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Coming Home

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Sometimes the word ‘no’ isn’t one that everyone hears.

Bruce Wayne - 20 years old

The courthouse was almost empty by the time Bruce got there, the setting sun marking a rainbow hue of pinks and purples across polished granite floors and grand cedar desks. The courthouse was almost quiet, the slight surge of hushed whispers rushing in a quick fire banter that would leave sane people reeling in confusion. Looking at them, those tight suited lawyers with their legal terms and busy lives, with their complex cases and intriguing suits, it hit the billionaire that in another life that would have, could have been him. In another life he might have been a lawyer or doctor or well rounded businessmen, or maybe a politician, or writer, or artist. In another life things might have been easier for him. Somethings might have been clear cut and easier to decipher than it is now.

Yet it isn't, easy that is, rather is it quite difficult to find footing on unsteady ground, on harsh battlegrounds and fuzzy frontiers.
He is alone.

He is trying to find an island in the middle of the ocean of corruption, of tyranny and injustice. He is trying to find himself once more. He traded a war he wanted no part in for the one he's been waiting for.

Blue eyes shadowed by dark night locks attempted to push away past endeavors, tried to camouflage pain for pleasure, turn despair into desire, loneliness for luxury. A sigh is pushed passed quivering lips, shoulders are straightened, a smile is stretched out on plastic features: he is exactly what he is supposed to be, what they want him to be.

"Bruce?"

For the first time in seven years he is looking at James Gordon in person, for the first time in seven years he remembers what justice looks like, what perseverance incarnate is built into.

"Ah Detective Gordon," his voice is too high, too loud, too cheerful, too carefree, from the last time they had spoken. He is wrong, Gordon, not this city, no, in this instant he is out of place, a broken hinge sticking out of frame."It's been too long, you're looking swell I see." Bruce Wayne is not supposed to use words like swell, but Bruce Wayne hasn't been seen in a long time, can't be seen in public anymore, is no longer entrusted to anyone. This is Brucie, floozy billionaire with a head filled to the brim with air, with nothing but expensive materialistic bullshit that could be better invested in places, in families that have bigger more important wants like basic living necessities like clean water. This is Brucie, a man that causes Bruce to recoil in distaste, to sneer in revulsion.

Gordon frowns, lips curling down like most good men do when meeting someone as arrogant as Brucie. He is looking at Bruce as if he were a puzzle to solve, a case to be figured out. He frowns because he knows something has changed. He frowns because he knows what Bruce looks like, had at one time taken great care of the little boy with no parents but enough grit and stubborn determination to hunt down the killer, a boy with sharp intelligent eyes and quick wit. A boy that is nowhere in sight. "Right, so what brings you here?" He speaks quickly, as if the conversation is already rubbing him the wrong way.

"Oh I'm just looking for Harvey," he flashes a sunny, distant smile, like he has better places to be, better people to be speaking to. There is no one he would he would rather be speaking to.

"Really, I didn't know you kne-"

"BRUCE!" Harvey, all booming voice and bright gleaming smiles appears from behind him, heavy arm slinging around thin muscled shoulders, "you made it just in time."

"Have I?" He lets his amusement show for once, dancing timidly across unsure features to cover for the tight uneasy feeling curling like a dragon in the pit of his stomach, an honest smile flickering softly over controlled features.

"Yup," he smiles brighter, as if Bruce was the only one in the whole world, as if Bruce was the only thing that truly mattered, "just need to pick up a few files from my office then we can head on over to Racello's." He is calm and sweet and does all the right things. Harvey does everything by the book, opens doors for him, pays for their meals, brings him little gifts, laughs at all the right places. Harvey is genuinely a good man, has always made sure Bruce felt loved.

It's the first real relationship he has ever had, the first romantic attachment he has allowed himself to latch onto. Its Harvey, safe with his righteousness, Harvey, who fights for the little people of Gotham. Bruce feels safe for once, finally is beginning to understand what it means to be loved.

Phillip, his strange uncle, once told Bruce he could never love, Thomas, his lost brother, said he didn't know how to, would never truly understand those four simple letters. But Harvey makes him feel like he stands a chance at proving them wrong, makes him feel like there is no set line for what loving someone is supposed to look like.

"Mr. Dent," Gordon nods, eyes flashing between the two. Their relationship was one done with digression, one dimly disguised as merely a close friendship. They could never reveal it, to anyone. Harvey even convinced him not to tell Alfred, had planted the ideal that Alfred may not be too open to the idea of two men being more than friends.

"Gordon," Harvey grunts, eyes flashing slightly, "I hope you've reconsidered my offer."

"No, I think I'd still like to decline, I do not endorse people," he states with a hard voice, tense and sturdy.

"Shame really," Harvey near growls, voice lower with every word that slips past his lips, "would have made my campaign, you being the people's hero and all."

"Maybe, but I like keep out of politics." Gordon shifts, eyes shifting from Harvey back to Bruce, something of a warning reflecting into warm brown eyes.

"That what you told Galivan?" Harvey snaps, lightly, hand suddenly yanking Bruce to his side, as if it belonged there. "come on Bruce," he does growl out his time, aggression filling his tone, his body language, something completely new settling into the skin of what once was kind, patient Harvey.

"Harvey;" he warns, once they're at a safe distance away, voice dropping slightly, "that's enough, Detective Gordon has a-"

"Do not," Harvey barks, suddenly, pushing Bruce back in his office, slamming him into a bookshelf as the door clicks shut, "defend him, you are on my side not his."

"There is no side to this, I was merely saying th-"

"Shut the fuck up."

His head swims, tears rushing to his eyes, as his world begins to blur.

"You are on my side, do you understand. Quit being a little bitch and just do what you're fucking told."

It doesn't sound like Harvey anymore, yet Bruce knows it has to be him, knows it, like he knows what a concussion feels like.

Steeling himself, he goes to defend Gordon, before suddenly he is being kissed, hot fiery passion, bitter hot rage consuming him whole.

He shoves, trying to push the mass of Harvey off of him, but he's stuck, stuck under the one person he thought was safe. His ribs now feels as if one of them is cracked and the world doesn't seem to be making sense and suddenly his face is on carpet, hands desperately trying to push him up and Harvey off. But his muscles feel weak, or maybe he's just the one who's weak.

Bruce closed his eyes and wondered when Harvey would stop; wondered if agreeing to have sex with him would be easier than what the alternative could be. That’s the thing about ‘nice guys.’ You can’t always pick them out. They have good haircuts and they open doors; they even pay for your drinks and laugh at your jokes and they ask about your family. But sometimes nice guys do those things, not because they’re nice, not in the real sense of the word, but because they associate doing those things with getting what they want or at least deserving it. Sometimes we forget they don’t deserve it, that they are not entitled to a body they do not own. Sometimes he forgets that this body is his to own, not something to be sold out for information, or freedom; not something that can be put on loan for those who might need it more. Because he forgets he needs it most; needs this hollow grave he calls home to feel like home and not some cheap shared living space. He needs this empty meat-sack to fill like someplace he can buckle into for the long run, and not just some place he would only visit. He needs this, at the very least, to ground him to a reality that takes what it wants and leaves too little for the rest of the lost souls praying for a life in hell.

Bruce closed his eyes and wondered when he would stop; wondered if the words slipping past his blood soaked lips even registered anymore, even held a purpose anymore.

Bruce closed his eyes and wondered when his words began to fall from the heavens as rain drops instead of solid slabs of hail; when they could so easily slide off the surface into oblivion as if they were never here to begin with.

Bruce closed his eyes and whispered the word ‘no;’ grounded out the word, ‘stop.’ But his words were merely raindrops in the desert, soaked up too quickly by dry land, pushed out of sight as quickly as they could emerge.

Bruce closed his eyes as rough calloused hands found their way to his lips, as hard bulky muscles weighed him down, as he lost touch of his only safe zone, and another man made himself at home in a house that was not his to call home, as another man treated him as something to be conquered, squandered for all its goods, left barren and used and empty and shattered on a bed that was not his to slander.

Bruce learned the hard way, that sometimes the word ‘no’ means what society labelled it to be, means the definition of stop and don’t- this is not yours, you cannot do that. He learned the hard way, that some people do not care what society, what human principles label as consent, some people do not care about consent, they simply take what they want, because they feel entitled to everything they cannot have and nothing they do.

Some people, no matter how hard they try, cannot stay alone. In loneliness there is madness, in heartbreak there is sadness, and at the end of the day, everyone just wants at least one person to share the pain with.

Bruce was once a bright star, shining and glowing too bright to look at. But time was not kind, a flash of a gun and in a single moment everything turns to oblivion, a lone star implodes, collapsing in on itself, mutating into a massive picture of darkness, into a void of inky black unforgiving darkness. He was a black hole, pulling in and decimating everything in its orbit, until there was nothing left, but a trail of black holes in a vast universe of stars.

But he lets it happen. He lets Harvey push him and shove him around, lets him do whatever he wants to something that does not belong to him, because Bruce hasn’t felt love in a long time, has forgotten what it looks like, tastes like to be loved and to love.

These waters he treads in are dangerous, they are filled with treacherous monsters and raging monsoons, they are unkind and frightening. They were all he had until Harvey.

“Get up,” he growls, suddenly he is on his feet, rooming swirling around him in a way that leaves him dizzy, confused, unsure. He doesn’t quite understand, remember what happened. He doesn’t quite get it anymore, the way he should, but knows he does, but doesn’t understand, should understand, knows he shouldn’t have spoken back. It is an old lesson he must relearn. Silence was a friend in dangerous waters.

His hand finds something, a desk, yes, a desk, latches onto it like it was the only thing is existence worth touching, like it was a lifeboat in these trying waters, like it was the only raft left a sea. Clothes are being shoved into his hands, he thinks they are his.

“God damn it Bruce, quit being a dumbass, and put them on, you’re going to make us late you stupid bitch,” he growls again, this low intimidating sound that resonates through the room, grunts like a caveman as he begins to dress Bruce himself, roughly dragging expensive fabric over bruised and scarred flesh. “Oh and look what you did,” he motions down, and vaguely Bruce tracks his motions, eyes finding stains on his shirt, “you fucking ruined your goddamn shirt. You really are a piece of shit, you know that Bruce?” He treats Bruce like he were nothing but trash, picking him up and throwing him to the side, maybe he is one. He is the only one Harvey treats like this, has to be. He slides Bruce into his jacket, lets it sit loosely on his shoulders, lets it cover up the evidence, like he’s trying to hide a crime scene. “Now put on your socks.”

He throws them at Bruce, and Bruce just lets them fall, lets his eyes track the motion, head trying to keep up the chatter it always has, tries to calculate the distance and velocity of such a motion, but nothing is quite working in his skull, nothing is really registering, so he whispers, voice cutting through the room, like a hand reaching out through jello, slow and sloppy, “ I do not want to.” He’s not sure if that was for the socks themselves, or if his brain is still caught up in what just transpired.

“Shut up,” he snaps, finally turning to look at Bruce, finally seeing what he just did, eyes softening slightly, “awe, baby,” he whispers sounding more like himself than he has all evening, as if he is only now entering the scene, “I’m sorry,” he whispers, kissing the top of Bruce’s head as he speaks, sweet words pressed against throbbing pain. A hand cards through sweat dampened hair, lips against sticky wet, blood soaked skin, he’s sorry.

He’s sorry.

He’s sorry.

He’s sorry.

He is sorry and that’s okay.

He says he’s sorry.

 

He promises it will never happen again.

He just lost his temper.

Next time he’ll watch himself.

Next time

Next time

There’s always a next time.

Shut up he says.
And Bruce lets that sink into his bones, lets himself shrink until there’s nothing, but empty shadows for people to see, where man should be.
Shut up he says.
And Bruce takes that with him, carries it like he carries the world, his city, his mistakes.
Shut up he says.
And Bruce lets that hang in the air between them, swallowing down all his anger, swallowing down all his grief, his feelings, his drama.
Shut up.
And Bruce thinks, say that one more time, thinks the same thing every time, despite the fact he knows there will always be another time and he is just an empty promise to himself.
Shut up.
And Bruce does.
He silences himself to for years, lets days pass, and nights soothe his disjointed heart, lets himself take all his pain out on others, lets the raw agony clawing at his skin do some good.

All he’s ever wanted was to do some good, but what’s the point in helping others, when you can’t even save yourself.

They say when the house catches fire, when the plane begins to crash that you need to save yourself first, need to find safety before you can save others. He prefers the martyr route, prefers to the let the fire melt flesh, let the air leave his lungs, let others know what it is like to breath, to live in fresh air, before looking for it himself.

He tolerated Quinn later, was sometimes a little too rough with her, a little too harsh, because he understands, knows how easy it is to fall into the delusion of love. He knows what it is like to love so hard, so purely that at the end of the day, there is nothing too big or too small to do. He understands feeling like it is your own fault, feeling as though the skin that you wear doesn't make up for the faults in your flesh. He knows what it is like to love and feel nothing but pain, yet love anyway because at least you feel something, anything. Sometimes feeling pain is better than feeling nothing, sometimes pain is all he has to keep him from slipping into madness entirely.

And when Harvey gets a girlfriend that turns out to be a villain, a mistress of mother nature herself, he keeps his mouth glued tight. Bruce listens as he goes on about her, even as Harvey fucks him into the floor of his office, as Harvey promises forever. He keeps his mouth shut when Harvey calls him every name in the book, when Bruce screws things up between them time after time after time. He keeps his mouth shut the first time Harvey’s fist meets his cheek, allows the sharp pulses of the physicality of it all, the deep cutting tang of his wounds, mask what hides underneath, wears the brutality of it all as a masks for what stirs deep inside, what screams at him to stop screwing up, what pushes him to be better, to be alone once more.
He learns a lot later that some people were just made to feel pain, some people’s lives were etched out in tragedy before they even have a chance at happiness.

They make it to Racello’s. They make it to Racello’s every time they go. They always make it on time.
It’s their place after all.
It will always be theirs.

 

The saddest part of it all, was that if Harvey hadn't become the villain of the story; he wasn't sure if wouldn't have gone back to him.

He’s pretty sure he would have.

Chapter Text

It was, on the best of nights, a beautiful tragedy, a perfect moment of ineffective claims made by a malfunctioning society.

Bruce Wayne: 20- June 6, 2002

Lois was on again, chattering away insistently in his ear, about her new coworker, about a flying alien in Metropolis. She spoke of flying in his arms, of being swept up in his charms, of knowing she could never truly be with him, but loving the ride to heartbreak. It was strange to hear, to see someone so eagerly awaiting pain, worse a broken heart and suddenly for once he didn't think they were so different after all.

When Bruce meets Clark he's twenty years old and pretty sure his life is heading for the madhouse, because the Alien's smile is somehow the most beautiful thing he's ever seen. Somehow meeting Clark was like finding the light at the end of the tunnel, a savior from the dark. Somehow the man seems just too stubborn to let Bruce's walls chase him away for good, and like a stray dog he always seems to come back to Bruce. And Clark was to say the least interesting. The night they met is one he'll never forget. The way he'd flung THE MAN OF STEEL across the room was so dramatically satisfying he had wanted to do it again, a million times over again, just so he can say he could.

Now to say he was surprised it was in fact Clark Kent from the Daily Planet (as Lois and he had initially suspected) was Superman, was an understatement. In fact the scruffy, ragged reporter had been Bruce's first pick (the tracker was just for show). Lois' had been some cop that had too much happiness to be anything but either entirely evil, Joker insane, or an alien. Needless to say he won, and was entirely positive that rubbing it in was completely necessary.

Lois of course was a quiet mixture of obnoxiously smug and Lex Luthor level bitter over the discovery. Bruce however was simply starstruck. His show with Lois about being together was amusing as hell, but it was Superman that truly stuck. It shouldn't be like this, he knew. It wasn't like Clark was the first superpowered being he'd come across. But around him, around Clark, Kal...made him feel like everything fit, finally made sense on a level he never knew it could. The white noise hum and constant chatter of his mind could take a break, give him a long needed reprieve from noise. It was as if an entire universe had melted his shoulders, leaving him able to breath without suffocating for once in his life.

Harvey was unsure about the kryptonian, always making some disgruntled noise about him, one way or another, but Bruce, though weary, honestly felt as if this alien was here to do some good, was truly a source of hope in this dark world. He was light that Bruce thought had died long ago.

For the first time in a long time he sought out friendship, hoped for friendship prayed the boy scout would stick it out, would ignore all his barricades and find a way to fit into Bruce's shit fest of an existence. He’d hoped for something he never could name, never dared to dream of before now.

 

Clark Kent:

He had never truly questioned his friendship with the Dark Knight of Gotham city, never quite wanted to. Whatever it was, it was free from judgement, pure from hate, yet cautious and weary, spawned out of nowhere. One minute he was being flung across the room like a rag doll, Lois is swept up in the arms of dark handsome and tall Bruce Wayne, and the next he was hanging out on a rooftop at midnight eating street tacos with the man. Well more he was eating tacos and Batman snarked at him for bothering him and his city. It was an endless, unwavering kind of companionship that was as welcome as it was rocky, because boy was it difficult to win Batman's acceptance, friendship. The man, though detested being alone, kept the whole world at more than arm's length. Bruce with all his stoic kindness, could be so easily cruel, heatedly cold without realizing it, without truly meaning it. He was the kind of man that had been alone for so long that he honestly did not know how to be anything but.

So he never truly questions their friendship, never looked too closely at nights at his small apartment, the two of them huddled over too cheesy and vegetarian pizza and long meaningless talks, never looked too deeply when meaningless become more than that. Did not question it when Bruce just called him in the middle of the night at 4 in the morning to tell him he was taking in a child, his detached voice filled with so much sorrow it physically pained Clark to listen to.

He finds himself drawn to the knight of the shadows, to the prince of Gotham. He finds himself mesmerized and amazed on more levels than one. No matter what he knows he'll always find a way back to Gotham, back to Bruce, and for the moment that's all that truly matters. For the moment that's all he cares about.

Clark never questions what is happening between him and Bruce, maybe its fear, maybe its hope for something, he's never too sure, except for the fact that he doesn't WANT to question whatever this is. Its not that he's afraid of finding out what it is, but he just kind of wants to enjoy the ride while its lasts.

Bruce Wayne:20 years old- November 30, 2002

The first time he said no to Harvey, and was heard by Harvey, it was not because he was trying to save himself, to help himself, but rather for the little boy he now looked after, waiting for him down stairs. The words had escaped him before he could shove it down, silence them like he usually did. The words slipped past quivering lips before he could stomp them down.

"No," he'd snapped, "now is not the time nor place to have sex. I have a child to look after now Harvey, I can not just run off at your beck and call anymore."

It was strange, to hear those words come out of his own mouth, in a voice that was all him, not Batman, not even Brucie. It has been too long since he has spoken like this. It was dangerously liberating, catastrophically freeing, like a galaxy had shifted from his chest. He suddenly felt like he could do anything, be anything.

In that moment he felt more like a hero than he has in his entire life. Saving a child from getting shot, putting the Joker behind bars in Arkham, none of that compared to this moment. He did those kinds of things on a daily basis, they didn’t require any extra effort, no thought to decide what to do, what was right. Those small acts were apart of who he was as a person, but this, saying no, like this, with such force and animosity that it not only startled Harvey but himself. The look on the man’s face was so brilliantly shocked, so wondrously horrified, aggrieved he’d taken that small silence as a victory of its own, had pranced, practically waltzed back down to the party a new man, stepping up beside Dick and ruffling his hair, before heading back into the wild throngs of rich socialites. Sure he might have paid for it later, but it was this moment that freed him even a little from Harvey, gave him the strength to push for Harvey to see a doctor, get help, and maybe be free of the demons eating him away, stealing away the man Bruce had fallen in love with, this moment was the best moment of his life so far.

Lois was eyeing him, her eagle sharp eyes locked on him, worry laced into her stance, something strange glittering there, as her brown irises flickered between him and Harvey in this knowing way that she always had, even when they were just kids, she always had this way of seeing past the layers of pain eating away at his soul, of make believe masks painted on cracked smiles, and disjointed promises. She had a way of understanding him and being completely confused by him at the same time. She watched as Harvey went over to Grace, kissing her on the lips, so delicately Bruce had to look away. He always looked away. Lois looks at him, and finds herself gravitating towards him, distracting him in a way she knows he needs, has known since her father stumbled upon him in Tibet, but she never says anything about Harvey. She never said anything Harvey, or his past, or what happened to leave him on Colonel Lane and his family's doorstep, and maybe that’s what keeps them at arm's length from one another, maybe that or their inability to communicate beyond the occasional gossip.

But it's fine really in this world no one ever truly says anything about what truly matters, at least not to him.

Bruce Wayne: 20 years old- December 20, 2002

Clark was sitting in his chair.
Upon closer inspection the original analysis is thrown out, reworked to: Strange, Kal was sitting in his chair, typing at something on the Batcomputer like he owned it, in a way he owned it, like he owned a part of Bruce the first night they met.

Stop
Compartmentalize
Store
Do not process

He stalks, more than walks to the kryptonian in his seat, eyes trained both on Kal and his computer, eyes looking at the data before him, displayed in computer inscription as well as the man’s body language. Something was off, he was tense in a kind of way Batman only ever saw associated with Luthor, maybe this threat was bigger, maybe it was not, maybe it was Luthor, or Luthor related- he was unaware of what he was facing as of this moment. He needed more data, more signs of what exactly was happening.

“I was unaware that you own that computer,” his voice is strong, echoing through the cave, all light and sound waves mapping out something Bruce was not truly sure he wanted to look into. His voice was still gruff, low, more growl than anything really.

“Yeah sorry,” the man let his sheepish smile twist his face momentarily, not pausing for explanation as he continued typing. Stranger still he did not meet, or attempt to meet Batman’s eyes, which is generally the first thing Kal tries within the first few minutes of a conversation, well he usually is the one to start conversations as well but he seems to be failing on all parts of the status quo tonight.

He is tired, does not feel in appropriate shape for a fight as of this moment, well he wants one, but that is usual, however he is also aware he would lose one tonight, this is unacceptable, he must-

Stop

Throwing his mask onto the panel next to the computer, he leans forwards, really trying to read what he’s seeing. The words are blurring together slightly, he has yet to sleep in three days. It is fine, he can last five days without truly worrisome side effects.

The man was looking into a project, C.A.D.M.U.S, something about a Bizzaro. He remembers looking into this, he remembers something else to, he remembers.

He’s on some offshore island in the Pacific Ocean, surrounded by military. He’s dressed in black without an insignia, they hand him something-

Stop
Compartmentalize
Store
Do not process

“Bruce….BRUCE,” there is a hand on his shoulder, eyes on his face, worry lacing the air. It’s suffocating. “Are you okay?” Clark is looking back at him, all farm boy concern, kryptonian put on the back burner. He’s all sky blue eyes and warmth, a sun in the shadows, burning Bruce’s heart.

He looks back to the computer, mind already wandering back to the information before him like a moth to a flame. The noise in his head was louder tonight, than most nights, has been this entire week, probably won’t stop for a while, “Why are you looking into C.A.D.M.U.S,” his voice still holds the gruff of Batman, though he is more Bruce than he has been lately, in a long time.

“Luthor attempted to make a clone of me, it failed, but the body was gone, this was the only organization that came up with the means and the reasons for taking it,” Clark is still looking at him, concentrating on his soul, onto his heart in a way that hasn’t happened in a long time.”

“C.A.D.M.U.S,” he murmurs, “I will need to do more research,” he pulled up one of his sub-folders. A name was all he had, no true name just, The Red Queen, he thinks it's a woman he’s been keeping tabs on an Amanda Waller, but he still is not completely sure, so far.

“Bruce,” Clark’s voice is too gentle, “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine Kent,” he lets the growl erupt from his throat, a glare shooting down the concern, or at least trying to.

“You don’t sound alright, are you hurt,” he wasn’t, really, he wasn’t hurt, at least no injuries were listed tonight. He shakes the man off.

“Now get out of my chair,” the snarl is too vicious, too annoyed, he didn’t want a fight tonight, he did not want this, but that is what he will get, the angry is building too fast, too blindly for him to quench, it is lighting something deep inside him, and he can not seem to reel it in can not stop the lava spilling into his veins.

“Rao,” the kryptonian curses, “You’ve been shot and stabbed. Bruce you need to get to the- you know what no I’ve got you,” he’s trying to touch, Bruce does not want to be touched, not right now, not when it feels like his skin is on fire, not when everything in his mind is turning to hell, there are too many thoughts, too many things he needs to do, needs to plan, there is too much.

He fights, as much as he can against the kryptonian. He fights until his muscles are sore and aching and cursing him for struggling against an immovable force, against Kal.

He blinks.

He’s struggling, trying to get away from something.

He needs…

What does he need?

Stop
Assess
Analyze
Think

“Tati?”
A small voice cuts through the noise, and somewhere in the chaos he’s wound up on the cot, Clark trying to restrain him, as Alfred tries to get an IV in correctly, tries to help.

There are bruises on his arms from Harvey, but they are hidden by the ones gained as Batman, by the thugs in Bristol, a gunshot by some thief in Old Gotham and a knife from in the tricorners. He had been sloppy, gotten caught up in the noise zipping around in his head.

“Tati?”

Dick looks so small in the cave, looks so needy and frightened, so unsure about himself with worry.

“I am fine, buddy,” he murmurs, head falling to the side, eyes meeting the boy’s, “I’m fine,” he slurs, eyes focusing on the ceiling, on Clark, who takes his hand, despite Bruce’s attempts to slip away from his touch.

The man of steel lets his thumb rub soothing circles on his wrist, lulling Bruce into a false calm, trying to catch him off guard, he needs to get away from something. He needs something. He needs-

His world goes black, Bruce’s eyes fluttering closed in a fitful state of almost sleep. Clark is always there, in between the waking moments and unconscious seconds he can feel Clark’s ever present warmth, near, always near. He can feel fingers, strong and careful skimming through his own sweat damp locks; can feel a hand on his cheek, holding his hand. Clark’s there, always there, and maybe that was okay, just maybe that was something he could have.

Stop

Light greets him, the bright morning light, blinding him as he attempts to sit up, but something is trying to force him down, someone is trying to hold him down. He goes to fight, only to find unwavering, smooth, warm hands, hands he has come to know, like his own. A breath shifts out of him, as he forces himself to focus. Unnerving sky blue eyes were on him, lifting away the weight on his chest, unfastening the chains around his muscles, letting him relax, think once more. The chatter was low in his head, he could think once more, the fire quenched. He lets a deeper breath fall from his lips, keeping his gaze on Clark and only Clark. The man smiles at him and Bruce has to fight to keep his heart in place.

Dick he notices is sprawled out in a chair next to his own bed, hair a wild tangle upon his head. The boy was a mess, he was probably a mess, hell even Clark was a mess. They were fine though, they were going to be fine.

“Bruce,” Clark’s voice draws him in, “you’re safe.” He says it so surely, with so much conviction, Bruce has no other choice but to believe it. Somehow he does not feel like he will be making a lot of decisions where Clark's involved.

It was almost like fate when Harvey was thrown into Arkham the same week Clark became integrated into his life, his manor, his person. It almost felt like destiny.

Chapter Text

Bruce Wayne: 21- March 16, 2003

The room is too quiet. The room is too loud. Everyone moves like they have somewhere to go, they bustle back and forth in the room, all loud mouths, and tight lips. Everyone speaks without saying anything of meaning, truths and hidden phrases dancing in the light above them. Men with loud obnoxious opinions, and women so mousy they sometimes forget where they should be. Everyone is too loud about what they shouldn’t be, ignoring all the real problems stewing in the particles around them. No one wants to address anything of real impotence, they don’t speak. They don’t speak and it's killing him.

He lets a smile paint his features, as he lets himself go from patron to patron. His chest is heavy, there is a woman on his arm, who’s name escapes him. There is something in the air that makes him want to forget everything. He sips out of unused champagne glasses, and smiles in all the right places. Tonight he is exactly what they expect. He laughs at their jokes, nods and agrees with them in the perfect places, compliments their work, even if he knows it's killing people, even though he knows people are suffering. He takes notes, reading people as they dance, as they talk, as they sing. He makes lists on what they did that day, who they are, why they are here.

There is a woman on his arm, who wants to dance, she blushes when he smiles at her, laughs when he opens doors, when he pulls out her chair, when he sweeps her to the dance floor. There is a woman on his arm who laughs, light and gentle and carefree. There is a woman on his arm and he should be starstruck, should fall straight for her beauty. There is a woman on his arm and a loud party around him and all he wants is to go home.

The room is too heavy and all he can think of is someone who’s not allowed in this space anymore. The room is too thick and happy and all he can think about is leaving, running back to India and curling into Cassandra’s back room. The room is too thick and all he wants to do is run back home and hide.
Someone is speaking to him, so he nods, and laughs, and refers them to Lucius when the story get too technical, when the words have to start losing their appeal for someone like him. He wants to go home, wants to hide behind kevlar and work, wants something to mean something. He wants to be respected, to be seen as someone worth another’s time. He wants to be fine again.

He just wants to be okay.

They are speaking again the voices in the back of his head, they laugh and poke fun at all the holes in his heart. They slip past the solid defenses he's built up, gliding past the flimsy walls around his heart. A man is speaking again, a real man is speaking and reminding him why he is a failure to his name.

"I knew your father," he starts, as if the wound isn't still fresh, as if death can ever truly be sewn back together by cheap liquor and sex.

"I knew your father," he says eyes boring into Bruce's, eyes looking right through him as if he were nothing, like he was nothing but glass waiting to be shattered.

"I knew your father," he grounds out past flimsy smokers teeth, as if it was both a burden and a honor to have known the man, as if he were more entitled to the man's affections than the man's own son. He looks at Bruce with steady beady eyes that hold nothing but revulsion, disappointment in him. He looks at Bruce like he has a right to judge him, to look at Bruce's eyes with a narrow eye when his company enslaved children in the middle east, forcing them to work in horrifying conditions on too little pay. "He was a good man," as if to insinuate Bruce is nothing like his father, that he was nothing but a piece of lint on the world's sleeve. "He did a lot of good for this town, worked his ass off as a doctor, a businessman, and husband," he doesn't say father. No one ever talks about what kind of father Thomas Wayne was, no one ever talks about what it must have been like being the son of the wealthiest, most prominent man in Gotham. "What have you done again?" He asks, asks like he has a right to, when women and children are dying in his factories from disease, dehydration, starvation, and factory accidents every day, like he has a right to judge, when his own daughter pilters his money on drugs and alcohol across European streets.

He smiled a tight smile, tries to keep himself under control, tries to keep the melting pot stewing in his blood just under boiling, "I usually let Lucius handle all the hard parts of it," he shrugs turns his attention to the champagne being bartered around.

"You're a disappointment," he snaps, "to your entire bloodline, a disgrace upon the Wayne name. Pity you are the last."

He pretends not to hear, makes his way through the crowd, pretends as he goes , excuses himself from his date, walks up expensive hallways and too bright corridors , memories jumbling together too quickly.
Suddenly he is in Serbia, harsh, bitter climates tearing him apart, one more mountain, one more frozen hill, dark forest. Blood curdling screams fill his ears, adrenaline surges through his veins lighting a fire through his bones, electrifying dead muscles.

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He is trudging through hot sand, a woman clinging to his hands, she is light to drag, and when he looks towards her there is more sand than woman, desert where limbs should lay.

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He is walking, mom and dad laughing through the night air.

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Breath.

Breath.

There is a gun in his hand.

Stop

The there is a broken trapeze wire

Stop

Stop

Breath

He stands slowly, eyes shut tight.

"Bruce? " A voice, small and timid and unsure, worried and quiet and strong.

"Do you want me to get Alfred?"

Bruce?"

"Dick," he sounds fine, more Batman than Brucie, more machine than man. "I'm alright, just needed some air," the boy is convinced, for now. In another time he will not, he will look back and be angered, be worried. He will look back and see the forced out blank look as a liars best friend, will notice the difference, slight hiccup of his voice.

But for now he is a child and he must remain in the dark, no matter how horrible things get, even with no parents and a fucked up billionaire to lead him to adulthood.

"Can we go home now," bright innocent blue eyes meet his, bottom lip curling out.

His shoulders give, as if the weight of the boy's stare were the world finding home on his back.

"Sure chum," a ghost of a smile shadows his features, "let's go home." He cards shaking fingers through soft raven locks, lets the boy giggle and chase out of the room in search for Alfred, making sure he is right on his heels.

He is the perfect gentlemen, makes sure his date meets all the right people to boost her dancing career, takes her home and walks her to her door, lets her use his name so she can go farther, lets her pretend to be another notch on Bruce Wayne's belt so that she may have a sliver of a chance at fame, at making her dreams a reality. He gets in his car with his so-ward, makes his way home to an empty memory of what once was,in hopes of making it somewhere Dick can find something worth following like his date, something worth living for.

Later he will recognize this moment is special for him as a parental figure and Dick as his ward; this moment is monumental in their relationship. It is the first time Dick has referred to the manor as home, the first time he has referred to anything as home in a long time. He will pause remember the slight sparkle, darkening in the boy's eyes and realize he may know more than he lets on. And that night he will promise to do better at hiding the crawling sizzling rage hiding beneath blank smiles, covering up battle wounds that will never heal. He will make sure no one sees the scars carved into the flesh beneath his armored skin. He will be sure to keep Dick as safe from himself as possible, makes sure this small child isn't overcome by this need to complete the mission, so consumed by the need for vengeance, justice that this, this path of hollow bitter loneliness is the only life possible. He will ensure Dick is never consumed by Bruce's black hole of a heart.

 

Dick:

Dick remembers being small, a scream tearing through his throat. It was the same dream as always, only not, different. He was falling, Bruce was falling from high scraping buildings, down, down, down, into darkness, away from him, always away, just out of reach.
But before they could ever hit the ground, boots were hitting the floor sounding out through the darkness, a door was flinging open as his eyelids flung themselves wide apart, lips outstretched in a silent scream. And then Bruce swept in from the night, like some guardian angel, cradling him tight. He cradled him against a warm Kevlar chest, solid and protective, the safest place on Earth.

Could you have saved them, had you been Batman rather than Bruce Wayne could you have saved them.
Would they still be here with me had you not been Bruce.

In his childish youth he'd asked one of the hardest, cruelest questions he could have asked that night. There was that part, the sad angry part that wanted to yell at Bruce for being Bruce that night, for ever being Bruce. There was a deafening monster in his heart that wanted to yell at Bruce for ever taking the cowl off. People die he wanted to shriek when you are Bruce, stop being Bruce.

Stop.

He's not sure if Bruce ever forgave him for that, not sure if he should.

But there are a lot of things that Bruce has done that Dick knows he can’t forgive, holds onto like a mother to child, always unable to let go. He wants somewhere to know Bruce, to understand his father figure completely and surely, in many ways he does, but not fully never fully. Bruce with all his wonderful qualities, has this wall between him and the people around him, a wall that refuses to budge, refuses to break, but more importantly refuses to let anyone in.

They clash more often than not when he becomes a teen. As a child they were able to form this balance between the two, as a child he overlooked a lot of things he probably shouldn’t have, but he was young and innocent. Dick just wanted Bruce’s approval, wanted a love Dick wasn’t sure Bruce was capable of giving.

Clark: September 13, 2005

He did not question when suddenly he was woken more times than he can count in the middle of the night by an insistent phone call from an emotional (As emotional as Bruce Wayne can get) Bruce over something Dick related. Bruce's constant worry that was never fully said aloud that he'd finally done it, gone and scared the boy away, finally pushed the boy away for good.

He did not question when the manor became a second home, when Dick became as much of a son to him as he had Bruce. Did not question when Bruce found a home in Clark's dingy place. When the cave and the fortress became intertwined with one another.

He never even thought to try questioning whatever it was between the two of them when one day out of the blue he walked into his home only to find Bruce Wayne clad in the full blown superman apron, Barry had bought him as a gag gift on his birthday, cooking something that definitely wasn't pizza or Thai from that take out place down the street, but some fancy stir fry cuisine.

"What are you doing," a smile danced on his lips, coyly mapping out his disbelief and amusement at the sight before him as he snapped a quick picture on his phone.

"I thought that was obvious," Bruce stated calmly as he sprinkled some kind of fancy herb (that most definitely had not been in his shelves this morning) in the skillet.

"Delete the picture," he stated,voice hard yet calm, " Or no dinner for you."

"I didn't know you could cook," he quickly sent the picture to Dick as he spoke, eyes caught on the man before him. Bruce released a small shrug from his controlled features, as if to say, 'you didn't ask,' as if to say, 'I don't really see the point in letting people know things about myself.'

He watched the man work, the way he moved so effortlessly, how he could do this without a recipe or a second thought, the confidence, and solid way he moved with grace and ease. It wasn't different from the way Bruce mechanically did so many things in his life. However this looked like something Bruce actually enjoyed doing, yet never did for some reason. "So you're telling me that all this time we could have been dining on five star cuisines instead of take out this whole time," the smile on his lips never faded as Bruce gave another partial shrug, a flicker of something crossing his features. Their conversations were never usually this empty, this lacking, sure Bruce would only speak in one word answers or clipped sentences, but was never so strange so whatever this was, where even Clark didn't know how to fill in the gap, it wasn't good. "Where did you learn, Alfred?"

Once more he was met with nothing but silence, the silence creating more negative space than anything else. Something was wrong, the thought bubbling up hot under his skin, scorching his veins like hellfire. Something was wrong and he had no clue how to help. So he watched Bruce cook, leaving only to slip out of the room and changed into sweatpants and a t-shirt, a bright contrast to the clean cut suit tailored onto Bruce's lean frame. He spoke to Bruce about non comical nonsense, from work to the lamest new villain he'd encountered lately. He spoke and spoke until the plates were dished out and he was left scrambling to fill the places in between.

Bruce's voice was soft, barely a whisper, barely anything at all, when he finally spoke up, so steady and weak that it contradicted itself entirely. His eyes were wide, lowered to the plate before him,as he poked about his food, "When I was away for training, I stayed with this couple for awhile," he cleared his throat as if it were a struggle to breath, to speak, "the woman there should taught me a little...it wasn't until I was..." he paused and Clark knew never to interrupt one of these silences, never to break the stream one it'd started, or Bruce would close up, lock it all away tighter than the last time he had these words, these secrets of the past, closed up, he would ensure Clark never got near what he was going to say again.

"In a small Italian village that I really had the chance to learn. .." he shifted, eyes flicking up to Clark's, in a search for permission, to see if this was alright, if speaking about himself was something he could do, something allowed, like it shouldn't be allowed.

"I...ugh...usually waited until dark when no one was in the nearby restaurants to break in so I could cook the food I'd scrounged up for some locals and myself, but there was a major case at the clinic where I worked so I did not get into the restaurant in time and the head chief caught me. He was... pleasant, taught me most of what I know." He played with food, lightly stabbing a piece of eggplant with his plastic fork. Soft blue eyes tilted down, but constantly moving, searching for something but never quite finding it.

It was a lot to take in, probably the most he'd heard the man speak in all the time he'd known him, the first time he's heard of the man's training. It was strange to think of a young Bruce maybe 18 heading out and about Europe all on his own. Bruce being by himself, yet it was comforting to believe he'd found someone, anyone to lessen the loneliness. "How old were you?" He threw a shot in the dark, vying for information when could.
Bruce looked up at him, slight should take up his featured, "I am unsure," he looked far off, eyes distant, "In all honesty I was unsure of how long I had been overseas until I arrived back in Gotham."

"Really," he burst glasses falling down his nose softly, "how did that happen." Because it was too strange, weird, in every sense of the word. Bruce always knew what was happening, around him and around to him, he was constantly aware of his surroundings.
"Time never meant much," he ate much like he did everything else, precise, poise, with this determination that surprised Clark. Though more often than not, Alfred had to call him of all people to convince Bruce to eat something, anything. Alfred thought Bruce would listen to him if all people. Everyone always thought Bruce would listen to him, which was unnerving if not a little satisfying.

"So about how old do you think you were," he leaned forward honestly curious.

"None of your business," he stabbed another slice, eyes flashing in the light.

"Oh come on, B," Clark let a whine out, trying to meet Bruce's eyes and failing. "It can't be that bad."

A glare met him, ocean blue and storm grey eyes meeting his own, "You will hyperbolize the -."

"B just tell me," but silence met him and solid cold blood eyes star him down. The conversation was over, it was always over at that look so he lets a sigh huff through the air, lets himself ask about Dick, listens as a light sparks in the man's eyes. He never says much unless it's about his kid. It was beautiful to see that spark in his eyes, the ever so slight smile curling the edges of his lips.

The evening is better then, they were back to the usual, back to the safety of what was known. Clark let it happen, let them fall back to familiar territory. He let them speak across the table, then next to each other on the couch, Bruce trying to set himself an appropriate distance from Clark, as Clark slowly closed the distance, always unconsciously needing to be closer to Bruce in a way he’d never known before.
He told Bruce about Kansas, about his neighbors, about his first encounter with kryptonite. And Bruce returned with those sarcastic quips about Clark being a boy scout, and a farm boy, that Clark secretly loved.

They talked until it was too dark for Bruce to go home, until, the man seemed utterly content to steal Clark’s bed (which he attempted to do, not once, but several times, arguing he’d made dinner so he should have it, arguing he was human so he needed it more). Rather, Clark took one side, and a horrified, disgruntled, yet unbearably stubborn Bruce, refusing to lose the fight for the bed, resigned to his side.

That was that. They sat in silence, comforting each other, just as much as they were unnerving the other, both too stubborn to give up a bed, yet secretly seeking the other’s presence. Two parts of the same whole, trying to meet, yet too resilient to touch.

Dick: 11- November 24, 2005

He comes home for thanksgiving, not that he needed to, more along the lines of wanted to, wanted to Bruce, to make things right, possibly check up on him, get a feel for how he's doing, without his partner. Maybe he shouldn't be surprised when the man is cold, and awkward without truly meaning to. He sees it now for what it is, a mask, a shield to hide behind, just encase Dick leaves again. But its not Bruce's decision whether he leaves again or not. He's not Batman, will never be Batman, can't be Batman, doesn't want to be Batman, not anymore. He's content with being apart of the teen titans, of being apart of something bigger, something better, something functional, where he has a say in what happens, what he does.

But coming home, he's more surprised than he thought, he'd be. Rather walking in the door, there are people waiting, talking, interacting, and for a moment Dick wonders if he accidentally walked in on some Bruce Wayne party, if he's sentenced himself to a worse hell than the one he signed up for.

But Uncle Barry, the Flash, and Clark Kent is here, so is Ted Kord, and Oliver Queen, with Roy, as well as some other heroes from around the block, and Dick is starstruck, in awed by the fact that they're in the manor willingly inside the dome of Batman's lair.
Clark says they don't have a club, like the Titans, but he begs to differ.

He slides in, eyes seeking Bruce out of the small crowd, eyes landing on Bruce trying to hide in a corner, but failing under Clark's ever present glow of sunshine. He looks uncomfortable, which is so pleasing to see, he can't help the smile tearing its way across his lips.
He does his rounds, saying hi to people here and there, talking to all his Superhero uncles, and aunts, smiles in all the right places, all just to get to Bruce, to see if they were alright.

"Nice party Clark," his eyes look up towards the Man of Steel, sparkling slightly, smile widening. It was a thing now, talking to one of the World's Finest, meant you were therefore talking to the other. Clark was attached to Bruce, in a way that almost baffled Dick. No matter how shitty Bruce was, no matter how mean and rude and cruel, the Alien just kept coming back. It was nice, nice to know, Bruce had someone like that, but it was also irritating to know he treated someone as good as Clark like crap, at least in front of people. They had their moments though, and more times than not, Clark was the one to make Bruce talk, force Bruce to actually deal with some of his baggage.

"How did you know it was mine," he asks all sly knowing look in his eye, as he watches Bruce squirm besides them.

"Who else would throw a party like this, Alfred?" Bruce has his eyes on Dick, and he knows it, knows that Bruce is looking him up and down, analyzing him in a way that Dick finds more amusing than anything else.

They lock eyes, mentor to student, father to son, speaking a language no one else knew.

It took nearly a minute before they were on common ground, neither completely mad, just unsure. It was kind of nice, nice to know that no matter what happens he's always have a place here, with Bruce. It was comforting to know that no matter how much he screws up, Bruce will always be there for him. And that's the thing about Bruce that sometimes even Dick forgets to see. The man is too forgiving, not trusting, but willing to forgive if you'll let him forgive you, willing to set aside his own anger to help those who need it more than he thinks he does.

Strange how the most antisocial, bitter, paranoid man in the room could sometimes be the most emotional, feeling every emotion so deeply that you can't even register it on his face, can't see it for what it really is on the best of days.

He knows, despite everything, he'll always trust Bruce, love him. Because Bruce loves him too, wants to protect him too much, but that's just who he is.

Chapter Text

Bruce Wayne: 24- February 29, 2006

It started out as just a team up here and there shouldn't mean anything, heroes team up all the time, however Superman had this insane notion that whatever this rag tag group was, that somehow they could be more, more than just a here and there kind of thing, something permanent. Bruce warned him of the consequences, when a single hero showed up in some city, dozens of villains followed, if they were to form a team, then villains may follow in sync. They couldn’t control what was going to happen, needed to be cautious, but Superman was insistent, had Dick riding him, that it was a good idea, had the notion stuck in his skull, drilled in that everything would be fine that they could be more.

Somewhere he thought they might just be, but his priorities lay in Gotham, always have, always will. Gotham is his home, his only loyalties lie there, nowhere else. Gotham comes first, before anything.

He agreed to join as a part time member, agreed to put forth some sort of an effort, ideas of some sort of base already forming in his head, somewhere in secret, maybe in a mountain side. He wasn’t sure about much, he was weary, stuck in the void of reality, willing to be the voice of reason, where Superman’s blurred in his dream boat state.

People were called, and before he knew it they were about to be gathered, Mount Justice built in Happy Harbor, hidden in plain sight, and everything was going as planned, until it didn’t. Green Lantern was still off world, has been for almost a year now, but rumor was there was a new one, even still, no one was there for the Flash, no one had known what would happen, next. The man was paralyzed from the waist down, broken in a way Bruce was too familiar with, Bane’s touch ghosting along his spine. But this was the job and Flash was a good man, did not deserve anyone’s pity, especially not Superman’s worried glances. He did not take kindly to being dragged to the speedster’s bedside at S.T.A.R labs, but knew it was the only way to sedate the kryptonian. Superman of course was trying to make things better, did not know it only made things worse, worse because he does not know pain like the rest of them, does not understand this kind of soul crushing force.

He watched the man bustle back and forth through the room, talking, and laughing, trying to make things better, trying to save the day like usual, when he couldn’t, when no one could.

Blue eyes met each other simultaneously, one stormy and sharp, the other weary yet serene. Barry was going to be fine, there was a strength in him that was everlasting, a warrior’s pain hidden by a sunlite smile. He knew how to make the best of things, how to keep going even when all hope is lost.

He was going to be fine.

He smiled at Batman as Superman zipped out of the room, off to chat with the Doctors again, his worry written on his sleeve, his mother henning never breaking.He was gone though, Clark had abandoned him to deal with a whole new battle on his own, a battle he did not know how to fight. There was only this palpable silence stretching between him and the speedster, a sort of silence that felt weird being that the Flash was in the room.

Then again he wasn’t exactly the Flash anymore.

They had been at this for nearly six years now, almost a decade of good deeds, and people saved. They have been at this for longer than he had initially thought he would last at least.

“Hey Bats,” Barry’s voice sounded out, aching and tired, echoing slightly in the hollowness of the room, “what’s got that scowl on your face?”

His eyes dart to the man’s hand as he tries to formulate exactly what to say, but like so many moments in his life, words fail him, so he keeps quiet, lets himself pull a chair up next to the speedster and begins making a mental list of everything the speedster will need in the future, will want.
He does not say he’s sorry.

He does not say Hal will be back soon and then things will be better.

He does not say the things left dancing on his tongue because sometimes he is not sure he means them, does not know if they are the right thing to say, in this particular moment. Rather he continues to set beside his fellow hero, clicks a button in his belt to lock the doors and shut off the cameras, before sliding off his mask. He simply lets the cowl slide off, allows Barry to look upon his true face, see his eyes and maybe understand everything he is unaware of to say. He calculates two minutes until they notice, maybe more if Superman continues to distract him, but Cisco is generally very routine and Katelyn too thorough sometimes.

So he calculates two minutes and slides off his cowl, focuses on letting Barry see what he wants to say, what needs to be said but cannot.

Barry does in his own way understand, sets a hand on Bruce's shoulder and nods with this determination, this reverie that sets something right in Bruce's chest, calms the angered beast roaming around his skull.

He will be fine.

Bruce Wayne: 26- June 11, 2008
Day 3 with no sleep

There was a disturbance in a Wayne Observatory, the satellite was not functioning properly. He goes to investigate at nightfall, sticking to the shadows as closely as possible. He tiptoes on rafters, listening in on foreign languages and strange people.

“Remember, barbecue at my place, Saturday night,” a blonde man with thick round glasses says with a smile, Greg Stiffler, his brain supplies, “you’re all in invited. Venus is rising early. And you know what that means.”

“Sounds great,” an older man muffled out- Ira Mason.

“I’m there,” a black haired man smiles- Zang Lu.

“See you then,”a woman chimes- Latisha Johnson.

Stiffler chuckles, one hand opening the door as he turned to them with a wave, “you guys are animals.” He clicks his tongue, as he gestures towards the others, a quick “good night,” flying from his tongue as he slipped out the door.

Batman stays still, eyes on the people belows him, quiet as a mouse. Mason stands, just as the door clicks shut. He is confident, sure of himself as he speaks out in a language Batman does not recognize,

Lu picks up what has to be at least six times his weight, thin muscles not even straining, as he stands with it, held high above his head, Johnson coming up to rip through a concrete wall, pulling out a device Batman has never seen before.

He follows them out, coming up behind them on one of the platforms, “I doubt that modification is legal.” As soon as the words are out of his mouth, he throws out thick metal cord, wrapping it around Lu and Mason, “should have stuck to your day jobs.”

Johnson comes up, her punches abnormally strong, Mason and Lu slipping out, bodies lengthening and contorting unnaturally.

Definitely aliens.

They throw him off the platform, but he manages to grapple back up quickly, back on his feet in no time at all.

He hears Superman before he see him, the man hovering up above his head, “Need a hand?” He is way too bright, colorful costume standing out against Gotham’s dark blue sky. He sounds too casual, too himself tonight. It was almost annoying actually.

“Thanks, but I can handle this.”

“They don’t look so tough,” he mumbles, and Batman has to fight not to roll his eyes in exasperation.

Mason yells something out, the three turning on their heals and shooting off, Batman right behind when he hears the scream, low usually composed voice distorted by screams. Superman is falling, back hitting metal And he is by his side in a second, pulling the man up, then he is flying through the air, explosion ripping through the sky.

He watches the trio, a tangle of limbs, broken and meddled together untangle themselves, walking away in the forests around them.

A growls rumbles in his throat, as he watches them go, smug and cocky. He turns heatedly on his heels towards the man groaning behind him. “What happened,” he helps the kryptonian to his feet, not because the man needs the help, more it comforts Bruce.

“You tell me.”

“I don’t know. I saw images, just so intense and then...well that’s all I remember.” He looks tired, slight circles under his eyes, overworked more than anything. With all the fuss about nuclear weapons and the meeting he’s been going to, it’s no wonder, still he just lost some much needed information.

“Obviously, they didn’t want to leave evidence behind,” he looks over to the explosion, feels annoyance seeping into his bones.

“What’s this all about?” He looks towards Superman, see the same need to help in his eyes as he always sees, watches as Clark tries to do something to ease another’s trouble. He also sees, however, that the man’s curiosity is now peaked, the reporter in him needing to get to the bottom of the new challenge, new mystery before him.

Clark has not been around much anymore. His information is scarce on the overall reasoning behind why the alien seeks distance, now of all times. It could be a Dick thing. It was probably a Dick thing, but he does not recall arguing with his son lately. He’s been off with the Titans more lately trying to get over that Slade fiasco. He has been doing better, actually called yesterday. So not a Dick thing.

“Over the past few months, I’ve detected several security breaches in our global deep-space monitoring network.”

Or he could be bored, even Superman has to get bored sometimes.

“And no one’s claimed responsibility?” He’s too invested now.

Maybe that is a good thing. He is invested. It could be a good thing, not that it should be a good thing, just, it might be. It could be a great thing in fact, Clark hasn’t exactly been around much, as of late, so he may wish to reconcile what we had a couple months ago.

“No. There’s more to this than meets the eye.”

No. He’s probably just bored.

“I’d like to stay and look into this,” oh Bruce is sure he would, “ but I’m expected back in Metropolis,” of course he is.

Clark is definitely up to something, not a cape thing though...he is probably busy with work. Well of course he is busy, all capes are busy, but he might be busier than usual.

“Another key to the city?”

He is not acting suspicious, besides that incident with the screaming. What was that? He will need to do more digging into that, it is bad for the job, bad for Superman anyway. They, well Clark, cannot risk that kind of hit on his reputation.

“Here. It’s a signal watch,” pulls it out of his belt, “call if you need anymore help,” passing the watch to Batman with ease, like he just happened to have it. No this was planned, Clark’s been more protective than usual lately, ever since he got clipped last month by a blast meant for Green Arrow, Clark’s been hovering, trying to help more than he usually does, which is too much already.

Even though he helps, though, it is only ever in costumes. Usually Bruce has to beat Clark out of his house with Alfred’s broom, but he has not been seen at the Manor in a month and a half. Bruce is unsure what to make of the silence anymore, no Clark, no Dick running around, he is almost irked by the silence.

Stop
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Now, however, Clark is handing him a signal watch...who does he look like that Olsen kid? Sneering his nose slightly he slipped it into his belt, mind made up to never use it, not even once. Unless he needed to call him to look at something. Not that he needed the alien to look at things often, however sometimes the man’s powers came in handy...plus they were somewhat intriguing to witness.

Stop
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Not that he witnesses them much anymore, or needs to, wants..

Stop.

Clark has not been around much anyway. Neither has Dick. He should invite him over sometime. Or maybe he could just get Penguin or Riddler to do something to Jump City again...though if he uses that too much Dick will get suspicious. Scarecrow might do it with the right incentive…

Stop
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SIlence is good for work.

He does not need them anyway.

He does fine on his own, does not require help to function at optimum levels.

He is fine being alone.

Three days later

This is not what he signed up for.

Taking a breath in, he focused his thought, shoving away the hum of information surging through his brain, thoughts, rapid fire ideas, trying to sort through everything hitting him at once, while focusing on his surroundings.

Facts, he needs facts first, ideas later.

Evidence first.

Examining the enclosed cocoons, he looked at the faces of the scientists from the other night. Their eyes were closed, only in their undergarments .

After that things escalate far too quickly for comfort, suddenly there is a rabid dog like nothing he has ever seen, a bookshelf hurtling towards him and a button pressed on instinct.

Strong arms wrapped tight around him, warmth radiating from sun kissed skin, safety. But not the kind he should get used to.

There is darkness in the sky, a hand on his mask, and then things turn to shit.

Everything else is a blur of three days, three more days without sleep, with aliens and terror falling from the sky, and new heroes filling in the places where old ones once stood. Wally is in Barry's mask, John Stewart filling familiar, yet distinctly different shoes, an alien with the power to read minds, and a princess from a foreign island, one that tugs at something in the back of his mind, but refuses to fully emerge forward. Now John and Wally are not new, he has met them before, like he has Hawkgirl, however everything seems new, twisted into something it should not. Barry and Hal should be here, Oliver should be here, Dinah should be here. Diana and Jo’nn feel right, but the rest do not, Hawkgirl on some levels, yes, but in many ways no. It twists something in his gut, to see Superman bringing familiar faces together, uniting them all to work for the good of their planet, yet strangely he feels hollow, because somewhere he knows that in another life, another time, that things are different.

He knows somewhere else things have to be far from this cruel.

He also knows somewhere has to be far worse.

J’onn is easy to trust, easy to accept. He is unsure why exactly that is, but it is how it is. The man for some reason has all his trust, well maybe not all, even Clark does not have that, but he has more than he should, within the first hour they meet.

The princess is another story, she is fire and rage mixed with this eternal beauty that manages to take even a part of his breath away. She reminds him of Kal, reminds him of that kind of beauty that vibrates from the man’s skin, with the ferocity that Hawkgirl breathes out. It is quite refreshing, everything it should be, and nothing it seems. He likes her, but he is aware that getting attached is dangerous.

Barry taught him that.

Hal taught him that.

Wally is everything Barry had always been, reckless and carefree and so heart meltingly happy that it hurts to look at him. The kid is a mix of Barry and Clark, a mix of good hearted love, with a dash of this hopeful naivety that people are inherently good. He believes of reformation, of rebirth after a lifetime spent in the dark. Where he came from, not even Bruce knows, from what he has found, the digging he has done Wallace Rudolph West appeared out of nowhere, a kid with metahuman abilities, just like Barry Allen, claiming to be the original speedster’s nephew. Wallace West, appearing the exact same day Barry Allen is paralyzed. A kid taking up a man’s job, much like they all start out, though he appears to have experience, appears to have something almost sad lurking behind that wide smile of his. He has taken with Dick though, the man appearing to Dick to introduce himself, much like he had with Bruce, wide and something almost desperate in his unnatural green eyes.

But he is for all tenses and purposes an ignorant kid, playing hero, or maybe not. Bruce isn’t sure.

At the very least he has never touched the insanity lurking in Gotham, a fact Bruce is more than grateful for, more than willing to keep that way.

John is a breath of fresh air. He is blunt and cool, with this marine, army strong vibe that give Bruce some peace in mind. While the others are ignorant in their mindsets, hopeful in their endeavors, John is realistic, has faced the horrors of this world and is not readily fooled by them. He is often angry, but has the self control to put the fire out when needed.

He reminds Bruce of Samuel Lane, reminds him of people he once knew.

Clark of course is radiant. The man needs friends, more, better friends than him, than a dark knight, forever trapped in the shadows of this world, needs people willing to step into the light with him, to be a symbol for everyone to see. Clark needs people willing to connect with him more, listen to him more and dedicate their time to him.

Bruce needs to focus on Gotham more.

Hawkgirl is a mystery of her own, has always been. She is a hot blooded warrior that intrigues Batman more than anything. She once mentioned she was a cop, but Hal mentioned once that Thanagarians did not have cops, not really. She held herself more military than anything else, with a touch of spy around the edges. She was most likely here to do research for her own planet, undercover to get people’s trust. He has watched her the moment that thought flickered across his mind, has studied her for any sign of distaste for them. None came, surprise more than anything. She was however, in all the time he has been in her company, found that she is falling, or has fallen for this planet’s charms. That might just be her undoing.

Like all good spies she has made the most fatal mistake- she has fallen for something she cannot keep.

In every good hero movie the villain falls, fails in their endeavor to take over the world. All the heroes, battle worn and overwhelmingly exhausted take their leave into the sunset. Superman does not learn when to let go. He latches onto this makeshift group, tries to make the Justice League a reality before it can die again. He wants something Batman, Bruce, cannot be apart of. He wants something that Bruce cannot give like he always does.

He asks what he should not. He asks and asks and by this point, Batman is six days without sleep and too little coffee, and he just wants to go back to Gotham.

He knows though.

As he shows them their new headquarters, (a watchtower in the space above, as different from Mount Justice, as far away from there as possible) he knows. He knows he will have to be apart of this, not just because Clark asks him, but the noise in his head nudges him towards it, because the music singing in the back of his head force him forward, moves his limbs and mouth before he can stop it.

He does not belong here, but he knows he is meant to be on the Justice League, knows this is his fate.

Something burns in his throat as he says, “you will call me.”

Something in him breaks the first time they do.

And years later, when he becomes accustomed with working side by side each of them that feeling of out of place never quite goes away. In many ways he still feels as lost, as drowning as he did the first day Clark ever mentioned joining a team of heroes.

 

Bruce Wayne: 27- October 26, 2009

When Dick leaves he finds a hole where his heart should be, it has been months, yet once more he feels more lonely than anything, no Harvey, no Clark, no son, just himself. He is quieter, angrier and he knows, knows he's being unfair, to everyone, to himself.

The Justice League was undoubtedly, as much as it pained him to admit, a pleasant distraction, has been when even Gotham seems too much to bear. Despite all his undying love for his city, some nights it holds too many painful memories, some nights he truly is afraid of drowning in the shadows he inhabits. It was a weakness.

He knows he should just barrel through the shadows, should push himself, shouldn't drag his focus away from his city, yet he was drawn to the league as he was Superman, attracted to the idea, cajoled out of the comfort of his home out into the world beyond, just like all those years ago when he ventured out to the big wide grasps of Europe, Asia, the middle east, when he disappeared from society like a ghost in the wind. The league and their promise of something bigger called to him in a way he could not quite explain.

