Bruce couldn’t cook.
Or fold laundry.
Hand-wash the dishes.
Or pick-up a gallon of milk at the supermarket without his Amex.
He just—couldn’t. At least, that’s the realization Clark had come to after years of not only being the man’s best friend but his lover. Clark had learned that when it came to the mundane and the average, Bruce wasn’t any good at it. Either he’d never bothered to learn, or he genuinely couldn’t. It didn’t really matter to Clark. Not really.
But then one anniversary, watching Bruce fumble around the kitchen burning a simple omelet whilst cursing up a storm to every deity he could imagine, Clark decided he it was time to get to the root of the problem. It was time to see if, in fact, an old dog could learn a few new tricks.
In Clark’s mind, it made no sense.
Bruce was The Batman. He learned new techniques for taking down criminals every day. He trained his body till it sweat blood and then he trained some more. His mind was his greatest weapon and Bruce kept it up to snuff on every evidence collecting technique or war protocol known to man. Bruce could recite the Geneva Convention from the heart and then state full passages of the Art of War without breaking a sweat. If anyone could pick up a few really very simple life hacks and lessons on being an average citizen, it was Bruce.
Sitting across from Bruce with his burned anniversary omelet and a cup of a coffee, he firmed up his plans to teach Bruce all the things he might have learned had he not grown up obscenely wealthy.
He decided to teach Bruce how to be quote on quote, ‘normal.’
“Bruce, what would you say to letting me teach you a few things?”
“Teach me?” Bruce’s nose scrunched as he poked half-heartedly at the dried-up eggs, “What would it entail?”
Simple lessons,” Clark said carefully, reaching for his coffee to avoid having to put any of those eggs into his mouth, “Things you never had the opportunity to partake in. Like—running to the supermarket. Filling your car up with gasoline. Folding laundry.”
Bruce’s eyes, a dove gray in the morning sunlight, flitted up to Clark’s and scowled, “I know how to do all those things, Clark.”
“You know a version of how to do those things.”
“And maybe you’d like the challenge of learning how to do them as the rest of us do them. Like the average joe, let’s say,”
Clark sipped delicately on his coffee, shrugging a shoulder, “Well, I was and still am pretty average when it comes to how I was raised.”
“What would be the point?”
Clark blinked down at his plate, “You might not burn the eggs next time. With a few simple cooking lessons.”
Bruce snorted, “Alfred has already tried to teach me.”
“I’ve seen Alfred’s cooking lessons. He usually loses his patience with you and he always picks something far too upper crust. I’m talking about learning how to cook an egg. Throw together a casserole with leftovers. You know, eat like the rest of us plebeians do.”
“It sounds like a waste of time.”
Clark smiled, slow and sweet, “Maybe. But it would make me happy if you tried it.”
Bruce sighed, pushing his plate away, “How happy?”
“I could tell you—or, I could show you upstairs. I’ve had this idea rolling around my head that I’ve just been dying to try out on you. And since it’s our anniversary…”
He let the words hang like a promise and watched as Bruce’s pupils expanded and his heart rate steadily leaped forward.
“How many lessons?”
Clark licked his lips, letting his gaze dip to Bruce’s lap with hungry intent, “What if we negotiate the terms of our contract after some intensive exploration to the binding of our agreement?”
Bruce swallowed, his Adam’s apple bobbing rhythmically. “Damn you, Clark.”
Clark grinned, standing and then grabbing Bruce’s hand to drag him behind.
“You love me.”
“You’re lucky I do.”
“Happy anniversary sweetheart,” Clark whispered when he got Bruce plastered against their bedroom door and was actively trying to strip the man of his thin pajama pants.
“Hap—py anni—holy God—Clark—”
Clark laughed and added the day to the win category.
Clark enacted his first lesson a week later by sending Bruce into a local Aldi to get a gallon of milk—with only five dollars. No wallet. No cards. Just the cash with a small smile and Bruce’s questioning look.
“What if it’s more than five dollars?”
“It won’t be.”
“How do you know?” Bruce lifted a brow, his fingers crunching the edge of the five-dollar bill with a hint of irritation. Clark struggled not to laugh.
It would only hinder the point of the lessons.
“Because milk doesn’t cost more than five dollars a gallon at present and this is Aldi. It’s a very affordable grocery store. I know you and Alfred don’t shop here, but I used to. I still do sometimes, when I’m near one. Just head inside, grab a gallon and then come back out. Easy.”
