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A Few Pages from This Closed Book

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Tonight has taken a turn for the fraught. Clark Kent, glass in hand, tries not to look like a deer caught in the headlights.

It isn't the gallery's stark white walls that's got him feeling exposed, though they don't help. Nor is it the precise lighting, calibrated to flatter the displays and not so much the guests. It's not the side-long glances at his suit, three seasons démodé, and it isn't that he's nursed the same drink for an hour and he's already been told: they're free, you know.

It's not even that someone might ask him his opinion on the paintings.

All this is fine, business as usual. In his line of work, Clark often has to deal with things that nudge up to the boundary of what's comfortable for him. Sometimes those things are alien incursions. Sometimes they're art exhibitions.

Though if he's honest, it's not the events themselves, so much as the people. And, in this instance, one particular person.

Clark has met Bruce Wayne before, just the once. It had taken a while to pry the barbs out from under his skin. Even longer to crawl up out of his grave.

Now that they've resolved that little misunderstanding, they've managed to strike up a partnership—according to the news media, anyway, who talk about them in the same breathless tones they do the latest celebrity power couple.

It's more tenuous than that, but not entirely untrue, so long as Superman keeps to Metropolis and the Bat is left to his machinations deep in the belly of Gotham. The line is precise: no meddling; only come when you're called; strictly code names. Clark has never heard his real name uttered by the Bat and has taken care not to acknowledge Bruce's identity in return. In this, at least, his impenetrable wall of control issues dovetail neatly with Clark's measured courteousness.

As far as territory is concerned, social events appear to be neutral ground—or perhaps that's just the ones in Metropolis.

Flying the colors, they operate separately and intersect at opportune angles. In plain clothes, the angles feel decidedly more awkward. Clark's dodged for as long as he can, but he slipped up and now finds himself staring hard at the nearest painting so he doesn't accidentally make eye contact again. There's probably a fitting word for this situation in German.

He squints at the canvas, a painstaking rendering of something that looks like a printer test page. He's not certain what message it's trying to impart, but he wouldn't put it on his wall, personally.

He wonders how he's going to frame this article. He might finish this drink after all.

"Mr. Kent, isn't it?"

Clark winces. He knows that pitch and timbre even if it's usually scrambled by a modulator; the soft slur around the edges is a weak disguise, comparatively. He turns with a smile that he hopes doesn't look too strained, and finds that Bruce has progressed through his act to glass four or five. Still not a hair out of place, but the burn of impatience is in him. Clark wonders if he's been chosen as his ignominious out.

He really should have prepared for this inevitably, he thinks, stomach sinking, but at least Bruce has thrown him a lead to follow. He can do plausible deniability well enough.

"That's right," Clark says. He should offer his hand and greet Bruce Wayne in the manner to which he is accustomed, but he's taken by sudden pettiness—he's already tired of Bruce steering everything, supremely confident in his authority whether he's in kevlar or gabardine, so he feigns polite confusion. "Mr…?"

It's a minor slight compared to a faceful of kryptonite gas, but momentarily satisfying, nonetheless.

"Wayne," Bruce says slowly, eyes narrowing. "Bruce Wayne. Of Wayne Enterprises." The subtle weight he puts on his name rapidly makes it feels less like a slight and more like a faux pas. Clark presses his lips together in mild annoyance. Bruce might be the one to extend his hand first, but it's palm down, the businessman's power play.

"Mr. Wayne. Of course. Last year, Luthor's foundation shindig, right?" The handshake is brief, but Clark manages to step into Bruce's personal space and reorient their hands to perpendicularity by the time it's done.

"Right," Bruce says. He hasn't missed Clark's trick, probably realizes he's now exhausted his toolset for the evening and seems entertained by the fact. His eyes flick from Clark's face to his chest and back. "We got off to a rocky start, if I recall."

"I'd forgotten."

Bruce flashes him a sterile smile. "I've got to say, you're looking remarkably well."

"The reports of my death, etcetera." Clark suspects he's making a particular face, the one people pull while trying to make smalltalk about something horrific. "I was at ground zero when things were going down, gave my jacket to an injured guy. Had my wallet in my pocket. He wasn't in good shape, I got laid out for a while, and I guess—I guess there was some confusion."

