Title: I Will If You Try
Rating: Adult, R/NC-17
Length: 2630 words
Spoilers: somewhen prior Infinite Crisis
Warnings: slash, angst, hurt no comfort
Disclaimer: Not mine, seriously. All belongs DC Comics.
Summary: Some things break more when you try to fix them.
"What do you want, Clark?" Bruce said from the lab bench in the cave. He had the mask and cowl pushed back to look at slides through the microscope. "Make it quick. Obviously, I'm busy."
"I just came by to see how you are," Clark said, Superman in uniform only. All Bruce had to do was say his name and he was. Clark. No one quite said his name like Bruce. Not his parents, not even Lois.
"And your communicator's not working?" Bruce said, not looking up, adjusting the microscope and taking notes. Not for the first time, Clark wondered how Bruce could master fine motor skills through the heavy gloves. Out there, sure, he had to, but here he could easily strip them off.
"Don't be disingenuous, Bruce. You know as well as I do that you didn't answer."
"For most people, that would have been enough of a clue that I'm not interested in being disturbed."
"I'm not most people."
Bruce braced both hands against the counter then, tensed. "Neither am I. Save the emotional triage for the others, Clark. I don't need the aggravation."
"Am I what? I really don't have time for this."
Bruce rose then, faced him. Clark didn't want to cross his arms, but he did, always on the defensive with Bruce. How many years and Bruce still made each conversation difficult.
"How dense are you?" he said. "Clearly, I'm aggravated. Would you prefer perturbed?" He turned back to the lab bench. "You know the way out."
Clark took a step forward rather than back. "If you don't want to be treated like a victim, then stop acting like one."
Bruce whirled, strode forward, mouth a horrible grimace and voice a gravely whisper. "They took something from me. They know my name, and they just took it. And you dare to come here and--"
"I wasn't a part of that, Bruce, and you know it. I'm not defending what they did."
Now only a foot away, Bruce just looked at him, eyes narrowed. "Now who's being disingenuous? You did the same damn thing. That's the thing about power, no one's above using it. Not even you."
Burned alive and buried. Flayed. The screaming. Clark could still feel it, what he took into himself. "Believe me, you don't want those back. What I did, I did for--"
"Me? You die and come back and suddenly you're Jesus Christ? I've never been a member of the Church of Clark."
"I did it for me, Bruce. I knew you didn't want it, wouldn't forgive me, but I did it anyway."
Bruce's heartbeat remained steady, pulse the same rhythm. "Then you're no different from the rest of them."
"No, I'm not."
"I despise your relativism. You, of all people, shouldn't subscribe to that excuse of a philosophy."
"Why do you do that? Make me different from the others? We're all--"
"Because you are. Because you know better. Because we--"
"Because we what, Bruce?"
Bruce didn't answer, only his heart, his blood now racing. He leaned in. "Stop me," he finally said, barest whisper and breath against Clark's mouth, a dare and a plea all at once. "Stop me."
Clark didn't stop him. He only opened up and let him in.
"So now you're an adulterer," Bruce said as he rolled off Clark, the two of them now a sweaty mess in the middle of Bruce's bed.
Clark sighed, rolled over, placed a hand over his eyes. This, apparently, Bruce's idea of afterglow. "I suppose I am."
"Better to ask forgiveness than permission, right, Clark?" Bruce only stared at the ceiling. "You're going to tell her, of course."
"Marriage shouldn't be based on lies."
Bruce let out a laugh then, a bark only and narrow sound. "Why do you have to make my life so damn difficult? Just get out and let's forget this ever happened."
"Forget? Is that what you want?"
Bruce rolled away, faced the wall. "I can live with myself just fine without having my memories sorted like spoons in a drawer."
Clark didn't move. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry."
"You're always sorry, Clark. That doesn't change anything."
"You think I would have pushed you away? Hit you? You get enough of that out there. You don't need that from me."
Bruce only turned his head, glared. "So I needed to fuck you up the ass instead?"
Bruce shifted, faced him, but the glare remained. "I have outlets. You have no idea what I need."
"I'd feel better if you knew. I don't think you do, Bruce."
"You're not my therapist!"
"No, I'm not. I hope I'm your friend."
"Friends don't do what we just did."
"In our line of work? They do it all the time. Don't tell me you haven't noticed."
"Oh, so you're a slut. That's good to know. What number am I then?"
Clark rose up on an elbow. "I'm not your first, Bruce. But you're mine. I've said no plenty of times and I'm sure you have my entire sexual history on file."
