I don't own Justice League, though I damn well wish I did. Or maybe just Supergirl. Oh yeah. Her, a tropical island, and some coconut oil. That's all I'd want.
The Justice League awaken one day without their powers. How will they cope, how will they adjust to their new lives as normal people? And can they still be heroes? Even when they find others are not similarly power-handicapped. My first story in the DC Universe, and also my first story in the Justice League genre. Be gentle. Takes place one day after the events of 'Starcrossed' and before 'Initiation.'
Nighttime had fallen on Gotham City, plunging it into darkness. A living, breathing darkness. In Gotham, when the sun set, the city became a different place. Dangerous and menacing to any poor soul caught out in its dark alleyways and streets, and even to some who remained safe inside their homes. However, tonight was not like an ordinary night in Gotham.
Criminals had slunk back into the shadows from whence they'd came, hiding in fear. Not only of their usual fear of the nightly rounds of Batman, but fear of the Justice League, having once more proving just how active they were by thwarting the Thanagarian attempts to destroy the Earth. The news was circulating, the rumors were spreading, and all those would do evil were re-learning the error of continuing their wicked ways when the Justice League was active.
Even if now they were a member short.
Batman crouched atop one of the buildings his daytime alter-ego owned, peering down at the city of his that was unusually quiet. Not so much as a mugging or a bank robbery. All was deathly quiet.
Not so in the Dark Knight's head. His mind was abuzz over recent activities. The League had been victorious against the Hawkmen, but at a terrible price. Green Lantern had lost his power ring, Shayera had resigned, the Watchtower was in shambles, and they were left to rebuild. Already part of his mind was calculating what he would need to do to rebuild the Watchtower, what funds he'd need to transfer and to what sources to avoid suspicion. Fortunately, Wayne Enterprises had capitalized on the invasion and managed to obtain a great deal of Thanagarian technology to add to their inventory. Coupled with a large chunk of Kryptonian technology they'd obtained (small incident with Brainiac that Batman preferred not to think about) and they were so far past the cutting edge they made Luthor Corp look like a joke.
Things were looking grim, thought Batman. But that was a decided advantage he had over Superman. When you always assume the worst, you can either be pleasantly surprised or at least have the satisfaction you were right.
Batman launched a grapple and swung through the air, heading back to the Batcave. He needed to check on his guests before he turned in himself.
With the destruction of the Watchtower, two members of the Justice League were now without homes or rooms to speak of. Both of them were strangers in a strange land, and the Justice League had been more than a team to them, it had been family and home. Now they were without. Hawkgirl would've fit into this category too, but she was long gone and no one knew where she was now. But it was to the members of the League they turned their attention to.
J'onn and Wonder Woman. With the eradication of life on Mars and Wonder Woman's banishment from Themyscira, and now with the destruction of the Watchtower... neither of them had a home to turn to.
Which meant they had to crash at someone else's place.
Despite certain reservations, Batman had offered them his home of Wayne Manor. Alfred had already done a great job of cleaning up the superficial mess. The actual repairs to the Batcave and the windows would be more expensive and require professional help, but for now it was a homely as the big empty mansion ever got.
J'onn, with no need to sleep in the manner of humans and could do it standing up (as he often did when napping between missions) was settled down in the Batcave in an isolated corner to keep out of sight. Not because Batman was ashamed of him, of course, but any links made between the Justice League and Bruce Wayne might inadvertently reveal the secret identity of Batman. The media was already in a frenzy about Diana and Bruce's infamous dance in Paris several months ago.
Still, ultimately that made it easier for his second guest.
Wonder Woman was keeping out of sight as well, though she could still walk the upper levels and by the windows with little fear of being seen. Plus, Batman almost smiled at the thought of what she might do if a paparazzi decided to invade her privacy. Probably leave the grounds by being hurled over the closer gates.
Batman shrugged off his costume and hung it up, powering down the Batcomputer to stand-by mode in case something happened while he was sleeping. He doubted it would, but one never knew. He hadn't survived for as long as he had by being careless. He paid only scant attention to the Martian in the far corner of the room, sitting cross-legged and sleeping, his eyes wide open and glowing an eerie orange. Batman shrugged, he'd seen stranger things.
