Bruce Wayne hated Valentine’s Day. Technically, he knew the holiday hadn’t really been invented by jewelry, card, and candy companies solely for the purpose of helping their profit margins. That, in fact, its origins could be traced back to the ancient Roman festival of Lupercalia when it had been a fertility rite to banish evil spirits and purify the city. Its blatantly sappy and commercialized present day form was, in truth, a relatively recent development.
This knowledge did nothing to alleviate the aggravation that came with the media dogging Bruce Wayne’s steps around Gotham in the hope one of them would land an exclusive scoop on the Prince of Gotham’s plans for the most romantic day of the year. Every club or restaurant he was known to frequent was staked out and scoped out, and God forbid if he was spotted glancing in the window of a jewelry store. The ‘news’ would be on Twitter and TMZ and every other media outlet within minutes, with speculation rife about which lucky lady had finally captured the playboy billionaire’s heart and would soon be walking down the aisle with him. Never mind that they were always wrong and that the same ritual was repeated every year with the same result. He might as well be Punxsutawney Phil, and at least the groundhog got the other three hundred and sixty-four days off.
Bruce Wayne hated Valentine’s Day. Kryptonians from Kansas, however, thought the holiday was swell, so adjustments had to be made. That the fallout from these adjustments was likely to be a media frenzy akin to sharks descending upon chum-filled waters was, curiously, not at all the deterrent he would have anticipated.
“Hey! Bruce?” Dick stuck his head in the door. “What do you want me to tell the Commissioner abou--” He came to an abrupt stop and gawped at Bruce over in front of the full-length mirror in dress shirt, sock garters—and boxers. “Whoa.”
Bruce glared at him. “What about Gordon?”
“Huh?” Mirth bubbling in his eyes, Dick seemed to have lost his train of thought. “Wait right here, I have to get a camera.”
“You do and you’re disinherited.”
“Yeah, and it would totally be worth it.”
Blue eyes still sparkling with laughter, Dick said, “The Miller Street tagger. If he asks, what do I tell him?”
Finished with his cufflinks, Bruce’s attention turned to his bow tie. “If he asks, tell him what we know.” The day Jim Gordon batted an eye upon learning Gotham was currently ground zero for a gang of inter-dimensional delinquents with a passing resemblance to flying monkeys, was the day both of them would probably decide to pack it in. “So far they’re just a nuisance.”
“So far.” Dick nodded. His expression was almost suitably somber. Almost.
“Was there anything else?”
“No, no that was it,” Dick said. Still, he remained at his post just inside the door.
“Out.” Bruce pointed for emphasis. “Now.”
Dick left, muttering something about where was Wally when he needed him, to be almost instantly replaced by Alfred. Barely a twitch of an eyebrow, practically microscopic, betrayed Alfred’s thoughts as he placed a pair of freshly pressed pants on the bed. That was enough to make Bruce gaze in the mirror and reevaluate the boxers, however.
“That would depend upon the purpose they are meant to serve, sir.”
“They’re meant to make a statement.”
“They certainly do that, sir.”
Bruce considered the boxers some more. “If Batman was going to wear boxers with hearts on them,” black boxers, with small, faintly fluorescent red hearts, each one pierced by an arrow, “this is what Batman would wear.”
“Just so, sir.”
Bruce sighed. “He’s going to laugh, isn’t he?” The whole evening would be a disaster. What the hell did he know about romance?
“I am quite certain he won’t, sir.” Unshakeable confidence underscored Alfred’s words as he bustled about attending to any last details, and Bruce felt his sense of self-possession gradually return.
Clark wouldn’t laugh. Clark would think it was awesome.
“Your boutonnière, sir?” As Bruce finished dressing, Alfred took the white carnation out of its box and affixed it to Bruce’s left lapel at his nod. “Quite fetching, Master Bruce,” he said as he stepped back and nodded his approval with a ghost of a smile.
Bruce made a face but took one more look in the mirror and just hoped to God Clark would think it was awesome.
Clark Kent hated Valentine’s Day. Oh, once upon a time he had been favorably inclined toward the holiday. Even now he could still appreciate the charming aspects of the holiday in a kind of abstract way. Every day should be Valentine’s Day just as good will to all shouldn’t be reserved for Christmas, of course, but he couldn’t see anything wrong with designating one particular day as the day.
No, his personal disenchantment was of fairly recent origin and could be summed up in one item in this morning’s Gotham Gazette. It was an article about the annual Cupid’s Carnival, a charity ball that was the kickoff to Gotham City’s social season. Glittering and glamorous, the highlight every year was the appearance of Bruce Wayne and his chosen arm candy of the night. For a couple of weeks gossip would run rampant with speculation about when an engagement would be announced. Then a week or so of speculation would follow when it was learned the relationship had ended, with fingers wagged in disapproval over that madcap Brucie toying with the girl’s affections.
There had been a time Clark had found the whole process amusing. It used to be entertaining to hear Bruce grumble about what he had to do just to keep up appearances. Not so much anymore. Not this year, after everything had changed…
Bathed in the pink, sparkly glow of a previously unknown variety of Kryptonite, Clark held his breath and waited as Bruce looked on—and as Krypto huddled on the cave floor, tail tucked between his legs as he whined softly. “It’s okay, boy,” Clark told him. “Not your fault.” He was glad to see Ace go over and give Krypto a reassuring nudge in the side.
It really wasn’t the dog’s fault. He and Bruce should have been more careful while they were examining the chunk of meteorite. The dogs had just been romping around the cave when Krypto had bumped into him, and then Clark had bumped into Bruce, and Bruce dropped the lead-lined box as the dogs scurried for cover, and the chunk of Kryptonite had rolled out to land at Clark’s feet. These things happened.
“Clark.” Bruce took a cautious step toward him. “How do you feel?”
“Not so bad, really. Maybe a little warm. And…kind of tingly?” It sort of felt good, actually. He looked at Bruce. “Is…anything different?” Green Kryptonite was bad enough but at least he knew what to expect from it. Some of the other varieties were considerably less straightforward.
Bruce shook his head. “No, no, you look the same.”
Well, that was a relief. It hadn’t made him invisible, or grow a tail, or turned him into a girl. Although an odd sort of pang passed through him at that thought. It wasn’t that he wanted to switch genders, only that if he did Bruce might actually notice him that way at last.
He would really like Bruce to notice him that way. As he watched Bruce pull off the cowl and run a hand back through his hair, Clark felt something in his belly tighten and flip over at how much he wished Bruce would want him that way.
“You’re so handsome,” he murmured and wasn’t even shocked to realize he had said that out loud.
Bruce was, though. Bruce was looking at him like he might have just grown a tail. “What?”
“I said you’re handsome.” He took a step forward, then another, until he was close enough to reach over and trace a finger along one perfect cheekbone. “You’re beautiful, Bruce, so beautiful.” He stroked an eyebrow, slid his fingers down to rest against Bruce’s lips. “You know how at League meetings sometimes you accuse me of not paying attention? That’s because I’m sitting there thinking of how gorgeous you are, so sexy in all this black leather and Kevlar and with that growl in your voice, and how much I’d love to get you alone and peel you out of it and find out if you growl like that when I make love to you.”
