Title: Waves Upon The Shore (1-10/24)
Pairings/Characters: Ray Henderson, Mystery Man, Clark/Bruce, Dick, Alfred, Lucius Fox, Perry White, J’onn J’onzz, Diana Prince, Jonathan/Martha, Ollie/Dinah, Jim Gordon, Barbara Gordon, Reverend Aloysius Abernathy, Linda Danvers, Lana Lang
Genres: Angst, Challenge, Drama, Hurt/Comfort, Mystery
Rating: NC-17 overall
Warnings: (Ch. 6: Violence; Ch. 23: Description of disfigurement)
Beta: The wonderful me_ya_ri. All mistakes are mine.
Art by: The talented min_taiwan. Art can be found here.
Summary: When Bruce is blinded, he and Clark must adjust to their new lives.
Dates Of Completion: July 25-September 11, 2011
Date Of Posting: November 18, 2011
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC does, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 23,139
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author's Notes: Written for the 2011 SuperBat Big Bang.
The basics of this idea was taken by a Bronze Age Imaginary Story (substituting Bruce for Lois): Bruce’s blindness and Clark’s accident. Everything else is my own, especially the ending, as I never did get the chance to read the second part of this tale. Someday I hope to find that issue! :)
This is NOT a deathfic, BTW, even if it appears to be.
All chapters can be found here.
As hearts break,
The wind whistles
As tears make
Why, oh, why?
And Other Poems"
The reporters clustered around the huge oak tree as the rain fell steadily on the Metropolis City Cemetery. Headstones surrounded them in neat rows, windchimes dangling from the next tree and making a jangling, discordant sound as the wind whipped rain in the reporters' faces.
The headstone several yards away was rather modest for the man whose name was carved in stone, but the only remains had been mere ashes, so the stone was simply an honor to the dead as no body rested there.
The men and women did not talk. Huddled against the rain, they concentrated on keeping their iPads and notebooks dry.
The cemetery was located on the outskirts of the city, only the hum of traffic on a nearby highway heard in the silence of the grounds. Fog gently rolled in as fat raindrops dripped off the tree branches. One reporter shivered.
One man looked at his wristwatch. “It’s time.”
Inspector Ray Henderson and a patrolman stood quietly nearby, ensuring that the reporters would keep their distance. No TV cameras were allowed, and the other cameras and cellphones were tucked away, one of the conditions for allowing the press pool to be here. The entire ritual had gathered rules of its own, and the sense of mystery was thick in the air.
A lone figure began to approach out of the fog, carrying a spray of yellow roses. The man was dressed in a black suit and long coat, his face shaded by a fedora. He wore dark glasses to conceal his identity, and he walked slowly toward the headstone.
His movements were precise, and he carefully placed the roses on the grave. He knelt before the stone, shaking fingers tracing the carved letters engraved on granite. Light glinted off the gold ring he wore.
A young reporter lifted his cellphone to take a picture, but an older man put a hand on his arm and shook his head.
The man bowed his head and his lips moved silently, rain falling off the brim of his fedora. His face was wet with rain and possibly tears, but no one could get close enough to know for certain.
Mental notes were taken by the watchers, and the rain came down harder. The mystery visitor slowly stood, turning away from the headstone, and the reporters left, already having written the story in their heads:
Like Heaven had come
To melt away its sins.
"Angels Of Light"
Bruce awoke, smiling as he registered the warm body curled up next to him. He let his senses absorb the heat that always radiated off Clark. He smelled like sunshine, Bruce’s smile widening at his whimsical turn of phrase. Who would have guessed that he had poetry in his soul?
Clark brings it out of me.
He could smell the scent of strawberry shampoo that Clark favored, and his fingers ran along silken skin. He opened his eyes.
Clark was still asleep, his Superman curl tumbling over his brow. Long lashes and a perfect mouth attracted Bruce’s gaze. He lightly ran his fingers over Clark’s lips, his lover sighing softly.
Bruce’s gaze feasted on the perfect body that was his to enjoy. Broad shoulders and chest, strong thighs, hands that could tear a mountain in two and could just as easily be gentle as they stroked Bruce’s skin.
Clark was the most beautiful man in the world, and Bruce was privileged to see him at his most vulnerable. He leaned down to brush his lips over Clark's.
Clark responded and Bruce found himself in a grip of steel, which suited him just fine.
“Mmm, good morning,” Clark said, opening sapphire-blue eyes that glowed with love.
“Good morning.” Bruce cupped his lover’s face, his own eyes sparkling this morning.
Clark drew him down into a kiss, their bodies rubbing together as Clark gently rolled them over with him on top.
Hands roamed and lips kissed cheeks and jaws and shoulders as they set a rhythm, Bruce's hands clutching firm buttocks. He moaned as Clark captured his lips again, his tongue pushing his way into his mouth. Bruce pressed Clark closer to him.
The friction increased between them, Bruce feeling jolts of pleasure shoot through his body. He thrust up and felt himself go over the edge, tiny pinpoints of light sparkling in front of his eyes as seconds later, Clark’s seed spilled between them.
