End of Summer
 

The Dinner Party

by Wayne Hotu

The following story is set somewhere between the events of JUSTICE LEAGUE: A MIDSUMMER'S NIGHTMARE and JLA #1. Bon appetit!

    The exclusive restaurant, L'Infantino, was uncharacteristically empty this night. Only a skeleton staff consisting of one chef, two cooks, two waiters and the Maitre'd on hand to serve the five guests that had made reservations.

The first to arrive was the famed journalist for the Daily Planet, Clark Kent. Wearing a dark blue suit hidden under an overcoat to protect the wearer from the cold of the Midway City night, Clark was guided to a table situated in the middle of the restaurant by the Maitre'd.

"Are we the only guests tonight?" Clark asked the Maitre'd, Bates.

"Yes, sir. It was Mr. Wayne's express wish to hire out the entire restaurant for the evening. But don't worry, sir. Mr. Wayne has amply compensated for any lack of revenue for this evening." Bates answered with a slight smile.

After a short wait of a few minutes, Bates returned to the table escorting a very tall and radiating Diana Prince, who was wearing a grey sweater and an ankle-length black suit. Diana had her hair twisted into a braid behind her. Clark rose to greet her with a small kiss before they both sat down.

"I thought Arthur was coming with you." said Clark

"I met him at the wharf," Diana started sipping on a glass of water that Clark had poured for her. "He said he was too busy to come, apparently there was some trouble with illegal whalers further down the coast. He said it was personal business, so I didn't ask too much. He did say that he still wasn't sure about joining the League, saying that if we ever really need him, he'll be there."

"Superman said the same thing to Batman when he was first offered membership to the League." Clark reminisced. Then he heard someone enter the elevator twenty floors below.

"J'onn's here." he said. Diana nodded as she took another sip.

Two minutes later, Bates arrived with detective John Jones, dressed in a simple brown business suit and a smile. Diana rose to kiss John then Clark shook his hand.

"What are you smiling about?" Diana asked when Bates had left.

"Oh, this whole get-up. I haven't been 'John Jones' in a long time. Takes a bit of getting used to."

As he sat down, J'onn raised his eyebrows at the plate of Oreos sitting in front of him. Both Clark and Diana laughed.

"I picked up a packet on my way," Clark explained as J'onn offered the Oreos to his fellow-Leaguers. "I think it was Billy Batson who told me of your fondness for them." Both Clark and Diana took a cookie.

While enjoying the cookies, Diana filled J'onn in about Aquaman.

"It's interesting. I've always thought that Arthur saw the League as more of an… excursion, from his world. A chance for him to socially interact with his peers, rather than his day-to-day dealings with his subjects." J'onn explained. "With all the constant pressures he has in his life at the moment, I hope he can find some small diversion, a place or an activity where he can relax and leave his duties temporarily before they overcome him. I've seen too many cases where the overworked have simply burned out."

"Like… Batman?" asked Diana after a long pause.

"Batman is different, I would say," J'onn started "While he is a driven man, and while his motivations have often threatened to consume him, he has his close associates to keep him in touch. And, perhaps, to help reign him if his obsessions ever get out of control. Another advantage for him, I think, is his training. He has learnt patience and meditation which is useful to help ease the pressures on his soul. Speaking of whom, where is he?"

"Right here." Bruce Wayne seemed to materialise behind J'onn. He had even managed to take Clark by surprise.

Bruce Wayne smiled slightly as he shook Clark and J'onn's hand. He wore a dark jacket over a blue sweater and dark pants.

"Ah, Bruce Wayne, may I introduce Diana Prince." said Clark.

"Enchante." Bruce kissed Diana's offered hand. Diana laughed at his play.

After all sat down, Bates arrived to ask if anyone wanted drinks. Bruce ordered four bottles of Champagne and sparkling Burgundy.

"Have to keep up the appearance. And this is a celebration of sorts." said Bruce, after Bates had gone.

"Any bugs, Clark?" Bruce asked under his breath.

"I scanned when I came in, the place is clean." said Clark, referring to his x-ray vision.

"Arthur won't be coming…" Diana started and filled Bruce in.

Just as she was finishing, Bates and a waiter arrived with the wines and handed out the menus.

"Shall we get under way?" Bruce's previously light manner seemed to melt as he poured a glass of water. His voice deepened and his face hardened as he took some papers out of his jacket, and his colleagues saw that the facade of Bruce Wayne had disappeared. They were now in the presence of the Batman.

"J'onn. I assume you have informed the current members of the League of our intention to replace them."

