AN/ After much deliberation I have finally been able to continue with this series of mine focusing on the Justice Lords. This Installment is a sequel to 'Relapse' and will focus on the aftermath of the Lords' Thanagarian invasion.
A pre-warning about this one, there are some dark themes which will become apparent as you read, that and this story will feel jumpy as there are a number of flashbacks which are necessary to explain certain events. Flashbacks will be recognizable by Italics.
A big thanks to Loki's Son for helping me figure out what I wanted to do with this :)
***Episode References 'A better world' and 'Starcrossed'*** Also there are a number of direct references to previous installments both 'Fall from Grace' and 'Relapse'. It is strongly advised that you are familiar with those stories in order to understand this one in its entirety.
I hope that you enjoy reading this :)
Neither Justice League (/Lords) or its characters belong to me, but their respective owners :)
****This Chapter has been Edited, the last section in this chapter (John's)****
Eight Months since the Lords regained their powers, and one week since the Thanagarians left Earth.
"John!" She shrieked.
She saw the axe, energised and screaming in its own primitive way for death and blood, she watched as it came down without mercy as all Thanagarian things did. Before the axe could meet with its victim, its arc of decent was interrupted, the shaft of a mace blocking its path and pushing it away from it's would be target. Something just as primitive as the axe, something just as deadly boiled inside of her and she didn't stop when the head of the mace struck his jaw, didn't stop when she saw the blood...
Nothing but the dull thud of metal hitting bone.
Thud, thud, thud...
Shayera Hol, former Lieutenant of the Thanagarian empire and former Lord Hawkgirl of the Justice Lords, sat bolt upright in her bed, sweating and feverish. Eyes wide and her mind disorientated, it took her a few long moments before she recognised that someone was knocking on the door.
Pulling off the sheet that had become damp from her cold perspiration, she slung it aside and unsteadily made her way to her feet, the events still playing in her mind's eye like a film on loop. Walking towards the door of her room she opened the door slowly to reveal Bruce Wayne, the man who had kindly allowed her to stay in his home despite everything that had happened.
She cleared her throat anxiously but didn't speak, instead awaited for him to say the same thing he told her most nights.
Bruce looked at her evenly, she could tell he hadn't long returned from his patrol, the bat suit still on except for the cowl that he had pulled back to reveal his face.
"You were screaming again..." It was a statement, it wasn't harsh or accusing, but she felt ashamed regardless.
Averting her eyes she looked away from him and glanced at the floor "...Sorry." She croaked softly and started to close the door but Bruce placed his hand against it and halted the motion.
"Is everything okay?" He paused for a moment reconsidering his question "Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Even she wasn't convinced by her feeble words "I'm sorry if I woke Alfred." She added quietly before once again attempting to close the door, this time Bruce let her complete the action and the door closed with a soft click.
On the other side Shayera leant against the door, her shoulder supporting her as she pressed the side of her head against the cold wood. Her eyes squeezed shut as her wings drooped slightly before encircling her and shielding her body as she slowly descended to the floor. As she sat still supporting herself on the door, she ran a hand through her short hair, the locks just as moist as her skin from her nightmare.
Nightmares weren't new to her, in one way or another she had always had them, but until now there had always been someone with her that would offer her some comfort. It used to be Hro while she was on Thanagar...it used to be John.
A sob was swallowed as she thought of John, the man she loved, the man she had fought for, the man that didn't believe her anymore, didn't trust her.
She'd just handed Batman the data she had stolen from Hro's quarters, the small disc containing all of the information concerning the bypass and other details that might have proven interesting at a later date. Each of the Lords tumbled out of their holding cells, dazed, confused, weak...because of her, but she had escaped Hro's captivity and sought to free them.
"John!" She called for him as he exited his cell "John, Hro wouldn't let me leave."
He wouldn't look at her even as she handed him his ring, what was wrong with him?
"Just go Shayera..."
"I...I don't understand." She replied confused.
"I don't want you to lie to me anymore Shayera, I get it...it was an act." He finally looked at her and she saw something in his eyes that terrified her "I've learned my lesson."
She reached out to him but he pulled away "What did Hro say to you?"
He was walking away, following the others...turning his back on her.
The sob she had held back broke out of her catching her breath as it choked out of her, the tears were hot and burned her cheeks as they tumbled down but she didn't reach up to wipe them away. Everything hurt; her pain wasn't merely emotional but seemed to punctuate the rest of her being, her heart, her mind even her body ached as it shuddered in her anguish.
Her former Commander and former 'promised one' had spoken to John, she was certain of that. Somehow he had convinced John that her love for him was merely an act, a part of her mission as an intelligence officer, that throughout their entire time together she was still loyal to Hro even despite confiding in him over her mission. They were lies, but it wasn't Hro's lies that hurt her, it was John's ignorance...that he couldn't recognise the truth in her emotions for him, couldn't feel how real it was.
"I do love you John Stewart...nothing is ever going to change that, not even Hro Talak."
