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A dreamers nightmare

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CHAPTER 1: A DREAM OF HOPE

There is a little tale in Gotham.

A tale of lovers.

A story about tragedy and pain, that only would be considered romantic in the city.

They say that when a person faces a traumatic event in their life, they reach a turning point that shapes the way they will continue living for the rest of their life. This could happen to everybody, and it wouldn’t be important if it was just one person. But if there’s someone else; a stranger that will know a similar amount of pain in the exact same moment, sharing that heart wrenching instant, their souls would be linked for eternity. Because only they would know pain the way the other felt it and could help them become whole again.

Bruce had never thought that those stories were real. He never believed the ancient lore that spoke of sharing dreams and nightmares with a perfect stranger.

He didn’t believe, until he dreamt of a blue-eyed boy.

Fall 1986.

It was their funeral. They were walking to the Wayne crypt, and Bruce couldn’t keep going.

He had felt like breaking and now, he was falling.

He’d known the cave was down there, he had known that running off like that would take him to the darkest part of the Wayne grounds. He just hadn’t cared.

He had run; away from the crypt, from the lifeless bodies of his parents, from the pitying looks of all the people that surrounded the Wayne name…away from pain.

He woke up with a start before looking around…he was not in the cave anymore. He was in a field of sorts, it didn’t look like Gotham at all but he felt like he knew the place, like it was home…just not his home. He groaned closing his eyes, why was he here? Where was he?

Martha

He felt a tremor run through his body as he heard his father’s voice echo in his mind. He didn’t want to think about her, not here. Not her pearls falling to the street, not her sweet perfume getting mixed with the steely smell of blood. Not her eyes losing their light. Nothing.

Martha

“Stop…please stop…” he sobbed grasping his hair and sitting on the ground. The echo continued, torturing him. Mocking him. He felt like he couldn’t breathe, like was drowning and he didn’t know how to reach for air anymore.

She was gone. She had been taken away from him. She had left him broken and alone.

Martha

“Why are you saying my mother’s name?” Everything stopped with a brutality that left him winded and dizzy. Bruce gasped. The pain was frozen, like all the waves of agony were suddenly awaiting to see who had spoken. He looked up to see a pair of the bluest eyes he had ever seen.

It was a boy.

Not older than a first grader. He had a head full of shaggy jet black hair and was looking at him quizzically with his pair of unreal eyes. “What?” He asked in a small voice, he felt slow and stupid. And for some reason, he couldn’t take his eyes off the little kid.

“You were saying my mom’s name…why?” Bruce blinked a couple of times before his brain decided to function again.

“It’s-it was…my mother’s name.” He explained and he felt his breath shortened once again when the boy beamed at him.

“My mom’s name is Martha too!” He jumped delighted, like only little kids could do. “I’m...” he moved his lips but no sound came from them. Bruce and the boy frowned. “I’m…” Again, same result. “Am I mute?” The kid asked. His big eyes frowning in his direction. “That would be a new one, my dad won’t be happy if I can’t speak.” Bruce had no idea what the kid was talking about but he was getting an idea about what was going on.

“I’m…” Bruce.

Huh.

“I think we’re not supposed to say our names.” The kid said and Bruce had to raise his eyebrows, he had figured that out but normally little kids were a little slow in their take of things.

“You can call me B.” The kid smiled.

“I’m C!” He crooked his head to the side. “You were crying.” Bruce hastily cleaned his face hating that someone had seen him cry, he just hoped that the little kid wouldn’t mock him for that.

“It’s nothing.”

“It’s okay. I cried today too.” He explained sitting on the grass and hugging his knees. “In the morning when I was in class…”

“What happened?” Bruce asked moving to sit in front of him.

“The world got too big…I was so scared, everyone looked scary and-and I heard all of them…they think I’m weird, that I’m a freak.” His voice was quiet and solemn. Suddenly older than he looked.

“You look pretty normal to me.” He simply shook his head.

“Mrs. Brenton says that I get panic attacks because I had a dramatic event before my parents got me.” Bruce bit his lip, he was sure the kid meant ‘traumatic’ event. But he refrained from correcting him, and even like that, he sounded like he was parroting something a psychologist had told him a thousand times. Like those panic attacks were normal…that people calling this adorable kid a freak, was normal.

“My parents died last night.” Bruce spoke feeling a big weight settle in his chest. Saying it out loud to a stranger made it too real. The kid made a pained noise and looked like wanted to hug him for a second, but refrained to do it. Bruce had ditched every fake consolation he had seen, but this boy looked so innocent and real, that he didn’t think twice before opening his arms letting the kid run to him and hug him.

A surprisingly strong hug for such a small kid.

“I can share my mom if you want to. Her name is Martha too and I’m sure she wouldn’t mind. She already took me in.” Bruce felt his face morph into a small smile. This kid.

“Thank you, C.” The kid smiled before sitting right next to him and letting his head rest on his leg. They kept in a companionable silence for some time, just feeling the breeze surround them.

“I’m tired.” C murmured.

“I don’t see anything, is your house around?”

“There is nothing around…my dad likes to bring me here on his horse.” The boy said as his eyes began to drop. “Your heart is better now. I didn’t like it before, it sounded hurt…” And with that odd comment, he fell asleep.

Bruce passed his hand through the boy’s hair and felt his heart ache for him, to be shunned away just because he couldn’t handle the world being big and still smile the way he did, and offer to share his mom to this older kid that was too broken to be good again. This kid was good, he was pure and Bruce fiercely hoped that he stayed like that forever.

The world shattered and Bruce sat with a start. He was in his room in the manor. No adorable kids around, just him and a pair of bruised hands. It had been a dream. C was not real.

That thought alone was enough to send all the pain back to him, like a merciless freight train.

He curled into a ball letting his tears run freely, shaking his body in anguish as he remembered being inside that dark cave, surrounded by the flapping of the bats and just being exhausted. Just being tired and wanting all to end.

Now he was not so sure.

Spring 1994

Clark followed his father to the barn. His heart was beating wildly, he didn’t know what he was expecting but he was already dreading that it wouldn’t be good. He felt that this moment would change everything forever…and he was not sure he was up for it.

Jonathan walked to the center of the room and pulled out a big rope, opening the tramp under the floor of the barn. Clark swallowed seeing a big thing covered with a large cloth in the bottom of it. “Come on.” His father said walking down the stairs…Clark hesitated for a second, letting the flashlight roam around before following. Once he was in front of whatever that was, he grasped the cloth and pulled it hard revealing what was beneath.

“We found you in this.” Clark froze. “We were sure the government was gonna show up into our doorstep.” He looked around it, trying to get his head around what he was seeing. “No one never came.” Gasping, Clark touched the…ship…his ship.

His father turned around and pulled out a small box that contained a black kind of rock. He gave it to Clark. “This was in the chamber with you…I took it to a metallurgist in Kansas state, he said that whatever it was made from didn’t even…”

Please no.

“It didn’t even exist on the periodic table.” He continued as Clark walked to the ship and used it to hold himself straight. Felling like his world was spinning out of control. “It’s another way of saying that it’s not from this world Clark. And neither are you” Clark let out a breath as his brain tried to keep up. “You’re the answer son. You’re the answer to ‘are we alone in the universe?’” He turned to look at his father…or was he really? Was he allowed to call him that when he was not even human?

“I don’t wanna be.” He told him.

“And I don’t blame you son…it would be a huge burden for anyone to bear.” He felt his father’s hand on his shoulder. “But you’re are not just anyone Clark and I have to believe that you were…that you were sent here for a reason.” Clark looked at him. “All these changes that you’re going through, one day…one day you’re going to think of them as a blessing and when that day comes, you’re gonna have to make a choice…a choice of whether to stand proud in front of the human race or not.” Clark sobbed overwhelmed by the weight that was settling in his shoulders.

“Can I just…keep pretending I’m your son?” He looked at the man and felt his body sag in relief when his father didn’t hesitate to embrace him.

“You are my son.” Clark grasped his jacket, sobbing into his arms. “But somewhere out there you…you have another father who gave you another name.” He took a step back to look at him. “And he sent you here for a reason Clark.” They both looked at the ship. “And even if it takes you the rest of your life. You owe it to yourself to find out what that reason is.”

Clark looked at the symbol in the crystal. An S. Was his real name something with an S? Or his last name? Did aliens even have last names?

“Come on.” His dad put the big cloth on top of the ship before pushing him to the stairs. Clark walked in a state of bewilderment. His head hurt, even if he wasn’t sure what a headache truly was; he felt a buzzing between his ears, like his brain had just too much information to take in, it felt heavy and convoluted.

He was tired. He just wanted to get to his bed and sleep forever.

“Hey baby.” His mother said seeing them walk inside the house. Her smile was sad…had she always smiled like that or was she freaked out because the kid she took as her son was an alien? “You look tired.” Her hands cupped his face and he closed his eyes. “Get some sleep, I will get dinner ready when you wake up.” She kissed his head. “I love you Clark.”

“I love you mom.” He whispered, too tired to speak more. He walked to his room and got inside the covers. He didn’t know what cold was like, but he was sure it felt something like this, hollow and confusing.

He closed his eyes and feel into a deep sleep.

“C?” Clark jumped. He had not heard anybody coming. “Is that you?” He turned to see a guy standing in the entrance of the barn. He looked older than he was, around eighteen…and Clark felt like he had seen him before. “I’m B, remember?” And like a spider’s web, his mind threated the buried memories of a lonely kid in a never-ending field.

“You are taller now.” Was all that Clark managed to say.

“So are you.” He smiled. His face had also changed with age, his eyes had darkened, his features seemed more adult…Clark looked down not wanting to seem like he was staring. “So…this is a barn.” B moved around the place, much like someone who had never seen the inside of the barn before. And Clark could see that, in the way his eyes shined with curiosity and the way his clothes looked…expensive and polished. He didn’t remember how he had been dressed all those years ago, he barely remembered him. But he remembered the feeling of something different in him, something that none of the people he knew had.

Money can shape people, he thought. Or maybe he had only felt that he was human, unlike himself.

“In the flesh.” He murmured from his spot on the ground. B’s sharp eyes landed on him, making him feel like an experiment under the microscope. He hugged himself and kept quiet until B decided to sit in front of him.

“Are you okay?” He asked, clasping his elegant hands in front of his face. Clark shook his head, refusing to look up. Maybe being an alien made him see imaginary people in his dreams. “Come on, you can talk to me.”

“I found out…something about my real parents.” Clark said before raising his eyes. “You?” B pressed his lips together before speaking.

“I ran away.” His shoulders sagged. “I couldn’t escape my parent’s ghosts…so I ran.”

“Why?”

“To find myself? To escape all the mistakes I’ve done…” He smiled ruefully. “I don’t really know. All I know is that I have to be away to get answers to the questions I don’t know how to ask.” Clark blinked.

“I don’t know if I can run as far as I need to go to get my answers.” B moved and before Clark had a chance to know what was going on, he felt his hand taking his chin and making him look at him in the eye. Clark tried not to think of the heat he felt through his fingertips, slowly moving to his body until it reached his erratic heart.

“You once told me about your mother. The way you spoke of her…it meant that you loved her and she loved you.” B’s voice was soft but strong.

“But I am not her son.” Clark managed to say in a breathless tone.

“Parents don’t choose their kids, but yours did. They saw you and decided that they wanted you for them. They do love you, I can see that even if I don’t know them.” Clark sighed knowing in his core that it was the truth. “Promise me something.” His thumb moved letting goosebumps in his trail.

“What?”

“Don’t be like me. Don’t run.” He took a breath. “If you need answers, look for them but keep your parents close. Treasure what you have, because there are others that would do anything to have that same gift.” Clack gave him a short nod.

“I promise.”

Fall 1995

“You don’t look good.” Bruce opened his eyes and met C’s baby blues. Even if he felt like complete shit, he found himself giving the teenager a small smile.

“I do feel like shit.” He answered. C pursed his lips before walking to sit in front of Bruce, who was in a meditation position, the same one he had held for too many hours. Maybe in his current exhausted state, he had zooned out so much, that his mind had recalled his little imaginary boy.

At least it was better to focus on him than the ache of his entire body.

“What are you doing?” The kid asked frowning at the tattered room they were in.

“I’m meditating…it helps me maintain control of my emotions.” Bruce explained taking a deep breath, letting in all the calm that came to him every time he dreamed with C. He should be more worried about conjuring an image of a teenager, but he felt so at peace every time he was with him, that he couldn’t fight it.

C grimaced and hugged his knees. “There is nothing worse than having to be in control all the time.” He spoke. “It’s exhausting…I would love to let go, to not care and just…” He closed his eyes. “Just be me for once.” Bruce frowned observing him a little closer. Last time he had seemed subdued and reserved, but this time he seemed angry and frustrated. One could think that this was normal teenagers’ behavior, but like himself, he had the feeling that C didn’t have an ordinary childhood…and that was thinking that he was somehow real and sharing dreams with him.

“Why don’t you?” Bruce knew his reasons to maintain control. There was just too much darkness in him, and he had to keep a leash on himself in order to…well, he was still figuring out why, but the point stood.

“Did you run away?” C asked as his eyes traveled through Bruce’s ratty clothes.

“I asked first.” The kid looked away and Bruce could see him trying to decide if he should answer or not.

“My father believes that it’s not my time…that I should wait.” He explained in a small voice.

“Patience is for the strong of mind.” Bruce nodded, the kid was too young to fuck up his life. And well, Bruce was not that much older than him, but his life had been screwed long before that moment and he was looking to fix it. “And I did…I ran.”

“Have you found what you were looking for?”

“I-I…I don’t know yet. I feel that I’m getting close. But I’m still not completely sure.” He grimaced. “Last time we saw each other, you told me that you found out something about your parents and I had just decided to run away.” C’s eyes narrowed. “The first time we saw each other, my parents had just been murdered and you had a terrible day at school…do you see the pattern?”

“Will I only see you when my life is fucked up?” Bruce’s eyebrows went to the sky and C’s crude words, he didn’t peg him as the kind of kid that cursed too much.

“It could be, but I’m not quite sure.” He clasped his hands in front of his chin. “The first time I saw you, yes, it was fucked up. But the second and now…I’m not exactly in the greatest moment of my life but also, it’s not the worse.” He passed his hands through his face. “They have been pivotal moments. Last time I was about to take action on a big choice I made, and now I’m about to do the same.”

“Yes but…why? I mean…” He looked down, his eyes filled with uncertainty. “All I have going on for me are bullies and farm chores.”

“Bullies. What happened?” Again, those eyes looked away. The kid was hiding so much, and he was getting good at it. Bruce was not sure how he felt about that.

“There are some guys at school that don’t like me…” He shrugged.

“I could teach you to defend yourself…” For some reason, this made him smile. It was not the beaming smile he had shown when he was smaller, it was more mocking and self-depreciating. It was not a smile Bruce liked to see in him. “Or not?”

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” He spoke, not losing that smile.