The glare softened, faded to nothing. "There are things I have to do. It doesn't mean that..."
"Doesn't mean what?"
"Nothing. Just go home, Clark. Salvage your marriage. If anyone can come out smelling like a rose, you can." Bruce stared at the ceiling again.
"This is ridiculous, Bruce. We're in bed. We need to sort things out, the two of us."
Bruce sat up, leaned against the headboard, ran a hand through his hair. "There's nothing to sort out. We fucked. It was a mistake. End of story."
Sighing, Clark sat up too, looked over at him. "This isn't about sex. If it were, I would have stopped you."
"So you know everything now," Bruce said, apprising him coolly. "Picked up some wisdom from the great beyond that you want to share with the rest of us?"
"Why do you always--?" Clark shook his head. "I've never understood you. Not really. But I do know that you don't handle death well."
Bruce stood, grabbed his robe. He went over to the window and looked out at the balcony. "Get out of my house."
"We need to talk," Clark said, leaning back but moving no further.
"I can make you leave, Clark. I'm not going to ask you again."
"You can't make me leave, but you can hurt me. There's a difference."
Bruce turned from the window. "If that's what it takes."
"You have some in here? Seriously?"
Walking purposefully over to the nightstand, Bruce placed his hand on the handle but didn't open the drawer. "I'm not bluffing."
Clark only drew up his knees, put his head cheek down on them, not taking his eyes off Bruce. "Go ahead. If that's what it takes."
Bruce's hand didn't move, stayed still. "Is this another one of your lessons, Mahatma? You'll just sit there and take it?" But then he smiled, all teeth. "But then again, maybe you haven't had enough pain in your life to know better."
The drawer opened and then the box. Within seconds, Clark could only cling to his knees, trying desperately to keep the groans, whimpers, in. And failed. Bruce was the stoic, not himself, but he still felt that shame. Sweat ran down back. He still hadn't taken his eyes off Bruce, who just looked at him, face unreadable.
"Are you going to wake Tim up to help you hide the body?" Clark said, a bit shaky. "Or are you going to wait until morning?"
Both the box and drawer slammed shut.
"Fuck you, Clark." Bruce stormed away from the bed, faced the window again.
Falling back to the pillows, breathing in, Clark did his best to laugh and managed something reasonably close. "It's a little late for that, considering."
And Bruce only said, soft, "What are we...they. What are they becoming?"
"Bruce, you have a right to be angry. It's human. But--"
Bruce turned, eyes narrowed yet glittering. "Human? What do you know about that, Clark? You're nothing but a parrot, a mimic, a cuckoo's egg in the human nest."
Clark put a hand over his eyes and kept it there, eyes suddenly stinging, and the breath he had yet to catch completely, stuck. It took a few seconds before he managed, a choking sound, "Congratulations, you finally landed one."
"Clark, are you--?" The voice drew closer. "Oh, go ahead and have yourself a good cry. If you can't take this then--"
Clark rolled away from that voice, clung to the pillow.
A hand grabbed his shoulder, pulled, but not ungently. Clark didn't want to, but he turned his face to Bruce. Bruce, who only looked at him, expression shifting and at war. Finally reaching out, Bruce ran his thumb along Clark's cheek and then brought that thumb to his mouth, tasted it, eyes never leaving Clark's face, intense and intent. Clark opened his mouth to say something, but Bruce shook his head and sat on the edge of the bed.
"This is what they do, Clark. Can't you see that?"
Clark's eyes only widened, but he stayed silent.
"They take until there's nothing left to give."
"Until we turn on our own."
Bruce only smiled, face now full of a fierce fondness. He brushed Clark's hair back and kept brushing. "Of course you can't. They can't get to you. But they'll use you, Clark. They'll use you. You need to see that."
Clark rose up on an elbow. "Bruce, who are you talking about?"
The hand in his hair turned into a fist. "Them. Villain, hero, it doesn't matter anymore."
"It has to, Bruce. What we do--"
"Shut up. We're done talking." Bruce, fist still in Clark's hair, leaned in, mouth parted, and kissed him, pressed until Clark's head lay on the pillow again. Clark allowed it, kissed him back, hands caressing Bruce's shoulders just to gentle him down.
But Bruce didn't gentle. He opened up his robe, crawled onto the bed without breaking the kiss, straddled Clark. "I'm going to fuck you again," he whispered, mouth sliding down Clark's jaw. "You didn't leave when I asked."
Clark rolled until he had Bruce pinned beneath him, hands around his wrists. "No, Bruce." He had to hold him there, hold him until something made sense, until Bruce made sense again. "This isn't what you need."
