|Patrick is (elfen) wrote in doorslogs,|
@ 2014-01-10 19:47:00
|Entry tags:||catwoman, door: dc comics, martian manhunter|
Who: Selina and J'onn
What: Talking and talking
Where: A Gotham rooftop
When: Recently, but before Damian died
Selina tried to avoid Gotham as much as possible, but the city was in her blood, and she could never stay away for very long, even though it would have been smarter to put the entire door in her rear view and never look back.
But she wasn't that kitty cat, no matter how she wanted to be, and the evening found her on the roof of a building a few blocks from Blackgate City. She'd had a productive night. She'd stolen some diamonds, and she'd left a few for the girls, and the remaining few went to Jaybird's boys, at the dock warehouse. Now, she was staring at those walls that held secrets, and she was wondering why Luthor had chosen Gotham to build his little Watchtower clone. Oh, it didn't surprise her that he was building one; it only surprised her that it was here. She'd stolen most of his Kryptonite for the JLA, but the fact that he was building inside a federal prison? Oh, that had to mean he was in cahoots with the Feds, and that was bad news. And if Eddie had passed this news on to her, you could bet he'd already told Bruce. And Bruce? Bruce wouldn't be able to keep his paws off this one. Which meant that his newly formed little team of do-gooders would be taking on the government.
For a kitty cat on the run from the Suicide Squad, that just wasn't a very promising prospect. It left her with options, though she didn't much care for any of them. Still, it was better to make a bad choice yourself, than to have one made for you. And luckily for her, she'd never been one to think about jumping before she jumped; it made for less worry.
She wasn't in any kind of suit; the Suicide Squad would be looking for that. She was grey and black, her hair pulled back at the nape and a thick coat to keep out Gotham's winter chill. She hugged her knees to her chest, and she exhaled steam. She did love this city. Marvel's New York wasn't the same, even at night with the moon beating down. Maybe revisiting her childhood had made her nostalgic and homesick, but always came back to Gotham, no matter how far she strayed, even without the hotel's help.
She huffed a breath. Well, what was the saying? In for a dime…
Alone in the new world, J’onn was aware he wasn’t going to be able to learn everything he needed from 600 cable television channels. He learned what the best selling beverage products were, he learned the issues that ruled the day, and he learned the appearance and opinions of world leaders. What he didn’t know was how the foremost race of this world really interacted. He knew that there was a thriving base of degenerate criminals here, and while the societal problems were primitive and typical of a race with no ability to communicate other than the purely verbal, the entire world was not at war with itself, and the prevailing plagues were held off by periodic advances in first world medicine. The poverty and suffering he encountered the world over was depressing, and small acts of kindness were more difficult to find than large acts of pointless violence.
He was occupying a small apartment in Gotham, carefully chosen as a recluse’s former abode. He was able to impersonate the recluse, a quiet old lady who had a fondness for cats, without the slightest problem, and he had temporarily ensconced her body in ice where it wouldn’t be found until he was ready. He answered monthly calls from her distanced granddaughter and fed her cats, who were fond, yet aloof animals that he liked immensely. No one immediately available to him was sufficiently enmeshed in the underworld of this city to give him proper information, so he went looking, occasionally impersonating a blond detective with large shoulders who shared his build and abhorrence of unnecessary speech.
It was in this guise that he came down the street and noticed a strange figure above the line of buildings, edged in moonlight. After questing, he was able to sieve through some of the surrounding psychic noise and focus on a presence up there in the moonlight, and he knew from the brief eavesdrop that she was thinking about Blackgate, the establishment that was the center of so much misfortune in this city. Her thoughts were not stressed by her situation, and her position and her attire made him think that she was in a position to know much about their immediate surroundings.
He decided that this potential informant was worth the trouble, so he stepped into an alley five blocks down and changed. It wasn’t really invisibility. It was just rearrangement of atoms, a surface of multi-sided mirrors at the molecular level. He was a mere distortion in the air as he rose up and slid through the cold air and up the side of the building. He didn’t want to startle her, so he chose the most inoffensive and nonthreatening form he could think of: a small boy with nondescript dark hair and serious dark eyes. He was dressed for winter and modeled after one J’onn had seen on a coffee commercial the night previous, and he climbed clumsily up onto the roof from a lower fire escape.
