… in which Lois is Very Very Bored
Tuesday was normally a slow news day. Clark disliked Tuesdays more than Mondays: Tuesdays meant a packed office, no donuts, and a very bored Lois. Although Clark enjoyed the constant conversation, it so happened that he actually had work to do on this particular Tuesday.
“Lois… Lo-Lois!” Clark snatched the papers from under Lois’s arm. “As much as I love talking about how Modern Warfare ‘got it all wrong’, I’ve really got to complete this story.”
Lois scoffed and stood up. She opened her mouth to speak when two hands covered her eyes. Lois immediately shoved her elbow into the ribs of the person behind her, grabbed the hands, and twisted them around; she found herself facing a very surprised Bruce Wayne.
“Bruce!” Lois released his hands and threw her arms around his neck. “I am so so so sorry about that. I thought everyone knew not to sneak up on me.”
“Nice to see you too, Lois.” Bruce said as he returned the hug. “And good to see you again…” He turned to Clark.
“Clark.” Clark tugged at his tie and offered his hand. “Clark Kent.”
There was a slight shift in Bruce’s carefully crafted mask; only Clark would notice an eyebrow twitch so small. Clark inwardly smirked, thinking that if he was noticing a detail that minute on such a flawless face, they were working together too much.
Bruce shook Clark’s hand. “Right, right, Kent.” His other hand moved to the small of Lois’s back. Clark felt his face turn red.
Lois wrapped her arm around Bruce. “You’re just the thing we needed around here today,” she said. “It’s such a boring day. Tell me of your latest conquests, Bruce Wayne, and I, the most decorated reporter on staff, will find somebody else to write about them.”
Bruce laughed, and Clark was surprised at how unnatural it sounded to him; Bruce rarely laughed, although Clark had been privy to two such occasions, and there was no way the Batman would ever laugh. He found himself wishing to hear Bruce, the real Bruce, laugh again.
“Clark? Earth to Clark.” Lois snapped in front of his face. “You’re spacing out on me, Smallville.”
Clark blinked back into reality, slowly realizing he had been staring at Bruce, and his face grew hot. “Sorry, Lois. Didn’t get much sleep last night.”
Lois raised an eyebrow. “Alright then.” She turned to Bruce. “So what brings you to the fabulous Daily Planet?”
“Meeting with Perry, actually.” Bruce checked his watch, “Which I seem to be running late to. Always a pleasure, Lois.” He kissed her on the cheek, turned to leave, and added in passing “You too, Mr. Cant.”
Lois watched Bruce leave. She turned to Clark and shrugged, “Well, he almost got it right this time.”
Clark shook his head and grabbed a stack of papers. “I’ll be right back, Lois.” He wanted to escape the bullpen for a little time to think. He had told the truth about sleeping (he had been helping calm an uprising coup in Nicaragua), but he was used to operating without sleep; that didn’t explain him zoning out.
As he approached the basement copy room, he still hadn’t figured out why he had been staring at Bruce. All he could think about was how affectionate Lois had been. He felt his face grow hot again, and he reached for the door. Clark twisted the knob, opened the door, and heard two loud cracks as the hinges separated from the wall.
Everyone in the basement turned to find the source of the noise. Clark was left holding the door to the copy room in one hand and dropping the papers in his other. He was now propping up the door with both hands.
“Uh…” he began, embarrassed by his slight loss of control. “Can anyone give me a hand?” A copy boy helped Clark prop the door against the far wall.
“Don’t worry Mr. Kent,” the copy boy thumped Clark on the back. “This building is so old, I’m surprised it’s still standing every time I come to work.”
“Yeah. Thanks for your help.” Clark replied, and he raced up the stairs to the safe confines of his desk and a talkative Lois.
… in which Christmas comes tumbling down
“I can’t believe Perry stuck me with reporting the Wayne Foundation Christmas party again. I could be in Beirut right now covering the latest Parliamentary overturn.” Lois was dressed to the nines and scowling; she reached for the nearest glass of champagne.
