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Clark Kent chose this job for a reason. The reason, this time, is that nobody raises an eyebrow when he pitches an in-depth investigation into kryptonite trafficking.

He's been tracking the movement of it on his own time for months now. Most of it is still coming from southern India—an impromptu industry has sprung up around the shattered remains of the World Engine: pearl divers combing the seabed for a new treasure; ton upon ton of sand panned and scoured for the smallest fragments of the mineral. Maybe it happened spontaneously, considering how much Luthor paid for his motherlode, but his research tells him that there was no such activity for the duration that Superman was dead. Something has precipitated this since his return.

Maybe his return in itself, but there was no mention of kryptonite in the press. It's not general knowledge that it's his Achilles heel; in fact, Clark suspects the only detailed information extant is emphatically stamped classified. Regardless, now there is a demand and he wants to know who, or what, is driving it. There is only so far he can pry on his own, so he leverages the Planet's resources to learn what he can.

Which isn't a whole lot. Eighty-nine percent of the stuff is brought into to the States, six to Russia, the rest split between a number of different countries. A decent quantity does end up in legitimate scientific institutions—laboratories and universities and research facilities, which isn't entirely reassuring but isn't imminently threatening, and is at least above-board. Some of it goes into private collections belonging to the same kind of people who pay thousands of dollars for meteorite fragments of dubious provenance and blurry satellite photographs of Area 51. They're joyful in their vindication, these days.

The rest, though—the rest vanishes. Once it hits American soil, things seem to get a whole lot harder to track.

He follows one shipment from Boston to Chicago to Star City into a dead end. Another from Tampa to Metropolis, alarmingly, and then nada. Wilmington to Gotham, even more alarmingly, and then it disappears. What potential informants he can dig up have their mouths glued shut.

If it were anything else, he could infiltrate—stevedore, truck driver, there are plenty of hands for the cargo to pass through. And there's the rub. The one time he attempted to verify a shipment, he got his verification alright. Two days sick leave.

The K is elusive. The money trail is nigh-on impenetrable even with the boundaries he can push with the Planet's name behind him.

He's starting to have stress dreams about it. In his sleep, he tries to catch someone who is falling, only to find he's falling himself. He hits the earth and finds himself in the shadow of a beast, indistinct but massive. Its very presence renders him powerless. All he can do is struggle as it snaps him between its sagittate teeth.

After a fortnight of waking up twisted helplessly in his sheets, he thinks, with some reluctance, that it might be time to call in a favor.

*

Clark lands in the cave a little before eleven.

"Clark," Bruce says, immediately minimizing a half-dozen windows. He calmly moves his chair a one-eighth-turn in Clark's direction without taking his hands off the keyboard.

"Evening." Clark can already tell this is a terrible idea by the line of tension in Bruce's shoulders. "I need you help with something," he says anyway, with enough earnestness to disarm most people. It only puts Bruce further on his guard. Clark is still trying to get the measure of him; he keeps making mistakes like this.

Bruce maintains his you-have-interrupted-me posture, but he's bothering to disguise his impatience, which is promising, at least.

"Okay." Clark can be businesslike about this. "So I've been keeping tabs on something lately. Imported goods with a twist. You know the deal. I can track the movements of the, uh, the cargo to a point, but eventually it drops off the map. At least some of it came through Gotham."

Bruce swivels back to his computer screen and picks up typing rapidfire, amending some erudite database or other. His jaw tenses. "If you're concerned about the shipping containers on the north pier that were emptied yesterday night, it's under control."

"I know," Clark says. "That's not what I'm investigating."

"Then unless it's boxed up in lead, Clark, I don't understand what you're struggling with." Bruce glances at him sidelong, quietly gauging. "But anything coming into Gotham, I already know about. You don't need to be concerned."

The obvious backhands Clark across the face. He's not sure why he's quite so surprised; part of him must have known all along. It is simple mathematics, after all. Kryptonite plus Gotham equals Bruce. His stomach falls through the floor anyway.

He worries that he's starting to develop a substantial blind spot.

"Is that the case?" he says.

Bruce's typing halts abruptly.

Clark blinks and feels the minute differential pressure on his eyeballs as new detail blossoms across his vision. He can see the circuitry in Bruce's computer, the wires that snake from it and through the reinforced concrete into the server room below. Bruce, his densely-knitted bones, his ribcage like some delicate ornament. The Batmobile beneath them, and beneath that, a bright slab of something impenetrable to x-rays.

