mithen: (Misty Batman)
[personal profile] mithen
Title: Takeover
Relationship: Bruce Wayne/Clark Kent
Characters: Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Lex Luthor, Joker
Continuity: Heroes of the Squared Circle, a DC/pro wrestling fusion.
Warnings/Spoilers: None
Rating: PG-13
Word Count 3700
Summary: Batman, Superman, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent all have something important to tell Lex Luthor.

To me there is something beautiful about a brotherhood of big, tough men who only pretend to hurt one another for a living instead of actually doing it. --Bret Hart

“Mr. Luthor. May I have a word with you?”

Lex Luthor didn’t even look up at the figure standing in his office door. “Look, Kent, I know you’re going to ask me when you’ll finally get that shot at the heavyweight title, because you’ve worked so hard and you deserve it so much, and my answer is--you’ll be given it the moment I decide you deserve it, and not a moment sooner.”

“That isn’t actually what I came to talk to you about,” Clark said, stepping in and closing the door. “I’ve come here to ask you--are you sorry about the Graysons and what happened to them?”

Luthor’s head came up and his eyes narrowed. “What does this have to do with anything?”

“It always has,” Clark said.

Luthor shrugged. “I’m sorry it happened, of course I am,” he said. “But the investigation showed--”

“--I’m not talking about legal responsibility,” said Clark.

“And the statute of limitations--”

“Lex. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about regret. What I’m asking you is, could you pick up your phone right now and call Dick Grayson and tell him that you’re sorry his parents died in your ring?”

Luthor looked at his phone. “It was a long time ago,” he said after a moment. “And there’s nothing left to say.”

“So you couldn’t do it.”

“It wouldn’t change anything,” said Luthor.

“Yes it would,” said Clark, “and you know it.” He turned back to the door. “Lex,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

“This,” said Lex through gritted teeth as Clark swung the door open. “This, Kent, is why you will never be champion--your overweening, holier-than-thou arrogance.”

“I’m sorry,” Clark said again, and let the door shut behind him.

“What did he say?” Bruce said as Clark dropped down onto the common room couch next to him.

“He was a long time ago and there was nothing to be done now.”

Bruce sighed. “And did you ask him about…”

Clark threw up his hands. “Bruce, no way was I going to ask him about my chances for a heavyweight title shot, you know that! I can’t believe you even wanted me to!”

Bruce looked at his face for a while. “But he answered you anyway, didn’t he?” He watched as Clark rubbed wordlessly at his face. “It’s never going to happen.”

“That’s not a good reason to take over someone’s business, Bruce.”

“You know that’s not the only reason.” Bruce’s voice was sharp and a few people glanced their way; he leaned closer to Clark, dropping his voice: “Lex keeps burying new young talent. He almost destroyed Dick’s career. He almost destroyed Jean-Paul’s career and his entire life by pushing him too hard. This isn’t about revenge or petty personal issues, it’s about the future. Lex won’t work with other promotions. He’s focused on destroying, not on creating. It’s just the way he is. We can do it differently. We can do it better. Not just for us, but for all the wrestlers coming after us. For the audience. For everyone. You know it’s true, Clark.”

After a moment, Clark nodded, and Bruce clapped him on the shoulder.

“Okay, let’s grab Tim and get that video made. And then it’s showtime at last.”

The broadcast opened with Lex Luthor addressing the crowd, introducing the new heavyweight champion, Metallo! The crowd booed as John Corbin made his way to the ring with the title over his shoulder, and backstage Diana winced. “That’s bad,” she said.

“Wait,” said Kara. “He’s the heel. The crowd’s supposed to boo the heel.”

“Listen,” said Diana. “That’s not the sound of a crowd that’s loving hating the bad guy. That’s the sound of a crowd that’s bored and annoyed.”

“Go home heat,” said Barbara, grimacing. “Well, what can you expect? There hasn’t been any build, they don’t feel like he deserves that title, and--well, let’s be honest, Corbin’s got the personality to match his robot gimmick. The crowd sure doesn’t love him, but they can’t even hate him in any sort of satisfying way.”

Bruce stood up and pulled on his cowl. “Well, it’s been a pleasure,” he said curtly, and it was clear he hadn’t even been listening to the conversation. “Clark and I have to get to the ring.”

“What?” said Diana. “You’re not...part of this promo.”

“Oh my God,” said Barbara. “I was right! It’s really happening--it’s happening now, isn’t it?”

“What’s now?” said Diana.

“We need to watch this,” Barbara said, grabbing the remote and turning up the sound as Clark and Bruce left catering. “Everyone should probably watch this. Hold on, I gotta call Dick!”

“Night-wing! Night-wing! Night-wing! Night-wing!”

