Title: Bring Me Some Water
Rating: Adultish, PG-13/R
Length: 3058 words
Spoilers: no real spoilers, semi-current continuity
Warnings: slash, angst, disturbing imagery, surreality
Disclaimer: Not mine, seriously. All belongs to DC Comics.
Summary: Some nightmares are worse than others.
Bruce walks along a white sand beach, and people are scattered along it. It's late afternoon. The wind picks up and seagulls fly overhead. Hands in his pockets and a sweater wrapped around his shoulders, he stops and peers at the sun. He doesn't know how long he's been walking. He has sand in his shoes.
In the distance, Clark sits on a driftwood log. His pants are rolled up and his feet disappear into the sand. Bruce sits beside him.
"Fancy meeting you here," Bruce says. And somehow he smiles even though he's not quite sure where here is. This should bother him. A kite, old-fashioned and simple, flutters in the breeze.
"Beautiful day," Clark says, stretching and leaning back. His feet make small wakes in the sand. He's windswept and beautiful, three buttons opened from the collar. And something's missing, something vital...
"Clark, where are your glasses?"
Clark shrugs, apologetic and a small smile. "You never seem to give them to me," he says.
Oh, he's dreaming. He's had this one before. "I don't like this one," he says.
"It starts off okay," Clark says. "Can't you change the rest?"
"You never like it when I do," he says, looking down at Clark's right hand, fingers relaxed and spread. He risks reaching out, tracing the fine hairs above one knuckle and then another.
Clark sighs and leans slightly into him, but not enough to touch. "This part is nice," he says. "Your alternatives usually aren't."
He lowers his hand, leaves it over Clark's. "Because of..."
"No," Clark says. "Because you think I judge you."
A horse, riderless, runs past, hooves spraying through the surf. Bruce watches and shakes his head. "Am I really this blatant?"
"It's okay. No one knows, not even me."
"Especially you. I make sure of that."
"Seriously, Bruce, would it be that terrible?"
"Circumstances being what they are, yes."
Clark sighs again. "You're your own worst enemy, you know that?"
Bruce turns both their hands until their palms are united, fingers clasped. "That's oversimplification and a cliché."
Some feet distant, a little girl brings a pail of water, starts building a castle.
"You always tell me I'm a walking cliché," Clark says, looking out at the ocean. "So I'm not surprised you have me spouting them. Is this really what you think I am?"
"No, Clark," he says. He doesn't release his hand. "Where...?" He lets the question fade. He knows where.
But Clark answers. "Madaket Beach." And then he points. "See? You're right over there."
It's the kite and the little boy holding it, the man standing at his side and pulling the string, the woman, hand against her forehead, looking up. The view tilts, old video and harsh color, as if he's the one holding the camera. "I'm seven," he says, "We had a summer house not far from here."
"Go talk to him, Bruce. Talk to them."
But he can't. He's tried before, feet stuck in the sand and they never get closer until he falls into his room, hands twisted in the sheets and mouth dry. "I'll just watch," he says.
"I'll go," Clark says. He stands and lets Bruce's hand fall away. He walks and the sand allows it until he's kneeling down and talking to the boy. Clark has a way with children. The man and woman smile at each other and then at him. The father shakes his hand. They've taken to him of course. Everyone takes to Clark.
The boy reels the kite in and the man scoops him up to his shoulders. The three of them walk away, the woman's sandals in her hands.
"They've invited us back to the house," Clark says when he returns. "Should we go?"
"No." Bruce doesn't elaborate. He knows what he'll find if he does. An empty house, cloth draped furniture. Dust motes floating in the air as he pulls the cloth away to reveal a body. And then another. He'll be alone and he'll shout for Clark.
And he is. Standing in that house, cloth in his hands. The body laid out on the table is Clark's, hands at his sides, just as he was at the funeral.
Clark opens his eyes. "You're right," he says, "Let's go back to the beach."
"You're dead," Bruce says, sitting on the log again, looking out at the waves.
"I was. But not anymore." Clark's beside him, bare feet in the sand.
