A/N PLEASE FORGIVE ME! Finally an update!

-Slopes of Mount Olympus-

Ares had forgotten what it was like.

Exhilaration and joy had become ideas rather than reality. The knowledge of the concepts remained, but with the passage of years they had become dim.

In his youth he often fought alongside mortals; killed and sweat with men whose lives were but a drop of rain compared to his. Still within the horrors of war there was a certain sort of excitement that could not be explained easily.

They lived life on their own terms and in a way were far freer than he and his immortal kind could ever be. In his opinion this made mortal man's desire for eternal life the biggest joke of all. They never understood that in his eyes, death gave meaning to their lives. The fact that they had only a finite amount of time made every accomplishment even more impressive.

His fellow gods didn't understand either. They thought the fact that they were immortal meant that time was nothing for them to be concerned over. That they could spend years in decadence and still have time for worthwhile pursuits. He would show them their error.

He would show them what a joke their existence really was.

"There is nothing quite like a reputation- ungh- well earned…" Ares knew all about Heracles, even knew some stories that never made it into historical record, he was a warrior greater than all other warriors. Yet there was something about seeing it first-hand that made this battle even sweeter.

Heracles doesn't respond, not with words anyway. The two of them had been fighting for, what felt like days. He had been keeping up a brave front, but he was reaching his limit, while Ares seemed as fresh as a daisy.

"But surely you can see that our father has no interest in supporting you in this fight, Heracles." Ares taunts, swatting the sword away from him with one hand and pressing his advantage. "Wake up, little brother, cut yourself free of his strings!" Despite his impassioned cry, Ares knew that his words fell on deaf ears. There was no reaching someone like Heracles, not now.

He, like many of his other brethren would need to be shown, not told.

-Bottom of Mount Olympus-

"There is an incredible energy above us…" Fate has never felt the power that he can sense above them, it makes him shiver a bit. A fact that doesn't escape Zatanna's notice.

She volunteered to attempt to track down Ares and despite the fact one of the most powerful mystics is standing next to her, she felt woefully outclassed. "Where is it coming from?" Zatanna asks and then rethinks the question. "Who is it coming from?"

"That much," Dr. Fate answers. "Remains to be determined…" The fabled Mount Olympus had always been somewhat of an enigma to him. It was a place that stood outside and inside of normal reality. Blurring the lines of what was known and unknown. Further up the slope, closer to the home of beings of mythology time ran at an even odder pace. "We would do well to be prepared for anything."

"I always thought that was such a curious saying…" Both of them turn to see Lyta standing before them. "How can someone possibly be ready for anything?" Lyta questions harshly. After she concluded her business on Apokolips, she hurried back here to make sure her father was not disturbed in any way. She was glad she did. These two would definitely prove to be a disturbance.

"What is this all about, child?" Fate asks unafraid. He knew something of the woman in front of them from Diana. A Halfling, a refugee of a forbidden union, time was littered with them. Most that he encountered were unaware of their origins, lived a normal uncomplicated life and died a normal death. The few that knew who they were and what they were capable of proved to be more troublesome.

"It's about change, Fate," Lyta looks up the mountainside with a smile. "Isn't that something we all need? Everything my father has set in motion has been for the benefit of all."

"Really?" Zatanna snorts derisively. "I think Wonder Woman might disagree with you…"

"What happened to her was… unfortunate…" Lyta admits with a look of shame that catches Zatanna off guard. "And the clown will pay for his role in that sequence of events… but for now-"

Fate senses the attack just before Zatanna and while she is unable to evade Lyta's bolt of energy, Fate teleports away. Lyta checks to make sure Zatanna is out, pleased to see how useful Darkseid's Mother Box has been so far. The blast attacked her nervous system, overloading it, causing temporary paralysis. Despite her power, Zatanna still was human and therefore susceptible to the attack.

She knew she wouldn't be able to take her partner out as easily.

"No chance of you just surrendering quietly, is there?" Lyta asks, ruefully as the man appears behind her. Ares had rightly surmised that eventually the League would employ their own mystics in the fight against him. He seemed to have a contingency for everything. She could only imagine how long he'd been planning this whole thing.

"None, young lady…" Fate answers readying himself. He could tell she not only had her own abilities, but was using technology from Apokolips. Something he wasn't entirely sure he could counter.

"Too bad…"

-Clinic-

"You're not getting it, are you Wilson?"

"What… am I not… getting… boy?" Slade Wilson tries not to let on just how tired and aggravated he is right now. In their first fight, the boy showed skill, promise, but he was no more formidable than any of the others he'd faced. But that hero is wildly different than what he faces now. Spiderman countered every move, every punch every attack with ease.

