First part is here.
Title: And In This Room, The Quiet (2/3)
Pairing: Bruce/Clark; Bruce/Ollie and Clark/Lois implied.
Rating: Adultish, R/NC-17
Length: 5022 words
Spoilers: Superman/Batman Annual #2
Warnings: slash, angst, surprises and uncertainty
Disclaimer: Not mine, seriously. All belongs to DC Comics.
Summary: Bruce visits Metropolis. He and Clark end up talking.
By the time they reached the sidewalk, the silence between them had grown palpable. Bruce suddenly found himself desperate to break it, an uncharacteristic sweat in the autumn breeze.
"Dick still watches that show you like," he said, looking sidelong at Clark and away again as they headed down the street toward the Plaza. Completely ludicrous thing to say, even if true. He felt like he was fifteen again, mouth dry and with his list of conversation topics in neat script by the phone as he called up that girl he met in Judo. Horrible invention, the telephone. He hated it. That inevitable silence on the other end when something he said fell flat. He'd mastered it now, of course, all silences his own and purposeful, but he didn't have to like it.
"Really? Which one?"
There was more than one? Bruce only had the memory of the dim light of the television from the media room as he had paused in the hallway, caught by the sounds of laughter. He'd been irked that Clark had the capacity, smiled when he heard the inevitable soft 'ouch', evidence of bruised ribs.
"Keep it down," he had said from the doorway, paper in hand, only intending to stay for a moment. But the sight of Dick's head on Clark's shoulder, the curl of his body, so young and desperate for touch, the simple comfort that Bruce was incapable of giving anyone, made him amend his statement. "What are you watching?" And he sat to join them.
"The one with those people and their silly lives," he said now. He just described every situational comedy every produced. Yes, fifteen and tongue-tied and perhaps he should hail a taxi, right now, head to the airport and back to Gotham. Forget the meeting he had tomorrow afternoon. He could be suited up, armored and grim, within two hours. He hated Metropolis almost as much as he hated telephones.
"You mean Friends?"
"Yes, that one." They reached the traffic light, the imposing red hand. Other pedestrians halted around them, half of them in hockey jerseys, the arena only five blocks to the east. In Gotham, crime increased eight percent after sports events, win or loss, opportunity and high spirits. Bruce gripped the neck of Ollie's cognac bottle that much tighter when an inebriated redheaded woman mistook Clark for an injured player, requested his autograph. The light turned green, the walking man in the box below, and the crowd moved through the crosswalk like a school of fish.
"I've got my ears open," Clark said when they reached the other side, before Bruce could accuse him of negligence, and the group dispersed to various parking lots, bars and the elevated station. "But I think Metropolis's finest have this covered. I have to let them do their job, Bruce."
"You were about to." But Clark only said this with a smile, no admonition, hands in his pockets and pause. "Bruce, did you want me to take you back? You know, not to your hotel but...you go a little nuts when you can't get out there."
He paused himself, tempted. Clark could have him at the manor within minutes. But the thought of being dependent on nothing but those arms, the sure hands, negated any such wish. "I have a meeting tomorrow," he said, continuing down the block, his hotel now within view.
"And tonight." Clark stopped, having clearly shocked himself by openly referring to Ollie and the bottle Bruce gripped in his hand. "I'm sorry," he murmured. "I'm not judging you."
With a statement like that, of course he was. Clark and his mid-western values, home and hearth, his faint hope of office romance, couldn't do anything but judge. Naïve, and possibly hypocritical, Clark probably learned all about the pleasures of casual sex in a blanket strewn truck bed, just like every other farmboy across America, brief serial monogamy, and called it love. "I'm not discussing my sexuality with you." Bruce increased his stride, turning away.
Clark caught him quickly, hand on his arm. "Look, I know it's none of my business. I was just surprised. I mean, I've only seen you with women."
"And you honestly think I slept with all of them?"
Clark flushed, muttered, "Just one. Aren't you," he paused, obviously searching for what he thought a non-offensive word, "Involved?"
