Disclaimer: Nope. Not me.
Mari exhaled mightily and bent her head to his chest, straining her ears to hear through the Kevlar. "He's got a heartbeat. Yeah…That is definitely a heartbeat. And…" She touched the amulet that hung from her neck briefly and then listened more carefully, with newly heightened sentences. "Yeah…he's breathing on his own now."
There was a garbled noise from the other end of the line. "Thank you. Oh, thank you, Hera."
Mari knew she was no longer being addressed and so gave in to her dearest temptation: she collapsed on the floor and attempted to gain her breath, feeling her own heart fly about widely in between her ribs.
The newspaper headlines of the next day (those newspapers that were still in any kind of condition to produce headlines, that is) declared "The heavens roared" in reference to that particular moment. It was a completely apt statement as, in the seconds before hand, car horns beeped, people yelled at each other or talked calmly and the loud hum of barreling trucks were the only sounds that worked their way through the air.
Then another noise—huge—overshadowed all of these, and, as if a single person, all of Metropolis jumped. The noise was gigantic and thunderous, and seemed to swallow the city whole.
Seconds later they noticed, one by one, that where there was once an apartment building, there was a massive pile of smoldering rubble and screaming people.
Approximately two minutes later, they heaved a sigh of relief as one, as their savior appeared and moved the pieces of the building they couldn't hope to and then left, weighed down with the injured.
They didn't understand the reason that he was not friendly and why he offered no comforting smiles to any of them. None of them could have possibly known that he recognized that particular apartment building and that the knowledge of who lived there stopped him in his tracks and that he almost cried when he found her, injured and bloody but gloriously and exquisitly alive.
Up in the tower, they patiently awaited ransom demands while scrambling various relief organizations in the general direction of where they were needed.
They looked at other missions, asked each other "Who did that?" with nothing even resembling surprise or took a brief—very brief—break.
Later they realized that it would have just been too easy, having only one bomb.
BOOM. Another one went off, loudly enough to shatter ear-drums and to send the unsuspecting woman into labor. He had to yell to be heard. "Where the hell is Superman? We've got to find these now."
Mr. Terrific shifted uneasily in his seat, his eyes glued to the screen in front of him. "He's flying Lois and a truckload of others to the hospital, the nearest one that wouldn't have to turn them away is twenty miles away."
"Okay…okay…" Bruce continued to run. "Okay, my thermal tracers are picking up a survivor on the…seventh level of that parking garage. Confirm?"
"Yeah," the com-link responded. "There's a warm body up there."
"Okay. I'm going to get it."
"Wait…I'm picking up something weird up there. Some kind of contaminant in the air…"
There was a pregnant pause in the conversation. Bruce felt the word force itself out from his clenched jaw. "Scarecrow?"
"I'm going to have to go with…definitely. Yeah, it's him."
"Teaming up with…"
"We're not sure yet."
He put the gas mask on and ran that much faster.
"Lois…" he stared at her, her face pale, sweaty, and tired but mostly pissed.She was irate as this blatant violation of her privacy and epic waste of her time.
"Yeah?" She looked up at him, a little bit drunkenly. He had one arm around her waist and the other supported a five-ton military grade vehicle stuffed to the gills with injured civilians. Who in their right mind sold psychopaths this much firepower?
Truthfully, he just wanted to know that she could talk, so he said the first thing that came to his mind. "Um…how are you?"
She laughed a little bit and then had to visibly fight tears as that motion jostled her horribly maimed arm. "You know, Smallville, you probably already know the answer to that." Lois allowed herself a deep, raspy breath. "Considering you're not the only person who can currently see my ulna."
She gestured to her right arm, in which a piece of shrapnel had thoroughly lodged itself, forcing the layer of skin and muscle back slightly to expose the bones of her forearm.
Lois suddenly took a shuddering breath and leaned against him a bit more than necessary, listening to the comforting and steady noise his chest emitted. "I feel kind of…warm."
He winced and for the first time noticed that his suit wasn't just dripping with moisture from the air. "It's okay-"
"We're going to a hospital right now."
Shock. Oh, hell, it was shock. Instantly, several long-ago ingrained instructions popped into his head. He was not supposed to remove or jostle the shrapnel. He was supposed to cover her with a blanket. He was supposed to elevate her legs. All very difficult feats to accomplish with one arm at several thousand feet.
Wait. Wait. She had called him…Smallville…SMALLVILLE?
