Disclaimer: I own nothing, and have no desire to. Well, except Donald Trumps bank accounts. And his penthouse. And his yacht. But I'm yammering. Let's get to the story.
The sound of Batman's low voice broke through the warm, fuzzy haze that clouded her brain. Where had his voice come from? She was so comfortable….
"Hawkgirl!" the voice was urgent, now, and louder. She blinked rapidly and opened her eyes, looking around in a daze at the lab table she had been sitting at until she fell asleep. The contents of the test tube she'd been holding were lying in a pool of broken glass. "Hunh?"
Batman scowled, handing her a roll of paper towels. "Now will you listen to me and take a break?"
A characteristically stubborn look crossed her face. "Look. I'm not going. If you don't need to sleep, then I don't, either." She got up as if to prove her point, but stumbled, knocking over another set of liquid-filled test tubes. Batman ran over in the most undignified manner, catching them just in time. He fixed her with one of his famous glares.
"Go. And. Rest." Wills clashed as stormy green eyes met steady blue ones.
Finally, Batman smirked. Yes, an actual smile, sardonic as it was. She really is more like me than any of them. He tilted his head to the side. "What will it take for you to take a break?"
Shayera's eyes narrowed, as if she suspected a trick. "I won't rest unless you do. Also, we still have testing to do on some of the samples, and-"
Batman held up his hands. "Fine. I'll take a rest."
"We have so much to do and so much to see, and…wait. What?"
"I said, I'll take a break. With you." Batman pulled off his lab coat and goggles, tossing them on the tabletop, beckoning her to do the same. "Come." He left the lab.
Dumbfounded, Shayera could only do what he said.
With a swoosh of his cape, Batman led her through a long hallway covered in wood and red plush into an enormous foyer, with a cool, white marble floor that somehow seemed to reflect an illusion of calmness and sterility throughout the entire manor. Batman reached for a light switch, and soft yellow light filtered down from an overhead chandelier.
Seemingly out of nowhere, a thin, sprightly, elderly gentleman appeared from the shadows, his voice inflected with a definite, yet not overbearing, British accent. His sparse, salt-and-pepper hair was cut and arranged neatly, and he had a thin mustache. He wore a black suit that fit him impeccably.
"Hello, Alfred," Batman said. "This is Hawkgirl."
Alfred bowed slightly in her direction, taking in the young, wide-eyed woman without a change in expression. "The honor is mine, Madame." She looks exhausted. Bone-weary. And not just physically, for that matter…"I trust your journey here was not too taxing"
"Umm…" Hawkgirl didn't quite know what to say. "Nice to meet you, too. And you can call me Hawkgirl."
"Very well, Miss Hawkgirl."
Batman gave a barely noticeable smile, taking Hawkgirl's elbow and gently steering her forward. "Alfred, what time is it?"
"A quarter past three, Master Bruce."
So he is Bruce Wayne. Hawkgirl smiled at the final confirmation of what she'd known all along.
"I know it's a bit early, but we'll be turning in soon," Batman was saying.
"I will have your room prepared, sir."
He nodded. "Please have a room prepared for Hawkgirl as well. I'm going to see what we can find us to eat."
"As you wish, sir." He disappeared as suddenly as he had come.
Hawkgirl relaxed as soon as he left. "Butler?"
Batman harrumphed, a sound that may have or may have not been a laugh. His expression, as usual, hadn't changed. "He is." He and Hawkgirl walked down the hallway in the other direction, and Batman led her straight into a large, airy, immaculate kitchen.
"Alfred usually prepares the meals," Batman said, "but I figured you'd be more comfortable if you weren't waited on hand and foot." He opened an enormous stainless-steel utility refrigerator, instantly dropping the temperature in the immeadiate area. "Any requests?"
"Whatever you've got." Hawkgirl felt her stomach growl in response to the offer of food. She hadn't eaten since her meeting with Hippolyta the day before. Not really, anyway.
Batman nodded and began to reel off the contents of the fridge. "Caviar, leftover London broil, leftover Cobb salad with lemon dressing, flanked salmon…"
Hawkgirl walked over to the fridge. "I thought you were offering me food." She joined him and leaned inside the fridge. "Good God, Bats…do you eat what normal people do…ahha!"
