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Puppy Love, or, the Dog Prince

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Mister Mxyzptlk sighed ostentatiously as Superman grabbed for him yet again, floating off to the side and avoiding the reaching hands with ridiculous ease.  "You're not much fun today, Supes," he noted sadly.

Superman was not in a very good mood.  He'd been arguing with Lois again, Perry was on his back about deadlines, and he had just finished a three-hour JLA meeting in which Batman had undermined every damn decision he had tried to make.  Oh, he had made it look like he was just "raising objections," but Superman knew he was enjoying making him look stupid in front of all the other League members.  And now to come home to Metropolis and find Mxyzptlk floating above the city, absent-mindedly juggling carp...he was in no mood to wait until Mxy made up his mind what capricious feat to pull off this time. He snarled at the silly imp in front of him and grabbed again.

Mxyzptlk turned a lazy somersault in the air, just out of reach.  "Where are the quips, my Krypto-friend?  Where's the infectious sense of joy I've come to know and love in you?"  He came back upright and gazed mournfully at the glowering Superman.  "You seem both Big and Blue tonight."

"Just go home, Mxyzptlk.  I'm busy and don't have time to waste on your ridiculous shenanigans."

Mxyzptlk nodded solemnly.  "I see.  What you need is a vacation, even if you don't know it.  And since you're being something of an ungrateful cur tonight..."  He waved his hands as Superman jumped forward to stop him.

The world went funny in mid-leap and Superman suddenly found himself thrashing, engulfed in cloth--his own costume, he was wrapped up in his own costume!  Gravity lurched at him, but someone caught up the folds of the uniform and started to lower him.  "You're going to require some dogged determination to get out of this one," Mxyzptlk's voice came from nearby, then a gleeful peal of laughter.  "Oh, that's a good one Mxy!  Oh, I slay me.  Anyway, Superman, just to give you something to keep you busy, you're stuck like this until your beloved recognizes you and calls you by the name your parents gave you.  I think that's quite literary, don't you?  It adds a certain air of...sophistication to the endeavor.  Yes, yes."  Mxyzptlk chuckled, satisfied.  "Nice work, Mxy you imp."

Clark opened his mouth to thunder at the demented sprite--and yelped.  Not a normal yelp of alarm, either.  No, it was distinctly a canine yelp.  The bundle he was wrapped in came to rest on the ground and Clark scrambled out of it and looked down at his feet.

He saw large, black, furry paws.

Oh, no...

He tried to break into a run and flailed wildly for a moment before his brain fully adjusted to the idea that he had four feet now.  He bolted out of the alley Mxyzptlk had dropped him off in and found a store window he could stare into.

A black Labrador dog stared back at him.  Not quite a puppy, not yet a full-grown dog, gangly and awkward, a dog.   As he stared into the window, his reflection tucked its whip-like tail between its legs and whined pitifully.

Clark went over what Mxyzptlk had said in his mind.  "Until your beloved calls you by your birth name."  All right, this was just temporary until he could find Lois and get her to call him by name.  No problem.  He set out toward their apartment at an eager lope.

Lois found him sitting outside the apartment building as she came home from work.  "Hey puppy," she said absent-mindedly as she fumbled for her keys.

Clark barked happily and put his front paws on her skirt.  "Down boy!" Lois said, annoyed.  "This is an expensive suit."

Clark got ready to put into action his plan:  barking in Morse code.  He and Lois had actually talked about what to do in situations like this and so she had been careful to learn Morse code--this would be easy.  He opened his mouth to bark her name.

Instead he sat on his haunches and scratched his ear.

Confused, he tried again--and jumped up on her suit once more instead.  "Darn it, dog!" Lois exclaimed, finally finding her keys.  "Shoo."  She slipped into the apartment, pushing him away with a foot.  The door closed behind her.

Clark cocked his head, puzzled.  What had just happened?  Every time he had tried to communicate he had failed.  And now Lois was gone.  He'd have to get someone else's attention, then.  He ran to the playground near their apartment;  if he could just scratch out a message in the sand someone would help him.

