Honestly, it starts off innocently enough, almost touching, really. Unfortunately, as with most things involving Oliver Queen, it doesn’t last.
“I mean, I’m pretty sure everyone’s a li’l bi deep inside. Like, you can’t tell me that you haven’t at least thought about what it’d be like to lay Bruce Wayne.”
Hal blinks. “Did you just ask me if I want to fuck Batman?”
“What? No .” Oliver sits up from where he’d been lounging on the couch, head resting comfortably atop his folded arms. “No, not Batman . Not Bruce . Bruce Wayne . Mister Wayne . Y’know, ‘ Readers’ Top Vote for Sexiest Man Alive ’ for five years straight?”
Hal’s extremely tempted to point out how “straight” hardly seems like the appropriate word for the conversation he’s having right now, but that’s a little on the nose, even for him. So, instead, he gives Ollie a pitying look over the rim of his glass and says, “I hate to break it to you, man, but they’re kind of the same person.”
The two of them are seated in Oliver and Dinah’s newly bought shared living room, with the latter only two feet away but remaining pointedly out of their discussion, her head buried in some magazine or another. Hal, along with a handful of the couple’s closest friends from the League, had dropped by for their housewarming party that had, technically, come to a close some hours ago. Having been away from Earth for a while, though, Hal had elected to linger back to spend time with the two, to talk while they still had the time. He isn’t even sure how the conversation had taken this weird turn, anymore. One moment, Ollie was opening up to him about his blurring sexuality, and the next he was asking whether Hal had ever fantasised about doing it doggy style with the Bat. And all in front of his girlfriend who’d literally just moved in with him, no less. Hal hopes Oliver understands exactly how lucky he is.
Ollie clicks his tongue impatiently and claps a hand to Hal’s knee, reaching for his own glass of amber liquid. “No, Hal, you don’t get it.” He makes a big show of downing his ginger ale with a fell swoop of his arm, which the Green Lantern eyes testily. He’d been mentally commending his friend for managing to maintain his vow of sobriety for so long, but, with the current line of questioning, he’s starting to wonder if Ollie’s somehow been mixing his drinks without Dinah catching on.
The glass is set down, empty— too late to check it now— with a thump on the modest coffee table, and the hand resting on Hal’s knee gives it a shake. “Bruce Wayne and Batman are two completely different people. That’s the whole point of his secret identity!” Oliver exclaims insistently, his already bright sapphire blues scintillating with mirth and mischief. Hal shakes his head and denies him comment. He may be willing to entertain many a variety of Arrow notions, but debating the nuances of a vigilante’s double life, especially from this novel angle, isn’t one of them. “You’re kooky,” he states bluntly, but he sounds more resigned now than surprised.
Oliver isn’t deterred, he’s nothing if not persistent, so he presses on to extrapolate on the finer details of his point. Hal throws Dinah a pleading look, but she’s been mellowed by the day’s festivities, and only gives him a playfully lazy wink in return.
“It’s like wanting to fuck Superman, but not Clark Kent,” Ollie is saying, making gestures with his hands, “Though, let’s be real, who wouldn’t want to bed Kent? Guy’s a snack.”
“How’d you ever convince yourself you were a hundred per cent heterosexual, again?” Asks Hal, tired, and desperately desiring to move as far away as possible from any topic that even remotely relates to banging any of his Justice League compatriots and their counterparts.
“Denial’s a hell of a drug,” Dinah finally chimes from behind her pages, but her gaze lingers impishly on Hal rather than her boyfriend, dancing as he fidgets unconsciously. He tries not to read too much into it; even after years of being friends with Dinah, he still can’t be entirely certain when they’re running on the same tarmac. Oliver smirks at him, the back of his hand returning to nudge at his knee. “C’mon, Hal,” he says, “It isn’t even really gay with Bruce. Everyone either wants to fuck Bruce Wayne or Batman. It’s science.”
Hal lifts an eyebrow skeptically at him. He may be tipsy, but he’s definitely not so far gone as to start buying science sold by Oliver Queen. Almost as a laugh, he nods his chin to Dinah. “What d’ya say, Doc?”
She takes her time in answering him, flipping a page with purposeful apathy before she sets the book, spine up, beside her. “It’s statistically accurate.”
Hal’s jaw pops open, as Ollie gives a crow of victory and slaps him none too gently on the shoulder. “Told ya!” He sings with a wicked grin, but Hal ignores him, not ready to buy into the farce just yet. Arching a brow, he smirks challengingly at Dinah. “Oh, really? Then who’d you rather screw, Bruce Wayne or Batman?”
Oliver scoffs next to him, rolling his eyes. “Bruce Wayne, obviousl—”
“Wait, really?” Ollie’s mouth makes a small ‘o’ and Dinah shrugs noncommittally, picking up her magazine once again. “Bruce Wayne seems a bit fragile.”
“Huh,” Oliver processes, “Well, that puts a dark spin on my fantasy threesome.”
Hal, his mind having short circuited a little with all this new, somewhat appalling information, finds that his voice has hitched half an octave higher when he asks, amused, “You think you can coerce Batman into a threesome?”
