It's good, with Bruce.
It always is—that's why they started doing this in the first place, and it's also why they haven't stopped. It's good, it works, and it hasn't changed anything. Bruce probably wouldn't have gone along with it otherwise.
Which is great, because Clark doesn't know what he'd do without it.
Not the sex, or at least not just the sex, even if he's not exactly complaining. The—the relief of it, really. The way it lets him get out of his head, the way it anchors him right where he is; the way there's nothing but Bruce's hands on him, how they make him feel, and putting his hands on Bruce in return.
And it means something, too. The time he gets to spend around Bruce, in Bruce's space. It's hard to imagine he'd ever have gotten to see Bruce's bedroom in the lake house, if Bruce weren't fucking him in it a couple times a week—not because Bruce would have been trying to keep him out, just because there wouldn't have been a reason to.
(Or—he could've seen it, if he'd wanted to, just by hovering over the water and looking through the wall. But that wouldn't have been the same as Bruce letting him in.)
In Bruce's space, with Bruce's things. Not Batman's equipment, not the Batmobile or the Knightcrawler or the Flying Fox. Everyday stuff, stuff Bruce probably doesn't even think about. Getting to see the color of Bruce's bathroom towels, the flavor of his toothpaste, the brand of his razor.
Or, in this particular instance, his frankly ridiculous collection of colognes.
Clark leans closer, runs a fingertip lightly along the row of gleaming glass bottles, a dozen different shapes and colors and labels. He only came in here for a glass of water, throat dry with gasping after Bruce just spent almost forty-five minutes riding him with relentless precision—stopping, whenever he could tell Clark was too close for his taste, waiting Clark out, and then starting again. Clark had used the speed to get in here, hadn't wanted to leave that bed any longer than he had to, but—
But he can never resist a chance to learn a little more about what Bruce likes, what he has. What he chooses to keep.
He goes down the line of them, picking up one bottle at a time and drawing it close to breathe it in; he does it carefully, obviously, because if he opens up the senses too far, gets the full blast of all of them at once, he's probably going to make himself sick.
And he's concentrating hard enough that he doesn't realize Bruce is there until he hears the huff of breath—half a laugh, through Bruce's nose.
He turns around, sheepish, still clutching an ink-black bottle of Clive Christian something-or-other that smells like chopped wood and spices. He'd been stuck on it, pretty sure he'd smelled it on Bruce before, trying to remember exactly when.
Bruce doesn't look pissed, at least. He looks amused, if anything, a warmth to the shape of his mouth and the light in his eyes that Clark hardly ever catches on him except at times like this: after they've fucked, when Bruce is tired for good reasons instead of bad ones, the closest he ever comes to relaxed.
"I was starting to wonder whether you'd gotten lost," he murmurs, tone bland.
He's leaning into the bathroom, a hand on the doorframe, and he's—Clark glances through the wall to check—yep, still naked.
Clark clears his throat. He'd yanked his own briefs back on haphazardly, on the off chance Alfred was still somewhere in the house, but now he's starting to wish he hadn't. He could probably get Bruce in the shower, though, let the briefs get soaked through; Bruce might like that, actually.
"No, I," he says, and then realizes he's still holding the cologne. "I was just, um. Looking."
Bruce gives the bottle in Clark's hand a cursory glance. "You like that one?"
I remember you smelling like this. A few months ago, I think. We'd only just started doing this, I still didn't know how to ask you whether you wanted to keep going, and I wanted to press my face into the side of your throat and breathe you in, but we were in the middle of a publicity tour; you weren't even looking at me, you'd turned away to take a question—
He can't say that. He can't say any of that.
Bruce makes a considering face. "Not bad," he allows, and then looks past Clark at the shelf, leans a little closer, narrows his eyes. "Mm, here," he adds, and extends a hand, reaches past Clark; screw cologne, he smells like the sheets on his bed, like sweat, like come, like Clark—
The maneuver's smooth enough that Clark only just glances down in time to catch it happening, sleight of hand: the Clive Christian bottle's gone, and in its place, between Clark's fingers, Bruce has deposited a different one, brushed pale gold.
"This one," Clark repeats blankly.
Bruce makes a loose gesture with one bare shoulder, not quite a shrug. "Keep it."
"Keep—are you kidding me?"
