AN/ Here is the next installment of a series of Prequels I am writing for a Lords Fiction I am working on, this piece is a Sequel to 'Fall From Grace' Familiarization with that story is recommended to better understand the events of this installment but it can be read without it.
Thanks to Centuri Eagle for kindly checking this through for me before hand :)
***Episode References 'A Better World'***
Of course neither Justice League nor its characters belong to me, but their respective owners.
I hope you enjoy reading :)
Relapse Pt I
Seven Months after the Justice Lords were returned to their dimension
"Currently there is no confirmation as to whether these sightings are in fact the former Justice Lord Batman...In related news, a conference is being held by Mercy Corporations tomorrow night to address the threat of Meta humans-"
The television broadcasting the news reporter Snapper Carr was abruptly switched off dropping the room into silence. A light switched on down the hall of a small apartment building which was decorated humbly and absent of any of the personal trinkets or artefacts one might find in an apartment. A moment later and the tenant of this abode reappeared with a cup of coffee which was placed heavily on the table causing it to spill some of its contents; the papers beside the hot drink were snatched away in fear of them absorbing the awol fluid.
The papers in question were stacked together and neatly aligned using the surface of the table, following this action they were then brought up to eye level and examined. Clark Kent allowed his eyes to drift over the text on the paper, his latest article which was designed to lead up to the events of the conference that he was attending as invited press. Perry had insisted that a lead up article be constructed in order to develop hype and interest surrounding the conference and therefore give their cover story of the event an edge.
To Clark the issues surrounding Metas and the threat that they did or did not pose was little of his concern, being the former Lord Superman to very few people's knowledge...he was more concerned with how to reassert the laws and restrictions originally placed by the Lords in order to bring back peace and stability. Television news and press articles were not needed in order to see that the world had returned to its former disorderly state ever since the Lords had 'disappeared' seven months ago. Unaffiliated vigilantes were on the return with their flimsy ideas of Justice, reappearing since they could no longer be forced into submitting themselves to the better idealisms that the Lords had placed, the threat of their being 'dealt with' no longer a concern.
Clark cleared his throat before taking a gulp of coffee, for the second time he allowed his eyes to re-read the text before him, finding that he was satisfied he slipped the papers into a suitability sized envelope and placed it on the table, ready to be given to Perry for tomorrows print.
Until then...it was time for some weight training and a shower.
The following Morning...
Bruce Wayne sat at his dining room table and sharply flicked his wrists in order to straighten the newspaper he was currently reading. A particular article had caught his attention and he was reading it with a combination of bitter mirth and aggravation.
"Your coffee Master Bruce"
Bruce didn't look up from the article "Thank-you Alfred...Will the others be joining me this morning?"
Alfred Pennyworth set the coffee pot neatly on the table and poured a cup of the hot morning brew with expert hands.
"I believe Miss Hol will be down shortly...Mr J'onnz is still meditating...would you like me to enquire as to his attending breakfast, sir?"
For the first time that morning, Bruce Wayne looked away from his paper and briefly glanced at Alfred before reaching out and grasping his coffee. Taking a sip of the caffeine he set it back down.
"No...Leave him, he can eat anytime"
"Very well, sir...Also...Miss Diana left a message to say that she would be dropping by around noon"
"Thank-you Alfred" Bruce dismissed returning to his newspaper.
Alfred nodded and finished preparing the table for the morning meal; once his task was complete he gathered the unnecessary cutlery and made his way to the door. As he was about to pass through the form of a winged woman appeared and Alfred dutifully stepped aside and held the door for her as was his way.
"Good morning, Miss Hol"
The former Lord Hawkgirl smiled weakly before nodding her head and passing through the open door "Thank-you"
At last Alfred was able to take his leave and return to the kitchen to prepare breakfast.
"Morning, Shayera" Bruce greeted.
Despite the fact that Hawkgirl had insisted that the others address her by her name, Bruce still felt slightly uncomfortable using it, perhaps it was because he wasn't accustomed to using informal address, or maybe it was because she still without exception...wore her helmet. It had become apparent that the wearing of the helmet was a cultural issue for her, so even though she was no longer Hawkgirl the mask stayed.
