CHILDREN OF COCYTUS – A Justice Lords Story by BillA1
Copyright July 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 "A Better World" written by Stan Berkowitz. A thousand thanks to Merlin Missy for her beta on this story. This story is a sequel to Steel Sunrise and was inspired by "The Balance" by Stan Berkowitz and Dwayne McDuffie.

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CHILDREN OF COCYTUS – A Justice Lords Story
Rating: (PG-13)
Synopsis: The Justice Lord Diana questions the decisions of her life.
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(Thirteen months after the death of President Luthor)

(Two hours ago)

The Watchtower landing bay had been re-pressurized. The civilian staff guided the returning Javelin-7 back to its designated parking position. The engines had barely stopped when the Javelin's doors burst open.

Diana rushed down the gangplank of the craft and once her feet touched the concrete floor of the landing bay, she became airborne. She didn't wait for Hawkgirl, who exited the Javelin after her.

She flew to J'onn's monitoring station in the operation's center, ignoring the Thanagarian who yelled out sharply, "Don't worry about me or doing the post op-check on the Javelin. I'll take care of it. And you're welcome."

Hawkgirl's little bruised feelings and her sarcastic tone were not important right now and Diana would tell her that later.

Later. At a time of her choosing, not the Thanagarian's.

Diana landed behind J'onn, who was listening to the reporting of the Earth sectors by the civilian staff. She knew the Martian was also scanning their minds, making sure they held nothing back in their reporting.

"Where's Superman?" she demanded.

J'onn turned around and studied her for a moment as if he was waiting for her to say something else.

She raised her voice as she snapped, "Do you know where Superman is? Yes or no. I really don't want to ask you again."

The telepath seemed genuinely surprised by this outburst as he answered, "He's over at the video communications terminal talking to the President."

"Fine," she replied and flew off toward the communications terminal. She ignored J'onn's voice behind her as he called, "Diana, wait!" He must have read my mind. Well, he can talk to me tomorrow.

As she approached Clark at the video terminal, she could hear him as he said, "Mister President, let's discuss elections in the spring. Let's see how they're doing then."

She landed behind him as was her custom when he was talking to the President. Clark didn't acknowledge her presence as was his custom, but he knew she was there.

Suddenly, she stepped in front of Clark and looking up into the face of the stunned President on the view-screen, she said, "Mister President, Superman has to go now. We have a crisis elsewhere that requires his attention. I'm sure he will get back to you later this evening." Without waiting for the bewildered man to acknowledge the transmission, she clicked off the display.

She looked at Clark, whose expression could only be described as one of astonishment. "Diana, what in heaven's name is wrong?"

She grabbed his cape where it joined the front of his costume. Her eyes narrowed as she pulled him away from the terminal and down the corridor. "You. Me." She smirked, "My room. Now."

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Since they'd become lovers, Diana had not been shy about telling Clark what she wanted from him in terms of their relationship, but he'd never seen her so aggressive before.

She was out of her costume in seconds after literally dragging Clark back to her quarters. And if he didn't know better he would have sworn that she was almost frantic as she pulled and tugged on his suit trying to get him out of it. Now, afterwards, as they lay in each other's arms under the sheets, Clark tried to make sense of it all.

In the past, he'd tried to be gentle, tried to hold back, tried not to injure her. But today, he wasn't sure he knew who this person lying next to him was. She'd wanted nothing gentle in their lovemaking this time and Clark wasn't sure how he felt about that, because he knew he'd hurt her.

She didn't say anything. She didn't have to. He just knew it.

She'd made all the right sounds, the sounds he loved to hear, the sounds that told him he was pleasing her. Then she encouraged him, no, demanded of him, that he be more…forceful, more powerful. And soon the sounds of her pleasure were increasingly replaced by her groans of pain. But she continued to urge him on, pleading for him not to stop, insisting he do more. But he did stop - when he saw tears fall away from her closed eyes.

