Previous parts are here.
Title: The Time Before, part 3
Pairing: Bruce/Lex, Bruce/Harvey
Rating: Adultish, R (this part)
Length: 2248 words
Spoilers: pre-series fic, no particular spoilers for SV, for DC - continuity? what continuity?
Warnings: slash, angst, prep school politics, everyone wants Bruce
Disclaimer: Not mine, seriously. All belongs to Al & Miles, WB/CW and DC Comics.
A/N: I still have no excuse. And no reason at all to be inside Bruce's head or his history. Baudelaire exerpt of "à une mendiante rousse" from the 1857 edition of Les Fleurs du mal, English translation by Geoffrey Wagner, 1974. The full poem (French and various English translations) can be found here.
Summary: Bruce's senior year at Excelsior. He helps a kid out.
Not seeing Harvey at breakfast, Bruce made his way across the commons to his first class – Poetry, Advanced English. He took his seat near the front, opened up his notebook, mind still on the night before and worrying that Harvey would avoid him now.
The door opened and Luthor stepped inside, handed a note to the professor.
"I usually don't accept transfers this late in the term," Professor McKay said. "But it appears you come highly recommended. Just have a seat next to Mr. Wayne over there. We'll see about getting you the appropriate texts this afternoon." McKay looked at Bruce. "You'll have to share your materials for now, Mr. Wayne."
Bruce could only nod, the seat next to him empty since Simmons had been sent home with severe gastroenteritis just the day before and not likely to return.
"I've never seen anyone barf like that in my life," Greggs had said last night at dinner. Bruce and Harvey had arrived in the dining room together, but Harvey had taken a seat next to Schiebling at the far corner. His customary chair, next to Bruce, had remained empty.
Thompson, sitting next to Greggs as always, rolled his eyes. "Do you mind? We're trying to eat here. Look at Wayne, dumbass, you've totally ruined it for him."
"What? Our man Wayne here has a stomach of iron!" Greggs said, waving at Bruce and gently slapping Thompson in the back of the head. "So as I was saying, Simmons, man, upchuck city. I'm talking like hospital time, IV's and shit..."
Bruce picked at his food. The chair next to his remained empty.
Lex now sat next to him, a quick sidelong glance and slight smile. "You're on the Symbolists now, I believe?" he whispered.
"Did you set this up?" Bruce whispered back, suspicious.
"I needed to transfer out of my previous class. Standard Shakespeare and interpretation. Romeo and Juliet. Please. Even the prof could see how bored I was," he whispered. "The transfer...purely his idea." He grinned, ducked his head. "Life is full of funny little coincidences, isn't it? May I?" he said, reaching for Bruce's text.
"Go ahead," Bruce said. He pulled back slightly when Lex's hand brushed by his to open up the anthology.
"All right, gentlemen," McKay said, walking over to the whiteboard. "Who can tell me a major work that inspired the Symbolist movement in France?
Both Bruce and Lex raised their hands.
McKay smiled. "Well, well, I'm not sure whether to keep you together or reassign the seats. All right, Mr. Luthor, prove you belong."
A few quiet groans sounded in the room as Lex went on to describe Baudelaire, even quoting a few lines from Les Fleurs du mal. In French. Que pour déshabiller/Tes bras se fassent prier/Et chassent à coups mutins/Les doigts lutins,...Tu compterais dans tes lits/Plus de baisers de lis/Et rangerais sous tes lois/Plus d'un Valois!
Bruce, who had taken his AP's in French and German the previous year, stiffened.
(May to undress yourself, your arms require coaxing. And may they archly repel mischievious fingers...You would count more kisses than lilies in your beds. And you would hold in sway more than one Valois!)
Thompson, two seats behind him and taking the French AP this year, laughed and muttered, "Oh my God, so gay!"
The class rippled with laughter.
McKay tapped his marker on the board and said, "If Mr. Thompson's reading skills were as great as his translation ones, he would surely tell us that particular poem is addressed to a woman." Turning, he eyed the now hushed class. "And since no one with red hair graces our class this morning, Mr. Thompson could also tell us that Mr. Luthor is speaking in generalities."
