[JL] Say Something

Wally is a flirt. Always has been. This is nothing new, is so normal as to be unnoticeable.

Bruce stops paying attention after the first freely given compliment. He knows his worth in Wally’s life. He has no reason to be uncertain.

Reality, however, is not so black and white.

Bruce gets older. Grayer. Slower.

Wally remains as bright as ever. Vivacious. Irresistible. A glowing star hanging in the night. Impossible to restrain, not that Bruce would ever try.

He realizes his time is growing short. He already knows that the years creep closer to when he’ll have to hang his cape. He suspects he’s in danger of losing Wally before that.

He tries harder, but he hesitates – torn between his duty and his heart. For they are not the same.

Bruce takes Wally into his arms, kisses him fiercely. He loses himself in quiet gasps, soft moans, warm skin, and a bedmate who takes up most of his massive bed and snores like a go-cart.

Bruce wakes alone later and tells himself an excuse that is partially a lie. Because Wally is a hero, too. Even if he usually never leaves without waking Bruce first.

It’s long past dawn. Too early even for Bruce Wayne actually.

He rises anyway. He puts on a robe, pads silently over chilly tile, and stands on the balcony.

It’s a crisp and cold morning. The sky smells of rain. Alfred is down below, cutting blooms for the brunch table. He, too, is getting slow and grey.

All good things must come to an end.

Bruce goes back inside, resolve strengthening the walls of his heart. He has nothing to do but wait.

Bruce never gives up without a fight. But there are some battles that can’t be won. Time is the cruelest villain.

One month later, Wally comes to him, wrapped in his costume but his cowl pushed back. His hair is a ruffled mess. His smile cracks around the edges. Lightning crackles from his fingertips, before it wisps away.

“Bruce,” he says, direct. “We need to talk.”

He’s grown so much. There’s no hint of a blush, no ounce of hesitation. There is nothing save determination in his eyes.

Batman breathes deeply. His fingers pause on the keys. He knows he should remove his cowl, but he needs the protection now more than ever.

“I know,” he replies with all the control he has mastered over the years. “But you owe me nothing. Not explanation or apology.”

Wally stares at him. There’s hurt in his eyes.

“No,” he says, tight, a leashed anger. “I guess not.”

There is a lump in Batman’s throat. He speaks past it. “Goodbye, Wally.” He begins typing again, and is proud that the words are not gibberish.

A shiver ripples over Wally, charged, like a thunderstorm. He opens his mouth as if to speak before he shakes his head. His hands close into creaking leather fists. He’s gone in a blink, a rush of air, taking it all with him.

Batman pushes back his cowl, and Bruce bows his head. He braces his weight on the edge of the console. He closes the heat of his eyes.

“Master Bruce.”

He is not surprised Alfred is here in the aftermath. He would’ve been the first to know.

“He wanted you to fight for him.”

Bruce swallows over the lump. “I know,” he says, and opens his eyes. He straightens.

“Then perhaps it is for the best.”

Alfred’s words are not a comfort. They are not meant to be.

“It is an unfortunate circumstance,” Alfred continues with a soft sigh. He turns and leaves. “I quite liked Master West.”

Bruce’s fingers return to the keys. What he types is gibberish, but he doesn’t stop.

“So did I.”

The reply is lost to the shadows. Like so many other things.

[JL] Jealousies

Batman knows when he’s being watched.

A sense of awareness of his surroundings has saved his life on too many occasions to count. So when his spine tingles and his shoulderblades itch, he knows he has to find the source of it.

Superman is still talking, not sure what about anymore. They aren’t in any danger, here in the Watchtower, and they’ve upped their security since the last villain incursion. Besides, no one else is behaving as though they are under attack.

Batman shifts his gaze, glad that the lenses hide his eyes from Superman who would be offended that he doesn’t have Batman’s full attention.

He scans the room, noting each hero present, until he finds the source of the observation. It is The Flash, currently standing with Nightwing and J’onn, but his attention is on Batman. His own lenses may hide the direction of his eyes, but Batman can read his body language all too well.