To his dismay, every time he tried to write something in the dust he would do something completely unplanned instead.  Each time he set his paw to write letters, he would instead find himself chasing his tail, or rolling on his back, or randomly barking.  Kids were watching him, but he wasn't communicating.

He finally had to accept the fact that Mxyzptlk had included with the transformation some kind of mental block:  whenever Clark started an action with the intent of making himself known, his body betrayed him.  Clark growled frantically to himself.  If he ever found that damn imp, he was going to give him a thorough chewing.  Or at least lift a leg on him.

For the moment, however, Clark was in a tough spot.  Belatedly, it occurred to him that his costume might be useful to carry with him, but by the time he raced back to the alley it was gone, of course.  Clark laid down on the ground and whined.  What to do next?

J'onn?  J'onn, can you hear me?  It's Kal-El!  Can any of the telepaths hear me?  No answer.  Clark pondered while scratching an ear contemplatively.  In a situation like this, there were really only two options.  As a telepath, J'onn was perhaps the better choice, but he was either in Colorado or the Watchtower.  Colorado was a daunting distance away;  the Watchtower was impossible.

Clark sighed and set out for Gotham.  The World's Greatest Detective was his best bet for seeing through his enchantment.  And then Bruce could bring him back to Lois to break the spell.

He set a steady pace.  Gotham wasn't a short run for a young dog.

: : :

About a week later, Tim Drake came home from school to find a dusty, exhausted black lab puppy sitting on the Manor doorstep.  "Whoa," he said softly, "Where did you come from, boy?"  The dog whined and wagged its tail hopefully.  Tim looked around and saw no possible owners.

Alfred looked appalled when Tim came into the kitchen holding the puppy.  "Good Lord, Master Tim, where did you get that?"  The gently wagging tail sped up at the sight of the butler and he woofed politely.

"He was sitting on the doorstep, Alfred."  Tim dampened a cloth and ran it over the black furry body to remove some of the dust.  "Look at him, he's got to be a purebred.  Someone must be dying of worry about him."  The dog wuffled happily at the feel of the warm cloth, then shook himself energetically, long black ears snapping like whips.

"Master Tim, I do hope you're not--"  Alfred broke off as the kitchen door opened and Bruce Wayne walked in, reading a paper and frowning.  The dog's tail became a blur and it barked once, sharply. 

Bruce started and stared down at the dog at his feet.  "Tim," he said.

"It's lost, Bruce.  I'm not taking it to the pound until we've at least looked for its owners," Tim said defiantly, then added a little plaintively, "Please?"

Bruce looked down at the puppy for a long time.  The dog looked back, its amber eyes beseeching.  "You've got a week," Bruce said.  "And it better be housebroken."  The puppy barked again.

"We'll need to call it something other than 'Dog,' I suppose," said Alfred with resignation.

"How about Jet?" said Tim.  ""  As they stared at it, the puppy gamboled about the kitchen a bit, slipping on the tile and then tripping over its own ears.

Bruce said, "The dog is annoyingly energetic, overly affectionate, awkward, and emotionally needy.  I would think the name would be obvious."  He tucked his newspaper under his arm and stalked out of the kitchen.

Tim and Alfred shared a significant look.  "So..." Tim said uncomfortably.  "Clark it is, then."

The newly-christened Clark cocked his head at the closed kitchen door and whined questioningly.

: : :

Three days later, Clark was starting to get desperate.  He had hardly seen Bruce at all since he arrived.  He had been waiting for his chance to sneak by someone into the Batcave, but the grandfather clock stayed stubbornly closed.  It was like the man never emerged from the cave at all.  He must be working incredibly hard on some case.  All of which meant that Clark spent a lot of time sleeping in the sun, chasing squirrels on the yard desultorily, and learning to stomach dog food--thank goodness his canine palate didn't seem to mind it.  His efforts to get Tim or Alfred to recognize him merely resulted in his doing random puppy behavior;  he finally stopped out of fear he'd end up licking his privates or--heaven forbid--sniffing someone's crotch. 

