The Months

Fandom: Justice League

Category/Rated: Het, T

Year/Length: 2004/ ~8572 words

Pairing: Jay/Shay/John

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

Warning: Language, death, various Bad Things.

Summary: The Justice League is about to be thrown into a circumstance they never even thought about planning on.

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The First Three Months

Someone was playing a steel drum in perfect synchronization with a jackhammer, inside her head. The pounding was so intense that she expected her body to be shaking. It wasn't, instead she seemed infused with a dull ache, spread from her fingers to her toes and everywhere in between. She experimentally flexed her toes, and was relieved to find that though the ache did not lessen, it didn't intensify either.

She slipped one eye open experimentally, before hissing and squeezing it closed again. Damn the sun. The light burned her corona, left a bright yellow afterglow of her window inside her eyelid. Her headache responded to the sudden painfully bright light by intensifying it's pound and throb. The pain snuck down her neck, threw her ribs, into the pit of her stomach.

She was going to be sick.

When she scrambled from the bed she was strangely tangled in her sheets, and ended up dragging them with her to the bathroom, where they clung to her sweating body as her stomach heaved and contracted. She was quivering, and the steel symphony in her head had at least tripled in size. The blankets encircled her, tight like bandages or bonds.

She didn't twist in her sleep. How had she become so wrapped up in these sheets? She didn't have time to consider it further, her stomach choose that moment to rebel. For the second time that morning she experienced something very near to complete agony.

The mystery of the sheets would have to wait, and with it she would find various other mysteries around her room. Her dresser lamp she would later find shattered into a million pieces, though she had no recollection of it breaking. There was an indentation in her bed that did not match her shape, still vaguely warm by the time she stumbled out of the bathroom nearly forty-five minutes later. Her own feathers were scattered around both her room and her bed.

Coupled with the fact that the entire League had been celebrating something or the other last night, and there had been an extraordinary amount of alcohol consumed, they were a series of oddities that she would not start to piece together for twelve weeks. And it would be nine months before the puzzle finished itself completely.

Shay, known as Hawkgirl to friends and enemies alike, sank into the warmth of her bed, no longer as comforting as it had once been. Confusion swirled with nausea low in her stomach, and she buried her face in her hands, not wanting to think about the possible conclusions she could draw. Her mouth open in a silent 'o' of disbelief, she refused to think about the bruises in the shape of hands on her hips, the bite mark on her shoulder.

This wasn't happening. This hadn't happened.

She wrapped her wings protectively around herself, and willed herself to forget what she knew, and for what eluded her to stay in the safety of the unknown.

She was going to be sick.

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In another room, two hours later, a man woke up, rubbed his eyes, and wondered what the hell had happened...and why he was wearing only his shoes.

And why his head felt like it was being goddamned sawed in goddamned half.

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It took Shay most of the morning to convince herself that nothing had happened. But she was good at believing what she had to in order to keep sane. So it took her till noon to convince herself that nothing was wrong, whereas it would have taken most people several days. By the time she had showered and washed the sweat and memories off herself and slipped from her room to eat a hurried breakfast of coffee there was no trace of the previous night in her room or in her mind.

By the third week after that fateful Friday she could remember nothing exceptional about it at all. It had been a party. Nice. Refreshing. Hadn't Batman and Diana left together afterwards? That was the extent of it, until she woke up the morning of the one-month anniversary of that night with crippling nausea. It brought what memories she had not completely decimated racing back to the surface, flashes of being wrapped in sheets, bent over her toilet.

And...worst of worst, it was not to be a one-time experience. She felt tears slipping from her eyes, warm fat things that slid down her cheeks and over her lips, and swore fiercely and bitterly. She didn't cry, damnit, what was wrong with her? The tears dissolved into laughter.

An hour later she made her way to the kitchen, her emotions finally seeming to settle into what felt almost like a depression.

They really needed to take better care of the kitchen, she mused as she stepped in. Everything was so smudged and dish stacks were tilting. Clean, but tilting. She straightened them, humming a broken tune whose words she could only remember in bits and pieces. Satisfied with the slightly better state of the kitchen, she reached for the coffee, and took an experimental swig from the thermos.

Bitter. It needed...she opened the fridge, then after a moments consideration, the freezer. Black Cherry ice cream. Humming again, more upbeat now, she scooped two heaping spoonfuls of ice cream into the coffee thermos, and left the kitchen pleased with herself. She'd have to straighten up the freezer later.

Superman was the first to find her later, lounging in front of the television, giggling as she watched some cartoon he'd never seen before. Hawkgirl. Giggling.

He blinked, blinked again before approaching her slowly. Something was clearly very wrong. Had she been poisoned, tortured...maybe this wasn't Hawkgirl at all, but some kind of doppelganger sent to destroy the League... "Hawkgirl?"

