Pairing/Characters: Clark/Bruce, Lois Lane, Ra's al Ghul, Alfred Pennyworth, Jimmy Olsen
Notes: "Music of the Spheres" is a series set in the combined universes of "Batman Begins" and "Superman Returns." Other stories and notes on the series here.
Summary: Clark's search for Bruce remains fruitless, and Ra's begins to consider alternatives.
Word Count: 2900
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
The Gotham fog was thick, twining around the lamp-posts like a living thing. Clark pulled his trench coat tighter around himself and stepped into the bar.
No one looked at him as he entered. He ordered a drink and sat down, surreptitiously eyeing the customers. His legs felt restless and twitchy. He should be on patrol. But he was here searching for Bruce. He forced himself to take a sip of his drink.
There was a light touch on his shoulder, and he turned to see a young woman standing behind him, her head tilted to the side, looking at him. She was wearing a wine-colored satin dress with black lace trim, her pale face framed by waves of dark hair. She looked vaguely familiar, but it wasn't until she smiled at him that he realized it: she looked like she could be Bruce's sister.
Her dark eyes were enormous in her heart-shaped face. "You're looking for him," she said, and her voice was like Bruce's too: sweet and strong and alluring.
Clark's heart was pounding. "Yes," he breathed. "Do you know where he is?"
She cast him a glance through impossibly long eyelashes and turned away, beckoning with a slender hand.
Clark followed her into the city streets.
There were cobblestones under his feet, gas lamps casting strange shadows around him. The woman moved through the mist with a rustle of silk and Clark hurried to keep up with her. He lost track of her for a second and stopped in the street, alarmed. "Where are you?" he called.
The mist parted to reveal the woman at the mouth of an alley. She smiled at him and Clark felt his heart turn over, felt something more than excitement burning through his veins. She turned and disappeared into the alley and Clark followed.
She was leaning against a wall, looking at Clark as he drew closer. Close enough to touch her. Her lips were a dark curve of pure desire, her skin shining like pearl in the misty light, and Clark suddenly wanted nothing, nothing in the world so much as he wanted this woman.
She looked up at him, her lips parting to reveal a glint of ivory teeth. "Kal-El," she whispered, and he groaned at the sound of his name in her voice, voluptuous and rich. "Beautiful Kal-El."
His knees were trembling and it was all he could do not to go down on his knees in front of her. "What do you want, my lady?" he whispered. "I'll do anything for you."
She put out a tiny, delicate hand and rested it on his chest. "I only want one thing," she said.
She smiled again. "I want him back," she murmured. "You promised to find him."
Her pale fingers tightened, and Clark felt nothing but shock as they went effortlessly through his clothes, through his flesh. Grasping.
Her smile was remote and imperious as the stars. "Bring him back to me." A wrenching feeling, cold burning pain.
Gotham smiled at him as she ate his heart.
With his blood on her bright lips, Clark felt she was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He watched her, caught in pain and yearning, until the world went dark and he woke up.
After that night, he stopped sleeping.
: : :
Lois was interviewing the Metropolis harbormaster on port security, Jimmy at her side, when it happened: a car swerved out of control on the Siegal Bridge and plummeted over the edge. For a long, horrifying moment the silver arc of the falling vehicle was unchecked; Lois waited, waited, felt her heart stop--and then Superman was there to catch the car from beneath just a few yards above the water, one red boot just brushing the surface.
He put the car down on the pier with an audible clang; the doors opened and a couple of shocked and abruptly sobered young people staggered out. Lois waited for him to smile and check to see if they were all right, perhaps tell them that they had learned a valuable lesson today, but his eyes flicked over them with no change in his expression--an expression, she realized suddenly, that was more tense and drawn than she had ever seen before. He met her eyes briefly but his frown only seemed to contract more, as if seeing her caused him pain. His hands clenched, and he was in the air again above the harbor, arms crossed, glaring out at Metropolis.
"People of Metropolis," he said, and his resonant, booming voice seemed to reach the pier as though he was just a few feet away. Lois had no doubt the whole city could hear him just as clearly. "I've just saved the life of two young people who seemed to think it would be perfectly acceptable to drink and drive, putting themselves and countless others at risk. A small thing. And yet of such small things are chaos and disorder born--a chaos and disorder I will not always be able to protect you from." The red cape licked around his tense shoulders. "How can you be so blind, so senseless, so selfish? I can't save all of you," he said, and Lois wondered if everyone could hear the anguish and strain in his voice, or if it was merely that she knew him so well. "I couldn't even save--" He broke off and rubbed at his eyes, then turned his glare back on the city. "Stop making it even more difficult for me to save the ones I can."
He was gone, leaving Lois with worry gnawing at her gut, craving a cigarette for the first time in ages.