"The first time we clashed?" Spiderman dips out of range of a bo staff swing, with arms folded smugly across his chest. "That wasn't a fight; that was an exhibition."

Wilson darts backwards and fires several bolts of energy at Spiderman. He knew that the kid would be able to dodge the attack, but he needed some breathing room. Whenever he got too close to Spiderman, he paid for it in punches too fast for him to avoid and too powerful for him to easily shake off. Speed, Wilson could deal with. He's incapacitated every version of Flash there has ever been.

They were overconfident; relying solely on their speed without thinking of how to use it properly. That fact made them predictable.

He could counter strength as well, having once brought Captain Marvel to his knees and reduced Supergirl to tears. But they were brawlers. Undisciplined, wasting effort and energy without results.

Spiderman unfortunately was proving to be none of these things. "An exhibition, you say?" Slade fires several more blasts creating blackened craters in the walls around them. He was hoping to maneuver the hero in position to cave the roof in on him.

"Yes. Hold up a second…" Spiderman webs the staff quickly and yanks it free of Wilson's grip. Holding it in his hands he snaps the weapon in two allowing both pieces to clatter to the ground. "There, that's better. I may not think much of Gotham's playboy philanthropist, but there's no reason to destroy the man's desperate attempt to be relevant, is there? Anyway, as I was saying… I wanted information from you so- I took a little dive…"

Slade's annoyance gives way to anger. "Is that what you tell yourself, boy? That-"

Slade is unable to finish his statement before he is throttled by a hard left in the mouth. Falling backwards he pulls a long knife from his belt and throws it at Spiderman. Spiderman moves as it embeds itself in the wall behind him. Somehow, Spiderman closed the distance between them faster than he could follow. If he didn't end this soon capture would be the least of his worries.

"You shouldn't interrupt…" Spiderman jokes dryly, watching as Slade scrambles to his feet. He can't help but smile a bit seeing Wilson spit out a tooth. "I know a dentist on the upper west side of Gotham, can put in a nice cap for you… you know, so you can look less like a toothless old man at your funeral?"

Amused, Slade smiles genuinely. "What do you know of death, boy? Seen it in a movie? Perhaps, watched it on the news?"

This time Spiderman pauses, feeling unsure of himself. While Slade circles him looking for an opening, he remembers how he nearly lost control with Croc. He didn't give any thought to what he was doing in the moment. It made him wonder about his capacity for violence and if it had anything to do with who he was before Gotham.

Slade, noticing his distraction attacks, driving a roundhouse kick into his midsection and follows it with a swift uppercut that drives Spiderman back. Satisfied he finally made a connection; Slade unsheathes his sword and approaches a winded Spiderman. "Don't worry, hero, I'll make this quick." Slade brings the blade down over his head with forceful speed.

Clasping his palms together around the blade, Spiderman halts the attack. "I've seen your mercy in action Slade…" Twisting his wrist he snaps the blade and before Slade can react he stands grabbing Slade by the throat. "I'm pretty sure you don't understand the meaning of the word." Spiderman tightens his grip, feeling a chilling sense of satisfaction watching the man flail and gasp for breath.

"Apparently… you … need a refresher… yourself…" Slade gasps between struggles. He's stared death in the face enough time to realize he's running out of time, but even still he doesn't believe that Spiderman can go through with it.

Spiderman tosses the man into a stone column across the room. The way Slade crumples to the floor, Spiderman can tell most of the fight is gone from him. "I think that was your collarbone breaking, Slade…" He announces trying to keep his voice steady.

Slade grimaces in agreement. "I think… you're right…" Slade painfully moves his hands in front of him in surrender. "So I guess you'll be calling in the authorities now…" In spite of all Spiderman's posturing he knew the hero would never cross the line he himself had so many times before. As much as he loathed conceding defeat, he had not properly prepared himself to fight this hero; next time would be different though. There were plenty of judges and politicians who'd make sure he spent less than a few days in lock up. The drill was fairly the same; someone would come visit him with an offer of early release for a price. An easy kill job later and he'd be back in business.

Their next meeting would be nothing like this.

"Why?" Spiderman asks, curiously. "So you can just arrange your escape once you've healed up? I don't think so…"

Something in his voice strikes a chord with Wilson and he carefully reaches for a flash grenade on his belt. If he could disorient him for a few seconds, he could make his escape.

"Aaarrghhh!"

Before he could grab the weapon Spiderman's foot comes down hard on his wrist, breaking bone.

"No end to your tricks, is there Slade?" Spiderman rips the belt free of Slade, tossing it across the room. Before Wilson can answer, Spiderman delivers another hard blow to the face of the assassin, causing him to begin bleeding from his nose.

