by Chicago

Disclaimers: Characters for the most part belong to DC Comics. The abuse they suffer here is all my own doing, but not for profit.

Canon Notes: In JLA SF&O #1 it was noted that J'onn's recognition factor Asia, Africa and Australia is greater than Superman's. It is also in that issue where we see J'onn having problems with the motivations of the Australian government. Prior to the destruction of Z'onn Z'orr, the Martian city that was in Antarctica before J'onn threw it into the sun (see MM #8-9), J'onn actually more or less lived in the southern hemisphere full time. He is known in South America as El Hombre Verdad (MM #10). Beatriz and J'onn were teammates in the JLI. Dolphin and Cerdian are in Poseidonis NOT because of canon developments, but due to the internal logic of the J'onnverse (see "All's Fair," "Waking," and "Bedtime Stories"). Dolphin and J'onn served together on the JL Task Force, and the "Joan" reference is from issues #7-8 of that series. Yuchiro Takata, the head of New Concept Industries, is one of J'onn's alter egos (see MM #2, but note we've decided to save this identity from Chase's revelatory action in MM#17). The Wayne Enterprises/New Concept merger started in "Fidelity."

Rating: mostly G, unless two guys kissing pushes it up to PG

// indicates translated quote.

Grunts of effort and conversation minimized and muted by choking dust and by the effort to keep footing on shifting rubble suddenly gave way to shouts. J'onn pulled back a little, clearing a path for the gurney and medical supplies that were hurried up the side of the collapsed building. He felt himself relaxing: one more survivor. He could feel the relief in her over her pain and fear as light streamed finally into the pocket that she had lain in for almost three days since the quake.

A streak of green caught his eye, and in a moment, Fire had landed beside him. "I knew you would find more survivors," she delighted.

A filthy rescue worker broke from the chain of people working to free the woman trapped below and scrambled up to join the two heroes. //"She will live!"// he announced, his eyes welling with happy tears that left visible tracks through the dust and soot on his cheeks. //"Fire, thank you for calling El Hombre Verdad. And thank you -"//

J'onn held up a stilling hand. //"I am grateful to have been able to help,"// he said quietly. //"I only wish there was more-"//

//"One cannot question an act of god,"// the rescue worker dismissed. //"I must get back. But thank you, on behalf of everyone here."//

J'onn watched as he turned and rejoined the rescue effort. "That's real heroism," he remarked.

"I know," Beatriz acknowledged. "I take it you are heading out."

J'onn glanced back at her. "Yes. You will be all right here? Should the League-"

Beatriz snorted. "We do fine without the League 90% of the time anyway. But yes, now it is up to us. Thank you, though, for coming."

He inclined his head slightly. "Whenever you need me-"

"Yes, I know." She reached over and gave his arm a little squeeze. "Take care of yourself, J'onn. And fly through a rain cloud wherever you are going to next; you're looking more like el hombre gris with all this dust on you."

"The Gray Man might take issue with that," he remarked, brushing self consciously at his grit covered arms.

"Eh, don't give him any ideas," Beatriz objected, rolling her eyes. "We have enough to deal with here."

"As you say. I will come if you call." He rose from the ground easily as the survivor was pulled out of the rubble and laid on the gurney. Time to move on.

The gates to the palace opened almost instantly to admit him as he descended. He frowned a little; even the latent empathy of the Atlantean Royal Guard would not guarantee against another high level telepath disguised as J'onn. He would have a word with Arthur.


For now, his path led directly to the royal nursery, where the healthy wail of a young child suddenly sluiced through the water. "Ian," an exasperated young voice chided.

J'onn pushed through the kelp lined entrance into the foyer and tapped a shell, announcing his presence. "Hold on," Dolphin's voice called over that of the crying child, and then the secondary door rolled back.

"J'onn!" Dolphin exclaimed, immediately thrusting Cerdian into the Martian's arms. "Thank god you're here. He's teething and -"

Sudden silence descended as Cerdian found J'onn's thumb and began gumming the green digit. A fond smile crossed J'onn's face as he settled Ian more comfortably in his arms and looked up at Dolphin. "I apparently make a good chew toy."

