Title: And In This Room, The Quiet (1/3)
Pairing: Bruce/Clark, Bruce/Ollie, Clark/Lois
Rating: Adultish, R
Length: 5584 words
Spoilers: Superman/Batman Annual #2
Warnings: slash, language, territoriality
Disclaimer: Not mine, seriously. All belongs to DC Comics.
Summary: Bruce visits Metropolis. He's not there to see Clark. Ollie has other ideas.
Bruce found himself in the hallway late one afternoon, knuckles poised to knock on Clark's door, before he realized the pointlessness of it. Superman returned to Metropolis two weeks ago. So instead, he let his hand fall to the knob, opened the door to see a darkened room, the bed made. He stood in the doorway and looked, but only for a moment before closing the door.
"Will Mister Kent be returning, sir?" Alfred said from the banister, a laundry basket in his arms. "For the weekend, perhaps?"
"No. He's quite recovered."
Alfred passed him, the scent of freshly laundered towels. "As you say, Master Bruce."
Of course Clark wasn't returning. Clark didn't need him anymore. And until the unlikely event that Bruce woke up to find himself dripping with powers that he might need lessons in controlling, reining in, then he had no reason to find himself on Clark's doorstep in Metropolis.
He turned, headed for the stairs.
He was down in the cave, examining the shattered remains of Supernova's helmet. He studied the fracture lines in the focused light.
"He should have had a concussion from this."
Dick somersaulted in mid-air, flipped off the mat. "He probably did. But he went right back out there anyway."
Bruce leaned back in his chair, helmet on the workbench. "Yes, I suppose he did."
Dick laughed, sprang back on the mat, handstand. "That's Superman for you."
Actually, that had nothing to do with Superman and everything to do with Clark. But the demarcations weren't so simple, man and hero. Bruce had done as much as possible to break him, came perilously close, but that line shifted away, shimmered in the distance. The faint smell of sweat and sick and disinfectant clung to the remains of the helmet.
What was Bruce clinging to? He shut the worklight off and put the helmet away.
He had a reason for being here in Metropolis, and that had nothing to do with Clark. Idly flipping through a magazine in the photography studio waiting room, he did his best not to speak to either Luthor or Queen who sat near him on the sofa. It wasn't very hard.
Queen, however, couldn't keep his mouth shut.
"So Lex, did you read what the Planet had to say about you this morning? Seems they don't like you very much."
Luthor waved a dismissive hand. "Their attempts at defamation of character are merely amusing. It's not even worth suing them for libel." He reached for his coffee. "However, the exploits of the two of you are vastly more entertaining. Have either of you managed to crawl outside of the society pages?"
Bruce looked up from his magazine, allowed a slow, lazy smile to creep across his face. "Why, Lex, have you ever managed to crawl into them?"
Queen laughed, slapped Bruce's knee. Bruce stifled a violent urge and laughed with him, managed to put a conspiratorial and somewhat fraternal arm around Queen's shoulder. "Good one, Bruce," he said. "Hey, remember that time in London?"
"Actually no, Ollie, I don't. Only read about it the next day. Horrible hangover. Found out that Worcestershire sauce really doesn't work."
Lex eyed them both coolly over his cup. "Some of us are better at attending to business, it seems. And better at discretion."
Queen winked at Bruce. "Where's the fun in that?" he said to Lex. "They say new money's all brains. But don't worry, Lex. I'm sure you'll have great looking kids."
Bruce removed his arm. Queen was unnecessarily antagonizing Luthor. "Ollie, down boy. You'll make him spill his coffee and then we'll have to do a reshoot."
Lex looked at his watch, nonplussed. "Yes, let's get this over with."
After the shoot, for some tedious cover of Forbes, Bruce found himself in the elevator with Queen. He supposed that he'd have to make some remark about doing drinks, end up at some high-end bar, where he could ditch the man in the name of some woman or other. If Queen hadn't diverted himself by that time.
Arrow Car. Ridiculous. And hopefully back in Star City.
