Clark has always known that Bruce is, frankly, a bit of a dick.
In fact, the whole League knows. Sure, Bruce will occasionally drop the odd bit of wit, maybe have them all laughing at one point, spoil them with a ridiculously well-paid for dinner out as team-bonding, and overall be a very generous benefactor.
But he’s a dick.
Diana laughs whenever any of them moan about it. She shakes her head and pats all four of their shoulders, Barry nearly fainting each time, and tells them all that they’re clearly just as bullheaded if all they can see is the superficial side of Bruce. Victor is the only one stupid enough to challenge her about it, or brave really, but Clark just shuts up and agrees because arguing about it isn’t worth much.
After all, it’s not like he actually minds it. Yeah, Bruce is a dick, but he’s not actually harmful by any means. The only time he’s actually a real douche is when he’s got that glittering Brucie Wayne thing going on with a huge dollar sign written over his head. Unfortunately, that is the majority of the time when Clark Kent bumps into him, but also the majority of the time Clark gets away mostly unscathed.
There was that one time where Bruce had accidentally mentioned how much of a hick Clark was in front of a few of his board members, and that’s the only thing that Clark really gets angry over. His mother was absolutely seething, and Clark knows it took more than the guilty bunches of flowers and brand new tractor Bruce bought her to make up for it. What it was though is sealed between both Bruce and Martha Kent and, as far as either is concerned, that is none of Clark’s business.
So yeah, Clark knows Bruce is a dick, and he accepts that he probably won’t ever be able to be friends with such a person, but that doesn’t affect Superman and Batman’s working relationship at all.
No, what affects that is Superman’s raging and huge crush on Batman that literally none of the team have let go.
Clark let one deep sigh slip as Batman had left the training room one time and ever since his life has been full of nothing but teasing from his teammates and dealing with the fact that Batman is Bruce who is also Brucie Wayne and they’re all absolute dicks.
Except they’re not, because Clark hardly knows Bruce as Bruce, and where Brucie Wayne charms and smiles, Batman works tirelessly night and day to ensure the safety of his city. He saves so many people it’s hard to keep track, aids them in whatever way he can under the damn suit, always treats the number one villains as people, and the day Clark finds out that he hurts them as little as he can because they’re mentally ill and deserve help, well, Barry hasn’t deleted the snap he took of the look Clark had clearly given Batman’s retreating back.
He shows it to Clark sometimes, and no matter how many phones Clark breaks in an attempt to get rid of it, Bruce always buys Barry a new one and the kid is back to haunting Clark with the terrible love-struck look in the next week.
So Clark deals with it, deals with being irrevocably head over heels for the Greatest Detective in the world, but finding his alter-egos neigh intolerable at times. He deals with it when Arthur laughs at his misfortune, when Barry plays devil's advocate and puts silly ideas in Clark’s mind, when Victor straight up tells him he’s an idiot, and when Diana rolls her eyes and pats his head like he’s a little boy with a cute crush. He deals with it, okay.
Until, of course, the day he realises that maybe Bruce isn’t the dick he’s portraying himself to be.
It’s common knowledge amongst the League that leaving one’s phone out and unattended is a huge no-no. The biggest incident had been when Clark had come back from the bathroom to see that Barry had cracked his code with Victor’s support, and the two had blown up Lois Lane’s phones with highly inappropriate texts.
Texts that wouldn’t be inappropriate if they hadn’t just broken up a week ago, something Clark had forgotten to mention to the League, so Barry and Victor’s horror-struck faces were at least genuine when Clark opened that kettle of fish.
So, finding Bruce’s phone sitting on top of a pile of paperwork in the drawing room of the League Mansion immediately draws Clark’s attention, especially when he can see Barry also zeroing in on it as he enters from the other side of the room, and the minute they realise it’s there it becomes a race to get to it first.
Barry is after it for no doubt nefarious reasons, and Clark just really wants that not to happen. At least with Lois, it was explainable with her knowing about the League, but the only one on Bruce’s side is Alfred.
Also, potentially Richard Grayson, but Bruce never talks about his son.
They collide at the same time, the phone almost crushed in between the impact of their hands, and Barry frowns as he tries to grapple it from Clark’s grip.
“Come on, Claaaark,” Barry whines as he tugs on it fruitlessly. He might be fast, but Clark is definitely stronger than him. “You can’t tell me you’re not interested in what Brucie has on here.”
“Even if I did, Barry,” he replies, emphasis on his name as he fully tugs it from Barry’s grip, “Bruce has good reason to keep his secrets.” He looks around, noticing the side room leading to the kitchen is half open. Bruce must’ve disappeared that way. Clark isn’t surprised that he’s left his phone behind though. After all, the paperwork it’s on top of is about Harley Quinn’s latest release request and her psychology report. Bruce must clearly have a lot on his mind, and Clark hopes he’s not making his way to Alfred’s hidden liquor cabinet in the butler's pantry.
“You can’t tell me you’re not even a little interested,” Barry continues to protest, and Clark turns back to see that, while Barry is solid, his hand is a blur as it whirls around Clark’s hand that's clutching the phone. He can feel slight bits of pressure, and he closes his hand tighter around the phone to stop Barry finding any gaps to nab it.
“Leave it, Barry,” he demands, “or I’ll have to get Diana to give you another one of her talks.”
Barry groans as he drops his hand and moves away an inch. “I’d rather try learning whale-speak from Arthur again,” he mutters but he continues to back up. He gives Clark a large grin and gestures at the phone. “You’re not saying this so I’ll go and you can snoop around without me, right?”
“Okay, okay!” He holds up his hands in surrender. “I think Victor wanted a lab rat anyway, so I’ll catch you later.”
Clark lets out a huff of relief as Barry heads back out the main doors towards Victor’s lab. Thank goodness that’s over with. Admittedly, Clark wants nothing else than to pull apart the phone himself and see what Bruce has on here, just out of sheer interest, but considering it’s Bruce? It’ll probably be nothing but boring stocks, meeting minutes, and a lot of girl’s numbers.
So he doesn’t play investigator, no matter how much he wants to, and he gently places the phone back on top of the paperwork spread across the desk. His fingers still itch a bit with curiosity, but it’s taken Clark a long time to realise just when a reporter needs to stop and he’s not about to blow up his own rules out of misguided curiosity.
He’s just turning away from the desk though when he hears a ping from the phone, and it’s just automatic habit that has him turning around to glance down at it. It’s a message from Lucius Fox, Bruce’s business partner, so it’s not unusual. There’s not even a text preview to see it, so overall it’s actually really boring.
But what's underneath the text, the lock screen photo, is what grabs Clark’s attention and has him turning back to the phone. He dismisses the text, sending it to the side to show the photo underneath, and he carefully picks it back up as he peers at it.
It’s two boys, both teenagers, against a brick wall. The one closest to the camera, sitting with a phone in hand, Clark recognises as Nightwing, mainly because of the suit he’s wearing. He’s looking off at something in the distance with his eyes half closed, a small smile on his face, and Clark feels odd now knowing what Richard Greyson actually looks like. Though, the other boy has his eyes on Richard as he stands beside him with an elusive air, the distinctive stripe of white in his hair enough to give Clark a clue over who he is.
He’s been in the Batcave. He’s seen the suit of Robin armour with Joker’s spray painted message over it. He’s always wondered about the story, and he’s only ever gotten snippets from Alfred when he’s feeling nostalgic. Most of the time, Clark actually forgets all about Jason Todd since he’s never spoken of.
But here he is, on Bruce’s lock screen with his other son, Richard. Clark isn’t quite too sure how to process the fact that Bruce has his sons sitting clear as day on his phone when he actively tries to hide any form of connection or soft side whenever he’s around others.
“What are you doing?”
Bruce’s sudden voice is enough to make Clark jump and drop the phone, his heart starting to race as he realises he’s been so distracted that Bruce has managed to sneak up on him. Not an easy feat. He tries to hide his guilt behind a sheepish smile as he turns around to see Bruce glaring at him over a steaming mug, gripped tightly in his hand.
“Nothing,” Clark starts off saying, faltering when he realises that is a ridiculously blatant lie. He feels around behind himself and picks up one of the closest folders. “Well, not nothing. I was just looking at Harley Quinn’s psychology report.” That’s a good enough lie, he thinks.
Bruce’s expression doesn’t change as he approaches Clark and pulls the file from his grip. Clark is thankful to see he did at least pick up the psychology report, adding some credibility to his claim and, when Bruce pushes past him, he happily starts to slink away.
“No, you weren’t,” Bruce says though, and Clark freezes where he stands. “You’re not interested in Harley Quinn, you never have been. And snooping like this has never been your style.” He turns back from the table to catch Clark’s eye, his phone in his hand where the lock screen is still showing. “You were looking at my phone.”
Clark can already feel the flush settling on his cheeks as he raises a hand to rub the back of his neck. “I didn’t mean to,” he tries to explain, and Bruce’s raised eyebrow is enough to know what he thinks of that statement. “I was just trying to stop Barry from taking it, and you should know that you’re not to leave your phone unattended! It’s a house rule!”
Bruce’s eyes are unwavering as he takes a sip of his drink before placing the mug down. “I would’ve expected that, perhaps, my team would be polite enough to respect my privacy, considering the amount of work I have done the entire time the team has been together to ensure that my privacy is well kept.”
Yeah, Clark feels the flush deepening with shame at those words, and he looks away from Bruce’s hard stare. He feels like a jerk, in all honesty. Bruce is right. It seems like Barry won’t be the only one going to see Diana for another one of her talks. Clark will volunteer in this case if it means wiping that disappointed look off Bruce’s face.
“I’m sorry,” he starts to say, and Bruce’s head drops on an angle and Clark can’t make eye contact. “I… there’s really no excuse.”
“You’re curious over who they are, aren’t you?” Bruce surprises him by saying, and Clark’s eyes dart to where Bruce is holding his phone in one hand with the lock screen clicked on. The two boys do catch Clark’s attention, and it’s almost with a bit of shame that he nods his head.
Bruce huffs and drops the phone back on top of the desk, not paying Clark any attention as he walks around the other side and takes his seat in front of his mountain of paperwork. Clark wonders if it’s a dismissal, but Bruce clears his throat as he places his mug down and folds his fingers together to peer over them at Clark.
“Richard Grayson and Jason Todd,” he says clearly, and Clark almost flinches as he watches the phone screen start to dim. “Although, you probably already knew that.”
“The Nightwing costume is a giveaway,” Clark automatically replies. “And it wasn’t hard to figure out who Jason was after that.” Bruce just hums his reply, and Clark awkwardly shuffles over to click the screen back on. “Why are they your lock screen? I thought it would be a bit of a giveaway if Bruce Wayne had Nightwing as his screensaver.”
Bruce doesn’t reply for a moment, and Clark wonders if he’s touched a nerve, but Bruce shakes his head and drops his hands to his phone. Clark’s eyes follow them, watching worn hands twist the phone between his fingers, and he forces all other thoughts that come with Bruce’s hands to the back of his mind.
“You’re correct,” Bruce tells him, and Clark genuinely jumps at the confirmation. His eyes track over to Bruce’s face, and he’s surprised to see a nostalgic look as Bruce stares at the phone. “I don’t normally have the boys as my lock screen. Usually, it’s just a generic picture of a rose, and the Batphone is, of course, the bat symbol.” He looks up at Clark. “But, sometimes, it’s nice to have a reminder of my boys when I’m doing something difficult.” Clark doesn’t think he’s imagining Bruce’s jaw clenching. “And it’s also a reminder as to why Harley Quinn and the Joker deserve to stay locked behind bars for a very very long time.”
Of course, Clark remembers. It was Joker and Harley Quinn who… with Jason… He winces internally and tries to back out of the conversation. He’s never seen Bruce look so… sad, or have any other emotion than the usual Brucie Wayne persona. It’s strange, and it’s definitely making Clark rethink his stance on Bruce being, well, a dick.
“A rose, huh?” he asks, trying to find a way to lighten the mood. Bruce just nods, and Clark feels the question falling out before he can stop it. “Why a rose?”
“My mother,” Bruce instantly replies, and there’s a small curving smile on his lips, blink and you miss it small. “She used to have roses the whole way around this Manor before she died, and she would prune them and care for them all by herself.” He drops his gaze from Clark’s eyes to focus on his phone. “I could never quite care for them the way she did, no matter how hard Alfred tried to teach me.”
Clark stumbles to a halt, his question having gone the complete opposite direction than he intended. Bruce doesn’t look sad anymore though, just slightly wistful, but it’s enough that Clark knows he needs to leave. He doesn’t want to send Bruce down an awful remembrance trail without anyone around he trusts to pull him out if it gets too dark. He’d love to be that person, but considering this is the first hint of Bruce’s life that he’s shared with Bruce since they met two years ago, he highly doubts Bruce thinks of him that way.
“That’s…” Clark starts to say, only for Bruce to wave him off as he turns in his chair back to his paperwork.
“It’s a meaningless memory, Clark,” he says staunchly as he picks up Harley Quinn’s previous parole records. “There’s not much to be said about it.” He clears his throat. “In any case, I need to get back to this. Unfortunately, Arkham Asylum cannot manage their own criminals without Batman’s input, and Quinn’s trial is tomorrow.”
“Oh,” Clark mumbles as he takes a couple of steps backwards, registering the polite dismissal. “Right. Of course. Ah, good luck, I guess?”
Bruce gives him a distracted nod, and Clark takes the outing as what it is. If he puts a little bit extra into his speed to get out of the room, then that’s his business, and if he pauses at the door to glance back at Bruce as well, lingering as he tries to process what just happened, then yeah.
That’s his business also.
Realistically, Clark knows that Bruce can’t be too bad. Diana is still his number one supporter, and after Clark had told her what had happened with the phone business, she becomes even more of his cheerleader.
“He cares, Clark,” she tells him when they’re sparring one day, and Clark is trying to avoid her quick fists. “He’s just more reserved about it. Not everyone can be so carelessly open as you are.”