Somehow Shayera managed to stand up; she stood and slowly crossed the room to the window that occupied the far side. Clumsily she pulled the curtains open to reveal the still dark sky and the spattering of stars that were visible across the ocean. Normally she would look at the stars and wonder about Thanagar, even though she had been comfortable and even happy on Earth, she did still miss her home world, but it was too painful to think of Thanagar now.
Carefully she sat herself down on the windowsill and stared out blankly, her mind consumed as that reel of film repeated itself in her mind's eye for what felt like the millionth time. Her eyes by their own instinct followed the floor until they found the legs of the desk opposite her bed, and as her eyes had done so many times before, she followed the legs to the table top and to the mace. It sat idly on the desk, the only object on its surface, the table completely devoid of anything else. The mace's contours were traced by her eyes, along the worn leather strap at the tip of the handle, up the smooth metal of the shaft before reaching the head, a round globe adorned with spikes. The mace had been a companion of hers for almost her entire adult life, the same weapon had travelled with her everywhere and into every battle, but now it had never felt so separate from her.
Her green eyes found the blood that spattered the globe and spikes, dark crimson blood that had dried and cracked across its surface. It had been a week since the blood had made contact with the metal, but even still, after a week she couldn't find it in herself to clean it...to touch it.
Throughout her life she had killed many, a variety of enemies the terms being her life or theirs and the choice had always been an easy one to make. A week ago the choice had still been easy, his life or John's and she had made the decision in less than a second, but regardless it still sickened her.
The blood sickened her.
The blood of Hro Talak.
Lord Batman remained on the other side of the bedroom door for a few moments before deciding to leave; it had become a regular habit within the last week that he would check on her each night after returning from his patrol.
"Is Miss Hol quite alright, sir?"
Bruce looked up as he walked towards the staircase; Alfred was standing nearby in his nightclothes a look of concern etched on his features. Reaching the staircase Batman placed a hand on the rail but spoke before he descended.
"She's still in shock; she just needs space and time." He started to make his way down the stairs, heading towards the lower hall and to the large grandfather clock that resided there.
"I'll be down in the cave shortly, Master Bruce." Alfred assured him; now that he was up he no doubt wanted to make sure that Bruce hadn't gotten himself any new and substantial injuries.
"It's fine Alfred, go back to sleep..." He paused at the base of the stairs "She said she was sorry for waking you." Then Batman was gone, nothing but his cloak disappearing as the clock swung back against the wall.
Alfred shook his head "Quite alright."
The bat cave was as always still and quiet, a welcome sanctuary for someone who wanted to be left alone to their thoughts even if it wasn't necessarily a good thing. Bruce didn't bother to change out of his suit, instead choosing to drop into the chair and let his hands glide over the keys and buttons as he analysed the latest news feeds. Once again there were fresh articles that spoke of sightings of the Justice Lords, they were of course still being hunted, even before the Thanagarians had arrived, the Justice Lords had been declared wanted for crimes against Justice, punishment of which had been described as quite considerable. Even after sparing the world from destruction by the device that had been constructed by the Thanagarians, the Lords were given no relief, not even Lord Superman had been given the benefit of the doubt after his help in the invasion.
Bruce cleared his throat before sighing slightly, seeing Clark again hadn't boded well for him or the others, regardless of what Diana thought, Bruce knew that he had helped in order to save his own face. Saving the world would have been a very effective way of improving his public image, not that it had worked. The world still wanted them to pay regardless, and now the former Lord Hawkgirl was right at the top of the list next to Superman.
Observation was something Bruce prided himself in, he saw things others didn't, saw the things they chose to ignore. He had believed her when she told them they were there to pick her up, he had seen the pleading expression in her eyes when she had given him the data disc, he saw the broken warrior that he had helped up from the floor when she wouldn't move.
The Watchtower was on its way out of orbit and towards the bypass structure, with their limited resources since being depowered it was the only thing they had at their disposal that was big enough to create enough damage. Batman ran down the halls of the Thanagarian fleet ship, trusting that when the time came, J'onn would phase out of the satellite and get himself to safety. His ears picked up a shout and a heavy clunk and Diana came into view wielding one of the Thanagarian weapons, she looked furious as she glared at him before recognising who was standing in front of her.
"Where's Clark?" He demanded before continuing down the hall, he needed to get to John and make sure that the shield was deactivated in time.
"I don't know!" Diana snapped exasperated, "He was outside but he didn't follow me when I boarded the ship."
"It doesn't matter." Batman replied before turning another corner, there was more shouting but this time it wasn't Diana's...it was Shayera's.
Picking up his pace he started to run down towards the sound, Diana gliding along beside him, both moving faster still when they heard something heavy impact the ground. Both of them reached a doorway that had been forced open and they looked inside ignoring the ranks of Thanagarian soldiers storming towards them.
"Great Hera." Diana muttered.
Stepping inside they found John lying on the floor, propping himself up slightly with an elbow. Blood trickled down his head from his temple as well as from his nose and lip, a selection of gashes and scrapes torn through his uniform. Not too far away from him Shayera was kneeling on the ground the body of Hro Talak lying lifeless in front of her, his head severely wounded. Blood surrounded both him and her as she held her mace with tight hands trying to stop them from trembling.