When he heard Bruce's steps slowly ascending the stairs to his room one night, he grabbed his chance and slipped into Bruce's bedroom behind him.  Unnoticed, even--Bruce must be completely exhausted.  He looked away politely as Bruce changed into pajama bottoms--not that the other man realized it--but not before he had caught a glimpse of Bruce's face.  The man looked haggard, drawn, and frankly miserable.  Clark felt a twinge of worry.

"You.  What are you doing in here?"  Bruce said, catching sight of Clark.  He made shooing motions with his hands.  "Go on, get out," he said in a weary monotone.  "Ah, never mind."  Bruce got into the four-poster bed and Clark took the opportunity to leap on top of him.  Come on, Bruce, how can I get you to recognize me if you don't even notice me?  He pushed at Bruce's hand with his muzzle and Bruce growled.  "Get off my bed, dog.  My bed, not yours."  Clark tried again, nudging Bruce's hand urgently--and found himself tossed through the air gently but firmly.  He yelped with some surprise as he hit the floor.  "Stay out of my bed, Clark!" Bruce snarled.

There was a pause.  Clark came up to the side of the bed and laid down next to it, dispirited.  "That sounded all kinds of wrong," he heard Bruce mumble indistinctly.  Then a hand dangled over the edge of the bed and crooked its fingers.  Clark scooted forward and let the hand fondle his ears.  It felt wonderful, and he sighed happily.  "Sorry, dog," Bruce said, sounded tired and defeated.  "So this is what I've come to, picking on a dumb animal because I'm frustrated and...and unhappy."  He petted the puppy for a while.  "I'm sorry, Clark," he sighed.  "Just...not good enough, I guess."

Eventually the caressing hand slowed and came to a stop, still cupping Clark's head.  Clark laid very still, not wanting to wake him.  Eventually he drifted off to sleep as well, Bruce's hand warm on his head.

: : :

"Tim!" Bruce said with annoyance as the gangly black form of the puppy bolted past the boy and down the stairs into the cave, barking gleefully.

"I'm sorry, Bruce!"  Tim shrugged.  "He just slipped by me.  I mean, you did a DNA test on his hair--"

"--there was certainly enough hair to spare for such a test--"

 "--and he's just a regular dog, right?  So no worries."

Bruce glared at the puppy.  "I don't need a dog down here."

Tim grinned as Clark spun in wild circles, chasing his tail and growling.  "I think it's kind of nice."

The dog suddenly spotted something dangling off a table and leaped for it with a loud yap, tugging a heap of red and blue cloth onto himself.  Superman's costume.  Tim felt a pang at the look on Bruce's face as he reached out to grab the costume away from the dog.  It had been almost two weeks since Superman had disappeared without a trace.  They had found the uniform on the black market, but no sign of the hero.

Bruce and Clark were now locked in a tug-of-war over the costume.  "Let go!" Bruce demanded angrily.  "That is not yours.  You have no right to chew on it,!"  Clark let go of the cloth to bark wildly, and Bruce yanked it away to safety.

"You have to show you're the alpha-dog, Bruce, remember?"  Tim suggested helpfully.

Bruce glared at the boy, but got down on his hands and knees to meet the dog's eyes squarely in a glare, baring his teeth.

The puppy's tongue lolled out in a canine grin and it jumped forward to swipe a soggy lick across Bruce's face.

Bruce stood up, wiping his face irritably.  "Tim," he said levelly, "This dog is not impressed by me as an alpha-dog."

Tim managed to keep a straight face with some effort.  "Well, you named him, Bruce."  He regretted the quip immediately, as Bruce's face went bleak and desolate for a moment.  "I know, I know," sighed Tim.  "Back to work, Robin."