"You know?" He asked her, pure shock lacing his tone.
She looked at him irritably. "I know what?"
Ralph Dibny, in that moment, stood at an impressive eight stories, making himself into a human fire escape and having the peculiar sensation of dozens of panicked people attempting to find footholds as they climbed down him.
"Terry, they've been going at exact five minute intervals, and considering…"
BOOM. A movie theater was up in flames, people who thought that perhaps shelter might be found there expressed their disappointment with broken bones.
"Here's our grace period."
Clark, largely through sheer force of will-power, had activated his com-link by rubbing his ear against his shoulder.
"This-" He heard a grunt and the whirring sound of grapnel line being shot, as well as a relatively rapid heart rate, "-is not a good time."
Clark counted two beats before he got a response from the other end of the line. "Okay. How long has she been bleeding?"
"Two or three minutes."
Soft swear words interrupted the silence. "The hospital?"
"Not close enough."
"She was wounded by…"
"All right. You're going to need to be careful. Can you see the ruptured arteries clearly?"
"Mostly. It's a lead-compound pipe in her arm."
"Of course. You're going to have to cauterize the wound, meaning-"
"You've got to seal off the arteries without burning her bones to ash."
He took a steadying breath, for all that he didn't actually need oxygen. "I've never done this before."
"Burn her or lose her, Clark. I'm afraid there's not a third option."
He walked up behind Mr. Terrific and watched. For eight minutes, eight incredibly awkward, creepy and uncomfortable minutes.
Finally, he spoke. "I see the connection."
"I don't see any rational pattern-"
"That's because there isn't one." Question interrupted.
"--he's not aiming for the most populated or strategically valuable errors. See," he gestured to the lower left hand quadrant of the screen. "He blew up a plumber's residence instead of the armory next door..." The seated man protested.
The blue trenchcoat swayed slightly as he drew closer to the screen and said "Zoom out. More."
The image on the screen was a close-up map of the somewhat doomed city, red spots where bombs had lit up. At this point three had gone off and Clark had located six others and was now in the process of "disarming" (crushing or flying away with) them. All the buildings were shown plainly, and the curving grid of streets that surrounded them.
"Now make it show the one's that Clark found…and…."
He traced the little line of dots, red for ones that had detonated and black for ones that had been successfully disabled, with the tip of his finger. First, he traced a great sweeping curve, a long shallow parabola. Then, twice he lifted up his finger and traced two spots above it.
"….Ah ." One large smiley face. The Joker, sending a little love-note to Metropolis.
Question wandered off the the teleport deck, presumably to offer his own peculiar brand of help.
"Attention all units: Be on the look-out for any kind of news-helicopter. The Joker, the Scarecrow and possibly several other as-yet unknown villains are responsible. The explosives being used are plastic, repeat, plastic explosives. The remaining explosives, to be located and disarmed, can be found at the following coordinates…"
If he was being honest, he was feeling remotely heroic at the moment, simply unimaginably hungry. He hadn't stopped to think in a while nor had he felt the desire to, somewhat afraid of what he might find.
Who hurts so many people for no good reason at all? He asked himself and the answer was obvious, a madman. Insanity made that particular demographic group blameless.
He sighed slightly and was stunned with he tripped over…something and went sprawling.
Wally looked up into the vaguely disapproving and perhaps proud eyes of his best friend. He then whirled around to witness the glowing green trip-wire which had ended his errand of that moment—finding more people from the movie theater and doing whatever it took to ease their suffering.
He looked up, quite literally instantly. "Yeah, um, John, not that it isn't great to see you but I'm kind of busy and-"
"Take a break." Wally stared at him. He could not have been more stunned if John had, in that moment, declared his ambition to join Lord of the Dance.
"Kid, how many people have you carried?"
"…I lost count after 200…" His admission had a distinctly sheepish quality.
"And how much did that last one weigh?"
"....At least 200...."
"Here," John said, pressing a twenty dollar bill into his hand. "Go to the next town, get some of that greasy fast food you like before you pass out, and be back in five minutes."
John could tell he was considering disobedience when the response was not immediate. "Do it. Now."
A red blur was the only proffered response.
CRASH, followed sharply by the tinkling of showers of glass. An office building, this time, one which, incidentally, they had been preparing to enter.
"Oh, hell," he exclaimed and then "oof" as his girlfriend tackled him to the ground and then (somewhat more forcefully than necessary) heaved both of them under a nearby awning that provided some--albiet limited--protection.
