Of Misery and Company
Of Misery and Company
Summary: Misery is not a cause of company; it's a result.
Disclaimer: If possession is nine-tenths of the law, fandom should be the remaining tenth.
Pairings: Clark/Lex, Clark/Bruce
Inspiration and Reference: Music--"In This Life" by Chantal Kreviasuk; the couplet at the beginning is mine.
--I watched a light in distance and doubt; I turned my back and the light went out--
The commotion was entirely his; bags swung recklessly, steps hurried and anxious, breath hitched to stillborn sobs.
It was this ruckus that lured Bruce into the entrance hall, and as he came upon the vestibule, he found Clark, the source of all the tumultuous sound that carried through the halls to rouse his curious attention. The obvious draw had been that something was wrong, and now, having discovered the origin of the problem, the cause seemed exceptionally clear. If it were Lex, Bruce would have let him go... but this was Clark; he didn't want to just let Clark leave.
Bruce approached with swift ease, positioning himself casually between Clark and the door he had just opened.
"Clark?" The question encapsulated every one that Bruce could think of--where are you going, what are you doing, what is the matter...
Despite it's general nature, Clark heard all those sentiments contained within. "I can't do this anymore. I can't stay with him." He wanted to drop all the things he had in his hands in frustration, but he dropped his gaze to the marble floor instead. "I'm sorry, Bruce. I know you and Lex are old friends, but he's driving me crazy, and I just can't keep going like this." Clark's tone made him sound pitifully desperate, every note the deepening chime of a miserable heart. "It's killing me." At those sad words that floated on a whisper, Clark's eyes met Bruce's, and there he saw something wholly sympathetic move behind Bruce's intense, chilled eyes; something melted inside the ice, and the very slight change within Bruce was a striking mystery, because Clark could not explain it.
Reluctance. Hesitation. Bruce drifted from the safer side of caution to the other side of the glass. "Do you want to talk about it?"
As tears burned the inside of his eyes, unwilling or unable to spill, Clark's brow knotted. Hearing Bruce make such a trite offer was jarring, almost enough to distract Clark from his stifling anguish. The tone was so blas Bruce, but the sentiment defined by the words themselves, even when spoken with a barely flinching monotone, seemed alien.
Bruce waited for a response, no anticipation or tangible feeling about him, and when Clark's confusion left a gap in the wake of his dumbfounded stupor, he amended his proposal. "If you don't want to talk, that's fine. We can get you something to eat, or get out of the mansion for a while, or whatever you want." Not an ounce of emotion, not a drop of humanity--only a mechanical inflection and countenance that typically characterized Bruce's low and flat timbre as well as his posture, yet so much vibrance pooling in the soul of his eyes directly contradicted that hollow and brooding image. "Just don't leave hastily like this."
Again, there was no way of reading Bruce, neither by his cryptic message nor his blank exterior. Despite the ambiguity of what was said and how, Clark believed he had the distinct impression that this appeal was not made in the best interest of Lex, but for Bruce's own favor. It was an odd notion, but easily dismissed as chaotically random in Clark's overwhelm.
The idea of escaping the bleakness of the interior design of Wayne Manor beckoned him, but Clark imagined there was something entirely wrong with the concept of Bruce going out for a leisurely stroll about the grounds--it just seemed so impossible to fathom, even knowing Bruce in as vague and general a way as Clark did, and understanding him that much less; Bruce was not a person he could ever see taking a walk.
Also, Clark did not want to be open for running into Lex. Part of the dilemma he was currently suffering was Lex's sudden absence and abandonment of him without consideration enough to say good-bye or inform him how long he would be gone, and Clark would not care to be discovered in this state whenever Lex felt like reappearing. Maybe if Clark could clear his head of all the gray clouds fogging it before Lex arrived back here, there wouldn't even be cause for complaint, and having Bruce's company could help to level him from his imbalanced condition. A talk was sounding better every second that ticked by while Bruce waited patiently, even absently, for a response of some sort. While Clark forced himself to make a decision, he stared miserably at Bruce, and those thin glacial eyes had never seemed so amiable or sympathetic. "Alright."
