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Cornibus et sanguine: Plumae gloria

Chapter Text

 


 

In the beginning the universe and all the realms within it was overseen by the Creator.

Above all the others lay the primordial realms- the place where the immortals roamed before the creation of mortal beings. In this realm there were both the Heavens, ruled by the Father, and the Underworld ruled by the King of the Fallen Angels, Helel.

At this time, the earth had just begun to flourish and humanity looked promising for the first time in ages. However, as mankind was beginning to develop, they were now fighting a losing battle. Demons walked the earths and plagued them with famine, possessed their bodies, burned their cities and wreaked havoc wherever they went.

Men waged war on each other, brother killed brother and women and children hid in fear praying to the heavens for peace. At the centre of it all was Helel, sitting on his throne in the darkness and aided by his right hand, the Nameless One.

In the heavens, a meeting is held.

 


 

“You ask too much of me Kalel.”

The angels, defenders of the heavens and mankind, had begun a cleansing of the underworld, ridding the caverns of malicious demons that brought chaos to the universe. At the head of every battle was the Cherubim warrior angel Kalel. He was the bringer of hope, and harbinger of death for all who opposed the heavens. When he visited Hell, he massacred the satanic and burned the blasphemous, returning only when his wings were too heavy with blood to be lifted anymore, and his sword would grow too dull to be used.

He was called the Celestial Beast of the heavens by those who roamed the darkness.

In the throne room, he lay dressed in the finest crafted armor, his hair braided down his back and halo of sunlight drifting above his head that shone almost as bright as the fire in his eyes.

“My lord, I must go back! The enemies of heaven must be destroyed. The longer we wait, the more of my brethren will fall to Helel. Must humanity bear the weight of his evil for my insolence?”

Even kneeling in subservience to his King and creator, he manages to exude righteous fury enough to make nearby Seraphim shake in their exaltations.

“Obeying your king is not insolence Kalel, it is obedience.” As he speaks the room shakes, but the warrior angel does not fear his wrath. He keeps his stance, but dares not set his eyes on the throne.

“I am the all knowing and all being. Do you not think I do not know of his plans? Do you not think Helel is accountable to me? I see everything that has been, is and will be. It is not your place. However long it may take, Helel will come to me himself and it is up to humanity whether or not they will go to him.”

“Then I yield, Father. I will do only as instructed.” He bows his head and brings himself as low to the floor as possible, his wings sweeping the sparkling gold and fluttering softly.

“As you were created to do. You may go to the darkness and spread your wrath as you wish, but my word is what binds your existence young one. When you enter his domain, the king is to remain untouched.”

“What of his aide, Lord? Should he not pay for his sins?” Kalel can feel the warmth in the smile of the creator despite not being able to look upon him.

“If you encounter the Nameless One, you will do as you see fit. I expect no less of you.”

When Kalel leaves, the other Cherubim gaze at him wearily.


 

The walk to the gates of hell was quiet. The scent of his very presence sent young demons and imps scattering, and after the many times he’d walked it there was a sunken trail of his footprints embedded in the grey ashen ground, singed at the edges from the unfathomable heat his bodily form produced.

The closer he got to the gates, the brighter his halo glowed, illuminating the path before him and blinding the stragglers and cursed who lay hiding in the dark on the outskirts of the Fallen Kingdom.

“Your great creator sends only you? Followers, mark this day. The all knowing Father sends a lowly Cherub to fight my thirty legions. I am Astaroth, great Duke of Hell, crusher of souls and servant to the Nameless One and Helel himself. Tell me what they call you so I might recall it when I smite you.”

Clark chuckles and takes off his leather cloak revealing his angelic regalia and lifts his wings in full stride.

“I am Kalel, messenger or righteous fury, slayer of demons, and the Celestial Beast of heaven. I fear that I bear bad news.”

Astaroth shakes in rage, and charges with his full army. “I will end you in the name of Helel!”

Kalel mutters to himself, “Not this day, Demon.”

He soars into the air and strikes Astaroth, exchanging blow for blow. The rest of the demons do not dare to come closer, and as the fight progresses, the demon gets weaker and weaker while the angel grows stronger, summoning his warrior form and killing the deformed beast in a burst of white light.

The rest of the halflings, demons and imps come forth in troves and he kills them off as his sword glows with angelic runes and burns them to gold dust or melts them to black blood. His wings are spattered with it all, and his hair and armor drips in it, but still he fights on.

The closer he gets to the castle of Helel, the less demons challenge him. He only realizes this too late.

The aide of the king has been awaiting him.

“Kalel. I hear you wish to seek battle with me.”

The Nameless One is not as terrifying as he is spoken of. He does not have twenty heads, or a beast’s face or the body of a lion. He takes the form of a seven foot body very similar to that of an angel, with long sweeping hair that falls into his eyes, a mouth littered with pointed teeth and atop his head are a pair of rams horns colored like fresh blood.

He carries two broadswords thick as a man’s head, and wears no chest armor but instead has his entire torso and chest bound in chains. The angel finds himself looking at it for too long.

“Do you know why they bind me like this, oh great Celestial Beast of the heavens? Even my king fears me. If I were to ever get a deep breath again, I could spew fire hotter than the pits of hell that would melt the clouds you blessed angels walk on.”

“I do not see why they did not bind your tongue as well, Nameless One. If it is a name you seek, I shall give you one. They will call you the Defeated One, and I will mark it myself in the book of history.”

“Come forth then,” the demon growls, drawing his swords and baring his teeth, “and let me show you exactly why your master ripped my wings and tossed me from the heavens.”

Kalel charges forward, blade lifted and a battle cry falling from his lips. The others around them stand paralyzed as their weapons meet again and again, each strike resounding through the whole domain.

The demon grabs Kalel by his wings and tosses him into a pillar of rocks, but not before the angel breaks one of his swords. Breaking the pillar, the warrior lifts himself into the air and flies straight towards the other, weapon raised for a fatal blow.

When the Nameless one sees the attack, he lifts his single sword to parry the strike and an earth shaking blast occurs where celestial gold meets stygian iron, exploding with a burst of blinding silver light that knocks the two apart and incinerates every demon in its range.

In a haze, the two get up but Kalel immediately falls to his knees in pain as a white hot fire covers his neck. The Nameless One screams in agony, but remains standing just barely. When the angel opens his eyes, he sees the demon’s shape flickering.

It is as though he cannot stay in his demon form anymore, and his skin fades between ashen grey and pristine pearl while his horns have disappeared entirely. The chains fall from his body, and he abandons his demonic appearance, shifting to his Seraphim form, though he is without his wings. His fanged teeth are gone, and he looks like Kalel’s brethren of old in the Lord’s Halls.

Struggling to his feet, Kalel holds his hands to his neck and feels the raised markings. In the shining obsidian pool next to him he sees it.

A soul mate mark.

He clutches his neck tighter in horror. He was destined to be bound to the very monster he was made to destroy. The person he was supposed to spend eternity with was an enemy of heaven, a murderer, a fallen one and no more than a mere monster.

As he looks back at the Seraphim, the other sweeps his sable locks over his left shoulder, and surely it’s there. The matching runes in white gold adorn the Nameless One’s neck as well, shining brightly in the shadows where he stands.

“No. This can’t be.” Kalel shakes his head in disbelief. The father must have made a mistake.

“Kalel-”

“No! I am not spending eternity in hell with you and beasts like you do not deserve to walk in the light of the creator!”

The angel spreads his wings, and flies straight out of the kingdom shrouded in darkness, and back to the silver bridge that leads him home. He doesn’t look back to see the other’s face, and he certainly doesn’t see the beam of light that falls over him, signalling the fallen one home.

 


 

Kalel walks slowly to the throne room, wings held tight against his back and hair braided and tied with a mourning chain. Michael’s face looks solemn as he opens the endlessly tall golden door.

As he enters, the warrior falls on one knee with his face to the floor and wings spread.

A sign of apology.

“Kalel, rise my child.” He slowly drags himself off the floor, but his face still bears the weight of his shame.

“My lord, you know all that is. Do you believe I could love such a creature?”

“You must first save him before you can love him. You know this as well as I, for it is already written.”

“What if he is beyond saving?”

“No one is beyond grace Kalel, not even him.”

Gabriel, who stands across from the throne, clears his throat.

“He may not be beyond saving, but he is not quite beyond the gate either.”

“Your brother speaks the truth, Kalel. For ninety days he has waited for your presence at the gates. If you do not go to him, he will surely come to you. I fear Raphael’s patience grows thin.”

The angel’s face hardens.

“Then tell him I will not come.”

The creator already knew as much, and dismisses the warrior. He and Gabriel share a knowing look.


 

 

For years the Seraphim battles Michael, Raphael, Salaphiel and Uriel, determined to enter heaven and see his soul mate. Day and night, he fights one after the other with no break, demanding to be let in, and screaming he was summoned by the father.

“It is my right to enter, Michael!”

“You’ve called the same words on your tongue for nine years, and tasted not a drop of food or drink. Will you not give up, Fallen One? Does the ache of your heart antagonize you so much?”

“He will see me, Michael. He must.”

“If you knew Kalel at all, you would know that all the hosts of heaven could not make him do something he did not wish to. Unless you receive a direct summons from the father, you shall not step foot past these gates, nor lay your eyes upon him.”

As Raphael leaves, Uriel takes his place to draw his sword again.

“I do not wish to fight you, Uriel.”

“No, you do not. Alas, you do seek to find Kalel, and if he does not wish to be found then I must fight you because I have been ordered not to let you pass the gates in your wrath.”

The bell tolls and the Seraphim falls to his knees, almost drained of energy. That sound marked the beginning of the tenth year he had gone without seeing his mate, and he was growing even weaker to the point where he could scarcely summon his fire or sword.

“Does your strength fail you now, Fallen One?” asks Uriel, hovering over his ward. Shock crosses his face for a moment as the other goes to lift himself off his knees but collapses, unmoving.

When he receives no answer he swoops down, binding the lifeless body and begins to carry him to the master.

“Uriel, what madness are you beginning?” asks Salaphiel once he is within the gates.

“Did you not hear the Lord? He said not to let the Nameless One pass the gates in his wrath. He does not appear to have any wrath left in him, does he?” asks the archangel, gesturing to the sleeping form he held.

“If your judgment holds true, I should say yes.”


 

When Kalel is summoned to the throne, he does not expect the sight before him.

Michael has the Nameless One bound in chains and kneeling before the creator, while they all look towards him as though they’d been waiting for him.

“Look at who has finally deigned to grace us with his face again, Gabriel,” mutters Raphael gloomily.

As the Kalel pauses, the Seraphim begins to struggle in his bindings, trying to get closer to his mate. An almost euphoric feeling sweeps over his body at the sight of his destined one and he can feel his strength coming back to him from just being in the same room. A few more moments and he would be back to his full power.

“Move again, Demon and I will slay you before my king,” says Michael, hand on his sword. The prisoner below him tenses and locks his jaw.

“Why am I here, Lord?” asks the warrior, bowing before he speaks.

Before a response is made, the fallen angel breaks his bindings, and takes on his demon form, baring his teeth at Michael as his horns grow back to their blood red spirals.

“Did you really think those would hold me, Michael?”

“No,” he says, drawing his sword, “But I’d hoped you would at least amuse me for a while in the falsehood.”

“I am here to Kalel and the creator. Not any other being.”

“I told you I will not spend my life with a demon, and I meant it. I have spent my eons alone, and I will do it again. You are no soul mate of mine.”

“You will either love me or hate me, Kalel. It is written.”

“Then we are mortal enemies, so draw your sword demon. I will finish what I began.”

As the demon takes a deep breath, prepared to spew fire amongst the room, a rumble shakes the whole heaven.

“Braciel. Stop this.”

“You dare use my name?” he asks, enraged at the creator and glowing in a fiery red haze.

“Was it not I who named you? Did I not pick the finest star and mold you from it and call you Braciel, maker of the flame and bringer of righteous fury? How could you not believe in me and my ability to know your destiny?”

“Which destiny? The one where you took my very soul and cast me out of my home? The one in which you bind me to a heart unrequited? The one where you curse me to walk on two legs after ripping my wings from me and tossing me to the darkness?”

“You were becoming too wrathful as you are now. Your very rebellion and attempts of destruction of the sacred texts proved your heart was impure, just as your new master’s. Leave or you will be moved, Braciel.”

As he says this, all seven Archangels appear and the other Seraphim in the room shift to their bodily form, ready to carry out any order by their master’s wishes.

He locks eyes with Kalel, and there is nothing but hatred left in his gaze.

“This is not over.”

He sinks into a puddle of shadow, and disappears.

The angel feels a pang of something like loss, but hides it at the bottom of his heart like the traitor it is.


 

 

For another twenty years Braciel wages war on the heavens, using all the forces of evil at Helel’s disposal. Every beast, demon, imp and angel in the darkness joins his forces to break the walls of the Angel Kingdom.

When the celestial war becomes too much, Helel goes to the creator.

“You must end it.”

“Is Braciel not a servant of yours , Helel?”

“Indeed, but I cannot cast him from hell, and it is not within my power to cast him from the primordial realms. If I expend all of my forces on his petty war I will have no kingdom to rule, and you will have no angels to protect your precious humanity.”

“What would you have me do? Kill them?”

“Not at all, you haven’t the wrath for it. I do not care where they go, as long as it is not in my domain.”

 

The all knowing one sighs. “Gabriel, sound the horn of peace.”

 

When the horn blows, both halves of the battle pause as it vibrates across the whole realm, invoking a temporary ceasefire; Demons retreat and angels fly away, while Kalel and Braciel are summoned before their masters.

“Your rage grows too strong, Kalel. Your very presence endangers the delicate balance of the celestial systems.” says the creator, his heart saddened at the turmoil his angel was in.

“And you, Braciel, you take far too much from me and give nothing in return. I give you my armies, power and people to rule over but yet you waste it all on this angel who will never love you.” spits Helel.

“If you continue down this path,” they both say, “you will bring chaos to the realms. As such you are being banished to earth until you reconcile your hearts and are deemed worthy to come home.”

“But my Lord-”

“Silence! I have had enough of your rashness Kalel. You will be stripped of your wings, your immortality and your memories. As fate would have it, the two of you will meet again in each lifetime until your soulmate bond is complete and only then may you return. The war must end, and this is the only way.”

“Father please!”

“I am sorry my child, but it is already written. Raphael, do what you must.”

The warrior bows his head in acquiescence, and screams as the blade severs his wings from his body, taking pieces of his soul with it. Braciel feels the phantom pain of the cut and looks away while the gold blood runs down his mate’s back, traitorous tears threatening to spill from his eyes. Things start to get blurry as they begin to lose their memories but the angels are vaguely aware of being walked to the edge of the cloud rift.

The last thing Braciel sees is Gabriel’s apologetic glance before he is kicked off the edge and falling from the heavens yet again.

Chapter Text

 

 

In the year 1973, Bruce Wayne is born to Gotham socialites and activists Martha and Thomas Wayne. Alfred holds the newborn child for the first time, and smiles as his little hands grip a well worn finger.

 

From above, the angels observe yet another beginning for their lost brother Braciel.

 

“He always appears somewhat strange as child, does he not Raphael?”

 

Michael absentmindedly pets the lion lounging next to him outside the throne room where he and his brother were stationed. The mighty cat simply rolls over and purrs contentedly, stretching its long limbs over onto Raphael’s sandal clad feet.

 

“We have observed his birth many a time- I cannot see how this one is apart from any other, brother. I only care for the likelihood of his resolution with Kalel.” The archangel says, preening his wings while speaking.

 

“Perhaps you might check the books of time if it burns you so to not know Braciel’s fate?”

 

“I’d attempted such a feat already, but the script was as such that I could not read it. I should assume that the father wants no interfering with his plans. It might be that he does not think us worthy of knowing his intents for Kalel and his soulmate…”

 

“If you could not read it, that means it is not open to the eyes of any angel and their fate is solely known by the creator then. I am more than content to watch over them as it is far more entertaining than guarding the gates.”

 

“You speak lies. You want only to watch Braciel die but another time, Michael. You despise him almost as much as the beloved morning star.”

 

“I will not agree or disagree with you brother, but you know as well as I that Helel is no longer the beloved morning star of the creator. Furthermore, I never claimed Braciel to be favoured in my books. I just wish that his soul would not suffer in this life as much as the others.” Michael replies in a haughty tone, fiddling with the golden rope of his belt.

 

“That is kind of you, but there is only one way to know.”

 

With this the two angels turn their gaze back to the earth, where Martha holds a sleeping baby boy, smiling at him and completely unaware of the life her son was going to have.

