(Don't) Throw Away the Pieces
By: Arian (arianstarr)

Disclaimer: don't own, don't profit, just like to play

Notes: This story was written for qbic1, who placed the winning bid for me in the Sweet Charity auction supporting The Writer's Guild Foundation. Beta and audience credit goes to tmelange, theclexfactor, cinderella81, vampsarecool, miss_tress, roxymissrose, and dm_wyatt. They pointed out the things I wouldn't have otherwise seen and offered insight on characters I've never written before. I really appreciate their contribution of time, knowledge and advice. Any remaining mistakes are mine alone.

Original Prompt: Robin(Tim)/Superboy(Conner) get outed as a couple - pic gets taken while they are kissing or something like that - and as the opinions split in the comic world - older heroes are apalled, younger ones are going 'So what?' - it makes Superman(Clark Kent) reevaluate his life.


The photo appeared on a Wednesday; a quiet day in early February when the sun was hiding behind slowly departing clouds and the air still held the damp chill of winter. Above the line on the front page of The Inquisitor was a full-colour image of Robin, eyes half-closed, lashes dipping towards his cheeks. His face was partially obscured – but still undeniably recognizable – by Superboy's hand resting alongside his face. Their mouths were only a fraction of an inch apart with just a hint of the tip of Superboy's tongue breeching the gap between his lips.

"SUPER SEX BETWEEN SUPER HEROES!" screamed the headline, followed by a caption reading, "Metropolis's own Superboy caught in the act with Gotham City's Robin." The article contained several "eyewitness" reports detailing the two having sex in a back alley in Gotham two days before and a lot of speculation on the nature of their relationship.

Clark had been waiting for his phone to ring since he'd seen the paper earlier that morning. He expected to hear Bruce's angry voice on the other end. He even anticipated the man would eventually show up on his doorstep. What he didn't expect was to hear Tim's voice on the other end of the line when his cell phone finally did ring.

"Do you have a few minutes?" Tim's voice sounded uncertain, lacking its usual confidence.

Clark took a seat at the kitchen table, putting his coffee down and reaching for the stack of toast he'd set in the centre. "Sure, Tim, what's up?"

Tim laughed and the nervous lilt lifted from his voice. "Apparently me, if you pay any attention to The Inquisitor."

"You saw that then," Clark said sympathetically.

"Bruce isn't saying anything, which means he's freaking out. Conner won't answer his phone, and if the paper's so-called witnesses are to be believed, I have a thing for getting it on in dirty back alleys. Which didn't happen by the way!" he hurried to add. "Oh god, you had to <I>read</I> that! I'm sorry, Clark. I -"

"It's alright, Tim, calm down. I'm not going to freak out, and you already know I'm answering my phone. You and Conner are mature enough to make your own decisions." Clark leaned back, blowing softly on his coffee out of habit before taking a sip.

"Have you talked to Conner yet?"

"No. I figured it would be better to let him come to me first. We're still working on balancing the whole father and son thing. It's been hard with my parents gone."

"He misses them. Going from the farm to living with you has been a weird transition for him, but I know he's happy to have you. Look, Clark. I'm sorry that you had to find out about – about our relationship like this. It wasn't how we planned for it to happen."

"You mind if I start asking questions now?" He could hear Tim's muffled sigh and smiled to himself as he crunched into another piece of toast.

"Better they come from you than Bruce. I'm still waiting for him to break the door down and demand a full debrief."

Clark laughed. "Make sure you take pictures of his expression when you get to the back alley sex part. I'd pay to see that."

"I might be in need of bail money in the near future, so don't think I won't remember that."

"It won't be that bad."

"Are you forgetting that it's Bruce we're talking about here?"

"Right. It won't be as bad as you might think," he amended. "As long as you're straight with him. Bruce has this uncanny ability to tell if someone's trying to pull one over on him."

"No kidding. So come on, hit me with it."

"Are you two an actual couple, or is this just something you're experimenting with?" He could hear Tim shuffling on the other end of the line.

"We're together," he finally said.

"You don't sound overly certain of that."

"Kon isn't much for labels. He's worried about what you'd think of him."

"He's my son," Clark said without hesitation. "He doesn't have anything to worry about."

"Have you told him that?"

"He should know."

"I don't know that he does, Clark."

"Then I'll make sure he gets it. Are you two –" Clark paused, rewording the question in his head several times until finally giving up and asking outright, "Are you two having sex?"

Tim cleared his throat. "No. Yes. Uh, sort of?" he finally finished lamely.

"You want to define ‘sort of' for me?" Clark's pulse pounded in his temple as he waited for a response.

"We, uh. We haven't really…"

"Clark!" Connor's voice brought Clark's attention to where the teenager had appeared in the archway separating the kitchen from the living room. "Tell me you're not interrogating Tim. Just, please, do me that one small favour!"

"I'm not interrogating anyone. Tim called me looking for you. Where have you been hiding, by the way?"