Bruce panted, Clark kissing his ear and cheek, the errant curl coming down over his eyes again. Bruce squeezed his buttocks.
“You do have a way of saying good morning that I like.”
Clark laughed and rolled off his lover. “Mmm, I smell blueberry pancakes.” He kissed Bruce again. “Let’s hurry up and shower and get down to breakfast.”
Bruce patted Clark’s stomach with a smirk. “The farmboy appetite never wanes, does it?”
“I hope not!”
They went into the adjoining bathroom and Bruce was treated to the sight of a wet Clark under the spray of water, droplets glittering like diamonds on his skin.
Bruce could never get enough of his beautiful farmboy.
Alfred had everything ready in the breakfast nook. Fresh cranberry juice was poured in tall glasses, and a basket of warm cranberry muffins was set in the center of the table.
Dick was already buttering a muffin, smiling brightly as he greeted Bruce and Clark. Sunlight streamed in through the bay window, and Clark said, “Great to see you, Dick. You staying long?”
Dick nodded. “The semester’s over, so unless I take a summer course, Hudson won’t see me ‘til September.”
Bruce was very pleased to have his partner back.
The day was a busy one, Bruce and Lucius taking on a faction of the Wayne Enterprises Board over a possible merger deal, and there was a stack of paperwork for him to sign before he left for the country club and a business golf date. The phone rang while he was still signing.
“Bruce Wayne here.”
“Hello, Bruce Wayne.”
Bruce smiled. He could hear the controlled chaos of The Daily Planet newsroom in the background.
“Hello, Clark Kent. Busy day?”
“Pretty quiet one, actually. Just a few minor brushfires to put out.”
Bruce knew that Clark meant that literally. “Good. Everyone needs a quiet day now and then.”
“Don’t forget our dinner date Friday night.”
He could hear Perry yelling for Clark in the background. “Right. See you later. Love you.”
Bruce finished his paperwork and drove out to the country club, hearing about Superman breaking up a fight on the Metropolis docks over the radio.
Oh, well, guess it was too much to hope for a quiet day.
The night was fairly quiet, just a few muggings that the Dynamic Duo took care of with ease. Batman felt more comfortable on patrol that he had in a long time. Robin sparkled next to him, cracking jokes and bad puns with impunity, making Batman groan. Robin laughed as he flew to the next rooftop.
An alarm going off alerted them to head for the financial district. Three masked robbers were coming out of the jewelry store on Braddock Street, pedestrians running at the sight of the handguns they carried.Batman nodded to Robin and they swooped down in sync, kicking out and attacking two of the robbers.Batman knocked out the thief while Robin parried the other’s lunge.
Batman turned to take care of the third man.This robber was cooler than his colleagues. Dropping his bag of loot, he pulled out an odd-looking gun from his jacket pocket, icy blue eyes showing through the holes of his ski mask.
“Gotham will be ours, Batman.” He pulled the trigger.
A wave of brilliant white-hot light seared Batman’s eyes, pain jabbing him like red-hot needles. He screamed as he covered his eyes, dropping to his knees. Vaguely he heard Robin’s shout.
The world was like the core of the sun before it turned dark.
Because the Darkness
"Light And Dark"
Pain lanced through Bruce’s head, his stomach rocking with nausea. He could hear concerned voices around him, but he could barely think. His mouth tasted metallic, and he tried to remember what had happened.
Panic seized him. Dick! Where was Dick? Somehow that was important.
“Dick,” he rasped.
A strong hand gripped his shoulder. “He’s right here, Bruce.”
“Bruce, it’s okay.” Another hand, smaller this time, clutched his hand. “I’m right here.”
Bruce could barely think, but hearing Dick’s voice relaxed him. He gasped as a spear of pain sliced through his head.
“J’onn…” Dick’s voice was strained.
“I can soothe his pain if he will allow it.”
“Please do it.”
Bruce could feel something enter his mind. Crying out, he fought the intrusion.
“Bruce, don’t fight J’onn,” Dick pleaded.
Bruce wanted to scream, but his self-discipline clamped down. “Clark,” he rasped. “Where’s Clark?”
“Right here, Bruce.” He sounded as if he had been crying. His hand gently squeezed Bruce’s shoulder.
“Let me in, Bruce. I can ease some of that pain.” J’onn’s calm voice was unmistakeable.
Bruce forced himself to relax, a cool wave washing over him and he whimpered with impending relief as unconsciousness drew him down into oblivion.
Everything was white, like the Arctic, like the North Pole where Santa lived, and Hermie and all the elves and Rudolph and he would sign up to work at the factory because he liked to make toys…Santa was Clark’s neighbor, wasn’t he? Dick was Santa’s favorite elf. It was the pixie boots. Alfred would make Christmas cookies and they would decorate the tree and why was he crying, or was it someone else?