Wally is frowning. He’s tense, something guarded in his posture. He’s all but glaring in their direction, which is a curious thing because Batman can’t recall anything he’s done that might have upset the speedster.

Superman coughs. “What did you do?”

Batman returns his attention to the Boy Scout. “What makes you think I am the one at fault?”

Superman gives him a long, accusing look. “Experience.” He folds his arms over his barrel chest, arching an eyebrow.

“I have done nothing,” Batman retorts and half-turns, enough that The Flash is no longer in his immediate vision.

“Then why are you getting Flash’s version of a death glare?” Superman asks, though there’s humor in his voice. “Granted, it’s more cute than it is scary, but still.”

He honestly doesn’t know, and Batman is not a fan of not-knowing. He schools his expression, or his lower face at any rate.

“We have more important matters to discuss,” Batman says stiffly.

Superman blinks at him and then his grin becomes obscenely wide. “Sure, sure. Whatever you say.” He leans in close, almost conspiratorially. “But if you get banished to the couch tonight and need a place to crash, let me know?”

“I’ll get a hotel instead,” Batman retorts in a bland tone.

Superman chuckles. “You know what I mean.”

He does. But he’s also not going to acknowledge it either.

“Let’s just get back to work.”

“Whatever you say, Bruce.”

~

Superman is right about one thing. The Flash had been acting strangely and it is something that Batman cannot let slide. If he can not be discreet, then this relationship cannot continue, no matter how much they’ve invested in it.

Batman – and Bruce – would be sorry to see it come to an end. But sometimes, needs must.

Aside from that, there is a mystery here, and Batman does not like mysteries. Or at least, mysteries he hasn’t solved.

~

Bruce refuses to bow to convention.

Perhaps Flash expects Bruce to come after him and ask questions. Perhaps he expects Bruce to investigate. Therefore, Bruce does neither. Instead, he retreats to the Batcave, mask retracted, and gets to work.

There is always crime to be found, petty or otherwise. There are always criminals, thieves, murderers, especially in Gotham. The life of a vigilante is never a quiet one.

“There you are!”

Ah. Patience comes to he who waits. Especially he who has no intention of giving chase.

“Where else would I be?” Bruce asks as a red blur flashes into existence by his right hand.

Wally is currently in civvies, his red hair wild from his run, and his smile even brighter than his freckles. He crosses his arms over his chest, hip leaning against the console.

“Good point,” he says, and scratches at the side of his nose. “So you skipped out of the Watchtower early.”

“I have work to do,” Bruce replies. His fingers move over the keys, but if anyone’s paying attention, they’ll see no real progress is being made.

“You always have work to do,” Wally drawls with a roll of his eyes. “But I’m pretty sure we had an agreement about how long you should spend not engrossed in your work.”

“Mmm.” Bruce makes a noncommittal noise, his gaze focused on the screen.

Wally fidgets. The red blur moves from Bruce’s right to his left, all the better to fill Bruce’s peripheral vision as his global tracking program is to his left.

“So, uh, what did I do to get the Mr. Freeze treatment, huh?” Wally asks, leaning in close.

Bruce presses a few keys with a loud click and then tilts his head toward Wally. “You? I was under the impression that I had done something to offend.”

Wally blinks. “Huh?”

“You were glaring.”

Wally sucks his bottom lip into his mouth and takes a step back, nearly tripping on the chair behind him – Tim’s chair, though he’s out on patrol right now. “Oh, right. That.” He rubs the back of his head. “I wasn’t really glaring, I was just, um, looking really hard?”

Bruce refuses to dignify that with a response.

Wally sighs audibly and ducks his head. “Okay, so you’re not going to believe that.”

“No.”

“Didn’t think so.” Wally drops his hands and shoves them into his pockets. He hunches his shoulder, face darkening red behind his freckles. “Look, it’s not really you, it’s me. It’s my problem and–”

“Wally.” He doesn’t raise his voice or speak sharply, but it is still a gentle interruption. Wally has a habit of running off on a tangent. Sometimes on purpose as it serves an excellent distraction. Other times accidentally as he forgets himself.

