A/N: This is like a couple months old. There's not really any continuity. It was for the WF birthday prompt:
"Bruce permanently blinded during a hold up. Clark proposes soon after. live happily till Superman caught in explosion of Greenkryptonite and is presumed dead. therew as red kr mixed in and disfigured him instead of killing him. he lets everyone think he's dead. Bruce spends a lot of time on the beach and begins a romance with a gentle stranger...until he regains his eyesight."
Disclaimer: Nope, they don't belong to me.
Batman staggered away, hands clawing at his face. The powder that the man had tossed at his eyes hadn't been the danger; the curse that enchanted it was. He managed to dodge a punch purely by instinct, but his feet were knocked out from under him and he sprawled onto the ground. The thugs laughed at they beat at his armor, but their blows were nothing compared to whatever the man had hit him with.
"Kal," he groaned to himself, half delirious already with the agony eating away at his eyes. "Kal, help. Please, Kal."
Superman was hanging motionless above the atmosphere, staring down at the glowing earth in the infinite blackness of space. The jumbled noise of everyday life hummed in his ears as he waited for something that required his attention. Here, a dog barking. There, a teenage girl chatting with her boyfriend. Sizzling pans in a restaurant in London. The bang of a hunter's gun in a forest in Canada.
Superman closed his eyes and let the sounds of his adopted home wash over him.
And then, out of all that sound, the sounds of billions of humans and countless plants and animals, his name.
"Kal, help." Heart fluttering in his chest, he dropped like a stone, flying faster than he felt he had ever managed in his life.
And as he flew, he prayed he would not be too late.
The last thing Bruce saw was Superman descending out of the sky like an avenging angel.
Clark cradled Bruce in one arm as the thugs who had been beating him—how dare they hurt Bruce?—cowered before Superman. He felt his eyes burning as he held the trembling body gently, not with tears but with flame, and just managed to jerk his head to the side before his heat vision eviscerated them.
Control, control. He needed to regain control.
But Bruce was lying limp in his arms, his breathing erratic, heart rate skyrocketing. The sound of his cries as he pleaded for Kal was echoing in his ears.
Clark found that Superman had no control.
"Kal-El," a voice said in his head. It was said quietly but he could feel it resonating through him, centering him. He grabbed the fraying edges of his control and unclenched his fists, feeling distant pricklings of pain where his nails had dug through invulnerable skin.
Clark rubbed the ring in his pocket as if it were a talisman when they told him Bruce would never see again.
Batman was unbearable for a week after the incident. Bruce was erratic, bitter and angry one moment, accepting and cheerful the next.
Finally, Clark lost patience with the mood swings and biting comments and shocked Bruce into silence by getting on bended knee to present him with the ring that had been burning a hole in his pocket ever since he had bought it.
He was slipping the ring on even as Bruce opened his mouth to say "Yes," swallowing the word of acceptance with a kiss.
Bruce ran a thumb over the barely noticeable groove where Clark had worried at it whenever Bruce was being particularly difficult and smiled into the kiss.
Bruce found it difficult to adjust at first. His restless mind detested being trapped within the manor as his friends and husband continued with their world-saving activities. He hated sitting in the 'Cave listening intently as the computers searched for news of them while Batman snarled ceaselessly in his mind at the countless crimes—muggings, robberies, holdups, kidnappings—that were happening as he sat, useless, staring sightlessly into the screens trying to will his body to work.
He was sitting like that one day, face palely illuminated by the artificial light, when Clark found him. He knew he had promised Alfred to rest more but the constant calls from his "friends" in high society and gossip columns who wanted to know where Bruce Wayne had disappeared off to was grating on his nerves. Especially now, he hated being Brucie.
It made him feel sorry for himself.
And more than he hated anything else, he hated feeling sorry for himself.
So that day that Clark came by, he told him he was washing his hands of all this.
"What?" Clark said.
"This," Bruce said impatiently, waving a hand in the general area of the 'Cave. "The boys have Gotham handled, and my being here isn't exactly a morale booster. So I'm done. I'm going to move to some nice deserted island in the middle of nowhere and enjoy myself."
Bruce glared at the keyboard. "You know, retire and, and relax," he said, as if condemning himself to some unspeakable punishment for the rest of his life.
Clark patted his back consolingly.
They went island-shopping for the next week or so. Apparently there was some standard that had to be met in order for Bruce to be happy. Clark was just glad to spend time with him.
"No, tell me exactly what it looks like," Bruce said.
"Well," said Clark, eyeing the island. "It's like, kind of roundish. With trees. And a beach?"
Bruce rolled his eyes. "That's what you said for the past three we looked at!"
"They all look the same to me!" Clark protested.
Bruce sighed at Clark's lack of island-judging abilities. "Land on the next island."
Clark veered off towards a nice looking one, shaped vaguely, if he squinted a bit and thought of Bruce, like a bat.
"Ok, now what?" Clark asked. He sat down on the warm sand and closed his eyes.
"This," Bruce declared, and tackled Clark to the ground.
