Ashes, Ashes

Fandom: Justice League

Category/Rated: WIP, T

Year/Length: 2004/ ~3600 words

Pairing: John/Jay/Shay

Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit, only having fun.

Summary: John plays messenger, and he's not bringing good news. Meet spawn-of-Flash! And things go BOOM. Heh. Darkfic.

Series: The Months

Author's Notes: I do like John; he's one of my favorite characters. If he comes off as slightly an asshole...well, he's been through a lot these last twenty- odd years. He's doing his best, really. So, yeah, just wanted to clear up the fact that I like John. And stuff. I can't believe I made an original character. Shame on me...

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Prologue: Ring Around the Rosy

"We were friends once, remember?" The words came out sharper than he'd intended, the full weight of ten years of guilt making his voice sharp, strained. He saw their effect immediately, watching with tired green eyes as the tall thin man standing not two feet away from him tensed, every muscle in his body bunching suddenly.

"Friends..." the tall thin man snorted, and his breath formed a heavy cloud in the cold air. His lips curled upwards in what might have passed for a smile if not for the way his bottom lip was quivering. "Friends don't kill each other's wives, John."

John flinched from the ice in the other man's voice, the barely contained anger that he had last heard years ago, last time the two of them had spoken. He wanted to reach out to the other man. "Please, Fla-"

Jay turned on him with the lightening speed that was no longer his and his alone, his green eyes hard as flint, his hands curled into fists. " Flash? You dare to come here and call me that?" the bitter laughter that escaped from Jay's mouth cut into John, tore in and twisted. "Flash died ten years ago, friend," he spat the last word out like a curse.

And Jay was right, of course. The man that stood before him, coiled like a tight spring, his face lined with age and sadness, his hair graying at the temples...was not the Flash he had known. That Flash had been easy-going, almost perpetually happy-go-lucky, and that Flash had always worn red. Jay was wearing all black.

"Jay, then, listen-"

The sneer on Jay's face was gone so quickly it might never have been there in the first place. "What do you want to tell me? How you could have grabbed her, but you thought she'd be alright on her own, with half of her right wing gone? How you could have looked for her body, so I could bury my wife, but you thought getting the monsters that killed her to the hospital was more important? How you would have loved to have given me time to grieve, but the Justice League needed Flash, so you thought that it would be best if I just dealt with it?"

With each word Jay grew louder and louder, till he was almost screaming, his body shaking from repressed rage and suppressed tears. For the first time in the evening there was a flush of color in Jay's pale face, and instead of careful blankness there was rage swimming in his eyes.

"You took almost everything that I loved away from me, left her to die a painful death and then told me to bury my grief!" his breath was coming in short, quick bursts, and his fists were so tight that John imaged he could see blood slipping threw the cracks between his fingers.

For a moment John was silent, hoping that the atmosphere of barely bridled hatred would ease. It didn't. Reluctantly he spoke again, his heart hammering, from nervousness or fear he couldn't tell. He couldn't help but notice the lines that ran through Jay's sharp face, which had lost any semblance of fat that it once had, and was now all sharp angles. Had so much time really passed?

"Please, Jay, I just wanted...needed..." the words were caught in his throat, and the look of blistering hatred on Jay's face was not helping any.

"What? Redemption? Forgiveness?" Jay left out another sharp bark of laughter, and turned back to the gravestone, his shoulders sagging just slightly. The movement slightly eased the sharp angles of his body, but not by much. John couldn't find his voice, and Jay didn't speak again for a long, thick moment. "My baby girl's only memory of her mother is the smell of that goddamn strawberry shampoo she liked so much."

Jay's voice was soft and rough, the sound of tears. His shoulders shook, and John felt, not for the first time, a sharp biting pain in his chest.

"She's thirteen..." John could barely hear him, and found the knife in his heart twisting deeper and crueler. "She has her mother's hair, and attitude. She's gotten into a dozen fistfights in the last month." There was a hint of pride in his voice, more than a hint actually; his voice was thoroughly saturated with it. John thought he caught a hint of a smile on the other man's face.

"And she'll be getting off school in about two minutes so I'll be leaving." Without another word Jay darted off, only to reappear a second later, his face less than an inch away from John's, his face a mask of hatred. "Don't ever come here again, your presence is a disgrace on her memory. Leave me alone, and if I find out you've so much as looked at my daughter..." the threat was left hanging, and before John could swallow the lump in his throat Jay was gone.

