TRIBES by BillA1
Copyright January 2006
Disclaimer: The characters Batman, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl, Wonder Woman, Martian Manhunter, Superman & Flash and 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 are my own creation. Thanks to Merlin Missy for her beta on this story.
A Justice League Unlimited Story
Copyright January 2006
Synopsis: Everyone is part of a tribe. John Stewart, Shayera Hol and Rex Mason discover theirs.
Notes: Spoilers up through "Epilogue." Not a direct sequel to any previous work, but references material that appeared in Living with Shadows and Bookends.
The woman's got soul
The power of love and the power of healing
This life isn't fair
It's gonna get dark, it's gonna get cold
You've got to get tough, but that ain't enough
It's all about soul. – (All About Soul – Billy Joel)
It had been a long shift and Stewart was glad it was over. There'd been a mission in Hawaii against a volcano monster and then flooding in Chile. He was tired and very happy to turn over the watch to Doctor Light.
His stomach growled and Stewart debated whether to eat in the small canteen at the Metro Tower, on the Watchtower in the larger cafeteria, or just hold on and get something to eat at his apartment in Detroit.
He hesitated. If he went back to his apartment, there would probably be messages on the answering machine from Mari, who was modeling in Bangkok. He shook his head. Not now. I just don't feel like it right now.
He walked out of the Metro Tower and into the bright sunlight and cold crisp air of early December. He sighed. At least he'd finished his Christmas shopping and he was grateful for that.
He'd picked up a small brooch for Mari, although she probably already had more jewelry (and of better quality) than he could ever give her. Still, he knew she would take it and smile at him and tell him how happy she was to have it.
While he was at the jewelry store he'd spotted a small gift for Shayera. Right now, they weren't on gift exchanging terms and he wasn't sure when he'd ever give it to her, but when he saw it, he knew it was for her. He put her gift in the pocket dimension he kept his Lantern battery. One day when the time is right, I'll give it to her.
He took another deep breath. There was something about winter that Stewart loved. The chill in the air didn't bother him because he was protected by his ring. But he loved that he could see his breath in the air and he flashed back to his younger days when his Grandma would make soup on cold days like this. Vegetable beef soup.
There was a wide grin on his face as he decided that a cup of soup from the orbiting Watchtower would be just what he needed. He launched himself skyward.
"Then John looked the big guy in the eye and said, 'If you don't mind, can I get that to go? Please?' And for two years, John never went back to Freeport until he was sure the guy was gone."
Shayera laughed so hard that tears came to her eyes. For the last half hour, Rex Mason, also know as Metamorpho, had regaled her with stories about his days with John while they both were in the Marine Corps. She was pleasantly surprised to discover that in his younger days, John had been a very different man from the stern, serious individual he was today.
It had been a chance meeting in the cafeteria. The lunchroom was packed when Shayera entered, and she'd seriously considered eating her meal in her quarters.
There was an unspoken rule that League members followed and which created a membership hierarchy. Shayera didn't like this caste system much, but she didn't protest it either because most of the time it worked to her benefit.
On one tier were the original seven members. The seven preferred eating with each other or eating alone; they socialized together and had a history of bedding each other. At least, that was the rumor among the rest of the Leaguers. And the seven did nothing to dissuade that thinking because it gave the others a feeling that there was unity among the core members.
On the second tier was everyone else.
The seven could join anyone at a lunch table whenever they wanted, but the second tier would never sit down with a member of the original seven unless specifically invited to do so. If there had been an empty table, Shayera would have been assured that she could eat alone, in peace.
She preferred to eat alone.
She knew there were rumors, ugly rumors, about carnal things she was supposed to have done to get back into the League after the invasion and who she had to pleasure to keep her status as one of the seven. There was a rumor that there was no lock on her door for the other six core members. The rumor about how she pleased Wonder Woman so much that the Princess took her back to Themyscira to share her with others was particularly hurtful. It didn't matter that she and Diana went to Themyscira to restore Diana's father, Hades, to his throne. The fact that she and Diana left together after Diana was seen entering her room fed one rumor after the other.
The rumors had been most prevalent right after her return. They'd tapered off while the League was focused on Cadmus, but now had resurfaced with a vengeance. She'd recently been seen hugging the Flash since the League's triumph over the hideous combination of Luthor and Brainiac, so the rumor mill assumed it was finally his turn with her.
She sighed. After all, a trashed reputation was just another price to be paid for the invasion, wasn't it?
