mithen: (Batman Loves You)
[personal profile] mithen
Title: An Innocent Cicisbeo (4/5)
Characters: Clark Kent/Bruce Wayne; Wonder Woman, Alfred Pennyworth, Dick Grayson, Martha Kent, Jonathan Kent
Fandom: DC Comics
Warnings/Spoilers: None
Rating: R
Word Count: 4500
Summary: Kal continues his campaign to seduce Bruce Wayne. Meanwhile both of them--unbeknownst to each other--try to unravel the whereabouts of Cobblepot's thieving ring and save the children involved.
Notes: Written for the Unconventional Courtship challenge, and based on the summary for the Harlequin romance An Innocent Courtesan. "Cicisbeo" was an actual term of the time for a male "gallant and lover" of a married woman...I have manufactured a cheerfully pansexual Regency for the purposes of this story.



"Don't say I told you so," snapped Bruce as Alfred examined his wounded shoulder.

"I would not dream of it, sir. What kind of faithful servant would I be if I pointed out that most people would stay in and rest after being stabbed by Oswald Cobblepot's bodyguard, rather than going off to visit their lover? Such rank ingratitude would be beneath me."

"He's not my lover." Bruce tried to meet Alfred's look squarely. "He is my alibi."

"You seem to be making a practice of collecting alibis," said Alfred. "Like that poor Kent boy."

"We agreed that Kent is not a topic for discussion," Bruce growled. "He is not languishing waiting for me, he has gone back to his--now wealthier--parents, he is not 'poor' in either sense of the word, and he is not a topic for discussion."

"I would rather you collect friends than alibis," Alfred called after him, but he ignored him.

This thing with Kal had to end, Bruce thought as he sat down to pore over maps of London once more. He was a distraction, and he was altogether too smart. He wasn't even that good an alibi, for Bruce often found himself lingering at Il Pianeta longer than he should: valuable minutes that could be spent trying to halt this damned thieves' ring.

And then there was tonight.

Unbidden, Bruce remembered the feel of Kal's mouth on his, the surge of response within his own body. Perhaps the most damnable thing about it all was that it wasn't even Kal's beauty that had finally kindled the smoldering spark of desire into this unruly flame. No, it had been the steadiness of his hands when he bandaged Bruce's bloody shoulder, the calm in his voice. Bruce's body had responded not to Kal's kiss, but to his spirit. Beautiful and brave, intelligent and compassionate, with a passion for justice that illuminated his brilliant eyes--

Bruce slammed his hand on the table with an oath. No. This was exactly what he had sworn to avoid, all those years ago. The very wound in his shoulder was proof that this was not a life to share with anyone--he would have drugged Alfred and dragged him back to the Manor long ago, except that he was fairly certain Alfred would just show up the next day, unflappable as always. But Kal he could keep safe, merely by avoiding him. He would simply not return to Il Pianeta at all, never see Kal again.

Nodding firmly, he returned to his sewer maps.

And even if he were to return to the salon, he would be sure to frequent a different person there--perhaps a cyprian this time, to confound and confuse the gossips. Catherine Grant, for example, was a lovely woman, though her golden hair was a touch garish compared to Kal's dark waves. She had a beautiful singing voice, which was always a plus--probably sweeter than Kal's, although Bruce had never heard him sing. He had heard him talk about those orphaned children, had heard him laugh, had heard him snarl my lord as though it were an insult--

He broke off the thought with another muffled curse. He would stay away from Il Pianeta entirely. It was the only way.




He lasted three days.




Kal heard Bruce's inane laughter as he came down the stairs--had his laugh always been that stupid? It hadn't seemed it in the quiet of their private room--and suppressed a smile. Bruce was talking with Cat Grant about the opera and pointedly not watching the staircase,. Kal waited until his gaze flicked almost-involuntarily to the stairs, then continued his descent as if he were just entering. He let his gaze lock with Bruce's for a fleeting moment and a quick smile, then walked past him to join in a conversation between Lois, Steve, and Harvey Dent, who had had a fair amount to drink and was clearly on the verge of mentioning some useful information about the upcoming vote on the Abolition Act. Kal joined in for a while, until he heard a minuet begin on the pianoforte. Then he excused himself and went to Bruce's side.