She tilted her head up to look at him, and now he could see the bowl of what appeared to be sugar between her arms, and the half-eaten pickle sticking out of it. She smiled, a completely innocent, full lipped, teeth baring smile, and he took a step back in surprise. Hawkgirl grinned, smirked, and frowned...smiling was an expression he'd never seen. "Supes! You have to watch this! See, the hamsters, they can talk, and, ohhh, look, there's my favorite!" she was gesturing wildly at the television.

"How much sugar have you had?"

She looked thoughtfully down at the bowl, roughly the same size as her head, and a little over halfway full. "Two and a half bowls," she smiled up at him again, "And eight pickles!" She held up eight fingers to demonstrate this, and then seemed to realize that quiet a bit of her show had slipped by without her attention.

She sniffed, and abruptly stood, scowling at him now. As she shoved past him, bowl of sugar cradled in her arms, she muttered, "Bastard, you made me miss the best part."

Superman blinked.

Maybe she was sick.

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A week and a half after the nausea in the morning started, Shay woke up and found her stomach blessedly calm. She reveled in this for a few moments, before dressing and winging her way to the kitchen. She wanted chocolate. Possibly some coffee, too, but mostly she wanted chocolate. The kind with nuts. And lots of salt. Maybe dipped in coffee.

Diana was already in the kitchen when Shay arrived, and the Amazon watched the redhead quickly riffle through every cupboard and drawer before putting her hands on her hips and frowning thoughtfully. "How are you this morning, Hawkgirl?"

The smaller woman turned towards her, blinked several times, and abruptly raised a hand to her lips, shoved Diana out of the way. Shay made it to the kitchen sink before her stomach revolted. By now this was almost routine. Shay waited till her stomach settled, rinsed her mouth, stood and turned back to Diana. "I'm fine, thank you. I'm going to go pillage Jay's stash of candy now. Do you want anything?"

Diana could only blink, aware that her mouth was hanging open, but not able to convince herself to shut it. Hawkgirl shrugged, "Suit yourself," and flew off before Diana's brain kicked into gear again. Sure, Shay had been acting oddly for a few weeks now, but this was a new level of oddity altogether. Maybe Shay was just sick...but this sickness was taking an awfully long time to run its course. Maybe they should get J'onn to examine her, or something.

No, not yet. After all, none of them really knew very much about Shay's anatomy, it was perfectly probable that this was something she went threw on a regular basis. At least it was keeping things interesting up on the Watchtower.

After a moment Diana quietly swore to herself. She'd missed a chance to get some of those delicious gumdrops Jay kept hidden. Damnit.

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Another three weeks passed with everyone, including herself, attempting to understand her bizarre behavior.

She was crying and she didn't know why. Since she had awakened this morning she had been crying, and continuing stream of tears that she couldn't seem to halt no matter what she did. She wasn't even sad. Angry, yes; sad, no.

This had happened before, several times now, and she had yet to find an effective solution. So she relied on something that had always made her feel marginally better in the past. Her punching bag. It amused her that such things seemed to have been invented by countless species across the universe. Or at least, it used to amuse her. At the moment the fury that roared in her chest, and the tears that rolled hot down her cheeks were masking all her other emotions.

What the hell was wrong with her? She didn't cry, much less over something so infinitely pointless as some supervillian or the other telling her that she was crazy. Of course they thought she was crazy, she was trying to stop them. Of course. Of course. The fact that she'd taken out a small army of very real illusions all by herself, and then beaten their creator to a pulp before she'd been pulled off was perfectly understandable in the circumstances. They'd hurt her friends, damnit. He'd put her in that damn box.

What did Superman and Diana know, to look at her like they had? She beat her fists into the punching bag over and over, her vision so blurred by tears that for a moment it almost looked like the punching bag was Superman. She pounded harder. "Take that, you self-righteous, condescending-" And how dare they tell her that it was ok, and that they didn't think any less of her. They had no reason to!

The anger was hot in her veins, like fire racing threw her body and setting her nerve endings aflame. And now the punching bag looked like Flash, with his wide surprised eyes, and comforting hand on her arms, the jolt that had startled her enough to make her drop her club before she brought it down on the damn illusionist's face.

She sank to the floor, sobs raking her body as she hugged herself and rocked back and forth. Her heart felt jagged, as though it had became a stone and shattered in her chest. Sweat fell from her forehead, and her muscles quivered from overexertion, but the pressure remained inside her, and now she didn't know what to do to relieve it.

As she sobbed an unplanned meeting was taking place in the kitchen, as the other six members of the League stood or sat awkwardly around the room.

"We have to do something, there's obviously something wrong." Diana nodded along with Superman's words, her arms crossed, her blue eyes troubled. The others voiced various levels of agreement, but no one offered a solution.

"Maybe its just PMS," Flash suggested brightly, cocking his head over his shoulder as he washed dishes. Batman absently wondered why the younger man was wearing a pink apron, and then decided he didn't want to think about it. Diana flashed Jay a dirty look, and in response he shrugged. " Just a suggestion?"

