It was a wonderful time of evening: the stars were just starting to come out against a deep purple sky, birds flying on their way to bedding down for the night. A cool breeze wafted across the lawn, people sitting on blankets or lawn chairs, picnic baskets with the remains of supper packed away. Some held flutes of champagne while others went with more plebian bottles of beer.
Clark sat on a slight incline by a stately old maple tree, its numerous branches offering shade in the daylight hours. He smoothed out the blanket beneath him, his own picnic basket tucked away by the tree trunk. It contained the remains of Alfred’s golden fried chicken and dill potato salad with ears of corn from the farm. He sipped a bottle of Coke.
It reminded him of cool summer evenings back on the farm, the stars thick in the twilight sky without any city light dimming their luster, and the promise of fireflies to flit across the yard. Sitting on the porch with Mom and Dad and just watching Nature’s show always soothed his soul.
Several yards away was the stage. The set was dressed as a Victorian drawing room, and laughter trilled through the crowd as the actors played out the farce. The local company had drawn in a smattering of Gotham socialites to play parts, and the biggest draw was Bruce Wayne.
Clark smirked in the growing dusk. Bruce was a consummate actor as Prince of Gotham and Batman, but he was deliberately making some mistakes, playing up the Brucie persona, but not too much, just enough to amuse the crowds, who were rooting for him. They laughed and applauded his missteps and his genuine comic lines, the play bringing in money for the pediatric wing at Gotham City Hospital here in the park bearing Bruce’s family name.
Bruce seemed to be genuinely enjoying himself. He strutted the stage in his Victorian gentleman’s outfit, throwing off the one-liners as if he’d been born to do it.
Only Clark knew that he was in pain.
Cracked ribs from last night’s patrol were throbbing beneath his well-cut suit. His painkillers were wearing off, and he couldn’t take any more until the play was over. Still, he had insisted on appearing. He was the biggest draw, after all, he’d said smugly, Clark lightly punching him on the shoulder.
Clark willed Bruce to keep upright and keep his movements as graceful as possible, though a few pratfalls would work with this play. He wished that he could give his powers to Bruce so that he could heal faster, or not get hurt at all. He watched lovingly as Bruce had everyone eating out of the palm of his hand.
He listened to Bruce’s heartbeat. A little elevated due to the pain, but he seemed to be handling it well. He gestured comically and the crowd laughed. It was rare for Bruce to get genuine laughter instead of the sycophantic kind that usually surrounded him as Brucie. His face was a little flushed and his eyes a little too bright but his smile seemed like the real thing, and considering how he didn’t throw smiles around very often, Clark knew that acting in this play was what Bruce needed tonight.
The sky deepened to indigo and royal purple, the stars shining brighter. Soft lights were turned on around the lawn, just enough to keep people from being plunged into darkness.
“But, Daniel, how can we present a plausible story for public consumption? The scandal!”
The actress’ voice carried clearly over the audience, Bruce turning their way, tapping his chin. Suddenly he whirled back toward the woman and held up a finger.
“I have it!”
He rattled off a series of impromptu scenarios, each more ridiculous than the last, prompting laughter. Bruce turned back to the audience and his eyes connected with Clark’s. Clark smiled and Bruce’s eyes sparkled as he said, “We are all actors in the grand scheme of things, Aunt May.”
Clark chuckled quietly to himself.
During intermission, Clark overheard snatches of conversation.
“Brucie is really hamming it up.”
“Who knew Bruce had a flair for comedy?”
“I can’t believe Claudia Wentworth is pulling this off.”
“Bet the take for tonight is real good. The hospital will benefit.”
Mention of ‘the take’ put Clark on alert. If there was to be a robbery at a charming place like this, it would be in Gotham.
The second act was just as successful as the first, and by the end of the play, the applause was thunderous. Bruce only bowed slightly, Clark wincing in sympathy.
Indeed, who knew that Bruce had a flair for comedy? When he’d first met the man, he barely smiled. Now his smiles were more frequent though usually reserved for himself and Alfred, at least the genuine ones as opposed to the public Prince of Gotham smiles.
Bruce certainly needed lighthearted times like this. Clark sensed that he’d wanted more laughter in his life, tired of sorrow and grief and rage. If Clark had given that to him, he was grateful, and according to Alfred, he had. Clark watched Bruce on the stage with loving eyes.
After the cast changed they made their way to family and friends, accepting accolades and signing autographs. Bruce was particularly besieged, but finally reached Clark, who stood and hugged him, mindful of his ribs. He helped Bruce sit down as the orchestra tuned up on the stage, the set having been partially struck, the furniture removed and folding chairs set out. The drawing room backdrop was still there.
Clark squeezed Bruce’s hand, then gave him his pill and a bottle of water, Bruce gratefully swallowing the pill.
“So, you think Hollywood will come calling?” Bruce asked with a smirk.
“I’m not sure if Christian Bale will be shaking in his boots.”
Bruce laughed, waving a hand airily. “I do accents better than him.”
Clark laughed and squeezed his lover’s hand again.
They listened to the Gotham Symphony Orchestra under the stars while holding hands, fireflies dancing across the lawn to oohs and aahs, Bruce resting his head on Clark’s shoulder.