Bruce has gotten to his feet. He's watching him, as likely making a mental note on the current properties of Clark's corneas as preparing to explain himself.

"Turns out I'm pretty damn concerned," Clark says. He folds his arms so Bruce can't see his hands shake. He's not sure if it's fear or anger, as Bruce tends to inspire both. "Were you going to tell me about this?"

"I just did," Bruce says. "So, evidently." He mirrors Clark's body language: arms folded, chin up, but with the advantage of an inch or two of height and the cowl's inscrutability. The result is nothing short of infuriating. "It's in your interest."

This temerity combined with Bruce's particular brand of paternalism makes Clark want to grind his teeth. He takes a breath and silently counts to five since he's not sure he can make it to ten. "How much do you have?"

"Most of it."

"God, Bruce—" He feels a little ill. Psychosomatic, he hopes.

"You'd rather it was circulating freely?"

"No, but I'd rather you didn't have it, either."

"Listen, the last thing I need is a two-bit thug with a fistful of kryptonite and delusions of grandeur getting one over on you. Or worse. You've already had more than your fair share of funerals, Clark. Did you think I'd just let it float around on the black market?"

"That's touching," Clark says. He knows that's not the whole of it. This is symptomatic of something that's stayed unaddressed for the most part, butting up against the twin edifices of Bruce's secrecy and paranoia. Nobody knows how to weaponize kryptonite as well as he does. "What are you going to do with it all?"

"Nothing," Bruce says. "Unless I have to."

*

Clark's restless nights don't get any better. He's stalked by a great mechanical beast, monolithic and terrifying in its burnished steel hide. Its eyes are bright and empty, its teeth and claws an acidic green, glowing, cruel. It is fear brought violently to the surface, hunting Clark down only to toy with him. It always ends the same way, with his skin penetrated in an orgiastic frenzy.

It's usually a nightmare, but sometimes—isn't.

*

"Show me it."

He's shaking again—this time it's a toss-up between dread and anticipation. He doesn't bother trying to disguise it.

"Why?" Bruce says. "You know what it does to you."

Clark does know. He has difficulty forgetting, in fact. He can almost feel it melting his bones, the pain that crowds him out of his own mind. In his dreams, when he feels his knees want to buckle on him like this, he knows it won't be long before he is caught and savaged. Hot breath on his face, blood bubbling in his throat, his skin pared away. Sometimes he tries to escape in a crawl, but then the creature only mounts him, its claws filleting him from sternum to groin as it does.

Those are the most intense dreams—the ones that wake him at the point of climax, disoriented and paralyzed, unable to do anything but give himself over to it. The vividness of the memory makes him shudder where he stands.

"Clark," Bruce says. "What's wrong?"

He feels nebulously unwell. Bruce's eyes narrow, shadowed in the low light of the cave, but he doesn't look concerned so much as analytical. Clark wants him to—he wants to understand this craving, if not resolve it. Bruce, despite all his internality, is always going to be his best shot, but Clark knows there's a significant chance he'll come away from this worse than empty handed, shackled by refused desire.

"You need to do something with it," Clark says.

Not just perch on top of it like a dragon guarding its hoard. But then, a beast like that should be easy to provoke.

"In case," Clark continues, in the face of Bruce's skeptical eyebrow-raise. "In case the worst happens. You need to be prepared."

Clark can acknowledge that he holds the potential for threat. There is a chance that he might need to be counteracted, and not just because Bruce's paranoia has gotten the better of him again. His mere existence has put humankind through a paradigm shift, and the resultant power struggles have not been reassuring. The world does not have a shortage of ambitious, amoral individuals who would seek to leverage him to their own ends.

And Bruce knows this as well as Clark does. He knows that Bruce, despite his claim to the contrary, must have designs for the K. He also knows that Bruce hardly needs permission for anything, least of all this, but maybe in giving it he'll be receptive to Clark's... help.

He never anticipated using this scenario to bargain with. Not like this. Not for this.

"What do you have in mind?" Bruce asks

*

This is probably not what Bruce had in mind.

