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Fic: Sparked; Bruce/Clark; PG-13, Part 3/3

Title: Sparked
Series: Sparked Part 3/3
Author: Aravis Tarkheena
Pairing: Bruce Wayne/Clark Kent
Rating: PG-13. Yes, I SERIOUSLY just wrote Bruce/Clark without ANYONE getting naked.
Warnings: None, really? There's a good deal of angst inherent in the thematic elements of this fic. Oh and fire. If you're scared of fire give this a skip.
Disclaimer: Not mine, everyone's legal
Word Count: 16,000/16,000ish? Around there.
Author's Note: Written for the World Finest Gift Exchange prompt F 24: Get to know each other fic: Batman and Superman are unawares of other civilian's identity. Clark is sent to Gotham to try and find some information about the so-called dark knight. Bruce Wayne is annoyed. (DCAU) In retrospect, it seems I took it in a slightly different direction. Hope you like it anyway.

ALSO for the dcu_freeforall Winter Challenge, Prompt 8. Family/Home

Beta: kirax2 She is awesome, and I owe her big for editing this monstrosity.

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3

The cameras should have occurred to him before, really. Bruce clearly had not thought things through as much much as he should have.

Now, he knew for the next time.

Installing them was trickier now, though. Before things had escalated, before the fires had killed and destroyed as much as they had, the people of this neighborhood hadn't been on guard. Setting up the detectors had been a very simple matter. Today, every one was watching everyone else. Exceptionally closely.

Bruce hadn't had to explain his presence once when he installed his monitors the first time. This time he had to explain why he was even in the neighborhood to begin with to at least eight people. They all bought his cover story willingly.

A few of them even recognized Bruce from the night he gave CPR to the Hensen woman.

They welcomed his help, after that. A few of them even stopped to speak with him. According to several of the people Bruce spoke with, people were looking for new homes. Most of them didn't have enough cash saved to start a new rental contract. Some of them were moving in with family. Others residents were squatting a few blocks over in some recently abandoned buildings. Some were staying either out of a sense of obstinacy, apathy, or a mixture of both.

It took Bruce the better part of a day to wire the whole target area on that section of street. He probably could have done it faster without all the interruptions. However, he welcomed the information that came his way. Bruce couldn't help but think that every piece of it helped him, even if he didn't know how it helped yet.

Bruce had considered, briefly,whether or not he should expand his radius, but ultimately decided against it. The arsonist wasn't moving outside his comfort zone. He hadn't given Bruce any reason to believe that he would change MO.

A change in MO would only happen if the arsonist felt threatened. Much to Bruce's, and the entirety of the GCFD's, chagrin the man had no reason to feel threatened in the slightest.

Unless the arsonist lived on the block, and Bruce was almost certain he did not, the man would have no idea Bruce had even been hanging around.


Not that it would matter. The arsonist would be back here, anyway. Arson was a compulsion as much as it was anything else. If there was one thing Bruce understood, it was compulsion. Even if the man did have a breakdown, he wouldn't be able to stop. His behavior would just become erratic and that might just make him easier to catch.

That, however, was all dependent upon whether or not this was the usual sort of arsonist.

Bruce was starting to have his doubts on that matter.

Bruce had been doing research for the past several days on a number of topics relevant to this case. He had found out a number of things that, when all put together, made the whole affair seem considerably more sinister than just a kid with some mental problems and a box of matches.

First of all, arsonists tend to start small and go big. There would have been history of someone from the area setting smaller, practice fires in that area or one of the surrounding neighborhoods. There was no sign of that.

The police and fire department had asked the people in the neighborhood some rather extensive sets of questions on just that topic. They hadn't come up with anything. Bruce had asked similar questions today when he was approached by the residents of the buildings he had been working in. Bruce had received much the same information.

Lots of kids from the area tagged or broke windows in abandoned houses. Not one of them burned things.

The lack of practice fires, or any evidence of there ever having been any, made finding the culprit that much more difficult.

The second issue was with the housing inspector. Bruce had looked into him. His name was James Junco, and on the surface he looked clean. It was when Bruce started digging deeper and asking questions, he found out some more damning information. Junco had his name connected with the Falcone family. Not publicly, of course, but Bruce knew where and how to ask those types of questions.

Those connections made the near criminal negligence of the building inspections considerably more understandable. It wasn't uncommon for slum lords to pay off inspectors. However, Bruce suspected that it wasn't the landlords that were giving Junco the large deposits of cash Junco was using to line a few foreign accounts Bruce had linked to him.

That brought Bruce to the third thing that had caught his attention in this case.

Most of the other buildings on the block were owned by the bank. They had been foreclosed on over the past several years, and were left vacant. They had fallen into disarray as the banks were unable to sell either the buildings or the property.

Until recently.

Someone was buying up most of the buildings on this block. Nearly all the vacant property had been purchased by a corporation, the origins of which Bruce hadn't been able to determine, as of yet. Bruce was willing to make an educated guess and bet it had something to do with Falcone somewhere.

