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Syncopation: Chapter Two

Title:  Syncopation:  Chapter Two
Pairing:  Clark/Bruce
Disclaimer: The boys belong to DC and to each other, but not to me.
Series Notes:  Syncopation is part of The Music of the Spheres, a combined Superman Returns/Batman Begins series. The whole series can be found here
Rating: PG-13
Summary:  As the new vigilante in town steps up his activities, Bruce Wayne worries about Harvey Dent, and brushes up his Kryptonian (the language, that is).
Word Count: 2200

Batman landed on the roof of police headquarters in a cold drizzle to find Jim Gordon waiting for him, his face somber.  "What is it?"

A flicker of anger on the usually-diffident face.  Gordon reached into his breast pocket, pulled out a set of photos.  Batman took them:  a badly beaten corpse, face pulped into unrecognizability.  He glanced at Gordon.

"Louie Merton.  Muscle for the Maronis.  Also known for his taste in young boys.  We got him on rape charges a few months ago, but the Maronis pulled some strings and he got sprung on a technicality.  He was found like this last night."

Batman handed the photos back to Gordon.  The misty rain wisped around the policeman's face.  "I shouldn't have to tell you that wasn't me."

Gordon's face was unreadable.  "He was a despicable man.  If anyone ever deserved it--"

"--I don't make those kinds of decisions.  Ever."

Gordon's shoulders sagged.  "I want to believe you."

Batman's hands clenched at his sides.  "I'd never cross that line.  Please believe me, Jim."

Gordon looked up, surprised.  "You've never called me by my first name."

The black head inclined.  "My apologies, Lieutenant."

Gordon snorted, removed his glasses and wiped rain from them.  "Don't think getting buddy-buddy all of a sudden is going to convince me you're trustworthy..." He put the glasses back on; the vigilante was gone.  "Just be careful," he whispered into the mist.  He made his way back to the door, looking back once at the rain-washed night skyline of his city.  It was true:  using his first name wasn't going to make Jim Gordon trust the man.

No, it was something else that did it.  Something he couldn't put a finger on, as intangible and as real as the mist soaking his coat.

: : :

"You need me to what?"  The sportscar's wheels sang on the road.  Bruce and Clark were fashionably late to Grace Lamont's exhibition. 

"I need you to listen to Harvey Dent's heartbeat while I talk to him.  Tell me if you hear any notable changes in rate."

"You need a lie detector?  Why?"

Bruce sighed.  His hands, in creamy leather driver's gloves, tightened on the wheel for a moment.  "Those random beatings and such that we've started to suspect are the work of one person?  They've turned lethal."

"You think Harvey knows something about it that he's not telling you?"

Bruce slanted a look over at the passenger seat.  "Did I ever mention that Harvey is an accomplished martial artist?  The only person who could really push me back in college.  Hell, he was probably technically better than me.  Of course, I've gotten a bit better since then," he said, flashing teeth.  "But he was damn good."  Gloved fingers drummed restlessly on the steering wheel.

"You don't mean to imply he's your nighttime vigilante?  Come on.  He's arrogant and driven, but he hardly seems murderous."

Bruce frowned.  "I don't know, Clark.  I just have a really bad feeling about all this.  There's something going on.  Something I can't quite unravel.  And I think Harvey has something to do with it."

At the exhibition, Clark sipped his champagne and eyed Grace's watercolors.  They were generally innocuous and pretty, although there was a vigor to their lines that belied the delicate coloring and gave them more depth than they might otherwise have had.  Pastoral landscapes, still lifes with fruit and flowers, a self-portrait in fragile pastels, only the eyes with any vibrancy--Clark stopped short in one corner in front of a small painting.  Unlike the others, it was an oil painting, a portrait of a man with wavy chestnut hair.  He was leaning back in a chair and smiling warmly out of the painting, his hazel eyes twinkling.  Eye, actually.  Only one eye was visible, because the left side of the man was plunged into a dark shadow.  The loving gaze of the man bisected by shadow was oddly unnerving. 

