An/ Before I let you read this, I just want to say a big thanks to Loki's Son for encouraging me to go back to this, its something I had been considering for a long while but never seemed to manage to get started. Anyway, I hope you guys enjoy this :)
Shayera Hol and Justice League belong to their respective owners of course.
Flight of an exile
'I've spent the last five years torn between my feelings and my duty, I won't ask you to do the same. Therefore I am resigning from the Justice League, effective immediately."
The only sound she could hear was the rushing of the wind in her ears as she flew without any particular direction in mind, she didn't care where she was or where she was going, all she knew was that she couldn't go back. There was no place for her there anymore, she had betrayed them and had lied to them all of this time. The wind suddenly grew in strength, pulling at her hair and wings and wrenching her upward but Shayera didn't fight it, couldn't fight it. Instead she let it carry her as if she were a molted feather from a bird's wing, her direction and final destination unknown, destined to wander wherever the wind was willing to carry her. Like wild snakes her long red locks of hair whipped up and danced in response to further gusts, there was no longer a helmet upon her head to keep them under control and similarly it was no longer there to conceal her face. Her sorrowful eyes were uncovered for all to witness and so too were the persistent tears that streaked her cheeks and clouded her vision.
"Was it all a lie?"
Through her tears she could barely see where she was going, everything was a blur of colour and odd, disjointed shapes as she tried desperately to see and likewise cease her tears, but no matter how many times she wiped at her eyes, fresh tears instantly replaced the old. There were very few occasions in which she had ever cried and fewer still in which she had cried to this degree, but no matter what she tried it would not stop. A strangled sob choked out of her as she tried if futilely to swallow it down. She needed to stop but the pain was so raw, so encompassing that once she quelled one attack, another shortly began. Eventually she was forced to succumb to her anguish because she could hardly breathe and hardly see, a combination that could prove fatal for her when flying miles above land and sea. Blinking feverishly and wiping at her eyes with the edges of her fingers, she finally caught sight of a tiny island that would suit as a place to rest her tired body. With a small adjustment to her wings she descended, graceful and angelic even if her soul was stained with a guilt heavier than anyone should have to bear.
"For Thanagar to live, Earth must die."
Through her disorientation her landing was much rougher than normal, knees skidding and pushing into the wet sand as her hands awkwardly broke her fall. Shayera didn't stop to check for injuries, rather she turned onto her side and huddled into a small ball, trembling from head to foot as her heartbreak consumed her at last. Around her the ocean rumbled as if murmuring its own sorrowful voice alongside hers, its waters lapping at the island's edge and licking at her body as it reached for her small form lying close to the tide. Time became insignificant to Shayera, all she could do was feel even if it was unbearable, so much so that her painful whimpers were fragments of her native language rather than that of this world. She was confused, ashamed and heartbroken, so many emotions that they overwhelmed her. What had she become? Who was she? Was she Lieutenant Hol? Hawkgirl? Was she John's Sunshine or Hro's Promised? The answer she found however was always the same... she was a traitor, nothing more and nothing less.
A long time passed before her cries finally died down, her winged form however remained huddled on the sand unbothered by the water that had slowly soaked at parts of her clothing or the sand that had found itself within her hair and upon her skin. Feeling emotionally exhausted, her heart throbbed as if it had been run through with a hot knife with no hope of the blade ever being removed, but with the fear that it would forever be twisted and forced deeper. All she could feel was loss, loss of her home world, of her promised one, of her lover, of her family and even the loss of her identity. She has nothing left and nothing to find, her heart is trapped in the past because from this moment on she doesn't have a future, doesn't expect it nor want it, there is only the pain that sears her and curses her. She feels hopeless and broken, disgusted at herself and ashamed of what she has become and what she has done, she feels guilt for betraying her friends and betraying her home, she feels hatred for the person she sees in her reflection and she loathes the vulnerability and hopelessness that fills her every being. Eventually after some considerable time later, she managed to unravel herself from her foetal position, eyes sore and burning from their dehydration while her face remains red and blotchy. Another attack threatens to overwhelm her yet again but she takes in a shaky breath and pushes her fingers through her hair while reciting a simple mantra to herself.
"I can do this, it's going to be okay. I can do this..."