Woozy, Slade tries to get to his feet, but another devastating blow convinces him to sit back down. He tries to ward off and avoid the onslaught of punches being delivered by Spiderman, but each punch finds its mark. So forceful are the blows that the stone column that Slade is leaning against, begins to show signs of cracking.

"Awfully quiet there, Deathstroke…" Spiderman notes between punches. "Guess you only talk big when you have the upper hand…" Spiderman lifts the man to his feet roughly holding him upright with one hand.

Slade responds by thrusting his leg out in an attempt to kick Spiderman, but he grabs his leg just below the knee and twists. The snap of cartilage and bone are drowned out by the painful scream he lets loose.

"Ah… so there is still some fight left in you yet…" Spiderman drops the leg to the floor, confident that even if it heals, it will never be the same again.

"Get… get… just get it… over with…!" Slade did not fear death; he expected it, given his chosen line of work. But to be humiliated in this way, by a kid, was more than he could stand.

Spiderman doesn't respond with a witty remark, instead he raises his hand and prepares to grant Wilson's request. Slade looks up at the man expectantly; a small smile comes to the corner of his mouth. Of all the ways he'd envisioned his eventual demise, this had never crossed his mind; beaten to death by a boy. A boy barely out of puberty by the sound of his voice. It would be hilarious if it hadn't been happening to him.

"Nooooo!"

The protest doesn't come from either man, but from behind them. Spiderman's punch lands one inch to the left of Slade's head, creating a hole in the concrete column he was leaning against. Pulling his fist from the stone, Spiderman draws Slade close to him. "Saved by the bell old man…"

The steel in his voice convinces Slade that the young man had in fact been prepared to finish the job if it hadn't been the arrival of Starfire. It was amusing to him that she had been the one to arrive, considering he nearly killed her last time. Had he succeeded, he himself might be dead.

Driving an elbow into his jaw, Spiderman knocks Wilson out and tosses him at the feet of his teammates; Blue Beetle and Starfire. "Take him to Blackgate, they have an infirmary there."

Starfire doesn't respond, but Blue Beetle, to his credit, restrains Wilson in the scarabs' energy. He wraps him and the unconscious Deadshot up and leaves the building. He could tell that this was not going to be a pretty scene. When he dropped Rose off with Beast Boy and the others, Starfire grilled him about Spiderman. He could tell from her tone that she cared a great deal for the hero and when he told her he left him alone against Deathstroke she streaked out of sight faster than he would have thought possible.

He didn't know what to expect once they caught up to him, but the last thing he'd thought he'd see was Deathstroke beaten to a pulp. He was impressed.

"What were you doing?" Starfire questions once Beetle is gone. The last time Spiderman faced Deathstroke alone he took a pretty good beating. But catching the tail end of the fight between the two of them, she wasn't sure what to think.

"Subduing a dangerous criminal." Spiderman answers simply walking past the heroine. He didn't mean to be cold, but he was in no mood for the lecture he imagined was in store.

"That's not what it looked like to me…" Starfire accuses, grabbing his arm as he walks by. She didn't like seeing him like this. She saw the same thing happen to Dick; he started out so optimistic and light-hearted, but eventually he became darker and colder. The toll of seeing so many people he cared about hurt, killed, made him lose that boyish smile she fell in love with. Now she was witnessing it happen all over again.

Except this time she plans on stopping it from happening.

"No?" Spiderman asks irritated. He could still feel the anger he felt towards Slade ramping up his adrenaline. Starfire tries to get Spiderman to face her, but he grabs her hand at the wrist. "Don't. I'm fine."

Snatching her wrist free she crosses her arms. "You are not! You were going to kill him!"

"So?"

"So? So? That is not who we are! Who you are!" When she notes that he doesn't seem to respond to her pleas she eases his cowl from his face. Even though his face remains impassive, his eyes still hold a glimmer of compassion within their brown depths. "You are a good man, Peter. Don't allow the poison of this world to seep its way into your heart."

Try as he might, he cannot remain angry. He sighs heavily. "What makes you so sure…?"

"Of what?" Starfire asks, caressing his face consolingly. She could sense his frustration and his confusion. She wants more than anything to offer him comfort, but she knew that the customs of this world required one to move much slower than she would have liked.

"What makes you so sure I am a good man…?"

His question holds so much turmoil in it that she does the only thing she can think to do; she kisses him. Softly at first, but then it builds into more as he responds. By the time they break free of each other's embrace the both are breathing heavily.

"Is that a good enough answer?" Starfire asks smiling.

