Breathless

Chapter 23

Friends, Plans, Discoveries and Memories

Syndicate Universe

Jur-Li stood in the middle of Ray's lab. Quite a bit of it was destroyed. He could smell Di-ana. He knew she had been there. The blades, residue and shrapnel told him that Owlman had been there as well. There was blood on the broken table. A look at the DNA told him that it belonged to Ray.

As he walked towards the instruments he saw and smelled something that made his blood boil. Di-ana had given herself to another yet again. He knew that it was not Owlman, so he assumed it was Ray. He would have to have a heart to heart with the little scientist. First he would have to find him.

He was about to leave the lab when there was a flash of light and Owlman was suddenly in the room. He looked startled and Jur-Li had the satisfaction of hearing and smelling his fear when he realized who was in the room with him.

"You were teleporting with Molecule Man's technology." Jur-Li stated matter of factly.

"I was teleported. There is a difference. Molecule Man sent me to a parallel reality. I believe it is the same one he sent me to on Saturday. What I find interesting is that he doesn't seem to realize that he has discovered a way to travel to a different dimension. He just wants to give you and me a hard time because he's jealous of our power," Owlman snapped back. He was half expecting Jur-Li to attack him and was surprised by his restraint.

"Our power? What do you mean, 'our power?' You don't have any power. You're just tough for a human." Ultraman mocked his one time friend. He was surprised when Owlman did not snap back, but instead continued talking about the other dimension.

"I think the dimension he has been teleporting me to is filled with our opposites. There is a man there like you, but apparently, he is considered a hero, and the one who would have been my father there died protecting his family. He wasn't a coward like mine." Owlman's voice suddenly sounded thoughtful.

Ultraman narrowed his eyes suspiciously and decided to reveal a little of his trip to what he assumed was the same dimension. "I too was sent there, along with Johnny and Guy. We were sent to Di-ana's island. But it was not my Di-ana that we met. We taught the women there the true meaning of fear. We were stopped by my twin or a younger version of me. I would have defeated him as well but apparently he knew of my weakness to black kryptonite and employed it. It is the only way he could have beaten me. Tell me, Thomas, you would not know how he came to posses black kryptonite, would you?"

Owlman stared back at Jur-Li's openly accusing glare. "I have no idea," he lied.

Jur-Li smiled, "Well, it looks like we will have to find out what his weakness is. I very much plan to visit that dimension again in the future. But first I want to find Ray then I will hunt down Di-ana.

"I have a score to settle with Ray myself," Owlman stated.

"So, you wish to work together to find Molecule Man. Very well, we will work together, but do not assume a friendship. That will not happen again. You touched my woman. You will have to remain content with the fact that I am letting you live," Ultraman growled.

"Thank you so much for allowing me to live," Owlman shot back sarcastically.

Jur-Li studied Owlman carefully. It was obvious to him that something had happened. He assumed it had to do with what he had mentioned about his father earlier. "We will search for him together. Once I have the information that I want from him you may do as you please. If I discover that you have again been with or attempted to be with Di-ana then I will kill you in a most painful fashion. Do we understand each other?"

Owlman grunted in response and the two left the lab.

JLA Universe

Ivy Town University

Scott and Barda stood in one of the parking lots farthest from the buildings. They were safe from prying eyes for the moment. The daylight and the noise of the gathered crowd had muffled the noise of their arrival. They looked at the crowd four parking lots away. There were so many people. They could sense the fear of the unknown. It was a fear they were all too familiar with. One never knew what new evil would prey on you on Apokolips but one could always be certain that evil was around the corner. None escaped it. They were the exception.

They wished to lead peaceful lives here but they were determined to stand up to any evil in their new home as well. They started to move forward to see what they could discover when they suddenly sensed they were being watched.

Woods behind Ivy Town University

Protex was at full strength. He was moving through the woods away from the university campus when a loud unfamiliar noise caused him to stop and turn around. He had not bothered to fly and so had left deep imprints in the snow. He did not care if he was followed. He actually hoped for confrontation. The pathetically weak humans were easy food.

He moved back to the edge of the forest and watched a lone man and woman standing near him in the empty lot. He was sure that even if he was spotted, he was too far away for anyone to intervene on time to save the unfortunate couple. After taking a closer look he found himself licking his lips. The man he would have to dispatch first, but he was not in the least bit concerned. The males of this planet did not have the ability to defend either themselves or their females against threats like himself. The female was even larger than the male in height but her figure was slender, strong and feminine. Protex was sure that she would be a good candidate for mating. She seemed strong enough to survive breeding with him and carrying a white Martian. If she could not, at least he would have the pleasure of drinking in her terror and pain while he enjoyed himself in the attempt.

Protex launched himself at the unsuspecting couple. He did not try to disguise his attack in any way nor did he attempt to disable them with a psychic attack. He wanted them to see what he was. Nine hundred and ninety nine times out of a thousand his victims would simply freeze with terror. He would just slit the man's throat and snatch his woman away while he was still dying.

Protex noticed that the two seemed shocked by his appearance but not terrified. It was a bit disconcerting to not see the expected terror in their eyes. Too late he realized that not only were they not terrified, but they were very much ready for a fight and not at all helpless.

The man avoided his pounce fairly easily and Protex felt a painful jolt of energy slam into him driving him on towards the woman. This was more than acceptable for him. It was what he was truly after anyways. However just as he reached her she swung her arms up towards him and he felt an excruciating pain in his jaw as whatever weapon the woman was holding connected.

Protex was thrown back several feet landing hard in the snow. Having been caught off guard and humiliated by a man and a woman, Protex came off the ground in a berserker rage.

Scott and Barda were taken off guard by the speed and ferocity of his second attack. Scott received a powerful blow from the grotesque creature that knocked him away from Barda. It took him a few seconds to get back up on his feet. When he did he was horrified to see that the monster was getting the better of Barda. Her mega rod lay on the pavement next to him and he could see that she was bleeding and fighting a losing battle as the creature forced her towards the woods.

Barda fought desperately against her more powerful and enraged enemy. She recognized that the creature was intelligent. Its eyes told her everything. The monster was filled with battle lust, and even more chillingly, with lust for her. She shivered involuntarily at the thought of the creature having its way with her and she redoubled her efforts to defeat it.

Barda did not lack for physical strength. Her power levels were on par with her old teammate Stompa. She had even been considered stronger than some of the Elite. But what she lacked in strength she more than made up for in skill and cunning. She cursed herself for having lost her mega rod. She was certain that with her favorite weapon she would have defeated the disgusting monster by now.

She could not out muscle it. She had barely escaped its horrifying embrace twice and it was seeking to corner her again. Barda realized she was fighting defensively. She decided to change tactics. She couldn't help feeling afraid of it, but fear had never stopped or crippled her in a fight before. She had been backing away fighting desperately while seeking a way to escape. Now she charged into the creatures embrace.