Involved? He'd certainly seen no reason to curtail his activity during Clark's stay. But he'd thought he'd been discreet. More for Dick's sake than Clark's. What did he care what Clark thought about him? But he found ways to enjoy brief flirtation and company, never with the same person twice. Except Selina. And that hadn't been so discreet. Or quiet. He already had a few marks on his person that he could attribute to her, not all of them from combat. "We have a loose arrangement" was all he said in explanation. Let Clark judge that as well.
"She has nice eyes," Clark said, rather more appreciatively than warranted. "And he has nice arms." That was certainly more appreciative than warranted.
"When the hell have you ever seen his arms?" Shock and hiss.
"Costume. You know, with the, what are they called, the wrist guards and the things that go around the bicep? So, um, yeah. Arms."
"What? Just because I don't get around doesn't mean I don't have eyes." And Clark's own eyes glimmered, blue, jovially licentious. Over a man. A blond man. With a foul mouth.
And Bruce knew from personal experience what that foul mouth could do. Oh, he and Ollie were going to have some words over that nuisance cell phone. And Ollie would apologize personally with much more than a restaurant-grade bottle of cognac. Bruce was going to take his hands, fist them through that blond hair, and shove his opinion down that foul mouth on its knees.
To think that Ollie would corrupt a man like Clark. Him and his idiotic superhero club. With that Wonder Woman and her bondage lasso of truth. That Lantern with his ring of tricks. And who knew what that Martian could do? All their revealing spandex and Clark's undoubtedly boundless solar energy. Just floating there, never satiated, and calling out, "Next!" Justice League of America. Ha! Justice Orgy of America. The world would go untended while they slid all over each other. Those—
Bruce found himself standing in the automatic doors of the Plaza, blinking at the lobby, with no recollection of having walked the necessary half a block to get there. He turned to find Clark behind him.
"I should go," Clark said, looking down and somewhat ashamed. "You're here." His head nodded toward the lobby, a concierge and sofas.
"Why don't you come up? Just for a few minutes."
He couldn't leave it like this.
He flicked the light on, tossed his card key on the entry table. Clark whistled, soft, behind him as the door latched shut.
"Wow. This is much bigger than my apartment. This is a room?"
"Two-bedroom executive suite." Bruce set the bottle of cognac down on the bar, went behind to open the full-size refrigerator, fully stocked.
"Don't you have to pay for that?"
Bruce didn't bother to look up. "It's included. Does this look like an Embassy Suites mini-bar? Do you see a checklist?" Clark had spent a month in residence with him; he should have dropped the wide-eyed innocent act by now. Or maybe it wasn't an act. Clark took and used only what he needed. "I have to do this," he said, voice low to keep the sense of shame out of it. Around him, symbols of a careless and wasteful life, conspicuous consumption, when he had slept in forests, lived on a simple bowl of rice a day, threaded his way through hostels, scavenged in alleyways, survival. "You know that."
"There's a jacuzzi in here!" Clark said, distant, from the master bath, on expedition and exploring.
"You're easily impressed." But that didn't come out condescending. In fact, he tried to stifle a small laugh, and failed. "Did you want a Coke?" Before, he hadn't allowed such frivolousness and junk in Clark's daily regimen. He could allow it now. "Or I could make some coffee."
Clark reappeared, elbow leaning on the bar. Slapping it firmly, he shouted, "More whiskey—and fresh horses for my men!"
"Coke it is, then." Bruce took a bottle from the refrigerator, opened it and set it down. "Straight up."
"You understood that?"
"Now I am impressed." Chin now in hand, Clark gave him a slow smile, raised his bottle in salutation and tipped the bottle to his mouth.
Bruce took a quick breath, wrenched the foil from the cognac and twisted the cork. He poured a small amount into a snifter he found hanging above the bar. "Manners, Kent. I didn't have my drink ready yet."
"Aren't you saving that?" A soft question, void of accusation or sly innuendo.
"It's just one drink," he said, shrugging. "Have a seat."
Clark looked behind him, the careful arrangement of chairs and sofas, end tables and coffee table. "Sitting implies staying implies more than a few minutes. Are you sure you want that?"
Grabbing his snifter, and the bottle, from the bar, Bruce made a point of settling on a sofa. "Do you want to talk or not?"
"Well, if you put it that way..." A gentle reprimand for Bruce's own manners, but Clark sat on the armchair close to that sofa, elbows on his knees, Coke bottle dangling from his hand.