Bruce just hadn't found the connection.


Then there was the fourth issue in this case.

Clark Kent.

After meeting the man, actually meeting in circumstances other than a soot covered encounter in a darkened street in the middle of the night, Bruce was intrigued.

A little too intrigued.

Kent had never even bothered to ask why Bruce had gotten himself involved at all. He had taken Bruce's interest at face value. Kent clearly took Bruce's involvement in this case as genuine concern for the people he had helped, rather than delving deeper into the matter.

Bruce wondered if Kent had questioned Bruce's motivations for a moment.

It spoke of a sort of innocence that was both fascinating and completely out of place in Gotham City.

There were other things about Kent as well, that caught Bruce's interest. The man seemed almost painfully average in every part of his life. However, painfully average people didn't get jobs at a big paper like the Daily Planet just out of college. Painfully average people also didn't rush into burning buildings to save old people.

Painfully average people called the cops.

Bruce had looked into it. The only nine one one call about the fire had come from him.

Kent had a cell phone, Bruce had seen it that morning. There had to have been a reason he chose to rush into the flames without making a call to the police or the fire department.

Bruce couldn't believe it was just instinct.

Painfully average people didn't have those sort of instincts.

Bruce pursed his lips, and climbed out of the cellar he had been working in for the past several hours. He hefted his tool box in his right hand, and stepped out into the fading light of the winter day. The sun hung low and red in the sky, hovering over the bay. Bruce squinted into briefly, before putting his head down to protect his face from the icy, gusting wind, and trudging down the block.

His shoulders were slumped, and his face was buried in his scarf. For a few long moments, Bruce was sure that the scent of smoke had just permeated his scarf from his adventures in CPR from the night before. It took him a several seconds to realize that, not only was he wearing a different scarf today, the scent had a sharp quality that day old smoke lacked.

Bruce's heart began to pound. He pulled the scarf down from over his mouth and nose to lift his face into the wind. It blew and buffeted the scents of smoke and fire all around him.

Bruce dropped his tool kit to the ground and pulled his cell from his pocket as he took off down the street. The smell got stronger the further he ran.

When the phone clicked live and the operator's voice came in over the line, Bruce was already breathing hard. He didn't bother to disguise his voice when he spoke.

He reported the fire, said he wasn't sure about the location but gave them a general estimate. Then he disconnected, and started to run faster.

Bruce found the building that was on fire when he saw people stumbling out the front door. He came to a stop next to the group, shivering and huddled on the sidewalk outside.

Bruce found a middle aged man with his arm around his teenaged daughter. Bruce had spoken with him earlier that day. He had been genial and talkative, quick with a smile and a laugh. Now he looked almost completely different. His mouth was tight with worry and fear. He looked indecisive, as if he couldn't pick the proper course of action.

Bruce grasped the man by the shoulder, and spun him around so they were face to face. He looked a bit startled when Bruce met his eyes.

“Is there anyone still inside?” Bruce demanded, urgency clear in his voice.

The man just shook his head.

“I can't really tell who got out yet. Everyone's scatted,” the man replied.

Bruce nodded.

“Did you call the fire department?” Bruce asked.

The man shook his head. “No, I just wanted to get myself and my daughter out as quickly as possible...”

Bruce tossed the man his cell.

“Call them, I'll try to round everyone up in one place so we can make a head count.”

The man nodded gratefully, and was already dialing when Bruce took off towards the alleys around the burning building.

Bruce could feel the heat of the fire as he drew closer to the building, almost blistering in contrast to the cold wind that gusted all around him. Bruce pulled his scarf up over his mouth again as he rounded up the people exiting the building from different doorways and windows.

Bruce directed them over to the larger group on the sidewalk at the front of the building. The fire was blazing hot and bright by the time the alley ways were clear. He rushed back out towards the main group, and found the middle aged man he had given his cell phone to.

The man was still speaking with the police, so Bruce turned his attention to the daughter.

“Is this everyone?” he asked her firmly.

She looked up at him with wide, terrified, dark eyes. They were streaming with tears as she answered.

“No,” she choked out in a tight voice. “No Carla Peterson lives on the top floor. She has a little baby.”

The girl was crying in earnest as he watched the burning building. Her shoulders shook, and her face was near panicked.

“The fire escape,” she sobbed, “it's broken up there. It came off the building more than a year ago.”

Bruce's stomach dropped out. He looked up to the third floor. Smoke was billowing from the windows. Bruce couldn't see well enough to make out if there were any people still inside.

He pushed his way over to another man, one who was coughing violently, and looked a little dazed. It was a good bet that he was one of the last ones out of the building.

Bruce grabbed him by the shoulder too, and shook him slightly to get his attention.

“The stairway, is it blocked?” Bruce asked him.

“Nah, man. Down from the second floor, it's clear. Higher'n that, I don't know,” he wheezed.

