We Have a Winner
Summary: The battle between Mari and Shayera over John has ended.
Author's Note: Thanks to MerlinMissy for the beta!
NASA technology, though not anywhere near as advanced as anything they had in the League, did provide some small miracles. The space-age foam mattress was one such amazing breakthrough. Shayera marveled at how soft the bed was. Normally, she slept on her stomach or side. Only those times when she'd wake up in the infirmary did she find herself on her back, one wing or the other usually numbed from her having slept on it too long. But this bed was different. She'd been on her back for several hours and she could still feel both wings. It was as close to a Zero-G feeling as Shayera had ever gotten without actually being in space. It was almost as though she was floating.
The bed was also huge. Gigantic, compared to the slim one-person bunk she usually slept on. It was probably twice the size of what humans considered a "double." She barely fit on the bed in John's apartment with him; his shoulders were too broad, her wings too wide. This bed, though, had plenty of room. Earlier, she'd spread her wings out fully, just to see. They drooped over the edge, of course, but not nearly as much as she was used to.
Even the sheets were unlike anything she'd ever felt. Rough, starched, scratchy white military-issue was the norm. She fingered the material covering her body and wondered how she'd lasted so many years without the soft, silky slide of satin against her skin.
She further wondered how she'd managed to go so long without the comforting touch of another person. It had been over four years from the time she left Thanagar and Hro's arms before she'd allowed herself to get close to John. But back then, she was the one avoiding, refusing. Flash was always interested in hanging on her, getting in a cheap feel whenever possible; she'd threaten him with bodily damage. Superman loved to put a supportive hand on everybody's shoulder; she'd shrug him off. Diana made a few awkward overtures in their early days together; she'd calmly explained that she didn't fly that way.
Then John broke through her resistance and she gave in, knowing in the back of her mind that Hro would someday come for her. But she'd deal with that when the time came.
Since the invasion, she still avoided contact. The difference now was that nobody was even offering it. Except, of course, the endless line of people in the gym willing to spar with her. They didn't pull punches.
Not long ago, Diana had extended a hand and helped her from the ground. It was the first time any of her teammates had offered any assistance since her official return to the League. The odd thing was, Diana hadn't let go. It was only a split-second too long, but Shayera felt the other woman's warmth against her palm and she knew the forgiveness Diana had offered earlier was true and heartfelt. Shayera couldn't accept that. She had yanked her hand away and wiped it against her pants, claiming the Amazon was sweaty.
Only a few moments later, Diana had again covered her hand. Shayera had held tight to the golden lasso in her grip as Diana explained how Hades' words didn't matter. She'd concentrated on the pain of the links pressing deeply into her flesh instead of the comfort provided by the touch of another person.
So, it didn't surprise her when she jerked away from Mari's hand on her shoulder last week. Sure, they'd had a laugh-filled talk about John and their respective relationships with him, but she didn't think they'd really become anything close to friends. Mari had seemed a bit miffed that she and John had slept together, yet she had recovered quickly from the news and proposed a challenge. They would see just whom John would choose.
Shayera's green eyes slid to the right and settled for a moment on the dark form of the person sleeping next to her. She returned to staring at the ornate ceiling, knowing the contest was over.
She was surprised at how easy it all had been. First, it was just a couple of missions followed up with coffee in the commissary, going over the reports. Those innocent half-hour meetings eventually expanded to long lunches and dinners where they talked about the League and life in general.
She honestly hadn't expected last night to turn out the way it did. She'd had no intention of speaking to anyone about Hro and the destruction of Thanagar. And she sure as hell didn't want to break down into tears over it in front of another person. But to be pulled into strong arms and be allowed to mourn for her ex-fiancÚ and former home had been exactly what she needed.
It could have ended there.
Should have ended there.
The kiss to the top of her head made her swollen eyes crack open. Fingers stroked through her wings and the familiar feelings made her shiver. Those same fingers rubbed her back, twisted through her hair, stroked her cheek. When she gained enough composure to look up, she was met with a serious, questioning look. If she'd run away or pulled back or just kept her eyes in one place, things would have turned out differently. However, her eyes darted downward, focusing on the very inviting lips before her. She only leaned forward a fraction.
Her heart twisted. A great weight lifted from her soul, only to be replaced by another, different burden. But something deep within her dismissed the conflicting emotions. The need for affection, for love, no matter how temporary it might turn out to be, overwhelmed her. They pulled at their clothing, fumbling with buttons and belts.
When they were finished and the lights were off and both were pretending to sleep, Shayera considered leaving. She'd already left so many things, so many people. Would one more exit matter? Two hours passed with her staring at the ceiling, contemplating the mattress, pondering the sheets, and avoiding thinking about what she had just done. The sun would soon be up, yet she didn't know if she could face the harsh light of day in her current situation.
Gently, cautiously she sat up, keeping the satin sheet draped over her chest in some unnecessary display of modesty.
"You don't have to go," the voice buried in the pillow mumbled.
"Yes, I think I do," Shayera said, feeling an unexpected burning at the back of her eyes. She blinked hard, controlling the tears.
A hand emerged from under the pink sheet and grasped her wrist. Shayera looked down at the hand, then up to the sleepy face peering at her in the darkness. The same serious, questioning gaze stared back at her.
Shayera shook her head and pulled her wrist free. "This was a mistake." She stood up from the bed and gathered her clothes. Once she was dressed and stood at the open door, she said, "I'm sorry."
"I'm not," said Mari.
Shayera winced, then closed the door.