Queen broke the silence first. "You know where I'm going, Bruce. Our mutual friend over at the Planet."
"I have no idea—"
Queen only shook his head, interrupting him. "Yes, you do. He's as good as in. You, on the other hand, are the hard sell. We're going out to dinner, and we're not talking shop. This is just a social call. Why don't you tag along?"
What in the world would Clark and Queen have to talk about besides...? "So you're the one who sent it."
The elevator opened and Queen brushed past him into the lobby. Turning over his shoulder, he had a sly smile on that smug face of his. "Bruce, I knew you before you acquired your joie de vivre. And considering how that coincided with certain changes in Gotham...Well, let's just say it wasn't that hard to figure out. You were always such a dour little bastard. Not saying you didn't have a reason—"
"We're not discussing this here." Bruce made for the lobby door, but Queen put a hand on his shoulder.
"My car's in the garage. Come on, we can talk about it on the way."
The car, although a rental, was an ostentatious yellow roadster with an uncharacteristic backseat. Of course. Bruce was a horrible passenger. He always was except when Alfred was behind the wheel.
"You should have turned left back there," he said, elbow on the door and breeze ruffling his hair since Queen had the top down. "It's a shorter route." He no longer needed to pretend. It wasn't exactly freeing.
"Still the charmer." Queen just laughed and kept going straight.
They arrived, signed in at the desk, and were escorted to the bullpen. Pure chaos as most of these so-called journalists appeared to be on an internal time-clock and dashed past them on their way to lead whatever they called life on the outside. Only a smattering still at their desks.
Bruce spotted Clark, eyes drawn, in less than a second. Hair a mess, shirt sleeves rolled up, pencil behind his ear, glasses. And there was a woman leaning over his shoulder, pointing something out on the screen. Clark appeared quite happy for the attention. They both looked up at the same time. Bruce knew the rhythm of partners.
"Mr. Queen!" Clark said. "Is it five o'clock alre—" And then he saw Bruce. He paused, mouth meeting in a distinct 'B' before he said, "I see you brought a friend. Are you joining us, Mr. Wayne?"
Trust Clark to make that a more weighted statement than it needed to be. His presence here certainly didn't mean acquiescence in terms of their superhero club. "For dinner, yes," he said, carefully nonchalant.
"Clark," the woman, most likely Lois Lane with whom Clark shared, more often than not, a byline, said sotto voce, "Are you working on something here?" She gave both Queen and himself a predatory smile that less observant men would call charming. "Lois Lane," she said holding out her hand. Queen shook it, an eyebrow and corner of his mouth upturned. Bruce beamed back at her in utter vacuity but his hand in hers less than gentle. "So what brings America's two most eligible industrialists by our neck of the woods?"
"Off the record," Queen said with a wink and something approaching a leer, "We're absconding with Clark here for an evening of beer and pool. But the next time I'm in town..."
Lane merely crossed her arms, wry smile on her face. "I can drink Miss Kansas here under the table. And kick his ass in any pool hall. You boys up for some nine-ball? Loser has to answer three questions."
Clark seemed to welcome this brand of abuse, obviously smitten and Lane clearly blind to it. Bruce felt himself bridle on Clark's behalf. Odd, since he himself had done much worse. But Clark had fought him, stubbornly taking anything verbal or physical, looked him in the eye, challenging. Bruce found that although he was reluctant to this little social event, he certainly didn't want Lane accompanying them. He had no reason to dislike the woman, but he didn't wish to witness her continued denigration of the man either, nor Clark's discomfort as Queen would undoubtedly flirt with her and Bruce would have to follow suit for appearances.
"I can't speak for Ollie," Bruce said, voice lilting into smoke and promise, "But I know that I would prefer a quieter setting for conversation, just the two of us." He made sure to put a soft smile to that, gleam in his eye. "Another time, Ms. Lane?"
Clark shot him a swift look, a brief moment of power beyond measure, and Bruce felt a tingle of something that had nothing to do with suspicion. And if the satisfaction he also felt had anything to do with territory, it meant keeping Lane away from it. He decided not to pursue that thought, even inwardly.