Bruce nodded in thanks, wrapped his scarf more firmly around his mouth. He took off towards the building at a dead run.

The heat was oppressive, and the fire was louder than anything Bruce could have imagined. It howled and roared all around him. The smoke was cloying and suffocating. The heat made his skin prickle and sting.

Bruce didn't hesitate. He ran directly towards the steps, keeping his head down as low as he could against the heat and smoke. He sprinted up the stairs as best he could.

The stairway on the third floor was partially blocked from some fallen bits of what was probably the ceiling. Bruce pushed past them, and up to the fourth floor. The door to the left the building was wide open, but the on the right was blocked by more debris fallen from the ceiling.

“Carla Peterson?” Bruce called as he ran towards the closed door. There was a pounding sound on the panel, and screams from the other side.

Bruce went cold, and looked helplessly at the burning pieces of debris that were in front of the door, blocking it from opening.

“I'm right here. I'll try and get you out,” Bruce called over the roar of the fire and the woman's screams.

Bruce made himself calm down. He fought back the impulse to take a deep, steadying breath.

Bruce looked around, and found a wooden table near the door to the stairway. He rushed over and grabbed the table. He threw it down on the floor a few feet from where the debris began, table top facing the flames.

Bruce stepped in behind the legs. He gripped them tightly at the ends. Bruce used the top of the small table like a bulldozer, pushing the flaming bits of debris away from the door as best he cold. He pushed it all past the door, stomping down the small bits of fire that remained with his thick soled work boots.

Bruce heard the woman screaming on the other side. Under it there was the sound of a baby crying. It made Bruce go cold with fear.

Bruce grabbed the door knob, feeling the heat of the scalding metal even through his thick work gloves. He pulled the door open and the woman rushed out at him with her child in her arms.

Her hair was streaming behind her. Bruce was relieved to see that there were wet rags wrapped around her and her child's mouth. Bruce took the child from her, then grabbed her hand. He lead them off towards the stairway.

The made it down the first flight with almost reassuring ease. When Bruce rounding the landing for the third floor, however, his heart started to pound with terror and dread.

While he had been on the fourth floor, more debris had fallen to block the third floor stair way entirely.

The woman behind him moaned in despair as she realized what it meant.

They were trapped.


Clark was in the Gotham City office of the Daily Planet, finally filing his report on the sewage treatment process, when the call came in over the police scanner. He idly heard it crackling a few rooms over as his story uploaded onto the Daily Planet filing sharing server. He didn't focus on it too much, until he heard the words 'reported fire' and 'Tenth Street' broke though his consciousness.

Clark didn't even bother to check if the uploading process had finished. He was out the door, and in the air the minute he was out of sight. It took less than a minute for him to fly to Tenth street. He beat both the fire department and the police, though he heard their sirens starting to call in the distance.

Clark touched down in the alleyway behind the burning building. The smoke was thick in the air, and the heat from the fire was like a wall. Clark made himself stop breathing, and scan the inside of the building from the bottom up.

Clark focused his vision, looking past brick and mortar, seeing beyond support beams and dry wall into the rooms beyond. He started with the first floor, relieved every second he went through the building, and didn't see anyone laying helplessly on the ground like he had the first time.

Then he got to the top floor. He saw Malone with a child in arms, rushing down the stairs. A woman was close on his heels. Clark saw the direction they were going. Then Clark saw the mass of flames and rubble that blocked their only exit.

Clark could hear, three stories below, the woman's anguished screams, and Malone's pounding heartbeat.

Malone pushed the woman to the ground and ducked down himself, trying to get under the wall of smoke. Clark could hear the woman's heart beat go erratic, and her blood pressure spike as her brain tried to absorb oxygen that just wasn't available in the air any longer.

Malone's eyes sharpened, even as they streamed with tears. Clark watched as he tried to find a way out. His breathing was regular but his heart was beating off rhythm. It was only a matter of time before...

The woman fainted, and the child cried, and suddenly Clark couldn't wait any longer. He couldn't let three people, three good, innocent people, die so he could protect a few selfish secrets.

Clark flew up to a third story window. He broke the pane of glass, and pushed inside. The rush of incoming oxygen made the fire flare up. Clark had to fly through it, roaring and hot, to get to Malone and the woman.

Malone was on the floor, barely conscious, when Clark got there. He held out the child and tilted this head limply towards the woman on the floor next to him. Malone's face was covered in soot and ash and it made his skin seem even paler, more delicate than it usually did.

Clark made himself take the baby before he moved past Malone to pick up the woman. He hoisted her onto his shoulder. The fire on the stairs was flaring even higher. The window on the far left of the building was Clark's only open option for escape.

Clark broke through it, and slipped past the tangled remains of a fire escape. He flew the woman and the child to the ground at the bottom of the alley below. He touched down and made himself run, with them in his arms, at a normal speed. He ran out of the alley, and handed the woman and child over to the group waiting.