Bruce's face echoes his expression as he raises his drink, ostensibly pained at this tragic tale but more likely at the clumsy lie, the delivery that already sounds rote. It serves well enough.

"Couldn't make it up." Bruce's voice is lost in his glass as he chases the last drops of prosecco. He watches Clark over the rim.

"Stranger than fiction," Clark says agreeably.

There's a slightly awkward pause; a patron jostles Clark's elbow and he rolls with it out of habit. Bruce reaches out as though he needs steadying.

"Listen," Bruce says, his hand on Clark's arm slightly too tight. He gives Clark another once over, taking his time with an open study, mouth to chest to lower, and just as slowly back.

Clark reminds himself that Bruce has looked at him this way before, and prepares for a sudden evisceration even as the humming in his veins condenses and gathers somewhere deeper. It's just as blindsiding as when the Bat offers him a backhanded compliment; barks an order; grunts from a hard blow, giving or taking.

("I'll take take care of the rest," Superman says, as the Bat spits blood into his gauntlet.

"And you think," the Bat rasps, "I'd let you do that?")

But there's no lunge for his—or Superman's—jugular this time. Bruce drags his lower lip between his teeth as though briefly calculating something, then says, "Can I buy you a drink?"

"Um." There's another question implicit. Clark is still looking at his mouth. "They're free, you know," he says stupidly.

Bruce laughs breezily and guides him by the arm he still hasn't let go of. "I know a place, best martinis in Metropolis." He leans in to speak in Clark's ear as they leave, like they're sharing a joke, or a secret. "I like them very dirty."

*

They don't get as far as Bruce's fabled bar. They don't get a whole lot further than around the corner of the art gallery. The cool white light spilling from the windows cuts across Bruce's face as he walks Clark into an alley, up against the wall. It shadows his eyes, makes the line of his mouth grim and reminds Clark exactly who he's dealing with here.

"Bruce." Clark is hard before his shoulders hit the brickwork. He finds that it's not much of a surprise.

"Clark." Bruce takes a quick tight breath. Clark hears his heart lurch but his hands are sure. One he jams between Clark's legs, thumb flush against his erection, rubbing the fabric of his pants. The other curls at the nape of Clark's neck, bringing him in so they can kiss. Clark's glasses bump out of position, and he pulls back. He should tuck them into a pocket in case things get—in case they get lost, or broken.

"Leave them," Bruce says, and kisses him—a tame brush of his lips, not at all what Clark was expecting after the unapologetic hand on his dick, and there's no accounting for the way it makes Clark bristle. Maybe that's why he plunges into it with the minimum restraint he can allow, bringing his arms up around Bruce's neck, pulling the man against him shoulder to thigh and into a frustrated kiss.

Bruce makes a muffled noise, half a laugh, and Clark realizes he's been goaded into doing exactly what Bruce wanted, but Bruce is also encouraging his lips apart with the press of his tongue until their mouths are wide and open. Clark just tilts his head to fit them tighter together, as close as he can get. His jacket clings to the rough brick, dragging as Bruce pushes against him.

He doesn't need to breathe, could do this for hours with his universe apertured down to the heat of their mouths and the pressure of Bruce's hand, Bruce's cock insistent against his hip, but Bruce doesn't have that luxury. He breaks the kiss first with a wet, self-satisfied sound. Then it's just their loud breathing in the semi-dark, Bruce moving his hand up Clark's chest, sliding his fingers between the buttons of his shirt.

This, Clark thinks, dazed as though the drink he'd nursed all evening could have gone to his head. This might be what they need.

Or, alternatively, this might be disastrous.

A vehicle passing in the road adjacent sends it headlights skittering over their impropriety. Bruce's eyes glint dangerously and he goes for Clark's mouth again, and the fly of his slacks at the same time. He isn't a man to do things by halves and apparently that includes whenever he decides to unclench.

"God," Clark says, between the rough bites of his mouth. "Do you always—we can't do this here."

"Hm," Bruce says, and there's a long moment where Clark wonders if he should just—there's nobody around and he could get them somewhere more private in a matter of seconds, but something tells him that would unbalance whatever equilibrium has been struck here.

