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Title:  A Dance for Two
Characters/Pairings: Superman/Batman
Rating: PG-13 for violence
Summary:  When Batman takes a Kryptonite bullet, Superman can't get close to him--in more ways than one.
Word count:  6600
Notes:  Co-written with arch_schatten to feed the h/c bunnies!



A drop of sweat splattered on the controls of the Javelin.  Clark checked the temperature controls, but it wasn't hot in the spaceship, so he must be sweating for some other reason.  No time to think about it.  He dodged three Apokoliptian fighters, weaving between them, heading for open space.  Almost there.  Almost there.

A power bolt grazed the side of the Javelin and it jolted to the side, the impact rattling the craft.  There was a hissed intake of breath behind Clark, and he almost dropped the controls and turned, but a rough voice cut him off before he could even move, as if it had read his mind:

"Just fly, Clark."

The Javelin's control yoke dented in Clark's grip as he piloted through an asteroid field, shaking off the last fighters.  Behind him he could feel it, a pulse of viridian glinting balefully, prodding him with twinges of pain.

Just fly, Clark.

He set his teeth and flew.

: : :

Batman stared intently at the back of the Javelin's copilot chair, his thoughts divided. Superman needed help to maneuver them out of the enemy fire, the Javelin's systems were stressing under the single pilot mode. If he didn't get up to help, the Apokoliptian troops had a bigger chance of stopping them before they reached outer space; they had smaller crafts and better mobility. If Superman could get to the asteroids, though, their chances would improve. Despite their bigger craft, the auto pilot would navigate for them and the enemy vessels weren't equipped to leave the atmosphere.

Of course, it wouldn't be the first time Apokoliptian technology surprised him today.

On the other hand, he couldn't help Superman copilot. Even assuming he could keep a steady hand on the controls -and, as if on cue, he fought a wave of shivering, wondering if Clark was lowering the temperature on the ship so he could divert more power to the engines- even assuming that, they would still only have one set of steady hands on the controls.

The Javelin shook, rattling him against the wall, spikes of pain throwing his breathing off. He saw a minute shift in Clark's shoulder as he heard him. If Clark could just concentrate on what he was doing they would have the best chance to get out of this particular situation.

"Just fly, Clark," he growled.

Bruce cracked a smile as Clark stopped before he started to turn. The tension on his shoulders seemed to grow more acute, but there was little Bruce could say to reassure him.

Fifty-fifty, if he was willing to be probabilistically generous. He had to trust in Clark and the Javelin and stay put.

He shifted his gaze towards Superman. They had survived worse odds. 

Just fly, Clark.


: : :

Fifteen minutes ago:

Superman shook off the last two Parademons, tossing them into a wall, and turned to catch up with Batman.  The Javelin door was swinging open;  only a few hundred meters to go.  Barda and Scott had infiltrated Apokolips without problems;  Superman had no doubt they'd be able to find their target and escape via boom tube eventually.  In the meantime, Superman and Batman were providing an excellent distraction.

Superman's arm throbbed where it had been creased by a bullet;  their plans had gone somewhat awry when they realized Darkseid had gotten wind of something and equipped his troops with Kryptonite-loaded guns.  Their retreat--not "mad scramble," Batman never had mad scrambles--had been sped up a bit by that fact.  But the Javelin door opened before them, they were almost there, no more guards to be seen, everything was going to be fine.

It happened so quickly Clark couldn't quite piece it together later (Just fly, just fly).  A flash of silver out of the corner of his eye from the top of a building, Batman's yelled "Kal!", the shove that sent him reeling into the Javelin's interior with the door slamming shut behind them, it was all jumbled up in his head.  He remembered grabbing the controls and getting the ship off the ground, dodging gun turrets.  He remembered wondering why Batman wasn't helping pilot, and starting to look behind him to check on his teammate.  He remembered Bruce's voice behind him, the snarl in it roughened and wet:  "Get us out of here, Clark.  No, don't turn around. Just get us out of here!"

Superman had never been so glad to see Apokolips recede in the distance--and that was saying a lot.

: : :

The last fighter fell back as they cleared the asteroid field and Superman set in a course for the nearest planet with medical facilities.  Earth was too far away, and going to New Genesis would provoke open warfare again.  Two days to safety.   Only once the course was set did he allow himself to turn around.

Batman was on the floor, leaning against the wall as far away from Superman as he could get.  A smeared trail of blood went from the door to the huddled figure.  The side of the black armor was a bloody ruin, and scarlet was pooling on the floor below him.

Clark took a step forward, but Batman made an angry hissing noise.  "Kryptonite bullet," he said, and Clark could feel it again, the acidic burn of radiation that got worse as he drew nearer. 

He halted, irresolute, nausea washing over him.  "I have to help you," he said.

Bruce's jaw was set.  "Help me?  Don't be stupid.  There's nothing you can do, so stay back."

Clark took another step forward, feeling sweat start on his brow, and Bruce growled like jagged metal.  "Don't play the martyr with me, Clark.  I don't get off on watching pointless suffering."  When Clark looked like he might move toward him again, Bruce barked, "Stop it!" and broke into a wet cough, wiping flecks of blood from his lips when he was done.

Clark stepped back to the pilot's chair, unwilling to agitate Bruce further.  "You took a bullet meant for me," he said softly, and Bruce grinned humorlessly.

"Don't flatter yourself.  I'm sure Darkseid would be delighted to know he got either one of us."

"Point taken," Clark said, trying to match his tone, to stay in the comfortable patterns of conversation.  Bruce's breathing was too rapid, his skin pale.  Clark tried to listen for the other man's pulse, but the Kryptonite was affecting his hearing, casting a haze of discomfort all through the ship.  Not being able to hear that steady beat made Clark feel a brief surge of panic.  He tried to smile reassuringly at Bruce, though the pulse pounding in his ears was his alone.