Looking out from his watchtower, in the space between his people and a universe of untold secrets, was hypnotizing, it was calming in a way he was not quite familiar with. The noise quieted down to a number of whispers in the back of his head. Staring down at the Earth often left him with this longing, this unshakable loneliness. He was as content as he was restless, a paradox that often leaves him more disgruntled than anything.

The stars echoed in his ears humming a song he didn't know, he often found himself more satisfied, more himself, when he immersed himself in the music, in any music. Silence killed him more than anything nowadays. Maybe it was Dick's absence, maybe it was the fact that Clark was busy dating Lois, (not that he missed or needed the kryptonian) but he longed for something he couldn't name, couldn't touch. He lacked the control he so craved in so many different ways. He lacked everything he needed to breath and some days it was all just too much.

"My friend," he gave up correcting Jo'nn ages ago, in many ways the man was so much like Alfred it nearly startled him sometimes, sometimes. The martian found his way to Batman's side, a serene companion the dark knight found himself more and more in company with. "You are unsettled," he kept quiet letting the words wash over him.

"You should be on monitor duty," he stated, eyes calm as he looked out on a sea of infinite stars, stars that made him feel like-

Stop

"May I be of any assistance," Jo'nn lingered, near him, they understood each other in a way few recognized. Both were made heroes by tragedy, knows what it means to lose everything they love, their world, their heart- knows what it's like to pick the pieces up of themselves left intact, left in the gutter by a world that has given them no mercy, with nothing but sheer force of will, will that leaves their heart aching for something they know they’ll never have again. They understand what it means to fight, where they once thought there was nothing left to fight for. They understand loneliness, a sort of hollow companion, unwanted guest that tries to fill in the gaps where once they were filled by loves one.

Jo'nn reached for him, mind stretching out to hit his walls carefully, an offer and nothing more. It was comforting to know the martian could never read his mind, invade his thoughts unless permitted, almost like an outstretched hand, however they both knew it was something he would never allow. He couldn’t depend on another person for anything, couldn’t get use to that sort of crutch.

"That will not be necessary," he twirled on his toes, cape dancing around him in a dramatic display of confidence. He moved with grace, with a solid mindset, pushing towards the end of the hall, before his eyes settled on the Green Lantern heading their way. Hal was hunched in on himself, this kind of confidence wafting off of him, mixed with a need to protect himself, to keep himself on two solid feet.

He let his eyes narrow slightly, Hal was a strange addition to the league, however both his personal experience and John's recommendation he knew things would be fine. The man was hardly ever on earth anymore to begin with. He was a wild card though, all lightning and power. Jo'nn followed his gaze. Ever since returning Hal has been one big mess, a wreck from one day to the next, Barry's paralysis hitting him hard, the speedster’s marriage harder- it was all happening too fast for the man.

Jo'nn never got the chance to meet Barry, never got the chance to know him like the rest of them. The Martian, the new Flash (he seemed to get it thought, the connection between the two of them), Hawkgirl, and Wonder Woman never had the chance to work with Barry Allen before, nor had they worked with Hal, more importantly seen those two work together. If they had then maybe they would understand Hal’s loss, his grief, for not only his friend’s legs, but his chance at finding love with the man he’d been friends with long before Batman had the chance to meet them. They never witnessed those two’s never ending love for one another, never knew how much it meant to not only Barry and Hal, but for Bruce. He had always admired that love, so stark and vibrant humming between the two, had always in a way wanted to preserve it, but now Hal was left alone, forced to watch the one man he truly loves hold another in his arms.

"Hey Spooky," he greeted, "Manhunter," he sent a nod Jo'nn's way, eyes still on Batman, "You got a sec?"

"No," he stated as Jo'nn smirked and departed.

"Oh wait, you have some victims left waiting for you don't you?" He was leering, "didn't get enough of your true blood?"

He rolled his eyes underneath the cover of his cowl, stomping down the snort threatening to bubble up at the old joke. "I need to get back to Gotham," he stated, waiting for Hal to start the impending fight, the fight that always started between the two of them, only it didn't.

But Hal merely smiled, this slow lazy kind of smile that threw Bruce for a loop, had him going over the last encounter they had had before the Lantern had departed, going over everything between the two of them, because last time he checked Hal hated him inside and out, fully and truly, without any remorse. He waited for something to happen, for the ball to drop and Hal to punch him, for the screaming to start, for something to just happen. But nothing ever did, they just stood there staring at the other for a few seconds, both giving this sort of mutual understanding that surprisingly did not cause the world to shatter into a million pieces. Something merely just shifted in the air as Hal locked eyes with him, "let me give you a ride."

"I have a jet," he replied heading towards the plane hanger.

"Have one? No! Really? Woah, geeze, I just thought you were a fucking Deceptacon," he has this sly smile twisting his face as he follows Batman to the Batplane, “a fucking jet Deceptacon, straight out of Transformers.”

Bruce attempts to stomp down the twitch of his lips threatening to break into a smile. He walks ahead confusion clouding his senses, "I am or capable of -"

 

"Just let me take you home Bruce," It was strange, to hear his name in the tower, only Clark knew his identity. Yet Hal called him Bruce-strange, there was no weird nickname no jab, just Bruce, his name.

"Why," his voice was calm.

"You brighten my day spooky," he smiles this cheap kind of smile that reminds Bruce of Brucie, reminds him of a broken heart in a cheap disguise.

His eyes narrow impossibly more so than they already were, "Go home Lantern," he heads into the plane back turned, trying not to look back.

"To what," he asked, words freezing Bruce in his step, and he knew this was a bad idea, knew he should know better, should not listen to his heart, but his brain was doing this freakish anomaly of agreeing with his heart. "What do I have to go home to?"

Because it was true, the tower was the man's home now, being in outer space for five years has left the tower his only home, the only place of refuge. He had nothing now, nothing that was his, nothing he could call his own, just the clothes Bruce had supplied, along with necessities. He had no job, no house, no family, just himself.

He growled under his breath, "I am driving,” a huff breaking past his lips, regret already forming in the pit of his stomach.

“Ah come on Bats I haven’t handled a real jet in ages,” he gave a lighthearted mewl, making Bruce’s regret grow.

“No.”

“Too late,” as Bruce reconfigured one of the settings in the systems, the brunette slipped past him, making a home in the driver’s seat.

Bruce felt his eye twitch, tension seeping into his muscles, “out,” he growled, glare at its full intensity. “You know your batglare’s not nearly as scary as some of the shit I’ve seen now,” his smile was bright, but there was darkness there too, just a touch at the edge of his eyes.

Growling softly, once more, he moved next to the seat, “no.”

Hal:

“Awe come on Bats.”

“No.”

“Look if I drive this beauty then you can have a good thirty extra minutes of brooding into your oh so busy schedule.”

“No.”

“But that’s like a five percent increase in your paranoia levels, just picture it for a second,” he leaned back in his seat, eyes pleading with the shadowy figure besides him.

“No.”

“But it's the batplane,” Hal murmured morosely, only a jest of humor in his person. He could practically hear the annoyance radiating off the man, see a twitch in his eye. Batman hated, particularly despised the notion of his toys having bat put in front of him, much to a young Dick Grayson and his own amusement the joke had stuck with just about everyone.

“No,” the man was still as a log, tension written in his frame, yet he didn’t even seem slightly put off by his pleading, like he had only a few minutes earlier.

“Well too goddamn bad because like hell if I’m passing up this opportunity,” he snapped, starting up the engine and practically shooting out of the hangar, throwing Batman to the ground with a wicked smile. And sure he might regret this later, but he learned the hard way that at least the Bat won’t kill him. Plus he’s just spent almost five years of his life in not one but many galaxies far far away being taking out really bad guys, guys that might even shake up the big bad Bat’s boots, so really what does he really have left to lose.

He hadn’t really known Bruce, Batman sure, in a once in awhile kind of team up thing that happened with heroes, in a way that he’d known all the other heroes around town, except of course Barry and Oliver, Oliver because they’d become bros instantly and Barry because he was Barry, because he was the exception to everything, so that never really counted. He knew of Brucie of course, everyone knew of Brucie, from sleazy tabloids, but Hal knew you could never really trust those, so he’d never really, truly had solid evidence to form an opinion on the man lingering behind the cowl (plus the idea of Mr. Hardass being that carefree was completely mind fucking). He knew Batman in a way that everyone knew Batman, besides Superman of course, because Superman was Batman’s Flash- Clark was Bruce’s Barry. He knew the shadowy figure criminals feared, that set people on edge just from hearing his name. He knew the man liked to get on his ass (and not in the good way). He liked to brood and was horrifyingly OCD on just about everything, liked control more than anything probably, even his toys and gadgets. He also had a lot of pride, maybe too much in a lot of things, but it never got in the way of his so called mission. Most of all he loved Gotham, in a way that put all the heroes to shame, in a way that confused Hal, right up until the moment he’d seen those clear blue eyes peeking out from his cracked cowl, a chunk of that damning cowl blown off to reveal an actual human being, a person that threw all of Ollie’s and his theories right out the door, even the beloved pod person hypothesis. Everything they’d believed was obliterated the moment, Batman jumped in front of a blast aimed at his chest. Everything swiped from his mind come to find a child running around the Batcave like he owned the place, bright and sunny and everything Batman was not. Everything swept clean the way a fight between the two of them suddenly made him think that the big bad Bat of Gotham might actually be concerned for his well being, might actually be a cinnamon roll underneath all the hard jagged layers of rude, aristocratic, arrogant, asshole, son of a bitch mess that Hal had so accustomed to labeling him as.

 

He’d never really got to explore that notion, too caught up in Barry and being a hero and living, and being friends, or trying to, with Carol. He got called off to duty across the galaxy, never able to test his new child friendly theory. For some reason it bugged him, like happiness bugs a sith lord, that he’d never known Batman, Bruce, not truly, not really in all the ways that mattered. Now it could just be all the strange alien food he’s been trying to digest, but it undeniably hurt, not in the same way that leaving Barry had, but in a way that felt more like failure than anything else, like he was missing out on something that mattered, that was supposed to mean something to him.

And coming back, to all this, to his home, his nonexistent life, to a life without Barry zipping around by his side, without the possibility of Barry loving him back, broke something inside of him, the part he’d managed to keep safe from the evil out there in the universe, out of reach from all the fear and darkness that had engulfed him for too long. Everything was gone. Carol and Tom moved on, a Justice League formed with all these strange new heroes. Flash was now some kid, claiming to be Barry’s nephew, someone he didn’t even know about, for christ’s sake. Superman was more than an arm’s length from the Dark Knight and dating that reporter woman who gets thrown off buildings every other week. There was this new Green Lantern he’d only met when fighting him as a yellow lantern, which is rather awkward now, a martian was here just quietly watching things, a smoking hot Amazon princess, and a Thanagarian all thrown into the mix. But Batman, though more elusive than ever, was somehow still the same, despite it all, he was still strong and infallible in even the worst scenarios. He was the same man Hal knew, seeming untouched by time. It was all foreign, more foreign than being lost in the stars, but somehow Batman was the only familiar thing left. Hell, even Oliver seemed different, more reserved, darker it seemed. Whatever had happened while he was gone had left a mark, one he wasn’t sure he liked on the world he called home.

Looking over to see a very disgruntled Batman he let a sigh escape his lips, let the split second moment that redefined everything once more take ahold. A spontaneous decision to talk to the Bat of Hell, then to ask to go home with him, was just another bad idea to add to his already growing list of fuck ups, yet a door was open, held wide and inviting at the opportunity before him. He couldn’t fix his life right now, couldn’t go back in time to when this was all still what he was comfortable with, he could however do this, do the one thing he regretted not doing when he had the chance. He could figure out the puzzle that was the Batman, find the man beneath it, and hope it's not as horrifying as Ollie and he originally thought it to be.

Still the knot in his stomach refused to leave, to scurry away as he filled in the space between them, between a shadow and a light, between a man he can’t say he’s ever truly been fond of but somehow was still attached to. He filled in the space, soaking up everything he was allowed to see and more, lighting up the dark reaches of the cave Batman called home, and roaming through shadow engulfed hallways of the travesty that is Wayne Manor. He felt like a detective on a mission, not a good one of course, but a decent one.

And that’s how it happened- how Hal Jordan made friends with Bruce freaking Wayne. There was no big show, no time altering fight, no Earth shattering screaming matches to write down in history books. He just started showing up at the cave and then the Manor. He didn’t put the ring on, kept it in his pocket most of the time, needing a vacation from the craziness of his life, from the shit show that’s been his every breath for the years, thankfully, behind.

Now it’s not all rainbows and sunshine, because he is Hal Jordan and Bruce Wayne acts more like Batman than he’d like. They clashed and argued, yelled and threw things, said words they shouldn’t have, put blame where blame didn’t belong, but they’d made something of a friends, not that Hal would ever call them that, as their relationship was more fighting than anything, though seeing as neither of them had much of those these days it might not hurt to give the label a try. Because it was comfortable, and easy, and Hal missed this, the quick fire banter, liked the way it distracted him from the pain of no Barry, no Ollie, no anything.

It was nice to have something steady while he was rebuilding his life, slowly, but neatly. He’d gotten a job, only thanks to Batman giving him a cover for all these years (that had been an argument to remember) got an apartment back in Coast City (it was shit but it was something), and slowly got back into the run of things, testing his limits and finding his center.

Then Jason happened.

He’d sauntered into the Cave one night in April, only to find a kid, more teenager than anything, sitting on one of the consoles talking with more angst and general annoyance for the world than he’s been exposed to in a long time.

With the kid came a new side of Bruce, a fatherly/motherly kind of parent side that Hal had only ever seen glimpses of when Dick was younger, but it was different, because Jason wasn’t exactly a child. He was a teenager, a whole new ballpark that had been unexplored from Hal’s point of view. From what’s he’s heard and seen Dick wasn’t exactly in the picture anymore. He’d gone off to Bludhaven after a huge brawl with Bruce, had fled to make himself his own man. But now Hal got a look at that side of Bruce. He seemed to genuinely like to be around Jason, though they clashed. It could be Jason was sometimes too much like Hal, in that he was an in the moment kind of kid, easy to anger, and quick to action, but he also grew up on the streets, knew his way around, like Hal. Hal understood him, got along with him in a way that was similar to how the Green Lantern got along with Jason’s mentor.

They fought like there was some award to win, like it was some sort of sport, argued in that teenage angsty ‘I hate my parent,’ vibe that sometimes, though he’ll never admit it, made him laugh more times than not, because seeing Batman, the Dark Knight, clad in black kevlar armor tell Robin that he can not fight crime because he didn’t put his undergarments in their proper place was too ridiculous. They fought in that desperate ‘please be proud of me’ kind of way that Hal understood better than anything in the universe. And that was just the first month of the two of them together, by the time four months hit, Hal had no idea how any of them were even still breathing, much less how the world continued to function.

But at the end of the day Bruce cared for Jason, may even love him. Hal knew he loved the kid, but Bruce was difficult to read. He wasn’t even sure if Bruce even liked him half the time, the only consolation was the fact that the man hadn’t barricaded him from the cave.

Jason seemed to bring out a brighter side to Bruce that Hal hadn’t thought was there before, like Dick had in ways, but the two were too different from each other in both personalities and what they made shine in their mentor. Dick loved everyone, everything, he got along with Hal (at least Hal thinks they do...hopes), was kind of easy going, smart, and charming in all the ways that counted. But he’d always idolized Superman, was still apparently close to Clark, if Hal was correct. From what he’s pieced together, thanks mostly to Alfred and Batgirl, that after running off to a sidekick group called the Titans, he’d come home and then run off to live with Clark in Metropolis at 16. Bruce of course did his thing, pretended not to care and let Dick grow on his own, get his life under control.

Jason though, Jason didn’t really take to anyone, except Diana, but that was more in a way that was inappropriate, but understandable for any respectable teenager. He didn’t even appear to have many friends. Somehow though, Jason was attached to him, maybe because he’d always been there, has stuck around, constantly in his life since he’d met him in the cave that first night. Hal’s not really sure, but he did get used to finding the kid on his sofa at random intervals in time, like Roy used to do. So he did like he used to do then.

He left sticky notes around his apartment, little notes here and there for the kid to know when he’d be home or where certain things were in the house. Sometimes he’d even put these little quotes he’d found online when he already knew what the problem was, just to take care of things before he’d have to get involved himself and face the wrath of what Jason and he had started calling Daddy bats mode.

And that’s how he really got a look at the protectiveness in Bruce, the almost desperate way he tried to hold everything he cared about close to him, tried to keep it from harm in a way that reflected a deeper pain in those icy blue eyes.

“You need to talk to him,” the man had stated one night, all dark and mysterious, all deep shadows and skillful movements. But the sentence threw him off of his ten amazing comebacks to what he had been so sure another fight about to break out, or at least good bantering session. Instead however the man just cut straight through Hal, hitting him right where he knew it’d hurt the most.

“Oh god, Batman trying to give me relationship advice,” Hal rolled his eyes, trying to hide the pain in his chest, “things really must look bad.” He glanced up at the ceiling, a lazy smile stretching across his face, “But don’t worry Spooky I’ve got everything covered in that department, completely A- okay.”

He narrowed his, the lenses of his almost completely disappearing, “he needs you.”

“Thanks for the advice,” he’d snapped, eyes flaring with this deep set rage, “but I don’t need you to give me relationship advice.

“I am aware that this may be emotionally taxing that it is not something you would wish to do, however you have an obligation to Barry, you have an obligation to the hero he once was to speak to him for more than five minutes. For all he thinks his best friend, a man he would sacrifice everything for has thrown him aside the minute he has become useless on field.” Blue eyes were cold, hard and staring straight into his soul, tracking his every movement and he leaned back in his chair.

“How dare you,” he snapped, on his feet and yelling before he could think like always, before he could do anything else, but burn angry and strong, “who the fuck are you to tell me what I think about the only person that has ever mattered to me. Who the fuck are you to tell anyone how they feel when you can’t even do that, when you can’t even be a decent human being for ten seconds, when you can’t even tell what you own damn kids feel.” He keeps going, laying out all his anger on the person who’s done nothing but be there for him, but be helpful and as nice as he can. “You must really have some balls, for a machine like you to talk to me about feelings when the last time you actually felt something was when your parents were still alive.” He keeps going because he needs to vent, needs someone to take all this pent up rage on.

“Who are you to talk about feelings when the closest thing you’ve ever come to a real relationship are a bunch of one night stands with a bunch of random cheap, floozy girls that just use you for the money and fame.”

The punch is expected, or maybe not, because Bruce hasn’t ever punched him before, and Hal’s pretty sure he’s said worse to the man, pretty sure he’s said a lot worse, but they hadn’t exactly been friends then, hadn’t been more than people who clashed whenever they even so much as looked at the other. The punch throws him off, because Bruce, for all his qualms, and rude arrogant self, he never punched an alley before, at least not one that he’s seen.

And for some reason the punch cuts more than anything the man has ever said to him, hurts more than it should have.

He leaves, flies out of the cave and doesn’t come back for weeks.

But when he does, for a case he begrudgingly needs the Bat’s help on, the door to the cave is open to him, and Bruce doesn’t talk about what happened, doesn’t even seemed fazed by the incident, merely avoids it, and Hal’s okay with that for once, doesn’t mention it either.

They don’t mention Barry much after that, Bruce tries a few times, but Hal shuts him down, ignores the way it burns to hear Barry’s name, ignores the way something in him breaks everytime he sees Iris on television and keeps going, just tries to keep going.

 

 

Bruce Wayne: 28- January 28, 2011

Falling into bed after a hard long day of fighting off businessmen and criminals should not be this difficult, he thinks duly. It should feel like a comfort, but the buzzing is louder tonight, has been progressively been getting louder as the days pass, the low hum never quite leaving, however, more like someone was constantly talking into his ears now, chattering away, loud and clear and bright. Sighing up towards his ceiling, he let his eyes close, let them shut, let himself focus on tuning out the unknown hum zipping around in his head, tried to find his center, find some peace.

Joker was out, somewhere off causing trouble. Two- face was out, an old burn. Dollface was missing, probably where ever Croc has holed himself up for the last five months. The others would be out, sooner or later, ready to start the cycle all over again.

It was useless, this unending cycle. This chain of give and take with the villains, of pushing and being pushed.

The noise got louder, too sure, too bold to ignore. The buzzing was there, just as it has been there a week before that fateful night when he was eight years old. A whole week, of knowing something was off, but never being able to do something about it, too caught up with the excitement of finally getting to go out with his parents, of finally getting to spend time with them, before his father was back in the hospital saving lives, and his mom was off on another business trip to help kids in another country, and him all alone is a gigantic manor, no friends to keep him busy, just a butler struggling to be friends with a strange lonely child. He was then, just a kid with a bigger mind than he knew what to do with, and too much time.

A whole week of knowing something was wrong, and being too selfish to say anything.

Breathing deeply he let his mind wander into it, let himself go for just a second, something he has refused to do again since he was nineteen, young and foolish, and so sure things were never going to be okay again.

He should be dead. The thought spoke out, curling around his mind, tugging him close to the thought. He should have died in that alley.

He should be dead.

Dead.

He should be dead.

He did not belong here, not in this house, in these clothes, in this skin with this beating heart.

Pressure rose in his chest, his eyes snapping open, as a real life buzzing shook his brain from something he did not want to think about, did not want to focus on. He let out a heavy breath, turning on a soft expensive mattress, towards his expensive phone, and unlocked it with the code he always uses 91939.

It is a text from Clark, someone he has not heard of in months, -three years, two months, one day, twenty four minutes, and nineteen seconds, his brain supplied- not like this anyway, so informal, out of costume. What does he want?

The text itself is simple, with all the boy scout’s optimism, and cool nature.
HEY BRUCE, LONG TIME NO SEE! I’M SORRY IT BEEN AWHILE, BUT I HAVE EXCITING NEWS. I ASKED LOIS TO MARRY ME! I JUST WANTED TO KNOW IF YOU WOULD BE WILLING TO ME THE HONOR OF BEING MY BEST MAN? I KNOW IT’S LATE BUT I WAS JUST REALLY OVERWHELMED. LET ME KNOW YOUR ANSWER SOON PLEASE!

Beneath those words held picture after picture of months of photos, photos that would have only given him a slow torture, these however came all at once, a huge sock in the gut.

He should be happy.

They were smiling, Clark with his arms around Lois, shiny simple ring glistening on her ring finger.
He should congratulate the man.

Lois was shielding her face from the camera, dressed in only one of Clark’s old flannels, one that Bruce remember borrowing once, a long time ago, back when they had a semi-normal relation-- friendship, thing?

He should say he would be delighted to be Clark’s best man.

Clark was kissing Lois on the cheek, both their eyes smiling in a way that reminded Bruce of his parents, more than anything.

He should text Lois, let her know he was proud of her. Let her father know he would willingly go to the wedding.

He scrolls and scrolls, looking at picture after picture, wondering why the hell he cares so damn much, wondering why any of this really matters, he should ignore it all. He has supervillians to catch anyway.

He scrolls and scrolls under the cover of fading moonlight, well aware in a four hours he will need to get up and get dressed.

He scrolls and scrolls until he only has three hours left and something in his chest still does not feel quite right.

He scrolls and scrolls until it is two and half, lips tilting downwards only slightly, features struggling to stay smooth.

Instead he breathes in deep.

YOU SHOULD ASK OLSEN.

He rests it on his chest, eyes falling shut, brows almost colliding with each other. He lets out a shaky breath.

It chimes, slightly muffled by his chest, and Bruce has to struggle to look at the next message.

I CAN HAVE MORE THAN ONE BEST MAN. AND I WANT YOU TO BE ONE OF THEM. I KNOW IT HASN’T FELT LIKE IT IN AWHILE, BUT YOU WILL ALWAYS BE MY BEST FRIEND.

WHEN?

The phone chimes back almost immediately.

WE WERE THINKING ABOUT A CHRISTMAS WEDDING, WHAT DO YOU THINK?????!!!!

His lips tilt up slightly, wavering, and he hates it, hates how easily Clark is to read, to know. To, to lo--

It is just like Clark to throw his wedding on Christmas, Bruce should be glad it wasn’t Valentine’s day

SOUNDS CHEESY FARMBOY.

HEY IT’S ROMANTIC!!!! :((((( UNLIKE YOU I LOVE ROMANCE, IT MAKES LIFE WORTH LIVING, MAKES THINGS SEEM BETTER THAN THEY CAN BE SOMETIMES, REMINDS US WHAT WE ARE FIGHTING FOR.

CHEESY LIKE YOU.

PLEASE YOU LOVE IT ABOUT ME :)

ANNOYED.

SO IS THAT A YES???? >,

IT IS A MAYBE

IT IS A YES!!!!!! I KNEW I COULD COUNT ON YOU!!!!!! I’LL LET DICK AND ALFRED KNOW, THIS WILL BE AMAZING!!!! I’LL CALL YOU, AND WE CAN SET UP A DAY TO MEET SO WE CAN DISCUSS THIS MORE. THANK YOU AGAIN!!!!!!!! WELL I HAVE TO GO TO WORK, SEE YOU SOON!!!!! LOIS SAYS HI BTW :))))))))

Growling under his breath, he let his head hit his pillow, as he tossed the phone aside, a deeper breath exhaling from his chapped lips, looking up to his dark ceiling, looming over him. He closed his eyes, falling into a sleepless slumber, one of monsters among men.

 

Hal Jordan: 35- February 6, 2011

And of course, right when he thought he had all of this figured out, when he’d settled down, gotten comfortable, thought he’d finally somewhat understood the man behind the cowl, everything he’d known was obliterated before his eyes once more. The bastard threw a whole new set of what the fuck is his life at him.

It started out as a glimpse, just something he’d noticed over the several months he’d been hanging around Bruce, just a small amount of skin here or there, where the scars slowly peaked out behind the confines of clothes, or when Bruce was injured. The scars didn’t matter, well they mattered, but they were a part of the job, a part of Bruce, which Hal had accepted long before coming back, but it was just two particular ones that held his interest, two on his wrists, thick and ugly, and usually so carefully hidden underneath turtlenecks and button up clothing that costs ten times more than anything Hal’s ever owned.

At first he’d dismissed them, as simple scars made by too tight cuffs, by something that had chained Bruce up. But there were these quirks about Bruce that he took notice to too, like how sometimes he seemed almost depressed if he looked close enough, or too angry for no reason at all. There were those little things, like when Jason and he would talk animately in the living room and Bruce’s eyes would linger too long on the giant portrait of his deceased parents, of people who Hal had never met, of people who passed before Hal even had the chance to know them. He wondered briefly how they died, how it happened, some natural accident, some assassination attempt, or a robbery gone wrong. He never asked, never looked it up, wanted Bruce to tell him for some reason, wanted, well he’s not quite sure what he wanted.

There would be a fleeting thought, just a touch in the back of his mind, just a gut feeling like the one that drove him to Bruce in the first place. Something that said Bruce would understand him, that he would understand Bruce. He’s not sure how that’s possible, they come from two very different worlds, and Batman would only chastise him for a lot of the shit he’d seen and done in his childhood. Bruce would never understand his side of the world, the streets, growing up wondering where his next meal would come from, if Amber would pay the electric bill, the water bill, or if she’d just forget again, if she’d just slump back in her chair, hair messy, smelling of more drugs than he could identify and sweat distilled liquor. Bruce wouldn’t understand that, he wouldn’t understand addiction, a craving for silence so strong he’d use anything to find release. Bruce wouldn’t understand that kind of life, maybe from an objective stance, but never from the inside out.

Jason had only barely managed to crawl his way out of that kind of life, barely by the skin of his teeth and Bruce’s generosity. Jason understood though, in a way most of the people in his life never would, he got it. They never spoke about, but it was a quiet understanding between them, a look of the eyes, a stain on the soul that never quite gets out.

It was a warm day at Wayne Manor. Big white cotton candy clouds floated in the sky, whispering good fortunes on the house and its residents. A bright sun glimmering from high above sang down to the Earth, bursts of joy murmuring in the trees, melting with the breeze.

Jason was buzzing through the house, ready and raring to go, just a ball of electricity bouncing from one wall to the ceiling so quickly Hal wasn’t sure how Bruce was keeping up with him, the man calmly pulling the boy back to the ground, a smile flickering on and off his features in a way that fascinated Hal more than anything else.

“Jason Peter Todd, get off that chandelier this instant,” Bruce growled, voice tinged with humor, distilled with the almost suffocating joy sizzling in the air around them.

“But Bruce,” Jason sagged, long suffering sigh diffusing from his lips, “the Superbowl is today!” He jumped down, flipping in the air like nothing Hal’s seen, landing perfectly, smile stretching wider, “And you’re gonna miss it old man.”

Bruce had indeed gotten the customary Superbowl tickets he usually gets, but he was never a big sports fan, neither had been Dick, so usually they went unused, but Hal and Jason, they were die hard fans, completely in love with football. Bruce never quite understood the fascination of it, from a strategic standpoint it could be useful, but it never quite grabbed Bruce’s attention like it had theirs. So he’d let them go together. They were going to make the most of it too, hot dogs and everything. Then they were going to crash at Hal’s place watch a couple movies, before driving back up to Gotham. It would be a nice little vacation for the two of them, just to get away for a day, just relax and have some much needed fun.

Bruce scrunched his nose at them, eyes still dancing on Jason, “well then I am sure you will most indeed have a splendid time,” and there it was again that kind of slanted strange kind of humor that made Hal want to just bust a gut, not because it was funny, more ridiculous than anything.

But Jason was happy.

No, the boy was ecstatic.

And to Bruce that was all that mattered.

“We sure are, right Hal,” Jason threw a hand in the air, green eyes alit in a way Hal’s not quite sure he’s seen them before.

“Got that right pal,” He laughed loud and clear and like nothing he’s felt in a long time. Moving slightly he put his arm around the kid’s shoulders, man he was growing too, almost as tall as the two of them, still a ways off, but closer than he had been when he first arrived.

“Well good luck,” Bruce shrugged, tossing a pair of keys towards Hal, “just bring the car back in one piece.”

“Sure,” Hal shrugged, “we’ll see you tomorrow.” He moved to wave, but stopped, suddenly engulfed in the need to hug Bruce, to do something, there was a pit in his stomach that churned like spoiled milk, a call to action he didn’t know how to submit to.

He shrugged it off, waving lightly, as Jason threw a quick wave at Bruce as well, murmuring a quick, “thank you,” before taking off.

Hal laughed loud and clear as Jason dragged him out of the house, speeding up to race out in front of him, eyes bright as he bounced ahead, laughter filling the air.

The day had gone better than they could have imagined, having run into Oliver and Roy their time was filled to the brim with laughter and strange jokes, as they tried to cover the angst and tension between the two Arrows, no one mentioned the fact that Roy sat by Jason, and as far from Oliver as possible. A light banter flowed between the four of them. Plus for Hal it was kind of nice to see the archer again, it’d been too long, maybe Bruce was right, maybe it was time to start getting back into the swing of things, start meeting up with old faces.

Of course Jason was the one to mention it. He wanted to go home, wanted to tell Bruce all about their day, rant about Jason’s favorite team winning. He wanted to watch movies with his dad, and who was Hal to deny him that? Plus Alfred was out of town, so Bruce was probably just sulking around in the cave, so why not bring some joy to the overworked bat. Loading the car saying goodbye, and enjoying the victory ride back to the manor they let that joy simmer between, let this rare moment settle into their bones, warm them to its core.

Like they’d expected the manor was quiet, but no one was in the cave and the car was still parked. It was strange, weird to find the place dead, an eerie kind of dread settling over them, crawling up their skin.

“Okay,” Jason murmured, eyes darting over the cave as the ascended the stairs, “he’s either in the study or his room. I’ll check the room, you get the study.” He left before Hal could answer, could even pop in a joke, but that didn’t really matter. It didn’t matter until it was too late.

He’d never been in the study before that day, it was Bruce’s room, one that few people got access to, very rarely did anyone but Bruce go in, even his kids. It was just one of those things, Bruce needed space like a fish needs water, he craved it, like man craves truth. But it was strange to enter, hard even, but awesome to say the least, because he was defiling one of Bruce’s unspoken rules, which was by far one of his favorite pass times, right next to stealing Bruce’s food and Football.

Needless to say no one was in the study, but the place was a mess, books thrown about here and there, papers ripped up. But that wasn’t what caught his eye, the drawings on the floor did. The beautiful, masterful, attentive portraits thrown about here and there. Particularly the one of himself, a lazy smile plastered across his own features. Searching further there’s a quick sketch of himself and Jason asleep on the couch. There’s another of Wally in his Flash costume spilling coffee on Hawkgirl’s wings, and more, little snippets of Bruce’s life drawn out for him to see. Portraits of every one of the people important to him, and people Hal’s never seen before. It's all so surreal, so strangely magnificent he’s not quite sure how long he spends just staring at the images in front of him.

It’s a scream that tears him away from the art thrown to the floor, it’s a scream that sends him flying up the stairs and to Jason.

It’s blood that has Hal gripping Jason by the shoulders and hauling him out of the red stained bathroom, pushing him out the door and onto Bruce’s bed, ordering him to call Leslie and Alfred immediately, to stay calm, trying to reassure a kid that his dad wasn’t going to die that everything was going to be okay if he’ll just do what Hal says.

He’s on his feet before he can stop himself, finding a medkit in the hallway where it's always kept and shooting back to the bathroom faster than he’s ever gone before in his life. He’s slamming the door shut behind him, trying to shield Jason as much as possible.

It looks like a massacre, crimson flooding over white, the bathtub a crime scene Hal never wanted to see. He climbs in trying to slap hasty bandages over the wounds on the man’s wrists, trying to stop the bleeding, and do some damage control until Leslie gets here, until she can fix this.

“Are you hurt anywhere else,” he demands more than asks, eyes locked on Bruce, who doesn’t move, barely breathes, just kind of stares distantly ahead of him, mind far away.

“Bruce,” he whispers, shaking him slightly, but he’s not talking and that worries Hal, really it does, those glassy eyes worry Hal. Breathing out he begins searching, stripping the man in front of him just to be sure, removing the bloodstains white button down and damp, sticky trousers, to reveal scarred flesh, to find a couple cuts on his thighs, nothing major, nothing life threatening on his thighs, but the man’s wrists are still scaring him shitless.

He’s got it mostly covered and the blood flow stopped when he sees it, a flash of light. Everything slows as his fingers find Bruce’s, hand curling around the small blade held tightly in a death grip. He manages to pry it from those pale lean fingers, trying not to startle the man in front of him. He manages to get it across the room, flying up a little to set it on a shelf out of Bruce’s reach.

Hal sat down across from him, lips filed down into a straight line, eyes ghosting over his shivering frame, eyes for the first time seeing straight through him, gazing into the very core of his entire being, straight into his soul. He picked him up, the man lifting Bruce, all hard muscles and scars off of the cold tiled floor, brows knitting together, as he carefully set Gotham’s dark knight on the side of a bathtub, worth more than his entire apartment complex, finding a towel lying around byu the tub, untouched by the red liquid life bubbling around them and drags it over Bruce, lets it settle on his shoulders to be that shield he so craves, lets it stand against him and the world, before letting out a breath.

For once he doesn’t speak, just focuses on the moment, focuses on getting Bruce cleaned up, on keeping him calm, on keeping himself calm. He is more aware than ever that Jason is right outside that door, angry and scared. He knows this is something he will never forget, never scrub from his brain. He knows the kid doesn’t understand, won’t for a long time.

He just prays it didn’t leave a lasting impression, some sort of idea pressed into his mind as a good idea, because this is anything but a good idea, this is anything, but something a kid should see. His hand absently runs through those silky black locks he’s had his eyes on for months, finding them softer than he ever imagined, finds the motion stirs something in Bruce finally. The reaction though is different from what he pictured Bruce would do, should Hal ever get the guts to comb through that ebony smooth hair. The man leans towards his hand, doesn’t pull away or growl, simply sighs, a soft puff of air, tension practically oozing off of his muscles.

And for the first time Hal thinks back on all their encounters for something he’d never thought of before. He looked for the last time he’d ever seen someone actually touch Bruce in any way that wasn’t either violent , accidental, or for the purposes of medical attention. He wondered when Bruce had become untouchable, so alone in a crowd. When Bruce had managed to isolate himself so resolutely from society, from the people around him that he made himself untouchable, unreachable. Hal wondered when it happened, how it had happened, whether it was something Bruce thought he wanted, or if people had just started making assumptions and working from there.

He doesn’t know, isn’t sure he wants to know, just knows that Bruce needs him, needs him now more than ever. Needs someone. He needs Alfred, needs some sort of professional help, someone with a better idea of what the hell they were doing.

He kept the motion up, hand smoothing through Bruce’s hair, as he coaxed the man into standing, Hal’s hands firmly around his waist, eyes trying not to look down, trying not to see the mess Bruce had made of himself, of his life, of everything he’d built. They worked their way onto the toilet, those haunted crystal blue eyes darkened by flecks of grey, a stormy mirror of the man’s whole being, a peek into what was lurking in his mind. Other than his eyes though, there was nothing, nothing that would even hint at what he was thinking, just glassy distant eyes, tense frame, just so much Batman trying to smother the man bleeding out on the inside, the man in so much pain he would do whatever it took to keep focus, keep numb.

Hal let his fingers dance across that perfect face, that beautiful unmarred face, clasping the man’s neck and bringing him forward, leaning in until their foreheads touched, until Bruce could do nothing but look him in the eyes as he whispered in a voice he did not recognize, “it’s going to be okay,” he felt hollowed out, as if his gut was ripped from his chest, “it’s going to be okay.”

He wasn’t sure though, wasn’t sure at all.

“You’re going to be fine.”

As if repeating it made it all true.

“You’re going to be fine.”

He hated how it tasted like a lie, all cotton ash on his tongue.

“We’ll figure this out.”

He hated this whole situation.

He hated how useless he felt, how Bruce just kept slipping further away from him, with every step he took closer to him.

He hated how the world pushed a good man to this.

He hated how much everything has changed.

He wishes he could go back, back to when he never knew, to when it was just him and Barry against the world, back to him and Ollie carelessly ordering pizza and watching football, back to his shit fest life where this kind of thing didn’t happen, back to when Batman was only Batman- infallible and intangible.

Only he didn’t.

He liked this life, liked how it was all going right now, how utterly loved he felt here, how perfect it’d all felt a few minutes ago, rocky, but their kind of rocky. He liked being here at the manor with Bruce and Jason, hell even Alfred was amazing.

He liked it here.

He loved his life right now.

Why was this so hard?

He didn’t know when he’d closed his eyes, or when the tears had started to fall, or when he’d started to whisper angry insults at the man before him.

“You stupid, idiot”

“Stupid asshole.”

He’s not sure when he started clinging to him, dragging the man practically onto his lap on the cold bathroom floor, but somehow he had.

“You son of a bitch,” he breathed, pulling Bruce closer, feeling the man’s hands clasp onto his shirt, not throwing him off, but keeping him close. Bruce didn’t cry, just clung to him, as if Hal was going to personally drag him from whatever hell he was living in. Bruce just gripped him tighter, looking for something Hal wasn’t sure he could give, but finding it in himself to shove towards Bruce anyway, because Bruce didn’t deserve this.

They’d fix him, build him back up from cells up if they had to. They would for Bruce. He would.

There was a knock at the door, firm and steady. Leslie was here, thank god she was here. She was here to start to fixing, start with the physical healing, then they can focus on whatever caused this.

Prying himself from the billionaire might have been one of the hardest things he’s ever had to do, but somehow he managed, managed to tear himself off along with only chunks of his heart still intact, dignity somewhere on the floor beside them, pride in the bathtub. He wiped away the tears, tried to look like he hadn’t just cried for the first time in a long time and looked at Bruce. He looked at the wide stormy eyes staring up at him so purely dark yet clinical that it almost broke him again. Bruce honestly looked like he always looked when it came to human confrontations and emotions, confused, as if he just couldn’t understand what everyone else around him was doing, as if people in general just surprised him time and time again by the sentiment they put into their everyday lives, like it scared him to get too close to the human side of himself.

“You know spooky,” He started, combing his hands through those amazing locks once more, “emotions won’t set you on fire.”

“How do you know,” he mumbled, eyes going distant in a way that tore something else in him, that flipped his gut once more.

“I’m going to let Leslie in okay, she’s going to fix you up,” he murmured, pressing a gentle kiss to the man’s head, before opening the door.

Leslie wasn’t gentle, she didn’t seem capable of gentle at the moment, throwing a thick blanket around the man’s shoulders, as a quiet rage simmering under the flimsy recesses of her skin, but she was efficient. She sent him away quickly, shooing him off upon noticing his lingering, the door almost slamming behind him.

Jason was, to say the least, a disaster. The boy demanded answers, some Hal just couldn’t give, others Hal didn’t want to give, but gave anyway because he needed to know, needed the truth.

It was a cold night at Wayne Manor. Storm clouds dusted the sky, big and intimidating, large and foreboding in a way that spoke only of doom. The lightning in the air sang an ominous tune, everything singing a melancholic melody, it’s dark vibrations almost engulfing Gotham whole.

Hal stayed with Bruce that night, Jason stayed with Bruce that night, both of them keeping a watchful eye on him, as Leslie went downstairs to wait for Alfred. Hal watched as Leslie redressed Bruce, before heading down, her stern eyes making it clear she wasn’t playing, swatching his hands as they reached for long sleeves and sweats, “No,” she growled, eyes flashing, “you are going to look at what you did,” there were tears in her eyes, “you are going to see what you did, not just to yourself, but to your family,” then proceeded to practically shove him, with Hal’s help and Jason’s watchful gaze into a short sleeved graphic tee and boxers.“

And like in the bathroom, Bruce said nothing, made no move to defend himself, or qualify himself, in fact he actually looked somewhat confused at some points, little flashes here and there of pure confusion. Almost as if he couldn’t remember slicing his own wrists, not just once, but practically hacked away at them. If Jason hadn’t of gotten there when he did, there could have been serious nerve damage, he could have hit an artery, he would be dead,

Bruce stuffed himself in bed, automatically going at the billions of pillows on the biggest mattresses Hal’s ever seen and building a little fort out of them, building a barrier between himself and world around him. Hal was almost tempted to kick it down, because this kind of shit was done, over and out in his book. But he at least had a small sense of what not to do after this kind of incident, and ruining their coping mechanisms certainly wasn’t one of them. Taking Jason’s hand he tugged the boy to his feet, off the chair to his right and towards the bed, towards Bruce. Jason didn’t really take kindly to this though, choosing more to huff and growl, but he didn’t need much coaxing, this was his mentor. He worked slowly, trying to go against his nature and make way to Bruce calmly, but he was Hal and Jason was Jason. Calm and patience wasn’t really their forte. They slid into Bruce’s little world, trying to show him, he wasn’t allowed to be alone anymore without outright ordering it,because that would just lead to another argument, which now that the two of them thought about it, sounded actually really nice, like heaven compared to the stone wall of silence.

They pushed into Bruce’s space, one on each side, tucking the man into the space between them, Jason more hurt than anything, but craving a way to help, and Hal just not knowing what the hell happened to his life.

But somehow he knew that they’d be alright. Alfred brought them cocoa because he was a god, and sat off to the side with a book, studiously keeping watch and them just a mess of tangled limbs.

In that moment, as his eyes fluttered shut, his body smothered in warmth, he knew they’d be alright, that at least they had each other, at least they had people who could help them, who could find a way to fix this.

Bruce Wayne: February 6, 2011

The day was going pretty well, Jason and Hal off to the Superbowl, Alfred on Vacation. Things were going pretty well, everything going exactly as it should. Dick even called the day before, happy and sure. Things were good at home, for once.

In the street, well...Two-face was finally put away, as well as Nigma and Scarecrow, but Ivy was out again, and Joker has yet to appear. Which ultimately boded unwell for Gotham and its Dark Knight.

He breathed out, the last couple of days has been hell for the league as well, with everyone recovering from the Dr. Destiny incident, scrambling to regain themselves, well they were trying. The man, John, had let his hunger for power, his love blind him to what he should do, had ultimately fried his brain him in the process. Flash was pretty messed up, Superman already healing, John headstrong, Hawkgirl was probably the worst off, never quite having someone to help her deal with the incident, and refusing to actually talk about it.

It was interesting that J’onn however could not reach Hawkgirl via telepathy. It was a fact that intrigued him to no ends. He noted it on her file, as he headed upstairs. He had a couple hours before he needed to head down to the cave, so he could probably get a few good hours of drawing in, most of the paperwork for the board meeting tomorrow was finished, and he didn’t really get to draw much, so he should probably take this chance while he has it.

The room was cosy, the study was always nice, warming to him. It was a space he could call his and his alone, a space he could feel free to relax, let his guard down, even if only for a moment.

Thirty minutes went by, of calamity, of the soothing stitch of pencil to paper, of characters coming to life before his eyes, before it happened. Before an itch set in. Before the buzzing started hissing in his ear, wailing like nails marking down a chalkboard, like those roots off of Harry Potter, only inside his head.

The buzzing was back, louder than it had been a week ago, now screaming in his brain. He had been able to ignore it this morning, but now, now, it consumed, now it ate his brain away, setting fire to nerve endings, pushing him to the ground.

He couldn’t hold it back, could only be absorbed by its brilliance, its intensity.

You should be dead it whispered.

Somewhere out there someone you love is getting hurt, it jibed.

You do not belong here it snapped, coiling with anger, steaming with untrust, distaste.

It pushed his brain to the limit, had him reeling over, grappling for a trashcan as bile and vomit bubbled up from his throat, pushing past soft lips. It pushed memories forward, things forward he did not remember, but saw himself there anyway. It had him shaking and trembling, curling in on himself before he knew what was happening.

Experiences and places, a litany of memories surging forward, things he could not quite recall, but logically knew they took place. They rushed forward, sending him to his knees, body humming, bones melting, brain sloshing around in his skull, everything forcing him to look, to bear witness to the fragmented scenes zipping before his eyes. Forcing him to relive, review, rethink, every second, every thought, every breath until it was all too much, until all he could do was scream out in a silent agony, call for Alfred, and Hal, and Clark- reach out for someone to take it all away, to rip the memories from his mind.

Then he was on his hands and knees.

Then he was in Taiwan, then Moscow, then Afghanistan, then Korea, then Italy, then London, then Bulgaria, then Rio, then Siberia, then, then, then….

Then all he could hear was gunshots, harsh metallic ring echoing through the night sky, all he could feel was a hot blazing sun lurching down upon cracked dry skin, all he could see were ghosts of the past rippling in and out of view, dancing in a perfect symphony of should haves, and would haves, and mistakes still engraved into his bones.

Then all he could feel was Henri Ducard’s body, heavy and cold in his arms, he could feel his parents bodies next to him, all he could taste was blood as if filled his senses, all he could hear were pearls scattering across broken sidewalks, blood on his cheek, blood on his shirt, burnt blown off pieces of his mother staining his skin, brain matter sinking into his lips.

Then he was in some back town village in Africa, war and guns the only language these people seemed to know, he was lost and all he could see were cots made into hospital beds, dying men screaming out for a god Bruce knew would not come.

Then there was Jason, his voice ringing out through the darkness, his screams dragging Bruce back, until all Bruce knew was that Jason needed him, that Jason was hurt and Jason was in danger, and he was needed. He was needed.

Blink

There was blood on his hands, on his shirt, on the floor and on the walls. There was blood on his legs, on his flesh, on the tub, and on the ceiling. Crimson stained the room, stained his skin, all he could see was red, thick and hot and heavy.

 

Hal was there.

Blink

Hal was there, soothing, and a sort of reckless calm that made Bruce sigh, because there was a hand in his hair, and then arms around his shoulders, pulling him in, something warm and soft around his shoulders and Bruce thought things were okay, he was in the Manor. This was okay, he was in the Manor, and Hal is here, Hal is right here, and things will be okay.

Then Hal was whispering, that things would be okay, broken promises called out into a trashed bathroom, “You know spooky, emotions won’t set you on fire.”

It was a joke, he knew. But all Bruce could whisper, choke out was, “how do you know?”

Then Leslie was coming in, and Hal was trying to pull himself off of Bruce and Bruce did not want to let go, did not want that emptiness to settle in his stomach, or the buzzing to scream in his brain again, wanted it to stay as it was now, a low hum in the back of his mind.

But Leslie was here, she was calm and crass, and rough around the edges, and she was exactly what he needed to stabilize himself, to bring himself back to himself.

Somewhere he had lost his clothes, all of them, but that was fine, he needed new ones he needed something long and warm and comforting. Leslie had her eyes stern, hard set making it clear she wasn’t playing, swatching his hands as they reached for long sleeves and sweats, “No,” she growled, eyes flashing, “you are going to look at what you did,” there were tears in her eyes, “you are going to see what you did, not just to yourself, but to your family,” then proceeded to practically shove him, with Hal’s help and Jason’s watchful gaze into a short sleeved graphic tee and boxers.

Jason.

Is Jason alright.

No of course no, he is not alright.

Bruce went on autopilot, pillows being made into a fortress of his own, trying to block out the world from himself, as he remembered nights spent wide awake those first few months, first few years, first ten years, that he would shuffle to the bathroom, would just scrub and scrub and scrub until his skin was red and angry and raw. He remembered a countless amount of nights trying to get his parent’s blood and the blood those who would follow off his flesh, out of his skin, off of his heart. He remembered bleaching the memory of his parents in booze, of burning it away with a candle and a good match, of just trying to shave the tainted skin from his muscles, of trying to erase every bad day away with a needle and a good hit. He remembered pushing himself to limits on Gotham rooftops, the wind in his hair, Selina on his heels. He remembered pushing and pushing until there was nothing left but the burning of his muscles and the searing numbness of his brain, as pain became the only outlet worth indulging in.

There was something so humorously pleasing, so catastrophically horrific that he’d wanted to laugh for days upon the the realization that more pain was the only solution he could ever come up with for the pain in his chest, for the unbearable clawing in his heart.

He remembered Henri Ducard on the hills and Tundras of Tibet, yanking him on his feet, and carrying him to safety, remembers the hypothermia leaving his limbs, remembers the man holding out an opportunity for Bruce to finally find his way out of hell. He remembered Nanda Parbat, the master wise and kind.

He remembered David Cain and then later Ra’s al Gul. He remember Samuel Lane, marching in his life as he wandered some nameless desert in the middle east, remembered the man throwing a canteen at his head, and a gun towards his chest with the promise to get him home, to teach him how to be a soldier. The last part of course had taken work, had taken clever pay on words, and mixed promises, confused terminology. Finally he remembers Cassandra, the cool hills of India, the cruelty and bitter bigotry from the townspeople below. He could still feel the peace he’d felt up on her mountain, away from a crying world, hidden from bleeding hearts. Yet his pain had followed him, like some bad song on the radio it had latched to him, had followed him, threatening to taint the quiet world Cassandra had built for herself. He had come in with all his self proposed knowledge, fought to understand that pain cannot truly go away, not the pain he feels, that he can only work through it, can use it to his advantage. He worked until the pain residing to a dull buzz humming to the beat of his heart and left when she kicked him out.

He remembered a lot of things about being away from Gotham, about his training and acquiring the skills he has today. However, there was a lot he didn’t remember. There was a large portion he’d suppressed so fast that large chunks of timeframe are missing, dates come back with locations but no real event lining up to meet them, no memory to match. He saw glimpses, saw himself doing terrible things, saw others doing worse, yet they come as quickly as they go and he does not really process the images he sees, doesn’t want to, in fear of what they might unleash inside of him.

He remembered before his parents murder, moments and memories that Alfred says aren’t real, that Alfred says never happened, would tell him about things Bruce sometimes remembers, most time does not.

Memory is such a fickle thing. It tries and tries to conform to exactly what society tells it is right, can rewrite itself so entirely that things that one knows can be warped into what is supposed to have happened. But Bruce refuses to let his memory to be fixed. The buzzing stays. It stays, but its sedated slightly, calmed, but there like it always is.

Now reminded him a lot of that, reminded him about the need to push the memories out, as far away from him as possible.

He curled in on himself, Hal and Jason intruding on his place, Hal and Jason carving a hole in Bruce’s little makeshift cave for them to inhabit, pressing into him, and lulling his fears slightly. He knew though that when morning comes Hal will leave, Jason taken away from him, Dick forever gone, Alfred would throw him into Arkham to be with all the rest of the insane.

That was it wasn’t it? He was insane, completely and utterly mental.

He was losing his mind.

 

Hal:
The next morning was a bitch.

First he wakes up to no Bruce, a passed out Jason, a scarce Alfred, and no Bruce.

Second most of the night was filled with Bruce having nightmares, which scared Jason even more, and made him nearly shit himself.

Third there’s no coffee when he wakes up.

Fourth his head’s killing him.

Fifth the bathroom is magically cleaned and he makes a note to make a shrine to Alred.

Sixth there’s no Bruce.

Seventh where the fuck was Bruce.

Climbing his way, stumbling, alright falling a little down the stairs. He cursed as he made it to the bottom, and into the kitchen, where thanks to the almighty and omnipotent Alfred, fresh coffee awaited his arrival along with the best goddamn omelet he’s ever seen in his existence.

“Where’s Bruce,” he asked, as he nodded a thanks for the coffee handed to him.

“Master Bruce is meditating sir,” the butler stated, a slight glimmer of an all too familiar smirk crossing his features at the surprise on Hal’s face upon trying the drink in his hand.

“What the hell, Alfie you have the be the messiah,” he sighed into his cup, “how in the name of everything good and pure in the universe do you know how I take my coffee?”

“Good guess sir,” the old man smiled, this gentle curve of his lips releasing some of the tension in Hal’s stance. “Master Bruce is right outside should you desire to speak with him,” he’s serious now, eyes sharp, voice brittle, as if it pains him to talk about the kid he practically raised, which is understandable given the situation.

Following Alfred’s gaze he sees Bruce, legs crossed, back turned towards them, seemingly daydreaming if Hal didn’t know any better.

The was still, tense, Hal wasn’t sure what to do, to feel.

“Best leave him be,” Alfred stated, going back to wash something down.

“Isn’t that the problem,” Hal looked at Bruce’s back, looked at the way he pulled himself away from his family, trying to figure out the mess that was his head.

“Yes sir, I do believe it is,” Alfred was tense, as if maybe Hal had accused him of something, maybe Hal had, he’s not sure anymore, not sure exactly what he’s trying to say. He only knows Bruce can’t keep going on like he has, because there may not be a Bruce soon, and that scares Hal more than he thought it could.

“He needs to see someone,” Hal put another bite of omelet in his mouth, as he tested grounds, as he poked around in the intimate relationship between Bruce and Alfred, between a father and son that were both so confusing that it sometimes made Hal want to tear his hair out. At least with Alfred he knew partially what he was dealing with half the time, while Bruce was just a wall of silence, of what the hell can I say without seeming like an idiot.

Only he knew now that Bruce didn’t think he was an idiot, if he did he wouldn’t keep talking to him, wouldn’t even waste his time. Bruce was something else entirely on some respects, on a lot of respects. Hal just didn’t know what to say now, wasn’t good at this, well at much in general, but this was one of the things he most fucked up at, at helping deal with emotions. Personally he was a deny kind of guy, but this wasn’t something any of them could deny, no more than they could just not breath. Bruce had sliced his own wrist, seemingly not for the first time, if Hal’s guess was correct.

“Master Hal,” Alfred turned to him, his eyes telling Hal a story of respect, of pain beyond his comprehension, a look him and Jason knew too well, “May I be frank.”

“Sure go crazy Al.”

“Bruce was nineteen the first time I found him in his bathroom bleeding out, he refused to go to see anyone. He refused any sort of help. This has been something he does not deal with like normal individuals,” Alfred spoke much like Bruce does, with this detached fashion that makes Hal’s skin crawl sometimes.

“It started after his parent’s death. I have watched as he burned himself with candles, cut his hands, wrists, anywhere he could reach, as he tried to starve himself time and time again, to test how long he could last. I have watched him struggle to overcome whatever it is that urges him to hurt himself so resolutely his entire life,” Alfred wasn’t looking at him anymore, eyes narrowed in on his son, “I have watched right up until the moment he disappeared one night at the ripe old age of twelve.”

Frowning slightly he glanced at the man’s tired eyed, with a fire, “and you didn’t think that maybe for just a moment the kid needed to see someone?”

Those sharp brown eyes snapped towards him almost as if they could slap him, “Master Thomas made specific requests upon my undertaking of his son.”

 

“Oh and what was that? Did it read Dear Mr. Pennyworth should we die, we want you to watch our son, please let him kill himself, slowly would be the best option, but if he does it quickly fear not, all is well,” Hal knew he should shut up, but he was angry and frustrated and confused by how this man who so dearly cares for Bruce has just let him self destruct for so long.

The look he received was dangerous, eyes flashing, without so much as a flicker of emotion crossing the man’s face and Hal knew in that moment exactly where the infamous batglare came from, knew its original master was far worse than the one that made it famous. Still the butler before him was unaffected by Hal’s lack of comfort, merely turning his head indignantly away as he stated, “They requested I let him make his own choices.”

“His choices are killing him,” Hal burst, standing abruptly, hands slamming on the table in front of him.

“I regret a lot of things in how I raised Master Bruce, looking back I believe there are several mistakes that I do so grieve, however much was out of my control.” Alfred was tense, almost as if waiting for Hal to punch him right in his face.

“You were his guardian,” Hal began, Alfred taking the reins away from him, before he could say something he’d regret.

“Yes, but he was still Bruce Wayne,” the butler sat down almost calmly were he not so tense, “he was trying to be better he said, the bloody idiot already getting into trouble, running around with that Selina Kyle, taking to the streets. Even before his parents death, Master Bruce would sneak out, to see this city for all it is, said he liked that he could just disappear into streets, be anyone he wanted to be. I do not believe he knows now, or ever what exactly he wants to be. He is just as lost as he has always been. I thought when he became Batman that things would be better, that maybe he found something to ground him, but as time went on I noticed it did the exact opposite.” The man let out a breath, bringing a cup of tea to his lips, “Robin helped, Master Richard helped, but then he grew up, and left.”

“And let me guess,” Hal huffed, “Bruce has never been fantastic at letting things go.”

“That sir is undoubtably one way to put it,” the old man let his eyes flicker back to his son, “he never had a friend in his life, until Selina Kyle, then James Gordon, then Harvey Dent and finally Mister Kent,” Alfred shook his head, “but they have their own lives, are growing and leaving constantly, as times change. Master Bruce however is simply left behind, unsure how to keep up.”

He took another sip of tea, as Hal sat amazed, trying to take all this in. The butler was something else entirely.

“Now it is you and Master Jason,” he stated, eyes looking Hal up and down, almost judgmentally, “I have wondered how long it would take for the two you of you to leave, especially you Mr. Jordan.”

“Yeah,” Hal breathed, because what else could he say, he hadn’t exactly planned on hanging around this long either. He couldn’t even promise he wouldn’t run off soon.

“So before you make another move, or try to tell me what to do about a boy I have looked after far longer than you have had that ring on your finger, you Mr. Jordan need to decide whether or not you can be relied on in the distant future,” he stood now, towering over Hal with sharp, deadly eyes, a warrior’s eyes.

He moved away, as Hal digested what exactly he was going to do, to say. Hal sat there torn between the coward’s way out or facing what his stupid heart was tugging him to do. But somewhere he knew his mind was already made up, that the path was already chosen for him. He’d made up his mind the second he stepped foot in Wayne Manor all those months ago, a little more than a year ago. Breathing out, he stood, pulling his phone from his pocket and stepping out of the kitchen, his beautiful omelet left half eaten.

He dials in a number he has known by heart for years, waited a few minutes for it to ring before a familiar voice echoed across, “Hey dude what’s up,” Ollie’s voice rang out, just as cheerful as it had yesterday, and wasn’t that a kicker- the day and the night of yesterday seemed like two different worlds, like they should be centuries apart from one another.

“Hey Ollie, you still know that girl, Dinah I think, the Black Canary,” he was impatient, needed to hurry up.

“Wow just straight to the point with you today isn’t it,” Oliver’s voice clouded the room, “yeah, sure I know her, why?”

“You still got her number,” Hal glanced down, biting his lip as he went on,

“Yeah, but I still have dibs, so no--”

“Do you have it or not.”

“Jeeze what’s with you today,” Oliver was curious now, voice tilting in that way that meant he was going to pry.

“Can I have it?”

“Why,” Oliver shot back quick and easy.

“She’s a psych right?”

“Yes,” the arrow’s voice filled with confusion, concern starting to lace around the edges, “why, you finally getting help after that whole--”

“What, no, it’s not for me, I don’t need help, it’s for a friend,” Hal felt himself tense.

