by Chicago

Follows Only Human
Concurrent with Alienated

All characters owned by DC Comics, borrowed for fun and not for profit.

NOTE: This is the first part of a sub-arc in this 'verse exploring the sexual side of this relationship. I had initially intended to maintain it as something that would not be essential to the story, but people have pointed out to me that this part of it, at least, is needed. I have not decided whether to post the other parts of this arc (in edited version) or to withhold them, but regardless, this gives a sense of what Martian sexuality looks like, and a creative imagination can probably from there derive the compromise which these two gentlemen reach.

The teleporter placed them precisely - a risky business, but the only way Batman could enter a Martian place. It was risky in another way, though, from which J'onn had shielded Bruce before they left but could not when they arrived. As his body coalesced from the beam J'onn could not hold any shape, all his will focused only on staying conscious, staying aware.

"J'onn!" Batman rushed to his side.

He mustn't worry this way, not in this place. J'onn struggled with his uncooperative mass, managing to stretch out a limb, something hand like which Bruce could grasp...

Bruce understood the gesture, taking hold of the offered hand, his freely offered strength flowing into J'onn, fortifying him enough to force his body into a vaguely humanoid shape. It took him a moment to realize that in his effort, he had tightened his fingers on Batman's gauntlet, collapsing the protective material that shielded his wrist. A hint of pain from Bruce loosened J'onn's grip, the real possibility that he could have easily broken his friend's bones giving his mind renewed focus. Crisis past. He breathed deeply, settling into his body.

He felt rather than saw Bruce kneel beside him. "We're here - Mars," he whispered. "What now?"


Batman leapt to his feet, putting himself between J'onn and the fiery creature who must have risen from the well of souls. "H'ronmeer," J'onn gasped, aware now that he might have put Bruce in more danger.

"You!" he heard H'ronmeer hiss. "I know you - human." The last word sounded like a curse.

"H'ronmeer," J'onn pleaded, finding his way to his knees, his hands braced in Batman's cape. Another deep, fortifying breath. He could do this.

"Again you are ill-used, my child," H'ronmeer boomed. "And you cower behind one who once before stood between you and the health of your soul."

"You will not harm him," J'onn stated, rising to his feet and pushing Batman behind him with one arm.

"I have never wished him harm." He could feel the flaming tendrils reaching out toward him, mesmerizing but unthreatening in J'onn's sightless state. H'ronmeer would know that.

He felt Batman shake himself. "No!" he protested, seeking to again juxtapose his own body between this Martian god and J'onn. He would not let them battle, the determination allowing him to block Batman with some strength. He felt H'ronmeer withdraw slightly, cocking its head.

"You have gained some wisdom," the god allowed, and J'onn was aware of the mental touch it sent out toward Bruce, felt the scalding in his friend's thoughts. "You are right that he needs an anchor."

J'onn wordlessly protested, sending a tendril of thought to deflect H'ronmeer's probe. He felt his god's attention return to him. "This is not so wise, Son of Mars. Could not you secure the electronic anchor you used before?"

"Before?" Batman asked, his tone suggesting he had been surprised into the question. He put a hand on J'onn's restraining arm.

"A mother box," J'onn explained, knowing he was answering the wrong question. He kept his face toward H'ronmeer. "You can protect him."

"No. You must."

J'onn stiffened and raised his chin defiantly. He should not have brought Bruce to this place, he realized suddenly. Strong as he was, Batman would not withstand the flames of H'ronmeer, would not survive the mingling of J'onn's ashes with those of his long dead people. And without Bruce to pull him back...

He slumped. "I cannot," he confessed.

Batman's hand was on his shoulder, turning him away from H'ronmeer.

"J'onn?" He was putting down his cowl, scrutinizing J'onn's face with Bruce Wayne's eyes. "If this is what must happen, I can be the anchor. I -"

"Fool!" H'ronmeer spat. "You have no idea what this child demands. You will lead both of you ignorantly to your deaths."

J'onn lowered his head, knowing the truth of this statement. "Forgive me, Bruce. I cannot ask you to do this. It -" He sighed, unwillingly projecting an image of what he had planned into Bruce's mind.

"No," Bruce whispered. "You wanted to-"

"Not die, Bruce. Be reborn. I - there is no living Martian to - so the dead - their souls -" He trailed off inadequately. His mind was still fractured, still not thinking clearly. Still disrupted by the hellnoise of the flames long since extinguished.