"Yes. Some of them are not too happy, like Metamorpho. But I impressed upon them that our involvement was nothing short of crucial. I suspect there would still be some ill-will harboured against us." said J'onn.

"I can understand their dismay," said Wonder Woman. "They are good heroes, well-trained and dedicated. And while there were some uncomfortable times, I was proud to lead them."

"As was I, Diana." said J'onn.

"Speaking of members, does anyone else have reservations about Flash and Green Lantern?" asked Batman. The other three looked at each other.

"Speaking for myself, I think Wally is a good addition. He's intelligent, well-trained and experienced. And especially adept with his powers." said Superman. "He can be a little light at times, but never about his responsibilities." J'onn and Wonder Woman nodded in agreement.

"I agree." said Batman. "Nightwing often speaks highly of him. And I think he's matured significantly over the last few years. I did have concerns over his levity, but I suppose he can't be any worse than Blue Beetle." J'onn involuntarily let out a chuckle. "And then there's Green Lantern."

"He has potential." Wonder Woman started.

"But he hasn't been a Lantern for that long." said Batman.

"The Guardians were usually extremely selective about choosing their Lanterns." Superman said, referring to the race of beings who, until recently, were the guardians of the powers of the Green Lantern Corps. "And I believe that Hal more than fulfilled their expectations… until Coast City." This last sentence caused a moment of silence.

"There is the danger that the boy might rely too much on his power. John Stewart once did and it cost a world's population." The Martian Manhunter reminisced about a mission where he was partnered with the Green Lantern: John Stewart, whose overconfidence once resulted in the death of a solar system.

"He has access to a tremendous power. And I've always been wary of people who have that much power," Batman looked at Superman. "I mean, those I don't know well.

"He's extremely powerful and, I think, inexperienced. But he's there." Batman looked at each of his colleagues in turn. "Probably the best thing for him is to be around people who can both teach him and look out for him. In my mind there is no one better than us. We can help train him and expose him to experience. And if we need to, we are the only ones who can bring him down." The Batman's words had a grim effect on the others, who slowly started to nod in agreement.

During the silence, Bates returned to take their orders.

Bruce took the liberty of ordering for everyone, and went straight into the mains. For Clark, he asked for venison topside tenderly done in a light aubergine pickle marinade over baby corn and roasted capsicum and asparagus. For Diana, black linguini with feta, zucchini, chilli and black olive puree. J'onn was treated to spinich with feta cheese filo pastries. And for himself, grilled lamb sirloin, rare, surrounded by lashings of pickled garlic on a tasty potato mash with charizo. Plus four more bottles of Sauvignon and Cabernet, Bates raised his eyebrows at this as the previous wines had not even been opened, but said nothing.

As Bates walked away with the order, Batman brought up the issue of finance.

"The United Nations used to sponsor the League," said J'onn. "But it was more of a token gesture. Since Max Lord died, his estate largely maintained funding of the League with donations from various enterprises such as Wayne Enterprises, Tyler Chemicals, Kord Industries and others."

"What about LexCorp?" asked Superman.

"Suprisingly not." said J'onn with a small smile. Superman smiled too.

"Now, that just leaves the question of a location for the headquarters." said Batman.

"The League currently has the use of the ship of the Overmaster." said Wonder Woman. "It's large, and very well equipped. But, well, as it did belong to an alien race, some of it still remains unexplored. Any other suggestions?"

"One. J'onn and I have had something in mind for a while." said Batman. "J'onn?"

The Martian Manhunter leaned back in his chair. "When we… spoke with Know-Man, we had the impression that the threat he referred to would come from outside of earth. And I thought, we would want to try and stop the threat as far from earth as possible, but close enough for us to be able to move there quickly, and to transport whatever supplies as quickly as possible…" Both Superman and Wonder Woman stared at J'onn.

"Not the… Justice League satellite?" asked Clark hopefully.

"Ah, not quite. I was thinking," J'onn paused for effect. "The moon." Both Superman and Wonder Woman were taken by surprise.

"We can organise construction for the headquarters within a month or so. We've chosen the location to be in the Sea of Tranquillity. Not far from where Neil Armstrong made his first steps." said Batman.

The waiters started to arrive with the food.

Clark took one of the bottles of champagne and loudly popped the cork, the champagne spilling over, as the waiters left.

"A toast then," he said as he started filling everyone's' glass. Diana and J'onn raised their glasses, even Batman's demeanour lightened as Bruce raised his. "To the new Justice League." he toasted.

"The new Justice League!" they echoed.

 
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This story is © July, 1998 by Wayne Hotu.

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