|Peering Through Splintered Glass
Author: Djinn1 PM
Not sure where this one came from. It's darkish, it's weird, it's from Batman's POV, and it's probably an AU--some world before the current arc, anyway.Rated: Fiction M - English - Angst/Romance - Words: 7,666 - Reviews: 4 - Favs: 11 - Published: 02-05-05 - id: 2250200
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Peering Through Splintered Glass by Djinn
I. Lines of Breakage
Bruce stood in front of the security drone at the entrance to the Fortress of Solitude, waiting for the mechanism to register him as an authorized visitor. As it whirred in front of him, not seeming to recognize him, Bruce wondered if Clark had decided he didn't want a visit from Batman after all.
The drone finally clicked a few times then flew back as the door to the Fortress opened-Clark wasn't waiting.
Sighing, Bruce began the walk to the habitat areas. Lights came on as he went, illuminating a space only as long as he was in the area, then going off again, returning the rooms to blackness. If it had been the Batcave, Bruce would have used such darkness for effect. He had a feeling Clark was just trying to conserve energy.
"Anyone home" he asked as he approached a well lit area.
Clark moved to the doorway. "I was surprised you wanted to come here."
Bruce noted he wasn't in his uniform. The casual clothes he wore seemed at odds with the alien-inspired Fortress.
"Something wrong" Clark asked when Bruce didn't answer him.
"You tell me."
Clark, for once, seemed in no hurry to answer him. He just stared blandly back. Seconds ticked by, then more. Clark finally broke. "You know we could both stand like this forever." He smiled-the Kansas-farm-boy smile that so charmed the media.
Bruce didn't return it. "Where is she"
"Oh, is that why you're here" Turning, Clark walked into the other room. "This way."
Bruce followed as Clark led him down a hall, past several closed doors to a dimly lit room. Diana lay on some kind of medical bed, and a greenish-gold light bathed her at regular intervals. She didn't look like she was wearing anything under the mostly opaque sheet.
Motioning for Bruce to hang back, Clark walked into the room, touching her gently on her shoulder. She opened her eyes and smiled as he sat down in the chair next to the bed.
"Feeling better" Clark asked.
She nodded, her smile growing softer as she touched Clark's hand where it rested on her shoulder. Clark leaned down, talking with her in such quiet tones that Bruce couldn't hear what they were saying. Diana shifted and gasped, grimacing as she moved until Clark eased her back onto the pillow. Then, as if he'd forgotten Bruce was there, he kissed her on the forehead, his lips lingering on her skin. Smiling, she closed her eyes.
Clark said something more, and she opened her eyes again and looked over to where Bruce stood.
"Hi" she said, her voice weak as she held her hand out to him.
Walking to the bed, he took her hand. "Rough day at the office"
"You have no idea. But I won. You should see the other guy." She laughed, but the laugh turned into a cough.
"Diana. Rest." Clark touched her cheek, and Bruce felt a surge of annoyance-he decided it was because he wished he was the one doing it.
She nodded and closed her eyes again.
Looking up at Bruce, Clark mouthed"Let's go" as he stood up. "She looks much better than she did" he said as he led Bruce out to the dining area.
"I'll have to take your word on that."
"What's eating you"
Bruce paced around the table set up outside the small kitchen. "You call in a report that she's been hurt. A few hours later, when I call the Themysciran embassy for a status report for the monitor logs, they don't know what I'm talking about. Needless to say, they're a bit concerned."
"Don't worry. I called them a little bit ago. I wanted to wait till I had better news." Clark smiled easily.
"That's not the point, Clark. She wasn't there."
"I know. She came to me, and I brought her here."
"And you didn't think of taking her to Paradise Island"
"If she'd wanted to go to the island, she'd have gone to the Embassy." Clark sounded as if he thought this was all very elementary. "Bruce, she knew I'd bring her here. I have in the past, and she responds well to the healing ray."
"You have in the past"
"And Lois doesn't mind"
Clark's expression didn't change. "When did this become about Lois"
"Probably since you married her. But maybe even before."
"It's not about her."
"So I take it she's perfectly all right with this" Bruce looked back down the hall.
Sighing, Clark said"She doesn't know. She's out of town on assignment."
"What's that supposed to mean" Clark moved closer, chest slightly puffed out, the way it did when he was trying to intimidate some villain.
"You know exactly what it means."