Dolphin shook her head and smiled ruefully. "I'm sorry. Come in. It's just hard, with Garth out on assignment. I know there's a nanny staff and tutors for Ian and - I just -"

J'onn shifted his hold on the youngster and swam easily to settle into the half-shell settee that was one of two adult sized pieces of furniture that graced the nursery. Toys floated everywhere, signs of a long morning effort to calm in inconsolable child. Dolphin claimed a spot in a sea of anemones and sighed as they cradled her. "I'm sorry about the mess. I-"

"Dolphin, it's all right," J'onn chuckled, watching as Cerdian's eyes began to droop closed.

"You won't believe how fast he's getting around now," she stated, following J'onn's gaze. "Arthur was right about one thing - he is thriving on having so much open water."

"Children are adaptable," J'onn remarked. "How are you faring?"

Dolphin blinked, sea blue eyes suddenly glassy. "Only surface people ask me that," she whispered. "And Garth, of course. Pallais-"

She turned her head, obviously embarrassed, and J'onn let her be, rocking Cerdian gently and cooing at him as he drifted off to sleep.

Finally she spoke again. "J'onn, I'm sorry. I-"

J'onn gave her a smile. "No apologies necessary. Garth was worried you were feeling lonely." He rose and floated over to her, carefully passing Ian over to her.

Dolphin sniffed a bit as she accepted her sleeping son. "J'onn, you're a miracle worker."

"No, I just have cold, spongy thumbs," he contradicted. "At least, I do when that's what is needed."

"Do they export those?" Dolphin asked only half-facetiously. "Because this idea of cuttlefish to chew on just is not working for him." She gave a little kick to swim over to Ian's bed and settled the youngster down. He sighed and rolled in the water but did not wake up.

"I'm sure there's some teething toy on the surface that can be sent down," J'onn reassured.

"Yeah, if they'll let him have it," Dolphin remarked acidly. "They've got all these issues with surface ways."

"Give them time. I seem to recall a time when you were less than happy with the surface world."

Dolphin started a little, then gave J'onn a smile. "I was a bit of a pain back in the day, wasn't I?"

"No more than the rest of that team. Trust me on this one."

Dolphin stifled a giggle. "All right, 'Joan.'"

J'onn rewarded her with a glare. "As I was saying-"

"Shh. We'll wake Ian."

"Sorry," he apologized automatically as she led him from the cradle.

"Don't be. It's good to have someone around to talk to." She buzzed something on the wall and an attendant came scurrying in, bowing and carefully avoiding eye contact with her. She managed not to sigh as she gave orders that Cerdian be watched as he napped. The sigh did escape, though, as she and J'onn moved down the corridor to the family's receiving room. "I even miss Toni and her stupid fashion advice," Dolphin confessed.

"Can you imagine her with Gypsy?"

Dolphin paused, then began to laugh. "That could get ugly fast."


"How is Gypsy, anyway? I lost track of her..."

"Still in Egypt. I just saw her earlier this week. She was out in the Sahara for a couple of weeks working a case, and I joined her for a while. At least long enough for her to lecture me about sticking my nose in where it wasn't wanted."


"It was, actually. I'd worry if she didn't get annoyed with me from time to time."

"I guess she always did march to her own drummer."

"Yes," J'onn agreed, accepting the covered mug Dolphin handed him and sipping the heavy liquid it contained.

Dolphin settled across from him and drank from her own mug, silence shrouding both of them for a while. "You know something?" Dolphin finally said.


"I was just thinking. What was that movie you had got before that mission - the other women were laughing at it -"

"An Affair to Remember," J'onn recalled with a wistful expression. "I should have realized we had assembled the least romantically inclined group of women on the planet."

"I liked it," Dolphin pointed out. "I haven't seen it since then, but-"

J'onn smiled. "You know, I haven't seen that in a while either. I'll bet-" He touched his communicator, instantly bringing Kyle's voice to his ear.


"Hello, Green Lantern."

"J'onn! Something wrong or-"

"Just a social call. Or more a request actually."