Bruce turned his back on Tim and the puppy, tapping on the computer.  "And get the dog out of here."

Clark whined piteously but went without additional protest.

: : :

Clark was lying beside the bed again, Bruce's hand running over his head.  "Well," Bruce said sleepily, "Tomorrow's the deadline I gave Tim to find your owners or send you to the pound."  A small snort.  "That being the case, I suppose I could let you on the bed this once."  Bruce's other hand patted the coverlet invitingly.

Clark bounded up onto the bed and crouched next to Bruce with his head down and paws out, the dog's invitation to play.  Bruce laughed--actually laughed--and tussled with him for a while, tangling him in the blankets and wrestling him around the huge bed.  "Silly dog, silly dog," Bruce chided lightly, "Don't you know the Dark Knight doesn't play?"  He grabbed Clark's head and shook it back and forth gently.  "Because I am the grim stalker of the night, doggie," he said in a singsong voice.  He flipped Clark onto his back and scratched the broad black chest energetically, still using the voice people use to animals when no one is listening.  "I am feared by all and incapable of love, you silly pup.  I certainly don't romp around with cute little dogs, ever."  He leaned down and rubbed his nose on Clark's ears, whispering, "Just between you, me, and the extremely expensive security system, dog, the Dark Knight is something of a jackass."  Clark grinned at him--oh, when he was himself again he'd never let Bruce live this down--and lunged to snap playfully at Bruce's nose.

Bruce laughed again and deftly flipped Clark over for more brisk chest-scratching.  "Who's a silly puppy?" he crooned.  "Who's a big silly puppy who thinks Batman's a pushover?  You are!  You are!"  Clark sneezed in utter astonishment.  Bruce snorted and continued in the same singsong tone, "And Batman prays Tim or Alfred never walk in on him talking like this, or they will pack him off to Arkham, won't they, Clark?"

Clark felt rather out of breath from the roughhousing;  he panted happily and looked upside-down at Bruce, then realized Bruce's face had gone suddenly wistful. 

Clark scrambled upright to look at him better.  Bruce looked...sad.  Clark whined and lunged to lick his nose, snap him out of it, but Bruce fell backwards onto the pillows with a thump.  Clark lay down next to him, resting his muzzle on the broad, bare shoulder.  Bruce scratched at his ears.  "Why the hell did I decide to call you 'Clark,' anyway?" Bruce muttered.  "Brilliant move, Batman."  He sighed.  Clark scrambled on top of Bruce's bare chest and licked his chin, panting.

Bruce put his arms around Clark, staring up at the ceiling.

Clark was so surprised by this he tucked his tongue back in his mouth.  He felt the skin of Bruce's chest under his paws, warm and solid.  Confused, he put his head down on Bruce's collarbone and wuffled, a little nervously.

Bruce closed his eyes.  "Clark," he said.  Then he laughed softly, wryly.  "You'd think I'd get used to this, wouldn't you?"  The laughing tone trailed into a sigh.  "But I don't.  I never do.  Clark."  He rubbed the dog's ears some more.  "Well," he said gently, "I suppose we can give you another week or two before packing you off to the pound, you goofy pooch."

Clark sighed softly and drifted off to sleep again.  His paws twitched slightly in dreams, moving across Bruce's chest.

: : :

Tim made his way down the stairs into the cave.  The black lab was curled up underneath Bruce's chair, keeping guard as Bruce worked on something.  When Clark spotted Tim coming down the stairs, his tail thumped a few times in happy welcome.  At the sound, Bruce absent-mindedly ripped off a hunk of the roast beef sandwich he was eating and lowered it to Clark, who snapped it down with gusto.  Tim hid a smile as he drew closer.  It had been a week since the dog was supposed to go to the pound, but Bruce seemed to have forgotten the issue entirely.  Tim was especially relieved because Bruce had been working even harder than usual recently.  The dog seemed to be the only thing that could lighten his mood since the real Clark had disappeared.

