a/n: A little bit of info about this fic. It's my first full-length SuperBat fic, which is a bit unnerving, and it was written for the SuperBat Big Bang. All I know about Iron Man and the Marvel Universe I learned from the Iron Man movie, therefore, I don't know much at all. This turned out quite cracky, not at all the serious I intended. Oh well. It was fun. Not as polished as I'd like, but I'm satisfied with my first attempt.
I also made the mistake of trying to write this entire thing in Superman's POV. Because I'm a masochist like that, I suppose. Anyway, I hope that you like it. Special thanks to tmelange for volunteering to beta this monster of a fic for me and providing some much needed feedback. And thanks to darke_wulf who's bunny I picked up off the farm!
Pairing: Superman/Batman, implied Batman/Iron Man
Characters: Superman, Batman, Tony Stark/Iron Man, Wonder Woman, Wally West/Flash, John Stewart/Green Lantern, J'onn Jonzz
Universe: Amalgamated, leaning toward DCAU Justice League
Warnings: AU-ish, kinda crossover, slash, smut, crack
Description: In which the man who's faster than a speeding bullet is pretty slow on the uptake. Bruce corrects this problem the only way he knows how: by being smarter than the average bat.
Title borrowed from the phrase, Possession is Nine-Tenths of the Law.
Why is it, Superman wonders, that villains never learn? What drives their single-minded determination? What convinces them that this time they'll succeed? Even when it's painfully, pathetically obvious that their most recent contrived and pointless plan has been ill-fated from the start.
If there's one thing that Superman can always count on, it's that Lex Luthor will come up with something devious, and vow retribution upon his defeat. It's practically a cosmic rule at this point, though that doesn't make the tediousness of facing Luthor one more time any less tiresome.
And, as usual, Superman and the rest of the Justice League have been drawn into the villain's typical Saturday afternoon and have banded together to put an end to Luthor's nefarious plot. It has something to do with an elaborate mechanism that is supposed to further his goal of world domination and defeat Superman in the process.
Glancing askance at the smoking heap of wreckage, courtesy of Hawkgirl, Superman is not entirely sure what Luthor's Weapon of Doom used to be before she smashed it to pieces. It may have once contained Kryptonite, but Batman has already nullified that particular threat, his snarled demand that Superman "stay out of it" really just a charming bonus. This whole plan had been of Batman's making, since he had overridden Superman's original plan to go in and bash everything to pieces on his own.
Wonder Woman is handling crowd control, Green Lantern is disposing of the other radioactive bits, and the Flash is doing what he does best, regaling the media with the ins and outs of their heroic exploits. J'onn, up on the Watchtower, is their eye in the sky.
In the background, Luthor's noisy rant about meddlesome superheroes and how Superman will pay some day rings in Superman's ears, but he's grown pretty adept at tuning out Luthor's whining over the years. He barely pays any attention to it anymore. Amusingly, neither does the media.
"Are you going to help with the clean-up or are you too busy posing for the cameras?" Batman asks, his words sharp, but his tone hinting of amusement rather than disdain.
Superman's lips twitch. "I'm supervising."
"I see." Batman's gaze flicks past him, to the pile of scrap that is Luthor's newest robotic adversary recently brought low by Superman. Well, Wonder Woman helped. "Let me guess, lasers from the eye sockets?"
Superman twitches his right arm, where his suit is singed. Possibly. "It tingled."
He can see the play of emotion on Batman's face, for all that only his lips and chin are visible. He's trying his hardest not to make light of Luthor's defeat, but sometimes, it is quite ridiculous.
"He must be getting desperate," Batman finally says, and turns, staring in the same direction as Superman, both of them watching smoke curl from the smashed remains of the weapon meant to kill Superman. "I've seen better plots from the Mad Hatter."
Superman chuckles. "Sooner or later, he'll realize he can never outwit the Batman."
"My hope is for sooner rather than later."
"Maybe he's losing his edge?"
Batman glances at him. "Or maybe he's gearing up for something that we all should fear. I wouldn't put it past Luthor."
Flash wraps up his recap, and Green Lantern has most of the wreckage contained, which means that the need for the Justice League's presence is nearing its end. Time to head back to the Watchtower until the next moment of Earthly peril.
"And another victory draws to a close," Superman says and shifts toward Batman. "I'm heading back. Need a lift?"
Batman reaches for his utility belt. "As much as I love the idea of you carrying me, I have it covered."
Superman hears the Batwing's approach before he sees the aircraft appear in the sky above them, out of thin air like the rest of Batman's seemingly endless array of specialized equipment. Superman often wonders why the rest of the world hasn't connected Batman's many toys with Wayne Enterprises' advanced technology and science. But then, Superman's only disguise is a pair of glasses and a change in his outward demeanor. Fool 'em with the obvious, he supposes.
"Clean up that robot before you go," Batman says, and before Superman can so much as protest, he grapples up into the Batwing and speeds off into the bright afternoon, leaving the rest of them to deal with what remains of clean-up duty.
Superman snorts. Hypocrite. But he's not really offended.
He watches Batman until the Batwing is little more than a dark speck on the horizon, and then turns to do as he's been ordered. He had planned to dispose of the robot anyway. Fair is fair, and he can't expect Green Lantern to take care of all the mess. Luthor is Superman's archenemy, after all.
He passes by Wonder Woman, who is giving him an odd look, her expression a mixture of curiosity and amusement, as though she knows something he doesn't.
"What?" Superman asks.
She shakes her head, lips curving into a smile. "It's nice when teammates get along, isn't it?" she asks enigmatically, and then leaps into the air, joining Hawkgirl in the sky, the two of them likely headed back to the Watchtower now that the crowd is dispersing, the citizens returning to their daily routines.
Honestly, sometimes Superman doesn't understand the other members of the Justice League. For all that they are fighters for justice, they are also a motley assortment of personality quirks that can try the patience of any Boy Scout, as Batman so helpfully calls him.
Shaking his head, Superman puts aside Wonder Woman's odd comment and sets himself to cleaning up the rest of Luthor's mess.
Superman is the last to return to the Watchtower, and though he wants to make a beeline for the showers, he stops in the main monitor room first. Washing away the stink of scorched metal and frayed wires will have to wait until he checks in with J'onn, on the off chance that some other supervillain has decided to make a nuisance of himself now that Luthor's been taken care of.
He rolls his shoulders to ease out some kinks and heads to the main hub, passing the Flash as he does so.
"Batman's already here," the Flash says as he lifts a hand in greeting, but doesn't stop to chat.
Superman blinks. "Thanks," he replies, though he's not entirely sure why Flash feels he needs to know that.
Filing away the second weird statement of the day, Superman continues to the center of the Watchtower, looking to the platform just above him where a huge computer and numerous screens take up the majority of the space. Unsurprisingly, J'onn is in the middle of it, eyes fixed on the monitors as he easily keeps track of current events. Batman is standing next to him, also focused on the screens.
There is a third person as well, perched on Batman's right side, and Superman draws to a surprised halt.
Stark. Iron Man. What on Earth is he doing here? Shouldn't he be in Los Angeles chasing after loose women and occasionally taking on whatever villain is brave enough to don a mask?
Instead he's here, face plate lifted as he chats with Batman, who doesn't appear to be paying him a bit of attention. Instead, Batman's attention is solely focused on one of the monitoring screens, which is replaying the recorded events from the earlier battle.
Superman's eyes narrow.
As if he has some sixth sense, Iron Man turns and spots Superman standing there. A big grin takes over his face, and he lifts his hand in a wave.
"Superman!" he exclaims with glee, hopping down with a clank of metal on metal and strolling toward Superman as though they've been lifelong friends. Which couldn't be further from the truth. "Just the man I wanted to see!"
"Why?" Superman asks, unable to help his suspicion. Stark's never come here looking for him before. And he isn't the sort to ask for help.
"I thought we could have a chat."
Stark nods. "I watched the footage of your fight with Luthor's robot earlier today. It went down pretty easily, didn't it?"