"I got some great shots, Ms Lane," said Jimmy, but his voice was lusterless and his expression clouded. "I suppose you'll have to write a story about it." It hovered somewhere between a statement and question, uncertain.
"I suppose," said Lois. "Perry will never forgive me if I don't."
"I wish Clark were around," muttered Jimmy. He shrugged when Lois cast him a curious look. "I dunno, I just miss him," he said. "Bad things never seemed quite as bad when he was around."
Lois snorted slightly, mostly to cover her unease, and they went back to the car with the Supermanless space in the air hanging like an accusation behind them.
: : :
The seamless stone door opened and a guard appeared in the door with a glass of water. Bruce was filthy, hungry, and dry with thirst, but merely looked at the guard in silence until the massive man came over and pulled him to his feet. "Drink," he grunted.
Bruce sipped the water cautiously, one eye on the guard. He could overpower him, run--run where? He didn't even know where he was. There would be more guards. And somewhere out there...Ra's.The guard turned and went to the door. At the entrance, he beckoned brusquely for Bruce to follow.
Still holding the glass of water, Bruce left his cell and entered the stone corridors.
The two of them walked through whispering hallways, echoes dancing around them. Eventually the narrow walls fell away into a great room, seemingly hollowed out of solid granite, the walls etched with runes and symbols. On a throne carved from the living stone sat Ra's al Ghul, stroking his chin with long fingers, looking at Bruce. The throne was flanked with dozens of guards in ninja garb.
The guard put a hand in the small of Bruce's back and shoved; Bruce staggered forward to face Ra's. He drew himself up and gazed around the room in exaggerated appreciation of its vastness, his eyebrows raised. "I see you've decided to cast subtlety to the wind, Ra's," he said. He drained the rest of his water and tossed the glass to a startled guard; all the ninja tensed.
A pike prodded his shoulder blades. "You will use 'My Lord' to address the Demon."
"I'm sorry, I assumed our long acquaintance entitled me to be a little more casual."
Ra's shook his head. "Enough of this. Bruce, I have brought you here to ask, once again, for your help."
"My help?" With his raised eyebrows, Bruce indicated the grand room, the ninja squad, the throne. "You seem to have things well in hand."
Ra's lips thinned. "I have been forced to conclude that I have, once again, underestimated you." He waved a hand a section of stone became translucent, a projector screen. "I assumed if I took away its protector, Gotham would fall once again into anarchy."
On the screen, Batman appeared. Or rather, a man in Batman's suit; the angle of the head was wrong, the movements slightly less agile than Bruce's. Bruce's chest tightened at the sight, aching. "Batman" stopped a robbery almost effortlessly; the scene shifted to another crime, a kidnapping thwarted, the child hostage cradled against a black Kevlar-covered chest.
"In only two years, you have managed to train another person in the ninja arts, raise him to the same level as yourself." Bruce hardly heard his voice; his eyes devouring the image of Clark in his suit, saving people, an endless stream of images. "In fact, based on analyses of the Batman's activity since your disappearance, it seems possible you have found and trained two or more people. The city is as safe--perhaps even more safe--than when you were in it."
From the taunting edge in Ra's voice, Bruce knew he was supposed to feel chagrin, self-doubt, to think that maybe Gotham was better off in his supposed protege's hands than in his own. But as he watched flickering pictures, all he felt was anxiety. He knew Clark, knew his body better than anyone's, and he could see the weariness in his motions, the exhaustion in the set of his shoulders. Clark, Clark, what price are you paying to guard my city?
The images shut off abruptly, and Bruce found himself taking an involuntary step forward as if to call them back, to watch his love for just another moment. "Agree to train my men as you've trained your own," said Ra's. "Become my lieutenant. We'll try it your way for a while--a few decades, let's say. I have the time to spare for an...experiment in hope."
Bruce set his feet against the stone, solid and real as the memory of Clark's heartbeat in the darkness of the Manor. "I'm not interested in being part of any experiment of yours, Ra's."
His former mentor looked mildly disappointed. "I can't say I'm surprised. You were always so stubborn. Fortunately--" Another wave of his hand and the monitor flickered into life again, this time showing the Metropolis skyline, a figure hovering near a broken bridge, speaking. "--I may have other options." Ra's looked at the screen while Bruce felt his heart tearing at the sight of Clark's haggard face, the crackle of strain in his voice.
"I always thought he was too inflexible to be an ally," Ra's said conversationally as Bruce hugged his pain to his chest and tried to stay impassive. "But on the other hand, it's always the inflexible ones who shatter in the end." He smiled at Bruce, his moss-green eyes wry and nearly affectionate. "It's the flexible ones like you and I who can bend to the winds of time and keep our selves." He looked behind Bruce. "Take him back to his cell."
The guard's hand fell on his shoulder.
Bruce swung around and broke his leg.