"Clark, I've got a hundred of those things, I can't even keep track anymore," and that's a brass-balled lie, Clark thinks, because Bruce never met a detail he couldn't keep track of; because he'd leaned over like that and looked for this, picked it out.
"I," Clark says. "Bruce, I can't—I didn't mean—"
Bruce's mouth softens. "You weren't asking, I know," he agrees, and then, strange, soft, "You never do." He reaches out and closes his hand around Clark's, around the gold bottle in it. "Keep it. And come on, unless you were planning to tap out before round two?"
Clark wets his lips—without even thinking about it, just reflex, except he sees Bruce's gaze track it, Bruce's eyes hot and dark. "No," he admits, and lets Bruce draw him closer, into a filthy kiss and back out the bathroom door at the same time, stumbling through together, hands all over each other.
Clark loses track of the bottle, somewhere between the bathroom and Bruce's bed. Which is fine with him; he'd been planning to sneak back later, put the bottle back on the shelf where it belongs.
It takes three days for him to notice, standing in his apartment and going through the pockets of all his pants before he does his laundry—he doesn't know what it is at first, doesn't recognize the shape, and then realizes what it must be just as he's pulling it out.
Jesus. He laughs and shakes his head. He can't imagine when Bruce managed to find the time to put it in there, how he'd done it without Clark noticing that he was.
But it's the same bottle, pale gold, so shiny Clark feels a little bad about getting his fingerprints all over it. It wasn't one he'd gotten to yet, when he was working his way down the line and smelling them. He holds it up, untwists the lid just a quarter turn, and breathes it in.
Citrus, he thinks. Citrus, and something warm-spicy-salty; it smells like ocean, like hard work, like an orange grove in sunlight.
He wonders if that's what it smells like to Bruce. If that's why Bruce picked it for him.
He closes his eyes, and rubs a thumb over the smooth glossy curve of the bottle. He should give it back. Knowing Bruce—knowing Bruce Wayne—it's, jesus, hundreds of dollars, too much. Nothing Bruce should be trying to hand off to him on the spur of the moment. He should give it back.
But he doesn't want to.
It's wrong of him, selfish, and he knows it is. But he wants to keep it. This thing, this thing that belongs to Bruce, and Bruce gave it to him; and he can have it, keep it, even after—
Even after this thing is over. Even after Bruce has run out of reasons to keep sleeping with Clark, and Clark has lost him, there will still be one thing Clark has left of him.
What a stupid thing to think. What a ridiculous amount of weight to give a tiny gold bottle.
But Clark goes and puts it in his bathroom, next to the sink, and doesn't give it back.
two: dress shoes.
"If I could just speak to Mr. Wayne for a few minutes, please?"
The guy at the door continues to look deeply skeptical.
"I have an appointment," Clark tries. "Or, um. I had one," and he carefully leaves off before he blew it off, but imagines the guy can probably hear it anyway. "I had one of his assistants call him, he knows I'm coming—"
"Oh, hey, Kent! Is that you?"
Thank god. Clark doesn't know what the hell Bruce was thinking, forcing him to track Bruce down at whatever Metropolis high-street—bespoke shoemaker is responsible for all Bruce Wayne's dress shoes. Jesus.
He gets shown into the back, where Bruce is seated comfortably, one arm hitched up on the back of his chair and the other dangling absently across his thigh, socked toes twiddling idly. It's been months now, and Clark still hasn't gotten used to that: to walking into a room with Bruce, and finding himself facing Bruce Wayne instead.
"Kent," Bruce repeats, genial, at a conversational volume this time instead of the shout he'd let out before. "Hey, hi, sorry, you know how it is—last pair was practically giving me calluses, my pedicurist was tearing his hair out. When they said they could fit me in today and do some adjustments, I had to jump on it."
"Of course, Mr. Wayne," Clark says, and it's a little harder to make Clark Kent sound irritated than it probably ought to be.
Bruce grins at him. "Come on, come on, sit down. You wanted to talk to me about something, right?"
"Yes, Mr. Wayne, I'm looking for a statement from you regarding Wayne Enterprises R&D and your recent investment in exploring new ways to store and manage the power generated by solar—"
"Wow, that sounds boring," Bruce observes. "Take your shoes off."
Clark blinks. "Mr. Wayne, I don't. I—take my shoes off?"
