Duoing High-Level Content
(2177 words) by Mithen
Chapters: 1/1 Fandom: DCU (Comics)
Rating: General Audiences
Warnings: No Archive Warnings Apply
Relationships: Clark Kent/Bruce Wayne
Characters: Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne
Additional Tags: Online Friendship, identity play, Humor
Clark Kent got into playing an online multiplayer game in his free time to relax. But when he meets another player whose fighting style meshes perfectly with his own, he finds an additional reason to spend time in the virtual world.
Clark Kent hit “send” on the very last work email and sighed in relief, leaning back and stretching. He was done with work, he didn’t have to be at the Watchtower for another 90 minutes, and that meant…
He clicked on the icon and waited impatiently as the loading bar inched across his screen, feeling a smile light up his face as the character select screen finally showed up. He looked at the array of characters, but he already knew which one he was going to pick, the only one he’d had the time and patience to get above level twenty: Silver Shadow, his high-level ninja.
“Let’s do this,” he murmured into the silence of his apartment as he clicked on Shadow and entered Shogun and Samurai Online.
It was silly, he knew, to use any of his limited free time playing a computer game. But there was something really relaxing about doing something where superspeed didn’t help him much--he had better button-pressing reflexes than most players, but he couldn’t actually make his character fight faster than the game parameters, after all.
He frowned, looking around the wharf where Shadow had materialized. What had he been in the middle of--that was right, he was collecting badges from the thugs hired by a rival daimyo to hand in for improved faction in the local town. He spotted a group of them and grinned to himself, leaping toward them.
Clark didn’t like player versus player mode--dealing with incompetent people who became angry and screamed insults when you beat them was hislife, not something he wanted to continue in his free time. No, he found beating computer AIs much more satisfying. And in addition--
Shadow landed in the middle of the group of thugs, his blades whirling, mowing down ten of them in one blow. The ninja struck a dramatic pose as the last one fell, and a rain of cherry blossoms swirled around him.
In addition, Clark thought as he collected five more badges, it was a lot of fun to just carve his way through everything in his path now and then.
He had just done his turn-in when a little alert popped up in the corner of his screen, and Clark felt himself grinning: this night had gotten even better.
Want to tackle the Rogue Ronin mission again? he typed to Hoshiro. He knew he risked looking a little over-eager, sending a message the instant he--well, Clark always called Hoshiro “he” because the avatar was male, and he couldn’t help assuming the same about the player, although he knew better--came online, but he only had an hour and there was no time to lose.
sure, the message came back. don’t screw it up this time.
Oh, come on. It wasn’t my fault I couldn’t do enough damage, Clark typed as he clicked the teleportation stone to take him to the starting zone for the mission. I just scored a new sword, does extra supernatural damage. We can take him this time.
Hoshiro didn’t respond, which wasn’t that unusual. He was brusque and short with words, but he was the best damn tank in SaSO. Silver Shadow had met him in a random pick-up group and discovered they were the only two people who seemed to know what they were doing. Clark had added Hoshiro to his friends list and had messaged him when they were both online, and they’d fallen into a pattern of grouping up together. At first Hoshiro had brought along some members of his guild, but they’d been...unpleasant to group with. His guild being a bunch of homophobic jerks was the only flaw Hoshiro had, and Clark had been relieved when, one day, the tank had quietly and without fanfare shown up without the guild name above his head. It actually worked out better with just the two of them. Shadow dished out the damage, and Hoshiro kept the aggro on himself, and with some patience and a little luck they were able to do missions as a duo that usually would require a full group.
Hoshiro materialized in front of Shadow--his avatar was a nearly stereotypical tank, broad-shouldered and massively-muscled, wearing black samurai armor studded with rubies and sapphires. He bowed, and Clark made Shadow bow back.
Ready? he typed.
Hoshiro answered as he always did: you have to ask?
And they went into the mission together.
The Rogue Ronin mission was one of the tougher ones in the game; they could probably have completed it by now if they’d added a healer to the group, but Clark was enjoying the challenge and he suspected Hoshiro was too. They ploughed through the early levels with brisk efficiency, their timing clockwork-perfect, dealing with each challenge as it arose.
The final boss was the tricky part, and it required both massive amounts of burst damage and a tank able to taunt at exactly the right times, willing to stand unflinching as the health bar got ever lower. They’d failed at it four times now, but tonight was different, tonight they both did it perfectly. The Rogue Ronin’s spiritual avatar shrieked and lashed out at them, but Silver Shadow darted around, deftly avoiding his area of attack spells, while Hoshiro ignored the minion ghosts nibbling at his life bar and grimly held on to the aggro, shielding his damage-dealer from obliteration. And finally, the Ronin’s form collapsed into a geyser of silver light, and the two of them had finally defeated one of the toughest missions in the game.
Clark sat back, pumping one fist and yelling “Yes,” then feeling foolish. Getting so excited over a game…
Hoshiro stood still in the middle of the cave for a moment, and then text appeared in the group text box:
Take that, you ectoplasmic creep!!!
Clark burst out laughing. It was so completely uncharacteristic of Hoshiro, and Clark felt a sudden surge of affection for this completely unknown person, his teammate, who clearly was as psyched as he was to have defeated this challenge. He put his fingers on the keyboard and typed:
None can stand before our powers united! And he made his avatar do a backflip and pose.
haha, said Hoshiro, back to his usual style.
