November 3, 2003
Disclaimers: They're not mine. They belong to the coolest geeks in the universe.
Spoilers: Major ones for "A Better World." Also references, vaguely, "Return of the Joker" and the fact that Teen Titans exists.
Summary: Flash tries hard. Batman doesn't.
Ratings Note: NC-17.
Author's Note: Never in my life did I think I'd write this pairing. I've mocked this pairing. I know better now.
Acknowledgments: To Livia and Bas for audiencing, Molly for forgiving me, LaT for geeking out with me, and all the JL fans who joined in the squee. Love you.
Feedback: Adored at email@example.com
The tower was almost back to normal.
It had been... surprisingly difficult for Batman to help the others do the "repairs." To even think of them as repairs.
All of the changes had been so practical. Logical and right and.
He had the incomplete plans for the exterior armor right here. Buried behind passwords and firewalls and... here.
There was an amazingly frustrating kind of satisfaction in knowing he'd done such a good job. That he would have done it.
That he... will?
And that was the question, wasn't it? One of them, certainly. Because the other cave had been perfect in every detail. Imperfect only in the sense of things that weren't in his own yet.
He would very much like to be the kind of man who could stop thinking about the wall of glassed-in uniforms. The near-perfect repairs in Batgirl's.
The terrifying perfection of Robin's. The same one Robin -- Tim -- was probably wearing right now, bouncing around that cartoonish monstrosity of his own tower, with... who?
The girls and boys who would bring home his body someday? Someday soon, because the suit was the same, the same size --
Or maybe they were the people who would betray him.
After all, he'd never had any comforting doubts about what lay beneath the surface of his... companions.
He knew his own, and knew his own limits and darkness and (did it anyway, went that far) knew that the rest of the League didn't. Perhaps Hawkgirl had her suspicions, and certainly Lantern was no fool, but the others...
There was a certain kind of amusement in the specially designed lead-lined pocket of his belt, in the Kryptonite within it, in the way the others looked at him when they were forced to remember he had it.
A sop to his ego and his carefully-crafted image: This is how far he would go, even for someone he, supposedly, liked. It served a purpose.
But he would never forget that it was also there for the same reason the smoke bombs and various antidotes were -- one day, any day, he just might need them.
For one of his own.
And so, no, it really wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that the small, perfect suit in the other Batman's cave came with a reason that no one would ever want to believe. And it wasn't beyond the realm of possibility that that reason would come here.
And there was nothing he could do about that.
Because if there was... he would have told himself.
He closed down the file with Tim's contact information.
"You know, you're really pretty creepy when you smile like that. But you probably knew that already, what with being... you. Heh."
He felt his cape billow with the displaced air Flash had long since... displaced. The man himself was sitting beside him. Or... really, he was folded into the chair beside him in a way that wouldn't have looked remotely comfortable or practical even without the man's jitters and constant, low-grade vibration. Flash. "I didn't know I was smiling."
Quicksilver grin, strangely both in and out of character. "Yeah, well, believe me, I'd notice. Nobody's smiling too much around here these days."
It would be easy to shut the conversation down. He knew it was coming, after all.
Flash had been himself, almost the apotheosis of himself for the first few hours after they'd gotten rid of the other League -- running around, making jokes no one but an eight year old would find amusing, generally making an ass of himself, but then...
It had been like watching knowledge happen. Watching the others look at Flash with something between rage and bleak, hopeless hunger. Watching Flash register the looks and shut down a little with each one, curl in on himself.
At first, Batman had thought there would be trouble of some hideously embarrassing and humanly awkward sort. Flash would run away, or Flash would develop some sort of horrifyingly adolescent trauma and make them all want to throttle him, or... pretty much anything but what had actually happened.
Flash, carefully watching them all from a discreet distance, waiting for the chance to get them alone and... talk.
It would be easy to shut the conversation down. All he would have to do is... not say anything. "I believe the term you're looking for is 'sobering mirror.'"
"Hunh?" Still for a moment, and honestly, openly confused.
Tempting to believe he'd just completely forgotten what they were talking about. More likely, considering recent events, that his strange, open, easy mind had just wandered away at high speed to places Batman would never be able to... anticipate. And, yes, he needed this conversation. God help him if he wanted it. He closed his eyes behind the mask for a moment. "No one likes to see who they truly are. All of who they are."
