Through so many splintered trees
by Te
July 10, 2003

Disclaimers: Not even close to mine. I hunger.

Spoilers: Vague ones for "Injustice For All" and

Summary: Identity and contact.

Ratings Note: NC-17.

Author's Note: After seeing Injustice For All and Savage
Time, I had to do this.

Acknowledgments: To my We and to Jenn for

Feedback: Yes, please.


Superman touched him.

Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that *Clark*
touched him. For all their masks and uniforms, Batman
didn't think any of his teammates would need more than
a moment to learn Superman's secret if they ever met

Well, maybe Flash.

Clark with his open smiles and general ease with the
world, no matter how often it did its best to destroy him.

Clark and his... *touching*.

A hand on his shoulder when he was trying to work at
the computers. An arm thrown around his own after a
mission, always careful to avoid whatever parts were
injured. And... *hugs*.

If the mission was particularly bad or dangerous, if
they all seemed to think that this was the time when
his lack of superpowers would do him in -- as if he
were really that incautious.

Hugs and smiles and a seeming complete lack of
comprehension about things like boundaries. Privacy.

Even Flash had learned to back off.

Sometimes he thought about using his small supply
of Kryptonite to teach that lesson. Or at least
finding something to protect himself from its
effects so he could wear it all the time.

There was a certain degree of... pleasure in the
image of Clark writhing in pain every time he tried
to touch him. Just the sort of thing that made the
rest of them uneasy with Batman's presence
among them.

And that was just fine.

He *still* wasn't entirely sanguine about being here,
being a part of this team with all of its optimism and
tendency to coddle supervillains, but there was a
logic to it, at least. A centralized way to handle the
crises that popped up like weeds, and, when he was
done with the JL system, it *would* be as close to
infallible as he could make it.

Assuming he could put up with all of its little...

"Hey... did you eat yet?"

Clark, and the unspoken, *nearly* spoken Bruce. Just
close enough to the surface to make his teeth grind.
One would think he would've *learned* that lesson
by now. At least, one would if one didn't *know*
Clark. Overgrown farmboy. "No."

Footsteps and the scent of meat. "Flash made
burgers. Well, actually, I think Flash cooked a *cow*,
but there was enough left when he was done for me
to steal a few."

Batman grunted non-committally and tried to focus
on the screen. Rain patterns over equatorial Africa
below normal, but not especially suspicious...

Creak of the chair beside him and the wall of heat the
man seemed to carry with him no matter how much
time he spent outside of direct sunlight. "*Eat*."

Batman closed his eyes behind the mask for a moment.
"I'm not hungry."

Clark sighed and Batman knew if he were to look over,
the man would be staring at him with that usual and
infuriating mix of concern and disappointment. He
typed what would doubtless turn out to be a useless
and random string of characters and waited.

"I'll leave them here for you."

And then Clark was gone.

Batman tuned out the smell of meat as best he could
and kept working on his weather-track program, a bit
of meteorological business that might prove useful
someday. By the time he ate the burgers, they were


Another mission, this one culminating in being trapped
behind a forcefield with Flash. Flash, who, if he
remembered correctly, had recently consumed most of
a donut shop.

If Batman believed in God, he'd be convinced the
man hated him.

After a while, he decided to convince Flash to try to
vibrate at a counter-frequency to whatever they were
stuck behind.

"Are you sure that's not dangerous?"

"Yes," he lied.

There was an interesting light show that offered Batman
a truly illuminating view of Flash's inner-workings and
one hell of a headache.

When he peeled Flash off the back wall, they were able
to leave and join the battle as the rest of the League
fought their way in after them.

Lantern glared. "What did they do to Flash?"

Flash giggled. "Vibrations, duuuude."

Batman made his way back to the plane, sure if he
could get himself belted in quickly and quietly...

Clark in front of him, ridiculous red cape flapping.
"What about you? You were in there a long time."
Hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently.

"I'm fine."

Another squeeze, mercifully brief, but still impossible to
ignore. "I'm glad."

Batman grunted and made his way into the plane,
trying to shake off the sense memory of heat.


Afternoon in the tower, and the gym was finally free.
He still preferred his own set-up in the cave, but it
was hard to spend as much time in Gotham as he
wanted to these days, and, if he was honest with
himself, the programmed enemies were as good (if
not better) than what he had.

He set the room for several shooters, knowing that
they was the worst of his weaknesses. Defeating them
called for as much speed as he had, and often more,
and he couldn't always rely on the ability to get in
close enough to the do the kind of damage he was
built for.