“Right, sure it is, look I’ll text it to you, but I know I’m really stand off and stuff, but I-- I’m here you know, for you, if you need it.” Hal wanted to bang his head on something, cut off his ear, something to get out of this.

“Yeah, I know, thanks man,” like hell was he going to have that kind of talk with Oliver, though given the sudden change in his life course a therapist might not be a bad idea.

“Do you want to, like, grab a beer, or something later this week?”

That actually sounded amazing right now, sounded like the best thing in the universe. But he didn’t know if- oh fuck it, “sure, Friday sound good?”

“Yeah, Friday’s perfect, see you then,” Oliver chimed, voice going distant, before coming back.

“Bye Ollie.” He hung up a sigh engulfing his entire being, well he was fucked, Oliver was involved now. He needed a cover story.

But at least that was one thing down, now for the hard part. He had to go talk to the emotionally retarded, stubborn, suicidal ninja, fucking meditating outside his mansion, right above the cave where he conducts his vigilante business.

Fuck his life.

He began to walk, letting his feet guide him, as he steadied his breath, letting himself be carried by sheer force of will, until he was just standing in front of Bruce awkwardly wondering how long the man could meditate for without dying of complete boredom.

“I understand,” okay so he’s speaking first, well it was better than the glassy eyed silence of last night, “it will not affect our working relationship.”

“What,” he asked before he could stop himself.

“You have come here to let me know that you vacating the position you held in my life,” Bruce’s eyes were still shut, his entire body tense, long sleeved shirt showing off his muscles, but looking at his wrists you could still see the slight bulge of the bandaged around them.

He froze at those words, eyes wide, body still, “what?” He repeated, blinking as anger suddenly pouring into his veins like fire.

“It is perfectly understandable. In a situation like this, one cannot be expected to be forced into the kind of emotionally taxing avenue that currently lies ahead.”

He was still a statue, and his words were bouncing off of Hal’s brain and zipping back in, in and out...confusing as hell.

“What the hell are you talking about,” he gaped, eyes flaming.

“Merely stating that no judgement is being passed and our working relationship will be in no way affected by what occurred last night, nor in the near future regarding the situation at hand.” Bruce’s voice was curt, as he pretended to focus on his breathing technique instead of what really mattered at the moment. “I am perfectly capable of handling the situation from here on out. Your assistance is not required, furthermore, I would like to personally apologize for the inconvenience I have caused, as well as any distress that you have suffered due to my actions.”

Hal stared in disbelief, because what the ever living fuck was happening. Bruce honestly thought he would just up and abandon ship. He honestly- fuck.

“Do you honestly think I’m that shitty,” his voice was loud, it rang out between them, the dark clouds overhead growling with his ferocity, “what kind of douchenozzle do you think I am. How poorly must you think of me that you would assume I would abandon a friend when he needs me the most.”

“From what I understand most people--”

“Do I look like most people,” He shouldn’t be yelling, not now, but the dam he’d been holding up for the last year was crumbling, falling between his fingers like sand after a thunderstorm, thick chunks clogging up here and there, but none the less overflowing in this mess of mud and sand and despair, “I have a magical ring that is fuelled by my own will, I fly planes for the thrill, I put my life in danger for strangers and worlds I don’t even know. I have worked my entire life to be who I am today. So let me ask this one more times, do I look like most people to you? Am I just another sleazy nobody to you?”

Bruce had the decency to look surprised, blue eyes wide and bright, blue eyes finally open and on him. He looked down when he spoke, face as stoic as ever, but eyes speaking loud enough to compensate for the rest of him, “I did not mean to imply that you were someone of unimportance, simply that this is not ideal for someone of your standards.”

“Someone of my standards,” Hal shook his head, “what the fuck does that even mean, ‘my standards.’ That brings me to another topic who the fuck are you to put words in my mouth? Did I ever, even once tell you that you were outside of my standards, that I even had standards?” Hal’s voice was a cacophonous timber of confusion and a wraith that burned deep inside his soul, deep inside his heart, because he thought Bruce understood, thought Bruce was the world’s greatest detective, thought Bruce had the idea he was trying to send, but apparently he was wrong. Apparently all this time Bruce was more screwed up than he could even imagine. Apparently all this time Bruce had just been sitting at the edge of his seat waiting for Hal to just throw his hands up and leave, abandon ship.

“You needed someone to replace Barry,” he stated, “I was there.”

The statement was clipped, but it hit right in the gut, right where it hurt. It hit right in Hal’s gut.

“You do not need to feel obligated to stay, just because--”

“You’re wrong,” he grit out, trying to rein himself in before he really damned himself.

“It is fine, it was something you required to function after such a --”

“Shut up,” Hal begged, voice straining, “just shut up for a second.” He swallowed voice heavy, throat thick, unsure. All this time Bruce had thought he hadn’t meant anything, that he was just a filler for Barry. At least they hadn’t fucked around, then this really would be a mess, But it still was, wasn’t it? He didn’t want to think about what exactly was going on in that man’s head right now. He knew now that every stupid asshole comment he’d casually thrown out between the two of them had really been catalogued and seared into Bruce’s mind, things noted down that Hal hadn’t even meant, as nothing else but pure unadulterated truth.

Hal wanted to rip his brain out for a second,because Bruce had basically just told him that he was okay with being used, with being nothing more than some cheap replacement so Hal would be okay, so Hal wouldn’t be a bigger mess than he already was.

“You didn’t ask me,” he hissed, “you don’t communicate with me, you don’t talk about whatever--” He let out a breath, stumbling forward, closer to the man who looked so genuinely confused, so tragically put off, yet somehow still too put together, too unfeeling. He moved closer until he’d gotten down on his knees, hands coming to Bruce’s shoulders, until one of his hands moved to force Bruce’s chin up, so that those crystal blue eyes could stumble into his own, “New rule okay. You have to talk to us, to me, to Alfred, to Jason, hell to Leslie, whoever you need to talk to okay, because this, all this making assumptions isn’t working. If you for one second think that you are nothing more than some cheap replacement, some whore that people can just use to make them feel better then you need to talk to someone. You need to let me know, because I will personally tell you that that is the biggest load of bullshit I have ever heard in my entire life. It is by far the furthest thing from the truth anyone can make up. And I will tell you everyday if you need me to remind you different. I can hire people to get creative with how to tell you too, so you don’t get bored, from singing telegrams, to homemade cheesy movies, whatever you need.”

Bruce’s eyes were slightly wider than usual, head cocked to the side, “why,” he asked so simply it pulled the floor right out from under Hal.

He took a steadying breath, leaning his forehead, so that it met Bruce’s, hand resting on the man’s shoulder in a call for strength, “because you deserve it.”

He snorted, Bruce fucking snorted at that like it was maybe the funniest thing in the world, like it was nothing but a joke, like at any minute Hal was just going to jump back and yell ‘psych’ right in his face.

“You do,” he growled, voice dropping, a seriousness creeping into his tone that he hadn’t known he was capable of until today. “You do deserve it, and whoever made you think otherwise needs to meet my fist, because they have to be the biggest piece of shit on this earth to think otherwise.”

Bruce shook his head, trying to pull away from Hal, but Hal wasn’t moving, refused to budge a single inch, “really, my fist has a thirst for blood, for vengeance, it speaks to the night that its thirst must be quenched and knowing you Spooky, you have their names, addresses, favorite type of copy and just about their entire life hidden away on some file in your cave, so cough up.”

His eyes were going distant again, trying to look away, not speaking just staring at something couldn’t see, frame tensing impossibly more under Hal’s very fingertips. “I appreciate the sentiment.” He sounded like he was physically pained by the conversation, like he wasn’t quite sure he was acting like Hal was literally about to just get a phone call and throw him away, walk off as if they weren’t even friends, weren’t whatever it was that was happening here.

Bruce didn’t believe him.

Bruce didn’t believe him one bit.

“I’m being completely serious,” he let the hand on the man’s chin slide up to those perfect cheekbones, let a finger gently rub against smooth porcelain skin, “I’m not fucking around with you.”

“Jordan,” he growled, trying to pull away again.

“Don’t even try last naming me, cut the bullshit. I get it, you’re afraid, and it’s bad for your whole king of darkness and everything unfeeling act you try to pull on everyone, I get it. I get that you can’t lose anyone else. I understand, but you need to let someone in, if not me then someone else. You can’t keep this shit up, because this,” he pulled one of the man’s hands up, pointing at his wrist, “is only going to kill you, and who the fuck will you be able to help then, who can you save if you’re already dead?” He looked down, glancing at the soft green grass beneath them, at Bruce’s bare feet, at his hand finding Bruce’s, at the fingers he intertwined, at the look flickering in Bruce’s eyes as he tried to assess the situation, to decipher what was happening. “I can’t see that, I can’t see you dead, do you hear me. Jason shouldn’t see you dead. Clark shouldn’t see you dead. Dick shouldn’t see you dead. Hell, Alfred shouldn’t see you dead, not like this, not without so much as an explanation, not without a reason to hold onto.”

“I do not remember,” he whispered, eyes frantically moving back and forth.

“What do you mean,” he moved to force Bruce to look at him again.

“I do not remember doing this,” he held his other wrist, the one that didn’t have a hand attached to Hal’s, up in the air as if on display.

“How the hell do you not remember? What did your brain just decide that it wanted to jump ship without consulting the rest of you?” he blurted out before he could even stop himself, before his filter could even process that little piece of information. The raised eyebrow he got in response, and deadpan stare had him breathing out “what do you remember?”

He shut his eyes, brows furrowing slightly, before shaking his head, “Why are you doing this,” he sounded stressed now, just a small inflection of the voice that Hal wouldn’t have caught had he not been paying extra attention.

“Doing what? Helping? Or just being an all around decent human being?”

“All of the above.” Bruce, flicked invisible lint off his pants, trying to work around the subject.

“Because I’m just a nice guy,” he shrugged, “now what do you remember.” He breathed trying to rein in his nerves.

“Look Hal you are not required--”

“I’m here,” Hal put his hand on Bruce’s shoulder, “and I’m in this for the long run Spooky.” He watched Bruce think about that, blue eyes narrowing towards him, lips turned down in a scowl, brows tilting inwards.

But he was still spooky and that means there was no discussion on what Hal was feeling, on what he was feeling, merely a status report and a quick debrief. For some reason Hal had almost expected things to be different, for there to have been some major change. Listening to him here and now he realized that, realized that this was still Bruce in a way it always had, whatever it was that had him hurting himself had been there long before Hal was involved, might always be there; it was merely just another facet of Bruce’s that gets shoved away and hidden like so much else about Bruce does, like those drawing he’d seen last night, like the way Bruce genuinely seems like he craves family, desires it more than anything else in the world. It was just another piece to the puzzle, another mystery to solve.

February 10, 2011

Four days. He hasn’t talked to Bruce in four days, which had to be a new record. Then again what do you say to the man who gives him a house and food and an exciting life fighting crime, after he slices his own wrists?

What the fuck was he supposed to say to the man who tried to just up and leave him, without warning or goodbye, without some sort of explanation?

What was he supposed to do, besides watch Bruce pretend things were normal, besides try to act like that himself?

Hal was trying, really he was, to talk and do what normal people are supposed to do in these situations, but he’s not exactly the talking type, none of them were, and they definitely weren’t fucking normal, whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean. They are not normal, it’s a fact. He’s not like Dick and Hal’s not like Clark. The three of them don’t talk about things, they yell and throw things and move on. They repress until it just boils over into reality. It was what they do, but this is worse than just a screaming match in the cave and two day radio silence. This isn’t the same and Jason doesn’t know what the hell he’s supposed to do.

Alfred just dances on eggshells, doesn’t even seemed the slightest fazed, but he’s surprisingly comforting. He accepts Jason’s above normal snark and matches it appropriately. He lets Jason hide out in the kitchen when he’s avoiding Bruce. He tells him in not so many words to get off his ass and talk to Bruce. Most importantly, however, he doesn’t mention Jason’s distress that night, he doesn’t so much as comment on the way Jason’s voice had wavered, because he was sobbing loud and open and broken in a way he’d never before. He didn’t mention the fact that the thought of Bruce dying was the worst thing Jason has allowed to flitter across his mind, that seeing his worst nightmares come to life, in this way had wrecked Jason so ultimately, so entirely that he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t have been able to come back, if Bruce really had died.

Maybe that is what really scared him the most, maybe the fact that he loved someone so much, like he’d never before, that truly terrified him. Thinking back now, he’s positive that he would have killed someone. He would have hunted down every person that ever even tried to hurt his- that hurt Bruce, he would have killed them, slowly. He would have made sure they regretted it that they would feel just as bad as Bruce must have felt.

A sigh escapes his lips, a hand running through black hair, green eyes staring intently at his red ceiling, thinking back going over every second of that day in high definition. He sighed and thought back through every second spent with Bruce, trying to find some way to justify that he could have prevented it, that he could have seen this coming.

Pulling out his phone he pulled up google. He pulled up google and began to research everything he could about suicide, which lead to depression, which lead to a black hole of one search after another. He read article after article, he read until his brain hurt, and his homework went undone. He read and read and read. He worked until his fingers hurt and his heart hurt and his stomach growled, but that was fine, because this would help. This would help. This was for Bruce. He was going---he was going to help Bruce.

He was going to help his mentor.

He was going to help his---

The man that cared for him.

That saved him from the streets, that gave him a place to call home.

He was going to do what Robin did best- save Batman, even if that meant from himself. That was the one thing golden boy has said to him that stuck.

Dick, would he know what to do?

No, no he didn’t need him. He could do it himself. He didn’t need Dick. He would show him, show Bruce that he could do this, he could do this himself.

He had to.

Knocking on the door pulled him from his thoughts, knocking on the door, probably Alfred. He kept quiet, focused on his task, he kept quiet trying to focus on his task.

“Jason,” Bruce’s voice echoed through the room, his familiar blue eyes peeking past the door frame, “we need to talk.”

He looked down, “ yeah bout what?”

Bruce was standing before him, actually having the nerve to look uncomfortable. He stood, shifting on his heels, in a way Jason had to learn to catch. He stood, looking at Jason and Jason looking at him.

“I would like to apologize for what you saw the other night. You should not have been made to see something like that. I understand my actions are my own and I am facing the consequences. It is something I must work on, something I will deal with.”

“What do you need?”

The question startles both of them, neither expecting the other to speak so quickly, so surely, so much older than he had any right to be for a fourteen year old. Bruce knows it is partly his fault, but mostly the streets, Jason could see it, see it in the way he looked down at him, at the way his jaw tensed up, back going just an ounce straighter.

“I will address the matter--”

“What do you need?”

What do you need me to do, he did not say, did not speak in fear of the response, in fear that he could do nothing.

“This is not something you should concern yourself with. I will handle the matter.”

“Like you handled it Sunday?”

“Jason--”

“Don’t you fucking dare! I found you bleeding out in a goddamn bathroom. You are the goddamn Batman, YOU are supposed to be the fucking hero! YOU always tell me to rely on you, that having a partner requires you to trust them, to put your faith in their strength. So quit being an ass and just-- fuck-- just,” he is faltering and he knows it. He is breaking and he knows it.

Arms surround him, strong, invincible arms, broken by the world around them, engulf him tight, settling so surely around his own smaller, unsure shoulders that Jason let his stand up straighter, tried to make himself look stronger than he really was.

“You do not always have to be strong,” Bruce said, cobalt eyes softening slightly around the edges, and he had to snort at the hypocrisy of it all.

“You mean don’t be you right,” he let out a huff, head falling against a strong shoulder.

“Do not be that either,” Bruce pulled back, looking him in the eyes, something stirring in those strange, elusive irises that has him more confused than anything else, “Jason, this is where I believe I failed Dick, and I refuse to make the same mistake with you. You are in no way obligated to be me that has never been your purpose, nor should it be. If anything learn from the mistakes I make, as you learn from your own. Be the man I could never be, or do not. Just be yourself.”

It looked hard, for the words to push themselves out of the man before him, as it usually did. Bruce was never one to speak a lot, in fact Jason’s pretty sure he has never heard the man speak this much before in his entire time here.

“Bruce, just, let me help.” He sounded desperate, like a man dying of dehydration next to an oasis, like a man left to die alone in the desert. Bruce didn’t see that, he may never see it.

“You already have been.” Bruce said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world, like he was stupid for not knowing something like that. He would have to really learn how to read the man. He’s gotten better, but not nearly as good as Alfred, not nearly as good as Dick. He had to get better, for Bruce.

He growled, fingers digging into his scalp, brows furrowed with anxiety,“I haven’t fucking done anything!”

“You are here, are you not?” A small quirk of the lips, ruffle of hair, and Bruce was gone, disappearing into the dark hallways of Wayne Manor and away from Jason.

Chapter Text

Wally West 20- June 20, 2006

Wally dies hard and lives fast.

When he goes into the light, when he runs at the speed of light Uncle Barry and Bart by his side, the world at stake as always, classic red and yellow suit holding him together- he made choice.

He lives fast. Every speedster does. That is why he rushed into friendship with the other sidekicks, with the team. It is why he has tried to experience everything as soon as possible, why he wanted to rush into being a hero, because he knew that he will die hard, will die like all heroes die, hard and fast. He lives fast because that’s all he knows, speed, the rush of adrenaline coursing through his veins, the feeling of the world slowing around you, the fear that one day it will stop all together.

He lived life to the fullest, had an amazing best friend, an amazing family, got to even retire and fall in love. Artemis would forgive him for this, maybe not now, but eventually. Dick will probably do something stupid, hell Bats might even do something stupid if he’s lucky, but he’s one in a million, and they have Bart now, and he doesn’t want back in the hero business, he wants peace. He can give them this; give them a chance to really save the world in a way Wally hasn’t known how to do in a long time.

He runs faster, feels the humming in his veins, the speed force calling his name, stretching wide and infinite, pulling him in. He goes faster.

He goes faster and faster, till his bones start to disintegrate, and his blood starts to dissipate, until every atom, every slice of DNA is unraveling, and time and space sing out around him, pulling mind and soul out, changing him into pure energy.

He laughs, it is the only thing he can do, because he knows he’s dying, but somehow he is still happy, happy to know everything will be alright, sooner or later.

He dies at the age of twenty and he laughs, loud and bright and clear, laughs until everything goes dark.

 

Wally West 20- June 23, 2006

He never expected to wake up. He never expected to wake up to a world without a Flash.

Barry is paralyzed and everyone he knows, he loves is changed. There is no Wally West here, there is no Kid Flash, only Barry Allen, married to Iris West, an only child.

He wakes up alone.

There is a buzzing in his head that reminds him of his time lost in space, lost in a void where time doesn’t exist and it is pure light and energy. There is a buzzing in his head and he doesn’t know what to do with it.

He is alone and lost and scared. He misses Artemis

He goes to Batman first, stalking around Gotham City trying to get an idea of what the hell is happening. Dick has no idea who he is and is just becoming Nightwing. Roy is just getting out of Oliver’s company; apparently the man threw him out after a fight. There is no Justice League. Mount Justice is there but abandoned. There is no Connor Kent, no Miss Martian, no Martian Manhunter, no Hawkwoman nor Hawkman or even Wonder Woman. There are only fragments of what should be, shadows and whispers of what could be, and he feels like he’s going to throw up, but he’s better than this, and he has to survive, had to do something. He has to do something, but things are strange, times are strange and he knows he should lay low, shouldn’t mess with this world’s timeline, should find a way to get home, but Central City is a wreck and this world needs a Flash, and so he does the one thing he’s never wanted to do.

He replaces Barry, only with the man’s permission of course, but he replaces him. He swallows his guilt, his pride, his pain and makes up some tall tale about being struck by lightning and wanting to make a difference. He ignores the way the lies burn on his tongue, ignores the way he just wants to say the truth, but knows better than to mess with time, to screw up everything for these people.

It takes three weeks of chaos, and making false identities, (thank you Batman and Dick for being paranoid enough to teach the team how to falsify records) before he realizes there is something missing, before he finds the hole in his chest. It takes three whole weeks and by god would Batman and Nightwing have chewed his ass out for not noticing sooner, that there is no speed force here. There is no way for him to go home that way. It takes four weeks later for him to realize it will take years for the right kind of tech to be made for him to make a machine for him to go home.

Its five weeks into his campaign as the Flash that Batman interrogates him, for some reason deeming him clear to be the Flash, a feat that will never stop shocking him.

Times change and he’s still, years pass, and he resigns himself to a life here on this planet, finds that going home now might do more damage than good, but he still wants to go back.

He wants back, there’s an ache in his soul and a buzzing in his head calling him home, pulling him to a place that is no longer waiting for him.

He takes a deep breathes, closes his eyes, and runs, feels the energy surging around him, burning in his lungs, and runs.

 

Oliver Queen- 36: February 11, 2011

Hal looked like complete and utter shit.

“So you and Mr. Dark and brooding?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Oh come on, sure you do,” Oliver said, looking over , “My friend, my eyes see all, I am all knowing, and you know, not blind, deaf, and dumb. You told me a friend of yours needs a therapist, and if it’s not you, then the only other person left is Mr. Sex in Black Leather, so I digress, which was totally unnecessary, because you could have just fussed up to begin with, you and Mr. Broody?”

“Are friends, Ollie, just friends,” Hal plays with a serviette, picking it apart and rolling it into balls as he speaks, “and how the hell would you even make that assumptions, I mean have you seen us together? We can’t get along to save our own lives.”

“Well that’s a lie,” he laughs, shooting one of the rolled up balls at Hal’s head, “because I’ve seen you guys do it, oh what, a bazillion times. Please, you’d take a bullet for the guy, hell he’s taken enough blasts for you to last a life time if I’m remembering correctly. And yes I would know, thank you very much, because for once I took a note off of B’s book and have been tracking you.”

“What the fuck Oliver,” Hal of course blows up, angry that somebody cares enough to have him followed, cares enough to worry for him, to try to help. Oliver even saw that fight he and Bruce got into, when the man tried to help him get his job back, get an apartment, set up fake records, heard Bruce’s begrudged complaints, as he tried to figure out how to convince Hal it was for the best.

“Hey,” he put his hands up, letting himself sigh too loudly, “I am a concerned friend. For awhile there you didn’t answer my calls, my texts, you are still refusing to talk to Barry, you denied the Justice League, which btw I did not get an invite for, and it’s kind of pissing me off, not that I’d accept, but whatever, I don’t need it. All I’m saying is; I was worried. I still am worried. You don’t look good; B has not looked good recently. You both look like shit; apart at least, together you look happy, ecstatic, so you know doesn’t take a super genius to find out.”

“We aren’t together okay,” he groaned, head slamming on the table, much to Oliver’s amusement, “just drop it,” he muttered into the wooden table.

“Never.”

“And we’ll never be anything,” he said sitting up, “I mean have you fucking seen us!

“Yes,” he nodded, “and you’re both hot as fuck.”

Hal sent him an exasperated look as he continued, “We’re fucked up, he’s just a band of shit bundled up in a ‘I am a machine package’ and I’m a washed up drug addict on the verge of having PTSD.”

“Well at least you’re admitting it, I believe the term is, that’s the first step,” Oliver shrugged, “but I’m pretty sure you do have PTSD, I mean I have PTSD, we all, except maybe Clark and that Amazon looking woman, probably have some form of PTSD. I mean us capes are poster boys for the mental health community.”

“Oh thanks, next you’ll be telling me to go to therapy,” Hal flicked one of the balls, sending it across the table to him.

“Hal, go to-“

“Fuck you,” he mumbled, kicking Oliver under the table.

“Hey, no violence,” Oliver whined, “come on, this is bonding time, tell me all your secrets, accept my loving advice.”

“No offense man, but the last time I took your advice we ended up near dead somewhere in Thailand.”

“Point taken, but also I’d like to point out I had no idea that those ash monsters would show up, nor that they were magical,” he put his hand up, in a mock pledge, rolling his eyes, because really Hal should just let that whole thing go, it was ages ago.

“We just- he’s so uptight, and him, and I’m a more in the moment kind of guy, devilishly handsome, but really not one for planning,” his eyes were off, probably daydreaming about the man in question, and Oliver just rolled his eyes.

“See you guys will level the other out, it’s perfect, let’s make this happen.”

“No, Ollie.

“Hal,” he whispered, leaning over the table, “Bang it,” Hal growled, as Oliver laughed, “bang bang bangity bang,”

“What are you?”

“Bang bang bang it,” he sang, watching his friend’s face turn red, as he huffed under his breath, as he looked more flustered than Oliver’s ever seen him before.

“I hate you sometimes,” Hal snapped, causing Oliver to laugh, causing the blonde to look at him closely.

“You going to bang him?” he smiled, wide and open, “...or is he going to bang you, whichever way you guys want it. I’m not judging, you do you, if you want him to bang you, then go get it man, if you want to bang him go do it, or if you want both and he wants both, then I will personally lock you guys in a basement and you guys have at it. I’m just, you know, a bit curious if you will, given you both just reek of alpha male, most of the time at least. I mean you would probably be the bottom if we’re honest, cause I just can’t picture Brucie boy being subservient to anyone,”

“Why would I be the bottom,” the brunette growled, “I am so alpha male.”

“Then again,” he carried on wickedly, “if we talk kinks, who the hell knows. Wait are you into leather,” he leaned forward, whispering, “BDSM?” just as their waitress approaches their table.

“Oh god please stop,” Hal moaned, as their waitress quirks an eyebrow at them, clearly judging the two.

Hal’s head slams down on the table between them, causing him to laugh and their waitress to snort. Seeing Hal, both embarrassed and ashamed was probably the best thing in the world, you know, besides seeing Bruce that way, or you know one of his villains completely put off in an embarrassing situation. Namely because, Hal does it to himself most of the time, and Bruce never gets embarrassed, and his villains, well that’s self-explanatory.

“Anything I can get the two you,” she asks, sweet voice bouncing between the walls of tension between the heroes, “or are you two just waiting around until the action starts, because I gotta tell ya, the bathroom isn’t the best places for the kind of stuff you guys seem to be into.”

“What, no,” Hal said, “we aren’t together, I just- I, it’s complicated,” the man didn’t even try to hit on the girl; he definitely must be off his game. This was bad; Oliver wracked his brain for answers.

“When isn’t a relationship complicated,” she muttered, “now you gonna order, or am I just gonna stand here all day,” she put a hand on her hip, smirk on her face.

“Ahhh, let’s see,” he whistled, looking over the menu, “I’ll have, a...ah...have a double bacon cheeseburger, with a double order of fries, please, and a crisp 7-Up.”

“And you hotcakes,” she turned towards Hal, a smile twisting her features.

“Ugh, same, I guess, except I want a cherry vanilla coke,” Hal sighed, put his head on his arms.

“Okay sweetcheeks, I’ll be right back with your order,” She winked at him, coy eyes toying with the two of them. She was cute, and if he wasn’t invested in Dinah he might actually go for it, too bad. Hal’s lack of flirting was interesting though, in fact the most interesting part of the night. No matter what, no matter how sad Hal was, he always flirted with everything that moved, breathed.

He leaned back, letting his eyes trace over his friend. “Personally I think you guys are good for each other. I mean you got him to go to fucking therapy, because like I can’t say how long pretty much everyone’s been saying that man needs some serious psych help. Talk about self-destructive, I mean you two take the cake on that. Plus god, have you seen the two of you flirt banter, god we all saw at least you two fucking at some point,” he watched Hal fluster about, trying to absorb all this information.

“I mean if you’d have seen the way the two of you looked at each other back in the day, jeez talk about sexual tension, you two would just go at it, every time we all got together, all it basically boiled down to, was you two finding another reason to duke it out.”

‘I mean I get it, the guy’s hot.” He shrugged, watching the slight glare sent his way warm his heart, “I can admit it, even a straight gentlemen, such as myself must admit that, I mean have you fucking seen him.”

“Yeah, I have, and if I see a gentleman around here, I’d be glad to show them a picture of Bruce and let them decide for themselves.”

“Okay next question: Why do you have a picture of Bruce on hand to show out to people? Not that I’m judging, like I said he’s pretty damn hot.”

“Look I get it, and so yeah he’s hotter than the fucking god damn sun, and his eyes have to be bluer than the fucking ocean in Fiji, but we’re just friends, okay Ollie, just leave it at that.”

Silence permeated through the air between them, his smirk growing wider, as each second past, as Hal grew more and more uncomfortable.

“No one said anything about his eyes.”

“Shut up, you overzealous pervert!”

“Oh my god you’re starting to sound like him.”

“Can you not talk for like seven seconds or something, because honestly, I’m trying buddy, but this is not something I want to talk about right now.”

“Why, what’s got you all wound up? Is it the sexual tension? I bet it’s the sexual tension,” He smiled wider as Hal kicked him underneath the table.

“You are un-fucking-believable, you know that you beard headed bastard,” Hal flipped him off, just as the waitress sauntered back towards them.

She put their drinks down, purposefully, “Your food should be out in minute’s fellas.”

“Thanks,” Ollie leaned over to look at her nametag, “Sherry, really appreciate it.”

“No problem Robin hood.”

“How do you know,” Oliver started, as Hal narrowed his eyes.

“What do you mean by that?”

“The you know…” His eyes flickered around, hands flat on the table.

“It’s just a nickname sir,” she said seriously, big brown eyes giving him the once over, before turning slightly to the left to mutter, “...The beard, smart one,” She popped another eyebrow up at him, as she looked back, making sure no one had heard her, before looking him up and down purposefully, before seizing up Hal.

“See you in a minute flashlight,” she winked at him, as he flushed, anger and annoyance flashing on his features.

“Who the fuck does she think she is,” he fumed, looking to stand up for a fight.

“Hey,” he said, putting a hand on the man’s shoulder to calm him down, “what’s wrong?”

“I- it’s not my place to say.”

“You can’t just bottle it up.”

“Sure I can, it’s been working for years.”

“Hal, you can tell me.”

“No I can’t, I really fucking can’t okay.”

“What did scowlly face do, or didn’t do, I don’t know remember, hence the reason you should tell me,” he looked at Hal closely trying to break down the barrier of hurt, of anger bubbling up around him.

“Okay then, if you aren’t going to talk, let me,” he said leaning forward, “if you are serious about this, about Bruce.”

“We aren’t like that damn it I tol-”

“If you’re serious about it, be careful.” He cut off, eyes warning Hal to shut up, “I may not always act like it, but I’m friends with him. I’ve been friends with him off and on for years. I’ve known him since we were young and foolish and trying to make the best out of shitty situations. And as his friend I’m going to tell you now, if you fuck up, if you really fuck up with him and I find out.” He shrugged, leaning back in his seat, “let’s just say...you’ll regret it.” He made sure their eyes were on each other, that they understood each other.

“Okay, I have your bacon cheeseburgers right here, double orders of fries,” Sherry smiled at them, breaking the tension in the room, “enjoy boys.”

“Thank you,” he smiled innocently up at her, as Hal waved at her lightly.

Once she was gone, Hal was leaning across the table, “I fuck up, what about him fucking up?”

“You don’t exactly hold the world’s best track record for sticking around when things get hard,” he poured some ketchup on his fries, “and the best thing about B fucking something up, is that he does the hard work for you. He’ll beat himself up.”

“What the fuck does that mean,” he huffed, “I do everything that I can-”

“Barry,” he cut off, taking a bite, as Hal effectively shut up. Sighing he leaned forward, “look I don’t mean to be an ass about that, but it’s a fact, and we don’t need a heartbroken King of Darkness running around,” he shrugged taking a sip of his drink, “to be honest, I see why you did it, being in love with him and all. However, B is...trickier than Barry was, and you couldn’t stick around then. I get that you were dealing with your own shit, but he needed you, and you ditched him. I don’t want to hear about B needing you, and you ditching him.”

He remembered the first time he saw Bruce. He was just this mousy little thing, eyes holding an infinity of intelligence far beyond his years; frame so small he’d almost been afraid to touch him. Two months. He got two months before the murder of the kid’s parents. He got three sightings of the infamous heir to the Wayne fortune, the little boy everyone whispered about, but no one got to see.

His father had spoken so highly of Bruce, more proud of a kid he hadn’t even met, of someone younger than himself. To be honest he’d been jealous, had lashed out, even after the funeral, even after that small boy had buried his own parents. He’d bullied him, when he was sent to Excelsior for only half a semester, bullied a kid over five years younger than him, because his ego couldn’t handle the competition, just like he’d bullied Lex. Not that he was the only one who’d done it, or that Bruce had had any friends. He didn’t. It was a fact, prevailing even beyond the boundaries of Excelsior. Bruce Wayne was an outcast.

The thing he remembered the most about their time at Excelsior together was the fire in Bruce’s eyes. Maxwell Lord had gotten angry, Bruce was gaining on him as smartest in the school, so he’d gone outback, had cornered the small kid, who’d sometimes walk on the roofs, cornered him, and beat him down, ragged on him, until Oliver honestly thought he’d died. But Bruce had just picked himself back up, had looked the older kid dead in the eyes, a smothering blue flame dancing in their depths. He’d dared him to keep going, had egged Max on, dared him, taunted him, with cold eyes, and a straight face. He couldn’t have been ten, and there they were seventeen year olds, just beating him into the ground.

It hadn’t been right.

He knows that now.

He remembers how Bruce had just picked himself up, when it was all done and over, when the teachers had dragged Max off of him, when Bruce had simply, brushed his clothes off, wore his bloodied face with pride and labored breathing.

The kid had always been looking for a fight, but this one sent him to the hospital.

Not long after, maybe a year and half, he’d disappeared, then two years later Oliver’s own parents were dead, then four years after that, four years of drugs and sex and enough booze to fill an alcoholic’s liquor cabinets for years, he’d found himself stranded on an island. Five years, and he was back fighting the good fight. He was back, but Bruce was too, changed. He was older, and into booze and women, and god knows what, wearing a mask they teach people like him and Bruce to wear, because that’s the only thing people want to see. It was the only thing that mattered to people.

Oliver Queen, however, was not an idiot. Ignorant on occasions, yes, but there were no illusions that he was a complete brainless, bubble headed loser like Brucie Wayne. Of course, Oliver never fell under that particular illusion as well. In all the time he’s known Bruce the man has never been anything near dumb, never had that fake cheesy smile plastered on his face that fooled so many people, so easily. And that was the thing wasn’t it? People wanted to believe someone as powerful as Bruce Wayne was flawed, they wanted to see him as weak in some way, because if he wasn’t he would scare them, intimated them in ways normal people with brains couldn’t. It was easy to think less of such a powerful man, to think someone with the kind of money and power that Bruce has can be so flagrant, so air headed, when paired to the idea that he was something more, something that could so easily overpower so many people, everyone if he had the chance. But people wanted to think of him as something, someone lower than them, expected to see him flawed, because money makes flaws.

They didn’t know that Bruce was also Batman. At first he didn’t know that Bruce was Batman. They didn’t know Bruce secretly has the same fire in his eyes that he’d always had, a fire that was lighting a whole straight through Gotham’s core.

Oliver never really saw the real him, the real Bruce. It wasn’t quite the Bat and it definitely wasn’t Brucie. When he tried to picture him, all Ollie saw was that boy, soaked in his own blood, beaten and broken, yet pulling himself to his feet, lightning blue eyes tearing a hole straight through his own world.

And Oliver had swore to be better, swore to be someone like that, to find his own fire. He swore to fight for something. He swore to be a better man, to stick up for kids like the one Bruce used to be.

Hal sighed, leaning back into his chair, pushing his fry around, “look I know, I suck, and I fuck up, way too much to even be allowed. I just screw up,” he put his head in his hands, “but- Ollie- You should have seen him- I can’t just-”

And now?

“Hal, what the hell happened,” he reached across the table, hand reaching for Hal’s shoulder.

He didn’t know what now, had a bad feeling in his chest, but didn’t know what to make of it, what to do with it.

“I won’t fail him, I can’t,” he stopped, looking down at his untouched plate.

He didn’t know what to make of this. Strong, bright Hal, awesome Green Lantern warped into this, into just a man, broken and unsure.

“Hal-”

“He looked so broken, you know? I’ve never seen him like that. I mean he’s, you fucking know, I just never thought he could you know, be hurt like that. I mean, he isn’t like what we used to think he was. He-”

Maybe not the only one broken, because weren’t they all? At the end of the day, weren’t they all broken in their own ways? He knows he is.

“Hal, it’s going to be okay.”

“No, I don’t know if it will be, because for once things were good, like really good, but now, I’m not so sure.”

“Hal, what happened, use your words man,” fear, buried deep was bubbling up into his throat, into his heart.

“He- he tried to you know,” he looked away again, eyes trained down.

And he did. He did know, because he’d tried too once.

“Christ,” Oliver muttered, “you mean off himself.”

“Yeah, and, I don’t know what-”

He’s been there. He’s been that low, remembers what the cool needle felt like on his skin, remembers a promise so enticing he would do anything for.

He knows Hal knows what that’s like too, knows Hal understands what it’s like, not only to crave the rush, but to crave an end.

“Okay what does this mean- I mea, I-,” He said, eyes locked on the man before him, “I mean how, why?”

“He doesn’t even remember doing it,” Hal, looked ragged, let himself show the sleepless nights, the pain, the anger, the betrayal.

But this wasn’t about them, it was about Bruce. It was about how to help him out of this, because they’ve been there.

“What do we do,” He asked.

“I don’t know Ollie. I just- jesus- I don’t know.”

 

Dinah: February 13, 2011

This was not how she planned to spend her day.

This was not how she planned to spend the rest of her oh so promising career.

Batman’s therapist, jesus, this was a recipe for disaster, for complete and utter failure. When Hal Jordan rang her for the first time she was floored, Green Lantern calling her up to help a friend. She actually thought it was a joke at first, all the way up until Bruce Wayne waltzed into her office, up until the moment his eyes went straight to her, icy stare hitting her very soul.

If she was a wise woman she may have been intimidated, if she was anyone else she definitely would have been. Luckily for the Dark Knight, however, she was Dinah Lance, the Black Canary. Letting a breath of air out she looked him over.

He was everything a billionaire should look like, clean cut, handsome in every way possible, pretty almost, with the way his features seemed just slightly too delicate, yet also very manly, with a jaw line that could make anyone weak in the knees. He was charming too, as Bruce Wayne that is, not as Batman. She’d met both of them before, many times, it happened in their line of work, but Brucie she’d only ever seen once, and that had been a story to bleach out of her mind for sure.

Yet why he was here was something that both surprised and did not surprise her. He was altogether a very strong, well put together man, there was never any indication she’d seen that would lead her to think he would be suicidal, then again sometimes there hardly ever is. He was a good actor, someone who put up as many faces as he could get away with in the name of his mission, strong headed, almost infallible. It would be by his own hand that the most harm could come to the Batman.

However he was a man of solitude, a man so far engulfed by an island of his own making that even the best of people rarely got access to the real man beneath the mask. He was a man of solid loneliness, built on the tragedy of his parent’s murder. There was a huge part of him however that craved contact, friendships, relationships with the people around him. Hell he was a part of the Justice League, had Batgirl and Robin and Nightwing, he was best friends with Superman, and from what Hal’s told her, befriended him, aided him in rebuilding his life.

She wondered, (and maybe this was the reason she took him on, the reason she accepted this horrifying challenge) what could have made him do this. What could have broken the Batman in a way that forced him to take such drastic methods to end his own life? Already from the moment she’d met the man, she had a file on him, built in her subconscious of all his little ticks, all of his actions. For one thing she knew he was bipolar, and that was before reading the file Dr. Tompkins and Mr. Pennyworth had given her that was before she’d even known she would be in this position. Maybe that was it. Maybe it was the extreme depression that came with bipolar disorder that caused him to slice his wrists, however she wasn’t so sure. Over the years, he has had several serious periods of depression, she knew because Oliver would complain to her, knew because the archer wouldn’t leave her alone, knew because Dick would ask her sometimes how to break him out of his funk, or if it was his fault. In those years he never tried anything like this, as far as they knew. She also knew that if Batman really wanted to kill himself, then he wouldn’t be sitting in front of her, in fact no one would have been able to prevent it.

“Bruce,” she nodded to the chair across from her, but he moved passed it, heading towards the one furthest away from her, at the left corner by the window, with a view of the entire room and the street below them. “It's a pleasure to see you again.”

He nods to her, eyes wandering to the window, “You have a nice view,” his voice is different, not the Bruce Wayne edge that she’s heard in crowds, definitely not the higher pitched version of Brucie, nor the growl of Batman, but something that sounds more natural, smooth coming from his mouth, more complacent with the face that she sees before her.

She inclined her head, following his eyes as she went. “Thanks. It was one of the reasons I chose this office, actually. It’s nice to look out over the city when I have free time.”

A slight twitch of his mouth greeted her, “You do not get a lot of free time, do you Ms. Lance?”

“Dinah, please,” he looked out of place, expensive clothing a stark contrast with her Craig’s List and Wal-mart furniture. He looked like something off of a magazine, tie, button up, like he was going to a business meeting, or maybe this was how Bruce Wayne dressed when going to war. “And no, not with our line of work.”

He hummed lightly, “I suppose not.”

He let his eyes scope out the room, so slightly resting on the voice recorder and camera on her desk, “None of this will be recorded or filmed unless you consent to it, Bruce.”

He said nothing, but she received a slight nod, his eyes locking onto her face. She hit play.

He looked down at her pad, as she noted a few things, “do you like your work?”

“It’s fulfilling work,” she shrugged, “it helps others. Do you?”

His brows twitched slightly together, “Depends on the work.”

“What kind?”

“Are you good at your job?” He deflected, eyes never wavering.

“I would like to believe I am,” she stated.

“But?”

“That’s up to the people I help, if I manage to help them through their problem, or if I manage to save as many people as I can then I am, logically good at my job. However it is still up to the individual to decide for themselves. Some will think I suck at my job. Others will think I am the best. People will come to their own conclusions.”

He quirked an eyebrow at her, nodding slightly, “You cannot let others decide for you.”

“I don’t,” she brushed a stray piece of hair from her face, “but I must recognize what others feel, what others think, if I am to overcome the problems they may throw at me, or to be better than what I am then I can’t simply dismiss those around me.”

He said nothing, quiet.

“Bruce do you understand why you are here,” she watched him carefully, looking for signs of agitation, anything that might set him off.

His eyes met hers once more, as if trying to stare her down, “because I slit my own wrists.” His bluntness threw her off balance, the look in eyes something she couldn’t quite place.

“Yes, but do you understand.” He folded his hands in his lap, one over the other, fingers twitching towards his wrists, “Logically you know why you are in this office, but do you understand why it is necessary that you be here? Do you want to be here?”

“Does anyone truly want to be in this office,” he let his eyes glance down towards her notebook.

“Those who want help, who need someone to guide them through the process of dealing with what has happened to them.” She noted his ticks, the ones she had to look extra hard to notice.

“No one wants to be in a therapist’s office. They may seek aid in working through their problems, but no one wants to have problems in the first place, no one wants to find themselves needing this kind of help.” His eyes wavered on a picture on her desk, one with her mother smiling in her new flower shop.

“Maybe, but the problems did arise, whatever happened to the people who walk through my door happened, whether they wanted the experience to occur or not is trivial. It happened and that cannot be avoided. The people who walk through my door are here to work past it, to learn to live with the experiences that have changed them, for better or for worse.” He cocked his head, looking out the window once more, face a blank slate. “So when I ask if you understand, I am asking if you are truly ready to work past you life altering experience.”

Jason Todd was the reason he was here, not for himself. He did not care whether or not he found help, only that his son needed him to get it. Hal told her that. He told her that he had tried to convince Bruce he needed him, but it was Jason that pushed him to agree. She needed him to recognize that he needed to want it to, needed to accept that this was for him as well.

“It is essential.” He states, like it is fact, “I have to overcome the issues plaguing me, in order to properly do my job.”

He doesn’t mention Jason, doesn't mention he’s here for his son.

“You must love your son.” She watches his eyes widen slightly, just a small fraction, as he turns towards her, “to put aside everything you’ve taught yourself, to put aside your pride by coming here.”

“What I’ve taught myself?”

“To work through things by yourself, to work alone.”

“I never had to teach myself those qualities,” he brushes his pants, “they are merely something I have always done.”

“For how long?”

“If you are inquiring to whether or not my solitary habits coincide with my parent’s death, then you should know that they extended far before that.” She frowned, he was giving her something at least, but he spoke freely of his parent’s murder as if he’s moved on, so maybe not the inherent root of the problem.

“How far?”

“Does it matter?” His tone was flat, hardened out at the edges.

“Possibly, long term isolation from peers and society can have negative effects on someone’s ability to connect with others; it could explain your inability to form close and open relationships with others, to truly comprehend what they feel in certain situations. Social interaction is important in a child’s development, reinforces behaviors or actions in new social situations, for example sharing or other social development skills. Teens in particular have a difficult time with social isolation, as it prevents them from positively processing adolescent drama.”

He ignores her comment, seeming to not even comprehend her words, instead switching the topic again. “I need you to fix,” he pauses, looking up, “I need you to fix my problem.”

“I can’t fix this; I can only help you work through it.” He tilts his head again. “Now what exactly is your problem, you’ve not been clear on that exactly.”

“Psychological trauma,” he’s looking out the window, as far away from Batman and his other personas as she has seen him. He’s not by any means relaxed, but he’s most certainly not fully aware of his all surroundings. “All your patients have a trauma of some kind.”

“Some, it is my specialty.”

“That is why you were on my list.”

“List?” She paused, looking up from her notebook, brows furrowed.

“Of doctors to choose from.” He looked straight into her eyes, almost daring her to say something.

“So you were going to seek help, before Hal referred you to me.” She looked carefully at him, watching his muscles tense under his suit, watching him stand strong against her.

“It has become a necessity.” His gaze refused to waiver from hers, cold like the ones he used against criminals.

She looked at him once more, the circles carefully hidden under his eyes. “How have you been sleeping?”

“I haven’t.”

“Why,” she leaned forward, slightly.

“I have spent my life vying for control over the things in my life, managing the experiences I have been forced to undergo in order to become Batman.”

He paused, eyes hitting her floor, “however lately that control has been slipping from my grasps.”

“It’s not uncommon for people in our line of work to have PTSD, Bruce. In fact I think I would be concerned if you didn’t have it. How do you usually manage it?”

“Meditation. Keeping busy,” he controls his movements too much, her eyes flick once more over his frame, she didn’t notice at first, but she does now. He is too tense, muscles clenched too tightly to be comfortable, “however, it is more than PTSD. I have dealt with that before.”

“When you say ‘dealt’ do you mean shoved the memories down and pushed forward, or actually worked through the memories?”

His eyes danced to her notebook, as she doodled, watching her every movement, “I dealt with it,” he gritted his teeth, just a slight tensing of the jaw.

“But you do not work through the memories haunting you, process them,” his eyes are flicking out towards the city again.

“It is best to overcome weaknesses.”

“How can you overcome them without facing them?”

He doesn’t speak for a while, they sit in silence, he lost in thought, she trying to pull in a better grasp.

“You are not alone,” she speaks finally; “there are a lot of heroes that have come here, more than I am comfortable saying, but enough to say that this is something that comes with the job. You’re not alone.”

“I do not fear loneliness.”

“Don’t you? You have two kids Bruce, a father figure, friends all over the place, and allies across the world, even some out in the universe. Despite everything you say about being alone, you refuse to truly be that way.”

“Being alone does not frighten me.” He was quiet again, this unnerving kind of silence that sets Dinah on edge.

“Something must frighten you,” she stated looking at him, gently, trying to find some kind of bridge for him to cross over to her.

“Fear is the brain’s way of saying there is something important to overcome, Rachel Huber,” he looked up slightly, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Fear is merely a weakness that is needed to be controlled to work for you, rather than against you.”

“You do not have to control everything, Bruce.” He didn’t seemed fazed by her at all, didn’t even seem at all affected by anything being said today.

“Control is a necessity in our line of work. One mistake can cause irreparable damage.”

“We are human, we make mistakes, it’s in our nature to make and learn from the tragedies that befall us, from the mistakes we make.”

He stood now, pacing slightly, finally showing some kind of unease.

“But what of the costs?”

“Bruce you can’t avoid tragedy.”

His frown tightened, hands clenching slightly, as he walked out of the room without another word.

She was screwed

Jason Todd: 14- February 19, 2011

Things were rocky.

Things were an avalanche of emotions, skyrocketing around the room more times than he could count.

Bruce didn’t want to go to therapy.

Bruce didn’t want to take his medications.

Bruce didn’t want to get help- he wanted to do it himself.

Hal yelled, Bruce yelled- Alfred huffed.

He played video games.

Ever since that night he hadn’t really been able to look Bruce in the eyes, to really talk to him. Ever since that night, the man he’d viewed as invincible, as his hero had fallen before his eyes. Bruce wasn’t really Bruce anymore, not the one he once thought he knew.

Bruce, via Alfred’s watchful eye was taking the medications Dinah prescribed, and not surprising enough when the damn pills started working, (because of course they couldn’t just fucking work immediately), the outbursts of random irritation and anger had died down immensely, in fact he actually seemed to mellow out a little, still paranoid and tense, but calmer almost, less defensive about everything.

It was nice to say the least.

Hal definitely seemed happier, probably, because Bruce wasn’t riding the poor guy’s ass all the time now. Why the Lantern stuck around was pretty much the ultimate mystery to him, or maybe not. He looks at Bruce in that way that they talk about in those romance novels, and Bruce doesn’t really care for many people but Hal Jordan and his immediate family, so that has to say something. Right?

Lately Hal’s been over more, though at first Jason just thought it was the whole ‘incident’ that caused the change, but it’s those looks that Bruce and Hal throw at each other that has him thinking otherwise. The looks started before the incident, it isn’t new, what is new is the amount of looks beings thrown around.

It freaks him out to be honest. Not in the sense that he’s some homophobic asshole or anything, far beyond that, he doesn’t give a fuck and he’s pretty sure if given the chance he would totally be all over Roy, but in the sense that his kind of mentor, makes googly eyes at his kind of uncle figure and it’s starting to get really annoying and glaringly obvious.

In fact he might just have to do something about it. Not that he cares about Bruce’s love life, or worries that he’s lonely, just that it’s really starting to inhibit Jason’s daily activities.

Yep that’s all it is.

Walking down the long winding corridors of the Manor he finds himself seeking out Alfred, because honestly he is the only sane and healthy one around here and sometimes that all Jason really needs. Right now he really needs Alfred, not just to gossip either, but to just kind of soak up that sanity, let it seep into his bones and cool off the heat of his skin, rage buried under flesh that burns his core. He breathes. It’s been happening more and more lately, just blinding rage consuming him alive, especially for the criminals on the street.

Bruce thinks it’s his fault, that he is taking out his anger for Bruce out on the scum of Gotham, but deep down Jason knows this fire has always been here, would have emerged even if the ‘incident’ hadn’t of happened.

A couple days ago he shattered someone’s collar bone. He was just a small time druggie, but there was something that snapped in him, something that threw him over the edge just a little bit more than usual.

Bruce had been pissed, chewed him out and took him off of patrol. Barbara was more shocked than anything, had gone silent and escorted him back to the cave like a child.

He kind of knew he deserved it, but the fire ran too deep. His mother wasted herself on drugs; father took a hit from the mob and for what? What did they ever do that was so fucking great, they left and just up and screwed him over, just like all the other dirtbags out there were doing, screwing not just themselves over, but their families, and others families. It wasn’t right. And if they, him, Bruce, and all the others heroes just locked them up then they would be back out on the streets in no time, creating this infinite circle of never changing shit.

It burned something in Jason, burned that Bruce might leave him too, that these criminals, that other people he didn’t know, that some fucker in an alley fucked up the one man that gave enough shits to take him in, that could understand him in a way no one ever had, who saw something in him more than just some street rat, but a Robin, but someone who could make a difference.

Pulling his jacket tighter around himself, he slid into the kitchen, making himself comfortable on one of the countertops next to the butler of Wayne Manor.

The old man regarded him gently, slight annoyance at his spot on the counter, but gently all together. “Master Jason, is there something I may help you with?”

He shook his head, watching as the man continued whipping up the batter before him. In fact

“Hey Alfie, is there some sort of party coming up, or something?” He watched the butler put a cake in the oven, sturdy frame moving to look towards him.

“Well Master Jason, if you must know, today is Master Bruce’s birthday.”

“Then why are there two cakes?” He snatched a coke Alfred set, next to him on the counter, opening it with a satisfying sizzle and taking a deep chug, damn it was refreshing.

“Tomorrow is Master Hal’s,” the man added some vanilla extract to the concoction as Jason choked on his drink, “Master Hal assumed it would be easier if we celebrated them together, rather than having multiple parties.”

“When did this happen,” he frantically began thinking of something he could give them, something that they might like, shit he was not prepared to deal with this crap.

“I believe since their birth, though I cannot speak for Master Hal, I can assure you Master Bruce has always had his birthday on February 19,” the old man didn’t even have the decency to sound sarcastic, which Jason kind of had to appreciate it, though reluctantly.

“Very funny Alfie,” he let his nose curl up, “so which one’s which?”

“The Double Chocolate Turtle Cake is Master Bruce’s, and the Vanilla Rum Cake is Master Hal’s,” Alfred pointed to each as he spoke, still working without even a second of pause.

“I didn’t know Bruce liked chocolate, when the fuck did that happen,” he spoke uncensored, something he usually attempted to avoid with Alfred, “the man never fucking eats it. He’s like some kind of health nut or something.”

“It is a love he rarely divulges in,” there was a slight glare from the old man, probably due to his language, but it was what it was.

“Well damn, if I had known that I would have been fucking shoving the shit down his mouth,” he took the offered utensil, licking off rich chocolate with a hum.

“I do not believe that would have fared well with Master Bruce,” Alfred, began pouring the batter into a pan, careful about keeping it equally distributed.

“May have made him less fucking grumpy though,” another glare, and Jason grinned, wide and unfiltered, chocolate staining his teeth.

Alfred huffed softly, keeping busy as Jason sulked, “wait,” his eyes narrowed, “Bruce consented to having a party?”

“Actually, he is unaware of the event in question,” Alfred’s lips curled up slightly, glancing up as Jason’s eyes widened, something devilish lurking around.

“Oh this is too damn good, we are surprising Bruce with a party! Fuck yeah; this is going to be fucking perfect!”

 

Dick Grayson: 18- February 19, 2011

He hasn’t seen Bruce in a long time. He has not wanted to see Bruce in a really long time. He kind of wants to see him tonight, just to see how things are going, check in, on Jason and Alfred more than anything. But Barbara wanted him to show, Alfred really wanted him to show. Just for tonight he had to show.

It was special anyway. Bruce’s birthday- yay.

He let a breath fall past tired lips, let shoulders fall forward. Alfred sounded stressed; Bruce was probably running himself ragged, for no reason again. He was probably ignoring Jason. He was probably arguing with Jason. He stretched, arms pulling over head, muscles stretching taut over tissues and bones. At least Clark would be here tonight at least the boy scout could lighten things up. Clark always lightened things up.

He sighed, letting his motorcycle carry him off into the depths of one of the batcave’s many entrances and sort of just carried himself into a place he once swore he’d never come back to, swore though he knew he’d always be back.

“What the fuck are you doing here,” a young, rough voice called out to him. The voice itself was angry, a thin veil of rage and angst and something else.

“Well hi to you too Mr. Grumpy pants,” he called out, taking in the teen before him. It’d been nearly a year since he’d last seen Jason. The kid was rough around the edges, hardened with the wear and tear of crime fighting. He was growing up and Dick had to admit, he did feel guilty that he hasn’t exactly been around for the kid, he knows what it’s like living with Bruce, knows how hard it can be. He should be here for him, but he needed to get himself together too. He needed time to grow, to become his own person without the influence of Batman, without just trailing behind Bruce Wayne’s shadow.

“Lay off it smartass, and just answer my fucking question,” the kid jumped down from his seat on one of the cabinets, coming to stand in Dick’s space, and geeze the kid was just about as tall as him, he might be even as tall as Bruce one day, maybe more. That was actually a pretty horrifying thought.

Putting up his hands in mock surrender he smiled at the kid’s viciousness, “what a guy can’t just stop in to say hi to my foster brother, wish a certain batish person a Happy Birthday.”

Jason crossed his arms, sharp green eyes narrowing in a fashion that was dangerously familiar, “You aren’t exactly known for giving a shit about Bruce much less me, so what are you actually doing here?”

And damn did that hurt. He really should come around more, putting a hand on the kid’s shoulder and stopping it from being shook off he let a more serious look cross his face, “hey of course I care about you. It’s just complicated between Bruce and I.”

“If you just want to fucking disturb Bruce again, pick some kind of stupid fight, then you know the way out. It’s not happening today damnit, not on his birthday!” The kid was sure protective of Bruce, of everything. Jesus Dick was taken aback. He was pretty protective of Bruce too, but this kid just reeked of Alpha male, protecting his territory.

“I don- Look my arguments with B are a lot more complicated than you think. I just wanted to say happy birthday today, all in the name of peace,” He held his hands up again, taking in the cave and the changes made.

Green eyes narrowed toward him, untrusting and somewhat familiar in the way they scrutinized him, and Dick is struck with this thick gooey black mush of guilt churning and writhing in his stomach.

The young boy scowled, at him something awful, seemed too untrusting, too angry towards Dick and it hurt, it hurt so much that Dick had to look away. This was his little brother, and he’d let his emotions towards Bruce get in between him and a kid that needed him.

“Whatever you say asshole, the party’s not even fucking here, so you can leave now,” the boy turned his back on Dick, hands clenched, heading towards the manor in long hard strides.

“What do you mean,” party? They always had a little get together with a couple of people Bruce really knew, mostly just him and Alfred, maybe Leslie, Clark, and Luscious, but never an actual party.

“Look the party’s at Mount Justice, Happy Harbor, so just off you get, and stay the fuck away,” Jason snapped at him, loud and angry and hurt.

“I get it okay, I haven’t been around, and I’m sorry, but I’m here now,” Dick tried, stepping towards the kid as the clock swung open.

“Yeah fat shit that’s going to happen. You can’t just fucking walk into a place that’s not even your own damn home,” the boy was growling at him, fucking growling, like some alpha dog scaring off an intruder.

“Jason,” a familiar voice ground out.

Two sets of eyes snapped up, over to the voice, “It’s true!” “Bruce!” They said simultaneously.

“This will always be Dick’s home,” blue cold eyes looked at green, and Dick shivered slightly, until they turned on him. There was warmth there, so small he almost missed it.

“Dick,” he nodded towards the acrobat, “how have you been?”

“Fine, I love being a detention officer, but I can’t wait to be on the actual force,” he spoke before thinking, just trying to break up some of the tension in the room.

Bruce stood tall, making Dick feel like a child once more. Distant, as usual, stoic and strong and untouchable. Dick wanted to crawl into himself, wanted to say something, wanted to say something meaningful, like ‘I’ve missed you,’ cause it was true. He wanted to say ‘how have you been?’ ‘Did you miss me?’ He wanted to say a lot of things, wanted to make this moment somehow stand out and apart from all their other conversations but, nothing happened. The words never formed, or maybe this just wasn’t the right moment, but for whatever reason he didn’t say any of those things, merely smiled softly, and said, “Happy Birthday B.”

The slight smile returned hit him in gut, made him really want to come home.

Jason rolled his eyes so loud, both he and his mentor physically had to look towards the teen, “well this is so damn touching! Now when’s Hal coming?”

“Hal will be here momentarily. He had to stop by Jim’s house,” Bruce moved, picking up Jason’s cup and setting it purposefully on a coaster.

“Hal?” “Jim?” Dick inquired, looking towards Bruce, as the man moved back to his seat, so he could get back to what looks like forms for his company.

“Hal Jordan has made himself at home here, and Jim is his younger sibling,” Bruce murmured, eyes trained on the paper in front of him, “he’ll be here soon.”

Jason scowled, a smirk sliding on his face, “Fine, as long as he hurries up.” Jason plopped down on the floor beside Bruce, picking up his controller, a bright red thing, as Dick made his way to sit on the armchair he’d always claimed, sitting upside down, head dangling over the edge.

“So you can fail at beating him in Black Ops again?” Bruce inquired, an eyebrow sliding up slightly, blue eyes intent on catching the way Jason’s entire face spluttered.

“That was only like three times,” the boy snapped.

“Twelve by my count,” Bruce shot back, without even glancing up, “or are you not counting the nine times-”

“Those Do NOT Count!” The boy roared, “He cheated!”

“You forget the controls,” Bruce deadpanned, finally meeting Jason’s eyes.

“No fucking faith,” the boy grumbled.

“It’s alright kid,” Dick smiled warmly, eyes lighting up slightly, “I couldn’t ever beat Clark at some of the video games we played.”

“Who the fuck is Clark,” Jason piped up.

“Language, and Superman,” Bruce threw back, flipping through a couple more papers.