This is reinforced when Bruce doesn't order him up into the sky and instead stops pushing and starts pulling instead, brings them back out onto the sidewalk under the illumination of the streetlamps. Bruce is faintly pink across his cheekbones but somehow looks otherwise unruffled, running a hand through his hair as he strides to the curbside. He manages to hail a cab immediately.

Clark looks a mess, if his reflection in the cab's window is anything to go by.

The driver asks where to. Clark waits for Bruce to assert himself, as usual. It'll be the Met Grand—or the Lexor, maybe, just to mess with him—the Presidential suite either way, all sleek polish and glass and chrome, unpriced wine and attentive room service, but Bruce just waits for him with a questioning lift of his brow.

"Feel like roughing it tonight, huh?"

"Doesn't hurt to know how the other half lives, Mr. Kent." His smile is infuriatingly urbane.

Well, if that's how he wants to play it. Clark tries not to take it personally. He directs the driver to Clinton Street.

The journey is short but borderline unbearable. Bruce drapes his arm over the back of the seats like the world's least subtle cinema date, his thumb brushing the nape of Clark's neck. Clark remains achingly hard for the duration, and from the way the passing streetlights cast their filtered light over the pinstriped folds in his slacks, so does Bruce, but he chats amicably with the driver about the weather, the game last night, and the slow, even strokes of his thumb don't falter even when the subject turns to the Superman and his miraculous return to life.

It gives Clark some time to collect himself, enough breathing space to let it sink in for a minute—they're going to do this, this is real—and then, of course, to start overthinking things. The Bat handles Superman with a generous measure of suspicion and caution because that is his nature. Bruce Wayne, however, has little reason to be circumspect when it comes to the assiduously ordinary Clark Kent. Could be that simple, but seems unlikely.

The masks have not been set aside here, just new ones laid on top. Another game, another set of rules. Clark understands this, at least: break them and the charade, whatever its purpose, will crumble. They'll part with the same tension they do on any other night. The stakes aren't devastating if he fails; Bruce is, by all appearances, superb at compartmentalizing and has contrived enough distance that Clark could weather it, given time.

Clark also understands: Bruce wants this enough to construct a scenario around it. Maybe because he can't risk it being too real, or maybe because he gets off on forcing Clark to hold back, his game like an invisible restraint. Honor bondage. Control.

Or maybe, Clark thinks, maybe he just doesn't know how to do this unless he's being somebody else.

In the morning that might seem pitiable. For the time being, though, it's—

Clark shifts in his seat, glancing over at Bruce's face, at his austere profile. Bruce glances back. Clark lets out an unsteady breath, and thinks—hopes—if Bruce Wayne is a performance, that it's an indulgent one.

Bruce's thumb caresses Clark's neck once more, slight drag of a manicured thumbnail that leaves him shivering, then the cab is drawing up to the curb.

*

The door to Clark's apartment slams shut and Clark slams Bruce against it in turn. It forces an exhale out of him, a groan, and then he grins a sharp, knowing grin. Clark is suddenly taken with the idea of fucking him into the drywall. From what he knows about Bruce Wayne, the hedonist, the adrenaline junkie, it's not much of an extrapolation to assume he likes it rough sometimes.

Bruce tests the grip Clark has on his wrist. "Stronger than you look," he says. Clark hears the caution and slackens off a bit, only to lift Bruce's hands above his head and pin them there instead.

"I work out." Clark tries to not sound like a douche but with only partial success—it's probably not even possible with a line like that, but Bruce laughs at him anyway, as though it's not obvious that he's an inveterate gymrat himself. Clark kisses him to shut him up. Bruce smirks his way through it.

"Well," he says, once he's done pulling Clark's lower lip through his teeth. "Going to give me the tour?"

"Sure. This is my hallway," Clark says, and leads Bruce through to the dark of the living room. He doesn't bother getting the lights; with the drapes open there's enough ambience from the moon and the street for Bruce to not trip over anything. "And here's my couch."

He pushes Bruce down onto said couch. Bruce sprawls his legs wide and smiles languorously up at him. His head tips back as he starts unfastening his shirt from the bottom upward. "Is that it?"