“Hello,” J’onn-as-the-boy said, blinking at her.
It was a good choice.
Despite having learned to steal before learning how to talk, Selina trusted kids in a way she didn't trust adults. Kids could be cruel and vicious; she knew that. She harbored no illusions about them being sweet and innocent. They were more like dogs, really. They were kind to people who treated them well, but they'd bite your arm off if they were hungry, scared or hurt. She knew how that was, and she appreciated it more than she appreciated the mental calisthenics of adults. And, anyway, this little boy wasn't going to turn her over to the Suicide Squad, not in Gotham. The children of the city's underbelly knew her - suit or not - and they would never betray her. Oh, yes, there was that too. Children were much less likely to turn someone in, so long as they weren't being tortured. And adults? Adults discounted children and seldom asked them anything.
After a moment of tenseness, when she heard the approaching footsteps, she relaxed. Hands behind her on the roof, and her legs dangling over the edge with a carelessness that spoke of extreme comfort with heights, she nodded toward the skyline. "Came to get a better view?" she asked him, wondering if he was one of Jaybird's boys. That would be just like him, sending someone to spy on her. But if he was one of Jason's, then he was new. She borrowed his boys as distractions on a regular basis, and she'd never seen this one.
As he neared, the quality of the coat discounted that possibility. It was too clean and too warm to belong to one of the dock kids. No, this one probably had parents. That made him a little more dangerous, but not worryingly so. After all, kids with decent lives didn't come anywhere near this part of Gotham. Maybe he stole the coat.
She patted the spot beside her, and she waited. Maybe he was a talker. The kitty cat could be patient; she could wait.
“It is beautiful,” J’onn-as-the-boy said. This was not a lie, even though allowing her to think that it was an answer to her question was not particularly truthful. J’onn could--and did--lie, but he didn’t like doing it if he could help it. There was something borish and clumsy about lying, and the humans only had their five senses to perceive. It was like making faces at the blind. He turned his head to look out over the colored lights and absorb the foreign skyline. It was alien and unfamiliar, cold and dark where his home had been warm and bright. Solar days on his home planet were only about forty minutes longer than here, but the sunsets were always a glow and not this red-to-black absolution.
J’onn reminded himself of what he came for, and focused on the woman, trotting on over to where she sat, trusting. He noticed almost nothing of her physical appearance; none of that mattered to him, and he forgot to perceive it regularly. Had anyone asked him for the height and weight of the neighbors he saw every day, he would not have been able to offer answers; but he could pick every one of them out of a crowd of thousands, so well versed was he on the pattern and tenor of their thoughts.
This young woman thought in high, clear tones. She was extremely intelligent and her thought process was fast and logical, if colored heavily by emotion. In this case, probably maternal emotion. He didn’t delve deeply, only read what she offered--on the surface, so to speak. He had no more hesitation reading her louder thoughts than he did changing his shape or eating an apple. It was simply a capability and he used it. He didn’t know what she was feeling, nor did he know anything about who she was as a person. That required a far deeper connection, and he wasn’t willing to share so much of himself.
He nudged her in the right direction. “I just moved here. Some people say it’s dangerous.” He looked up at her with the coffee-boy’s clear, pudgy-cheeked gaze.
When the boy said the view was beautiful, her mossy gaze narrowed almost imperceptibly. Really? Beautiful? A prison and Gotham's smoggy skyline? The only people who said that were born in this place, had sharpened their claws on it and grown up with Gotham in their veins. But the boy, face turned toward the skyline, wasn't giving her any of the tells of a liar. Oh, she knew all about the tells. She knew a lot of things, did the kitty cat. She knew them in the way she knew stealing, which was all pleasure over need. No, no one found Gotham's skyline beautiful, not unless they called it home. And this boy, with his coat that was too good for the slums, he wasn't Gotham. But he did think it was pretty, and wasn't that a contradiction?
But the kitty cat, she didn't say anything. She looked out over the city, over the prison that had caused so many problems. Originally, she'd thought it wouldn't be that bad. After all, it wasn't Belle Reve, and they weren't using it as a prison for metahumans or Suicide Squad candidates. How bad could it be? But if Luthor was building Watchtower there, it could be very, very bad. If they were just bypassing the Trinity War altogether here and jumping to the end? Well, they were all in for a world of hurt. And, sure, she could just keep hiding in Marvel forever. Tony was entertaining, and the chases were new. It was something to consider. Or to pretend to consider.
