Mates: The Sequel

Chapter 18

()

The excruciating pain had died down but it hadn't left completely. It wasn't nearly as bad as it had been before but it left everything feeling raw, right down to his very bones. His skin felt like it had a very bad case of sunburn and the wounds on his arms kept pulsing painfully every time he breathed. Bruce certainly wasn't a stranger to pain but this was different, seeming to sink down into his mind and soul as well. He was too weak to shield his thoughts or try to control his senses so he was picking up everything with agonizing clarity.

Everything hurt.

Hearing, seeing, breathing...existing...

J'onn.

His mate's presence usually felt soothing. Warm and soft, wrapping around his frayed nerves and helping him to relax. But now it seemed like the longer they touched the more his skin burned and suddenly he was all to aware of how small yet crowded the medical wing was.

People. Hawk Girl. Green Lantern. Flash. Superman. J'onn.

Harsh lights. Glaring at him, making spots appear in his vision.

Sounds ringing in his ears. Beeping machines. Heart Beats.

And smells. Strong smells, making him nauseous and dizzy as the metallic scent of blood reached his nose.

Too much. Too much too muchtoomuchtoomuch—no. No. He could do this. He would control his body. Just concentrate.

Rao did this...and I let him...Oh god...

Guilt washed over Bruce and he flinched as J'onn went from soothing to hot. Everything felt hot. He was burning up—no. Concentrate. J'onn was soothing. J'onn was supposed to heal him. He just had to relax and let the bond--

I'm supposed to protect them! Not slam them into cars or-or fire heat beams or...

He couldn't breathe. Couldn't get enough air into his lungs. Too much. There was no escape!

Mind racing, he shot up and made to walk forward to the exit, J'onn's voice halting him in his steps. "Bruce, you are not yet fully healed. We need to remain in contact--"

Remain in contact?! Nonononono couldn't do that. J'onn burned. Everything was burning. Couldn't breathe here. He had to leave. "I can't...stay here...J'onn..."

If he stayed any longer he was going to go insane.

Was almost out the door when Clark went to touch him.

Clark.

Who was radiating such guilt, shame, and embarrassment. Whose heart was pounding unbelievably loud in his chest. Too loud.

"Do not touch me!" He snarled, stumbling back to avoid that hand, knowing how close to the edge he was going and he couldn't feel anymore. Not right now.

Wasn't aware of anything else until he was suddenly in the cave, his stomach reeling from the teleportation. His sight had left him some time during the 'ride' over but he knew where he was. Because he could hear them.

The bats.

Their little heart beats and fluttering of their wings. Could smell them too.

Could smell the darkness.

Didn't know darkness had a smell, Bruce thought, his voice sounding shrill inside his mind. Didn't have any time to wonder about that because someone was shouting his name. Loudly. Coming towards him, their footsteps thundering in his ears...

"Bruce!"

Coming towards him with the intent to touch...

Oh god...

"ALFRED!!"

Too loud.

Don't touch. Don't. Touching meant feeling. He couldn't feel anymore. Couldn't handle anymore.

Soft yet firm hands were suddenly on Bruce's skin and he shrank away, shaking his head as he tried to convey that they couldn't touch. The hands were persistent though and he braced himself for the impact of emotions that were sure to follow...

And was startled when nothing happened.

There was no shock or pity. No guilt, depression or anger. Just concern and...

Love?

Yes, there was no mistaking that emotion.

It wrapped around his tortured mind, filling his soul with a warmth that chased away the pain and gave him his sight back. Let the images he was seeing come into focus before locking eyes with Alfred and giving him a shaky smile.

"Alfred."

The butler went from being relieved to exasperated as he exclaimed, "Master Bruce, might I inquire as to why you are bleeding?"

Blinking, he looked down and saw that the wounds had indeed opened again. But the blood didn't burn like last time. It was just blood. The smell didn't make him nauseous. He could hear the bats, but not in a painfully loud way like before.

He had control again.

In some weird, bizarre way...Alfred had helped heal him.

"How do you do it, Alfred?" Bruce croaked in lieu of an answer, getting a raised eyebrow in return.

"Do what?"

"Weird...butler..." His thoughts were starting to grow fuzzy, his eyelids heavy. "...magic...thing...you do..."

"Years of practice." Came the dry answer and he nodded, oblivious to the sarcasm behind the words as he drifted off into unconsciousness.

()

The gashes were deep, trailing around both Bruce's arms in a strange pattern that had Dick wondering not for the first time just what had happened while they had been out patrolling Gotham. Only he couldn't really ask because Bruce wasn't so much as stirring. Given what he knew about the man's senses and the fact that there were two needles repeatedly going into his skin, Bruce had to have been exhausted.