Another one of those strange-for-Flash smiles, and it struck Batman that the problem was that they were... old. "Yeah, well... maybe it doesn't have to be that bad. I mean. It was an alternate universe. Who knows what kind of terrible things happened to make them all evil and psychotic?"
"Is that what you've been telling the others?"
"Hunh? Oh. Noticed that, did you?"
He could feel himself smile again. "Yes."
Flash shifts beside him. Not uncomfortable so much as restless. "Do you really think... I mean. They were pretty psychotic, you know?"
"Mm. All in very... predictable ways, don't you think?"
Silence, stillness. Batman chanced a look and Flash was... still. Staring at his hand on the desktop and frowning hard. Almost angry. Anger would be easier to deal with, though.
"I don't. I don't want to think of my friends that way."
"They don't want to think of themselves that way."
Rush of air and Flash was up, moving, pacing, thumping the back of Batman's chair, before finally pulling it around to face him. "Christ, stop that, would you? You just -- Stop pretending that wasn't completely and totally fucked up!"
Batman blinked. He could. There were so many things he could say. He could just sit here and look impassive and. "I know it was."
"I mean, just because your double wasn't a psychotic killer and was actually kind of... friendly, and let's not talk about how disturbing that was, doesn't mean --"
"I know it was."
"I. Oh. Oh." And Flash was beside him again, squeezing his hands together and very obviously thinking. "Okay. I'm sorry. I didn't mean... I mean, I know everyone's kind of..."
"It's... all right."
"And the last thing I want to do is make it worse and --"
"... right. Yeah. I'm. So." Flash laughed a little and spun his chair back and forth. "So what was up with that, anyway? Your double."
"Well... yeah. I mean, no offense, man, but..."
"I can be nice."
The chair stopped. Flash looked at him, eyes obviously wide even from behind the mask. "Oh, hey, I didn't mean..."
Batman looked at him.
"I mean. You're a great guy. All... uh. You're a great guy!"
Batman kept looking at him.
"And you... wait. You're screwing with me right now, aren't you?"
Batman let himself smile and turned back to the computer.
"God. You... you totally have a sense of humor. An evil sense of humor, but..."
"I prefer to think of it as 'dry.'"
"Yeah, yeah, whatever. J'onn is dry. You're the freaking desert. On the moon."
Smiling was abruptly impossible to avoid. "I do my best."
"Yeah, right..." He went back to swinging his chair. Wider arcs this time, until he bumped Batman's shoulder once, twice. "Look at us. Talking like... people who talk." Lazy, happy grin.
"You have no idea what else to say to me, do you?"
"Not one single, solitary, desperate, pathetic clue."
Batman swallowed a laugh and shook his head. "You know, you don't have to be the team's therapist."
"Yeah, like I really want to know about Hawkgirl's childhood."
Batman grunted non-committally.
"It just seems weird, is all."
He was typing nonsense. He deleted and started over. "What does?"
"Well... I'm still thinking about you. Your other you, I mean. The way he acted..."
He was typing numbers. He deleted and started over. "Yes?"
"Well, it was like... I mean, the way he was with me. Do you think... do you think we were friends in that other universe?"
He almost sighed aloud in relief. An easy question. "No."
Oh? And silence.
Batman stared at the screen. Gave up. Flash looked... pained, and Jesus Christ. All this time thinking about all the ways he could shut the conversation down if he wanted to, if he could just show that much of a spine, and he managed to do it without even trying. Right.
It would be an incredibly good idea to just leave it there, let Flash wander out awkwardly, get back to deleting every good, security-conscious, practical idea he ever had about protecting them from the systems, and. "I meant. I don't think he got the chance. To be your friend."
Almost an exaggeration of confusion. "But... he was so." Flash turned to look at him, apparently unbothered by the fact that Batman was staring fixedly at the monitor. "He wanted to. That was why. He never got the chance, and he was regretting it and I'm suddenly realizing that I'm also talking about you. Kind of. Um."
"You... want to be my friend?"
He shook his head and it meant nothing like no, or not enough no, and even Flash had to be able to figure that out. "I know it's difficult to imagine."
And Flash was jittering again, making the chair squeak and moving and moving without leaving his spot. "No! I mean..." He stopped. "Yes."
Couldn't remotely hold back the laugh at that. "I'm not going to show up at your apartment and demand to be entertained, Flash."
"You know where I live? Oh, of course you do. Um. You could, you know."
Shoulder-bump. "Show up. Demand stuff. I have stuff. Uh. I mean."