Maybe he was expecting a drink first. All Clark has is some milk that's on the turn and a bottle of Bud Light that's been in the fridge since he moved out of Lois' place. Clark can imagine the face he'll pull at that, so he'll just have to go thirsty.

"For now," Clark says, and slowly straddles Bruce's thighs. He digs his fingers into the knot of his necktie and pulls at it, more clumsily than he means. Bruce gets his shirt mostly undone, spread open around him, just the collar held in place by a yard of charcoal silk. Clark could tear it like it's made of cobwebs. He leashes himself, his hands shaking with it. "I want you here."

Bruce moves him aside and unfastens the tie himself with a series of efficient tugs, and Clark pulls his collar away, leans in to span his mouth over Bruce's bared throat in a wide, messy kiss. He smells faintly of lipstick and a citrusy perfume, and the liquid soap from the restroom. Like he'd already encountered his chance to leave earlier in the night.

Clark feels the wrench of desire in his chest, and something uglier twining through it. He scrapes with his teeth, bites the base of his throat.

The noise Bruce makes is guttural. He arches against Clark's mouth and manages to shed half his shirt while he does, one arm trapped in a sleeve. Clark grabs his shoulders as he tries to shake it out, more interested in the taste of his neck and mouth for now, tightens his grip to keep him still, to just let him—

Bruce's moan is bare with pain, even as he's surging into it.

"God, sorry," Clark says in rush of mortification. There's a bruise clouding Bruce's arm, already yellowing enough that he can't have caused it, but he's leaned over to get the lamp before he's processed that it must have happened last week, when—

"No, don't—" Bruce says urgently, just as Clark snaps it on. "—stop." He sinks into the upholstery with a disgruntled sigh.

"Whoa," Clark says, impressed enough that his surprise sounds genuine. He traces the circumference of the bruise with his fingertips. Bruce doesn't make a sound this time, just draws his mouth into an impassive line. "What happened?"

"Ever been hit with a jeroboam of wine?" Bruce says. "Don't let anyone tell you that women are the fairer sex."

"I thought a drink in the face was more traditional."

"It was a... proportionate response."

Without his shirt, Bruce is littered with scars; testament to his thrill-seeking, his recklessness. Judging from his behavior Clark might have found the only thing he's self-conscious about. He wonders if the beautiful people he takes to his bed are offended when he insists on doing it in the dark.

Clark's fingertips glide up his arm, passing over a snarl of scarring on his shoulder.

"Automobile accident, back in '97," Bruce says without further prompting. He pushes Clark's shirt off his shoulders; apparently Clark hasn't managed to ruin the mood too thoroughly. He throws it down onto the floor and leans over to kill the light again, then rests his hands at Clark's waist.

"Nasty," Clark says, and kisses it, chasing his tongue over the ripples of healed skin.

Bruce inhales and tightens his grip on Clark's hips, rocking up against him, just once, briefly. "You have no idea," he murmurs.

Clark's hand slides down his side, following a raised seam across his ribs.

"Fencing mishap."

"Fencing." Clark takes a moment to imagine Bruce in a tight-fitting suit and a mask, poised for combat, and finds it redundant. "And this one?" It looks all the world like a bullet wound.

"New Year's, couple years ago. I tripped and fell on the companion set. Specifically, the poker."

This one, a minor incident in the R&D labs at WayneTech. That one from rappelling in Brazil, another from skiing in France. Here, he fell out of a tree as a kid. It was a very tall tree. The stories get more prosaic, his delivery more bored and Clark finally understands that he isn't so much self-conscious as he doesn't want to spend his evenings explaining his body instead of getting laid.

So. Clark drags his thumb across Bruce's nipple instead of finding another scar, which Bruce seems to appreciate a whole lot more, his breath catching and deepening. "You get yourself into a lot of scrapes," Clark says, just about managing to make it more suggestive than accusatory.

One corner of Bruce's mouth turns up. "I'm hoping this will be my tightest yet."

And—of course, someone like Bruce Wayne would make that assumption. Clark doesn't bother checking his annoyance.

"Or not," Bruce says, smooth but not quite ameliorating. Clark grudgingly forgives him, just a little, when he leans in to bite delicately at his earlobe. His voice has lost all of the flat disinterest of earlier, his register dropped into a dark strohbass. "What's your pleasure, Kent?"

