mithen: (Misty Batman)
[personal profile] mithen
Title: Rehabilitation
Relationship: Bruce Wayne/Clark Kent
Characters: Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Alfred Pennyworth, Shondra Kinsolving
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 3800
Summary: Clark stays with Bruce as he recovers, but the world of gimmicks and kayfabe is never far from their minds.

I think the guys that walk away never loved it. Truly. Because to me it’s insane to think that you could give up the love. It would be like saying, “Okay, I don’t love my mom anymore.” It’s always been about the love of the game for me, man. Life after wrestling? I don’t think that’s possible. I don’t think I’ll ever quit. --Jake “The Snake” Roberts

“It was your real name all along,” Clark said sleepily. The sky through the window was starting to shade into twilight, the first stars peeping out through a pale veil of clouds.

“That’s the fifth time you’ve said that,” Bruce said through a yawn.

“I just can’t believe you’ve been pretending to be yourself.” From his vantage point in an overstuffed chair, he propped his head up on his fist and looked at Bruce, lying in the king-sized bed looking at him. “That takes some nerve.”

“Nerve is something I have always had in abundance,” Bruce said easily. “Actual courage...that was harder to come by. The courage to tell you, for example.”

“You tried.”

“Do or do not,” said Bruce. “There is no try.”

“Don’t quote Yoda at me,” said Clark, “It’s too adorable, and I want to hug you, and I can’t.”

A wan smile. “But I could have insisted. I could have forced the matter. I was afraid that--that it would change things.” He looked at Clark. “Will it change things?”

“It sure as hell will,” said Clark. He waited just long enough for worry to shade Bruce’s face before he went on: “Now I’m going to find it impossible to listen to your Billionaire Brucie routine without laughing like a lunatic.”

Bruce’s smile was slow and beautiful. “A hug might be pushing it,” he said, “But you could probably kiss me.”

Clark stood up and bent over the bed, bringing his mouth to Bruce’s for a long, gentle kiss. “Do you want to talk about...about how it all happened?” he murmured as the kiss ended.

Bruce made a small motion as if he had started to shrug and aborted it. “It’s a simple enough story, for all Alfred and Leslie tell me it doesn’t make any sense. You know the basics: my parents were murdered in front of me.”

He said it flatly and without pathos, and Clark winced. “Yes.”

“We had just left a DCW show, and...I guess I had some childish idea that if I had been as strong and as good as the wrestlers we had seen that night, then maybe I could have…” His voice trailed off. “Alfred mostly raised me--he really is my foster-father, Clark, in every way that matters.”

“Of course he is.”

“And Leslie helped out a lot--she was an old friend of the family. I studied abroad a lot, where no one knew me. But my dream was always to be a wrestler. Alfred and Leslie never understood it, why I’d throw away my gifts to be a vaudeville figure, a stunt actor." A small smile. "Alfred was a Shakespearean actor once, and let’s just say wrestling wasn’t quite his style. But when things were really bad...when I was in the ring, the world made sense again, for a little while. I went through a long time of fighting stiff, hurting people for the sheer catharsis of it. But in Tibet I learned that wasn’t what I wanted to be. Ra’s--that was his name, my teacher--wanted me to do that for a living, but I couldn’t. In Tibet I realized that it was the stories I loved, not the pain. I wanted to be part of a great and never-ending story, an infinite battle against injustice and pain.” His chuckle had a bitter edge. “And as Leslie said, see where it’s got me.”

“We’ll get through this,” said Clark. He saw Bruce’s eyes warm at the plural and went on hurriedly, “I did some research on your injury, I know what you’re up against. It’s a lot of work, but people make full recoveries. And if anyone can, you can.” He met Bruce’s eyes. “And after that...we’ll see what you want.”

“What I want?” Bruce sounded puzzled.

“You know...if you want to go back to wrestling or not.”

Bruce’s eyes widened and he made a swift, involuntary movement, then winced. “Of course I want to go back! I’m not going to let a little thing like fused vertebrae keep me from wrestling.” Clark snorted, and he went on: “No, Clark, I fully intend to become one of those old grizzled wrestlers who just keeps coming back and having great matches, and no one knows how they do it, they just have to shrug and say, ‘Well, he’s a legend.’”

