TITLE: The Secret Thoughts of a Man

AUTHOR: Mara Greengrass

AUTHOR'S EMAIL: fishfolk@ix.netcom.com. Feedback is better than chocolate.


CATEGORY: Friendship

RATINGS/WARNINGS: PG for some bad language

SUMMARY: "John thought this might explain some things about Flash, because Batman-baiting was better fun than he'd expected."

CONTINUITY: Takes place after "Hereafter" but contains no spoilers for it.

DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to many people other than me, such as DC Comics and the Cartoon Network.

NOTES: This is a sorta kinda sequel to "Secrets, Societies, and Truths," containing some spoilers for the episodes "Secret Society" and "A Better World." The title is from a quote by philosopher Thomas Hobbes: "The secret thoughts of a man run over all things, holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave, and light, without shame or blame." My deepest thanks to Wyzeguy for his beta. Yo, man, *this* is why we made you our designated guy. Any remaining girly verbosity is entirely my fault.

* * * * *

The night was oppressively dark and frigid. If not for his ring's ability to transfer power into heating his uniform, John was sure his teeth would be trying to chatter their way out of his mouth. He glanced over at Batman--who seemed impervious to both the cold and the dark--and thought about just how aggravating the man was. He had enough macho attitude it even made a former Marine wince. The man was just lucky that Wonder Woman *liked* attitude.

Yep, John thought as he rubbed his eyes, boredom was guaranteed to make his mind wander into areas he really didn't want to consider, and tonight was no exception.

There they were, stuck on a rooftop, watching the rear entrance to the Central City Museum of Art, waiting to see if some new supervillain team arrived to steal a priceless artifact from the Mesopotamian exhibit. Ho hum. Another object of power, another supervillain.

It might be a sign that he needed a vacation if he'd just thought "ho hum" and "another supervillain" in close proximity. Simply thinking the words "ho hum" was probably a bad sign.

Batman looked right at home, blending into the sooty brick and stone of the bank building. John sighed and looked down at his uniform, which practically glowed in the dark. Maybe Batman had the right idea--being a living target wasn't *always* the best way to go. Too bad Katma hadn't met Batman--they'd have probably gotten along famously. Maybe he should think about developing a stealth uniform.

Frowning down, he focused on the ring asking it to make the white parts of the uniform morph into dark gray, but that still glowed too brightly. All black with dark green just made him look...odd. Maybe dark green with the lantern in black? The tiniest whisper of sound made him glance up--Batman was looking over his shoulder at him, face totally blank.

With a sigh, John shifted his uniform back to its normal configuration. Batman turned back to the binoculars. Right. Maybe he should leave the fashion question for later.

Denied his uniform ruminations, John went back to pondering his mysterious teammate, who stared through binoculars that looked like they doubled as a supercomputer.

The night got darker and colder. The short wall behind which they crouched was still blank and uninteresting.

This was really boring, John thought, yearning for some action--he was going to fall asleep if he didn't come up with something to keep himself occupied.

Oh, what the hell. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

"You don't like me, do you?" John asked. It was worth it just to see Batman turn and give what was probably a world-class glare. Glaring as an Olympic sport. Except that Batman would take the gold every time.

Batman didn't respond, just went back to looking through his binoculars at the street below. John grinned as he noticed for the first time how the gloved hand holding the binoculars shielded what little was visible of Batman's face. Good grief, but he was secretive.

"I don't really care if you like me or not," John went on, "but it gets in the way of getting things done."

That made Batman's head turn rather faster. He started to say something, but instead closed his mouth into that thin line that meant he was really annoyed.

John thought this might explain some things about Flash, because Batman-baiting was better fun than he'd expected. It might also be considered reckless and/or suicidal, but hell, he had the most powerful weapon in the universe on his finger. He'd probably survive. "What?" he asked, all innocence.

"You want to talk *now*?" Batman growled.

"You got a better idea? We may be here while. And we don't even know if they're gonna attack this location or one of the others."

"I know how they think. They'll be here," Batman said.

You had to admire that kind of confidence. Batman was a human among metahumans and aliens and such, and yet, his certainty never seemed to falter. It helped that the man was damn brilliant, probably ten times as smart as the rest of them. And he did have the best technology. Where did he *get* it? It was tempting to try and find out but...it all came back to the suicidal thing.

John sighed and went back to looking for approaching villains. Another few minutes went by, John sneaking looks over at Batman, who appeared to have turned to stone like one of Gotham's gargoyles.

Batman was infuriating, John thought, especially the way he refused to step up to the plate. Despite refusing full membership in the League, he was its leader and everyone knew it. Everyone but Batman, apparently. He insisted that Superman was in charge, while at the same time orchestrating plans, ordering people around, and fixing the Watchtower.

Sure, John forced them to train together, but that just made him the drill sergeant, not the boss. And Superman deliberately played the part of a figurehead, allowing Batman to stay in the background. The Boy Scout was aiding and abetting a dereliction of duty, which was unlike him.