The creature caught her around the throat. As tall as Barda was, the creature still had to lift her off her feet to bring her to its eye level. She allowed her fear and disgust to show as the creature leered at her. Its tail wrapped around her left ankle and it huge clawed right hand was reaching for her clothing. Barda chose that moment to act. She had been clutching at the creatures left hand and forearm in seemingly helpless terror. Now she brought her arms down to her sides in a fan motion, then keeping her arms bent at the elbows and her palms facing up, she shot her hands back up with all of her considerable strength, slamming her open palms against the monster's elbow and making it bend up in the wrong direction.

Barda heard the welcoming crunch as the creatures joint gave way and the howl of pain that followed as he let go of her neck and ankle. She dropped down to the ground in a crouch. Now she was filled with battle lust. She sprang back up slamming an open palm into the howling monsters chin with all of her might. The creature fell skidding onto his back. Barda pounced on top of the crippled creature her right hand was open with the fingers tight together like a blade. Her arm was bent at the elbow and raised so that her elbow was above her shoulder and her hand was next to her ear. When she landed on top of the monster she struck swiftly using her hand like a spear she drove it through the monsters head with a shout of triumph and disgust.

Barda was shocked when she drew her hand back and found that it was clean. She was suddenly sitting on the ground. Her enemy was nowhere to be seen. She stood up warily. Perhaps that species of monster disappeared when it died, but she doubted it.

Scott was next to her now. She stood up and the two turned around tracking trying to find the monster. Scott was studying his mother box. "It's still here, Love. No! wait! There's two of…Ahhh!"

The white monster came out of nowhere. This time he attacked Barda first. He struck her in the back of the head so hard that she was thrown into the woods. She was unconscious before she hit the trees. As the creature turned towards him, Scott aimed his mother box at it trying with all his might to find some way to defend himself, protect his wife and destroy the monster.

Protex pounced on the man. He had decided to just kill and eat him and then enjoy the female at his leisure. He was surprised and frustrated to find the man he had pounced on was just an illusion. He stood snarling and turning trying to find him. He saw him running towards the female. Protex charged. He was not going to lose this fight or the female. The man turned to face him. He was desperate, angry and determined. Protex could tell it was the desperation and fear of one who knew he was going to lose, but before he could reach him he was struck painfully to the ground.

With all of his considerable super human strength and rage Protex threw his new attacker off and sprang to his feet to face his enemy. He was shocked to find himself face to face none other than the green Martian that had stolen his victory back on the red planet. For a moment he wondered how the Martian could still be alive then he realized that this one must be the J'onn of this dimension and not the one who had killed himself before his very eyes. "You will die just like everyone else on your worthless planet!" he shrieked as he charged.

J'onn stood dazed for a moment. He had read the creatures memories in the brief moment that he had struck him to the ground. He was not the Protex he had fought but his counterpart from another dimension. He knew that he had to end him. There was nothing redeemable about the monster. Today he would kill the butcher of his family and people. Tensing, J'onn moved to meet his mortal enemy's charge. He was shocked to see a funnel open up behind the duplicate Protex. There was a very loud noise like the wind during a powerful storm. J'onn saw bolts of lightning and a look of bewilderment and shock on his enemy's face as he was sucked backwards into the funnel. Then with a loud boom, the funnel closed.

J'onn turned to see the man he had rescued staring at him. He was dark haired and just over six feet tall. He was pointing his wrist at him. "What are you and why did you help us?" the man asked.

J'onn felt cheated of justice. "I am J'onn. The one who attacked you is my mortal enemy. What have you done with him?"

Scott felt some relief wash over him at hearing that the giant green man in front of him was an enemy to the giant white monster they had just fought. He lowered his wrist and mother box as he answered. "I boom tubed him to the nearest dead planet. I think it is called Mars here. Don't worry he won't be bothering any of us anymore.

J'onn was visibly shaken. "I fear you are wrong. He will attack again, and next time I fear he will have a small army."

Fourth World

Apokolips

Lashina lay on the cold floor chained to the familiar post where she had endured so many humiliating and nameless tortures. She did not know how long she had lain thus, but she knew she did not wish to continue in her current state. She was too afraid to turn on her tormentor although she had started planning different ways to kill him. Her dilemma was in what would happen to her after she had dispatched the monster that owned her.

Lashina knew there were far worse monsters and that she would have to bid her time. Her desire to live and be free lent her a tiny ray of hope in her miserable existence. At the moment all she really wanted was to just be free of the chains that bound her to the terrible post.

She was thankful that she was at least clothed in loose black garments and she was not being tormented. Being alone was something she had not experienced since she had been captured with the exception of short periods of time when she had been at the mercy of twisted little beast Desaad. She hoped with all her being that she would be left alone and in peace indefinitely, but she knew it would not last.

Lashina did not fear starvation. She knew hunger and thirst, but these things would not kill her. She had found that being a new god, she was cursed with immortality. Doomed to an eternity of slavery and humiliation at the hands of monsters, unless the monsters grew tired of her and gave her freedom, which was most unlikely or sold her or killed her in their own special way.

She knew that she could be killed, but she did not know how. She occasionally wished that she could discover the secret so that she could end her own life and see her parents again, but mostly she clung to the hope of revenge and escape.

It was as she was contemplating different plans of escape and enjoying her solitude that the door to the chambers opened and she heard the chilling voice her other chief tormentor, Granny Goodness.

"Ah, my little angel is waiting so patiently for her Granny. It warms my heart to see you so. Is my little angel happy to see me? Granny missed you so. I feared that you had perhaps been sent away or worse, but you are here. Come, Granny is going to take you back to the orphanage. There is so much training for you to still do. We must see if you have improved and if you are worthy of living and becoming one of my wonderful Furies! You want to be one of my Furies don't you, little angel?" Granny's eyes seemed as if they were about to burst out of her head. She had the look of a maniac. Her eyes were bloodshot and piercing. She wore a sickeningly friendly smile but there were flecks of foam at the corners of her mouth adding to the picture of lunacy. She entered the room and was followed by a half dozen paradeamons a tall woman with a disgustingly bloated head carrying a wicked looking farhen knife and a tall, wide powerfully built woman. Both looked deadly and very willing to kill her if given the chance.

Lashina forced herself to look calm while she shivered inwardly dreading what awaited her at the hands of the demon in the body of a bloated old woman.

Granny nodded to the large woman and said, "Stompa, my child, release the little dear from her chains for your Granny. There is so much for her to do today and there is so little time."

The one called Stompa strode over to her, grabbed her by the neck and yanked her up roughly. Lashina gasped as the collar of the chain bit painfully into her neck and the manacles on her wrists threatened to pull her arms out of their sockets. Taking a mega rod, the giant woman struck Lashina's wrists and then neck. The blows broke the chains but also left Lashina temporarily paralyzed from the pain. She found herself flung over the large woman's shoulder as the group made their way out of Grayven's chambers and headed towards the orphanage and the training arena.