But none of that mattered in that moment, and she was very good at turning things off. Like a lightswitch, and she looked at the boy with a smile that turned entertained with each passing moment. "Do they? What else do they say?" she asked. And, oh, Selina knew children. She knew how they talked, how they acted, what they did when they were happy and how feral and cruel they could be when scared. She spent more time with children than adults these days, and wasn't that just hysterical? Back home, she'd been too busy chasing thrills. These days, in this Gotham, thrills weren't exactly on the menu.
He watched the city, his feet still, his hands folded a few inches from his knees. He knew he had made some sort of mistake with his comment about the city, but he couldn't imagine what it was. He caught that there was something about him that was a contradiction, but he didn't know what that was, either. He had mimicked the boy exactly, and he'd made no mistakes about it, so it couldn't be appearance.
He listened to what she was thinking about the prison, and he realized that he had stumbled upon someone very valuable. In the first fifteen seconds she offered him six concepts of which he had no previous concept. He could differentiate the locations from the people, but there was no mention of a "Trinity War" in the encyclopedias or on cable television. Where exactly was "Marvel"?
When she turned to him he turned his head and looked back. He didn't try to do much with his expression because it simply didn't occur to him, so he just blinked at her, making eye contact the way she seemed to expect. The curving of lips was a positive human expression, and he recognized it. "I don't know," he replied, honestly. "People don't say enough in front of me to tell." He was dejected about that. There was so much in basic human knowledge that the average conversation was either completely inane or totally above his understanding. He had difficulty working out the difference between mundane concepts and essential world issues.
She looked over at the blinking boy, and her expression turned curious. Maybe she should run, jump, flee, but she wasn't the type, especially not when she was curious. And being able to tell that there was something off about him didn't tell her what, though there was something in that blinking passiveness that was familiar. Familiar, in that she remembered lessons about how not to do that - not when impersonating her, anyway. But there was no way this was that man, and she just looked out over the city again. In Gotham, someone not being quite right could mean anything. Drugged, altered, scared.
She bent one knee, and she planted her booted foot on the roof in front of her. Her arm wound around that knee, and she thought before talking, listening. Choosing her words carefully, which she hardly ever did. But there was a time for everything, even if she didn't like it; she knew that. And she'd spent too many years of her recent life being bait for a Bat. And here? Here that Bat wouldn't come running right away, which meant she needed to watch out for her own fur. Even if she was considering doing something supremely stupid with said fur.
"They don't?" she asked of people not saying things in front of him. "See, I think it's just the opposite. People say all kinds of things to kids, around kids. They forget that you listen to everything," she said easily, that grin still entertained. It was smart, really, a child, if someone wanted information from her. She leaned closer to him. "Want to know the secret? Find two people talking, and then listen. Two people that trust each other. Asking questions, that won't get you anywhere." And it was simple advice. Advice that she could have honestly been offering to a child that had fearlessly clambered onto a roof in a too-nice coat.
"Where did you come from?" she asked, leaning back and returning her attention to the prison.
The dark eyes blinked wetly at her. He chose a place he had read about, arid and dry, like home. “Arizona.” He could keep up with the rapidity of her thoughts, that was not the problem at all. He could keep up with a thousand minds, and a thousand minds could not keep up with him, if he chose. No, the problem was that the surface wasn't offering very much. She touched on concepts without mulling them over, rambled over the idea of impersonation without providing him pictures or people. Where he had thought she was emotional there was only an acknowledgment of connection.
He sighed and brought up his small sneakers to press them down on the seat, then planted a small pointed chin between his knees. The Christmas sweater was a little rough but he imagined that small humans like this got cold very easily, and required the protection. He shivered a little for effect.
Now, "The Bat," he knew about. There was a lot in the media and even in the encyclopedias about Batman. He had no need of further concept on that score. (He confused fur/skin/hair together as her concept of "fur" was her own and he wasn't interpreting in words.) All in all, this wasn't as productive as he might have liked. He carried on the conversation, growing disappointed already.
"Two people that trust each other only think about each other, much of the time," he said, sadly. "It is not a big secret that they do."
