by M. Scott Eiland

"Oh, come on, Big Guy--once more. You know you want to." The Flash's voice--slurred slightly by the substantial quantity of alcohol he had consumed--echoed through the lounge of the Watchtower.

Superman rolled his eyes. "I'm sure no one else wants to see this. Right, everyone?"

Batman shrugged. "I'd be for you singing the national anthem in a tutu if it'll keep him quiet." He gave the Flash an irritated look before returning to checking the palm computer he was holding for weather reports.

"Just watch where you're aiming it." J'onn commented, moving away from Superman slightly and glancing out the window.

"It does make me a little nostalgic for my time in the Corps," admitted Green Lantern, who was holding a cold beer and watching the Flash in amusement. "Of course, it always seemed more painful when one of my buddies did something like that."

Superman knew he wouldn't be getting any help from Hawkgirl, who was in a corner singing a Thanagarian drinking song that had J'onn backing off two steps when he read her mind for the translation. He sighed and picked up the bottle of Everclear from the table and took a good swig of it, holding it in his mouth. After a pause, he spit the alcohol out and nearly simultaneously ignited the stream with a burst from his heat vision.

FWOOOOSH!!! A burst of flame jetted from Superman's mouth and extended ten feet across the room, scorching the duraplastic window. The Flash cheered, and Superman sighed once the flaming booze had dissipated. The Flash looked at the others placidly taking in the spectacle, and he called out, "That was great! Do it again!"

"No more!" Superman was surprised when Hawkgirl snatched the Everclear from his hand and carried it off to her corner, muttering "Waste of good alcohol."

The Flash looked disappointed, and Superman sighed in relief. I'm glad Diana wasn't here to see that--not my most dignified moment He looked around, then asked, "Hey, where's Diana? Did she have to leave for some reason?"

Batman frowned. He had been caught up with keeping track of news reports following their takedown of Vandal Savage's plan to steal the dwarf star fragment from Ray Palmer, and hadn't noticed Diana leaving the room. "She didn't say anything, and she hasn't left the Watchtower. Perhaps she needed something in her quarters."

J'onn blinked, then reached out with his mind. The mood in the room was mostly cheerful in the aftermath of Superman's return and the defeat of Vandal Savage--although "cheerful" was a relative state of mind for Batman--but J'onn could sense other emotions coming from the direction of Diana's quarters: the dominant one was shame. The Martian turned to Batman and said quietly, "Perhaps I should go--I sense that it might be helpful."

Batman frowned: he knew that J'onn was aware of certain emotions that had come into play between Diana and himself, and that he wouldn't interfere unless there was a good reason. He nodded and looked back down at the palm computer--the blank expression on his face masking the concern that J'onn's telepathy revealed to him without effort.

J'onn nodded and floated off through the far wall. Superman frowned and asked, "Does anyone know why Diana might be avoiding us enough for J'onn to have to go after her?"

"Maybe she's just tired--she's been really pissed off for most of the time since we thought we lost you," the Flash replied, visibly trying to sound serious in spite of the effect of the alcohol. "You should have seen her just after it happened--"

Superman's eyes narrowed in concern, and he looked in the direction of Diana's quarters with a thoughtful expression on his face.


Diana had showered, and was sitting on her bed in a simple blue bathrobe, trying to compose herself sufficiently to dress and get back to the party. He'll be concerned if he realizes I'm not there, and if he's concerned he'll start asking questions. . .and I don't want that, do I?

A soft knock came from the door. "Diana--it's J'onn: may I come in?"

Diana sighed. If it had been the Flash, she wouldn't have hesitated to tell him to go away--the boy was too used to being slapped down to take any lasting offense at it. Batman certainly understood the meaning of a closed door. John would have simply invited her to rejoin the party and left without pressing the matter. Superman. . . well, best not to think about what I'd say if it had been Superman But the Martian could tell how she was feeling without even trying to--meaning that an excuse or a lie was worse than useless, and a closed door was unlikely to discourage him if he was concerned enough to come after her. She sighed and called out, "Come in, J'onn."