JLA Universe

Gotham

Cave Below Wayne Manor

Bruce smiled down at Dinah anxiously and hopefully. He wasn't sure how she would react to the revelation. He knew he wasn't expecting a squeal of delight. She most certainly was not like any of his numerous past dates that fell all over him in attempt to bed the prince of Gotham. Those women never made it to his bed. He was not interested in sharing his bed with shallow women, only in giving the appearance of a playboy. Dinah was a woman he wanted to know and he desperately hoped that she would not reject him because of who he was.

Dinah stared back in complete shock and took a step back as the truth sank in. She didn't know what to say at first. She had seen the handsome billionaire playboy many times on television. She had read some of his interviews. No one would deny that he was handsome, but he had seemed so shallow in some ways and oddly interesting in others. Everywhere he went he had at least two pretty girls draped on each arm. He gave off the vibe of one who only lived for pleasure and all else was uninteresting and yet he funded so many charities and his money and projects were always for bettering housing, protecting wildlife and providing care for the needy and for the victims of crime.

It suddenly all made perfect sense. No one really knew of the existence of Batman. He was just a rumor. Those that claimed to have seen him generally could only talk about moving shadows. The criminals he had taken down never had the privilege of a face to face. They were always defeated if not unconscious before they knew what had hit them. Dinah knew now which side was truly Bruce Wayne and which was the façade. She knew because she had spent nearly two days in his presence and he had not once behaved shallowly, never taken advantage of her. She would never forget how he had sent her to safety and nearly died. How he had whispered words of encouragement on that cold hillside while death closed in around them. He had tried to warn her away but she knew he was the kind of man she wanted to learn to love and she could sense that for all of his reasons for them not to love each other, he desperately needed to love and be loved as well.

Slowly she smiled. She was amazed at the relief that she saw wash over him. The powerful, rich Bruce Wayne was visibly relieved that she had smiled at him acceptingly. "I have to say that I never expected this. I had no idea what to expect. I thought you would be handsome. After all, you have a very nice chin and mouth, but I didn't expect you to be the spitting image of that spoiled, rich, lecherous brat, Bruce Wayne," she teased.

Bruce grunted and pulled her to him. "Yes, you're very lucky that I'm not a spoiled, rich, lecherous brat used to having his way. Otherwise I wouldn't let you leave this beautiful, dark, romantic cave without another kiss."

Dinah closed her eyes as Bruce pulled her into an embrace. She loved the feel of his body. He was tremendously strong and taller than her "uncles" but he was holding her gently. She felt his breath on her cheek. "You're going to force me to kiss you now, aren't you? Take advantage of a helpless girl. Don't know that my mother would approve of you. I know my uncles will want to beat you up for this."

In his twenty-five years, Bruce had never felt such desire for a girl. He stared down at her lovely face. Her eyes were closed. Her lovely mouth looked so ready and willing. "There's nothing at all helpless about you," he whispered before he moved to trap her enticing and very willing mouth with his once more.

Bruce was somewhat surprised when Dinah stopped him with a hand on his chest. "Wait," she said. "You're not the only one with a secret. Although I think mine is a lot more minor than yours. Dinah removed her mask.

Bruce had seen her face earlier when she had revealed her face to the whole group so he wasn't sure what she was doing. When she removed her hair it finally made sense to him. Dinah shook her head freeing her lovely shoulder length, black hair out and looked up at him expectantly.

Bruce actually smiled, "I thought you were beautiful before, but you're even lovelier than I imagined."

Dinah grinned happily. "You are cute and very smart. You may now continue with the forced kiss." She turned her face up and closed her eyes as Bruce again took her in his arms.

He stared down at her beautiful face and her willing mouth for a moment, not believing what was happening to him, then with a contented growl he captured her lips with his in a fiercely possessive kiss that left the two gasping for breath.

Dinah smiled up at Bruce as they held each other. "Can we go to my house now? I really want my mother to meet you."

Bruce gazed at her softly, "Yes, of course. Let me clean up first. We've been going nonstop for nearly two days now."

He began to disentangle himself from Dinah then stopped and looked at her apologetically. "I'm sorry. This is all very new to me. If you like you can clean up as well. I promise you will have privacy. You have my word."

Dinah wrinkled her nose at him. "I better have some privacy. You're already gonna get beat up by my uncles for making me kiss you. Add peeking or groping and you'll probably end up in the hospital."

The two headed up out of the cave to the manor. Bruce couldn't stop smiling. His smile disappeared when he saw Alfred. He was sitting at the piano staring off into nothing a dazed look on his face. Alfred did not acknowledge their presence until they were standing next to him. "Alfred?" Bruce asked quietly.

Alfred looked up slowly. "Hello, Master Bruce. Lady Dinah. I'm sorry. You two will not believe what happened to me while you were gone. I think I met your older brother, Master Bruce. At first he seemed bent on doing something rather nasty but all of a sudden I felt like I was speaking to a very young and betrayed young man. I suppose I will never know which. He disappeared in a flash of light."

Bruce and Dinah stared at Alfred and each other for a moment. Alfred misinterpreted them.

"I know. You must both think me daft, but it is the truth," he defended himself.

"We believe you, Alfred. We just saw some people do the same thing not long ago," Dinah assured him gently laying a hand over one of his.

"My older brother?" Bruce asked incredulously.

"Well, it wasn't Thomas. He died before you were born. I think this was a Thomas from another world. At least that is what he led me to believe. He didn't say his name was Thomas either. I'm just under the impression that is who he is," Alfred explained.

Bruce stood up deep in thought. "Makes perfect sense. There's a counter part for Barry, for Hal, for J'onn for Superman and now there's a counter part for me. Our opposites are somehow visiting us from a parallel universe. He didn't try to harm you, Alfred?"

Alfred looked up at Bruce with a smile. "No, Master Bruce. He did not harm me. I think his original intentions were sinister, but he ended up asking me questions. Seemed to me there was some sort of struggle going on inside of him. I have the feeling that we might have become friends."

Dinah looked hopeful. "Well maybe there's hope for these opposites. Maybe they aren't completely wicked, at least not all of them. I don't know. The ones from the beach gave me the creeps, but maybe this one might to turn out nice."

Bruce nodded. "Maybe, but we can't count on it. We can hope for the best but we have to plan for the worst. Alfred, Dinah and I are going to clean up. I want you to drive us to her house when we're ready. I don't think you need to be here alone right now. We're going to meet her mother and her uncle's. I want you with me."

Alfred looked up at Bruce with a smile. "Of course, Master Bruce. I will get ready straightway."

Dinah was shown where she could shower and given some clean clothes. She wondered where Bruce had found feminine clothes. She was sure she was wearing a former girlfriend's clothes. She didn't much like the idea and wanted to talk with Bruce, but with nothing else to wear she said nothing. When she was finished she stepped out into the hall to find Bruce all cleaned up and waiting for her outside the door. He seemed shocked when he saw her.

"What's the matter?" Dinah asked waiting for him to confirm her suspicions.

"You look lovely. Where were you hiding that dress?" Bruce answered.

"He never saw his mother wear that. I wasn't sure that it was a good idea but I agree with him. You look simply lovely." Alfred came to his defense as he came into view wearing his chauffeur's uniform.

