Characters belong to DC Comics. Situation is mine. Written for fun, not profit.
Barbara smiled at the voice coming through her computer speakers.
"I was beginning to think you were AWOL."
"Sorry. A lot to think about."
"Oh?" She knew what "a lot" was, but she'd let him explain.
"Yeah. Um-" A distant scream sounded over the speakers. "Hold on."
"Roger that." She began to patch a 911 call through an appropriate Bludhaven trunk, but stopped when she heard sirens in the distance. The cops must've been close enough to hear.
But not close enough to rescue. She heard a grunt and a thud which she knew was Nightwing dropping down on some assailant, and then a woman's voice blubbering, "Omigod, thankyouthankyouthankyou..."
"You want to thank me, you'll press charges." The sirens were growing nearer.
He didn't wait for an answer, she could tell. The sirens grew more distant again as he returned to the rooftops.
"Just another night in the 'Haven?" she remarked.
He snorted. "Tell me about it. And still a woman walking home alone at 2 in the morning will cut through a dark alley."
"At least the cops were close."
"Yeah, this is Ricardo and MacAvoy's beat. Prob'ly why she felt safe."
"Probably," Barbara agreed, a smile playing on her lips. Her tracer already told her he was in the Caernaervon section, but that he was on the beat of cops he knew? It could be a fluke, but she'd noticed that when Dick was working through something that touched both his lives, Nightwing was staking out neighborhoods covered by good cops. "Look like she's going to press charges?"
"Hmm? Oh. I took off as soon as the cops got to her. I want to camp out on St. Bernadine's."
Curiouser and curiouser. "Feeling religious?"
He didn't rise to the bait. "It's got a good view. Where were we, by the way?"
"You were about to explain about your brooding," she teased.
His voice came back indignant. "I-"
"Teasing, Hunk Wonder," she hastened.
She could almost hear the weak smile on his face in his tone.
"Right. Sorry. I guess I have been kind of brooding."
She raised an eyebrow. He was admitting it?
"Babs, umm... is that meeting over yet?"
A-ha, she thought. "So it's information you're after. I see. And I thought you just wanted to hear my voice. Yes, it's over."
"Babs, don't," he pleaded. "I just - did they make any announcement?"
"Well, let's see. JLA meeting agenda. Here we are. I. Monitor Duty. II. Bruce and J'onn's sex life. III.-"
"Babs!" he objected. "That's not even funny."
"Sure it is. It was a silly question. Think about who we're talking about. Why would they announce anything?"
"Well, they told me," he pointed out.
"Hello, Clueless Wonder. You're Bruce's son. Little bit more need to know than - say - Plastic Man."
"No maybe about it. When was the last time anyone knew anything about Bruce or J'onn that they didn't need to know?"
"But if they saw them together..." Nightwing trailed off.
"Are you safely on your church parapet yet?"
"Does it look like anything suspicious is going on down there?"
There was a pause, and she imagined him scanning the area. "Not right now."
"You wanna talk about it?"
A sigh breathed across the comlink. "It's just so - unexpected."
"You said they told you."
"You don't already know?"
Barbara chuckled softly. "So you really do buy my hype."
"Well, you knew about them and-"
"I had my suspicions. Remember, I was the one who had to get coverage for Batman's monitor duty." My monitors also are wired into the JLA, she didn't add. Concern had prompted her to check her video logs - Batman's tone had triggered a fear that J'onn might have died - and discretion had led her to immediately delete the file when she figured out where things had gone.
"You didn't know?"
"Okay. Yes, they told me."
There was a long silence over the line. She waited.
"I didn't react well."
She stayed quiet, knowing there would be more.
"I guess - y'know, the only thing I could think of was Bruce's whole alien weirdness. You know how he is. The way he grumbles about Superman."
"He's never been that way about J'onn."
"I know. It's just-" He sighed heavily. "He was like that about Kory." Dick's tone was apologetic.
Barbara bit back a jealous response. She hated being reminded of the alien princess, with her perfect body and her easy love for Dick Grayson. Kory could take Dick flying - Barbara could only tie him to a chair. This isn't about you, she reminded herself forcefully. "You said that to them, didn't you?" she asked aloud.
"Yeah," he confessed. "And other things..."
Things he wasn't going to repeat, she realized. "And you and Bruce fought?"
"We started to. And then J'onn stepped in."
"Then what happened?"
Another lengthy pause. "Babs, he really loves him."
"Yeah. The look on his face - he was prepared to throw me out over it. And when J'onn stopped him - he looked so - so - vulnerable."