The door opened, and J'onn floated in, taking in Diana's appearance without reaction. He stopped about five feet in front of her and stated simply: "Superman noticed that you hadn't joined us, and I was. . .disturbed at the emotions I sensed from you. Are you all right?"

Diana blinked, and forced down the impulse to tell a pointless lie: "No, I'm not. I'm ashamed of the way I behaved after--after it happened, and I'm not sure I can stand to face him."

"Diana--you just spent the better part of a day helping him and the rest of us thwart Vandal Savage," J'onn pointed out, watching her face closely as he continued to monitor her emotional state. "I seem to recall an instance where you and he were both beating a large robot into very small pieces. I heard you two laughing about it."

Diana smiled and nodded. "I will always be proud and happy to fight at his side--but this is different. We're welcoming him home--and I feel as if I betrayed his memory from the moment he left us. I'm not sure I want to be standing next to him in a social setting, with him knowing of my misbehavior."

J'onn probed ever so slightly--the emotions were genuine, but he was having a hard time getting a sense of their source. "Diana--perhaps it is the cultural differences between us, but I am not certain what is troubling you, and I would not read your deeper thoughts without your consent. Would you care to elaborate about what is troubling you?"

Diana sighed and looked at her friend with a sad expression. "J'onn-- Superman has more respect for life than any being I've ever encountered. His example has inspired millions, and I know his thinking has had a major impact on us as a group. So what do I do when I think he's been killed? I grab his killer and come within an eyelash of crushing his head like a grape--I had to be stopped before I did it. What would he have thought of that?"

J'onn smiled softly at her. "If I recall correctly, it was the realization of what he would have thought that stopped you. Cultural differences or not, that strikes me as a compliment."

Diana shook her head. "The Flash had to tell me to stop--if he hadn't been there, I would have killed that day. And probably again a few days later, if Lobo had been a little less invulnerable."

J'onn snorted in a reasonable approximation of the human reaction. "If he had been less invulnerable, you would have had to wait in line to kill him. Personally, I suspect Hawkgirl would have beaten you to it--if she beat me there." Diana laughed involuntarily, and J'onn smiled and said quietly, "Diana--ideals are a good thing, but I should remind you that every member of the League has killed in the past. The alien invasion that brought us together-- the trip to the past when we faced Vandal Savage and the Nazis: there is blood on all of our hands that is not of our choosing, but for which we must acknowledge responsibility."

"I know--and I accept the responsibility without apologies or regrets, J'onn." J'onn felt a surge of grim pride from the Themysciran princess, but the shame returned as Diana added, "This would have been different, J'onn--Toyman would have been a summary execution of a helpless opponent, and Lobo would have been killing a non-hostile entity--as loathsome of an individual as he is--just because I was angry at him. That's just wrong, J'onn--and I can't justify it to myself. I don't have the words for when he asks me, `How could you do that, Diana?'"

J'onn was silent for a moment before asking softly, "Are you glad that you didn't kill Toyman and Lobo?" Diana nodded, and J'onn pressed, "Would you still be glad you didn't even if Superman wasn't here?"

Diana thought for several seconds about that question before looking down and whispering, "Yes--though probably less glad."

"In that case, I would suggest that you absorb it as a life lesson, but not let it trouble you enough to interfere with your life, Diana." Diana opened her mouth to protest what she perceived as a dismissal of her concerns, only to stop as J'onn's expression twisted in guilt and he said quietly, "We all stumble, Diana. You are aware of instances in our group's past where I have not acted in an admirable or helpful manner." Diana closed her eyes, remembering J'onn's attempt to resign from the League after Morgaine Le Fay had clouded his mind and caused him to betray his teammates. She smiled apologetically at J'onn, who nodded to acknowledge her sentiments and said simply, "I benefited greatly from your willingness to grant me forgiveness for my transgressions on those occasions--please let us do the same for you. I am certain that Superman will not condemn your momentary lapses as greatly as you seem to think he will--if he does at all."