"Yeah," Bruce says. "Who wants to be the only guy in the room with no shoes on?"
"I'm not taking my shoes off, Mr. Wayne," Clark says firmly.
"No, listen, you might as well get something out of spending an hour chasing me down, Kent," Bruce says, all Bruce Wayne's toothless amiability, and then he turns his head and shouts, "Can we get Maurice out here for a minute? Get some measurements, set up a last for my friend Mr. Kent?"
"I appreciate the thought, but that really isn't appropriate—"
Bruce turns back toward him, and for a second it's—it's Bruce, deliberately so, the wry awareness in the gaze and the angle of the pointedly raised eyebrow.
Clark's voice dies in his throat.
Because, technically speaking, Bruce isn't wrong. Shoes or no shoes, this is already wildly inappropriate on about half a dozen different levels. They're Batman and Superman, they're habitually lying to everyone around them, they're sleeping together—take your pick. Bruce is hardly going to be able to suborn Clark Kent's good opinion with a pair of custom hand-fitted dress shoes, if he hasn't got it already.
"Bruce, I don't need shoes," Clark hisses, last-ditch. "I can float—"
"You're only saying that because you've never had shoes like these," Bruce murmurs imperturbably. "All they need to do is take your measurements, make some notes. A couple of weeks, a preliminary fitting, and they'll deliver the finished pair right to your doorstep."
There's one chair separating them; Clark chose to seat himself with a polite buffer in between them. Bruce shifts over, closes that reasonable distance, and Clark hopes distantly that Maurice is really, really busy, wherever he is, because the last thing Clark needs right now is someone walking in and seeing Bruce Wayne's hand skim coaxingly down into the small of Clark Kent's back.
Clark swallows. "Bruce—"
"Here," Bruce says, and Clark blinks and glances down: with one socked toe, Bruce snagged the right shoe of the pair he'd come here in, brought it with him when he moved toward Clark, and he's sliding it another six inches across the dark sleek wood of the floor, until it bumps Clark's shoe. "Take your shoes off."
Jesus. This is ridiculous.
"One shoe," Clark compromises, and he catches the heel of his right shoe against the arch of his left, pops it off. Clark Kent wears cheap, comfortable shoes, unremarkable brown, scuffed and starting to wear through in a couple conspicuous places—nothing like Bruce Wayne's hand-tooled polished leather dress shoes. Them in a nutshell, Clark thinks, looking down at the wild mismatch. "I can't believe I'm doing this," he adds, and sticks his foot in Bruce's shoe.
Bruce does have a shoe size on him, maybe a size and a half. It's not like he can't get his foot in there, and it's not like it's uncomfortable.
But Clark, sitting there, hot-faced, finds himself with a dim suspicion that most of his assessment of Bruce's shoe has more to do with the sensation of leftover warmth, the awareness that it's Bruce's, Bruce's thigh pressed as if absently along the length of Clark's, Bruce's hand low and open on his back, than Clark having developed the ability to appreciate a bespoke shoe properly in the last two seconds.
"Okay," he hears himself say.
Bruce is watching him, intent, too close. "You'll take the shoes," he presses, voice low.
"I'll—take the shoes," Clark agrees helplessly.
And however gleefully Bruce Wayne shouts for Maurice to hurry up and take care of his friend Mr. Kent, the slant of Bruce's mouth and the spark in his eyes right then, in the moment Clark says yes, are all Bruce.
three: sock garters.
Looking back, it feels like more of a surprise that it hadn't happened a lot sooner. But for all that Clark loves looking at Bruce in Bruce Wayne's business suits, he hasn't actually gotten to peel Bruce out of them very often. Most of the time, when they end up fucking, it's at the end of a long day, Bruce already dressed down to work on something in the Cave or at the Hall—or after a mission, urgent with adrenaline, only half out of their uniforms. On a weekend, now and then, when Bruce gives Clark a call to see whether he's got an hour or two to spare, and is already ready for him by the time he arrives, no matter how fast he moves.
Clark isn't even looking, at first. He's got Bruce up against a wall, has pinned him there at the hips with one forearm, because the way Bruce looks at him when he does things like that hasn't escaped his notice. He's busy working Bruce's slacks down his thighs with the other hand, pressing his mouth to Bruce's cock through Bruce's briefs and listening to the ragged noises Bruce is trapping in the back of his throat—
And then his urgent, clumsy fingertips catch on something where he wasn't expecting anything to be. He frowns just a little, startled, and drags Bruce's slacks down a few inches further, leans away just far enough to look down and see the stark black circle rounding Bruce's calf, the slim neat straps and discreet flattened clips.