"People don't have PMS for two months straight," Diana hissed, her eyes narrowing. Batman chuckled and disguised it as a cough. She leveled her glare on him and he pretended he didn't notice. After a moment she snorted indignantly, and turned her glare back on Flash.

"Look, whatever it is, she wants to handle it by herself right now, why don't you all leave her be, and she'll ask for help when she wants it," it was the first time John had spoken, and the others frowned thoughtfully.

"Not doing anything feels like giving up," Superman murmured thoughtfully after a moment, and Batman snorted, turning to leave the kitchen. He had known that this was how it would end, and wondered absently why he had wasted his time here in the first place.

"You can't lose a battle you weren't fighting."

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A month later and Shay was being escorted, somewhat unwillingly into the Medical Bay.

"I'm telling you, my arm is fine," she demonstrated how fine it was by backhanding Jay across the chest. He grinned down at her while catching her wrist in his hand. John rolled his eyes, and ushered her into the room where J'onn was waiting, just finishing examining an extremely unwilling Batman.

"Look, Shay, we don't know what was in that gas Joker pumped into the warehouse, or how it will effect all of our different physiologies, so just get the tests." She turned to him and scowled, her gray eyes hard and angry. Right, this was an Angry Day. He preferred those to Sad Days and Hyper Days, for the most part. Still, it was best to be away from her on Angry Days, so he retreated as soon as she was inside the Bay.

To his surprise Flash stayed, shrugging by way of explanation.

"Shay, will you sit here, please?" Batman had disappeared, and J'onn motioned to the space that he had previously occupied. Shay stalked across the room, before sitting on the bed and leveling a glare on any and everything. "This will only take a few moments," the tall, green, man assured as he inserted a needle into her wrist, her blood being quickly pumped into his computer console.

The minutes passed is silence, disturbed only by Flash darting around the room, picking up various objects and examining them, before darting back. Shay started out glaring at him, but eventually settled on distracting her mind by trying to track his movements. Finally, the machine beeped its completion, and she waited to be told that she had a clean bill of health, which she already knew.

After a moment of silence she looked up at J'onn, confused as to what was holding him up. He was staring down at the computer monitor, his eyes wide as she had ever seen them. She felt fear settle low and hard in her belly. "Is something wrong?"

Her voice seemed to jerk him out of his thoughts, and he looked at her, opened and closed his mouth several times. Nervousness crept like hot pinpricks up her spine, and she would have jumped to her feet, but she didn't want her knees to wobble. The gas couldn't have hurt her. She would not have herself killed by gas of all things. She'd barely even inhaled any of it, damnit.

"Nothing is...wrong." J'onn voice was low, and she could see his pulse jumping in his neck. "It would appear..." J'onn cleared his throat, started over, "It would appear that you are pregnant."

She felt the wave of shock and numbness wash over her, the denial crushed by the fact that she was already beginning to suspect... Her mood swings... Oh, damnit. And... She barely even noticed that Jay had dropped the beaker he had been examining, the glass shattered to a million pieces at his feet, while he stared at her in absolute shock.

"What?"

The Next Six Months

She had fled.

It was not something she was particularly proud of, but the look on their faces, the terror unfolding inside her... She had fled. The storage rooms were, perhaps, the quietest places on the Watchtower, and it was in a room stacked almost full of large crates that she found herself. The shock had numbed her, blessedly. There were no tears, no rage, no giddiness. Not yet. Just the wondrous numbness that soaked threw her.

She couldn't breathe.

She couldn't think.

One hand snaked to her belly, still flat, still normal. But then, unlike human women, she would grow very little with her pregnancy. There would be so little of an outward show of the thing growing inside her. She was rocking back and forth. Not believing. Not wanting to believe.

The horrible morning three months ago came smashing back into her mind, and she bit her lip so hard blood flooded her mouth and slipped down her chin. Warm crimson drops fell on her pale hand, still clutching desperately at her stomach. More fell, warm, wet, and she raised her other hand to see how bad the cut was.

She wasn't meant to be a mother. She wasn't the type.

Her index finger slipped threw one of the holes in her lip, but she was still numb, and the pain didn't register fully yet. She pulled her hand away, raised it to her eyes and watched the red-black blood pool in her palm. How could there be so much of it, she'd only bit her lip.

She wrapped both arms protectively around her belly, hung her head. She didn't want this. This wasn't happening. Denial after denial played like a broken record threw her mind, and she squeezed her eyes shut against them. No. No. NO. Her eyes were burning, and she opened them with a gasp to allow the fat, hot, tears to fall and splatter on her bloody hands.

"Shay! There you are-" Jay's voice. She jerked her head up, moving her hands to cover her face in a futile attempt to hide the tears and the blood, and he stopped in midsentence and midstep. For a moment he only stared, unable to move for the sudden feeling of terror that curled up his spine and down his legs. The adrenaline that dumped into his bloodstream burnt like fire up and down his nerve endings.

So much blood... Oh god, had she killed herself, the baby?