“Now Lois, think of all the good these people are doing. They’re funding the new wing at the Children’s Hospital.” Clark, not quite as sharply dressed in a pressed black suit, took the champagne from Lois and put the glass back on the waiter’s tray, “And did you see all those presents on that table in the corner? So many kids will have a present to open on Christmas morning thanks to these guys.”
“Well, I’m going to get more out of them than an article for the damn Society page.” Lois walked off and hooked her arm into the first tuxedoed man that didn’t have a model on their arm.
Clark watched Lois work her undeniable charm when a voice appeared on the communicator in his ear, “She is the headstrong one, isn’t she?”
“Diana?” Clark looked to make sure no one was watching. “Is something wrong?”
“Not at all, Kal. But I know how normally you don’t enjoy these kind of events. I thought I could provide company for the inevitable.”
“When Lois goes off to do her own thing.”
“Ah. Right.” Clark had been able to relax slightly now that he wasn’t completely alone in a room full of strangers who could use one hundred dollar bills as Kleenex.
A familiar unnatural laugh wafted above the crowd. “Ah,” Diana quipped, “It sounds like Brucie is here as well.”
“Why don’t you go and say hello, Kal?” The communicator beeped as Diana ended the conversation.
Clark blinked, grabbed a glass of champagne, gulped it down, cursing his inability to process alcohol normally, and began heading through the crowd.
Bruce was situated at the center of a circle of people, a pretty little thing hanging off his arm and seemingly mesmerized by every word. It appeared someone just told a very funny joke, as everyone but the pretty little thing was laughing.
Clark cleared his throat. “Mr. Wa-, um… hello Mr. Wayne.”
Bruce looked over at Clark, a spark of recognition in his eyes. He nodded at Clark, in a way Clark recognized meant something along the lines of “Oh good sweet Jesus, Clark, get these people away from me”.
“Cant! Good to see you. Enjoying the party?”
“It’s Kent, sir, and yes, I am.” Clark stumbled forward, accidentally knocking elbows with the two people on either side of him. “I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about the Wayne Foundation contribution to the hospital.”
The pretty little thing glared at Clark and tightened her hold on Bruce. It took all Clark could muster to not glare back; all he could think about was how easy it would be to scorch the expensive blonde weave off of her pretty little head.
Bruce threw his arm around the Muppet at his side, “Now, Cant, I imagine your offices got the press release. You are the press, after all.” The unnatural laugh was met with the muffled laughter of the guests in the circle.
He took a sip of his champagne, “Why don’t you get back to enjoying the party? Have your people call my people and we’ll set something up.”
Clark nodded and turned to leave, stumbling over the foot of the man to his right, causing the circle to laugh again. He tucked his notebook back into his pocket and retreated to the back of the room.
“That didn’t go as well as hoped.” Clark muttered to himself. He heard a little beep in his ear.
“No, it didn’t. You have to admire the dedication he puts in to Brucie, though.”
“You’re not helping, Diana.”
Clark walked over to a large table in the corner; on top of the table was a mountain of wrapped gifts, all meant for the homes of the less fortunate. There was no sign of Lois; she must have found a decent lead in the throng of vapid stories.
“You should have seen it, Diana, the way this little blonde was hanging all over him. It’d be pathetic if it wasn’t so sad.”
Clark felt himself start to blush. “Not in the slightest. Why would I want someone constantly draped over me like that?”
Diana sighed. “That wasn’t quite what I meant, but I’m glad to know that.”
Clark blinked. What exactly did she mean? Was she inferring that he was actually jealous of that pretty little thing? The way she was hanging all over Bruce was almost sickening.
Before he knew it, Clark was pounding his fist on the corner of the present table. The leg gave a sickening crack as hundreds of presents jumped and began tumbling off the table.
The nearest of the crowd fell silent and turned to look at the source of the noise. Clark’s face became visibly red as he stammered for words. In the end, all he could think of doing was clearing his throat, pushing through the staring crowd, and retreating into the restroom.
“Kal, what on Earth just happened?”