It wouldn't do any good to deny the rumors, anyway. Denial would only give credibility to the lies by acknowledging that they existed. The other six ignored the rumors and she was supposed to as well. As long as she and the other six knew the truth, that was all that mattered. So Superman had told her, but she noticed that although he'd had his share of suspicion and distrust thrown his way after that incident with Darkseid and again after Captain Marvel, no one had ever joked that Superman had kept his status as leader by being the town whore.
She was about to walk out of the cafeteria with her tray when she noticed Metamorpho sitting at a table by himself. He saw her and motioned for her to come over. She hesitated and after some long moments finally walked to his table.
"Yes?" she asked. Her jaw was firm, her voice almost projecting contempt. It was a tone she practiced in her quarters late at night when no one could hear.
He stood and smiled. "Hi. It's a bit crowded in here now, but as you can see, I have plenty of room at my table." He swept his arm in a mocking arc across the table. His eyes smiled as he said, "Would you like to join me here?"
Shayera gave him a tight lipped smile. "No. But thank you."
She'd just turned to walk away when he said, "Look. I'm almost finished and you can have the whole table to yourself when I leave. I promise not to say anything and you don't have to look at me, but there's no reason you can't sit down."
Shayera turned to face him as he continued, "You were probably going to eat in your quarters, right? Your food will get cold. You should stay out here and take in all this wonderful ambience." His smile broadened.
She glared at him. "It's salad. It's supposed to be cold." She paused and frowned as he smiled. "And what do you mean I don't have to look at you?" she added.
His smile faded. "What pretty lady wants to look at me while she's eating?" He lowered his head. "That's why I'm alone at this table. My looks put off a lot of people." He nodded toward her and sat down. "Like I said, I'm about two minutes from finishing and then you can have this table."
Shayera gave a tight grin and sat down. "I changed my mind. I'd be happy to sit at your table, and I'd like it if you'd stay for as long as you can, Metamorpho."
"Call me Rex," he answered. Then he smiled broadly, flashing his teeth. "The pleasure is all mine. It's been a while since I sat in the company of anyone as pretty as you."
Shayera, who had picked up her fork, put it down. Her eyes widened for a moment and then she suppressed a giggle and shook her head. "Down, boy! Are you sure you're not the Flash in disguise?"
Rex nervously laughed. "No, no. I wasn't hitting on you, although I'm probably making my Marine Corps buddies cringe by saying that. I mean, I should be I guess, but I… Let me stop while I'm ahead."
"That's a good idea," Shayera answered in a voice she hadn't used in months. It was a lighthearted voice. It was a voice with a smile to it. Hmm. He's a lot like John. Damn, Hol. Why did you just think that? They're just friends.
"I thought you had a lady friend," Shayera asked. Wasn't her name Sapphire or something? She took a bite of her salad.
"Still have the lady friend," Rex said. He sighed. "She's running Stagg Enterprises now. This is the week of her stockholders' meeting. We both thought it best that I not be around during the boardroom meetings." He shook head. "I'm a reminder of a failed experiment and her father's …well, you know."
Shayera nodded. She understood all too well what it was like to be a reminder to others of past unpleasantness. She took a sip of her drink and asked, "So, you and John were soldiers together, huh?"
Rex suddenly frowned and shook his head. "No, ma'am. Not soldiers. Marines. Big difference. Just ask a Marine."
Shayera was puzzled. Prior to the invasion, she'd researched the militaries of Earth and knew that within a single nation there would be different types of armies specializing in either sea, air or land warfare. When she'd tried to explain to John about her mission, she called him a soldier hoping he would understand her dilemma. Now she wondered if everything had degraded so quickly because she misunderstood his pride in his military organization.
She put her fork down. "But I thought Marines were called Soldiers of the Sea?"
Rex cleared his throat and fidgeted in his seat. "Er….Yeah. Um. Well. Um. Yeah. So how's that salad?"
She smiled. "The salad is fine. Let me try again. So you and John were in the Marine Corps together, huh?"
Rex sat up and beamed. "Yeah, a long time ago. He was in my platoon. I knew then he was going to be a big success. The man was so innovative."
Shayera's eyes widened. "Oh? How so?"
Rex leaned forward across the table. "Well, this is going to sound silly, but there was this one time when…."
Stewart stood in the doorway of the cafeteria, looked around the lunchroom before entering and then lowered his head. He saw her at the table with Mason. She was laughing and she didn't do that often enough, he thought. She has such a wonderful laugh. But now this was a problem. If he ate in the lunchroom, he would be expected to sit with them, but knowing her, she'd want to leave as soon as he sat down. What to do?