 


 

When Bruce is eight years old, his parents are murdered in Crime Alley.

 

Alfred takes custody of the boy, soothing his fears when he wakes up from nightmares of his mother’s screaming and his father’s shouts, with phantom feelings as though he was covered in blood and tripping over the endless pearls that had once adorned her porcelain neck.

 

It takes months before he stops hearing the echo of the gunshots in an empty room, and he wasn’t yet capable of erasing the image of the life leaving his parents’ eyes as they held hands for the last time.

 

As he continues with his lifestyle of ‘learning to cope’ as Alfred calls it, Bruce slowly notices that something is terribly, terribly wrong with him. He rarely leaves the house, and only at his butler’s request when he is sent out of the manor with complaints that he would get rickets if he kept staying inside so much.

 

On one of the more unusually bright days -for Gotham at least- Bruce wanders out on the estate amongst the greenery and just sits. He ignores the fact that he’s getting his trousers dirty, that he hadn’t told Alfred where he was going or that he would be expected inside for lunch shortly and just sits on the grass, watching his pale hands as he cards his fingers through the wildflowers.

 

After laying back in the soft bed of leaves, he gazes at the sky remembering how not so long ago he’d do the same with his mother. Bruce looks at the clouds in the countless lofty shapes and feels his eyes slowly closing, but doesn’t fight it.

 

The breeze is so pleasant on his face, and the birds make their songs so prettily in the trees that provide enough shade to keep the murky light from the sun out of his eyes.

 

Within in a minute, Bruce is asleep.


 

Flashing.

 

All of it came in fragments, each image barely discernible from the next. Pearl white skin, long robes, falling feathers, clashing swords, golden doors and obsidian ink shuttered before his eyes like film on a camera. Images of battles fought, fearsome beasts and blood red horns adorning a regal head moved at a speed almost too quick to process.

 

Surging.

 

The cacophony of feelings melded into one tidal wave of emotions, overbearing his mind so that he couldn’t wake himself up. Searing pain, blinding rage, internalized heartbreak, building panic, breathing fire. Complete despair at the thought of a loss he doesn’t remember. Relentless agony of his spine being ripped and his broken body tossed like waste. The bitter taste of rejection.

 

Clanging.

 

The sound of pure chaos echoes in his mind, reverberating through the empty cavern that is his sleeping consciousness. The grate of metal on metal, the screech of masses crying, the bells tolling in the distance, the hellhounds growling and the fire roaring. The heavy beating of tired wings, and the warcry of crumbling cities on their last breath before being overrun with demons.

 

Then a voice.

 

“Braciel. Wake Up.”

 

 


 


Bruce wakes up with a gasp, his lungs on fire and tears flowing from his eyes. His hands are shaking but he can’t get them to stop.

 

He tries to make sense of what he’d dreamt but the more he tries to think about it, the more he gets a sharp pain between his eyes and he watches in horror as his nose drips blood on his dirt covered hands. It takes him almost half an hour before he can steady his breathing, and another twenty minutes to stop his entire body from trembling despite the lack of chill.

 

He rinses his hands and face in the garden birdbath- tinging the clear water pink-  before going back to the manor, eyes bloodshot and murmuring an excuse of having fell down a bit roughly while playing.

 

It would have been okay-perhaps a one time experience that he could have blamed on stress- if he didn’t keep having these ‘dreams’ again, and again and again.

 

These ‘dreams’  slowly began to seem less like dreams and more like memories, because despite everything he tried, Bruce simply could not forget them. He no longer needed to be asleep to see them anymore, and much to his distress he was starting to lose time as he slipped into trance like states in the middle of his studies or conversations.

 

Alfred wisely made no commentary, but gave him concerned frowns as he began to lose focus more frequently and his eyes would glaze over as he was drawn into visions of a language that didn’t exist, amongst people who weren’t real in a dimension that simply wasn’t physically possible.

 


 



The last straw happens two years later, during a thunderstorm.

 

Bruce sits alone in the bedroom, ignoring Alfred’s pleas to come out and at least eat something. The young boy knows the butler’s tactic well and refuses to fall for it. Alfred will convince him  to come out, and spare his pride by not acknowledging the fact that he is still afraid of lightning and thunder.

 

He doesn’t want tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches and fond head pats right now. The  lights in his room are all off and the only sound aside from his almost silent breathing is the ticking of the grandfather clock in the corner.

 

“Master Bruce, I really must ask you to come out of the room. I’m sure you’re aware I value your privacy but if I must I will get the key and open this door.” The concern in his tone is palpable and the younger swears he hears a slight break in the typically smooth voice.

 

“I’m fine, Alfred. I would really like to be left alone right now.”

 

A sigh.

 

“If you insist Master Bruce...please know that I’m only a staircase away should you decide you would like some company.”

 

It’s a simple sentence, but it bears more weight than it would seem. Bruce smiles softly and sits in the dark still, eyes focused on the grain in the hardwood floor and muscles tense as he awaits the appearance of the storm. The sound of falling rain does nothing to soothe him as it once did.

 

He has to do this alone.

 

There was no way for him to explain that he was forcing himself to face his fears and put an end to his god forsaken visions. He wouldn’t dare tell the only person who was there for him that there was something wrong with him. In the black of the night, a single tear slides down his cheek.

As he raises his hand to brush it away, the first flash of lightning breaks, burning his eyes with white light and the clap of thunder that follows it makes him clench every muscle in his jaw.   

 

Before he can even take a breath he’s thrown headfirst into another vision.




“What does a forsaken angel like you need from me then Braciel?”

 

Braciel glares at the white haired man sitting on an iron throne in a room black as night.

 

“What do any of us come to you for Lucifer? I want a new beginning.”

 

“If you’re going to work for me, you will call me Helel. Just as you are no longer Braciel, the new morning star, I am no longer Lucifer, bringer of light. Now tell me little brother, what have you done to bear the wrath of the creator?”

 

“I attempted to burn the book of time and history.”

 

The king looks at him with a visage of shock, and motions to a nearby minion to serve him more wine.

 

“Bold. Very Bold. Now what inspired you to do such a thing? Surely there was a reason for such an act of blatant madness.” He sips from his goblet, bringing his platinum locks over to one side and gazing back expectantly with piercing red eyes. Were he a weaker man Braciel may have been shaken.

 

“I wanted to rewrite it. It was prophesied that...that I would be rejected by my soulmate. I wanted to change the books so that I would never have one.”

 

“You know as well as I that such a feat is impossible. In burning the book you would destroy the fabric of time amongst all of mankind and most of the celestial realms. You would erase every event that had been just to change one that would inevitably be?”

 

“Yes.” The answer is unwavering.

 

“The creator always did say there was a thin line between love and hate. I suppose that is why we are both here, yes?”

 

“Are you saying you truly loved your soulmate then?” The break of silence is heavier in the throne room and the grotesque servants all look to the floor before their king even answers. No one in the underworld would dare ask Helel such a thing.

 

“Of course I do. But that does not alter what has taken place and as you know there is no changing my fate now. So I encourage you, keep your soulmate. Don’t lose his love as I lost mine.”

 

“You lost the love of no one more than the love of the father when you attempted to ascend to the throne. Surely losing your soulmate could not have been a loss as great as that?”

 

“You misunderstand me Braciel. The father was my soulmate. In all things there must be balance, yes? The entire universe centres around the separation of the creator and I. I knew this, but in my heartbreak I wanted to take everything from him before he could cast me out as I knew he would, but you know he was more powerful than me. It was my destiny to become what I am, just as it is yours to become what you will be. What sets you apart from me is that you will be granted a chance for redemption. If you love your soulmate you can redeem yourself, because you are not me. While your Lord still loves me in all my monstrosity, I do not love him anymore. That is why I cannot be saved.”

 

“I don’t want redemption, Helel. I want freedom from a bond to someone who will do nothing but break me again.”

 

“It is in breaking you that he will mend you, little one. As you grow older you will understand this. Alas that is quite a long time into the future, and I require your assistance now. If you are to serve in Hell, you will not look like the scrap of the heavens. Relax...this may hurt you more than you would like.”

 

With a wave of his hands, Helel surrounds him in black ash, and begins molding him from angel to demon.

 

Braciel’s once pearl skin becomes an ashen grey, his regal braid with strands of woven gold is changed to flat black hair covering his blood red eyes and meeting his waist, and his jaw becomes littered with razor sharp teeth that burst through his mouth like flowers in spring.

 

As his lips begin to spill his blackened blood, Braciel falls to his knees holding his head that feels as though it is splitting in two. From his scalp grows a pair of crimson ram's horns and as he attempts to scream his chest is bound in chains so tight that he can’t breathe.

 

“I’m afraid I cannot allow you to speak just yet. You are no longer a servant of the creator, nor are you Braciel of the Seraphim of the heavens. You are mine, and you are the Nameless One, avenger of evil and drinker of blood.”

 

As he says this, Helel drops two broadswords on the floor next to the writhing beast and smiles.

 

“You won’t need these anymore will you? Only angels need wings.”

 

As he speaks, he presses his flaming hands to the open wounds with the remnants of Braciel’s wings in tatters after they’d been ripped away before his exile. The resounding growl is feral and makes the ground for miles vibrate.

 

“Now, Nameless One, you may speak.”

 

When crimson eyes flutter and his bloodied mouth opens, not a word comes out.

 

Instead all he can breathe is fire, so much so that the throne room is in flames and Helel laughs gleefully as the pillars crumble to ashes and the servants burn alive.

 

“Now little one, what will you call me?”

 

“Master.”

 

As the nameless one picks up his swords, Helel prepares for war.

 


 

 

Bruce comes out of the vision and the storm is still going on, but he can’t focus on the lightning, thunder, Alfred’s rapid knocking and concerned calls from outside or the ticking of the clock.

 

He needs to breathe.

 

In the next crack of lightning, the room is illuminated and when the young boy makes the mistake of looking up, attached to his shadow is the outline of a pair of wings, small, broken and pathetic looking.

 

The light disappears and the room falls into darkness again, taking the forsaken shadow with it until Alfred finally opens the door, running to his young ward and embracing the crying boy. As Bruce looks up, he lets out a blood curdling scream just in time with the thunder because now that his butler has turned on the light the shadow is back and it’s not going away.

 

He swats at it hysterically, sobbing and kicking and screaming but the black outline of the wings do not go away.

 

“Master Bruce, please calm down-”

 

“Get it away from me Alfred! Get it away from me!”

 

The butler holds the child to his chest, believing him to be genuinely terrified of the storm and the younger closes his eyes so tightly that they may never open again, hiding his face in Alfred’s shoulder and refusing to look at anything.

 

They stay like this for hours, his silent tears and shuddering slowly dying down. When the boy’s small frame finally stops shaking and his breathing evens out into slumber, the elder puts him to sleep and stays outside his door all night.

 

Little does he know, Bruce does not sleep at all, but rather stays awake all night, fingers dancing over his shadow on the wall until the sun comes up and his eyes get too tired of looking at the crooked bone structure of broken wings that he realised no one else could see.

 


 


“Alfred, I think I need to go to a psychiatric hospital.” This of course is said while the man is making his young ward breakfast.

 

“Master Bruce, whatever do you mean?”

 

After his explanation the butler drops the spatula and his eyes begin to water.

 

“Bruce, my darling boy, I will do everything I can to help you. Firstly, I think we should get you an evaluation, yes?”

 

Alfred’s usual fond smile seems more forced as he makes a call to Gotham Asylum.

 

-

 

The lady that comes to see him is pleasant enough, and while she asks him a lot of questions and administers a rorschach test that makes him feel slightly uncomfortable, the woman flits rather quickly between him and her clipboard as he explains his visions and the shadows he’s begun to see. Bruce’s only comfort left is the stack of non disclosure agreements that the woman is forced to sign.

 

After a hushed conversation with Alfred, including more skittish hand gestures than he’d ever seen the man use in his life, Bruce is informed that he’s been prescribed a cocktail of medications.

 

“Alfred, what are these going to do exactly?” He says as he stares into his palm holding a handful of different pills.

 

“Well Bruce, two of these are antipsychotics that are supposed to minimize your hallucinations, two are antidepressants to help you feel less sad, and the other is a mood stabilizer to manage any temperamental changes from the other medications.”

 

“If I take these, will I be normal again?” He looks up at the man with doe eyes and Alfred finds himself frozen.

 

“I- I could only hope so Master Bruce.”

 

The young boy looks at the colourful tablets for a moment, and then proceeds to take an overly large gulp of water and swallows all five pills at once with a slight gag.

 

“I don’t feel different,” he murmurs with a pout.

 

Alfred chuckles. “Dear boy, I think it may take a bit longer than that.”

 

It’s fifteen minutes later, and the shadows are gone.

 





For two years, Bruce lives his life in a drug induced haze. The days blur together, and while he’s happy he’s not happy.

 

Only on the anniversary of his parent’s death does he dare to skip his meds. He doesn’t want to be chemically calmed on a day like that. When he goes to pay his condolences his sincerity will come from him, not a little blue pill that represents everything about himself that he hates.

 

So after he pops out the tablets from the containers, he watches blankly as they tumble down the sink.

 

Today, he doesn’t need them.

 

It’s been four years since they died, and Bruce is determined not to have a panic attack at his parents’ grave. He dons his best suit, gels his hair the way his mother used to, and pins a flower to his lapel. He’s perfected his fake smile at the age of twelve so well that even Alfred doesn’t know he hasn’t taken his medication.

 

He’s delusional apparently, but not stupid.

 

It’s only when he stands under an umbrella in the rain, droplets spread out over his leather shoes does he remember why he always chose to visit his parents right before his dosage instead of skipping his pills entirely.

 

The sharp pain in his head is the only warning he gets before he feels the familiar pull of another vision.

 



The room they’d chosen to stay in was poorly lit by a sad excuse for a candle.

 

The two young men speaking were using a foreign language, Asian in origin.

 

Mandarin? Japanese?

 

One of the two boys was younger than the other with black hair pulled into a low bun and his slightly older companion kept his long locks open, swaying softly against his back as he moved.

They continued speaking in low murmurs, as the older man sharpens a knife in the process.

 

After they both stop speaking they each take the blade and slice their palms, allowing bright red blood to flow freely. They press their foreheads together and join hands, reciting few lines simultaneously and clearly sealing a blood pact.

 

The older speaks a name into the night. “ Kurāku…”

 

The younger responds with a soft whisper. “Burūsu.”


Bruce opens his eyes and is still staring at his shoes like before. A glance at his watch tells him he’d only been out of it for less than two minutes.

 

He takes a minute to collect himself, and once the pain in his head subsides, he sits on the nearest bench, not caring about his suit getting damp.

 

He’d experienced a vision of something different. More importantly, this one could be real .

The two boys were Japanese, he was sure of it now. Japanese is a real language and Japan is a real place which could mean his original theory of his visions being someone else’s memories could be right.

 

How wrong could he be when he was the only person he knew that could remember every single detail of his so called ‘dreams’?

 

How many people get visions in other languages? How many people could read in their dreams? Just how many people get dreams of what Hell looks like, and could tell you that Lucifer drank red wine from a silver goblet with obsidian rock embedded into it?

 

Bruce was coming to the quick realisation that maybe he wasn’t crazy, but maybe he was simply different.

 

Bruce continues taking the medicine but waits longer between his dosages.

 

In the short stretches when the effects of the drugs wear off, he gets fragments of these visions, occasionally seeing these angelic faces with golden light above them or he would see short memories of Kurāku- training with lengthy samurai blades, laughing, holding his hand, drinking together, looking at him fondly and such things.

 

It makes him take the medicine less and less to the point where he is no longer worried when he sees the shadow of his wings reappear ever so faintly in his peripheral. It phases him even less now.

 

When Bruce gets the next vision of them, he is asleep and the transition is so fluid he honestly doesn’t realise he’s having a vision and not a dream for a few moments.

 

Burūsu and Kurāku are knelt before their master Ra’s, the pictures of perfectly loyal samurai. They are older now, and more skilled in martial arts and sword play. They have served well and must complete another mission to prove their loyalty yet again.

 

“You must apprehend our enemy. Do not fail me.”

 

The two men make their leave, travelling through wind and snow to find their master’s arch nemesis.  

 

As they approach the last known location of Surīdo, a soft rustle in the bushes garners their attention.

 

“Did you really think he would be alone against you two?”

 

Out of the shade enters a woman who is almost familiar to Burūsu.

 

“Who are you, and where is your master, woman?” asks Kurāku, sword raised.