So it was he changed into a shirt and jeans and assumed the mental mask of Bruce Wayne that was as much a disguise as Batman. Who he really was, at his core, was something of a mixture, and only a few people really knew that.
Bruce paused as he spotted her in the hallway, wrapped in a white bathing robe and her wet black hair clinging to her head and the back of her neck. Obviously she'd just finished showering. She was heading down the hallway in the opposite direction as he, and gave a delightful smile as she spotted him.
"Ah, back already?" she asked.
Schooling his features into a neutral expression, he replied "No trouble in Gotham tonight. Criminals are scared."
"Of you no doubt," Diana remarked lightly. "I hope you're heading to bed?"
"Worried about my well being?" he asked with a frown, folding his arms. If there was one thing he hated, it was being treated like this. Like he needed some superhero to hold his hand or someone to coddle him like a toddler.
But he wasn't expected by the very angry look Wonder Woman got just then, her eyes flashing brightly.
"Considering you almost got yourself killed the other night, I think you deserve a little bed rest," she snapped at him.
It'd been an argument they'd been having most of the day, after Hawkgirl had left. Wonder Woman had been almost downright infuriated that Batman had risked his life to pilot the Watchtower, nearly getting himself killed in the process. She'd insisted their could've been much easier ways to accomplish their goals. Having J'onn pilot it and phasing out when things got too hot. Or having Superman standing by instead of zooming in at the last moment. The passion of her argument had surprised Batman and he was forced to admit to himself that perhaps she was right.
But he did what he had to do, and he'd had his reasons.
"I know my limits," he replied, his entire body tense. Wonder Woman looked on the verge of giving him a slap and, with her strength, was liable to rip his head clean off his shoulders.
"Men... even the good ones are all the same," she stated with a huff, marching right past him to her room, just down the hall. It'd previously been a guest room that hadn't been used in ages. Bruce watched her go with a mixture of anger and sadness. He was tempted to call out and get her back to explain, or maybe even apologize, but he squared his shoulders and turned away, heading downstairs to the living room to watch the news.
He was tired, but he knew he wouldn't be able to sleep now.
Batman wasn't the only member of the Justice League who couldn't sleep at the moment.
Miles away in another city, the Green Lantern also had a great deal of thoughts on his mind that prevented him from falling to sleep. He sat on his bed in his pajama pants, staring out at the window and up at the stars. His arm was fixed up by J'onn's expert medical skills. It still hurt, as did his face and chest were Hro Talak has beaten and slashed him, but the pain was fading to more manageable levels. He had a lot on his mind, definitely. Most of it involving a certain redheaded girl with wings like an angel.
John had never been a romantic, he'd been a soldier and a fighter and a hero, and no one had been more surprised than he when he'd met his first love, Katmatui. Ultimately their relationship hadn't worked out, and they'd drifted apart, just remaining good friends. When he'd found Hawkgirl he'd almost seen the pattern repeat itself. Finding a woman with a stubborn streak and a vicious right hook, hating her guts, getting to be friends... and then more... and then...
Duty always interfered.
John idly turned his hand, lifting it up to gaze for what seemed like the hundredth time at his new power ring. The Lantern Corp had sent Kyle Rayner back to earth following its destruction, something that had deeply troubled the Guardians. As Katmatui had once stated herself, power rings don't break. But evidently they'd never before been tested against Thanagarian axes. So Kyle had come with a replacement and, upon hearing about the battle and what had happened with the League, expressed his sympathy. He hadn't been able to stay for long, but he and John had managed to share a drink or two and a few words concerning their recent exploits. Kyle really was doing well as a Green Lantern. His training with Kat wasn't quite complete, but he sure had the gift for harnessing the energies of a power ring. He'd be done in another year or two tops, and ready to be given his own sector of space to patrol. John had taken nearly ten whole years to learn how to use the ring properly, before he'd been sent back to Earth to replace Abin Sur.
Maybe John would let him have earth, go patrol some remote system of space, lose himself in his work...
... if he even could work.