And now as she lay cradled in his arms, Clark didn't like the feelings he had. Instead of contentment, he felt sad. Instead of a warm afterglow, he felt revulsion.

It is revulsion, isn't it? Not at her but at myself. How could I have allowed myself to hurt her like that? Why did she let me do that?

Early on, as they were getting to know each other, learning each other's bodies the way all lovers did; they experimented until they had found a rhythm, a tempo, a point in their lovemaking, an ebb and flow that allowed them both pleasure without causing her pain. Now they had crossed that line. No, he had crossed that line at her urging, her insistence. He'd trusted her more than he trusted anyone else on this planet since his Earth parents died. He never wanted to hurt her and she had never indicated before now that she wanted pain to be part of their intimacy.

I'm not a prude. If she wants to experiment, that's fine, but she should tell me ahead of time. You just don't surprise a man with something like this. I mean, why did she want me to do that to her?

He wanted answers. No. He needed answers and he needed them now. Consequences be damned.

He looked down at her and saw her grimace and heard her wince as she moved. He shook his head gently as he tenderly lifted her head so that he could look into her eyes.

"Why?" he asked.

She frowned. "Why what?"

She's going to make this difficult. Dammit. He sighed. "Why did you let me…no…Why did you want me to hurt you?"

She sat up gingerly. "What made you think you were hurting me?"

Clark cleared his throat; his body slumped in the bed. "Diana, I'm not stupid," he said softly. He wiped her cheek where her tears had fallen earlier. "I thought we promised to be truthful with each other…on all things, on all matters. Can you look me in the face and tell me you're okay, that I didn't hurt you?"

Diana looked into his eyes and then looked away, lowering her head. "I'll get used to it," she said flatly.

Clark sat up, threw the sheet off of himself and sat on the edge of the bed, his back toward her. "No, you won't," he said, shaking his head. "Not with me you won't because I won't do that again, be like that again." He paused. "I won't hurt you, Diana, and if that means we're over, then -"

He didn't finish his sentence as he looked over his shoulder at her. She had wrapped herself in the sheets and now lay with her back toward him. He stood up, walked to her side of the bed and looked down at her.

She frowned as she looked up at him and said, "Make sure you lock the door on your way out, then." She rolled over turning away from him.

Clark stood there stunned for a moment. Then he quickly dressed, not saying anything to her. Standing at the door, he whispered over his shoulder loud enough for her to hear, "Damn." He slammed the door behind him as he left.

As he stood on the other side of the door, trying to mentally gather himself, with his super hearing he overheard her say softly, "I think I am. I think we all are."

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(Eight hours earlier on Themyscira)

Hippolyta was pleased. She'd asked Diana and her winged friend to stay, to eat, before they began their long journey back to Man's World. What had started out as a simple meal of refreshment ended up as a victory celebration and a homecoming dinner. Diana and her friend had been successful in completing the mission assigned to them by the gods to restore Hades to his rightful place as ruler of the underworld. And now with blessings of her mother, the exiled princess had returned home.

There was food, drink and song, all mixed with unbridled joy everywhere. Except Diana didn't seem to be enjoying the festivities the way she had in the days of old, her mother thought. She seems so sullen. It was not obvious to most - but it was crystal clear to her mother.

Hippolyta stood up and tapped the side of her goblet with a fork. The ringing tone quieted the assembled gathering. "Please continue eating," she announced to all. "Let's enjoy what the gods have given us today: a return of order and the return of the princess." A thunderous cheer arose from the many guests. The queen then turned to her seated daughter, "Diana, will you come with me? I have something to show you. Your friend should remain here and enjoy our hospitality."

Diana stood up. "As you wish, Mother." She looked at her friend and said, "Shayera, I'll be back in a few minutes and then we should probably get underway." Without waiting for the other woman to acknowledge her, Diana turned and followed her mother.

