Cold

Cold

by Chicago

Disclaimer- Characters belong to DC Comics, situation my fault.

Follows - "Fidelity" and "Paternal Instincts" - a few weeks after "All's Fair"

Rated: G



Bruce Wayne woke disoriented. It was still dark, but he had not been wakened by nightmares. The blankets on the expansive bed around him were minimally disturbed, evidence that he had been having his usual restful slumber. His body, too well adapted to sleep in snatches, rarely wasted sleep time in tossing and turning. Nor did it often wake before the crack of dawn once he had allowed himself to lie down for the night.

Now, however, he was awake, and intent listening gave no clue as to why. The Manor was silent around him - or rather, there were no noises outside the ordinary ticking of clocks and distant whirring of appliances. The room was a tad brighter than usual, a product of moonlight on new fallen snow, but otherwise all was normal.

Except...

He was cold. Or he felt cold. His brow furrowed, trying to identify what he was feeling. His body was in fact toasty warm under the covers, and the cold feeling didn't seem to match any cold he'd felt before. It wasn't a fever chill, nor the kind of stomach deep cold of dread or fear. His flesh felt - flesh temperature, evenly warm. The air of the Manor on his face felt its usual steady, unwavering 69.3 degrees. Not body temperature, but certainly not cold.

Nonetheless, some corner of his brain was telling him he felt cold.

Troubled and aware that he could not just dismiss the feeling and return to sleep, he slid out from beneath the covers and slipped his feet into a pair of slippers. They were slightly cooler than his feet, but again, not cold. The air was a bit cooler than the comfortable warmth of his bed, however, and he shrugged on his robe to retain some of that body heat. He stood for a moment, considering, then found himself drawn to the French doors overlooking his estate.

The doors were top of the line, sealing perfectly against the cold night air outside, but the air around them was still chilled. The cloud cover that had dumped 9" of heavy wet snow on Gotham over the past 24 hours had drifted off in the night, and the temperature had undoubtedly plunged. In a way it was a relief; the unseasonal warmth that had left the northeast devoid of snow and ice well into January had made this winter somehow drearier than years past and gave Gotham a jittery feel. The freshly blanketed Wayne grounds felt more right than they had for weeks, even if it meant more treacherous patrolling for the Batman.

The soft illumination of the grounds also served to explain the cold feeling. He was right - he wasn't cold. But the lonely figure standing at the distant cliff edge? Martians might lack the physiological capacity to feel cold, but that didn't prevent J'onn from inadvertently communicating his physical state to Bruce Wayne.

It was inadvertent communication, Bruce realized, aware that there was no active telepathic link between him and J'onn. And try as he might, Bruce lacked the capacity of initiating such a link from his end. A mental shout could get J'onn's attention, but that was a tactic Bruce reserved for emergencies. This wasn't such an emergency.

But J'onn, whether he knew it or not, was cold. And he was alone. And he was standing on Wayne property - which meant he probably had been heading for the Manor. Bruce had not seen him in nearly two weeks, although they'd been in regular contact. J'onn's energies had been split between the Watchtower and Atlantis - and other identities too long neglected in the aftermath of the Protex affair, and Batman had had the usual post-Christmas crime wave to deal with. Bruce wasn't sure what had delayed their reunion, but he knew what he should do.

He left the doors and crossed to his closet, pulling out a pair of thick wool socks. He stepped out of his slippers and pulled on the socks, tucking the legs of his pajamas into them. Then he traded his robe for a t-shirt and a turtle neck. A pair of jeans - a gift from Dick a couple of years back - fit easily over the pajama bottoms. He tucked his shirts into them before topping the ensemble with a heavy sweater. Now he was positively roasting, but the cold feeling still curled in one corner of his mind.

He scooped up a pair of boots and trod stocking-footed down the Manor stairs. He could move silently enough with the boots on, but somehow Alfred always heard him anyway, and he didn't want to wake the elderly gentleman.

The reflected light from the snow outside was more than sufficient for creeping around the Manor, and Bruce reached the back door without incident. There he put on and laced tight his boots and claimed a winter coat and hat and gloves. Then he silently exited his ancestral home and began the long trudge out to the cliff's edge.

J'onn didn't move, even long after he should have heard the crunch of Bruce's boots in the snow. There were no footprints leading to his location, suggesting the Martian had emerged from the ocean below and flown to this spot. As Bruce drew closer, rivulets of ice on the green skin and icicles hanging from the blue cape added validity to this assumption. He wondered if J'onn had moved at all once he had stopped at this place. He seemed as still as the night air, and that quality of stillness prompted Bruce to stop before he drew even with him.

The exertion of moving through the untrampled snow had coated Bruce's body in perspiration, and now that he had stopped moving, the sweat was cooling on him. His breath blew out in dramatic white clouds, and had J'onn been human, Bruce might have worried that no similar clouds circled his head. He knew better, though. Martians didn't need to breathe.

Nonetheless, humans did, and the icy air and his cooling perspiration were already beginning to chill Bruce. His body was still winter-soft, and it would take a few more days of weather like this before he would be able to shrug off the cold. Now, at least, his body could share his mind's understanding of the cold feeling.