"You think something's going on? What? An affair" Clark actually sneered-Bruce wasn't sure he'd ever seen that expression on his face. "I think affairs work best if both parties are mobile. In case you haven't noticed, Diana has been hurt. We're hardly making mad passionate love."
Bruce could tell he'd pushed too far. "What worries me is that one of our most powerful members is out of commission for who knows how long, and the League has little to no information on her status. And you don't appear to care about that."
"I care." Clark seemed to lose all fight. "Look, maybe I wasn't thinking straight. She was hurt, she came to me, and I brought her here."
Bruce resisted asking if Clark had been the one to undress her. Besides, he knew the answer to that-it wasn't like there was anyone else in the Fortress who could have done it.
"Bruce, I'm not sure I understand what your concern is."
"No. I know you don't."
There was a long silence. Clark finally broke it. "If you don't tell me, how will I know"
"Your relationship with her transcends the League. It's distracting-and not just for you-and I believe it's dangerous."
"My God. You do think we're having an affair, don't you"
Instead of answering, Bruce walked to the door.
"I've never cheated on Lois." Clark sounded utterly offended.
Bruce turned to look at his friend; he appeared to believe what he was saying. "Clark, you don't have to sleep with Diana to make her your mistress."
"Get out." Clark was angry, as angry as Bruce had ever seen him.
"I was just leaving." The walk back to the entrance was uncomfortable and seemed to take forever. Bruce could feel Clark's eyes on him the whole way.
II. Fragmentary Distortion
The Flataran regiment was regrouping. Their forces behind the lines had secured more weapons, and the Cantavrian leadership was finally worried enough to meet with the League. Clark and Diana were up front talking to the generals. Clark was wearing his earnest "killing is wrong" face. Diana looked less convinced that war was inevitable, but she appeared to be arguing quite energetically with the generals.
"How many wars do you think we've managed to avert because of their earnestness and powers of persuasion" Wally asked, stopping near Bruce. He'd been working off steam, zipping between the two lines inventorying weapons.
"Countless" Bruce answered.
"They're a hell of a team."
Bruce listened for more in that message, but Wally seemed sincere. "Yes, they are."
He saw Clark touch Diana's arm when her energy seemed to turn into anger. She glared at him, but she didn't shrug his hand off, and she did seem to settle down.
"And what I wouldn't give some days to be Superman" Wally murmured, his tone a little dreamy.
Bruce shot him a look.
"I mean...to be her friend. Her best friend." He put an interesting emphasis on the word "best."
"I am not sure I follow."
"The hell you don't. I know you watch them." Wally leaned closer. "The Flash sees all."
"Perhaps, but you understand very little."
Wally laughed at the insult. "What's not to understand? They're...close."
"They're...friends." Bruce was not entirely sure why he was defending them. This was exactly what he'd warned Clark about. Perceptions might be wrong, but they still influenced people.
"Like I said. Friends." Wally shot him an unapologetic grin. "And there isn't a man among us who wouldn't like to be that kind of friend to her."
Bruce turned away, stalking down the lines. There was work to do; he didn't have time for this.
"Was it something I said" Flash asked with a laugh. "Or just something you can't have"
Bruce could hear his laughter following him down the line.
III. Radial Fractures
"You're awfully quiet" Diana said, glancing across the table at Bruce. The watchtower was deserted, other than Clark who was on monitor duty, they had the place to themselves.
Bruce had started popping in when Clark or Diana was on duty. The other was often hanging around the tower. He had a feeling that if he weren't present, Diana would be in the monitor room talking with Clark.
"Why are you here, Diana"
"Kal and I are going to work out later."
She studied him, a strange little smile playing on her face. "He told me what you said. What you think is going on."
"There isn't a lot he doesn't tell me."
He shook his head. "That could be a point in favor of my position."
She laughed. "Or we just might be very good friends." Reaching over, she touched his hand. "I'm not sure why this is a problem."
Was she lying? Could she lie"You don't see a problem"
"Kal and I are friends. Why should our being close be a problem"
"I guess it depends on how you define 'close.'"
Her smile faded, and she finally looked angry. "However we define it is none of your business."
"Is it Lois's" He leaned forward. "What do you think she'd have to say about all this"
Her eyes darkened even more. "I have no idea what she'd say. I haven't asked her. But I think that she's a strong, self-confident woman who isn't going to read too much into this."