When Bruce came to consciousness, he could hear the beeping of the Watchtower’s infirmary monitors. Dick called this place the Enterprise’s Sickbay, and Bruce could not argue with that.
The pain was now just a dull ache and he felt exhausted. It was blessedly quiet. He opened his eyes.
Panic seized him. He yelled, “Clark! Dick!” His heart threatened to burst out of his chest.
He could hear footsteps: Clark’s. Dick’s pixie boots would not make a sound.
He groped empty air, and Clark took his hand. “Bruce?”
Dick took his other hand.
“I can’t see.”
The human spirit
Shrivels and dies.
Sir Alec Owen
"Tears Of The Lost Generation"
It was cold, bone-chilling, to be exact. Bruce huddled deeper in Clark’s cape.
“We’re here,” Clark announced cheerfully, though the strain was evident underneath. He punched in the entry code and they were inside the Fortress of Solitude.
Clark unwrapped his cape and set Bruce on his feet. Bruce loathed the darkness that surrounded him. Once the shadows had intrigued him in how he could use them. Now he wanted nothing more than to claw them away as his rage simmered.
He missed the rainbow striations in the crystals, their beauty never failing to delight him.
Back when he had sight.
“I don’t think this is a good idea,” he growled.
“Bruce, the Watchtower couldn’t help you. Maybe the AI can.”
Bruce brooded as he did not answer. Clark gently put Bruce’s hand on his arm and they started walking to the control room.
After an extensive series of tests on the Watchtower, J’onn had admitted defeat. “I regret that I can find no cure for this blindness, Bruce.” With grim stoicism, Bruce had accepted the diagnosis, returning to the Manor and shutting himself up in his bedroom, cutting himself off from his family and lover, refusing to eat any of Alfred’s tempting concoctions.
Now Clark had practically kidnapped him, but there was a sliver of hope that the AI could do something for him. Diana had brought Paula, the finest Amazon physician to the Watchtower to examine him, but she had been as baffled as J’onn. The AI was his last chance.
He cursed that hope, fearful of what the dashing of it would do to him.
He hated Clark for the hope that he could feel radiating from him. Damn Clark for his eternal optimism! Damn him for dragging Bruce out of the safety of his bedroom and holding out hope!
“Just get up on the diagnostic bed and stretch out.”
Clark sounded almost cheerful, Bruce thought spitefully. He climbed up awkwardly on the table and stretched out, crossing his arms over his stomach.
He could hear the soft whirs and clicks of the AI, remembering what the crystalline machine looked like.
He knotted his fingers together. He disliked being out of the Manor, even in a place he had visited many times before. He felt…vulnerable.
Clark would protect him, but he was keeping his emotional distance from him. He was such a maelstrom of emotions that he could barely sort them out. He could not deal with Clark’s pain in addition to his own. If he did not keep a lid on his emotions, he would be crushed under their weight.
The whirs and clicks grew louder. A humming noise began, and Bruce could feel himself bathed in a warm light.
It disturbed him that he was relying more and more on his other senses, as if he was accepting permanent blindness.
He was not sure how long he lay there as the Kryptonian AI scanned him and computed its diagnosis.
“AI, what are your findings?” Clark asked.
“The cessation of eyesight in your mate is caused by the burning of Bruce-Wayne’s retinas. The energy of the light that destroyed the retinas is of alien origin. There is no cure or repair to be administered, Kal-El.”
“AI, are you certain?”
The human part of Clark could not let it go, Bruce thought bitterly.
“That’s it, then,” Bruce grated. He sat up, his face like stone. “Take me back home.”
“Alfred, what can we do?”
It upset Dick to hear the lost, broken tone of Clark’s voice. This was the Man of Steel! He should not sound that way, should not have to suffer this kind of pain.
Clark rubbed his eyes, replacing his glasses. Long ago Dick had noticed the habit: Clark often wore his glasses, even in private. They were so much a part of him that Dick suspected it rarely occurred to him to leave them off.
“He never leaves his room.”
“Yes, I know.” Dick knew that Alfred was just as upset as Clark and he were, but he remained as unflappable as ever. “He must mourn for awhile.”
Alfred nodded. “His old life is gone. He must mourn its passing before he can start his new life.”
Dick felt his gut clench. He had been avoiding the truth, but Alfred’s words confirmed what he had known: there would be no more patrols as Batman and Robin, no more Dark Knight rushing off to JLA meetings or saving the world.
Decisions would have to be made, but Dick did not have the heart to make them.
Bruce sat on the bed, listening to the grandfather clock in the hall as it ticked steadily. The sound was slightly different from the grandfather clock in the library that lead to the Batcave…he deliberately turned from the thought of his Mission and hanging up the cowl.
Everything he had trained his whole life to do was over. Everything he had built up was no longer his to use. He would turn over the mantle of the Bat to Dick.
It was still too painful to think of Clark.
I can’t let him stay, tied to a blind man forever.
He would free Clark, allow him to find someone else, because he deserved better than a cosseted, useless, rich playboy whose life was severely curtailed now.
