Disclaimer: I don't own Justice League Unlimited.
(A/N: Post 'Destroyer', so spoilers ahoy!)
Chapter One: A Conundrum
The room seemed larger than he had thought it would. Maybe he was, on some level, expecting more members of the League to be present at the event. On a subconscious level, of course. He knew he wasn't exactly popular with some members; he was considered a delusional yet harmless kook on the same level as the Question by some, yet he was eyed suspiciously and even feared by others.
But then again, he couldn't have been that unpopular. They did ask him to join the Justice League, after all. When he received the invitation, he couldn't help but wonder whose idea it was to bring him in.
That didn't seem likely to him then, and seeing her cautionary response to his entry, it didn't seem likely to him now.
He had been left quite perplexed by that question. Who on the League would think enough of him to recommend he be brought on board? A cursory glance across the crowd answered his question; Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E. He had fought alongside them during the Apokolips invasion. They had saved each others backs on numerous occasions during the battle, and now it seemed he was being rewarded. Not that he did it for the recognition. First and foremost, Carter Hall, also known as Hawkman, was a hero.
"…for your much appreciated assistance during the Apokolips invasion, and for the independent work you've done against crime in Midway City, we, the Justice League, would like to welcome you into our ranks."
Superman raised his glass. "Welcome to the League, Hawkman."
The ten or so guests in the room raised their glasses, a general 'hear hear' spreading through the crowd. Carter just smiled and nodded, unsure of how to take such praise.
Green Arrow grinned. "Don't thank us yet, pal; just wait until you've gone on a mission with the Creeper. Then we'll see how thankful you are."
A low chuckle spread through the crowd, and again, Carter just smiled, not quite sure how to deal with the friendly ribbing. He wasn't really much of a funny man himself. He wasn't particularly dead serious, either, but he certainly wasn't the wisecracking, happy-go-lucky type. He felt a heavy hand on his shoulder, and looked over at Superman.
"Don't worry about it. You might find this all a bit daunting at first, but you'll get used to it."
Carter sighed. "I have to admit, this is all a little bit overwhelming."
The Man of Steel shrugged, an easy smile on his face. "It always is to begin with. When I made my first speech to the League, I could swear I would trip up on the way up to the podium or forget what to say. But if there's one thing you can say about the League, it's that they'll always welcome you with open arms."
Carter nodded courteously. "Thank you."
"Well, I've got some League business to attend to, so I'll have to be off. I'll see you later, I'm sure."
The Man of Steel sipped down the last of his orange juice and put the glass down the on the table before moving away.
Green Arrow made his way over. "Hey, buddy. Don't worry yourself too much about what I said back there. I was just kidding around."
"To be honest, I'm not sure who the Creeper is, so the joke might have fallen flat for me."
The archer's smile fell. "Oh. Well. Big grin, yellow skin, wears nothing but underpants, gloves, boots and a weird carpet thing around his neck. Really can't miss him."
"I'd hope not, otherwise I might need my eyes checked," Carter said, a small quirk of a smile on his face.
Arrow smiled. "Say… have you ever played poker?"
Shayera tried not to stare at Carter as he and Arrow conversed. It seemed such an odd fit, having Hawkman in the League. She had relegated him as something that existed outside of this realm. Now she would have to see him every day. She felt the presence of someone beside her, and looked over to see John Stewart, sipping at a glass of orange juice.
"I take it this was your idea?" he said, trying his best to sound nonchalant. Shayera hid her smile. He never was very good at hiding his feelings.
"Wasn't me," she said innocently. "Was it you?"
"Ah, no. Not that I don't like him-"
"-but, I never really thought of him and the League as being in the same, uh… league." He closed his eyes and grumbled. "That was a Wally joke, wasn't it?"
Shayera smiled. "Just a little."
"Hey, it's not like you haven't done your fair share."
"When?" Shayera responded challengingly.
"Well, there was that one time on that Alpha Centauri moon…"
"I knew you'd throw that back at me! That was an accident," she said, smiling.
John paused, and seemed ready to continue talking, when something flashed across his eyes, and his expression changed as though he had just realised something. Shayera felt the same sudden change in herself as well, and an awkward silence spread itself over the two like a thick fog, blinding them to each other.
"So… um… I hear that Wally's been spending less time at the Tower."
