Disclaimers: DC Comics owns the characters, borrowed for fun not profit. Pizza night at Warrior's is part of Darklady's Power Company stories, and I stole it because it's just too cool not to.
Setting: after "Fugitive Endeavor"
Rating: R for language and adult themes (no nooky, just serious sexual identity issues)
The shattering of that hope was evident on the faces of Wally and Kyle, although to different effects. Wally seemed disappointed but unsurprised, managing to project a curiously calm confidence that they would nail Luthor, at odds with the fact that Wally was zipping out of the room every three seconds on whatever Watchtower cleaning or upkeep or rearranging occurred to him when he was left idle too long. Lantern, on the other hand, was sketching angrily, seeming to feel darkly betrayed.
Aquaman - he just looked like he always did: faintly perturbed that Batman was clearly planning to show exactly on time, as usual, even through everyone else had been five minutes early.
And J'onn was J'onn. Silent and perhaps a bit more somber than usual, apparently lost in thought.
The Flash suddenly zoomed into the room again, dropping into his chair. "Teleporter's going, Batman's on his way."
Wonder Woman looked up and moved to her seat, and Aquaman's expression clearly read "about time" as he leaned forward to rest his arms on the table.
A moment later, the conference room door slid open again, and Batman entered.
He, of course, was expressionless as he entered and crossed toward his place at the table at his usual pace. Just the typical unreadable Bat...
But today, he paused. Just for a second, but he set his hand on J'onn's shoulder. Plasticman could see his black-gloved fingers squeeze against the green flesh...
Wasting no time, Plasticman shaped himself into a gavel and rapped himself against the table. "The meeting will come to order," he intoned.
Superman shot him look as Batman took his seat, but no one commented. That's right, Eel encouraged them mentally, just write off the actions of the group clown.
"I know I don't have to review for you the events in Washington this week," Superman began without preamble, and Plasticman settled back in his chair, carefully avoiding looking at Batman.
"What are we going to do about it?" Green Lantern demanded, setting down his sketch pad and looking around the table. Plasticman assumed the form of a microscope as Superman held up a hand.
"Regardless of how we feel about it, we still follow the rules of due process," he reminded them. "Bruce Wayne's lawyers continue to piece together their case, but with the inadmissability of telepathic evidence, even Olson's testimony can do little more than make the case against David Cain. And regardless of how we feel about it, we cannot begin some kind of witch hunt or devote our energies to finding more concrete evidence -"
"What about-" Wally began, only to be silenced by a look from Batman.
"The Justice League has a clear charter," J'onn pointed out quietly.
"J'onn's right," Superman agreed. "Our responsibility remains the defense of Earth's citizens - even Lex Luthor if it comes down to it. We are not in the business of deposing world leaders."
"Even if they deserve it," Kyle muttered.
"Especially if they deserve it," Superman said firmly. "We uphold the laws. The minute we start thinking we are above that-"
"Batman kicks in his secret plans," Aquaman remarked acidly. "Yes, we know."
"Arthur," Superman barked, and Plasticman took the shape of a disapproving school marm, despite a sense of relief. Yes, Batman was the man who figured out how to freeze and shatter him, not a perfect specimen of the male form. His relief was short-lived, however, as he noticed the faint frown that formed on J'onn's face - subtle, but nonetheless the frown of an affronted lover.
"The point," Superman continued, "is that we are now going to be in Luthor's sites. He would be only too happy to have evidence that the Justice League is acting to undermine the authority of world leaders. His spin machine is already working to suggest that J'onn's accusation could be linked to a conspiracy to allow aliens and metahumans to consolidate a power base for global takeover."
"What?" Green Lantern blurted. "Wait. He tries to frame Bruce Wayne for murder to eliminate a business rival and now we have to watch our step? How does that - we save the world! We don't have time to take over the planet. Jeez!" He threw himself back in his chair with a scowl.
"The sentiment is there," the Flash reminded. "I remember G. Gordon Godfrey."
"Asshole," Aquaman muttered.
"The Flash is right," Batman interjected. "Even if public sentiment is turning against Luthor now, it won't take much to tap into fears of alien or meta takeover. Especially after the global problem six weeks ago."
Silence descended over the table as they digested this, and Plasticman felt himself wince at the memory. He swiftly folded his hands on the table and rung a halo around his head, smiling beatifically. "I'll be good."
Aquaman snorted, and the Flash rolled his eyes.
