Flight of an Exile
"I know what you want, what you need."
She thought about those words as she lay there on her bed, wondered what they really meant and pondered on whether or not she knew what those things were in relation to herself. Did she know what she wanted? What she needed?
The death of Grundy weighed heavily upon her, crushing down on what little of her was left and what precious little had managed to grow in the care of the Fates. Perhaps it was heavier still because the final strike had been hers, a burden she had willingly shouldered because he was her friend and the responsibility could not have belonged to anyone else. While the grief swelled within her and tore what she had rebuilt apart, her heart shuddered and fractured, bleeding she was sure into every inch of her until everything hurt just as much as it did. It wasn't just because of Grundy either.
She was in the Earth's orbit, floating around in the fortress of the newly expanded Justice League. It was unfamiliar, foreign and cold. Cold not just because of the metal walls and surfaces but because of those within as well, because every set of eyes that landed upon her were icy and accusing, filled with nothing but disgust, hatred and mistrust. Shayera writhed beneath them and collapsed in on herself, perhaps her moment of relief in the face of Superman's reassurance and John's support was a false hope, perhaps it had led her to make a premature decision. The coldness also stemmed from the loneliness and the unworthiness that had suddenly spread into every part of her, cutting at her heart with icy knives until she was close to screaming out for mercy.
He had visited her. The man she loved, the man she couldn't untangle from her heart and mind, the man that she had found the nerve to live for. The man who's promise of a future had steadied her wings as she had fallen in a suicide freefall for the ground. A man, whose love had seen her choose one world over her own, had filled her with something she had never experienced before.
Earlier on he had been warm and welcoming despite her want to stay away from him, she still wanted to meet him on her own terms and Grundy's stampede downtown wasn't what she had had in mind. Regardless though she had been forced to confront him and he had given her nothing but support and compassion, had even gone with her to this new Watchtower, right beside her. His presence had made her feel safe, had given her the courage to accept Superman's offer for her to return, had stopped her from running in the opposite direction when every eye bore into her with their cold stares.
He had visited her. Had knocked on the door and stood before her as she had answered with a shy smile on her lips, gazing up at him with hope and love, practically baring what remained of her soul to him. Everything she was, everything that was left...everything she had left to give.
And he had rejected her.
She learned of his new relationship with a woman named Vixen and he described that they had been dating for some months now. That he would be beside her as her friend and would be there if she needed him and that he could offer nothing else.
Before he had told her she had been on the verges of reaching out to him, wanting to touch him and be close to him, desperate to confide in him and explain everything, to feel what it was to be with him just like it used to be, all of the love and safety, the way it had felt perfect and right. It had hurt her when he had told her of this other woman, her mind slowly making the connection between the woman he described and the woman she had seen while they worked to stop Grundy hurting more innocents. She could see why he was attracted to her, she was beautiful and exotic looking, Shayera couldn't compete with that, she wasn't even sure if she could try. In truth she should have expected his rejection, after all look at what she had done to him, to his heart that he had so willingly exposed to her, given to her. Why would he want to take her back, what could he possibly want with this mess of a woman who had done nothing but hurt him and his world?
So she had smiled weakly at him, the expression never reaching her eyes and never stripping away the hurt that echoed in her tired emeralds. She bid him goodnight and thanked him for his support, feeling like she was saying goodnight to a stranger even as her heart yanked in her chest, desperate as it was to join his even though there was no place there for it now.
And she wept. She lay there on the bed, her mace discarded somewhere within the room as she cried herself into oblivion, her tears physically draining her body as she quaked and broke. She saved herself on that day because John had become her lifeline, the opportunity to repair his heart and her own and in turn their relationship a motivation that could not hope to be outdone. Yet, her lifeline proved to be ill founded, John had moved on within the space of a year and although she felt unworthy of him and of the love she wished to be there, she hurt in the knowledge that he had moved on so easily, that he had replaced her so easily. That, above all else hurt her more than anything else ever could.
She wept until she was all consumed, and she cried until she fell into a fitful sleep, a sleep that would be filled with haunting shadows and taunts that would see her wake in the early hours. Hours which she burned away staring at the image of the Earth as it swirled slowly beyond her window.
Some months later her situation had not improved. Wherever she went and wherever she turned there were accusations and slipped comments, few of those aboard the satellite bothering to contain the hatred for her that burned within their veins. Shayera took to staying in her room as much as possible, rarely leaving unless she had been assigned to a mission, missions that would see her babysat by the Founders or patronised by the younger recruits. Would see her trying to save those that had nothing but fear in their eyes upon seeing her grey wings and piercing gaze. Memories of others like her at the forefront of their minds while they lashed out at her and tried to prevent her from aiding them.