Ollie tosses him a devilish smile. “Aren’t you the one always preachin’ ‘bout how nothing’s impossible if you’ve got enough moxie?” A snort escapes Hal at that, and he goodnaturedly mutters a “touché” into his drink as Oliver sidles up to him and nudges his shoulder, egging him for a definitive answer. “C’mon, Jordan. We all know you’re a kinky motherfucker who’d get off fucking the Bat.”
“Do we, now?” Dinah’s blonde head reappears, her brow arching in wry speculation at the two men casually seated only a handful of centimetres apart, bodies drawn closer by Ollie’s shoulder pressing to Hal’s. Appropriately mollified, the Green Arrow sheepishly retreats back to his couch, and Hal chuckles warmly, turning his head to the side and revelling in the sweet heat spreading across his chest.
A gentle, peaceful silence descends and envelopes the trio as they bask in the hazy glow of rarely found tranquility and pure, unadulterated companionship, their spirits made content with the allowance of proximity to one another. Ollie gets up to move closer to Dinah, his head coming to rest complacently in his lover’s lap, her long fingers running idly through his dusty golden hair. Hal watches them only from the very corners of his peripherals, his heart aching with love for them, even as his pupils are trained on the wall of photos by his side and his mind occupied with a question that just won’t leave. Really, he knows he should let it go, but his curiosity, his need to understand, gets the better of him, and, before he can reconsider, he hears his voice, careful, and slow as molasses ask:
“What if you want both?”
His deep brown eyes linger indecipherably on the cowled figure present in each of the League’s photos hanging up on the while, memorising the ghost of a smile barely pulling at the man’s lips.
“Both Bruce Wayne and the Batman?”
Hal misses the kind, knowing look that passes between Oliver and Dinah before Ollie’s soft voice breathes, “Well… Then, that’s romance, isn’t it?”
After Hal leaves, Dinah punches Ollie in the arm.
“Ow!” He protests, nursing the abused spot with a pout, “What was that for?”
“You’re awful. You know he’s going to over fixate on that for forever now.”
“Hey, one,” he lifts a finger, “you went along with it. And, two.” He grins easily, bringing up another finger to join the first as he loops his other arm around her waist to pull her in close. “You know this’ll all be a lot less painful if those two just got a clue and screwed it out. Think about it.” He lowers his head to nuzzle at Dinah’s neck, relishing the soft sigh she releases. “Happy Hal— heck, happy Bruce — and no more annoying sexual tension during meetings.” Oliver pulls up to give her a coy, musing smile. “Well, except from us, of course.”
Their kiss is long and languid, and Dinah, despite her misgivings, smiles into it.
And, really, that’s how it all begins: Three friends, a fairly innocuous suggestion, and an ardent kiss shared in the violet night.
If only Hal knew how it’d come to progress.
In which I take the piss out of Bruce Wayne's public persona and may or may not be projecting a bit of my asexuality onto Hal Jordan. Also, if you guys aren't a fan of any of the side pairings in this fic, fear not, because most will likely only appear once or twice in the whole story.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
When Barry had woken up that morning, he’d actually been pretty excited at the prospect of seeing his best friend again after weeks of Hal floating around in space, doing who knows what Green Lantern stuff. Yes, technically, he’d met him yesterday, at Dinah’s housewarming, but the Arrow had been there, too, so he’d made himself scarce fairly quick. “It’ll be nice to be able to sit down and have a proper conversation with Hal again,” had been the optimistic sentiment Barry had carried for for most of the morning, even after receiving that unnecessarily cryptic message from the disagreeable man he’d been avoiding all of yesterday. It is decidedly not the sentiment he holds now.
“Hal,” he says, infinitely patient, “what the actual hell are you talking about?”
The pilot sitting opposite him has his right knee bent over his left, the suspended ankle bouncing up and down rhythmically, one of Hal’s ticks betraying his doubt even with the insouciant expression he wears. His eyes flick down to his plate of half eaten pasta, twiddling limp white strands of angel hair around his fork while lifting a shoulder at Barry.
“You know.” Barry most definitely does not. Having superspeed thinking is meaningless when your brain has conveniently clocked out of the conversation with a resolute, inarguable, “I’m done with this idiot.”
“Hypothetically, if you were to bang one of them, would you choose Bruce Wayne or Batman?”
“I don’t— What…?” Barry shakes his head, a tad too fast for the publicity of the cafe, but Hal doesn’t even glance his way. He can feel his cheeks warming, perfectly uncalled for, as he flounders to come up with a socially acceptable response to the undeniably inappropriate query. His first instinct is to leave. Now. Without any further acknowledgement of Hal’s (hopefully) temporary insanity. But then he catches the tautness of Hal’s jaw, feels the uncertainty radiating off him, and Barry knows that isn’t happening.
“I mean, I don’t know…” He holds a hand up to conceal the lower half of his face, failing hopelessly at fighting the red that has undoubtedly spread to his ears by now. “I guess they’re both equally… Fine? Gentleman?” Oh, God, this is it. This is how he dies. Murdered by his friend’s lack of common human decorum and his own inability to leave him for the sharks.
