Chapter 1

Bruce looked awful. His eyes were hollow and shrouded and the circles under them were even darker than they normally were. It was obviously he hadn't shaved that day and his clothes were rumpled. By all appearances, he looked like a man who was just about to hit rock bottom, if he hadn't hit it already. But Bruce wasn't most men, Clark, thought, and Bruce's rock bottom was probably a little lower than most peoples'.

His hands shoved in his pockets, he sighed. He knew Bruce had heard him enter the room but he had given no indication of such. Clark knew he would have to be the first to speak and he wasn't sure what to say.

The press fallout of Connie's death had been severe. A metaphorical bomb had been dropped on the papers and tabloids and left them scrambling to write sensational stories about tragic events. Ostentatiously, Clark was there to try and get an exclusive for The Planet; in reality, he was going to try to do his best giving comfort to a man who was notorious for spurning it.

Turning towards the incubator, Clark's heart started to hurt. The baby was tiny, much tinier than newborns had a right to be, he thought. She had been moved into a special private room, at Bruce's insistence, and the hospital was under very strict orders about who to let in to see the tiny creature. It was only through a heartfelt conversation with Alfred that Clark had gained entry to the suit.

Swallowing hard, he said a prayer for Bruce's daughter and for Bruce himself. Clark knew Bruce would growl if he knew someone was praying for him, but Clark sincerely did not wish to see his friend in any more pain, and he could imagine nothing more painful at that moment than seeing this child die.

"She's going to be beautiful," Clark said, and he meant it. It was hard to see her at all, with the tubes in her nose and mouth and the little mask covering her sensitive eyes from the blue light above her, but something in her thin face make him think of Bruce. He was hard pressed to define what it was, but he knew with certainty that she was going to be beautiful.

Bruce didn't make any noise or movement and in fact gave no sign that he had heard Clark at all.

Letting out a slow sigh, Clark leaned against the door jam. "Did they say when she can go home?"

"At least six weeks," was his strained reply.

Wincing, Clark almost ran for the door. He had never heard such naked grief in his friend's voice before and hearing it from Bruce, of all people, made his heart lurch and his stomach plummet. This was the man who was a pillar of strength and stalwartness, not a man who wore grief on his face and in his voice.

"Is she…is she healthy?" How to phrase such a delicate question? Clark thought.

Bruce knew just what he was asking. Clark didn't know how to ask if the child would live, it was an uncomfortable question to form, but Bruce knew he would have asked in a much more straight forward manner. Damn Clark and his politeness, he thought bitterly.

"She'll probably live. If she doesn't contract an infection and her digestive system continues to accept the feedings, she'll live."

His voice was both resigned and relieved and Clark suddenly didn't know if Bruce was actually happy his daughter was going to survive. "I'm glad she's going to make it."

Bruce had no response for that. He wasn't sure how he felt about the creature in front of him. He certainly didn't wish her death, but he wasn't glad of her existence either.

Upon hearing no response, Clark sighed again. "Bruce…is there…" He hated himself for asking but asked anyway, "is there anything I can do?"

His head whipped towards Clark so fast it actually made the other man jump. With a snarl, Bruce clenched his fists and images of putting the Kryptonian through a wall flashed in his mind.

"What do you think you could do? How would you like me to answer that, Clark?" Venom dripped from his words and had anyone heard him, they have cowered and run from what was sure to turn into a fight.

Keeping his features carefully neutral, Clark didn't move a muscle. "I just meant…if you want someone hear to watch over her when you can't be…or if you needed extra help in the city…"

That last bit forced action in Bruce's tied muscles. Pulling himself to his full height, he stood menacingly in front of the mild mannered reporter and practically snarled.

"You keep your damn fools of friends out of my city. You aren't welcome here."

His voice was all Bat and Clark swallowed hard against the urge to actually yell at him. Damn the man, but he was infuriating. Ashamed of himself, Clark's shoulders dropped. He had just lost his significant other and been presented with a daughter. He couldn't be held to very high social standards right now, Clark thought.

As if hearing his internal monologue, Bruce growled. "I don't want your pity, Kent. Get out of here."

Bruce sat back down with finality, as if Clark would simply nod and stalk away. Instead, he took a deep breath and slowly brought his hand up to scratch the back of his head. "I'm sorry Bruce. I can't begin to imagine what you're going through right now…"

"No, you can't."

The words were low and dangerous and Clark thought he would have been writhing on the floor, had Bruce been equipped with any Kryptonite.

They were silent for a moment before Clark stirred again. "What's her name?" He wondered why he hadn't thought to ask earlier, but he wasn't sure what to say or do in this situation and he figured he was doing the best he could.

It took a moment for Bruce to answer. "Carly." Giving name to this being made her a person and Bruce didn't want to think of her as a person. He didn't really want to think of her at all. Connie was gone and in her place was this teeny being and he was bitter over the exchange.

Seeing the familiar resentment in Bruce's eyes, Clark frowned. "She's just a baby Bruce."

Fury exploded within him. He had his hands on Clark's lapels before his conscious mind had registered his moving. Slamming Clark up against the wall, he shook him once, for good measure.

"Damn you! I know what she is! I don't want your opinions or feelings or pity! Why are you even here?" With a forceful shove, Bruce stepped back and watched with a very small amount of satisfaction as Clark bounced off the wall.

Righting himself, Clark clenched his own fists. "You look at her like she's the reason Connie's gone!"

"She is the reason! Connie could have had months if it wasn't for that baby!"

He wanted to put his fist through the wall. He wanted to tear his hair out. He wanted to pummel Clark into oblivion. He did none of those things. He just stood there, his fists clenched and his posture ramrod straight, waiting for Clark to give him an excuse to hit him.

"It's not her fault she was born."

The quiet words tore through Bruce's heart and he suddenly wanted nothing more than to look himself away in the solitude of his cave and never come out again.

Blinking a few times, he turned toward the incubator. "I know that. She didn't ask for any of this. She doesn't even know she exists. She has no concept of…anything."

Putting his hand on Bruce's shoulder, Clark squeezed ever so slightly. "I am sorry Connie's not here. But that little girl needs you. She has no one else."

"Please leave, Clark."

The whisper like entreaty made Clark immediately back away. Nodding to Bruce's back, he turned and walked out. It wasn't until he was half way out of the hospital that he realized Bruce had used those words, in that particular tone, because he knew it was the only way to get Clark to leave.

Deciding not to turn back and start another fight, he continued making his way to the parking deck. No one could get Bruce to talk if he didn't want to, least of all Clark.