John sank to his knees, the soft black earth staining his beige suit. He could feel tears burning in the corners of his eyes, and stuck one hand out, desperately searching for something to support himself on. His fingers found cool stone, and his eyes snapped open even as his head snapped to the side so that he could read the inscription his fingers were tracing over.

SHAYERA HUL-GARRICK
BELOVED WIFE OF JAY GARRICK
LOVING MOTHER OF IRIS GARRICK
DEFENDER AND FRIEND
LOST TO THE EVILS SHE FOUGHT

Tears poured down John's face. Yes, he had wanted forgiveness desperately, but even more than that, he had news that Jay needed to hear. He would have to face Jay again, and most likely also his daughter. The tears gave way to broken sobs.

Part: 2 Storm Brewing

It took John a week and a half to find Jay's apartment, because although the League had managed to find the town where Jay was living, they had not been able to get an address, and it would have taken longer than that if not for a stroke of blind luck.

He had been sitting on a park bench, resting his aching back as he tried to guess what alias Jay might possibly be using. There was no phone number for Jay Garrick listed publicly, and though John had put considerable pressure on the phone company that serviced this small town, there was apparently no Jay Garrick listed privately either. There was no Jay Garrick renting a house, and no record of a Jay Garrick with the Department of Motor Vehicles. There was, strangely, no one in the school district with the last name Garrick.

So he was sitting on a park bench, pretending that he wasn't feeling the pain that the doctor's had promised the back surgery would take away, when luck deigned to dump an answer almost into his lap. Literally.

There was a shout of surprise above him, and before he could look up a bundle of limbs fell from the tree branch over his head. Without thinking he snatched the falling child out of the air, setting the girl lightly on her feet. She looked at him, considering, before giving an abrupt nod of thanks, and then she turned away, short cinnamon curls flying around her head. John's blood turned cold, and for a long moment he couldn't breath.

Shay.

And while his blood pounding in his ears, painfully loud, his mind supplied a taller figure, with longer hair, and pure white wings. There was a gurgling sound coming from the back of his throat, and John thought maybe he was trying to scream.

"Come here you bastard! I'm gonna kick your ass so hard you won't be able to take a shit for three years!" And then the moment passed, and it wasn't Shay standing not three feet away from him, it was a young girl, who on a second look didn't look so similar to Shay as he had thought. There was a resemblance, undenialable in the girl's hair and around her lips, even in the shape of her face; enough that John had no doubt that this was Shay's daughter...

Before John could blink the girl was around him, climbing the tree as a terrified scream wafted down to him. Shay's daughter, Jay's baby girl.

"Risy, don't! I'm sorry! Plea-ow!" the voice was young, male, and a second later a boy hurried down from the tree, blood pouring out of his split lower lip. The girl came after another moment, her mouth curled into what John had always thought of as Jay's devil-may-care grin. Her resemblance to her father was even more shocking than her resemblance to her mother.

Jay's sharp features looked good set in Shay's rounder face shape. She was a beautiful child.

"That'll show you not to push me out of a tree," the girl snorted, dusted her pants off, and started walking. Without conscious thought John found himself standing, following the girl who could have been a ghost.

It was easy enough to follow her, staying fifty feet above her at all times. There were either to many people around, or she lacked her father's speed, because she never ran. After what amounted to nearly an hour of wandering threw the small town she walked into an apartment complex, climbed to the third floor, and entered apartment number thirty-six.

And John marveled at how lucky he was.

He waited until night fell, till Jay came home from what he assumed was work. He stood in front of the door for a long moment, unable to turn away, and unable to raise his hand to knock. The name pasted under the knocker read 'West'.

He finally managed to knock, and a moment later the door was flung open to reveal Shay's ghost staring up at him. She had green eyes, not the stormy gray that Shay had. She looked at him for a moment, one cinnamon hued eyebrow raising. "Can I help you?" she had a rough voice, and he knew instinctively that she'd sound like her mother when she was grown.

