Waking, part 9

by Chicago

Disclaimers in "part 0"

Plasticman could not get the image out of his mind. To see the grimly stone-featured face of the Bat suddenly soften, to watch the hard line of his mouth open to accept a kiss - somehow that was more unsettling than the green lips which prompted such tenderness. Eel O'Brian had long relegated Batman to a world of sexless asceticism - a creature who walked like a man and talked like a man - a very desirable man - and yet existed at a distance from normal human desires. He depended upon Batman's humorless impatience to remind him from time to time that friendship with him, let alone anything more, was impossible.

Not that he particularly wanted Batman - he was happy with Woozy. But a boy could still lust, and a body could still betray desires which were not JLA approved. He didn't want to discomfit his teammates enough to let them find an excuse to expel him.

Except - that kiss floated back to the surface. It wasn't a first kiss, that he could tell. And from the reactions of Nightwing, Green Lantern and Superman, it wasn't news. But it also wasn't something anyone was talking about. In a way-

"OW!" Eel jumped back, half-falling to the floor as he pressed his hand to the puncture wound in his torso.

"Plasticman?" Aquaman stood over him, reaching out to give him a hand up.

Eel accepted the help with an embarrassed laugh, stretching out an arm to create a faux cane and tapping blindly with it. "You wouldn't hit a guy with glasses, wouldja?" he joked, ready for the irate growl.

It didn't come. "Are you all right? You just walked into me like -"

Plasticman patted the already sealed and healing hole in his side. "Just like one of those tires that can run over - never mind. Sorry about that." He moved to step around the Atlantean.

"O'Brian, wait."

Eel froze. "Did you just call me 'O'Brian'?"

"I mean it. Are you okay?"

"Sure I am - see?" He morphed into a ball and bounced from floor to ceiling a few times to illustrate his point. He stopped when Aquaman turned back toward the window he'd been standing at when Eel had rounded the corner into him and his hook. Thinking he had gratefully slipped back to being ignored, Plasticman again made to walk by him.

"It's quiet," Aquaman said, halting him again.

"It's space," Plasticman returned, adopting the shape of the ship from Space Trek.

This at least got a hint of irritation. "I mean here." Aquaman touched his temple. "It's like a noise that built up too gradually to notice suddenly ceased."

Eel gasped and became a sea monster. "You mean you can't hear the fishies anymore?"

"No. It's as if a sound that made them harder to hear is finally gone. It's a relief."

Something clicked into place in Eel's brain and triggered unexpected defensiveness. He quickly morphed into a cartoon Martian to hide the reaction. "You think it has something to do with J'onn."

Aquaman shrugged. "His voice is gone, too."

"Well, whatever, Aquaman. I've gotta go check on our patient. Ciao."

Eel hastened down the hall, his thoughts moving in a new direction. Could a malevolent telepath sidle into their minds on J'onn's link? Eel knew - knew beyond a shadow of a doubt - what J'onn would do if he discovered such a situation. He would immediately and without warning pull out of their minds, even uprooting the passive links which he'd once explained were an inevitable by-product of telepathic connection. A mind - once touched - remained in a telepath's memory as much as the memory of a face stayed with a human. Or that's how J'onn had explained it on one boring night of monitor duty when neither of them had had any place else to be.

Eel wondered what sort of passive links a telepath shared with a lover.

"I thought you were heading for bed," Wonder Woman greeted as he entered the med bay.

"It was lonely without you," he mugged, earning a withering look. "You're taking him somewhere?" he asked, gesturing toward Batman who had been transferred to a gurney.

"Nightwing wants to get him home." She sighed, smoothing Batman's sweat dampened hair.

Plasticman staved off the shudder prompted by the vulnerability of the unmasked Bat by dropping into the shape of a grotto in a cliff face. "Behold the healing powers of the CAVE!" he intoned.

"Given we don't know what's wrong with him, it makes as much sense as anywhere else," Wonder Woman defended.

But we do know what's wrong, Eel didn't say. Instead, he volunteered, "I'll take him down to the teleporters. Nightwing's waiting there?"

"Yes, but I can -"

"Ya wanna help me?" Eel waggled his eyebrows suggestively.

"Go," she ordered him with a hint of disgust, relinquishing her place at the head of the gurney.

"All right-y, Bats - alley oop!" Plasticman chirped, pushing the gurney out of the medbay and down the hall. And once he was out of Wonder Woman's sight, he let one hand press comfortingly on Batman's shoulder, trying not to notice that the other man shifted with the contact and breathed a word that might have been J'onn.

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