She didn't point out the dampness, though it was noted. And she wasn't very good with accents, so Arizona couldn't be discounted. Like big words and the pronunciation expected by socialites and charity balls, accents were an area where she fell short. They gave away her limited world for what it was, Gotham and Metropolis and little else. Her money never lingered long enough for traveling, not even back home. "We're far from Arizona," she finally said, expecting him to fill in gaps with some detail of dad being transferred or mom dying. She expected that, but she didn't think it. No, she was intentionally blank, water and air and techniques she'd learned in the League. She didn't have the patience to do it for more than a few minutes, because her mind tended to wander off like a cat in an alley, but she managed for as long as she could.
She watched him shiver, and she slid her trenchcoat off and held it out to him. She did it without thinking, and she wasn't trying to win him over, this little liar that sat beside her on the roof. It was instinctive, but the brownie points couldn't hurt. She watched his face, trying to determine something, anything, but he didn't act like a Gotham kid. She wasn't sure if it was because things were different in Arizona, or if it was something more.
Until, that was, his next comment.
"Think about each other?" she asked, green eyes narrowing intelligently. "You meant talk. They talk about each other. Surely?" But it was obvious in her voice that she didn't actually think he'd meant talk. "It's no good listening to their thoughts. You have to listen to what they say. Or, you know, most of us do." She paused, still sitting there, still nonplussed. "What are you?" she asked casually, as if the response didn't matter. Oh, it mattered, but in the grand scheme of things it wasn't an immediate cause for concern.
“Very far.” He took her coat, very gravely, and wrapped it around himself. The uncommon gesture of caring took her many degrees higher in J’onn’s estimation than her intelligence or her knowledge.
He gaped at her. It was a very basic expression, and one he managed by letting his jaw go slightly loose. On a boy of this particular size it was rather silly looking, like he’d been caught mid-chew. He enunciated out loud because he was in human form and at that precise moment it was a most natural thing for him to do. “A human trained in telepathic evasion? What an astonishing thing.” She wasn’t concerned about him, and that was good, but it wouldn’t have mattered if she was. What was she going to do, scream? He’d be gone in a second. He could wipe his entire existence out of her mind as easily as a broom took dust across a floor.
The boy smiled slightly. It was a warm smile, but he had chosen a soft-cheeked little boy and with all his tufty hair, no doubt most of his smiles were very warm. “I do listen, really I do.”
She couldn't help but smile when he informed her, with all that gravity, that Arizona was very far, and she watched him wrap the trenchcoat around himself for a second. Then he gaped at her, and her smile went all cat-in-the-cream wide. The expression was better than the blinking blank, and she chuckled to herself. But even with that, she wasn't expecting him to come right out and mention the telepathic evasion. The fact that the word human was used only solidified her suspicion, and she smiled at him. She wasn't the kind to spook or worry. If she didn't have good nerves, she could never have become a good thief. And so she stayed there, sitting beside him, as if it didn't bother her at all that he just said he wasn't a human, and that he was trying to read her mind. After all, some of the best people she knew hadn't been born on this planet.
"A friend taught me. I was a terrible student, but I learned a thing or two." The statement came with a memory, quick and fleeting, about the JLA and a green man. She looked back at the prison, and she nodded at it with a jerk of her head. "Are you here about that? If you're honest with me, I might just be able to tell you what you're looking for." Maybe she could. Maybe she couldn't. But they might as well talk plainly now. And maybe he was some poor displaced thing that didn't realize they were stuck in a Gotham that didn't quite match up with memory.
As for listening, she laughed. "Do you?" she asked. She wasn't sure, but she regarded him more carefully then. "My friend, he wasn't very good at expressions. You should practice those. But the boy's good. He's harmless looking," she said, and it was testing the waters. She wasn't sure he was a shapeshifter, but it was a hunch. And she always tested her hunches by pouncing; that was just her way.
Previous interaction with someone that had similar abilities explained the leap and her (rather pathetically amateurish) attempts to guard her thoughts. He wasn’t the kind to spook either, being somewhat of a god among men (to use a very literary phrase he’d heard on television). J’onn’s mind was full of assumptions and asides, nothing quick but all considering. He read the smile again as positivity, not noticing the nuances. Her thoughts regarding creatures from other planets he assumed were connected with the Kryptonian, a figure so glaringly obvious in this world that J’onn sometimes wondered how the creature could stand such constant scrutiny.