The back of her throat constricts and she almost vomits as the taste of acrid bile sears her throat, but she manages to swallow the reflex back down. She feels sick to her stomach, she is a traitor and has condemned her very own people to a war they cannot win, has condemned them to slavery at the hands of the brutal and merciless Gordanians. All so that she could protect a planet that no longer holds a place for her, a planet full of life and promise and a wondrous people who have so much to teach the likes of herself about a life lived without ever present conflict. Sitting back on her haunches with shaky breaths, she takes a look around at her bleak surroundings, the sun is beginning to set and there is very little upon the island except for a few scraggily trees and shrubs. For a moment she wondered why she had been foolish enough to leave without bringing any supplies, all she had was herself and the clothes she wore, she didn't even have her mace, it practically broke every rule of survival training she had ever learned and they were the things she would have to live by from now on.
"I love you John, I never lied about that."
She suddenly realised painfully why she didn't bring anything and the shock of it hits her in the chest and threatens to yet again spur her into another tearful outburst. When she had stood before him keeping her back and her heart to him, she had wondered what he might say, what he thought, she wondered if he would take her back and whether or not she could allow him to. From all the sadness she already felt nothing could have compared with the few words he had shared with her as their final moments together, his questioning her of what they had been, if what she had felt was a lie. It was yet another cut against her already mutilated heart. Had she lied? Of course not, John was the most real thing she had ever experienced and when she finally confessed for the first time that what she held for him was love she waited in the cold face of his silence. John's expression had been a mask to her all except for the clear pain in his eyes that she knew she would see in her dreams and her memories knowing that she would never forgive herself for putting such pain in those beautiful, warm brown eyes. His silence though, the heartbreaking silence at her confession would meet with no competition from the rest of the sorrow she already felt. It had hurt too much, had stabbed at her a hundred times as the seconds dragged on while she waited for him to say something, anything... to return the sentiment or condemn her, either would have been better than the silence he offered instead. So she had done the only thing she could do against his silence, she took off as she said she would, leaving for places unknown.
"Somewhere where the fate of the world isn't in my hands. Someplace where there are no more secrets, no more lies."
All the while as she glided away from those who had become her friends and family and from the man that she had come to love more than any other in her life, she pleaded in her heart. She pleaded silently to him to call her back, shout out her name and tell her that she could stay or that he would go with her, that he'd stay with her no matter what had or would happen. But she never heard the deep baritone voice she loved, she never heard anything except for the roaring wind in her ears and the sobs that shook her. She had promised herself that she wouldn't cry but it was yet another broken promise to go alongside the dozens that had come before. Inside she berated her stupidity, she should have packed supplies but deep in her bruised heart she had hoped that someone would stop her, that John would stop her and embrace her and tell her everything was going to be okay, but her hopes had been torn down and she was left with nothing, not even the reassurance that John may love her or even impossibly forgive her. There was no forgiveness or love to be had, there was only silence and a heart full of pain.
Heartbroken, guilt ridden and alone Shayera curled up by a somewhat almost dead tree, the sky looming in dull blues as the night began to descend. She didn't bother to light a fire preferring instead to wrap her wings around her form for warmth, nor did she bother to find food because her desire to eat was non-existent. She watched the stars as they slowly revealed themselves and she wondered of Hro Talak and her people's return to Thanagar. However her thoughts began to wander until she began to remember the times when she had watched the stars with John, pointing out constellations and giving names to random stars that they could see despite knowing what their actual names were. An uninvited but fond memory flashed across her vision but she forced it away unable to allow herself to remember it, it was over now, her brief and pure happiness was over, and it was no more than she deserved. Hugging her knees and feeling lost to the rest of the world Shayera Hol fell into a fitful sleep, forcing herself to accept that no one was going to come and look for her, John wouldn't appear beside her and convince her to come back. She was alone and she was going to remain that way for a long time to come.
The following night Shayera left her small island seclusion. She had spent the previous day wandering amongst her small refuge in search of any supplies that she could use or take with her having realised that it would be unsafe for her to travel in the day. To her dismay the island could provide her with nothing, not even anything of worth to eat despite her lack of appetite. A deep sickness still occupied the pit of her stomach and even the mere thought of food made her feel physically sick, but she knew that the cause of it was not due to illness. The torrent of emotions she had been suffering through on the night of her arrival had for the moment ceased, enabling her to bury them as she had always done throughout her life. It was a skill she had always held within her repertoire enabling her to be hard headed and resistant without anyone seeing the vulnerability that resided inside of her. It was a skill that had been built upon from a young age after her Father had told her one day that:
'Crying changes nothing, soldiers don't cry.'
For as long as she could remember she had buried the woman beneath the soldier but now that the soldier was gone she could only bury it beneath another facade, another mask, because she had always worn one whether it be physical or emotional. There had only been one person that she could say had truly managed to lift those invisible masks away but he was long behind her now and only visible to her as the fragmented green colour that occupied her broken and disjointed dreams.