"You got it, green guy. Superman was just asking about you, actually - wondering if you planned to be back in the States anytime soon."

A faint frown creased J'onn's features. "Am I needed?"

"I think it was a social thing," Kyle reassured, "since he didn't leave a message or anything. What'd you need?"

"I want to borrow the extra-frequency channel. If you would kindly isolate a copy of 'An Affair to Remember' and broadcast it to my communicator..."

"Oh, I love that movie," Kyle commented. "Sure thing, J'onn. Ummm, Batman would clear this, right?"

A corner of J'onn's mouth quirked up. "I'll worry about the clearance issue."

"That's all I needed to hear. I'll start sending it in five minutes."

"Thanks, Green Lantern." J'onn turned to Dolphin, now watching him with interest as he set his communicator on the table and turned it toward a blank stretch of wall. After a few minutes, the opening credits began to roll.

Dolphin sighed and drifted closer to give J'onn a peck on the cheek. "You rock."

"Now you even sound like a surface dweller," he remarked.

"There are worse things," she answered, settling down to enjoy the movie.

//"What is the situation?"// J'onn asked, touching down beside the military commander.

The man, his expression unreadable behind his mirrored sunglasses, gestured out toward a pile of wreckage half a mile away. //"It is a helicopter chartered by an international school,"// the commander explained. //"They developed engine trouble and were forced to land. They are lucky they only hit one mine."//

J'onn kept his face neutral, but his mind winced as he picked up the images from the commander's head. The mine field was a relic of an earlier war, partially cleared, but not as far as the area where the helicopter had crash landed. Rescue crews were halted at the edge of the scrubby veldtland, studying maps known to be inaccurate and arguing how best to proceed. In another time, people were known to send dogs or children ahead of parties to detonate a clear path through.

//"How many are on the helicopter?"// J'onn asked.

//"Still alive? We are not certain. Seven were on board when she left the capital."//

J'onn nodded. //"I can fly in two medics to stabilize the most seriously wounded as I fly the others out,"// he proposed.

The military commander studied him from behind his sunglasses. //"You are from the Americans."//

//"I am with the Justice League of America, yes,"// J'onn agreed carefully.

//"It occurs to me that a crash such as this is fortuitous for foreign nationals wishing better intelligence on this mine field."// The commander's tone was measured, almost conversationally light.

//"Perhaps that is so,"// J'onn reflected. //"Perhaps it is also so that the rescue of these survivors might offer an opportunity for the Supreme Leader to demonstrate the value that his regime places on human life."//

//"It could be. Yet a foreigner might claim his own heroism against the forces of the Supreme Leader in order to undermine such an evident truth."// In the distance, the helicopter began to list, appearing dangerously close to tipping and possibly setting off another mine.

J'onn remained stoic. //"I have met such foreigners,"// he acknowledged. //"Such a testimony would be invalidated, though, when the world sees how well you will be treating the injured in your field hospital."//

//"Unless the injured are spirited away across the border to hospitals there."//

//"A legitimate threat. Although as they have no forces gathered and I have only two hands-"// J'onn spread his hands wide to illustrate the point.

For one tense moment he thought he had overplayed his part, then the commander began to laugh. //"So you have. Go. Stabilize the craft and return for our medics."// The commander picked up his radio, but J'onn did not wait to listen to his orders. He rocketed across the mine field and caught hold of the helicopter, bracing it and studying the ground around it for signs of mines.

"Hey, someone out there?" a voice cried weakly.

"Help is coming," J'onn reassured. "What's your status?"

"Oh, god, you've got to get us out of here!" The helicopter began to pull away as someone inside began to shift.

"We will, but I need you to stop moving, okay?"

"Come on, you gotta - Riley's head is totally gone. It's just gone, okay? Get me out of here, please!"

J'onn took a deep breath and reached into the panicked mind, borrowing eyes to see the occupants of the helicopter tangled together, two clearly dead, another moving weakly. The others were less certainly alive or dead. He could feel the body of the young man he mentally touched pressing against the roof of the helicopter, pushing away from the horror of blood soaked bodies, his weight shifting the precarious balance of the machine.

