There was a noise. Above the sounds of the raging arctic winds outside, Bruce heard a noise. It sounded like—no, couldn't be. Was just another audio-hallucination brought on by the days and nights and weeks of being stranded alone on this bitter, god-forsaken icy rock of a planet.
But then he heard it again. So far he'd not seen another soul. This place—wherever the hell he was, and he had some ideas—was deserted. Empty and desolate save for the few mangy wolves that prowled just outside the cave he'd hunkered down in for shelter: the scrawny, snarling animals with whom he competed for the occasional rabbit or lesser foodstuff.
Bruce got up from his small fire, deep in the cave's inner chamber where he'd set up base camp, and made his way toward the sound. Millions of years ago, forces of nature had carved labyrinthine tunnels in the stone of this mountain. Cold, hard stone that the tattered remains of his cape brushed against as he made his way toward the mouth of the cave.
He didn't hear the sound again until he'd reached the outer chamber—the one he'd dubbed Delta—and even then he was still unsure if there was any point. He was wasting precious calories and body heat to investigate, but… it's not as though he had any choice. Investigating was his nature and what he had to do and—Bruce's jaw dropped as he rounded the final stalagmite formation—because this was… It was Clark. Silhouetted by the mouth of the cave, the world behind him a roaring, icy storm of blowing sleet and snow—was Superman.
And Superman stumbled toward him. He looked… he looked terrible. Exhausted and injured—there were lacerations and bruises on his face. A bad gash over the right eye.
Bruce moved toward him and Superman fell forward so Bruce thought fast, staggered under the weight, all two-hundred—what was it, two-forty? Felt like more. He planted his feet and caught him, shifting to get an arm around the man's broad shoulders.
"Clark, what—how did you—?"
Clark sagged against him, body oddly cold—for him. Shaking with the cold. Shivering so badly that it sounded like he was stuttering when he spoke. "W-wasn't easy." His lips were blue, his speech slurred. "B-but knew I'd find you." He smiled, a small, dopey smile, tried to squeeze Bruce's shoulder, but his coordination was off. He missed.
Bruce scanned the mouth of the cave, taking off his torn, ragged cape. "Anyone else out there?" he asked as he snapped the thing around Superman's neck.
Clark shook his head, so Bruce hauled him toward him and started toward his inner chamber and the fire. The third time Clark stumbled, Bruce considered a fireman's carry, but quarters were just too close.
"Stay sharp, Superman. Almost there." He steered them between two large stalactites. "Talk to me."
Clark mumbled something intelligible, his eyes droopy and head nodding forward.
"Talk to me, Clark. What happened?"
"L-lost my powers after—" Superman moved, trying to lift his head.
Bruce caught him as he almost knocked them both into the rocky wall. "Keep going."
He shifted the man's weight and Clark's head lolled against his shoulder, Clark's cheek cold against the crook of his neck.
"Martyr." Clark didn't respond so Bruce said it louder. They were almost there. "Martyr."
"You heard me, Clark." They both tripped and Bruce gripped him harder. "Always have to be the martyr."
He had to turn Superman toward him to pull him through the narrowest passage. "Only you'd come to an environment like this in nothing but that damn suit."
Clark's icy cold face was half-pressed against him, hard enough to feel Clark's small smile, then a huff of air as he winced when his leg grazed a rock formation.
"Do you always have to take everything for granted, Superman?"
Clark pulled back to give him a look. His 'huh' look. Bruce knew it well. It was good to see something familiar, normal. "Yeah." Bruce said as they reached the end of the constricted, tight corridor. "You heard me." One more chamber to go. Bruce bent, groaning at the weight as he dead lifted Superman over his shoulders for a fireman's carry. "Coming to this place in nothing but that suit?"
The response was mumbled but audible. "Don't see you," Clark took a shallow, uneven breath— "in a parka."
Good. He was coherent. Just a few feet more and… "Damn it, Clark. You just charge on in. Don't plan ahead."
"Leaving that for you B—"
"No excuse—" Bruce stumbled under the big man's weight and lurched into his bivy, where his fire was almost out.
He tried to lower Clark gently, but it ended up being spectacularly unceremonious. He unloaded the man from his shoulders and Clark landed with a soft thud in an ungainly heap a few feet from the fire. Bruce jockeyed him to a sitting position.
