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Springfield, Missouri

 

He wasn’t supposed to be on this field trip. The whole point of moving to Missouri, his dad had said, was to give them a break from the sea. As far back as Arthur could remember, his dad had always stood out there on the deck of the lighthouse or sat on the cliff, watching and waiting for her. Mom. Then one day his dad had packed everything up and decided they needed to be somewhere new, “no lighthouse” this time. He’d taken a construction job in Missouri. They had family there plus Missouri was all land, about ten hours to the nearest coast; it was going to be perfect. That was the plan.

 

On his way out the door, Arthur had looked for the permission slip for the trip. He'd found his dad passed out on the couch, the permission slip on the floor unsigned, the paper wrinkled and stained from the dried-up beer, spilled sometime late last night from one of the bottles on the floor. He'd sighed and looked at his father. If he didn’t go on the trip, the other kids would give him a hard time—they already called him “short bus.” He was smaller than the rest of them and given to long periods where he would just stare out the window and blank out till the teacher caught his attention. So, he'd picked up the paper, kissed his sleeping father, and said, “Bye, Dad.” And then he'd taken a pen and easily signed it with his father’s scrawl; this wasn’t the first time he'd had to do as much.

 

But it might have been better if he'd stayed home, Arthur thought miserably. The other boys had ignored him throughout the trip, which was almost over; the school group was finally coming to a stop at the largest tank. "This gallery is called 'Ocean Voyager',” their teacher started.

 

While the teacher spoke, Arthur drifted to the far side of the aquarium, drawn by a large stingray as it floated along the side of the tank, its white underside gliding past the glass. He wanted to touch it. The next thing he knew, his feet had taken him closer, his nose almost touching the cool surface of the glass wall; he let the tips of his fingers trace the strange animal as it floated lazily near his face. The slow undulating motion of the creature’s body was hypnotic. The teacher’s droning voice, the chatter of the other kids, the impatient grumbling of the kids at the back of the group—one by one they all disappeared, until it was just him and the stingray. In the next moment he could feel the water on his skin and the gentle movements of the stingray’s fin tickled his hand. He felt a displacement in the water; he looked up, and behind the stingray the biggest shark had crept up––

 

“Check it out, Arthur's talking to fish!” the harsh, mocking voice of Brad announced, and suddenly two larger kids were crowding up behind Arthur.

 

“Leave me alone!” Arthur said under his breath; he didn't want to catch the teacher's attention if he could help it, but he couldn't say nothing. He turned to run away from them.

 

“Hey, where are you going? Freak!” The older boys were a full head taller than him. He'd barely gone anywhere when one kid grabbed his collar to stop him, almost jerking him off his feet. The other kid stepped in front of him and pushed him against the glass. Arthur felt his shoulder hit the glass hard. Heard the other kids say, “Freak”, “Go, Brad,” and somebody somewhere a little further off saying, “Hey, stop that …"

 

And Arthur was mad. He'd just wanted to be left alone; he'd just wanted to go on this trip, be like every other kid in his class, and then this had to happen.

 

His head began to hurt. He squeezed his eyes shut against the pain. He wanted to be in the water, away from here, away from Brad and these bullies—he wanted it so badly he could almost feel water against his hands instead of cool clear glass … why wasn’t he in the water with them? In the water, he would be safe.

 

The room shook, but no, that was wrong somehow; it wasn’t the room. He could hear the terrified gasps of Brad, his friend and everyone else. He could feel their shock, hear their panicked footsteps as they ran. The glass tank behind him had shuddered: something big—something angry—was trying to get out of the tank. Arthur opened his eyes and turned his head, saw the cracks spider-webbing across the front of the tank … the shark!

 

The shark rammed the glass tank again, each impact harder than the last, driven by some unknown force to break through the enclosure. Arthur knew it wouldn’t take much more—the glass was going to break! It was still too noisy, and he was still angry, but somehow, he understood he needed to be not angry so the shark would stop….

 

Inexplicably, he found himself looking at the great creature and the others with it. Stop …. Stay there. Don’t do that; you’ll hurt yourself. He spoke to them in a voice that wasn’t a voice, and he didn't know how he was doing it, but he knew the shark, the fish, all of them understood. He felt himself start to shake... not from anger this time...it was just too much, and he was so scared—plus he knew he was going to be in big trouble.

 

People around him were running. “There’s a breach in the shark tank!” a museum guard was yelling into his phone. The teacher was shouting for them all to go outside and shepherding the students along.

 

In all the confusion, nobody noticed that Arthur was still standing there, too stunned to move, in front of the tank.

 

“Hey, hey, kid! Are you okay?” A warm hand on his shoulder shook him out of his trance.

 

Arthur turned, and found some kid looking at him, worried, with the brightest, most unearthly blue eyes he had ever seen.

 

For a moment, he was so startled he couldn't do anything but stare, and then he managed to nod slowly.

 

“Good. We should leave—a bunch of very official people are on their way. We don’t want to be here when they come. Follow me.”

 

Arthur was wary about people being nice to him, but for now he’d go along till he could get out of there.

 

“I’m Clark.”

 

“Arthur.”

 

“Hey, you wanna see something cool?”

 

“Sure.”

 

Clark gave him a brilliant smile. And Arthur somehow found himself smiling back.

 

They went through one of the doors outside the gallery with a sign that said, “STAFF ONLY”, and then up a small staircase, where they ended up in a little viewing gallery at the back of the aquarium. Below them were two huge tanks. There was a bench almost underneath the rafters; from here, Arthur could see two of the staff down there in scuba gear, holding a baby dolphin, checking its fin and then tagging it.

 

“They won’t see us from up here. This is where they keep the baby animals. That baby dolphin was just born yesterday,” Clark said as he settled on the bench.

 

“How’d you know about this place?” Arthur sat in the space next to him and winced at the calf’s trills and squeaks. He could feel the calf’s confusion; its instinct was to be in the water with its mom and not to be held up in the air like that. It was also very hungry.

 

“I have good eyes.” Clark said this in a way that implied that it explained everything, and then opened his backpack and took out an apple. “Here.”

