Pairings/Characters: Clark/Bruce, Alfred Pennyworth (very brief cameo), Martha Kent
Continuity: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
Genres: Angst, Drama
Warnings: Major character death
Spoilers: Batman vs. Superman: Dawn Of Justice (2016)
Summary: Bruce visits Martha to confess what he had done to her son but receives a shock instead.
Date Of Completion: July 29, 2016
Date Of Posting: August 7, 2016
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC and Warner Brothers do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 1735
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Wisps of smoke
R. L. Vintner
Bruce drove down the road past rippling cornfields. The day was extremely bright and he was grateful for his sunglasses.
He and Diana had sent out invitations and the first meeting of the prospective Justice League was next week. The site was on the East Coast, as Diana was currently living in Boston and he was in Gotham, of course. Aquaman would arrive via the sea, and Cyborg could easily come up from Washington. The Flash had no trouble with travel with his speed.
Dina had suggested that the first meeting be introductory and that the chairmanship be a rotating one. Bruce had agreed and his mind ran over other points that could be brought up.
Better than thinking about why I’m on this trip.
But Alfred had encouraged him. He had known something was wrong.
“I lied to her.”
Yes, he had lied. He was no friend to her son.
I tried to kill him!
Bruce squinted as he saw something flying in the sky. He rubbed his eyes. Now were his dreams invading his waking hours? Dreams of flesh made pale tinged with green, golden sunlight bright everywhere, and always his guilt.
I haven’t stopped feeling guilty since that night in…in Crime Alley.
He blinked and the flying…whatever it was…was gone. He turned on the radio, trying to distract himself. Didn’t it ever rain in Kansas? How did all this blasted corn grow in this blistering heat?
Classical music filled the air around the top-down Corvette, the little red car tooling along the highway. Somehow this cross-country trip seemed too frivolous. How could something be so cheerful when he was on his way to tell a woman that he tried to kill her son?
Bruce parked the car in the driveway. The Kent house had long ago been repaired by Clark after Zod’s attack. The coat of yellow paint was no longer fresh but it was far from peeling. Colorful flowers lined the beds in front of the house, giving it a quaint appearance. A basket with a trowel was on the ground. A weathered barn was close by, and the corn was growing high.
Bruce slowly got out of his Corvette, took a deep breath, and mounted the porch steps. He rang the doorbell and waited.
The sound of footsteps were quick and light. Bruce held his breath and the door opened.
“Bruce? What are you doing here?”
Was it his imagination or was Martha’s tone slightly cool? No, he was just creating problems where there were none. Wasn’t he?
“I need to speak to you, Martha.”
The screen door creaked as she opened it. Inside, it was cool and blessedly dark, the smell of recently cooked roasted peppers prevalent as they approached the kitchen.
“I haven’t been quite honest with you,” Bruce said softly as he trailed his hostess down the hall.
“Yes, I know.”
Bruce’s heart sank. They entered the kitchen and he was suddenly taken aback at how bright it was in this room. He staggered a little.
“Whoa, I…” He froze. Someone was sitting at the kitchen table, though he could not identify them in the glare.
Bruce’s heart pounded painfully in his chest. “Clark?”
The long-departed Clark Kent was sitting at the kitchen table with the blue-checked oilcloth and a cobalt vase filled with daisies in the center, looking like every dream that Bruce had been experiencing for a month.
“Sit down, Bruce, you’re imitating a fish with your mouth open like that.”
Clark’s smile was as blinding as the light in the room. Bruce abruptly closed his mouth and with a shaking hand, pulled out a chair.
“You boys chat for awhile. I have to finish weeding the flowerbeds.” Martha smiled and left the kitchen.
Clark looked at him with an enigmatic smile. “I guess you could call it a Kryptonian thing.” His voice held a slight edge, or was it Bruce’s imagination again?
“I know.” Clark stretched, and Bruce considered himself lucky that the man was wearing a blue-checked flannel shirt. Bare skin would have been too much for his overwhelmed senses right now.
“I don’t understand any of this.”
Clark lowered his arms. “You never did.”
Bruce swallowed, his throat dry. “I’m sorry.”
Clark looked at him coolly. “You should really work on that xenophobia of yours, Bruce.”
Bruce winced. Clark’s voice was closer to cold than the strong, gentle voice he remembered during their brief acquaintance. The voice that pleaded with him as Bruce stood over him, smug and arrogant and murderous…
“Why is it so bright in here?” Bruce asked, trying to blot out that particular memory.
Clark shrugged. “I just go with the flow.”
“Since whenever. You don’t know me.”
