“Alfred, think I’m gonna need the first aid kit for real this time.” John’s voice echoed through the hollow walls of the cave as he stepped down from the Bat. A machine he still had no way of properly controlling, but had mainly had to let the auto-pilot do most of the work. It wasn’t too bad, when he did that, it gave him more time to press a hand to his side to staunch the flow of blood from getting any worse.
“Alfred’s asleep. For once. Almost had to drug him to get him into bed.” The low voice, filled with amusement, and a touch of longing, answered John’s own call, his head snapping up in response and meeting Bruce Wayne’s darkened eyes across the walkway. “You should feel privileged. He’s never been like that with anyone but me.”
“Yeah, well…Alfred’s just got a heart that’s too big for his chest, and not enough people to fill it with.” John’s words were soft, hesitant as he took his first step across the wet walkway, moving closer to the man he hadn’t seen in over a year. “What’re you doing here? Last time you stopped by, you said you weren’t coming back. Ever.”
John’s words have solidified, as has his expression, into resolve, even as his heart beats out a steady staccato in his chest. He moves past the other man, his hand still pressed carefully to his side as he wanders over to the area he’d last seen the first aid kit, his movements a little bit more sluggish than they should be.
“Yeah, no shit, Sherlock.” Pulling up the first aid kit, he rested it atop the platform for the computers, pulling off the cowl that had never seemed to fit quite right and tossing it off to the side. One hand still pressed to his side, he started to pull out the things he’d need to dig the bullet out of his side and stitch himself up. He was lucky this one had been a low caliber, or he probably wouldn’t have been able to make it back to the cave.
“I can help.”
“You don’t see me asking, do you?”
“John..” The voice is accompanied by a questing hand that reached out and grasped his own, that was tearing futily at the ties holding his suit together. “Let me help.”
With the soft words, John felt all of the fight leave him, as it so often did whenever Bruce was involved. He let his arms fall to his sides as he allowed Bruce to undo all of the buckles and braces the other man was more than familiar with, until John was left wearing nothing but the thin sweat pants that kept the suit from chafing him too badly while out on the streets. He didn’t know what Bruce chose to wear under the suit, and he never asked. It was simply one of those things that they never…talked about. Added to the neverending list that only grew longer the more time they spent with each other, and apart.
John didn’t know when his eyes fell closed, but he slowly lost himself in the sensations of feeling Bruce’s fingers slide across his skin. Moving over the new muscles, and even newer scars that ripped across his torso, almost mirroring the other man’s.
Letting out a slow hiss, he let his hands clench at his sides as Bruce started to clean out to wound, digging his own fist into his mouth to muffle his cry as he dug out the bullet from his flesh. It was over in a matter of moments, Bruce more skilled with healing wounds than most other people in the world, and John let himself sink a little. Bruce’s arm catching him automatically before moving to sit him down in one of the chairs nearby.
“You’ve gotta be more careful.”
“Yeah, well, maybe if you had better armor I wouldn’t have to be.” Cracking an eye open he took in the differences that had occurred to the other man’s face in his absence, and could find none. He looked almost exactly the same as he did on that day he’d left, making John feel even more inferior, knowing he looked as if he’d been thrown into hell and spit back up.
“Don’t let Fox hear you say that, or he’ll cut off your toy supply.” Letting out a soft laugh, he shook his head and looked away.
“Fox has heard me say it plenty of times, doens’t mean he’s done a damn thing diff-ah! Watch it! You may be impervious to pain, but some of us aren’t.” Swatting at Bruce’s hands he almost pulled away, before he was forcibly sat back down.
“If you want I can numb it, but I have a feeling you wouldn’t like that, would you?” The slight twist to Bruce’s lips let John know exactly what he was thinking, as he forced himself to keep his expression flat and his movements still.
“Just do it.” Bruce gazed into his face for a few brief moments, throughout John kept his gaze averted and his hands at his sides to keep himself from reaching out and double-checking to make sure the man before him was really there and not a fevered dream. The hands touching his skin and sliding the needle through his body notwithstanding. He’d had even worse dreams before, that had felt more like reality than his waking world did.