"I see." He laughed, let the sound come out scornful. "So you think Clark told her about taking you to the Fortress to recuperate"
"I really don't know."
"And you really don't care, do you"
She stood up and he thought he'd pushed her too far, but then he realized Clark had come into the room. Green Lantern must have arrived to relieve him.
"Bruce" Clark's smile was open-unsuspecting.
Diana shot him a look, and there must have been a world of info in it, because Clark's smile faded.
"Bruce is worried about Lois-what she might think about my being at the Fortress."
"How nice of him to look out for her." Clark was clearly annoyed.
Bruce kept going"Does she know you're up here 'sparring' or does she think you're still on monitor duty"
Rolling her eyes, Diana stalked over to Clark. She didn't turn to look at Bruce as she said"We're covering old ground. If you want to chaperone our workout, feel free."
Clark nodded, looking as if he wished Bruce would join in so that he could pummel him.
Standing, Bruce said"I was just leaving."
Both Clark and Diana looked like that was good news.
IV. Proximity Cuts
"You are disturbed over something" J'onn was sitting well back from the fire, tucked into the shadows the way Bruce was.
J'onn shook his head, then turned to look at where Clark and Diana were sitting by the fire. They had sat close together, almost rebelliously close after Clark had finished building the fire. Bruce had known they'd seen him watching them.
"You realize that your present approach will only drive them closer together" J'onn murmured.
"I'm aware. Becoming more so by the day." He didn't really want to talk about this-at least not within range of Clark's hearing.
J'onn apparently had no such compunction. "Perhaps a less angry tack"
Bruce took a deep breath and shrugged.
"Do you know why you're angry"
Bruce smiled grimly. "Well, if I don't, I'm sure you're going to tell me."
"You see their closeness as a threat. The important question is exactly what-or whom-do you see as being threatened by this."
"There's his wife."
"A very nice woman. I like her. But I doubt you are acting like this on her behalf."
"The League then."
J'onn seemed to consider that. "I see" was all he said.
"You don't agree" Bruce's voice rose more than he intended, but Clark and Diana were talking and didn't seem to notice his agitation.
"When will you admit that you want her"
Bruce smiled tightly. "When will you"
J'onn only shook his head as if disappointed by Bruce's answer. "Their relationship does no harm to me or to the rest of the League. While we may not fully understand all the nuances of their relationship, we accept it. We always have, and we probably always will."
"It is a distraction."
"Yes, I've noticed that you are often distracted by it."
Bruce pushed himself to his feet. "You do not know everything, J'onn." Even if the Martian was probably pulling this right out of his mind. Damned telepathy.
"Don't I? Then why are you about to run away"
Bruce had no answer for that. He forced himself to sit down.
Diana glanced back at him, her expression worried. Their eyes met-hers confused, his probably not hiding the anger he felt. She frowned, but then Clark said something, and she turned back to him.
Like she always did.
V. The View from Outside
Bruce was on his third drink. It was unusual for him to drink this much. Stupid for him to drink this much. If he hadn't come up with a compound that would rid him of the effects of too much alcohol it would be criminally stupid. Bat-tox, Alfred had called it as he'd tested it, washing away the effects of four glasses of champagne before going happily back to his more traditional butlering duties. The success of the test had left Bruce free to indulge. Which he was doing-it did wonders for his playboy image to be seen actually appearing to enjoy himself.
Besides, he was damned sick of restraint.
"Mister Wayne" a sultry voice sounded behind him. "You seem to be enjoying that martini."
He turned, saw Lois smiling-even though she was drinkless. "Can I get you one"
"A free drink from such a handsome man? How can I resist" She seemed about to say more, but then she looked away and her smile faded suddenly.
Bruce turned to see who had come in; it was Diana. He turned Lois gently, leading her off to the bar, away from the entrance.
"Protecting me, Bruce? Or are you protecting her" Lois's voice was even, but the look she gave him was blistering.
"Just buying a pretty lady a drink."
"That sounded awfully down homey for you. Especially when I know you're a city boy, just like I'm a city girl. Not like Smallville or"-she looked back at where Diana was standing"island girl."
He laughed softly as he ordered her drink.
"What? You're not a fan of hers" Lois took the martini from him.
"I didn't say that."
"So, you are a fan."