“Not every teenager can quote Plato to get out of answering a question.” This managed to transform his expression into an actual happy smile.

“Not everyone recognizes Plato when he’s quoted.”

“Come on smartass. Tell me.” Bruce looked at the kid in wonder, there was a lot more in him than what could be inferred by his shaggy hair and worn clothes.

“They have their own issues to deal with. I’m…okay. For now, at least.” He shrugged. “I think I know what kind of men I want to be.”

“And that is?” Bruce watched as the expression on C’s face relaxed, like a puzzle that had finally been put together.

“A good one.”

Bruce opened his eyes.

His limbs were stiff and aching. But he felt a thousand times more clearheaded than what he had felt in a long time.

A good man.

Bruce knew he was not good. That was one of the few truths he fully understood about himself. But, if there were other people around, people that dreamed of being good and real. People that didn’t want to fight because they cared about the ones that hurt them. Kids with beautiful eyes that seemed lost and naïve, but also a lot wiser than what they should be.

He wanted to be there for them.

He wanted them to have a future. He wanted to erase the shadows that clouded their faces morphing them into something that they shouldn’t be. He wanted to be one with the darkness, so he could keep it away from the light.

Bruce stood up with shaking legs and walked out of the chamber.

“You took your time.” An accented voice told him. He looked at the woman that had spoken, Talia al Ghul. She was as beautiful was she was deadly. She had promised to show him her ways, to show him how to gain the power he needed to become the force he required to continue his path. She and her league worked to make the world the best place possible. He had been hesitant to follow her, but now, after seeing C, he knew what his next step would be.

“I will go with you, to the league.” She smiled and walked to him, caressing his cheek with one hand before she moved to kiss his lips.

“I’m glad to hear that, beloved. My father awaits us.”

Winter 1997

“That is a hell of a growth spurt” Clark smiled trying control his excitement. It had been years since he had seen B.

“Late boomer.” He turned and almost lost his breath. Last time he had seen B, he had looked gaunt and so very tired. Now he looked well rested and his body had filled up with solid muscle. Clark knew he was not scrawny but he had a long way to go to get to what anyone would call muscly. “I was starting to worry about staying short the rest of my life.” B was wearing a series of black robes, they kind of reminded him of the mysterious lands of the east. Most people would look foolish or like they were getting ready for Halloween, but B managed to look regal and dangerous. The black simply accentuating his features making him look…really good.

“So…we meet again.” B walked looking around. This time they were in a room made of solid rock. It looked old and not very welcoming.

“How are you? For once, I’m good.” Clark shrugged. “The only thing I got for me is the winter ball.” B let out a laugh at that. He looked a little surprised about it himself.

“Winter balls…haven’t thought about those things in years!” He turned and sat against the wall and pointing next to him. “Come on! Tell me everything, do you have them in the school gym? You must be prom king! I mean look at you!” Clark snorted before sitting beside him.

“Yes. It’s all the corny stuff you see in movies.” Clark chuckled. “We have a theme; this year is The Nutcracker so I guess all the girls will go as ballerinas or something…we have punch that I can guarantee will get spiked as soon as we get there. There are people renting limos and going overboard with asking girls to it. We go all out!” He finished with a big wave feeling his cheeks burn as he felt B’s eyes on him.

“Sounds fun.” He said.

“It’s not.” Clark passed his hands through his face turning to look at the front wall. B’s sharp eyes were doing a lot of things to his body that he was not ready to analyze. “There are teachers around ‘keeping things PG’. Some horrible music by a local band, the decorations are way too cheesy and some people should NOT be allowed to even think about dancing! All you end up doing is sitting by yourself at the table to see everybody in the dance floor make a fool of themselves, and you can’t even get drunk to think they’re funny.” He swallowed trying to get his breathing under control. He had brought this to himself. Why didn’t he say that all he did was to milk cows? At least that way B wouldn’t be looking at him with the knowledge that he didn’t have a date…or actual friends for that matter.

“Why would you be sitting by yourself?” Clark swallowed and looked down. “C?”

“I’m nobody B. I don’t have a date or real friends…I just…” He let out a strong gush of air. “I’m not good with people.”

“You seem perfectly fine to me.” Clark jumped when he felt B’s hand on the back of his neck. How could he move without him hearing him first? “Look at me.” Taking a deep breath, he did. B was looking at him with those intense eyes, filled with intelligence and seemed to trap Clark inside them. “Any person stupid enough to turn you down, it’s not worth your time.” He whispered as Clark felt his breath shortened. When did he move this close?

“No…you don’t know me. I understand if they want to be away.” B’s hand moved to cup his jaw, leaving his thumb dangerously close to his lips. Clark had already kissed Lana more than once. They had gone out a couple of times and he had been so sure that he loved her. But not one moment with her had felt like this. Like he was breaking to pieces and burning at the same time. Like all the nerves in his body screamed for the same thing, to do something to be closer to him. “B…”

“Shh.” B moved to rest his forehead against Clarks. “Who are you and what have you done to me?” He whispered.

“B…” Clark managed to say while fisting his hands. He wanted something to ground him, but he was afraid of grasping B and hurt him. His breathing quickened as he closed his eyes, feeling B’s nose move next to his, right before his lips finally touched.

Once, when he was small. Clark flew for the first and only time. He barely remembered it, it had been so long ago. But he remembered the feeling of being weightless. Of simply letting go and control the energy that surrounded his body. For a long time, he had thought that that was the best feeling in the world…until now. His heart was erratic, his ears deaf to anything outside of him and B and the feeling of elation that wanted to consume him. He moved his lips, the smallest amount needed for the older guy to start moving his own. Guiding him through their kiss. Clark wanted to touch him, to feel his jaw work but he was sure he would…

There was a familiar pressure building in his head, behind his eyes.

“No!” He pushed B away and turned back as fast as he could. He put his hands in his face trying to control himself. Why? Why now of all times? Why couldn’t he be normal and simply enjoy a kiss for what it was?

“C?” B’s voice sounded strangled…he probably thought this was his fault and Clark wanted to tell him that it wasn’t, but it was taking a lot of him to keep his heat vision from reacting. “I’m sorry.”

Clark gasped as he woke up.

“No, no, no!” He moaned against his pillow in anguish. He blew it. He had ruined everything.

Did he even think he would’ve wanted him knowing that he was an alien? Probably not. He sobbed hating what he was. It wouldn’t surprise him if he didn’t dream of B again.

Spring 1999

After a little more than a year, Bruce got to see him again. They were back in the fields, C was lying in the grass with his eyes closed. He looked to be enjoying the sunlight, basking in it’s warm glow. His wild hair moving with the wind. God, he was so beautiful. Bruce pressed his lips together, almost remembering his taste, the feeling of pure bliss when they had finally kissed. He had been sure he had read all the right signs, until C had pushed him away. He had been so stupid! Clark had a southern accent, of course he was not comfortable with the idea of two men together, what had he been thinking?

“It’s your turn to talk.” C spoke and well, his voice was having changes too. Not yet the voice of a man, but enough to infer the kind of baritone he would get later in life.

“I…I went back. I am home now.” Bruce debated to go next to him but decided against it. Nothing good came when he got too close to the kid. “I apologized to…I guess he is like a father to me. And decided to do something with my life, something to make my parents proud.”

“Good luck with that.” C said, his tone flat. Before putting his hands on his face and groaning. “No, sorry. I’m being an ass and it’s not your fault.”

“What’s going on?”

“Had a fight with my dad. It seems like it’s been like it’s all we’ve been doing lately.” He sat up and Bruce couldn’t help but notice how he moved to keep giving him his back.

“C…about last time…” He forced himself to say before C got up and turned to him so suddenly that Bruce had to blink a couple to time to let his brain catch up…he was really overdoing it with the missed hours of sleep.

“No. I get it. It was the moment and seeing someone in your dreams does weird things to people.” C said shaking his head. “I shouldn’t have reacted like that…can we just call it a fluke and leave it alone?” Bruce gave him a sharp nod and C smiled, appearing to have lost some weight.

“Why are you fighting with your dad?” Bruce asked.

“I want to do some things in life that he doesn’t agree…you know, normal stuff to fight with your dad.” He shrugged.

“I don’t really know that…” Bruce said and was answered by a shell shocked look.

“I’m so…”

“It’s fine.” He moved to walk around. “I am used to it.”

“Still…I’m such an idiot. I’m sorry B.” He made an aborted move to step closer to him but seemed to think it further and stayed still. That half-step hurt a lot more than what his words had made him feel. Why did he let his walls down? Why was it so hard to keep his control when he was around?

Who are you C?

“It’s okay.” And for the first time in their odd-dream-relationship, the following silence was awkward. It seemed that neither of them knew what to say or how to act with the other. It was surprising how much Bruce hated feeling that with him. “Look…”

A beeping noise woke him with a start. Fuck no.

“Good morning Master Bruce. It’s past noon and you have a press conference to attend to.” Alfred’s matter-of-fact voice filtered through the darkness of his room before he opened the curtains letting in the scalding sun.

“Couldn’t you wait for five more minutes?” Bruce asked before putting his pillow above his head.

“I gave you two hours. Come on now, time’s running. The prince of Gotham has to make an appearance if that plan of yours has any desire to work.” Alfred was right, the mission was first. Bruce Wayne had to be back and out of the news if he wanted things to work.

Bruce sat and saw the sun making a rare appearance in Gotham’s sky. If he wanted to move things forward, he needed to know where C came from. He needed to know if he was part of his imagination -unlikely at this point- or if he was real. He needed to evaluate if he was harmless or if he needed to stop this. He swallowed the bitter feeling in his mouth at the prospect of never seeing those eyes again. It would hurt, but C was a sweet kid, someone with a pure heart that needed to be protected and the life Bruce was preparing himself to live, was not for him.

“Alfred. I’ll be traveling to China next week. Brucie needs a massage in the most luxurious spa you can find.” He spoke as he walked to the bathroom. He needed to talk to the monks and see what they could do to stop these dreams.

He just hoped he got to see him one last time.

Summer 2000

“I think you are my bad luck omen. Really.” Clark said as he saw a man dressed all in black walk inside the…mansion, they were in. The man smiled at him but didn’t step any closer.

“I asked about this you know.” B said. He was back to dressing like the rich man that he was. Expensive looking black shoes, slacks and shirt.

“About meeting people in your dreams?”

“Yes.” He clasped his hands behind his back as he walked a little more, like he needed to get his ideas in order. Clark waited for him, using the time to observe him a little closer. His back was broader, his arms and legs looked strong, testaments of long hours of training. His posture seemed a lot more…menacing. Like a tiger circling his prey. He looked like he had let out all that struggle that seemed to fill him in the past and replaced it with resolve. Clark felt his heartbeat increase at such display, he had never been able to let go of all the conflicting feelings their previous encounters had invoked, he felt like he couldn’t get enough of this enigmatic man. He found himself being excited and terrified each time he went to sleep. Hoping to see him and not make a fool of himself…again. “They told me that you were a product of my conscience. Someone my brain had decided to conjure to help me make the tough choices I had.”

“Your own Jiminy Cricket.” Clark smiled. He had thought about that too, but he felt that that explanation just didn’t feel right.

“If you can call a sullen teenager conscience, then sure.” He deadpanned making Clark’s grin grow.

The last time they had seen each other, it had been inside an old room, one door and no windows. Before that, it had been on the fields behind the farm and the barn. This time, Clark didn’t recognize the place, but he was sure that B knew exactly where they were, and it didn’t bring him any happy memories, speaking from the way his eyes looked right through the mansion, never really seeing where they were.

“Did you get any other explanation?” It was a lot easier to focus on this talk than to remember why he was dreaming with this guy again. To remember why he was thinking on making the same choice B had made six years ago.

“There is a legend…that speaks of bonding souls through pain.” He pursed his lips. “I am not a fan of metaphysics, but once you have eliminated the impossible...” He shrugged.

“Whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” B gave him a small smile. “Yes, still a nerd.”

“I have nothing against you being a nerd.” B chuckled. “But yeah. Yet again, I’m at a crossroads and you are here…”

“With my life fucked up.” Clark had to take a deep breath as he tried to swallow the wave of grief that threatened to consume him. B kept quiet. He could hear him walk around, even if his steps were almost too quiet, like he was trained to hide them from the human ear. Clark decided to speak before he had the chance to say anything. “I’m leaving.” B stopped.

“Are you sure?”

“I’m sure that I can’t be still anymore. I’m sure that I’m suffocating.” Clark looked at B and saw understanding.

“Keep in touch with your family.” Clark felt the whisper of a smile touch his lips.

“Always.” B nodded and finally looked around.

“This is my parent’s house.” He explained and it was enough to understand why it bothered him so much.

“What is going on with you?” The other man shook his head, his eyes guarded once again. Then he took a deep breath and looked at Clark in the eye. His eyes were intense, bleeding a thousand emotions and showing the light of determination. Maybe he wouldn’t talk about it with him, but Clark knew that he had finally found his path, his answers.

“I know who I am. I know what I am and I know my mission.” He took a breath. “If you are my own mind speaking to me, mission accomplished...if you are a stranger in my head, this needs to stop. For both of our sakes…and well, I know how to stop this. How to keep us from getting into each other’s head.” And didn’t that hurt. It shouldn’t, he was a guy he had seen a handful of times in his life but at the same time, he was the guy that knew him the best. Clark wanted to tell him that he was still lost, now more than ever. But he would not ask him for more, not when he had been someone to listen when he’d needed someone to.

“Then this is good bye.” Clark smiled trying to mask the pain that tried to rip his heart open. His arms itched, like they were screaming for him to reach out and touch him, at least once, before they were parted forever.

Using every amount of control he had mastered in his life, he stopped.

“Goodbye C.”

Clark opened his eyes to the vision of his black suit.

“Clark, honey.” His mom knocked the door before opening it. Her eyes were swollen and red, but she managed to smile at him. “Hey baby.” He moved to sit before taking her hand and pulling her towards him, to hug her at her waist. Damn, she was so small.

“I’m sorry mom.” He whispered against her stomach, feeling his own tears start to gather.

“None of that my boy. We both know it was the only choice. Your father w-was a very determined man, he knew the risks. We both knew them, the minute we took you in…” She began caressing his hair.

“Still…I should’ve…”

“Stop.” He did and took a chocked breath. “Don’t blame yourself…and Clark.” She moved until she was kneeling in front of him. “We both know you won’t last long in this place, you have to find your own path.” He shook his head.

“I don’t want to leave you alone.”

“Son, you can run faster than anything I can think of. And you know how to find me.” She kissed his forehead. “I know I can count on you to be here when I need you son. But every bird has to fly away from the nest…it’s time you do it.”

“I love you mom.” She stood up and took his hand.

“And I you, my beautiful boy. Come on, time to go.”

Summer 2016

Clark was at the gala on Perry’s orders. He hated these events, he hardly even knew who 89% of the people were. He loved ground work, making a difference…investigating the truth. But no, it was a library and he was a nerd, easy conclusion.

