Disclaimer: I do not own Justice League or any of the characters in it.
Coffee is the Root of all Evil
Batman stalked into the Watchtower cafeteria, his cape swishing loudly behind him as he walked purposefully towards the coffee machine. Normally, he would have seen the need for stealth. But this, this called for swift action rather than stealth. His ribs still ached from where Penguin somehow managed to land a kick and if even Penguin could hit him, that just showed how much he needed coffee. Or maybe he just needed to train harder. But that could wait till after he satisfied his caffeine pangs. After all, he hadn't slept in two days. Besides, coffee drinking, although only temporary, was a much more time-saving alternative to sleeping. At least, that was what he kept telling himself (though he was sure a certain Amazonian princess would disapprove). Just a cup, he decided.
Superman flew into the Watchtower cafeteria, barely able to keep his feet from grazing the ground as he made a beeline for the coffee machine. Normally, he would either have flown properly or walked but today was different. He had just returned from a particularly tiring fight with Metallo and before that was tasked to evacuating a whole town due to an impending volcano eruption. All he wanted now was to feel the heavenly hot liquid flow down his throat. He knew his reliance on coffee was not exactly healthy but every time he tried to abstain from it, he either found himself nodding off during the weekly Founder's meetings or suffering from caffeine withdrawal symptoms. Besides, coffee couldn't hurt him, right? (That is, if it wasn't laced with kryptonite.) At least, that was what he kept telling himself. Just a cup, he decided.
Third person's POV
Maybe it was just a coincidence, or perhaps it was fate's little joke that both the Dark Knight and the Man of Steel reached the coffee machine at the exact same time. Both their hands reached out but froze when each of them realised someone else was there at the coffee machine.
"You first," Batman said smoothly, gesturing at the machine though Superman could not help but notice a dangerous edge to his voice.
Superman gave a slight shrug before grabbing a cup and filling it with coffee. It was barely full when the flow of coffee suddenly stopped. Superman tugged harder on the lever but there was still no sign of coffee. Frustrated, he gave one really hard pull (he's Superman so that's saying something). There was a deafening 'pop!' and the lever flew halfway across the cafeteria, embedding itself in the glass window.
"You broke it," Batman stated with deceptive calmness.
A spider web of thin cracks appeared on the window, slowly but steadily growing in size. Batman made a noise that was something between an angry growl and a sigh. He pressed the emergency lockdown button and a metal plate instantly slid shut over that window. A necessary precautionary measure to prevent the both of them and the other shell-shocked League members (yes, even the buffoon who broke the lever of the coffee machine, Batman thought irritably) from being blown out into space when that window fell apart. Superman had a sheepish grin on his face but that became an almost predatory stare (at the coffee) when he realised Batman's gauntleted hand was slowly inching towards the cup of steaming liquid. Batman raised his eyes to his and glared hard at Superman. Superman folded his arms across his chest and tried his best to glare back.
"Kent," Batman intoned in a menacing voice.
Superman kept on staring at him as he said firmly, "I really need that cup of coffee."
Batman didn't answer but from the hard stare he was giving him, Superman suspected his response would have been something along the lines of, "So do I, Superman". And somehow, still being able to make 'Superman' sound like the plague or something.
"I said –" Superman started to say but was cut off when Batman growled, "You broke it so you don't get to drink it."
He knew he sounded immature but for the moment, he couldn't care less. He smirked slightly at Superman's shocked expression. He just loved being unpredictable. Superman closed his mouth which was agape a few moments ago.
He tried a different tactic, "Do you know how tiring it is to fight Metallo? And have to deal with something as big as a volcano eruption?"
Batman pretended to ponder for a moment before replying, that annoying smirk of his growing bigger, "As I recall, I almost got strangled by him before*. The last time you were trying to slow down a volcano eruption, I stopped a kryptonite missile with a Javelin using an electromagnetic pulse and I had to lie in the medical bay for a good two days before I managed to sneak out**."
I have to admit, he does have a point, Superman thought. By now, most of the other League members had noticed the tension between the two Founders and were already edging out of the cafeteria.