"Actually it just leaves me with more questions…"

-Themyscira-

"Why are you making this so difficult? I suppose that is only in your nature…" The steps of the Great Temple of Athena are littered with both Amazons and Parademons. Some are still alive, though most have taken their last breaths. Just a few of Hippolyta's lieutenants remained and she sent those deep into the Temple to prepare for a last stand if need be. It was beginning to look more certain that such a stand would not only be needed but futile.

Hippolyta had never faced a being as unrelenting and powerful as Darkseid.

"What do you know of our nature, beast?" Hippolyta questions thrusting her sword forward in an attempt to disembowel the intruder. "You have only ever set foot on our shores in attempts to take what does not belong to you!"

As he side steps the attack he then backhands the queen into cold marble walls of the outside of the Temple. "I suppose you have a fair point… still… you learn more about a people from shedding their blood than you ever could by conversation…"

As she struggles to her feet the gravelly cold words of Darkseid causes her a great swell of anger. Springing forward with renewed vigor she strikes the Titan over and over again with a flurry of punches. "You are pure evil!"

Driven back a step Darkseid laughs. "You flatter me…" Striking with incredible speed he grabs both her arms in his massive fist and holds the flailing Amazonian in the air. "I admire your spirit. Perhaps once I have what I've come for I'll take you with me. Think of the powerful heir our union would produce…"

Hippolyta kicks Darkseid square in the chin, causing him to drop her. "Not even in your wildest dreams!"

"My dreams are the nightmares of the universe." Darkseid casually wipes the blood from his lip and charges up his Omega beams. "Perhaps… I'll introduce you to them once I've broken your spirit…"

Artemis and Power Girl arrive in time to remove Hippolyta from harm's way, with Power Girl whisking her away in a streak of white and blue.

"Ahh… the bootleg Kryptonian…" Darkseid remarks taking note of Power Girl's ascent into the afternoon sky. "If you know what is good for you, you'll-"

Darkseid's boast is stifled by the fist of Artemis. She followed her attack up with a sweep that lands Darkseid on his back. Pressing her advantage she straddles him delivering savage rights and lefts to his face.

She's so consumed by rage she doesn't notice his eyes taking on a familiar reddish hue.

If not Power Girl's quick reaction the Omega beams of Darkseid would have destroyed her. Just as easily as they had the columns behind them. The two land in a heap a few feet away, next to Hippolyta.

"Get off me you large breasted oaf!" Artemis yells as she scrambles to her feet. In her haste to get Artemis clear she landed square on top of the Amazon.

"You're welcome." Power Girl counters ignoring Artemis' hurtful comment. Power Girl had set Hippolyta on the ground to deal with the more imminent threat, now the three of them stood together. "Our best chance to take him is if we strike together. We can't just charge in half-cocked!"

"She is right, Artemis." Hippolyta concedes, standing shakily on her feet. Between the Parademons and Darkseid, she was pretty much at her limit, but she would not stand aside while others defended her homeland.

"My Queen…" Artemis had never seen her so hurt before and the rage over the sight was unpalatable. She wanted to bathe in the blood of the creature before them.

"I will not leave until I have what I came for." Darkseid announces standing up spitting blood from his swollen jaw. He hadn't expected this much resistance, but it only made his inevitable victory sweeter. "The three of you stand no chance of stopping me!"

"I just signaled Superman and Diana…" Power Girl states, flexing her hands in anticipation. "But I say we don't wait for them to come and hog the fun. What do you say?"

"For once, we are in agreement!"

Artemis and Power Girl both attack Darkseid together. Power Girl from the left with her fists, Artemis from the right with a sword.

Artemis is only slightly disappointed when the sword shatters against the forearm of Darkseid, since she didn't really expect it to do much damage. It was merely to take his focus away from the haymaker delivered by Power Girl the sent Darkseid screaming through a cluster of trees. She wasn't sure, but it seemed reasonable to assume that keeping Darkseid from the temple was imperative.

"What does he want?" Power Girl asks Hippolyta as they give pursuit.

"Something called the… Anti-Life Equation? I have no idea how he came to believe it to be here…" Hippolyta answers just before diving out of the way of a large stone Darkseid just hurled their way.

"Is it?" Power Girl asks, wondering if there could be a way to lure him away from here with it.

"I've no idea what it even is!" Hippolyta answers frustrated. The so-called gods they served had often used her home as a hiding place for their treasures and unwanted items. She wouldn't be surprised if there were things here that she didn't know about.

"This ignorant act of yours is wearing my patience thin, your highness…" Darkseid hurls himself at Power Girl driving a fist into her midsection with enough force to cause her to drop to her knees, coughing up blood. She'd never been hit so hard in her life.

