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Rock, Meet Hard Place

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                Of course, they were fighting. Again.

                They’d had a long streak of peaceable comings and goings for nearly a month. So, they were long overdue for an ugly one. Even so, Clark was never prepared for it. He was never prepared for how bitter and angry and outright petulant Bruce could be when he was angry about something. When he was hurt.

                Clark was never prepared for the abrupt freeze out.

                It didn’t matter if Bruce revoked his manor privileges or not. Clark knew when to stay away and when to sleep over at his apartment in Metropolis. He knew it had been too long since he’d really been back because there was a thin layer of dust on every surface and his mattress felt as foreign as that of a hotel. He’d grown accustomed to having to share his bed with a crabby overgrown monkey who hogged covers and snored and then claimed Clark was the one keeping him up.

                Clark slept in his apartment for a solid week before he got the first text message from Bruce. And of course, it came at two in the morning, startling him awake as he fumbled in the dark to find it. Of course, Bruce just couldn’t come right out and say it. He couldn’t come right out and say what he wanted.

                Because he was Bruce. And everything even remotely emotional had to be teased out of him like threading through the eye of a needle, going a hundred miles an hour. 

                Are you busy?

                It was tempting, very tempting to be obtuse. To be snotty in response, or worse, ignore Bruce altogether. It would be no less than he deserved. Clark wasn’t perfect and he was feeling overtired and worn thin from too many nights away from Bruce. So, he could have easily justified being a royal prick to Bruce.

                But he wasn’t going to be.

                Because even seeing Bruce’s words through a phone screen made his chest ache and his stomach roil. He wished Bruce had called so he could hear his voice. 

                No

                Can you come over?

                It’s the middle of the night

                Yes

                Clark laughed. How could he not? Bruce wouldn’t dare beg. Nor would he bother explaining further. He’d just summon his favorite pet back to his side because he was in some sort of a fix and needed him. God, it was so predictable and so demeaning.

                And yet, Clark was still getting dressed at almost three in the morning. He was still making the flight across the harbor to Gotham’s never dark skyline. He was still skating through smog and familiar sights and smells until he found Bruce’s—their—bedroom and landing with whisper soft touches on the balcony.

                The French doors were left open, like Bruce liked, and the air was ghosting into the moonlit room. The curtains swayed from the harbor’s brine softened breeze and Clark took deep lungfuls of it, savoring it even as he walked deeper into the bedroom to find Bruce. Shadows cast the bed in almost complete darkness, but Clark could see as well as if it was daylight and he could easily make out the shape of Bruce’s body hidden beneath the comforters. He’d pulled them up over his head, for whatever reason, and was completely immersed.

                Despite the clench of pain in his chest at the sight, Clark couldn’t help the smirk as he sat on the edge of the bed and put a warning hand on Bruce’s shoulder.

                The body twitched upon contact and the comforters dropped enough to make out a pair of slate gray eyes and pale, milky-white, skin framed with something as dark as the night. Clark had seen it before. After ten years of friendship and three years of being his lover, Clark understood Bruce better than anyone. He’d seen most everything.

                But this night, the darkness was mixed with sadness. With shame.

                “Bad dreams?” Clark whispered, afraid to make any sudden moves. Afraid to break the stillness in the bedroom. Afraid Bruce might rescind his invitation, because of their fight.

                The fight felt miles away now. Buried and smothered beneath a thousand needs and whispered promises they’d given to one another on many nights like this.

                “Yes.” Raw. Desperate.

                Clark’s hands flexed into fists in his lap to keep from reaching for Bruce. To keep from drawing him in and crushing him tightly to his chest. “What do you want me to do?”

                Bruce blinked, but didn’t look particularly interested in pride at the moment. “Stay. Please.”

                “Alright.”

                Clark moved around the bed, robotically removing his shirt, tugging off his hastily shoved on jeans. Down to briefs, he crawled into the bed with Bruce and waited for Bruce to come to him. He did. Slow little shimmies that swallowed him in sudden feverish skin and the smell of Bruce—bergamot and lemon. Bruce curled into him, one arm wrapping Clark’s stomach, his legs immediately seeking Clark’s to weave with. Clark sighed into the touches, into the warmth and let himself press a chaste kiss to the hair that tickled his chin.

                “Thank you for coming.”

                Clark sighed, sleepy and softened by this version of Bruce that always brought him to his knees. He carded a hand through Bruce’s hair, then smoothed it back from his forehead with long careful strokes. “I’ll always come. No matter what.”