He didn't know what had happened. When they'd gotten back from patrol they hadn't seen any sign of Bruce but had just chalked it up to something happening with the League. Then Bruce had just appeared in the cave, his skin an almost ashy gray in color and on the verge of having a panic attack. Had in fact started to hyperventilate when Dick had finally had the sense to call for Alfred. He'd felt immediately foolish for doing so at first. He was an adult! He should be able to handle this!

But Bruce had seemed to be very close to breaking and that wasn't...he hadn't known what to do. So he'd fallen back on old habits and had yelled for the butler's assistance. Which had turned out to be just what was needed. Dick had understood Bruce's question very well. Alfred was...Alfred. The things he managed to do sometimes just amazed him. Like calming down a nearly-hysterical Bat...in mere seconds.

Dick didn't know how but he was immensely grateful, as he continued stitching up the gash on his mentor's left arm. The gashes were going to leave quite a scar, that was for sure...

"Is he going to be okay?" He asked quietly, keeping a critical eye on Bruce's form, prepared to stop talking the second there was a sign of distress.

Alfred nodded, "I believe so, yes. However, I do think I'll be preparing some dishes once we're done here, for when Master Bruce awakens. Most likely he'll be quite famished."

Even though the situation was quite serious...Dick couldn't help but snicker. What would Bruce do without the butler's help? Alfred did everything. Picked out his clothes, cooked, patched him back together, woke him up in the mornings...

So spoiled.

"Oh, that reminds me Master Dick. There's chocolate cake in the kitchen for you..."

At hearing that, he perked up, mouth already watering at the thought of Alfred's chocolate cake. It had gooey chocolate bits in the bread and was so moist--

"...right after you go in your bathroom and clean up that mess you left in there last night. Just because I pick up after you doesn't give you the excuse to be a slob, Master Dick."

He slumped over, pouting. Of course there was a catch. Whenever Alfred threw in cake there was always a catch. When was he going to learn?! "It's not my fault it rained last night--"

"Yet it is your fault for forgetting to use the utilities in the cave, is it not?"

"I was tired!" Dick protested, fighting to keep his voice down once he remembered Bruce was still sleeping. And he didn't want a repeat of last time. "I had to break up three gang fights. Three! And then Tim fell and when I go to help him, what does he do?! PULLS—pulls me down with him. Did you check his bathroom?" He didn't wait to hear the answer, adding in an irritated tone, "Yeah of course you did. No mud, right? That's because mud doesn't stick to Tim. Oh no it just slides right off him because Tim's an angel. Mud wouldn't dare stick to him. But me? It sticks everywhere. And I do mean everywhere."

Silence.

Did he give up?

Looking up from his work, he narrowed his eyes upon realizing that Alfred was staring at him with an amused look on his face. "WHAT?"

"You sound just like Master Bruce did when he was younger..."

Dick scowled at the comparison. "No. Bruce is spoiled. I'm mature."

"So since you admit that you are a mature adult, I take it that you will indeed be cleaning up your mess?"

He shifted uneasily, mentally cursing himself for falling into the butler's trap. Stupid! How could he have let his guard down like that?! He couldn't say no, or else he would be admitting that he was spoiled like Bruce. Well...at least he'd get cake...that was something, right?

Sighing, he nodded and started up the stairs, pausing as something occurred to him. "Alfred?"

"Yes?"

"...I get milk too right?"

Alfred's lips twitched. "But of course, Master Dick."

"Cool."

()

Right at that moment Bruce felt perfectly balanced. He'd found his center. It had taken a while, with everything swarming around him but he'd found it. And had held onto it, allowing his mind to go completely blank and his body to relax. It was a pleasant feeling; the silence that followed. For the first time in months he felt almost like his old self again. Had it really been so long since he'd last meditated?

He'd missed this...

A trickle of time seemed to pass by. Whether the trickle equaled hours or minutes, Bruce didn't know. Nor did he care. He had more pressing matters to think about and it had been so long since his mind had been clear of all the clutter and pain...and as more trickles passed it was harder to hold onto his center. It didn't used to be so hard...

Determined, he tried to concentrate even harder. He had to do this now when he could think without feeling too much of everything.

J'onn Jonzz.

The Last Martian.

His mate.

Was it worth continuing this...relationship...between them?

Even with his mind clear it seemed impossible to tell. Truth was he didn't know anything about J'onn. There weren't any strange little quirks the Martian had that he found annoying or cute. No little phrases or words that had been spoken between them that made his heart melt or flutter. No fond memories. Nothing. There was nothing.

