A/N: I seem to be in the habit of belated holiday fics, but I could've sworn I'd posted this already. Sigh. Oh well. This was written for the World's Finest Gift Exchange over on LJ
Sunlight was streaming brightly through the window, an odd sight for the last week of November in a year that had proven rather gloomy, the morning Clark and Bruce decided to break up. It wasn't very awkward at all, as Bruce had feared at the sight of Clark's face when he alighted at his window in the morning.
"I think we should take a break," Clark said, but only after he had said "Good morning." Clark was still Clark, after all, even when he was breaking up with Bruce.
Bruce nodded numbly, but Clark seemed unperturbed by his lack of response. They stood in a sort of comfortable silence for a few moments, or at least, the most comfortable a silence could get during a break up. All in all, the whole business was a lot more civil than when Brucie broke up with whoever his fling-of-the-week was.
Despite the amiability of their decision though, Bruce wondered what to say. Still friends? sounded strange to him, because, well because they'd never really been friends, had they? Maybe that was the problem, he mused. They'd gone from suspicious strangers to coworkers to lovers in a whirlwind of raw emotion. There hadn't been that tempering bond of friendship to lay the groundwork.
"There's a commotion in Metropolis," Clark said apologetically, breaking into Bruce's thoughts.
Bruce nodded. "Need a hand?"
"Nah," Clark said, eyes already distant. "I think I can handle it." And then he was gone.
Bruce went into the kitchen for a cup of coffee.
Bruce didn't know why he felt guilty when he sat down in front of the TV and turned on the news. There was absolutely nothing wrong with watching the news in the evening. People did it all the time. He flicked quickly through the channels, watching intently as random clips of video flash by. "—have Superman on the recent snow storms," a reporter announced. Bruce's hand stilled on the remote as Clark's solemn face filled the screen.
"As I'm sure you all know, many areas have been hit very hard by the storms," he began, and Bruce muted the sound, settling back against the couch and watched Clark's lips move. It was…pleasant to see Clark again, even if only on video, after a week of self-imposed seclusion to the cave to finish logging up all those little cases that Batman solved without the need for extended investigation, a rather monumental task.
Bruce's eyes followed Clark's movements.
It had been a reasonable, mutually agreeable conclusion: their relationship was not beneficial to either of them, it was difficult hiding it from the League, and it affected their working relationship. They disagreed over everything. Bruce could make a list a mile long on why their breakup was a good idea. He stared at Superman's hands as he gestured passionately about something on the video screen, head hurting from the logicof it all.
On the TV screen, the camera zoomed back in on Superman's face. Unconsciously, Bruce leaned forward, frowning, his inner conflict shoved to the back of his mind as he studied the screen. Clark looked stressed and tired, though Bruce doubted anyone had noticed.
He sat back against the plush cushions and stared at Superman on the screen some more, at the faint lines of exhaustion on his face, the ever so slight slump of his broad shoulders.
"Not too late to be friends," Bruce muttered to himself as Superman ended his speech and flew away. He went down to the cave and donned the cape and cowl.
Superman was on Monitor Duty, slumped tiredly in a chair, by the time Batman went up to the Watchtower.
"You should be more alert," Bruce said by way of greeting. Superman turned and blinked at him.
"Hello to you too," he said. Bruce dropped into the chair beside him and Superman tilted his head, his clear blue eyes meeting Bruce's in concern. "Is there a problem?"
Bruce pulled off the cowl so that Superman could see him rolling his eyes. There doesn't have to be a problem for me to want to see you, he thought. "I saw you on the news earlier. You look terrible," he said instead.
Superman laughed shortly. "Always with the compliments, Bruce. It's been a long week."
Bruce agreed with a noncommittal hum. After a moment, he said, "Go home, Clark. I can take it from here."
Clark looked like he was about to protest, but then he just stood and stretched. "Fine, but come to the Fortress tomorrow for dinner? I've missed you," he said, the corners of his mouth turning up.
Bruce didn't hesitate. "Sure," he said, carefully not looking at him, eyes moving over the screens.
"Night, Bruce," Clark said softly. Bruce held his breath as he listened to the footsteps recede. A mutually agreeable conclusion, he told himself.
"Hey guys," Wally called when he saw them. "I was thinking of having a team night later this week. We could watch a movie or something."