Stating the obvious, much? "Yes," Superman replies, and glances around, wondering if there's anyone who can take Stark off his hands. He can't really explain his dislike for Iron Man; there's just something about Tony Stark that rubs him the wrong way. "Which is a nice change of pace."
"I'll say." Stark leans in closer, as though sharing some secret that only the two of them should be privy to. "You and Bats make a pretty good team, you know. Nice little balance there."
Superman feels a tic developing behind his left eyebrow, though he's not sure why. Where is Stark going with this? "So I've heard."
Stark laughs, too loud, the sound echoing around the open space of the Watchtower's main room, loud enough that both Batman and J'onn glance down at them. "You two have a thing, right?"
Superman blinks, for a moment utterly speechless. "I... what?"
Stark winks at him, jabbing Superman with his elbow like they are old buddies. "Don't play dumb with me, Superman. You know exactly what I mean."
On the outside, Superman works his jaw with every attempt to reclaim his composure. Inwardly, Clark Kent can't get past his speechlessness. He and Batman – Bruce Wayne – in a relationship? The idea of it is absurd, improbable, impossible. Where in the world would Stark get a crazy notion like that?
"It's a stretch to say we're friends, Stark," Superman finally manages, allowing himself only the briefest glance up at an oblivious Batman. "To imply anything more is... well, it's rude."
"Yeah, Bruce likes to play the block of ice card," Stark replies, tapping his chin with one metal-covered finger. "Then I guess you won't mind if I make my move."
His move? He can't be serious.
Superman straightens to his full height, which admittedly, is shorter than Stark while he's wearing the Iron Man suit. "I'm not the one you should be asking. That's Batman's decision to make."
"I have your permission, then? Good." Stark grins, looking like Superman's just handed him the world on a silver platter. "I'd hate to step on anyone's toes. Especially yours. I'm not sure Iron Man can stand up to the Man of Steel."
He claps his hand on Superman's shoulder, metal a noticeable weight that Superman glares at, half-tempted to use his heat vision to remove the offending appendage. Luckily, Stark offers no more inane comments. Instead, he pats Superman companionably, and then strolls away, whistling, of all things, with a strut in his step.
Superman doesn't have to watch Stark leave to guess where he's going, but Superman does so anyway. Sure enough, a quick leap upward and Stark returns to his position at the monitoring station above, perched next to Batman's clueless side. No doubt to flirt and wheedle and generally make his interest known.
Superman isn't sure what to think about that, though it's not his place to have an opinion either way. If Batman actually takes Stark's flirtations seriously, it has nothing to do with Superman. No matter how much he doesn't like Tony Stark.
A week passes and Superman all but puts his conversation with Tony Stark behind him. It's easy enough. He has little contact with Iron Man as it is, and he certainly has better things to do than waste time pondering Stark's sudden interest in Batman. Clark Kent has articles to research and write; Superman has petty crimes to handle.
Of course, a week is too long for any supervillain to remain quiet or for the world to be safe from possible destruction or domination. When the call comes from Batman – currently on monitor duty – that Grodd is wreaking havoc in Washington DC, Superman is more than happy to respond.
By the time he extracts himself from a meeting with Mr. White and arrives on the scene, the other members of the Justice League have the situation well in hand. Like Luthor's pitiful attempt a week prior, Grodd's plot to take over the United States by hijacking the nation's power grid is just as easily foiled.
Honestly, it's like the villain's aren't even trying anymore. Which makes Superman wonder if that means the universe is only setting up the Justice League for a battle twenty times as difficult, where more than Earth is at stake. It has happened before, and if there's one thing Superman wants, it's to never face Darkseid again.
With nothing left to do, either against Grodd or as Clark Kent, Superman hitches a ride with the rest of the Justice League on the Javelin back to the Watchtower. The sound of Tony Stark's laughter greets his arrival. A twitch races through Superman's frame as the raucous sound grates in his ears.
Once again, Iron Man has made himself comfortable where he has not been invited. How does he keep getting up here?
"Oh," Wonder Woman says. "It sounds like Iron Man is visiting again."
The Flash snickers. "I guess he doesn't have anything better to do than bother Bats."
Superman chooses to ignore both of them, easing away from the other members of the league, making a beeline for the monitor hub, where he can make out the flash of gold and crimson metal as it stands next to the shifting shadow that is Batman. Stark's metal-covered feet make a staccato of noise as he keeps changing position, nearly circling around Batman.
Whatever he's saying is a blur of words to Superman, who doesn't care so much for the content as he minds the fact that Stark is here to speak it.
"I think it's better this way," Stark is in the middle of saying as Superman approaches. "I don't have to deal with trying to hide my identity and when I have to leave a meeting early, I just have to claim superhero duty."
"Convenient," Batman replies, and try as he might, Superman can't detect much of anything in Batman's tone. Is he bored? Interested? It's so hard to tell with Batman!
"Very." Stark nods sagely and with that same weird sixth sense, notices Superman coming toward them. "Hey, Supes. Looking good out there."
"Why are you here?"
Well, Clark, good job. Dart straight through anything polite (or subtle for that matter) and head right for the rude demands. Ma Kent would be ashamed of him.
Stark, however, is nonplussed, doesn't even blink at Superman's abrupt query. "I just thought I would keep Batman company." He tilts his head, mischief glinting in his blue eyes. "Why? Am I not allowed?"
"Don't you have a company to run?"
Stark smirks. "That's what Pepper's for. She's an invaluable asset."
A cowl-enclosed head turns, giving Stark a sideways look. "You are incorrigible," Batman says.
Does Superman detect a hint of fond humor there?
"Aww, I know you love me anyway."
A twitch develops in Superman's right shoulder, travels down his arm, and makes his fingers spasm. "If you have no true business here, then maybe you should return to Los Angeles. Here, we actually have work to do."
Stark gasps in that fake way that people do when they're pretending to be contrite. "Why Superman, I would never waste the Justice League's time."
"Really." His tone is flatter than a sheet of paper.
Stark shrugs with a creak and groan of metal and gears. "But I can see you have things to discuss, so I'll be on my way. Bats? Catch you later."
Stark waves one hand through the air and then walks past Superman as though he hasn't a care in the world, whistling all the way. Each metallic clank of his stride seems to echo in Superman's ears, like the annoying buzz of a mosquito in late summer.
"I didn't realize the Watchtower was by invitation only," Batman says, his low-pitched voice breaking through the aggravating echo of Stark's footsteps.
Superman shakes himself out of his irritation and shifts his attention to Batman. "That's not what I meant," he says, and takes up a position at Batman's side, ironically where Stark had just been standing. "But if he's spending all his time here, I can't see where he's making himself useful anywhere else."
Batman makes a noise in his throat, a cross between a thoughtful hum and a disbelieving snort. "You really don't like him, do you?"
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to." Batman's lips twitch as though he's holding back his amusement. "I never thought I'd see the day the world's biggest Boy Scout would dislike someone without good cause."
Without good...? Superman clenches his jaw. It's safer to just change the subject. He can't remember the last time he won a discussion with Batman, so it's better just to cut his losses and move on.
"Anything interesting happening down there?" Superman says instead, perfectly casual as he leans forward and scans the surrounding monitors.
Batman doesn't comment on his evasion of the previous topic. "For once, all is quiet."
"It won't last for long."
"Good thing we're watching then."
Some of the irritation bleeds away; Superman grins.
True to form, the quiet lasts only as long as it takes for the world to get comfortable again. For some broken cities to rebuild, some innocent citizens to breathe a sigh of relief. Clark manages to visit Smallville, spend some time with his folks, and turn in a few of his assignments without racing the clock.
Superman, in a rare moment of a city safe from peril and a planet not under the threat of an alien invasion, decides a trip to Gotham is in order. Batman had mentioned something about improvements he made to the Batcave, and now is as good a time as any to check them out. Batman's ingenuity never fails to impress, after all.