Conner's shoulders visibly slumped as he made his way across the worn linoleum floor to take a seat opposite Clark. "At the Fortress," he muttered. "Can I talk to him?" He raised his eyebrows hopefully.

"Come find me when you're done – no taking off, got it? You and I have some things to cover."

"Okay," Conner muttered dejectedly.

Clark laughed. "Don't sound so sad, kiddo. It'll be as painless as possible." He passed the phone over and picked up another slice of toast before squeezing Conner's shoulder reassuringly on his way out.

Not quite fifteen minutes later Conner appeared in the doorway to the room Clark used as a home office, head bowed slightly as he moved to take a seat on the small couch. He didn't even put his feet up on the coffee table like he did any other day of the week. Clark turned to face him, taking in the wear-worn jeans and rumpled black t-shirt before his eyes travelled up to the tousled black hair hanging low over Conner's eyes.

"Before you say anything, I'm sorry I didn't tell you before. I should have."

"Yes," Clark agreed, nodding even though Conner's head was bowed and he couldn't see him. "You should have. Why didn't you?"

"I didn't think you'd understand."


"I was scared you'd be mad. You wouldn't want me around anymore."

"You're my son, Conner. If I'm mad about anything – and I'd call it worried, for the record, not mad – it's that you didn't trust me enough to let me in on that part of your life."

"I'm not really your son," Conner muttered. "I'm just something Lex Luthor cooked up in a test tube."

"Hey." Clark's voice was sharp, drawing Conner's gaze up to not quite meet his eyes. "That doesn't make you any less a part of me." His voice softened as he continued. "It doesn't make me love you any less. I thought we established that when you moved in with me." Clark paused, letting out a deep breath and running a hand through his hair. "I'm always going to accept you, Kon, no matter who you become."

"Okay," Conner said quietly, finally meeting Clark's gaze.

"Good. Now spill."

"Tim and I are. We're… dating."

Clark quirked an eyebrow as Conner hesitated. "You sure about that kiddo?"

"What?" Confusion coloured his tone.

"You don't seem too confident."

"I am. We are. Dating, I mean."

"How long?"

"Almost six months." He caught Clark's swiftly hidden look of surprise. "I'm sorry for not telling you," he said again.

"It's okay, Conner. Are you two having sex?"

"Sort of."

Clark couldn't help but laugh. "They not teaching the birds and the bees in school anymore?" Conner sent him another puzzled look. "Tim didn't seem all that sure about it either."

"You asked Tim if we were having sex!?" Conner's eyes went wide and his expression was one of abject horror.

"He said I could ask questions."

"You're taking a perverse pleasure in all this, aren't you?"

"Maybe a little. Well?"

Conner sighed. "We've done stuff," he said slowly. "But we haven't actually had the textbook definition of homosexual intercourse." His cheeks were burning bright with embarrassment. Across the room he could see Clark's shoulders shaking as he struggled to hold back his laughter.

"Alright," Clark managed to choke out after a few seconds.

"This isn't funny!"

Clark cleared his throat. "You're right, I'm sorry. It isn't." Conner watched him intently for several seconds and then Clark was laughing again, unable to help himself. "I'm sorry!" he gasped. "It's just the way you phrased it! ‘Homosexual intercourse' sounds so, so… formal!"

From his seat on the couch, Conner watched as Clark doubled over, hands on his knees as his body shook with the force of his laughter. Against his will, Conner felt the corners of his mouth twitch up into a smile, and soon he was laughing as well.

"I'm glad the two of you find this so amusing," a new voice said.

Clark looked up and caught sight of Bruce standing just inside the room, arms crossed firmly over his chest and a stern frown fixed in place. He tried to turn his laughter into a cough, but Bruce had obviously been standing there long enough to not buy it. Conner stopped laughing and shrunk back into the couch cushions.

"Bruce, I was wondering when I'd hear from you. Come on in and take a seat. Can I get you a coffee?"

Bruce remained where he stood. "No thank you. I had to come into town for a meeting. Thought I'd stop in and talk about how to handle this situation." He turned to face Conner. "Would you be so kind as to explain exactly what activities fall outside the ‘textbook definition of homosexual intercourse'?"

Conner paled as Clark stalked across the room to stand in front of Bruce, arms rising to cross over his chest. "That's enough, Bruce. I'm handling it."

"You're handling it? Well, since you're handling it, would you be so kind as to tell me how the two of them came to the conclusion that it would be acceptable to get their photograph on the cover of The Inquisitor?"

"It was an accident," Conner offered meekly.

Bruce turned to face him, voice deceptively calm. "An accident," he repeated, shoulders visibly tensing. "You've humiliated yourselves in front of an entire city, brought down a round of negative speculation about yourselves and the League, and now you say it was an accident as if that's going to fix everything. The behaviour you and Tim have exhibited is entirely inappropriate. The League is holding an emergency meeting this afternoon to decide how to deal with this mess."