And then the silence, the quiet hum of the refrigerator, the pulse of Clark's throat as he drank. Bruce sipped his own drink, swirled the glass.
"So do you—"
"I was thinking—"
The jumble of words, both of them speaking over each other. And then not.
Clark shook his head, laughed. "Why don't you go first?"
Nodding, Bruce took another sip of cognac. "Do you think that show is a little risqué for Dick?"
Inwardly, he cringed, although he managed to hide it. He had turned back to the inane icebreaker. But this was an honest question, having no clue what would be appropriate for a recent thirteen-year old. Whispers had reached his ears, the idle gossip, of the impending disaster his guardianship would be, his idle life and reputation. What did a man like Bruce Wayne know about children? As if they expected Dick to show up floating face down in his pool, a corpse, system full of alcohol and drugs within a year's time.
He did endanger him. He knew that. Just not in the way the rumors indicated.
"There's only a hint of adult humor," Clark said, brow raised but treating the question seriously. "Bruce," and he paused, as if worried he'd cause offense, "With what he sees, does, are you thinking of censoring his TV?"
Pushing back the immediate anger, defensiveness, he only said, "I'm trying, Clark. I—"
"I know you are. I lived there, remember?" He set the bottle down, half-empty, on the end table, leaned forward. "I'll be honest with you, I thought it a little weird at first. He's an eighth-grader doing, well, you know. But he has the same drive you do. If it hadn't been for you, what you've provided, he'd be going out there anyway." Clark leaned further, put a reassuring hand on Bruce's knee. And Bruce didn't flinch at the touch. "You've given him a good home, Bruce." And then he pulled away, smiled. "But I think you can let him watch the occasional comedy. They say laughter's good for the soul."
Bruce didn't say anything to that, only looked down at his drink, the knee where Clark's hand had been.
"You don't have anyone to talk to about this, do you?"
He found himself shaking his head in honesty. He had Alfred, of course, but so few people knew all aspects of his life. In fact, Clark might be the only one outside of his household that did. And only because he'd been a brief member of it. But his presence, or rather an absence now, remained: the darkened room down the hallway, the empty space beside Dick as he watched television. Even on his morning run, he'd find himself, just twice at the most, turning to snidely tell Clark to catch up. And no one was there.
"Alfred suggested that you come up some weekend. To visit. Dick would like that."
"And what would you like?"
He looked up at that. To admit that he would, would be to admit that Ollie had been right. Partially. He'd done his damnedest to isolate himself. And anyone that threatened that isolation, any need they managed to strike in him, he'd sexualized until everything burned away. Ollie hadn't been the first heterosexual man Bruce had convinced into bed. And Ollie hadn't been the first one to request to repeat the experience either. Compartmentalized, easy packages of a few hours, all potential camaraderie reduced to a room that Bruce could walk away from.
But he couldn't do that to Clark. Clark, who had swallowed his pride and studied under him. And in the end, the student had become the teacher, reaching down to pull Bruce out of his own nightmare with the hand of trust and belief. The gift of hope, Dick had said. Immeasurable and necessary.
"I might find it tolerable," he said.
Clark's eyes gleamed and the corner of his mouth twisted up. "Then I'll check my calendar. Have my people call your people."
Bruce narrowed his eyes, but a small sound escaped him that could be mistaken for a short laugh. "You and your humor."
"I know. I'm terrible." Yet Clark looked like he thought himself anything but. "I'm free this weekend," he said. "Short of impending doom and catastrophe, I can be up at the house Saturday morning. Dick and I can go toss the ball around while you snooze the day away."
"I do not sleep in!"
"Maybe you should try it one of these days. You burn your candle at both ends."
"But ah, it gives a lovely light." Clark's chin rested in his hand, elbow on his knee, and still leaning forward in what Bruce would call an intimate distance. He removed his glasses, pocketed them. And yes, that idiot pervert Edge was right, the camera would love Clark, the startling blue eyes. The ends of his hair curled about his face as it did every evening that Bruce had been witness to.
"Clark Kent, are you flirting with me?" This came out in a whisper, incredulous, and not a little bit admonishing. But Bruce found himself leaning forward as well, belying any hint of rejection.
