Advocacy: Part One – Troubled Waters
The following morning, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.
Nothing but the sound of the roaring ocean could be heard, the water thrumming and washing against the sandy bay of a small lonely island, empty of inhabitants save for a few scarce birds and insects. The weather warm and content, the breeze gentle and calm, better conditions could not be asked for. Amongst this sandy bay a pair of booted feet landed, the tiny granules of the sand allowing the owner of the feet to sink slightly as a second pair landed no more than a metre away.
"Pretty nice, huh?" John's voice rumbled in contrast to the ocean as he took a deep, laborious breath of the salty air, an atmosphere of pride about him. Perhaps he was proud of discovering this little place or perhaps it was his pride in being able to succeed in changing Bruce's mind.
"I've got to hand it to you Lantern..." Shayera replied, her head doing an about turn as she checked the place out with her green eyes, the orbs landing on the horizon where the sun was beginning its ascent into the sky "This is beautiful."
When she smiled at him he grinned. He wanted to point out that there were more visually spectacular places but she hadn't been allowed any further than Wayne Manor for far too long. Gently he rested the palm of his hand against her lower back, pressing softly and enough to imbue her with reassurance before he motioned away.
"I better get in touch with Bruce and let him know we got here alright."
She nodded her head apparently content to allow him to make his errand. The sand sunk beneath his steps as he paced further along the island bay, pulling out a communicator device from his jacket as he went. They'd left in civilian attire, of course anyone who caught a glimpse of Shayera's wings would know exactly who she was but he saw little point in them taking a reprieve in their uniforms, better to be comfortable.
"...We made it. No complications." John transmitted the message on an encrypted signal. If on an off chance someone detected the message, they were protected.
"Message received." Was the tone that John had relayed back to him, followed by a reserved yet sincere "Be careful."
John tucked the device away back into his jacket, his fingers coming into contact with a square, velvety object that jostled his nerves and sent his pulse into a clamour. After a moment he calmed himself and made to return to Shayera who was still watching the sun rise, he came to stand next her, sliding an arm around her waist while taking her hand loosely in his.
"Bruce alright?" She queried, a slight caution in her tone because she wasn't entirely sure how John had managed to win Bruce over on this, especially after the excitement of the day prior.
"He's fine," John answered swiftly as he nuzzled her cheek and made her laugh, a sound he didn't hear often enough these days, and a sound he loved. She had a musical laugh, a little like the twitter of a bird if she was amused in the right way, sometimes even her wings would shiver in her mirth as well. "I sense an unasked question."
Shayera smirked before leaning into him a little "How exactly did you manage to pull this off? Not that I'm not appreciative of it of course."
He only smiled warmly, tapping the side of his nose teasingly "My little secret." He grinned again as she raised an eyebrow before looking back to the horizon. Truth be told it hadn't been as hard as he had expected, of course at first Bruce had been absolutely adamant that they weren't to 'gallivant off on an island get away,' but after his announcement his mind had been easier to change. They were going to break into Mercy Corporations, they didn't know how well it would go and they didn't know if they'd make it back in one piece, as far as John was concerned that was justification enough for he and Shayera to spend some time away, even if it was just a day. Besides, he had something important he needed to do.
For the next ten minutes they simply watched the rising of the sun as it breached the horizon and shimmered in the ocean, they didn't speak nor move much aside from gentle touches every so often, a brush of fingers and wings. At last the new day was finally born and Shayera let out a heartfelt sigh at the view, the warm sunlight bathing her skin and giving her a small boost.
"Thank-you for this John."
His response was to hold her close to his form, supporting her and attempting to imbue her with his love and care.
"Hey...we both know how much you hate being cooped up."
"I know." She agreed softly.
He waited a moment expectantly before he pressed on "You know you can talk to me."
"I know." She repeated "Just...not yet."
He inclined his head and nodded before he took her hand a little more firmly and began to lead her about the island. In his other hand was a picnic basket of fair size, packed full of food and drink and other items that Alfred had helped John with, something the Lantern was deeply appreciative of. They walked together for a long time and he wondered to himself about the things they had been through together and of the darkness that marred both of their lives as well as the lives of the others. For over a year the six of them had been lost in grief and bound to a life that saw them behave as if above all others, had seen themselves become something they detested because of the loss of their close friend. Shayera seemed to sense John's unease as he walked with her for she reached out with a wing and brushed the length of his back.