"Back beast!" Artemis wraps her arm around the throat of Darkseid, applying a choke hold to him. Despite her efforts he drives his clasped fist down hard on the head of Power Girl knocking her to face first to the ground. Artemis notes with a cold chill that she does not appear to be moving.

"You'll pay for what you've done, monster!" Hippolyta charges Darkseid only to be knocked off her feet by the body of Artemis as he breaks free of her hold. The two roll away from each other in time to avoid the deadly stomp of Darkseid. As they get to their feet, Darkseid is lifted off his feet and into the sky by a red and blue blur.

"Mother!"

Hippolyta turns to see her daughter running over to her worried. Despite the situation, or maybe because of it, she is glad to see her. "Diana!"

"Has he penetrated the Temple?" Diana asks after the two embrace.

"No. Although I do not think what he seeks is there." Hippolyta offers looking up as two of the most powerful beings in the universe clash.

"It isn't." Diana agrees, making her way over to the motionless form of Power Girl. "Darkseid is simply the pawn of Ares."

"Ares?"

"Yes." Diana gently turns Power Girl over and takes her pulse. She's relieved to find it weak, but steady. "He has been setting fires all over the place, keeping us from being able to focus on unraveling his machinations. I suspect he convinced Darkseid that what he seeks is here in order to not only keep the Justice League busy, but-"

"What has your League to do with us?" Hippolyta asks not hiding her disapproval. So many of her people have died today, if the Justice League had anything to do with that, she would never forgive them. It was only because of Diana that the outside world was even aware of their existence to begin with. "There has been nothing pain and death for your people since you-"

"Ares knew I would not stand by while Darkseid defiled my homeland." Diana interrupts her mother, not interested in having another debate on the subject. "I suspect it was also amusing to him to cause our people pain since we have ever been highly favored by his father. Perhaps he even hoped they might intervene on our behalf…" Diana still wasn't sure what Ares hoped to gain from all this. The weapons he acquired were forged by Zeus himself, there's no way they could be successful against him.

"No chance of that…" Artemis snorts derisively. Out of respect for her queen, Artemis allowed for the belief in the gods, she just didn't share her sisters' enthusiasm for it.

"And of course, with Zeus' subjects falling left and right Ares' father losing strength while Ares profits in power from the conflict." Diana realizes just how thoroughly Ares had covered every angle and hopes they will be in time to stop him.

-Gotham City Sewage Treatment plant-

"Where's your partner… Vic? Rick? Bic?"

"Bic's a razor puddin'"

"Harley…" Joker stands from his chair and hovers menacingly over Harley who cowers in fear. "I do believe your right!" His words cause her to smile over his approval, but that smile vanishes as he kicks her hard in the stomach. "But nobody likes a knowitall!"

"No puddin' nobody does…" Harley groans in agreement. Since escaping Arkham he had been increasingly violent towards her, likely still upset over her talking to Batman. Even though if she hadn't, he'd likely be dead now.

"Now where was I…? Ah… right your friend… Dick?"

"Nick."

"Well that's a stupid name! Nick! I'm glad I brained him one! Get him in here!"

"Nicky… he ain't make it boss…" He grew up with Nicolas Pearson, played JV hockey with him, even snuck a few beers behind Kelly's Liquor with him and now thanks to the lunatic in front of him his oldest friend was dead.

"Oh…? Ah well… take splits better three ways anyway…"

"You mean four don't you, Joker?" Two-Face steps from the shadows. He had only narrowly escaped from Batman and Nightwing, thanks in large part to the sheer number of escaped inmates. But he knew that they needed to move quickly if they were going to capitalize on the chaos.

Joker sighs and sits back down in the chair. "Whatever… four, five, fifty… plenty to go around… Say… where are the Salamander, One-eye and Blank shot anyway?"

Two-Face grinds his teeth angrily. "Killer Croc got taken down by the Batbabe and Deadshot and Deathstroke… we have to assume they were captured as well…" They knew to rally here underneath all the commotion. But if Croc was offered up to help them escape and they had, they should've beaten them here.

Shrugging, Joker stands back up. "Not like we really need all that muscle anyway…"

"I'm still not sure if we can trust Nigma on this…" Two-Face considers thoughtfully. "Guys not exactly wound that tight…"

"This coming from the former District Attorney who is now working with guys who he used to try to put in jail…" Joker mutters with a smile. Noticing Dent's scowl he laughs out loud. "Oh lightly up, Harvey! Who among us isn't a little crazy?"

