Trinity: Raindrops on Roses
Bruce sensed rather than saw Diana reaching for him as he worked at his desk in the batcave. "Time to go?"
"They just got here." She leaned in, hugging him close. "I'll miss you."
He turned, pulling her down into his lap. "I want you and Lois to be good on Themyscira." At the girl-on-girl heaven his woman was taking Clark's wife to for an exclusive article on a "Weekend in Paradise." He sighed. There was no way they weren't going to be doing it like minks.
"Define good." She smiled, but her eyes lacked their normal sparkle. "It's just..."
"I don't like leaving you during the holidays."
"I'll be okay."
She snuggled in, her hands finding all the right places. "Kal brought Justin. Maybe they could stay here with you?"
His best friend and his son, here for a few nights. Bruce didn't meet her eyes.
"It would be good for you to spend time with him."
He wasn't sure which "him" she meant, but it really didn't matter. He wanted too much from both of them. Taking a deep breath, he ran his hand through his hair. "I don't know. Justin and Clark here. You and Lois off somewhere else doing God knows what..." Shit, why had he said that? If they hadn't been planning anything before, now she would know he thought they had been.
She kissed him hard, then held his face, forcing him to look at her. "Get to know your son, Bruce. And as far as Kal goes, don't worry so much. You'll know what's right."
"Like we knew what was right before?" He wondered if she'd been doing what felt right with Clark lately.
Whoever thought the swinging life was easy was a damned fool.
She wriggled against him, then got up, pulling him off of his work stool. "Come out of the batcave, Mister Wayne."
Following her up the stairs, he saw Lois first. She looked wonderful, laughing at something Alfred was saying, her head thrown back, neck bared. She glanced over at them, smiling at him warmly, then gestured to Diana. "You ready, Princess?"
Diana gave her a look that was probably supposed to be a glare, but looked too full of affection--or something--to be that. "Ready, Mrs. Kent."
"I've told you not to call me that. Only Clark gets to call me that." Lois walked over to Clark, who was looking particularly handsome and very paternal as he held a sleeping Justin in his arms. "Take care of our boy."
Bruce felt a pang. "Their" boy. His son was their boy.
He felt a hand on his shoulder, a fleeting feeling of connection. "It gets easier," Alfred whispered, but Bruce knew that Clark heard him because he looked over at them.
"I'll see you out," Alfred said, letting Lois take him by the arm.
Diana threw Bruce a last, thoughtful look before she disappeared down the hall.
"So." Bruce walked over to the bar, not sure what he was doing. It was too early to drink.
"Diana suggested we stay."
"Yeah, she said that to me, too."
"It's probably an inconvenience..." Clark looked down at Justin as if making eye contact with Bruce was too difficult. "I don't want to put you out."
"I have a gazillion guest rooms. I think we can fit you and the bambino in." Bruce sighed and went over to sit next to Clark. But not too close next to him. Not so close he might be tempted to remember--
"Diana also hinted that maybe..." Clark was actually blushing. He looked at Bruce, catching him with the full force of sky blue eyes. "I miss you. You've been staying away."
"I know. But it doesn't have to be this difficult." He looked down at Justin. "He should know you."
"His kindly uncle?" Bruce got up, walked to the window, clutching at the frame. "His father's BFF."
"Someday we'll tell him the truth. When it makes sense." At Bruce's look, he laughed shortly. "Okay, when it makes as much sense as it's ever going to. And when we tell him, if you've been in his life from the beginning as, yes, an uncle or some kind of trusted family friend, it'll be easier."
Bruce thought about Alfred. Finding the truth out from him. It hadn't been easy. Would it have been any easier if Alfred had told him he was his father earlier? He laughed; it came out a bitter chuckle. "The trusted family friend who occasionally makes love to his mother?"
"And his father." Clark said it so low that Bruce almost didn't hear him.
Clark made a makeshift crib of pillows and settled Justin in it. He walked over, standing close to Bruce but not touching him, the saddest look--a tired look--on his face. "I miss you. I don't know if you miss me or just Lois. If you're mad at me for raising your son or for being a lousy best friend, or because you want me too much in ways you'd rather forget."
"What if I don't know why I'm mad?"
"That's fine. Just...admit it. Don't shut me out." He looked over at their sleeping son. "Don't shut him out."
Justin moved, gurgling a bit, his smile sweet and innocent in sleep. Bruce couldn't remember the last time he'd felt innocent. He turned away, pain flooding him as he contemplated what he'd lost--what he'd never had a chance to have.
Clark moved closer, rubbing his hand on Bruce's back, gently and not in an overtly sensual way--but it was sensual. Bruce should break away, not lean back into his friend's strong hand, a hand that could hold his full weight without effort. A hand moving up to his neck, to ruffle his hair along the collar line, causing shivers to run through him.
"Alfred said you had a Christmas tradition." Clark's breath was hot in his ear. "The zoo, all bundled up, with cocoa at the monkey cage and hot dogs at the nocturnal house."
Bruce knew his laugh was still bitter. "I inhabit the nocturnal house."