“Right. Get to the point.” Wally’s gaze wanders away, past Bruce’s shoulder. “So, you and Superman are really close, aren’t you?”

Bruce’s eyes narrow. “For certain definitions of the term. Though close is a strong word.”

Wally exhales audibly. “Does he know that?”

Bruce is quite certain he doesn’t like where this is going.

“We are friends, of a sort,” Bruce replies, shifting his weight so that he faces Wally directly. “We have a professional respect for each other as well. I do not have enough fingers to count how many times I have saved his life.”

Or the other way around, if Bruce is being perfectly honest.

“But if you are asking whether or not there is a connection between us of a romantic nature, the answer is ‘no,’” Bruce adds before Wally can sidestep directly asking again.

Wally fidgets. The color in his cheek darkens further. “Like I said, the problem’s mine. Not yours. I’ll, uh, make sure I’m not glaring in the future.”

One should not reward immaturity. Yet, Bruce feels compelled to offer comfort. There is something about the slump of Wally’s shoulders, the dim cast to his eyes, that can’t be ignored. Wally is meant to be full of energy and life.

“Yes, I would appreciate if you were more circumspect in the future,” Bruce says as he reaches for Wally, cupping the younger man’s face with his hands and urging Wally to look at him.

Green eyes slowly lift. Tension, however, lingers.

“Barring that, however, I would prefer if you came directly to me with your concerns, though I can understand why you might be reluctant to do so.” Bruce is more than aware how he can come across at times.

Dick has told him on more than one occasion that he can be a cold bastard too often. Bruce has been making an effort to take Dick’s advice to heart.

And now Bruce is as loquacious as Wally because he can’t seem to stop talking. Wally has noticed as well, his eyes getting brighter and rounder, the tension easing from his body second by second.

“What I mean to say is that yes, Superman and I have a friendship that is built upon understanding, but you are the only man who has ever shared my bed.”

The blush spreads to Wally’s nose. “I guess I’m pretty lucky, huh?”

“If you want to look at it that way, I’m not going to stop you.” Bruce’s lips twitch as he fights to conceal a small smile.

Wally chuckles and his shoulders relax. His hands free themselves of his jean pockets, moving instead to Bruce’s hips. He registers their weight, but little else through the thick weave of his suit.

“Then I will.” His smile widens, cheeks pushing at Bruce’s gloves. “But I mean, I’m not gonna say that I won’t be jealous in the future. I’m only human.”

He’s so much more than that, but Bruce will not voice such aloud. Wally’s ego is through the roof enough as it is. As adorable as it is when he struts around, so very proud of himself, Bruce has allowed himself a small break.

He’d like to make the most of it.

“As are we all,” Bruce murmurs instead and pulls Wally into a gentle kiss, a brush of their lips together, and he feels the heat of Wally’s face against his fingers.

Two years into this relationship and Wally still blushes. It’s an adorable wonder that Bruce half hopes he never loses.

Along with Wally himself.

[JL] Tis the Season

“Jingle bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg.”

Bruce’s eyes narrowed.

“Batmobile lost a wheel.”

He lifted his head away from the microscope.

“And the Joker got away. Hey!”

He knew that voice. He didn’t have to turn around and look. There were few people who had access to the Batcave and even fewer who would have the audacity to invade it whilst singing a song. Out of tune, no less.

“Flash,” he said.

A red blur appeared beside him, all bright smiles and even brighter spandex. “Yeah, Bats?”

“Stop.”

Flash grinned and cocked his hip against the console. He folded his arms over his chest, nearly obscuring his symbol. “C’mon. Tis the season to be jolly.”

He offered the speedster a deadpan look. “It’s July.”

“Frankly, a little jolly now and then could only help you,” Flash retorted, completely ignoring logic and rationality.

Bruce twitched. He glared, though it wasn’t as effective without the reflective lenses in his cowl. Flash tended to think him less dangerous when he didn’t have the cowl, as he rarely did when investigating using his lab equipment.

“I’m just saying.” Flash’s grin widened.

Bruce worked his jaw and determinedly turned his attention back to his microscope. “Don’t you have work to do?”