“Oh yeah,” the kid looked up, before shrugging.

“Clark doesn’t come around?” Dick frowned looking over at Bruce, whose face had hardened, muscles tensing slightly.

“No.” Bruce ground out, beginning, to organize some of the controlled chaos around him.

“What did you do, make him try fancy coffee again,” Dick joked, mind wandering back to a memory that had Clark choking on some fancy Switzerland coffee that Bruce loved.

“Hey, what the fuck makes you think Bruce did anything-”

“Jason,” Bruce put a hand on the boy’s shoulder, “it was a joke. Deep breath.” The boy did as he was told, breathing in deeply, letting some of the tension leave his shoulders. “Better?” Bruce smirked.

“Yeah, yeah,” the boy mumbled, angrily hitting some buttons, and opening a game.

Dick watched them; quietly taking in their interactions, the way they moved and acted, carefully trying to find a way to slide back into place here, in this place. Then Hal came.

Hal came, just as he came into battle- loud and proud. The man pranced into the room, not even a knock on the front door, just a loud hello to Alfred, a tug on Bruce’s hair, which was batted away without so much as a growl, wave towards Dick, and a ruffle of Jason’s head, wild words filling in the space that once was devoid of comments. He spoke like he owned the place, he spoke like he lived here, spoke like he’d always lived here. He just sat next to Bruce on the couch, above Jason, grabbed a bright, neon green, remote and started a war with the angsty teenager below him.

He was funny, and loud, taking up the silence and throwing it out, creating something that had Dick shaking his head slightly.

In a blink of an eye, he was in the game, and with Hal’s acceptance of him, suddenly came Jason’s, though only in front of Hal. Dick let himself have fun, laugh, just all around joke with the Green Lantern, left missing days of Barry and Clark and Hal wandering into the manor just to say hi to him and annoy Bruce, missed days as a kid where the supers had been a family, held together by Barry Allen, the fastest man alive.

He missed Barry, and duly wondered if Hal did, how Hal was taking everything. At the moment it looked like he was handling it, but there was something in the man’s eyes that also said differently, that said maybe not as well as he let on.

But Hal was leaning into Bruce shoulder, and Bruce was letting him, Bruce was letting Hal touch in, invade his personal bubble, and Hal didn’t seem any wiser. Hal was taking up all the darkness Dick was accustomed to seeing in Wayne Manor.

And soon enough they were being scurried off to put their suits on, Hal and Jason whining about Bruce figuring out their ‘surprise party’ already, and being super anti-party. Dick just smiled and pushed in him in the batmobile. The four of them went to the party and it went as well as could be expected. Jason surprisingly enough hoarded towards Roy, he did his rounds, wondering why Clark decided not to show up, and Bruce hid in a corner sulking, while Hal flocked to Oliver.

And the night was going well, the Justice League showed up, besides Clark, who had to bow out, and the (new) Flash was yet to be seen. Jo’nn was getting way too many Chocos, Diana was attempting (and failing) to flirt with Batman, Hawkgirl was coaxing Black Canary and Booster Gold into a drinking contest, and John Stewart was attempting to keep the peace. It was fun, Blue Beetle, the Atom, everyone was kind of here, in a way it had not been in a long time. It brought back some really good memories, memories Dick had forgotten in light of his crazy life.

The killer of the night was the part where Barry showed up, red button down, the new Flash right by his side, pushing the man’s wheelchair with way too much joy. Dick said hi to them, the new Flash, letting Barry go free in favor of staying with him, which was not okay, at all.

The kid was not someone Dick was fond of, which was weird because usually he liked everyone and he means nearly everyone. His problem wasn’t directly even the dude’s behavior either, solely on how he came into their lives.

(The new) Flash just swept into view a couple months after Barry’s incident, too happy, too energetic, threw on the suit and started up as a hero. Dick did his digging too, and the kid didn’t even exist, at all. His papers were good, but not perfect. Bruce said leave it alone though, told him not to worry about it, he had it covered. This was again, strange because Bruce wasn’t one to let things go. So while Bruce dicked around, becoming buddies with the guy, it was up to Dick to solve the mystery, but so far Dick had gotten nowhere, and Bruce wasn’t helping him, and the guy seemed to know everything about him, and kept trying, (a little too hard) to be friends with both him and Roy.

(The New) Flash was talking, lenses on his cowl up, revealing bright green eyes, sunny smile on his face as he attempted to make conversation. Dick made little noises pretending to listen, as he watched Barry roll up to Bruce, watched as Bruce, more Batman make conversation with the former speedster, as the two kept an easy conversation up, before Oliver practically dragged Hal over to them. The man was avoiding Barry, Dick realized not two minutes into the, now, mess of a conversation. Which generally means, Ollie and Barry are trying to speak freely, Bruce is glaring at Hal, and Hal is looking away, pretending not to be an asshole.

Minutes go by, and Hal is leaving the group, Barry is frowning, obviously hurt, Bruce is patting the man’s head, before going, more stalking, after the Green Lantern. They disappear as Oliver is trying to console Barry. It’s strange to see their ragtag family like this, broken with jagged pieces sticking out here and there. They were always dysfunctional, barely getting to see each other, always fighting, but never like this, never so broken, that Batman was forced to play peacekeeper, never so jaded that none of them could see a way to fix it.

Then Dick noticed the talking had stopped, looking up, the new speedster had stopped talking, seemed almost frozen in place. Green eyes widened, locked onto his little brother, almost as if he’d seen a ghost, frowning, Dick put a hand on the speedster’s shoulder, shaking him slightly. The hero jumped, a slight tremble taking over his frame, “Dude are you okay?”

“What, oh yeah, just a little underwhelmed, you know, not whelmed, as in not whelmed at all, that’s all, uh, yes, b-,” Flash brushed his hand away, stepping away from Dick, “I’m just going to- gogetsomethingtodrinkorsomething.” He sped off hightailing it out of the room and away from Dick and more importantly away from Jason.

Shrugging it off, he ducked off down a corridor of his own, stretching his tight muscles with a yawn.

“You did not have to do this,” he heard Bruce’s voice speak out softly, softer than Dick’s pretty sure he’s ever heard used on someone not himself and Alfred.

“Hey no problemo Spooky, we deserve something special, you know from all the hard hero work we do,” Frowning Dick hid behind a corner, sliding lower and setting his ear out, as he listened intently.

“No you do not understand this was irresponsible, these people could possibly deduce our secret identities based off of the information presented to them. Not only have you given them our date of birth, but subtle clues to our identities that can-”

“Damn you really just are incapable of gratitude aren’t you,” Hal Jordan’s voice sounded back, catching Dick off guard.

“I am merely pointing out-”:

“Yeah yeah I get it, just shut up and enjoy okay- okay good, now open,” the man had nerve to speak to Bruce like that, then again Hal had never really been afraid of Bruce.

“What is this?”

Laughter echoed up from the corridor, a full on, beautiful laugh, lighting up the darken corridor, “I can’t tell if you are serious or just fucking with me- wait is that a smirk, it is you’re fucking with me.”

“Of course not.”

“Just open your damn present, and pretend to love it.”

“Here”

“For me? Batman got me a present, I must be dead,”

“Shut up.” Silence sounded out throughout the room.

“Just open it Spooky, for once just pretend like you don’t have to argue over everything,”

“Where is the fun in that?” Was the snarky reply and Dick was just floored. He’d only ever heard Bruce like this with himself, on rare occasions, back when they didn’t fight like cats and dogs, rarely Clark, Alfred, and Jason, when he actually saw them nowadays.

“See right there, another joke, no one will ever believe me if I told them that the goddamn Batman, Mr. I see danger around every corner, and laughter is for the weak, has any form of a sense of humor. Ollie specifically thinks I’m going insane! He might put in an institution soon! An institution!”

Yet here the dark stoic man was, bantering off his ass with Green Lantern, more specifically Hal Jordan. He’d heard, and even bore witness to their bantering before, but this was different, it was more friendly, than usual ‘I am going to kill you if you don’t agree with me in six seconds or less’ that he was used to. It held an aura that said lifelong friends rather than forever frienemies. Dick wasn’t even really sure how to think about that.

“I’ll make a note to alert the head Arkham. I’m sure they’ll make you feel at home,” Bruce’s voice sounded too pleased with itself, and Dick could just imagine the smirk twisting itself on the man’s harsh features.

“Oh now you just pushing it.”

There was no response to that for awhile, just a whole lot of silence and the quiet rustling of paper, before the cursing started. Finally Dick peaked around the corner, getting a full view of Hal Jordan struggling to open the slightly large box given to him, piece after piece of paper, getting in his way.

“What the fucking goddamn hell, did you do to this fucking box? Oh you have gotta be shitting me, another layer, is this why you were waiting for me open mine first? You asshole, son of a bitch, motherfucking bastard! Wipe that goddamn smile off your face you back-stabbing, cocksucking fucktard of an ass shitting-” this is where everything started to blur into a nonsensical debauchery of language. Dick was seriously thinking of just cleaning his ears out with bleach, because this shit was seriously not okay, he didn’t even know half of the words coming out of the Green Lantern’s mouth, and he lived in Bludhaven.

“Well shit, fuck me,” Hal whispered, foot stomping on the ground, “fuck me with a stick.” He held the paper out a little more, and Dick stretched to see it, only catching some green on the paper, fading into black. “Hot damn Spooky, I knew you were good, but I didn’t know you were this fucking good,” Jordan’s voice echoed out finally, ending his endless rant of slurs Dick didn’t even want to know the meanings of.

“The proper response is thank you,” Bruce snarked back, blue eyes sparkling slightly, without the cowl he was softer, not quite relaxed, but as close as Dick has ever seen him to it.

“Oh like you even know what that means,” Hal snapped lightly.

“A polite expression used when acknowledging a gift, service, or compliment, or accepting or refusing an offer,” Dick choked down a snort, because of course Bruce would say the definition.

“How many dictionaries have you even read, you know what don’t actually answer that. I might literally shed a tear if that is something you actually enjoy doing,” Hal’s voice held nothing but this silent quake of joy, of amusement that radiated all the way to where Dick hid quietly.

“It has its merits.”

“Jesus, but really Spooky, this is, it’s beautiful. Is there anything you can’t do? And how the hell am I supposed to compete with this! My gift pales in comparison, really, you make the whole, making a gift thing a beautiful thing, makes the shitty mugs I used to make for Jim look like complete and utter garbage.” He shook the paper out, but Dick was unable to see what it was, couldn’t see past Hal’s frame.

“Not to my knowledge. However, I am aware it is not the most traditional present, but you seemed to enjoy the ones you saw, so I assumed you would like it. On another note I have yet to even see your gift as to decide if it can compete or not.”

“Like it? Are you kidding, that is the biggest understatement of the year? I don’t know if this is even something to be considered as a birthday present, more like present for the next sixteen years.”

“Now you are exaggerating, but it is also a thank you.”

“Wait, pause, I need to get this on camera, did you just thank me,

“I did,” Bruce admitted voice dropping, eyes locking onto what Dick presumed to be Hal’s eyes, determined to make clear that this was a serious moment.

But it was Hal he was talking to.

“Damn it really must be my birthday,” he laughed loudly, “hold up, what are you thanking me for? I mean I know I’m gorgeous and amazing, but-”

“You know why,”

“No I really don’t,”

“This past month-”

And what was that exactly? Dick didn’t know, he wasn’t here this past month, he couldn’t even fathom why Bruce Wayne, a man too stubborn to ever thank someone, was here thanking someone, to Dick’s knowledge, really, truly did not get along with at all.

“No, you don’t get to thank me for that. I told you Spooky, this is something I want to do, not some weird trick, or shit. I get your paranoid and all that shit, but let up for me will you, I’m in this for the long haul. I knew being friends with you would suck ass and get on my everlasting nerve.” Dick let his eyebrows furrow together trying not to think about everything that was being implied here, trying not to wonder what he’d missed in his time away.

“Who said it was a thank you,” This was probably Bruce’s way of saying, hey thanks for being friends with me, but Dick has to ask why are we friends, because the man can’t just let something be, had to rationalize every little moment, of everyone’s life.

“You’re an ass,” Hal sighed, more fond than mad for once.

“It’s part of the job description,” Bruce replies dryly, head turned away, eyes finding Dick again, as if to say ‘please leave, please leave now,’ but Dick just smiled, looked at him with a wink, as Bruce turned away from both him and Hal, as he looked away from the two, saying something so low Dick couldn’t hear him.

“I don’t really know, I just knew I had to,” Hal’s voice was loud though, never one for quiet, never one for patience, he shrugged, “there’s always been something about us, you know shit like that, just- whatever you are like the Spock to my Kirk.” Dick choked back a laugh, trying to snuff out the need to just laugh his ass off at that analogy.

Bruce was quiet, a disgruntled noise bubbling up from his throat, “You are comparing our real life relationship to a relationship between two characters from a science fiction franchise?”

“You know, I’m just glad you got the reference,” Hal moved, putting the picture thing back down, apparently it was in some sort of frame. Once he set it down, he folded his arms, “so how am I stupid this time?”

“Surprisingly no critiques this time, in fact I find Spock is a very close representation to myself, and Kirk describes you incredibly well.”

“I have a scary feeling you are somehow demeaning me.”

“Well Kirk was careless, reckless, naive, ignorant, on multiple occasions he put himself in unnecessary danger, was constantly disregarding rules, regulations, was constantly irrational, and kept putting his crew in danger.”

“Excuse me, but Kirk was fucking amazing! He was the goddamn Captain of the U.S.S Enterprise. He always put the greater good over his own safety!”

“I never inserted the ideal that he is not and I quote ‘fucking amazing’ I was merely stating that he is a lot like you, reckless and arrogant. Spock is reasonable and cool under pressure.”

“Kirk was arrogant? Please he was nothing compared to Spock’s arrogant ass! He sometimes so easily overlooks emotional sentiments that a two year old could point out. How the two could stand each other is fucking beyond me.”

“Agreed.”

“...shit, we are Kirk and Spock.” Dick choked again, using the wall to hold himself back up.

“Except you are not a Captain of a space exploring vessel.”

“And you aren’t a half-human, half-Vulcan hybrid that can’t just fucking recognize others opinions.”

“We should stick to Star Wars.” Bruce’s eyes locked with his, narrowing slightly, but remaining impassive and Dick just smiled and waved, kept listening, even as those blue eyes sent daggers towards his head.

“Sweet, but that means I get to be the dashing Han Solo,” Hal let out a loud laugh.

“I have a terrible feeling about this metaphor.”

“And you would be the self-righteous, spoiled, drama queen Princess Lea.”

“I am going to open your gift now and strive to pretend this conversation never took place.” Bruce was glaring at the pilot before him, the shaking in Hal’s frame portraying his silent laughter.

“Whatever you say Princess.” Bruce huffed, blue eyes downcast, avoiding Dick’s gaze.

A snort sounded out, as well as more rustling of paper, and then suddenly Bruce’s voice was back ricocheting off the steel walls right to him, “How the hell did you manage to get this?”

“You know Spooky, you aren’t the only person I know with some connections,” Bruce was scowling slightly, looking both frustrated and slightly pleased, annoyed if anything else at the cocky man before him.

“I couldn’t even get a hold of this, I mean-” there was a pause a breath, and then Bruce was back, “how did you even know I would enjoy this?” His eyes flickered back towards Dick’s, trying to avoid much contact.

“Spooky, you know I speak to Alfred right?” There was warmth there, pushing out and towards Bruce, trying to wrap itself around the Dark Knight.

A pause and shuffling.

“Plus you are the biggest closeted nerd I know, I mean talk about a complete and utter nerd.”

“The Grey Ghost and Warrior Angel are both highly intellectually stimulating tales, both in comic book form and television shows.”

“Game of Thrones?”

“A study into the mind of a culture-”

“Nerd,” Hal laughed, his shoulders moving in silent laughter.

Bruce didn’t speak, intently looking over the back of the book like thing he held, reading the back intensely, completely ignoring Hal at the moment, too infused in his new item.

“You want to go watch it right now don’t you *zeiskeit,” Hal seemed too pleased, let the pleasant tones of his voice bounce off and through the room as he let his happiness seep in the air around him, let it unfold and brighten the hallway, as whatever it was here outshine the darkness Bruce naturally seeped into the world around.

“Of course, however you still need to talk to Barry.”

“No.”

“Hal he needs you.”

“He has Iris.”

“It’s not the same.”

“He’s a grown ass man, who is completely independent.

“You’re his best friend.”

“He has new ones. I’m not that fucking special and if he needs a best friend he can make it Ollie, I can’t okay. You don’t understand.”

“I do.”

“No you fucking don’t, because I loved him and he’s moved on, in fact I don’t even think we were ever on the same wave link to begin with because there was always Iris, and she’s beautiful and nice and I wish I could hate her, but no, just my luck I even think she’s fucking good with him!” Hal turned away from Bruce; head hung low, paper folded to his chest.

“Stop being selfish Kirk.”

“No, you don’t get to be cute with me, this is serious! You don’t understand what it’s like to have to fucking drop your life in a second to gallivant off to ass galaxy in the middle of shit no where’s ville, just to fuck everything up,” there was desperation in Hal’s voice, the kind that made Dick’s skin crawl, made him want to be anywhere but here, listening to this, but his feet were frozen and suddenly this was all he could hear, all he do. “You don’t know what’s it’s like to be fucking possessed by some demented asshole just so you can kill off god knows how many people, and you know what? I can fucking name every single person I killed, because I can’t forget that, you don’t get it. You don’t-”

“You did not kill them Hal, Parallax killed those people. He used you to murder people, that is not the same as you murdering them.” Bruce pushed forward, voice hard and firm, haunted if Dick didn’t know any better.

But he understood, understood where Hal was coming from, knew from experience what it was like to take another’s life without being in control, remembers Slade’s slippery voice crawling up his skin, pushing him to do things he didn’t want to do, never wanted to do.

He knew, and so did Hal, and sometimes Dick almost thinks Bruce may know, but that’s fine, because somehow they’ll be fine, they have to be.

“Tell that to all those people’s families, to the kids I left fatherless, motherless,” Hal tried to moved past Bruce, but Bruce put a stern hand on his shoulder, turning the man back around.

“You are an idiot,” Dick froze.

“Shut the fu-”

“Parallax is a powerful being that utilizes your own fears against you. He destroyed your home, took a time of weakness to turn you against yourself, and forced you to do unspeakable things. All of which was directly controlled by him. You had no control over your actions, therefore are not responsible,” and somehow Dick knew he was also talking to him, was secretly speaking to him, just as he was openly speaking to Hal, telling him words he hadn’t been able to say before this moment.

“You wouldn’t say that if this was reversed.”

“No, but that is because it is in our nature to place blame where it is not due.”

“I guess we just have to set each other straight, right Spooky?”

“I suppose.”

It was then that Dick froze, letting himself fall back behind his hiding place and stare in front of him silently. Hal Jordan, the Green Lantern, the man that always had Bruce ready to pull out all of his teeth had managed to do something even Clark hadn’t, even Superman had been unable to do, at least up to knowledge Dick held on the subject.

Hal Jordan managed to be a light for Bruce Wayne, had managed to light something in his eyes, that Dick was once so sure was dead, long gone, long lost under the cover of night. Taking a deep breath, he adjusted his mask; let his hand rake through his hair as he contemplated the situation before him. He took a deep breath and started walking, heading on back towards the main room, Hal’s laughter and Bruce smirk frozen in his head, the look in Bruce’s eyes humming in Dick’s mind, as he went back to talk and just enjoy his time here, surrounded by friends and family, surrounded by capes and supers.

 

Clark Kent- March 20, 2011

“I’m getting married,” he beamed, looking at the young man across the table at him, with eyes glowing with happiness, joy, everything and anything he’s ever wanted at the tip of his fingers.

“Oh well, hey, Happy Birthday Dick,” the boy’s voice dropping lower than its usual frequency, before resuming its usual sound, “oh thanks Clark, it’s nothing really, people turn 19 all the time.”

“Happy Birthday Dick,” Clark smiled, letting warmth and sarcasm tilt his voice just slightly, “sorry I’ve just been dying to tell you.”

“Oh thanks Clark, it’s nothing really, people turn 19 all the time,” he grinned devilishly, looking over the menu before him, “Now what did you want to tell me?” The boy cocked an eyebrow, dark blue eyes seeking out his own.

“Didn’t you hear me?”

“Nope,” he let the ‘p’ make a popping sound, “I didn’t hear anything before Happy Birthday Dick. So what have you just been dying to tell little old me?” He was being dramatic now, letting himself over act and just be silly.

“I’m getting married,” he let a sly smile cross over his features, as he pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose.

Dick choked, literally choked, “what, to who?”

Clark frowned, “who do you think? Lois of course.”

The kid honestly looked confused, bewildered eyes sought him out, “but I thought, you and Br- I mean I always assumed- not that I’m not happy- it’s just-” his eyes fluttered everywhere, words going by so fast, Clark had to focus to catch them.

The waitress showed up, cutting Dick’s rant/word vomit, before it became any more of a clusterfuck than it already was.

“Two coffees, sirs, are you ready to order, or would you like a few more minutes?” She was pretty, bright brown eyes, slightly curly black hair, and tan skin, gorgeous really, and she was looking straight at Dick as she spoke.

“A few more minutes, please,” the boy let his voice drop slightly, eyes meeting hers, as he shamelessly flirted.

“No problem sir,” she smiled back, eyes lighting up impossibly more. Clark rolled his eyes, a smile edging its way onto his features.

He watched Dick’s eyes follow her, as she left the table, snapping back to him as if a switch had been hit, flirting gone, more serious, but not fully. “You know what,” Dick, taking a breath, let a smile light up his features, “good for you, I’m ecstatic for you.”

Clark let his horror show on his face, mouth dialed downwards, “that didn’t sound ecstatic.”

“I just,” Dick sighed, looking at his menu, “didn’t know you were dating Lois. When did that happen by the way?”

He cocked his head slightly, looking across the table with hesitance, “well it’s always kind of been a thing,” he could feel a blush seep into his features, “I mean it wasn’t official until a couple years ago, but I just kind of always assumed you knew, we were dating at least.”

“Uh, no,” Dick stretched out the ‘o’ shrugging slightly, “I always thought you and Bruce were kind of a thing.”

Clark nearly sprayed his drink out, choking slightly, as he looked up at Dick, eyes wide, mouth slightly open, “what no, never. Dick, me and Bruce, I me, we, we’re only friends. We have o-only been friends, best friends.”

Dick frowned, looking at him carefully, “you sure?”

“Yes,” Clark shook his head, “of course I’m sure,” he smiled bashfully, “what got that crazy idea in your head.”

“It’s not crazy, everyone thought you two were a thing, just like we all thought Hal and Barry were a thing,” Dick was looking at him seriously, as if he were trying to figure out a puzzle while death glaring him into the ground.

“I never thought they were a thing,” he admitted with a shrug, “Well Hal and Barry sure acted like it sometimes, but they were only friends. I mean Barry has Iris and Hal does what he does. They were just friends.”

“Right,” Dick muttered, taking a sip of his coffee, “well doesn’t matter anyway, Bruce and Hal seem to be….friends now, like good friends, like best friends, like and I quote from Hal here, ‘Spock and Kirk’ level friends,” he said friends as if to imply more, as if to mock what Clark had just stated.

“What do you mean? Hal and Bruce don’t get along at all; I doubt they could be in the same room with each other for more than five minutes, much less friends.” He took another cautious drink, eyes staring down at his menu.

“Well if you had been to Bruce’s birthday party, you would have known it was also Hal’s apparently they’re a day apart, and apparently they wanted to celebrate theirs together, and apparently from what Jason mentioned, Hal pretty much lives at the manor half the time.” Dick had that look on his face, like he was trying to say something, like Clark was too stupid to catch what he was trying to say. It was a look he had adopted from Bruce, much to Clark’s annoyance.

“I told you, I was busy, and how did that happen,” Clark let his confusion show, mouth tilting downwards. It didn’t make sense. Hal and Bruce had never particularly gotten along, like ever. Usually they fought all the time, and the few missions the two had been on together since Hal had gotten back had been just like all the other times they had worked together. Bruce condescended and Hal threw some witty hit at bats back, undermining Bruce’s authority, and doing his own thing, resulting in a long lecture from Bruce, which led to a fighting match.

Plus Bruce hadn’t mentioned the two of them hanging out, sure they hadn’t you know, gone out like Dick and he had been doing recently, but Clark would like to think Bruce kept him well informed of his day to day life. They were best friends, Clark kept him informed.

“Apparently not long after Hal came back, he started hanging out with Bruce,” Dick was looking at him, as if trying to read him for something.

“I didn’t know that,” something filled his voice, something he wasn’t accustomed to, it felt slightly like hopelessness, slightly like disappointment, and a lot like failure.

“Neither did I,” Dick grumbled, nose twitching, he shrugged, “then again we’ve both been pretty preoccupied with our own business. I’ve just really started to settle in Bludhaven, and apparently you’ve been with Lois. Plus it’s not like Bruce tells us anything.”

“How is he? Bruce I mean,” Clark asked.

“Fine, from what I can tell,” Dick looked away cradling his cup tightly, “he’s...calmer, like he’s leveled out more. Oh and get this, apparently Hal has started forcing him to go hang out with Oliver at least once a month, just found that out from Roy.”

“Really,” Clark raised an eyebrow, mouth tilting up, “are you sure you’re talking about Bruce? And how is Roy, you haven’t spoken of him in awhile.”

“Roy’s good, Oliver and he were trying to work through their problems a couple months ago, even went to the Superbowl with Hal and Jason. But he’s really just focused on trying to make a name for himself; you know Red Arrow and all that. But I mean, like I was saying with Bruce,” Dick pulled the cup closer, “he was trying you know. He was really trying.”

“He tried with you too Dick,” Clark let the honesty, the seriousness seep into his voice, “you were his first child, he didn’t really know how to handle you.”

“I know he did, I mean, I know.” Gosh, the kid sounded lost, younger, like he was eight years old all over again, “he was too protective of me, but he cared. I see that now. He just, didn’t know when to let go, you know?”

“He never does,” Clark muttered.

“But with Jason, something is different,” Dick shrugged, trying to rein in his feelings,” he’s more like an older brother with Jason, father yes, but closer to brother as well. I mean he’s better with Jason, knows when to give a little.”

“I can’t really picture that,” Clark admitted, with a slight smile, “he has been better lately, nicer I mean, to the league.”

Dick shrugged, “maybe Jason and Hal are good for him.”

“You were good for him,” Clark said, “You lightened him up, reminded him to smile. He misses you.”

“You don’t know that,” he snapped, before he could stop himself.

“Yeah I do,” Clark let himself put everything behind his words, willing Dick to believe them, “You are his son Dick. He loves you more than anything else in this world, he is just afraid he has lost you. Go spend some time at the manor for a little bit, if not for Bruce, then for Jason. He’s your brother; he’ll love to get to know you.”

“I don’t think so, the kid acted like I was an intruder, nearly bit my head off,” Dick scowled softly, “but yeah I think I will. You should hang out with Bruce more too.”

“Yeah,” Clark sighed, “after Barry...I don’t know things just really got hectic, and then the whole league happened."I don’t know. We just didn’t really have time for each other anymore.”

“Right,” Dick sounded skeptical, but Clark let him, he didn’t want another soul searching discovery today, “speaking of the league, what’s up with that new Flash guy?”

This again. Clark rolled his eyes, “Is he still trying to be friends with you?”

“Yeah…”

“I thought you would be ecstatic about another friend,” Clark laughed, lightly.

“I don’t know, there’s just something about him, about the things he says sometimes,” Dick let his nose curl up, “like he knows who I really am or something. I don’t know it’s kind of creepy. At least he’s finally stopped showing up in Bludhaven.”

“He’s a sweet kid,” Clark frowned, raising an eyebrow at the man in front of him. It was strange to see Dick so mistrustful, so uneasy around another person. The man was usually so happy, and so willing to see the best of people. Then again he did live in Bludhaven, was working to be a cop.

 

Jason Todd- April 7, 2011-

Jason got into another fight. It was getting more and more frequent lately, and that was the thing, he didn’t know why he was getting into fights, only knew there was something boiling under his skin, something pushing him, driving him to do more than just let criminals get away, let them get thrown into jail only to be walking free within the week.

It wasn’t fair, wasn’t something he was going to fucking allow, didn’t want to allow.

He got into another fight, and Bruce was worried, he was putting more on Bruce than he should be doing, but if he stopped them, these criminals for good, if he just crossed that line, he could-

But no, Bruce was there, here, now, Hal hovering him, Bruce with his hand on Jason’s shoulder, firm, cold eyes looking into him, almost as if he knows, as if he understands what exactly is making Jason feel this way. Jason knows he’s in trouble too, Bruce has that look in his eyes, and Hal just kind of looks worried.

“What the hell happened?” Hal finally asks, breaking the silence between them.

“Some asshole called me a piece of street shit and told me to crawl back to the sewers I came from. Tried to call B names, so I took care of him and set the record straight,” Jason stated proudly, head held high, unashamed of his actions.

“Damn,” Hal breathed, about to go in for a high five before Alfred of all people stepped in.

“So you thought beating a child half to death was the answer?” His eyes were harsh cold, but slightly tired, tired in a way that made Jason want to flinch.

“Is where I’m from,” he stated.

“Yes but these-” Alfred stopped, a sigh settling out into the air.

"Jason,” Bruce started, “You have to understand that some people are…” he paused eyes searching the space beyond his shoulder for a moment, before meeting his eyes, “like slinkys,” he started cautiously, like he was making it all up on the spot. “They have no purpose, but they still make you smile when you push them down the stairs," Bruce smiled lightly, eyes meeting Hal’s in that look they sometimes got around each other. Bruce smiled, just a small lift of the corner of his lips, a twitch if anything really, but Jason couldn't stop the shit eating grin that enveloped his entire face, couldn't help feeling like that twitch was the biggest accomplishment in the universe. Hal beaming at the brooding bat in front of him, eyes meeting Jason’s in a way he’d never felt before, in a way that made him feel like he’d accomplished something, did something right for once in his life. Jason always felt this surge pure unadulterated joy over the smallest things when it came to Bruce. Hal was always a place for comfort, to find joy, but Bruce was difficult to decipher, to understand. Bruce made the mundane so unendingly fascinating. He made life his own mystery, his own story carved out for generations to come, made Jason a part of that history, made him something worth fighting for, worth reading about, worth loving.

“However, you have to remember that those people they are not worth throwing your own life away for. If you want to get back at them, then beat them at life, not in physical brutality, show them you are better than they are,” Bruce was himself again, lips in a masked frown, in a smothered smiled, an unknown puzzle; his pure unreadable eyes looking down at Jason in that way that made him shift with uncertainty, “But I understand where you are coming from and there will be people that only listen to violence, and I want you to know that what you are feeling is okay.”

“What,” he burst out before he could find something smart, something right to say.

“It’s okay,” Bruce stated again, kneeling down to his level, large hand coming to rest on his tense shoulder, “to be angered, to be emotional, irrational in situations that are frustrating or filled with high tensions. It’s okay to be upset over something that has happened to you, small or large, but you have to control that anger, you cannot run around pushing people downstairs.”

“Yeah kid,” Hal took Bruce’s side, hand resting on his father’s shoulder, “Anything that hurts you needs to be addressed. Look I get it; I get mad over the smallest fucking things all the time.”

“You got that right,” Bruce muttered, eyes lighting up slightly as Hal nudged him, grumbling slightly.

The Green Lantern cleared his throat, a glare going Bruce’s direction, “whereas the big picture generally sends Bruce into a frenzy. People are different, and things hurt you, that’s just a fact. Yeah it fucking sucks, but that’s just how shit is. Everyone has to learn to deal with it in their own way.”

“How do,” Jason looked down, frown taking over his features, “how do you guys-”

“I usually hit things,” Hal stated, a glare from Bruce having the man sneer his nose, eyes searching the sky for a second before revising abashedly, “or fly, flying helps.”

He smirked eyes watching the two before him glare at each other slightly.

“I meditate,” Bruce looked away slightly, eyes far into the sky, into a memory Jason would probably never know, never hear about.

“We can teach you,” Hal boasted, filling in for Bruce’ silence, for Bruce’s distance, “or help you, or,” he scratched his neck lightly, “you know find what works for you. I mean when I was your age, I used video games.”

“So does this mean I get to play more video games?” Hal asked, looking up towards Bruce.

“We’ll see.”

Hal:

Bruce spent the next few weeks, the next month hovering over Jason, trying to help him manage his anger, control his emotions in every way he could, from different types of martial arts to meditations, which failed because Jason couldn’t keep still or focus long enough on it. Hal spent this time playing video games with the kid, forcing Bruce to participate when he had time, which was one of the greatest things on the planet to see, as well as forcing the two of them to play laser tag, even to the extent of inviting Roy over so the four of them could team up against each other, Bruce and Hal versus Roy and Jason.

They spent the next month trying to navigate between watching Bruce and helping Jason, a task that was in no way easy with the big bad bat and his disciple being impossible to truly keep track of, not to mention actually living in Coast City and taking care of it. He wasn’t at Wayne Manor twenty four seven, but he went there a good four out of seven days of the week, a constant presence coming and going from its imposing walls.

And in that month he studied the two of them, watch them and learned from them. He saw their fights as much as he saw their love for the other. He saw as Bruce slowly let them in, let them into his study and the room in the back, the room with the piano and Bruce’s drawings, the room with posters and comic books and so many books and movies that it short circuits his head a little bit. He sees a room that shows more of Bruce’s character than he’s seen in the years he’s known him. He sees more of Bruce in the next month than he’s ever seen in his entire existence, which shouldn’t nearly be as magically as it feels.

He learned a lot about both them, he learned a lot, like Jason loved music actually wanted to learned how to play things. He learned that Jason could sing, could really sing. And Bruce was more than willing to teach him. Bruce taught Jason how to play the piano, how to play the guitar, generally blowing Hal off his chair while melting his mind in one go and setting even Alfred slightly off kilter. He was more of someone Hal had only dreamed of meeting. He was just himself in that back study, more man than symbol or hero or business man, or playboy. He was Bruce. And when Dick finally came back after some work from Bruce things really got interesting, because Dick’s pouting skills were on point. They even got Bruce to sing some Billy Joel song to teach Jason how to add a little showmanship to his performance.

Overall the month was productive, so indusive that Hal still had a lot to learn, could spend lifetime learning about this ragtag family.

He learned that he might be alright with doing just that, with spending a lifetime living just as he was.

 

Wally West 25- May 7, 2011

Wally dies hard and lives fast.

It is the speedster code.

At least that is what his Uncle told him once, in another life, in another time.

Memory is a funny thing, fickle, too fragile for its own good. The human body is delicate, too delicate for many heroes’ tastes. Yet he can see heroes springing up everywhere, from cops to masks, there is no one incapable of being a hero in some form or another. It is a lesson Wally has learned well.

He doesn’t remember Artemis’ laugh, can’t remember a lot about his own universe, has had to write it all down, before the memories disappeared altogether. He does not remember a lot about his own universe, only that there was another universe. The buzzing in his head gets too loud when he thinks about it too long, and he knows better than to dive into it now, to disappear into the dark humming corners of his own mind.

He remembers to smile himself though, because speedsters have to smile, to lighten up the rest of league, remind people that things aren’t always that bad. He remembers to smile, to laugh. He even makes friends, makes a new family. Dick thinks he’s creepy, Roy keeps his distance, but that’s fine, he’s made himself a new family, one he’d never even imagined before. He is on the Justice League, an original member, right alongside Batman and Green Lantern, and Hawkwoman and Wonder Woman and Superman and Martian Manhunter.

He is a scientist, works at the Central City Police Department as a forensic scientist, just like his Uncle once had. It is surreal, and kind of scary, but he makes himself the lovable fool, so that he is one easily replaced, so that when he finally can go home they won’t be terribly sorry.

Only he doesn’t quite want to go home anymore, this place needs him, and in many ways he needs this place. It has become his home.

Yes he misses his old family though the memories are vague and fading, and yes this life is lonely, but he is grateful for the growth it has given him, for the insight and chance to be his own hero.

He just never expected he would ever be this important. He had never anticipated playing such a major role in a universe that was not his own.

A week ago he saw just how important Flash is, he is.

A week ago he saw the technology needed to send him home, could have used it, taken the coward’s way out and ran back home, could have gone back home to Dick and Roy and Artemis, but he didn’t.

A week ago he made a choice, to be the Flash, to remain where he does not belong, yet is needed all the same.

The Justice Lords had taught him that he, that this mask is more than just some fool, some comedy relief. The Flash is here to remind the Justice League how to be human, to remain in control. He may play stupid, but that most certainly does not mean he is, and he knows, knows more than anyone how important it is to remain human when the world is crashing down on shoulders so sick and tired of holding itself up. He knows how to sacrifice things for the world’s sake, and he knows now that he can never go back home, no matter the little gadgets he’s built the resources he’s scrounged up from S.T.A.R labs, that Bruce had given him. It will not matter. This is where he is needed, if only just to remind Superman that he needs to be human, to remind Batman that he needs some light, remind Diana to stay honest in her beliefs, remind Hawkwom-girl and GL that no one defines them but themselves, and most importantly remind Jo’nn that humanity can be good, just as they can be bad, they can be good and pure and sweet, even when sometimes they don’t want to be.

A week and Batman won’t look him in the eyes; everyone is dancing around the truth. For superheroes sometimes the most important things are left unsaid.

In all his years as the Flash, and before that as Kid Flash, Batman was some sort of untouchable force. The mask, the full on body armor, the whole sha-bang screamed ‘do not touch me,’ said ‘don’t get too close’ and for Wally he’d always wanted to, get close that is. He wanted in his years as the Flash to befriend Batman, if only to get some reminder of Dick, the friend he’d lost. As Kid Flash he’d wanted to get close to Batman, because he was one hell of a mentor. Now, after wreckage of the Justice Lords, he wanted not only to be a friend, but to be family, with all teammates, not just Batman, but with Bruce.

“Hey Bats,” Wally smiled over at him, at the stiff wall of human purposefully facing away from him.

There was no response, just eerie silence.

“Whatcha doing,” he tries again.

“Look, I know-”

The dark knight leaves, just a whoosh of black fabric and darkness. And suddenly all Wally can see are green eyes, can see is Jason, the Robin who didn’t make it home, the first to die on the team, back on his Earth, all Wally can see is his laughter, dancing in the air between him and Roy. He wonders if destiny is to repeat itself.

He wonders if he should speak up.

Dick Grayson- May 12, 2011

He burns to love, has been burned by love, and yet craves to do it again and again despite the fall down. He runs and flips over rooftops and flies off into battle headstrong and living fast. He has a heart of gold, but a mind of darkness, all light and dark mixed up in an eternal dance of give and take.

He came as Nightwing, got off late, knew Bruce and Jason would still be out on the prowl, knew he would just come to say what he was supposed to and then leave, knew he would just do what needed to be done, maybe go back to the Manor seek some cake and head out, nothing fancy.

Soaring from rooftop to rooftop on familiar street patterns, and under gloomy skies, he couldn’t help, but feel an old ache, remind himself that this was his first city, the city he grew up on, was raised on learning some of his tricks for the very first time.

There were a lot of good memories here.

But there were also a lot of bad memories.

To be honest what happened next was a blur, from the rush of fighting beside Bruce and Barbara again and this time Jason to the moment where he slips up, and Jason gets a bullet to the arm, with Barbara yelling in his ear, and Bruce jumping into action, putting himself in the line of fire for them to get out.

He remembers coming back to the cave, watching Alfred stitch the kid up, watching Bruce stalk back in, angered and tense.

Once Jason was gone, once Barbara and Alfred had made themselves scarce he looked at Batman, saw the bat looming before him, rage barely tethered in, “Bruce I’m so sor-”

“You botched the mission.” He growled out, voice tense, eyes wild, “ignored a direct command.”

“I was just trying to help.” His voice was a wild fire, moving before it could be calmed down, burning too bright, too heavy, dripping with something hot and heavy.

“You injured a teammate,” It was growled out at him, like he was supposed to know, and yes maybe he was, but it hadn’t been that bad, just a small accident. It wasn’t his fault.

It was a little his fault.

“I didn’t mean to, the guy snuck up on us.”

The pressure was building, years of anger and despair sneaking up to the surface.

“You almost got the both of you killed.”

“What do you want from me?” The scream tore itself from his throat, cutting through his chest and the air between the stone wall of Batman and himself.

“Just go,” Bruce turned his back to him, the man’s calling card for Dick to leave. Tonight, however, Dick was done leaving, done turning his back and letting Bruce wallow in whatever angry hole he’d dug for himself this time. This time Dick was going to speak and Bruce would listen.

“Fuck you Bruce, you know what fuck you. You’re just pissed because you can’t control me anymore; well guess what I don’t need you. I never needed you in my goddamn life, and I most certainly don’t need you now. I’m not falling for that poor me act anymore. I’m leaving this time for good; don’t expect me back anytime soon, for you, or for your replacement upstairs.”

The swing had come from nowhere, a fist rocketing towards his face with more ferocity than he’d ever seen come from the man before him. It was full of rage, raw and clean, full of some overpowering emotion that Dick hadn’t seen from Bruce before, hadn’t ever gotten a really good look at. It would have hit him too, would have socked him right in the cheek, had he not ducked in time, had his reflexes not have been so well developed, so highly trained.

It was the shock however that kept his eyes trained forward, had him stock still, wondering if he’d finally managed to push Bruce to the very edge, if he’d finally pushed Bruce as far as he could.

“Did you just try to hit me?” Betrayal ran cold through his blood, ice lining his veins. Bruce had never not even once tried to hit him before, never once tried to harm him physically, until now. Sure, he’d laid a couple out on Bruce through the years, but for some reason that was different. For some reason that hadn’t hurt as much as this moment hurt.

Later when it was all said and done, when the smoke cleared and the rubble turned into misplaced words, when the bitter hatred twists into cotton on his tongue, when all that was left here, with him was his own hollowed out chest, Dick would wonder what exactly had soured this night, would wonder when he stepped out of line. Later he would wonder if it was his fault.

Later, (after months had passed in silence between him and his mentor, after Jason was long and gone, after one fight after the next and Dick had come to the realization that Bruce could never ask for help, could not reach out to him, even if he tried) he’d replay the scene in his head. Later he’d look back over this night in high definition, would work through every word, every thought that flittered passed through his head, he would understand a little more what exactly happened that night and the months to follow, not fully, but enough. He would see the look of confusion flittering across Bruce’s face as confusion and not what he had taken as more anger directed at him, as disappointment clouding his father’s features. He would see the fear in Bruce’s eyes as he looked at his own fist, rather than the man trying to rope himself in. He would hear the broken, “I didn’t- - I did not--- mean,” as something more than background noise. Later he would realize that something was wrong that Bruce may not be as well put together as he let on. He would think back to all those times Bruce had broken a little bit during Dick’s time as his ward. He would replay every time Bruce’s strength would falter, when Bruce would break before his eyes just a little bit at a time. He would remember all the times he just ignored the warning signs, pushed aside small pleas for help, carefully disguised as dismissal, carefully masked as disapproval.

Later he would understand that the best actors hid their emotions so well, they manage to fool even themselves and Bruce is one of the best actors he has ever known.

Later he would think maybe, just maybe he should have stuck around longer, tried to help. But that wasn’t his job anymore and he was done trying, done fighting with the man who’d raised him, who’d taught him how to be alone.

 

Bruce Wayne: 29- May 10, 2011

He could not think, function properly. His chest was tight, his mind racing, his heart thudding in his chest. The world was spinning out of control; the world did not quite make sense

His mind was not what it should be. He almost hit Dick, he almost.

He did not rememb-

He did not mean-

But Dick will think-

He did not mean it. He did not want to hit Dick. He did not want to hit anyone close to him, to hurt them, but it was inevitable, was it not? For him to hurt those close to him.

What? How long did you think he would last? He was already on the brink of leaving you, now you’ve pushed him away for good. How long will the others last? Jason? Hal? Clark’s gone. Harvey you drove batshit crazy. Everything you touch turns to ash, mutates into evil.

You are evil. His thoughts say. You do not deserve them. His heart murmured.

How much longer until you fail the Flash too, until Wally is dead and gone. Wally, who you promised Barry you would protect, look after, despite how suspicious of him you were. Despite the fact you know he’s not of this Earth, how much longer? How much longer til you ruin your planet, your city?

You failed your parents more times than you can count, how much longer til you kill their memory all together?

His stomach flipped in on itself, forcing his breathing to come in and out, forcing himself to focus, to not look at the wreck of himself in the mirror, to not think about all of the inevitabilities out there, not think about the days, just counting down until he’s all alone again. Until he’s all alone again, just like-

Stop
Compartmentalize
Store
Do not process

His brain went back, like it’d been doing for the past two weeks three hours, forty eight minutes, and thirty seven seconds. His brain went back, replaying everything in high definition, screaming at him to remember, to think, to plan, to do something more than just sit around doing nothing, but waiting until Flash dies. Everything dies, but Wally cannot be catalyst for Justice Lords. They cannot defame his memory in just a manner. They cannot make that Wally’s mark on this world.

He splashes water on his face, tries to clear his thoughts, brush away the tendrils of doubt clouding his features, tries to scrub away the failure grated into his bones with expensive soap and ordinary water, tries to identify when he became a stranger, tries not to think about the person buried beneath a multitude of masks, of the man he really is.

His skin itches, the buzzing in his brain too loud. His mind is too loud, like always it’s too loud, too much. There’s too many thoughts cutting through each other, scattering across his mind and breaking down carefully constructed walls. He needs to focus, to put things back where they belong in his own mind, needs to rearrange the delicate world he has grafted in his psyche.

He does not eat, has not eaten in too long, longer than he normally allows himself to go, but the food has drugs in it. He knows Alfred is putting his pills in it, trying to make him something he is not.

He makes himself tall, does not call Clark back, does not ask for help. No, he is fine. He is fine.

Blink.

He is sitting on a soft beanie bag like chair. It is white, the chair, and its chilled surface leaks in through old clothes. He is wearing old clothes, clothes, Alfred would frown upon, would toss out if he knew Bruce still had them. They are soft things, black sweatpants with a soft black shirt to match, blue and black hoodie covering his muscled frame.

They are soft things.

They are weaknesses, cracks in the bigger picture.

He is sitting in a soft chair, in soft clothes, in a soft room.

The walls are padded, white and careful in how they show their features, as if trying not to draw too much attention to themselves. Unfortunately they draw too much attention to him. He stands out, black hair, black clothes against a white backdrop, pale skin blending in slightly, bright blue eyes standing stark out.

“It’s been awhile,” he says, because it has. It has been a while; it’s been too long since they have seen each other. Or maybe it has not been long enough. “It’s been awhile,” he says and his voice is soft, like Bruce remembers it once was, like this room is.

“Yes,” his voice is hoarse, and he knows he must look like hell, but he cannot bring himself to care, to try to rectify for the fact that he is a mess and he needs to feel like less of a mess.

He moves a rook, and Bruce takes it. Bruce moves a knight, and he tries to trap it.

The movements are familiar, this game almost comforting.

He has not slept in too long, but his brain is still too sharp, too focused and Alfred will not let him back in the cave, will not let him work, figure this problem out.

He moves a pawn and Bruce takes it with a knight. Bruce moves a bishop, and he takes a pawn.

He does not remember driving here; much less walking into this room, but it is comforting. There is not that constant pressure of the manor weighing down upon him, or the insistent tug of the cave and the suit luring him into oblivion, nor is the buzzing blasting in his brain, scrambling the ever present swirl of thoughts, ideas floating and fighting for dominance in his brain, only this.

“You look like shit sweetheart,” he states, like it is a fact of life.

“I am not your sweetheart,” Bruce snaps, taking his last rook.

“You still look like shit,” he replies, voice low, cool, calm, like the ocean, calm, before the storm.

“You look worse,” only he does not, and they both know it. They both know who looks worse than the other, who looks like they’ve been through the wringer more times than they can count.

He does not reply, does not know how to reply to that.

He takes another pawn, Bruce steels a knight.

“What’s taken you so long to come see me?” He asks, as Bruce takes his last pawn, crystal eyes trained on the board, “normally there’s some sort of pattern, but this past year or so, you hardly ever come see me.”

Bruce does not answer. He does however, take the last knight and moves to checkmate.

“Have you met someone,” there’s an edge to his voice that Bruce lazily reminds himself to be weary of, to be cautious of.

“I have met a lot of people,” he whispers, taking the king.

“You know what I mean,” there is a bite to his words now, something laced in acid, something so familiar it almost hurts.

“Not in the way you are thinking,” he takes the king, knocks it over, as their eyes lock.

“So now you know what I’m thinking,” he snaps and Bruce has to remind himself not to flinch. He almost looks down, almost, but not quite.

“I do not have telepathy if that is what you are inquiring,” Bruce begins to pack up the board, studiously putting away the pieces, as if to appear disinterested in the conversation.

“You think you’re hot stuff don’t you sweetheart, better than me, huh,” he grabs Bruce’s arm and Bruce notes offhandedly that it will bruise, but that does not concern him, like it should.

He looks up blankly, face completely devoid of emotion, “I am not your sweetheart, Harvey.”

“Oh then what the fuck are you then,” he growls, as the guards move in to take him off of Bruce, though the man’s scarred hand merely grips tighter.

“I am unaware of the answer to that,” he states, twirling on his heels, forcing himself not to look back.

 

Dinah Lance- May 15, 2011

“What happened with Dick,” she asked, straight to the point today, trying not to let him control the flow of conversation again.

“I stopped taking my medication,” he doesn’t pay attention to her, but still scopes out the room, looking of anything off or out of place.

“So I guessed, but I want to know why you stopped. I want to know why you let the situation escalate like it did,” she is firm, she is angry, she is a lot of things right now, worried one of the many, but mainly frustrated, frustrated with Bruce’s lack of cooperation, both here in therapy and now with his medication.

“It got too loud.” Bruce stated, “It’s loud, now. I thought if I stopped taking them things would quiet down. It was the only reason I started taking them in the first place.”

“What do you mean by loud,” she dots down the term ‘loud.’ It was a frequent word Bruce used in the past couple months. He’d say things were ‘loud’ and she was unsure how to take it, whether he meant literally or mentally she couldn’t quite place, how he described it sometimes made no sense in the context of their conversation and he rarely elaborated on it. It was like she was just supposed to know, and no matter how must she poked and prodded, all she got was either, silence, a change in subject, or just an all out evacuation of the room.

Today however he seems slightly out of focus.

“When my parents died everything got too loud. Before- before it was quiet. They did not trust anyone to keep me safe besides Alfred, so I never got to go out much, and then only in secret. It was not until I turned eight that changed. Then four months, seven days, seventeen hours, ten minutes, and thirty two seconds later they died.”

“Do you believe those two events were somehow coordinated?”

“If you are in any way thinking I believe my parents’ murder was my fault, you would be incorrect. The results of that night were in no way my fault.” It sounded practiced, like he’d spent hours in a mirror rehearsing the exact same lines in a mantra one could never forget, like he’d brainwashed himself into believing the truth.

“Do you really believe that,” she asks, trying to catch his eyes as they searched in the distance.

After a few minutes his eyes finally found her again, as if he’d just waltzed back into the present. It was the look in his eyes that knocked her down, the pure honest look in his eyes that had her falling into this realm where Bruce all she could tell was that there was something deeper than what she’d witnessed so far in their sessions, that she was on the verge of maybe truly understanding the man before her, “I am unsure.”

He does something she’s never seen him do before. He does something unexpected, something that throws her off balance.

He leans on his hand, elbow on the arm of the couch, detached crystal eyes watching the rain, watching the water droplets from the sky sprinkle down to the earth in a harsh pitter patter of downpour.

“What is wrong Bruce,” she asks, letting her eyes take in the hardened features of the man before her, of a man who had everything he could ever ask for handed to him on silver platter, who could have anything he never wanted, and nothing he did.

“He is going to die and I am unsure what to do,” Bruce lets his eyes wander to the sky.

“Who do you think will die?”

“Flash,” his jaw hardens; his mouth burrows down into a deeper scowl, “the Justice League went to an alternate universe, much like our own, only years ahead of us. Flash dies and the Justice League becomes the Justice Lords.”

“That was when you guys showed up with different costumes last week,” she said, watching as he gave a slight nod. “Are you afraid of that outcome becoming true?”

“I am sure it will,” there was something shifting in his voice, something she couldn’t quite place.

“Bruce there is no way of knowing that,” she says, “all you can do is learn from their mistakes and try not to make the same ones.”

“He was like me.”

“The other Batman?”

“Yes,” Bruce didn’t take his eyes off the rain, “he spoke to me, told me it was the world my parents wanted,” he is as still as a statue, voice strained, “and it was.” He stares at her now, eyes like steel, “it was essentially the perfect world, the kind my Father envisioned...However it was not one I could live in, could let anyone live in.”

“Why, what happened?”

“The other me helped us,” he stopped, looking back out the window, “Jason was dead, killed by Captain Atom. So was Hal, executed by Luthor on his first initiative. Yet he still helped us, me. He promised to make things right.”

“Do you believe he will?”

“Maybe,” he starts, eyes focusing on something outside, “I do not want it to happen here.” There was conviction in his voice, fire in his eyes, and she didn’t know what to say, because she knew that look, knows what it implies, for this moment and the near future, knows that Bruce will stop at nothing to keep his promise, knows he will hurt himself to try, “I cannot let it happen here.”

“Have you spoken to them about this, to Flash,” she asked, watching the way his eyes stayed far off even as he answered.

“They do not need to know.”

“That you care, or that you’re afraid of what the future may hold?”

“They do not need to be burdened by this.”

“But you do,” she asked, “Bruce you can’t allow an alternate reality dictate how you live your life, how you treat the people around you. That is one scenario in a million, a billion of infinite possibilities. You have to make this world your own, make your own destiny.”

“If I forget and let my guard down everyone could suffer.”

“I am not saying forget, be mindful, just don’t let it become an obsession, you still deserve happiness.”

“It was quieter there, peaceful.” He stated, eyes still trained on the rain pouring down from the sky above, shoulders slumped down slightly, “It was nice.”

Right when she thought she had him figured out a whole new hurt came up. The man’s psyche wasn’t stable, was unbalanced and unsure about just about everything, about all the things in his life he couldn’t control. He blamed everything on himself, put things on his own shoulders that do not belong there. He is the definition of self destructive, and she wasn’t sure she could undo the damage done to him.

Wally West- May 20, 2011

The coffee is too hot in his hands, even with his gloves on, the heat seems to seep into his skin, feels like it's peeling away the flesh, burning him apart. He keeps walking, moves like he has a purpose, which, of course, he does. It’s just sometimes he doesn’t walk like he has one. This time though he walks with one, walks quickly, but effectively. You know, if someone can walk effectively.

He puts a hand on the door, before walking in, head held high.

“We have to talk,” he says with force, drawing up from the pain, from the hurt, from the weird buzzing in the back of his head. “We have to talk,” he says, because they do, because they have to put this behind them, have to stop letting this hang in the space between them.

He locks the door, sits down and tries to look strong, even as Batman, as Bruce pretends he doesn’t care, as he doesn’t even turn back towards him.

“We have to talk Bruce,” he states, because he knows it’ll get his attention, that his name hadn’t been spoken on this tower in a long time.

Just like he’d thought, Batman is glowering at him, “no names,” he hiss, but Wally’s used to that, has actually missed that.

“Bruce,” he says because he can, because he knows this needs to happen, “I need you, to you know, promise me something. I mean, I know this is difficult, but it kind of needs to you know, happen.” He licks his lips, tries to not fuck this up any more than he already has. “Bats,” he whispers, mask tugged from his frame, “oh yeah, I uh kindofgotyouthistodrinkyouknow,ifyouwantit…” He holds the drink out, watches as the man glares at the drink.

“Come on man, it won’t kill you,” he smiles lazily, amused at the way he just continues to glare looking at it as though it were a bomb and not his favorite drink. It is his favorite drink, Wally remembers that, remembers the little things. Dick made a big deal of it once, because Clark was trying to woo the big bad bat. They’d done so much research on Bruce’s favorite drink, trying to find something for Clark to do to get Bruce to say yes to a date. It’d turned out to be a mocha coffee, with a dash of hazelnut, soy milk, double shot of espresso, with whip cream and caramel on top. It’d been funny to see someone as scary as him drinking the sweet beverage, but it’d made Clark happy, more so it had made Bruce’s day.

A gloved hand reached for it, experimentally taking a slight whiff of it, “would I poison you,” he asked, and he could almost picture the eye roll most likely directed at him.

He drank it slowly, though Wally knew he wanted to just chug it, knew he wanted to enjoy it more than he was letting himself. The man thanks him softly, Alfred’s lessons hard to push out.

“We need to talk,” he says.

“So you have mentioned.”

“It’s about-”

“I know.”

“No, I don’t think you do,” he huffed, running a hand through red locks, “we need, I mean-”

He’s saved the world a million times, but talking to Batman still made him act like a two year old.

“You have to promise me you won’t let them lose control, that you won’t lose control,” he says, eyes locking with the dark knight before him and he wants so much to see the eyes behind the mask, the man more than anything.

He doesn’t speak, simply dismisses him, and suddenly Wally knows what Dick means, understands just a little more what he always whined about.

“Stop pushing me away damnit!”

The outburst seems to shock Batman just as much as it does him, and he really really shouldn’t be as pleased as he is with that fact.
The man grunts, large and intimidating as ever, but Wally knows, and he thinks that’s the worst part. He knows this isn’t as dark as Batman can, will get, because he’s seen the aftermath of Jason’s death, but he knows it has to happen. He knows it must happen and he knows what will come, because of his inability to speak, to tell, of a choice all his own. But it is his choice, and he knows now what it means to sacrifice things you may not want to, knows he has to compromise his morals for the greater good, that Jason’s death is inevitable.

He puts a hand on the man’s shoulder, makes him look at him, and makes him see all the pain, and fear and desperation.

“You have to make plans to stop them, to stop me, just in case. I know it sucks, but we have to be- we have to be ready, just in case, if not for us then for the other crazy versions of us swarming around in the multiverse, because we can’t let that be us, andIdon’twantthattobeus, for them tobecomeus, or ustobecomethem,whichwouldreallyreallyreallybebad.” He breathes in deep breaths tries to focus, to stay calm.

A hand finds his shoulder, “I will,” he says, firm and strong, because he’s Batman, Bruce. He’s strong when nobody else can be. He is their rock, he keeps them together, hell he funds them. That makes this better, he breathes for what feels like the first time since coming back home.

When the mask comes off Wally knows this is serious, real, “I cannot however promise,” blue eyes look away from him, “that I will not become him.”

“You have to,” he grits out, “you,” he chokes, tries to find his center, closes his eyes and leans forward, head on a sturdy shoulder, “have to. You can’t become that because of me,” he tries to remind himself that he isn’t supposed to be the broken one, that he’s supposed to be the heart, the comic, but everything is bleeding through, and when he looks up it isn’t Bruce he sees, but Batman, strong and blunt and inhuman.

“Stop crying,” he demands, voice almost pained, frightened more than hurt, almost as if he really doesn’t know how to handle tears, which makes Wally laugh, makes him want to laugh at how the man’s inability to cope with emotions transcends the multiverse, makes him want to run and tell Dick, which makes him want to cry more, which does make him cry more.

He misses his home, a home he can barely remember anymore.

He misses everything and nothing, and just knows that somehow it all feels just as wrong as it does right, and the buzzing won’t go away, and he’s afraid, afraid of what they might become, of all the work he’s put into this, put into them being thrown away, of his family being twisted into tyrants, of a Batman just huddled in his cave, and Dick dead, and him dead. It scares him, because there is no honor in that life, there is no heroism in that future only pain and fear. It is a world he never wants to see come true.

“I promise,” he says slightly aghast, patting him awkwardly on the back, “just stop crying. I will do everything in my power not to turn into them.”

He does laugh as that, a nasty, snotty, ugly laugh, that has Bruce shifting in his seat, and has Wally laughing louder, “I made Batman uncomfortable with my tears.”

Batman gives an indignant grunt, and Wally tries to regain his composure, as he slips the mask back.

“Well, great chat, Bats, we should do it again sometime,” he smiles, like nothing just happened.

“No,” the man says too quickly, and Wally laughs louder.

He laughs because he can, and because he wants to hold onto the tiny sliver of hope blossoming in his chest, and he wants to believe that Batman will do this for him, knows Batman will do anything in his power to keep his promise.

 

Bruce Wayne: 29- July 9, 2011

He walks too fast, feels his feet lead him to his chair in the small, almost homey office and finds himself sitting there, finds himself talking, and talking and talking about nothing, about fucking Tibetan history and really just nothing, kind of like he usually does in these sessions, only this time it’s more rushed, a barrage of words ricocheting from his mouth and parading across the room towards the black and violet pants suit wearing woman in the room.