They were in Bruce's bedroom. Not a wise choice, but somehow, it had been an obvious one; this would be the last place Lex would come seeking Clark. The chamber had its private nature spelled out like a strategically decorative warning with medieval sadistic-looking weapons hung upon the walls that bordered the doorframe, and a complicated set of locks upon the massive door of solid oak just to ensure personal space was not violated, even in a mansion that Bruce kept like a veritable fortress. Knowing he had been brought in here by Bruce in and of itself showed an unprecedented and inexplicable amount of trust on Bruce's part, and Clark was in silent awe and respect of that gesture.
Bruce took the only chair in the room, one that was polished ornate wood with a gothic feel to it that matched the atmosphere the furniture created throughout, both here and in the rest of Bruce's opulent abode. The chair sat in the shadow of a corner and lent itself well to Bruce's darkened distance, but even as he sat, Bruce paused as if reconciling something with himself, then hauled the chair out of its isolation to the side of the bed where Clark sat, since Clark had nowhere else to place himself but on Bruce's thick and unyielding mattress that seemed as hard and rigid as the man who slept in it--if he slept, that is, because the thing did not feel the slightest bit broken in, as though it had been used on rare occasion, if ever.
The entire situation should have been unnerving given the circumstances--Bruce's unrestrained proximity and sudden seeming accessibility coupled with his dubious candor and melting faade--but Clark was extraordinarily comfortable in spite of the signs that pointed askew. He already felt himself calming just at the fact that he was not alone, nor would he be left as such.
Clark placed his hands down on the velvety blanket that dressed the bed and he leaned back on his palms, his shoulders sunken inward under an invisible weight. There were a lot of things Bruce didn't know--one pivotal, gigantic secret Bruce couldn't have known--and Clark wondered how much he didn't know about Bruce, fully aware that Bruce was in essence a total mystery to him, which must very well have mirrored Bruce's perspective on Clark.
All this made the quiet encompass too much obscurity, and Clark was at a temporary loss, mindful that Bruce was waiting for him to speak.
A damnable silence stretched between them for too long, and the more it extended, the worse it thinned, empty and devoid of articulation.
"Maybe this was a bad idea," Clark half-joked, half to himself.
Then, he noticed something as it flickered in Bruce's intense gaze. Clark's eyes had met Bruce's in passing, awkwardly darting, but when they caught the hint of a suppressed reaction in Bruce, his eyes landed in the locked exchange of heavy stares, growing mired in scrutiny. If he did not know any better--which, truth be told, he didn't--he would have thought Bruce was reading something into that innocent declaration, something inadvertently wrapped in innuendo akin to more intimate scenario predicaments, the likes of which were sexually suggestive. As realization dawned invitingly, Clark became conscious that not only was he seeing it now, but he was feeling it too.
It was desire! Bruce was attracted to him! And wielding self-control adeptly to avoid the passion that was implied therein at that.
Clark was stunned. Bruce dared not risk a move, and remained as passive and distant as ever, intent not to flinch in the face of exposure. The obvious was amassing deep in his psyche as he watched Clark's features shape and flow with regrettable understanding. Bruce chalked it up to the flaw of succumbing to emotional vulnerability--he had a weakness for Clark, and though he hardly knew the boy, he was more than just a little surprised to find himself drawn closer to him. Clark gleaned that Bruce had a fondness, a physical affinity for him, and Bruce ascertained that the attention would be met with welcoming approval.
"Bruce, I..." Clark sat forward, at the onset of invading Bruce's precious personal space, and the expression he donned was willfully entreating.