Shayera paused for a moment. "Yeah. He's been… busy, I hear."
"Do you know what with?"
Shayera shook her head. "I guess we could ask him at the meeting we've got-" she looked up at the clock, and her eyes widened, "-right now."
Batman, Superman, J'onn and Wonder Woman looked up at John and Shayera as they came in, equally irked looks on their faces. It was strange for John to see J'onn showing such emotions, but since his time away travelling the world, the Martian had grown by leaps and bounds as far as his emotional welfare was concerned. John was happy for him, but that didn't mean he sometimes wished for the more balanced J'onn J'onnz to come back.
"Sorry we're late," Shayera said, though she didn't bother coming up with an excuse. Superman was at the same gathering they were, and he had still managed to get to the meeting on time.
"It doesn't matter anyway," Batman said dangerously, "it's not like you're the only ones."
John cocked an eyebrow. "He's late again?"
The Dark Knight nodded, and John couldn't help but sigh as he sat down. Wally had been becoming increasingly tardy when it came to League meetings, shifts, missions, or anything League related in general. It wasn't as though he were neglecting the Flash side of his life, however; John recently saw a newscast of Flash and Kid Flash fighting the recently escaped Weather Wizard. The criminal had escaped from the battle, but at least Wally was still on the streets of Central City.
"So," Diana began cautiously, "how's our new recruit finding things here?"
Batman's expression remained stony, but John had spent enough time around him to know that the Dark Knight didn't approve of Hawkman's addition to their ranks. John still wasn't sure how he felt about it himself.
Superman's smile did nothing to improve Batman's dour expression.
"He's a bit overwhelmed by the scale of everything," Clark said, his voice reflecting how many times others had come to him with similar comments. "But I think he'll get used to it pretty quickly." He looked over at J'onn. "He's got an appointment with you, doesn't he?"
J'onn nodded solemnly. "At his own request," he replied. The slightly surprised look on Shayera's face reflected John's response well.
The Martian shrugged. Such a nonchalant human gesture seemed odd on the usually stoic alien. "It's not as though he doesn't realise how big a threat Shadow Thief is."
"Yet another reason why we shouldn't have jumped to recruit him," Batman added, and John found himself agreeing.
"He has a point," the Lantern said, leaning forward on his arms. "Wouldn't it be a better idea to make sure Shadow Thief is gone before we start sending this guy out on missions?"
J'onn seemed to consider this for a moment, and then slowly blinked in a calm, almost sloth-like motion. "I've scanned his mind; Shadow Thief is well under control."
Batman thinned his eyes. "But how much is 'well under control'?"
"As much as you have control over your darkest desires," J'onn replied easily, the newly acquired human twang in his voice giving more attitude to the statement than the Martian probably intended.
The doors to the conference room opened, and the Flash hurried through, coming to a halt in front of his chair. "Sorry I'm late," he gasped.
John cocked an eyebrow. "What kept you?"
Wally shrugged. "Stuff."
"Just stuff; don't worry about it," he said quickly, waving a dismissive hand as he went to sit in his chair. John exchanged glances with Shayera and Superman. Wally, seeing this quick exchange, stopped moving in mid-sit.
Superman took a breath. "Wally… you've been late for the past six or so meetings-"
"Not to mention your shifts," Shayera added.
"-and we're just wondering if anything's wrong."
The speedster sat down in his chair, an easy grin on his face. "Nothing wrong. Most definitely nothing wrong. Just some Wally West stuff I had to take care of."
The Man of Steel seemed ready to reply, but then paused for a moment. His gaze lingered on the speedster for a few moments longer before he decided to sit back down.
John eyed his friend sceptically. What was Wally doing that would constantly make him late for League business? He was usually the most vigilant of all of them when it came to superhero duties. Although that was usually because he didn't have anything else to do.
Maybe he's finally found a hobby.
"All right," Clark began, bringing John out of his reverie. "Let's get down to business. Batman?"
The Dark Knight nodded, standing up with a stack of papers. If he didn't know he'd pay for it later, John would have groaned.
Please… not more charts.
Batman walked around each of them, dropping stapled together stacks of paper in front of each of them as he went.
"These are the statistics for some of the…"
He trailed off as he reached Wally, who wasn't paying the slightest jot of attention to Batman. Instead, he had his hands behind his head, staring up at the ceiling with a big goofy grin spread across his face.