"Diana might not think that was very flattering." Clark mock punched him. "It's a chance to get Justin used to bats. I think that'd be a good thing." He walked away, cooing at Justin, who was awake and looking over at Bruce.
It had been weeks since Bruce had seen him, but the toddler smiled at him, blue-green eyes mirroring his own as he felt a sappy smile answer.
Clark picked Justin up and carried him over, depositing him in Bruce's arms. "You're a natural, my friend."
"I am not going to engage in babytalk." But then Justin reached up for him, grabbing his chin and giggling. "Who's the silly boy?"
Clark just laughed, his eyes tender and finally at ease. "So, the zoo?" Before Bruce could answer, Clark called out down the hall, "Alfred, you want to come to the zoo?"
Alfred smiled as he walked through the door, his eyes lightening as he saw Bruce holding Justin. "Oh, I have a great deal to do today. Maybe next time."
"But it's your tradition."
"And now it's time to make it yours." Alfred walked over, gave Justin a kiss on the forehead, and the baby gurgled happily, then reached for Alfred's glasses. "No, Master Justin. I need those."
It seemed like Justin was laughing with his whole body, as if he knew how much fun it was to tease his...grandfather. "Here," Bruce said, easing Justin into Alfred's arms. "I need to get ready." He actually was ready, but Alfred didn't seem inclined to question him. He carried Justin off with him, making baby smalltalk not at all as silly sounding as Bruce's.
Clark followed him up the stairs.
"Something you want, Clark?"
"That's pretty much the problem we all face, isn't it? This whole situation is because of something we wanted."
"Not something. Someone. Several someones." Bruce stopped at the door to the bathroom. "What do you want?"
He wanted to hear Clark say he wanted everything. He wanted him to say he just wanted to use the can. He wanted everything that ran the gamut between the two answers.
God help him, Bruce didn't know what he wanted.
"You look really good." Clark touched his cheek. "It's been too long."
Bruce tried not to lean into his hand. He failed miserably. Closing his eyes, he knew Clark was going to kiss him, was surprised when his friend didn't. He opened his eyes to see Clark smiling in a knowing and gentle way.
"That would make it easier, wouldn't it? If it was just me doing this?" He pulled Bruce to him, a fierce hug that left him breathless, then turned and walked back downstairs.
Bruce sighed and went into the bathroom, trying not to think what might have happened if Clark had followed him in. He stared into the mirror, assessing that he was starting to look older than Clark, that eventually he would look too old for Diana, as well.
He and Lois would age; the other two wouldn't catch up. Would Justin start to think of them as his grandparents--but Justin was human, too. Would Justin eventually look older than Clark and Diana?
He let out a breath he wasn't sure why he was holding. This wasn't solving anything, was only giving him a headache. It was time to go.
Clark had Justin bundled up against the weather. He smiled at Bruce's look. "Yep, this is the coat you sent." He tucked the boy into the backpack carrier. "I never know if it's too cold for him--Lois has to tell me. So you'll have to let me know if you think he's getting overheated."
Bruce had a feeling Clark was lying, that he could tell if Justin was uncomfortable the same way he could tell how far along his partner was when making love. But Clark was trying to include him, trying to make him feel necessary.
Trying to make him feel loved?
"Have a good time, my boy," Alfred said, his hand again lingering on Bruce's shoulder, and suddenly Bruce wished he was coming with them. Alfred seemed to read his expression. "You'll be fine."
Bruce followed Clark out, then realized he didn't have a car seat. But Clark was opening a dark green SUV, putting Justin into a car seat in the back. "You didn't fly?"
"We did. On an airplane." Clark looked at him. "For his sake, we're trying to appear to be a normal couple. It would be sort of hard to explain Lois and Clark's son flying in Superman's arms."
Bruce was pretty sure Lois had just flown that way to Themyscira--in Wonder Woman's arms, even if Diana hadn't been in her star-spangled armor--but he decided not to mention that. He appreciated what Clark was saying, what lengths he and Lois were willing to go to keep their son from being a target. "Their"--it could mean so much.
Clark was a better driver than Bruce expected, and they got to the zoo quickly. It wasn't as crowded as it would have been in any other season, but it was decorated with garlands and lights and there were enough people around to make it festive. It had been years since Bruce had come here with Alfred. His most recent times at the zoo had been to capture some bad guy or put escaped animals back.
Should his son be at a place where animals escaped with such seeming regularity?
"Your heart's racing," Clark murmured as he walked with a bounce that made Justin giggle.
Justin's laughter grew as they made their way to the giraffe habitat. The boy reached out as if he could touch the giraffe's neck, and he made nonsense sounds that would someday be words Bruce could understand.
But he wouldn't be the first to hear those words. His son would say "daddy" to someone else.
"You know, my back's really sore," Clark said, lying with noticeable ease as he took off the baby backpack and settled Justin on Bruce's back before either of them could protest. "Perfect."
Bruce felt the unaccustomed lightness of Justin, the movement of small legs against his back, the soft feel of his hands in his hair. His son.