“I need to get one of those drinks.” One of the other reporters said as they waited in the entrance. Clark smiled, alcohol didn’t work on him but he could understand the need for something to help them get through the night.

Thump-thump, thump-thump

Clark stopped moving and listened closely…a heartbeat.

Thump-thump, thump-thump

A heartbeat he felt like knowing, familiar…like it had come from a dream.

Sucking a breath and feeling his own heart going haywire, he turned to see an Aston Martin arriving at the scene as Clark felt his world shake to his core.

B looked older now, sixteen years could do that to a person, but Clark knew he was the same, he knew that the man walking towards the entrance was the one he had seen in his dreams. The one he had tried to forget all these years.

He also had been the one that decided to ditch him the moment his life had been better. Not even caring that Clark had felt completely lost or that he might need someone close while he tried to make sense of things. But for some reason, he did not care. He just wanted to see if B remembered him, if those dreams were not just some product of this alien physiology playing tricks with his mind.

“Who’s that?” He managed to ask sounding his throat.

“You must be new.” The guy spoke in a condescending tone. “That, is Bruce Wayne.” And as he said it, B…Bruce, walked right beside him, not even giving him a glance. “Prince of Gotham and heir of Wayne enterprises…or well, in name. Lucious Fox is the one that handles the accounts but pretty boy over there is the one with the name.”

“Thanks.” Clark spoke before walking inside just in time to hear Luthor’s speech…he surely hoped that Perry wouldn’t expect him to quote any of the bullshit that guy was spewing. His head was all over the place, filled with the steady heartbeat of the one man that could shift his world with his mere presence.

“Mr. Wayne!” He called once he saw him in the center of the room. Bruce was looking at a stunning woman in red, and even as conflicted as Clark felt, he couldn’t fault him from being distracted by her. “Mr. Wayne.” Clark smiled hoping to catch his eyes, except they weren’t the pair of piercing hazel eyes he remembered, they were dull and seemed to be hardly interested in him. “Clark Kent. Daily Planet.” He introduced himself putting his hand for him to shake…Bruce’s handshake was so mild that Clark had barely even felt it.

“Oh, my foundation has already issued a statement in support of a…books.” He said looking around.

“Excuse me?” He felt his stomach drop, was it too much to hope for a little spark of recognition?

“Well, pretty girl, bad habit, don’t mind me.” Bruce grinned passing his sight right through him and still not looking at him.

“What’s your position on the bat vigilante in Gotham?” Clark asked trying to keep himself in character. Bruce gave him an unimpressed onceover.

“Daily Planet…wait, don’t I own this one or is that the other guy?” His tone was mocking, uninterested and so far away from the rich voice he remembered.

“Civil liberties are being trampled on in your city. Good people living in fear.”

“Don’t believe everything you hear son.” He spoke in a condescending tone.

“I’ve seen it Mr. Wayne… he thinks he’s above the law.” The statement didn’t seem to sit right with him.

“The daily planet criticizing the ones that think they’re above the law is a little hypocritical, won’t you say?” He grinned. “Considering every time your hero saves a cat out of a tree you write out a puff piece editorial about an alien who, if he wanted to, could burn the whole place down and it wouldn’t be a damn thing we could do to stop him.” Clark felt his chest contract at his words. They alone would hurt but spoken from his lips, were excruciating.

“Most of the world…doesn’t share your opinion Mr. Wayne.” He forced himself to say.

“Maybe is the Gotham city in me, I mean we just…have a bad history of freaks dressed like clowns.” Clark pressed his jaw trying to get a hold of his emotions.

“Boys!” They both turned to see Lex Luthor making his way towards them. “Bruce Wayne meets Clark Kent, ha! I love it! I love bringing people together! How are we?” He shook Bruce’s hand before going for Clarks.

“Hi, hello Lex, it is a pleasu-ouh! Wow!” Clark let go of his hand chiding himself for not controlling himself. Luckily Lex took it in stride and made an odd comment about picking fights. Then he started talking to Bruce about their lab work and…

That’s seven minutes.

Clark turned to look at Bruce, he was sure the voice came from his ear. A quick scan to his head confirmed it. What was going on?

The transfer is complete.

Corporate espionage? Wayne industries had never had any of these types of scandals and before today, he would say that B was not capable of doing so…but now, having met Bruce Wayne, he was not so sure.

“Until next time.” Bruce spoke before walking away. Clark waited a couple of seconds before following his path…and of course, the world had needed superman in that moment and he had to leave before he could see what Bruce had been doing in the servers.

Maybe it had been for the better. The world seemed hellbent in pulling superman to pieces, now it was not the time for him to obsess about ghosts from the past. He already had too many of those hunting his every breath without adding Bruce Wayne to the list.

And of course, that was when he heard the blasting sounds of gunfire in Gotham. For a moment, he had been tempted to stay, to lay low for a little while. But he knew the Bat was out there, he knew that the man that had helped for so long…had gone rouge. Killing as much as the killers he had put behind bars.

Clark was beginning to feel the strain of working to change the world, to save people. He could understand that mistakes could be made, but with the Bat, there was desperation, cruelty. Even the people he had interviewed were hesitant about him. Like he was a fallen hero, like he had been something great that now was rotten and broken.

He followed the persecution sounds and stepped right in the path of the Bat’s car. He wanted to give him an outlet, a warning, for all the good he had done in the past. Superman walked to the wrecked car and stepped on top of it.

Thump-thump, thump-thump

No.

Thump-thump, thump-thump

Please no.

Feeling his gut clench painfully in his chest, Superman moved to rip open the doors. And there he was, in all his Batman glory. The man that had understood his mission sixteen years ago, the owner of those assessing eyes that seemed to be trying to rip Superman to shreds.

“Next time they shine your light in the sky. Don’t go to it.” Superman spoke, suddenly hating the man in front of him. The killer that had told him to his face how much of a danger Superman was to humanity. “The Bat is dead. Bury it. Consider this mercy.” Superman turned around, ready to leave and forget all about Bruce Wayne and The Batman.

“Tell me.” A modulated voice stopped him. He knew that if he concentrated enough he would hear his actual voice, but he didn’t bother. It would make things a lot harder. “Do you bleed?” Clark looked at him and suddenly couldn’t stand there anymore. He flew.

You will.

Clark had gone back home, had tried to shake Bruce’s words away, but like anything related to him. It had been futile.

“You are too quiet.” Lois whispered next to him. They were in their bed, her head on his chest as he played with her hair.

“I try to stop it from bothering me, but there are days that…” He shrugged not wanting to get much into detail. “I won’t stop. I have already contacted the army before, they seem to trust me…to an extent, but the people. I need to reach them.”

“The hearing.” She sighed. She knew what Clark wanted to do. He wanted to put himself out there, to have his face be seen and his side of the story to be told. “I love you.” Lois moved to kiss him and he kissed back thanking the universe for giving her to him. She had known who he was from the very beginning, she had seen him at his worst and best. She was all that he needed to endure this.

“I love you too”.

The next day, he arrived at the justice hall after speaking with his mother. She had known exactly what to say, and she was right. He didn’t feel like he owed the world, he simply knew that he wanted to give it his all. That he wanted to make a difference.

To be a good man.

He had expected all the yells and insults, he was ready for them, what he hadn’t considered was one man. A man crazy enough to blow up a full court and end innocent lives for his own purpose. Clark felt the last tendrils of hope slip through his fingers. He had been distracted, trying to run from the past and living the life designed by a ghost. He took a second to regroup before flying to find survivors, he soon discovered that there were more dead than living. And it was his fault.

He fled to the mountains. To the place where he could get the closest thing to silence. In there he remembered the last trip he had taken with his father. He had been shaken up about the sudden reveal of his…alienhood. Each night dreaming of himself with extra limbs, big eyes and people with pitchforks.

He remembered being in front of a fire and his father telling him a tale of the dead horses. And with a small, frightened voice he had asked Do the nightmares ever stop? Jonathan’s answer had been simple. His wife had given him faith, his wife had reminded him that there was good in the world.

“I miss you dad” He told the sky.

And that had been the moment everything had gone to shit.

Lex Luthor had played him…had played Bruce. And now he has looking at the calculating eyes he had treasured in his dreams, as he felt the sizzling pain of the spear cutting his cheek. His whole body was in agony, his lungs on fire and his muscles trembling. Whatever that was, it was making him weaker and weaker. He took a deep breath, that soon turned into a sob.

He was going to die.

His vision got blurry as he thought of his mother, the woman that had taken in a boy from another world. A woman that had loved the little monster that had picked up a tractor to show her a mouse. The woman that had been there for him his whole life, and he was going to fail her. She was going to die because he hadn’t been strong enough to kill a man that had once meant something to him.

My mother’s name is Martha too.

The little kid crying in the fields. Did any part of him still exist?

“You are letting him…kill Martha.” Clark forced himself to say. Batman froze. Clark sobbed as the pain intensified.

“What does that mean?” Bruce asked. He looked confused, the was still hope. “Why did you say that name?”

“Find him!” Clark managed to say. His vision darkened, but he made himself continue. “Save Martha!” Bruce’s eyes seemed far away but more human than ever.

“WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME?” He yelled and even in his state, Clark could feel the confusion and desperation inside him. “MARTHA! WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME!”

“Clark!”

Lois.

Clark tried to stay awake. Focusing on the voices of the people around him, but the pain was too strong. “WHY DID YOU SAY THAT NAME!” Bruce roared once again.

“It’s his mother’s name!” Lois said, putting herself between Clark and Bruce. “It’s his mother’s name.”

And finally, Clark saw what he had been craving to see ever since he met Bruce Wayne.

Recognition.

Chapter Text

 CHAPTER 2: A DREAM OF LIFE

 

China, spring 1999

 

“I thought it would take longer to see you again Biānfú.” An accented voice spoke behind them. Bruce smiled and turned to look at the old man sitting on the ground, he was dressed in bright orange and seemed to be simply enjoying the sun.

 

“I had to find my way Shīfu.” He bowed to him in salute. “Alfred, this is my master, Shīfu Li Shou. Shīfu, this is Alfred Pennyworth.” The monk stood up and offered a bow to the other man.

 

“An honor to meet you Mr. Pennyworth. Bruce spoke highly of you.” Alfred returned the bow.

 

“I’m afraid this is the first time I hear of you, but Bruce has not been back long enough to tell me of his…experiences.” He looked at Bruce in a way that he could fully read as Shàolín, really? Bruce smiled and shrugged.

 

“I’m sure he will tell you, in here he always spoke about the man that raised him. I tried to guide him into our life in the temple, but this one has a lot of things holding him to the world.” He turned to Bruce. “Come.” He walked to a small shack not far from there. They went through it until they reached a patio where they found other monks either meditating or quietly talking to each other. “Please be seated, I have to finish my chores and will be back soon. A young one will bring you some tea.” He showed them to a spot beneath the shadow of a tree.

 

“Thank you, Shīfu.” Bruce nodded again, the man returned the nod and walked away. Bruce swallowed before turning to Alfred. “They found me after I was…mugged. Li Shou took care of my wounds…and he must’ve seen something in me because he accepted to train me when I asked.” The older man’s eyes narrowed, telling Bruce that he understood that whatever had happened to him, hadn’t been a simple mugging. “This was the last temple I visited. I stayed here for a little more than a year before I understood that I had to go back. That Gotham was my life and I had to do whatever I could to make her good again.” A couple of young monks walked to them with a tray of tea and cookies. “Thank you.” Bruce poured a couple of cups before they started drinking them in silence. It was unnerving that Alfred hadn’t said much, but he was willing to give him his time to process things.

 

“Bruce.” Li Shou spoke before sitting in front of them and pouring his own cup. “What troubles you?” Bruce took a breath and started speaking.

 

“Ever since the day of my parent’s funeral, I’ve been dreaming of a boy. He is about five years younger than me.” Bruce looked down thinking. “I don’t know his name nor he knows mine, every time we tried to speak them, no sound came from our mouths…he has grown with me, gone through his life as I have gone through mine.” He pressed his lips together, keeping his eyes on the ground. He felt stupid talking about his dreams like this, but the two men around him were the only ones he would trust to tell out loud. “He feels real, foreign and yet…closer than anyone I know.” He looked at his master’s eyes. “Do you know anything that could explain this?”

 

“It could be as simple as something your mind has given you for guide. Like me and Mr. Pennyworth…” Li Shou took a sip of tea as his eyes looked at the far end of the room. “Do you see him every night?” He asked as he put his hands together beneath his chin.

 

“No. I’ve only seen him five times…I’ve seen a pattern. We only see each other during pivotal moments, when we have to do something important or because we have a traumatic experience.”

 

“I will tell you something, that I know you will not believe.” He took a sip of tea eyeing him in a way that Bruce knew too well, they had had their fair share of discussions about mysticism and legends of spirits and magic. “Línghún bànlǚ.” The Master smiled. “Souls, that bond through pain, are the biggest testaments of love.” Bruce felt his gut clench. “They find each other, so they can endure the agony as one.”

 

“What does…that mean?” Alfred asked breaking his silence.

 

Línghún bànlǚ. Some call them kindred spirits, there for the same goal. Others, more romantic and greater believers like to call them…”

 

“Soulmates.” Bruce interrupted him in a chocked voice. “Shīfu…that…”

 

“I know you don’t accept this…but like I’ve told you before, the spirit world surrounds you, it believes in you.” He finished his cup with a sigh. “That is all I can give you for an answer. Now, I need to return to my duties…You can stay for the night, you must leave at sunrise. You know the rules.” He stood up and bowed to them before walking away. Bruce tried not to yell at him to come back, to tell him a different answer…one that didn’t terrify him this much.

 

“You mother loved an old Gothamite tale.” Alfred’s voice interrupted his musings. “It’s as old as all the gargoyles in the city... It speaks of two lovers, united by pain. A man that lost everything he held dear in a devastating fire; and a woman, betrayed by her lover just before her wedding. On a night of pain, their souls found each other through their dreams. They helped the other heal and fell in love in the process. They say that their souls called for their beloved so loudly and for so long that they were able to meet in the real world.”

 

“I don’t believe in fairy tales Alfred.” Bruce shook his head, hating how the stories of the old man made his heart race.

 

“And yet, you believe in this one.” The man put his hand on Bruce’s shoulder. “I won’t tell you what to do, but I will tell you, that love is hard to find and if you feel a strong connection, you should follow it.” He stood up.

 

“Even if I manage to find him, you know what my life will become, I won’t put him danger. I won’t change my mind.” Alfred sighed and looked up, his version of an eyeroll.

 

“I spoke out of pure hope, Master Bruce.”

 

“Always a pleasure to disappoint Alfred.” Bruce chuckled before standing up. “Come on, I will show you the visitors rooms.”