He was in front of her in less than a second, grabbing her hands, probing her wrists desperately, slipping from there to her neck, down to her stomach, all of it covered with drying blood. No wounds. Why couldn't he find any wounds? He left his hands pressed against her stomach for a moment, unsure and imagining the life there.

"What happened?" She looked at him, her eyes unfocused, and shrugged. The fear shot threw him a second time, his hands were on her shoulders, and he shook her slightly. He was shaking. "Goddamnit Shay, what the hell happened?"

She blinked, and when her eyes opened, her glorious gray eyes, they seemed slightly more in focus. She raised a hand, slowly, to her mouth. "I bit my lip," she murmured after a moment, pulling it to demonstrate the two holes punched threw her bottom lip.

Relief washed over him like a wave, so thick that he felt his knees weaken. He found his arms around her, laughter that was his only alternative to tears muffled against her shoulder. She sighed, a movement that moved her entire body, and leaned her head against his. After a moment she spoke, "I'm pregnant." He nodded, his laughter dying with a choking sound. "Why?"

For a moment the sheer absurdity of the question took his speech away, at last he managed a rueful, brittle, chuckle. "If anyone knows that, it would be you, not me." God knew, as much as he wished he could claim he had been involved, to the best of his knowledge he hadn't been. Her body shook under his arms, and he couldn't tell if it was with laughter or tears.

"But I don't know, Jay," her voice was soft, desperate. He felt himself go very, very, still. He pulled away so he could look into her face, the curious stillness still hovering over him.

"What do you mean?" She chuckled hoarsely, tried to look away, but he grabbed her chin as tightly as he dared. His heart was beating dangerously fast, and he took a few deep breaths to slow it down. "What do you mean you don't know?" She looked at him now, and there was a tiredness in her eyes that he'd caught brief glances of for the last three months.

"It must have happened on Lois and Clark's anniversary. I was drunk..." she sighed, her eyes slipped closed, "And no one was in my bed in the morning." He stumbled back, feeling as though he'd been sucker punched for the second time in the last three hours. She stood, and her wings were slumped. After a moment she looked at him, a crooked smile on her lips. " It could be y-" and then she seemed to think better of whatever she'd been saying, because she hurried away.

He sank to a sitting position, and tried to convince himself that she hadn't been about to say 'It could be yours.'

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Breakfast the next morning was...awkward, at best. The entire team was gathered in the kitchen when she arrived, and they all mustered achingly bright smiles. She had cleaned and stitched her lip the night prior, but it was still red and swollen, and the team varied between staring at it and at her belly. Except for Flash, who had sunk into a corner, and was quietly mulling over a huge cup of coffee.

After a moment she uncomfortably cleared her throat. "It's not going to pop out anytime soon, you know." As if her words had been the queue they were waiting for, they all suddenly busied themselves either cooking or eating, save for Wonder Woman, who walking up to her, and embraced her tightly.

Diana cooed some sentiments that Shay was fairly sure she didn't share, and then bent down so she could look the shorter woman in the eyes. "So whose the lucky daddy?"

And suddenly the uncomfortable silence was back. She opened her mouth to offer an explanation that she was sure would satisfy none of them, when Jay spoke up from the corner, "Hey, Diana, remember the first night you and Batty boinked, and J'onn made hot, passionate love to his Oreos?" The Amazon turned an interesting shade of red, and J'onn's eyes widened to huge proportions.

After a moment Diana cleared her throat, "No, not exactly...everyone had a lot to drink...and..."

"Yea, well, let's just say you're not the only one suffering from a bit of memory loss, and leave her be, ok?" Shay wasn't sure whether to thank him, or hit him, so she decided to do neither, and opened the refrigerator to retrieve a jug of milk. She was to busy pouring her milk to notice that some of the tension had left John's shoulders, and he no longer looked as though someone had just told him the world was ending.

"You don't know whose it is?" Superman asked incredulously after a moment, and she sipped her milk, determined not to become angry over what was a perfectly plausible question.

She swallowed. "Not a clue." The rest of the morning progressed in absolute silence.

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"Will you be laying eggs?"

Shay coughed, turning to look at J'onn with wide, surprised eyes. He looked perfectly serious, if it was possible to be serious when giving an exam to a pregnant alien who had no idea as to the paternity of her baby. This was the fourth month exam, and while she had no idea if the fourth month was at all important, J'onn had insisted on having one every month.

She was ignoring the question, and he knew it. "Will you require a nest?" She groaned. Obviously, pretending this conversation wasn't happening was not going to make it go away. Damnit.

"No," she paused, "To both questions." He nodded. "Are we done yet?" She was antsy, eager to be out of here. It reminded her of death and sickness. He placed one large hand on her just slightly bulging stomach, and she was shocked to watch his face transform into a huge smile. For a moment she gaped, taken aback by the serene expression on his face.

"Forgive me, but it is...beautiful to see, in the midst of the horror we live in, new life." He patted her stomach once more, and she managed to close her mouth. "And yes, we are complete. You and your child appear to be doing well." She nodded, standing as she pulled the tubes from her arm. She would be glad to be out of this place.

