Title: Angel's Descent
Pairing(s)/Character(s): Bruce Wayne/Clark Kent, implied Lex Luthor/Clark Kent
Rating: T
Disclaimer: I do not own Superman or Batman or any recognizable fictions, and I do not make any money from these works.
Summary: Clark gets injured in Gotham. How does Bruce react?

*****

"Superman!" Batman heard Robin shout from somewhere behind him.

Bruce turned his head just in time to see the man that he was secretly in love with make a crater in downtown Gotham with his body. The worry he felt for his best friend gave him the boost of adrenaline he needed to finish off the large group of low-class thugs. Eight men taken down in under a minute – had to be a new record.

Bruce sprinted over to Clark and Tim, an ache gripping his heart as he saw that the Kryptonian hadn't gotten up yet.

"Superman? You okay down there?" Tim was asking, looking stressed and helpless. The dust hadn't fully settled, so neither Batman nor Robin could see how deep the crater was and what Superman's condition was at the bottom.

"B?" a weak voice managed to croak out. "We win?"

That startled a brittle chuckle out of Bruce. He thought maybe he was going a little hysterical at the thought of Clark hurt, in his city, because he couldn't keep the Joker in Arkham and his low-class thugs off the street.

"We won," Bruce confirmed. "Joker escaped, but we managed to incapacitate most of his henchman. The police are arresting them now."

"Kryptonite?" that voice called up again, accompanied by the sound of labored breathing and a rustle of a cape.

Bruce was confused by that. What about Kryptonite?

"The Joker had grenades with Kryptonite mixed in with the explosives," Tim whispered, looking frightened.

"Fuck!" Bruce swore, at both the idea of the Joker with Kryptonite weapons and the sight of his best friend staggering from his Superman-shaped crater.

"I'm okay, B," Clark assured weakly, stumbling into Bruce. Batman wrapped his arms around him, supporting his friend.

He would never let Clark fall – not as long as he lived.

"Let's get you into the Batmobile," Bruce suggested, trying to keep his cool despite the green tint to Clark's skin.

"And out of this suit," Clark agreed. "Kry-Kryptonite residue."

Bruce knew there was something seriously wrong. Clark's voice was weak and thready, and he was almost stumbling over his words.

"Get in," Tim said from his position in the driver's seat of the Batmobile as he pulled it alongside where the two were standing.

"Who said you could drive?" Bruce grumbled. He didn't mind so much though as he helped Clark into the back seat of his precious Tumbler, and his best friend pulled him into the car next to him.

"Just take care of Superman," Tim ordered as he sped to the waterfall that led to the Batcave.

"Suit off," Clark demanded as he trying to find all the clasps needed to take the skin-tight material off.

"It's a shame that you're not this willing to take your clothes off when you're not hurt," Bruce attempted to joke.

"Not funny, B," Clark said dryly as he shot his friend an incredulous look.

And as Bruce got a good look at Clark's side, he saw just how "not funny" it was.

"How?" Bruce managed to ask, feeling sick to his stomach at the sight of Clark's blood. Clark was Superman – he was supposed to be invulnerable. That meant he wasn't allowed to bleed, god dammit!

"Kryptonite guns too," Clark told him. "Don't worry, the bullet went all the way through, and I x-rayed myself already – it didn't hit any vital organs."

"Don't worry?" Bruce growled out. "You got shot and blown up and fell out of the sky because you were helping me take down the Joker. Don't tell me not to worry."

"I'll be fine once we wash all the Kryptonite off, and I get some sun," Clark informed him, pressing on his wound to try to stem the flow of blood.

"You're in Gotham, it's winter, and it's overcast," Tim pointed out. "There's not much sun."

"I installed a solar lamp in the Batcave after the last time he was injured in Gotham and it wasn't very sunny," Bruce admitted.

"That's our Batman," Clark chuckled weakly as his eyes fluttered closed. "Al-always prepare…"

"Clark! Clark!" Bruce shouted. "Come on, you have to stay awake. Come on, Clark!"

But Clark didn't answer, already unconscious and showing no signs of waking.

"He'll be okay," Tim told Bruce weakly. "He's Superman; he'll be fine."

Bruce silently agreed.

Clark would be fine – he would make sure of it.

****

"Ugh…" Clark moaned as he slowly battled his way to consciousness. Bruce noticed his friend's struggle, immediately going to his side.