He shot up a line and swung up and over 'Shade,'
tossing out an electrified batarang to take out the
staff and barely managing to avoid 'Luthor's'
kryptonite-laced bullets. He felt his cape rip and
remembered the man as he'd been in school, the
olive skin and endless smirks, the obsession
with knowledge as desirable as the lean muscle, the
smooth skin.

Behind 'Luthor' and he managed to lend a glancing
kick he was sure would make the *real* man
stagger a little more than that, but didn't have time
to complain before 'Sapphire' sent a bolt to his spine
and he lost the grip on his rope and went tumbling.

He relaxed for the fall and was just finishing preparing
for impact and his next move when someone caught

Clark, holding him like a B-movie stereotype and
shutting the program down with a few curt

"Clark --"

A glare for his trouble. "You *could* use the safeties
programmed in, Bruce."

"There's a reason I put in a loophole."

"Yeah, because you're a *lunatic*. Can you stand?"

He felt his lips twist. "Yes."

Clark set him down in the middle of the floor. He
had his Superman face on, but, frankly, the man could
do a better job at separating the two.

"I don't want to hear it."

"You could've gotten really *hurt*, Bruce --"

"If I can't fight these guys..." He didn't bother to finish
the thought.

"The League has enough dumb muscle, Bruce. We
need you for other things."

Not the first time he'd heard that, or even the fifteenth.
All of them so *careful* to make sure he knew he
was needed. As if that was even the point. "Save it,

Hand around his bicep, grip just a little too hard to
be human. He stared at it until Clark let go. "I'm
going to find a way to make you listen to me."

Batman smiled behind his skin and walked out. "You
do that."


Batman was in his room, and wondering at his
body's reaction to night and day. All of it was artificial
up here, and he'd caught himself getting tired well
before four a.m., Gotham time. It was... more than a
little disconcerting.

He knew what the others would say. Certainly they
were all of them built for a daylight lifestyle -- literally
in Clark's case. They would say it was healthy, they
would bring out all those hoary old studies about the
effects of bucking the tendency of the human body to
work during the day and sleep at night.

It wasn't that he was unfamiliar with those studies, or
even especially contemptuous of them.

It was just that criminals tended to eschew the
ever-so-healthy daylight hours.

There was no reason to make their 'jobs' any easier
than they already were.

Beyond that...

Beyond that, he could at least count a slightly higher
degree of privacy if he moved at night. No Flash and
his jokes, no Lantern and his disturbingly watchful
gaze. No Clark...

But that was a lie. He wasn't sure, but he didn't think
the man slept very much at all anymore. There
wasn't even a satisfyingly dark excuse for it all. He
spent too much time in space these days, too much
time sucking life from the battery of the sun. He was
too powerful.

And that was... there was something to worry about
there. He hadn't needed to see the way man
behaved around Darkseid to understand that -- power
was always dangerous, especially to people as blind as
Clark -- but it was a sobering reminder just the same.

In his cave, behind more protections than even the
cave itself, was a small but undoubtedly lethal bit of
Kryptonite taken from Luthor.

If they were lucky, it would never have to be used.

Batman didn't believe in luck.

"It's two a.m., Batman."

Case in point. "I own several watches, Superman."

"Are you *ever* civil?"

Batman stared up at the ceiling, wondering what it
would be like to pray, if it was allowed to pray for
patience. There was room to study there. "When
there's reason for it."

"People tend to be polite to their friends."

Christ. "I don't have friends."

Somewhere just beyond the range of his vision,
Superman would undoubtedly be looking huffy and
offended and turning to leave.

Batman waited for it.

Instead, there were footsteps, and Clark stood over
the bed, looking... amused.


"You're nowhere near as smart as you think you are,

Batman rolled his eyes, and considered, not for the
first time, the pros and cons of doing something with
the mask to make expressions like that easier to
discern for others.

Superman smirked like he'd seen it anyway, and, also
not for the first time, Batman wondered how often
the man used his X-ray vision.

Maybe he could line his suit in lead.

"You can't keep doing this, Bruce."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes you do. You separate yourself off from the group,
you go off on your own... if this team is going to
function at peak efficiency --"

"'Peak efficiency?' Been talking to Luthor lately?"

"No. I've been talking to you."

Batman grunted. "Low blow."

"Maybe. A true one, though."

And there was... something there. A *lot* there, and
it was long past Clark's cue to wander off and be
wounded and bitter until he forgot how to do that --
again -- and Batman had to deal with the man. "Leave."

"You're not even living your life anymore."

"This *is* my life, Clark." And his voice said far more
than he wanted it to and Clark... very obviously heard
it all.

"No one can live that way."

"I seem to be breathing."

