An/ I've been working on this story now for something close to a year and some of you may remember when I began posting and then took down the story. Since reworking the plot I've decided that its ready to share with you all :)
This story is set within my Justice Lords Universe and is a sequel to 'Aftermath' one of three prequels. It is strongly advised that these prequels be read prior to Advocacy as elements from them will be referenced on a regular basis and may lead to some confusion. The prequels in order are 'Fall from Grace', 'Relapse' and 'Aftermath'.
The Justice League, Justice Lords and characters belong to their respective owners.
I hope you enjoy this :)
Advocacy: Part One – Troubled Waters
To advocate; to plead in favour of, defend or argue a cause.
Every person be them young or old, innocent or experienced, advocates something, be it a belief, an idea or a cause. Their justification in this may be strong and sometimes biased or skewed, misunderstood by the many and supported by the few, but it is this sense of belief and justification that builds character and makes someone who they are. It determines their actions as they seek to bring others to their cause and sometimes these actions are inappropriate or misguided, sometimes they push past the limits of acceptance, of ethics and morals and as many a time as there is advocacy in a belief there is advocacy against it in those who will challenge and even fight it.
The darkness is everywhere, looming and pressing in around him as he moves slowly forward in search of something that he is unsure of. Although he knows not what he searches for, something motivates him to his very core to find it, an unexplainable need to seek and to find, to understand why he desires it so. Pushing forward through the darkness his mind does not stop to consider why there is no light in this place, nor does he wonder where it went if it had ever been there at all. What he searches for is all that matters. Regardless of the lack of light he is able to see, enough that he walks forward without hindrance or fear of harming himself on an invisible obstacle. In time he comes to realise that there are walls on either side of him as if he is wandering aimlessly down a long corridor and it is then that he takes notice of the shadows astride of him, sees them shift and move as if given life of their own. He dares not reach out and touch them for fear of what may happen, instead he keeps his hands down by his sides and quickens his pace. These shadows take shapes that are unclear and muzzy but he sees in them something that sends his heart racing until it beats like a thunderous drum against his ribcage.
He sees so many shapes, familiar shapes...but he doesn't know what they are, can only feel them.
The emotions burn in his chest as the shadows continue to ripple and flex under his gaze.
Anxiety builds and he increases his footfalls again, these emotions, raw and ragged are pressing in close, an intoxicating and confusing mess of thoughts and feelings while flickers of memory slip in and out as he tries to blank them and force them out of his mind. His instincts take over and he begins to charge down the hallway of inky blackness like a wild animal set loose until he finally slides to a stop when he meets a dead end. The shadow shifts and a form steps forward in the space directly in front of him. At least he thinks it is a shadow, a shadow in the shape of a man. There is a bright light bordering it and he shields his face as the light burns the backs of his eyes having grown accustomed to the darkness. The 'man' stands before him and stares, what with he is unsure as he sees nothing that indicates the existence of eyes or even a likeness of them, but he does see colour. There is blue, a pure bright blue that resonates with the light, a blue that soothes and protects but then there is red there too and it catches his attention. To begin with the red he sees is minimal until it seems to grow and expand, consuming the blue until there is nothing left but the inky black and crimson red, crimson like so much blood and pain. There is still a thin bright white border of light but all he can focus on is the red, the pain.
Finally the pain shifts and the white light pierces his gaze, filling his eyes even though he had closed them long ago.
He screams into the darkness.
Two weeks after the announcement of the Meta Registration Act.
Sitting up with as much force as a coiled spring being released, a man who has taken many names scrunches his eyes shut and rubs them with his knuckles, applying pressure in the hopes of ridding his vision of the last fleeting sights of his dream. Even when he opens them splotches of bleached light fill his gaze and they change colour from oranges to greens even as he continues to blink. Eventually like the memory of his dream they fade into nothingness and he realises that he is covered in a sheen of cold sweat. Frustrated he takes a breath in through his teeth and finally relaxes his arms to his lap, staring at them as he carefully reorganises his jumbled thoughts. The broad shoulders that make up his frame are hunched over and sagging under the weight of his thoughts and although he doesn't remember all of it, he remembers enough of the dream to be bothered by it. It has been a long time since he has seen his 'other' self, the version of him that existed before his mind was illuminated.
Blue. Blue like he had used to wear all that time ago, he didn't see his face but he had known from that colour alone that it was him.