"This mess!" Clark erupted, unable to contain his anger any longer. Hands fisted at his sides, he moved forward again and stopped only when he and Bruce were separated by just a couple of feet. "This mess? Don't you dare take your own need to hide who you are and force it on my son! On Tim! Where the hell do you get off, Bruce? Just because you can't come to terms with your own–"

"This is none of his business."

"No, Bruce, it isn't. Just like how Conner feels about Tim isn't any of yours. Tim may be your ward, but Conner is mine and he has as much right as anyone to love who–"

"Love!" Bruce interrupted incredulously. "You can't be serious, Clark. Tim is eighteen! Conner may be the same age in a physical capacity, but he's only been around a few–"

A fist slamming into Bruce's jaw cut off the rest of his sentence. Clark's look of fury faded into confusion and then panic as Bruce's head snapped back from the unexpected blow. Bruce stumbled into the hallway and caught himself on the opposite wall as Clark's attention fixed on his hands.

"That's enough!" Conner shouted. Bruce's hand came up to brush gingerly against reddening skin as Conner moved to stand between the two. "Both of you just shut up!"

Clark was at a loss for words, eyes flicking rapidly between Conner and Bruce. "I –" he started to say, taking a halting step forward. "Are you – shit. I'm sorry," he said to both of them.

"I suppose I had that coming," Bruce said dryly.

"You're damn right you did," Conner growled, turning to face him. "You may have some sort of parental-like right to stick your nose into Tim's life, but you don't have that right with me. Are we clear on that?"

Bruce's features tightened in an effort to remain silent as he acknowledged Conner with a quick jerk of his head down and back up once.

Conner turned to Clark next. "I get that you want to stand up for me, but slugging Bruce wasn't really necessary, alright?" He waited for Clark's nod before going on. "Now I'm gonna go call Tim back while you two discuss whatever it is that has you so riled up, because it's definitely more than just us getting caught." Neither Bruce nor Clark said anything as he walked out of the office and down the hall to his bedroom, the door closing with a soft snick behind him.

"I shouldn't have hit you," Clark said seriously.

"It was a fair shot; you pulled your strength."

"Whatever happened – didn't happen – between us, Bruce… You can't use that against Tim and Kon."

"Does this mean we're breaking our unspoken agreement to never bring up that night?"

"Looks like. Want that coffee now?" he called asked over his shoulder as he walked away.

"I don't have a choice in this, do I?" He sighed when Clark's ‘no' floated back to him. Pushing himself off the wall where he'd been leaning, Bruce made his way into the kitchen, taking a seat at the table.

He looked up as Clark tossed a bag filled with ice and a dishtowel at him, nodding towards his bruised jaw as he stepped back to lean against the counter. Bruce picked up the offering with a muttered ‘thanks' and positioned it against the swelling. "I thought I was dying," he finally said.

"And you figured it would be a good time to confess your burning desire to get in my pants."

"It seemed appropriate given the circumstances."

"But then you decided since you weren't dying after all, that everything you'd said was no longer relevant."

"We have to work together, Clark. I didn't think it prudent that we be engaging in illicit behaviour."

"Got something against illicit behaviour, Bruce?"

"Only with my co-workers."

Clark set two full mugs down on the table before moving to the cupboards. "I'm starving and we're going to be here a while. Want a sandwich?"

"There's no need to be here very long, Clark. Agree to let me deal with the boys and their indiscretion, and we can agree to disagree about creating more useless talk regarding that night. We'll be done before you finish your drink."

Clark put the bread down and turned to face Bruce, leaning against the counter at his back. "Let you deal with their indiscretion? I don't think so. Haven't we already had this conversation?"

"The two of you were laughing it up like this was hilarious when I walked in here. It's a serious matter and should be handled as such."

"Since when do you have a key anyway?"

"Since you're ridiculous enough to keep a spare on top of the doorframe. Who does that, Clark? Are you asking to be robbed?"

"In case you hadn't noticed, I'm capable of taking care of myself. It's all just stuff, Bruce. None of it really matters in the long run."

"That doesn't mean you need to invite crime into your home."

"How about I let you say ‘I told you so' if it ever happens and we go back to the subject at hand."


"Fine." Clark sat down, bread left forgotten on the counter.

"Why aren't you taking this seriously?"

"Because it isn't that big of a deal. They got caught kissing; it's not the end of the world. Something new will come along tomorrow and no one will think twice about it. They shouldn't have to hide who they are any more than they already do."

"That's not the point."

"Then what is?" Clark threw up his hands in exasperation. "Enlighten me, because I seem to be missing something here."

"The point is that the public looks to us – the League – for guidance, and a prejudice still exists against meta humans and aliens the same as it does against same-sex relationships. The parental figure in me says who cares as long as they are happy with each other, but the Batman thinks otherwise. This sort of thing contributes to weakening the public's trust in us, and that isn't something we can afford to allow. Not when our lives and theirs are at stake every day."

