Chapter Eight: What friends are for
When Amanda Waller finally made it home that night, after a very long day cleaning up the mess that Luthor made, the remote control she'd misplaced earlier was waiting for her on her kitchen counter. There was a note attached to it:
Patiently, she took off her shoes and her earrings, made herself a cup of herbal tea, changed into her pajamas, and settled down to review the footage from the camera in Superman's cell. She did not know how her prisoners had escaped. But she intended to find out.
There was the man of steel, unconscious in his cell when they'd first brought him in from the van. Waller narrowed her eyes, looking at the details. Details like the prominent wound on his forehead, over his left eyebrow, which probably had a lot to do with the reason he pressed his hand to his head in pain as soon as he woke up.
Waller paused the video and brought up the footage of Batman waking up in the interrogation room. She fast forwarded through her conversation with him, smirking to herself as she watched the remote that she'd placed on the table disappear.
Back to Superman now. Batman entering the room. Batman turning his back to the camera. Talking… expressing frustration… and then suddenly the camera cut out.
Waller paused it on the first frame when the camera turned back on. Her eyes went first to Batman. What had he done in those five unrecorded minutes? What had he planned? He seemed as arrogant and menacing and sure of himself as ever, undoubtedly in control of his situation despite the red-caped burden he had to deal with.
After a moment of carefully studying the image, Waller had to admit that Batman's dark form offered her no clues. So she turned her attention to Superman: sitting on the floor, his shoulders slumped, one hand pressed to his head, covering that wound.
Wait a minute.
Waller tried to zoom in on Superman's face. The image just wasn't clear enough to tell for sure, especially with the red lighting. Sipping her tea, she fast-forwarded through the next two hours of footage, her eyes never leaving Superman's face.
Not once did she glimpse the abrasion on his forehead. Whenever the left side of his face was exposed to the camera, his hand was covering the area where the wound had been. When he appeared to drift off to sleep for a little while, the camera could only see the right side of his face—and even that was shadowed, making it impossible to see any real details.
Waller couldn't help but chuckle to herself. Those two hours of film were what Luthor had watched, before he'd decided to take matters into his own hands and ruin everything. And in those two hours, not once did it seem like "Superman" was hiding his face from the camera… but now Waller was sure that was exactly what he'd been doing.
The video was still fast-forwarding, and shortly after "Batman" exited, Luthor entered. Frowning, Waller played the tape at normal speed, turning up the volume to hear their conversation.
What she heard from Luthor cemented her opinion of him as an fixated, depraved criminal. But what she heard from "Superman"…
"…Amanda Waller won't let you do that to him."
She knew it was part of the act, just stalling for time…
But still, she didn't want to admit how much those words meant to her, coming from him. He had no reason to place any kind of faith in her character. She supposed that on the one hand, he had nothing to lose by not doing so, since she knew his secret. But she was the one who had not only investigated him and found him out, she had authorized Luthor to capture him. And she had been serious about using him in her biggest, most important project.
She knew he believed in Superman. She would've bet money that he had a precautionary arsenal of Kryptonite stashed away just in case, but in his heart, he believed in him. And now it seemed possible that he also believed in her.
And that was an honor she would not betray.
She got to the end of the video. In the split second before "Superman" threw Luthor's dagger into the camera, she pressed pause.
For just a few frames, after artfully keeping his face shadowed all that time, Bruce Wayne was looking directly into the camera. There were bruises along his cheek bones, but there definitely wasn't a dark wound on his forehead. Right there, right at the end, was the only time that his identity was obvious.
Waller studied his face for a long time.
And then she smiled, and deleted the video from existence.
When Clark Kent finally made it to the office the following morning, Lois Lane was perched on his desk waiting for him. Perched, like a vulture, waiting to swoop down upon Clark Kent's carcass.
Nothing made him sweat quite as much as that woman's glare.
"Oh, hello, Lois," he attempted.
"No," she said, uncrossing her legs and lowering herself off his desk with a move that he almost could've sworn he saw once –accidentally– in an erotic movie. "Not 'hello, Lois'. Goodbye, Lois. Because if you don't tell me the truth right now, I'm demanding a transfer to the Daily Planet's geological survey site in Antarctica."
Clark gulped, and timidly raised a finger to bring up a point. "Um, Lois, I don't think we have a geological—"
Lois pulled a rolled-up newspaper from behind her back, and smacked it against her palm with a sound that sent puppies everywhere scrambling for cover. Clark only just barely managed to hold his ground. "Do I look like I care about that right now?" she demanded.
"Ah, no, I guess you don't," Clark answered, fumbling to loosen the tie that suddenly seemed to be choking him. She was moving towards him, and in that moment he knew that no amount of super-speed would help him escape her.
"You have a lot of explaining to do," Lois threatened him. She unrolled the newspaper, holding it up with both hands and shoving it in Clark's face.
It was that morning's edition of the Gotham Gazette, featuring a front page photo of Superman and Batman standing next to each other, with the huge headline: SECRET REVEALED.
