Clark Kent suddenly starts feeling nervous as he walks up the stairs that lead up to the main entrance of Wayne Manor. He's not sure why he's nervous, really... He shouldn't have any reason to be, save perhaps for the fact that he's going to have to play mild-mannered, klutzy reporter all evening at this charity shindig.
If he's being honest, though, it's not really that he's nervous - more like curious, excited, and perhaps a little bit afraid that he's going to lose this bet he's made with Batman earlier today...
They haven't known one another for very long, and in truth, they barely know anything about one another - Batman prefers it that way, although Superman knows fully well that the only reason why the World's Greatest Detective hasn't figured out his other identity yet is because he doesn't want to have to give his own away. Clark also knows that Batman is starting to itch to look into Superman's identity, because Batman hates not knowing.
That is how, just a few hours ago, when Superman mentioned that he had "something he couldn't get out of" tonight, they had somehow ended up in a conversation about the difficulties of having a second identity. Although neither had revealed anything too personal, they'd come to realize that they would both be at the same charity event that evening - both under the guise of their respective alter ego.
That's when Batman made the bet that he could figure out who Superman was, before Superman could find the man hiding under the Dark Knight's cowl. Clark had been quite certain then that he would win this wager - he had super powers and abilities to help him, after all...
But now that he's standing in front of the manor, about to go inside, he's not so sure of himself anymore. He needs to win this bet to teach Batman a lesson of sorts - that there really is more to Superman than just brute strength.
With that in mind, Clark enters the manor, and is promptly directed to the big ballroom where the event is held. He's heard of the owner, of course - who hasn't heard of Bruce Wayne? - but as Clark looks around his home, on the way to the ballroom, he can't help but be a little bit surprised by how much more refined and tasteful the decoration is, when he'd expected it to be somewhat tacky and eclectic.
This man, by all accounts, is supposed to be very superficial, and more interested in chasing skirts and throwing money out the window than anything. Oddly, though, this isn't what his home says about him. So far, anyway. No... this looks like the home of someone with refined taste, someone educated enough to differentiate between Impressionism and Symbolism, between a Renoir and a Klimt. And that doesn't sound much like the man Bruce Wayne is supposed to be.
Of course, perhaps the decoration hasn't changed since his parents lived here. Or he might have found a brilliant decorator... Still, something about that just doesn't add up.
Clark shrugs the thought away as he finally steps into the ballroom. It's immense, and filled with very, very rich people, all of whom are expected to part with some of their earnings by the end of the evening. As he looks around, Clark wonders if Batman is in this room. Perhaps he isn't - perhaps he works here, as a security officer, or in the kitchen, where he wouldn't be so easily noticed or missed, should he have to disappear into the night and turn into Batman to fight some manner of criminal. He might even be a reporter, like him; after all, detectives and reporters share the same thirst for knowledge...
A young woman walks toward him; she's pretty, in her early twenties, long brown hair cascading down her shoulders. She catches him looking, and as she walks past him, she lets her hand run lightly over his shoulder and arm, before disappearing through the door. Surprised, Clark blushes all the way to his ears, and he turns to watch her leave, wondering if she imagined that he'd follow. He's not used to this sort of behavior and wonders if this kind of very open, very forward flirting is commonplace at parties like this. He's going to have to keep his eyes down if it is...
He takes a quick circular glance around the room, trying not to make it look like he's staring at anyone. He's here on assignment, though, and he needs to see if there's anyone here he might ask questions to. Most of the faces he doesn't recognize; he's not exactly well acquainted with Gotham's elite class, and he doesn't really see anyone he wants to talk to.
In all honesty, he could care less about all these socialites, he's a lot more interested in winning this wager and finding out who Batman really is. By now, Clark is all but convinced that the Dark Knight isn't one of these people - he couldn't be... he's not anything like them.
As Clark runs down the list of reasons why he's certain that Batman is more likely to be working here tonight than being one of the guests, he walks up to the bar and asks for a glass of sparkling water.
The man on the other side of the bar, an older gentleman with a British accent, politely asks his name, as he serves him his drink. Clark frowns a little bit, surprised that any of the staff would ask. For a second he wonders if this is Batman, and if he's just lost the bet, but he obviously couldn't be... besides the voice isn't right, even if Batman masks it, and the curve of this man's jaw isn't right either.
