Mindstorm, part 13
Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"
At least, that's what she thought he'd explained to her during a pause in his frantic activity.
There was another gust of wind, and Lois sighed and stroked her thumb over her husband's hand. She was almost startled when a voice answered her: "You get used to it."
She looked up and found herself meeting the bemused expression on the face J'onn J'onzz. "I'd rather not have to," she answered acerbically.
Across from her, J'onn inclined his head slightly in acknowledgment, the expression on his face a far cry from the half-fugue state he had fallen into after freeing them all from the rubble.
"You okay?" she asked, just to be sure.
As if on cue, the Flash showed up again, although this time he was moving at more human speeds. He balanced a tray bearing a carafe full of coffee from an automatic drip coffee maker and a pair of mugs, plus a package of Chocos. "I made coffee," he explained, an odd air of helplessness in his voice.
J'onn's bemused expression gave way to a gentle smile as he rose to his feet. "Thank you, Wally. Any more word from Earth?"
Wally shook his head. "Nothing good. Whatever magic the bad guys were using to hold everything together seems to be wearing off." He handed the tray over to J'onn but then looked at a loss for what to do with his hands. "There's just nothing really - the teleporters are off line and no one can afford to come fetch me and -"
"Wally," J'onn interrupted quietly as he set the coffee tray down and began filling the mugs, "I know it is hard to watch and be unable to help."
And how, Lois added mentally, glancing at Clark's still face.
"Yeah," the Flash agreed, still seeming fidgety even as he forced himself to stay and talk to J'onn.
J'onn set down the coffee carafe and set a hand on Wally's shoulder. "Nonetheless, that is where you are needed now. Lois and I will be fine."
There was a firmness in J'onn's tone that left no room for argument, and after a moment, Wally seemed to shake himself. "Okay, right, gotitsorryI'llheadback-" Whatever else he said was lost in the breeze of his departure.
J'onn looked after him and then turned back to Lois. "Cookie?"
She shook her head. "Just coffee, please. But don't let me stop you from-"
J'onn handed her a mug and displayed the stack of Chocos he had in his other hand. "I won't," he promised. He picked up the second mug from the tray and returned to his place at Superman's side.
Lois watched him over the rim of her mug as he devoured two Chocos and seemed to visibly relax toward his normal state - or at least the way Lois was used to him being.
"Flash will probably stay in the monitor womb for a while," J'onn noted, taking a small sip of coffee. "He'll keep a feed into this room in case there is another surge of negative activity in Kal El's mind -" he paused to give Lois a sympathetic look - "but he won't be listening.
Lois lowered her coffee mug. "Is that what's happening, when you sort of disappear into yourself? The delusions are stronger or-"
"Yes," J'onn answered. Then more quietly, "I'm sorry, Lois. I want to be able to just stop whatever is happening to him, but-"
"Don't be silly," Lois shot back briskly. "I mean, yes, of course I want Clark back, but I think it's pretty clear you're doing everything you can."
J'onn met her eyes as she spoke, then let himself have another Choco. Lois watched the almost visible control he seemed to be exerting.
"You need those, don't you?"
J'onn glanced up sharply. "Kal El didn't tell you?"
Lois' lips curled in a fondly ironic smile and she reached to run her fingers over her husband's hair. "Clark knows he married a reporter. He doesn't tell me things about this life that might smell like story." She raised her eyes again. "At least, not things he thinks are important to his friends that he keep secret."
J'onn ate another Choco, then contemplated the last one in his hand. "Off the record," he began, "yes, I do. Bruce is still trying to figure out why, but -" J'onn shrugged and ate the final cookie.
"Ah, Bruce. Can't resist a puzzle."
"Or a test," J'onn confirmed. "Although he has Robin working on this question. We're still off the record, right?"
Lois chuckled and reached out to pat J'onn's arm. "I think this whole scenario pretty much has to be off the record," she pointed out.
"I suppose it would be hard to explain how you ended up on the moon when it was pulled from orbit. But what will you do for a story?"
"I'm somewhere in Wyoming at the - oh, you don't mean cover story!" Lois realized. "Well, it's time to let someone else win a Pulitzer over the near end of the world," she dismissed airily.
J'onn shook his head and rose to his feet. "You are good people, Lois Lane. More coffee?"
"Yes, please," she accepted, handing J'onn her mug. "Out of curiosity, did you put it into the Flash's head to bring us coffee?"
J'onn paused for second in the middle of pouring coffee, then resumed what he was doing. "I very rarely put ideas in anyone's head, Lois. He found Alfred's coffee pot, dented and spilled, and he thought we needed more coffee."
Lois accepted the mug J'onn handed her with a guilty twinge as he spoke. "I didn't mean any offense, J'onn. It just seemed-"
He reclaimed his seat, smiling slightly against her concern. "You are not a mind reader, Lois. You have no way of knowing what I am thinking nor of what things a telepath might find troubling even in suggestion." His tone was matter-of-fact, and he polished off another Choco after he finished speaking.
Lois took a thoughtful sip of coffee. "So for you it is wrong to put ideas in people's heads?"