No choice but to remove him, J'onn realized, seeing no place he could direct the teen's body without potentially harming someone in the tangle below him. Carefully, J'onn stretched a leg down, phasing intangible and analyzing the ground he passed through until he was certain he was not atop a mine. Then he twined a part of himself around the helicopter's base and anchored it to the limb in the sand. His hands thus freed, he stretched taller to open the door now facing the sky.

"Relax," he coaxed as he peeled back glass and steel, carefully resting it along the side of the chopper.

Brown eyes gazed up at him and a scream tore from the young man's lips. "No, no, no, don't take me. Oh god..."

Reluctantly, J'onn nudged the young man toward unconsciousness before reaching down to pull him from the helicopter. Minus his weight, the precarious lean of the vehicle righted itself.

J'onn disentangled himself from the helicopter and managed not to sigh as he tucked the first rescu-ee more securely in his arms to carry him to the medics.

//"Thank you, Nami-San,"// Yuchiro Takata said to the young woman setting the tea tray for him. She bowed respectfully and quietly left the room, closing the big double doors behind her. Both Takata and Hidei Yashimoto sipped at their tea in silence.

Finally, Takata spoke. //"You wished to see me, old friend?"//

Yashimoto nodded. //"You saw how the stockholders' meeting went today."//

//"Yes. They are... ambivalent... about the Wayne merger but do not wish to offer me disrespect."//

//"You are perceptive as always, Takata. This apparent... rivalry... between Mr. Wayne and the American President has... concerned... investors."//

Takata took a moment for another sip of tea. //"You think we should consider... divestment?"//

//"No. I do not share our investors' concerns. Mr. Wayne is one of the few gaijin I have met who truly understands honor."//

Takata raised an eyebrow. //"I share your assessment, Yashimoto, but I am surprised. Others who have met Mr. Wayne-"//

Yashimoto waved away the opinions of those imagined others. //"He pretends well to American vices, but three days of hard negotiating often reveals aspects of character that can be occluded. His pretense is his shugyo."//

//"And you chose not to reassure the stockholders with this confidence."//

Yashimoto stiffened slightly, but long acquaintence softened the potential insult. //"I am still a man of honor, Yuchiro Takata."//

Takata bowed slightly. //"I know. My apologies for the slight I have offered. So it is your advice to strengthen the ties between New Concept and Wayne Enterprises."//

//"It is just as I told the stockholders."//


As Takata spoke, a faint vibration thrummed at his belt, and beneath the unmoved surface of the Japanese businessman, J'onn J'onzz frowned slightly. He surreptitiously stilled the JLA signaler and opened a telepathic link to the moon. Yes, Wally?

Across from him, Yashimoto lowered his eyes. //"Mr. Wayne is honorable, but some of his team is less... civilized... in issues of corporate responsibility."//

//"You have specific concerns?"// Takata asked as Wally's voice spoke directly into his mind.

Hi, J'onn. We just got a request in from the mayor of Sydney about those trade talks starting tomorrow.

Yashimoto set a manila folder on the desk and slid it toward Takata. //"You see their proposals for plant combination."//

Takata opened the folder as he responded to Wally. Go ahead.

He let his eyes scan over the reports as Wally explained. The Australian government is worried about the protestors getting out of hand. They want someone in place before morning to help with crowd control.

Takata raised his eyes to meet Yashimoto's expectant face. //"This is unacceptable."// In his mind, J'onn asked, Are other League members available?

A certain tension seemed to leach from Yashimoto's body. //"It is the proposal from Mr. Wayne's Japan coordinator."//

Takata reached for the phone. //"Excuse me, Yashimoto-san,"// he requested. //"Nami, please connect me to Oliver Stanower."//

The mayor specifically requested you, J'onn, Wally was explaining. He paused, then, There is some concern that a hero more obviously linked to the US would inflame the protestors and bring accusations of capitalist oppression.

They want me to telepathically control the crowd, J'onn said bluntly as the phone buzzed in his ear.

A sleepy sounding voice answered, "Stanower here."