Bruce knew that if he did not interrupt that thought, it would lead them straight to where Clark was now trying to steer them, which happened to be exactly where Bruce wanted to go, but they were practically strangers as their lives went, united primarily by a mutual friend who was more than that to both of them, and they were about to embark upon a path of some significant consequence. He resisted as best he could, his will power hard at work. "Lex is lucky to have you, Clark." He meant it as a reminder, loathsome but true. If there had been anything showing on the outside, it would have been clenched teeth, but no--there was nothing. Regardless, Bruce's thoughts were unusually transparent; Lex didn't deserve him--he wasn't worthy of one so pure of soul and heart, born of sunshine.
"He doesn't think so." Clark's soft words fluttered on a whisper as he closed the inches between his lips and Bruce's.
"Clark," Bruce began, as if to caution, but stopped, as though wanting desperately to toss it to the wind.
"Please don't say no." That was a lovely request, because Bruce didn't want to say no, and somehow Clark saw that desire light him alive in this moment they were sharing. Clark's lust was rising too, and he couldn't tell if he was leading Bruce on, or if it was the other way around. It didn't matter, because they were barreling down that road now with one brush of Clark's kiss that was tentatively testing Bruce's dark waters. Finally, Bruce caved, his resolve buried under the rubble of a sacred temple he had built long ago--he had promised to sacrifice the complications of any type of relationship or intimacy towards his greater purpose, a castle Lex had tried to infiltrate himself several times, even in the continuing duration of his romance with Clark, but in a matter of minutes, Clark had brought that keep tumbling down where all others before him had failed.
When Clark pulled back from the uncanny tenderness of that contact, his eyes were possessed of passion, and Bruce could no longer hide his want, his need of Clark. The look that met his made Clark delight in its glow, and he committed the heated expression to memory. It had been so long since Lex had looked at him like Bruce was doing at that very moment, with raw yearning, unabashed lust and genuine affection.
He had to taste more of that sweet warmth that he had never imagined existed in this man. He clamped his mouth down on Bruce's, this time with more zeal, and the energy invested came back at him ten fold as Bruce attacked him, rising from his chair and backing Clark onto the bed again, as he climbed atop him with the thigh of one leg digging between Clark's, and the other slung over the side of Clark's hip, pinning him there.
The explosion of aggressive behavior from Bruce had Clark writhing in ecstasy beneath him, swooning at every hungry bite and insatiable touch. Before all that was transpiring could register, Clark was being stripped of his clothes, and Bruce was simultaneously parting with his. The hot crush of bare flesh on bare flesh followed, Bruce's cultivated muscles against Clark's youthful sinews that were developing still. The air all around their entwined bodies surged with electricity, so intoxicatingly electrified by sparks that never knew a match.
Clark's arms held firmly to Bruce, but no pressure was necessary, because Bruce held himself to Clark with a magnetism that swept over Clark in a euphoric haze, a wash of adrenaline and hormones that set him on fire like he had been cold his whole life. Somewhere in the flux of the vigorous stimulation, Clark wondered if Bruce felt that blaze the same way, since it suddenly seemed like Bruce's inanimate flame had ignited on an ardent whim. Bruce's tongue tracked down Clark's neck, across his chest, to his shoulder, and flew back to his mouth, making Clark feel like he was being devoured. In the same frantic and excited fashion, Bruce's hands explored the vast span of his perfect skin, sliding, caressing every inch of it, making Clark feel like he was being savored.
Bruce was in the throes of discovering the territory of Clark's body, and at his very core, he knew the indecency of it was that he was trespassing--claim had been laid here by another, and the stale scent of Lex clung to Clark ever so faintly. Evidence like this made it more acceptable and less reprehensible that they were engaging in this carnal act. The fragrant mark Lex left upon Clark was so badly faded that it confessed how long it had been since Lex had properly taken him, and another harsh truth that made their sin seem negligible and their wrong unimportant compared with those that had been committed against them was that Lex not only neglected Clark, but he turned his physical interest on Bruce still at rare times. Bruce never told Clark, and he never would, partially because he had always allowed the infringement upon his distance by Lex, and had entertained himself in the receipt of that affection--out of habit or loneliness was a point for debate, but whatever it was, it strayed from his moral center.
