ETA: Belated credit must go to arch_schatten
's fantastic rewrite of Superman Returns for inspiring Bruce's attitude towards Clark's departure (among other things) in this fic. Yes, really should have said that earlier *continues to look guilty* ^_^
First of all (because I always feel guilty when I write something outside of my current WIP), yes, I am still working on "L'esprit de l'escalier," and will be updating in about a week!
As for this story, I've recently become quite enamored with the Superman/Batman pairing, but am rather terrified of trying to write them together (or, more specifically, I'm just terrified of trying to write Bruce Wayne ;p). But I suppose practice makes perfect, so in the spirit of Batman, I decided to embrace my fears, and give it a go with this little fic. It was originally a one-shot, but my muse tends to be long-winded, so now it'll probably be a two-parter. It involves movie!Clark and ... some version of Bruce, lol. He's not really from the movies or from the comics, so I think I'll call him generic!Bruce (like Ibuprofen instead of Advil, yeah?). Anyway, hope you enjoy my experiment, but don't expect too much. ^_^Title:
taro_twist Timeline/Fandom: Superman Returns
-Batman crossover. Takes place during SR.Pairing:
pre-slash Superman/Batman, implied Superman/LoisRating:
DC and the WB own everything! I'm just temporarily messing with their creations ...Spoilers: Superman Returns
Lois and Jason weren't the only ones who visited Superman while he was in the hospital.
Clark Kent paused in his flight over the Eastern seaboard. After witnessing the conversation between Lois and Richard earlier that evening, he had been working non-stop in a (somewhat futile) attempt to take his mind off of what he had heard. He had stopped a bank robbery, a convenience store hold up, and a typhoon. He had saved a window washer who had fallen from a platform, a woman whose brakes had gone out, and a little boy’s pet turtle that had crawled across two lanes of an eight-lane freeway.
None of it, though, had been quite enough to shake Lois’s words from his head. Her confession that she had never loved him had chased him halfway around the world and back again, echoing through his mind, rebounding and multiplying like an image reflected into infinity by a room full of mirrors. It was so bad that he had begun to fear that he might never escape the sound of her voice answering “no” to Richard’s question. But then, the rasping of another voice altogether had caught his ear.
Now, for the first time tonight, Clark found his attention drawn away from Lois’s revelation. He hovered above Gotham, its lights smoldering like a scattering of embers from a cigarette, and that one voice, low and full of menace, rising above all of the city’s other noises. Almost involuntarily, Clark began to descend, as if Bruce had snagged him with a Batline from god knows how many miles away and was reeling him in. It was only when Clark realized that he could suddenly see the Dark Knight with normal range vision that he came to his senses, and stopped his approach.
Slowly, Clark set down on top of a nearby building and hid himself behind an air duct, using his X-ray vision to watch as Batman interrogated some hapless low-life in an alleyway. He didn’t want to meet up with Bruce right now; he wasn’t ready. Before he had left for Krypton, he had made a recording that detailed his plans, and had instructed the Fortress computer to transmit it to Batman following his departure. But although that was more information than what the rest of his friends had received regarding his “vacation,” it still hadn’t been a proper good-bye. More than that, Bruce was a man who could barely stand to leave his city without protection for a week; Clark could only imagine what Bruce must think of him for abandoning Earth for half a decade.
Batman was letting his subject go now, the poor guy pelting down the alleyway as if the gates of Hell were about to open. Well, if Clark was going to talk to Bruce tonight, here was his chance. But no—as much as he wanted to see the man again, he really wasn’t in the mood to suffer through the confrontation they were bound to have. Especially not after everything he had found out about Lois today—that she was married, had a kid, that she didn’t—
“Lurking was never your strong point, Clark.”
The words were just barely whispered, but Clark heard them nonetheless. Sighing, he resisted the urge to bang his head against the air duct in front of him. Of course Bruce had somehow sensed his presence. The man was as uncanny as ever. For a second, Clark contemplated staying behind the air duct, like a child who thinks that no one can see him just because he’s closed his eyes. But reason, or perhaps pride, won out, and he emerged, stepping off of the roof and sinking into the shadows that filled Gotham’s streets until he was nearly level with the Caped Crusader.