Luthor was having a hard time making himself heard over the chants of the crowd. It wasn’t that they expected Dick Grayson to show up at all; they’d just gotten in the habit of chanting his name when they were bored or frustrated.

“Shut up, all of you!” Luthor snarled as Metallo crossed his arms and glowered out at them. “As I was saying, it’s a shame about Azrael, but we’ve got a new champion, one who’ll bring prestige and honor to the title. And I think--”

The audience started doing the wave, and Lex Luthor glared out at them for a moment in mute and impotent fury. Then he rallied and started to continue his promo, determined to make it to the end.

He never got there.

The rippling wave dissolved into thousands of people standing up and cheering as the entrance theme for the World’s Finest--the song which hadn’t been heard for months--hit the arena, and Superman and Batman came down to the ring.

Clark saw Luthor’s wary, annoyed eyes flick between the two of them as he and Bruce got into the ring together: this wasn’t in the script. But Luthor was a pro. “I see you two have settled your differences? How sweet,” he sneered. With a quick gesture he indicated that Corbin should leave the ring; the champ wasn’t good enough on the mic to handle an impromptu promo like this.

“We may not always get along,” said Superman, “but we know when there’s a greater threat to be dealt with.”

The Dark Knight pointed at Luthor. “Lex Luthor,” he intoned, “Your family has run this company for generations. But this isn’t a dynasty, and you are not royalty.”

“This isn’t your personal kingdom, to run as you see fit,” said Superman. “Your decisions have brought pain and destruction to the people who work for you. That will not be allowed to stand.”

Clark could see the lightning-quick calculations in Luthor’s eyes: They’re paying off on that old storyline where Bruce owns part of the company. I see. “You may have missed this, superfriends,” he said, “but this is my company, and as the owner--”

“--Ah,” said Superman, “But this is a publicly-traded company, you know.”

“And as it turns out,” Batman said, “We have some very wealthy friends who agree with us about the need for a change.”

Batman waved a hand--and the jumbotron screen sprang to life.

On it were Clark Kent in full backstage interviewer regalia, holding a microphone for Billionaire Brucie in a sharp suit, a red rose in his buttonhole.

“What the hell,” Clark heard Lex mutter.

“Brucie,” said Clark Kent, “I hear you have some very important news for us. Could you explain it to all of the DCW universe?”

Brucie waved a hand. “Well, Kent, it’s all very technical, and I wouldn’t want to bore you with the details. But to make a long story short--” He held up his phone. “When I press this button, the final transaction will go through to make me a majority stockholder of the DCW.” Bruce smiled out of the screen, a sharp smile very much at odds with his languid, lazy posture. “It’s taken me a long time, Lex. Years of work, of setting up shell accounts and moving things around and getting things in order. All to bring me to this moment.”

He touched his phone screen.

“And… it’s done,” he said. “Bit of an anticlimax, I suppose, but financial stuff is so complex, don’t you think? Next time I’ll have the tech guys connect it to some fireworks or something. Hold on,” he said, and threw his arms up, making dramatic firework noises. “Anyway, what it means is that I have control of your company now and there are going to be some changes around here.” The crowd started to applaud, quietly at first, then louder and louder at this clever story twist. “I’ll let the World’s Finest there explain the rest, Lex.” Brucie smiled at Clark Kent. “I think I’m going to go celebrate,” he said, and the screen went black.

“Very funny,” said Luthor, turning from the screen with a sneer. There was a mix of confusion and suspicion in his eyes, but he forged ahead: “I hope you’re--”

“It’s true, Lex,” said Batman.

Lex turned from the screen to look at him.

Bruce nodded. “It’s true,” he said. “Clark and I are majority stockholders now. The company is ours.”

Not a muscle in Lex’s face flickered. “I always suspected it,” he said through his teeth. To the side, Clark could hear the announcers desperately babbling, trying to fill in time, unsure what was going on. “This is because I wouldn’t push Clark as champion, isn’t it?”

“No,” said Clark. “You probably won’t believe us, but it never was.”

“Then it’s about Dick getting screwed out of the title.”

“No,” said Bruce. “No, Lex. It’s about the Graysons. It’s about your greed costing a boy his parents, and your cowardice nearly denying him justice. It was always about the Graysons.”

Grudging respect flickered in Lex’s eyes. “That’s some long-term planning,” he said.

“I’ve always been good at that,” Bruce said.

There was a long, long silence as the crowd whooped and Clark watched Luthor nod slowly.

“So what now, you bastards?” Luthor said under the cheers and applause.

“Now you get to choose the ending of your story,” said Clark. “You get to decide how you go out.”

“We’ll follow your lead,” Bruce said.