Like the Fortress of Solitude, the Batcave houses an eclectic collection of artifacts, villain memorabilia, outdated Bat weaponry and equally outdated Batsuits, framed newspaper articles, photos, and more. Superman could easily spend hours wandering from one glassed enclosure to the next, slowly taking in the history of the Dark Knight, and never find himself bored.
Today is no exception. Superman lets himself in by way of the Batwing's concealed outlet and flies through the twisting corridor straight into the Batcave. He passes a flock of bats, but they barely stir, probably used to the comings and goings by this passage.
Anticipating the conversation soon to come – sure to be rife with plenty of snark and wit – Superman grins and heads for the Batcomputer, the place he's sure to find Bruce whenever Batman is not on patrol or relentlessly subjecting himself to some sort of training. Where the rest of the Batclan is, Superman can only guess.
Batman, however, is not alone.
This is starting to occur with annoying frequency.
"My offer stands, you know," Tony Stark says from where he's perched atop one of the Batcomputer's consoles, feet swinging like a child's. "I could build you a suit."
Batman snorts, swinging around in his chair and scooting over to a different keyboard, pulling up some kind of spectrographic image. "If I needed one, I'm sure Wayne Tech is capable of providing one."
"Not like mine."
Batman tosses Stark a look, one that Superman well-recognizes – barely concealed humor. "And so modest."
Red and gold-plated legs kick out again. "Well, I try."
Superman clears his throat noisily, anything to cut out the inane banter. "Am I interrupting something?"
Stark's head whips toward him, faceplate snapping closed. "Nope. I was just leaving." He hops down from his perch and waves at Batman. "See you at the charity dinner tonight, Bruce."
Batman makes a noncommittal noise of agreement. He doesn't appear to notice or really care that Stark is leaving, ironically using the same path Superman had taken to enter.
He watches Stark leave, fighting to keep his heat vision from searing the Iron Man suit on it's way out. Never has the phrase "glare hot enough to shoot lasers" been so true.
He blinks, Batman's query capturing his attention.
"Did you need something?"
"You let Stark into the Batcave now?" he asks, tearing his gaze away from the exit and striding toward both the Batcomputer and Batman, the latter whirling around in his chair to look at Superman. The fact that he has his cowl pushed back is somehow icing on the cake.
Clark is well aware that Stark knows Batman's true identity, and he suspects Stark knows Superman's, as well. It galls him that Bruce thinks the flighty egotist is capable of keeping such a secret when he hasn't bothered to conceal his own identity. Besides, Clark is the only member of the Justice League who knows Batman's alter ego.
They trust each other like that. They are friends and battle companions. They are the World's Finest, their relationship something special to Clark. He likes it that way.
He does not like Tony Stark sashaying in where he's not wanted. Why? Well, Clark hasn't been able to put a finger on the reason for that yet.
"Last time I checked, it was mine to offer," Bruce says, his voice rich with humor and succeeding in dragging Clark out of his conflicting thoughts.
"Yes, but I didn't think you'd be so quick to invite just anyone," Clark retorts, folding his arms over his chest.
Bruce arches a brow. "I invited you, didn't I?"
"Oh, ha ha." Sometimes, Bruce's humor chooses to make an appearance at the most inconvenient of times.
Drumming his fingers over his bicep, Clark tries another tactic, peering at Bruce pointedly, as though his X-ray vision can see more than just blood and muscles and bone. "I didn't think he was your type."
"Type?" Bruce frowns, elbows settling on the arms of his chair as he laces his fingers together. "We're merely friends, Clark."
Friends? Since when does Bruce, much less Batman, admit to having friends? It was hard enough getting him to acknowledge that he and Superman had something like a partnership!
Is Bruce truly interested in a lazy playboy like Tony Stark? Honestly, Brucie might play the role, but Stark literally lives it.
Clark's thoughts spin with impossibilities, and he grasps for logic. "You're not actually considering a suit, are you?" he asks, because that would just be another straw to break the camel's back. Truly.
Batman doesn't need special powers or advanced technology suits. Gotham doesn't need an Iron Man. Gotham needs Batman exactly the way he is.
"And if I was?" Bruce asks.
Clark stares at him. "You aren't serious."
Bruce shrugs and lowers his hands, whirling back toward his computer console. "It's a valid option. Did you come here for a reason?"
Typical Bruce. Clark might as well consider the conversation closed. There's no point in pressing Bruce about it. If he doesn't want to talk, he simply won't.
Clark sighs as he unfolds his arms and steps up beside Bruce. "I can't visit?"
"You have a city to look after." Gloved fingers execute a tapping cadence over his keyboard, numerous scrolls of information appearing on the screens. The one closest to Bruce has a twenty-four hour news cast with the captions on.
"So does Stark."
"So do I." The keyboard tapping pauses as Bruce's head tilts toward the newscast, something catching his eye. A contemplative noise rises in his throat before he swivels the chair around and stands, hands lifting to secure the cowl over his face.
Ah, trouble in Gotham. Superman would offer to help, but he's learned his lesson on that front. Best to render aid only when asked, when it comes to Batman and his city. He's rather possessive about Gotham. In fact, Bruce is possessive about a lot of things.
He still hasn't allowed Clark a ride in the Batmobile. So what if he can fly anywhere he wants to go? It's not the same thing as riding in the famous Batmobile. Not at all.
"If you need me, you know where to find me," Batman says as he heads for the Batmobile, doors and such opening automatically for him.
Superman watches him leave, tearing out of the Batcave with a roaring rumble of powerful engines.
He has time to sit and chat with Stark, but a friendly conversation with him is too much? Since when did this start becoming the norm?
Superman shakes his head, fighting back his frown. There's no reason for him to be so bothered over this. So why is he letting it get to him?
He's here for business, but all that Clark can focus on is the sight of Stark hovering next to Bruce all evening. They walked in together, they stood on the dais together, and Stark stood at Bruce's right elbow as Bruce gave his speech. Then they switched, with Bruce never far from Stark for the man's entire address.
Clark knows he should be paying attention, taking notes on what they are saying, committing them to memory so he can write his piece for the Daily Planet later, but his mind is everywhere but on work right now. He hovers on the edge of the crowd of the rich and pretentious, glad for his height, and watches Bruce and Stark with eagle eyes.
They each have a glass of expensive wine in hand. Stark has been downing them one after another all evening. Bruce makes a show of drinking, playing up his Brucie persona, but Clark is probably the only one who realizes he hasn't drank a drop. They're smiling and laughing together and though Clark knows that this is Playboy Bruce and not the real Bruce, something inside of him clenches nonetheless.
Clark mindlessly reaches for one of the delicate appetizers on the buffet table, nibbling on a cracker slathered in a pungent cheese. Too strong for his tastes, really. He grabs something else – fresh, cubed fruit. Simple, yet effective. Clark nibbles, deftly avoids crashing into one of the partying few, and never takes his eyes off Bruce.
Stark is laughing as he says something, leaning in close to Bruce. His hand is on the small of Bruce's back, his other hand gesticulating wildly with his empty wine glass. He doesn't need to hear them to guess that Stark is relaying some wild story or another.
Bruce is leaning in toward Stark, completely at ease, completely comfortable. And while it is Playboy Bruce present right now, Clark still expects to see Bruce subtly edging away, putting distance between himself and Stark's wandering hand.
But Bruce doesn't.
"And why, pray tell, are you lurking behind the cream puffs?"
Lois' voice, suddenly in his right ear, makes Clark startle in surprise, prompting him to drop his plate of nibbles. He adds in a stumble, for the sake of Clumsy Clark, and mourns the loss of his careful selection.
"L-lurking?" Clark repeats, adjusting his glasses with one hand as he crouches to clean up his mess.
Lois smirks. "Yes, lurking. As opposed to mingling which we both should be doing right about now. Fluff piece, remember? Since we're both in the dog house with Mr. White."
He remembers. "I'm observing," he says, rising to his feet with the gathered remains of his plate and snacks. "You can learn a lot from standing on the sidelines, Lois."
