superpower.
Innate goodness maybe?
Eff was the best friend Lily needed and honestly - with her FSD ('flakey superhero disease') and lack of sleep induced extra grumpiness - didn't deserve. That was another person she needed to order a fruit basket. Filled with strawberries, dragon fruit and lychees. Could she preorder for when Eff got back from seeing the extended Opaeri clan in Okene? Alfred would know the answer to that. He was practically omnipotent, it was an accepted fact beyond just the Bat Family.
If it wasn't for the familiarity of the voice - or the thundering roar of emotionally infused delight thrumming to life against her temples (and it's embarrassing recurring nature) - Lily wouldn't have recognised her friend-turned-unsuspecting-crush.
Jack looked...normal, to put it simply. Well, as normal as any Red Lantern could look in their 'down time' (if you could call it that for the 'agents of rage'). Whilst floating slightly above a Gotham dental practice (hey the roof was isolated enough).
The burning scarlet flames of his hair had cooled slightly in their intensity, now merely a warm thrum crackling across his scalp (had this always happened when they were alone together? Lily swore the intensity of the fire dulled a little when they were on Veisha-251 that time...), and his eyes were visible, the mask removed. They were a bright, piercing hazel colour - the sort that divulged into a swirling Catherine wheel of chestnuts and emeralds, fighting for colour dominance - and an aching reminder of the person behind the ring. He had an oversized suede jacket draped over the familiar costume (a faded black that greyed slightly in the sharp ebony of areas of his suit), and Selected Poems was being clutched in his right hand, a newfound paper shield.
"Hey!" She could only hope her voice didn't reflect the pitiful over-excitement blooming in her chest (like some beautiful - albeit nagging - flower. Not quite a weed though...emotions weren't weeds). "You actually managed to convince Atrocitus to let you return my book?"
"I'm working overtime for it." Moore sighed as he came to land, eyeroll now blatantly obvious without the protection of the mask. "Still, I think even he felt a little bit of sympathy for me. Bleez kept being a real twat about the book. Which was great by the way!" He added quickly as they came to meet one another, Jack still biting his lip sheepishly. "It was just kinda tiring having her ask if my 'girlfriend' leant me it every time I tried to read it."
Despite the low lighting 11:31 PM had offered them, away from the spotlights and brightness of inner city Gotham, with its constant pyrotechnic lighting instances; it was impossible to ignore the sudden bursts of crimson that smattered their way across Lily's cheeks and Jack's jawline as their eyes met and realisation properly sunk in as to the deeper meaning of his remark.
Well Lils, her brain began soothing as she hoped her face hadn't fallen to humilating levels of dejected despair. Don't blame the guy for not fancying one of Batman's acrobatic fighters who still sleeps with a stuffed monkey and screen printed her own feminist poets top-
"Not that I'd not want you as my girlfriend!" Lily was fairly certain if it wasn't for the sudden burst of adrenaline that overcame her, her legs would've buckled under the shock those words arose. "It's just, we're um, we're not dating...you just lent me the collection. As my friend."
"Yeah, as your friend!" Still, she'd be a shit friend to not support him adequately in his moment of need. "Friends lend each other books all the time!" You still sure about becoming a starving poet, Madill? "I just um..." She managed to calm her expressions then, settling into a pleased - and considerably less anxious - smile. "I'm glad you liked it. I know you didn't really get into poetry on your Lit course before..." She could only gesture loosely towards the insignia stamped across his (broad - shut up brain!) chest.
"I took up a life spewing caustic substances on people and my hair went up like a Bonfire Night gasoline disaster?" Rankorr supplied, his own smile returning properly then. "Yeah. Didn't exactly see myself leaving university on those terms! Still, beats the debt I guess." He shrugged easily, surprisingly casual considering the Red Lantern title - but he had told her all about how you could suppress the rage, once you got used to the rings influence. "What about you then? Still ready for it all?"
"Honestly?" Lily could merely shrug herself at his question. "I don't know. I know I want to get a degree in Linguistics, it's just..." She gestured aimlessly, outwards back into the hum of the city corruption. "I know I'll have to cut back on all this. And just after I felt like I really started coming into my own as an independent hero! I went to space, for fucks sake! Met Hal Jordan, Hoff, you..." Please no overemphasis vocal chords... "People were finally seeing me as not just another Gotham-wannabe. Crescent...don't laugh but, the name seemed to finally mean something. Something more like what mom does in the courts, or Batman does for the League."
"You can hold off your degree though right?" He offered. Partially, it didn't feel fair complaining of studies and responsibilities to Jack of all people. He'd lost everything he once knew in a simple night - his brother, his university place, his sanity - yet here she was, bitching about the pressures of being a human girl, trying her luck at the superhero game; without the overwhelming press of giving into destructive, unstoppable anguish and ferocity gnawing away at the back of her psyche. Yet here they were, Rankorr (alleged villain-turned-aspiring antihero) giving Crescent (teen poster child for superheroics) career advice. "Take another year out if you want?"
"I can..." She nodded. "I just...part of me feels like this is where I belong for now?" Was all she could lamely muster, hands finally registering the anthology book being held out in front of her friend, and she reached out to take a hold of it once more. Their fingers brushed slightly then - her bare, weathered one's (mom's engagement ring still firmly pressed on her scarred, stunted digits; winking knowingly back into her eyes) against the smoothness of his gloved, a blessing she couldn't properly acknowledge yet - and the beginnings of a flush began to rear their taunting heads once more.