"I promise it's not an interview, Lois," Clark said, taking his suit jacket off his chair back. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Should I let the two of you arm-wrestle for it?" Queen said, indicating with a nod the spacious front passenger seat and the cramped backseat.
"Oh, I wouldn't dare make Mr. Wayne—"
Curt, Bruce cut him off. "He knows, Clark. I'll take the back." The better to observe.
Bruce regretted it as soon as he clipped his seatbelt. He regretted it even more when Clark, with a quick glance over his shoulder, adjusted his seat to give Bruce more room.
Of course, beer and pool turned out to be nothing of the sort. Queen squealed the brakes to a stop in front of the valet station for the Metropolis Seasons which sported several restaurants, casual and elegant both. But Bruce already knew their destination. Queen was showing off. To what purpose, he had yet to determine.
"We're heading up to the top," Queen said with a smile and a wink. "Ever eaten at Everest, Bruce?"
Bruce had quietly scaled the real Everest six years previously. To find something atop the world's highest mountain. Himself, perhaps. He had only mourned to find the snow-burdened detritus of careless men. That in fact, no place on this earth was free from filth, perverted wealth and power, selfish agendas. The mountain itself, the elements that chipped away at his body, couldn't scrape him clean.
"Can't say that I have."
Clark smiled beside him on the sidewalk. "I live here, and I haven't either."
For all Bruce knew, and for all that it could be possible and therefore that much more likely, Clark had taken his brown bag lunch sometime this very week and sat on the top of that peak, cleaned up after himself and others, only to rush back to the office in time for a press conference.
"Gentlemen," Queen said, "We're all in jacket and tie. Shall we?"
During the appetizers, Clark excused himself to use the restroom. Not one minute later, half of the restaurant paused their murmured conversations to watch a streak of blue and red stream by the windows. And quite used to the sight, went back to their drinks and their meals.
Where could Clark possibly be off to now? Bruce carefully set his fork down. Clark. Superman had flown by, no less powerful or marvelous than he had been prior to his brief residence at Wayne Manor, and Bruce could only see Clark.
Queen took a sip of wine. "He'll be back. Or not. Comes with the territory."
Clark returned in eight minutes. "Fire in New York," he whispered.
"We're not talking shop," Queen said, eyebrow raised in warning but a damnable twinkle in his eye all the same. "This is social time."
"I'm not interested in socializing," Bruce said, picking at his salad.
"Then why are you here?" Clark turned to Bruce as Queen asked the question. Clearly, he couldn't imagine why Bruce would be here. But considering that Bruce himself didn't have the answer, he couldn't blame him. The list of things he blamed Clark for had grown surprisingly small.
Clark and Queen were laughing, recalling some inane moment from a television show that Bruce had never seen and couldn't care less about. Apparently, the two of them did find some common ground outside of the obvious. No doubt, they would segue into sports next. Or the plight of the common man, which Queen only pretended to know the first thing about, having recently embraced radicalism. Hypocrite. Showing off the wonders of his station, to befriend or something worse.
Queen already had a mega-powered pretty boy, as rumor would have it, to be so-called friends with. He could damn well leave Bruce's alone.
And if Bruce had any friends then, yes, he would claim Clark.
Bruce had enough. He stood, barely polite, and found the restroom. He washed his hands in the sink, looked at himself in the mirror. Where was the consummate liar, the purveyor of small talk? His mask dangerously thin, he either needed to re-layer or just get the hell out of there.
"Do me a favor, Bruce," Queen said as he entered, checking the stalls quickly and then leaning against the door to bar anyone else entrance, "And keep this one in your pants. You've been acting like a jealous bitch all evening. You keep this up, he's going to notice."
Hands still wet, Bruce flung the droplets from them, a few splattering Queen's dress shirt. Petty, but a small satisfaction all the same. "Perhaps I don't care for the company."
Queen narrowed his eyes, crossed his arms. "Look, this isn't about you or your city. It's bigger than that. You don't want in? Fine. We could use you, but we'll manage. But we need him. And I'm not going to let you ruin that because you have a hard-on you don't know what to do with."