She snorts inelegantly. "Not as much as you can learn from being in the middle of the action, Smallville."
Oh, how he knows. She has a knack for putting herself in the middle of danger. And rarely is she repentant about it.
"Right," Clark agrees. "I'll just go... mingle then."
Lois pats him on the shoulder. "You do that." Her reprimand delivered, she dives back into the crowd with a sway of her hips and her eyes locked on her next prey – ahem, individual for interviewing.
Shaking his head, Clark gets rid of his trash, grabs a drink to occupy his hands, and looks into the crowd. Stark and Bruce are noticeably missing. When did that happen? Where did they go?
Not the buffet. Not the dais. They aren't shaking hands with any of the movers and shakers that Clark can see. He can't imagine that they visited the bathroom together.
There. On the balcony. Together. Alone and together.
Clark feels a tremor run through him.
The door is open a crack, as though the want to listen to make sure no one starts looking for them, but for the most part they are isolated together. Bruce is leaning against the railing, elbows braced on the edge as he looks out at the city. Stark stands beside him, uncomfortably close in Clark's opinion, arm pressed to Bruce's arm.
Once again, he could easily listen to what they are saying, but part of him balks on blatantly eavesdropping on their conversation. Bad enough that he's watching them through the glass. If Bruce is serious about this... well, he'd never forgive Clark the breaching of his privacy.
Stark leans in closer, lips brushing Bruce's ear as he says something, and the sound of shattering glass echoes around Clark. Something cold drips over his fingers. He blinks, looks down, and realizes that the noise had been him. Fine glass tinkles to the floor, wine dribbling after it, and now, people are staring at him. Great.
Also, Lois is now heading his direction.
"Clark," she says as he drops down to his knees to once again clean up his mess, "I said go out there and mingle, not make a mess and attract attention to yourself."
The burn that spreads into his cheeks is only half-faked. "I know," Clark says, dabbing at the wine with a napkin and carefully gathering the bits of broken glass.
"What is with you tonight? It's like you're not even half here." Lois pauses, tapping her chin with her finger. "Then again... sometimes you're so out there it's like you're on another planet so maybe this is normal behavior."
Clark ignores her, disposing of the broken bits of wine glass and smiling sheepishly at the curious bystanders. Fewer people are staring than before, but still, they act like they've never seen someone break a glass before. Granted he'd crushed it with his fingers but they don't know that.
"I'm fine, Lois," he says, sweeping a careful hand over his hair. "Go interrogate someone or something."
She eyes him curiously. "And you?"
Well, perhaps it's about time he gets to actual work. Glaring through glass at Stark is obviously not doing him any favors.
"I think I could provide Mr. Kent with an interview, if he's so inclined," a voice announces from behind Clark. He stiffens; he knows that voice.
Lois leans to the left to look past him. "Mr. Stark," she replies sweetly. "You'll give my clumsy comrade the scoop, but not me? I'm disappointed."
Clark shifts and sees Stark flashing Lois one of his million-watt smiles. "I have it on good authority that Bruce is willing to answer your questions."
"Well, in that case..." Lois lifts a hand, wiggling her fingers in farewell. "I'll be on my way. Try and keep things professional, Clark."
She vanishes into the crowd, seeking out Bruce, whom Clark sees by the stage, speaking with one of the contributors. And now Clark is left alone with Stark, who's watching him with nothing short of amusement, hands casually in his pockets.
"Enjoying the party?" Stark asks.
"I'm here for business," Clark replies. "I was under the impression that you were, too."
Stark arches a brow. "Pardon?"
He steps a bit closer, lowering his voice so that no one can overhear. "You're lucky I'm the only one who saw. You need to be more careful. The last thing Bruce needs is a scandal in the form of your faces splashed over a magazine." Also, Bruce doesn't need Stark pawing at him either. In any form.
"Were you watching?"
Clark shifts, unwilling to lie but equally unwilling to tell the truth. "You know, I'm starting to think that this isn't a good idea. Bruce doesn't need the distraction right now."
Stark lifts a hand, briefly rubbing at his forehead. "Let me get this straight: you want me to back off?"
"After you gave me permission?"
Clark's shoulders sag. "I didn't need to give you permission in the first place."
"Exactly." Stark snaps his fingers in agreement. "Don't worry. I'll be more careful. The last thing I want to do is ruin Bruce's reputation. I don't want to end up on his bad side after all."
He really doesn't want to see Stark on Bruce's good side either. But Clark also doesn't have a good reason to convince Stark otherwise. Inexplicable jealousies don't count.
"Unless," Stark continues, giving Clark an odd look, "there's another reason you want me to stay away."
"No," Clark replies, perhaps a bit too hastily if he was going for nonchalant. "I'm looking out for Bruce is all."
Stark grins. "Well from now on, you can leave that to me." He gives Clark a thumbs up. "Now about that interview...?"
Gritting his teeth, Clark forces himself to focus on his job and not the pending romance between Stark and Bruce, if indeed there is one.
"Where's GL?" Superman shouts as he twists to avoid a blast from Sinestro's Power Ring.
Wonder Woman grunts as her fists slam into the nose of her own opponent, driving him back several paces mid-air. "He was called away by the Green Lantern Corp. Some emergency off planet."
"We'll just have to do this without him then," Superman says and twists around, nailing Sinestro in the chest with a blast from his heat vision.
His comlink crackles in his ear. 'Batman to air support. I could use a little help up here.'
Batman asking for help is enough of a rarity that Superman whips around mid-flight and scans the skies for him. He finds the Batwing careening toward the ground, belching smoke and tilting erratically. Seconds later, Batman ejects from the sparking aircraft, and not a moment too soon as it bursts into flame on its steady descent toward an inevitable impact.
And Batman is left free-falling.
This looks like a job for Superman. In fact, it sort of is.
'On my way,' Superman says into the comlink, and slams his fist into Sinestro's face, driving him down into an abandoned building. He turns, aiming straight for the free-falling Bat, when a rope of energy lashes around his foot, yanking him backward.
"I don't think so, Superman," Sinestro drawls and Superman slams into the pavement, concrete splintering beneath him. The blow does little more than briefly knock the air out of him, but it does take crucial seconds.
Superman shoots upward, heat vision shooting outward in a defensive spiral as he streaks toward Batman's plummeting form. That's when a red-gold blur appears out of nowhere, snatching the Dark Knight from a splattering end.
Why can't he be rid of that metal-encased nuisance?
Out of nowhere, a bright yellow mallet smashes over Superman's face, driving him back into another building with a crash of stone and a tinkle of glass. Ugh. No time to waste glaring at Stark now. After the battle then.
"No more playing around," Superman says and leaps out of the crater he'd made, more than a little irritated.
It's impolite to attack Stark for no good reason, but Sinestro is in need of a lesson in manners. And it's time that Superman ended this.
He dashes out of the way of another yellow ring construct and barrels into Sinestro, hooking him around the midsection and slamming him into concrete. A Kryptonian fist pummels a high cheekbone, knuckles grinding, and Sinestro's head snaps back.
Sinestro's down for the count. Oh, he'll wake up with the headache of the century later, but he'll live. In police custody, of course.
Bending a metal pole around Sinestro's wrists in a pair of makeshift handcuffs, Superman takes stock of the situation.
Unsurprisingly, Wonder Woman has already subdued Giganta, wrapping her up in that ever-so-useful lasso. Hawkgirl is dragging the unconscious body of her opponent by the ankle, having barely broke a sweat. And Flash is quickly collecting the pieces of the weapon he had dismantled in the blink of an eye. To keep it out of the wrong hands in the future, of course.
"That was a bit more of a challenge than usual," Wonder Woman observes as she dumps Giganta next to Superman's handcuffed foe. She dusts off her hands, a small cut bleeding on her cheek.
"It always is when they decide to join forces," Superman replies, and watches with a wary eye as Stark and Batman arrive together, the former landing and setting the latter down gently.