Jesus, it shouldn't be hot. It should be ridiculous. But Clark already had maybe a few too many opinions about Bruce's legs—the cut of muscle at his hips, the sheer mouthwatering definition in his thighs—and apparently his calves are no exception. The black band of the garter just emphasizes the shape of them, and slim dark straps drawn taut over pretty much any part of Bruce's body are never going to make Clark less relentlessly hard for him.
"Clark?" Bruce's voice is remarkably even, for somebody who just had a mouth on his cock suddenly disappear.
"You've got to be kidding me," Clark manages, sliding a finger around the top of the garter, dipping a fingertip under the edge.
He makes himself look up, past the beautiful straining shape of Bruce's cock in his briefs, and catches the tail end of comprehension stealing over Bruce's face, a soft wicked slant angling Bruce's mouth.
"Oh, I see," Bruce murmurs, and adopts a considering expression. "Is it just the garters, or is it more of a leg thing in general? How do you feel about fishnets?"
Clark chokes on a laugh, and it's half at Bruce, how deliberately outrageous he's being, but it's half at himself—because he can feel the heat in his face at the picture that puts in his head.
And after a second, Bruce must be able to see that heat for himself. The look on his face changes to something else, something gentle and serious and intent; he drops a hand to Clark's cheek, touches the apple of it where it must be going steadily red.
"That looks like a check mark for fishnets," he says quietly. "Duly noted."
"Bruce," Clark manages. "You don't—you don't have to—"
"Clark," Bruce says in his turn, softer still. "If I've somehow given you the impression that I need my arm twisted here, let me correct it."
Clark doesn't get to finish sucking Bruce off against the wall; they fuck on the floor instead. The socks, and the garters, don't come off. It shouldn't be as good as it is.
But then it's always so goddamn good, with Bruce.
The week after that, Clark finds a package in his room at the Hall.
He doesn't get to stop by, really spend time there, as often as he'd like; he can't say for sure how long it might have been there. He stares at it for a second, just lying there innocently on the edge of the perfectly-made bed in his quarters—but it must be fine. Right? It could never have gotten this far inside the Hall if there were something dangerous inside it. And—
And he doesn't want to look through the packaging if he doesn't have to. He's always kind of treasured safe opportunities to let himself be surprised.
He shakes himself, blowing out a breath, and reaches for it. A small box, that's all. Printed with a logo that's not unfamiliar, but Clark can't place it until he actually opens the box.
Then the brand rings a bell. It's some clothes store. Personal clothing and accessories, something like that.
Because the box is holding half a dozen pairs of men's sock garters, and—Clark digs two fingers in past them, finds what feels like a wide cardboard tab and pulls it out.
Fishnet stockings. Of course.
He grins, snorts and runs his fingers over the thick crisscross pattern. Bruce hadn't said he had a thing for fishnets; then again, buying these and leaving them on Clark's bed isn't exactly subtle of him.
The garters are going to be a hell of a lot easier to try on, though.
Clark sits down on the edge of the bed, lets the box drop to the covers next to him and picks one of the garters free of the mass. Not that jeans are the right pants to wear them with, but hell, nobody's looking.
He tugs one leg of his jeans up, and, well, it's just practical—his sock's already sliding down anyway.
There isn't anything particularly hot about the feeling of pulling it on. It's just a neat thick band of elastic, soft enough that he can hardly feel it once he's got it up over the meat of his calf, but strong enough that he can buy it could keep a sock right where it's supposed to be.
He runs a thumb along the line of it, flicks one of the straps with its little clip over his fingers and then back again.
If he's wearing them, next time—will Bruce think they're hot, too? Will Bruce get too distracted to take them off him? Or—or even use them, drag Clark's legs up around his waist and leave a thumb hooked in one of them—
(Will Bruce want to hold onto him, then? Will Bruce want to keep him?)
When Bruce pulls Clark aside into a discreetly curtained alcove at the Metropolis-Gotham Charity Ball, a jewelry box isn't the last thing Clark's expecting him to draw out of the inside pocket of his suit.