"Something on your mind?" She asked, inviting him to speak as he had her not five minutes ago.
"You could say that." He confessed but he didn't really want to talk about it, he wanted to just enjoy this time with her as much as possible.
Shayera though seemed to have other plans as she halted their pace and stubbornly would move no further. "What is it?"
"It's not important." He admonished trying to get her to forget about it and continue walking with him but she wouldn't budge.
"You want me to speak to you, but you won't speak to me." She seemed hurt by the notion even though it was everything he hadn't wanted to do.
"Shayera..." He sighed defeated "You have enough to deal with without my worries as well."
She huffed then and pulled on his arm, forcing him to do an about turn and face her where she looked up angrily into his eyes.
"Have you learned nothing?" She questioned him hotly "Do not keep trying to protect me by keeping me ignorant, don't insult my intelligence."
"Shayera, that's not what I..."
"Shut up." She ordered him before glaring at him "Tell me what it is or so help me I'll knock you into next week."
He stared at her and despite himself the corner of his mouth twitched into a smile. "There you are." He said softly, another little whisper of pride in his eyes.
She stumbled "What?"
In response to her question he traced her fair jaw with his finger tips, twisting a curly lock of her short hair around his finger before letting it spring back to its usual position. "That spunky woman I fell in love with, she's still right here."
Shayera blinked once or twice before she smiled, covering his hand with her own as she leaned into his touch. "Of course I'm still here, I just..." She hesitated a little "It's just...hard sometimes."
"I know." John echoed her previous mantra before kissing the tip of her nose.
She still hadn't forgotten how this had begun however and pressed him again for answers. "Talk to me."
"I will but, let's just keep walking for a while."
Agreeing she allowed them to continue their steady walk and neither spoke for a long while, both enjoying the company of the other in a way that they hadn't been able to for some time. Eventually though, John broke the silence.
"We don't deserve this."
Shayera looked to him in the morning light, a shimmer from the water alighting over his features.
"What do you mean?"
"Look at what we did." He said softly. True he had come to terms with a lot of it thanks to talking it out with Tomar Re and visiting Wally but it still deeply bothered him. "We became something so terrible. Shayera...is it fair for us to want to live out our lives happily?"
Shayera stopped him again like she had before and noticed that he jolted slightly, his still injured leg quaking under the exercise he was putting it through. It reminded her of Hro and of her own burdens, making her feel a sorrow for everything their lives had been in recent years. Without warning she marched up the sandy bay toward the cover of the trees, tugging John along with her as she sought out the shade. Once they reached it she pointed to the ground with a talon like finger.
Without question he obeyed, groaning slightly in relief as he took his weight off of his leg. For long periods of time it didn't seem to bother him but on occasion it would flare up and give him aggravation. He knew it would be a stubborn injury that would take a great deal of time to heal fully, if of course it ever did. Once he was sat and reasonably comfortable, Shayera sat down beside him removing the basket from his grip and moving it aside so that she had space to work. Beside his leg she pressed her hands to his injured knee, kneading the muscles and damaged tissue with her fingers gently in order to alleviate the pain. John didn't take painkillers if he could help it so she imagined he was likely in a lot more pain than he let on. It was a while before she spoke.
"John...I don't know if we have a right to be happy, I don't know if we deserve it." She concentrated further on her work deciding not to look into his eyes for the time being "But...we have a right to try and correct our mistakes, to change ourselves for the better."
He had to confess that such things from her sounded strange, her culture as far as he was aware didn't believe in such chances of redemption and he asked her how her mind upon this had been changed.
"I read a lot." She admitted "It helps in a lot of ways."
John nodded "Shayera, I'm so sorry."
She looked to him "John, all of us became Lords...it wasn't your fault."
"No I mean..." He stared at her and took one of her hands in his "I could have requested a transfer but I didn't...I could have taken you away from here and you wouldn't have to hide all of the time."