Bruce gritted his teeth, wanting so very much to tell Queen exactly where he could put his Arrow Car and his quiver full of trick arrows. "You've always been sordid, Ollie. What makes you think—"
"I have a dim memory of a certain weekend in Geneva that tells me that's exactly what you are when you can let go of some of your crap. Don't bullshit me, Bruce. You only have one on-button. And a mouthful of your come is the last thing he needs."
Bruce just snorted, found a towel. "Believe what you want to believe."
"You want to know why you don't have any friends, Bruce? That's because you've managed to fuck every single one of them and then throw them in the shit-pile when you're done."
"I never fucked you. So by your logic, we were never friends."
"Clinging to the letter of the law? That's not like you. We were friends, or could have been. You know we did everything but. How many times did we suck each other off?" He laughed, seemingly finding humor in this whole situation, shook his head. "And I'm fucking straight."
Bruce turned slightly at that, the corners of his mouth twisted up in what could only loosely be called a smile. "Are you now?"
"What I'm saying is, leave this one alone. If you didn't manage to play footsie while the two of you were playing house—" Queen must have noticed his minute startlement. "Queen Communications, it's amazing what satellite technology can be applied to when all the military contracts are ditched and a certain someone goes missing in Gotham. You might think about investing." Queen stood away from the door, leaned against the vanity and now just a foot away. Bruce didn't appreciate the gesture of closeness, but he was hardly about to yield space.
"Where were you and the rest of them when he needed someone?"
"I have no clue why he went to your little military camp."
"He needed to learn how to survive."
"Really? I've got some great photos that say you were doing your best to kill him."
Bruce leaned in, his own arms crossed, whispered, "That's what survival is. It's—"
"You think you're the only one that's in the shit? I'm in it every fucking day, King of Pain. Want to have a pissing contest? We're in the place for it. Compare scars? What the fuck, Bruce?"
Bruce only smiled, teeth. "Funny, how similar we are, isn't it? Try all you want, but you'll only be a watered down version of me. Ever have an original idea, Ollie?"
Queen stared at him for a moment, an audible breath. And that breath turned into a laugh, a laugh that grew until he almost doubled over with it. Rising, barely capable of speech, he said, "Yeah, one. And you can't stand it. You still think it's all about cities, Bruce? Yours, mine, his? That's small thinking. Jesus, it's old school. We're not the first. It's been the same fucking thing since at least the war. You ever talk to Scott, Grant? They worked your beat before you were even shitting your pants."
Bruce restrained the fist he felt forming. Barely. "Then you know your idea is hardly original. And that it didn't work well the first time."
Queen's grin didn't lessen. "Shoulders of giants, not denying. I know my history. And it did work. For a while."
He surprised himself by closing that distance. A small kiss, but far from chaste. Equally surprised, Ollie returned it. Yes, Ollie. Bruce had thought of him once on a first name basis. For a time. "I remember my history too," Bruce said, pulling away. "You mentioned Geneva, but you seem to have forgotten Prague."
"I think that was implied in the 'how many times?' part," Ollie said, their distance now disturbingly intimate, wistful yet mischievous smile on his face. "You know, why don't we eye the dessert cart, have some coffee. Then we'll grab a bottle of cognac, have one for old times. It was fun, in an abusive sort of way."
Bruce certainly hadn't come down here for any sort of assignation, but a reminiscent hour or two with Ollie wouldn't be the worst thing. Despite his claims of heterosexuality, Ollie had been exuberant, almost wearing. "I might be persuaded," he said, the whisper of an actual smile on his face. He pulled away, a small reluctance. "We've been gone a while, Clark must be wondering—"
"Yeah, weird that no one's come in here." Ollie shook his head, pushing off the vanity, a soft laugh. "You know, he's probably guarding the door."
Fighting the sense of small horror, Bruce made it to the door first, wrenched it open to find Clark's broad back only a foot away standing off against a thin and harried young man.
