Word count: 3,500
Characters/Pairing: Bruce Wayne/Kal-El.
Genres/Plot summary: Slash/Romance. This is a movieverse crossover that goes by a crazy timeline that’s made-up in my head. This starts off when Bruce is still traveling the world but before he’s met Ra’s, and Superman decides to interfere in his affairs.
Author’s Note: I hate giving long titles, which is why this isn’t your run-of-the-mill five times title, but if I were going to make it accurate it would be: Five Times Superman Swept Bruce Off His Feet.
This is VERY belatedly written for tmelange’s holiday request. I am The Suck not only because of how long this took to write, but also how little justice I did the prompt (which is totally awesome!). This fic is very ambitious in its scope but just... well... I’m going to steal a phrase from my friend tinheart and say: it has problems. But I hope it’s still readable, and in this case, my dear T, the thought that counts :)
"Yīgah néihdeih jou—"
The drugrunner's instructions were abruptly cut off when the air whined around them, high and keening, and before Bruce even had time to blink he'd been thrown from the top of the truck and was flying through the air. Twisting and bracing himself for impact, he was thrown again for a spin when he felt a gust of cool air buoy him up and slow his velocity.
His vision wasn't quite caught up with the rest of him, but his back and the undersides of his knees told him he was now being held still.
"Are you all right, sir?"
Bruce swiped a hand across his eyes, trying to clear the vertigo-film from them. A shape slowly came into focus in front of him—a face. Perfectly brushed black hair, a pair of big blue eyes and two dark brows drawn together in concern.
"Depends on how you define 'all right,'" Bruce said, rubbing his whiplashed neck. It took a few minutes for him to find the words; he'd been speaking Cantonese for so many months that even that small bit of English was strange.
The man—Jesus, what was he wearing?—smiled a little. "Any irreversible damage?"
"Nothing a hot bath won't fix," Bruce looked down… and down…. and down. He swallowed. "How high up are we, exactly?"
"Nine-hundred and forty-six feet."
"I—" Bruce resisted the very present temptation to pinch himself. "Is this purgatory?"
"Do I look an angel?" The man sounded genuinely curious. Bruce scowled. "No. But I wasn't aware that putting on a cape made it possible to fly, either."
"Believe it or not," he adjusted Bruce in his arms as they began to descend, "I fly just as well naked."
Bruce was too busy on keeping his stomach inside his body to comment further, although he did give the garishly colored suit one more look-over, raising his eyebrow in approval at what he imagined must be underneath. They flew farther into the countryside, passing the larger cities until they came to land on the outskirts of a village that was composed of small, simple structures and deeply rutted dirt roads.
"You might not want to try standing right away," he advised, so naturally Bruce did the second his feet touched the grass. He wobbled a little, but maintained.
"Wait!" Bruce grabbed at the red cape as the not-angel-but-definitely-not-normal-pers
"Would you mind telling me what happened?"
"Of course. I threw you clear of the scene just as an ambush took place. Twelve gunmen, three of them from your own posse. There was a sniper aiming for your right temple—they were going to take you out first, since you were in the back. I was… in the area, and couldn't help overhearing their plans as they were moving in on your convoy. I dropped your two friends at the local sheriff's office and then went back for you."
"You threw me?" He mentally calculated how long he'd been in the air, narrowing his eyes. "That's impossible." Then again, so is flying with no obvious means of propulsion, he thought to himself.
The man took a step closer to Bruce, eyes twinkling. "Then what did happen?"
"An explosion, obviously."
Bruce consciously resisted the urge to punch the smirk off the other man's face—after all, whatever had happened, he'd obviously had some hand in helping Bruce get away from danger.
He should be grateful.
"Who are you? Why did you decide to help me?"
That actually succeeded in getting rid of the smirk. The man crossed his blue-clad arms over his chest, looking puzzled. "You don't know who I am?"
"That would be why I asked," Bruce said, droll. "Is there a reason I would?"
"Well… I guess not."
Bruce raised an eyebrow expectantly.
"I'm… Kal." Kal extended his hand, which Bruce took, feeling a little strange—it wasn't every day he met neon-bright spandexed men. "And you are…?"
On an impulse, he gave his real name. "Bruce."
"Good to meet you, Bruce." Drawing his warm hand back, Kal pointed it skyward, slowly starting to rise again. "But there's a mess back there I really have to get back to cleaning up. I'll see you around. Steer clear of those snipers next time, hmmm?"