 

“Bruce.” He turned to look at the buttler. “Thank you. You didn’t have to show me or explain your past to me, and yet, you did.” Bruce looked down and remembered his own words to C, don’t let your family go. Be aware of what you have.

 

“I want you to know me Alfred, you have been my father longer than Thomas was… Thank you for being here for me.” The man seemed shocked for a second before regaining his aloof English mask.

 

“My pleasure, Master Bruce.”

 

Gotham, summer 2016

 

My mom’s name is Martha too.

 

Heavy footsteps echoed in the cave. A broken man walked through it. A man that had lost his family. A man that lost himself, to the point where he couldn’t even recognize the face behind the mask. “Master Bruce?” Alfred’s voice seemed far away. He didn’t listen to it, he just continued walking as he removed his cowl.

 

I found out…something about my real parents.

 

He stood before it, the suit. His son’s suit. The death of Jason had ripped him to pieces, he hadn’t made it in time. He had been so close and still couldn’t make it. He’d tried to save him and ended up failing him in the worst possible way.

 

And now…he had lost someone else.

 

Blinded by hate, fear and rage. He had attacked the only man that…the only one that…Bruce took a chocked breath letting his forehead rest against the crystal. It was his fault. He was gone because of him.

 

“Bruce.” Alfred was next to him, his hand on his shoulder. “What happened?” Bruce took a breath and closed his eyes.

 

“Superman…is dead.” He managed to say before his mind spun with his own words, turning his next breath into a stifled sob. His body trembled.

 

Bruce…please. I was wrong, you have to listen to me.

 

He had known who Batman was…whom Bruce was. A curse escaped his lips, the gala at the library, it had been odd to be approached by another reporter, one that seemed hellbent into having an actual conversation with Brucie Wayne…he had been so blind.

 

“His sacrifice saved the world.” Bruce shook his head.

 

“Alfred, he…” He couldn’t even bring himself to say it. His mind was whirling trying to connect everything.

 

Superman and Clark Kent

 

Clark Kent and C

 

C and Superman

 

They were all the same man. The one that had plagued his dreams even when he became a feeble shadow created by Bruce’s imagination.

 

“It’s his mother’s name!” Lois Lane put herself between him and the alien. “It’s his mother’s name.” And like it had happened all those years ago, everything stilled. His heartbeat was loud in his ears as he forced himself to look at the alien again. To see the one that begged him to save his mother…nothing had prepared him for the shock that was to finally focus on those unreal blue eyes.

 

No. He took a step back not missing how Superman had sagged in relief…that was wrong, Superman shouldn’t look like that. He was an alien, He was almighty…he was…The boy in the fields. The swollen teen in the barn. The beautiful man that had given him hope even when he felt there was none. The one Bruce had abandoned for the sake of his mission…the one he could not forget…the one he had been too scared to love.

 

Línghún bànlǚ

 

If only he had listened to him. If only he had been in his right mind and not thinking of protecting the earth form a monster while he turned into one…they could’ve stopped Luthor in time, they could’ve…saved him.

 

“Bruce…what is happening?” Alfred was still there. Patiently waiting for him to get a hold of himself.

 

“Remember my dreams…the tale of kindred spirits and soulmates?” The butler frowned before giving him a small nod. “It was him Alfred.” The color disappeared from the older man’s face. “It was him.” Alfred sighed and lowered his head. He did not speak.

 

What could he possibly say that Bruce hadn’t already told himself a thousand times?

 

“Go to bed, Sir.” Alfred’s hand moved to the nape of his hair. “There is nothing you can do now.” Bruce grimaced before turning around. He looked all the things the Bat had done when he still had hope. When he still dreamed of being a hero, on making things safe for good people. The time when he didn’t let his emotions get the better of him, when he could focus on what was important.

 

Ha had fought. He had killed. He had betrayed people that he loved. But he could still go back, he could rebuild that person that he once had been. He had to.

 

“No.” He took a deep breath and felt the humid air of the cave fill him in. He felt his heart beat with a type of resolution that he hadn’t felt in years. He had to fix things. He had to make sure that Luthor stayed behind bars. He had to make sense of that crazy vision. He had to find a team.

 

He pushed back the ugly tendrils of pain that threatened to cloud his mind. He took them in and morphed them into resolve, he was going to do this. He was not going to fail him. Not again.

 

“We have a job to do.”

 

It was dark. Bruce looked around feeling a shiver run through his body. It was cold. He began walking forward, trying to let the darkness behind, trying to know where he was…until he saw a shadow. There was someone there. A man.

 

Clark.

 

Feeling his stomach twist, Bruce stopped moving. He was dressed in the same suit they had buried him, standing in the middle of the oppressing darkness that surrounded them. Bruce passed his hands through his face.

 

God, please no.

 

Seeing him there, pale and unresponsive made his heart scream in agony. His eyes were dulled and unseeing, losing all the blue and replacing it with grey. His hair was perfectly combed back, no room for those curls that screamed to be touched. It was like a shadow of the man he had been.

 

He was walking. Aimlessly it seemed. Not seeing, not speaking, no reacting in any way. Simply walking.

 

Bruce fell to his knees, unable to keep his eyes away from him. It was hard to breathe; the atmosphere was thick and too humid. It made his lungs feel like they were on fire, begging for air. He didn’t care, he only watched him wander in the darkness.

 

Bruce screamed.

 

He cursed the world and himself, feeling hot tears run down his eyes. If the spirit world had given him a gift, this was their punishment for not knowing how to take care of it. He deserved this, an eternity of pain and sorrow, for keeping an irreplaceable light form the world he had wanted to protect.

 

SPRING 2017

 

Gotham

 

“He said he’ll fight with us?” Diana asked while they were looking at Arthur Curry’s file.

 

“More or less.” Bruce sighed. He could still feel his back aching from the way that beast of a man had manhandled him to the wall…not his proudest moment.

 

“More-more, or more less?” Diana turned to look at him.

 

“...Probably more less.” Bruce looked down.

 

“He said no.” She nodded.

 

“He said no.” He confirmed as both of them looked back to the computer. They had been looking into that man because the princess believed him to be part of the elusive Atlanteans, an ancient civilization that held great power and had large armies…perfect for battling otherworldly treats.

 

Bruce had to stop a second at Atlanteans, but having a Greek Goddess sitting on his couch after burying a super-powered man from another planet…managed to keep him up to pace with her explanations.

 

“Then, I guess it’s you, Barry and me.” She dwelled. “We need to find Victor Stone.”

 

“Barry will help me get into Star Lab’s database, to see if we can find anything on Stone’s whereabouts.”

 

“Then, I leave you to it.” She smiled before she took her purse. “Try to get some rest, Bruce…” She looked down and swallowed, making him frown. It was strange seeing her act as something other than her put together and secure self. “It’s been eight months since his death...”

 

“No.” Bruce stood and looked at her in the eye. “Just don’t.” She pressed her lips together.

 

“Denying your time of duel will only make it harder…believe me, I know.” The storm in her eyes told him that she knew. Far better than what he could imagine. But before he could say anything else, she gave him a sharp nod and walked out.

 

Bruce exhaled. She was right. He needed to sleep. But every time he had managed to conceal anything remotely close to a slumber, he was there. Simply there, unseeing. A ghost that couldn’t find the light and was penalized by wandering the dark for eternity.

 

Passing his hands through his face, Bruce walked to his meditation mat. At least that would help his body get some rest. He took off his shirt and sat prior taking three deep breaths and murmuring the mantras his master had taught him.

 

He was standing in a dark room…he felt suffocated.

 

No. He couldn’t fall asleep. He just needed to relax his muscles.

 

It was cold…his toes itched…his legs ached, he wanted to run away…he couldn’t move…

 

“Fuck!” Bruce yelled letting his head fall to his hands. He needed to move. He stood up and shook his arms while he jumped a little. What was that? Those techniques had never failed him. But he felt so anxious and trapped inside the house. “Alfred!” He called knowing that the computer would communicate him with the older man. A couple of seconds later, one of the monitors showed the butler in the kitchen.

 

“You called, Sir?”

 

“I’m going to Metropolis.” He spoke, not really knowing where the sudden need to visit the city had come from. But he was not going to fight it. If he could not relax enough to sleep or work, at least he could pay a visit to the monument.

 

And like every other time he had gone there, he refused to analyze why seeing that empty gasket calmed him so much.

 

“Very well.” The connection ended. Bruce put on a shirt and a jacket before going for his motorcycle. He felt that he couldn’t stand the entrapped space of the car.

 

It took him almost an hour of driving in the rain, but he was there. Cold to the bone and shaking. Standing before his emblem. The house of El.

 

What was he doing here?

 

At least the day was shitty enough that not many bystanders were around. It would look odd to have an egocentric billionaire completely soaked in water, looking at the memorial like it had the answers to the universe. Bruce huffed a small laugh. He was getting more and more insane.

 

He needed a drink and a lot of pills.

 

Of course, in his new-found resolution, he had taken everything and threw it in the sewer. He had regretted that decision a thousand times. But even if he felt like shit, he felt good at the same time. Sharper and healthier than what he had in a while.

 

“You know, there are these amazing artifacts for the rain. They are called umbrellas.” A voice said at his right. Bruce snorted and looked to the side where Lois Lane stood. It wasn’t the first time they had seen each other there, but it was the first she had approached him.

 

“Hard to keep one when riding a bike.” He answered as he watched her put a white rose on top of the memorial.

 

“True.” She hugged herself. “What brings you here today, Mr. Wayne?”

 

“A ghost that won’t leave me alone Mrs. Lane.” He answered truthfully, knowing that she was too sharp for lies.

 

“Well, he was a very stubborn man.” She nodded. “The whole world against him, and he never complained. He simply took it in and continued doing his thing.”

 

“An idiot too good for this world.” He spoke without much bite making her smile.

 

“Some say that you shouldn’t speak ill of the dead.” She admonished but he could see that she didn’t think his words were too harsh.

 

“It’s not an insult.” She hummed before narrowing her eyes.

 

“There is more to that. More to you and him. I can feel it…but I won’t look into it.” She blew a little air to her hands, Bruce noted that she was no longer wearing her engagement ring. “I will go abroad for a while. I came to say goodbye…maybe it’s time you do it to.” She took a breath. “We all make mistakes, the fact that we regret them is what makes us better persons…his words.” She nodded at him. “Mr. Wayne.”

 

“Mrs. Lane.” She walked away. He looked at the memorial one last time.

 

If you seek his monument, look around you.

 

And he did. The place was not as crowded, but there were people around. People in silence, thinking and mourning. There were loners, like himself. That looked at the crest with awe and determination, making silent promises to the man that had given his life for a world that hated him. There were couples, standing next to the hundreds of flowers that still surrounded the place. Murmuring their love in this place of peace and serenity.

 

He remembered the insecure teen he had kissed. The one that had huffed at being called the prom king, the one that told him that he was nothing, that he ended up alone anyway. How much he wished he could be here to witness what he had brought to those people. The hope that filled every person that walked by, knowing that if a hated man could save the world, they could go though one more day.

 

Bruce let out a breath, before putting on his helmet and going back to Gotham. It was time for the Bat to go out.

 

He was back in the darkness, seeing him wander around. Lost and cold.

 

And like every other time he hed dreamt of this, Bruce couldn’t control his sorrow. In the real world, he was able to tame his emotions, send them back in order to function correctly and move on with his mission. In here it was impossible. In this place of infinite darkness, he had nowhere to hide.

 

He fell to his knees. How he wished he could turn back time. To take the spear and go against the monster himself. He was a simple human, he was expendable. “I’m sorry.” He whispered, feeling tears run down his face. “It should’ve been me.” He sobbed letting his forehead touch the ground. It felt like a reverence, something he had been terrified to see directed at Superman…how foolish he had been. “How can I miss you like this, if I didn’t even know you?” Bruce asked before looking up and feeling his breath hitch.

 

Clark was standing right in front of him, those vibrant blue eyes, very much alive and fixed on him.

 

Bruce woke up with a gasp. His heart beating like he had run a marathon. He moaned against his pillow. He could somewhat stand those dreams with a ghost, but having those eyes directed at him, was simply too fucking much. Bruce took a couple of shaky breaths as his mind wrestled to push his nightmare away.

 

He looked at you.

 

He shook his head ignoring the voice in his head. It didn’t matter. He was dead, gone. Bruce couldn’t give himself the luxury of losing his mind like this. With a curse, he sat up and walked to his shower. He had work to do. He had to find the team, his gut told him that he had little time before things went to shit again.

 

The next days were hell. No matter how much he tried to distract himself with work, research or anything, he couldn’t get those eyes away from his head. They had been so…alive. Fuck. His mind was bailing out on him and he couldn’t do anything to fight it. He had tried the techniques he had used in the past, when he locked him away, and they had been futile. The dreams just became sharper…and his eyes got clearer.

 

He just needed a nice crime in Gotham to take out some steam.

 

“Bruce!” He frowned and walked to the kitchen where Alfred was preparing dinner. The butler was looking at the TV and when he saw what was in it, Bruce felt his heart stop.

 

“Reports are all around the city…these…things…aliens? Are taking hostages!” The reporter was saying as the camera zoomed at the winged creature that was carrying a screaming man. But the action was not what made Bruce stop in his tracks, it was the monster.

 

Those creatures, were the same ones he had seen in his vision.

 

“Alfred, get the fox ready!” He yelled while running to the cave to put on his suit. “Wonder woman!” He yelled at the computer.

 

I’m on my way!” Was what Diana answered before ending the connection. Bruce knew that Barry would be on his way too, he worked at the police station, it was impossible for him to not know about this.

 

Batman put on his cowl and had to take a second to close his eyes. The world needed Superman to fight these monsters, but he was gone; and now it was his duty to do everything in his power to keep the world safe. He would not let Superman’s death be in vain.

 

Smallville

 

Darkness…suffocating and cold. That was Clark’s world now.

 

“I’m sorry.” He knew that voice. His heartbeat. His scent. Who was that?

 

He opened his eyes and it was the same, he was still surrounded by blackness. He wanted to scream, to run away from it. He felt his body burning.

 

Please. Stop this.

 

“It should’ve been me.” No…that was wrong. He knew nothing but this. Whoever that was, he was important.

 

Move! Just do something!

 

“How can I miss you like this, if I didn’t even know you?” And like being pulled by the sea, he was suddenly in front of him. Seeing him. The man was on his knees…he was crying. Why? Why was he calling to him? Why did his suffering made his chest ache?

 

The man looked up and everything shattered.

 

Clark took a deep breath. He felt his body spasm and twist, not used to needing air at all.

 

He tried to move but soon found out that he was stuck in a very small space…what was this? Gasping, he forced his hands to move round, they were wobbly and numb. All he ended up doing was to hit them against whatever it was that had him trapped. His movements turned erratic…what was going on? Why couldn’t he get free?

 

Focus

 

Taking a shaking breath, Clark tried to hone his senses. To calm himself. What was the last thing he remembered?

