The promised fanfic– but first, a brief Mate moment: We were watching 48 Hours when we started giggling. It seems that we can’t ever watch a movie about San Quentin without remembering the time I accidentally traveled that bridge THREE TIMES because Mate was taking a nap and the detour was REALLY DAMNED CONFUSING. “All I was doing was taking a nap!” “And all I was doing was getting bumfuck lost!”
*happy sigh* Good times.
And that being said…
Clark came by after his expected shifts at The Planet– about twice a week, now that he was spending most of his time as Superman at The Watchtower or Hall of Justice.
But twice a week he flew, a red and blue blur, through the waterfall and into the infirmary in the BatCave.
He always changed into old man jeans and a polo shirt on his way.
“Why the jeans?” Bruce bitched as he tried–once again– to take weight on his broken leg. He collapsed between the support bars, and Clark grunted, something in his stomach twisting.
“It’s still broken,” he said, using his X-Ray vision to confirm what he knew. He stood and crossed his arms, clutching at his elbows to keep himself from reaching out.
“Bullshit,” BRuce said, clambering to his feet. He balanced on one leg and rested his weight on the good shoulder.
Which wasn’t so good. He gave a little gasp and his knee gave and he crumpled, but Clark caught him before he hit the ground.
“Why?” he asked gruffly. “You can’t fucking heal?”
“He’s still out there,” Bruce muttered, not meeting his eyes.
“Fine,” Clark snapped. He should let go. He should let go and let the leg fracture again, let the shoulder hit the ground and dislodge the pins, let the damned stubborn brain splatter like an egg in its shell. Instead he scooped up the fragile, human body, bulky muscles fading with the lack of food and exercise, and cradled it like an infant’s. “You’re being stupid.”
Without acknowledging what he was doing, Clark levitated up and glided out of the physical therapy room. The infirmary had become Bruce’s main bedroom these days, but Bruce made a reluctant whimper as they neared it.
“God, please,” he muttered. “I hate this… I want to get–“
Clark didn’t let him finish the sentence. Not too fast or too rough, as smooth as he could possibly fly, but quickly too, he whooshed up through the BatCave, under the waterfall, and into the open air.
The sun was setting in the late spring night, and Clark settled down lightly on the topmost gable of Wayne manor, Bruce still cupped in his arms.
“This is humiliating,” Bruce muttered.
“I don’t mean this moment.”
Clark had to think about that– about Bruce trying to overcome injuries Clark would never suffer. About the Justice League scrabbling to find a killer while Bruce couldn’t sit at the computer for the pain. About how Batman– even Batman–had to succumb to human frailty.
“Next time,” he said, voice bitter, “maybe you’ll get the fuck out of there.”
And then, miracle of miracles, laid his head against Clark’s shoulder, his muscles softening, going lax, giving up the fight.
“Next time,” Bruce muttered, as the sun disappeared behind the city in a flash of tarnished gold. “Next time, maybe you’ll keep up with me.”
Clark closed his eyes. “Stop running away from me then,” he whispered.
“Just a human. Just a weak, fragile human–how can I possibly outrun the mighty Superman? Why should I even–“
“Just shut up,” Clark said, voice choked. “I don’t give a shit why you’ve run from me for five years. I don’t care anymore. Just… just stop running, or let me go.”
“You’re the one holding me, Superman.” Dripping irony. “Maybe I should say the same about you.“
“No.” Bruce felt so sweet in his arms. Sweet and trusting–for once giving up, letting Clark do all he knew how to do. “Not letting go. Not now.”
“Good,” Bruce admitted. Clark listened to his heartbeat slowing, his breathing leveling out. He was falling asleep, stubbornly refusing to admit he was tired.
“Because it’s a long way down without you.”
Bruce cuddled into his chest like a kitten into a mama’s furry folds, and Superman watched gray and then purple wash over Batman’s beloved Gotham.
“I waited five years for this,” he said, almost puzzled. “Five years, I’ve been waiting for one of us to break. And now? Now, I’d chase you for another ten years, twenty, your lifetime, if only you were up at the Watchtower, giving me shit about assignments.”
Bruce’s hand–battered, but soft after the weeks of inactivity, came up and cupped his smooth cheek. No stubble for Superman, no stubble for Clark Kent. He rubbed his thumb over Clark’s lips, and Clark sighed, sucking the thumb into his mouth.
“In twenty years I’ll be too old to heal well from this,” Bruce said. Not asleep. Clark should have known. “In twenty years, I’d be really asleep.”