"Flash…" he growled quietly.
Still no response.
The Scarlet Speedster sprang back to reality. "Huh? Wha?"
Batman sighed and handed over the charts.
A troubled look crossed Wally's face. "Oh. Thanks," he mumbled sarcastically.
John chuckled out loud, but quickly changed the chuckle into a throat in desperate need of clearing. Batman slammed his paper down on the table a little harder than he needed to.
"Now, these- Flash!"
"What, what? I'm here, I'm listening!"
"Then look at me instead of past me."
"Okay, okay, geez…"
John sighed. It was going to be a long meeting.
Somehow Hawkman knew it was going to be a long day. From the moment he woke up and his helmet felt too tight on his head, he knew it was going to be one of those days. One of those days where everything feels overly tiresome and tedious. Although he couldn't really comment on how tiresome and tedious working with the League was; he had only worked with them for a week or so.
He landed on the rooftop of the Midway City Museum, having finished his morning patrol of the city. The clock tower of the city chimed for twelve o'clock, and he promptly put his hand to his ear piece, which still felt strange and obtrusive.
"This is Hawkman. One for transport."
Yet another thing he wasn't yet used to; teleporting. The first time they had done it, he had yelped out loud, much to his embarrassment. Booster Gold and Blue Beetle, who had been with him at the time, had pretended not to notice. It didn't stop Carter from being embarrassed, though.
His shift began at 12:30, but he always liked to be early for appointments, just in case something unforeseen happened. Not that anything ever did. But when the League was concerned, Hall had learnt the hard way to be prepared for anything. Missions would take unexpected twists during the course, and Carter was left wondering just what the hell had happened. It didn't help that the second villain he was sent up against was a bored Circe, who had taken a liking to him, or at least, his body. He still remembered how embarrassing that felt, her casting a spell on him so that he would…
Well, suffice to say, Carter wasn't overly pleased with that mission.
"Ah. Hawkman. Glad to see you're here."
Hawkman looked up at the balcony of the Watchtower and saw Mr Terrific looking down at him. With a beat of his wings, Carter was sent up into the air, elegantly making his way up to the League co-ordinator.
"I know your shift doesn't start for another half an hour, but would you mind filling in at the Metro Tower? Flash is late for monitor duty, and Shayera had to duck out on a mission."
Carter paused for a moment. "Uh… I wouldn't really know what to do."
"Your aptitude test showed that you can handle it. I'll guide you through it via the COM link if you have any problems." He paused as he saw Carter's reluctant expression. "You'd have to learn someday."
"W… uh, sure."
His mouth suddenly feeling quite dry, Carter made his way back down to the teleporter pad. Allowing a brief moment's hesitation, he nodded at the teleporter controller. He blew out a breath as the teleporter sent him down to Metropolis.
Most definitely going to be a long day.
Carter smiled and nodded at Dr Light as she stepped down from the teleporter pad. The blink-and-he'd-miss-it glance she cast down his chest made him redden slightly, and he quickly got back to work at the control panel.
"You're new here, right? Hawkman, isn't it?"
He paused. "Yes."
"Any relation to Hawkgirl?"
"I… don't believe she likes to be called that anymore."
Dr Light shrugged. "Shayera, then. Any relation?"
"Ah, no, I'm afraid not."
The scientist cocked an eyebrow. "Afraid? Why?"
"Um… perhaps I phrased that wrong," he replied, a nervous smile playing across his lips.
"I haven't seen you here before now. Mr Terrific transfer you?"
He shook his head. "No, I'm just here while Shayera is away on a mission."
An eyebrow rose beneath his helmet. "You say that like it happens frequently."
She shrugged. "Well, it's only recently, but he's been late for quite a few of his shifts." She cocked a suggestive eyebrow. "Why? You thinking of replacing him?"
"I, uh… no, not really, no," he said, nervously tugging on his earlobe.
"Oh. Shame." She walked past him and to the doors, which slid open obligingly. "I'll see you around, I'm sure."
"Uh, yes. Yes, of course. Goodbye."
The doors closed, and Carter let out a long breath of relief.
You know, if you really were a reincarnated King, you'd think you'd be smoother around women. Especially the…
He looked over at the closed doors.
…more aggressive ones.