At the dawning of the night she had taken flight, leaving her small island behind her as she ascended into the cool sky. The very moment her wings had pushed down and forced her up, Shayera felt the breeze wash over her and relieve her troubled mind if only temporarily. Flying was engrained into her very being, into her very core, she loved to fly and it was the one thing that could consol her when nothing else or anyone else could. Throughout the entirety of her young life she had flown relentlessly leaving the security of the shelters to practice acrobatics and flight patterns in secret. Even when her parents returned from the war and she could spend a few days with them before they left for another battle, she had often still continued to leave for hours at a time to fly. On one occasion when her Father had found her and scolded her for leaving the safety of their home as well as missing the training session he had planned for them, she had explained to him why she continued to run off to fly in secret. She wanted to join the Hark'nvesh, an elite Thanagarian flying squad named after the giant hawk-like birds that lived in the large nests of Thanagar's mountains.
The Hark'nvesh or Harksh as they were sometimes called were acrobatic soldiers that battled in the sky fighting the artificially winged Gordanians in death defying twists and turns. Shayera had grown up admiring them, dreaming to join their squads after completing her academy training. However, her dream had been crushed after it was decided that her characteristics were better applied elsewhere, more specifically her unusual level of curiosity and adaptability. She was entered into the recently created Espionage wing. Even now as she flew higher than normal, tolerating the thinner air to ensure that she couldn't be seen from below, Shayera wondered how different her life might have been if she had been allowed to join the Harksh.
Undoubtedly she knew that regardless of whether she had been a recruit of espionage or of the Harksh, she would have met Hro Talak. In the evenings after a gruelling day of training at the academy Shayera often ventured to the lower levels of Thanagar's high towered cities in search of her favourite bar. She didn't like the more refined bars that resided in the high altitude upper columns, preferring instead to drink with those who were deemed unworthy of joining Thanagar's esteemed military. The reason behind this was for the simple reason that she was tired of being analysed and watched with high expectations, the members of her family as far back as they could be traced had all been highly respected and honourable soldiers, her Father and Mother included, and it was expected that she would be too. Hro Talak was the same, a young officer with all the finest qualities that could be expected from a man born with direct relations to the Thanagarian elders, he was destined to become a Commander and no one had any doubt that he'd make it.
It was on one of the nights that she had selected to journey to her bar for a drink that a young Hro Talak had tumbled into her after receiving a punch to the jaw. A small brawl had broken out as they did in all of the best bars and Hro had grinned at her broadly even as she shoved him back into the fray and shortly joined herself, picking up the bar stool she had been seated on and whacking the nearest Thanagarian with it. Afterward when every man and woman was either exhausted or unconscious, she and Hro had shared a drink together finding that their family honours and blue blood like heritage a source of common ground.
In one forceful beat of her wings Shayera dragged herself back into the present and pushed the memory away, pressing it into the growing knot of pain that she had stowed away in her heart. Hro Talak had changed so much since she had left Thanagar all of those years ago for her mission to Earth, but it wasn't the first time that she had wondered if she had been the one to change rather than him. She knew that wherever he was that he must hate her, the electrical burn that occupied her stomach was proof enough of that fact and she knew why he would hate her. She knew that it was because she continuously put the Earth in front of him and Thanagar, and he knew deep down John Stewart and the Justice League as well. A lump swelled in her throat as she felt the searing pain of her heart press against her ribcage but it could not outweigh the growing hatred that she was beginning to harbour for herself.
She had betrayed Hro a long time before he had arrived and as much as she hated herself for hurting him she also did not regret her actions either in her pursues of a relationship with John or in her desire to save the Earth. Maybe in the past when her days were spent on espionage missions on Thanagar and within its system she might have thought it necessary that one planet should die for their survival, having seen the burned cities and cries of her people after another Gordanian raid. Now though after spending five years protecting the Earth as one of its heroes, having spent equal time learning from the people that occupied it and learning from those who had become her friends, she had found that she could no longer live knowing that a planet full of life had been destroyed to save another. It was too high a price to pay, too much blood for a planet to rebuild on even if it did manage to win the war that had ravaged them for generations.
With her heart feeling heavy Shayera was somewhat relieved to see that land was ahead of her and not an insignificant island at that. Rather she could see a thick woodland forest which would undoubtedly provide her with the things she would need to survive out here alone. As she flew further inland she flew over a wide extending lake which shimmered like liquid silver from the moon's reflection, the beauty of it filling her up for the moment before she pressed on in search of shelter. The sun would rise soon and she could not risk being seen out in the day, logic enough suggested that she would meet with hostility from any who saw her, the martial law and iron fist her people had set over the world was enough to guarantee that if nothing else.
