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[personal profile] mithen
Title: Champion (74/74)
Relationship: Bruce Wayne/Clark Kent
Characters: Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Lex Luthor, Joker, Tim Drake, Guy Gardner, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd
Continuity: Heroes of the Squared Circle, a DC/pro wrestling fusion.
Warnings/Spoilers: None
Rating: PG-13
Word Count 2700
Summary: One year later, the state of the DCW.

As all art is said to aspire to the condition of music, all wrestling aspires to the condition of brotherly love. --Thomas Hackett

Excerpts from Lex Luthor’s blog:

Today marks the one-year anniversary of my leaving the DCW, and all I can say to you, my faithful readers, is--I told you so. I told you that without me Wayne would run my family’s promotion into the ground, and it’s obvious that’s what he’s in the process of doing. Some of you are waking up to the truth, but there are still a lot of sheep out there who don’t get it, who are just going to keep baaing along, saying everything is fine as he runs my promotion off a cliff.

This latest hire is utterly typical--Wayne promoting his indie darlings instead of supporting the tried and true wrestlers who have proven their worth. This kid is dangerous, I tell you. His instincts in the ring are bad, and he cannot be trusted to keep his co-workers safe. That finishing move--did you watch his match last night? Drake might be legit hurt after that. He’s too green, too reckless, he’s a loose cannon.

Or just as another example, Joker as heavyweight champ? Come on, we all know who runs the books there. He’s putting himself over at the expense of other people who need the rub more. It’s a travesty, it’s a shame, and it’s a waste. When the DCW goes bankrupt and I have to come in and pick up the pieces…

“I can’t believe you’re reading that,” said Red Hood, his voice muffled behind the metallic scarlet mask. “I can’t believe you’re paying that jackass money to be a member and read his stupid opinions.”

Tim Drake shrugged, still scrolling.

“Jackass,” Red Hood muttered in the direction of a distant Lex Luthor.

Clark handed Red Hood a bottle of water. “He might be a jackass, and wrong about a lot of things, but when he’s right, he’s really right. I bet he’s back working in the DCW some day.”

“No way,” boggled Red Hood.

“We would have said the same thing about you once, buddy,” said Tim. “And here you are.”

Red Hood peeled off his mask to reveal Jason Todd’s grinning, sardonic face. “Here I am, slumming it up with the pretend fighters again,” he said, taking a gulp of water.

“Shut up,” Tim said. “Luthor’s right, by the way. That finishing move is dangerous.”

“Not when it’s done right. And I always do it right.” Jason punched Tim on the shoulder. “As you knew when you agreed to take it, and it went fine. Looked like a million bucks. So quit whining.”

Tim rolled his eyes. “Whatever.”

Jason leaned against the wall, looking at all the people in costumes coming and going, listening to the chatter. “It’s good to be back. I missed this,” he said in a low voice after a while.

Tim didn’t look up from his phone, but he smiled. “It missed you too,” he said.


Jimmy Olsen jumped a foot at the sound of Clark’s voice behind him. “Uh, yeah Clark?” he said. “I was just on my way to, uh, set up the cameras for that promo with Sinestro.”

“I’ll come help,” said Clark, falling into step beside him.

“You know,” Clark said after a moment. “We never found out who it was that was leaking information to Perry White’s dirt sheet. Isn’t that a shame?”

“Sure is,” Jimmy agreed, tugging at his collar.

“Bruce thinks he’s pretty sure he knows who it is, though.”

“I knew this was coming,” muttered Jimmy. “Should I pack my stuff?”

Clark clapped Jimmy on the back. “Believe it or not, Jimmy, the dirt sheets are an important part of this industry. Checks and balances and all that. They can even let the people in charge know about problems they weren’t aware of. So no, I don’t think you need to pack your stuff.”

“Oh my God,” Jimmy said, dumbfounded. “Th-thank you, Clark. Thank you!”

“But Jimmy?”


“Make sure there’s just enough easily-debunked misinformation mixed in to keep people on their toes. Tell them who’s going to win the title and then be wrong now and then. Tell them someone’s injured just before they appear healthy on the show. I don’t care what it is, just… don’t be a hundred percent reliable.” Clark smiled. “Because if you get too reliable, it won’t be me having this chat with you. It’ll be Bruce. Got it?”

Jimmy swallowed hard. “Got it.”

“Great! Now let’s go get set up for that promo.”

“...I know all of you are hoping to make it to the main roster someday, become a superstar.” Dick Grayson looked out at the gathered young women wrestlers at the Training Center with a smile. “Well, I’m here to tell you that if you want to keep up with the likes of Wonder Woman, Power Girl, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, Batgirl… you’re going to have to step your game to levels you’ve barely even dreamed of. The competition up there is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. It’s not enough to just be good at the moves--you’ve got the moves. You’re going to need something extra. You have to learn to tell a story, to express your character to us, to connect with the audience. That connection--that’s the most important thing about wrestling. I know you all have it in you. You’re here to see if you can bring it out.”