 

Arthur eyed it suspiciously for a moment before he muttered a quick ‘thank you.’ He was getting hungry, since he skipped breakfast. And he was glad he took the apple, it was a good one, it had that sweet-sour taste that he liked. He sighed, small and relieved, when the staff finally let go of the calf, so it could swim deeper and quickly join its mother.

 

“So, those guys bother you a lot?”

 

“Sometimes. It’s not a big deal,” Arthur dismissed.

 

“There’s kids like that in my school. It sucks. I can’t really fight back… my dad told me I shouldn’t—and he’s right, I shouldn’t. I mean, I know that, but sometimes I wish I could.” Clark was staring at the tank below, and for a second Arthur thought he saw a gleam of red in Clark's very blue eyes before Clark quickly turned his head away. Arthur shrugged it off as a trick of the light. 

 

“My dad tells me the same thing.” Arthur really didn’t want to talk about it anymore. “Are you here on a field trip too?”   

 

“No. We have a farm in Smallville, Kansas. My dad and mom had to go to a bank and talk to some people. Something about a mortgage. They left me with my aunt. So, you from around here?”

 

“Not really, we just moved here, me and my dad.  We used to live in a lighthouse up in Maine. Wait, won’t your aunt be looking for you?”

 

Clark gave a half-shrug. “Not really. She’s taking a nap right now and I got bored. So here I am.”

 

“You are going to get in so much trouble when she finds out you left.”

 

“Don’t worry, I’m a very trustworthy ten-year old. I’ll be back before she wakes up.” The other kid once again said this like it explained everything.

 

“How do you know she’s still sleeping?”

 

“How's a small kid like you fit all those questions in there?” Clark teased.

 

“Hey, you’re just as tall as I am,” Arthur said lightly. After a moment he wondered, “What d'you think is going on out there? Think they’ll shut down the place?” He was a little worried, even if he wasn't going to say so to Clark; he was hoping he hadn’t ruined the whole day for all the other people who'd been visiting the aquarium.

 

Clark frowned for a minute. “Nah, I mean, that exhibit where you were, they closed that. But the rest of the place is still open. If you want to go find your group, they’ve moved on to looking at penguins.”

 

“How do you know—”

 

“It’s a secret,” Clark whispered, his blue eyes dancing. “So, you lived in a lighthouse? That must have been so cool. I’ve never been to the ocean. I guess that’s why I came here.”

 

“Maybe you could come visit me sometime. I have a feeling Dad’s not gonna last long here in Missouri.”

 

“Oh, yeah? So, tell me, Arthur, do you really talk to fish?”

 

 

                                                                                                             ----------------

 

 

Twenty-three years later, off the coast of Alaska

 

It was a disaster. One of the largest oil rigs in the Bering Sea, the Bright Aurora,was engulfed in flames from an explosion caused by failed sub-sea valves. The quickly rising pressure had barely given the oil-rig workers time to evacuate when the massive derricks began collapsing. There were numerous survivors in the ocean being aided by the first responders in the area, but the Coast Guard had all but given up any hope of rescuing the men still trapped within the structure.

 

Clark clung to one of the massive steel pillars of the oil platform as he tried to reach the men trapped in one of the decks. Around him immense and violent ocean waves crashed against him while large chunks of burning debris and metal fell from the multiple beams that crisscrossed the oil platform above him. He glanced at the ocean below; under the dark depths he could make out the stream of turbulence left by something swimming very fast. He was relieved: that meant help was coming for those who were still fighting for their lives in the frigid waters.

 

No one else could've come here, for everywhere were walls of raging fire and stifling black smoke. With his sight and hearing Clark found the trapped men inside one of the machine rooms scrambling for oxygen tanks and all the fire protective equipment they could find. After ripping through a couple massive steel doors like they were nothing, Clark was able to reach the stranded crew. He saw the stunned looks of the men, and he had to be quite a sight with flames still licking up the lines of his body from the burning oil on his skin. Clark managed to shake them out of their shock and lead them on a perilous dash to the helipad and into the waiting rescue chopper.

 

Another series of explosions surged through the platform; the towering derrick strained against the supporting steel beams as it started falling. The rescue chopper was already struggling against gale-force winds and the weight of its human cargo, and Clark realized quickly that he needed to buy the chopper some time to clear the platform before the derrick could fall on it. He leaped into the air and positioned himself under the massive steel frame, pushing with all his strength, and he managed to support it until the chopper could fly to safety.

 

And then, finally, he could let the forward momentum of the collapsing derrick push him into the frigid sea. All that tonnage of burning wood, melted steel and concrete crashed over him as he plunged into the ocean, the freezing coldness of the water nothing but a tingle against his skin. He let himself sink, drifting on his back, just letting the current pull his body. The dark depths cradled him. The rhythmic movements of the water were soon joined by soothing whale songs, reverberating under the waves, all of which dulled the chaos on the surface– inviting dreams and memories. The first time his enhanced vision kicked in, he saw through his teacher's skin then everything happened all at once; he could not only see her heart, he could hear it as it squelched inside her chest squeezing blood. Each tapping of his classmates' pencils were thunder to him, the sounds inside the school, the sounds outside; the cars, the wind. Most of all he heard all their whisphers: strange, freak, weird. Then, he remembered his mom; how she calmly told him to focus on her voice, how to make all the noise go away by imagining  he was in an island. Slowly he drifted back to the present– the dark, cool depths, the whale songs; he felt one of the majestic animals move beneath him, rising, the huge cool expanse of its back supporting him, pushing him gently up to the surface.

 

He took the cue and started to swim, following the line of the whale's body and giving it one last pat with his hand before he picked up a little more speed. From the shore, Clark tracked the Coast Guard helicopter with his eyes, made sure that they were okay.

 

And then he walked up to one of the cottages—safely empty, in the offseason. And beside it Arthur Curry was sitting on a bench, with a pile of clothes next to him.

 

“Thanks for these. And for all your help out there, too,” Clark said as he pulled the sweater over his head and went about changing his pants.

 

“Less dead people in the ocean,” came Arthur’s curt reply.

 

Clark sighed, but decided to ignore Arthur's gruff manner; a lot of people were alive right now because of what Arthur had done today. “So, you sent the whales after me.”

