Disclaimer: Same as before.

Chapter 3 up. 'Bruise', as one of the reviewers so charmingly (and perhaps acurately) called him, finally gets told about things. How will he react?

Chapter 3: Mates

Bruce watched the other Leaguers carefully, as he always did after missions. The previous day's little adventure had gone reasonably well, all things considered, but he still kept a look out for potential hidden damage. He caught J'onn's eye and nodded slightly. While he watched for physical and psychological ills among his teammates, the Martian searched for emotional ones. Together, the pair of them kept as close a watch as was possible on the health and effectiveness of the other members.

A problem of some kind, Batman

Bruce responded to J'onn's telepathic warning with a brisk query. Source? Type? He felt a brief burst of ... humour? ... from the Martian, and only barely restrained the urge to glance in the other's direction. Instead he repeated the question, tinged with the telepathic equivalent of a raised eyebrow. He may not have be born with telepathic abilities, but he was nothing if not a fast learner. Over the last couple of months his mental conversations had achieve a range of subtleties that few on this planet could achieve. One of the first things he'd mastered was the ability to convey a range of indicators, normally associated with human body language, over a telepathic link. The 'Bat Glare', as Flash so charmingly called it, was equally effective in the mental arena.

J'onn brushed off the gesture, that tinge of silent laughter still flavouring their contact. Source is Green Lantern and Hawkgirl. Type ... is unprecedented. And directed at you Batman grunted silently. Really, there was nothing you could do physically that you couldn't do telepathically, with practice. So. What did the League's number one couple want with him? Though he had to admit to a certain concern regarding Shayera recently. She seemed uneasy, unbalanced. If something was wrong with her, then John would naturally pick up on it. The question was: what did they think he could do about it?

The meeting was brief, simply a run-down of the mission and the problems they'd encountered. Bruce kept a careful eye on the two problematic members, while Superman chewed a hole in Flash for being careless with bystanders' safety. As their leader turned to him for back-up, Bruce simply turned to the speedster, stared at him for a long moment, and waited for the inevitable nod of agreement. Once he'd gotten it, and business was pretty much wrapped up, he stood to leave. As expected, the pair stood with him, causing heads to turn towards them. Leaving them to sort it out, he swept from the room, heading for the monitor womb.

They followed him, but waited until they were inside the womb with him before speaking. John took the lead.

'Batman, we need to speak with you.'

'I can see that,' he replied as he settled himself at the control panel. He acknowledged J'onn's unobtrusive presence at the secondary monitor, then tuned the Martian out to grant the other two some semblance of privacy for whatever they needed to say. Once he was linked into the system, he turned back to them, confident that he would be alerted if anything required his attention. 'Well?'

'I'm in love with you,' Shayera stated simply. Thunderstruck, Bruce stared at her. Well, this would explain the laughter in the Martian's thoughts. It had to be a joke. But no-one was laughing, and the looks on both their faces was grave. Deciding for the moment to take it seriously, he looked straight at her, and waited for her to explain.

She shifted uneasily, supported on one side by John. He watched their interaction closely, seeing no discrepancies in their connection to each other. From their body language, the love, taunt and strained as it sometimes was, was still very much in evidence. Which put a serious question over her already dubious statement. His white glare was unnerving her, who always attacked what she feared. By all indications, she was deadly serious.

'You'll pardon me for being sceptical,' he said coolly, glancing pointedly at their joined hands. 'And I do not appreciate the joke.'

John stepped forwards. 'It's no joke,' he said, equally as cool. 'It is real, and a serious problem. You see,' and here he raised those clasped hands, 'we are still in love, as you've guessed. But Shay also loves, and needs, you.'

'You're my mate,' she said. He stared. 'It's not something I can change. For my people, it is elemental. Our duality of nature means that we instinctively recognize mate. It comes from the part of us that is hawk. That is the part that feels you. You are a hunter, and you call to me, as none other on this world. But my love for John grew first, in the human part of me. That, I cannot change either. I am at an impasse, with myself. It is up to you.'

Bruce simply sat, thinking furiously. Shayera was unsteady, wavering but determined, with her emerald knight at her side, to support and love her. And she needed him? For what? One lover wasn't enough?

'Let me get this straight,' he said, slowly and ominously. 'You are in love with John, with a human heart. But the bird isn't satisfied with this arrangement, and needs ... What? A hunting partner? A back-up for lonely nights?' John moved towards him furiously, but he stood fluidly, using his own anger and natural intimidation to still the man's movement . He continued. 'You come here to proposition me? To tell me that you need a second-best to fill in when your knight isn't around? What exactly do you expect me to do, hmm? Say of course, happy to be of service?'

He growled disgustedly and turned away, but her small hand on his shoulder stopped him. He looked at her, with her tearstained face and hot, angry eyes, and felt a twinge of longing. Damn her! Damn them both for offering him this, even this, when his pride could not stoop to accept it. And damn him too, for an integrity that never let him alone, never let him bow to life. He needed them to leave.

'I won't,' she said. 'I won't leave you. It's not what you say. That a different part of me loves you to that that loves John does not make you second best. You are as important to me as he is. He is my love. You are my mate. With my people, it is easier perhaps, as we all are so dual-natured. Here, it is not so simple. There are no hunters like you. I flew with you, in your city. I watched you hunt the criminals, the madmen. You were beautiful, but lethal. You call to me, as strongly as John does, but differently. Please, understand. I need my mate. I need you. I need John. I don't know what to do. Please, help.'

He was stricken again, by her sincerity, and her vunerability. She would never let this fragility show if it was not heartfelt. He wanted to comfort her. He didn't understand. Oh, he understood her problem, he knew the duality that was her nature, and he could understand that she meant what she said. What he did not understand was why he was so willing to accept it. He didn't understand why he wanted to be with these two in this place of love they had. He shouldn't give in. He couldn't afford to. He couldn't!

'What do you make of this?' he asked John quietly. The other man smiled sadly. 'I love her,' he answered. 'I love her and I don't want to see her torn apart for a love she cannot help. I cannot force you. That is more evil than should be thought of. But she loves you. She loves me, and I love her, and now she loves you too. It is up to you. But I will welcome you, for her sake, and ours. It's up to you.'

For a long moment, Bruce simply stood there. They waited, patiently but anxiously. Finally, he looked back up at them, a small smile on his usually stoic features. 'I wonder ...' he said softly. 'I wonder what Alfred will make of this. Is it custom for your people to "meet the parents"? Because my family will be very interested in this little developement.'

John laughed gently. Shayera merely looked relieved. 'Fine,' she said. 'As long as you do the talking. This was enough explaining to last me a lifetime!'

Bruce chuckled. 'Wait and see. We haven't even touched on the League yet. How do you think Flash will take this little piece of news.' They blanched, and he laughed that much harder. Oh, this was going to be fun. A lot of trouble, true. But worth it. He looked at her, warrior angel, and her partner, Emerald Knight to his Dark Knight. Oh yes. Definitely worth it.

Well? What do you think? Should I do a couple of reactions chapters? The Bat Clan? The Justice League? R&R, ladies and gentlemen. Pretty please?