There was a blurry jet of blue and rippling red, and Kal was out of the sight.
"That still doesn't tell me who you are!" Bruce cried after the spot in the sky where Kal had been, kicking the grass. He kicked out clumps all the way to the village, grinding his teeth the whole way while contemplating whether it was possible for a hero to be more annoying than the villains he stopped.
The next time, Bruce was on a boat crossing the channel, smuggling various illegal treasures—opium, aphrodisiacs derived from endangered animals, other substances that he wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole—from China to Hong Kong.
Despite the pitch black of the night and the noise of the engine churning in the water, all his muscles were tensed and the hair on the back of his neck was standing on end when he was hurled into the air this time.
"Damn you," he tried to yell, but it came out more like a gasp in the cold air, trailing white against the black sky as he plummeted back down towards the water. Inches before he was about to hit the water he was once again buoyed up by a cold gust and caught in a pair of steel-vice arms when he'd slowed down.
He glared at the pair of smiling blue eyes. "Let me guess," he said, still breathless as they soared towards the far shore, "you defused the bomb."
"Gold star for Bruce."
"Would it actually hurt if I punched you?"
Bruce punched his shoulder, but he got nothing more than throbbing knuckles and an infuriating grin as a response. "You feel better now?"
"I'd been planning that for months," Bruce ground out, barely able to restrain himself. "Do you realize how much it would damage this operation to have that boat go down?"
Bruce narrowed his eyes. "You've been spying on me."
"I look out for the welfare of mankind."
"You're not the least bit surprised that I was trying to bring down this operation from the inside. That requires spying on me and my private conversations."
"If you insist. What you were planning was almost flawless, I'll give you that."
"And you still had to interfere."
Suddenly, the cheerful blue eyes hardened like ice freezing over a sunny pond. "The minor detail you were overlooking, Bruce, is that you could have killed some of those men in your eagerness to get to the top."
"They knew the risks involved in what they were doing."
"That doesn't make it right."
Something about the way Kal was looking at him caused him to clamp down on the next scathing that was on the tip of his tongue; the rest of the flight back to land was in silence.
They came to land in a dark alley on the outskirts of the red light district; Kal, in his outfit, was the brightest thing in the bleak and filthy cityscape.
"I know what you're trying to do, Bruce. You have the right idea."
"Then let me take care of my own business. Go back to Metropolis and keep the kittens out of trees, Superman."
Kal raised an eyebrow, acknowledging that Bruce now knew his identity. "I'm not going to let you put anyone's life in danger. That's what Superman is here to prevent," he said, taking a step closer to Bruce and locking him with his hard, glittering gaze. "I could have turned you in any time in the past few months, but I didn't. Do you even care why?"
Bruce had been asking himself this same question since they'd met, since he'd found out exactly who Superman was and what he did. None of the answers he'd come up with had made any sense. He broke eye contact, not totally sure he wanted to be having this conversation any more.
"I didn't have to spy on you to figure out that you're smart. You're determined. You know the difference between right and wrong which is more than I can say for most of the people on this planet, and even more than that, you do something about it." Kal took another step closer, and in the last few words his voice had switched from condemning to almost… imploring. "You could have just floated through life on your trust fund, but instead you're out here, trying to make the world a better place. But you're not going to do that by hurting people, Bruce." And Kal was far too close, all his bulk invading Bruce's personal space which was one of the few things he'd managed to maintain even in all his time traveling, no matter what situation he was in, and here this guy in stupid fucking spandex was just stepping right into it. He put a warm hand on Bruce's shoulder, voice dropping to a whisper. "Bruce. You're better than this."
And then he was nothing more than a breeze floating up towards the cloudless sky.
He stared at the image on the computer screen with a single-minded intensity, as if he could decipher its secrets from sheer determination alone.
Kal—no, Superman, he mentally corrected himself—was caught mid-action in this shot, pulling a woman free from a car wreck.
He'd already looked through all the "headliner" photos; the iconic images that would go down in the history books, marking the brilliant passage of the hero through time. But those photos hadn't been the man who he'd encountered twice, now. The smile was too obviously tight at the corners, not quite real.
Not like the way he'd smiled at Bruce. Which was irritating as hell, but at least it was genuine.