Dinah's gaze softened instantly. "I'm ready to go whenever you are, Bruce."

The three headed for the garage and within minutes the three were pulling up in front of Dinah's house in Bruce's Rolls.

Metropolis

Daily Planet

Lois sat at her desk in the newsroom. She found herself staring at Clark's empty desk a few feet away. She had started wondering about him without realizing it. She wondered about many things.

Why was he always late?

Why did he use his sick days so liberally?

How did he finish his stories so fast?

Where did he go all of the time?

How did he get so big?

Why was he such a klutz?

Lois felt a little sorry for having brushed him off two days earlier. She had already decided to let him take her out to lunch today. She knew it would make the big clumsy, oaf happy and maybe even boost his self-esteem if she went out with him. He was certainly a nice man, but nice men made her suspicious. She had known a few, but she had never dated one she truly considered a good man. Mostly she had been unimpressed by the men she had dated. Most of the men she had been with seemed to think they were God's gift to women or so focused on their careers and moving up in the world that she had quickly realized that she was just a stepping stone for them and she had quickly moved on.

She had always believed that there were good men in the world; she just didn't believe any available ones lived in Metropolis. When she studied Clark, a part of her acknowledged that he was a good man but she had grown so cynical towards men that the other part of her branded the 'good man' appearance as a façade. This morning was somewhat different. She had spent the majority of the weekend fending off the unwanted advances of men looking for conquests. She had counted five that she had interviewed or contacted for future interviews that had propositioned her for sex either verbally or with their actions.

As she stared at Clark's desk she realized that with the exception of Jimmy, Perry and a handful of married men in the building, Clark was the only man she worked with or saw every day that had never made any unwanted advances or been in any way disrespectful to her as a woman. And he had definitely shown that he was attracted to her.

Lois smiled and shrugged her shoulders unconsciously. Clark wasn't an ugly man when she stopped to think about it. It would be nice to just sit and have lunch with him and not worry about whether he was going to try and touch her leg or make some lewd comments. Yes. She would definitely let the big, kind, klutz take her out to lunch today.

Now where was he? It was already past his normal time to come stumbling in…there he was! Lois stifled a laugh. Clark came off the elevator and held the door open for Perry's seventy-year old secretary. She went past him with a curt nod and a grunt. Clark backed up with a pleasant smile on his face and a, "nice to see you this morning Mrs. Wolfstein," to her stiffly retreating figure.

The next moment Clark was fighting with the distilled water dispenser trying to keep it from tipping over after bumping into it from backing up and not looking where he was going. She still couldn't figure out for the life of her how he managed to bump into it at least three times a week and actually knock it off balance. She had bumped into it once. It had not budged, and she had sported a nasty bruise on her leg and her side for a few days.

Lois counted five unanswered 'good mornings' from Clark as he made his way to his desk. He finally arrived at his desk after knocking over a small trash can. Luckily there was nothing in it so other than a loud banging noise when it hit the floor there was no mess. Clark had mumbled an apology, apparently to the entire newsroom since there was no one sitting at the desk at the time. He pulled his chair out, pushed his glasses up, glanced in her direction and waved nervously when he saw that she was watching him.

Lois couldn't help it. She burst out laughing and stood up to go greet him and tell him about their lunch date. Jimmy arrived at his desk first.

"Hey, CK! What's up? That's not a very heavy coat! Don't know how you can stand the cold. Burr! If you have anything interesting for me to photograph later on let me know and I'll tag along with you on your assignment." Jimmy greeted his friend enthusiastically.

Clark smiled warmly up at the freckled, red haired young man. Jimmy had befriended him instantly upon his arrival at the Daily Planet. "Sure, Jimmy. That sounds great!"

The next moment their conversation was cut short by Lois' arrival. She smiled at Jimmy then gave Clark a pat on the shoulder. "Clark! Your muscles are hard as rocks! You need to learn to relax and you definitely need to get a massage! You're always so tense and nervous! Wow! That is going to be a nightmare for whoever has to work out those knots! You need to start standing straighter too. I'm sure your poor posture doesn't help matters. I mean I know you want to be down here with the rest of us but you'll end up with arthritis in your back if you keep that up."

Clark had panicked for a second when Lois had started but relaxed when he realized where her line of thought was going. He nodded in agreement with her and was about to respond but she was already on the next subject. She had moved on from concern for his physical health to giving fashion tips.

"I will never understand why your mother ever let you dress yourself. Your jacket and shirt are too big for you. How in the world did you mange that? I'll bet if I were to call her and tell her that her son is wearing clothes that are two sizes too big for him that she would chew you a new bu…" Lois started.

"Geez, Lois. I didn't realize that the way I dressed bothered you so much, but when I wear tighter clothing I feel like I'm suffocating. My mom is well aware of this since she's known me for a pretty long time." Clark interrupted quickly.

"Ha! She's known you for a pretty long time. Very funny, Smallville. You're quickly becoming a comedian. Fine keep your oversized clothes. I just wanted to let you know that we'll be having lunch today," Lois informed him.

"Um, I hope this doesn't sound stupid, but we have lunch every day. Why did you tell me we would be having lunch. Has a law been passed against taking lunches? I was kind of distracted this weekend so I haven't been keeping up with the news," Clark wondered out loud.

Lois had already turned to leave. She stopped in her tracks and turned around. "Honestly, Smallville. Sometimes I wonder how in the world you were able to get a job here. Lunch. Today. You. Me. I'm even going to let you pay for my food. Hope you're hungry this time. We'll go to the corner café down the street. They have good sandwiches there. You can tell me all about your exciting weekend of Christmas shopping, but I want you to be careful. No tripping or knocking anything over." Lois smiled sweetly and breezed back to her desk.

"Oh! Um, wow! That sounds swell, Lois." Clark responded in shock as he watched Lois return to her desk. It had not crossed his mind that Lois would bother to take him up on his offer. Until two days ago he would have given anything to get her to notice him, now he was actually glad that she had not, but it was still nice to be acknowledged and he would not be busy for lunch. He certainly wasn't in any romantic relationship, but there was a certain princess that he couldn't stop thinking about. He would see her again in three days, but somehow he knew it would be the longest three days of his life.

JLA Universe

Korugar

Sinestro sat in his chair staring at the information on the table. He was being offered a position of importance and power in the service of the dark lord. He would have complete control over his home planet as well as his whole space sector. All that was required of him was to give whatever aid a certain contact requested upon arrival.

Sinestro sat back contemplating the offer. He realized that refusal would eventually end in his own death, but to accept would betray a trust that was sacred. It was not a decision he could make lightly. All he had wanted was the power to maintain order. There was too much disorder on his planet, too much crime. His whole space sector was full of criminals and warlords. He had grown weary of playing a space cop, of capturing the same criminals only for them to escape and commit the same or worse atrocities all over again. On his own planet he had finally had enough. He had personally executed ten of the most violent criminals.

His actions had the desired effect. There had been almost no reports of deadly assaults in the last several months. Sinestro had been quite pleased. Now his whole capital city was under curfew. No one other than the special police was allowed freedom to roam after dark. Violators would be imprisoned and branded.

