Sea and Sky:

Sparring

by 'rith



Archive: Ask first, please.
Notations: m/m relationship, nothing explicit. No sex for the slash fans and enough implied for the gen fans to avoid on principle. I'm satisfied. ;)
Fandom: Modern comicsverse. S&S series. The previous parts can be found at http://www.offpanel.net/kerithwyn/. Disclaimer: All characters property of DC Comics. What I have done with them is mine.



"I have a letter for you, Master Bruce."

"What is it? Another benefit? Put in on the pile," Bruce replied absently.

Alfred placed it on the desk in front of him. "Rather more personal. An invitation to lunch, from Master Kent."

"Clark?" Bruce raised an eyebrow. "Hm." He looked at the message and smiled a little. "Broad daylight. Neutral ground. Hedging his bets, I see."

"Merely trying to even the odds, I'd wager," Alfred remarked dryly.

"Yes indeed. Well. Let's hear what he has to say."

***

Clark had chosen an upscale restaurant with an open courtyard, probably hoping the setting would put Bruce at ease. At the very least the chance of being spied on or overheard was considerably less when were seated away from other diners. Not to mention, Bruce thought with sardonic amusement, the added benefit of the sun-washed courtyard on Kryptonian light-hungry cells.

The maître d' recognized him, of course, and was quick to assure the illustrious Mr. Wayne that his meeting would not be disturbed by overly solicitous servers. Discretion would be his very watchword...with the implicit promise of a healthy addition to the bill at the end.

Clark was already there, reading a newspaper and ostentatiously pretending not to have noticed Bruce's arrival. Bruce approached, standing--of course--so his shadow would fall over the paper. The tiny details made the game so enjoyable, after all.

Clark looked up and smiled. "Bruce. Thank you for coming."

"Clark. How could I resist?" He sat, casually scanning the area for anything out of place. Clark was watching him, no doubt amused at his supposedly unwarranted paranoia. It had kept him alive this long, hadn't it? That alone was enough reason for vigilance to become second-nature.

The head waiter brought salads, then withdrew with haste. Clark looked at him directly. "I'm not going to play games. I asked you here because I was worried about you."

Bruce blinked a bit--or would have, if he hadn't suppressed the reaction. "That's interesting. No reason to be."

Clark sighed. "Come on, Bruce. I'm your friend, at least as much as you let me be. You've been, well, sulking here in Gotham and I'd like to help, if I can."

"'Sulking.' Hm." Bruce chewed slowly on his salad, making Clark wait. "I've been busy."

"I went to see Dick."

Bruce raised an eyebrow. "And...?"

"I was just wondering...if your, uh, absence had anything to do with his relationship with Garth."

Bruce put his fork down, deliberately precise. "I thought you knew me better than that."

Clark didn't drop his gaze. "So did I. And Dick says that isn't the reason either, so if there's something *else*...but he did say you and he were having problems."

The thing was--

The thing was, there was nothing to discuss. Nothing that he would ever voice. Nothing that anyone but he and Dick, and by association Garth and Alfred (who knew altogether too much!) would ever know. *Especially* not Clark.

But there were other things he *could* say, no less true. "Well. As I told Dick once--isn't it always this way?"

Clark frowned in the same uncomprehending way Dick had. "What way?"

"Between fathers and sons." Just so slightly off-center to the full truth. "Perhaps it's petty, but I'm not first in his life any more. He's all grown up and doesn't need me any longer. I will," he smiled briefly, "'get over it.'"

"Oh!" Clark looked surprised, then relieved. "That's all?"

"I appreciate your concern, Kal," Bruce replied softly, and that was enough to make the other man blush in pleased response. It would have been blatant manipulation if the sentiment wasn't also true.

"Well...good, then." Clark grinned slightly. "I have to admit, I was starting to think that you were hiding from everyone *else's* reactions."

Bruce snorted. "Not likely."

"No. Not likely." Clark picked up his fork, started to eat, paused. "He really does seem happy, you know."

"So everyone has gone out of their way to tell me." Bruce sighed as if disappointed in Clark's lack of deductive skills, another part of the game. "Did you really think I wouldn't *know?*"

Clark rolled his eyes. "Of course. I forgot, just for a moment, that you know everything."

"Not everything. Just enough."

"Close enough to fool the rest of the world, anyway."

"Some of us don't have--"

"--the benefit of superpowers to keep ahead, I know." Clark grinned at him.

If Kal could finish the sentence for him, he'd become far too predictable. *That* wouldn't do. He waited until Clark had lifted his glass for a drink, then said casually, "I'm dating Selina Kyle."

Even Kryptonian physiology couldn't keep Clark from sputtering as water went down the wrong pipe. Bruce waited patiently for him to recover, hiding a smirk. Clark coughed one last time and looked at him, shocked. "Since when do you volunteer anything about your personal life?"

"Since it's likely to hit the society papers, and I didn't feel like waiting for an interrogation." It was a test, too. J'onn knew about Selina's alter-ego, but since Clark's first words hadn't been "but she's Catwoman!," he probably didn't.

"But-- you mean-- *dating* dating. Not just for show?" Bruce nodded, carefully straight-faced. Clark's astonishment was just too much...fun. His voice dropped. "Does she know?"

"Yes." Clark's jaw dropped again. Bruce added dryly, "It would hardly be *fair* any other way, would it?"

Clark sat back in his chair, shaking his head. "Just when I think I understand you."

"That was your first mistake," Bruce told him, and smiled.



{end}