Bruce watched Clark's far away look as the other man tried to extend his senses. The minute crease in his brow above the attempted smile hinted at how the Kryptonite was diminishing his abilities even now. Bruce swallowed, the taste of copper sharp in his mouth, causing a wave of nausea. If the Green K was affecting Clark even now -how was it possible that Darkseid had gotten a hold of the Kryptonite?- the trip wasn't going to be easy on either of them. They had to find a way to shield Clark from the radiation; to have both of them handicapped as they retreated from Darkseid troops was just asking for trouble.

"Damn," he muttered. Clark raised an eyebrow in his direction. "This," Bruce added, waving a bloodied hand a little, "we were played like amateurs." Bruce reached out for the cowl and pulled it back, rubbing his eyes with the back of his hand. He was sweating, despite the cold. Shock would get him soon if he wasn't careful. He forced himself to keep talking, ignoring the jabs of pain that breathing brought to his flank. "Kryptonite bullets. Sniper rifles. I'll hang Scott for not letting me do a better recon job."

"There was no way to know until we got here," Clark pointed out. Bruce saw him clench and unclench his hands, long fingers opening and closing tensely.

"Of course there was a way," he growled. "Guns like that don't spawn overnight. They must have run tests, developed tech, gotten samples... it had a very impressive range. We were moving targets, so the sniper had to be a trained one. Last time I checked-"

"Stop straining yourself," Clark cut him off.

Bruce glared at him, short of breath. Clark didn't look away, his jaw set. Bruce rolled his eyes and continued. "As I was saying, last time I checked Parademons weren't known for their finesse. There must have been more than one to improve their chances of making a hit. A trained unit of snipers and new guns, with new ammo. We should have known before we got here. Our ignorance put you in unnecessary danger."

"Me?" Clark snorted, his smile not touching his eyes. "Then his plan obviously failed."

Bruce ignored him. "It was a two mile-long shot at least. Either the shooter was really good at compensating, or the scope has some system I can't even imagine. I wouldn't really trust Parademons to make the compensations." Bruce coughed a little, absentmindedly rubbing his lips and then his eyes. His vision was blurring at the edges. "Clark... would you-?"

"I won't turn back to get you one of those rifles, Bruce. I'm sorry. Maybe next time we stop by Apokolips," Clark joked.

Bruce snorted, hanging his head as a smile spread on his lips. "You won't fulfill a dying man's last wish, Clark? Harsh."

"Don't talk like that," Clark growled.

The silence that followed would have been more awkward if it wasn't for the fact that everything was starting to fade away. "I meant to ask you to throw me a water bottle," he muttered through chattering teeth.

Clark skirted around him, heading for the cabinets. Bruce rested his head on the wall, following Clark's movements with half lidded eyes. "And pressure bandages," he added, almost as an afterthought.     

He saw Clark hesitate once he had the supplies in hand, a frown hardening the handsome face. Bruce hissed as he saw the Kryptonian take a step forward to hand him the supplies. "Don't get near me, damn it. It's only going to hurt you."

Clark carefully threw him the supplies and rolled the bottle of water in his direction, walking back to sit on the control chair with a wry smile on his lips. The sound of the Javelin's engines was making Bruce drowsy. "Isn't that what you say to everyone?"

Bruce couldn't uncap the bottle, his hands shaking, and it seemed like it was too much work anyway. He wasn't thirsty anymore, and the taste of blood seemed more distant. "Bruce?" Clark called him, and for a moment, Bruce thought he was falling, his throat closing with the rise of the familiar fear. A second later warmth spread through him, taking his shivering body to somewhere far away, and Clark's voice gently cradled him as he glided into the darkness.

Clark saw Bruce slump sideways slightly and was at his side without thinking, the burning wash of pain ignored as he caught Bruce before his head hit the floor.  "Bruce," he muttered, not expecting a response. "Don't do this to me, Bruce."

Bandages.  Bandages and water. 

He got the bottle open and cleaned the wound slightly; red-tinged water dripped into the already far-too-large pool of scarlet. Pressure, he had to apply pressure.  He held bandage against the wound in Bruce's side, trying to stop the bleeding.  Five minutes of pressure at least. He tried to hold his hands steady against the growing burn, pain like splinters of emerald under his fingernails, in his blood.  He prayed Bruce wouldn't wake up and bark at him;  he was in no mood to explain that sitting and watching his friend bleed to death while he cowered on the other side of the room wasn't exactly an option.

The bandage was soaked with red, but the bleeding seemed to have stopped.  Clark pried his hands cautiously away, half-expecting to see the palms burned, but they remained whole, although they ached and throbbed.  Bruce's face was far too pale, each dark eyelash distinct against blanched skin.  Shock, of course.  Clark fetched some blankets from the locker and rolled them up to try and elevate Bruce's feet, his thoughts clumsy and slowed.  He would never admit it to anyone, but more than losing his powers, more than the pain, he hated the way Kryptonite made him feel stupid, fogged and dull.

Bruce's feet were elevated, another blanket across his body, and Clark retreated to the far side of the cockpit to regroup.  It didn't help much;  every time he saw Bruce's body lying so far away, he felt fresh pain go through him, felt his thoughts stop for a moment of agony.  Don't get near me.  Don't get near me. 

Somehow it seemed an unbearable thought, that it might be the last thing Bruce had ever said to him.

Bruce chose that moment to take a hoarse breath and break into racking shudders, his teeth chattering.  He was still unconscious, which was good because it meant he wasn't able to protest when Clark slipped next to him, trying to warm him, putting his arms around him as gently as possible.  His hair was damp with sweat as Clark smoothed it back, his brow beaded with moisture and chilly to the touch.  The viridian ache was there, but it was further away than Bruce's breath stirring his hair, Bruce's shoulder under his cheek. 