When everyone was distracted by the woman and the child, Clark rushed back into the alley. He kicked up off the ground, and jumped up to the third story.

Malone was completely unconscious when Clark arrived in the stairwell. Clark could hear him breathe, he could hear his heart beating in his chest, but the dull rush of panic hit him anyway.

This man wasn't some stranger. Clark wasn't saving just saving him because it was the right thing to do.

Clark liked Malone. Clark needed to save Malone because Malone was Malone, not because Malone was a human being.

Malone was the only person Clark had ever met that understood...

Malone was the only person that understood this. The need to help, the need to save, the need to protect those people who were left vulnerable.

Malone knew what it was like to run into a burning building to save. Not for glory but for the sheer desire to help.

Malone shouldn't have to die for those instincts, those compulsions. That's what it was, really, truly, honestly. It was a compulsion.

Clark knew how strong that compulsion was. Even for him. Even for someone invulnerable. Clark knew he could go into that burning building and come out alive and unscathed. Yet it was still so hard to make himself stop, even for the sake of keeping his secret. Clark was invulnerable, but the people he loved were not. They could easily be harmed if Clark walked out of a burning building unscathed.

For Malone, the danger was considerably more immediate and personal. He was a man who could so easily be felled by the smoke and flames and heat, that battle inside himself must be intolerable. Malone could so easily be killed but he still rushed in where even Clark feared to tread.

Yet Malone listened to that voice inside of himself. He listened, and he fought, and he saved that woman and child.

So he would save Malone

Clark had to.


Bruce was coming in and out of consciousness. The smoke was thick and it was such a struggle to breathe. Bruce tried to cough, but each spasm in his chest felt as if a knife was cutting through his lungs, sharp and hot and excruciating.

Black spots danced across his vision. Bruce couldn't tell if the roaring in his ears was from the fire or impending unconsciousness. Bruce tried hard to fight it. He knew slipping into unconsciousness was the worst possible thing he could do in a fire.

Alfred would be so angry with him if he did. Alfred would be just furious if Bruce died this way. After Alfred had worked so hard to try and give Bruce a home where he could be contented, Bruce went and did something like this.

The roaring in his ears grew suddenly louder. Then the noise stopped altogether.

Bruce was at home, in the sitting room at the Manor. Alfred was there, larger than life with a tea tray in hand, and a disapproving look on his face. Bruce knew he was in terrible shape. He looked dreadful, covered in soot and ash with burns all down his back. His clothes were filthy, and he was probably making a mess of the pale silk sofa where he lay.

Nothing hurt, not just then. Bruce knew that it would, though. Eventually, the burns and the smoke in his chest would register in his nervous system. It would hurt then, and it would hurt badly.

Alfred had to understand though. He had to know. He had to realize that Bruce couldn't have left that woman and child to die. Alfred couldn't expect that of Bruce. He must know that Bruce didn't have the capacity for that sort of heartlessness.

Bruce understood the concept of triage. However, when the moment came, Bruce didn't see how his life could possibly be worth more than theirs. Just because they had the misfortune to be trapped inside a burning building while he was outside on the ground below, didn't mean their lives didn't have just as much value as his own.

At least the woman and child got out. They would survive and that was a comfort.

Bruce looked up at Alfred and knew the time had come to explain this. Pointed silences and stubborn insistence were no longer good enough. It had come between them too much already and something needed to change.

He owed it to Alfred, he owed it to himself, to make his intentions clear.

No more lies, and no more prevarication.

Bruce gave Alfred a wry smile and reached out a hand for a cup of tea. He opened his mouth to speak, and his fingers were just about to close around the handle of the delicate china. He never touched it, though.

Something cold and sharp hit Bruce in the chest. He was knocked back hard and then he began to cough. Pain flashed all thought him, and Bruce was shocked back to full consciousness. The air outside was frigid. It hurt so much as he pulled it into his lungs. Each breath was like a stab to the chest. He couldn't make himself stop breathing, though. His body needed the oxygen far too much.

Bruce couldn't understand where he was. Perhaps he wasn't lucid enough for his mind to come to any reasonable conclusions. Bruce knew he wasn't in the building anymore, but nothing else made sense.

There was no ground beneath Bruce's feet. Something large and inhumanly strong was holding him tight as he flew through the air. Then, any sense of anything but that strong grip about his middle disappeared. Bruce's stomach dropped out as he and whatever held him began to free fall.

Bruce opened his eyes in a panic. He saw the pavement coming towards him, fast and dark as death. Bruce couldn't breathe, he couldn't think. There was nothing in the world but him and that cold hard cement that coming closer by the millisecond.

Just as Bruce was sure he would land face first on the side walk in one of Gotham's poorest slums, there was a jolt. Whatever was holding him around the middle cushioned his fall, and his ribs were only slightly bruised on impact.