But it's pretty close.
Clark blinks down at it. "Bruce, what—?"
"Please, Clark," Bruce says, in a warm undertone. "I know you've got an image to keep up, but that doesn't mean you can't have any standards."
He raises an eyebrow, and pops the box open. Clark had almost managed to convince himself there was going to be an earpiece, a selection of bugs Bruce wanted Clark to install around the ballroom, a blow dart. So it's a surprise all over again when it's just—actual jewelry.
Except it's not just actual jewelry, because it's Bruce. Cufflinks; and they're understated, it's not like there are six-carat diamonds staring up at Clark from the middle of the dark velvet backing, but Clark doesn't even want to imagine how much they must've cost. They look like silver, or maybe white gold, inset with brillant blue that Clark decides to believe is lapis, because if Bruce dragged him over here to give him sapphire cufflinks, he's starting to think he might pass out.
"You've got to be kidding me," he breathes, and takes a nice long step away, shaking his head helplessly. "You've got to be kidding me—I can't take those. You know I can't take those."
He's already turning away, ready to shove back out past the curtains and get to the other side of the ballroom as fast as he can, find a dark corner of his own where he can try to catch his breath—but Bruce has him by the wrist before he can do it.
Clark shuts his eyes, and goes still.
He should leave. He could leave. He's Superman; there's no way Bruce can possibly stop him.
"Borrow them, then," Bruce says, low, and tugs, just a little. Clark yields, because he always will, because he can't do anything else when it's Bruce asking, and Bruce draws him back around, gentle, an inch at a time. "Borrow them for the evening."
Clark bites down on the inside of his cheek, and doesn't open his eyes. "Bruce, there's no way I can possibly pretend I just happen to own—"
"Sterling silver with a lapis inset?" Bruce murmurs blandly.
Okay, so it's definitely not lapis. Jesus.
But he doesn't manage to pull his hands away. Bruce lets him go for a second, instead—pulls the cufflinks out, that must be it, and slides the empty box back in his pocket, and then he takes one of Clark's wrists, turns it so the inside is facing up, and slips two fingers inside Clark's cuff.
Just drawing it out, that's all. Clark Kent owns nothing but crappy suits, wore the darkest and least-wrinkled one to this event, but he does his raised-right Kansas-boy best when he starches and irons his dress shirts. Bruce coaxes the crisp sleeve to the right length, catches the edge alongside the buttonhole between his thumb and forefinger, and fastens one cufflink in place.
The second one is—is even worse. The cuff's caught, on that side, and Bruce's hand is warm, long gentle fingers sliding up the inside of Clark's wrist to catch it, Jesus fucking Christ. Clark can't breathe, so lucky for him he doesn't need to.
And then it's over. Bruce doesn't move.
Clark opens his eyes.
Bruce is standing impossibly close, not touching Clark anywhere except his fingertips lingering against Clark's wrist; he was looking down, at the cufflink now neatly fastened in Clark's sleeve, but then his eyes come up, a single excruciating sweep of eyelashes, and Clark can't look away from him.
Bruce lifts his other hand, touches Clark's cheek—his temple, almost, just at the outside of his eye, as if—
His eyes. His eyes are blue.
Bruce had planned this. He had to have planned this. He hadn't just happened to be carrying around a pair of cufflinks almost literally in his back pocket, cufflinks that worked with Clark Kent's least terrible suit and matched—and matched his—
"There," Bruce says, so artificially light Clark almost flinches from it. "Now at least you won't look quite so underdressed. You're welcome, Mr. Kent."
Clark can't equal his effort, and doesn't bother to try. He doesn't want to, anyway. He doesn't try to smile, doesn't make his face do anything except what it wants to do, and he doesn't look away from Bruce.
"Thank you," he says quietly. "They're beautiful. Thank you, Bruce," and then he takes Bruce's face in his hand and kisses him.
It's fine; they're hidden. Bruce wouldn't have done any of this if they were visible to anyone else, in either the hallway or the ballroom beyond it.
But Bruce doesn't kiss him back as if it's fine. Bruce sways into him, grips his wrist with sudden intensity, for an instant utterly overwhelming and surrounding. And then he jerks away, sucks in a sharp breath and turns on his heel and steps out of the alcove without a backward glance.