The armor smelled like sweat and the metallic tang of Apokolips, the reek of blood over it all.  Clark stilled his mind as much as he could, trying to get the smell of Bruce's blood out of his thoughts.  He needed to process the situation, make plans.  The other man would be furious if he came to and found that Clark had spent the intervening time just lying there thinking don't die, you can't die, please don't die, like an endless loop.

He had to trust that Scott and Barda would get out on their own, would get back to New Genesis undetected.  Escape artists, you couldn't keep them down (don't die).  It was two days to medical attention.  Two days, and even from across the room the Kryptonite had been making it difficult (you can't die).  Clark's mind laboriously drew charts, maps, and timetables, and all the dotted lines ended about halfway across.  It was easier to focus on Bruce's breathing, which was slowly growing more even, the shudders easing.  Clark felt a smile tug his mouth against the stiff leather.  Physical contact was soothing, it didn't really matter who it was--the unconscious body took comfort from it.  And since Bruce being unconscious was about the only way Clark would ever get this close to him...

That thought hurt again, somehow, and he went back to trying to plan.  Clocks and star charts, ticking stopwatches with poisonous green hands (please don't die).

Bruce's breathing shifted slightly, from sleeping to half-waking.  Clark froze like a child caught in a misdeed, chagrin washing over him as he felt the muscles of Bruce's shoulders tense slightly, the line of his back and neck going guarded and uncomfortable.  Clark kept his breathing even and relaxed and felt some of the alarm slowly drain out of the other man.  For a few moments they laid like that, just resting, and then Bruce made a sudden motion as if he had just remembered something.

"What the--why are you right here, you..." The words trailed off groggily, as if he couldn't quite choose which insult would be best.  Bruce shoved at Clark weakly.  "Get over there.  Why are you here?"

Clark blinked.  It was a fair question.  "It hurt less here," he said truthfully.  He raised his head to meet Bruce's too-bright eyes.  "I haven't been just lying around."  It seemed important to make that clear.  "I've been making plans.  Trying to make plans."

Bruce sighed slowly and carefully.  "In that case, you know what we have to do."

"Huh?"  Clark knew that didn't sound very lucid.  Stopwatches running to zero, maps with broken dotted lines in neon green, he could see them, but couldn't seem to see where they led to.  "What do you mean?"

Bruce took another breath and Clark felt a moment of panic.  I don't want to hear this, he thought.

But there wasn't anywhere to get away from it, nowhere at all.

Bruce swallowed, his mouth dry. Just talking seemed like such an effort; there was no way he would accomplish what needed to be done on his own. He needed Clark's help, Kryptonite or not. "We have to take the bullet out," he said carefully. "I'll need your help."

"Neither of us is in any shape to do that, Bruce. The Kryptonite... I can't..."

Bruce closed his eyes as Clark trailed off. Of course Clark wasn't going to admit that the Kryptonite was incapacitating him, but Bruce didn't need to hear him say it. He could feel the way Clark's body trembled ever so slightly, how his body temperature had descended, though he couldn't be sure exactly how cold Clark was because his own body temperature was less than optimal. Clark's words were slower -again, it could be a trick of Bruce's distorted perception, but he didn't think it was-, his breathing a little too fast.

No, neither of them would make it if the Kryptonite wasn't put behind lead. He tried to sit up, Clark's hands quickly moving to support him. "This is the best chance we have. Let's not waste it."

Clark nodded reluctantly, his lips a thin line of disapproval, obviously not liking the course of action. "What do we need?"

"Fetch me the instruments, Nurse Clark;" Bruce almost leered, trying to ease Clark's frown. "And one of the containment boxes," he added, sobering his tone a little.

Clark got on his knees and made a visible effort to get up, Bruce's eyes followed him around the cockpit. Nausea was taking over him again, he needed to focus. The thought of being the cause of Clark's pain -physical pain, even, something he wasn't used to having associated with him- wasn't helping his tumbling stomach any. This was becoming worse than a nightmare, causing pain with his mere presence.

He shook his head to clear his mind as Clark returned by his side. Clark's pallor was taking a sickly green turn, and a sheen of sweat glimmered on his skin under the cold halogen lights. Bruce shivered, trying to even his breathing. The sooner they got this done, the better. "Ready?"

Clark nodded, his half smile still strained at the edges. "Pay attention, Clark.  Knowing where the armor catches are could come handy down the road." It was easier to tease Clark than to try to reassure him; they always fell back to banter when things got difficult. Bruce guided Clark through the multiple hidden catches, Clark's hands not as steady as they should be as they roamed over his chest and sides. The Kryptonite must have been getting to him worse than Bruce thought, but then, he wasn't sure how long he had been out and Clark had been exposing himself to the radiation. He removed his bloodied gloves, the rubber slippery with crimson and grime. Clark found the last catch and began pulling the armor off, and Bruce bit down a moan, his eyes fluttering closed.

"Bruce? Are you sure you can do this?" Clark whispered, his voice laced with worry.

He grunted, biting his lower lip. "I'm fine. Get the mirror," he rasped as he laid back down. He saw Clark's frown intensify. "You're a big boy, Clark, I'm sure you won't mind the blood," he added, his voice hoarse.

He put on a pair of gloves and applied disinfectant and local anesthesia, looking at what he was doing through the mirror Clark was holding. He had to keep his hands steady, deep breaths. The knife touched skin, breaking it as he pressed the blade against himself. Blood swelled, and Clark was quick to reach out to clean it up, grimacing. Bruce grabbed the pliers and bit down hard as he went inside the wound to try to retrieve the K bullet, hoping beyond hope it wouldn't shard or break. He was losing control of his breathing, small grunts of pain unavoidable as he abused the wounded tissue with the instruments. He was covered in cold sweat; passing out again was crawling to the top of his list of concerns. He looked at Clark, trying to ground himself. He couldn't bear to see Clark hurt. He looked sick, and Bruce wasn't sure if it was because of the kryptonite or the bloody mess he was. "You... okay, Clark?"