His voice rumbles through him, and Clark forgives him the rest of the way. He hadn't considered much further ahead, just that he was hard and so was Bruce and it was good to touch him. Fumbling, kissing, rubbing until the inevitable happened—it seems hopelessly naive in the face of Bruce's raw lust.

"Alright then," Bruce says, and idly kisses Clark's ear. "I'll go first. Consider it an exchange of ideas." A small pause as Bruce licks his lips. Then, conversational: "I'd like to suck your cock. Would you like that?"

Clark's dick jerks, hard. He tries to swallow, his mouth dry. Apparently he would like that, yes. Quite a lot.

"Sounds good," he says faintly.

"Good," Bruce says, a laugh and easy eye contact as he grips Clark's thighs, encouraging him off his lap and to his feet. His hands slide up to unfasten Clark's belt and button and zipper.

For all of his control, Clark can hear Bruce's pulse accelerate as he palms him through his underwear. Clark gasps and presses into it, and Bruce immediately moves both hands to Clark's hips and starts mouthing at him instead, wetting the fabric. That warrants more than a gasp. It makes Clark choke on his own breath and lean over, bracing himself on Bruce's shoulders. He's not sure how Bruce's mouth can feel even hotter than his dick right now, but god, it does.

Bruce noses at him and takes a deep, greedy inhale, then sits back. He casts around until he comes up with his necktie, and loops it once around Clark's wrist. "May I?" he says.

Clark's never been—not in play. Bruce waits, outwardly patient despite his escalated heartbeat, until Clark nods.

"Turn around," Bruce says, soft but intent. "Hands behind your back."

Clark does as he says. The silk tie slips around his wrists, sleek and cool and so slack that he could free himself easily without using his strength. In fact, he has to hold his wrists a little apart so it doesn't slide right off. Either Bruce Wayne isn't good with knots, or he is expecting Clark to exercise a lot of restraint.

Bruce sweeps his hands over Clark's shoulder blades, fingers spread, exploring the musculature of his back as he works his way down. His hands are rough, unexpectedly calloused for someone who wears so much fine wool, and Clark—he exercises that restraint, shivering. Bruce's thumbs catch on the band of Clark's underwear and skims them off his hips and to the floor. Clark feels his warm breath and then the prickle of his stubble as he kisses the small of his back, hands completing their journey over the curve of his ass.

"You do work out," Bruce murmurs.

He thought he would sit and spread his legs so Bruce could get on his knees between them, but Bruce keeps him on his feet. He gets Clark to turn while he sits on the edge of the couch and closes his eyes, rests Clark's dick against his lips. He purses them tight, guiding Clark by the hips and encouraging him to push, to force his mouth open around him. It makes Clark think about—he's doing it on purpose, Clark realizes. Bruce wants him to think about how it would feel to be inside of him.

Clark groans and drives his hips and Bruce takes all of him with ease, like the god damn showoff he is.

Which doesn't by any stretch mean it's not working for him. If he had his hands free, Clark would have fistfuls of that silvering hair and would hold himself there in the tight grip of his throat, feeling him swallow. He clenches his fingers.

"My god. Bruce," he says, voice cracking. Bruce looks up at him, nose squashed to his stomach, eyes sharp and mouth stretched wide. There's sweat beading at his hairline but he still manages to look eminently pleased with himself.

Clark can feel his breath coming in controlled bursts from his nose, warm over Clark's skin. Then he moves, drawing Clark out and swallowing him again in a tight rhythm, cupping and squeezing Clark's balls as he does. It's incredible, the wet heat and flex of Bruce's throat, his quiet surety, the way he seems—not into it, but so into Clark being into it. Clark feels his knees start to go, a dull roar building in his ears. If his hands weren't bound he'd be covering his mouth to stifle his moaning but he bites them back instead, embarrassed by the noises that do manage to escape him.

It's a lot, so much all at once, and—

Tonight is likely a one-time thing. Bruce Wayne is known to have the odd lengthy dalliance, but he doesn't have them with people like Clark. And Clark—he desperately wants things to last longer than this.