"So what is the pla-"

The question is interrupted by a gun shot. "No interruptions!" Joker screams loudly, pointing the gun directly at Nicky Pearson's former best friend. Both men are surprised that he still lives. "Heh… heheheheheheehe… look at that! You must be good luck there… what's your name sonny?"

"Ca—Carl…" He stutters nervously. The bullet had gotten close enough to him that he felt it whip by his cheek. He'd done some bad things in his life; beaten up on some guys, but until tonight he hadn't been this closely associated with death before. "Carl Caruthers…"

"Well Ca-Carl, we're gonna rob the richest man in Gotham. That's the plan!"

-Slopes of Mount Olympus-

"Have I got your attention now, Father?" Ares screams into the night sky with joy, standing over the bleeding form of Heracles. His half-brother was still alive, but he was no longer a threat. The blade was literally throbbing with power, it took all his strength to hold onto the hilt.

At some time during their fight, rain had begun to fall, which meant that there was the occasional thunder booming in the distance. As a child his mother told him to stay clear of his father during times like this, because it meant that he was truly upset.

And therefore more dangerous.

But he knew the truth; the storm was a tactic, not a display of strength. He was weak and trying to cover it up.

That's why when a lightning bolt struck just a few feet away, he was unafraid. Though he is surprised to see who is standing in the midst of the bolt.

"Mother."

"Son."

"He continues to send pawns instead of showing up himself…" Ares snorts casting his eyes up.

"Do you think me a pawn, Ares?" Hera asks with a bit of a menacing tone in her voice.

"Not at all…" Ares answers sheathing his sword and taking a step towards her. "I merely mean that he refuses to show himself.

Hera looks down at Heracles bleeding form and then back to Ares. "Can you blame him? Your actions against your family… where is Hermes?"

Ares shrugs and looks down the mountain. "Wandering the streets, coming to terms with the gift I've given him. The same gift I wish to offer all of Olympus." Something in his tone causes Hera to take a wary step back. "Do you remember what you used to say to me, when I was younger…? 'You may be conflict made flesh, but your flesh is never in conflict.' Took me awhile… but eventually I understood the meaning of your words."

"Oh?" Hera asks interested in his answer.

"Everything I do, whether I realize it or not, has a purpose. So why do you doubt my purpose now? Growth always follows destruction; aren't I simply following the purpose of my birth?"

"By attacking your family?"

With a speed that she never would have thought possible, Ares drives the sword that had seconds ago been sheathed into her midsection. Surprise, gives way to realization and pain. "Urk… cough…"

"You understand now, don't you mother?" Ares asks as Hera falls to the ground. He kneels next to her and notes with amusement the storm has increased in intensity. "The secret that you and father kept from all of us, wasn't the existence of these weapons I wield… but what their true purpose is."

"I- We- didn't… Ares I don't want to-"

"Die?" Ares asks coldly. "Haven't we both watched so many others pass on from this world? What makes us exempt?"

Hera struggles to answer, but the pain she feels overwhelms her senses.

"Father, if they die-"

"How will they learn?" Ares finishes turning to his daughter. "You're right of course…" With a nod, he gives his daughter Lyta permission to heal Hera. Noticing she has dragged two Justice League members up the mountain with her. "How close did they get?"

"Not close enough to stop us." Lyta answers, attending to Hera's wounds. "The one with the ridiculous helmet was a bit of a handful… thankfully Darkseid's technology overcame his artifact…"

"You were fortunate not to encounter his predecessor… he knew the helmet is a scalpel, not a hammer…" Ares waits for his daughter to finish before speaking again. "What do you plan to do?" He was curious to see what she'd learned.

"I will take the woman's place in the League; throw them off our scent…" After mimicking her mother, Zatanna would be no challenge at all.

"And what of Dr. Fate?"

"He's an unpredictable recluse at best… his disappearance will not even cause an eyebrow to rise… I figure your uncle can keep them both company until we've finished…" Lyta opens a boom tube to the Underworld. "I'll be back soon…" She disappears dragging both heroes behind her.

"Do- do you really hate us this much, Ares?" Hera asks as she recovers from her ordeal. "Can't you understand why your father sent her away?"

Ares frowns and helps his mother to her feet. "You think I do this for revenge? No… I am motivated by an even more powerful emotion…"

"Anger?"

"No mother, love."

-Themyscira-

Between Superman and Wonder Woman, they managed to put Darkseid on the ropes.

"Give it up, Darkseid!" Superman pants heavily. He was fairly wiped out himself. He hadn't really recovered from the massive Kryptonite poisoning and even at his peak; the lord of Apokolips was a handful. He'd taken the brunt of enough Omega Beams to have nothing but tatters left of his costume. "Your army is defeated and so are you…"

Coughing up and spitting out a glut of dark blood, Darkseid steadies himself against a nearby tree and smiles. "Kryptonian, you have no idea the lengths I'm willing to go to, in order to get what I want." Pulling out a Mother Board he begins laughing.