He wasn't reduced to shivering, yet, at least. Instead he was able to focus on the silence, broken only by the distant crash of the waves below. It was definitely a forlorn sound against the backdrop of the winter wonderland around them and the hollow light of the moon. It felt... lonely. Lost. A familiar kind of empty that began to explain why J'onn had stopped - and why Bruce should reach out to him.

He took the final two steps to J'onn's side and pushed the edge of the cape aside to claim J'onn's hand. He twined his gloved fingers in J'onn's, giving a tight squeeze which was rewarded by an answering pressure.

"You're cold," Bruce pointed out, breaking the silence.

J'onn didn't answer, still staring out across the ocean. Bruce regarded his face patiently, noting ice trickles at the corner of each eye. Martians did not have to cry, either - it was a human habit J'onn had picked up.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Bruce asked, not really certain what response he would get. He understood J'onn better than anyone - their shared memories guaranteed that - but that understanding was - for Bruce - on human terms. J'onn sometimes reacted to things in ways which were decidedly not human, a quality which delighted Bruce for its unpredictability and worried him for what he could not understand.

There was another silence before J'onn finally raised his free hand to his face, brushing away the ice on his cheeks. "What is the date?" he asked quietly.

"January 13," Bruce replied readily, not letting his tone betray his puzzlement. J'onn could feel the question if he wanted to, but the Martian was remaining curiously silent on the telepathic front.

J'onn nodded once. "I thought so."

Bruce again tightened his hold on J'onn's hand, searching his memories for the significance of this date. He wasn't surprised that nothing came immediately to mind - J'onn's memories tended to come through as raw feelings rather than lingering on rational facts attached to them. In their unions, events had a jumbled quality anyway, understood intuitively rather than presented as a narrative.

"Fifty years ago today," J'onn suddenly began, "I arrived on Earth."

There was nothing to say to that as Bruce's mind isolated that moment of J'onn's past and reeled at it. Ripped away from the burning funeral pyres of Mars, driven to madness by the loss of his entire world and then sucked through time and space to an unfamiliar planet - Bruce wondered that Erdel had kept his wits about him enough to anchor J'onn through that painful time. Yes, the old scientist had fed him lies, but they had been lies that kept J'onn sane until he was ready to reclaim his memories. For a brief moment, Bruce felt a pang of jealousy toward Erdel, for the closeness he had shared with J'onn long before Bruce had even been born. But now...

J'onn lowered his head, pressing his balled fist against his forehead as new tears squeezed from his eyes. "I miss my little girl," he wept, and his knees buckled.

K'hym. Bruce had no answer for this grief, his own thoughts flying unbidden to Jason and threatening him with a similar wave of emotion. He struggled against it, pulling J'onn toward him and letting the Martian weep against his stomach as he fretted about the impossibility of comforting him. His detective's sensibilities kicked into play, allowing him to retreat into the puzzle of why J'onn would suddenly mark this date, would head toward Bruce for comfort only to stop short of the Manor.

The answer likely lay in Atlantis, where J'onn had been tirelessly helping the city of Poseidonis and the Atlantean royal family as they recovered from the ordeal of the city's teleportation and retrieval. He had spent days coaxing Tempest through his tangled memories, providing Aquaman with a sounding board as the monarch reestablished control over his territories. He had been deeply enmeshed in the dynamics of a family on the mend - in a family rebounding from bitter loss and long hard feelings, a family redeemed by the promise of a new generation and a new source of hope. A kind of hope that J'onn would never experience.

A lump grew in his throat as he knelt down beside J'onn in the snow, softly kissing his forehead. The green skin was icy under his lips.

He pulled at J'onn's hand. "Come on," he urged. "Let's go in. You're cold."

J'onn nodded disconsolately, then seemed to shake himself. He lifted his face and stared hard into Bruce's eyes as if he only now realized Bruce was even there. With the eye contact came the faintest tendril of telepathic contact. Bruce?

I'm here, Bruce responded, wrapping his arms tightly around the cold shoulders of his lover. He felt J'onn's arms encircle him in response. He didn't object as they sat there for another long stretch of time, J'onn shuddering with emotion as Bruce sought to soothe him through their telepathic link. He had little enough to offer save assurances that he was still there, but it seemed to help, for after a while, J'onn's quaking eased. He broadened the touch of his mind, then abruptly sat up.

"You're cold," he noted.

"Maybe a little," Bruce confessed, unable now to control his shivering.

J'onn muttered something that Bruce recognized as a Martian expression of self-chastisement, then lifted Bruce easily in his arms, flying them both back to the Manor. Don't- Bruce objected, cursing his own human frailty. He couldn't bear J'onn's self-directed anger at his own vulnerability.

Shhh, J'onn replied, alighting on the balcony outside Bruce's bedroom and phasing through the doors to unlock them and let Bruce in. I can't be so selfish in taking advantage of you, J'onn stated, efficiently peeling away Bruce's layers of clothing and wrapping him in his heavy bathrobe. I've probably given you hypothermia.

No, Bruce reassured, stilling J'onn with a gesture. He pressed the flat of his palm to the still freezing planes of J'onn's chest and met his lover's eyes. Only a sense of how much more I want to love you.

J'onn stared at Bruce, then swept him into a tight embrace. The Martian's cold skin set him shivering again, but Bruce didn't care. There were worse kinds of cold, and for the moment, that cold seemed to have passed.



End

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