"Any luck?" Tim asked. 

Bruce ran his hands through his hair distractedly, making it stand up all over, and sighed.  "No.  No luck."

Clark bounced off Tim's knees a few times and Tim scratched his hackles affectionately.  "We should train him.  He could be our...Bathound.  I mean, he's already the requisite black."

Bruce didn't stop typing.  "We're not keeping the dog, Tim." 

Tim stopped that line of questioning;  he didn't want to remind Bruce that Clark wasn't really supposed to be here any longer.  "So," he said casually, "Patrol tonight?"

Bruce stretched, raising his arms above his head until joints cracked.  "Unfortunately, no.  Much as I would prefer it, I actually have a social engagement with Gia Simone tonight."

An appreciative whistle from Tim.  "You two have seemed to be getting along quite well lately."

"Gia's a sweetheart.  And even bright enough that it's not an abysmal chore to converse with her."

Tim laughed.  "Bruce!  That's positively smitten, for you!"

Clark chose that moment to put his paws on Bruce's lap and steal the rest of the roast beef sandwich from the desk, leading Bruce on a wild chase around the cave before gulping it down unrepentantly and barking at Bruce's muttered imprecations.

"How's the alpha-dog thing working out, Bruce?" asked Tim with a smile.

Bruce just glared and headed up the stairs, Clark at his heels.

: : :

Bruce was awfully late getting back from his date with this Simone woman, Clark thought a trifle anxiously.  He paced around Bruce's room again, hoping Bruce hadn't gotten himself in trouble with...flying bat-ninjas or whatever the Horror of the Week was here in Gotham.  He tried to just lie down and wait, but for some reason his legs felt twitchy and uncomfortable, he couldn't seem to relax.  The closet door was ajar and Clark nudged his way into it, in search of something to soothe himself.  He tugged one of Bruce's shirts off a hanger, pawed at it a little, then turned around a few times and laid down on it, his nose on the collar. 

It still smelled a little bit of Bruce, which was nice.

He heard voices on the stairs long before they reached the bedroom:  Bruce's light, pleasant playboy tenor, mixing with a higher, sweeter voice.

"Bruce, you wicked man, kidnapping me to your estate like this," the woman--who must be the "sweetheart" Gia--giggled.  The door swung open and the pair entered the bedroom.  From the partially-open door of the closet, Clark could see the two of them.  The woman was dressed in a red sequined dress that dissolved into a spray of black lace at the bottom.  Her black hair was piled atop her head.  Bruce looked elegant as always as he reached out and undid the woman's hair so it tumbled down around her shoulders.

"Oh come now, Gia.  I've hardly got you here against your will, have I?"  Bruce said pleasantly, and pulled her into a kiss.  Gia leaned into the kiss fervently, making small noises of pleasure, her hands tangling in his hair, his hands running down her back, strong and capable.  Still locked in the kiss, the two of them tumbled into the bed together, where the woman set to work unbuttoning Bruce's shirt.  "Oh, where did you get all these scars?" she cooed.

Bruce's head was thrown back, his eyes closed.  "I'm a terrible skiier," he said breathlessly.

"I hope you're less accident-prone in bed, darling," Gia said as she bent to run a tongue over his chest.  Bruce cupped her ass and pulled her against him almost roughly, and she laughed throatily.

Clark had been watching, paralyzed with shock, but now he snapped out of it.  What was Bruce thinking, letting this woman into his house, into his bed?  She could be a...a robot!  Or a ninja!  Or an assassin!  Or a robot ninja assassin!

He launched himself out of the closet, yipping madly, and landed on the bed in a flurry of limbs.  "What the--what is this thing?" Gia exclaimed, fending off a volley of drooling licks and energetic bounds.  Clark barked and started gnawing on the lace of her dress.