"I didn't say that either." He gave her his best playboy grin, the one that would never, ever be seen on Batman's dour face. Then he turned to watch Diana. She was talking with someone Bruce didn't recognize-he made a mental note to find out who the man was and what he did. She listened attentively, and the man looked very pleased with himself, but Bruce caught her searching the crowd occasionally.
"She won't find him" Lois said softly. "He's not here."
"You know who." It was a game they played. Never admit they knew the truth about the secrets in each other's lives. Always beat just enough around the bush to let the other off the hook. But Lois was right-of course he knew who Diana was looking for.
"How do you know she's looking for him"
"A wi-woman knows these things." She took a quick sip of her drink. "She's the most beautiful woman in the room, isn't she"
"That's a pretty subjective area." He smiled at her gently. "I've noticed several men drooling this way since I've been talking to you."
"You're a nice man, Bruce."
"No, I'm not. That was just truth." He could feel his eyes grow cold, hard-Batman eyes.
Her eyes seemed like mirrors. He could feel the resignation in her as she turned to the entrance as Clark walked in. Clark searched the crowd, found Diana. Her head swiveled, as if she could sense his eyes on her. His smile was warm, her own just as tender. Then Diana looked away, and Clark resumed scanning the crowd. Finding Lois, he waved and began working his way through the crowd to get to them.
Lois threw back her drink. "Can I have another"
"Sure, if you answer a question. Why do you put up with it"
She looked down. "Drink first. Answer after."
He got her the drink.
She sipped this one slowly, and at his look said"Clark hates it when I drink."
Bruce thought that Diana was probably drinking water. Knowing Clark, he'd order milk. Holding his martini out to Lois, he said"Here's to alcohol."
Lois sighed. Not very loud or very long, but the sound had a deep sadness to it that Bruce didn't expect. She looked up at him, then back out at Clark, who was getting closer. "Some days, I don't know why I put up with it." Leaning up, she kissed him on his cheek, then rubbed the lipstick off gently. "Thanks for the ear."
Clark walked up. "Should I be jealous" he asked, putting an arm around his wife. "You look stunning, Lois."
"I do, don't I" Her tone was defiant, the sparkle in her eyes dangerous. "And yes, maybe you should be jealous."
Bruce decided not to stay for the explosion he had a feeling was coming. "I'll leave you alone with your beautiful wife." As he walked away, he decided he'd put a little too much emphasis on the word "wife."
Diana saw him coming and smiled at him. "Hello, Mister Wayne."
"Madame Ambassador." He took her drink from her-he'd been right; it was water. "Let's dance."
She didn't fight him, letting him lead her to the dance floor. "Awfully bossy of you, Bruce."
"Just trying to get you out of the line of fire. Lois isn't in a good mood tonight."
Diana met his eyes, and hers seemed sad. "If you think I'm the cause of that..."
"You know you are. I just don't know if you mean to be or not."
"Well, at least you give me the benefit of the doubt."
Pulling her closer, he whispered"Oh, I do, Diana. But that may only be because I want you too much not to."
She stiffened, faltering a bit as they danced. He couldn't remember ever seeing her do that.
"I want to believe in you, Diana. I want to think the best of you."
"Who said I wanted you to believe in me"
He laughed softly, twirling her and sensing she was still a bit unsteady. "That's the problem. I don't think you know what you want."
This time she did try to pull away, but he held her fast, and short of creating a scene by tossing him across the crowded dance floor, she was stuck. He nuzzled her hair, over her ear, then worked his way to skin, kissing her neck.
"Damn you, Bruce."
The song was ending, but the band moved quickly into the next song, and he didn't look up to see if anyone else was waiting for her. No one was brave enough to tap him on the shoulder if they were.
"You need to back off this thing with Clark" he said.
"This thing, as you call it, is a friendship."
He ran his fingers down her back, relishing the feel of his skin tripping over her bare shoulders, then across the silky fabric. He felt her shiver. "No, Diana. It's not just a friendship."
"Bruce, stop it."
"Why" He switched to her other ear.
She moved slightly, probably seemed to just be getting closer to him, but suddenly he felt as if his hand was in a vice. "Let me go" she said"or I'll break every bone in your hand."
He could tell by her voice that she was not kidding around, and pulled away slowly. "Temper, temper, princess."
Her face froze. "Don't do this, Bruce."