Not entirely true. The sex was fantastic--

Regardless of how good the sex was, it still doesn't help me out any.

You wanted fond memories. You now have two. See? I helped.

Very well, I'm sexually attracted to J'onn. However, that's not what this is about. This is about whether or not it's worth it--

WRONG. This is about you trying to make a decision when you lack the sufficient data required.

Explain.

There's no quirks to annoy or amuse you because you've yet to really spend time with the Martian. You don't know anything about him. Not his past, his likes or dislikes.

I need to know whether or not to--

You want to know if you should pursue a relationship with the Martian based on all that has happened recently. But what are you going to draw your conclusions from? Is he possessive? Jealous? What does he do that annoys you? What does he do that pleases you?

I--

If you try to come to an answer with what you know now most likely it will be the wrong one.

Which means we're back at square one, a square that I like to call the 'WHAT DO I DO' square.

Not necessarily. You just need to gather more data.

My question was 'Should I pursue a relationship with J'onn'. There's only two answers. Yes or no.

Whatever happened to 'maybe'?

Slowly, Bruce opened his eyes and sighed. Well...he had his answer.

Now he just had to figure out a way to tell J'onn.

()

"After your shift, come down to the manor. We need to talk."

Two sentences, said in an emotionless tone that gave nothing away. Yet those simple words were driving J'onn up the wall as he sat through monitor duty, trying hard to stop counting the seconds. But it was so hard especially when he wasn't quite sure where he and his mate stood. Couldn't Bruce have said more? Like 'we need to talk about continuing our relationship'? Or maybe 'we need to talk about you staying far far away from me'. Even that would have been better than just 'we need to talk.'

We need to talk.

He hated the way those words sounded.

And the more times the phrase kept circling through his head the more things it seemed to say.

Truth was he had almost killed Bruce. The bond had punished his mate unfairly and as a result he would forever have those scars on his arms...his senses were going haywire and he was feeling too much. Fact of the matter was he'd caused nothing but trouble for the human and there was really no reason for Bruce to want to continue this...relationship...thing...that was between them. Even if they were mated to each other.

He was going to go to the manor and end up hearing a polite but cold speech about how they should practice distance...indefinitely.

It was almost enough to cause a cold sweat to break out on his skin and he was reminded of how miserable he'd felt during the Heat. His shift had finally ended and after giving Flash the customary status report he had stood in front of the teleporter for the longest time, trying to get up the nerve to step into it. If he did he'd have to face Bruce. Batman. His mate. And the decision of his mate, which, no matter how hard he looked at it, couldn't mean anything good.

But if he didn't then...he would die. Because Bruce would kill him. And probably in a very painful way too. But if he died then he wouldn't have to face him. Then again if Bruce found out that's why he chose the 'death' option, he'd probably find a way to bring him back. Then he'd have died for nothing...

Maybe he could choose option 'c'. Neither. Run far far away. Hide. No, it wasn't a very courageous idea but...he really liked option C. He was his own person; just because his mate demanded that he show up didn't mean he had to...

Had made to move away from the teleporter when he felt a pressure on his back and was suddenly shoved forward. By Flash...who was supposed to be his friend. His teammate. But now he'd been betrayed. By the speedster, who always seemed so innocent...but it was always the innocent ones, wasn't it?

Aware that he as pouting, J'onn forced his thoughts away Flash and continued on following the butler, who had been there waiting for him in the cave. So of course he had to follow Alfred. Couldn't say no. And Bruce knew that.

Evil. His mate was evil.

"Is the dinning room to your liking, Master J'onn?"

The question jarred the alien from his thoughts and he went to answer when it occurred to him that perhaps he should observe how the room looked before--

Wow.

It was...beautiful. Lights softly dimmed down. Flowers arranged in a tasteful way that gave off a nice mellow scent and complimented the elegant layout of the spacious room. Along with one very handsome Bruce Wayne who was dressed in a black tux with a navy undershirt and silver tie...

The same Bruce Wayne that had planted a kiss on his hand and was now guiding him to a chair. Dumbfounded, he chose to follow the human's lead, unable to take his eyes off of the charismatic man. He didn't understand. It didn't seem like he was being rejected...

Allowed himself to unwind slightly and managed to even enjoy the food Alfred had prepared. Which was delicious. Creamy yet crunchy and no bad aftertaste either...the sun was just starting to peak through the curtains and just when J'onn was starting to think that maybe their morning date wouldn't end up being so bad--

"I don't love you J'onn."

Bruce decided to open his mouth.

