An/ Again I just want to thank everyone who has read and/or reviewed, and I hope you enjoy this final chapter :)
Twelve Days of Comfort and Joy
And there was Comfort and Joy
On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me,
Twelve drummers drumming,
Eleven Pipers Piping,
Nine Ladies Dancing,
Five Gold Rings,
Four Calling Birds,
Three French Hens,
Two Turtle Doves,
And a Partridge in a Pear Tree.
In the quiet apartment in the slight twilight, the blinds closed, not a single sound could be heard except for quiet breathing and gentle snores.
He gradually turned onto his side so that he could see her but nothing but her wings greeted him, soft delicate feathers shifting ever so gently as she slept, ruffling on occasions he supposed in response to her dreams. While he watched her, settled and content, calm and at peace...he remembered.
He remembered many things from their original misguided animosity towards one another all the way to this very moment, even the memories of Bashari sought to reaffirm something in his heart, something he had always known ever since their relationship crystallised all that time ago. She made him complete like no other, counterbalancing his hard military core and bringing out the softer parts of him, the playful parts. These were not the only things she could make him feel or do, she could make him blindingly angry, she could hurt him, overwhelm him, make him feel like the luckiest man in the universe or the most cursed upon, but right then at that very moment, he felt like he belonged to someone, that he was loved by someone. There was a bond between them, a deep soul encompassing bond that nothing could seem to break, proven over the last twelve days and the untold many that came before.
He wondered if that was how true love felt and he wondered if Shayera felt the same.
Without any real consideration John reached out and touched her wing, an instant ripple of movement flickering through the feathered appendage and a soft mumble being released from its owner. He continued to run his hand over the soft feathers, softer than any bird's he had ever touched, until she responded finally starting to wake.
"Morning Sunshine." Was his quiet reply.
Carefully she folded her wing closer to her body allowing herself to see over her shoulder as she turned to look at him, a smile easily forming on her lips.
"Morning," Shayera smiled a little wider before she started to turn over; wings momentarily pressed against the mattress as she moved to face him on her other side "Sleep well?" She asked, pressing herself against him and wrapping her arms around his neck in a cuddle.
"Yeah," John put his arms around her keeping her cool body against his, she always seemed to be a little cooler which he put down to her physiology, her body monitored body temperature different to a human's. "How about you?"
A soft contented sound was all he got from her in reply and he moved his head and kissed her jaw, not expecting her to tilt her face and capture his lips but he wouldn't complain.
He was happy, content...at peace.
Moving on instinct he shifted bringing her atop him, hands creeping up the smooth skin of her back and feeling like he could spend an eternity like this. Being with her, loving her, everything about her from her emerald eyes to her warm heart where there was a place just for him, even her faults...he loved all of her, as she was. Not Hawkgirl, not Lieutenant Hol, but Shayera Hol...always Shayera Hol.
Shayera parted from him, eyes looking down to search his and a hand moving across his cheek feeling the stubble under her fingers, feeling the curl of his ear, the lines from worry and anger and she smiled, safe, comforted. It had been a long time since she felt happy, genuinely and purely happy, and just as long since she felt loved by someone, that she mattered to someone and was important to them...not just a lost warrior searching for redemption, but someone that someone loved.
"Merry Christmas, John."
"Merry Christmas, Shayera," and he kissed her again, softly, sweetly. Savouring every second as if to make up for the last three years when he couldn't so much as touch her or even speak to her sometimes.
"Don't you want to open your Christmas Presents?" She teased as he pulled away.
"I thought I already had?"
Shaking her head a quiet sound of amusement escaped her "I meant the ones under the tree."
"Hmm..." The sound hummed against her skin as he pressed his lips to her neck "In a minute..."
"Well, we haven't got long...we're going up to the Watchtower remember?"