"We have never danced," he murmured. "Steve says you are very good."

Cat looked amused. "Since he's been sneaking glances at you all evening, you are welcome to him," she said to Kal, snapping open her fan to hide her smile at Bruce's look of betrayed annoyance.

"Very well. I'll lead," Bruce said, taking his arm.

"Of course you will, my lord."

Kal was not as good a dancer as Lombard, but he didn't need to be very good for his purposes. It was enough to let his thigh brush against Bruce's, enough to let his hand linger on his partner's shoulder, slide down his arm caressingly. "I'm surprised to meet you down here instead of in private," he murmured.

"Perhaps I didn't come here to meet you," Bruce said.

Kal let his laughing look speak for him. "I have a bottle of wine in my room," he said. "Come up and share it with me, and we can pick up where we left off last time."

He watched Bruce's Adam's apple bob once, then twice as he swallowed. "I think I prefer to stay here," Bruce said.

Kal arched an eyebrow. "Oh," he breathed, "How naughty." He leaned very close to Bruce's ear, letting the music cover his voice. "We don't usually do such things in the main hall, but it's not unprecedented--some people like an audience, after all. Would you like to rut right here on the dance floor, make me spend myself while begging more, bugger me harder, my lord? Or perhaps put me on my knees to suckle your member?" He smiled. "Yes indeed, that member which I can feel hardening at my words. Or perhaps--" He met Bruce's eyes, "--perhaps you would prefer to be the one on your knees, pleasuring me in front of all the world?"

Bruce missed a step and they almost tripped over each other, halting in the middle of the dance floor, each glaring daggers at the other. "My thanks for the dance," Bruce said, stepping away. "You are quite skilled. But alas, I must be going."

He turned sharply on one shining Hessian boot and hastened for the door.

"I hope you know what you're doing." Kal turned to see Lois Lane standing behind him, looking worried.

"I know exactly what I'm doing," Kal said. Bruce wanted him, it was obvious in every muscle of his body and every glance of his eye. He had to give in soon. He'd be begging for Kal's affections any day now, writhing in agonized need for Kal's hands on his body, Kal's mouth against his skin. He'd admit Kal was all he wanted in the world. And then Kal would--

At that point his fevered fantasies seemed to split in twain: during the day, the Kal in his mind laughed and spurned Bruce. But at night, as he lay half-asleep, the visions went another way altogether, leaving him twisting against the sheets as he imagined Bruce's fingers digging into his ass, Bruce's lean muscled torso covered with love bites, his face rapt and sheened with sweat as he--

Lois put a hand on his shoulder. "I ask only because you look desperately unhappy, my friend," she murmured.

Kal couldn't even find the heart to shake her hand off. He felt suddenly weary and lost. "I believe I shall retire for the evening," he said, and Lois nodded and squeezed his shoulder.

I'll feel better in the morning, he told himself as he climbed the long stair. I'll find new resolve with the dawn.

But the long evening and his empty room stretched ahead of him until then.




Bruce threw himself into smashing the Cobblepot ring with renewed vigor, working late into the night, training until Alfred found him collapsed on the floor, exhausted, and had to help him to bed. At least that way he didn't lie in bed and think about Kal's body, his voice, his gentle strong hands.

He realized Alfred was watching him mechanically eat a piece of bread. "What is it," he mumbled.

"Perhaps you should pay that Starr lad a visit," Alfred said.

Bruce felt a humorless bark of laughter scrape his throat. "I thought you wanted me not to see him."

"I said you needed friends, not alibis." Alfred gave him a narrow look. "One does not usually work themselves nearly to death to forget an alibi."

Bruce heaved himself to his feet. "I'm going to search that new bolthole of Cobblepot's I've found."

"I would advise against it, sir."

"What?" Bruce glared blearily at him.

"It is one in the afternoon, sir."

"Oh." Bruce blinked slowly. "Then I have time to train some more before evening," he said, picking up one of the fine, strong ropes he'd been practicing with. He hadn't quite gotten the hang of swinging between rooftops, but he was almost there.

Alfred watched him as he threw the rope over a rafter and practiced releasing it in time to catch the next one. "Please keep the option open, sir," he sighed.