Bruce had stopped breathing when he thought he was falling. Thankfully, he hadn't had the wind knocked out of him on impact. That had to be something close to a miracle considering how much trouble he was having breathing as it was.

He realized, when the grip around him changed, that he was being held, not by some sort of device, but by human arms. They must have been outrageously strong human arms because Bruce felt himself lifted to the ground as if he weighed little more than a tea cup.

The change in position, abrupt movements and lack of oxygen combined to cause Bruce to lose his senses again. He didn't go completely out this time. There were no images of Alfred dancing in his head, but the world went black and his hearing cut out like it did the first time.

When Bruce blinked his eyes open, he wasn't quite sure he was conscious again. His whole field of vision was consumed by bright, electric blue. Bruce had to blink a few times before he could focus enough to recognize Kent.

He tried to rasp out the man's name, but all he managed a low croak and a coughing fit. The roaring was back in Bruce's ears. He could vaguely hear Kent's frantic voice over it, but his words were mostly like the low buzz of insects. Nothing distinct.

Bruce came in and out of consciousness several more times. Blacking out was always exceptionally disorientating. Bruce had a good internal clock, but he lost all track of time as he fought to stay awake.

He must have communicated somehow with Kent somewhere along the way. Bruce wasn't sure how he managed to be anything remotely like coherent, but he must have been. He finally woke up what felt like days, but could only have been hours, later. Bruce was lucid, and that was a relief.

Bruce smelled the familiar scents of Leslie's clinic. He blinked his eyes open to see Kent speaking with her in low, worried tones. Then Leslie glanced up sharply to see him looking at them. She stalked across the room and Bruce decided, very sensibly he thought, that fainting was probably his best option at the moment.

So he did.

When Bruce woke again, the room was very dark. A tube of some sort was stuck up his nose and Alfred was sitting at his bedside. Leslie and Kent were nowhere to be found, and all the machines in the room beeped a rhythmic chorus.

Bruce let his head loll to the side, and looked directly at Alfred.

Alfred looked old for the first time that Bruce could remember. The lines around his mouth were tight and he looked very pale.

Bruce opened his mouth to speak, but Alfred held up a hand to stop him.

“Don't speak. Dr. Thompkins has informed me that there has been some small damage to your throat from the smoke. You need time to heal before you speak,” Alfred told him in sharp, formal tones.

Bruce swallowed hard, and winced as pain shot through him. He nodded minutely and Alfred's eyes softened.

“I was told,” Alfred continued in quieter tones, “that you acted very heroically this evening. I was informed that, without your assistance, a young woman and a child would very probably have died.”

Bruce didn't say a word, just watched Alfred's face as the man worked hard to compose himself.

“I'm very proud of you, Master Bruce, I do want you to know that,” Alfred said. “It's just that I worry. I worry that you walk into things ill prepared and then...”

Alfred trailed off and shook his head as if he was at a loss.

Alfred was glaring helplessly at the floor when Bruce reached out a hand and put it on top of Alfred's. Alfred looked up, startled, and met Bruce's eyes.

“I'm sorry,” Bruce mouthed without speaking.

Alfred closed his eyes and swallowed hard. When he opened them again they were bright and full of feeling.

“You did nothing wrong, Master Bruce,” Alfred told him thickly. Then he smiled his teasing half smile. “You did nothing wrong save leave the house without an air purifier. You'll know better for the next time.”

Bruce felt himself smile at Alfred's reassuringly familiar brand of humor, and wished very much that he could laugh.


Clark was home and it was perfect.

Everything seemed to make so much more sense in Kansas. Maybe it was just that the air was clearer, and the sky was bluer, and there was no incessant noise to distract him. It was easier for Clark to think here.

Sometimes when he was in Metropolis, and even this past week in Gotham City, Clark felt like he was moving around in a fog. It was as if there was so much going on around him that he couldn't fully concentrate on what was happening directly in front of him.

His focus was far too divided.

People were spread out in Smallville. There weren't so many of them all on top of each other. It made it easier for Clark to tune them out.

Women weren't screaming, children weren't crying, men weren't yelling. There were no gun shots or sobs or sirens. There was just the sounds of faintly annoyed mooing from the cows, and the contented clucks of warm chickens.

It was the best kind of silence.

Clark sighed and leaned back on the sofa in his parent's living room. Clark could hear his parents in the other room. Ma was in the kitchen, getting food ready for Christmas Eve dinner the next day. Pa was sitting at the table sipping a cup of cocoa, and snacking on a few cookies as they spoke to one another in soft, affectionate tones.

Clark closed his eyes, and just reveled in the sense of clear headed rightness to the world around him.

If Clark was being perfectly honest with himself, the rightness hadn't started when he touched down in Kansas again. It had started when he had turned around in that clinic and saw Malone looking at him with clear eyes.

The doctor at the free clinic Malone had insisted Clark take him to had told Clark that Malone would recover fully with some rest and oxygen.