She merely grunted a half-hearted response as she leaned over the table and poured herself a coffee.
Bruce had learned a great deal about the Thanagarian since she had been forced to live here along with J'onn, both of them unable to easily hide their presence amongst humans, Shayera obviously because of her wings, and J'onn who was unable to morph and therefore remained in his original Martian form. One of the very important things Bruce had learned was that under no circumstances was she a morning person and secondly she didn't talk very much, not anymore...not since John had moved out and left her behind.
"There is a paper there if you wish to read it" Bruce gestured to the table where a second paper sat; it wasn't often that she read it but on some occasions she would indulge.
Gingerly she reached across the table, he noticed her flinch as she did so.
Opening the paper Shayera flicked through the pages absently before she stopped to take a double look at something that had caught her eye. Going a page back her eyes flitted over an image of Batman and the article beside it.
'Just as dangerous? – Story by Clark Kent'
Being an avid reader Shayera read through the article rather quickly, skimming certain areas she found un-useful and focusing on the more...interesting parts of the text.
'The concern of the populace over dangerous Metas is being reviewed by Mercy Corporations, however in light of this we should also scrutinise non-powered humans that see fit to prowl the streets at night frightening innocent bystanders'
"That's nice" Shayera frowned closing the newspaper and tossing it across the table haphazardly
She glanced up to look at Bruce as if looking for a reaction, anything that would give him away, but of course there was nothing.
"Nice of him to write such a..." She paused searching for the correct words "Interesting article about you"
"It isn't unexpected" He stated closing his own newspaper and taking another mouthful of coffee.
"Of course not" Shayera said flatly.
Alfred re-entered the dining room with breakfast and set the food and drinks on the table before leaving. It was as always, a quiet breakfast.
In Detroit, the world was just the same as it was elsewhere regardless of how much someone tried to escape the fact. In a simple one story apartment the former Lord Green Lantern woke up rather late and turned onto his back to stare at the ceiling, as was his habit every morning. The apartment itself had belonged to him some time ago before the Lords became the dominant political force, ever since the loss of his abilities as a Green Lantern he had been staying at Wayne Manor, but Bruce had generously offered to reclaim the apartment for him. It was of course welcome independence from living with the other former Lords under Bruce's roof.
Purposefully ignoring the emptiness of the bed beside him, John Stewart slowly got up out of bed and meandered to his living room and joint kitchen, in passing he switched on the television for some background noise. Life seemed rather empty now for the former Marine, he was no longer a Green Lantern and he no longer had Shayera, he'd left her behind unable to comprehend her or look upon her ever since her confession.
Obviously no longer being able to conduct his responsibilities as the Green Lantern of sector 2814, the guardians had replaced him with another Lantern for the time being, it was said that it was simply a matter of broken will and that in time he would be able to return to his post. John shook his head as he remembered the details and glanced at the television, something about a conference, he didn't pay much attention to news anymore.
Switching off the television again he decided that a walk would do him a favour, he hadn't left the apartment except for food and supplies, and it would do him good to get out. However before he could even begin to walk to his bedroom the phone started to ring. John instantly groaned, only two people had the number and he didn't really feel like talking to either of them just now.
Picking up the receiver he began with the customary greeting.
John sighed; he guessed that under the circumstances he'd gotten the better end of the deal.
"Diana" It was better than talking to Bruce.
"I am visiting Bruce around noon, would you like to accompany me?" On second thought maybe talking to Bruce would have been a better option.
"No Diana...thanks anyway" He responded dryly while rubbing his chin, the beard that had formed there feeling rough against his palm.
"John, I should tell you that...I was not asking"
"Fine" He stated before hanging up the phone irritated.
Diana knew where he lived, if she wanted him to go she'd have to come and get him. He knew why she wanted him to go, a combination of 'we're still family' and 'you should talk to Shayera', of course no one was actually aware of what had happened between them, as far as he knew Shayera hadn't told anybody else, there were a lot of things she hadn't told anyone.
