Living with Shadows by BillA1
Copyright June 2005
Disclaimer: The characters Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Superman & Flash their respective secret identities are all owned by DC Comics. This story is intended for my own pleasure and is not for profit. It has been posted to this site for others to read. Places and characters not own by DC Comics are my own creation. This story is based on characters from The Justice League story: "Hunter's Moon" written by Stan Berkowitz with teleplay by Dwayne McDuffie. Thanks to Merlin Missy for her beta on this story.
LIVING WITH SHADOWS
Synopsis: After "Hunter's Moon," Shayera Hol is forced to confront her fear.
I've been through a million trips in the night
Living with shadows, looking for light
And passing the faces, how lonely they seem
Looking for traces of yesterday's dream – T. Myers – Going In Circles – Three Dog Night
(Two weeks ago, hours after her return from the Thanagarian ambush – Shayera Hol's quarters)
Hol didn't turn on the lights in her quarters when she entered. She never did.
The darkness was her new best friend.
She slowly walked to the adjacent wall and hung up her mace. She stood in front of the weapon, at first staring at the ball end and then she gently and slowly ran her fingers across its knobbed surface. This weapon had saved her life on more occasions than she dared count, yet she'd dropped it without reservation and surrendered to Paran Dul to save her ex-lover's girlfriend. She shook her head as she realized that she'd offered herself to Thanagarian justice to save yet another human.
Now conscious of how softly, how lovingly, she was caressing the weapon, she stopped and moved to the edge of her bed next to the large window in her room. Gazing out the portal at the rotating planet below, she sighed loudly as she realized – no accepted - that this planet was now her home.
She'd always thought that some day she would see Thanagar again, despite what had happened here during the invasion. Now she knew for certain that she never would, that she could never return there.
Her body ached.
She spread her wings, flexing them as if in flight, and moved gingerly to the bathroom to run water in the sink. She cupped her hands under the running water and splashed the cool liquid on her face and on the back of her neck. She was still alive.
Turning on the shower, she adjusted the temperature and then stepped back out to her bedroom. She closed the curtains of her portal window and undressed. After putting on her bathrobe and rolling her hair in a loose bun, she went back to the bathroom to check the temperature of the running water one more time. She hung up the robe and stepped into the shower, letting the warm water wash over her.
Closing her eyes, she leaned into the spraying water, trying to replace the feel of Kragger's metal hands on her arms and body with the different sensation of a gentle shower. Even with her eyes closed, she could still see his twisted face and hear him screaming her name as he grabbed her. Yet, part of her thought about Kragger being the way he was because of her "green friend." J'onn did that to him. And J'onn can do that to me.
She shuddered, realizing that Kragger's distorted face could have been the last thing she ever saw. She'd always imagined that her last thoughts would have been about home or even love.
She sniffled as the tears started down her cheeks. He was gone. She'd loved him. And she'd let him down.
We tend to cling to images of people when we knew them best, forgetting that they do change.
That's what she told John years ago. Yes, Hro had changed but she had changed more.
As the shower spray washed away her now flowing tears, Hol thought today she would cry for all she'd lost. She would cry for Hro, for her home planet and for the Shayera Hol who'd died today.
(Today. The transporter room)
"My God, girl," Stewart gasped.
John kept his distance trying to quietly observe the tableau below from the observation deck overlooking the transporter grid. He inhaled sharply when he saw her.
She looked terrible. There was no other way to describe it. She just looked terrible. They had worked together for almost five years now, not counting their separation time, and this was as bad as he could remember her looking. He could see from his distant viewpoint that she was badly bruised and even through she had a reputation for quick healing, it would be a while before she fully recovered. If she'd been human, the beating she'd received, and it was a beating, at the hands of the giant robot would have been fatal.
Stewart shook his head as her team members helped her onto the med-cart once they were clear of the transporters pads. And she'd won. But at what cost?
