Pairings/Characters: Clark/Bruce, Dick (mention of Dick/Roy), Linda Danvers, Alfred, Lois Lane
Genres: Angst, Challenge, Drama, Hurt/Comfort
Claim: For the dcu_freeforall Challenge (Clark/Bruce)
Prompt: T 5; P 4: Gold Kryptonite
Prompt Count: (1/15)
Warnings: Character deaths
Summary: After Clark loses his powers permanently because of Gold Kryptonite, he learns to live a normal life with Bruce, but human lifespans are short.
Date Of Completion: April 18, 2009
Date Of Posting: April 19, 2009
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2904
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author’s Notes: Written for skund for my Hurt/Comfort Fic Prompt Request. Pairing: Clark/Bruce. Prompt: De-powered Clark. :)
I don’t know why that after a week when I felt pretty happy, I felt the need to write deathfic. I’ve given up trying to figure out my Muses. I just ride with ‘em, baby! ;)
The early morning light spilled into the bedroom through the bay window, illuminating the man sleeping peacefully in the bed. The light was that of high summer, peculiar to oceanside places, and the sound of the sea close to this old house on the hill was soothing, its eternal back-and-forth motion of waves washing up on the beach and going out to sea again a steady backdrop to the quiet of the house.
Bruce felt a pang as he saw the sunlight touch Clark’s face and hair. Once that yellow glow would have invigorated him, given him strength to literally move mountains and soar to the stars.
Now it merely made him look beautiful.
Odd, that the color that gave him his powers also took them away…
Superman gasped as he fell hard to earth, and he put a hand up to shield him from a golden glow. The blood on his costume was soaking into his skin through tears in the fabric.
Batman hurried forward. Why wasn’t he healing?
That’s when he saw the golden rock.
Blood chilled in his veins, he grabbed it and heaved it away just as Superman collapsed.
Gold Kryptonite erased a Kryptonian’s superpowers permanently. And while Clark had been happy for the chance at a normal life, he had missed his powers. He had grown up with them, learned to use them, rely on them, and it was difficult at times to live as a human.
Even the simplest things…
Clark stared down at his hand, dripping blood onto the drainboard.
“Clark!” Bruce quickly took the knife out of his hand, running it under water and talking quietly as Clark looked down in shock.
“I…thank you, Bruce,” he finally said. “I guess seeing my own blood can still shake me up.”
“It’s okay. You’ll get used to it.”
Eventually, Clark did.
Bruce never could.
Bruce sat by the bed, picking up the book from the nightstand. He opened it to the page he had bookmarked.
“Mmm,” Clark said, rousing from sleep.
“Right here,” Bruce said.
A small smile crossed Clark’s face. Bruce began reading.
“Ma and Pa used to read to me every night when I was little. They took turns.” Clark smiled.
The Kent living room was as it had always been: old-fashioned but comfortable with the bookshelf on the wall loaded with knickknacks, some generations old: a 1939 World’s Fair paperweight of the sphere and pylon, a plate from Yellowstone National Park, a small, gold-painted, Daily Planet building, souvenirs from Gotham City, Star City, and Mount Rushmore.
The furniture was a little worn but very comfortable, the old couch draped with a red-yellow-and-blue afghan that Martha had made, and the overstuffed chair still had an endtable next to it with a pipe rack, even though Jonathan had quit smoking years ago. There was a hooked rug on the floor, green-and-blue, made by Clark’s grandmother. Family photographs lined the fireplace mantel. Pictures of Clark with Bruce and Dick were there, and with the Kents, and with Alfred. Their wedding picture was there.
“We’d sit out on the porch in the good weather, and watch the sun set. The fireflies would come out and put on a show. I could always smell the garden Ma had close by the kitchen, the tomatoes and squash and beans and lettuce. Especially if had just rained, and the earth smelled so rich…”
Clark trailed off, his smile fading, and he looked tired.
“Come to bed,” Bruce said, and Clark accepted his help getting off the couch and climbing the stairs.
Clark had said his final goodbyes to the farmhouse that visit, just as he had said his final goodbyes to the Manor, and they had traveled here, to the coast of Maine, to the Wayne seaside ‘cottage’, a house of twenty rooms and a conservatory and riding stables, empty now. The doctor had advised Clark to ‘get some sea air’ to help with his lungs, and Clark had laughed and said, “Very nineteenth-century” before coughing up blood.
The farmhouse would be inherited by Linda, and she was thinking of talking to Diana about converting it to a Hera’s Haven, one of the Amazon-sponsored shelters for battered women, but for now, the house remained as it always was, waiting.
Bruce continued reading, the grandfather clock in the hall ticking the time away, but he didn’t hurry anything.
Time was not their friend, but what use was it to rush? They had crammed in their last adventures before Clark’s body had begun its final failure, and now there was just the waiting.
On a sunlit day outside of Wayne Manor, Dick mischievously pulled Clark and Bruce out to the gardens.
“What’s this all about?” Clark asked, a small smile on his face. He was tired, trying to cope with a new life without any hope of natural powers.
A red-yellow-and-blue blur appeared on the horizon, and it formed into a laughing young blond girl.