Batman doesn't even bat Stark's hand away or give him the glare he usually gives Superman when he decides to pluck the Dark Knight from certain doom.
"Here ya go," the Flash says, zipping up to Superman and handing him the newest danger to Earth and all humanity.
It's deceptively light in Superman's hands. "Thanks."
"I was bored!" Superman hears Stark say in the background, face plate snapping open as he grins and playfully taps Batman on the shoulder with a fist. "Besides, you looked like you could use a hand."
Superman waits for the snarled rebuff. For Batman to sneer and mutter about how he can handle things. Except that it doesn't come. Granted, Batman doesn't exactly thank Stark, but he doesn't give Iron Man the cold shoulder either.
"Huh," Flash says, fingers rubbing over his chin. "I was wondering why we were seeing Iron Man so much. Looks like Bats has a new partner. "
Superman gives Flash a sour look, punctuated by a deep frown. He does not appreciate the commentary.
Flash's hands lift, as though warding off a blow. "Just making an observation, big guy." He backs away slowly. "Oh yeah. Hawkgirl's calling me. Gotta run!"
Before Superman can so much as blink, the Flash is gone in a streak of red. His words, however, remain, ringing in Superman's ears.
Batman's new partner, huh?
It sure seems like it. What with the way Stark's got his arm slung across Batman's shoulders and Batman hasn't so much as grimaced. He doesn't seem to mind that Stark's hanging all over him.
Unlike the last time someone dared do that and Batman gave them a look so frosty that the whole Watchtower shivered. Poor Flash hasn't tried since.
He turns at the sound of J'onn calling his name, the Martian standing over Shade's device thoughtfully.
"Come and take a look at this," J'onn adds.
Anything is better than watching Stark paw Batman.
"What is it, J'onn?"
"As best I can tell it is an incomplete mind control device. Batman was right."
He always is. Except on the matter of Stark. Clearly, Batman has suffered a leave of his senses in that regard.
Superman fights back a sigh. "And whatever they were going to steal here completes it?" Though how Shade could have acquired such an item or even devised one leaves much to be investigated. Perhaps there is a new leader of the Secret Society?
J'onn nods, fingers wandering over the unlit screen and buttons as though able to divine the machine's purpose by touch alone. "You can probably infer their target."
"Or you." J'onn glances at Superman sidelong before diverting his attention to the nearly-complete Device of Doom. "We should keep this at the Watchtower."
Superman makes a disinterested noise in his throat as he shifts his weight, the change in position putting him in perfect view of red-plated fingers playfully tugging at Batman's ears. And the fact that Batman's allowing it. By all that is good, if he sees Iron Man grope Batman, he will not be responsible for his reaction. It doesn't matter that there is layers of iron and Kevlar between skin contact.
"We should just destroy it," Superman finally replies. Among other things. "Who invited Iron Man?"
"If you are asking whether or not we called for his assistance, then the answer is no."
Great. Now he's appearing on his own, to continue his quest to... how had he said it? Put the moves on Batman? At the time, hen had thought Stark's interest a lost cause. He hadn't thought Batman would even give Iron Man the time of day. Nor for Bruce to allow Tony Stark to get within touching distance while wearing the cape. (In the guise of Bruce Wayne is an entirely different matter. He is aware that they are business partners, of a sort.)
Apparently, he was wrong.
"It would seem he is after something," J'onn continues, though Superman hasn't asked anything further. "I'm sure once he has achieved his goals – or failed to, for that matter – he will return to Los Angeles and leave us in peace."
Except for the fact that what he's after is to get under Batman's cape.
Superman barely represses his snarl. "We can only hope," he says, and whirls on his heel, turning away from the nauseating sight of Iron Man pawing at Batman. "Come on. I'll help you get this onto the Javelin." Not that J'onn needs the help, but it'll at least give him something else to do.
Iron Man is damned lucky that he doesn't follow them back to the Watchtower. No one else seems bothered by his presence, and J'onn seems confused as to why Superman keeps sending heated glares in Stark's direction.
Thankfully, however, J'onn doesn't pry and they are all able to return to the Watchtower, sans Stark, but with a seething Superman.
He helps J'onn store the incomplete mind control device in one of many triple-locked storage rooms they have on their base, and with no other emergency calling their immediate attention, Superman decides it's time to deal with some issues of his own. Namely, Tony Stark and his sudden decision to make himself a nuisance in the Justice League's business.
His first stop, of course, is Batman's little used personal quarters on the Watchtower. Batman likes to pretend that he's only a part-time member of the Justice League, but since he's here just as often as everyone else, and makes sure he has a say in every decision the Justice League makes, Superman calls bullshit. Batman likes to cling to his illusion of solitude, when the truth is the complete opposite. Why else would he have a whole Batclan?
Arriving at the door, Superman lifts his hand and raps his knuckles on the steel. A brief check with his super-hearing ensures the sound of movement inside and Batman knows good and well that he can't pretend to be out.
There's a click as the door unlocks remotely, which is pretty much an invitation to come inside. Superman does so, stepping into the dim interior. Batman rarely sets his lights to full illumination, preferring a half-light with the requisite shadows for him to skulk about. His quarters are also spartan, with none of the elements that give it a sense of personality, unlike J'onn's meditation chamber or Diana's Greek themed room.
Of course, one could easily argue that the fact Batman's room is so stark and impersonal is a distinct trait in unto itself.
Batman himself is standing at the end of the little used bed, an expensive suit laid out across the pale grey blanket. His cowl has been pushed back, hair sticking up sweaty and out of place, as though he's contemplating a change of attire. Superman knows better than that, however, as Bruce guards his identity religiously.
Blue eyes shift toward Superman with incisive curiosity. "You needed something?"
He must approach this delicately. While Bruce can, on occasion, appreciate honesty, he tends to clam up when anyone mentions his personal life. So he must be clever. He must somehow out-talk the same superhero who easily manipulates supervillains without straining a brain cell. He must go about this very, very carefully.
It would also, perhaps, be better if he thought of this as something outside the capes.
"So, when are you going to tell me what's going on?" Clark asks, which isn't quite how he intended to start this conversation. Internally, he winces. So much for delicacy.
Bruce scrapes a hand through his hair, trying to finger-comb the cowl-mussed strands into some semblance of order. "What are you talking about?" he retorts, and he sounds defensive.
Not a good sign.
Clark grapples with himself for all of thirty seconds. To ask or not to ask? Risk the rise of the Bat's wrath for the sake of his own inexplicable irritation? Or let sleeping bats lie?
He works his jaw and finally grits out, "Stark."
Bruce's attention is no longer solely on Clark. Instead, he removes his gloves and starts carefully folding the clothes he has laid out. "What about him?"
"He's not a member of the Justice League." Well, duh, Clark.
And look at that, Bruce is giving him a look that pretty much says the same thing. "Not for lack of trying on his part."
Clark taps into his meager stores of patience. "He doesn't have the dedication." And why does this feel like a conversation they've had before? Probably because it is. Granted, at the time, Iron Man hadn't been pursuing Batman in a romantic manner. Because that makes all the difference in the world.
"So you've said before. I haven't forgotten, so why are you reminding me now?" Bruce sounds impatient.
Clark inhales slowly."He shouldn't be here."
"We've established that."
"So why does it seem like I'm always tripping over him?"
Bruce turns away from the bed, moving to the dresser where his belt has been laid out flat, a few of the pouches open. "Honestly, Clark. You have better reflexes than that."
A joke? Clark really doesn't know if this is a good sign or not. Bruce's heartbeat is nice and even, so he's not furious or panicked or any other blatantly obvious emotion.
He peers at Bruce, who seems to be randomly poking through his equipment, rearranging the items perhaps. "Not the point."
"Then would you get to it already? I do have a schedule to keep."
Clark's eyes flicker to the gleaming digital clock on the wall. "It's almost dawn."
"How many times have you told me that Batman operates only at night?"
Bruce arches a brow, and Clark's not sure he can identify his expression. Amusement? Exasperation? In any case, it's not anger, so Clark's safe. For now.