"How are you feeling?"

"Like the Joker blew me up, and I fell hundreds of feet to make a big crater in downtown Gotham," Clark joked lightly.

"That would be because that's what actually happened," Bruce replied flatly, in no way amused.

Clark struggled into a sitting position on the medical bed in the Batcave.

"I'll be fine," Clark assured him. "I'm just glad the Joker retreated and nobody else got seriously hurt."

Bruce just sighed at his best friend's stubborness and unwillingness to admit that he might be hurt.

"We're going to have to track him down soon," Bruce stated. "He needs to go back to Arkham."

"Bruce, he's probably already dead by now," Clark told him seriously, something like regret painted across his beautiful features.

But why would the Joker be dead? Bruce certainly hadn't mortally wounded him – and as far as he knew, neither had Clark, Tim, or the police officers at the scene.

"Think about it, B," Clark began to explain. "He had Kryptonite weapons. There are only two sources of Kryptonite left on this planet – Lex Luthor and the United States government. And the government only has what Luthor gave them. So that means that either Luthor gave Joker the Kryptonite weapons to kill me, or that the Joker stole those weapons from Luthor. In the first scenario, the Joker failed to accomplish what Luthor wanted and is now a liability. If the Joker goes back to Arkham, he can squeal about Luthor's involvement. In the second scenario –well, his death will be anything but quick and painless. He stole from Luthor, and he tried to kill me without his permission. Hope and Mercy will probably torture him for a few hours before they kill him and dump his body somewhere no one will ever find him."

Bruce blinked slowly, unsettled by Clark's flat explanation of the reasons for the Joker's death.

"You think Luthor would kill the Joker because the Joker tried to kill you?" Bruce asked.

"Why not?" Clark replied. "He's certainly done it before."

Bruce waited a heartbeat, and then, "He's killed before? Because we already knew that, Clark."

"He's killed for me before." Clark corrected. "Probably a lot more than I even know."

"Why would he…?" Bruce trailed off. He was unsettled by Clark's injuries to begin with, and now his friend wanted to talk about Lex Luthor. Never a pleasant topic.

"We were best friends once, you know," Clark confided, a faraway look on his face. "I saved him and he saved me and we saved each other. And he made me feel normal and special at the same time. Concert tickets and limo rides and football games and pool and…anything I asked for, he gave me. All he wanted in return was the truth, and I held it back. I wasn't a very good best friend back then."

Clark came back to the present and looked at Bruce with those big green eyes that he loved so much.

"Am I a good best friend to you, B? I would do anything for you, you only have to ask. I would give you anything you wanted," Clark promised, and Bruce could see the vulnerability in that beautiful face.

Bruce closed his eyes against that pure beauty, trying to control his breathing.

"You're a great best friend," Bruce assured. "A great friend and a great hero and a great man. Clark…you were younger back then. Young and different and afraid. You can't blame yourself for not telling Luthor the truth. Who knows what would have happened? He could have turned out worse that he already is…"

Clark snorted at that.

"I don't know if that's possible, Master Bruce," Afred quipped from the stairs. He was holding a tray in his hands, filled with all sorts of snacks.

"Too true, Alfred," Clark agreed as he swiped an apple and one of Bruce's nutritional drinks from the tray.

After taking a bite of the apple and a sip of the drink, he gave Alfred his mega-watt smile that always made Bruce weak in the knees when it was turned on him. "Thanks – you're the best!"

"Yes, thank you, Alfred," Bruce agreed as he took some fruit and another nutritional drink from the tray. The butler nodded his head and returned upstairs.

"Where's Tim?" Clark asked.

"School," Bruce replied. "Where else? He is a senior in high school, after all."

"Hmm," Clark hummed, as if in thought.

The two friends enjoyed a comfortable silence for a few minutes, and then…

"Bruce…?" Clark asked hesitantly.

"Yes, Clark?" he replied patiently. He wondered what Clark was going to ask him this time.

"Are you in love with me?"

He wasn't expecting that.

********************************************************************************

Bruce felt as if the bottom had dropped out of his world. He had been so careful – he thought he had successfully kept his feelings hidden.

But it was always difficult to keep things from Clark…

"Bruce?" Clark's voice interrupts him from his thoughts. "You- you don't have to answer that, if you don't want to. I shouldn't – I shouldn't have asked."