"Peachy," Clark said, his hands trembling just slightly.

Bruce closed his eyes as he found the bullet, fighting the twitch of his fingers so he wouldn't grasp it too hard and lose it, and slowly pulled it out, a sob escaping his clenched teeth. He took one deep breath, reaching for the containment box. Before he put it away, he gave the green bullet a quick inspection against the light. The crystal was perfectly smooth, unmarred. He put the bullet away, closing the box, and sighed. The satisfying snap of the box sealing shut meant Clark would be okay. Safe. "I don't feel like doing that again anytime soon," Bruce whispered.

Clark heard the box click shut, but he couldn't focus on the cessation of pain.  Not yet.  "Clark, I'm going to have to ask you to stitch me up," Bruce said hoarsely.  At the look on Clark's face, he smiled slightly, his eyes half-shut.  "I'm sure your Ma taught you to darn socks, Clark.  How much worse can this be?"

"How much--"  Clark felt his throat close up as he contemplated the bloody incision, then he forced himself to match Bruce's light tone.  "Well, there's one advantage to this over socks--the socks could never tell me if I was sewing crooked."

"I'm not--"  Bruce's voice wavered just a little, his eyes half-closed.  "--not sure I'm going to be much more useful than the socks at the moment, Clark."

Clark fumbled in the first aid kit and came up with a packet of sterilized needles and some surgical thread.  "Nonsense," he said briskly as he threaded the needle.  His hands weren't shaking anymore, he noticed--whether that was because the Kryptonite was gone or he was finally able to do something useful, he wasn't sure.  "If I were asked to summarize you in one sentence, I would say, 'Bruce Wayne: More useful than socks.'"

"...Nice epitaph.  I'll have to remember that one," Bruce said faintly.

"Shut up.  You're not going to need an epitaph for a good long time."  He set the needle to work, trying not to think about the fact that it was his friend's flesh he was piercing.  Small stitches.  Draw the edges together.  Steady.  Bruce's breath was ragged, and Clark reminded himself that sometimes it was necessary to hurt someone a little more in order to heal them.  That seemed very profound, but he wasn't sure what the hell it meant.  Still, contemplating it kept his mind occupied until he closed up the last stitch.

Bruce looked down, his face gray.  "Almost as good as Alfred.  When I need socks darned in the future, I'll know who to turn to."

Clark put a hand to Bruce's forehead for no good reason, smoothing his hair back.  "You just call me, Bruce.  I'll be happy to do any sewing necessary around the Manor."

"Do you...do windows?"

"Super-handyman, that's me."  The conversation was entirely inane, but it seemed to be helping both of them calm down.  Clark realized his hand was still on Bruce's forehead, his fingers moving very slightly in sweat-soaked hair.  Bruce's pain-hazed eyes met his and there didn't seem to be any particular rush to take his hand away.  "We should get some painkillers in you."

"I don't like taking narcotics.  Can't...think," Bruce said.

"You don't need to think with super-handyman around.  You need some rest, and you'll rest better with the pain dulled."  Rather reluctantly, Clark removed his hand to find a gelcap of medicine.  "This will be enough to take the edge off, but it won't knock you out entirely."  He unwrapped it and held it up.  "Say 'ah.'" 

Bruce opened his mouth obediently--too obediently, the pain must be staggering--and Clark slipped the caplet into his mouth.  Then he adjusted the pillow and the blanket over the other man.  "See if you can get some sleep.  It's still another 18 hours or so until we reach Cygnus V, you might as well spend it sleeping."

Bruce sighed slightly and closed his eyes.  Clark stood up and moved to the pilot's seat again, sitting down and closing his eyes.  It would be a good idea for him to be rested too. 

He slipped into a troubled half-sleep where the tiny sounds of pain Bruce had made during the operation rang in his ears again.  The mirror that he held trembled and shattered.  "Seven years bad luck," Bruce said, his voice hoarse with agony, before lapsing back into small, guttural noises.  Clark tried to pick up the shards of glass, put them back together, but they were green and they cut his hands, he'd never be able to help Bruce like this--

"Clark."  He jerked back into consciousness and realized with a shock of mortification that he'd been making terrible whimpering noises.  "Clark," Bruce said again, his voice blurry but distinctly annoyed, "You don't have to stay so damn far away."

"What?"  Clark felt disoriented, his head spinning.

"I didn't go through all that effort to dig that bullet out of my flesh to have you avoid me like I was poison."

Clark moved back to where Bruce was lying on the floor.  Bruce blinked up at him, his dark blue eyes fogged by drugs and pain, but his voice was still acerbic.  "Does it hurt so damn much to be near me?"

"No."  Clark swallowed and managed to raise his voice above a whisper.  "No, not so much."

Bruce closed his eyes.  "Then stay nearby.  I won't bite."

Clark couldn't help the laugh that threaded his voice.  "Promise?"

The sapphire eyes remained closed, but Bruce's lips tilted in something close to a smile.  "Not unless you ask nicely."

Clark let affection color his voice in a way he didn't usually dare when Bruce was at full capacity.  "We're out of danger now, Bruce.  You don't have to distract me anymore."

Bruce didn't respond.  After a moment Clark concluded he must have fallen asleep again, but then Bruce said, barely above a whisper, his eyes still closed,  "Stay nearby."

Clark carefully lifted himself into the air to hover a couple of feet above Bruce's prone form.  He didn't want to actually touch the injured man, he was probably too near for Bruce's comfort as it was, but it made Clark feel better to be able to look down and see Bruce's sleeping face.  Bruce's brow was furrowed in pain, and Clark fought the urge to reach out and smooth away those creases.

Eventually he fell asleep again, this time without dreams.