A groan was all he managed as he pulled away obviously having forgotten the prior engagement to join the other founders for Christmas day, a joint monitor duty so that every other Leaguer could spend the day with their families. It wasn't a sacrifice for the founders either for they too would be spending the day with theirs, each of them outcasts and sole survivors in almost every case the only family each other had.
"I remember," John confirmed and kissed her again knowing that he'd never get enough of it.
Sitting on the floor of the apartment, Shayera and John were side by side as the former passed the latter a wrapped gift.
"I wasn't sure what to get you..." Shayera explained dubiously as she gave the package to him "I hope you like it."
John smiled as his fingers started their attack on the wrapping paper "I didn't expect you to get me anything," He tore some of the paper away.
"Well, I know how everyone likes to buy presents so I gave it a go." Shayera shrugged.
Finally the paper was torn away and John found himself looking at a large bound book, surprised and not really sure what he was holding, he opened the book up. Inside were over a dozen photographs, all carefully arranged on the front sheet the book itself being a photo album. John's eyes wandered over the images, all snaps from various points in his childhood, fond memories being triggered in his mind's eye. Automatically he turned the page finding many more carefully picked images displayed before him. On the third page there were a couple of pictures that were taken before the invasion, one of the seven of them together and another of he and Shayera, the only one he couldn't bring himself to throw away.
"I...I don't know what to say." John murmured.
Shayera sat closer so that she too could look at the photos "You treasure memories John; I just bought you somewhere to keep them."
"Thank-you, Shayera." He said sincerely "Thank-you."
"You're welcome." Shayera smiled pleased that her first sincere attempt at buying a present had turned out better than expected.
John let out a small chuckle still looking at the pictures, more so the one of them both together. It was strange that he couldn't bring himself to throw it away after she had left, the one picture that had survived his pain induced clearance of every and any trace of her. The other pictures of them sitting on the sofa smiling up at the camera, snaps of them standing together, he had thrown them all out. This one though was different, the camera had been left unattended and forgotten about while he and Shayera continued to eat take out unbothered by the little device. It had while idle taken an unexpected photo of the pair, but it was natural and unplanned, the best part was that Shayera was laughing unaware of the device.
"Oh hey, I almost forgot." John exclaimed as he tore his eyes from the book and reached over to pick up a large box "I hope you like it."
Shayera smiled a little unsure, she wasn't accustomed to having things bought or given to her. The wrapping had been as she could see, carefully and laboriously done and she was almost afraid to unwrap it. Slowly though she tore the paper away to reveal another box which she opened, her curiosity beginning to stir. When the lid lifted and she saw the contents inside, she gasped.
"Oh John...it's beautiful." Reaching inside she removed a small intricate bird, wings flared proudly, a look of awe on her face.
"You like it?" John asked, obviously dubious.
"It's gorgeous...I've...I've never seen a set like this before. Where did you find it?"
John took out one of the pieces too "Just a little place I know...maybe when we get back later we can have a game?"
"I'd love to," She grinned at him broadly "Thank-you John."
The orbiting Watchtower was eerily quiet but the seven people that found themselves alone within its confines were unfazed by the quiet, of course having grown accustomed to it years before. While every other leaguer was at home spending the holiday with their families, these seven people spent it together on a joint monitor duty, currently in the canteen. Decorated with streams of decorations and balloons as well as a Christmas tree to one side, the canteen served as a makeshift dining area with a number of tables pulled together to make room for their Christmas meal.
Shayera sat with John, both comfortable and easy in each other's presence, something that hadn't been seen amongst the other founders ever since the former Hawkgirl's return. Clark sat at the head of the table the head of the family if never openly stated, Diana sitting on his left and Bruce on his right and although fully outfitted as the Batman, Bruce had for the time being removed his cowl. Beside him was Wally, unlike the others in civilian clothes but Shayera was certain that he had one of his Flash outfit rings with him, enabling the speedster to change into his uniform if need be. J'onn was opposite peacefully at ease, comfortable in his own skin.
