by 'rith

Written for a drabble challenge for the DC second bananas list. First line: "All I want is a tall glass of milk and eight hours of shut-eye."

Concurrent with JLA 68.

All I want is a tall glass of milk and eight hours of shut-eye. Instead I'm slogging through the ruins of ancient Atlantis, trying to figure out what happened to the city and its missing protector.

It's cold. And wet. And it *stinks* of rotting fish and seaweed and I keep tripping over the cracks in what passes for the pavement. I wish I could ditch these damned heels but it's the style, you know, I wouldn't be *me* without the heels and fishnets and top hat. Dinah managed to revamp her whole image, but me? I tried a different look for a while but it didn't work. I'm a performer, like my daddy before me, and any good magician will tell you the staging is at least half the magic.

The other half *is* the magic, at least in my case, and I'm getting the sense of *seriously* powerful stuff here. It's giving me the major creeps. Still, I manage not to sound like an idiot when I explain the situation to the JLA. And hey presto, some brief discussion later and there's a plan and everything.

It's mainly up to Tempest; me and the other mages are mostly acting as support for his time-portal. The poor kid looks both nervous and determined, and I know exactly what he's feeling, because it's the same way I always got when I was with the League. Butterflies in the stomach and that sour taste called fear-of-failure in the back of your throat. Performing on stage is one thing; performing when the world's at stake is entirely another.

We set up, the magic flares to life, and almost instantly it goes out of control. Suddenly I remember, way too vividly, watching my father burn up from the inside out when *he* was caught in a magic overload. Memory gives me the stench of the seared skin of my own hand, holding his and unable to let go as he went up in a column of flame. The ashy char of his burned hand, his *dead* hand, holding mine while I kept chanting, binding the magic with John and Occult and the others, trying to keep the universe together.

But that was then and right now it's not up to me at all. We're caught in the spell and when it finally spits us out, the JLA's gone somewhere...else. Garth blames himself, but we all know whatever we touched was too much for anyone--no matter how strong--to control. Sometimes it's like that, and there's nothing you can do about it except ride the magic and hope you come out physically intact and relatively sane.

Because in this business, it's all relative.

I'm going to do my best to convince Tempest nothing here was his fault. I'll round up the other mages and set them to divining where the JLA's gone. I might not get that sleep for awhile, but I can manage this:

"Llat ssalg fo klim raeppa!"

And it's enough.

{500 words}

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