It had been a long time since he had worn blue and he wondered what might have provoked it into his unconscious mind, but after a suitable amount of time, like so many other things, he lets it go. Indeed he lets many things go, emotions, bonds, thoughts, he muses at the irony of it because there is someone that he used to know or at least thought he knew, who was fond of letting go of emotions. The Dark Knight as he was claimed to be let go of anything that had nothing to do with his mission and at one point or another it had been disputed and challenged, but although Clark had been one of those who questioned it he had never questioned Batman's efficiency to get the job done. More so now than ever because he understood that emotions were a hindrance, they stopped someone from making the hard choices that no one else was willing to make, stopped people from realising that it was better and safer to permanently stop a criminal than to just simply lock him away until he repeated the same crimes at a later date, hurting countless other people who needn't be hurt. He, Superman had to make the hard choices because no one else was willing to make them, no one else was as determined and passionate as he was to keep people safe and protected, no one had the power to. He protected them even if they never knew it from having to make those difficult choices.
Now that his mind was no longer reeling from his dream he stood to his feet and investigated his surroundings, once again he had fallen asleep on the couch with newspapers and work strewn all about him. After dragging a hand over his face he snatched up the television remote from the low coffee table and switched on the television, mostly for background noise because the news reel that was showing he had seen over a dozen times before.
'It is not known yet how many former heroes have signed their names in response to the recently passed Meta Registration Act. However it is believed to be a considerable number indeed. No word as yet if any of the former Justice Lords have come forward.'
Clark snorted incredulously as he now poured himself a mug of hot coffee from his adjoining kitchen, the benefits of having a timed, automatic coffee maker never ceasing to amaze him. For a moment as he took in a mouthful of the hot beverage he thought of his former team members. Although composed of traitors none of them were unintelligent, not to the point where they would sign up for this ridiculous Registration Act. With those thoughts in mind though he considered Hawkgirl, she was now just as highly sought after as he was because of the damage her people and her deception had caused, they still hadn't finished numbering the casualties. He wondered if she might surrender herself because of the others, more specifically John. Like the others she was weak, all of them were weak now busying themselves with pointless emotions as they desperately tried to protect each other. Didn't they understand that the only way for them to stay safe was to return to what they had been? They would never be safe so long as they tried to hide because the world didn't understand or appreciate what they had done to protect them. What he had done to protect them. What he had sacrificed to protect them.
'Although Mercy Graves is yet to make a public announcement, it is clear that her corporation will be working in coordination with the state to ensure the safety and security of the populace in these changing times.'
Mercy Graves. Her name caused a response in him in an instant, one of bitter hatred because his mind had easily jumped to Lex Luthor. He thought of the man, of the man who had nearly destroyed this world in his greed, had destroyed the life of...it was then that his cool blue irises alighted with fury, but they didn't burn with fire, just the notion of his rage as it boiled just beneath the surface. Only barely under control, but his eyes hadn't burned since they had returned from the other dimension, hadn't burned since another Luthor stole his powers from him.
All those years ago when he had come to this planet as an infant, he had been named Clark Kent. When he discovered his powers in time, he saw his gifts for the responsibility that they were and became Superman, a true Superman who saved the lives of many and protected the many. Many years later he learned that Justice was unfair, that the rules were easily twisted and bent in favour of those that would do harm, that someone with ill intentions could flex the law and get away without consequence while those whose intentions were good, would suffer. After a tragic loss he became Lord Superman, Lord of Justice and his name was embraced as Kal-El, an alien from another planet gifted with great power. He distanced himself from humanity, from the thing he could no longer respect since it was no longer capable of maintaining something as necessary as Justice, that they could not implement fairness.
He was a man of many names indeed.
In the streets on the walls he saw the graffiti, he heard the words of those around him as they scorned him, to them his names were varied and unpleasant.
But although a man of many names he was also a man who was determined to restore what once was, advocating that for the greater good, punishment had need only be carried out once.
And he would do it alone for all of his former allies, those he had once called friends and once dared to believe as family...were traitorous and had turned their backs on him. Shunning him for a belief that they had once shared and had stood side by side with him, they shunned him and he would do the same, but for all the world a small voice in the back of his mind never stopped taunting of their betrayal, of his betrayal, taunting him endlessly. The shadows in his dreams knew it, they reminded him, they whispered because if it wasn't for him his eyes would still burn and he would still be able to protect.