The man was holding something in each hand.  Cards.  Clark blinked as he realized they were Tarot cards, painted with an almost hallucinogenic attention to detail and picked out in gold paint.  The right hand, on the lit side, held the Lovers card, the twinned figures intertwining.

The left hand emerged from the shadows just enough to reveal the Wheel of Fortune.

"Oh, this," said a laughing voice behind him.  He turned to find Grace looking at the picture and blushing slightly.  "I don't usually work in oils and I'm not sure I like the effect at all here.  But can you imagine trying to render Harvey in watercolors?" She laughed at the thought.

"He is...not a watercolor sort of guy," Clark admitted.  "You love him very much."

"Yes," Grace said quickly, "Oh, yes.  He's a wonderful man."  She looked at the picture and sighed.  "But I worry about him.  He takes it so personally when the system works against him.  It eats him up inside."  She raised a hand as if to touch the portrait, hovering.  "Apparently he hasn't been sleeping well.  He says he has nightmares.  I think...he fights the battles of the day in his mind again all through the night."

"Does he love you?" Clark said.  If Bruce were correct, it was a cruel question, and the look in Grace's china-blue eyes when he asked it made him flinch.  "I'm sorry--" he started, but she raised her elegant chin and cut him off.

"I know what you're implying, Mr. Kent, and I have to say I don't appreciate it.  Harvey respects me.  He cares about me.  More than that is--none of your goddamn business."

She slipped away from him to another part of the exhibition, her eyes bright and her heart pounding, leaving Clark to feel like the biggest heel in the city.

As he stared at the little oil painting, he realized Bruce had started to talk to Harvey across the room, just the usual small talk at first, but Clark could feel Bruce waiting for the right moment.

"So, Harv--have you gotten a chance to meet that spooky nutcase Bat yet?  Is it true he's got fangs?"

Harvey glared at Bruce.  "He's just a man, Brucie.  You might have forgotten what a real one looks like, but I haven't."

Bruce's eyebrows skyrocketed.  "Whoa there, Harv, no need to get hostile."  He leaned forward and playfully punched Dent on the shoulder.  "That's right, you wouldn't be scared of him anyway, you were a regular Jackie Chan in college.  Hey, there's a thought--ever consider putting on a costume and joining in, kicking a little evil butt on your own?"  Bruce shadowboxed a little, making the people around the pair laugh.

Harvey Dent glowered at Bruce and shoved his hands into his pockets.  "Don't make me laugh."  He removed his hands with something in the left one--a silver dollar that he twirled absent-mindedly between his fingers.  Curious, Clark squinted at the coin and noted that one side was gouged and scarred, the other clean.  "I don't take the law into my own hands, Bruce.  I have enough challenges in my day job without moonlighting as a vigilante."  He looked down at the spinning coin in his hand as if surprised to see it there and clapped it into his palm, stopping the motion.  He looked back up at Bruce.  "Sometimes I wish I had the guts," he said very softly.

Bruce looked taken aback.  "I'm sorry, Harvey, I didn't mean--"

Harvey flipped the silver dollar in the air and caught it, slapping it onto the back of his hand.  It was the unblemished side, and Harvey lifted his eyes from it to smile with something like relief at Bruce.  "It's okay, Bruce.  No harm, no foul."  He reached out and touched the other man, almost tentatively, on the shoulder.  "I'm sorry too."  Then he was moving past Bruce to talk to someone else, leaving Bruce looking half pleased, half puzzled.

In the car after the evening was over, Clark said, "No noticable changes in heart rate when you were talking to him.  Either he's telling the truth and has nothing to do with it, or he's got some way to control his heartbeat."

Bruce sighed.  "I'm...relieved."

"You don't look very relieved."

"It still doesn't feel right, somehow.  I'm missing something.  Somewhere."  Bruce lightly thumped the steering wheel with his fist.  "Missing something."