He decided he'd stop over and say "hi" and then get his soup to go. He'd eat it in his quarters on the Watchtower.
Stewart walked over to the table and stood where they both could see him. He put on his Lantern face and nodded at both. Mason smiled and nodded back. Shayera stopped laughing and looked at him with a hint of a smile on her face.
"Shayera," Stewart said in greeting. "Hey Mace, what's going on?"
Shayera nodded and answered, "John." Then she stood. "I'd better be going." Right on cue.
Mason shook his head and pointed at Stewart. "Don't go on his account. Besides, I didn't finish telling you about how heavy an 80mm mortar base plate is. John knows, don't you, bud?"
Shayera glanced at Stewart. Her eyes were wide. Stewart cleared his throat. "Have you two been talking about me?"
Mason turned his head and coughed. "Of course not."
Shayera grinned and slapped her hand to her chest. "Of course not."
Stewart frowned and looked sharply at both of them. "No," he said in a low voice. "Of course not." He turned to Shayera. "You should stay. Like he said, don't wander off on my account. Just saw you here and wanted to say hello." He flashed a quick smile at both and turned to leave.
"Hey. Look," Mason called out after him. Stewart turned.
"You're a galaxy traveler," Mason continued. "Before you go, would please tell Shayera how nasty the beans and mutterfu… um… bean and frankfurters in the old C rations were? Shayera has said that it can't be nastier than Travelian lizard soup."
Stewart quickly looked at both of them. Shayera sat down again. What the hell is Travelian lizard soup?
"I never had that lizard soup," Stewart replied, "but if Shayera thinks something tastes nasty, it's probably pretty bad."
Shayera grinned for a moment and then quickly frowned at Stewart. "And what does that mean? Most of the stuff I've eaten on this planet has tasted pretty bad if you want to know the truth. I can't tell you what I'd give for a bottle of Cafvan pepper sauce to season some food around here."
Mason's eyes widened. "Cafvan Pepper? Is that like Tabasco sauce?"
Shayera grinned back. "Much better."
What's going on between these two? Wait a minute, Stewart. Are you jealous?
"Better, huh?" Mason answered. His eyes narrowed. "Soooo, where can we find this all powerful, wonderful sauce?"
Shayera shook her head. "Not here. It's found only in the Omega quadrant."
Mason looked disappointed. "Oh," he said softly. Then he grinned. "Well, let's get a Javelin and go."
"Whoa, Rambo!" Stewart frowned. "Do you hear yourself? First, it may not be safe for Shayera to leave the planet, and second, do you have any idea how long it would take to get to the Omega quadrant in a Javelin?"
Shayera looked at Mason. "John's right," she said lowering her head. Good girl. Then her head snapped back up as she grinned. "A Javelin's too slow. John's ring is faster."
Stewart's jaw dropped. "What?" he stammered. "You're not seriously thinking about going, are you? It can't be safe out there for you."
Mason stood up. "She can wear a mask like the Lone Ranger. Come on, buddy. It'll be like old times when we used to make those midnight fat pill runs. Just a quick hit mission, in and out. We'll be back before anyone knows we're gone."
Stewart growled at Mason. "Mace, you're not helping." He turned to Shayera. "You can't be serious about this?"
Shayera shrugged. "I have an outfit I can wear and I know exactly where to go to pick up a couple of bottles of the sauce." She paused and gave him a wicked grin. "We could be back before Mari misses you."
Stewart bristled at the mention of Mari's name. He shook his head, frowned at her and pointed to Mason. "You. You shouldn't encourage him."
Mason lightly tapped Stewart on the shoulder. "Encourage me?" Mason said in a low voice. "You two are the space travelers here," Mason continued. "I never get to leave this damn planet. Hell yeah, encourage me! You know, John, there was a time when you couldn't wait to go on something like this. And as for her safety, man, I've no doubts she could hold her own with the best of them. But don't worry. I've got her back."
Mason sat down and lowered his head. "Of course," he added, "it would be nice if you were there to cover my back. You know, just in case we run into something."
Stewart slowly shook his head again and pursed his lips. He rubbed the back of his neck and looked at the two of them. They were both grinning.
He sighed loudly. "Aw hell. How do I get talked into these things? I came here for soup." Stewart looked at Shayera and sighed again, longer this time. "Okay, go saddle up and get changed. We'll leave after I finish my soup."
He paused. "Hope this pepper sauce is worth it."