Bruce stared back at him, blue eyes wide. “Clark, you don’t know what you’re saying.”
“Oh, I do, Bruce. I really do,” he whispered, so close now he could feel Bruce’s breath caress his cheek with every exhalation. He carefully cupped Bruce’s face and came in even closer. “I’ve wanted to do this for so long,” he breathed out in the exquisite fraction of an instant before he kissed Bruce’s lips.
Long before he had discovered the man beneath the mask, Clark had fixated on those lips. For so long they were practically all of him that was visible. Usually set in a grim, somber line, he had made a study of that mouth and learned to read its nuances. A slight twitch, a brief upward quirk had grown to be as satisfying as any all-out smile from anyone else. It had been a relatively small leap from there to wondering how incredible it would be to kiss him.
Pretty darn incredible, he concluded as he kissed Bruce and felt him respond. It was slow and gentle at first, barely there kisses, but they built like a stoked fire, and it was Bruce kissing him back that added more fuel. It was Bruce’s fingers tangled in his hair, and Bruce’s agile tongue as it licked into his mouth that made them both groan and gasp and press so tightly against each other that they couldn’t get any closer without being inside each other—and, oh Rao, Clark didn’t need that image in his head right now.
“Bruce,” his lips were against Bruce’s temple, dark hair silken against his lips, “I think I know what Pink Kryptonite does.”
“Yes.” Bruce sighed, and after another endless time of kisses and touches, softer now and wistful, as though this was goodbye, he pushed back from Clark. “It must share properties with Red K in that it lowers your inhibitions and alters your personality.” His matter-of-fact tone would have carried more authority if he wasn’t out of breath from their kisses.
Clark stared at him and tried not to be disappointed that Bruce would take that route. “Do you really believe that?”
“Yes,” Bruce said, not a note of conviction in his voice. “It might,” he glanced around the cave as if seeking something to anchor himself to, like Odysseus lashed to the mast so as to resist the call of the Sirens, “it might possess communicable properties that transmit the effects to anyone you’re close to…” He trailed off and licked his lips and it was all Clark could do not to kiss him again.
Instead he said, “Lowers my inhibitions maybe but, Bruce, that’s all it does. Unless I’ve been exposed to it since the first time we met, it did not create how I feel about you.”
“No.” Clark put a finger against Bruce’s lips. “I have wanted this, wanted you, for so long. I just never let myself hope you might want me back.”
Bruce gave him a look then that was pure Batman and wonderfully familiar. “Idiot. You’re Superman. Anybody with a pulse would want you.”
“I don’t want anybody with a pulse. Just you.”
Bruce looked back at him for the longest time, as if he was turning first this than another possibility over in his twisty, complicated mind. “Twenty-four hours,” he finally said. “Give it twenty-four hours and if nothing has changed—“
“We can go on a date?”
Bruce gave him the look again, but he didn’t say no…
He hadn’t exactly said yes, either, and they hadn’t exactly dated. That was part of the problem. There had been heated, passionate, clandestine encounters—in Gotham, in Metropolis, at the Watchtower, under the three moons of Xirijaan—but there hadn’t been a I’ll-pick-you-up-at-seven-for-dinner-and-a-movie date.
Clark knew it shouldn’t have mattered. It might not have if he didn’t have to hear about Brucie going out with this movie star or that supermodel. He knew those dates didn’t mean anything. He had even experienced a sense of gratification when he noted they had become increasingly infrequent. It didn’t make it any easier to keep up the pretense though, that Superman and Batman were just friends, that Clark and Bruce barely knew each other.
Would the heavens fall if he and Bruce held hands as they walked down the street? Was catastrophe inevitable if they embraced and kissed for all of the world to see? Clark really didn’t think so. He didn’t know if his powers of persuasion were up to convincing Bruce, however.
He knew Bruce couldn’t take him to the ball. He wished Bruce would give him some indication that he wanted to, though.
Clark Kent hated Valentine’s Day. He suspected he was going to hate it for a really long time.
If Clark had thought Valentine’s Day couldn’t possibly get any worse, he quickly found he was wrong when he got to work where his co-workers were all full of chatter about the holiday—some complaining about it, a few lonely hearts in need of a sympathetic ear, while others looked forward to a romantic weekend with their sweethearts that was straight out of a Hallmark commercial. Work provided some welcome distraction, as did a couple of emergencies for Superman. About mid-afternoon, though, when Lois, Jimmy, and even Steve Lombard found it necessary to regale him with their plans for the most romantic day of the year he would have welcomed an alert from the Watchtower that a mass alien invasion was imminent just to get away from it all.
“…and it’s supposed to be a surprise so don’t tell him I told you, but Richard’s whisking me off for a Caribbean weekend…”
“…but this will be the first time Mandy and I meet face to face and I really think it’s going to be great…”
“…I mean, Amber’s not what you’d call a rocket scientist, but hey, what I have in mind, you don’t need algebra for…”
Lois raised an eyebrow at Steve’s comment and mouthed hooker at Clark. Out loud she said, “What about you, Smallville? Anything special lined up this weekend?”
“Umm, well,” he pushed at his glasses, “I’ll probably send Ma some flowers, and there’s a Real Housewives of Gotham City marathon, so…” He let it trail off with a shrug as they all eyed him with varying degrees of pity and disbelief as Clark Kent, superdork, struck again.
“You know, Mr. Kent, I could help you set up a profile on SweetHarmony. I bet they could find you someone,” Jimmy said. He tried to inject as much encouragement into the suggestion as possible and Clark appreciated the effort.
“Maybe I’ll try that, Jimmy. Thanks.”
“Yeah,” Steve said, “or you could put an add on GregsList. Although I don’t know if they have a virgins-seeking-virgins category.”
As Lois and Jimmy glared at Steve, Clark wondered if he could discreetly use his heat vision to set Steve’s pants on fire.
“Ignore him, Clark,” Lois said. “All you need to do is make an effort, put yourself out there.”
“That’s right,” Jimmy chipped in again. “It’s like SweetHarmony tells us, accentuate the positive.”
Lois eyed Jimmy skeptically now. “Is this a dating site or a cult? And what you do really know about this Mandy? You know, I did this story last year about this sleaze ball who was using a dating site like that to meet women and what he was really doing was setting them up to steal their identities. Have you thought about that?”
Alarmed, Jimmy slowly backed away—and right into a delivery guy with a big bouquet of red roses.
“Hey, dude, watch it!
“Oops! Sorry. Wow, Ms. Lane,” Jimmy eyed the bouquet, “looks like someone likes you a lot.”
Lois smiled, already inhaling the flower’s perfume, and reached for the vase. The delivery guy held them out of reach. “Ms. Lane? Nope,” he consulted a piece of paper, “these are for somebody named Kent. Clark Kent? There a Clark Kent here?”
For a moment everyone froze and just stared at him; Lois, Jimmy, and Steve all with matching flabbergasted expressions on their faces. Then they all blinked and pointed Clark’s way, avid interest in their eyes now as the delivery guy handed Clark the crystal vase and dug in a bag for some other items.