"Clark!  Down boy!  I'm sorry, Gia, it's just my dog--Clark!  Stop it!"  Bruce shoved Clark off the bed, but he bounced back up as soon as his feet hit the ground.  He felt frantic, his heart pounding against his ribcage like a hammer, his breath coming short.  He couldn't just let that!  With her!  He couldn't!  He barked again, urgently.  The woman reached out and slapped him stingingly on the muzzle, and he growled at her.

The next thing he knew, he was being scooped up in Bruce's arms and carried down the hall to the bathroom.  Bruce dropped him on the tiled floor, then closed the door behind him, trapping Clark in the bathroom.

Clark heard Bruce's steps going away from him, down the hall.  The tile was cold.  He heard Bruce's voice, muffled by the doors but clear enough to canine hearing:  "Now...where exactly were we?"

Lost in the utter misery that seemed to fill his little black body beyond bearing, shaking with desolation, Clark lifted his muzzle to the sky and howled out his loneliness and dejection with all his heart.  Throwing himself into his chorus of agony, he only faintly heard the sounds of an argument, then footsteps hurrying away down the stairs.  Clark kept howling as if his heart was broken, consumed by a wretchedness that suddenly seemed to loom too large and near to fully grasp.

The bathroom door opened abruptly and Bruce was standing there in a pair of black boxers, staring at him.  Clark cut off in mid-howl and stared back.  He felt his tail thump tentatively on the tile floor:  once, then twice.  Bruce sighed and turned away, going back to his bedroom, leaving the bathroom door open.  Clark followed him cautiously.

Bruce was in his bed--alone--by the time Clark peeked his head into the room.  Clark crawled to the side of the bed and laid on the floor there, hoping Bruce would at least forgive him enough to pet his ears, but no hand dangled down to touch him.

After a while, though, he heard the soft thump that meant Bruce was patting the bed to invite him up.

He put his front legs up on the bed and looked at Bruce questioningly, then hopped gently onto the bed.  Bruce rolled him over and started scratching his chest, and Clark closed his eyes in a haze of bliss.  "We're going to have to work on that jealous streak of yours, pup.  I can't have you chasing off every pretty woman who comes into the manor.  It's bad for the reputation."  Clark made a small growling noise in his throat, half annoyed and half pleased, and Bruce smiled slightly.

They laid side by side in silence, Bruce's hands warm and sure, his fingers buried in black fur.  After a while Bruce said softly,  "Well.  To be honest, I didn't really like her that much anyway, Clark." 

Clark's tail whumped the bed like a metronome of agreement.

: : :

Bruce jogged through the park with the black lab trotting obediently beside him.  He came to a stop and Clark pulled up beside him in a perfect heel.  The dog was incredibly easy to train--most of the time.  He was willful, headstrong, and stubborn, but also eager to please and intelligent.

Not that Bruce had any intention of training the dog to actually work with Batman.  That was a ludicrous idea.  But when they found the dog's real owners, Bruce didn't want to hand over a dog he'd allowed to get spoiled.

When they found the dog's real owners.  Bruce ignored the ridiculously mournful thought that darted briefly though his brain:  To lose this Clark, too... He focused instead on keeping his pace steady.  Clark loped along beside him, tongue out, golden eyes bright and happy.

Then suddenly Clark stopped dead.  "Hey," Bruce said, "Heel."  But Clark was sniffing the air.  Suddenly he let out an alarmed bark and set off for the park gate, dragging Bruce along with him.  When Bruce tried to tighten the leash on him, the damn dog merely strained against the collar until he choked, so Bruce finally just went along with him. 

When the smell of smoke became strong enough that even his weak human nose could detect it, he broke into a run himself, following Clark.

They emerged from the park gates to find one of the tenements engulfed in flame.  Outside, rescue workers helped people onto stretchers as the fire fighters battled the flames. 

A woman was wailing, struggling with rescue workers.  < My baby! > she cried in Turkish.  < My baby is still in her crib! >

There was a sharp sound next to Bruce as Clark barked urgently, then bolted into the flame-engulfed building.