Superman sighed, rubbing the bridge of his nose wearily, "Don't you have another coffee machine somewhere else, Bruce?"
Batman froze at Superman's use of his real name when he was still in costume. The look on Batman's face now could only be described as murderous. Fortunately, most of the other League members have already cleared the area or else Superman would have found himself trussed up with a dozen different-coloured pieces of kryptonite tied to him. Maybe it was due to sleep deprivation that led to his extreme tetchiness today, but somehow, Batman finally snapped.
"You're a kryptonian, heck, you're Superman! Why do you even need coffee?"
"You're the freaking Batman, why do you need coffee?" Superman shot back.
And that was how Flash found them – arguing heatedly over a cup of coffee – later on when he walked in.
"Hey, ladies, wanna go grab an iced mocha?" Flash asked with an easy grin on his face as he passed by Fire, Ice and Doctor Light along the corridor. He had just finished an hour-long session of monitor duty for the third (or was it the fourth?) time this week. Well, it really was kind of his fault that he had to do extra monitor duty, but who can blame a guy for trying to get a date with Wonder Woman? Actually, he did that mainly because he wanted to annoy Batman (though he still secretly kind of hoped that she would say yes). Well, he got desired effect number one – he had just barely managed to finish the question when a very pissed-looking Batman stormed towards him – plus extra monitor duty for the rest of the month. He shuddered at the memory of the Batglare he received.
He was jolted out of that nasty memory by Fire's rich Brazilian voice, "I – we – would love to, but…"
"We, uh, don't really feel like having iced mochas now. We just had some just now," finished Doctor Light.
The two women were smiling but they looked vaguely disturbed. Ice just looked, well… Cold.
"Okay then, your loss. Catch you later then, ladies!" Flash flashed them a dazzling but slightly forced grin before zooming off. "Am I really that bad?" he wondered aloud. "What's wrong with a funny, fast and perfectly good-looking speedster?" Flash muttered to himself, "Why is it always the dark, angsty ones who get the girls?"
He was still mumbling to himself when he neared the cafeteria. He skidded to a halt when he heard the raised voices coming from within. Maybe it's not such a good idea, he thought to himself, wincing as he heard something shatter. But his growling stomach suggested otherwise. I'll just pop in, grab some food and pop back out again, Flash thought and he dashed into the cafeteria. The sight before him made him freeze in his tracks. But he willed his feet to move, to reach the food tray, willed his hands to grab any food in sight. He actually didn't quite know what he had taken as he prepared to zoom off.
Before he could run off, however, the low, unmistakable voice of the Bat rang out from behind him, "West."
Flash gulped audibly. It was never a good sign when Batman called him by his last name. Heck, it's never a good sign when Batman called him by any name. He considered running away but he knew it would only make things worse.
He quickly placed the food back onto the food tray and turned around slowly, asking in a nervous voice, "Uh, Bats, is there anything – "
"Who do you think should get the coffee?"
Flash blinked in surprise. He turned around fully to face him and the scene before his eyes, upon much closer inspection, was actually quite comical and unbelievably funny that he didn't know whether to still be afraid of Batman or laugh really loud. Batman and Superman were standing on either sides of a cup of coffee, glaring at each other, shattered pieces of a cup on the ground between them. Oddly, the metal plate used in emergency lockdowns was covering one of the windows. Flash struggled to keep a straight face. Mentally, he was laughing so loudly he could have triggered a landslide on some mountain on a faraway alien planet.
"Look, guys, it's just a cup of coffee," Flash said as soothingly as he could, trying hard to keep the mirth out of his voice.
Batman shot him an icy glare so cold that Flash swore the temperature in the cafeteria, particularly that of the air around him, dropped by at least a few degrees. Flash swallowed nervously. Okay, wrong thing to say, he thought, definitely not the thing to say to a guy who probably relies on coffee at least 75% of the time he needed to stay awake without sleeping.
He rushed on, trying to rectify his verbal blunder, though his voice was slightly higher-pitched than normal and could be very well described as squeaky, "Uh, what I actually meant, wanted to say, to ask was… Can you guys tell me what happened? Then, then we can sort things out. Like civilised… people… ?"
