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Through so many splintered trees

by Te

Through so many splintered trees
by Te
July 10, 2003

Disclaimers: Not even close to mine. I hunger.

Spoilers: Vague ones for "Injustice For All" and "Twilight."

Summary: Identity and contact.

Ratings Note: NC-17.

Author's Note: After seeing Injustice For All and Savage Time, I had to do this.

Acknowledgments: To my We and to Jenn for audiencing.

Feedback: Yes, please.


Superman touched him.

Or, perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Clark touched him. For all their masks and uniforms, Batman didn't think any of his teammates would need more than a moment to learn Superman's secret if they ever met Clark. Well, maybe Flash.

Clark with his open smiles and general ease with the world, no matter how often it did its best to destroy him.

Clark and his... touching.

A hand on his shoulder when he was trying to work at the computers. An arm thrown around his own after a mission, always careful to avoid whatever parts were injured. And... hugs.

If the mission was particularly bad or dangerous, if they all seemed to think that this was the time when his lack of superpowers would do him in -- as if he were really that incautious.

Hugs and smiles and a seeming complete lack of comprehension about things like boundaries. Privacy.

Even Flash had learned to back off.

Sometimes he thought about using his small supply of Kryptonite to teach that lesson. Or at least finding something to protect himself from its effects so he could wear it all the time.

There was a certain degree of... pleasure in the image of Clark writhing in pain every time he tried to touch him. Just the sort of thing that made the rest of them... uneasy with Batman's presence among them.

And that was just fine.

He still wasn't entirely sanguine about being here, being a part of this team with all of its optimism and tendency to coddle supervillains, but there was a logic to it, at least. A centralized way to handle the crises that popped up like weeds, and when he was done with the JL system, it would be as close to infallible as he could make it.

Assuming he could put up with all of its little... distractions.

"Hey... did you eat yet?"

Clark, and the unspoken, nearly spoken Bruce. Just close enough to the surface to make his teeth grind. One would think he would've learned that lesson by now. At least, one would if one didn't know Clark. Overgrown farmboy. "No."

Footsteps and the scent of meat. "Flash made burgers. Well, actually, I think Flash cooked a cow, but there was enough left when he was done for me to steal a few."

Batman grunted non-committally and tried to focus on the screen. Rain patterns over equatorial Africa below normal, but not especially suspicious...

Creak of the chair beside him and the wall of heat the man seemed to carry with him no matter how much time he spent outside of direct sunlight. "Eat."

Batman closed his eyes behind the mask for a moment. "I'm not hungry."

Clark sighed and Batman knew if he were to look over, the man would be staring at him with that usual and infuriating mix of concern and disappointment. He typed what would doubtless turn out to be a useless and random string of characters and waited.

"I'll leave them here for you."

And then Clark was gone.

Batman tuned out the smell of meat as best he could and kept working on his weather-track program, a bit of meteorological business that might prove useful someday. By the time he ate the burgers, they were cold.


Another mission, this one culminating in being trapped behind a forcefield with Flash. Flash, who, if he remembered correctly, had recently consumed most of a donut shop.

If Batman believed in God, he'd be convinced the man hated him.

After a while, he decided to convince Flash to try to vibrate at a counter-frequency to whatever they were stuck behind.

"Are you sure that's not dangerous?"

"Yes," he lied.

There was an interesting light show that offered Batman a truly illuminating view of Flash's inner-workings and one hell of a headache.

When he peeled Flash off the back wall, they were able to leave and join the battle as the rest of the League fought their way in after them.

GL glared. "What did they do to Flash?"

Flash giggled. "Vibrations, duuuude."

Batman made his way back to the plane, sure if he could get himself belted in quickly and quietly...

Clark in front of him, ridiculous red cape flapping. "What about you? You were in there a long time." Hand on his shoulder, squeezing gently.

"I'm fine."

The hug was mercifully brief, but still impossible to ignore. "I'm glad."

Batman grunted and made his way into the plane, trying to shake off the sense memory of heat and muscle.


Afternoon in the tower, and the gym was finally free. He still preferred his own set-up in the cave, but it was hard to spend as much time in Gotham as he wanted to these days, and if he was honest with himself, the programmed enemies were as good (if not better) than what he had.

He set the room for several shooters, knowing that they was the worst of his weaknesses. Defeating them called for as much speed as he had, and often more, and he couldn't always rely on the ability to get in close enough to the do the kind of damage he was built for.