As he drifted back up out of consciousness, he opened his eyes to see that Bruce had gotten a grip on his cape and was holding it almost like a security blanket.  The red cloth gave his face some color.  As Clark looked, Bruce's eyes opened slowly, sleep and drugs making his gaze unwary and direct.  Clark wondered suddenly if Bruce's lovers ever saw that look in his eyes if they woke up next to him in the morning, or did he usually wake up cautious and elusive as ever?

He was startled from his embarrassing reverie by Bruce pulling gently on his cape, reeling him closer, his eyes still locked on Clark's.  Slowly he pulled Clark close until there could only be a millimeter of space between their bodies  Clark's mouth was a breath away from Bruce's ear now, not touching.  None of him was touching Bruce at all, and yet the very air between them seemed alive with...possibilities?  Potential?  Clark wasn't sure how he would describe it.

But he knew it felt good.

"Bruce..." he whispered into the ear so close to him.  Bruce sighed at the brush of breath, but it wasn't his usual exasperated sigh.  It sounded almost...wistful.  Almost...

"Shhh," Bruce whispered back.  "It's okay.  It's okay."  It almost sounded like he was talking to himself more than Clark.  "It doesn't hurt."  Then he turned his head just enough that his cheek grazed Clark's.

At the touch, the connection made, Clark felt his body settle almost despite himself, closing the last millimeters to come up against Bruce with infinite lightness, from shoulders down to feet, shifting to avoid the bandaged wound.  He closed his eyes, his face against Bruce's neck, his mouth against Bruce's neck
, and marveled in the feeling.

Nothing hurt at all.

They stayed that way for a very long time, not speaking, just touching, until the console broke into Clark's dreamy reverie with the cold beep of an incoming call.

"Superman? Batman? Am I interrupting the Love Cruise or are you dead?" Mr. Miracle's voice rang playfully in the speakers. Batman growled, his hold on Clark tightening to keep him from leaving.

"Alive... no thanks to you, Free." Bruce's hand was slowly but surely heading towards Clark hair as he sighed annoyed into the commlink. "Next time... you need help with a mission,"  Bruce paused, coughing, "and hurry us through the recon, I will... kick you all the way to Apokolips. Then, if we die... I'll die happy."

Scott laughed, but when he spoke again he had the decency to sound sheepish. "Are you guys okay?"

Bruce's fingers found Clark's hair, absently playing with it. "Batman needs medical attention and I need a vacation, but other than that, I guess we're okay," Clark intervened. "You and Barda made it out without trouble?"

"Not without trouble, but that's part of the show. And if Batman can bitch at me about recon, I suppose he'll live. Where are you headed?"

"Cygnus V," Clark said.

"Good. We'll catch up with you there. Call if you need anything, okay? I'm sorry things went kind of awry, but we got what we were looking for."

Bruce's breathing was slowing down to sleep again, his hand still in Clark's hair, and he wasn't helping Clark shake off his own drowsiness. All he wanted was to lay back and let the slow heartbeat lull him to sleep. "I'll have to get back to you later, Scott. Batman's out cold again."

"Okay. Take care over there," Scott said, laughing under his breath as the comm link closed.

Clark shifted, letting his weight rest on the ship's floor as he laid wrapped around Bruce, his head resting over his partner's chest. The heartbeat beneath his ear was like a tribal drum,  the beat inexplicably enthralling; a primal song filling the silent night. Clark's own heart beat in counterpoint, faster, adding energy and movement to the dance. As he felt sleep claim him again, Clark knew he could dance the night away into the dawn as long as the song kept up, the beats never fading.

:::

Batman woke up to to the sound of medical equipment and strange voices. His thoughts were foggy and slow, constantly running away from him. He got tired of trying to figure out what had happened and where he was, the memory -dream?- slipping from his grasp. He tried to muster some worry about his surroundings since everything sounded and felt alien, but he couldn't shake the feelings of wellbeing and safety.

It was probably the drugs, but he had the inkling that something else might have happened. Nothing hurt.

Voices seemed to approach and he opened his eyes, his vision blurry at the edges. Crystal walls enclosed the small room, light dancing in the facets and forming patterns over every surface. He was hooked up to alien tech -streamlined silver and crystals everywhere, like a giant geode.

Like the Fortress, his mind supplied after a couple of heartbeats.

At that, he was flooded with details of the last mission -Superman, Scott and Barda, Apokolips, the sniper rifles, the Green K. Clark being sick. Everything Bruce touched being poisoned and destroyed. No, no. That had been a dream. Clark was fine. Bruce had held him and he had been fine.

Only Clark was nowhere to be seen now and the lights reflecting on the walls were making Bruce drowsy, glints of blue, purple and green chasing like northern lights in the sky.

"...said he would be fine, seems like we didn't butcher his insides entirely. He lost a lot of blood, though, and he's sedated."

"Does that means he won't delight us with his witty repartee?"

"He's very nice when he's unconscious, actually," Clark said, opening the door and letting more light come inside the room.

Bruce blinked, trying to get his eyes used to the brightness. He could barely see Clark's
silhouette against the light and the gleaming crystals, and he felt lightheaded. Clark stepped into the room, his features slowly coming into view. He stood by Bruce's bedside and smiled affectionately, holding a box in one hand.

"Hey, B," Clark said softly. "How are you?"

Bruce saw Scott and Barda standing close, their costumes vibrating in the soothing light, the colors bleeding at the edges, curling and spiraling up like smoke. "'m drugged," Bruce mumbled.

"Earth's greatest detective," Scott saluted. "Are you having a pleasant trip at least?"

Bruce knew, rather distantly, that the remark would have bothered him at some other time, but he couldn't concentrate on the feeling; Clark was touching his hand and filling him with light and heat. He closed his eyes, sparkles dancing behind his eyelids and nodded at Scott's question. Clark's hand was slowly stroking his skin, painting him colors, making him bright. Clark's hands were full of light.  