“Have you spoke to Flash yet,” she says, breaking off his comparison between Ancient China and Ancient Japan, trying to get him to talk about what she wants to talk about.

“Yes,” he says, because deep down he knows he needs to talk about this, needs someone to decipher what the hell all of this means.

“And how did that go,” she asks, as she notes down ‘agitated, uneasy, attempting to deflect from important topic of discussion’ and he files it away in his head, tries not to glare too much at her.

“Fine,” he says, because it had gone fine in all respects normal people consider. It was not fine on his standards, because Wally had manipulated the conversation, had made him promise something Bruce was not completely sold he could hold his end of the bargain, scratch that, knew he could not hold his end of the bargain.

He did not know what he would do if Wally died, if Flash was shot, because Wally was special, had somehow made the League work, had made things okay when they shouldn’t be okay.

He finds himself looking out the window again, at the blue sky above, at the people below, just watching the world work, listening to a tune in his head, trying not to think about the files he’d made, about the plans he’d made just in case they went out of control.

He tried not to think about the trust in Wally’s eyes, the look that said he would throw himself off a bridge if Batman told him to, because Wally believed he would save him, had somehow convinced himself that Batman would always be there to save the day.

“Just fine,” she says, expecting details.

“Yes,” he says, watches a couple usher their kids along. They are young and happy, just trying to live their lives.

“How do you feel now that you have spoken to him about it,” she notes that he seems out of sorts today.

“Fine,” he states as he tries not to think about green eyes and perfect overly sweet coffee and unrealistic promises.

“Okay,” she says leaning back, looking expectantly at him, and all he wants is to leave, to just up and get out of here.

“It helped him,” he stated, “Flash, it helped him.” He looked at the cars underneath him, at people living normal lives, and remembered briefly when Scarecrow offered him a life without Batman, without all the hectic tragedies and world ending catastrophes of reality, remembered the way he felt too overwhelmed, so angered, so helpless, how he could not help anyone.

He remembered killing himself too. He had suspected it was not real, but he honestly had not been sure, had been so out of it, he had not even spared a moment to do the proper tests, to think logically. He took his life, with his parents in mind, with the perfect life with them handed to him freely on a plate before them, with his son on his mind, his son that was not his son there. Dick was in an orphanage, he was just some businessman consumed by work. Jim, Clark, Hal, Barry, none of them knew him; he was more alone then than he ever had been here. He killed himself there, because it was unbearable.

Sometimes tragedies are for the best.

“He needed to be reaffirmed that we would not end up like them,” he tried to relaxed his fists, tried to keep his mask up, but he was not used to talking like this, to opening up his mind to those who do not belong there, who do not belong in his thought patterns.

“So you promised you would not become like them,” she stated, looking at him calmly.

“It was a lie,” he stated, trying not to see her worry.

“Why is that,” she asks like she does not know, like she does not know what he is capable of doing, if properly motivated.

“I do not know what would become of me if something like that happened,” he remembered blood on his hands, in a blurry haze, he could hear one of the locked doors in his head being slammed upon from the inside, could hear the way something, someone threatened to smash the door down, let out secrets Bruce has kept hidden from himself.

He wonders if he should just open the door, just to see, just to see what’s hiding-

Stop
Do not process

He wonders if what lay beyond those doors will unlock the answers he is looking for.

Stop

The buzzing gets louder and he wonders if he should let it overwhelm him, if he should see where it leads him.

Stop

He wonders if this is real, if all these attempts on his life, if this world he’s made since the moment Hal has entered his life is like that world Scarecrow made, if it’s all just some fantasy drudged up from his desires.

Stop

Stop

He wonders if that is why he has had nightmares since the moment Hal showed up in his life.

Stop

Why his brain is screaming at him to leave, to get out.

Stop

Please

Stop

“Bruce?”

He wonders briefly what will happen if he does die, if this place is a fantasy what will await him if he wakes.

He wonders if it is worse than this, if maybe it is the Justice Lords he is waking up to.

Stop

“Bruce?”

Stop

He wonders if it is worse than the Justice Lords.

He wonders if Hal is there, if Jason and Dick are there, if Alfred is there.

He wonders what he had become, if this is the best his mind can come up with.

“BRUCE!”

There is a hand on his shoulders, a voice ringing in his ears, trying to drown out his own thoughts, and he flinches, against his will he flinches, pulling back and away, trying not to lash out before he can access the situation.

A chair tips over, his chair, he is scattered on the floor, Dinah standing over him with eyes wide, blonde hair slightly disheveled.

He blinks, tries to understand what has happened, his brain painting a dangerous picture.

“Bruce,” she starts, but he is already on his feet, shame clouding his features, hidden by an easy smile, the playboy smile, an apology ringing out from lips that are not his own, he does not want them to be his own.

He leaves, slouches in on himself and tries not to think about the ramifications of where his mind went to, where it could go to. He leaves, trying to make himself look bigger than what he really is, building up his walls, making himself like diamond, solid and strong and more brazen than he thinks he can ever feel.

He leaves, despite Dinah’s voice calling out for him, leaves and seeks comfort in the shadows, finds the dark when it should not be found, hides like some coward, runs back to the cover of darkness, to his suit, to Batman, to an untouchable symbol, to something that cannot be touched by the fears plaguing his mortal mind.

 

Wally West- July 15, 2011

He took down the entire league, minus Batman this week, from some freaky snake cult thing, which was weird, like really weird, like weird for them, that is not to say that most of the things they face isn’t weird, but this was extra abnormal with a dash of what hell is my life. Which was awesome, hard and scary, but awesome. The scariest part?

Batman didn’t answer his call, didn’t come to save him.

He didn’t know when it happened, but somewhere along the line he’d just come to take the man’s ability to save him for granted. Somewhere along the line he passed that line to go back, to stop looking at the man like that, hell in this universe he was about all their ages. He was older than Roy. In this universe he was in the big leagues, but he still felt like a kid and he didn’t know what to do about that. He did not know what to do about the fact that Dick still wasn’t talking to him, and that the people who practically raised him were now his best friends and not parental figures. He did not know what to do about the fact that he was having way too much trouble remembering his own world, how he’d forgotten Artemis’ smile and his parent’s laughter, He tried to forget how he could barely remember what Lian looked like.

He was supposed to be resting, which he totally was cool with, however he couldn’t. Resting and speedster should never go in the same sentence. Never.

Wait

He was thinking about something.

Oh right, Batman.

Batman hadn’t come. Yet he still expected Batman to come. Despite the fact that he hadn’t and Flash proved himself as a hero, he still expected him to come, because he was Batman.

He was Batman and that was enough.

He was the one person you could count on when things got tough, when problems seem too impossible to solve.

He hadn’t changed. In the same way he hadn’t changed when Vandal Savage changed time, he hadn’t changed, not in the Lord’s universe, nor from his to this one.

As long as Batman was Bruce, he would always be the same. He might have different experiences, he might get grittier or nicer, but he was still Bruce Wayne, and that’s what mattered.

Superman changed. Red eyes glaring down at them, at him, hot and angry.

He never thought he’d ever be afraid of Superman, Batman all the time, but not something to worry about, but Superman, no, never.

Yet now...now he wasn’t sure. Because he could see what lay behind the man’s thinly veiled mask of Kansas gentlemen, now he understood Bat’s paranoia, his uneasiness with the man of steel. He understood the threat.

Diana changed.

He knew she was loyal. He knew she would follow Superman to the ends of the Earth.

Jo’nn changed.

He means well, only wants to help, but he would do anything for family.

John changed.

He would do anything to keep the world safe, bring peace.

Shayera changed.

Yet there was a part of her that hadn’t, that resisted the world they created.

Batman stayed the same.

At the core at least. He’d been confused, but eager to bring about change, wanted to make the world free again. He made a mistake and did everything in his power to correct said mistake.

He was Batman.

Shutting his eyes, he groaned. The buzzing was getting louder, threatening to rip him apart at the seams, taunting his mind daring it to lose itself in the power there. He turned off the television, putting an icepack on his head and trying to focus, to reel himself in, focus on the present.

Normally this noise could be pushed to the back of his mind, but today it was front and center, eager to be known, acknowledged. Back in February it’d done this, and he’d nearly killed himself, now it was doing it again, only this time it was pulling him in faster, harder than ever. His hand was shaking, his body vibrating. Everything hurt, he felt like he was being pulled into two, drifting in and out of reality.

You don’t belong here. It said, whispered, taunted in the worst ways. You should be dead. It snapped, angry and cold and bitter.

He felt himself sinking, being tugged into two very different directions. His body was reaching for the here and now, but his soul was being yanked back, yanked away.

Breathing became harder, his world blinking in and out of focus, swirling around, becoming too fuzzy, too muddled.

Blink

There was blood on his hands.

His own blood stained his hands. His kitchen a mess, the wounds on his wrists already closing up, the pills he’d taken already out of his system. His brain a mess.

What was happening?

What was wrong with him?

 

Bruce Wayne- July 15, 2011

He has spent the last month thinking.

He spent the last month dwelling on the past in ways Dinah has urged him not to, pushed him to move on from. There is a large part of him, however, that latches onto the past, takes bits and pieces of it and locks it up in rooms, makes a skyscraper of memories and ideas, and fallacies.

There is a large part of him left in that other world.

They are supposed to be moving on.

But like always he is static, frozen exactly where he should not be, left behind.

The party around him feels more like a cheap farce than anything today, his eyes wander around him, his palms feel sweaty, and he knows what this means. He knows he is supposed to tell Alfred or Hal, supposed to seek help, to show he’s progressing, that he is not in fact left behind.

He hides his shaking hands in his pockets slides out of the tight constraints of the two women on his arms, a polite excuse dancing from his tongue and pushes through the crowd, makes his way past the people around him, feels as if he is not really there, feels the tugging in the back of his head getting louder, the buzzing in his eyes screaming for attention.

It is raining outside; the cool drops of water chilling his skin, sinking deep into his bones.

He was walking, letting the world freeze around him. Briefly he noted that something was not right, that something didn’t feel quite right that his body didn’t feel like his own, and his soul felt like it was being tugged out of his body, no yanked, back and out, that the buzzing was telling him things he already knew.

'You should be dead.'

'You do not belong here.'

Briefly he noted that he should be more concerned, that he should be worried or angry or frustrated with the lack of control. Briefly, he noted something was not right.

Blink

“BRUCE!”

A hand forced him back into reality; a body slamming into his own slapped him awake.

“What the hell, are you okay man,” wide brown eyes looked at him in anguish, “Bruce, you with me.”

“What,” he shook his head, looking around, “what happened? Are you okay?”

“And I okay? Are you okay man,” Ted burst, “you almost took a nosedive off the building.”

The millionaire looked him over, and Bruce just kind of sat there dumbfounded, wondering what the hell he was doing on the roof.

“What were you thinking,” he asked, and Bruce didn’t know what to say, “I seriously thought you were going to jump.”

“I was just thinking,” Bruce says, because what else was he going to say.

“Look I know you’re the king of darkness and all that, but you really scared me,” Ted glanced over the edge, looking down, “If I hadn’t been here-”

“I’m not suicidal Kord,” he snapped, but he was not so sure. He was not even aware of what happened.

“I know, I mean I guess not,” he paused, “it kind of looked like,” looking away he shrugged. “You want me to get Alfred?”

“I’m fine,” he growled, “I do not need help,” because really that’s all there has been these last few months. Bruce this and Bruce that, and oh Brucie, and Batman, Batman. All there has been is worried glances, and everyone walking on eggshells around him, afraid he’ll just snap at any second.

He was better than that. He was a vigilante. He was the goddamn Batman.

“Okay,” Ted raised his hands in mock surrender, “I get it. I mean I don’t really get it, but I can pretend to for you at least, I mean it’s not really a big deal.” He shifted, moving his baby blue suit back into place, and boy it was an ugly suit, just pure horrific for the eyes.

“Remind me to update your fashion sense,” he muttered, closing his eyes as the rain continued to fall in light sprinkles.

“Hey what’s wrong with my sense of fashion,” he ignored the outburst, moving carefully back towards the ledge, hands resting on the railing, upper body leaning over, taking in the Gotham skyline.

Ted shuffled closer, “so uh...as much as I enjoy awkward silences,” he twiddled with his fingers, before taking a deep breath, “okay so how’s life?”

“Have you heard of alternate dimensions,” he cuts through the meaningless small talk, trying to catch his bearings.

“Yeah,” Ted cocked his head, scrunching his nose, “does this have to do with the doubles of the league from a couple of weeks back?”

“It was in May,” he states.

“Okay…”

“It is currently July.”

“Oh, right,” Ted flusters a bit, “whatever same difference.”

“No-”

“So alternate dimensions, yeah I’ve heard of them, why?”

Bruce growls softly at being interrupted, causing Ted to squeak slightly, “Do you know how many there are?”

“No, I don’t think we can know, I mean in theory a new world can be created with every individual choice we make, so there could be an infinite amount of universes,” he shrugged, “from what I’ve dug up, it’s like the butterfly effect. Every choice we make affects dozens of things, therein in the multiverse theory; there are an infinite amount of universe, built around those choices and the ripples each choice makes on the planet it inhabits.” Ted shrugs at him, and Bruce has to deepen his frown, trying hard not to look too closely at the deep blue glitter threatening to burn his eyes out.

“I’ve studied thirty-six universes out of the fifty two I have found,” he states.

“That sounds unhealthy, but my inner science geek wants to know more, so if you will,” he asked.

And so Bruce talks. He talks and talks, until the buzzing fades back into background noise, and his chest stops hurting, and his throat feels fuzzy from talking too much, and his mind just wants to melt in on itself.

He talks because he can, and Ted is here with the perfect distraction, because science is a good escape, the solid facts and sharp calculations that come with it. He talks and Ted talks back. They throw theories off of each other and try to understand more. He talks because Ted is smart and easy to talk to. He does not ask personal questions, he just talks facts. In ways he reminds Bruce of Wally, in ways he does not, and that’s fine, because they’ve known each other for a long time, have come to an agreement of all work, and rarely play. They talk because they sometimes have similar tastes, but generally do not, so it helps, gives him a different point of view.

It most certainly is not because he is unsure whether or not he should be left alone.

And when it is time to go, to leave the party he does not know what to do. Ted parts ways, with a smile and a promise to research this more, and Bruce is alone with more questions than answers. He is left to ponder what exactly he should do, just knows he does not want to be here, not in this time or place, not right now.

So he left, when he got back to the cave, he escaped from the world crashing down upon unstable shoulders and wrote, drew, did everything and anything in his power to let his head fall into a sense of nothingness. He worked, kept his hands moving, mind turning over sixty different scenarios at once, all trying to think, to work, to do anything but focus on matters he should be focusing on, refused to talk about the way his heart felt like lead and his gut was turned to goo and his throat was closed up and the buzzing would not cease to exist for even one millisecond of his life, how it just kept thrumming in his head like some off tune radio.

He locked himself away from the world and tried to think, tried to come up with some explanation for what was wrong with him, where he was ultimately failing in his life.

Like always he came up with nothing.

 

Bruce Wayne: July 21, 2011

It’s too loud today.

His skin is crawling and his head is too loud, but the world is too.

Dinah says he’s depressed, that he’s in a low point, but he just thinks he’s at a sane point, because really the world makes more sense when he feels like this than it ever does. He knows more things too, can see things written in the clouds more clearly, and sees things for what they really are instead of painting some stupid picture of all the meanings behind people’s actions. He tries to keep to himself, does not feel like getting up in the morning, but does, because breaking routine hurts more than actually doing something does at the moment.

He cannot even draw, the world seems too dull, and the moments that he’d usually capture on paper seem too dull.

At least it’s better than it was couple weeks ago, when he could not sit still to save his life, constantly jumping from one project to the next, brain sizzling goo, even after the party incident, which he does not talk about.

He does not like talking to begin with, people never really say what they mean anyway. Most of the things you ever really need to know can be told through a language that does not actually rely on speaking, but body language. He’s a master at body language. It’s his first dialect after all. When parents are not really all that present, you have no friends, no real family, and only a nearly invisible butler, one does not talk much, in fact one did not talk for exactly four years and when he did he made sure it was perfect English to impress the parents, which it did, but even still there was hardly much time to talk. He labels those years the working years, because he was hard at work learning, not just to be the perfect son, but to survive in the world, because knowledge, and books, and reading, and language came too easily.

From four to eight, he was still learning, but these were happier times, because his dad made sure to be around more, and he got into his exploring phase, where sometimes after a terrible day school, because every day at school was terrible, he would disappear into the city, climb onto rooftops and become invisible in crowds, saw people be people, watched them, studied them- these were the heaven years, because he felt invincible, loved, he felt at home.

From eight to eleven, he is in the processing years, where reality is blurred and things do not quite make sense, but he’s trying- Selina and Gordon and Alfred help, but the pieces of his life remind him too much of shattered pearls, and strange times, because the city looks different in ways only he notices.

Eleven to twelve are the adventuring years, where reality blurs and things start falling back into place. Things almost make sense, but maybe not. He should not be so naive. He should have been more alert, less aloof to the real world, should have -

Stop
Do not process

Twelve to fifteen are the silent years. He does not remember much of that time, has to keep forcing the memories back under water, because they are safer there, or maybe he was safer with them there, or maybe th-

Stop
Compartmentalize
Do not process

Sixteen to eighteen are learning years, trying to help, getting a degree in something, trying to relearn how to function, to fight, to be something.

Now he’s still in the trying phase, where he’s just trying at everything.

He does not want to try today.

He can read out an entire biology textbook without thinking, but the silent years are a muddle down blur in his head, kind of like moments with Harvey were.

He does not want to think about it.

Like every morning he breathes in and out, again and again in an empty mantra. He goes for a run, let’s the wind mark a path through his hair, let’s trees pass by, runs and runs, not following his path anymore just running to run, to do something. Dinah says exercise helps anyway.

He stops, eyes narrowing, mouth tilting further down than he usually allows. He has made a mistake coming here.

The rocks are knocked over; some tumbled to the ground elsewhere. Another pile sits on another path, away from this one, better view even, but one specifically for him and Dick. There’s another too for him and Jason. He makes the trip with them on the day he took them in, it’s nice reminds him of better days. But this one is special. He has not visited it in too long, in years. He looks at the carving on one of the stones, sees his father’s careful doctor handwriting, this mess of fast but meticulous curves of lines and tries to picture the man’s smile, frowns when all he gets are glassy eyes, and a blood stained face.

Smiles can be faked anyway.

He frowns again when he notices his feet, bare, except for the dirt and blood on them.

He forgot his shoes.

He heads back home- he has work anyway.

 

Bruce Wayne: July 22, 2011

Dinah says he needs to go out, break routine, but she says a lot of things, like he needs new medication that if it is not effectively helping him then they need to try new things. He needs to try something new.

He did not listen.

She told Alfred.

Alfred told Hal.

They are all traitors.

They get dressed, Hal in jeans, a green shirt, and his pilot jacket, while he stuffs himself in black pants that are not quite jeans, but not quite slacks, a grey shirt, and a leather jacket he keeps out of emotional attachment. It’s a weakness he allows, because it reminds him of Thomas, reminds him of the silent years, though he cannot quite place why, just knows Thomas gave it to him, gave it to him, beca-

Stop
Compartmentalize
Do not process

Hal waits for him downstairs. He is as he always is, suave with a dash of charming. He smiles at him, makes Bruce almost wants to smile back, because that’s what you do when you find someone you want to smile at. He does not smile, but he nods, which has to be close enough.

Hal slings an arm around his shoulder, which is strange. Hal keeps touching him, not in any way that makes him want to shy away, but it’s still weird, because he’s not used to such closeness. Still Hal’s arm is warm around him, welcoming. And just like the man; it is a stark contrast to the chill in his bones. He tugs his jacket on tighter, shuffling closer, but maintaining distance, making sure he still has room to run, to fight if he needs to. Not that he needs to fight against Hal, you just never know.

The night is warm, pleasantly warm in a way Gotham rarely is, and as Hal wraps an arm around his waist, flies them up and out of the city, he finds himself calmed by the cool green light wrapping around them, by the feel of Hal open and arrogant and sweet in a ‘manly man’ way.

Star City is a mixture of Coast City and Gotham, with just a dash of Metropolis just for the hell of it. The buildings are not quite as grand as Metropolis, but they have a similar flare to them, the streets cleaner than Gotham, but with the same fear, the entire scale giving off that dreamer/daredevil vibe that Coast City vibrates into being. They walked down quiet streets, feet taking them down lone sidewalks, where stray people sometimes caught their eye.

Hal tugged him close, arm dropping from his shoulders as he coyly knocked the baseball cap he’d put on Bruce’s head on the way over.

“Where are we going,” he asks, baritone voice rumbling past dry lips, bright blue eyes looking coyly up from the sidewalk, meeting cocky brown eyes.

“What did I tell you Spooky, it’s a surprise. I know you aren’t familiar with the term, but come on,”

“I know what a surprise is,” he said, narrowing his eyes, as Hal reached for his hand, missing just to take hold of his wrist to tug him forward, even as he stumbled on the cracks in the sidewalk.

“Stop that,” the man grumbled as he tried to take back his balance, shaking off his misstep.

“Stop what,” he smirked, trying not to raise an eyebrow he looked away, watching the man look for his dignity out of the corner of his eye.

“That, that judging thing you do,” he grumbled again, tugging Bruce after him haughtily, “don’t judge me.”

“Too late,” Bruce stopped mid-step, causing Hal to trip again. He folded his arms around his chest and just glared at the man, trying to illicit a response.

“Wha- no we aren’t doing this, for the love of all that is good, just come on,” Hal tugged him again, but Bruce dug in his feet, intensifying his glare.

“I’m not telling you,” Hal groaned, “come on you’ll like it. It’ll be fun.”

“Fun?”

“Yeah, you know that thing you’re always trying to fucking avoid,” Hal shrugged his hand in his jacket, “just trust me damnit,” he put his hand out, big brown eyes finding Bruce’s, “alright?”

He mulled it over. Honestly he was sick of trusting people, but Hal has never given him a reason to not trust him, in fact he’s given him more than one reason to do the exact opposite. Knowing he will regret it, he rolled his eyes, letting his hand slip into Hal’s warm one, nearly jerking it out as Hal cursed, “Fuck you’re always so damn cold.”

“You get used to it,” he looked at the man next to him as he tugged the jacket tighter around himself, calculating every step they took and the possible places they could be going to. He was not familiar with the area though, was not quite sure what lay ahead of them, did not like the idea of not knowing, not deciding where he was going, what he was doing.

“Yeah well I don’t think I ever would,” Hal shook his head, looking back at him, “you really are one of a kind you know that Spooky.”

“You are a very sentimental person Flyboy,” he raised an eyebrow.

“I never said it was a good strange,” the snap came out, hitting Bruce slightly, but he shrugged it off, Hal means well. They just do not always get along.

“What is this place,” he says as Hal tugs him into a back alley, where a door jumps out of the wall, where they slip in, past graying doors and away from the darkness of what feels like reality into color and light and noise, thrumming from everywhere. He takes everything in, eyes blown wide by all the colors and the loud music and the people.

“It’s this freaky diner place, my dad used to take me to, when I was kid,” Hal looked around, stars in his eyes, a flare in step, hand tightening around Bruce’s, “the music’s extra loud, so I thought you’d like that. You mention sometimes that your brain or whatever gets loud, so I thought this might help drown out the noise, or something.” He was fidgeting in this weird way he does now and then when he wants things to be perfect, but knows they cannot always be perfect. “Actually now that I think about it, that’s stupid, really stupid. I just added more noise to already too much noise-“

“It’s nice,” he says, enjoying the way the music washed over him, calming the noise in his head, “I like it.” There was a loud bass in his head, plain black floor, and walls covered with Christmas lights and metal signs and strange pictures, not an inch of the walls uncovered. It was rustic, antique in a way that settled something in Bruce’s head.

“Which isn’t exactly a good thing to do…wait,” Hal paused neck snapping back towards him, “You like it?”

“That’s what I said,” he moved them towards a red and white torn up booth in the back, liking the way it gave him a full view of the entire place.

“Really,” Hal caught up with him, sliding in beside him, instead of doing the smart thing and taking the seat across. “Mr. I don’t like anything, is fond of this place,” he thrummed his fingers on the table, lips crushed together, “okay that’s a new one.

“If you thought I would dislike the place, then why did you bring me here,” he asked, pressing himself against the wall.

Hal shrugged, “Thought it’d at least be amusing to see you so out of place. I mean this isn’t exactly a five star restaurant.”

“I like five star restaurants,” he stated, eyes going from person to person, “however they can be quite uncomfortable. Everyone holds some sort of expectation for you and for themselves,” he paused, eyes flickering towards Hal, “it can be suffocating at times.”

Hal snorts, “Only at times?”

“Places like this,” he looked back towards the people, “people show who they really are.”

“You’re pretty south of normal you know that Spooky?”

“All the time,” Bruce let a smirk slink onto his face.

Hal leaned back, arm resting on the back of their booth. “So…,” he asks over the sound of music thrumming through the air, “what’s your favorite color, or do you just like black, because it reminds you of solitude…or blue for the despair of your enemies?”

It was loud, noise pounding down on him, people everywhere just so many people, all talking and laughing, drowning out the noise in his head, outdoing the buzzing for a moment. His eyes took in every detail with this fine art meticulous way that they’d always worked, trotting from one person to the next, painting out their life stories before his very eyes.

“Okay cool, great, good chat, glad we could just talk like two sane normal adults for five fucking minutes,” Hal sighed, looking back towards the counter.

“Tell me about your dad. Why would he bring you here to Coast City when you lived in Kentucky?”

“And of course, sure, ignore my question,” he shrugged looking away, “because sometimes he liked taking me on road trips, no big deal, all Dads have their bonding thing with their kids.” He looked back to Bruce, “what did your dad do with you.”

“Hal, why are we here,” he looked back over at warm eyes and a handsome face, lips dialed into a straight line.

“Because,” Hal sighed, “we’ve been what? Hanging out or whatever for like a year and a half now, or something and I still know just about jack shit about you.”

“You know plenty about me.”

“Yeah, but not like your fucking favorite color, or like what your dad used to do with you, or what your favorite food is, and stuff.”

“Why would you want to know that?”

“Because I li- because we’re you know or something and I feel like a shitty whatever for not knowing certain things about you.”

“So you brought me to a place where you and your father used to go,” he frowned, trying to work this out. Hal was a mystery. He did not know what they were either; they certainly were not friends, nor colleagues. Still he did not know why Hal would want to spend time with him here, anywhere. They never got along properly, never quite stood on solid ground with each other. Pity, maybe, but Hal was never one to give out pity, in fact he was more likely to tell you to suck it up and move on, or shut up and get help. In fact that was exactly what he’d told Bruce.

“Stop that,” a sting hit him, blinking he look towards Hal.

“Did you just flick me?”

“You’re overanalyzing, stop it,” he narrowed his eyes, glaring at the smirk on the other man’s face, “just love it.”

Taking a breath he looks at the menu being pushed in his face, “look, they have tons of stuff to choose from. And I know you’re hungry. Al told me you haven’t eaten in like two days, because you’ve been in a brooding period, so you’re gonna eat something.”

“And if I don’t,” he asked, glancing at Hal’s annoyed face.

“Then I get Jason to pout and angst harder than he’s ever angsted before,” there was a challenge in the air, one daring Bruce to fight back, daring him to banter with just as much vigor as Hal could muster.

“You are aware that angsted is not a word,” he quirked his eyebrow up, leaning closer to the man so that he could see menu properly.

“You just can’t help yourself can you?” The man groaned loudly, menu going down and out of sight with him. Bruce frowned looking for another one to occupy himself with, not that he was hungry, more just to appease the Lantern beside him.

“With what,” he scrunched his nose at the lack of other menus.

“Are you fucking with me again, because honestly,” Hal turned towards him in the seat, squinting at him, “I think you are.”

A twitch of the lips, a feeling of vulnerability overtaking him, swimming into view from an ocean of uncertainty, he turned away, focusing back on the people on the dance floor.

“Yep definitely fucking with me,” Hal sighed, putting his arm back over the back of the booth, and putting the menu back up for them to look at. “I like the BBQ chicken burger, but I have no idea what you would want, they have salads, but really we’re at a fucking amazing burger joint so I’ll have to insist on you getting something amazing…”

Bruce leaned in, letting Hal’s words wash over him, letting the music clear up his head, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, centering himself.

“I will have whatever you’re having,” he let himself look away, trying not to focus on the fact that he could feel Hal’s breath on his cheek, how Hal’s arm had found his shoulders pulling him in.

He was rewarded with a smile, this wide teeth showing smile that almost had Bruce ducking his head, wondering why the hell he let the playboy take a backseat on this ride, wondering why he left playboy at the manor. He was better at this stuff. He was better at talking and knowing what this was, what he was missing.

“Okay,” Hal’s eyes were on his eyes, and they were not exactly, he was not exactly, they were not doing anything but just kind of looking at each other with this magnetized flare drifting between them and stringing them closer to each other.

“JORDAN!”

A voice boomed over the noise breaking the string that had strung between them in the moment, a burly man sliding his way up to their table, olive, greasy skin, sloshing crooked teeth towards them, “IT’s BEEN too lONg my BOy,” he clapped Hal on the back, sending him into the table, arm wound painfully still around his shoulders. “HoW’ve yA bEen?”

“Oh you know, not getting my arm ripped out of its sockets,” Hal shot back, rubbing his shoulder, as he eased off of Bruce, “what about you?”

“GOod GoOD,” the man spoke with an offbeat cadence, a bouncing of rhythm to his voice that had him crescendoing off and on at random moments.

“AnD Who’S THIs finE MinX WITH You,” he turned towards him, beady eyes seeking Bruce out. Hal shifted, moving closer and in front of Bruce, almost as though shielding him off from the older man.

Nearly rolling his eyes, he moved, “Bruce,” he nodded, holding out a strong hand for a firm handshake with a slimy meaty hand.

“BRuce, tHaT’s a FIne nAMe, wHAt HAS you HeRE with THIS one,” he motioned towards Hal, the mousy girl beside him, smiling awkwardly towards them behind him.

Meeting the man’s eyes, he could feel something like a challenge in the air, unlike Hal’s more aggressive, hostile, “dinner,” he replied drily, sending fire back through his own eyes. Hal’s hand found his thigh squeezing to tell him to let up, back down.

“A fiNE YoUNg MaN LiKe YOUrself, WITH this OnE,” he motioned towards Hal. And Bruce’s lips frowned further, hands balling under the table, as he forced his eyes down, letting the man think he’d won, leaning in to Hal’s touch, letting the hand on his thigh ground him.

“Ah, come on Big D,” he was sad. Bruce could see it in the way his lips wavered, the way annoyance flickered like a dim flame onto his features, “I’m quite a catch.” His arm was back around Bruce’s shoulder, pulling him closer, a suggestion lingering in the air. Bruce’s hands find Hal’s jacket, tugging him closer. “Now if you don’t mind-“

“WaS i TAlkInG TO you BoY?” The man snapped, eyes moving back towards Bruce, “no. I was TALKing TO the MInx.”

“His name’s Bruce,” Hal started, as Bruce put a hand on his arm, tugging him back into his seat.

“I like Hal,” he routed out the best escape plans, sized up the people in the area that were with the man before them, and began mapping out the best way to take them down, “he’s nice.” A dumb smile was sprouting onto his face, the playboy’s antics coming into play.

“I bET I cOULd FiND yoU somEoNE beTTER for YA,” he put a hand on the table, leaning over with a leery smile directed towards him.

“Oh I don’t know,” he made it look like he was thinking really hard, right hand moving to lay flat against the underside of the table.

“BeLIEve Me kID,” he ginned, Hal’s growl ignored, “YoU COuLD DO betTER.” He reached out for Bruce, reached to touch. Hal’s hand was fast, fist knocking into the man before Bruce even had a chance to execute his well thought out plan.

“You son of bitch,” he snapped.

Sighing, Bruce launched himself over the table, reworking his plan to accommodate Hal’s untimely attack on the asshole. Flipping onto the booth next to them, he snagged a large sign off the wall, one with a lot of weight to it, smashing it into the biggest goons, as he dodged the scattering people.

Someone distantly shouted out, “FIGHT,” causing random people to start smashing in each other’s head. This could work as a good cover.

The good moved to grab his foot, so he gave it to him, in the form of a kick to the face, hitting him once more in the head with the sign was all for good fun.

Hal was still throwing random swings at the husky man, goons moving to trap him in, ring starting to glow in his pocket.

Yanking one of lights off the wall he dove into the crowd, dodging a random beer mug flying throw the air, as he kicked another goon, a smaller one, in the gut.

It was surprisingly easy to get back towards Hal, despite the chaos; people generally just targeted one person out of the crowd to fight against, so mainly he had to work around the three other goons in the crowd from. Moving carefully he flipped one guy over his shoulder into another, as he slammed a miscellaneous beer bottle into the other’s head, an extra punch to the guy’s temple effectively knocking the him out.

Maneuvering closer, he wrapped the lights around one of the guy’s hand, before he could get a hit on Hal, flipping him into the floor, before slamming his head down into the concrete floor. Wrapping the string around his fingers, he dodged a wild punch from another goon, Hal giving and taking from the leader as well as the three remaining on him. Hal had two down, and was getting another as Bruce struck one more goon in the face, the lights crunching between Bruce’s fist and the man’s face, glass imbedding in the man’s face. As the man was down he took a random old car part off the wall, throwing it like a Frisbee at Big D, distracting him momentarily for Hal to finally get him knocked out, so he could take care of the other two. Hitting the guy beneath him once more, he reached for Hal, tugging the disheveled man out the back, pulling him out of the building and away from the place. Hal was slightly disoriented, possibly from the punches to the head. There was a cut on his forehead, and his lips was spilt, but it was mostly just bruises, maybe a bruised rib to note, but nothing too bad. They continued on, Hal taking the lead not long into their sprint, hand finding Bruce’s.

Running out into the night, sirens in the distance, falling onto the place, Oliver running on the rooftops towards the place they’d just left. He noted to tell Oliver to be stealthier as they headed into some park a couple blocks away.

“This was stupid, god I’m so stupid, to think you’d want to know me, I’d want to know you,” Hal ran shaking hands through soft locks, tugging angrily, shoulders too ridged for him. He was ranting, talking about himself too poorly for Bruce to allow, for anyone who even sort of knew Hal Jordan to allow.

“Blue,” he said, cutting off the streams of Bruce doing better than someone like him, which had to be a lie, because Hal was the one that deserved better, Hal could do better if he let himself. “My favorite color is blue.” The sidewalk was the most fascinating thing in the world right now, hands balling into fists at him side, throat closing up, “Because it reminds me of tomorrow that there is a tomorrow.”

He looked back out towards the streets, “and sometimes my father would watch the Grey Ghost with me. It was the reason I got into comic books and Superheroes. He told me, once, that even adults needed to be kids sometimes,” his lips thin, as old wounds bled out on broken sidewalks, and the darkening sky fell on heavy shoulders.

A sigh fell close to him, a hand coming down on his arm, “look that was shit…my shit, old shit.”

“You used to do drugs,” he stated, “He was your dealer.”

“No filter,” Hal groans, “sometimes I wonder if we hear ourselves before blurt something out,” the man shuffles closer.

“I never say anything unless it’s thoroughly gone through,” Bruce says, because it’s true, everything he says is filtered, gone through to make sure no one can use anything against him, can say anything about him that he does not want out there.

“Of course you do,” the man huffs, “yes, he was my fucking dealer, but that was ages ago, and don’t tell me how you knew that. I don’t even want to know, god that was when I was an idiot.”

“I’m assuming that means when you were younger,” he speaks lowly, “It’s fine Hal.”

“No, it’s not fucking fine. It will never be fine, no matter what you say, because news flash you’re not omnipotent B, and yeah I know what the hell omnipotent means. I know things. I’m not some dumb junky rolling in off the streets.”

“No you are not.”

“I don’t need your pity, or…”

“Hal you are being presumptuous,” He turns away, calculating briefly how long it would take him to get back to Gotham on his own, if need be. Hal is being his emotional reckless self. He has to be prepared for the worst.

“I’m being presumptuous,” Hal grabs his shoulder wheeling him around, Bruce tensing as he does, waiting for something, a punch, a slap, something, arms locking, muscles stiffening up. It’s an idiotic reaction. Hal wouldn’t hit him, he knew that, knew it like he knew Hal was just angry their night was ruined, that his favorite place was trashed because someone from his past decided to crash their dinner. It was far from fair, but it was fine. These things happen.

“I had a good time Hal,” he states, watching the moon in the sky for a second before moving back towards Hal, “where to now?”

“You aren’t as funny as you think you are, you know that Bruce.”

“Someone said I was funny,” he asked, as he removed the hat from his head, raven locks falling onto his forehead as he stuffed it into his pocket, before moving to put his arms around Hal’s firm shoulders.

“Oh ha ha ha,” Hal growled, an arm going around Bruce’s waist, as they lifted up into the air, the world slowly becoming smaller, Hal becoming the only thing in the entire universe to ground him to reality. Green light swallowed him whole, eating away all the darkness, numbing the buzz once more at the back of his mind. It was a barrier between him and another life entirely, making everything, but Hal and himself meaningless.

“You know you could make something for me to stand on or something,” he looked back up from the ground, eyes finding Hal.

“Yeah well maybe this is where I like you,” Hal looked at him, mouth falling shut stopping his flight.

“You were saying something about a filter,” he stated as Hal’s face, went red, a groan filling the air, as the man’s head fell on his shoulder.

“What is it about you,” Hal asked, as he focused on flying, focused on taking them somewhere new, somewhere, Bruce once more was left out of the dark about knowing, “that just,” he shook his head.

The two of them quieting as Hal flew, fast through the air, past cities and over clouds, Bruce’s head ducking into smooth skin, into Hal. Hal who smells like air plane fuel and detergent with a hint of spearmint, his hands tightened around Hal’s neck, trying to push whatever this was to the back of his mind, trying not to think about the implications this night held, trying not to think about what all of this means, or where it’s going, or what they are doing, because like Hal it’s reckless, it’s insane, and uncontrollable- wild.

Breathing out, he shifted, eyes peaking back down, watching as the edges of Coast City rushed into view. Hal was warm, slightly tanned skin resting against Bruce’s own pale lifeless flesh. They landed on his roof. “You’re so,” he groaned, hand finding Bruce’s again, as he tugged him inside the building, as they went down the stairs in a rush, moving down to the fourth floor, moving fast no time for thinking or over analysis. No time for anything, as Hal almost ran into his elderly neighbors, this tiny woman and shrinking man, who admittedly hated the pilot with a passion. “Excuse me Mrs. Cárdenas,” he called over his shoulder, ignoring Mr. Cárdenas completely, as he tugged them into his apartment, Bruce’s back hitting the door as it closed, lips on his, Hal’s lips on his. Bruce’s hands tightening on that damn jacket that made Hal look amazing that was just amazing, lips moving on their own accord. Hal’s hands playing with the bottom on his shirt, Bruce’s hands wandering to brown locks, hands on his ribs, just a rush of what they shouldn’t do, what they can’t be doing, but were doing, because with Hal there was no time to think, there was no thinking, no planning, no organization, just a tornado of emotions and things they shouldn’t be doing.

Things they can’t be doing, but were doing, for no reason, no logical reason, just this. Hal nipped at his neck, pulling them closer together, moving them together, Bruce vying for control in a situation where he couldn’t even see the whispers of control. Bruce was drowning, drowning in a sea of Hal, and everything Hal had swept into his life, all the good and bad, and dos and don’ts. Hal and all the courage he carried inside him, all that strength and bravery wrapped in a brash, hotheaded mess of a man that was willing to put up with him and his mess of a life.

He growled, working to get the damn jacket off Hal’s moving frame. Hal instead gripping his jacket to tug them towards his couch, hot breath landing on his neck as he vied for air, “god you’re just so arrogant,” he spoke, and Bruce locked his jaw, trying to calm the fire and ice warring in his vein, settling in his gut.

He closed his eyes trying to find air, as Hal landed on top of him, as someone landed on top of him. He tried to breath, but there was a body on top of him, and hands moving under his shirt, and a leg nestled between his own, lips on his neck, and Bruce just wanted to breath, wanted, he didn’t know, what he wanted. He closed his eyes, trying to ground himself, hands balling into the cushions, trying to stop the acid from bubbling up his throat, trying to do something.

Bleep Bleep Bleep

“Shit,” Hal murmured, sitting up. Bruce breathed.

Opening his eyes, he watched Hal pull his ring off, “damn.”

“You have to go,” he whispered, voice hoarse, features settling back into place.

“Yeah,” he answered, “damn.”

“Now,” he asks, shuffling to sit up himself, repositioning his shirt back down over his abs.

“Yep, great timing huh?”

Yes he doesn’t say, looks away, hands balling into fists.

“At least eat something before you go,” he says instead, trying not to think about his racing heart, how he’d wanted it, this, but couldn’t handle it. How he had wanted this, how Hal was everything he wanted now, needed in a way that was hard to put into words, realizing now that he’d allowed this to go on for too long, how somewhere along the lines Hal was in. Hal was under his skin, in his breath, sizzling in his veins.

Hal laughs at that, his hand finding Bruce’s cheek, tilting his head back toward his own, noses bumping together, as he silently asks for permission, as he asks. Hal asks to kiss him, and it should not be that big of a deal, but for some reason it is, it is a big deal. It makes a difference, because when Bruce nods slightly, when he leans in the rest of the way there lack that heaviness, lacks that dread and ache for something worse. Kissing Hal there’s all the passion that Hal does everything with, there’s energy and light, so much light it feels like Bruce will disappear in its wake, will melt from the heat. Hal’s hands caressing his face, the ring insistently beeping in the distance, as Bruce is pulled back into orbit.

“I have to go,” he says softly, breathe ghosting over Bruce’s lips.

“For how long,” he asks, as Hal meets his lips again, how it is all sloppy wet kisses, and random nips.

“The ring says a couple of days,” Hal nips his neck, hands wandering once more.

“Promise,” he asks without thinking, filter fluttering in and out, as he’s torn between Hal’s lips and hands.

“No telling,” the man replies with a groan as Bruce tugs his hair, moving to pull himself closer nose in Hal’s neck, teeth grazing delicate flesh, making sure he’s in control, he’s on top.

The ring gets louder, Hal groans.

Bruce pulls off him, thinking, trying to find solid ground once more.

“I have to go.”

“Yes.”

“Please don’t do that.”

“Clarify.”

“Don’t over think things while I’m gone. Take care of yourself.”

“You should worry about yourself.”

“Yeah well I can’t.”

“You’re the one running out to danger,” he looks away, feels a hand on his neck, steering his eyes back towards Hal.

“I’ll be back in no time Spooky, scouts honor,” holding up his hand in a mock salute, Hal moved to kiss his temple.

“I doubt the scouts would ever let you anywhere near them,” his voice says.

“Ha Ha, you’re on fire tonight,” Hal is giving him that look, that means he’s trying to be cute and cocky at the same time.

“Actually I’m quite cold,” he replies, trying to ignore the smile on Hal’s face, as he lights up in his suit again, warmth filling the room.

“I’m in it for the long run, remember Spooky,” he ran a hand through Bruce’s hair, despite Bruce’s silent protest.

Sighing as the man moved towards his window, Bruce stands to follow him in the small apartment, looking him over, before gritting out, “just hurry back Flyboy.” A slow half smile rewarded him, a messy kiss pressed to his lips, disappearing as fast as it came. Hal was gone, disappearing into the night air. Dully he makes a note to scold Hal for not going to the roof at least to take off. How no one notices he’s Green Lantern is beyond Bruce, honestly it’s almost as bad as Clark.

Flopping down onto the couch, he looked into the darkness of the room, light gone, warmth gone. “How am I supposed to get home,” he whispered into the empty apartment. Groaning he made his way to Hal’s bed, resigning himself to just fall asleep here, because honestly he did not want to go back to Gotham tonight.

He’ll figure it out in the morning.

Great, he’s starting to sound like Hal.

 

Oliver Queen: 36- August 11, 2011

Oliver headed to the back of the bar. It was a back alley kind of bar, that didn’t ask too many questions, didn’t look twice at a billionaire walking in. The walls were peeling, and the booth looked like shit, like always, but he liked it, Hal liked it too, this was their place, this was a place where people just didn’t give a shit about who did what, or who was who. It was nice.

“Hey man,” Hal smiled over at him, brown, hazel eyes bright and weary. He looked tired, looked like he’d been through hell, like he’s had a pretty shitty week.

“How’s it going,” he let a smile overcome his features, let his eyes take in the man before him, let his eyes look him up and down and just see.

“Could be worse,” he shrugged, sliding into the booth across from Oliver.

It was then that he saw him, Bruce, hovering like Hal’s shadow, just looking like he wanted to disappear in Hal’s wake, quiet and pretty stiff. Only people who really knew him would catch the tenseness of his shoulders or the way his eyes seemed too intense tonight. Not that anyone really knew Bruce, or what went on in that man’s head, just that some people were graced to be in his presence more than others, some had seen him in multiple environments. Oliver was sure it had to hurt to be that tense, but Bruce pulled it off like usual.

“Oh hey B, how’s it hanging?” Bruce for all that it is worth looked out of place, though he moved with grace and the air of a man who was never out of place, his mouth was too flat, fingers slightly “I came to Bruce Wayne, because of course the man just had to be difficult, all the time.

His eyes glanced up, he was surveying the room like all good spy, ninja master, paranoid guys do, would do if they went out a lot. Oliver would know. He’s one too at times. At least he knew how to chill though.

“Nothing of major importance,” was his cool composed answer, which was followed swiftly by a snort from Hal, of course which was in turn followed by a glare from the grumpy bat.

Oliver quirked his eyebrow, wondering when the two of them had gotten that close, had become so well acquainted they could speak without many words. Looking back and forth they were doing that thing Dick and him used to do, where they would have full fledged conversations with their eyes. He knew they’d been seeing a lot of each other, it’s just seeing and hearing, are two very different things. He’s been seeing Hal’s since February, but now, seeing the two together, well it was a sight. Admittedly Hal and Bruce’s eye talk wasn’t nearly as up to the standards as the Dark Knight and his Robins, but it was pretty close to the authentic deal.

“So Ollie, my man what’s up with Star City, anything awesome happening,” Hal was looking over the menu in front of him, carefully going over what was on it.

“Oh you know the usual,” a flicker of a smile went over his features again, as Hal made faces as he continued reading his menu, “bad guy here, bad guy there, bad guys everywhere.” Taking a sip of his beer, he shrugged, “Queen Consolidated is taking some hits though from some company called Roxxon, and Lord is being his normal douchey self.”

“Hmm….” Hal hummed, “I’ve heard, Spooky wouldn’t fucking shut up about him yesterday, the goddamn man just kept fucking growling at him, grunting at his pictures, the whole nine yards.”

Oliver raised an eyebrow, a smile slipping onto his features, “he bugging you too?”

“You have no idea,” Bruce muttered darkly, blue eyes flickering to stormy grey. “Roxxon on the other hand is attempting to take over your company.”

He said it offhandedly as if it was something that just happened every other day, like it was normal, choking on his beer, his eyes widened towards Bruce, “ what the fuck.”

The dark knight merely grunted, “Their CEO is trying to take all your stocks.”

“Since when,” he sputtered over Hal’s laughter.

“One month, three days, six hours, and fifteen minutes ago,” Bruce stated, like everyone could just throw out information like that, blue eyes shifting towards Hal, as the man rolled his eyes loudly, because yes. Hal Jordan could roll his eyes loudly, louder, in fact than anyone Oliver has yet to meet, excluding teenage girls worldwide. “You have no worries however; the final board member she needs to sign his stocks over to her will not sell.”

“Dude how the hell do you know that, and I don’t,” Oliver let his exasperation show, glaring slightly at the other billionaire across the table, “and why won’t he sell?”

“He’s sexist.” Bruce stated simply, a small shrug thrown towards Oliver.

“Again, how the hell do you know,” Oliver gave an exasperated sigh.

“He’s the goddamn Batman,” Hal whispered, “he is all knowing,” he wiggled his fingers in the air, making ghost noises, “he is one with the night. The shadows tell him all he needs to know and more.”

“Yes,” Bruce stated seriously, “Being omnipotent through sentient shadows is quite useful in crime fighting.”

His drink flew out of his mouth, eyes bugging out of his face, “was that a joke?! I think it was, an honest to god joke from the king of seriousness,” he glanced at Hal, “you were right. Dude that’s great news! You aren’t insane, not that you know I was betting you were insane or anything, just a little concerned with you mental health, but no worries now, it’s all settled. Bruce on the other hand, well...”

“Too bad, Arkham would have welcomed you,” Bruce stated, absently flicking through the menu before him.

“Right, and I’m Cleopatra,”

“You’re right; they would have eaten you for breakfast,”

“Hey, I’ll have you know I could handle Arkham like a pro,”

“Like you handled Tattoo Man last week,” Bruce cocked an eyebrow in a way he was so accustomed to do to with people he did not like, Oliver should know, he’s one of them.

“Hey I had that handled,” Hal burst, “and it’s not like you did so hot against Poison Plant Lady a couple days ago either.”

“Poison Ivy,” Bruce corrected, “whom created a new pollen, one to which I had to identify and remedy a cure which I accomplished in less than 24 hours, while sending her back to Arkham. Where’s Tattoo Man again?”

“Hey, I’m working on it,” Hal gripped, face starting to turn red,” and really Oliver almost missed this, it was fun watching the two rattle the other’s cages, on the other hand, he really hadn’t.

“Let’s just be glad you’re not insane,” Oliver cut in, trying, for once, to bring the peace.

“Damn straight,” Hal grinned at him.

“That’s probably the only thing that is straight about you,” Bruce quipped, eyes scanning his surroundings, as if someone was about to up and stab him.

“Jesus fuck, you two have to be the worst combination in the history of the universe!” He was to god floored by the two of them, floored by the thought of them two like this all the time, not only sniping at each other, but bantering like pros in between their weird eye sex thing.

“Can I get you boys anything yet,” Sherry, their official waitress called out from the bar.

“Yeah, could you be a doll and get us a Dr. Pepper, an iced mocha coffee, and some chili fries,” Hal shouted back, sly smile playing up the adorable playboy thing he likes to do.

“Be right there sweetcheeks,” she laughed back, as she rolled her honey brown eyes.

“Thank you,” he shouted, before turning back towards the table, particularly Oliver himself, “I wouldn’t say the worst,” Hal sighed loudly, tapping a finger loudly on the table, “what do you think Spooky?”

“Hm….definitely not the worst. I have rated us at least between Babydoll with Killer Croc and Metallo with Trickster,” Bruce

“See,” Hal smiled, “we aren’t that bad.”

“Not that bad!”

“We could be in the boostle category,”

“Boostle?”

“Blue Beetle and Booster Gold,”

“That’s a thing?” Hal spurted, looking at Bruce in mock horror.

“Hot damn,” Oliver whistled again.

“Not officially, but so far the betting pool is in the favor of it happening, eventually at least, Booster is an idiot after all, and Ted does not know how he can be any more conspicuous about his intentions,” Bruce shrugged, leaning further towards the wall.

“Remind us of anyone,” he quipped, trying to see if they understood that he was talking about them, because, really, he was talking about them, “You know,” he started, as Bruce’s gaze landed on him, “I can’t say I’m surprised that the pool even came into being, what does surprise me is that no one is still betting on the fact that you,” he looked at Bruce, “are a robot, like Data from Star Trek.”

“We have a betting pool,” Hal asked, “since when?”

“Since a year before the JLA’s formation,” Bruce stated, eyes seeking something out over Hal’s shoulder, before focusing back on Oliver, “and last time I checked I was Vulcan, according to Hal that is.”

“Makes sense,” Oliver nodded, smile widening on his face.

“Wait, why haven’t I heard of the betting pool before,” Hal was exasperated, Oliver could see it in the way he slouched, the way his face contorted into this unhappy mess of distaste.

Mission Accomplished.

Not to say there wasn’t a betting pool, oh there was. Barry was in fact the proud founder it.

He waited, he waited and waited until Hal went to the bathroom and it was just him and Bruce, waited until he could have a talk with the knight.

“So you and Hal,” He asks, cause he’ll admit it, he can be a dick sometimes.

“What about us,” Bruce shoots back, blue eyes looking straight through him.

“Just wondering when exactly you guys started hooking up,” he smirks as Bruce’s eyes narrow, which admittedly, still makes him timid; too bad he’s never had much of a self-preservation side to him. “What it is a legit concern, now the betting pool on who would be dumb enough to date you is over? News flash I won, which is awesome by the way, thanks for the win.”

“We are not in a romantic relationship,” he states, and Oliver just really wants to laugh.

“No one said it was romantic,” he put his hands up, “just saying, you two look good together.”

“You implied a greater nature of our relationship,” he state.

“But there is a relationship there,” he asks, watching Bruce’s mind look at his words like they were the secret to the universe.

“He is a colleague,” Bruce is being cautious, not giving him too much to work with, but giving him something, so as not to draw suspicion.

“Sounded like something more to me,” he says cause he’s evil, like that, “I mean you are the Spock to his Kirk, and if fanfiction hasn’t taught us anything...well let’s just say sometimes it’s not just a ‘work relationship.’” He toys with a napkin in front of him, tears it apart, watching as Bruce got in the defensive, or didn’t- Oliver was never that good at reading the man.

“You should stop projecting your fantasies on us and focus on keeping your company,” he replies too calmly, causing Oliver to snort lightly.

“Please, my fantasies are less fifty shades of grey, more hot beach sex,” he smiles, thoughts drifting places it should not in public.

“You mean dirty rooftops and a blonde with fishnets.” Bruce looks too smug, too all knowing.

“How the hell- you know what,” he shakes his head, “okay you caught me, but I think you’re avoiding the subject.”

“Hal is-”

“Your rock, lover boy, moon and stars?” He offered, knowing he was going to regret it later, because Bruce always got even.

“You are projecting your idealisms upon us,” if Bruce didn’t look annoyed before, he sure did now.

“Just tell me who’s the bottom,” Bruce rolled his eyes, frowning even more than he already was, “okay fine, but I’m going to warn you, which is weird to say to you, but whatever. I’m going to do it, now before I fail, break his heart, and I hurt you, got it, okay, cool, good talk man.”

“You should focus on getting your stocks back, as well as looking into your Russian Branch which seems to be undergoing a severe embezzlement scheme most likely by the same individual taking over your company. I would think that takes precedent over my personal life.” Bruce frowned, as Oliver floundered at him, mouth pressing into a thin line.

“Nope your and Hal’s happiness are more important, but nice try B-man,” he smiled as Bruce narrowed his eyes further.

“Hey guys, what’d I miss,” Hal asked sliding back next to Bruce, who kept his eyes trained on Oliver.

“Nothing,” they said in unison. And he’s got to say, the next few months are going to be awesome, just awesome.

Wally West: August 13, 2011

Wally is breathing too fast, too hard. His legs burned, dodging another shot of ice hurling towards him. It was a trap, a complete and utter shit show unfolding before his eyes, even his quips felt useless. He couldn’t do anything.

John was stuck helping Hawkgirl out in Miami, a hurricane rocking Florida to the ground, Superman, Jo’nn, and Diana working on putting Luthor, Toyman, Cheetah, and Kalibak back in their jail cells. He, however, was going at it alone until he’d called in Batman, who brought Hal, which was a sight to see, the man had all but vanished not long after arriving home, staying clear of everyone, focusing only on his home in Coast City. But now he was here, with Batman and the three of them had to stop Firefly, Sapphire, the Reverse Flash, Captain Cold, and the Scarecrow from destroying Central City, which was probably one of the strangest fights he’s been in since he’s been on this Earth.

Batman dodged to the side as a beam from Cold had him behind chunk of cement blown off from one of the surrounding buildings. Hal was flying after Firefly and Sapphire. He was speeding after the one and only Reverse Flash, a man Barry couldn’t even keep up with, so it doesn’t surprise him when the man hauls ass ahead of him. He’s faster on this Earth, but still not fast enough, never fast enough, no matter how hard he trains. Barry used to have someone named Caitlin Snow and Cisco Ramon to help him, but Cisco is his own hero now, and Caitlin is her own villainess. He’s all alone, but he’s determined to save the day, to stop the man that paralyzed Barry Allen, the one and only speedster that deserves to be something, that should hold this power.

He dodges a strike of lightening and wishes he could do that. He pushes himself faster, but can still only see Thawne’s backside laughing at him all the way. He doesn’t think, just runs after the man, doesn’t focus on anything else but Thawne and maybe that’s the downfall. Maybe his inability to let go of a grudge (see Vandal Savage) is what fails him as a hero, because by the time he’s back in Central City and Thawne has disappeared somewhere, Hal is worse for wear and trying to fend off attacks on both sides, while Bruce is gone and out of view.

They hadn’t noticed someone or someones.

He pops Firefly in the mouth at high speeds sending him flying and unconscious, so Hal can effectively take out Sapphire. Captain Cold is down, and Clayface, who appeared out of nowhere, but so is Scarecrow, but Bruce was out cold on the floor, and Wally didn’t know why or how until Thawne zips back and throws Hal into a window, as Killer Frost and Grundy magically try to take them down.

And it is so cold; his bones feel sluggish, blood freezing to the core. He vibrates, but Grundy punches him first, and Sapphire hits him from above, apparently she’s back.

Scarecrow gets free, and suddenly things are more fucked up than they should be, suddenly Wally knows they are screwed beyond a doubt, because gas is everywhere Bruce was hurt, and Hal was taking a hit from somewhere, and Wally was seeing his world twist, seeing himself being rip apart, dissected by the speed force again, could feel the particles rips from his bones, feel himself being torn into particles, shadow images of himself. How one minute he was dying all over again and the next he was watching Batman take more hits from Grundy and Clayface, watching the man magically spring free and take them down, dodging a blow from Killer Frost and trying to drag Hal from the cross fire. Suddenly he was moving, one minute frozen, the next zipping the three of them out of there, far away from there, moving without thinking, without thought, only knowing when he wakes up it’s to Barry and Iris and what feels like home, but can’t be, but isn’t.

He knows he’s fucked up too, can see it in the lines on Barry’s face, can see it as Iris puts a cool rag to his face, cleaning up some scratch on his forehead. He can see it, in the way Batman is passed out somewhere off to the distance with Hal hovering over him, with Hal resolutely not looking his way, or Barry’s way or maybe both their way.

He’s fucked up and doesn’t know what to do with that, and knows Hal’s thinking the same thing, even as he’s fighting to stay fine right now, when Wally can see the chinks in his armor growing by the second.

“Hey,” Barry pulls him back to the present, “it’s going to be okay, Hal’s called Martian Manhunter, he’s going to beam you guys up in a second. You’re going to be fine.”

“Fucked up,” he murmurs through thick lips, and a heavy heart, feels the hand on his arm tense, feels the eyes on him start to strain.

“No, you did fine kid,” he can see the guilt in Barry’s eyes, the same guilt he took on whenever Kid Flash got hurt, whenever any of them got hurt, “sometimes you just get out numbered you know. Its fine, you’re going to be fine.” He sounded like he was trying to reassure himself more than anything.

He groans head falling back no pillow, mouth tilting down, nose scrunching, frustration building, “sometimes things just don’t go your way, but you’ll get them next time.”

And Wally just wants to yell that sometimes there aren’t next times, sometimes there were no second chances, no forgiveness, no going back. He just wants to yell out that he fucked up and that he’ll probably always fuck up and it’s not okay, it’ll never be okay, which isn’t okay, but fine.

He’ll just have to be fine.

He has to be.

 

Hal Jordan: August 13, 2011 (two hours later)

“Hey Hal,” he says, and Hal doesn’t know what to.

“Hey Hal,” like it’s as simple as that, and maybe it is, maybe it’s always been this simple, but for some reason it isn’t as hard as it once was. Now the pain had resided just a little bit, just enough to make this tolerable.

So he replies, “Hey Bar,” and kind of shuffles under the scrutiny, until he just sits down next to the speedster as he tries not to run out of the room at full speed.

“I missed you,” he whispered, he said so softly Hal almost missed it, almost missed what felt like the most important thing in the universe at the moment. Barry missed him and that was all that mattered in the end. Barry missed him and Hal’s sorry, glad, but sorry, so fucking sorry that it almost physically hurt. He looked away, because what was he supposed to do? How could he make up for two years of asshole behavior to his best friend who was cripple? How could he do that? But of course like always Barry was suddenly moving in to hug him, warm and strong, and so Barry that it hurt that it moved him, shifted something he’d held close for so long that he couldn’t contain it anymore.