And then the alarms went off.

"Shit!"

She took off, heading for the main area of the Watchtower even as J'onn shot up towards it himself. It had been quiet for the last few weeks, and she had been hoping, subconsciously, for it to stay that way for a while. Unknowingly she raised a hand worriedly to her belly, dropping it as she landed behind the others, all crowded around Superman who had received the news.

"It's just a small problem with Shade and Frost, should be no problem, in and out in under an hour. Lantern, if you would?" Superman motioned the tall, dark, man forward, and the others stepped into a tight cluster so he could easily surround them with a bubble. Flash scanned his teammates, and he did a double take when he spotted Shay.

"You can't come,"

She looked at him, one hand on her hip, the other around the handle of her club. "Why not?" she demanded after a moment, and he scowled, took a quick step towards her and motioned to her stomach.

"The baby," he hated seeing Shay in dangerous situations, throw a baby into the mixture and he couldn't see how allowing her to be involved with this was any kind of good idea at all. She scowled at him, and there was just enough puff left in her bottom lip for the expression to be far more distracting than it had any right to be.

"I'm not going to sit out five months of fighting, Jay. I wouldn't if none of you knew about the baby, and hell if I'm going to now," The others had fallen strangely silent, waiting and pretending not to be listening. Except, it appeared, for John.

"Don't worry about it, Jay, I'll keep an eye on her." And in her head Diana went 'Oh shit'.

John was good on his word; every time Shay left herself inadvertently open to attack she turned around to find a solid green barrier guarding her. It was eerie. She came away from the next dozen fights without a single scratch to show for it. Suddenly it was six months into her pregnancy, and she sat, alone in the storeroom again, thinking.

She looked down at her belly, still barely expanding at all, and found herself involuntarily smiling. Flash had, in what he claimed was a moment of utter boredom, drawn a very detailed smiley face on her stomach, complete with little wings for ears. She wasn't sure where he'd picked that anatomical feature from, but it was endearing, and she found her smile broadening.

She could almost believe that it had been done on the spur of the moment, except for the fact that he had been doing similar things since the news came out three months ago. Whether it was insisting upon singing to the baby, by which she had discovered that he had a fairly decent voice, or forcing her to sit and watch cartoons for their study value he seemed to be everywhere.

And for the first time she realized that, largely, he had been everywhere before the news came out.

In any case, the baby liked him, and insisted upon kicking her whenever he touched her belly. Strong little legs, it had. She might have been able to stand the kicking, too, if it only happened around Jay. But, no, John seemed to have the same effect on her baby, and he was around as much as Jay. His presence was mostly silent, and often she didn't realize he was there at all till the hairs on her neck raised, and she turned to find him staring.

The hairs on her neck stood up.

"So this is where you've been hiding," he sank into a crouch beside her, placing one large hand on her stomach. She was starting to wonder if everyone was going to keep doing that even after she had the baby, out of sheer habit. It had been truly disconcerting when; after all of four days of restraining himself, Batman finally broke down and asked if he could touch her belly. She'd considered blackmailing him, but then decided that though the amusement factor was high, it probably wasn't worth it.

John's hand lingered a moment or two longer than it should have, and then he withdrew.

"I'm thinking, not hiding." She was doing both. He smiled tiredly, faintly glowing eyes unfocused and staring somewhere over her right shoulder.

"Are you going to keep it?" the question caught her by surprise, she jerked her head towards him, wings jerking with her sudden agitation. He merely gazed back at her, green eyes shielded so she could see no hint of his thoughts or emotions. She shifted, uncomfortable, away from him.

"I don't know," and with that she stood, and quickly left. He stared after her for a long moment, before allowing his shoulders to sag and the ragged breath to escape him chest. Why had this, of all things, had to happen?

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"You know what?" Jay was sitting, eyes glued to the television screen, when he spoke. Shay twisted her head to look at him, knowing he didn't really require a prompt to continue. "We all know you're gonna name it after your dad if it's a boy...but what if it's a girl?" He flopped over onto his back so he could look up at her, sacrificing Yu-gi-oh for the moment.

She arched an eyebrow, considering. She hadn't really thought about it, which she really ought to, seeing as she had less than two months left. After a moment she shrugged. "I don't know, but is it safe to assume you have a thought on the subject?" He grinned, emerald green eyes sparkling, and she found herself smiling too.

"Nah, you'll say it's too weird for me to name your kid," And it was, really.

She rolled her eyes, dumped the rest of her Pixie Stick into her mouth, and threw the empty casing at his forehead. "I wouldn't ask if I didn't want to know, dumbass," He crumbled the pixie paper into a ball, and threw it back at her. It ricocheted off her noise, prompting a glare.

"Ok then, I was thinking J-"

"Are you done with the TV yet?" John interrupted, standing above them, arms crossed.

Shay rolled her head back to look at the nearest clock, and swore while pulling herself to her feet. "I'm supposed to be baby shopping with Diana," she grumbled as she hurried from the room. Jay was on his feet in a second calling after her as he darted away. John sank into the couch and wondered why he said everything wrong.