Hawkgirl pulled a triangular foil-wrapped package from near the back of the fridge. "I'd know this shape anywhere." She pulled back the foil. "Pizza!" she celebrated. "Pepperoni, too, Thangar be praised. Oh, and is this…orange soda? You're really slumming, Batsy."
Batman's lip curled at the sight of the cold, congealed cheese and pepperoni. "That must be leftover from when the Titans were over last week." He watched in amazement as Hawkgirl placed both items of food down on the counter. "You're actually going to eat that?"
"Sure. Why not?" she laughed at his expression.
Batman shook his head and reached into the fridge, emerging with a bag that held bagels, lox, and cream cheese. He closed the fridge and turned around just in time to see Hawkgirl unwrapped the foil and pick up the pizza, taking a bite.
Hawkgirl lifted a can of soda to her lips and then to him in a mock toast. "It's pizza. Tastes great any way."
Batman stared for a minute, then shook his head and reached for her remaining slice. "Please. Allow me-" and he thrust it into the toaster oven.
Hawkgirl glared at him, but she wasn't really angry. "You know, you're lucky I'm so damned tired. I nearly bashed in Flash's head last week for touching my food." She rubbed her eyes; then looked at him and grinned. "What kind of a bachelor are you, anyway?"
To his horror, Batman nearly smiled. He didn't take her obvious bait. "I really couldn't stand the sight of that pizza cold; it nearly ruined my appitie. And you wouldn't, anyway. Dare to hit me, I mean."
"Oh, really?" Hawkgirl raised a delicate auburn eyebrow.
"Don't tempt me."
Their banter was interrupted when the toaster oven "dinged," signifying that the pizza was done. Hawkgirl took it out and took a big bite, sucking in a mouthful of air to cool it down. "Oh, that's hot…."
Batman shook his head and curbed his own hunger with half a bagel and a bottle of mineral water. When he brushed the last of the crumbs from the tabletop with his napkin, Hawkgirl was licking sauce off her fingers. He was actually startled into speaking. "Aren't you going to wash your hands?"
She laughed. "What, does my finger-licking bother you?" She glanced at him, inwardly grateful that he had brought her to the Manor. What I really needed to do was to get away, to not think about anything, to relax. Batman understood that need. She had seen it in his eyes.
Batman shook his head, again, the sudden movement interrupting her thoughts. "You're as bad as Robin."
"You keep him around, so I'll take that as a compliment." Shayera stretched and stifled a yawn. The warm food in her stomach was lulling her to sleep. Clearly amused, Batman stood and pushed out his chair from under the table. "Come on. It's time to sleep."
Hawkgirl stood and nodded, the fatigue of the past few days suddenly catching up to her in the wake of the mention of sleep. Leaving their mess on the table for Alfred to take care of, he led her through the hallway, up a beautiful wood-carved, marble-lined staircase, and to the second floor of the mansion, where intricately-carved wood doors lined a long, dark hallway.
Alfred suddenly appeared, and she jumped. Will I ever get used to him? The man floats on air, I swear. Batman, however, seemed unpeturbed. "Show Hawkgirl to her room, please, Alfred?"
The older man nodded, motioning Hawkgirl to his right. "This way, please."
Hawkgirl turned and called after Batman. "Look, Bats, I plan to only sleep for twenty minutes. That's it! Then we get back to work."
Hawkgirl turned back to Alfred, who was opening a set of walnut-stained double doors. "Please come in," he said, politely.
Hawkgirl followed him into the room, her feet instantly sinking into the confines of what looked to be an elegant Persian rung, which covered an impeccably polished wood floor. A tall, four-poster bed made out of wood that matched the floor stood at the far end of the room, and the snow-white covers on it were turned back. A bay window on the other side of the room let in light and fresh air through crisp white curtains; it had obviously been opened recently. A small, obviously hand-carved wooden nightstand sported a simple yet elegant crystal decanter, filled with ice water, and an upside-down tumbler lay on a cloth beside it. The room was very plain; besides the rug, the only decorations were a small pot of daises on the window seat, and a framed black-and-white portrait on the wall. It was of a small, skinny boy dressed in what looked like his Sunday best, a model airplane clutched in his right hand, a smile of triumph on his small, pointed face. Hawkgirl walked over and studied it while Alfred made himself busy arranging her pillows. The boy could have been anyone, but the flashing brown eyes and square, decided chin made his identity unmistakable. They perfectly matched the features she'd noticed earlier on the formal Bruce Wayne portrait in the foyer.