Order. Sinestro lived for it. He had been severely disappointed when he discovered that there was rampant chaos in many of the outer provinces of his home planet. He had visited them with a vengeance. Not only had he personally executed those accused of violent crimes publicly but he had also executed the head of security and order in each province. Fear spread through the cities and provinces quickly. The stories of Sinestro's swift justice caused many who had started down a path of violence to change their path. The more hardened did not care and continued to show they feared no one until they came face to face with the new ruler of Kurugar, but by then it was too late. They met swift and violent ends.

Sinestro had railed at his head of his police forces asking them why order was not maintained. He had been shocked to hear that they were not allowed weapons on his orders. He swiftly armed his security forces and ordered deadly force be used on all criminals if any kind of resistance was shown.

He had finally achieved order on his planet. There was little freedom for the inhabitants but it was a sacrifice Sinestro was sure would be understood while the criminals were eliminated. He promised himself to remove all restrictions on the inhabitants once he had removed all threats.

Sinestro's next goal had been to find a source of power without a weakness. It irritated him to no end that his ring had a weakness to yellow. He needed true power. He had run into group of four large yellow beings. They were obviously warriors or from a warlike people. They far outclassed him in strength, power and size and he had been unable to defeat them or free their captives. He had been furious when he had gone before the guardians to make his complaint and plead for better power only to be told that he already had the ability to overcome the weakness to yellow. He only needed to be more resourceful and imaginative.

Sinestro toyed with the yellow ring that his last visitor had given him. The man had claimed to be a Qwardian and called himself Varnathon. Sinestro had been somewhat uncomfortable when he saw that the man was yellow, but at least he was not of the same race of yellow men that had defeated him. Varnathon had promised to make him more yellow rings if he wished them.

Sinestro felt shame and hope at the same time. He had agreed to let a group of Varnathon's soldiers ambush a green lantern. He had given them the coordinates of Abin Sur's ship and his last known mission. He had done so knowing that Abin Sur would have found a way to defeat the enemy. He had always found a way and he had never failed in a mission.

So Sinestro felt shame at the loss of one of the greatest Lanterns. At the same time he was glad that a Lantern had died. It would cause the rest of the Corps pause. Knowing that there were powers out there the Corps was impotent to combat should have given the Lanterns the anger and courage to confront the guardians and demand a more powerful weapon.

The same Qwardian had just visited again and announced that he would have a visitor from the dark lord himself in a short while.

Sinestro smiled to himself as he slowly started to place the ring on his own finger. Before he had touched his finger there was a knock at the door.

"Come in," Sinestro barked as he reluctantly placed the yellow ring in a drawer.

His security guard stepped in and announced to him that Tomar Re of the Corps had arrived and wished to have a private conversation with him.

Sinestro had feared that this would happen. He had no wish to harm Tomar Re. Tomar had been a good mentor and he was very smart. He didn't want him on his planet or too near him. He feared he would figure out too much of what was happening to him. But he could not send him back. There was always the yellow ring.

Sinestro shook his head to clear it of any thoughts of murder. It felt as if the ring was calling to him but he forced himself to ignore it.

"Show him in," he commanded.

JLA Universe

Bylan 5

Grayven was ushered into the king's throne room. The room was spacious. The guards were all large and powerful looking. Grayven noted with some interest that with very few exceptions all of the inhabitants of the planet were blue skinned. Not unlike himself. He was slightly larger than most but there were a few even larger than he. He noted that the king looked quite nervous.

Grayven was glad that he was nervous. He planned on making him more so. "I seek the Princess Quemila. I wish to see her now. I did not come to speak with an old man."

The king's eyes flashed a bit. The guards glanced nervously at their king. They would defend him if necessary, but all knew of the destroyer hovering over their planet and the mindless parademons that were more than happy to kill and destroy. It was not a fight they thought they could win and they were certain that no matter the outcome that even greater forces would visit vengeance on them if they fought against the messenger of the dark lord of dreaded Apokolips.

The king seemed to gain his composure. His face seemed somewhat sad, but he also seemed somewhat more at ease. He even smiled at Grayven wistfully for a moment before he spoke.

"Your mo…the Princess Quemila Karreev is not here. She was kidnapped a space cycle ago. She is my only child. Her mother died not long after your father visited here as did many citizens of this planet. The Ultimate did his work well." Anger seemed to fill the king's face at the memory, and then he continued. "But do not worry, my son, your…the princess will be returned soon, I expect in a matter of five or six rotations. I have sent one who has never been known to fail to retrieve her from her abductors. Now tell me, how is your father, Uxas? Is he now king?"

Grayven just stared for a moment completely confused. Who was this man that he tried to speak to him as if he were a child. He assumed that his father had sent him to take the princess for himself. He smiled wickedly. The king new why he had come and he did not want to give up his daughter. He would teach him some respect. "My father's name is not Uxas. It is Darkseid. He is currently the absolute ruler of all of Apokolips. You will not fool me with your story of abduction. I will destroy your pitiful little palace and small army and still take your daughter and make her my slave woman, impotent old man."

The king looked somewhat sad at his outburst instead of afraid or indignant. "I am King Gray. Your mother named you after me, your grandfather. Your father's true name is Uxas. The Princess Quemila Karreev is your mother. I do not think it would be in your best interest to take her for your own. I suspect that your father would not appreciate it. I did not lie to you. My daughter has been stolen from me, but she will be returned soon. If you wish to wait I know that she will be happy to see her son. We have not seen you since your father came and took you from us while you were still a baby."

Grayven felt as if he had been stabbed with a fahren knife. The information was too much for him to digest. He had been sent to meet his mother. He knew he was to inquire about the Ultimate but he could not focus at the moment. He leaned heavily on a pillar. He no longer cared about the Ultimate. He saw that the king was approaching him with concern and reaching out to touch him.

Grayven stood up in a sudden burst of rage. "Do not touch me, old man! Who abducted my mo…the princess Quemila? Where is she?"

King Gray stepped back quickly. His face seemed even sadder if possible. The warlord, Mongul has her on Duleng. But you need not go there, she will be returned shortly."

The shocks seemed to never stop. His mother…the princess was being held at his next stop. Grayven straightened up to his full height. I am due to pay this Mongul a visit. My father wishes to meet with him. I am going to visit him and teach him a little lesson in respect Apokoliptan style. Good bye, old man."

Grayven stormed out of the palace and boom tubed into the destroyer along with the score of paradeamons that had accompanied him to the surface of the planet.

King Grey watched sadly as his grandson left. He had dreamed of the day he would again see the boy. The pain of seeing how twisted he had become was overwhelming, but then he had felt back then that he had made a deal with the devil. He feared that he had not yet begun to reap the consequences. He spoke to his grandson as if he were still in his presence. "Be careful, Grayven. Even your father shows Mongul respect. His warriors far outmatch your parademon's any day."

King Grey stared off into space for a short time then turned back to his throne room to sit and wait, much as he had done the last several years of his life.