He would seek him out and punish, punish him for his betrayal and perhaps at last the shadows would stop taunting.
Two Months after the failed Thanagarian Invasion and Seven Weeks since the Meta Registration Act was passed.
The cool atmosphere of the cave contrasted with the warmer almost humid one of the mansion, regardless he was accustomed to both. Likewise over time he had grown accustomed to guests within his home, people that he had once regarded with distance and avoidance who were now as welcome in his home and in his time as close family would be. Of course he had resisted at first when they had first become a team and perhaps even now his motives were not completely clear, but he had taken it upon himself to protect and shelter them to the best of his ability. In hind sight it had been sometime since he had had family within these walls, his adopted son Dick Grayson had long ago left the confines of this cave and home and to his knowledge the confines of his identity as Nightwing. Being the Batman he pushed these notions aside, pushed those emotions aside, leaving was Dick's choice but they had hardly parted on good terms, not everyone agreed with a totalitarian rule, in fact most advocated against it.
'Since when does Batman put himself in charge of the people Bruce? Since when did Batman let Metas manipulate him?'
'It's not manipulation Dick, we can influence more change, make a greater difference.'
'That's bull and you know it...I can't believe you are letting them do this, that you're in on it too.'
'Where are you going?'
'I can't stay here...I won't be a part of this. I'll see you around...Batman.'
Although as the Batman he suppressed these thoughts, squashed them down as petty distractions that did nothing but hinder the mission, Bruce was having a harder time now. Ever since he saw the other Flash in the other dimension, alive and well, ever since he realised how truly scared he was that he would die just like theirs had when his heart flat-lined, forcing back his emotions had become a greater challenge than it had ever been. Maybe at last too much had happened, there was too much burdening his shoulders now, too much pain, guilt, resentment, so much that sometimes he could hardly breathe, could hardly find it in him to sleep because he had become everything he had vowed not to.
J'onn, Diana, Shayera and John, they were his family now, he cared for them and kept them safe as best to his ability because he had finally accepted that they meant something, why else was he wracked with guilt when they were helpless? Why else would the notion of them being captured by the Government chill him to the bone? He had finally accepted that they weren't just his colleagues anymore they had simply been through too much together. They were his responsibility now weren't they? Only he and John out of the five of them knew what it was to live a normal life, the others were aliens in one shape or another and even though they adapted well, they still were not fully adjusted to an Earthly life. At the bottom of it all though it was because through his choice, through his decision, he had stripped them of their powers for a time, had left them helpless and worse still they were now being hunted like rabid dogs for their crimes against Justice. A crime that promised dire consequences indeed.
Knowing that now wasn't the time for such thoughts, Bruce returned his focus to the large monitor screen before him, the dim glow of the monitor enough to bathe him in an eerie aura of light. Keys clicked beneath his fingers as he pulled up old blueprints from his database as well as the latest news enquiries. Now that the press could release and publish what they wanted without the strict censorship of the Lords, it had become a far more useful source of information. The subject of his intricate research was Mercy Corporations of course, ever since the meeting he held with the others two months ago he had been adamant that there was an ulterior motive to the apparently liberating Registration Act that promised to secure freedom from Meta control. He thought over it over and over again and it did nothing but convince him further.
Meta Registration Act.
The Act although still in its early life essentially would eventually grant Mercy power that was without question, her influence had granted her the trust of politicians and officials and as far as he could determine enough trust to grant her access to the registered Metas at her discretion.
Now that was a dangerous thought.
What could Mercy do with such power at her fingertips? What would anyone do?
He needed to know the reasons and the motives. How would Mercy apply this new power, what could she achieve? How of course would it affect them? They were in hiding and it had already been very clearly stated over and over again that they were wanted fugitives, what or who would be hunting for them? They didn't have the strength to deal with an army of Metas; the others were still not up to their full power that had been clear during the Thanagarian occupation. Diana had barely been able to hold her own while John's constructs had been flimsy at best, J'onn was still in part confused after the swarm of telepathic thoughts had returned to him, he had been close to having a break down.
Bottom line, he needed to know who had registered. If he knew that he knew what they were up against. They could devise a plan, a strategy, they could survive. He could protect. They could protect each other.