"Yes, Miss Hawkgirl?"
"Is that Batman?"
Alfred paused and looked at the portrait. "Yes, that was made of Master Bruce when he was…five, I believe?"
"He was...a cute kid," Hawkgirl said to the old butler, her eyes still glued on the photograph. "He looked happy."
"He was." Alfred volunteered no other information and for a moment, Hawkgirl was afraid she'd been too nosy. But when he turned to her, his expression was soft. He looked as if he wanted to say something- then, he hesitated. "Sleep well, Miss," was all he said, finally, before leaving the room.
Hawkgirl sighed. Would she ever understand her teammate and his strange ways? Probably not.
"Alfred!" she called out the door.
"Yes, Miss Hawkgirl?"
"Please wake me up in twenty minutes."
"Yes, Miss Hawkgirl."
Hawkgirl pulled off her shoes, listening as Alfred shut the door softly behind her, and then heard his near-silent tread down the stairs. She loosened her belt, dropped her mace beside the bed, and climbed in. But she still couldn't sleep. The Manor was too strange, too large.
A footstep in the hall made Hawkgirl spring to her feet and walk towards the door, opening it a crack. She saw the fluttering end of a black cape disappear down the hall, and instantly knew it was Batman. She held her breath. Was his bedroom downstairs? Or was he ditching her?
She watched him walk to a set of French doors at the end of the hall and push them open, revealing what was definitely a bedroom. The doors closed behind him, and Hawkgirl exhaled, relaxing. No, he wasn't going downstairs.
He'd be close by.
She climbed into the bed, tucked her wings round herself comfortably in the clean, sweet-smelling white sheets, placed her head on the large, soft pile of pillows, and promptly fell into a dreamless sleep.
"Why does this remind me of those Mexican standoffs I used to see on Rawhide?" Vandal said, dryly.
Neither the Green Lantern nor Wonder Woman made a move. They merely stood there, glaring at him, breathing hard, their hatred visible in their eyes. When they didn't respond, Vandal began to speak again. "You made a brave escape attempt. How did you find her, Mr. Stewart?"
He didn't answer. A muscle jerked in his cheek, and his eyes began to glow an unearthly green.
"Never mind," Vandal said when it was clear that he wasn't getting an answer. "Go back inside. Diana, I'll be along directly to re-connect your supplements, my dear."
John glanced over and saw her shudder at his tone, and an unspeakable fury filled him. He stepped forward so quickly that Vandal had no time to act and slammed his fist directly into the man's head. He watched in grim satisfaction as the man crumpled, then stumbled to his feet, blood spurting from his mouth and nose. "You're immortal, but not unbreakable, I see," John spat, his words emphasizing the loathing he felt.
He felt another measure of grim satisfaction as he saw a flash of pain in the other man's eyes, quickly hidden, of course, but still visible. "Fool," Vandal hissed, still holding his nose, angered. "I see you want to do this the hard way." He snapped his fingers, and a group of androids (what else?) appeared, from a garage-like enclosure attatched to the side of the building. Hundreds of them, this time. A small army…
John glanced over at his teammate. "We're gonna have one hell of a fight, Di," he whispered.
She nodded. Her eyes were bright and her fists were clenched, despite her thinning figure and the dirty, torn hospital gown she wore, still stained with her fellow Leaguer's blood. "Let's do it."
They both mutually knew that they were either winning this battle…or fighting to the death…
The droids began to advance. "Don't kill the woman!" Vandal ordered. Apparently Diana was still of some value to him.
John picked his position carefully, trying out beams in various shapes and sizes before he got the hang of using his ring again. Probably due to the "bootleg" charger, the ring's beams and force fields were much weaker than they had been before, and he found that he had to use much more ingenuity and brainpower than he ever had before.
This was the true test of his abilities as a Green Lantern. All his training...if he failed now…
He couldn't fail. He wouldn't.
He moved cautiously through the midst of them, aiming beams right and left, clearing a path for himself. Diana was using more brute force, smashing her way through the throng with the arm torn from another, leaving small piles of mangled metal wherever she went. But it was clear she wasn't at full strength, despite the adrenaline. She moved slower than usual- and her punches seemed to have less effect.