 

Bruce

 

He swallowed, noticing that his throat was dry as a desert. Wherever he was, he had been here long. Fuck, what about his mother?

 

Martha won’t die tonight.

 

Yes. Batman had saved her. And then…Doomsday. The monster. The warrior. The spear.

 

Pressing his jaw, Clark maneuvered his hand to his chest…nothing but his beating heart. How? Had he cured himself? That meant that this…that this was…he had died and they had buried him. His breath stopped. His mother had buried him.

 

Shit.

 

He felt a stab of pain across his chest. His poor mother didn’t deserve this. She was strong, but no one should bury their husband and son. He had a lot of things to ask forgiveness for.

 

Lois.

 

He groaned. He needed to get out. He pushed in front of him, feeling his muscles tense and scream in protest. They had not been used in a while. For how long had he been in here? His stomach dropped in fear of that answer. No. No time for that. He had to push.

 

Yelling a silent scream, he forced the gasket to open, letting all the dirt surround him, dulling his senses to the maximum. For a terrifying second, he felt himself freeze, shocked by the lack of noise, vibrations, anything…then, little by little, it started. He could hear worms moving around. The roots of the trees creaking against the ground…the faint sounds of life making their way to him. Feeling a renewed sense of calm, he moved forward.

 

The sounds were getting stronger. He maneuvered through the dirt sensing how his whole being vibrated as he got closer to the sun. A little more. Finally, after what it felt like an eternity, it’s warm light touched him.

 

He coughed as he crawled fully outside the dirt, before he looked up and around, there was no one. Letting his head sag down he watched at his hands, grasping the soft land underneath them…and let out a rather hysteric laugh.

 

Fucking shit. He just crawled out of his own grave.

 

He gasped before sitting down and looking at the stone in front of him. It felt surreal. Of all the things, he could do, cheating death had never even occurred to him. Did this mean that he would never be able to die?

 

Yeah, he was too confused and fucked up to even think about that now.

 

He looked at his legs. They felt weird but he could move them without problem. It was time to try to stand. Pressing his jaw, he moved until he was on his knees, and little by little he moved until he was standing. Good, his legs were shaking but maybe he just needed some adjustment time. He took a step, still ok. He moved to take a second step and just when he was about to try a third one, his knees gave out and he fell to the ground. Annoyed, he laid back with a huff. Maybe he needed a little more sun for this.

 

Moving his eyes around he recognized the place; his father’s stone was a couple of meters behind him. It was not too far from the farm, he just needed to get some more energy to go back…he surely hoped he wouldn’t give his mother a heart attack. Martha Kent was made of the strong stuff, she would be shocked for sure, but she would get over it. Just like every other time Clark had found a new ability.

 

He waited for a long time. Letting his limbs lose the stiffness that seized them, letting his confused mind try to make a sense of things and try to remember everything he could. He let out a breath, it was time to try again.

 

This time, he had no issues taking the first steps, he already felt a lot better. He took a breath and began the slow walk home. It was good that he knew that place like the palm of his hand, he was not so sure of his sense of orientation for the moment. His hearing kept going back and forth, making his perception of distance a little difficult and he was feeling more and more nauseous, but it wouldn’t be long before he got to the farm.

 

Fuck, it was like when he was six all over again.

 

After what it felt like an eternity, he saw it. His home. It looked much like it had looked before. The garden was taken care off. And the crops seemed healthy. Maybe he hadn’t been gone that long.

 

“M-Ma?” He yelled, forcing his dry and raspy throat to work. He smiled when he heard Hank’s bark before the front door opened. And there she was, beautiful as ever…she was so tiny and fragile, and yet, he knew she was one of the strongest woman he could ever meet. “Mom…” He smiled seeing her gasp and put her hand against her mouth. He wanted to run to her, hold her, and tell her how sorry he was for making her suffer like this. But he knew he couldn’t move or he would scare her.

 

“Clark…” She whispered seeing Hank run towards him, his tail waving and his barks happy. Clark moved to touch the dog. “Oh…” She sobbed before running to his arms.

 

He held her close. Neither of them caring about the muddy state of his clothes. He just wanted to feel her there, like she had been his whole life. “Mom.” He whispered. “I’m sorry…mom.”

 

“Oh, you stupid boy!” She admonished him, putting her forehead against his chest. “I knew you would do big things, things that would put you in danger and I accepted that…don’t be sorry for saving all of us.” He smiled feeling his own eyes start to tear. He was so tired.

 

“Thank you.” She took his hand and pushed him towards the house.

 

“Come on love, let’s get you cleaned up.”

 

Central City

 

“I need 25 double burgers and a three-day nap.” Barry said as he limped to his couch while the rest of the team filled up the warehouse.

 

“And a shower.” Diana spoke with a grimace looking at the state of her body, it was filled with dirt and dried blood. At this, Barry jumped back up.

 

“The bathroom is here, if you want to clean up a little.” He showed her the way. Bruce sighed and rolled his shoulders, those things had been a hard thing to kill. And still they had failed to save a lot of people.

 

“You should rest.” Victor Stone spoke next to him. The bright side of the whole event. Victor had shown up to the fight, and had agreed to come and speak to them, tell them what he knew about the creatures.

 

“Not now.”

 

“I can see your body status, you should sleep, or your will clash.” Bruce set his jaw, he knew the boy was right, but he did not want to sleep with all of them around. Not when those eyes haunted his every night.

 

“Listen to him Bruce.” Diana spoke, walking back with a small towel in her hand. “Or meditate at least.” Bruce sighed and removed his cowl. He had made sure to update all of Barry’s security when he had last visited, this place was almost as safe as his cave.

 

“Victor, what happed there?”

 

“They are called parademons…or at least, that’s what I can translate from their language.” He moved to the main computed and plugged one of his fingers to the frame. A series of symbols started appearing in front of their eyes. Then images, drawings and video feeds of the attack. “They are scavengers, they came looking for…fuel. Or at least that’s what they call humans. Their brains are empty, they only have room for orders…I couldn’t gather much.” He looked down. “I know enough to sense that they are coming for me…or at least, what I’m made off.” He opened his arms. “My father used some sort of alien tech to keep me alive. A box. It took my body and made me into this…computer.”

 

“Neat.” Barry smiled before zooming in front of Victor. “Call me Flash, or like my friends call me, Barry Allen.” He took away his mask. Victor looked at him for a moment before smiling and shaking the offered hand.

 

“My name is Diana of Themyscira.” The princess nodded at him. “Or you can call me Wonder Woman.”

 

“And I know who you are.” Victor walked up to him. “Bruce Wayne is the Batman…even if I tried to sell this to a magazine, I don’t think they would believe me.”

 

“Exactly.” Bruce walked to the computer, trying to make sense of what he was seeing. “Alien tech…kryptonian?”

 

“I wish.” Victor sighed. “But no, it’s something else but I haven’t been able to crack it yet. It’s stopping me form looking much into it for some reason. Other than that, I can control everything at will.”

 

“Seriously, that is so neat.” Barry continued, barely keeping his voice at normal speed. “You have a super computer in your body. Do you understand what that makes you?”

 

“A freak.” Everybody stopped at Victor’s crude words. Diana frowned but before she could say anything else, Barry moved to clasp his shoulder.

 

“A freak among freaks, becomes normal.” He shrugged. “We don’t care that you are different. You’ve seen what’s outside, if being a freak allows you to help like you did…allows you to save lives. Then being one is a great thing!” He clapped once. “Superman died saving the world that told him he was a freak. That he was an outsider…he didn’t care, and neither should we.” Victor hung his head before giving him a rueful smile.

 

“You’re right…we made a great team, didn’t we?”

 

“Hell yeah, we did! Now, I’m starving! Come on, let’s see what’s left on my fridge.” He turned to look at the two older ones. “If you get hungry, come upstairs. I’ll leave you to it.” Barry and Victor walked to the upper floor.

 

“I think Barry needed someone closer to his age in the team.” Diana spoke with a small smile. “I never get tired of his energy.”

 

“Speak of yourself.” Bruce grumbled going to sit in Barry’s favorite chair. Yes, he knew the kid would mop about it when he came down, but he needed something to ground him after such…inspirational speech. And the chair was very comfortable.

 

“You like him.”

 

“Liking him and not being tired of him, are two different things.” He passed his hand through his face. He was beat.

 

“Why aren’t you sleeping Bruce?” Her voice didn’t leave any room for arguments. She was worried.

 

“Every time I do it, I see him.” He looked at her, feeling much older than he had felt in a long time.

 

“You have to let go. Losing someone important to you, marks your spirit. But we mustn’t let them control us for the rest of our days.” She hugged herself. “You know my story. You know why I left humanity alone…do not lose yourself like that.” Bruce looked down, he didn’t know how to explain to her that those nightmares felt real, like all the other times he had dreamt of seeing a boy in a farm.

 

“I need to get back to Gotham. Tell the others to keep their eyes open. I will see what I can make up of all the information Victor uploaded into the computer.” She narrowed her eyes before nodding. “Diana.” He took her hand. “Thank you.” She smiled.

 

“Like Barry would say, that’s what friends are for.”

 

He was in the cave…he clearly remembered going back to bed and try to sleep. He was dreaming again.

 

“Is this…is this the batcave?” Bruce stooped moving. Stopped breathing. That voice. “Well, now I can see why you were excited at the barn, this is very different.” No. no. no. no. “Are you just going to ignore me?” The voice was closer now, just behind him. He closed his eyes and began chanting chakras in his mind. Wake up, wake up. “Bruce.” His heart took a leap. He could almost feel the heat coming out of the body in front of him. “So what, you can put a spear in my face but I’m not worthy of you speaking to me?” Ok. He was not going to wake up. Might as well.

 

“I thought the spear thing was forgiven.” Bruce made himself speak as he opened his eyes and promptly lost any type of brain function.

 

There he was. No longer in his suit, wearing jeans and a plaid shirt, that looked to be a little big for him…or did he look thinner? The beard was also new, and his hair longer. Why? Why the change? Why was his mind doing this to him?

 

“You did save my mom, so I guess you have a point.” Clark shrugged and looked around. “I demand a tour of this place. I feel that you owe it to me.” Bruce swallowed and opened his mouth…

 

“Master Bruce!” Bruce opened his eyes, and for the first time in his life, he was glad Alfred had decided to wake him up. He took a breath and sat up.

 

“I’m up.” He spoke knowing that the butler was at the other side of the door.

 

“Sire, Master Richard is here.” Alfred’s voice was quiet. Almost lost in the buzzing of Bruce’s ears. Dick was here. He stood up and practically ran to the door.

 

“Hey B.” Dick Grayson said from the other side. Bruce stood at the door for a moment basking the sight of his son. He had been such an idiot.

 

Without more thought, he took the boy…the man, in his arms and hugged him. “I’m sorry.” Bruce said. Feeling Dick’s surprise all the way to his heart. Slowly, Dicks arms moved to return the hug, letting his head rest in Bruce’s shoulder as he exhaled a long breath.

 

“We are in the twilight zone, aren’t we?” Dick spoke after a moment. Bruce smiled as he let go.

 

“I’ve wanted to apologize for a while, but you asked for space…I was giving it to you.” Dick rolled his eyes.

 

“B, dramatic as always.” The kid smiled before turning around. “I had an angry rant for you, but I guess we can do it with breakfast, come on. Alfred said he will make pancakes.”  Bruce shook his head before taking his nightgown and walking to the kitchen.

 

“Coffee, Master Bruce?”

 

“Yes, thank you Alfred.” The butler nodded and turned back to the stove, even if he tried to hide it, Bruce could see that the older man was very pleased to have Dick back in the house. “Ok, you can start your angry rant anytime.”

 

“You and Superman fought a giant monster…I know you were there, don’t try to deny it…then you go a fight a bunch of smaller monsters, and neither of those times you called me.” Dick said. Looking at his coffee cup. Bruce already knew that the rant would have something to do with that, so he busied himself with observing the young man in front of him. His black hair was a little longer, but still at an acceptable length for Alfred’s approval. His clothes were a simple blue tee, a leather jacket and jeans. He had not limped, nor he was favoring any side or limb, which meant that things were under control in Blüdheaven. He looked good, if only a little tired. “Then I see you working with Wonder woman and the Flash…and another dude that shoots lasers from his hand…come on! How can you not call me?” Dick’s eyes blazed. “I am your partner. You should call me instead of this…new team.” His cheeks were a little red as he looked away. “I know we had a big fight. But I thought we were family, and we don’t forget the other just because we’re mad at each other.”

 

“So, you’re still mad?” Alfred, thankfully, kept silent and simply gave him a look, before putting a plate filled with food in front of them.

 

“Not for that, for this!” Dick yelled. “I just want to know why.”

 

“It’s not like I plan these things…” Bruce took a sip of coffee.

 

“Says the man that ‘always has a plan’” Dick even managed to make air-quotes as he began pouring maple syrup in his pancakes. “You made the spear that killed that thing, you knew it was coming.” Bruce stopped moving. “What?”

 

“Dick, I…” A loud beeping interrupted him. Fuck, Parademons again. “Suit up, you wanted monsters. They’re here.” Dick gulped down the rest of his coffee before running with him to the cave. This time, the attack was in Metropolis. They took the flying fox there, in case any of the other’s needed to go back to the cave after the fight. “Alfred, send word to Martha Kent. Tell her to stay indoors and to call if she sees any attacks near her.” Bruce spoke to the intercom.

 

Understood Sire.

 

“Who’s Martha Kent?” Dick frowned behind his domino mask. He was strapping himself in the copilot seat.

 

“Superman’s mother.” Batman didn’t need to look to know that Nightwing’s eyebrows were reaching his hairline.

 

“You have Superman’s mother on speed dial…what? Since when?”

 

“Since he died.”

 

“Oh.” The rest of the trip was silent. Until they arrived to the city.

 

“Shit…” Nightwing said as he saw the aliens for the first time.

 

“They are Parademons. You need big guns for this. Go to the back, there is one of your electric staffs.” Dick ran to the back as Batman began shooting the one’s in the sky. Sadly, most of them were already carrying people, so he had to park the plane in a near building and call up the team.

 

“This is Nightwing.” Batman spoke as the only introduction. “Cyborg, anything new?”

 

“There is another box. They are looking for it…one close to the area. My readings are telling me that it might not be the only one, already working on tracking the other’s.” He said before pulling out his cannon and shooting an upcoming Parademon. “Boo-ya!” Nightwing smiled. Batman wasn’t even surprised that Dick liked him, he was sure the same thing would happen with Barry.

 

“Concentrate on that. Flash, try to get away as many bystanders as possible. Wonder woman, the sky, stop as many as you can…Nightwing, you’re with me with the one’s on the ground. Let’s go.” He ran and shot his grapple gun, swinging himself to the center of the city.

 

The fight was hard, there were more of them and they seemed to be expecting a counterattack. Even if they seemed as mindless as Victor had said, whoever was controlling them was not an idiot. At least Flash had taken most of the people away, so the beings were centering themselves into defeating them.