“There’s a card, too,” he said and put that on Clark’s desk, “and this box of chocolates,” heart-shaped and made to look like a tuxedo, “oh, and this,” a small, brown leather jewelry box, “and…” he peered in the bag to double-check, “nah, that’s it. Looks like somebody’s popular. I already been tipped,” he said as Clark, more than slightly knocked for a loop, fumbled for his wallet. “I just need you to sign here,” the guy said as he produced a clipboard and pointed.
Clark signed, mumbled a thank you as he was wished a happy Valentine’s Day, and then tried to ignore Lois, Jimmy, and Steve as they continued to gape at him. Right at this moment, he doubted even ripping open his shirt to show them he was Superman would have registered.
Of course Lois snapped out of it first. “So,” she touched a rose petal and gave him a speculative look, “I guess somebody’s been keeping secrets.”
“Umm, well.” He shrugged and pulled up a goofy smile, not really sure how to proceed. Was this an actual public declaration? But then if it was, why hadn’t Bruce delivered the flowers and stuff in person? Why would he hand off something this…this big to some anonymous delivery gu— Oh. Ohhh. Clark swiftly replayed the scene and this time blocked out all of the distracting imagery of red roses and gifts pulled out of a bag. Instead he focused on that delivery guy and tallied up details that wouldn’t stand out to anyone else. The square jaw and a faded scar from an old knife wound; manicured hands that didn’t really fit with a delivery guy—and a bruise on his left wrist from when Metallo got hold of him the other night; and most importantly, a brief upward twitch of lips that Clark would know anywhere in the universe.
“Clark?” Lois waved a hand in front of his face. “You still with us?” To Jimmy and Steve, she whispered, “I think he’s in shock.”
“Maybe he’s got a secret admirer,” Jimmy whispered back.
“If all that’s from his mom, I’m gonna barf.”
Clark blinked. “Gosh, guys, this is pretty swell, huh? I’ve never had a secret admirer before.” He beamed around at them because he had to smile or burst.
“Oh, come on, Clark. There is no way you don’t know who sent all this. Open the card.”
Yes, he should open the card first. He didn’t want to do it front of an audience, though. He had a feeling whatever was in that simple, cream-colored envelope, possessed life-altering potential. Moments like this required some privacy.
“You know what? I should call Ma and tell her about this. You guys don’t mind, right?” As he spoke he stood up and gathered up the gifts. For a moment he was tempted to leave the box of chocolates. On second thought, though, he could see a certain potential for them later. Juggling that and the flowers, he smiled at everyone again and headed for the elevators. He got into an empty car and drew a shaky breath as he halted its descent between floors.
He put the roses and candy box down and withdrew the envelope from his pocket. He had to wait a second so his fingers would stop shaking, then held his breath as he opened it and took out a card. There were no hearts and cupids or any kind of fussy froufrou, just a slate blue, textured card with raised silver print to convey the quiet message: In Case You Were Wondering—he opened the card—I Love You.
He touched the words, caressed those last three, knocked for a loop all over again. The words shouldn’t have mattered. He had said them once, as casual as possible so it wouldn’t look like he expected to hear them back. After all, what could Bruce say that would be more eloquent than the way he touched him? There were whole volumes in every unguarded look, in the smiles only Clark ever shared. What were words next to that? He hadn’t been obsessing or anything, but oh the words filled him with the same kind of warmth and exhilaration that came when he flew bathed in sunlight.
What would it be like when Bruce finally spoke them out loud? Clark was almost afraid to imagine.
Just as he was faintly alarmed right now at what might be in that jewelry box. Only one way to find out, he decided and dug it out of his pocket. He bit his lip, not expecting anything, and opened the lid. For a second he just stared at the pair of cufflinks nestled there, white gold with a geometric design--and set with two perfectly cut, sparkling pink diamonds. Then he sank back against the elevator as laughter bubbled up.
“Perfect,” he murmured. “Perfect.” Maybe he wouldn’t hate Valentine’s Day after all, even if Bruce couldn’t take him to the ball.
About to take out his phone and call him, Clark noticed something else had fallen out of the envelope and bent to pick it up. A hotel cardkey, to the Gotham City Grand Hotel. He turned it over in his hand, not quite sure what to make of it but with a sense of excitement revved up once more.
He took out the card to look at it again, flipped it to check the back, and found Bruce’s message there in his neat, precise hand:
I know it’s short notice, but will you do me the very great honor of being my date tonight for the Cupid’s Carnival ball? If your answer is yes, use the key and find the rest of your gifts inside. If your answer is no, I will understand.
P.S. I hope your answer won’t be no, though.
The words blurred for a moment and Clark had to swipe at his eyes The ache in his throat took longer to fade.
“Oh, Bruce…” He sighed and knuckled his eyes again before replacing his glasses. He nodded to himself and sent the elevator on its way down, and only hoped that massive alien invasion wouldn’t happen now.
Bruce tried not to check his watch again—it would only be three minutes since the last time he looked, after all—and sipped his ginger ale instead. He almost wished it really was champagne in the glass. He could use something to calm the butterflies in his belly. He wished he could be Batman right now. Aggravating, fluttery butterflies wouldn’t dare come near Batman. His alter-ego might even suit the fairy-tale theme of the ballroom’s décor.
Although, if the butterflies knew he was waiting for a date with Superman they might come for him anyway.
This was crazy. It would never work. Already people had stopped to look at him, speculation in their eyes. Bruce Wayne was alone? What did that mean? The buzz of speculation would rise to the level of a swarm of cicadas when Clark appeared. When Bruce took Clark by the hand and led him out onto the dance floor.
Was he really going to do that? Now the moment was almost here, it seemed more like a fantasy than ever. Dreams weren’t supposed to come true. He had learned that long ago. There was nothing but reality and it was unrelentingly hard and cold. Anger and rage were the only emotions he could allow himself. Nothing else was productive. Nothing soft could last. He had known that with an absolute certainty right up to the day an arrogant demigod had the gall to invade his territory and illuminate his darkness.
Like dominoes tumbling, one breach after another of his defenses had followed. Because what no one else knew about the demigod was that, along with heat vision and flight and bullets bouncing off his chest like Nerf balls, he was possessed of preternatural relentlessness. A persistently sincere and unflaggingly cheerful, about to burst into a chorus of The Sun’ll Come Out Tomorrow any second, preternatural relentlessness.
One moment he was battling back the darkness with no other backup than Jim Gordon and the next thing he knew he was part of the Justice League. One minute his secrets were all scrupulously guarded, shared with no one but Alfred; in the next, he had entrusted all of it to Clark. Sometimes he even wondered if he would have been moved to become Dick’s guardian if Clark hadn’t already knocked down so many of his barricades.
Was this inevitable? Were their paths always going to intersect like this? Bruce didn’t know if that idea troubled him more than the way the choice had been taken from both of them by a stupid piece of rock. Or was the stupid rock thing part of the whole destined to happen package? He wasn’t sure how he felt about that, either.
The stupid rock thing had horrified him; unable to do anything but stand there and watch as the unknown chunk of Kryptonite rolled across the floor to stop at Clark’s feet. He hated feeling like that. It was too much like…like the other time he could only stand by and watch as his world was shattered.
