Summary: The remaining members of the Justice League deal with the aftermath of "Starcrossed," together and separately. Follow-up to "Kindred Spirits," ""Darkness and Knight," "Final Obligation," "Court Etiquette," and "Conversations In A Diner."

Disclaimer: All of these characters remain the property of their owners/creators.

Rating: PG-13, for themes

Time Frame: Just after the events of "Starcrossed" (spoilers!), with canon events being altered to allow for the events of my four short stories noted in the Summary.

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me ( to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.

Author's Note: This story refers to certain events that occurred during episodes of the recent Superman and Batman animated series--most notably "World's Finest, "Brave New Metropolis," "Legacy" and "Knight Time."


"Damn." For once, Lois Lane didn't have much to say. She reached out and squeezed Superman's arm as she swallowed hard and added, "I knew she had to be involved in some way after the Thanagarians admitted she was a spy, but I'd never have imagined she'd betray you like that. . .even if she did come through in the end." Superman nodded, and Lois frowned and asked, "So what happened? What will the League do?"

"We had a discussion about whether to kick her out of the League or not, and had a vote—when we called her in to tell her the result, she resigned before we could tell her what happened. She said goodbye and left—I don't know where she is." Lois shivered at the sound of Superman's voice: she was used to it projecting power, whether he was pleased or furious—at that moment, he sounded beaten.

"Well, that's not surprising, I guess—deep down, she's a very honorable person, or she wouldn't have stuck to her mission –or- betrayed her people. A bit ironic that the quality that made her perfect for their mission caused her to turn on them in the end." Superman nodded again absently, and Lois decided to try to shake him out of it: "How did the vote go?"

Superman shrugged. "Does it matter? She made it moot when she quit, and we all decided that the authorities didn't need to know she'd turned on us—we'd all be dead if she hadn't come through in the end. John abstained, and the rest of us voted our consciences. I can live with that."

Lois frowned and asked, "Will you at least tell me how –you- voted? I'd like to know what you're thinking."

Superman stood up and walked to the balcony of Lois' apartment, looking out over Metropolis—which was having a spontaneous celebration bigger than any since he had "returned from the dead." She moved next to him, and they watched the fireworks in silence. After a few minutes, he sighed and responded, "I almost abstained, too—I was so furious at her when I was in that cell. If I could have gotten my hands around her neck—"

"No, you wouldn't have." Lois wasn't having any of that. "You've been pushed farther than that—"

"And I've been ready to kill—even eager to on a few occasions. You've seen my dark side, Lois—don't kid yourself about it. I depend on you to be a check against it." Lois looked away, but did not otherwise respond to the rebuke. Superman shook his head in annoyance and whispered, "I'm sorry—I didn't mean to jump on you like that."

"Don't—it's nothing." Lois wasn't about to let him deflect this into a discussion of questionable boyfriend etiquette. "You were angry at her—everyone was. You were considering abstaining, which means you obviously had second thoughts about her."

Superman nodded. "I've been in situations where I needed forgiving, too. I've given the people of this world cause to distrust me, and had to work very hard to earn it back. I have no doubt that Hawkgirl loves this world, perhaps as much as she loves her own world. She gave up so much in the name of honor when she could have walked away to accolades and the comforts of home. I can't help but respect that. Balancing that against what she did was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do."

Lois smiled sadly, and it was with some ambivalence that she decided to set a trap that she had been waiting to spring for several months. She squeezed his arm again and whispered, "She's your friend. You've fought at her side for years—"

Superman looked down sadly and whispered, "Yes."

"She's saved the lives of you and your friends more than once."


Lois grinned wickedly while looking away from Superman as she added in an absent tone, "She granted you her first interview on Earth when she came here five years ago. . ."

Superman smiled absently and replied, "Yes, that was some of my best work—" He stopped in mid-sentence, then turned to see Lois watching him with not the triumphant expression he would have expected from her at this moment, but with a wistful look that made him shiver slightly. That caused him to react with irritation rather than anger, and he muttered, "She was right about you—you –do- have a mean streak."

"Would you rather I had waited a few months, then gone on the kind of tirade you –really- deserved for making a fool out of me all of these years, -Clark-?" Lois raised an eyebrow at her partner and boyfriend, and saw him blush in the dim light from the apartment. She nodded and added, "Or are you going to accept that I know and be grateful that I can actually understand what this means to you—all of you?"

Superman watched her for a moment, then leaned forward and kissed her gently on the lips. Lois shivered, and Superman leaned back and commented, "I always knew there was a reason I went for the smart girls."

