Artist: Cycnus39 (Check out her awesome art HERE!)
Characters/Pairings: Clark/Bruce, Diana, Hal Jordan, Wally West, J'onn J'onnz
Genre: hurt/comfort, action, adventure
Word Count: 10,300
Beta: my beloved Mandybu
Written for the Superman/Batman Big Bang on LJ
Summary: During a peace-keeping mission on an alien planet, Bruce and Clark discover that the idyllic planet is hiding some deadly secrets.
Something Always Goes Wrong
“You’re not going.”
“Ha! Try and stop me.”
“Clark. I’m serious.”
Bruce is glaring at Clark from his perch atop the kitchen counter, the only spot in the small apartment that isn’t stacked with papers, clothes, and other assorted items that people usually take with themselves on long trips abroad. Judging by the amount of material debris thrown about the place, it looks like Clark is packing for a trip to Saturn.
He’s actually packing for a trip to Altraieth: a lovely, tropical planet with neutral galactic political views. The Altraieth people are kind, solicitous, and have a near-worshipful appreciation for humans and Earth culture.
They also have a red sun.
“You’re not going. So stop packing.”
Clark doesn’t bother to respond, just holds up two shirts and asks: “Which do you like better: green or blue?”
“Blue,” Bruce responds automatically. He doesn’t want to answer Clark’s question at all—he wants to give Clark the silent treatment until he agrees that going to Altraieth is a terrible, potentially fatal, idea—but Bruce has been trying for years to have a stronger influence over Clark’s sad taste in fashion, and so he can hardly throw away an opportunity to voice an opinion when one is so readily handed to him. “You look good in blue. Stop packing!”
“Blue it is then!” Clark announces, folding the shirt and placing it in a large suitcase.
Bruce runs his fingers through his hair, resisting the urge to tear it from his scalp. “What are you packing civvies for anyway? Aren’t we going to be in costume the whole time?”
“Maybe you’d prefer to spend a week on a tropical paradise in a cape and spandex tights, but I’m not wearing my uniform during any free time we get.”
“You really shouldn’t be going. You could get hurt.”
“Do me a favor? Check the expiration date on the milk.”
Bruce slides off the counter and makes his way over to the refrigerator. There is a distinctly sulky look to the curve of his shoulders as he does so, but he’s not sulking. Batman doesn’t sulk. Batman is a mature adult who understands the dangers of Kryptonians on red-sun planets, and is only trying to make his stubborn Superman understand that, too. “You could die.” And no, there was no petulance in his tone just then. He pulls the milk out and reads: “February 18th.”
“Hmm,” says Clark, wrapping his toothbrush into a plastic bag, which he also places into the suitcase. “We might not get back till after then. Pour it in the sink, please.”
“Painfully. Painfully die,” Bruce continues darkly, watching the milk swirl its way down the drain towards oblivion. Never to return. Never to achieve its true destiny: to sit in a bowl of Fruity Pebbles, waiting to be consumed by Clark.
“Do you see anything else in the fridge that might expire before we get back? I don’t want to come home to a smelly apartment. I have a very sensitive nose, you know.”
“Nope, everything else looks like it’ll be just fine because you are not going!”
“Bruce,” Clark sighs, turning from his overstuffed suitcase to glare at his lover. “There is no danger. I’m going. The Altraieths said that the Rynans have asked specifically for my presence.
“And,” he continues, stepping over a pile of dirty laundry as he walks toward Bruce, “you’ll be there the whole time to make sure I don’t slam my fingers in a door or cut myself shaving or get a paper cut.”
Bruce looks away from Clark, trying to hold onto both his annoyance at him for being so naïve, as well as trying to hold onto his concerns—and they are reasonable concerns!—for his lover’s safety on a red-sun planet. Clark should just stay put on Earth while the rest of the Justice League oversee the negotiations surrounding this new peace treaty.
But suddenly Bruce finds himself caught between a rock and a hard place, or more specifically, trapped between the sink and Clark’s overpowering presence, and out of sheer habit, leans against the other man’s chest, his worries swirling like milk down the proverbial drain.
Clark wraps his arms around Bruce’s waist and Bruce reciprocates the action.
“My big brave Bat will be there to keep me from harm,” Clark says, and Bruce smiles against his shoulder. “Besides,” Clark says, “you don’t want to leave me all alone on Earth on Valentine’s Day, do you?”
Clark feels it happening before he even steps off the Javelin onto Altraieth soil. In fact, he’s felt it happening since they first entered the Altraieth system: the slow sapping of his strength, his powers dwindling to nothing. The regularization, he often calls it whenever it occurs, and usually it bothers him, but not today. Today it is his choice. Today, he isn’t being tortured under red solar radiation or chained in power-dampening blue Kryptonite. Today, he hasn’t been cursed into powerlessness by an evil sorcerer or stranded on a planet orbiting a red star. Today, he is standing with his teammates in front of an approaching Altraieth welcoming party with Bruce at his side, a warm breeze in his hair, and the sounds of a nearby shoreline in his ears. It is unbelievably calm and peaceful here on this planet, beautiful beyond words, the very definition of paradise. And best of all, the temporary loss of his powers is his choice.