She didn't respond at first, just sat beside him until she leaned forward and kissed his temple "That's sweet." She confessed softly "But...John, they're our family, we can't leave them. Not now."
"I know. That's why I didn't accept the transfer."
Shayera smiled warmly "How's your knee?"
"Better...thanks." He settled down against the tree apparently comfortable with remaining there "I didn't mean to bring the mood down."
Shayera shook her head before settling against him "You didn't, you're only saying what I'm thinking. I can't help but think we should be punished for the things we did and that we should just hand ourselves over like they keep demanding of us."
"What will it achieve Shayera? Besides...Bruce told me that he has some concerns over Mercy, he thinks there's something else going on. If there is and we're locked up, the world can't fight back and it's still our job to protect them...just..."
"...Differently than before." Shayera finished for him.
"Yeah," He agreed easily with a sigh "Without all of the anger and fear."
Shayera nodded solemnly before huddling closer to him "I still keep thinking about what I did to Hro." She admitted quietly "I can't help but feel afraid that if I lose my temper I'll hurt someone else just as badly."
"You won't, I know you won't."
Wayne Manor the same morning
The computer keys clicked as they often did, the clatter and chatter of them resonating throughout the entire cave. Lord Batman sat there like he often did and processed the information that Alfred had relayed to him, this notion of Cadmus.
Cadmus was in fact a prince, a prince who slayed a dragon and sowed its teeth into the ground bringing a harvest of armed men who fought until only five remained. It was with these five men that the country of Thebes was founded. Bruce found it an interesting tale and expected in his keen mind that the choice of name undoubtedly bore significance. Thus far however his research had proven fruitless except to discover that a particular branch of the acting government had been segregated and given the project title of Cadmus. There was no information on who was a part of this project, nor was there information on when or why it was founded. There was no information trail and no connection to acting politicians or corporations. Even Lex Luthor didn't have a tie to it throughout his short Presidency. That alone roused Bruce's suspicions.
Sitting back in his seat Bruce grew irritated. It wasn't often he was met with something that defied his knowledge and it bothered him in many ways, particularly when he wondered what Cadmus' plans may be and whether or not it would be a threat to them or indeed the populace at large. Deciding that he could accomplish nothing further, he got to his feet, tucking a communicator into his pocket as he did so. John had already called earlier to say everything was well but Bruce was anxious of their little trip and wanted to be ready in case they should need assistance. He also wondered as he climbed the steps out of the cave how John was getting on with his plans and wondered if they would have something to celebrate when the couple returned home. With that in mind he allowed himself a tiny discreet smile, it was nice to see a glimmer of hope in a world that had become so dark but it was not a hope he could truly invest himself within...not at the moment.
Exiting the Grandfather clock, Bruce was met with a surprise.
"I wish to talk."
Diana stood before him apparently having been on the way to descend into the cave herself and speak with him.
Bruce merely raised an eyebrow at her but remained quiet, invitation enough for her to speak.
"I still do not condone your plan to gain information from Mercy Corporations," She paused and levelled her gaze determinedly on him "But my support will be given should aid be needed."
He nodded "Good." And continued walking past her.
"I'm not finished." The Princess intoned sharply behind him, her attitude towards him cold and hard, something she had learned from him no doubt.
"What is it, Diana?" He asked her pointedly.
"Why did you lie to us?"
"It wasn't important that you knew where or what I was doing. I didn't need help."
"It's not about help!" She blustered suddenly "Don't you understand? It's about trust Bruce, we're a family and trust is important especially now."
He looked to her with a level gaze, eyes meeting her blue ones as he stood fused to the spot. A part of him wanted to consol her, tell her that they were a family and needed to protect one another, but the other part of him, the darker part, the single minded part that was as ever focused on the task at hand said something entirely different.
"I don't trust anybody." He saw it in her eyes, saw that he had hurt her, but he swallowed it down. They had a task before them and he needed to be focused on it completely, not dealing with Diana and her concerns and issues. He was still Lord Batman after all and Batman didn't need her even if Bruce Wayne might.
