To Wild Homes

Disclaimer: These characters belong to those a lot richer than myself, including people at Warner Bros., DC Comics and Marvel. The title is taken from a song by the New Pornographers.

Timeline note: Set between Relic and Shattered.

Author's note at bottom.

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Clark was talking about Krypton when the phone rang.

He didn't even know that Virgil Swann owned a phone, though he seemed to own everything else. The good doctor was the most reclusive man Clark had ever met who, as far as the teenager knew, hadn't made contact with anyone besides his alien friend for the past thirteen years. Clark pouted at the thought of not getting Virgil's full attention.

Swann picked up the call without a greeting. "Mm hm," he nodded, glancing down at his crippled legs as he listened. "The flight was okay? Splendid. Make sure you have everything ready for me. Yes, yes I do have company. No, don't be silly. Yes, come right over, we'll have a party. Certainly. Okay. See you soon." He hung up and turned his attention back to the young Kryptonian seated before him. "So, what were you saying about sunsets?"

Clark sulked.

Moments later, the door squeaked open, and footsteps could be heard nimbly navigating the maze of artifacts and machines on the way to Virgil's desk. Clark turned as Swann wheeled over to greet his visitor.

The newcomer was a man who looked to be about ten years older than Clark. He was shorter, though, with black hair and a solid build. His open face held a blank expression, but he grinned tightly in greeting Virgil.

"Bruce," Swann said with a warm smile. "Welcome back." Clark turned to Bruce and back to Swann with a frown, and Virgil nodded. "Of course, we need introductions. Bruce, this is Clark Kent. Kal, Dr. Bruce Banner."

"Nice to meet you, Dr. Banner," Clark said tersely, shaking Bruce's hand.

The older man returned the firm shake. "Please," he said, "call me Bruce. And you're Clark. Or – Kal, was it? Interesting nickname, if I may say so."

Clark blushed, and scowled at an amused Swann. "It's not a nickname. More like...an alter ego. I prefer Clark." As Bruce took the seat next to Clark, the alien asked, "So, what brings you to New York?"

"Dr. Swann asked to see results to some medical tests," Banner answered. "Some of them may contribute to his research, it seems."

Clark was unnerved. "You haven't been performing alien autopsies, have you, Dr. Banner?"

Bruce smiled to himself. "Actually, the tests were performed on me."

Virgil, who had been watching the duo with dancing eyes, spoke up. "Like you, Kal, Bruce has had issues with radiation." Bruce was the one to scowl this time. "It was his own interest in it that led to his problems, however. A branch of my research, as you know, concerns Kryptonite and its effect on humans. Dr. Banner happened to arise as a subject."

Clark frowned in anger at the implication that Dr. Swann was cavorting with a meteor freak. Bruce missed the emotion flicker across the boy's face, but Virgil caught it, and sent Clark a chastising glance.

Meanwhile, Bruce's knuckles were turning white gripping the arms of the chair, his eyes closed in an attempt to hold his fury at bay. "Do you really think that's your information to share, Virgil?"

"Oh please, Bruce," Swann said with a chuckle. "There are no secrets under my roof. Besides, if you tell Clark your secret, I'm sure he'll tell you his."

"Yes, but will he believe my secret?"

Dubiously, Clark glanced at Virgil, and then turned to face Bruce. He smirked. "Try me."

"All right then," said Bruce, who was always up for a challenge these days. "When my temper gets out of control, I turn from the mild-mannered scientist you see before you to an out-of-proportion, incoherent, green, bloated, super-strong, morally blind monster."

"Really?" Clark blinked.

"Yeah." Bruce turned to Swann. "Told you he wouldn't believe me."

Swann responded by facing Clark. "Your turn," he said calmly.

"Do I have to?"

"Yes." Virgil would cross his arms if he could. "I know you've been told otherwise, Clark, but some people in this world can be trusted. Bruce is one of them. It's not like he doesn't have secrets of his own, after all."

"Okay." Clark sighed. "I'm an alien." Clark looked down and flushed crimson again, not wanting to the see inevitable widening of Bruce's eyes. "But if it makes you feel any better, sometimes I'm a super-strong, morally blind monster, too."

Bruce thought it over. "Do you change form and color, when that happens?

"No." Swann raised his eyebrows, and Clark amended his statement. "Well, my eyes turn red. For a second. And sometime I wear this awful leather jacket. But otherwise, I'm pretty much the same." He looked over at Bruce for the first time, with curiosity. "Are you always really strong? Like, even when you're not green?"

"Nope, just when I'm the Hulk." Bruce looked at Clark, almost not believing that the boy wasn't human. Almost. "Pretty weird, huh?"

Clark finally relaxed into an easy grin. "Yeah, pretty weird."

The mutant and the alien – the two men – smiled at each other for a minute, and Bruce offered Clark his hand. They shook carefully but firmly, testing out the friendship.

Swann just smiled.

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A/N: I've had this little ficlet laying around on my hard drive for a while now, and I've finally decided to post it. I wrote it as a missing scene after reading an advance copy of the first chapter of The Die Hard's now-ancient "Hulk" and never did anything with it. To post it now, I edited out the minute references to her Specials, making this more reader-friendly and able to stand alone. However, knowing that it fits in with Die Hard's timeline may explain the otherwise-out-of-character notion of Clark being so open with his secret.

I don't intend on any sequel, as I want this to remain a little character piece. Feedback is highly encouraged, especially constructive comments on writing. Adoring fan letters will not be denied, however.

Thank you for taking the time to read and respond. Have a nice day!