Fugitive Endeavor, part 3
Disclaimers in "part 0"
But they still didn't know what he was doing.
Bruce rubbed his hands over his face, fighting down paranoia, and then reached across the bed for...
J'onn wasn't there.
Now Bruce sat up, squinting into the darkness of the bedroom for any hint of green shadow. J'onn had been here when he went to bed, a little over an hour ago by the bedside clock. In fact, J'onn had rather insistently dragged Bruce away from the files of everything Cain had accessed in the Cave, claiming Bruce's exhaustion was making it hard for J'onn to think.
It was hard to argue with J'onn when he really was right, and Bruce had relented, dropping into fitful sleep almost as soon as he was tucked in with J'onn spooned securely around him. But now J'onn wasn't here. Was that what had awoken him?
A more troubling thought occurred to him. Perhaps Cain had come back, and J'onn had ghosted away to confront him. Or not confront him, just read his mind...
Bruce shook that off. J'onn might decide to investigate on his own, but not without telling Bruce. Even at his most protective, J'onn was not inclined toward secret plans when they were not completely necessary. Had Cain shown up, J'onn would have at least wakened Bruce to let him know and to strategize.
So where was J'onn?
Bruce swung out of bed and grabbed his bathrobe. He might have been called up to the moon, or maybe he was just in the Manor somewhere. Regardless, as long as Bruce couldn't sleep, he might as well find him. They could talk over the case, or just talk, or...
Bruce opened his bedroom door and stepped out into the hall, acknowledging to himself that he just wanted J'onn near right now. He couldn't control what Cain was going to do, and he really couldn't do more than warn his family to be on their toes. J'onn had quietly talked him down from the idea of spiriting Cassandra off to the Watchtower or somewhere else Cain couldn't go, pointing out that of any of them, Cassandra would certainly not be Cain's target. His motivation, perhaps - in which case, hiding her might accelerate or exaggerate whatever Cain had planned. Plus, J'onn had forcibly reminded him, Cassandra would not take the idea well and would likely rebel.
All true enough, Bruce admitted, and still he worried. Cain was ruthless enough that if he suspected J'onn's presence he would not hesitate to arm himself with a flamethrower. Plus given how erratically the assassin was behaving since Cassandra had defected to the Bat? He might just have enough of a death wish to consider killing a JLA member who got in his way a good idea.
Bruce reached the bottom of the stairs and was struck by a sudden intuition - or, he realized with a thin smile - a telepathic prompt. He turned and headed unerringly toward his study, not surprised to see the door half open and a low-intensity beam of light spilling out onto the hall floor. Bruce arrived at the door and pressed it open further, leaning against the doorjamb. "I thought you said we should give it a rest for the night," Bruce pointed out mildly.
At his desk, a mild smile did not quite erase the troubled expression on his lover's face as he looked up from the piles of paper he was comparing. "I think I said you should get some rest tonight," J'onn corrected mildly.
Bruce straightened up and crossed the room, swinging around the desk to stand beside J'onn. "So I'm rested."
J'onn hooked an arm loosely around Bruce's hips. "You're not, but I don't know that it's worth arguing with you about it."
Bruce draped his arm across J'onn's shoulder and dropped an absent-minded kiss onto his bald pate. "You are a wise Martian," he remarked, taking in the papers J'onn had been working on. Bruce's journals. The journals that Cain had been doctoring. "Any clues?" Bruce asked.
J'onn reached for one of the stacks of paper that sat face down on the desk and flipped it over. His fingers sorted through the top few pages until they came to a sheet heavily annotated in J'onn's angular, up and down script. "The changes are relatively subtle, but they have their effect. They suggest you are growing increasingly unstable, that your paranoia over someone discovering your identity is growing."
Bruce read across the page, seeing where his own language had been replaced. "I see what you mean." He flipped through a few more pages, finding some places where only a word or two had been changed, others where whole paragraphs had been altered. Every change had been carefully noted along with some notes about the effect of the change, a painstaking comparative effort. "You've been working on this since I fell asleep, haven't you?" Bruce asked.
J'onn nodded, tightening his arm for a second.
Bruce set down the paper and turned his full attention to J'onn, noting the way the troubled expression in his eyes still had not faded. "J'onn?"
"You were so... troubled... when you wrote these," J'onn noted, a hint of pain in his voice. "I wasn't paying enough attention. I didn't-"
"J'onn." Bruce gave his lover a firmly silencing look. "You were paying attention. You let me be when that's what I wanted from you, when Kal and Diana and others were interfering, trying to make me more... someone else."
"They made things worse, J'onn. There was so much I needed to work out on my own after No Man's Land."
J'onn stared at the papers in front of him as Bruce spoke, his expression unreadable without the clues from his eyes. "I wish I had been here," he finally said. "To hold you." At this last, he looked up at Bruce earnestly.
"I wouldn't have let you," Bruce pointed out, softening his words with a kiss to J'onn's forehead. "Not then. And you wouldn't have wanted to anyway. This was about the time I set you on fire."
J'onn's eyes met Bruce's sharply. "You did NOT set me on fire," he said harshly.
Bruce looked away. "My plans. Same difference."
"No, it's NOT," J'onn insisted. "Look at me, Bruce."
Bruce hesitated, then reluctantly obeyed.
"If I ever did go rogue, ever began hurting people, I hope you WOULD stop me. By any means necessary."
Bruce's expression grew more troubled. "You never would," he protested. "I should have known that before, even."
J'onn rose to his feet as Bruce again looked away. "Bruce," he sighed, wrapping has arms around his lover.
Bruce stood in the circle of J'onn's arms for a moment before he finally curled his arms around J'onn's and gave a squeeze. "We are quite the pair, aren't we?" he remarked ironically.
J'onn tightened his hold, resting his cheek on the top of Bruce's head for a moment. "A dynamic duo," J'onn corrected. "Back to bed?"
Bruce nodded, but for a long moment they just stood still, holding each other.