Diana entered the room and moved to John, helping him up off the floor and guiding him to the exit, the other Thanagarian soldiers that had arrived were still, each of them frozen in horror at seeing their commander defeated before them. Batman moved slowly towards Shayera, a large crash sounding behind him as the Watchtower successfully destroyed the bypass structure, J'onn's voice echoing in his ear.
"I have safely exited the Watchtower Batman; I will rendezvous with you shortly."
Bruce bent down next to Shayera, a hand on her shoulder.
"It's time to go, Shayera."
She looked up at him before letting him take the mace that sat heavily in her hands. Getting up he watched her as she removed the two gold earrings from her ears and crawled towards the fallen commander, as he watched she placed the earrings in his palm and closed his limp hand into a fist.
Batman's hands paused over the keyboard as he noticed something on the screen, Mercy corporations was rearing its head again in the aftermath of the invasion. It was hardly surprising since the Thanagarians had halted the summit of world leaders that had been arranged solely to discuss M-corps' plans, but he'd need to share this particular development with the others. If this proclamation became reality things were destined to get worse than they already were.
Taking a deep breath, Bruce decided to finally call it a night; he'd need to call the others in tomorrow so that he could discuss this new revelation with them. Getting up out of his chair he ascended the stairs out of the cave and climbed a second set to the upper level, before entering his own room though he briefly stopped outside of Shayera's door. For now she was quiet.
Sleep had eluded him for days now; a full night's sleep had become impossible...ever since they had arrived. John Stewart was sat up in bed, his back pressing against the headboard as he sat quietly contemplating. His thoughts were mostly consumed with Shayera, he hadn't seen her for a week and he was feeling lost without her, not helped by the knowledge that he had hurt her. Bruce had insisted that he leave her and give her space, she was in shock and the last thing she needed was dealing with him as well, that and he could barely walk as it was, she wasn't the only one that needed rest.
John sighed as he looked up out of the window, the night was still out in its best colours and he instantly remembered the nights he'd sit up with Shayera and they'd look at the stars together, pointing out constellations and talking about the many planets they had seen during their lives. He had thrown himself off a cliff for her, he would have openly given his life for her in a heartbeat, he believed that that was what he had been doing when he sent her back to Talak, he didn't think they had any chance of preventing the bypass from destroying the planet, at least if she was with him she would be alive.
Shaking his head he climbed out of bed and crossed the room to the window drawing the blinds shut before turning away. His leg was hurting painfully so while he was up he decided to go to the kitchen and get some painkillers in order to try and rid at least some of his pain if not all. As he limped towards the kitchen Hro Talak's words echoed in his mind.
"She's trained in espionage Green Lantern...you understand what that means, yes?"
John didn't reply as he watched the man in front of him with a look of contempt.
"It means," Talak said leaning forward "That she acts very well; maybe she made you believe that she loves you, but she has always been loyal to me."
John shook off the memory, it made him feel sick thinking about it, he felt sick knowing that for a split second he had doubted her, that for that brief moment he had almost believed him. Thinking about standing in front of Talak with Shayera and trying to help her explain that she wanted to stay on Earth with him had been one of the hardest things he'd ever done, that and helping her give her 'promised' earrings back to Talak to symbolise the end of her commitment to Hro as his promised one. It had been hard because he knew what it would mean for her, she wouldn't be able to go home, she would have had to give up everything within her previous life. It was hard to let someone sacrifice so much for him, and yet she had sacrificed that and more.
What had he done? Thrown it all back in her face believing that it would keep her alive.
Reaching the kitchen he found the painkillers he had come for, within a few moments he had selected two and swallowed them, washing them down with a glass of water for good measure. The injury to his leg had been sustained after the fight with the commander.
His head was throbbing but he managed to stumble towards the lever that would deactivate the shield protecting the bypass, but as he reached it he realised it too was shielded. Shayera came over to him after managing to subdue Talak for the time being, she glanced at him before hurrying to one of the nearby consoles and subsequently deactivating the smaller shield.
John pressed his palms to the lever and pushed it downward, Shayera was making her way back towards him but he ignored the notion. Finally as the lever met the base of its stand he watched on the screens as the shield powered down, but before he could begin to leave and find the others, something very hard hit him in the back of his knee and yanked him downward pulling the joint out of place in the process.
Landing heavily he grunted in pain and shuffled backward along the floor, Shayera had yelled his name from somewhere but he couldn't see her nearby. As he looked upward he saw Talak looming over him, energised axe in hand ready to come down on him and ultimately kill him...but it never did.
John washed out the glass and set it on the side, she could have saved him for any number of reasons and he wondered why she still had, even though he'd tried to push her away. Then again...he knew if the boot was on the other foot he would have done the same for her.
Slowly he sank down to the floor, the cold tiles of his kitchen easing the tension in his knee. His hands came up to cover his face as he finally gave into the pain in his leg and that in his heart knowing that he might have lost her.
Knowing that she might not forgive him.
To be Continued
AN/ I hope that this variation on John's actions makes more sense, I realised that what I was trying to do wasn't working so have gone with my alternative direction. Let me know on your thoughts on whether you prefer it or not to the original. Thanks.