"Damned right." Lois looked back at him, and felt a moment of warmth at his obvious acceptance of the shock she had just given him. Superman smiled back at her, and Lois frowned and asked, "Hey—I still don't know how you voted."

Superman raised an eyebrow. "I'll trade you—for how you figured out my secret."

Lois smirked, and shook her head sadly as she commented, "Smallville—guest lists at a funeral can let loose a lot of secrets. Which reminds me—care to explain why you invited Lex Luthor?"



"Hey, kids!"

The children froze in mid-step, then turned to the doorway. A familiar figure in scarlet and gold stood there, grinning at them. The orphans rushed him in a mass, ignoring the calls of the teacher: "Children—don't knock him down! He's been very busy helping to protect us against the invaders!"

"I'm OK, Miss Stevens." The Flash smiled at the teacher—who had the good grace to blush at the mildly suggestive nature of the look he directed at her—and asked, "I was hoping for some quality visiting time with the gang here—am I interrupting a class?"

"Lessons are over for the day—this is play time. I'm sure the children would love to spend the time with you, Mr. Flash." The children started jumping up and down and cheering loudly, and Miss Stevens smiled and added, "Apparently, I was correct." She stood up and walked past him, winking once before concluding, "Give me a call if you need any help," and leaving the room.

The Flash gave Miss Stevens a good long look before turning to the children and calling out, "Sorry I've been gone so long, guys—things have been busy. So—who wants to see some new tricks?"

Wally always spent some time figuring out new ways to show off for the children before he came on one of these visits. This time, he had brought fifty-two decks of cards in a small bag, and shown the children that they were complete decks before moving his hands in a blur and a loud sound of cards shuffling at impossibly fast speed. When he finished a fraction of a second later, all fifty-two decks were sitting neatly stacked, face up—and with the top card of each deck being different. He reached out and fanned several of them on the carpet—showing that they had been sorted so that each deck was now composed of fifty-two of the same card. The children stared and started calling out, "Cool! Wow! That was really fast!" The Flash grinned at the response, but noticed that one of the children was looking somber. He got up and walked over to the young girl, asking "Allison, what's wrong? You've always liked my tricks before."

Allison looked up at him, and she smiled apologetically at him before replying, "It was a good trick, Mr. Flash—but I was wondering if you were going to talk about. . .you know, the aliens you helped to make go away. Everyone was upset about it, and I knew you'd know what to tell us."

As one, the other children turned to Wally and started talking all at once: "Were they scary? Did they have big guns and swords? Were they going to kill us all?"

The children watched as The Flash straightened, walked over to a chair nearby, and sat down. The children—sensing that Something Important was about to be said—followed him and sat around his chair in a semi-circle without being asked. They watched their hero visibly squirm for a moment, before he sighed and looked down at them with an expression they did not recognize. The Flash shook his head, sighed again, and replied, "It was tough. The aliens—they were doing something that wasn't good for us, because they were trying to stop something bad from happening to them and didn't care who they had to hurt to stop it. We figured it out and managed to stop what they were doing—and they left because they needed to do what they had to do somewhere else since we had stopped them here."

The children looked at each other, then back at The Flash. Allison piped up, "That makes sense—they were doing something really bad, but they weren't –all- bad, because they didn't keep hurting us when they didn't have a reason to."

The Flash brightened. –Smart kid.-- He nodded and said, "That's right, Allison. They left, and everything's OK again." He knew as he said it that his tone was utterly unconvincing, and was relieved when none of the children seemed inclined to press him on the matter. Allison raised her hand, and The Flash nodded at her and asked, "Yes, Allison—was there another question you had?"

"What about Hawkgirl, Mr. Flash? Did she go home with the other aliens? Was she helping them do the bad things?" Allison's eyes were bright and attentive, and they widened as she saw the hero turn pale suddenly. She blinked, and tears came to her eyes as she cried, "I'm sorry, Mr. Flash—I didn't mean to ask a bad question!"

Allison blinked again, and as her vision cleared she felt herself being firmly hugged. She looked up and saw The Flash was hugging her and watching her with a sad expression. She waited, and after a moment the hero shook his head and said, "You didn't ask a bad question, Allison. . .it's just sad, that's all." He stood up and sat back in the chair, and the children waited in transfixed silence until he looked back at them and continued, "Hawkgirl was sent here on a mission that she thought was to help her people, and that wouldn't hurt this world—she thought it might end up bugging us a bit, like not having TV for a few days, but nothing really bad—and that she would leave afterwards and go home. Problem was, she came to really care about this world and the people there. She decided to be a hero for her new friends, and she saved lives and took care of people for five years—made this place her new home. But then her people came here, and she felt she had a duty to them. So she did what she thought was right, knowing that it would cost her the new friends she had. Problem was, her people lied to her—and she had to decide whether to go along with the people and the world she had known all her life, or the new home she had made. She chose us, kids—and her people left her here alone to live with that choice."