He didn’t believe in miracles, either, but Clark reporting that he only felt warm and tingly had felt like one. Maybe this variety of Kryptonite was inert, harmless. He had been considering the implications of that, the potentials for a better understanding of how Kryptonite worked, when Clark…said what he said. That distracted, far off look on Clark’s face at JLA meetings wasn’t because he had the attention span of gnat but because Clark had a fantasy going where he dragged Batman off to his quarters and did things to him that would shock the Superman Fan Club?
Things like that were always too good to be true. Doubly so when they were brought about my Kryptonite exposure. He had been so positive of that—and so very, wonderfully wrong. They both would have preferred if everything had come about in some other manner, of course. At the rate things had already progressed, Bruce would have gotten around to saying something. Eventually. In, say, ten or twenty years.
If he had ten or twenty years.
Pensive, all the arguments against this ready to rise up, he became aware of some buzz of excitement in the crowd and he looked around at the grand staircase—and caught his breath. He had been keeping an eye on the elevators, not the ballroom’s mezzanine, its grand staircase. If Clark showed up at all, Bruce had anticipated a discreet entrance. As he watched Clark come down the stairs, those incredibly blue eyes fixed on him and nothing else, he had never been more pleased to be proved wrong.
It wasn’t Clark Kent coming towards him, though. Not exactly. Nor was it precisely Superman. He stood tall and straight and unbelievably handsome in a tuxedo that fit him as perfectly as Bruce had known it would. A match to Bruce’s boutonnière was pinned to his lapel, and the cufflinks glittered as a shaft of light hit them and the sight of them would have brought a smile to Bruce’s face if he wasn’t already grinning like a loon. He still wore the glasses, and his bangs fell across his forehead instead of the S-curl, but Bruce knew this was Kal-El of Krypton who walked toward him. Unearthly, a fairy-tale prince, a demigod indeed.
“I wasn’t sure you’d come.”
“Wild horses and parademons couldn’t keep me away.”
Bruce smiled some more, content just to drink in the sight of him. Then he wanted to laugh as he heard the orchestra start up a slow and lush version of Someday My Prince Will Come.
“Shall we?” he asked, and held out his hand.
He nodded. “I’m sure.”
Clark nodded back and took his hand. “Did you ask for this song?” he said as they moved out onto the dance floor.
“Not this one, no.” It was awkward at first as they learned how to fit together, but by the time the song was over they were as perfectly in synch as if they had been doing this all of their lives. “I asked for this one,” he said as the orchestra started on a classic pop song he had always liked. “Time After Time. Do you know it?”
They adjusted to the new tempo, not missing a beat, as Clark said, “I don’t think so.”
Bruce managed to get even closer to him, his lips almost against Clark’s ear as he softly sang the first lines of the song. “Time after time, I tell myself that I’m, so lucky to be loving you…”
“I want to kiss you.”
Bruce nuzzled the ear. “Who’s stopping you?”
Clark pulled back a little bit to look at him, faint disbelief in his expression. So soft only Bruce could hear it, he whispered, “Who are you and what have you done with Batman?”
Bruce didn’t blame him. If he wasn’t here, he wouldn’t believe it, either. “I think we’re already the talk of the town, Clark.”
Clark glanced around the room, all eyes definitely glued to them. “I guess we are,” he murmured, a thoughtful look in his eyes. “I would have been happy just holding hands.”
“We can do that, too.”
Clark smiled, radiant with it. Then, incredibly solemn, as if about to perform some sacred rite, he cupped a hand along Bruce’s face, let it slide around to caress the nape of his neck, and came in for a kiss that was chaste and sexy all at once, and completely, wonderfully real.
“Do you want to dance some more?” Bruce asked.
Clark kissed the corner of his mouth. “Not really.”
Bruce kissed him, not chastely, and caught him by the hand. “Then let’s go.”
Maybe Valentine’s Day wasn’t so bad, after all. Maybe Valentine’s Day, Bruce thought as they headed upstairs, would be his favorite holiday of the year from now on.
“Do it and I’ll slug you,” Bruce warned Clark as they reached their room. There was just something about Clark’s posture, coupled with this being the honeymoon suite that had him highly suspicious of the Kryptonian’s intentions.
The picture of innocence, Clark said, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“Uh-huh.” Quickly now, Bruce had the door open and was inside—just a split second before Clark would have swept him up to carry over the threshold.
“You’re the one who booked the honeymoon suite.” Clark followed him inside and looked around at the sumptuous surroundings. Soft lighting, embroidered rugs on the floor, a comfortable sitting area with a fire, French doors that let onto a balcony, a bed…a really big, inviting bed, covers already turned down.
Bruce swallowed and looked away from that bed. “It was the only room available.”
“On Valentine’s Day?”
Bruce shrugged slightly. “Someone’s plans must have fallen through.” He went over to the French doors, watching the snow that had begun drifting down.
“Or maybe someone’s plans fell right into place.” Clark came up behind him, radiating warmth but not touching. Not yet. “You had me convinced you hated Valentine’s Day.”
“I do hate Valentine’s. I did. I…” He let out a sharp breath and shook his head. Bruce Wayne, debonair playboy—for the first time he really wished that was more than a useful façade. “You change everything,” he said as he tried to work it out. “You make me break all of my rules and I don’t know what to do anymore.”
“Oh. I’m sorry,” Clark said, softly. Too softly, and Bruce turned to face him, in time to catch a look of distress cloud his handsome face just as Clark looked down and away.
“No.” Bruce cupped his chin and raised it, meeting only a little resistance. “No, it’s not a bad thing, Clark.” Expression rueful, he added, “It’s vaguely terrifying, but not bad. You make me smile,” he said, as though that explained everything. Maybe it did.
“It looks good on you. You deserve to be happy, Bruce.”
“I’m not so sure about that. That could be quite the hurdle to get over.”
Clark reached out to trace gentle fingers along a cheekbone. “Hey,” his voice was just as gentle, affectionate humor sparkling his eyes, “I can leap tall buildings in a single bound, remember? Besides,” the finger slid up into Bruce’s hair, mussing it, “for someone who claims he doesn’t know how to do romantic, you’ve been doing a really good job of it all day.”
He shrugged again and looked away, embarrassed, and embarrassed more as he felt his cheeks burn with it. “I get lucky sometimes.” He risked a quick look at Clark and then away again. “It might have something to do with my inspiration.”
“Why the disguise, though? You own The Daily Planet.”
“I wouldn’t want to foster an impression of favoritism.” Bruce sounded prim and preposterous to his own ears.
“Umm hmm. You realize that would carry more weight if you hadn’t just kissed me in a room full of people with camera phones?”
Bruce stared at the embroidered carpet, tracing its labyrinth-like pattern. “If Bruce Wayne brought you flowers it might look like a joke.” He looked up then, meeting Clark’s eyes. “I didn’t want anyone laughing at you. And I…thought it would be…fun.” Embarrassment was a sharp burn again but he didn’t look away this time. He would have missed the look that broke over Clark’s face if he had, tender and vulnerable and as if Bruce had just given him a gift more precious than any jewel in the universe.
Clark reached for him and drew him close, content just to hold him. Bruce pressed into his warmth, content to be held. “In case you were wondering,” Clark nuzzled his temple, “I love you, too.”
