Follows Family Affairs
Disclaimer: Characters belong to DC Comics. Situation is my fault - written for fun, not profit.
Finally enough of him was healed that he could pull the remaining damage inward to the core of his body where he was focusing his regenerative energies. He shuddered to think how long the process would have taken without Bruce. Just repairing his mind enough to think about his body would've been the work of weeks, if not months.
A faint smile played on his lips at the thought of Bruce. He resisted the urge to reach out telepathically for him at Wayne Towers; it would only earn him a lecture about over-extending himself. Well, that and the delicious thrill of contact, but Bruce wasn't quite ready to deal with Martian whimsy. In fact, he was still too tensely defensive of his new lover, as was revealed when they told Dick. Part of the man, J'onn reminded himself, knowing time and patience would relax some of Bruce's protective instincts.
He shifted on the chaise longue, allowing the kimono he wore in his Alana guise to fall open a little more to the sunlight. There'd been a hard frost the night before, but in the Wayne Manor solarium it was soothingly warm. He felt guiltily as if he were on vacation, despite his realization that only now could he be remotely useful to the Justice League, let alone functional in any of his other identities. Not that he really expected them to understand that, he noted to himself as a familiar presence appeared on the Wayne Estate.
Alfred was back at Brentwood, but there was someone around to open the door. J'onn wondered idly what instructions they had been left regarding visitors to Wayne Manor. He opted not to pry, letting himself enjoy the sunshine and focus his energy on repairing the lingering damage to his body. Lazy, he chided himself, knowing it might be better for him to go greet the visitor at the door. But the sun felt so good, and, he decided philosophically, he could let this issue find him.
He did not have long to wait. Clark must've been at his charming best, convincing the staffer to lead him right to the door of the solarium. Now, though, the Man of Steel stood uncertainly in the doorway, trying to decide - J'onn realized with an internal chuckle - whether the woman he saw was really his Martian teammate. The temptation to let him stew was a clue J'onn'd spent too much time with Bruce - but such time it was! But, no, it was time to start dealing with the rest of the world again.
I'm awake, Kal, he projected, moving finally to tighten the sash of his kimono and open his eyes.
A mix of relief and concern radiated from the other man as he took this prompt as a cue to enter and close the door behind him. "J'onn?"
J'onn sat up and offered his teammate a reassuring smile. "Alana," he corrected gently, sending a clear mental message. In this place, we protect certain secrets.
Clark nodded tightly and crossed to the chair across from J'onn. He hesitated before sitting. "How are you?" he asked.
"Better," J'onn replied. "Please, sit."
Clark obeyed, sitting forward in the chair and leaning to rest his elbows on his knees. "We hadn't heard -" He trailed off helplessly, his eyes troubled by unaskable questions.
"I know." J'onn swung his legs off the side of the chaise lounge and resituated himself to face Clark. "It's been - easier - to stay distant." Clark looked at him sharply. "So Bruce hasn't -"
"No. Or at least, he hasn't kept me more isolated than I wished. I have been - sometimes less than coherent."
J'onn felt the way this information jarred Clark. He could well imagine the way the League was struggling to make sense of what was going on. Batman certainly hadn't helped things with his brusque response to their concerns a week before. Not that it made any sense whatsoever that Batman could keep J'onn away from the League without J'onn's consent, but somehow that was the story they were telling themselves.
Correction, J'onn realized. That was the story MOST of the League was telling. Something else was troubling Kal.
"There's a meeting tonight."
"I'm aware. I plan to attend. I should be able to withstand the teleporter thanks to Bruce." Lay it on the table, invite him to talk about it. And keep half a mind open for any approaching day staff in case the conversation needed to be suddenly redirected.
"Withstand - but you teleported to Mars?"
"And turned into a puddle of goo. I managed to hold shape on the way back but it cost me almost all my strength."
Clark stared. "Why didn't-"
"You know Bruce. It wasn't need to know information as far as he was concerned. He didn't want to fight you on the issue of seeing me, which he knew you would demand if you knew how bad it was. And he didn't want to expose my vulnerability."
"But - but we could have been told and still - it would've made it easier for us to understand -"
"This isn't about the rest of the League, Kal."
Clark's shoulders slumped. "I watched the tape," he confessed.
"I know." For the first time in the conversation, J'onn dropped his eyes. "Not my finest moment."
J'onn stood and walked to the window, staring out at the frost burned garden. "When they pulled me back to the Watchtower, only some three hundred of my cells were untouched by the flames. Not really enough to anchor my consciousness." He hadn't even articulated this for Bruce, although of course Bruce understood in a way beyond words. He heard Clark gasp behind him, grasping finally the extent of the damage. "My mind was already badly weakened by Protex and his psi-spikes. All that was holding me together was my focus on stopping him. With that gone..." J'onn shrugged Alana's shoulders, wrapping his arms around himself.
"Your minds fortified me, persuaded me I must be alive, must stay alive. It - hurt, forcing myself to stay in my body, to try to regenerate a cell at a time. For long stretches, I just maintained, anchoring my mind around Batman's lecture that I was not alone. I could get through this and I was not alone."
"Those three days -"
"I was able to regenerate perhaps one thousandth part of myself. Just enough that staying alive was no longer a conscious act of will."
"J'onn, I'm sorry. We didn't - I didn't realize-"
"No apology, Kal. How could you know? I couldn't tell you. And when I finally felt I could relax and not leave my body - you saw what happened."