Shayera grew weaker in time, but also angrier. She sunk low into herself, withdrawing somewhere deep while on the outside she appeared to be untouchable and unbreakable, a hard stony glare her only defence against those that judged her always. The insults and jibes built up within her and so did the hurt and resentment she was beginning to harbour for John Stewart until a knot of anger began to build itself within her. It was small at first, something that was born out of her situation and the part of her that didn't want to cope with it anymore, the part that still wanted to fight, the part that was sick of hurting day in and day out. Eventually the anger would burst out of her but it wasn't until a few weeks later that it received the encouragement it needed.
In battle she put up little fight, she didn't hit out as fast and as irrationally as before, she mostly defended herself and it led to her receiving injuries. Like the others who were wounded during missions she was sent to the infirmary where J'onn was often stationed alongside many civilian staff members. The first time she visited she was surprised by the amount of people working there, back when the League was small they had been alone and had essentially been each other's doctor. It was why she didn't trust anyone but J'onn to tend to her injuries. After she was bandaged up though he had departed, she too had attempted to leave but the security staff tried to prevent her and had made to keep her there against her will.
The pearl of anger that had been growing within her, the cold rage that had been born out of her pain and of her guilt led her into restraining one of those who would keep her there, shoving the burly and taller guard into the wall as she pointedly glared at him. She'd interrogated him with straight to the point questions and he had answered honestly, of course he had, everyone was being painfully honest with her these days, she knew exactly how everyone felt about her because everyone was so willing to share it. The information he had given her had led her to this moment as she strode down the hallways of the Watchtower ignoring all around her as her fury burned inside of her.
How dare they.
She found where they were holed up, their wonderful little conference room where they placed themselves in the authority of making decisions for everyone else. Shayera remembered when their meetings used to take place in the kitchen, all seven of them eating various foods and drinking mochas as they discussed what had been going on and how they were going to build on their teamwork. All the while making jokes and laughing about small things that struck their amusement. She missed those days, she missed her family and most of all she hated herself for destroying it.
The door was sealed shut and required a code. She didn't bother to punch hers in knowing that it wouldn't recognise her. Instead she shoved the head of her mace into the control panel and electrified it, short circuiting the lock so that the door jittered and shuddered on its hydraulics where she proceeded to shove it aside.
"What is the meaning of this?" Diana was already on her feet when she entered, so were the others as well but her focus was on J'onn and J'onn alone.
"Who the hell do you think you are?" Shayera demanded, slamming her mace into the table and making Wally flinch as he was sat right beside where the weapon had impacted. John was to her other side but she blanked him completely.
"Shayera, this isn't the time..." Superman tried to be diplomatic but she didn't take her eyes off of J'onn when she answered him sharply.
"Stay out of this."
J'onn stood to his feet feeling her anger against his mind, her anger so deep and raw, so mingled with pain and shame that he could feel it pressing around her despite her closed mind. He understood, he knew it to be a part of her grief, a part of the process of healing. He himself had felt sorrow and then the biting grip of anger that came after. He understood perhaps better than any of those present except perhaps for Batman whose anger had never dissipated, because he had never allowed others to fill the hole that had been formed within him.
"I did what I thought was appropriate." J'onn said in a level tone.
Shayera's eyebrows merely knotted further. "And you didn't think that it was appropriate to consult me first?"
"What is appropriate is for you to leave." Diana rebutted from her standing position at the table, Superman casting her an anxious look as she glared at the shorter woman with a look of complete disgust and hatred.
Shayera met her gaze, gripping her mace so that her hands wouldn't tremble. "Back. Off. Princess." Was her warning, voice low and dangerous, a tone that each of them knew to avoid.
"Shayera, it is for your own protection." J'onn tried to regain the conversation, anything to stop her anger boiling over and resulting in a conflict with Diana, their friendship might never be repaired otherwise.
She looked about the room all of a sudden taking in its details and finding that she hated it. This formal room with its round table and seats, each of them sitting there as if they were the head of the world. It was so professional, so formal.
"Calm down, Shayera. We can all talk about this." John's deep voice tried to reason with her.
Her head turned so that her gaze was upon his and John held it for a moment until he looked away probably wishing he hadn't said anything, particularly when she dragged her mace over the table, filling the room with the screaming sound of metal against metal as she made sure to make as many gouges and scratches in their precious table as possible. There had been a time when he wouldn't have looked away, when he would have held her gaze for an eternity while she luxuriously swam in his luminescent orbs, letting herself melt right down into her heart despite its shielding grown from the many years of war in her previous life.