The flicker of the green man, not a perfect mirror image since it was colored with his thoughts, but so obviously himself caused his attention to focus. He turned completely in his seat, a rotating movement that was almost mechanical, and stopped blinking. He stared intensely into her face, not speaking, looking for more of a sign. The probing about his current form could wait. There was only one Martian, after all. Of that, he was sure.
He spoke aloud, very carefully, with a diction all teeth. “What is the JLA?”
She didn't interrupt while he thought. It was like listening to the pins on a safe, but he didn't make any sound. But safes, those had taught her to be patient. Dropping in from overhead in a museum, vents and ducts and lasers on the ground, that had taught her to be patient. She just waited out that stare, and she looked right back. It wasn't aggressive, and there was a hint of curious entertainment that was probably too nuanced for him to recognize for what it was. She stayed quiet a few seconds after his question, and then she chuckled and sat up, weight off her hands. "That was the most interesting thing in my head? The JLA? Okay, but I want to know what you actually look like first." She pointed at the prison with two fingers. "That thing, it means everyone's a threat, and I have a price on my head the size of Gotham, so, you're going to need to be honest with me, and I'll be honest with you." She wasn't bluffing; she never did think things through.
The truth was, that she shouldn't even be talking to him. Not when there was a warrant out for her, and not when she knew the Feds had to be in Blackgate City deep. But she always took too many risks; it was just her. And she always listened to her gut, and her gut said to keep talking. Anyway, if he was superpowered and working for the government? Well, she was already done for, wasn't she? Might as well get some information in the bargain. She pulled her legs up, and she turned toward him on the roof's edge, the drop precarious; she didn't even break a sweat.
"Where are you from?" Easy, simple, a starter question if ever there was one.
He made no visible reaction to the movement of her hand and fingers between them toward the prison. He reacted to almost nothing she did physically, no movement she made or expression visible actually made it into his consciousness; he was far too focused on her thoughts. They were very surface, and he was not yet prepared to increase the connection, as it required a two-way give and take that he wasn’t at all comfortable with, even if he could conceivably wipe such an expereince from her mind later. After another moment or two he said, “There is no need to worry, I am not interested in the… bounty.” The little boy smiled gently, an adult expression of subtlety and irony that didn’t fit properly on his face. “Honestly,” he added in reassurance.
“And I do not work for a government.” This particular concept did not amuse him at all. He lost the smile and scowled. A better, more childish expression, annoyance and frustration at some dumb idea. I want to play in the rain, not stay inside. That kind of expression. “I would not, even if they asked. I would not involve myself in the affairs of your kind.” He didn’t say it disdainfully, he said it in the same reassuring tone, like she would be relieved by the promise.
He could probably make a good play at conquering this planet, really, but the thought never occurred to him. “I am not from this planet. I am…” he hesitated. “A visitor.”
She watched him as he spoke, brow quirked. "I've known a lot of visitors," she finally said, "so you're going to have to be more direct than that. Not all of them are bad, but not all of them are good." She shrugged her shoulders, unapologetic. "Sorry. If you want someone trusting, you should have hit up the Bat, or maybe Supes. Trusting isn't my thing." It wasn't. Especially not during times like these, and especially not with all the things she'd seen during the War. No, once she'd been a kitten who might have just taken him at his word; now she was a Cat that had lived through hell at the hands of super-powered beings.
And as for not involving himself in the problems of her kind, that just made her laugh. "Everyone involves themselves in our problems. Either they want to take over, or they want to help us deal with the ones who want to take over." Because that was how the War had gone. The green man flitted across her thoughts again, a run through the woods at breakneck speed and memories of his world's destruction, almost as vivid as if she'd lived it herself. Most of the supers had wanted to conquer, but a few of them had fought for the other side. Her memories lit up, battlefields and explosions, the fear of death and of being out-powered, a world in waste. She knew he would see it, so she just let herself think, let herself remember.
She hated remembering.