Bruce heard them talk, but the words slipped from him if he didn't hang tightly to them. He decided to let the words go, letting them fly around him. Butterflies of sound. Scott's clear voice was a playful yellow, dipping into green when he grew serious, spots of orange as he laughed. Barda's was a sultry blue, meeting Scott's orange with purple. Clark voice caressed him, soft and familiar, an underlying strength that promised safety and warmth, red and orange and whispers of magenta. He couldn't stop staring at him, how his eyes sparkled with laughter and affection, his lips moving, a shy tongue wetting them once, marble teeth biting his lower lip as he stared back at him. He looked concerned. He said his name once, and Bruce closed his eyes, trying to catch the sound. "Yes?"

"You need to get some sleep. I know you don't like to be sedated, but the doctors were trying to make sure you were comfortable."

"'m comfortable."

Clark smiled. "I'm sure you are. I'm going to leave this here, I'll show it to you later, and we'll go get something to eat so you can rest for a while."

"What's it?"

Clark turned to look at Scott, and both of them grinned. Light. Everything was full of light. "I called Scott from the ship and we managed to get you a present."

"I'm sorry you got shot," Scott offered. "Superman has weird ideas for 'get well' presents."

Barda laughed, and Clark took a step back, breaking contact. Bruce's hand darted outwards, catching Clark hand faster than he could think about it.

Clark looked at their hands for a moment, and started talking again. Bruce couldn't pay attention to his words, there were sparks where his skin met Clark's, ripples of energy running up his arm, up Clark's arm. Sparks met and retreated, colors entwining and coming apart. They were dancing.

Bruce had been dancing for a very long time.

When he looked up again, Clark was alone in the room with him, looking at him intently.

"What do you see?" Clark asked softly.

Bruce wasn't sure he had words to explain what he saw. He pulled Clark towards him and he sat by his side, mindful of the equipment and his wounds. Bruce's hand ran over Clark's arm, the ripples following the trace of his fingers, sparks lighting his face as he traced the line of his jaw, the curve of his lips. Clark was silent, the quiet full of light. Bruce's touch didn't bring corruption and decay, nor poisoning or destruction, and he smiled, closing his eyes, relief washing over him and healing the wounds the mission had reopened in his soul.

Clark's lips touched his own, questioning and unsure. Bruce felt like he was burning, the touch filling him with warmth. His eyes were tightly closed and he was drowning in pure blinding white, his lips begging Clark to stay close, trying to pour the light back into Clark and paint him with colors he couldn't name.

Clark broke the kiss -it had to be Clark, Bruce would have held into the touch until everything faded away, and swallowed loudly. "Okay. Okay, I hope I wasn't taking advantage of my drugged friend and you really meant that." He sighed, running a hand through his hair. "You better have meant that." A long silence followed while Bruce tried to catalog the colors behind his eyes -blinding light had broken into the whole spectrum and if only Clark would kiss him again this time Bruce would pay more attention to the strobing lights, maybe- and Clark slowly reached for his hand, entwining their fingers. "What do you see?" He asked quietly again.

"Light."

"Oh. Like..."

"You're full of light. And we dance."

"In the light?"

"Everywhere." Bruce opened his eyes, meeting Clark's gaze. "All the time."

"And you like that." Clark seemed unsure.

Bruce shrugged, resting his head against Clark's chest. He didn't think he could judge the dance in terms of liking or disliking it, only that he couldn't stop, that he wouldn't stop. There was a certainty in it that he found reassuring, though. And he liked Clark. A lot. "What's in the box?"

"Well, while we were getting here, Scott and Barda were finding out where Darkseid got the new weapons, and managed to intercept a shipment and destroy it." Clark paused, resting his head on Bruce's hair, his breath tousling the dark locks. "The boom tubes make for really efficient traveling, I'll grant them that. I contacted Scott before they left and asked if there was any way to get you, well, one of those rifles. So you can check it out. Reverse engineer it or something once you're back on your feet."

"Get well present?"

Clark nodded.

"Nice." Bruce turned to face upwards, touching Clark's lips.

He was going to miss the colors once the drugs were gone, but there was no way he could forget the light now. No way he could lose it.

He pulled Clark closer for another dance.




Comments

( 78 comments — Leave a comment )
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undomielregina
Jan. 7th, 2008 08:10 am (UTC)
Oh wow, you have no idea how much hardcore h/c pushes my buttons. That was so pretty, if pretty is really the right word for someone else's pain. All that stoic Batman and self-sacrificing Superman is just perfect.
jij
Jan. 7th, 2008 01:46 pm (UTC)
That was so pretty, if pretty is really the right word for someone else's pain.

*grin* It's always so hard to figure out how to compliment h/c for me! I know just what you mean, though...arch_schatten walked me through the h/c with panache and her hand-holding really helped me slow down and focus--usually I tend to rush desperately through such scenes... :)

We've agreed that Bruce is on his best behavior when unconscious or on the brink of it. :) Glad you enjoyed!
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:13 am (UTC) - Expand
yamheads
Jan. 7th, 2008 10:18 am (UTC)
This is why Bruce and Clark are meant to be together.

That is all.

Or not! Squee, this was so excellent. Soooo good. *flails* You guys wrote a gorgeous story!
jij
Jan. 7th, 2008 01:48 pm (UTC)
*flails* Thank you! I couldn't have done it without Mina, my h/c instincts are terrible! I'm glad you liked the results... :)
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:21 am (UTC) - Expand
dm_wyatt
Jan. 7th, 2008 04:02 pm (UTC)
I loved this, I usually like Clark hurt/comfort but the pickle you put them into put them both into pain and they had some serious obstacles to try and overcome.

And the descriptions of Bruce's drug-induced hallucinations were terrific and them making him feel better about the affects he has on Clark was touching and sweet...