Diana shivered, then looked at J'onn and replied quietly, "You're right--I can't let this interfere with our work here." She stood up and walked over to J'onn, hugging him gently before saying, "Thank you for helping me think this through. Please tell the others I will be there in a few minutes."

J'onn nodded, then faded and slipped through the floor. Diana watched him go, then headed for the bathroom.


Diana checked the display board. All was quiet--between the recent mass-roundup of super villains and the recent recapture of Vandal Savage, a lot of high-level threats had been put out of commission for the time being. Monitoring duty, as a result, was slow--but it had to be done. Diana sighed and pondered new training drills for the next week.


Diana turned and saw Superman standing there, and her smile was genuine. She had come back to the party and received a lot of friendly attention from those sober enough to register her presence-- the Flash had been with Hawkgirl, trying to learn a song in a language that no one else in the room would admit to understanding-- and Superman had not brought up the issue of the League's activities in his absence: he had asked her about her encounter with Vandal Savage earlier that year and tried to get her sense of the man's personality. Diana had a feeling that Superman's time in the future with the immortal mad genius had marked him deeply, but she wasn't about to press him on it. "Hi yourself--keeping busy?"

"Just catching up on stuff that piled up while I was gone." Superman replied, walking around her chair and leaning on the railing as he added, "You know how it is--if you don't deal with it, the unfinished business just piles up and causes problems later."

Diana nodded, and she was reaching for a control switch when Superman's next words caused her to freeze:

"You don't owe me any explanations or apologies, Diana. You need to understand that."

Diana turned, and for a moment she was genuinely angry: "Doing a bit of eavesdropping?"

"I never heard a word you two said." Diana was confused by Superman's comment, and was taken aback at the small smile he gave her as he added, "I'm a very good lip-reader, though. I could have come up there, but J`onn was doing a heck of a job--I didn`t want to step on his toes."

Diana glared at him, but listened as Superman continued, "After J'onn went up to see you, the Flash mentioned what had gone on in my absence, and I decided I should know what you were upset about." Diana looked away--ashamed again--and heard Superman say, "I haven't filed my report yet about my trip to the future, but there is a lot for me to sort out. One of the things is that if Vandal Savage wasn't unkillable, I would have squashed his head with a very big rock ten seconds after he admitted he had murdered all of you and destroyed the world."

Diana turned back to him and stared at him in disbelief, and Superman nodded solemnly as he said quietly, "I'm not proud of it, but it's true. If I thought I could have killed him, I would have tried. It's a little sobering to realize that succeeding would have trapped me there and doomed the world." He sighed and shook his head in annoyance before adding, "Diana, we've seen evidence that if we make the wrong moral choices, it can really screw up the world. Knowing that means that it's really important that we be honest with ourselves and admit that we're capable of stepping over those lines. The important thing is that we do stop before we cross them--not that we're tempted to cross them. You let words stop you from killing Toyman--the Flash couldn't have stopped you. You were willing to stop. When it came right down to it, you passed the test more easily than I did with Savage." Superman walked up to Diana and put his hand gently on her shoulder as he concluded, "And I will always be proud and happy to fight at your side, Diana--our occasional lapses be damned."

"Even if I really enjoyed beating Lobo up?" Diana asked, feeling a lot better and inclined to tease Superman slightly.

"If I had been there, none of you would have laid a glove on him-- that's my privilege." Superman smirked, and Diana chuckled as the Kryptonian added, "The day that slimy bounty hunter joins the League will be over my dead body."

"May Hera save us from such a fate," murmured Diana, smiling at her friend and standing up. They stood quietly, looking down at a quiet Earth and enjoying the lull in their all-too busy lives.


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