A sound behind him caught his attention even though it had been fully directed at the schematics on his monitor and nothing else, the sound was of someone trying to approach without making a sound, the irony was if you tried too hard to be quiet you made far more noise than if you hadn't have bothered. Soon enough he had determined the identity of the person in question, his finely tuned ears detecting their individual stride and weight distribution as they walked. Even and spaced, perfect steps, confident and his finely tuned nose detected the hint of apricots and cherry blossom...Diana.
"Princess." He stated in a monotone because for now it was imperative that he was the Batman and not Bruce Wayne whom they found to be more approachable than he approved of.
She paused in her stride now knowing that he had been aware of her presence and wondering how he had known without even turning who it was, she could have been any of the others that were staying here and it wasn't the first time she wondered if he did have acute senses...like that of a real Bat.
"I thought I would find you down here." A pause as she walked closer and stopped by the table somewhere to the side that was adorned with various gadgets and devices all laid out neatly and organised, ready to be selected and packed into a utility belt "What are you working on?"
His silence didn't unnerve or agitate her anymore, she had become used to one sided conversations and as she had learned to do, she simply let the question disappear. Idly though she picked up one of the odd looking instruments from the table and examined it with clear blue eyes until eventually deciding that she had no idea what it was and returned it to the table. During the action she had turned her attention to Bruce who was sitting stock still with no sign of movement except for his hands, for the moment Diana took the time to watch him. Her eyes looked along the determined set of his jaw, the furrow of his brow as he analysed the information before him and although she could clearly see his face with the cowl removed, his demeanour was everything of Batman. There was hostility there, an unapproachable aura that she wasn't sure she could breach no matter how much strength she applied, there was simply a corner of Bruce that no one would ever be able to reveal unless he chose to do so and she was certain that he would never do that.
Diana acknowledged to herself that she was spending more and more time here, ever since the invasion and the new Registration Act she had stayed here as often as possible despite her secret identity and the apartment that she could call her own. A part of her enjoyed it here, felt safe and at home here, she wondered if it was him but tried to shrug it off. These thoughts and emotions she didn't understand and she found them confusing and conflicting. When along these thoughts she found herself thinking of John and Shayera, of how connected they were regardless of the trials they had both been through and even though Diana harboured her own hostility towards Shayera, she found herself envying her. Only slightly, just enough that she wondered what it felt like to have a permanent companion, someone that understood you and could comfort you, Diana wanted that too. Their lives had been full of turbulence, rife with loss and hurt, of betrayal and hard decisions, so many trials so many realisations and changes that sometimes she found it hard to cope with. In part it disgusted her how emotionally fragile she had become, she was an Amazon, a warrior, and yet just like Shayera, John, maybe even J'onn, she wanted someone to comfort her and someone to comfort and protect in return.
Shaking the thoughts out of her mind, Diana turned her eyes towards the large monitor.
"Can I help with anything?"
For a few moments of silence Diana decided just to leave and let him get on with his work, but at last he returned a reply.
"I'm leaving for patrol." He stood and she watched him pull the cowl up and over his face, fully Batman now. "I won't be back until late tonight so don't stay up."
More often than not most of them were awake until the early hours, Shayera didn't sleep well and Diana herself had difficulty maintaining a peaceful sleep and for tonight they were the only others in the mansion aside from Alfred.
"You don't know when you will be back?"
He shook his head and made for the Batmobile, smaller, more discreet now.
"No. If you can't sleep," He turned to her and fixed his gaze on her "Go and talk to Shayera...she could use the company until John gets back."
Before she could reply or argue, the engine started and soon Batman was gone, driving off into the night and filling the cave with the smoky, charred scent of burning fuel. Diana sighed and folded her arms, even though she had had a conversation with Shayera over the events of the invasion there was still considerable animosity. Diana was still sore over their second betrayal whether it was in fact intentional or not and Shayera was still dealing with the consequences of her actions including the death of Hro Talak by her hand.
Deciding however that they couldn't afford the conflict within their small unit, the Princess decided to swallow her pride for the time being and seek out the former Hawkgirl and see if they could build a little more on their strained relationship. She wasn't sure how long her pride would remain swallowed but she decided that it was a chance she was willing to take.
All the while though in the back of her mind a part of her worried, anxious that Bruce might not make it back even if she had every faith that he would as she made a quick mental prayer to Hera.
To be Continued