The children stared at him for a moment before a little boy asked, "Is she OK? Is she with the rest of the Justice League?"

The Flash looked at the boy, and took a shaky breath before replying, "No—she decided to leave the Justice League, Bobby. She told us that it would be wrong to make us have to choose between the way we felt about her and what our own sense of duty told us to do, and that she had to leave. She left, and I hope she's OK. She's a good person who's had to make some tough choices—and I'd really appreciate it if you'd all remember her in your prayers." The children nodded emphatically, and The Flash smiled and brightened as he called out, "OK—enough serious stuff: who wants to see some more tricks?"

The Flash entertained the children for another hour until Miss Stevens came back and announced that it was naptime. The children grumbled in disappointment, but filed out obediently. Miss Stevens walked over to The Flash and whispered, "I'm off work in half an hour—would you like to buy me a cup of coffee across the street?"

Wally made a point of giving Miss Stevens a seductive grin before replying, "Can I take a rain check on that? You were right before—the last few days have been rough."

Miss Stevens smiled with an understanding look and said goodnight to him, and Wally quietly left the orphanage and found a private place to change into his street clothes before walking the six blocks to his apartment, entering, and walking to his bed—where he sat down and buried his face in his hands, his shoulders shaking.

Superheroes don't cry—at least not when they're being watched.


"Mr. Wayne! It's good to see you again—here is the key to the suite, and if there's anything you need, please let me know." The hotel manager knew better than to ask to take Bruce's luggage—he had made it all too clear on prior occasions that he didn't like other people handling his personal possessions.

"Thank you, Mr. Johnson." Bruce replied mechanically, hefting his two suitcases with minimal effort and walking to the elevator. He was feeling a lot more physically fit than he had a right to be at that moment—his costume had protected him against the worst of the heat from the re-entry, as had the gel he had slathered over his exposed skin to allow him to last as long as possible before losing consciousness from the pain. –If I was Lex Luthor, I already would have patented that stuff instead of anonymously slipping a sample of it to an under-funded lab in Denver for them to develop for the betterment of mankind. I may regret that when I'm trying to come up with the money to replace the Watchtower—

He shrugged away the thought: he was here to recuperate for a few days, away from all of the complications that were part and parcel of his life—particularly the scorched costume he had left behind in the Batcave. He sighed and waited for the elevator to take him to the penthouse suite. After a minute or so, the door chimed, and the doors opened—to reveal an implausibly tall woman with long blonde hair and blue eyes, who smiled at him and spoke in a sultry tone, "Welcome to Bermuda, Mr. Wayne."

Bruce scowled and began, "What the hell--?"

The woman grinned and replied, "Don't you recognize me, Bruce?"

Bruce stepped forward and swept the blonde wig off the woman's head, revealing raven-black hair in a bun. The woman reached back smoothly and released her hair, allowing it to flow as the wig had. Bruce ignored the flirtatious gesture and muttered, "Of course I recognize you—you're not exactly hard to spot, Diana. The question is—why are you here? I gave Alfred strict orders--"

"Yes—which went out the window as soon as he realized you'd left your Batman costume and utility belt back in what's left of the BatCave," replied Diana, as she deftly took Bruce's luggage away from him and carried it into the master bedroom of the suite. Bruce—who was looking rather sullen—waited for her to come back, not moving from his position just outside the now-closed elevator door. Diana walked over to him and led him to a sinfully overstuffed easy chair before sitting across from him and continuing with a note of steel in her voice that immediately commanded Bruce's complete attention: "Bruce—when you vanish without a trace and leave any trace of your alter ego behind, don't expect us not to notice, and don't expect Alfred not to react with concern and call in some help. The man loves you like a son, Bruce—and he knows damned well you just came within an eyelash of suicide in the name of duty."

Bruce felt a pang of guilt, but was distracted from it by the visible fury that had appeared on Diana's face. He exercised considerable force of will to avoid swallowing in nervousness, and locked eyes with her as he commented, "I take it that you have some issues with that decision as well?"