Clark took his time evaluating Bruce's response, blue eyes watching intently as he studied the man sitting opposite him. "I still don't agree that this needs to be handled in any way other than a safe sex lecture and a request to keep their activities out of the public eye. You handle this with Tim as you see fit, and I'll deal with Conner. But consider this fair warning that if your methods hurt Conner, you'll be hearing from me. Shall we agree to disagree?" he finished, tossing Bruce's words back at him.

"Your propensity for being a self-righteous ass wears thin after a while, Clark."
Clark gaped at him, momentarily unable to formulate a response that didn't involve a litany of curse words or a childish comeback. Finally he settled on, "Self-righteous ass? This from the king of the egomaniacs himself?"

Bruce tossed the partially melted ice pack onto the table, pushing his chair back as he did. "I think we're done here, Clark."

"I think you're right." He held out his hand expectantly. "The key please."

Bruce pulled it from his pocket and tossed it onto the table as he strode past Clark. "I'll see myself out." His words were followed a moment later by the door slamming behind him.

"That man drives me insane!" he shouted at the empty kitchen, starting when Conner spoke up from behind him.

"My money was on unrequited love, not insanity."

Clark swung around to face him. "Not funny, kiddo," he said, but the words held no heat.

"It's a little bit funny." Conner grinned when Clark gave him the look he'd come to think of as his ‘dad' expression. "To me anyway."

"Sit down, Kon. We still need to finish that talk."

Conner groaned inwardly but did as he was told, pushing Bruce's almost full mug towards the centre of the table. "Alright, lay it on me."

Clark opened his front door several hours later to find Oliver leaning casually against the wall. "So what's the verdict?" he asked dryly.

"You'd think by now they'd have figured out that some things just aren't anyone's business but their own." Oliver straightened and stepped inside when Clark moved back to let him pass.

"That good?"

"Bruce is worked up over nothing," Oliver said. "I don't know how you put up with his attitude. Hey Conner," he greeted as the teenager came out of the kitchen. "How ya doing, kid?"

"Stop calling me kid," he said with a grin. "I'm okay."

"And Tim?"

"Freaking out over Bruce. I offered to go get him, but he figures that'd just make things worse."

Oliver grinned. "Yeah, I bet it would. Anyway, bottom line? Don't get caught on camera again and no one but Bruce will really care what you two do as long as it doesn't interfere with your jobs. Sound good?"

"I can live with never getting my picture splashed across the front page of The Inquisitor again, thanks."

He nodded and looked over at Clark. "So, Boy Scout," Oliver began, changing the subject. "I noticed Bruce was sporting a fresh looking shiner. Something you want to share with the class?"

Clark rolled his eyes, catching Oliver as he tried to replace his grin with a serious look. "I may have accidentally let my fist say hi to his jaw."

"Accidentally, huh?"

"He was overstepping his bounds. I lost my temper."

"I'm not surprised; this is Bruce we're talking about. Still."

"It won't happen again."

"Fair enough. He must have really stepped in it if you lost your cool enough to clock him one."

Conner spoke up instead. "He did. But that doesn't mean Clark should have hit him." Clark ducked his head as his cheeks warmed in a blush. "And it doesn't mean I don't appreciate it," he added.

Oliver caught the small smile Clark flashed at his son. "See you on watch tonight, Clark."

* * *

Clark managed to avoid Bruce for a full week before they were scheduled for a night shift together at the Watchtower. Diana spared Clark a sympathetic look as they exited the control room when Bruce acknowledged his presence with only a brisk nod, eyes focused on the monitor in front of him.

"Bruce," he said stiffly, taking his own seat next to the man.

"Quiet night so far," was all Bruce responded with.

The rest of the night dragged by in relative silence; Bruce and Clark danced around each other, avoiding any physical contact, not speaking unless it was necessary to communicate with other League members. It was nearly half-past two when Bruce stood and made his way out the door without a word. Several minutes later he returned carrying two steaming cups of coffee, one of which he set down in front of Clark before taking his seat again. Clark refreshed their coffee twice before the next shift arrived to relieve them. The trip home didn't start any better; tension palpable between them.

Finally Clark broke down and spoke. "How's Tim?"

Bruce's eyes cut in his direction. "I walked in on him and Conner with their hands down each others pants last night; I'd say he's doing pretty well." Clark couldn't help the bark of laughter that escaped him, and when Bruce's glare morphed into a scowl, Clark just laughed harder.

"It's not funny."

Clark coughed in an effort to curb his reaction. "Right. Not funny. Not at all"

Bruce turned his head away, hiding the slight quirk of his lips. "It isn't, Clark. Not to me at least."

Clark gave up all pretence of trying to calm down, hands wrapping around his body as his and head tipped back and he laughed even harder. "P-poor Conner and T-Tim! Talk about sp-spoiling the mood!"