"What is it?" Wonder Woman asks readying herself.

"You and I may be able to survive in space, Kal-El, but I wonder how your friends will fare?"

Before he can depress the button he is surprised to find it gone.

"Looking for this tall, dark and gruesome?" Flash quips holding the device in his hands. "Hey Supes… man… you look like you've been through a blender on the puree cycle…"

Superman smiles painfully. "You should see the other guy…"

Darkseid's angry roar is stifled by the fist of Wonder Woman and the now conscious Power Girl. The force of the combined blow is enough to render him unconscious as well as split the tree in half.

"Timmmmmberrrrrr!" Flash yells as Darkseid falls flat on his face. To his surprise, Artemis laughs until she sees Hippolyta's face. She then gives a stern glance to Flash. "Right… sorry… can't help myself sometimes…"

"As much as I am grateful for your help today, you must leave the rest to us-"

"No offense Queen," Flash interrupts. "But if you think we're going to leave clean up duty to the few of you still able to stand-!"

Wonder Woman covers Flash's mouth with a firm hand. "My Queen, what he means to say is that, if it is pleasing to you, we would be honored if you allowed us to remain and assist with the recovery efforts." She knew Flash meant well; only Clark had a bigger heart than Wally, but she also knew her mother. If Hippolyta felt for a moment that she was being shown pity or that she appeared weak, she'd refuse any help offered.

Hippolyta looks around at the destruction caused by Darkseid and the Parademons and sighs in defeat. "The fast one- Flash?- may remain. So too may you my daughter but the other two must leave."

"Surely we could he-"

"The last time you were here, many of our sisters, including one of our most beloved died. Your presence will serve as a reminder of that dark day on an even darker one… and you… you may not be the Supergirl that we knew and who served as one of us…"

"But I'm close enough…" Power Girl finishes nodding. "Wonder Woman, Superman and I will take Darkseid with us and check in with Batman… I'm sure he could use some help…" Power Girl lifts the unconscious form of Darkseid from the ground, throwing him unceremoniously over her shoulder.

Diana nods, but Artemis protests. "NO! By Amazonian law, Darkseid is ours to kill!"

Superman crosses his arms sternly. "Then it's a good thing, none of us are Amazons then, isn't it?" Artemis, never afraid of a fight, takes a step forward. Superman wonders briefly if the woman will really attack him just to get to Darkseid.

Hippolyta, sensing a conflict about to erupt, intervenes. "Artemis. We take blood in combat, in war, but we do not execute. Had he fallen in battle it would have been in accordance with our law, but he is no longer a threat."

Artemis opens her mouth to protest, but quickly closes it and turns from the group. "I will check on Tiaria…"

Once she's gone, Flash speaks up. "Not that I agree with the methods of Sheena the She-Devil over there; but what exactly are we going to do with Darkseid? You turn him loose on Apokolips he's just going to heal up and come back here anyway. This time with more troops. He's been looking for this Anti-Life thing for his whole life!"

"We're going to convince him he's been played and set him loose on Ares."

"Man… that plan has Batman written all over it…" Flash quips.

-Titans Tower-

"How long you plan on sitting there, Bug Boy?"

"My, my, my, someone is certainly a grumpy Glenda…" Peter was reading Robin's reports on the situation in Gotham when Rose finally awoke.

"You try getting your arm broken by your psychopath father and then talk to me about being all sunshine and lollipops…" Ravage sits up in the bed to look at the worried boy sitting next to her bed. His brown eyes filled with anger over her situation and concern for her. She'd never had someone care about her this much, it was both touching and scary. "Deathstroke?"

"No longer our problem…" Peter answers standing from his seat to pace. He really wanted to kill the man. And if he were to be honest, he still might. "In fact, I dare say he won't be bothering any of us for a long time…"

"Heard you put quite the beating on him…" Rose offers with a slight smirk. It was sweet to think that he had not only come to her rescue but took her pain personally.

"That is what I heard as well…"

Both turn to see Batman standing in the doorway, bruised and bloodied but still exuding the same power and confidence he always did.

"Gotham?" Peter asks warily.

"Remarkably still standing." Batman nods stepping into the room. "Fewer casualties than we first anticipated. Thanks to the combined efforts of you and your Titans' we avoided a catastrophe." The compliment was so rare and genuine, that both Rose and Peter were taken aback. "How are you, Rose?"