As the guard howled and writhed on the floor, the other ninja threw themselves at Bruce. Starved, injured, and unarmed, he only managed to leave four more prostrate and screaming before being wrestled to his knees.
Ra's rose from his throne and came down the steps to stand before him. A rough hand grabbed his hair and forced his head back to meet Ra's eyes, now flat and cold once more. "Willful child," said Ra's.
His backhand blurred almost too fast for Bruce to see it and cut the world off into oblivion.
Bruce awoke to total, inky blackness. The cot underneath his shoulders was familiar, but the light had been put out. Darkness as thick and suffocating as wet, black cloth filled the room, the infinite, ancient weight of the mountain all around him.
His head still ringing, streaks of false light smearing his vision, Bruce struggled into the lotus position and began to drill Kryptonian once more.
Giran. To worry.
: : :
The lift doors opened into darkness and Alfred fumbled for the light switch. "Leave it," a voice said. "I don't need it."
Alfred peered into the blackness. "With all due respect, sir, not all of us can see in the dark." Silence. "Are you at least getting some sleep?"
"I'm listening," Clark said. "I need to catch Zsasz. I need to find Bruce. I don't need to sleep."
"That's not what you--"
"--I don't need it." Clark's voice was flat. "You do not need to attend to me any more, Alfred. You may go." The darkness was complete, folding around Alfred like wings. "You may go," repeated Clark, and Alfred felt his spine stiffen at the other man's dismissive tone.
"Mister Kent, you cannot go on this way. Master Bruce, he would never have let you do this to yourself." The silence in the lightless cave had an ominous edge to it, but Alfred bulled along, fueled by anger and worry. "You're killing yourself--and what's worse, you're abandoning everything that mattered, everything that made you more than some wretched soulless machine--"
"--Do not speak to me that way." Red light unfurled in the darkness of the cave, two scarlet chasms; by the sullen light Alfred could see a figure wrapped in shadows, lit only by his own eyes. "You forget your place," the voice went on, implacable, remote.
It was a measure of both Alfred Pennyworth's bravery and his love for the two men in his charge that he didn't turn and flee the room. Instead he stepped into the cave, into the simmering crimson glow, his hands balled into fists. "And you forget your self," he cried. "Clark! What good will it do you to save the world if you lose yourself in the process? What will Master Bruce find when he returns if you continue with this madness? Will he love what you've become?" The red light flickered. "Will he?"
For a long moment he waited, bathed in bloody radiance, hearing only the pounding of his own heart in his ears. Then the light slowly dimmed and went out, leaving him in total darkness once again. There was a long, hoarse inhalation, close to a sob. "Clark," whispered Alfred into the blackness, "You say that Bruce is alive. I trust you. I believe you. It would break his heart to see you this way." He paused, swallowed. "Please. Please rest. Somehow."
"I don't know how," said a small, exhausted voice. "I can't...even when I sleep, there's no rest. No rest without him, ever. Anywhere."
Alfred stepped forward, fumbling in the darkness, one hand in front of him, until he touched the other man. Clark was on his knees on the floor; Alfred slowly joined him, putting his hands on his shoulders. "If you love Bruce, if you love the world, I beg you: go to the Fortress and try to rest. Meditate. Let the world go by without you for a little while."
"I think...I'd rather not go to the Fortress," Clark said slowly. "May I stay here? In Bruce's room?"
Alfred blinked. "It's your room as well, Mister Kent. Of course."
"Thank you." There was a motion as if Clark were scrubbing at his face, then a small, shaky laugh. "I'm sorry, Alfred." Clark moved suddenly and the lights came on. "My parents did raise me better than to leave people in the dark."
Alfred couldn't help smiling at the sight of Clark Kent in black Kevlar and leather, apologizing for his poor manners. "Apology accepted, sir."
: : :
The darkness was stifling, even to the creature of darkness Bruce had made himself into.
: : :
The bedroom was dark, heavy brocade curtains cutting out almost all of the light. Clark lay on one side of the too-large bed, back turned to the empty white expanse, trying to still his mind and breathing, trying to find a place where he could rest. At the edges of his consciousness, Gotham lurked, beautiful and bloody. And beyond her, the stars.
The silence in Clark's mind had no answer to either of them.
Alone in the darkness, Clark focused on that silence, letting it envelop him, wash him in pain and grief. Bruce, he whispered into its blank and immutable depths, Help me. Help me stay whole. Don't let me lose myself.
The silence didn't change; it had no answer for him. Clark felt nothing: no confirmation, no connection. And yet eventually--slowly, gradually--he slipped into sleep, a deep sleep without dreams, until the morning.
: : :
Ia. The soul.
My star, my soul, my strength. Never alone.
: : :
Each in their own darkness, Bruce and Clark slept.