Clark hesitated for a moment. Then, before he could think better of it, he typed, Hey. Would you be willing to meet offline sometime? He was pretty sure Hoshiro’s player was in the same time zone as him, so maybe…
There was a significant pause, and then the message came back: can’t. A pause while Clark kicked himself, and then: i’m sorry.
No problem, Clark typed back. This was fun. Thanks.
It was just as well, he thought as he logged off and got ready to head to the Watchtower. They were just two random people who made a good team online, there was no knowing how they’d be in person. No reason to risk the great partnership they had in the game.
No reason to feel sad about it at all.
Batman was three and a half minutes late to monitor duty, and Bruce was kicking himself over it. It was unlikely anyone would even notice, much less call him on it, but he knew he should do better. He should have turned down that mission, he should have said he didn’t have time, but he’d wanted to take down that Rogue Ronin so badly…
He kicked himself again. Bruce, on the list of things you have to obsess over, a video game shouldn’t even be in the top thousand. He’d gotten into it for legitimate vengeance-related reasons--infiltrating a guild being used as a meeting-place for a crime ring--but once the ring was busted and the ringleaders in jail, he’d kept coming back. He didn’t know why.
Yes he did.
He kept coming back because he liked taking down bad guys without ever having to worry about collateral damage. He kept coming back because he liked playing a tank, because it was fun to stand in the middle of the chaos and draw it all to him and shrug off the damage.
And he kept coming back because he enjoyed teaming up with someone he didn’t even know except as pixels on a screen.
Oh sure, he could have hacked the game systems and found out Silver Shadow’s name and address. But the day he ended up breaking the law for his own curiosity and not to stop crime--well, every harsh thing Superman had ever said about his methods would be justified then. So he just tried to guess, but so far the only clues he’d gleaned were that Shadow was male and lived in Metropolis. He seemed both well-educated and intelligent, and also like a good person--more than once their missions had gotten derailed when Shadow had seen a call for help in the general chat and gone charging off to lend a hand. Annoying, but a good person.
It was fun to group with him. Fun to work together with him. And tonight they’d completed the Rogue Ronin mission together at last.
And he’d asked if he could meet Hoshiro in person. Which was impossible. Completely impossible, so it was no use being sad about it.
“You look sad,” Superman said, looking over his shoulder at the monitors.
“I look like I always do,” Bruce said without thinking.
“Hm,” said Clark, and took a sip of coffee. “It’s not your face. It’s something about your shoulders. You have sad shoulders tonight.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Bruce.
Clark opened his mouth as if to say something else--and a klaxon sounded, a red light going off above Paris on the map.
“Looks like a...ghost? A ghost dragon?” Clark said, narrowing his eyes at the monitor showing a glowing silver dragon climbing the Eiffel Tower.
“There are no such things as--”
“Right, right, it’s a non-corporeal energy threat shaped like a dragon,” Clark corrected himself. “Or a ghost dragon,” he added under his breath.
“Think we need to call in backup?” Bruce tactfully did not remind Clark that he was vulnerable to magic, but Clark bristled anyway.
“Don’t be ridiculous. We can handle one non-corporeal dragon between us.”
Bruce managed to suppress a smile at his tone. “Let’s find out.”
As it turned out, it was a tough fight. The dragon got its claws into Superman once and Clark had screamed as they slid through his body, as if they were piercing his soul. But it had broken off the attack when Batman came sailing in and kicked it on its ugly semi-tangible snout, so that had worked out okay. Between the two of them, they’d battered it from the top of the Eiffel Tower until it finally glared at them, jaws gaping, and disappeared in an explosion of silver light.
Bruce looked around for new threats, but found nothing but sweeping vistas of Paris. Superman landed beside him, breathing heavily, his hair mussed. He pointed dramatically at the space the dragon had been, and then he announced:
“Take that, you ectoplasmic jerk!”
”What?” snapped Bruce, staring.
Clark swung to look at him, then turned red. He scratched the back of his head and said sheepishly, “I’m sorry, that was--that was--” He paused, then muttered: “It’s from a video game I play.” Bruce narrowed his eyes at him, and Clark stammered, “Okay, I know--it’s a dumb way to spend my free time, but it’s fun, and relaxing, and--”
Bruce put a hand on his shoulder; Clark stared at it. “You don’t need to apologise,” Bruce said solemnly. “What you do in your down time is nobody’s business, and whatever helps you unwind is valuable.”
Clark looked dubious.
“And now,” Bruce went on, “I’m going to say two things to you that I never thought I’d say out loud. The first is that it was ectoplasmic creep, notjerk.”
“The second is--” Bruce stepped back and declaimed: ”None can stand before our powers united!”
And then he did a backflip.
Clark stared. “No,” he said.
After a moment, Clark started smiling. “Millions of people playing this game, and we end up teaming up.”
“Only some of them are competent people,” Bruce said. “That narrows it down.”
“Did you just call me competent?” Clark looked absurdly pleased.
“I wouldn’t team with you if you weren’t,” Bruce huffed, looking away.
There was a brief silence in which Clark’s smile seemed to light up all of Paris.
Bruce cleared his throat. “I have an extra computer in the cave,” he said. “I bet we could even do the Lair of the Mountain Witch mission as a duo if we could communicate in real time--”
Both of their communicators went off at once.
“Or,” said Bruce thoughtfully as information started streaming in, “we could stop Giganta from stealing the Great Sphinx.”
“Sounds like a good mission,” said Clark. He smiled. “Are you ready?”
“Do you have to ask?” said Bruce, and they were off again.