"You're trying to stop him," said a young voice behind him, and Bruce jolted away from Cobblepot's desk, his heart lurching. Sloppy, Bruce, sloppy!

Standing in the doorway was a boy of about twelve, his arms crossed, dark hair falling in his eyes. "You're trying to stop him," the boy repeated.

"What if I am?" Not the most glib of retorts, Bruce thought, sizing up his opponent. He could probably reach him before the boy could raise an alarm, knock him out. But how to keep him from telling Cobblepot that--

"Then you might like to know that he's planning on moving us all to Liverpool soon." The boy's face was pale, his eyes a determined blue. "Start a new thieves guild there--or maybe branch out into...new activities." His mouth set. "Leastways cicisbei and cyprians get a choice, you know? I told the others that I'd get us out of it, but time's running out." He bared his teeth at Bruce. "Your mates--the woman and the other man--they spooked him."

"Mates?" Bruce shook his head, trying to clear it. He was so tired. "I don't have any mates."

"Sure you do," scowled the boy. "And I'm just telling you that you'd better hurry. Or there won't be any of us left to help."

He stepped backwards into the shadows and was gone before Bruce could stop him, and Bruce decided against giving chase. Catching sight of a paper with an address and a time--a week from now--he made a mental note of it, then beat his own retreat.

He almost slipped a couple of times on the slate-tiled roofs, but his makeshift grapple seemed to be working. At least he didn't smash his head on the cobblestones, as Alfred had direly predicted. The city seemed to whirl around him in his exhaustion, and the fog seemed more a product of his mind than the weather. The boy had spoken of mates--but he had no one to work with him, no one he could trust to help set things right. He couldn't live with himself if someone else got hurt because of his crazed crusade. Let the only broken body on the cobblestones be himself, the way it should have been that night so long ago--

He realized blearily that the door in front of him was not his apartments, but Il Pianeta's ornate gate. Startled, he barely had time to yank off his black silk mask before the door opened to reveal a puzzled-looking Jimmy Olsen in a brocaded corset and silken petticoats.

"I'm here to see Kal," Bruce muttered, hearing his voice as if it were a stranger's.

Jimmy raised an eyebrow, then curtseyed slightly. "Come this way, my lord," he said.

The room they usually met in was empty. "Kal wasn't expecting you tonight," said Jimmy. "I'll tell him you're here." The door closed behind him and Bruce found himself blinking wearily at the crackling fireplace, the velvety chaise longue. He lay down and felt his eyes drifting shut despite himself. He could just rest his eyes for a moment. He was safe here.

He drifted up from unconsciousness some indeterminate time later with a comforting weight across his body, twined around him. There was a scent of musk and cloves, and the sound of low, slow breathing.

Kal was in his arms, and asleep.

He froze at the realization, then opened his eyes carefully. Kal was pillowed on his chest, one hand flung onto the pillow, almost touching Bruce's face, the other trailing almost on the floor. Bruce gradually maneuvered himself until he could see Kal's face, relaxed in sleep, his mouth a little open. He looked entirely different than the grand, austere beauty who had taunted him on the dance floor--at the memory of those taunts Bruce's lust stirred, and he tried to take a deep, steadying breath without waking Kal. He wanted to throw him down on the chaise and make love to him--he wanted to simply rest here for hours, breathing in his scent and feeling his weight across him. He was beautiful--so kind and passionate, wicked and wise--and Bruce could never have him.

Kal stirred, and Bruce realized that he had made a small, broken sound unawares. Kal tilted his face up and his long lashes parted to reveal eyes sleepy and gentle, still-unguarded. "I was dreaming of you," he murmured, and Bruce found himself kissing him, a long tender kiss of those sweetly curved lips.

For a timeless, sensuous moment Kal simply melted into the kiss, exploring Bruce's lips with a strangely innocent relish, and it was all the peace and comfort Bruce had ever yearned for in his life.

He could feel the moment when Kal became fully aware of his surroundings, realized what was going on. With a growl, Kal ground his hips against Bruce's, drawing his hands down to the curves of his ass. The kiss turned fierce and predatory and demanding, and Bruce's body responded helplessly. God, how he wanted to--

His hands were on the waistline of Kal's breeches, ready to yank them down, when he forced himself to let go. "Stop it," he muttered against Kal's lips, then more loudly, pulling away: "Stop it."