He then turned his attention to Lex. "However, given the risque nature of this particular treasure, I will not ask Mr. Luthor to translate into English." He smiled. "Nevertheless, Mr. Luthor, well done. You may stay."
Bruce risked a glance at Lex, but Lex merely looked at McKay, face placid. He then picked up his pen and started taking notes as McKay segued into his lecture.
The hour took an eternity. Bruce tried concentrating on his notes, but he could feel the body heat radiating from Lex sitting next to him. His knee tingled from where Lex had laid his hand the afternoon before. He wanted to talk to Harvey but had no idea if Harvey would speak to him. Today or any other day.
The bell rang. Lex leaned in before it ended and whispered, "I used to be a redhead. But you're right, the quote fits you better. I'm not the one all the boys are chasing after. See you later, Bruce." He stood, looking quite proud of himself, and headed for the door as the rest of the class started to filter out.
Bruce sat there for a moment, then gathered up his books.
McKay said, "Mr. Thompson, a little less frivolity next time?"
Thompson grinned, bounced out the door, clearly thinking the whole thing much too funny.
"Oh, Mr. Luthor, stop by my office at three this afternoon. I should have your materials sorted by then." He paused, looked at Bruce. "And Mr. Wayne, a word?"
Lex's smile disappeared as he hesitated in the doorway. He looked worriedly at Bruce as Bruce stood and made his way up to McKay.
"This afternoon, Mr. Luthor," McKay said, dismissing him.
Lex nodded, adjusted his cap, sparing another worried glance at Bruce and left.
McKay leaned against his desk and crossed his arms. "I'm not sure how you arranged for Mr. Luthor's transfer, but luckily he's not out of his element. I'll be frank, Mr. Wayne," he said, "I've seen my share of schoolboy romances here over the years, one of the regrettable inevitabilities of an all boys academy. I usually turn a blind eye to that sort of thing. But I will not tolerate your young man quoting love poetry to you in my classroom for your amusement. I diffused the situation today, but there shall be no such further disruptions. Are we clear?"
His books felt suddenly loose in his hands. Bruce couldn't find the ability to hide his shock.
McKay's expression softened, hands falling away from his chest. "I see," he said. "My apologies. I've seen my share of that as well and that should have been my first assumption." He sighed, stood away from the desk, placed his hand on Bruce's arm, a reassuring squeeze. "It's surely a passing fancy on his part. These things usually are. I know it's uncomfortable, but you will get such attention here, and perhaps later in life, given..." He paused as if searching for the right words, looking away from Bruce for a moment and then back. "...your immense good fortune."
He looked down at his hand as if just realizing that it still rested on Bruce's arm. "Well," McKay said, clearing his throat. "You'd best be off to your next class." He moved back to his desk, picked up a piece of paper. "I'll reassign the seats," he said. "Perhaps I'll move Mr. Thompson..."
Bruce didn't know what to say besides, "Thank you, professor."
McKay nodded, still looking at the seating chart.
Bruce walked out into the hallway, the crowd thinning, to find Lex standing across from the door, books clutched against his chest. "I got you in trouble, didn't I?" he said, voice low and cracking. He looked every inch the insecure fifteen-year old that he was supposed to be. Any resentment Bruce had floated away.
"He's reassigning the seats," Bruce said. "Come on, let's walk."
He walked down the hallway, Lex following. "I'll...I'll talk to him this afternoon, Wayne, I promise. I'll transfer back out. I'll..."
Bruce paused, noticing the retreat back to the formal name, turned towards him. "You don't need to do that. He just doesn't want to see you pull that again."
Lex nodded, surreptitiously wiped his nose on his sleeve, eyes red and watery. "I'd never do anything to hurt you. You have to know that."
Bruce didn't know much about him, really. Except that he could turn from fifteen to thirty back to fifteen on a dime. That he went from insecure to seductive and back again. That he was reviled and practically friendless. And that he knew a bit of French. "What am I going to do with you?" Bruce said softly and with a surprising bit of fondness.
Lex let out a small laugh. "Nothing, Wayne, apparently."
And even though that little boy lost innuendo hung in the air, Bruce said, "You can call me Bruce, Lex. It's okay."