He makes an apologetic sound that was meant to be actual words and pulls himself from Bruce's mouth. The soft drag of his lips, the accidental scrape of his teeth almost puts paid to him and he pitches to his knees, dick heavy and wet between his thighs.

Bruce holds him steady, one hand on his shoulder. "Too much?" he asks. He's wry, but he's also touching himself, the heel of his hand pressed firmly over the fly of his pants.

Clark blows out a breath and laughs. His face feels like it's burning up. All of him does, and it doesn't seem fair that he's the only one naked. He shakes off the tie and scrambles forward to unfasten Bruce's belt with more aptitude than he'd give himself credit for at this point. "Hold on, hold on," Bruce says and then lifts up to help Clark to pull his slacks and underwear off together.

As ever, Bruce's reputation precedes him, and Clark finds it's not all exaggeration. His cock is as substantial as the rest of him, flushed and shining with precome. He watches Clark watching him and it twitches against his taut stomach.

Clark runs his fingers over the length of him, hot, soft skin jumping under his touch. Bruce hisses through his teeth when he thumbs under the head. Clark leans up to kiss him, slow and shallow, and it feels scorching between their bodies.

"So, had any ideas?" Bruce asks, still maddeningly smug.

"Yeah," Clark says. "One or two. I want—" he slides his fingers down, lower. "This."

Bruce inhales sharply though his nose at Clark's touch, then exhales a slow, thoughtful breath. "You want to fuck me?"

"Yeah."

"Say it."

"I want to fuck you."

"And you think," Bruce says, gruff in a way that pulls the entirety of Clark's arousal into focus, "I'd let you do that?"

It's still a rhetorical question. Clark answers anyway, as much as 'please' repeated a half-dozen times is an answer. Bruce's returning grin is as as lethal as a knife in the dark. He takes a hold of Clark's wrist and brings his fingers to his mouth, wets them with the slick, soft turn of his tongue, and then guides him back down.

Clark feels the resistance of Bruce's body and the sudden give as he pushes in, up to the first knuckle. His pulse throbs against Clark's fingertip. His head falls back against the couch cushion and for the first time this evening his composure slips and stays slipped, the set of his jaw easing, like maybe he's done laughing at Clark for now.

"Do you have anything?" Bruce says hoarsely. Then, "No, wait. Not yet." He hikes an ankle onto Clark's shoulder, cants his hips up off the couch, bringing Clark in to the next knuckle. His stomach muscles clench. "Clark," he says, not a command or an admonition, just his name.

Clark almost folds him in two in his eagerness.

It forces the breath out of him on a harsh groan. Clark curls his finger and Bruce's body jerks and tremors at the slight variations in his touch. It's riveting to see this kind of cause and effect, a few rare pages from this closed book of a man

Bruce says his name again, still with that conspicuous neutrality, but a touch frantic, like it's all he can think to say and it's startled him. Clark flattens his hand over the thigh that's not sweating against his chest, the hard ridge of a scar riding against his palm, and he pushes his legs apart as he works inside him, and further again, because Bruce is flexible. Bruce can handle it.

And Bruce says, "I can take more."

He's not who he was earlier this evening by a significant margin—insolence blunted as a different edge is honed—and who is he, really, when he's like this? Clark sure as hell doesn't know, so he trusts him to know what he's asking for. Three fingers worked deep. Bruce makes a rough sound in his throat but he takes it and doesn't stop demanding even when Clark manages to slip his smallest finger in alongside, too. It can't be—that much so quickly is unforgiving, but Bruce still asks him for more.

Clark takes a quick breath, connects a few dots and takes a gamble, angles Bruce's thigh and brings his hand down fast. The crack of it echoes off his apartment walls.

It pays off; Bruce tightens hard around his fingers and catches his breath, and lets it out again in a rattle. Clark smooths his palm over his skin and then does it again. And again. And again, until his palm actually starts to tingle and Bruce's solid thigh is red and warmed, until he's clawing at the upholstery and shamelessly fucking himself on Clark's fingers and then, then Clark slaps his face for good measure.

It's alarmingly gratifying, but there'll be time to self-examine later. Bruce's eyes are dark and round and glittering, drunk on indignation and lust; he gasps like he's been socked in the stomach.