He idly turned his hand again, gazing at the ring which rested on his finger. It looked like his old one, just an ordinary green ring with the lantern symbol. But could it work? He didn't know, he hadn't tried it. He was afraid that losing Hawkgirl had broken his faith, like his encounter with Despero had months ago. And if he had no faith in himself, he doubted he could use the ring, which meant that he was no longer a Green Lantern.
But then again... maybe that was for the best.
In Central City, Wally West sat in his one-room apartment, watching cartoons on the television, the only light in the room. He was morose of course, all the Leaguers were, but he felt pretty confident things would smooth over and it'll all be good as new in no time. Maybe even Hawkgirl would come back, and they'd be one big happy family again.
Wally'd never had a family. Not as himself, as Wally West, before he'd become the scarlet speedster known as the Flash. He'd been an orphan just like the kids he visited year-round at the Central City orphanage. No parents, no brothers or sisters. At first he'd hid this behind a mask. Not just the mask of the Flash, but a mask of the arrogant speedster and the flirting skirt-chaser. It had taken a simple race around the world with Superman to show him there was more to life. Superman didn't know it, but he'd been one of the Flash's first and best friends. Then the League had come along, and he'd jumped at the chance.
He'd forgotten that having family and friends meant sometimes you had to deal with losing them.
He turned up the volume a tad, a little louder to focus on the antics of Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, but not too loud so that the neighbors would complain. He needed to deal in his own way with the loss of Hawkgirl, who'd been like a sister to him. She'd done what she'd felt was the right thing. He couldn't blame her for her decision.
Tomorrow he'd visit the orphanage after work. He did have a sweet one-man job he could finish up in little under an hour a day. Left more time for the Flash to make his rounds or talk to his admirers. But maybe he'd go as himself for a change, see how he could deal with the kids when they didn't look up at him as a hero.
He certainly didn't feel much like one right now.
In Metropolis, there was celebrating. Superman could hear it. He'd given up an hour ago trying to get to sleep with all the racket going on. Now he stood on the balcony, staring down at the streets, at all the people celebrating the Justice League's latest victory to save the world.
In that instant, the Man of Steel almost hated them.
They hadn't made sacrifices, they hadn't seen what the League had did. They were celebrating while one of the League's own was gone, the Watchtower was destroyed, and they'd managed to handily doom thousands of Thanagarian soldiers in the process in their endless war with the Gordanians.
And they were celebrating.
Superman sighed deeply, wishing he could've done more. For all his power, he had never felt so helpless. He wish he had someone to talk to right now, but even if he could convince Lois to answer a call from Clark Kent at... what was the time anyway...? It was past midnight, he knew that much. But she was off at the wreckage of the Thanagarian warp gate for the story of the century. His adopted parents Johnathan and Martha would be long asleep back in Smallville, since they were prime examples of the farmer's creed 'early to bed, early to rise.' And of course Kara would be with them. No one to talk to, no way he could let out all of his conflicting emotions.
He almost wished a super villain would show up so he could take his mind off of everything. Going toe-to-toe with Dark Seid right now sounded appealing, except the tyrant of Apokolips was dead. At least, most of the League and even most of the people of New Genesis and Apokolips thought so. Superman? He doubted it. Dark Seid wasn't going to die until he killed him. And he was going to enjoy every last minute of it.
Shutting the doors to his balcony and wishing once more he didn't have super-hearing, he flopped down on his bed with enough force to make the room shudder, and rammed a pillow over his head to try and smother his hearing and get some sleep.
Earth was celebrating the victory of the Justice League, but light years away, only one alien was offering a toast to the heroes who'd fought to save their world.
Shayera Hol, formerly of Thanagar, formerly of Earth, and now adrift, tilted back her head and sucked down the thick purple liquid that the local bar on the third moon of Gaultos. An entire planet that made Earth cities like Las Vegas and New Orleans look downright tame. She could already hear another argument behind her breaking out into what must've been the fifth brawl since she'd shown up and ordered a drink.
And another... and another... and another... until even the bartender wondered if her plan was to drink herself to death.