“I’m not carelessly open,” Clark grumbles, and he dodges a fist and throws a rude gesture at Arthur in the corner who is snorting at his rebuttal. “I’m not.”
“Sure thing, Clark,” Arthur practically cackles as he advances towards them. “So, pronouncing your undying love for Lois Lane in the middle of a League conference is being closed off, huh?”
“I was sitting on Diana’s lasso!” Clark protests, letting out a grunt as Diana’s leg collides with his stomach and he uses his hold on it to flip her onto the ground. “I couldn’t exactly help myself!”
Diana laughs as she locks her calves around one of Clark’s legs and downs him beside her. “In any case,” she continues as she rolls on top of him and pins his arms to the ground, Arthur hooting behind them. “Bruce is a genuinely nice person. You just haven’t seen as many sides of him as I have.”
“Sounds like fun,” Clark grumbles as he gives up, relaxing back against the floor as Diana loosens her hold on his wrists. “If he ever showed his softer side then I’d be more inclined to believe you. But, as yet-”
“All we’ve seen is one hell of an asshole,” Arthur finishes for him, and Clark lets out a hum of agreement. Diana rolls her eyes as she gets up off of Clark, offering a hand to him to haul him up.
“Just give him time, okay?” she says, and Clark eventually gives her a half-smile and nod, even if Arthur is still muttering away under his breath.
So, okay, Clark will give him time. It’s not like it’s a big thing to ask. If Clark has been putting up with Bruce’s grouchy attitude for the last six months, post-resurrection, then he’s positive he can do it for a while longer. After all, it’s not like Bruce is actively a dick to them, he just seems to ooze it whenever he’s around without his Batsuit on. And it’s not like Clark can just request that he keeps the suit on at all times in the Mansion. Alfred would have a fit, for one thing.
Of course, the incident with the phone sits on his mind a lot. The idea of Bruce thinking about his two boys and his mother regularly is a very different idea to what Clark thought he used to think of. When he tells Victor, Victor laughs and asks if he thought that the only things Bruce thought about were stocks and women.
Clark flushes red and refuses to answer.
It’s not long after Diana’s request though that Clark sees a different side to Bruce again. They’re on assignment together, both having been sent off to go find Bane who was last seen lurking around Iron Heights Penitentiary outside Keystone and Central Cities. Barry was supposed to do it originally but threw the mission their way when Victor informed them that it looked like Bane has a small army with him.
It’s not much of a deal for Batman and Superman to take on together. The small army is roughly fifteen people alongside Bane. They find them within the day of arriving and while Batman chases down Bane, Superman deals with the henchmen.
Clark can deal with it, it’s not like he’s being overpowered, but Bane’s henchmen are a certain type of malicious. They don’t fight fair, and they don’t fight with particularly pleasant objects either. Clark counts at least six crowbars amongst the shining guns, a few with a faintly familiar green glow, and grunts as all of them charge him at once. Batman keeps him updated over their comm line as he fights one on one against Bane, but Clark can’t quite reply as he continues to get belted and belted by all these bloody melee tools until he’s aching so much that even his invulnerability can’t quite handle it.
But it works out. Somehow, Clark manages to knock the majority of them out, keeping only one conscious enough to get some information regarding Bane’s plan. It’s pretty simple. Crack open a wall of the Iron Heights Penitentiary and let the criminals loose on the two nearby cities.
It’s not much of a crafty plan, especially from Bane, but the crook says it’s more about catching Batman’s attention since he’s, as the crook says, focused only on the Justice League at the moment.
“Jealousy, huh?” Clark asks before he knocks the bastard out and starts to high tail it over a few buildings where he can hear the sounds of Bane and Batman fighting. There’s more than a few pained grunts from Batman that he can pick up, and he charges as quickly as he can until he’s barreling straight into Bane and throwing him directly into a rather large and solid brick wall.
“I had it covered!” Batman yells from where he’s sprawled on the ground, and Clark raises an eyebrow his way as he sees Batman struggling to stand up. It looks like one of his arms is at an awkward angle, and Clark lets out a hiss between his teeth as he turns back to Bane.
Bane, who is rising out of the brick wall, laughs when he sees Clark. “Superman!” he calls, opening his arms out wide. “I’m pleased you’ve joined us! I hope my men gave you at least a semblance of a hard time!”
“The kryptonite was a pleasant touch,” Clark replies sarcastically, and he hears Batman let out a startled noise as he moves to stand beside him. “I’ll definitely feel that in the morning.” Bane laughs, and Clark tightens his hands into fists before he flies straightforward to tackle Bane backward, sending them both crashing to the ground in a heap. Clark can feel his ribs protesting, an injury from one of the kryptonite crowbars, but he grits his teeth through it as he holds Bane down.
He’s startled when suddenly Batman is at his side, and he’s not reaching for a Batarang or rope or anything. No, he’s just crouching down at Bane’s head and he simply reaches out to place a hand on top of Bane’s exposed chest to hold him in place.
“So,” Batman says, and Bane stops struggling against Clark at that one word. “What’s happened in the last fortnight that’s got you so riled up? Two weeks ago we agreed on me backing you as you shut down the Greggavorci Family for extended meth dealings. Now, you’re trying to break open prisons.”
There’s silence for a long moment, Bane peering out from behind his mask at Batman who merely shuffles into a more comfortable position to wait. Clark almost feels awkward as he eases off of Bane, his hands the only thing left touching him, to ensure he doesn’t attack or anything, as he moves to the side.
It takes a while, but eventually Bane cracks. “Tony Greggavorci’s son, Henry Greggavorci, is being held in Iron Heights Penitentiary under suspicion of major cocaine dealings,” he finally says, and Clark frowns as Batman nods. “Only, Henry didn’t do it. He’s being framed for Carrie Fredetch’s work, and no matter how much evidence Tony collects, the police don’t buy it.” Bane sits up slightly against their hands. “That’s why Tony has increased the amount of meth he’s selling. He’s trying to raise money to buy his son bail and a team of lawyers to overturn his conviction.”
“And you didn’t come to me, why?” Batman asks, and Clark’s eyes go wide. Bane, a known criminal, going to Batman for assistance?
Bane shrugs. “You’re so busy with your new superhero club that we all feel like we’ve been forgotten.” He sits up fully, and Clark’s hands fall to his lap as he stays crouched in total shock. “Riddler got into trouble with Commissioner Gordon last week for grand theft auto, and he said that you’d didn’t come to his call.”
Batman sighs as he shakes his head. “I can’t always be there, Bane,” he says, surprisingly gentle. “I’ll try my best, but I’m getting pretty stretched thin.” He clears his throat before he stands up, and Clark can hear the wailing of approaching police sirens. “We’re gonna have to turn you in, but I’ll make sure someone gets you out on decent bail.” He looks at Clark, his eyes lingering on the subtle glow over Clark’s wounds. “Although, it’s really up to Superman on whether we let you go. You did orchestra an attempted prison break, and you’ve somehow acquired Kryptonite weapons-”
“Luthor,” Bane cuts him off, and Clark tries not to groan because of course, it’s Lex Luthor. “He’s got a vendetta on Mr. Apple Pie here. He’s offering Kryptonite weapons to everyone with the hopes of taking him down.”
Batman’s eyes are on Clark still, and he almost shuffles awkwardly under his stare. “I don’t approve of what you did, Bane,” Clark chides, trying not to sound like a disappointed father, but he almost catches Batman trying to hide a smile. “Next time, try and approach us first. Any of us. The League is there to help everyone, no exceptions.”
Bane’s eyes are clearly confused as he looks between Clark and Batman, but they settle on Batman as he starts to talk again. “We’ll look into the Greggavorci case when we’re both back in Gotham,” Batman says, and Bane nods. “We’ll see what we can do for them. I’m sure Henry’s conviction can be reasoned out.”
Clark stands as the other two slowly rise. Although, while they’re conversing as the police approach, he stands in gobsmacked silence as the police tear down the alleyway and get out with their guns aimed high. It doesn’t seem to faze either Batman or Bane though, and Batman escorts Bane to one of the squad cars, has a quiet but intense conversation with the Commissioner of the group, before returning to Clark’s side looking completely and utterly at ease under the mask.
“Let’s go,” Batman says to him, “I think there’s a hotel nearby with our name on it.”
Clark doesn’t have time to question him before Batman is shooting off over the rooftops with his grappling gun, and Clark shakes himself out of his reprieve to chase after him. He follows at a reasonable distance though as they tear across the rooftops, and when Batman drops into a nearby alley right beside one of the most expensive bloody hotels in all of Central City, Clark follows suit and tries not to roll his eyes because, clearly, this is Bruce Wayne’s choice of hotel. He’d have been happy with some little backwash motel on the motorway halfway back to Gotham and Metropolis, but as Batman undoes his suit, Clark can see more of Bruce coming out.
They don’t talk the whole time they’re undressing, and Bruce pulls an expanding old-fashioned suitcase, like a briefcase of all things, out of his pocket to conceal their suits. Clark harrumphs at the unnecessary little invention, no doubt it’d cost thousands of dollars to make, but it does make stowing away their suits that little bit easier.
The Batmobile is a few blocks over and, after a moments indecision, Clark takes the few leaps to get there to drag out his reporter's bag and glasses. He doesn’t offer to take the suitcase. Turning up to a hotel without at least a little bit of luggage could be misconstrued, so at the very least the suitcase can be considered as normal. His glasses feel funny on his nose as he flies back, gripping them tightly so they don’t fall off and, as he lands beside him, Bruce immediately shuffles them on his face and smooths down his hair.
“I know I can blow people away,” Bruce murmurs, his voice silky smooth. “But that’s no reason to look like it.”
Clark huffs and bats his hands away, ignoring the coy smile on Bruce’s face. It occurs to him that they’re going to have to either go in separately, or otherwise there will be news that Bruce Wayne is in the ‘company’ of Clark Kent, and Clark is not prepared to have any of the Daily Planet reporters crawling up his ass for that exclusive.
Also, what would his mother think?
It seems Bruce isn’t thinking that way though as suddenly his arm is wrapped around Clark’s waist, the suitcase in his other hand, and he is guiding Clark out onto the street. There aren't many people around, the area obviously pretty exclusive, and Clark opens his mouth to argue that this isn’t the approach he wanted, only for a bellhop to appear at the bottom of the stairs in front of the hotel with his customer service smile plastered on.
“Mr. Wayne,” he greets as he reaches them. “I apologise, we were not aware that you would be joining us tonight.” His eyes flicker to Clark but, while Clark is trying to force away his blush, he doesn’t seem at all perturbed. Clark wonders just how many other people Bruce has brought here before. “Your usual room, sir?”
“That would be perfect,” Bruce responds easily, his grip on Clark’s waist tightening as if he can read Clark’s thoughts of wanting to run away. “Unfortunately, the ballet was cancelled on us, but I’m sure we’ll be able to find other ways of entertaining ourselves.”
Clark almost chokes at the sheer lecherousness in Bruce’s voice, and the way his eyes are practically undressing him is making Clark hot around the collar, but he’s not too sure in what way. The bellhop doesn’t even miss a blink though, clearly used to this kind of behaviour either from Bruce or other patrons, and he reaches out to take the suitcase from Bruce and Clark’s messenger bag as he shows them in.
Clark has to bite down very hard on his cheek as they ascend the steps, desperate to push Bruce’s hand off his waist as it continues to slide down his back, but Bruce leans in close against him and hisses at him to go along with it, so he clenches his fist and looks away. He's not used to this position. Normally, if anyone, it’s Diana who’s playing the role of Bruce Wayne’s latest squeeze, enough so that there are fan pages on the internet discussing them. Lois gets a particular kick out of showing Clark them all, and he hates to think what she’ll be like if a photo gets out of him and Bruce in their current position.
Thankfully, the concierge doesn’t offer them much except for a present smile and greeting. She looks like she’s had a long night, and Clark feels a lot of sympathy for her as Bruce leans unabashedly against the counter and continues to make lewd comments about just what he plans on getting up to tonight. Clark looks away, hoping that the red-cheeked and red-eared look will come across as painfully shy instead of horrified.
Another porter takes them up to their room, wishing them a pleasant stay as she leads them, and Clark takes the opportunity to split off straight into the room as Bruce feeds the porter lines about Clark being very eager. He hears the lady laugh, and he dreads to think what smooth line Bruce just used on her, and he doesn’t wait to hear what he’s said as he makes a desperate dive for the shower.
The hot water on his back is soothing, and he feels himself starting to relax as he washes away whatever traces of the Kryptonite is left. It troubles him to think that Lex Luthor is giving out bits of the mineral away to whoever is after it, but then again the guy has a ridiculously huge vendetta against him. He’ll still have to talk to Bruce about borrowing his scanner to see how much they can collect before anyone makes something as dangerous as a Kryptonite spear.
He winces at the thought and turns off the water. If he drops that line then Bruce will, no doubt, feel guilty and start doing his whole appeasing without looking like he’s appeasing thing. Clark had to call him out on it last time when Bruce had bought him two damn cars in the process.
Clark can fly.
It’s quiet when he makes his way back into the room, wearing his undershirt and boxers as pyjamas. He can hear Bruce’s heartbeat in the kitchen tucked off to the side, and his breathing is pleasantly light, and Clark drops his pants and jacket over the sofa as he makes his way past the one bed to where Bruce is.
“I’ll take the couch,” he calls as he leans against the doorway, smiling to himself when he sees that Bruce is tapping a spoon over two mugs. There’s steam coming off of them, and he’s pleasantly surprised when Bruce turns to give him one.
“English breakfast with two sugars,” Bruce says as he lets go, and Clark raises an eyebrow. Bruce simply smiles. “Diana told me.”
That stuns Clark even more, and he takes a tentative sip before letting out a hum of appreciation. It’s weird that Bruce would remember something like that, especially since Bruce Wayne hardly remembers the names of his dates half the time.
He ignores Diana’s smug voice in his head.
