Waking, Epilogue Two
Disclaimers in "part 0"
And so he had recorded everything - even what he hadn't shared with Bruce. H'ronmeer's final confidence - Bruce had let him go. For J'onn's sake.
Whatever had prompted that decision was no longer in Bruce's memory. He'd checked, uncertain what had transpired after his own memory of what had happened ended - after that moment when he had forced Bruce's soul from his own, wishing he had time to let him accept what he was losing but knowing that had he allowed Bruce to stay longer, Bruce would have joined him in death. Bruce's mind held only confused impressions of his discussion with the gods, and no hint of anything past meeting K'ergaard.
J'onn sighed and stroked the crystal again. Poor Bruce. He would've reconciled himself to a life without J'onn in time - had already been acknowledging the rightness of J'onn's decision. But his final cry as J'onn severed their soul-bond - he shuddered. He could never wish such pain on anyone. Had he even suspected he would cause it for Bruce, he would never have pursued their relationship. A part of him almost wished he could take it all back, could step back in time and tell his past self - but no. It was done. For better or worse, they truly were bound now.
Half of my whole, whole of my half, J'onn thought to himself, the Martian phrase capturing a truth he had not realized until faced with the possibility that Bruce - Batman - could not withstand such a bond.
But they'd weathered it. Not easily or well, but the crisis was past - and suddenly J'onn could not bear his lonely retreat any longer.
He could feel Bruce's mind still as he phased through the walls of his Martian home and flew invisibly up through the atmosphere to a height where his speed would not be restrained by respect of the sound barrier. It was a passive link, one he had felt Bruce reach for more than once in the hours since they had parted company in the Watchtower. Not so much to contact J'onn as to reassure himself that J'onn truly was still there. Now he could feel Bruce's restless slumber as he shot almost half-way around the world to join him.
It was like a homing beacon, halting J'onn exactly over Bristol despite the difficulties of pinpointing a site from the troposphere. He didn't resist it, letting his body drop down toward the Earth's surface, taking only enough care to be sure he would not burn up on re-entry. Down he traveled, phasing into intangibility as he reached the darkened Wayne Estate and passed through the Manor, heading to the lower levels where he knew Bruce to be.
Something, though, made him divert his course ever so slightly, so his feet finally touched down not in the sleeping quarters of the cave, but in front of the massive Batcomputer.
There was, as always, a faint light shining on Batman's primary work area - although for once it was not meticulously tidy. Batman's cape and cowl hung derelict on the back of the big chair, neither put - nor thrown - away. The cowl hung limply, its shape vaguely maintained by the armor within it, and its crazy angle projecting a mournful feeling. J'onn touched it now as he had resisted earlier, letting his fingers taste the salt that streaked its surface. Such tears! An ocean wept from a man who rarely allowed even smaller emotions to crack his veneer. Again J'onn suffered a pang of regret - he had known for a long time about the little boy in Bruce, still trapped in his grief. He'd hoped that in time, he could comfort that soul, ease his suffering. Instead he had compounded it.
He stepped back from the chair, intending to go now to Bruce, but something else caught his eye. One of Alfred's tea trays sat on the lab table, a silver dome protecting whatever sat upon it and a note propped on its top. A note bearing his name.
Curious, he picked up the little folded card, but there was nothing else written on it. Then he lifted the cover and felt his face smile. Chocos - undoubtedly from Alfred. He took two of the cookies and replaced the lid, warmed by the gesture.
He ate the cookies as he made his way to the various sleeping quarters in the Cave. He knew Bruce was here, rather than upstairs in the big bed. Here where it's safe, J'onn thought, easily finding the room where his lover slept.
He phased through the door rather than opening it, unwilling to wake Bruce just yet. The bedroom was pitch dark, but his eyes adjusted quickly to reveal Bruce curled fetally on his side, tension faintly screaming from his body even as he slept. Further inspection revealed Ace curled against its master's hand in the shape of a furry it had assumed on that night J'onn had given Bruce the little creature. As he neared the bed, J'onn realized Ace was purring, trying to soothe Bruce.
He smiled a little and petted the little zo'ok as he lowered his weight onto the edge of the bed. At the shift of the springs, Bruce's eyelids fluttered open.
"Shh," J'onn whispered, running one hand across Bruce's cheek. "It's just me."
"J'onn," Bruce sighed, reaching out to grasp the stroking hand.
J'onn returned the squeeze Bruce gave to his fingers, leaning over to kiss Bruce's forehead. "Yes," he replied, and he could feel some of the tension leave Bruce's body. He already seemed to be drifting back toward sleep.
Dick and Alfred were worried about you. The projected thought startled J'onn, more for its clarity than for its content - at least at first. Then he felt the emotion behind what Bruce was trying to tell him, and the realization left him near to tears. That Dick and Alfred had not just worried for Bruce, or worried for what losing J'onn might do to Bruce, but were genuinely worried for J'onn.
Bruce seemed to sense his confusion, reaching to claim both his hands, shifting over as he pulled J'onn down toward him on the bed. J'onn let himself be drawn down, willing his cape and harness away as he settled on his side. Bruce spooned behind him, one arm wrapped possessively around his chest. He began to morph into his Alana shape, but Bruce stopped him.
"No." The arm over his chest tightened with a force that would have hurt if J'onn had been human. Then the thought, I need you here tonight.
J'onn reached up to rest his own arm on top of Bruce's, letting their fingers interlace. Bruce pressed a soft kiss into J'onn's back, drowsily nuzzling the green flesh. J'onn relaxed into the sensation, feeling Bruce's weariness bleeding into his own mind, suddenly as ready to sleep as his lover was. He felt one more gentle kiss, then the muscles in Bruce's arm began to relax and his breathing deepen. One final stray thought crossed from Bruce's mind: Half of my whole, whole of my half...
J'onn gave Bruce's hand a final squeeze as he gave into his own weariness, surrounded by the warmth and love of family.