"I don't like that J'onn is catching the backlash for this," Diana said with concerned look at the Martian.
J'onn returned her gaze levelly. "I understood the risk."
Diana was the one who broke eye contact, throwing an unreadable look at Batman, who remained impassive. Somehow the unchanging expression of the JLA tactician gave his words more weight. "I would have you consider J'onn's vulnerability in this case before any of you make any decisions about how much you are willing to risk to nail Luthor."
Just Bats being Bats, Eel told himself. Just pointing out the stakes. Just protecting... Plasticman snapped into a sharply saluting soldier as a general murmur of assent rose from the conference table.
"So we are agreed to stay within the limits of our primary responsibility," Superman summarized. "And in that vein, Flash, anything which we should be keeping an eye on?"
"Nothing of particular note. The Weather Wizard's scheme for out of season hurricanes was nipped in the bud by J'onn and Aquaman and the ecological balance has been restored. Nothing else Justice League sized on the radar during my watch."
Superman nodded. "Let's hope it stays that way. The new duty roster has been posted; J'onn you've got first watch. Any other business?" There was a brief pause, then, "Good. Meeting adjourned."
Superman rose, prompting a general exodus. Plasticman stayed seated, self-consciously aware of his body reacting to the flex of Batman's muscles as the Dark Knight rose and met J'onn's eyes. He wondered what telepathic message they shared, his mind imagining a planned rendezvous which did not help his growing problem. Thankfully no one would question the fact that Plasticman might hang around the conference table, nor pay any attention as he pretzeled in his seat, craning his neck around crazily to watch his teammates depart. To watch Batman depart.
The door slid shut finally, and a female voice behind him said, "He's gorgeous, isn't he?"
Plasticman spun in his chair, his body corkscrewing with the swiftness of his motion. His jaw dropped to the floor and his eyes bugged three feet out of his head. She was in J'onn's seat, but...
"J - J'onn - I mean, Jas - Miss del Marte, I -" Futile, Plasticman realized, as he slumped across the table and spread his hands to cover his entire head. "Oh, god," he groaned.
"Eel," the woman's voice said gently, and he could hear that she had risen to her feet.
Eel spread his fingers and peered out with one eye. Yep, still a leggy supermodel, now leaning on the back of J'onn's chair. "God, you know," Eel despaired. "Just -"
"I've turned off the recording capabilities of the room," she said quietly. "The others don't know. And I always have."
Eel dropped his hands and stared incredulously at his transformed teammate. "What the hell have you been spying on in my head?!" he raged. "Is this some sort of trump card? Keep Eel in line or you'll tell my secret? I swear-"
"Eel." Even in Jasmina's accented tones, the word carried the weight of J'onn's command. "I do not 'spy' on you. It is clear enough, though, how you feel about Woozy when he is with you."
Sudden guilt stabbed at Plasticman's stomach. Woozy. "Oh man - fuck. I'm am so fucked up! Jesus. Just - just kick me off the League. Please. Oh, god, this can't get worse."
"I will not kick you off the League. I understand you are uncomfortable-"
"Uncomfortable? That's a fucking understatement. The League barely tolerates me as it is. What are they going to think if I get a fucking boner every time you and Batman are in the same room? Christ, do you realize how hard it is to pretend to be fucking normal?" Eel was shouting now, standing and leaning over the table, staring accusingly at the woman across from him.
If she was shocked or offended, she gave no sign. Instead she just answered, "Yes."
Eel stared at her for a moment, replaying his own words. Then he sank down to the table, deflated. "Shoot me now. It is getting worse."
"Eel, Bruce is straight."
Plasticman's head shot up. "What the fuck do you mean? You're - you're - you're a supermodel."
J'onn - Jasmina - nodded slowly. "I know it is not as effective as believing him inhuman in suppressing your desires, but it should help." A faint smile showed on the model face at the word inhuman, and Eel managed to feel more like a cad.
Batman was straight. Kinky, but - "But aren't you a man - I mean, male or -"
A shrug animated Jasmina's shoulders. "Not right now. If you'd like a strip tease to -"
"Nooo," Eel groaned, banging his head against the conference room table. "But-"
"Earth in the 1950s was easier to navigate as a male," J'onn stated matter-of-factly. "It became habit. Not one I'm particularly wedded to."
