Title: Peripheral Vision
Rating: Teen, PG-13
Length: 1721 words
Spoilers: future fic, no real spoilers
Warnings: slash, minimalism
Disclaimer: Not mine, seriously. All belongs to Al & Miles, WB/CW and DC Comics.
Summary: Clark says those three little words: I trust you.
“Peripheral vision,” Superman says. He’s in the Batcave. Batman stands by the monitors, intent on the computer screen.
“What?” he says, looking up frowning, concentration broken.
“Why I don’t wear one.”
Batman sighs, reaches over to the coffee pot that’s just finished brewing. He pours himself a cup. “All right,” he says. “Why you don’t wear what.”
“A mask,” Superman says, walking over to the coffee. He picks up a mug, pours. Usually he avoids caffeine this late at night, but only out of habit, not necessity. The cup is warm in his palm. “You asked.”
“Six months ago. I must have been in the mood for conversation.” He sits in the swivel chair, turns back to the screen.
“We can have one now,” he says. “I’m just standing here.”
Batman opens up a filing cabinet, pulls out a handful of plain manila folders. “Then go through these. Look for patterns, points of origin.”
The folders are each at least four inches thick. “Well, that’s exciting.” Superman unfolds his arms and sits down next to him. He picks up the first folder, reads.
After two minutes, he says, “How do you stand it? You know, having it blocked?”
“The folders, Clark.”
“Here,” he says, handing them back. “Done. I made notes on the inside covers. I hope you don’t mind, but I don’t know where you keep your post-its.”
Batman blinks. “I really don’t like it when you do that.”
Clark spins in his chair, slow, human time. “I read each file twice.”
“You could have missed something…”
“I didn’t!” He spins again, cape wafting around. The cape brushes Batman’s shoulder.
“Stop that. Now.”
“I can’t help it,” he says. He drums his fingers along the table edge. “We finished up the case, Bruce. Can’t we, I don’t know, hang out? Socialize?”
“You have a dog. Go play with him.”
“That’s not the point. It’s just…I guess that’s why you don’t have one?”
“Clark, your segues are giving me a headache.” Batman reaches up, pushes his mask and cowl back.
“See? That’s why I don’t wear one. Look, you’re all sweaty and cranky.”
Bruce rubs his hand through his hair. “Are you twelve?”
“No, but I’m not fifty either.”
“I am not fifty.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“You implied it.”
“And…we’re having a conversation. I win.”
“You’re needling, there’s a difference.”
“I’m drawing you out. It’s a painful process.”
“For me, definitely. I am capable of hurting you.”
This time, Clark blinks. He pauses, says softly, “I can’t believe you just said that.”
Bruce smiles slightly, the corners of his mouth.
Clark looks at him. “Sardonic,” he says.
“You. The sense of humor you claim you don’t have.” Clark leans forward, takes off his boots.
“What are you doing?”
“Getting comfortable. It’s been a long day.” He unfastens the cape, drapes it on the table.
“Are you planning on staying?” Bruce rises, walks over to the suit cabinet. He takes off the cape, removes the utility belt.
Clark hesitates, tries to read the set of Bruce’s shoulders. “Are you asking me to go?”
Bruce says nothing. He strips down. Back still turned, Clark looks. Two new scars, slashes across the mid-back, crisscrossing the old, a new pattern. Another story that Bruce has never told.
“Bruce, do you want me to go?”
The scars stiffen, then relax. A breath. “No,” he says. He doesn’t turn around.
Clark says nothing. He leans back in the chair, puts his feet up, waits. The moments tick, the rhythm of the cave. He sips his coffee.
“I rather you didn’t,” Bruce says, reaching for a robe.
“I’m sorry,” Clark says. “I’ll go.” He starts to rise.
“I meant look. You’re cataloging,” Bruce turns. The thin red line, almost parallel to the clavicle, disappears into the robe’s collar. This is new too.
“Are you self-conscious about them?”
“You know why.”
“No, I really don’t.”
“I’m vulnerable and you’re not.”
“I have scars. No, really. They’re just kind of old.”
Clark pulls the top half of the costume over and off, places it on top of the cape. He points to his right bicep. “See this? Pete and I tried to hop the fence out at the back field when we were six. My shirt ripped on an old nail, took some of the skin off with it.”
Bruce snorts in disbelief, folds his arms. “I don’t see it.”
“Oh, it’s faded, but it’s there. I could still get banged up when I was little. Seriously, look.”
Clark traces the line, white and impossibly slim, two inches at best.
Bruce moves forward, hesitant. He extends his bare hand, just the fingertips, feeling. His eyes widen, only slightly.
“I have more,” Clark says.
Bruce pulls back. “Don’t,” he says.
Clark laughs. “Hey, I know they’re boring compared to yours but…”
Bruce’s hand hovers, just millimeters from the skin. Clark feels the fine hairs of his arm rise up, electrons reacting. He looks up, meets Bruce’s eyes for a moment, blue and open before Bruce looks away, mouth set.
“We’re not doing this,” Bruce says.
“Oh,” Clark says, a small sound.