               

                Morning crept in lazily. Soft, gentle fingers of sunlight streaked the bed and lit the back of Clark’s eyelids. He stretched into the light, felt it sizzling along his cells and grinned stupidly when he heard the curled-up bear beside him growl with disdain.

                Bruce wouldn’t be up for a couple more hours. If Clark tried to rouse him, he’d get the finger and have the rest of blankets stolen for his trouble. It was better to let the waking happen all on it’s own. Especially since they would need to discuss everything they didn’t the night before. Everything they’d fought over and hadn’t resolved.

                Clark lay still for the first thirty minutes, simply listening to the house wake up. He could hear Alfred moving in the kitchen, making coffee and toast, blending a protein shake for Bruce. He could hear Damian grumbling his way through brushing his teeth and combing down his unruly hair. It was as balmy in the morning as it had been through the night and the air was petal soft, drifting over the bed to ruffle his hair. He could hear grounds crew mowing the lawns and hacking away at the bushes. It filled the air with the smells of childhood and innocence, with fresh cut grass clippings and juniper berries.

                These little moments, snatches of stillness, had fast become a part of Clark’s fondest memories.

                Bruce stirred closer to ten and migrated like he usually did back to Clark’s side to nuzzle in. Clark kept quiet, tracing patterns into Bruce’s back and over his ribs. When Bruce’s eyes finally flicked open and were silently studying him, Clark let himself study back and smiled lightly.

                Bruce had sheet marks on one cheek, his hair was standing up on one side and his eyes were bloodshot.

                He was beautiful.

                “Good morning.”

                “Morning.” Bruce’s voice was rough from sleep and rasped along his spine. It reminded him that he’d spent the last week sleeping elsewhere and was feeling just on the wrong side of desperate to be closer, skin on skin.

                Any other day, he probably would have woken Bruce with kisses from head to toe. He probably would have savored that thin skin beneath Bruce’s ears that made him squirm. He would have toyed with that crazy feather soft hair and smoothed out those wrinkles on his forehead, by pressing his lips to them.

                But that wasn’t this morning. Even as close as they were, it was still painfully obvious there was a wedge between them. Unfinished business left the air feeling heavy and tasting bitter.

                “Feeling better?”

                Bruce looked down, a lenient nod, but curled in tighter to Clark, arching his back like a cat when Clark started running the pads of his fingers along his vertebrae, counting each one leisurely. It appeared Bruce was as reluctant as he was to fix things. It would mean stepping out of the lazy warmth of the morning and stepping into cold hard reality. It was an--unappetizing thought. 

                He let the quiet go on for long minutes, until he itched to have things settled and couldn’t wait any more. Clark was always the one to break first. He was always the one to offer an olive branch between them. Now, was no different.   

                “You know we need to talk.”

                Bruce sighed, a gust of hot air on Clark’s bare chest. “Yes.”

                “To be honest, I’m not sure if I should be apologizing or you should.”

                Bruce stiffened, “I—we both said—it got heated.”

                “It usually does. But this time was a little different.”

                “Yes.”

                Clark wanted to sit up and look at Bruce. To see his face better. But experience had taught him that Bruce did better with sorting his feelings and thoughts if he wasn’t forced to maintain eye contact.

                “I shouldn’t have told you to sell the apartment.”

                Clark snorted, “It did come in handy this week.”

                Bruce’s eyes snapped to his, something like condemnation marking their depths black, “I never asked you to leave.”

                “You didn’t have to. You never do.”

                “That isn’t fair Clark.”

                “Isn’t it? You know how you get when we fight. You know how it goes. You sulk and hide and freeze me. I beg and prod and then finally give up. It worked out that I had a place to go to.”

                “You could have stayed in any of the rooms here in the manor. You know that.”

                “This is your house.”

                Bruce sucked in a breath, “I thought—I thought after three years, the manor had become our house.”

                “Bruce, you’ve never once, not ever said that to me. What did you expect me to do?”

                “I—I didn’t want—Clark,” Bruce pushed at his chest, extricating himself from the loop of Clark’s arms to sit up. His eyes were still smudged with purpling shadows and he looked too pale. He’d probably not eaten much of anything this past week. It worried Clark more than he liked how little Bruce took care of himself when no one was around to remind him to. “I never wanted you to stay in Metropolis.”

                “Didn’t you?”