For a long, stunned second, standing there alone in the dimness, Clark's almost worried there's something wrong—that he's angry, somehow, or that Clark made a mistake.
But he gets himself together, pastes Clark Kent's harmless expression onto his face, and steps out into the hallway, back to the ballroom; and the entire rest of the night, every time he turns around, he catches Bruce's eyes on him, over and over again. The cufflinks feel heavy, a solid reassuring weight, drawing the cuffs of his sleeves into a gentle clasp around his wrist—as if Bruce is still holding him there, even from across the room.
five: a suit.
Bruce shows up with the suit on a Saturday afternoon.
Clark's not expecting it. He'd thought maybe Bruce might call, the way he did sometimes on weekends, and if he did, Clark could just speed his way through throwing something on and head right over. The knock on the door is a surprise, and then he looks through the door and sees Bruce, and reflexively says, "Come in," even though it can't possibly be an emergency, something mission-critical for the League, or Bruce would've found a quicker way to get in touch—
And then there he is, sitting openmouthed on his couch in an old t-shirt and ragged cut-offs, when Bruce steps through the door.
"Uh. Hey," Clark hears himself say.
"Hey," Bruce echoes, bland, but one corner of his mouth is halfway to a smile.
Clark registers the garment bag hanging from Bruce's hand in the same moment that Bruce raises it illustratively.
Oh, god. Clark bites his lip.
It can't be worse than the cufflinks, he tells himself, and stands. "What's this?"
"A suit," Bruce says.
Bruce looks at him. Bruce's face, his eyes, shutter briefly, unreadable, opaque. He just stands there. And then he eases back into motion with a tilt of his head, a businesslike crisp tone, and says, "I'll be conducting surveillance at Aragawa next week. It would be for the best if you were able to get inside on short notice without drawing too much attention—"
Clark closes the distance, reaches out and closes a hand around Bruce's, around the hanger of the garment bag. "Why?" he says again, softer, without looking away.
Bruce's throat moves. He's gone still again, searching Clark's face. "That was the good reason," he murmurs.
"Okay," Clark says. "What's the other reason?"
And Bruce is silent for a long stretching moment, before he says, so steadily and evenly that it's almost conversational, "Because I want to see you in it."
Clark can feel the rush of heat to his face, the eager idiotic kick of his heart behind his ribs.
It's not everything he wants from Bruce. But it's pretty goddamn close.
"All right," he says, and he takes the garment bag from Bruce's hand, lifts it away, and goes and shuts himself in the bedroom.
He lays the garment bag out across his bed. It's a nice day; the room is sunny, bright, and it feels almost unreal. His heart is pounding.
He unzips the garment bag, and looks down at the suit inside of it. He knows what he wants to do. He doesn't know whether it's the right decision, but
(—Because I want to see you in it. The sound of Bruce's voice, the shape his mouth had made around the words, the look in his eyes as he'd said it—)
maybe it isn't the wrong one.
Bruce had been right about the shoes. They'd been delivered a couple weeks ago, the bill discreetly marked as already paid. Clark had put them on, one time, just to feel them, and they were the most comfortable shoes he'd ever worn—but Clark Kent couldn't show up to an event in dress shoes that looked like those, and he'd put them away.
He pulls them out now. Strips out of his t-shirt, the cut-off shorts, fast enough that he hears a seam give somewhere, but it's not like it matters. Socks first, and he's drawing them up his shins, smoothing them down, when he remembers—fumbles in his bedside table, digs around, and comes up with the garters. They go on as easily as they did the first time, and he fastens the clips carefully, lining them up, making sure the straps lie flat and taut against the sides of his calves.
Slacks next. Wherever Bruce got his measurements from—and isn't that an unnerving thought to ponder—they were accurate. The fit is perfect, good enough that it's almost embarrassing, a fresh wave of heat under Clark's skin, imagining Bruce relaying the exact dimensions of Clark's ass to some poor beleaguered tailor.
Then, at last, he can slip the shoes on.
Dress shirt, and the suit is three-piece; waistcoat, then jacket. And of course, of course, Bruce had thought this through just as carefully as he ever does: it's black, but it's got tiny pinstripes, pale, almost exactly the same color as the white gold in the goddamn cufflinks.
Clark shuts his eyes, swallowing hard.
