Play, part 7

By Darklady and Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"

Bruce eased one leg down into the flickering mist until it reached... something. Not steps. Nothing so solid. But the cloud underfoot gave just enough to wrap a secure surface under each footfall.

He looked out into the swirling distance. Seeming distance, at least. All certainly of perception was lost somewhere in the shifting sheets of colored lights. A tiny bit of the Bat squeaked it's warning, but the air was so warm - so comforting - that Bruce couldn't summon up any actual fear.

The living stars were far - so far - but so very bright.

"Juuummmmmmp. Ayyyyy kaaaaachhh."

Surrender was ... almost automatic. An obedience of desire rather then will. It took every remnant of control to look instead at J'onn.

Go, Bruce. J'onn answered the unasked question. I will be with you.

Bruce let go.

Falling. The hardest discipline. The stuff of instinctual nightmares. But?

Bruce spread his arms, relishing the sultry mists and needle fine ice of the clouds he plunged through.





Trumpet jazz.

Colors of music and flavors of light.

And J'onn. Always J'onn. Beside him.

Twisting in a move learned from parasailing, Bruce angled towards a particularly brilliant cloud. Or mountain. Or sea.


A moment's worry. Without true gravity, would this work? But the breezes formed below him much the same as they would have on earth. Much the same - except that these zephyrs obeyed.

Bruce hit the cloud chest first, splashing a high crest of orange and silver as the ...water?... broke beneath him. Two kicks, and he was... swimming?... through a sea of pink.

A second splash, smaller, as J'onn dived past in a contrail of golden darts.

J'onn laughed, sending swarms of lime and purple... fish?... bubbles?... swirling around Bruce faster and faster until they exploded in a cascade of crimson stars.

Bruce followed the stars to the surface, breaking through just in time to see the lights spin off into the azure crests.

It was like.... body surfing. Body surfing, but with waves that reached up to balance him on their crests.

Like diving... but with a sea that welcomed him in.

Like flying... but held in hands that could not let him fall.

He spun back, waves parting to let him finish the triple flip Dick had never managed to coach him through on earth.

Bruce laughed.

The crimson stars came back.

The plelloch flowed over him, a ghost of the J'onn-armor.

Tendrils of sound and light. Not his, but they felt like him. Like somehow this was the movement his spirit was intended for, and not the clumsy limitations of muscle and bone he had so long accepted without question.

Growing wings, Bruce soared up into the emerald sky, spinning though the antenna array of the jumpship and tagging J'onn as he levitated underneath.


Yes, Bruce's mind answered. Fun.

J'onn smiled at the unfamiliar joy of his companion, relishing the way Bruce's mind seemed free for the moment of the ever-present weight of responsibility and fear of loss. He had not dared hope that the plelloch would be able to reach Bruce. In fact, he had doubted his own memories of the creature's power. Yes, he recalled the way in which the plelloch had abolished the fears of youth, but what were those anxieties compared to those learned in adulthood? It wasn't until the plelloch had touched him that he remembered the joy of being in the moment, the happiness of being alive and loved and well that dispersed all the heartache of past years.

He caught at Bruce's ankle as his human lover darted by, tumbling him lightly through the plelloch's artificial atmosphere. Bruce rolled instinctively, but quickly resumed his flight, freeing himself from J'onn's unresisting fingers in order to turn back and tackle the Martian against the hull of the jumpship. Bruce's face took on a wrinkle of worry at the solid thud of contact, and J'onn quickly reassured him, squirming out of Bruce's hold and darting away through mists of spoken verse without words.

Bruce laughed and pursued, moving too swiftly to evade J'onn's sudden capturing move which enfolded him in wreaths of mint julep. J'onn reveled in Bruce's surprise, then felt it become his own as searching fingers tickled his midsection and mischief rolled across his emotions.

Once again, he released Bruce, although he maintained the thin tether he couldn't bear to relinquish. Bruce seemed unaware of it - but as soon as the thought crossed J'onn's mind, Bruce had caught him in an embrace from behind, spinning J'onn easily as he projected, I know you're there. It is just that it feels like an extension of me.

J'onn smiled at that, reaching back to flip Bruce forward over his shoulder and into a waiting cascade of moonbeams that cushioned and slowed Bruce's momentum with a scent of jasmine.

Bruce smiled, then - the kind of smile that J'onn imagined would be his if the child Bruce had been at six had lived a life sans bullets and become a man under the tutelage of loving parents. Bruce stretched out his arms invitingly, letting amber bassoon notes cradle his body.

J'onn returned the smile, pulling himself toward Bruce along the tether, diaphanous butterflies trailing in his wake. A corner of J'onn's mind sent a quelling note to the plelloch, distantly swirling in scarcely contained excitement, and then there were Bruce's arms and Bruce's lips, and J'onn felt hard pressed to maintain his wariness.


The note was a shock, breaking though the pink clouds like sudden rain.


Before J'onn could finish the thought, Bruce had swung over the hull and into the hatch. "Batman here."

J'onn followed, morphing into the black cowl just seconds before the viewscreen cleared.

"Sorry to bug you guys," Plasticman said. "But I've got STAR labs on the other line. That Pell-ouch creature has slowed way down, but it's still heading earthward, and...." Plas finished with an animated shiver.


J'onn slipped free a tentacle, reforming his most common face just out of screen range. "J'onn here." He leaned forward. "You may assure them that contact has been made, and that the plelloch will veer off soon..."

"If you say so, green-guy. But remember that downstairs has got..." Plas shifted again, this time into a cartoon rocket.

"A tendency to over anticipate." Bruce frowned. "Remind them that this is a JLA mission. There is no danger."

"I got it." Plasticman slumped back over the monitor chair. "And I'm... out".

A trail of emerald stars slid though the open hatch. "Veeeerrrr ooooffff?" The light whispered.

J'onn reached out, brushing a fine strand over the sparkles. "I am sorry, honored friend, but so it must be. As I said, the Terrans are fragile..."

"Noooot huuuurt!" The stars spun off sparks. I did not hurt your mate! The mental cry echoed more loudly. It is HAPPY! We had FUN!

Bruce leaned forward, resting his cheek on the stream of glitter. "We did have fun, and I thank you." Centering his thoughts, he strove to project the gratitude he truly felt, along with the denial that he knew would be there. "But even if you did my planet no harm, my people would be afraid. You would not want that."

The stars flowed into silver water, falling like tears over Bruce's skin.

The plelloch had understood.

J'onn slid back into his common form, then reached out to scoop the jeweled stream close to his chest.

"It is sad, friend, but so it must be," he said. "It will be half the turn of this system before the Terrans are strong enough to greet you."

Bruce reached out, running his fingertips over the quivering back. "On that day, we most certainly will welcome you back. It would be... good for us... to be your friend."

"OOOOKKKKKAAAYYYYY" The silver exploded, spinning into stars that circled around the two men before vanishing back out the hatch. I will come back to play with your child.

back to previous partend part 7next part

Return to Chicago's Library