 

“Yup.” When he was done Arthur handed him a beer from a cooler beside the bench.  

 

He took a healthy swig before answering. “Arthur, you know you don’t have to worry about me. Nothing can hurt me.”

 

“See, that right there, when you say those things—that's the exact reason why I worry about you. You should be thinking that nothing's hurt you yet.”

 

They sat in silence for a moment, drinking, gazing out at the sea. With his sight, Clark watched the various search and rescue boats that had swarmed the area. Far out into the grey ocean of the Arctic, what remained of the oil rig was still being consumed by tall, angry flames. Large, noxious clouds of dark smoke swelled outward into the sunless sky.  

 

“So. Where are you going now?”

 

Clark scanned the dark, cold waters again to check for any survivors. “North. I’ve heard a lot of military chatter around these parts about a sudden increase in activity around Ellesmere Island. They found something… I’ll stick around, keep an ear out, maybe find a job. What about you?”

 

“I think I need to go home… my mother’s home. Mera says things are getting bad. I’m the only one that can stop my brother. She says I need to prove I’m the queen’s son. I don’t think if I can even do anything.”

 

Further down the shore, Clark could see a red-haired woman walking out of the surf. She stayed at a distance from them, but she was watching them intently. Arthur glanced at her.

 

“I guess one way or the other we have to figure out where we come from, find the answers to all our questions." From where he was Clark could see Arthur's whales swim further away from the chaos. "Maybe if we're lucky find some peace... you're a good man, Arthur Curry. You know who you are; you can make a difference. I only wish I could help you.”

 

“I want you to come with me...I want to stay… I wish for a lot of things for us. But the only way to settle this with my brother is to get down there and take care of it myself. So the way I see it, I’ve got shit to do, you’ve got shit to do.” Arthur's mouth quirked in a smile.

 

“Yeah. I guess maybe someday, when all of this is done…”

 

“Yeah… someday.”

 

 

                                                                                                                      ---------------

 

Three Years Later... 

 

Diana leaped into the air and impaled her sword into Darkseid’s right eye. The monster roared in pain and staggered backwards. Seeing the opening, Arthur stabbed the parademon that had come to his master’s aid, then drove his trident into Darkseid’s left eye. But already Darkseid had regained his footing and was gripping the trident, ready to wrench it free of his head. Clark swooped in and grabbed the end, pushing the trident deeper—till Darkseid grabbed him and threw him down, along with the trident. He ploughed through the asphalt for five city blocks before he found his balance. Quickly, he pushed against gravity and arrowed towards the monster. Darkseid’s eyes flashed red, and the intense pulse of energy that burst from them broke the air apart. The pulse hit Superman and he screamed in agony, writhing midair in a ball of fire and heat, before he cratered into a parking lot like a small meteor.

 

Batman saw Arthur running towards Superman, and caught the shout of, “Kal!” Hearing Arthur call Clark Kal provoked something inside Bruce that he clamped down on immediately; he couldn't afford to be distracted in the midst of battle.

 

“Aquaman, hold your position! Cover Cyborg! Diana has Superman!” Bruce barked over the comm.

 

Bruce heard Arthur grunt in anger. Cyborg needed more time to reconfigure the mother box to close the portal. And with parademons attacking in every direction, trying to stop him, it was getting harder.

 

In the end, they almost lost. But Cyborg’s reprogrammed mother boxes pulled Darkseid’s army back to his world, Superman recovered, and the entire League together sent Darkseid back to the hell he'd come from. As the portal closed, a frightening roar that shook the city came through: “Earth will be mine.”

 

And after the parademons and Darkseid were pushed back to their world—there was nothing left to prevent Bruce from getting distracted anymore. Behind a large pile of rubble and steel, all that remained of a collapsed building, Batman saw them leaning against each other, the precise locations of their hands hidden behind Clark’s cape from where he was standing.

 

“You need anything, Batman?” Clark didn’t even turn his head, his gaze still on Arthur; there was a slight, secret smile on his lips. Arthur’s face was turned away, hidden by the curtain of his hair.  

 

“No.” And Bruce left quickly.

 

But it became a pattern. He observed them talking again and again, without ever quite meaning to. Sometimes Superman suddenly turned and caught Bruce’s eye, and winked. Sometimes Bruce saw him turn towards Arthur, Arthur dipping his head to listen and then laughing at something Clark had said. No matter the variables, there proved to be at least one constant: Bruce found himself getting abruptly too warm, uncomfortable inside his suit.

 

After that second battle for Earth, one of Bruce’s video feeds caught them eating outdoors at a Metropolis boardwalk pub. Bruce tapped into the traffic camera nearby without even thinking about it. And of course, there was also the camera he'd placed outside of Clark’s apartment, and the satellite he'd configured to track Clark's movements. Which was necessary, he reasoned; he needed to keep tabs on the strongest force on the planet, just in case.

 

 

                                                                                                                       -----------------

 

 

“Here we go again,” Barry said. Both Clark and Bruce shot him a glance. Clark’s was equal parts apologetic and exasperated; Bruce’s was just plain old murderous.

 

It wasn’t even an official League meeting. Bruce had told Clark they needed to meet at the hangar—and he remembered having been very specific in his invitation, that it was meant for Clark alone. But Clark had mentioned it to Arthur, who'd then told Barry, who'd told Victor, who'd told Diana. Because apparently Victor and Diana talked outside of the League—who'd have guessed? And the next thing Bruce knew, he had five meta-humans in his city.

 

Bruce himself was supposed to be in Italy. It was the end of Milan’s Fashion Week and Bruce Wayne was supposed to be cavorting with models at Elon Musk’s Lake Como estate, as scheduled. Even if the last alien invasion had been just two months ago, a certain image still had to be maintained: billionaire playboys had to remain as hedonistic and irresponsible as ever, or the world truly would end.

 

“Bruce,” Clark said, and the way he said it was already an indication that he was going off script once again. “They stole tech from an abandoned Luthor warehouse, some of it Kryptonian. Plus, some Apokoliptian. And they even had a gun that—look, I’m working on a story about Luthor Corp, and what happened to his black book projects after he was thrown into prison. I tracked them to a cargo ship in Gotham Bay. These guys were moving them to Budhaven—”

 

“And at that point, instead of calling me, you decided to take matters into your own hands.”