His hands clenched into fists as he heard the wind rattle the windows. The clock ticked louder.
He could not do anything. He could not feed or shave himself or walk around the house he had grown up in without knocking knickknacks over or bruising his arms and legs. The man who had once flown across the rooftops of Gotham could not even navigate the living room without falling.
He would never be Batman again.
He screamed inside.
Above the surface,
Clark rubbed his forehead. He felt a thousand years old. Dick was tired, too, sitting slumped in his chair. They were sitting in the breakfast nook, a basket of blueberry muffins untouched in the middle of the table. It was a testament to their distress that their usual ravenous appetites were nonexistent today.
Dick had begun the paperwork to transfer from Hudson to Gotham University. In the last three weeks he had been patrolling, either alone or with Clark or Barbara. Clark was certain that Dick had not slept at all, or very little.
“We need to get Batman back,” Dick said.
“I mean you and me.” At Clark’s puzzled look, Dick explained. “You and I wear the cowl. I’ll be Robin to your Batman, and be out on my own or with Babs.”
Clark rubbed his eyes again. “We can do that.”
“We have to. If the underworld thought Batman was permanently out of commission, they’d get bolder.”
“I know.” Clark glanced upward. “He has completely shut me out.”
“I know.” Dick’s expression was sympathetic.
Clark sighed. “I know this is hard on you, too.”
Dick laid his hand on Clark’s. “I know what you were planning to do that Friday during your dinner date.”
Clark closed his eyes. “Yeah. That plan is pretty much shot. Talk about bad timing, huh?” He opened his eyes to meet Dick’s sad eyes. “I’ll put on the cowl tonight.”
The clock’s ticking filled Bruce’s senses, its solemn cadence in tune with the beat of his heart. The wind rattled the windowpanes, and the restless ocean matched his rising emotions.
Footsteps sounded out in the hall. He tensed as he expected a knock on the door, but the footsteps passed his room. He recognized the light tread as Dick’s. The clock chimed eight.
Getting ready for patrol.
A few minutes later, Dick left his room and headed downstairs.
The ocean sounded louder through the window screens. Was the moonlight shimmering on the water? Was it shining through the windows? Silvering the bed, where Clark used to be?
He moaned and his hand brushed against a book on the nightstand. He picked it up and flung it across the room
Clark was glad that Linda was helping him by covering Metropolis tonight. They would have to work out some kind of schedule.
The Bat-suit was not completely unfamiliar. He had worn it before, helping Bruce out.
Robin tapped his arm and pointed downward. Clark nodded.
He swept down with Robin at his side, startling the gang robbing the jewelry store.
It was exhilarating, this rush through the air and seeing the startled and fearful faces below him. Criminals were afraid of Superman, but not on this visceral level. One crook ran away, the stench of fear trailing after him.
Robin laughed and quipped, punching out the thieves while Clark kept silent, only growling when he thought it necessary, his punch sending his target flying. He kept his eyes on the thieves, not wanting a repeat of the night Bruce had been harmed, but these men seemed like a pick-up, scraggly gang. He and Robin were in perfect sync as they battled.
He smiled a Bat-smile.
Bruce turned away, staring into darkness.
“You must have liquids and something solid to eat, sir.” At Bruce’s continued silence, Alfred sighed. “Very well. I must go to the Cave and await the return of Master Dick and Master Clark.”
“Clark?” Bruce turned toward Alfred. “What was he doing with Dick?”
“He is assisting Master Dick on patrol.”
“So the Big, Blue Boy Scout is being seen in Gotham while Batman lays down on the job,” Bruce said bitterly. When Alfred said nothing, Bruce became suspicious. “What’s going on, Alfred?”
Reluctance underlay the cultured tone. “Master Clark has donned the cowl.”
Bruce felt as if he had been gut-punched. “What?!”
“Yes, sir. He…”
“That’s Dick’s job.”
“Quite, but in order for Batman and Robin to be seen together…”
“Tell Clark I want to see him when he gets back.”
Bruce’s teeth were painfully clenched and his right hand was curled up into a fist.
“When he comes back, Alfred.”
Another moment of silence, then, “Yes, sir.”
Alfred closed the door softly behind him.
The muffled roar of the Batmobile sounded through the Cave as Alfred waited, Dick and Clark climbing out of the car after Clark parked it in its customary slot.
“Alfred, Clark was great! We need celebratory milk and cookies,” Dick beamed.
Alfred regretted dampening his young charge’s ardor. It had been far too long since his bright boy had smiled.
“Good to hear, Master Dick. Master Clark, your presence is required in the bedroom.”
“Is Bruce all right?”
“Yes. He requested to see you.” It was more like a royal command, but Alfred kept that to himself. Again he regretted his role of squelching joy as Clark’s face lit up. “I must warn you…he is not happy with you.”
“Why?” asked Clark with a frown.
“You’re wearing the cowl.”
“Yes, to help Dick.”
Alfred sighed. “Please be careful, Master Clark. I fear that Master Bruce is extremely upset.”