Bruce buried his face against Clark’s neck for a moment. Clark had said the words before, as casually as possible, as if to demonstrate it was all right if he didn’t hear them back. Bruce never wanted him to feel uncertain like that again. “So you’ll be my Valentine?”
It was a ridiculous thing to say. Or, it should have been. It didn’t feel ridiculous as Clark kissed him softly, as if they had never kissed before and he needed to savor every touch of lips to his eyebrow, the faint lines at the corner of his eye, his lips. It felt like the most profound question he had ever posed, and there was no trace of irony as Clark’s voice as he whispered back, “Always, Bruce, always.”
He needed a moment to absorb that and wrapped his arms even more tightly around Clark, as if he could embrace the promise.
After awhile, he drew a shaky breath and asked, “And you don’t mind about the pink Kryptonite?” He couldn’t seem to quit worrying about that.
Clark nuzzled his chin, his ear. “I think the pink Kryptonite might be the best thing ever, actually.”
Bruce drew back enough to fix him with a dubious look. “That’s a bit extreme.”
“Compared to the life-and-death, apocalyptic cataclysms I used to think would have to happen for us to get here?”
“Well how did you picture this happening?” Clark’s hold shifted, one broad hand pressed to the small of Bruce’s back, flexing again and again in the best massage he’d ever had.
“I don’t know.” He had never let his imagination wander too far astray down that road. “Maybe just that, one day when we were having coffee, we would look at each other and, and just…know it was time.”
Clark drew his hand slowly up Bruce’s back to cradle the nape of his neck. “I like your version better.”
They were all good, Bruce decided; any thousand permutations of how they met and wound up here was…perfect. Just like their kisses, he thought as he angled his head for Clark’s kiss, desperate for it. Bruce Wayne had studied how to kiss; he could have written an authoritative dissertation on precisely what combination of touch and pressure was needed to achieve any given reaction, right down to when and how to introduce tongue. Everything he thought he knew about kissing flew out the window each and every time Clark’s lips touched his. He had even wondered if Clark’s kiss released Kryptonian pheromones the likes of which no mere human (or even Batman) could hope to resist.
Kissing Clark made Bruce want to tell him that his lips tasted like magic. He knew that would horribly embarrass them both, however and wisely kept his mouth shut. Or—not, actually, as Clark touched his face, fingertips barely grazing his skin, and darted his tongue along Bruce’s lips until they parted to him. Somebody made a noise, frantic and needy, as their tongues brushed and tasted each other and hungrily chased that taste for more. Bruce thought it might have been him. He didn’t care. There was no shame here. No fear.
There were, however, entirely too many clothes.
“Naked.” God, he was out of breath. “We need to be naked.”
They fumbled and tugged at each other, all attempts to disrobe aggravatingly futile.
“I hate tuxedos.”
“Kryptonian formal wear is much more practical.”
Bruce knew it was impossible but he would have sworn Clark sounded out of breath, too.
“This is ridiculous.” Clark breathed out a deep sigh and took a step back. “I can change into my costume like that,” he snapped his fingers.
“Are you wearing your costume?” Bruce had begun to suspect he had something of a fetish about that costume, about discovering it, stretched taut and tight under Clark Kent’s off the rack and ill-fitting suits. He blamed it on that day; a long and maddening day in Metropolis with endless meetings and press conferences and more meetings and every time he looked around there was Clark. There was Clark, most especially, just exiting a storage room and more disheveled than usual because he had just returned from saving the day. Only Bruce knew that. No one else looked at Clark and knew the incredible, mind-blowing secret that was hidden by nothing more than a dorky pair of glasses and a buttoned-down shirt. No one else wanted to drag him back into the storage closet and ravish him on the spot. And no one but Clark, as he’d met Bruce’s eyes across the bullpen, had sensed the electricity that sizzled between them and acknowledged it with a smile that was all Superman.
That day, when all the hoopla of Wayne Enterprises acquiring The Daily Planet was done, Bruce had stayed in Metropolis and presented himself at Clark’s apartment, because if he was thinking of dragging Clark into the nearest storage closet resistance was futile indeed.
Now, every time he opened Clark’s shirt now and found the costume, the excitement of that night, their first time, returned full force. Familiarity had done nothing to dim it, and he had to admit to some slight disappointment now when Clark shook his head and said no, he hadn’t worn it tonight.
“Are you wearing anything underneath?” It was a ridiculous question. Martha Kent hadn’t raised her boy to ever go commando.
Still, the look Clark gave him, well aware he was being provoked, was completely worth it. No one else got to see this side of him, either, a look that was equal parts sultry and smirk and all kinds of provocative as he told Bruce, “Well you’ll just have to find out, won’t you.”
And Bruce looked him up and down thoughtfully and reminded himself that, just like her son, there was more to Mrs. Kent than met the eye.
“What about you?” Clark asked. He stroked a finger down Bruce’s shirt. “Any surprises?”
“You could peek.” Bruce hoped he wouldn’t, though. He still had concerns the cupid’s heart-bedecked boxers were going to provoke laughter at exactly the wrong moment.
“Unwrapping’s half the fun,” Clark said, still teasing. Just as swiftly, he grew serious, an apology forming in his eyes. “You did all of this, Bruce, and I didn’t get you anything, not even a card.”
“Didn’t you?” Bruce laid a hand against Clark’s chest. “Because I would have sworn you gave me Superman.”
Expression deadpan, Clark looked down at himself and said, “Really? Where should I stick the bow?”
Just like that, Clark did it again: made him smile, made him laugh, and it felt very good indeed.
“Come here, you,” he said, still smiling, and pulled him close once more. He kissed the dimple in Clark’s chin, kissed his mouth, bit at his bottom lip and then soothed it with his tongue as Clark made a soft, anxious noise at the touch. Those sounds, every gasp and whimper, were the sweetest music to Bruce and spurred him on. Bruce Wayne, playboy billionaire might be a smoke-and-mirrors act, but like his expertise in kissing it was backed up with considerable, well-honed technique. He knew how to do this. This was simply one of the few times he had truly wanted to.
He stroked his fingers along both eyebrows, along cheekbones any model would sell their soul for, slid his hands down to cradle the beloved face and kissed the corner of his mouth. He stepped back then and looked Clark up and down, ogling for all he was worth. There was a lot to ogle, he thought, and all of it his. Satisfaction colored his expression, his voice, as he said, “You should let me dress you more often.”
“I’d rather let you undress me.”
“Yes,” he let his hand glide down along the starched, white shirtfront, “I would like to unwrap my present, now you mention it.” A flush of pink tinged across those cheekbones and Clark gulped, but he didn’t look away from Bruce’s frank admiration.
Bruce reached for the glasses. “These first, I think,” he said and set them down on the dresser. He frowned in concentration a moment and then ruffled Clark’s hair, black silk sliding between his fingers. “There, even better,” he said, nodding his approval at the fair approximation of the S-curl in its proper place.