"Look, I don't care if there's a freaking orgy going on in there, I need to take a leak. Come on, I've got a table full of people waiting."
"It'll just be a minute," Clark said, not moving and arms crossed. But he turned his head when he heard the door, smiling in relief. He stepped aside. "All yours."
The young man, Bruce placed him about twenty-two and from the look of his suit and posture he'd say that he was here on business rather than family or a date, halted mid-dash when his eyes appeared to recognize himself and Ollie. "Bathroom deal, huh?" he muttered as he passed them. "Must be nice. Me, I gotta hustle my ass off to get venture to even look at me." He paused, hand on the door, took a breath. "Since you made me wait, could you do me a favor and stop by my table on your way out, just say, 'Hi, John' or something? Mean the world."
Ollie shrugged. "Sure. Just make it a quick piss. We're wrapping it up."
John nodded, grin lighting up his face, and let the door fall shut.
"You have no idea what you just agreed to," Bruce murmured. Of course, Ollie just went along with it without assessing the situation. "He's clearly here on business and wants our names to validate whatever scheme he's trying to raise money for."
Clark politely coughed. "His name's John Finch, engineer fresh out of MIT. He's working on a medical laser that would put him in direct competition with LexCorp. In this town, that's the kiss of death. Literally. So he's having a little trouble getting funding."
Ollie merely cocked his head, smiled at him and led the way back to the table. "Our boy knows his stuff, Bruce," he said, signaling for the check and downing the cup of coffee that had appeared while they were absent. "What would a little hello hurt? Let's help out the little guy, stick it to the man."
"I do my homework," Clark said, blushing just a bit.
Clark might do his research, but he should be more aware of how disastrous such a seemingly goodwill gesture could be. If a mere appearance at this man's table would tip the scales toward funding then that meant that his project was viably competitive. And the only result would be either a LexCorp buyout or the engineer himself maimed or dead. Possibly all three. Which meant that Bruce would have to make a suggestion to Lucius to do a bit of research and Wayne Enterprises would end up putting up a protective umbrella over the whole thing. Clark had no clue what he was asking.
"The things I do," he muttered, downing his own coffee. He perused the room to see young Mr. Finch make his way back to a large table of twelve.
"You two go on ahead," Ollie said. "I just need to get a little something to go."
So Bruce found himself threading the tables with Clark to make their own way over.
"Thanks, Bruce," Clark said, next to him. But when he looked over to reply, their eyes only met a moment before Clark looked away, uncomfortable. He didn't know how much of the men's room conversation Clark had overheard. Enough, apparently, to designate himself guard to it.
Ollie caught up with them, jacket draped over his arm. He winked at Bruce when he revealed the hand holding a bottle of cognac beneath that jacket. "Playtime after," he whispered, low. "My suite's just two floors down."
Clark's back stiffened slightly, face coloring, but he didn't lose pace.
"Hey, John!" Ollie said, clapping a friendly hand on Finch's shoulder. "Thought we'd just stop by on our way out."
"It's good to see you again, John," Bruce said, aiming for relaxed. "Working hard so the rest of us don't have to?"
The businessmen around the table perked up, full attention. Venture capitalists mostly. Bruce recognized the breed. Throwing money to make money, regardless of the ethics. How many of this sort did he have to shake hands with at the club or tedious social events?
"Well, if it isn't our own young Will Rogers. Clark Kent, have a seat!" Morgan Edge, head of Galaxy Broadcasting, near the end of the table, waved to Clark, a brandy snifter in his hand. He was clearly drunk.
"Mr. Edge, we're only here for a moment—" Clark increased his customary slouch, looked sidelong at Bruce and Ollie.
"Nonsense! Get your ass over here and have a drink with me. Let these boys talk about their tech toys." Edge dragged a chair from an adjacent table, not even asking permission. Clark went over and sat, or rather, slumped. Edge slapped him on the back amiably. "Sit up straight, young man. I know your mother taught you better table manners than that."
