mithen: (Misty Batman)
[personal profile] mithen
Title: The World's Greatest Detective Has a Belated Epiphany
Pairing/Characters: Bruce/Clark, Alfred
Rating: PG
Warnings/Spoilers: None
Fandom: DC Comics
Summary: When Dick Grayson runs off with Roy Harper, Bruce Wayne is horrified--because he knows Clark Kent is on his way to the Manor to tell Bruce he's in love with Dick! Luckily, Bruce is ready to get through this with all the aplomb he usually has when dealing with interpersonal relationships. (Alfred wisely takes cover).
Notes: Basic plot gleefully and unabashedly swiped from Georgette Heyer's delightful short story "A Husband for Fanny."
Word Count: 2200

Bruce stared, but the piece of paper in his hand remained real and obdurate. He turned it over, as if he might find "Ha ha, just kidding!" on the back, but there was nothing extra, nothing to mitigate the shock. He stared around Dick's room as if he might be hiding in the closet or under the bed, ready to jump out laughing--but no, this was horrifyingly, agonizingly, not a joke.

He looked back at the paper and read again Dick's familiar scribbled handwriting:

Dear Bruce,

I'm really sorry to do this to you, but with the new law--now that we can get married Roy says he can't stand to wait another day, and that if we tell you it'll just become a crazy mess. I couldn't bring myself to tell you because you've told me so many times not to get involved with someone on the same team. I know you'll be mad and say this is unprofessional, but I'm in love, Bruce, and have been for a while. I'm an adult now and so you're just going to have to forgive me.

Much love,


P.S. Tell Clark I'm sorry.

"My God, how could he do this?" Bruce groaned to Alfred, handing him the note and burying his head in his hands. "Of all the selfish, cruel--"

"--Cruel, sir?" Alfred looked rather pale as he folded the note, but nowhere near as agitated as Bruce. "How so?"

Bruce glared at Alfred over his shoulder as he stormed down the stairs. "You know as well as I do, Alfred, that he and Clark--well, that Clark has feelings for Dick."

"I do?" murmured Alfred.

Bruce whirled on the vast mahogany staircase, throwing his hands out. "It's obvious! They've been close ever since I adopted him--not that there was ever a hint of anything improper on Clark's side," he interjected fiercely, "But Dick has always hero-worshipped him."

"I will grant that," said Alfred.

"And in the last few months--come on, you've noticed that Clark has been coming over for dinner nearly every week."

"It would be hard to miss the depleted larder, sir."

"And Dick invited him to spend Christmas with us, and he accepted."

"A pleasant time was had by all."

"In fact, he's taken to hanging out here on the weekends in general, even when Dick isn't here--clearly in the hopes of running into him."

"Clearly," Alfred said, his voice dry.

"And Clark even asked Dick to the Fortress last week. For a 'guided tour of the new wing,' he said. I asked Dick how it went and he just smiled and said they'd talked about some really interesting things. I didn't pry, but I'm pretty sure they--you know--reached some sort of understanding there."

Bruce stopped and took a deep breath, remembering the strange way his heart had ached at the sight of Dick's smile. He was happy for them, he really was. Everyone loved Dick, and Clark--well, not everyone could see past the dazzling Superman exterior to the person inside, not everyone could cherish the sweet, dorky, slightly-shy soul that was Clark, but clearly Dick was wise for his years.

Or so Bruce had thought, until fifteen minutes ago.

"I have half a mind to hunt them down and drag him back here," he growled.

"I'm sure that would cool his ardor for young Mr. Harper," said Alfred.

"Of course not, but… this is unbearable!" He waved the letter at Alfred, pointing to the curt postscript. "He even knows he needs to apologize, but he tells me to do it! How could he be so blind, Alfred? How could he prefer some callow boy to the kindest, bravest, most faithful soul in the world?"

"Love can make fools of the best of us, sir," observed Alfred.

"You think this is funny?" Bruce demanded at the very slight quirking of Alfred's lips. "Clark's heart is going to break, and I'm going to have to be the one to break it! All because Dick had to--"

The doorbell rang, and he froze as Alfred looked at the clock.

"It is precisely seven o'clock, sir, and so that is most likely--"

"--Clark," groaned Bruce. "Here for his weekly dinner."

"And ever punctual."

Bruce looked down at the Persian rug, at its tangled knots and whorls, remembering how he had been looking forward to Clark's arrival, anticipating hearing his laughter mingle with Dick's and make the whole Manor alive and full of light. Only twenty minutes ago.

"Shall I get the door, sir?"

Bruce shook his head. "No. I'll do it."

Squaring his shoulders, he strode to the door and threw it open.

Clark was there, dressed in a midnight-blue silk shirt and a black blazer--he had never bothered dressing frumpily when he came to visit the Manor, instead wearing clothes that flattered him, brought out the unearthly blue of his eyes even behind their thick lenses. He was holding a bouquet of scarlet roses, and Bruce felt sick anticipation gnaw at his belly. "Won't you come in?" he said numbly.

Clark smiled and hoisted the roses. "A little overly conventional, I suppose." He shifted from foot to foot, looking somewhat nervous.

"No, they're...very nice. I'll have Alfred put them in some water."

Clark walked past him to the library where they always sat and talked for a little while before dinner was served. "Is Dick out?" he asked, looking around the firelit room.

"He had some other things he had to do tonight," said Bruce. "He asked me to give you his regrets," he choked out. He couldn't do it, he realized. It was impossible, sheerly impossible to ask him to turn all the shy eagerness in those eyes to dust and ashes. If he could just get through this evening, then he could tell Dick he had to do it himself, if he could just--

"Maybe that's just as well," Clark was saying, and his smile was definitely nervous this time, "Because there's something I wanted to talk to you about in private."