He shot up a line and swung up and over 'Shade,' tossing out an electrified batarang to take out the staff and barely managing to avoid 'Luthor's' kryptonite-laced bullets. He felt his cape rip and remembered the man as he'd been in school, the olive skin and shockingly red hair, the obsession with knowledge as desirable as the lean muscle, the smooth skin.

Behind 'Luthor' and he managed to lend a glancing kick he was sure would make the real man stagger a little more than that, but didn't have time to complain before 'Sapphire' sent a bolt to his spine and he lost the grip on his rope and went tumbling.

He relaxed for the fall and was just finishing preparing for impact and his next move when someone caught him.

Clark, holding him like a B-movie stereotype and shutting the program down with a few curt commands.

"Clark --"

A glare for his trouble. "You could use the safeties programmed in, Bruce."

"There's a reason I put in a loophole."

"Yeah, because you're a lunatic. Can you stand?"

He felt his lips twist. "Yes."

Clark set him down in the middle of the floor. He had his Superman face on, but, frankly, the man could do a better job at separating the two.

"I don't want to hear it."

"You could've gotten really hurt, Bruce --"

"If I can't fight these guys..." He didn't bother to finish the thought.

"The League has enough dumb muscle, Bruce. We need you for other things."

Not the first time he'd heard that, or even the fifteenth. All of them so careful to make sure he knew he was needed. As if that was even the point. "Save it, Clark."

Hand around his bicep, grip just a little too hard to be human. He stared at it until Clark let go. "I'm going to find a way to make you listen to me."

Batman smiled behind his skin and walked out. "You do that."


Batman was in his room, and wondering at his body's reaction to night and day. All of it was artificial up here, and he'd caught himself getting tired well before four a.m., Gotham time. It was... more than a little disconcerting.

He knew what the others would say. Certainly they were all of them built for a daylight lifestyle -- literally in Clark's case. They would say it was healthy, they would bring out all those hoary old studies about the effects of bucking the tendency of the human body to work during the day and sleep at night.

It wasn't that he was unfamiliar with those studies, or even especially contemptuous of them.

It was just that criminals tended to eschew the ever-so-healthy daylight hours.

There was no reason to make their 'jobs' any easier than they already were.

Beyond that...

Beyond that, he could at least count a slightly higher degree of privacy if he moved at night. No Flash and his jokes, no Lantern and his disturbingly watchful gaze. No Clark...

But that was a lie. He wasn't sure, but he didn't think the man slept very much at all anymore. There wasn't even a satisfyingly dark excuse for it all. He spent too much time in space these days, too much time sucking life from the battery of the sun. He was too powerful.

And that was... there was something to worry about there. He hadn't needed to see the way man behaved around Darkseid to understand that -- power was always dangerous, especially to people as blind as Clark -- but it was a sobering reminder just the same.

In his cave, behind more protections than even the cave itself, was a small but undoubtedly lethal bit of Kryptonite taken from Luthor.

If they were lucky, it would never have to be used.

Batman didn't believe in luck.

"It's two a.m., Batman."

Case in point. "I own several watches, Superman."

"Are you ever civil?"

Batman stared up at the ceiling, wondering what it would be like to pray, if it was allowed to pray for patience. There was room to study there. "When there's reason for it."

"People tend to be polite to their friends."

Christ. "I don't have friends."

Somewhere just beyond the range of his vision, Superman would undoubtedly be looking huffy and offended and turning to leave.

Batman waited for it.

Instead, there were footsteps, and Clark stood over the bed, looking... amused.


"You're nowhere near as smart as you think you are, Bruce."

Batman rolled his eyes, and considered, not for the first time, the pros and cons of doing something with the mask to make expressions like that easier to discern for others.

Superman smirked like he'd seen it anyway, and, also not for the first time, Batman wondered how often the man used his X-ray vision.

Maybe he could line his suit in lead.

"You can't keep doing this, Bruce."

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes you do. You separate yourself off from the group, you go off on your own... if this team is going to function at peak efficiency --"

"'Peak efficiency?' Been talking to Luthor lately?"

"No. I've been talking to you."

Batman grunted. "Low blow."

"Maybe. A true one, though."

And there was... something there. A lot there, and it was long past Clark's cue to wander off and be wounded and bitter until he forgot how to do that -- again -- and Batman had to deal with the man. "Leave."

"You're not even living your life anymore."

"This is my life, Clark." And his voice said far more than he wanted it to and Clark... very obviously heard it all.

