The Batman was cold and cruel and callous. Someone that wouldn’t kill you, but he would make you wish you were dead. The stories that came out of Gotham tended to be disregarded as myths and urban legends, things that the polluted air stirred up in people’s minds. The League had always passed the city off as an isolated incident, dangerous but contained, and never felt the need to interfere with the system that was just as corrupt as the people breaking in store windows with the butts of guns.
That was, until they couldn’t avoid it any longer.
The alien invasion was a small one, something that didn’t require everyone in the League to be assembled but they all were anyway. Superman was sent to Gotham because he was the most durable next to Diana and she point blank didn’t want to go.
“That city is filthy,” she had said. Which, hey, kinda rude since she thought sending Clark there was a very reasonable thing to do. Since he was a good sport (and no one ever said no to Diana), Clark ended up going anyway. He didn’t get what he expected.
The alien force that had landed in Gotham was already dealt with, trussed up in old fashioned duct tape and zip ties that, against the laws of physics, seemed to be holding against the slippery metal limbs of the assailants. Clark deemed them to be not a threat and determined finding whatever had done this as a higher priority.
That’s how he found himself flat on his back, staring up at the starless Gotham sky, the shadows of the city standing over him. Well, maybe he wasn’t made of shadows, but Clark wouldn’t tell you otherwise. He was as black as the night and spoke like he had crawled out of a crypt.
“Metas aren’t allowed in Gotham,” he-it-something said. And then he was gone. That was one hell of a story to tell the League when he got back hours earlier than expected with aliens bound in restraints he didn’t bring with him.
Of course, the rest of the League decided that this being obviously needed to be recruited and now, even without doing any extensive research. And, since Clark was the one to go the first time, it seemed to be the unanimous decision (minus Clark, but who’s counting?) to send him again.
Let it be said that Clark thought this was a terrible idea. A no good, horrible, very bad idea. Nonetheless, because he was a good sport, dammit, here he was, flying low over the city, between skyscrapers and over residential buildings and hoping against hope that he wouldn’t be received with the same welcome as before. His hope was in vain. You would think wearing something that literally meant hope on his chest would give him better luck, but no, it couldn’t be easy, could it?
“Hello,” Clark said from his spot on the rooftop, flat on his back again with a foot on his chest. This wasn’t the shadow man from before. This was someone wearing black and blue and who had a domino mask over his ridiculously handsome face.
“Metas aren’t allowed in Gotham,” he said. Clark could see the smile playing on the edge of his lips and he was so different from the shadow man that Clark was starting to get mental whiplash. “But you’re not so bad, Big Boy Blue.”
Clark felt his mind freeze and scratch backward. That was—there was no way that wasn’t flirting. The man’s voice sounded like temptation incarnate, dripping with sins and begging to drag him from his boat and into the crashing waves. Clark did not like this feeling. He would like the foot on his chest gone now, please.
“I’m sorry, but my team would really like to meet the other one of you,” Clark said with a grimace, trying to push himself up only to be pushed back down in a way that should have made Clark indignant but only made his cheeks heat up. Oh Rao, at least the League couldn’t see him right now. Diana would never let him hear the end of this.
“I don’t think so, Boy Scout,” the man said. He smirked and cocked his head to the side and Clark felt like Diana had punched him in the spleen. Oh god, oh fuck. Not good, abort mission, abort .
“Sorry?” Clark squeaked, because, honestly, how are you supposed to react to that?
“I said,” and the man leaned in close to Clark’s ear without even bending his knee and Rao if that flexibility wasn’t as hot as it was disturbing—no, bad Clark!—”That Batman isn’t taking house calls. You better leave before I decide to have some fun with you.”
Clark flies out of there as soon as the foot is off his chest. He doesn’t think he’d survive if that man used him for fun . He doesn’t make the connection between the urban legend and the name that the man had given the embodiment of shadows, too frazzled and just glad to have made it out alive.
The next person they send is Hal because Clark refuses to go again. He comes back with a black eye and mumbling something about never wearing the color purple again.
Before they can decide who to send next, because heroes are nothing if not stubborn and without self-preservation, they get a visit. The Hall of Justice turns cold, the lights flickering into the icy dimness of an old abandoned bunker. Superman can see just fine, but if he was human he would only have enough vision to barely make out the far wall in an impersonal white light. Clark isn’t exactly feeling the warm and fuzzy.
The lights go out completely for barely a moment and when they come on the shadow man—Batman, the man in black and blue had called him—is standing in front of the far wall. Nobody snaps into battle positions, everyone wary that sudden movements will draw this cryptic being’s attention to them.
“Stop coming to my city,” he says. Clark swears he hears a soft giggle from the inside of Batman’s cape but he can’t x-ray the fabric to check. Lead, or something else?
Diana, the fearless, stupid, absolutely awe-inspiring princess that she is, steps forward. Clark feels a bit weak in the knees just thinking about it. What did they do to deserve her?
“We’d like to ask you to join us,” she says, calm and confident and without a smidge of the fear that Clark is feeling. Maybe that’s because she hasn’t had the joy of interacting with them, but Clark also knows Diana is just Like That.
“No,” Batman says, “I work alone.” Another giggle from his cape and this time there's a flash of white, teeth or eyes Clark doesn’t know because the Batman shifts his weight and suddenly the creature he’s hiding in there is gone.
“Don’t bother us again,” something says from the table all of them were standing around. The strongest superheroes in, in ever, and there was a child dressed like a traffic light and holding a gleaming katana and not a single one of them noticed. Clark really wants to go home and cry into his hay bales.
“I don’t think you could keep up,” oh god, oh fuck, that’s the voice that’s been haunting Clark’s nightmares (
) since his second visit to that hellish city. Something grabs his ass and Clark jumps straight out of his skin. The siren stalks around in front of him and flaunts his ass the whole way to where Batman is standing. He smiles and drapes himself over the man’s shoulders before stepping behind his broad shoulders and… disappearing.
What the fuck.
Clark doesn’t even want to know. When he looks back to the table, the katana kid is gone and Jesus, how are they doing this Houdini stuff, Clark’s going to have nightmares for years. The lights flicker and go out for a blink and then the Batman is gone, but the echo of laughter is floating around, like a physical manifestation of fairy bells in their brains, albeit as sinister as the toll of the ferry on the river of death.
Clark is never going to Gotham again.