Takata spoke into the receiver: //"Mr. Stanower, this is Yuchiro Takata."//

All sleepiness disappeared from the American's voice as he shifted over to Japanese. //"Mr. Yuchiro! What an unexpected pleasure!"//

Wally, meanwhile, sounded abashed. They didn't say that specifically. I think they're more worried about riots and people getting hurt.

//"Mr. Stanower, I am reviewing your report for plant combination."//

//"Yes, sir! You see I have found a way to optimize productivity and profitability by -"//

My apologies, Wallace. I have had... issues... with the Australian government before. I am certain that their concern is genuine and deserves action.

//"You suggest the elimination of 3,000 jobs,"// Takata said flatly.

//"Heh heh. Well, you see how it is with recent market instability-"//

Do you want me to suggest someone else to them? Arthur could -

//"No, Mr. Stanower, I do not see how it is."//

As Stanower began to bluster on the other end of the phone, J'onn corrected Wally. There is an Atlantean delegation among the protestors. The new proposed trade regulations include a loosening of environmental controls in a misguided attempt to stimulate flagging global economies. Even if Arthur could, I doubt he would be inclined to appear allied with those who would contain the protests.

//" - indicators that downsizing in -"// Stanower was still talking.

//"Mr. Stanower, I will speak to Mr. Wayne about this. Good night."//

J'onn, Wally's mental tone sounded uncertain. Regardless of politics, if people's lives-

//"Wait, wha-"// Takata set down the receiver, cutting off Stanower's squawk. Across from Takata, Yashimoto's eyes gleamed with a combination of startled reproach and grim satisfaction.

You are right, Wally. How soon does the mayor feel my presence is needed?

//"I suspect, Yashimoto, that Mr. Stanower's plan can be fairly disregarded."//

Yashimoto bowed in acknowledgement, accepting back the manila folder.

Sometime before morning is all, Wally replied, relief in his tone. Shall I tell them when to expect you?

//"My worry was without cause,"// Yashimoto remarked.

Let them know I will arrive before sunrise, J'onn told Wally as Takata bowed to Yashimoto. //"You are my eyes and ears, old friend. Your worry is my worry."//

Will do, J'onn. And while I've got you, you think you might stop by for dinner with me and Linda sometime next week?

Yashimoto settled back and finished his tea with controlled sips. //"And how are your daughters?"// Takata asked, signaling an end to formal business discussion. In his mind, J'onn answered Wally: Perhaps I will take a rain check. Please apologize to Linda for me.

//"They are well. You will be surprised at how much they have grown since you saw them last."//

A hesitation sounded heavily on the telepathic link, as if Wally wanted to argue with J'onn but decided against it. She'll be disappointed, but I'll tell her. You should know you're missed around here.

Takata smiled a little. //"They do change quickly. I am sorry I have not seen them so much this past year."//

J'onn could not keep a hint of reproach out of his mental tone. I have covered my monitor duty.

//"You must make a visit,"// Yashimoto invited. //"Perhaps sometime next month?"//

//"I would be honored,"// Takata acknowledged.

I know you have, J'onn, and that's not what I meant. Wally sounded a little hurt.

//"I will talk to Nami,"// Yashimoto said, rising to his feet. //"Be well, Takata-san."//

//"And you,"// Takata replied, standing to bow properly to his CEO. As he watched Yashimoto exit, he apologized to Wally. I understand, Wally. It is just... difficult.

Yeah, I know. But the spin doctors don't reflect the views of the man on the street.

America is well-guarded, Wallace. It does no harm for me to concentrate my energies elsewhere as sentiment settles. But I do appreciate your support.

I'll let the Australians know you'll be there, J'onn. And if you change your mind about dinner...

Thank you, Wally. J'onn closed the link to his teammate and sat back in his chair, turning to look out on the Tokyo night.

"Mr. Kent," the press coordinator identified, quieting the jostling reporters.

"I have a question for Ms. Callende," Clark Kent stated, and the coordinator yielded the microphone as Clark spoke. "Did you anticipate that your movement would find a sympathetic ear from the American delegation?"