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"How are you feeling?" Diana sounded concerned, and Shay cast her a half-hearted glare. She was in her ninth month, was carrying around the equivalent of a eight pound weight on her stomach, and her mood swings had been completely random of late. Not to mention that the damned kid should have kindly vacated her body by now.

"Look, J'onn hasn't left to meet up with the others yet, maybe you should go see him," Diana reached out to touch her arm and Shay started to bat her away only to desperately grab onto her hand at the sudden, crippling pain in her belly. Her knees started to give, and she locked them. She had no intention of collapsing.

"Maybe I should," she managed when the pain finally lessened, and with a worried look in her blue eyes, Diana scooped her up. Before Shay could protest the taller woman was flying towards the medical bay. Before they arrived another wave of crippling pain washed over Shay, and before J'onn could deduce what was happening she knew.

She was in labor. Oh shit.

The Last Twelve Hours

She was not going to scream, and she was not going to cry, especially when she was only half an hour into this. The pain was excruciating, and she groaned when it tore threw her once more. For the first time something seemed wrong with the pregnancy. She'd seen others of her race give birth, and it was not like this. It could take hours, yes, but save for the last few minutes most of it was boring.

The pain, roughly equivalent to someone repeatedly forcing their fist threw her body from front to back, was starting to fade again, and she left out her breath. Sweat was beading on her forehead, and blood pooled in her palms from where she had torn the skin with her nails.

Something was wrong. What if something was wrong with her baby? Panic swelled in her chest.

"J'onn! J'ONN! My baby!" her voice was cracking from the pain, and she flailed her arm out in a desperate attempt to grab him. Someone had to make sure her baby was safe. Her baby had to be fine. Oh hell, oh hell, oh hell.

Suddenly J'onn's hand was around hers, his skin cool and smooth against her hot rough skin. "It will be alright," he squeezed her hand slightly, and tried to pull away but she tightened her grip, tugged on his arm desperately. Diana was suddenly on her other side, rubbing a cool clothe across her forehead. It was like ice, and for the first time she realized how hot the fever in her was.

Was she only sick?

"What's happening?" she groaned desperately, and now that she was aware of her fever it seemed like a living thing, struggling to escape her body. She felt like she was on fire. Diana and J'onn exchanged a worried look, and the Martian finally managed to pull free of her hold on his arm. Both would have liked to reassure her, but they knew less than she did.

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The painkillers weren't working. Or maybe they were, and the pain was just so intense that they weren't having any noticeable effect. It was two hours into the labor, and the rip and tear of the pain in her belly was finally destroying Shay's determination not to scream.

The next wave tore threw her, and the scream that ripped from her throat was fractured, almost animal. J'onn shuddered, and wished for the hundredth time that he knew if something was wrong, or if this was a normal pregnancy for her race. And then he cursed himself for his own stupidity, because of course this wasn't normal, that child she was carrying was a half-breed.

He felt panic rise in his chest, for Shay, for the baby and he fought it down as best he could. Diana was clearly frustrated, doing her best to relieve as much of Shay's pain as she could, and growing increasingly agitated as she realized how impossible her task was.

The screams became an ever-present background to their already flustered attempts to help. After an hour they began to grow hoarse, till they were little more than whimpers again. In a way J'onn found the whimpering, growing gradually softer and lighter, far more disturbing than Shay's screams had been. If he had not believed something was wrong earlier, he believed it now.

Diana met his eyes from across the room, and the terror he saw there knocked any hope he retained away from him.

Their friend was in absolute agony, for all they knew her life and the life of her child in danger...and there seemed to be nothing they could do about it.

"Should we call...?" Diana didn't have to specify whom she meant. The father was either John or Jay, and surely both of them would want to be here. If only to attempt to comfort Shay. If only so that they might say goodbye. Diana felt something in her chest tighten when a chocked scream slid from Shay's throat. There were specks of blood on Shay's pale lips.

J'onn felt her alarm, jerked his head in the direction of her gaze. The dark red droplets stood like drops of wine on her almost white lips.

"Oh...Hera..." and Diana felt the tears slide hot down her cheeks.

hr

Shay was silent. She had been for almost an hour, staring up at the ceiling with wide, unseeing eyes. Her lips moved occasionally, forming words with no sound, no force, behind them. They were in the fifth hour, and J'onn wished, vainly, that Shay would scream again. Anything was better than this almost comatose state, than looking into her eyes and seeming nothing staring back out.

Diana wanted, almost needed, to leave. She was projecting her emotions so powerfully that they were overwhelming his. Her panic, fear, was becoming his own, and so thick he was nearly swimming in them. Diana was already drowning, fighting a losing battle against the undertow of her emotions, but J'onn dare not send her away.

Blood slipped out the corner of Shay's mouth, snaked halfway down the side of her face before Diana wiped it away with an already bloody cloth.