"I might be," he whispered back. "But it's probably all I'm good for," he murmured, pulling away slightly.
"What's that supposed to mean?" A hiss of frustration and confusion. Had he even given Clark the slightest idea of sexual interest? He'd obviously overheard the men's room conversation between Ollie and himself, Ollie accusing Bruce of only having one 'on-button' and a hard-on for Clark, incapable of friendship. As if Bruce were some rutting animal with no amount of self-control.
"I don't know if I can. I mean, I've never...I can't take that chance. I think I missed my shot, Bruce." Clark's eyes, which had been appallingly flirtatious, now only showed a deep devastation.
Bruce snorted. "Would you please say something that makes sense?"
"Look but don't touch. I can't even look that long. I get a little hot under the collar, if you know what I mean."
"No. I don't. English, Kent, use it." Bruce sat back, rubbed a hand over his face and then through his hair. He downed the rest of his drink, too quick, and a burn down his throat.
"I don't have anyone to talk to about this either," Clark said, sitting back himself now, looking down at his hands. "So this isn't coming out right. I'm sorry."
"Why do you have to apologize all the goddamn time? What the hell do you have to apologize for?" He flung off his jacket, found his cell phone and turned it off. He was damned if the thing was going to go off now.
"What are you doing?" Clark appeared startled by the vehemence of Bruce's tone and actions. Startled and young, as if he could somehow harm him. But he had, marks on that body and strain, and Bruce had always asked for more. And Clark had given.
"We're having a conversation. No interruptions. You were saying?"
"How old were you the first time you...?"
"That's a personal question, Clark." Snappish. He didn't just yield information for the asking. He didn't yield anything. He sighed. He didn't discuss his life because he had no one to discuss it with. No childhood friends to speak of. No friends at all, in fact. And from what he observed, friendship entailed the exchange of information, trivialities and secrets. "Fourteen. Lisa Jacobson. Swiss chalet, ski trip. And if you're referring to the other, fifteen, Andrei Pawalski, martial arts retreat."
"Why am I not surprised that you make your first kisses sound like a rap sheet?"
"Who said anything about kissing?"
"Oh." Just a small sound and flush. Not knowing whether to feel annoyed or pleased, Bruce let both thoughts flow through him, neither winning, until only an odd tingle remained.
"My first kiss happened much earlier." He didn't elaborate, not wanting to think about that. Some things should remain private.
"You always remember your first," Clark said, relaxing into a wistful smile. "I was sixteen and it was underneath the oak tree in Harper's Field, the summer before junior year. Lana Lang. She had her hair down that day and the way the sun caught it, I felt like I could just reach out and stroke it, hold the sun in my hands..."
Clark's voice faded, retreating into memory. Bruce poured himself another drink. Of course Clark's first experience would be sunlight and perfection rather than disappointment and awkwardness, staring up at the darkened oak beams in Lisa Jacobson's room, wondering what to do with the condom and how soon he could get out of there. Whether Alfred would be able to see it in his eyes, give a faint cluck of disapproval and nothing more.
"You're lucky," Bruce said, sipping his next drink much too quickly. "Most first times aren't so idyllic."
"Who said anything about that?" Clark threw his words back at him, no sting, just self-inflicted irony. "I kissed her, Bruce. That's all we ever did."
Small town morals, of course. "I'm sure things changed when you got to Metropolis."
"Lori. Met U. We were engaged, but it didn't work out." He retrieved his Coke, twirled the bottle in his hand but didn't drink. "It's a long story. Did you ever see the movie Splash?"
"Can't say that I have."
"Well, it was like that but without the happy ending." He drank the rest of the bottle, tipping it and his head back briefly. "But we only ever kissed too."
In danger of slopping his drink, although only a small amount remained, Bruce carefully set his glass down on the coffee table. "Do you mean to tell me you were engaged and you didn't..."
"No. Never have. Never gone past second. And that was just," Clark wiggled his fingers in a ridiculous fashion, "Hands."
"Are you saving yourself?" That was ludicrous. Who did that? Superman, apparently. Truth, Justice and Chastity Before Marriage. And then the thought occurred to him, the comment about Ollie's arms, the brief flirtation prior to this. "Clark, are you gay?" He said this quietly, unlike the shock of the previous question, the words sounding appallingly like hope. Self-conscious, he picked up his drink, polished it off, just one drink away from inebriated and doing something entirely foolish. He'd turned his cell phone off, after all. But there was always the bar in the lobby and an anonymous pick-up would be wiser.