"You didn't use enough to weaken me," Clark says, holding Bruce against the cave floor with ease, one hand on his wrist, the other caging his throat. Bruce glowers at him but remains otherwise calm, his pulse stable against Clark's fingers. He doesn't try to test Clark's grip. His free hand curls into the hem of Clark's cape.

It's petty of Clark to antagonize him when he doesn't need to. And risky, he knows that, but a kryptonite-edged batarang to the neck isn't exactly a polite greeting, even for Bruce. He started it, effectively.

Provoke, and be provoked in turn. He doesn't quite have a headache, but his muscles cramp and his blood feels heavy and thick, languishing in his throat and his gut. The batarang shines menacingly, the color of nightmares, and Clark kicks out to send it skittering away across the cave floor.

"Noted," Bruce says.

*

"A bit cumbersome." Clark feels sweat prickle across his forehead. "But the… quantity is getting there."

Bruce makes a considering noise and wraps a length of chain around his fist. Clark sways on his feet. He's not certain how much of it is down to the K.

"I'd have to let you," Clark says. "I'd have to have the presence of mind. Not practical, Bruce."

"You'd have to let me," Bruce agrees. He drapes the chain across Clark's shoulders. It's heavier than he anticipated, and now he can detect the glow to the thick metal links. Clark wonders if Bruce developed the alloy recently, or if it's a holdover from the last time he considered the intricacies of employing kryptonite as a weapon.

He wonders what, exactly, Bruce would have done with it. Dragged him over broken rubble, definitely. Strung him up like Andromeda chained to the rocks, perhaps.

He suspects it wouldn't have gone quite like this. Bruce wraps the chain around his neck, a furrow of concentration appearing between his eyebrows as he slowly draws it tight, as though he isn't certain what to expect. The links bite into Clark's skin. His breath catches and his vision blurs, and he feels a dull, useless panic as his bones turn gelatinous. He staggers to his knees, the chain pulling taut as he goes down.

There is an exoticism to the danger, even in this controlled environment. Clark brushes his fingers over the links at his neck. He lets himself be conscious of the particular weight of it, the pressure. Bruce gives the chain another turn around his fist, shutting down Clark's breath and tugging him close at the same time.

"You'd have to let me," he repeats, soft over Clark's useless gasping. He kneels and touches Clark's face, the leather of his glove warm against Clark's jaw. His fingers curl and draw him in. Then the chain slackens and Bruce's mouth is on him all at once, stealing what's left of his breath without apology.

Black dots dance at the edge of Clark's vision. Realization blooms in him.

He'd assumed that Bruce would keep to a clinical, methodical approach, and Clark would extract what he needed on his own time. Bruce's life seems like such a grim procession of duty over self, Clark hadn't considered that he might actually want to participate.

Tonight is full of surprises. He makes a shaken sound into the kiss. He tells himself he'd have made the same noise if Bruce had punched him.

He finds something to do with his hands—runs them over Bruce's shoulders, his arms, grabs at his chest until Bruce grunts and takes his wrists one-handed, pushing him back onto the bare concrete of the cave floor. He's a looming silhouette against the cave's stark lighting, bearing down to kiss him with consummate aggression. It feels the way Clark imagined pain did, before he'd really felt it. Almost abstract, Bruce's mouth pushing hard against his, lips bruising against his teeth, a sharp intensity to it like he might draw blood. It feels like the palm pressing down on his wrists might leave behind a delicate imprint of his uniform's texture; the fingers gripping his face might tear his skin.

It's not the same as in his dream, but it's close enough.

Bruce pulls back, just watches him for a moment. "Can you get free?" he says, briskly inquisitive. Then he wets his lower lip, and says in the same tone: "Can you get me off?"

Clark may be weakened by his own standards but he's still a powerhouse in human terms, and despite his involuntary grin, one that's not particularly impressed by an unsubtle double entendre. "Mm. The chain isn't really working for me," he says, and flips them over.

It jolts a grunt out of Bruce; he swears as though he wasn't expecting it, and—he's playing, Clark realizes with a hint of incredulity, watching the angle of his mouth, his shoulders tremoring with suppressed laughter. The chain slides from around Clark's neck as he leans over, coiling onto Bruce's chest and then pouring onto the floor under its own weight. He feels the passage of every link, sparking against his skin.

"What's so funny?" Clark says.