“I quit being the Kryptonian,” Clark said abruptly.

Bruce nodded slightly. “Good. It’s time you started working on that face turn. The Kryptonian was never going to be a legend. Whatever you’re going to be next, that’s where your heart is. That’s going to be the legend. I know it.”

“So we can be two ancient legends together?”

Bruce’s smile was slow and sleepy. “Two white-haired wrestling geezers, showing up twice a year to put on better matches than any of the younger generation, burning up the ring together. It’s a good future.” He yawned, then grimaced. “Sorry. It’s the painkillers, they tend to knock me out.”

“That’s fine,” said Clark, starting to stand up. “If you don’t mind, I’ll come back tomorrow and--”

“--No,” Bruce said. “Don’t go. I don’t want you to leave again.”

“I’ll stay as long as you want me here,” said Clark.

“Forever,” mumbled Bruce, and then he was asleep.

Clark watched him for a while--the bed was so big that even Bruce’s bulky frame seemed swallowed up in a sea of white--and then went to the door, his footsteps silent on the thick Persian rug.

He opened the door, staring out once more at the dark-paneled wood, the antiques on marble pedestals. He shook his head. The real Bruce Wayne all along. Unbelievable.

Alfred was waiting at the bottom of the steps. “Shall I prepare a cot for you, sir?”

Clark startled a bit. “A cot?”

“The bed is quite large, sir, but I’m sure you don’t wish to jostle Master Bruce.”

“Of course not, but…”

“Thus I assumed a cot next to the bed was the best option.”

“Well, sure, did you know I’d be staying? Were you listening to us?”

“Certainly not, sir!” Alfred looked faintly offended. “But I know Master Bruce, and so...I suspected you would not be leaving again.”

“Who could ever leave him once they knew him?”

Alfred nodded as though Clark had passed some test, as though they understood each other perfectly. “Exactly, sir.”

He woke from a jumbled, panicky dream in which he was wrestling and realized he’d gone to the ring without his costume, the sound of the crowd laughing still dinning in his ears.

“They’re really good,” Bruce said from the bed, gesturing at the television where Harley and Ivy were in the middle of the ring, tormenting the ring announcer to peals of laughter from the audience.

“Is that last night’s show?”

“I never really had time to explore it before, but the DCW app has an amazing amount of footage,” Bruce said. “Old matches, new content, and--”

“--only 9.99 a month,” Clark finished with him. The announcers’ constant shilling of the DCW app had become something of a running gag among the wrestlers lately. “I haven’t watched any wrestling for the last couple of weeks,” Clark said. “Well--nothing new.” He bit his lip and did not tell Bruce that he’d been re-watching the footage of his injury exclusively.

Bruce waved toward a door. “The bathroom’s there. Alfred put in some towels and a toothbrush.”

The bathroom was wall-to-wall marble and brass--Clark hoped the fixtures were brass and not gold, at least. As he undressed, Bruce’s voice came from the other room: “Could you open the door?”

Clark grabbed one of the impossibly luxurious towels and wrapped it around his waist. “Sure,” he said, opening the door. “Why?”

“I haven’t gotten a chance to watch your magnificent posterior for a couple of weeks now,” Bruce said. “I’m not missing the opportunity now.”

Clark attempted to look dignified with nothing but a towel wrapped around his waist, turning his back before loosening the towel and letting it drop to the floor. “Happy?”

“Ecstatic,” said Bruce with a lascivious tone to his voice. “I can’t wait until I’m well enough to do everything I want to do to you once more. Everything’s still working in that area, you’ll be pleased to know.”

Clark frowned at him over his shoulder. “I’m pretty sure you should be working on walking again, not on…those kinds of things.”

Bruce made a rude noise. “The walking is going well,” he went on as Clark got into the shower and fiddled with the knobs. “Arm movement isn’t bad either. Dr. Kinsolving says she’s never had such a good patient. All right, such a resilient patient,” he amended at Clark’s dubious look. “I admit I may have a tendency toward some slight crankiness.”