“I will. I’ll take a shower and go right on up.”
Dick and Alfred exchanged worried looks as Clark went to the showers.
Clark took his shower and put on a blue robe and slippers, tying the belt of his robe. Dick was still in the shower, so Clark went up the stone steps, forcing himself to remain calm.
Of course Bruce would be upset over Clark wearing the cowl. It was highly likely that he never would again. The AI could not repair the damage done to his eyes, or the Watchtower, or the Amazons.
Clark walked slowly up the grand staircase. A premonition of disaster was hanging over his head like a thundercloud, but shrugged it off. Nothing had felt right since the night of the jewel robbery.
He knocked softly on the master bedroom door. He received no answer, so cautiously opened it.
Bruce was standing at the window overlooking the lawn and, beyond that, the ocean. His arms were crossed, his face in shadow.
“Alfred said that you wanted to see me.” Clark’s heart ached. Whatever happened to the days when he could just come into the bedroom without the equivalent of an engraved invitation?
Bruce kept silent, Clark keeping a rein on his irritation. It was an old trick of Bruce’s, the ‘cold shoulder’, and he refused to play along.
Finally Bruce said, “You wore the cowl tonight.”
“That is for Dick to wear,” Bruce growled.
“He has worn it, but…”
“It’s not for you to wear it!”
Stunned, Clark stammered, “But…but…”
“That’s Dick’s right.”
“And he asked for help.”
“You had no right…” Bruce’s anger tumbled out of him like a raging torrent of water sweeping over a cliff. He knotted his right hand into a fist. “To just sweep in and take it…”
Hurt, Clark murmured, “I’m sorry, Bruce, but Dick needed help.” He bit his lip. “I know this is tough on you.”
“You don’t know anything!” Bruce exploded. “What would you know about losing your eyesight? You’re perfect in every way! You don’t know pain.”
Stung, Clark saw the fury on Bruce’s face as his lover took a step forward and heard it in his words. Suddenly his own rage and frustration boiled over.
“Stop with the pity party, Bruce,” Clark ground out. “Dick’s been running himself ragged, Alfred and Barbara have been helping out, and so have I the whole time you’ve shut yourself away in this room, which you kicked me out of. I was willing to give you time and space, because you were hit with a terrible loss but we’re all doing our best and I don’t have to be berated for wearing your cowl!”
Bruce’s eyes narrowed. “So you think you know what it’s like to suffer a disability? Calling me out?”
“I don’t know what it’s like to lose my sight, but I know what pain is like! It’s watching you suffer and draw away from all of us who love you! I love you! Stop shutting me out!”
Clark took a step forward, his hand out and his eyes pleading, but of course Bruce could not see his gesture or expression.
“You don’t know what it’s like to be shut away in the dark forever! You live in the fuckin’ light! Leave me alone!”
Clark’s hand dropped away. “All right, Bruce, he said sadly. “Stay in the darkness.” He left the room, closing the door softly behind him, leaving Bruce to stand alone by the window, the moonlight silvering his body.
Over the sand,
Sarah Jean O’Reilly
Bruce stood there for a very long time, fist clenched and expression set hard while the emotions battled within him: rage, frustration, grief, and sorrow as part of him silently screamed Clark’s name.
I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it!
He was sorry, but he had meant it, if only enough to drive Clark away.
His emotions washed over him like the waves over the rocks, his heart pounding as the darkness enveloped him like a shroud. He was angry and railing at Fate, the waves dashing against the rocks, but also thinking of Clark.
With shame he admitted that he was resentful of Clark’s perfect health, his invulnerability, his ability to continue the Mission while he had fallen by the wayside, permanently sidelined.
A part of him knew that he needed to deal with his new life, but he was adrift. What could he do now? Concentrate on Wayne Enterprises? Allow Dick and Barbara and Clark to shoulder the burden of Gotham? Even Alfred was doing his part while he shut himself away in his room.
I’m worthless, Bruce thought, rubbing his forehead as the dull ache of another headache came on. He stumbled toward the bed.
He sat down, his limbs trembling. Once Clark loved, he always kept that person in his heart. Lois and Lana still had a part of him, and he suspected Lex might.
He rubbed his forehead again. Clark would never leave him. The Big, Blue Boy Scout would do the honorable thing, stay tied down with a blind lover for the rest of their lives.
Unless Bruce freed him.
He groaned as a stab of pain went through his head. His extra-strength aspirin was on the nightstand. He stood up shakily and followed the edge of the bed to the nightstand, fumbling for the pill bottle. He knocked it over, cursing as the bottle tipped and the pills fell out. He got down on his knees and painstakingly picked up all the pills he could find, and put them back in the bottle, taking one. He stood and reached for the water pitcher, knocking it over, the water soaking his socks and the bottom of his pants.
He stood there for a minute, then picked up the pitcher with exaggerated care and flung it, the window shattering.
Clark walked down the stairs, meeting Dick on his way up.
