In these golden years
by Te
December 22, 2004

Disclaimers: Nothing here is mine.

Spoilers: Major ones for Superman/Batman #14-15.

Summary: Without his happiness, there is only

Ratings Note/Warnings: R. Content some readers
may find disturbing.

Author's Note: This is not my fault. *Not*. How do
you know this isn't my fault? Look at your copy of
S/B 14. Is the name 'Te' on it? No. No, it is not.

Acknowledgments: To LC and Livia for audiencing
and encouragement.


There's something missing. Bruce knows this the way
he knows the precise order his father --

His father is dead.

This does not change the knowledge -- he would lay
out his tools just so before beginning a procedure,
even when the patient was screaming, even when --

His father is dead, as is his mother.

The people -- they are from the future, and their
clothes alone should be enough to --

There's something missing.


It continues to be missing even when the other boy
comes. The baby who can bend steel, or crack glass
with a cry.

She (not mother) says, "you have to keep him happy.
Without his happiness, there is only destruction."

She's right, of course.

Keeping the baby -- Kal-El, because he is an alien, and
this means he's from another place entirely -- happy
is a full-time task, even with the people who aren't
his father and mother and other father, but wish to be

Alfred has gone home. This is what he was told.

There are no drapes in Kal-El's rooms, and their family
moves with the path of the earth -- there is math for
this, and satisfying -- so that he can always have as
much sunlight as possible.

He grows fast.

"Are you my brother?" he asks, one day, and his hand
is soft and pudgy and soft and strange on Bruce's

The others are not his parents. Not really. And yet.

There is something terrible (Bang! BANG!) in watching
the way Kal-El's face begins to crumple, and.

And he'd never had a brother.

For some reason, the words don't come out, but his
nod makes Kal-El smile.


His own rooms are dark -- it's right, almost, like the
way -- it's hard to remember home, sometimes, and
Bruce spends hours every night after his lessons
remembering. Trying to.

There was a clock, and there was a bench which
only grew warm on the hottest days of the summer,
and there were caves beneath the earth full of --
of --

"Bats," the not-father says, the one who always
wears purple. "There were bats."

The not-mother leans in just close enough for him
to smell her hair -- always sweet, always strange --
and says "It's part of what you feel is missing."

He frowns.

"It's *important*. You'll see."

Later, the other not-father teaches him to dance
around lightning until his hair stands on end and
he's too tired to work on remembering.


When Kal-El flies for the first time, there is a party,
even though it's neither of their birthdays.

Kal-El drops cake on him from thirty feet up.

Bruce laughs.


"Why are you always so sad?" Kal-El asks, one day.

He is two years old, and nearly as tall as Bruce

His eyes are wide and blue and he learns so quickly
Bruce sometimes wonders why the not-parents
want *him* around, and sometimes just sits and
watches him read.

He moves quickly, too. Just slow enough for Bruce's
vision to mark his presence -- blue and red and
blurry and smiling in the sunlight.

And yet, he is also always very patient.

Right now, he sits at the edge of the sunbeam, close
enough to touch from Bruce's shadow. He knows
Bruce will answer, of course. And he does.

He tells Kal-El of *that* night, and of the gun, and
of Thomas and Martha and pearls.

And Kal-El frowns.

"Do you see?"

"You have other parents now," Kal-El says, slowly and
with some difficulty. His vocal cords haven't
developed as quickly as the rest of him, according to
the first not-father. "We *both* do."

"They aren't my parents."

Kal-El frowns again, and Bruce wants to move, to
reach, to --

"Kal --"

"If they aren't your parents, then how are you my

It shouldn't be a difficult question. He's almost sure.


The first time he calls them mother, and father, and
father, they hug him, altogether, and their scents
are overpowering.

But not strange.


Sometimes it's barely afternoon when Kal leaves the
sunlit rooms of their homes and comes to find him.

This doesn't seem right, but mother insists that a
few moments out of the sun will not hurt Kal, or
their plans.

"What *are* the plans?"

"Oh, my little dark prince, what do *you* think?"

She says it with a smile in her voice, which means
it's both a tease *and* a real question.

When he thinks this -- loudly -- her nose wrinkles in
an even broader smile. "Little dark prince," she
says, and leaves them.

He plays catch with Kal, and it's harder and more
exciting every time -- it's very, very hard to catch
Kal with even the speeders his lightning father
had brought. It takes great skill, and Kal is very


In Antarctica, his suit is black and thick and difficult
and not -- entirely -- warm enough. This, too, is
part of his training, as he runs after Kal through
the snows until his skin is slimy with sweat, until
Kal wrinkles his nose and laughs and flies higher.