"I'm not doing anything. Not a goddamned thing." He let her go, left her standing in the middle of the dance floor. And he didn't look back to see how long it took Clark to rescue her.
VI. Concentric Cracks
Bruce glanced over at Diana. She was pretending to be enthralled by the report she had in her hands, but he knew that she'd read it before he got there-he'd seen her analysis of it in his message queue.
The watchtower was bustling, but no one came into the room they were using. He'd seen her and had sat across from her at the small table without her invitation. She'd ignored him, acting as if she was alone in the room.
"Hmmm." Her eyes were glued to the report.
He reached over and pulled it out of her hands. Taking a deep breath, she looked up at him. Her expression was calm, but her eyes fairly crackled with irritation.
"We need to talk" he said.
"If this is another opportunity for you to lecture me or to try to make me feel bad about myself, I'd rather we didn't." She picked the report back up.
"Forget the report" he said, pulling it away and pushing it to the side.
"I'd like to forget a lot of things, Bruce. And interestingly enough, you've said most of them." She started to get up.
"If you run away now, I'm going to assume everything I think is true."
She didn't sit back down, but she also didn't walk out of the room. "What exactly do you think? Just how bad am I" She slammed both hands on the table, leaning forward-he tried to keep his eyes up but failed.
She saw what he was looking at, and any warmth left in her expression seemed to disappear. Straightening slowly, she sighed. "What do you want from me, Bruce"
He meant to say "nothing." Or maybe "restraint" or "better judgment." What he said was"Everything."
He so rarely saw her speechless. Now she was.
Standing slowly, afraid that if he moved too quickly he'd spook her, he put his own hands on the table and leaned in the way she had. "This is where the rubber meets the road, Diana. Just how much do you love him? And are you willing to walk away from that to try something else? Something good."
Since he'd left her on the dance floor at the party, he'd practiced this conversation. Never, in all the renditions, had it gone like this.
What the hell was he doing?
She sat down slowly, pulled the report back to her.
"I can't do this right now, Bruce. I don't know why you're doing this. I don't know what you feel. And I'm not sure I even care." She looked up and met his eyes, studying him like he was a sample under a microscope. As if she was trying to classify him.
He wanted to tell her he was human. That he was a man. That he loved her.
But...did he love her? Or did he just want her? Did he want her because he'd made her his current obsession? Had he made ending her relationship with Clark into a goal?
"Do you even care about me, Bruce? Or is this all for the League? To stop what we're doing to it-Kal and I" She slammed the report down, her hand falling hard then twisting as she crumpled the paper beneath her grasp. "We're not doing anything. Can't you get that through your head? He's my friend. He's my best friend. I know he's married and that it's irregular to be as close to him as I am. But it's the way it is. Why can't you just leave it alone"
"I don't know" he said and was shocked to see her start crying. He wanted to comfort her, but also felt a small surge of satisfaction that he was finally getting through to her. If she was starting to hurt over this, he was getting through to her.
"Leave me alone" she said, sniffing as she seemed to stop crying by will alone.
"I'm sorry, Diana. But it's time to wake up."
The look she turned on him was dead. Cold and hurt, and as he stared back at her he got a chill. What if J'onn was right? What if he pushed and pushed and only ended up pushing them into each other's arms for real?
Backing away from the table, he said softly"I don't want to hurt you."
"I'm not sure I believe that anymore, Batman."
He winced at the title-she never used it when they were alone. It summed up everything she disliked about him, and he knew it.
Some days, it summed up everything he disliked about himself.
VII. Thermal Stress Fractures
The night was cold but the body armor Bruce wore kept him warm. He crouched between Clark and J'onn, waiting for Diana and Arthur to give the signal.
Clark looked over at him, his glance speculating, as if he was weighing something. Then he turned back to the camp of villains they would take on very shortly.
Bruce had been surprised when J'onn had split Clark and Diana up for this one. It would have made sense for them to be the ones to infiltrate the camp, to give the signal that it was time to attack and foil the latest scheme to end the world.
J'onn looked over at him, a frown deepening on his face. I split them up because they are distracted, he said mind to mind. All of us are-because you cannot let go of this. He turned back, said softly to Clark"They are taking too long."
"Diana knows what she's doing."
"They are still taking too long."