 

“NO!” He turned to see a little girl running towards one of the aliens, the thing had a woman in it’s claws. “MOMMY!”

 

“STAY BACK!” The woman yelled to no avail. Batman ran towards the girl, stopping her from running closer to the fight, knowing that it would be harder to save the mother.

 

BOOM!

 

He frowned and looked to the sky, seeing how it seemed to open for a dark figure. What now?

 

“MOMMY!” The girl yelled again. And Batman could see the figure turn towards the Parademon and with another clap of thunder, it flew towards the creature at high speed, clashing against it and going to the ground letting out a big dust cloud. Batman covered the little girl with his cape, who was that?

 

He moved to see the landing spot just before a red ray of light blasted the Parademon out of it and into the nearest building. He knew that ray, but it couldn’t be. He couldn’t be.

 

Batman! Batman! What’s going on?” Dick’s voice rang in his ear, but he couldn’t look away, because walking out of the dust, was the woman and a man. She ran to his side as she spotted her daughter under his cape.

 

“Thank you! Thank you!” She sobbed before running with the rest of the people.

 

Batman stood unmoving as the man revealed himself. Changing a bright red cape and a vibrant blue suit for a black attire. His hair was a little longer, his jaw covered in beard. He looked thinner, and not fully healthy…but those blue eyes were the same.

 

“Need a hand?” Superman smiled.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 3: A DREAM OF NEW BEGININGS

SPRING 2017

Smallville

Clark let the water stream soak his body. Pushing away all the dirt and mud, all the reminders of the place he had woken up to. He closed his eyes and took a shaking breath.

He died and came back to life.

He braced himself against the tiles, feeling his knees weaken at the mere thought of what this could mean for him. Was he even able to die and stay dead? He had noticed that he didn’t have the normal signs of aging, of being closer to 40 than 30. He had seen yet another thing that separated him from humanity, but he had fooled himself into thinking that he could overlook that little detail.

I just don’t know if it’s possible…for you to love me and be you.

Lois. How was he supposed to tell her? Hey Lo, I’m alive…looks like I can’t be killed for long. Interesting, right? She had gone through too much, and he was not sure he wanted to put her through any of that again.

He passed his hands over his hair, using the water to tame his curls. He didn’t know what to do, how to continue going forward. He had given his life for the world, did he have any desire to do it again?

Yes. Fuck his life, but yes.

He was not sure about Lois, about his life in Metropolis or about anything that had to do with being Clark Kent. He just knew that, in time, he would be back as Superman. Because he couldn’t just let the world alone, he had to help. And Lex was proof enough that humanity had monsters of its own.

How would the world react to seeing him again?

Probably torches and pitchforks. He sighed remembering how scared he had been of that. How awful his teenage years had been. Always feeling out of place, always having to be extra careful around everybody.

You seem perfectly fine to me…

No. He was not going to think about him. He had too much in his plate to add his…what the fuck was Bruce to him? His enemy? His ally? Something else? He groaned and shut down the water. Not the time for that, he had to think of his mother and Lois. He was confused enough as it was.

He dried himself before putting on some clothes his mother had taken out of the attic. He hated how her step had faltered as she walked to it. Like she didn’t fully believe he was there with her…he didn’t blame her. He was surprised she hadn’t called the army to tell them about the thing that was outside her doorstep, wearing her son’s face. He shook his head trying to clear it of those thoughts, and walked to the kitchen.

She was sitting at the table, two cups in front of her and a modern looking phone by her hand.

Her gaze was in the window, seeing the crops move with the wind. Her cheeks were damp and her hands fisted. “Mom?” Clark called her. He stayed at the door, wanting to give her space. But the second she heard his voice, her face broke into a pained expression.

“I thought you were a dream.” She confessed between sobs. Feeling his heart twist painfully, Clark ran to her side and kneeled next to her.

“I’m here.” He took her hands, putting them in his face. “It’s me, ma’.” She cried harder before hugging him to her chest. Clark closed his eyes and savored the feeling of warmth that filled his soul. After being in the darkness for so long, this felt like heaven.

“I’m sorry, my boy.” She sobbed moving to put her hands on his cheeks and smiling down at him. “It will take some getting used to.”

“I imagine…” He smiled, trying to mask his panic. “For how long?” He decided to ask once and for all.

“Sit, have some tea, you can heat the water a bit more, if you want.” He did as she asked and tried to focus his heat vision in the cup…nothing happed.

“I think I will use the microwave.” He announced smiling. “Still not feeling that good.” He stood up and walked put the cup inside it.

“Oh, then we go to the porch, you can sit in the sun for a while. It always made you feel better when you were young.” She took a sip of her tea before letting out a gush of air. “Eight months.” She pressed her lips together as her eyes filled with water again. She hastily cleaned them with a napkin.

“I’m sorry.” Clark whispered, passing his hand through his beard.

“Never liked you with that much hair in your face.” Martha narrowed her eyes making Clark chuckle.

“I think I will keep it for a while…I need some time to adjust, to get better. This way people won’t recognize me so easily. As Clark or as Superman.” The microwave beeped and Clark pulled out the water before adding the tea bag.

“Come on.” Martha walked outside. They sat in the porch for a moment. In silence, simply enjoying the tea and letting both of their heads try to make sense of things. “Were you awake?” Her voice was quiet.

“In a way.” Clark answered, closing his eyes as he soaked in the heat of the Sun. “I felt cold and anxious, somehow knowing that I was trapped…I think I was aware of things to some point.” Until Bruce had pulled him back.

How can I miss you like this if I didn’t even know you?

The desperation in those last words had been the force that had made him push forward, the reason to fight his stupor and wake up. Had it been his imagination or another shared dream between him and Bruce?

“Clark?” He opened his eyes and looked at his mother. He had never spoken to anybody about his dreams, always thinking that they could be a product of his imagination. But they had been real, and Bruce remembered them…or at least seemed to recognize something in Clark.

“The phone in the table, is it yours?”

“Yes, Bruce gave it to me not long after the funeral.” Clark blinked surprised, and fully turned to look at his mother, she spoke about him like it was normal for a stranger to give him phones and visit her.

“Bruce Wayne?” He asked just to make sure.

“Yes, your friend.” She raised her eyebrows. “Really, you and your capes. Even your friends have to wear them.” Clark blinked. Had Bruce introduced himself as his friend and told her that he was The Batman?

“Does he…come often?”

“Once a month…a text every now and then to know I’m okay.” She shrugged. “What is it son?”

“Nothing just…how is he?” Martha frowned.

“You seem surprised that he took care of me.” And of course, his mother knew what he was thinking. Sometimes he wanted to be embarrassed about knowing that his mother could read him like an open book, but he could not bring himself to do it.

“We weren’t on the best terms when all of that happened…we met each other a lot of years ago, and we just saw each other again right before…the battle.” He explained, sometimes half-truths were better than lies. It would be awful to shatter the good image she had of the man by telling her how much hatread and loathing he had shown to Clark.

Men are brave, you are not brave…

“A lot of years ago, huh.” She said criptically before raising her shoulders. “He did look awkward…mostly at first. But a couple of pies helped him and Alfred to warm up.” She smiled. And Clark forced himself to look calm and not freak out about the warmth he felt his mother’s voice. “We bonded, he lost his son and I lost my son. Not ideal but it felt safe…” Martha took his hand. “He cares a lot about you; whatever you guys fought for, you should talk it out. He could hide it well, but I saw his eyes suffer almost as much as Lois and I.” Clark passed his hand through his forehead refusing to entertain that notion.

“How am I supposed to tell Lois?”

“I believe that you should use the band aid way. Stand in front of her and let her come to terms with it.” She huffed. “God knows I had a lot of shock therapy from you over the years.” Clark rolled his eyes at that.

He smiled and looked at the crops, moving with the wind. He had a lot to do, a life to come back to. But for the moment, he was content with being here with one of the most important persons in his life. He had a second chance, he had to make most of it.

It was damp and cold…for a terrifying second he thought he was back in the coffin, until he looked around and saw that he was inside a cave…a very high tech cave.

He knew of this place. During his research of the Bat, people had spoken about him having a secret lair inside a cave somewhere in the city, he hadn’t believed them, thinking of simple urban legends…well, he had been wrong.

And the man standing five feet away from him, was proof enough.

“Is this…is this the batcave?” He asked hoping that Bruce would turn to look at him. Sadly, Bruce never seemed to do what Clark wanted him to do. Instead of turning around, the man stopped moving altogether.

“Well, now I can see why you were excited at the barn, this is very different.” Clark continued speaking as he walked closer, fearing that Bruce could be preparing to strike instead of being caught off guard…but no, that was not it. His heartbeat sounded off…painful. “Bruce” He was now standing in front of him. Seeing his strong features, his expressionless face. His eyes firmly shut. “So what, you can put a spear in my face but I’m not worthy of you speaking to me?” Clark demanded.

“I thought the spear thing was forgiven.” Bruce said and Clark had to swallow as those penetrating eyes finally focused on him.

“You did save my mom, so I guess you have a point.” Clark shrugged feigning nonchalance. “I demand a tour of this place. I feel that you owe it to me.” And before any of them could say anything else, the dream shattered.

Clark opened his eyes. What could he possibly think about that? Bruce seemed fine, but his heartbeat was different…he hated to admit how well he knew what his heart sounded after only seeing him a handful of times. But the truth was that he knew that beat better than his mother’s. Hell, even with Lois he had needed more time together to identify it.

He sighed knowing that, until he was ready to face Bruce in the real world, he would not have answers. So he closed his eyes determined to rest a little more. He let the stray rays of the sun touch his skin, almost feeling his body feeding of that light. His cells vibrating, getting as much of that warmth as they could; fighting to erase all the cold emptiness that had clawed his soul. He was about to fall asleep again when his mother yelled his name.

“Clark! Clark!” Without thinking, he ran downstairs. His mother had her hands covering her mouth as she watched the TV.

“Yes, these are the same…aliens that attacked Central city a couple of days ago, they seem to be taking civilians towards that big…portal by the sea.” Clark narrowed his eyes seeing at the winged creatures in the video. He had to stop them.

“Clark…” His mother took his arm.

“I need to go.” Superman had to help.

“You are not recovered yet…” Her hold grew stronger, he gently took her hand and turned to look at her.

“Mom, I can’t let them hurt anybody…where’s my suit?” She looked away, her face set in a frown.

“You already gave your life for them! I don’t want to lose you.” She pulled their joined hands and kissed his knuckles before sighing. “Bruce has it, I tried to mend it but no needle was strong enough…he promised to fix it for me.” Clark pressed his lips together, he was not ready for Bruce.

“There is another way…” He spoke remembering what Jor-El had told him. “Do they still have my ship in Metropolis?”

“Yes.” She said before looking at the TV. “Clark…it’s Bruce!” The Batman and the warrior that had helped them in battle, had arrived to the city.

“There are other suits in the ship…I have to go there.” He kissed her cheek. “I will be back Mom, I have help now.” He nodded at the TV.

“I love you son.” She sighed knowing that she wouldn’t be able to stop him. “Be careful.”

“I will.” He walked outside and closed his eyes, remembering the first time he flew in the Artic. Feeling his body becoming lighter as the energy around it changed to open the way.

He took off.

Before he even had the chance to appreciate being in the sky again, he arrived at the memorial. And like in the past, the ship was under a dome that covered it completely, with an army around to protect it.

He dived into it. Breaking the dome and landing in the middle of what was left of the genesis chamber. There was amniotic goo all over the place, and he could see a lot more destruction in it’s structure. Anger tried to cloud his vision but he forced himself to relax. Now was not thee time, but these were the only remnants of his people, of his past. And a mad man had almost destroyed it in his hunger to be more powerful than God. He hated it. Clark walked through the halls, knowing that he would be back for the ship, he no longer trusted humanity with it.

He touched the walls lightly as he heard the distant noises of alarm. They knew someone was inside.

He ran to find the armory room, one of the only places that were intact. It was good that he had decided to keep some things to himself, like the location of certain rooms in the ship, or the information they stored. Jor-El had been specific on how useful this room could be to him, even with his enhanced abilities.

He moved his hand to a control panel. “Identity confirmed. Kal-El of Krypton.” The ship said, at least that still worked.

“I need an armor.” He spoke hearing the solders start to search within the ship. One of the wall panels moved, and like the time he had seen his suit, another one revealed itself. This one was black.

He didn’t particularly like the color choice, having grown fond the blue and red, but he was not going to argue with a ship when people were in danger. He changed and flew out of the room to the destroyed part of the ship.

“Freeze!” A voice screamed as he prepared to exit. Clark turned to see a squadron pointing their guns at him. “Identify yourself!”

“You know who I am. And I don’t have time to lose. Central city needs help, are we going to have a problem?” He spoke clearly, seeing the solders hesitate as he started to float above them. They looked at each other before lowering their weapons.

“Go!” The soldier said, Clark nodded and exited the ship, flying at full speed towards the city.

What welcomed him, was a horde of winged beings, attacking every person in the city. There was a big gate that seemed to be the entrance point of the aliens…and five individuals fighting them.

The first was the warrior, she was in the sky. Welding her sword with a terrifying expertise.

The second, was a robot with a beating heart…a cyborg, that seemed to be shooting energy from one of his arms.

The third was a lightning bolt, running to get everybody to safety. He was so fast, that even Clark had trouble keeping up with him.

The fourth and fifth ones were not far from each other. Their movements showed that they knew each other, that they trusted one another. The one with a blue bird on his chest, was closer to a building filled with people, guarding the entrance. The other was the Bat.

Who was looking right at him.

“MOMMY!” Clark looked at one of the monsters carrying a yelling woman. He flew right to it, clashing them to the nearest building, moving at high speed to free the woman from its clutches before using his heat vision to blast it away.

“Are you okay?” He asked the woman as they waited for the dust to settle.

“Y-yes…yes.” She looked around. “My daughter!”

“She’s safe…look.” He pointed her in Batman’s direction.

“Thank you.” She said before running to retrieve her daughter.

He looked at the Bat. Again, his heart as the only indicator that he was surprised. “Need a hand?” He asked just seconds before a batarang came flying to his face. He caught it right before it detonated making him take a couple of steps back. “Batman…wait.” Superman coughed having serious flashbacks of their previews encounters.

“Who are you?” Batman growled right before delivering the first kick. Clark moved before it landed, not wanting Bruce to get hurt.

“I am not going through this again! You know who I am!” He yelled putting more distance between them. “We have to stop those things, you can interrogate me later.” The Bat didn’t move, probably deciding if he should trust him or not. “B…there is no time!” Bruce’s heartbeat skipped a beat. “This time, please listen to me!” Batman glared at him.

“Go! Help wonder woman in the sky.” He finally growled. “I know what weakens Kryptonians and I will not hesitate to use it if you harm any of us.”

“Figures…” Superman sighed before saluting mockingly and flying towards the warrior…Wonder Woman.