As his head drowned in the bliss of having all this lavished upon him, Clark reeled with the wanton violation of his faithfulness, loving each second Bruce was with him, stroking his sensitized flesh, squeezing his every curve, sucking at his swollen lips. Clark did not want to delay any longer, as he was aching to take this seduction to the next level, so he arched up into Bruce with full force, thrusting his hip and his stiffened sex against Bruce's own taut, erect member.
Keenly pursuing the implication of that anxious motion, Bruce settled patiently between Clark's legs as they curled about his sides. Bruce had slowed and fallen nearly tranquil instantly, as if the full impact of traveling this far compelled him to take care, and somehow it was plain that he was being conscientious of all things that hung in the balance, and permitting the decision to ultimately fall on Clark, granting him uncommon consideration as he knew the choice would affect Clark more directly and significantly than it would him.
Despite his better judgment, Bruce couldn't help but slide a hand down between them, and his fingers teased the crevice where he hovered, tantalizing Clark in the most artfully wicked manner. Promptly, he realized how detrimental his tease was to Clark's rational functions, and he ceased the movement since he had to elicit the most authentic and unadulterated reaction possible from him pertaining to their next step. Though it occurred to him that it was a little late for responsibility to kick in, he did not want either of them to regret whatever happened if this haphazard affair went any farther.
Bruce was poised on the verge of penetration, gazing deep into Clark's eyes and very soul to find the answer to a question he wouldn't give a voice so it could be asked. Clark reciprocated Bruce's enamored stare, and gently nodded his consent, oblivious to the fact that he had only heard half of the question. He simply clutched Bruce tightly, cognizant that this was the last thread of his fidelity lingering and the last line defining its boundaries that he could cross. Meanwhile, his anticipation mimicked the enthusiasm and certainty that Bruce swathed himself in as he steadied his limbs and organ, preparing to enter Clark.
This was a dream, and it had always been one. Bruce would never let on how much he wanted him, how much he reveled in his company, how he envied Lex his shining sun and wished that he were the one bathing in that light, and how--unlike Lex--he would never turn his back on its radiance or make it compete so cruelly with the darkness. He soaked up as much of the warmth as he could, because he knew what was coming.
"Wait!" The predictably inevitable shattered the fantasy, and the transition back to reality seemed abnormally smooth.
Maintaining a dignified nonchalance about the foreseeable rejection, Bruce eased back, and extracted himself from Clark's kind embrace.
Another damnable silence stretched between them--this time for quite different reasons--and now it was very thick and pregnant with sentiment.
"I'm sorry, Bruce. I shouldn't have done this." Clark's words were suddenly miles away, and an ocean separated them in the few feet of space.
He wondered what he would tell Lex. After all, this sordid indulgence would come out sooner or later, and he was already preparing himself for that dreadful eventuality. In foresight, it would be best to tell Lex that Bruce had stopped it--Clark did not want Lex to blame Bruce for this lest their friendship suffer that much more than it already did, and besides which, Lex would be pissed at Clark anyway, so taking the added brunt of accountability would only throw another lit match into a burning building. It was the least Clark felt he could do, since he pinned the guilt to himself, especially for involving and engaging Bruce as he had done. The tidal wave of reality collided with his virtue, and he couldn't contend with the weight of it all at once, and he knew Bruce recognized the burden of regret and discomfited sorrow that was descending so terribly upon him.
"It's alright, Clark." Bruce was unconvincing, and Clark seemed unconvinced. He did the best he could to restore his mask of apathy, to retreat back into the abyss of himself, his sacred asylum. "It's nothing." It's a lie, Bruce thought, but it's one capable of living with for all concerned. Bruce wondered if Clark could tell how far from the truth his proclamation was. His misery wasn't nothing, and neither was his present company.
The only thing Clark could manage came in a falsely reassuring tone and crestfallen voice. "Good."