More nonsense sounds, and Clark led them around the zoo as if Gotham was his home town and not Bruce's. When they hit the monkey cage, he walked off to the concession stand and Bruce swung Justin's carrier gently off his back and sat on a bench with him, the soft material letting him hold him without taking him out.
Justin gurgled some more, his bright eyes taking everything in. Then he smiled at Bruce.
Running his hand over Justin's silky hair, Bruce said, "You're a good kid."
Justin slapped his hand lightly on Bruce's shoulder, and Bruce made himself not read anything into the movement. There was no underlying message in that, just a child doing what children do. Expressing himself any way he could.
Bruce nearly whirled off the bench, had to grab for Justin. He saw a woman--how the hell had she snuck up on him? Had he been so wrapped up in his son he'd forgotten to be wary?
Who was she? Did she mean harm? Should he incapacitate her?
"How old is he?" Her smile was easy and non-threatening.
He settled down, wondered if she had any idea the danger she'd been in. "Eleven months." Nearly a year old. Soon they'd have that first party with cake and toys and too many parents.
She sat down for a moment, holding her hand out for Justin to play with. "My nephew's that age."
Bruce wasn't sure what to say to that, so he just nodded.
"Oh, sweetie, that's so cute." Clark's voice was full of amusement as he sat down on Bruce's other side, holding both hot chocolates and smiling at the woman. "Showing off our boy..."
The woman stood up quickly. "Well, like they say, three's a crowd..." She hurried off.
"Should we break it to her that in our experience it's not?" Clark sipped at his hot chocolate. "This is good stuff. I can see why you liked to come here." He held Bruce's cup out to him, didn't spill a drop as he tilted it slowly for Bruce to drink. "So were you interviewing for a fifth? Going for our own basketball team? The Gotham Players, maybe?"
"She talked to me. I didn't..." Bruce sighed. "You're teasing me."
"I am. And I'm not." Clark leaned back. "We do make a nice couple. I'm sure she was jealous of how pretty we are."
"Shut up, Clark." Bruce stood and carried Justin over to the monkey cage. "That's your daddy's distant relatives, kiddo. Your real dad's." He'd have to stop saying things like that pretty soon. Kids took everything in. "Your fake dad's distant relatives were flies."
He heard Clark laugh.
"Or maybe cockroaches. Flying ones."
Another laugh. Smiling, he turned to look at Clark. Sitting on the bench, his hair lighting up blue in the wintry sun, he did look very pretty.
"I miss you, too," he murmured, knowing Clark would catch it.
A beaming smile was his answer.
He walked back over to the bench, sat down, and held Justin on one side while he took the hot cocoa from Clark and tried to keep it on the other. Justin knocked his arm, and he spilled, but on himself, not on the child. The cocoa stained his shirt--he had a lot to learn about fathering.
Or uncle-ing. Whatever the term would be to cover the strange relationship they all had with each other.
"So," he asked into the silence, noticing Clark perking up, "you going to stay?"
"The night, you mean?"
"Sure. I bet there's one of your gazillion guest rooms that's baby safe."
"Probably one near my bedroom." Alfred no doubt had the one right next door fixed up with a crib by now. He'd had that look--the one that meant he was doing something for Bruce's own good.
"Sounds great." Clark's voice was casual, nonchalant, but Bruce imagined if he had Kryptonian hearing, he'd be able to hear Clark's heart going double time.
"That way, if Justin gets lonely, you can call for me." Which made no sense but he needed a set up for what he wanted.
What he wanted. Isn't that what Clark had said? What Diana had hinted at?
He sighed--this was a slippery slope they were on. Would they be handing him Lois next? What he wanted covered a lot of acreage.
"What about if I get lonely?" Clark's retort was less happy than it might have been--he'd heard Bruce's sigh, no doubt.
"Same deal applies." He leaned in, his shoulder tight against Clark's. They sipped their cocoa while Justin made noises that sounded very much like the monkeys'.
"When he's older," Clark murmured, "you should bring him here."
"Yeah. It'll be fun."
"I mean just you." Clark squeezed Bruce's shoulder, his smile so sweet and caring that Bruce had to swallow past a lump in his throat. "It could be your tradition. For the holidays."
"Yeah. Maybe. That'd be nice." But he had a feeling the smile that threatened was more than just a "that'd be nice" smile--it was a "that'd be everything" smile. He hugged Justin to him, managed to do it without spilling a drop of his cocoa.
Clark gave him a smile that was half friend, half lover. It was a look they could never have shared before all this, a look that maybe wasn't the best idea to share now.
But he wanted it. He had Diana and Clark had Lois, and their women were off doing who knew what to each other, and that didn't matter because all Bruce wanted to think about was how soft Clark's lips looked and how strong his hands would be as they held him.
It was going to be a long day--hard to wait for what he wanted.
Justin giggled again, and Bruce looked down, saw that the boy was smiling up at him. They still had the rest of the zoo and hot dogs at the nocturnal house. Would Justin cry in the dark? Or would he laugh at the bats and the sloths?
There were bears to watch play with their logs, and lions to hear roar, and elephants to marvel at.
It was going to be a long day. Over far too soon.
End Chapter 1