Then they sat up together and watched, transfixed as the foundation let loose a groaning sound and then gave completely. The racket this caused was unimaginable, both clamped their hands over their ears, for all the good it did.
"We were supposed to disarm that," was Dinah's shocked murmur.
"Yeah…" Ollie really couldn't disagree with that.
Back luck, though the genuine culprit, seemed to feeble an excuse and too overused a comfort, so neither of them attempted to use it. Expressing regret or shame, too, would have been a useless exercises as both of the aforementioned emotions were carved into their faces. "The building was mostly evacuated anyway," while true, there was the simple fact that "mostly" was seldom good enough for anything, never mind evacuations. "If we were there we would have died too," was a statement completely without honor. To have pointed out that obvious truth would have been simply condescending. So they stood in silence, without comfort.
He stood up first. "Let's start digging." Dinah nodded and took off in the direction of the building in a jog that he matched easily.
Neither of them met the other's eyes.
Bruce's life had been laden with unpleasant surprises, but this current one definitely ranked in the top ten.
He had listened carefully to Terrific's instructions and coordinates and found that he was on top of one of them. He was on the seventh level of the garage and he had a decision to make. The odds were approximately 1 in 17 that this bomb in particular was the next one scheduled to go off next in the circuitry line-up. The bomb was also most likely in the corner of one of the foundations. It would take time to find, perhaps too much, and if he failed then he would be responsible for a death. He carefully considered all possibilities, including quite unlikely ones such as that whoever was up here was a trap of some kind, and then decided to tempt fate.
"What corner is the thermal reading coming from?"
"Northeastern, third car from the wall."
He moved rapidly, found the car in question, and (after a quick check for pipe bombs) cut the door off. It hit the cement floor with something halfway between a bang and a grinding noise.
Green eyes stared up at him somewhat reproachfully. It was a cat. He was up here, risking his life, for a cat.
His internal timer told him that he now had one and a half minutes to find the bomb, if that darkness that seemed to loom over his life extended to making this particular bomb the next one in line.
Cursing, he grabbed the cat, and, holding the now-purring ball of fluff in one arm, used the other to rapidly descend down the grapnel line none-too-steadily.
It was then that the cat--a beautiful siamese that had been abandoned in that car by a panicked owner and her boyfriend--attacked Bruce. Showing more intelligence than any supervillain he had ever faced, it sunk its claws and teeth into his jaw, ripping the gas mask off. In his somewhat instinctive struggles to remove it, his descent became too fast and uncontrolled, he hit the ground with a thud and the force of the impact forced him onto his knees.
He instinctively reached up for his com-link, only to find that it was not there. Forcing down the panic that he could no longer help, he stood unsteadily. Glaring down at the creature which he was now sure was a demon from hell, he saw the slight glint in its mouth. With a dignity that only felines can seem to muster, it trotted off amiably, leaving him with a bomb that may or may not go off in forty-five seconds and no way to get ahold of anyone.
Swearing, he sprinted after the animal, ignoring the blood coursing down his chin.
KA-BOOM. This particular explosion had a more thunderous quality than most of the others, perhaps from the tons of concrete that it was tearing to shreds.
The bomb, as it turned out, was on the Northeastern corner of the building. As a result, it removed more than a third of the foundation from the specific area.
The last coherent image his eyes managed to get to his brain was that of many, many tons of concrete, swaying towards him.
The last command his body obeyed was one to, sprint as quickly as he could. In his desperation, he overtook the animal and scooped it up without a break in his stride.
He was very nearly fast enough to avoid the torrent of little chunks of parking lot and metal and even bits of stairwell that were gaining on him.
Of course, in his business, very nearly didn't cut it.
Terrific had truly performed wonders. Out of twenty bombs, five had been allowed to go off. Metropolis wasn't one it's scarier siblings, like Gotham or Bludhaven. They were unaccustomed to terror and the confusion that was not handled immediately by Superman. The panic that had resulted from such foreignness had been widespread, but they had pulled through a
No one had a real read on how many were injured. At least 50 had died, unable or unwilling to evacuate, so sure that their place of rest or work could not possible be harmed. Out of the league alone, none had escaped without scratches, at least. They were all utterly exhausted. Shining Knight had broken his arm after a nasty fall, Vigilante had shattered his risks trying to catch him. They were sharing a room in the same hospital, at Diana's "request." All the cosmic power in the world couldn't have made Stargirl not get bowled over by some of the larger chunks of an office building. She had some serious internal bleeding. Huntress had sprained an ankle, running after her "idiotic boyfriend" who was convinced that the Joker and the Scarecrow were hiding in the lion pit at the local zoo.