The doors slid open again, and Carter struggled not to jump when a powerful gust of wind nearly blew his helmet off.
Hawkman turned to see the Flash standing behind him, a confused expression wrinkling his mask.
"You're not Shayera."
"Ah, no. She's on a mission."
"Right. And you're here… why?"
Carter suddenly felt slightly awkward. "Well, Mr Terrific… that is, he sent me to fill in."
"Oh." Flash paused. "Why?"
"You were… late."
"Late! This isn't late! This is-" the speedster looked up at the clock. "Wow, that's pretty damn late," he muttered, though more to himself than anyone else. He turned back to Hawkman, an apologetic look on his face.
"Well… sorry if I caused any trouble."
"Not at all."
Flash nodded, seemingly glad to have the pleasantries out of the way. "Well, as long as you're here, you can fill in for Shayera while she's out."
"But I'm supposed to be going on a mission with Green Lantern."
Flash waved a dismissive hand. "Pffft. GL's a puppy. Don't worry about what he tells you to do."
"That's a bit irresponsible, isn't it?"
"Some would say it's irresponsible to leave me alone in charge of the Metro Tower."
Carter opened his mouth, and then closed it again. "I see."
An easy grin spread across Flash's face, and he slapped Carter on the shoulder. "There ya go. I'm just gonna get something to eat. You want a snack or anything?"
"No-" there was a blur of red and another gust of wind as Flash disappeared, and reappeared holding a bag of potato chips and a can of soda.
"-thank you," Carter finished, blinking in disbelief at the show of speed.
The Scarlet Speedster made his way over to the table behind the control panel and sat down on the chair, putting his feet up on the table's transparent surface.
"So," Flash said, his voice muffled by a mouthful of chips. "Anything interesting happen yet?"
"Um…" Hawkman shook his head and got back to his work at the control panel. "Dr Light finished her mission in Zimbabwe, and Steel, Fire and Ice gave an update on how they're doing in Coast City. They'll be about an hour later than they originally planned."
"Trouble?" Flash said, some concern seeping into his voice, though his physicality didn't change.
"No, there's just a lot more rubble to clear than they realised. And some of the locals are being… stubborn."
"Stubborn?" the speedster responded, some amusement in his voice.
"Well… Fire had a far more…um… descriptive… word."
"Yeah, she's got a mouth on her when she's angry, all right," he said, emptying some chips into his mouth from his hand. "So," Flash continued, munching away on the chips, "what's the deal with you and Shayera?"
Carter paused at the control panel. "I… don't think she'd appreciate me talking to you about it."
"Ah, c'mon. Shayera's already talked to me about some of it."
"She has?" Carter asked, turning his head slightly. "Did she… say anything about me?"
Flash shook his head. "Nuh-uh; two way street," he said, pointing to Carter and then himself.
Hawkman sighed. "We… used to know each other."
"Yeah? Like when?" the speedster enquired, his voice having an almost childlike curiosity to it.
"It was…" he paused, considering the face of his companion. "Well. I'm sure you already know," Carter said simply, getting back to his work.
He heard the Flash's munching grind to a halt behind him as he felt the speedster's curious gaze on the back of his head.
"How'd you get in the League? Did someone invite you, or…"
"It was Stargirl and S.T.R.I.P.E. I helped them fight off some of Darkseid's forces during the Apokolips invasion."
Hawkman turned, his curiosity piqued by the Flash's tone of voice. "What?"
"Well, I was just wondering who would invite you in. I mean, no offence or anything, but I doubt Shayera or Bats would have done it."
"Or Green Lantern, for that matter."
"I dunno… I don't think GL would care that much," Flash replied.
"Well, I just thought… since he and Shayera are together…"
"GL and Shayera aren't together. He's with Vixen," Flash said instantly, then quickly slapped his hand over his mouth.
"They're not together?"
Flash shook his head vehemently. "Nonono! I didn't say anything! I didn't mean to say anything, I mean-" the doors to the room opened behind him, and Shayera stepped through. The speedster looked back at him. "Uh, look- I didn't just tell you that, okay?"
"Hawkman? Why are you…?" Shayera cocked an eyebrow at the pleading look on Flash's face, and the awkward look on Carter's. "What has he told you?" she asked threateningly, her inquisitive expression quickly giving way to a death glare. The speedster shrunk slightly.