Hot silken tears fell from his eyes, fell from squeezed tight eyes, fell as the world seemed to right itself, that last missing piece in his chest sliding back into place. Barry, kind and warm and so good Hal couldn’t even fathom how he managed to function in society was hugging him, letting him know it was okay that he was forgiven, when Hal didn’t even see that as a possibility.

“Shit,” he murmured.

“What,” Barry suddenly look too alarmed, eyes too wide,” was it something I said. I mean-I”

“No,” he sniffed, laughter threatening to break the moment, “Batman was right, and now I have to fucking admit it.” He huffed, warm breath falling on cool skin.

“Right about what,” and Hal could hear the laughter in the man’s voice, could hear the smile writing itself onto the man’s features. God he missed that.

“That you’d forgive me,” he shook his head, “that I was being an idiot about the whole thing.”

And Barry did laugh at that, arms tightening around him, “he usually is right you know.”

“Yeah well don’t tell him that, it’ll inflate his ego more than it already is,” he huffed.

“God I missed you,” Barry laughed, and it was the most magical thing Hal’s ever heard despite Bruce’s weird smile and awkward laugh.

“I did too,” he whispers against blonde hair and pale skin, and squeezes tighter, because Barry might just disappear, or maybe he might disappear. He’s not sure anymore.

He holds on for as long as he can, tries to reaffirm his own footing in a new world that was more like a mix of the current and the past, that was more perfect than Hal could have ever imagined. Because even if he could never love Barry like he wanted, could never have what Barry and Iris had; he could have this. He could have his best friend back.

And when he let’s go, he’s not afraid that they’ll disappear. He’s no longer afraid that the world will end, because Barry will always be here, will always be his best friend.

When he leaves it’s in peace, and a promise to see him soon. When he leaves everything’s going to be fine. When he gets to the tower he’s quiet and calm and happy in ways he’s never been sure he’d been capable of until now.

At least until IT happens.

It happens in all the ways Hal thought it would, if it would happen (again) at all that is.

With a fight.

And it is loud and meaningless, and stupid, and childish and everything they are not, but it is still so utterly them that it hurts, so they yell. And he may throw something, and things maybe said they don’t mean, but there’s something desperate about the way it all goes down. There’s also something so raw and hurt and unsure about the way they yell that it all kind of builds up until they’re in Hal’s room and Bruce is pushing him into a wall.

Bruce kisses like Hal always thought he’d kiss, or maybe Batman kisses Hal, he can never be quite too sure, but the kiss is hot and fierce and everything one could imagine. They push into each other, Bruce vying for dominance before Hal even has a say into what happens next.

And Hal knows what this is. Bruce is sure Hal will leave, whether by death or by choice neither are sure, but he will and they know it, or maybe Bruce will knock out first, they can’t be sure anymore.

Nothing in their lives are certain.

But he lets him take control this time.

Hal lets Bruce push him into cool sheets, let’s them try to strangle each other’s clothes off, which admittedly wasn’t that sexy, as it wound up with him on the floor more than once, and Bruce trying not to let him get electrocuted.

But still he lets Bruce growl into his neck, let’s him grow distant despite the whole sex thing. He fumbles for the lube as Bruce takes control, as he strokes Hal’s cock like an expert and nips at his neck. He lets Bruce set the pace, let’s himself spur him on.

“Fuck Spooky,” he pants, hands finding scarred skin on every surface, fingers digging into the muscles on Bruce’s arms, until the man moves to hold Hal’s hands above his head, legs wide.

And Bruce doesn’t talk, doesn’t say a word just focuses his darkened blue eyes on Hal and focuses on the task like he does everything. He kisses with purpose, and Hal almost misses the trembling of his thigh, the quake of his fingers, and the quiver of his breath. He almost thinks about it, until Bruce lubes his fingers up, easing them into him, and all he can do is shiver, “you know how perfect you are,” he says, guiding Bruce back towards him, trying to ground him, trying to do something, because he needs to right now, needs to do something and not think about what this means, what will happen next. But Bruce doesn’t let Hal touch him, keeps growling and moving Hal’s hands above his head, until he gets the message, tries not to take it personally.

And Bruce still doesn’t talk, just focuses on guiding himself into Hal and pounding him into the bed hard and fast, ignoring the words coming from Hal’s mouth. Which would annoy Hal, really it would, but Bruce looks amazing, and feels so good, and they are having sex which is amazing and strange, because Hal of course has thought about it, but never expected it to be a thing, because ever since that night at his apartment there’s been a distance between them he’s couldn’t cross, because they both over thought the situation, they both fucked it up.

They kiss and kiss, and Bruce keeps them steady, keeps them together and moving onto the edge together, which is so new that Hal is thrown through another loop, when Bruce closes his eyes and leans his forehead against Hal’s, when they wind up just breathing each other in, Bruce’s arms trembling slightly, Hal just trying to keep himself together, because at the very least, Bruce has to cum first.

He has to at least have that.

“Spooky,” he whispers, as Bruce slides in him one more time, as Bruce tightens his grip on Hal’s hip, “you gonna cum or make me wait all day,” which is stupid and strange, but does the trick because Bruce grunts into his shoulder, eyes squeezing shut, until Hal can feel himself being filled to the brim, which pretty much sends him over the edge because, damn. Batman just came in his ass, and looks ragged and smells like sex and the friction of his own hand on his cock is too good, and did he mention Batman was on top of him, Bruce was on top of him, naked and inside him and gorgeous and just so him that it throws Hal over the edge, makes him arch up into heated skin, his cum coating the two of them, until all that is left is their breaths intermingling in the eerie moonlight. Even as Bruce slides out, and pretty much falls on his back next to Hal, all that matters now is their breaths, and their actions, and whatever the hell they were doing.

Fuck Oliver called it, which sucks more than this awkward silence ringing out between them.

It wasn’t elegant, it wasn’t necessarily beautiful either. Like him it was hot and messy, and like Bruce is was fierce and rough around the edges.

“We can’t do this again,” Bruce says, and Hal knows he’s right, because they’re too fucked up for this, they can’t work for a variety of reasons.

“So I can’t kiss and tell,” he asks, trying not to think about the fact that Bruce is cold, and he is too hot; how Bruce looks beautiful with the moon lighting his frame in the darkness, and he looks like a hot mess of trash found on the sidewalk; how Bruce looks unearthly with the scars adorning his body and he is all mortal. Hal knows it, this (whatever it is) should freak him out, but he looks beautiful and all Hal wants is to curl up next to him, warm him. He looks over and tries not to think about the fact that Bruce looks beautiful and how Hal just wants him to know that, how Hal just kind of wants to show him, right here, right now, and everyday to follow.

He tries not to think about how that scares him, how it scares him to think of a future without this, without Bruce lying next to him, and just being with him and Jason and Alfred, tries not to think about the pain that bubbles up from the thought of that.

He just continues to lie there, continues to just breath in as Bruce whispers, “we can’t do this again,” and they both know it’s a fact, a fact that will most likely just going to be ignored, because they are weak, and if they’re honest they’ve been avoiding this for a long time, too long in fact.

He moves closer, feels Bruce turn towards him, eyes unreadable, too guarded, “we can’t do this again,” he says even as his fists tighten around Hal’s arms, and Hal leans in, as Hal kisses him like this is the last time, though they both know that is the biggest lie they can tell themselves now.

And that’s the thing isn’t it?

Bruce and him, they are the best at lying to themselves, to each other.

 

Bruce Wayne: October 24, 2011

“Harvey,” he whispered, closing his eyes, head falling to rest on the door, even as it shook under the stain of hard fists slamming against it.

“Let me in,” he was yelling, and suddenly Bruce was back, back to when he was nineteen, when he was twenty and unable to do anything, but Harvey wanted in, and maybe somewhere Bruce wanted to let him, because it was what Harvey wanted.

Tightening his jaw, he backed away from the door; tensing his shoulders in preparation for a fight he knew was inevitable, for a fight he could not protect himself from. He couldn’t fight back and maybe that was the thing that haunted him the most. He couldn’t fight back, not as Bruce Wayne, not as himself, because then Harvey would know and anything is better than Harvey knowing Bruce was Batman.

He took a deep breath trying to steal himself against the roaring of his veins, against the pulsing of his arteries, the fragile beating of his heart, the zapping of his brain. He tried not to think about what was going to happen, even as a part of him, a very large part of him, was already serving up a million scenarios like they were root beer floats in a Smallville café.

He breathed deep, inhaled so harshly his lungs felt as though they might just burst, as though they had carpet burns from being dragged around too long from one place to the next. There were no windows to run to, no back doors to flee from. He was stuck in a penthouse with a crazed ex-boyfriend ready to break down the door and eat him alive, rip him limb from limb until there was nothing left. He could call the police. He could do a lot of things, but Harvey had enough on his plate, and he, himself, didn’t need that kind of attention, and the implications, the rumors, the whole drama of coming out with such accusations was not something he was ready for, could put Alfred, and Dick, and Jason, and Clark, and Hal through. He could not do that to them. Alfred, Hal, and Jason already had enough on their plate with him, he did not wanted anyone else involved, did not like the idea of his life being so public, so drawn out and exaggerated on in a public setting, where no one really knows all the facts, where it’s all just speculation and rumors.

It did not mean he liked people not knowing. It did not mean he liked people scooping it under the rug, like all the important scandals of the one percent community and big wigs usually wound up. It was not to say he liked the idea of people letting it happen, because they did not want to cause trouble.

It did not mean he did not blame himself for letting it get this far, for allowing himself to be trapped in this hole.

So he came in. He came in like he always did, loud and proud and so sure of himself that he made others sure of him, convinced he was a reasonable man.

He came in chaotic and loud, so loud, so mindboggling loud. His voice cut through Bruce’s skin, breaking apart flesh like a butcher knife, eating away at his insides like acid. He came in with a burst of sound, as the doorknob flew to the ground, skittering off out of sight.

He came in and Bruce was frozen. There was no point in running. There was no point in putting another door between them, because then it would only make Harvey madder, only make the man angrier than he already was, and Bruce just wanted this to be over with, just did not want to think anymore.

There was a hand on his arm, gripping him too tightly, slamming him into a wall. There was a hand on his shirt twisting it, lifting him off the ground until his feet danced in the air like ragdoll parts, unused and unwanted. He geared himself up right, tried to keep his face a solid granite slice of indifferent, of unfazed, of ‘You can’t hurt me anymore’ even though they both know that is not true, even though they both know he is hurting him, that Harvey was hurting him that it did still hurt, that the bruises sinking into his arms and the voices in his head painted out that story of hurt in a way that made Bruce feel worse than he has in years, made him feel like he’d never really learned from the last times, from all the near death experiences that came with being in a relationship with Harvey.

He tried to lock himself away, hide the him he hadn’t let anyone see in the years before Hal and Jason, tried to find the box he’d kept himself safe from the world in, tried to find his safe place once more, so that maybe he could be fine again, so that maybe he could get out of this without feeling like a bigger failure than he already was.

“Where have you been?”

Harvey’s face in his face

Harvey’s hands on him

Harvey’s hands on him

Harvey’s voice

Harvey’s breathe

Harvey’s touch

There was too much of Harvey in a place where Harvey was no longer welcome, you know if he’d ever really been welcome in the first place. After awhile it gets kind of hazy. After awhile the carefully drawn out lines in the sand of what was wrong and what was right, of who did what, and who was at fault really stop making sense, really fail to have meaning.

“Where have you been?” He says, like he has a right to, and you know sometimes he forgets that Harvey has a right to say those things to him, because you know, he’s not a real person, how he’s never truly been a real person, just some toy to be passed from one person to the next, from some nameless to the next, to use and abuse, and drain of all the life.

“Where have you been, huh?” He says, as he pushes Bruce back into a wall, as his body pushes into Bruce’s body, like he was the one who was in the wrong. Maybe he was the one in the wrong, because this wasn’t just some random nobody, this was Harvey and Bruce would do anything for Harvey, would do almost anything for Harvey.

“What,” he sharks out, with sparkling white teeth, and a face he loved and a face that’s scarred, “you too good for me now, you think you’re too fucking good for me now,” he harks out to the air in between them, sewing together an interaction Bruce wanted no part of.

“What, you think you’re so fucking special,” he slams him into the wall, the loud thud resounding out throughout the room, vibrations humming along solid walls, pictures tumbling to the ground, a rumble sounding out like an earthquake crumbling up and out of the earth.

“Answer me, you stupid bitch,” pushes Bruce back into the wall, making him too small, making him too tiny to think.

“Now,” he barks, as a fist meets his cheek, as a fist hits him like a raging bull, like thunder hitting the sky.

“No.”

“No what”

“I am not special.”

It’s an old tale.

It’s not new.

No one really cares anymore, no one really minds.

This sort of thing just happens.

“I can’t hear you, you piece of shit, fucking speak up.”

Only stupid people let it happen to them anyway.

“I’m not special.”

Right?

“You’re nothing right?”

That what everyone says.

“Yes”

So it must be true

“I can’t fucking hear you, you stupid slut.”

Right?

“I’m nothing.”

Right?

And suddenly Harvey’s across the room, going through his things, pulling out other things, making a bloody mess of the entire place. He ripped up the living room carpet like he was ripping out a heart, or maybe it was just Bruce’s heart, or maybe it was a lung, or his frontal lobe, you know sometimes it’s hard to know, whether it’s your brain that’s fried, or just your heart failing on you again, or just a lung forgetting to breath.

Sometimes it’s hard to know. You know? Sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s up from what’s down, what’s real and what’s not.

He wonders sometimes if maybe his mind just hates him, or maybe if it’s just him who hates himself. It’s hard to tell sometimes. You know? Or maybe you don’t know, maybe it’s just him, maybe it’s always been just him.

“Whose is this then,” he snapped, emerging from some room down the hall, emerging from the light, as Bruce tried to hide in the shadows of his own living space, tried not to think about how Harvey made himself at home yet again, how he acted like this too was a place for him to lay squander to, as Harvey touched something of Hal’s, as he desecrated something of Hal’s, touched what was not his to touch, what was not his to take, to violate. He was throwing Hal’s sweatshirt at him. Hal’s sweatshirt, not his sweatshirt, Hal’s sweatshirt, Harvey was touching something of Hal’s, moving into a territory even Bruce couldn’t control himself in.

“Whose is this then,” he snapped, and Bruce could not even say he was a friend this time, because they weren’t quite friends anymore. He could still feel Hal underneath him, could hear Hal’s voice panting in his ear, could feel the love in his voice, so he tries to hold himself a little straighter, make himself taller.

“That is not your concern,” he tries to harden his eyes, his facial expressions, make himself more bat than man, but knows it’s not wise, knows he must do this as Bruce, instead of Batman, which is more difficult than it should be. He is not strong as Bruce, not a hero. Bruce was nothing, just some scared blank sheet left to rot

He knows though, knows Harvey doesn’t care- two face doesn’t care, not about him, but it didn’t matter, because it was still Harvey.

And he was just Bruce.

He was not anything special, just some rich kid with issues, pretty much all rich kids have issues, look at Lex and Oliver and all the others who have been left to rot by people who care more for their reputations, more for their money than anything else, than family.

He was just Bruce.

And at the end of the day that’s all that needs to be said.

He doesn’t know who called the police, only knows that somewhere between the span of Harvey kicking in his ribs, and pushing him into the ground that the GCPD shows up that Gordon shows up with Bullock and Montoya and his little band of misfits. Just knows that Gordon is throwing an arm around him, even as he fights back a flinch. Just knows that Montoya is trying to help him sit up as Bullock ruffs the man up.

They do not know his story.

He doesn’t tell them. He only says he doesn’t want to press charges, that it’s all fine that, ‘you know he just wants Harv to get better.’

He tries not to see the look in Gordon’s eyes, tries not to see how he knows, how Harvey plays it off as him just trying to get cash from an old friend, how Harvey’s still denying despite everything. Tries not to think about how there’s no career left for Harvey to even want to hide this, how the criminal world really doesn’t give a shit about who fucks who, or who people love, just the world that really matters. Just the people who are supposed to be good really care.

He tries not to see how Gordon’s mouth dials down into a cold frown, how his eyes speak out despite the emptiness of the room, how, like everything else with Harvey in his life it’s all swept under the rug, how there’s no news coverage, how no one speaks about it, how he doesn’t speak about.

He tries not to think about it as he walks into the manor that night, as he walks in, and Alfred doesn’t know a thing, how it all feels like some sick dream. He tries not to think about it, as it studies the bruises imprinted on scarred skin, as shoe marks stand out against pale skin, and once more no one says a thing. Tries not to think about it, as he stuffs himself in Hal’s sweatshirt, how he tries not to think about Harvey’s hands on Hal’s sweatshirt. As he tries to remember once more what it felt like to be okay, comes back with a bright green light and warm, soft, honey brown eyes.

Sometimes the silence of friends does more damage than the lies of the guilty.

Chapter Text

“Weakness is what brings ignorance, cheapness, racism, homophobia, desperation, cruelty, brutality, all these things that will keep a society chained to the ground, one foot nailed to the floor.” Henry Rollins.

 

Bruce Wayne-8 years old: December 15, 1992

 

Bruce remembers that night in the alley as though it were yesterday. Footsteps, laughter, gunshots. In his dreams, and he thinks once upon a time, his father had thrown himself at the gunmen, had fought with him, but Bruce got shot anyway. He remembers a bullet going into his chest and gut, knows the feeling of it slicing his skin, even months after it’d happened, but Alfred, Gordon, Leslie- everyone says it was nothing but a bad dream.

He knows though that he saw his father get shot, feels his mother’s brain splatter across his father, his clothes, his cheek, as pearls rain down from the sky and his father breathes out her name like a final prayer.

The gunman looks at him like he’s seen a ghost before running back the way he’d come. All the while Bruce is left in the midst of his own parent’s blood, in his blood, staining Crime alley forever. He does not remember screaming, or the sirens. It’s Gordon’s coat on his shoulders that wakes him up. Calm and soothing and strong Detective Gordon was there to save the day.

But there’s no one to save, only a ghost boy and his dead parents. That’s what he is now, right? A ghost? A shadow of what once was.

His parents are dead and he can still feel a bullet flying, ripping, through his chest, but somehow, he remains, uninjured and breathing.

It hurts to think about.

To talk about.

No one listens anyway.

He remembers days, weeks, months later scrubbing blood and brains off his hands, his cheek, his heart that no longer exist. He remembers choking himself awake on his own tears, remembers scrubbing until the skin of his hands and arms and cheeks are cracking and blood is flowing on clean sheets and Alfred is trying to keep him from getting the blood off, from getting his parents off of him. He remembers days spent bracing himself over the sink, the bathtub, picking up pieces of himself by shaving off the broken bits, remembers trying to slice away the rotten pieces of skin, the burnt flesh, the old used pieces and trying to throw them away into oblivion. He remembers hiding the brain stained shirt from that night under the floorboards of his bed, remembers taking it out some nights and trying to feel, see, know his mother once more, know that rage that came with that night, knowing that pain.

He wants to die. And they won’t let him, well the board would, but Alfred refuses.

He remembers dancing on rooftops and the hunger of his stomach and Gordon dragging him back inside and shoving food down his throat time and time again.

It has not even been a year yet and he cannot picture going on any longer.

He’s introduced to people and he hates it, misses the solitary of being the only heir to Wayne Enterprises, misses his parent’s overbearing protectiveness, being sheltered and secluded. He misses being a nobody, because then he could disappear into the city as anyone, but now he is always Bruce Wayne and that shouldn’t hurt as much as it does.

They show him the company, but people tell him they’ll run it for him. They show him his father’s hospital and say it’ll move on without him. They show him his mother’s campaign for mayor and say they’ll find a new candidate. They show him his parents’ worlds from another side and it makes missing them all that much harder, because they were good people. They knew how to get their hands dirty without staining them forever, knew how to save lives without paying their own souls to the devil.

They introduce him to all the richest ladies, explains to him that this is how it works. He must find a wife, have kids, and continue the bloodline. They explain his parents were an oddity, a rare coupling from two families that hate each other.

They say this is what you do.

And Alfred says its bullshit.

He meets the Kane family and learns what it means to be an abomination.

He meets the Kane household and understands why his mother left as soon as she could. He meets his Uncle Jacob and Cousin Kate. She’s sad and pale and is missing her other half and he thinks she might understand, but their meeting is so fleeting it really doesn’t matter in the end.

The courts ask if any of them want him and of course they say no. Alfred takes him.

He pities the man.

But the world keeps turning.

And all the adults seem to know exactly what to do. They say ‘hey we see these shattered remains of you drawn out over the bathtub, across the kitchen sink, and on our rooftops. We see the pieces of you strewn across our city and on our lawns, but don’t worry we will put you back together, we’ll glue the tatters of you back to fit as well as we can make it. You’ll be as good as new, better even.’ Only he was anything, but better, because the glue is a cheap farce for a fix, it only goes so far, only reaches so deep, but he lets them put him back together anyway, because it made them feel better and helped him be left alone. He lets strangers pick him off the sidewalk and push him into the limelight.

Every day he sits at his desk, that something stirring deep in his soul, unsettled and anxious, pacing like a caged animal waiting to attack, for an opening to act. He pours himself into his schoolwork, hoping to bury the monsters of his dreams in equations, French literature and Marshall Thurgood. He pushes himself, staying up late for a caregiver that he’s worn to the edges, for a man who has sacrificed everything for a son that is not his own, one he did not want. He stays up late for the man who kept him, who never gave up on him.

He keeps moving.

There’s an article that makes it onto his desk. One of the other boys, Maxwell Lord, a whole eighteen years old practically throws it at him one morning. It’s one of many. It is not new. It is one of the reasons Alfred keeps him away from newspapers and news stations. People have speculations. People talk without facts or make facts up or try to make connections where none lay. They try to burn his family name, his name. It is a fact of life.

He keeps going.

He keeps going as boys with low self-esteem and familial problems and evil hearts push him down, dig up the devil in his heart and let him cut loose. He keeps going when Alfred makes him promise never to fight anymore, to use his head, let his words turn into the real weapon. He keeps going when they beat him until his blood leaves a permanent stain on his lips, when Thomas Elliot dragged his limp body down to the parking lot and shoved his fist into Bruce’s face. He gets back up when the hot roaring sound of blood consumes him, as it flows down his face- a call to action that he cannot go to. He keeps getting back up when they think he’ll never be able to again. He keeps going with a shut mouth when he hears the other boys making deals with mobsters to make a better life for themselves. He keeps his mouth shut against the building rage bleeding underneath his raw skin, because he knows once he starts talking, screaming, he’ll never be able to stop. So, he keeps the pure agonizing fear under a locked lid and observes.

He studies his city, sneaks out at night to see it in all its primal, primitive state, watches as it deteriorates, collapsing in on itself without the Wayne family to push it forward, to give it hope. He forces himself to watch, to learn, to witness crimes too horrible to speak of, before going home and trying to sleep.

He takes the beatings, let’s Thomas Elliot, pound him into the ground day after day, reminds himself there are worst things than this and remembers a bullet in his chest.

He lets people touch him even when he does not want it, keeps his mouth shut tight, just to make it through the day. He knows, knows he’s just a puppet for them now, knows that he has no legal rights as a minor.

To them he’s just some rich kid with issues, a rich kid being turned into a wealthy influential man of higher standards.

To them, they’re doing him a favor.

In sleep, he closes his eyes and the same thing flashes in front of them. In sleep, all his walls come crumbling down and all he is left with is a bitter symphony, a hard-broken cacophonous melody of what never should have been. In sleep the bat climbs out, reveling in a world Bruce so desperately wants out of. The bat makes a home, curling up around his heart, barricading Bruce from others. It tears him into two, the world suddenly too much and too little all at once. Screams of the dying, of the suffering, of the battered and bruised fill the night air, as he tries to sleep, as he does nothing but listen. He closes his eyes and waits, for the morning sun to rise, for him to begin the same day again, for his life to start, as it always does, on repeat.

He keeps going, until he wants to carve his own heart out.

He learns a lot, unenrolls from Gotham Academy after beating Thomas Elliot into the ground for insulting his parents and makes his world small again, finds his home as hellish as it is heaven, spends nights staring at the painting of his parents and trying to learn how to breathe again.

And now, not even a year after his parent’s death, Alfred crushes him to his chest and whispers in this broken voice, “I’m glad you’re still here.”

And Bruce declines to say he is not, he is anything but glad, or happy. He’s just dead, hollowed out to the core. He’s quiet and angry and only finds escape through work and learning and pain and disappearing into the backdrop of society.

Hal Jordan – 10 years old

The plane falls from the sky, well pieces of it come crashing down, and he knows. He knows without a doubt that his dad is not coming back, but he’s never been one to fall over and cry about it, no he runs out into the field, slips under his uncle’s arms, past his mother’s screams, his brother’s grabbing hands and moves.

Security eventually nabs him, but he doesn’t care, because he’s screaming for his dad even though he knows it’s far too late.

He stands still.

His world crumbles to nothing. It crumbles and falls into nothing. There are ashes on the kitchen table that mix in with Wednesday’s dinner and Jack is shooting looks at him from across the table, as Jim shuffles towards him. They eat, not quite done mac and cheese (the best Jack could do) and mom is just, well she is just gone.

Remnants of Martin Jordan are everywhere and that night, Jack takes Hal by the scruff, tears all his model planes down, all his posters, looks him in the eye, while Jim hides on the corner edge of the door and says, “promise Hal, no planes, never.”

And Hal just stands there, big mouth already declaring that he’s going to be just like his dad, Kentucky accent forming the words before his brain can shut up.

Jack never looks at him the same. Jim follows him like a ghost that does not quite know where to step yet, and they don’t see their mom for days. Jack’s the only one allowed in her room.

It’s months before he sees his mother again. Months, after that until she hugs him, because he’s too much like his dad, and Jack is just glaring and glaring, and Jim is just melting into the floorboards.

It’s a year, almost to the day the first time she comes home with god knows what in her system. He’s used to the alcohol by now, but whatever else is making her sing and laugh. It’s too good to be true he knows. It’s far too good to be allowed.

Bruce Wayne: 9- July 30, 1993

It’s probably why he likes Selina so much.

She understands. She lets people touch her too even when she does not want it, because it’s what is expected of her, it’s what brings out people’s vulnerabilities.

She’s his first friend. (Tommy is no longer on this short list)

She was pretty and sweet, with layers hiding a rotten core. She’s harsh and extreme and everything Bruce has been looking for, because she knows what the world is really like. She is unafraid of the dark, fearsome and brave, always afraid of the night, but craves to live there too. She pulls him in, they gravitate towards one another in this weird almost dance. And before he knows it, he’s out on the streets, living with her, being in the world he so craves.

There’s no glory, no fame, no spotlight.

It’s all crime and gritty and pain and lies.

He loves it.

They dance in another’s blood, leaves chunks of themselves all over the city and refuse to come back for it. She’s wicked and flirty, batting her eyes at a blank face. He never gets it, at least not until she explains it to him, explains what flirting is, and shows him the moves, teaches him a new dance for a more mature game.

They grow up fast, Bruce an old soul and Selina born from a life of madness. They dance in the rain, and watch the city burn in the aftermath of the Wayne’s murder. They build statues and skyscrapers with their names on it, but it means shit to him.

They grow up fast, Bruce with his silent intellect and Selina with her sensual cleverness. They are friends, family, brother and sister of the streets of Gotham.

But times change.

Bruce leaves, disappears in a blink of an eye, like he always feared she one day would.

Hal Jordan- 11

He does not like his mom’s new whatever, like at all. He’s mean and likes to smack him around, tried to smack Jim the other day, but Hal has never been more grateful for his mouth, than he has at that moment. Of course, Jack is the golden child, does everything right. But Hal, no Hal must take care of his own, and now that only includes him and Jim. Fuck the rest of them. Fuck Amber too, because she’s supposed to be his mom, but instead she just watches, eyes glassed over in the way that says she’s had way too much. He’s eleven. He does not need the shit. Their what fifth house of the year is finally still but, at least he has Jim. Jim, who slips in when the house is finally quiet, snuggling up under the worn blankets and pressing close.

Jim who he goes out on the streets for to batter things for cash.

He is used to be used by now.

He is used to being someone else’s punching bag.
He is used to not getting what he needs, or what his brother’s need. He used to looking at the before and the now in high definition, at the man the wants to be versus what reality forces him to be. And so, what if he gets high occasionally? So, what if he makes sure his world doesn’t have to hurt as much as if should.

It’s not great, it’s not even close to great, but it’s what he has. It’s all he has.

They grow up fast, Hal bold, and brash, Jim smart and small. They grow up under harsh street lamps and trashy neighborhoods with kids from their third school who know they are nothing, but garbage the second they lay eyes on them.

It’s not perfect.

It never will be.

But times won’t change.

And Hal just stands still.

 

Selina- June 15, 2001

Bruce becomes a shadow.

And when she sees him again, he’s older, but still just as beautiful. He’s damaged and rigid and burnt around the edges like she remembered him, only worse, because he does not come to her anymore, bottles it all up until it bleeds out onto the sidewalks. She’s a world away and Bruce is lost, turned inward. He’s Batman and she’s Catwoman, and she always knew that this would one day happen, maybe with less spandex of course, but she knew he would be a hero and she would walk the line of villainess. They were just as different as they were the same.

The first time they run into each other again, she’s on Harvey’s arm, looking for a score from the mayor’s wife. He’s been back a year now and only here at this fancy ball with more people than she knows how to deal with, but has had enough time to learn how to fake it. He is lurking in a corner, head lowered, eyes downcast in this strangely submissive position that she can’t picture on him. He’s quiet, the little boy who used to question everything had quieted, voice lost to the wind and rain of Gotham City, eyes even more haunted than before. But when someone walks up to him, there’s a smile, bright and wide and pretty and empty. He looks so hollowed out and used that when their eyes meet her stomach turns in on itself and almost cries itself to pieces.

She does not see him again until a month later. He’s in leather and she’s in spandex and they are speaking a language they are used to. He lets her get away and she takes the opportunity to give him a scratch.

The next time they meet it’s not really a meeting more of; she walks in on Harvey and him, namely Harvey roughing him up. Of course, he laughed it off, said they were just playing around. Of course, Bruce turns turgidly on two shaken legs and silently disappears into the shadows. Later that night he crawls in through her bedroom window and curls himself into her. He’s changed, but the same at the core and she thinks they both are. They are hardened by their experiences rigid and aching for something that she’s not sure she’ll ever find, but at least they have each other.

He’s still looking for love and she’s still seeking fulfillment.

They never really get what their looking for, except from each other.

 

Years pass and she’s used to him clamoring into her window, a Harvey shaped bruise somewhere on him. She’s used to him seeking her out at his lowest. And she’ll always be waiting with ice cream in her fridge and too many movies he’s personally subjected her to. But maybe that’s what kills her the most even after all these years, all the fights, and drama of Gotham he’ll always come back, just like she always seeks him out, like some force ties them to one another they always find themselves back to the other sometimes whole and bored, others with pieces lost and broken. They’ve gotten used to sewing each other back up and tumbling back out into the world.

She should be in jail. Logically she knows she should be in jail. He could have, probably should have, thrown her in the slammer, or worse Arkham, a long time ago. But she’s learned a lot about the big bad bat. She knows he’s not perfect; he walks the lines of villainy day in and day out. She knows him, like she knows his capacity for bad, just like he knows her capacity for good.

She knows how much of himself he hides under layers and layers of masks that only get wiped off on her couch with mint chocolate chip ice cream and the Grey Ghost. She knows him probably better than anyone on Earth and it should not sadden her that he does to her as well. He’s her only friend, until Ivy and Harley crawl in, like weeds grow in a garden and a stubborn child that keeps coming back. She’s surprised really, but then again not, because they understand. They get the whole doing bad things in the name of good intentions; a lot like Bruce, not so much like her. She does it for the thrill, Harley understands that more than Pamela, but they keep coming back, so she must be doing something right.

She actually-kind-of tolerates a lot of Gotham Villains, mostly because they all have this sort of understood notion that they are a family, even the big bad Batman has his place in this fucked up charade. Penguin and Riddler kind of must be one her favorites; she knows they’re Bruce’s too in some way or another. Whether it’s because they know he’s Batman and do not say anything, or because they have known and befriended them when they were kids, well, who’s to say.

Gotham’s a big place, and you know if sometimes she gets woken up by a very angst-ridden Eddy dragging a half dead Bat through her window some nights, well who’s she one to blab, or a very greedy Ozzy looking for dirt on people, for saving said Bat well, who’s she to deny an opportunity to stir up trouble.

She draws a line with Harvey and the Joker though, because if she crosses their paths, they’re not leaving her sight without something more than a scratch. She does not stand for abusive assholes.

 

I know I'm unloveable
You don't have to tell me
I don't have much in my life
But take it, it's yours

 

Years pass and Carol is used to cleaning up after Hal. But even after all this time…his messes are still her messes. She loves him, yet the love she once held so fiercely has died, in its place a pink heart and a green ring, shunning one another for all of eternity. Her love burns fierce. It is a dying ember on a sea of the most unforgiving tides in a never-ending eternity. Love twists and bends. She is tired of fighting him, resigned to loving from a far. Ready to love a man who will never truly love her in return, or in truth loves her, but never enough, never how she deserves.

He is changed she knows, from the young, cocky man that once swept into the base and stole her heart. He tries to keep up the charade, but sometimes she sees it, in the circles under his eyes, and the heaviness to which he walks, to the way his smile drifts down, and his muscles jump at small noises.

It is easy, she remembers briefly, to forget Hal is hurting inside, that behind that smarmy charming smile is someone that doesn’t remember where to put his heart anymore.

Things have changed now. But despite the changes, despite the pain and anger and fear, she finds herself alone in hollow apartment. Pays for the rent and calls Tom to help with the laundry and keep the fridge stocked. They clean up after him and though maybe they are enabling him in some ways, in many she finds herself leaving even the smallest reasons to come home, to come back to this horrible rock of a planet that has only given that poor man more and more grief. It’s the best they can do.

And with every trip into space, a little bit of the man she loves dies. With every life saved here on Earth a little shine comes back into his eyes. So, if she loses some money and time and effort, then so be it. Her heart glows pink and she has lost a lot, but it glows on for a reason.

Bruce: November 4, 2011

Harvey Dent shows up.

It’s not completely out of the realm of possibility, but an idea Bruce has been fighting to think about for years. It is illogical of him, but he’s never found Bruce to be all that logical. In fact, he’s rather sloppy when he thinks about it. Hal was right when he said that Bruce was a dud when it came to these emotional moments in his life. They always managed to keep him on his toes and away from his brain.

So, Bruce attempts to ignore the way his stomach is a raging storm, pushes to stop his fingers from turning to jello, tries to stop the mountaintops of his shoulders from crumbling in on themselves, tried to make himself stand tall, immovable, stoic.

He tries to remember what it means to be a man. And when Harvey walks towards him, the parking the lot stretching between them, he remembers what it means to be a man, not as in a man, but in the sense of human.

All his life he’s allowed himself to remain as play dough for the people who think they know better than he does, but as Harvey strides over to him, he remembers the lessons he’s learned from this part he’s allowed himself to make his own decisions.

He’s met people, met men who are still looking for their manhood behind bottles and in faceless bodies, men who shoot off their mouths and leaves holes in the women left in their wake. He’s a white rich man in America and the men in his life are men who don’t know what it means to be a man, they are guns waiting to go off, wearing their masculinity as a trophy case and the women on their arms the trophy. And he’s allowed the memory of his family to end here, with the man people want him to be. So, when Harvey walks up to him with all his charms, he’s just tired, saddened that not only has he allowed himself to be this person, but also allowed himself to be the victim once more.

He would have thought that after years of being the victim that he’d have learned by now how to put that behind him. He looks at his hands and cannot get the feeling of blood out of his mind. He has broken more bones than promises in his life. And he’s still learning how to control the violence beat into him by his city.

So, when Harvey walks up and he tells him, “get out of here Harvey, before I call the police,” and the man snaps out a growl, moves to get into his space he cannot stop the fist that flies through the air, hurtling towards him like a meteor. He’s faced worse. He tells himself this as he ducks, dodging the punch. He says this and that’s where it ends. He let Harvey hit him the next time, fist on his face, a growl escaping past his lips. And he wonders what it says about him that this is the closet he’s felt alive in years.

Happiness is so rare that he’s forgotten what it tasted like, has seen glimpses of it in the spaces between parenting and saving lives, but he doesn’t know what it’s like to save his own.

He throws a punch and almost vomits, feels the way muscles freeze, because that’s not who he’s supposed to be.

But Harvey’s exactly who he wants to be and he’s on his feet faster than Bruce can shake himself from his mind. “I knew I shouldn’t have wasted my time on some rich prick,” he growled as he slammed Bruce into the cement walls of his parking lot.

He does not know exactly why it hurts when David from the third floor says; “I guess I should call the cops,” as Julie, from accounting, who likes daisies more than roses, kneels next to him. He knows their stories. They will never know his.

He hears a door open in the background of David and Julie’s hushed words, glances up to see Marli from HR gripping her purse closer to herself, walking stick tapping softly as she walks. She’s tiny, but strong, grew up on the lower side of Gotham, and has six misdemeanors on her record, mostly for assault and theft. Even blind she’s a powerhouse, a force to be reckoned with. She reminds him of Selina with her fierce green eyes. Cherry blond hair held in a loose ponytail, jeans and red shirt causing her to stand taller. “The fuck happened,” she asked, voice on the rougher side of the spectrum. Her walking stick held fast, tiny fingers gripping it so tightly her knuckles turn white.

David, who used to steal cars and is now one of his lead engineers, has a smile on his face. Julie, who used to sell herself to get a decent meal rolls, her eyes.

He cocks an eyebrow at her, looks over at the man unconscious at his feet and back at her, well this looks bad.

“I swear he’s most likely alive,” David raises his hands up, instinct from a black man living in a place like Gotham.

“If you hadn’t of said anything she wouldn’t have noticed,” Julie whispers softly, hazel eyes roving over towards the body, “she’s blind remember.”

“Who can forget, the way she keeps reminding everyone.”

“Oh, I’m sorry is my disability shitting on your parade asshole,” She grumps walking carefully towards them, “but don’t worry bitch-tit, I know a place we can hide the body,” she states, “I have connections, don’t worry Mr. Wayne, we can handle this,” she’s fierce and sure and he knows he should be more concerned about what she says, but his lips twitch upwards and he can’t help, but feel immensely satisfied with his employees.

“Damn it’s like you just smell trouble,” David laughs.

“Kent sent me,” she dismissed him, eyes looking out into nothingness. Bruce kept his features schooled, trying to find Brucie in the depths of his scattered mind.

“You okay Mr. Wayne,” Julie was like a delicate flower, soft spoken and tall, true and sure and a little broken around the edges.

“I’m fine Mrs. Moore,” he brushed off his suit, trying to straighten himself up.

“Where’s security,” Marli made a good point, looking around they were nowhere to be seen, as if she could magically see again.

It’s quiet now, with the way that admission falls in the air. Security is not here, because Harvey made sure they would not be here. Bruce is positive it is not betrayal on their part, rather a miscalculation on his own. Most likely they are dead or injured.

This is the version of events police see. This is how they see it happen on the video tapes.

They do not see the truth, the way Bruce beat Harvey into the ground until Kent Newsworth from the technology department, David Nightly, Julie Moore, and Marli Soto walked in on the events taking place as they walked to their cars for the evening. They do not know how hard it was for Kent and David to rip him from Harvey, how he sat shaking on the pavement eyes on the ceiling as they spoke around him, all hushed whispers and quick movements.

They do not know how easily they rewrote the story.

They will never know what those four employees heard that night. The way Harvey laid out their history for the world to see, how Bruce had struggled to find some way to make it seem not as bad as it really was.

How Bruce had spoken out when he knew better, because for once he was sick of people misjudging him, sick of Harvey making conclusions about who he was.

“You shouldn’t have edited them,” he stated calmly, later that evening.

A snort left the man beside him, “you’re welcome Mr. Boss man.”

“I could have you fired for tampering with evidence of an ongoing crime,” he states, voice level words serious.

The man just raises an eyebrow his way, shrugging slightly, “but you won’t B-man.”

He restrains a sigh, “Have that report on my desk by five Newsworth.”

“You got it bats.” Or was it boss? Was it a trick of his ears? He does not want to know. He does not ask questions.

 

Why don’t you speak it out loud instead of living in your head?

Bruce Wayne: November 5, 2011

It’s been a long time since he’d ever felt so out of control, since he felt as if the fabric of his life was once more being pulled out from underneath his strong, sturdy feet. It’s been too long since he’d felt as if he really belonged somewhere, since he could remember the sweet warmth that came with knowing another, and in return being known by someone else. It’s been far too long since he let himself be seen as Bruce. Since he’d donned the masks that have ultimately served to hide who he really was from the ugly faces of reality, hiding has been all he’s known, all he’s wanted to know. There is a divine comfort in being someone else, in camouflaging the truth in plain sight, right under everyone’s noses. He’s been content to disappear. He’s been perfectly fine with allowing Bruce to wither and die in the recesses of his own psyche. But now…Now was different. Clark had shaken the edifice of his being, had forced the part of Bruce who craved contact to seek it. Dick had forced that need to comfort and heal to reverberate throughout his daily life. Jo’nn had forced that side that cherished the little things to bubble up to the surface, had made him grateful for the defining experiences in his life. Jason had made those lost pieces of him hidden away in his study to thirst for life, pushing him back into those creative ventures he had secluded from humanity for most of his life. Hal had pushed boundaries, had forced him into the sun, and forced him, Bruce, out of hiding. Hal made breathing easier. He was direct, brutal, comforting, kind, blunt, and loud and everything Bruce was sure once he never wanted. But sitting here, laying here he no longer knows what exactly he’s ever wanted, because he’s told himself that what he wanted was what needed, that necessity and want were intertwined on a cosmic scale. He never once thought about what he wanted, had always just assumed that it was the same as needing something. He thought he needed Harvey to keep him in check. He thought he needed to be alone to function properly. He thought so many things that now no longer fit in this life that has sprung up out of nowhere, out of an existence forged by the little events of random, spontaneous decisions.

He’s sure that Hal was not the person he was supposed to be with. He is sure that Hal was never written into his life plans by fate or whatever it is out there supposedly calling the shots. He has always called his own shots and he is sure Hal was never figured in. Hal swept in like he walks into a room. Hal does what Harvey once did only not, because Hal doesn’t act like he owns the room, only acts like he knows that it’s not his, but it’s okay. He acts like sometimes things are okay, even in the darkest moment Hal just shrugs and says that they can do it, that he can do it, despite the statistics, despite the standards and idealisms of those around him, Hal is confident in his failings and in his winning. He hides his humility to act braver than he is. He is courageous where most are not. He is truly one of a kind.

Still he cannot erase years of training, years of silencing himself in the name of the mission, in the name of everything he’s ever done to protect Gotham, himself. Laying here next to Hal, once more frolicking in his failures he says exactly what he says every time they do this. It’s pretty much all they see of each other now, this and whatever it is they are doing. He says, “This can’t happen again,” because it’s true, because if he allows himself this, if he does this then…

His fingers find the bruises on his neck, tracing them up to his temple.

He does not say that Harvey sought him out again last night, found him on his way to his car after a long day at Wayne Enterprises. He does not say he did not fight back. He did not say that he did fight back. He did not say he almost lost control.

He focuses on the ceiling, staring at empty white, trying to block out the world.

This time is different, this time their fully naked and raw and open.

This time he does not keep an article of clothing on when he fucks Hal, because this time Hal takes them off, before Bruce can push him away like he should have. This time Hal tries to touch more than he has in the past.

Then…

His fingers find the foot shaped stamp on his stomach.

Then somehow, he can’t-

His fingers dance across a million different scars.

He-

His throat feels like lead. He can’t seem to breathe. It’s like this every time. He can’t even have sex like a normal human being. He can’t even lay here for a few minutes naked and raw and bare without over thinking all the downsides to this. Without worrying that he’s over thinking this, without worrying that maybe this was all just some giant mistake. Without worrying that Hal thinks this is all just a mistake.

He says, “We can’t do this again.”

He’s not used to this. This casual touch, that lazy half smile looking at him, that stupid glimmer of hope dancing in Hal’s eyes. He’s not used to those light touches on his face, his chest. In his world things are brutal and sure and angry and fast. In his world things hurt. They hurt and ask for hurt in return.

And Hal, unlike all the other times where he just agrees, just says, “what if I want to?”

A hand falls on his bare chest. Hal comes to tower over him, naked and powerful. There are hands on his chest. “Huh Spooky, don’t I get a fucking say in this.”

Hands on his chest

They are soft and sure.

Hands on him

They are firm and kind.

And Bruce can’t think, “Hal,” he grinds out, pushes out, struggles to let out.

There’s a finger forcing his chin up in a twisted memory of the touch he’s used to.

“No, shut up,” he snaps, and Bruce’s lips slam shut.

Because that’s what Har-

Because that’s what P-

That’s what-

Stop

Shut up

“Hal-“

“Shut up, it’s my turn okay…”

Shut up

Hands on his chest

Shut up

Can’t speak

Shut up

Don’t talk

Shut up

Shut up

Shut up

He can’t speak, the air has been sucked out of the room and Bruce can’t deal with that, with this, with what this could possibly mean, with hands on him and… His eyes turn cold.

Hal sees this, sees the moment where Bruce ends and Batman begins. He sees the layers he’s managed to peel out fade from view. He sees the change so quickly he wonders how the man doesn’t have whip lash from it. Batman is there in a second, but instead of staying like he usually does, there’s a flash of hurt that skitters across his eyes like a wounded man running through the night. It’s there and gone. Bruce is back, but something is wrong.

He moves so that Bruce has no choice, but to look at him, keeps his grip steady, “Just fucking listen to me for a minute.” He whispers, trying not to choke like a coward, tries to fight off the pressure building in his own chest.

Bruce shifts under Hal’s weight, feels the world crashing down around him. Feels Harvey’s eyes glaring at his neck. So, he runs, like the coward he is, he runs, and Hal, brave and sometimes stupid, follows. Hal follows him, stares at the door slammed in his face, while Bruce watches the door, back on the wall away from it, trying not to fuck this up more than he already has. He is trying not to let Bruce out, trying to shove him down as far as he can, bury him and let the bat take his place, but Bruce has his nails in, has gotten a taste of freedom and wants to be let out.

He sinks to the ground let’s his mind fall, let’s himself fall into that jargon that has lead him down this path. He has to be alone. He can’t turn Hal into Harvey. He can’t-

Stop
Do not process
Compartmentalize

He feels like he’s going to be sick.

He can’t-

Stop

He can’t let Hal be like T-

Stop

Nails dig into hair, scalp burns

Stop

Stomach churns, but he tries to swallow it down, tries to center himself.

Stop

The buzzing is getting louder, choking out the world around him, fading out the edges between what he should and should not do. His skin is burning. His hands tighten in his hair, mouth dialed down into a thin line. His chest feels like it was on fire, scorching itself from the inside out, mind melting.

There’s a bright light bursting in.

There are hands on him again, hands on him, prying fingers from skin, tugging limbs towards a warm body. There’s a blanket on his shoulders and someone wrapping strong arms around him. His world is in tatters. He pushes against them, finds his fight, “fuck off,” he snaps despite himself, finds himself trying to bite back the words as soon as they leave his lips. People of his stature do not curse. He should know better. His parents are weeping in their graves.

Cry him a river.

Arms find their way back around him as he quiets himself.

“So, the other day,” someone speaks from what feels like miles away, “I was trying out this new fighter jet, and I gotta tell ya Spooky, it was a beauty, pure gold, flew like a dream…” Someone was talking, there were arms around him, and warmth overtaking, melting out the ice hardening around his chest.

He could hear a heartbeat, warm and strong and sure. There’s warm breath on his cheek and rumbling from the timber of Hal’s voice.

Hal

It was just Hal. Fingers slide through his hair, the world coming into view.

He breathes in, long and deep, finds Hal in the air, finds cinnamon and jet fuel and leather and something he can’t quite place. He smells sex too, but it’s lingering softly in the air, reminds him that he isn’t okay, but Hal somehow makes things okay.

It hurts to move. It feels like lead is in his skin and chalk has stuffed his mouth, but he scrubs his face anyway, let’s Hal’s arms tighten around him, moves so that his face rests in the groove between the man’s head and neck, makes sure he doesn’t have to see the disappointment in brown eyes. He finds himself turning, moving so that all there is in the world is just Hal. His hands land on tan skin.

Hal quiets down for a moment and Bruce can feel his nose in his hair, can feel a hand slide down to the small of his back, another moving to his cheek. He breathes out, centers himself before he does something stupid.

“It’s going to be okay Bruce,” he whispers.

“I got you,” he says.

And Bruce feels his heartbeat level out, feels his nerves finding peace, finds he’s just heavy now.

“I got you,” and Bruce believes him, let’s himself believe it, can feel Bruce spurring to life, jumping to the forefront of his brain, shoving down everyone else.

He breathes out, closes his eyes, and tries not to think about the scene he’s made. He tries not to think about what Hal must think of him.

“I’m fine,” he grits out, makes to push Hal away, but moves to pull him impossibly closer.

“Yeah and I’m Indiana Jones,” Hal snorts, that hand on his cheek dipping down to his chin, trying to make him look at Hal, look his failure straight in the eyes.

“I’m fine,” he growls, hands tightening around soft flesh.

Hal pushes and he gives, because Bruce is weak. He’s weak and Hal’s eyes are soft, “I’m in this for the long run Spooky,” he says sure and confident. Bruce bites back his pride, moves to bury back into Hal’s neck, let’s his arms slide around said neck and just stays there, because it’s better there. It’s better here with Hal and the warmth he brings.

“So, uh…” he speaks again into Bruce’s hair, “we just not gonna talk about that,” his voice is tinged with that Kentucky twang he’s beat out of it. Bruce likes it.

“B?”

“We can’t do this anymore,” he whispers, when his mind says, ‘I don’t want this to end.’

Fingers digging into flesh

“The fuck does that even mean,” Hal’s voice is laced with his frustration, with his annoyance, with his concern that this was it.

“It’s for the best,” he whispers as his mind says, ‘I can’t live without you anymore.’

“So, you get to decide what’s best for me, why am I not even fucking surprised.” Hal huffs into the air around them, arms still curled around Bruce, “Well news flash douchebag I’m not going anywhere and if the last couple of weeks have been anything to go by this is going to happen again, because I’m handsome as fuck and you’re the most gorgeous thing that’s ever walked the Earth, so you’re just gonna have to get used to it,” he’s ranting again as he refuses to let go and Bruce says nothing about it, lets him, let’s Hal set the rules, because Bruce wants him to, wants him to deep down.

He doesn’t nod, just remains quiet, because they both know that’s the closet he will ever get to agreeing with anyone, but it’s fine because Hal moves until their noses find each other and then lips, he moves until Bruce is melting against Hal and the world seems right.

“This is a bad idea,” he breathes out, before moving back to Hal, his lips finding him.

“What happened,” Hal asks moves to remind Bruce of why they are sitting on his Penthouse bathroom floor and not the luxurious bed.

He stands on wobbly legs and Hal tries to steady him, but Bruce shakes him off, looking for his pride somewhere between the bed and here. He stands like he already has it though, like he’s never lost it. The businessman was taking hold, like always- proud and firm, but Bruce was fighting back again, refusing to go back into the safe room built into the house in his head. The bat couldn’t even hold him anymore.

At least that’s how it maybe should have gone, and in another life, it is exactly what did happen, but in this reality, there are hands on his chest and a crushing weight in his gut. In reality, he’s scrambling to throw anything on, in this world he winds up in the alleyway behind his penthouse, panicking, desperate for air, legs giving out. He finds himself just sitting next to the trash for god knows how long, staring off into the distance, waiting for his life to come back together again.

It's dark when he finds himself back in that Penthouse, everything cleaned up from their earlier activities. It’s dark and to his surprise Hal is sitting on his couch watching his old copies of the Grey Ghost, filling out paperwork lazily. He’s still here and Bruce is left speechless for once. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t know what he would say, just finds himself next to Hal, sitting calmly as his laptop finds its way into his lap so he can work on some WE reports he needs done.

It’s quiet and lazy, but neither of them breaks the silence. Sometime in between their work and the cartoon in the background, Hal’s arm winds up around his shoulders, soft and careful, but not at all timid. He’s worked himself back into Hal’s space, just as Hal’s voice fills in the deafening silence. He makes fun of the cartoon, laughs at the goons, fingers brushing through Bruce’s hair every now and then.
It’s…nice.

He keeps quiet, reminds Hal who he is and what he does. He keeps quiet and Hal pushes forward. They are the immovable object and an unstoppable force. Hal will never stop and Bruce never gives if he doesn’t want to. Lately he’s wanted to.

And they don’t talk about it. Hal fights, pushes and never lets up on it, but Bruce refuses to budge. They get dirty, Hal talks to Alfred and Dinah about it, Bruce refuses to comment. It’s an old story, Hal is pushing and Bruce is standing and at the end of the day nothing will be accomplished because that’s just how they work. Only it doesn’t really work. It never really works, which is probably why not even a few days later everything explodes like it does. When he says explodes. He means it literally.

Hal is thrown from the sky and Bruce is forced to the ground, legs disappearing beneath him, body soaring back. Something explodes and neither of them saw it coming, only knows that it’s not an unusual thing. This is just how their world works.

To be clear it was not by any means their fault, but for some reason his brain connected the two events as a cause and effect, somehow like so many other times, his mind cascades a string between two memories that do not necessarily lead into the other, like Harvey and Hal. It was however still a fuckcluster of events that had both spiraling out of control and back to each other.

The sky feels like it is falling as monsters rain from the sky. They were just talking on a roof, well arguing and maybe if they hadn’t been arguing they could have seen the beginning twinges of red in the sky, the beam coming down, maybe they could have done something, and maybe they couldn’t.

All he knows is that the world was falling apart and he was tumbling towards Hal, thoughts clouding with the dread that comes with an injured loved one. He abandons his post throws himself towards Hal and away from the battle, mind narrowed down to only this, to only Hal.

He digs through gravel as Stewart yells at him to answer, to come in, check in, do something, but he’s frozen in the thought that Hal was gone and he hadn’t told him. Hal was gone and he hadn’t told him anything. Hal was gone and he would not be okay. He pushes through, fights to keep himself breathing as he digs and digs and keeps digging even as his brain tells him to stop. He digs, Batman buried in his mind, Bruce fighting to keep sane, his house tumbling down.

He does not know how long exactly he spends digging, only knows that it feels like an eternity until green light pulses out from the ground and the world quakes again as the man drags himself up from his premature grave.

There is a tremor in his hands and a shift in his mind, but Hal is there. Despite the chaos around them Hal is there. Hal is there and he is fine.

They give each other a look, small nod bubbling up between them before Batman is off, Green Lantern by his side as they set into sync, fighting off monsters and saving the world, Gotham, Coast City, their families, themselves- Each other.

Somewhere along the lines it stopped being about Thomas and Martha Wayne and pearls raining from the sky. Somewhere along the lines it stopped being about them and started being about this, this thing that sprouted between the two of them. He’s not sure how he feels about that, only knows it makes his heart flutter and his mind set in place. It aligns something that’s been broken in Bruce’s mind for far too long.

He knows Hal was never the one he was supposed to be with. He understands that Hal was never written into his life plans, just like Dick and Jason and Clark and all the other people he’s come to know as Batman. But somewhere along the lines his mission had grown far beyond the walls of Gotham, had expanded in ways he’d never fantasized about. Batman had become more than a lone man, or a meager symbol for a lost city. It had become a protector of more than one doctor’s dream and one women’s hope, it had become about the world unified in preservation, in saving hope and giving it back, about finding love and pushing back.

He propels himself off of one of Hal’s projections, soars through the air to latch onto the leader activating a sonic blast to propel the treacherous creature back to where it came from. He falls too, through the air, out of grappling hooks, falls and knows Hal will get him, like he knows that maybe things will be okay.

Because somewhere along the lines it stopped being about Thomas and Martha Wayne and more about this, about moving on and facing the horizon better and stronger. Somewhere along the lines it became about Hal and Jason and Dick and Clark and Selina and Wally and Barry and Oliver and Jo’nn and Dinah and Jason Blood and Zatanna and Shayera and Stewart and Kord….

Somewhere along the lines he stopped being alone.

He does not know how to feel about that.

Ted Kord: November 8, 2011

“You okay,” his voice stretches out between them, vast and quite unsure, but solid in its hopefulness for an answer.

Of course, there wasn’t an answer, but maybe it was the possibility of an answer that he was hoping for. But he set out the hope just to remind the man next to him that he was still holding out for something.

Their friendship (at least he thinks it’s a friendship, he wants it to be one, there’s a possibility for greatness here he doesn’t want to let go) was one built on science. Since that night so long ago, or not quite long ago, but too long in Ted’s fast paced mind. The questions purposed, the ideas sent following through his mind. He moves towards him, watches as the man fiddles with the device in his hand.

His apartment was a mess, from the papers decorating the floors and walls to the old bags of chips and laundry both dirty and clean strewn over everything; he wondered briefly how this looked to someone as neat and orderly as the Bat himself.

“You are…quite accurately an awkward unfashionable teenager,” the man had stated upon seeing his apartment for the first time. “I would know, I have two,” he said with such a monotone voice that Ted wondered whether he was supposed laugh or hide or what.

That was Bruce for you, all serious, no chill. Sometimes he forgot what he was supposed to do around the man. Even when they were younger, those brief glances he would get of the boy said too much, too much of the hollowness that comes from losing a loved one. To say he was shocked that Bruce Wayne was Batman would be a lie, but to say he was shocked that Brucie Wayne was the boy he’d seen so sparingly that sometimes he forgot the kid was even still alive would be a definite answer of, of course.

Frowning he took note as the man, all pressed suits and turtlenecks and perfect features work with such immense concentration, such meticulous precision that it was kind of hard not to do anything, but look, but study and learn and grow from whatever the man was willing to hand over, which wasn’t much of course. Brucie Wayne did do meticulous. He was sloppy and loud and a little ditzy, all things the man before him is not.

Booster, Michael, still thinks he’s insane for allowing the Bat into his life, but what can he do. The man’s onto his next big squeeze, so best friends be damned. That was Michael, always trying to catch the next woman in his sights, forgetting him completely in the whirlwind of could be’s and maybe’s.

“We need something with more power,” the dark man beside him stated calmly.

“We could text Holt, see what he can get us.”

“No,” the man growls out, “this stays between us.”

“But it’d be better if we had other people helping us, this tech is centuries ahead of anything we have currently.”

“We’ll make do,” he states, “you have seen the cave correct?”

He was hunched over his laptop now, typing brutally as he tried to understand whatever it was that had his brain on the fritz. Of course, technically he knew, the man had told sparse details of the other world and the Justice Lords, and Ted knew his fair share of what horrors other dimensions could unfold to others. He just didn’t know why the man before him was obsessing over it like one of his cases, because Barbra has told him about what Bruce was like on the hunt.

“Yes, and despite how awesome and ahead of the times it is, this stuff is even more advanced!”

“I can do this,” he murmured, eyes narrowing onto something he was trying to fuse together.

Sighing loudly, he let his hand drop onto the man’s shoulder, “dude, what are you trying to prove?”

He moved from the touch, and suddenly the action registered in Ted’s mind, and he was very aware of what kind of damage the Batman could inflict, what Bruce Wayne could inflict, stories and rumors and hard truths all floating through his mind. He’d touched the untouchable.

However, it also registered in Ted’s mind the kind of action that was, the way it almost seemed as if he’d burned the man in front of him. It registered how badly the man next to him seemed to avoid touch in total.

“Sor-“ he started, but Bruce was on his feet, face unreadable, as his fists clenched the prototype in his hand.

“I’m not fucking glass,” he snapped, blue eyes chilling him to the core.

The Batman just cursed at him.

Oh, he was so dead.

“I never said, - “ the man was twirling on his heels heading for the door, and Ted didn’t know what to do, because what do you say to that, to Batman when he was mad.

Maybe it was the soft click of the door that gave away the fact that maybe the man wasn’t mad at him, or just the lack of drama that usually accompanies the man in all his shapes and forms, or maybe Ted’s just a softie, but as he looked at the prototype left on his floor, he let himself set to work despite all the ways it could, will, go wrong if he just gives in and helps.

This is powerful stuff, this is scary stuff, stuff he’s tried to stay away from, because he’s seen what messing with time can do to people, but what about alternate dimensions, what about how that can hurt people.

What can that do to someone’s head?

Fuck them up, that’s what.

 

Bruce Wayne- November 10, 2012

Today he wakes up anew. Blinking slowly, eyes blurry with sleep, heavy with…nothing. Sitting up slowly he, takes stock of his own body, finds quiet where once was loud, finds calm where once chaos was. He’s not sure what’s going on what’s real and what’s not, but he takes his pills like he has for the past couple of months, takes his pills and gets out of bed. Stumbling to the bathroom he comes to a halt.