His throat didn't want to work, and she shifted uncomfortably under his stare. "I need to..." he cleared his throat, "To talk to your father." She narrowed her eyes, but nevertheless called over her shoulder for her father, who actually walked over at a normal pace till he spotted John. John had a second to take in Jay's wide eyes, suddenly tense body language, and then Jay was pushing his daughter into the apartment while simultaneously pushing John away.

The door was already closing when John managed to force out his message, "Larry Hart got out."

The door stopped, half closed, and Jay made a sound almost like he'd been punched in the gut. John watched the smaller man start to collapse before Iris stepped up quickly, sliding her arms around her father's waist. "Daddy?" there was worry, what might even have been fear, in her voice, and John hated himself suddenly and fiercely.

Her voice seemed to snap Jay back into action, and he ruffled her hair while forcing a smile. "Go wait for me inside," he said after a moment, and while she scowled, she obeyed.

John cleared his throat, "She's a beautif-"

"You sorry bastard," Jay's voice practically dripped venom, and he stepped out of the apartment, closing the door behind him. "You couldn't kill him, and now you've let him go, and then you come here. What the hell is wrong with you?"

"We just...we thought...that you should know."

Jay shook his head, weak sad laughter escaping from his throat. "Didn't think I'd figure it out myself when he started killing people again? The man is a goddamn sociopath, Stewart, and a unique one at that. When women started being tied to cars, set on fire and dragged down the highway again I think I would have figured out what was going on." For a moment there was bitter silence, and then Jay continued.

"And now you've probably led him to me and my baby, you dumb shit," Jay's voice was low and rough.

John blinked in surprise, "He hasn't been out long enou-" He was cut off when Jay drew back and punched him, and damnit if Jay hadn't gotten stronger. He stumbled backward; blood filling his mouth even as Jay sighed and drug his hands threw his hair.

"The man hated women Stewart, Shay especially for whatever reason. Why do you think he went out of his way to cripple her, instead of just killing her? And he doesn't know she's dead, Stewart. Where do you think the first place he's going to be going is? To gloat and finish the job?" Jay sounded very, very tired, and John realized that Jay was almost certainly right.

Jay had turned back to his apartment, was opening the door. "Jay, wait! Listen to me, we need your help, you have experience with him, you studied him. Please, just come back with me to-"

"You're right, I studied him, I know how he thinks, but you're not clueless on that subject. Tell me, Stewart, what's he going to do when he gets here and finds out Shay's dead, and that all his fun has been stolen? How angry is that going to make him?" Jay paused; his voice was rough either from anger or tears. "You've seen Iris, what's he going to do when he sees her?" And suddenly, John understood.

Jay turned to look at him over his shoulder, and his green eyes were very dark, and very tired. "I'm taking my daughter someplace where he can't touch her, and I'm taking her now. Tell the League that if they try to find me again, I'll kill the messenger." He was deathly serious, and after a moment turned away, pulling the door open to reveal Iris crouched right inside. The girl jumped back, out of the room and John's line of vision before he could blink.

She tapped the Speed Force too, then.

"You shouldn't have come here Stewart," and then Jay disappeared inside his apartment, the door slamming shut behind him. For a long moment John could only stare, the implications of what he might have caused making him nauseous. He wanted to offer his help, but had the feeling that it would do more harm than good, and so he turned away, launching himself into the sky towards Watchtower.

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"Daddy?" His daughter's voice, worried. He shook himself, trying to push the anger and sadness that was clouding his mind away. The man that had killed his wife was coming here to kill his daughter. Despair swallowed him, and only cleared when Iris laid one of her long thin hands on his arm.

"Should I get the Bag?" The Bag was a duffel filled with a few changes of clothing, some food and money, several passports and a few pictures. They had kept a Bag since they left the League, the necessities and what they could not replace, should they ever need to leave in a hurry. After a moment he managed to nod his head, and Iris darted off at a speed that few could duplicate.

He tried to decide where to go, possibility after possibility entering his mind only to be dismissed. Was there anywhere they could go where they wouldn't be found?

Iris was back in front of him, the heavy Bag lying at her feet. Atlantis was a thought, but he didn't know how to reach it. With a frustrated sigh he bent and slung the bag over his shoulder, taking Iris by the hand and leading her out of the apartment. He didn't know where they were going yet, but he knew it wasn't safe to stay here.