 

“Technically, they weren't in Gotham yet, Bruce,” Clark said.

 

Bruce was about to reply when Arthur interjected, “Wait, you said they had a gun? Was it Kryptonian? Did they hurt you?”

 

“No, they couldn’t work the targeting system,” Clark said a little too quickly.

 

Arthur looked unconvinced but evidently decided not to say anything.

 

“The point is, I took care of everything—nobody else is going to get hurt. All those weapons are out of their hands, and the people responsible are in jail. “

 

“Item one: they shot at you because they saw you.”

 

“They saw me because they were testing one of their weapons underneath the Inter-Borough Bridge; there was too much power and they couldn’t control it. It destabilized one of the bridge’s support structures. What did you want me to do?”

 

“Item two: if you had called me, you could have dealt with the bridge while I handled the terrorists. I could’ve gotten some intel while you did your showboating.”

 

“Showboating?! Look, they were reverse engineering this stuff. I took all the alien tech and data. But there was still enough there for the cops, because they had a cache of illegal submachine guns and weapons.”

 

“Well, that’s great for the cops. But because of your little stunt, you’ve tipped off all those suspects and their entire network, making my job, in my city, twice as hard.”

 

 Arthur cleared his throat. “Excuse me? Your job? Two words, Bats! Arkham Asylum.”

 

The entire room became deathly quiet as everyone went very still: Diana folded her arms across her chest and sighed; Cyborg shut down the images from his eye; and even Barry stopped chewing his sandwich. Bruce remained in his corner, his face devoid of any expression—but his eyes, settled on Arthur, were burning. Arthur didn’t flinch. Instead he leaned back in his chair and stared right back.

 

“This is not the time for that,” Bruce said, his voice chilling and emotionless.

 

Arthur was undeterred. “You've accused me of hiding from the world, but you're just deflecting. Like you said, these criminals are your job in your city. Bruce, you've got a whole backyard full of monsters and it seems like there's a new one every day, so clearly something’s wrong with how you’ve been doing your 'job'.”

 

“You're just taking his side because it gives you an opportunity to argue with me,” Bruce said.

 

“Both of you, let’s just calm down.” Clark raised his hands at them. “Arthur, we are in Bruce’s city, let’s just remember that—”

 

“I really don’t care.”

 

“I have a better idea. Why don’t you just leave, Arthur?”

 

Arthur smirked, then slowly and very deliberately began putting his leather-boot-clad feet up on the table, leaning back nonchalantly to give himself more room. He relaxed his elbows on the armrests of his chair as he steepled his fingers in front of his face.

 

From where he was in the room, Bruce was hyper aware of every reaction from the rest of the group. Diana bounced a bored look between Bruce and Arthur, her expression not betraying anything else; she'd pulled a phone out from somewhere and began texting rapidly. Victor fully turned towards Arthur. And Barry took it all as an opportunity to start eating again, evidently having decided to tune out everyone equally.

 

 When Arthur didn’t give any indication, he was going anywhere soon, just to spite him. Bruce decided to pay closer attention to another person, the main cause of their contention—Clark.

 

Clark was standing next to Arthur, dressed in the dark plaid patterned shirt that he seemed to favor for his Clark Kent persona, paired with unstructured but not too ill-fitting dark jeans. It was somewhat loose—enough to carefully fail to emphasize Clark’s exceptional physique. But despite his clothing, he was very much in his Superman persona: standing straight and tall, glasses off, hair slicked back severely, shirt sleeves rolled-up to the elbows—emphasizing the significant muscles of his forearms, the way they flexed and bunched when he folded his arms. Clark Kent slouched, spoke in a voice pitched higher than Superman’s, and never rolled up his sleeves; his hair was neat, but the curls were typically still obvious. And Clark Kent was shy, with a perennially distracted serious look, where Superman smiled readily and oozed a certain aw-shucks charisma, exuding what the wild internet media now referred to as “big dick energy”, and apparently enough of it to crater an entire city. Bruce would be loath to admit it out loud, but he found Clark’s ease in switching between Clark and Superman somewhat unnerving. Which inevitably then turned into irritation––for Bruce had always been very much irritated when things unnerved him.

 

Next to Clark, Arthur Curry looked like a large, feral, tattooed, furry creature that could easily step on small children and animals—or just have them for breakfast (Barry’s words, not Bruce's). Meanwhile, Arthur’s idea of low-key was a ponytail tucked under a bowler hat; a faded, threadbare olive green t-shirt; an oversized grey trench coat and what looked like fireman trousers- ripped at the knees. Bruce found himself slightly bewildered by the outfit.

 

The two of them looked ridiculous together. And Bruce had no doubt that they were together, after all the evidence he’d seen. They were discreet about it, at least. Bruce hadn't observed any overt moments of PDA at all. He knew Diana knew, but she kept it to herself. He could have asked her about them, just to confirm—but that would mean letting them know that he knew, because even if Diana didn't say anything outright, Bruce couldn't help but feel that somehow, they’d know he asked.

 

He noted how Clark had angled his head slightly in Arthur’s direction, and in that same exact moment, Arthur—who was still smirking at Bruce—tilted his head ever so slightly, too, such that their lines of vision met. Though it was only for a brief moment, Bruce was certain that something unspoken passed between them.

 

And then Arthur turned his attention back to Bruce, hazel green eyes still laughing at him. “What are we gonna do with you?” Arthur said, in a tone that one usually reserved for misbehaving pets—except deeper, and as he said it, he winked.

 

Bruce could not help the quick intake of breath. Before he had a chance to marshal all his thoughts, he felt someone else’s eyes on him, and he shifted his head and caught Clark watching him. Eyes, cool and unblinking yet non-threatening. Time seemed to slow down around him, and he found himself gazing back at Clark with far too much intensity, suddenly unable to give a rat’s ass whether or not it was appropriate—until he heard Diana push back her chair a little more noisily than usual and forced himself to look away.