But, here, in this picture, he saw a glimpse of the man underneath the colors—deep concern in his eyes for the woman, mouth compressed into a thin line with worry.
And he couldn't seem to look away.
Research, he reassured himself, letting his fingers drum on the cheap fiberboard desk. He had to know how to convince this character to get off his case, because if he really had all the powers that the papers claimed he did, Bruce had no other means to stop him. If Superman was determined to interfere in Bruce's plans, he had the strength to do it.
It would be a battle of wills.
He brought the cursor to hover over the "X" at the top right of the screen, aware that ten minutes looking at one picture was too long to be considered research no matter how thorough an investigation it was.
Maybe just another minute, he told himself, lifting his index finger away from the mouse.
The third time, there was no emergency. There was no illegal activity, no suspicious persons—no one, really.
Roofs were lonely places. Or they were supposed to be.
"I was here first," Bruce said, but it had no sting. It had been four months since they'd last spoken and the sharp edges had faded as he'd turned Kal's words over and over in his mind.
"Technically, I don't think you're allowed to be up here."
"But you are?"
Kal shrugged, which looked incongruous; his cape flowed out in ripples behind him with the movement, reminding Bruce of a King's robe. "I think people are too intimidated by me to enforce things so mundane as trespassing laws." He laughed, sitting down next to Bruce and looking out on the ocean. "Ironic, isn't it? If you ask me, no one should be above the law. Especially not me."
"That's why you are."
Kal looked at him askance. "I couldn't help noticing the drop-off in your activities recently."
It should bother me that he's still spying on me. "I knew you would."
"Trying a different approach?"
Bruce leaned back on the tiles, crossing his arms over his chest. "You could say that."
Kal nodded, staring straight at the sun blazing mid-afternoon brilliant. "You know the funny part?"
Bruce just raised an imperial eyebrow in response.
"I had no real reason to start watching you. Nothing about you stood out—even your accent is perfect. You sound like you could have been born here."
Kal inclined his head. "Exactly. And the way you interacted with Tam's gang—there was nothing that should have made you stand out. You fit right in."
"…but I did. And I—I've spent the last few months trying to figure out how to take my foot out of my mouth." He finally turned to face Bruce. "Don't get me wrong. I would stop you from detonating that bomb again—the probability was just too high that someone could have drowned in the aftermath. But the way I went about it wasn't… I should have given you the respect due to a colleague."
And just like that, the battle of wills was over.
Bruce stood up. "Let's try that different approach."
Kal stood as well, looking at Bruce warily, until he took a step towards Kal, holding out his hand. "Hi. My name's Bruce Wayne. I'm a vigilante."
Kal took Bruce's cool, dry hand in his own warm one. "My name's Kal-El, but you can call me Kal. I'm an alien from Kansas. Not too many people will tell you this, but I'm a vigilante, too."
"Pleased to meet you, Kal."
The fourth time Kal didn't wear the suit. Oddly enough, even his hair looked different, which made no sense, but Bruce couldn't help approving of how Kal filled out his Levy's, white t-shirt, and boots.
"Whenever you are."
In all the time he'd been roaming through China, Bruce had never found the time to enjoy the sights it had to offer. The Great Wall stretched out below them like a river of pebbled stone, undulating stretches of earthen gray splashed against the lush greens and browns of the countryside. The people moved across the surface like ants, specks of life dwarfed by the magnitude of the wonder they were treading.
"You've been here before?" Bruce asked, his voice barely penetrating the thick vapors of wind and silence.
Kal shook his head. "Usually I'm going by so fast that I can't see what's beneath me."
"If I wanted to look, I could tell you the exact number of bones that are encased in the stone."
"That troubles you." A statement rather than a question.
"I'd just like to see man achieve something great without a trail of blood leading there."
"Sacrifice is the price of greatness, Kal."
Kal looked at him strangely, but said nothing. They landed and took out their cameras and baseball caps; Kal let Bruce lead the way up the inhumanly large steps, through the miles of long serpentine twists that took them across rugged terrain in the comfort of measured-out blocks.
They took a break for lunch after four miles; Bruce had a simple meal of rice and gai laan, while Kal cleared out most of the bulk of his pack. Bruce raised an eyebrow at the slice of apple pie.
"You weren't kidding about being from Kansas, were you?"
"No," Kal said around a mouthful of biscuits and jam, "why would I be?"
