Forcing Bruce to attend a male bonding event was a full-time job. Clark knew it because he was always the one stuck with it.
"Why does it have to be me again?"
Barry gave him a small compassionate smile (but didn't offer taking over the task) while Ollie shrugged, "Do you really want Hal or me to start a new fight with him? Besides, everyone knows you're the real Batman handler here."
That was a completely unfair assessment, Clark thought, Alfred Pennyworth was the real handler, I just convince him to help me out once in a while.
Which is why Clark spoke to Alfred well in advanced of breaching the subject with his best friend. He knew Alfred would erode Bruce's defences enough for Clark to get his chance. It worked. Well, more like, Bruce couldn't stand any more of the Wayne Manor's chaos (Damian had brought in a squirrel as a pet who had the unfortunate (or well trained) habit of attacking Tim's most advanced technology devices. Needless to say, the two youngest were on a warpath and Dick was helpfully taking videos for posterity while Jason was still furious at Bruce for bugging his Red Hood costume.).
The important thing was that Bruce had agreed to come to spend at the cottage with his male colleagues. Diana had been the one pushing for them to get along with one another, especially the surly Bat.
It seemed that Diana's suggestion only brought Hal's and Ollie's competitive spirit to the forefront. Their bet about who could make Bruce explode first seemed to be their unspoken goal of the weekend.
They had the unfortunate idea of pressuring Bruce to cook in order to take pictures and videos. That was swiftly overruled when it became clear they would have to actually eat all of Bruce's awful cooking if he cooked (Barry had once mentioned even his metabolism couldn't keep up with Bruce's extensive "poisonous" capacity).
Hal then had the idea of humiliating Bruce in a shotgun shooting competition. With him being trained in the military and with Ollie's skills in it, how could it go wrong? Clark, who was listening in, had decided not to point the obvious flaw with their bright idea.
Instead, Clark had decided to drink ice tea by the patio and observe how the idea unfolded. Barry had also decided to sit out of the competition. For a few minutes, they looked at their three colleagues examining the old shotgun they would use for the competition.
"You know," Barry said as he sipped his coca cola, "For the longest time, I thought you and Bruce were a gay couple."
Clark almost choked on his iced tea. He immediately stopped paying any attention to the shotgun competition between Bruce, Hal and Ollie fifty yards away. "What!?!"
"I know," Barry nonchalantly gestured, "It's just that you both kept insisting on sharing a room and... you make an awful lot of noise at night."
Clark stuttered, trying to find an adequate response to the rumour he had never heard before.
"Oh, don't worry. Now, that I've been Flash for over a decade I think I understand... Bruce has nightmares and he doesn't want anyone to hear it. But, you, you're Superman; you hear it anyway. That's it, right?" Barry now had a serious look on his face.
Clark swallowed and decided to change the subject, "You have a lot of nightmares nowadays?"
"Yes," Barry slowly answered, "But they fade away after some time."
Clark nodded as Ollie took his first shot, "Is it always about superheroing?"
Barry gave a soft chuckle as Hal took his first shot, "Not always, that's the weird part. Sometimes, I dream that I forgot to dress or that I'm late for work. It's nice to know I'm still concerned about the little things."
"Aren't you always late for work, though?"
Barry smiled at him while Bruce made his first shot, "Aren't you?"
Clark laughed, "We're pretty much the two fastest men on Earth, yet, we're always late."
"I think that's part of a hero's rule of conduct," Barry noted, "Hal, Ollie and Bruce are also always late in their civilian lives. Still, it's better to be late to work than late to save lives."
"If people really wanted to find our secret identities, they would look for everyone that is regularly late for work," Clark added as he took another sip.
"They'd also find all lazy people in existence if they did," Barry commented. Clark shrugged. It was comfortable to talk with superheroes outside of the line of work, he thought until he heard the commotion.
In a flash, both Clark and Barry were at Hal's, Ollie's and Bruce's side. Barry glanced around and asked, "What's the problem?"
Hal turned to them, "Bruce is either a liar or a cheater." Bruce glared at him.
Clark knew this was going to happen. Barry asked, "What do you mean?"
Hal gestured to the targets, "He claims to hate shooting guns yet he only hit the center at every shot he took."
Barry glanced at Bruce and turned to Hal, "And?"