From his peripheral vision, he watched Flash’s smile morph to a pout. “Killjoy. Haven’t you ever heard of Christmas in July?”

“Don’t care.” He adjusted the magnification. There was something about the cut of this scale that wasn’t natural.

“Because if it’s not justice, it must not be important?” Flash proposed as he moved closer, all but leaning over Bruce’s shoulder. “What are you working on?”

He ignored Flash. Sometimes, if he didn’t interact, Flash would go away on his own and Bruce could pretend he didn’t miss the company.

Flash started to hum. Another Christmas song this time. The song was close enough to Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town, though once again, out of tune.

Bruce twitched.

And sometimes, he wanted peace and quiet and didn’t care that he had to be alone to get it.

“You know,” Flash said as he leaned on Bruce’s shoulder, but not enough to overbalance him. “It’s winter in Australia.”

Ignore. Ignore and he would eventually leave.

“I’ll bet they’re celebrating Christmas. In July.”

Bruce turned up the magnification on the scale. It was a cycloid scale without smooth edges, and did not match the circumstances in which he found it. Which suggested he was perhaps dealing with an aquatic perpetrator. Would a conversation with Aquaman be in order?

“I could speed on over there and check?” Flash suggested, leaning a bit harder, so that the scent of his cologne hit Bruce’s nose as he exhaled warmly over Bruce’s ear.

No. He was apparently not leaving any time soon.

Bruce sighed and pushed back from the microscope. This was apparently taken as an invitation as Flash leapt into the narrow space available and made himself comfortable on Bruce. He now had a lapful of eager, wriggling speedster.

“There.” Flash smirked, draping his arms over Bruce’s shoulders. “Honestly, the things I do to get your attention.”

His hands inexplicably found themselves drawn to red-clothed narrow hips, his thumbs tracing the jut of a gold arc. “Australia still celebrates Christmas on December 25th,” Bruce pointed out.

Flash blinked at him and then pushed his cowl back, red hair sticking up in all directions. “You have a hot piece like me in your lap, and you’re going to lecture me instead?”

Bruce arched an eyebrow. “I was working.”

Green eyes rolled. “You’re always working. I’m always working. We’re both working. But I at least take breaks. Which is what you should be doing. You’ve been staring at that thing for hours.”

Bruce was about to protest on principle alone, until he glanced at the clock on the computer and realized that Wally was right. No wonder his vision was starting to blur. He’d been staring at the sample for several hours, and prior to that, he was processing other evidence.

He swallowed down his protest and allowed Wally thirty percent more of his attention. “Very well,” he said, rubbing the speedster’s hips. “I assume that means you had something in mind.”

“Well…” Wally drawled and performed a scootch forward that nestled his groin directly against the equipment belt. “I say you take off this thing, and I take off my thing, and then the both of us go use that cot I know Alfred put down here for you.”

He blurred forward, pecking a kiss on Bruce’s lips that tasted of strawberry lip gloss, and wriggled his hips again.

“What do you say?” Wally prompted, pressing their foreheads together, their lips tantalizing inches apart.

To be fair, if he worked any longer, Alfred would come down here and start to fuss. Wally was also right in that free time for the both of them together was rare. Wally understood Bruce’s dedication and vice-versa, but Wally was also the one who had taught Bruce the value of enjoying that which he was trying to protect.

“Yes,” Bruce said. “But only if you agree to help me look into this scale. It is stumping me, as you so accurately guessed.”

“Deal.” Wally grinned and stole another kiss, though this time he lingered, or perhaps that was because Bruce pressed a hand to the back of Wally’s head, keeping him close.

He couldn’t feel the heat of Wally’s body through the thickness of the kevlar, but he could imagine it. Even better was the slow movement of Wally’s lips against his own, the lingering taste of strawberry, and the little happy sounds Wally made in his throat.

He supposed, times like these, taking a break every now and again didn’t hurt. Though he swore that if Wally started singing Christmas songs again, Bruce was going to toss him right out the door.

[CaC] Water Balloons

Bruce called it combat training.