"This is - the only way?" J'onn almost wanted to smile, feeling the detective's brain kicking into gear, putting it's energy into puzzling out a solution. "We could locate a mother box again, or-"

J'onn shook his head. There were other ways, but-

"Child of Mars!" H'ronmeer again, imperious, demanding. J'onn didn't turn, but he didn't have to. The god knew it had J'onn's attention, and it would understand his reluctance to slip free of Bruce's hands, now settled on both his shoulders. A moment of truth, J'onn reflected wryly, feeling H'ronmeer translate the unspoken bond in the room.

"Human!" H'ronmeer suddenly barked, and J'onn felt Batman flinch. H'ronmeer had laid him out before, had made it clear that it would do whatever necessary to protect the last of its children. And he could almost hear Batman's thoughts - over my dead body.

He didn't realize that he had come unfocused again until H'ronmeer's voice snapped him back. How much time had he lost? Bruce was still there, supporting him more now, his body armor pressing unavoidably into J'onn's burned flesh, but it was his mind that distracted J'onn from the pain. His mind that had latched onto an idea and -

"No," J'onn whispered. "He doesn't understand-"

"He does," H'ronmeer contradicted, its voice containing an odd note of - approval? "It is not ideal - in a thousand thousand generations it could not be ideal - but you are the last, Son of Mars."

J'onn frowned. The last. Alone. His mind clouded as he tried to focus on H'ronmeer's words.

You will find a way. Words, spoken directly to his mind. An order he was not prepared to accept. His will rebelled, and all was dark. all fire ... consuming... K'hym... the flames rising to take her ... mingling with the ashes of the dead ... so young ... other fires ... more dead ... more ... M'yri'ah reaching out ... J'onn! ...


The fire was banished, although the sands of Mars beneath them still held the story. J'onn focused on the mental voice of his friend.

I have you.

How long had he been out? Minutes? Hours?

Not long. H'ronmeer has left us.

J'onn struggled to rise, only to remain enfolded in Bruce's arms. "It is wrong," J'onn argued weakly. "I cannot ask-"

"It's not a question of asking," Bruce said quietly, answering aloud. J'onn could feel the determination of his mind, a willingness that went beyond argument.

"Bruce," J'onn tried to rise again, this time released from Bruce's hold. He reached his fingers out to touch Bruce's face, reading his tender expression with sensitive fingertips still raw and burning. "I am not certain what H'ronmeer showed you, but - I took before without asking, stole from your strength -"

"You filled me." He could read from Bruce's mind that this was not the precise word, but that the sentiment was accurate. Could it be? He had never dared to touch a human that way before, worried for their fragility and for his own sense of disappointment. They could never be Martian, never join -

"I could cost you your sanity." Not a threat - a statement of fact.

He felt Bruce take up his hand. "I know. I felt that, too. But you wouldn't."

There it was. Trust. A trust J'onn wasn't sure he had earned.

But you have. J'onn started. It wasn't even so much a thought as a sentiment, and yet Bruce had read it. Read it and responded and -

You were hurt and confused and barely recognized me. I did not know what was happening, could not have defended myself. And yet you managed to keep me safe.

J'onn reached uncertainly into Bruce's mind, finding only his faith in his own words.

You see. It was a statement, warm and approving. Inviting. He felt the guards lowering in Bruce's mind. You will heal without it. A year, perhaps two, and you will heal.

That was true. As was Bruce's feeling that a year or two was unacceptable.

You need to make love, J'onn. I cannot be Martian for you, but -

There was a mental equivalent of a shrug. J'onn felt Bruce's bare hands cup his cheeks. No Bat here. Or rather, Bat and man. How long has it been?

How long, indeed. Becoming one with another being, the line between them blurring into nothingness. Cha'rissa - a romance doomed from the outset. Although the lines of love still lingered, she had her own duties, her husband. Before that? Only M'yri'ah.

One of Bruce's hands had dropped down to find his, realizing there was a physical dimension to what he proposed but not certain how to initiate it. Their fingers twined.

It was an invitation, and J'onn cautiously accepted it, thinning his digits to insubstantiality, slipping his own atoms through the calloused skin of Bruce's hands, pulled suddenly along into his blood stream and along his nerves.

