Pairings/Characters (this chapter): Clark/Bruce, Hal Jordon, Katar/Shayera Hall, J’onn J’onzz, Diana Prince, Dinah Lance/Ollie Queen, Barry Allen
Categories: Angst, Hurt/Comfort
Rating: (this chapter): PG-13
General Summary: The JLA battles an invading army on a distant planet. All chapters can be found here.
Summary (this chapter): Bruce must find a Clark fallen in battle.
Date Of Completion: May 18, 2007
Date Of Posting: May 19, 2007
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 2192
Author’s Note: This story was inspired by an illustration done by rai_daydreamer entitled “Protective” and can be viewed here. :)
The sky was sullen, pewter-gray, sickly yellow, and a reddish-purple haze that reminded Bruce of smog over Los Angeles back home.
Not here, on a planet ugly and small and yet under attack.
He looked up at the sound of the explosion and saw the figures flying in the sky, battling the L’Olean, all races and species and some of the most powerful beings in the universe. Hal and the Hawks were up there, and J’onn, and their counterparts from other planets.
A flash of bright white light, then a red-blue-and-yellow figure fell from the sky, plummeting into the purple hills, his heart plummeting as well.
Damn you, Clark!
& & & & & &
Bruce grabbed Clark’s arm as the Kryptonian nodded and prepared to take his place at the vanguard of the army that would meet the invaders.
“Bruce…” he said softly, too low for anyone else but the Bat-cloaked figure to hear.
“You’re at half-strength! That sun is orange and while it contains yellow it also has enough red in it to weaken you!”
Clark’s blue eyes were soft, his head cocked slightly to one side.
“Damnit, Clark! Why do you always have to be the one in front! Especially now when you’re vulnerable!”
Clark moved closer, his cape swirling in a sudden gust of wind, obscuring Bruce from the others.
“It’s who I am, love.”
Bruce swallowed, wishing that he could crush his lips to Clark’s, but he wasn’t about to broadcast their relationship to the rest of the galaxy. Clark’s hand covered his gloved one and squeezed, his eyes telling him everything that he couldn’t say in front of the others, then he let his grasp slip and he turned, striding toward the waiting heroes.
As if a flock of very colorful avians, they flew up to meet the invaders.
Bruce clenched his fist as he watched them go, his eyes on his lover out on point, leading the way. A hand descended on his shoulder.
“It’s what Clark does, Bruce.”
He turned to look at Diana, her eyes sympathetic. Dinah, Barry, and Ollie stood close by, preparing themselves for their work on the ground.
“Let’s get to work,” Bruce said, Diana dropping her hand.
& & & & & &
Explosions shook the ground, knocking them all off their feet. Gritting his teeth, Bruce climbed to his knees, feeling a hundred years old. Cuts and bruises made their stings known but he ignored them. Less successfully, he tried to ignore the bodies strewn out on the battlefield as mortars rained in on the combatants, his frantic thoughts on the other half of his soul.
Diana’s lasso whipped out in a glittering arc, falling to encircle two of the silver-plated soldiers and bringing them down. They were encased in their metallic suits, eight feet tall and weighting over three hundred pounds, armed to the teeth but slow. That had given them the advantage…so far.
As the troops were driven back by the Leaguers, Diana looked at Bruce. “Go.”
He nodded, his hand reaching out to clutch her arm. She understood, as they all did. If he didn’t come back, if they somehow survived this and made it back home, she was to deliver the news to his loved ones, Dick and Alfred, as he would do for her to Steve and Hippolyta if she was lost. It was the pact they had all made years ago that would be followed if possible.
Bruce coughed from the smoke of battle as he moved off, using the jagged rocks and boulders as his cover as he started the treacherous journey toward the hills.
& & & & & &
The ground troops of the L’Olean kept them all busy, Wonder Woman playing bullets-and-bracelets with the projectiles fired at them while the Flash disarmed several soldiers with his speed, Green Arrow knocked out weaponry with his arrows, and the Canary let loose her sonic cry as Batman used his own unique skills to disarm and knock out the silver-plated soldiers.
Always his eyes returned to the sky whenever he had a free moment. He could see the flying soldiers, the weak orange rays of the sun burnishing their armor. The Hawks were wielding their maces, barely making dents in the silver. Hal was more successful, tying up the enemy and peeling the suits off like the tops off cans of tuna, knocking out the aliens and depositing them in a shimmering green cage. J’onn was using his unique abilities to keep several L’Olean at bay. And Clark…?
Clark was doing his thing, as always, assessing the situation and flying right into the thick of things. Bruce gritted his teeth.
A silverplate lumbered toward him, a flash of light exploding from its breastplate as it aimed its energy ray at him. Bruce dodged just in time behind a boulder, the ground where he had been standing torn apart into a small crater. He scowled, running through his options. He studied the battle tactics of his fellow Justice Leaguers and watched as they used speed, strength, and skill to battle the silverplates without much success.
It was then that he noticed a tiny orange light blinking at the base of one soldier’s metallic skull. Unsure of what it was, he decided it was time to find out.
He ducked around the boulder, narrowly missing being fried by another light beam. He grimaced as he scraped his cheek. His fingers pulled out the weapon he needed from his utility belt without even looking at which compartment to open. Memorizing the contents of his belt had been Day One in Bat 101, as Dick liked to call training.
His lips briefly curved into a smile as he thought of his younger partner’s jokes, then he quickly set to work. He had no intention of being buried on this alien world and leaving all those he loved behind.
He cautiously peered around the boulder, the soldier distracted by a scarlet-and-gold streak of light. Bruce grabbed his chance. With a sure aim, he lobbed the small explosive at the back of the silverplate’s head.