Bruce turns, hand a fist. "You son of a bitch, I'm the one who's supposed to go first. That's the way it is."
Clark's in shadow now, the cityscape of Gotham looming behind him, swallowing. Fog.
His fist slams into Clark. Who's kneeling in front of him. The cave dark except for the glow, green, of the ring on his hand as that fist pulls back. "It's better this way," he says.
Clark wipes the blood away from his mouth, still on his knees, cape wilted around him, hand shaking. "Like this?"
"Yes. Go ahead and judge me." He unbuckles his utility belt. It falls with a thud.
Clark looks up, eyes resolute, blue and pain. "You know I don't."
"I could keep you here for weeks and no one would ever find you." He's pushing the mask and cowl back now. "Believe me, this is better than the beach. We know how this ends."
Wet and horrible and sweet. Pillow over his head as he groans just one word. No.
"Open your mouth."
"Change it, Bruce."
Gauntlet in Clark's hair, Bruce curls down and he's cold. Crystal. Hard against his face. Chain around his neck and pulling.
"This is your alternative?" Clark's face, above him, is stern, noble. A diadem across his forehead and the crystal against his body a throne.
"Let me. Please." Bruce's bare hand reaches above the knee and beyond.
The chain tightens. "What makes you think I want this?"
"I'm sorry," Bruce whispers against that thigh.
"The beach, Bruce." And a forceful hand pushes so that the chain snaps and he's falling.
"Happy?" He's sitting on the log again. But the beach is empty, the faint beginnings of sunset.
Clark shifts beside him, feet digging into the sand. "It's not about me."
"She never finished her castle," Bruce says. The little girl gone with everyone else, the castle falling on one side.
"She never does. It's okay."
But Bruce is moving, sand scraping his knees through his slacks, gouging. He reaches out and the castle crumbles to nothing. "I've ruined it." He reaches for the bucket. He needs water. It recedes and he can't reach it.
"The tide will be back in soon. Don't worry about it." Clark hasn't moved from the log, his shirt completely open now, chest exposed. "We should go join them," he says.
Bruce looks over. Down the beach, a large bonfire and people surrounding it. Alfred, in full butler uniform, serves drinks from a silver tray. Dick does cartwheels around him. The sunset deepens and all the figures in silhouette. They're sitting on munitions boxes.
"I can't," Bruce says, back on the log beside Clark. "I have the lighter." He reaches inside his pocket, flips open a silver Zippo, engraved.
"They need you to bring the guitar, Bruce." He nods and a guitar leans against the log next to them.
Bruce picks it up. "I can't play," he says.
Clark only smiles. "Of course you can. You can do anything."
"I can't. Play." He takes the neck of the guitar, smashes the thing against the log.
But Clark is still smiling. "Now you can. Go over there and show them how it's done."
In his hand, a handle. He pulls and an ax head frees itself from the cut, log almost split in two. The edges are sharp, dark, a stylized bat.
"Let's go," Clark says, drawing his feet from the sand. His bare feet.
"Clark, your shoes."
He only shrugs. "Don't need them. It's a beach."
Clark doesn't understand. "We need to find your shoes." Bruce falls forward, brushes the sand away, on his knees now. Digging. Searching. "We can't go anywhere without your shoes. How many times do I have to tell you?" He presses his face against Clark's ankle, hand gripping his calf. Salt and sand in his mouth. Skin against his tongue. "Shoes. You can't be like this."
"Like what, Bruce?"
But Bruce can't stop, Clark's skin warm and trusting. His other hand reaches out. Shackle, gold, around the far ankle, the chain hanging from it delicate, links as small as a woman's necklace.
"Did I make this?" he says. He pulls, but the chain is too long, disappearing in the sand, a far away connection.
"No," Clark says, leaning slightly forward, voice low and yearning. "But you could have. Why didn't you, Bruce?"
"I drew up the schematic." He tugs the chain again. Brings both hands together and pulls apart, but the chain remains whole. Gold should be malleable. He's stronger than this. Ridiculous. "Took me years."
"I never saw it." Clark's hand reaches down, brushes back Bruce's hair.