Hal doesn’t say a word for a while, and Barry has the audacity to honestly think they may be done; which naturally prompts the universe to trigger Hal’s innate talent for mortifying him even more.
“Funny,” he says, letting his eyes slide indolently to Barry’s as his mouth curves into a smirk that has probably gotten him punched on several occasions. “Ollie said that if you liked them both, that’s pretty much just a regular ol’ crush.”
Ollie. Oliver . Of course this goes back to him— him and that peculiar text he’d sent Barry earlier in the day. Waiting for Hal to blink, the speedster gives his phone a swift once over, and, sure enough, there it is. Clear as day now with the necessary, but largely unwanted, context.
‘ hey nerd. If hal comes by asking about the b-man PLAY. ALONG. You’ll thank me later.
- Oliver, who is and always will be better than u.’
Barry’s lips thin as he suppresses a groan, barely listening to whatever Hal’s prattling on about.
“... So you got something to confess to me, Bar?” He still has that infuriating smile stretching his lips apart, a smile that Barry wants to smother.
WITH A PILLOW, oh, God.
He rests his head in the nest of his palms for a moment, bracing himself. He should probably tell Hal the truth, that Oliver’s messing with him, feeding him suggestions just to watch him squirm. But, no matter what his own opinions regarding the archer may have been, Barry knows that he has, more likely than not, Hal’s best interests at heart. A justification made doubly as likely thanks to Oliver swallowing his pride and contacting him for help, even if it reads closer to an order than a request.
So, valiantly, Barry puts a clog over his wilting dignity and resigns himself to his fate. Let no one ever say Barry Allen wasn’t amongst the best of men. “You’re not gonna let this one go, are you?” He sighs rhetorically. Hal’s grin, remarkably, widens, and he shakes his head with a popped, “Nope.”
“I don’t know, man. I guess Batman?”
Hal’s lips snap back into a line, like a released rubber band, and his eyebrows lift in naked surprise. “Wait, really? Didn’t you have a major thing for Bruce Wayne for, like, ages now?”
Barry sputters, flushed with indignation and embarrassment. “It isn’t— wasn’t — a thing ! It was admiration! Professional admiration!”
Hal is leaning back in his chair, his arms folded, and clearly not believing a single word of it. “R-i-i-i-ght,” he drawls out, nodding slowly, “And it was that same ‘professional admiration’ that made you spend three hours getting ready the first time Mr. Wayne invited you over for his charity gala.”
“How’d you-?” No. No, he’s not falling for that one again; but Barry sees the laughing glint in Hal’s eye that tells him he’s caught himself too late. His head slumps against the wrist of his propped up arm with a soft huff. “Just because you didn’t know what an important public figure he is…”
“Sure, I do.” Hal shovels a forkful of his now cold food in his mouth, making a face that Barry can’t help but take vengeful note of. “‘ Readers’ Top Pick for Sexiest Man Alive’, right?”
Rolling his eyes, because of course Hal I’m-Not-Gay-for-Batman Jordan would know about that little fact. He jabs a finger defensively at his direction to punctuate his overemphasised reply. “Billionaire philanthropist.” Then he drops his hand and looks away. “Who also just so happens to be the running favourite for ‘ Sexiest Man’ .”
“Which I’m sure had very little to contribute to your ‘professional admiration’.”
Barry shoots him a dirty look, which Hal easily deflects with a wave of his wrist. “Sounds like quite the guy, Bar. What’s the Bat got over him?”
“Familiarity and intellect,” he snips without too much thought. “What about you, Jordan? Who’d you choose?”
It’s meant to be a jab, something he doesn’t actually expect an answer to, but Hal shrugs without missing a beat, staring off at the distant bed of flowers mushroomed outside the florist facing their table. “Neither. That’s why I asked, to be honest.” His fingers tap erratically on the tablecloth, creating muffled, offbeat thuds that are scattered with random clicks of fingernails hitting wood through the holes. The ankle that had come to a still resumes its unpredictable bop. “Figured I’d eventually decide once I had enough opinions on it.”
Barry’s blood goes cold, suddenly, and he reaches for Hal’s arm. “Wait, Hal. How many people have you asked?”
“Just you, Ollie, and Dinah. So far, it’s a two for Bats and a one for Wayne, which is kind of surprising.”
The Flash’s skin blanches. “There’s a point system?”
“First to ten wins.”
Barry’s fingers press to his temples at the other’s cavalier attitude. “First to ten…” he mumbles to himself before his hands press themselves together in front of him, opening his eyes to look at Hal head on. “Okay,” he says, drawing out a long sigh, “Okay. I know it’s in your blood to want to go against anything I say.” Hal’s head tips to the side, about to contradict, but Barry shushes him with his pointer, eyes widening meaningfully. “But do not go around asking anyone else that question, especially not anyone who knows Bruce.”
Hal pushes Barry’s wagging finger aside. “Why?” There isn’t a hint of obstinance in his voice, only pure, guileless curiosity that makes Barry want to throw his arms up in exasperation.