But she sat there, thinking about the dead bodies, about losing people. She let him see what it was like to be one of the last few standing in a world that was overrun, and then she looked over at him again. "So, going to give me a name? A face? I don't have any powers. I don't have any pull. I can't harm you." Simple, vulnerable truth. When it came to this war, she was definitely on the weaker side.
“I don’t need anyone to trust me,” he said, without much change of expression. The assumed shape, the round-cheeked boy, belied that claim and after a moment he seemed aware of it, distracted thought he was by the continuing series of revelations introduced by her string of violent memory. “...Though it makes intelligence gathering somewhat simpler.”
He did not need all that much time to think. He was accustomed to being part of a large whole, it was true, a massive connection of unified thoughts and understanding, but for many centuries he had accustomed himself to going without that. He was an empty singularity without whole in his own mind. It was a grim reality of his existence. Therefore he processed her memories as quickly as he might his own, though without inherent familiarity.
“You seem to know me, though I do not know you,” he said, baffled and sounding it. “Unless such memories are manufactured. There are no records here of these things I see in your mind.”
The images of the corpses troubled him. Death was common in such short-lived peoples, but it bothered him, yes. Deeply. He did not like to see life wasted in conflict.
He began to change. It was a slow thing, slower than she had seen before, and the form he assumed was spindly, the green of deep forests, his limbs as thin and strong as oak branches. Much of his craggy face brought to mind the green tree faces carved in the forests of Europe, though the heavy brow had monolithic proportions on Easter Island. His eyes, now entirely level with hers, gleamed mute and red in the darkness. He was still wearing her trenchcoat.
"You're not using the trust right," she told him. "If you pick a cute little face like that, then you listen to what people say, not to what they think." She couldn't read minds, but she assumed people were all over the place, thinking things from one moment to the next. He would be looking for a needle in a haystack, and he was only making it more complicated by being there. "If you're there, looking cute, it'll distract them. If you want to find things out, you recon, find out where people will be talking about things they don't want you to hear, and that's where you go." That was her free advice for the evening, and maybe it belied the fact that she did trust him, at least a little, or the words wouldn't have ever become a meow.
When he said she knew him, her mossy green gaze snapped over to him. Her eyes narrowed. "I don't know how to manufacture memories," she told him. It was true; she had no idea if he could tell that it was true, but it was. Mental espionage wasn't something little cat thieves learned in Gotham. Anyway, she would never have the patience for something like that. Her thoughts were rushing, scrambling things, and she was already itchy from sitting there so long.
And she knew, as soon as he started changing, who or what he was. She'd seen him transform too many times not to be able to recognize it. Tension slipped from her shoulders, and her hands went back to the edges of the roof in a show of trust. Okay, so he didn't know her, but that wasn't any big surprise, not here. Even the people who did know her, they knew some other her.
"We worked together for years," she told him, once he was him. "And that trenchcoat is never going to be the same again, J'onn."
J’onn looked to either side to take in his shoulders, which ended in asymmetrical shapes craggy as sea cliffs, both now testing the seams of the once whole trench coat. “I usually take better care with borrowed belongings.” He changed again, almost imperceptibly at first and then only as the trench coat folded over his chest and elongated neck. He contracted slightly, growing smaller proportionally to fit the size of the jacket. His chin settled a little below hers, because his skull was considerably longer than hers, and there was more space between his scarlet gaze and the slash of his mouth.
It occurred to him that it might be a better idea to offer it back, but he wouldn’t know that unless she thought it straight at him. Considering the obvious intention of her thoughts, he realized that wouldn’t occur unless she wished it. It was much like carrying on a conversation aloud, as far as it went.
It took him a moment. Years, three-hundred-sixty-five solar days on this planet. He translated. “I have not been here for that length of time. I arrived some thirteen days ago.” He hesitated for a moment. “We worked together, you said, on this…Justice League?” It sounded strange to him. What right did he have to dispense justice on this planet?
She watched him grow smaller, but it didn't faze her; nothing he did fazed her anymore. She'd ended up in his brain by mistake once, and it was all child's play after that. Well, not his brain, but close enough; she was pretty sure the origin story would be the same, or close. She hadn't noticed much deviation there. Small details, sure, but not a lot else. And she didn't actually care about the trenchcoat, so she didn't think anything about him at all. The quip had been a surface thing. There, but not deep at all. She had bigger things on her mind than trenchcoats.