"Then go for it." It was harder to ignore the brilliant green of his eyes now they were stood closer together. Glimmering in diamond esque flecks amongst the brown. The red segments of the suit brought this out more, what with the ruby glow of flames dancing atop his head. "It's your life, Lily. You should do what'll make you happiest. I could've taken that advice when I was deciding my future. And...I don't know your parents, but from what you've said, they won't be upset you're deferring for another year."
Again, it was true. Mom and dad weren't exactly overjoyed when they first found out about the whole crime-fighting-at-midnight hobby she'd picked up - adjacent to that old school project on Batman she'd run, whilst attempting to profile him for psychology class - but they'd settled into it, the more they'd seen how it'd increased her self-confidence and low esteem. They weren't pushing for her to attend university. And truthfully...it would be amusing spending another year denying Lucas the potential ability to claim her bedroom for his own (Lily wasn't giving that up without a fight; even if she technically possessed a second place to sleep at Wayne Manor now. How Alfred had known violet painted walls helped her relax easier in the wake of stress or ripped nerve endings only proved her and Tim's omnipotence theory further.).
"Thanks, Jack..." She knew her smile was descending into shamefully mushy now, if the doe-eyes she imagined had arisen were a giveaway; but he'd never massively objected to these open displays of affection before. Right? "Sorry that got so heavy handed!" She added with a slight laugh as her light green eyes flashed with open embarrassment. "I just asked for my book back and turned this into career counselor appointment! I...hope you liked it by the way." The blush had definitely reappeared on her cheeks now.
"Like I said...it was great. It was calming being able to read something from a friend on Ysmault, even if Bleez thought she was a comedic genius." Again, the eye roll was impossible to miss; it didn't fail to arise a slight grin on her behalf, amongst the deepening flush on her face. "You might be shocked, but most my fellow Corps members aren't big Nabokov enthusiasts."
Her laugh was only accompanied by words that jumped out her mouth before her brain could properly recall them. "I'll buy you a proper copy if you want? For your birthday?" She added quickly. "You said it helped you not give into the 'overwhelming grasp of rage' right?" The grin ventured another appearance then as embarrassment flashed through Jack's own eyes. Melodrama never quite left you once superheroics became part of your life.
"You don't have to! I have done...really shitty things Lily. I get why Batman wasn't exactly overjoyed at you hanging out with me so much whilst in space."
"He just has a funny way of thanking people!" The young woman insisted quickly. "He appreciated the way you made sure I didn't get myself stuck on an asteroid and end up dead somewhere. I just think he...when he cares about someone he can be a bit neurotic, and I don't blame him. But I'm pretty sure he's warmed up to the thought of us being friends. He'd have pulled me aside for one of his Long Chats if not."
"Long Chats, huh?"
"You don't want to know." She mock shuddered then. "Jason's the usual recipient. Or Tim. But mostly Jason because he's got an allergy to rules and sound advice! Keep that in mind when you meet him."
"There's no 'ifs' with Jason." Lily couldn't help but roll her own eyes then. "Besides, I think he'd properly ask you if he could become a Red Lantern. At least for a test drive. He thinks space is cooler more than he openly admits."
"Guess we should start printing cards, huh?" He ventured in response, returning her grin with a smile of his own; albeit less overwhelmingly sunny. "Might keep me out of Atrocitus' way at least. And get me back in his good books for timing out to return your poems."
"Um...look." Lily was certain her face had gone as red as a fire hydrant about now, but the easiness of slipping back into playful bantering had caused inspiration; and a sudden need for honesty in the face of skirting about issues as childishly as she had been doing so. In the wake of Jack Moore's unnecessary kindness towards her existential hero crisis; in the wake of the potential of leading Taryn on in regards to their former relationship; in the wake of her own feelings. She didn't want to call it love yet. Not quite. It was. "As I'm taking away the poems until I can buy you a copy for yourself...we could meet up? If...that'd help you feel a bit less prone to getting pissed off because of the ring? I know last time you got wound up Bleez had to break your nose when you um...began losing control."
"I'd like that..." There were traces of uncertainty held in Rankorr's own voice though as he spoke, eyes drifting down towards his hand, where their fingers had gently skimmed as she'd taken back her dog-eared book (the love instilled from multiple reads hadn't been kind). "You don't have to though, Lily. If it eats into your spare time-"
"What if I have too much spare time?" She ventured, smile nervous; if not threaded with a myriad of (not misplaced, please not misplaced) hope, and open affection. "One of my best friends is studying in Central City. Another's away performing with her band. And my bestest friend is in Nigeria with her family. I can't just annoy Tim and Jason about pizza toppings, hassle Barb when she's working, or chaperone an alien around when he naps over 19 hours!"
"So...it's a date?"
Their hands met then. Properly. Fingers remained non interlaced, just the tight grip of Jack's hand around her own. He was warm, even through the confides of the suit; the flames of his hair seeming to heat him unfairly (then again, it likely helped further in the vacuum of space), but it helped Lily overcome the burning flush still simmering through her cheeks.
"Yes! Jonathan Moore of Earth, I'm asking you on a date. I'll even defend you from Bleez if needs be!"
"Well then, Lily Madill, also of Earth, I accept your invitation! How could I, with such a brave, and generous offer?"
It took Lily's brain a moment to catch up with her legs as she registered Jack pulling her towards the building's ledge. The lights of downtown Gotham smirked brightly at her, as the redness began to fade, overcome by slight confusion.
"Um Jack...what are you doing?"
She was only met with a grin - the same one that'd been frustratingly hard to conjure in the early days of their not-quite-friendship.
"You said you liked flying that one time, right?"
A/N: Lily Madill, her family, Hoff, and any non-canon characters/concepts belong to me. Everything else is thanks to DC (one day I hope to write for you...)!