Disclaimer: I don't own anything DC related. Sorry.
Sequel to Heartbreak Tomatoes.
Warning: As this story deals with Vigilante's experience as a POW during the Thanagarian invasion, some of the content is a little graphic.
The determined woman glided gracefully through the Metrotower corridors. She pressed a hand to the talisman at her neck and felt her senses immediately heightened. Vixen took two sniffs before she determined where her prey was.
That stubborn man couldn't avoid her forever.
It had been two weeks since Mari had broken up with John Stewart. It had been nearly two weeks since four of her friends had surprised her with a "break-up therapy" party that had consisted of throwing tomatoes at an effigy of the Green Lantern. The fact that Vigilante, Shining Knight, Booster Gold, and Blue Beetle had also stripped down to their underwear had only made it more amusing.
Ah, there he was. He was hiding down in the stable, probably slipping Winged Victory treats since Sir Justin wasn't around to stop him. Because of Greg Saunders, the winged horse had developed quite a taste for animal crackers and shortbread cookies.
Mari gracefully stepped into the small stable, located opposite of an outer wall on the ground level of the tower. She could see that white cowboy hat from the door.
"Greg, we need to talk."
The cowboy's muscles stiffened, but he continued petting the white horse as he stood up. He lowered his face next to the animal's head and whispered, even though Vixen's currently heightened ears caught it.
"I'm in trouble now partner," Vigilante muttered. He patted the horse a couple more times before adding, "Now don't yah tell Sir Justin what I've been feeding yah." The horse neighed in reply and Mari rolled her eyes.
"You're not in trouble cowboy, we just need to talk," she sighed.
It was something that had been bothering her for nearly two weeks. When her boys had stripped down to their boxers, she had noticed ugly, lacerated scar marks that stretched across Greg's back. Justin had been surprisingly closed mouthed when she'd asked him about it. When Mari had guessed at the source however, the knight reluctantly acknowledged it.
Greg's scars were from his imprisonment during the Thanagarian invasion.
"Yer goin' ta ask me about mah scars," the cowboy replied. "Justin told me." His face tightened up visibly underneath his bandana. Mari crossed over to Vigilante and placed a hand gently on his arm.
"I'm your friend Greg," she said gently. "I want to know what the Thanagarians did to you."
"I told ya before dahlin'…"
"All you said was that they put you in a small containment room and humiliated you," Vixen replied sternly. There was a long pause as Vigilante looked in the other direction, unable to meet her gaze. However, Mari was still able to catch the sudden wetness in the man's eyes.
"Please Greg," she pleaded. "I know it's probably hard to talk about, but I need to know. What did they do to you?"
"It's no easy tellin' Pretty Lady…" Greg finally sighed. Mari placed a strong hand on his shoulder.
"I've got time, cowboy. Let me buy you a cup of coffee and we'll go somewhere private."
"How's Vixen holding up?" Ted Kord asked. The Blue Beetle was busy monitoring news channels in Southeast Asia as his best friend lounged in a nearby chair. Michael Carter absentmindedly played with an official Booster Gold action figure.
"I think she's doing okay," Booster Gold answered. He held the action figure up to Ted and began to 'pummel' him with the toy's tiny plastic arms. Damn, he really wished that the toy spoke. That would have been really cool.
There was a long silence as Ted made some adjustments to the news feed from India. Scientists were warning of a possible tsunami in the region. It was best to keep a close eye on it.
"Do you think she's doing okay Ted?" Booster asked tentatively, putting down the toy. "I mean, Mari looks better than she did last week."
"The affairs of the heart are said to be the hardest to recover from," Skeets answered helpfully. The little robot hovered between the two men.
"What do you know about love Skeets?" Blue Beetle asked dryly.
"I know that the relationship between John Stewart and Mari never worked out," the robot answered helpfully. "His and Shayera Hol's son, Rex…"
"That's enough Skeets," Booster Gold cut the robot off sharply. His eyes darted around, trying to determine if anyone other than Blue Beetle had heard his metal companion.