Clark straightened, achieving full height, a glimmer of the personal power that he did his best to hide. Edge smiled, predatory, grabbed an empty water goblet and poured a generous amount of white wine, handing the glass to Clark. "So Clark, when are you going to come see me about a real job?"
"I'm perfectly happy at the Pla—"
"Print is dead! Haven't you heard?" He leaned on his elbow, swirled his glass. "The wife just goes on and on about you. We're going national, you know that? Imagine honest to God syndication, Clark. Your face in America's living room."
"My face?" Clark laughed, an embarrassed chuckle. "Mr. Edge, I don't think—"
Edge reached over, snatched the glasses from Clark's startled face. "Just look at those baby blues. The camera's going to love you."
Clark attempted to get his glasses back, but he only drew attention to himself. Such a small change, but the transformation startling.
"You don't want to deprive America, son. Do you?" Edge said, holding the glasses aloft. "Contacts. Get them." He leaned in. "I'll even let you write your own copy. You don't get an offer like that every day."
"Mr. Edge, please—"
"Such a classic face, earnest. A man would believe every word that came out of your mouth." His thumb traced the edge of Clark's lip before Clark leaned back. Edge let out a soft laugh, drunk, but not enough to be completely unselfconscious. "Aesthetics," he said. "It's my business. Do you know how many anchors get surgery just to—"
Bruce had wrested the glasses from Edge's hand before he could complete that sentence. He handed them quietly to Clark, put a protective hand on his shoulder. Clark put them back on, set his wine, unsipped, back on the table.
"Shall we?" Bruce said, only looking at Clark.
Edge looked at him, irritated. "We're talking here." He turned his attention back to Clark, hand on his knee to keep him from rising. "Ditch the party boys, Clark. They can't do jack for your career. I can." He took out a business card, hastily scrawled something on the back. "Here," he said, handing it to Clark. "That's my private number. Voicemail's always on, so call any time. I'll set you up right. You have a future, don't waste it."
"And you have a wife," Bruce said.
A nervous laugh rose from the businessmen near them, but not a shocked one. Edge had a reputation, not to mention a few sexual harassment suits. True, all of them from female staff. But there were rumors about the current sports anchor, an ex-quarterback of the Metropolis Meteors, Ben Surley. Gentle Ben, they called him, an obvious joke on his name but also an apt one for his demeanor off the field, and on the air.
Edge bridled, his eyes red with drink but still shrewd as he looked from Bruce to Clark, and then they widened, along with his smile, sharp. "You're adopted, aren't you?" he said to Clark. "Oh, I research all my potential hires," he said, looking now at Bruce. "I think maybe someone's daddy got around. Nice to have family, isn't it? But I'm sure Clark here can put any wild rumors to bed over lunch next week."
Ollie, quick, held back his fist before it landed in Edge's smug face. "Let it slide," he whispered in Bruce's ear. "No one in their right mind would believe it." A little louder, he added, "He's just yanking your chain for cockblocking." He rested his chin on Bruce's shoulder. "Or maybe this is his little way of talking himself into some fantasy brother – brother action. Got yourself a little family kink there, don't you, Morgan?" A mock pout in his voice, he added, "I feel so left out. And they told me blonds have all the fun."
Around the table, that nervous laugh turned into a roar. Edge's face turned an apoplectic shade of red as he pushed away from the table and stomped off toward the restrooms.
"I guess he's running off to call the wife," Ollie said, laughing himself. "Oh honey, they're so mean to me!"
The table laughed even harder. Someone at the other end motioned the waiter for another round. The ones sitting closest to Finch smiled and nodded at him as if he provided the entertainment.
Clark slumped farther down his chair.
"Here, kid," said the gentlemen on Clark's left, an investment banker and distant relative of the Rockefellers if Bruce recalled rightly, taking Edge's card out of Clark's hand. He dropped it in Clark's abandoned glass with a flourish, watched it sink to the bottom, irretrievable. "If your friends hadn't ridden cavalry, we would've had your back. This is Metropolis; we don't let our weirdos eat our young."
