Little bits of truth
by Te
June 1, 2004

Disclaimer: Not mine.
Spoilers: Starcrossed.
Summary: Clark pays a visit.
Ratings Note: PG-13.
Author's Note: Livia has a *gift* for making up writing games that I then
must play with her. She gave me the following lyric, mojo ensued.

this is the way you wish your voice sounds
handsome & smart
oh my tongue's the only muscle in my body that works harder
than my heart
~ Brand New, "I Believe You, But My Tommy Gun Donít"

*

Clark's pretty sure he's only here on courtesy. Bruce had designed the first
Watchtower, had it built, and gotten it launched into orbit without anyone's
assistance, and he could surely do it again, but... Clark thinks it might be
telling that he's here, anyway.

*Invited*, as himself, and Bruce had even made a joke about how the
opportunity afforded Clark Kent, investigative journalist, the chance for
an exclusive. Not too many reporters have been welcomed into Wayne
Manor over the years, for reasons both obvious and not -- depending
on whom you asked.

He's here now, in the solarium, drinking Alfred's coffee and watching
Bruce sketch at a drawing table. It's definitely telling. Now Clark just has
to figure out what he's supposed to be *told*. And...

He'd expected Bruce to do this in the Cave, somehow. Perhaps it's still
damaged from the fight. "How are the repairs going?"

"Alfred's called in masons for the stonework Wally inadvertantly destroyed.
The rest is mostly complete."

Bruce doesn't look up from the table, and his voice is Batman's rough,
low grate. Almost. Enough so that it's jarring to hear 'Wally' instead of
'Flash.' But then... they *aren't* in the Cave. It makes sense, if you've
spent a great deal of time thinking about the nuances of secret identities
and how to *keep* them secret.

Something Clark had *thought* he'd done before leaving Smallville,
and had begun doing in truth not long after meeting Batman. Bruce.
Bruce had turned a difficult question into a Byzantine labyrinth of an
artform. Clark smiles to himself and takes another sip of coffee.

"So the Cave is back to normal?"

"Yes."

The frustration that hits is deep, and essentially unsurprising -- though
disappointing. There was nothing in that voice to latch on to in any way,
not even boredom or irritation. Bruce, by all appearances, is calmly
working on the replacement to the Watchtower, serenely and quietly
unconcerned by... anything.

Even the bruise on his forehead -- one of the remnants of Bruce's use
of the Watchtower as battering ram -- is fading. He is no more
approachable in normal, civilian clothes than he is in the suit. He's...

Bruce is essentially solitary, a friend by a definition not Clark's own.
Easier to consider in terms of his being an ally -- one of the best
possible -- in the neverending battle, because even though he's more
than that, Clark has never quite been able to put a finger on *how*.
The fact that Bruce has worked with partners -- and still does -- has
always felt more like an exception than a rule.

He watches Bruce reach with idle, perfect grace for his own coffee
mug. With his left hand, because his right never pauses in the
sketching.

"Can I see it yet?"

"It's not done," Bruce says, and sets the mug down again.

Clark smiles ruefully to himself. "Amazingly enough, I deduced that."

The tension in Bruce's back is immediately visible, even without using
his X-ray vision. A small, petty part of him is glad for that. Discomfort
loves company as much as misery. But he really is supposed to be
better than that.

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

"No, it's all right." He turns in his seat, and the sunlight is at his back,
leaving his face in shadow. But it isn't hard to see the small smile.
"You must be wondering why I invited you here."

"I have to admit, the question had occurred to me." He finishes his
coffee and sets it on the tray, resolving once again to never, ever
tell his mother that he prefers Alfred's to her own.

Bruce looks down for a moment. "I didn't, actually, have a reason."

"You just... wanted me to visit?"

"Stranger things have been known to occur." The humor in his
voice is the familiar kind. Faint, dark, and more of an implication
than a stated reality. The kind you have to watch for, the kind
Clark has *trained* himself to watch for, because it's water in a
dry season that never ends.

Except, apparently, for when it does. "I..." He swallows. "I really
would like to see what you have planned, Bruce."