Absorbing punishment on missions used to be commonplace for Shayera when she first returned to the League. Back then, she just didn't fight back or defend herself until she was attacked, and more often than not, she had to be attacked multiple times before she would finally respond. But now, since she'd returned from the Thanagarian ambush on that distant moon two weeks ago, she would run out to fight and attack targets that could be better handled by others. Almost like she has a death wish.
"John, you've got to do something."
Mari, who was standing next to him, gently nudged him as she spoke. Stewart looked at her and frowned.
"What do you think I can do? It's like she's trying to get herself killed and she won't talk to me about whatever the problem is." He watched the med-cart drive away with Shayera onboard until it disappeared down the corridor. Then he glanced at Mari before walking away from the observation deck toward J'onn's command post. Mari followed.
"She's not trying to kill herself," Mari said flatly.
"Oh? And how do you know that?" Stewart said sharply. Too sharply, he thought later.
Mari stopped. Stewart stopped and turned around to face her.
"She and I spent a lot of time together on that moon," Mari said, "and in space. We've talked since then…several times. No, John, she's not trying to kill herself." She paused and then added, "And as suspicious as I could be, I don't even think it's a cry for attention. No. Something is wrong with her and she's going to get herself killed unless someone intervenes."
Stewart studied Mari for a moment and sighed loudly. "I think you're right. Maybe an intervention is needed." Mari's eyes lit up with a smile and then she quickly frowned.
"Maybe you can get Superman, no better yet J'onn to talk to her," she offered.
"That's who I had in mind," Stewart said as he started walking toward J'onn's post. Mari followed. Stewart pressed the commlink in his ear. "J'onn can you meet me in the conference room in ten minutes?"
"Affirmative," came the reply.
Had that been a sigh of relief from Mari?
John sat down in one of the chairs at the conference table. Mari chose a seat next to him. John glanced at her as she sat down, smiled and then looked at J'onn who sat across from the couple. She could count on one hand the number of times she'd been in this conference room and none of her experiences here had been good. She suddenly wondered where Shayera sat. Next to John? Of course she does. She looked at John again.
John looked at the Martian and spoke, "We have to help Shayera. You have to help Shayera before she hurts herself or gets someone killed."
"I don't have the full report from Atom Smasher on what happened. Her team was sent down to destroy a giant rampaging robot. It was an easy mission." J'onn inhaled sharply narrowing his eyes as he looked at John. "You may be right. Someone needs to say something to her. And I take it both of you want me to be that someone."
John's answer was quick. "Yes, I want you to do something. You need to do for her what you did for Wildcat. Can you see her now?" Mari thought it was more of a plea than a question.
J'onn sadly shook his head. He folded his arms, placing them on the table and leaned forward, lowering his head, not making eye contact with John. "I have much that I must do in operations. I can't do it now. But I will do it."
Mari was surprised that John didn't say anything but instead suddenly jumped up and just stared at J'onn. The Martian's head snapped up sharply, his eyes glowed red as he stared back hard at John. She thought she heard J'onn growl.
John stepped back and looked down at the seated Mari then back at J'onn. "If you're too damn busy to help her, I will." There was no disguising the anger in his voice as he added, "It's all about loyalty."
Mari stood up and grabbed John's arm. She looked at J'onn as she said, "John, I'm going with you. She's my friend, too." Her voice was firm as she added, "It is about loyalty, isn't it?"
J'onn stood up and rapidly looked at Mari then back at John. "I will see Shayera in fifteen minutes," he said. "Doctor Light will assume my duties until I finish."
J'onn walked to the conference room door, stopped, turned around and glared at John. "And just for the record, Lantern," he said as he sank through the conference room floor, "My parents were married."
Mari was confused. "What did he mean about his parents? I didn't hear you say anything and I certainly didn't hear you call him a bas…" She stopped when she noticed John tapping a finger against the side of his head.
"Oh. I'll have to remember that," she smiled.