Bruce looks up at him like butter wouldn't melt, so Clark draws his fingers over the solid bulk of his body, following the seams of the Batsuit until his fingers hook into his utility belt.

"What are you playing at, Bruce?"

"I could ask you the same," he says.

"But I asked first," Clark says, tugging.

"That's playground logic, Clark."

"Beats Bat-logic by a country mile." He lets up on the belt—it's fastened with some over-engineered pressure-release buckle system that obviously requires a certain knack to undo, and for all his sudden amenability, he guesses Bruce won't be too impressed if he snaps it off him like it's a giftwrap ribbon. He slides his hand between Bruce's legs instead, flattening it over the hard cording of his inner thigh. "So… shall I say it, or are you going to?"

"That implies that I have something to say."

"You don't?"

Bruce's reply is one of his patented silences, somewhat undermined by the way his leg muscles are repeatedly tensing against Clark's palm. His breathing has shallowed slightly. He's trying hard not to nudge Clark's hand into a more stimulating position and it's obviously testing him.

"Okay," Bruce says eventually, mock resignation and equally mock disappointment. "Are you sure the chain does nothing for you?"

"Well… not by itself. What else did you make?"

*

"This is going some way to selling me on it." Clark inhales through his nose and arches. The chain clanks as he rolls his shoulders. It's heavy around his wrists, almost as present in his attention as Bruce is, kneeling between his legs.

The gauntlet he's wearing lacks the grooves and detailing of his usual pair. A prototype, Bruce had explained, and had done something with the outer layer. A sour glow had lit the mezzanine, enough to make Clark reel but not enough to knock him off his feet.

(Bruce had taken care of that himself, pushing Clark back into his ridiculous desk chair, then climbing over him to tie his wrists with the chain. He'd wedged a knee between Clark's thighs and guided Clark's hands over his head, settling his wrists on the seat's headrest. First he'd bound them to each other, then to one of the cave's ubiquitous wire rope suspensions.

With Clark safely restrained, he'd dropped to his knees like a supplicant.)

Bruce touches his gloved hand to the crest of Clark's hip. There's no sensuality to it, no slow, teasing turn-on, just the sharp crack of something deadly at the contact, like a current passing through him. It brings with it a heady hit of adrenaline, brute force arousal. He's hard in his suit already.

"How does that feel?"

Clark isn't sure there's a word for it—compelling in how borderline unpleasant it is, tangled up in the recall of Bruce towering over him, blade to his face. The fear he felt then, the thrill he feels now, his heavy thudding pulse. The phantasmagoria of his nightmares.

"Weird," he decides.

"Good-weird or bad-weird?"

"You're the detective."

"The evidence suggests," Bruce says. He doesn't bother finishing the statement. He angles his head and noses at Clark's dick, then briefly touches his fingertips to Clark's hip again. The kryptonite radiates tart, thrumming sensation, and Clark gasps, his dick twitching. Bruce nuzzles at him, drawing long slow breaths.

"Are you going to do that all night?" Clark asks faintly. It's not that it isn't hot as hell—Bruce is something to see like this, his bare hand splayed over Clark's thigh, his face buried in Clark's crotch, but Clark finds himself coveting more. As much as he can get before the walls inevitably slam back up.

"Maybe," Bruce says. He glances up, a challenge. "What are you going to do about it?"

Clark grins and yanks his hands apart, expecting to feel the links twist and separate as if it were nothing more than jewelry. Up until this exact moment, somehow he thought he could do just that. But the chains don't snap, the links only pinch deeper into his skin. His earlier slow panic returns, constricting his chest.

His head swims. "Oh," he says, in the absence of anything more eloquent. Bruce might be on his knees, but only one of them has yielded here.

"Something like that," Bruce says agreeably. His ungloved hand rests warm on the inside of Clark's knee. It's solid and grounding, even if the eye contact Bruce is making verges on uncomfortable. Clark offers him a lopsided smile, his chest slowly unwinding from its tightness as he breathes. The chain isn't the only thing holding him fast.