JLA Universe

Central City

Barry was already at work. He had arrived barely seconds late. He was safe. At his job he was given a ten minute leeway and he was often out to crime scenes to look for acceptable evidence. He got right to work.

As he went about his morning his mind kept wandering back to the adventures of the past couple of days. He now had a name for his Iris's murderer and he had run into more ruthless killers. If he never ran into them again it would be too soon.

Even with all of the distasteful things and beings he had seen he was quite excited about the friends he and Wally had made. Kator had suggested calling their little club of super powered individuals some kind of league. He liked the sound of that. They had saved several cities from destruction and a handful of them had been able to save a whole island of beautiful warrior women. His mind was still trying to wrap itself around that fact.

Barry thought back to the name of the group. With his line of work and with murder of his Iris his mind wandered more along the lines of justice. They could be a League of extraordinary individuals that worked together rescue, protect and mete out justice. Barry tried all three out loud as names. "The Protection League? The League of Rescuers? The Rescue Leaguers? The League of Protectors? The Justice League?

Barry wasn't sure which one he liked the most or the least. The ones with 'Rescuers' in them reminded him of the movies with the mice so he figured that those were out. He thought the 'Protectors' sounded fine but it also sounded too much like a movie and reactionary. They needed to be more proactive. Seeking out threats and removing them before they could harm innocent lives or do any damage. They should do both, react to threats, dangers, challenges as well as seek out potential threats to prevent what had happened to his Iris from ever happening again.

Barry stood up from his microscope and stretched his back for a second. Justice. It should be their primary goal. He really liked how that name sounded. Justice League. He would have to run it by his new friends later in the week. He hoped they liked it.

Barry was about to sit back down at his scope when his ear caught a news report on the radio about several murders in Ivy Town, Connecticut. He focused intently. When he heard partially devoured corpses he suspected the monster Protex that Superman's crazy woman and J'onn had described. Wally was supposed to be at school but he wouldn't be surprised if he had gone to his apartment to crash and sleep since he hadn't had a chance in almost two days. He decided not to check. He wanted to rush to Ivy Town. Moving at super speed he finished his stack of microscope slides and documented them. Then he left a note about doing some field work and taped it to his door.

He had wanted to visit Ivy Town for quite some time. One of his college classmates worked at the college there. He hoped to have a chance to catch up with his old friend Ray Palmer. Satisfied that everything was in order in his office and lab he changed and blurred away.

JLA Universe

Gotham

Bruce stood nervously behind Dinah as she fumbled with her key trying to open the door. It was the first time he had ever gone to a girl's home to meet her parents. He couldn't imagine a scenario where her mother would be happy to see the man with whom her daughter had spent the last two days without so much as a phone call. He was certain he would receive a severe scolding at best perhaps an actual physical assault at worst.

Before Dinah could open the door, it was yanked open and there stood her mother and her uncle Ted. Both stared at her in disbelief, when they saw Bruce standing behind her their looks of disbelief turned to indignant anger. Before Dinah could react, her uncle Ted had shot past like a wild animal at Bruce.

Bruce saw the large man charging him. He instinctively went into battle mode. He could tell that the man was a skilled fighter by the way he carried himself. He also knew that he could dispatch him with ease. His lip curled slightly. It was like watching a tiger preparing to retaliate against a wolf attack. As he prepared to take out his attacker his eyes fell for the briefest of moments on Dinah as she looked back at him pleadingly and with concern.

Instantly all thoughts of self defense were dropped and with a silent growl, Bruce used every ounce of self control to keep himself from retaliating and unwillingly took the easily avoidable blow. As he dropped to ground surrounded by stars, he briefly wondered why the man had hit him in the face. The bruise would be much harder to hide. Just before he passed out he reminded himself that he thought Dinah worth a thousand such blows.

Minutes Later

Bruce's eyes slowly opened. He was disoriented. It was warm. Since it was December, he knew he was indoors. His surroundings were not familiar at all, but the couch was quite comfortable and Alfred was not far from him sitting on a chair. He looked somewhat concerned. Finally, Bruce saw Dinah was kneeling next to him looking down at him with both concern and a gentle smile. Bruce could see that there were at least two other people in the room but he paid them no attention at the moment. Instead he broke out into an uncharacteristic smile of his own. "You're so beautiful," he declared rather loudly. He then continued to lay there staring stupidly up at the ceiling.

Dinah giggled.

Alfred sighed with relief.

Ted Grant and Dianh Drake moved over to the couch to look down at Bruce.

"I can't believe you hit Mr. Bruce Wayne, Ted. He could sue us for everything! He's very rich and powerful and the media really loves him as do most of the single women in the known world. There's no way what happened will look good for us." Dinah's mother scolded her longtime friend.

Ted stared down with obvious concern on his strong face. "Yeah, sorry about that Dee. I just saw a predator taking advantage of little Dinah and I couldn't resist the urge to push his face in." Focusing on Bruce, Ted addressed him. "I'm really sorry, Mr. Wayne. I sometimes jump to conclusions, especially when it comes to Dinah. She told us that you've been nothing but a gentleman. If you plan on retaliating I hope you'll retaliate on me and not on Miss Drake, here. I suppose we could always settle this the old fashioned way. You know, in the ring?"

Bruce heard everything that was being said, but not everything very clear. Still, he had the gist of it. "Not going to sue anybody's pants. You hit harder than a little girl. That's for sure. I don't have a ring. I don't like guys anyway. I like Dinah. Don't think I'll be able to kiss her for a while. Thanks a lot." Bruce mumbled a few more things; mostly unintelligible and then he just stared at Dinah with a smile on his lips and forced confusion in his eyes. It was obvious to all but Alfred and Dinah that he still wasn't to certain of what was going on.

Dinah couldn't help giggling. Bruce was being quite the clown. She could tell he was acting and she was very thankful that he hadn't gone all warrior on her uncle Ted. She couldn't believe that he had taken such a hard hit for her. She was certain he could have avoided the punch and wondered why he had not. She knew now more than ever that she wanted explore a relationship with him. She hoped that he would still want to be with her after getting hit by her uncle.

Bruce finally let his eyes seemingly come into focus. He sat up slowly. He liked that Dinah was kneeling next to him. It felt nice to have her so close. He looked at her uncle and smiled. Slowly he stood up facing him. Dinah was holding onto his left hand rather possessively. Bruce found that he really liked that. At his full height he was a good two inches taller than the six foot two Ted Grant.

Bruce noted appreciatively, that the man was powerfully built. He remembered hearing of this man winning championships from his father. He wondered how he could still look so young, but then he remembered that he had seen many impossible things in the last two days. He held out his hand to Dinah's uncle. "Thanks for only hitting me once. Wish you had let me explain first, but I can't blame you for reacting the way you did. My name is Bruce Wayne."

Ted took his hand firmly. He was genuinely impressed with the man's manners as was Dinah's mother.