Wally was pretty sure that it was really just fun and games, but Bruce had to dress it up in another name to make himself feel better about it. Whatever. Wally was just happy to see Bruce laughing, soaked in sweat and water, his dark clothes clinging to his body…

Dangerous thoughts there. Hold on, Wally. Hold on.

He ducked down behind a hedge, juggling his two pieces of ammo. Bright blue and green, lucky colors. He listened for the sound of Dick and Tim and Barbara, the whole Batclan really. Clark was here somewhere, too. He’d brought Connor.

There were others up on the Watchtower keeping eyes and ears out for trouble. For now, this was a time to relax and have fun and remind themselves what they were all risking their lives to protect.

Or, if you asked Bruce, they were training.

Wally chuckled to himself.

Wally peered around a corner. He could hear laughter in the distance, and a girlish squeal, which was probably Tim in all honesty. Otherwise, there was no one in immediate sight. Wally had the all clear.

He crept across the grass, tennis shoes crunching noisily. He hoped the sound of the others laughing and playing concealed all the noise he was making. Wally was not built for stealth. He was built for speed. But they weren’t supposed to use any of their superpowers here.

That was part of the training exercise, according to Bruce. No superpowers allowed so that if any of them were ever in a situation where they didn’t have them, they wouldn’t be powerless. They would have the skills to defend themselves. Bruce was all about future planning.

Wally crept up behind a massive statue of a winged cherub. It was not Bruce’s style at all. Probably belonged to his great-great-grandfather or something. The Wayne’s were old money.

He peered around it. All clear.

Wally made a dash for a massive rhododendron. The bright red blooms might help to hide him. He hoped. Water jostled in his balloon.

He crouched and waiting. No shouting. No splashing. He was still in the clear. Grinning, Wally crept forward again, inching through the hedge maze. Why Bruce had a hedge maze, Wally didn’t know. But it was all kinds of fun.

Wally ducked around another corner, keeping low to the ground. He heard another shriek and shout in the distance, followed by a splash. He was getting closer. Maybe he could sneak up on someone and get his hits in while the getting was good.

He took the next right-hand turn and froze. There, just up ahead, he could see the edge of the heel of a shoe. Someone was crouched down in the path, facing away from Wally, perhaps peering into the next corner. He had no idea who it was.

The shoe shifted. Wally ‘eeped’ and ducked back behind his wall, peering around the corner. His eyes widened and his heart skipped a beat.

It was Bruce! Score!

Wally backtracked and crept up the path that paralleled the one Bruce was using. Through the gaps in the leaves, he could see Bruce just ahead of him, creeping forward with ninja stealth. Bruce didn’t carry any ammo though. Probably didn’t think he needed it.

There was a break in the hedge ahead of him. If all went well and Bruce didn’t decide to take a right, Wally might actually get the drop on him. Exciting!

He steadied his breathing, focused on stealthy thoughts, and crept carefully forward. Luck stayed with him all the way until the end when he reached the break and Bruce had turned to the left. His back was to Wally, dark t-shirt stretched enticingly across broad shoulders.

Wally hefted his ammo in each hand and crouch-stepped forward. Closer. Closer. No twigs or leaves on the ground to give him away. Good. Doing great, Wally. Just a little further…

Now!

Wally launched himself forward with a fierce jungle cry. Bruce whirled just in time for Wally to tackle him, water balloons exploding between them in a splash. Wally was laughing as they both went down, limbs tangled, Bruce cursing under his breath.

“Got ya!” Wally said before he felt himself go flying. He hit the ground on his back, world spinning, sky very blue above him.

No. That was Bruce’s eyes as he looked upside down into Wally’s face, hands pinning Wally’s wrists to the damp, grassy ground.

“I heard you coming,” Bruce claimed. His voice was tinted with amusement though and if Wally looked closely, he could see Bruce smiling.

Wally rolled his eyes. “No, you didn’t. You just don’t want to admit that I snuck up on you.”

“You did not.”

“Did so.” Wally grinned. His tongue swept over his lips. “Well, you caught me. What are you going to do with me?”

Bruce chuckled and leaned closer. Their noses brushed. “I am uncertain. I suspect you have a few suggestions?”