And Bruce could almost see Clark withdrawing into himself – shoulders hunched and eyes averted and mouth pressed into a thin line…

He knew that Clark would never ask again – this was his one chance to be honest. He could seize it – or he could let it pass him by. It was all up to Bruce.

And he did not want to lose Clark's friendship; he did not want the revelation of his feelings to make things awkward between them. But what if Clark felt the same way?

"Yes," he said abruptly.

Clark pulled his eyes up from the floor and just – looked – at him.

"Yes?" and his voice was so uncertain. "Yes, I shouldn't have asked?"

"Yes, I'm in love with you," Bruce corrected gently, striding forward and closing the distance between them.

Somehow, it was as if Clark's obvious show of weakness lent Bruce the power in this situation – even if he had just bared his soul and left himself vulnerable to the strongest being on Earth…

"Oh," Clark whispered softly, bright blue eyes examining his face as if he had never seen it before.

"Oh? Is that all I get?" Bruce asked, his tone gruff – but his touch on Clark's smooth cheek gentle.

"I – I don't…what do you want?" the Kryptonian questioned. "If…I want you to be happy."

And Bruce got a sudden insight – one of those leaps of logic he was so famous for.

Clark was exceedingly vulnerable right now, as well. Bruce could tell Clark that having sex with him would make him happy, and his best friend would probably turn over and let him do whatever he wanted. Luthor had messed with his mind – screwed up his perspective on friendship and love. But no matter how fucked up Bruce was, he refused to take advantage of Clark – especially only a few hours after he had just been shot with Kryptonite bullets.

He meant it when he said he loved Clark – and this was just the first time he would have to prove it.

"I don't know if I know how to be happy," Bruce told him, trailing his hand down to cup Clark's chin and making the Kryptonian meet his eyes.

"Me neither," Clark admitted. "Do you…think we could try to learn together?"

And Bruce felt his heart rise at that – but he pushed the hope back down.

He could not leap to conclusions – and he had to take this slow.

"I think we could teach each other a lot," Bruce replied. "But I also think that you should not be making any really important decisions right now."

"You said you're in love with me," Clark accused – almost as if he thought Bruce was trying to take the words back.

"I am – and you just woke up after nearly dying of Kryptonite poisoning," the billionaire pointed out.

"I 'm fine," and Bruce knew he did not have the patience to deal with a mulishly stubborn Clark tonight – not after all the emotional revelations of the night.

"Well then, I need time. There's a lot of things we haven't considered."

"Yeah, like what?" Clark asked petulantly.

"Like the fact that you haven't even said if you love me back – or if you just intend to give me what I want because you think I will leave you otherwise."

*******************************************************************************

"Oh," Clark replied.

"Oh?" Bruce prompted, wondering what his friend was thinking.

"You only want to be with me if I love you? Because I do love you, B," the Kryptonian insisted.

Bruce sighed, stroking Clark's cheek softly as he thought about how to put his feelings into words. He wasn't used to doing this – wasn't used to talking about what he was thinking or feeling.

But he would do it for Clark – at least this once. Hopefully they could get all of this out of the way now, and then Bruce could return to his traditional grunting…

"I know you love me, Clark – as a teammate, as a friend, even as a brother. But I don't know that you love me quite the way I love you. And I don't want you to feel trapped in a relationship with me – I don't want you to feel obligated to have sex with me in some bid to make me happy. Because I only want that if you do, too," Bruce explained softly, staring blankly over Clark's shoulder.

He couldn't say all that and look Clark in the eye – it would be too much.

"So…you want time?" Clark asked, tentatively reaching forward for an embrace.

Bruce pulled him into a strong hug, running his hands up and down that strong back.

"I want you to take time. There's no rush," Bruce told him. "You still need to heal from the Kryptonite poisoning, and then we have to find out if Luthor really did take out the Joker, like you predicted."

"'kay," Clark muttered sleepily into his friend's strong shoulder. "Can I take a nap first?"

"You better," Bruce told him, helping Clark back onto the cot he was lying on before – and turning on the solar lamp to speed his recovery.

"You staying down here?" the Kryptonian asked with a yawn as he turned onto his uninjured side.

He got a nod in response, and that was all he needed to drift back to sleep – his guardian bat watching over him.