"You can call me Wally sometimes, too."
It was a weight on his neck, only he wasn't sure if it was because he wanted to stay where he was or wanted to turn. He turned.
Flash smiled like it was the easiest thing in the world, even when the smile showed absolutely everything. Happiness, fear, hope, want. Maybe especially then.
"I mean, I know the whole security thing, and the secret identity thing and whatever, but it's not like we get to spend all that much time on-planet anyway, you know. And I just... it'd be nice to hear my name sometimes." A wince. "Except I really just said that in a way that wasn't completely pathetic."
"I'm not. I'm not very good at being a friend."
Another smile, even easier than the last. "Hey, you just need practice. You like that kind of thing anyway. I've seen the gym you built in this place, remember?"
There was really nothing to say to that. "Thank you."
"Thank you what?"
And this was the kind of bemusement that was potentially fatal. "Thank you, Wally."
Even wider grin. "See? That wasn't so hard."
"If you say so."
"Hey, as the ordained conscience of the Justice League, I'm officially always right about this stuff. It's a gift."
He was typing... absolutely nothing at all.
"You know, I could bump you or tug my ear or something to let you know when I'm kidding about stuff."
"I know when you're kidding."
"And when I'm sleeping and when I'm awake and..." Hand on his wrist. "Hey, are those cameras in our rooms always on? Because if so, I think I need to explain some things..."
Bright, quick parade of images. Hawkgirl tossing her mace like it was the only toy she could ever imagine playing with. Lantern staring at a hidden cache of photographs he never actually put up. Flash... Batman smirked.
"Wow. You're actually kind of pervert, aren't you?"
It was amazing the things that could come back to you long after you'd thought them gone forever. The need to blush was only one example. "The cameras are always on, Flash. Whether or not someone is watching..."
"Oh. I didn't mean I thought... I mean, I was kidding. Well, not so much kidding as making incredibly insensitive insinuations about your character and. Uh." He swallowed. "And you're supposed to call me Wally, by the way."
So hard to breathe, hard to keep a handle on the conversation, impossible to follow all the twists and loops of Flash's mind. He never just said what he was thinking. There were always feelings involved, emotions so raw and human and honest and, for the first time in recent memory, Batman honestly had no idea what he was supposed to do.
What would be good, and what would be logical, and what would feel good, and what would be honest, and what would be safest for him and safest for Flash.... all of them different, all of them endlessly tempting.
"Wally." Shockingly familiar sound to his own, and it was strange that it should seem strange for it to be familiar right up until he remembered when he'd heard it sound that way last:
Himself, no one but himself no matter what anyone wanted to believe. Outside Flash's cell and desperate for something like a reprieve from everything his world had done to him.
He tried again. "Wally... there are a lot of reasons why I'm not very good at being a friend."
And Wally was quiet, rocking the chair and thinking, thinking.
It was almost ominous, really. There was no telling what the man would do, what he would say, what he would make Batman want.
Only that it would be anything but obvious.
Finally, one of those ancient smiles. "You have this amazing ability to make the most... harmless sentences sound like threats."
That was harmless?
"I mean, I keep imagining us eating breakfast or something, and all of a sudden you say 'pass the salt,' and the entire state of New York just dives for cover."
Pass the... Batman blinked. Shook his head. Maybe if he just gave up on trying to make things make sense. Just gave up entirely. "I... find myself amazed by the things you find harmless."
"What, salt? I mean, I know it causes high blood pressure and all, but -- hey, don't stroke out, man, joke, joke."
Hand on his shoulder and Batman realized he was gripping the desktop hard enough to make it creak. He purposely relaxed his fingers. Looked hard at Flash, who was looking at him with a curious mixture of worry and amusement.
"Don't take this the wrong way, Batman, but this is easily the most stressful conversation I've had in my life, and that includes the one with my Dad after I accidentally vibrated the driveway so hard our station wagon went flying."
He could kill him. He could grab that lean, muscular neck and just...
"Or, we could not talk, and you could just. Um. Keep looking at me like that while it suddenly occurs to me that I don't know you at all, and that the safest person I thought I knew tried to kill me a few days ago, and that --"
"I wouldn't hurt you."
Flash licked his lips, almost too fast to see. Not fast enough. "No? Because... because here's the funny thing -- I used to think that about all of you guys except for you and now I don't know what to think at all."