He grabs Clark by the hair, pulls him down for a vicious kiss, if it can be called that with so much biting involved. "Now," Bruce grits out, and bears down on his lower lip. If Clark were anyone else he would be bleeding by now. "I need you to—"

"Okay," Clark says breathlessly. "Wait." He hauls ass through to the bedroom and scrambles through his nightstand drawer. He's back in a barely reasonable timeframe, but long enough for Bruce to have spread out on the couch, head on the armrest and strong legs splayed, arching as he thrusts two fingers into himself.

Clark's knees dip the couch cushions; he drops the lube and proceeds to endlessly fumble with the condom until Bruce grabs it and flings it. He just about manages to get slicked up before he's being pulled over and in, and for all his hard edges, Bruce yields readily. Clark's spurred on by heels in the small of his back, Bruce's thighs braced tight around his waist, hands clinging to his biceps, his shoulders.

Bruce's eyes are screwed shut, breath coming in harsh jags between his gritted teeth. He looks so agonized it's almost worrying. "God," he says, exploded on an exhale. He kicks at Clark with a heel. "Move."

Clark does, by incredibly slow degrees, and Bruce stops looking pained and starts looking absolutely furious. It's hard not to laugh, even harder not to grind him into the couch. Clark intends to keep it up as long as he can bear it, but it's Bruce who gives in first, for a given value of giving in. He mutters into Clark's neck, "I know you can do better than this."

Clark isn't one to disappoint. He does ever so slightly better, and weathers Bruce's glare.

"I'm not a delicate flower, Kent," he says, darkly amused.

"I noticed." Clark grins and fits his hand into the crook of Bruce's shoulder, against the tendons of his neck. "But maybe I am. Maybe I want it slow and romantic."

He doesn't know if he's confessing or needling, only that he wants to get under Bruce's skin the way Bruce has gotten under his.

A look of abject horror passes across Bruce's face. He tucks it away swiftly. "Don't feed me that bullshit," he says. "You want the bruises as much as I do."

That's not true—not strictly, not of the Clark Kent he sees in the mirror every morning, but maybe of the man who is still savoring the impact his palm can have. He reminds himself that his relationship with violence is not a simple one. He can see Bruce's pulse hammering, the rapid vibration of it in his neck, and idly brushes his thumb over it, then smothers it with his hand. Bruce sighs, and it's the most extravagant sound he's made all evening. It resonates against Clark's palm; he rubs the underside of Bruce's jaw in an unbidden rush of affection.

"It's not bullshit," he says softly, and then tightens his grip.

Suddenly Bruce shifts and makes Clark pitch forward and redistribute his weight onto his hands, onto Bruce's neck. His breath falters but he doesn't make a sound, so Clark finds his balance and then leans a fraction harder, his thrusts kept slow and controlled only through the sheer bloody-minded stubbornness Bruce often accuses him of. Bruce's throat bobs in a failed swallow. He sips in a thread of breath and Clark can hear the rush of his blood, the hectic pound of his heart. His bones may as well be spun glass, his skin as fragile as a soap bubble, and he knows it. It's clear in the tension in his face, the bright, guarded apprehension in his eyes.

He pins Bruce like this and fucks him with slow, full strokes, watching his face as it flushes, listening to the tiny bubbling sounds of his breath as he fights for a mere sip of air. He only lets up when Bruce clamps an urgent hand around his wrist. While he's gulping and panting, Clark kisses him as tenderly as he dares, and then backhands him hard enough to split his lip.

Bruce comes, swearing hoarsely and tightening hard around Clark. His face is difficult to watch. It's too immediate, uncomfortably vulnerable like catching a glimpse of him behind that crumpled helmet, so Clark finds himself focused on the flex of his stomach instead, the helpless jerk of his cock as he spills over it, his harsh, ragged breaths.

Clark gets his knees under him and grabs his hips, goes deep, fast—here are your bruises, he thinks, abstractly—and barely enjoys the climb towards orgasm because he's panicking about whether he should pull out, whether coming inside of Bruce would be a step too far in this intimate one-upmanship.

Bruce decides it for him; he keeps his thighs tense and ankles crossed, deliberately anchoring Clark in place until he mindlessly drives himself deeper and collapses under the weight of his own climax.