J'onn couldn't find the source of the bleeding, and even if he could have he wouldn't have known what to do. Any operation might very well make things worse, and things were already very, very bad. He didn't know what to do. It was not a feeling he was used to, and it was one he liked very little. Why hadn't they considered this before? When Shay had explained that her race had very little difficulty in their pregnancies, why had no one considered the fact that she wasn't having a full-blooded child?

For the first time in the last two hours J'onn recalled Diana's suggestion that they call the others. There had been no word from the battle, he had no idea whether they were winning or losing, and to find out would require him to divert his focus from the crisis at hand. The thought of risking it set ill with him, but he was running out of time and options.

It might already be to late for any effective goodbyes to be said.

The thought shook him, and he turned away from Shay's too-still, too- pale body, and cast his mind out to his teammates. They were returning. There was a giddiness lingering in their minds that left no doubt in J'onn's mind that they had won. It took him another moment to force himself to deliver the news. When he did it was to Clark, because he could not bear leaving himself open to the emotional tumult that would fly at him if he told either Jay or John directly.

As soon as he finished he slammed down his shields as tightly as he could, and even then, the shock wave that was Jay and John's emotions nearly swept him away. He stumbled, sank to his knees, felt bitter bile rise in the back of his throat. Diana was at his side, supporting him, demanding to know what was wrong, but there were no words to describe it to her.

He had forgotten what absolute panic felt like.

"They are coming," he managed to choke out after a moment, as he finally baled enough of the emotional wave from his mind so that he could function. He felt tired, as though he had fought a battle, and when he stood a wave of dizziness clouded his vision.

Diana was still beside him, steadying him, her blue eyes just as exhausted as his were.

He blinked slowly, looked past her, not hearing her questions, and shoved her out of the way as he rushed over the Shay. Her mouth was open in a silent scream, her back arched as her wings, arms, and legs jerked. He sent a wave of calmness towards her, but there was no effect. Another hour of hell had passed, and they seemed no closer to the end.

"We need..." his throat seemed tight, "to restrain her. She may hurt herself." Diana only nodded grimly, grabbed a sheet off one of the beds, and tore it into ropes. Two she handed to him, and with the others she set about binding Shay to the bed. He couldn't bring himself to do it, not with Shay's panic inside his head, not knowing her fear of being restrained, and when Diana finished her two she took his from him and finished it.

And J'onn hated himself.

hr

It took them an hour and a half to get back to the Watchtower. Bruce, Clark, Jay and John. Somewhere between Earth and the Watchtower they had pulled their masks off, both cloth and emotional, and meet each other's stares of fear and worry.

An hour and a half was torture. Jay wanted to pace, but there wasn't nearly enough room, so instead he sank into a ball, his legs twitching with the impulse to run. What an idiot he had been. How many mornings now had he assured himself that there would be plenty of time to speak with Shay? How many times had he went threw the words in his head, only to never voice them.

He didn't care if the baby wasn't his, and really, he didn't believe it was. There was no doubt in his mind that if he had spent a night with Shay he would have remembered it. But he didn't care, Goddamnit. And he should have told her...

And then the Watchtower was looming in front of them.

Clark continued to block the emotional maelstrom he'd gotten from J'onn from his memory. Even as they hurried down the hallways of Watchtower, after Jay who had disappeared in a streak of crimson, he could not forget the exhaustion and worry the Martian had projected.

And when they heard the scream, the first one in three and half hours, ripped from Shay's tortured throat when the baby moved in response to Jay's presence, he felt the terror himself. They ran into the Med Bay in time to watch Jay draw back and slug J'onn, before literally tearing apart several blankets that had been holding Shay to the bed.

J'onn stumbled back, watching numbly and without protest, as Jay crawled behind Shay. His legs were suddenly on either side of hers; one hand wrapped around one of hers, the other massaging her side. Her head fell back against his chest, and a shuddering groan slipped from her. For the first time in almost eight hours J'onn was swallowed by relief instead pain from Shay.

She turned her face up towards him, "Jay... the baby..."

"Shhh..." he pressed his lips to her forehead, feeling the shuddering in her back muscles, and hating himself for not being here sooner. Her hand, wrapped around his, contracted suddenly, and he felt his bones shift.

John stood in the doorway, numb with shock, not believing this was happening.

How long had he been promising himself that he would talk things over with Shay, figure everything about this insane mess out? He took a step towards her, only to have his knees lock. Jay would take care of her, he assured himself. He moved to stand beside Bruce, who had enfolded Diana into a desperate hug.

hr

John had tried to pull J'onn aside, but the alien was reluctant to move out of visual range of Shay. Currently Shay was whimpering as Jay continued to sing tidbits of songs to her, his voice cracking frequently.

Diana said it was nine and a half hours into the labor, her blue eyes puffy, still enfolded by Bruce's arms.

John, with a final growl of frustration, decided he would have to speak to J'onn without the benefit of privacy. "Can't you just cut her open and get the baby out?" After a moment J'onn turned his head to look at him, blinked slowly.