She looked at each of them one after the other, only Batman, J'onn and Wally would hold her gaze, the others looked away or wouldn't look at her at all in the case of Diana, and she suddenly felt that she hated them. She hated them for bringing her back here and she hated them for making her feel as though she were the lowest creature on this forsaken vessel. She hated them for making her feel so small.
Anger still biting at her heels she stared darkly into J'onn's orange eyes before saying firmly "Take me off of suicide watch. Now."
Before she stalked out he inclined his head to show that he would and when the door awkwardly closed behind her on its damaged system, Diana didn't hesitate.
"How dare she charge in here and make demands."
"Give her a break, Diana." Wally muttered even as John opened his mouth but decided to close it.
An argument then broke out between the Amazon and the fastest man alive as one defended and the other attacked, they didn't stop until Superman stood to his feet.
"It's time I had a word with her." He said simply "The meeting is adjourned."
After her confrontation in the conference room, Shayera had stalked back to her quarters, the anger that had overwhelmed her beginning to dissipate. It left her feeling drained and tired, it was something she still couldn't maintain as well as she once had, her passion and spirit still missing. Once her anger was gone though she was left with a different feeling, something closer to regret and sorrow, something that grieved for what she had had with these people that was now gone. Previously they wouldn't have made such decisions without her, they would have spoken to her, discussed it with her, yet now they were leaving her out of the equation. They seemed to be rejecting everything they had ever learned or understood of her, treating her as if she were a stranger with a grievous past and they giving her a place to stay but keeping her at arm's reach.
She ran a hand through her hair, slumping onto her bed as she did so. Why was she even here? Why had she come back? She knew the reasons, she had hoped that she could fix everything, that maybe her life wouldn't be as lost as it had felt for so long, but instead she was met with new revelations and new reasons to feel alone and lost. Just as she was about to slump on her bed and maybe grab one of the books Wally had brought for her some days ago, a knock sounded against her door. It took her a moment to realise what the sound even was, no one visited her. The knock was a gentle tapping almost as if the person on the other side of the door was dubious of knocking there. Gingerly Shayera got to her feet, wings pulled close against her body, not unlike the way a cat's ears would set flat against its head in times of fear or uncertainty. She reached for the control pad and took a step back when the door slid on its functioning hydraulics, her mind racing as to who this visitor may be. When the door revealed Superman her thoughts were at a loss, why was he here?
He stood there awkwardly for a few moments, his broad shoulders seeming to fill the entire view she had from her door, but she was still able to see the eyes of those who passed and the murmurs they muttered as they looked on with interest. Superman seemed unfazed by them, that or he didn't seem to care.
"May I come in?" He asked.
Shayera fixed him with an even look, not giving away anything "Superman, if this is about earlier..."
"I just want to talk," was his assurance "Just let me say a few things and then I'll be gone."
Despite her better judgement she moved aside and let him pass, and he did so carefully, clearly avoiding disturbing her living space as much as possible. This was the only sanctuary she had and he was aware of it. She stood behind him somewhere as he continued to discreetly look about her room, the entire space devoid of anything personal except for her mace that hung on the wall and the pile of books upon her desk.
"Superman, if you don't mind...I'd like to get this over with."
"Clark." Was his response to her terse words, the friendly tone of his voice never leaving as he turned to smile at her reassuringly.
"What?" She replied a little dumbfounded, she recognised the name for she had known all of their secret identities, but his saying his name confused her.
"You can call me Clark." He clarified for her "We've known each other for a while now, and besides, I know your name." He shrugged but maintained his friendly air.
She stared at him a moment before she nodded her head tightly. He was trusting her with his identity and allowing her to use his name was an intimate thing in the Superhero world...it meant that they were trusted friends.
"Do you mind if I sit down?"
She shook her head and gestured to a seat, a hard metal one that hurt her wings. It was why it was loaded with books instead of being ready and waiting to bear someone's weight. Clark was unperturbed by the books, lifting them and placing them on the desk with the others, his eyes reading the titles.
"That one is a good one." He said as he pointed at the top book "I read that a few years back."
"Wally...gave them to me." Shayera explained as if she was trying to justify herself, a strange defensive response she had picked up of late. Superman only smiled as he sat down on the chair and gestured for her to take a seat as well but she declined.
"Shayera...I owe you an apology."
She frowned and seemed to fold her arms although she didn't do so they way she once did, they were not folded to keep others away, instead they held her in a self hug, anxious as she was for this looming conversation.
