Clark Kent, Daily Planet.
From the very moment Bruce learned how to read he knew the name of his soulmate and where he would work. It was written at his wrist after all. Since then he always read all of Daily Planet’s articles, even though he was just five years old. He would spring out his bed in the morning, as a true little rascal he was, and quickly brush his teeth so he could run into the kitchen to the waiting breakfast and folded newspaper, which he would avidly read until his mother or Alfred would take the paper out of his hands and say that he must eat something or they won’t give it back. It was always a trouble to make Bruce eat anything so they wasn’t above much more drastic tactics, and if just threatening with some simple newspaper would get Bruce to eat then why not to use this opportunity?
At the age of eight the habit died. Not just because of untimely deaths of Martha and Thomas Waynes, no. When he lost both of his parents, he was placed under the care of his uncle Phillip. It was dark time on his life. It killed many things in him, such as his childish cheerfulness, enthusiasm, openness. Naivety. It left many scars too, both physical and emotional.
Three years after his uncle was found dead in some filthy backstreet with body full of bullets. Alfred became Bruce’s guardian. It was painful for him to see the child, once so sunny and happy, now so hopeless and broken. Bruce had been eating even less, his thin, short frame looking as fragile as a little snowflake, his skin just as white. He rarely talked and almost never smiled. He had no friends and was expelled from every school he got in because of his constant fights. Nevertheless he still had the best marks in each of his classes. After a few years of getting in and out of numerous schools Bruce asked Alfred to be homeschooled and get it over with. Alfred agreed, and just after a year Bruce got his high school diploma.
And on his fifteenth birthday he disappeared.
Police searched for him for months. High society buzzed with the news, some people intrigued with the mystery, some hungry for Wayne’s money or position in WE board, but none truly worried about the teen. But though there was a lot of vultures trying to get Wayne Enterprises for themselves, Lucius Fox and Alfred made a good job to save the company and maintain it on a high level on the market. Eventually the fuss over Bruce Wayne’s disappearance died down and GCPD stopped looking for him, assuming that he was dead. No one paid attention to his butler, who acted as though his ward might come back at any moment.
So no one noticed how six years after that same butler came to the pier, where passengers were coming down from the newly arrived ship. No one took notice how he heartily hugged beautiful young man in dirty worn clothes. How they almost cried, standing in each others arms for nearly twenty minutes. Or how they both took a drive to the Wayne Manor.
Days later whole country was talking about the marvelous return of the presumed dead Bruce Wayne. In the matter of weeks he regained his position in Wayne Enterprises and started making appearances at almost all social events in Gotham, steadily making an image of flippant, shallow playboy and absolute idiot. People either hated him or despised him. Reporters did both. It seemed like there was no other person any given newspaper would rather badmouth than Wayne heir.
Half a year after Bruce’s return a blurry photo of something big and black was published, accompanying article entitled: “Yet another group of criminals was found unconscious!” And after the first image, other started appearing, each in better quality than the one before, but nonetheless none of them captured the figure good enough to discern its form and size from shadows. But few things was made clear: the figure was a human male or someone looking like one, it wore a black cape, and its cowl had protrusions, which looked like small ears.
At first everyone thought that it was some fairytale made up by GCPD to spook small-time crooks. But then one night there was a fire in an apartment building. Almost all people managed to get out before first firefighters came on the scene, but a few was still inside, as their way was blocked by fallen beams. They would have died in the center of raging fire, if something – someone – hadn’t broken the window and took them, two at a time, out of burning building. Photos were made and videos were recorded. On the next day twitter’s most popular tag was “Batman”.
It was Clark’s first time in Gotham. He was here on some stupid assignment to visit a new charity event and take an interview from the Bruce Wayne, but it would be a lie if he said that he didn’t want to visit this city. It was the home of Batman, after all. Maybe if he is able to finish his piece soon then he could try to find the mysterious hero. And by the way, there always was a chance that he would meet his soulmate, his tattoo did mention WE after all, and the event was held by this company.
Still, he didn’t like the city in the slightest. It was rotten with crime and pollution, grim and hopeless. It was full of lead, so Clark’s vision was mostly blocked. Victims in this city almost always stayed silent, as if afraid to let their weakness be known, like if they cried for help, then even more vultures would come for their hide. His enhanced hearing was useless. It was driving him insane.
Almost as much as the event and attending guests.
He could tell without looking that all of them were hypocrites, all shallow and greedy for money, power, or both. All these enticing silky dresses and tailored tuxedos, small talks and fake smiles. And him. Bruce Playboy Wayne. The person he will have to interview. Clark never was interested in this stupid man, so he knew only what Cat has been talking about in Daily’s office. And she talked mostly about Wayne’s new sexual escapades or how he was high with drugs during his speech or something along these lines. So, yeah, Clark despised the man.
But it didn’t matter. As a professional, he will swallow his contempt and do his work.
And so he did. After a few calming breaths he moved toward Bruce Wayne, who was surrounded by a few young starlets, who desperately wanted to shove their hands down someone’s wallet. He cleared his throat, trying and failing to gain man’s attention. Clark sighed and loudly said: “Clark Kent, Daily Planet.”
Not yet realizing what Clark said Bruce brushed him off, saying: “If it’s about the new WE project then you better ask Lucius.”
A moment later both locked shocked eyes. Neither could speak.
Then, Clark’s face morphed in an expression of pure disdain.
Bruce pursed his lips and looked away.
Clark stormed out of the ballroom.
After the event he will catch the socialite – his soulmate – and ask him a few questions, keeping up a neutral face. Bruce will try to talk. Clark will ignore the attempt and leave without looking back.
Superman met Lois Lane. Clark already knew her, but she never paid him any attention when in his civilian persona. But a few months back he became Superman, and she seemed enraptured with the hero.
She was intelligent, brave, strong-willed. Everything he could want. Everything his soulmate will never be.
They started dating. At first just as Superman and Lois, but slowly she discovered his secret.
And she got bored.
Their relationship lasted a little over a year and they already couldn’t stand each other, arguments becoming their normal conversation. And with every new biting word Clark couldn’t help but wonder if maybe he would be happier with his soulmate. Maybe this idiotic person would make him feel less lonely or if he could love him for being Clark and not Superman.
He started to wonder if he still had a chance to fix what he had done.
The answer was “No”.
Every time Daily Planet tried to arrange a meeting with Bruce Wayne, his secretary or his butler would make sure that the person who would interview the billionaire would be anyone but Clark. He started to look for personal number or e-mail, but found out, that despite being simple and guileless, Bruce Wayne had absolutely no traces in web, except long expired articles. Clark got interested in them, and soon enough stories of terrible murders in Crime Alley, strange death of a guardian and mysterious disappearance were etched in his eidetic memory.
He got a strange feeling when reading them. There was something in them, something like some kind of moth, whose shadow you can glimpse now and then in the dark, but never catch the real thing without turning on the light. This feeling was pretty common for him. He is an investigative reporter after all. So, he investigates.
Nowhere he looked he could find anything about Bruce’s whereabouts in time of his presumed death. But he managed to find something else. Stories, where an old soldier was given money for his expensive surgery, or where homeless people without any skills got a job and a roof, or how WE started upgrading their industrial buildings to reduce level of pollution.
Maybe it was not Bruce’s doings. After all everybody said that Mr. Fox was the one who was the Real head of Wayne Enterprises. But what if it was the other way around?
Clark was confused, torn between his disdain and a new spark of appreciation he never thought he would have towards this man.