Author's Notes:

So, I was working on my giant romance fantasy, "Love in Shades of Green and Grey," and I got raked over the coals by one lady who was offended by the idea of The Friend Zone and by one man's effort to climb out of it. She found the idea of the Friend Zone gross, and young man trying to climb out of it to be an asshat. She had worse things to say about characters who tried to be a friend to him in his time of need as well.

She was right about a lot of things, and had a magnificent turn of phrase. I was so taken with it that I wrote this vignette around it. I've even named it for her.

The fact of the matter is that the Friend Zone exists, thought it is called many things. Men with with any life experience at all have been parked there at least once. It's also a fact that once a women decide she "likes you as a friend," she's not ever going to date you. And any deeper affections you've got for her are going to be unrequited.

My other story is a fantasy and my hero is eventually going to claw his way out of it, but Hotaru is right. In real life, conspiring to help a friend out of the Friend Zone is duplicitous by most women, and will cost you friendships. But there is a way out of the Friend Zone that puts control of the relationship entirely in the hands of the guy. But only if he's man enough to walk that road.

So with that said, for your reading pleasure, I now present: Endgame for Hotaru.

P. S. Hotaru – You have a fine turn of phrase. Do you have any stories posted here I could go read?

"Congratulations again on your appointment," said Robin.

"Apparently Flash isn't able to provide enough comic relief on the Watchtower."

"You never take anything seriously, do you Garfield?"

The shape-shifter's grin faded.

"Just one thing," he thought.

The walls were still blue and white. The sigils and runes Cyborg had inlaid with the force-fields and other protective gear. He ran green fingers over the cold blue and white figures. He'd been standing here when he'd given her his lucky penny. He sighed quietly and left the room. The heavy door closed with a mere hiss. Then the lights went out.

In the garage, Cyborg wiped the grease from his hands, then gripped wrists with his friend as they gave each other half-hugs.

"Gonna be mighty quiet around here without you, man."

"Nah, Kid Flash's sense of humor is almost as good as mine. And maybe he'll give you a challenge at video games."

"Here," Cyborg said. "I got you a present."

"That's my comset."

"Yeah," Cyborg replied. "I modded the antenna array. It will work from the Watchtower. You can stay in touch."

Garfield's smile dimmed, ever so slightly, as he accepted the round audio/video transceiver.

"Thanks, Dude," he said.

"Congratulations again, man. The Justice League. Downtown. The Major Leagues. It's a great opportunity."


"You say the invitation came as a complete surprise, huh? "

Garfield's eyes twitched up and to the right, then he said, "Yeah."

"And you'd never lie to me."

"Okay. So maybe I filed an application, just to see what would happen."

"And didn't tell any of us."

"Hey, I . . ."

"It's okay man. I get it."

The room was a pink and magenta nightmare, but in a soft and frilly kind of way. A silent tear ran down Starfire's left cheek. "This – this is not right. I do not want you to go."

Garfield smiled gently. "I can't be here anymore. Thank you for everything. You've been a wonderful friend to me through all the good time and the bad." He kissed her on the cheek.

He stopped by his room. It was already empty. The movie posters and toys had been gone a long time ago, as had the bunk bed. Instead there had been, for a while, book shelves, and a queen-sized bed. In all the years, she'd never come in here. Not even after he'd made all the changes. There had been a display of travel souvenirs. Gifts from grateful citizens. His key to the City. The medal the UN had given him over that business with the Brotherhood of Evil. She'd never seen any of it, and it was all gone now, anyway. The room held nothing but empty furniture and full memories, waiting for Kid Flash to move in and give it purpose again next week. He stepped over to the dresser and took the comset Cy had given him out of his pocket. He looked at it a moment, weighing it in his hand. Then he placed it on the dresser, turned, and closed the door. The lights went out.

He stepped past their shared bathroom. Then her door. He didn't stop. The name plate stood out in quiet relief in the dim lighting: Raven.

He stopped by the common room, remembering Movie Nights. He smiled. She sure could haunt a house when she put her mind to it. He crossed the room, passing by the griddle, now cold. Burnt and raw pancake batter. How did she do that?

He crossed the rest of the room and took the stairs to the roof, closing the door behind him. The lights went out. He opened the door and then suddenly halted, closing his eyes in momentary pain. He hadn't expected her to be there. Even now, he couldn't imagine what she could possibly want.

She stood there, waiting. Her hood was down, exposing her expressionless face. The wind on the rooftop blew her cloak away from her slender body.

"So that's it then? You were just going to leave without saying anything?"

"There's nothing left to say," he replied. "A woman's friendship is not a consolation prize, and if you're not okay with just being friends after she has explained that she feels nothing for you romantically, then you weren't her friend to begin with. Period. But a friend was never what I wanted to be."

"You said you were my friend," she said.

He placed his hand gently on her cheek.

"I thought I could be. Now we both know that I can't. Be happy. Be healthy. Long life."

He took his hand from her face and let her silken hair flow through his fingers once, and once only. Then he turned his back, took the form of an eagle, and leaped from the roof. She watched him as he circled the building twice, gaining altitude and then flew off toward the east, toward Metropolis and Gotham City. She stood there for a while, watching until he became a tiny green dot in the eastern sky.