Batman didn’t deign to answer. He was busy playing finger-dance on a control panel that he swore, left and right, was going to stop the bomb from going off.
“Get them out,” he said tersely, and Superman looked behind him to the family, cowering in the corner of the alleyway. They hadn’t asked for this, Superman thought, swallowing. They hadn’t asked for this, and Batman had put himself right in the way.
“You get them–“
“Get them the fuck out of here,” he snarled. “Come back if you have time.”
Augh! Arrogant, self-serving, overreaching, prideful fucking martyr who had been going into that fucking building alone until Superman spotted him. Oh, who was Clark kidding– if Superman hadn’t tailed him. Because they were supposed to be working on the mad bomber case as a team, but damned if Bruce Wayne could do anything but find the problem and try to fix it. He was like a fucking automaton, one of those machines that would throw itself against a wall again and again and again until all it’s parts fell off and it was just a mechanical stump, oozing oil!
The image added impetus, and Superman moved as quickly as he could without hurting the people he was carrying, two at a time. Family of six, one, two, three trips– yes! There was Bruce, still working doggedly at the control panel, but Superman could hear the whine of the detonator. It was going to go off early, and he was standing there, just standing there, and Superman was going at warp speed and he’d get there in time he’d get there in time he’d get there in time oh please God let him get there in–
Except bombs never made that sound, did they? They just created a big empty vault of silence that the ear and the head would remember as noise later. In the tumble of that silence, Superman managed to be between the annihilated metal door and Bruce Wayne when it went off, and even managed to wrap his arms around Bruce’s shoulders, but they’d been thrown about, like dolls in an empty box, being shaken to pieces by an angry baby.
In the chaos, Superman tried to cup his body around Batman’s, a muscular hand cupping an egg, but it wasn’t enough.
The explosion ended, and Superman, Bruce Wayne in his arms, pulled his legs under him and pushed, heaving half a brick wall off his back. In the clearing dust, it looked…
His armor was pierced–destroyed in places, and he was bleeding from his mouth and nose. One shoulder hung, unsupported by bone, and a bone in his leg had popped through not just the flesh but the body armor as well.
Superman stared at him, impervious body shaking, and prayed. C’mon, you stubborn fucker– breathe.
C’mon, Batman, breathe.
Oh please. Please Bruce. Please.
The flutter of his chest was enough. Superman clutched him as tight as he dared and flew away, faster than thought.
He should have taken him up top, to where the Justice League was beginning to function like the well-oiled machine they could be.
But Bruce hated that place–it didn’t feel like home.
Superman knew where the Batcave was.
“I hate him for that,” he ground out, when Diana pointed it out to him. “Stubborn fucker.”
“Clark!” She looked almost comically surprised, and after the twelve hours they’d just put in, sewing parts of a man back together that should never be exposed, Clark let out a wounded laugh.
“He’s rubbing off on me,” he said, scrubbing at his face with a bloody hand.
Her touch on his shoulder was nothing but kind. “Yes, well, you’ve been working together for years.”
“Yes.” The bleeding had been stopped internally. He’d had to laser a hole through Bruce Wayne’s skull to keep his brain from swelling and squishing like a ripe peach.
“You’re the only person he talks to,” she said, trying to make it light.
“There’s Alfred,” he disclaimed.
“We all talk to Alfred.”
“Yes.” Because he needed something to say. “What were we talking about?”
“How you need to shower and change,” she said gently. “I’ll take the first watch.”
Alfred slept in a cot next to Bruce’s bed, his lined, aristocratic face relaxed into worry, but even his posture– on his back, hands lightly clasped across his chest–was correct in sleep. Superman got out of the shower and shooed Diana into her own shower, sitting down and watching with reassurance as the the sound of Batman’s heartbeat continued, with obstinate regularity.
“You don’t have superpowers,” he said after a moment. His voice rang strangely in the sterile room. “You’re so smart– so damned smart– you beat us all to the bad guys, but you don’t have superpowers. How’s that fair? I don’t understand how that’s…” He took a breath and ran his hand through his wet hair. “I don’t understand how that’s fair,” he finished weakly. “How is it fair that you should be tagging after me, after Diana, after Barry and Hal– you should be… obnoxious. A kid, trailing after his older brothers and sisters. But you’re not. You’re… you’re the first one there.”
His voice broke on the anger. “Goddammit, why do you have to be the first one there!”
Bruce should have been too drugged to answer, but Superman heard it anyway.
“You’re slow,” he slurred. “Slow and dumb.”
Superman let out a crippled laugh.
“Hand,” Bruce muttered, flexing his fingers.
“Does it hurt?”
Superman stared at his hand, IV inserted, and saw the fingers do the flexing thing again. “Wha–“
“Clark!” And yes. He was lying there, mostly dead, making an incredibly odd request, and getting pissed because Clark Kent couldn’t read his mind.
Clark watched his fingers wiggle again and, slowly, praying Diana was still in the shower, or asleep in the other room, touched his fingertips to Bruce’s.
Bruce laced their fingers together. “Slow and dumb,” he muttered, as his fingers tightened.
Clark rested his head on the mattress. When he woke up, the heartbeat monitor was still going, but Alfred and Diana were gone.
Bruce was looking at him through swathes of bandages.
“What?” Clark asked, wiping his mouth self-consciously.
“Superdrool,” Bruce said. “Should bottle that.”
“Sure. Go save somebody. I’m recovering here.”
Clark recoiled. “Well, fine–if you’re going to be an asshole about–“
“He doesn’t want you to see him weak,” Alfred said crisply, hustling in with a tray. “Do you Master Bruce.”
Even through the bandages Clark could see him wince. “Alfred…”
“You’re fired,” Bruce growled.
“Excellent. I won’t have to watch the two of you make cow eyes at each other for another five years.”
“He’s dumb,” Bruce explained patiently, like a child lecturing a parent on the reasons school sucked. “Dumb and slow.”
Alfred cast an exasperated look at Clark. “I am not going to argue with you. But given that only a saint could love you, I’m going to ask that you cut us all a break and not drive him from your bedside.”
For the first time, Bruce’s eyes met his, searching, searching…
Clark looked back, not sure what he should see. “He’s right,” he said after a moment.
“Don’t tell him that,” Bruce begged. “Man thinks he’s in charge already. What’s he right about.”
“Only a saint could love you.”
Batman snorted. “Buy a fucking halo, asshole,” he muttered, and then fell back asleep.
End of Part 1– thank Chicken for sending me the inspirational .gifs, and I’ll finish it tomorrow, barring anything interesting on the home front. (I need to finish it– I promised you people sex, and as soon as I put up the disclaimer box, people got REALLY interested, didn’t they?) And thanks, all, for bearing with me. I have no promises for how long my fanfic binge is going to last, but for some reason, it’s just making me happy as hell right now. And I’m writing fiction like a fiend as well, so it’s like, win/win for the right brain!
So tune in tomorrow– hopefully there’ll be smex then.