Clark gave a solid pull on Bruce’s thumb and released it, dropping his head to nuzzle the stubborn man’s temple. “You wasted five mortal years, playing catch with me?” he asked, angry– blazingly angry–but not about to yell at Bruce now.
“Age isn’t the worst thing to happen to us, you know.” Bruce Wayne’s inky dark eyes were focused on Clark’s face.
“I don’t know, Cal-El– you tell me.”
Clark didn’t answer. The use of his name– the last name of a dead planet–was enough. The air began to chill and Bruce shivered in his arms.
“We should go–“
“No– not yet.” Bruce turned his face to the sky and searched the darkness. He smiled and gestured with his chin. “The moon is rising there, in the northeast. It’ll come right over Gotham.” He smiled. “It’s my favorite time.”
“God your demand–“
“Don’t come by anymore,” Bruce said suddenly, face turned toward the sky.
Clark almost dropped him. “What?”
“Not while I’m recovering. Wait– I’ll be able to–“
“We’ll be equals– that’s all I ever–“
“Clark!” The pleading in his voice almost made Clark relent.
But, “No. No, I’m not going to leave you alone. I’m going to take you outside and keep you from hurting yourself and give Alfred a break and…” He took a deep breath. “No. Because I said so.”
“I’m not weak.”
“No.” And then, like it was being ripped from his chest. “I’m weak, Bruce. Can’t you just let me be weak? Please?”
Bruce snorted. Big fucking imposition, obviously. “If you’re going to come, could you bring some beer?”
“It’s bad for you.”
“Expensive and difficult to obtain. And good with strawberries and champagne.”
“God, you’re a pain in the ass!”
Again, that sleepy, I’m-just-staying-awake-to-dick-with-you snort. “Well you wouldn’t know that, would you? Because you spent the last five years running.”
“Toblerone. I’ll swing by the French provinces for the champagne.”
“I’ll have Alfred get the strawberries.”
The window from the gable behind them swung open, and Superman glided forward a few feet, looking behind him in surprise.
“Alfred will get strawberries if you get him back inside. Alfred is, quite frankly, too old for this shit. If he gets sick–“
They were gone before Alfred could finish that sentence, and Bruce was asleep before Clark got him back to his own bed.
He looked younger, asleep. Younger and pale, and so sad.
What’s worse than being dropped? Of falling behind? Of getting blown up by a mad bomber from your own miscalculations?
Alfred didn’t bring him strawberries– he brought him soup, on a silver tray with a silver trencher. And a crystal flagon of orange juice. And a cot, with a pillow.
Clark didn’t go back to the Daily planet the next day.
He didn’t go back to the Watchtower the next night.
In fact, he sat at Batman’s precious console and dicked with the settings until he could hear Diana’s voice there, clear as rain, and see the same feeds they got in the Hall of Justice and the Watchtower.
“Where are you?” Diana asked, puzzled. “Is that Bruce’s–“
“I’m home,” Clark muttered, daring her to correct him based on what she saw on his feed.
A quiet, dawning comprehension flittered across her face. “Tell Alfred to ready himself for some deliveries,” she said without missing a beat.
“Yeah– sure.” She looked behind her shoulder. “Barry, did you hear that? No running down there in the small hours of the night, do you understand?”
Barry’s grunt could be heard off camera. “Killjoy.”
“Should we tell Dick you’re there?”
Great. “Yeah, sure. Tell him the same thing about arriving in the middle of the night.”
“That was never Dick’s style,” Diana said dryly.
“I don’t want to hear about it,” he muttered. God, who could figure out the twisted relationship between Dick Grayson and Bruce Wayne. Suddenly he brightened. “YOu know what?”
“You’re the most sexually repressed man in history?” Diana asked, with no irony whatsoever.
“Possibly. But I am his healthiest relationship.”
“You know what?” she asked, her china blue eyes wide with horror.
“You’re finally figuring out why you and I never worked?” he said, only partly facetious. They should have been fantastic. Diana and Batman should have been fantastic. But apparently that was not the pairing off the gods wanted.
“No,” she said, no humor at all. “But I could fly there, find a random guy on a football field and bang him on the roof of the World Trade Center, and I would still have the healthiest relationship of all you random assholes in this little club.”
Superman blinked. Thought of his exchange with Bruce, and what they’d had to do for things to progress this far.
“I am not going to argue,” he said after a moment. “Keep Barry out of our bedroom. I need a cold pack on my head.”
Which was a lie, of course, because Clark Kent didn’t get headaches. But he did need to go watch Bruce sleep some more. He especially needed to stretch out on the bed and look at him, defenseless and vulnerable, letting Clark have his back while he got better.
Totally worth it.