He gets about five seconds of resting his cheek against Bruce's sweaty chest in a post-coital haze before Bruce comes down from his like a plummeting anvil. He pushes Clark up off him with the arch of his foot against his hipbone, a string of hard little pants escaping as he extracts Clark, whose dick will resolutely refuse to soften for another ten minutes. Clark was hoping for at least that much afterglow, but Bruce rolls himself up off the couch.

Clark watches in disbelief as he picks up his shirt and shakes it out. His stomach and the inside of his thighs are damp; there are marks blushing across his hips.

"I have a meeting first thing," he says in an affect that is flatter than Kansas. He wipes at his mouth and looks blankly at the smear of blood on his fingers.

Bruce chose to do this here to keep Clark on the back foot, and as he steps into his pants, gingerly pulling them up, Clark suspects he's deeply regretting the decision. Much easier to kick someone out than to leave in a hurry with dignity intact. A numbness is settling in the pit of Clark's stomach, like he's sick with inevitability.

"You can use my shower," he tries.

"That won't be necessary," Bruce says, fingers twisting his shirt buttons through their holes. "I have one at home."

Clark hitches himself up off the couch and catches Bruce's wrist. He freezes, then tries to shake him off. Clark doesn't let him—he lost the thread of their pretense at some point, Clark's not sure when. He's pretty sure Bruce did, too.

"Don't," Bruce says.

"Bruce—"

"Do not."

Clark relents. He watches as Bruce continues to put himself back together, one piece of armor over another until his intransigent core is hidden and only the man from the gallery remains.

He thanks Clark with an awful, brittle kind of charm before he leaves.

*

Clark knows that the quiet after a fight is the part the Bat likes best. Clark lets him enjoy it for about five seconds before dropping out of the sky like a meteorite.

"Intergang," the Bat says without preamble, as though this isn't the first time he's flagged him down in three goddamn weeks. Avoidance was not a characteristic Clark would have attributed to him until now. "Your city is leaking."

The Bat's breath is consciously slowed, his heartbeat dampened by the suit's biofeedback support. Clark can tell that he's been fine-tuning it. He says nothing, goes to one knee and rolls the nearest perp over onto his back. He recognizes him as one of Mannheim's men.

He looks up in time to catch the Bat's eye, just before he glances away.

"Okay," Clark says with a sigh. "I'll get on top of it."

Dawn is insinuating itself between Gotham's architecture, casting long, ripe shadows. Time to wrap up. He'll drop these guys at the nearest precinct, and... he looks over to the Bat and finds he's outright staring at him. The morning wind licks his cape in casual theatrics.

"What?" Clark says, impatient.

"Make sure that you do. I don't have time to deal with your sloppiness."

"Is that it?" It's all very pointed for what amounts to his standard-issue grumbling. Clark glares right back at him. "What's the problem?"

"It's nothing," he says, curt, still looking. Then the Bat—then Bruce rolls his shoulders, swallows. His throat clicks. "You remind me of someone. That's all."

"I have that kind of face," Clark says.

Bruce huffs, perhaps a laugh, perhaps static on the modulator. Some of the tension seeps out of him, either way.

"Hell of a line, though," Clark says. "Maybe you should try telling him."

"Wouldn't want it to go to his head."

"Just cut him down to size again. It's hardly an inconvenience for you."

Bruce opens his mouth, then closes it again.

"And you never know," Clark says mildly. "He might even be into it. A little."

"...right," Bruce says. He aims his grapnel, pauses for a moment in something Clark is certain couldn't possibly be bewilderment, and swoops into the lingering dark.

*

Clark raises his glass and negotiates the tightly-packed floor, awash in a sea of black tie and diamante. A man steps into his path with courtly indifference, jostling Clark hard enough that the champagne fizzes up the flute and over his hand. Some of it runs under his shirt cuff.

"Sorry," Clark says absently, shaking droplets from his fingertips. He looks up. "Oh—Mr. Wayne. Good to see you again."

The man—Bruce Wayne—plucks out Clark's pocket square and offers it back to him so he can dry his hand. "Excuse you," he says, and then creases his brow, genteel confusion that quickly transitions into an inviting arch of his eyebrows. "Have we met?"

***