Bruce stiffened in shock. Oh God. Clark was going to do something old-fashioned and impossibly gallant like ask Bruce for the pleasure of courting his son, wasn't he? If it were anyone else, he would laugh at the thought, but of course Clark--considerate, kind, cautious Clark--would want to be sure he had Bruce's approval. "Yes?" he said, unable to trust his voice with more than that strained monosyllable.

"I suspect you know why I'm here," Clark said, and he was going to have to do this, he couldn't let Clark continue in hope. Why didn't you tell me sooner? he could hear Clark saying, hurt and trying to hide it. How could you let me go on thinking…

"I do," said Bruce, and swallowed hard. "And I have to tell you that--that it's impossible. I'm sorry."

Clark's sweet, wry smile disappeared utterly, and the blank, shocked expression that replaced it seemed to saw at Bruce's heart like a dull knife. "Impossible?"

"It's not you," Bruce managed through what felt like a mouthful of sawdust, of chalk, of razor blades. "It's--there's someone else."

"Someone else." Clark shook his head slowly, frowning. "I can't…" He took a long, slow breath and sank into his chair by the fire in a strange sort of slow motion, drifting. "But--I just talked to Dick last week, and he said--he was so encouraging, so happy…"

Anger nestled under Bruce's breastbone, burrowing and burning. He tried to keep his voice level. "I'm sorry, Clark. I have no idea why he would say such a thing. It was--terribly irresponsible of him, and I apologize."

Clark--winced. For a long moment he gazed into the fire, and Bruce felt as though his own soul were writhing in the flames, dying. When he spoke, his voice was flat and lifeless: "May I at least ask who?"

It wouldn't be a secret for long anyway, if they were actually eloping. "Roy Harper."

He had expected a wry chuckle, or perhaps stoic acceptance. He had not expected Clark to stare at him as though he had just announced that Dick had run off with Mogo the sentient planet. "What?"

"Is it that unexpected?" Bruce said wearily, turning from the disbelief in those beautiful eyes to gaze out the window. "He's young, he's handsome--"

"You bastard," Clark cut him off, his voice low and filled with fury. "You complete and utter bastard. Never mind me--How could you do that to Dick?"

All of Bruce's inchoate anger flared up at the inexplicable disgust in Clark's voice, seeking something to lash out at. "I didn't do anything! You act as though this is all my fault--I didn't even know until thirty minutes ago!" He was yelling, he realized dimly, and Clark was still staring at him, and Bruce felt an irrational desire to punch the anguish right off his face. "You think I'm okay with this? You think I'm not absolutely furious? I know I told him not to date teammates, but if he'd just talked to me--it's not an iron-clad rule!" It was not, in fact, a rule at all, part of him realized. It was a rationalization for--

He shoved that unpleasant thought deep down below his anger and continued, ignoring the way Clark's face was going from furious to puzzled: "To run off like this is some kind of ridiculous Victorian melodrama, and to elope with Oliver Queen's ward, my God, Ollie will never let me live it down." He scrubbed at his face, feeling suddenly weary and drained and utterly miserable. "Clark, I swear I had no idea. I don't know why he didn't tell you he was in love with someone else, I don't know why he let you think there was a chance, and above all I don't know how he could ever fall in love with someone other than you, because you're--you're quite--lovable," he finished with a sense of catastrophic understatement.

There was a long, quiet moment in which the only sound was the crackle of the fireplace. The clutter on top of his desk was suddenly very involving, and he found himself cataloguing it: three Mont Blanc pens, two leather-bound notebooks, seventeen paper clips. A very nice blown-glass paperweight.

"Bruce Wayne," Clark said, his voice stifled as if he were struggling with some strong emotion. "The World's Greatest Detective. Just where did you get that title from, a Cracker Jack box? A gumball machine?"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

Clark stood and advanced until the vast mahogany desk was the only thing between him and Bruce. "You thought I came here to ask you for permission to date Dick?"

"You didn't?"

Clark shook his head.

"But--in the note he left. He told me to tell you he was sorry."

"Yes. He promised he'd be here tonight," said Clark. "Because he said he wanted to be the first to congratulate us."

"Us," said Bruce. He was definitely missing something, it was right there at the edge of his awareness, nearly figured out. "For what?"

Clark's mouth set in a hard line, and he leaned across the desk and grabbed Bruce by the lapels of his suit, leaning close and tilting his head for all the world as if he were going to kiss Bruce. Which was completely crazy and utterly irrational, unless--

Time seemed to slow down as an extremely intriguing theory flickered through Bruce Wayne's mind at lightning speed. He cast his mind back thirty minutes to the moment he read Dick's note and replayed his conversation with Clark with that theory in mind, and by the time he caught back up to the present moment he felt justified in throwing caution to the wind and lunging to meet Clark's mouth in a blaze of glorious and world-changing epiphany.

Three pens, two notebooks, and seventeen paperclips scattered to parts unknown, and Bruce eventually found himself with the blown-glass paperweight digging into his back between his shoulderblades, and he didn't mind at all. "You idiot," mumbled Clark into the hollow of his throat, his voice buzzing against Bruce's skin, "How could you ever think--"

"It seemed...natural," Bruce managed.

"Dick's a nice kid," Clark said. "You, on the other hand, are a not-so-nice man, and I've known I was in love with you for years." His shoulders twitched. "They've been...some of the hardest years of my life," he mumbled, and Bruce felt his heart turn over and lift at the same time. The sensation was...less unpleasant than he would have imagined.

"For my part," Bruce said, keeping his voice casual, "I've known for…" He lifted an arm to peer over Clark's shoulder at his wrist. "Ten minutes."

Clark snorted, and Bruce wrapped his arms around him before going on:

"And they've been some of the happiest minutes of my life."
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