“Linda!” Clark greeted his cousin warmly. “What’s the pleasure of this visit?”
“I’ve come to take you flying, Cousin.”
“Come on.” She held out her hand and Clark looked at Bruce, who smiled and nodded. Clark eagerly took Linda’s hand and she drew him to her, slipping her arm around him and taking off, sheer joy on his face.
Dick and Bruce watched them go, and Bruce said, “Whose idea was this?”
Blue eyes sparkled. “I knew he would miss flying.”
Bruce shook his head but his eyes were soft with love, and he drew his boy into a hug.
Bruce’s hand shook slightly as he turned the page. Clark’s cold hand covered his. He managed a tiny smile.
There’s a hole in me, Clark, that not even you or Alfred can fill. I still have your sunlight inside of me, but Dick’s is cold and dark now.
Clark and Alfred had pulled him back from the edge of the abyss, because he’d always known that losing Dick would send him over that edge. It had been a close, very close, thing. And even now, he carried an ache that never quite left him.
A hollowed-out space, bereft of special sunlight.
He tried not to think that he would be soon losing his other sunlight.
“Would you like some toast? Tea?” he asked, his voice raspy as his throat ached.
“I…would like that…” Harsh coughs.
Bruce squeezed his husband’s hand and set the book on the nightstand. He took the pitcher. “I’ll refresh this.”
He took the vase of deep purple lilacs downstairs, too, to freshen its water.
The kitchen was lit with that glorious summer light, and he freshened the flowers and water pitcher, putting two slices of wheat bread into the toaster. He found strawberry jam in the cabinet and waited for the tea to boil.
Alfred was sitting out on the veranda, reading a book and drinking lemonade. Old and frail now, he allowed Bruce to do some of the things he always used to do, but still insisted on serving when he could.
“Here at the beginning and at the end, eh, Alfred?” he had said once, and Alfred had smiled sadly.
Bruce put everything on a tray and went back upstairs.
Clark ate one slice of toast and drank the tea, resting his head back against the pillow propped on the headboard. He still looked beautiful, just thinner and paler, odd without his perpetual tan. Even after his powers had gone, he had tanned well. His hair had touches of gray now.
The world had learned to get along without Superman, no one but a treasured handful knowing what had happened, and Supergirl had become the mightiest being on the planet, filling her cousin’s shoes admirably. Barbara had kept Bruce and Dick informed of Linda’s state of mind, and the blond had decided to embrace her new destiny with zest. Saddened at her cousin’s de-powered state, she was determined to pick up the slack.
Clark had been grateful, and had set about building a life of his own away from the cape. He missed the JLA, the off-planet missions, the superhero way of life, but he concentrated on his career, becoming more aggressive as a reporter, relentlessly ferreting out corruption on every level.
Lex had retired soon after it had become apparent that Superman was gone, becoming a recluse while his company soldiered on, and there were no more grand schemes from him.
Just some lilacs sent soon after Clark’s diagnosis, and fresh ones every week after that.
Bruce picked up the book again and started reading, the piercing cry of a seagull in the distance as it flew over a lobster boat bobbing on the sea.
“I love you.”
Clark’s eyes were sparkling as they stood in the ocean, the cliff looming high over them, Wayne Manor impressive against the brilliant blue sky.
“I love you, too.”
Bruce’s throat closed up with happiness. He had never thought he would be able to say those words without difficulty, and now he said them nearly every day.
“So you’re going to make an honest man of me?” teased Clark.
“Yes, I am.” Bruce’s expression clouded. “I know that this big Society wedding isn’t what you would have chosen…”
Clark waved his hand. “When you marry a Prince, you must expect pomp and circumstance.” He smiled gently. “And we’ll have another reception in Smallville, just for family and friends.”
“So Ollie Queen gets to drink my booze twice?”
Clark laughed. “Yes, he does! And you’d better take notes. You and he are going to be in-laws one of these days.”
Bruce groaned, Clark ducking him under the water.
Bruce’s gaze flickered to the gold-framed pictures on the dresser: his wedding picture with Clark, and Dick and Roy’s wedding picture, taken a year after their own wedding. Another huge Society bash, as two powerful families were united, and Lian had served as flower girl, utterly delighted that her two daddies were tying the knot.
They had a good ten years of married happiness, at least.
The ache grew and he turned a page.
He and Clark had been friends for five years, lovers for another five, and married for twenty. Clark had been human for a long time now.
The light grew softer as afternoon’s shadows lengthened across the room, and Bruce still read.
“Batman, watch out!”
The warning from Superman was heeded, and they exchanged quick smiles before returning to battle with the rest of the JLA.
They were in perfect sync, fighting and forging ahead, and the enemy could not stand against them.
Clark coughed, but it wasn’t a violent fit this time. He drank more tea.
His curl dangled over his brow, and he still looked beautiful, even hollow-cheeked and sunken-eyed. Bruce took his hand and brushed a kiss across the knuckles, and Clark smiled.
“You’re getting soft,” he teased.
“Now’s as good a time as any.”
“Lois writes well.”