The last part came out more of a question than a request because the murderous look on Batman's face clearly showed otherwise.
"Fine, I'll start first," Superman said in a definite tone that left no room for argument.
Batman motioned for him to begin. It wasn't that he was feeling particularly gracious or magnanimous today (it was actually the opposite) but he decided it would be wiser to hear what the Boy Scout has to say first before he launched into his side of the argument. Just so he would know how to counter-attack. Superman explained that he was really in need of caffeine and cited reasons such as the amount of exhaustion caused by the absolutely tiring missions. Of course, being the honest farm boy that he was, try as he might, his conscience just would not allow him to skip the part about him breaking the lever of the coffee machine.
"Whoa, Supes! You destroyed Bat's beloved coffee machine?" Flash couldn't resist asking, his eyes alight with amazement and just the slight hint of glee as he continued with his exclamations.
Superman, on his part, had a guilty expression on his face yet still managed to look a little proud of his 'achievement' all at the same time.
Batman glowered at Flash and muttered through gritted teeth, "Not. Funny. West."
Not a good sign. Alarms and warning lights went off in Flash's head and he instantly shut up after that, allowing Batman to start with his side of the story.
Unsurprisingly, Batman was very straight to the point, citing reasons in a very concise manner that only he could pull off.
It went something like: "One: No sleep in two days. Two: Worked all night to stop 4 Arkham escapees, 3 muggings, 2 thefts and 1 museum break-in . Three: Coffee = a necessity to keep me alert. Clarity of mind is the difference between life and death in my line of work."
Flash blinked. Okaaay. Looks like Bats really is serious about getting that cup of coffee. Suddenly, he was hit by a stroke of pure genius.
"!" Flash spoke so rapidly that the words melded into each other and made no sense at all to any casual listener, much less to two tired, caffeine-deprived superheroes. (True, they were part of the original seven Founders of the League but they were essentially just two rest-deprived and caffeine-deprived guys with only one cup of coffee which neither wanted to share with the other.)
Batman raised an eyebrow while Superman frowned, straining to make sense of the long string of words.
"Come again? This time at the speed normal humans can understand," Superman said, folding his arms across his chest.
Technically, Superman wasn't a normal human. He wasn't a human at all – he was a Kryptonian. But Flash thought it would be neither wise nor safe (for him) to point that out now to the impatient Man of Steel who was seriously in need of caffeine.
"Um, pour the coffee into two cups?" Flash squeaked when he realised that Superman and Batman were staring at him intently, their eyes (or lenses, in Batman's case) boring holes into him.
Before either of them could object, Flash grabbed another cup from the rack and proceeded to pour coffee from the other cup into it. He tried his best to keep his hand steady and not spill any of the precious liquid. It was quite a feat, actually, seeing as he was doing it really fast and had to fight the urge not to quiver under a full-fledged Batglare. When both cups were filled to about the same amount, he stopped pouring.
"There, all done!" Flash announced in an overly-cheerful voice.
Superman and Batman just stared blankly at the two half-filled cups. Flash sighed. Geez, for the guy who could bend steel with his bare hands and the guy who could make the most hardened criminal wet his pants with just one look (who's also supposedly the 'World's Greatest Detective), they could be just so dense at times. Flash gestured at one cup and pointed at Superman, gestured at the other cup and pointed at Batman. For a few moments, neither man made a move to take their 'designated' cup.
Finally, Batman snapped, "Fine!" and seized the cup handle. He took a swig of coffee from his cup before stalking off, all the while grimacing at the now-cold taste of the liquid. Superman relaxed visibly when the tips of Batman's cape disappeared from the cafeteria and he, too, grabbed his cup of coffee. Taking a sip, he made a face at its coldness and sighed.
"Thanks anyway, Wally. It could have turned out much, much worse," Superman said seriously and Flash knew he meant it.
"No problems, big guy, though I wouldn't want to get between Bats and his coffee ever again," Flash joked light-heartedly, though he couldn't help but shudder at the memory of Batman's glare.