Diana's right shoulder twitched, and Bruce tensed for a moment before he realized that she knew damned well that a full-force slap would remove his head from his shoulders. The Amazon princess took a deep breath, and replied in a dangerous tone, "You could have told J'onn or Wally what you were planning—J'onn could have worn an environment suit and bailed out by desolidifying at the last moment, or you could have told Clark what you were planning all along so he could have gotten you out a minute early instead of two seconds early. . .AAAARGGHHH! I wish you had superpowers so I could beat you senseless for being such a pig-headed idiot!"

Bruce looked at Diana—who still looked quite ready to remove his head from his shoulders—and raised an eyebrow as he retorted, "As if you wouldn't sacrifice your life to save the world if you thought it was the only way to guarantee it. You're acting as if it's a personal affront to you—it's not as if I wasn't happy that Clark pulled me out of the fire at the last second."

Diana glared at Bruce, then whispered, "You're going to make me say it, aren't you?"

Bruce smirked, then sobered and said with complete sincerity: "Not if you don't want to, Diana. I'm willing to go back to working together just as we've always have, if that's what you really want. I'm glad to still be alive—but I'm not going to apologize for doing what I thought was best to try to save the world."

Diana stood up and stepped next to Bruce's chair. Bruce stood automatically and faced her, and they stared at each other for a long moment before Diana muttered, "Talking is overrated," and threw her arms around him as she kissed him with an intensity that managed to surprise him.

Much later, as Bruce poured champagne from the bottle that had been thoughtfully placed in an ice bucket by the bed compliments of the management, Diana sighed and commented, "Why didn't we do this a long time ago?"

Bruce raised an eyebrow as he handed Diana her glass and replied, "If I'm not mistaken, we had a few cultural barriers to deal with—and the potential of dealing with a rather angry maternal figure."

Diana shrugged, and the gesture revealed a tantalizing glimpse of flesh as the sheet slipped slightly. Bruce watched her eyes—safer if he was going to continue a rational conversation—and listened as Diana smirked and said, "She doesn't get to run my life any more—and it's not like I'm bringing you home to produce heirs to the throne of Themyscira."

Bruce flinched slightly—he realized that in the heat of the moment, they had neglected a rather important detail. He looked at Diana and hesitated slightly before asking, "Diana—I should have asked this before, but are you. . .safe?"

Diana frowned at the question for a moment before her eyes widened in comprehension. "Amazons are all placed under a spell at maturity to prevent conception except when they voluntarily choose to be with child—it's a holdover from warlike times when we ran the risk of being captured in battle and used as breeding stock by the enemy."

Bruce nodded, and relaxed for a moment before he tensed again and asked, "You didn't –want- to be pregnant, right?"

Diana's eyes twinkled with amusement. –Men: even the good ones are so predictable-- She shook her head and whispered, "Talk to me in a few years about that—assuming we're still together, and you haven't abandoned me for that criminal you used to hang out with, or Lois."

Bruce winced, then smiled wickedly and commented, "I think Lois will be rather preoccupied for the conceivable future—she came to see me two weeks before the Thanagarians came to Earth and told me she had figured out Superman's secret identity—and yelled at me for dropping subtle clues about it that she had missed until after she had solved it on her own. Clark's in for a nasty shock in the near future."

"Good for her—and for him. Clark's going to need someone to talk to about all this—" Diana hesitated, and shook her head sadly before whispering, "It's appropriate that we're here together, at this time, isn't it? After all—we're the bad guys: we're the ones who didn't want her to come back."

"We did and said what we thought was right, Diana—the others struggled with their decisions, too. J'onn and Clark have had their moments when they strayed, too—they were bound to want to give her another chance. The Flash was probably her closest friend on the team other than John." Bruce hesitated, and added, "And I understand why John decided to act as he did." He looked out the window—which showed a panoramic view of the ocean glowing in the moonlight and starlight—and concluded, "She'll be all right. She'll find some way to be helpful to the people around her, time will pass. . .and perhaps she will decide she wants to come back to us. Deep down, she's a hero—she won't want to stay out of the struggle for long, no matter how battered she feels right now."

Diana watched him as he stared out into the night and whispered, "Do you ever want to walk away from it? Live the life of the vacuous playboy you wear as a mask, or something in between—as you were the night you asked me to dance for the first time?"

Bruce sighed. "Sometimes—usually at moments like this." He reached out and squeezed Diana's hand, then turned to her and said quietly, "But it never lasts for long. My sanity after my parents' death had a price—and the mask I left back in the BatCave is the symbol of that price. To keep from being a monster, I take on the semblance of one, and fight other monsters. The other day on the Watchtower. . .that was just another part of that debt. I can't let it go—no matter what it costs me." Diana's eyes moistened slightly, and Bruce nodded at the reaction and concluded simply, "You have to know that going into whatever we have together, Diana—I don't want you to think you can change me for my own good—"

Diana silenced him with a kiss, then whispered, "I know who you are, and I accept it." She sighed and added, "I just wish I could make you feel some real hope for the future."

