"Would you care for some lemonade, sir?"
Clark Kent accepted the tall frosted glass from Alfred with a sigh of appreciation. He didn't feel the August heat as painful, of course, but the manor attic was dusty and unpleasantly close. He took a long sip, savoring sweet tartness, and sneaked a glance at Bruce as Alfred handed him his own glass.
Bruce was sweating and there was a smudge of soot along one cheekbone. The summer humidity had turned his usually-glossy hair to a rumpled mess of damp curls, and Clark thought he was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.
Of course, he thought that all the time already.
As Bruce held the glass--already dripping with condensation--to his flushed forehead, Clark felt the sense of strangeness anew. They'd only been--well, dating wasn't the right word, but--seeing each other for a few months now, and Clark still found the increasing number of quiet, almost domestic moments incredibly strange. Whether it was helping Damian with a science project (Bruce had to veto several quite lethal-looking options), pruning the hedges, or--as today--cleaning out the attic, there was a vertiginous sense of coziness that Clark found disarming and delightful.
He had known that dating Batman would be thrilling, he had suspected it would be difficult--and it was both of those, in spades.
But he hadn't expected it to be so...normal at times.
Those moments were quickly becoming his favorites in the relationship.
Clark took a long sip of his lemonade and opened up another box. He had noted that August wasn't really the ideal time to be cleaning out an attic, but Bruce had gotten that mulish look on his face and Clark had shrugged and joined him in the dim, dusty space. Clark suspected this cleaning bug was related to Tim moving out--Bruce was clearly trying not to hover, but Clark could tell he worried about his former Robin. So instead of performing surveillance on Tim and his new team, they were up in an attic, combing through old boxes to label, sort, decide what to keep and what to throw away. Bruce had already accumulated three boxes of antiques, and was currently asking Alfred if he thought his great-aunt Millicent's beaded flapper bag would fetch a good enough price at the Wayne charity auction.
The box Clark was working on was marked "Notebooks," and was indeed filled with neatly stacked notes of equations, biology diagrams, and translated paragraphs in painstaking French and Chinese, all in a juvenile version of a bold scrawl that Clark knew well.
Not much in here that would fetch much of a price, Clark thought, but couldn't help but thumb through the worn pages, marveling at the voraciousness of Bruce's young mind. One of the notebooks jutted out a little bit--bound with leather, not paper--and Clark extracted it from the stack and opened it.
I have been preparing myself for this enterprise since the moment I first saw my parents' blood, Bruce's dark handwriting leapt out at him. Clark blinked. While the process of training and study will never cease, it is time to start using what I have learned thus far, time to design and create a new image and identity, an alter ego to counterbalance Bruce Wayne's daytime persona.
Irresolute, Clark's fingers stalled on the corner of the page. He sneaked a look at Bruce out of the corner of his eye, but Bruce wasn't looking at him. He had said Clark was free to go through any of the boxes, Clark thought, knowing it for a rationalization but unable to resist turning the page.
Bruce looked up a few minutes later at a tea-kettle whistling noise to find Clark with his hand pressed to his mouth and his face turning red with repressed hilarity. Bruce's eyes widened as he caught sight of the notebook. "No! No no no!"
Clark dodged his oncoming lunge, lifting the book above his head. When Bruce ricocheted off the wall and came back at him, Clark simply rose into the rafters, snickering. Bruce bounded after him, but it was no good: after a high-speed chase around the attic and among the rafters he had to admit defeat.
"Come on, Clark," he wheedled, looking up with a despairing expression. "Give it back." He looked over at Alfred, who had taken shelter in an alcove when chaos broke loose. "Make him give it back, Alfred."
Alfred beat a hasty retreat from the attic as Clark waved the open notebook. "What, just when it's getting good?"
"--I believe you were trying to get over your infatuation with shoulder hooks. With little success," Clark added as Bruce groaned. "Looks good but probably not practical," he read out loud. "Now there you were wrong, Bruce," he said, shaking a finger. "Shoulder hooks never look good."
"I was seventeen, Clark."
"I'm glad you eventually took enough anatomy lessons to stop drawing abdomen muscles like a mass of bubbles. Really, Bruce." He flipped the page and raised his eyebrows. "Oh, I rather like this one, other than the continuing obsession with pointy shoulders."
"Which one was that?" Bruce leapt lightly onto the top of a Baroque armoire and crouched there, clearly ready to spring forward and snatch the notebook if possible. The sight of Bruce Wayne in jeans and a polo shirt perched like Batman, poised and coiled, was distractingly, devastatingly attractive, but Clark was determined not to let his guard down and risk losing his treasure.
"Typical," Clark snorted, "You didn't like it much. Overall look too 'fancy'? Too much like fashion design? Only you would worry about looking too fancy while dressing up as a bat and fighting crime."
"I remember that one," Bruce mused. "Stylized."
Clark flipped forward a few more pages. "Good--but now too much like a bat" He raised an eyebrow at Bruce over the top of the notebook. "So, that night you told me about...was the bat that crashed into your window wearing gigantic silver pauldrons, gauntlets, and boots? Because unless so, your definition of 'too much like a bat' is baffling me just a little." Bruce just rolled his eyes and didn't deign to answer.
"Good grief!" exclaimed Clark a moment later, looking up from the paper with wide eyes.
"I don't think you can take the shoulder hooks idea any farther than this, Bruce." He shook his head and read, "Still, 'weird' might be the way to go... Yes, I'd say you remained true to that part of your vision, at least."
Bruce scrubbed at his face. "Clark, please...don't turn the page."
Clark paused with the paper between his fingers. "Come on, you can't expect me not to look now. And it can't be worse than this vermilion crime against fashion." His eyes narrowed. "Can it?"
Bruce looked away.
"Impossible," said Clark, and turned the page.
A painful silence fell across the room. Bruce didn't quite wince, waiting.
"Bruce." Clark's voice was stifled. "What...what is this?"
"I. Was. Seventeen," Bruce articulated carefully.
"I don't believe I have ever seen so many spikes in one place. Bruce, your spikes have spikes on them. You are Mr. Spikey McPokerson. If you tried to fight crime in this, you would risk impaling yourself every time you moved. Bruce," Clark said, a rising note of hilarity in his voice, "Bruce, there are spikes running up your thighs to your ass."
Bruce raised his chin to glare haughtily at his floating, giggling lover. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
"Well," said Clark, "I see now why you never made fun of Dick for all of his costuming choices. But you've let him think you're a model of sartorial restraint and streamlining, and that seems a little unfair. I think maybe he should have a chance to see--"
Maybe it was his glee, perhaps the tears of laughter in his eyes, but this time he couldn't quite dodge Bruce's leap and the notebook was yanked from his hands. Bruce landed on top of a pile of boxes, teetered alarmingly for a second, then regained his balance and scrambled to the floor. "Hah," he announced, hugging the book close to his chest.
Clark drifted down from the rafters until he was hovering just a few inches above Bruce. "Okay, okay," he said as Bruce tightened his grip, "I'll let you keep your cherished illusions. Now that I've seen your secret peacock side, I'm content."
Bruce glared at him, but when he showed no signs of wanting to reclaim the book, he relaxed slightly. "They're not all horrible," he muttered, looking down at the little leather book, and Clark felt a rush of absurd tenderness.
"Of course not, you impossible man. They're beautiful and dramatic and visionary, just like you, even if you try to hide it under severity."
That made Bruce look up at him, and Clark took the opportunity to lower himself the remaining few inches to that contradictory mouth. Bruce kept a careful hold on the notebook even as the kiss deepened and sweetened, but Clark had no intention of trying to steal it back.
He had a photographic memory, after all.