mithen: (Misty Batman)
[personal profile] mithen
Title: Wayne Manor
Relationship: Bruce Wayne/Clark Kent
Characters: Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Leslie Thompkins, Alfred Pennyworth
Continuity: Heroes of the Squared Circle, a DC/pro wrestling fusion (click for notes and all chapters).
Warnings/Spoilers: None
Rating: PG-13
Word Count 2800
Summary: Clark searches for Bruce--and finds more than he bargains for.

As Clark stood in front of Leslie Thompkins’ clinic, the first thing he felt was...relief. The grimy tenements, the walls scrawled with graffiti, the broken windows: this was exactly the kind of neighborhood he had imagined Bruce growing up in. He looked around, wondering which of these dusty windows had framed the sky for a young boy dreaming of a different life. I’ll find you, Bruce.

Then he took a deep breath and walked into the clinic.

It was crowded with people: harried, ill, wounded people. A man with a bloodstained bandage around his head leaned against the wall, dozing fitfully. A baby cried in a room nearby and he heard a father’s voice soothing, shushing. The scent of antiseptic overlay but couldn’t hide the smell of illness.

Yet it was surprisingly clean and well-furnished, Clark noticed as he went up to the front desk. The equipment was modern, the computers new. Someone had been funding it recently, and he had a good idea who.

“I’m sorry,” said the man behind the front desk, “But Dr. Thompkins is seeing a patient right now. Do you have an appointment, Mr…?”

“Kent. When she has a moment, could you tell her Clark Kent would like to see her?” The man shrugged with an air that indicated Clark would be waiting quite a long time and pointed to the waiting room seats.

Clark was almost falling into an uneasy doze when he heard a small gasp next to him. Turning, he met the wide-eyed gaze of a girl no more than eight, her hands over her mouth. “You’re the Kryptonian,” she said, adding with a touch of uncertainty, “...aren’t you?”

“I was,” he said, and held out his hand for her to shake. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miss.”

“My name’s Josefina,” she said. “My mother’s seeing Dr. Thompkins right now. She has to see her a lot. Her hair fell out and she was really tired, but the doctor says she’s going to be okay, so that’s good. I like wrestling, that’s how I knew you.” She held up the pad of paper she’d been drawing on to reveal decent likenesses of Wonder Woman, Batgirl, and Nightwing. “See?”

“Wow,” said Clark, “Those are really good.”

She beamed. “Thank you. I gave some to Dr. Thompkins to put up in her office last time we were here, but she didn’t like them. She said wrestling was stupid and violent and...and tetostertone-soaked.” She looked down at her drawing and traced Nightwing’s mask with her finger. “But I like it. I couldn’t explain why to her.”

“Well,” said Clark, “I think wrestling gives us a chance to dream big dreams. Really big dreams, the kind you know are unrealistic. And sometimes those dreams are stupid, it’s true. There’s nothing too subtle about a dream of throwing a bully through a table, or getting revenge on people who laughed at you and made you feel bad. But in wrestling we dress those dreams up and make them huge and glittery and gorgeous, and we let everyone dream them together.”

A pause. “I didn’t think the Kryptonian talked,” Josefina said, just a trifle chidingly. “I thought you were a big mean alien who hated humans and wanted to take over the world.”

Clark stretched--the hospital waiting chairs weren’t exactly designed for his frame, and he was starting to feel cramped. “I was,” he said. “But lately I’ve been doing some thinking, and I think I’ve decided this whole world-conquering thing isn’t for me. Because you know what?” He waited for her to shake her head, her eyes wide. “I’m going to let you in on a big secret, Josefina. And that secret is that humans are amazing. I mean, look at you.” He gestured to the notepad, “Look at those dreams. I bet you’ve invented some new wrestlers all on your own, with nothing but your mind, haven’t you?”

Shyly, she lifted the paper to reveal sketches of what appeared to be a wrestler with a ballerina gimmick, suplexing and pirouetting.

“Great scott, that’s incredible,” he said. “Look at that. That’s something that didn’t exist in the whole universe until you made it real with nothing but your mind and your pencil. Or how about your mother? How she fought off that disease--she was so strong and so brave, wasn’t she?” Josefina nodded solemnly, and Clark crossed his arms, nodding firmly. “Humans are the best. I was wrong to ever want to conquer them or hurt them. From now on, no matter what, I want to be a friend to all humans.”

Two small arms went around his neck, and soft lips touched his cheek. “That sounds super,” said Josefina.

Then Clark felt her look behind them and she squeaked happily. “Mom!”

Clark turned as she jumped up and ran to hug the woman who must be her mother. Next to her stood Leslie Thompkins, medical clipboard in hand and eyeglasses perched on her nose. She spoke briefly to Josephina, gave her mother some final instructions, and saw them off. As the doors closed on Josephina chattering happily to her rather incredulous mother about her conversation with a reformed world-conquering alien, Dr. Thompkins turned an unsmiling gaze upon him, eyeing him from head to toe.