Bruce stood stiffly by Clark's shaking body for almost a full minute before saying, "Conner has super hearing; you'd think he would have heard me knocking."

"I'm guessing he was distracted." Clark had finally gotten his laughter under control, but the look on Bruce's face sent him into another fit.

"I'm glad at least one of us finds this amusing."

"Alfred never caught you in the act when you were growing up?"

Bruce cleared his throat. "Maybe once or twice. Your parents?"

"I got caught trying to sneak Lana out of the house at 6:15 in the morning."

Bruce cracked a smile, chuckling lightly. They didn't speak after that but the tension had faded from the silence, replaced by an easy quiet where the things left unsaid were understood if not openly acknowledged.

* * *

Their unofficial truce lasted another two weeks; they were almost acting normal around each other again, and Clark had been right about the media finding something new to set their sights on. Things were going well. Right up until Clark went missing for three days after a particularly brutal battle with a meteor-infected meta human.

It was Oliver who found him hidden away in the lair of the escaped sociopath possessing kryptonite-enhanced strength. Bruce had been pacing the length of the of the Watchtower's control room, muttering angrily about boy scouts and do-gooders, when Oliver's call for assistance came in.

Bruce paced over to stand behind Diana as she responded. "What's going on?"

"I've got Superman; he's hurt."

"We're dispatching transport now, Green Arrow. What's his status?"

"Alive," was the curt response.

Bruce met Diana's eyes warily. "We're going to need a little more detail than that," he said.

"I don't have more. He's hurt, but he's breathing."

"Did you find Dane?"

"The others are dealing with him now. Got a visual on transport. We'll be there soon." Oliver was gone from the other end of the line an instant later.

Bruce made his way swiftly to the docking bay with Bart. He shifted nervously, eyes scanning the sky outside for signs of the approaching vehicle. He wasn't expecting the sight that greeted him when it arrived several minutes later. Clark's limp body was strapped into a seat, his face a mass of bruises and dried blood. His suit had been torn in several areas, revealing long gashes surrounded by swollen, infected skin. Bruce grimaced as he bent to help lift Clark, the three of them carrying the unconscious man out of the shuttle.

"Stop pacing," Clark muttered a few hours later. Bruce scowled at him. "I mean it, Bruce. You're making me dizzy."

He stopped with a sigh and turned to sit on the edge of the next bed over. Now that the dirt and blood were gone he could see the spectacular swirl of colour across Clark's face – bruising that ranged from a mottled yellow to a deep, menacing black and blue. He'd never seen Clark so bruised before.

"It's happened a couple times. Never quite this bad." Clark smiled slightly when Bruce started at the sound of his voice. "Yeah, you said that out loud."



Bruce shrugged and Clark watched him for a few beats before shifting his position against the pillows, hissing as sore limbs were forced into movement. Bruce was at his side without realizing he'd moved.

"Hurts?" he asked, and immediately chastised himself. "Of course it hurts," he muttered.

Clark huffed out a small laugh. "It's getting better." He gestured at the large lights on either side of his bed. "The full spectrum lighting helps. Not as much as the actual sun, but I'm not in any shape to go searching it out right now."

"You should try to get some sleep. You've never been exposed to kryptonite for so long; it's taken its toll on your body."

"I've been out cold the better part of three days. Think I'd like to stay awake for a while."

Conner burst into the room then. "Dad?" he called, visibly flinching as he got a good look at Clark.

Clark smiled at the greeting; Conner had never called him anything but Superman or Clark before. "Hey kiddo," he said lightly. "I'm fine, nothing to worry about."

"I would have been here sooner, but we were dealing with an earthquake in San Francisco." He approached the bed. "You look like shit."

Clark's bright burst of laughter was cut short with a grunt followed by a hand rising to his ribs. "Yeah, I figured as much from the way Bruce has been hovering." He smiled ruefully in the older man's direction. "It's not like I'm going anywhere."

Conner glanced at Bruce. "Thanks for staying with him."

"I'm not an invalid who needs constant supervision you know."

"You're welcome." Bruce pushed off from the bed. "I'll leave you two alone. Make sure he doesn't do something stupid like try to get up."

"I'm still in the room, you know."

"You don't have to leave, Bruce." Conner's eyes were cast down as if his hands were suddenly the most fascinating things he'd ever seen and needed to be studied intently.

Clark sighed in defeat and slumped back against the pillows again, wincing at the flare of pain that winged its way through his body.

"Stop moving around, Clark. You'll only hurt yourself more."

Clark rolled his eyes at Bruce and mumbled, "Now they acknowledge me," under his breath.

"What happened?" Conner asked. "One minute you were there and the next no one could find you."

"I'm not entirely sure to be honest with you. I was trying to lead him away from the city proper when the kryptonite in his body started to affect me. Dane hadn't gotten close enough to attack yet – mostly just using evasive tactics – but when he realized what I was doing he went on the offensive and no one was close enough to step in. Things are a little fuzzy after that."