 

“It appears this meeting is done. It’s late and I have a very important sculpture waiting for me in the Louvre.” Diana took a moment to look up from her phone. “When you have resolved your issues and I fully expect you to resolve your issues—you know how to reach me,” despite Diana’s neutral, conversational tone, Bruce saw a naughty glint in her eyes. She resumed texting as she walked briskly to the lift, “Barry, Victor come along.”

 

Victor, who'd been analyzing schematics, powered down his interface. “C’mon, Bar, let’s go! These guys need to talk.” He put a hand on Barry’s shoulder to nudge him into motion.

 

“Can I just finish this—I mean, I could stay here and—”

 

“Barrrryy… I’ll get you a dozen more of those, c’mon. And you know what, I have the beta edition of the newest Fallout, and it's sick.”

 

“What are you waiting for? Let’s go!” Barry somehow scooped up his drink and the big plate of chicken wings in front of him without spilling any of it. “Bye, Clark; bye, Arthur; good luck, Bruce,” he yelled, and then he was a blur, gone, out the underground tunnel.

 

Cyborg had already powered on his thrusters and flew to the lift. Diana held the door open for him with one hand as she continued rapidly texting with the other.

 

Even if they were barely a team yet, Bruce could allow that he was impressed by the very efficient and quick manner of egress orchestrated by Diana. Even if it meant he'd been left staring down an Atlantean and a Kryptonian alone.

 

“I've been fighting criminals for twenty years; you don’t have anywhere near the same level of experience. You have no idea what I’ve done for this city. Don’t make me teach you.” He faced both of them, arms across his chest. He didn’t need to prove himself to anyone at all.

 

“Teach me?” Arthur laughed. “Yeah, you'd like that, wouldn’t you? And maybe I could teach you a couple of things, too.”

 

Clark cleared his throat. “Look, Bruce, I’ll give you everything I have on those guys—maybe you can find something I missed. About the weapons, I’m sorry; there was no time, I had to deal with it then, and I didn’t want to risk anyone else getting hurt.”

 

“Fine. Another thing—I haven’t said anything about it, but I don’t want whatever this is between the two of you to be a distraction to the team.”

 

Bruce had to hand it to them: Arthur’s smirk didn't leave his face, while Clark tilted his head and managed to look vaguely puzzled.

 

“Oh, this is rich… Well, Bruce, why don’t you tell us what it is between the two of us that's so distracting? Because so far nobody's brought it up except you. Maybe you’re the only one who’s distracted.”

 

“Arthur, I don’t have time for your games. As the leader of this team, I just want to be sure that when other lives are on the line, you two won’t be distracted because of your relationship.”

 

“Leader?” Arthur made a disgusted sound.

 

“I don’t know where this is coming from,” Clark said. “I … we’ve always done our job.” At this point Clark paused; his gaze intent on Bruce, eyes narrowed, “And,” he added, his voice taking on a low rumble that made the air shudder, “don’t lecture me about risking people’s lives.”

 

“I see.” Bruce turned and paced along the length of the table and then back, deliberately taking his time, watching Clark struggle to keep his temper. “Speaking of risking other people’s lives,” he said at last, bracing himself—because he was definitely going to poke the bear this time, and this particular bear wouldn't hesitate to bite back. He pointed at Arthur. “Where were you when all of this was happening? When Zod came? When Lex Luthor took his mother? When Doomsday happened? When he died? With all of this alpha posturing, Arthur, it would do you good to remember that I'm the one who brought him back.” He let an unspoken implication hang in the air at that moment: It would do you good to remember, Clark, that I know what can kill you.

 

And unspoken or not, a moment later there was no doubt in Bruce's mind that that message had been heard. There was also no doubt that for a big guy Arthur could move fast—and Clark could move even faster, of course, but somehow Arthur got to Bruce first. Bruce's back hit the wall, and Bruce realized as he grimaced through the pain of the impact of bones and muscles hitting concrete that Clark hadn’t moved at all from where he stood; in effect, he'd deliberately chosen to just let Arthur go at it. Bruce had to admit he'd miscalculated in failing to anticipate this non-reaction from Clark.

 

“I don’t answer to you! And just so you know the only reason you’re not shark food right now after everything you’ve done— is him! It will do you good to remember that!

 

“Arthur,” Clark said, in a voice that made the name sound like another word entirely—like …heel. They shared another look before Clark spoke again. “Bruce, there were other things that threatened the world, things from Atlantis; he was the only one who could deal with them and he's still dealing with all of it. It's been …difficult for ... us, and now that you know, I’d appreciate it if you don't bring it up again.”

 

Bruce still felt a little breathless even after Arthur released his grip; it hurt. But this little encounter had yielded something. “He saved Earth from his world, you saved Earth from your world. What now? We’re just going to have to hope that Diana’s relatives don’t come calling—”

 

“If they do, we'll deal with them together,” Clark said. “Isn’t that what the League is for?”

 

"The League might not be enough–"

 

 “Or you could always try killing her. See how far that will get you. Right now, I know you want to hurt me pretty bad, Wayne—but remember, unlike Kal here, I don’t hold back. The problem is that humans think this is their world,” Arthur continued. “You think you know everything, Wayne, but you don’t, and you're going to have to figure out how to deal with that. Some of us were here before your kind figured out not to eat your own shit.”

 

“It shouldn’t be this way,” Clark placated. He walked over from the table and stood between them. Bruce’s feet were now safely on the ground after being released by Arthur. But Arthur hadn’t moved away just yet, and all at once Bruce was very much aware of how Arthur’s chest was almost touching his; that he could smell Arthur’s scent, the sea with a tang of leather. And now Clark had crowded into that small space. Clark smelled human—Bruce was surprised by how strangely disappointed he was with the clean, ordinary smell of laundry detergent and some store-brand soap. But then Clark laid a hand on his shoulder, and for Bruce his hand might just as well have been a hot poker. Bruce made a mental note for his journal entry re: Kryptonian body temperature.

 

They were all very big men in a small space with too much—too much muscle, too much frustration, too much body heat.  To give way would feel like showing weakness, Bruce rationalized, and that was why none of them had. But fucking hell, as much as he knew he should step away from this tight circle of tension, it pricked at him to imagine being the first one to move—for human pride, if nothing else.