Boy, did he ever!

Wally listened intently. There didn’t seem to be anyone nearby. No one to point and make embarrassing commentary. Perfect.

He tilted his head up. “Kiss me,” he said.

“I saw that coming, too,” Bruce said dryly, but he obliged. The tip of his nose stroked down Wally’s before he tilted a bit further forward and pressed their lips together.

Upside down kisses were awkward, but a slight shift for both of them, and mmm. That was perfect. Wally shivered as Bruce’s tongue slid over his, warm and wet and tasting like spearmint. Whoa. Was Bruce actually chewing gum?

Wally nipped at Bruce’s lips and wriggled on the ground. “Do we have to keep playing?” he asked as his jeans started to get a little tight. “We can sneak into the manor. No one has to know.”

Bruce outright laughed. “You want Dick to come looking for you?”

Because he would. He so would.

Wally groaned. “No,” he said and his lips pushed together in a moue of disappointment. “But I’m going to say that you owe me.”

Bruce kissed him again. “Later,” he promised, and let Wally go. He stood up, brushing dirt from the knees of his denim.

It was better than nothing, Wally supposed. He let Bruce haul him to his feet, brushing grass and leaves from his own clothes.

Besides, they still had a game to win.

[CaC] Interview

The envelope is sitting on his hall table, mixed in with a stack of mail he’d left there the day before. It hadn’t come in the mail, however, and Clark only notices it because the envelope is such a dark grey and sealed with a very familiar symbol. One that has become synonymous with bad news for the criminal element of Gotham City.

However, since Clark is in Metropolis and not a criminal, what it means for him is a curiosity that has both his reporter’s instincts and his hero’s instincts standing up to say hello.

He ignores the bills and junk mail, tugging the envelope out of the stack. He examines it from all angles as he starts down the hallway toward his kitchen, half-heartedly tugging at his tie.

The envelope is innocuous. It has his name written on the front in a tight, no-nonsense script. A quick x-ray reveals no potentially deadly or incendiary substances within it. Not that the envelope is thick enough to conceal anything worrisome. Not that it could contain anything that might harm him.

Unless somehow the Batman has learned that Clark Kent is Superman and that Superman is susceptible to Kryptonite, a rather rare substance for Earth.

He wanders into the kitchen and slips a finger under the flap, opening it. A single piece of card stock paper slips into his hand. At the top it says “I KNOW WHO YOU ARE” which is a rather rude and abrupt declaration. But at the bottom, it adds, “You are cordially invited to interview with a select gathering of individuals of whom you share an interest.” It then gives a date, time, and address. It’s signed with the symbol for The Batman.

Hmmm.

Well, that answers that.

The real question is: does he go? Which is actually a stupid question because the answer is: of course! Not only because the Batman is elusive and impossible to find, but because he’s curious. What could the Batman possibly want? And what did he mean by “a select gathering of individuals?”

Clark supposes he’ll have to find out.

At sunset, three days after he received the letter, Clark puts on his suit and takes off toward Gotham, heading for the Observatory. It is the tallest building in Gotham City and owned by the Wayne Foundation. It seems like an odd place to meet, but who is Superman to question the Batman’s thought processes? He doesn’t know the man at all. And sometimes, is hard-pressed to call him a superhero.

He looks down as he approaches, seeing a red blur streaking across the ground, and blinks in surprise. The Flash, too? Interesting.

Superman lands on the balcony of the Observatory and the door leading inward is already open for him. He can hear voices within, one of them obviously the Batman judging by the distorted nature of his vocals, and he recognizes Diana’s and J’onn’s voices. The Batman has been busy.

He lets himself in through the open doorway, stepping into a receiving room of sorts. A quick look around identifies half a dozen of Earth’s most familiar costumed superheroes. The Flash. Wonder Woman. The Martian Manhunter. Green Lantern. And last but certainly not least, The Batman.

All conversation ceases as they all turn to look at them. And then Flash appears at his side with a grin and playful punch to his shoulder. They, at least, have met while Superman only knows of the others by their reputation.