… in which several robots have a Very Bad Day
A loud thud swept through the battlefield as Superman was knocked into the nearest building. The giant robot, accompanied by dozens of smaller versions, had been released upon Metropolis by Toyman as an attempt to distract the League from the series of art thefts the police were currently intercepting. Superman crawled out of the rubble and flew back into the melee.
Over to his left, Superman saw Hawkgirl pounding a robot into submission with her mace; Green Lantern had created a protective shield around one that was preparing to explode. On his right, Wonder Woman and Flash were systematically dismantling a third. Superman rose higher in the air and back towards the lumbering twenty-foot tall giant.
Through all the destruction, both buildings and robots alike, one thing Superman couldn’t find was Batman. In the fray below, the ominous black presence was nowhere to be seen. Superman listened for Batman’s heartbeat, and was surprised to find that it was beating at its normal rate. At least he was still nearby, even if not directly in battle.
Superman pulled his fist back and landed a huge punch to the bottom of the giant robot’s head; the head shot upwards, stopped, and then retracted back into the body.
“Great.” Superman said out loud. “Leave it to Toyman to create a giant Rock’em Sock’em Robot.”
Superman did his best to keep the giant distracted, while the rest of the League dismembered the smaller robots one by one. All the while, Batman was still around, calm and collected, but not present in combat.
Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Superman saw a shadow move; the movement itself was so small that, if he weren’t Superman, he would have missed it. It was like Batman to take his time, formulating a plan of attack. Superman pulled back to the robots on the ground to give Batman time to work.
Batman leapt from the shadows onto the back of the giant robot. Pulling off a back panel, he began to work quickly and efficiently with a small pair of pliers. The robot did not appreciate being pulled apart wire by wire, and it demonstrated its dissatisfaction by swinging madly from side to side.
Eventually, the movement proved too much for Batman to hold: his grip slipped and he slid left, but not before taking a handful of wires with him. The robot was able to reach back and pluck Batman in between its three-pronged hand and pull him up. Batman reached for his grappling hook, but the robot was quicker; it raised Batman up, and slammed him into the ground.
Superman caught the impact’s shockwave at the same time as the rest of the League. Wonder Woman got one final punch in on the new robot she was fighting before then entire battlefield went silent. After several tense seconds, Superman was the first to break the quiet.
Heat flaring in his eyes, Superman flew to the giant robot and, in one quick blur, proceeded to melt the bottom treading to the asphalt, ignite the exposed wires in the back, and wretch the head off its track. He then reared back and hit the base of the head with such force, the crash wasn’t heard for a full four seconds.
Superman then scooped the unconscious Bat in his arms and prepared to take off.
“Superman, wait!” Wonder Woman called.
“No time, Diana.” Clark’s voice cracked through his Superman one. He turned towards her. “Batman is badly injured. He needs immediate help. I trust you can handle it down here.”
Wonder Woman nodded, and Superman flew, limp Bat and all, towards J’onn and the Watchtower.
… in which Flash eats all the cookies
Superman stood at the meeting table, after the meeting had adjourned, astounded. “I just set those cookies down. I’m not that fast.”
It was all Diana could do to stifle her giggles; Shayera was staring wide eyed at where Flash and a plate full of cookies had stood moments before. She shook her head. “I don’t even pretend to comprehend him any more.” She hooked John at the elbow and dragged him out of the room. J’onn, who had simply been observing the situation, shook his head amusedly and melded through the floor.
“Kal, Diana, please stay behind. I’ve completed the new security specs and I’d like to discuss them with you.” Batman, who had been relatively quiet throughout the entire meeting, decided to finally speak up.
Diana nodded and walked to the other side of the table. Clark just stood in the same spot, quietly awed. “My… my mom made those. They were supposed to be for ev-“
“Care to join us, Kal?”
Kal shook off his stupor and turned to join the other two. Batman had laid out several large sheets of drafting paper, all displaying complex diagrams of circuitry that Kal could never hope to understand. The best thing for him to do was to nod and agree with whatever paranoid security upgrades Batman was suggesting this time.