“You can’t possibly be that naïve.”
“I’m not,” Clark says, “but I wasn’t setting you up.” He grins. “I’m not that smooth.” He pauses. “Look, Bruce, we’re…”
“Took the word right out of my mouth. But yeah, friends.”
“Then we need to stay that way.” Bruce pulls his hand back. Clark shivers, skin now cold, tingling in the pattern of a handprint that never arrived.
“It’s not like I’ve never thought about it,” he says.
Bruce doesn’t step back. He raises his hand again, retraces the scar. “Have you ever…?”
“With a guy? No.”
“I just thought…”
“I was naïve then. But I would’ve. He didn’t push.”
“Once again, we’re not doing this.”
“If this is dissuasion, you suck at it.” Clark reaches up, places his hand over Bruce’s.
Bruce says nothing.
“Seriously,” he says, shifting. “I’m getting really turned on.”
“Then you need to go.” Bruce tries to pull back, but Clark keeps his hand there, steady and warm.
Clark closes his eyes. “God, you’re a tease,” he says.
“I could say the same.” Clark feels Bruce lean in, a whisper, breath in his hair. He relaxes, hand loosening. Bruce steps back, gaining distance.
Clark grips his hair in frustration, grits his teeth. Counts to ten. “You know, that bordered on cruel. I hate your stoicism.”
“You don’t hate anything, Clark.”
Clark stands, walks over to Bruce, manages to loom even with the indiscernible height difference. “What are we doing?”
Clark reaches, grabs both shoulders, but carefully. “I could just…”
Bruce’s breathing is even. Too even. Controlled. The heartbeat too. “Do you spend every spare moment working on your autonomic reflexes?”
“Don’t joke,” Bruce says, leaning into the grip, pushing, wrapping his arms and holding, wrestling style, battle-ready.
“Why not? This is just a game to you, isn’t it?”
Bruce stills. “Clark, let go,” he whispers. Clark releases him, notices where they‘re standing.
“The mats, Bruce? If that’s not a set-up, I don’t know what is.”
But Bruce moves away, back to the monitors. He sips his coffee, tightens the robe which has somehow fallen loose. “I’ve never been more honest with anyone,” he says.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
Clark sighs. “Sometimes I just don’t get you.”
“Then stop trying.”
“One of these days, you’re going to have to let someone in,” Clark says.
“We work together.”
“Don’t give me that. I gave up counting who’s slept with who in the League.”
“You and Diana, for one.”
“I was magically compelled!”
“What’s your excuse now? I don’t want to fool around with you, Clark.”
And what is he pushing for, exactly? Bruce, angry and confused, no matter how much he’d deny it, stands there, hair falling into his face. Barefoot, cup of coffee in his hand, robe askew. He looks utterly human. And beautiful.
“What do you want, Bruce?” Clark says.
Bruce folds one arm over his chest. “You can’t handle what I want.”
Bruce smiles, viper deadly. He glides over. “I want to see you bleed. I want you to push me to my knees and force my mouth open. I want…”
“Okay,” Clark says.
Bruce stops. “What? I didn’t finish.”
“Whatever it is, it’s okay. I trust you.”
“You don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Go get the box.” Clark nods to the wall containing the hidden safe, Bruce’s ultimate weapons. “Get it.”
Bruce’s mouth falls slightly open. He stares at Clark.
“Okay, you’ve got a piece in your utility belt, right? I’ll get it.”
Clark starts to go over to the uniform cabinet.
Clark takes two more steps, three. A hand grabs his shoulder. “Don’t be stupid.”
He turns. “I trust you, Bruce.”
“Don’t…” The robe has fallen open again. Clark leans in.
“I trust you…”
Bruce doesn’t pull away. His heartbeat skitters, lost and out of bounds, as Clark closes that distance. He tastes of coffee and fear, acrid and tangible.
The robe falls to the floor. Clark may have helped. He’s not sure.
“Wow,” he says, low, mouth slipping down Bruce’s jaw, a breath.
“We’re not doing this here,” Bruce says.
A change, an extra word, an amendment. Now only the cave a negative space.
Bruce straightens, naked, but with no less armor. “Upstairs,” he says.
“Oh.” Upstairs, where Bruce can slide into another costume--brandy and silk sheets.
Bruce collects himself and his coffee, ties the sash on his robe. “I don’t often bring people to my bed, Clark.”
“You were. I go elsewhere for that.” He pushes the button, opens the elevator. “Well?” he says, holding the door.
Clark stands there, holding his cape.
“Don’t think,” Bruce says. “I’m not. Otherwise…” The door begins to close.
Clark joins him, nerves and speed. The door closes. They shoot up to the library.
He places a hand on Bruce’s shoulder. Bruce can slip away, elude him even here. It’s a big house.
“I’ll have to look into the mask,” he says as they as they ascend the grand stairs.
“Peripheral vision, Clark.” He pauses, the corners of his mouth twitch. “I never saw you coming.”
He opens the bedroom door. They step inside.
crosspost warning: JF, IJ, GJ & LJ.