Lex's eyes went wide, blue shock and hope. "Just not in front of the others. I get it."
Bruce didn't want to lead him on, give him hope for something that would never happen. He certainly didn't want him kneeling for him on the sly which is where Lex seemed to be taking this conversation. Or he could be merely acknowledging his role as underclassman. He didn't want to take that chance. "Friends know their boundaries," he said.
Lex nodded, eyes ahead.
They turned the corner. And there, waiting by the door to their calculus class, stood Harvey.
"Come on," he said, smiling. "We're late." He raised an eyebrow at Lex, but the smile didn't leave his face. "You too, Luthor. You should get to class."
Lex scurried towards the stairs, not saying goodbye.
"Well, that looks like a story you could tell me over lunch," Harvey said.
"Harvey..." Bruce said, letting out a breath he felt that he'd held in for days.
"I'm not avoiding you, Bruce," Harvey whispered. "I just needed a little time."
He opened the door and they went inside.
On the way to lunch, Harvey whistled. "He certainly doesn't seem to care if people talk about you." He paused. "But, weirdly, he seems to care what you think. We need a game plan because disaster is just around the corner."
"I've thought about it," Bruce said. He had hardly any sleep last night, mind racing, staring up at the ceiling while the curtains fluttered in the dark.
And so he told Harvey.
Harvey turned, smile slow and widening. "When you think, you think big, don't you?"
"Let's go tell the others," Bruce said.
In the dining room, Bruce said, "So that's it. We'll have a meeting tonight in my room after crew."
Thompson said, "Just the crew or should we invite the others?"
"Everyone," Bruce said. "We'll need to bring Queen in on this, have him bring some of the juniors."
"They're part of the problem," Greggs said, downing the last of his milk.
"You're part of the problem," Thompson said, grinning and throwing his arm around Greggs shoulder.
"Whatever Wayne says goes," Greggs said, not bothering to argue. "We change."
"And who's this we, white man?" Thompson said.
"Fuck off," Greggs said, ruffling his hair. "You do it too."
"I just don't have your style. You get total thug points."
"I'll talk to Queen," Vouchon said from the end of the table, setting down his fork. "My brother's a frosh, I'll talk to him, see what the major issues are."
"Is he...?" Schiebling started to say.
"Sibling status, moron," Greggs said, "Don't even go there."
Vouchon's jaw clenched.
"See?" Greggs said, "Now look what you've done. He's all set to kick some unnecessary ass. Your little bro's golden, Vouchon. Don't worry about it. He just knows the info, that's all."
"I'll talk to Titov," Brown said. "He can bring the soccer jocks in."
"I'll take Gonzales over at lacrosse," Schiebling said. "He's got some guys."
"That leaves me with the swim team," Thompson said. "Great."
"You snooze, you lose," Brown said.
"Let's do it!" Greggs said, pumping his fist in the air. "You are so the man, Wayne. Who'd've thought that Luthor's beatdown could get this ball rolling? This school is gonna see a change.
One by one, they got up, each clapping Bruce on the shoulder as they went.
Harvey, in his customary chair next to Bruce, turned, leaning his elbow on the table, head in hand. He smiled. "I'm proud of you, Bruce. You did good. This can really happen."
"I have no clue what I'm doing, Harvey," Bruce said. And he didn't. The plan, which seemed so logical at three in the morning, looked immense, unmanageable now.
"You fake it really well," Harvey said, his smile shifting into something more. He reached underneath the table, took Bruce's hand in his. "You're not in this alone, Bruce."
Bruce smiled back, not daring to ask what Harvey meant. He squeezed Harvey's hand, but didn't let go. They sat there for several glorious seconds, not saying a word. But the bell rang. They stood, hands undone.
And when Bruce turned, his eyes met Lex's across the room. When the room filtered out, Harvey ahead and off to his next class, Bruce found Lex walking next to him.
"Looks like he changed his mind," he said. "I knew he couldn't be that crazy."
"What do you want, Lex?" Bruce said.
Lex turned slightly, pure and open want on his face. "I just want you to be happy, Bruce," Lex said. "That's all."
Bruce slowed for a moment. Lex pulled ahead, not looking back.
continues in part 4