J'onn knew before John and Mari confronted him in the conference room that Shayera had been on a path of self-destruction since her return to the League and it had become worse in the last few days. Before the invasion, when it was just the seven of them, she would often talk to him about anything and everything. Well, not everything but certainly many things. Now she kept to herself and generally went out of her way to avoid interacting with others. She was troubled and one didn't have to be a telepath to know that. However, J'onn wasn't sure he could help her because of his inability to read her mind and her desire not to talk.
The medical staff had already bandaged and treated Shayera's wounds when J'onn arrived at the infirmary. She literally bumped into him on her way out as he was entering. She acknowledged his presence and then hurried away.
"Shayera," he called after her. She stopped; her shoulders sagged as she kept her back toward him. "Yes?" she sighed.
J'onn stretched his neck and body so that his face appeared in front of her and then he brought the rest of his body around so that he was standing in her path. She seemed startled by his appearance. Fearful? "Will you follow me?" he asked in a soft voice.
"I have to write the after-action report," she answered as she attempted to walk around him.
"Hawkgirl! Stop! Atom Smasher will write the report. Come with me – now!"
She pivoted and angrily glared at him. "I have told everyone in this damn place not to call me that. Why is that so hard for everyone to grasp? I don't have time for this. I'll be in my quarters." She turned and stormed off.
"Shayera," he called after her. "Do you know what this is?"
She stopped, growled and turned around. J'onn held up a book the size of the head of her mace. It was about two inches thick. "The crew," J'onn said flatly, "doing the final decontamination of the Thanagarian ship you brought back, found this stowed in a storage locker. Your name is in it…several times."
Her eyes widened when she saw it. She approached him almost cautiously and took the book from him. "It's a journal…a personal journal, not a ship's logbook, more like a diary," she said as she fingered the book cover. She opened the book, looked at a few pages and closed the book again. "It belonged to Paran Dul."
"The crew thought the book was important because it didn't have the standard Thanagarian crest on it. That is, the bird head facing left with two wings. This book has just the bird head on it without the wings. I can't completely read it," he said. "Can you?"
She frowned as she looked at him, her eyes narrowing. "Can I or will I? You know I can read it. The writing is Thanagarian - you knew that. Are you testing me? Because if you are, I don't appreciate it at all."
"You are not being tested, Shayera," he said. "Because of my mind probe on that Thanagarian officer, I can read enough of the book to recognize your name. But there are words in this book neither the computers nor I are able to understand. I simply wish to know if you can provide a complete translation."
"Oh," she said sheepishly as she stuck the book under her arm. "When do you want the translation back?"
"The day after tomorrow is fine. We found other things on that ship I wanted you to catalog. Will you follow me?"
She was silent for a long moment. "Please," J'onn added. She stared at him and finally nodded.
The walk to the hanger bay where the Thanagarian scout ship was housed was a long, quiet one. Neither J'onn nor Shayera said anything while making their way to the ship. At first the silence was awkward and soon it became awkward to break it. Shayera was glad that J'onn couldn't read her mind.
She didn't want to go back to that ship. On the trip back to Earth, she'd made a point of staying up front, not exploring the ship at all. The ship was all that was left of home, a home she'd helped destroy.
If J'onn could read her mind then he'd know the only reason she'd agreed to accompany him to the ship was that she was afraid not to. She'd seen what he did to Kragger. The damage of a Martian mind probe on a Thanagarian was worse than she'd imagined. No. Not mind probe – mind rape. One day he'll do that me. They'll tell him to and he will. It's just a matter of time.
She followed J'onn up the ship's loading ramp and down the passageway. He stopped in front of one of the compartments and entered. Shayera stood at the room's doorway but didn't enter.
"Is something wrong?" J'onn asked when she hesitated to step into the room. He appeared concerned. But instead of approaching her, he moved to the center of the room, away from the door.