As Batman began describing his plans for upgrading the Watchtower’s Ethernet, using gratuitous acronyms (DNS? SMTP? POP?), Kal was becoming so confused his eyes began glazing over. He was starting to believe Batman was just making some of these things up as he went along; there was no way one man could be so smart.
Kal let his mind begin to wander. Of course, if any man could be that smart, it would be Bruce. The man never ceased to amaze Kal with his brilliance; every time they met, Bruce would ramble off some obscure fact, Batman would be building a new technological marvel, and Brucie would find a way to work the people around him into the precise situation he had planned for. If what Lois always said was true and brains were sexy, then Bruce Wayne would have to be the sexiest person Clark had ever known.
“… so the wiring will have to be restarted in a specific pattern to keep any shorts to a minimum…”
Oh, yes. Brains were definitely sexy. But if Clark ever told Lois that she was right, he’d never hear the end of it.
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Diana shift. “Kal,” she said softly, “is everything alright?”
Kal blinked rapidly and shook his head. “I’m fine, Diana.” He gave her a small smile. “Just haven’t gotten much sleep lately.”
Diana had a disbelieving look in her eyes, but she nodded. She shifted the pile of papers, placed a hand on Batman’s shoulder, and leaned in closely, “Explain the self-renewing power couplings again…”
Before he could stop himself, Kal felt his heat vision break through and slice a large chunk out of the drawings on the table. Batman quickly extinguished the smoldering papers and turned to look at the source.
Kal was in complete disbelief: his face was bright red, his eyes wide and unblinking. It took all his strength to compose himself enough to squeak out, “… Excuse me.”
He quickly left the conference room, cape swishing behind him, too embarrassed to use his super-speed. He didn’t look back; if he did, he would have seen a stunned Diana and quietly confused Batman standing unmoving at a conference table covered with singed papers and an empty cookie plate.
… in which Diana helps discover a Happy Medium
Clark sat in his quarters aboard the Watchtower on the edge of the bed, cape off, head in his hands. He couldn’t understand why he was having difficulties controlling his powers the past few weeks; no matter how hard he wracked his brain, he couldn’t connect the incidents.
There was a small tapping on his door. “Kal?” Diana’s voice was soft. “May I enter?”
Clark sighed. “Yeah, come on in, Diana.”
The door slid open and Diana approached the bed; Clark motioned for her to sit. “What is wrong, Kal?” She sat beside him on the edge of the bed.
He took a deep breath. “I’m slipping, Diana. I can’t understand why, at certain times, I can’t control my abilities. It’s like I’m fourteen all over again.”
Diana laid her hand on top of his; she gently squeezed. “Was there something that links all of these times together? A thought? A person?”
Clark shook his head. “I just don’t know anymore.” He thought hard about what had been happening to him, Diana sitting quietly beside him, cradling his hand in her own.
Time seemed to be sluggishly passing by, and the common factor was slowly dawning on Clark.
It was always Bruce.
Diana tilted her head and softly smiled. “You finally figured out, did you?”
“What do you mean?” Clark mirrored her tilt, his confusion evident.
“From what I’ve seen, your heart seems to be sending you signals; you may not like what it’s saying, but it’s definitely speaking loudly.”
Clark shut his eyes, trying to comprehend what Diana was saying. “So… what is my heart saying?”
“The charity ball. You accidentally broke the present table. But before that happened, you talked with Bruce. Did he have someone on his arm?” Clark nodded.
“And when Toyman tried to destroy Metropolis again… Kal, I’ve never seen you react as severely as you did after Bruce was injured.”
Clark stared at the floor, processing Diana’s observations. “The door.”
Now it was Diana’s turn to be confused. “What door, Kal?”
“This all started at the Daily Planet. I accidentally ripped the copy room door out of the wall after Bruce came to visit.”
“What happened during the visit?”
“He was there to talk to Perry. He… surprised Lois, who… like…” Clark was trying to form the proper words, but he wasn’t succeeding as well as he would have liked to. He rubbed his temples. “She was clinging to him. And so was the girl at the Christmas party.” Diana nodded, listening intently, silently willing Clark to make a connection.