The ache of loneliness throbbed deeply in Bruce. He knew practically no one these days. He was lucky Alfred and Jim Gordon still talked to him.
“What happened?” he asked.
“I don’t know.” Clark sounded unconcerned. “Does it matter?”
Bruce knotted his hands together on the table. “Doesn’t it?”
“No.” Clark smiled again. “I really think letting things go is best right now.”
“I…can’t,” Bruce whispered.
“I know.” Suddenly Clark burst out, “C’mon, Bruce, do you know what you did to me? You tried to kill me!"
Bruce suddenly jumped back, thinking of heat vision as he looked into angry blue eyes.
“Are you afraid of me?”
“No.” Bruce wasn’t sure it that was a lie or not.
Pity flashed through Clark’s eyes as his anger faded. “Have you ever enjoyed life, Bruce?”
“Before my parents died.”
Clark nodded slowly. “I’m sorry.”
Bruce shrugged. “That night is a part of me.”
“Have you ever tried?”
“To enjoy life?”
Bruce stared at the man who had haunted his dreams for weeks. “No.”
“You should reach out and take what you want, just once.”
Bruce’s blood thrummed and his vision blurred. This Clark was different, something off, but maybe death did that to a man. And how well did he know this man, anyway?
Does he have his powers back? He never said.
“You’re right,” he said.
Bruce came around the table and grabbed Clark’s shoulders, kissing him with more passion than he had ever felt for anything since his Mission had begun too many years ago.
Clark was startled but kissed back. Bruce gripped the thick, flannel shirt and straddled the body in the straight-backed chair. Clark pulled him closer, deepening the kiss.
The brightness in the room seared through Bruce’s closed eyelids. He broke off the kiss and leaned back. When he opened his eyes he saw himself, desperate and needy, a lonely man with too many battles under his utility belt. He closed his eyes at the dizzying change of perspective, like a magic spell gone bad or a dream’s illogic.
He could feel Clark close. The other man grasped his wrists and whispered, “Take what you want.”
The light blazed. Bruce felt like he was melting, then he experienced buoyancy as light as a cloud. Unsure, he reached out and touched air. His eyes flew open.
He was gone, but a voice said, “Go home, Bruce.” It might have been Clark’s but he was not sure.
Confused, Bruce stumbled against the table once he got to his feet. He looked around wildly. He remembered the yellow-painted walls, white muslin curtains, and more cobalt-blue vases filled with daisies and black-eyed Susans on the counters. A calendar on the wall with a picture of a red barn had the 16th circled in red and notes written on other days. It was all familiar from the time he had visited during the funeral, and he felt lost.
He went down the hall into the living room as he absorbed the old-fashioned charm of the house. It seemed an endless amount of steps to get to the creaky screen door as his legs felt like lead. He opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. Martha smiled as she weeded the flowerbeds.
“I should thank you.”
“For what?” Bruce shaded his eyes against the too-bright sun.
“Because of you, my son will be able to live a normal life.”
“He doesn’t have his powers?”
She merely smiled again. “Go back to Gotham, Bruce.”
Bruce shuffled to the Corvette and took one last look at the farmhouse before driving away, pinwheels in front of his eyes. He turned on the car radio.
“I can’t live without you/Don’t leave me alone/My Sunshine.”
Bruce shut off the radio, the mournful tune fading away. He felt numb all the way back to Gotham, the hum of the tires on the endless road sliding his eyes shut…
Bruce opened his eyes, his heart triphammering in panic. The room spun as he stared at a familiar ceiling: his own.
He was lying in his king-sized bed, a slight breeze blowing in the through his window. Confusion swirled around in his head. How had he gotten back here? He remembered starting out for home but not arriving. What was happening to him?
He sat up groggily, rubbing his stubbled face. He was wearing pajama bottoms, his fingers trembling on silk sheets. He could feel a headache starting.
Everything had been so bizarre. Had he dreamed the whole thing, guilt and lust driving his subconscious?
What would a shrink say, lusting after a dead man?
Bruce ran a hand through his hair. Had he seen Clark alive and well? Had he been able to cheat death? Who knew with a Kryptonian?
Why had Clark and Martha been so cool toward him? Clark was too much the cheerful type, but then how would he know? As Clark said, Bruce really didn’t know him. Maybe the latent hostility was his guilt coloring his dream, or if it was real, guilt warping his perceptions?
“I’m losing my mind,” he muttered, hunched over as he rocked slightly, his arms protecting his stomach.
He had to know. Despite his muddled emotions, the not knowing was worse than any truth.
Bruce dragged himself out of bed and with a shaking hand, picked up his cell phone from the highboy. He dialed a recently-memorized number.