Hippolyta led Diana to a small sitting room off the main hall. Diana closed the door behind her and stood with her arms folded across her chest. Diana looked angry as she asked, "You had something you wanted to show me, Mother?"

"Daughter, I just wanted to talk to you alone," Hippolyta answered. "What's troubling you? You're making a great show of enjoying yourself but I know you're not. What's wrong?" Hippolyta took a step toward Diana who stepped back.

Diana's eyes narrowed. "Mother, why didn't you tell me? Why did you let that monster be the one to tell me he's my father?"

Great Hera. Hippolyta stepped toward Diana again and the Princess again retreated until her back was against the door. Hippolyta's eyes narrowed for a moment. You can stop this childishness now, Diana; I'm not going to chase you around the room. She took a deep breath. "Daughter, how you came to be is not as important as the fact that you are. You are my little sun and stars."

Diana's eyes glistened as she threw her arms up in exasperation. "What? Mother, listen to yourself. My father, the father I didn't know I had, is Hades, the lord of the underworld. His wife, Persephone, is the only goddess who will answer any of my prayers. Hermes told me I was practically family, but he didn't tell me I was part of that family, Mother.

"You called me your little sun and stars. But I'm the child of a monster. I…I am a monster." Diana swallowed hard and sniffled as she turned her back to her mother, lowering her head as she faced the door.

Diana didn't move as her mother stepped forward and placed a hand on her shoulder. "You are no monster. You are my daughter and you are loved."

Diana turned and glared at her Mother. Hippolyta didn't move but she was taken aback by the stare. She focused on keeping her expression flat. Royalty doesn't show emotion, but Diana has obviously been tainted by Man's World.

"Yes, Mother. I'm loved by you," Diana said, her voice rising. "But how long before I turn into what he is? Tell me, Mother, when will I grow horns and claws like him, when will my eyes turn blood red like his, when will I become what he is? TELL ME MOTHER, TELL ME!"

"Diana, Princess of Themyscira, lower your voice and watch your tone when talking to your Queen," Hippolyta said in a firm but whispered voice.

"I can't tell you what your destiny is, Diana. I can only tell you what you were raised to do and who raised you. I can only tell you who loved you from the first moment she saw you. I can tell you that you are nothing like him."

"Mother," Diana answered, her tone more measured, her head lowered but with anger still in her eyes. "I have his hair color. I have his height. I may even have his heart." She slowly shook her head. "Suppose everything I've done…everything I've led others to do has been because…because…You should have told me, Mother. You should have told me."

"Listen to me Diana," Hippolyta said firmly as she lifted Diana's chin. "You have some things from him, that's true. But you don't have his heart! You have my heart, my teachings and my love."

Tears formed in Diana's eyes. "And do you think that will be enough, Mother? Do you really think that's enough?"

Hippolyta hugged her daughter. "Diana, it has been enough for several thousand years." She held Diana at arm's length and smiled. "And I'm sure it will be enough until the end of time. Now go tend to our guests, Daughter. I shall be out there in a moment."

Diana sniffled and wiped the tears from her eyes. Then she cleared her throat, straightened up and took her leave of her Mother. The way a princess is supposed to leave her queen.

As Diana closed the door behind her, Hippolyta prayed to Hera that her daughter wouldn't have to pay for the indiscretions she'd committed eons before. She was saddened that Hera didn't even acknowledge that she heard her.

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(Now - Watchtower cafeteria)

He found her in the cafeteria drinking an iced mocha. Flash got her hooked on those and she looks like she's been nursing that one a long time.

Clark knew he would find her there in the cafeteria or in her quarters. Since one of the Anti-Justice Lords terrorist cells had missed killing her and the Green Lantern by minutes when it blew up their apartment building in Detroit last month, she and John Stewart had made the Watchtower their new home. They'd both been shaken by the incident but seemed to take comfort from each other as the suspects were quickly apprehended and summarily tried and executed for their crime. Since the bombing, John and Shayera were now rarely out of each other's sight except when it involved Lantern missions, like John was on now, or personal mission requests from either himself or Diana.