And comes back, and scoops him up --

(It's all right, says the mother in his mind)

-- and flies him higher, too.

Here, this time of year, the sun is always bright,
blinding and nearly cream-colored against the white
of the snows.

His mother had... there was something --

Kal swoops them into a loop, and another, and
another, until they're breathless and laughing.

"You're so *black* against the snow! I could find
you anywhere!"

"And you're red, and blue."

"And *gold*," Kal says, and narrows his eyes in

They play hide-and-seek until the fathers have to
chase them down, until the sun dips just enough
to be pearl, instead of cream.


There are tapes they watch, together. Wars and
lying politicians and floods and famines.

It's hard, because Kal gets very sad.

"Why don't they -- why are they *like* this?"

Bruce already (BANG!) knows, but sometimes the
mother would prefer him not to answer. Kal has
to learn, too.

This time, however, she nods.

"Because they're weak, even when they're smart.
Because destruction is easier than creation.
Because they need to be led."

"But there *are* no leaders," Kal says.

"Not yet, little sun prince," says the mother.

"But they're trying," Bruce says.

Kal's eyes open wide. He learns so quickly sometimes
that Bruce... he can't...

The hug knocks the breath out of him, and they roll
and laugh together to the sound of bullets.


This happens a lot.


"Your room has sunlight."

"I'm taller than *you*."

"You always will be, according to father," Bruce says,
and waits.

"*Which* father?"

"Both," he says, and smiles while Kal laughs.

"Why doesn't *your* room have sunlight, anyway?
Then we could *always* be together."

"This is better. For me." He thinks. He's almost --

"Is Mother speaking?"


Kal presses his ear against Bruce's temple in the
dark, even though Mother had explained it didn't
work that way, not really.

And anyway, he isn't sure.


On the day they receive their first uniforms, there's
another party, but it's not like the others.

Bruce has studied the different meanings of the
word 'celebration,' and sometimes he wishes he
could go to the grave of his dead parents.

He thinks they would understand.

Mostly, though, he watches Kal rise, toes pointed
in his red boots, and flexes his hands in his

"Like the snow," Kal says.

Bruce smiles. They play hide-and-seek among the
people, who are small and smell like Bruce after a
long work-out, and are no challenge at all.


Kal kisses him one day, and Bruce frowns, and Kal

"I saw it," he says, "on the television."

"The murderer's house?"

"The *deceiver's*. He had --"

"Televisions almost as good as ours, yes, but..."

"Did you... I want to do it again."

Kal's mouth is hard, and smooth, and warm. He
smells like burning dust and something from
somewhere else, entirely.

"Again," he says.

And Bruce laughs, too.


"If you want to come to my room, Bruce, you can
keep your eyes closed."

"But what if I want to see?"

"I'll tell you everything *I* see."

He does, and the sun is red and painful and sweet,
and Kal pauses when he can't quite calculate the
exact angle of Bruce's bones. "There's a protractor in
*my* room," Bruce says.

"No, with my hands, with --"

"Kal --"

"*Bruce* --"


'Clark' is wealthy, by the standards of the world in
which they live, and so is Bruce.

The girl has red hair, and her name is Lana, and she
speaks like something on very *old* television, and
Bruce watches her dance with Clark and wonders,
and thinks, and --

"Does it hurt, Bruce?"

The father looks curious. The other father is taking
notes. The mother only watches. "I'm not sure. It
doesn't... it doesn't seem *correct*."

Lana giggles, and moves to show Clark the right

"It's a question of timing, I think," the other father
says. "There isn't really anyone *appropriate* in
this --"

"Laevar," the mother says.

For that tone, there is never any argument, or room
to further question. These are the gifts they've been
given, and Bruce has read many stories about the
danger of --


"Curious," the mother says -- almost to him. "There
is a lack you feel, Bruce?"

"Something *missing*," Bruce says, and it fires
something within him, something demanding and --

And then it doesn't.

"Bruce," Kal says -- he must remember to only call
him 'Clark' -- "You were always the better dancer.
Come here."

He does, and he shows Kal the steps, and Lana
frowns at them.

Rather a lot.


The big tent is in shreds, bits flapping in the wind Kal
is leaving in his wake, others smoldering and flying.
Bruce can't seem to move.