After a few more minutes of flying she came across where the woodland parted before a few mountains, they were not the largest she had ever seen either on Earth or Thanagar but they would provide some security as to her whereabouts. Adjusting her wings and pulling them against her body she fell into a dive heading towards the thick forest at an eye watering speed. At the last moment she spread her wings and slowed her decent until she arced enough to alight her feet downward towards the trees as she slowly hovered down between them. When she touched down the first thing she noticed was how lush everything was, from the trees to the shrubs and even the flowers she could see growing in almost every direction, a complete contrast to the practically barren island she had spent the last night and day. Even as she walked she saw at least three edible varieties of berry, she knew this due to her extensive research. When she had first arrived on this planet she had conducted survival based research believing that it was best to be knowledgeable in how to survive on a foreign planet.
For the first time since she had left Wayne Manor she was pleased about something but it was a notion that didn't remain with her for long because she still had to find some shelter. Despite having a distinct lack of appetite however, she plucked a few large berries from a nearby bush and dutifully chewed and swallowed them, throat constricting in protest but she forced them down. She didn't want to eat but she wouldn't be able to maintain long distance flights if she didn't eat a sufficient amount, already it was having an impact on her as she had been forced to glide as much as possible to conserve energy. For the next twenty minutes she walked across the uneven forest floor, clambering over roots and fallen trees as she went in search of shelter and a place that would be safe enough for her to sleep without being disturbed. When she reached the wall of the rocky mountain she felt as though she wouldn't be able to find anywhere and debated whether or not she should try to fashion something from the fallen trees and branches around her, however she decided to scout from the air while she still had some time.
Once she again ascended she noticed something that she hadn't seen from the ground, in the side of the mountain there was a hollowed out crevice perhaps carved out years ago or moulded from the weather, or maybe the rock had simply fallen away over time but she decided that it was worth an investigation. Within moments she landed on the edge of the hollowed out crevice, the mouth was fairly narrow, narrow enough to perhaps allow two people to pass through side by side. Within though the cave was much larger and the size enabled her to spread her wings comfortably without her feeling uncomfortable in the enclosed space. Shayera marvelled at her luck, not only had she found a cave that was practically invisible to anyone below but she was also within a forest that could provide for her, it seemed too good to be true. She skirted the inside of the cave before exiting and descending back into the forest to collect some dry firewood and to gather some more berries, she didn't have the resources just yet to find anything much larger.
That night she huddled by her small fire with her wings wrapped about her, staring into the flames as if transfixed by their shuddering and flickering, automatically tossing additional pieces of fire wood into the centre to feed them and keep them burning for a while longer. The flames reminded her of the torches that often decorated the interior of Thanagarian fleet ships, even the one she had stayed on during the invasion was fully equipped with them. No matter what she tried she couldn't shift her thoughts away from Thanagar, it seemed that she thought more often of it now than she had over the last five years but that was perhaps because she had been the one to doom it. How many Thanagarian lives would be lost because of her? How much blood would she have on her hands? Regardless of her feelings towards Earth, Thanagar was still her home world, she had been born there, had grown up there, it was still an integral part of her even if she had no place there anymore.
The flames continued to dance in the darkness but she still felt cold and pulled her wings closer around her body, and her thoughts finally shifted from Thanagar and to something else, somebody else. He had always been warm even in the coldest nights of winter and she had long ago chalked their difference in body heat to her body's differing methods in maintaining body temperature. She remembered how much she had loved curling up against him from the chill, feeling his warmth seeping deep within her as if filling her up right down to her toes. Shayera closed her eyes and a tear freed itself from her lashes as she tried to push the memory away and the pain that had followed it, she missed him greatly even if it had only been a day since she had left. She missed his smile and his mischievous playfulness, she missed his warmth and compassion, she missed his care and thoughtfulness, she missed everything about him but every time she saw him in the memories that continued to flash across her vision, his eyes were not the same as she remembered.
In every memory his warm, loving chocolate brown eyes were instead dark and pained, there was nothing but the hurt she had seen before she had left him on the cliffs. She would have to continue on knowing that she had been the one to put it there, that she had been the one to break his beautiful caring heart and leave it to tatters. With thoughts of John and a dream of still being by his side lingering in her mind, Shayera curled up wishing that he was right there and that the warmth she could feel from the fire was in reality his. Curled up she wondered what he might be doing or where he might be, she wondered if he like her was thinking of the other, that he might be thinking of her, it was the last thought that filled her mind before she eventually once again fell into her shattered dreams.
To be Continued