Play, part 4

By Darklady and Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"

Bruce's mind came back first, waking to find his body cocooned in a bed of warm softness. He lay there, unmoving, almost unthinking, as the oversensitive neurons struggled to rebalance themselves to more human messages.

Bruce lifted one too-heavy hand, stroking his fingertips over the glossy greenness. Mindless contentment resolved itself to Oh, J'onn.

The answer came back.




A sudden sound shook through the hull, sending a ripple over the pool of J'onn.

Bruce jerked. "Did you feel?"

"The ship move?" J'onn's familiar face emerged, body following as the zo'ok assumed its formal red and blue structure. "Yes. The pelloch has noticed us."

Bruce stood, straightening the remnants of clothing still hanging about his body. "And now what?"

J'onn swirled up, flowing like chocolate until he had sealed his lover's terran form inside a solid shell of black and green. "And now you see the universe through Martian eyes."

Bruce blinked, realizing that J'onn had left no opening in this new armor he had created. A hint of panic flared in a small corner of his brain, soothed away instantly by J'onn's steady touch and a faint sensation of air flowing past his face. None of that now that I've finally got you relaxed, J'onn chided, a soft kiss to Bruce's nape accentuating the point.

We are on a mission, Bruce pointed out, stretching within the protective shell of J'onn's body and relishing the pulses of energy to his outstretched fingers and toes. He was relaxed, he realized, and it was hard to muster his game face for the approaching plelloch.

Surrounding plelloch, he corrected, realizing that the view through the jumpship windows was all kaleidoscope phosphorescence. Dizzying, except - Martian eyes. J'onn was projecting what he saw direct to the optic center of Bruce's brain, but the vision was filtered. Bruce knew without being told that without the intervention from his lover the light show would be blinding as well as dizzying, a sensory overload which likely would have crippled Bruce. This way it was just - pretty.

And rather noisy.

J'onn's enhanced senses fed Bruce with a not-quite-white-noise which accompanied the light, sounds like distant laughter and excited breathing and layers of overlapping chatter.

Another tremor shook the jumpship and Bruce heard J'onn's thoughts projecting out. Patience, traveler.

Even being warned of a plelloch's nature didn't quite prepare Bruce for the telepathic response which translated through J'onn to him. MARTIAN! Oboyoboyoboy!

It really is a puppy, Bruce remarked.

Shh, J'onn directed, walking to the jumpship's hatch.

J'onn? There was alarm in Bruce's tone, and he pulled back his hand to resist J'onn's reach for the door.

Relax, Bruce, J'onn soothed, trailing an internal hand down Bruce's cheek in a calming gesture the other man would not normally accept.

Bruce closed his eyes, still a bit watery-kneed and susceptible to J'onn's touch.

I surround you, J'onn pointed out quietly. As long as I am here, you will be able to breathe and be warm no matter how deep in space we are.

But if-

Trust, Bruce. You'll see. J'onn waited a moment, mentally coaxing Bruce back to perfect calm, then triggered the hatch. The door whisked open to reveal a brightness all around.

J'onn drifted out of the ship and into the brightness, and again the plelloch cried, MARTIAN! This time it must have extended some kind of touch, for Bruce felt a hint of impact through J'onn and suddenly they both were rolling and J'onn was - laughing? He could feel tingling discharges of electricity through the Martian's body, but the jolts only seemed to tickle J'onn, and he laughed and rolled under the assault with a kind of youthful abandon Bruce had never seen in his lover.

It was irresistible. The vibrations of J'onn's flesh pressed against his and the echo of his laughter in Bruce's mind tapped too often buried parts of Bruce's psyche. He felt flooded with visceral memory, remembering exactly the emotional high of play-wrestling a very young Dick Grayson to the ground, feeling the intensity of the boy's love and loyalty in Dick's ringing laughter. And somehow his mind found its way back to a much earlier time, a memory so long ago to be completely forgotten until this moment, of Thomas Wayne, breaking his formal reserve to rough house with his boy. Had he truly forgotten how good it was to laugh? His stomach was almost hurting from the paroxysms that rocked him now, but even the dull pain felt good.