“Don’t take the couch,” Bruce continues, oblivious to Clark’s internal monologue. “I’ll take it. You’re more battered and bruised then I am. You need a proper bed to sleep in.”
He doesn’t make eye contact at all, busy staring down at his mug as he leans against the bench. Clark hasn’t seen him look so dishevelled in a long time, shirt half untucked and unbuttoned, no tie, sleeves pushed up. Clark can see the beginnings of a purple bruise peeking out from underneath his collar, and Clark doesn’t need x-ray vision to know that it’s trailing down his side and back. Bane is a hefty man. Any fight with him will end in bruising, if not breakage, and he glances down to see that Bruce's arm is fine.
“We’ll share,” Clark says, taking the moral high ground. There’s no reason why they can’t share besides some sort of twisted masculinity, especially since they’re both clearly exhausted and sore. The bed is big enough for two.
Bruce glances up at him, clearly surprised, but he must be tired enough as he just nods his head and makes his way past Clark towards the bed. It’s odd, Clark thinks, how quiet and reserved he is. Clark knows that’s how Batman can be, but normally Bruce Wayne is an over the top dick, a total ass really. Not this silent man who makes cups of tea perfectly and doesn’t argue with Clark when he offers to share a bed.
Maybe there is a difference between Bruce Wayne and Brucie Wayne. It’s just taken this amount of time to realise it.
Clark doesn’t say anything though as he follows Bruce, taking the other side of the bed and placing his half-finished tea on the bedside table. Thankfully, there’s a light switch for the room right above the bed, and Clark places his hand on it as he waits for Bruce to strip down and slip in on the other side.
The silence gets a bit much once the light is off and all that’s heard is their breathing. Clark finds it a little suffocating, the reminder of the battle just won still weighing on his mind, and after a few moments of awkward shifting and fiddling with the sheets, Bruce lets out a long-suffering sigh behind him.
“Go on,” he says, and Clark just fidgets harder as he winces over how obvious he must be. “Ask your questions.”
He doesn’t for a moment, but he does eventually cave. “You work with Bane,” he points out. “Why? He’s a supervillain. How can you trust him?”
There’s a long moment where Clark wonders if he will get a response at all, and he nearly jumps out of his skin when Bruce rolls over to face his back. It’s only habit that has Clark rolling over as well and, in the dark, he can make out Bruce’s features and his eyes watching him.
“Do you know much about Bane?” Bruce asks and, when Clark shakes his head, he sighs. “Bane was imprisoned at a young age by a corrupt government. His father was charged with a series of crimes but evaded capture enough that they decided that his son would serve his time. He was only a kid when he was arrested.”
“How could they-” Clark starts to say, but Bruce cuts him off.
“He grew up surrounded by criminals and with no support of the prison system, just as corrupt as the government. By the time he got out, he was a middle-aged man with strength that had been enchanted by the drug called Venom. Added with natural intelligence and anger at the world, he rose through the underworld at lightning pace.” Bruce falls silent for a moment, and Clark has to resist the urge to move closer to him.
“And now?” Clark eventually presses.
“Now, he’s still got the title of being one hell of a challenger, but after our fight three years ago where he was almost sent back to prison, we’ve come to an understanding,” Bruce responds, and he shuffles slightly until their knees bump. Clark feels a lump in his throat settle when neither pull away. “He stays out of prison as long as he stays away from mass crime and assists whenever there are things I can’t do,” Bruce continues, nonchalant obviously. “Taking down the Greggavorci family is one of them. They need to be taken down from the inside out.”
“And finding out about the son serving time that’s not his to serve would’ve triggered him,” Clark murmurs, and he sees Bruce nod his head.
“I can’t fault him,” Bruce says. “After all, I’m the one that cut corners and didn’t look for triggers before I gave him the assignment. Now I have to deal with keeping him out of prison, getting Henry Greggavorci out, and putting Carrie Fredetch in.”
Clark is almost positive he can see Bruce smiling. “Yeah,” he says. “It sure is. But when has life been simple for people like us?”
Clark let’s out a huff of appreciation. Bruce is right. Nothing is simple for them, and nothing ever has been. He shuffles a bit more where he lies, accidentally knocking Bruce’s knees, but Bruce doesn’t say a word as he just watches Clark move. It’s slightly unsettling, having Bruce’s undivided attention. Clark has never been on the receiving end of it before, and he never quite realised how intense Bruce can be.
“Thank you for telling me about Bane,” he says quietly. He means it. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen Bruce open up about himself let alone anyone else. It’s not sympathy or pity he feels for Bane now, just a resigned acceptance. “I don’t know how you manage to do it, but the way you care for these people is admirable.”
Bruce sighs, something Clark never really catches him doing. “If I don’t, then who will?” he asks. “The world sees these people as criminals and villains. They’re not willing to take a moment and see who they truly are. People aren’t evil for the sake of it.”
“That’s a fair statement.”
Bruce shakes his head. “Bane isn’t a bad person, but he was put in a bad position and handed an unfair life, and he’s doing what he can with it. If I can assist him, direct him along a path where he does good, then I will try my best.” He shrugs, and the blankets over his shoulders drop down. “I’m not doing it to be a hero. I’m doing it because it’s what’s right.”
Clark doesn’t respond immediately. It’s such a strange side of Bruce to see. The conviction, the modesty, it’s not natural and it takes Clark a few moments to properly register what’s just happened. Bruce cares. He honestly cares about all the villains he faces, and Clark has known for a long time that most of them are at Arkham Asylum not just because they’re villains, but because they need the help too. Knowing that Bruce goes out of his way to help them? That both astounds and pleases Clark to no end.
He reaches out gently and picks up the dropped sheet, tugging it up to cover Bruce’s shoulders again, and if his fingers linger on Bruce’s shirtless shoulder for just a moment, well, he blames it on the dark and how he can hardly see through it.
“You’re a good man, Bruce,” Clark says, and he means it. He honestly means it, and he smiles even if Bruce mightn’t be able to see it, and he drops his hand into the space between them.
Bruce doesn’t reply, doesn’t even move, and Clark realises he must’ve been quiet for too long as Bruce is well on his way to being fast asleep.
His light snores fill the space between them, and Clark smiles to himself as he snuggles in beside him. In the morning, they’ll be up and back to Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent. They’ll leave this hotel and go their separate ways, and Clark probably won’t see this side of Bruce for a very long time.
So, he enjoys it while it lasts, his hand a hairs-breath away from Bruce’s chest, and doesn’t dare move it for the rest of the night.
It’s Barry who seems to be the biggest part of the League that keeps them all together.
Sure, they all care for one another. But Clark knows that there are days where Arthur and Bruce would kill each other with their looks if they could. Days where Victor bars the lab and refuses to let anyone in. Days where Diana disappears and if anyone contacts her, emergency or not, they get a vicious response.
There are days when Clark wants to scream and shout at his new teammates that they don’t understand. They don’t get anything that Clark has been through to be at this point. Who cares about some stupid little fight between Penguin and the officers of Gotham when there’s bloody kryptonite being spread around by Lex Luthor, the one thing that could end Clark on any given day?
If Bruce has these types of days too, then he’s very good at keeping it quiet. He’s almost always going through a reclusive day though, so not much changes.
But Barry. Barry never seems to have a bad day, never takes anything out on the team, is always full of bubbles and squeak and can always worm his way under everyone's skin. He and Victor have the best relationship, and it might be because Barry treats Victor like a damn human no matter what power he wakes up with in the morning. Barry can do that, can be everyone’s friend always, can be so damn cheerful yet never be grating.
Until, of course, the day they all realise that’s not the case.
It’s only because Victor is going away, some foreign place in search of people who’ve also been touched by the mother box. He’s quiet about his trip, and Clark gets the need to not want to build up hope, but the team is all thrumming with excitement over there possibly being others. That Victor might not be alone.
But he calls a meeting the day before he leaves, Barry excluded, and he shows them all a list of things that must be done if Barry has a bad day while he’s away.
Clark spots “blanket burrito” and “chick-flicks” at the top of the list, and immediately hopes that Barry doesn’t have a bad day. It’s not selfishness, it’s more that he’d organised a whole week with his mother, which accidentally coincides with Victor’s trip away, and he really doesn’t want to spoil it for her.
“It’s not likely to happen,” Victor tells them all seriously, and Clark punches Arthur as he tries to hide a laugh behind his hand. “So far his relationship with Iris is still going strong, and there’s been no further leads on his father’s case. He should be fine.”
Of course, Clark realises. He’d forgotten about Iris West, the dear girl who Barry seems to be in a permanent on-again-off-again relationship with. Clark’s caught many a conversation about the girl between Barry and Victor, Barry buzzing about her normally while Victor looks pained as he listens. Clark is almost positive it’s because of the crush Victor has on Barry, something Diana had pointed out, and the more he watches the two the more obvious it becomes. Victor absolutely dotes on Barry, and Barry is a flurry of activity that can’t slow down to see what’s in front of him.
“And we just follow these instructions if he, what, has a breakup?” Arthur asks sarcastically, and Clark resists the urge to punch him again as Victor pins Arthur with one hell of a glare.
“Considering Barry made batch after batch of brownies for you that one time Mera told you your biceps were shrinking, I think you can manage,” Victor snaps, and Clark hides a laugh behind his hand as Diana does the same across from him. Arthur looks suitably chastened, a good look on him.
“It’ll be fine, Victor,” Bruce speaks up, ever serious in these meetings. His grip on Victor’s shoulder looks tight and reassuring. “We will look after Barry if anything happens. You just focus on finding what you’re looking for.”
Victor nods, and he pins them all individually with a glare before he turns to walk out, leaving the four of them looking at the list. It’s descriptive, very in-depth, and Clark smiles at the underline underneath the cookie dough ice cream. Clearly, that’s very important.
Diana scoops up the list and pins it to the memo board behind the large table in their meeting room. Clark catches the number at the bottom, clearly Victor’s, and once again he registers just how much Victor clearly cares for Barry. It’s incredible, and Clark has to wonder if it’s one-sided.
Victor leaves though, and they wave him off with Barry, brimming with excitement, beside them. Arthur is giving him wary looks, and Clark thinks he might ask a stupid question, but Diana intervenes with an arm around Barry’s shoulders.
“Come on, you,” she says with a large grin as she starts to pull Barry towards her car, hooking her hand through Bruce’s elbow as she goes. “We’re taking you to brunch. Victor told me you didn’t eat anything before running here from Central City.”
Barry’s voice starts up, a mile a minute, and Clark shares a small smile with Arthur as the two stand side-by-side and watch the trio go, Bruce driving and looking nonchalant as ever as Barry clearly chatters away in the passenger's seat.
Clark doesn’t stick around for them to come back. He makes his way to his mother’s farm instead, farewelling Arthur who is off to Atlantis before he goes, and his mother is absolutely over the moon when he arrives on her porch. It doesn’t take long for her to shuffle him into a seat at the table, after numerous hugs, and she starts to pile his plate with pre-made casserole as she chatters away. Clark loves it, loves being home with his mother, and he digs in with no hesitance.
Two days go by with no contact from the League. Clark spends his time fixing the tractor, rebuilding a garden that his mother’s new dog destroyed, constructing another garden shed, and he’s halfway through re-fencing the horse’s paddock when he gets the call.
It’s Diana, and that alone has Clark rushing to pick up the phone.
“It’s Barry,” Diana says the minute she must hear Clark’s breathing, skipping the greetings and pleasantries. “Victor just called to say he’s broken up with Iris and is a mess right now.”
“Seriously?” Clark groans. “Diana, I know we said that we’d watch out for each other in the League but-“
“Clark,” Diana cuts him off, and Clark falls silent with a wince at her tone. “We did agree to look after each other, and if that includes looking after Barry after a damn break up then that is what we will do.” She clears her throat, and Clark can already see what she’s about to bring up. “Need I remind you about how long we supported you after your break up with Lois?”
“That was once,” Clark weakly protests.
“And Victor has been dealing with Barry this whole time, and it’s only once that he is asking us to step in.”
Clark sighs. After all, he knows she’s right. He knows he’s being childish and whiny. He just doesn’t want to bolt over to Central City and wrap Barry up in a damn blanket burrito and feed him cookie dough ice cream as they talk feelings and watch chick flicks. It’s not that he’s against it, it’s just he can help his mother here.
But she’s right. So, he grits his teeth and bloody well gets on with it.
“Only me?” he asks.
He can hear the smile in Diana’s voice. “Unfortunately,” she says. “I’m in Themyscira and can’t get there. Arthur’s in Atlantis and last I heard his half-brother is rearing his head again.” She pauses and lets out a little huff. “And can you imagine Bruce doing it?”
Clark purses his lips to bite back a laugh at the thought. Bruce? No. No way.
“I’ll leave as soon as possible,” he assures her. They ring off after, and Clark looks at the rest of the fencing that needs to be done and swears. If he rushes, he could get it done, but he did just promise to go and help Barry.
He calls out for his mother, and he rushes through an explanation that has her raising an eyebrow but shooing him off anyway. He’s thankful for her understanding, and he tells her he’ll be back to finish the fencing as he shoots up into the air and tears towards League Manor.
When he gets there, he falters for a moment when he realises the list isn’t on the memo board where Diana had put it. He spends too long trying to find it, and by the time he gives up and spirits himself away to Central City, it’s already been well over an hour since Diana’s call.
He feels wretched as he tears towards Barry’s hideout, trying to remember what was on the list from his brief memory of it. He feels worse when he realises he didn’t pay it much attention at all, clearly having dismissed it, and he decides that he’ll just wing it when he gets there. He’s fast enough to make a dive for the nearest shop if need be, and he’s sure Barry will be okay with that.
What he’s not expecting though, when he finally arrives, is to see a very shiny car in the alleyway outside Barry’s hideout. A very familiar shiny car. The fact that Bruce is here throws Clark off, and he lands with a bit of a stumble as he focuses on the two heartbeats inside the warehouse.