“Fine,” Bruce snapped, taking the money and stalking off.
Clark waited ten minutes, then twenty. After thirty minutes he gave in and went inside to find Bruce standing in the middle of the dairy aisle reading labels on two different brands of milk.
“What are you doing?”
Bruce blinked up, his brows furrowed, lips twisted in a frown, “I can’t decide which kind to get. Alfred usually buys two percent, but I was reading a study about how whole milk is the better option because it’s less processed and has good fats left in the milk.”
“I wanted to look it up on my phone, just to brush up on the statistics, but you had me leave it in the car and—”
“Bruce. It’s just a gallon of milk,” Clark grabbed the nearest jug to him, then put the other back. He folded Bruce’s hand into his elbow, walked them up to the registers and waited for Bruce to pay for the milk. Bruce frowned when the cashier said the total. $2.34. He handed over the five-dollar bill then took his milk and change and they left.
It was the first lesson and Clark felt like it could have gone better, but he wasn’t disappointed. Bruce was used to Alfred doing all of his grocery shopping. Average people picked up a gallon of milk on their way home from work. Bruce wasn’t exactly average.
Two days later, Clark told Bruce his next lesson would be hand-washing the dishes from dinner.
Alfred didn’t look impressed and said as much when he claimed that he’d been doing the dishes for the last twenty years and there was nothing wrong with him continuing to do so. Clark explained the lessons he was trying to teach Bruce and Alfred merely laughed, stalking off in the opposite direction.
“Clark, I know how to wash dishes. I’m not a child.”
Clark snorted, “Of course, you aren’t. But you usually just rinse them off, then leave them in the sink. Or, you load them in that fancy high-tech dishwasher of yours. A lot of people don’t have one. So, they wash the dishes themselves. Hand-washing is just as effective if not more so. It’s like a rite of passage.”
“Fine. But I think this is a little silly.”
“It is. But you said you’d humor me. It’s good for you.”
Bruce turned on the water and the sink filled with steam, “To be put in my place?”
Clark shook his head, “No. To see what you’ve been missing and how the rest of us live.”
Bruce didn’t say anything else. For a half-hour, he washed dishes with the single-minded focus of Batman. He scrubbed pots and plates until they gleamed and were sanitized far more than they actually needed to be. All said and done, Bruce even wiped down all the counters with a rag from under the sink, then followed it up with a sanitizing wash that made Clark want to snicker with amusement.
Nothing could be done half-way.
Which was a credit to how Bruce was raised and his own temperament. He was a doer. He did things to the max and demanded nothing less than that from those around him.
“The kitchen looks amazing.”
Bruce surveyed his work, then rolled his shoulders, “It was oddly relaxing to clean.”
Bruce’s eyes narrowed on Clark, “I still don’t see how these ‘average life lessons’ are very helpful to me. But if it makes you happy, I don’t see the harm in it.”
“It does. Make me happy.”
Bruce chuckled, “Good. At least there’s that.”
Clark had Bruce do several other oddly average or mundane things he considered lessons. From folding the laundry, which he did superbly—to the point of taking it too far—to being forced to sit down at a fast food restaurant and eat a burger. Bruce griped the entire time, spouting statistics on how terrible the food was for the human gut and what sort of bacteria was likely growing in the grout of the tile they were standing on. But by the end of his burger and fries, he was less mouthy and more thoughtful.
He was beginning to see what Clark was getting at. Being average—doing average things and living like the general populace was good sometimes. It kept you in touch with reality and reminded you of who you were protecting. Who you cared about; who was sleeping in the bed next door to you.
It reminded you of your humanity on a basic intrinsic level. At least, that was the case where Clark was concerned.
Whenever Clark went home to Kansas or ate a hotdog at a street vendor in Metropolis or splashed in puddles from a rainstorm in the gutters, Clark was reminded of where he came from. He was reminded of what he believed and what he wanted to believe. He was reminded of the simple things in life that he never wanted to take for granted. Because all humans were connected by that tiny thread.
So, when Clark finally decided to finish off his ‘average-joe’ lessons with some simple cooking exercises, he was certain that Bruce would excel. Bruce had done everything else he’d asked with flying colors, albeit, obsessively and over-the-top. But that was Bruce’s personality. That was something that made him endearing and sweet. It made him—well, Bruce.