Superman merely chuckled before flying out of the cafeteria, shaking his head at the absurdity of the situation he was caught in just moments ago. Later on, Flash would marvel at how the ladies whom he spoke with earlier seem to be friendlier towards him than before he helped to resolve the 'quarrel' he now dubbed 'The Coffee Showdown'.
"Ah, as Granny Flash used to say, a good deed begets another," Flash murmured to himself as he sat a little dazedly with the three women, sipping iced mocha in the cafeteria. Little did he know that the reason why they seemed to be avoiding him just now was to steer clear of the fight in the cafeteria and that he wasn't half as bad as he thought himself to be… (Author's Note: I just thought Flash deserved better. I mean, he's a really nice and funny guy. Well, he cracks a couple of good jokes. Once in a while.)
A Week Later
"Kent." Superman jumped slightly when he heard a low, dark voice call his name.
"Oh, it's you," he said, somewhat relieved but just a tiny bit annoyed when a dark, pointy-eared figure stepped out from the shadows.
Superman turned back to the many screens lining the wall in the Monitor Womb, all broadcasting live feed from various parts of the world. The League was currently spread a little thin so even Superman needed to do monitor duty. Once in a while. Besides, just because you're practically invulnerable to everything except kryptonite did not mean you could skip the boring part of superhero work. Superman found that he actually welcomed the change. It let him help others behind the scene for once, something he had mostly done out on the field. There was a short silence before a soft thump came from beside him. Superman turned his head to look and saw that Batman had set a cup of steaming coffee next to him on the table. Superman looked up at him in surprise. Batman wasn't usually the type to apologise first, or the type to even apologise at all. Well, at a stretch, that cup of coffee was sort of an attempt at patching things up.
"Thanks," Superman said and continued a little nervously, "and sorry about… The other day."
There was an awkward pause as he fidgeted uncomfortably in his seat in front of the monitor screens. Surprisingly, Batman was the one to break the silence.
"For calling me by my real name when I was still in costume?" Batman supplied, an undertone of amusement in his voice.
"Yes… That," Superman said and continued hurriedly, "and for fighting with you over…" "Over a cup of coffee," he finished lamely.
Batman nodded almost imperceptibly but didn't say anything. After a moment or so, he grunted something that sounded suspiciously like "Same here" and departed from the Monitor Womb. He left Superman staring at he spot where he had been standing, shock written all over his face.
"First time for everything, I guess. Just didn't think I would live to see this day," Superman thought aloud, chuckling.
Ten minutes later, after his shift ended, Superman was about to fly to the cafeteria to grab a bite. That was when he realised that he couldn't fly. And no matter how hard he squinted, he just couldn't activate his heat vision. Realisation soon dawned upon him. A strange act of kindness from Batman, of all people, after a quarrel however minor (which is completely unlike him), his weird, out-of-character behaviour and now this. Superman wasn't a conspiracy theorist or the World's Greatest Detective, but he knew revenge when it was staring him in the eye. Damn you, Bruce, Superman thought. He knew it was childish, that what he was about to do was completely immature, but he couldn't help but plan how to switch Batman's coffee with a cup of decaf instead. If Batman could sneak some blue kryptonite into his coffee to temporarily nullify his powers, why couldn't he exact his revenge too?***
Somewhere in the Watchtower, a certain dark-clad, pointy-eared hero was smirking to himself, savouring the absolute sweetness of his 'victory'. Little did he know that Superman was going to return the 'favour' and that he was about to be on the receiving end of a little something called revenge…
*In the animated movie, 'Batman Superman: Public Enemies'
** In the JLU episode, 'Doomsday Sanction' [But I made up the part about sneaking out of the infirmary, though I'm pretty sure that would have been what he had done]
***Assuming that's the way blue kryptonite affects Superman and that it would be temporary. If it doesn't and wouldn't, please, just bear with me…?
Review please! Constructive criticism will be heartily accepted since this is my first-ever attempt at writing fanfiction and I know there's sure to be room for improvement!
What happens when both Batman and Superman, after tiring missions, eye the only cup of coffee left in the cafeteria? And will Flash be able to do anything to help, or just end up caught in the cross-fire of a caffeine (or lack thereof) fueled fight?