"Batman's done for the night. But Bruce Wayne's day has just begun." He always refers to himself in third person like that, as though the two are separate and have nothing to do with the man standing in front of Clark right now.
If he doesn't consider himself Batman or Bruce Wayne, thenwho is he? Clark has always wanted to ask that, but it's another question he's carefully filed under the category of off-limits. Not a safe topic, that one. Besides, it's not like Clark doesn't understand. Clark Kent is as much a mask as Superman is. He doesn't even know what to call himself when he isn't playing either role. And Kal-El is not an adequate substitute.
"And," Bruce adds as he starts snapping the pouches closed before securing the belt back around his waist, "I have a meeting with Stark Industries soon."
Ugh. Him again.
"Stark," Clark repeats, his tone flat. "So it is true."
Bruce pauses in the middle of pulling on his gloves. "That I have a meeting?"
He's being purposefully impossible. This is Bruce's usual tactic when he's trying to either avoid a topic, or irritate the other half of the conversation into abandoning their line of questioning. Well, not this time, Brucie.
"No," Clark says, surprising himself with his own reserve. "That you and Stark are... involved." It's the most polite way he can put it.
Bruce shakes his head, adopting a long-suffering look as he snaps on his last glove, flexing his fingers in the form-fitting leather. "Didn't we already talk about this? Tony and I are friends, Clark."
"He takes an awful lot of liberties for friendship," Clark says darkly, before he can think to censor himself.
Stilling, Bruce shifts his gaze from Clark's reflection in the mirror, to facing Clark himself. "Liberties?"
Clark's mouth clamps shut, and he can feel his face heating. It all sounds so stupid, now that he's trying to find the right words for it. He wants to yell, point out all the times Stark has been lingering around the Justice League uninvited. How Iron Man has somehow insinuated himself into a position at Batman's side. How Stark even managed to finagle an invitation to the Batcave in a matter of days when it had taken Clark months for Batman to allow him to set foot in that dank cavern.
He folds his arms over his chest and huffs. Bruce is staring at him, demanding clarification, and Clark can't seem to force his own ridiculous behavior into the light.
He wants to know why Batman doesn't seem to mind Iron Man touching him all the time. Or why Bruce doesn't care either. Why he seems to invite it, even.
And it all sounds ridiculous to Clark, without him vocalizing his thoughts. It sounds juvenile. It sounds like he's complaining because someone took away his favorite toy. It sounds... like he's jealous.
Wait a minute. Jealous? Of Tony Stark?
No, Clark decides, that's impossible. He has no reason to be jealous of Iron Man or Stark. It's a well known fact that Superman and Batman are close friends. Everyone in the Justice League knows that Superman is Batman's back up and even Batman should know that he is Superman's closest friend. After all, hadn't Stark asked permission? Hadn't Clark given it?
Except, that he couldn't have seen this coming. Never in his right mind would Clark have believed Bruce would actually fall for someone like Stark. It's just... anathema to Clark. He actually thought nothing would come of it. Not that it was Clark's permission to give in the first place, except where it was.
Because Superman and Batman are the World's Finest. Not Batman and Iron Man. Not Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark.
It was Superman and Batman long before it was anyone else. Long before the Justice League. And certainly long before Iron Man ever thought to don flashy red-gold armor. Who does he think he is anyway, barging in on someone else's territory? What gives him the right to move in where he's not wanted?
Where does he get off thinking that Bruce belongs to anyone but Clark? That Batman should be beside anyone but Superman?
Wait a minute.
Oh, Clark, you're in a heap of trouble now. This is certainly crossing into a different sort of territory, one that overpowers friendship and takes a right into something very, very complicated.
He blinks, and finds that Bruce has approached him and is now peering at him curiously. "What in the world is going on with you?" Bruce asks, sounding bewildered, leaning toward irritated. Which is Batman's default setting, really. Perhaps Clark should be worried, if Bruce is leaning more toward Batman right now.
Clark opens his mouth, prepared to say something not at all embarrassing and witty enough that Bruce will be charmed out of his steel-toed combat boots. Instead, what comes out of his mouth is "Tony Stark."
One of Clark's hand waves through the air wildly, completely of its own accord, of course. "I changed my mind," he declares, heart thumping in his chest faster than is normal as he breaks into a sweat. "I rescind my permission."
Bruce gives him a look of absolute bafflement. "Have you lost your mind?" he asks, and then his head tilts with suspicion. "Has your Boy Scout brain been usurped again?"
Clark can't fight the flush that takes over his cheeks. He may be Superman and damn near immune to all physical attacks, but fighting against mind control is a whole different ballpark. And Batman never fails to remind him of this.
"No. I'm in my right mind." If one can even call this rampant, ridiculous jealousy a sane reaction on Clark's part.
He lifts his hands, plants them on Bruce's shoulder, and crows internally when Bruce neither flinches nor immediately bats him away. Ha, take that Tony Stark!
Bruce's unflinching gaze flinches by a fraction, so little a change that Clark wouldn't have noticed if they weren't standing so close. "Is that so? Then care to explain what in the world you're doing?"
"Stark is not your partner," Clark says, and the strangest sense of victory rings through him, at finally declaring what's been hammering him across the head this whole time. "He's not because you're my partner. That's the way it's supposed to be."
There's a moment of silence that sweeps through Bruce's quarters. Somewhere, something is beeping, a little chime to attract their attention. Clark, however, is completely ignoring it, his attention focused on Bruce. Bruce who's looking back at him, blue eyes suddenly dark and coy, his lips curving into an amused smirk that makes Clark wonder if maybe, possibly, he might be in danger.
"Damn flyboy," Bruce says, his voice dropping several notes in pitch, nice and husky. "For someone who's faster than a speeding bullet, you can be really slow on the uptake."
Clark blinks; Bruce reaches up and grabs hold of his costume, right over the brightly emblazoned S. He fists blue material and jerks Clark toward him, their lips crashing together. Clark's mind bleeds white as Bruce's lips move against his, not slow and gentle, but hungry and claiming. And Clark responds with a lurch in his belly and a heat sweeping through his veins. A low rumble vibrates in his chest and something deep inside unclenches with a sense of rightness.
Yes. This is why Stark has to go. Because these lips belong to Clark.
He growls in the back of his throat, and his right hand slides from Bruce's shoulder to curl an arm around Bruce's upper shoulders, crushing the other man against him. He wants to feel Bruce pressed to every inch of him, feel the push and pull of their bodies, the beat of Bruce's heart. He wants to taste Bruce, and so he does, his tongue teasing at the seam of Bruce's lips.
Only, Bruce does not stand for teasing. His lips part and he sucks Clark's tongue into his mouth, battling with his own tongue in such a way that hints of talents that could be used elsewhere. Clark groans, blood draining steadily southward. He wants... well, he wants to drag Bruce over to that conveniently placed bed and divest him of his new attire, that's what he wants to do.
Of course, Clark's luck being what it is, that's the moment when Bruce breaks off the kiss, only to glance at the clock. "Oh no," he says, with obviously fake surprise. "I have to get going or I'll be late for my meeting."
Clark stares, slack jawed, as Bruce effortlessly extricates himself from Clark's arms and fixes his cowl back over his face, though it does nothing to conceal the kissable nature of his lips. "We'll talk about this later, Clark," he says, with an all business air as he gathers up his carefully folded suit. "Goodbye."
And then he leaves, just walks out into the corridor like he hasn't spent the last minute kissing Clark out of his senses. Clark knows he ought to chase after Bruce, but he's rooted in place. He's standing there, staring at the place where Bruce had been standing, his thoughts ping-ponging inside his head like an old arcade game.
He just kissed Bruce Wayne. Superman just kissed Batman. More, he wants to do it again. Often. Right now.
When on Earth had he decided he wants more from Batman than just their friendship? When had it shifted into needing more?