“Well, because it’s-!”
‘ PLAY. ALONG. ’
“Because it could get out of hand, and it’ll reach Bruce, and it’s just,” he takes a breath, straining a pained stare at Hal. “Isn’t this the sort of thing you want to decide on your own?”
Hal’s gaze rests mutely on Barry’s for a long, quiet moment, and he’s almost sure that, impossibly, he’s gotten through to the stubborn man, but then Hal snorts and the illusion is shattered.
“Are you hearing yourself, Bar? It’s a fantasy fuck, not an engagement.” He chuckles as he pushes his chair back, humming snippets of a song beneath his breath. Hal’s right, this time, but the whole situation still feels Barry with an unshakable feeling of trepidation. Like it’s going to spin way out of control; like, eventually, the realisation that a lot more people— people with powers that don’t require fancy rings or props, people who are faster, stronger, and steadier than Hal will ever believe himself to be— are attracted to the same man he won’t admit he’s thoroughly enamoured by will lead to distance rather than propinquity. Like when Batman eventually catches wind of the fact that the number of people who find his uniform to be kinky nearly parallel the number that finds it terrifying, he’ll break Hal’s arm. And maybe Barry’s, too, for encouraging him.
… Yeah, so, maybe it’s mainly that last one, but they’re all equally valid concerns!
“Besides,” Hal is shrugging again, “I have thought about it, and I’ve got nothing. I don’t want to screw Batman, and I can’t give a damn about Wayne.”
The idea that anyone could truly write Bruce Wayne off with such ambivalence distracts Barry sufficiently for him to let his next words spill out without restraint. “Yeah, well, you’ve never met Bruce Wayne.”
Unwittingly, Barry forces his gaze back up, dreading what he’ll be confronted with. What that is, is an inspired Hal Jordan, appraising him with a near manical beam and dark eyes lit so bright he’s convinced there are supernovas exploding within them.
“Barry Allen, you absolute genius, I love you.”
“Didn’t you say you were attending another one of Wayne’s dinner parties tonight?”
He had, and he’d regretted it a record breaking half second later.
“Hal, I can’t.”
“I’m sure generous Mr. Wayne won’t mind you bringing an extra companion along with you. Not unless, of course, this is meant to be a private dinner.” Hal swings to look at him challengingly, brown eyes catching fire in the light, a roguish, victorious smirk dancing on his lips when he finishes with, “Lend me a tux?”
❋ ❊ ❋
Hal has been to Wayne Manor a countless number of times, but he’s never seen this before. The overhead chandeliers, usually dim and low lit, are ablaze in all their crystalline splendour, winking at their many admirers and throwing untouchable, kaleidoscopic sequins all over the grand ballroom, charming spectators without even trying. A plush scarlet carpet is draped across the floor, barring the vast centre where couples of all types are swaying together to the quavering score, their shoes sliding near soundlessly over lacquered mahogany. All around him, diamond crusted socialites and silk bound modern aristocrats are dancing their political ballet, hidden under guises of polite conversation and coquettish simpers that say nothing but mean everything.
Needless to say, Hal hates it.
He’d arrived with Barry and, for reasons he’ll have to coax out of his best friend later, Zatanna an hour ago and, though it had been a massive ego trip to have upper class men and women not so subtly checking him out in Barry’s slightly, tastefully, too tight polyester suit, it’s now just plain suffocating. He isn’t eloquent enough to contribute to the mindless, vapid conversation he is occasionally confronted by, nor is he wealthy enough to hold the attention of any of his brief partners for longer than half a second after they’ve discovered that he isn’t some secretly loaded tycoon with oil plants in the Middle East. Even the fancy bubbly champagne they’re offering doesn’t seem to want to have anything to do with him, evaporating away the second it comes into contact with his tongue, leaving only the suggestion of substance behind. He’s thoroughly bored.
“Stop fidgeting,” Barry scolds
“Stop eating all the hors d’oeuvres,” he shoots back, irate. Next to him, Zatanna giggles at something or another the third man who’s approached her that evening says, her smile growing to look more and more like a grimace the longer he speaks. After another four minutes, she leans alluringly into his space, her dangling salanite earrings tinkling at the motion. She whispers into his ear and Hal watches as, for the third time, the man walks mechanically away, stopping several feet ahead appearing baffled and dazed. He scoffs. “Convenient.”
Zatanna shakes her head with mirth, her elaborate bun (which Hal seriously suspects is the product of an ancient forbidden text) barely moving. “Why’d you even come, Hal?”
His foot taps repeatedly against the carpet, the lack of sound fuelling his annoyance. “Told you. Batman or Bruce Wayne.” Much to Barry’s horror and chagrin, Hal had posed this dilemma to the unflappable sorceress earlier in the evening, but her reaction was akin to Dinah’s, and brought that line of dialogue to a succinct conclusion:
“ Bruce Wayne. I’ve already been turned down by Batman.”