Later, as they lay on the beach together, Bruce with his eyes closed and Clark staring at the stars overhead that were almost as bright as they were when seen from space, Bruce whispered, "I want this one. It's perfect."
His hand found Clark's in the dark.
When Wonder Woman and J'onn came to tell him that Superman was dead, Bruce already knew. He'd heard it on the news.
He thanked them and told them he was going back to bed. When they didn't say anything to that, Bruce decided to pretend to think that they had left and closed the door. A soft whoosh of air a few beats later told him they had gone.
Bruce didn't go back to bed. He sat down in the living room instead.
Calloused fingers smoothed the rumpled edges of the newspaper Clark had tossed down that morning. He covered his ring with one hand.
He held the image of Superman in all his glory, bursting from the sky to save him, the last image he had of him, in his mind. Added to it the feeling of Clark smiling against his neck, fingers brushing through his hair, a warm arm around his waist.
Bruce sat motionless on the couch and wished he were still able to weep.
"Need some help?" someone said softly and Bruce jumped. He hadn't heard anyone walk up. There wasn't usually anyone on the island anyways.
"No," he said, as politely as he could manage. Which wasn't all that polite, to be honest.
The stranger didn't seem to mind though, as Bruce heard his light footsteps next to him as he made his slow way back up to their—his—house.
"Why do you live at the top of the hill?" the other man asked after awhile.
"I've always lived there," Bruce answered shortly.
"The parts that mattered," he elaborated.
The stranger was quiet for a moment. "What about before?"
Bruce stopped walking. "Before didn't matter," he snapped. Realizing he had stopped walking, he stalked off stiffly.
"I'm sorry," came the easy apology, but no less the sincere for it.
"Maybe it mattered more, to a lot of people," Bruce mused. "But After mattered to me." He trailed off, wondering why he had even spoken up.
"And now?" the other man prompted.
"Now is nothing," Bruce said flatly. The ground leveled out under his feet. Ten steps forward and up one stair to the door.
"Do you live here by yourself?"
"No," Bruce said.
The stranger waited but Bruce didn't say anything more. He'd already said too much to this random person.
"That's good," he finally said. "You shouldn't have to be so...alone."
Bruce stared at the general direction of the voice. There had been a flash of recognition. Something about the sadness in the tone that screamed at him to remember.
And then it was gone.
Bruce took the last steps to his door and paused. "Bye," he said awkwardly.
"Goodbye," the stranger said softly.
The sound of soft footsteps joined him the next morning.
"Why do you come down to the beach every morning?"
"Every morning?" Bruce glared.
"I've been watching you," the stranger admitted. Unbidden, the image of Clark ducking his head, hand rubbing the back of his neck sheepishly sprang into his head. Bruce snarled and shoved it away.
"Do you mind?" the man asked. Bruce wondered why he was still here, wondered if Batman's snarl had grown less threatening with disuse.
"Nothing I can do about it, is there?" he grunted.
"I wouldn't if you asked me not to."
Bruce considered the words for a moment and found himself believing them. When had he grown so trusting? Retirement was obviously making him lose his edge.
He nodded and the stranger seemed to understand.
They walked on in silence, the sounds of the waves pounding the shore thundering nearby. Some gulls screeched overhead and neither of them said a word.
It was nice, Bruce thought. It was nice to share his lonely walk with this stranger.
The man didn't say anything when Bruce began bringing two lunches out with him every morning.
They didn't talk much of their lives before the island, or even their lives before they'd met. Bruce never questioned how or why the man came to the island every morning while he was making his slow, careful way down the slope. The man never asked how or why Bruce was blind and living on the island.
As far as Bruce could tell, they didn't even know each other's names. The other man might have found out, of course, in his life outside of the island, but he had never called Bruce by it. They rarely even greeted each other when they met, simply falling into step with each other and continuing to walk as if the two of them had always been walking together, side by side.
Bruce felt relieved the first night he dreamed of the stranger instead of that ceaseless loop of Superman and Clark that had plagued his dreams every night, always ending with him reaching for him before everything went dark and Bruce would sit up in his bed, shivering and gasping. He woke that time with a nameless sound on his lips.
In the morning he almost decided not to go down to the beach. Almost.
Bruce thought the man was going to kiss him good night once. He touched Bruce's face and Bruce wondered at how his body hadn't tensed or flinched at the sudden contact when it still reacted with extreme paranoia at anything else because of his heightened senses from wandering in the dark for so long.
He closed his eyes and the hand brushed down his cheek in an almost-intimate gesture. And then the presence withdrew, and Bruce told himself he didn't feel disappointed as he counted the last ten steps, and one stair up, to the door.
It'd been exactly one year and thirty seven days since Bruce had met the man when he didn't show up.
Bruce sat on the beach, one unwrapped sandwich next to him, and found that he still remembered what loneliness felt like.
A woman smelling of salt and ocean depths appeared to Bruce in his dreams after a week of the man's absence, asking for help.
She approached him the next morning.