“Clark, what’s wrong?” Dick laid a hand on his friend’s arm.
“Bruce is…he’s hurting a lot.”
Sympathy shone from Dick’s blue eyes. No doubt he had been on the receiving end of Bruce’s sharp tongue more than once himself.
“Just give him a little more time.”
Clark sighed, wiping a tear from his eyes. “You’re right, of course.”
Dick squeezed his arm. “You should go to bed. Linda’s got Metropolis covered.”
“I think I’ll go down to the beach for awhile.”
“Okay.” Dick drew Clark into a hug, which he returned gratefully. He certainly needed one.
Clark left the Manor and walked down to the private beach close to the grounds.
He liked it here. Growing up in the Midwest, he had not been by the ocean on a daily basis. He liked the eternal rhythm of the sea, the sights and smells and sounds of life by the shore.
And Bruce would never see the ocean again.
He watched dully as a seagull bobbed on the waves, a freighter from Gotham Harbor chugging on the horizon. The lighthouse beacon pierced the darkness.
Tears spilled down Clark’s cheeks. How his missed his Bruce! The man holed up in that bedroom was not the man he had fallen in love with.
He’s angry and afraid and he’s lashing out. He needs time, like Dick says.
But it still hurt. The words had cut right through him, piercing him in ways that proved Bruce wrong: he could hurt, invulnerable or not.
He wrapped his arms around his chest, staring down at the waves. If he used his telescopic vision, he would see right down past the fish and algae all the way down to the plankton. He could smell the brine and taste the salt, and his tears mingled with the waves.
I’ll never stop trying to find a cure for you, Bruce. I swear.
He heard the crash of glass and looked up, his heart triphammering.
He flew up from the beach all the way to the master bedroom window, the jagged edges glinting in the moonlight. Inside, Bruce was kneeling in the middle of shards of glass from the window and his water glass. The nightstand was tipped over, the vase with its vase of flowers smashed, the water and chrysanthemums soaking and scattered in the carpet. The look of anguish on Bruce’s face broke Clark’s heart.
Bruce was rocking back-and-forth, arms wrapped around his middle as if in pain.
“Are you hurt?”
“In ways you can’t even imagine,” Bruce rasped.
Clark put a hand on his lover’s tense shoulder. “Let me help.”
A tear slid down Bruce’s cheek. “No one can help.”
“I can help you bear the pain if you’ll just let me.” Clark tightened his grip. “Please.”
Bruce shuddered, lifting one hand and groping for Clark’s, who took a firm hold and pulled Bruce into an embrace. Bruce began to cry, deep, shuddering sobs that tore at him, and the tears ran down Clark’s face as they mourned the loss of their old lives, the spring breeze wafting in through the shattered window.
But the rocks are still there."
Bruce determined to master his condition. With typical Bat-efficiency, he insisted on learning how to navigate the house, learn Braille, and generally get back into the rhythm of life.
It was a change that delighted his family, and if only he knew about his despair and grief for his old life, what of it? He would fill the hole in himself with new things to do and learn.
Bruises were part of that learning process as he bumped into furniture and fell frequently, but he was determined to learn every route in the house, from the foyer to the library and back to the kitchen.
His family was by his side, helping when he needed it and letting him learn alone when it was necessary.
He felt tired and frustrated at the end of the day, but Clark was always there, holding him close as they slept.
Whether Bruce had to sleep alone due to Clark being busy as Superman or was safe in the circle of his arms, the darkness of sleep was the same as the darkness of waking.
Bruce curled up next to Clark after his lover had come back from patrol in Metropolis. Tired from a long day of bruising and falling, he was grateful for sleep.
The only thing he did not like about sleeping was waking up. That first moment of opening his eyes was always a moment of panic combined with bitter disappointment and depression.
Helluva way to start the day.
There was no use worrying about it. He had to sleep.
And Clark’s here. You can go to sleep while he’s here.
He curled up a little closer.
The Bat’s cape fluttered out behind him as he leaped over the alley to alight on the next rooftop with a thud of his boots. Sunshine fluttered next to him as he breathed in the night air.
His Mission was always important, but a part of him liked the freedom of flying, the wind against his face. Freedom was what he needed, freedom from planning and plotting and worrying…he began to fall.
Bruce jerked awake, his heart pounding. He felt Clark stir next to him, but he remained asleep.
Bruce blinked rapidly. The darkness was all encompassing. Whatever had fried his retinas had not even left him with the ability to discern between patches of gray. It was total, unrelenting blackness, as if he had been swallowed up by a pit.
He rested his head on Clark’s chest. It was strong and solid, just like Clark himself.
He remembered the AI saying that the weapon used against him had been of alien origin. Unfortunately, in the chaos of that night, the robbers had gotten away, and still were successfully underground. No new robberies had been committed by the gang. Bruce wondered if they had retired, leaving at the top of their game.
After all, they took down the Bat, didn’t they?
He sighed. He was tired of the bitterness.