Ted Kord stared at his friend.
"You knew," he said quietly. Michael Carter winced at the slight tone of accusation in his friend's voice.
"I knew that Mari and GL wouldn't work out," Booster Gold whispered. He shot his friend a warning gaze that clearly told Blue Beetle to whisper as well. "However, I don't really remember who she actually ends up with."
"Why didn't you say anything?" Ted asked. Beetle paused as the answer hit him.
Michael couldn't, or wouldn't.
"You know I'm from the future, bro," Booster answered quietly. "I've got to keep my mouth shut about what's going to happen…even the times I don't want to." There were admittedly a lot of things that Michael Carter didn't know, as history class hadn't been his forte. However, nearly everyone in his time knew about Rex Stewart, the son of two of the Justice League's founding members. He was a legend.
Michael had even played with action figures of Warhawk and the second Batman when he was a kid. And honestly? He preferred Superman's traditional red and blue costume over the black and white getup he would eventually wear.
"Sorry Ted," Booster Gold muttered. "But there's a lot of things that I can't say without changing the past." Even things about your future, buddy.
"Damn, I wish this thing could talk," Michael suddenly whined, instantly changing the subject. "How does 'Here comes Booster Gold, the Man of Tomorrow!' sound?"
"No wait! I've got it!" Booster Gold exclaimed loudly, waving the action figure. "Prepare to meet your doom, foul villains!"
"You never say that," Beetle pointed out.
"Prepare to meet your doom, foul villain!" Michael shouted. He tossed the action figure at his friend, which immediately met with a loud rebuke from Mr. Terrific.
"Booster Gold! Blue Beetle is on duty and you're not! Go somewhere else!"
Booster Gold apologized to the irate man and pretended to be unaware of why he'd gotten into trouble again. Inside, however, he breathed a sigh of relief.
Greg Saunders gratefully sipped on the strong, black coffee. It gave him strength. Mari, for her part, twirled a finger in her cup of Rooibos tea. Most of the time she drank coffee. However, sometime she liked to drink the African tea. It was something that tied her to the tiny village she had been born in, even though she had grown up in the United States.
When Vigilante continued to stare silently at his coffee, Vixen took the initiative.
"I was in Paris during the Thanagarian invasion," she said quietly. Mari had been participating in a fashion show. "Like everywhere else, the city was supposedly under martial law." She paused.
"After everyone realized that they weren't here to help us, a small resistance movement popped up in the city. Since Thanagarians don't like to be in places where their wings won't work, it operated from the catacombs under Paris."
Greg looked up at her.
"After going through WWI and occupation under WWII, the French didn't exactly take kindly to another occupation," Mari said dryly. She twirled a finger in her tea again before taking a sip.
"A lot of good people died," she whispered. The superheroine blinked away a tear.
"I heard about Paris," Vigilante finally said quietly. "I hear that the Poles put up quite ah fight too." With a sigh, he reached up and pulled off his beloved cowboy hat. He set it on the table.
"I was in Texas," he finally said. "Visiting mah sister 'n her family." There was a pause. "We both grew up in Wyoming, but she'd recently moved down there with her husband."
Vixen felt her mouth tighten. Of all the places in the United States, Texas was one of the places that had taken the Thanagarian occupation badly. Texas and Oklahoma had possessed particularly strong resistance movements when compared to other states in the union.
The Thanagarians had put them down harshly.
"They attacked a school," Greg continued. "They thought that's where we was operatin' from. The bloody hawks caught me and two National Guardsmen."
"Then what happened?" Mari asked quietly. Vigilante swallowed a lump in his throat as his hands tightened visibly around his coffee mug.
"Hell," he whispered.
"What the hell is this?"
"A human male, sir. He managed to kill Squad Commander Shra Kel before we caught him."
