Summary: A post-"Wild Cards" story. Perhaps the ending wasn't real. Maybe it was all in John's mind.
A man. A woman.
His hands rising slowly. Her fingers wrapping around his wrist.
Him pausing. Her acquiescing.
Him sliding the barrier up and away. Her tousled auburn hair falling across her stunningly green eyes.
His lips meeting hers. Her arms wrapping around him.
His breathlessness. Her pulling away.
"Don't leave me." "Sleep now."
"Shy..." Him reaching for her retreating form. "Rest." Her replacing the mask.
The Green Lantern's head rotated on the pillow, his eyes squeezed shut in sleep. He groaned, exhaling what sounded like a word. Again, his head twisted.
"Wait!" he clearly called.
Suddenly, his eyes snapped open.
"Hey, buddy. You're awake!"
The room was as expected: the dimly lit medical bay on the Watch Tower. His companion, however, wasn't anticipated.
Lantern focused on the bright red suit of his teammate. "Flash?" he groaned, finding it surprisingly hard to get his muscles to cooperate. Everything ached.
"How ya feelin'?"
Lantern frowned, but didn't respond.
"Considering you were blown up, you look pretty good," Flash continued.
A gripping disappointment clinched John's heart. "Where's Hawkgirl?"
Flash jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "With Supes and the Bat giving them the low-down on your condition." The speedster plopped himself down on the bed next to Lantern, unnoticing of John's far-off look. "We were plenty worried about you, GL," the young man continued. "When Hawkgirl reported that you were caught in that explosion, well..."
"Have I been unconscious since I got here?" Lantern questioned.
Flash shrugged. "As far as I know. Hawkgirl didn't say you were awake before now."
John's already depressed expression fell. The conversation had been a dream? The heart-stopping sight of Shayera's full face was just a hallucination? The feel of her soft lips yielding under his was nothing more than his mind playing tricks on him in the throes of death?
"You okay, GL?" Flash inquired.
Lantern blinked and refocused on his concerned friend. "I'm fine," he said, rather unconvincingly. "Just a little messed up in the head from all of this."
Flash grinned. "No doubt!"
John forced a smile to his face, his mind combing through his "memories." It seemed so real, felt so real. Yet...it wasn't. He and Shayera moved forward only in his vivid imagination.
"Damn," he exhaled.
Lantern inwardly cringed. If he could forget in a matter of seconds that Flash was next to him, it was certainly plausible that his mind was completely rattled by the explosion.
"Nothing," he responded.
"Okay," Flash shrugged. "Hey, I gotta get going. Monitor duty." He rose to his feet. "Glad you're awake, GL."
John nodded, not paying much attention to the speedster's words. He wanted to see Hawkgirl, because Flash, after all, hadn't been there. Maybe it wasn't a dream. Shayera would let him know for sure. Aching, John sat up in the bed.
"Hey, Flash!" he called.
His friend appeared back at his side in the blink of an eye.
"Find my ring. I'm getting out of here."
Flash raised an eyebrow. "I don't think you..."
"Now!" Lantern ordered, his natural brown eyes boring through Flash as effectively as his eerie, radiation-charged green ones did.
"You never said how you got his heart going again," Batman said from across the table, the irritation in his voice clear.
Hawkgirl frowned at him, the point of her mask serving to deepen the scowl. "You never asked," she countered.
When her three teammates returned from Las Vegas, Hawkgirl fully expected a talking-to over leaving the team high and dry in favor of taking John to the Watch Tower for medical attention. Sure, Batman let her off the hook earlier, but she still anticipated a dressing-down over it. But to be grilled over her life-saving tactics. That struck her completely out of the blue.
"That seems a bit dangerous, Hawkgirl," Superman observed. "I've seen what that mace of yours can do. You could have..."
"I could have what?" she interrupted. "Killed him? He was already dead!"
"I was going to say call the paramedics," Superman finished.
"I didn't have time for that. John was...well, he was going to stay dead if I didn't do something fast."
Superman shook his head. "It's creative," he admitted, "using your mace as a defibrillator."
"And dangerous as hell," Batman commented.
Unable to restrain herself any longer, Hawkgirl leapt to her feet, sending her chair crashing loudly against the wall in the process. "Look," she snarled at the Dark Knight, "I did what I thought was necessary. You have no right to question my methods when the end result is for the good of those involved."
"Your personal feelings often overshadow good sense," Batman said, his hand at the ready on his belt.
Hawkgirl's fingers itched to grab the hilt of her mace and show her accuser exactly what she could do with it. Instead, she ground her teeth together. "Just what the hell do you mean by that?"
"You act on instinct," Batman said calmly. "You jump to action without thinking about the consequences."
"You wanna see me act without thinking?" she threatened.
"Hawkgirl!" Superman barked. "We aren't here for this." He turned to Batman. "Drop the subject."
"I'd certainly like to know why you're getting on her case for saving my life," Lantern said from behind them.
The group's attention simultaneously turned to the doorway where a weakened Green Lantern stood with Flash hovering nearby.
"Lantern!" Hawkgirl snapped. "You shouldn't be out of bed."
Her harsh tone derailed his thought process. He honestly hadn't expected her to run into his arms, but he had anticipated her being happy to see him up and around. He hoped she'd at least call him by his name, not his title. Instead, she nearly took his head off.
Something in his blown-up, electrocuted, once-dead brain told him to just give it up. He'd never actually seen her face and kissed her.
"I'm fine," he returned more severely than he wanted. His eyes, returned to their unnatural glowing state, darted from Hawkgirl to Superman to Batman and back to Hawkgirl. His two male teammates seemed uncomfortable in the presence of their formerly dead counterpart. Only Hawkgirl's eyes showed concern for him.