At hearing those words he felt his temper start to rise in irritation. He didn't love him. Fine. That was just fine. Didn't want to continue the relationship. So why had Bruce decided to play with him? To give him hope that things would work out? Was it because of pity? Did Bruce feel sorry for him?

He didn't need the human's pity.

Deciding that it would be best if he left before saying something he might regret later, J'onn stood up and had made for the exit, with the intent to leave. Yet as he approached the door...a part of him noticed that it was closed. When seconds ago it had been opened. And sure enough when he went to tug on the handle he found that it was locked.

"Alfred is a genius." Bruce said in a tone that had him bristling. "Now do you want to hear what else I have to say or do you want to continue assuming things?"

Golden eyes narrowed. "You said--"

"I said I didn't love you J'onn." His mate interrupted, his voice heavy with exasperation. "I can't love you. I don't know you. You don't know me. We haven't even held a meaningful conversation. The only thing we've done is fucked." At seeing J'onn's eyes narrow further, he rolled his own, adding, "Fine. Make love to each other. Happy?!"

The Martian's eyes were practically slits as he stated, "I don't like your tone."

"Well I don't like you." Bruce snapped back, aggravated at how wrong this was all going. He was trying to be nice for a change but there J'onn went with his assuming --

"I can hear you."

He growled, "Well then you know how much of an ass you're being! Great. Saves me the trouble of having to explain it to you!"

Stepped forward towards the alien in a subconscious attempt at intimidation, his mood darkening when his mate copied the move.

"How much—I am the—you are the one who acts charming and then starts off the conversation with I don't love you. Who does that?!" J'onn refused to believe that this was all his fault. It wasn't possible. Bruce was evil. So by default, half the blame was on him. If not more so.

"If you weren't so quick to jump to conclusions—"

"If you weren't so difficult then perhaps I wouldn't jump to conclusions!"

"I'm difficult?! You're a Martian!"

"And you're human!"

"Well you certainly didn't have a problem with my humanity when I was running my t--"

"I don't love you?! Who does that?! WHO!?"

"It's the truth!"

"You don't do that Bruce! You are supposed to ease into the truth like a normal human--"

"Well excuse me for not being as human as you!"

Some time during the shouting match they had edged closer, and by now they were standing toe-to-toe, their eyes attempting to burn holes into the each other. J'onn had opened his mouth, prepared to continue on with the yelling when Bruce's words sunk in.

Well excuse me for not being as human as you!

That...had been...

Entirely unexpected.

Truth be told he had been anticipating something else entirely. He'd expected something along the lines of 'Who are you to lecture me on being human?!' or 'Because I'm really going to listen to a Martian!'. But certainly not...

Well excuse me for not being as human as you!

"Do...do you really mean that?" J'onn whispered, Clark's words still ringing loud and clear in his mind.

"You seem to forget that you yourself are an alien, Kal-El."

"I'm more human than you'll ever be."

Bruce snorted, his temper still boiling. "Which part? All of it? Yes." He wondered which part had cut J'onn deepest. The Martian bit?

"The human part."

He raised an eyebrow. "Let me see. You jump to conclusions when you're angry. You love Chocos. You like sex." Another smirk. "Almost as much as you love Chocos. All very human things." A frown as his anger started to ebb away and he realized that J'onn didn't look enraged or even hurt. Instead he looked rather...shocked. "I think some would argue that you're more human than...me..."

Suddenly he was in a tight embrace and he went completely stiff, unsure on both what to do and what was going on. "J'onn...?"

"Thank you."

Thank you? That was weird...one would think that the alien would be annoyed at being compared to a human, but instead he looked like it was the greatest compliment. What's going through your mind, J'onn?

As if in answer, images flashed through his brain:

"Superman...there may be something I --"

"No. No J'onn, you can't. He's a human. You're...what if you make things worse? You're an alien-- how could you possibly know anything about how to heal a human body?!"

J'onn stared at Clark for a few seconds, his eyes cold. "You seem to forget that you yourself are an alien, Kal-El."

"I'm more human than you'll ever be."

Bruce pinched the bridge of his nose, letting out an annoyed sigh. "You believed him? Clark's an idiot! And you believed him?"

That got him a smile as J'onn leaned in, closing the small distance between them and gently pressing his lips against Bruce's. He'd gone from being mesmerized, to angered and from that to happiness. What was it about Bruce...that just made him feel so much in such a short amount of time?

J'onn chuckled as the answer came to him. It's...Bruce. Difficult is what he is.

His mate sighed, "You're an idiot, you know that?"

The smile he got in reply was absolutely stunning.

()

Thus marks the end of Mates: The Sequel. But fear not! More shall be coming soon! Just give me some time to catch up on my other stories first!