Bruce takes his time just touching Clark's body, methodically tracing the outline of Clark's musculature with his gloved fingers like he's charting a topographical map. He seems fascinated by the way Clark's muscles spasm and bunch at the contact, and with the small, halting noises that come with it. The kryptonite filters into Clark's bones with each firm touch, the pain gathering and building. It promises something vast, only to subside as Bruce moves from one spot to the next, leaving a bright echo in his wake. His skin feels hot and tender and his breath rasps in his throat. Bruce flattens his hand over his abdomen, close enough that his thumb brushes Clark's dick. It tears through him like a thunderstrike and his whole body jackknifes, chains pulling tight at his wrists. He think he might have actually whimpered.

Bruce looks up at him, eyebrows raised. Yeah. Probably did. He laughs breathlessly, which Bruce takes as a cue to finally, mercifully, touch him. Softly at first, still pacing out the limits of Clark's endurance, climbing in pressure until Clark's choking out uncontrolled moans and his hips are rolling up of their own accord.

It feels like every hair on his body is standing on end. He swears he can taste ozone.

Bruce's grip relaxes, and Clark wishes he could grab his wrist, keep him pressed there until the heat and tension mount beyond endurance, until the pain splits him open.

It would be really good to be naked, when that happens. "Touch my shield," he says.

Bruce snorts. His thumb traces Clark's dick where his uniform's moulded to the heavy curve of it across his stomach; the touch snaps and bites like a static shock. "Your dirty talk needs work."

"Sorry it's not your speed. Maybe I can—" He cuts off with a groan as Bruce squeezes him again, pulling his dick away from his stomach and stretching his uniform so he can almost get his hand right around it, lighting him up in a wreath of pain. Clark's heart pounds hard and the back of his head hits the chair's headrest with force. "God—crime statistics, maybe. Does that get you going? Or would you prefer a blow-by-blow of—"

"I would like to be involved in a blow of some kind, yes."

"Then stop being deliberately—just touch the damn shield, my god—"

Bruce leans up, pressing closer between Clark's legs, the hard plane of his stomach flush against Clark's dick. "Like this?" he says, and drags his gloved fingers along the red border of the S, and then over Clark's pectoral, rasping over the texture of the fabric. It leaves a chain of shocks in his wake. He finds Clark's nipple.

Clark hisses through his teeth, hips jerking. A rush of precome dampens the inside of his suit. "Not like that," he says, trying for nonchalant but falling decidedly short. He laughs breathlessly. "That's not a magic button, Bruce."

Bruce appears unconvinced. He grips Clark's nipple through the fabric, pulling and rubbing in turn. It's on the threshold of unbearable with the mineral doing its work, and Clark writhes between Bruce and the chair, one moment trying to get away and the next inviting more. Each meticulous pass of Bruce's thumb drives him closer to the edge of his endurance.

Bruce turns his attention to Clark's other nipple, apparently content to make zero goddamn effort towards getting either of them naked, but finally relents when Clark starts digging his heels into the back of his legs and making inarticulate, demanding noises.

"Impatient," he murmurs, and spreads his hand over the S of Clark's shield. He does it unceremoniously, as though he isn't expecting anything to actually happen. Clark takes some hazy satisfaction in the way he starts back in shock when his uniform swiftly folds up, separating from his body in a flowing spiral of geometric plates. Usually he can hear the metallic click and pulse of its bioelectromagnetic field as the material retreats into his shield. It feels substantially more eerie—more alien—now that he can't. He hopes, belatedly, that it doesn't kill the mood.

His skin is exposed to the chill cave air. It feels different, and it takes him a moment to realize it's because he's actually perspiring. The prickling sensation is the rapid cooling of sweat on his skin. His arms are beginning to ache from the weight of the chain and his wrists tingle where it rests against his newly-bared skin. The tactile input is novel enough to enjoy for the time being. Bruce's level observation is more of a challenge to endure.

"What?" Clark says. Bruce's hand hovers over his chest; close enough that his skin shivers in anticipation, but he doesn't quite touch. He idly wonders if Bruce would consider clawed fingertips for his gauntlets. It certainly wouldn't be the most dramatic element of his costume, though probably too fussy a detail for his style—but he can imagine it clearly, the way Bruce could rake his stomach and leave lacerations, hook into his skin and tear—

"I take it you have some control over making that happen."

Clark blinks, mentally backtracks. Right—his shield. He hums an acknowledgement. "I have to tell it to," he says, in a vastly abridged explanation. And then, because no matter how tightly he's pressed to Clark's body, Bruce seems ready and willing to take a detour into dissecting his suit's tech, he says, "Would you just touch me?"