That was all he saw before Lois snatched it away and rolled it up again, tucking it under her arm. "This story? About our mutual—" she made quote marks in the air "—'friend?' –I would like to know, Clark Kent, what made you think you had the right-- why you even thought for one second that you could get away with it— did you honestly think I wouldn't find out?"
Stunned, mouth hanging open, Clark wondered what she was talking about. The article, he immediately assumed, was about Batman. Maybe Luthor had recognized him—had figured out that they'd traded costumes and that Bruce Wayne was Batman—but that didn't even remotely explain why Lois was so mad at him. But wait—she'd said it was about Lois and Clark's mutual 'friend'—was she really talking about Batman? What if she meant Superman? What if it was his secret that was revealed? He couldn't imagine how, but judging by how angry Lois was, he couldn't rule it out. Maybe it was time to come clean after all.
Yes. It was time. Suddenly he was sure of it. It had to be now.
He grabbed her by the shoulders. "Lois, I'm sorry," he said.
"You better be sorry!" she exclaimed.
"I should have told you ages ago," he said.
"You should have told me right away! Of all the sneaky, conniving, selfish things to do—"
Now Clark was hurt. "I—I never meant it like that, Lois, I was trying to look out for you," he explained. She opened her mouth to retort but he shook his head and cupped his hands around her face, startling her into silence by the unexpected intimacy. "I knew you'd find out eventually," he said, softer.
"Of course I'd find out eventually," she said defiantly, regaining her composure. "Finding things out is my job. But when I saw this story, and I found out that you are super-"
Her voice hitched, and something trembled in her eyes, and she almost said it. Clark was right there, penitent, accepting her anger, wanting so badly to kiss her—but that was just for an instant, and Lois shook her face free of his hands, and pressed on—
"...super-determined to scoop me at every opportunity, even with this story, which ought to be mine!" She unfolded the paper again, stabbed at it with her finger. "Luthor claims that Batman is Superman's brother from Krypton and Perry gives the story to you?? I'm supposed to believe that? No—you must have gone slithering in there and begged him to be assigned to this story, just so you could show me up!" she took a breath, surveyed the damaged.
Clark searched her eyes.
"Well?" Lois demanded. "Am I right?"
Needing a minute to process what had just happened, Clark reached for the paper in her hand. And in the saddest motion anyone had ever seen, he pushed his glasses up on his nose, and bent his head to skim the article.
Apparently Lex was claiming to have done "extensive research" on the relationship between Superman and Batman, and had turned up "exclusive proof" that they were both from Krypton, and based on yadda yadda yadda, he had reached the irrefutable conclusion that they were closely related and probably full-blooded brothers, if not twins.
Clark shook his head, put down the newspaper, and looked back up at Lois, who was still waiting for his answer.
He sighed. "Lois, you're right," he said. "This ought to be your story, not mine. I don't know why Perry assigned it to me, but I'll go tell him that I don't want it."
Lois bit her lip. He was impossible. Impossible. He was never going to tell her. He was never going to change. He was always going to be Clark Kent. Just Clark Kent, who adored her, respected her, who supported her whether she deserved it or not.
She just couldn't take it anymore.
She threw her arms around his neck. Kissed him for all she was worth.
She'd kissed Clark now and then, over the years, usually when quickly thanking him for doing something sweet, and at other times with a little sigh and a roll of her eyes that meant she was kissing him since it was her duty as his official 'date' for the evening and nothing else.
But she'd never kissed him like this. Like he was everything she needed in the universe. She may have tried, several times, to kiss Superman like that, but somehow it was better with Clark.
"I love you," she said, when she finally had to stop and breathe.
"I love you too," Clark replied. Nothing had ever seemed so perfect.
They looked at each other, blue eyes to violet, each of them almost certain that the other knew.
Silently, he pleaded with her to tell him what she needed him to do. She nodded a little, encouraging him to just ask.
"…We could go up to…" Clark offered, and Lois's face lit up.
"The roof!" she exclaimed, at the same moment that Clark said, "get a coffee."
They looked at each other and both turned red. Everybody knew that Lois and Superman occasionally made out on the roof of the Daily Planet.
"The roof's fine," Clark said right away, at the exact same time that Lois said, "Coffee'd be good."
Lois rolled her eyes, and pressed a finger to Clark's lips. "Coffee. On the roof," she directed.
It was an interesting elevator ride, and by far the best coffee on the roof that either of them had ever had.
That night, with a whole new perspective on his relationship with Lois, Clark could not get to sleep. He was in his Watchtower dorm room again, laying on his back with one arm behind his head, looking out the window at the stars. He'd given up tossing and turning an hour ago, and had decided to let his thought process run its course.
He loved Lois. More than anything, he loved her. There wasn't a star out there that he wouldn't fly through for her if she needed him to. He blinked, and his eyes only opened halfway before closing again. He would do anything… nothing was impossible…now that he knew that she…
"Did you tell her?"
The voice came out of nowhere, and three things happened at once: the light turned on, Clark half-flew out of bed --getting his feet tangled in the covers and crashing to the floor with enough force to make the furniture jump—and it became evident that Batman was standing in the middle of the room.