His fingers curled without his permission and he could feel the heat of Flash's skin. Through the glove, through Flash's own uniform. The man's metabolism made him a furnace. It wasn't the only reason. "I wouldn't hurt you," he said again, and knew he meant it and wanted, suddenly more than anything else, for Flash to believe him.
Flash's hand on his wrist, and that had been too fast to see. His grip was unsure, and undeniably strong, and Batman couldn't read his face.
Flexed his arm, just to see what would happen, and Flash held on tight.
"Then what... what would you do?"
Batman closed his eyes behind the mask, and only belatedly remembered that there was no way Flash could see his own expression. It should've been a relief. It wasn't. He tugged against Flash's grip and was immediately released and, for some reason he couldn't name, that was too much.
Just that... trust, however fearfully given.
He ran his glove over the part of Flash's cheek he could reach, and then up and over the mask, the tight cowl of it shockingly thin. He could feel the man's hair just beneath it.
He could see Flash's chest start to move raggedly, off-rhythm with panting breath.
"Oh. I... oh."
Batman leaned in and kissed him, hard at first but softening almost before the thoughts starting filtering through again: Flash's mouth was soft, willing, opening for his tongue.
Flash's hands were on his shoulders, gripping him tight and pulling him in and they were standing, turning, Flash obviously looking for a place to hold him, and Batman just...
He tasted like cheap chocolate and too much sugar and stale coffee. Utterly himself and endlessly desirable and right there.
Batman tilted his head into a better position and made the kiss as deep as possible, only half-aware that he was tilting Flash back over the desk and impossibly aware of Flash thigh pressed against the outside of his own, Flash's leg bending up and curling in, Flash's kiss as fast and hungry as his own.
Hands under his cape and hips socketed tight against his own and Flash groaned into the kiss, loud and shameless and pulled him in tighter.
He needed air.
He broke the kiss panting and tried to let go.
Flash followed him upright and staggered against him, feet on the floor only as long as it took to find his balance, and then that leg slid up his own again, forcing his thigh between Flash's own to find him hard and --
"Oh my God."
"This is a bad idea."
Flash blinked and half-shook his head. "And all the ideas you had about making us a safer, tougher, more practical team were great?"
Lips against his cowl, nuzzling, searching for his ear. "Call me Wally."
Too much, too intense, too fast, and it was a shock to find himself laughing, but Flash just laughed with him.
Nuzzled his face into position and kissed him again, somehow managing to smile at the same time and not even close to letting him go.
Fast, hot tongue over his lip. "Give up, Batman. You put ideas in my head. You knew that was wrong when you left the cave..." And he giggled and pushed Batman away just far enough to get his hands between them.
Ran them up his chest and down again and pressed his palms to his belly and kissed him lightning-fast twice, again, again.
"You've got to tell me something, though..."
"What?" He couldn't recognize his own voice at all.
"Are you ticklish?"
And the hands starting vibrating, and no, it wasn't ticklish at all, but it was completely ridiculous and... pleasant, and too much, too much.
Batman grabbed his wrists and yanked Wally's -- Flash's -- Wally's hands away from him, pulled them out to his sides and stepped in.
Felt the flex of Wally's muscles against his palms, felt himself hard and wanting beneath the suit. His nostrils flared and Wally tensed.
Breathed out hard through his mouth and tilted his head back just a little. Just enough.
"Mm. Yeah. Yeah, let's do that..."
A jerk and a rush of air and Wally was gone.
Another rush and he was back.
"Which bedroom? Wait, do you have a bedroom in this place? Do you have a bed?"
"I... I have a bed."
"That's really wonderful. You have no idea --"
"Yours is closer."
And he could see Wally consider and reject several different methods of getting Batman there.
And then do it again.
"You'd kill me, wouldn't you?"
"We could be walking there right now."
Wally walked backwards the entire way, like he expected Batman to throw a smoke bomb and disappear, or something else equally unlikely.
Into the bedroom and Wally kicked aside several magazines and empty cups and then just spun them around against the door Batman had barely managed to close behind them.
Grabbed his hand and tugged it down to his ass and climbed him, hips pumping and tongue tracing its way through his mouth and Batman held on.
Kissed back and squeezed and swallowed Wally's groans and stumbled them to the bed, getting yanked down on top of Wally and --
"God. God, you feel good..."
Hands roaming over his back, tugging at the cape, brushing over his mouth with surprising delicacy, and then just holding on to his head.