Bruce sucks his teeth as though he's run the odds and come up long.

"Please," Clark says. He struggles to make it sound like a command. The crack in his voice lets him down, but maybe that's a combination that works well on Bruce. He capitulates with something like eagerness, curling his hand over Clark's hip.

It's several degrees more intense on his bare skin, enough that he bites down on his own tongue just so he can bear it. It feels like he's being branded—like Bruce will move his hand and there will be an imprint of his touch left behind. He grits his teeth at the hot burn of it, grunting as his back arches away from the chair.

"Steady," Bruce murmurs, and then bends to lick the head of Clark's dick, firm and slow, dipping in to taste his precome as though that'll do anything to keep him under control. Clark shudders and collapses back into the chair. He can feel every crease in the leather seat and the direction the air is circulating in the cave, his own pulse against Bruce's tongue—all distinct, even through his kryptonite-dimmed senses.

It's a muffled kind of silent, all the peripheral racket of his surroundings muted without needing his input. His vision is like fuzzy VCR tape, stripped of the elaborate contour of waves and signals that usually patina his environment.

This is probably how the average human perceives the world. He takes a moment to wonder how the hell they manage, then Bruce opens his mouth and slides it around most of Clark's dick. After that, Clark isn't thinking much about anything except the careless scrape of his teeth and the ferocious dig of the gauntlet into his hipbone.

Bruce pushes himself down, mouth stretched and frowning like this is some kind of goddamn problem he has to solve. Clark helps him along with a thrust of his hips. Bruce rides up with it then pulls back, cheeks hollowing as he sucks hard on the head. Too hard—almost spitefully hard. Clark convulses and swallows back a cry.

Bruce circles the length of his dick while he's shuddering—and god, he can't figure out of it's agony or pleasure, but it's everything he's been anticipating. He's never wanted something so awful so badly. His mouth is watering with it. It's excruciating, thunderous, quickly resolving into warmth that gathers at the base of his spine, and he gasps and twists in on himself as far as the chains will allow, just to keep himself a little longer.

The look on Bruce's face is—he uncurls his hand and Clark falls back, heaving in breath and making rough noises of relief that won't quite keep to themselves. He sounds like this when he wakes up, after, sometimes.

"Okay?"

He takes a few more shaky breaths, and swallows. "I'm okay." He thinks about the augmented batarang, about claws and his skin parting. "Bruce," he says urgently.

"I'm listening."

"Remember, when—I messed up your car," Clark says, then shakes his head, fumbling for a more lucid explanation. His concentration is shot, thoughts scattering when he tries to pin them down. "Back when we were—when we first—" He sighs in frustration. "The thing you asked me."

Bruce blinks at him. He wets his lips. "I remember," he says, carefully uninflected.

"I want to—remember what that's like," Clark says. "To bleed. To just—keep bleeding."

"It's not as exciting as it sounds," Bruce says.

"You don't have to worry about whether it'll stop."

Bruce presses his mouth into a hard line, a muscle clenching in his jaw. Clark rolls his head back against the chair and watches him sort through whatever logic tree consists his decision-making process.

"No," he says, not unkindly. "Another time, maybe."

"Then, can you—" Clark starts, but Bruce has already pressed up against him again, bare hand tangling in his hair to pull him into a slow kiss. The other slides between his legs, bypassing his dick to grasp his balls. Again the shock of the kryptonite, the heady burn of it. The moan it startles out of him is lost in Bruce's mouth.

Bruce continues to feed him shallow, messy kisses, slowly rubbing his own erection against Clark's thigh. His fingers roam lower, brushing over Clark's ass and his whole body seizes with the promise of it, the wicked crackle of the kryptonite and those vicious fingers curling inside of him.

"I'm," Clark says, "oh god, I—"

He's going to come against the Batsuit. Bruce doesn't seem to care, so neither does Clark. He loses Bruce's mouth when he arches his neck, but then there's the sting of his teeth bearing down on him, his nose pressing in against his jugular vein, making his head rush. Bruce could tear out his throat. At the same time, Bruce's fingers press harder, not breaching him—but they could, if he'd give Clark just a little more.