Ollie interrupted, "How does he do it?"
It became clear Bruce was refusing to answer their questions, so Clark ended up answering, "You do know that Alfred raised Bruce, right?"
Suddenly, it was as if a light had gone on in everyone's mind, "Alfred?"
Ollie hit his own head, "I knew we were forgetting something."
Bruce smirked, "Your brain cells?"
Clark briefly closed his eyes, waiting for it.
Ollie straightened and stared at Bruce, looking, for all the world to see, like a giant peacock.
"Does Alfred play bingo with the types of concussions you get in a week?"
Technically, it was true that Bruce often got concussions, however, Ollie being the one saying that to Bruce was ironic to say the least...
"I use armour to protect my assets," Bruce sniped back, "contrary to the green-clad idiots the League seems to attract."
"Excuse me?" Hal answered, finally getting his occasion to dive in a good fight, "I have the goddam Green Lantern ring, the world's most powerful weapon and defence, why I would I need some puny armour?"
Bruce rolled his eyes, "Your impressive defensive weapon runs out of juice more often than Ollie cheats at poker."
Barry discreetly pulled Clark's arm back. He turned to the red-clad hero.
Barry used his fastest superspeed to say, "Do we cut in or retreat?"
Clark shook his head at superspeed, "I came here to relax. Maybe fighting would help them bond?"
Barry quirked an eyebrow up at superspeed, "If that really worked, neither of us would have any of them as best friends."
"I say we ignore this as long as nobody gets physically injured," Clark answered at superspeed.
"...At least, I'm an excellent cheater at poker," Clark and Barry tuned in Ollie's proud statement at normal speed again.
"Yet, you still managed to lose to me yesterday," Hal replied.
Ollie raised an eyebrow at Hal while Bruce glanced at Clark and Barry with a narrowed look that proved he knew what they had been up to.
"Let's play poker, then," Ollie answered with an evil grin.
Clark was already looking forward to the end of the trip. Why did everything have to end up in a pissing match where those three were involved?
Thud. Thud. Thud.
"Clark," Bruce's raspy voice called out.
"Mmm?" Clark wanted to sleep.
"You told me you had stopped that," Bruce's snarky tone continued.
Clark opened his eyes and saw he was trapped to the floor by some kind of yellowish squishy material, "What's this?"
"It's one of my special mixtures."
Clark could hear Bruce typing something on his phone.
"Could you help me out?" Clark asked in the most un-annoyed tone he could manage.
"Wait for a second, I still have to input my comments on the colour," Bruce answered.
Clark tried to get pull the material apart, "Well, I'm not comfortable."
"Wait!" Bruce's warning came too late as the squishy material expanded all over Clark's offending hand.
"...What exactly is this stuff?"
Bruce sighed, "It reacts to force exerted on it. I've been working on it to use on Grundy."
Clark ground his teeth, "Bruce. Get me out of this."
Bruce rose from his bed and stepped closer, "It really smells like rotten fish."
"Hey," Bruce said as he poured some liquid over his yellow restraints, "you were the one who told me the last device I made was good enough to stop you sleepwalking."
"That's what Lois said," Clark answered as he looked at the disgusting material evaporate yet the nasty smell lingered. His pyjama was ruined. Again.
"You almost walked through a wall. Thankfully, I had taken my precautions," Bruce replied as he took a photo of one stray part of the material with a weirdly enthusiastic look on his face.
"I feel lucky," Clark knew the wall cost more than his pyjama, however, he was not in the correct mind frame to appreciate Bruce's cost-effective choice.
Bruce blinked at Clark, "You're mad at me."
Clark gave him a withering look, "You ruined my pyjama. You could have used the red sun gun you always bring with you for any overnight League business we attend together."
"I know that works. I needed to learn if 'this' works," he answered as he pointed to his new item.
Clark bit his tongue. This was his fault. He was the one who convinced Bruce to come and he'd been the one who once asked Bruce's help to solve his sleepwalking problem. Granted Bruce using that request as an occasion to test his weapons was all Bruce's fault, however, this had originally been Clark's problem. His parents had wrestled for years for a solution. Nowadays, he didn't break down walls in his sleep. Technically, Clark should be thankful...
"What are you doing?" Bruce asked.
Clark took his towel and a spare t-shirt and shorts, "Taking a shower."