And didn't it just figure? The one person who'd been in her mind, who she couldn't hide anything from, because he already knew it all - all the little things she hid from everyone - hadn't ever even met her. This place had a sense of humor, that was for sure.
"Nuance is important," she told him, her attention momentarily distracted by sounds from the prison. "The Justice League of America. In my world, we helped protect earth from a pesky little alien problem. Before you ask, I asked you why you'd joined up, since no one twisted your arm to make you join up. Your answer? You'd seen your world destroyed. That was enough. And we had a big, big problem. Anyway, we lost, so it was all for nothing. The Justice League is different, and you were a member of that before they went bad. Here, they're new. They're not bad," she conceded. She didn't like the concession, not when it was a blanket statement like that, but she didn't think he needed all the backstory about Hal, and her feelings about Diana went back to a very different Lasso, the same thing went for Supes. She trusted him to make his own decisions. Because he always had. Quietly, without making a fuss, and he'd always followed his own moral compass. She could respect that.
And if he was new, that meant he had a person across the door. She sighed. "You have a book? A device? Something with people writing on it? A phone?" She wasn't sure what he would have, but there would be something. "You should look for the Justice League on there. My version of the world, no one here knows it, which is a shame since we seem to be reliving it. You're better off with them. They're the power here now." She smiled at him, and it was a genuine smile, a real smile. "But you saved my fur once. Really saved it, and I thank you for that."
Belatedly, she held out a hand for him to shake. "Selina Kyle."
She was right about nuance. He missed a lot of nuance in the transfer of information from one culture to another. After all, “America” was just as “Earth” as “Russia,” as far as he was concerned, and they all meant the same thing. He didn’t much like the idea of aliens being pesky, since as far as he knew there was only one other alien on this planet and most people seemed to adore him. J’onn had no intention of becoming so visible, not being the type to make a symbol out of himself if it could be at all avoided, and it surprised him to hear about his other self making such choices. He couldn’t feel the emotional suggestions, respect and friendliness, but he could infer it, and of all nuances he was best at interpreting the kinder spectrum.
“A pesky, big, big problem,” he repeated, as if understanding and agreeing. “I suppose I would help, in such a case. And if everyone seemed as fractured as they appear to be now, I might do such a thing.” He sounded doubtful, and then resigned. “It is conceivable.” Please, it was likely. For all his vows to avoid interfering in significant human events, if it looked like the planet was in danger of annihilation, he would step in to stop it.
“A notebook,” he agreed. “With writing and an attached consciousness. This is a very complex world.” Which wasn’t to say that his own was simple… That is, that his own had been simple. He never could manage the permanent past tense in things like that.
He looked down at her offered hand, and then took it in his own. “With your permission,” he said, and forged an immediate connection through the tactile contact, a somewhat ‘public’ introduction. The name “J’onn J’onzz” was infused with a strong sense of self, at once all-encompassing and desperately alone, a consciousness meant to be connected to others and now without that larger sense of “we.” There were no emotions immediately connected with the contact, just an understanding of who he was, a psychic introduction. Much of the concepts were too bizarre to cross the cultural barrier, things like his preferred telepathic chords and his choice of physical form.
"I wouldn't mention the JLA to the League here," she cautioned, when he said that he supposed he would help in such a case. "Things here haven't gone well for them." Which was the understatement of the century from the kitty cat. But better to let other people tell the tale - Diana and Clark and Hal. But she was glad of his presence, and there was absolutely no doubt about that. She looked over at the prison again, and she thought about her recent conversation with Eddie. Eddie thought Bruce would come asking them for help, but she wasn't so sure. She thought the League would handle Lex's version of Watchtower, and she would feel infinitely better about that if J'onn was part of that League. Oh, she liked this Clark, but he was young and too trusting. She didn't trust Lasso, and she trusted Hal even less. But she trusted the version of this man that she'd known. She trusted him in a way she trusted only a few other people. It was calm that slid across her fur then. For once, at least, things had gotten better instead of worse.
She turned her attention back to him when he mentioned the notebook. "It is. I've been here two years, on and off. You can make it work, if you come up with a system," she suggested. She wasn't very good at keeping Blondie informed these days. But, really, that was for everyone's good.