“Surely that can’t be worth all this?” She sweeps her arm in a dramatic arc around her, ever the captivating performer. Too bad she’d put a quick end to all of Hal’s suggestions of subtle magic to liven up the party. He shrugs, refusing to elaborate.
Zee— or “‘Tanna”, as Barry calls her— makes a valid point: it shouldn’t be worth all this, but it is, and for the life of him Hal can’t fathom why. It’s a very strange thing to be bothered by the idea of not wanting to actively sleep with someone, particularly when that someone is basically a co-worker whom Hal can’t even say considers him a friend, but that’s precisely what bothers him about it.
If anyone had questioned Hal Jordan on the subject, in a general non-specific fashion, he’d be the first to confess to having repeated imaginings of what a night with any number of his teammates might be like. He isn’t even that ashamed, though he does hold such information a little close to his chest, to divulge that, yes, some of them had in fact come to him on particularly lonely nights as a form of comfort, or as simple distractions. But, for some reason, not even subconsciously in the form of dreams, did he ever think of Bruce that way.
It’s not that he thinks of the man as unattractive, far from it, actually. He is objectively aware of the truth that Bruce is a good looking man, and he’s caught himself staring at him during the mundane hours of shared monitor duty more times than he’d care to admit, so he also knows that his body finds him attractive, too. Nonetheless, whenever his mind wanders to the less reputable part of his imagination, even when he actively tries to force it, like when he’d been with Ollie, it steers clear away from Bruce in situations that are anything less than proper. Hal would blame it on the so-called animosity the two held for one another, but he’s had thoughts about people lesser than Batman before, and, honestly, their whole rivalry is now more for posturing and entertainment than anything real. He’s had enough quiet, intimate moments with Bruce to understand that they’ve developed a strong bond over the years, a friendship, even if Batman would never admit to calling it the such. That thought, against his confusion and discomfort, still makes Hal smile.
Suddenly, the atmosphere of the room shifts, a hush descending as the placid murmurations gradually transform into a collective, energy filled susurration. Hal sees Barry stand, nearly choking in his hurry to gobble down the rest of his food, and he knows. Bruce Wayne has finally arrived.
There’s a sound like the rupturing of an air pocket when the guests suddenly burst into a flurry of activity congregated near the entrance of the hallway, punctured by random cries of “Bruce! Over here!” and “Mister Wayne, it’s so good to see you again!” Hal squints over the railing, but, when he’s greeted by a swarm of nondescript ants, he gives up and plonks back down in his seat with a frown. Barry, on the other hand, is all aflutter with nerves, quizzing anyone who will pay him the slightest bit of notice on the state of his hair, his shoes, his clothes. Hal snorts. “Professional admiration” his ass.
Eventually, the vibrant fever that had overtaken the party dies down to a manageable hum, as the bloated poseurs collect their dignity and try pretending like they hadn’t just stampeded a man half to death. Hal catches a glimpse of Bruce’s side profile, and, though he’s several metres above him, he’d be lying if the once dormant subconscious acceptance of Bruce’s handsome everything doesn’t immediately lurch to the forefront of his mind. It’s amazing what the right lighting, a charming smile, and a velvet tailored suit that’s cut to hug all the right places and probably costs more than Hal’s net worth can do for a man. He practically exudes allure.
“Wow,” Hal breathes, earning a coy smirk from Zatanna that he ignores, because, as impossible as it is for Bruce to have heard him from all the way down the stairs, he turns, and stardust silver eyes arrest Hal instantly. Before he can warn Barry to gather his bearings, Bruce is briskly walking up towards them, gently pushing pass the crowd of people vying for a moment of his time.
“Barry Allen!” He exclaims, a little too enthusiastically, gripping the other’s shoulder and shaking his hand briskly, a gesture which leaves Barry not more than a stuttering mess of nerves. Hal would find it comical that the same man who had spent countless hours with Batman, discussing theories of forensics and dimensional physics, would have trouble uttering a single word once the mask came off, but he was in a similar predicament himself, even if his was mostly due to shock than anything else. It’s a mild relief when Bruce swiftly turns to Zatanna next, the only one between the three of them that still appears to have full control over all her faculties. “Zatanna.” His voice alters, coated in honey, and tenderness, and something distinctly genuine beneath all the layers of manufactured charm. “You look beautiful tonight.”
When Zatanna confidently wraps her arms around her old friend, and he immediately reciprocates, Hal is momentarily thrown. “Hello, Bruce. You’re looking well.”
“Better now that you’re here.”
She huffs, then they disconnect, all smiles, which leaves Wayne to finally turn to Hal, his eyes filled with impressively authentic looking interest.
“I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of an introduction.” His voice is low and silken, lacking in the usual growl Hal is so accustomed to hearing from those lips. It send a shiver up his spine as his recovering mind notes that this is what Batman’s periodical lectures on keeping better secret identities is all about. The ability to fool even those who already know the truth. Wayne hold out a smooth hand. “Bruce Wayne.” Hal briefly wonders if he’ll receive another stern talking to once this is over.