"No and no."
"You're asexual." Logic and loss. So easy to forget that Clark wasn't even human, his appearance and mannerisms. He'd been socialized for romance, but that didn't override biology. And what little Bruce had been able to collect, and he'd collected everything made available, the Kryptonian race had been as cold as their planet. A wonder they ever managed to reproduce at all.
Clark's eyes widened and he laughed, hard and for a good twenty seconds. "I wish. That would make my life a whole lot easier."
"Clark," Bruce's hand poured his third drink. "Are you going to make me play twenty questions?" He'd add that he had better things to do with his time. But then Clark might leave.
"I'm a people person. Definitely. Like you, I guess."
"No one in their right mind would call me a people person."
"You know what I mean."
Bruce's drink paused on the edge of his mouth. A few sips in, he felt that buzz, the languid limbs, that he only pretended to on most nights. "Enlighten me."
That should have been Clark's cue, to lean over the arm of his chair, demonstrate. But he didn't take it. Only here for the conversation and nothing more. But this was how people talked to one another, wasn't it? Revelations and goodbyes. Advice and support. Let's do this again over coffee.
Bruce was definitely going to head down to the bar after Clark made his inevitable departure, grab the first reasonable body he could find. And he wouldn't imagine those broad shoulders underneath him at all.
"I'm just lucky that purple tentacles don't do it for me," Clark continued, as if Bruce weren't only a foot away. "Believe me, when I was thirteen, I worried about that. But then puberty hit and that wasn't a problem. Just a whole set of new ones. Look but don't touch. Careful, Clark, you might break something." He closed his eyes then, let out a breath. "And for two months, I didn't have that problem. I missed my shot, Bruce."
His powers. The strength and the restraint. Clark implied that no one human could bear the brunt of it. But he wasn't the only one in this world with such abilities. Bruce had a file on each and every one, most of them signed on for that disaster of a league. A whole dating pool for Clark if he'd stop wallowing like he was the sole twenty-four year old virgin on the planet.
"Isn't Wonder Woman available?" And that came out a bit churlish. No doubt due to the drink.
"Diana?" Clark smiled as if it an incredibly pleasant thought. And then he blushed. "It came up. But we decided to stay friends."
"Because of Ms. Lane."
"How did you...? Well, you've met her."
Smitten, definitely smitten, with a woman that insulted him. And Clark would surely spend the next few minutes waxing about all her admirable qualities.
"Don't you masturbate?" he snapped, finishing off his third drink and slamming the glass on the table. Yes, inebriated, and not willing to put up with discussing the finer qualities of women and Clark's noble celibacy.
"You heard me. Just answer the question."
Clark blinked for a moment, swallowed. "I do," he answered, low.
"And how extensive is the property damage?"
"I don't hurt anything!" And that blush turned furious.
"Did you do it during those two months that you, oh so eloquently, missed your shot?"
"A few times," he muttered. But then he laughed. "You kept me pretty busy."
"Was the experience significantly different?"
Silent for a moment, Clark finally said, soft, "No."
"Well, there you go. Glad I could be of service."
Bruce let his head fall to the sofa back, stared at the ceiling and rubbed his eyes. There was a reason he didn't drink. Images of Clark flying off into the sunset, Lane in his arms, pranced in his brain like some horrid technicolor romance. Classic happy ending, birds bursting into song. He let out a laugh, a short bray. "What are you waiting for? It's early. Go call her up and play nine-ball."
"She'd probably go if it were Superman." The voice closer than it should have been. Bruce felt the dip on the sofa next to him. "She likes Superman."
Oh, she certainly did. Her articles just this side of girlish praise. "Don't be ridiculous, Clark." He rolled his head slightly so that Clark came into view. "You're you." Even in his state, he knew that one shouldn't voice secrets. Not in a place like this.
"She doesn't see it that way."