Plasticman's head swayed from side to side in confusion. "But - I saw you. Right before - when you were leaving for Mars. Batman kissed you. Not you like you are right now, but-"
"Like this." Jasmina's voice slid back into a baritone register, and J'onn's usual form was back in his seat, eyes thoughtfully regarding Plasticman.
"Exactly. And that sure as hell is not a girly form."
J'onn nodded slowly and again stood. He walked around the table, only stopping when stood in front of Eel. He reached a hand down to Eel's cheek. "Do you want to kiss me?"
Plasticman shot out of his chair, bouncing away like a frightened rabbit, putting distance between himself and his teammate. "Are you fucking NUTS?" Then the shock wore off enough to trigger guilt. "Oh, J'onn - fuck - I'm not saying - is there an airlock I can throw myself out of?"
J'onn hitched a hip onto the edge of the conference table, watching Eel closely. "I think this is a very nice masculine body," J'onn said, his tone neutral.
"It is - I mean, it's green - but -"
"This is the 'man' you saw Batman kissing."
Eel opened his mouth to protest, then shut it again. Kissing J'onn was so beyond the pale, even moreso than the idea of kissing Wonder Woman - he shuddered slightly. He found himself replaying the image of that kiss in his mind's eye, discovering already a shift happening in how it looked to him. Where J'onn had stood, an infinite selection of possible females suddenly dominated Eel's mental picture.
Batman liked girls. An improbable image of Bruce Wayne playing hide the sausage with Angel flashed through Eel's mind, and he half-winced. Bad enough he had relive his own memories of that charade, bad enough that he was tied forever to his ex-lover by their son. Yeah, that would be a deflating enough idea.
J'onn was still watching him, seeming to sense Eel's discovery. "You understand."
Plasticman sat slowly in Superman's chair. "You're not a man."
"Batman isn't gay."
They sat in silence for a while. "This was easier when he was just a scary bastard."
A hint of a smile formed on J'onn's face, one with just enough lust in it that it actually disturbed Plasticman. "He still often is a scary bastard."
Eel wrapped his arms around himself three times, ending up with his hands over his eyes. "Okay, now I really don't want to think about you two in bed."
"That's something, anyway," J'onn acknowledged, the humor in his tone making it clear no offense was taken. His voice took on a more serious note, though, as he continued: "This doesn't solve a larger problem, though."
Eel peeked out from behind his fingers and sighed in resignation. "I know. I'll pack my things and-"
"No," J'onn contradicted gently. "Eel, you're not the only gay superhero."
"What, you take a fucking survey?" Eel snarled. He assumed a fey lisp and mimicked J'onn's Martian Manhunter form. "'So how many of you boys wear tights because they look so FABULOUS?'"
He did not expect the laugh he got in response, nor the kindness in J'onn's eyes as he said, "Being gay is not requisite for that particular logic. Admitting it, maybe, but-"
Eel stared incredulously at the Martian. "Why is this funny to you? Christ, can't you understand-"
"Yes," J'onn answered again. "Do you honestly believe you're the first gay member of the Justice League over ten years and dozens of members? On the team now?"
Plasticman did a double take. "Wha-?"
J'onn spread his hands in a half-warding gesture, still looking gently amused. "I'm sure Paradise Island is-"
"That's not the same!" Eel exploded, now pacing the floor angrily. What right did J'onn have to be so... so... so damned accepting? So untroubled.
J'onn raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps not. And maybe the love between Tora and Beatriz was not the same either. Or for that matter between-"
"Stop it!" Eel pressed his hands over his ears and squeezed his eyes shut. This was his secret. The thing no one talked about. He dropped to his knees and pressed his forehead to the floor, wishing he could sink through it, trying to make himself do so and managing to do little more than imitate a rug. Damn, he groused to himself, how come Martians got all the cool powers?
"Because we're less likely to be drama queens," J'onn's voice answered from far nearer than across the room, still sounding faintly amused but also faintly - concerned?
Eel felt a hand on his flattened body and he pulled up his head to glare up at J'onn's face. He stripped his body from the floor, filling out his form and wrapping his arms around his stomach, feeling nausea building. "This sucks," he moaned.
J'onn sat on the floor beside him. "It does suck. It sucks that you feel so certain that who you are is so reprehensible. Because you are not reprehensible."
"Shows what you know," Eel muttered, rocking back on his heels.
"I know that self-loathing feels cold and oily and unpleasant, and it is not an emotion I care to witness from my friends."
Eel snorted. "Yeah, your friends. I'm just a teammate, here."