“You might as well come in,” she said after the once-over.

“I don’t share information about my patients, Mr. Kent,” she said as Clark finished up his rather stammering and incoherent introduction. “I’m sorry.”

“But I--” Clark broke off, swallowed. “But I need to find him, Dr. Thompkins. And I think he wants me to. I think that--that I’ve pushed him away in the past, and so maybe he doesn’t believe I’ll really be there for him. But I will. I swear I will.”

Her expression had softened as he spoke, but she still shook her head. “I won’t break the confidentiality of my patients.”

There was the slightest emphasis on the last word; he sat and thought for a moment. Then he said, “The man you were with at the show. Is he a patient of yours?”

She almost smiled. “No, he’s not. His name is Alfred Pennyworth.”

Clark managed to keep his reaction to the idea that Bruce’s real name might be “Bruce Pennyworth” from showing on his face. At least he hoped so. “I would really like to talk to him. Would you be willing to tell me where he lives?”

She picked up a pen, ripped off a piece of notepaper. Then she paused with the pen poised above the paper. “Young man, I am only doing this because I have heard Bruce speak of you, and I have seen his face when he speaks of you. He trusts you. I may not approve of the choices that he has made with his life, but if you betray that trust--” She broke off and sniffed once, hard, glaring down at the paper. “Well, I hope you never sleep well again.”

Clark rested a hand on her shoulder, very gently. “He’s very special to me.”

She nodded and wiped her eyes. “He’s a very special boy.” She wrote an address on the paper. “Now go find him.”

“Is it within walking distance?” he asked, glancing at the address. “I mean, is it around here?”

“No,” she said, with a small and amused smile. “No, it’s not around here.”

The taxi driver gave an unamused bark of laughter when Clark got in and gave him the address. “Another one of them morbid sightseers, huh?”

“I’m sorry?”

The driver shook his head as he eased the taxi into traffic and sped away from downtown. “I seen your type before. Ghoulish, that’s what I call it. Like the place is gonna be haunted or something. It’s just an old house, ya know? Besides, it’s not like you can see much from the road or anything. But every couple of months someone’s on a tour of the Great Tragedies of Gotham or something and has to go there.”

They were passing over the New Trigate Bridge, heading into the suburbs, the apartments giving way to split-level houses.

“Or maybe you’re hoping to get a glimpse of the kid--I suppose he’s not a kid now, not that anyone’s seen him for years. Lives all alone there with the butler, I hear, since he came back from Europe or something.” The driver shot a glare at Clark in the mirror. “I don’t much approve of folks like you coming by to gawk. Kid’s suffered enough. I don’t care how much money he’s got, nothing makes up for that.”

The houses were further and further apart now, often hidden behind hedges or fences. The trees here were gnarled oaks that must have been planted nearly a century ago. Clark’s mouth was dry. The taxi driver was still complaining, but the words seemed disconnected from reality.

“Nothing makes up for what?”

The taxi screeched to a halt on the side of the road; on the far side a wrought-iron fence thick with ivy hid whatever lay beyond. A pair of heavy gates with a family crest interrupted the leafy green barrier.

“Nothing makes up for seeing your parents killed right in front of your eyes,” snapped the taxi driver. “That’s what you’re here to see, right? Wayne Manor, home of the poor little rich boy orphan, the billionaire recluse? So get outta my taxi, you creep.”

The taxi sped off. Clark looked at the slip of paper in his hand, then at the crest of arms on the gates, the ornate “W” worked into the metal.

Clark wrapped his hands around the iron bars, rested his head on the crest for a moment.

Bruce. Oh, Bruce.

After a while he rummaged among the ivy to find a call button. “Wayne Manor,” said a crisp British voice.

“Um. Hello,” said Clark, then ran out of things to say. The intercom was silent. The oak-lined road was silent. “This is Clark Kent. I’ to see Bruce.”

“I’m afraid Master Wayne is not available at the moment,” said the voice. “If you would leave your name, perhaps--”

“--I’m really sorry, but I have to see him.” Clark stepped away from the intercom, to the side of the gate. “I know this is rude--” He started to scramble up the fence, “--And, uh, illegal, I guess. I’m sorry.”

“Now see here, young man.” The voice from the intercom sounded agitated. “You can’t simply--”

“--I hope you don’t have any attack dogs,” Clark called down from near the top of the gate. “That would be awkward. Oh, pointy bits. Yipes.” He took a moment to cautiously navigate the sharp tops of the posts as Alfred continued to remonstrate him. “Okay, I’m on the other side now,” he said as he dropped to the lawn below. “I’ll just--I’ll just show myself in, then,” he called back through the gate. “I’m really sorry and I hope you won’t call the police. I just really need to talk to Bruce.”