He shakes Bruce’s hand, strong and firm, but not even fractionally close to what Batman is capable of. “Hal Jordan.” He mentally thanks whoever may be listening that his voice doesn’t waver. Barry chooses this moment to speak up, saving Hal from saying anything that might embarrass both of them. “He’s a friend of mine, Mr. Wayne. I hope you don’t mind I brought him along.”
Steel grey eyes linger on brown for a minute longer than necessary, before blinking to Barry’s. “I’ve told you before, Barry, call me Bruce. And don’t be ridiculous,” he turns back to Hal, voice going all sultry in a way that sends Hal’s stomach flip-flopping. “Any friend of yours is welcomed in my home.” His gaze travels openly over Hal’s body, making his muscles go taut, before they roam back up to meet his gaze. “Especially one so… fascinating. I hope you enjoy yourself, Mr. Jordan.” He nods to Barry and Zatanna before allowing himself to be enticed away by some blonde beaute as Barry weakly calls, “See you, Bruce,” after him.
Hal releases a long breath, a soft “Holy shit” escaping him as he leans back against the ornate baluster to keep his knees from buckling. “Holy shit.”
Zatanna is having trouble keeping a straight face, so she stops trying and breaks into undisguised peals of laughter at him, clutching to a— now that he’s regained possession over his wits— very gratified and vaguely awestruck Barry. “Hal Jordan at a loss for words. Didn’t think I’d live to see the day.” Hal pulls a face at his wry tone as Zatanna wipes tears away from her flushed cheeks. “Guess you have your answer.”
Hal doesn’t take his critical stare off Bruce, studying him as he dances fluidly across the dancefloor below, giggling partner in arm and doing a magnificent job of keeping his ennui undetectable from anyone who isn’t searching for it. Or doesn’t want to take notice. Hal’s eyes narrow abruptly as he looks to his compatriots, inexplicably annoyed.
“You’re kidding, right?” He demands, dismissive of the way Zatanna’s smirk widens as if she’d been waiting in anticipation, “I did not just spend two hours at this overpriced shitshow for him to pull some discount Spock bullshit and strut away like he owns my ass.”
Barry grows increasingly white with every word out of Hal’s unfiltered mouth, standing to stop whatever it is Hal plans on doing when he pushes himself off the banister, only to be stopped by Zatanna’s hand.
“Yeah, so he’s pretty fucking hot. So what? Water’s wet.” Both Barry and Zatanna open their mouths at that, but Hal really can’t be bothered to find out why, scientifically or magically speaking, that statement has now been rendered untrue. “If I wanted a pretty smile and inauthenticity, I’d have watched a press conference.”
He downs his drink— inappropriate behaviour to conduct with a champagne flute, judging by the evident disgust displayed on the man at the next table’s face. Hal offers him a wide grin and jogs to the stairs, lifting a hand to wave at an alarmed and distressed Barry without glancing back. “Wish me luck!”
“Hal, don’t— Ohhhhhh, my God.” The speedster collapses in his chair, on the cusp of insanity. “It’s over. Bruce’ll never forgive me,” he moans, Zatanna rolling her eyes, humoured. “Then we’d best make the most of our time here, wouldn’t you say,” she hums, practically lifting him out of his seat and after Hal.
Hal may not have attended many fancy dances in his life, but even he knows that it isn’t generally polite to interrupt before the end of a song, notwithstanding the clear desire in one of the couple’s eyes to pull someone’s tongue out without concern of whosoever’s it might be. However, considering that all the compositions bleed into their successors without cessation, there technically isn’t a beginning or end to any of them, so Hal doesn’t let it impede his conscience when he struts up to Bruce and Blondie with an unabashed, “Mind if I cut in?”
The face she makes at the intrusion is probably comparable to the expression she’d wear if Hal was scum she’d stepped on in the street with her pristine new shoes, but it does ease marginally after a quick once over. Though it’s still an exaggeration to say she’s pleased with the development. Contrarily, Bruce has overwhelming relief written all over his face when he agreeably says, “By all means,” and drops his hands from the lady without hesitation. “Thanks,” Hal smiles earnestly.
Then he elbows her out of the way and catches Bruce’s arms.
The single second of sheer, transparent surprise etched on the Batman’s face is short-lived but glorious . Hal will feel that victory in his dreams, he’s sure of it. Unfortunately, what he isn’t sure of, is how to proceed from here; which is exactly like him, so he’s hoping Bruce has a contingency for that. Just in case he hasn’t already caught on, though, Hal helpfully whispers, “Yeah, I don’t actually know how to do this, so you’re gonna have to lead.”
That produces another genuine reaction from Bruce, and, wow, Hal is just on fire tonight, isn’t he? He knows the chuckle is real, too, because he’s seen and heard it before, from when Batman was trying to smother it, but it’s completely different to see it so close and welcomed that it kind of takes his breath away. Only a little, though.
“You’re a bold man, Mr. Jordan,” Bruce pronounces once his breathing has evened out, his, frankly, gorgeous grey eyes brilliant with pleasure and the smallest suggestion of devilry, like he’s holding a secret he wants Hal to uncover. Lucky for him, they’re on the same page.