"You just want to use the Watchtower screens," Batman said and Superman chuckled. "But…why not?" he said, after quickly running through his plans for the week. Wally brightened.
Superman smiled. "If even Batman's going to put in an appearance, then I can hardly refuse," he said when Wally's questioning gaze fell on him.
"Great!" Wally said cheerfully. "Friday night, alright?"
Bruce watched him disappear in a blur of red. "I'm surprised you want to go," Clark commented.
"I have a feeling we're all going to need a break by the end of the week," Bruce said darkly.
Clark grinned at that for some reason and Bruce found himself wanting to smile back.
"Wonder what movie Wally'll pick?" Clark said as they fell into step again.
Bruce rolled his eyes even though Clark couldn't see it behind the cowl. "Clark," he said, "It's December. There was a tree decorated with little handmade ornaments set up in the meeting room of one the mob bosses I crashed this week. I can't use a grapple line without it coming back covered in silver sparkles and tinsel. The blow-up Santas and Rudolphs are a menace on the rooftops and the streets. What do you think Wally's going to pick?"
"You sit on a throne of lies!" Buddy shouted on the huge screen. Bruce snorted a little and Clark shushed him.
"I can't believe you've never seen Elf," Bruce said, so quietly that only super-hearing could pick it up. Clark huffed in annoyance, but didn't retort, so engrossed was he in the movie in watching Will Farrell, dressed in a costume that vaguely reminded Bruce of Green Arrow's, not that he was going to mention it to the man, throw a tantrum in a department store.
Bruce realized he was watching Clark's face, studying how his emotions rippled across it, instead of the movie. Not that that was surprising, he thought. Clark was altogether much more interesting than a movie Bruce had seen before, especially this cheerful, laughing Clark. He stifled a yawn, leaning back in his seat a little. His prediction had been correct—it had been a very long week, complete with increased muggings and robberies as the holidays drew closer, not to mention the Frosty the Snowman robot fiasco in Metropolis. Settling into his seat more, Bruce spared a moment to be glad he'd been the one to pay for the Watchtower; the security notwithstanding, he doubted another contractor would have gone over every little detail the way Batman had.
Like the extremely comfortable seats in the theater. That had been a nice touch. Bruce felt another yawn coming and didn't bother stifling it.
When Bruce woke up, the first thing he heard was the sound of muted giggles. Then he became aware of the warmth he was leaning against. Don't react, don't react, he told himself, making sure to open his eyes slowly and finding that his view of the room was impeded by the grey shirt Clark had been wearing when he'd arrived for the movie. He tried taking a deep breath to steady his inexplicable bout of nerves. The shirt smelled nice, kind of like sleep-warm smiles. Of Clark. Bruce felt a sense of satisfaction when he sat up straight and stretched leisurely instead of flinching. He knew his heartbeat was racing and that Clark could hear it, but that couldn't be helped.
He sent a quelling glare at Shayera, who had a hand over her mouth, and Diana, who was smiling slightly in amusement. It didn't have much effect.
Clark's eyes were inscrutable.
Bruce had to remind himself again as he pulled away from Clark, already missing his warmth.
Bruce was on the roof of the Manor idly trying to figure out how to move without falling off, a predicament he was rather unfamiliar with. "Come on Batman," he muttered to himself. "You've gotten yourself out of worse situations than this one." He had to admit that it was pretty difficult to be Batman though, when he was tangled in what felt like miles of rainbow holiday lights. Maybe if he just shifted his left foot a little—
Bruce caught a glimpse of Alfred's aghast expression through an upstairs window as he slipped and toppled over the edge in a shower of snow, ice, and lights.
This is really quite embarrassing, Bruce had time to think wildly, before he was safely on the ground, two arms wrapped securely around him. He was distantly aware of himself admiring Clark's excellent control; not a single bulb had been broken, as far as he could tell.
"…Thanks," he managed, shivering from the adrenaline rush.
Clark was breathing hard too, Bruce noticed, surprised. He must have been very far away if getting here in time to catch him caused him to be short of breath, and spared a brief moment of annoyance; Batman should have been notified of major crises. Bruce's heartbeat slowly evened out, though Clark didn't seem to be in any hurry to let Bruce go. Bruce would have happily stayed in that position until the world ended—or at least until the bat signal lit the sky again—but perhaps not even then, except he was still wrapped in lights and the cord was painfully tight in some places.