                Bruce swallowed, toying with the sheets pooled in his lap, looking like a lost child. “No. No I didn’t. It’s part of the reason I was so upset with you. I know I overstepped by talking to the realtor about selling your apartment. I know that was wrong of me. I should have discussed it with you. I just—we’ve been practically living together for the last three years and I just thought—I thought that was what you’d want. I thought you wanted to live here. With me. I thought that was what we were already doing.”

                “Bruce, sweetheart,” the endearment had Bruce’s cheeks flushing pink and his knuckles whitening on the sheets. “Bruce, of course I want to live here with you.”

                “Then why were you so angry with me? Why did you panic when I suggested we sell the apartment?”

                “First off, you didn’t suggest, you told me. You surprised me. You caught me off guard. And to be honest, I felt a little manhandled.”

                “That was never my intention.”

                Clark shook his head, “Maybe not. But you still did it without talking to me. And because of that, it was a bit of a shock. There was a part of me that thought we’d just keep on doing as we were for all time. Just you and me, living sort of separately, sort of not.”

                Bruce snorted, “I hardly think after three years, you’d have been surprised that isn’t what I wanted at all.”

                “You’ve never talked about me moving in.”

                “I assumed it was assumed.”

                “That’s where you went wrong then. Because I never assume anything with you. I can’t afford to. It’s cost me before and I’ve learned to be cautious.”

                Bruce was holding himself rigid, his eyes fixed on the bedding and anywhere but Clark. “I know I can be difficult to live with. I know I haven’t made the last three years easy.”

                “No. But neither have I. Relationships take work. Doesn’t mean I’m not interested in always trying. I’d do anything to be with you Bruce. You should know this by now.”

                There was a long, painful, pause.

                “Maybe you shouldn’t assume I do.”

                Clark inhaled softly, “Point taken,” he reached carefully for one of Bruce’s hands and gripped it hard, “Bruce, I love you.”

                Slate gray met tourmaline and held—a breath, a heartbeat—and then Clark edged closer, willing Bruce to see how serious he was. How much he would always take them seriously.

                “I love you too,” Bruce managed.

                “And I want to sell my apartment. It’s not been home for a long time.”

                “You do?”

                “Yes. The manor is home. Bruce, you are home. I shouldn't have fought you on it. I'm sorry.”

                Bruce looked away, his throat working through a thick swallow, “Thank you.”

                “Hey,” Clark tucked a finger under Bruce’s chin, lifting it until Bruce was forced to meet his eyes. “Nothing to thank me for. I let my pride get in the way. I hurt you as much as you did me. Let it go.”

                And Clark knew he would. He knew they would both let it go. They’d both put it behind them and chalk their argument and the subsequent damages, up to mistakes to not make again. Because that was who they were. That was how they’d been since the beginning.

                “OK,” Bruce whispered the word, like a reverent prayer, then arched into Clark to kiss him. The kiss wasn’t soft or gentle. Nor was it particularly neat.

Clark reveled in it.

                He combed both hands into Bruce’s hair and held on for dear life. The kiss was violent, teeth and lips clashing, hungrily devouring until they were both panting and desperately removing the rest of their clothes. He mouthed at Bruce’s neck as he forced it into a long column and laughed when Bruce groaned. It was the single greatest noise he could summon from the Bat. The single greatest noise that meant Bruce was his.

                “Bruce—” Clark mumbled against elegant collarbones and scar decorated skin, “let’s not fight again. Ever.”

                Bruce’s rumbling laugh was enough to ignite his own laughter and they held on and rode the crest of it together.

               They both knew they’d probably be fighting again, inside a few weeks. It was just how they were. How they’d always been.

               That didn’t stop them from enjoying the make-up. It didn’t stop them from feeling heady with the rush of rightness that always washed over them when they came together after one of those fights. Drunk off each other’s skin and syrupy with reconciliation, the pace between them slowed, the kissing became feverish and drunken. And Clark sank into the morning with Bruce, desperate to never let go again.

                When they lay sweat-slicked and exhausted, drowsily contemplating sleep once more, Clark tucked himself tight around Bruce and nibbled at his earlobe till gooseflesh skated over Bruce’s naked skin.

                “Call the realtor. Sooner the better.”

                “Yeah?” Bruce drowsed, his words slurry.

                “Yeah. Don’t I get a key though or something like that, to seal the deal?”

                Bruce’s answer was a soft snore.

                It was good enough for Clark.