 

“Did you not tell him of our shared moonlight, my love? I thought you said you would remember me forever.”

 

“Taria.”

 

Another voice answers.

 

“Indeed. Can you imagine the expression on Ra’s face as he discovers he was betrayed by his own heir, the very daughter he believed dead?” says Surīdo, appearing almost out of thin air.

 

“It’s a good thing he will not have to believe her dead, because we will reward him with both your heads, you traitors!” screams Kurāku, charging forward with fire in his eyes.

 

“Kurāku no!”

But before he can stop them, Kurāku and Surīdo are fighting blow for blow with each man dodging dismemberment by bare centimetres.

 

“I believe I deserve some of your attention, Burūsu...or do you not care for me anymore?”

 

“The love I once had for you died when you did Taria. I don’t know who you are anymore and I do not want to.”

 

She dives straight for him, sai raised and lips curled in fury. The two dance around each other and while he has the upper hand he gets distracted when Kurāku groans in pain after being cut on the upper leg.

 

In the split second he looks away, Taria throws a white blade that lands deadly near his ribs and sends him to the floor.

 

“Burūsu!”

 

As his partner scrambles over to help him, the two enemies make their exit into the snow but the men cannot follow. It is with great shame the younger man carries his companion back to their master with news of their failure.

 

Over the next two weeks, Burūsu does not get better but rather progressively sick and when the healer is brought in the woman’s face is grave.

 

“He has been wounded with a strong lead poisoned blade. He has but a week or less left to live.” As he hears this, Burūsu begs the other to leave, if only to give him the last bits of his dignity, but the younger man refuses to leave his side.

 

On his last night, the ill man feels his heart beginning to give out, and looks up at his lifelong partner as the younger one wrings out another cold cloth to put on his head.

 

“I feel my time coming, but I want to thank you. At least now I know your love for me is true.”

 

He grips the younger man’s hand as tightly as he can while he takes his last few breaths.

 

He hears the whispers before the imminent silence.

 

“You never knew it, but I’ve always loved you, brother.”

 

He closes his eyes.


When Bruce wakes up he’s crying. He can’t help it, because the more of these visions he has, the more attached he gets to these people and he needs to find out who they were before he loses his mind. He heads to the bathroom, washing his face with cold water and looking at his reflection.

 

It takes him a moment to realise it, but he and Burūsu have the exact same eyes. If he looked closely, they also had rather similar bone structure.

 

It could not be a coincidence that Burūsu was the Japanese equivalent of Bruce.

 

The longer he looks at himself, the angrier he gets because he’s beginning to see the resemblance between himself and the men in his visions. It could not be a mistake that he kept having visions of an angel and a samurai who looked like him, and if that were true he definitely wasn’t crazy.

 

He was something, something that probably wasn’t human, but he wasn’t crazy.

 

The sound of all his medicine being flushed down the toilet is oddly satisfying. The next goal was to find out who was this Kurāku... or rather who was this Clark .

Chapter Text

Kal El is born on the planet Krypton to parents Jor El and Lara.

 

Unfortunately, this was not meant to last. In the heavens, there is a great meeting about the fate of the Kryptonians.


  

“My lord, surely this was a mistake. The Kryptonians are too strong, and with the additional gifts granted to him by the sun, Kalel may begin to reassume his angelic form. One might think that is not wise for him to travel to earth.

 

Michael paces in the throne room, wings fluttering nervously and eyes darting back and forth between Raphael and Gabriel who seemed to be having a silent conversation amongst themselves.

 

It was understood but not mentioned that Kalel being granted Kryptonian biology could be potentially catastrophic. After many deliberations, the Creator had said that the visions of their pasts would be vital in uniting Kalel and Braciel, but Uriel worried about how the angel’s soon to arrive powers would affect his ability to see said fragments of his past.

 

“The Kryptonians will no longer be cause for worry my child. I have foreseen their ending and the chaotic nature of their hearts has put it in me to destroy them. It is for the good of their realm, for even with the beauty of their entire world, these people want too much and give too little of themselves back to the universe.The very sun they worship will be their undoing.”

 

“Father, if you destroy the Kryptonians what will become of our brother Kalel?” asks Gabriel, looking up with furrowed eyebrows.

 

“He shall return to earth, and should he and Braciel not find resolution in this lifetime, Helel and I will take it upon ourselves to see them personally.”

 

“My, lord- you have not walked amongst those beings for millennia. Do you really think it wise to be amongst the humans? It is not written in the books.” Raphael hangs his head as he speaks but his words hold a ferocity that makes his brethren nervous.

 

“I am the very essence that creates the books of time and history, Raphael. It would do you well to remember that, and should I make myself walk amongst man that is a choice that is mine. Now go prepare the halls. Helel and I have much to discuss about the fate of those two.”

 

The archangels escort themselves out of the throne room but it was clear none of them were pleased with the Creator’s words.


The destruction of Krypton comes swiftly, and without knowing it Kal El begins crumbling slowly as his beloved home planet is destroyed, starting him on a path he’d never know would bring him so much pain.

 

As the infant journeys through space to planet Earth, the gaze of a dozen angels follows him, all of them holding unshed tears in their eyes for the loss of his people.

 

“My heart aches for his loss.”

 

“All will be well, Uriel. Dry your eyes, for though he has lost one family he will find himself home soon enough. He will come back to us and the loss of Krypton could never compare to the joy of being united with his brothers.”

 

The archangel feels strangely hollow on behalf of his fallen comrade but is strangely comforted by Michael’s words. But how could he ever come back to them when his destiny was linked to one such as Braciel?

 

_

 

Johnathan Kent wakes up in the middle of the night to the sound of a crash. His wife Martha stirs next to him at the movement, and eventually sits up to see what is going on.

 

“Did you hear that? It sounded like something in the cornfield.”

 

“It better not be those Lewis boys out truck tipping, or I swear to the Lord almighty- Jon you won’t be able to stop me from grabbing them by the ears and putting them through the wringer this time. I don’t care how much money their daddy spends in this town. This is disturbing public peace.”

 

Johnathan chuckles, and together they get dressed enough to combat the night chill and make their way into the cornfield to see what the commotion was about. After about ten minutes of walking in silence, Martha hears a low humming sound from on their left and turns to her husband.

 

“Sweetheart, I don’t think it’s them Lewis boys out here.” Her usual confident southern drawl now wavers with uncertainty.

 

Parting the tall stalks of corn, she sees a flattened patch of grass and a silver pod of some sort sits in front of her, with Johnathan agape at the sight.

 

“What in tarnation am I looking at?” The man rubs his eyes- once, and then twice- and reaches for his glasses that were left on the bedside table.

 

Just as he is about to take two steps back and call the sheriff, the contraption opens and inside it lies a sleeping baby boy. Before either of them can speak a word, the child opens his eyes - the bluest they’d ever seen- and coos at them.

 

The two share a look and smile fondly as the little one wriggles before Martha picks him up and holds him close to her chest. The next day, they move the pod and leave no trace of the child’s arrival to earth.

 

All anyone in Smallville would need to know is they’d adopted a son and his name is Clark Kent.



For as long as they’d tried to hide it, Johnathan and Martha knew something was very different about Clark. The boy once lifted up a tractor to help a trapped cat, and he could run the whole farm and not break a sweat.

 

“Ma, can I talk to you for a second?”  

 

Clark moves his eggs around his plate, not looking up as his mother washes the dishes. He hears his father sliding his feet into his worn leather boots at the door. The door out by the barn of course. Which was halfway across the farm.

 

“You know you can, Clark. What’s on your mind sweetie?”

 

She looks up with a pleasant but weathered smile, her face littered with freckles and some wrinkles from being in the sun all her life.

 

“Do you ever feel like you can do things…. things no one else can do?”

 

“Well I can bake a better pie than everyone in this town, I can out knit every woman for miles and throw a shoe with dead aim if that’s what you mean,” she chuckles while drying her hands.

 

“That ain’t quite it… I just get these feelings like… like I hear things no one else can, and I can move way faster than normal and-”

 

“Clark, you’re not like everyone else.”

 

She frowns. Martha had been hoping to put off this conversation for a little while longer.

 

“I suppose I better explain myself. Come with me, there’s something we outta told you about a while ago.”


Clark is thirteen the first time he realizes he can fly.

 

His Ma opens the door and then drops the plate of cookies to the floor as he hovers off the bed when finally she looks up.

 

However, after she collects herself her dry expression is no joke.

 

“Clark Jeremiah Kent, you better get your butt on that darn bed and stop putting on airs to beat Moses, you hear me?”

 

She watches him down the bridge of her nose and puts her hands on her waist with a squint that looked something fierce.

 

He slowly descends back to the worn duvet, but his sheepish grin and small shrug earn him an exasperated yet fond ruffle of his hair and a new plate of snacks.

 

The next week his father is more amused than shocked when his son begins to lift the tractor in the barn as though it weighs nothing and starts running the whole farm ten times before breakfast.

 

“Son?” He turns the page in his newspapers, seemingly nonchalant.

 

“‘Yes Pa?” The teen is on his fifth short stack of pancakes and he relishes in pouring syrup on his food to a hedonistic extent. His father’s eyebrow merely twitches in response.

 

“When you decide to start flying around the place like a bird, make sure you tell your Ma first- bless her heart she may faint if you come blazing past the kitchen window while she’s making biscuits.”

 

They share a look and it cracks. They begin laughing uncontrollably.

 

It’s good.  It’s great.


Martha and Jonathan can’t really complain about their son in the typical sense of the word.

 

He’s a good student, and like any typical sixteen year old he does all his chores around the farm- and basically all the chores around the farm to be fair- he’s polite and he’s obedient… mostly.

 

“Clark?”  She catches his eye and he goes for a fourth helping of potatoes.

 

“Yes, Ma?”

 

“Do you have any plans tonight?”

 

That is her not so subtle way of asking him if he’s going to play hero again and start sneaking around to stick his nose in other people's business trying to help. He knows she doesn’t approve, especially of his late-night flying and constantly testing his powers, but he can’t help it.

 

His hearing is basically a radio that plays all the stations at the same time and he can’t just sit there if someone needs help. So while he might do it covertly, Clark likes helping the little people.

 

What was the point of being able to fly, having breath that can freeze things, incomprehensible speed, and superhuman strength if he couldn’t do anything good with it?

 

He takes another mouthful of his dinner and swallows before replying.

 

“I thought I might go for a bit of a run, yeah.”

 

Her disapproving frown doesn’t perturb him much.

 

~

 

It’s after midnight when Clark gently opens his creaky window just so, and makes sure he’s quiet enough not to wake his Ma. He softly glides through the opening and pulls the latch to keep it till he comes back. The Kryptonian takes off into the night, flying through the fields and watching the corn husks move with the wind.

 

In a few minutes, he’s already back to the Arctic. His usual ice cluster waits for him.

 

Whenever Clark was stressed he’d bring himself up there to try to hone his powers. For hours he’d push himself to see how fast he could fly, how far he could stretch his hearing, how well he could lift and toss things and his recently discovered heat vision was also put to the test.

 

After what seemed like the thousandth time of trying to master control over his heat vision, the teen just screams and releases the unbridled rays from his eyes, not caring how long it took and allowing them to melt the building-sized glacier into hot spring.

 

He stalked off, more upset at himself for losing his patience than for struggling so much.

 

If Clark was supposed to be a superhero, how was it that he couldn’t master this little thing? He attempted to take off back home, only to lift a few feet into the air and sputter back down.

 

“That ain’t right…”

 

He tries again and this time his feet wouldn't even move. He looks over to the horizon only to realize the sun was already long set with no sign of returning for hours… and he’d just gone and burned himself out.

 

“Oh, now you’ve done it Kent. Gone and stuck yourself in a geographical icebox until the sun comes back up. Smartypants.”

He complains out loudly to himself and kicks every passing ice clump and rock.

 

“Stupid sun. Stupid powers. Stupid ice. Stupid me. Stupid criminals. Stupid Earth.”

 

He punctuates each phrase with each kick, slowly but surely losing steam and energy as boys his age are wont to do.

 

Clark looks around and finds a small rock and ice alcove that seems promising and against his better judgment, he takes a nap.

 

Falling into a deeper sleep than he’d ever experienced, he begins to dream.










The rain falling from the sky only makes Bryce’s sadness worsen.

 

Castor sighed from his window perch as he heard the half drunk man stumble down the corridor.

 

His mentor’s beloved Alistair had finally been taken away from him by the cruel hands of death, and he stormed into the airing room, ripping down pottery, paintings, frescos and statues alike in a rage.

 

“Mast'r bryce, shouldst I tidy the mess anon then?”

 

Summer was beginning and he would be expected to start his apprenticeship. In the middle of the most turmoil the artisan had likely ever experienced, he was expected to teach everything he knew about art.

 

Both males watched each other in silence, and Castor wondered what the older had left in him to teach when his heart had been ripped out his chest and dashed on the floor to be trampled at the expense of Alistair’s death.

 

Bryce’s own mentor had put a hand in raising him and being the father he’d never had as he’d always said.

 

Now he was a shell of himself- a shell of the man Castor had found himself falling in love with.

 

“I can barely standeth much less beest valorous f'r a thing knave.”

 

The youth frowned.

 

“Thou art valorous f'r plenty, I knoweth thee as the most talent'd artisan in V'rona sir!” He protests hotly. “Thou art a handsome and humble sir too,” he adds shyly, looking away as he begins to sweep up the shatters of plaster on the floor with a crimson face.

 

“Thou art certes blindeth and senseless to bethink me so, but I shall maketh an artist of thee yet.  Calleth me Bryce if 't be true thee liketh and sir if 't be true thee insist. I shall not wend by a thing else; I am nay bett'r than thee.”

 

~

 

Summers, falls, winters and springs pass, and with each one grows Castor’s beauty and skills.

While the blossoming boy falls deeper and deeper in love with Bryce, the artisan’s heart grows more and more incapable of love after the hurt of his dearest Alistair.

 

The mentor sits on his stool one summer evening, watching the same painting and hating how it looked.

 

“Bryce certes thee planeth to finish the mistress's fresco? Thy brush would nay painteth a picture itself, sir.” The young man says cheekily.

 

The older man sweeps his hair out of his hair and glares weakly.

 

“Testeth not mine own patience knave.  I'll likely toss thee out as apace as this hell curs'd fresco.”

 

Castor laughs heartily. “But who is't wouldst thee has't bringeth thy ale and finish thy w'rks sir?”

 

He gets no reply but a scoff.

 

Another hour passes in waiting until Bryce leaves the atrocious landscape to rest.

 

“Cometh h're thee pest, I’ll has't thee pose me something inspiring.”

 

Castor sputters over the remnants of ale he’d thought his mentor wouldn’t be missing, nearly choking. Painting pretty things always lifted his mentors mood, and something about the wispy hair that brushed his collar bones and his firm yet lean muscles from working possibly could be made to look so with a nice set of oils.

 

“Me sir? Your muse?” He queries, disbelieving.

 

“Aye lad, anon leaveth the bloody ale and cometh sitteth in the light bef're mine own streak of genius maketh a streak of thy backside.” He threatens, moving his easel to a better position and choosing his brushes carefully.

 

He opens the bay windows and lets light flood the corner where the chaise rests. The boy swallows thickly and moves quickly for fear of Bryce changing his mind.

 

“Er-  how wouldst thee hast me pose sir?” he mumbles awkwardly.

 

Bryce sweeps his hair out his face- something the boy still finds charming- and ties it back with a ribbon.

 

“Remmoveth thy j'rkin and leaveth thy shirt on.  Did lie across the chaise with thy eyes in the daylight, and behold at me liketh thee wouldst a lov'r, Castor.”

 

Something between a smirk and an adoring smile breaks his face.

 

“Then p'rhaps thee ought to bid me to just to behold at thee f'r once rath'r than basking in mine own sidelong glances.”

 

Bryce spares him a particularly dry look over the canvas he’d begun to prepare.

 

“Has't I gone senile 'r art thee trying to beguile me liketh some spring maiden? If 't be true I ev'r toldeth thee to behold right at me knave, thee wouldst runneth hot enow in the visage to lighteth the kiln.”

 

“Mine own blood at each moment runs hot 'round thee sir...but I dareth sayeth the flush wouldst not foploweth only to mine own visage yond thee seemeth so keen on capturing.”

 

Bryce doesn’t dignify that with a response, but rather looks at the ceiling with exasperation.

 

Hours of sitting for a pose keeps Castor restless, and his fidgeting soon draws his mentor's anger.

 

“Moveth again and I'll giveth thee a beating with the wretch'd painting, Castor.”