He felt Bruce smile, a warmth close to laughter in his mind. The energy in his body! Not Martian, true, but fluid, coursing, a maze of pulses and electricity. This was human? J'onn had imitated it's form before, crafting himself carefully into a perfect replica of these systems, but it was only imitation. He did not anticipate that these synapses could hold a Martian essence within them. "Beautiful," he breathed.

Now the smile in Bruce's mind did bubble into laughter, so unfamiliar a feeling from his friend that J'onn paused, concerned for what he might trigger.

Stay, Bruce ordered, somehow opening mind and body to the Martian cells zinging within him, inviting more.

J'onn stretched out his other arm, twining it around Bruce's torso, pulling him closer to his body as he let himself penetrate the kevlar, slowly spreading his essence to slip between ribs, striate among muscles that bunched and released and stretched him thin with breath and contracted around him with exhalation. This was possible, J'onn realized with sudden delight, feeling the heaviness of his injuries and the slowness of his damaged mind absorbing a different kind of energy. Bruce shifted in his arms, and he realized he was removing his boots, baring toes to press against J'onn's flesh, to bury themselves, demanding the filling of the spaces between cells.

J'onn breathed into the sensation, letting the boundary between himself and Bruce dissipate, finding the strength to control and lose control in the same instant, fading into insubstantial mist as he pulled Bruce into his body...

And then he was surrounding him, enveloping him, no inch of Bruce's skin outside the span of green. Bruce gasped in surprise, J'onn flooding into his lungs.

The Bat's kneejerk reaction kicked in, fighting the sudden influx of J'onn into the pleasure centers of his brain. It was trained reflex, J'onn understood, a necessary defense against the drugging of the senses, against gas attacks and poisons that were unleashed against Gotham's defender all too often. Bruce went rigid, almost holding his breath.

J'onn brought a bubble of air inside himself, positioning it over Bruce's nose and mouth as he sent soothing tendrils through Bruce's mind and gently stroked the walls of his lungs. Relax, he encouraged. Breathe.

He could feel Bruce's mental struggle to obey, to go against his training. He maintained the long, persuasive massage of Bruce's lungs, let the scientist's mind clear enough to feel in control. Bruce shuddered finally, taking in the needed air, his rational self willing his body to accept more of the essence that already coursed through his veins. Cautiously, J'onn thinned himself in the air, gradually increasing the concentration of his body among the molecules of oxygen Bruce needed.

Bruce's breathing deepened, driving J'onn low into his lungs, his strong heart pulsing J'onn through his system into every fiber of his being as he let his mind wander open...

There! The walls of conscious control fell away, and Bruce walked hand in hand with K'hym as J'onn battled Bane and Bruce challenged Darkseid while J'onn caught Dick Grayson as he somersaulted from the trapeze ... lives and memories, blended, merged, and Bruce boxed the fire and J'onn collected the pearls and the pain of both became the joy of union ... bittersweetly alive and shared and theirs and his and his and neither and both and fingers and toes stretched and flexed as body - bodies - body writhed together, a joint cry from a single throat and they/he were falling... falling... as eiderdown drifts and mists dissipated and coalesced and shuddering breath accompanied reluctant withdrawal...

In the dark, J'onn could dimly see Bruce's peaceful expression as he lay perfectly cushioned by J'onn's body. His hair was sweat drenched, sliding slickly against J'onn's stroking fingers. The cape and cowl lay to one side, unmissed.

Bruce nuzzled J'onn's shoulder, pressing his face against the smooth green skin, and J'onn let himself give beneath the pressure, mold to those scratchy cheeks and sharp jaw bone, keeping air there to let Bruce feel the pleasure of total immersion without suffocation. The response was a delighted tightening of fingers on J'onn's hip, a smile against his flesh that warmed his whole body.

"You feel better." The words came out muffled in J'onn's skin, but the idea behind them was clear.

"Alive," J'onn confirmed, knowing without thinking that Bruce would understand the valences of the remark. He wrapped himself more securely around his lover. "Thank you."


J'onn smiled, almost laughed at the inarticulate response. Batman at a loss for words. Or not quite.

"Mars is good."

Now he did laugh, enveloping Bruce in a rippling, full bodied hug. When he relaxed, Bruce worked a hand free to touch J'onn's face. "Those pearls..." J'onn didn't need a flash of insight to see what he meant. "Thank you."

J'onn dropped a kiss onto the damp head nestled against him, breathing in Bruce's humid heat. Yes, he decided. This was good.


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