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Infection

Chapter Text

For a brief, terrible moment after the creature Luthor had made dropped Superman, they'd thought that the stab to his chest had killed him. Bruce was sure it would have killed anyone who wasn't a Kryptonian; the wound was deep and ugly, and he wasn't sure that it didn't go all the way through Superman's chest. But when the creature finally stilled and Bruce and Diana were able to get close enough to Superman to see how badly he was hurt, things became clearer, and Bruce could breathe again.

It was bad, that much was undeniable. It had gone all the way through, but the claw had been tapered; the exit wound was almost neat, and a damn sight smaller than the gaping hole in Superman's chest. Bruce ripped strips from his cloak to stem the bleeding, but even from the entry wound, the blood wasn't running as terribly as it should have. There was some sort of residue coating the ragged edges of the wound, a glittering greenish-brown that sank into the red of Superman's blood and seemed to make it clot faster.

Bruce had no idea whether that was a good thing or a bad thing in the long term, but in the short term, Superman wasn't bleeding out in his arms, and that had to be a good thing, didn't it?

They wrapped him in his cloak and Bruce carried him from the scene, leaving Lois and Diana, who promised to control what the media knew. Superman needed attention, and Bruce wasn't going to stand still giving soundbite-friendly interviews when he could be doing something useful. Superman already knew who he was, and he'd met Superman's mother that night; the boundaries of secrecy were well and truly broken by now, even if Bruce didn't know Martha as anything but Martha. He bundled him into the Batwing and took him to the lake house, which had been fitted out with a top-of-the-line medical suite years ago, when Alfred had informed Bruce that he was not going to steal any more blood from the hospital, thank you very much. Bruce might not know exactly how to help an alien, but he was pretty sure the hospital wouldn't either, and at least this way Superman could keep his privacy from the wider world.

It took too long for Superman to wake up. "Too long" was any time at all, if Bruce was honest with himself, and Bruce liked to think he was reasonable at being honest with himself (at least, as far as some things went; he wasn't too good at being honest with himself about feelings and his own personal reactions to things), and after the third day the Bat went and had words with some senators about how Superman would probably want that ship back in his hands, considering all the trouble Lex Luthor had got up to with it, and got the thing quarantined until Superman was in a fit state to deal with it himself.

And in the process, got himself a copy of the ship's databank, because there had to be something in there that could help him treat Superman. So far, all he was doing was making sure the wound didn't get infected and try to figure out what to do if it turned out the Kryptonian needed a blood transfusion. Saline solution could only do so much, and that was only if he could get it into Superman to begin with. He didn't want to introduce kryptonite into the equation again, not unless there was no other choice.

Unfortunately, the databanks didn't exactly come in English, or any of the other handful of languages Bruce understood to varying degrees of competency. He could set up a translation program, but without a baseline - a Rosetta Stone, so to speak - it was going to be slow going. He'd have to work out how to help some other way.

Four days after Doomsday he figured out that sunlight was probably going to help. In his defence, Gotham wasn't exactly known for its bright, sunny days, and it was only the combination of a rare cloudless day and the medical suite's windows being on the east side of the lake house that gave him the clue. After being bathed in sunlight for half a day, the wound in Superman's chest had undergone more healing than it had in the previous three days. Bruce uncovered it, ignoring his instincts that he was exposing Superman to infection by leaving a still-open wound uncovered, and hit the controls for the skylights, flooding the room with sunlight.

The forecast for the next two days was sunny. He left the blinds in the medical suite open to the sun, and on the seventh day, Superman began to come out of what Bruce had been refusing to call a coma.

He'd clearly told Lois who the Bat was, because she'd been calling for updates, even if she'd been polite enough to not show up on Bruce's doorstep demanding to be let in. Bruce could accept that, because Lois and Superman obviously had something going on; nobody ran into a fight between a super-powered man and someone in a batsuit with glowing eyes unless they had personal reasons for being there. And Lois had clearly told Martha, who had also been calling and making veiled probes as to whether Bruce had anyone looking after him when he'd dutifully told her that he was doing everything he could for her son - Clark, she'd eventually said, saying it was ridiculous for them both to keep calling him Superman when Bruce was talking to his mother. Bruce didn't mind Martha knowing, either. She'd kept Clark's secret for as long as he'd been operating as Superman; she clearly knew how important anonymity was.