Liar. Of course they did. Metropolis had the shiny gleam but Gotham was more honest for all her filth. Yet there was nothing sly or devious about the smile the banker gave Clark, the gentle pat on the arm. Even as Clark, he appeared to inspire altruism in the hardest of souls. Whether that altruism took root remained to be seen.
"You good there, John?" Ollie said, arm now around Bruce's shoulder, and the other hand reaching down and gripping Clark's. "Because we have to get this poor traumatized man to a strip club, stat!"
Half the table turned to Finch as if this was a hell of a good idea for an after dinner adventure. Clark, however, looked mortified.
"Naw, just kidding. It's the coffeehouse for us," Ollie said before anyone could rise to join them. "Poetry night. What can I say? We like to mix it up a little."
That got a ripple of laughter as everyone settled back down with a "You boys have fun now."
"What? No one wants to hear my trials and tribulations in sonnet form? I'm wounded!" He turned his head on Bruce's shoulder, mock tears and a dramatic sigh. "This world doesn't deserve me, Bruce. You still love me, don't you?"
"With all my heart," Bruce said, shoving Ollie playfully away. "I might even have a haiku or two of my own for you." Love and poetry had nothing to do with it. Only a bottle of cognac, and the filthy words that would pour out of Ollie's mouth when half of that was gone. For now, the important thing, to get Clark out of there. They had a silent agreement on that.
"Come on, Clark. We'll miss sign-ups." And Ollie dragged Clark away from the table to the hostess station, with a grin and a wave.
"Jesus Christ, that was a fucking nightmare. Assholes think that shit is funny." Ollie put his jacket back on, brushed his sleeves, the cognac bottle now clearly visible. He moved his free hand, a fist, in an up and down motion to show what he thought of the entire table they just left. "You okay there, Clark?"
"I'm not ten!" he hissed over his shoulder, adjusting his own jacket. "I could have handled myself just fine."
Ollie, for the first time that evening, looked a bit lost for words as he glanced at Bruce. But Bruce didn't feel like helping him out of this predicament, only crossing his own arms.
"Hey, big guy, didn't mean to—"
"And that goes for you too," Clark hissed again, looking at Bruce this time. "Don't the two of you have some old times to catch up on?" he said, voice still stern, glancing down at the cognac bottle in Ollie's hand. "Just have a good laugh. On me. I'm going home. Thanks for dinner, Ollie." And Clark marched to the elevator, tall and straight, six foot four of pride.
"Clark!" Bruce's voice didn't rise in register, but the command rang through nonetheless. Just as it had when Clark attempted to walk away during one of their training sessions, pride bristling his back along with the bruises. Clark had turned back then. And he turned back now.
"Don't you walk away when I'm talking to you."
"You didn't say anything," Clark said, but his voice no longer stern. In fact, a smile, nostalgic, threatened. These words an echo and that bottle of cognac seemed entirely unimportant.
Ollie's cellphone rang.
"Crap! I have to take this." Turning his back on them, he whispered urgently into his phone. He slammed it shut. Looking at Bruce with an apologetic smile, he said, "Seems I have to jet. Hour, maybe two. You know how it is, no rest for the wicked." He twirled the cognac bottle, handing it to Bruce. "You're at the Plaza, right? Give me your cell."
When Bruce didn't move, he wiggled his fingers. "Your phone. Pony up." He snatched the phone away before Bruce had it completely out of pocket. He keyed a number into Bruce's phone and then did the same to his. "Call you when I'm done. Come here, you." He drew Bruce into a one-armed embrace, slipped Bruce's phone back in its pocket. Bruce's arms did nothing. He was too busy flinching. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do, night owl," Ollie whispered, before pulling away.
Considering that Ollie's embrace with Clark—returned, of course—lasted a good fifteen seconds too long, Bruce wasn't sure what, exactly, it was that Ollie wouldn't do.
"Walk with me," he said to Clark after Ollie disappeared in the elevator. And before Clark himself could disappear.
Bruce had nothing to say. And neither did Clark. It was a long fifty story drop to the lobby.
Continues in part two.