"Risy you know how I told you that no one could see you run, because then they'd know who we were?" he felt her nod, and blinked back tears. " That doesn't matter anymore, we're just going to go, ok?" another nod. He took a deep breath, felt her do the same, and then they were moving, down three flights of stairs in two seconds.

Another two seconds and the apartment building was blocks away, but the explosion was so big that the shock wave knocked them off their feet anyway, and shattered the glass in all the buildings and cars around them.

There was a splitting pain in his head, and he was aware, dimly, that it was either because his head had hit the pavement going at very high speed, or because his eardrums had just burst. Maybe it was both. Iris was shaking, looking back at their apartment building, now a smoking crater, with her mouth open. Maybe she was screaming. Maybe he was too.

Blackness took him.

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John wasn't much farther away than they were when the bomb went off. The shock wave shook him, but his eardrums remained intact. For a moment he was to surprised to think, and then panic surged threw his system and he found himself diving back towards the earth, towards what had once been apartment thirty-six.

It was gone, of course, as were at least two blocks surrounding it. For a split second he wanted to search the rubble, but no one could have survived that blast and he knew it. Instead he searched the perimeter, flying in ever-larger circles, praying for a glimpse of cinnamon hair.

He already had Shay's death on his hands, would he have to live knowing he'd killed her daughter and husband also?

It was the screaming that caught his attention. There were screams everywhere but Iris screamed like her mother, and for a horrible moment John wasn't flying over wreckage searching for Jay, he was watching Shay plummet towards the earth, left wing beating desperately as what was left of her right littered the sky with blood and feathers.

The moment passed.

He found them by following the screaming. Jay was barely conscious, bleeding from a head wound as Iris tried to get him to stand up, her entire left side bleeding from where she'd skid when she'd fallen. She didn't notice him, didn't hear him calling to her, and didn't see him even when he sank to his knees in front of her.

He reached out slowly, placing his large hand over hers as she shook her father. After a moment of staring at his hand she raised her head to look at him, and a single tear shaking out of her eyes, quickly multiplying till she was sobbing, her thin body wracked by hitching, desperate, breaths. He tried to convince himself that he wasn't looking at Shay, and after a moment it worked.

He bent, picking Jay up gently. The smaller man opened his eyes for a moment, just long enough to murmur, "See," before passing once more into unconsciousness. John looked down at Iris, who suddenly scrambled away, reappearing a second later with a duffle bag clutched tightly to her chest. She was still crying.

John swallowed heavily, and formed a bubble around the three of them, lifting into the air and away from the disaster below him. Most of the town was gone; the rest almost certainly doomed by the fire that was spreading threw the old buildings. The fire fighters were just appearing on the scene, and John didn't need to see their faces to know that they thought the situation was hopeless.

And so he flew towards Watchtower, leaving a burning town in his wake, taking with him the two people that the madman had been trying to kill.

He felt ill.

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It wasn't really, truly pride that was swelling in his chest. He had never been a prideful man, after all. It was more...happiness that he had done his job well. Surely that was the best feeling anyone could have. He had tried, he had succeeded. What more could a man ask for?

He was leaving the smoking mess that was left of the town by way of the graveyard, which he thought would be in serious need of expansion. There was no real reason for him to be striding among the cool marble stones, but sometimes the dead were so much more interesting than the living. Especially when the living wouldn't stop screaming.

So he walked calmly threw the forest of tombs, cocking his head to the side every now and then to read the name engraved in one of the stones.

Anne.

Bob.

Richard.

Julie.

Normal names for a normal town. He had the distinct feeling that he had done the world a favor by wiping Roxboro, North Carolina off the east coast of North America. Certainly no one would miss it. Certainly he wouldn't.

He was nearly the edge of the graveyard when he cocked his head to the side one last time, and froze in midstep. The stone read Shayera Hul- Garrick, and that sort of name seemed completely and totally out of place. Especially considering that Shayera-Hul Garrick shouldn't be buried yet. Dead, but not buried. He sank to his knees in front of the stone, mouthing the dates as he read them.

Dead, the year that he had finally been caught. Dead, and he hadn't been there.

Well, that just wouldn't do at all. Larry Hart scowled darkly, fingered the lock of cinnamon hair that he had kept hidden and preserved for the last ten years, and thought about how he was going to solve his present dilemma. There was really only one thing to be done.

(unfinished)

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