“Yeah, that’s me,” Hal smirks in return as Bruce slides his arm across his back, sensuously slow, until it comes to rest on the blade of his shoulder, nudging Hal’s hold into proper place as he does so, “I’m fearless.”
“Must lead you into quite a bit of trouble.” Ah, there it is. That classic, trademarked Bat-admonishment that can’t help but lecture him even when they’re standing so close Hal can smell his intoxicating Creed cologne. He almost laughs or rolls his eyes, feeling rather partial to both, when he remembers: No matter how much falsity is placed on this facade of a flirtation, no matter the fact that this is Bruce Wayne rather than Batman he’s dealing with, it’s still a competition. Everything between them always has a layer of challenge spread over it, and he sees that in the waiting tilt of Bruce’s chin, the dancing light in his eyes. So, instead, Hal widens his grin and propositions, “Trouble you’d like a taste of?”
Bruce hums in thought, guiding him across the floor and perfectly avoiding the stares and whispers that follow and echo around them. When they’re this close, there are many things Hal notices about Bruce that he never has before. Like the fact that they’re the same height, which comes as a surprise since he’d always assumed that Batman was a few inches taller. Part of why he hovered so much, other than the simple pleasure he garners from how deeply Bruce detests it. He also notices that there are flecks of pale blue speckled in his irises, like slivers of the sky snatched through storm clouds. A really, really stupid line pops up in his head at the observation, but his sense of self control kicks in before he has the opportunity to blurt it out.
“I’m sure, Mr. Jordan,” Bruce is saying as he steps forward, looking up at Hal from below his lashes, “that there is something I’d like a taste of, but I’ve learnt to stay away from trouble.”
Hal blinks at that, his stomach, unhelpfully, doing somersaults while his brain blares a continuous siren of “THAT’S A COME ON” repeatedly between his ears. He should be concerned, maybe even allow himself a healthy, self-preservatory sense of mild fear, but, through the shock, the only thing Hal feels is delight. Definitely a point in Wayne’s court.
“Oh, I see how you did it now,” he says aloud, half laughing, “‘ Sexiest Man Alive’. What’s that feel like?”
Bruce Wayne wears sheepishness well, which shouldn’t be startling because the man could probably wear anything well, but it is an unusual expression on a face that has been all calculated suave and crafted desire up till that moment. “It’s flattering, I suppose, if not a little uncomfortable. Though I’m happy to say that, having met you, Mr. Jordan, I doubt it’s a discomfort I will have to bear for much longer.” And he’s back. Hal bites his lower lip, unintentionally connotative, before rolling his eyes. “Couldn’t resist, could you?”
“There are many things about you I find difficult to resist.”
He’s sure that Bruce is having a laugh at his expense now, but Hal can’t quite muster the will to care past all the ludicrous fun he’s having. He doesn’t even mind that Batman, of all people, is out-flirting him with how hard it is to say anything when his throat is coated with phlegm from all his repressed glee and his attention is at least partly on not stumbling on his partner’s feet. Hal’s about to counter, something devastating he’s certain, when he sees Wayne’s eyes widen and shift focus to someone behind him. Someone who practically purrs into his ear when she asks, “May I interrupt?”
Bruce doesn’t say a word, his pupils wavering over the stunning woman as the muscle in his jaw tightens tellingly. He doesn’t spare Hal another glance, and his fingers go lax in their grip, so Hal takes the hint, disentangling himself from the other man with a cheerfully nonchalant, “Sure,” his insides suddenly feeling cold and wound. Without a word, he walks away, catching from his peripherals the way Selina’s hands move with the familiarity born from years of built confidence over Bruce’s body, a hand caressing the back of his neck as her body slots against his like a puzzle piece.
He pretends it doesn’t sting a little that Bruce had been the first one to pull away, the first one to go to hold her.
Hal hears Dick before he sees him.
“I’ll dance with you, if you’d like,” the young man smiles sympathetically, coming to stand beside the Green Lantern. Hal doesn’t take a second to consider it, replying with a flat, “No, thanks.” The offense that blooms on Dick’s complexion, mouth parted and hand brought to his chest in a perfect mockery of the people that surround them, actually makes Hal laugh, and he forces Bruce Wayne out of his mind. “You know we’re not supposed to know each other, right?”
The oldest Robin, Nightwing, now, a title he wears so well, it feels peculiar to think of him as Bruce’s original partner, only lifts his shoulders in response. “Dick Grayson’s been in Blüdhaven for months, and no one even knows who you are.”
Hal arches a brow, and Dick immediately wants to backtrack. “Gee, thanks.”
“If it’s any consolation,” Dick soothes, petting his arm lightly, “your face’ll probably be all over the tabloids tomorrow. If Steph has her way with those photos, of course.” He juts a finger at a shadowy corner of the room where a young woman with daffodil yellow hair is bent conspiratorially over her phone, muttering quietly to herself. Feeling his gaze, she glances up, and grins innocently, flashing two thumbs up at him. Hal likes her already.
“Is that gonna be a problem,” he asks, waving back at Steph.