 

Arthur’s odd-colored eyes studied Bruce again. And Bruce stared back at him, trying to curb all the wrong thoughts as they welled relentlessly up inside his head. Arthur’s eyes felt like nearly as physical a pressure as his chest, right in Bruce's space; Bruce could see his dark peaked nipples through that ridiculous gauzy shirt he was wearing.

 

“How do you want it, Bruce?” Clark asked, low and breathy. Next to him, Arthur chuckled, and that chuckle went straight to Bruce’s already stiffening cock.

 

All the training he'd ever used to keep the expression on his face neutral and his breaths even definitely came in handy right now. Bruce understood all at once why he had been so stressed—because heat was curling within him, and along with that heat was a realization, an epiphany, regarding precisely what had been bothering him when he'd seen them together. They were fucking each other, Clark and Arthur, and they'd been discreet. And Bruce hadn't been able to stop himself from looking anyway, hoping that just once they'd slip up, that he'd get to see—oh, yes. Bruce knew what he wanted.

 

Bruce wanted Clark and Arthur to destroy him.

 

He knew that the right thing to do would be to push them away, make them move, give himself space. Possibly threaten Clark with Kryptonite, because he knew that would double as a way to threaten Arthur at the same time. So, he should just—and then he made a mistake. His eyes slid down to Clark’s lips, even as he made himself say, “I don’t know what you're playing at, but I don't like it—”

 

“You look like you don’t like a lot of things,” Arthur taunted him. “You’re the way you are because you’re always wound up. Maybe you should do something about that.”

 

Bruce took a sharp step away from them, along the wall, and then turned and started walking away. He was painfully aware that they hadn’t moved, painfully aware that their eyes were tracking him as he retreated, painfully aware that there were things he wanted right now that he shouldn’t act on. He allowed himself a long shaky sigh.

 

In two big steps he was back, looking at Clark’s lips; in half a beat he was kissing him.

 

Despite everything that Bruce had already considered flirting, Clark seemed genuinely stunned that Bruce was kissing him. He didn’t kiss back right away—but he didn’t pull away either, and after a couple of seconds he even opened his mouth when Bruce brushed his tongue against Clark's lips. And maybe that was the reason why Arthur didn’t throw Bruce across the room.

 

When Bruce thought back to this moment, he would definitely remember telling himself that he'd draw a line, that there was a point at which it would be the moment to tell them to just fuck off. Because really, this was just going to overcomplicate things. Everything could stay easy if they stopped and walked away, acknowledging that somewhere in here a lesson had been learned, and just leave Bruce with nothing but a rigid, eventually- leaking cock. It might help if he stopped kissing Clark, admittedly—but Clark had started kissing him back, with kisses that were sweet and surprisingly deep at the same time. And he should probably tell Arthur to stop doing those things to his neck that were turning his insides to molten lead—

 

“Bruce, I just don’t throw things into space. I know you’ve been watching us,” Clark said, maddeningly calm, when they both stopped to let Bruce breathe.

 

“We’ll let you watch—just don’t hurt yourself,” Arthur said, smirking once again.

 

“You want to know what makes us tick. What can unravel us. Maybe we want to get to know the man behind the mask… always so brusque, domineering …” Bruce thought that this was a very Clark Kent thing to say—provoke the subject with a leading statement, just see where it might get you in the interview, all wrapped up in a package of easy smiles and sunny warmth.

 

“Then what are you all waiting for? Let’s take this upstairs.” Bruce was sure as hell not planning on rolling around on hard concrete and getting jet oil up his ass-crack.

 

And that was how Bruce ended up watching Clark and Arthur fuck: in the comfort of his bedroom, on his custom-made, island-sized bed –thank you very much. Bruce watched Clark kiss and suck Arthur’s dark nipples, watched Arthur and Clark grinding against each other in a way that would probably have crushed bones if one of them had been human. Arthur's tattooed golden-bronze skin was a stark contrast against Clark’s marmoreal complexion—and Clark’s wet pink tongue traced those tattoos all the way down Arthur’s hip. Bruce wondered about the actual process of inking that low, swirls and lines running right up to the base of Arthur’s cock. Wondered idly what they meant, as he sat there ensconced in his wingback chair, nursing a Margaux. He watched Clark’s tongue right there, teasing Arthur’s balls and slit, licking at his pre-come. Clark’s full lips wrapped around Arthur’s cock—as big and long as the rest of him—and all Bruce could think about was how that cock would feel inside him. And then there was Clark’s cock, too, of course; Bruce was surprised that it seemed to be exactly that (even if the alien’s skintight suit didn’t really hide much, it was remarkable how human the organ appeared to be—though naturally, like everything else about Clark, it was definitely impressive by human standards)  Clark, at that precise moment, shot a knowing glance at Bruce, Arthur’s huge cock still in his mouth, and somehow managed to smirk at Bruce while he took in Arthur's entire wide length and proceeded to just suck Arthur off, long and slow.

 

“Fuck! Fuck,” Arthur gasped, head back, mouth open. Clark had taken his cock all the way down the shaft, and Arthur was digging his heels into Bruce’s bed, fucking into Clark's mouth—and Clark was letting him, deep-throating him several times and not stopping at all with the suction.

 

“Come here,” Arthur said, breathlessly, after perhaps another minute. He hauled Clark up like he weighed nothing, and they kissed, messy and hungry. Arthur gave Clark’s ass a loud smack and a hard squeeze. “Ready, babe?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Arthur stood and led Clark to the edge of the bed, then pushed him to his knees. He quickly slicked himself up and positioned himself behind Clark. Arthur's wide body pressed against the curve of Clark’s back, one arm firmly wrapped around Clark’s chest, pinning his arms. And with a slow, rocking motion, his thick cock slid inside Clark’s body. “This might be too much for you, Bruce—Kal likes it when I hold him down,” Arthur narrated, with that smirk slanting across his mouth once again. “I might not be strong as him, but I’m strong enough to work him up like this. To hold him like this.”

 

Bruce was fully aware that pretty much none of this would have gone very far if Kal hadn't “liked” it.

 

The Atlantean's massive hands had slid along Clark’s powerful body, they dented the rounded, muscled flesh of Clark’s ass while his cock pistoned in and out of Clark, deep, strong, and fast.