There’s very clearly Barry. His heart is in an almost permanent state of tachycardia, probably to do with his speed and the fact he’s undoubtedly been hit by a few of those lightning bolts that flitter around when he starts running, although it’s surprisingly slow for him at the moment. The other one though is Bruce. Clark’s always loved his heartbeat. A strong regular beat, soothing in its repetitiveness.
Carefully, Clark slips through the door without making it squeak as he heads towards Barry’s carefully created space. He can hear their voices from outside, but he doesn’t focus on them until he’s peeking around the side of one of the doors to look at them.
The sight almost makes him laugh. Barry is definitely in a blanket burrito on his second favourite armchair, although it’s perfectly folded around him with barely any wrinkle. Absolutely Bruce’s meticulous doing. The TV is blaring something that Clark tunes out, and the two men are sitting beside each other, Bruce on the new couch, with Barry sniffling as Bruce talks to him.
It’s a conversation that Clark almost doesn’t listen to, but he hears Victor’s name and immediately listens in out of sheer curiosity. From the way Barry is looking at the ground, Clark wonders if Bruce is actually giving him a lecture more than friendly advice.
“This thing with Iris needs to stop, Barry,” Bruce is saying, and yeah, Clark definitely thinks it’s a lecture as Barry flinches. “I know it’s hard, and it’s not what you want to hear, but I’m not Victor. I’m not going to sugar coat this so you two end up back together and three months down the line we’re back in this position.” He reaches out to cup Barry’s shoulder, giving him a slight shake. “It’s not going to work out. It will never work out.”
“But what if-” Barry starts to say but Bruce cuts him off.
“No,” he interrupts, his voice hard enough and full of enough authority that even Clark feels his shoulders straighten. “No what ifs, no buts, no maybes. It won’t work, Barry. She’s too different, and you’re too different. Tell me,” and he shakes Barry again until Barry meets his eyes. “Do you think you can tell her about being the Flash? About being part of the League? Have you ever thought about telling her?”
Barry is uncharacteristically silent as he gapes at Bruce, and Clark feels his chest tighten as Barry barely shakes his head. He can see the realisation dawning on his face, painstaking and slow, and he almost busts out from his hiding spot to give the guy a hug.
“You’re right,” Barry murmurs, and Clark can almost swear that he can see tears starting to build in his eyes. “You’re right. I’ve never thought about telling her. I can’t… lying to her isn’t okay.”
“No, it’s not,” Bruce says gently, and then he surprises Clark even more by reaching out and yanking Barry into a tight hug. It’s a fatherly one, his hand on the back of Barry’s head and the other pressed to his back, and Clark wonders just how many times he held Richard like this and maybe Jason…
It’s not his place to wonder, and Clark counts down to ten before he steps back down the hallway. He can still hear their heartbeats, one thrumming and the other steady, and he focuses on them for a moment as he composes himself before he turns around and starts to make as much noise as reasonably possible.
“Barry?” he calls as he gets to the doorway he was in, and he doesn’t quite miss the way Bruce springs away from Barry. Yeah, so Clark was lucky to get to see him like this. Bruce doesn’t make eye contact as Clark walks in, but Barry looks up at him with huge, hurt eyes and gives him a weak smile.
“Hey Clark,” Barry greets weakly. “You didn’t have to come. Bruce has it pretty well covered.” He winces as he looks away. “Don’t let my stupid break-up get in-between you and your Ma-“
“Shut up, Barry,” Clark gently chides as he steps forward. “You’re an important part of this team. You were there for me with Lois, so I’ll be here for you with Iris.”
He doesn’t miss the small smile that appears on Bruce’s face, but Bruce still won’t make eye contact with him. Clark doesn’t mention it though as he walks over to sit down beside Bruce on the couch, making him scooch over as he sinks into the plushness. Bruce had bought the couch for Barry a while ago, a gift for the rest of the team to sit on whenever visiting Barry’s hideout. It’s good to relax, even though he has almost unlimited stamina, his brain still gets tired from all his activity.
“So,” he starts up again when neither of the other two make any noises, and he gestures at the movie playing on the screen. “Thirteen Going on Thirty, huh?”
Barry sniffs. “Jennifer Garner is my queen,” he says, and Clark can’t help but smile before reaching across Bruce to grab the remote. He pauses momentarily as their faces get close, Bruce’s breath on his cheek, and he fights back a shudder as he falls back and turns up the volume.
They make their way through the movie in relative peace, Barry howling through one part enough that Bruce and Clark almost fall over each other to get tissues for him, and they’re halfway into another movie when Clark registers that Barry’s heartbeat has slowed down, and when he glances over the boy is fast asleep with a block of chocolate dangling from his fingers.
Bruce notices as well and he reaches over to gently pull the chocolate away, smiling when Barry lets out a little-disgruntled noise before leaning back into his seat. Clark watches him with an intense gaze and, when Bruce looks at him, he raises an eyebrow.
“Didn’t expect to see you here,” Clark murmurs, careful to keep his voice quiet, and Bruce shifts awkwardly. “Wouldn’t have pegged you as the one to be looking after a heartsick Barry.”
“I didn’t think anyone else would do it,” Bruce says, and Clark shakes his head when he hears Bruce’s heart pick up for just a moment. A lie. Bruce’s eyes narrow at him before he glances towards the doorway and sighs. “How long were you listening?”
Clark starts and reaches up to rub the back of his neck sheepishly. “You heard me?”
“I’m not an idiot, Clark,” Bruce scolds him with a roll of his eyes. “You never make noises when coming into a room, and you only overcompensate when you’re worried you’ll have been caught sneaking.” Bruce smiles at him, just a small one. “Plus you never quite grew out of the ‘kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar’ look.”
Clark can’t help but return the smile. “That’s one way to put it,” he says, and Bruce shakes his head almost fondly. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt your moment. I just...” he waves his hand vaguely and, thankfully, Bruce doesn’t let him finish whatever sentence is coming out of his mouth.
“Barry will be happy that a few people turned up,” Bruce says as he looks at the sleeping kid. “I think he was worried because Victor wasn’t here. The first thing he said was that he didn’t mean to cause any trouble.”
“He’s team,” Clark mutters, shaking his head. “We look after team.”
“You took a bit of convincing though.”
Clark feels his cheeks flush red as Bruce gives him that awful penetrating look he has, the look that feels like he peeled away all your layers and can see right into your soul.
“Diana told you?” he hazards a guess, and Bruce shakes his head.
“No,” he says simply, and Clark raises an eyebrow. “If you didn’t need convincing you would’ve been here before me. I’m a slower moving target, Clark.”
Clark nods his head, a small smile on his face. “Worlds Greatest Detective, huh?”
Bruce shrugs, and Clark spots the restless look on his face before he turns completely away from Clark. “Something like that,” he mutters, and Clark can hear that his heartbeat has gone up just a little and wonders what that title is really connected too besides the media constantly referring to him as such? He thinks of boys in red, yellow, and green outfits and thinks that maybe the media didn’t come up with it first.
They stay silent for a while, Clark just listening as Bruce’s heartbeat ticks slowly back to its usual steady pace and Barry’s breathing gets deeper and deeper as he falls into a REM cycle. It’s not exactly uncomfortable, but Clark can’t help but fidget as Bruce watches the movie with an intense focus that makes Clark think he’s not watching it all.
Some days he wishes he could read minds instead of shoot lasers from his eyes. It would make some things a lot easier.
He finally breaks the silence as he shuffles a little closer to Bruce and, when he has Bruce’s attention, he gives him a self-deprecating smile.
“Honestly?” he says, and he can see Bruce’s interest has been piqued. “I didn’t want to really come because I have no idea how to handle this type of thing. I had one relationship, with Lois Lane, and that’s it. My break-up was easy. You all just sent me towards Lex Luthor and waited for the outcome.”
Bruce rolls his eyes. “We didn’t wait for the outcome,” he chides. “We put Barry on monitor duty to make sure you didn’t do anything too outrageous.”
Clark can’t help but grin as he shucks Bruce’s shoulder gently. “Always looking out for your team, huh?” he says before gesturing at Barry. “But I guess that means you were probably the best one to deal with this after Victor. Arthur’s been with Mera for years, and Diana is still in love with the guy from the early 1900s.”
There’s a moment of stillness, Bruce watching Clark with intense eyes, and Clark thinks he’s definitely overstepped until Bruce sighs and drops his head to look at his twisting hands between his knees. There’s clearly something going on, and Clark waits with bated breath as it seems Bruce has an internal war before shaking his head.
“Maybe not,” he mutters after a moment, and Clark resists the urge to reach out and touch his shoulder. “They’re not really breakups if you’ve never been with them.”
“But, all the girls...”
“This might shock your romantic heart, Clark,” Bruce growls, not nastily but almost defensively. “But not everyone decides to wait until marriage. Some people don’t even wait for name introductions.”
He sounds bitter, and Clark holds back his tongue as he waits for any other response. He’s never seen Bruce look so down, and it really changes his perspective thinking that Bruce probably gets used just as much as he uses others, maybe more. After all, who wouldn’t love to have a night with Brucie Wayne, Gotham’s favourite child. His reputation alone would be the juiciest of gossip at any party, and having your name beside it would be incredible.
He bites his lip as he shifts on the couch, trying not to bump the solemn Bruce. It’s a new way of thinking, really. Seeing Bruce as a lonely man, always preceded by his reputation, is weird and not something Clark has ever really thought about. He remembers the articles he’s written, that his Daily Planet coworkers have written. They’re always barbed, a snarky response on how it’s so typical Brucie Wayne to have another woman on his arm at every function.
They never stop to think why, and Clark especially, who know both sides of Bruce, is at fault for never thinking about it.
It makes sense that Bruce would use women as shields to keep people from getting close. It’s well known amongst the League that Bruce doesn’t choose to get into relationships for fear of endangering someone he loves, and it’s actually acknowledged that almost all of them agree. Since Lois, Clark hasn’t gone near anyone else, Diana remains tight-lipped and single, Victor refuses to even leave the lab let alone find another, and Barry tries but always fails. Only Arthur doesn’t have a choice when it comes to the determination of Mera, but even then it’s not without problems.
It also makes sense that Bruce would use women who don’t want much to do with him after their moment in the spotlight. If there is one thing Clark has learned about Bruce recently, it’s that he will do anything to ensure the least amount of damage. Power-hungry women who want nothing to do with him means that they’re not going to get hurt no matter what happens.
But, by the look on Bruce’s face and the way his heart skipped a moment, it clearly hurts him, and Clark doesn’t know what to do about that.
“Pass me that chocolate,” Clark finally ends up saying, and Bruce wordlessly hands it over. Clark cracks off a piece to drop onto Bruce’s still outstretched hand before he pulls up the remote and flicks it onto the next rom-com lined up to watch. “I think Barry has got it right. Sweet food and rom-coms.”
Bruce lets out a small groan as the opening music starts up on the screen. “You’re not seriously about to make us both watch rom-coms, are you?”
Clark grins at him as he yanks the blanket, draped over the back of the couch, out from behind them and covers them both with it. “You bet I am,” he says with a grin, and Bruce shakes his head at him.
But then he rolls his eyes and Clark sees the beginning of a smile on his face as he slumps back into the couch and pulls the blanket up around him more. Clark grins, and he snuggles down beside the man as he turns his focus back to the TV.
And when Barry wakes up, none of them move, instead all sitting curled up in their own blanket burritos, snacking on a ridiculous amount of sweet foods, as they watch Matthew McConaughey try his darnedest to win over Jennifer Garner.
Clark doesn’t go to socialite events.
Well, he does at times. He’s a reporter, after all, so he doesn’t exactly have a choice when Perry is breathing down his neck and ordering him to attend the latest gala full of snobs and richies. These days though, Clark tends to pass his assignments over to Lois to handle. She loves the occasional glitter and glam.
He doesn’t tell her though, that the reason he can’t attend the events anymore is because he can’t write anything about Bruce Wayne. Since Bruce has come out of his shell more, Clark can’t honestly write anything about Brucie Wayne and his latest floozy of the night. Something in him clams up and he itches all over until he deletes the words.
Perry didn’t like his last article that focused more on the donations that Bruce had made to the foundation who was hosting the party. He wanted gossip, speculation, scandal, and Clark can no longer provide that in good faith. But it’s okay. Lois takes the majority of the events and when she can’t, Clark manages to convince Steve. It works, and even though Clark wants to attend, just to maybe be there for Bruce, he holds his horses and doesn’t go.
And when it comes to League business, because a surprising amount of their enemies are just rich socialites with manic ideas, it’s always Diana who goes as Bruce’s date to the functions. It makes sense, and at this point, there are enough rumours of the two potentially dating that the Daily Planet reporters are all salivating to get the latest dig from the latest event. If Clark had struggled to give away the socialite assignments before, he sure as hell doesn’t now.
It all works, and Clark doesn’t have to stomp down on his own morals just to keep his Clark Kent identity a secret. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have to worry for a long enough time that he forgets that, even though he might be able to easily palm off the reporting assignments to others, there was always bound to be a day that a League assignment would lead to an event that either Diana or Bruce couldn’t attend.
It’s the former in this case, and Clark sits at the giant table in the League meeting room, staring at her for a long enough time that he thinks his eyes have dried and he won’t be able to blink again. It’s a perfectly valid thing that she’s asking of him, but he just can’t wrap his head around what he’s meant to be doing.
“Close your mouth, Clark,” Bruce growls from beside him. “You’re catching flies.”
“I’m sorry,” he immediately responds, and Bruce raises an eyebrow at his tone. Clark clears his throat before he turns his gaze back to Diana. “This is a crazy idea. The foundations aren’t there, Diana. This is going to be a problem to both our identities.”