She's tired, John realized, taking to the air. Coming from above, he managed to clear a few that were closing in on her. Although they were both tired and sick, they moved like a well-oiled machine. Vandal, on the other side of his compound, was clearly shocked. He hadn't expected that they had found the GL's ring and Diana's lasso, that was for sure. The man looked almost terrified, but John was too busy to be satisfied. I'll deal with him later, he thought, grimly, attacking with military precision. Androids fell left and right, but he barely glanced at them as they fell. It's not like he can leave, not with a battle like this going on…
A grunt from Diana caught his attention, and he whirled around. She had been lifted up, in the grip of a particularly large droid, and he was obviously about to blast her…with a flash of green, she was free, and the Green Lantern had dashed over to her. "Cover me!" he yelled, and made the biggest thing he'd attempted to make so far- a large force field. "Di! Watch out!" he grabbed her and pulled her close to his side. "I'm gonna try something…"
Diana nodded, understanding instantly that he was going to attempt to compress them all together, in hopes that they would fuse and…explode. ""I'm going to cover us, too." A shield went up above them.
"Hera, give him strength…" Diana was whispering a prayer, from the shelter of his arm. Vandal was watching the proceedings with wide eyes. He clearly had underestimated the powers of these teammates.
John grunted, concentrating with all his might on squeezing the entire group of androids together, in that single, large lot. He closed his eyes, as his head began to pound incessantly. It wasn't until Diana reached up and wiped his face that he realized that sweat was pouring down his body. He gritted his teeth.
The droids began to look less like an army and more like a mass of congealed metal, dotted with hundreds of flashing eyes…
He could see Vandal, sneering in disbelief but looking less and less sure of himself as the minutes ticked by, and it grew clear that the end was near for his…army. John groaned, and
Wonder Woman began praying to Hera once more, this time in Greek.
The soft, accented words seemed to give him strength, to his surprise, and he opened his eyes, just a little. Sweat was dripping down his lids, stinging his eyes. He blinked the moisture away and dared to look at the force field. It was still working, and the droids were now squeezed together.
Just…a…little…more…come on, John…one more harsh, violent squeeze was needed to destroy the androids…could he do it? He groaned again, louder this time. Can a person's brain explode from stress? was his last feasible thought before he forced himself to expel one final, violent burst of power.
The explosion that followed nearly shattered his skull.
The Green Lantern fell to his knees, taking in several images- his force field disintegrating around a pile of smoking metal, Vandal's wide, disbelieving eyes- Diana leaving his side and streaking for Vandal, straight over the pile of twisted droids…his head was throbbing, unlike any pain he ever had experienced in the Marines, or as a superhero…overcome, he turned over and vomited weakly into the dirt. He closed his eyes. Maybe the incessant throbbing would end if he didn't move…
Blessedly, he felt a breeze waft over his body, cooling the sweat that covered it, and his aching head abated somewhat. He opened his eyes. No more androids had appeared. "Di?" he called, weakly, wiping his mouth. He sat up. Dirt clung to his face and hair, and he managed to sit up-barely. Rubbing his eyes, he glanced around at the lot, at the smoking remains of Vandal's "army," at the heat from the metal filling the air…where was Vandal, anyway?
John sat bold upright, his headache forgotten as the outraged scream assaulted his senses. He rolled over onto his side, then took to the air, flying fast.
What he saw on the ground below nearly made him lose his concentration, and he found himself plummeting towards the earth, stopping just in time.
Vandal was crouched in a corner of the lot, his eyes as wide and as terrified as John had ever seen them. Diana was standing over him, one hand holding him down firmly by the throat, the other assaulting him with a barrage of slaps, punches, and vicious kicks that left the man bleeding, bones cracking with every hit, the sickening sound echoing throughout the lot. His face was turning deathly pale from lack of oxygen, and his slender fingers were clawing at her iron fist, with little effect. Her eyes were wild and unfocused, and tears were pouring down her face, though she didn't seem to notice the wetness. Her comments came out in sobs that shook her slender body so completely that it was an amazement to John that her punches and kicks were landing at all. "You…you bastard!"
Words poured from her lips along with the broken sobs, some curses in English that John could understand, some in Greek, so haunting and so vile-sounding that the hair on the back of his neck stood up. He would never forget the pain in her voice at that moment, or the anger that made it shake with passion. "I'm going to kill you today…"
"Diana, stop!" his own weakened state forgotten, the Green Lantern ran forward and leaped on her, attempting to drag her off Vandal. His efforts were rewarded with a punishing slap that sent him flying halfway across the lot. He managed to catch himself in time and raced back over to her, this time protecting himself with his ring. "Di!" this time, he managed to pry her fingers off of Vandal's neck. He gasped for air, blood trickling from the side of his mouth.