She let out a low whistle. "Bruce?" she asked again, not quite in disbelief, but still-
"It's - it's weird, Babs. I mean, J'onn's a Martian, y'know. And I never considered Bruce might be gay, despite what other people might insinuate."
"I don't think this falls into a question of whether Bruce is gay or not, Dick."
"Was J'onn sitting around the Manor as John Jones, Denver P.I.?"
"No. He - " Dick stopped again. "Wait, how does J'onn even know he's a guy?"
Barbara laughed heartily. "All this time and this is the first time that question has occurred to you?"
"Well, it's not like I spend all my time wondering about Martian Manhunter," Dick defended.
"Not 'til now, anyway," Barbara corrected.
"Yeah," Dick admitteed ruefully. "But that just makes it more weird. I can't figure what's the attraction. I mean, I saw it - they really really are -"
"In love?" Barbara supplied.
"Well," Dick sounded uncomfortable, "yeah. And I can't figure how-"
"Dick, are you in love with me?"
The question clearly startled him. "What? How can you question that? Of course I am. For the longest time. Geez, Babs."
"Calm down, Twenty-something Wonder. Just think about it. Try to get outside it for a minute, see it how other people must. What's the attraction?" She bit her lip - the question was finally beginning to feel safe, but it still was a risk.
"Please, Babs, that's easy. You're so beautiful and strong and -"
"I know, Dick. I know you say you don't see the chair. But is it really that different? Is your seeing past my chair to who I am any different from Bruce seeing past the whole green thing?"
"It's more than just that he's green, Babs. He's so different. I mean, who knows what's going on inside his head? And that ability to control minds - you don't think -"
"No, Dick, no mind control," she chided him. "And the reason you don't know what he's thinking is you've never asked."
"Well, have you?"
"Dick, you know J'onn is the last of his kind. Have you thought about what that means?"
"Superman's the last of his kind, too, and-"
"Dick." She made her tone stern, and he quieted. "Superman was raised here, has parents and a family. And not adopted like you were, but from before he had any memories built up of where he came from. J'onn had a family and a wife and a daughter - he WATCHED his people die around him -"
She heard an intake of breath over the line and knew Dick was getting it. "Like Bruce," he breathed.
"Yes. It's been a bond between them for a long time."
"Wait, you mean they've been -" She could hear his unwillingness to finish the question and smiled.
"No, no, Dick - this is a new wrinkle in their relationship. But J'onn's been there for Bruce far longer than any of us have."
"Really? I knew they knew each other through the JLA, but -" His head shake was almost audible. "Babs, he's still a Martian."
"He's beautiful, Dick."
"Dick, think about it. He's lost so much - more than any of us. Not just on Mars. When Dr. Ivo decimated the JLA - J'onn saw that team as his children. And you know he served in Viet Nam?"
"No, in another guise. Before the League, he was still trying to understand things, to figure out what justice was in human terms. He toured as a medic."
Barbara fell silent, letting Dick process.
"Trying to figure out human terms," he finally repeated. "So he could fight the good fight even when everything he loved was turning to shit around him." There was recognition in Dick's voice. "And he always is so together, so noble, so -"
"My mentor is in love with a Martian." Dick sounded like he was making it real in his mind.
"Your father is in love with a spirit forged of the same fires that he was."
"This is still going to take getting used to, Babs."
"Not just for you," she pointed out. "I don't think Bruce and J'onn have entirely found their feet about it, either."
"I don't know, they seemed pretty together when I saw them."
"They didn't breathe a word at the meeting, Dick. And J'onn stayed at the Watchtower and Batman's on a rampage down in Gotham."
"Oh, man. They're not splitting up, are they?"
Barbara chuckled. "Isn't that what you wanted?"
"No! Babs, no. Not after that look I saw in Bruce's eyes. They aren't, are they?"
"No. But they've run out of excuses for J'onn to stay at the Manor, and they both have lives to attend to."
She smiled, feeling suddenly warmed. "Like us," she agreed.
"Do you think I should do something for them? What do you give new couples?"
"A private room?" Babs quipped.
Dick groaned. "I'm not that okay with this yet. Seriously, Babs."
"Hmm. Maybe invite them to dinner or something."
"Like I can get Bruce down here for a social call ever, anyway."
"Babs," he complained, but his tone was different in this protest. Like he was thinking about it. Like he was considering the idea that suddenly he and Bruce had something new to share that wasn't about work.
"You let me know when you figure it out, Hunk Wonder," she directed.
"I will," he promised. "Babs?"
"Thank you. You're the greatest."
"You say so. You gonna wrap up for the night?"
"Yeah. Got to work in the morning. I love you."