“I can’t go, Clark,” Diana repeats, standing from her seat to gesture at the board behind her covered in photos and information. There’s a huge photo of Barbara Ann Minerva, also known as Cheetah. Archaeologist and socialite. There’s also a huge photo of Diana’s Lasso of Truth, something that just so happens to be in the hands of Barbara Ann Minerva. “For one thing,” Diana continues as she glares at Barbara’s photo. “She knows who I am. She’ll see me coming from a mile away to get my lasso back, and if she sees me then she’ll pull all her security on me and I won’t be able to get out of there without revealing my identity.” She holds up a fancy card with Bruce’s name written in beautiful calligraphy. “But, she doesn’t know Bruce, and Bruce has a plus one and he’ll need it if he’s to get anywhere in finding the lasso.”
“And Victor can’t go,” Barry chimes in, catching everyone's attention as he leaves Victor with an uneasy look. “Sorry, dude. It’s just… yeah, kind of obvious.” He looks away, but Victor just seems amused. “And obviously I can’t go. Bruce would never be seen with a forensic artist from Central City that’s like, half his age.”
“He’s been with plenty of people half his age,” Arthur goads, and he holds his hands up as five glares all turn to him. “Sorry. Just. Pointing out the obvious.”
“Shut up, Arthur,” Diana growls before turning back to Clark. “And Arthur can’t go because he’s an asshole.”
“Hear hear,” Bruce mutters, and it’s only the small smiles on both men’s faces that shows they clearly don’t mean it. Or they do, but hold no animosity over it? Clark doesn’t pretend to understand their relationship.
“You know the world is under the assumption that you’re his date though, Diana,” Clark presses, and the way Bruce is looking at him makes him want to shuffle his feet like a naughty child. “There’s no hint that he and I would ever be seen together, and those that know Clark Kent would know that I wouldn’t get swept up all of sudden by Mr. Flashy Rich over there.”
“We were seen together at the hotel a few weeks back,” Bruce pipes up finally, and he taps his fingers on the desk erratically as he watches Clark. “That’s the foundations.”
“That was months ago,” Clark protests. “And only a few people saw us!”
“Actually, that’s wrong,” Barry interrupts, and he pulls out his phone from his pocket and hands it over to Victor. Victor rolls his eyes as he takes it, but he dutifully syncs it up to the projector that appeared on his shoulder the other day. A testament to the experiments him and Barry had been performing recently on having a choice with his modifications.
On the blank wall behind Arthur, who moves to the side to see it, appears numerous newspaper headlines. Underneath them is various photos of Clark and Bruce climbing the steps of the hotel, Bruce’s hand low on Clark’s back, the two leaning at the hotel counter, a sneaky shot of them disappearing into the hotel room. Clark’s mouth drops open as he realises he didn’t notice a single damn thing the whole time, and he turns to Barry who is fidgeting with his thumbs.
“You have quite the following,” he says nervously, eyes darting between Clark and Bruce. “Lots of fan sites that have popped up. Lots of people have decided that Diana is just Bruce’s beard since he’s not ready to come out just yet.” He shrugs. “I guess this could be Bruce’s coming out?”
“But Bruce isn’t gay?” Clark points out, and there’s an awkward moment of everyone clearing their throats and avoiding Clark’s eyes until he turns to stare at Bruce. “Are you?”
Bruce blinks for a moment before offering a sheepish smile. “I’m not… not?” he offers, and Clark feels his brain just about short-circuit at the news. A whole other part of his brain opens up, full of possibilities that come roaring to the forefront and Clark has to desperately shove them all back down.
Thankfully, Diana intervenes as Clark stares at Bruce with wide eyes.
“That’s not a problem, is it, Clark?” she asks, and there’s no room for argument as Clark blinks at her and sees the protectiveness in her already boiling over. She’s moved slightly closer to Bruce, as if to protect him, and that’s something that Clark would feel offended about if he didn’t realise just what was happening.
“What? No!” he immediately answers, and he can visibly see everyone relax, and the sudden drop in everyone's heartbeats has Clark realising just what is happening. Of course, he doesn’t have a problem with it. Not when… well, he’s clearly not been honest with himself over the years if the current thoughts he has is anything to go by, and he gives Bruce a sort of half smile. “No, Bruce. Not at all. I’m just… surprised.”
Whether he’s surprised about Bruce’s preferences, or that he appears to be the last one to know about it, well that’s up for debate.
It seems Bruce sees where his thoughts are going though as he clears his throat. “It was discussed before your resurrection,” Bruce clears up, and Clark feels himself nodding along. “I didn’t think it would be relevant to you. I apologise.”
“No need,” Clark quickly says, holding up his hands in surrender, and he actually hears the sound of Arthur lowering his trident back to lean against the table. He shoots him a glare, offended that Arthur would think he’d have to get into a fight over this, but he takes a deep breath and tries to rationalise it. Of course, they’d all be worried. Clark is from Kansas, not a place known for it’s civility to gays. The fact they don’t even have laws covering discrimination in regards to LGBT rights is a bloody crime.
So yeah, okay, Clark gets it. Even though they've been mocking him for months about his crush, it's obvious they've forgotten in the moment and Clark definitely gets that. Irrationality is the highlight of their lives, and he smiles at Bruce with as many teeth as he can before it’s perceived as shark-like then he nods his head at Diana to get her back underway.
“Right, the plan is pretty simple,” Diana says after looking between Clark and Bruce for a moment and Clark sees the moment her eyes glint with a sudden glee and he hopes she hasn’t noticed anything. “Barbara is a very narcissistic woman. Her ego is pretty much tangible, and if anyone gets her on a good rant on archaeology and her personal findings then it’s easy to distract her.” She points to Victor who takes away the screen of the pictures of Clark and Bruce to show the venue that Barbara will be hosting her party at just outside of Gotham. “Considering this is a gala celebrating said findings, it should be easy. One of you gets her and distracts her, the other find the lasso.” She gives them both a sheepish look. “Unfortunately, I think it should be obvious who does what.”
“With your x-ray vision, Clark, you should be able to locate the lasso quickly,” Bruce continues for her, and Clark nods. “Distracting Barbara will be my job.”
“The Brucie Wayne charm has never failed you before,” Victor says, and everyone raises their eyebrows his way until he holds a hand up. “I don’t mean that offensively.”
Bruce smiles at him before he addresses Clark. “That alright with you, boy scout?” he asks, and Clark rolls his eyes but nods. The way Bruce’s eyes turn to examining though throws Clark off. “About your… attire, though,” Bruce continues, almost hesitant. “I know you have the dorky Clark Kent look to uphold, but I can’t be caught dead with you in one of your ill-fitting suits.”
“Then what do you propose?” Clark asks with a raised eyebrow, and he winces when he sees matching glints in both Diana and Bruce’s eyes.
A mere week later, Clark is in the back of a very fancy town car, tugging at the neck of his new very well-fitting suit as Bruce watches him with utter amusement over the rim of his glass of scotch. Clark refuses to make eye contact, knowing he’ll blush a furious red the moment he does, and he fidgets with his sleek navy blue tie instead. It’s an intrinsic knot, something called an eldredge, and Clark has gotten dizzy just watching Bruce tie it for him. Bruce’s own black tie is in a trinity knot, and it almost makes Clark laugh at the fact that clearly a simple knot, or even a windsor, is not good enough for Mr. Wayne.
The car is incredibly quiet. Alfred has some classical music playing faintly in the background, and Clark can see him tapping his fingers away on the steering wheel through the privacy screen. They’re in a ridiculously long queue, each car clearly pulling up right at the entrance for the guests to brave the paparazzi gauntlet before getting into the gala. Clark can feel his palms sweating already at the thought.
“So,” he finally broaches after long quiet minutes tick by, and Bruce raises an eyebrow his way. Clark clears his throat and resists the urge to tug at his tie again. “What, um… what’re we going to have to do to convince them all we’re a couple?”
It’s a question that’s been playing on his mind since the end of the meeting earlier in the week, and he’s expecting to see Bruce come out with a sleazy smile and a short answer involving many risqué things.
He’s surprised though when Bruce nods, puts his drink to the side, leans forward in his seat, and links his fingers between his knees.
“Not too much,” he says earnestly, and Clark can’t look away from his gaze. “Unfortunately, I will have to touch you quite often. I won’t drop below the waistline though unless you feel comfortable with such a move. There will also have to be the occasional bit of affection-”
“Like kissing?” Clark asks in a rush, feeling horrifically embarrassed at the words, but Bruce’s face doesn’t change from his serious expression.
“If need be, it will only be on the cheek,” he replies. He drops his gaze. “I will not push you into anything or make you uncomfortable, Clark. You must realise this. We will only go as far as you’re okay with.”
That surprises Clark, especially since he’s seen the way that Bruce will act with some of his dates. Sometimes the galas he attends should have ratings just for the antics Bruce can get up too. He seems completely sincere though, and Clark is genuinely touched by the boundaries Bruce is insisting upon.
“I only just realised,” Bruce says, drawing Clark’s attention, and he sees that Bruce looks incredibly horrified. “You will be coming out at the same time as me. You’re… you’re not…” Bruce trails off uneasily, and it’s the first time Clark seen him genuinely lost and uncomfortable as he waves awkwardly in Clark’s direction.
“I’m not…?” Clark presses, not too sure what he’s getting at, and Bruce looks away with a slight pinkness to his cheeks.
“Well,” Bruce mumbles, and Clark really finds this Bruce endearing. “You’ve only really dated Lois Lane’s in the past, haven’t you?”
Clark blinks stupidly for a moment, struggling with the question. Of course. He hasn’t actually thought about the fact that even if he is starting to really get used to the fact that maybe settling down with a nice girl and having two-point-one kids, a dog, and a white picket fenced house isn’t the only option out there, he clearly hasn’t shared it with anyone around him.
He’s been tempted to talk to Diana, or even Barry, but Clark is pretty content on only having himself to worry about in the middle of his big gay crisis.
He can feel an answer on the tip of his tongue, heavy and desperate to come out, and for the first time, Clark actually decides to take a risk.
“Maybe I’m just waiting for the right Bruce Wayne,” he says a bit coyly, looking over at Bruce from under his eyelashes, who looks incredibly thunderstruck for a moment and Clark hopes that’s a good thing. He makes sure to give Bruce a soft smile and blinks slowly, hoping that’s as flirtatious as he’s seen in movies, and the way Bruce’s mouth drops open makes him think that he has hit the nail on the head.
Just as Bruce goes to answer, Alfred is right on time as the car pulls to a stop and he’s opening the back door before Bruce can even blink. Clark lets out the breath he’s been holding as he waits for Bruce to leave the car first, and then after a brief moment of pulling himself together, he slides out after him.
Immediately, he’s assaulted by the bright flickering lights of the cameras. Sure, he’s been on this side of them in the past, but that’s as Superman and is expected. This time he’s just little Clark Kent, the country boy from Kansas who freezes as cameras are shoved in his face and people are screaming out his name because he's not used to this at all. The glitz and glamour is meant for Superman, not him, and he finds himself starting to feel almost faint as the lights get overwhelming.
But, suddenly, Bruce is there, his brilliant smile shining as his arm curls around Clark’s waist and he pulls Clark in close. His hand is just above Clark’s waistband, his pinky finger just on the ridge-line, and Clark hyper fixates on that as Bruce starts to guide him towards the stairs. The shouting fades out just enough for Clark to get a grip, although he’s sure the blush that’s definitely forming on his cheeks can probably be chalked up to the way he’s tucked in against Bruce.
There’s no real order to the place, and Clark is thankful he does investigative journalism instead of the gossiping paparazzi that is around him. Bruce is so easy in the crowd though, and Clark definitely notices the way he keeps angling them so he is very much between Clark and the barricade holding back the reporters at all times. It’s endearing enough to make Clark smile, and he leans in closer so that he has no doubts one of the photographers is going to have one hell of a great photo.
They pause briefly at the top, mainly because there is one particular pap who is crushing herself against the barricade to call out to him, her photographer pressed right up behind her obviously trying to get a good photo. It’s Bruce who heads towards them, and the way the lady smiles makes Clark think they must be familiar.
“A little different from Ms. Prince, Mr. Wayne,” she calls as they get closer, and her eyes flicker to Clark briefly. “Upgrade or downgrade?”
Bruce laughs, and it sounds so fake to Clark’s ears but it definitely turns heads. “Oh, Michelle,” he says cheerfully, even though Clark wants to throttle her. “You know I never kiss and tell.” He turns glittering eyes to Clark. “In any case, they’re incomparable, but I do believe that Mr. Kent is a little more my type, if you catch my drift.” He gives the lady a saucy wink before he gently pulls on Clark’s waist and escorts him up the last of the steps, ignoring any other paps calling for him.
They just get inside, in the relative privacy of the atrium, before Clark turns to Bruce. “She was horrible,” he mutters, keeping a smile on his face as they pass various other pairs and groups. “Why her?”
“Michelle Reef is the worst person and worst paparazzi, but she’s the centre of all gossip,” Bruce responds easily, tilting his head to look like he’s whispering in Clark’s ear. “Within seconds, that statement will be all over the internet and no doubt printing in a few warehouses. It’ll save us from having to drop any more statements since there won’t be a rarity factor now.”
Smart, Clark thinks, but he doesn’t say it as some people approach them with greetings ready. They’re Bruce’s board members or something, rich enough to have been invited on their own merits, and Bruce easily slides into conversation with them as Clark takes the time to search for Barbara Ann Minerva.
It’s hard to use his senses when they’re filled with Bruce though. Bruce’s cologne, the sound of his deep voice, the hand still lingering on his waistband, the fact that Clark is tucked ridiculously close to him? It’s all a bit intense, and Clark thinks the blush will be permanently on his cheeks by the end of this evening.
It takes a while for him to figure out where she is, and when he does he’s surprised at how decadent she is. Dripping from head to toe in glistening jews, her sequin gown glittering even more, and Clark has to blink a few times to get used to the brightness. She’s surrounded by a large group of people, but even though she’s laughing and chatting, Clark recognises the way her body is coiled into hyper-vigilance. He has no doubts she knows where everyone and everything this is in this ballroom.