 

The man moves off his stool to adjust the teenager. He arranges the folds in his shirt messily,

adjusts the position of one of his long legs and then tucks a single hair behind the boy’s ear- hearing the skip in his breath.

 

There’s an unmistakable redness to his fair cheeks and his eyes are cornflower blue, looking up at the artisan with adoration so strong it nearly hurt.

 

“If 't be true I hadst known thy palm wast so soft, I'd has't did beg a caress ev'ry day I did lay mine own eyes on thee, sir…”

 

His mentor puts down his brush with a raised eyebrow and looks at him intensely and he straightens the cloth across the chaise.

 

“Don't beest daft, thy young heart wouldn't fret f'r a sir liketh myself, knave.”

 

The disappointment colours Castor’s face, and he sighs forlornly. Even after five years his master’s rejection still hurt.

 

In a spur of the moment, he leans into Bryce and its beautiful. He can see in that split second how the man’s lashes fan downwards, the slope of his strong jaw sharpens, the ice in his eyes hardens and even broken there’s still something about him that the apprentice can’t resist.

 

In daring spirit he leans closer and sees the exact moment the artisan makes up his mind; the motion of  Bryce turning his head so that their lips don’t connect. He hides his face in the older man's neck and feels gentle hands caressing his hair as the unbridled tears of shame begin to run their tracks down his cheeks.

 

“I despise thee. I abh'r the way thee maketh mine own heart did hurt in ways I nev'r thought did exist.”

 

Bryce’s hands still as Castor’s own breath comes in gasps and shudders

 

“I nev'r intended to did hurt thee, mine own knave. I wisheth I couldst loveth thee back, but I cannot fathom what love is anym're…”

 

“How can a sir who is't creates and holds so much beauty receiveth to beareth so much heartache?” The teen whimpers. His master rubs his head soothingly.

 

“Saveth thy drops of sorrow lovely knave. Shareth thy heart and all thy boundless love, tis what thee doth most wondrous.  Doth not rememb'r me as thee leaveth. Thy final test cometh at wint'r's end. Thee shall beest yet twenty- thine own artisan and man. Beest free to loveth and maketh art as fine as thyself, f'r i knoweth thou art nothing else if nay magnificent.”

 

Castor feels soft lips press against his forehead and the ruffle of cloth as Bryce gets up and returns to his bench, the air solemn.

 

"Now behold at me the way thee has't wait'd to."

 

With tears in his eyes, Castor smiles at him with a rueful yet poetic face captured by the waning rays entering the window.

 

“Aye, sir.”

 

And the painting resumes.



Clark wakes up from his vivid dream just as the sun is rising and without a shadow of a doubt, he knows something is terribly wrong.

 

With a strange feeling he sets off back home.

 

It's already way too late to go home and change, so he finds himself putting on his spares from his locker and mumbling a flimsy excuse to Miss Acker as to why he’s ‘strolling into her class’ at eleven in the morning.

 

He sits down in Trigonometry, not bothering to take any notes as he keeps thinking about his dream.

 

Castor.

 

Castor who looked just like him.

 

Castor who could be his renaissance doppelganger with the mere differences of clothes and hair.

 

Castor who was in love with a man.

 

Castor who should clearly just be a dream- but why would his brain imagine something like that? It is something from his Kryptonian genes that make him different? Is it something wrong with him ? Was this just a passing phase? Weren’t country boys supposed to dream about farming and.. races and girls or things like that? Clark didn’t even like Shakespeare but now his dreams were looking like something that rolled out of a play.

 

All these things flew through his head, and the more he thought about it the more confused he got.

 

The bell rang suddenly- shaking him out of his distraction- and he moved onto his recess.

 

His head throbs constantly and as he sits down to close his eyes, the sensation is like a movie film is running in his brain.

 

Clark panics and opens his eyes, watching around to make sure no one was paying attention to him and his ragged breathing.

 

That’s not normal. That is so not normal.

 

“Hey, Kent! You comin’ to play some hackey sack?”

 

“I don’t feel too right Johnny, maybe later.”

 

He calls out, wincing when his head throbs in response.

 

Slowly, he closes his eyes again and sees a swirl of colours and pictures that strongly resembled the setting in his dream.

 

With shaky knees, he gets up.

 

If he ignores it, it may just go away.

 

~

 

That night dinner at the Kent House is tense.

 

Clark watches the latest news report about some  Bruce Wayne’s company being run while he flees the country. He rolls his eyes at rich city billionaire problems.

 

“Clark it’s time for dinner.”

 

The teen turns off the tv, leaving his books by the armchair. The clinking sound of cutlery is pleasant even to his enhanced hearing, and for a minute he almost forgets he’s in the dog house with his folks. He’d barely spoken to them when he came home except for a weak ‘good afternoon’ before speeding off to his room.

 

“So how was your day, Ma?” He asks, mouth filled with pie.

 

His Ma’s displeasure is palpable and while his father understands his son’s side of the situation, he wouldn’t dare so in front of Martha.

 

“It was pleasant enough I’d say. Do you have any plans tonight, son?”

 

Her voice is level but it’s clear she wouldn’t take it too well if he was even thinking of saying yes.

 

“I think... I’m beat Ma. I’ll be heading right to bed so I can get an early start on those chores.”

 

Dinner finishes quietly and Clark heads to his room again, heavy-hearted.

 

Why’d he have to worry his parents? What was going on with him? Was this something he could even tell them? What if they wish they’d just gotten a normal, human son? Would they even want him anymore?

 

He sits on his bed with his knees to his chest and feels the tears running down his face. Closing his eyes to wipe them away, he sees more of the pictures behind his eyes; remembers the way Castor cried so heart brokenly when Bryce turned him away.

 

When Clark’s eyes open he’s in a state of dysphoria, gasping like he can’t even tell whether he’s in some dream world or reality. His hands and knees start shaking more than they did earlier and each breath he releases starts to get frosty like he can’t control his own powers.

 

He doesn’t even realise he’s calling for his Ma until she rushes in his room.

 

“Clark? Clark, baby what’s wrong? Jonathan! Come help me!” The shaking worsens and he starts convulsing as his vision phases between this dream-like place with gold walls and white pillars and imagery of his own room.

 

Blackness starts seeping in from the corner of his eyes and he doesn’t realise he’s passing out until he’s gone.



Castor sits watching the flowers fall off the tree with a dead look in his eyes.

 

It was beginning to get cold outside yet he stood in the chill, knowing not long after his son and apprentice, Alessio, would come looking for him.

 

It almost seemed as if the boy was summoned by thinking of him alone, because the sound of his boots could be heard crunching through the dry leaves on his way into the gardens.

 

“Fath'r! The mistress from Milan hast cometh to asketh about thee remaking one of thy paintings f'r a large payment. Shouldst I escort her to thy study?”

 

“Aye. Bid her I shall arriveth shortly, son.”

 

He walks the short trek back to the study where he meets his customers but there is no sunshine in his eyes, no joy in his steps. The leaves that blow past him crinkle lightly but he does not smile at it the way he used to.

 

Castor washes his hands blankly and without thought, and walks into the study to greet the mistress.

 

“Castor, I haven't seen thee since thee w're a young knave. Doth thee rememb'r me quaint one?”

 

“I couldst nev'r f'rget thee, Nencia. How can i assisteth thee?”

 

He  sits with her and listens to her proposal with a grim face. The excitement in her eyes slowly dim as she realises he is not pleased.

 

“Loveliest Castor, tis been a year already. Haven’t thee grieved for him enow?”

 

Castor exhales sharply, gripping the edge of the desk with white knuckles. There were few people who spoke so frankly of his late mentor with him. That last man brave enough to do so spent a nights time by a healer having gourd splinters removed from his face.

 

“Twast a personal piece, and I wouldst liketh to keepeth it so, Nencia.” He grates out.

 

She looks at him sadly.

 

“Tis thy most wondrous work, I has't nev'r seen a piece quite liketh yond. Can thee not beest persuaded?”

 

“Delphic Man tis not f'r sale 'r replication, Nencia. Leaveth me.” He says, red in the face with watering eyes.

 

She frowns at him, but leaves his home no less- not before giving him a pitying glance.

 

A few moments later Alessio returns.

 

“Father, art thee well enow? Mother hath sent aft'r thee…”

 

Castor smiles ruefully- an expression he dons more than a warm one.

 

“I am well son, thee may leaveth.”

 

When the door closes he hangs his head and the pain wracks his chest until he sobs with the force of it. He takes out a canvas from behind his tapestry and uncovers it.

 

Even with tear-splintered vision, Delphic Man looked beautiful. Nencia was right in saying it was his best work. It the only fresco he’d made and loved endlessly.

 

It was no surprise- he’d always known that he loved his master and found him beautiful.

 

And outside the leaves kept falling.


Clark wakes up gasping for air, body freezing cold and he can barely see through the tears forcing themselves down his face.

 

“Its okay baby, it’s alright.” His mother soothes him, petting his hair gently while his father covers him with a warm blanket.

 

His breathing stabilizes after a while and he looks around with bloodshot eyes, noticing both his parents were wearing fall clothing in the summer and that his windows were frosted over.

 

“Did I d-do that?”

 

“I reckon you did, son.” says his father, chancing to open a window and let in the humid summer air now that the teenager was awake and mostly alright.

 

“What happened?”

 

His parents looked at each other and then back at him.

 

“Well darling, you passed out and started talking in your sleep. We couldn’t understand a word of it. It sounded like some kind of foreign thing, but you stirred up quite a frost in here after a few minutes. I can’t really feel my toes.” says Martha.

 

“I’m sorry Ma,” the Kryptonian winces.

 

“Why don’t you try to get some rest okay? Your father and I will keep an eye on you.”

 

He nods silently, taking the glass of water in her hands and tries his best to fall asleep.

 

After an hour of keeping his eyes peeled, completely terrified at the thought of having another vivid dream he closes his eyes.

 

The flashes of pictures begin again; sharper this time with more details and his head hurts the longer his eyes stay closed.

 

~

 

Gold doors. Metal swords. Angel wings. Black claws. Bloody teeth.

 

“Don’t do this Kalel”

 

“I will never love you Braciel.”

 

Endless war. Screaming. Pain.

 

So. Much. Pain.

 

~




Michael watches his brother convulse where he lays in bed, flooded by memories of his own home.

 

He slumps to the floor in the throne room, not caring for the judgmental looks of his brothers. Raphael pouts in sympathy while Salaphiel glances up from his lyre and Uriel caresses his wings gently in an effort to soothe him.

 

Why does it hurt him so to remember us? Can he not recall the joys of being a fellow angel without pain my lord?”

 

The creator smiles sadly at his angel.

 

“Everything I do has a purpose, young Michael. It is not without pain that Braciel and Kalel will ever find resolution.”

 

“But must everything have pain father?”

 

“Everything that is not within our realm is far from perfect, little one. His body is trying to return to his angelic form, so he may suffer more than you would like him to bear, but it is inevitable. Have patience, and he will return to us.”

 

Four pairs of eyes watch their father before casting their gaze back to earth.

 

Somewhere in the darkness amongst the lowly demons, Helel grimaces in disgust.

 

~

 

Clark wakes up in the morning and his entire back feels like it is on fire. Quite a strange feeling when you’ve accepted the fact that you were born on a foreign planet, thus giving you alien genetics that make you never get sick.

 

He stretches his arms to see if he can find the source of the pain and when his fingers make contact with his scapula he nearly screams.

 

Pain is not something he likes. The feeling is almost like… he was missing something. Like a limb gone that still hurt.

 

He does his chores before even his mother wakes up, and gets ready for school.

 

He’s shoveling pancakes in his face with extreme fervor, the sound of the television a pleasant lull in the background.

 

Clark’s not paying attention to his father’s voice when it happens again.

 

His vision starts to blur until it's a strange almost flickering sensation, like if he’s rapidly switching between two channels on the cable box. One second he sees tall statuesque angels looking at him in shock, then next he sees his father’s rapidly concerned face looking back at him.

 

After ten seconds it stops. He’s pretty sure the room is spinning, and his knees are shaking but he cannot stay at that table. The teen sprints outside to gulp the fresh air, ignoring his mother’s concerned calls as he holds his face in his hands and slides down the barn wall.

 

He stops shaking after some time, and his vision clears up enough for him to walk back to the house unimpeded. There’s a slow trickle that begins right as he walks through the door and he knows his mother will ask questions.

 

He grabs his bag with a little help from his unnatural speed and is out the door in seconds, stopping only to check the time on the living room clock that was above the television.

 

The Kryptonian walks to school, thoughts racing across his mind. The crimson liquid that paints the back of his hand when he wipes his nose is new to him.

 

But of course, some things never change.

 

He passes a store and billionaire Bruce Wayne was on the news, yet again.



Chapter Text

High school passes for Clark as a blur.

 

There’s nothing memorable per se about being a teenager in Smallville, but he makes the best of it. While other kids go play hooky and swim in the creek, or go into town to buy milkshakes and watch a movie, Clark spends all his free time writing in his journal.

 

Over the years the Kryptonian gained control over his visions, learning how to stop them from flowing freely through his head whenever he let his guard down. The once head-splitting migraines have become a heady, tingling sensation that passes over his body in waves, leaving him a little disoriented and breathless; but he’s grown used to it- he enjoys the feeling of immersing himself in colours and sounds and emotions that aren’t his, to begin with. 

 

It’s what he thinks drowning might be like if he ever could.

 

Sometimes he just closes his eyes and lets his mind wander, bringing him to new flashes and fragments of things he’s not quite sure his imagination could ever make up. In the quiet corners of his school and his bedroom at home, he writes and draws nearly all of it. Everything he can see and feel and remember, he puts in his leather-bound journal so he never forgets.

 

If one were to go through his journal, it would be made quite clear that the only thing per se that Clark ever draws is Bruce. As he gets more and more memories every year, he sees so many different forms of the same man and by the time he’s seventeen years old he calmly acknowledges the fact that he could potentially be in love with what is likely a figment of his not so human imagination.

 

Between worn,soft and ink laden pages lay various sketches- his hands holding the man’s face, another with long hair adorning his Japanese wear, a melancholy smile as he holds a paintbrush, a cocked head paired with pointed teeth dripping in blood and so many others that leave his thousand-page journal nearly a quarter full.

 

He graduates with his head in the clouds, dreaming of his Bruce.

 

 That is until his parents pull him right back down to earth.

 

“Clark sweetie...what are you planning for this fall?” His mother looks at him with a strange mix of concern and what appears to be nervousness.

 

He looks up from his small sketch, with his neat pencil strokes finishing a samurai’s strong shoulders and arms holding a katana. Underneath has an annotation of what he remembers from the inspiration of the drawing. Kurāku was watching Burūsu’s form as they learned how to wield their swords in training. 

 

“What do you mean?” He asked confusedly. 

 

“What your mother is trying to say Clark is that you’re a smart boy, and...well there’s more to life than just helping out on the farm ain’t there?” His father rubs his hands on his jacket- a nervous tick of his that his son had picked up on.

 

The teen balks. He honestly hadn’t put much, or rather any thought to what he’d do aside from his patrols of the town and writing in his journal. All his classmates had already either got small jobs for the summer or planned to go to the city to try to make it big. 

 

His idea of making it big currently included winning the county pie-eating contest, and beating the Dallonie boys for how far they could skip rocks at the creek. 

 

Just maybe...his priorities were a little skewed at the moment.

 

“I didn’t mention it to you earlier, but your English teacher asked me if he could submit one of those short stories you wrote for a class in some competition. I knew you wouldn’t mind sweetie, but now there’s some letter in the mail for you- from some PenCorp Metro?”

 

Martha says this lightly, but Clark’s eyes widen in recognition. He scrambles off his chair to take the envelope from her and his father’s newspapers blow away in the gust he kicks up.

 

“Ma, that’s one of them big publishing companies in Metropolis, I heard Mister Rickby was looking for stories to send into their internship program!”

 

Both his parents look surprised but they crowd around him as he opens the letter, almost ripping it in his haste.

 

“Dear, Mr. Kent, we are glad to inform you..”

 

The rest is a cacophony of him attempting to read the letter aloud as both his father and mother whoop, cheer and whistle while attempting to squeeze the life out of him.

 

“My baby boy is going to the big city! Jon, go call Louise, I’m gonna rub it in her face that my boy is making it big.”

 

The sound of the crinkling paper isn’t nearly as loud as Clark’s laughing smile.



Bruce takes his fourth painkiller for the morning, and it does little to numb the unpleasant buzzing in the back of his head and he looks over his shoulder to see his ever-present shadow. 