"We had certainly hoped for one," the dark-haired woman answered, "although historically the protestors have been contained well away from the site of the talks. It is a credit to the conference organizers here in Sydney that this negotiation has been enabled."

Another round of shouted questions began until the press coordinator stepped again to the podium. "Yes, Ms. Mfossa?"

"Monsieur Herve, your country has stalwartly resisted genetic modification of food crops. Does this good faith gesture..."

J'onn gazed over the room of reporters in the press center from his position near the edge of the stage, half an ear tuned to the crowd outside. It was relatively quiet as the milling mob focused its attention on monitors set up throughout the area surrounding the hotel, watching the proceedings. The more militant protestors, those who sought trouble for trouble's sake, were being kept in check by a general mood of hopefulness. It was a breakthrough of a sort, this invitation to the leaders of various protest movements to meet with various members of the trade delegations. There was some grumbling undercurrent, worries for cooptation, but on the whole, his strategy had been sound. The mayor of Sydney took his place at the podium in response to a question from a Russian reporter, basking slightly in the success of his unprecedented response to threatened mob action.

Things were well in hand. There was still some risk of violence, but the Sydney police were demonstrating careful judgment and appropriate restraint in dealing with anyone who became unruly. And happily, no one seemed to have linked the day's hot story to J'onn's behind the scenes work. His presence had been noted, of course, but only as a prudent gesture on the part of the mayor to ensure a JLA member was on hand to monitor public safety.

He gauged the mood of the press and determined it was safe for him to fade into the background, and he quietly absented himself from the stage.

He could not quite justify slipping away invisibly, understanding that he needed to be seen. So he strode easily through the hotel lobby, ignoring the startled stares that inevitably followed his green bulk. People melted away from his path, leaving the way unimpeded to the front desk where the head of security was stationed.

Mostly unimpeded. As he crossed near the lobby fountain, a small child slipped free from his mother's hold, careening toward the water. "Colin!" the mother cried, snatching ineffectually at the toddler.

J'onn paused, reaching a hand down to catch the youngster, incautiously captivated by the bouncing jets of water and longing to catch one. J'onn smiled kindly at the startled child. "Slow down, small one."

Huge brown eyes stared up at him, and the boy's mouth fell open.

"Colin!" the mother said again sharply, grabbing the boy's hand firmly. "I'm so sorry," she apologized, not looking at J'onn as she tugged her child away, falling almost instantly into lecture mode. "I told you to stay close..."

J'onn watched them hustle away, faintly stung by the mother's unreasoning fear of what that alien might do to her son. Then he resumed his path.

"Good catch," the chief of security noted as he approached, nodding toward the fountain.

"Children are much the same in every place," J'onn replied.

"Tell me about it," the chief agreed. "Mine are all more or less grown, but I remember how slippery they could be."

"Am I needed on the streets?"

The chief put a hand to his earpiece for a moment, then shook his head. "Not at present. The boys seems to have things under control. But I'll give you a buzz if things change."

J'onn nodded. "Very well."

"Mr. Manhunter?"

J'onn turned to the desk clerk.

"You are Martian Manhunter, right?" the young man asked nervously, and J'onn forced back a smile. Were there other seven foot green men around?

"I am," he acknowledged somberly.

"Right. I've got a message for you." The young man held out an envelope and J'onn frowned slightly.

"Do you know who it is from?" he asked, accepting the thick hotel stationery.

The desk clerk shook his head. "One of the secretaries delivered it." His eyes darted back to the counter where someone waited to check in.

"Thank you," J'onn said by way of dismissal, turning the envelope over and opening it. He glanced over three lines of script, then returned the letter to the envelope.

"Admirer?" the chief of security asked.

"Something like that."

The entertainment districts of the city were still lively, but on the whole, a peaceful quiet had settled over Sydney. The full moon added a lustre to the glow of the city as J'onn flew invisibly over, zeroing in on a luxury hotel.

No sense being too obvious, he decided, ghosting down and settling himself just inside the door to one of the executive suites. Only there did he allow himself to become visible, standing still as he waited for the shadowy figure across the darkened room to acknowledge him. He did not have long to wait.