Bruce shrugged and turned back to the much more interesting pastime of entering data in his phone.
Clark felt much better after his shower. When he was walking to the room he shared with Bruce, he saw Ollie walking in the hallway.
Ollie widely grinned at him, "Clark, wow, I knew you guys were intense, but this is next-level stuff."
Clark tilted his head, perplexed at his friend's words, "What are you talking about?"
Ollie snaked an arm around him and leaned in a conspiringly way, "Well, you know the saying, the wall has ears? You almost broke the wall. Of course, we'd know. It's nice to know your stiffness could take care of the stick-in-the-ass problem."
Clark was confused. What in the world was Ollie talking about?
"By the way, why are you the one taking the shower?" Ollie asked in a rapid-fire.
"I needed one?"
Ollie frowned, "Wasn't Bruce the one who needed one?"
Clark glanced at Ollie, thoroughly confused, "Why would Bruce need a shower? I'm the one who got dirtied."
Ollie blinked at that statement and whistled, "Wow. He's really a selfish pain in the ass to let you handle all the cleaning alone."
Clark didn't like the sneer in Ollie's voice, so he ducked under Ollie's arm, "I've got to sleep. Maybe you should, too."
Ollie chuckled, "Sleep. One of these days, you'll have to find better metaphors, Big Guy."
Vexed, Clark walked to his shared room and went to sleep without another word. It was only the next morning when he was typing part of his upcoming article that he figured out what Ollie was talking about. He remembered what Barry had told him the previous evening. Did everyone really think he and Bruce were..? But, he's been married to Lois for years!
"Bruce," Clark asked the deformed figure in the other bed. Bruce mumbled something that sounded a lot like, "Five more minutes, Alfred."
Clark removed his glasses, "Bruce, did you know people think we are sleeping together?"
Bruce's bleary face blinked at him and his hand struggled to find his cell phone before aiming it at Clark's face and taking a photo, "Who told you that?" He was typing something on his cell phone again.
Clark's eyes widened, "Wait. You knew?"
Bruce's sour face scrunched in his direction, "Who told you that?"
"Ollie... Wait, no, Barry told me that yesterday."
Bruce finished typing and sent a message, "I betted on Ollie."
Bruce fell back into bed with his covers over his chin. He muttered, "Lois and Diana. Diana will be insufferably proud."
"Lois knows about it?"
Bruce snorted as he flopped in his bed, "They were careful around her until she said she consented to 'our' arrangement. If you want to know, your wife is the main culprit for the last wave of speculations about us."
Clark thought that sounded like his wife. He sighed, "Why is everyone obsessed with sex? Sexuality is one of the least important things to know about someone except if you want to date that person." Clark pondered a moment, "I don't get it."
They each kept silent for a few moments. Neither of them had even discussed their sexuality with each other in the long years they had been best friends. Clark wasn't ashamed of his; it saddened him in the way it marked him apart from the majority of the population. It wasn't even a Kryptonian thing. It was a Clark thing.
Bruce chuckled, "That is true. People assume all sort of things about me, but, the rumours are all more interesting than reality."
Bruce turned on his side to look at Clark, "Religions have names for all kinds of beliefs and there is even a name for those who don't know what to believe in. There are no agnostics in sexuality. We are all supposed to know what we are. I don't subscribe to that logic. Most people spend years or their life finding out who they are. Why would sexuality be any different?"
Clark stayed silent, letting his friend's truth seep in. It was a very Bruce-like thing to think.
Finally, Clark put his glasses back on, "Are we really going to let the rest of the League think we have sex together?"
Bruce lazily shrugged, "The way I see it, we are encouraging inclusivity and diversity in the League. Seeing how you never showed a hint of shame in the face of Ollie's and Hal's innuendos over the years, I think it is a good way to show members don't have to be ashamed of loving whoever they love."
Clark blinked, slowly remembering all kinds of weird encounters he hadn't understood at the time.
Bruce grinned and buried himself back in his bed, "Mmm..."
Clark raised one eyebrow. Bruce's sleep capacity was quite extraordinary. Especially when he didn't want to deal with the other persons on a trip.
Oh well, Clark thought, as he started typing again (to help Bruce drift to sleep), at least Bruce and Lois lost the bet. It's good for their egos to lose once in a while.