It all came back to Batman's desire to stay in the shadows and his distrust and dislike of teamwork--just one of the attitudes that John had trouble understanding. In the military, your unit kept you going, made you try harder, saved your ass when the chips were down. The Justice League pretty much had a handle on that part, up to and including the snappy banter.

Your unit was supposed to be your family, though, and that was where John's mind came to a screeching halt--because if the League was his family, it had to be the most fucked-up family *ever*.

A brief image flashed through his brain: Flash playing ball in the backyard, Wonder Woman in the kitchen pulling muffins out of the oven, and Batman seated in an armchair reading the newspaper with a pipe in his mouth.

John squeezed his eyes shut and mentally groaned. Not only did he need that vacation, but apparently he needed serious psychotherapy. Time for a distraction before he went noisily insane on this damn rooftop.

"Maybe we *should* talk," he said, glancing over at Batman.

A long pause. "About what?"

The tone was noncommittal and less adversarial than he'd expected. Had he hit a nerve with his previous comments? Or was Batman bored too? Did the man *get* bored? Somehow John had always figured he spent moments like this planning new ways to frighten bank robbers or something.

"Teamwork, maybe," John said.

Batman didn't answer, turning back to his binoculars with shoulders hunched.

John crossed his arms. "Our teamwork could be better."

"Well, I think we could be more efficient, but we've seen where that leads."

John stared, trying to decide if that was supposed to be a joke. "Sharing information and better coordination isn't going to make us the Justice Lords."

"Are you certain?"


Batman managed to give the impression of a shrug and disdainful sniff without ever actually moving. How did he *do* that? John leaned his head back and stared at the sky, hoping for inspiration from the twinkling stars. "I didn't like what I saw when I looked at them either. But we have a chance to be different."

"Hmm." It was less a thoughtful noise and more an annoyed one.

John leaned forward, wanting to shake the man until he saw sense. "We tried splitting up after Grodd hit us. And it didn't work. As the Justice League we have the chance to do greater good, save more lives, react faster to threats."

"And the chance to do greater evil."

Only years of training kept John from knocking the man on his ass with a giant green fist. "Then why the hell are you still part of the League?"

Batman turned around long enough to smirk. "You said 'hell.' Goodness."

"I was a Marine. I can say 'fuck' and 'shit' too, but don't change the subject."

Back to looking through the binoculars, Batman's voice was quiet. "Superman asked the same question."

"And what did you tell him?"

Batman had his back to him. "No comment."

John took a deep breath. "You're an aggravating bastard."

"You always say the nicest things, Lantern."

"I give up."

"So soon?" The sarcasm was so thick, you could have cut it with a knife and made a sandwich.

Rubbing the back of his neck, John stared down at the museum, marble steps gleaming in the moonlight. Silence fell on the rooftop, broken only by occasional motorcycle roars and train whistles in the distance.

Why the hell was he even bothering with this? Trying to have a conversation with Batman made pulling teeth sound like a party game.

Some kind of industrial plant puffed occasional smoke in the distance and John considered how dangerous boredom really was. He made a mental note to not get bored again. Unfortunately, now that he'd begun this, he felt the need to finish it.

"Batman..." He paused, running through various options in his mind. "Don't give up on the League. You told me trust could be earned over time--tell me how we do that. You've never trusted us, and seeing the Lords' universe has made you distrust us even more."

Batman hunched further over the binoculars. "Perhaps..." He paused, and John held his breath. "I don't trust myself."

John leaned against the brick to consider this revelation in the silence that it deserved. I guess, he thought, each of us has been thinking about our own counterparts and not everybody else's. So, what about that other Batman? Well, he'd certainly been a genius of the same caliber. Obviously he'd developed the technology that had allowed the Lords to travel into their alternate universe. And the prisons that had held them until Flash tricked the other Batman.

Damn it. He just didn't know enough about Batman--who he was when he took the cape off--to work through this. Time to take a giant and dangerous leap.

"If you don't trust yourself, maybe you better get out of the superhero business."

For a long moment, Batman didn't move at all and John couldn't decide if that was better or worse than the man trying to kill him.

"We are *not* discussing this." The words sounded like they were forced through clenched teeth.

"Why not?"

"If I wanted a therapist, I'd have found one on my own."

John stifled a grin at the image of a scowling Batman lying on a couch in some psychiatrist's office. "Who can you talk to other than another member of the cape and tights crowd?"

"I have no desire to talk about it with anyone. Can we concentrate on what's important?"

"This *is* important. We can't go around second-guessing every move we make."

Batman put down the binoculars, but didn't turn. "We have to. Or we're going to find we've crossed that line without ever knowing it."

"You just don't get it. That's part of the team thing. We watch each other's backs and we keep ourselves honest. Just like you and Superman did to defeat the Lords."

"We set Luthor free."

"But we're gonna stay on this side of that line. Even if it kills us. I think the Lords forgot why we do this: to protect people. They lost track of their humanity."