A fate that, right now, she would've found almost pleasant. At least it would've stopped the aching in her heart. Still, what awaited her in the afterlife? Thanagarians as a rule weren't terribly religious in any fashion, they concerned themselves with the here and now. Living under the thumb of an alien-god like Ichthultu and in the modern day dealing on a daily basis with Gordanians tended to do that to a people. But since coming to Earth, Hawkgirl had learned all she could about the human people, studied their culture, their myths, their religions. When she'd joined up with the League, she'd also learned more about Themyscira, Krypton, Mars, and more.
It hadn't just been to scout out their weaknesses...
Her fingers clenched into the glass in her hand, shattering it. She barely even felt it... not even when she reached down and pried the glass shards from her bare fingers. She felt nothing anymore, no physical pain... only mental anguish. She'd betrayed them all, but her betrayal of John had hurt her the most. Even worse than her betrayal of Commander Hro.
Now she was all alone.
She tossed back another drink, ignoring the brawl behind her until one of the patrons tried to drag her into it, which she responded with a knock-out punch without even looking. She didn't drag it out, like she normally did to have fun.
She wasn't in the mood.
Martians do not dream.
Not in the sense humans did, at least. Humans and Martians shared very few physical or mental characteristics in common. Spiritually, emotionally... well... they had enough in common as far as J'onn was concerned. That was why he defended them as selflessly as he'd once defended his own people as a Manhunter.
Martians did not dream, but they needed time to replenish physical energy the same as other species. So they rested and 'napped' in much the same way every sixteen hours or so. Sometimes they would enter into longer periods of rest called hibernation cycles, where they would completely shut out the outside world.
When Martians rested, they did not dream but entered a state of mind called reverie. Or at least, that was as close to a term in the English language that J'onn could find, the Martians did not have a good translation for it. The state of mind did not involve dreams, spawned by the imagination, but memories. Martians relived memories of their past experiences. Through the reverie, they remembered all they'd done in their lives, despite the many years that may've passed since the event in question had happened. It was how such a long lived race remembered all that had happened to them.
Pleasant memories. He remembered the first time he'd met My'ria'h. When they'd been married. The birth of his children. Superman's offer to remain on Earth as his new home. Not-so-pleasant memories. The arrival of the alien invaders. The death of his family and later all Martians but himself. Five hundred years of loneliness. His betrayal of the League to an illusion. And finally the battle against the Thanagarians and the loss of Hawkgirl. All of it he remembered as easily as most humans remembered important dates to them, in their lives that measured as most a century. So much pain had befallen the League recently, so much loss and sorrow and suffering.
Martians did not dream. Neither did they cry.
But J'onn sometimes came damn close.
And so one by one, the members of the Justice League and, indeed, the world and universe began to fall to sleep. Little did they know, that tomorrow would bring a great shock to some of them.
And there it is, the beginnings of my first, original, Justice League story. That's just some introspective looks at how I think the Justice League would've dealt with what'd happened after 'Starcrossed', based largely on the works of M. Scott Eiland, who's a brilliant JL writer. Hope they don't feel I'm ripping off their work. References... let's see. The incident with Brainiac, Batman and Superman was the episode 'Knight Time' from the old series. The idea that J'onn does not sleep in the conventional sense is guesswork on my part, based on 'Only a Dream' and what little I can surmise about the Martian race, considering I know that J'onn is at least a thousand years old (and possibly more!) The mention of Kyle Rayner and Abin Sur are subtle nods to 'In Brightest Day' from the old Superman series and 'Hearts and Minds' from Justice League. As is the comment that power rings don't break. Then again, Hawkgirl did remark that the Thanagarians had never heard of the Green Lantern Corp before, so the opposite is also likely true (of course, she did lie about her arrival to Earth, makes you wonder what else she's lied about). Flash watching cartoons is another nod to 'Only a Dream', and his race against Superman was from 'Speed Demons.' Who really thinks Dark Seid's died in 'Twilight'? Come on, spare me. He'll be back to torment Superman sooner or later, and he knows it. The third moon of Gaultos is a reference to 'Comfort and Joy' and is the same planet Hawkgirl took John to when she wanted to unwind. Next chapter, it's next morning, and things start to get interesting.