Bruce smiled at her, then reached out and pulled away the sheet covering her, revealing a glorious sight that blanked out conscious thought for a moment. When he recovered—and registered that she was smiling back at him—he whispered, "This helps a bit in that department" and drew her to him, and after that only low moans and the whisper of skin on skin and silk broke the silence in the moonlit room.


The dark-haired woman sighed and entered her hotel room. It was small and ill furnished, but it would serve her needs. She carried her bags in and closed the door behind her, locking it securely. She walked to the window and drew the heavy curtains, and looked to be sure she was not casting a shadow on them before she pulled off the heavy trenchcoat she was wearing, uncovering the wings tightly folded on her back. The dark wig came off next—releasing her long red hair—and the dark sunglasses were removed last of all, revealing her huge green eyes. She looked at the elements of her discarded disguise with distaste, then sighed again and pulled the laptop computer out of her bag. She had established over a dozen alternate identities she could use in time of emergency—using superior Thanagarian technology to make them virtually untraceable except by careful questioning of the people who had allegedly been her co-workers or schoolmates. She had money, and she had time on her hands—she would just have to decide what to do next.

The phone rang, and Shayera frowned at it for a moment before picking up the receiver: "Yes?"

"Miss Davidson? I was hoping I could have a word with you about a matter of some importance—do you have a few moments to speak?" Shayera blinked as she recognized the name as the cover identity she had assumed for that place—Honolulu—and the voice sounded vaguely familiar, somehow. She frowned again and replied, "I think that can be arranged: what would be a good time?"

"Now would be good for me." The voice came from just inside the hallway door, and Shayera involuntarily jumped to her feet as she saw J'onn finish ghosting through the door and closing the cell phone in his hand.

Shayera glanced over at her larger suitcase—which contained her energy mace—and glared at her old teammate as she snapped, "You know—this is the point where I'd usually be threatening to kick someone's ass, but we both know that I can't kick yours, so how about telling me how you found me and why you're here? And it had better be good."

J'onn floated over to her and sat on one of the beds as he resolidified. He quirked a smile at her and replied, "When I was forced to break through the mental barriers of that Thanagarian officer to learn how to pilot the scout ship, I gained the sense of what Thanagarian minds 'feel' like. I was able to focus my telepathic scan to only seek out Thanagarian minds and ignore all others—you're the only Thanagarian left on Earth, which made my task simple."

Shayera paled and muttered, "Thanks—I really needed that reminder, J'onn." J'onn managed to look apologetic, and Shayera shook her head in irritation and said, "All right, I get the how—but why are you here, J'onn? I thought we'd all said everything we needed to say at Bruce's house."

"We didn't really say much of anything, did we?" replied J'onn, looking into Shayera's eyes with an intensity that made her shiver, though she knew without words that the Martian would not intrude into her thoughts without permission. J'onn shook his head and continued, "We spent more than two years together—we were a family—"

"And I betrayed that family, J'onn. You treated me more gently than my own people would have for such treason." Shayera saw the sadness in J'onn's eyes and felt a pang of guilt—J'onn had needed that sense of family more than any of them, and she had helped to disrupt it. She shook her head and concluded, "Go back to the others, J'onn. The League will rebuild—Bruce will come up with the money for another Watchtower somehow, and other heroes will want to join the League: we know they're out there, and this crisis will give you all the publicity you need to recruit the best among them. In six months, you'll. . .you'll never remember I was there."

Shayera looked down—her jaw was set and her eyes were closed. She heard a whisper of movement, and then J'onn's voice in her ear: "Do you really think you are but a part to be replaced in a machine? When we thought we were saying good-bye to Superman—did you think we would forget him and move on as if he had never been one of us?"

Shayera swallowed, then turned and looked up at the compassionate face of the Martian as she replied, "Of course not—but that's different, J'onn! He didn't betray—"

"No, he did not. Your actions were discussed in detail, Shayera—good and bad. We considered your reasons for your actions, the repercussions that did happen and which almost happened as direct and indirect results of your actions." J'onn watched the complex flow of emotions on the Thanagarian's face and continued, "We also considered your many instances of conspicuous heroism during the time you served with the League before your people arrived."