"We know who you are, Mr. Wayne." Dinah's mother spoke up. "You have our attention. And before you go making up stories I just want you to know that we saw the news of the bank robbery and we know who you are. I'm very proud of my daughter for wanting to become a hero, but that Mr. Freeze character is precisely why I'm against her doing it. I know that I can't control her anymore but if she's going to do this and you're going to encourage her then you better be able to take good care of my daughter. Are we clear, Superman?"

Bruce opened and closed his mouth several times. He had gone through a range of reactions; relief, panic and confusion. He wasn't sure how Dinah's mother could believe that a man who had been knocked out by a single punch could possibly be Superman, but then he figured she probably didn't get out much.

Syndicate Universe

Themyscira

Di-ana sat on the beach watching the wave's crash against the sandy beach. She was angry, scared, depressed and unsure of the future. Her very malleable and controllable husband had suddenly turned into a monster, the kind of monster that her mother had tried to warn her of and protect her from for so many years.

Di-ana could still remember the many executions she had witnessed in the arena. All of the victims had been men who had accidentally found their way to their hidden home. She could still see her mother giving the speech of how evil and beastly the male sex was just before she would slit the prisoners throat.

Di-ana had always found it a bit grotesque. Some of the men had looked quite physically appealing. One time she had tried to approach one of the prisoners the night before the execution. Approaching the cell she had noticed that there were guards nearby and she had heard sounds she had never heard before. She had found them strangely arousing. Once the cell had come into view she had seen her sister Artemis moving violently over the blond soldier. She could not tell exactly what was happening but when the clouds parted the moonlight had suddenly flooded the cell with light and Di-ana had seen exactly what was happening.

Artemis had been groaning with her head thrown back in a state of ecstasy while the man had groaned and bucked and rutted like a wild animal. She had seen their glistening wet sexes and suddenly she had understood what men were for and she had wanted one for herself. She had watched with rapt attention until they had finished. They whole becoming more and more aroused. She had watched as Artemis had dismounted from the man. She had been fascinated by how unnaturally wet her sisters sex had looked. She could not remember having ever imagined anything like it in her lifetime. She had heard Artemis whisper, "At least now you can die knowing that you have been with the most beautiful of the Amazons." She had left without a backward glance.

Di-ana had waited until Artemis had disappeared then she had rushed into the open cell. The man seemed to be in a deep sleep. He was still naked and the spectacular piece of his body that she had seen penetrating Artemis glistened in the moonlight with the juices of their passionate encounter.

Di-ana had made up her mind that she was going to experience what her sister done for herself. Stripping herself of her gown and undergarments she had thrown herself on the man. "I am the most beautiful Amazon!" she had hissed into his ear, while at the same time grinding down as hard as she could on the man's sex.

The man had shot up with a start and strangled cry of pain. Di-ana could tell that something was wrong. For one the man's sex didn't seem to be rigid anymore and so wouldn't enter her. She still liked the sensation of rubbing her sex against the length of his. While she instantly began to feel intense pleasure from the movements the man seemed to be groaning and whimpering as if in pain. Di-ana had assumed that she had perhaps misread him the first time. She continued until she had screamed out the first orgasm of her life. She had stood up from the man to find that she had completely crushed his pelvis. The man started to scream in pain and Di-ana had rushed out of the cell as fast as her gifted legs could carry her.

She had kicked herself when she realized that she was still naked and that her clothes had been left behind. It had been too late to return for them. The guards had suddenly appeared. Entering they had discovered her clothes and the broken man.

After a short discussion in front of the crippled man they had decided to dispatch him like a wounded animal and one of the guards had driven her spear through his heart.

Di-ana had been somewhat surprised at their actions and a bit disappointed in how fragile the man had been. She knew she wanted to experience that sort of encounter again but with someone much stronger. Someone that could satisfy her without being crippled.

Not long after her first encounter with a man she had won the tournament to see who would venture out into the world of men to see if it was ripe for conquest. She had killed her twin sister to win. She missed her tremendously. But she had been glad to win. Not long after leaving for man's world she had met Jur-Li. She had been drawn to his power and his constant attentions. With all others he had shown indifference, impatience or outright hostility, but he had been quite kind to her. She had given herself to him on the first opportunity.

She had found herself addicted to the sex and had readily agreed to marry him without fully realizing what it entailed. All she knew was that she would always be with him and that had been all that she wanted.

Di-ana's problem had been that she did not know the meaning of the word no. The first time another man had propositioned her for sex she had agreed without a thought. She had grown so accustomed to the vigorous sex with her husband that she did not think or try to hold back. The result had been a man with a broken back. She had immediately remembered her first encounter and how her sister warriors had handled the situation. Not having a blade handy she had broken the man's neck to put him out of his misery and thrown his body into the ocean.

Di-ana rubbed her eyes with the back of her hand. She could not understand why Jur-Li had become so angry and petty. All she had been doing was having sex with other men. She still preferred him. She just needed to experiment like her sisters had.

The angrier Jur-Li had become the less she had wanted to be with him and the more she had sought out other men. Eventually she had learned to not move to much when with a man and just let them have their way with her. It had slowly turned into a game for her. After a while she had stopped having to kill her occasional lovers.

Jur-Li had taken over the killing part. Every time he had found her with another he had quickly dispatched the man and then taken her back to their fortress home and shown her why she had accepted marrying him in the first place. Di-ana found that in the last year the only time that Jur-Li would touch her was after she had an encounter with another. So she had increased the frequency of her adventure even going as far as sharing her body with a few of the members of the Syndicate.

Her little adventures had ended in the terrifying encounter in Owlman's cave. Now the thought of her husband sent a shiver down her spine. Her thoughts turned back to Superman. She knew she had blown her first opportunity with him rather badly. Perhaps if she were able to find a way back she would be able to explain herself. She knew that he wanted to be with her. It had been plain on his face. Her only real problem would be getting back to his dimension and world.

Di-ana stood up and stretched like a tigress, sighed and headed towards the palace and her room. She would take to her mother in the morning. She wondered if perhaps her friend Artemis and her sister, Cassandra would be able to help her escape back to Superman's dimension.

Metropolis

Lunchtime

Clark and Lois sat in a booth in "The Corner Café." Clark had to admit that it was nice. He had only been working at the paper for about six months and had never eaten there.

Clark looked around drinking in the surroundings and the smells. The smells were pleasant. His sense of smell was one of his favorite abilities. He had always loved the smells of home; the smells of breakfast, the smell of the different animals, the smell of the young, the smell of freshly tilled earth, the smells of the different crops as they grew, the smell of his father's ancient tractor and the smell of clean air.

There was no clean air here in the city but the smells from the kitchen were fairly pleasant. Being curious, Clark peeped into the kitchen to see how things were going. It looked rather busy but he was pleased to see that the chefs took their personal hygiene seriously. He pushed his glasses back up and turned to find Lois staring at him.

Clark cleared his throat, smiled nervously and picked up his menu.

"What happened? Did the wall refuse to tell you what was in the menu so you finally decided to look for yourself?" Lois asked with a very amused look in her eyes.