Except, no matter how many times he tried to teach Bruce how to fry an egg or how to boil noodles, or how to bake silly Pillsbury dough biscuits, Bruce ruined it. He overthought the process or got distracted reading instructions and then burned something. Invariably, something always destroyed his attempts at making edible food.
And Clark was beginning to understand why Alfred had laughed at him. Why Alfred had thought to teach Bruce to cook a moot point.
The Batman was not a chef. And never would be.
After a solid week of attempting to make magic happen, Clark told Bruce to prepare a casserole and a side dish for supper. He told him it was his last lesson and that if he passed the test, Bruce would be rewarded with whatever he wanted. Emphasis had been made on the possibility of that reward being sexual, of course, and Bruce had looked interested. Interested enough, he was currently standing in front of the stove, trying to make something that smelled a little…overdone.
“Do you—need a hand?”
Bruce looked over a shoulder as steam and suspicious looking dark smoke rose from his front, “No.”
“No, Clark. It’s fine.”
Clark wisely kept his mouth closed and instead, doodled on the paper napkin placed in front of him. Bruce was a perfectionist and getting in his way now, would only make him more agitated. An hour later, Bruce produced a plate of something that looked like a hash. It smelled vaguely of chicken and tomatoes but was gray in color and had very little difference in consistency from one part to the next. The side was green beans.
In theory, it should have tasted good. It should have been something Clark might have even eaten on the farm. A casserole and a can of green beans. But with his first bite, Clark had to stifle his gag reflex and make himself swallow.
Bruce was watching him carefully, his expression dark and thoughtful, eyes wary. So, Clark, being the idiot that he was, smiled and said, “It’s good.”
“Yeah. It tastes very—very homey. Great job, Bruce. You passed.”
Bruce blinked at him, “You didn’t try the green beans.”
Clark’s stomach cramped at the idea of putting anything else into it. He forked a bite of the green beans, found them to be lukewarm but edible and sighed with relief when the only thing wrong with them was that they weren’t salted at all. He preferred a little seasoning on his vegetables. But Bruce was staunchly against adding extra sodium where it wasn’t needed.
“What did you make it with?”
Bruce poked at his own plate, his throat working, “Chicken and tomatoes. Cheese and peppers. I added some other spices too. But I—” he scooped up a forkful and stared hard at it, “It looks terrible.”
“It’s not bad.”
Bruce’s eyes darted over to his, held a moment, then he took a bite of his creation and promptly choked on it. Eyes watering, face red, Bruce spat the mouthful back onto his plate then looked up at Clark with betrayal written all over his face.
“Clark—God, this is awful. Why did you lie to me?”
Clark shrugged helplessly, “Because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings?”
“You wouldn’t have hurt my feelings. You would have hurt my feelings had you eaten this and gotten food poisoning though. Jesus Christ, how did you eat any of it?”
“I love you,” Clark supplied helpfully, dabbing at his mouth with his napkin, “And you’ve been an amazing sport about all these stupid lessons. I thought it was fair that I put in just as much effort.”
Bruce stared at Clark a moment, then laughed, his head tipped back, and his eyes closed. It was a beautiful picture. One that Clark immediately wished he could capture with a camera. The kitchen smelled like burned chicken and Alfred would be furious with the stink, but Bruce looked so lovely like that. He looked so—perfect and human. His sleeves were pushed up to his elbows and he’d gotten rid of his tie at some point while trying to cook. Bruce could have been the picture of a midwestern husband just getting to the table for his supper after a long work week. Except…well except for the class that oozed out of his pores and colored his posture. The aristocracy that formed the lines of his jaw and nose. The firm resolve and desolation that always seemed to cling to the color of his eyes.
Bruce would never be average. Not for any second of any day. Not to Clark. Not to anyone.
Knowing how to cook or clean or live as an average man was never going to make Bruce average and Clark was suddenly immeasurably glad for it. Because he wouldn’t want Bruce any other way. He wouldn’t want Bruce to suppress all the things about himself that made him so far beyond average it made Clark’s head spin and his skin tingle.
“Thank you,” Clark murmured when Bruce stopped laughing and was smiling across the table at him. “Thank you for being willing to do this for me. It was fun. And enlightening.”
Bruce nodded, “For me too.”
“You didn’t mind?”