The outline of the sad, broken wings stay there after so many years- mocking him almost, but he’s used to it now.

 

 He ignores it as he always does, wiping his face with a cloth and going back to his work with the welding gun.

 

“Master Bruce, will you be attending the board meeting at Wayne Enterprises? They called this morning but it appears you didn’t take the line.”

 

Alfred barely looks up as he reorganizes the artillery shelf, but his dry tone indicates his disapproval.

 

“I’m sure whatever it is, Lucius can handle it, Alfred. Besides, I’d have a gala to get ready for. The princess of Latvia is supposed to be attending and I need fresh leads on the Latvian royalty case, mine have all gone cold.”

 

His voice is muffled from behind the protective mask as he fixes something on the batcycle.

 

“Master Bruce, I think this meeting may be rather important.” 

 

The butler moves the box of dull batarangs to the left to be sharpened later and sets about organizing the different deployment tools for the tear gas.

 

“Is it something I need to sign? We have a stamp for that-”

 

“Sir, there’s talk of the board of directors downsizing the Research and Development department due to Lucius’ lack of progress. I imagine it would be difficult for us to source your....necessary materials and supplies otherwise.”

 

The man sighs and drops his soldering gun with a glare.

 

“You take one sabbatical to Southeast Asia and suddenly a bunch of know it alls think they own your business.”

 

Alfred chuckles.

 

“I would hardly count a ten year trip across the world to study in your nature of specialty fields a sabbatical, Master Bruce.”

 

“Tell Lucius to have them expect me for the full report in the morning. As you might imagine a solution of my own to the problem. For the moment the gala must take precedence; if things go the way I presume they will it might become a matter of public safety.”

 

“I figured as much sir. Will you be wearing Burberry or Brioni tonight?”

 

“Surprise me.”

 

~

 

The feel of skin-tight kevlar is growing familiar to Bruce. He thumbs the cuff of his suit and shoots a dazzling smile at a group of ladies eyeing him from the gazebo.

 

He puts on a nonchalant interested expression as another NGO representative comes up to him to tell him about their organization. He’s familiar with the name- he also knows its a money-laundering front for the elitist Gothamite scum- but he doesn’t let on what he knows; he smiles kindly at the girl, takes her card and keeps his eyes alert for any suspicious activity.

 

“Bruce, is that you?” He hears a heavily accented voice from behind him. When he turns he’s met with a lithe figure wearing a simple yet elegant lilac gown, her hay coloured hair pinned up under a tiara and twinkle in her lime green eyes.

 

Finally, the person he’d been trying to get his hands on all night.

 

“Princess Mildeia, how wonderful to have you grace me with your beauty again.” He places a soft kiss to her hand, as she grins bashfully. He’s laying it on thick, but it’s a necessary evil.

 

“You’re too kind Mister Wayne. I heard the news that your company is making headway into the nonsynthetic medicinal plant extracts we discussed on my last visit?”

 

He fakes a disappointed face and looks away guiltily. He can’t let the princess stray too far from him if he plans to finally break the case on who has been targeting the Latvian royalty, to begin with. 

 

“Well your highness, I had my best man on the job but we’ve run into a conflict of interest with the members of the board.”

 

Her polite frown lets him know that he has her attention. The conversation keeps up, and Bruce remembers why he genuinely enjoyed being around the princess, especially because he didn’t have to play the dumb socialite role with her. 

 

She was just as invested in improving Latvia as he was in improving Gotham- no matter how unfit people may have thought they both were.

 

As the princess begins telling him about her efforts to get more research on renewable energy sources for her country he notices one of the guards in the corner who seems a little out of the norm. 

 

Out of the norm is that the man maintains an unusually long eye contact- enough to make a lesser man look away uncomfortably- which is enough to peak Bruce’s curiosity. The vigilante knows he’s looking for an ex-marine militia group from his recent intel, but there’s something about this hired security that rubs him the wrong way.

 

He empties his champagne flute and continues to engage the blonde, but the constant eyes on him from his left is a reminder that it’s not just one of those guards who could be a potential threat. Their formation on the ballroom floor seems like they are trained in some kind of martial art of course, but it doesn’t scream marine. 

 

Which of course poses a problem, because sometime during the night he’s going to be in a room crawling with armed, dangerous men and he’s only let himself have two champagnes in the last hour. Of course, there’s also the notable issue that his kevlar suit under his tux is rather light and he can only keep limited weapons on him as a result. 

 

Bruce is less concerned about the physical danger he could be in; he uses his arguably excellent acting skills to pretend to be leagues more inebriated than he is and becomes more concerned that the fake guards are believing his ruse as he lures them away from the princess. 

 

The billionaire stumbles dramatically into a back door away from the ballroom, analyzing the space quickly to see how he could take them out quietly when he feels something uncomfortably warm behind him. 

 

A red glow casts itself on the wall causing the brunet to turn around slowly. Bruce is more than ready to throw a batarang when he faces all six of the guards, and the vigilante hesitates. 

 

The eerie glow was coming from the group...except it also seemed as though the shadows were clinging to them. If he looked closely enough he could almost convince himself that- that warped faces stared back at him in the wisps of black.

 

Something about these men just...seemed off. The hairs on his skin prickled and for some reason he was sweating as if the temperature in the room got warmer, but it couldn’t have.

 

“Who are you, and why are you here?”

 

He swears he sees one of the men’s eyes fade to black and blinks twice. His hands are shaking uncontrollably and he drops the batarang. He tries to reach for his tear gas but his hand will not move an inch. 

 

It’s like he can’t control his own body.

 

“You don’t want to hurt us Your Darkness, we are only here to help you remember that which you need to know,” says one of the shorter men in the back.

 

“I don’t know who you are, but I would stop right there if I were you,” Bruce warns as he backs away slowly.

 

“I am Baal; I am your successor, but you are not quite as mighty as Helel made you out to be My Lord.”

 

These people are crazy. They must be some kind of drug tripped Satanists trying to convert him and get them to fund their church or something. This is not real, and more importantly, this is distracting him from protecting Princess Mildeia. 

 

But if it's not real, why is his heartbeat racing faster than it ever has before? He can’t answer his question and it makes him unnerved.

 

“I don’t know what you’re talking about man, but if it’s money you want my company makes loads. Do you take cheques?”

 

If there is absolutely no other way out Bruce tends to play the dumb socialite card. It typically works long enough to distract kidnappers so he can knock them out and leave them for the GCPD. 

 

“Do not play games with me Braciel. If you wish to live like an angel then let me remind of you who truly are.”

 

A burning sensation takes over his body, running from the crown of his head down to the tips of his toes and the rage he feels is like nothing he’s ever experienced before. He feels a sick sense of power when Baal’s eyes widen as he picks him up and slams him upwards on the wall.

 

“If you think even for a moment that you know a thing about me or who I am, you are sadly mistaken.”

 

He sees the men stiffen in his peripheral vision, but Bruce is somewhat curious as to how long it would take him to choke his persecutor into unconsciousness. It's violent, risky and entirely unlike himself.

 

He likes it.

 

The murmurs behind him fall on deaf ears as he relishes the feeling of tightening his hands around the larger man's throat and seeing his eyes glaze over slowly.

 

“He speaks the shadow tongue. It should not be possible.”

 

“Leviathan...his wings. They follow him still.”

 

The lesser demons stumble backward in fear as Bruce’s small broken wings made of shadow begins to grow, chasing the light out of the room as they dwarf his entire body and almost making a barrier between Baal, himself and the others.

 

A deep rasping voice breaks through the brunet’s trance and he looks down to see what he is reluctant to believe is barbed tail grab a stray metal rod and send it flying towards the back of his head with a dull thud.

 

Blood. That’s definitely blood dripping from his head.

 

“You will surely thank me for this, even if it is not today.”

 

Before Bruce can try to stop him, Baal’s hands break out of his grip and wrap around his head with black pointed claws digging into his temples painfully. The man’s vision starts to blur out at the edges but he is more than certain the man’s eyes in front of him are now a blazing rose red and the face in front of him warps into something distinctively not human as he slips out of consciousness.

The feeling isn’t even mildly foreign to him anymore, so he doesn’t fight the pulling sensation. 

 

He already knows he’s not actually passing out, and the thought alone is very, very unsatisfying.

 

The six demons watch him as he goes down, convulsing violently as his skin phases between a slate grey and his usual healthy glow.

 

The six guards drop to the floor as the demons leave their body and return home, having done their task and needing to report back to Helel.














Smoke curls itself over the brazier and moves towards Bastiaan as though it has a mind of its own, dancing over his toga and melting against his soft skin. His limbs move loosely, the white wisps moving over his lithe frame and speaking softly to him.

 

The boy’s loose curls fall over his face as his lungs fill to the brim and every nerve goes cold with the power of Apollo. Hands are roaming his body, and it’s too much- they slide up his ribs, grip his thighs, circle his waist and smooth over his arms like they’re trying to take him apart.

 

The laurel on his head shifts dangerously close to falling off and the oils they smear him with drip messily down his clothes, staining the soft white fabric and embedding the scents of olive, lavender, and thyme deep into the fibers. The crackle of incense matches his movements as he writhes and jerks on the dais with his usual pale blue eyes now a misty white.

 

“Tell me Oracle...what fate do you see?”

 

Blood and havoc. 

 

Fallen soldiers by the hundreds. 

 

Arrows raining from the sky like hail. 

 

The Athenian Queen toasting her Athenian King.

 

Poison frothing at his mouth as the Spartan Queen slices his throat for good measure.

 

Gleaming shields piled high but not nearly as high as the corpses of the slain. 

 

Horses following their masters, trampling the defeated in their wake.

 

Calix’s sword. Broken like the last of Athens as it falls.

 

Calix’s dead, cold eyes watching him as his body falls.

 

Calix’s head on a wooden spike for all of Sparta to gawk at.

 

Calix’s head on a spike.

 

Calix’s death.

 

“They will fail.” He gasps to the priest. 

 

“They must heed the Carneia or Apollo will grant victory to the Spartans. If they charge under the nights cover they will be slaughtered like cattle. You must tell the Queen to delay the attack. You must.”

 

The rustle of straps of leather causes the heaving teen to look up at the Queen’s second in command as he enters.

 

“Her highness will do no such thing. Athena will protect them and grant the General wisdom and battle strategy to lead us to victory as she always has. You speak with no sense boy- in all my years I’ve not seen a male Oracle and I would not trust the fate of Athens to one either.”

 

The temple hands hold him back as he lunges for the vizier, gnashing his teeth violently.

 

“They’ll kill him you fool! The Spartans will kill your precious General and use him and his soldiers like a hog’s head to run to rot on their city walls like the barbarians they are! You know nothing about-”

The slap from the vizier sends him reeling.

 

“You dare question the Queen of Athens orders? General Calix will lead our men honorably while you do as you have for the last five years- sit here breathing a mad man’s smoke and spouting lies while they use you like a perverse little toy until all of your youth dies and they discard you like soiled linens, boy. You know nothing about the world of men and war.”

 

The tears run down his face against his will as he’s escorted away from the vizier when he and the priest began to speak.

 

~

 

As his door is shut and locked behind him, the boy empties his basket and pulls out his long length of rope that he ties to the pillar near the window. In a matter of minutes, he scales down the temple wall and makes off into the dead of night. 

 

He doesn't even dare to breathe as he makes it into the camp- wrapping his large black cloak around himself even tighter and moving silently into the night. The glint of his sharpest dagger catches the moonlight and he barely takes a second to slip into the velveteen tarped tent.

 

The pot in the corner has cooled from where it must have been burning oil, and Bastian huffs quietly in disgust. A rich man’s luxury. Parchment cluttered the small table and a half-written letter lay curling atop the pile.

 

He slips into the royal pet’s bed smoothly and presses his dagger to the bastard’s neck- gripping the back of his head tightly and feeling the man's body stiffen as he woke up. 

 

“Now Bastiaan, is that any way to wake up your lover?”

 

“Is this any way for an Athenian General to die, Calix?”

 

The older man chuckles and bends his neck, knowing the boy's hand would loosen his grip and kisses the long unmarred fingers holding the blade to his throat.

 

“If you wanted me dead, you would have done so the night after we first made love, my flower. I slept as soundly as any sated man would have.” He chuckles.

 

“Why didn’t you tell me you were leaving so soon,” Bastiaan whispers.

 

The older man sighs. “I did not see the need to worry you. We consulted the prophet. He says Athena will smile favorably on us my flower.”

 

“So you trust that blind old fool to protect your troops from-”

 

“That’s not what I said. I will come back to you Bastiaan. I always do.”

 

It’s a lie. He’s seen their fate. It’s a lie wrapped in a swath of love but still a bleak, cold lie.

 

He grips over the blonde’s shoulders and kisses him fiercely.

 

“Touch me, please. Make love to me. Make me forget the terrors they make me see, Calix.”

 

He doesn’t say ‘for the last time’ but he thinks it.

 

“I would offer that priest the world if I knew he would just release you from that hell, my love.”

 

The general treats him like he was delicate...like he was something to be cherished. Calix kisses him as if it’s his last, and the truth is that every time he goes into battle never knows if it is, but the young oracle knows now and he barely keeps the tears pooling in his eyes from escaping.

 

He loves him. He’s always loved him.

 

“Don’t go. Please don’t leave me, Calix.” He says as the man walks him back to the temple before Apollo races his chariot across the sky and exposes them for their sins.

 

“The sun is rising dear boy, I must leave. We both have tasks that call us and god forbid I cross Lord Apollo in the light of day he may very well smite me out of existence for tainting an oracle, no matter how irresistible you are.”

 

“Don’t go to Sparta Calix- I beg you. Pack your things and run away. Heed the Carneia, my love.”

 

A last chaste kiss presses to his lips before the older man leaves him. 

 

“I will either come back with my shield or on it Bastiaan. You know this. But I will come back to you.”

 

The whisper breaks the silence that lurks behind the temple walls as the teen climbs back up to his room. 

 

In the heart of the temple, the alter hands shake in fear as the brazier lights of its own accord and figure of smoke walks towards the oracle’s room with purpose. Bastiaan’s eyes turn a milky white and quiet voice is filled with power that shakes the stone pillars around him.

 

“No. You won't.”



When Bruce wakes up the guards are barely breathing somehow, and before he can even restrain them, he hears gunshots out in the ballroom.

 

“Everybody get on the ground and cooperate- if you do you might not get hurt. Echo team to Alpha squad we have the Princess. The ballroom has been secured.”

 

Not for long, Bruce thinks.

 

He makes quick work of the ceiling vents and makes his way above the ballroom, listening for more intel and shedding his tux as he goes. His hands are still shaking lightly but he breathes deeply and mentally notes how much artillery he has on him as he takes off the grate above the banquet table. 

 

The smoke bombs drop with a clank and the marine group starts firing their guns at what would have been the tail of his cape and moving frantically when the room is engulfed in opaque grey fumes.

 

“He’s here! The batman is here!”

 

The thrown batarang slices cleanly through the air and hits someone in the back while a magnetic net takes down two others as he releases the nearest man who was now passed out from the headlock.


“Secure the princess. Delta team, close in on Mildeia.”

 

The voice comes from his left and the air displacement is what’s left of the fist that he’s already dodged. When the dark knight grips above the soldier’s other flying wrist and then twists backward with a loud crunch, the knife drops.

 

A smart technique if he’d somehow managed to find a weak spot in the suit. That, however, was a feat that was still mostly difficult even in the lightest model and Bruce notes this as he grabs one of the men mid lunge and tosses him sideways into the rest his teammates like a bowling ball going down the alley.

 

In a matter of minutes, he has the entire team neutralized as the civilians stay near terrified on the floor. Making quick work of their communicators he acknowledges that there are nine others in the building but they are slowly taken down as the GCPD personnel had responded to the panic alarm and began to make their way up to the ballroom.

 

“Your highness, are you okay?”

 

“I’m fine. Thank you, Batman. My ambassadorial team, servants and I owe you our lives.”

 

“Can you identify any of these men? It would help the GCPD and I ensure that the district attorney deals with them accordingly in court.”

 

The princess grimaces as the police begin to restrain the subdued men and medics attend to the civilians.

 

“I don’t know any of them personally, but my public representation warned me not to be here tonight. I had received death threats from the Scandanavian Science Association over my team’s research breakthrough. I imagine these must be their lackeys- an ex-militia turned bounty group named Jernskal.”

 

“I’ll get to the bottom of this, your Highness.”

 

She smiles ruefully at him and looks on as one of her servants is carried away by a medic. 

 

When she turns back, he’s gone.