"So being the big blue Boy Scout, you kept fighting instead of retreating and waiting for reinforcements."

Closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the pillows, he said, "Not really in the mood for a lecture, Bruce."

"I might not have to lecture you if you'd stop to think before you acted." Bruce threw his hands up in frustration. "Just once, Clark, take a moment to evaluate instead of reacting."

"That's not how I work."

"Strategy doesn't come into play when you're invulnerable, right?"

"It's my job to take the risks others can't. What use am I if I'm not fighting for the things this League stands for?" Clark's voice grew louder with every word until he was almost shouting. "I was sent here for a reason, Bruce. You may have the luxury of taking a time out to calculate your next move, but you're human, and I'm not, and that's where everything changes!"

Bruce stood with his eyes fixed on Clark as he lay in the bed, panting from the exertion of his outburst. One hand was pressed against his bound ribs; skin pale against the stark white bandages hiding what Bruce knew was a particularly deep gash on his forearm. After a few seconds he pulled a chair up to the bedside and sat.

"Are you done?" Clark nodded, eyes slipping closed for a second before opening to glance between Bruce and a silently observing Conner. "Good. Now go to sleep. We can talk about your self-esteem issues once you've had a chance to get some actual rest." He looked up at Conner. "You feel like getting us some coffee?"

"He's not your errand boy," Clark murmured, already being pulled under by the lure of sleep.

"No, but I don't think he wants to drink the sludge I'd make." An almost-smile pulled at his lips.

Clark hummed affirmatively before turning heavy-lidded eyes on his son. "He has a point. Never drink anything he offers you unless you know for a fact that Alfred's made it."

"Ouch, cheap shot," Bruce said softly.

"You left yourself open for it."

"Yeah, I guess I did." The smile threatening to form made an appearance, and Bruce looked up to see Conner grinning at the two of them. "Go on, Conner. Caffeine." After a moment he added, "Please." He watched Conner leave before looking back at a now-sleeping Clark.

"You might be a hero, Clark, but you're also an idiot. Stop valuing other people's lives over your own." The words were whispered under his breath as he rested elbows on knees and dropped his head into his hands. It was shaping up to be a long night of watching Clark sleep.

* * *

Clark walked back into the bullpen of the Daily Planet six days after his disappearance looking pale and a little worse for wear but otherwise bearing no physical marks to attest to the three days he'd spent as a meteor-freak's punching bag. Lois arched a perfectly shaped eyebrow at him when he took a seat at his desk, stifling a small grunt at the ache in his still-protesting limbs. He'd healed on the outside well enough to return to work, but his body hurt in places he'd never even been aware of before. Bruce had told him to stop being a baby and take a trip into the atmosphere for some sun exposure. Clark was wary of admitting that he didn't think he could fly just yet. Not that far at least.

"Enjoy your vacation?" Lois leaned across the space separating their desks.

"I was out sick, not on vacation."

"Which is why you didn't answer your phone for nearly a week. Or your door. I went over to make sure you weren't dead, and the place was empty. You really shouldn't keep a key in such an obvious place. Are you looking to get robbed?"

"I was in Gotham when I got sick, so I stayed with a friend." He pointedly ignored her comment about his spare key and made a mental note to move it.

"Girlfriend?" She laughed at his answering glare. "Ok, boyfriend then?"


"You don't still think it's a secret that you sometimes crush on the distinctly non-female half of the species, do you? Hate to burst your bubble, Smallville, but it isn't."

"Can you at least wait until I've checked my voicemail before you start playing twenty questions?" His tone was harsher than he'd intended and a faint flush rose to his cheeks.

"Sure. Sorry, Clark."

He looked up at her, surprised. She was watching him with an unreadable expression. "It's okay," he said, holding her eyes for several seconds before reaching for his phone and punching in his password. From beneath the cover of his too-long hair he could see her still watching him.

Chloe appeared a few minutes later, perching on the edge of his desk and brushing his hair back from his forehead with one hand. She watched him intently before smiling. "Feeling better?"

"Well enough."

"You should still be in bed."

"Don't start, Chloe."

"I'm just saying."

"You're not the only one. I've heard it already. Twice."

"Third time's the charm?"

"I'm not going home. I've got too much to catch up on without taking more time off."

"Running yourself ragged isn't going to get things done any faster after you land yourself in the hospital." Lois sat herself on the other side of his desk.

"You look like crap, Kent. Go home. The last thing I need is half my staff out sick with whatever it is you've still clearly got," Perry ordered as he walked past the three of them. "And you two stop gossiping and get back to work."

"Perry, I'm fine. I don't-"

"That wasn't a suggestion. Get going." He disappeared into his office, shutting the door behind him.

"You heard him, Clark. When the boss says go home, it means go home. Unless you really want to argue with him." Chloe stepped over to her own desk, effectively ending the conversation.