Bruce shook his head, pushing up to a stand as he grabbed their plates of almost untouched food and took them to the counter. Clark watched Bruce for a moment, his eyes tracing the lines of those long, long legs in his slacks. Of his socked feet on the tile. Of those elegant hands that belonged dancing along a grand piano not washing dishes by hand.
And he ached, he ached to have Bruce right then and there.
Bruce didn’t tense when he came up behind him at the sink and wrapped both arms around his middle. He leaned back into Clark, his shoulder blades muscled and familiar as they pressed firmly into Clark’s chest, his heart a steady thumping cadence that made Clark’s jump to follow.
“You said there would be a prize.”
Clark nodded, nosing Bruce’s nape, the soft space of skin behind one ear and Bruce’s hands faltered. He dropped the plate he was scrubbing into the sink and it plopped in the soapy water, sloshing suds up the sides.
“Anything. Anything you want.”
Bruce made a sound or said something that could have been a plea, but Clark’s ears were buzzing and his cognizant mind was fading out in favor of the instinctual one. He became all feeling. He became all of his senses at once and all he wanted to do was feast. Feast on Bruce and all that Bruce was.
Bruce arched back into him, one hand snaking up to hold Clark’s mouth to his, to press their lips hard into each other. Clark responded like he was being commanded to obey. And maybe he was. When they were like this, when the world faded and it was just Bruce and skin and heartbeats, it felt very much like he had no choice but to comply. It felt like his body was on fire and Bruce was the only source of water for miles. Thousands of endless miles.
They made love in the kitchen.
He only got half of Bruce’s clothes off and there were soap bubbles smeared on Bruce’s chest, soaking the sleeve of his shirt and low back. They finished with Bruce clinging desperately to him, legs wrapped firmly around his waist and Clark’s hands the only thing holding him up. Well, aside from the edge of the counter. Which would need another good sanitizing after all the defiling they’d done to it.
Bruce’s breath was a warm dampness in the crook of his neck, his whiskers a tickling sensation that made Clark nuzzle nearer for more. That made him feel impossibly weak-kneed and desperate for a bed.
“Best. Prize. Ever.”
Clark laughed, shifting Bruce’s weight in his hands so he could put Bruce’s rump back on the counter to peer down at him. “Worth it?”
“Absolutely,” Bruce’s eyes were a hazy gray, clouded with lust and contentment, “I was wondering if—maybe you’d also be interested in learning a few lessons?”
Bruce nodded, biting his lip as he grabbed Clark’s shirt, which was still on but tugged open, and pulled him between his open legs till their mouths met in a messy kiss. “I’ve got a few ideas.”
“Then I think we should go to bed and discuss them.”
Bruce was grinning, grinning like a kid in the candy store up at him and Clark’s chest felt like it was going to burst. “I have a request.”
“I’m going to need you to carry me. Because I think you broke me.”
Clark snorted, already re-wrapping Bruce’s legs around his hips and lifting him with ease. “Alfred is going to kill us if we leave this mess.”
“He likes cleaning.”
Bruce laughed, laying his head on Clark’s shoulder as Clark took the stairs, slow and lazy, keeping one hand under Bruce’s ass and the other on his back so he didn’t fall.
“Do you ever regret—that I’m not like other guys? That I’m not like someone you could have met in Smallville or Metropolis?”
“What, you mean boring and normal? Average?”
Bruce lifted his head, kissed along Clark’s jaw till he found his mouth then bit at his bottom lip. “You know what I’m asking.”
“I do,” Clark had gotten to their bedroom and he put Bruce down on the sheets like he was glass, laying Bruce out till he could look and get his fill. “And I could never regret how perfect you are Bruce. Just as you are. Absolutely not average.”
Bruce lifted a brow, “Even though I can’t cook?”
“Especially then,” Clark kissed Bruce’s collarbone, then pressed his face to the heat of his neck where that pulse fluttered anxiously. “I love you, Bruce. Just you. As you. No one else.”
Bruce hummed back, his body going slack and his hand trailing lazily down Clark’s spine. “And I love you.”
“Good. Now, about those lessons?”
Bruce rumbled out a laugh, “Turns out, I’m fairly average in that department. I’ll need a moment to recharge.”
Clark grinned, “I’m not going anywhere.”
He wasn’t. He really, really wasn’t. Clark might have been raised in an average home with an average upbringing and an average family. But he was far from average in how he loved.