Bruce pushes his chair back and gestures, giving Clark room to join
him at the table. At first look, the sketches are impenetrably
complex, with nothing recognizably *structure*-like about them.
They look more like the schematics for the Javelin than anything
else, and --

It clicks. "You're giving the new Tower a *guidance* system?"

The corner of Bruce's mouth twitches. "It seemed like a useful
precaution. The last one handled abominably."

Clark shakes his head and laughs a little. "You always did have the
best vehicles."

"Those of us who can't fly have to find other ways to make do,
Clark."

The words are both cautious and distancing, the voice... isn't.
There's something almost inviting there, something that may or
may not have anything to do with *Bruce's* definition of friendship.
The thing about Bruce is that you can't ever take anything at
face value, not least of which because there's rarely very much
face *to* value. Clark holds Bruce's gaze and waits for... something.

Inspiration, perhaps, or a hint that this isn't what it *feels* like. He
doesn't get it.

He drops into a crouch, instead, feeling the knees of his suit
protest the treatment. Once upon a time, he'd been forced to
cover a society dinner at which Bruce Wayne was a guest. A pretty,
forgettable woman had been hanging on Bruce's arm, and bubbled
mindless laughter when Bruce had said something about introducing
Clark to his tailor, while apologizing with his eyes.

There's no apology in Bruce's eyes this time -- just that same
curious invitation.

"You know I broke off my part of the mission to get you out the
Tower."

Bruce nods.

"I was expecting a lecture," Clark says, and lets more of the curiosity
show on his face. More than what Bruce had probably *felt* even before
he'd turned around. "And I was wondering why I didn't get one."

"Perhaps I enjoy being alive."

The invitation in Bruce's eyes *this* time is all about sharing the joke. It
makes Clark want to blink, because really, joie de vivre is a concept alien
to Bruce, and perhaps to this entire grim household. They both know it.
And Clark thinks a little about Tim, but... hmm. "Where's Tim?"

"Summer camp."

"Really?" It's out before he can think about it, and the corner of Bruce's
mouth twitches again.

"He seems to think there's something suspicious about a few of the
counselors."

Which... makes absolute sense, though he isn't sure if it says more
about Bruce or the boy. He shakes his head ruefully.

"Clark... I know this is... awkward. You don't. I could probably get more
work done if you weren't here."

Which *also* makes absolute sense. But Hawkgirl isn't Hawkgirl anymore,
the earth had narrowly escaped being turned into a localized singularity,
and the Tower is comprised of several still-smoldering pieces in the
desert. The League is scattered and bruised, and everyone needs
something *sometimes*. Maybe even Batman.

Clark puts his hand on Bruce's knee, faintly amused by the obvious quality
of the material of Bruce's pants, anything *but* faintly aware of the heat
of him through them. "I'd like to stay," he says, and watches Bruce's eyes.

Inspiration is still profoundly lacking, and it really is unfair. He's *seen*
Bruce in action. No one can communicate more easily and effectively
than this man -- when he wants to.

Which probably means that he wants to know what *Clark* will say.

Or do. He thinks there might be something dangerous in the back of his
own mind, something dancing and reckless. And the feeling lasts just
long enough for him to shift in and up, for him to press his mouth to the
hard, dry line of Bruce's own. And then it's gone, leaving him in the
world's most awkward position with the world's most frustrating man.

And then Bruce kisses him back, hard and not at *all* dry, slipping his
hand into Clark's hair and holding on tight. Bruce's tongue moves like
just another weapon in Clark's mouth, and his other hand strokes its
way down Clark's chest, human and hungry. Clark wraps an arm
around Bruce's waist and stands them up, and Bruce responds by
pressing close, body-to-body, for a heart-stopping moment that
doesn't last long enough.

Clark licks his lips as Bruce pulls back out of the kiss, and doesn't take
his arm from around his waist. *He's* not ready to let go.

"John could have been killed, you know."

"I know. I did a terrible thing. The guilt will haunt me for years, especially
since John had Diana for back-up and you were about to *smear
yourself all over the desert*."

Bruce smirks at him. "So long as you know you were wrong," he says,
and pulls Clark in for another kiss.

Clark thinks he can live with this sort of... friendship.
 
 

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