It could be said that Bruce Wayne had some experience when it came to keeping people at a distance. Over the years he had perfected the art of loose relationships and one night stands, of complimenting his lovers out of his bed and life, and of stealing away before they could protest. His secret life had always been more important than any personal pleasure. And only a few times had a relationship come to the point where he had wanted it to be different.
To say that he had trouble committing to something that wasn't his mission would be an understatement.
So it came as surprise, to him more than anyone, that suddenly he was finding himself in an actual relationship with someone, who seemed like he had no trouble committing at all, but who was reluctant to stay the night.
“I have to go,” Clark whispered, slipping out of bed.
Bruce made no move to hold him back, but watched him as he gathered his costume at normal human speed, putting it on slowly. It seemed that although he was the one who had decided to leave, he was reluctant to actually go. “You could stay, you know,” Bruce said, stretching. “Alfred would be glad to make breakfast for two. He likes you. Dick likes you. And you're Superman. You'd be back in Metropolis before anybody knew you were gone. It's not like you'll be late for work, Clark.”
“I... just think it's better this way.” He smiled, back in full costume and looking as perfect as Superman usually did. It made Bruce want to get out of bed, stark naked as he was, and mess him up all over again. He knew he could seduce him back into bed if he set his mind to it.
Batman never backed down from a challenge.
But there was some greater mystery here that he hadn't figured out yet. And he would be damned if the world's greatest detective wouldn't find a way to get to the heart of this.
“Okay,” he said. “I could come to Metropolis tomorrow, visit the Wayne Enterprises facilities and sneak into your flat.” The promise of more remained hanging between them unspoken.
“That sounds nice,” Clark said with a half-smile. Bruce couldn't tell if it was the thought of him sneaking into the flat as their way of having a romantic tête-à-tête, or if he was hiding the thoughts racing through his head now behind a smile, in reality already trying to find ways to convince Bruce not to stay over when it happened.
“I have monitor duty though,” Clark explained then, tone slightly apologetic. “Maybe another time?”
He smiled, having expected an answer like this. “Too bad.” He sat up, quite happy about the way Clark's eyes were tracing the outline of his naked chest. “I do have to work on the Watchtower systems. So maybe I'll just drop by if Gotham happens to be... quiet.”
This time Clark laughed and it was nice to see that the amusement reached his eyes. It put a very small, but niggling fear to rest for Bruce: Whatever this was about, it wasn't about him, nor was it about Clark having doubts about their relationship.
It was something else. Something that was entirely about Clark.
“Why not?” he asked and in the blink of an eye had moved to stand before the bed and leaned down to kiss Bruce on the lips; a sweet and soft good-bye, tasting of sunny days and all the things Bruce was not. “If you don't come by, I will,” Clark promised.
The corners of his lips moved up into a lazy smile. “See that you do,” he said – and was alone the next moment, just a light draft in the otherwise empty room was evidence that Superman had been here just a moment ago – and was probably back in Metropolis already by now.
His smile turned into a grin. How best to go about solving this mystery and convince Clark that waking up curled up together was exactly the next step they needed to take. Right about now.
Certainly unfamiliar territory for him, but there wasn't a case he couldn't solve.
* * *
He opened one eye to peer at him as he moved to the windows to pull open the curtains and let the sunlight in. “Yes,” he said. “One day I'll get him to stay and enjoy your fabulous breakfast, I promise.”
Alfred's face remained neutral when he turned away from the window. “It might be in your best interest to seduce him into bed when he doesn't have to go to work the next day. He might be inclined to stay around then.”
“You think I should seduce Superman on a weekend?”
“I'd propose you just ask him to stay, sir, if I thought that something so trivial would even be a possibility.”
He smiled. “It's not.”
“Of course not,” Alfred said. “Why would it be?”
“I'm not sure it has anything to do with me or what I do,” he mused. “I'll have to figure out what the problem is. And I think for once it isn't mine.”
“You are going to solve it. Without asking him, I presume?”
“Yes,” he said and smirked.
“Has it occurred to you that he might be following different costums when it comes to these things?” Alfred asked, picking up the clothes Bruce had discarded in a hurry last night.
“Costums?” He had already dismissed that option. “He grew up in Kansas. I don't think this is about Kryptonian views on courtship and love. Under the circumstances I don't think this is about us keeping this a secret either, and I can't come up with anything that would relate to his upbringing.”
“It's probably a secret identity thing, isn't it?” Dick asked from the doorway. He was already dressed and ready for school.
“Might be,” he conceded. But he had a feeling that Clark would have just told him without keeping secrets, if it had been about that.
“You should know, Mr. Nobody-Can-Ever-Be-Allowed-To-Know-Our-Secret,” Dick said, intoning the last part in a mocking imitation of his Bat voice. “It can't be easy to be Superman either.”
Bruce just looked at him sternly. “Don't you have school to go to?”
“Hm, hm. I'm sure he only flees because he knows you're grumpy in the mornings.”
He threw a pillow at the door, missing Dick, who had pounded away laughing, by an inch. Alfred looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “I'll figure this out,” he grumbled.
“I've know you since you were a boy, Master Bruce. Why would I doubt your ability to work out so small a problem? You have enough experience when it comes to relationships by now, that much is certain,” Alfred told him with an unimpressed tone and left him alone.
Apparently he needed a strategy or his family would make sure he wouldn't ever live this down.
* * *
* * *
It wasn't hard to dig out all the school records, old photos and the first articles he'd written.
It wasn't hard to find out most of these things by simply asking Clark about it.
He tended to be so open with him about most things that it was easy to forget that he was keeping one of the most amazing secrets, and did so right there in plain view, everyday when he went out going about his life, living just like any human being. So if he was determined not to talk about something, then he was really apt at just avoiding the question even before it was asked.