: : :

It wasn't often that Bruce spent the night at Clark's place.  For starters, the bed was a lot less comfortable and the food a lot less good.  But Bruce had had a meeting to discuss business with a Metropolis company and had allowed Clark to talk him into spending the night there.  Right now they were both sitting on the couch reading, Bruce's legs draped across Clark's lap.  Bruce was marking up the margins with what looked like scribbles, but weren't. 


"Huh?"  Clark looked up from his book, looking surprised.

"Uwyrr, uwyrr.  God damnit, have I gotten the pronunciation wrong again?"

"Are you trying to say 'interesting'?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact."

"You're not drawing out the 'y' enough.  It's the Gothamite in you, all your vowels tend to be too clipped."

"So what have I said instead?"

Clark smiled impishly.  "Actually, the way you're pronouncing it puts it really close to 'blowjob.'"

"You've got to be kidding me."

"I haven't really dared to tell you this before, Bruce, but shortening vowels tends to add...lascivious undertones to Kryptonian.  It's a very sedate, scientific language, but with just a slight clipping of tone the meanings shift to more innuendo-laden ones."

Bruce was torn between laughter and annoyance.  "So you're saying basically the same words can be either very technical or extremely filthy."

"There are lovely examples of scientific treatises in Kryptonian which, when read out loud with just the tinest change in accent, can become long erotic descriptions of stunning explicitness."

"So if I try to say diyor min shavrinninw, I might be saying 'Hand me the salt," or I might be saying, 'I wish you to bugger me.'"

"Actually, that one's closer to 'I worship your vagina.'"

"Oh."  Bruce raised his eyebrows.  "Don't think I'll get a whole lot of use out of that one.  Clark, don't take this the wrong way, but I'm very glad I'll never have dinner with your birth-parents.  'Diyor min shavrinninw, Lara-ghyln,'" he said in a blandly conversational tone. 

Clark snorted with laughter and whacked his knees with the book he was reading.  "And what are you reading that's so uwyrr?"  He pronounced the word for "interesting" with exaggerated correctness, and Bruce rolled his eyes before answering.

"Chapter on malignant narcissism.  Fascinating case studies."

"I thought you travelled the world to master your understanding of the criminal mind."

"The criminal mind, sure.  With the Scarecrow and Joker and their ilk running around, though, it's clear I'm going to need to brush up on the totally fucking insane mind.  Why does Gotham get all the crazies?" Bruce mused, flipping through the pages.

"Is that a rhetorical question?"

Bruce glanced up from the book, surprised.  "What?"

Clark put aside his book and absent-mindedly rubbed Bruce's feet while he spoke, eliciting a pleased shiver from the other man.  "I get a feeling when I'm in Gotham, especially when I'm there as Superman."

"Which you aren't often, because it's--" Clark chimed in-- "Batman's goddamn city."

"Anyway, Gotham feels different than most places.  Resistant.  Slippery.  It's like an echo of what it felt like in Faerie.  I feel it a little bit in London too, much stronger when it's foggy.  But Gotham is unusual."

"You're saying Gotham is...magical?"  Bruce looked astonished and slightly offended.

"Not in any simple way.  But it's...different.  My usual approaches don't work as well there.  And it's apparently a magnet for insanity."  Clark saw Bruce's expression and backtracked hastily.  "I mean, just villainous insanity, of course."

Bruce smirked.  "No, you're right.  For example, it's insane to be learning an entire language to communicate with just one man, especially a language as nightmarish as this one.  There's only one good reason for such insanity, I suppose.  Uwyrr."

"It's interesting?"

Bruce grinned and shifted his position, starting to unbutton Clark's fly.  "No.  Uwyrr," he said again, deliberately clipping the vowels and rolling the "r" lasciviously.

"Huh?  Oh!"

"So does Kryptonian have a word for when I do this?"

It did.  In fact, it had three different words for subtle variations in technique.  Clark taught him all three in a voice increasingly wild and uncontrolled, then added a jumble of broken vocabulary from which Bruce could discern only oaths, endearments, and obscenities.

Bruce was going to enjoy mastering Kryptonian.


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