Clark had hovered until the doctor suggested she give Clark a quick look over. That was when Clark decided it was probably for the best to make himself scarce. He went back to his hotel room and called the hospital.

The woman and child he and Malone had saved had been in serious condition all through that night. When he called back the next morning, he was told that they were considered stable, and expected to make a full recovery.

It wasn't until after he had called the clinic to check on Malone, that the sense of clarity began to suffuse Clark. The doctor, after some hesitation, had told Clark that Malone was fine. She added, somewhat hesitantly, that he had been taken home by a friend.

Clark had sat down on his hotel bed as the realization that he had saved three lives sunk in.

That was when it started. The feeling just seemed to grow the next day when he left Gotham City and flew home to Kansas.

Clark had saved lives and still managed to keep himself safe. Nothing had been sacrificed, nothing had been lost. Everything had come out alright.

It was the happy ending Malone had said Gotham City never saw.

Clark was still smiling to himself when his father walked into the room.

“Oop, I know that smile,” his father said playfully. He walked over to Clark, and tapped him lightly on the head with a stack of Christmas Cards.

Clark blinked open his eyes, and smiled up at his father.

“What smile?” Clark asked with lazy innocence.

That smile,” Pa said with a smile of his own. “I'm guessing whoever this is from is responsible for it.”

His father held up an envelope. Clark focused his eyes on the paper. The return address was a PO box belonging to M. Malone.

Clark's smile widened.

“That's what I thought,” Pa said with a grin. “I'll leave you and Ms. M. Malone alone.”

Pa gave Clark a pat on the shoulder, and walked back into the kitchen with the rest of the Christmas Cards in hand.

Clark pulled open the envelope, and extracted the contents. There was a newspaper article. Clark unfolded it and read the headline.

Local Arson Case Solved With the Help of Concerned Neighbors

Clark smiled and read the article through.

While the loss of homes could have made the whole thing seem like a Pyrrhic victory, Clark couldn't bring himself to see it that way. The arsonist was behind bars, now. Clark had no doubt that was all thanks to Malone's efforts. Both those people and their neighborhood were safe again.

Clark felt suddenly very proud, not just for himself, but for Malone as well. He wasn't exactly sure why. Clark just chalked it up to that sense of kinship and understanding between them. Or maybe saving Malone's life had given Clark some proprietary feelings towards the man.

When Clark finished reading the article for the third time, he glanced at the other item in the envelope.

It was a business card. It had Malone's name on it along with a cell phone number. There was a message scrawled on the back in neat, careful script.

Call next time you're in town. I owe you one. -M.

Clark tucked both the card and the article in his front shirt pocket, and smiled even wider.


Bruce glanced up from his work when Alfred set the tea tray down on his nightstand. Bruce gave Alfred a grateful nod as he poured a cup of tea from the pot. Bruce turned back to his laptop while he waited for the tea to cool.

Bruce hadn't been able to drink any sort of hot liquid since the fire. It would have offended a good many of Alfred's British sensibilities to make the tea any temperature short of two hundred and ten degrees.

Bruce had to wait several minutes for the tea to become tepid before he could drink it. Luckily the cookies were soft as sponge cake. Bruce took one of those from the tray. He took a bite and focused back on his screen.

Alfred bustled around Bruce's bedroom doing whatever it was that Alfred did when he bustled. There were dusting noises, and straightening noises, and various other noises that Bruce just didn't have the frame of reference to identify. Alfred usually didn't like Bruce around when he cleaned, but lately he hadn't let Bruce out of his sight for longer than it took him to cook a meal.

“Any word from our dashing and heroic Mr. Kent?” Alfred asked Bruce, a touch sardonically, as he moved back towards the tea tray. He adjusted it in a way that meant he thought it was entirely safe for Bruce to drink the tea now it had been given a chance to cool.

Bruce reached for another one of the cookies on the tray, and took a bite.

“None. The other reporters at the Planet said he went home for Christmas. I'm sure he has other things on his mind,” Bruce answered, his attention not entirely on the question.

Alfred nodded, but there was a smile hovering around his mouth that Bruce couldn't quite classify.

“I'm sure he'll be pleased to know that the two of you caught the culprit,” Alfred said, his voice thick with smug pride.

Bruce nodded absently as he went through the rest of the footage Bruce had caught on the cameras he had installed. Bruce had taken a risk when he planted the surveillance cameras in the alley behind the building. He had gone into the exercise, trying to predict the arsonist's most likely point of entry in the building. There was a very good chance that Bruce could have been wrong, that there was a way into all the buildings that Bruce, who was ultimately not particularly familiar with the neighborhood, might not be aware of.

Apparently he had guessed right on this occasion. It was a very lucky guess.

Bruce had put the camera up on the wall of the abandoned building abutting the same alley the apartment in question backed into. He had put it up high enough that he could see most of the building's back face. The video from the camera fed remotely into his laptop via an internet hook up. Bruce had gone through the footage the camera had collected the minute he got home from Leslie's clinic.