Clark watched as various scenarios flashed by in Luthor’s eyes: he could break kayfabe, denounce them. He could tell everyone that Batman was Billionaire Brucie and that Brucie was the real Bruce Wayne. He could tear away the veil of illusion that made it all possible, could scream the truth to all these people--nearly all of whom already knew it was illusion, but who cherished the falsehood, nourished it, made it real with their cheers and boos and love.

It seemed to take forever, but in reality Luthor reached his conclusion in an eyeblink. “Cut me off and drop me when I’m done,” he said under his breath, looking Clark dead in the eye. “And make it look good, you son of a bitch.”

Then he raised his mic and started to rant.

It was a monologue for the ages--one of the best heel promos of all time, the message boards agreed later, starting with “You think you’ve won! You think you’ve defeated me! Well, no one defeats Lex Luthor!” and working its way through a crescendo of melodramatic fury as the crowd tried to drown him out with their jeers. “You’ll never succeed without my brilliance!” he eventually announced as Clark and Bruce waited. “That callow, fickle Wayne will lose interest in his latest toy and toss it away, and you will all rue the day he bought your souls. You’ll come crawling back to me one day on your hands and knees, begging me to save your sorry hides, and I will look down on you and laugh.” His eyes flashed as he threw out his hands to take in the crowd. “And these simpletons! They’ll realize what they’ve lost. They’ll come to loathe you! These gullible, moronic, simple-minded sheep who don’t recognize greatness when it stands in front of them, who do not recognize that I, Lex Luthor, am the greatest genius of my generation! I embrace their contempt! I revel in their hatred! Listen to them!

He threw out his hands and closed his eyes, and for a moment he smiled as the audience howled, drinking it in, supreme in his element. Then he met Clark’s eyes and nodded once, the tiniest motion, before opening his mouth to speak again.

“And so--” he started, but he didn’t finish, because Superman stepped forward and punched him once, a roundhouse blow that dropped him in his tracks.

Mercy came running, glaring at Superman and Batman (and at Clark and Bruce) and helped her boss to his feet, trying to provide support. Lex shoved her away: “I’m walking out on my own, damn it,” he snarled.

And he did.

The arena was silent, the crowds gone home, happy and sated, unaware that they had just witnessed reality colliding with kayfabe. Bruce Wayne stood in the ring, Clark Kent by his side, looking out at the staff of the DCW: wrestlers and costumers, announcers and writers, all sitting and looking up at them.

“So,” said Bruce without preamble, “you’re probably wondering what all that was in the ring with Luthor.”

“Just a little, yeah,” said John Stewart, his arms crossed and his feet propped up on the seat in front of him.

“I know there’ve been rumors through the years,” said Bruce, “about what my real name is. And I think I owe you the truth--for a lot of reasons, the first of which being we’ve worked together a long time, you’ve put your lives in my hands over and over, and you deserve to know who I really am.” He reached out and put his hands on the ropes, and Clark saw his fingers tighten as if he were seeking strength from the ring he loved so much. “So I’m going to tell you all the truth, and the truth is that my real name is...Bruce Wayne.”

Everyone blinked at him. Bruce’s small cadre of students nudged each other and giggled.

Billy Batson raised his hand sardonically. “So… you’ve actually got the same legal name as the orphan billionaire? You called us out here to tell us you’ve been wrestling under your wallet name this whole time? Okay, but...big deal, so what?” he said. “What’s it got to do with us Luthor and all that crazy shit that happened in the ring tonight?”

Bruce cleared his throat. “No,” he said. “I mean, I’m the Bruce Wayne. The… the real one.”

Batson nodded at him, then kept nodding like a bobblehead doll. Then he stood up abruptly and yelled “What the-- Why would you even wrestle if you always had that kind of cash?”

Murmurs broke out, some of them sounding smug (“I always knew it!”), others disbelieving (“That’s the stupidest thing I ever…”), and a few angry (“Liar!”)

“So you’re just going to waltz in here, take over Lex’s company, and expect everyone to just roll over?” John Corbin, the champion, looked both angry and worried. “I suppose you’re going to put the strap right on Clark, huh? That’s what this has always been about, isn’t it?”

“I won’t be booking,” said Bruce, and the angry mutters turned puzzled. “I’m CEO now. But I’m handing over responsibility for booking decisions to someone else.” He pointed at Jack Napier. “Congratulations, Joker.”

“What? Who? Me?” Napier looked startled. “Why?”

The corner of Bruce’s mouth tilted slightly. “Look, four months ago I asked if you’d ever want to be booker and you laughed and said you’d jump at the chance. Well, this is the chance. Jump.”

“I didn’t mean--” Napier thought about it a moment, then shrugged. “You know what, screw it, you’re right. I accept.”