Diana didn't stop by, too busy chasing up the information he'd found about the other metahumans, but that was fine. Bruce wanted somebody looking for them as soon as possible, and she was probably the better person to talk to them. He tended to rub people the wrong way, whether he was being Bruce Wayne or the Bat. He'd lost the gift of charm somewhere along the way.

When Clark rose from coma to a more natural sleep, Bruce let Lois and Martha know and moved his base of operations from his office to the medical bay. Before then, there hadn't been much point in sitting a bedside vigil; the monitors would let him know when there was a change in Clark's condition, and there'd been work to do, cleaning things up after the last few weeks. Bruce Wayne had bought a few more newspapers and TV stations and told them that he thought they could do with a few human interest stories and nudged them towards people who would make it easier for Clark to ease back into work after he got better. He still had his issues with the idea of an all-powerful being hanging around on Earth, but he could admit that he'd been wrong on at least some of the score, and he was pretty sure that Clark wouldn't have been hurt so badly if he hadn't already been weakened from all the kryptonite Bruce had been fighting him with. He had amends to make, and if that meant a bit of positive propaganda, he could swing that.

Now, though, Clark was going to wake up any time soon, and Bruce didn't think it was a good idea for him to wake up alone in a strange place. He didn't want the roof to get blasted off in a fit of panic, after all. That was it.

That was it, wasn't it?

He was going through some files on his tablet when Clark finally moved, sitting up and letting out a quiet groan. Bruce set the tablet down and reached out to put his hand on Clark's shoulder, less keeping him from sitting up and more indicating that it was really not a good idea. The chest would had healed much more rapidly since Bruce had started letting Clark bathe in the sunlight all day, but it was still bad enough that Bruce was fairly sure any unexpected movement was going to be a bad idea.

Clark winced, settling back against the bed, and blinked at him. "Bruce?"

"You're at my place," Bruce said, going for the information he figured Clark would want to know. "Lois and Martha are both fine; they've been asking about you. I'll have a car sent for them when you're up for seeing them. I assumed you'd prefer private treatment to a hospital where your identity could be uncovered."

"I - yes. You're right. Thank you." Clark looked down at his chest, gingerly touching the bandage over the wound; Bruce re-covered it every evening when the sun went down, unwilling to risk too much even in the relative sterility of the medical suite. "How bad was it?"

Bruce swallowed. "Bad. You've been out for a week."

Clark's eyes widened in shock. It might have been relieving to know he could feel such a human emotion, any other time. "A week?"

"Luthor's thing got a claw right through you," Bruce said gruffly, looking down at his tablet again. It held Clark's biometric scans, the dozens of readings he'd done on the healing injury, how close it had come to the heart. He cleared his throat. "Missed the heart by a fraction of an inch, and it left a hell of a hole behind. You still need to take it easy. Get lots of sun."

Now, Clark looked a little amused. "I see you figured that part out." He hesitated, then asked, "The fallout. How bad is it?"

Bruce shrugged. "Not as bad as it could be. Lois and the Planet are doing some pretty hefty damage control, and enough people saw us fighting that thing that they're willing to forget that a week ago, they were suspecting you of terrorism."

There was venom in his voice as he said that. He'd thought that Clark was a danger, that he might one day leverage his power to take control, take whatever he wanted, but he'd never stooped to thinking that Clark would use bombs. Someone who had built himself up as a god would take control by a cult of personality, by steps of reasonableness, not by sudden, violent force. Violence would wait until he was sure of his position.

He shook his head, dislodging that thought. He'd told himself to stop thinking of Clark that way, and for the most part, he had. He was still uncomfortable with Clark's power, and he wasn't sure he'd ever be comfortable with it, but hell, he wasn't really comfortable with Diana's power either. He did plenty of things he wasn't comfortable with. His comfort had stopped being a factor a long time ago.

"Lois did some investigating," he added, giving Clark something that approximated a smile. "You can't have been responsible for the bomb; the inside of the chair was sheathed with lead. They're willing to take that as proof that someone wanted you to be unaware of it."

Clark grunted, not asking who "they" were, which was probably a good thing, because Bruce didn't have an answer for that. "They" changed hour by hour in his life these days, depending on what was going on. It was enough that the world wasn't setting effigies of Superman on fire anymore. Mob outrage was dangerous, for more than just the person that the mob was angry with.