"Why do you want this?" Bruce asks quietly, muffled against Clark's neck, as though he doesn't feel the same need in his bones sometimes. He must know that part of it. But maybe what he's not understanding is that he's the only person with enough ruthlessness and empathy in balance to do this to Clark without devastating him, one way or the other.

And, because if it comes down to it, Bruce won't shy from using this against him, but—here be dragons.

"The novelty," Clark gasps.

Bruce's fingers nudge hard, both punishment and reward for his half-truth, and Clark trembles violently as his orgasm lashes him, burning up his spine and drawing every muscle in his body taut. He doesn't have the breath to yell. Bruce holds him steady through it, pressing cheek to cheek as Clark shudders. He might be saying something, but it's drowned out by Clark's roaring blood.

He's vaguely aware of Bruce reaching over him as it ebbs, and there's sudden relief as the chain uncoils from his wrists. He lets his hands slide bonelessly over the wide span of Bruce's back, just breathing as the wider world starts sparking back into his consciousness.

His arms ache and his fingers feel weird, like they're not his. He clenches and unclenches his fists against Bruce's shoulder blades.

Then he digs in his fingernails and gently pulls the weave of the Batsuit apart. He feels the hard catch of Bruce's breath as he tears out the seams down his chest and through the wet mess soaking into his stomach, peeling back his tough hide, exposing his soft underbelly.

He snaps the belt like a ribbon.

He's going to be in an entirely different world of pain for this. He grins up at Bruce's furious, desperate expression and pulls away the suit's protective cup.

"Shit," Bruce rasps and presses his forehead into Clark's shoulder. He's coming before Clark can even work his hand inside the compression shorts he wears beneath. Clark rests his palm over the damp material instead, luxuriating in the pull and release of Bruce's orgasm, his uncontrolled shivering, the way his breath burns against Clark's skin.

He shudders one last time and then sighs.

"I am incredibly unhappy with you right now," he says. He brushes a strip of ruined fabric off his thigh.

"Sure," Clark says sunnily. He is phenomenally tired all of a sudden. If Bruce wants to go ahead and have this argument while he's only half-conscious, that would be quite optimal. "Business as usual."

Bruce peels the glove off, but lets it drop to the floor instead of putting it away. Clark's not sure whether it's that or the exhaustion or a combination that's fogging his senses, but he's pretty sure he can get away with tilting his head and pulling an openly hopeful face. He catches Bruce's eye roll before he's obliged with a kiss. No argument. Later, then.

"Come on," Bruce says. "It's cold down here. Are you good to move?"

Clark considers this, and then shrugs lethargically. Even if he could, he doesn't want to just yet, but Bruce gets to his feet and hefts Clark up out the chair and straight over his shoulder into a fireman's lift. It's an impressive maneuver, even if he has to grunt and step back to center his balance.

"Jesus, you're heavier than I remember," he mutters. "What are you made of, moon rock?" He hooks an arm around Clark's thigh, grabs his wrist and bears him out of his lair.

"Doesn't matter," Clark says. He lets Bruce's grousing wash over him with unprecedented fondness. "You're strong." It's way more uncomfortable than Clark could have anticipated, being carried like this. Bruce's shoulder digs into the soft flesh below his sternum and makes talking, and breathing, a more labored experience. He quickly feels lightheaded on top of his orgasmic high.

"Don't patronize me," Bruce says, and swats Clark's ass with his free hand.

Clark starts in surprise and laughs, or tries to, just wheezes out a few breaths. That sets off a chain reaction of snorting and Bruce muttering jesus under his breath, which just makes Clark laugh more. By the time Bruce dumps him onto his bed, he's almost asphyxiated himself.

It's late evening. Clark didn't expect it to be, for some reason. The dipping sun smothers him in its low, red rays and he feels a twinge of wistfulness as it bathes the ache from his muscles. Bruce stands beside the bed, arms folded. His uniform hangs in shredded loops around his waist.

Clark closes his eyes, just for a moment. When he opens them again, it's fully dark. Bruce is at his back, silent. He sleeps again. He doesn't remember his dreams.

*

In the seeping gray dawn, Bruce twists the bedsheets and shouts himself awake. Clark leans over him, and when it takes a few seconds for the terror on Bruce's face to dissipate, Clark remembers that the Bat is not the only one with glowing eyes and the strength to break a man.

***