He'd unconsciously been glaring at the phone. Shayera had confessed a number of things to him, one of them was that she'd actually been sent to Earth on a mission to gather intelligence should the planet come under threat to Gordanians...some obscure alien race that had been at war with Thanagar for decades. Secondly...she was engaged.
John had been with her in a romantic sense for going almost a year before she'd told him, all that time and she hadn't thought to mention that she was already committed to someone else, was what they had simply a lie?
Frowning John stomped to the bedroom and started to prepare for his shower, Diana being Diana would be here in an hour or so to pick him up.
Diana Prince, formally Lord Wonder Woman and still Princess of Themyscira put the receiver of her telephone back into its cradle. For a moment she watched it as if waiting for it to ring and hear John apologise for his abrupt ending of their conversation, but she knew that there was no need for him to do so. Things were hard on all of them and he didn't even have Shayera to lean on anymore.
Walking over to where she kept her keys, Diana scooped them up and headed out of her apartment and downstairs for her car, both of which along with her identity, were generously given to her by Bruce Wayne. Smiling to herself she recalled the conversation in which Bruce had insisted that she gain some independence as it was available to her, there was no point in remaining in the mansion when she could build a life for herself.
Getting into her car she switched on the ignition, she'd learned rather quickly how to drive a vehicle and she had mused during her tutoring how similar it was to driving a Javelin, of course with the absence of the empty void of space. Since being without her Amazon powers things had been difficult, the aspect she found most difficult was the fact that she couldn't launch to save someone or fight to protect innocents, granted though that at the peak of the Lords success she hadn't done much saving. It wasn't that she disagreed with their intensions in the first place, to begin with she had been all for it, but as time had gone on, as the numbers of lobotomised victims increased she started to question their actions. Perhaps Man's world was not ready or even prepared for such force to be deemed appropriate regardless of the logic of a one punishment law.
For the first few months after losing her powers she had stayed on Themyscira, Bruce providing her with transportation. There she had sat with her Mother for hours explaining everything that had occurred, including the loss of her abilities. Hippolyta had said something then that had reignited hope in the former Wonder Woman, she had told her that the loss of her Amazon strength was due to a loss in faith...she needed to find her faith again and then perhaps her powers would not be quite so elusive.
In no time the Princess had found herself in Detroit and outside John's building, carefully she exited the car and made her way up the stairs towards her friend's apartment, she hoped that he hadn't gone out as a means to avoid her. Upon reaching the door she knocked, knocking a second time when he didn't answer.
The door opened abruptly and John Stewart stood before her looking grim with his still bald head and customary frown...the overall aggressive look was completed by his new beard.
"You ready?" She asked putting on a smile hoping that it would at least ease the harsh lines of his face...it didn't.
"I'm not going"
"Still family...I know" He stated dryly "But I'm not going"
"I'm sure Bruce would like to see you" She offered knowing that it wouldn't be enough.
She noticed that he was about to shut the door, growing impatient she put her foot in the doorway so that he wouldn't be able to close it; he noticed the gesture and seemed to question his original intent.
"Fine" He said picking up his jacket and something else she didn't get a glimpse of as it was shoved into his pocket "But I'm not staying long...even if I have to walk home"
A smile graced her features, a true one this time "Good".
Martians mediated rather than slept but ever since J'onn had lost all ability to sense the world around him, he had mediated far more often than he would normally need to, of course he wasn't dedicating more time to the action because he needed to, it was because he was determined to sense his surroundings. Seated within the confines of his room J'onn sat cross legged on the floor in his natural Martian shape, eyes closed in concentration as he attempted to clear his mind and open it to the world around him.
Despite his friendship with the others he was in fact withholding information from them; yesterday while mediating outside something, he was certain, had brushed against his mind...ever since that moment he had tried desperately to find it. So far he had been unsuccessful which disappointed him but he was still hopeful because he had felt something. He hadn't told any of the others because he wasn't sure if it really meant anything, his 'powers' as the humans liked to call them were merely a part of his natural physiology, they had been removed by the power disruptor as it focused solely on the assets that made them special. That was the issue though, it was a power disruptor, and J'onn hoped that it didn't mean complete removal.