"Home," she said softly as she entered the room. This room is beautiful. She knew J'onn was watching her but she was in awe as she entered the quarters – quarters that clearly belonged to Paran Dul.
She immediately saw a difference between her room on the Watchtower and Paran's room. Shayera's room was a human's room and she'd become comfortable, maybe too comfortable, in the humans' world. Compared to this room, her room was funky.
Funky? Where'd that word come from? Flash? Cha'nas!
Yes, she'd gone native. Wasn't that the problem?
But Paran's room - Paran's room was the sanctuary of a proud Thanagarian, from the fire lamp on the wall to the spiked standard in the corner. This room screamed "Thanagarian" to her.
Her thoughts were interrupted by J'onn as he asked, "Shayera, are you okay? What are you thinking about right now?"
Shayera placed the book on the bed and walked toward the spiked standard in the corner. She ran her fingers along the sharp points of the spikes and keeping her back to J'onn, said very softly, "J'onn, will you promise me something? Will you promise me that if you do to me what you did to Lieutenant Kragger, that you will kill me rather than let me live like that?"
She turned around for an answer but instead saw shock on the Martian's face.
He pulled out a chair from a writing desk in the room, sat down and looked up at her. His voice was as soft and sad as she'd ever heard. "Shayera, I can't make that promise. Why would you even ask that?" He paused and studied her for a moment. "Are you afraid of me? Is that what this is about? Do you fear me?"
She sighed loudly and sat on the bed, suddenly conscious of the difference in feeling between a Thanagarian and an Earth mattress. She looked down at her feet, not making eye contact with J'onn and said weakly, "No."
She abruptly raised her head and glared at him. There was cold defiance in her eyes. "Yes. Yes, I do. I'm scared to death of you and I don't want to end up like Kragger."
J'onn remained seated but leaned forward toward her. "The reason I can't promise you anything like you requested is because I will never do to you what was done to that Thanagarian. That I can promise."
He apparently saw skepticism in her face as he continued. "Did you ever wonder how Doctor Fate knew exactly where to find you in the Grand Canyon three days after you left the League? Or did you ever wonder about the hawk that flew with you the first night after you left us? Did you not think it strange that a hawk would keep you company for three days and hundreds of miles?"
"That was you?" Shayera exclaimed, now remembering the bird. She was so depressed at the time that she didn't initially pay any attention to the animal. Later she was glad for its company. At first, the bird flew parallel with her, separated by a hundred feet or so. Soon, over the course of the next couple of hours, the hawk came close enough so that they were wing tip to wing tip. She talked to the bird the way she would later talk to Inza Cramer-Nelson, confiding things to the animal she'd never told anyone else. She told the bird how she thought she'd made a mess of her life; how she'd been a soldier, a friend, a woman in love and a woman who'd lost love…twice, how she'd lost the trust of her friends and how she was now alone and lonely. And that bird was J'onn?
"I could not permit you to come to harm at the hand of others or by your own hand," he said. He tilted his head to the side and arched an eyebrow. "Have you been putting yourself in unnecessary danger because you were afraid of me? Were you afraid that I would harm you if you failed in an assignment?"
She didn't look at him and she said nothing.
J'onn stood up and towered over her, then changed into a hawk. The large bird flew around the room and land on the chair J'onn had been sitting in. The bird spread his wings and screeched loudly.
Shayera smiled for long moments then said, "Yes. Yes, I do believe the bird was you."
She stood up and walked over to the unlit fire lamp on the wall. The fire of Thanagar. She glanced back at J'onn, still in the shape of a hawk. "Can I talk to you? I mean really talk to you?" she asked.
The hawk bobbed its head and perched himself on top of the chair back, "You did once before if you remember and I've kept your confidences and I will keep them now." Shayera's eyes twinkled as the hawk answered in J'onn's baritone voice. Then she frowned.