But now J'onn was rocking in a more soothing motion, and he was talking to the plelloch. All right, settle, settle. I'm glad to see you, too.

Bruce's gasping breaths began to fill his lungs more effectively, and guffaws stilled to an occasional chuckle. He could "hear" the plelloch in his mind, its tone wheedling.

I thought you wouldn't come. I called and I called -

I didn't hear you, J'onn apologized. I think you were not loud enough.

Hmph, the plelloch pouted. I was, too. I know how far I have to yell.

I was further than you called. The third planet, not the fourth.

Well, your people should've heard me. I was calling.

My people are gone, traveler.

Bruce shifted inside the armor to offer comforting strokes to the soft skin of J'onn which surrounded him, but he was surprised that the Martian's tone lacked some of the sadness which usually rolled through him when he talked about the fate of Mars.

Gone? The plelloch asked, its tone confused. Where did they go? All to the third planet with you? Let's go then!

No, traveler, J'onn said firmly. They are gone. Forever gone.

More confusion radiated from the plelloch, and Bruce had a distinct sense of again being shielded from the creature.

Gone? Not coming back?

The questions rang innocently enough, but Bruce ached for J'onn, and he felt a hand grasp his inside the armor as a whisper thought floated through: I'm okay, Bruce. I have you. To the plelloch, though, J'onn said ruefully, No. Not coming back.

The impression that he was being shielded suddenly intensified as the plelloch brightened around them and a disconsolate howl rang from it. It was a cry of pure, frustrated disappointment - but not sadness.

Plelloch do not understand sadness, J'onn explained softly, filtering out still more of the plelloch's clamor. And they don't dwell for long on disappointment. You'll see.

As if on cue, the howling ceased, replaced by the telepathic equivalent of a sniffle. But I wanted to play.

A bit self-centered, Bruce remarked, earning a chuckle from J'onn.

I did say puppy, right? the Martian reminded him. Although I could've compared it to an intercelestial two year old.

Overlaying this conversation were J'onn's calming outward gestures and sounds, and Bruce could vaguely feel the plelloch curling around him, cradling J'onn's body with a strength that would break bones. Inside the protective cocoon of J'onn, Bruce remained untouched, although the warmth of the creature's comforting/comforted snuggle tingled through his body.

You don't have anyone left to play with, the plelloch bemoaned, its tone a mix of curiosity and pity.

That is not quite true, J'onn hedged. But yes, there are no more Martians.

I know! the plelloch exclaimed, suddenly bounding joyfully again. You can come with me. There's lots of people who would want to play with Martians! This last announcement was accompanied by a veritable photo catalogue of alien visages, many of which were beyond Bruce's imagination. Bruce felt suddenly awed by the scope and scale of the universe, and by this creature who roved through it, a great wandering puppy with no greater desire than to play.

And, he realized, he was equally awed by J'onn, who was treating it all with matter-of-fact good humor. Even now, he could feel J'onn's lips curling into an impish smile, and an elbow nudged him in the ribs in a clear "watch this" gesture. But I can't run away with you, J'onn protested, I don't even know your name!

Bruce couldn't help it. His body and mind were too relaxed, and the walls were already down. He laughed aloud, and around him he felt J'onn encase him in a full body hug, rocking him a little in a happy delight that seemed to echo that of the plelloch.

The plelloch, for its part, missed the joke, and only replied. My name? That's easy. And it projected a feeling that tickled inside the brain and could not begin to be a word and Bruce found himself laughing some more at the impossibility of ever rendering such an easy name.

What? J'onn teased him. You can't say - and he repeated the feeling before turning his attention outward again.

What a perfect name! he projected. I am J'onn.

J'onn, the plelloch repeated carefully, then gave the impression of wrinkling its nose. That's not a Martian name. Martians have names like -

Bruce started as the plelloch projected waves of impressions, mental gestures that tasted and sounded and tingled and brightened and scented the air.

In fact, you remind me of- the plelloch began, gesturing again in a way that immediately flooded Bruce's mind with something that did resonate of J'onn-ness and drew a bit of a gasp and a sad kind of laugh from his lover.

I should, J'onn replied. She was my mother.

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