Carter paused and looked from one to the other, and then back again. "…nothing, Shayera. Well, nothing important."
Flash, vindicated, grew back to his original size, his hands on his hips and a Flash grin on his face.
Hawkman walked past Shayera with a polite smile and went to the teleporter pad. "One for the Watchtower, please."
Shayera, still looking at Flash suspiciously, went over to the control panel and activated the teleporter, engulfing him in a shaft of white-blue light. As soon as Hawkman had faded from view, Shayera turned and whacked Flash in the arm.
"Ow! What was that for?"
"For whatever you said to him, big mouth."
"I didn't say anything."
Shayera stared at him a little longer before returning to the control panel. Letting out a breath of relief as discreetly as he could, Flash walked back to the table and sat down, opening the can of soda. Just as he was about to bring it to his lips, he paused.
"You want some?"
He shrugged and chugged it.
"So," he said, stopping himself to belch loudly. "How was the mission?"
"Watch your manners. It was fine. And I wouldn't call it a mission, exactly. Public relations meeting."
Flash cocked an eyebrow. She sighed.
"Fine, Metropolis Orphanage."
"What? Why're you embarrassed about that?"
"I don't know…"
"Believe me, it's nothing to be embarrassed about, Shayera. I think it's pretty sweet."
"When you say that I'm being sweet, I know I'm doing something wrong."
"Hey - that's cruel and unnecessary."
Shayera allowed a small smile, and she could practically feel Flash's grin.
"So why are so chipper?" she asked, continuing her work as she spoke.
"Yes, 'chipper'. As in, happier than usual."
"I wouldn't say I'm 'chipper', guv'nor."
"Look, it's just a word."
"Yeah, but… 'chipper'?"
"What's wrong with 'chipper'?"
"Nothing, it's just… 'chipper'…"
"Never mind then. Why are you happier than usual?"
"Maybe I'm just in a good mood."
"Wally, you were daydreaming in a meeting. The last time I saw you do anything like that…" she paused, and an evil grin spread across her face. "Oh, I see."
She turned, the evil smile making Flash squirm in his seat uncomfortably.
"You've got a girlfriend…" she said in a singsong-y voice, making Flash wince.
"Aw, shut up," he mumbled.
Shayera put her hands on her hips triumphantly. "Ha! You do, don't you?"
"No…" he paused. "Well, okay, maybe."
"Who is it? Anyone I know?"
"No…" he paused. "Well, okay, you might have heard of her, but I doubt it."
"Heard of her? Why, is she famous?"
"In her own way, I guess."
Shayera thought for a moment, looking down to her right in thought. Suddenly, she snapped her fingers. "It's that reporter woman, isn't it? The one who you saved at the Flash Museum."
The Scarlet Speedster was silent again for a few moments, keeping his gaze away from Shayera's. "Bats talks too much…"
"It is, isn't it? I don't believe it. You and a reporter."
"Hey, what's wrong with a reporter?"
"Nothing. They just seem a bit too… smart for you, is all."
"You know what I mean."
"Well, you don't have to worry about that; she's not smart at all." Flash frowned for a moment. "Wait, that didn't come out right."
Shayera laughed. "Never mind, I know what you mean." She turned and got back to the control panel. "So… how long have you been seeing her?"
"Uh…" Flash rubbed the back of his neck. "About a month now."
"And you're only just telling me now?"
"What? I was gonna tell you when I was ready."
"Which would have been… when?"
"Some… time… soon…" he replied, trailing off.
Shayera grinned. "Right. And does she know that you're…"
"Ah, no, not yet."
"Are you planning on it?"
"I'm gonna see where it goes, first. If it gets serious, then… yeah, probably."
"Do you think it's going to get serious?"
"I dunno… can we not talk about this?"
Shayera put her hands up in surrender. "All right, all right…" Her control panel beeped, and she pushed the appropriate button. "And besides, you'd better get going; there's a bank robbery going down in Central City."
"I'm on it," Flash said, heading to the teleporter pad.
"And by the way? It was Orion who told me," Shayera said, grinning.
Flash didn't even have a chance to reply before she teleported him away.
(A/N: Well, there you have it.
Next chapter: The League are still concerned about the Flash's constant absences, but being too occupied around the world to check up on him, they decide to send someone else to keep an eye on him; Hawkman…
Reviews, if you please.)