"Two weeks ago, I had a life lesson, J'onn," she said softly as she fingered the fire lamp. "I learned more about myself in one day than I ever learned in a year with Doctor Fate." She looked back at J'onn again. "Once, I asked Fate if my destiny was to be a destroyer. And he said, 'It's not that simple.'"
She moved back to the bed, sat down, and stared at the bird. "I finally understand what he meant," she said.
She glanced at her feet before looking back at J'onn who seemed to be listening intently. She continued. "I am a destroyer. Paran and Kragger tried to kill to me because I destroyed Thanagar …destroyed Hro. That was my destiny. But I'm also a survivor and that too is my destiny."
The hawk bobbed its head again.
"When I left the League in what now seems like a lifetime ago," she continued looking down at the floor. "I was completely lost. But you knew that if you were that bird because I told you so. There were days when I thought about suicide and times when I thought I 'needed killin',' as Vigilante might put it." She looked deep into the bird's eyes. "Does that shock you?"
She didn't wait for him to answer. She gave him a small weak smile as she stood up and walked back to the fire lamp, stopping to put the book on the writing table. "I don't what kept me going. For the first couple of days, it was talking to the hawk – you. Then later, it was John, thinking of him and other times it was thinking of Hro and how I'd let him down."
She sniffled, nonchalantly wiping away with her finger, a small tear that had formed in the corner of her eye. "Did you know that before that moon mission, Shayera Hol would've willingly gone back to Thanagar to give her people a chance to pass judgment on her, even knowing the most likely outcome?" She silently gazed at the hawk for a moment, nodding her head almost imperceptibly, before adding, "But everything has changed now. That Shayera Hol is dead."
She walked to a large wood-like wardrobe locker in a corner of the room and opened it. The locker held Paran Dul's spare clothing and armor. She was surprised that the locker hadn't been cleaned out and inventoried. In fact, why is any of this stuff still here on this ship?
She looked at J'onn for a moment then back to the open locker. J'onn. This is J'onn's doing. He must have had it left here or had it brought back here.
Her eyes narrowed as she examined the clothing. Something wasn't quite right. There's too much stuff in here if they left in a hurry as Paran said. This locker is too well packed. She glanced back at the book on the desk. Maybe the answers are in Paran's journal.
She reached up on the top shelf and removed Paran's white helmet. She carefully examined the helmet and started to put it back in the locker but changed her mind. For a moment, she thought about putting it on but stopped, aware that J'onn was watching. No. Not yet. She removed Paran's armor belt from the locker before closing it. She put the belt on, clipped her mace to it and held the helmet in her now free hands.
She laughed a short, almost giddy laugh as she faced J'onn. "When Kragger was about to kill me and he was close – oh, he was so close. The only thing I thought about was not dying…that it couldn't end like this." She paused and tilting her head slightly to one side said softly, "I didn't want it to end like this."
She lowered her head, glancing at the floor for a moment before looking back at the hawk. Her smile disappeared. "Don't you see how funny that is?
"Death was right there, offering me peace and freedom from guilt. After all I've been through, I thought I would welcome death. But, J'onn, now I know the truth. I wasn't prepared to die or be killed after all. I so desperately wanted to live."
She formed a tight-lipped smile and shook her head gently, "J'onn, I fought to live."
She locked her eyes on the small clear eyes of the hawk. Her voice was strong and firm as she said, "I killed one of my own kind to live and I would do it again."
She said nothing as she walked from the locker to the fire lamp, inspected it and then ignited it with her mace. She immediately looked back at J'onn. "Sorry. Are you okay with this?" she said pointing to the fire in the lamp. J'onn changed back into his Martian Manhunter form and nodded but moved toward the bed, away from the flames and sat down. She turned back to face the lamp. She looked at the flame in the lamp almost hypnotized by the flickering. The fire.