Smiling, the man explains that he's worked here for so long that he can name everyone in the room, but he's never met him before. Clark introduces himself, certain that it's just a harmless questions, and almost immediately, the man makes a quick demonstration of his knowledge by discretely pointing to certain people and offering a few biographical notes about them.
"And over there," he says, motioning to his left, "is mister Bruce Wayne."
"Are you sure?" Clark asks in a chuckle, "You can barely see through the crowd of beautiful women around him."
"Quite certain, sir," the man affirms very seriously.
Clark walks away from the bar, still looking in Bruce Wayne's general direction, and finally he catches a good glimpse of the man. Tall, dark, very handsome, just like his pictures - there's not much of a surprise there at all. Until all of a sudden, he turns and they're looking straight at one another. Clark sucks in a sharp breath, because just like that he knows. It defies logic, it really does, but the feeling in his gut is too intense to ignore.
That man... that very rich, very handsome playboy, that skirt chaser... is Batman?
It makes no sense, but it has to be true. Clark doesn't know how he knows, he just does. It's in his eyes, which must be insane, being as though Batman always has lenses obscuring his eyes and Clark doesn't have any idea which color they could possibly be.
But he's absolutely sure about this.
Realizing that he's staring, Clark looks away immediately. He starts walking across the room toward one of these people whose name he now knows, thanks to the gentleman at the bar. His mind seems frozen, numb, and by the time he gets to his intended target, he hasn't any idea what he could possibly ask them. Shaking his head sharply to clear it of the cobwebs, he puts on a smile, introduces himself and asks about their involvement in tonight's event.
An hour passes, during which Clark tries to do his job, somehow. He's too distracted by a certain little nugget of information he's acquired tonight. He wonders if he should walk up to the man and attempt to strike up a conversation, but he's quite convinced that there is no way he can talk to him privately and find out if his assumptions are right. He's not sure either that he could slip anything subtle enough in a casual conversation for the man to understand, while keeping everyone else around in the dark. He'll just have to wait, perhaps until the next time they meet in costume.
As Clark retreats to one end of the room so he can get an ensemble view of the crowd and figure out whom to approach next, he suddenly feels a presence behind him.
"I win," says a man in a gravely voice that Clark instantly recognizes.
"No, you don't." Clark chuckles, but doesn't turn around. "Check my left jacket pocket..."
The man makes an inquisitive "mm?" sound, and Clark feels a hand slide into his jacket pocket, then pull out the folded piece of paper he has inside. There's a pause during which the man has undoubtedly read the name that's written on the note.
"Congratulations," says Bruce Wayne, in his usual speaking voice.
Clark turns, smirking. He's outwitted Batman! Possibly...
The smirk dies on his lips the moment he finds himself face to face with Bruce Wayne, and Clark realizes that he's never seen him smile before. Batman never smiles. Bruce Wayne does, it seems, and it's... almost mesmerizing.
"Champagne?" Bruce asks, and seemingly out of nowhere a waiter appears at their right, carrying flutes of champagne on a silver tray.
"Oh, uh..." Clark hesitates, feeling his cheeks redden for some reason. "I really shouldn't..."
Bruce ignores his protest and picks up two glasses, handing him one. "It's a special occasion," he says, smiling.
The waiter disappears just as quickly as he came, and they're alone again - as alone as two people can possibly be at a party.
"How did you--?" Clark finally starts to ask, tearing his eyes away from Bruce's smile.
Bruce looks quickly around, frowning just slightly. "Not here," he says. He takes a quick glimpse at his watch, then toward one of the doors, and says, "There's a balcony upstairs, it's quiet, there won't be anyone else. Follow me in... oh, thirty seconds should be enough to avoid being noticed."
Clark barely has time to say "okay" before Bruce lifts up his champagne flute in salutation and walks away. A few steps later, he looks over his shoulder, smiling again, and Clark suddenly wishes he knew a spell to accelerate time.
Twenty-two seconds later, Clark doesn't think he can stand there longer and do nothing but wait, so he sets off in the direction he's watched Bruce leave. He goes up the staircase to the second floor, and once there looks to the right, then the left. There's an open door at the very end of the hall on his left, and he can see a dark figure standing against the moonlight, so he heads off in that direction. Sure enough, the doors open up onto a small balcony.