"We've arranged for Clark Kent to have been injured in the fallout," Bruce continued, giving Clark a sidelong look. Was being this quiet normal? He didn't have enough experience with the man to know, but it was vaguely concerning him. Still, he had just woken up from a week-long coma after getting stabbed in the chest by a Kryptonian-human monstrosity; Bruce could forgive a bit of taciturnity. "The Daily Planet isn't expecting you back for a while, and they'll be liaising through Martha until you're up to going back. Nobody's going to begrudge you taking time off after that."

"You've thought of everything, haven't you," Clark said quietly, more than asked. He smiled then, a genuine smile, even if it was strained. "Thank you. A regular hospital wouldn't have known what to do with me, and probably wouldn't have been able to keep paparazzi out."

"And your identity is a valuable commodity," Bruce agreed. "It's no problem. You can recuperate here."

Clark looked around the room, his expression one of slight distaste, and asked, "Do I have to recuperate right here?"

Bruce hesitated, but as long as Clark kept the wound clean, there was no real reason to keep him in the medical suite, was there? The rest of his readings were - well, Bruce didn't know what they were, mostly, but he'd managed to wrestle a scan of a healthy Kryptonian out of the ship's database during the past week, and Clark's readings mostly matched those. There were a few things that were off, but nothing that looked alarmingly out, and nothing that Bruce could actually decipher. He had no good argument for keeping Clark in the medical suite.

He shrugged. "I'll ask Alfred to make up a guest suite."

 

Lois and Martha visited the next morning. Bruce welcomed them at the door, trying not to notice their awe at the size of the place - the lake house wasn't as big as the manor had been, but it was still bigger than most people's houses - and escorted them to the suite of rooms he'd had Alfred set up for Clark, leaving the three of them to visit, feeling uncomfortably like he was intruding on a family scene.

They'd entertained friends in little, intimate visits like that, once upon a time, but Bruce Wayne never did. The rumour mill flew with speculation about whether it was because he was too possessive of his home to bring people into it readily or because he just didn't have friends.

A while later, Martha found him in his office. She knocked, an illusion of giving him the option of telling her he was busy; she didn't wait for him to tell her to come in or go away before she entered the office, closing the door behind her, and came around the desk to hug him.

It could have been more awkward. He hadn't been sitting at the desk, at least; he'd been standing at the window, looking out over the grounds towards the mausoleum, wondering what his parents would have thought of their home being used as a refuge for a man from another world. Things like that had been the stuff of fiction back when they'd gone to movies and walked through alleys without thinking about the darkness in the world that waited for them.

It was still awkward, even without having to navigate a hug between someone seated and someone standing. Bruce didn't invite touch these days; Bruce Wayne did, when he'd had enough to drink that he thought another warm body in the bed might banish the nightmares for a night, forgetting that it never had in the past. He could tolerate it when he was playing the role, or from his employees, or even when it was unexpected but he was on alert for the unexpected; none of those things were true here. He was on alert in the lake house because he was never not on alert, but he hadn't been unconsciously preparing himself for a hug. He almost didn't remember what you were supposed to do when you were hugged, but he managed to bring his arms up and awkwardly pat Martha's back.

Martha, thankfully, seemed to sense his unease and didn't linger; she pulled back from the hug enough to take him by the shoulders and say, in a quiet, strong voice ringing with sincerity, "Thank you for taking care of my son, Bruce."

He wasn't sure what to say to that right away. He didn't do things to be thanked. The Bat did things because they were the only way to get justice; he did things because he thought they were the right thing to do, or because they were the least-wrong thing to do in the path to the greater good. He was used to thanks coming in the form of rote letters from the organisations Bruce Wayne donated to, not this intimate gratitude.

Clearing his throat, he offered, "I can get you set up with a room here, if you'd like to stay while he recovers."

Martha waved a hand, but she was smiling. "Don't bother yourself with that. Clark doesn't need me hovering over him."

Bruce couldn't say he wasn't relieved. He was used to the lake house having two people living in it these days; having Clark around was tolerable because Clark had needed medical attention and it was Bruce's way of making up for his part in how Clark had got injured in the first place, but having Clark's family living there would start to brush against wounds that hadn't healed and probably never would. Bruce was self-aware enough to know some of his limitations, and playing happy families with Clark and Lois and Martha over dinner was one of them.