Clark crouched beside the bed and reached out, just
barely not touching his chest. "We all need to do more
than breathe."

Ignore it, ignore... "We all need privacy, too. I don't
see you giving me any of that."

And there it was, a twisted expression of hurt just
visible at the corner of Batman's vision. What he
wanted. Now he would...

"Christ, Bruce, I just want to *help*. Why won't you
let me?"

And he heard himself snarl and felt himself move,
but it was all moving too fast, like being dragged
through the streets by Flash, lifted out of danger
and into something worse by Clark. He felt his hand
close around Clark's wrist and had just enough time
to savor the surprise on the man's face before his
mouth started talking without the slightest bit of
instruction from his brain. "You have no idea *what*
you want, Clark."

And there was a moment, with Clark's expression
blank, with the feel of that heat and iron muscle
under his palm, that Batman thought he'd be able
to get control of the situation again. That this would
be just one more late night conversation of
awkwardness and truths to be swept under the rug
and forgotten, but then Clark's face changed.

Confusion, yes, but just a hint of wariness. A hint of
*knowing* that made something in Batman's belly
seize and flare and *fuck* this.

The kiss was as hard as he could give, harder than
he'd ever kissed a woman, and with far more intent
than he wanted to deal with. Clark made a small
noise in the back of his throat and Batman could
only watch as his eyes fluttered closed. Felt the
mouth against his fall open and *invite*, as if this
was anything to want.

As if it was something *good*.

And he was off the bed, using his weight to carry
them both to the floor, and Clark just sucked his
tongue and spread his legs and took it.

There was so much he wanted to say. So much he
*could* say to make it clear this was nothing either
of them should be doing. Buttons he could press to
make Clark ashamed, ways to rip him open for
good and all, and he would never have to deal with
the man again beyond duty.

But he didn't say any of them. Just kissed Clark
harder and wondered who had taught the man to like

And yes, he had his suspicions, but he didn't want any
of them. Not like this. Not now.

He pushed the suit up over that ridiculously chiseled
chest, over dark rose nipples that just got darker,
hard against his palms as he stroked, and it wasn't
enough. He pulled off the gloves and they both
gasped at the feel of skin on skin and there were
*reasons* he didn't do this. But Clark had to know.

He had to...

"God, Bruce, yes --"

He kissed him to shut him up, and then felt himself
getting lost in the feel of it. The surprisingly soft
mouth and the alien heat and the rock of hips
up against his own. He didn't want to know what
the man wanted. He didn't want...

Broad, hard thigh between his own, pushing them
apart and rubbing against him and it ripped a
groan out of him, from somewhere deep in his
chest and Clark just held him tighter, pulled him

So foolish. Younger than all of them and so fucking

Batman ground his hips down hard, and the sound
of Clark's moan made him do it again. Again.


He heard himself make a noise he couldn't classify
and pushed and pulled at the man's tights until he
could get him out of them. Heard something tear
as Clark worked mostly futilely on his own uniform
and thought hard about pushing the hands away,
but then Clark cupped him through the tights and it
was too much not to help.

And God, *skin*, and more than that, worse than
that, the look on Clark's face, impossible not to see
in the light from the hallway. Impossible to look
away from.

And then they were just moving together, driving
hard against each other. Clark, for once, not being
careful with him.

Not being careful at all, and it was good, or at least
it *felt* good, and Batman let his eyes close and let
his body move. Bruce would never have anything
this intense, and Clark would never understand why,
and the two of them would never, *could* never --

"Oh God --"

Clark, coming hot and wet between them, clutching
Batman hard, moving him bodily to make him go
faster, fuck harder, and there was no way to hold
back from that.

He tried anyway, failed in a grunt he couldn't hold
back, in a shudder that went through his entire body,
in the heat he spilled between them.

Batman panted, holding himself up and away from
the worst of the mess, and eventually Clark loosened
his grip, mouth slack and eyes wide and dark. Batman
felt the muscles in his arm twitch, and he knew that if
he let himself, he would touch that face. Stroke it,
and let his touch say everything he was swallowing

He pushed harder against the floor instead. Until he
was steady.

And then he stood up, straightened his clothes, and
made for the door.

"Bruce --"

"I have to walk."


But Batman was already out the door, setting a path
that would take him the longest possible route around
the tower.


The observatory was empty, and silent save for the
constant, vaguely soothing hum of machinery.

J'onn melted up through the floor and stood beside
him in a calm quiet that he almost thought could last.

"Batman, you don't have --"


"As you wish."

They watched the stars together until his body told
him it was dawn over Gotham city, and then Batman
returned to his empty room.



Same old trick