Pulling him down into an achingly slow kiss. Nearly painful for him and he couldn't help but wonder what it was like for Wally. If he liked forcing himself to slow down, if he liked the way it made him shake.
"You can... you can blindfold me..."
Images, images, crazy and impossible, and he couldn't stop his hips from thrusting just a little even as his mind did its best to jump off the rails. "What?"
"No! I mean. Wait. Oh, um. Wow..."
He shook all over, nothing like a dog but with the same general, obvious intent. "I meant. I meant you could blindfold me so I wouldn't see anything when you took off the mask. I want. I just want to feel your face."
And it made him shake, dig his fingers into the sheets and shake his head and there was no possible resistance for this. "I don't... I don't have anything we could use."
"Really? I mean... uh." He shook his head and reached up and to the side, turning the bedside lamp off and leaving them in darkness. "I have terrible night vision."
"I..." Smile that hurt his face so sweet. "I've never seen you eat a carrot."
"Bane of my existence. Batman --"
He pulled the cowl back and off, hissing at the feel of Wally's fingers sliding over his sweaty scalp.
And when he pushed Wally's own cowl up and over his face, his eyes were closed, eyelids trembling under his fingers. He had to force himself to breathe. It was so much easier to just kiss the man, lean into the slow, careful trace of his cheeks, his forehead.
Call me Bruce, he didn't say. It would've been a lie, anyway, even if it was one Wally would never understand.
He searched for the hidden catches on Wally's uniform with his hands, even though he could see perfectly well. It was better just to feel him, feel him moving, offering. So open.
And his body was just as lean and lithe and perfect as every glimpse he'd ever had while fast-forwarding the tapes suggested. Hardly a scar, and he searched for them.
With his hands. His mouth.
And he wanted to kiss him again, but more than that he wanted to just hear him. Every moan, every gasp.
Freely given, like the man had never even considered the alternatives. Batman knew he hadn't.
He never wanted him to.
He pulled back just far enough to get out of the suit and Wally followed, searching blindly for every bit of exposed skin, licking sweat and jerking a little at finding Bruce's nipple.
And then sucking hard, wrapping his arms around him, holding and stroking him and thrusting up against his thigh.
It was good, impossibly good, every sensation wrapped around and twisted with the wonder, the shock, the need.
He pushed Wally back down and just kissed him, wanting to do nothing but that and losing himself in the feel of hot, silky skin against his own, the feel of Wally starting to shake again, obviously needing more and just as obviously not asking for it.
"What do you want? We can. We can do anything, Wally..."
Hands spasming on his back, hard enough to leave bruises. "God. God, I don't know..."
And it was damning that it wasn't a surprise. God, had Wally even known...?
Hands down to his ass, pulling him in, sliding their cocks together, and Wally arched his head back and groaned.
It was enough, more than enough, and Batman braced himself and thrust, burying his face against Wally's neck at the feel, sucking hard at his pulse point when Wally pulled him in tighter, urged him faster.
"God, Batman, I... god that's so good --"
Felt himself flush all over and smelled his own sweat and licked a stripe up to Wally's ear.
And the noises Wally was making weren't words anymore, just rich, needy sounds that drove him faster, harder. Getting higher, getting hotter, and Wally's hand was in his hair, curling and tugging and pulling him into another kiss that just went on and on until he cried out into Batman's mouth and came all over them both.
Hot and God, slick, and Wally kept kissing him, shaking and panting and wrapping his legs around Batman's waist and squeezing.
And God, he was strong, Batman could barely move anything but his hips in increasingly brutal thrusts, his tongue in Wally's mouth and his mind lost somewhere far away and unimportant.
Wally broke the kiss and his eyes were still closed and that was... that was insane and wrong.
Full-body shudder that made something seize inside him.
"Wally, open your eyes..."
They flew open instantly, dark in the uncertain light and vivid, alive and wanting like he hadn't just come, like he wanted more, everything, now.
Batman came gasping, staring into Wally's eyes and something like helpless.
Forced himself to regulate his breathing.
Closed his eyes against the feel of Wally stroking his face, knowing the man was memorizing it with touch even if Wally himself didn't know.
Batman rolled over beside him and grabbed his hand, which stilled immediately.
Kissed it and abruptly had an armful of wet, sticky superhero.
Relaxed and held on, realizing he would have to detangle himself and crawl over the other man to get to his clothes. Wanted not to care.
Stayed where he was, anyway.
Waited for whatever would come next.
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