"Kal." Diana's voice, and she did not sound pleased.
Clark thought it wise not to say anything.
"We thought you were dead," she said. "And I have never known you to wear a mask."
Nearby a siren wailed as firefighters, policemen, and ERT's arrived at the scene to help with clean-up. "I thought you were dead," she repeated and suddenly Clark found himself wrapped in a fierce hug.
"I'm sorry," he whispered.
"Does Bruce know?" Diana asked when she released him.
Clark froze. "Kind of," he admitted reluctantly.
Diana's eyes narrowed dangerously, but she simply said, "I will not interfere with you two. But both of you have been through enough. Please try not to hurt him or yourself anymore."
"Now," Diana said. "Tell me what happened?"
"Later," Clark replied. "For now, we have work to do." He gazed at the grim scene spread out before them.
"We will continue this discussion later," she promised him. Wonder Woman and Superman got back to work.
"Will you help me?" the woman asked, voice low and melodious, like the ocean on a clear summer day.
"I'm sorry," Bruce said. "I can't help you. I can't see."
The woman laughed. "You don't need to see under the water. Come." She touched a hand to his heart.
Bruce nodded and walked with her into the sea.
It was a month before Clark was able to get back to the island. Finding the Justice League to warn them of the trap had taken too long, and had had to turn into a rescue instead. Ever since the battle where he had "died," he had tired more easily, and so searching through the depths of space was not an easy task.
The subsequent battle after they had been reunited had been titanic in scale and required Superman's entire attention. He couldn't help wishing for a familiar black shadow to fight alongside him; together they were unstoppable. Without him, it took almost an entire week.
When he arrived on the island, it was empty of human life.
When he stepped into their house for the first time in more than a year, the only thing that greeted him was a brightly yellow goldfish in a tank.
Clark watched Bruce step out of the ocean with the woman. They were smiling. He watched her tilt his head up and kiss him lightly on the lips. She pulled him closer and Bruce went willingly.
Clark's heart ached with a savageness he didn't know what to do with. He backed away and took off.
On the beach, the woman touched a finger to each of Bruce's closed eyes and disappeared back below the waves. Bruce opened his eyes and saw the island that had been his home for the first time.
After spending a week in his Fortress updating all the systems on the computer and doing all the little things he'd wanted to do but never got around to doing, Clark finally emerged when he'd found himself re-matching the colors of the wall hangings decorating the hallways.
"So have you seen him yet?" Diana asked him after she'd very obviously chosen not to say anything about his self-imposed exile.
"Bruce," she said. Clark sighed. He didn't really want to talk about it.
"He's back," she said slowly.
"What do you mean 'He's back?'" Clark asked carefully.
"I'm back means I'm back," the achingly familiar rasp sounded behind him and he tried not to jump. The smirk on Batman's face told him he had failed. He ignored the treacherous spike of his heart rate at the sight of that little smile.
"Where. Have. You. Been?" Batman snarled at him. Clark wondered for a brief second if he should try to bluff his way out of it, but a glance at Diana told him that that idea wouldn't be wise.
"I'll leave you two to it then, " Diana murmured and vanished. The few Justice League members nearby quickly followed suit.
"Can you take your mask off at least?" Clark asked.
"I'll show you mine if you show me yours," Bruce said silkily and Clark touched a hand to his face, which he'd forgotten was also covered in a mask.
Bruce slipped his mask off and Clark drank in the sight of his face hungrily. He raised a hand to pull his own mask off and then stopped, feeling suddenly apprehensive.
Bruce's face grew concerned. "Hey," he said softly. "What's wrong?"
Clark's fingers played with the edge of his mask as his mind whirled through scenarios and increasing in panic. Leather clad fingers gently gripped Clark's and moved them away. They hesitated under the edge, giving him a chance to pull away. When he didn't move, the cloth was lifted off his face.
Clark cast around for somewhere to look and finally settled on Bruce's eyes. They were bright now, alive in a way they hadn't been for more than a year. There had been a barrier there before, a distance that Clark could not cross.
For Bruce's part, only a slight widening of his eyes betrayed his surprise. He didn't look away, but neither did he stare in disgust.
He tossed the mask he was holding to the ground as if it offended him and reached out a hand to cup Clark's face. "I've missed you so much," Bruce admitted softly.
"I've been right—" Clark began, but Bruce put a finger on his lips.
"No, this," he said, stroking Clark's cheek. "I've missed seeing you. I accepted never seeing again. Batman accepted retiring. What we could not accept was never again seeing your eyes when you've just woken."
Clark's throat felt tight and he reached out to touch Bruce's face too, as he had not allowed himself to touch for a year of standing right at his side.
"A year of darkness," Bruce said, "and a stranger walking by my side."
He gripped Clark's shoulders and looked him at him, into him, and Clark found himself breathless by the love in that gaze.
"Good thing your requirements for husbands aren't as steep or unfathomable as your standards for islands," he commented lightly.
Bruce laughed softly. "I have one requirement, it seems," he said quietly. "He has to be you."