The explosion rocked the armored soldier, then Bruce’s eyes widened as he saw the shiny metal split in two, the pieces falling to the barren ground and revealing a slender alien inside. Tall, thin head; thin arms with long, slender appendages; thin legs with elongated feet. Blue skin. Silver eyes.
Barry didn’t give the alien a chance to react. He quickly lifted him out of the leg pieces that were still standing and whisked him away behind the front lines, where the planet’s security forces were waiting to interrogate prisoners.
Barry was back in a flash. “Batman! Great work!”
“Already done.” Barry grinned.
Suddenly, a flash of light exploded the scene.
& & & & & &
Bruce scrabbled over the hard ground, trying to keep a low profile by using the rocky outcroppings as cover. He could feel blood trickling down his cheek but ignored it. If all he got out of this mess was a few cuts and bruises, he’d consider himself lucky.
He had to concentrate on getting to the hills. He couldn’t think about Clark, not now. If he did he would completely lose it and then where would they be?
He kept his thoughts on avoiding vaporization, and also wondered if the forces assembled could defeat this powerful invading army.
As he slunk under the sullen sky, he thought of Hal asking for their help as the Green Lantern Corps couldn’t handle the aliens all by themselves this time. The L’Olean were relentless soldiers, using technology to take over and destroy every planet they touched. They didn’t believe in taking prisoners, and when they secured a planet, killed nearly every sentient being in sight. They had no use for conquered populations, not interested in becoming an army of occupation. The only conquered beings they kept alive didn’t last long.
& & & & & &
“They choose select members of the conquered races for…sport.” Hal’s mouth had twisted into a grimace.
“Sport?” Clark asked.
Hal nodded. “Death by torture. Long and drawn-out.” At the grim looks around the JLA table he added, “It seems that they can only allow themselves to play this…game…of theirs for a short time. If they allowed it to go on too long, it would trigger a psychosis that would go beyond slaking their genetic thirst for sadistic violence. Fortunate for the victims, in this case.”
“Sounds like a psychosis to me already,” Barry said in disgust.
Clark looked slightly ill. Diana frowned as she crossed her arms and Ollie and Dinah scowled. Katar and Shayera wore impassive expressions, yet Bruce knew it was from a Thanagarian sophistication that in their line of police work had seen such brutalities that they projected an image of it all being a matter-of-course to protect their sanity. J’onn was also impassive, but that was typical of their Martian colleague. Underneath seethed a strong distaste for the race in question.
He knew his own visage was extremely grim.
& & & & & &
Fear was pushing Bruce onward. If the L’Olean found Clark in his weakened state…as Hal said, fortunate for the victims not to last long, but he was terrified that the aliens would consider Clark a prime specimen for ‘sport’. And at half-strength, he could last longer than most…and suffer longer.
If he’s still alive.
His anxiety was so great that he failed to see a silverplate swivel toward him as he ran toward the cover of the trees at the base of the hills.
& & & & & &
“My pleasure, Batman.”
Barry had scooped Bruce up and whisked him away as the explosion had hit close to them. Barry safely deposited his friend behind a large boulder.
Bruce immediately looked up at sky. Understanding shone in Barry’s eyes as he looked, too.
The flying members of their group seemed to be holding their own, though Hal had been stalled by a contingent of gold-plated pilots. He had to turn his efforts to protecting his colleagues as direct attacks on the enemy would be useless now.
“He’ll be fine, Bruce.”
Bruce looked at Barry, his eyes hidden by the white lenses of his mask but Barry knew what was there. “He’s not at full strength.”
“Superman at half-strength is more powerful than most beings at full.”
He’ll kill himself trying to do at half-strength what he should do at full power. Bruce felt sick at the thought.
“Let’s get you back where the others are.”
Once Barry had deposited him back with the rest of the planet-bound Justice League, the next explosion came.
Clark fell out of the sky like a wounded angel.
& & & & & &
The silverplate’s laser beam scorched Bruce’s cape, exploding the ground too close to him. He was thrown into a boulder, gasping as he felt ribs crack, and scrambled to get around the outcropping. The soldier’s mechanized legs made deep imprints in the hard ground, coming for Bruce like a nightmare.
Bruce was ready. He leaped out, pantomiming a throwing motion, then dashed behind the soldier, whose weakness was slow reaction time in the cumbersome suit. He threw his explosive at the orange light and the suit fell apart, Bruce quickly subduing the alien inside.
He hurried off to the forest undergrowth, pain sharp and throbbing. He took out some bandages from his belt and wrapped his ribs, glad of the tree cover. No one seemed to have noticed the altercation.
He took a deep breath, wincing, but started running through the undergrowth, slipping up into the hills. His boots slipped on patches of dry soil and tiny pebbles, then found better purchase on the tough, purple grass. He kept his calculations in his head as to where Clark might have ended up.
This time he couldn’t wonder how his colleagues were doing, or how the planetary forces were faring in the cities and countryside. He had to focus on finding Clark, because a sick sense of dread was planted firmly in his stomach.
He used the stealth learned on the streets and rooftops of Gotham as he slipped quietly and quickly through the hills. He met no invaders but continued to stay unseen as much as he could.
His heart leapt in his throat when he saw a patch of red several feet away. He hurried toward it.
He ran to the bush, the red silk cape with the yellow ‘S’ symbol torn, ragged and tangled in the branches.
With a shaking hand, Bruce gathered up the cape. Clark couldn’t be too far from here, he hoped. He kept the bundle over his cracked ribs and ran.
A terrible screeching sound rent the air. A silverplate going down here on the ground. Suddenly, another one pitched from the sky, plummeting to earth. The ground shook at its impact.
It was in that moment that Bruce came to the edge of a clearing and saw the crumpled figure in red-yellow-and-blue.