Greg Saunders hid a wince of pain. His arms were bound tightly behind him with some kind of strange metal. His left ankle was broken. A few of his ribs felt that way too.
The Thanagarian in charge bent down to eye the cowboy. Cold, hard eyes glared into his own. Vigilante made a valiant effort to glare back.
A hard fist backhanded him and Greg hit the floor with a painful thump. His face and the shoulder he landed on screamed in agony.
"Shra was a friend of mine," the Thanagarian captain growled. He kicked the cowboy in the stomach before turning to his officers. "Put him in the interrogation cell. I'll be there shortly."
Vigilante gasped as he was forced to his feet. His left leg gave out under his broken ankle. One of the Thanagarians grabbed him roughly by the neck and forced him back up.
"They stripped me naked and threw me into a tiny room," Greg said quietly. "There was only enough room for one other person." His hand began to shake slightly and the cowboy let go of the coffee cup.
"Their captain…beat me with some kind of whip. He said that it was made of Nth metal. I had no idea what that was at the time."
Horror spread across Mari's stricken face.
"Nth metal? My God Greg, they beat you with Nth metal!?"
Searing pain cut into his back. The Thanagarian laughed cruelly.
Greg felt his eyes blur. Dammit, not now! Only Justin had seen him cry. He didn't want to cry in front of Mari.
"How's it feel No Wings? Do you like Nth Metal?"
Another lash cut into his body.
The cowboy covered his face and wept. Mari scooted her chair closer and placed an arm around his shoulders.
"It's okay cowboy, you're not alone."
The two Leaguers sat silently for several minutes. Vixen rubbed Vigilante's back, much as she distantly remembered her grandmother doing to her when she was a small child.
"They…they put ah collar on me," Greg finally added hoarsely. "Attached a leash to it, tried ta lead me around even though…even though I couldn't walk."
Something wet hit his face. It took the heavily injured cowboy several moments to realize that it was spit.
Mari hugged her friend tightly. Several more minutes passed as the man slowly revealed his treatment to her. He'd been spit on. Urinated on.
Then they'd left him for two days without treating his wounds. They gave him no food or water.
When they did finally give him water, it was drugged.
It was then that Mari realized that she was crying as well. Tears ran down her face as she continued to hold the man protectively. It was a wonder that Greg was even still alive.
"I was finally rescued, all of us were," Vigilante finally said. "When the League defeated them, they forced the Thanagarians ta return all of th' prisoners. Batman n' the Martian made sure of it."
Mari was silent for a long time.
"How do you deal with it?" she finally asked.
"I sing dahlin'. My guitah helps ta keep th' nightmares away."
"Will you sing for me Greg? I've never heard you."
"Shucks Ma'am. Singin' fer a pretty lady such as yerself would put any man's heart at ease," the cowboy replied instantly. Mari smiled.
"Sing for me cowboy," she said. Greg's eyes immediately lit up.
"Ah need mah guitah' first Pretty Lady," he said warmly. "It's in mah quarters." The two Leaguers grabbed their drinks. They had been in Mari's room, as Greg hadn't felt comfortable in telling his story in public.
As she followed Vigilante to his quarters, she silently vowed that no one would ever hurt him again.
She'd make sure of it.
Author's note: My next update will be for one of my three current stories: Resurrecting the Red, Original Prankster, or This Ain't the Golden Years II. Since I have a couple of grant applications due soon, I may not be able to get an update until a couple of weeks from now. If I do get one up sooner, it'll probably be for the second 'Golden Years' since those chapters are easier and faster to write.
Note on the story: I realize that Vig's treatment was very brutal for a fanfic, which is why I rated it M. However, the Thanagarians never signed any kind of Geneva convention with Earth. Also judging from their warlike nature, prisoners wouldn't have been treated kindly. Vigilante also displayed quite a bit of anger, and even recklessness, when fighting the Thanagarians in the episode 'Hunter's Moon.' I also don't think his story as a POW has been addressed before in a fic and I thought it needed to be.