“About time!” he says with a wince, shaking his hand. “For a man who’s faster than a speeding bullet, you’re the last to get here.”

Superman blinks. “I’m on time.” He glances up at the clock on the wall. “For a matter of fact, I’m early.” And arriving here only a minute behind the Flash is hardly late.

“Superman is right,” A voice interjects, smooth and silky as its owner slinks toward them like a pool of shadows. “He is precisely on time for his interview.”

Flash rolls his shoulders. “To be fair, everyone is slow to me.” He grins and then his eyes brighten. “Diana! My favorite Amazon!” He throws his arms out wide in glee and takes off in a, well, a flash.

“Interview,” Superman repeats in Flash’s absence, resisting the urge to shiver at The Batman’s proximity. Now that he is close, he can see that the Batman’s costume isn’t purely black, but also shades of grey. “For what exactly?”

The Batman gestures to the balcony, beyond the range of the other heroes talking amongst themselves nearby. “To join an elite group of individuals who will be tasked with protecting this planet.”

Try as he might, Superman can not see through The Batman’s mask. He has no idea of this man’s identity, though he had sussed out Superman’s. Then again, Superman’s disguise relied on people making assumptions about him on a personal level. He supposes a pair of glasses and a bumbling personality wouldn’t fool The Batman.

To be fair, if it wasn’t for him actively trying to prove otherwise to Lois, she probably would have figured it out a lot sooner, too.

“Are you trying to form some kind of superhero squad or something?” Superman asks as they emerge onto the balcony, sunset dipping fast toward night.

A cross between a scoff and a laugh emerges from the man next to him. “More like a network of talents. Between you and J’onn, it is startlingly clear that there are greater dangers than what exists on this planet alone. And there’s no guarantee that any of us, on our own, can be an effective defense against said dangers.”

Superman crosses his arms. “So it’s like a telephone tree?”

The Batman looks at him for a long moment and then his mouth crooks upward in something like a grin. “Yes, country boy. It’s like a tree. Where we can call upon each other should we need some… assistance.”

He says the latter, Superman notices, with evident distaste. As though the very idea of calling for help is unpalatable to him. Then why bother arranging this? Unless he’s doing it for everyone else’s benefit.

“Alright. Sure. Sounds good to me.” Superman lowers his arms and grins, sticking out a hand. “Count me in.”

The Batman’s lens covered gaze flicks to the offered hand as though giving it a long debate before he offers one of his own, the handshake firm and business-like. “Alright. Then we can get started.”

“Started?”

“You didn’t think a handshake was all it took, did you?” The Batman tilts his head, his smirk widening as the handshake ends. “You still have an interview to pass.”

Superman blinks. “But I’m Superman.”

“Your point?”

He opens his mouth but no words emerge. What other explanation does he need? He’s Superman. He saves people on an hourly basis? What further qualification could he possibly be lacking?

“I’m… Superman?”

“You said that already.” The Batman sounds as smug as a man can possibly sound. “Do you have anything else to offer?”

Superman splutters.

[CaC] Vacation

There is nothing quite so difficult as a sulking Bruce Wayne. Because when Bruce is Displeased with you, you know it. There’s no confusion. There’s no subtlety.

And right now? Bruce is Displeased.

The silence in the back of the car almost has a weight of its own. Oh, Bruce had finally agreed to come with Clark on a vacation, but that didn’t mean he is going to do so gracefully.

Clark sighs and loosens his tie. He’s already removed his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves. As far as he’s concerned, his vacation started the moment he put his bags into the trunk of the car.

“Could you at least try and look like I’m not torturing you?”

Bruce flips the next page in his magazine as though it’s a criminal trying and failing to get a hit in on Batman. “I could,” he says. And then lets it end there.

This is going to be harder than he thought. Clark raps his fingers on his knees.

“It’s only for a weekend,” he says. “Gotham will not fall apart without you. And you left Dick in charge with plenty of backup.” Hell, Clark had even asked Connor to stick around the city for a while and Diana already said she planned to be ‘around’. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

Bruce snorts and flips another page. Clark has never seen such fierce page-turning in his life. Except, maybe, for that time he forgot Lois’ birthday and she wasn’t consoled by anything he brought her. Woman could hold a grudge like no one he ever met. Until Bruce, that is.