"Diana seemed ready to forget all that when she saw me trapped in that cell—for a second I thought she was going to leave me there to die." Shayera's tone was rueful, and J'onn nodded reflexively as Shayera looked back at him with a darkly amused expression and added, "I'm assuming that she wasn't one of my big boosters in the meeting."

"No," admitted J'onn. "She was angry, and believed that you should have to prove yourself before being re-admitted to the League. She mentioned something about some tests that somebody named Heracles had to go through—I really need to brush up on my human history."

Shayera winced—she had extensively researched human mythology in the course of her mission, and knew precisely what Diana was talking about. "Let's just say she isn't going to let me off lightly, J'onn. Let me see. . .Bruce voted against me too, right?"

J'onn nodded—impressed as always by her deductive skills. "He believes that you would benefit from the time alone, and that time would have told whether you and the League would be a good fit in the future."

Shayera raised an eyebrow. "I'd have thought he'd be more angry—I did get his house trashed by leading my people there. I never suspected—"

"Obviously—which he took into account. You knew where we were—you could have betrayed us and never showed your face, or given us faulty information. The fact that your own people didn't trust you indicated strongly that you were sincere in coming to us." J'onn frowned as he reconstructed Batman's reasoning, and added, "His comments resolved any doubts I might have had about wanting you back, Shayera—and The Flash was of the same mind."

"I'm not surprised about either of you, J'onn." Shayera remembered the warm hug that The Flash had given her, and resolved to send him a message to let him know she was all right. Her thoughts drifted to the ones who had not been named yet, and she paled slightly as she whispered, "And the others?"

"Clark wavered, but decided in favor of having you come back—he felt ultimately that it might be destructive for you to be alone as you dealt with this, and that we could protect you in case the world reacted negatively to your continued presence." Shayera nodded—that same thought had occurred to her. She felt a chill as J'onn hesitated, then added, "John abstained from the vote—he believed that the integrity of his vote would be tainted by the feelings he had about you—"

"You mean he couldn't decide whether he hates me or loves me more," replied Shayera, her voice bitter.

"No." J'onn shook his head. "He was torn by the very choice you hoped to spare us by resigning. John is a soldier—as you are: his instincts tell him that those who have betrayed him cannot be trusted. But he knows you—possibly better than he knows anyone else, in spite of the secrets you kept from him. It was what he perceived as your betrayal of the virtues you embody that caused the depths of his anger, and it was that same appreciation of what you are that allowed him to forgive you. Thus, his sense of duty conflicted with his 'gut', and he felt compelled to abstain." Shayera nodded numbly, and J'onn took her hand gently as he concluded, "And I don't need to read his mind to know that he still loves you very much."

"I know," Shayera whispered, "but I can't let it matter. I have things to do, and he can't be with me for them—the pain runs too deep." She bowed her head, then looked up at her friend and said gratefully, "Thank you for coming to see me, J'onn—at least I know where I would have stood with the League." J'onn smiled at her and nodded, and she asked, "What are your plans now?"

"I'm on an extended assignment—I'm to begin the process of contacting potential new League members for the purpose of evaluating their abilities and characters, and to decide whether to extend them a formal invitation to join." J'onn replied quietly, watching as Shayera nodded numbly in response and turned away from him slightly. He smiled softly, then added, "and I'll be keeping an eye on some familiar faces, to make sure that family members who might have strayed from the flock are well, and can continue to work towards reuniting with the ones who love them."

Shayera felt a burst of warmth for the Martian, and was about to hug him when she registered his wording and laughed out loud. "Faces? Are you planning in bringing Lobo back into the fold too, J'onn?"

J'onn tensed, and his voice was a low growl as he muttered, "Most definitely not."


John sat in his room, staring at nothing.

It had taken only thirty-six hours for the automatic distress beacon triggered by the destruction of his ring to bring a response from Oa. Kilowog had arrived with a new ring, and had listened sympathetically as John explained what had happened, as he used the ring to speed the regeneration of his fractured forearm and the damaged muscle tissue in his arm. By the time Kilowog was ready to leave, John was whole again—more or less. The huge alien had looked at his friend and asked quietly, "Do you want me to get Kat? She's about done mediating a dispute in the Orion system—I'm sure she'd make the time for you."

John had shaken his head. "I don't want to bother her—and I definitely don't want to explain how I let my ring get trashed. If you see her, tell her I'll be in touch when I can."

Kilowog had looked at him skeptically, but then nodded and departed after saying good-bye. John had watched him go, then closed the door of his apartment and had not left it in the three days that followed.