Bruce ran after the dog into the building, dodging fire fighters who tried to stop him.  "Clark!" he yelled.  "Come back here, you stupid dog!"  He saw the black shape of the dog padding up the stairs, smoke and heat haze all around him, and lurched after him.  Through the smoke Clark emerged with a bundle in his jaws, just barely managing to carry it;  Bruce swept dog and baby up and pelted back down the rapidly-disintegrating stairs into the fresh air beyond.

After the baby was safely reunited with her weeping family, Bruce carried the soot-covered dog back into the park and dropped onto a bench.  Clark sat on his lap, wheezing a little, and Bruce rubbed the slightly singed, velvety ears.  "What the hell kind of idiot dog are you, running into a burning building to save a baby like that, playing the hero, you stupid mutt."  Bruce stopped and stared at the dog on his lap again.  The puppy looked back at him and woofed hopefully.  "That's just the kind of stupid thing that--"  Bruce broke off.  "Clark?  Kal-El?"

With no transition at all, Bruce found himself with a very large Kryptonian on his lap.  A very large, very naked Kryptonian.  "What the hell?" he asked cogently.

"Um, thank you," said Clark--really Clark, the dog had been really Clark--and looked down at himself, his face turning red.  "Hold on, I'll be right--"

Bruce grabbed his arm.  "No.  No.  No going anywhere until you explain what just happened here."  He stood up, pulled off his coat and handed it to Clark, who slipped it on, tucking his legs up onto the bench to hide their nakedness as well.

"Well, I ran into Mr. Mxyzptlk.  And he turned me into a dog.  He said I needed a vacation.  Whenever I tried to do something to communicate, I couldn't.  And Mxy said I had to stay that way until I was called by my birth name by my oh."  Clark broke off in abrupt surprise at the end of the sentence and stared down at his hands, slowly turning redder and redder.  "Oh," he repeated faintly.

"By your what, Clark?"  Bruce asked somewhat distractedly.  He was going over the last few weeks in his mind, hoping that certain reactions he had had to Clark's disappearance hadn't been expressed out loud to the dog.

"By my...well, by you, apparently."  Clark ran his hand through his hair and looked blankly amazed.

The two of them sat side by side on the park bench for a moment, until Bruce suddenly said, "Hey, why'd you chase Gia off like that?" 

He was surprised to see Clark, who had been starting to pull out of his blush, turn brilliant crimson again.  "I thought she was, maybe, a robot ninja assassin?"

"A robot ninja assassin," Bruce repeated, arching an eyebrow.

Clark looked out over the park, away from Bruce.  "I didn't think it was safe to have her in bed with you," he muttered.  "It was all...very annoying."

Bruce looked at his profile for a moment, then leaned over on a sudden whim.  "You didn't seem so annoyed when I did this to you," he said, reaching into the coat and running his hands across Clark's chest.  Clark gasped and threw his head back in shock at the touch, his eyes going very bright suddenly.  He grabbed Bruce's exploring hands and stopped their motion;  Bruce opened his hands and rested the palms against Clark's bare skin.  He should probably stop this right now, he was going too far--and then he thought about how he had felt these last few weeks, searching for Clark, feeling like the world had stopped around him, frozen into meaninglessness.  "You didn't seem to mind sharing my bed," he said softly.

Clark stared at him.  "I didn't mind that part at all."

Bruce withdrew his hands carefully from Clark's chest and reached down to touch Clark's hand.  "Well, as long as you're housebroken, Clark--maybe you wouldn't have to stop."

Clark kissed him then, an energetic, desperate, rather sloppy kiss, a clash of tongues and lips that left them both breathless. 

As the kiss ended, Clark chuckled softly.  "By the way, Bruce," he said, "You make a terrible alpha-dog."

"I know it," Bruce sighed, tracing Clark's lips with a finger.  "I don't think you're trainable."

"Oh, I don't know about that,"  Clark said with a smile, pulling Bruce close again and adding:

"I think you might be able to teach me to stay."