They were a battered league, but also a triumphant one. No one had died because they hadn't recieved medical care promptly enough, all those who died had done so due to heart attacks or the sort of injuries that killed instantly.
B'Wana Beast was the one who had found out something was wrong. Apparently, a certain cat was making quite a racket about being stuck under ten feet of rubble and managed to tell the man their location.
Mari jogged along beside him, she pitied Diana, who was stuck heaving still more rubble away and assured the princess that she would save him.
Eight hours later, no one--living or dead--remained buried. They returned to the Watchtower to sleep and watch over their hurt and pray that they would not need to honor their dead.
The redhead gave her a thorough once-over with no shame or apology in her eyes and was surprised to find that she was receiving the same treatment. They eyed each other and both of them made the choice to neither notice nor comment upon the redness in the other's eyes. There was nothing to comfirm, both knew that yes, John was still stubbornly at Mari's bedside as she lay sleeping, and no, Bruce hadn't seen fit to return to consciousness.
"You know what we need?" Shayera said, finally breaking the silence.
"Fewer men in our lives?" Diana retorted, smiling with the knowledge of the sudden ease between them.
"Well, that too, but we need to go out and get really really drunk."
Diana looked doubtful, so Shayera continued. "And then start a completely unjustified bar-fight."
They exchanged conspiratorial grins that would have made the blood of any human male run cold.
He knew he had found the right room when he heard screaming and then saw a young nurse, in tears, flee from the room muttering something about demons.
Clark entered carefully, hoping that she had run out of projectiles. "...Lois...?" He inquired, more as an announcement of his presence and identity than an actual inquiry.
"Who the hell do you think it is, Smallville? I swear to God, if you've shown up to try to get me to not get up for another four years, or to offer to carry me around at work so I don't have strain my delicate little feminine constitution, your balls are mine." Though the menace was genuine, he still struggled not to smile. He was the only one who really knew how close to death she'd come, but he could believe that she was going to be as good as new and relatively unscathed after what had happened.
f"Actually...I brought Chinese." He held up the paper bag and then took an instinctive step back as her eyes took on a predatory look, focused completely on the food.
Muttering darkly, she scooted over and gestured for him to sit on the bed. "Do you have utensils?"
He began to remove napkins and soy sauce and other necessities. "How's the search for a new apartment going?"
The glare was answer enough.
He nodded and then partook in the age-old human tradition of sharing a meal with those you love. Of course, he paused for an incalculable moment, just to see how her burns were healing and tried not to wince.
Kara entered the room that eerily still and quiet even to her ears. She sat on the edge of the still bed.
"Hi, Courtney. Listen, I just stopped by because...well, Braniac 5, I know that's my bf's name now, wouldn't tell me whether or not you lived through this. So I...just...wanted..." She refused to breath, so that she would have no air to cry with, only to realize that then she couldn't talk to the prone form on the bed. "So...uh...How are you? Obviously not so great, but, you know...Well, I'm gonna sit here until you wake up or you...so, until you wake up and anyone that has a problem with that can just...Um...Actually, I was really hoping you'd come to before anyone realized I was here. That smell, yeah, I burned up the security cameras so as soon as anyone checks, they'll probably come running in here..."
Kara sat and waited patiently for a response that wouldn't come. "Your uncle's here too, or he actually snuck out to get something to eat real quick, but...He'll be back soon, so...Okay, I always thought you were cool, you know? Maybe just 'cause you were the only other teenager who didn't want to join the Teen Titans or whatever, but I'm really glad we got to be friends, before I...Left, I guess, though I come back sometimes. I wish I'd gotten the chance to hang out with you more, maybe you can visit me sometimes? Oh, back to my bf, you know..." She couldn't help but giggle. "He's blue, I mean, his skin is but he is still a total babe. And really sweet. Actually, I'm not sure why he likes me, but whatever. Good for me, right?"
Kara jumped slightly as she heard and saw a slight change in the girl's brain that indicated she was coming to. "Oh...So I'll make this quick. I miss you guys a whole lot, but I belong where I am. I hope you're still as awesome of a heroine as you used to be, I'm sure you'll grow up and kick even more ass. Oh, and some of you great-great-great-great...whatever, grandkids are still hanging around. So you must find someone really awesome and have their babies and stuff. So, good luck...and...thanks..."