He had his communicator—if he was needed, someone would call him. Right then, he didn't want to see anyone. He had a routine—get up, eat, stare, eat, stare, eat, stare, sleep—and he saw no reason to break it for the near future.

He had just finished his lunch on the third day and had settled back into his chair when a knock came at the door. John scowled at the door and ignored the sound. After a moment, the knock came again. John remained unmoved, and he was startled when he heard an impossibly fast burst of knocks come at the door, vibrating the door visibly. John glared, and stood up, walking over to the doorway and unlocking and opening the door.

Wally West stood there—his red hair as always in disarray from the time it spent under The Flash's hood. He grinned at the annoyed man standing in front of him and called out, "Hey, John—gonna invite me in?"

John stared at the younger man in silence for a moment before grunting and walking away from the doorway. Wally walked in, glanced nervously down the hall, then closed the door behind him.

John noted the reaction and was amused in spite of himself. "You expecting Grodd to sneak up on you?"

Wally flinched and looked at the doorway again. "I was avoiding your landlady—that is one scary woman. She chased me and Kilowog off with a broom when we came here looking for your power battery—which is why I'm here in civvies. Don't want her coming after me again." John smirked, and Wally glanced over at his friend and saw the power ring sitting placidly on his hand. He smiled and commented, "The Guardians really have a nice warranty program for their stuff—nice to see you back in the saddle again, GL." John was silent, and Wally walked over to him and said simply: "So how about we get out of here and help some people? Unless I miss my guess, you haven't left this place since you got here four days ago. I'm not going to just let you sit here and rot."

John's eyes narrowed. "Oh, really? Look, kid: you're good at what you do, and I trust you to watch my back—but don't think that you know what I'm about just because I haven't bothered to hide my identity all these years. How I deal with this is none of your damned business."

Wally's eyes flared, and John prepared for an outburst of the familiar temper that made far more sense now that he knew the younger man was a redhead. Unexpectedly, Wally blinked and visibly calmed down, then looked at John with sad eyes as he whispered:

"I miss her too, John."

"I really don't need this right now, Wally." John turned away from his friend, and was contemplating flying out the window just to get some peace.

"Damn it—do you think you're the only one who lost a friend this week?" Wally grabbed John's shoulder and spun the bigger man around to face him. John's eyes were green from the ring again, and they shimmered with ill- concealed rage. Wally saw it, and didn't give a damn as he snarled, "We all cared about her—even Diana! And when she sold us out to her people—every damned one of us wanted her dead. I wanted one of my best friends to –die- for what she had done to us. And when she came back to us and warned us about what her people were going to do, I still didn't care! I never wanted to see her again." Wally backed off and clenched his fists, and John watched quietly as he turned away and whispered, "A little girl asked me if Hawkgirl had done something bad—and I didn't know how I was going to answer until I found myself telling her and the other children what had happened." He recounted his words to the orphans, and John closed his eyes briefly before Wally shook his head and added, "I told them to pray for her, John—is that all we can give her? A prayer that she can't even believe in?"

John sighed and put his hand on his younger friend's shoulder. He felt Wally relax slightly, and John smiled as he said gently, "You had feelings for her too, didn't you?"

Wally shrugged, looking embarrassed. "She treated me a lot like a kid brother—never took my flirting seriously. Kind of takes the steam out of a guy after a while, you know?" He turned back to John and added, "Knowing what I know now, I should've realized that she had someone else on her mind."

"She had a lot of things on her mind we didn't know about, kid." John shook his head and turned to the window. He knew from experience that it was never completely quiet in Central City—there would be something for the two of them to deal with. His ring shimmered, and his green and black costume formed on his body. He turned back to Wally and said quietly: "You're right—it's time to go back to work. Let's go."

Wally grinned, and went into an impossibly fast spin. When he stopped, he was wearing his Flash costume. He started for the door, then hesitated. He turned back to his friend and began, "Uh, GL. . .?"

John sighed and raised his ring. "C'mon, hotshot—we'll take the window so you won't have to sneak past the big, bad landlady."

Wally sighed in relief, and the green glow surrounded them as they went out into the city.


The alarm went off, only to stop abruptly as Volcana blasted the master panel with a firebolt that melted it to slag. There were two guards on duty, but they took one look at the beautiful woman wreathed in fire and fled for their lives, reaching for their radios as they did so. Volcana smiled. They're hiring smarter guards these days She nodded to the three thugs she had hired as luggage carriers, and they followed her inside the jewel depository.