She looked up as he approached. Without asking, he sat down.

"Yes?" she asked.

He tilted his head toward her and smiled. Then he suddenly frowned. "Shayera, what happened on that mission…the mission with you and Diana?"

Her expression was flat, but her eyes narrowed into a grim stare. "Why don't you ask Diana?"

He sighed and rubbed his hands together in a wiping motion. "She's not talking. What happened there?"

She shook her head. "You really need to talk her."

His eyes narrowed, "Don't do this, Shayera! I'm not in the mood. I don't care what secrets you've sworn to her. I need to know what happened."

Shayera frowned. "Then you can go to J'onn and ask him to read her mind, can't you?"

Clark glared at her angrily and then stood up. "Maybe I will," he snarled. "Thanks for your help," he hissed.

She looked down at her mocha then up at him. "Superman, wait a minute. We're a family here and all families have secrets, even us. Suppose you found out a family secret that makes you question all you know about yourself. Suppose you start to wonder whether or not the sins of the father are visited upon the child."

Clark sat back down. He pursed his lips together and then steepled his fingers in front of his face. Finally, he shook his head and said, "You're talking in riddles. I don't understand what you're saying."

She smiled weakly, took a sip from her drink and then frowned. "No, of course you don't, do you? You know, John had a small plaque he kept on the kitchen counter in our apartment before it was bombed."

Her eyes glistened as she mentioned her apartment and Clark thought for a moment that she was going to get emotional as she perhaps thought of the many people, including her landlady, who'd died in the building that day. He was surprised that her voice remained firm as she continued. "It was a quote of an Ashanti proverb. It said: 'when you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him.'"

She paused and then added, "Some of us grew up wanting to walk in the path of our fathers. Others among us are afraid that we're doomed to walk in the path of our fathers."

Shayera stood up and took another sip of her mocha, then placed the glass on the table.

Clark was confused and decided he wasn't going to try to hide it, anymore. "What? Diana's afraid she'll be like her mother?" he offered. "She is like her mother."

Shayera sighed loudly and shook her head. "We all had two parents. All of us. You might want to talk to Diana about her parents right now. I won't say any more. You have to figure it out."

She turned and headed for the exit. Clark didn't say anything to stop her but instead focused on what Shayera had said. We all had two parents? Diana didn't. She was sculpted out of clay by her mother unless…unless Shayera means she also had a father.

He thought back to his visit to Themyscira years earlier when the Justice Lords rescued the Amazons from the clutches of Felix Faust and denied Lord Hades his freedom. He remembered Diana telling the story of how her mother had a love affair with Hades and how…. Suddenly, Clark understood.

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It never ceased to amaze Clark that the size of the Watchtower seemed to grow or shrink depending upon whether or not one wished to find someone or avoid being found. He'd wandered the station for about fifteen minutes looking for her - well, not really looking for her. Clark knew where she was. He'd used his x-ray vision to quickly determine her location. He was just hesitant to go directly to her now. He needed time to think of what he wanted to say to her, what she might say back, what his response should be. He wanted to be sure that the 'script' he rehearsed in his head left her with no doubt that he was there for her, that he was on her side; that they could face whatever new fears she had about herself together. Satisfied that he knew what he wanted to say, and the way he wanted to say it, he headed for the conference room.

He knocked on the large door and then entered the room without waiting for an answer. He knew he surprised her because she still had her bottle of water to her lips, drinking, when he walked in. Her eyes widened for moment, and then they narrowed as she set the bottle on the table.

"Do you have a moment?" he asked knowing he was going to say his piece whether she said she did or not. Stick to the script, Clark.

"Yes," Diana answered. Her tone was extremely cold, he would remember thinking later. A real ice princess. This would be funny if it wasn't sad.