Clark swung the shower door closed as he raised an eyebrow, savoring the sound of Bruce’s laugh.

When he emerged, feeling scrubbed and fresh--there had been a new outfit in his exact size waiting next to the shower--Bruce had paused the screen and was waiting for him, a peculiar smile on his face. “You haven’t watched anything for the last couple of weeks?” he asked.

“Nothing recent,” Clark hedged.

“Oh,” said Bruce, “Then you need to watch this promo.” He unpaused the video.

Milton Fine, in his Brainiac carnival mind-reader outfit done up all in black, was standing in the ring, looking woeful. He wiped at his eyes as the crowd jeered, and kept raising the mic to his lips and then lowering it, too overcome to continue. Finally, he managed to rally enough to start speaking: “You know, of course, that the Kryptonian has--has left us,” he said.

The crowd muttered happily and Brainiac cast his eyes to the sky--or at least the rafters.

“He has abandoned us, his faithful followers, and left us alone! But here in our darkest hour, a savior has come to us.”

The lights started to dim and a brilliant spotlight picked Brainiac out; dry ice from beneath the ring curled tendrils of mist around him. Dramatic music started to play softly in the background, building slowly through Brainiac’s speech.

“Lo!” cried Brainiac. “I give to you a new master, a being superior to you all: his strength and power eclipsed only by his wisdom and foresight!”

He gestured to the top of the ramp.

“I present to you--the Son of the Kryptonian!”

A spotlight came up to reveal a figure standing at the top of the ramp, wearing something like the Kryptonian’s costume, but with an incongruous leather jacket slung over it. His hair was an unruly mop, and he was wearing small round sunglasses. He reached up and lowered the sunglasses to flash a blinding smile at the audience.

“What’s up, dudes?” he said.

Clark stared.

“Hey!” Bruce said as if he were choking down uncontrollable laughter, “And I thought I had secrets--you never told me you had a son!”

“Stop pushing yourself so hard, Bruce,” said Dr. Shondra Kinsolving, making a note on her clipboard. “Resting is an important part of rehabilitation too, you know.”

“I don’t like resting,” Bruce said shortly. He was taking careful steps with some kind of high-tech walker, lifting and putting down his feet with some consideration between each step. “I didn’t hire you to help me rest.

“No,” said Kinsolving, “But you hired me to get you ready to wrestle again, and I’m telling you, if you push yourself too hard, that isn’t going to happen.” She cast a despairing look at Clark. “Tell him, Kent.”

“She has a point, Bruce,” said Clark.

Bruce made a growling noise, but stopped dragging himself forward. Clark jumped up and brought the wheelchair closer to him so he could lower himself into it.

“Thank you,” said Kinsolving. “It’s a good thing you decided to show up--he was driving himself far too hard before you got here. In comparison, he’s practically taking it easy now.” She cast Bruce a stern look. “Rest. I’ll be back in the morning and we’ll work on those range-of-movement exercises for your arms.”

“I’m bored,” Bruce whined when she was gone. “Has your mother sent you back her latest take on your new costume?”

“Bruce, we only emailed her our feedback this morning.”

“That was seven hours ago.”

“She might have other things she had to do.” At Bruce’s incredulous look--something more important than wrestling? Impossible!--Clark burst out laughing. “Honestly, you are such a child when you’re injured.”

Bruce smiled, but there was a sad edge to it. “It’s being in this house,” he admitted. “I haven’t spent much time here in years. It makes me feel young again.” His tone made it clear that wasn’t necessarily a good thing.

“I hope we’re not being too much of a hassle to Alfred.”

“Are you kidding? He hasn’t been this happy in years.”


Bruce snorted. “He’s not the type to turn cartwheels, Clark. Trust me, he’s happy. Says it’s a pleasure to hear new voices around the Manor.” He looked thoughtful. “Maybe…” Then he shook his head and pushed the wheelchair down the hall. “Never mind. A thought for later. Let’s watch some wrestling.”