Bruce sighed. Normally, all this would have been taking place via a mental link. Did J'onn not trust the three of them to keep their private thoughts corralled? Was Bruce's own turmoil echoed by Clark and Diana? J'onn's excuse for not using a link for this mission was that he thought one of the villains had enough psychic ability to pick up any large-scale psi activity, such as the energy J'onn had to expend to maintain a link for all of them. Everyone had acted like they bought it. But had any of them really believed it was true?
He saw J'onn look at him again. It was not an excuse, he heard echoing in his mind.
Then why can you take this risk? Talking to me this way?
J'onn's mindvoice was very deliberate, as if he was talking to a slow child. This is easy. This is small. Linking all of us-each of you to me and then to each other-that is not small.
Okay, okay. He looked back toward the camp. "What is taking them so long" he asked aloud, earning himself another sharp look from Clark.
"You need a vacation, buddy" Clark muttered. "Or maybe just a life. How long has it been since you had a date"
"Don't go there, Clark."
J'onn looked like he agreed that the direction Clark was heading was an ill advised one.
"I'm serious. Maybe you wouldn't obsess so much about what Diana and I are up to, if you'd get a girl of your own." Clark glanced over at J'onn, as if regretting he'd just said that in front of him.
Diana chose that moment to give the signal, and Bruce thanked every god he didn't believe in for her timing.
"Let's go" he said, getting up quickly and heading down the hill-he was looking forward to kicking some bad guy ass.
VIII. Evidence in Shards and Dice
They were sparring. He was watching them from the balcony, hidden in the shadows. He didn't think they'd seen him come in.
"Harder" Diana yelled at Clark. "You're hitting like a"
Clark laughed. "Like a girl"
She knocked him halfway across the floor. "I would never say that." Her laughter filled the room.
Bruce moved closer, wanting to see her face. His cape rustled slightly, and he froze, but they went on with their work out, never faltering.
"Lois is out of town again so I'm down a dinner partner. You want to get Chinese when we're done" Clark took a hard swing at her, missed and blocked her counter punch. He caught her with a jab, knocking her down, following up with a kick that she rolled away from.
"Can we go to Shanghai for it"
"Wherever you want." Clark's smile was indulgent, even as he blocked a series of blazing strikes, absorbing a hard kick then grabbing and twisting her leg while it was still up.
She fell hard, but rolled away as he launched himself at her. He grabbed her by the hair, and she yelped. "Damn it, Kal. No fair."
He let go, but since he was straddling her, there was nowhere for her to go. Smiling, Clark leaned down. "You think the bad guys won't use any advantage"
She struck out, knocking Clark in the face, and he rolled with the punch. She followed him as he fell, and a moment later was astride him.
They sat motionless, staring at each other. Then Diana began to move down slowly, her lips moving closer and closer to Clark's. Bruce forgot how to breathe.
"Is this what you want to see, Bruce" Clark called out, as he started to tickle her.
Giggling, she grabbed Clark's hands so she had him pinned again, and he had to stop tickling her. "Did we get you hot"
Clark was laughing, pulling Diana down and whispering something in her ear.
"Clark says to come on down and join in, Bruce. But I think you should stay where you are. You've made enough trouble for us." There was something in Diana's voice that Bruce had never heard before. It wasn't quite resignation, wasn't contempt either. It was almost...defeat. Like she never expected him to be satisfied or to believe the things of them that she wanted him to.
He faded back farther into the shadows. When his cape rustled, he saw Clark's head turn toward the sound.
"Not so stealthy, my friend. I know when you're watching us. I always know." Clark was still laughing, but Bruce noticed his hands were on Diana's sides, and she had not gotten off him. From his vantage point, they looked like they were making love-barring the whole fully clothed aspect.
He waited until they went back to sparring to sneak away.
IX. Visible Damage
"I called us here because we need to talk. The three of us." Clark was bustling around the kitchen area of the watchtower while Diana and Bruce sat at the table. Plastic Man was on duty in the monitor room-under strict orders to stay there.
Bruce had a sudden urge to help Clark with whatever he was doing, just to get on his feet and be able to do something...anything. Sitting and waiting for the "talk" to begin was driving him crazy.
Clark finally sat down. "If things between the three of us keep up the way they've been, we really are going to bring the League down."
Bruce sighed; Clark wasn't wrong. His suspicion coupled with Clark and Diana's defensiveness had started to interfere.
"I care too much about the League to let that happen" Diana said, taking his hand. Her skin was warm against his, and it took all his self-control to pull his hand free. She left hers close, not touching him but not easing away either.