“He’s a good teacher,” Bea whispered to Clark and Bruce, and Bruce nodded proudly.

“But I’m also living, breathing proof,” Dick was going on, “That the DCW isn’t the only game in town!” A few of the young wrestlers cast nervous glances at Clark and Bruce, but Dick just winked at the two of them. “It’s a new era, and if things don’t work out for you here, don’t assume that you’re some kind of failure. There’s always opportunities for talented people. It’s time to follow your dream, wherever it may go.”

He finished up his speech to applause and turned the floor back over to Tora, who smiled and thanked him. Dick wandered over and linked arms with Bruce. “How goes?” he asked as they left the classroom and wandered into the gym, where Alfred was plying hungry wrestlers with homemade protein bars.

“Ratings are up from last year--not skyrocketing, but climbing steadily,” said Bruce.

“Morale among the talent is...okay,” said Clark, grimacing. Just this morning he had had to tell a writer he was fired for using his influence to harass some of the women wrestlers.

“There are always problems,” said Bruce, “You’re just more aware of them since you’re the liaison. You take it too much to heart.”

“Personally, I hear a lot of good things,” Dick said, stopping to do a few chin-ups. “But I’m not going to tell you from whom.”

“Clark!” Guy Gardner’s voice broke into their conversation. “Clark, I need you to talk with this kid.”

The “kid” he had in tow was in his early twenties, with dark curly hair cut close to his scalp. “Simon, this is Clark. Clark, Simon Baz. Tell Simon he needs to lose his mask.”

“I’ve always worked masked,” Simon said angrily. “Look, with my background--”

“Simon’s parents are from Lebanon. They’re Muslim,” Guy explained. Clark already knew that, but it didn’t seem the best time to say so.

“--I’m just saying working masked was better than being given a turban and scimitar or whatever,” Simon snapped. “I’m not doing some stupid terrorist gimmick and that’s that.”

“Kid,” said Guy, “you’re not gonna get a stupid-ass terrorist gimmick! We want you in the Green Lantern Corps!”

“Hal Jordan’s in the Corps, and he wears a mask,” Simon said, looking at Clark.

Clark chewed on his lip for a moment. “Look, I’m not going to tell you I understand, Simon, because I’ve never had to worry about stuff like that. Being cast as a hayseed because I’m from Kansas isn’t the same thing at all.”

“Damn straight,” muttered Simon.

“But we want more people from more backgrounds in the DCW, and I think you’re more valuable--not just to the company, but to the world--as a character closer to your true self. We want you to have a character, not a gimmick. Especially, to borrow Guy’s words, a stupid-ass gimmick like that.”

Simon shook his head, but for the first time there was something like hope in his eyes. Hearing it from one of the bosses might have made the difference. Clark hoped it would.

“Think about it, that’s all we’re asking,” Clark said.

“See?” Bruce said as Simon and Guy walked away, deep in conversation. “I never would have done so well.”

“Oh, come on,” said Clark.

Bruce chuckled. “I would have told him that we’re hoping to break into the Middle Eastern market and he’s more valuable to us unmasked.”

“This is also true,” said Clark. “But you’re right, I’m not sure that cold financial calculation would have been the best approach.”

They looked out at the Training Center. Killer Croc was in the medical bay, having his knee looked at after an injury. Beyond him, in the gym, there were young wrestlers training hard: Jaime Reyes, Karen Beecher, Celine Patterson, Kenan Kong--and more that Clark hadn’t learned the names to yet. The promise of the future. The value of the past. All of it here.

“Look at our legacy,” Bruce said. “Not bad for a couple of scrappy indie wrestlers.”

“Not bad at all,” Clark said.

“You think you can beat me? Take my title? Fool!” Joker’s shrill voice rang out above the crowd noise. “I’ll never let you be champion!”

Clark could hear murmurs break out among the audience. Maybe a long time ago, people hadn’t known the power a booker had to decide who won and who lost; but in this day and age, it was generally known that Jack Napier chose who would hold that belt aloft at the end of the match. Joker’s words held a double edge to them, both as kayfabe villain and as backstage power broker, and they sank into the audience like a rock into a pool of acid. Shouts of outrage rang out, and Joker grinned madly as he kicked the exhausted Superman’s legs out from under him, sending him crashing to the mat.

Superman struggled to his knees, looking up at his tormentor, and Joker slapped him across the face twice, hard.