“Oh God,” groaned Clark, “Are you going to make me watch the latest promo by the Metropolis Kid?”

“I might,” grinned Bruce. “Come on, I think he’s pretty great, actually. Fantastic sense of comedic timing.”

“Where did he even come from?”

“Clark, you scamp! Have there been so many conquests you don’t even--” Bruce broke off when Clark threatened to throw a pillow at him, “Oh, you mean outside of kayfabe. Well, I think he was wrestling in that Sora promotion Tim was working for; Tim told me he had talent. He had this whole gimmick going that he had ‘touch telekinesis’--lots of funny bits where he’d seem to throw people across the ring just by laying a finger on them. I wouldn’t be surprised if Lex snapped him up based on Tim’s opinion.”

“I thought he didn’t even know who Tim was.”

Bruce snorted as he pushed open the bedroom door with an effort--Clark resisted the temptation to help him with a different kind of effort. “He can say whatever he wants, but Lex knows Tim Drake has a sharp business mind and a good sense for talent. He might not think Tim will make a good wrestler, but he not only knows who he is, he’s keeping an eye on him.”

He started to say more, but when he turned on the screen the blue-and-black form of Nightwing filled the screen and he fell silent immediately. The crowd was rapt as Nightwing did handsprings and somersaults around the ring, leaving Killer Croc dizzy and nearly keeling over.

“He’s stepped up his game even more,” Bruce said as he sat down carefully on the bed, moving to rest against the headboard. “Amazing. I knew he had it in him, but it’s incredible to see it.”

“And yet you told Luthor to choose anyone but him to be the Dark Knight,” Clark said. “He was pretty angry at you about that.”

“Oh come on,” snorted Bruce. “If he thought about it for ten minutes he had to know the reason. It’s obvious.” But there was a fleeting worry in his face as he looked at Clark: It was obvious? Right?

“If he’d taken over as Dark Knight, pretending to be you, then his first championship would have been tainted. Asterisked. He’d be remembered as a fake belt-holder.”

A flicker of relief on Bruce’s face. “Exactly. His first championship. He’ll have others. I didn’t want idiots on message boards to be able to say he cheated his way into the first one.” He watched Dick on the screen, pulling off an exquisite Northern Lights suplex that ended with his body bent into a perfect backwards arc, pinning Killer Croc for the win. “He deserves a clean record,” Bruce said as the crowd erupted in delight. “I wasn’t going to be responsible for ruining it before it even begins.” He cleared his throat. “Could you hand me a cookie?”

Clark picked up one of the cookies from one of the omnipresent plates that appeared wherever he and Bruce went--these were peanut butter, neatly criss-crossed with squares from a fork pressed into the dough--and gave it to Bruce, picking up his own to nibble on. On the screen, the announcer was introducing the next contestants: Sinestro and the Dark Knight.

The cookie went tasteless in Clark’s mouth as he saw Jean Paul Valley enter in Bruce’s ring gear, the cape flowing around him. He had modified it, Clark noticed with an extra stab of annoyance, adding some kind of pauldrons that looked like armor on the shoulders. “He shouldn’t be changing your costume,” he muttered as Valley climbed into the ring.

“It’s natural,” Bruce said around a mouthful of cookie. “He needs to feel like it’s his own, not another man’s gear.”

As the Dark Knight and Sinestro grappled, Clark gritted his teeth in annoyance: couldn’t the audience tell the man holding the belt was a pretender? He supposed that was part of the appeal of the storyline, that if you realized it wasn’t the usual Dark Knight you were looking forward to the eventual retribution.

Nothing personal against Jean Paul Valley, but Clark knew he knew he certainly was.

Bruce was frowning as he watched the match, and Clark couldn’t help wondering how much it bothered him as well, seeing someone in his gear, taking his name, wearing his belt. But his frown didn’t look annoyed, it looked...thoughtful. Puzzled. Like when he was trying to figure out a particularly difficult move.

At the end, Valley climbed up onto the turnbuckle as Sinestro lay writhing on the mat. Looking out at the crowd, he raised his arms and launched himself into space. Clark heard Bruce’s sharp intake of breath as Valley did a backflip in the air, adding a corkscrew turn before he landed.