He had half-expected Kal to ignore him and press onward, and he felt a strange pang of disappointment when Kal immediately stood and took a step back from the chaise. "I am in your employ," Kal said, his voice cold, "And will do as you command." A small, wry smile. "Not to mention those of our profession know all too well to cherish consent."

Bruce found himself unable to speak, clinging to the chair as a drowning man clings to a spar, staring up at Kal.

They looked at each other for a long time, and Kal's expression shifted from icy to something more complex, more vulnerable. "Yet you do want me!" he burst out at last. "I can tell you do. I don't understand--I don't understand why--"

"It's my husband," Bruce said heavily, and Kal's face went still and wary for a moment. Then he laughed, a trifle wildly.

"Ah, your invalid husband--I had nearly forgotten him! You expect me to believe that your love for him is so pure that--"

"--It's not love," said Bruce. "It's guilt."

The room was silent for a moment. Bruce looked into the fire for a time before he went on.

"I am married," he said. "But my husband is no invalid. He is not even here in London." He cleared his throat, unable to look at Kal. "I married him some time ago, through an arrangement set up by our fathers. He was a good man--unsophisticated, but with a good heart, I could tell. And…" He gritted his teeth, forced himself to continue, "...and I used him and abandoned him shamefully. For various reasons, I needed the security of a marriage, the...the armor of the world knowing I was already legally bound to another. But at the same time, I...had no intention of living a life of safety and comfort. You saw," he said, gesturing vaguely at his shoulder. "I frequent dangerous places, I make...dangerous enemies. It is one of the reasons I have tried to not become...attached to you. If you could have seen him, Kal, as I did--his open, honest, face, the sheep nibbling on his shoelaces--I could never have forgiven myself if harm had come to him. And so I abandoned him on my estate in Gotham with a monthly allowance. He has gone back to his parents. I shall not see him again."

He stood and poured himself a glass of sherry to ease his dry throat. Kal stood as if turned to stone, and Bruce dared not look at him. There was a strange, painful pleasure to confessing all this, a scab ripped off and exposed to light. He forged ahead:

"I do not love my husband. I never gave myself the chance to know him enough to love him. But I treated him callously. I know that you think that I am an incorrigible scoundrel and cad with no morals whatsoever, and I am all those things and more, but I swore--" He broke off, shook his head in disgust. "I swore that at the very least, I would never be unfaithful the man who married me." He put the glass down on the table with a thump. "And you have no reason to believe me, but I never have been. It has never been truly difficult. Until now."

Silence. And then Kal started laughing.

It started as a low giggle, but quickly spiraled into peals of wild laughter, hard and humorless as steel. "You're saying," he choked between gasps for air, "You're saying your fidelity to your husband is the reason you must refuse me?" His laughter seemed almost to be causing him pain. "Why, that's the most amazing jest! Truly, I have never heard such a mirthful tale in all my life!"

"Kal--" Bruce took a step forward, but Kal recoiled from him.

"And did it never cross your mind in all these years, my lord--" He spat the title like a curse, "--to find your husband and explain this to him? What cruelty, to be willing to marry another and not willing to give up your selfish ways: gambling and racing and duelling, selling your life cheap for a bit of excitement, you worthless parasite! How dare you make such decisions unilaterally for another human being, you condescending coxcomb?" He was shaking with rage, but his voice was level. "And now you think that by confessing your chastity to me, as if it were a shameful secret, I will find you terribly noble. I find you nothing of the sort." He pointed to the door. "Our contract is terminated, my lord. I do not wish to see your face here again."

Bruce struggled to find his voice for a moment. The reasons Kal ascribed to him were all wrong, but what did reasons matter? The actions were the same. Finally, he bowed. "I shall not beg your pardon," he said. "I only wish--" He swallowed hard and forced himself to finish, "--that I were worthy of you."

Kal raised an eyebrow, but made no further motion as Bruce showed himself out and into the night.




Kal waited until he heard the front door close behind Bruce until he unclenched his fingers. He stared with a strange detachment at the half-moons bitten into his palms, then sank onto a chair, shaking all over.

It had been a moment of weakness: he had slipped into the room to find Bruce asleep, stretched out on the chaise longue, and the sight had stopped him dead. Gone were the foppish gewgaws and frippery, the quizzing-glass and the jeweled watch fob and the spangled waistcoat. Instead, Bruce was dressed head to toe in sober black clothing, cut simply yet elegantly. On nearly anyone else it would have looked ridiculously severe, but somehow on Bruce it looked right. It brought out his high cheekbones, made his mouth look oddly vulnerable in comparison.

Kal had meant to use the opportunity to try and seduce him again, truly he had. It would have been easy: a caress to haunt his dreams, that left him half-awake and yearning. Instead, somehow he had ended up curled up in Bruce's arms, blissfully asleep as though he were finally where he wanted to be.

For a moment he had allowed himself to imagine what it would be like to wake in the arms of his husband, to be in truth what they were in law. For one moment--

He heard himself make a bark of harsh, humorless laughter. So Bruce had wanted a decoy, a sham of a marriage that would keep fortune-hunters and clinging lovers at bay while he pursued his unsavory activities. There was a certain bleak comfort to knowing that it wasn't Clark that had been rejected, anyone who had married the Earl of Gotham would have suffered the same fate. Well, let him have his cards and dice, his rat-baiting and boxing! Let him waste his intelligence and wit on cock-fights and horse-races, squandering the gifts God gave him. Clark Kent would use his own gifts to help others and not waste even one more minute grieving for what might have been.

He dashed the inexplicable water from his eyes, straightened his clothing, and hurried back to the salon to get back to work.




The Kent farm looked nearly the same as it had four years ago. The formerly-sagging barn was repaired and there was a new well, but otherwise it was nearly the same, and Bruce felt a sudden pang of worry: had his cheques not been reaching the Kents?

He hesitated at the door for a moment, steeling himself. There was a chance Clark was going to attempt to punch him in the nose, and Bruce was still undecided as to whether or not he would try to dodge. But there was no good fretting about it; time to finally face his responsibilities.

He swung the heavy knocker.

"My Lord!" Martha Kent's face was creased with astonishment as she answered the door. She shot her husband a confused look "What are you doing here?"

"I came to see Clark," Bruce said, removing his hat and bowing.

A heavy silence fell. Jonathan and Martha exchanged blank looks. "But he's not here, of course, my lord," said Martha at last.




Confusion reigned for a while, until finally Martha had insisted that no one speak anymore until they had all sat down and had some hot tea. They sipped in silence, each of them rallying their own thoughts, until finally Martha put down her teacup and said, "The truth is, my lord, that we haven't seen our son since he married you. Oh, we've received your money, but Clark has never been back."

Bruce put down his cup with shaking hands. Had Clark been set upon by robbers, killed and left in a ditch somewhere? Had he abandoned his husband to death?

He started as Martha patted his hands. "Oh no, my lord, don't go worrying yourself about his safety! We've heard from him, by post. Maybe once a month or so."

"There's no return address," said Jonathan. "But he sounds healthy and well. He says he's found work and has made friends. He sends some money in every letter, which is how we've paid for the new well and such things."

"Will you be wanting your money back, since you're not…" Martha's cheeks turned slightly pink, "Not living together as a wedded couple? We've saved most of it in case you came to ask for it."

"No," said Bruce, standing. "No, of course not. You say you have no idea how to contact him?"

"I'm sorry, my lord." Martha looked down at her teacup, then back up at him, meeting his eyes. "And even if we did, I should think you'd understand that we might choose not to tell you. You've treated him quite badly, you know."

Bruce put his hat on and drew on his gloves. "I know," he said simply.




"Is it one of Cobblepot's children, do you think?"

Kal shook his head at Diana's question. They were sitting on a rooftop together after another night spent stopping petty crimes and trying to uncover the location of Cobblepot's gang. "It's definitely an adult, not a child. And an adult working for Cobblepot would be following us. We've only caught glimpses of him, but he doesn't seem to be tracking us. He might not even be aware of our activities."

Diana slowly coiled and uncoiled her lasso, letting the shining golden loops trail through her fingers. “A gift from the gods,” she called it, and Kal, who had seen it force the truth from the most hardened criminal, was not going to argue the point. "I sense no menace from him."

"Diana, we've only spotted him as a fleeting shadow," Kal retorted. "He could be a serial killer. Or a figment of our imagination. I don't know," he snapped, throwing up his hands at Diana's dubious look. "I don't know anything."

"Something is troubling you, my friend," said Diana. "Will you unburden your heart to me?"

Kal reached out and took the end of her lasso in his hands, feeling its unearthly silkiness under his fingers. He wrapped it around his wrist. "I'm in love with Bruce Wayne," he said. He let the fog take his words, looking away from Diana as he let the lasso slip from his hands. "I'm a fool."

”Indeed, you are not." Diana's smile seemed to warm the icy fog around them. "You would not love an unworthy man."

"People love the unworthy all the time," Kal said bitterly.

Diana shook her head. "You would never be drawn to a person who was not good at his core. Trust your heart, Kal." She stood. "Shall we do another circuit of Hyde Park before we retire for the night?"

As they ran along the rooftops, Clark wished briefly that he trusted his heart as much as Diana did.

Finally. I have missed this.

Date: 2014-06-27 08:07 am (UTC)
mekare: (Default)
From: [personal profile] mekare
he has gone back to his--now wealthier--parents

Ah right. I had forgotten that Clark told everyone that.

he would have drugged Alfred and dragged him back to the Manor long ago, except that he was fairly certain Alfred would just show up the next day, unflappable as always.

Exactly. Silly Bruce.

He lasted three days.

Ah comic timing. Excellent as always.

"Perhaps I didn't come here to meet you," Bruce said.

Uhuh. Yes. Bruce. We all believe you.


He'd admit Kal was all he wanted in the world.

Mh I so don't begrudge Clark his revenge. And how funny is it that there doesn't seem to be a positive way of expressing this in English? In German we have a word for that (gönnen).

"I would advise against it, sir."

"What?" Bruce glared blearily at him.

"It is one in the afternoon, sir."


Oh Bruce. So rattled. And poor long-suffering Alfred.

Let the only broken body on the cobblestones be himself, the way it should have been that night so long ago--

Oh Bruuuuuuuuce....*snuggles him *

He lay down and felt his eyes drifting shut despite himself. He could just rest his eyes for a moment. He was safe here.

All my favourite things in this chapter... *sigh*

"It's my husband," Bruce said heavily,

Uh oh. Now we get to the crux of the matter.

How dare you make such decisions unilaterally for another human being

There we go again. I really think that this might be his worst fault.

time to finally face his responsibilities.

Finally!

"And even if we did, I should think you'd understand that we might choose not to tell you. You've treated him quite badly, you know."

Well that's a nice way of putting it. I'm glad Bruce finally went to face up to what he had done. Oh and the poor Kents... saving all that money and afraid he'd some day want it back.

"Something is troubling you, my friend," said Diana. "Will you unburden your heart to me?"


Ah I love the Diana and Clark friendship.

Can't wait for the next chapter!

Re: Finally. I have missed this.

Date: 2014-07-05 03:32 pm (UTC)
mekare: (bamboo bat)
From: [personal profile] mekare
It's such a throwaway line in the middle of a flashback that I decided it had better get mentioned again, lol!

Yep, good decision.

It's not the same as "forgive" or "understand," I gather?

No it's not. It really is only used in the context of a sort of benevolent looking-on as someone does something. Hope you know what I mean. It implies an active mental support of someone's actions. I researched a bit and found the following defintion:

To see someone else's happiness or luck without envy, to grant someone something without envy (oh, and allow somebody sth. is also mentioned as a translation) --> so there sort of are positive ways of expression: grant and allow. Although their connotation of seems a little different to me.

The opposite is called misgönnen.

Diana and Clark as friends makes me SO happy to write! I'm hoping to have more of that soon in the wrestling story as well... (when they get put in a ridiculous romance angle together...)

Yep, Clark and Diana are an irresistible combination. :-) I will try and catch up with CoP and Heroes next!

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