Clark untangled himself and stood up, heart pounding. "Batman—you—Bruce, you scared me. I can't believe you snuck up on me. Wh… how did you do that?" he asked.
For a brief moment, Batman smiled. It was more like a smirk, pulled to one side, drawn there by a swift, sharp brush. Clark knew right away he wasn't going to get an answer. He took a deep breath and heaped his scattered covers back onto the bed. "Anyway, no, I didn't tell her. But I almost did. And I think she probably already knows."
"You still need to say it," Bruce said. "Trust me, it's what she wants."
Clark sat down on the bed. "It's what I want too," he said, and looked out the window again. "It's just meant to be, Bruce. It's a miracle but at the same time I know it couldn't be any other way. She's—"
"You love her," Bruce summarized.
"I love her," Clark echoed, and turned to look up at his visitor. And then the strangest expression crossed his face. "So… uh, what are you doing here?"
"Hopefully starting another rumor."
Clark blinked at him, perturbed. "okay…" he said carefully.
"That was a joke," Bruce grumbled.
"Oh," Clark said, relaxing. "You know, you're not very good at that."
"So I've been told. I learned from Alfred."
"Hmm. That would explain it," Clark agreed, sympathetic.
"I'm actually here because I was talking to Diana."
"Good! I heard she rejoined the League."
"Yes, she came back."
There was more happiness and relief in that simple statement than Clark had heard in Bruce's voice in long time. He grinned. "See? I told you she would. And she doesn't want to kill you, does she?"
"…That's debatable," Bruce growled. "…But now that I've talked to her, I think I'm in a good mood."
Clark's eyebrows rose. "That may be the scariest thing you've ever said."
Batman smiled again, a little less smirky this time. "Anyway, I have something for you." He held out a box.
Clark looked at it, suspicious. "…will I need lead-lined gloves to open that?"
"No," Bruce replied.
Clark reached out and took the box, and as he opened it, Bruce explained:
"…while I was sitting in that red sun-lamp cell, I found myself wondering what Superman does when he can't fall asleep. I know that you spend the night up here once in a while, and it occurred to me that you probably do that to get away from all the noise on earth."
Clark lifted the present out of the box. It was a softball-sized replica of the Daily Planet's famous globe, cut in half longitudinally, the words "Daily Planet" arcing across it, cut out from a metal band. The globe itself was made of thick frosted glass, and overall it was fairly heavy-duty and definitely high-quality. And, turning it over, Clark discovered that it was attached to some sort of light bulb, which was meant to be plugged into the wall.
The present was, without a doubt, a nightlight.
Clark looked up at Bruce, his forehead wrinkled in concern. "…Do you know what this is?" he asked solemnly. Bruce looked annoyed. "This is cute," Clark said, holding it up. "And now I'm officially worried about you."
"Just plug it in," Bruce growled, hunching his shoulders.
Clark leaned over and plugged it into the wall next to his bed. The globe lit up with a comforting sunset-orange glow.
And immediately the earth fell silent.
Clark jumped and looked up at Bruce, but alarm turned to amazement as he began to understand. The sounds in the farthest corners of the Watchtower were growing fainter, fading to silence. In another minute, he wouldn't be able to hear much of anything outside of his own room.
"Red sun-lamp," he realized, genuinely impressed. It was such a practical solution—he couldn't believe he hadn't thought of it before. "Bruce, it's awesome—thank you."
"That reminds me." Bruce shifted. "I never thanked you, for turning the light on for me that night. I needed that sleep."
"No problem," Clark said. "That's what friends are for."
"Friends?" Bruce asked, scowling. And then, probably setting some kind of personal record, he smiled for a third time. "I'd thought we'd moved past friends."
"Oh right, apparently we're brothers now," Clark noted.
"Twins, is what I heard."
Clark shook his head. "I guess it's lucky that we do look sort of alike. I still can't believe Luthor didn't recognize you."
"He never even looked at my face," Bruce recounted. "His eyes were glued to the 'S' on my chest the entire time. I just hope they don't lock him up in Arkham, when his insanity plea goes through."
As Clark mulled over that unpleasant possibility, Bruce turned towards the door. "Well. I should get back to Gotham. Don't forget what I told you, about taking Lois out to dinner."
"And don't you forget to have a little optimism about Diana," Clark reminded him.
"Hn." Bruce flipped the light off in Clark's room, stepped into the hall, and spoke over his shoulder.
Clark smiled and said "Goodnight."
And once the door was closed, he rolled over and closed his eyes, and had absolutely no trouble falling asleep.
A/N: It's over! I can't believe it! I have to say, it was really, really hard to end this on a satisfying note. Should it have been funnier? Fluffier? Should it have been some heavy discussion on the Superman/Batman friendship?? I wrote a scene with Diana but chickened out of including it. (whimper... don't hate me, BMWW fans!) Bruce/Diana just isn't my thing! Lois/Clark totally is, though, so I hope I got that part right.
Thanks everybody for sticking with this story and leaving such wonderful reviews. If this story made you laugh or made you say "aww!", then I have done what I set out to do. And I couldn't have had more fun doing it. Grin.