He’s distracted as Bruce’s hand tightens on his waist as he makes his excuses to his board members. Clark barely has time to turn and give them a bright smile before Bruce is shuffling him further into the room.
“What’s the plan?” Clark asks as he subtly points out Barbara Ann, and Bruce nods before he turns to face Clark and leans in incredibly close, his hand coming up to close around one of Clark’s elbows. It’s definitely for show since Bruce could be on the other side of the room and whispering and Clark would still hear him.
“Let her come to us,” Bruce murmurs. To anyone else, it would look like he’s flirting ridiculously hard with Clark, and Clark leans into it. “From what I know of her, and what Diana has said, Barbara is incredibly self-obsessed. Ignoring her will be the easiest way to catch her attention and keep it. Everyone else in this room will be pandering to her. If we don’t-”
“We’ve got her,” Clark finishes, and Bruce nods. Clark can feel a lump in his throat as they keep eye contact, especially as Bruce’s mouth curls up into a small smile that has Clark’s palms sweating. Dammit, this is not the time to be thinking about this, they have a job to do, but thankfully they’re interrupted as a group of very pompous jerks call out to Bruce.
Clark doesn’t listen as Bruce turns to greet them all, busy trying to cram the lump in his throat back down, ignore the fact Bruce is still holding his elbow, and to blink away the no-doubt starry-eyed look he probably has on. When he does turn to join the group, it’s to see they’re a bunch of older investors that he’s done pieces on before. All old money, and all looking like they’re bursting with comments as they all regard him.
“Mr. Clark Kent,” Alistair Law greets as he holds out his hand, and Clark really doesn’t want to take it and has to resist the urge to return the same amount of grip lest he crushes the man’s hand. “Pleasure to see you again. Especially in a more amicable setting, I believe.” He drops Clark’s hand and turns to the others with an unpleasant smile. “Last I saw Mr. Kent, he was digging around in the trash looking for some clues on my apparent money laundering schemes.” His gaze is not friendly. “Nice to see you have moved up in the world.”
“I haven’t seen Bruce date a reporter in a long time,” Prescott Wilson chimes in, the young woman in the incredibly low cut dress on his arm is clearly just a prop as she smiles almost false-white teeth Clark’s way. “I thought you’d left them behind after that nasty Michelle Reef business.”
“Michelle Reef?” Clark murmurs in shock, side-eyeing Bruce who, surprisingly, doesn’t even flinch. It’s not Clark’s business, but it makes sense that Bruce would appear in public with such a woman as Michelle Reef. She fits the mould of his normal dates well.
“Clark isn’t like any of the others,” Bruce easily replies, and his hand slides down Clark’s arm to wrap around his wrist tightly. “I do believe he is out of my league, in all honesty.”
The fact that his heart is completely steady when he says so makes Clark frown and wonder if, just maybe, that’s the truth? It’s something to reflect on later as he watches the woman with Wilson let out a shrill laugh, causing the others to join in. Clark’s shoulders tense, and the way they’re all watching him with mirth is making him feel completely uncomfortable.
“Yes, well,” Law starts up again, clearly the ringleader of the group, “it’s good to see you’ve finally been able to clothe him properly. I was afraid the charity shops were going to run out of suits.”
That almost has Clark stomping forward to start a fight, more over how derisive they’re being towards Bruce via their insults to Clark, but Bruce’s fingers press tightly against the inside of his wrist as he pulls Clark just a little behind him and clears his throat.
“Brave words from a man who can’t even tie an ascot,” Bruce says, his voice light but his eyes hard. One of the other men, Charles Braston, stifles a laugh into his drink. “Remember, Alistair, you do have to wrap it twice.” Bruce smiles, no warmth in it at all. “I understand old age can affect one's memory, but surely that can’t be that hard to remember.”
Law is almost purple as he glares at Bruce, his hand coming up to fidget with his poorly tied ascot. “My wife did it,” he says with a huff. “She was-”
“Oh typical Alistair,” Bruce laughs, and the group dynamic seems to shift as a few others laugh with him. “Always blaming his dear wife!” He grins, and it’s only his tight grip on Clark’s wrist that indicates he’s not relaxed with the situation. “She is a wonderful designer, Alistair. Even she would know how to tie an ascot with her eyes closed and one hand behind her back!”
There’s another round of laughter, and pure pettiness has Clark laughing with them. Law looks furious, his mouth opening to no doubt sprout something horrible, but Bruce ignores him as he turns to Braston.
“On that note, Charles,” he says, and Alistair stays silent where he fumes. “I do hope you’re admiring the suit Clark is wearing.” He pulls Clark a little forward so Braston can get a good look at Clark’s suit. “I had it made for him by a local designer, Ms. Allie Wishes. Such a talented young lady, but she’s struggling to get any sort of sponsorship.”
Braston’s eyes linger professionally on Clark before he raises his glass to Bruce. “Another one, eh?” he asks, and Bruce just smiles. Braston shakes his head but he’s smiling right back. “Send me her details. She definitely has talent to create such a decadent double-breast peaked-lapel jacket.” He smiles at Clark directly. “You wear it well, Mr. Kent.”
“Thank you,” Clark manages to say, and Braston nods his head before Bruce takes the attention again.
“If you’ll excuse us, gentlemen,” he pauses and looks at the woman still on Wilson’s arm, “and lady. I’m afraid I need some air.” His gaze is hard as he glances at Law, still purple and angry. “I’ll make sure to speak to your wife at some point, Alistair. I’m sure she would be interested in hearing about Ms. Wishes as well.”
He doesn’t wait for a response, and it’s Clark who takes the lead by moving his hand to link fingers with Bruce before pulling him away from the group. He doesn’t pause to see where Bruce really wants to go, heading straight towards the balcony outside and catching two glasses of champagne on the way. He’s not really into drinking, after all he can’t get drunk, but he needs something to do with his hands as they step out into the fresh air.
It’s quiet between them for a long moment, the sound of people inside fading into back noise as they lean on the balcony and look out over the lake they’re on the banks of. The trees are all lit up with fairy lights, there are people outside on the patio downstairs near the small dock, and there’s only a handful of people near them.
It’s as private as they can get, and the lights and classical music playing inside is really giving the place a romantic atmosphere. Clark has a brief moment where he wonders if Diana knows, and if maybe this was on purpose, but he shakes the thought as Bruce turns to him with a small smile, a genuine smile.
“Sorry about that,” he says, and Clark raises an eyebrow as Bruce moves just a little closer. “You handled it well, and thank you for not ripping off Law’s head. He’s an asshole, but he’s been around for a long time.” Bruce’s smile turns to a grimace. “He’s got enough fingers in enough pies that to get him completely offside would be financial suicide.”
“Doesn’t mean he’s not an ass,” Clark grumbles, and Bruce laughs.
“Doesn’t mean he’s not an ass,” he repeats in agreement, and Clark smiles at him. There’s a moment where neither look away, and Clark can feel the charge in the air as Bruce slides that little bit closer again until their shoulders are touching.
“So,” Clark panics. “Braston said another one?”
“Yes,” Bruce nods, and he looks away back out over the patio downstairs. “There is lots of talent in Gotham, but most are looked over because of their place of orientation. Gotham has a reputation for producing criminals, so if I can do my bit and get at least a few of them sponsored by the people here, then that's just something else I can do to help my city.”
It’s ridiculously endearing, and Clark’s mouth drops open just a little as he realises a little bit more about the enigma that is Bruce Wayne. Once again, Diana’s words linger in the back of his mind and he hides a smile behind his hand. Bloody Diana. Wiser than all of them put together.
His hand tightens around the glass he’s holding and he places it down so he won’t break it accidentally. Bruce doesn’t look his way as Clark has his crisis, and Clark turns to face the room behind them, only to see chaos as a bunch of reporters are being let in. He spots fiery red hair, and a sense of dread overcomes him as he sees Lois is amongst them. Lois, who he hasn’t told about this whole event, who catches a glimpse of him and her eyebrows shoot through the roof.
Even worse, behind her is Michelle Reef, who is definitely making a beeline towards them with her photographer right on her tail, and the sudden twinkling from the corner of Clark’s eye confirms there is also a very expectant looking Barbara Ann coming out onto the balcony as well.
“Incoming,” Clark mutters, and Bruce moves beside him only to suck in a deep breath at seeing all three women approaching. Clark has no idea how they’re going to handle that, not all three, but he does have an idea to at least stave off the reporters. Reef would probably pick a picture over interrupting the moment, and Lois will probably be hurt enough to stop, but Clark can fix that later.
Without skipping a beat, he turns around and slips his hands onto Bruce’s cheeks. He looks at Clark with surprise, his mouth dropping open, and Clark takes the opportunity to lean in and press their lips together. Bruce’s breath hitches, something that has Clark’s own pausing, but then Bruce lets out a delightful noise as his arms come around Clark’s waist and he pulls Clark in.
It’s even more intoxicating than Clark thought it would be, and it’s only a simple press of the lips. But Bruce is soft and pliable beneath him, his hands warm on Clark’s waist, and Clark feels dizzy as they remain pressed together until Bruce breaks it off with a small noise.
Their eyes meet once again, and the soft look Bruce gives him takes Clark’s breath away before they’re interrupted by a gentle clearing of the throat.
“Sorry to interrupt, gentlemen,” Barbara Ann calls, and Clark turns to see her smiling pleasantly at them. Behind her, both Reef and Lois have diverted away, and Clark spots the hurt look on Lois’s face and cringes. “But I do believe we’ve not spoken yet.”
Bruce was right about ignoring her, of course, and Clark pulls away from him to take Barbara Ann’s hand. She has a strong grip, strong enough to rival Clark’s, and Clark has to remember to play the dopey Clark Kent role instead of falling into Superman.
Bruce seems to take a moment to recover, but then he’s sliding forward with the Brucie Wayne smile glittering on his face, his eyes not meeting Clark’s once as he starts to fawn all over Barbara Ann. It stings for a moment, until Clark hears Bruce drop a line about Barbara Ann’s latest archaeological dig and all of a sudden he remembers they have a job to do.
“Excuse me,” he says to the two of them, and Barbara Ann smiles at him once again. “I think we could all do with some refreshments.”
“Sounds wonderful,” she replies, and Clark smiles at her before looking at Bruce. He’s not expecting Bruce not to really make eye contact, his eyes trained on Clark’s chin, and Clark feels like something has gone incredibly wrong all of a sudden.
But Bruce just presses his lips to Clark’s cheek, jarring him from his thoughts. “Hurry back,” Bruce murmurs, loud enough for Barbara Ann to hear, and Clark nods before he peels off to head back into the party.
He tries desperately not to think about the kiss, focusing instead on what’s ahead as he activates his x-ray vision to start searching the manor.
After all, he’s got a mission to complete.
Clark knows his weakness is his mother.
It’s pretty obvious, especially if Arthur brings it up every chance he has, and Arthur has the observation skills of a newborn child who doesn’t even have object permanence. Martha Kent has been his weakness since the day his father died in that accident, and even when he was dating and engaged to Lois Lane, Martha was still his weakness over his fiancé.
Diana refers to her as his priority, just to try and be nice, but Bruce, Arthur, and Victor all raise their eyebrows at that and Clark knows it’s because they don’t see things as favourably as Diana does.
Barry, on the other hand, will list off his weakness willy-nilly whenever Martha Kent is brought up, and he gleefully informs them that his change all the time. “It means no one can get a read on me,” he tells them cheerfully, and Clark is with Bruce as they hide their smiles behind their hands. They have to give Barry points for positive thinking.
But Clark always thought that his mother being his weakness would mean that Lex Luthor would come along again someday and kidnap his mother to get a rise out of him, not what is currently happening in front of him as he walks through the back door of his mother’s house to see Bruce Wayne sitting at the kitchen table, enjoying a cup of English breakfast tea with his mother.
So yeah, when Clark says his mother is his weakness, he doesn’t just mean in regards to superhero business. Oh no. It’s just like a woman seeing a man with a cute puppy or a baby. It’s crushing the sudden affection he feels for the man, something he’s been trying to deal with for months now, and he closes the door very quietly as he places the box from the shed he’s carrying on top of the washing machine to his left.
It’s not subtle enough though when he sees Bruce’s shoulders stiffen as his mother catches sight of him and raises a hand in a wave
“Oh, Clark,” she calls out. “Look who dropped in!” She drops her eyes from Clark to give Bruce a large grin, and it flummoxes Clark for a moment. He’s only ever seen that smile aimed at him, the matronly ‘just for my child’ look, and his legs feel a little like jelly as he makes his way into the kitchen.
“Bruce,” he murmurs, his voice not quite loud enough as he rounds the table to sit across from Bruce, his mother at the head of the table. Bruce isn’t looking at him though, his eyes very much trained on his mug of tea, and Clark shifts awkwardly. “Is everything alright? Has something happened?”
Bruce is awkwardly quiet for a moment before he finally looks up and trains his eyes on Clark’s chin. “No,” he says, and Clark’s eyebrow raises. “I wasn’t aware you were here. I apologise for intruding-”
“Oh, hush,” Martha interrupts, and Clark looks at her in surprise as she reaches over to cover Bruce’s hand with her own. “You know you’re welcome here anytime, Bruce. After all that you’ve done for me, you will always have a place in my home.”
Bruce looks overwhelmed at the heartfelt sentence, and Clark feels just the same as he tries to make sense of her words. So, obviously, Bruce has been here before. Many times. Enough times that his mother clearly regards him as another son. Yet, Clark hasn’t known about any of the visits in the past and the guilty look on Bruce’s face makes him think that, maybe, he never was.
“I didn’t realise you visited my mother,” Clark says, trying to sound conversational and not confrontational, but the look on Bruce’s face makes him think he’s failed. Which is not his intention. “There’s no problem, of course,” he rushes to say. “I just… I didn’t…”
“He’s been visiting for a while now,” his mother intervenes, and she gives Clark a giant smile as she pats Bruce’s hand before pulling hers away. “Since, well, since your incident, Clark,” and Clark can feel the pause as her eyes glaze over for a second before she clearly pulls herself from the memory. “Bruce came around after you’d… left, and explained to me what had happened. There was only one of your friends I didn’t know the identity of. It wasn’t hard to connect the dots.” She shakes herself and smiles at them both. “He’s been a godsend ever since. I don’t know what I would’ve done without him.”