"Never," J'onn corrected, and Eel bit his lip, wondering if he'd hurt J'onn's feelings. He didn't mean that he didn't think of J'onn-
"I know," J'onn reassured. "And do you think I would think of someone who saved me from being shoved into a fairy tale oven as anything less than a friend?"
J'onn's earnestness and the absurdity of that scenario, no matter how real the danger, pulled a unintentional smile onto Eel's face that he quickly suppressed. "You could see it as paying you back for all those times you saved my bacon."
"Which might beg the question of why I saved you in the first place," J'onn pointed out, humor again evident in his tone. "To which the answer would be that you are my friend. Or else we just worked up an incredible blood debt to one another in a previous life and are damned to spend this life stuck on a team together trying to get even."
Eel chuckled in spite of himself. "When the fuck did you get funny?" he asked.
J'onn's eyes widened. "Shh. Don't tell anyone! It's my biggest secret!"
Eel stared at his teammate, hearing echoes of his own logic in the joking tone. He should be indignant, but embarrassment proved the stronger emotion. He sighed. "God, I've been such an ass."
"No," J'onn disagreed. Then, "Well, maybe a little, but I think it's excusable."
Eel snorted. "Gee, thanks."
"Seriously, Eel. I won't make you tell the others. It is your decision to make. But I don't think the closet is particularly healthy."
"Better than getting the shit kicked out of you," Eel muttered.
"Yes, there is that."
They sat silent for a long moment, then Eel said, "You said there are others? Like me?"
J'onn nodded solemnly. "More than you suspect. There's even-"
A slightly abashed smile formed on J'onn's face. "You may think this is silly, but there's a support network-"
"I'm not joining any support group," Eel snapped.
"I thought as much. But you should know it's there. That it's available for you."
Eel considered for a moment, picturing a circle of folding chairs and garishly clad heroes rising hesitantly to announce, 'Hi, I'm the masked hero of city X, and I'm gay.'
A chuckle came again from the Martian. "Not quite," he corrected. "Think Vegas."
"Oh, god, don't tell me there's a superhero cruising scene."
J'onn smirked. "Hey, I've been cruised."
Eel felt his jaw drop to the ground again, and J'onn smiled. "You must be feeling better if you're clowning again. And no, not in this form."
J'onn shimmered a little and morphed into a fairly nondescript man. "Never took anyone up on it," he pointed out, "and this 'Ray' character is definitely off the market now, but-"
"There's a superhero cruising scene," Eel stated flatly.
"More a social network. But there's some cruising. Monthly pizza nights at Warriors."
Eel blinked dramatically. "Warriors?" He approximated Guy Gardner's form. "Warrior's Warriors?"
"In Vegas," J'onn clarified. "And no, I'm not sure about Guy. But yes, his chain."
"Jesus," Eel breathed.
"Indeed," J'onn remarked enigmatically, rising to his feet. He offered Eel a hand.
Eel looked at the green palm stretched out to him for a moment before he accepted it, then bounced up as if J'onn had yanked him to his feet, ricocheting off the ceiling before landing upright. Then he made a show of not being able to release J'onn's hand and groaned. "I think we just bonded."
He was rewarded by a laugh from the Martian, who phased out of Eel's hold. "I think I had better get to the monitor before Batman 'ports up here to find out why he can't turn on his conference room spy cam."
Eel shuddered. "But he wouldn't yell at you, at least."
J'onn gave Eel a look. "He's still Batman."
"Right." Eel mimicked a vampire bat. "I am the night. I am spooky. I am-"
The conference room door slid open.
Batman said nothing, his eyes narrowing as he inspected the room.
"I turned it off," J'onn explained.
"We have protocols," Batman growled.
"Yes, we do," J'onn agreed mildly, meeting Batman's eyes. Eel glanced from one to the other, then stretched a long leg out tiptoe to scoot away behind Batman.
"Sorry, Batman, gotta get home. Needed in Chicago. Later, buh-bye!" He scooted out the door quick as he could, his heart hammering as he headed for the teleporters. It took him a moment to realize that during the exchange between Batman and J'onn, nothing had risen below his waist. They both were back to being - well, weird and scary. And Eel was needed in Chicago. Needed and wanted. Needed and wanted and it was none of the JLA's - or anyone else's - damned business. He imagined Woozy in the Bulls boxers he had bought for him and smiled. That got something moving. And they were going to have a great night.