He visits his mother first. She says nothing, just sweeps him up into her arms and lets him sob into her shoulder, like he had when he was small.

She doesn't press him to speak, but lets him eat an entire apple pie.

"Remember there are people who love you, Clark," she tells him when he gets ready to leave. Her sad smile sends a jolt of shame to the bottom of his stomach as the pleading of assorted Justice League members hadn't. "Remember that I love you."

He gives her another hug then. "I love you too, Ma."

The Daily Planet is next, and he stops by his apartment first to change. Armored in his usual suit and glasses, briefcase in hand, he nevertheless squares his shoulders a little before stepping into the hectic office. He hadn't expected a dramatic reaction, but he's still relieved when the most his coworkers do is stare a little, and he can't really blame them. It hadn't been a secret that Bruce and him had been dating, despite the air of disbelief that sometimes came with the news.

"Smallville!" Lois gives him a hug as well. She takes a step back and looks him over critically. "You okay?" Clark nods and smiles, and there's enough truth in his response that it's not even that much of a lie. She stares at him a little, as if trying to gauge his honesty, but is apparently satisfied. "White said to tell you to just go straight back to work, no need to bother him," and finally seems mollified by Clark's answering grin. "I'm here if you need me."

"I know, Lois," Clark says. "Thanks."

At the end of the day, he ducks out of his coworkers' offers to go out and eat, and instead heads for the Watchtower. There are other people he needs to see before the day ends.

Metropolis dwindles to a dot as he spirals up into the air, rising past clouds until he has broken through the earth's atmosphere. He lets himself drift slowly to the Watchtower.

"Kal!" Diana has her arms around him almost immediately.

"I'm sorry, Diana," he says softly, and he sees anger and sadness and understanding flicker on her face at the words before she's dismissed them for joy again.

"Apology accepted," she replies.

"How have you been?"

"As well as I could be, with two of my closest friends out of my reach," Diana says, but there is no reproach in her voice. Clark resists the urge to apologize again. "It's lonely, being a superhero. I'm sorry that you found something beautiful, only to have it taken from you."

Clark tries to speak, but his throat has closed up at her words. She watches him compassionately as he gropes for speech. "I just thought that we'd have more time," he finally manages.

Her gaze is openly haunted. He wonders how many sleepless nights she had, in the week following the accident, if she had nightmares about the man she loved cold and still. He wonders if she had been reminded, as he had, of what it means to love a mortal. "We all thought we'd had more time," she says. "It was easy to forget that Bruce wasn't invulnerable when you Batman fights at your side day after day, never missing a punch, never falling behind, despite being without powers."

When he finally arrives at Wayne Manor, he hesitates on the steps. The door opens while he's standing there though, and Dick is at the doorway. "Clark!" he says, happy to see him, but Clark can see the sadness lurking behind his gaze. He suspects he looks the same. He takes a step forward but is swept into a hug. He closes his eyes and accepts the comfort, feeling it wash over him as well as a twinge of guilt. Today, he's had more human contact than he has had in a week.

"How are you doing?" Clark asks.

Dick just shrugs a little. "It's hard to accept that he's gone," he says.

"I know," Clark says softly. "I'm sorry I've been…away. I'm here now, though. If you need to talk, I'm always available."

Dick nods.

A week passes, then a few more, and before Clark knows it, the seasons have changed again, and again. He's been kept busy. Terrorist attacks, natural disaster, off-planet wars, and diplomatic missions. His work at the Daily Planet. Relaxing in the Watchtower with Diana, having dinner with Lois. Visiting the boys at the Mansion. Taking care of Ma.

There's not a day goes by that he doesn't think of Bruce.

On his and Bruce's anniversary, he retreats to his Fortress once again, dropping all contact despite protests. He knows he's being selfish, but he can't bring himself to care. The world had been fine before Superman. It could give him one day more to grieve.

He spends the day in quiet thought. He sits outside, watching the doings of the arctic's wildlife. He reads for a few hours, and prepares simple meals. He thinks of Bruce and for once, feels no pain. As the sun begins to dip below the horizon, shooting the sky with orange streaks, Clark retires to the living room, and starts a fire. He pours himself a glass of wine and settles into one of the comfortable armchairs in front of the fireplace and stares into the dancing flames.

"You have a new file," the computer informs him, breaking into his reverie. Clark frowns.

"A new message?" he asks.

"A new file," the computer corrects. "It is the time and date of the unlock specified on the file."