Bruce had found clear images of the arsonist starting the fire almost immediately. He had sent it into the police, the fire department and both the news papers. He figured, between the four organizations, someone must be able to identify the man. Or they would at least know someone else who could identify the man.

Bruce had been right again. The GCPD had a suspect in custody less than an hour after Bruce had leaked the video to them.

Bruce had gone to sleep that night exhausted but fulfilled.

He had woken the next morning to find both the Daily Planet and the Gotham Gazette on his nightstand. Both were folded open to the articles about the arson case.

The name that was finally linked to the arsonist hadn't been familiar to Bruce. He had input it into several of his search engines and ViCAP, but he hadn't gotten a hit yet.

Despite Bruce's brush with death, Alfred had been pleased. He clearly considered the case closed for good and for all.

Bruce couldn't bring himself to agree. He knew the arson was over but he felt like there were too many strings hanging lose in the wind.

Bruce had gone through his notes on the case earlier that day. It wasn't like he was in any condition to do much else until Leslie cleared him or Alfred let him out of his bed.

Bruce had finished rereading his notes just before lunch. Now, he was going over the camera footage from the night of the fire again.

The more he watched it, the more uneasy he became.

The arsonist wasn't frenzied as he poured the gas and lit the match. His movements were practiced and businesslike.

It seemed...


For a compulsive arsonist at any rate.
After the fire was lit and blazing brightly, the man walked off down the street. Bruce's mind began to wander as he watched the building burn. Smoke rose high in the air and billowed around the alley way. It obscured so much of the picture that Bruce was almost sure it was a trick of the smoke when a blur rushed past the camera.

Bruce backed up the film to double check.

The blur was there again.

Bruce moved through the rest of the film, frame by frame to try and identify it.

Bruce watched as the blur flashed through the window on the third floor. It reemerged again, and hit the ground at the base of the alley slow enough that Bruce could freeze frame the video.

He copied the image into an editing program. It took very little effort to make the picture decipherable.

It was Kent, blue eyes blazing bright, carrying the woman and child in his arms. He rushed out of the alley.

Moments later, Bruce watched as Kent ran back into the alley. Then he jumped, jumped, up to the third floor window again. Kent came out again just seconds later, Bruce lifted easily in his arms. It was as if Bruce was no more heavy than the petite woman Kent had rescued moments before.

Bruce's mouth went dry as he watched. His heart started to pound, and he went a little dizzy around the eyes.

“Master Bruce?” Alfred's voice broke through Bruce's reverie. “Is something troubling you?”

Bruce made himself breathe in deep.

“I'm not sure,” Bruce admitted. “Just... Something else that bears looking into.”

Bruce blinked at the images on his screen. He shook his head and pursed his lips. He tried to stay calm as he looked at the picture of himself, held like a rag doll in Kent's arms.

Bruce thought about Kent, then. He thought about the first night he had seen Kent, kneeling over the body of a woman who was unconscious from smoke inhalation. Kent's voice had been clear and sharp when he called out to Bruce.

The woman had burns on her arms and legs, but Kent hadn't been injured at all. The heat had been intense enough to melt the plastic of Kent's ID badge, but Kent's hair wasn't even singed.

Then there were Kent's eyes. Bright and blue and perfect. Not any blue Bruce had ever seen before.

“You're certain nothing is the matter, Master Bruce?” Alfred's voice was hesitant this time, and filled with worry as it cut through Bruce's thoughts.

“No,” Bruce said. “It's nothing.”

Then Bruce swallowed hard and made himself turn off the screen.


A/N: I think I JUST BARELY missed the character limit on this one. Yeah, I rock.


( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 31st, 2010 08:00 pm (UTC)
I typically don't read fics this lengthy (except my own, lol) and I also don't usually like Clark/Bruce stuff but I did read this and I actually enjoyed it. Very well written. I love the characterization.
Dec. 31st, 2010 09:45 pm (UTC)
16,000 words isn't all that long, really. Comparatively, I mean. At least it didn't turn into a 40,000 word monster. That's happened to me before. :(

Bruce/Clark is lots of fun. You should read it more often because I in no way do these boys justice. There's lots of authors out there who write them far better than I'll ever be able to.

I'm glad you like it, despite everything.
Dec. 31st, 2010 10:13 pm (UTC)
LOL, I hope you didn't take my comment as a critism. It was truly meant as a complement. I really did like it. And you're right, considering I'm on like...part 67 or something on my main fic I can't really say much about length, lol.
Jan. 1st, 2011 05:59 pm (UTC)
No not at all. Everyone likes their own thing. But yeah, I know how it feels when they run away on you. I told myself when I was looking through the prompts for this challenge that I was only going to write 6k words...