"I hid it. Put the plans in the vault. But the door wouldn't close, lock properly, so I burned it."
"With the lighter." Clark's hand is still in his hair.
"Yes. I had to." The chain still won't break, the links won't even stretch. He only needs to find one. Just one and he can undo the whole thing. He'd use the ax, but Clark has no shoes.
"You have the key, Bruce. You've always had the key."
On the shackle, a small lock. Bruce digs in his pockets. An apple core, swiss army knife, string. Nothing else. "I lost it."
"You had me hold onto it for you," Clark says. "Here." From his hand dangles a tiny brass skeleton key, the keychain a heart, broken.
"Look at that useless thing," he says. "It can't possibly work." The sky a blood red, darkening.
"This? Easily fixed." Clark brings the keychain to his lips, kisses it. The heart now mended with a bandage, decorated with obnoxious yellow smiley faces. "Here."
"And that's supposed to hold it together?" Bruce reaches for the key, so small, the heart warm in his hand. He looks at it skeptically.
"It's a start."
But the key falls from his hand, disappears. "No, it's too late."
"Let no man put asunder," Clark says, voice on the edge of grief.
"Fuck the key." Bruce lunges up, grips Clark's shoulders and pushes him back off the log. They fall back on a red blanket and Bruce is on him, mouth on Clark's. "Fuck the key." The key doesn't matter, just Clark underneath him, responding. He's nothing but mouth and hands. A body on a beach. Two bodies. He only glances at the bonfire, now farther away. "They'll see us."
"Shh. No, they won't. It's dark. Wrap the blanket."
Bruce does, but it's bright and the blanket now dark. His cape surrounding them. They're writhing in the middle of the League conference table. Every member seated except two. Sand skitters across the varnish and Bruce can't stop. He can't stop.
"They don't know, Bruce. It's okay."
The sirens go off. Alarm. Attack. Not now. He's so close.
"Wally has the guitar. It's okay."
So close. "Clark." He should ask something, demand. But not with Clark's hand wrapping around his neck, bringing him back down.
"Hold them off, Clark."
They're back on the beach, behind the log. Clark turns his head and beams shoot from his eyes. The robots marching from the waves fall back into steam. But there are more. More. And Bruce isn't done. Not done.
Clark screams, head thrown back. Pain. Not ecstasy.
"Caught you with your pants down, didn't I, Batsy? Tsk." Laughter. "I found his shoes. And they call me a clown. Look at the size of these!"
Bruce rolls, leaps. A snarl and hands around The Joker's neck. Green eyelashes flutter and a garish blush splatters that face. "Seems you saved the last dance for me."
The shoes roll down the beach toward the waves.
"Tide's coming in! Everyone in the pool!" Laughter again. The sea lurches up, crashes and Bruce struggles against the pull out and down, the burst of air from his lungs. He pushes up, the surface far away. The driftwood log, dark shadow above him. He reaches. Air and gasping. Clinging to the log.
But it's not a log. It's Clark. Eyes open. Unseeing.
Bruce releases the body, watches it float away. The shore, distant, in flames. And the screaming.
Bruce is in his room, the drapes closed, blankets twisted around his body.
"Which one was it?" Clark says, next to him.
"The beach." He's breathing hard, heart rate accelerated. He curls into Clark's chest and Clark puts a gentle arm around him. Real and warm.
"You've been having that one a lot lately," Clark whispers, holding on. "Maybe we need to drive up there."
"Not now." He breathes, unwilling to roll away. Outside a bird sings. Dawn soon.
"Of course not. You only got to sleep an hour ago. This weekend."
Despite himself, Bruce is still partially erect. He rubs, a question and then certainty, against Clark's thigh. Nothing partial about it now.
A soft laugh. "Something you want to tell me?"
Bruce shakes his head, burrows into Clark's shoulder, a small pocket of shame.
"Hey, all of you, Bruce. That's what I signed on for." Clark puts a hand under his chin, raises it, to kiss him. He pulls back a little. "Hmm, dry mouth. We'll fix that."