“Don’t step there,” Batman ordered, just as Clark was about to touch down.
“Is over here better?” he asked, drifting to the right. Batman grunted his approval, and Clark finished lowering himself to the ground.
“What do you want?” Batman growled as he squatted in front of the spot that Clark had been hovering over a moment before—it was covered by a puddle of water that seemed to have a thin sheen of oil on its surface.
“It’s nice to see you, too,” Clark replied, grinning in spite of himself, but only because Bruce wasn’t looking at him.
“I hope you realize that the word ‘too’ in that sentence implies that I share your sentiment,” Bruce rumbled, removing a clear plastic tube and a cotton swab from his utility belt as he spoke.
Don’t you? Clark wanted to ask, but he bit the words back.
“Okay. Point taken,” Clark forced a laugh. “Let’s try this then: how have you been?”
“Fine,” Bruce answered, wiping the tip of the cotton swab through the oil-like substance on the water.
“Fine?” Clark parroted, zooming in on the goo that Bruce was investigating with his microscopic vision out of curiosity. Turned out that it wasn’t oil at all, but some sort of biofilm made up of bacteria.
“Something wrong with being fine?” Bruce wondered aloud, standing up and turning to face Clark.
“No, fine is … fine,” Clark said, his eyes now following Bruce’s hands as the other man dropped the swab into the plastic tube and screwed on the cap. “It’s just been a long time and—“
“What do you want, Superman?” Bruce repeated his earlier question as he secured the tube in a pouch on his utility belt.
Clark opened his mouth to reply, but the words he wanted to speak seemed to be too big to get out. He could feel them stuck somewhere down in his esophagus, caught in some kind of psychological Chinese finger trap; the more he struggled to say them, the more they refused to budge, until he finally settled on giving Bruce a slightly more superficial answer for the time being.
“I was in the neighborhood, so I decided to drop by,” Clark told him. It sounded lame, he knew, but it was technically the truth.
“So I see,” Bruce said, the Batline in his hands now; he was ready to leave.
Clark felt his heart rate leaping into overdrive, his stomach clenching with something like panic. He couldn’t let Bruce go, not yet, not on this note. All the petty crimes, natural disasters, and wayward turtles in the world wouldn’t be enough to distract Clark from his fretting if he couldn’t get some reassurance that their friendship had survived his five year absence.
“I wanted to say that I’m sorry,” he finally blurted out.
“Well. Now you’ve said it,” Bruce stated, his voice completely impassive. He discharged the Batline, and it looped around the railing of a fire escape several stories above their heads.
“Batman,” Clark took a step towards his friend and put a hand on his shoulder, the armor cool and rubbery beneath his fingers. He lowered his voice. “Bruce.”
“I have a lot of work to do,” Batman snapped. “And I’m sure you do, too. You must have a lot to catch up on.”
With that, he launched himself into the night, swinging and leaping from fire escape to drain pipe to roof, moving with all the ease of a stream of water as it flows downhill. Clark was tempted to follow the man, but he knew better than that, and kept his feet planted firmly on the ground as he watched his friend disappear in a swirl of dark cape. He didn’t even bother to follow Bruce’s movements with his enhanced vision, and instead closed his eyes, feeling too heavy to fly.
Well, at least now I know that spying on Lois was only the second worst decision I could have made tonight, he thought to himself.
Bruce Wayne tilted his mug upwards, draining the fourth cup of coffee he’d had in just as many hours. It was times like this that he found himself wishing that the stronger stimulants in the world weren’t quite so damaging to the mind and body. It wasn’t that this was the longest he had ever gone without sleep; at this point, he’d only been awake for three days straight. But for some reason, he felt so much more exhausted than usual.