"Clark," Bruce said, and Clark finally released him, to Bruce's disappoin—relief. He started pulling the lights off himself, grimacing at the ensnarled knot of cord. After a beat, he felt Clark's hands on his back, tugging at the lights there.
The door opened and Bruce looked up to see Alfred hurrying out. "Master Bruce!" he exclaimed, clearly relieved, and then his eyes fell on Clark. "Mister Kent!" He straightened his suit, which had been slightly rumpled when he had hastily made his way outside at the sight of Bruce falling by the window. "Good to see you are still in one piece, sir," he told Bruce. Then he turned to Clark, "Would you care for some hot chocolate, Mister Kent?"
"He probably has to go back to the crisis—" Bruce began, just as Clark said, "I would love to."
Clark turned to Bruce, confused. "There's a crisis?"
"I thought…" Bruce trailed off.
Clark looked down at his feet and said, "Um, I guess I'll just go—"
"No," Bruce cut in. "Stay. If you want."
Clark beamed, the smile lighting up his face. "Of course I do. How could I turn down Alfred's hot chocolate?"
"I'll have one too then, Alfred," Bruce said.
Alfred looked him over critically, but obviously found no fault, because he said, "Very good, sir," and headed back inside.
Clark held up the lights still in his hands. "Do you want me to—?" He waved his hands at the roof.
Bruce crossed his arms and shrugged, which Clark apparently took for a "Yes," because he lifted into the air, trailing lights, wrapping and draping the Manor to Bruce's shouted instructions.
"Piece of cake," Clark grinned when he landed back in front of Bruce, so lightly that he didn't even kick up any snow.
"It's obviously less complicated if you can fly," Bruce grumbled.
Clark rolled his eyes. "Just turn it on, Bruce."
Without any ceremony, Bruce flipped the switch, and the house lit up in vibrant glory, the gleam of the lights glazing the fresh snow on the lawn with a rainbow sheen. He glanced over at Clark and sucked in a sharp breath. Clark met his eyes, the corners of his mouth turning up a little.
"Beautiful," he murmured, and Bruce felt inexplicably warm. They stood there staring at the merrily flashing lights until Alfred informed them that the hot chocolate was ready.
It wasn't until a few weeks later, when Bruce was lying on the couch in Clark's apartment watching him sort out all the gifts Bruce had gone with him to buy that day and arguing with himself about what color wrapping paper to use and which bow would look best with which present, that Bruce realized that sometime between hanging out and having dinner at each other's homes and sleeping over and the missions to other planets, they had apparently become friends. It had been strange at first, to walk next to Clark and not be allowed to touch. Until one day, Bruce found that he didn't think about their nights of passion anymore when Clark's hand accidentally brushed his.
He thought of Clark's smile, his eyes, how he snored when they fell asleep in front of the TV together, how good he smelled, his way with words, his devotion to justice, his sincerity in his regard for people. How much Bruce valued his friendship. How much Bruce lo—appreciatedhim.
He just wished he could still touch.
"Bruce. Bruce," Clark said, sounding like he'd been repeating the name for awhile. "I know this isn't exactly a challenge for the World's Greatest Detective, but could you please pay attention?"
Bruce straightened on the couch. "Sorry," he said, and he found that he actually was. He gratefully shoved the confusing thoughts aside and sat down next to Clark at the table to help him wrap and sort the rest of the gifts, trying to ignore the small smile on Clark's face as they tied each bow.
"Done," Clark said, standing up and stretching as the last present was carefully wrapped and its bow tied. "Wow, it's late," he said, glancing at the clock. "Sorry for keeping you."
Batman grumbled about work in the back of his head, but Bruce said, "Not a problem."
Clark's smile was brighter than all the trees bedecked with ornaments in Metropolis. And there were quite a few. "It's quiet tonight," he said lightly, staring out the window to the city sprawled out before him.
Bruce stepped forward to join him at the window. Metropolis was silver in the night, shining and resplendent even in darkness. "Why don't you stay awhile longer?" Clark asked, almost hesitantly.
Bruce considered the offer and then wondered why he was bothering—he'd been lost the moment Clark had first smiled at him. "Why not," he said. "I'm sure the boys can manage Gotham themselves tonight." And of course, Superman would be keeping an ear out for his city for him as well if he stayed.