Her smile is so damn nice, and Clark wants to know what happened between them after his death. He wonders if Bruce held his mother when she broke down, if maybe he showed some of his own emotions towards her, if they sat in this very kitchen and held each other together?
But Bruce wouldn’t have been that cut up about it, would he?
Clark doesn’t voice anything though as he just nods at his mother and smiles at Bruce. “As Ma said,” he tells Bruce, “you’re welcome any time. Don’t feel like a stranger.”
There’s a moments pause as Martha frowns before she sighs. “You didn’t know,” she says to Clark, who just awkwardly nods, and Martha turns to Bruce with a raised eyebrow. “How come he didn’t know?”
Bruce doesn’t reply instantly, and Clark can see his grip on his mug is white-knuckled. “I wasn’t sure I would be welcome,” he eventually murmurs, his voice very quiet. “After all that I did to you, Clark, I wasn’t sure how you would take my… communication with your mother.”
“Your friendship,” Martha says sternly, and she places her hand on Bruce’s arm and shakes him. “Oh, Bruce.” She looks at Clark before she pushes her chair back and stands. “I think this means you two need to have a moment to yourselves.” She rubs a hand over Clark’s shoulder before making her way into the lounge. “I’ll be upstairs when you’re ready.”
The moment she’s gone, they lapse back into silence. Bruce is looking anywhere expect at Clark, and Clark is trying to bore a hole into Bruce’s forehead. The ticking of the clock on the wall is loud enough to be a distraction that Clark has to resist the urge to destroy the thing.
“It doesn’t matter,” Clark finally tells Bruce, and Bruce’s eyes snap to his as he speaks. “Seriously. We both did horrible things to each other, Bruce. I’m no saint either. I thought, well, that we’d started to move on by now.” Clark drops his gaze and links his fingers on top of the table. “I would never have gotten angry at you speaking to my mother. I’m surprised, yes, but only because… I guess the thought never even crossed my mind.”
“She didn’t understand,” Bruce finally says. “Someone needed to explain to her how you died and the effects of kryptonite. Diana was with me the first time, but I came alone the next time when she contacted me with questions.” He looks just as awkward as ever when Clark looks up at him. “If I’d know-”
“That I was coming back, then you never would’ve seen her?” Clark offers because he can see it all over Bruce’s face. The guilt is pouring off him in waves and, when Bruce glances down at the table in shame, Clark wants to groan.
“I tried to kill you,” Bruce finally snaps, his voice slightly raised and Clark knows that his hands are probably in fists under the table. “I tried to kill you, Clark, and I had no reservations about doing so. I stole that kryptonite planning on putting a stop to you. I turned them into weapons with the intention of running you through with that damn spear. If it weren’t for Lois Lane, I would’ve slit your damn throat and watched you bleed and felt nothing.”
Clark is momentarily speechless, and he doesn’t think he can be blamed for that. He’s never heard these words from Bruce, never seen this raw honesty. Sure, Bruce has been showing more and more of himself to Clark and Clark is loving it, but he’s never seen Bruce wrestling with his inner demons so clearly, and it’s so obvious that this has been bothering and consuming Bruce for a long time.
And the fact that he’s opening up to Clark willingly? It’s mind-blowing.
“Bruce,” Clark murmurs, and he reaches across the table with his palm up and tries not to feel a pang of hurt when Bruce keeps his own resolutely beneath the table. “Bruce, I get it. I know what you were thinking.” He sighs. “I’m guilty of the same thing. Don’t think for one moment that I wasn’t prepared to kill you too. You know my mother is my weakness, and Luthor knew exactly how to use her against me.” He tightens his other hand into a fist at the thought of his mother facing the end of a damn flamethrower and it makes him feel sick. “We were doing the best we could with the information we had at the time, Bruce. I don’t blame you.”
“I don’t blame you,” Clark repeats. He huffs and, when Bruce looks up, he gives Bruce a lopsided smile. “And now? To see what you’ve done for my mother? Bruce, you’ve done a lot for me. Even if I were mad at you, I couldn’t be now. Not with how much you’ve done for us.”
“It was nothing,” Bruce mutters. “As I said, she needed someone to explain to her what happened to you and then she had questions.” Bruce winces. “Then there was casserole and-”
“Ma does make one hell of a casserole,” Clark laughs, and he can see Bruce relaxing a little as his arms come up to lean on the table.
“She does,” he agrees. “Even Alfred decided he was beaten.”
“Alfred came too?”
Bruce nods. “Once or twice,” he says, and there’s implication behind his tone that it was many more times, but that just has Clark smiling. “They bonded over tomato-based foods and I think they’re emailing still.”
Clark laughs, and he shakes his head fondly. “Yeah, tomatoes are Ma’s favourite,” he says. “You should see her plants out back. She feeds half the town with them.”
There’s a small smile on Bruce’s face that has Clark relaxing. He pulls his hand back just a little, keeping it still on the table with his palm up, and he sees the way that Bruce eyes it and almost holds his breath. Maybe, just maybe, Bruce will take it?
He looks away though and his gaze hovers on a spot just over Clark’s shoulder. “After that she just…”
“Adopted you?” Clark fills in, and Bruce nods. Clark stomachs his resolve and reaches across the table to pat Bruce’s arm. “Yeah. She does that. She could probably smell the repression coming off you in waves, and that’s like a red rag to a bull.”
“I’m not repressed,” Bruce denies, and when Clark raises an eyebrow at him, Bruce just ducks his head to try and hide that small smile appearing on his face. “I’m not.”
“Whatever you say, Bruce,” Clark laughs, and the air is so much lighter now. There’s still that small smile on Bruce’s face that has Clark glowing just a little, and the fact that he’s not shaken Clark’s hand off his arm is delightful. Clark grips Bruce’s arm and gives it a little shake and, when Bruce looks up, Clark grins at him.
There’s a long moment where they don’t look away from one another, and Clark isn’t oblivious enough to miss the sudden charging air between them. He’s seen Bruce’s looks towards him since the gala, seen them become more and more interested and Clark likes Batman and he’s really starting to like Bruce, maybe even more if his current crises are to be believed, and he hasn’t stopped thinking about the gala with Bruce’s hands on his waist and his side pressed to Clarks.
And that damn kiss.
Clark hasn’t stopped thinking about that at all and it’s just natural for his eyes to drop to Bruce’s lips as he licks his, remembering the feel and taste of Bruce on them, and this table isn’t too big if they both just lean across it and it definitely looks like Bruce is doing so as his arm rolls under Clark’s hand and is gripping Clark right back.
“Bruce…” Clark starts to say, his voice barely above a whisper, and Bruce’s mouth opens just a little bit, enough that Clark wants to just dive right in. “Bruce, I-“
A sudden banging on the front door has them springing apart, letting go of each other as if they’ve been burnt, and Clark snatches his hand back under the table as he uses his x-ray vision to look straight through the wall, only to see their neighbour standing on the front stoop.
“Martha!” Clayton calls out, and he leans off his walking stick as he raises it slightly to bang on the bottom of the door. “My goodness, girl! We’re going to be late for the market!”
Clark feels all the wind knocked out of his sails as he hears his mother thumping down the stairwell, yelling back to Clayton, and Clark glances over to see Bruce staring a hole through the table and Clark is pretty sure he just catches the last traces of the blush that must’ve been on Bruce’s cheeks. He wants to yell at Clayton for a moment, angry that their moment has been disrupted, but he knows it’s not his fault.
“Bruce,” he starts to say, but Bruce is suddenly standing up and moving towards the lounge where Martha is standing.
“I think that’s my cue to go,” he announces as he moves away from Clark, and that makes Clark’s stomach drop because dammit. The moment has well and truly been broken.
“Oh, no,” Martha says as she moves forward to clasp Bruce’s shoulder, and Clark pushes back his chair to join them. “Please stay, Bruce. You could come with us to the market.”
The smile on Bruce’s face is completely different from the one he’s been giving Clark, and he shakes his head as he takes Martha’s hand off his shoulder. “I would, Mrs. Kent, but my sons are waiting for me at home. I agreed to spend the afternoon with them, and they’re vindictive enough that they will throw a tantrum if I’m not there.”
His mother’s laugh is ridiculously cheerful, and it makes Clark’s chest warm to see how happy she is around Bruce. If he weren’t already falling head over heels, the sight alone would be making him do so. Right now it just fuels his need to go and wrap Bruce up in his arms and never let go, and he flexes his hands a few times as he tries to resist that feeling.
“Oh dear,” Martha continues as she leans in to give Bruce a tight hug. “You’ll have to bring them over one time. I’d love to meet your boys.” She pulls back and pats Bruce’s cheek. “With a father like you, they must be delightful.”
The thought of Richard and Jason as delightful has Clark snorting, and he covers it with a cough even though Bruce’s eyes flicker to him for a moment, clearly having caught it anyways. He makes a move to step forward, to say his own goodbyes, but it seems like he frightens Bruce as the man takes a few steps away before he’s bustling out the door and past Clayton at a ridiculously fast pace.
There’s a momentary silence as Martha frowns and looks over at Clark, and Clark gives her an awkward shrug in response to the glaring question there. It’s obvious she doesn’t believe him as her eyes narrow, and Clark is thankful when Clayton clears his throat and draws their attention.
“Is it just me,” he starts, “or was that Bruce Wayne walking out your door?”
Clark can’t help but grin.
If it weren’t for the fact that he’d seen their pictures and vaguely knows who they are, Clark would be very much concerned at Richard Greyson and Jason Todd bursting through his front door without knocking and already talking to him at a mile a minute.
He’s sitting at his kitchen island, his latest article spread out in front of him, but it easily loses his attention as the boys invade his space. Jason heads directly to his fridge, yanking it open and declaring how hungry he is, but Clark’s attention is more on Richard as he aims for the hot coffee pot and starts pouring out three mugs from where he’s nabbed them off the mug hooks in front of the window.
“Hello?” Clark offers after a moment, and Richard is the only one to look up at him as he heads towards the island and shoves a mug of coffee towards Clark. He takes it cautiously, watching as Richard tips his head back and practically chugs his own.
“You gotta do something, man,” Richard says the moment he’s done and he gestures with his mug vaguely as he fixes Clark with a hard look. He leans on the other side of the island and barely blinks. “I mean, we’re both use to Bruce been moody and mopey, he’s the dark knight for christ sake, but this is ridiculous.”
“One more deep sigh and I’m going to be homicidal,” Jason chimes in from where he, if Clark’s eyes are right, is eating peanut butter straight from the tub beside the fridge.
“You’re always homicidal, Jason,” Richard mutters, “that’s nothing new.”
Jason throws the teaspoon at the back of Richard’s head, that Richard manages to catch without even turning around, and pulls another one from the drawer. “But I’ll be really homicidal this time.”
Richard rolls his eyes as he drops the teaspoon down beside his mug on the island. “Ignore him,” he tells Clark, and Clark raises an eyebrow. “He’s just come off patrol. He’ll be nicer when he’s finished the peanut butter.”
There’s a moments silence as they stare at each other until Clark lets out a sigh and drops the pen in his other hand on top of the article and wraps his fingers around the mug Richard had passed him. “Hello, boys,” he finally says, and Richard grins. “Pleasure to meet you. I’d say I’ve heard a lot, but getting Bruce to mention you is like pulling hen's teeth.”
Jason snorts as he dives back into the fridge and Richard just shakes his head. “It’s lucky we’re emotionally stable or we might have a problem with that,” he says, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “But in any case, that doesn’t matter. We’re here to talk about your relationship with him.”
Clark almost chokes on air at the words, but he doesn’t have time as Jason slams the leftover roast chicken his mother had given him on the island and starts to tear at it. “Normally, we have a policy,” he says through his mouthful, and it’s only because Clark has seen Barry eat and talk through three pizzas at once that he’s not thoroughly disgusted. “No one interferes with anyone else’s relationships-”
“Not that you have any,” Richard mutters, and Jason elbows him in the side in response.
“-but this is getting stupid. Even Alfred was going to come over here to help shout the odds, but we said we’d give it a shot first.”
“Fair,” Clark agrees, and Richard shoves a hunk of chicken in Jason’s mouth before he can respond.
“We’re not too sure what’s happened between you two,” Richard says, flapping his hand in the air dismissively. “Don’t really want to know. But what we are sure of, is that hook up at Barbara Ann Minerva’s social event the other month was clearly not staged.” He smiles, and it actually looks sincere. “I’ve never seen Bruce that dumbstruck in pictures before, so clearly he’s got something going on with you.”
“And when he came back from his meeting the other day, he was really flustered,” Jason chokes out past his mouthful of food. “And when I checked the Batcave logs, it said that he’d flown the batplane out to Kansas at the same time as said meeting.” He shakes his head and waves a chicken leg in Clark’s face. “We’re not stupid. We know your mother lives out in Smallville. So, clearly that was the ‘meeting’ and something else happened.”
Clark thinks about the moment at the kitchen table, the gripping of each other's arms, the charge in the air, the way Bruce’s mouth had dropped just the slightest open, and the overwhelming urge to sweep forward and take Bruce in his arms, the urge he saw repeated in Bruce’s eyes.
“No,” he says, and both boy’s eyebrows go up. “Nothing happened.”
“You’re a terrible liar, Kent,” Richard tells him, and Clark winces. “Didn’t your parents ever tell you that?”
They had. Of course, they had. His father, in particular, delighted in telling him that he was too honest for his own good sometimes, and that, of course, the broken vase on the ground was due to Clark’s flailing teenage arms. The memory makes Clark ache, and he gets up from the island to take a few steps away from the intense boys.