"Fine?" Ravage doesn't know what to make of this scene, but it is unnerving for her. None of her encounters with Batman had been exactly warm. Concern was not an emotion he was capable of showing in her mind.

"Good. Spiderman? A word."

Batman leaves the room and Rose breathes a sigh of relief. "Okay, am I the only one who thinks-"

"Yeah… either that was a really bad clone of Batman or things are worse than we thought…" Peter leans in to kiss Rose on the forehead. "Feel better grumpy. Hopefully I'll be back soon…"

Spiderman leaves before Rose can react to the gesture, but she is not alone for long.

"Hello Boobarella…" Rose doesn't need to look up to know that Starfire is in the room.

"Ravage, I am glad you are recovering." Starfire never understood Rose's need to call people names, but she did understand that it was part of who she was. Besides that, Rose has proven herself to be an invaluable teammate.

"Seems my father did one thing right in giving me the ability to heal quickly…" Starfire takes the seat that was just occupied by Peter and looks at Rose. For a moment she just sits in silence. "Spill it, Baywatch."

"You care for him, don't you?" Starfire asks getting right to the point.

"What?" That hadn't been what Rose was expecting.

"I ask because, I too have feelings for him and… well I would not want to cause friction between us…"

"Spiderman is just a teammate and a friend." Rose argues, trying to be convincing. She wasn't sure that was the whole truth, but that was all she was willing to admit to herself.

"Then it will not bother you that we have kissed?" Starfire asks with a small smirk. She suspected that Ravage did indeed have feelings for Peter beyond friendship, but she wasn't going to wait for her to figure them out.

"Of course not!" Rose protests a little too loudly.

"Good." Starfire stands to leave. "I would not want things to become difficult between the three of us. As you say, we are teammates and friends; I would want nothing to affect that."

"No… that would be a shame…" Rose mutters, trying not to think of the circumstances in which Starfire and Peter kissed. Before she can think on it for too long, Starfire wraps her in a careful hug.

"Good! If you need anything at all call me…"

-Outside Titan's Tower-

"… caught up with Nigma on the east side of town, everyone's accounted for except Two-Face and Joker…"

"Still don't know how he recovered so fast…" Peter offers after hearing Batman's update. Things had been bad, but not as bad as they could have been. But with Joker and Two-Face still out there, possibly working together, the work was nowhere near finished. "I can be back in Gotham, help Dick with the search…"

"Thought you were quitting…?" Batman asks with a small trace of amusement.

"I was angry…"

"Tim told me what he did… though I don't agree with his methods…"

"You agree with his intent." Spiderman finishes somewhat irritated.

"Your mask not only keeps you safe, but everyone in connection with you." Batman answers. "How long would it take a moderately intelligent person to make the connection between the two of us with just your name?"

"No one told you to make me your long lost cousin!" Peter whispers harshly.

"It was the easiest way to make sense of your sudden appearance." Batman offers facing Peter. "And you're the one who wanted in on this life, remember? But being a crime-fighter, putting on the cowl doesn't mean you get to disregard the law when it suits you. In fact, it's our respect for the law which drives us. Our desire for right mustn't be obscured by our personal desires…"

"Not talking about me keeping a lid on the 'ol secret identity anymore, are we?"

"Yes and no." Batman folds his arms over his chest. "You almost killed him."

"Key word being almost." Peter argues.

"Yes, this time someone kept you from delivering the final blow. But what happens the next time?" Batman watches Peter closely to see his reaction.

"You mean the next time some bad guy nearly kills someone I care for? Tell me you didn't nearly let Joker die over Diana?" And if he had Peter wouldn't have said one word about it.

"Why do you think I can talk to you about not crossing the line in the first place?" Batman counters. "It's because I've found myself ready to cross it more than once in the past. And you know what stopped me?"

"I guess it wasn't a busty alien superhero?" Peter jokes dryly.

"It was the idea," Batman continues, ignoring Peter's attempt at humor. "That once I crossed the line once, the next time, it would easier and easier. Until, someone, someone like you, would be forced to take me down themselves…"

Batman allows that thought to linger in the air for a moment before continuing. "I don't want to lecture, I'm not even sure if I would have applauded or disciplined you if you killed Slade… but if you're ever in a position where that line is in front of you again… I want you to remember one thing."

"What's that?"

"The reason why we do what we do. Why we use our time and energy to risk our lives for others, is because we are not them. The second we forget that… all the good we've done and will do… mean nothing."

A/N: I'll do my best not to keep you waiting so long between chapters! I promise! Next up: Joker and Two-Face meet up with some unexpected resistance. Spiderman's in a love triangle. Batman takes a vacation? And a new king takes the throne!