A knock at his door disrupted his thoughts and concentration, being as polite and placid as he was he did not feel annoyance at the interruption.
The door edged open slowly and the face of Alfred Pennyworth, Bruce's butler, appeared.
"Mr J'onnz...I took the liberty of bringing you some breakfast, it is after all the most important meal of the day"
J'onn allowed a tiny smiled as Alfred placed the tray of food on the side along with a variety of drinks, J'onn was ever grateful that Alfred did not seem to take offense to his natural form...some humans after all found it disturbing.
"Thank-you Alfred, I appreciate your concern"
"It is my pleasure, also I thought that it might be in your interest that Miss Diana will be arriving shortly" Alfred smiled before stepping out of the room and leaving the Martian alone to continue his meditation in peace.
J'onn slowly stood up to gather the tray of food and lock the door, he was keen to be left in peace so that he could continue to concentrate on finding what it was he had sensed before. Just as he slid the lock home he became overwhelmed by a sudden pain that burst through his head as if his skull would implode on itself and he collapsed to the floor.
Bruce Wayne sat at his computer in the Batcave; he unlike the others was still able to continue with his work seeing as how he was a regular human as both Batman and otherwise. Currently he was examining various pieces of evidence that he had extracted from a crime scene in Gotham the previous night, at the time he'd been momentarily exposed while gleaning the necessary artefacts...just long enough for someone to snatch a photograph. It was unlike him to leave himself exposed in such a manor but people were far more tenacious than ever.
Usually Shayera would offer to help, she'd often sat with him pouring over photographs and evidence, he didn't really need her help but he indulged her as it seemed to keep her busy...not being able to use her wings had had an enormous effect on her. Even though he was buried in the information that he was processing, he was still aware that someone had entered the cave.
"Down here" He stated simply "Shayera is outside by the cliffs"
Diana turned to John and concealed her amusement at his expression, despite the fact that John and Shayera hadn't shared a word in seven months, the former Green Lantern wandered off Diana suspected or hoped, towards Shayera, or he was going somewhere to brood.
Continuing down the steps Diana made her way over to where Bruce was sat in his chair, his hands working mechanically over the keys and buttons.
"How are things?" She asked with interest.
She nodded, she was used to Bruce and having one sided conversations.
"I saw the article in the newspaper"
Bruce paused for a moment before continuing "It isn't a surprise"
"I suppose not" Diana agreed "I just thought that he might have cooled by now"
He shook his head and turned to her "As long as the word is without order and his vision of Justice...he will not cool down"
Her arms folded "I know you're right"
"Sometimes I wish I wasn't" Bruce muttered under his breath "Have you seen J'onn?"
"No, not yet, I thought I would see you first"
"You should speak with him; Shayera and I are not committed to conversation"
Diana nodded "I will go and see him"
"Good, he is in his room"
Annoyed and more than a little miffed, John Stewart stalked back out of the cave and into the main hall where he bumped into Alfred.
"Sorry" John apologised immediately "I..." He cleared his throat awkwardly "Do you know where I can find...Shayera?" Bruce had of course just told him, but he felt that he needed to ask for himself.
Alfred smiled "Miss Hol is out on the cliffs"
"Thanks" John muttered shoving his hands into his pockets and stepping past the butler.
John quite frankly had no idea why he was going to see her, he didn't really want to talk to her, he'd had to question every aspect of their relationship and he wasn't sure if he really knew her anymore. A frown notched his features, of course he knew her...it was just his perception of her that had changed, and his perception of their relationship, and he didn't like it one bit.
John stepped outside and was momentarily taken back by the strong breeze that struck him in the face, it wasn't unpleasant but it had been unexpected. Very slowly John began to walk around carefully looking for Shayera and at the same time keeping himself hidden, he just wanted to make sure she was okay he didn't need to talk to her to do that.