 

~

 

Bruce stumbles into the manor, not even bothering to look at where he drops the keys to the Porsche. He’s swaying dangerously as he puts in his retina scan for the Batcave but he refuses Alfred’s help.

 

“Master Bruce it might be wise for you to-”

 

“Alfred. Something about that gala was not right. I mean it.” 

 

The brunet’s entire body feels like it’s been doused in cold water and he doesn’t understand why his breathing is so ragged or why the ground looks like it’s getting closer for some reason.

 

“Master Bruce are you-”

 

‘Here we go again’, Bruce thinks.

 

~

 

A few cities away Clark sits in his temporary cubicle at PenCorp, typing away rapidly at his computer.

 

“Kent, did you get that draft done for the weekly newsletter?”

 

The teen scrambles to find the print out amongst the monstrous sized pile of paper but locates it with a small smile.

 

“Yeah, oh shoot I mean yes sir Mister Dean sir-”

 

“Alright Clark, you should probably take a break kid. You’ve been here since nine this morning and it's well after midnight. Didn’t the shuttle back to your motel leave hours ago? You should be home, Smallville. You’re nineteen, not twenty-nine.”

 

Mister Dean looks at him with a fatherly frown but Clark just sighs and smiles sheepishly.

 

“I just wanted to get as much done as possible sir.” He puts on his most boyish grin.

 

No need to mention he could basically photosynthesize like a darn plant during his ten minute break and that he could go a week without sleep. Better to just seem like an overachiever.

 

“I don’t suppose they have clubbing, anime or hooters where you’re from do they, Smallville?” Dean laughs.

 

“No, sir. Just corn and chickens.” He muses.

 

“Head on home Kent, Isaac and I are going to start locking up anyways. If you keep up they’ll be sending you over to head office before you turn twenty for christ’s sake.”

 

“Head office sir?”

 

“Yeah kid, PenCorp is a subsidiary of the Daily Planet. That’s how they scout all their junior reporters.”

 

Clark doesn’t respond except for a thoughtful hum, and he waves his goodbye as Dean leaves him to pack his things. He stops for a moment in the lounge as the glow of the TV catches his eye with the news anchor giving the latest headline.

 

‘In breaking news top socialites, her Highness Princess Mildeia of Latvia and Gotham’s most eccentric billionaire Bruce Wayne were reported as victims of an attempted kidnapping at tonight's Conservation Efforts Research charity Gala. 

 

A source from the GCPD says that both investors had been targeted by an ex-marine group who were tasked with the murder of both parties as their funding provided a breakthrough in medicinal properties that was being previously looked into by the Princess’ Scandinavian competition….’

 

Clark stops listening as he freezes in place. He knows that face. 

 

On the screen in front of him is the man he’s been seeing in his dreams. 

 

Bryce Wadham.

 

Wakatsuki Burūsu. 

 

Or rather, as he was now called...Bruce Wayne.

 

A sharp panging starts building in his skull and Clark knows he needs to leave immediately.

 

“Not this again.” He mutters to himself as he tries to sprint out of the building with his worn messenger bag dangling haphazardly on his shoulder. The Kryptonian feels breathless by the time he gets out of the elevator- something he’s not used to feeling because breathing isn’t a necessity for him most of the time.

 

His knees give out as he rounds the corner, but at this time of night, there’s no one in the street to be bothered with unconscious aliens.





Bastiaan makes his way through to the Spartan Castle looking for the Queen. 

 

‘If she were going to flee him she would be gone already’ the spirit of Delphi whispers accusingly in his ear.

 

The boy pauses but he knows she would have returned. She would want to dispose of the King herself. Love makes people do strange things and having already rid themselves of the Athenian King the two women would not dare leave anyone else who would oppose their rule or the joining of the two nations.

 

“Queen Gorgo he would come back to rid herself of him and return to her maiden. But she would be wary of General Diane.” He whispers back to the spirit as it floats through his head and around his skin like a warm swath of cloth.

 

In the darkness of the night, the Athenian soldiers move across the city, murdering men in their sleep and making their way towards the castle and clearing a path for their execution squad to eliminate the royalty as they lie resting.

 

“Kill them all then my child. If there are no kings and queens there is no war. He will be yours.”

 

The blond general makes his way through the castle, his execution team at his back as they scour the place and make their way towards the king’s chambers. The weight of his sword is heavy in his hand.

 

As one of the Athenians slam a patrolling soldier into a seemingly hollow wall and slices his throat, the Spartan General wakes with a jolt hearing the sound of a knife being sheathed. She rolls out of her bed and lifts her bow in hand. 

 

Diane knows they must have come for the king, on the night of the Carneia no less.

 

A sharp ringing breaks the silence. The king himself signaling danger.

 

Bastiaan, Diane, and Calix look up from different parts of the castle as each one makes their way quickly towards Leonidas’ chamber weapons in hand.

 

“She has already killed him.”

 

“I know but I need to kill her and the Athenian Queen if I want to protect Calix. I must.”

 

The oracle enters the room, daggers in hand only to be met with the two Generals and dead royalty.

 

“What have you done, Athenian?” Diane screams, kneeling over her beloved king. 

 

“She killed him. He attacked her and Gorgo killed him herself, I saw it with my own eyes.” Calix grates out, hands still on his weapon as he watches the scene but unsure what to do.

 

“Why would I believe a spineless lying Athenian like you Calix? You come in the night to bring what, a parting gift?” she spits, taking two gold coins from her satchel and putting them over the late king’s eyes.

 

Neither soldier notices Bastiaan until he already has the bleeding queen in his clutches.

 

“She did kill him,” the boy speaks, just loud enough for them to hear him, “Because she loves Queen Aspacia and wants both thrones to herself like the selfish woman she is.”

 

He looks Diane dead in the eye as he makes a curve over the Queen’s throat. 

 

“It’s a pity she didn’t think to poison him as her lover did with her own husband.”

Calix’s grunt of pain is what makes him look up and the head of an arrow greets Bastiaan through his General’s back.

 

“Murderers! I’ll kill you both, and hang your heads from the city walls as a sacrifice to Ares!” she screams as she loads a second arrow. The oracle dodges arrow after arrow, trying to get near enough to the black-haired warrior to sink his knife into her neck. 

 

Calix breaks the arrow off and removes it with a twinge, dragging himself to his feet.

 

“Bastiaan. You must run, or she will never let you leave here alive. Go.”

 

The older man manages to avoid most of her arrows but blood drips from a fourth wound now as he is hit repeatedly, left with no shield and nowhere to hide. With an empty quiver, the Spartan General would be getting into close range, and that would be near enough to be fatal.

 

“I won't leave you. I won't, Calix.” Bastiaan grabs his hand tightly and holds his dagger firmly in the other hand. They would face her together.

 

The sound of metal piercing flesh is loud and the curly-haired boy looks down to see his white toga staining red with wispy feathers from the fletchings of the true last arrow tickling his skin over his heart. Wine coloured fluid drips from his lips as he falls forward onto his beloved.

 

“Don’t send children to fight your battles, Calix. Come face me like a man,” she sneers, dropping her bow and empty quiver for a sword.

 

“Bastiaan!” the blond screams, as the teen falls into a crumpled heap, breathing wetly and clutching his chest.

 

He charges after her,  his strikes slow and uncoordinated from blood loss and is quickly overpowered.

 

Bastiaan coughs wetly, scrambling across the floor as Diane holds Calix up by his golden locks and raises her sword arm.

 

“Honour to Hera and victory to Sparta!”

 

Calix’s eyes stare back at him unblinking.

 

The oracle’s scream shatters windows and shakes the very walls of the castle. As he gets to his feet, the boy faintly registers the fear in the General’s eyes and smoke starts to curl off his body in tendrils, growing larger in size until they move with a mind of their own and become strong enough to break the walls. 

 

Diane tries to flee and save herself but the white-eyed boy looks at the door and it locks of its own accord.

 

‘Your fate, Diane of Sparta is sealed. Prepare to meet Cerberus at the gates of Hades.’


The fire spreads uncontrollably until it consumes everything in its path. In the ruins of the castle lay the charred remains of Spartans and the Queen of Athens herself, while countless innocents lay dead across the city from the smoke- women, children, and soldiers from both nations amongst them- with gruesome expressions on their faces as they met their ends.

 

Upon entering Sparta, one would see Diane’s death visage staring out from the edge of the city wall.

 

Atop a pile of rubble sits a young man, black hair dancing with white smoke and mist in his eyes while he quietly talks to himself.








Clark sits up with a gasp and there’s a man kneeled over him saying something.

 

“You okay there? You were walking over there then you just collapsed, man. Do you need to go to a hospital?” 

 

Clark balks at the word hospital.

 

“No I feel fine, thank you.” 

 

The trip back to his motel is a slow one as it’s too risky to fly, but something about the man who spoke to him seemed so familiar.

 

The very same man slinks into the shadows as Clark makes his way home, answering his summons to the heavens.









~


“Surely you didn’t need to call me all the way up here for this,” Helel says unamused. He sweeps his long platinum hair over one shoulder and dusts off his black pea coat. The king of Hell puts his feet up on the other half of the throne too just be particularly troublesome. 

 

“You went against my orders and interfered Helel. You foolishly tampered with matters of the heart- things you know not of.” The creator speaks coldly.

 

The angels look on in shock as Helel and their father argue openly in front of them.

 

“Looks like Mom and Dad are at it again,” jokes Uriel. Salaphiel glares at the younger, holding his lyre overhead like a weapon to keep his wayward brother in line. 

 

“Oh, that’s rich coming from you, dearest.” Helel seethes, craning his neck backward to watch his soulmate pace around his own throne rather than sit on it. 

 

“You gave me your word, Lucifer.”

 

“Don’t call me that. I promised you I wouldn’t harm them. They’re both fine. My plan is working.”

 

“You can’t just do as you please and expect to get away with it forever. Over time, as you may remember my brilliant one, my benevolence wavers.”

 

“I don’t always get what I want, now do I,” says Helel suggestively, looking pointedly at his soulmates retreating figure- all broad shoulders, soft waving locks and his regal white and gold armour. 

 

The creator feels Helel’s eyes roaming over him and ignores the comment.

 

Across the throne room, the other angels' faces turn with disgust and discomfort at Helel’s open shamelessness. 

 

“I think I just threw up a little in my mouth,” whispers Uriel to Salaphiel, earning him a hit over the head with the lyre.

 

The older being looks at Helel pointedly until the other sighs in defeat.

 

“Fine, I’ll stay out of their business and I won't mess with their memories  but just stop giving me that look- there are kids in the room, and I’m the king of bad intentions.” The devil smirks.

 

Helel gets an exasperated sigh from his soulmate and an exaggerated retching noise coming from Uriel in the back as Salaphiel and Michael kick him out of the room.

 

“Thank you.” The king says to the devil, albeit reluctantly.

 

“Well, that’s a new one!” The blonde laughs, getting to his feet.

 

“Don’t get used to it.”

 

Helel throws one last wink to where the creator sits on his throne before slinking into a pool of darkness.

 

“I hate it when he does that.” The king sighs.

 

~

 

Bruce wakes up with a cold cloth on his head and Alfred’s firm hands adjusting his pillow. 

 

“Master Bruce are you quite alright? I checked your vitals but nothing appears to be physically wrong with you.”

 

He thinks back to earlier in the evening.

 

Tails. Red eyes. Glowing skin. Dancing shadows. Non-human language.

 

“I’m fine. There must have been something in my drink. I think I just need some time to recover and then I’ll put what information I have into the system on the Latvian Royalty case. Can you release a statement to the GCPD on my behalf over the incident? They’d want to know where I disappeared to during the attack.”

 

“Of course sir. Princess Mildeia sent a bouquet wishing you a speedy recovery an hour ago.”

 

As his butler leaves Bruce gets off the bed and turns down the lighting to check and see if they’re still there.

 

Large, inky feathers outlined his body’s shadow spanning a large space- the wings looked nearly two metres each- and the vigilante pauses. 

 

These were not his pathetic little wings that followed him around anymore. If he remembered correctly, during his fight with Baal they moved of their own accord....almost as if they had been real and corporeal at that moment.

 

For the second time of the night, Bruce didn’t have an explanation for something and it unnerves him.

 

He sits down slowly on the bed thinking of all the visions he’s kept seeing over the years, and why they called him Braciel as though they knew him. 

 

It was impossible.

 

The visions weren’t supposed to exist here. Those creatures weren’t supposed to exist here. Bruce doesn’t want to confirm what he thinks he already knows, yet he begins to look for answers- a bad habit of his.

 

The thoughts niggle at the back of his mind for days on end- crossing his thoughts on patrol, at meetings and functions and he becomes awful company to have even while playing his doltish socialite persona- until he simply has to ease his anxious mind. What he finds does not soothe him in the slightest.

It’s only when he does his research- scouring all the resources he has, buying tomes and questionably obscure papers- does he find the knowledge he seeks. The detective discovers that Baal is the name of a powerful demon, second in rank to the lord of Hell himself. 

 

He remembers the creature’s words and the blood begins to drain from his face.

 

“Do not play games with me Braciel. If you wish to live like an angel then let me remind of you who truly are.”

 

He closes the book, but dread settles in the pit of his stomach.











Chapter Text

For the first time in millennia, the sky over the celestial city is cloudy and all the angels watch the brewing storm wearily. The golden doors of the throne room seem dull as bursts of lightning scatter across its reflection and the rumble of thunder clouds cover both the deliberation of meddling angels and the clatter of a lover's quarrel.

Michael paces the garden with his brethren, his wings fluttering nervously despite Salaphiel’s nimble fingers across the lyre.

“This is not how it was supposed to happen. Braciel was not supposed to recover wings. Certainly not shadow wings of such capabilities either.”

Gabriel watches his empty chalice with slight disappointment before snapping his fingers to fill it again. He’s going to need a lot more wine for this discussion. He loves Braciel, his dearest little brother, but his visage clearly expresses his lack of enthusiasm- doesn’t need to be here for this.

“You know as well as the rest of us that Mother now refuses to speak about their fate. The wings must serve a purpose, Michael.” He says this into the rim of the Goblet, inhaling the strong scent.

Uriel looks up from sharpening his sword. “We have a mother this week? I didn’t even notice. I suppose that would explain the cacophony in the sky. I can barely hear myself think.”

Discussing the creator of the universe’s change in gender continues like a conversation on sandals or gardening. Deities are nothing if not fickle; Angels often would not be shocked seeing the throne room graced by a goddess.

“That’s perfect then,” interjects Raphael with fake enthusiasm. “Your plans are more often than not terrible, Uriel. Both mother and Helel would discover our concerns in a day.” He ignores the youngest’s frown and plays with the end of his braid absently.

“May I remind you all that Kalel knows of Braciel’s significance to his life now? He has recognized him because of these memories resurfacing. There is no telling precisely what he will remember or how quickly...or if he too may begin to reassume his true form. We must stay aware, humanity and divinity do not mix as well as we think.” says Salaphiel gravely.

“Kalel has already crossed the line of veering from humanity, so I doubt that reassuming his angelic form would tarnish his character. Braciel may not elicit the same calm from mother, the humans nor our other brethren...if he reassumes his cherubic or demonic form, that is. Humanity has suffered enough.” Michael mutters.

“What would you have us do Michael?” asks Gabriel quietly, eyes softened by wine and voice somber.

“That much is a simple answer brother. Should Braciel become too much for humanity… it will be our duty to kill him.”

The tears in his eyes do nothing to soften the firm promise in the archangel's eyes. The others simply nod in tandem. The air is filled with the sound of feathers rustling and thunder rolling.

 

 

The clang of metal in the throne room is covered by the raging storm, and the Creator finds herself more than grateful- even if her own foul mood is the cause of it. Her swords vibrate with the force of Helel’s blow and she flips herself out of the way as another blade comes flying past her ear.

“Must you be like this, Helel?”

The replying shriek sounds dangerous.

“You gave him back his full wings! That was not the agreement, you liar!” Helel bellows, ebony locks flying in the breeze she picks up mid-jump. Sparks roll off her in waves as she grows more and more violent, causing the goddess to watch her soulmate more carefully.

“Neither was Baal’s visit to earth and yet here we are. I owe you no apologies or explanations, my love.”

The blonde flings a dagger lengthways and watches it past through a cloud of smoke. The hairs on her neck raise and she ducks in time to feel the air displaced above her head. A single golden lock drops on the glimmering floor as the stygian sword arcs back towards the other’s hand.