"Where are you going?" Bruce says as Clark pulls away further, stands. The light so dim, but Bruce can make out more than the outline of his figure, pupils fully dilated.
"To get you some water." He pats the bed. "Keep it warm for me."
Bruce rolls over to Clark's side when he hears the faucet run from the bathroom. He spreads out in the fading warmth, the faint scent of Clark's dimestore aftershave. The tap turns off, but Clark's taking his time. "Hey, Kent, where's my water?"
Clark doesn't reply, the bathroom quiet. And dark.
And Bruce wakes in the center of his bed. Alone. The bathroom still and silent. He rolls into the pillow next to him, cold and only the smell of fabric softener. Clark isn't here. He never has been.
Bruce reaches for the nightstand, the phone in the charger, before he can prevent himself from pressing '5#' on his speed-dial.
"Hello?" Clark's voice, sleepy, answering on the first ring.
"Clark," Bruce says before he can hang up.
"Bruce? Is everything all right?"
"Yes, I just..." His voice fades. He doesn't know what to say.
"Tell him I say hi." Lois's voice, from the background.
"Bruce, hold on. I'm taking the phone into the living room." Bruce hears the rustle of sheets, movement. "Okay, we can talk."
"There's nothing to say. I shouldn't have called." He falls back to the pillow, puts his hand over his eyes.
"No more so than usual."
Clark sighs on the other end. "Whatever you want to say, I'll listen. Take your time."
"I had a dream," Bruce whispers. "You died." That's the least of it, but all he'll admit to. Even this is too much. He needs to disconnect. Now. He doesn't.
"It's been a tough year. A tough couple of years," he amends. "I have those kinds of dreams too. We process in our sleep, I guess." Silent for a moment, he then adds, "You need to sleep more. What time did you get in?"
"Late. It doesn't matter."
"And you have that thing tomorrow. Today. You can't sleep in."
Yes, a board meeting at ten. "It sounds like you know my schedule."
"Believe it or not, we do talk."
An uncomfortable moment, then two. They're not talking.
Clark laughs, soft, so as not to disturb Lois most likely. "So, um, what are you wearing?"
"What kind of question is that?" Bruce's eyes flash open, his slight erection rising. He bites the inside of his cheek, sharp, focuses on the pain.
"Isn't that the kind of question people ask during late night phone calls?" Clark's nervous laugh dies. "I'm sorry, that was uncalled for."
"I should think so," Bruce says, stern. "What would you say if I asked you that sort of question?"
"Oh, I'd go into long detail about my Met U t-shirt and boxers with the reindeer on them. Sexy, huh?"
"Clark, it's July." He doesn't add that he sleeps in the nude, but he wants to. Dangerous territory and he needs to steer the conversation away from this.
"So I can't have a little Christmas in July?"
He will not rise to Clark's flirtatious banter. He will not. "I should go."
"Bruce, it's five-thirty in the morning. I need to get up soon anyway. Why don't I grab us some coffee, head on over? It sounds like you need to talk."
"No!" Not now, not in his state. "I should go back to sleep."
"Are you sure? Bruce, this is the second time this month you've called like this, and it's only the fifteenth." Clark sounds far from annoyed, only concerned.
"You should go back to bed, Clark. I'm fine."
Clark hesitates. "Bruce..."
"I'm fine, Clark. Goodnight." He hangs up before Clark can say it in return. He puts the phone back on the nightstand.
He stares at the ceiling for a while, awake. He considers masturbating, but he won't allow himself to. Eventually, his erection subsides. Rising, he goes into the bathroom. The cheap shell nightlight that Clark brought him as a souvenir from his honeymoon is on, plugged into the outlet above near the vanity.
"How many times have you slipped on that imported tile of yours, Bruce, and called it a battle scar?" Clark had said, handing him the box. "You can't actually see in the dark, you know."
"I'm throwing this away as soon as I get home," Bruce had said in return.
Three years ago now, and Bruce has replaced the small bulb six times. One of the fake pearls had come loose and he'd repaired it.
Bruce grabs a glass from the cabinet, runs the tap. And gets his own damn glass of water.