“What the hell was he thinking?” hissed Bruce. “A shooting star press is incredibly dangerous even without adding a corkscrew. He could have hurt himself. For God’s sake, Sinestro had to move to make sure he was in the right place, he was nearly falling short.”

“You don’t get so alarmed when I do a shooting star press,” Clark pointed out.

“That’s because you have the skill to do it,” Bruce said shortly, as if stating an obvious fact. “Valley’s a great technical wrestler, but he’s no aerialist. Why did he do that?”

He frowned at the screen for a full three minutes, unspeaking.

“Clark,” he said at last, “I need you to get back to the DCW.”

“I’ve only got five days left in my break,” Clark said. “I’ll go back--”

“I’m sorry,” said Bruce, “But I need you to go back now. Get Clark Kent, intrepid reporter, back on the job. I need you back in that locker room. I’ve just got a bad feeling about this.”

“Yes sir, right away sir,” Clark snapped, feeling rather nettled.

Bruce frowned. “It’s not that--”

“--You know, you’re not my boss,” Clark said. “Just because I know you’re filthy rich now doesn’t mean--”

“--Don’t make me come over there and kick you,” Bruce said with a self-deprecating gleam in his eye: as if I could right now. “I’m sorry I snapped at you, I wasn’t thinking. It’s just...I’m afraid someone’s going to get hurt, and I think you need to be back there. It’s not that I want you to leave. Far from it.”

Clark huffed an exasperated breath, but the heat was gone out of it. “You’ll respond to my texts?” he asked, pointing an accusing finger at Bruce.

Bruce crossed his heart. “I will.”

“You’ll talk to me on the phone every night?”

“Nothing could stop me.”

“I expect to come see you whenever we’re in the area.”

“You’d better.”

“And you’ll do as Dr. Kinsolving says and you won’t push yourself too hard?”

“Clark!” Bruce looked mock-appalled, as if Clark had finally gone beyond the pale.

“I shall remind him of your injunction when necessary, sir,” cut in Alfred, pausing in the door before coming in to pick up the plate of cookies, and Bruce groaned in surrender. “And I gather from this,” Alfred went on, “That Mr. Kent shall be leaving us in the morning?”

“Unless Bruce demands I leave this very minute,” Clark said.

“I think you can stay one more night,” Bruce said solemnly.

“I shall miss you, sir,” said Alfred. “It has been a long time since I have heard Master Bruce laugh as often as he has these last few weeks.” He nodded politely to Clark and took his leave.

“Well,” said Bruce. He was rather more pink in the cheeks than usual. “How should we spend our last night together for a while?”

“We could go over that list of different kinds of Kryptonite again,” said Clark. It had started as a lark, deciding different colors did different things, and since then had evolved into a rather complicated system.

“Actually,” said Bruce, “I was hoping you’d put the cot away and sleep next to me tonight. I’m doing so much better,” he said quickly as Clark opened his mouth. “I checked with Shondra and she gave me a checklist of activities that should be fine if we take it slow.”

“A checklist?”

“It’s in the nightstand.”

Clark pulled out the carefully-written list, his eyebrows rising as he read it. “I can’t believe you asked her about all of these things,” he said. “I’m never going to be able to face her again.”

“Sex is a fact of life, Clark. Doctors are unfazed by these things.”

“She said number 7 was okay? Really?” Clark gave Bruce a dubious look.

“Absolutely. I intend to start with number one and work my way down the list as far as we can get,” Bruce said. “Consider it rehabilitation.”

“I’m always glad to help with rehabilitation,” Clark murmured. He eased himself onto the bed, careful not to jar Bruce. “So...shall we take it from the top?”

There were fifteen items on the checklist.

They got as far as number 11 before falling asleep in each other’s arms, sated and replete.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-09 01:05 pm (UTC)
willow: Red haired, dark skinned, lollipop girl (Default)
From: [personal profile] willow

I probably have 'THOUGHTS'. Like about Kon. But for now, just giggly happy.


mithen: (Default)

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