“He’s my best friend; he balances me. He’s always there for me, ready with advice or a plan or the facts I’d need.” Clark turned to Diana, who was trying to hold back a large smile.
“I’m in love with him, aren’t I?”
Diana smiled. She grabbed Clark’s hand again and squeezed.
His eyes grew wide. “So now what? I mean, we work together. I can’t continue breaking things when someone gets close to him. But I can’t completely avoid him, either.”
“It would be detrimental to the mission to be amorous with each other during battles.” Diana smirked.
“Oh jeez,” Clark allowed his head to flop backwards, “This might kill me, Diana. This might be the ultimate story of unrequited love. There is no way he feels the same way.”
“You will never know,” Diana stood up and headed for the door, “Unless you talk with him.”
She left the room with a slack-jawed Clark staring at the door behind her. He closed his eyes and took several deep breaths. Now all he had to do was think of a way to tell his best friend that he was in love with him.
“Way to make things complicated, Clark,” he said, falling backwards; his head thumped hard against the wall.
After a nervous fifteen minutes, Clark stood, changed into jeans and his old Met U sweatshirt, and headed to the transporter room. His plan consisted of no official plan: he had the courage right now, so he was going to discuss this with Bruce right now, flubbing, stammering speech and all.
… in which certain jokes are Quietly Ignored
As he reached the transporter room, Clark was grabbed from behind, thrown over a shoulder, and sped in the opposite direction.
“Sorrybuddybutweneedyourhelp,” Wally tried to explain as he piggybacked Clark down the hallway. “Wiringiscatchingonfireandyouneedtohelpputitout.”
“Wait, there’s a fire?” Clark was surprised at his ability to decipher Wally West’s renowned Sugar Rush Speech. “Why haven’t the alarms gone off?”
“Dontknowdontcarenotime.” Wally opened a door, shoved Clark inside the dark space, and rushed off. “Sorrybuddy!”
It took Clark’s eyes a minute to adjust, but he knew he wasn’t alone; he heard a quiet shuffling sound in the corner of the room. He moved forward in the darkness, tripping over a long, thin object, to the source of the sound. He was stunned at what he saw: Bruce, not Batman, was propped in the corner of the broom closet, fully wrapped in duct tape, looking like a very angry silver Not Batman mummy.
Another muffled sound, which could have very easily been an impatient “Well?”, snapped Clark back to reality. Slowly and carefully, Clark used his heat vision to help pull the tape away from Bruce’s skin and clothes. Only once fully freed from the silver trap did Bruce speak. “What the hell happened?”
“You’re asking me?” Clark was flabbergasted. “You’re the master detective, Master Detective. I was shanghaied by Wally and,” he walked back to the door, jiggled the handle, and hit the light switch on the wall, “apparently locked inside a broom closet. With a silver mummy.” He had to chuckle quietly to himself at the absurdity of the whole situation. “This whole thing is oddly fitting, by the way.”
Bruce snorted. “I was in my quarters, repairing my suit, and I was bum-rushed by a red blur who at least had the decency to leave my eyes un-taped. And thank you for the confirmation that this was, indeed, Wally, and not you who did this. I’d like to kill the correct person.” He began to study the drop ceiling; Clark watched as that magnificent mind immediately went to work triangulating their exact position within the Watchtower. Bruce looked at Clark quizzically. “Can’t you break the lock, or cut us a hole, or possibly do something useful?”
Clark attempted to use his x-ray vision to look through the door at the locking mechanism, only to find the normal steel door had been replaced with lead. In fact, the entire section of wall had been lead lined. “This whole thing was premeditated.”
“I can’t see a damn thing through the wall; it’s lead lined. And, from what I can tell, amazingly reinforced. Someone went through a lot of trouble planning this.”
Bruce climbed a shelf to try to pry the ceiling tile up; when it didn’t budge, he let out a small sigh.
“Bruce, why would Wally want to lock us in a broom closet?” Clark felt his carefully built up courage slowly melt into his shoes. He had to have this conversation with Bruce now, or it would never happen.