He brushes a shred of thick fabric away from his
cheek before it can burn him, and Kal is there, blowing
icy on his cheek.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I didn't --"

"It's all right. I -- I just --"

"What *happened* to you, Bruce? I don't
understand --"

And he has the words for this -- he's almost sure he
does. Something about a boy, and there are tears
in his eyes --

"We did it the *right* way. They weren't allowed to
perform tonight, we made the *rules* --"

"Obey or die, yes, but Kal --"

"They *disobeyed*."

"There was a boy, Kal, like --"

He isn't sure. He isn't --

"Mother? Mother!"

He's very tired.

"You just had to *test*, didn't you, Mekt?"

"Mother, what's wrong with *Bruce*?"

"Please, Eve, you must admit Laevar had a *point*.
They were always going to have to --"

"*No*. They were *not*. The whole *point* of
this --"

"*Mother* --"

"Oh, for -- he'll be *fine*, Clark. He's just resting
now. Take him home. Be his brother."


It's strange to be tired like this, even now. He
knows it's from Mother, and that it's designed to
help his brain integrate new and difficult information,
but it's still...

It's like floating, and he remembers the way Kal
used to do it when he slept. When all of his strength
and solidity had seemed meaningless, and the air
could carry him anywhere at all, even *away* --

"Never, not *ever*, Bruce --"

"Am I speaking?"

"Yes, and you should stop, because... because you
have to *rest*."

"Kal... Kal, do you ever feel something is

"Only when you're not with me. Only then."

Bruce floats.


"She *seems* right, and she's so... she's like *you*,

"Only with different accessories?"

Kal snorts and fixes his tie. He's going out with the
Lane woman again tonight.

They aren't scheduled to pacify the Balkans for
another few days, and it's always better to socialize
on the nights before such things.

The nights after are for family.

"I don't know. I just..."

"If she's inadequate --"

"That's just *it*," Kal says, and flies over. It always
makes Bruce smile when he does it in a *person*-

"What is?"

"She's smart -- she studies like *you*, almost --
and she's funny, and she makes these *jokes* --"

"I've heard them."

Kal doesn't -- quite -- stick his tongue out. He
hasn't for years, but the expression remains the
same. "Is this where I bring up that Cat-woman of

"Selina is *very* entertaining. And Mother almost
never has to fix her."

Kal sighs. "I *wish* Mother didn't have to fix Lois
so much. She could be so... so..." Kal shrugs, and
slumps a little.

"What is it, Kal?"

"It just seems -- I know it's ridiculous, Bruce, you
don't have to tell me -- but..."

Bruce squeezes Kal's knee. "Tell me."

"Sometimes I almost feel *lonely*, only that's not
the word for it. I almost feel as though something
is *missing*."

There are stories about this sort of thing. About
the sons of privilege, and that peculiar sort of...
what was the French word for it?

'Ennui' doesn't seem entirely correct, but... still.

"Maybe you shouldn't go out with Lois tonight."

"We have *tickets*, Bruce -- and you know we can't
let the opera perform here again for another few
months. It --"

"It makes the people restless, I know, and we can't
*glut* them on entertainment, but..."

Kal watches him, patiently.

"I have something for you."

His eyes light up the same way they always did.
And he'd *been* saving this, but it wasn't as if the
cultists wouldn't spring up somewhere *else*, soon

He crouches above and behind his brother, and
scatters flame-proof pamphlets about the dangers
of unauthorized religion for the ones Kal allows to

"Obey or die," he says, and when the ancient organ
collapses in on itself, the note is queerly pure, and
the sparks fly like Kal, wild and bright.

One of the less fortunate ones has a beautiful gold
choker which Kal snags for him before it can fuse
entirely with the woman's skin. Selina prefers
diamonds, but this is worth a kiss, or even a scratch.

*And* there's still time for Kal to make the second


For his thirty-sixth birthday, Kal presents him with
something truly impressive -- an entire four square
miles of Gotham with a carefully cultivated lack of

There's something naggingly familiar about these
alleys, and about the narrow passageways that don't
even deserve to be *called* alleys.

Something in the scent, and in the quality of light.

But Kal's eyes burn so perfectly that Bruce can't even
look at him without his other lenses down, and it's
far too dangerous for that.

There are humans who skitter like sewer rats, fat
and complacent with their imperfect paranoia.

There are bullets to dodge, and teeth to break.

There's a boy with a tire-iron and a dirty face, but...

Bruce was raised to dodge lightning.


Later, they have cake.