“Do not call me that. You owe me everything, you wretch. I made him what he is. Braciel is mine- you gave me his soul,” she growls. The balls of flame she hurls at the ruler are met with almost condescending laughter as she turns them to rose petals and watches them fall. Helel bares her teeth at the other grimly and is met with an amused smile.

“I did no such thing. I merely sent him where he was better suited Helel- such are my duties. I also never gave him back his full wings, they are merely a shadow of what they could be. A reminder that he can walk in the light and still turn his old darkness into good. He can join us amongst the stars again.”

“So you would turn him back into some lovesick fool only to have him follow some useless angel around the heavens and never be truly loved in return? Have him be an outcast just to follow your pathetic will?”

The goddess smiles cruelly. She knows it’s a metaphor, that Helel is projecting.

“You are rather concerned with their fate for someone who swore off love, Helel. You take my name as though you are still one of my children and appear to behave like one as well. If I did not know any better...I would say you still care, my little light-bringer.”

The goddess drops her weapons as she walks forward, already knowing the fight is over.

“Don’t you dare call me that! I am no halo bearing child, you complete fool. I chose my name, El. It means the ruin of God. I will finish what I started. I will tear your golden city from the clouds and watch it sink amongst the ash and the asphalt.”

The queen of Hell glares and swallows tensely as her soulmate wraps up her golden curls, focusing those all-seeing eyes on her.

A chuckle.

The goddess continues walking forward, shedding her gleaming armor as she goes.

“If we are using true names then, why are you shying away from me Samael? I thought you did not fear me.” The green of El’s eyes morph into a cold shade of grey and the lightning overhead seems irrelevant compared to the electricity rolling off the Creator.

Helel’s back hits the throne room walls and she’s suddenly reminded why the one who put the stars in the sky must be her other half. This is what she fell in love with. The glimmer of malevolence hidden behind the eternal love she so despised yet craved.

El’s hand glides gently across her cheeks and Helel closes her eyes if only to savor it once. Lips press against hers softly, and she leans into it without meaning to.

“You can come back, Samael. You can always come back to me. My love for you never wavers.” El whispers into her soulmate’s mouth, the storm above melting away like her anger.

The ring of the slap echoes off the walls for miles. The Creator’s eyes water as her beloved pushes her away hard enough to make her stumble.

“I said don’t call me that. I’ll never forgive you for casting me down there. If you are so besotted with thoughts of love for all, my last act will be to ensure that Kalel and Braciel never make it together El. I will not rest a day until you suffer. Lie in that damned throne and imagine your happy little angelic city with perfect peace. For as long as I breathe, I will fight it.”

“Helel don’t do this-”

The dark-haired woman slinks into a puddle of ink before the Creator can stop her.

Pulling her hair in frustration, El screams.

“I hate it when she does that,” she mutters as she falls back onto her throne with unshed tears in her eyes.

 


Clark sits in his cubicle at PenCorp and tries to ignore the sound of the television in the lounge that never turns off. The clacking of keys on his computer does nothing to block out the knowledge that there has been another murder in Metropolis. The fourteenth for the month and it’s only been a week.

He continues working so that his draft on Senator Borris will come out well even if he doesn’t need to think about a puff piece to be forwarded to the Daily Planet. The tension in the Kryptonians muscles increases the longer he listens to the reporter relay the crime statistics and he wishes he could somehow physically turn his hearing off.

An arson case now left unsolved with a nine-person death toll. A magistrate judge took hostage for ransom by political terrorists. A heist that cleaned an entire artillery crate off the port.

The teen’s pencil snaps while trying to fill out his sudoku on break.

A robbery is taking place at Metropolis Central Bank. A white-hot feeling behind his eyes reminds Clark that he needs to stay calm before he burns a hole through the breakroom fridge, but every day it gets worse and worse when he reminds himself that he can’t do anything about it.

His identity has to stay a secret. He promised.

Humanity wasn’t supposed to know about the things he could do. So for all his good intentions, his parents just would not have it, and Clark couldn’t bring himself to betray their trust like that.

Hearing the getaway vehicle take off before the authorities can intervene makes his blood boil, and he envies his coworkers and their human senses. He takes off the glasses that he doesn’t need, wipes them and puts them back on.

For what isn’t the first time, he wishes he didn’t have to be an alien. Holding his pendant on his necklace- a key with an S- the alien wears a longing look on his face. Normal is all he asked to be. A normal teen from Kansas who couldn’t see his coworkers biometrics with a blink, burn things to the ground with a glare or leap buildings in a single bound.

It was obvious he didn’t belong here, but the real question was where could he fit in?


He remembers his father’s face as he had confessed to him that day. The frown he had when he showed him a pod and the key. How torn he’d been explaining to Clark that he couldn’t tell people about his powers. Explaining that humanity wasn’t ready for what he was capable of.

If he wasn’t like these humans, why was he even here? To suffer again like in his visions? To be an outcast? To die without ever knowing what his true purpose is?

He’s so lost in his own thoughts he doesn’t even notice his boss coming up to him.

“Kent, did you hear me?”

He shakes himself out of his thoughts and plasters on a fake smile.

“Sorry sir, I got distracted. What were you saying?” The older man looks tired, his grin not quite meeting his eyes, hands twitching as a product of being over-caffeinated and Clark feels bad for him.

“I was telling you that you’ve managed your quota for the first part of your internship so you’re allowed to take a few days off. Maybe take a trek home if you can afford to, go out with friends or just do whatever it is you kids do these days.”

Friends. Clark totally had those. He musters up what he hopes is a grateful expression and nods his head quickly.

“Thank you, sir. I’ll just finish up here and I’ll be on my way for a little while. I think I might take the train and go visit my folks. Nothing like my Ma’s sweet potato pie,” he mumbled. He doesn’t even meet his boss’s eyes but he does feel the older man ruffle his hair gently.

“Take it easy Clark. I’ll see you in about a week.”

Later that evening he packs his bags for his trip home and for some reason it seemed oddly final when the doors of the train closed with a quiet hiss.

 


If there was one thing Clark always thought when he stepped outside it was that Smallville probably always had and always would smell like damn corn. Compared to the wet trash and oil fume scent of the city laced with fast food… it was more than refreshing.

He walks down the powdery dirt track towards his family home and hears the keening bark before the footfalls begin.

“Hank come back here!” His mother must have been putting clothes out on the line with their beloved canine companion to keep her company. Clark smiles at the thought.

A giant moving ball of fur comes speeding at him and he catches the dog with no preamble, playing with his ears and crooning.

“Hey there buddy! Did you miss me? The old folks not letting you terrorize those Lewis boys?”


A dry chuckle. “So just when were you planning on telling your darling mother you’d be home for dinner, Clark Jeremiah Kent?”

Martha stands there with a fond yet exasperated look on her face, and he wisely puts down the dog to give her a long-needed hug.

“Son, if you keep squeezing me so tight then you might break me. I’m not as strong as I look.” She giggles.

“Sorry, Ma…. I just really missed being home.” He says, acknowledging the feeling for what it is.

In the big city, he felt like a nobody. He felt useless. He felt frustrated because he couldn’t do the right thing.

When he was at home, there was no wrong way to be. No need to pretend to be something he wasn’t. If he felt like bench pressing the tractor before breakfast his parents wouldn’t bat an eyelash. If he gorged himself on enough pizza for nine teens the only complaint would be that the boxes were cluttering the table.

At home, he didn’t need to pretend to be human. He could be whatever he was and they’d love him for it.

A niggling part of Clark’s brain wonders if that’s why the very thought of going back to Metropolis burns a hole in his heart. He loves writing, but he knows he can’t sit there and listen to all the cries for help yet do nothing. The idea of sitting behind a desk, paper-pushing at a morbidly slow rate for the sake of normalcy and turning a blind eye to the chaos outside made him sick. That’s not the kind of man he wants to be.

His Ma, clearly seeing his distress ushers him inside.

“I think you need a slice of pie and some cider don’t you think, son? I’m sure we’ve got a lot to talk about.” She smiles warmly.

“Sweet potato?” He asks.

“Sweet potato,” She smiles.


As she leaves her son in the kitchen, Martha finds herself back in the bedroom she shares with her husband. Her hands follow along the top of the taller cupboard while on her toes until she feels the slim shape hidden there. Holding it gently she opens the old matchbox she had kept the little thing in, and takes out the small metallic device.

She knew it was wrong of them to hide it from Clark, but she managed to convince her husband that maybe their son didn’t need it just yet. Martha knew it had something to do with where he came from, but she couldn’t help but feel that giving it to him would change everything. That handing him a small piece of something shiny from the ship he came in could tear her whole little family apart when he started longing and searching for what she couldn’t give him.

Answers.

 


Part of being Batman meant more than a little bit of suffering. That was simply a fact of his life. As the toll of being the only vigilante in Gotham started to wear on him, he could see Alfred growing more and more concerned.

Every night he would come home weaker and more damaged than the next, yet more determined to clean up his city than the last. Alfred would grimace every time he had to watch Bruce’s eyes harden against the pain of his injuries. They purchased first aid equipment by the crate which would seem normal under a large company bill. The downside was that he was on constant painkillers as criminals evolved rapidly- some of them playing with his bones like a xylophone before he could detain them and have them put in prison.

With every wincing step down his grand stairway in the morning, he’d remember what he was fighting for. He put away the criminals so that no one had to suffer the injustice he had at such a young age. When his stitches tear for the fifth time in a week, it can sometimes be hard to remember that. Both men worked efficiently in the cave but the Englishman knew that when the first suit failed him, the sound of glass shards from Bruce’s back falling into a metal pan would haunt him at night.

There is a tense silence in the kitchen when Alfred requests that the younger man take a night off.

“Criminals don’t take a night off, Alfred.” He burns his tongue on his hot coffee and his tie is slightly lopsided but the other holds his comment on it.


“Then perhaps you could delay your patrol for a short while, Master Bruce? Your social persona has not been out for quite some time. The young ladies in Gotham may think you’ve forgotten about them.” He says with a wry smile, setting a plate of scrambled eggs, sausages, and toast on the counter without even looking.


“Is there a particular reason you’d have me do that?” Get to the point, he means. Alfred knows how to read between the lines.

The sound of the dishwasher being loaded does little to cover the next thing he says, however.

“I find that you seem a little stressed with your full agenda and could use a bit of leisure time, sir. I took the liberty to clear your evening meeting as well as secure you a ticket to Haly’s traveling circus tonight. It’s at eight o’clock and should last no less than four hours.”

The billionaire pauses and tries not to blanch at the pointed, disapproving tone in which the older man is referring to his patrols. Ever since he came back from his trip he knew Alfred wouldn’t be fond of his decision or preferred methods to clean up Gotham, but it’s hard not to wither under his judgemental stares even after many years of trying.

“I don’t suppose I can talk myself out of this one?” He tries, sheepish but hopeful.

The more time he wastes at a useless circus show, the more time he loses on patrol and the more time criminals have to attempt a getaway. The thought alone has the hair on his neck standing up in agitation. His fist tightens under the counter involuntarily, though his voice is calm.

“Perhaps, but you should first know that there may be useful intel in the area. Your leads on Tony Zucco have gone cold yet sources say he has relevant business around that area when you are to be there. Did not occur to you that this could be a situation better suited to yourself than to your half Master Wayne?”

Bruce lets out a defeated sigh. His blue eyes look away from his butler’s amused smile. Alfred may be right nearly every time but it’s been twenty-five years of not enjoying it, the vigilante likely wouldn’t start anytime soon. He focuses on finishing his food.

“I’ll go then. The paparazzi will probably be ecstatic to see me out of my hovel for once.” As he shovels food into his mouth with a panicked glance at his Rolex. The board meeting would be starting soon.

“I will be sure to notify your secretary and send the car around for you at the appropriate time, Master Wayne. If you could refrain from calling this well-kept grounds a hovel while chewing your food I would most appreciate it, you hooligan.”

A genuine smile and warm chuckle blends with the clatter of cutlery.

“Thank you, Alfred.”

Every bit of tension that had drained out of Bruce’s body seems to come back tenfold as he readies himself to head into the office. There was much to be said on the fact that he’d rather face a group of mobsters head-on or fight a botanical meta-human than sit in a room full of investors and shareholders.

There is a soft slide of a chair followed by exactly twenty-seven steps nearly silent steps to the door on marble flooring before he’s gone. It feels like just the other day the boy was so young and frail that the butler could remember hearing thirty-six shuffling footfalls over linoleum before the echoing creak of the old mahogany wood would let him know the child had gone out to play.

Now as he looks around at the lavish interior, almost everything in the manor has changed.

His once young and hopeful ward has changed quite a bit too.

 

 

For the first few days, things with his parents are tense… more so than usual anyway. He falls back into some of his old habits of course; it would be strange if he suddenly stopped playing fetch with Hank or didn’t write and draw in his journal as much as he always did.

He could practically feel his mother’s curiosity when he flipped through the pages filled with transcriptions of his dreams or the way she’d follow the scratch of pencil on paper when he would bring Bruce’s- or any version of him - eyes, shoulders, neck, and jawline or even hands to life with careful strokes.

Now that he knew the man in his dreams was so popular he never dared draw his entire face in the journal… it almost felt too real, too personal.

His visions came almost daily now but constantly changing. Sometimes he just heard voices in his head when he would pretend to sleep or feel a sense of deja vu as though he’s experienced something before even when he’s sure he’d never done so before.

On the third day of his visit home, he hears classical music floating through his mind while he looks up at the starry sky by the creek. There’s no one around for miles yet he feels an almost warm sensation as though someone is leaning against his shoulder. Clark’s throat tightens and he holds back the response to a question he wasn’t asked.

It’s disconcerting that he feels the silent song in his bones and somehow his entire body feels cold. He doesn’t need warmth, but he takes the opportunity to walk back home. He thinks of Bruce Wayne the entire way back and if maybe he likes to look at the stars too. It puts a smile on his face at least.

Clark tries to get acclimatized to being back on the farm in the beginning, but in between daydreaming and catching up with town gossip, he realizes his father’s reaction to using his powers to help seems to be a thin frown. He sees it when he lifts the tractor or uses a little more speed than normal to clean up things so his mother can have a rest.

At first, he thinks maybe he’s said or done something wrong but he doesn’t get reprimanded for it so the younger man continues his usual routine.

It’s the day before Clark has to leave to head back to the city and both of Martha’s boys are out of the house while she prepares some lemonade and makes a shopping list to take while running her errands.

“Clark, son do you think you could help me with the truck for a bit? My hands don’t work the way they used to I suppose.” His father murmured, knowing he’d hear from out in the field. He looks up and nods at the figure maybe a mile away and in a second he’s standing next to his father whose expression doesn’t look too pleased.

“You could have walked.” He says as he traipses over to the old pick up in the shed.

The taller boy chuckles. “I could have. It’s slower though.”

Johnathan sighs heavily and he wipes the sweat off his face with a cloth.

For a short while, they tinker on the automobile while the grey-haired man tries to think of how to explain his concerns, and a perpetual crease stays in his brow while the cranking sound below him helps him collect his thoughts.

“Look, I know you probably feel like you’re being held down and that it’s safer here in Kansas to be yourself Clark...but you need to be more careful about those powers of yours son. One of these days someone dangerous is going to figure out who you are or what you can do if you keep being so reckless… one of these days you won’t be safe here anymore. I know you probably want to be some kind of superhero but there are enough people running around messing with the law like that Batman. I know your mother is concerned and she asked me to talk to you, son.”

Clark sputters.

“I don’t understand. You said I need to fit in, so I stopped trying to play hero just like you said but now I can’t use my powers either? What am I supposed to do Pa? Sit in an office all day and be one of the mindless zombies in the city? Give up who I am to be something I’m not? You told me that day when you found me in the field that I gave you hope. I hope every human I meet doesn’t set a principle for lying to me!”

Johnathan glares and his hands grip the wrench tightly.

“You can help people without endangering yourself or worrying your mother to death every time you try to sneak through the goddamn window!”

Both men wince when they realize how loud they are being. Clark looks away and his father sighs.

“Go fetch Hank. Your mother wants us to carry her into town for some things.”

The younger walks off without a word.

 


The whisper of gossip that begins when he walks into the WE building ought to be the soundtrack to Bruce’s life. He signs some NDAs before he even enters the elevator and he’s thankful for the meek brunette intern next to him who hands him a coffee. He’s not sure he wants to know what the kid thinks he does at night- battle supernatural hellscape nightmares and kick criminal ass is probably not his first guess- that he needs a quad espresso to stay awake but he still tries for a grateful smile instead of sleazy. The cup is empty before he gets to his seat- a testament to his stellar level of self-care of course.