“Shh.” He laid two fingers against Clark’s mouth to quiet him—and caught his breath, eyes fluttering shut for an instant, as Clark kissed the callused pads, flicked his tongue against them. The touch was warm and wet, and unexpectedly delicate. It made him think Clark was savoring him, testing to see if he liked the way Bruce tasted. “Stop that,” he said, the protest soft and lacking any real substance.
“Okay.” Blue, blue eyes gazed back at him in complete innocence, even as Clark kissed, licked, and nibbled his way along Bruce’s index finger to the knuckle of his hand.
“You…” Bruce had to lick his lips, swallow before he could continue. “Do you know I used to worry how to approach you because you were probably a virgin who didn’t know the difference between cock and coccyx.”
Clark kissed the knuckle and smiled. “Bruce, I grew up on a farm. Of course I’d know a rooster from a tailbone.”
How anyone could look so smug and innocent at the same time was beyond Bruce. Maybe that was another superpower.
He carefully withdrew his fingers and cast about for some remnant of the debonair nonchalance he was so often rumored to possess. As it was nowhere to be found, he concentrated instead on undoing Clark’s bowtie, pleased to note that his fingers only trembled for a moment. By the time he had the knot undone and had moved on to the shirt, congratulating himself on insisting on no shirt studs despite Alfred’s protests, he felt in command of the situation once more. Even so, working each button free seemed to take a great deal more time and effort than Bruce was sure was usual. By the time he started in on the third, recalcitrant circle of mother of pearl, he was ready to give up and simply rip the shirt off him. Alfred would have strong words for him in that event, however. He could do this. He was Batman, for crying out loud.
“There,” he breathed out with some satisfaction as the button gave up the fight and popped free. “There,” he repeated as he rested the palm of his hand against Clark’s chest. Clark’s…truly magnificent, spectacular chest. Inspiration striking, Bruce tugged on Clark to get him to turn around and face the mirror. “Remember what I said about how I had plans to woo and seduce you?” he asked as he looked at them both in the mirror.
Clark’s eyebrows knitted. “Umm, no, actually.”
Bruce frowned fiercely. “It was implicit in the thing about us looking across our coffee cups and,” he shrugged, “you know.” Did he have to spell out everything? “Pay attention.”
Clark nodded and looked serious. “So, the, ah, wooing?”
“Going out to dinner, that sort of thing. Dating. The works.” The tabloid media would have dubbed them Went or Kayne or something equally ridiculous, with all the usual wildly inaccurate rumors and speculation, but Bruce would have endured it because if anyone deserved to be courted and won, it was Clark.
“Romantic walks in the rain, carriage rides through the park, candlelit baths—that sort of thing?”
“If that’s what you wanted.” Candlelit baths? He hadn’t thought of that one. And he didn’t care if it all sounded like something out of a Scaramouche Romance novel (not that Bruce had ever read one), if that’s what Clark wanted, that’s what Clark would get. “Are you sorry we skipped all of that?”
“Gee, I don’t know. No flowers or candy, or invitations to the ball?” The sparkle of laughter in Clark’s eyes practically said Silly Old Bat.
“Hrm.” Bruce kissed the nape of his neck. “At least no one’s turning into a pumpkin at midnight.”
“Bruce,” a deep, contented sigh as Bruce nuzzled his ear again and found that spot, right behind his ear that made a Man of Steel go weak in the knees as Bruce licked it, “umm, I think it’s the Batmobile that would turn into a pumpkin, not Prince Charming or Cinderella.”
“Which one of them has the magic mirror?”
“Different…” Clark gulped again as Bruce’s fingers slid slowly down his exposed chest, “different fairy-tale. Bruce…” He sighed the name into Bruce’s hair as he turned his face into it. “What are you up to now?”
“Remember,” he murmured, his own gaze riveted to their images in the mirror, “I thought you might need to be coaxed.”
“Seduced.” Lips parted, Clark followed the movement of Bruce’s hand. “You said ‘seduced,’ before.” His breath hitched and came out shuddery as Bruce’s fingers played along the wings of his collarbone, then slowly dragged down until they caught a nipple.
“Semantics,” Bruce said as he played with the nipple. Fingertips circling, rubbing as the tender flesh grew hard and erect against his touch and he would swear he felt excitement and arousal thrum through Clark’s body as he leaned heavily into Bruce. There was some debate regarding the sensitivity of the male nipple. Bruce’s own were quite responsive to tactile and oral stimulation. As for Kryptonians, this particular Kryptonian, at least, was so receptive to this kind of play that Bruce had sent him over the edge a couple of times without touching him anywhere else, and he hadn’t been too far behind himself.
Tonight was about taking things slowly, however. They hadn’t done enough of that; just taken time to enjoy each other, to just luxuriate in all of this. “Open your eyes, Clark,” he kissed his lover’s temple, jaw, and throat, “watch what I’m doing to you.” For a moment, though, as Clark’s long lashes fluttered upward to reveal eyes that had turned an even more intense, electric blue than usual, Bruce had to look away from what he was doing to Clark…to Superman.
This would hit him so powerfully at unexpected moments--with Clark underneath him, writhing against him, arching into him; Clark on his knees before him, those sweet, luscious lips wrapped around him—that this was Superman, rendered completely vulnerable and trusting him completely. It was exhilarating, it was terrifying, and he wasn’t at all certain he should be trusted like this.
But God help him if he could walk away from it now.
“Shh.” He buried his face in Clark’s hair, nuzzled the nape of his neck again and breathed in the scent of him. Citrus and spice, fresh and clean, and underneath it all something elusive that was wholly unique to Clark. Like the air after a summer rain, like sunlight, like the stars… He sighed and pressed his face into Clark’s hair once more and wondered when thinking of Clark would stop sending his thoughts off to fantastical places.
He looked up, met Clark’s gaze in the mirror. “I’m good. I’m just a little…” He faltered for words and wasn’t surprised when Clark supplied them.
He smiled, nodded. “Something like, yes.”
“I know the feeling,” Clark said, and it was impossible to doubt his sincerity even as Bruce wanted to deny that he could possibly inspire a similar feeling in Clark.
Clark’s perfect match should be someone equally bright and shining, not someone scarred and only truly at home in the shadows. Even so, as he looked at their reflections in the glass, he couldn’t deny they fit together…perfectly. So alike, so different, yin and yang; their differences complimented the other and made each other more.
Gaze captivated, arousal shuddered through him as he watched Clark touch his hand where he’d let it rest against Clark’s abs. “Was there more?” Clark asked. He stroked the back of Bruce’s hand, his fingers, sizzling magic in every touch.
Bruce pushed against him, let Clark feel how hard he was. Under his palm, rock hard muscles flexed and Clark put his head back, pressed to Bruce’s shoulder. “We’re just getting started, my love,” Bruce murmured, growled, because he knew how much Clark liked that. Although he did worry that took something away from the endearment.
From the way Clark’s eyes widened, a smile breaking over his face like sunshine, it was clear he needn’t have been concerned. “You said no endearments.”
“I don’t think so. Must have been someone else.”
“Yes, it must have…my prince.”
Bruce had been holding his breath, expecting some variation of pookiepie snuggleums, and released it with some relief. “Your prince, hmm?”