Superman turns on his heel and strides out of the room. Standing in Batman's quarters, that still smells of him, practically breathes of his residence, is not helping matters. But standing in the hallway doesn't give him room to think either. His brain is spinning a mile a minute, and of course, it's just like Batman to walk out, leaving the Kryptonian to stew in his sudden sexual identity crisis.
Footsteps in the corridor announce the arrival of another member of the Justice League. "Superman?" It's J'onn. "Is something troubling you?" It's like he planned it or something.
Superman lifts both brows. "Can't you tell?" Surely his confusion is wafting out from him in palpable waves.
"It's generally considered rude to pry without permission," J'onn says, with his ever impassive calm.
His shoulders sag. "But you do already know."
"... Yes." J'onn's eyes flicker past him to the door that Superman appears to be guarding, Batman's door, as a matter of fact. "I assume that recent events are what is causing you distress?"
If there's anyone who could possibly serve as a capable confidante on the Watchtower, it's J'onn. Of this, Superman is certain. He supposes he could also return planet-side and swoop on down to Smallville for some of Ma Kent's good old fashioned advice. Right now, that's his back-up plan.
"I wouldn't say distress, exactly," Superman replies, feeling like a child as he shifts in place. "Confused, perhaps?"
"Your confusion is not unexpected," J'onn says. "Abrupt changes in what we take for granted as the norm can often be off-putting."
Superman scoffs. "You're telling me. Since when has Batman been interested in Iron Man?"
"You believe there is genuine attraction there?"
Arms crossing, Superman frowns. "I hope not. Batman has far better taste than that."
A red blur announces Flash's arrival as he skids to a stop in front of them, gaze swinging from J'onn to Superman to Batman's door and back to Superman. He then grins and gives Superman two thumbs up.
"About time, Supes," Flash says. "I didn't think you'd ever get the picture."
Superman's jaw drops, but it seems this pearl of wisdom is all Flash wishes to provide, because he's gone again, off to do whatever it is he was intending to do in the first place. He is far too old and experienced to blush, but a bit of heat creeps into his neck and face anyway. Did everyone know?
"Would you honestly like me to answer that?"
Superman's gaze shoots accusingly to the Martian. "I thought it was rude to read minds?"
"Apologies, but you were projecting rather loudly." Funny, because J'onn doesn't really seem contrite. In fact, if Superman were to push it, he'd say that J'onn seems... amused, perhaps even a touch smug. As though he knows something Superman doesn't, as though it wasn't a coincidence that he happened to be passing by as Superman wandered out of Batman's room in a confused state.
"Superman... might I offer some advice?"
He huffs, but it's hard to hold onto his irritation. J'onn means well. "Sure." Frankly, right now Superman can use all the advice someone's willing to give him.
J'onn's lips twitch, as though he's struggling to hold onto his amusement. "You know where to find the answers you seek. And I believe he's no longer on the Watchtower."
Hmm. J'onn is absolutely right. Why is Superman standing here, stewing over the change in his relationship with Batman when he could just be asking said billionaire? He ought to head to Gotham right now, corner Bruce after his little meeting with Stark and demand answers. That's exactly what he ought to do.
Superman firmly nods to himself. That's what he's going to do. "Thanks, J'onn," he says, flashing the Martian a brilliant smile.
"Good luck, Superman," J'onn says, his words chasing Clark as he heads down the corridor.
It's time to get some answers.
He arrives in Gotham with time to spare and hovers outside of Wayne Enterprises waiting for Bruce's meeting with Stark to draw to a close. To Superman's utter relief, it really is all business, though he does have to endure seeing Stark throw his arm over Bruce's shoulders as Stark jokes with him about something that happened in their past. Well, after today that won't happen again.
After Bruce shakes hands with Stark and heads back toward his office, Superman invites himself inside by way of an open window. Like Bruce planned it that way or something. And when Bruce appears, secretary in tow, Superman makes his presence known.
"You and I have unfinished business, Mr. Wayne."
Taking the papers from his secretary, Bruce inclines his head. "So we do," he replies, and half-turns back toward the young woman. "Hold all calls, Miss Arrington."
"Yes, Mr. Wayne." Her eyes flicker from Superman to her boss and back again before she quietly excuses herself from the office, a touch of awe on her face.
The door closes and Bruce drops the papers on his desk with a noisy slap. "You were saying?" he prompts.
Clark stares at him. How on Earth can he act so nonchalant? "You were never really interested in Stark, were you?"
"Did you honestly think I was?" Bruce circles around the desk, hooking a finger in his black and grey-striped tie and loosening the knot..
"This was all part of your plot, wasn't it?"
"What makes you think I planned all this?"
"Because it's always you. You're the one several steps ahead of everyone else."
Bruce smirks, leaning against the front of his desk, one leg crossed over the other. "I should be flattered you think so highly of me."
"Every member of the Justice League knows that you are the tactical genius," Clark replies with a snort. "I'm just the one-man wrecking crew."
"Perhaps. But you are so good at what you do."
Clark's jaw nearly drops. Did Bruce just purr at him? That's it. He's getting some answers. No more dancing around the issue.
"All right," Clark says with a huff, striding forward and pinning Bruce between himself and the desk, leaving the escape artist with no room to run. "Now I know something's up. What, exactly, were you hoping to accomplish with all that acting?"
Bruce looks at him, bright blue eyes darkening with another emotion, one that matches a steady increase in his heart rate. "You haven't figured it out yet?"
Clark leans forward, placing his palms on the desktop to either side of Bruce, until their faces are mere inches apart. "I think I'm starting to get an idea."
"And I can assume by your presence here that you aren't opposed to the idea of it."
His mouth waters, for some unknown reason. "There are a lot of reason this is a bad idea."
"You won't hear an argument from me to that end," Bruce agrees, and tilts his head, somehow managing to look even more inviting. "It's just like you, Clark, to make me break my own rules."
"You have so many; it's hard to keep track."
Bruce shakes his head. "Clark?"
"Are you going to banter with me all day or are you going to help me make use of this desk?"
Heat floods through Clark, blood flowing southward and making the tight confines of his suit distinctly uncomfortable. His fingers tighten on the desk with an ominous creak. "On th-" His voice cracks and he clears his throat. "On the desk?"
"You really are a Boy Scout, aren't you?" Bruce chuckles and coils his fingers in the suit like he had earlier that morning, pulling Clark in for a steamy kiss that puts the one they previously shared to shame.
Clark groans, their bodies colliding and sending a frisson of heat down his spine. All of his earlier arousal returns full force. He rocks forward, grinding against Bruce and driving an equally hungry groan from Bruce's lips, echoing in the kiss. Bruce is as hard as Clark is, beneath his expensive and classy suit.
All sorts of thoughts percolate in Clark's brain, accompanied with images in glorious technicolor. Images of Bruce sprawled over his desk, clothes a mere memory, his hair mussed and his lips moist. Images of himself subjected to Bruce's skilled fingers, to Bruce smirking over him, to the feel of Bruce's lips on him.
Clark wants it all and then some.
Bruce ends the kiss, breathing heavy, his lips curving into a smirk as Clark tries to follow his retreating mouth.
"Allow me to show you my intentions," Bruce says, and his hands slide down Clark's chest as he ever so slowly lowers himself, down to his knees in his expensive suit.
Clark stares, breath caught in his throat, impossibly hard within his reinforced costume. Bruce's fingers tease at the hem of his pants, fingers brushing against Clark's abdomen with tantalizing closeness.
"We can't leave a mess in my office," Bruce says, peeling down said pants and drawing free Clark's rigid arousal. "What would my associates think?"
Clark swallows thickly. "I think the fact that Superman is in your office is providing enough fodder for the rumor mill as it is."
Bruce chuckles. "I'm pretty sure I can guess what they are saying."
Anything witty Clark has hoped to say in return promptly flies out the window as Bruce chooses that moment to lick a wet stripe up his length. He bucks forward, eager for more of the moist heat, but Bruce's firm grip on his hips keeps him from poking out an eye or something equally unpleasant (and amusing, but only in retrospect. Not so amusing now).