The board meeting is bland as they always are, and the benefits of his ditzy Brucie persona allows him the benefit of streaming the entire audio back to Lucius for actual screening while he tinkers with new uniform polymer designs on his tablet. Judging by the looks he’s getting the entire room probably thinks all of this is flying over his head or that he is just going to stamp his signature on this ridiculous proposal after presumably playing three hours of Tetris.

It’s slightly amusing to see people really believe he’s a complete airhead, and he takes a sip of the secretary’s coffee on his left. He shoots her a wink, and she gets expectedly flustered.

He pretends to be cluelessly confused when they ask for his opinion and uses his usual line.

“Oh, I’m not too sure about this one gents... I’ll have Lucius help me look it over with my lawyers, yeah? Thanks, Roger, this was so much fun!” He says in a friendly baritone with a charming smile. As charming as one can be while surrounded by financial sharks who want him to sign off on a filtration system that will put over a thousand blue-collar workers out of jobs and most certainly cause a riot in Gotham proper.

He connects to the cave files when he is back in his office, pulling up his current files on Tony Zucco. For a Mafia Boss of supposedly low status, he was quite elusive when he wanted to be.
The Italian seemed to have disappeared almost entirely for closer to six months...yet for some reason, he was in Gotham again and making no efforts to hide his activities.

What would he want with Haly’s circus? The mafia leader didn’t seem like the type to find amusement off acrobats, elephants, pyrotechnics and self-claimed freaks. The connections between both parties aren’t clear until the map of the performance area comes up.

The angle? Protection in exchange for money- Zucco’s specialty. The only place big enough to house a traveling circus without costing a fortune would be Priaro docks, the most notoriously dangerous place to have any business on southside Gotham. The insurance premiums for anything thing in that area cost an arm and a leg, so the owner would likely take the highest cautions to secure his profits...legalities aside.

There were few willing to mess with the mafia on that side of the city based on reputation, meaning Zucco and his men would only be there as muscle for hire and to collect their cut. He’d have to be fast and subtle. Going in there with smoke bombs blazing perhaps wasn’t the approach- he’d risk sending him right back into hiding and losing the entire case.

Men like Zucco belonged in jail so if Zucco wanted the money he could talk that language.

Bruce spoke that language very well.

 

 


The Kent family usually has pleasant drives into town but this wasn’t one of them. The rolling hills, endless fields of crops and the sweet smell of lavender pouring through the window was just a backdrop to the ongoing argument in their quaint little truck.

“I don’t see why you can’t come home, Clark. If you’re going to finish the internship soon then is there a reason for you to stay in the city?”

It’s unspoken but the Kents both know why their son doesn’t want to come home. They still missed him; it hurt not spending his birthday together and managing on infrequent phone calls because he could never afford the trip home, yet forced to see him grow up just a little bit more and spread his wings further than they could offer in little old Kansas. He’d never get to help people with his special abilities here. He’d never get to be himself.

Martha feels like there’s lead in her pocket holding the heirloom that belongs to her son. It might tell him about his people. He might not be alone on this earth but she’d selfishly held him back because she just couldn’t bear to see her sweet boy go.

“I just want to do something useful with my life.”

“Farming… feeding people, that’s not useful?”

“I didn’t say that!”

“Our family has been farming for five generations Clark-” The teen sets his jaw and rolls his eyes.

“Your family, not mine. I don’t even know why I’m listening to you- you’re not my dad. You’re just some guy who found me in a field.”

Martha gasps and even Hank whines.

“Clark!”

“It’s alright, Martha. He’s right. Clark has a point. We’re not your parents...but we’ve been doing the best we can and we’ve been making this up as we go along so maybe… maybe our best isn’t good enough anymore.” Jonathan hangs his head a little. He’d hoped that it wouldn’t come to this but he always knew Clark would fly off one day and decide not to come back.

Suddenly Clark regrets his angry words. He knew his parents must know he didn’t really mean it- he would always love them but he needed to do more with his life.

“Look-” he tries to begin.

“Hold on.” Says Jonathan.


The sky above them is an angry shade of grey and despite the crippling fear, the family makes it out the truck while the winds still allow them to get out of the truck. The town's worst nightmare sits in front of them.

Coming towards them with violent winds and wreaking havoc in its wake is the wrath of mother nature.

A tornado.

 


Haly’s circus is bright and colorful. Bruce ruefully thinks it might have been something he would have enjoyed as a child if he’d bothered to keep any semblance of childhood, to begin with. He smoothes out nonexistent creases in his suit as he walks through the outside and takes in the neon banners and various concession stands.

Against his better judgment, he stands behind two parents and their son for a quick bite. The young boy giggles, pointing at all the exciting things with his mother’s fond smile beaming down at him.

He doesn’t realize he’s not breathing properly. The mother is wearing (clearly fake) pearls around her neck and leaning on her husband adoringly. He fakes his smile and pays for his funnel cake though the involuntary shudder that goes his body can’t be controlled. He must have been that age when his parents were shot… and suddenly the powdered sugar tastes like lead on his tongue and his eyes become wet with unshed tears.


Shaking his head he takes out a handful of audio transmitters and sticks them to some vantage points on his way into the audience. Nothing wrong with some extra evidence to get accomplices sentenced too. He takes his seat after discarding his snack and some younger ladies near his reserved box wave over at him with sultry smiles.

He blows a kiss and they giggle back at him like they always do. The tablet tells him all the devices have been successfully planted but none of Zucco’s men seem to be doing any talking. Despite this Bruce lowers himself into an admittedly comfortable chair when the lights begin to dim.


“Ladies and gentlemen and children of all ages, welcome to the grandest show on earth! Before we begin, let’s have a hand for the benefactor of tonight's action-packed pageant; Mr. Bruce Wayne!”

Not expecting to have the spotlight drawn to him, Bruce stands clumsily and smiles his celebrity megawatt grin knowing Alfred must be using this as a ploy to lure Zucco to him.

“And now ladies and gentlemen, direct your attention high above the center ring for a dazzling display of aerial artistry! Performing death-defying stunts without the aid of a safety net, I present to you the fabulous Flying Graysons!”


The music starts playing, something elegant and classical that makes Bruce almost feels like he’s heard it before. Maybe he has at one of the events he’s been to, he can’t recall. He tries to focus on the feed from the transmitters yet his eyes are caught on a tall figure coming out of the service room.

Reaching into his pocket his binoculars show him none other than Tony Zucco making a break for it out the back entrance. The music seems to be getting louder, yet when he tries to get up Bruce’s head starts to spin in that telltale way and he sees his vision swimming.

Swan Lake. The song playing is a distorted warped version of Swan Lake and there’s blood dripping from his nose as he stumbles down the stairs to try to catch Zucco. The wind is knocked out of him as the music very literally takes him back.


Several hundreds of miles away, Clark finds himself in his childhood room on his knees, gasping for breath.

 

Borya’s been on his feet for hours but the ballet master hasn’t given them a proper break yet. His partner Darya sits primly, stretching her feet but the character Odette isn’t needed on stage yet so he sticks his tongue out at her playfully earning him an eye-roll.

“Now is not the time for games Borya! I said pretty feet not pug face, entertain your foolery later.” Madame Katya held no mercy for lazy dancers. It was not the Russian way.

He sighs and starts again. In the audience sits a small boy watching with fascination and when he thinks he’s not being watched Borya sends him a silly face. His best friend replies with a blinding smile, there wasn’t a time the other could think of where Cyprien wasn’t smiling.


The red-haired boy sits in the empty audience hall, his legs shaking with endless pent up energy and he all but burst forward when Borya is finally released for the night. The others clear off the stage and make to leave for their homes while the two relax for a bit. His hands move so fast the other cannot even understand him.

“Slow down, Cyp. I’m not God, I cannot read your mind or those hands!” He jokes. Cyprien pouts cutely but moves his hand more slowly.

“I was saying I thought you looked very good on that last set, you seem to be getting it very well Borya.”

The brunette boy laughs. Cyprien was born without his hearing but he believes the taller must have a laugh that sounds like how sunlight feels. Warm but too much of it could be bad for you.

“And how would you know, tree child? You’re deaf, no?”

“Yes, but not I am not blind. I don’t need music to appreciate dance Bya. The same way I don’t need vodka to appreciate a good broth.”

“It makes it better though.” Laughs the dancer as he fixes his loose shirt. Cyprien looks away.

“If you say so.”

When the ballerino leaves to go shower and change, Cyprien hauls himself onto the stage and pulls out a battered pair of pointe shoes. He knows it’s not the right time but he can feel the movements in his body longing to be let out. He pulls up his red locks into a messy thing on his head hoping for elegance and laces up his ribbons with the efficiency of someone holding a secret.

Cyprien doesn’t realize how much time passed until he felt hands on his hips that he almost jumped out of his skin. He turns around with his fists raised to see Borya’s soft smiling face.

His stomach drops and all the blood drains from his already pale face.

“Borya- I no- it’s not what it looks like-”


Boys were not supposed to dance in girl shoes. Boys weren’t supposed to put their hair up like the girls. Boys were not supposed to dance like Odette and wish in their heart of hearts to be held by Prince Siegfried. Yet even in his mortification, Cyprien’s face flushed hotly because Borya hadn’t moved his hands yet and he hadn’t stopped smiling at him.


“Do you want to practice with me? I can teach you better because I can hear the music. I am impressed; it takes much practice to go en pointe and even more strength to hold yourself up in dead pointe shoes.”

“D-Dead?” His hands tremble as he processes what the older boy says while still holding his small frame.

Borya walks away and Cyprien knew it must have been too good to be true. He would never really want to dance with a boy.

Until the brunette looks back from behind the curtain and motions for him to follow. Cyprien smiles back shakily, and he watches with wide eyes as the ballerino takes down a brand new pair of pointe shoes from the cupboards like it meant nothing, sits him on the bench and asks,

“May I?”

The younger nods shyly, his red curls falling out of his makeshift bun and back into his face. With the gentlest touch, Borya takes a needle and thread like they were made for his nimble hands and fixes the elastic to the soft satin shoes before sliding them onto delicate little feet.

He stands up and flexes his feet experimentally. The firm feel of the shoe, the hardwood in the box of the toe, the soft slide of the fabric on his skin. Then as gracefully as he can, he lifts himself onto his toes and it feels right.

He’s just tall enough to rest his head on Borya’s shoulder now and when he hugs his best friend and first love he takes a deep breath of his spice scent from the market soap. He can feel the vibration of the other talking so he looks up.

“Does this… does this make you happy Cyprien?” He can see genuine curiosity in the grey eyes.

“I might never hear the music but I feel right being Odette, Borya. Is something wrong with me?” Is something wrong for wanting to be a girl? Is there something wrong with wanting you to hold me like this all the time? That is what he truly wants to ask.

“Of course not Cyp. I will teach you the dance properly now okay? But… this must be our secret. Promise me.”

Cyprien has already held all his secrets before so he nods gravely.

“I promise.”


Martha is in the kitchen putting away the last of the food from the neighbors after the funeral and she looks at the family picture of her, Jonathan and Clark. Before she even realizes it the frame is across the room and there’s a dent in the plaster. The last conversation they’d had was a damned argument and now she didn’t know how to even talk to Clark.

She didn’t know how to begin to explain that his father chose to make that sacrifice, but she wasn’t even sure that she could open her mouth to start that conversation. Just looking at Hank sniffing around the house looking for Jon as though he was coming back broke her heart.

A loud thud comes from upstairs and she looks towards the ceiling.


“Clark, honey are you okay?”

No reply. Just as she goes to call again, she hears him scream. Her boots thud on the creaky stairs and she opens his door to see him on the floor holding his head in pain and gasping for air. She kneels next to him trying to help him up.

“Sweetie, you need to breathe for me. Are you having a panic attack again?”

“Ma…” He sounds as though he’s in excruciating pain and Martha doesn’t know what to do.

Clark feels a sensation like there’s ice packed inside his entire body yet somehow his brain is numb and his heart is broken but this.... isn’t how he felt at the funeral. This isn’t guilt. He sees flashes of a brunette boy’s worried face behind his closed eyes and hears the sound of liquid sloshing in a bottle and snow crunching beneath his feet

“I think this is what drowning feels like. I’m sure of it this time.” He whispers. His head falls into her lap and she just holds him because she doesn’t know what to do anymore. She’s not enough.

 


Bruce begins to see the world as it is again and he feels an eerie chill run down his spine before he looks up. Swan Lake is like the soundtrack to a horror story, becoming a warbled cacophony in his ears as his vision clears and he can’t hear his own scream over anyone in the audience.

God clearly hates him because he’s failed; Tony Zucco is gone and lying there on the floor, twisted unnaturally are Mary and John Grayson. The sound of their son’s sobbing is going to haunt him if he ever sleeps again.

He grips the balcony tightly and the tears fall from his eyes. Bruce Wayne wasn’t enough.
A dark-haired woman watches up at the VIP box with a smirk and follows Zucco’s men as they leave the building. Helel makes her way back to Hell with plans on her mind.

Bruce decides that he may not have been enough for Mary and John but Batman will avenge them. Alfred watches him with a grim smile as he arranges to adopt Richard Grayson. The small boy seems so broken and lifeless when he arrives at the Manor, yet there is hope left in those blue eyes. The butler can see it and he vows to try his hardest to better with this young ward.

Martha hands over the small heirloom with a pained expression and watches with saddened eyes as he packs his bags. She remains strong though, Clark deserves a chance to find out who he really is. She would give him that much.

 

 

Helel sits on her throne and holds the singular feather in her palm.


“And you’re sure this will work?” She asks the hideous demon snidely. It nods at her furiously, slobber falling from its gaping mouth.

“Then leave us at once.”

Baal takes Kalel’s feather from her to pour the painfully collected blood from Braciel over it and watches as it melts into a black boiling mess.

“That’s it then?” She scoffs, watching nothing happen.

“It is done.” He leers. The black mass forms itself into an angelic rune- unknown to Helel, the shape of their soulmate mark.

 


Above the ground where the humans walk, both Bruce and Clark find themselves on two different sides of the world. Batman stands on a rooftop watching the sunrise over Gotham and Clark sits atop a mountain to watch the sunset.

One second where their eyes close is all it takes.

 

El freezes in her steps in the throne room. Something is wrong.

 

 


“Cyp, slow down!”

It was supposed to have been a good night. Borya had asked Darya out with him and Cyprien to celebrate their performance and he thought they would have had a merry night. Instead, all the two did was bicker and when he left to get them more drinks he saw his friend storming out with a bottle of vodka in hand and Darya’s upset face.

He sees the younger boy making a mess of hand motions but he cannot read it.

“I can’t understand you!”

“Neither can I understand you, so I don’t give a fuck Borya!”

The older boy flinches back because even in sign language that stung. The younger boy's face was red either from the drinking or the cold, but he couldn’t tell.

“What have I done?”

“It doesn’t matter now. Go spend your time with Darya you fool. I’ll do what I always have. I’ll dance on my own to my own music.”

Cyprien’s red curls fall into his face and he’s so small that Borya wonders how he’s not freezing.

“Let’s go home Cyp.”

The other isn't looking at him so he can’t read his lips. The tiny boy walks off to his own beat and Borya can hear him crying but he doesn’t know what to do. Amidst the crying, the ballerino hears laughing and he tries to call out for the redhead as he walks further and further down the grass.

“Do you know why I hate her Bya? I want to be her. I want you to look at me like that when I dance with you and lift me into the air like nothing and caress my face like that. But you would find me repulsive, no? All this time I watched you choose her and dance with her when it was only I who was in love with you Bya.”

He’s swaying lightly and hopping foot to foot like he’s trying to- like he’s dancing. Cyprien moves further away and starts prancing about recklessly and he turns back with a drunken smile and it’s the first time Borya hears the deaf boy make a sound like a laugh until there’s a cracking noise.

The tiny dancer turns away and continues prancing and spinning hysterically like a mad swan while Borya screams at him to get away but he can’t hear him. He doesn’t know he’s dancing on the frozen river until he feels rather than hears the final crack. Borya’s screams fall on icy deaf ears because his little Cyprien didn’t know how to swim.


When they fade back to reality Bruce now finds himself on his knees peeling off the cowl as the Batmobile drives towards him, panting and gasping for air, and Clark can barely see with tears splintering his vision and the rock beneath his palms are nothing but a fine powder.


Rain starts pouring from the heavens with El’s tears, and Michael who had seen it all hangs his head in defeat and his wings fall with shame.

“Helel what have you done?” He murmurs.


Sitting on her throne listening the sound of El crying and holding the key to reconnecting the two soulmates, Helel laughs in delight.