Awesome job!
jij
Jan. 8th, 2008 07:03 am (UTC)
I usually like Clark hurt/comfort but the pickle you put them into put them both into pain and they had some serious obstacles to try and overcome.

Hehehe, I wanted to hurt Clark, Mina wanted to hurt Bruce, and...we compromised and hurt them both! Yay!

And the descriptions of Bruce's drug-induced hallucinations were terrific and them making him feel better about the affects he has on Clark was touching and sweet...

*purrs* That was so my favorite part of the story--which I can say without blushing as I had nothing to do with it! :) The jumbled senses really were so evocative...
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:24 am (UTC) - Expand
cathedral_junki
Jan. 7th, 2008 04:08 pm (UTC)
That was really great! Batman preforms own surgery. Nice.
jij
Jan. 8th, 2008 07:04 am (UTC)
Batman is a badass self-doctor here, thanks to arch_schatten. Clark just holds the mirror and shivers, rather like I did whenever I read it. :)
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:28 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jij - Jan. 10th, 2008 08:26 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:25 am (UTC) - Expand
smgriffin
Jan. 7th, 2008 05:55 pm (UTC)
Oh God, Clark is as squeamish as I am with stitching up someone they love. I don't mind stabbing things, hitting people, or hell, causing PAIN for pain's sake, but surgery and stitches give me the willies, even though I consciously KNOW it's for the better.

Well, I stitched up Brandon fine, but I hated him and would purposely jab him in random places to make him shut up.
jij
Jan. 9th, 2008 09:05 am (UTC)
Oh God, Clark is as squeamish as I am with stitching up someone they love.

Man, stitches make me feel faint. There's something about the...deliberateness of them that really makes me woozy, I think. :) Clark and I agree on this one.
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:30 am (UTC) - Expand
marmalade_girl
Jan. 7th, 2008 06:07 pm (UTC)
Eeee! Wonderful! I felt like *I* was the one drugged at the end. ^_^
jij
Jan. 9th, 2008 09:08 am (UTC)
arch_schatten handled all the drugs! (LOL, that sounds funny, doesn't it?) But she totally rocked at it, I was in awe and feeling rather woozy myself, I'll admit. :) Glad you enjoyed!
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:31 am (UTC) - Expand
batfan_sarah
Jan. 7th, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC)
oh, so lovely.

all romantic and sweet....and bloody, okay, yeah.

but i adore them and i'm a sucker for h/c. :P
jij
Jan. 9th, 2008 09:10 am (UTC)
"Romantic, sweet, and bloody!" I like that very much as a recommendation. :) Mina is helping me get used to my h/c training wheels, glad you enjoyed the results!
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:33 am (UTC) - Expand
bradygirl_12
Jan. 7th, 2008 07:42 pm (UTC)
Ooh, the drugged pretties! ;)

Great descriptions of the colors and light, Jen! :)

And what a great dilemma! Bruce hurt but Clark in pain, too, because it's a Kryptonite bullet! Awesome! :)

Yikes! Performing his own surgery! Poor Bruce!

Looks like Scott already knows. "Love Cruise." *snerk*

Great job, Mina! Your hurt/comfort instincts are impressive! :)

One must never rush the hurt/comfort! :)

jij
Jan. 9th, 2008 09:12 am (UTC)
Great descriptions of the colors and light, Jen! :)

*bows and waves at arch_schatten* Those were all her work, I merely stood by in awe at the results! It was a fun co-write because we both wanted to hurt our favorite, so the situation let us focus on each of them in turn. :)

It's true, h/c is a tough genre to write because it has to develop slowly and focus a lot on the details. I think it's one of the most difficult kinds of stories for me to write! (practice, practice, practice...) *grin*

Glad you liked it!
(no subject) - bradygirl_12 - Jan. 9th, 2008 06:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:35 am (UTC) - Expand
starsandsea
Jan. 7th, 2008 08:00 pm (UTC)
Oooh, this was awesome! :D

Even assuming he could keep a steady hand on the controls -and, as if on cue, he fought a wave of shivering, wondering if Clark was lowering the temperature on the ship so he could divert more power to the engines- even assuming that, they would still only have one set of steady hands on the controls.

Mmmm, I love that Clark and Bruce were both thinking that it was too hot/cold.

He tried to smile reassuringly at Bruce, though the pulse pounding in his ears was his alone.

*huggles Clark*

"Don't get near me, damn it. It's only going to hurt you."

*huggles Bruce*

Somehow it seemed an unbearable thought, that it might be the last thing Bruce had ever said to him.

*sniffles*

"It hurt less here," he said truthfully.

*huggles the woobie*

The thought of being the cause of Clark's pain -physical pain, even, something he wasn't used to having associated with him- wasn't helping his tumbling stomach any. This was becoming worse than a nightmare, causing pain with his mere presence.

*huggles the other woobie*

Bruce closed his eyes as he found the bullet, fighting the twitch of his fingers so he wouldn't grasp it too hard and lose it, and slowly pulled it out, a sob escaping his clenched teeth.

*looks out from behind fingers* Is it over? Oh good... *sighs in relief*

"If I were asked to summarize you in one sentence, I would say, 'Bruce Wayne: More useful than socks.'"

*giggles* That's as good as 'better than cheese'!

"You just call me, Bruce. I'll be happy to do any sewing necessary around the Manor."

"Do you...do windows?"

"Super-handyman, that's me."


*giggles again*

"Does it hurt so damn much to be near me?"

"No." Clark swallowed and managed to raise his voice above a whisper. "No, not so much."


*glomps them both*

"Next time... you need help with a mission," Bruce paused, coughing, "and hurry us through the recon, I will... kick you all the way to Apokolips. Then, if we die... I'll die happy."

*giggles* *pets Bruce*

He closed his eyes, sparkles dancing behind his eyelids and nodded at Scott's question. Clark's hand was slowly stroking his skin, painting him colors, making him bright. Clark's hands were full of light.