“My prince,” Clark whispered again as Bruce resumed his caresses. “My lord,” he breathed out as Bruce traced the fine trail of dark hairs the led from his belly button. “My god,” he groaned as Bruce’s hand slipped down the front of his pants to cup and squeeze.
Bruce smiled, nuzzled his throat. “My prince will do.”
There had been words exchanged over the matter of cummerbunds as well, with Alfred coming down firmly on the side of no gentleman being properly dressed without one, and Bruce equally resolved that this one time the accessory could be dispensed with. Looking at Clark now, Bruce was glad his will had prevailed on this one. He only wished he could capture this vision forever.
“Don’t move, Clark, don’t move,” he urged him, eager to feast his gaze on him.
If he could capture this, it would have to be like a series of snapshots; it was almost too dazzling to drink in all at once. Black tuxedo jacket pushed back from his hips, a glimpse of silken suspender. Crisp, white shirt hanging open from throat to waist, one shirttail untucked (when had he done that?). Skin, smooth and perfect, kissed by the sun and laid bare to his covetous gaze. Mine, mine, mine, he thought as he watched his hand, so pale in contrast, skim along that expanse of chest and torso even as he drank in more details. The ends of Clark’s tie dangling. Pulse beating fast at his throat. Lips, sweet, kissable lips, parted, the tip of his tongue darting out to wet them. Hair tousled as if Bruce had already taken him to bed. Long, thick lashes half-lowered as his breath came faster and he gasped with need, incredibly turned on just from Bruce looking at him.
“Clark…” Too greedy to share this even with the mirror, Bruce turned him, held him, kissed those lips, almost frantic for the taste of them. Kissed him as if his life depended on kissing him. Maybe it did. Maybe there were Kryptonian pheromones and Bruce was addicted to them; needing them so he wouldn’t wither away in the cold, empty dark.
It beat the hell out of anything Poison Ivy had ever come up with.
Still, he strived to regain some control and pushed back. He couldn’t forsake all tactile contact, though, he never could with Clark, and lightly skimmed his hands along Clark’s ribs, stopping to curve around his waist. “Were you always this incredible?” he said, half-teasing, half…not.
Predictably, Clark looked shy and uncertain, ducking his head for a moment. Bruce expected that. He wasn’t prepare for Clark to ask, “You’re still suspicious of the pink Kryptonite, aren’t you?”
“What? Clark,” he brought one hand back up to cradle Clark’s face, “no, that’s not it at all.”
“Bruce, I know you.”
He sighed. “It’s not the way you think,” he amended. Completely serious now, he said, “Did you lie to me, when you said you had always wanted this? That you spent League meetings daydreaming about this?”
Hurt flashed in those beautiful eyes for a moment. “No. Bruce…no.” Gentle fingers touched his face and Bruce turned into the caress. “I meant every word.”
“And so have I. Clark, whatever the Kryptonite did, it didn’t make this; it didn’t weave this out of nothing.” He caught hold of the back of Clark’s head and brought their foreheads together. “It was a catalyst, nothing more.”
Relief ran through Clark, Bruce could feel it. “But you still want to test run more tests and figure out how it works.”
“Of course. But not right this minute,” he said, and laughed as Clark rubbed their noses together before he pulled back a bit to look at him, still solemn.
“So what do you want to do, right this minute?”
“I believe,” Bruce reached for one shirt cuff and unfastened a pink diamond cuff link, “I was opening my present.”
“Yes, I believe you were.” Clark offered the other wrist.
Bruce looked at the jewelry sparkling in his palm and made a wry face. The cuff links had been an impulse buy, along with the other item still in a box in his pocket. He wasn’t quite sure when he would produce that item. He had a strong suspicion it would only be after he had gone to see Jonathan and Martha Kent and asked for their blessing.
He carefully set the cuff links over on the dresser and then after a moment’s consideration reached over to slip off Clark’s tuxedo jacket. For a second he daringly thought of letting it simply fall to the floor. Somehow, though, Alfred would know of this careless treatment, so upon second thought he laid it over a chair. Clark watched him, smiling, as if he knew all as well.
“Laugh it up, farmboy. You’ve never had the A Proper Gentleman Treats His Wardrobe with Respect lecture.”
“You’ve no idea.” He stood back to admire his handiwork and had to admit the suspenders-over-cummerbund triumph may not have been quite as clear-cut as previously believed. There would just have to be a comparison test one of these days, he decided as he slowly eased the silken straps down from broad shoulders.
“When do I get to unwrap something?” Clark asked, one hand rubbing along Bruce’s pristine shirtfront.
“Hold your horses.”
“Mmmm, no?” The lascivious glint in Clark’s eyes was all the warning Bruce got. Suddenly Clark had a really firm hold on him and was kissing and touching and stripping him with no concession at all to the correct conduct of gentlemen and their wardrobes. “Alfred will never know,” he whispered as they landed on the bed and he reached for Bruce’s belt.
Bruce stilled his touch and caught his breath. Finding himself literally whisked off his feet and deposited in bed was one of those quirks of dating a superpowered, flying alien he still hadn’t entirely gotten used to. “Don’t bet on it,” he said as he turned his head to observe the trail of haberdashery havoc that littered the carpet.
“I’d never tattle,” Clark said, happy and playful as he obeyed Bruce’s wishes and left the belt alone for now. As he leaned over Bruce, not quite literally hovering, the laughter dimmed and shaded over into something grave, with a hint of sorrow as he took in the scars and bruises. “Bruce…” He sighed the name as if it embodied something profoundly sacred and treasured beyond price.
Explaining away the marks on ‘Brucie’s’ body had grown increasingly difficult over the years, and was one of the reasons his bed had grown progressively more empty. When he had bedded someone who didn’t know about Batman, the person had inevitably been surprised and oddly charmed by his insistence on leaving the lights off. “Oh, Brucie, who’d have guessed you were shy?” He had wanted to turn the light off that first time in Clark’s bed. Clark wouldn’t let him. Clark wanted to see…everything. Clark wanted to kiss and make it all better even years after the fact. The funny thing, the amazingly unexpected thing, was that every touch and brush of his lips really did soothe even the very oldest wounds.
It was the same every time. Clark had to chart his body; explore the map of his watchfulness over Gotham, greeting old scars as if they were beloved landmarks and fussing over new wounds he discovered. “How’d you get this?” “Harley surprised me with a stiletto.” Sometimes Bruce wondered if Clark envied him the scars. Sometimes he was a little bit knocked for a loop at how erotic it could feel.
As Clark discovered the fresh stitches on his side and made a concerned noise, Bruce told him, firmly, “No fretting; it’ll spoil the mood.”
Gentle fingertips traced the edges of the wound. “Who was it?”
“Penguin; he got lucky for a second.” Bruce cupped Clark’s chin, tipped it up to him with only a moment’s struggle. “No. Fretting,” he repeated, making sure to enunciate clearly. “I’m fine,” he added. “Alfred does good work.”
A look passed over the handsome face that was part exasperation, part despair. “I’m sure he does,” was all Clark said. Bruce suspected he was remembering the one time he’d had to stitch Bruce up. Anyone would have thought it was Clark’s flesh being pierced with a needle.
Bruce grimaced and found he couldn’t make light of it even in the confines of his own mind. “I don’t go out of my way to get hurt.”