He was grateful when Lois declined the offer to stay as well. Gotham wasn't so far from Metropolis that she couldn't visit, she said, and she had a job to get back to; the Daily Planet was taking on the lion's share of shaping public perception of the last few weeks, and she wanted to be a driving force behind it.

"Besides," she said, smiling, "Clark doesn't want me pestering him when he's not feeling well. I don't want him pestering me when I'm not feeling well either. We're both terrible patients."

That could have boded poorly for Bruce's patience, except that nobody was a worse patient than he was, according to Alfred. He could handle Clark.

Now that he was up and about, Clark spent the days on one deck or another, soaking in the sunlight that would help him heal faster, due to whatever quirk of biology it was that gave him his powers in the first place. Bruce checked on him every couple of hours, and checked the wound every evening when Clark came in, gleaming from the sun and looking as though he'd never been in a fight in his life if not for the bandage on his chest. He'd been awkward about not wearing a shirt, the first day, but Bruce had pointed out that he'd need to get as much sunlight as he could, and it was no more indecent than sunbathing at the beach.

Something that Clark had evidently never done, judging by the colour his cheeks turned, but he didn't argue any further, shucking off his shirt and relaxing on the chair Bruce had set up on the deck, reaching for his paperback.

He insisted on eating dinner together, saying it was rude not to dine with his host. Using those exact words. Bruce, who viewed food as something that was useful as fuel but otherwise as interesting as watching paint dry, asked Alfred to make sure there was something that Clark should find palatable, having grown up on good old-fashioned home cooking in small-town Kansas. Alfred gave him a raised eyebrow and a mutter about now you care about cooking, but at least the meals seemed to meet with Clark's approval, even if Bruce's stilted attempts at returning Clark's conversational endeavours didn't.

Bruce wasn't used to having someone who wasn't Alfred in his space. That was natural. Maybe not everybody's space involved an entire lake house, but Bruce's did, and having Clark around, even when he was on the deck outside his guest suite and Bruce was across the house in his office, made everything feel different. Not necessarily bad. Just different.

The Bat's activities died down somewhat during Clark's convalescence, but they didn't go away altogether, and he shouldn't have been too surprised to find Clark waiting for him when he got back one night - one morning, more like, a couple of hours before dawn, aching from the fight but tired in a way that would let him sleep for a few hours. Clark raised an eyebrow and Bruce gave him a tired glare, tugging off his cowl and tossing it over in front of the case that held his suit when he wasn't using it.

He didn't like that Clark was in the Cave. He'd been toying with the idea of bringing him down here sometime soon, just so Clark would know what sort of tools were at Bruce's disposal - they were allies now, of sorts, weren't they? Allies should know that sort of thing about each other - but it bothered him that Clark had come down of his own accord, without an invitation. It felt off somehow, in a way he couldn't put his finger on.

He could figure the logic behind it, though. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Clark didn't like his methods any more than he liked the notion of someone with super powers. Just because they'd been getting along lately and weren't trying to kill each other didn't mean that that unease with what the other was doing would just go away.

Clark let out a sigh that sounded almost huffy. "Let me take a look at you."

"I'm fine," Bruce growled. He wasn't, exactly, but he'd had far worse than what he'd picked up tonight. This was just bruises, maybe a couple of fractures in his off-hand that would heal well enough, going by experience, even if they left him with another weather ache to join all the others. By his standards, that was fine.

Hurt flickered through Clark's eyes, like he was upset that his offer of help had been turned away, and then he said, "You know where to find me if you need me," before turning and heading back upstairs.

Good. Bruce peeled off the suit, kicking it aside - Alfred would hang it up later, and grumble at him about it, but that was as much routine as going out and putting someone away in a fight brutal enough to let him get some sleep was, and they'd both miss it if he started getting considerate and putting his clothes away himself. Down here, the shower was just as palatial as the one in his room upstairs, but this one didn't have gleaming fixtures and blinding white tile and it didn't remind him of the day life that he had to keep up. Showering in the Cave was as much an unmasking as removing his cowl and suit; it let him leave the Bat behind and become Bruce again, just like the suits and smiles let him be the Bruce Wayne that the world expected.

Probably, he thought vaguely as he soaped himself down, easing over the bruises and cataloguing each sore spot, normal people didn't have three different personas that they used with the world depending on the situation. But he'd known for a long time that he wasn't a normal person.