"Morally repugnant, although occasionally tempting."
"Really?" Lois considered J'onn with interest. "When is it tempting? I mean, I'm guessing you wouldn't use it to pick up chicks or anything-"
J'onn chuckled, but Lois noted that something flared in his eyes. Anger? Or guilt? "No, not 'picking up chicks,'" he quoted back to her. He took a sip of his own coffee. "Sometimes it is the lesser of two evils when the world needs saving."
"Well, duh. But you didn't say that sometimes it was necessary. You said tempting."
J'onn set down his coffee and considered her for a moment. "I am beginning to have a new understanding of why powerful men have always been so attracted to you. Or maybe why you never dated anyone who wasn't powerful."
Lois grinned wolfishly. "Don't try to distract me, J'onzz. And don't worry, we're still off the record. When it is tempting?"
There was another moment's pause as J'onn ate another Choco. "You should keep this up; I can feel amusement from Kal."
Lois glanced down at her husband's face. "Amusement or irritation? He always hates it when I badger you."
"Me specifically?" J'onn sounded genuinely surprised.
"You're not getting me off topic that easily."
J'onn sighed. "So I see. Very well." He focused his whole attention on Lois, eyes meeting hers levelly. "Sometimes I want to avoid conversations and it is tempting to plant the idea that someone should drop a question."
The combination of the answer and J'onn's sincere gaze flustered Lois. "Oh! Are you serious?"
"It is very difficult to blindside a telepath with questions, Lois. But even I have things I do not want to say out loud."
Lois nodded slowly. "You know, I'm beginning to have a new understanding of why you're good for Bruce."
Lois was surprised when J'onn ducked his head at her comment, and she imagined a blush rising in his cheeks. "He's a good man," J'onn murmured.
"Oh, I know," Lois acknowledged quickly. "And he's a royal pain in the ass. In and out of costume."
"He's-" J'onn began, but Lois cut him off.
"You don't have to defend him, J'onn. I know you love him; that much has been obvious at every dinner Clark and I have had with you two in the last couple of years. But remember, I dated him once upon a time."
J'onn glanced down at Superman. "Now we are irritating him," he pointed out.
"And that's good, right? Because if he's irritated at me for dishing about Bruce then that means it's getting through all the delusions, and that might mean we can strengthen him enough to break through whatever's got a hold on him."
J'onn seemed to think about her analysis before he said, "You're very good at getting what you want, aren't you?"
Lois grinned again. "So tell me, is Bruce still fond of water sports?"
Lois expected a flustered reaction to her arch question, but she didn't quite expect the pained expression that flitted across J'onn's features before he meekly answered, "Yes."
She sat up straighter in her chair. "Whoa, wait, hold the phone here. J'onn, what the hell -"
"No, we've already established my bulldog credentials. I'm prepared to accept that you don't want to talk about your sex life, but that was not just embarrassment."
"I apologize. I did not anticipate your question."
"Clearly. Now spill. You don't like that Bruce thinks the shower is a good place to get down and dirty?"
"It is not - Lois, Mars is a very dry place. It is an ... intense thing, to be submerged."
Lois blinked once. "Yeah, actually, I bet. And you've told Bruce this?"
J'onn turned his face.
"J'onn! How is he-"
"It makes him happy and costs me so very little-"
"J'onn, do you have any idea how much you sound like a battered wife defending-"
J'onn stiffened angrily. "Bruce does not-"
Lois lifted her hands in a calming motion. "I know, J'onn, I know. Just - listen to yourself. You should know better. A healthy relationship is based on give and take. You have to tell him-"
She watched his shoulders slump. "I know, Lois, I do. But Lois -" He gestured toward himself as if to point out how very alien he was.
"J'onn." She waited until she had his attention, then she gestured toward the Kryptonian lying unmoving between them. "I know a thing or two about the human side of this equation. Things like this - you have to let him know. Otherwise it will come out on its own, and he will be angry that you let him hurt you."
"J'onn. You have to."
She held his gaze for a long time, watching the conflict playing in his eyes. "Maybe-"
"No maybe. I'm right about this, J'onn. Bruce can live without shower sex if he has to. And other things, too, because I'm guessing there's more you haven't told him."
J'onn started suddenly and fixed her with a penetrating gaze, and belatedly Lois realized he had picked a stray thought from her mind. "Don't you dare, Lois. If this has to be done, don't you dare say a word to him."
Lois pressed her lips together in a thin line. "J'onn, if you don't-"
"Lois, please. You wouldn't want me in the middle of your relationship with Kal."
Lois scowled and then nodded. "Fine. I won't."
The plea was so sincere - and so unexpectedly child-like - that Lois was taken aback. She sighed and stood, taking her mug back to the table where J'onn had set the coffee pot. "Okay," she finally agreed. "I don't like it, but okay."
Thank you. The words were whispered straight into her mind, carrying with them a color of relief she normally associated with the realization the world wasn't going to end. And though she wouldn't break her promise, she wondered suddenly if she had done the right thing.