It was over in a matter of minutes, John’s jaw clenched the entire time as he breathed heavily through his nose, waiting for the soothing caress of the bandage over his sewn together skin let him know it was done.
“There. Not the worst I’ve seen, but you’ll live.” Bruce stood up from his spot and started to back up the supplies he’d used to fix up John. Given free rein, he stood up, carefully, from the chair and crossed the short distance to the panel that he’d set up to carry extra clothing for himself. Keying in the code, he pulled off a soft and warm hoodie and easily slid into it. Not bothering to zip it up as he crossed back over to Bruce, a million questions on the tip of his tongue, and not one of them did he let free.
It wasn’t until he was directly behind him, that he realized his forehead was resting against the curve of his spine, his breaths moving almost in unison with Bruce’s as the pain in his side seemed to override any of his higher brain functions. When he realized where he was, he instantly pulled away, stammering apologies as he cursed himself under his breath. he didn’t stop until he felt a careful hand, curling underneath his chin and pulling his focus back to the man he’d thought he’d never see again. At least not in this life.
“You’re wearing my hoodie.” The words were soft, filled with amusement, and something else John could only guess at, as his own eyes filled with shock as he looked down at his half-clothed chest.
“Wha-ah, Alfred gave me a box of clothes he said he had lying around, after I told him most of my things had disappeared in the riots.” His hand instantly tugged on the sleeves, pulling them over his bruised and bloody knuckles as a soft chuckle emnated from the man before him.
“Where’d you think he got them from?” Of course Alfred would’ve given him Bruce’s old clothes, it made more sense why they were broader in the shoulder than his own clothes. The length needing to be adjusted whenever John had a spare moment and a needle and thread. Lifting a hand to tug through his hair, he was brought to a pause as he realized just how long his hair had gotten without him noticing. He’d have to ask Alfred to make an appointment for him somewhere, or maybe even take a razor to it himself. He’d done it enough as a kid, a buzzcut was nothing to him anymore.
“Right, this mean you want it back?” Pulling away, he tugged the jacket closer around his body, the chill of the cave finally seeming to hit him as the blood loss lowered his body temperature. That was why it was such a shock when a pair of arms came up behind him and wrapped around John’s form, pulling him back against a chest that was almost scorching to the touch.
“What-what’re you doing?” John’s voice is soft, but echoes throughout the cave regardless, keeping it flat as his heart picks up speed in his chest.
“Taking back what’s mine.” Bruce’s words were whispered against his skin, lips gracing across the line of his neck as his arms tightened their grip around John’s chest and pulled him closer.
“Bruce..” The questions were there, ‘why are you doing this?’ ‘is this real?’ ‘are you going to leave me again?’ knocking at the back of his mind, waiting to be opened and set free on the man that was determined to tattoo his name across every inch of John’s skin, but he couldn’t. They wouldn’t come, because John knew that if he did say them, that Bruce would stop. And as painful as it was to tamp down the insecurities and worries that plagued him nonstop, having to watch Bruce pull away and walk away from him voluntarily would hurt even worse.
This way, he got to feel Bruce against him, got to taste his skin, trying his hardest to memorize the texture of his hair twisted between his fingers, because who knew when would be the next time he’d get to see the other man. Bruce lived his own life now, flitting between others as if he had no care in the world, and only occasionally finding his way back to John’s side of things. He never asked what Bruce did while he was away, and Bruce never mentioned all of the ways that John was screwing up in his fights.
They simply…came together like this. Once a night, every year of so, and every time Bruce left, John felt another piece of himself be ripped away, taken with the other man wherever he went to, and he honestly didn’t know how much of him was left.
Despite that, he was turning in the other man’s grip, his arms coming up automatically to tangle his fingers in thick, dark hair, lighter at the temples than anywhere else, belying his age more than anything else. Their lips came together in desperation, a low moan, resounded from either of their chests echoed through the cave as they pressed against each other and tried their best to become one person.