He managed to get a few hours of unbroken sleep, and then joined Clark for a late breakfast. Clark watched him over his scrambled eggs until Bruce snapped, "What."

"You could have asked for backup."

Clark sounded so comically hurt about it that Bruce had to laugh. Not a big, belly laugh like it was really funny; just a little snort, because the mental image of Superman beating up some drug-running thugs was too ludicrous to really consider.

"You're still healing," he pointed out. It wasn't as much of an excuse as it would have been a week ago; the wound in Clark's chest was almost completely healed now, although the skin was discoloured in a way that Bruce didn't like. He took a long sip of his coffee, adding, "And you don't work on my level, Clark. You save people from natural disasters and warlords. I work on the streets, not in the skies."

It wasn't like there was any self-loathing in what he was saying; it was bare, simple truth. Gotham City couldn't trust its police department to do what was needed, because the police were either corrupt, scared, or powerless in the face of higher-ups with agendas, so it needed someone on the street level. Maybe, one day, someone political would make the changes necessary that would make the Bat obsolete, but Bruce wasn't holding his breath. He could live with being a vigilante if it kept the invisible people safe. Clark was there for the people who lived in the light.

Clark sighed. "Will you do me a favour? Just... promise to call if you need anything. Please?"

Damn it if he didn't have good puppy-dog eyes. Bruce gave a non-committal shrug, but he knew he'd call if it came to it. He'd done enough harm to Clark already; if letting him swoop in and save the day sometimes when Bruce could have handled it, albeit with a few more broken bones than he'd really prefer, then Bruce would swallow his pride and make the call.

 

A month after Doomsday, there was nothing but a scar, discoloured and ugly, to show that Clark had ever been injured. Bruce was still concerned that it had taken that long for Clark to heal, considering he'd recovered within minutes of being nuked - something he was still not happy about, and something that he was damn well going to hold a grudge about - but maybe it had been something to do with how he'd been injured, or where. God knew he had every excuse to take his time recovering, anyway.

When Clark left the lake house to return to Metropolis, Bruce asked Alfred to clean up the guest suite Clark had used and went to his office, opening up the program he'd been running that entire month to try to decipher the ship's databank. It'd had some success; Bruce was able to decipher some of the more mundane text, and that made it easier for him to plug data into the program that should, in theory, make the complete translation that much faster.

It'd be easier, of course, if he could just access the ship's databank in person, but he'd told Clark about the ship the second day he'd been awake, and he was pretty sure it was off-limits now. He wasn't sure he wanted to go inside it, anyway. Aliens were still something that he was wrapping his brain around, and it had spawned Luthor's thing. A personal tour could wait until Clark had taken it in hand and made sure there were no lingering traces of Luthor's personality left.

Clark came over that Friday. Bruce blinked at him standing on the doorstep - he'd answered the door, because Alfred had been outside chopping wood - and asked carefully, "Is everything all right?"

"Alfred said you weren't going to be going out tonight," Clark said. He was dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt that made him look like the farmer's son that he was, not the superhuman not-quite-a-god that he also was, and it was fucking with Bruce's perceptions. It shouldn't have been; if anyone knew the value of a good disguise based around a piece of clothing that shaped people's perceptions of the wearer, it was Bruce. And yet.

"Alfred said I wasn't going to be going out tonight," he repeated, testing the words. When had Clark spoken to Alfred? More to the point, why hadn't Alfred told him that Clark had spoken to him?

Clark nodded, giving Bruce a bright smile. "And Lois is on an assignment in DC, so I thought you might like some company. Alfred said it was a good idea."

"Did he." Alfred was a traitor. Bruce bit back a sigh, stepping aside to let Clark in. "I hope you're not going to any trouble."

That piece of politeness was rewarded with Clark narrowing his eyes and saying, "Don't be Bruce Wayne at me. I've seen you both ways; I can tell the difference."

Well, wasn't that just fine? Clark wanted to get behind the mask, like it was supposed to be that easy. Bruce made another noncommittal grunting sound and closed the door behind Clark, leading the way into the study. That was a safe enough place to take a guest, wasn't it? It wasn't time for dinner yet, and he suspected he wouldn't have to tell Alfred that they'd have an extra person there for that.

Traitor.