"You know, J'onn," she said staring at the flames. "I remember telling Inza all the things I wasn't; that I wasn't Lieutenant Shayera Hol of the Thanagarian Empire and I wasn't Hawkgirl - that had always been a sham. But you know what? Vigilante had it right. He told me who I was. I am a hawk – maybe not Hawkgirl, but a hawk and a soldier. No. Not a soldier - a warrior – a warrior and a hawk."
J'onn cleared his throat. "Kind of like a… war hawk?"
She glanced back at him and frowned. "Warhawk? If you're suggesting a new name for me, I don't like that one."
J'onn's expression was flat. "It was just a name I thought I heard once before but it's not important now. Please go on."
She turned back to face the fire in the lamp as she continued, "A warrior and a hawk. That's my destiny, J'onn. That's who I am – a hawk, a hunter, a Thanagarian, a warrior, and that's all I can ever be. I have so much to atone for and the dead can't atone. That was my life lesson, J'onn, and I learned it the only way I could have learned it."
She put the fire lamp out and then faced J'onn. "Thanks for listening. You listen as good in that form," she said pointing at him, "as you did as a hawk. Except for that 'war hawk' thing."
She retrieved the book from the desk and placed it under her arm while she held the helmet in her other hand. "I'll have the translation of the diary ready late tomorrow evening," she said. "Would you have them bring the locker, bedding, the spiked standard and the fire lamp to my room tomorrow?"
J'onn nodded as he stood up. "They'll be delivered tomorrow. Shayera, listen to me. You are never alone and you don't have to prove anything to anyone." He added, "And you will never have to fear me. I will never hurt you nor will I assign you to anything that doesn't play to your strengths and that includes your leadership skills. Sometimes we have to step back before we can see the big picture. Only then can we put the pieces of the puzzle together. I'm not Fate, but you can talk to me at any time…about anything, just as you did before."
She moved toward the door, then suddenly turned around and frowned. "J'onn," she said. "If you were the hawk that stayed with me for those three days…well… I said some things that I'd rather John not hear about. I hope you didn't…haven't said anything to him."
"Whatever you think the Lantern needs to know, you will tell him…when you are ready to tell him," J'onn answered. He paused and added. "Just as he will tell you whatever he wants you to know."
Shayera flashed a small smile. "Good night, J'onn and thank you," she called out as she left the room and started down the passageway.
"Thank you," J'onn said to Doctor Light as he returned to his command post. As he watched the Doctor leave, he noticed the Green Lantern hurriedly approaching from the direction of the conference room.
"How'd it go?" the Lantern asked. There was concern on his face and in his thoughts.
J'onn folded his arms across his chest, his eyes narrowing. "She has faced her fear and now knows her fear won't harm her."
"Good!" John answered. Then he rubbed the back of his neck with his ring hand and offered, "I'm sorry about what I said…um…thought in the conference room."
J'onn eyed him for a moment then smirked, "Shayera is quite remarkable, isn't she? What were the words she used to describe herself? A soldier? No. Warrior was the word she used. Yes. A warrior and a hawk. Almost … a war hawk, don't you think?"
John's jaw dropped and his eyes widened. "Man, tell me you didn't tell her about my trip to the future and about Warhawk. Please, tell me you didn't tell her what I told you!"
Gotcha. J'onn tilted his head slightly and arched an eyebrow. He had just the beginnings of a smile on his face. "As I told her, I tell you: whatever you think she needs to know, you will be the one to tell her."
John grimaced. "Okay. So. You didn't tell her, right?"
"I didn't tell her."
John mumbled an audible sigh of relief and "thanks" in one breath. He walked away from J'onn, slowly at first, back in the direction of the conference room. Then suddenly his pace quickened as he changed direction and headed toward the Watchtower living quarters. J'onn resisted the urge to read the Lantern's mind deciding that some things were best left unknown - and unsaid - except by those who needed to know.
He inwardly smiled to himself, outwardly keeping a flat expression on his face, as he resumed his monitoring duties.
They can put the puzzle together without my help.