“Don’t you think you deserve a vacation?”

Bruce, at last, lifts his eyes from the glossy magazine pages and looks at Clark. “Bruce Wayne takes vacations all the time.”

And there he goes again, talking about himself in third person as though Bruce Wayne is the construct and not the other way around. Clark resists the urge to sigh. Instead, he pinches the bridge of his nose.

“And Batman can’t?”

“Crime doesn’t take vacations.”

Seriously?

Clark peers from behind his fingers to stare at his lover. Bruce is looking back at him, completely even. But is that a twitch at the corner of his mouth? Has Bruce been… teasing him?

Clark sits back and narrows his eyes. “You are looking forward to this, aren’t you?”

“No.” But Bruce hides behind his magazine. “But as you said, this is only for the weekend and I can pretend. For your sake.”

“For my sake?”

“Isn’t that what I said?”

Yes. He’s definitely hiding a smile. Clark shakes his head and fights down the urge to vent his irritation. It’s all part and parcel to loving Bruce Wayne, he thinks.

“You,” Clark says, folding his arms across his chest, “are one frustrating individual, Bruce.”

Bruce rattles his magazine as he lowers it, full on smirking. “You should have realized that by now, Kent.”

Game. Set. Match.

[CaC] Ugly Sweater

Bruce has more dignity than to tug on his collar like an impatient child. But he still has to stop himself mid-reach. Bad enough that the sweater is a hideous conglomeration of color but it also itches. Right now, there’s no such thing as mind over matter. He’s convinced his sweater has been woven from sandpaper.

Of course, Clark is having no trouble in his equally revolting sweater. He wears it with pride, sewn-in bells jingling with every motion.

Nearby, Dick is having an animated conversation with Connor, both boys clutching mugs of egg nog sans the rum. Their sweaters flash in eerie unison, Dick in Rudolph and Connor as Frosty. Bruce doesn’t know what they are discussing but it makes Dick laugh and Connor lose that pinched, angry expression he often wears.

Mrs. Kent – call me Martha – and Alfred are debating the merits of nutmeg in another corner with the former trying to foist another slice of pie onto the later. Alfred resists, unwilling to admit who might have the better recipe.

Mr. Kent steadies himself on a step stool, adding the last of the ornaments to an already cluttered tree. Clark watches, offering advice but little help, busy as he is with his own egg nog.

Outside, Smallville is experiencing a rare white Christmas. There’s enough snow that no one’s going anywhere tomorrow without a snow shovel or Superman.

The radio on the mantle is tuned to the local station, one playing non-stop holiday music. Right now, Brenda Lee is Rockin Around the Christmas Tree and Clark has that look in his eyes. The one that suggests he’s going to try and get Bruce to dance and he won’t take no for an answer.

It’s Christmas Eve but that doesn’t mean criminals are taking a holiday. Someone, somewhere is breaking the law. And Bruce is here, trying not to tug on a scratchy holiday sweater. He wonders if anyone would notice him slipping out the back…

“Yes, we would.”

Bruce narrows his eyes and feigns interest in his hot cocoa. “What are you talking about?”

Clark edges into the periphery of his personal space as though approaching an armed nuclear device, nearly the only time Bruce has seen him take caution. “You’re thinking of sneaking out. And yes, we’d notice and be disappointed.”

Bruce stares at the happy mini-marshmallows floating in his cup. “I have work to do.”

“More important than this?”

He sighs, Clark’s earnest tone an effective guilt trip. He looks again, at Dick smiling and Alfred laughing, and has to grudgingly concede that Clark has a point.

He may even – Bruce grits his teeth – be right.

The low growl he makes is as much assent as Clark is going to get.

Clark grins and leans closer, his lips brushing Bruce’s ear. “I’ll even promise to help take off that sweater later. Deal?”

Damn manipulative Boy Scouts.

“Deal,” Bruce mutters and resigns himself to joining the holiday cheer.

Just this once.