In the study, he offered Clark a drink; he got the feeling it would take more than human alcohol to get a Kryptonian drunk, but he wasn't sure what else to do. Clark accepted the whiskey without protest, though, taking a sip and coughing and saying, "This is - nice."

"Nice." Bruce took a sip of his own drink, in case it had mutated sometime in the last few days, and raised his eyebrows. He'd cultivated a palate for alcohol as much for the necessity, given Bruce Wayne's heritage, as because he liked to know quality when he saw - or tasted - it. "This is a 25-year-old Chivas Regal."

"I'm sure it's very good." Clark sounded suspiciously meek. "It's just that with my senses, alcohol tends to all taste, well, alcohol."

Bruce sighed, taking the glass back, and said, "You should have said something. I'll get Alfred to bring you some sparkling juice."

If there was no point in Clark drinking his alcohol because he got no benefit either from the flavour or the intoxication, after all, Bruce wasn't going to insist on it. There was nobody here to impress.

Alfred appeared after a moment, gave Bruce one of those looks that Bruce deciphered as meaning he'd better behave and accept that he was having a guest for the evening if he didn't want Alfred making acid remarks while he tried to get work done, and disappeared, returning a moment later with a fancy glass of sparkling juice for Clark, who seemed much more enthusiastic about that drink.

Bruce felt insulted on behalf of his whiskey, and waited until Alfred left to ask, "So did you have any plans for what we're supposed to do tonight?"

"I thought we could talk," Clark said, painfully earnest. Bruce wasn't sure he'd ever been that open and honest, but if he had, it had been worn away a long time ago. He couldn't help a wince, covering it by tossing back the rest of Clark's abandoned whiskey.

"I hope you're not looking for grand revelations," he said, going over to one of the armchairs and gesturing for Clark to make himself comfortable. "You already know who I am and where I live. That's a pretty big concession for me."

"I know," Clark said, his tone conciliatory. "You don't have to tell me anything you don't want to. But I was here for nearly a month, Bruce; I got to see you without the mask you wear at events like the one Luthor threw. I guess I thought maybe you could use some company you don't have to wear a mask with sometimes."

Bruce's smile couldn't help but be sardonic; if Clark thought that he was ever off, he was fooling himself. But he could appreciate the sentiment behind the offer, even if the offer itself was misguided.

Perhaps realising that Bruce was hardly going to open up and start talking about his life, Clark opened the floor, going into a recitation of how Martha was coping with having been abducted - decently enough, apparently, with the help of the solitary counsellor who lived in Smallville (Bruce made a note to look up that counsellor and pay for the sessions); what Lois was up to right now - still investigating the full extent of Lex Luthor's involvement in the events leading up to the senatorial hearing that had gone so horribly wrong, and Clark kept his comments on that brief, his grief over the deaths obvious. Bruce appreciated that; he still felt that Wayne Enterprises, and he, had failed Wallace Keefe.

Clark was in the middle of talking about an article he was writing for the Planet, some puff piece about a library dedication to Superman - "I'm not sure if it's a conflict of interest or not, and if it is, I'm not sure how I can bring it up to Perry without sounding like I don't like Superman, which would be unprofessional, or like I like him too much, which would also be unprofessional" - when Alfred came to call them to dinner.

Bruce managed to keep conversation over dinner limited to less complicated things, like the latest political thriller that he was certain Lois would have read and Clark would have, by extension, at least been aware of. He hadn't read it - his extracurricular social life left very little time for reading - but he knew enough about it to make pertinent comments, and, since they weren't talking about anything that was liable to scrape against boundaries Bruce had set up long ago, it was an enjoyable enough way to spend an evening. He was almost sorry when Clark said good night and took off from one of the balconies, heading back to Metropolis.

"So," he said, not turning around. He knew Alfred was there. "He called, did he? Why wasn't I aware?"

"He didn't ask to speak with you." Alfred's voice held that edge of smugness that it always did when he was right about something. "He probably knew you'd have fobbed him off about tonight."

Well, Clark was right; Bruce would have made an excuse about why tonight wasn't a good time, even though he didn't have anything that the Bat needed to do. It grated, that he was right. Bruce grumbled, drinking the last of the whiskey he'd poured back before dinner, savouring the burn as he swallowed it, and then turned.

"Clear my social schedule tomorrow. I'm going out."

He hadn't had anything planned, but there was always something for the Bat to do. There would always be something for the Bat to do, here in the shadows.