Clark nodded. “I know.”
“I don’t have a death wish.”
Clark kissed him. “I know.”
Bruce sighed. The lives they had chosen offered few guarantees. The battle was never ending, and any given mission could be the last one for either of them. The odds favored Superman, but Bruce had dug enough shards of Kryptonite from his body, and barely administered a life-saving antidote in time often enough to know even Superman might not have forever. He had believed that knowledge would always be the strongest argument against getting involved like. Now he knew it was actually the reverse. They might not have forever, they might not even have tomorrow, but what they had was this moment, and it was precious beyond any price and worth every risk.
“You might be immortal—“
“Bruce, we’ve talked about this.”
He laid two fingers against Clark’s lips to quiet him. “You might be immortal. You might have a thousand lovers.” He smiled and kissed those lips to hush the protest that rose to them. “I want to be the one you never forget.”
“Oh, Bruce…” Eyes too bright, Clark looked at him as if that was the most tremendous thing anyone had ever said, and Bruce wanted to call the words back or at least tell him not to go all weepy. All he could do, though, was hold on tight as could be as Clark enfolded Bruce in all his power, as if he could carry them both to eternity.
“If I lived to be a million, Bruce, there would never be anyone to rival you,” Clark said, words as fierce as his embrace. “There is, there never will be, anyone else like you.”
Bruce nodded once, sharply. “Damn straight.”
They looked at each, Clark’s eyes too bright, Bruce’s throat too tight, the feeling almost too much to endure. “Don’t go all weepy on me,” he said past the tightness.
“Wasn’t going to,” Clark said, with all of Superman’s authority.
“Uh-huh.” Well, there was nothing for it, then. “Take my pants off.”
“Take your…” Clark blinked grumpily. “We were having a moment.”
“So now we’ll have another one.” Laughter, no tears, not tonight. “Take my damn pants off.”
Clark huffed out a breath that ruffled Bruce’s hair and the bed hangings. “I swear,” he went to work on the belt, then the zipper, “you are the bossiest bossy thing that,” he tugged the trousers down Bruce’s hips, “that ever…” Blue eyes grew wide again as laughter swiftly bubbled up and chased sorrow out of the room. “Bruce, that is so—“
“If you say adorable—“
“—awesome,” Clark concluded as he drank in the vision Bruce made, sprawled back on the bed in nothing but his black boxers with all the little red, arrow-pierced hearts. “Bruce,” wonder and delight colored his voice, “they glow in the dark.”
Bruce suspected he might be glowing in the dark just at the moment, and was grateful for the dimmed lighting. “They were going to be my last ditch attempt if everything else failed.”
Clark touched the boxers as if to check they were real and then glanced at him, questioning. “Failed to do what?”
In need of greater privacy, Bruce knelt on the mattress to tug at the bed hangings until the rich fabric surrounded them in cozy warmth and intimacy. “Failed to convey the full depth and extent of my feelings,” he said with great precision.
“Oh.” A Cheshire Cat couldn’t have grinned as widely as Clark did, his eyes sparkling with it. “But what was the plan? Dropping your pants in the middle of The Daily Planet bullpen?”
Bruce grumbled. “I would have weighed my options.” He shrugged, arms folded across his bare chest. “It was a whim.”
Clark was looked at him with wonder again. “You’re never whimsical, Bruce.”
“Idiot,” Bruce said tenderly as he reached for him and dragged him down to the mattress, “I’ve been chasing whimsies since I met you.” He smiled against Clark’s mouth, into his kiss, and it almost felt easy. “Now,” he stroked a hand down his lover’s broad, naked back, the muscles flexing under his palm, “when the hell are you taking your pants off?”
at the stroke of midnight
Fully awake, he smiled into his pillow because that hadn’t been a dream.
When Dom Perignon, the Benedictine monk credited with discovering champagne first tasted his fizzy concoction, it was said he announced, “I am drinking the stars!” For the first time in his life, Bruce knew exactly how the monk must have felt.
A woeful groan came from beside him and he rolled over, frowning. “Clark?” He reached for the other man, huddled under the covers and with his head buried under a pillow. “What’s wrong?”
He cast his mind back over the last couple of hours but couldn’t locate any moment that could be causing Clark this kind of distress. Every moment had been perfect. Clark plucking one of the roses from its vase and teasing, tickling, caressing Bruce with its velvety petals as he groaned and arched into every touch—that had been extraordinary. Or when Clark had trailed the petals along the inside of his thigh, lips and tongue following close behind—that had been truly spectacular. He sank back against the mattress, eyes closed as he remembered every sensation. Clark’s tongue on his shaft, lapping at the tip as Bruce dug his heels and hands into the mattress and pleaded for more. He could swear he still felt Clark inside him, each thrust pushing him, pushing them both closer and closer to the edge.
No; no, there was nothing in any of that to cause either of them misery. Not a bit, he thought, as he licked his lips and felt himself getting ready for another round. Let’s see, not counting the Jacuzzi (should they count the Jacuzzi?), that would make four. Four…and it was just barely midnight.
Another groan from his companion, a whimper really, and not the good kind, and Bruce fumbled with the bed hangings to reach a bedside lamp and turn it on. “Clark, what is it? What’s wrong?”
Clark mumbled something that sounded like, “A roomful of camera phones, Bruce, a roomful of camera phones.” It was that, or, “A broom full of camel stones.”
Bruce opted for the one that made some kind of sense. “What about camera phones?”
Clark finally took his head out from under the pillow. “Bruce, it’s going to be all over the news, what happened downstairs.”
“I imagine so.” Bruce frowned. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“I don’t know,” Clark said and hugged the pillow to him. “They’ll use my middle name, Bruce.”
Bruce took the pillow from him. “Who will? What are we talking about?”
“My parents, Bruce. I haven’t told them.”
Bruce looked at him. “You haven’t told them what?”
Clark gestured between them, at the bed. “This. Us. They’re going to find out when they turn on This Morning, America.”
Bruce shook his head, and rolled his eyes for good measure. “No, they won’t.”
Clark looked at him as if he’d said something brilliant. “You’re right. I can fly out there, disconnect their cable—“
“Or,” Bruce interrupted him and handed over his phone, “you could call them.”
Clark stared at the phone. “Or I could call them. Bruce,” he leaned over and kissed him, “you’re brilliant.” He punched in the number and then shot Bruce another worried look. “They really will use my middle name. They might even use yours.”
“We can weather it, Clark.” He winked at him. “We’re Batman and Superman.”
“Yeah, like that’ll help,” Clark said as the phone rang in Smallville.
Bruce leaned his head against Clark’s shoulder and listened in as Martha Kent picked up the phone and Jonathan Kent, in the background, asked, “Why’s that Wayne boy calling us this time of night?”
“Hush now. It might be about Clark,” Martha admonished her husband. Then into the phone, "Hello, dear. What is it?”>
Bruce whispered in Clark’s ear, “Ask if I can come to dinner next Sunday.”
Clark stared at him, wide-eyed, and told his mother, “Ah, it’s me, Ma. Umm,” he smiled and blushed as Bruce kissed his ear, “Bruce and I have something to tell you…”