Clark felt like a fool standing in front of the church with his invitation clutched in hand, a life preserver. He was welcome here: the invitation was proof.
But the invitation was addressed to Clark, not Superman. He knew that Superman would never be welcomed here, and his suit (his real one) constricted tighter and tighter around his form the more he thought about going in.
It wasn't as if he'd never made up excuses to disappear before. He could go save every gazelle from every lion in Africa and he'd still probably make it back in time for the reception—it was ironic how the vagaries of fate always assigned him duties when he was least prepared for them and gave him none when he most prayed for them.
But he didn't want to make or create an excuse this time; he couldn't. He needed to go into that church. He needed this wedding to be real. Because it certainly didn't feel that way when he thought about it; the notion skittered around in his brain like rocks falling down a cliff face—he couldn't get a steady grip.
Lois. Richard. Married.
Heaving a blustery sigh, he leaned back against his car.
He wasn't sure he'd make it inside.
Bruce squinted at the sunlight beaming off the alabaster walls of the building. He waved his driver off and smoothed his suit, relieved that the traffic hadn't made them late. The invitation had been a bit unexpected—he and Richard had only seen each other once since college—but welcome. There was always plenty of business to take care of in Metropolis, after all, and Richard had been a good friend through the years. As good as Bruce would let him be, anyway.
And if he felt his chest tighten and steps falter just a bit when he saw Clark leaning against his car, it wasn't because he had an ulterior motive for coming. Or that he'd been trying not to think about Clark since the night the reporter had fallen asleep on his couch and he'd wanted to… well.
And if his eyes felt strange--glad--at the sight of the very same reporter leaning against his car, it was merely the sun, nothing else.
He looked at the church and then back at Clark; Clark hadn't yet caught sight of him. He seemed to be deep in thought, long fingers tapping on the hood of the car.
Bruce brushed some non-existent lint off his jacket, put on his best playboy smile (without asking himself why he needed to pull up that part of his repertoire for someone who was just a good friend) and walked over, deciding he would just say hi.
He wouldn't want to be rude, after all.
"Clark—are you here for pleasure or business?"
Clark reared back into reality at the sound of the inviting voice. Bruce came to stand before him, a half-smile playing on his lips, hands casually slipped into his pockets as if he walked around looking like a million dollars all the time.
Come to think about it, he probably did.
"Well, uh, I'm here for the…" Clark tilted his head. "Wait, what do you mean?"
Bruce propped his frame on one shoulder against Clark's car. His beat-up Honda suddenly looked one hundred times more stylish than it had two seconds ago.
"I was just wondering if you would be reporting on this momentous event." The smirk danced on his lips. "Whether I should watch what I say around you."
"Just… a friend." Clark wondered if Bruce was… teasing him? But he felt a strange need to make his position at this event perfectly clear. "And you don't ever have to watch what you say around me, Bruce. I'll never take your words out of context."
Bruce's smiled evaporated into an expression that flashed so quickly Clark couldn't catch it. His laugh was a little too quick, a little too rough around the edges for a man who always had such effortless control over his every move and despite the lightness of his tone, his words sounded sad. "I'll have to keep that in mind, Clark."
Bruce held his hand out towards the church entrance.
He hadn't realized he'd stopped breathing during the vows until Bruce's hand was on his shoulder.
"Need some fresh air?" Bruce whispered.
Clark let out the air in a long sigh.
"Yeah. I think I do."
Lois's words were ringing too loudly in his head and he couldn't think straight.
In sickness and in health…
I promise to love and cherish…
'Til death do us part.
As the crowd stood to applaud the newlywed couple's first kiss, Bruce and Clark slipped into the churchyard.
The cemetery wasn't a long walk from the building. Bruce thought it was interesting how so many elements were so closely juxtaposed in places of worship. A man could be baptized, confirmed, married and buried all at the same place.
Bruce hadn't been able to find any comfort in the notion of God since his parents had died, but he could appreciate the peace of these places—from a distance.
"Sorry about that." Clark kicked at a rock and Bruce couldn't help noticing that the farther away they walked from the others, the less Clark slouched or fidgeted. Even his voice and demeanor seemed different somehow—more genuine.