Clark was walking into his apartment twenty minutes later, laptop case slung over one shoulder and tie already loose around his neck, when a soft bump coming from the direction of his kitchen froze him in place. Before he had a chance to slip into x-ray vision, Bruce appeared in the hallway and grinned at him.

"That didn't take long."

"Perry made me leave." He set the bag down and pulled off his suit jacket. "What are you doing here?"

"Waiting for the inevitable."


"You being sent home sick."

"Tell me you didn't." Clark picked his bag back up and moved past Bruce into the living room, tossing his tie over the back of an armchair and setting his computer on the coffee table.

"I might have put in a call. I own the paper; that should entitle me to abuse my power once in a while."

Clark sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. "I appreciate the gesture, but I'd prefer if you stayed out of my personal life. And quit breaking into my apartment. My neighbours will start to think you're my boyfriend."

"Then stop leaving a key on top of the frame. Anyway, would that be so bad?"

It wasn't the words that gave Clark pause; they were light, the tone meant to tease. It was the silence full of expectation and tension that followed them.

"What happened to not engaging in illicit behaviour with a co-worker?"

"I had a change of heart."

"Brought on by my recent experience I gather?" Clark didn't miss his use of the word heart instead of mind.

"It was a catalyst, yes."

"So we fuck until you decide it's no longer appropriate and then what? Wait until one of us nearly dies before starting up again? Sorry, Bruce. Not interested."

"Not everyone is out to gain something from you. You have just as much right as the next person to be happy, Clark. When are you going to understand that you're worth more than the sum of your abilities?" Bruce paced forward until their noses almost touched. Clark watched him with wide eyes as Bruce's voice dropped to a gruff whisper. "When are you going to learn to tell me to get over myself and just take what you want, Clark?"

Clark surged forward without hesitation, his hands coming up to fist in the soft cotton of Bruce's long-sleeve t-shirt and using his grip to pull their mouths together in a harsh kiss. Bruce's lower lip caught on the sharp edge of Clark's tooth and he grunted as the faint taste of copper spilled between them.

"You asshole," Clark growled, eventually forcing himself to pull back. "It wasn't supposed to happen this way."

"How was it supposed to go? A romantic encounter under a full moon? A picnic in the park with our first kiss shared over a bottle of wine? Life doesn't work that way." He pressed his mouth against Clark's again, tongue slipping across his upper lip before pointed teeth sank into invulnerable flesh, startling Clark into opening his mouth to grant him access.

Clark groaned, pulling back. "This isn't something you can change your mind about in five minutes, Bruce. Tell me you get that."

"I'm not going to change my mind." He claimed Clark's mouth again.

Clark let himself fall into the kiss, tension draining from his shoulders as he tugged Bruce's body across the last few inches separating them, bringing them flush together. He felt dizzy, weightless and unsteady on his feet.

"Bedroom," Bruce muttered against his mouth.


He pulled back just enough to see Clark clearly. "No?"

"I'm not fucking you, Bruce."

"You're right. I'm going to fuck you."

Clark's breath hitched. "Not today."

Bruce drew his mouth along the line of Clark's jaw. "Why not?"

"Because you're the only thing keeping me standing right now." As if to emphasize his words, Clark swayed on his feet.

Bruce's arms slipped around his waist to offer support. "Damn it, Clark. You should have said something."

Clark smiled weakly at him, leaning into Bruce's embrace only partially because he needed the help. "You're the one who had me sent home sick from work. Common sense, oh brilliant one."

Bruce rolled his eyes. "Come on, let's get you into bed. So you can sleep," he amended when Clark arched an eyebrow questioningly. Clark was pliant in Bruce's grip as he shifted until he could lead him down the hall. He nudged the door open with his foot and moved them over to the bed.

"This isn't how I envisioned being in your bedroom for the first time," he said.

Clark laughed lightly. "Not how I pictured it either." He kicked off his shoes and unbuttoned his dress shirt, shedding the light blue material before reaching to pull off the undershirt he wore beneath it.

Bruce watched openly as the flesh of Clark's abdomen and chest was revealed. "No suit," he observed.

"You threatened to use me for target practice if I even thought about putting it on before you declared me fit for duty."

"I didn't think you'd listen to me."

"You have a lot of sharp, pointy weapons. It was in my best interest."

When Clark stood and undid his belt buckle, Bruce threw up his hands and shook his head emphatically. "I can only resist so much."

"I'm not asking you to resist. Strip." Clark pulled his phone from his pocket and set it on the table. His pants came down next followed by black dress socks as they all were tossed into a hamper in the corner. Clad only in a pair of navy boxers, Clark pulled the covers back. "Well?"

"What are you playing at?" Bruce's tone was suspicious.

"Nothing. I said we weren't fucking, I never said we weren't going to bed together." Clark's words were punctuated by another wave of dizziness. He sat down heavily on the edge of the bed, bringing his legs up to slide beneath the covers after a moment.