Only because she didn't know. How could anyone look at Clark and not see him? Of course, even when he knew, he'd only seen Superman, Clark Kent just a ludicrous mask. But he knew differently now and all he saw was Clark. Even if he'd been in costume, he'd still be Clark. "You're you," he repeated, as if that should make any kind of sense.
And Clark sat there, facing him, inches away, that incessant curl having somehow worked its way down along his forehead, revealing. Bruce wanted nothing more than to reach out, brush it back.
Inches away. Clark might as well have been a mile.
"I'm not the person to be giving relationship advice," Bruce said, rolling his head back toward the ceiling, away.
"You don't believe in them?"
"I do." He knew people were capable, if not himself. He'd seen what his parents had. Clark's parents, if the way they quietly held hands on the porch as he and Alfred drove away was evidence of that. What Clark could have. He'd been engaged, for heaven's sake. "But it's rare."
"Haven't you ever...?"
Had a relationship of any significance? "No. I don't have time for that sort of thing."
"You're only twenty-five, old man. You might be surprised."
"I don't like surprises." And he didn't. Surprise meant that he hadn't assessed the situation properly. Surprise meant facing three gunmen instead of the two he counted. Surprise meant not getting the victim out of the line of fire in time. Surprise was the man walking out of the shadows, the sudden sweat of fear in his parents' hands as he held them.
"I should test that theory." Clark's hand cupped his chin, turned his head. Bruce only had a quick view of half-lidded eyes and closing, a mouth slightly parted, before that mouth landed on his own, softer than that mouth had a right to be.
"I'm sorry," Clark whispered, pulling away. "I shouldn't have done that."
"No, you shouldn't have," Bruce whispered back. And he closed that distance, hand wrapping around Clark's neck, to show him that he meant stopping.
He supposed he had to grudgingly thank the high school sweetheart and college fiancée for teaching Clark how to kiss. Bruce straddled him, short of breath, Clark pushed back against the length of the couch. He'd already managed to strip off that ill-fitting jacket and unknotted the tie. The buttons he could do by feel, desperate for skin. His own shirt and tie long cast to the floor.
Making out on the couch like a teenager, when a perfectly good bed lay just a door away. But Bruce didn't know how far Clark was willing to go, the expressed fear. And Jesus, he'd never been with a virgin before, even when he lost his own. Reluctant men, yes, but not untouched.
Fully erect, he struggled with his buckle, wrenched the belt away and then Clark's own. If Clark would just shift, yes, like that, he could dry-hump him, come in his own pants if he had to. And that would be something Bruce had never experienced before.
"Driven snow," Bruce murmured as he worked his way down to an exposed nipple, swirled his tongue. Untouched and Clark's first.
"Now that's just bad," Clark managed within a giggle. Yes, he actually giggled. Which should be annoying, but Bruce's cognac-addled brain whispered 'adorable'. "I think you're humping my leg."
"I am," he said, a thrust against Clark's thigh for emphasis. "I'm open to suggestions."
Clark stilled, and for a horrible moment, Bruce thought he'd collect himself and flee, Bruce having gone too far. But Clark only placed a hand on the side of his face, stroked, gentle.
"No strings, Bruce. I promise."
Bruce bowed his head against Clark's chest and nodded.
"I understood you perfectly. You're using me for sex."
"No, I mean I'll be okay. If this is it."
Bruce looked up at that, Clark's face full of something indefinable, something that made Bruce want to kiss it away. He pulled at Clark's tie that dangled to the side, wrapped it over his own neck. "Here's your string. Pull."
Clark smiled, a glow, and pulled.
A few kisses more and Bruce risked bringing a hand down, touched Clark and his sizable erection, just one stroke over the material of his suit pants. "I think this qualifies as third."
"For you," Clark hissed, neck arching.
Bruce took Clark's hand, shifted. "Better?" When Clark didn't answer, just looked grateful, he added, whisper against that neck and thrust into that hand, "You're going to come tonight, Clark. We both are." That got him a shuddering breath. "But I think this will be easier on a bed."
Clark glanced at the open door, nodded. "Okay." Hopeful sigh and fear that sent a shiver down Bruce's spine. He rose, led the way, sure that Clark would follow.
Even if this was just the first notch on Clark's belt, something to give him confidence to pursue some starlit romance, Clark had been right about one thing.
You always remember your first.