He listened to the sound of the ocean, its eternal rhythm soothing the sore spots in his troubled spirit. Despite his turnaround from hermit to new student of the blind condition, he was still encountering setbacks. It was far from smooth sailing.
He snuggled a little closer to Clark. He still had the love and support of his man, and Dick and Alfred. His friends from the JLA were supportive, particularly Diana. Somehow, they all gave him the strength to keep on going, bruised and exhausted as he could be in his daily struggles.
He drifted off to sleep, able to let himself relax in the safety of Clark’s arms.
A TIME TO LEARN
A time to yearn,
A time to cry,
A time to die.
Bruce grunted, his knee bumping into the endtable.
“Use your cane, Bruce.”
Barbara’s calm voice kept him centered as he fought off the pain. He nodded and slid his cane in front of him in a side-to-side motion, knocking it against the coffee table. He sidestepped the table, a small smile forming on his lips.
“Okay, let’s head to the library,” Barbara said.
Bruce made his way without mishap through the living room and down the hall to the library.
“Another success,” he said wryly.
“Every little bit helps.”
“When did you start working with the disabled?”
“Oh, for awhile now. I volunteer at the hospital and work with patients who are blind, paralyzed, and other disabilities.”
“Bet you’re great with them.”
Bruce could hear the smile in her voice. “I do all right.”
“Well, I think you do better than all right.” Bruce stood by the bay window, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his face. “How’s Dick doing?”
“He’s doing great. He’s his usual jovial self as Robin, especially when he’s with Clark as Batman. He still fanboys Clark, doesn’t he?”
Bruce snorted. “Very much so. The first time he met Clark, he literally did cartwheels and backflips; he was so excited. I’ll have to admit; I was a little jealous.”
Amusement laced Barbara’s voice. “That’s adorable! Well, he still keeps up the quips, same as when he’s with me.”
Bruce could hear the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks through the screen. Summer had settled on Gotham, and the weather was pleasant right now. A heat wave was predicted, but for now the temperatures were good.
“How is he as Batman?”
Barbara hesitated, then said, “He’s feeling his way. He’s fooling the underworld, but he’s still trying to figure out how to play it. How much should be you and how much should be him?”
Bruce smiled fondly. “Ever the showman.”
She laughed. “Perfect way of putting it.” She came closer, a faint scent of jasmine tickling Bruce’s nose. “Do you want to go out in the gardens? Or down to the beach?”
“Later.” He set his shoulders. “I want to go down to the Cave.”
He could hear a tiny hitch of breath. “Okay.”
He used his cane to reach the grandfather clock and she opened it. “Let me go first.”
He allowed it. This was his first time down these steps since his blinding, and the stone steps could be uneven. The smell of dampness was strong as cool air rushed up toward him.
He was extremely careful, trying to concentrate on his descent as he followed Barbara, a hand on her shoulder.
He could hear the bats squeaking high up in the rafters. The low hum of the computers could be heard, and Barbara flipped on the overhead lights.
Bruce stood in the center of the Cave, absorbing the smells and sounds. It had been too long since he had been down here. He breathed in deeply, a strange calmness settling over him.
“Take me over to the Batmobile, please.”
Barbara placed his hand on her arm and they walked to the bay, Bruce counting off the steps for future reference. He could smell wax and grease and the faint odor of gasoline. He reached out his hand and touched the shiny, sleek surface of the Batmobile, remembering how the lights bounced off the gleaming metal. He ran his hand over the hard surface.
Barbara nodded, and they walked over to the banks of computers, the finest that he and Lucius had been able to design and build. Their soft hum soothed him.
“What’s the news of the day?” he asked lightly.
Barbara took a seat and he could hear the click of computer keys. “Looks like another riot on the Metropolis docks. That’s one long strike.”
“Clark will take care of it.” Bruce put his hand on the back of the chair. “How’s Gotham?”
More key clicking. “Pretty quiet, Boss.”
He smiled faintly. “Good. At least Dick can be at the Titans’ meeting in peace.” He slipped his hand down to rest on her shoulder. “He’s not wearing down?”
“He seems to be holding his own. You know our Dickie-bird, boundless energy.” Pride and amusement were in her voice. “Being Batman, Robin, and attending meetings of the JLA and being the leader of the Titans seems to suit him.”
“Today’s his first JLA meeting, isn’t it?”
Pride suffused Bruce’s voice. “He’ll do a fine job.” Quiet reigned over the Cave, then Bruce said, “I’d like to go outside now.”
Barbara brushed her arm against him and he took her arm as they began the ascent up the stone steps.
I’ll make sure everything goes well, but it’s easy with Dick.
July 6, 2011
Dick nervously adjusted the cowl while Clark smiled gently.
“You’ll be just fine, Dick. Everyone knows you. And you’ve attended JLA meetings before.”
“But that was as Robin, not Batman.”
“They’ll still know it’s you.”
Dick swept out the cape behind him. “Wouldn’t you rather be down at the beach with Bruce instead of babysitting me?”