Clark’s ears rang with the impact--Napier hadn’t bothered to pull the blows, and while Clark appreciated that at an intellectual level, they hurt. Superman swung wildly at Joker, who danced out of the way easily and kicked him in the chest, knocking him onto his back. Joker went for the pin, and Clark heard voices shrieking in panic, begging him to kick out, Superman, kick out, kick out please. There was despair in them, and a growing resignation: Superman was never going to win the heavyweight championship. The time was never right. He was going to be the greatest wrestler to never reach that pinnacle.

As the referee’s hand came down to strike to mat for the third time, Superman lurched out of the pin. Gasps of relief, cries of support. Clark looked at his opponent, and beneath Joker’s rictus grin there was a true smile of glee: we’ve got them now.

“I’ll destroy everything you love!” Joker screamed in a frenzy of sadistic joy. “Power Girl, Supergirl, Superboy, all your girls and boys, this whole promotion--I’ll ruin it all!” He threw his arms out, cackling wildly.

“It’s time,” said the ref under his breath, touching his earpiece. “Take it home.”

Clark gathered his strength, focused his will, and when he came to his feet he was Superman, borne aloft by righteous fury and the desire to protect the innocent, to protect his family and friends and this very world itself. “Never, Joker!” he cried, and launched a flurry of punches at Joker that left him reeling.

The both wavered on their feet for a long moment, staggering, exhausted. Then Joker slipped to his knees, his eyes glazed.

Clark climbed to the top turnbuckle, hearing the crowd going crazy as they realized--if he could pull off his finishing move--! He stood, looking out at them all, gathering their energy up into an incandescent beacon of hope. How they wanted him to win, to transcend evil, to prove that there was a place for good in this world. Gratitude and something close to awe touched him: that a flawed, finite human being like himself could, for one instant, stand for the dreams and hopes of these people. Could somehow become something more, if only for a moment.

Joker staggered to his feet and it was the moment, it was time. Superman launched himself from the turnbuckle into the hurricanrana Bruce had, so long ago, given him the confidence to execute; wrapping his legs around Joker’s neck, he twisted his body so that Joker went flying across the ring to crumple against the ropes, unmoving.

Clark heard the crowd screaming as one as he grabbed Joker’s leg and dragged him into the middle of the ring, he heard Napier’s harsh breaths in his ear. “Congratulations,” Napier whispered under his breath as the referee’s fist came down once--twice--three times.

The bell rang, and Superman was the heavyweight champion at last.

Clark felt the breath leave him as if he’d been punched in the stomach at the sound that rose up from the audience: a great triumphant yell of joy that seemed to shake the ring beneath them. He staggered to his feet and the referee grabbed his hand, lifting it in the air. Tears blurred Clark’s vision, fracturing everything into prismatic fractals. He could hardly breathe.

Bruce was there. Bruce Wayne, CEO of the DCW, throwing his arms around Superman, grabbing his head, kissing his forehead. Conner was there, hugging Kara, laughing. The referee handed Superman the title, and Superman held it aloft, beaming, tears running down his face.

The next part happened so suddenly Clark hardly even realized what was going on--the audience, surging forward, started tumbling over the barricades, storming the ring. Security shot Bruce panicked looks, subsiding only when Bruce made a quick calming gesture. There was no way to stop them, after all.

And so people clambered into the ring, reaching to touch Superman, as if to be sure of his reality, to feel the true solid presence of him. A woman’s shaking hand wiped the tears from his face; a man threw his arms around him, clapping him on the back. Others embraced Kara or Conner or the other wrestlers--for the locker room had cleared out, all of the babyfaces coming to ring to both celebrate and make sure no one got hurt. It was chaos, it was beautiful, it was terrifying and breathtaking.

Clark reached out and took Bruce’s hand in the bedlam, holding on.

And then he gasped as he felt himself lifted aloft, hoisted onto the shoulders of two strangers, two random men from the audience who simply wanted to lift him higher, to let everyone see their champion. Bruce’s hand slipped from his, even as he tried to grasp it, and he was borne upward as if carried by the joy of the audience. He was flying, soaring. He raised the belt above his head and the cheers cascaded upward into rapture, pure and transcendent.

The eyes of thousands of people were on him and Clark knew, in that moment of his victory, that he would live forever in the hearts of everyone who witnessed him. That he could never die, not truly, not while they carried that image in their souls.

He was untouchable. He was immortal. He was, in that timeless second, eternal.

He looked down to where Bruce smiled up at him. There were tears on Bruce’s face as he held up his hand in salute: My hero, he mouthed as the crowd lifted Clark away, tore them apart once again. But that distance didn’t matter, it didn’t matter at all. Clark knew that they would always come back together somehow--as enemies, as friends, as lovers. No matter what.

The story would continue.

The story would never end.


mithen: (Default)

October 2017

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