"No you don't." She replied at last before finally succumbing to his earlier gesture and seating herself upon the edge of her bed.
Clark shook his head and leaned forward slightly so that he could see her better "I do." He looked to her as she finally made eye contact with him "I should have come and spoken to you a lot sooner, instead I left you on your own when I might've been the only one who could understand. For that...I'm sorry."
Shayera didn't know how to respond, her resolve quivering at his apology but she put on her defensive shielding as she always did. "Last time I checked you weren't responsible for nearly destroying the planet." Shayera remarked dryly.
"Darkseid used me once, manipulated me and set me off against the planet, against the people I had spent my life caring for and protecting. I caused a lot of damage." He looked at her sadly before he continued "I lost the trust of the world just as you have."
Shayera didn't say a word, just watched him quietly until she finally asked her question, a question that would reveal a vulnerability she never showed.
"How did you get it back?" Her voice was low and quiet, almost a whisper but Clark heard it clearly.
"With time and work. You have to gain their trust a little at a time, but first...you have to let go of the guilt. You can't move on unless you let it go, it will do nothing but make you feel angry and resentful."
She opened her mouth to argue but closed it again.
"Believe me, Shayera...I know it's hard, I know you want to hang onto it because you feel it's all you deserve but it's not." He gifted her with a smile "Everyone deserves a second chance and you have one, don't waste it being buried beneath guilt and anger. Trust me, I know."
Slowly she nodded her head, not promising that she would release the guilt but promising that she at least understood what it was he was trying to tell her.
"Our situations are different."
Clark agreed "I know, but people's trust and faith can be regained in the same way. Show them who you are and they'll give you another chance. The ones that don't...it doesn't matter." He stood to his feet and placed a hand on her shoulder "We're all here for you. You are a part of our family."
Shayera shook her head "No I'm not...it's been made pretty clear."
"That's our fault, not yours. I think that we haven't been sure how to approach you but..." He paused a second in thought before he smiled "Did you notice something when you were in the conference room?"
Shayera thought for a moment, only remembering the anger that had been within her and how much she hated being in that room.
"What was there to notice?" She asked a little sharply.
"There are seven chairs around the table."
She sat there a moment before it dawned on her. They had rebuilt the Watchtower and they had built their conference room, but even though she wasn't there and might not have come back, they had placed a chair there for her regardless.
"There was always a place for you should you come back, Shayera. There still is."
He squeezed her shoulder reassuringly before he turned to leave, but she stood as he reached the door.
"Clark..." He turned, pleased that she had finally committed to using his name as he had offered "Thank-you."
"You're welcome...remember that I'm here if you ever want to talk, and so are the others." The door slid past and just before he stepped out he added one last thing "When you feel ready...I'd like for you to join us at our weekly meeting, but there's no rush if you don't feel up to it yet."
Shayera nodded her head and watched him leave. The conversation had surprised her on many levels, not only because he hadn't called her out over her actions in the conference room, but because he had revealed to her his own personal experiences in the hopes that it would help her. She didn't know if she could gain the people's trust as easily as Superman, he was Superman after all, but his encouragement and advice had given her food for thought and had blossomed a hope within her. Maybe things weren't as unfixable as she had come to believe, maybe she could rebuild a place for herself, and there was a place for her after all.
Maybe with enough time she would attend some of the meetings, maybe she could even make amends with the others in time as well. She had no idea as she stood there that all of these things and more would come to pass, that she and Diana would regain an understanding and that she herself would find comrades amongst this new expanded Justice League.
In time she would discover who she was, who Shayera Hol was when she wasn't trapped beneath a false identity. She would learn that she was more like the Hawkgirl she rejected and less like the Lieutenant she hated, and she would learn that she still had her family even if not completely in the way that she wanted. John would always remain a problem for a while but she hoped that in time, like everything else, it would be repaired and they could finally have the life together that they had dreamed of.
For now though, Shayera Hol moved to her bed a book grasped in her hand. She sat on the bed and flipped the book open even as she glanced out of her observation window to spy the Earth gleaming below. For a few minutes she watched it turn before she smiled. She smiled because even though she had betrayed so many things and so many people, she had made the right choice in protecting this world and she would stand by her decision no matter what.
She was Shayera Hol and she could finally be more than an Exile.
AN/ I'd like to thank everyone who has read and reviewed this story, I hope that you've enjoyed reading it as much as I've enjoyed writing it. I'd also like to once again thank Loki's Son for encouraging me to go back to this and write it.
Thanks again! And Best wishes :D