Crocodile Cloud

Author: Voleuse
Recipient: Livia
Character: J'onn Jonnz (DC Toonverse)

i. where has the war gone?

The stars are almost too bright to bear, constant pricks of nostalgia against J'onn's eyes.

The Watchtower is mostly quiet at this hour, with minimal personnel on duty. J'onn closes his mind to the nightmares and dreams of those sleeping. Instead, he limits the immediate stretch of his mind to the low murmur of those still awake, repeating their tasks by rote, idly daydreaming about home, or fantasizing about playing hero.

Above that murmur splashes a familiar stacatto of thought, and Flash ambles into the room.

"Hey, J'onn," he calls out, and the greeting echoes.

J'onn turns, slowly. "Flash." Hovering at the edges of his mind is a buzz of perpetual impatience, but it's tamped, quiet.

Flash blurs, is suddenly beside him. "So you're going to be off-duty soon, right?"

"Is there something you need?" J'onn reaches to the nearest console, begins to pull up the roster of those available.

"No, it's not that." J'onn blinks, and Flash is on the other side of him. "I just thought, since I'm going to be up here for the next week, that maybe you might want, you know--"

The words are tumbling, like a thousand sentences compressed. J'onn waits.

"--since you don't really have a place to stay or anything, you could use my apartment. If you want." Flash scratches his head. "If you don't have any plans, that is. Which is cool, really, I just thought--"

"Flash." J'onn raises his hand, staves another avalanche. "I appreciate the offer."

Flash produces a set of keys and smiles. "If you don't have anything else to do."

J'onn lets this twist in his mind for a moment, but he can't think of a single other thing.

ii. dark forms in the sky go mad

The teleportation beam deposits him in the center of Flash's kitchen.

Make yourself at home, Flash assures him over the comm-link. Mi apartment es su apartment.

"Thank you," J'onn says.

There's leftover pizza in the fridge, Flash replies, and at J'onn's assent, Flash shuts off the link.

J'onn wanders the perimeters of the kitchen, then prises open the refrigerator door. The aforementioned pizza is there, as well as three bottles of beer and a pack of fudge-covered cookies.

He retrieves a single cookie from the package, gazes at the modest biscuit with a frown.

He can't remember the last time he ate something, let alone something sweet.

He can't remember the last time he ate.

He can't remember the last time.

He bites into the cookie, slicing it neatly in half with his teeth.

As he chews, he walks to the window. The stars are dim when compared to the city lights, but he can pick out every constellation.

He draws the curtains shut.

iii. endless, in slow motion

He stands in front of a mirror and allows himself the luxury of fluidity.

The lines of his body follow his thoughts, clouds of image and sound and flesh.

His form, the one some sensationalist Earth magazines have labelled "the Martian Manhunter." Then, the man in the trenchcoat, the human form he's used most often. He'd seen this body once, a dizzy glimpse as he arrived on this world. He wonders what happened to that man.

Then he morphs again, to the body of his home planet. J'onn Jonzz. He doesn't not avert his gaze, but changes again quickly.

He apes the proud forms of his teammates. Harsh jaws, pursed lips. Clenched fists, muscled thighs. Scars and wings and dimpled smiles.

He tries them all, and discards them all. He becomes dark, light, tall, stout, freckled, lush, wiry.

Nothing fits.

After a while, he stops focusing, and his features smear together.

He returns to his habitual body, and turns away.

iv. the sun is a faded photo

Flash has a varied collection of music, each disc louder and deeper and more frantic than the last. The chords twang in J'onn's mind, resonating pain and hope.

He keeps listening. He eats a slice of pizza.

The night lightens, the day encroaches. He softens his features to clay again, reforms as the man in the trenchcoat.

There is an envelope on the coffee table, his name scrawled on the front of it. Deli on the corner, says the note below his name, try the bagels. There is money in the envelope, the bills wrinkled and worn on the edges.

J'onn smiles, and tucks the envelope into his jacket.

Outside, the air warms and the sun rises. A stray cat brushes against J'onn's ankles, and its thoughts are scattered, hungry. It runs past.

The deli is already open, and J'onn stares through the glass counter for several minutes. The young lady at the register smiles, leans against the counter.

"New in town?" she asks.

"My friend," J'onn responds, and gestures vaguely. "He said I should try the bagels."

She laughs. "Do you mind if I--"

He nods before she finishes her sentences, and she laughs again. In moments, she has a bagel sliced and laid out, spread with cream cheese, lox and potato salad on the side.

"Thank you," J'onn intones, and she waves off his money. He returns her grin, and folds a bill into the tip jar before he leaves.

On his way back to the apartment, he pauses in front of an alleyway. Drops the lox behind a trash bin and whispers a quiet invitation.

The cat waits until he's gone before it appears again, and it eats the fish in three bites.

v. peck greyly at the sand

It's noon in Keystone City when Flash opens up a channel.

How's civilian life treating you?

"Mmph." J'onn finishes his mouthful of cookie before answering. "It has been interesting so far. Educational."

Flash laughs. Doesn't sound like R & R to me.

"It is." J'onn smiles. "Thank you."

Hey, Flash begins, his tone sliding to concern. I forgot to mention, but you don't have to bunk on the sofa. You can crash in my room, if you want.

"Thank you, Flash," J'onn responds, "but that isn't necessary."

Yeah? Why not?

"I don't sleep as often as humans do." J'onn pulls open the curtains, and the sun shines in. "I prefer to watch the stars."