She went to the vault door and motioned for the thugs to step back. They quickly obeyed, and Volcana glowed white-hot as she blasted the thick steel with incredible heat. The metal quickly yielded to the assault, and a hole formed, revealing the inside of the vault. After the heat had faded, Volcana nodded to her men, and they went inside, emptying cases of precious jewels into the bags they carried until they could carry no more. Volcana did not participate in the looting—precious gems were not worth much when they were burned into ash by proximity to her powers.

After a few minutes, the thugs left the vault, weighted down by the bags full of gems, and Volcana smiled. It had been a bit unsporting to do this when the Justice League was recuperating from saving the world—but a girl had to eat. She nodded to her men, and they followed her out the front door towards their waiting vehicle. Volcana was pondering what South Sea island to vacation at first when she heard a voice say: "You know, I really think that they prefer it when you come during business hours—and I know they usually want money."

Volcana looked up and saw a slender blonde girl floating in the air thirty feet ahead of them. A familiar symbol could be seen on the white T-shirt she was wearing. Supergirl locked eyes with Volcana and said simply: "Give up now, and I'll try not to make it hurt too much."

"You're way out of your league, little girl. I've given Big Blue a run for his money, and the last time you ran across big time crooks you needed Batgirl's help to get out of it in one piece." Volcana's seductive voice was a dangerous whisper, and she smirked at the Kryptonian as she concluded, "Get out of my way, or they'll be sweeping up your ashes in the morning."

Supergirl shook her head, and Volcana sighed. "Kids these days." She nodded to her men. "Take the gems to the car and drive off. She can't deal with you and me at the same time. I'll catch up once I finish off this amateur."

The thugs complied and ran for the large van parked a hundred yards away, as Volcana glowed brightly and threw a firebolt at Supergirl—who dodged nimbly to avoid it. The men had almost reached the vehicle when it abruptly blew up, scattering parts for a good distance and sending the men sprawling to the ground. When they recovered, they saw a man in a green- and-black costume that looked like something from a Robin Hood movie. He wore a domino mask, a goatee, and a wicked grin—and he had a longbow leveled at them with an arrow at the ready. The thugs stared, and the man called out, "Sorry, gentlemen—your van's going to need some time in the shop."

The thugs continued to stare, not knowing what to do—and they were startled when they heard Volcana snarl, "Don't just stand there like idiots—what am I paying you for? SHOOT HIM!"

The thugs recovered and began to reach into their coats—only to find they had a new problem. The biggest thug saw motion from the corner of his eye, and had no time to react as an uppercut smacked into his chin, propelling him up and back into a wall, where he slumped into unconsciousness. The other two thugs saw a man of medium height wearing a full superhero costume of red and light blue fabric. They started to level their weapons at him—only to see him seem to shimmer and vanish. They hesitated again—and were struck by arrows that caused bolos to wrap around their bodies, rendering them helpless.

Volcana noted this, and she shrieked in rage as she began throwing gouts of fire at the strange man who was thwarting her multi-million dollar payday. The man dove for cover, and Volcana was preparing to close in for the kill when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned and walked directly into a right cross. Her eyes crossed, and she dropped to the ground, unconscious.

Supergirl shook her hand to alleviate the mild discomfort from the intense heat, and muttered, "I don't like being ignored." She checked to be sure Volcana was actually out for the count, then flew over to the man with the bow. She landed next to him and called out, "Hello! Thanks for the assist—I think I could have handled Volcana, but the goons would have gotten away with the loot. I don't think I've seen you before—I'm Supergirl."

"I'm Green Arrow," the man replied, as he secured his weapon and looked around the area. "I'm not sure why I'm here—I just had the feeling I would be needed, so I came."

"Me too." The two heroes turned, and blinked in surprise as the man in blue and red seemed to appear from nowhere—though Supergirl's keen vision revealed that he had simply grown from one inch to six feet of height. "Call me the Atom. I just had a feeling I should be here too. Not sure why. Good thing we all were here, though—it looks like they would have had a nice score, and they might have hurt people in the escape."

"Yes—things could have gone badly." Supergirl replied, wondering what impulse had brought her here with the others. She smiled at the two men and commented, "The authorities should be here soon—we should tell them what happened and make sure they put Volcana into proper restraints." The men nodded, and Supergirl added, "Maybe we should just say we were in the neighborhood—no use having them think we're having weird psychic flashes or anything."

A man of unremarkable appearance standing in a nearby alley nodded and changed form. J'onn smiled and watched the three heroes discuss what had just happened as he pondered the next group of heroes he would nudge into cooperating. There would be a future for the Justice League—and it promised to be more formidable than it had ever been.

As always, comments are welcomed and desired.