A blue bubbled appeared and she was gone, just as an irate man in a white robot suit appeared, guns quite literally blazing. "Courtney?"
Her voice was so weak. "Yeah?"
John Stewart sat in a large comfy chair next to Mari's bed, both to be helpful and comforting when she woke and to avoid any serious introspection about his feelings for her relative to his feelings for a certain redhead. Mari, slept soundly and snored softly. She had single-handedly shocked the Dark Knight's heart into starting as well as kept it beating for him when it wouldn't. She had assured that he had lived long enough to see medical care, but had done so at the expense of her own body's oxygen. A doctor had taken one look at her and told her to get a good night's sleep for once.
So he was idly channel-surfing, and waiting. He nearly passed up the news channel on principle, until he realized what they were covering.
Diana and Shayera, stumbling drunkenly around in a club. Diana had a completely inexplicable bra dangling off of her ear and Shayera was wearing very little else. They were both explaining their need for still-more alcohol to a terrified bartender who just meekly handed them the bottle after assuring them it was free of charge. The news commenter kept up a steady stream of words about how godless superheroines were these days. The last image the news channel offered was one of Diana crushing the microphone and Shayera beating the camera into shards with her mace, both of them giggling madly all the while.
He should have been too worried or upset, but he couldn't stop himself from chuckling slightly. "That's my girl."
Though he had nearly died recently, that didn't stop him from tensing up and attempting to subtly reach for his utility belt (which, thankfully, someone had had enough sense to leave on his bedside table) when he heard footsteps approaching the door. Very few people were allowed in here, now that he was too bandaged even to put on his mask...
A stumbling Amazon arrived and stared at him. The relief in her was nearly palpable when his entire posture relaxed and he dropped the belt with his good hand. The entire left side of his body had been broken in some way with one excellent exception: his head. He had been put together with metal and bandaged up as well as they could manage, but it would still take weeks or even months for him to heal. He gave her a quick, appraising look. "You're drunk, princess."
She nodded vaguely. "A little, but I won't be for long."
Her roving eyes then settled on his chest and grew wide. Ignoring all the recent cuts and bandages, she would have struggled to locate a square inch of him that wasn't marred in some way. The scars ranged in severity in age, but all of must have hurt badly. She stared for two minutes, attempting and failing to count. For a minute the wild thought that she might cry entered his head and then he tossed it out.
He measured his words. "I told you I was mortal, Princess."
She tried to smile at him. "I know..." She sauntered over to him, with a look that told him to object at his peril. "So, this one looks like a dog," she trailed her hand lightly over the wound. Instantly, he shoved her hand away but not before she noticed the barely there, but still present jump in his heart rate.
He stared her down, the question clear in his eyes. He had just, quite unavoidably, admitted that she had some small amount of power over him. What fresh hell was coming his way now that that information was hers? "So," she began as though inquiring about the weather, "how many bones of yours are broken?"
Bruce blinked twice before answering. "Twenty-seven, I believe."
"Ah," she said, nodding. She perched on the edge of the bed. "Scooch," she ordered him, ignoring the disbelieving stare. "Oh, fine," she said, when he didn't move (from injury or stubbornness, she really couldn't know.). Diana eased him over to the other side of the bed and made herself more comfortable.
"Did you all find them?"
The expression on her face darkened instantly. "Yeah...Actually, Gordon picked them up and put them back in Arkham."
He nodded. As soon as tomorrow, the whole thing would start over. She continued. "You inhaled a lot of that panic gas."
She giggled slightly. "Who's your friend?" She gestured toward the most comfortable chair in the room, where a giant of an unharmed Siamese cat slept. She looked down at him, only to find that he was either asleep or pretending to be.
Sighing, she very carefully lay down next to him, contorting her body in such a way that her head and arms rested on the good half of his chest and her legs and torso were drawn up next to him.
Thud. Thud. She smiled at the noise, shut her eyes and drifted to sleep.
About reviewing: Constructive Criticism is always awesome. Really.
CHALLENGE: I've never issued a challenge, but now seems like a good time to start. So here it is: Write a story in which Shayera decides that the best way to get some closure on the whole situation with John would be to bribe/blackmail/whatever Bats into pretending to date her. Misunderstandings and hilarity ensues. Also, to make it extra challenging, have everyone be in character.