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Six Seconds

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Six Seconds
By Anne Higgins


"Home sweet home. I hope." The Flash spoke, but he echoed the thoughts of the entire Justice League. Well, the entire JLA minus one.

Clark Kent - what idiot thought of himself by his costumed identity? - felt that subtraction more keenly than the others for purely personal reasons. Had they managed to undo the damage Vidal Savage had caused? Was this their present? Or were they trapped in the martial version they had witnessed before stepping into the time portal?

An even more unsettling thought weighed down on Clark's shoulders. At least the alternate present they'd seen had had its own fairly recognizable version of Batman. What if they'd created a third possibility? One without a Bat of any sort? He shuddered at the very thought. How could he? -

"I should have known you'd be here," a deep-voice cut into his growing panic and a caped figure emerged from the shadows in the best patented Batman-style. "The instruments in the Watchtower picked up this anomaly a few hours ago."

Joy swept through him and put him in motion faster than thought. "Batman!" he cried out and threw his arms around the man, or at least the version he knew, he'd feared lost to him. "It's really you!"

One second. Clark reveled in the feel of the warm body pressed up against his. They were of the same height, he and Bats, and had close to identical builds. Made them a perfect fit of well-muscled chest to well-muscled chest. Not to mention the discreet press of a more intimate bulge against bulge. 'Ah, Bruce, I thought I'd lost you.'

Two seconds. Something was wrong. But what? He had his Bat back, not to mention the world he knew and loved. So what was wrong? Bats in his arms. Check. All right with the world, for now. Check.

Wait a minute? What was that first thing? Bat in his arms??? Great Krypton!

Three seconds. Okay, he was a dead man. No two ways about it. He was absolutely certain the bastard standing stiffly in his innocent hug - okay, so he hadn't been able to resist rubbing a little, but what was a copped feel between the two of them? - carried green glowing rocks around in one of the compartments of his utility belt for just such an occasion.

Four seconds. No, stop it. He couldn't panic. Panic in a situation like this would lead to dire consequences. He needed to think this through. He was Superman for God's sake. Though no one ever seemed to trumpet it, super-intellect went along with the super-speed and strength. There had to be a way out of this. Think, man, think!

Five seconds. 'He can't kill me if I don't let go.' ??? That was it? That was the best his suped-up intellect could manage? Stand here forever? That was stupid. Beyond stupid, it was idiotic. Moronic. Hmm, but it could work.

Five seconds. "Am I missing something?" The Bat spoke and the guy in the red cape thought seriously about squealing in terror and hiding behind Wonder Woman.

Six seconds. Okay, suck it up. Be a man about this. Sure, an about to be pulverized man - oh, all right, an about to be consigned to the sofa for the rest of his life -- man, but still a man.

Seven seconds. He coughed and let go. Great plan. "Sorry, it's just that. ." He stepped to the side enough to look to the others for help.

They all looked very amused. Green Lantern even shook his head in amazement? Disbelief? Whatever. Some friends. On his own and see if he'd save their sorry backsides the next time alien hordes attacked. "Well, it's a long story." More brilliance. Ranked right up there with cough and let go.

Hawkgirl, bless her pointy wings, came to his rescue. "You're not going to believe what we've been through."

The Batman shifted his steely gaze from Clark to her. Thank God. "Try me," he said, then turned on his heel to lead them back to the shuttle.

Grim bastard, Clark thought, then smiled. He was still alive with all parts attached. He figured there was a lot of groveling in his future, but what the heck. He had his Bat back.