He approached her chair and stood behind it on her left, forcing her to look up at him. Her stare could have easily derailed him from his script but he forced himself to focus on what he wanted to say. Taking a deep breath, he said somewhat rapidly, "I just wanted to tell you that I think you're a good person and I'm glad I know you."

She raised her eyebrows but didn't say anything. Despite his anticipation of any of her possible responses, he wasn't prepared for silence. Finally, she asked, "What brought that on?" Her tone wasn't as sharp as it had been before.

His smile was wide as he put his hand on her seat back. "Nothing. I just don't think I say it enough to you. You've helped me through some bad times and I wanted to do the same for you." The words hadn't finished crossing his lips before he regretted saying them. Oh God. Why'd I say that last part?

Diana stood up. Her blue eyes glared at him. "Do the same for me?" She pointed at his chest, rhythmically thrusting her fingers toward his face, but not touching him. "What makes you think I'm going through any bad - "

She stopped and didn't finish her sentence. She looked away from him and then slowly sat down in her chair again. She swivelled the chair so that she faced Clark. "Did Shayera say something to you?"

Clark sat down in the chair next to her and shook his head. "Shayera didn't tell me anything – and I did ask her. And I don't have to be a telepath to know you're troubled by something…something that caused our conversation earlier."

He looked down at the table as if trying to find the appropriate words. They weren't there. Nothing he wanted to say seemed right for the moment, so he settled with, "Diana, you've always been there for me. All I'm saying is I…I want you know I'm here if you want to talk."

He looked into her face and tried to smile. He wasn't sure that his smile didn't come off as more of a smirk because her expression didn't change. He sighed and stood up. "I'll be in ops with J'onn if you need me," he announced, positive that she really didn't care.

He was halfway to the door when Diana said, "Thanks." He turned around and she smiled halfheartedly at him. "Can I ask you something?" she said.

"Sure," Clark answered as he walked back to the chair next to her and sat down.

She took a sip of her water and then asked, "Do you think you are more like your birth father or your Earth father?"

He didn't need to think about his response as he quickly said, "That's easy. I'm sure I look a lot like my Kryptonian father but everything I am, all my values, came to me from my Earth father." Clark stopped and reached across the table to grasp her hands. This time I have an answer for you.

He looked deep into her eyes as he continued, "He raised me, taught me right from wrong and he's the reason I am who I am today. Sure my Kryptonian father gave me this life and I honor his memory in my Fortress, but my Earth father is responsible for who I am now." He paused trying to read her facial expression, seeing if his words were registering. Her eyes gave nothing away. He added before he removed his hands from hers. "Kind of like you, I guess. I mean, your mother made you the woman you are. Right?"

Diana was silent at first and then answered softly. "Right." He grinned at her and she grinned back. "Right," she said again in a stronger voice, this time nodding her head.

Clark stood up and gently touched her shoulder. "Look. I'm going to get the President back on the line and see if there was anything else we needed to discuss before I…you interrupted us. You want to come with me?"

Diana stood. "No. I need to apologize to J'onn and Shayera and then…I think I need to pray." She cleared her throat. "Please apologize to the President for me."

Clark shook his head. "Nothing to apologize to him for."

He headed for the door and she called out behind him, "Clark. We are good people, aren't we? I mean, we have done good things, right?"

"We're good, Diana," he said. Then he repeated almost as if he was trying to convince himself, "And we've done a lot of good and we've done it because of you. Don't you ever forget that." He gently shook his head at her. "Don't punish yourself over this, Diana. I still think you're a good person. I thought that before you left on your mission and I think that now." He smiled as he added, "Don't you forget that either."

She smiled at him as he closed the door. On the other side, Clark lowered his head and said softly to himself, "I just hope the good we've done has been right. Heaven knows I wonder if we've done right and not just good."

As he walked down the passageway toward the communications terminal, he hoped that Diana's gods would tell her the answer to that question.

END