Gloria just LAUGHS at me when I say I'm sticking to a word limit. She's like, 'Oh Boo, why do you even TRY?'
Jan. 1st, 2011 12:06 am (UTC)
That was awesome, I love the interactions between Bruce and Clark; Bruce and Alfred. I love how Alfred is always part of Bruce's conscious, it creates some humour in between the drama. Thanks for sharing. :D
Jan. 1st, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it. Alfred is a ton of fun to write. <3
Jan. 1st, 2011 07:05 am (UTC)
I thought you did a great job and got the character's voices just right! Awesomeness abounds!
Jan. 1st, 2011 06:01 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! It was sort of HARD to age their characterizations BACK and still keep the general sense of that character. It was fun, though!
Jan. 1st, 2011 03:59 pm (UTC)
This was really just perfect. I know I've said this before but I always look forward to Christmas because I hope the WFGEs will inspire another Bruce/Clark fic from you, and this year I was so tickled to get such a long story! I think my favorite part was how well you showed that intense need--compulsion, like you said--they both share to help others above all, and how that ties them together even when they don't know each other at all. Also, the resolution of Bruce and Alfred's conflict was absolutely lovely. Wonderful, wonderful work!
Jan. 1st, 2011 06:07 pm (UTC)
I'm glad you enjoyed it. This one totally ran away on me. I usually never write anything but shameless smut for these two. This was a nice change.

WFGE is always a ton of fun. I don't write Bruce and Clark NEARLY as often as I do other characters. The gift exchange is always a nice time to do that.

You and damos put so much effort into RUNNING it. I can't even imagine how much work that is. Thanks so much. I know I always enjoy it. I appreciate all your hard work.
Jan. 1st, 2011 09:10 pm (UTC)
What a wonderful conclusion! I adored the way you pulled things together...and still left room open for the future! Bruce discovering that there's more to Mr. Kent than he let's on was truly remarkably portrayed. I felt myself experiencing the bewilderment and shock along with Bruce, and then a knowing smile dawned on my face as Bruce reflected on previous nuances about Clark.

I also adored Clark rescuing Bruce as he rescued others. This is SO them. They always put others first and damn the consequences. I love it about them. And I love to see the other person being there to pick up the pieces when this headstrong behavior causes harm this early in their interactions/relationship.

I never like to beg for sequels, because I know plot bunnies don't work that way. But I do so hope that one day you come back to this fic/series. I'd love to see Clark's reaction to discovering who "Mike" really is.

As always, terrific job! This story was so much fun to read!
Jan. 2nd, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)
Bruce is no dummy. He's a detective in training. >:D Poor Clark doesn't know what he's up against.

This fic absolutely has the potential to be what I like to call and Vampire Fic. That would be a fic that will not die. See Bloody Knuckles and Master Plans.

I'll come back to it at some point. There's at least three more arcs in it that I'd like to write. Like, you know how in basic story writing structure it goes: 1. Set-up/Introduce the Problem, 2. Rising Action, 3. Climax, 4.Resolution? This story is the first step. The Set-up/Problem stage. So before I can take the boys to where I WANT them to end up, there's a lot that needs to happen.

It's a pretty complex universe and it's actually a ton of fun to play in. Mostly because there's so much about Bruce that would be DIFFERENT if he had more supportive people in his life at a younger age.

I'm glad you liked it. I wasn't sure how interested people would be in it.
Jan. 2nd, 2011 05:40 am (UTC)
Great story, from Clark's struggle to fit in at the Planet and Bruce trying to find himself, who would have thought that they would run into each other? Innocently drawn together... you beautifully foreshadowed the future. Loved Clark rescuing Bruce!

I agree with larsinger29, it would be fun to see Clark's reaction when he finds out who Mike is!
Jan. 2nd, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)
They are both at uncomfortable places in their lives. Maybe a little companionship would do them both good.

Yeah, I'll probably play a little more in this universe after I finish up one or two other projects I'm working on now.

I'm glad you liked it!
Jan. 2nd, 2011 06:30 pm (UTC)
You've done a great job with this story. The characterisations of Bruce and Clark, both as younger men who have yet to find their calling in life, was perfect. I particularly loved the way Bruce clearly relies on Alfred and his almost neediness, an understandable reaction for a person orphaned so young and aware of how lucky he was to have Alfred there to raise him.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 12:40 am (UTC)
I'm glad that you enjoyed it. With something like this, a complete AU I mean, it's always nice to hear the characterization rings true. Thanks so much.
Jan. 2nd, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC)
Brilliant writing! I love the uneasiness Bruce feels at the end.
Jan. 3rd, 2011 12:40 am (UTC)
*high five* Glad you liked it!
Jan. 11th, 2011 08:04 pm (UTC)
This is really good!
Jan. 14th, 2011 01:06 am (UTC)
*knuckle bump*
Jan. 30th, 2012 04:24 pm (UTC)
I can't believe I missed this one, too. *winces*

This was such a sweet fic! I so love Clark and Bruce's instant connection, and Clark saving Bruce because of that connection, not just because he was a human being. So much love. :)

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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