“Nah. Wouldn’t be the first time.”
Hal doesn’t press him to clarify what “isn’t the first time”; he isn’t sure he wants to know right now, honestly. He turns his attention back to the spinning dancers, searching for Barry through the crowd, while also definitely not seeing that Bruce and Selina have both mysteriously vanished from the hall.
“So…” Dick says, an odd lopsided smile pulling at his lips. “You got any opinions on Dick Grayson and Nightwing?”
Hal stills, then turns to look incredulously at him. “Kid… did you just come on to me?”
Dick’s laugh is so raucous and loud, he attracts the attention of everyone within a three foot perimeter. He gasps heavily, hunching on a very unimpressed Hal’s shoulder for support and coughing between fits of giggles.
“Sorry, I’m just,” he hacks, “You should’ve seen your face. Man, if only Steph had caught that.” Hal grumbles inaudibly and rolls his arm off him, sticking his thumbs into his pocket sulkily. Dick quickly sobers, giving him his best impression of a wounded puppy, which is disturbingly effective from this far. “Oh, come on, Hal. I didn’t mean anything by it. You know you’ve always been my favourite.”
The boy’s not as good a liar as Bruce is, but Hal lets it go. “How’d you find out about that anyway?”
“That you were asking strange questions about my dad? Zee told me.”
That his semi-personal inquiries had reached Bruce’s oldest son a day after it had begun infecting Hal’s brain should have rang alarm bells, and it did. But, like his attitude regarding the man himself at the current moment, he couldn’t bring himself to give a damn. “Barry let her?” He sees Steph exchanging hands with a man who looks suspiciously like a poorly disguised Jason Todd and smiles wearily to himself. Hopefully the Guardians will call him away before he has to deal with the consequences of that tomorrow.
Dick frowns at him, nonplussed. “Since when does Zatanna care what Barry wants?”
“I was kind of hoping you’d tell me, actually.” The two trade glances, then scan the dance floor until Dick spots them near the far left of the room, where Barry has Zatanna lifted a few inches off the ground and is spinning her around dizzyingly, both of them obviously laughing. She leans down when they slow, and Hal turns away, but not missing the dopey grin plastered over his best friend’s face. Dick whistles and shakes his head in wonderment. “Good for them. Guess she’s got a thing for blondes.”
Hal thinks back to what Zee had casually let slip earlier on. “Or maybe she’s moved on from the emotionally stunted.”
Dick coughs and mumbles, almost imperceptible, “Well. That makes one of you.” Before Hal has fully comprehended the statement, however, he gives him a brief side hug. “I’ll see you around, Hal. Gotta go stop Steph ‘n’ Jay from breaking the speakers.” Sure enough, the shady gentleman is now sneaking up to the overhead amplifiers with pliers in his hand while his Bonnie, presumably, keeps watch. He has to wonder how common an occurrence that is.
With nothing else to keep him around, Hal leaves the brightness of the hall behind him, stepping out into the empty, moonlit courtyard. Barry finds him there an hour later, staring up at one of the only lit gothic Manor windows, watching in silence as shadows intermittently darken the swaying gossamer curtains. He doesn’t have to ask to know that that’s Bruce’s bedroom window.
For a long while, neither of them say a word, only stand in the lull until the glaze passes from Hal’s dark eyes and he turns to Barry.
“She teleported back. I’ll drop by later to check on her.” He waits for the mischievous smirk to light up Hal’s features, waits for the teasing voice he tries to bait out, but it never comes. The pilot only nods, slow and numb, as though he hadn’t heard a word.
“Must be complicated. You look happy, though.” He finally says, his eyes now resting on the Gotham skies so rarely not suffocated by smog and fumes, as stars that he could probably chart with his eyes closed illuminate his face, but keep his thoughts an enigma.
Barry sees his breath form in the cold air, a silvery wisp that vanishes into the night with the wind. “You’d be surprised at how simple things can be if you’d only let them.”
When Barry drops him off at his dilapidated apartment, a far cry from the finery of Wayne Manor, Hal receives a call from the Guardians. He leaves for Oa immediately and, when he next sees Batman a few weeks later, he doesn’t bring up the dance.
So, first of all, I'd like to express a great thank you to everyone who has left support on this fic so far. It's the fic I've received the fastest positive response on, and I am absolutely thrilled and humbled by how many people seem to enjoy it, especially from those of you whose works I am also, shyly, a huge fan of (if you've ever written for hal, this is probably you). Thank you all so, so much. Also, this chapter was supposed to come out a day after the first one, but it felt incomplete without the ball and 2019's only just begun, but life's already throwing me for a loop, so I apologise if the later chapters take a bit longer to come out. ;;;; Also, please do hit me up if you have any ideas for this fic! Like I said, I'm mostly playing it by ear, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
If anyone's wondering, I blame the FlashTanna on, like, six pages from Infinite Crisis: Fight for the Multiverse, which also has really adorable Bruce and (alternate universe) Hal moments, so check that out if you want.
Finally, here's a link to my BatLantern playlist on Spotify for fun (if you have songs to recommend, hit me up!):