"You should sleep."

"So should you. I know you've been sitting around watching me sleep for the last three days." His eyes travelled up and down Bruce's body once. "You're still dressed."

"You want to sleep with me. Actually sleep."

"Is that so hard to believe?" Bruce watched without answering. "Close the curtains and get under the covers."

"Ordering me around already?"

"Just making a suggestion." Clark slipped down further beneath the sheets. "Unless Bruce Wayne is above just sleeping with another person?"

Bruce laughed and started shedding his clothes. "No, he isn't."

Bruce watched as Clark slipped easily into slumber before shifting onto his back and watching the strip of light filtering in between the curtains make its way slowly across the ceiling. Finally he closed his eyes on a blink and opened them again to find the sky outside had grown dark and a set of large, blue eyes watching him intently.

"You snore," Clark said by way of greeting.

"No I don't."

"You do. Only a little. And not really a snore so much as a… noisy exhalation of air, I guess."

"Breathing loudly doesn't qualify as snoring. Do I need to get you a dictionary for your birthday?"


"Good. It'd be a shame to have to return what I did get you."

"You got me a birthday gift?"

"I did."

"It's not my birthday yet."

"Yes it is."

Clark shifted onto his back and reached for his cell phone, glancing at the display. "Time flies when you're getting the crap kicked out of you," he joked lamely.

Bruce sat up and reached for Clark's wrist, tugging gently. "It's in the kitchen. Come see."

"Can it wait?" He twisted his hand until their fingers were intertwined.

"Don't go getting sappy on me, Kent."

Clark pulled until Bruce let himself be positioned at his side and propped himself up on one elbow with an amused smile.

"I'll do what I can." One hand snaked into Bruce's dark hair, sliding through the thick strands twice before settling at the nape of his neck. "Not making any promises." He shifted, drawing Bruce's mouth down to meet his own in a simple kiss.

Bruce moved to lie half over Clark and opened his mouth, letting his tongue play across full lips until they parted to grant him entrance. He braced himself against Clark's chest, one hand gripping the sheets tightly as Clark skimmed the length of his torso to brush fingertips lightly against his half-hard cock. He gasped a puff of warm air against Clark's mouth at the touch, laughing when Clark muttered ‘morning breath' and grinned at him through the shadows in the room. Clark's tongue found the small cut on his lip from earlier, teasing the tender flesh with small flicks before abandoning his mouth to tug on his earlobe and dipping down to press against the area just beneath the edge of his jaw. His fingers continued to stroke over the material covering Bruce's cock with increasing pressure before slipping beneath the waistband, tracing against hot flesh. Bruce arched into the touch, dropping his forehead to rest against Clark's shoulder.

He grunted when exploring fingers became a tight fist alternating between rough, fast strokes and firm, slow brushes of skin against skin. Clark brought their mouths together again, pushing his way inside Bruce's and licking at his palette once as Bruce shuddered against him and ground into his hand with a needy moan.

Bruce moved above Clark, pressing closer while his own hands searched for the length of Clark's cock. Clark's rhythm faltered for a beat when Bruce's hand surrounded him, jacking him off with a steady pace and an unrelenting grip. Clark whimpered against his mouth as Bruce squeezed at the tip and raked a blunt nail across the head once, twice, and then Clark was shaking as their lips broke apart and his head slammed back against the pillows, climax taking him by surprise. His hand tightened around Bruce and released just as swiftly as he struggled for control over his strength.

Bruce kept his hand moving beneath the cotton of Clark's boxers, strokes growing softer with each shudder until Clark keened, the sound rumbling up from deep in his chest as he pushed weakly at Bruce's wrist. Clark's hand returned after a moment to stroke Bruce with steady, rough pulls that left his head spinning as hips thrust into the motion and heat pooled in his groin when the sensation of someone else's hand on him pushed him over the edge.

Clark laughed as Bruce collapsed on top of him, bringing their sweaty bodies impossibly close. "C'mon," he said, pushing at Bruce's shoulder and rolling him back onto the bed. "I'll go start the shower, you go get my present."

"The present can wait. You need to brush your teeth."

"You aren't exactly minty fresh yourself," Clark joked.

"Shower, toothbrush, more sex, and then your present."

"In that order?"

Bruce sat up to look at him. "For now. I reserve the right to change my mind at any given time."

Clark stood and pushed his boxers off his hips, kicking them away from his feet. A glance over his shoulder confirmed that Bruce's eyes were focused on him. "You going to come with me?"

"Damn right I am." Bruce rose, shedding his underwear in one fluid motion, body still humming with lingering pleasure as he followed Clark into the bathroom and slipped into the shower stall behind him. "I'm always going to go with you," he said just loud enough for Clark to hear him over the pounding of the water. "No more wasting time."

"And you were telling me not to get sappy." Clark teased. "Hurry up and brush your teeth so I can kiss you properly."


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