“She does.” Bruce looked down at the book.
He looked up.
“You take good care of me.”
Bruce’s eyes blinked rapidly. “I try.”
“You and Alfred are my family.” They still had Dinah and Ollie, and their granddaughter, and friends.
Too many funerals, thought Bruce with that ache again, remembering losing their son-in-law on a JLA mission. Dinah and Ollie had done a fine job raising Lian.
And there had been the funerals in Smallville, the first on a clear Kansas day, the second in cold and rain.
“We always will be.”
Clark squeezed his hand.
“You’re looking a little pale.”
Clark laughed. “Just compared to my old tan. Don’t worry about it, Bruce, I’m fine. Just a little tired. Have to get used to creating my own energy instead of relying on the sun’s.”
Bruce smiled. The offices of The Daily Planet were busy, and Lois Lane bounded up, an armful of papers spilling all over the place.
“Bruce! How nice to see you! Get your hubby to take a break, will you? Smallville, you’ve been working too hard. You look like a ghost!”
“Always the worrier, aren’t you, Lois?”
She snorted. “I just don’t want to have to break in a new partner, Smallville.” But Bruce saw a hint of worry in her eyes, and it worried him.
“C’mon, Clark. Time for some lunch.”
Bruce watched what Clark ate at lunch, but of course his appetite was less these days. He didn’t need as much food with the lower metabolism.
After lunch, they walked back to The Daily Planet and Clark stumbled, wincing as his shoulder hit the sharp corner of a building.
“Careful.” Bruce’s smile was wry. “That should turn into a colorful bruise by tomorrow.”
Clark rubbed his shoulder ruefully. “I’ll always appreciate more and more every day what you and Dick did.”
Bruce made a sandwich, Alfred coming up to say hello and to plump up the pillows. Clark gratefully thanked him, and even ate half of the lettuce-and-tomato sandwich, Bruce the other half. The tomatoes were from the farm, and had been hand-delivered by Linda.
Clark managed to get out of bed with Bruce’s help, brushed his teeth, and did his business at the toilet in private, grateful that he could stand on his own for that! Bruce laughed and helped him back into bed, going into the bathroom to brush his own teeth.
He settled back by the bed, and Clark asked, “Please keep reading.”
Bruce nodded and opened the book.
Bruce hated doctors’ waiting rooms. They were always dull, strewn with magazines at least six months old, filled with grim people dreading their visit or anxious to see the doctor. There was endless paperwork to fill out, even as the husband of the Prince of Gotham, and Clark had finally been called. Bruce insisted on going with him, a little scared that his husband didn’t object.
“How long have you been losing weight and feeling this tired?” asked Dr. Scofield.
“A few months.”
The doctor shook his head. “You should have come in earlier, Clark. Ah, well. Let’s see what we’ve got.”
There were tests, and then tests at the hospital, all the while Bruce’s gut knotted up. For the final battery of tests, Alfred was with him.
He couldn’t help the sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, or the way he came close to passing out when he learned that his once-invulnerable husband was dying.
An irony, that.
The smell of the lilacs was strong as dusk fell, the light turning a soft butter-gold. The rhythmic sound of the ocean was a backdrop on the edges of consciousness.
He looked up, and saw the truth in Clark’s eyes.
Shaking, he took Clark’s hand.
“Please don’t leave me, too,” he whispered.
No matter how much time he had had to prepare, the shock was spreading through his mind.
“It’ll be all right.” Clark’s breathing was becoming increasingly labored.
No! Bruce screamed silently.
Alfred entered the room.
“It’s time,” Clark said.
Bruce leaned over the bed. “Clark…” The old terror consumed him, the abyss yawning, a cold body in his arms, yellow cape fluttering, streaked with scarlet…
“It’ll be okay.” Clark’s grip was weak, but firm.
“I’m a coward,” Bruce rasped. “I thought I’d be the one to go first.”
“I’m the coward, Bruce.”
“Yes, I’m leaving you behind, when my greatest fear was to be the one left, and maybe for centuries. But the Gold Kryptonite…it gave me a gift. A normal life with you, and a normal time to die.”
Bruce stifled a sob and Clark squeezed his hand. His smile was gentle. “We’ll all be waiting for you, Bruce. Ma and Pa, your parents, Roy, Dick…” He breathed a sigh. “I promise that when you cross over, I’ll be the first in line to greet you.”
“The first, huh?” Bruce asked shakily, trying to smile. Alfred was smoothing Clark’s hair.
“The very first.”
“Typical. Head of the line when it comes to light. Because aren’t you supposed to see a light at the end of the tunnel?”
Clark laughed softly. “So they tell me.” His eyes took on a faraway expression, and peace settled over him.
Bruce felt his heart breaking. “I love you,” he said.
“I love you, too.”
Bruce leaned forward and kissed Clark, a smile on his husband’s face as Bruce pulled back and Clark closed his eyes.
The last golden rays of the sun turned blood-red as the sun set over the sea.
We love each other
Under the sun,
The water cool,
While we run.
Your skin is warm,
Your smile is bright,
You glow with joy,
In golden light.
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