He dropped by Clark's flat the next week, deliberately surprising him. They ended up cuddled up in bed and Bruce was just about to congratulate himself for finding out that Clark's tendency to flee the bed before falling asleep was connected to Gotham, or maybe even any city not Metropolis.
But then Clark shifted slightly away from him, and he could see from the tilt of his head that he was listening to something. “There is a fire in California,” he announced. “It's getting out of control.”
“Then go,” he said, understanding the need to be where Superman was needed.
And Superman went. One second Clark's warm body was beside him, the next he was alone in the flat that he hadn't yet spent much time in for various reasons, waiting for him to return.
Half an hour later he got up, not snooping, just looking around, and finally sitting at Clark's kitchen table to wait with a cup of coffee.
An hour and a half later he realized, that maybe he should have added: “But come back.”
Apparently he had a lot to learn about being the one on this side of this particular relationship problem.
* * *
“Alone, sir?” Alfred asked from the doorway.
“Don't start,” he grumbled and hid his head under the pillow.
Batman wasn't going to sulk over a lover who didn't like to spend the night.
Batman didn't sulk at all. At least not where anyone could see it.
* * *
But a streak of red and blue appeared in the white, forming into Superman, who was watching him with a stern expression, before reaching for him and pulling him out of the wasteland of snow and ice into the warmth of his home away from home. The speed took his breath away.
“How did you know, I would be here?”
“Guess work based on a process of elimination.”
Clark looked momentarily guilty. “You could have called. I would have come.”
Bruce knew he wasn't talking about picking up the phone, thought of a suitable thing to say to that, then just shrugged and settled on: “I know.”
He reached up to get off his mask, feeling the need to do this one talk face to face. In all the back and forth of the last weeks he had already made up his mind about something. He wasn't going to voice the question, not out right, not directly. If Clark thought he had to hide something, then it was up to him to decide that Bruce should know about it.
Secrets were something he understood very well.
“Why are you here? Did something happen?”
“I didn't see hide nor hair of you for days . I missed you.”
Blue eyes widend at the news and Clark's own mask, the way he controlled his muscles to keep his face hard and all set into straight lines, slipped and his expression softened. “Oh.” He didn't even seem to notice that he was floating.
“So what is it that is keeping you away? Working on a way to cure cancer? Looking at the stars? Tell me.” Enough Batman slipped into his tone to make it sound like an accusation, too sharp, too harsh.
But it didn't seem to matter. “I'm sorry, for running away,” Clark said and managed to look sheepish.
“Running away?” he asked incredulously. “Is that what was happening?”
Clark mulled that over. “Maybe. I'm just nervous.”
“About what?” he knew he was still sounding too harsh, too much the Batman, not the lover, but his patience had been tested – and relationships were really not a Batman thing.
“About messing things up.”
“You are afraid of messing things up?” It took him a moment to process that. “You do know who I am, who I pretend to be, what I do. Clark, really?” And then he frowned. “And we do already do all that you could possibly be nervous...”
It was breathtaking to have a being who could move as fast as Clark suddenly appear right on top of you, holding on to you and kissing you, hard, and desperate. When Clark pulled away he was on the other side of the room again in the blink of an eye, leaving Bruce panting and unsatisfied and still wondering. “Tell me,” he ordered, because he refused to be sidetracked.
“I'm not used to sleeping with someone. In the same bed I mean. And you're probably a light sleeper, and...”
His eyebrows had risen into his hair line and he backtracked to be sure they were still having the same conversation. “What?” he asked, as all eloquence seemed to have deserted him for the moment.
“I sleep and then sometimes I hover over the bed in my sleep.” Clark's face was so serious and his expression had turned into a frown. “I can't control it.”
Bruce stalked around the wide space of the main lab Clark had brought them to and thought this through. “I was sure it was something serious.”
“It is serious.”
That finally made him laugh. “I already know you are Superman.”
Clark shook his head. “I just...” He sighed. “It will be annoying. I'll wake you. Someone will wake me and make me come crashing down and...”
“We've broken a bed before,” he pointed out. There was no point in hiding the smugness that came with that particular memory.
“Yes,” Clark said and actually blushed.
He grinned. “Let me be the judge of how annoying it is. After all you can hear my heart beat, my breath, every mouse that creeps through the manor. I might have a few annoying habits of my own, too.”
Clark snorted. “I already know about that, thank you.”
His grin widened. “Then do me – and Alfred – a favor and stay the night, have breakfast with me and then let's just go on bickering and getting on each other's nerves and have amazing sex in the aftermath.”
The way Clark's left eyebrow rose and his face formed into a slightly reproachful expression told him he'd won this round. “You are annoying,” Clark informed him.
Bruce didn't need to be a detective to know that was a yes.
“I'm also persistent.”
Clark rolled his eyes at him. “That too. One comes with the other, I fear.”
* * *
* * *
In fact the ceiling was much closer than he was used to.
And although they were wrapped in a blanket the feel of the mattress beneath them, just wasn't there, and most of his body was leaning on the hard body wrapped around him and nothing else.
He stopped moving, tentatively stretching out one leg to test his theory, for second dangling in thin air, before he wrapped it back around Clark, who hadn't been woken by any of it.
With a huff he put his face back against Clark's chest and determinedly closed his eyes.
He was not going to wake Clark about this.
It had been hard enough to convince him to stay – and this wasn't exactly uncomfortable.
* * *
“Did you sleep comfortably, sir?” Alfred asked and Clark looked over at him uncertainly.
“At this rate we're going to mess up my routine,” he grumbled and took a sip of his coffee.
“Comfortable, then,” Alfred concluded.
He just smiled into his cup at Clark's relieved smile.