Diversions & Digressions | fanfiction by mara

A Riot of Relaxation

A Riot of Relaxation

by Mara

Summary: The members of the Justice League reminisce about childhood

NOTES: No plot here, just a little character piece that occurred to me on the
plane back from New Orleans. The title is from the Ogden Nash poem “We’ll All
Feel Better By Wednesday.” Gigantic thanks to BrenK for the beta, and thanks to
the many folks on my LiveJournal friends list who answered my rather bizarre
question 🙂 Now do you see why I wanted to know?

Batman wasn’t certain how the topic of vacations came up, although it probably
stemmed from the ass-kicking the Justice League had nearly received. And knowing
Flash, he’d probably started it.

When he tuned back into the conversation behind him in the Javelin, Flash was
describing summer evenings from his childhood.

“Ice cream tastes better after you’ve been swimming,” he said with entirely too
much energy for someone sprawled on the floor with what Batman suspected was at
least one cracked rib. “We’d dog-paddle and dive until we were shivering and
blue, eat melting ice cream, then go to somebody’s house. It seemed like there
were always hot dogs fresh off the grill or peanut butter and banana
sandwiches.”

Superman chuckled. “That sounds a lot like Smallville. Ma and Pa must have fed
half the local kids some nights. There was a time when I knew every inch of the
fields where we played tag and hide and seek.” Batman glanced sideways at the
man beside him, who had a nostalgic smile on his open face as he added, “I
remember coming back covered in dust, with corn silk down my back.”

“Hide and seek?” Hawkgirl asked. “I think we used to play a similar game on
Thanagar. Did yours involve projectile weapons or lasers?”

Batman hid a grin as Superman choked, turning his reaction into a polite cough.
“Ah, neither one, actually.”

Batman finished the course adjustments he’d been making and spun in his seat in
time to see Hawkgirl’s deep frown. “Then how did you know who the winner was?”
she asked.

“Well, we just kept track of who found the most people.” Superman exchanged a
meaningful look with Green Lantern, who leapt in nobly to save his teammate.

“Vacations in the city are something different,” he said. “We didn’t have a
swimming pool or fields, but we had the run of the city. Even in my end of town,
in those days it was safe for kids to stay out at night.”

“What did you do?” Hawkgirl asked.

“We usually played baseball and basketball in the vacant lot, as long as one of
the kids with a ball showed up.” He leaned back in his seat, grinning. “We
followed rules of a sort, but mainly it was an excuse to run around a lot and
get sweaty. Then, when we were hot and tired, we’d go see if the police had
opened a fire hydrant somewhere.”

Wonder Woman turned from the window, brow furrowing. “What’s that?”

Lantern blinked. “A hydrant? Remember last month when Luthor caused a fire to
distract you and I ripped that metal plug out of the ground to get water to
douse it? That was a hydrant.”

Her perfect brow smoothed out. “Ah yes, I remember.”

The Justice League was an…interesting group, Batman thought.

“What did *you* do on vacations?” Lantern asked Diana.

She shook her head, dark hair sweeping across ivory shoulders. “We didn’t have
vacations in the way that you seem to, especially not for princesses.”

Flash lifted his head off the floor. “You must have done *something* to relax.”

“There were always the wrestling matches, which I often won.” She allowed
herself a tiny smile. “And, of course, the armed and unarmed fighting
practices.”

Hawkgirl perked up at that, her sharp profile turning to look at the other
woman. “What kind of weapons?”

Batman smirked as the two women began a fairly technical conversation about the
practical limits of the quarterstaff and throwing knives. He considered
mentioning a few of his own experiments, but decided against it.

Lantern sighed and Flash covered his face with his hands, so Superman turned to
J’onn. “What about you? What did you do?”

Expressionless, J’onn looked at him and for an instant, everyone held their
breath, even Hawkgirl and Wonder Woman pausing in their conversation–but
Superman was the only one who could ask such a question and get away with it.
Something about the eternal boyish aspect of the man made you unwilling to point
out behavior that in anyone else would be rude or tactless.

“Like Diana, we did not vacation, precisely. But there were days…” J’onn
paused, his eyes very far away. Batman’s stomach churned. Turning away, he
busied himself with preparing a report for their files about the past week’s
mission.

“There was a game my father and I used to play. I suppose it was most like your
hide and seek, but it is a very different game for a telepath. My son, in turn,
became very good at it.” The more he spoke, the more warmth came into J’onn’s
usual monotone. It wasn’t that he sounded more human–if anything, he sounded
more alien–but his voice took on a lilt, a nuance that he was usually at great
pains to hide.

Everyone on the plane was silent, holding their breath; Batman leaned further
over the screen in front of him, fighting the desire to turn around and watch
J’onn. But to see such naked emotion was to risk losing control, and that was
out of the question.

“We also hunted for pangef in the hills, the scent always making it seem we had
reached our goal, but the pangef were always one step ahead. My mother would
join us, laughing, waiting for us to give up so she could lead us in the right
direction. The light seemed to shine brighter on those days.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Batman saw Superman leaning forward, obviously
yearning to hug the Martian. Flash swallowed, the noise very loud.

“Thank you.” J’onn said after a moment. “I have not spoken of, or thought of,
those memories in a long time. They are good things to remember.”

“You’re welcome,” Superman said. There was an audible sigh from much of the rest
of the team and what sounded suspiciously like a sniff from Flash.

Batman frowned at the screen, which contained a very incoherent series of
sentences. That was why it took him so long to register what Superman said next.

“And what about you, Batman?”

The silence behind him sounded a great deal like superheroes searching furiously
for the nearest exit. Batman took two slow breaths, then turned to face
Superman, whose face nearly shone with pure innocence. Fingers itching to throw
a punch, Batman didn’t believe for an instant the question was innocent.

“Excuse me?” he asked softly.

“I was wondering what *you* did for vacations or relaxation as a child.”

What the hell was the man up to? “I never relaxed.”

“Oh, come on, that can’t be true.” Superman’s expression changed a bit, to
something like…pity? How insulting.

Days in the park with Alfred, forgetting to be unhappy for entire hours at a
time as he got grass stains on his clothes from running around. Model-building,
the joy of each part fitting precisely into place. The satisfaction of setting
up the Batcave and learning everything there was to know about computers and
physics and biology.

Everyone was looking at him. He could tell, even without seeing them, and it
made his jaw tense up.

He looked at Superman. “Well, there was one game we used to play.”

The silence was so complete he could practically hear tiny bits of matter
bouncing off the Javelin’s forcefield.

“What?” Superman finally asked.

“Go Fish.”

And Batman turned back to the console, filled with the satisfaction of a job
well done as he heard jaws drop.

Always keep ’em guessing, that was his motto.

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