 

“Oh, yes, harder—harder—”

 

Only Arthur could have held that body. Bruce's gaze caught helplessly on the way Clark’ s other hand gripped Arthur’s hip behind him, pushing him to thrust harder—and thrust harder he did. Arthur moved to hold Clark with one arm against his throat and the other reaching down to pump Clark’s sizeable dick. Each thrust more intense than the one before. The corded muscles on Arthur’s arm that held Clark by the throat bunched with each effort; it’s large veins popping out as he grunted and pounded his body against Clark’s. When Arthur came, he slammed into Clark with a roar. Bruce could see the intensity of it, the way Arthur just ground into Clark as he emptied his load. The way Arthur buried his face behind Clark’s neck, biting into that soft juncture between the neck and shoulder. Clark lasted for a few seconds longer, pumping hard and fast. In that moment, Bruce felt a sudden spike of heat in the air like somebody ignited a flame thrower—Clark’s eyes, he noticed, were smoldering red before he shut them tight and shuddered into his release. Bruce could only imagine how hot Clark’s skin was right before he came. And boy did he come: thickly, in amounts capable of soaking the bunched-up sheet under him, which Clark tossed to the floor afterward in a blur of superspeed. And what a testament to American craftsmanship: the bed survived.

 

Arthur held Clark as he panted, Bruce suspected it was due to being gripped at the throat than actually being breathless from fucking. Rivulets of sweat were trickling across Arthur's skin, making his tattoos glisten in the light. (Which was interesting to note—Arthur did sweat, both a useful journal entry and a contrast in comparison to Clark, whom Bruce had seen sweat only during extreme exposure to Kryptonite.)

 

Bruce set his wineglass on the end table, cool and calm, as if he were dressed in a bespoke suit and attending a fancy dinner. He had mentally talked himself into holding on this long, even as he felt his cock strain to be touched, just to prove to himself he could.The two gods who were kissing and ravishing each other post-coitus stopped and looked at him, and he could see they were both half-hard again already. Fuck.

 

Bruce had never been one to shy away from an audience; to have them watch him slowly take his clothes off was a massive turn-on. Bruce knew he looked rough—age and Gotham had not been kind to his body. He bared his skin, his scars, and all the other so-called imperfections that came with being human and doing what he did. And Bruce knew one thing, could see it in their eyes: somehow, these young gods wanted him. Besides which, Clark had no gag reflex, as he had just learned, and he knew already that Arthur had been filmed swimming at one of the deepest trenches in the world, the Tonga Trench, at 21,700 feet—both facts suggested all kinds of intriguing possibilities.

 

“See anything you like?” Clark asked, eyes half-lidded, gaze traveling to the unmistakable hardness between Bruce's legs.

 

“Yeah, both of you.”

 

“My man, come and get it.”

 

Except they didn’t even wait for him to get it, so to speak; they were already moving, rising up to reach for him as he stood there by the edge of the bed. Arthur started kissing him, and it was fascinating to kiss someone so hairy—all that tickling and rubbing against his face opened up a different universe all together. And it was interesting that all that hair was not an aerodynamic consideration when moving fast underwater. Speaking of aerodynamics, Clark's cape should not work... the aerodynamics of it wasn’t practical...but ...fuck...behind him, Clark was doing crazy things with his tongue on Bruce's neck and shoulder, the hot brand of his cock lining up eagerly in between the cheeks of Bruce's ass. Clark’s hands traveled down his hips, kneading them, and for a moment there Bruce thought that he'd pause to stroke Bruce's cock, but he didn’t. Arthur hadn't laid a hand on him either, and Bruce couldn’t help but keen.

 

Arthur chuckled. “Poor bastard. We should just leave him here.”

 

“We could, but I wonder what he looks like when he comes,” Clark murmured behind him, hands still at Bruce's hips, the tips of his fingers grazing Bruce's thighs in a way that made Bruce’s breaths come faster. When he tried to move his own hands to his cock, Clark lightly brushed them away—and then held them at Bruce's sides. The pressure was slight by Superman's standards, but Bruce couldn’t budge them.

 

“Don’t…” Bruce hated the crack in his voice.

 

“Well … who should fuck you, Bruce?”

 

“It doesn’t—”

 

“Nah, we’ll decide that,” Clark said, in his sunny-smile voice.

 

“Fuck you.”

 

They chuckled, and hands were all over him; he couldn’t even tell whose were touching him where, whose lips were kissing him. And it was taking all his concentration to keep himself upright in this situation. He registered at last, dimly, that it was Arthur who was behind him, fingers on his crack.

 

“Just do it … please.”

 

“You got it, baby.”

 

Arthur pushed inside Bruce ever so slowly, his cock as hard and thick as the rest of him. Bruce felt like he might split wide on the tip alone, and it should have been uncomfortable—it was, truthfully, without any prep and only lube to ease the way.

 

“Too much for you, Wayne?”

 

“Fuck, shut up and move!”

 

And then all Bruce could do was whine with need as Arthur’s cock pushed inside him, inch by inch, giving him just enough of a chance to get used to Arthur's girth before pressing deeper still. But how could he even think or focus on discomfort? When Bruce opened his eyes—when had he let them fall shut? He wasn't sure anymore—Clark was on his knees, his full and pouty lips gleaming with saliva and precome, wrapped around Bruce’s cock. That stupid curl was falling loose against his forehead, his baby blue eyes fixed on Bruce, Bruce's dick deep in Superman’s hot mouth. Arthur’s hands were on Bruce's ass-cheeks, keeping him open; then he started moving, and—

 

Fuck, God! Being upright was a definite challenge right now. He reminded himself he could stay crouched on top of a gargoyle in freezing Gotham rain for hours, therefore this was nothing. But being held up by a huge cock in your ass and your dick in someone’s mouth was a thousand times better. Each of Arthur’s thrusts pushed Bruce's cock deeper into the suction of Clark’s hot, wet mouth. “Clark, Clark! …ohhh..“ Clark pulled back off his cock, dragging it against the hard palate of his mouth and his tongue, and then started working up and down his entire length, a dangerous coordination of tongue and teeth—teeth that could chew diamonds to dust, but Bruce couldn’t bring himself to care, when he was being taken apart by two of the most devastatingly gorgeous specimens on the entire planet.