"No one can live that way."

"I seem to be breathing."

Clark crouched beside the bed and reached out, just barely not touching his chest. "We all need to do more than breathe."

Ignore it, ignore... "We all need privacy, too. I don't see you giving me any of that."

And there it was, a twisted expression of hurt just visible at the corner of Batman's vision. What he wanted. Now he would...

"Christ, Bruce, I just want to help. Why won't you let me?"

And he heard himself snarl and felt himself move, but it was all moving too fast, like being dragged through the streets by Flash, lifted out of danger and into something worse by Clark. He felt his hand close around Clark's wrist and had just enough time to savor the surprise on the man's face before his mouth started talking without the slightest bit of instruction from his brain. "You have no idea what you want, Clark."

And there was a moment, with Clark's expression blank, with the feel of that heat and iron muscle under his palm, that Batman thought he'd be able to get control of the situation again. That this would be just one more late night conversation of awkwardness and truths to be swept under the rug and forgotten, but then Clark's face changed.

Confusion, yes, but just a hint of wariness. A hint of knowing that made something in Batman's belly seize and flare and fuck this.

The kiss was as hard as he could give, harder than he'd ever kissed a woman, and with far more intent than he wanted to deal with. Clark made a small noise in the back of his throat and Batman could only watch as his eyes fluttered closed. Felt the mouth against his fall open and invite, as if this was anything to want.

As if it was something good.

And he was off the bed, using his weight to carry them both to the floor, and Clark just sucked his tongue and spread his legs and took it.

There was so much he wanted to say. So much he could say to make it clear this was nothing either of them should be doing. Buttons he could press to make Clark ashamed, ways to rip him open for good and all and he would never have to deal with the man again beyond duty.

But he didn't say any of them. Just kissed Clark harder and wondered who had taught the man to like this.

And yes, he had his suspicions, but he didn't want any of them. Not like this. Not now.

He pushed the suit up over that ridiculously chiseled chest, over dark rose nipples that just got darker, hard against his palms as he stroked, and it wasn't enough. He pulled off the gloves and they both gasped at the feel of skin on skin and there were reasons he didn't do this. But Clark had to know.

He had to...

"God, Bruce, yes --"

He kissed him to shut him up, and then felt himself getting lost in the feel of it. The surprisingly soft mouth and the alien heat and the rock of his hips up against his own. He didn't want to know what the man wanted. He didn't want...

Broad, hard thigh between his own, pushing them apart and rubbing against him and it ripped a groan out of him, from somewhere deep in his chest and Clark just held him tighter, pulled him closer.

So foolish. Younger than all of them and so fucking open.

Batman ground his hips down hard, and the sound of Clark's moan made him do it again. Again.


He heard himself make a noise he couldn't classify and pushed and pulled at the man's tights until he could get him out of them. Heard something tear as Clark worked mostly futilely on his own uniform and thought hard about pushing the hands away, but then Clark cupped him through the tights and it was too much not to help.

And God, skin, and more than that, worse than that, the look on Clark's face, impossible not to see in the light from the hallway. Impossible to look away from.

And then they were just moving together, driving hard against each other. Clark, for once, not being careful with him.

Not being careful at all, and it was good, or at least it felt good, and Batman let his eyes close and let his body move. Bruce would never have anything this intense, and Clark would never understand why, and the two of them would never, could never --

"Oh God --"

Clark, coming hot and wet between them, clutching Batman hard, moving him bodily to make him go faster, fuck harder, and there was no way to hold back from that.

He tried anyway, failed in a grunt he couldn't hold back, in a shudder that went through his entire body, in the heat he spilled between them.

Batman panted, holding himself up and away from the worst of the mess, and eventually Clark loosened his grip, mouth slack and eyes wide and dark. Batman felt the muscles in his arm twitch, and he knew that if he let himself, he would touch that face. Stroke it, and let his touch say everything he was swallowing back.

He pushed harder against the floor instead. Until he was steady.

And then he stood up, straightened his clothes, and made for the door.

"Bruce --"

"I have to walk."


But Batman was already out the door, setting a path that would take him the longest possible route around the tower.


The observatory was empty, and silent save for the constant, vaguely soothing hum of machinery.

J'onn melted up through the floor and stood beside him in a calm quiet that he almost thought could last.

"Batman, you don't have --"


"I... as you wish."

They watched the stars together until his body told him it was dawn over Gotham city, and then Batman returned to his empty room.



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