Clark smiled. “I have to attend, too, and the meeting won’t be long. I can be with Bruce in a few hours.”
“He’s really changed things around,” Dick said happily.
“He has.” Clark held out a hand and drew Dick into a hug. “Okay, to the teleporter!”
Dick laughed and followed Clark into the teleporter.
Superman escorted Dick into the meeting room, several of the JLA members already there. Many of the heroes turned and smiled, not the usual reaction to Batman. Dick relaxed a little.
Wonder Woman approached. “Good to see the World’s Finest in attendance.”
Batman beamed, the Amazon laughing. “Shall we get started?”
“Lets’ do this,” Superman said with a smile.
Batman settled in the seat next o Superman, Wonder Woman on his other side. The other heroes took their seats.
Dick still felt like a little kid playing dress-up. He was accustomed to the more informal meetings of the Teen Titans, though they did follow procedures. Still, Wally was just as likely to run out for a pizza during a break and Kory ask Donna about her latest date as Roy laugh and wink at him while Vic smirked and Raven was just, well, Raven.
The JLA had stricter procedures, and Superman opened the meeting. There was no mention of a new member. Batman was a founding member, and that was how they were going to play it.
Discussion centered around renovations in the lab, and ordinarily Batman would have contributed to this discussion, but Dick was not a science geek like Bruce. He understood the concepts but was happy to leave the nuts-and-bolts to Lucius. Still, Waynetech was a major source of the Watchtower equipment, along with Queen Industries.
“And the renovation schedule will be…”“…on time,” said Batman.
Superman raised an eyebrow at the interruption, then smiled. “It seems as if the Dark Knight has something to say.”
“Thank you, Superman,” said Batman coolly while manfully suppressing a smile. “Waynetech can provide us with the new equipment. CEO Lucius Fox will be in charge, working with me and Mr. Terrific.” What the hell. A little nuts-and-bolts couldn’t hurt.
“Thank you, Batman.”
Dick settled back in his seat, completely relaxed.The rest of the meeting was routine, Batman absorbing every detail. He always paid attention to details. Bruce had not been the first one to emphasize ‘mind your surroundings’. His parents had done the same as soon as he became part of the act, which was ever since he could remember.
He smiled at the thought of his parents. There was always sadness, but he preferred to think of the good times. His life had not ended on that terrible night, but had taken a new direction, one that his parents would have been proud of.
After the meeting adjourned, the JLA crowded around Batman and welcomed him. With a laugh, Dick removed the cowl and interacted with his new teammates, Superman watching in approval.
“Ready for some lunch, Dick?” Superman asked, clapping a hand on the younger man’s shoulder as the crowd dispersed.
They walked down the corridor, Dick happy at how things had turned out. He was relaxed and happy, all the good things in life.Dick was always happy to spend time with Clark. He had always felt a special bond between them from the first moment they had met.
“What are you smiling at?”
“Just remembering our first meeting.”
Clark laughed. “I remember it well.”
Pleased, Dick asked, “Bet you weren’t sure what was going on with me, were you?”
Clark’s blue eyes sparkled. “I saw this sprite in pixie boots who was positively vibrating with excitement. Bruce had to keep a hand on your shoulder to keep you from somersaulting.”
Dick laughed. “True, but I did it afterward.”
“I remember it well.”
Pleased, Dick beamed.In the cafeteria, Superman and Batman picked out their lunches, Clark with a roast beef sandwich and garden salad, Dick with a chicken sandwich and potato salad. Clark led him to a table by the window.
“Wow. It never gets old, does it?” Dick started at the Earth rotating slowly beneath them.
“No, never does.”
Diana came over with her tray. “Room for one more?”
“Always for a lovely lady,” Clark smiled.
“Flatterer.” Diana sat down, putting mustard on her turkey sandwich. She smiled as she asked Dick, “So, how did you first meeting go?”
“I found it pretty interesting, though more formal than Titans’ meetings.”
“Hmm, I would say so, though I am sure you do a fine job of chairing those meetings.”
Dick beamed. “I think I do pretty well.”
“I like your confidence, Dick. You and Bruce share that trait.”
“That’s a high compliment, Diana.”
Diana picked up a fat dill pickle. “I know that you do a fine job leading the Titans. Bruce speaks very highly of your leadership abilities.”
She nodded. “Quite so. He is very proud of you.”
Dick blushed. “Thanks, Diana. I have a lot to live up to.”
“You’ll be chairing the Waynetech meeting,” Clark said, taking a sip of lemonade.
“Great. I can get all the specs from Lucius.”
“How’s Bruce doing?” Diana asked.
“A lot better. He’s embracing learning how to cope.”
“Has Paula come up with anything?” Clark asked.
“No.” Diana took a bite of her pickle. “She is well and truly stumped.” She frowned. “A pity that the weapon has not been found.”
“The scum who used it has gone far underground. Smart move.” Dick frowned in a very Bat-like manner.
“We will find them and the gun that blinded Bruce,” Clark said with determination.
Diana and Dick nodded with equal determination.