"Close the doors behind you," Bruce tells him.
Clark does as he's told, then walks up to the other man. "So, tell me--?" he starts asking, then changes his mind. "No, wait... let me guess."
"Okay," Bruce answers in a chuckle.
"You had to have a list of all the guests, and since you're hosting, of all the employees," Clark says, eyes narrow in thought. "So you narrowed the list down to anyone who was from Metropolis, then narrowed that down to anyone in their thirties, tall, with brown hair and probably ended up with a very short list. I suppose you probably spoke to all of them, realized they weren't the genuine thing, and I was the last one, therefore it had to be me, hence your introduction."
"I did most of that yes," Bruce admits. "There were exactly seven men that might have been, you know...him... But that's not how I knew it was you. I had to ask Alfred to find out who you were, or I wouldn't even know your name." At Clark's very confused look, he goes on, "I knew it was you the second I saw you blush half to death, when Victoria Sinclair ran her little debutante hand on your arm." Bruce seems to cringe in disgust, before taking a sip from his glass, as though chasing the memory away.
Clark looks at him, mouth gaping slightly. "That's how you knew?" he asks, almost in a daze. "Really?"
Bruce chuckles again. "Detective work implies going with your gut feeling sometimes, too," he says. "And I can't think of anyone else who would have reacted that way to her, besides...a boy scout, maybe?"
He smiles again, and Clark can't help but find it amazing that in such a short span of time he's seen Batman smile so many times. It's no wonder he rarely smiles at anyone, Clark thinks all of a sudden, else no one would ever be afraid of him. There's nothing remotely frightening about him when he smiles.
"I suppose you just used one of your powers," Bruce says, pulling Clark out of his reverie.
"To find me," Bruce explains, "You used, what? X-ray vision? Super hearing, maybe? Though I'm not sure how that--"
"Oh!" Clark shakes his head. "No, that's got nothing to do with it." He chuckles a bit nervously, then goes on, "You know how you said you had a gut feeling? I was standing at one end of the room, and I saw you looking at me and..." He chuckles again, and this time he's starting to blush. "I knew it was you, right then. I know, it's probably crazy, but I knew the moment I saw your eyes."
"My eyes?" Bruce asks, his expression somewhere between a smile and a frown. "But you'd never seen--?"
"Oh, I know," Clark answers. His voice is a good full octave lower now, and as he stares into Bruce's pale blue eyes he finds that they're just as spellbinding as his smile - maybe more. He sees the moonlight reflecting in them, and...something else...that leaves him a little breathless.
They stand in silence for a moment, neither of them moving at all. Clark doesn't know how long it lasts, only that when it's over and Bruce moves again, it seems like it's over much too quickly.
"Forgive me," Bruce says, "if this seems a little forward." He places his glass on the railing, then inches forward. "But I've wanted to do this for a very long time."
Before Clark really understands what's going on, Bruce's lips are on his, gentle and soft. And if his smile was mesmerizing, and his eyes spellbinding, they're nothing compared to his kiss, and Clark knows immediately that he's lost.
Blindly and awkwardly, Clark extends a hand to the side, meaning to put down his glass on the railing of the balcony, next to Bruce's. The moment he lets go, the glass tips and falls over the side, coming to a crash two floors below.
Clark pulls away immediately, looking over the railing, mumbling incomprehensible apologies.
Surprisingly, Bruce just laughs. "It's only a glass. It doesn't matter," he says. "I have thousands of those." He takes Clark's hand in his and squeezes it gently and reassuringly. "I'll let you break all of them if you'll just kiss me again..."
Clark smiles and relaxes almost instantly. "Deal," he says, closing the distance between them.
Several long, heated kisses later, when Bruce pulls away, Clark is suddenly sure that he's going to tell him that he needs to get back to the party he's hosting. Instead, Bruce asks, "So, how do we figure out who won our bet?"
Clark flashes him a teasing smile. "Clearly, I've won," he says. Ignoring Bruce's attempt to protest, Clark leans in and as he's about to kiss him again he adds, "I've definitely won."
=> The End.