"Lois is an amazing woman," Bruce conceded, tempted to add but she doesn't deserve you if she hurt you this badly.
They sat at the old stone bench that was off to the side of the path. He removed his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose.
"I hardly know her even after all these years of working with her. Isn't that strange?" Clark laughed with no mirth. "And you know the part that kills me?"
"What?" Bruce whispered.
"It isn't that she's getting married, not really. It's the way she looks at him." Clark's hands dropped away from his face and he met Bruce's gaze. "I wanted her… wanted someone to…" He trailed off as their eyes connected.
"What did you want, Clark?" Bruce asked, feeling himself drawn forward.
"I…" Clark licked his lips, and it seemed as if the admission was about to spill forth from them, open, waiting, asking…
But then he drew back, shoving his glasses onto his face and standing up so suddenly that Bruce's head spun.
"I think we need to get back."
Bruce swallowed down on his refusal, nodding.
The reception was a large and surprisingly boisterous affair; a full swing band, centerpieces overflowing with white roses and rare framed Daily Planet collectors' editions provided the ambiance while the crowd provided the noise. Richard and Lois looked perfectly at home on the dance floor. She'd shed the long skirt on her wedding gown and changed into dancing heels—they ate up the dance floor like a couple who had swung their way right out of the 40's.
"Wow," Clark said when Lois triple-spun in layered waves of lacy white and brown curls.
"Richard was always trying to get me to go to swing nights with him back in college. Looks like those lessons finally paid off."
"I didn't know you were a friend of his."
Bruce shrugged. "We don't keep in touch too much any more, but he was one of the few people who… how should I put it… befriended me before he knew my family name."
"He's a good man."
Bruce searched Clark's voice for a lack of sincerity or jealously, but it sounded like a sudden understanding, as if he'd heard the phrase before but never really understood its full import.
"So are you," Bruce said, unsure what the right thing to say was.
Clark nodded his head at the newly dubbed White-Lane couple.
"They look happy, don't you think?"
But Bruce was staring at Clark.
"You took the words right out of my mouth."
Eight beers each into the evening, they decided to head somewhere quieter. Neither was interested in dancing or eating more wedding cake, and Bruce's bones were aching for peace and quiet, dark and solitude.
He didn't think it odd that he could find that solitude walking beside Clark in the clean and well-mannered Metropolis streets. Maybe it was the beer, or the fact that Clark knew how to let his silence do the talking.
Maybe it was just Clark.
Bruce followed him complacently, walking the city blocks in the measured steps of someone who didn't want to admit that he was feeling a bit inebriated. He never drank this much—he often pretended to, at his own parties especially, but seeing Clark's wound, freshly lanced… it made him need those blurred edges and softer sounds.
"We have to go around back. You don't mind getting that suit a little dirty, do you?"
Bruce raised an eyebrow and Clark laughed. "Right, well. Just wanted to make sure."
They were at a tall, relatively nondescript skyscraper. They ascended the fire escape quickly; Bruce was a little surprised at Clark's apparent strength. Ten, twelve, fifteen, and finally, twenty floors up, and he wasn't winded. In fact, he looked like could manage it again with both hands tied behind his back and a smile on his face—Bruce, on the other hand, felt his heart beating a bit faster.
"One of the best views in Metropolis," Clark offered, stepping back to let Bruce see.
Senses dulled by alcohol sharpened back into awareness as he stood at the rooftop ledge overlooking the vista. The wind was a skin-prickling reminder of their height, the moon just rising in its soft luminescence on the horizon, and the city lights shone like stardust collected in a basin of earth.
Bruce thought about closing his eyes, slowing his demanding pulse, climbing back down this building and forgetting today had ever happened. He thought about teasing Clark, telling him he hadn't taken him to be the trespassing type; he could easily refuse what was being offered.
He was used to turning away from earnest eyes, outstretched hands, even pledges of loyalty.
"Thank you for bringing me here," Bruce said instead, shivers running up his arms where Clark's shoulder brushed his. He laid his hand on the ledge, palm-up, heartbeat pummeling hopeful fear in his wrist.
"Thank you for today," Clark whispered.
Fingers overlapping and palms face to face, they watched the moon rise over Metropolis and not another word was needed. Their skin said it all.