“Gone,” he whispers to Bruce, a smug smile coloring his voice. “My powers are gone, and would you look at that? I haven’t collapsed in agony or anything.”
“Yet,” Bruce mutters, his expression drawn down into a sour grimace, but Clark isn’t sure if that grimace is directed towards him or Flash, who is already complaining loudly about how hungry he is.
“I’m just saying,” Flash continues, hopping up and down like a child in desperate need of Ritalin. “There was hardly anything to eat on the Javelin, and isn’t there supposed to be a welcome feast for us…?”
“Quiet, Wally,” Green Lantern snaps, which only works in silencing the speedster for about five and a half seconds.
Under the cover of the Flash’s starved whining, Clark turns toward Bruce slightly and asks in a low voice: “Why are you so uptight about me being on a planet with a red sun?”
“Don’t you remember what happened last time?”
“You mean when Morgana turned the Earth’s sun red? Yeah, but that wasn’t anything—”
“No—well, yes, that was a disaster, too, but I mean the last time. On Urguoth. The planet with the man-eating—”
“—spiders, yeah, I remember. But Bruce, that was an entirely different situation. We were under attack by those club-wielding soul-eaters and—”
“The point is Urguoth had a red sun, and you were vulnerable.”
“You do just fine without powers. So why are you so worried that I—?”
“I’ve had training.”
“There are plenty of normal people on Earth who live long, happy, healthy lives. I don’t need powers to survive, you know.”
“You do in our line of work.”
Clark sighs in annoyance and looks away towards the Altraieth welcoming party, who are almost within hearing distance. “This is a glorified PR mission,” he says through gritted teeth, even as he smiles a greeting towards their Altraieth hosts. “Nothing is going to go wrong. Nothing is going to happen to me.”
“Hmmph,” Bruce grunts. “Something always goes wrong. Something always happens to you.”
“Greetings Sirs and Madam of the Justice League of Earth!” calls the leader of the approaching Altraieth party once they are within hearing distance. “I am Mano, Speaker of the People of Altraieth, and on behalf of our planet, we are honored to welcome you here as our esteemed guests.”
“You honor us,” Clark says, bowing his head and taking Mano’s hand in greeting. “I am Superman, and this is Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Martian Manhunter.”
“All are known to us,” Mano says joyfully, and the gathered people behind him crane their necks and whisper excitedly to each other, pointing and smiling. “The tales of your exploits have reached even this part of our shared Galaxy, and we are ecstatic for you to share with us in the centennial Renewal of Peace with our ally, Rynan.”
Mano gestures to a more somber group of people, dressed markedly different from the Altraieths, and though they aren’t jumping with barely suppressed excitement like the Altraieths, the Rynans smile politely and bow their heads before the Justice League.
“We look forward to getting to know all of you at the welcoming feast,” Mano continues. He takes Clark’s arm and ushers him forward. Clark can hear the rest of the Justice League following behind, interacting with the overexcited Altraieths and the more reserved Rynans.
Mano leads them to a large tented area on the beach, where a raised dais covered in exotic, alien food sits as the centerpiece of the vicinity. Flash barely waits for permission to begin eating, diving head first for the dais and muttering something about a “fast metabolism” to the giggling delight of a group of Altraieth youth.
“You know what I just found out,” Bruce whispers, sidling up to Clark in the midst of the feast.
“What?” Clark asks, disentangling himself from half a dozen swooning Altraieth women who keep poking at his biceps and abdomen, and making comments on how strong and brave and handsome he is.
“I just learned that the Rynans’ planet has a yellow sun,” Bruce says. “I wish they could have held this peace treaty conference there instead of here.”
“Stop worrying, Bruce,” Clark says, more than a little annoyed at this point. “There is no chance of any hostility between the Rynans and the Altraieths during this renewal of their peace treaty we’re overseeing. Our job here is merely for show; these two people love each other. This renewal thing is just a tradition for them. Like…Christmas or something. And they’ve decided to honor us by giving us this cultural opportunity to witness their customs. There is no danger for you to worry about.”
“Still,” Bruce growls, glaring at Wally and Hal who are showboating at the opposite end of the tent, “I’d feel better if this were taking place on Rynan instead of Altraieth.”
“I know,” Clark says, sighing. “But if it makes you feel any better, I’m kind of enjoying being normal. And if I’m happy, you should try and be happy, too.”
“Clark, I’m never happy.”