He waits, waits for that feeling, for his muscles to clench and his stomach to twist in on itself, and the heaviness to lie on his chest, for that anxiety and fear and need to hurt something. He waits for the hurt to come back, but it never does.

He looks forward and does not recognize the person in front of him.

He looks ahead and finds himself lost in the eyes of a stranger.

“It’s going to be okay,” he repeats his head, eyes on the man in front of him.

“You’re going to be okay,” he gasps, trying to piece together the man in the mirror with the one he feels squirming around in his chest.

It’s new, strange, weird. There’s change marked by this morning, change so surreal and unknown he shifts in his stance, as if preparing for a fight he didn’t want to have. He’s different and he knows he shouldn’t be as relieved about it as he is. He shifts as he moves, gets dressed in this weird light haze, mind quieted by the pressure of drugs.

He gets dressed slowly, gets dressed surely

 

Wally West- November 12, 2011

He found someone today.

Or he met a villain today and he doesn’t know why it’s stood out in his brain, but she was beautiful and sassy. He swears he knows her, even though he’s knows he’s never met her.

She went by Tigress, but some called her Artemis, and he doesn’t know why that’s prominent, only knows it’s still with him.

He found her, and he called her his in his head, but she’s not his. She might have never been his, but his brain is doing funny things.

He brushes it off, focuses on the debrief, on Clark talking and smiling. Right, he’s supposed to smile. So, he does- feels Bats’ eyes on him as a smile lights up his face.

He doesn’t feel a smile inside him, but he smiles anyway.

He doesn’t want to be heard, he wants to be listened to. The words, however, never come, they die before they are born and his heart is still beating despite his best efforts.

He feels like love has died.

There’s no funeral, just a bleeding heart on the sidewalk. His love has gone cold. It was a lie that intertwining your soul with somebody else could heal the worst wounds, because now all he feels is broken. He wants to see her again, but she’s not his. She’s a stranger that his mind is pushing him towards.

Hal Jordan: November 16, 2011

“So, wait,” blue eyes squint at the ceiling, “you and Bats?”

They’re back in the café, Sherri shuffling to and for, grumpy and exhausted and a mess of a human being.

He squirmed in his seat.

“I’m saying,” he threw up his hands, eyes on the ceiling, fingers carding through his hair.

“Whaaa, when did this happen,” Green eyes sparkled in the light.

“Why are you smiling, why are you so happy about this?”

“Because Hal, it’s about damn time,” blue soft eyes lit up, watching him frown and struggle under the frustration of not knowing, what the fuck was going on through that idiot’s brain.

Laughter fills his ears, as Oliver laughs into the booth, “Oh my god I fucking called it! I won! Oh, my god I have to text Roy, maybe this will get him to talk to me again.” his laughter turns into wheezing as his shaking fingers try to type on his phone, not even noticing Hal’s fuming form.

And Barry, oh Barry’s just as bad. He was fucking snorting at Ollie’s display, head shaking even as a smile twitches onto his face. He snapped, slapping Oliver’s phone out of his hand, satisfaction at the crunch of it as it meets the floor, is too much.

“Hey,” the man starts, even as Barry’s laughter gets louder.

“Oh, go buy a new one,” he snapped.

Bruce slides in next to him, as silent as ever, eyes on the front door, cautious as always. And Hal can’t help it, can’t help but melt a little looking at him. His hand was sliding on the man’s thigh in a slight show of affection automatically, brain stuck on that mantra of ‘he’s mine’ ‘I’m his’ now that it was finally, somewhat official.

“So finally, the question that’s been plaguing me, who’s the bottom,” Oliver leans forward mischief in his eyes, as Bruce’s hands balls into tight fists under the table, and Hal forces himself to remain cool, because really, they’ve been avoiding this subject.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Hal smirks in time to Barry slapping the man on his shoulder, as a blush was working its way down his entire face, neck, ears.

“What,” the blonde billionaire groans, “I just needs to know,” he whines loudly as he slides down to pick up the wreckage that was now his phone.

Bruce growls next to him, and Hal should keep the laugh out of his voice as he rants at the man. It’s only mid rant that he notices the way Barry and Bruce are sort of talking telepathically between them, Barry trying to convey something as Bruce silently makes his want for no attention to be known.

His hand finds Bruce’s, grips it under the table, sure and solid. It’s then that the door chimes to alert someone’s entering. And sure, enough there’s someone there, just not who he expected.

Bruce doesn’t even react quite like he expects, there’s a warmth there that startles Hal. It’s not something to be jealous about he knows that look, has seen it when Bruce looks at Barbra or Jim or Alfred. It’s something so purely familial and knowing that Hal does a double take. The man settles next Oliver, skirting in between Barry’s wheelchair and the chair, a nervous smile in his voice, all abashed, but soothingly calm.

“Hello, my friends,” the man, all dark skin, tan trench coat and dark fedora, waves.

They might need a bigger booth.

“John,” Bruce nods towards the man across from him, shuffling closer into Hal’s space, hand still clasped tightly in his.

And it feels like it once was, plus some, all of them squeezed into the other, laughter and talk of old times warming the world around them.

“Ugh, look at this bullshit,” Oliver speaks over his phone, holding it out firmly for everyone to see, or well squint over the cracked lens “Lord’s threatening to buy stocks from Luthor Corp.”

“Oh damn, just what we needed, a jackass fighting with a bald jackass,” Hal whined.

“What’s Lord done,” Barry asked over his fries.

“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Bruce shrugged, as Jo’nn smirked devilishly at him.

“Oh, my god what did you do?” Oliver leaned forward, snagging a piece of bread as he goes.

Bruce shrugged noncommittally looking away.

“This is the circle of trust; tell us your deepest darkest secrets,” Barry speaks as he always does, a smile in his voice, all rugged good looks and cheeky tone.

“No,” Bruce’s face is so serious it almost hurts to look at, as his eyes bore deeply and piercingly into Barry’s, “it is a rectangle.” It is said so calmly above the rim of his glass of coffee, blue eyes darting towards the man in the fedora him, who’s sneaking Chocos from his pocket.

Ah…he’s the Martian

“Ass,” Hal teased, bumping him on the arm, before sliding his cautiously around his boyfriend, the man not even batting an eye at the display, just giving him a look that’s screaming ‘what the fuck do you think you’re doing, this is a public place?” Which (to be noted for all eternally) he graciously ignores it in favor of tugging him closer, much to Oliver and Barry’s loud excitement.

The following mess of arguing over who ‘shipped’ what first has Hal groaning into Bruce’s neck, and the man just humming into his coffee as if nothing happened at all. Then again after living with Dick for so long this must be a common occurance.

They are such fangirls.

The Martian on the other hand just does a short ‘congratulations’ in his head followed by a ‘hurt him and I shall make you wish you were dead’ which, the hell did that come from. He almost chokes on his coke at that.

 

Bruce Wayne- November 20, 2011

“You say I’m not alone, but I’m petrified,” he whispered in the darkness of his room, the burn of sweet scotch on his tongue, words whispered out into nothingness, fear coursing through his chest like a disease, filling his veins and threatening to take over his entire being.

Fear what a weakness.

He wasn’t afraid of dying, or the danger that came with his lifestyle. He was afraid of something more organic, something more chilling. With death came a release, came a freedom that is so unnatural in this world. With danger came the rush, the promise of feeling alive for once; with pain came something tangible to feel, to latch onto. Pain is truthful; it does not lie to you like love does, like happiness does. Pain makes mean honest.

He did not want friendship. He wanted to be alone, locked up in his big old house away from everything that has the potential to latch onto him and make him feel that lie that love tells. He told Clark he did not want friends. He told Alfred he wanted to be alone. He told them. He told himself, made himself believe it with such surety, such conviction that he would preach it to anyone that would listen. But now Dick is gone and Clark is gone. Hal and Jason are near, but they are not replacements, they are new parts of his life that fit just right, but just because they fit does not mean he forgot about the other two.

But here he is with a platitude of friends, and a multitude of people claiming to be family and they all expect something from him. They expect him to be strong and unmoving. They expect him to be functioning.

He’d let them into his life.

Love lied to him again. Happiness laughed in his face.

Clark was gone in a flash.

He was gone and the world didn’t make sense.

He was gone and Bruce was left with words still dancing on his tongue.

He was gone, but he couldn’t be dead, Bruce just needed to find him. He just needed to be better, needed to prove love wrong.

He just had to do something.

Falling off his bed he clamored in the darkness, feeling the confining walls of freedom licking at his skin, the sharp pangs of grief trying to swallow him whole all over again.

The porcelain was too cold, freezing chilled skin, as the wild buzzing noise continued in his head. Something was telling him Clark was fine, just lost. Something was telling himself this, but his heart was screaming that he dead, that they saw him die, just like they his parents.

And he remembers so dully what it was like to watch people die, remembers last week when a little girl died in his arms because her father beat her to death. He remembers Afghanistan, remembers broken limbs falling off the bone, and remembers being told from both parties that it was all going to be worth it, because their cause was the right cause. He remembers a lot of things about death, but death does not ask questions. Death does not care who you are, she’ll take you whether you’re black or white or Asian or Latino. Death does not care if you are straight or gay or lesbian or asexual. She does not mind if you are cisgender or transgender or nonbinary. Death does not mind who you are or what you do and she comes for you whether you are ready or not.

And Clark was gone, died heroically, again, of course.

He sits in his bathtub, let’s the chill drive into his bones. He sits and he’s stuck here, he’s stuck here. Alfred wants him to sleep, it’s been weeks since he’s slept, been weeks even before Kal died. His eyes flicker towards his razor, mouth burrowing into a thin line.

Stop

A shaky hand reaches out and he wonders why his subconscious is always trying to kill him. He clasps it tight, wondering why he’s been trying to find ways to do himself in since that night. The will to live is here, breathes life into himself, pushes him to make a difference, to be the best, to be better.

This is so unsanitary he thinks as he set the blade to his wrists, eyebrows furrowing slightly. “I just want to feel something,” he breathes out through gritted teeth, head falling to his knees, as he thinks of Jason, of Alfred, of Dick, of Hal.

“I just need to feel,” his voice come out ragged, all sharp edges and rough plains, “something,” he grinds out through his teeth. “I just-“

“Bruce,” he hears the gasp at the door. It’s been picked open so beautifully that it escaped his hearing. He would be proud of the young woman in front of him if he was not already so uneasily disappointed at being caught.

He drops the razor, hands on the sides of his head as the buzzing gets louder and his shoulders tremble, and the world begins to lose its meaning.

She snatches the razor away, throwing it across the room, red hair falling in front of her features, which she brushes back so elegantly. Her hands find his shoulders, trying to loosen him up, but all he does is tense. Barbra is calm and stern and stubborn. She is too much like Jim Gordan, too much like the man that stuffed him in that oversized coat and told him things were going to be fine when they both knew the truth was far less satisfying here in Gotham. She was a woman with the biggest dreams, but a practical mind.

She does not know his story.

There are new hands on his shoulder, hands turning him around and pressing him tightly into another’s chest. “Oh, my dear boy,” comes a soft voice, and something precious shatters in his chest, something cracks and he kind of just goes limp, let’s himself fall forward, whether in shame or something worse he’ll never know.

“Bruce,” the voice speaks softly, fingers carding through his hair as he continues to tremble.

Mouth slammed shut.

The quiet is his form of tears.

And his silence cries out into the night.

But if that’s the case, then his words are piercing screams of agony.

“I don’t know what to do Alfred,” his voice is small, and he knows Alfred knows, knows something is wrong, but for once he can’t bring himself to care.

“I’ve got you,” Alfred whispered into his hair, arms tightening around his shoulders mouth dialed down in a mirror image of Bruce’s own habit.

“I have to,” he starts to get out on his own, limbs scrambling up and away, but Alfred pushes him close, nudging him away from his door.

“Go to sleep, yes I agree,” the butler hummed pushing him back to his bed.

“Dad there’s-“And he slams the words down, cuts himself off at that word, that word he promised not to use, not to put out as if to replace the man that gave him this house, his name, his legacy.

“All the time in the world for your crusade,” the man who raised him whispers into his hair, “Now you promised me you wouldn’t let it destroy you.”

“Well we both knew that was a lie,” he snapped back, hands forming fists at his side, mind running off its tracks. His words were weapons that he wielded with the intent to damage.

“Which is why I have stayed so long,” he stated coolly, moving back into Bruce’s space, “Master Bruce,” his voice lowers, “You need rest, even the Batman cannot function without sleep.”

“I’m fine,” he snaps.

“To put it mildly sir, you bloody well know you are the exact opposite,” he’s still calm, cool like the tides the ocean crashing into the wilds of a volcano on the edge of erupting.

“Now tea?”

“You’ll just spike it,” he bites as he takes the cup Alfred must have set down on his way to the bathroom.

“Perhaps,” the man replied.

And Barbra comes back into view, kneels beside him and looks him into the eyes, hands grasping the cup and putting it to his lips. “Drink,” she says and by this point he would be suicidal not to do it (no pun intended). She watches him drink it all in one go, not even bothering to taste it really, just trying to go to sleep, to be anything but what he is now.

 

Bruce Wayne: November 28, 2011

Sitting here, among the peeling cracks of the walls, stuffed behind the cowl, blue eyes the only part of him peeking through; it feels like pieces of him are coming undone, pouring out of his own cracked skin. There are parts of him coming apart here, seated on worn booths and reality beyond denial in front of a man who’s known him longer than his parents ever could makes the cowl shift just not right. The walls are faded blue and sad red, the sharp edges of the world around him makes him sit out of place.

Barbra is crippled. Gordon is a mess. And it is all his fault.

He chases the clown down, dancing and running across rooftops, Dick’s shattered voice echoing through his ears. Barbara was paralyzed for the rest of her life, because he made her feel like she had to prove herself to him.

He pushes himself to work harder, be better, ignore everyone. Jason tries to push him out of the cave, but Bruce just tells him he’s not allowed on patrol anymore.

Dick takes him out.

Bruce is stuck.

December 6, 2011

And then the man was back and he didn’t feel hollow again. Clark was back and filling the space beside him, deep blue eyes trying to meet his own. He couldn’t look at him, because all he could see in return was an empty grave. There was a ringing in his head and burning in the back of his throat and Clark was resting a hand on his shoulder, patting it awkwardly as he moved to chat with Diana.

‘My friend,’ J’onn filled his brain, ‘would you li-‘

‘I’m fine’ he snapped back, head bowing down. He knew the Martian could feel the emotions wafting from him today of all days, knew he was out of sorts, which was probably why he could actually hear the other one. Usually it was just a feeling nudging at his barriers, but today all he could hear was J’onn. All he could sense was J’onn and his silent offer.

Clark’s laugh distracted him briefly and his mind went crazy.

Life was cruel like that.

‘No. I do not believe you are.’ J’onn was like death, honest, blunt, to the point, so sure in his decisions.

J’onn was on the other side of the room from him, but he still felt too close, too close to something treasured.

‘Let me help you,’ there was weakness in needing help.

He turned on his feet, head finding the sky in a show of confidence, feet moving on their own accord as he sought out truth, searched for something that felt real in the pits of Gotham’s Underworld.

He never found it, but he’d like to think Gotham has her own form of truth.

Still he never can find what he’s looking for.

Life was a lie like that.

Selina sought him out this time. She was warm and calm. She was strong when he wanted to fall apart. She found him later that night. She found him in his bathroom. Hal galaxies away, Jason down the hall, Alfred down in the kitchen- she found him on the floor, with the ringing in his ears and a blade in his hand. She found him and she knocked it out of his hands, even as his body went to seek it back out.

The screams that followed weren’t necessary, but he was seeking death out tonight, the buzzing getting the louder and the pressure in his chest so unsure, so overwhelming it promised a release if he just let go, but he was so unaware of how to let go after years of training himself to never let go.

So, she pushed and he pulled away. It was a familiar dance, one they’d spent years practicing. And when she left, the door slamming resolutely behind her, he tried to pretend like that was exactly what he wanted to begin with, tried to pour out the pressure in his chest and move on.

It was Hal inevitably, as usual that pulls him out of himself. He makes Bruce snap at him, while he drabbles on about something completely irrelevant and irritating. He cracks the most inappropriate jokes and makes Bruce both want to pull his teeth out and laugh like a madman on crack.

They sit watching shitty re-runs of the failed live action Grey Ghost sitcom from the 60’s, where everything in his hide out is labelled. It’s ridiculous and completely stupid when compared to the animated series from the 90’s.

Jason eventually makes his way to the room, Selina slinking in to sidle up next to them. It’s…strange, but soothing in the way that pressure eases off of him.

December 8, 2011

He’s sitting at a table with Lois Lane sitting across from him. She is true to her name, beautiful and fierce. He can see why Clark loves her.

He does not know why he is here, well he has his suspicions, but most include emotional issues that he’s really hoping are not the cause of the meeting. Missing the meeting altogether was an unwise decision as this was Lois and she was a bloodhound.

Still his misgivings are confirmed the second he sees her. She doesn’t pose herself the way she does when she’s trying to get an exclusive, rather she was dressed down, slumping slightly in her seat, eyes tilted down at her phone, probably working on getting ahead of some other story than the one she currently wants to discuss.

“Cut the small talk,” he says as a greeting, eyes sharp in the café light.

“Well look who woke up on the wrong side of the cave, what Alfred forget to lay down the red carpet on the way to the bathroom?” He does not acknowledge her, instead focusing on a menu they both know he’s not really reading.

He raises an eyebrow as if to say, ‘really’

“You can do better than rich jabs,” he states, flipping through the pages, catches the slight twitch of her right eye. Lois hates being ignored almost as much as she does missing out on a big story.

“True, I guess for once I can cut to the chase,” she smirks as she talks, all charm and hardly any grace.

“Thank you.” She says it with such sincerity, such earnestness that it throws him off, because god damn the emotions wafting from her and the undercurrent of a talk that will definitely go deeper than the state of the weather makes him want to go beat someone into the ground for a misdemeanor.

He cuts a glare her way, suspicion of an ulterior motive has him at the edge of his seat.

“Thank you for letting me have him,” she sets her hand on his own, lets him none too subtly pull it back. She sits up straight violent eyes studying him carefully. “We both know that if you’d really put in the effort he’d chosen you.”

It’s rare for a woman as proud as Lois to admit something like that about herself, surprising more for Bruce to think that she thinks that he could possibly beat her out of something like this.

There’s no point in denying the subject, Lois is too smart to degrade her to such a level, especially after everything they have seen each other go through.

“You don’t give yourself enough credit,” he says, “He loves you.”

“Oh, I have no doubt about that,” she says with a shrug, “but he loves you as well, in his own way I suppose. And to be honest I don’t actually have a clue whether he’d have chosen me or you. So, I wanted to thank you for letting me have him.”

“There was not a competition.”

“Are you coming to the wedding?”

It’s next year. In one year, they will be married and he’s actually decently content for them. Despite everything, he wants this to work out for them. He wants them to be that disgustingly cute couple that always manages to work. She keeps him grounded, sure and strong. She is not afraid to challenge him in a way most shiver at the thought of. She is determined and stubborn and brave. She is confident where he lacks it, he is strength when she breaks. He wants it to work. He wants it to work, just like everyone wanted Barry and Iris to work despite Hal. He wants them to be happy in a way that takes him by surprise.

He shrugs, “May as well.”

“Do you love him?” Once more she cuts to the heart of things, just as she does in her interrogations. She’s observant, clever in a way that makes her a great journalist and formidable appointment. “Hal, I mean.”

He looks down at the tabletop, frown burning on his face.

“Well that’s a yes.” He shoots up to meet her eyes, “you have that look I get when I think about Clark.”

“Now how good is he in bed?”

He almost slouches back in his chair in exhaustion. This was why he avoided these conversations, it always comes down to two things: love and sex, like the two had to go hand in hand, like he had to conform to both for his entire nonplatonic relationship to go somewhere. Love and sex; sex and love, like those two things had to have a specific place in his life for him, as a person, to be whole.

Sex wasn’t even that great.

Sometimes it was enjoyable, but most of the time it had gone hand to hand in pain, or humiliation, or manipulation.
“I would not know,” he admitted out loud, head leaned back at an awkward angle so that he can look at the ceiling, as if he was truly invested in knowing every single part of it.

“I would not know,” the admittance left his lips before he could stop it and he forced himself to stay looking up, away…avoiding inevitable blow out that came with something like this.

Briefly, he remembers an admittance like this, when he was fourteen, remembers the way everyone had been so appalled that he had simply gone to get drinks and that had been the end of it. Remembers later that week coming home disgusted and sticky and gross, because he gave them what they wanted and it was one of the most unsatisfying things he’s ever done. He remembers the way she’d been so happy with him, with herself. He doesn’t even remember her name, just that it was the first time he’d ever had sex and it was just so weird that he’d never known what to do about it, except accept it as a piece of life that one just had to suck up and deal with.

“Okay so you guys are taking it slow?” She inquired, leaning forward, trying to meet his gaze.

Looking her in the eyes and nodding has never been so difficult.

 

Bruce Wayne: December 11, 2011

‘It’s been awhile’ he thinks, as his shoes brush against familiar carpet space, his fingers ghosting over antiquated memories and lonely spaces, and he’s sitting here, just as vulnerable here as he was the first time he sat in this seat.

‘It’s been awhile’ he thinks, as he takes the offered cup and the man before him smiles, like the sun, like someone who’s never had a single bad day in his life, despite the horrors he’s seen. He sits here and he’s just as lost as he always is under those unnatural blue eyes, as he always is in the face of pure curiosity for who he is and it never gets easier and maybe that’s the thing, maybe that’s why today feels harder than the rest, maybe that’s why today makes him want to scream, maybe that’s why the ringing in his head is piercing through his reality, maybe that’s why today he wants to die.

He waits under that stare mind tumbling through his thoughts and he’s reminded of all those little facts he’s let slip out under that stare, because he’s weak, and when he’s weak he’s selfish and cruel and sometimes the words slip out without permission.

It shouldn’t feel like such a violation but it does, because today the words want to bubble up like water bubbles over, like lava tipping over the side of a volcano and its hard, to swallow lava back down, hard to feel the way it burns and boils under his skin, at the back of his throat.

“We’ve been friends for a while,” Clark states, and those glasses are tilted slightly in that way they sometimes do, and his head is sitting firmly on those strong solid shoulders.

He’s weak, he reminds himself, ‘I have to be better, be stronger, be smarter’ it’s why he has to keep Hal away, why he has to keep everyone away.

He’s keeps himself calm, looks at all the wedding pamphlet and portfolios on the table before him, watches as Clark sheepishly pretend they aren’t his, because even Superman conforms to society’s idealism of masculinity.

Today he’s a pristine image of masculinity in America, suit and tie, rough air style, strong jaw, nothing that could set him apart in a world that frowns upon the sort of betrayal that comes from being unique, from being different, or rather a more accurate term, or rather a harsher tone, or rather a more common word, freak, weirdo, evil, that’s what they say isn’t it? That’s what they say when it gets too hard to let your mind widen its frame of knowledge.

He chews on the inside of his cheek, reminds himself he’ll never get married.

His mother will never get to see him in that tux, someone on his arm willing to say yes to something like him.

His father will never give him the talk, the walk through on married life.

He’s sure Selina would say yes, and they’d be together in this strange kind of dance where they dance around the whole sex thing, but at least they’d be a family, at least they’d make people happy. Alfred would be ecstatic, his parents would clap in their grave and he would still be a dress up doll, made perfect.

Maybe that’s why his rouges feel more like family than anything he’s tried to make for himself.

Maybe that’s why his heart warms when Dick throws something sparkly on and parades proudly in public.

Maybe that’s why Jason makes him proud when he speaks openly about who he wants to be.

Maybe that’s why he always feels out of place.

Stop.

Shit, when did he start psychoanalyzing himself?

“I just want to say that I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for me,” Clark is all shy farm boy, unafraid to state his feeling, kind of like Hal in his own strange way.

The words are on the tip of his tongue and he’s sure it would be so easy to let them spill over into the real world.

“But you know, I don’t really know a lot about you,” he states, head tilting, glasses sliding further down, “I mean I know you, but I don’t know a lot about you as a person.”

Who does, he wants to say, wants to ask, because that’s the point. No one knows him, no one gets to know him, no one wants to know him…

Except Hal for some reason.

Hal who wants to know what it’s like to draw through his eyes, who wants him to play music and talk to him and be with him and understand him.

It’s all very stupid, but Hal has gotten the closet somehow, right next to Clark.

Hal has managed to barrel past his defenses and its only recently that’s he’s took notice to how dangerously close he is to finding out just how broken Bruce really can be.

“I don’t know your middle name,” Clark says, suddenly thoughtful.

He stands, makes his way to the door, but its Clark grabbing his arm tightly, Bruce’s heart still.

“Let go of me,” he growls out, low and sure and calm.

“No why are you so insistent of running away every time things get too personal,” those eyes are on him, trying to pick him apart and suddenly it’s not his friend standing before him, rather it’s doctors and businessmen and Waller’s people all trying to understand him, trying to break past the surface of who he is

“You are wasting my time,” he snaps, feels the way his body readies for a fight, feels the way he welcomes it as a method to get out of whatever it is Clark wants from him.

And maybe it’s a tribute to Clark as a person, but he let’s go and steps back, a sigh leaving his lips. “What’s so bad about opening up to people B?”

“I am not going to dignify your ignorance with a response,” his words bite just as they always do and he leaves without a goodbye, leaves so he can hide behind his masculinity and the world’s materialistic bullshit, leaves to go meet up with Lex Luthor, all bright smiles and dumb comments, leaves to go into the limelight.

Just like they taught him

 

Shayera Hol: December 20, 2011

“You do not trust me,” she grumbled eyes facing forward, looking out into the universe, eyes searching for her home world.

“I do not trust anyone,” he grunts, eyes hidden behind white lenses, but she’d like to think he was gazing out into the universe as well, “do not disillusion yourself into thinking you are better than anyone else.”

“No, you just specifically dislike me,” she huffed, more grounded out, cold eyes searching him out.

He didn’t even have the nerve to tell her she was wrong merely giving this half-hearted shrug. He was always quiet like this, in a strange almost creepy way, and while the rest of the league seemed sold on him she was unsure. Yes, he was tactically equipped, yes, he was strategic and calm and brilliant and strong, but he was always weak in many ways. He was only human, small and fragile both in heart and in mind. He was more concerned with Gotham than the rest of the universe, wrapped up in his own little world.

Growling softly, she watched as he disregarded her; choosing instead to focus on the monitors, eyes being torn from the stars beyond, back into the little world he’s created here in space.

“What did I ever do to get on your wrong side?”

“Have you done anything to warrant my ‘good’ side?”

“I’ve-“

“Been a basic level hero,” he turned sniffing into the air as he went, the way Shayera really hated.

“Excuse you,” she growled, hand tightening around her mace. There was a threat there, a threat he wanted, a fight he needed to have with someone.

“Been barely above average then, my apologies,”

“Batman,” Jo’nn snapped from beside him. The glare he received said it all, and the startled look from Shayera must have described something he couldn’t place, but Jo’nn was challenging him here on some level he did not quite want to consider, but it’s not usual, because usually the man backs down, but this time their looking at each other straight in the eyes, almost daring the other to say something back.

Bruce: December 21, 2011

Bruce frowned at her, eyes finding the top of her desk especially interesting today, fingers twitching as he spoke.

“You don’t look so good.”

“Who does,” his voice is mere whisper all soft clouds in a thunder storm.

“When’s the last time you took you medication?”

“Why does it matter,” he asks, eyes finding the top of the desk.

“You have to talk to me, because if this is the medication, then we can always change it and try something new.” She was calm, when his brain was flittering all over the place, snapping in places he couldn’t fix.

“Is this about Clark dying, Hal being gone or a combination of both?”

His eyes are on the ground, mouth dialed down into a frown. He’s not sure what to say or do anymore. He’s not sure what he wants to say or do. He’s not sure anymore. He doesn’t know what to say, to be. He just.

He walks out.

 

December 23, 2011

It’s two days later that he walks back in, sits down in that chair and stares out the window. He knows she doesn’t have another meeting until about four, so he can sit here for five hours. He can sit here and pay her while he thinks about why he’s here. He can sit here until the world makes sense again.

He sits and she stares at him, her lips tilting into that familiar frown that says she’s trying to puzzle this out. He is, like always at a loss for words, stuck in the constant battle of who and what he has to be.

The closet is a place for death they say. He remembers being locked in one for hours on end, maybe weeks, minutes. He remembers the door locking and the lights disappearing and suffocating silence.

Stop.
Compartmentalize.
Store.
Do Not Process.

He frowns again, as his mind hides from him once more. He frowns, making a fist tightly.

CRUNCH

Jerking up, his eyes lock with Dinah as she digs into the biggest sandwich he’s possibly ever seen in his life.

“What? Just because you want to sulk in my office for hours means I have to put my life on hold?” She laughs cruelly and another’s laugh echoes it vehemently. Growling softly, he shakes his head.

“I knew this fight would be difficult-“

“Don’t call it a fight when you know it’s a war.”

That stops him cold. It stops him and he’s lost once more.

“I-,” he clears his throat, eyes on the floor as he tries to fit the words together just right, tries to get her to see what he needs to be seen, said what needs to be said.

“Look Bruce,” she sighs leaning forward, eyes set to go to battle, “it’s obvious you need help and I believe you want it, but you have to be willing to meet me in the middle here. You must be willing to open up to me, or at least to someone you trust.”

He shifts, glancing down at him hands, eyebrows drawing in.

“You want to tell me why you’re here today?” She worked to meet his gaze, trying to find his eyes

“I have not been myself recently,” he spoke, looking her straight in the eyes. “I need you to fix me.”

“Bruce,” her voice dropped a vocal or two, eyes almost betraying some emotion he could not clearly decipher, “you do not need to be fixed, you’re fine just how you are. You just need some help working and coping with some things.”

“No something is wrong with me,” his face breaks its careful mask momentarily, allowing his face to scrunch in on itself.

“What do you mean Bruce,” she speaks carefully, eyes looking him over. “I don’t-“ he shakes his head, “I don’t know,” it comes out a whisper, just barely there, let loose upon the world.

“When was the last time you took your meds?”

“Two days, six hours, and thirty-two minutes before Clark was thought to have died.”

“Okay let’s start with that. Why did you stop taking them?”

“I was doing better. I thought I was better, that I was fine. It was an inane thought.” He frowned, stilling his movements.

“You have a preconceived idea of what normal is and to want to achieve that is not inane. It’s human. You feel that in order to fit in you should not be taking medicine. That in some way having it is a crux that makes you weak, or less than those around you.” She takes another bite, chewing loudly, “you need to face the notion that your normal is not exactly the same as everyone else’s. And in turn that what they conceive as normal does in no way define you. You are your own person and should not be in any way defined by another’s definition.”

He raises an eyebrow at her bluntness, almost appreciates the fact that it burns to hear it so forcefully laid out. “Yes, but there are standards that I have to live by, there are some things that are best kept in the dark, for everyone’s sake.”

“Maybe, but you do not have to be ashamed of taking medicine.”

“I am a CEO of a multi-billion-dollar company, Dinah. No matter how many people tell you that when you are rich you can do anything, that’s all a lie, because when you are rich and responsible for a company you inherited, it is imperative that people see something that’s not broken. Being a drunk and womanizer is one thing, because most men in power are like that, but to come out as bisexual, or to have a mental disorder that is taboo. It will not matter how many of the masses you win over for diversity or for being a role model to other’s like you, because ableism exists and people in the social circle I have to keep more likely than not want only people who look perfect, who are perfect. I do dealing with businesses and countries that would not allow business to flow with someone who does not fit into their heteronormativity. There is a reason you are just starting to hear celebrities coming out. Despite what the twenty-first century preaches about equality, hardly anything has really changed, just no one talks about it anymore.”

There was more in there than she thought she would get out of him in a lifetime. Where does she even begin?

“Bruce your company can survive to lose that business from Oliver tells me, and I am not saying you have to announce it to the world. I am saying you have to put aside what people think, what the company needs for a second and focus on you. Sometimes the most unselfish thing to do is to be selfish, because if you self-destruct then how many lives are you costing? You have the power to make a change in people, but without you in it, that chance is gone.”

“There are more and more heroes every day that can do a better job than I can.”

“Then why haven’t you quit?”

She pauses looking him over as he thinks.

“Bruce,” she takes a bite carefully chewing as she weighs her words, “there are tons of people in this world suffering from a mental illness, who are degraded for being on the LGBTQA or something or another spectrum. You are not alone. And if they do find out then just say fuck them, make your life something you can live with, not a lie to impress a world you don’t owe anything to.”

“I am different to them,” Bruce snapped, eyes wide. mouth suddenly down into a thin line, “I am different, and I am wrong to them. I do not mind what they think of me. I mind what it does to my parent’s legacy, their work, their memory.”

The silence that sounded out between them could have rip time and space apart, could have shook the ocean beneath their feet. It carved a hole into the air and mocked his family name.

“Well,” she swallowed around her latest bite, forcing it down her throat, coughing slightly as she choked a chunk of bread that just didn’t want to cooperate, “how long have you been holding that in?”

He looked down, “years,” he stated seriously.

“Is it because you prefer men over women, or because it sucks to make a fool of yourself for a good cause?”

“All of the above.”

It was progress. And that was the point of this day, today there was progress in what was once a hopeless cause.

 

December 23, 2011

There is a point when the truth is as sullen and bitter as coffee, just a black fluidity that has no particular hope for a good outcome. It sits in the air, dances before one’s eyes as a ballerina does across the ballroom floor, with such unrestrained grace that entertains the eyes to watch that draws you in until not even oxygen can satisfy the lungs. Such destructive beauty stirs the world around us, makes it seem far more fragile than we are used to witnessing, far more desperate for good to flourish freely, for a desperate man cannot find reason. A desperate man leads to foolish actions, foolish actions leads to chaos, despair, death.

A foolish man in a catastrophic state of desperation will not find what he is looking for. He will only find that at the end of his vengeful, needy journey, at the end of the petty string he has been following is no nirvana, no utopia, only a river of crimson. A foolish man on a desperate path will find the end with high hopes, with wide eyes full to the brim of wonder and curiosity, merely to see a river of blood. His family. His friends. Everything he has worked for will be floating clouds in a scarlet sky. There will be no more passion or life, only a dead heart and bitter stream of truth.

The truth with all its complexities can be such a tricky bastard to deal with. At a table of gamblers, you can assume that everyone is lying. Everyone is a pile of bluffs and fallacies, but at the end of the game, it is the honest man that finds the most to gain. The truth however bitter and beautiful it may seem, however graceful and foolish is may come, is not a friend to play with rather it is a cup full of liquid gold. Hold the glass with care, and you will be a rich man, but be careless and reckless, tip the glass just right and everything comes crashing down.

To place trust in a foolish man under desperate times the glass will break, your fortunes will crumble as the Berlin Wall, will meet its get in a fury of cheers and celebration, your life will most surely end.

But he was no foolish man, and maybe things didn’t have to be so bad, pausing he takes the pill, lets it slip into his mouth, before swallowing. And this time, it does not feel like a loss. His hands twist at his sides, Hal coming to settle there, draping over his shoulders like he belongs there. Hal hovers lightly, kissing his cheek as he whispers, “good morning beautiful.”

 

 

December 24, 2011

Of course, it’s Barbra that makes the lasting cause.

“No, because I know who you are and why you are here. I know, but even despite that you chose to help people instead of just follow people around and investigate from a distance. That is very telling of you.”

“Despite what people may think, despite what you may think Barbra I am not a saint. And I do not do as much good as you think-“

“Bullshit,” she snaps, fierce blue eyes glaring at him, “I have seen you out there in the field. I fought beside you Bruce so cut the bullshit. Every night you slave away to save just one life, to try to make just a little bit a difference, no matter how hurt or how hard it is. Yes, I’m paralyzed and it’s sad and traumatic and I’m taking a little break because that bastard did some shitty things to me, but just because you have a bad day doesn’t mean you don’t get up. You taught me that.” A tear falls down her cheek and she glances at the picture in her hands, at Dick and Bruce and Gordon and her at one of those galas. “So just, don’t give up on yourself yet. I haven’t told Dick about you slicing your wrists open or the scars that show a pattern, but you should. He deserves to know. We are family, even if not a little broken around the edges.”

“I haven’t given up yet, so you’re not allowed to.”

There was a reason she is Batgirl.

“It’s better to walk alone than with the crowd walking in the wrong direction.”

 

“It’s the little things that keep us going, right?”

 

Collapsing down beside the man, Batman almost shifts, but stays rigid, as the Pale man laughs and laughs and laughs.

“You don’t get it, do you Bats,” Joker laughs loud and bright and deafening in the throughout the air, “You still don’t get the joke,” he pushes the gun close, shoving it into Bruce’s face.

“There is no joke, just a sad man trying to force the world to conform to his own sick-“

“Awe Bats,” the laughter gets louder, “so oblivious,” he clicks his tongue, snapping his finger, towards the screen for him to see Jim rustles in his seat beside his own daughter in the Batgirl suit, Nightwing shifting beside him, and Robin still passed out. They were here yet so far away, trapped behind a one-sided glass wall, him trapped here with the mad man.

“You’ve been exactly what I’ve been waiting for; all those years of silence, all those glorious years spent watching, waiting for exactly what they promised me!” He danced, twirling of his toes, Harley frowning from beside him. “It’s always been you. I have spent my entire existence waiting for you.

“What are you talking about,” he snaps.

“Who,” he pauses mid rant, eyes suddenly wide, “little ol’ me?” He’s mad, insanity dripping from him with every step, every word. He steps closer and Batman must stop himself from taking one back, stands his ground as the monster stares him in the eyes. He can see himself there, catches his own reflection in the way he talks. “I’m talking about this. You and me sweet cheeks, two sides of the same coin. I’m talking about the legacy we will burn into the city.” His laughter fills the night air. His voice drains his blood, lights a fire under his skin, makes him want to break his rules.

He beats him into the ground that night, puts him in a cast and sends him back to Gotham, imagining what it would be liked to just let New Jersey legalize criminal executions and be done with it all.

 

Wally West December 25, 2011

“Merry Christmas Wally,” he whispered to himself. The presents were delivered; the children were happy, hell, even the Ultrahumanite got a Christmas this year.

He’s missing something but he doesn’t know what.

He feels so young sometimes, but his mind is so heavy, so…old.

He walks down familiar streets, but everything feels off, like a photocopy of the original, it’s right, but never quite true. And at this point he’s starting to wonder if maybe…he’s what’s wrong. There’s a woman next store who feels out of place. She smiles too much and laughs loud like sunshine and she’s smart and funny, and her boyfriend’s kind of an ass. Her kid’s crazy, but hey who’s he to judge.

There’s a man on the other side of him who says he’s a doctor, but Wally swears he’s a lawyer. Time’s been kind of strange. He’s so sure he was a kid, but the memories are too fuzzy, things blurred out.

His sixteenth birthday was done by himself in the orphanage, a cupcake stolen from the store down the street and an off chance to sneak into the movies.

Friends- none

Family- logically he knows Barry and Iris, but he’s not sure why. There are no memories to confirm it, no surety to be quite right about it.

Snow falls lightly, dusting his shoulders, freckles standing bright against his reddening face, shoulders hunching in on themselves, as the ocean in his chest expands, trying to make space for his mind.

He doesn’t know what to say.

He’d like to leave this city, just leave, but his feet stay firm, heavy from responsibility, heart stuck in the cement cracks of this old town. Dreams are lost, a life forgotten and he doesn’t know what to make of that.

His house is a steal, gifted to him by the graces of god and his lack of ability to actually spend money. If it doesn’t go to food then it usually doesn’t go to anything else except bills, and that might seem like not much, because of his metabolism, but hey it adds up. It’s his, with his forest green couch and his big old fridge (he made sure it was big) to the white kitchen tiles. It was his, and for some reason that really made a difference. Owning something, putting his name to it and saying it’s his, shouldn’t matter as much as it does.

It’s Christmas and he hasn’t a clue what to do, except curl up in his bed, hot chocolate tucked in his hands as a Grey Ghost marathon plays out in front of him. Villains are tucked away, disasters currently avoided, shoulders pleasantly dipping down into his pillows. Fluffy socks warm his toes, eyes fluttering in and out from warmth and the idea of sleep.

It’s nowhere near perfect, but it’s something.

And that has to count for something.

It has to.

Bruce Wayne: December 25, 2011

It’s Christmas and Jason looks so ecstatic, or as ecstatic as a teenager

There’s a Christmas tree and everything, huge, like the ones Dick would pick out, like the ones his father would insist on putting up, even though it was impractical, even though his wife was Jewish and he cared not for religion.

It’s Christmas and there’s warmth here, toes curling into cloud like carpet. It’s Christmas and Dick’s walking (more prancing) into the room with cookies, Alfred following with carefully balanced mugs of hot cocoa.

It’s Christmas and Hal is with his family in Coast. He kissed him before he left. It’s all too nice, too sweet. Bruce is waiting for the shoe to drop. After Joker it’s been nothing, but calm. It’s strange to think of Gotham as calm.

It’s stranger to see his family getting along. Even Jason seems content, when usually he was all growls and swears.

James Gordon- December 25, 2011

“Your cigars,” Batman growls, as he holds them up before pushing them across the table and towards Gordon.

“Mmmhhhmm….” He hums sipping his coffee, looking at the tall man before him. “You look like shit,” the commissioner states blandly, eyeing him up and down the way he used to when Bruce was just a kid running on rooftops, trying to keep secrets and make himself into something special.

He doesn’t respond, does not even try to dignify that with some form of response.

“You been sleeping,” the man asks instead, which is strange, he knows, because he’s not supposed to sound like he cares with Batman.

He grunts into his mug, keeps his eyes downcast.

“How’s Barbra?”

“I think you already know.”

There is silence and the unspoken truce laying heavy in the air, because he is her father, and of course he knew. He’s a cop and his teenage daughter cannot fool him.

They do not say much after that. The silence does it for them.

 

It’s New Years Eve and he doesn’t know what to say. What do you say to someone like Batman, to someone like the boy behind the mask?

Somewhere he’d like to leave this city, put behind him all the pain, the despair, the fear and just go, somewhere safe and whole, but it wouldn’t be the same. He’s put too much work into this city to leave now.

He may not have been born to this city, but it’s chosen him, burned its brand into his skin and kept him in for the thrills.

“I’ve been told conversation works better when it’s a two-way street, but” he shrugs, raising an eyebrow at him.

“You’re not usually one for small talk,” he finally gives in, curious of the sudden need in Gordon to connect.

It’s New Years and he knows, finally admits to himself that Bruce is Batman that Batman is Bruce Wayne and Barbra, his Barbra is Batgirl.

It’s New Years and he’s finally being honest with himself.

There’s no cause, just a sudden need brought out of himself by chance.

Bruce, Batman, the kid before him, the man before, the person before him is looking down into his glass, blue eyes honed on dark black liquid. Jesus, what was he when he started his little crusade, eighteen?

He was just a kid, a kid who brought more kids in on his battles, a kid who recruited more kids to win a never-ending war.

Bruce Wayne- December 31, 2011- January 1, 2012
The night air whispers through his hair, blue eyes dancing in the breeze. A sigh pushes out of his lips, a soul moves out, traveling with the skyline. He is unaware of what to do. Shoulders breaking down, eyes cast down, mouth drawing a thin line, back tingeing in a reminder of his time broken, confined, lost. There’s a sketchpad within reach, a memory tugging at his fingertips, something wanting out. But he’s too sluggish, too unsure, too bubbled up in some emotion that threatens to swallow him whole. It’s not the buzzing, possibly depression, but less heavy more…maybe anxiety couple with hazy paranoia- a worry for some invisible thing that threatens the life he’s made.

Hal Jordan: January 13, 2012

There had been bruises on him. They were harsh faded navy blue and dark purple, but they had been there. He remembers them, dusting beautiful features, discoloring porcelain skin. They’d lain in plain sight sometimes, sometimes covered up like Bruce was trying to cover up a blemish. They sit now and then in plain sight, and Alfred has been sending his son worried glances, and Bruce had been avoiding those sage eyes in a cowardly way that is most definitely not like Bruce at all. Jason said he’s quieter these past few days, whether from their own fight or something else, Hal doesn’t know, isn’t sure he wants to know. Still, there had been bruises on his face and arms and stomach. There had been bruises on him in November and Hal knows they couldn’t have been from crime fighting. And like always the stick up his ass bat doesn’t even try to talk about it. Hal sighs as he walks, moving carefully up his stairs, trying not to jostle his bruised ribs and hurting heart. Things would be fine if Bruce just talked to him, but then again that wouldn’t exactly make him Bruce anymore. It’s been a couple months and he still cannot let that go.

Making his way down the hall towards his apartment, he shifted his bag. Today had been long. The jet he was testing was the best thing on the planet, but the owner was a chauvinistic ass nugget that can’t get his head out of his butt for more than five seconds. Lord was obnoxious and friendly in a Lex Luthor kind of way, with a little too much of arrogant on the side. He spent the whole day condescending Hal and making every little mistake seem like his fault when Hal knew for a fact it was anything, but his.

Needless to say, he’d had a shit week, and knew it was going to be a very long month.

“Look the faggot’s coming home,” he heard growl out in front of him.

Smiling with bright teeth he replies back to the intrepid old hag who he hopes will forever burn in hell, “Good evening Mr. Cardenas, what do I owe the honor of your…” he looks him up and down, a grimace clouding his features, “lovely company?”

“Your cocksucker’s in there,” he motioned towards the door, as Hal tried to remember to breath and stay halfway rational.

“What’s with the hostility,” Hal asked pretending this wasn’t a normal thing, “What did you not kick enough puppies today?” He pursed his lips.

He wonders why Bruce was here. They weren’t exactly on good terms at the moment, in fact ever since the bruises appeared a couple months ago, Bruce has been distant and angry and cold. Ever since the penthouse incident he was withdrawn, quiet, almost broken. He still wondered about that freak out a week or so ago, still worried about the fact that during that alien invasion those months ago, Bruce had, according to Wally, flipped his shit when he thought Hal was down for the count. He was worried and annoyed and frustrated.

The old man grumbles, as Hal slithers into his apartment. The Lantern had given up a long time ago even trying to make peace between them, in fact he was kind of fine with the whole thing, except for days like this, when he was already fed up to the bone with people’s shit.

The second his door opens, he’s assaulted with this alluring aroma, this amazing smell that captures his attention and draws him into the apartment. His eyes find lilacs on the table and something in his mind seems to crack, as images of Amber floated in and out of mind, of Amber and her strange number of boyfriends, of hard times, and fucked up dinners.

“I didn’t know you cooked,” he says lamely, watching the man put a spoon in to taste the sauce, before holding it out for Hal himself to taste. It’s good, way too good. He keeps going back to those lilacs.

Bruce shrugs softly, “there is still a lot you are unaware of about me.” He states as he moves to pick up some random herb Hal has never heard of before.

“How did you even get in here,” Hal asked, something in his chest beating abnormally, something in his heart not quite ticking how it should.

“Picked the lock,” the man shrugged over the stove top, a shrug thrown his way, “I would have just used the window; however, I had to carry in the groceries.”

“What even is this stuff,” he pokes at the bottle of herbs Bruce just sat down.

Bruce frowns softly, before looking carefully back up at Hal, “You are upset,” he states, as he hands a glass of water towards him, eyes narrowing carefully, in that studious, analytical way he does sometimes, and usually it’s kind of enduring, but today it makes Hal’s skin crawl, sets something out of place in his chest.

“No really, I couldn’t fucking tell,” he snaps and he doesn’t even know why he’s angry, or mad, or frustrated, or anything like that, because at the moment he’s with Bruce, not being scrutinized by Kord, or under some kind of watch by the League and Guardians. He was safe here in his apartment with Bruce, who was finally entrusting him with something close to his heart, but for some reason Hal wasn’t seeing any of that.

“I was under the assumption that learning new things about your partner was a part of working relationships,” Bruce is shifting, his stance taking on a more defensive side, as he turned carefully towards the man in question, moving the sauce off the heated stove top as he went.

“How would you know what working is,” Hal snapped, his voice ringing out in throughout the entire room, bouncing walls and driving knives into Bruce’s chest.

“I-“

“You are a shit of person who only knows how to be a fucking machine, you got that jackass, you know absolutely nothing about what a relationship fucking should be like.”

“And who the fuck said we were in a relationship?”

“I am unaware of what I did to offend you, however,” Bruce is still, muscles tensing up.

“Shut up you damn robot for a fucking second,” Hal’s hands are shaking, there is trembling coursing throughout his frame, a ferocious rage circulating throughout his entire person.

“Can you not just be so fucking nonexistent for once in your god damn life,” he didn’t mean to slam the glass down, didn’t mean for that feeling of helplessness to over take him, or for images to flash across his mind. He didn’t mean to break down in front of Bruce, because he’s been so careful, so far. He’s been so good about hiding his freak outs.

Bruce’s eyes were suddenly very distant, his grip on the wooden spoon tightening to the point Hal was pretty sure it was going to break. There was a look, almost fear or maybe there was something broken in those crystal blue eyes, before this slate of no emotion fell across beautiful features, almost as if Bruce wasn’t even really here anymore, Batman and something else flickering in his gaze.

He didn’t speak and Hal’s gut flipped on itself, because he knew. He knew he fucked up, destroyed something vital here, something important right in this second.

All he knows is that anger is building up in him and he can’t stop it. He doesn’t remember really throwing the glass across the room, near Bruce’s head and there’s something to say about how he manages to keep that blank look up, how he suddenly seems so withdrawn like he’d always seemed before Hal went away for five years, before they’d started kind of hanging out, before they started hooking up, fucking whatever you want to call this.

He was sick of not knowing what this was, what they were doing, of going away and coming back to a changed world, of leaving and fighting and seeing people die, families lost. He’s sick of never knowing what he was coming back to, of knowing no one was going to be waiting for him, if Bruce would bother waiting for him, because he has a whole life here, he could move on if he wanted to, like Hal wants to move on, but he doesn’t. And Hal never really knows where all this comes from, or why it’s coming up now, only knows that he’s breaking things, and his ring has left his finger somewhere along the lines, flew off by itself, maybe to protect himself, or maybe because it knows Hal would never forgive himself if harm came to Bruce because of him, only knows he’s trying to throw his television to the ground, and his hands are shaking and muscles are soar and adrenaline is roaring in his ears, riding along to his violent outburst next to his raging heartbeat.

And Bruce leaves, let’s the door click behind him softly.

And the rest is kind of a blur, a whirlwind of anger, and a raging pulse, of bulls stampeding in his chest and his heart screaming at his brain, and broken tables and television sets and god knows what else. All he knows is that he fucked up. He’s fucked up big time and Bruce will never want him back.

But when he does wake up, Bruce was by his side, grumbling in protest. His head is aching, but he finds pain killers on his bedside with a glass of water that’s still cold and has the remains of ice trying to stay afloat. He downs them sliding out of bed, trying to get himself back together. He finds his living room spotless, a new (better) television in its place, the remains of a broken dinner gone, his apartment looking as if nothing had happened except an update on his furniture and kitchen table and things he’d demolished. He did however find those lilacs in kitchen trash, finds himself picking up the strange bittersweet phenomenon, looking attentively at the letter delicately attached to them that said ‘I want to try.’

And Hal’s legs are moving, the flowers falling on his new dining table, his bare feet echoing throughout the house, his heart beat thundering, as his brain short circuits, and his gut drops and the guilt floods back into him.

He’s falling into bed, onto Bruce, his lips finding the man’s as he kisses his ‘sorry’ into porcelain skin. “I’m sorry,” he whispers on cold lips, “I’m so fucking sorry,” he whispers in the space between them, his nose brushing Bruce’s as those eyes flicker open to look him in the eyes. “I’m going to make an appointment with Dinah,” he whispers.

“Its fine,” he whispers back, and Hal has to kiss him again.

“No, it wasn’t, I’m fucking surprised you don’t ask what triggered me,” he huffs.

“The Lilacs,” Bruce answers.

“How the fucking hell-“

“You would not stop staring at them. I’m guessing something to do with Amber,” he cards fingers through Hal’s hair, so gently it almost hurts.

“I- I-“

“It’s fine.”

I’d be your anchor but I’m scared you’d drown.

“How was that shit show fine, but every time you have a break down, it’s the freaking end of the whole god damn world?” Hal chuckles lightly, hands curling around Bruce’s knuckles as the man’s hands find his face, and god this feels amazing, ten times better than the detached no touching thing Bruce had been doing for so long. It feels good to touch and be touched in return, to be one instead of apart.

“Double standards are a bitch,” he huffs, tilting back up to find Hal’s lips again, letting Hal’s laughter tumble into his mouth, and god Hal was in love. He was somehow in love with this irrational, arrogant, asshole that was just so frustrating sometimes Hal kind of wanted to pull his hair out because of just how unruly the man could be. But he was also patient and forgiving and sometimes too kind, and good. He kissed him again, Bruce’s mouth sliding open for him, letting him, for the first time since that night they made out on his couch, lick his way into that smirking sexy mouth.

He pushes Bruce into his sheets kissing his way down those bruises, down his neck, tugging at the collar of that turtle neck so he could touch skin, hands sliding up under that fabric, Bruce arching into his touch, blue eyes hidden behind squeezed shut eyelids. And somewhere he knows, has known this whole time in the back of his mind. He knows what this is, has been. His mind just sort of clicks the pieces together and Hal kisses him gently, pulling up slightly, before whispering, as his fingers ghost over those cheekbones, “Look at me beautiful.”

And Bruce just does that frown thing he does when he’s confused, breath falling heavy in the space between them, blue eyes opening wide, and there’s that darkness in those blue eyes, there’s that lack of trust, or maybe something else. But Bruce’s breath is heavier than usual, and his hands are tightening in the sheets, and he’s maybe too tense, so Hal slides off, finds his mind making connections he doesn’t want to know about, finds answers where he wants none to lay.

Bruce was never a part of his life plans, not that he had many life plans, or you know planned for much exactly. It’s just whenever he’d thought about his future, it usually included Barry, or eternal loneliness, or an early grave, not whatever this is.

Bruce was never really apart of his dreams, never even decently accounted for. But now that everything’s settled down and they’ve just let whatever the fuck this is really truly start coming into being he finds all kinds of new things to love. He finds himself entranced in this.

But he reminds himself that Bruce is fucked up too. He moves so he’s sitting up, eyes on Bruce and the slight trembling of his shoulders and the way his frown has slide down too far on his face, and how sad his eyes look.

Bruce sits up and they spend a moment looking at each other through sad smiles and heartache. Bruce is looking at him, like he never wants to leave, with this newfound tenderness added to those careful lines of indifference. He spends a moment looking at those lines he’s been studying for too long, before reaching out cautiously, almost as if Bruce would duck and run at any moment, not sure if he himself would duck and run at any moment, and let’s his own slender fingers slide down a soft cheek, tracing those clear cut cheek bones, until he settles his hand on the back of Bruce’s neck, pulling him closer, as he tries not to think about the who, or the how, or the why Bruce was hurt, how someone had hurt Bruce more than he needed them to, wanted them to, should have let to color such clear skin.

“I’ve got you Spooky,” he whispers, waiting for Bruce to come back to him, from wherever he’d let his mind take him this time. “I’m in this for the long haul.” He breathes out, let’s their foreheads touch as Bruce’s eyes flutter and he seems to focus once more on Hal.

“I want to try,” Bruce whispers back, breathes out into the space between them.

‘I don’t know how to handle this’ they think, but don’t say, because they can’t, or do not know exactly what words should fit now in the space between them, they aren’t good at formulating words, aren’t good at expressing what exactly they should be saying.

‘I love you’ they don’t say, because once more they aren’t sure how to fit the words in the space between them, they can’t get those three little words past their cold lips, so Hal fills in the spaces between, leans in and captures Bruce’s lips in his own, let’s the man either establish dominance, like usual, or let Hal take the lead, just let’s Bruce decide, let’s Bruce know he has a choice in what happens between them, that he has a voice.

“I don’t know who,” he whispers when they break away, because he’s still himself and he can’t just let something like that stay tucked away, but Bruce shuts him up with another kiss, and its filthy, open mouthed and all teeth, and he’s climbing onto Hal’s lap and being utterly distracting and unrelenting, even as Hal tries to set boundaries here.

“Bruce we have to set some-“He breaks off as Bruce’s teeth graze the underside of his jaw.

And he moves again, finds himself distracted by the way Bruce seems to slide against him, into him, on him, and the man’s perfect ass is sliding right on top of where his dick lays hidden under cotton sweatpants, and God it’s hard to focus.

“Sweetheart, I nee-“

“Don’t call me that,” he hisses, draws back eyes lowered head tilting to rest on Hal’s shoulder, “Don’t,” he chokes out, arms around Hal’s neck tightening.

“Bruce,” he whispers out, “Bruce what do you need?” Hal tries to keep the panic out, tries to understand and he sort of does, tries not to let that chill his blood more than it already is, tries not to focus on the fact that some asshole has done this to his bat, to his Bruce.

“I’m fine,” he grits out, tries to growl out into the space between them and Hal tries not to focus on how weak it sounds, how utterly broken it sounds. And he finally thinks back to last night and the way Bruce’s eyes went distant and his mouth had dialed down, and he thinks that some asshole’s hurt Bruce in more way than one before him and he’s not going to stoop down to that level, he won’t let himself be that to Bruce. “I’m fine,” he repeats and Hal knows that Bruce is just trying to convince himself it’s true, because Hal can think of a thousand times curled up into himself outside of shady bars after giving a little something extra for his next hit, remembers whispering that phrase as many times as it took to get him back on his feet.

He kisses Bruce’s temple, holds him tighter, “tell me the bastard’s name, just,” he grips even tighter, tries to keep himself under control, tries to keep himself together, tries not to fall apart.

“It’s not a big deal,” Bruce mumbles in his shoulder, “I’m fine.”

“Yeah and I’m Darth Vader,” Hal moaned, hands trailing to grip at Bruce’s thighs, trying not to make this about sex, because Bruce doesn’t need that, even if he wants it, Bruce doesn’t, not right now anyway.

“Look we need to set some rules,” Hal leaned back slightly trying to make some space between them.

Bruce sits back, frowning as he goes, setting a hand gently to Hal’s forehead, “Are you feeling alright,” he asks seriously, causing Hal to growl and push the hand away.

“This is about you asshole, now who-“

“He’s not really a part of my life anymore,” Bruce murmurs, eyes on him, Batman eyes on him, “And considering how you were last night, this is most certainly about you.”

“Geeze getting an answer out of you is like trying to get a straight answer from Yoda,” Hal groaned, tightening his hold on the man in front of him.

Bruce sat quietly for a minute and though it pains Hal to leave such silence in the air, he’s learned that Bruce needs these moments of quiet to come to an understanding with himself. And soon crystal eyes have darkened into this stormy kind of hue that has Hal on edge, has a knife cutting through his chest and he knows, has known, but that look gives him all the confirmation he needs. So, Hal kisses him, kisses him like he’s never kissed anyone before, with pain and love and a kind of apology that Hal has never known how to give out loud. He leans forward and presses his lips to cold soft lips in this sort of bittersweet kiss that has him tugging Bruce even closer than he was before, has him crushing them together, his hands-on Bruce’s thighs, Bruce’s arms coming to wrapped around his neck, eyes squeezed shut and he doesn’t know what to do, but kiss him and try to say what he’ll never be able to say aloud.

Noses brush and Bruce seems to breath him in, takes his breath with him, so he whispers, “Come back to me beautiful,” pulls Bruce from his mind, cajoles him into the present and nudges their noses together once more, tries to get those eyes on his own.

There’s a promise here, as he notices his ring on Bruce’s left hand for the first time, hanging in the air, electrifying the world around them.

I will never hurt you, like that.

His fingers trace the ring on his boyfriend’s hand, finds he kind of likes the idea of Bruce having it on him when Hal’s too unstable, kind of likes the way his symbol looks on Bruce period. (He’s human okay.)

“She came to me,” Bruce whispers, as he watches Hal trace his ring.

“You know she’s a she?” Hal asked, “Or was it just a lucky guess?” There was a smile in there a kind of nudge away from all this emotional crap because honestly it was rare and far between that things got this deep with them, not to say they were shallow people, just people who speak more without words, even if Hal does have a tendency to word vomit every five minutes.

“No. She spoke to me,” he cocks his head at her, “Ava that is, she spoke to me. It is quite fascinating; I never imagined your ring had a form of sentient personality. It would be-“

“Wait, you’re shitting me, right?” Hal choked, eyes finding his ring, feels the familiar presence of his ring practically humming with this sort of happiness that Ava rarely gets unless she’s done something she wasn’t supposed to.