Diana struggled with again, but he managed to use a beam to hold her tightly to him, and he leaned forward, whispering into her ear. "Have you lost you mind, Diana? Look at him!"
Vandal couldn't even sit up, he was so badly injured. He leaned forward, holding his ribs, moaning.
"He deserves worse," hissed Diana, her eyes still flashing, maddenly. "I can't kill him, but he will suffer. So much that he will want death, will beg for it…"
"I know," John said softly, regarding the prostrate man on the floor. "But…that's not us, Diana."
Diana pushed him away with all her strength. "Do you mean to say," she said, her chest heaving, tears still coursing down her drawn, tired face, "that we should just leave him?"
"There's not much more damage you can do," John remarked. He reached out to touch her, but she jerked, back, folding into herself. Her sobs hadn't abated any. Vandal regarded them from nearly-shut eyes, barely able to form words from between his split, broken lips. "Please," he managed to mouth.
Although he could say no more, they both knew what he was begging for.
Wonder Woman's mouth curled into a sneer, and she would have pounced had John not held her fast. "Diana. Stop!" he inflected his harsh military tone into his words, and to his surprise, she did freeze.
Then she crumpled to the ground, weeping as if her heart would break.
Alarmed, the Green Lantern knelt next to her, putting his arms around her. She didn't shrug them off- instead, she pulled him closer to her, still sobbing. John had never seen her with such a lack of control- never, ever. Not even when she'd been at her most upset during their captivity.
Worried that she'd make herself sick, her pulled her half into his lap, pushing her dark hair back from her face. He pried her hands from her face was well, leaving her crying, openly. "Di?" he asked, tentatively, wiping some moisture off her cheek.
She only sobbed harder.
"Diana." Would she cry herself sick? "Please…talk to me…" he turned away from Vandal's battered body. "What…?"
"The first day."
Diana looked up at him, her blue eyes swimming in a sea of liquid. "What he did to me. The first day. Before you were…conscious. He…woke me. He performed a…detailed examination, to see if I could have children or…"
John closed his eyes momentarily, understanding her meaning. "Good God."
Diana choked back a sob so that she could speak, ignoring his statement. She grabbed his shoulders, so she could look into his eyes. "He…shackled me to a table. Laid me flat. He said I would die from paralysis if I didn't cooperate…die, powerless, like any other woman…"
John tried to interrupt. "What did-" but Diana continued as if he hadn't said a word. "He…took my clothing, forced my legs apart, performed the examination…" she took min a painful breath, and her tears increased. "He used this…steel tool. And his hands were so, so cold…and he kept telling me what he would…do with me, once you were awake and he had his way…I wanted to resist him, but if I did, I would die that way. Shackled down, defiled, powerless. A shameful death."
John shuddered, glancing over at the man, laying prostate on the floor, in a pool of his own blood. He turned back to Diana, seizing her chin in his hands, looking deep into her eyes, into her face, searching for something he prayed he wouldn't find.
"I wanted to die," she whispered. "I prayed to."
"Di," he said, sternly, the slight huskiness in his voice the only betrayal of the emotion he was feeling, "he didn't…." he paused. "I mean, did he…do anything else? Did he try to…"
It seemed like an age before Diana answered.
"No," she said and her voice was small, tired, weak. "But he threatened to. And he might as well have." She remembered the terror, the anger, the cold, brutal, impersonal invasion of her most private self, the utter feeling of helplessness…
That's what had gotten to her the most. Feeling as if her powers were useless…they had abandoned her when she most needed them…and where were the gods? It seemed that they had abandoned her, too. She was an Amazon warrior. No defilement, no injury was greater to her than the feeling of helplessness…and Vandal had managed to render just that.
John drew in his breath. "I'm…sorry," he whispered, and drew her close to him, offering what comfort he could, stroking her hair, wiping away her fast-falling tears, as if she was a child...except all innocence was gone from her, now. Forever.
What else could he do?
They sat in this position, Diana in his lap, his arms around her, for over an hour, surrounded by the carnage they had caused, the silence broken only by Vandals groans- and the sounds of a woman weeping.
More soon. Review please!