Turning a corner he found her. A couple of seconds were eaten up as he merely stared at her as she stood on the edge of the cliff, her head tilted back slightly as she absorbed the breeze. A part of him felt ashamed for leaving her alone, she hadn't been able to fly for going seven months now, the restriction and lack of freedom was probably killing her, standing there feeling the breeze against her skin was probably torture. Unconsciously he took a step toward her but doubled back, she had lied to him, he wasn't the man in her life, the man she was 'promised' to was.
Sighing careful to keep the sound of his breath passing his teeth quiet, John fingered the item in his jacket pocket, he took it everywhere with him just in case even though he knew he couldn't use it, perhaps it was just habit, or maybe it was hope...he didn't know and he didn't care. The ring slipped easily onto his finger and he tugged his hand out of his pocket to examine the green band and Lantern crest, a moment passed as he concentrated, frowning. A flicker of green, a tiny spark, and the ring was returned with an air of frustration back into the depths of his pocket.
The Guardians had insisted that it would take time for his broken will to be restored and had assured him that should they be made aware of the ring's use, that he would be granted re-training and restored to his prior sector. That was something at least and more than he felt he deserved after his actions, but the Guardians were still adamant that they had chosen well and that he would prove to them the strength of their choice.
Scratching his stubble absently he continued to watch Shayera, as far as he was aware she was still unbeknownst to his presence. Better it stay that way too.
The breeze caressed her skin like a long lost lover, no one would be able to understand the relationship she had with flying, how could they? None of them flew as she had, using her own body and strength, communicating with the winds and currents, a complex relationship that gave her something she couldn't explain to anybody. A sigh passed her lips as she felt the breeze wash over her again; her desire to fly was remarkably strong, only her reason managed to keep her anchored to the ground.
Life had become barren to her, she felt as though there was nothing really left for her anymore...John was gone and her wings might as well be. Confessing everything to John as she had, had been the right decision she knew this in her heart, but she missed him and she wondered if she could have tolerated lying to him in order to keep him with her, but then she'd remind herself how torturous it had been to lie to him in the first place.
A grimace marred her face for a moment and she grit her teeth together until the sudden pain had departed, she'd felt something similar at breakfast when she'd leant over to get the newspaper, pain didn't bother her generally but in this case it did, the pain was coming from her wings and back and the closest description she could give it was a sensation of pins and needles, but far more unpleasant. For months she hadn't been able to feel anything at her back or wings, the entire area numb, but lately every so often there would be a sharp pain. It was enough to give her hope, not that it was something she held very often or for very long.
Despite the fact her wings had been practically unmoving for months; Shayera had taken good care of them as was her instinct. At first she had merely maintained them as necessary and where she could reach, but soon she had found that it wasn't enough and had asked Alfred for assistance. It had become a morning ritual that Alfred would assist her with her wings, he had even suggested exercises for them and with some consideration a regime had been developed whereby Alfred would manually extend her wings for her and with her guidance move them in imitation of flying. It became apparent that they were not beyond functionality, it seemed that merely her synaptic relationship with them had been interrupted somehow, she wasn't sure but she considered that the pain she was feeling was merely a by product of her nervous system in that region reasserting itself.
Shayera concentrated on the wind as it blew up around her again, this time though as she closed her eyes she felt her feathers, she could feel them shifting to accommodate the air, feel her wings twitching slightly, realigning themselves. Her eyes shot open to examine her wings, they were still to her disappointment closed but she persevered...she could feel them. Closing her eyes she focused on the feeling and concentrated, moving her wings was instinctual, she didn't need to think about it, if she wanted to open her wings then she did...right now though she needed to will them open, the muscles underused and stiff needed the extra push.
Her teeth ground together violently as she forcibly contracted her back and shoulder muscles, the pain was intense and shot through her entire body, including her wings and subsequently she doubled over. Gripping her knees with her hands she took a shaky breath and slowly started to straighten her back and stand up fully, she didn't need to look to know that her wings were open, at last. The feathers shifted into new positions as she adjusted them to the wind currents, the wings tilting forward and back to catch lift. The winds were calling to her, caressing her, beckoning her to rejoin it and reconcile, to finally feel the glory of flying as a daughter of the air.
She didn't think, she jumped.
*To Be Continued*