He hummed, giving Hal that look that says, ‘don’t be idiotic I never shit on people.’

“She- that’s not supposed to happen,” and Bruce has the nerve to give him the look that says, ‘well it did, let’s figure it out’ and Hal just flusters about, “I mean no one’s ever…I mean, I asked around after you stole my ring and that’s rare enough as it is, namely because the rings don’t generally fucking allow that, but,” he paused, “I’ve never fucking heard of this kind of shit before.”

He glared down at his ring on Bruce’s hand, tugging at her to tell him what the fuck was going on, but only got that stupid laugh she gets when Hal’s being clueless and it’s actually kind of annoying.

Bruce shrugged, “she told me she likes me,” as if that answered all Hal’s questioned, but he also said it in this way that was so soft, so tenderly, so openly raw that Hal had to stop himself from kissing him again, had to choke down those three words that desperately want out.

Ava wasn’t very chatty today, usually she was always yammering at him, but now she was quietly chilling on Bruce’s finger and completely driving Hal madder than he usually is with her.

“Is she saying anything right now?” He poked at her, trying to annoy her enough to get her attention.

Bruce hummed gently, a small twitch of a smile, “No.”

“You fucking liar, what the hell is that cheating bitch saying!”

“That if you’re going to be rude she’ll just stay with me,” the god damn smirk on that man’s face drove him insane, made him want to pull out all of his hair and scream.

Instead he lets a laugh fall past his lips, pushes the confusion out and kisses Bruce harder because he thinks his ring just gave him permission to be with Bruce, has given him permission since the moment they’d met.

He kisses Bruce and Bruce kisses back, let’s Hal lick his way into that delicious mouth, let’s Hal slip a hand up and under his shirt, “God you’re so fucking beautiful,” Hal whispers into his mouth, kisses into his neck. “Tell me when you need to stop,” he breathes into Bruce ear, feels his lover shiver into him, “Just say like, Peanut Butter or something.”

“Peanut Butter?” Bruce questions as he noses Hal cheek, before nipping at his ear, at his chin.

“Yeah peanut butter,” he says as his hands finally get free rein to explore, are free without Bruce holding him down and away, and Hal’s sure he likes this more.

“Talk,” Bruce whispers, as his fingers curl into Hal’s hair, “you always talk.”

“You’re so fucking beautiful Spooky,” He tugs at the shirt, let’s Bruce tug it off the top of his head, while Hal struggled to strangle his own off him. “Is this okay,” he whispers as their bare skin brushes against each other and Bruce almost growls at him.

“I’m fine,” he snaps, and Hal snorts, nips at the man’s neck, finds himself getting lost in Bruce all over again, in a whole new way, because this is different from letting Batman fuck him, different from the almost rushed passion from that night on his couch. This is different.

Bruce arches into his touch, breathes into him and takes his breath with him. They are moving together, Bruce hands in his hair, and Hal’s sneaking up his bare back then back down and they collide in this show of light and shadow, daytime and nighttime. Bruce is moonlight and Hal is sunlight. They collapse into each other, Bruce content to sit in his lap, Hal content to grope.

And it’s good, until he notices Bruce’s eyes are squeezed shut again and he’s forgotten to speak for once in his life, finds himself letting up, hands snapping off the man before him, trying to get him back to him. “Princess,” he murmurs, “I got you,” there’s another kiss to the forehead, and Bruce’s breath is slowing and his eyes are flickering open and he looks like someone just pissed on his favorite puppy.

“I’m fine,” he snaps, “I’ll push through it,” and Hal’s stomach drops, because that’s probably what Bruce has been doing this entire time, forcing himself to have sex because he thinks it’s what he has to do, for Hal or for society he’s not sure.

“No, you fucking don’t,” the words are rushed, a memory from Jim pulling his ass off the sidewalk, “you don’t have to do anything you don’t fucking want to and if any shit head tells you differently than their obviously some sick bastard who needs to learn a thing or two the hard way.”

“This was a bad idea,” he whispers whether to Hal or his ring or to himself, the Green Lantern may never know, what he does know is that that is the biggest load of shit he’s ever heard.

“You are never a bad idea,” he states boldly gently settling his hands tentatively back on the man’s back, eyes finally taking in the scarred flesh, bruised spots and the entirety of the man before him.

“Damnit Hal, stop it,” Bruce hissed, shirt being pulled back on, eyes daring him to speak out of turn.

He’s never been one to refuse a dare, “stop what, caring? Trying to be there for you?”

“Stop treating me like I’m broken,” he snapped, “I-“ he looked away, falling silent like he always does when things get too hard, too much, too emotional. He slams his own mouth shut, hollows himself out into a set line, back straightening, heart turning to stone, turning probably to leave, to run like he always does.

“I never said you were broken,” he states lowly, trying to keep his voice somewhat reasonable, somewhat leveled.

“I’m saying you have to communicate with me. You can’t just fucking expect me to know what you need, what you want, what has to be a thing, so you don’t have a fucking panic attack, just because I touch you,” and Christ the man flinches so slightly that Hal almost misses it, almost, but not quite.

 

“You said you want to try,” he takes a step closer, sure the man can tell what he’s doing, “that’s how you try. You take your meds, you go to therapy, you talk about the shit that hurts you, even if it hurts to talk, because that’s how it gets better.”

Bruce is refusing to look at him, back facing him, eyes probably doing that thing where they glare at nothing in order to get something out of nothing. “it’s not like you communicate with me either.”

And well he supposes getting called out by his blunt boyfriend was overdue.

He hums, this low almost growl thing he does when he’s thinking, when he knows he’s won the argument, because really how can Hal fight that. Hal steps forward, sliding his arms slowly around the man’s waist, trying to take things as slow as possible.

“What if I may not have the…skills necessary to do that,” there’s something raw in the way he says that, something so soft and almost sad that makes Hal squeeze him closer softly.

“Then we figure it the fuck out I guess,” he shrugs, “or ask Dinah.”

“What if I am incapable of…” he trails off and Hal distinctly remembers that day in the man’s backyard, him in some freaky yoga position, wrists bandaged telling him it’s okay for him to leave, because that’s what people do, that he can’t love right anyway so it’s all okay, that he understands. He’s always, despite his stubborn general dickheadedness, understood about everything in the league and outside of it. He understood why Barry messed with time. He understood Hal’s drug problem. He understood Clark getting mind controlled. He’s understood Oliver’s drinking problem. He’s understood almost too much. He’s almost too nice, which weird, because Batman.

“It’s all good,” he shrugs, “like I said, we’ll figure it out.”

“What about Barry,” he asks with a hoarse voice and lead muscles.

“He’s an old friend.” Hal responds calm for once, nearly quiet, “Plus we both know that was always a dead end, just like Clark was for you.”

“You deserve--”

“I deserve you, just like you deserve me. I think we’re both fucked up enough to handle this shit, or at least to handle each other.”

He looks away again, unsettled, and unsure.

“I can’t--” He paused, meeting Hal’s gaze, steady and intense.

“It’s okay Bruce we’ll figure it out.”

“I still do not understand why you have been doing this. I do not- Why would you want to be with me,” he is cautious, off balance in a way that makes Hal smile, loud and broad and too satisfied that he’s managed to throw Bruce, the Batman off his game.

“Oh, I don’t know Spooky, maybe because you have pretty eyes,” Hal lets a smile shrug onto his face, lets himself enjoy the way Bruce fiddles with that piece of information, as he tries to process it the best Bruce Wayne is capable of processing such delicate information. So, Hal does something else, just to solidify exactly what he’s trying to say, because he’s never been good at words, always one for action, and reaction. He turns the man around, brings the billionaire’s hand to his lips, kisses it as if he were kissing cracked glass, moves down until his lips are hovering over the man’s wrists, wavers in the air, until he’s sure about what he’s doing, looking up into wide eyes, “I’m in this for the long haul remember Spooky, or did you hit your head somewhere along the line enough to forget everything, and we can have one of those epic amnesia stories.”

“Hal,” Bruce groaned, reaching out to grab the front of Hal’s shirt to pull him closer.

“Yeah Princess,” Hal smiled softly, coming closer, ready for what he was sure to be a kiss of the ages.

“What the fuck is wrong with you,” the curse has Hal laughing, eyes almost rolling into the back of his head, smile outstretched too wide and too content and too everything all at once.

“Oh, you know the usual for your average space cop.”

“What the hell is usual Hal, for anyone anymore?”

Bruce pulled him close, till they were nose to nose, eyes getting lost in each other, worlds almost colliding once more, “Quiet flyboy,” the billionaire whispered, nudging the pilot away, smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth.

“Okay, okay,” Hal laughed, coming closer once more, he kisses a scarred wrist, he kisses soft chapped lips. He kisses a smooth forehead, gently, whispering lightly, “we’ll figure this out. I promise we’ll figure this out.”

“You are strangely sensitive when it comes to situations like this. Did you learn all this from movies, or-”

“Quiet asshole,” he growled, shoving the man lightly, watching the soft smirk shift stone like features.

“That’s my line,” Bruce frowned.

“You do not own a line that’s like owning a planet,” Hal threw himself back onto his bed, muscles stretching lazily.

“I own an island, does that count,” Bruce settles beside him, touching but slightly distant.

“You own an island, since when, you know what, I can’t even be surprised after the satellite literally nothing surprises me,” Hal rolled his eyes, lost in the past, lost in those first few days of knowing Bruce Wayne, of meeting the obnoxious arrogant man that was the Batman.

“What if I told you when I went back in time, I took over the leading clan in the-”

“No, stop now,” Hal moaned, “I don’t think I can take much more of this shit from you,” he laughed, loud and clear, and so sure of himself. “Christ beautiful, you know what you do to me?”

“No,” Bruce stated seriously, eyes roaming over the room around him. He was rolling his eyes, frown trying not to flicker into a smile.

“And you’re the hopeless romantic, so shut up.” He shoots back, because it’ll tick Bruce off, the man hates being told to shut up, it’s a thing.

He kissed him, Hal leaned forward, lips brushing Bruce’s gently.

“Oh shit,” he gasped, “I need to go to work,” he started to get up, but Bruce pushes him down, one arm over Hal’s chest and he falls back down to the bed.

“I already called in for you,” Bruce stated calmly, looking up at the ceiling.

“Oh great now Lord will just think-“

“That you are aiding one of his sworn enemies in testing a new line of jets that may beat his in the market, yes,” Bruce states calmly, toying with a loose string on Hal’s blanket.

“You didn’t,” Hal’s eyes were widening, a wide grin threatening to overtake his features.

“Ask one of the best pilots in the world to test a new line of jets in-order-to backstab an inconceivable asshole,” Bruce paused, frown overtaking his features, “yes, I did.”

“Are there really jets, do I get to fly your motherfucking super jets?”

“Super jets, no, Mark 59 Wayne-“His lips were covered and wide eyes were locked onto a blissful looking Hal Jordon, as the world seemed to rewrite itself to accommodate them.

He almost got distracted again too, until his mind caught up with himself, “Wait, you fucking distracted me. I’m supposed to be sucking up, Wayne get your hot ass back here.”

 

January 20, 2012

He didn't question, when Hal blinked himself awake, eyes fluttering open to find Bruce Wayne in his arms. He was entranced by the man before he could shake the warm fuzzy feeling tugging in his gut, was pulled in by the man’s gravity, captivated by his beauty before he could put some kind of barrier between them, before he could pull himself back to his senses and shake the images bubbling up into his mind. The billionaire was curled up tight, head nuzzled in the frame of his arms, fingers curled tight around his shirt, yet he was tense even in sleep, alert even in his dreams. Bruce, who was sometimes kind, and mostly damaged, and trying constantly to fit in with a world that pushed away the different, was still here. Bruce who was dressed in only Hal’s old air force t-shirt and black boxers, Bruce who seemed too human, too sexy, and too fragile in Hal's slightly ragged clothing. His heart thumped in his chest, clouding out everything he could hear, right hand gliding to the revealed shoulder in front of him, before making its way to exposed scarred thighs. He ghosted over Bruce's left strong powerful leg, letting his hand waver before making contact, left hand finally sliding up to the man's hair simultaneously he leaned forward, lips meeting pale cold skin, lips meeting the man's forehead so timidly it hurt.

He felt on fire, excitement bubbling in his stomach, nerves tingling at every newly discovered piece flesh. He tipped the man's head back, Bruce shuffled closer in his sleep, small whine pulling its way out of his throat. "What are you doing," Bruce growled out, voice rough with sleep, hair a wild mess. Rather than answer, he did the only thing he could think to do- he kissed him, soft and comfortable and lazy in the early morning haze. When Bruce kissed back, sharp tongue and widened eyes, he was sure and solid and bold and everything Hal imagined and more. He was the ocean, crashing on Hal's shore line, calm yet a mess of give and take, not enough but too much all at once. Bruce curled in his arms, strong hands finding their way around his neck, deft fingers gripping his hair. A sigh grabbing hold of Hal's attention and honey eyes meeting azure.

He didn't question when Bruce just curled back into him, falling back to sleep as if it had all been a dream, maybe to him that was all it ever would be.

Hal looked up into the darkness of his room, a sigh huffing past his lips, a ghost of a laugh dancing on his tongue.

God, he was screwed.

January 31, 2012

“I have an idea,” she stated, blue eyes bright, widened by whatever idea she had swirling around in her head. “You don’t like talking, and this week’s been pretty rough all around the table, so here’s what we’re going to do,” she motions him towards her and he moves so carefully that even she expects something bad to happen, but eventually he’s next to her standing on the tarp carefully laid out on the soft earth, a wall to the manor covered by a huge canvass, several paint cans set out with paint brushes sitting idly by them. “Hal mentioned you paint.”

“You want me to paint my feelings away,” he frowned softly, nose almost scrunching up in distaste.

“Oh no, nothing so controlled,” she stresses the word for him, as if poking fun, causing him to frown at her softly, “No you’re going to platter this,” she pushes a paint brush into his hands, the tips dipped in the deep red already, “like this,” she sweeps her hand through the air making a mess on the canvass.

He frowns, scowling slightly at the mess before him, mind revolting against the idea.

“You got this Spooky,

There was almost a sort of violence to it, something he could appreciate. It wasn’t the same as bruised knuckles and broken ribs, but it was something. There was a loud heavy thick slap of paint to canvass, sounding out like a slap to the face, but without the bright blossoming gasps of pain ricocheting through his frame. He frowns down at it again, eyes narrowing as he glared down at the brush. “What is the point of this?”

“You need coping mechanisms, for when you’re feeling anxious, angry, or unsteady, this is an easy viable coping mechanism for you to utilize rather than hurting yourself or someone else.” She looks at him expectantly as he growled down at the stupid thing.

This was a waste of time. He should be doing something productive, not playing with paints, like a child. Jason smiled at him from the side throwing him a thumbs up as he passed the ball over to Hal.

He swallows a growl and swings again.

February 1, 2012
Bruce was practically in Hal’s lap, sloppy kisses leading to something more. Hal’s hands danced up thick, muscled thighs, threatening to go higher, before settling on his hips. He shifts let’s himself get lost in the sensation of being touched and touching another. Hal rocks his hips as he nips at a delicate spot on Hal’s neck. It’s quiet in the cave with Jason out, with the computers powered down.
It’s...nice to lazily kiss Hal without any threat, without feeling like he was going to have to flee on a moment’s notice. This is nice, slow sloppy kisses in dim lights, just rocking against one another, no mask, no yelling, just them.

There were good days, like there always were, but somehow it was magnified by the fact that they were more than friends now, modified by the way Hal can so easily slide in next to him, a soft kiss pressed to a cold cheek on a winter morning. And most days, Bruce wondered why he even tried, most days he is lost. Still there are nights that hang so nicely in his heart that he wants to bottle up the memories of those fuzzy warm evenings in the manor wrapped up in Hal, the taste of caramel and cinnamon and chocolate dancing on his tongue. He wants to keep those sacred afternoons by the firelight with Hal curling around him, or him pulling Hal into his chest. He wants to lock away nights curled into Hal’s abysmally small truck with the heater, all the while Hal blares a mix of their favorite songs through a stereo they bought haphazardly at the Walmart three minutes and fifty-five seconds away from Hal’s apartment. He wants to hold those hazy mornings at his penthouse making pancakes with a man who barely knows how to crack an egg properly.

Some days it was just so domestic and homey and heartwarming, with Jason and Dick by his side, Hal’s arms around his shoulders, Alfred sipping tea by their side as they watched silly movies at 3:00 in the morning, just because some days were hard, but this simple mediocre task made it all the easier to breathe through the day, to push back the noise bursting through his head.

But where good days twinkle in the infinity of forever, bad days lurk for the best times to strike you where it hurts the most. So, like with every family and every person that lives and breathes and acts, there were good days as there were bad days. There were days when Bruce did not know how to get out of bed, where the pressure in his chest seemed too much and the buzzing ringing in his ears had him waking up to find he once more tried to hurt himself. Then there were days when he could not sit still, when the world seemed to land lopsided on his shoulders and he would jitter through days with no sleep and little food, kept alive by coffee and his own insistent need to know, to just solve the mystery, to learn something new. But the harshness of those days had decreased, as sessions with Dinah turned from looking blankly at a clock to learning to trust. But there were also days when Hal was broken, when Bruce would walk, more so stumble into a situation where Hal just wanted a fight, wanted to vent and hash and just be angry at someone, and Bruce was okay with it being him. Bruce was okay with being hated, even by Hal, because at this point in his life, he at least knew he could take it. He could take it, and Hal needed it, so he’d let him vent, let him throw things and yell and push, would catch the ring as it flew to him, and like with most arguments with Hal went, he’d stand still, tall and sure and immovable, because this he knew how to do. This was the easy part. The hard part came with walking into Hal’s apartment to find shattered pieces of him on the floor, to tiptoe around the floor so he did not step on stray piece of his man discarded on the burgundy carpet. He would tuck the man back together; try to glue missing pieces back into place and settle in for the rough patch ahead. And there are times where Hal took his stoic features as indifference, his silence for dismissal, and Bruce would take Hal’s emotions as an overreaction, his abrasiveness for disdain.

There were good days and there were bad days. There were sunsets and there were sunrises. And more times than not where bad days outnumbered the good ones and they just wanted to find a common ground to stand upon. In many ways they managed to work, because where Bruce’s silence rang out like a winter’s knife, Hal’s ear bursting volume filled in the space with a summer’s flame; where Bruce was hard edges, Hal was soft touches; where one lacked the other made up for. Bruce was the night and Hal was the light; finding a way to function in and around one another in a dance that was new, yet all too familiar in the way they worked. And yes, bad days outnumbered the good, but there was something about the way Hal sleepily curled into his side that made it all worthwhile.

But duty calls.

“I have to go,” he whispered, and Bruce tried not to clasp tighter, tried to keep his eyes firm and cold and sure, but Hal knew better now, Hal knew more than he should. The Green Lantern let tan fingertips brush over moonlight kissed flesh, let himself lean into the Dark Knight of Gotham, as said knight attempted to make himself more machine than man, tried to reconstruct his entire being to lessen a pain that can never go away. The act of leaving a loved one, of letting a loved one go, even if not for a short time does something funny to the soul, burns out edges that were once wholesome and full, makes heat into ice and freezes the heart.

“Yes,” Bruce states, hating how his heart beat out of tune, how it sounded like a bad song on the radio, reminding him that all of this had been a huge mistake, a terrible idea born from loneliness, “You should have left exactly ten minutes ago, if you were to make adequate time.”

“Oh really,” Hal quirks a small smile, rolling his eyes over the sound of the television.

“Now eleven minutes,” he adapts his time, trying …

 

February 7, 2012

“You need to take the god damn pills, stop being a fucking baby and just do it,” Hal’s tone is all bite, harsh edges to a soothing voice, heart trying to reach out towards him despite its physical confines.

“Leave it alone,” he snaps, features schooled, so as not to betray his need to run, to get out, to try and calm the storm in his chest, the storm pushing him to do something he shouldn’t.

“Alfred’s worried again, hell I’m worried again. Is it because I left that you suddenly feel the need to be a fucking child?” Hal’s stepping into his space, challenging him in a way that he should know not to do by now.

“Get out,” he growls, stepping almost hungrily to the challenge, because fight he can do, hurt he can do, be something he doesn’t want to be is almost too easy to allow.

“Make me,” he quips back.

“Surprise, it’s not always about you,” he replied without a single inflection, or sign of emotion, just that stupid blank face.

If there’s anything that’s ever infuriated him about Hal it was this. If there was anything he loved about Hal it was this. If there was anything he needed from Hal it was this. He knew how to push boundaries, to force Bruce to be better, but also to be worse.

He’s almost desperate in the way he pushes Hal, in the way he wants Hal to push him back, to do something, to hurt him, to make him feel anything except this constant gnawing in his chest, fluttering about in his heart.

There’s a storm on the rise here and he knows he needs to stop it. He knows he needs to stop being so illogical, so irrational, so utterly and heartbreakingly emotional.

But the thing is…

When you go for years smothering down everything, every broken heart, every crack, every scratch, every tear that could have, maybe even should have, fallen that something never truly goes away. It eats away like acid to your veins. It breaks you down to the core, hollows out your bones until it still comes flooding out in a tidal wave of disaster, a catastrophic event ready to rip your world up from the very seams.

He pushes and Hal stands still, their roles suddenly very, starkly reversed in the way that one moves and the other stays, in the way Hal stands strong as Bruce’s bones threaten to crumble in on themselves.

He refuses to ask for help.

He won’t ask for help.

Hal won’t offer.

He pushes.

Hal stands still.

He remembers those first few months Hal hung around him, remembers the hostility in the air, the fire licking at Hal’s bones. He remembers being punched. He remembers the desperate way Hal asked for help in the only way he knew how, how destroyed the lantern had been, how utterly broken and destroyed he’d been.

He remembers a bright smile and a despairing face, as the man’s soul cried out to an uncaring universe.

He remembers having to carry that strength, how easy it was to hide the pain back then. But Hal started to strip layers, wanted more from him, wanted something he wasn’t sure he could give him.

He wanted something Bruce wasn’t sure he could give anyone.

He didn’t love right, couldn’t.

It was a simple fact, one his parents learned the hard way.

So, he pushes and Hal crosses his arms, because at the end of it all he’s not Harvey.

He has to know that by, now right?

Hal is not Harvey.

Hal is not some bomb waiting to explode and this feeling in his chest, this thing that tells him that the world is about to implode in his face and he should get out as fast as he can could just be that, a feeling, something idiotic born of human nature to trick his mind into believing something that’s not true.

Hal is not him.

And Harvey could never be Hal.

Still there’s a voice in his head telling him to stop feeling. There’s a voice in his head goading him to end it all. There’s a voice in his head pushing him to hurt someone. There’s a force in his head that wants someone he isn’t and he is painfully unaware of how to fight it. He knows it’s unhealthy. He knows. He knows he cannot keep this up for long, but words fail him, his mind cannot bring out anything he’s feeling into coherent sentences.

You see when something becomes habit, when you’ve become so used to hiding and lying and living that lie…well the lie becomes you. So, he moves and runs and Hal stands still.

He runs and Hal waits for him return.

Only this time he doesn’t know if he will. Because as good as this thing is between them, no matter what Hal says, it still doesn’t make sense, and he’ll never be good enough, he’ll never be what Hal needs.

He keeps his mouth shut, turns his back and walks away, washes his hands of whatever this was and tries not to think about why it feels like another piece of him has died in an alleyway.

He’s never been good at words anyway. Speaking to others has always felt so unnatural.

He leaves and pretends he doesn’t look back.

 

February 8, 2012

The next session lasts a whole ten minutes. Bruce walks in, domineering and agitated, going straight into a rant, no usual small talk, or dance around from the topic on hand, just straight into what’s eating him. Not that Dinah’s complaining it’s better than last time’s awkward silence for an hour and half.

“When we put on these costumes we forfeit our rights as human beings. I knew this going in, knew how much I would need to sacrifice in order to make a difference.”

“Bruce calm down, what’s going on,” she tried, but he was still going on, stuck on whatever his mind had dredged up to plague him with this week.

Hal mentioned Bruce was avoiding him, that he was acting and she quotes ‘out of his god damn mind, the bastard just wouldn’t listen.’ But that was normal for the two, with all their differences of course they would fight, but with Bruce’s rationality and Hal’s determination they usually always worked it out on their own, didn’t matter whose pride was put under the bus for the week, they always managed on their own.

Apparently, something ran deeper than usual.

“We must transcend the laws of man, become a myth in order to protect the humans around us. Every day we walk down the street, with every person we meet there is a chance they are just like us, that they are a superhero, or super villain and we are completely unaware, vulnerable to what they can and will do. It is my job to decrease that vulnerability, to acknowledge the constant danger surrounding myself and those I seek to protect and prevent the imminent attack, when I fail to do so, it is on me.”

She frowned, “We also have to remain human. We have to remind ourselves that we are flesh and blood. We bleed just like everyone else.”
“No, Dinah Lance bleeds. Bruce Wayne bleeds. Black Canary, Batman they cannot degrade themselves to that level, they must be better than that.”
“There is nothing wrong with being human.”
“No, but we live in a world of gods, when the supernatural mixes with the natural. In order to prevail we must sacrifice our humanity.”
“Can we not have both?”

He leaves after that, just straight out the door as fast as he can. He doesn’t really talk about what was wrong with him that day. Dinah’s not sure she wants to know.

Hurt myself today, and the worst part is there’s no one else to blame.

Bruce Wayne: February 14, 2012

It’s Valentine’s Day and Hal looks like the world is all rainbow hearts and roses, judging from his snapchat. He breathes out, fighting the pressure that threatens to make him laze the day away in bed. He pushes himself up, reads an annoying text from Clark and pushes to keep going, to keep moving.

It shouldn’t hurt as much as it does, but he finds a way to keep pushing on. Dick mentioned to Alfred that he’d stop by to see Jason, so he’ll have to make himself scarce for a few hours. It’s fine he needs to stop by the tower anyway.

Work hurts more than it probably should. He sits through board meetings and runs numbers, avoids his secretary’s curious gaze and locks himself away in his office, away from the world.

He doesn’t want to be doing this, but he does it anyway, finds his hands itching to build something, but his mind focusing on the task at hand. The pressure sits heavy in his chest, just as his mind keeps focusing on his world, and his hands are shaking. He breathes out slowly, trying to level himself, distract himself.

This is ridiculous.

His head hurts, the buzzing is getting louder and he tries not to poke at it, to focus on the real world, but it calls and he’s trying, really he’s-

Blink

The tower is quiet, a soul sucking silence that sets the nerves on end, keeps one on their toes, eyes wide, skin prickling at the slightest of sounds. He sets to work, let’s his fingers type out what he needs.

There are bandages around his wrists that prickle as the suit chafes them. The stupid letter opener had had to be cleaned, his office scrubbed down twice.

He breathes out heavily as his hands tremble lightly from overexertion, he’s pretty sure he injured something slightly vital, but he’ll have to wait to have it checked out when he gets to the cave, which will be a nightmare, because Barbra will probably be there to flirt with Dick, before heading out together for the night.

He could always wait until the morning. It’s not that important anyway.

Blink

“You need a ride,” Kent, all blond hair and blue eyes, the American dreamboat wrapped up in an angry bitter man.

“I’m fine Mr. Newsworth,” he looks around trying to figure out where the hell he was. The last he remembered he was in his office working on…

The back window rolled down, a smooth voice coming from the depths of the car, “Well we all know that’s a lie,” David snorted brown hair falling in his face, “where’s your butler anyway doesn’t he always give you a lift back to the big bad manor?”

He looked around, wondering slightly where the man was. He was several blocks away Wayne tower, heading to the ocean, heading towards Crime Alley. Funny how the mind works, how madness brings the worst memories to the surface.

“You getting in the car, or is Kent going to have to drag you in,” Red hair peaked around Kent’s frame. She rolled her eyes, a long-suffering sigh spilling past her lips, “look you’re wasting Jules’ gas man, some of us aren’t billionaires okay.”

“Marli,” a soft voice snapped, Julie peeking into view from the driver’s seat, “play nice.”

His fingers tightened on his brief case, turning to look at the long stretch of Gotham before him, “I’m fine,” he states a smile widening over his features, playful shrugged, “just needed some air.”

“Dude if you don’t get in the car I swear to god you’ll be mugged,” David slouches back, eyeing him uneasily.

“What kind of idiot wears a watch like that down these streets,” his fingers ghost over his father’s watch: remembers a bullet and falling pearls. These are old wounds, nothing he’s not experienced before, but they hurt all the same.

“Guys his parents died in a mugging,” Julie hisses.

“So, he wanna end up like them,” Kent grounds out and Bruce has to stop himself from saying ‘yes.’

Stop

“You’re hurt,” Julie states calmly, eyes locking onto him.

“Oh my god, I’m fucking surrounded by dumbasses. Kent get him,” the man is tall and sometimes Bruce forgets that, because of his quiet demeanor. The man towers over Bruce and he’s six foot three on a good day.

Glancing down he scowls at the blood cascading down his hand, dropping slowly onto the sidewalk. “I’m fine,” really, he smiles at them holding his hands up in mock surrender, “really must of just cut my arm on something.”

“Both of them, yeah right even I’m not that clumsy,” David shakes his head, getting out of the car to stand beside his coworker. David is shorter, easier take, and Bruce knows he can take both of them, but Brucie can’t and that’s who he has to be.

“I’m fine,” he urges out, the businessman clouding his tone, rough eyes as he takes a small shift away from them, distributing his weight better. “Now get back in the car and go home, before I fire the lot of you.”

“You won’t,” Kent states large hand coming down onto his shoulder and it’s a struggle to keep from flinching. His frame is a lot like Harvey’s bulky and large without having to work out, muscled without lifting weights.

“Come on Mr. Wayne, we just don’t wanna be left without a boss when morning comes,” David wraps a hand around his bicep and he had to fight to keep from tensing.

“Let’s go boss.” They steer him into the car, squishes him in the space between Kent and the door. He feels ambushed, as if he were preparing for a war he was never meant to fight. They do not ask questions and for that he is grateful. They simply take him to Marli and Julie’s apartment. It’s quaint and simple, art on the walls, knick-knacks on every available surface.

He moves quietly finds Kent’s steady hand on his shoulder guiding him through unknown territory. They sit in the bathroom then, Julie and Kent undoing poorly done bandages, redoing what he fucked up.

“How long?” She asks so softly he almost missed it.

He shrugs softly, watches her careful work. There is nothing to say. He does not owe them anything to begin with.

And afterwards he leaves hides himself behind the cape and cowl and goes to work.

blink

 

“What wrong with you,” the voice sets him on edge, jaw setting firmly, as he looked towards the Thanagarian standing in the doorway.

He shifts, more angered that he hadn’t heard her than the fact that she’s glaring at his slightly trembling hands. Frowning he moves away from her, eyes narrowing, “shouldn’t you be working on-“

“Taken care of, as you would have known if you’d bothered showing up to the meeting,” she snapped, eyeing him carefully.

“I was trying to say the Grundy case, which was brought up at said meeting,” he stated calmly, moving to continue typing at the monitors.

She rolled her eyes, “need some coffee I’m making a run.”

The grunt she received must tell her something it doesn’t usually tell people, for she makes her way back to him with two coffees in hand one black and the other a rich mocha.

Eyeing it carefully, she rolls her green eyes at him, “what, it’s not like I poisoned it.” She might have.

He chooses the hard life as he accepts the black hard coffee from her hands, reveling in the burst of caffeine that shoots through him, as he tries not to grunt at the bitter taste. He was Batman after all.

“GL’s away on a mission for the guardians, both of them,” she careful in how she moves around him, dancing around his space, like everyone does.

“I am aware Jordon informed me on his way out,” he makes to add something to the configuration.

She raises an eyebrow in his direction, “Jordon actually did something responsible?”

“We have an agreement,” he’s off balance today, mind not fully back online from his earlier attack, if that’s what he’s calling them these days.

“Must be some agreement for him to go to you,” she moves back into his space fixing an error he’d made, causing him to growl slightly at the smirk on her face. “You’re tired,” she noted. And so, what, maybe he was, but that wasn’t going to mean he was just going to pass out in front of a could be spy.

He frowns at the screen in front of him, as she puts her hands on her hips, “out.”

He glared at her, causing her to back off slightly, so that he could continue his work, adding another swig of coffee to aid in the work ahead.

“Stubborn,” she muttered under her breath, as she trudged away, much to Bruce’s pleasure.

Or so he’d thought. Not even five minutes later she was back and this time with J’onn in tow. He’d long gotten over his initial fear of the Bat, so now the glare bounced off of him, instead proving to solidify the Martian’s cause, “My friend you are exhausted,” he moves carefully.

“I’m fine,” he snaps, “I have to finished these calculations-“

“I shall do it,” Jo’nn was firm, rock solid, hard pressed, not budging and he had to restrain himself from sending a harsh, yet totally warranted glare at Hawkgirl.

There’s a hand clasping around his shoulder, pushing up. Jo’nn is persistent when it comes to his friends, probably because of his dead race, a thing he is more than willing to use as a persuasive method.

“I’m fine,” he growls out, moving back towards the council, but there’s Hawkgirl, strong and smirk, “move,” there’s a darkness to his voice that he usually reserves for Gotham’s worst criminals and he can see the brief moment she falters, but she’s a warrior and a warrior always steps up to the challenge.

He should know.

“Batman,” Jo’nn moves to take his wrist, pulling him back from the woman in front of him, from the challenge that she presented for him to take.

The wince comes as a surprise, barely there, missing Hawkgirl completely, but Jo’nn must sense the outcry from his mind, must see it despite his best cover-ups. He lets go too quickly, drawing Hawkgirl’s attention.

“You are injured,” he states, and this must be what Dick means about sounding so emotionless in high stress situations, because Jo’nn sounds like he’s talking about the weather, and if he didn’t know the Martian so well by now he would have missed the light note of concern flashing across his features.

“I’m fine,” he almost hisses back, deep tendrils of pain racing up his arms, as he fights the urge to hold them to his chest. He moves to head back to the monitor, but Jo’nn has him again, using his Super strength, “apologies my friend, but I let one family down. I shall not let another.” And there it is.

“You do that on purpose.”

Jo’nn is on the edge of his mind asking for permission and Bruce wants to keep him out, wants to fight him, wants a fight, wants a way to establish control over something again. Jo’nn is strong though. He respects the privacy of Bruce’s mind, but he’s still physically strong. With ease, he wrestles Bruce through the hallways of the tower, Shayera sentenced to stay at the monitors.

He could use the matches in his belt, but they both know he won’t. He never will unless he really, absolutely has to. There’s a trust between them, not easily broken.

But there’s dread sitting thickly at the bottom of his stomach, thick and unsettling as it flops so ungracefully inside him. There’s a part of him with the words on his lips and a piece of him that wants to reach out, wants to scream out to the world that he’s not okay, that maybe he is broken that there are pieces of him lying across his city, across the globe lost and shattered beyond repair. Somewhere inside him, he wants to let someone know that he’s maybe not okay, but that doesn’t mean he’s not functional.

Sighing slightly as they reach med bay he stands firmly in front of Jo’nn, this moment inevitable. He has a speech practiced too, one he’s memorized for every person that might find out about this. It’s not something he’s looked forward to, but it’s a necessity he’s planned for.

“I appreciate your concern,” he states calmly, “but there is nothing you can assist me with, nor is it something you should be burdened with. I have the situation under control-“

Jo’nn interrupts him, breaking their unspeakable promise for the third time today, take his hand slowly, brows furrowed slightly, “I was aware something was amiss, but…”

“Jo’nn-“

“I do not understand,” he whispered, red eyes cast down upon Bruce’s red stained clothed covered wrists, “no…maybe I do,” their eyes met softly, Jo’nn’s eyes upon his, his mind nudging against Bruce’s consciousness, seeking permission.

And maybe…

“No going where I do not want you to be,” he growled as the shield around his mind, for the first time, opened for the Martian.

There’s almost something therapeutic in the way Jo’nn fills his thoughts, without judgment or pity, just curiosity and a simple desire to understand. He breathes out as Jo’nn breathes in with his own life of pain and loss. There’s an understanding here, something he’s not been able to find elsewhere, a kinship discovered amidst the ruins of old wounds, marked by new ones.

And when he leaves there’s the remains of his being left behind, when he leaves those red eyes meet his and they understand, maybe not fully, because he doesn’t even understand fully, but he gets it to an extent.

“It’s loud in there,” he states after a minute of silence.

His lip quirks up slightly, reveling in the relief that had come with Jo’nn’s presence. He frowns slightly, mind pushing against his mind again and it’s almost too easy to give in once more.

There’s Harvey here, there’s My’ria’h, a monastery burns to the ground and mars in flames, there’s blood staining desert sand and empty red plains. There’s a beginning and an end. A gunshot echoing through the sky, a brother lost to madness. There’s old battles fought and won as one. Jo’nn was giving just as much as he was taking.

Without warning, Hawkgirl appears by their side. Her curiosity must outweigh her own need for self-protection, because she walks on steady legs. She knows what is happening here, what this means. Yet despite all the knowledge about the risks and the dangers, she too sets a hand on his shoulder, and suddenly the world sways as his mind comes into view. She’s not Hawkgirl now, she’s Shayera and there’s pain and structure and duty.

There’s confirmation here that she is a spy. There is a list of things he can use against her, laid out in the palm of his hands and he’s made sure there is nothing of him, but his name that she can find, only ghostly feelings the mix between them. Jo’nn is open, lays everything on the table as they hide from each other’s sights.

There are a lot of things that could, probably should come from this moment, but as they stand there in their own form of showdown, neither backing down he’s sure that everything will be fine. He has to be, because if not then he’ll have about twent- no…fifty-six new contingency plans to come up with tonight alone.

Though they may not always agree, though there’s that constant suspicion surrounding her background and who she is, she’s still technically one of them.

None of the go too deep in one another, it’s all surface stuff, but there’s a new understanding here. He removes his mask that night, as does Shayera, as does Jo’nn. They look at each other with their own eyes, without any form of misgivings or misunderstandings.

It’s Valentine’s Day. Hal is gone. My’ria’h is gone. John is gone. But they remain. Two to solider on as they wait for their space cops and one to be left waiting for his life to start again.

They work on those calculations as Shayera watches the monitors, easy conversation flowing between them.

It’s only after the calculations that things get strange, because chess is involved with some of the best. Shayera wins, Bruce wins, Jo’nn wins and maybe there’s a couple of broken chairs from an angry and too competitive Thanagarian, but it’s a pretty good Valentine’s day to say the least.

He manages to just barely get by.

Home is quiet, he curls up on the roof, a blanket around his shoulders and stares at the stars, wonders what Hal does all the way out there in the stars.

“They tell me to be something I’m not and I let them, because it’s better than being myself,” he confesses to the stars, blue eyes trying to find something out there in their depths.

“And I am unaware of how to fix myself, so that-“he pauses a shaky breath coming in and out, “I do not know if I am capable of loving someone else like what you want. You do not tell me how I can love you and I do not know what to do with that.” He curls himself tighter, “with Alfred it’s easy, as long as I’m functional he’ll take me. With Clark, it’s as long as I am useful. With Selina, it is support. With Dick it is caring, which I am bad at,” he sighed, “with Jason it is strength, being strong for him. But you never tell me.” He frowns up at the stars, a groan falling past his lips as he stretches out on the roof. “I don’t know what to be, so that you’ll love me.”

“Damn Spooky, how long did it take you to write all of that in your head?”

“Did you really want an answer or are you toying with me.”

“No, I’m actually genuinely curious how long it took you to make up that bullshit.” He laughs as he sits, arm moving around Bruce’s tense shoulders. “We love you, because of who you are, which I know insane right, but who said we were sane?”

“I mean, look at you, look at me,” he laughs into Bruce cheeks, laughs this hollow sounding thing, “We aren’t exactly functional, normal, all that shit, but you’re strong and caring and funny on occasions. We love you cause you are you, crazy bat suit and all.”

Their eyes meet, Hal head tipping in to meet his lips softly.

The moon is full in the sky, the sun disappeared past the horizon line, and he knows in an hour or so he’ll have to go out, to be the hero Gotham needs. He’ll slip on the mask and go out to war once more, but for now…for now he’ll watch the stars, let a pencil move across paper and set his mind to ease, if only for a few hours.

For now, he’ll be content with just being himself for a few hours, and see where that takes him.

February 19, 2012

Bruce was falling between his legs, mouthing his dick through his pants, and god, if those eyes weren’t pretty before. He groans as his head falls back into the wall. “Bruce,” he moans into the sky.

And the man just moves to nose up his shirt, nuzzling his navel. He’s silent like usual, but this silence is less oppressive, more open curiosity.

There’s innocence in silence.

In innocence, there is truth.

He moves to pull the man back up, kissing him like he deserves to be kissed, pulls him into his lap and makes his need for this known, kisses Bruce like this might be the last time, because with Bruce, with their jobs, with their lives any second could very well be the last time.

“God you’re beautiful,” he breathes out into Bruce’s neck, mouths the pulse there, kisses him again.

“Clothes on?” He asks, and Bruce growls softly as he nods, eyes down and if it weren’t Bruce he’d call it embarrassment, but he knows better. It’s shame he’s seeing, shame for thinking himself weak for something he can’t help.

“It’s okay,” he breathes into his neck, nuzzling the skin there so he can be surrounded in the smell of Bruce, so he can feel the man’s lively pulse.

Hal moans, a low kind of sound that escapes as Bruce mouths at him again through his pants, fingers tugging at his waistband. “You don’t have to,” gasps out, a breathy moan falling past his lips, “fuck.”

Bruce smirks up at him, mouth around his cock, pretty baby blues staring up at him, and Hal’s done for, gasping out into the air, hand finding Bruce’s hair, tugging slightly, mind lost. “We-well damn,” he breathes out, “spooky.”

“Man I..mhh..I knew you would look good on your knees, bet you ah…like..i..it..do-uh..dow-ah-down there too,” he couldn’t look away, entranced by the sight before him, by Bruce, by everything he’s wanted given to him in an instant. The man bobbing on his cock, doing everything just right, perfectly, reading all his likes and dislikes, still in control of Hal, still making Hal lose control. There’s a hint of teeth scrapping down him, a wicked tongue claiming him, soft hands clenching his thighs, bright eyes on his, and he can’t tell up from down, because that’s, this, is all he’s probably ever wanted.

He comes hard and without warning. Bruce chokes lightly, some of it getting all over his face and hair, and it shouldn’t be as attractive as Hal finds it. He kisses the man hard, pulling him up into his lap, kisses him like the sky kisses the space above, like the ocean meets the earth. He kisses and Bruce meets him back with just as much intensity. Bruce is cool like ice and Hal’s skin is slick with the fire burning its way out from his core.

It’s a fight with himself, not to slide his hands under cloth, not to feel and touch and know Bruce like he’d like, but he’s just able to keep it in mind, as he keeps the man pulled close. They kiss like they’re fighting, all teeth and tongue. But like most of their encounters where it just feels like Bruce and not Batman, the man gives in, lets Hal take the lead, lets his arms wrap around his neck, nose nuzzling into him as he lets Hal kiss bruises into his neck, as he keeps Hal pulled close, rubbing himself off on him. Through it all he’s talking, voice coming in and out between kisses, trying to fill the spaces he knows Bruce can’t reach. And it’s okay. He’s learning and Bruce is growing…and maybe it’ll be okay.

Okay well that’s probably bullshit, because it’s him and Bruce and by next week they’ll be broken up again, but as long as they find each other again it’ll be alright.

At least he knows Bruce will always be waiting for him.

Hal Jordan- March 13, 2012

Sliding into his room, he blinked widely, finding Bruce curled up on his bed, a million and one blankets (more than he’d had on there before leaving) and an ass ton of pillows added to his once meek collection, a pillow between his legs, wearing only Hal’s extra, extra-large sweatshirt from college (it’d been the last one okay he procrastinated and got what was left). Depositing his own shirt and pants he slid into bed as well, moving to carefully sneak the pillow out from Bruce’s grasps. He thought it’d wake the beast, but to his delight it merely caused a grumbled to slip past his lips, soft sigh replacing it when Hal intertwined their legs gently, his arms coming around Bruce as the man settled to curl back up into him.
It took maybe two minutes or less to realize what a fucking mistake this had been, because Bruce’s knee was rubbing against his crotch in this agonizing way that had him getting hard, and he really needed to leave because honestly he still wasn’t sure if they could do that yet, but Mr. Sleeping beauty over here already had his claws in for the night which meant he was going nowhere. Grumbling he tried to think of nonsexual things like dead puppies and marmalade, but Bruce kept distracting him. The way their hips fit snuggly the slight friction and motion, not enough to get off, but enough to get hard was way too much. His hands found bare thigh and he realized the sweatshirt was literally all that Bruce was wearing. God help him.
He breathes out, okay, he’s an adult. He can do this. All he has to do is stop thinking about his boyfriend’s amazing hips and cock and powerful naked thighs and moonlit face. Shit he needs a shower, preferably cold at this point.
He shifts tries to find a break in Bruce’s hold when he catches it, just a slight twitch.
“You son of a bitch,” he yelled, rolling on top of Bruce, “you’re fucking awake!”
And there’s that shady quirk of the lips that Hal’s becoming increasingly aware of. And suddenly Bruce is kissing him hot and open mouthed and dirty, but strange because he chuckles darkly into Hal’s mouth and Hal practically swallows down the sound, because it’s the only sound Bruce has ever made in bed.
But Bruce rolls on top of them and pushes into Hal sheets and blankets and pillows, lips meeting his in this sort of devilishly sweet kiss that’s teeth and lips and perfection. Bruce kisses him deep and wholly and Hal clings to him, finds his hands gripping those sinful hips that were slightly humping him.
“You okay,” he whispers, “because it’s fine if you aren’t” Bruce shuts him up with another kiss, and a good thrust on Hal’s own part, throwing the bat off a little, sends a small groan from the raven hair’s lips, a sound that scatters all thoughts from Hal’s mind, leaving him with nothing but blank need.
He groans in response, hands gripping Bruce’s ass, loving the way the man’s fingers kneaded his shoulders. “Fuck,” he gasps.
“Spooky,” he gulps for air, “I need you to talk to me.”
“Hal,” Bruce breathes/groans into his shoulder as he mouths it, this obscene sucking sound filling the room as Bruce continues, “Hal,” he says again as if it were a prayer and Hal’s heart does this weird fluttering and he’s pushing Bruce into his sheets, looks at Bruce in his sweatshirt in his apartment, on his bed, and he’s kissing him, hands sliding from his ass to his thighs, tugs them on either side of him, pushing Bruce into the bed, claiming his mouth, as Bruce calls out his name again.
Fingers grip his shoulder blades as Bruce arches into his touch, as Hal slides up that sweatshirt to kiss his way down to Bruce’s navel, hand gently laying on Bruce’s happy trail. “You better say something now,” he murmurs into cold skin, “stop me now.”
“Hal,” Bruce whispers, “Please,” he says, “I need.”
“What do you need,” he kisses into the man’s exposed neck, kissing and sucking until he’s focused only on the man’s wrists, kissing them tenderly, gently.
“I need you,” Bruce grits out, frustrated and annoyed and broken and torn, “I need-“ he breathes out, “I just want you to touch me.”
“We don’t have to have sex to do that.”
Bruce is glaring holes in his chest, mouth trying to form words, “it’s not always bad, I just want this now.”
Hal fumbles for his bedside table, fumbling to get the lube and put it on his fingers.
“What do you need,” he gasps.
“Get inside me now,” he growls out all Batman and Bruce and sure and confident and needy and gosh who’s Hal to argue with that voice.
I love you, he thinks the first time he slides into Bruce, the first time he kisses the inside of the man’s thighs, the first time he touches Bruce, truly touches him. And yes, the man freaks out, and it’s sloppy and still a little unrefined because sometimes they have to pause to bring Bruce back to the present, but it’s fine, because they’re here, together and Hal can feel Bruce around him, is inside him and he feels whole for the first time since his father’s plane blew up and Bruce is with him, on him and it couldn’t be better than this, to feel love and to love in return.
He knows it will never truly be fine either, and they don’t have to be. Bruce will always have these problems, will probably never truly be okay with having sex again, and Hal will always have his problems too and he’s starting to learn that’s okay as well.
“I’ve got you,” He speaks into Bruce’s neck as he comes, hard, and Bruce’s hands find his hair, tugs softly, he’s already come and it sticks to his stomach.
“I’m trying,” Bruce says afterwards, turned away from him, hands clenched in the sheets.
“And I’ve still got you,” he cleans them up, runs the cool cloth over smoot scarred skin, kisses the ones that could have been fatal, wraps arms around him as they fall asleep.

Dinah- April 4, 2012

“You once mentioned that I have surrounded myself in a life that I can control. That control is everything to me,” Batman looks out over his city, eyes cast away from her. “But I know I cannot control anything that happens in my life.” Pausing he looks up at the sky, finds the moon hitting his face, illuminating features usually lost to the darkness. “From Joker wreaking havoc on Gotham, to the Riddler playing his games, aliens falling from the sky, meta-humans crawling out of the shadows,” he stopped, “and a government that only seeks to meet its own ends- I am well aware that I cannot control anything. My job, as Batman and Bruce Wayne, is merely to see those things that I cannot control and find ways to prepare all scenarios. My job is to do damage control, whether that be in crisis or outside of crisis.”

Dinah paused, looking at the man in front of her in a new light. Every time she figured him out, he’d reveal something completely new to throw her off balance.

“It’s never really been about control,” he looked down at his hands, eyebrows clashing together almost as if he were in pain, and in many ways he was always in pain, attempting to channel it one way or another. “It’s been about weakness in mind, body, and spirit. It has always been about turning what once was weakness into strength. It has always been about showing people that the easy way isn’t necessarily the right way.”

“In Gotham, so many take the easy route, so many allow themselves to be swayed by the money and gains of doing the wrong thing. In Gotham, so many are just in it for the thrill, but at the end of the day they all just want to teach a lesson. The Riddler wants people to see that mind really is over matter. Poison Ivy just wants to teach people that the environment is more important than we think, that we have to cherish it rather than destroy it. Joker just wants to show people how he sees the world. They may not be doing the right thing, but they are doing something which is more than I can say for a lot of people I know.”

She studies him, watches the frown of concentration take over his features, the way his frame is tense, but he looks almost drained. “Bruce what is this all about?”

He sits down beside her, pulling up his mask in one single practiced move, handing her as he moves one of the wrapped pieces of papers in his hands. She opens it carefully, diamond blue eyes widening as she does, “this is-“

“The Paradisian Diamond, yes,” he nods lightly, eyes still on the city below them.

“How did you find-“she begins, but once more he cuts her off.

“My best friend is Catwoman,” he states without fear of judgment or disdain, pride more than anything seeping through.

“I thought-“

“She is a villain in most circumstances; she has always been a thief. It was one of the many things I initially liked about her.”

“I was going to say, I thought you didn’t have friends,” she replied with a slight smirk, watching as he leaned back, letting his arms take his weight.

“Not a lot,” he states with a shrug, “but I’ve known Cat for a long time.”

“Cat?”

“Before she was Catwoman, she was just Cat, and to me she will always be Cat. Just as I am quite aware,” he stated with a little annoyance and good humor seeping into his voice, “that I will always be B to her.”

“And you two never…”

“We enjoy letting people believe we’re more than friends, but no, nothing of that nature has really ever occurred between us.” He looks back over his city, probably reliving a million different memories that she could never even imagine coming to life.

“Do you ever wish things turned out differently,” she asks, before she can stop herself, stuck just thinking about her own crazy world and less on this.

“No,” he says with such conviction, it nearly throws her for a loop. “Once I did. When I was still young and angry and lost, I felt cheated of the life I was supposed to have. Now though, I see it as a gift.” He leans back fully on the Gargoyle, looking up at the murky Gotham sky, “If that night in the alley hadn’t happened I would never have met Cat or Dick or Jason or any of my family. I would have grown up good, I think, but I never truly would have known what I was meant to be or become.”

She looked at him carefully, eyes set on watching him as he looked out over his city, over his life, his dedication, his job, his heart. “Then why is it that you are still driven to hurt yourself?”

Bruce frowned softly, a small shrug thrown her way, “I have not known the answer to that question.”

“You sound like you’ve thought about it for a long time.”

“I have been thinking about it, since I was eight years old and tried to jump off the roof for the first time.” He sits back quietly, toying with something on his belt, “Alfred never knew about that one.”

“I have a feeling Alfred is unaware of a lot of things, concerning your little suicide attempts,” Bruce shrugged in response, eyes looking out towards Wayne Tower in the distance.

“It was to keep him safe,” he stated calmly.

“Or was it to keep him around,” She asked, as she herself studied the looming tower ahead, blue and silver streaking out into the unknown.

“Possibly both,” he stated solemnly. “Sometimes things just happen- Sometimes I just do things without meaning to do them.”

“Like the suicide attempts,” she filled in carefully.

“Yes,” he murmured, “for a time they stopped all together and it was quiet, but-“ he stopped, eyes suddenly snapping to something in the distance, something even she couldn’t see, and he was off, throwing himself off the side of the building all together, not even a word, just a sudden toss off the side of the building.

He was off again, out into the world to save lives, lost to the storm of crime and punishment, good versus evil. He was off again, out protecting unknown faces and lost causes. He was out on a case.

She sat there for a long time then, just thinking about everything he’d confessed to her, for it was the most honest thing she’s ever heard come out of his mouth, and she’s quite proud she even got that out of him, or maybe a little bitter about the fact that he was the honest he’ll probably ever be only when he’s Batman.

 

Jason Todd- April 20, 2012

“That’s it I give up.” He gasped, fingers aching, mind numb, heart pounding, even as the dull edges of frustration’s knife digs into the very fibers of his being.

“You cannot simply give up when things get tuff Jason,” Bruce’s voice was a cool as ever, deep baritone humming out into the air between them, dancing in his very breath. Jesus, Jason wished he could be like that one day, strong and sure, and confident. His eyes wander down to the scars peaking out of the man’s sleeves and forces himself revise that thought.

He needs to be better.

“Not forever, just...I think I’ll take a few days off. Get some inspiration.” He shrugs, frowning down at his lazily written music notes, sighs as he looks at the unfinished ending, at his unfinished work, grits his teeth as his mind comes up with nothing.

Again

“From Roy,” he watches as Bruce lets the smirk overtake his features, the man taking pleasure, from the reddening of his face, and boy the old man just gets his kicks from making them all embarrassed.

“Not like that,” he snaps, standing to see whatever it was the old man was working on this time. He muttered lowly, as he crossed the room, hands deep in his pockets, “damn a kid can’t even have one goddamn friend now a days.”

“Like what?” Bruce gives him that innocent little cock of the head, eyes widening, as he makes to look more like Brucie, than the actual man Jason has come to know.

“Oh, fuck you,” he grits, cheeks flaming, “you’re such an ass sometimes.”

“Is that what it’s called?” The twitch of his lips gets wider.

“You’re doing it on purpose,” he exclaims throwing an eraser at the man chuckling at him under his breath, “fucking mocking me.”

“Language.”

“Oh, now you’re really asking for it.”

“Dick is coming by today for your training lesson,” Bruce reminds him, eyes trained down on the papers in his hand, “so it’d be best to be back by at least five if you still want to make patrol,” Bruce flips the paper over, scanning it intensely. It was almost scary how intense the man can get in his work. Where he is passionate, Bruce is just stubbornly determined. It makes them work a lot of the time.

“Yeah, yeah, I got it old man, be there or be square and all that jazz. I’ll be there and Dickie bird can do his thing, show off.”

Bruce frowns at him, just a slight tilt of the eyebrow, “jealousy is unbecoming on you.”

Rolling his eyes, he slouches back, “I’m not jealous B, just annoyed.”

“Jealous.”

“Where’s Hal so he can bug you,”

“Working, something you should be doing on your homework, before you leave,” he tosses a book back towards him and Jason barely catches it, a frown already dragging his features down to exasperated.

“Oh, come on, I work all the time, just one night off,” he threw the book

“Hmm…fine, just be sure to get it done,” just as he spoke Jason was off, a laugh dreading up from the pits of his stomach, “on time this time, I do not want another parent teacher conference!”

“I mean I guess,” he looks down, suddenly quieted.

“What is it,” he forces out, moved by the sudden change in mood.

“He has a girlfriend.”

“Roy?”

“Yeah some freaky ninja lady. Her name’s like Jade or whatever. He won’t shut up about her, even Dick is getting annoyed by it. Just thought you should know, so you can stop planning our wedding.”

“No.”

“Excuse the fuck out of me, but I could’ve sworn I just told you he has a girlfriend.”

“It won’t last.”

“B.”

“He’ll be back for you.”

“Let me get this straight, you want me to be a homewrecker.”

“I want you to be anything, but straight right now, but I have not actually told you anything, that would-be incrimination.” He picked up his papers, carefully turning his back to his son.

“So, what second best?”

“Harper needs to level up,” he stated so seriously Jason’s jaw met his piano, as laughter bubbled up and out as Bruce walked out of the room.

“You are so fucked up.”

“Language”

He didn’t know it would be the last time he talked to Jason.

 

Bruce Wayne: 30- April 27, 2012

It’s funny really, how it only takes a week to ruin your life.

When he finally thinks everything is finally, for the first time since that alley way coming together in a way that might make some sense, a week is what it takes to shatter everything.

The explosion ripped through what felt like time and space, its force throwing him back, propelling him through the air faster, harder than he ever thought possible.

Jason

There are pieces of him buried in the snow, hidden under debris, and snagged on the edges of shattered wood.

Boots hit broken bits of metal and wood, storming through the fire, praying in the fire that his son, that Robin wasn’t hurt, wasn’t in the warehouse when the explosion went off. But there was something in his gut telling him he was, telling him that all hope was lost, that despite all Bruce’s effort, it hadn’t been enough, he hadn’t been enough, and now Jason was dead. He was dead and Bruce didn’t know what to do, who to turn to, what to say, to-

He dug through debris, flames scorching his face, eyes, wherever it could reach and he reveled in it, the pain, the lack of mercy, he let them swallow him whole.

The fire licks at his skin, reminds him of something he can’t put his finger on, but it does not matter, all that matters is that the flames are getting bigger and Jason is still missing, and the world is still moving.

A hand peaked out, bloody and bruised and burned, and his teeth clenched, fighting the pressure building in his chest, leaking into his bones. His son was dead because he could not protect him. His son was dead and there was nothing he could do.

He failed.

He failed.

He failed.

His breath comes out shaky, legs giving slightly. He has to keep, has to get justice, has to-

He has-

Bruce Wayne: May 3, 2012

Someone would pay. Someone had to pay, if not him, if not the Joker, then who? The dance continues, the dance between him and the clown prince of crime, the dance between who would win and who would die- comedy and tragedy. He learned it wasn’t a game a long time ago, knows this dance isn’t one he wants, but the Joker pushes, knows how to tip Batman right to the edge, just enough, just enough, so that he has a choice whether or not the madness takes a hold of him.

But Batman was done, done playing.

Bruce was done.

He lost himself and he is nowhere to be found. He had given up. He didn’t know who to trust. So he designed a shell that kept him from both heaven and hell.

The man who killed his son had diplomatic immunity, if that wasn’t the cruelest joke he’d ever known and he didn’t know how to deal, how to- he had to kill him. He had to end this.

The crime rate dropped, every beat of his fist was a thrum through the discord of his brain, the foggy hum blurring the lines between what was right and what was wrong, every criminal was left in tatters, body casts their new home for the next few months to come if they’re lucky.

The first time he sends someone to the hospital in a coma, all he can think is not enough. He hasn’t done good enough, if he had, Jason would be upstairs playing video games, if he had Jason would be upstairs playing the piano, or sitting next to him humming as he drew, or worked, or did something, anything. There would be no more with Jason, Jason would never get to have a life of his own, make a name for himself like Dick is doing. Jason was just wiped from existence as if he were nothing and it never was enough. It couldn’t be enough.

They tell him to stay away, stay out of the way, Clark, no Superman tells him he’s not allowed to touch Joker, to leave this alone, but he doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what that monster did, he doesn’t understand.

Blink

His hand is numb, no process- rework: his hand is in pain.

Stop
Process
Replay the last five minutes
Stop

He punched Clark, the man of steel.

His hand is nearly shattered.

It doesn’t matter.

Nothing matters except getting the Joker.

 

Bruce Wayne: 30- June 17, 2012

Joker detonates his bomb and escapes.

Another mistake.

Why does Joker always leave the dance before its unfinished?

Bruce Wayne: 30- July 18, 2012

He doesn’t know what he’s doing anymore.

It’s funny really.

Truly hilarious.