At the sight of her worry, another something tickled at him and encouraged him to give it a test. Just to be certain. To see how she'd react. Maybe she'd get his hint and respond in kind.
John looked directly at Hawkgirl and said, "Whatever you did last night certainly helped me."
Batman, obviously catching the intonation of his voice, darted his eyes immediately to Hawkgirl as well.
Much to John's disappointment, Hawkgirl's expression didn't change. The scowl remained and her eyes didn't even glimmer with a hint of shared knowledge.
"As I've been saying," she pointed out, looking back to Batman and Superman, "I did what was necessary."
Green Lantern stood on the observation deck, looking out at the stars. It was still hours before his monitor duty. Superman insisted he stay on the Watch Tower and recover under the supervision of his fellow Leaguers. He wasn't allowed to do anything else.
John didn't protest too much because an enforced break with Shayera nearby would allow them the opportunity to discuss the previous night.
Unfortunately, she was called away almost immediately to help with another emergency. The only private words exchanged between him and Shayera was her order for him to rest and him dutifully agreeing.
She'd been gone for over six hours. He spent awhile dozing in the med center, but soon the inactivity made him antsy. Eventually he retreated to the observation deck to stare at the stars and further ponder his feelings for his teammate.
He thought they'd made such progress. Sadly, he awoke to realize it was all a trick of his mind. Once again, he was at square one. He knew he wanted to move forward, but he still didn't know if Shayera wanted the same thing.
"How are you feeling?" Hawkgirl asked from behind him.
Her words startled him. Lost in thought, he hadn't heard her approach. He was certain she saw the jump.
"Still not quite a hundred percent, are you?" she answered for him, coming closer and standing next to him.
He turned toward her, a flash of how she looked without her mask filling his vision. "I've had better days." He blinked and reality returned. "I never did get a chance to thank you for saving my life."
She shrugged. "You're welcome." Looking up at him, she smiled gently. "I'm glad I could."
They stared at one another for a long moment. John felt his throat go dry and he swallowed hard. He told her once that he'd give his life for her, and he'd actually gone through on that promise. If the need arose again, he knew he'd repeat the action.
But maybe he was just fooling himself as far as she was concerned. Perhaps he was nothing more to her than a teammate and close friend. She had, after all, denied knowing what he was talking about when he called her on her odd behavior around him.
Where did he truly stand with her?
Lantern looked down and realized he'd leaned slightly closer to her. She hadn't pulled away.
He knew a true hero would seize the moment. Sweep her up in his arms and bravely declare his love for her. John cleared his throat. Then, he backed up. "Uh...I think I'd better go back to bed."
He turned, intending to sleep off his cowardice in the med center, hoping that a new day would rid him of his confusing thoughts. Her hand caught his forearm, stopping him. John looked down at where she made contact then followed the line of her arm up to her face.
"Diana is on monitor duty and J'onn is on a mission," she said.
John tilted his head, perplexed as to why she would account for the whereabouts of the only other full-time Watch Tower residents aside from herself. He saw Hawkgirl's expression sag and felt her hand slip from his arm.
"You don't remember," she said with a sigh. She turned and started away from him.
John's eyebrows shot up. "Wait!"
He saw her feathers bristle at the order, but she did stop and look back at him.
He lowered his voice before he spoke as though someone else would hear. "It was real?"
She eyed him skeptically for a moment. "It certainly felt real," she finally said.
John smiled and shook his head. "All this time, I thought I'd just imagined it." On her puzzled look, he continued. "You were so...indifferent...toward me."
"Don't want to go around advertising it to everyone, do we?" she retorted.
John's smile grew wider. "No, I suppose we don't." He approached her and took her hands in his. "You're beautiful. I don't think I told you that before, but you are."
Hawkgirl gave him a look of doubt.
He chuckled, deciding to lighten the mood. "Even without the mask you're not too bad."
She removed her hands from his and for a moment he thought he was going to be flattened. Instead, she reached up and slowly lifted the helmet away from her head, revealing herself to him once again.
Her green eyes held her unspoken expectations.
John's breath caught in his throat at the sight of her. He wasn't sure he'd ever get used to the dramatic change between Hawkgirl and Shayera. With the removal of her mask, the unapproachable, battle-hardened hero transformed into a soft, sexy woman. And he wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and claim her as his own.
Before he had a chance to act, Shayera rose up and captured his lips. John grunted when she yanked him closer to her, pressing their bodies tightly together.
Her claiming him would work just as well, he decided, giving himself over to his winged woman.
She pulled her lips back fractionally. "As I was saying..." She kissed him again, this time talking around their actions, "Diana is on monitor duty and J'onn is on a mission."
The ton of bricks hit him squarely in the libido.
"In that case," he murmured, his lips traveling along her jaw then down her neck to rest on her bare shoulder, "I'd like to see more of you." His fingers teased at the line dividing the Spandex of her halter from the top of her right breast.
"I'd like to see all of you," she countered, her empty hand roaming downward over his abs.
His glowing green eyes popped open when her hand made contact with its goal. "Good idea," he groaned, his teeth sinking ever so slightly into her flesh.
Shayera's wings shifted, surrounding them in her feathers. Her right leg raised and hooked on his hip, pressing him exactly where he wanted to go. "A better idea would be going to my room. Right now."
She didn't have to tell him twice. Without much thought, and without breaking any contact with her, John engulfed them in a green field and lifted them an inch from the ground. Entwined, they floated down four levels to her quarters.
John was very late for monitor duty that day.