Clark hunches as Bruce sucks him into his mouth, lips and tongue working over sensitive flesh and dragging strangled noises from Clark's throat. His grip on the desk tightens, wood creaking warningly.
"Don't you dare break my desk, Clark," Bruce growls before swallowing Clark once again, taking him deep, tongue stroking down throbbing flesh.
"Not... making any guarantees," Clark gasps out as he dares look down, feeling his arousal spike as he watches his cock slide past sinful lips, taut flesh moist with spittle. His fingers dig scores into the wood.
There is something indeterminably erotic about the sight and Clark feels a shiver wrack him from head to toe. His legs wobble as he struggles to hold himself in check, trying not to choke Bruce despite how much he wants to thrust.
Bruce's mouth feels perfect and Clark's eyes slide shut of their own accord as he surrenders to sensation. To the feel of lips working up and down his arousal. The tight suction. The pressure of Bruce's mouth. The flexing of his fingers on Clark's hips. The stroke of Bruce's tongue.
A garbled sound that is neither name nor word escapes from Clark's throat as his hips snap forward, his shoulders hunching. Bruce's mouth works him just so and Clark comes, just like that, heat cascading through his body and pleasure tap-dancing down his spine. He shudders, fingers digging down, and the sharp crack of defeated wood fills the air.
Clark tries, but he can hardly feel contrite. Not when he looks down and finds Bruce pulling back, his lips wet and red, his face flushed. Not when he's casually tucking Clark's sensitive flesh back into his suit as though this were a common occurrence. And not when Clark reaches down and all but hauls Bruce to his feet, mashing their lips together in a hungry kiss.
He tastes something bitter on Bruce's tongue – himself – but again, Clark's not bothering to care. Not when Bruce is squirming against him, hands clutching at Clark's shoulders as though encouraging some form of reciprocation, which is the polite thing to do of course. And Ma had always told Clark to be polite.
Though he's quite certain this isn't what she meant.
Regardless, Clark wastes no time in fumbling at Bruce's buckle and zipper, reaching in through layers of expensive fabric to find the solid, throbbing heat of him. Bruce groans lowly, hips bucking into Clark's hand, the spongy tip seeping moisture that Clark strokes over hard flesh, slicking the way.
Clark can hear Bruce's rapid heart-rate and the quickening of his breathing. He squeezes gently, eliciting another groan from Bruce who jerks into his grasp.
"Don't tease," Bruce growls warningly, fingers clamping down on Clark's shoulder, hard enough to bruise anyone but a Kryptonian.
Clark huffs a small laugh. "What? Like you teased me for weeks?" Playing around with Tony Stark when he doesn't even want the billionaire? That's the definition of being a tease in Clark's book.
"That was strategy," Bruce grits out, trying and failing to give Clark the famous Bat-glare. It loses it's effect, however, when Bruce is flushed with arousal and his eyes are dark with need and he's thrusting into Clark's hand needily.
Clark catches Bruce's gaze, looks him fully in the eyes. "Call it what you want," he says in a low tone that he's pleased to discover makes Bruce's arousal spike. "Just admit it. This is what you wanted." And by this, he means his hand on Bruce's cock, stroking him to climax, watching the pleasure flutter across Bruce's face, hearing his low moans, while Wayne Enterprises' employees are just beyond the doors, ignorant of their boss' unprofessional activities.
"This is a start," Bruce growls, his tongue swiping quickly over his lips. "If you think I'm going to be satisfied with only a taste, Clark, then you are mistaken." His breath hitches and his hips work in rhythm with Clark's strokes, his length pulsing in Clark's grip. He looks up and their eyes meet in a ridiculously erotic tandem. "I want it all."
Did Clark ever mention that Bruce is possessive?
"You never do anything by halves," Clark breathes and leans down, crashing his mouth over Bruce's, tongue thrusting hungrily inside, eager to lay claim.
Bruce seems to share his desire, teeth and tongue working with the same urgency. His body is a flush of heat, his pulse racing faster until release overcomes his impressive willpower.
He shudders in Clark's arms, spilling liquid heat all over Clark's fingers and still Clark wants more. This is hardly the place, but oh, it's a start. It's a damn good start.
Bruce sags against his desk, looking quite pleased with himself, and digging into his expensive suit to produce a handkerchief. Clark snorts a laugh as he accepts the navy cloth and wipes off his fingers. In the meantime, Bruce carefully tucks himself away, trying to appear as though he hasn't spent the last ten minutes doing inappropriate things in his office with Superman.
"So," Clark says, not bothering to fight back his grin as he holds the damp handkerchief, wondering where he should put it. "What now?"
Bruce plucks the cloth from his hand and tosses it over his shoulder and to the left, managing to land it in the trash can next to his desk. "Now you tell me whether this was a curious one-off built upon your general possessiveness or if you'll give me everything and I can start expecting Kryptonian roses by my bedside." His lips twitch.
"You wouldn't want roses."
"How true." Bruce makes a contemplative noise. "You will have to woo me in some other fashion."
Clark laughs. "Woo? I was under the impression that I had already passed that hurdle."
"Batman can't be won so easily."
"Nothing involving Batman is ever easy," Clark retorts affectionately.
See this? This right here is the way things are supposed to be. Friendly banter between he and Bruce. Other, more pleasurable things a bonus. And no Tony Stark to interrupt and put his hands where they don't belong.
Clark shakes his head and shifts the conversation back to the starting point. "Why Stark?"
"Why not?" Bruce shrugs, but there's a calculating look in his eyes. A most Batman-like look. "He seemed the one most likely to gain the reaction I sought."
It figures. And judging from everyone's behavior as of late, the other members of the Justice League probably had a fair idea of what was going on, too.
J'onn. Great. There must be some issue of worldly peril.
Clark half-turns from Bruce and activates his comm. "Yes?"
"Though I am most reluctant to interrupt, Grodd and a small assortment of villains are stirring trouble in Central City. Flash would appreciate some back-up."
Again? Hadn't they just defeated Grodd, like, last month? That damn gorilla is as tenacious as a cockroach!
"I'll be there shortly. Superman, out."
"Let me guess: you're needed somewhere," Bruce says before Clark even has a chance to turn around.
"A hero's job is never do—mmph!"
Well. Sending him off with a steamy kiss. Clark can certainly get used to this. To the feel of Bruce pressed against him, the warmth of his mouth, the tantalizing skill of his tongue...
He hopes that there is more where this came from. Lots more.
"Go save the day, Clark," Bruce murmurs against his lips. "I'll tell Alfred to set an extra plate out tonight."
All in all, Clark thinks he must look mighty ridiculous as he flies out of Wayne Enterprises, grinning like a fool and unrepentant about it.
"It is this one time."
"Yes, I know, Bruce."
A growl forces itself out of Batman's throat before he can stop it.
Iron Man holds up his hands. "Sorry. Batman."
Behind the cowl, Bruce sighs. "Just get in the damn car, Stark." Iron Man, at least, doesn't have to worry about his secret identity.
"You mean Batmobile."
Iron Man lifts his hands again, ducking his head. "Right. Your car. You can call it whatever the hell you want." Batman can't see it, but he just knows Stark is grinning like a damn idiot. "Gonna let me in now?"
Feeling like he's going to regret this, Bruce signals for the doors to open and slides into the driver's seat. He huffs as Stark all but dives into the passenger seat and hops up and down like a schoolboy.
"Be still," Batman demands. It's like the first time he let Dick into the Batmobile; they have the same level of enthusiasm.
"Yes, sir!" Stark says with a mocking salute. "Fire this baby up, Batman. I wanna see what she can do."
Clenching his teeth, Batman starts the engine with a satisfying, powerful rumble. Stark cheers. The Batmobile roars into the night.
And with that, Bruce repays Tony's favor in full.
a/n: Feedback is welcome and appreciated! Full-length fics have a very different formula than the ficlets I've been posting so I'm interested in seeing how I did. Thanks for reading!