Oooh. Pretty!

Bruce's touch didn't bring corruption and decay, nor poisoning or destruction, and he smiled, closing his eyes, relief washing over him and healing the wounds the mission had reopened in his soul.

*glomps Bruce*

He was going to miss the colors once the drugs were gone, but there was no way he could forget the light now. No way he could lose it.

He pulled Clark closer for another dance.


Awwww!! How beautiful! :)

Eeeee, I loved this! Full of such wonderful things... :D *glomps Jen and Mina*
jij
Jan. 9th, 2008 09:17 am (UTC)
Mmmm, I love that Clark and Bruce were both thinking that it was too hot/cold.

It worked out really well, lol. As did the handing the hurt back and forth--Mina took turns hurting Bruce, I took turns hurting Clark, and we were both happy! :)

*looks out from behind fingers* Is it over? Oh good... *sighs in relief*

That was my reaction exactly. *shudders* I still can't read it too closely.

*giggles* That's as good as 'better than cheese'!

Nothing beats that line, but there's something terribly appealing about comparing these amazing people to incredibly mundane things. :)

Oooh. Pretty!

*beams with you* Isn't it? Mina rocked the drug descriptions!

Thanks so much for the gorgeous feedback, Star! *glomps you*

(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:37 am (UTC) - Expand
stalinglim
Jan. 7th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)
d'awww......

So cute. I love HC fics so much. Great job!
jij
Jan. 9th, 2008 11:48 am (UTC)
Thank you! I love h/c stories too, and arch_schatten is showing me the ropes of writing them. (My h/c tends to be "Clark got hurt. Okay, now on to the comfort." *grin*)

Glad you enjoyed!
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:38 am (UTC) - Expand
ladybugkay
Jan. 7th, 2008 10:57 pm (UTC)
I am such a whore for hurt/comfort fics. Truly, I am.

Bruce's epitaph made me laugh out loud, and I love the woozy, synaesthesia aspect of the final scene - and poor Clark desperately hoping he isn't taking advantage of a drugged Batman who will later kill him for doing so. Brilliant!

Oh, dear, oh dear, this was just so well done. The humour and the pain, and the masterful h/c of it all. I love it!
jij
Jan. 9th, 2008 11:51 am (UTC)
I love h/c so much and I'm so not good at writing it! So I'm in training now! :)

I love the woozy, synaesthesia aspect of the final scene - and poor Clark desperately hoping he isn't taking advantage of a drugged Batman who will later kill him for doing so. Brilliant!

Mina ran with the drugged scene so nicely! I really loved what she did with it, it completed the story so nicely.

I'm so glad you liked this! It was my first full co-write and so I was kind of nervous about it, so I'm glad it worked for you!

(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:52 am (UTC) - Expand
zarabithia
Jan. 8th, 2008 05:03 am (UTC)

"Alive... no thanks to you, Free." Bruce's hand was slowly but surely heading towards Clark hair as he sighed annoyed into the commlink. "Next time... you need help with a mission," Bruce paused, coughing, "and hurry us through the recon, I will... kick you all the way to Apokolips. Then, if we die... I'll die happy."


*giggles.* Such a very battish momement.

I really liked the feel of this one! Such lovely hurt-comfort and the way Bruce and Clark's personalities highlighted each other was golden.
jij
Jan. 9th, 2008 02:08 pm (UTC)
*giggles.* Such a very battish momement.

*grins* Mina insisted Bruce get a chance to chew poor Scott out. *pats Scott*

Thanks so much--it was a fun co-write and I got some practice with one of my favorites genres!
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:54 am (UTC) - Expand
crimsonquills
Jan. 9th, 2008 03:05 am (UTC)
I think this fic just became the absolute definition of h/c, for me. Wow. It hurt a lot, but the comfort was excellent. :-) And I adore the "get well present" Clark brought for Bruce. *g*

Thanks for sharing!
jij
Jan. 9th, 2008 02:11 pm (UTC)
*beams* Thanks so much! H/C is one of my favorite genres, but I tend to rush it terribly, so it was a very valuable co-write for me!

And I adore the "get well present" Clark brought for Bruce.

*makes a note to give the beta thank-you cookies*

I'm delighted you enjoyed it and thank you so much for the feedback!
(no subject) - crimsonquills - Jan. 10th, 2008 09:05 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:56 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - crimsonquills - Jan. 11th, 2008 09:00 pm (UTC) - Expand
eve_k
Jan. 9th, 2008 02:57 pm (UTC)
"He's very nice when he's unconscious, actually," LOL oh yeah...
and those colors - gotta find my box of watercolors right away! You guys are one great writing team!
jij
Jan. 10th, 2008 01:43 am (UTC)
""He's very nice when he's unconscious, actually," " LOL oh yeah...

Bruce is really at his best when he's out cold. :)

those colors - gotta find my box of watercolors right away!

Ee! arch_schatten is awesome with the synethesia (I think I just misspelled that)--I was in awe of the scene, just read it again and again and said, "oooooh, pretty." :) She's very fun to co-write with, it's like magic!
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 10th, 2008 04:57 am (UTC) - Expand
northernwalker
Jan. 11th, 2008 08:23 pm (UTC)
That was the sexiest drug trip I've ever been on. Next time I need painkillers, I want what Bruce is having. And you writing it.

"If I were asked to summarize you in one sentence, I would say, 'Bruce Wayne: More useful than socks.'"

Bwah!

This is just lovely- the funny moments combined with agony.
jij
Jan. 12th, 2008 02:41 am (UTC)
Next time I need painkillers, I want what Bruce is having. And you writing it.

*grin* Those Cygnans have some great painkillers!

I had so much fun co-writing this, and these two never let the humor stay away completely for long. Joking through the pain seems mandatory for them. :)

Glad you enjoyed!
(no subject) - arch_schatten - Jan. 12th, 2008 08:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
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