"I take it you want me to change" He looked from one to the other, trying to see what was behind their even expressions.
"Yes. But I think we all have to." Clark sighed. "I don't agree with what you think has been going on, or that it's bad. But I may not be right." He shot a look at Diana. "Maybe we have been having an affair in all but one rather significant way."
She looked down, drawing her hand away from Bruce. "Maybe we are too close-even though..."
"Even though..." Clark looked down too, then he looked up and anger was in his eyes. Bright, righteous anger. "And you know what? 'Even though' should count for something. We have not made love."
"I don't make the rules, Clark." Bruce couldn't stand it, he had to get up, had to start pacing.
They watched him as he made the rounds of the kitchen.
"We want to make a deal with you" Diana said softly.
"You stop watching us, and we'll cool it. We'll back away in public"
"-and when you're just with the League" Bruce said softly.
She looked betrayed but she nodded. "And with the League. Not entirely, but enough that it doesn't look like we're involved that way." Her voice caught. "Bruce, don't you understand that we didn't do anything wrong"
"I don't make"
"Yes, we know." Clark's voice was tight with strain. "You don't make the goddamned rules. You just enforce them." He stood up, walked over to Bruce. "Who made you the morals cop anyway"
"I look out for the League. I always have." Even if his ways were more often dark than not.
"Like when you almost killed us all" Diana's mouth was set in an ugly line. "And don't give me that. You're not looking out for the League."
"Or for Lois" Clark said. "Do you think I don't know you want Diana"
Bruce shot her a look. "Not much you don't tell him either apparently."
Clark laughed. "There isn't. But she didn't have to tell me. I can see it. You may think I'm all muscle and a little light in the brain department. But you're wrong. I can see a lot."
Bruce looked down.
"And I know when I'm faced with an impossible situation. If I keep Diana close, show the world how much I value her, then I'm judged for it. Yet...how can I not keep her near me? She is my best friend, and I do need her."
"Clark, I'm sorry. But you have Lois. I guess that has to be enough for you."
"I never wanted to hurt her." Diana took a deep breath, and again he saw the strange defeat in her eyes. "Do we have a deal" She stood up. "You leave us alone; we'll be careful what 'image' we send to the League...and to the world."
"Deal." He held out his hand, wasn't surprised when it took them a long time to shake. "Tomorrow we start over." He walked to the teleporter. "You coming"
She shook her head. "No. We need some time. It's not like we'll get much of that anymore."
He looked at their faces, then nodded. "I'll see you tomorrow."
All he could hear from the kitchen area as he walked to the monitor room was silence. He opened the door to the watchtower's nerve center, saw Plastic Man sitting looking bored.
"Hey, Bats" he said, starting to get up.
"I've told you not to call me that. And I'm leaving."
"Yeah, that's a loss. Supes still monopolizing the Wonderbabe"
"Yes" Bruce said, not wanting to waste words right now.
It was all the answer Plastic Man needed, though to judge by his face, not the answer he wanted.
Bruce turned and headed to the teleporter. He set it for Gotham, and stood off to the side as he sent nothing but dust motes down to his beloved city. Then he used a command he'd placed in the computer and transported himself via unrecorded stealth mode directly into the Fortress, using Clark's personal coordinates. The lights came on and off as before, and he explored until he'd found what he assumed was Clark's bedroom. The lights in the rooms were controlled by switch, but the hall ones were on automatic. He stood in the entryway, not moving, making sure the hall lights would go off if there was no motion from him, and they did. He would have preferred to wait in one of the other rooms farther from the bedrooms and sneak down the hall, but he couldn't do that if the lights would give him away. So he found the guest room with the smallest bed and hunkered down to wait in a spot where he could see Clark's bedroom.
He'd promised them that tomorrow would be another day. He'd made no assurances about not watching them for the rest of the night.
X. 'Spontaneous' Breakage
It took them longer to teleport down than he thought it would. He heard them talking quietly as they walked down the hall. When they passed him, they were holding hands, and Diana seemed to be crying.
Clark pulled her into his arms, and their lips met, and something told Bruce that it was the first time they'd kissed as lovers. The kiss grew, and soon they were pulling clothes off, and Clark was carrying her to his bed and setting her down on it gently.