"A superhero who farms in his spare time."
Kal smiled, his pearly-whites flashing in the sun. "I'm a simple man, Bruce."
"So you keep saying."
"I think you're the most skeptical person I've ever met."
"I take that as a compliment."
"Somehow, I knew you would."
After they finished their meal, they set out again, walking until dark and Bruce did find out that Kal was indeed a superhero who farmed in his spare time, and talked about seedlings with the same sparkle in his eye that most people reserved for their most prized accomplishments. They discovered that despite an ocean between where they'd grown up, Martha and Alfred had many of the same philosophies about life and raising young boys. For a few minutes, Bruce even managed to forget that tactically speaking, he should have been here scouting out Kal's weaknesses, learning where—if they had confrontations in the future—he could strike, and he actually admired the other man's strengths. The ones that had nothing to do with physical prowess and everything to do with the shouldering a burden unasked, and carrying it without complaint, although it was too heavy for any one set of shoulders. Even Kryptonian ones.
And if he leaned forward and kissed Kal's wind-chapped lips, it was because he was half-mad from self-imposed isolation, and nothing more. If he pushed him onto the grass and breathed in the scent of crushed grass beneath them, it was because he wanted—no, needed—to know how far he could take this. How far he could push before Kal pushed back, pushed away, fled like all the others had; before he looked into Bruce's eyes and flinched away, evaded his searching hands.
But Kal's gaze met his, not with fear. No fear at all. It was intensity Bruce had never seen anywhere but in his own sharpened reflection, a hurt borne so long that it transmuted into passion, burned with all the need that could never be explained, except in fervent touches and breathless closeness, mouth to mouth and body to body. Kal was a fire underneath him, an avatar of the sun rendered in sinew and muscle, a perfection achieved in its imperfect edges.
"I'm sorry," Kal said as he fell apart in Bruce's arms.
Bruce smiled, dropping down onto the grass, blinking away stars. "That's a new one."
"I am." Kal strung a hand through his hair, touching their foreheads. "Because I should have told you…"
"Told me what it is that's been on your mind all day?"
Kal nodded, their skin brushing. "I'm going to be leaving, for awhile."
"How long is awhile?"
"I appreciate you telling me."
Kal looked at him, obviously a little surprised.
"You wouldn't be leaving if it weren't something important. I assume you're leaving Earth since, with your abilities, it doesn't matter where you reside, unless it's going to be so far that even with your speed you can't commute around the planet to keep doing what you're doing."
"…Krypton. They think they've found remains."
Bruce nodded. "You have to know."
"Yes," he said, taking Bruce's hand, "I do."
Bruce gripped it. "I hope you find what you're looking for."
Kal smiled, but his eyes were already a galaxy away. "You, too."
The fifth time was in a room full of strangers, everyone dressed to kill and deciding the fate of Gotham over paté and champagne, gentle music just below the buzz of gossip and conversation, waiters and waitresses weaving through the crowd so efficiently that they were invisible to the naked eye.
"Clark Kent," he said, coming so smoothly into the conversation it didn't quite seem like he was interrupting.
"If you'll excuse me?" Kal said to his colleague, giving her a blinding smile when she acquiesced without a murmur of protest.
"Bruce Wayne," he said, lingering on it, his eyes catching the light behind his thick glasses.
"I'm glad to see you're no worse for the wear after hurling a continent into space," Bruce said casually, pretending to take a sip from his drink.
"And you weathered the attack of your former mentor quite nicely."
"I didn't kill him," Bruce said, suddenly serious, the façade too heavy to hold up.
Kal stepped too close, and even with the glasses and purposefully mismatched suit Bruce could still see the man he'd known all those years ago. "I know," he whispered, brushing a hand against Bruce's so quickly it might not have been there at all. "I almost died in space, Bruce. As I watched that thing float away from me. And do you know what I thought of?" Kal slid off his glasses. "That no matter how much I wanted to deny it—how much I wanted to be someone I wasn't—I couldn't."
"So who are you?" Bruce asked, and this time he was the one closing space between them, and he couldn't have cared less what any of the partygoers around them thought, not now. Not when the voice he'd been waiting five years to hear was breaking apart like this right in front of him.
"I'm the man that wants you so much—who's been wanting you so much—that he can't even think straight."
Bruce smiled as he took Kal's hand. "That makes two of us."