When J'onn spoke his voice was shaky, "I do not know her physiology well enough. If I did there is a large chance that at least the child would die." John ground his teeth in frustration. Everyone was refusing to see the baby's death as an option, and he didn't understand why.

"You should at least see if she'd be willing to try," John ground out from between clenched teeth. J'onn looked at him, and then, shoulders hunched walked over to Shay and Jay. John couldn't hear the alien speak, but both Jay and Shay's response was noticeable.

"NO! Promise me you won't touch my baby! Promise me!"

Jay's protest was quieter, but only marginally. J'onn nodded, reassuring words undoubtedly falling from his lips. John turned, and felt helplessness rise in his chest. He left his eyes slip closed, and jerked back to consciousness what felt like seconds, but was actually two hours, later to excited screaming.

Everyone was crowded around Shay's bed, and he hurried over, trying to figure out what was going on and what he had missed. Jay was still lying behind her, murmuring a constant stream of assurances and comforting words into her ear. She had both of his hands in her, and his fingers were very red, his hand compressed smaller than seemed possible. John wondered if all the bones in the boy's hands were broken, or just most of them.

J'onn was positioned between Shay's legs, a look of intense concentration on his face. Diana was standing behind the Martian; more for moral support it appeared than any actual medical assistance. And John suddenly realized what was happening.

The baby was finally coming. After hours of agony, worry, and terror on everyone's part, it was finally winding to a close. He didn't feel as relieved as he'd hoped he would.

Shay's scream blocked out Jay's soft murmurings, and very nearly drown out Diana's exuberant exclamation that they could see the head. Someone was yelling that they only needed a few more pushes, and someone else fell over backwards, having apparently locked their knees. Some Man of Steel Clark was turning out to be.

Jay was shouting encouragement now, and with one final scream something small, dark, and bloody came away in J'onn's hands. "My baby, let me see my baby!" Silence fell, swift and foreboding, and Shay felt ice climb up her spine. She released Jay's hands, and he embraced her, arms warm and comforting.

And then she saw J'onn's face, the defeat reflecting out of his eyes, and she felt tears like fire streaking down her cheeks. She heard someone screaming, a high-pitched animal keening, and it wasn't until much later that she realized it was herself. Her baby, her perfect little baby, was not moving, was not breathing. She turned in Jay's arms, buried her face desperately against his chest, her scream muffled against him.

He was littering kisses across her forehead, her hair, and his arms tight around her. Jay watched as they carried John's tiny, stillborn baby away, and tears snaked hot down his cheeks.

Epilogue: Dust & Stone

She had considered a space burial for her baby, but in the end she had buried her perfect little girl in the earth. There, at least, she could visit, could touch the gravestone, and imagine what might have been. She left flowers sometimes, but most of the times she left feathers plucked from her own wings. Wings her daughter would have had, if the two little naked wing buds on her back where anything to go by.

Her daughter had never opened her eyes, and never drawn a breath. Her dark brown skin had never been kissed by the sun, or chilled by the snow. She would never receive the explanation of her conception. That her parents had both been drunk, and didn't even know whom her father was till she came silently into the world. She would never have to deal with the fact that her parents weren't married, or even a couple.

She would never know how much Jay had cared for her, before she'd even been born, when he didn't even know if she was his.

Shay felt the familiar ache in her chest, and jerked to her feet. Jay had been standing a few feet away, a silent strength, and now he closed the distance between them, hugged her tightly. His hands were still bandaged, the bones she had broken almost mended.

Her body was still sore, her throat still raw, she had only recently gotten her voice back. He was warm, and she sank into the warmth, burying her face against his chest and wishing vainly that the last year had never happened. That she had never gotten drunk, and screwed John during a night that she didn't remember, even now.

Jay pressed a kiss into the crown of her head, and she tilted her face up towards his, meeting his lips in what would be their first kiss of many. He had been her stone for the last year, the one constant that she always had, and it made her realize that he had been that for a long time.

John rarely spoke to her now, perhaps just as upset by the loss of the baby as she was, perhaps just embarrassed. She knew that she would have to find out someday, make things right with him, but she wasn't ready yet. He seemed to be dust, blowing threw her life and stinging her, but gone just as quickly. Sometimes she wondered what would have happened if her daughter had been born alive, but she could never contemplate it long.

After a long moment she left her lips slip away from Jay's, her gray eyes slip open. She drew in a deep breath, and before she could exhale he had ducked his head, capturing her lips, tightening his hold around her waist.

When she later thought back on that day she could not remember how they got from the cemetery to Watchtower, but she remembered gentle kisses and his so-warm mouth on her throat, her shoulders, her breast. If she ever told anyone he could be a slow, gentle lover she doubted they would believe her, but he was. And when she woke, after what felt like days of pure restful sleep, in the hot circle of Jay's arms she felt almost as though her life was making sense again.

And she knew, that if she had to choose between dust and stone, she would choose stone every time.

The End

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