“Who do you think you’re trying to kid? Now go destroy Hal and Wally’s fun; I know how happy it makes you to yell at them. I promise not to get myself killed while you’re gone.”
Bruce gives him a small, swift smile before storming over to where Flash and Green Lantern are making a spectacle of themselves.
“Sir Superman!” Mano calls as soon as Clark is alone again by the dais. Clark turns to see him bounding forward, a tall, Rynan woman striding along behind him. “I wanted you to meet the ambassador from Rynan. She is the one who asked specifically for your presence here at these proceedings. She is anxious to meet you. She knows almost everything there is to know about your homeworld of Krypton. I’m sure you two will have lots to talk about!” Leaving Clark with the ambassador, Mano bounds away again, heading towards J’onn who has been delighting a group of small children by shape-shifting into their favorite animals.
Clark turns to the ambassador of Rynan, smiling politely. She is of indiscernible age. Her voice is deep and her movements slow yet graceful, as though she is moving underwater, but her face is smooth and her dark eyes sharp and quick.
“So you are Lord Kal-El, the Superman of Earth, and the Last Son of Krypton, of whom so many stories are told.”
“I…yes, I am. But I’m not really a lor—”
“I am Tam Fu, ambassador of Rynan.” There is something in her eyes when she looks at him, something greedy, covetous, and Clark feels the hairs at the back of his neck stand up straight. “I have waited many years for this moment,” she whispers, and Clark feels oddly as though she has forgotten he can hear her. “So long. Too long.”
“Um…thank you,” he says, looking around for Bruce—or anyone really—to save him from this awkward interaction.
“Tell me,” the ambassador says, standing far too close to him, “tell me how it feels. All that power. Tell me what that’s like.”
Evasive maneuvers, his mind is shouting, abort mission! “Uh…they’re…nice. I don’t have them at the moment because of the—”
“The red sun, yes,” she says. “Yes, of course. But has the memory of that power faded away as well under this red star? Please, tell me. I’ve waited so long to meet a Kryptonian who has experienced yellow-star radiation.”
“They’re nice,” he says again, his mind too occupied with thoughts of escape to come up with a more satisfying answer for the prying delegate.
“Nice,” she says with a mocking laugh. “You spend your days amongst the clouds, amongst stars, moving so fast that time itself cannot keep up with you. And it is…nice?”
“I…yeah,” he replies, annoyed and embarrassed and where is everyone, can’t they see I’m dying here?
“My dear Lord Kal-El!” she laughs again. “I’d be careful if I were you. The way you appear to think so little of your gifts, some would say that you were unworthy of them.”
“I’m not a lord, but yes, thank you, I’m sorry, I need to have a word with my teammates, excuse me.” He walks away before she can answer him, not daring to look back, and finds Bruce in conversation with Diana and a group of older Altraieths. He stands on the periphery of their group, pretending to listen, but really spends his time on the lookout for Ambassador Fu, preparing for her to jump out at him at any moment, armed with more invasive questions and ignorant of any and all personal boundaries.
“Everything all right?” Bruce asks him after the Altraieths and Diana disperse, leaving them alone in the middle of the darkening dais.
“Sure,” Clark answers, swinging a companionable arm around Bruce’s shoulders, his eyes sweeping the dwindling crowd for any sign of the Rynan ambassador. “It’s just a little disconcerting, you know?” He glances at Bruce’s cowled face and winks at him. “All these Superman fans to deal with…”
“Oh the pain of being adored and admired,” Bruce says sarcastically, a nearly unperceivable smile curving his lips.
Clark punches him lightly in the arm, unafraid to do so now that he’s been depowered. “But seriously, it is a little unnerving. You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t actually. Please elaborate.”
Clark chuckles slightly, but there is an edge to his laughter that he can’t hide, an edge that he’s sure Bruce notices. “It’s nothing, I guess I’m just tired.” The minute he says it, he regrets it. “Don’t even start, Bruce—”
“I didn’t say anything—”
“I know you were thinking it.”
“Thinking what? That you’re tired because you’re not used to being—”
“—under a red sun? Is that what I was thinking? Because you’re right, it was.”
“Fine,” Clark says, releasing Bruce’s shoulders and stretching his arms until he hears his joints pop. “You’re right; I am tired, and I’m not used it being depowered. Although Lord knows I should be, what with Luthor trying to murder me every other Thursday.”
Bruce snorts and says: “Well then, we should probably find out where we will be sleeping.”
“I hear they’ve assigned us the same room. Won’t that be fun? Being roommates? If you want, you can inspect the room for, you know, hidden landmines and poison gas. God only knows what sort of nefarious dangers are lurking on this peaceful, idyllic planet. Dangers that are just waiting to waylay poor helpless Kryptonians like me.”“Oh I thoroughly intend to inspect the room. I think I’ll start with the beds.”
END PART ONE
Part Two is HERE