Bruce let out another small sigh. “I know exactly why. And I’m devising appropriate punishments for all parties involved as we speak.”
“Speaking of speaking,” Clark chuckled, “so I was talking with Diana earlier and she had this crazy idea about why I’m having trouble controlling my abilities is because… well… that’s not important; actually, it really is important because I seem to be destroying property in small fits of jealous rage, and that’s not a good thing, especially when it happens in places like the Planet…”
“And at Christmas parties.”
Clark started. Bruce had noticed that? Of course he had; this was the World’s Greatest Detective he just had to be in love with.
“… And at Christmas parties, and here in the Watchtower, and… well… it might be because, well…” Clark tried to form the words he so desperately needed to say, but he was failing miserably. Why did talking with Bruce have to be more terrifying than fighting Doomsday?
“Clark? Do us both a favor.”
“Shut up, and help me get out of this trap.”
Clark shook his head and resolved himself to his decision: he closed the distance between them in two strides, set his hands on the side of Bruce’s face, and placed a gentle kiss on his lips.
Bruce was stunned, but not completely immobile, it seemed; he wrapped his arms around Clark and pulled him in closer. Suddenly, broom closet trap and all, the world felt right, as if the cosmos became perfectly aligned.
After what felt like an eternity, Clark broke the kiss, much to his chagrin. “And that’s what I was trying to say.”
A small chirp went off in Clark’s ear; the way Bruce tilted his head meant that he heard it as well.
“I was wondering who would give in first.”
Both Clark and Bruce immediately searched for the camera. Diana’s voice had a slight mocking tone to it, meaning that she had a hand in their current entrapment.
“See if I ever talk to you again, Diana,” Bruce growled. “Or anyone, for that matter.”
Her laughter was bubbly, almost infectious. Clark couldn’t help but smile through his anger, Bruce only deepened his scowl, which made Diana laugh even harder.
“I take full responsibility for what I have done with the information you have provided me. And you’re welcome, by the way.” Bruce opened his mouth to retort, but the audio feed had already been cut.
Clark chuckled and moved some things aside to sit on the floor; he motioned for Bruce to join him, “It appears as though we may be in here for a while.”
Bruce sat down, his body almost touching Clark’s (a fact that, Clark noted, drove him wild with need).
The silence between them grew thicker in the passing minutes. Finally, when Clark thought he might go insane from the quiet, Bruce spoke. “So you talked with Diana as well?”
“Yeah, after that thing with the fire and the papers and… wait.” Clark blinked. “What do you mean ‘as well’?”
Bruce cleared his throat. “I had a brief talk with her last week. And it seems, with our current predicament, that we had the same conversation.”
“So you told Diana that… and you’re… oh wow.” Clark began to furiously blush, fighting the need to bury his face in his hands; instead, he hung his head between his knees. “I had no idea.”
“Neither did I, until Diana kindly helped point it out.” A light suddenly clicked on in Bruce’s mind. He gave a small laugh, a genuine Bruce laugh, and rubbed his eyes. “That shrewd harpy.”
“Do we really have to kill her, Bruce?” Clark’s heart warmed at the sound of Bruce’s laugh; he began to laugh himself. “I’ve grown quite attached to her in light of the present situation.”
“I suppose not. This may very well be for our own benefit, after all. Second shelf, eleven inches from the right.”
Clark was thrown by Bruce’s statement. “What’s on the second shelf, eleven inches from the right?”
“Ah,” Clark used his heat vision to melt the lens. “Now we have no one to spy on us.”
“So we can let this horribly awkward conversation continue?”
“Unless you can think of a better idea.” Clark blushed as soon as the words were out of his mouth.
Bruce raised an eyebrow. “I can think of sixteen better things we could be doing instead of sitting in a broom closet. And only four of those things involve League business.”
Clark’s blush deepened. “What are the other dozen?”
“You’ll just have to wait and see.”
“We still have one huge problem, Bruce.”
“How do we get out of this closet?”