“You’ve got a good sense of timing and a great sense of story,” said Bruce. “And we’ve never been terribly close, so I can count on you to be even-handed and not push my friends at the expense of others.”

“Even though you’re the big almighty boss now? The Bat-God that we all must pay homage to?” Napier sneered.

“That’s the attitude I want to see,” said Bruce calmly. “You’ve never been cowed by me, and I don’t expect you to start now. Just...tell good stories.”

He looked out at his new employees, their faces shining or sullen or philosophical, and took a breath. “Some of you have perhaps observed in the past that I can be a little… prickly. Difficult to work with.”

“A raging asshole,” Hal Jordan observed loudly from behind his hand, and everyone laughed.

“Well, you’re not wrong,” Bruce said. “That’s why Clark is going to be my liaison with the talent. You got a problem, go to him. I think you know him well enough to trust that he’ll do his best to be fair. And on that note…” He gestured to Clark. “You want to give us a few words to wrap up before we move on to the next town and the next show, Clark?”

Clark had kind of expected this, and yet somehow as everyone looked at him he found all words had abandoned him for a moment. He cleared his throat and looked at them all: Diana’s calm confidence; Selina’s mischievous smile; Killer Croc’s hopefulness, incongruous on his pugilist’s face; Billy Batson’s sneer and Tim Drake’s barely-contained glee. This tiny secret circle. His world now. His universe.

“I’m sure,” he said at last, “That Bruce thinks he’s telling the truth when he says you all trust me. I’m also sure that not all of you do. But I’m hoping that over time that will change. Because a lot of things are going to change around here.

“We’re going to start working more closely with other promotions. Instead of focusing on running them out of business, we’re going to try and work with them more. Less like a cut-throat competition and more like… the major and minor leagues. We’re going to start a training facility where young wrestlers can go to be taught by some of the greatest we have, where they can get used to cutting promos and fitting into the DCW system. Wildcat, Fire, Ice, Guy Gardner--they’ve all agreed to be trainers there. No more sink or swim for starting wrestlers: we’ll have classes in locker room etiquette, in nutrition, in budgeting.”

“That’s all well and good for novices,” said Sinestro, “and I simply cannot express how thrilling it is to hear about how you’re training the generation that will replace us.” He kept going as Clark opened his mouth, “But what about us old workhorses here? Not to put too fine a point on it, what’s in it for us? And don’t think you can give us a razzle-dazzle pep talk, show us something concrete.”

Clark held up a finger. “Health care,” he said, and the room went quiet. “Retirement funds. That razzle-dazzle new training center will have rehabilitation specialists, the best equipment, video setups for reviewing matches, the works. Available to everyone in the DCW. When you do eventually hang up your boots, there’ll be the opportunity for jobs there, teaching the next generation. Oh, and one more thing--we’re open to discussing the possibility of unionization.” There was a beat while everyone stared at him, and he smiled, putting every ounce of sunshine and sincerity he could into it. “Concrete enough for you?”

“Uh. Maybe,” Sinestro said.

Clark Kent looked out at the faces that had shifted from hostile to dubious, and from hopeful to delighted. It was a beginning. It was a good beginning.

The wind off the Atlantic snatched at Bruce Wayne’s coat, causing it to flap around his ankles like Batman’s cape. The news that he was the real deal had gotten out, of course, as they had known it would. It had caused quite a stir for a bit. Some people still didn’t believe it, and that seemed to be fine with Bruce.

The Dark Knight was wrestling less lately. “I told Napier it was okay to cut back on my storylines, make me less of the focus. Time to put some of the new talent over,” Bruce had said when Clark asked him about it. “At least until I figure out what my character is going to be as the CEO.” He had smiled, a little wistfully. “And honestly, Clark, my neck could use the time off.”

He looked comfortable in his sharp suit and cashmere coat, watching as Lucius Fox spoke, dedicating the site of the new training center for the DCW, talking about the future, and hope, and opportunity. Alfred was on one side of him, Clark on the other. Flashbulbs were going off.

Lucius finished speaking and gestured to Bruce, smiling. Bruce stepped forward and picked up the ceremonial shovel, special-made for the groundbreaking, then turned to Clark. “Both of us,” he said. “Let’s begin it together.”

Clark swallowed hard and put his hand on top of Bruce’s, gripping the handle. The shaft was made of wood from the Kent barn, brought all the way from Kansas; the blade contained iron from the fence that surrounded Wayne Manor. Bruce hadn’t told any of the politicians and dignitaries there this fact, there was no need to. It was for the two of them alone.

Their roots and their pasts, opening their future.

“Ready?” whispered Bruce as they lifted the shovel.

“Always,” said Clark.

Bruce’s hand tightened on his, and they broke new ground together.


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June 2017

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