"Love you, too, Short Pants. Now go catch some sleep."
"Aye, aye, captain! Nightwing out."
Barbara leaned back in her chair and stretched. Of her operatives, only Batman was still out, and he was being decidedly silent since returning from the Watchtower. She could probably call it a night herself, although she wasn't particularly sleepy. Maybe some camomile tea. That idea had merit. She wheeled out of her war room and bustled around the kitchen, fixing a plate with a couple of cookies to go with the tea. Maybe another half hour at the computers and then to bed with a novel since her favorite boy in blue and black wouldn't be stopping by. She smiled faintly to herself, replaying their conversation. It was part of what was so wonderful about Dick; he didn't always react the right way, but he really wanted the people around him to be happy. Even if it was on terms he couldn't quite understand. She suspected she'd be hosting dinner for four at the Clocktower within two weeks, and they would all enjoy a novel feeling of just enjoying one another's company.
The tea kettle whistled and she filled her cup, setting it and her plate on a tea tray to take back to the war room. J'onn was good for Bruce, but Bruce was also good for J'onn. That hint of a lonely wind that she'd learned to associate with J'onn's telepathic touch after their weekend in Denver - that was changed in the last two weeks.
She settled back into her place at her computers, checking through various email requests for information from the superhero community. Nothing too difficult or particularly worrisome, just the run of the mill stuff. She had just set a couple of search programs to work when the JLA comlink pinged.
She grinned and opened the video channel. "Already bored?" she greeted.
The broad, green face on the screen returned her smile. "No. Just looking to talk to someone who won't be asking if I'm sure I'm okay every third second."
"They were really worried about you."
"I know. It is - flattering."
"Interesting choice of words. You talk to Bruce?"
"Batman is working," he pointed out, and she nodded sympathetically.
"He gets like that."
"I know. It is him." J'onn's tone was not regretful or condemning, but rather charmed. A pure understanding that almost made Barbara ache.
"Advantages of telepathy," J'onn added, cutting off her regret of those moments when Dick got possessive of her time and annoyed when she put him off.
"Or of age and experience," she countered.
"That too," he agreed easily.
"Anything I can do for you, or just killing time?"
"No, no, nothing in particular. But I wanted to thank you."
"For realizing before we did how good this could be. For supporting us."
"Hey, I'm not the only one skilled in running from love. And for knowing what it takes to get past the fear of it."
J'onn shrugged. "It's still good to have someone who just accepted it."
"Yeah, I know. It's going to keep getting better, by the way."
Voice of experience?" he teased, mocking her earlier assertion.
"Yes, as a matter of fact. And of knowing you both. You fit each other well."
"Yes. And I should let you get to that novel."
"Hey, quit reading my thoughts," she objected with a laugh.
"Not at all. I can see it sitting by your keyboard and given the hour-?"
"Okay, Bruce," she replied, watching as J'onn's face assumed a pleased grin. "You should let me get to that novel. And they'll get tired of checking if you're okay soon enough."
"I hope so. Good night, Barbara."
"Good night, J'onn."
She closed the link and returned to the data pulled up by her searches. A few quick keystrokes and the Flash and Ted both had their answers, waiting only for them to open their email in the morning. The rest could wait, she decided, starting to close down programs.
Now another comlink pinged, and she opened the channel.
"Oracle, it's Batman."
"What do you need?" No sense wasting words if he was in one of those moods.
"A really dark red rose."
That gave her pause. "Excuse me?"
"Where can I find a really dark red rose? Almost black."
"At this hour?"
"Oracle," he growled.
"On it, boss." She thought for a second, then reopened the previously closed search program. He couldn't just want an ordinary rose. And in November. Sheesh. But she was couldn't help smiling.
The search program beeped and churned out three addresses. "Okay," she began, "here you go." She recited the addresses. "I'd try the Levoral Street greenhouse," she advised. "The twenty-four hour grocery across the street will have Chocos and it's on the way home."
"Thank you, Oracle," he said in curt tones, although she could hear a pleased undercurrent in his voice.
"Anytime, loverboy," she replied, quickly severing the connection before he could growl again. She was almost laughing as she resumed the task of locking down for the night. Romance, Bat style. Who'd've guessed the man could be so unbelievably sweet?
Or that his son could be, too, she was thinking twenty minutes later. Her novel lay face down on her belly, forgotten in light of the note that had fluttered out from between the pages when she opened it. She smiled at the message, clearly left a couple days before, then tucked it back between the pages and set the book aside. The world might still be the same place it had been when she started her night shift, but somehow, she thought as she turned off the light and nestled down to sleep, somehow the night seemed brighter.