She was struggling to hold a screaming man as she battled three of the monsters, he flew and punched the monsters, letting her lower the man to safety. She looked at him for a moment, assessing, before giving him a strong nod and going back to the fight.

“So, hey…who’s the new guy?” A modulated voice said, multiplied through the earpieces of the team.

“He’s on our side…but keep watch.” Batman answered. “He can also hear our comms, keep chatter to minimum.” Clark retained himself from rolling his eyes, he was starting to see that Bruce Wayne and The Bat were as different as Clark Kent from the Daily Planet and Superman. Personas to cover up the truth. And judging from what he knew about Bruce, the one closest to his real self was Batman. Precise, concise and practical to alarming degrees.

They continued fighting, Clark was glad this attack had been now that he had a little more energy and not when he just woke up. He would’ve hated to have to wait more time because he was too weak to help. He yelled as his fist went right through the armor or one of the beings. “Fuck…” He whispered knowing that his strength was fluctuating a lot, preventing him to fully control his punches. “Wonder woman!” He called her attention. “Please take care of the ones with hostages, I don’t think I can control myself around them and not hurt anybody.”

“On it. Cover my back!” She spoke flying to the monsters trying to escape through the portal that had brought them in, just as another batch came through. He moved fast between the aliens and Wonder Woman, before clapping as hard as he could, dispersing the beings away from her fight.

“Team…and stranger.” One of the other’s spoke. “I think I can close the portal, I just need access to the portal without having to constantly fight the Parademons.” Clark looked at Wonder Woman.

“Go! Yo can cover him, stop them from entering this side. I have the sky under control.” She explained, he nodded.

“Batman, our friend is going to help Cyborg.” Superman took off and landed right next to the portal.

“Ok, what’s the plan?” Cyborg asked landing close to him.

“I can fry them before entering, and move fast…I won’t be able to hold it for long.” He looked into the portal and released a blast of heat vision, covering most of the surface of the gate. “Go!” He yelled at the kid, who was frozen at his side. Cyborg shook himself and moved fast to the right side of the portal, where the control panel seemed to be located.

Clark felt the beginnings of a small headache, he was forcing himself, he knew that, but he had to do this. One of the beings flew itself to him, making him lose focus for a moment. Superman took it by the head and crushed it between his hands, before releasing a second blast of heat vision around the area, frying the one’s behind him and went back to block the gate. “Hurry!”

“Flash! Go and disperse the Parademons! Keep them away from the portal!” Batman’s voice yelled just before blue lightning surrounded them. Clark fisted his hands, he was still too weak for this.

“I got it! Everybody back now!” Clark stopped and fell on one knee, just in time to see the portal start to fold until it took the shape of a box releasing a wave of energy. He raised his arms to cover himself before blinking around. The Parademons were gone.

“Hurrah for team Cyborg!” Someone at his back yelled, but before he even got the chance to turn, the blue lightning stopped next to Cyborg, revealing a young man in a red kind of armor. He grinned wide and gave Cyborg a high five. Then, they both turned to Clark, and again, they both stopped moving. “Please tell me that you see in his chest what I see in his chest.”

“I do.” Cyborg answered right before Wonder Woman landed and pointed her sword at him.

“You have one chance to identify yourself.” She demanded.

“I’m Kal-El of Krypton.” He spoke moving to stand up and raising his hands.

“Superman is dead, who are you?” The Bat spoke walking to stand in front of him. The rest of the team moved to a fighting stance. Clark looked at him and wished that he could be sure about Bruce and their dreams. Things could be a lot easier…but maybe there was another way.

“I already told you.” He shrugged. “What can I say to convince you, B?” Batman pressed his lips together. The nickname had hit the spot.

“Wonder Woman, use your lasso.” Clark frowned seeing Wonder Woman’s glowing lasso make an appearance. Ropes didn’t work on him, but he remembered that it had contained Luthor’s monster, so it could hold him too. She took a couple of steps forward and handed him one end of the lasso.

“You only need to touch it to say your truth.” He grasped it and suddenly felt its power run through him. “Is Kal-El your name?”

“Yes…and no.” The words felt like they were pulled out of his gut.

“Why not?” Her eyes had narrowed.

“I have another name.”

“What is…?” She began asking.

“B...” Superman interrupted Wonder Woman. “I never got to thank you…you saved Martha. You told me that she wouldn’t die that night and you made sure of it. So, thank you.” He smiled as he heard another spike in Bruce’s heartbeat.

“It’s him.” Batman turned to Wonder Woman preventing Clark from seeing any other reaction. The warrior raised her eyebrows before nodding and giving Clark small smile.

“I am Diana of Themyscira. It’s an honor, Kal-El of Krypton.” She put up her hand and he shook it.

“What? Wait, wait, wait! WHAT!” The speedster started to say before Batman turned to look at him.

“Let’s go. We must analyze the new data before these things come back. There’s no time to lose.” The kid tried to protest but one look from the Bat silenced him. “You can introduce yourself in the cave.” They all walked to what it seemed like a warzone plane.

“You coming with us?” The younger guy in black asked.

“I think I will see you there.” He told him; he was still unsure on how to act around Bruce and he was willing to delay that a little bit more.

“Do you mind some company?” Diana asked him. He shook his head watching the plane take off with the rest of the team, then taking flight himself. “I’m glad you’re back.” She spoke as she matched his speed. He smiled loving the fact that there was someone else just as, or even more powerful than he was.

“I am too. Almost gave my mother a heart attack, though.” He huffed a small laugh. “…you have a nice team going.”

“Yes. Bruce found out about the treat these creatures represented. He asked my help into finding the other’s.” Clark nodded, somehow sensing that she was refraining from telling him something. They seemed to know the threat, did attacks like that one had happen before?

“I’m sorry for not being here to help sooner…” He stopped his path seeing that she had done the same. She was frowning in his direction.

“Do not apologize for dying Kal, even if you took time to come back, you did this world a great service. You saved all of us, in more than one way.” Her voice was strong. “You killed that abomination, be proud of it.” He looked away. Her words were kind, but he did not agree with them.

“I killed him for the good of humanity, twice. He was a soldier that loved his home, perhaps too much. But he still didn’t deserve to be the victim of a twisted man, to have his body mutilated like that. I will never be proud of his death.” He felt his fingers tingling as he remembered the wave of power after he snapped Zod’s neck. Now he had more things to haunt him.

“Then honor him by remembering who he was before he was destroyed. Not as the monster you killed.” She resumed flight leaving him going over her words.

“Thank you, Diana.” She smiled.

“Let’s go, the others await us.”

The rest of the flight was silent, as they pushed to catch the team, until he saw it. The Wayne Manor.

He had never seen it live, only through photos or television when he was young. And it sure looked a lot different from what he remembered from one of his dreams of Bruce.

He changed directions to land in front of it.

Years ago, when he was travelling through the jungles of Mexico, he had called his mother. Clark had expected normal talk, about the pie competition or one The Crow’s games, but what he got was a full report on how the Gotham prince, the richest man in the city, had burned his house to the ground. His mother had never cared about the life of the rich and the famous, but she cared about history and art, and she had been livid seeing the great Manor turn to ashes.

“Imagine Clark! That thing has more than a hundred years, it’s the city’s history. And even if it might be a little too gothic for my taste, it’s still a beautiful city. Unique! And for this man to burn it to the ground just because he doesn’t care about money! It makes me so mad to see people like this…imagine, myself dressed in my mama’s wedding dress and spill beer all over it! How could I even think about that!”

At the time, he had been highly amused by his mother’s rant. She was a though woman and seeing her mad at something not-himself was always fun. But he had also agreed with her; that Gotham rich guy had no idea of what his parent’s money was worth or what their life had given him.

Now…he could see the pain that filled that action. Now, he knew Bruce Wayne. He knew the way his eyes darkened as he thought of his parents and their deaths. His heart twisted painfully, as he tried to think of what could’ve happened to Bruce to make him destroy their legacy like that.

For a second, all he wanted to do was to hold him; he felt his body aching with the need to protect. To help him carry his pain and shield him from more…he swallowed, surprised for the strength of those emotions. Bruce didn’t need or want protection, just like he didn’t want him.

“Are you okay?” Diana asked.

“Yes…just, sorry…my mind went away for a while.” He gave her a small smile. She looked at the mansion.

“I know, it’s impressive…such a pain filled place. And the man that owns it, can’t let its ghosts go.” He eyes were sad and knowing.

Clark tried to tame the sudden wave of jealousy that raised inside of him. She already seemed to be someone Bruce trusted, they were teammates…most likely friends. Something that Clark had wanted to call Bruce in the past, but the chances of that whole dream-thing being a joke from his brain, had stopped him from even thinking about it. Then Bruce had abandoned him, tried to kill him and then, he had died. It was safe to say that he saw slim chances of them becoming something other than forced allies.

“Sometimes you have to learn to let go. To move on.” He thought about the kid that had screamed his mother’s name in an empty field, the boy that ran away to find answers when he couldn’t live surrounded by memories, the man that put all that pain inside of him to good use and set course to fulfill his mission. He thought about the Bat, becoming the terror that haunted every criminal in Gotham. “Bruce is the kind of man that holds into agony, rage and fear to make himself function.” Diana raised her brows.

“You know him well.” She huffed before passing a hand through her hair. “You said that you’re sorry for dying, but I am the one that should apologize.” Clark blinked before frowning at her.

“What for?”

“I have been in your world for a hundred years. I helped in your first war…and for that, I paid a terrible price.” She swallowed. “Years after, when war and death became too much to bear. I decided to stay away from matters of men. To live here but never interfere…I saw you fighting General Zod and I kept my word. I stayed away…I saw how the world reacted to you, how they didn’t hesitate to show their scorn, to criticize you and judge you, even if all you did was to help them.” Diana looked at the manor. “I only thought that they were proving me right, that they were acting as I expected them to act…never thinking of how it was for you, to feel alone in a world that seemed so ungrateful. And when I finally decided to act and help you, I failed. And my mistake caused your death.” She moved to stand in front of him. “Forgive me Kal-El.”

Clark was stunned. In minutes, this incredible woman, had proven that she was not only an amazing warrior, but also humble and wise; someone that was not afraid to see her mistakes and make sure to do something about them. The small spark of jealousy he felt, vanished. He could see why Bruce felt comfortable with her, why they would become friends. Now, he wanted to know her too, to learn from her and work at her side. “There is nothing to forgive.” He smiled at her. “I can understand, there were so many moments where I wanted to quit…it’s hard. At least now I know that there are more like us. That I’m not alone.” She grabbed his shoulder.

“You have friends to help carry the burden now. Never forget that Clark.” She smiled “Now, let me teach you how to fool Bruce’s security system.” With a confident smile, she flew dived into a waterfall not far from the Manor, he followed her as she lead the way to the cave.

After a couple of twists and turns at high speed, they landed in a big hangar, where a couple of planes and cars were stationed. Clark whistled thinking that only someone with Bruce’s fortune could pull this off, and he was still surprised that the prince of Gotham could afford it without going broke.

They walked until they reached the main workshop, where a ridiculously oversized set of computers was installed with Bruce sitting in front of it. Cyborg was next to him and the other two were eating in a nearby table, next to a man that Clark didn’t know.

“You took your time.” Batman growled turning to look at them.

“I wanted to stretch my legs.” Clark answered with a shrug as he looked around, trying to absorb everything he could about the home of the Bat. “Got anything else on those…what did you call them? Parademons?” He walked to stand next to Bruce, feigning a confidence he was not feeling, but he didn’t want the others to think that things were awkward between them, no matter how true that was.

“Yes. Cyborg is working on some of it. The rest is encrypted and the decryption of that data will take a while. The only thing we know is that they come from a world called Apokolips…” Bruce began before being interrupted by Wonder Woman.

“By Hera!” She exclaimed putting her hand on her lips. “Is that the word? Are you certain?” She looked at Batman and Cyborg for confirmation.

“It’s a rough translation.” Cyborg began. “But yes.”

“I need to go.” Diana spoke. “I’ve heard of this place, from tales far beyond my years. I need to go to Themyscira and talk to my mother.”

“What have you heard about it?” Bruce asked.

“There is a great evil coming. I remember some stories from when I was a child but not fully. I will be back tomorrow with more information. If it is the treat of those tales, we must have Arthur Curry on our side.” She turned to Clark. “You should go too, he might listen to you.” Clark nodded, he didn’t know who he was, but he was sure that Bruce would fill him in. “Be careful, call if another gate opens.” She looked at all of them before taking flight out of the cave.

“Ok, that is worrisome.” The scarlet speedster said before zooming in front of Clark. “Now that we’re all here, can you tell us for real how are you alive? Can I take an educated guess?”

“Flash!” Cyborg said putting his hand on his face. “You can’t just ask Superman things like that!”

“It’s mere professional curiosity! I am a forensic scientist, I want to know!” Clark smiled at him.

“Why don’t we start by saying our names?” He asked them.

“I’m The Flash, hero of Central city…or that’s what the newspapers are calling me these days.” He smiled pointing at himself. “Are we doing the whole secret identity thing? Do you know who this guy is?” Flash nodded at Batman, who took off his cowl and passed a hand through his face.

“He knows.” Bruce said and Clark could see that even if Cyborg and Flash looked okay with that statement, the guy in black and blue seemed unsure and suspicious. He had kept himself in the back, observing, right next to the man in glasses.

“Oh, perfect! My name is Barry Allen.” In a swirl of movement, the mask was gone, revealing a really young looking guy.

“I’m Victor Stone.” Cyborg spoke, giving him a little wave. “It’s a real honor to meet you, Sr.”

“Oh no…” Clark shook his head. “I’m Clark Kent, nice to meet you…not a Sr.”

“Wait wait!” The third guy took a step closer, a big smile on his face. “You’re Clark Kent? The reporter?” He let out a laugh.

“It is clever.” The older man spoke, in a deep British accent. “An excuse to be in the danger line, someone close to the news, a person that has voice and yet, we rarely connect it with a face.”

“Exactly.” Clark smiled raising his hand at the man. “Alfred, I presume?”

“Indeed Mr. Kent.” Alfred raised his eyebrows before returning the handshake. “How did you know it was me? I’m not familiar with the press.”

“Bruce has a lot in common with you, you tend to take after the man that raises you.” Clark explained, gaining a pleased smile from the butler.

“Well, in that case, I’m fucked because I would be taking after him…” The guy in black joked as he looked at Bruce, who simply turned back to the computer ignoring the chat. “Nightwing. Dick Grayson, it’s great to meet you Supes!”

“Likewise.”

“Ok, now that all know each other…” Barry started before his pocket started ringing. “Oh shit, that’s CCPD, gotta run!” He saluted. “Call me if you have anything new or if Diana comes back!” He ran away with a storm of lightning around him.