"Talk to me, Clark." One hand on Clark, he used the other to feed the fire a handful of dried moss and bark.
Clark blinked at the billowing, sooty blaze that flared up. "Smoky."
"Yeah. Let me see your eyes, Clark." He had a moderately glassy stare, but the pupils were fairly responsive. His face was so cold, though. And still, he shook.
Bruce coaxed the fire's flames and added a precious piece of wood.
"Keep talking." He crouched next to Clark. "How are your extremities?"
"Your hands, Clark, your hands." Bruce reached for him. Took Clark's hand between his own two. "You know this. Hands and feet, hypothermia." Clark's hands were like ice. "Can you bend your fingers?"
Clark didn't even seem to hear him. He just stared at Bruce, lips curving into a smile.
"Fingers! Can you feel—" He rubbed Clark's large hand roughly.
Clark squeezed back, just a little. Then harder. Smiling at him like he was a half-wit, slowly his mouth formed three words. "I found you," he finally said.
"Great job, Clark." Bruce couldn't keep his own eyes from crinkling at the corners. "Now we're both stuck here. How are your feet?"
Clark shrugged, still smiling faintly.
Clark looked down, then slowly reached for them. He wasn't moving fast enough, so Bruce grabbed his boot, pulled. "I do not want to perform an emergency amputation, Superman!" He yanked one off. Clark's foot was red and swollen.
"Wiggle your toes, Clark."
Clark just blinked, eyelids sagging, head lolling forward.
Bruce grabbed Clark's face with both hands, one on either side, and shook him. "Wiggle your toes." He growled it in his command voice, and something must have gotten through because Clark complied.
Bruce swallowed, breathed in then out. He still held Clark's face in his hands. "What were you thinking, Clark?"
He didn't expect an answer and he didn't get one. Not for a moment. Then Clark reached out unsteadily. "I found you," he said, his speech slurred. His hand, still trembling with cold, grazed Bruce's face. It was like being pawed by a drunken polar bear.
Bruce swatted it away.
He glared at Clark, pulling off the man's other boot. "Can you feel this?" He pinched Clark's big toe, hard.
"You need a shave, Bruce."
"Thanks for the critique, Clark."
"You look terrible, Bruce," Clark said. But he was smiling when he said it. A smug, self-satisfied smile.
"Did you even tell anybody where you were going? Where we are?"
Clark shook his head dumbly.
Bruce let out an exasperated huff and hauled him up. "Time to get these clothes off, Superman."
"But I'm cold—"
"Your suit's wet. Come on."
Clark didn't exactly fight, but he didn't help either. Bruce got the lower half of Clark's suit down, then pushed him back, leveraging the clumsy, half-frozen man back to sit on the cot he'd lashed together weeks ago from the hide of a carcass.
He left Clark's jock where it was and yanked at the top-half of his suit. Lacerations across his hands and lower arms. Bite marks, scrapes. "Wolves?"
Clark just nodded, his teeth still clacking together. Bruce wrapped his cape around him again and rubbed his shoulders like a boxing coach. "Better?"
Clark nodded so Bruce let him be and spread out the red and blue suit to dry as best he could.
When he turned back, Clark was still trembling, so Bruce grabbed the edge of the cot and dragged it closer to the fire. He reached for the other pelt he'd harvested and draped it over the man, layered it over Clark on top of his own half-shredded black cape.
"We have to warm you up, Clark. Lie down."
Clark looked like he was still trying to parse the command when Bruce went ahead and shoved him prone. "Turn on your side," he said, rolling him to his right.
Clark wrinkled his nose, cheek against the rough surface of the cot. "Stinks," he said.
"Be glad you don't have your super-senses, then." Softer, he added, "I don't smell so good myself." Bruce climbed onto the cot next to Clark. It was small. Too small, but Clark needed the body heat and if he turned on his side—there. He could put his chest against Clark's shivering back, warm his icy skin. He finagled—it wasn't easy, but he slid his left arm under Clark, between the cot and Clark's body, around his right shoulder.
"You do stink," Clark said. His teeth were still chattering.
"Shut up, Clark." Bruce tossed his other arm over the freezing man. The shaking slowly subsided and Clark's breathing deepened. Finally Bruce let himself fall asleep too.