Diana watched him leave and cursed him under her breath. How could he say such a thing? She thought of what Shayera had said about him and of her own observations of the Dark Knight. She knew then what had happened, that Bruce Wayne had left just as soon as his plan had been announced. Perhaps afterward he would come back. She could only hope.
The remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean was not lost within its usual quiet. Today its guests were making a lot more noise than its local inhabitants were accustomed to. After their solemn talk earlier the two of them had played in the sand and frolicked in the ocean, laughing and enjoying each other's company in high spirits.
John led the winged woman out of the water, his hand tightly grasping hers as they stumbled out of the watery depths with giggles and laughter filling the air with mirth. An abandoned sand castle that had been made earlier by the Green Lantern was squashed as the two of them landed in a pile of limbs and wings, clumsy kisses being shared between them and separated only with smiles and more laughter. There was a moment when the two met each other's gaze, a comfortable silence spreading between them as they held each other and let themselves bask in the love they felt flowing deeply between their hearts.
Shayera smiled at him and kissed him passionately, her arms snaking around his neck as her wet wings fluttered and shook off excess water from the ocean. They had talked more of their life and situation, divulging worries and vulnerabilities to each other until they finally felt a sense of peace and calm, that even though their lives had been turbulent they would see each other through it, together. It had been a long time since the two of them had been in complete sync with one another, such a thing having been derailed since their fall from grace.
She nipped his lip playfully and grinned at him as he raised an eyebrow, but just as she was about to kiss him again, he stopped her.
"Are you...?" He glanced at her with a look she recognised.
She shook her head. He'd been about to ask whether or not she was in season, her body dealing with periods of fertility differently to humans. Thanagarians didn't experience a menstrual cycle. Instead she went through a period of higher fertility in which her body became ripe and prepared for conception. In the shorter Thanagarian year she went through this seasonal month twice, in Earth's longer year though she experienced it only once and that time had passed while he had been away on Oa. Ever since their relationship had first been kindled they had agreed that they would be careful and would not bring a child into the world, not the world as it was and not with their lives as they were. Of course Shayera had her own reasons as well to agree to this with her engagement to Hro and undercover mission but even now with their reign as Lords over, neither was keen to raise a child. Their lives were still too unpredictable and not the place for a child.
"It passed while you were away." She said, her eyes betraying her desire for him even as she spoke and she trailed her hands over his bare chest as he lay beneath her in nothing but his beach shorts.
He nodded his head "You're sure?...we don't want to..." But she cut him off apparently having decided that she would wait no longer.
It saddened him in some ways that they could not raise a family but he knew that there would be time for it. One day they could make the family they dreamed of, but not yet. John in the mean time gladly reciprocated her kisses, feeling her wings shiver as he ran a hand up the length of her back, an area loaded with an expanse of nerves and sensitive tissue thanks to the extensive neural network that extended throughout her wings.
Whispers and words of comfort and reassurance were shared between them as they let go of whatever resistance they had left, finally succumbing to each other and losing themselves in their love for one another.
It was sometime later when Shayera dosed against him, a blanket from the picnic basket covering her that John thought again about the family they wanted to raise. He pondered on their talk earlier and of their want to be happy together despite their past crimes. Deep in thought he reached towards his jacket where he had discarded it earlier and pried a velvet box from the inside pocket. Checking to ensure that his lover was asleep he flipped it open with his thumb and peeked at the contents. Inside on a small cushion was a simple yet elegant single diamond ring and two matching stud earrings. John had wanted to propose to her and knowing the importance of earrings in her culture had wanted to honour them in some way in his proposal. He looked to the contents now wondering if he could pop the question and wondering how she might respond but in John's heart he decided that it wasn't the right time, not yet.
It didn't matter that Bruce had helped him afford the ring, it didn't matter that they were invading Mercy Corp with no knowledge if they'd make it out...all that mattered was that he felt that they weren't quite ready yet and that he trusted his heart to know when they were.
Shayera mumbled softly and sighed, curling up against John's body as she continued to sleep. John tucked the box back into his jacket and wrapped Shayera up in his arms, feeling her soft and cooler skin against his warmer flesh.
In a moment of contentment when everything seemed more perfect than he could remember, John smiled knowing that in time, another perfect moment would be found.
To be Continued