She looked up at him, her arms held open, inviting him in. Clark smiled, easing her down, kissing her body, touching her in all the ways Bruce wanted to. She sobbed, and Clark pulled away.
"Do you want to stop" he asked.
She shook her head, pulling him to her almost viciously. "They think we're doing it. They're taking away everything else." She touched his cheek. "I need you."
"I need you too" Clark said.
And then he was pushing down slowly, and Diana cried out in what sounded like pain, but as Clark continued his gentle motion, her cries turned to moans-happy moans. She was murmuring Clark's Kryptonian name over and over, and soon her cries filled the room-Bruce knew he'd never forget the sound of her pleasure.
Her first time. This had been her first time. Bruce wanted to be anywhere but here, yet at the same time he was locked in place, mesmerized by the beauty that was these two together physically.
The beauty that he'd created.
He'd been a damned fool. J'onn had tried to warn him. J'onn knew their minds as well as Bruce's. He'd known what they were capable of if Bruce insisted on stripping away what they had. Their friendship had been a safety zone. Their public affection had been a barricade between what they wanted and what they'd allow themselves.
And he'd been too obsessed to see it.
He looked down, felt suddenly dizzy. What the hell was the matter with him?
He wanted out, but there was nowhere to go. He didn't think he could force himself to try to sneak past the door. What had he been thinking when he chose this room? What had he been thinking when he came here?
Had he been thinking at all? Ever? This was his fault.
And his punishment was having to watch and listen as they made love over and over. They finally lay still, Clark stroking Diana's hair for a long time before he eased out of bed and walked to the door.
His movement made the hall light wink on, forcing Bruce back, making him squint at the sudden brightness.
"I'm going to close this door now, Bruce" Clark said very softly. "Diana's asleep so you can leave. Get out quietly and quickly-I don't want her to know you were here."
Bruce stepped into the hall. Clark stood in front of him, stark naked and not appearing to feel the least bit self conscious about it.
"Are you happy now" Clark folded his arms, the classic Superman stance even if most people did not see him doing it in the nude.
"No." Bruce took a deep breath. "Are you happy"
"God, you never change." Clark stepped closer. "Yes, I'm happy. I just had her-the woman I've wanted for so long. And no, I'm not happy. I just cheated on my wife-a woman I made promises to. Promises that I'm not keeping. If you were to ask Diana the same question, I imagine you'd get a similar answer."
"So if you're so damn unhappy, then this is a one-time thing" Bruce knew in his heart-the one that most people probably thought he didn't have-that it would never be a one-time thing for them. He had pushed their relationship from never into often, possibly into forever. At Clark's glance, he held a hand up. "Are you going to leave Lois"
Clark smiled, and it was a bitter, jagged expression. "My business. Not yours." Then he turned and walked back into the bedroom, hitting the switch that released the door and locked Bruce out.
Bruce made sure he was clear of the habitat area before calling the teleporter. He checked his watch. It was tomorrow now. Time to stop watching them.
They'd kept their word. He had a feeling the world would never see them be openly affectionate with each other again. And if he'd thought that easy rapport had been hard on the League, he couldn't begin to imagine what their affair would do if it broke wide open.
He'd just have to make sure it didn't break wide open. This was his fault, and he'd deal with it. And wait and see. He was good at that-or he used to be, back before he let one woman affect him enough to allow his heart to overrule his head. But now that his heart lay shattered in Clark's guest room, he could think again.
Either they'd wither away from each other-victims of love's entropy-or they'd come out into the open as a couple. It was up to him to protect them until one or the other happened. And he was betting on option number one. It was their first night together, and Clark hadn't wanted Diana to know Bruce had been watching them. He was suddenly keeping secrets; it was the start of a slippery slope. And Bruce would be ready to pick up the pieces when Diana landed, free of Clark finally.
It occurred to him that J'onn must have realized that the more he'd told Bruce to lay off Clark and Diana, the more he would resist that suggestion. Was this what J'onn had wanted to happen? To bring about the kind of change that would ultimately set both Clark and Diana free? Providing of course they weren't actually meant to be together. If that was the case, now that he'd brought them together, he imagined nothing would stand in their way. Not even time.
It was all very confusing. And Bruce would not solve it tonight. He prowled the rooftops of Gotham, registering everything he saw, intervening when necessary, even as he tried to work this out-he may have promised not to watch them anymore, but he'd never promised not to think about them.