The meal was loud and full of lively conversation, anything from last week's chaos to events that had passed in their earlier years together, many a story of Wally's common flirting, John's bossiness, Bruce always being busy, Shayera always too eager to hit something and Diana of course and her previous outrage at varying aspects of Man's world. When the meal was done the dishes were left to John and Shayera, Superman and Wonder Woman disappearing to handle an alert, Wally determined to keep the Bat away from Gotham and J'onn assisting in bringing out the plates.
Shayera with her hands in the water seemed quiet, much quieter than normal which John picked up on immediately and waited for J'onn to depart to gather more dishes before he asked about it.
"Hey...are you okay?"
"Yeah," She leaned into the bowl a little further before pulling out a soaking wet plate "Just thinking."
"Want to share?" He took the plate from her and started to dry it ready to be stacked with the others...most of them were Wally's.
"Well..." She laughed self depreciatively "I just...I missed this...just the seven of us, cooking and eating dinner. I missed how nice it was."
"Is, Shayera...it's still here." He took another plate from her "We all should make more effort to do things together; lately we've all been distant from each other."
She nodded while washing yet another plate "I never really had much of a family until..."
John remained silent as was his way when Shayera tried to tell him things.
"I didn't have much of a relationship with my parents and Thanagar was never a place for family get togethers...too busy fighting Gordanians." She paused contemplating "It's probably why I've never been very good with people."
"Well you have a family here, you always have."
"I know." She smiled at him and gave him another plate "After all these years I still can't believe how much Wally eats."
"Huh, you're telling me." John laughed and stacked the plate "Shayera?"
"...With Christmas nearly over...well I was wondering if you'd like to stay with me a little longer, for New Year?"
Shayera paused for a while still scrubbing plates but she looked up at him brightly "I'd love to."
"Yeah?" John grinned.
She laughed too "Yeah...I'll just have to pick up a few things from my room to bring with me. The stuff at your apartment won't be enough."
"That's fine...why don't I finish up here then in that case?"
John watched Shayera dry her hands before she departed, a wing brushing against his arm. Behind him J'onn entered the room with the final plates.
"That is the rest of them." He informed as he placed them on the side, "Clark and Diana will be back shortly, they just checked in."
"They get on okay with that Earthquake?"
"Fine, it wasn't anything they couldn't handle."
"Of course." John smiled "Where's Bruce, he still here?"
"Yes. Wally is trying to encourage him to play Brawlin' Bots with him."
At that John had to laugh "I'll bet he's the only one that could do it too."
J'onn smiled "I believe so."
Shayera had been much longer than John had expected so he left J'onn with the very last dregs of washing up, on the Martian's insistence, and went to find her. As he passed down the corridor towards her quarters she came into view, holding a great many more bags than he would have thought were needed for a week.
"That's a lot for a week don't you think, Shayera?"
Shayera stopped and looked up, dropping the bags onto the floor "I..." She stared at him trying to form the words "I was thinking...I'd...just move in with you." When she saw the dumfounded expression on his face she wasn't sure what to think or say, maybe she'd sped things up a little too quickly but she had absolutely loved every single second of being with him over the holiday, she hadn't taken any of it for granted. "Um...Merry Christmas John..."
John stared at her for a full thirty seconds before he suddenly grinned, then laughed, then started walking towards her, speeding up the closer he got until his arms were around her, lifting her up and spinning her in a circle.
She laughed, holding his shoulders for security as he turned her laughing and smiling, warm and happy.
Along the corridor J'onn passed, he was on his way to investigate the vibes that he could sense coming from Bruce, he was sure that he was reaching the end of his tether with Wally. As he passed the two in the corridor he smiled at them and continued on, the happiness and joy radiating from the couple filling him up...even Shayera's shielded mind was projecting a strong sense of happiness.
It had been a long time since J'onn had sensed pure joy from either of them...not since those times all those years ago when they had first admitted their love for each other.
Because that was what it was.
An/ Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone :)