mithen: (Hand on Shoulder S/B)
[personal profile] mithen
Title: An Innocent Cicisbeo (5/5)
Characters: Clark Kent/Bruce Wayne; Wonder Woman, Alfred Pennyworth
Fandom: DC Comics
Warnings/Spoilers: None
Rating: R
Word Count: 3800
Summary: Kal Starr has a sudden and unexpected visitor--secrets are brought to light and much is untangled.
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.

Bruce tied his mask on, then slipped out of the window into the night, running across the rooftops toward the address he had spotted on Cobblepot's desk. The night was--for once--free of fog, clear and bright. It was also bracingly cold, well below freezing. The slate beneath his feet was glazed with ice, and he spent more than a few moments in an exhilarating skid before his grapple caught on and pulled him to safety.

He paused just once, as he spotted the window of Kal Starr's room, filled with golden lamplight, in the distance. Then he turned away and kept going. That time was over. He would find the elusive Clark Kent when Cobblepot was defeated, would make amends. But he would not be seeing Kal again.

The scrap of paper led him to a wharf, the sound of creaking boats and lapping water filling the air as he gazed from a nearby rooftop. There were furtive figures moving around, leading a line of smaller figures, their young frames covered in dark cloaks. Bruce heard a sound of metal against metal as the line shuffled forward, and realized it was the sound of chains muffled by cloth.

Fury rose like bile in his throat, and he had to take a steadying breath, watching the steam from his exhalation lift into the air. He was choosing the best place to drop down and start fighting when he heard a small, hushed voice nearby: “Hst! Mister Bat, sir!”

He knew it right away as the voice of the boy from the other night; looking around, he spotted him on an adjacent roof, his face tight with strain. Soon enough Bruce touched down next to the boy in a swirl of dark cape. “Are you all right?” he asked. “How did you get away?”

“It’s a trap!” yelled the boy. “Run, get away!”

He started to turn, but it was too late. He felt the impact hit him low on the shoulder, knocking him forward onto the rooftop as the whipcrack of the blast rang out. He caught a glimpse of a young, horror-stricken face, and the horrifically familiar stench of gunpowder filled his nostrils.

“Mister, mister, I’m sorry!” the boy’s voice was far away and panicked as the world dimmed around him. “They said they’d kill Timmy if I didn’t--oh God--”

The boy’s voice cut off with a whimper, and then the world vanished away for a time.

He opened his eyes to see a puddle of his own blood starting to freeze at the edges in the bitter cold. He staggered to his feet, the world wavering around him. He’d lost too much blood, he knew it even as he started to scramble across the rooftops, his feet slipping, the merciless stars wheeling above him. He’d never make it home. Too far. He was going to die in the icy cold, and the children would be taken away. He had failed them.

He would never find Clark Kent and apologize.

He would never see Kal again.

There was a familiar window in his vision, a golden square in the gaping night.

Beyond thought, beyond hope, he fell toward it.

Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime slipped from Kal’s hand as he yawned. Immanuel Kant was incapable of holding his attention tonight, not when he was far too preoccupied with a specific beautiful being. He shook his head, angry at himself. Stop sulking and get back to work, he admonished himself, and was about to stand up when the window shattered inward in a rain of jagged glass and a masked man plunged into his bedroom.

Kal had him by the throat and up against the wall before he could move. “Did Cobblepot send you?” he snarled, shaking the man as effortlessly as a terrier shakes a rat. It was almost a relief to finally have something physical to take his anger and frustration out on. He threw the intruder onto the floor. “Show your face, assassin!”

The man sprawled limply on the floor, and Kal realized with a shock that there was a long smear of blood across the polished wood. What had he done?

“Can’t,” whispered the man, his voice weak but familiar, oh so familiar. “Promised...never show my face here again…”

“My God.” Without thinking, he lifted Bruce in his arms. The back of the black jacket was soaked in blood. “What happened?” No answer. ”Bruce!”

“Shot,” rasped Bruce. “Shoulder.” His eyes under the black mask glinted feverishly at Kal. “You said. Cobblepot. Need to...stop him.”

“Yes, of course,” Clark said. “Of course.”

A bloody gloved hand grasped at his cravat as if to pull him close. “Leave me. He’s...moving the children. At the docks.” He fumbled in his pocket, pulled out a piece of paper with an address. “Save them.”

“Kent, what’s going on--Christ!” Steve Lombard’s shocked face appeared in the doorway.

Clark glanced at the bloodstained piece of paper, then shoved it at him, barking, ”Get this to Princess Diana at once! It’s of the utmost importance, man!”

Steve gaped a second longer at the masked man bleeding in his friend’s arms, then turned and ran.

Clark climbed into the window. “I’m taking you home,” he announced, clambering onto the roof with Bruce in his arms.

Bruce shoved at him feebly. “Damn you--save the children! There’s no time.”

Clark smiled down at him. “I’m faster than you think.”

And then he was leaping to the windowsill, plunging into the icy night and running across the rooftops in great bounds, faster and higher than he ever had before, with his bleeding husband in his arms.

The elderly man who opened the door of Bruce’s apartment spared only a moment for Clark before he took in the sight of the burden in his arms and his eyes went wide. “Put him down here,” he said, moving aside to point to a sofa in the hall.

“Take care of him,” Clark said. “I’ll be back.”

The man--it must be Pennyworth--had a black bag out already. Clark could see bandages, syringes. “Where are you going, sir?”

“We’re stopping Cobblepot,” said Clark.

Later, the captain of the guard walked out to find Oswald Cobblepot and a number of his men trussed up like Christmas geese on the garrison doorstep. They were all too eager to confess to their crimes, babbling wildly of a man--a berserker--a demon--who picked up the ship’s anchor effortlessly and used it as a bludgeon, who hurled men left and right as if throwing kittens, who snapped chains as if they were threads.

And then when they had fled the ship, they found themselves confronted with a woman--a goddess--a fiend from Hell itself, who had beaten them senseless, tied them up and hoisted them like a brace of rabbits to leave at the garrison gate.

The captain of the guard might have been willing to give them the berserker. However, the idea that a woman had beaten them all--well, it was laughable, and made one suspect they had been hitting the sauce just before being beaten up by some angry circus strongman. They made dutiful notes before throwing them into jail, however.

If you had asked the children, you would have heard a different story, one with notably fewer demons and fiends. “He had the kindest voice,” said Stephanie. “She picked me up so gentle, it didn’t even hurt my busted leg,” said Timmy. “Angels,” said little Cassandra, a girl of few words.

But no one asked them, because they all went missing that night and were not seen again in London.

“Mr. Starr, I presume?” Alfred Pennyworth’s eyebrows rose as he looked at the man on his doorstep.

“Is he--I mean, can I--”

“The Earl is resting,” Alfred said. “He has lost a fair amount of blood, but I was able to staunch the bleeding. He has been a fractious and difficult patient, these last few days.”

His emphasis on the last few words was slight but notable, and the man known as Kal Starr blushed. “I’m sorry I haven’t been in contact,” he said. “It was important I get the children to a safe place.”

Alfred’s face softened. “That is an excuse I can accept, Mr. Starr.”

The man looked uncomfortable. “That’s not really--I mean, you can probably call me--” He broke off and grimaced. “May I see him?”

Alfred Pennyworth stepped aside with a bow.

Bruce Wayne was lying in the middle of a vast bed, his muscular frame dwarfed by the sea of white linen. His eyes were closed, dark eyelashes casting tangled shadows on his cheeks. He looked very young, and Clark opened the locket in his hand to gaze at the smiling boy standing between his parents. So young, to have your life so shattered. So young, to dedicate yourself to a mad quest against the evils of the world.

“Kal.” Bruce’s eyes were half-open; he looked as if he were unsure if he were dreaming or not.

“You left your locket behind some time ago,” Kal said. “I thought I’d bring it back.” He placed it on the vanity with a tiny clink. “Cobblepot is in jail, as are his men.”

“The children--”

“--are safe.” He drew near the bed, pulled up a chair. “It’s over.”

“It’s never over,” rasped Bruce, but his face was satisfied. He gazed up at Kal. “It wasn’t a dream,” he said, very low.

“What wasn’t?”

“After I crashed into your room, you--” He broke off. “We were flying.”

“It isn’t flying,” said Kal, discomfited. “It’s just...very long jumping.”

“Very long jumping,” Bruce echoed. He closed his eyes and took a careful breath. “And I was worried.” Another breath. “That you’d get hurt.” He almost smiled. “Idiot.”

“That you are,” Kal agreed. “Couldn’t you have just told me? Let me decide if I was willing to take the risk? Did you really think I wouldn’t want to help you, do you truly think me nothing but a--”

A hand closed over his wrist. “No. From the very first time we talked, I knew you were--special. I should have trusted you. I didn’t--” He chuckled weakly. “I didn’t trust myself.”

Kal shifted so he was gripping Bruce’s hand, brought it to his lips.

Bruce sighed at the touch of his lips against his fingers. “Kal,” he whispered. “Beautiful, brave, beloved one.”

Unable to resist any longer, Kal bent down and kissed him.

It was a long, slow kiss, languid and gentle, yet with fire smoldering underneath it. Kal took his time, exploring the texture of Bruce’s mouth, breathing in the rhythm of his ragged breaths, savoring the feeling of stubble scraping against his skin, a reassuring rasp. Alive, and no wastrel, no popinjay. A good man, a flawed man, a man worth sharing my life with.

He was so lost in his new and unfolding joy that he blinked in confusion when Bruce pulled back. “Kal,” Bruce said gently. “I can’t.”


“I tried to find my husband,” Bruce said, turning his head on the pillow to look away from Kal. “To apologize, somehow. I know it’s useless, but...I went to his parents’, but they don’t know where he is. I have to find him before I can...before I can be with you. I know you understand. Four lost years...I have to make it right.” He looked back at Kal, his gaze determined but sorrowful. “The marriage was never consummated--I’m sure we can have it annulled. And then--then maybe--”

Kal didn’t know whether to laugh or weep. He heard himself make a strangled noise. “Oh Bruce,” he choked. “He’ll never let you annul your marriage.”

Bruce’s mouth twisted in agony. “No! You don’t know him, he’s a good man, he wouldn’t want us to be trapped together in a loveless marriage. I know he’ll let me go.”

“Never.” Kal’s voice was hoarse. He buried his face in the dark curls disheveled on the pillow, kissing them. “He’ll never let you go.”

There was a long silence; Kal heard Bruce’s breathing catch and shift. He pushed Kal back slightly, let the morning sun fall on his face. For a long time he gazed at him, and Kal watched regret and amusement and annoyance flicker and fade across his face, dying down into acceptance, and something like hope.

“Clark,” he whispered, and Kal closed his eyes at hearing his name spoken for the first time in four years, spoken with such love and longing. “Clark?”

He took a long breath, opened his eyes once more. Bruce’s eyes were full of wonder, his face framed by dark curls; he looked suddenly like the boy in the locket, loved and loving.

“Good morrow, my husband,” whispered Clark Kent.

A lilac branch whipped backwards, showering sweet-scented dew on Clark Kent-Wayne as his mare shied away from it. “Not so fast,” he called. “Alfred wasn’t pleased about you going riding at all. He’d have my hide if he saw you cantering around like that.”

Bruce made an annoyed sound, but showed his black gelding down into a walk. “I’ve been going stir-crazy,” he griped. “It’s finally spring and I want to be outdoors and moving.”

His horse danced sideways, catching his restless mood, and Clark took a moment to admire the sight: Bruce in his elegant, well-cut dark gray riding coat (the flashy clothes had been abandoned the minute they had left London), the spring sun glinting off his dark curls, his crop tucked under his arm. Clark kicked his horse into a trot to catch up with him, and together they emerged from the woods and crested the hill to look down at the lawn of Wayne Manor, bustling with people. Conner and Tim were playing quoits and arguing, Jason was lounging in the sun and reading the most recent volume of Pride and Prejudice. Dick and Karen were studying French together, while Cass was chasing a startled rabbit across the lawn.

Diana was teaching Steph and Kara hand-to-hand combat, showing them a new stance. She rolled her eyes as Steph spotted Bruce and Clark at the top of the hill and broke off to wave; in a second Steph was flat on her back with Diana reaching out to help her up. Diana had still not fully forgiven Bruce for his treatment of Clark, but the chance to train a whole generation of young people in how to fight injustice had proven too powerful a lure to resist.

Alfred emerged from the Manor carrying a plate piled high with pastries and jam, a pitcher of lemonade in his other hand. The youths broke off what they were doing with shrieks of joy to converge on Alfred, each of them demanding attention; Alfred chided them cheerfully, beaming. He had been overjoyed to return to the Manor at last and had overseen a frenzied restocking and cleaning, which the former thief-children had joined in gleefully. Once all was in order, Clark had brought a large number of children from the Foundling Hospital there to live and thrive. Now the Manor halls rang with laughter, the old oak trees swarmed with smiling faces, and Alfred Pennyworth was always busily directing some activity.

“I want to show you something,” Bruce said, turning away from the idyll on the lawn with a smile and setting off into the woods once more.

A leisurely amble through the oak grove later, they emerged from the wood at the top of a bluff, overlooking the ocean. There was a white gazebo there, delicate and airy. They tied their horses up to crop the grass placidly and Clark followed Bruce as he strode across the sward to the gazebo.

“This was my favorite place to go as a boy,” he said, looping his arm into Clark’s as they walked. “During the happy times. I’d come here to read and to dream. It was like my own little castle.”

As they stepped into the gazebo, Clark smiled down at the blankets piled neatly on the floor. “It’s almost as if someone has prepared for us being here.”

“It is, isn’t it?” Bruce sat down on the blankets, tugging Clark down with him. The murmuring of the sea and the soft sighing of the breeze in the oaks were the only sounds. “I think…” Bruce said between kisses, “That considering we’ve been married for more than four’s high time...we consummated our union.”

“Are you--I mean, your shoulder--Alfred said--”

Bruce made an annoyed sound. “Alfred needs to stop babying me. Did he tell you not to have your wicked way with the invalid?”

Clark looked sheepish. “Well...not in so many words.”

“I’m not made of spun sugar,” Bruce said, kissing him with enough fervor that Clark began to think he was going to shatter. Or melt. Or whatever spun sugar did when you were too rough with it. “Get these damned clothes off of me and I’ll show you.”

Bruce’s ascot was cool in his hands; Clark’s fingers trembled as he undid its knot and unwound it from around Bruce’s neck. The coat came off next, then the loose linen shirt, until Bruce was bare to the waist.

“You’re staring,” said Bruce with a shiver of a laugh in his voice.

“I can stare at my husband,” Clark said.

“I suppose you can.” Bruce rolled away from Clark to show his back, the healing web of scar tissue there. “See? Almost all better.”

Clark pressed his lips to the scarred shoulder, wrapping his arm around Bruce’s chest and pulling him close, breathing in the scent of him. Bruce shifted his hips, pressing back against him, and Clark heard himself make a low, breathless noise. He let his hand slide slower, trailing along abdominal muscles until it came to the top of Bruce’s breeches. “Your breeches are far too tight,” he complained as he undid the buttons.

Bruce made a considering noise. “You see, I thought they were just right,” he said. He rolled over onto his back to look at Clark with a twinkle in his eye. “They do get your attention.”

“They’ve got more than my attention,” Clark growled, throwing a knee over Bruce and pinning him down. He nipped at Bruce’s neck as Bruce squirmed, laughingly protesting. “There is no escape for you, my errant husband,” he announced. “I have you where I want you, and intend to punish you for your grievous behavior--whoop!”

He broke off with a startled noise as Bruce hooked his legs and threw him onto his back in turn. What followed was an extremely undignified grappling match which ended with Bruce bare to the waist and Clark wearing only his loose linen shirt, barely long enough for modesty’s sake. Both of them were out of breath and extremely aroused, and yet slowly it became obvious that despite a lot of grabbing and grinding, no one was exactly succeeding at ravishing or being ravished.

For a long moment they lay tangled together, each half-dressed, panting. Then in a very small voice, Bruce said, “I have no idea what to do next.”

“What?” Clark stared at him. “But you’re an incorrigible rake!”

“I pretend to be a rake, Clark. In reality I’ve been so busy with my plans for ridding the streets of crime that I, uh…” He shrugged. “Sex seemed unlikely to be something I needed to be good at.” He groped Clark’s buttocks with more passion than grace. “Besides, I don’t need to know what I’m doing, right? I mean, surely you…”

His voice trailed off at Clark’s expression. “Well,” Clark said, “I was informed about the basics, but I never--I mean, I never actually--implemented them.”

Silence for a moment. Then Bruce started to laugh.

“An notorious rake and a male courtesan, and we’re both utterly inexperienced! This is a tragedy, my husband. A tragedy. Shall we--shall we go back and ask Alfred for advice?”

Clark shook his head as Bruce’s giggles threatened to render him incapable of speaking. “I’m not letting another hour go by without hearing you say my name as you spend yourself,” he warned, making Bruce’s breath catch and his eyes darken. “How hard can can this be, after all? We have mouths and hands, and their uses are quite, quite obvious,” he murmured, slipping his hand into Bruce’s unbuttoned breeches and wrapping his fingers around his length. The angle was odd, but it wasn’t that different from what he’d been doing to himself for years now. “Steve always used to claim that he could get a man off in just five strokes,” he said, tightening his grip and feeling silky skin shift and tense beneath his fingers.

“Please--please don’t mention Lombard while--while you’re doing this.” Bruce’s voice was unsteady. “I can’t--oh God, that’s so good.”

“I don’t want you to be thinking of anyone but me,” whispered Clark.

“Never anyone but you,” Bruce groaned, his gaze exalted with desire, “Only you, my Clark, by husband, my--ah!”

His eyes closed and his hips arched upward as he came in long, steady pulses that left Clark shaking with his own need and yearning. Suddenly he understood the power that Steve had always bragged about, the power to leave a person speechless with passion, to plunge them so deep into sensation that they lost themselves.

“My turn,” murmured Bruce after a long breathless moment, rolling over. Clark felt damp skin against his as Bruce pushed up his shirt, hands roaming under the loose cloth, dragging a groan from him. “I believe you said something about mouths?”

Bruce’s mouth had a wicked curve to it as he slid lower, delicately nibbling the skin at the base of Clark’s erection.

“Oh Clark, I want to do every wonderful decadent thing with you that humanity has ever imagined. I will drown you in bliss, cherish every inch of you over and over. I’ll make it up to you, all my mistakes, all of my stupidities, I’ll--”

He broke off as Clark tugged sharply at his hair. ”The constant apologizing is getting tedious,” Clark had finally said a few weeks ago, while Bruce was still recuperating. ”Stop talking and start showing me you’ve changed.”

“Stop talking and start showing me,” Clark said now, his voice unsteady, and Bruce made a happy humming noise and set about showing him indeed.

Bruce’s mouth on him was awkward and unskilled and enthusiastic, and every touch was an apology and a promise, and Clark lost himself in the joy of it.

When, in later years, people asked them how long they’d been married, Clark and Bruce always dated the beginning of their marriage from that day in the gazebo: the sound of the sea all around them, the warm knowledge of their strange patchwork family waiting for them, their bodies entwined, at one at last.
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