“I also need go” Victor spoke. “My father has a lot of research of these boxes, he might help me go through what I found and put the pieces together. I will still be connected to the bat-computer…” Dick let out a small laugh at this, and even if Clark couldn’t see him, he could swear that Bruce had rolled his eyes again. “That way, if I find anything new I will be able to pass it to you instantly. I will come back tomorrow morning if nothing else happens.”

“Keep an eye out and take care.” Bruce said looking at the younger man, he nodded before opening his thrusters and flying out.

“So…” Nightwing started but a pointed cough shut him up. The three of them turned to look at Alfred.

“We will be going to the house, call if you need anything.” He took Dick by the arm and pushed him towards a staircase not far from the computer, not hearing any claims from the younger man.

Ok, that was odd.

And now, they were alone. Clark crossed his arms, suddenly unsure about what to do with himself. It was awkward but they had to talk at some point, better to do it at the beginning and not mess anything up with Bruce’s team. “They seem like good kids.” He decided to break the silence, knowing in his gut that the Bat could go hours and hours without speaking.

“They are.” Bruce nodded before turning to the computer. “Do you want to see what the world thinks of your revival?” Clark frowned seeing him click on some controls without waiting for a reply. Suddenly, the news were showcased in several of his screens. One was the biggest stand out.

I’m sorry! I’m sorry, Kathy, but what are you saying?” Harold Jefferson asked. He was one of the biggest names in national news, Clark had met him twice in his short time as a reporter, but he had never seen him this unsettled.

“I just…I could swear it Harold!” She looked stunned and in awe. “I could swear I saw SUPERMAN!” Her eyes turned teary. “I know it must sound crazy! But everybody here saw the same man. He was just like him! And he fought the monsters-the aliens, along with the other people in the group!” She sobbed against her hand. “I saw him! I saw…” The feed was cut. Harold was looking at the camera.

I know.” Harold spoke after a moment. “That we all miss The Big Blue. I know it was a shock for all of us to see him gone after everything we did to him, after all that the world said about him…the last time we saw him, he saved us from a monster, and now we want him to do it again. But he is gone. So please, be careful. There might be new heroes around, but none of them are Superman.” He sounded his throat. “My name is Harold Jefferson and this has been a special report from N52 News, have a good day.” The transmission ended.

Clark was speechless. What was that? He knew that Harold didn’t hate Superman, he had been one of the few ones that been impartial to all that he spoke. He had told the world that he believed that Superman was a good guy, only there to help. But right now, that speech had been a little bit too much.

“What…?” He whispered, trying to get his head around it. All the other feeds had similar reactions. People seemed stunned and hopeful that he was back, they seemed excited about it, even if none of them had been close enough to actually see him. Clark turned to Bruce, he was looking at him with those assessing eyes, always making him feel like he was pulling him apart. “The world really loves comeback stories, right?” He asked the older man, hoping to not sound as rattled as he felt.

“Yes. And like the saying goes, you don’t know what you have until you lose it.” He looked at the news feed. “The world lost Superman in a big way, and they have been regretting it since…when you go back, when they become sure that it’s you. The world will react again.” He crossed his arms, resting his hip against the desk. “They will see Superman differently.”

“I know…I’ve thought about it.” Clark passed his hand through his face. “I just…” He looked away, debating whether to trust Bruce or not. He didn’t want things to go like they had when they were kids. Where both had shared secrets, and hidden them in equal matters. And both had put other things before the other…he liked knowing that Bruce was aware of who he really was, but he was not sure he would receive the same courtesy.

Clark?

He took a step forward as he heard Lois’ voice. She was calling to him! Probably after hearing the news of the fight. She sounded so unsure and frightened.

“What is it?” Bruce asked.

“Lois is calling me.” Clark explained, looking at the east, like he could see her if he concentrated enough.

“Go to her.” Bruce turned to the computer. “This will still take a while.” He walked to a small case in a nearby wall and took something from it. “Put this in your ear, you might hear us, but I need to hear you back if something happens.” Clark took the communicator and put it on. “I know you can come if we need you. You don’t need to be here…tap twice to turn it on, once to turn it off.”

“Thank you, B.” There it was, the small spike in his heartbeat. A part of him desperately wanted it to mean something, but he knew better, there was no way The Bat had accepted the alien to that degree.

“Superman…I also want to know how you’re back.” Bruce spoke as he turned to the computer.

“And you owe me a tour of the cave, don’t think I’ve forgotten about it.” Clark spoke before taking flight towards Lois’ heartbeat.

Bruce turned back just in time to watch him leave. He let out a breath.

What the fuck?

After all the pain, after all those months trying to come to terms with the fact that he was dead…he was back. Alive and well. And Bruce had no idea what to do, how to act around him. How to process anything.

At first, he had hated that a man had dared to wear his crest, but then, he had opened his mouth and suddenly C was there…and Superman and Clark. The three people merging into one individual that was somehow back from the dead; someone that was clearly weaker than before but he kept protecting the world that had sheltered him.

Bruce sighed, feeling shaken. He had seen him with Diana outside the Manor, his azure gaze looking at it like he could see the lonely child that had lived in it…like he remembered his dreams as vividly as Bruce did.

He sat down and looked at the cavernous ceiling of the cave, seeing him in his mind. Not just how different he looked, but he way those tired and beautiful eyes had stared at the screen just moments ago, like he could not believe that a reporter was talking kindly of him, like he couldn’t get over the fact that people had shed their bullshit and had learned to love and respect him.

He let out a bitter laugh. In the past, he had hated that the people of Metropolis had raised a big statue in his name, he had thought that that could only inflate the alien’s ego…now he knew better. He knew Clark had his ego firmly in check. That in his core, he was still the subdued farm boy he had met in his youth.

The same boy that felt the hate and fear of people since his childhood, the one that had been alone and lost, like himself. But Bruce, being the egoistical bastard that he was, had abandoned him…and then tried to kill him. Bruce closed his eyes feeling regret claw his soul, he didn’t deserve this second chance. He didn’t deserve the way Clark had been treating him, like there was nothing wrong between them, like he could show himthe trust of a teammate.

“Shit…” He whispered to the cave. He hated that he couldn’t compamentilize Clark, he could never box all the feelings he had and push them to the back of his mind to continue living like things hadn’t changed.

“Are you okay?” Dick asked as he walked down the stairs, closely followed by Alfred.

“I don’t know.” He answered truthfully, making them stop in their tracks. They exchanged a look before continuing their path until they were standing in front of him.

“I want you to tell me about him.” Dick asked as he sat on top of one of his working tables. “You know him from before and I only know what the TV has said about him.” Alfred sounded his throat.

“I am also curious.” He began pouring tea. Bruce side eyed him, he had managed to stay clear of the butler’s questions about his so-called soulmate, mostly because Alfred respected Martha too much to go around inquiring about her dead son…now, such restrictions no longer applied.

“…what do you want to know?” He rested his cheek on his hand as he kept a vigilant look in the decrypting process.

“Do you know how he came back? How is he alive?”

“Not yet.”

“Where did you meet him?”

“In a dream.” Bruce smiled making his son roll his eyes.

“Funny.” He grimaced as his hands began to wonder through the equipment in the table. God, he had missed him so much, even with the mess he probably was about to do. “Was it before or after the Metropolis incident.”

“I was nine.” Dick stopped fretting and looked at him.

“Before or…”

“After.” Bruce answered, already knowing the question that followed.

“And you saw him any other times?”

“I saw him a couple of more times before we stopped. I was training with the league and I couldn’t involve him, it was too dangerous…” He snorted remembering how he had offered to show him how to defend himself, when he could probably crush him without much effort, even at that age. “Of course, at that time I didn’t know he was from far away.”

“And in the incident? Did you contact him?” Bruce exchanged a look with Alfred, the butler’s face was set, clearly thinking that he had to tell the truth.

“I wanted to kill him.”

“WHAT?” Dick jumped. “Kill Superman? WHY?”

“He is dangerous.” Bruce spoke. Even now he still thought the same thing, perhaps more than ever. “We all are…but at that moment I also put a lot of…my own hatred, in him.” He looked at Jason’s suit, the other two men following his sight and sighing in understanding. “I see that now…he made me see it. I made the spear that killed the monster, to kill Superman.” To kill Clark. The vicious voice in his mid told him.

“You were lost, son.” Alfred spoke, putting his hand on his shoulder. “Now you have a second chance with him. Do not spoil it.”

“I thought you had already lost hope on me.” He put his hand on top of his butler’s.

“I believe that will never happen Master Bruce. The same case being with Master Dick, even if the mullet was a little on the stretching part.” They all laughed, savoring Alfred’s dry sense of humor, and Bruce silently thanking him for changing the subject.

“Oh! come on! It was a fashion statement!” Dick tried to defend himself but the two older men simply shook their heads. “Old people, really.” The kid rolled his eyes before passing his hand though his hair. “Well, I’m beat. ‘Gonna hit the hay, call me up if that thing finishes in the next century.” He walked up the staircase towards the main house. Bruce watched him leave hardly believing what that day had been. First, Dick coming back to him, and then Clark, performing yet another miracle and beating death.

He was too fucking old for these things.

“I meant it, Bruce.” Alfred began as he started cleaning the shop. “I know you, and I know you will look for any excuse in the book to prevent yourself from being happy. Don’t.” He took his tray, nodded at Bruce and left.

Bruce closed his eyes, thinking of that unreal blue gaze. If only it was that easy.

South Africa

“Clark?” Lois asked to the sky feeling completely naïve and stupid.

The only reason she was here, asking the sky for answeres, was because Harold had looked like he believed. Even if he was telling everyone to get their hopes on a leash, Lois could see that he believed something had happened there. And well, it was Clark. The man that could shoot lasers from his eyes and fly.

If there was someone that she thought could do it, it would be him.

She was about to go back inside her shack, when she heard it. A thunder. The rumblings of the sky when an incredible force went through it.

Lois put her hand on her mouth as she saw a dark clad figure, towering in the sky.

“It’s me, Lo.” His kind voice said before he landed a couple of steps from her.

Seeing him there, brought back memories of their first encounter. His bearded face, his hesitant stance. The way he held himself, like he was not sure about what she would do.

She sobbed.

She didn’t know why, she didn’t know if she was happy or sad or terrified, all she knew was that she wanted to be in his arms. And like always, he didn’t lose time to come to her aid and she found herself crying against his chest. “I’m here Lo, I’m here.” She wept for what it felt like an eternity, remembering the dead weight of his body, the coldness of his skin and all the terrible anguish that had tried to choke her heart.

After feeling like she had cried her guts out, she breathed trying to calm herself. She put her hand right above the S, having a terrible flashback of the hole that was there before. “Oh, Clark. I’m so happy you are back...alive.” She whispered taking a step back, suddenly feeling overwhelmed by her conflicting emotions.

He stood motionless, like he had already figured that she would be stunned and confused by all this. She was not easily rattled but having someone she loved this much die on her, and then watch him come back…was taking a big mental adjustment.

“Are you okay?” Of course, of course he had to ask that. Always putting everyone before him.

“That’s my line.” Lois smiled, cleaning away her tears. They kept silent for a moment, neither knowing what to say or how to act. It was something terrible, having someone back, and not have any idea of what to do about it. But she couldn’t look at him without seeing him as a ghost, without remembering how his eyes had looked devoid of any life in them. She had stepped up and away from pain, and seeing him there? Was fucking up everything she had worked for in the last months.

“You already said goodbye, didn’t you?” Clark asked. Giving her a pained smile. She moaned in anguish, putting her hand on her mouth hating him for reading her so easily.

“I don’t feel sorry for doing it…but I hate that I did it.” Lois finally spoke hugging herself. “It hurt. I tried to hold on to you, but for myself, I had to let go.” He moved to take her hand.

“It’s okay.” He kissed her knuckles. “You wouldn’t be you if you hadn’t done that. I understand Lois.” She closed her eyes letting his forehead touch her own. They took a breath together. Both understanding that as big as their love was, things had changed too much for them to be as they were.

“I hate not being able to do this.” Lois whispered fiercely. “Maybe…” She started but stopped herself before she made promises she couldn’t keep. They both hated lying to others, and telling him that things would be back as they were…felt like the ugliest lie.

“You are one of the strongest people I know, don’t ever forget that.” Lois grimaced while one of her hands caressed his cheek. “Besides, you have to help me come back to life…I’m sure Perry will take these eight months as vacations so I need a good argument for that.” They laughed taking a step back.

“He knows who you are…and for that, he will put up a bigger fight. He will get on your ass for eternity.”

“Yeah well, I might give him an exclusive on the new team…he might be glad to have the nerd back after that.” He grinned that self-satisficed grin she loved.

“I’m sure he will.”

“Are you going to be okay?” He asked, looking into her eyes. She felt her heart break a little more.

“Don’t worry Smallville.” She forced herself to say. “Like I told you, I am happy that you’re back. I just have to…come to terms with it.” She pressed her lips together. His eyes were sad, but understanding.

“Take care Lois.” He began floating away.

“Wait! Clark!” Clark turned to look at her. Maybe things were broken between them, but she had known for a long time that he was not hers to keep, that there was another person that had refused to let him go. “Tell Bruce to take you to Superman’s grave.” He frowned, clearly taken back by her words.

“Have you been talking to him?”

“A little.” She nodded. “Promise me.” Clark raised his brows.

“Why him?”

“Because I’m here and…” She passed a hand through her hair. “I know there’s something between you two…”

“What? Lo…” He flew closer, like he was still trying to fool her…or himself by any means.

“No, Clark. I’ve always felt it, you know?” She swallowed looking away. “I always felt that there was something that stopped you from being fully with me. There was a ghost in your eyes, I saw it during the day, every time you went to sleep...” Lois took a breath. “I saw Bruce go from wanting to murder you, to looking at you like you were a godsend…I saw you accepting your death before even trying to actually harm him…I saw my own heartbreak mirrored in his eyes.” She shook her head. “I won’t pretend to know your story with him, but I can see that you are important to each other and that something went wrong before.” Clark looked away; his eyes showing a storm inside of him, not knowing that that small action confirmed every little theory she had on them. “Clark, I love you, and I know that you love me too. But I also know that there is something greater in your past…you have a second chance for it, use it.”

“How can you be so calm about this?” He asked in a broken little whisper.

“Because I had to go over it as I mourned you. Because losing you meant facing what we had, and I had to accept things before I could be at peace and let you go.”

“I don’t think you are right about him, Lo…” He continued in a small voice. There was so much pain and longing in there.

“I think I am, you should ask, I get the feeling that there are very few things he wouldn’t do for you, Clark.” He continued to dodge her eyes. “Don’t fight me on this Smallville…promise?” She glared, making sure that he knew he wouldn’t get away from that.

“I promise.” He sighed, defeated. “See you later?” He gave her a tentative smile.

“I’ll call you.” Lois winked seeing him fly away.

She had once asked him if he could love her and be himself. He had told her that he could, that she was his world…too bad she knew that someone else had his soul, that someone had already loved every part of him, and he didn’t even know it.