The connection made her smile a lush, lush red smile. It was familiar in a way that nothing here was. It made her think of home. Things had been horrible there, and visions of war slammed against her mind, but there were days when she missed it. This place, with no purpose, it was lonelier. She almost told him that, that he'd told her once that she was the loneliest woman he'd ever met. She'd laughed it off them; she would laugh it off now. But that didn't mean there wasn't some truth to it. And she'd been in his mind; she knew him in a way that she didn't have words for. "I'm glad you're here," she said, letting go of his hand. She was; she was very glad he was here.
“I have not made contact with any organizations on this planet,” J’onn said honestly, both wary of the idea and also wary of her little burst of optimism that this second self would immediately begin joining Leagues and taking over things for a bright future. This was an intensely simplified description of her thoughts, which had calmed to somewhat normal human pace, if still quite fast on that range. J’onn was able to simply communicate his newness and personal caution in this world without revealing any personal events or physical details, a knowledge curiously without emotion and, to her, obviously differentiated from her own knowledge. It was like understanding something secondhand, and yet without memory of it ever being explained to you; just there, fully formed.
“I had not planned upon it. There is no pressing need, and when there is trouble, people have an unfortunate habit of looking around for strangers to blame.” Interestingly, when J’onn said people, he did not necessarily mean humans. “I may not be the same person you knew,” he suggested, verbally now to keep from his own concerns or her own previous knowledge from bleeding over into the concept.
J’onn’s features lengthened somewhat, the ponderous expression of the Moai deepening and his resemblance to a very old, craggy oak growing even more obvious. He slid his branch-like fingertips together in a classic, recognizable pose of thought. He followed her gaze out toward the prison. His eyes glowed very gently, not pulsing but steady in his unblinking, pupil-less scarlet gaze.
"Like I said, I've been here two years now, well, with a little break in between. You're exactly who I think you are. Once upon a time, I might not have thought so. But now? Now almost everyone shows up like you. Lost, confused, and we've all just come to accept it. As for not getting in touch? They'll know even more about you than I do, and they'll probably trust you more. See, where I come from? Things are newer. The rest of them, they all have decades of information that I don't have." She grinned, all knowing cat pouncing on a prize. "And that's what you want, isn't it? Information." Because it was. The pretense of being the child, taking the risk of talking to her, the destruction of her coat, it all had to do with him wanting to know things. Well? He might as well talk to the right people. "Talk to Lasso. Wonder Woman. Or Riddler. Edward Nigma." She didn't expect him to know the names, not if he was as young, as new as he said he was.
She stood, and she moved away from the edge. "Anyway, I already know you're here." And, okay, so she wasn't exactly chummy with the League, but she'd probably tell Bruce, maybe Eddie. Being alone in Gotham wasn't good news, not with a super prison that was hiding something even more dangerous, and not with a government that was terrified of super-powered beings. And she still believed, as she had in her world, that there needed to be checks, balances, someone to keep the supers from subjugating the world. But maybe that belief didn't belong here, in this place. This man, though, J'onn, he'd always thought there was a place for that kind of belief. And she'd always believed him.
"Stay away from the prison, and feel free to keep the coat. Consider it a gift from an old friend." She looked at him a moment longer, his features reflected in the light of Blackgate City. He brought the past rearing back in a way nothing had, not since she'd been back here. She took another step back, into Gotham's darkness. She would steal something; that always kept the past at bay.
There was an opportunity for him to erase the visit. J’onn was aware that humans thought this a horrifying thing, the philosophical idea that memories were malleable entirely terrifying. Some of them feared the degradation of thought and memories more than the more painful diseases that affected other parts of the body, as if a sudden seizure of heart motion was preferable than the slow disintegration of identity through thought. J’onn’s people obviously had a few rules against erasing memories, but they didn’t apply if the offending memories weren’t Martian. He turned his head to look intently at her, arising again to his full height and regarding the thought that he could sense.
“You do, for now,” he said. Once she was gone it would be very hard to prevent the spread of information, but it certainly wouldn’t be easy for any of her personages to find him. Almost impossible, in some cases.
She was right, though. Eventually she got at his curiosity, his desire for a full tactical picture of this new world. He let her go, let her sink into her comforting shadows, and looked away over toward the prison again, watching its glimmering lights with a new understanding of their deceptively beautiful significance.