Clark's grin lit up his face again. He was so easy with his smiles. So free, Bruce thought. Clark disappeared in a blur and then was back with a bottle of wine and two glasses just as quickly, as if he feared Bruce would melt away into the shadows.
The moon bathed the two of them in silver as they stood silently at the window and watched the night flew by and for the whole time, Bruce couldn't remember why this was a bad idea.
Batman turned to disappear into the shadows, but he wasn't quick enough. A strong hand grabbed his shoulder while the other plonked something on his head, which rang out gleefully in an abysmal jingling noise. His hand went up and touched something soft.
Batman scowled, but Superman just smiled as if Bruce had done something pleasing.
"Nice hat," Green Lantern said, chuckling at the sight of a glowering, costumed but cowl-less Batman with a bright red Santa hat on his head, the white fluffy tip drooping slightly. Clark reached out to flick it. The jingling sounds it made grated on Bruce's nerves.
"Lighten up, Bruce," Clark said cheerfully. He plonked his own hat onto his head, with another chorus from the bells, and pointed at the matching one in Green Lantern's hand. "See? I told you. Everyone has one."
Bruce glanced around the room, trying not to move his head too much to stop the annoyingly cheerful bells from ringing.Clark's claim wasn't exactly true, a part of him pointed out sullenly. Some of the League members were wearing reindeer antlers. That didn't have any bells on them. Bruce was about to demand why Clark hadn't gotten him reindeer antlers instead when he realized the utter ridiculousness of the argument in the first place.
Clark's eyes had fallen on the table of food while Bruce was arguing to himself about the merits of reindeer antlers versus Santa hats. He grabbed Bruce's hand. "Come on," he said. Bruce allowed himself to be towed along, blinking with surprise at the contact, but Clark didn't seem to notice Bruce's…discomfort. Yes, that was what the feeling was.
Bruce danced with Diana first, an intricate waltz that captured both her passion and elegance. He bowed to her when it was over, and then stepped back and applauded her with the rest of them.
It was near midnight when Clark, eyes burning in a way that warmed Bruce to his very core, dragged him close and kissed him soundly. Bruce let out a surprised groan before catching himself, eyes flicking up to see the mistletoe dangling above them. But then Clark did this thingwith his tongue, and Bruce felt coherent thought drop straight to the bottom of his to do list. The idea of stopping quickly followed suit. Someone wolf whistled nearby, but Bruce barely registered it.
Damn, but Clark tasted good.
When they finally broke apart, breathing deeply, the Flash broke in with, "Does this mean you guys are official now?"
The clouds in Bruce head abruptly vanished and he took a step back from Clark in confusion, ignoring the hurt that chased itself over Clark's face. "You'd better be drunk, Clark," he growled, casting his mind over what Clark had drank that night. He hadn't tastedof alcohol. He'd tasted of sunlight and soap and chocolate and lo—. Bruce hurriedly cut that line of thinking.
"The only thing I was drunk on was you," Clark said, grinning unashamedly at the line. Bruce glared harder.
The other members of the Justice League were looking from one to the other. "So," Shayera ventured. "You guys aren'tactually together?"
"Yeah we were totally sure you'd gotten together like, three weeks ago," Flash put in., eliciting nods of agreement all around.
Bruce grimaced and grabbed Clark's hand. "Let's take this outside," he said.
"I can't believe they thought we got together the week that Ithought we had broken up," Bruce grumbled. They'd been lovers for almost half a year and their friends hadn't noticed a thing, but as soon as they split, they had decided that Superman and Batman were now a couple.
Clark's soft laugh was much better than those damned jingle bells.
"So we didn't actually break up," Bruce said, just to clarify, because some things were too important not to be said aloud. "We've actually been going on datesthis whole time?"
Clark grinned. "The World's Greatest Detective indeed," he said fondly. "
Then he leaned in so that his lips were a fraction of an inch away from Bruce's. When he spoke, Bruce could feel his warm breath brush against his skin. "Don't tell me to stop," Clark whispered, eyes glinting in the dark.
Never, Bruce wanted to say, but he closed the distance between them instead, pulling Clark close and pressing a soft kiss on his lips, enjoying the little hitch in Clark's breath at the touch.
Some things had to be said, but other things—other things were so right that there was really nothing to be said at all.