Pinching the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger, he turned his attention back to the files laid out on the desk in front of him. One was the quarterly revenue report from Wayne Shipping, while the other contained the results of the lab work he’d had done on the mysterious bacteria he’d recently begun encountering at crime scenes throughout the city. After a second’s more thought, he pushed the revenue report aside. He’d once read a study claiming that the sleep-deprived mind doesn’t suffer from functional impairment as long as it’s occupied with something interesting. And at the moment, unidentified bacteria were infinitely more interesting than the financial status of Wayne Shipping.
Bruce had just been struck by the presence of a certain cellular receptor in the bacteria, and was mulling over what that might imply, when a crisp knock on the door interrupted his thoughts.
“Pardon me for interrupting, Master Bruce, but there’s a situation that I believe you should be made aware of.”
It was Alfred, standing in the doorway, his posture as composed as ever, but with something in his eyes that bordered on distress.
“What is it, Alfred?” Bruce asked, laying the papers he’d been looking at flat on the desk.
“It’s about Master Kent, sir,” Alfred said, taking a step into the office.
Bruce picked up a pen at random and began tapping it against the desk, his eyes flitting between Alfred and the files in front of him. So far, Alfred had done a very good job of not mentioning Clark ever since the Man of Steel’s return, and Bruce couldn’t imagine that the butler was suddenly breaking this impeccable record for no good reason. The look in Alfred’s eyes—it was like the expression he wore whenever Bruce got hurt, the one that he always tried to keep Bruce from seeing. Bruce stopped tapping the pen. He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear what was coming next.
“If this is about the earthquake in Metropolis,” Bruce began. “I saw the news reports. It seems that Superman has it all under control.”
“Sir, I’m sorry, but I’m afraid there’s been a new development with that,” Alfred informed him.
Bruce swallowed audibly. He set his pen down and it rolled off the edge of the desk, tumbling to the floor and coming to a stop beside his foot, the sound of its fall muffled by the plush carpeting.
“Go on,” he prompted.
It wasn’t that Bruce was angry. His anger had dissipated within a few months of Clark’s departure, around the same time that he had been struck by an overwhelming need to be assured that Clark was all right and would return safely one day. No, it wasn’t that he was angry. It was that he wished to remain indifferent.
Five years was a long time. In the beginning, Bruce had thought that he would always miss Clark, in the same way that he still missed his parents so many years after their deaths. One day, though, he had woken up and realized that, amazingly enough, the pieces of his life had rearranged themselves in such a way that Clark didn’t need to be there for them to fit together. Bruce had continued to look after the people and things that Clark had left behind, watching over Martha Kent, and the Fortress, and the Daily Planet staff, and Metropolis in general, all from afar. But he had stopped actively waiting for Clark to come back.
Now, though, Clark suddenly was back, and Bruce wanted nothing more than to be spared from another roller coaster ride of getting accustomed to the man’s presence, only to be deprived of it. As usual, though, life wasn’t very interested in what Bruce wanted.
Shooting one last glare at the looters he had just tied to a lamp post, Batman darted into an alleyway, only to be nearly blinded by one of those damn motion-activated security spotlights. Bruce muttered something rude under his breath, and continued on his way, climbing up onto the nearest rooftop. He was not in the mood to deal with Metropolis’s surfeit of adequate lighting tonight, and a small (somewhat evil) part of him had actually been hoping that the city would be darker, what with the earthquake having knocked out some of its electricity. It seemed that he would have no such luck, though. Metropolis was certainly like Superman in that respect: no matter what you did to it, it still found a way to be obnoxiously radiant.
Bruce had reached the end of the block now, and found himself inhaling sharply as he caught sight of the thing that he had purposefully been trying to avoid. He had told himself that he was only coming here to help the people of Metropolis in the wake of the earthquake, to take care of them while Clark was incapacitated in much the same way that he had taken care of them in times of crisis during Clark’s absence. He had told himself that he was only coming here from force of a five-year-long habit.But now that he could see the crowds with their candles and their signs, and Metropolis General Hospital beyond that—now he knew that he hadn’t come here to look after Clark’s city. He had come here to look after Clark.Onwards to Part Two!