"Then take it." Bruce pushed, but only his hips, neck arching slightly, defiantly submitting. "Take it, Clark."
"Bruce, that's not what I mean." Clark released Bruce's wrists, sat back, but knees still around Bruce's thighs.
Rising, Bruce wrapped his arms around Clark's neck, hands in his hair again, mouth ghosting neck, jaw, lips. "The door's already open, you can't close it. Fuck me. You. No one else."
Clark kissed him then, wet and slow, apology and negation. "Bruce, enough's enough," he finally said.
But Bruce didn't pull back. "Tease," he whispered. "You demand intimacy but then all you want to do is talk. This is communication, Clark. Like it or not." He reached for Clark's hand, kissed the palm and then sucked on two fingers, cheeks hollowing and eyes half-lidded, but no less demanding or daring. "You want me open? Open me up."
"Bruce...this isn't intimacy. This is avoidance. Don't do this." But his plea carried no weight as the words disappeared into another kiss.
Reaching for the nightstand, bottle this time and not box, Bruce managed to move his thighs at the same time, spreading them as Clark's knees gave way, allowing it. "No, we've been avoiding this for years. Don't deny it." His hand began moving on Clark. "You're hard for me, Clark. You always have been. Even before, as perfunctory as it was, you didn't just lie back and think of England, you made a mess on my bed."
Clark closed his eyes against it, but thrust into Bruce's sure hand, moved his knees again when Bruce took those fingers and pushed them inside himself. "Don't..." But he was already in, fingers moving.
"Clark, open your eyes. Look at me."
Clark did. Even if he didn't, he would have cheated, stared through his own eyelids, looked anyway.
"You're right," Bruce said, slight flush seeping down his chest. "What we did, I do that all the time. It doesn't mean anything. But this...Be my first, Clark. My only."
Clark's mouth opened, but no words came out. His fingers, however, did, a gentle slide. He adjusted, hovering and hesitant as Bruce wrapped his legs around his back.
"Kiss me," Bruce said. And he did, but not moving anything else.
"I know the magic words," Bruce whispered, mouth now grazing his ear. And only a moment more, pause for effect, before he whispered, "I love you."
Clark gasped. This couldn't be Bruce. Not as he knew him. He had to be on something, altered, or horribly, someone else entirely. But the words had an effect all the same. He thrust, only partially in and sinking as Bruce rose to meet him.
"I'll hurt you," he whispered back, aiming for caution but failing.
"Love is pain, Clark," Bruce said, head back on the pillow. "Don't you know that by now?"
Clark shook his head, but only slightly, for Bruce's eyes wouldn't let go.
And he was all the way in.
Afterward, Bruce pulled the blanket up. "You're in no shape to go anywhere. We'll think of something."
Clark only stared at the ceiling as Bruce shifted, draped an arm across him, drifted off with an, even to him, unintelligible murmur.
After some time, to the metronome of Bruce's heartbeat, he drifted off too.
The alarm woke him, early morning, but Bruce was gone. Only a breakfast tray, with a plain note, on the nightstand. Clark picked it up.
Yes, I ran away. There are words that must be said, that I wouldn't say if I were there. I'd only lie to you. Have breakfast. Take a shower. Take your time. Don't wait for me to come back. I won't.
I trust that you'll burn this, but I'll be circumspect regardless. Habit.
I have no excuse so I'll keep this short.
You're a decent man, Clark Kent. And I'm not. You caught me on a bad night. That's all it was. Don't look for hidden meanings. There are none. I'm not asking for your forgiveness or understanding. I am who I have to be.
Do not pursue this. If you attempt it, I will turn you away. You know I have the means to do so. For my sake, as well as yours, do not make me hurt you more than I already have. But I will if you try. Abandon all hope...you know the rest.
Boundaries, fences, exist for a reason. We tore them down, but it's my responsibility to rebuild them. If I have faith in anything, it's this. We will rebuild. Not for the sake of friendship. That's gone. But for a necessary alliance. We have work to do.
And yes, my fault. You blame yourself for entirely too much. Apparently, I don't value the things that I should.
You have a good life, Clark. Go home and live it.
Clark looked at the breakfast tray—eggs, bacon, coffee, orange juice, strawberries, and one red rose. Joke or not, it was still a mixed message.
He left the tray untouched, took the note into the bathroom, felt the heat rise within and escape. The cinders wafted down to the sink basin. He turned on the faucet, washed the ash down the drain, the soot from his fingers.
They've been through worse. He and Bruce would rebuild.
Just not today.