The only person Clark could think of who had the skill to leave a sleeping file in the Fortress computers, unless his security had been severely compromised, was Bruce. He remembers the message he had received so long ago and walks slowly toward the control room. There is indeed a new file sitting on the desktop. It's entitled "To Clark."

He clicks it, mouth dry, heart pounding, and is rewarded by the unexpected sight of Bruce. He looks quite young. The video had probably been recorded only a few years after they had first met. His chest feels tight.

"Clark," Bruce says, and his face would be calm, serene but for the anguish in his eyes. "Superman, Kal, my Clark." He stops again. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for being so slow." Bruce drags a hand over his face, and Clark notes the lines of exhaustion his body is drawn out of. Bruce doesn't go into more detail, and Clark gives up trying to speculate the exact mission because Bruce is talking again. "I almost lost you today, Clark, and I realized something that I've been hiding from myself and taking out on you."

Bruce looks square into the camera. "I love you." He looks away again. "I know that I am…not nice to you, and that you probably don't even consider me a friend, let alone a lover. But I needed to say it aloud, and stop lying to myself. Maybe now I can figure out how to work through this. Who knows, maybe someday, we'll even manage to be in the same room without getting into an argument." Bruce chuckles. Clark smiles a little himself. Sometimes he forgets how rocky their relationship had started off.

There's a long pause, like Bruce is mulling over his words. "But whatever happens, Clark, know this: I was alone until I met you. So thank you."

Bruce sighs. The video keeps playing. Finally, Bruce mutters, "Computer, del—" and he cuts himself off. "Never mind. Save it. For my eyes only. End recording." The video goes black, but Bruce isn't done with him yet because there's a flicker on the screen and a different video comes up, with a noticeably older Bruce. Older in body, but not in spirit, Clark thinks, and it's true; there is a lightness in Bruce's eyes that had not been present in the first video.

"Today was our first date, Clark." There's a flicker of joy on Bruce's face before it returns to normal. Clark can't tear his eyes from Bruce's. "I'm sorry that you are watching this, Clark. I'm sorry that I didn't have the courage to tell you my feelings earlier. I'm sorry for so many things. But mostly I'm sorry that I am mortal." Clark shivers a little at Bruce's sudden bleakness, his heart aching with grief in a way that he thought he'd gotten over. Bruce begins pacing on the screen, and Clark realizes he's still wearing the clothes from their first date.

Bruce must have recorded this not long after they had gone their separate ways. Clark remembers his disappointment and how Bruce had laughed with unexpected sweetness, and confessed he wanted to take things slowly and do it right. He wishes—but there's no point going down that line of thought.

The video had stopped playing when the Fortress computer saw that Clark's attention had wandered. It resumes now.

Bruce's smile is fierce, Batman's rare smile, and his eyes are gentle, Bruce's eyes after they'd kissed for the first time. "I know that the price you pay to help people is immortality. I was alone until I met you, Clark," Bruce says, echoing the words he had said in the first video. "And it breaks my heart to think of you being alone. So whether we had a week or a lifetime together, I needed you to see this, for you to know how long you were loved."

Bruce pauses for a moment, gathering himself. "Happy anniversary, Clark. I love you, now and always."

Clark smiles. "Love you too," he whispers to the empty room.


There are no more videos after that, not that Clark is expecting there to be. Bruce had not been one for sentimentalities. The years seem to fly after that, turning into decades, and then centuries. He attends the funerals of his friends, makes new ones, attends their's as well. He's there when Diana loses Steve, his heart aching for her as it hadn't in decades, knowing the pain she feels, and it's as if he'd lost Bruce just yesterday. He stays in the lives of every Batman through the many, many years. Some he gets along with, some he becomes friends with, some can't stand him. But they all work well with him, as night does with day from the beginning to the end of time.

There's still not a day goes by he doesn't think of Bruce in some way. Perhaps a passing bird, or if the sky matches the particular shade of blue of Bruce's eyes. He loves others as well and never watches Bruce's anniversary recording again, though sometimes he wakes in the middle of the night with Bruce's name on his lips. He loves fully and openly because it's not a betrayal.

Superman has lived for over a thousand years, and will perhaps continue living for a thousand more. He's spent every one of those years giving and giving. He knows better than to expect a reward at the end, to have Bruce there in whatever afterlife, if there is one, waiting for him. Clark understands that he has had his reward already, of having Bruce in his life, even if it had only been a spark compared to the rest of his very long life.

It's a spark that's brighter than all the stars, and it was worth it.