In the dark it was hard to see, but it looked like Batman was shaking his head. "In case *you've* lost track, two of us aren't even human."

"You know what I mean."

"I don't think I do."

"They forgot security without freedom is worthless."

"And how will you feel when Flash dies?"

"We don't know it's inevitable."

"You're the one," Batman said, "who said 'even if it kills us.'"

John glared at him. The man was really infuriating. Batman lifted his binoculars and John sighed at his back. "All we can do is try. But you have to trust in the team."

"Ah," Batman said. It was barely even a word, more a long breath, but it caught John's attention. His head snapped to the side and he saw the edge of a coat swoop around the corner below them.

It took only an instant for him to snag both of them in a force bubble and speed downward toward the museum as Batman signaled the rest of the League. The opening of the bubble and Batman launching himself toward the building were simultaneous; John wondered what Batman would say if he pointed out later that it was a result of them training together.

As he came through the door just slightly ahead of his teammate, John was already putting up a shield, arcing it over their heads, certain that these guys would be prepared for their arrival. Batman, batarang in hand, scanned the room as a small black object hit the shield.

Batman cursed under his breath and snapped a mask over his face as the object began to hiss and emit some kind of gas. John threw up a quick and impermeable bubble around his body, pushing through the cloud.

A quick glance at each other and Batman began to circle to the left, while John went right. Teamwork. He nodded happily.

The shadowy shapes of exhibit displays were tall and menacing, in a strangely familiar kind of way. How many times had they done this, in how many museums and factories and warehouses?

Wait, there, just behind that reconstructed temple, a flash of something that didn't belong. Where the hell were these guys? They'd thrown a smoke bomb and just vanished. It was especially annoying trying to find them in here, since the exhibit was filled with statuary, particularly that of human figures of various shapes and sizes.

Batman, he knew, would be lurking along the edge of that far wall, weapons ready, so John edged his way around a gigantic winged bull, leaning his head out far enough to see deeper into the museum. The power of the ring was like another heartbeat, speeding up in anticipation. Soon, he thought at it. We'll get all the action we could want soon.

There it was again. Someone or several someones were on the move, but they were fairly stealthy. The object they were likely looking for wasn't far now, so it was time to stop them. With unknown powers in play, there was no sense in letting them get their hands on the thing.

Hopefully Batman would follow his lead. John stepped into the open and used his best drill sergeant voice (augmented by just a bit of power): "Stop right there!"

His only answer was a bolt of red light aimed at his head, and John ducked and ran forward, throwing up another shield in front of him--his mind automatically forming something like the rectangular shields of the statues around him.

He couldn't see anything to his side, but trusted that Batman was pacing him. "Give up now!" John shouted, making as much noise as he could. Giving the ring just a bit of a push, he created a green searchlight, sweeping the room in front of him for any sign of the people he pursued.

Bolts of light hit his shield and he absorbed the energy, grit his teeth harder, and pushed on. As long as they were shooting, he knew where they were. And every shot that hit his shield was one that wasn't shattering priceless statues...or Batman.

Looked like they were five of them, if he was reading the situation correctly.

John dodged right, pushing a tendril of power out to smash the closest villain, a dog-headed humanoid. He turned his dodge into a roll, getting behind the sturdiest wall he could find, taking out the next villain (ape-like) with a well-placed shot to the chest.

A third villain collapsed to the ground, tentacles wrapped in Batman's bolo. The fourth snarled through fangs as he turned to find the new attacker, but was taken out by a batarang to the chest.

The fifth, all three eyes wide with fear, dropped his gun and held up his hands. Batman stepped out of the shadows as John wrapped the three-eyed one in a web of green light.

"Whoa, you can have it if you want it that badly," the villain stuttered.

John growled. "We're not here to take it. We're here to protect it from you."

His eyes widening an improbable amount more, the creature stared. "Do you know what this can do?"

"We don't care," Batman said, scanning the room.

"It's pure power. Don't you want power?"

"No. I want justice." Batman turned, a batarang snapping into his hand almost magically. He threw it and somewhere in the shadows something went thud.

John nodded at Batman. "Nice."


Distant sirens were overwhelmed by the sounds of their backup approaching. Superman and Hawkgirl swooped through the open front door, looking relieved to see their teammates standing unharmed.

"The police are on the way," Superman said. "Why don't we take these outside?"

"Be my guest," Batman said. He stalked toward the wall, bringing back the last member of the gang--who was just starting to come around--and dumping him on the ground.

Superman and Hawkgirl each scooped up two of the villains and flew out, John grabbing the other two with a green claw. He was about to follow his teammates when Batman called him.


"Yes?" He turned, startled.

"I don't know that I like you, but I trust you all. With my life. And I haven't given up on the League." With a swirl of his cape, he was out the door--gone by the time John made it outside with his captives.

John grinned. You couldn't predict the man, could you? Well, it sure kept life interesting.