The lane was hushed, the angular spruces on either side of the drive seeming to lean in, glaring at the intruder. The grounds were exquisitely tended--Clark glimpsed topiary sculptures from between the trees, a white gazebo. Everything silent and empty.

The Manor itself finally came into view as he went around a corner, and he came up short to stare at what was closer to a castle: curved turrets and arches in brown stone, a fountain splashing in the front. All was silent, and he felt, for a dizzy and incongruous moment, like the prince coming to the slumbering castle in Sleeping Beauty. He felt a somewhat-hysterical giggle rise up in his throat and swallowed hard.

The front door swung open as he approached, to reveal Alfred Pennyworth frowning at him. “Mr. Kent,” he said, and looked like he was going to say more, but then he looked at Clark’s face. Clark wasn’t sure what he saw there, but after a moment he stepped aside with a sigh and let him in.

Clark stepped into a wide hallway, the floor made of varnished parquet, gleaming in the light of an ornate chandelier. To the right and the left, ornately carved panels of dark wood covered the walls, stretching into the distance. In front of him was a wide staircase that split and curved to the left and right. Alabaster vases glowed on mahogany stands; at the top of the staircase a vast stained-glass window refracted light into purple and burgundy shafts. It felt like a museum, or a palace, or a video game: not like a place any actual human being would live.

“Master Bruce’s room is on the second floor, the fifth door on the right,” Alfred said. “But I would not enter uninvited.”

Clark stared at Bruce’s butler--his butler, Bruce had an honest-to-god-manservant--and felt himself shaking his head. It was too much.

With a sudden sharp frown, Alfred reached out and took his elbow, shaking it--not gently. “Mr. Kent,” he said. “Master Bruce is badly hurt. He does not need someone goggle-eyed and gaping like a carp, he needs a friend. Do not fail him.”

Clark cleared his throat. Nodded. “I won’t,” he said. “Thank you.”

He climbed the stairs, his footfalls silent on the thick Persian carpet, and made his way to Bruce’s door.

Once there, though, his courage failed him again. He stopped with his hand hovering inches from the carved wood, unable to knock. Finally put his back against the door and slid down until he was sitting on the carpet, looking up at the ceiling. It was carved into six-sided cells, each cell picked out in gold leaf, ivory inlaid in the middle. He looked at the ceiling until it blurred, and then he closed his eyes. Took a breath.

“Bruce,” he said, more to himself than as an address. The word seemed to fill the hallway. “Bruce Wayne.”


“I knew,” he said. “I think I’ve known for a while. But I tried so hard not to know, not to let myself believe it. It’s why I kept pushing you away, why I wouldn’t--let you tell me. Because you tried to. Damnit--” He banged his fists on the floor and the thick carpet consumed the sound, “You tried to tell me. But I didn’t want to hear.”

He shook his head. “It was childish of me. I know it was. But if you were really--” He broke off. “I loved those stupid trips to Target. I loved when we all stayed together in one cruddy hotel room, on the road in the JLI. Eating dried ramen. Scraping to make ends meet. I didn’t want to know that you could have bought the whole store, that you could have ordered escargot every night. Because then--then it would all have been kayfabe. It was all a game being played by some rich kid who didn’t have to be playing it. It was all...fake. And so maybe we were too. That’s what I was afraid of.”

He turned his head, resting his cheek against the wood.

“But that was stupid of me, Bruce. Because money isn’t what makes any of this stuff real or fake. I’m doing it because I have to, to make payments on the farm. But you’re doing it because you have to too. Not for money, but for your heart. Because for a few hours every show we make a world that makes sense, where the darkness doesn’t have to win. We make big, glorious, glittering dreams. I’ve been stupid, and blind, and I pushed you away because I was afraid, but I want to be there for you. I want to be part of the dream you make. And part of the reality you live.

“I want it all, Bruce Wayne. So please...let me in.”

There was a long pause--long enough for Clark to despair. Then from behind the door he heard a hoarse throat-clearing, followed by a familiar voice:

“Well, since I can barely sit up without help right now, I’m sure as hell not coming over there to let you in, so you’ll just have to come in on your own.” Something close to a chuckle threaded into the words. “Since you seem to have come so far on your own already, I think you can probably make it to the bed.”

Clark stood up. He was shaking, he realized. With relief, with trepidation, with joy.

He put his hand on the crystal doorknob, and the door opened and let him in.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-27 09:16 pm (UTC)
willow: Red haired, dark skinned, lollipop girl (Default)
From: [personal profile] willow

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-28 02:05 am (UTC)
willow: Red haired, dark skinned, lollipop girl (Default)
From: [personal profile] willow
All that's missing is cookies. But they can come later.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-28 03:41 pm (UTC)
prince0froses: (Default)
From: [personal profile] prince0froses
Oh Bruce. Using your consternation with Clark's specific choice of words to hide your doubtless heartrending emotions.


mithen: (Default)

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