“I can’t just break your father’s confidence by telling you,” he informs the boys strictly, and Jason groans as he drops his face to the island and Richard pats his head sympathetically.
“You don’t have to,” Richard says. “You’ve just confirmed that something did happen, which we already knew, and really we don’t need details.” He reaches over to take Clark’s abandoned mug and takes a huge swing, and really Clark is worried about this kid’s caffeine intake at the moment. “But,” he continues as he pulls the mug away, “you have an obligation to fix this shit before we, as Jason said, go homicidal.”
“He can’t be that bad,” Clark murmurs, wincing at the hysterical laugh Jason lets out.
“You know how repressed he is,” Richard points out, pushing Jason’s head back down when he starts to look up, and Clark thinks that’s a good idea. He’s known them for two minutes, and he can already tell that ninety percent of what comes out of Jason’s mouth is bullshit.
But he does. He does know how repressed Bruce is, and he can see Diana’s smug face as she tells him there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to Bruce and dammit, he hates it when she’s right. He has no doubt that if it weren’t the boys turning up on his doorstep, then it would definitely be Diana. Or, worse, Arthur, and really Clark does not want to have to have the League pull a damn intervention because neither he or Bruce can work out their feelings for each other.
Or, well, Bruce probably already has and is waiting on Clark, which is the likely scenario. Then again, Clark is the one who initiated the kiss.
But that could be palmed off as necessary, especially since they're supposed to be dating in the public’s eye. It’s not like Bruce would see it any other way either since he’s so damn self-deprecating that he no doubt has Clark on a pedestal that he thinks he can’t reach.
“Dammit,” Clark mutters as he rubs a hand over his face. Richard hums in agreement, and when Clark looks over he gives the two boys an awkward smile. “Guess it is up to me then, huh?”
“Do you see Bruce getting out of his misery business to confess how much he loves you?” Richard asks, and Jason groans. “Seriously. He’s great-”
“Sometimes,” Jason mutters.
“-but if there is one thing that Bruce sucks at, it’s feelings.” Richard shrugs. “I think you’re gonna have to take the reigns on this side of the relationship, Kent. Otherwise, you’ll be waiting at least another two years before Bruce thinks he has even a chance with you.”
“Has a…” Clark trails off before he huffs and shakes his head. “Idiot. Of course, he has a chance with me.”
“Not if you ask him,” Jason says, and he’s finally free of food as he reaches for the mug of coffee that Richard had made for him before. “As far as he’s concerned, he’s to be alone forever. And I’m not one to parrot on about happiness, but you seem to make the old man smile every now and then.” Jason shrugs as he moves to hop up to sit on the island, Richard glaring as Jason almost takes him out with his leg. “He’s been better since the League started, even more so when he’s been around you.”
“And it’s pretty obvious when he’s been with you,” Richard chimes in, and Clark raises an eyebrow. “He just has a difference about him. A good difference.” He smiles at Clark and it's genuine.
“Yeah,” Jason agrees. “It’d be pretty great if you could skip this whole mutual pining stage and just, you know, bang or something.”
Richard groans and hits Jason’s shoulder. “You’re disgusting,” he snaps, and Jason just raises his mug in a smug toast. Richard rolls his eyes again before turning back to Clark. “But he is right.”
Clark watches the two of them, and he’s not oblivious. He can see beneath the jokes and bravado that the two are being genuine, even if Jason currently looks like he’s trying to figure out the best way to drown himself in his mug. Richard has a fixed smile, but Clark notes the rapid tapping of his fingers on the countertop and it’s clear that it’s a nervous tick.
So the boys are serious, they’re not here to raise hell. They obviously care a lot for Bruce, and Clark appreciates what they’re trying to do.
“Where is he?” he finally asks, and the way Richard brightens and his fingers cease their tapping makes Clark think that was definitely the appropriate response.
“At the Lake-House,” Richard responds with a grin. “He goes for a walk around the lake every Sunday afternoon to feed the ducks grapes.”
“He thinks we don’t know,” Jason mutters into his mug. “I wonder who he thinks stocks up his grapes though.”
“Probably Alfred,” Richard muses. “Why would he think we do it? Half the time you can’t even put the milk back in the fridge.”
Jason shrugs. “It starts pasteurised, it might as well end that way.”
“That’s not how it works!”
Admittedly, Clark zones out as the two start squabbling, and it does make sense why Bruce can put up with the League fighting when he sees what he must deal with at home. It’s amusing, and Clark finds it a little endearing that two hardened hero’s fight like children over milk of all things, but he can picture Bruce’s expression when dealing with Barry and Victor’s squabbles and he thinks it’s an expression well used.
He darts into his room as the two carry on, and very hurriedly shoves on some jeans and a t-shirt, contemplating his messy hair and deciding not to worry. If Bruce likes him, it’ll be for who he is and not some slicked-haired version of him.
Jason and Richard are still fighting as he walks back out, something about coffee beans and water temperature, but Clark doesn’t get involved as he pulls his plaid jacket off the hook by the door and leaves his apartment. He doesn’t bother to lock it behind him. He has a small feeling the boys aren’t going anywhere any time soon.
He heads for the roof, and he’s thankful for the early setting of the sun as he takes off towards Gotham. Anyone looking up will get sun-strike and won’t see him, and Clark feels his confidence building as he flies in the sun’s light.
It barely takes him ten minutes before he’s hovering over the lake-house, the League Mansion just down the road from him. He can hear the heartbeats of Barry and Victor in the mansion, but they’re not as familiar as Bruce’s, which Clark can hear wandering down the lakeside.
He takes a moment to just listen to the steady beat, careful and controlled, and Clark inhales some nervous deep breathes in a matching rhythm before he musters up the courage and starts to fly towards Bruce.
Bruce must hear him coming, Clark doesn’t bother to disguise his arrival, but he doesn’t turn away from the lakeside when Clark touches down on the ground behind him, the only sign of him registering Clark’s arrival is the sudden skipping beat of his heart before it settles back down again. There’s a horde of ducks around his feet, all quacking and clambering for grapes that Bruce is methodically giving out. It’s charming to watch, especially when Clark hears Bruce’s quiet shushing and scolding as he nudges certain greedy ducks away with a foot.
He doesn’t turn around until he’s obviously good and ready, no more grapes in his hands as he folds up the paper bag they were in and shoves it into his suit pocket. He doesn’t look at Clark either as he rolls his shoulders and huffs out a breath and, when he does start to glance up, Clark takes a few awkward steps forward.
“Hey,” Clark eventually says, and Bruce just nods a greeting back at him and gives him a sort-of smile. It’s enough to encourage Clark though as he continues to move until he’s only an arms width away.
“I see Jason and Dick have been to see you,” Bruce comments into the silence, and Clark raises an eyebrow. Bruce shakes his head fondly. “They’re the only ones besides Alfred that know I come out here, and Alfred wouldn’t even tell you my shoe size under the threat of death.”
“That’s some loyalty,” Clark says, and Bruce shrugs.
“That, or stupidity,” he muses as he drops his other hand into his other pocket. He’s playing with the paper bag, the crinkling loud enough for Clark to pick up on. “Some days, I don’t think there’s a difference.”
“That’s awfully cynical.”
Bruce smiles, and it’s not real at all. “You should know by now that I’m a cynic, Clark. I think it’s pretty obvious.”
Clark pauses on those words for a moment before he shakes his head. “No,” he says, and he sees one of Bruce’s eyebrow raise. “I don’t think you are a cynic, Bruce. I think you try to be, but it doesn’t always work.”
Bruce lets out a huff and looks away. He doesn’t respond, but Clark hears the scrunching of the paper bag increase. Obviously, it’s not a reply Bruce thought he’d get.
They stay in silent limbo for a while, Bruce looking out over the lake and Clark watching the ducks, before Bruce sighs and rolls his shoulders. It catches Clark’s attention immediately, and he takes a moment to drink in the sight of Bruce. Suit and tie as always, and Clark wonders if it’s just his dedication to maintaining the Brucie Wayne appearance or if he genuinely likes wearing suits? He almost strongly believes it’s the former. If there’s any compliment he can absolutely pay Bruce, it’s the fact he has a ridiculous amount of commitment.
“Walk with me?” Bruce suddenly asks, breaking the silence and Clark blinks stupidly for a moment before he grins. Bruce looks away, a slight flush to his cheeks, and he breaks into a walk along the lakeside that Clark quickly falls into step with.
Again, it’s quiet as they walk, both clearly trying to muster up something to say. Now that he’s here, Clark feels his tongue dry and all words escape him, and all he can think about is the ducks quacking along behind him and the sounds of the birds in the trees.
If Diana were here, she’d roll her eyes and call them both idiots.
“I hope they didn’t torment you too much,” Bruce says after they’ve walked a decent distance and, at Clark’s confused face, he shakes his head. “Jason and Dick. They can be a formidable pair.”
“I think they got that from their father.”
Bruce lets out a surprised laugh as he smiles at Clark. “Sure,” he half-heartedly agrees. “I think I’ve learned some things from them, though.”
“That I don’t doubt,” Clark concurs before he takes a deep breath and reaches out to take Bruce’s elbow, pulling them both to a stop as his courage builds. “Look, Bruce,” he starts, and he almost stops when he sees the wide-eyed look he gets in response. He pushes on though. “I came down here to talk about-”
“You don’t have to say anything that the boys convinced you to say,” Bruce interrupts in a hurry, his gaze flickering briefly to Clark’s hand on his elbow but he looks away quickly enough. “They... they can have the best ideas at times, but you don’t need to be pressured because of-“
“Oh, Bruce,” Clark cuts him off, “just, shut up for a moment will you?”
Bruce’s mouth shuts with an audible click, and Clark uses the moment to draw Bruce closer to him, his other hand coming out of his pocket to catch Bruce’s other elbow to pull him in. There’s a wild look in his eyes, a cornered kind of look, but Clark pushes on.
“I like you,” he says bluntly, and he hears Bruce’s sharp intake of breath. “I really like you, Bruce. I have for a while now.” He glances down where his fingers are wrapped around the expensive material of Bruce’s suit. “It’s taken me a while to get used to the idea, but it’s not because of anything you’ve done.” He gives Bruce a lopsided smile. “It’s because I’m just... you’re the first, you know?”
“The first Bruce Wayne after all the Lois Lane’s?” Bruce asks weakly, and Clark laughs.
“Yeah, you are,” he agrees, and he pulls Bruce in a little bit more. “But that doesn’t change a damn thing about my feelings for you.”
“You like Batman,” Bruce protests, refusing to look Clark in the eyes. “I’m not stupid, Clark. I see the way you look at Batman, I know you like his ideals... Bruce Wayne isn’t like that.”
Clark let’s out a little huff. “You know, saying you’re not stupid followed up by saying the stupidest of things makes that statement less convincing,” he chides Bruce, and Clark can see a small flush on Bruce’s cheeks. “But I’m not gonna deny it,” Clark continues, and he feels Bruce stiffen up. “At first, it was Batman. I didn’t know you, I only knew Batman and yes, I had the most ridiculous crush on him.”
“Exactly,” Bruce starts to say, and Clark let’s go of one elbow to slot a hand over Bruce’s mouth.
“But,” he stresses the word, “then I got to know Bruce Wayne. I always thought Brucie and Bruce were the same.” Clark let’s out a small laugh. “You have way too many personalities and alter-egos.”
Bruce just nods, his breath hot against Clark’s palm, and he pulls it away quickly so as not to get too distracted.
“You’re pretty special, Bruce,” he continues with a small smile. “I don’t think I’ve ever met someone like you, and I don’t think I ever will again.” He leans in so their noses are only a hair’s breadth away. “So I like you. I like you a lot, and no matter what you think, I like all of you. Every single part. From Batman to Bruce, to even Brucie.” He gives Bruce’s elbow a shake. “All of you, yeah?”
Bruce just blinks at him, their eyes meeting and Clark can feel that charging spark again, and he offers Bruce a lopsided smile that clearly cracks Bruce’s bravado as he ducks his head with a smile on his lips.
“Okay,” he says quietly, and Clark pulls him closer and he bites back a celebratory cheer.
“Okay?” he repeats, and Bruce takes a deep breath before he looks up and smiles straight at Clark, and if Clark wasn’t already on his way to falling head over heels for this silly man, then he thinks that smile alone would’ve had him falling right then and there.
“Okay,” Bruce repeats, his voice stronger as he nods, and Clark beams as he raises a hand to cup Bruce’s cheek. When Bruce leans into it, Clark feels his heart thumping loudly and he can hear Bruce’s beating fast to match, so he doesn’t hesitate as he closes the small gap between them, nudging their noses before leaning in to press their lips together.
It’s infinitely better than the kiss from the gala, the sparks practically flying as Clark pulls Bruce close, pressing up against each other almost desperately as Clark’s hand slides around to knit into Bruce’s hair. Bruce's hands settle on his waist, warm and inviting, and Clark curls down that inch height difference to Bruce’s waiting lips as his mind falls blank.
All he can think is Bruce Bruce Bruce, and his fingers tighten as he tips Bruce’s head back, desperate for that better access, and Bruce lets out a breathy gasp as he all but clings to Clark. The kiss turns steamy, Clark’s heart racing more and more as the kiss turns from sweet to passionate, fingers gripping until it hurts as they push against each other desperate for more contact.
They finally break apart when Clark is desperate for air, pulling back with loud gasps but staying close as they drag in as much air as they can. Clark can’t help the no doubt ridiculous smile on his face as he drops his forehead against Bruce’s, ecstatic to see a matching smile on Bruce’s face. He squeezes his fingers in Bruce’s hair, Bruce’s smile growing larger at the touch.
“Yeah,” Clark says, unable to stay quiet. “Yeah, I definitely like you.”
Bruce snorts and shakes his head, their foreheads rubbing together. “You’re an idiot, Kent,” Bruce states, and Clark just grins as he rushes in for a quick peck, surprising Bruce.
“But I’m your idiot,” he points out, and Bruce rolls his eyes but smiles anyway.