He hadn't known what the hell to do with them. Borrow them for the evening, Bruce had said, and then he'd conspicuously failed to come anywhere near Clark for the rest of the night, hadn't offered Clark a single opportunity to return them. Clark should've done it anyway, days ago—he should've used the superspeed, blitzed his way into the lake house and left them resting on Bruce's pillow.
But he hadn't. They're sitting by the sink in the bathroom, ten times as valuable as anything else in the apartment, lying there gleaming next to Clark Kent's half-squeezed toothpaste and cheap floss.
Clark opens the bathroom door, reaches out and picks them up. His own breath is loud in his ears, as he watches himself put them in—one, and then the other, and in every movement of his hands, his fingers, is the ghost of Bruce's, the way it had felt to stand there and have Bruce touch him like that.
And then the cologne, in its delicate gleaming bottle. Not too much, Clark tells himself, because jesus, he feels unsteady on his feet, half an inch from spilling the whole thing on himself; but his hands don't shake after all, as he applies a dab to either side of his throat, to the insides of his wrists. Just enough that he can smell it himself, sucking in a shaking breath after he's done. Just enough that Bruce will be able to smell it, if he leans in close—
Clark closes his eyes, digs his teeth into his lip, opens them again. He can't tell how he looks, what Bruce might see. He just sees himself, himself in the things Bruce bought for him, the things Bruce gave him, as if he's Bruce's to provide for, to dress up, to please. As if he's Bruce's.
He steps away from the mirror, and goes back out.
Bruce is waiting for him quietly, standing perfectly still, patient and unbothered. He hears Clark's footsteps, he must, because as Clark comes back out into the main room, his head comes up, and his eyes find Clark.
Clark can see it, can map his progress almost to the second: his gaze dropping to Clark's shoulders, one and across to the other, and a drop down to the hips, one side and then the other there, too, cataloging the suit, assessing its fit.
The hips—Clark let his hands settle at his sides. That's when Bruce's gaze catches on the cufflinks.
One, and then the other, and then a leap back, confirming, before his glance cuts upward, sharp, back to Clark's face. A drop again, all the way down to the shoes, and whatever it is Bruce is able to recognize, the quality of the leather or the pattern of the stitching—he knows which shoes these are. He has to.
Clark hears the breath catch in Bruce's throat; checks, helpless, unable to stop himself.
Bruce's heart is pounding.
"Clark," Bruce says, very low, strange and tentative, and steps forward—crosses the room, and his hand finds the nape of Clark's neck, and for a moment they're practically cheek-to-cheek, a shivering fraction of an inch holding them apart everywhere except Bruce's palm against the back of Clark's neck.
He doesn't do anything obvious, then. He just inhales, long and slow. But that's enough, it must be.
"Why?" he murmurs into Clark's ear.
Clark shuts his eyes. "I don't have a good reason," he whispers, hoarse.
"Then give me the other reason," Bruce says softly.
"I like to," Clark says. "I like it when you give me things. I like to wear them for you. Because when I do, I almost think—" He stops, and swallows. It doesn't help. "When I do, you look at me like—"
Bruce makes a hard, raw sound in the back of his throat, and suddenly his thumb is against Clark's jaw, his face turned into Clark's, his mouth, and they're kissing.
It's deep, slow and intent and overwhelming, and by the time it's over Clark's eyes are hot, his throat aching. Bruce doesn't leave him there after, doesn't walk away; he stays right where he is, face tipped against Clark's, pressed together at the temples, breathing each other's air.
"I like to give you things," Bruce says quietly. "But you need to tell me if it's—if it's more than you want to accept from me."
Clark can't help it; he snorts half a laugh through his nose. "Bruce, the cologne was more than I wanted to accept from you. You'd passed more than I wanted to accept from you a few thousand dollars before the goddamn cufflinks." He shakes his head, just a little, just enough to brush his cheek against Bruce's and feel the rasp of Bruce's stubble. "But I took them anyway. Because it meant something to me, to have these things you'd wanted me to have, to think I was going to get to keep them."
And Bruce draws away from him then, just enough to meet his eyes.
"You can," Bruce says. "You can keep them. You can keep—" He stops. His throat works. "You can keep everything, if you want to."
Jesus. Of course he can't just say it. They're both so terrible at this, they almost deserve each other.
"Okay," Clark says, and pulls him in again.
Because he's Clark's; and Clark's not giving him back.