"You came."

J'onn inclined his head. "You asked me to. Although I am surprised. I did not expect you would come to these talks in person."

"If the mountain won't come to Mohammed, Mohammed must come to the mountain," the man said, quietly rising to his feet.

J'onn stiffened. "Meaning?"

There was a hint of amusement in the other man's tone. "Four days in Micronesia helping find affordable means to bring industrial plants up to international code. Two days in India on flood relief. A week in Turkey spelling Janissary. An additional week somewhere in the Sahara working on a case of desert piracy. Three days in Peru after that earthquake. A day rescuing penguins in Tierra del Fuego." The man was moving slowly through the room, confidently sure of himself in the relative dark. "Two days in Atlantis making good a promise to look in on the family of a friend. Five days in Sierra Leone monitoring the safe passage of refugees. A brief stop in southern Africa to deal with a downed helicopter. Captured an errant missile over Pakistan, averting an international crisis. Three days in Japan for stockholders' meetings. Somewhere in there four shifts of monitor duty. And now here, handling crowd control. Did I miss anything?"

J'onn bowed his head a little. "I sat on top of Everest for a day."

He could feel the smile radiating from the other man as he stationed himself in front of J'onn. A hand came to his cheek, lifting his face to meet blue eyes. "Ah, but if I mentioned that, you might think I was angry with you."

J'onn stared into his lover's face for a moment, feeling the quiet concern and sympathy that undercut a genuine happiness to see him. "It was selfish," J'onn confessed.

Bruce shook his head. "You don't know the meaning of the word. You've saved more lives in a month than I could hope to in a year."

J'onn gave Bruce a sharp look. "Bruce-"

Bruce shifted his hand around the back of J'onn's neck. "Shut up and kiss me."

Their lips met in the darkness, and J'onn felt the love that Bruce poured into the kiss as it deepened. They had met at the Watchtower over the past month, but J'onn suddenly felt it had been too long...

Bruce slowly drew away and rested his forehead against J'onn's with a sigh, comfortable in the loose circle of J'onn's arms. "You are the only one who has not asked me to come home," J'onn murmured, tightening his arms a little.

Bruce smiled and lifted his face to kiss J'onn's forehead. "I understand what you're doing," he pointed out. "I miss you, but it would be hypocritical of me to rush you." He pulled back slightly, his fingers finding J'onn's and clasping his hand.

"I'm not-" J'onn began, but Bruce brushed a finger over his lips.

"Shh. I know. Luthor is ruthless in his defense of his power. And it is not... pleasant to feel hated."

"No," J'onn agreed softly.

Bruce pulled at his arm a little, leading him across the suite. He clasped J'onn's hand to his own hip, refusing to relinquish contact. Then he paused at the bedroom door and turned. "Luthor's strategy is backfiring. The press has quietly dropped allegations of mind control and malicious intent. The people know better. In their hearts, they do."

J'onn felt himself slump a little, soul weary but relieved at Bruce's blunt assessment. "I understand their fear," he said quietly.

"Which is why you'll never abuse their trust," Bruce replied. He ducked closer and once again claimed J'onn's lips. J'onn matched the rhythm of lips and tongue, feeling his body relax into its trueform and then slowly morphing to the shape of the Swiss delegate who had been seated next to Bruce at dinner, refined and lean-boned.

Bruce chuckled slightly as he broke their kiss. "She was hot," he acknowledged, brushing a thumb across a high cheekbone. "Genevieve," he greeted suavely.

"Monsieur Wayne," J'onn replied in a dulcet contralto, "vous avez voler mon coeur."

"C'est vrai," Bruce purred, touching his lips to her ear. "Voulez-vous couchez avec moi?" he whispered.

A low laugh escaped J'onn as warmth suffused his borrowed form. "Oui," he replied with Genevieve's voice. "J'ai besoin de vous toujours."

"And I you," Bruce replied, opening the bedroom door and drawing J'onn forward. "Je t'aime, J'onn J'onzz. Je t'aime toujours."


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