"Yes." J'onn felt the image of his own flailing, distorted body flash through Kal's mind.
"Bruce - Bruce didn't know what he was getting into. He only wanted to help, and I - I took advantage of him. I could've destroyed him." He heard Clark rise to his feet, listened as he crossed the short distance between them to lay a hand on Alana's shoulder. "You didn't," he pointed out.
J'onn turned, gazing up at Clark through Alana's eyes. "No. Instead I found something."
Clark met J'onn's eyes and stared at his morphed teammate for a long moment. "You love him," he finally said.
"Yes," he acknowledged, noting the odd heaviness to Clark's tone.
"And from the little I've seen of Bruce in the last ten days, I'm betting it's reciprocated."
J'onn nodded, watching his teammate closely. Clark dropped his hand from Alana's shoulder and began pacing.
"Are you both sure about this? I mean, it's so sudden, and the circumstances. Are you sure you've thought through all the issues?"
"You mean like the problems of being an alien in love with a human?"
The question stopped Clark in his tracks. He turned to stare helplessly at J'onn, and J'onn could hear him mentally replaying dozens of conversations in which he'd sought J'onn's advice on this very topic.
"I know that's not the only concern. There's the issue that we're both male, but -" he gestured at his Alana form - "that one's all on Bruce. Martian gender doesn't translate into human terms."
Clark groaned and sat on the end of the chaise longue. "I'm such a heel."
J'onn smiled. "No. You're not. You're worried about the team. You're worried about us. And you're worried about what this does to our friendship." He left the window to take Clark's abandoned chair, reaching out to take Clark's hand. "You're right to worry. It's uncharted territory. And right now it's all pretty - intense."
"He wouldn't even tell us how you were, where you were-"
"You hurt his feelings," J'onn pointed out succinctly. "I don't have to tell you that."
"He just makes things so difficult. Half the League doesn't even believe he has feelings to hurt."
"Half the League still goes into shock when I lose my temper."
"But you - oh."
"Clark, Bruce and I are still just ourselves. This new thing between us - it's between us. You can rest assured we won't be coming to meetings joined at the hip." J'onn smiled at the mental image but kept the wicked thought to himself.
Clark sighed. "I know that. I know you're not a couple of kids. And I know both of you will proceed with caution. It's just-"
"I'm not abandoning you, Clark."
The other man started as if he would protest, but thought better of it.
"And neither is Bruce. You are still the friend who knows better than any what it means to be the last of your kind. And for Bruce -" J'onn chuckled. "There's only room for one self-righteous overgrown boy scout worth looking after."
"As much as he grumbles, he cherishes the way you live in the light, the way you inspire hope. So much so that he would take blows meant for you if it could keep you safe from our kind of losses."
"Yeah," Clark agreed distantly, lost in thought. "Like letting us all be angry at him rather than telling us that teleporting back to the moon might kill you."
J'onn nodded. "It probably wouldn't have, mind you, but the effort to hide from you how much it hurt?"
"J'onn, you shouldn't have to-"
"I always have, Clark."
There it was. He could feel Kal processing this, recognizing suddenly the link that had always been there between Bruce and J'onn - a link he had known about but had ignored.
"This has been a long time in coming, hasn't it?" he said softly.
"Had you asked me before, I might say no. But now that it's happened?" J'onn shrugged. "I see how humans get the romantic notion that some things are meant to be."
Clark looked down at Alana's hand, still wrapped around his, then looked up into J'onn's eyes. "So what now? Congratulations are in order, I suppose?"
J'onn laughed. "Wouldn't I look just stunning in white?" he joked, prompting a surprised laugh from Clark. "No, it's not something to congratulate. It just is, Clark. An answer to the darknesses that threaten both of us."
Clark gave his hand a little squeeze, and J'onn could see he understood. Not perfectly, but enough. The reporter rose to his feet, releasing Alana's hand. "I think I should go spend some time with my wife before tonight's meeting," he decided.
"Good idea," J'onn agreed.
"You'll tell Bruce I stopped by?"
"As soon as you leave."
This gave Clark pause. "You haven't told him already?" he asked as if the idea that this were possible had just occurred to him.
"He'd be grumpy, and he'd be here by now," J'onn pointed out. "Go easy on him, Clark. Let him do this at his own pace."
Clark gave J'onn a searching look. "I feel like I should say you're too good to him."
"Without him, I'd still be a thread of consciousness trapped in a burnt husk. The good goes both ways."
"Right. So I'll see you both tonight."
"Of course. Do you need me to see you out?"
"No, I can find my way." He hesitated, reaching out a hand to cup Alana's cheek. "I'm glad you're still with us, old friend."
J'onn nodded, meeting Kal's serious gaze. Then Clark turned and headed down the hall toward the Manor entrance.
J'onn sighed and settled back onto the chaise lounge. He opened his mind, sending out telepathic feelers for a distinctive consciousness, smiling to himself at the welcoming brush of contact. Bruce, he greeted, feeling his enjoyment of a powerful car eating up road on it's way toward home, the comforting embrace of his mind as he delighted in the mental touch. His message could wait a moment, J'onn decided, forestalling the lecture already shaping up in Bruce's mind with three words. I love you.
Bruce answered with the mental equivalent of a kiss that caused J'onn to teasingly remind him to keep his eyes on the road. Maybe not precisely meant to be, the Martian thought, but right. Definitely right.