"Ha! Yes, that's it, Lois. The wall was rather rude. I'm very glad we have menus at the table; otherwise we'd have been here forever.

Lois looked at Clark curiously as he stared at his menu. Noticing her stare he looked up, smiled dorkily and pushed his glasses back up with his left index finger.

Lois leaned forward staring intently at him. "There's something different about you, Clark. Not sure what it is. You seem more distracted than usual and you also seem to have suddenly developed a tremendous wit. You have been busting funnies all morning. I guess you just seem a lot happier than usual."

"Gosh, Lois! You really are a good investigative reporter! I hadn't noticed, but I guess you're right. I am much happier today than usual. The future just seems a lot brighter to me now. It's really nice to meet friends. You know, people that can really understand you. People you can share your life with. I suppose that's why I've been acting a little goofier. I'll try to be a little more boring if it bothers you." Clark grinned clownishly down at Lois.

Lois sat back with her hand over her mouth as a revelation hit her. "You joined an online group over the weekend and found a girl who grew up on a farm like you! Smallville! That's great! I'm so happy for you! Where is she from? Farmville? Is she real tall and clumsy, like you?" she teased.

Clark nearly choked on his ice water. "Ha! Very funny! I never said I was dating anyone. I said I met some new friends. People I have a lot in common with." He flicked a small piece of rolled up napkin at Lois hitting her square between the eyes.

Lois gasped, "Smallville! You better brush up on your manners! If you want your farm dream girl to like you at all then you had better cut out the spit wad flicking, ritual. She will never want to mate with you if you do that to her." Lois stopped as what she had just said sank in.

Clark's cheeks turned a deep crimson. "I wasn't trying to mate with yo…it's not a mating ritual…um, I was just goofing around. Sorry, Lois. I maybe got a little carried away there."

Lois had also turned several shades of red finally she started laughing, first at Clark and then at herself. "Clark. It's okay. I was just kidding. I didn't mean for it to come out that way. Course if you had meant it as a mating ritual, it would be the first time anyone has flirted with me by flicking wet pieces of paper at me. That's different. So no girlfriend, huh?"

Clark couldn't stop blushing now. He actually felt like the awkward klutz he was always pretending to be. "Um, well, no. Not yet. It's too soon. But I think it's safe to say we are friends. I seriously made some great new friends this weekend."

Lois nodded in understanding, "So you found some new friends. That's good, Clark. I'm very happy for you. I know being a farmer in the big city must be a little intimidating at times. It's nice to have friends who know where you come from." Lois looked wistfully off in the distance for a moment. She turned back with a smile. "Just remember you have friends here in the big city as well. If you were to suddenly decide to leave then I wouldn't have anyone to come in as a close second when it comes to investigative reporting and I would never be able to tell Perry, 'I can handle this story on my own, chief!'" Lois chuckled.

Clark found himself laughing easily as well. He was glad he had come to lunch with Lois. She had been nicer to him than he could remember. As he paid for the food and they left back to the planet he promised himself that he would never forget about his friends he had made while living in Metropolis especially Lois, Jimmy and Perry.

JLA Universe

Duleng

Lobo looked out at the setting sun and watched as the three moons came into view. He had most of his explosives set. There were going to be a lot of Dulengite body parts scattered around the palace after tonight.

Lobo could be sneaky when he needed to, but it wasn't his strong suit. He much preferred to smash, grab and go. There were very few he encountered that didn't end up wetting their pants. He knew these Dulengites would be quite different, but that just added to the fun and adventure. It wasn't every day he had a paid opportunity to bust into some powerful tyrants harem steal one of his beauties; kick in a few faces and go.

He knew that his opponents would be anything but pushovers. Still he would not have the luxury of having a good old fashioned drag out fight. The princess he was supposed to rescue was wanted alive and she might just get caught in the cross fires of any kind of drag out fight. He checked his time piece. Just a few more hours and the fun would begin. He was going to show the giant yellow bastiches why Lobo was feared the universe over.

JLA Universe

Themyscira

Diana was sitting up now. Her mother and sister had not left her side. The rest of the injured were being tended to. She was saddened at the number of her sisters that had given their lives trying to defend her and her mother and very proud to have known such brave women.

"So he's coming back in three days?" Donna asked her mother.

"Yes, child. Artemis will go bring him back in three days." The queen answered her younger daughter's same question for the third time in as many hours.

"I like him. He is very nice and he was super strong! But I think I like his face the most. When I saw his face I felt safe," Donna piped.

Diana and Hippolyta both stared at Donna intrigued. "That is true, Little One. He has a very kind face. He does not seem arrogant and he does have a tremendous amount of power. I felt uncharacteristically safe in his presence as well. It is not a feeling I have allowed myself to feel in a long time. I find it curious and I also want to make it very clear that what I just said is to stay between the three of us and not to be shared with anyone. Is that understood?"

Diana smiled. "I think we all felt safe when we saw his face. I think even Phillipus and Artemis felt safe. They kept threatening him even after seeing him take down that horrible man and he just smiled and bowed or apologized. It was quite funny to see him behave that way. If there are men like that then I don't think I have too much to fear from going to man's world. Don't you think so, mother?"

Hippolyta stared at the wall of the room for a moment as the bitter memories of her betrayal came back as they always did whenever the word man was used before she responded. "I do not trust men, nor do I believe that man has changed, but I do believe that there are exceptions to the rule. Our friend, King Arthur and our new friend, Kal-El are proof that not all men are pigs. It is quite refreshing and it gives me some measure of peace to know that we can call them friends and that you will be in their company when you leave for the outside world."

Diana looked at her mother and knew what was going through her mind. She reached out and touched her hand squeezing it gently. "Do not fear, mother. I can see that our new friends are true and you have taught me. I will not be deceived or harmed and I will do my best to make you proud. We were meant to meet these men and their friends. I am glad that we did."

The queen squeezed her elder daughters hand back and smiled brightly at her. "I could not be prouder of either of you." she said as she drew her younger daughter into an embrace. "And I know that you will both continue to make me proud."

Hippolyta stood up still holding onto her daughter's hands. Diana looked at her with concern. "Mother. You are still healing as well as I. Do not leave. Stay here with me."

Hippolyta smiled. "I need to speak with King Arthur and Queen Mera. I want to learn more from our prisoner."

Donna stood up. "I'll go get them. I'm not hurt bad. My hands are all better now."

Diana smiled at her little sister, "Let us wait. I will be better by this evening and our friend, Kal-El will return in three days. We can all go to speak with the prisoner. I'm sure he will show respect to us with so many present. Remember that he was not very antagonistic after we captured him. He seems like a victim and from what he told us he has suffered much. I think that he will be an ally as well before all is said and done."

The queen and Donna both sat back down. "You speak wisdom, daughter. We will wait."

The three sat together, they had much to talk about. It had been a morning of great sadness and also of great joy and hope. The queen sensed that soon, the many hours she spent with her daughters would be taken from her. She wanted to enjoy every moment she had and thanked her goddesses silently for the two gifts she had been given as the three waited for evening to come.

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