 

Taken apart, unmasked, keening helplessly—at their mercy, and wanting, needing, everything they could give him. Sweat poured off Bruce as Arthur’s pace picked up, hard and fast, the deeper he went. And the deeper he went, the deeper Bruce went into Clark’s mouth, Bruce’s hands clutching Clark’s hair for balance. In a brief blitzed-out moment, Clark looked up at him with an almost sinister smile, and the hand that wasn’t gripping Bruce’s ass slid into that spot between his balls and his ass, massaging his prostate from the outside while Arthur took him apart from the inside, thick cock dragging, pushing in…hitting that sweet spot inside him.

 

It was too much for any amount of Bruce’s so-called training. He felt it in the goosebumps that ran from his spine down to his toes, felt it in the way his balls tightened. Felt how it was too much, pushing him to the brink, utterly destroying him in all the best ways possible. He spilled himself inside Clark’s mouth, and Clark swallowed all that he had while Arthur rammed into him one more time and grunted his release into the back of Bruce’s neck. Clark pulled off, then sucked every bit of him in again with a deep moan. Bruce’s body pressed almost flush against his face as he held Bruce in place around the waist. The hot surge of Arthur’s release pushed like a tidal wave inside Bruce, whiting out everything. He was boneless, mindless, shaking with his release; when Arthur pulled out at last, all he could do was tumble haphazardly into the bed.

 

Clark, of course, wasn't about to let him stay flopped into the bed like a ragdoll; he wasn't done with Bruce yet. He bent down over Bruce, kissing him deep and filthy, licking into Bruce’s mouth with the taste of Bruce's own cum, hot on his tongue.

 

“Kal,” Arthur moaned, taking Clark by the waist and pulling him off Bruce, turning him, until they were kissing instead. Arthur’s huge hand had engulfed Clark’s cock; he stroked it, slow then quick, twisting it in his hand in a way that made Clark just keen. And Bruce found himself unexpectedly grateful for this—for all of this, today, because if everything dissolved into disaster after this then at least he could live off what had happened here to fuel all his masturbatory fantasies for years. Having regained some wherewithal, he managed to push himself up far enough to lean in over one of Clark’s dark, stiff nipples, licking at it, then sucking at it. And Clark whined helplessly, clutching Arthur and Bruce, until he came all over Arthur’s hand.

 

When it was all over, Bruce watched how Arthur and Clark held each other, watched how gently Arthur touched Clark’s jaw, watched him kiss Clark softly on the lips and neck, watched how they looked at each other– all of this made Bruce’s cock twitch. All of this made a longing surge within Bruce’s chest.  Quickly, he reached over at the end table and took a long drink of Margaux direct from the bottle.

 

“Here,” he said as he offered the wine to Arthur.

 

Arthur also took a long pull from the bottle and whistled appreciatively, “So, that just happened. What now?”

 

“I don’t know about you, but my human ass is not moving from this bed for a long time,” Bruce said.

 

“Good idea, we’ll join you,” Clark clambered over to Bruce’s other side, leaving Bruce in the middle. He also took a healthy swig of the drink after Arthur offered it to him.

 

Bruce looked at him shaking his head, “Does that even affect you?”

 

“Not really, but I like what it does to my tongue, it makes it feel tingly and stuff.” Clark gave him another one of his cheery smiles again.

 

“ "Tingly and stuff" "? Are you serious? And by the way, don’t you guys need to go home? Go fight monster whales, giant robots or something?”

 

Arthur grinned at him, “Wayne, don’t get your bat panties in a twist. It's a big bed, we’re staying.”

 

Bruce exhaled, he was too fucked out to resist, well maybe he didn't want to. He sunk into his pillow and pulled the thick, large covers over his head. Surprisingly, he drifted off easily to sleep despite being in the middle of two very large, very naked men, body heat withstanding.  It also helped that Clark began rubbing his back with long, firm strokes as soon as he laid down.That was nice. Clark was good like that. Maybe one day he’ll consider that Arthur was tolerable— to a certain point.

 

“And if you’re a really good boy, you get to join us again.” Clark whispered in his ear before the dark took over.   

 

                                                                                                                        –––––––––––––––––

 

 

Bruce awoke with a start, he realized he just had the most sound sleep for the longest time he could remember. He grabbed his smartwatch from the table and groaned when it read: 6 am. His bedmates were gone. There was a text from Clark, who apologized for both him and Arthur, for leaving–– something about a fast moving tsunami in the North Pacific Ocean. Images from last night flooded his consciousness at the slight smell of cum and red wine, he gave his cock several long lazy tugs then decided he’ll finish himself off in the shower. He got up and noticed the discarded sheet on the floor, the same sheet that Clark soaked with his cum. Bruce picked up the sheet, there was still a trace of dampness, no crusting anywhere( possibly because of the air conditioning or something else) there was a also a noticeable absence of any odor. His gaze swept over the bed, he changed his mind about the shower. In ten minutes he had separated the sheets in different garbage bags. In twenty minutes, he was at his underground lab with the plastic bags. He was still naked, he carefully scraped his skin and swabbed himself everywhere. Everything went into containers with tissue preservatives with coded labels— Superman's spunk or Atlantean jitz will just not do. It was fortuitous that Alfred was on a mini break at this time. On his desk was a laptop that had never been connected to the internet; he opened the file he had started not so long ago:Damocles. He will analyze all the samples here. All his notes had been contained in this laptop at this point, but with Cyborg’s digital capabilities he might need to switch to writing them. 

 

They had sex, that’s all it is. He could not depend on Kryptonite at all times and he knew next to nothing about Atlanteans. Anything that breaths and bleeds can be killed. They had given him the means to study them and defeat them. The league's mission is to protect Earth but what if Earth needed protection from the league? What he is doing at this very moment in subterfuge is a betrayal, pure and simple. There is a level of guilt he will acknowledge but this is his choice –– to be the necessary evil in case the unthinkable happens again. While he worked, Bruce thought about how Arthur and Clark touched him last night, how they’ve given him what he needed; he remembered how Arthur and Clark touched each other; he remembered how he felt watching them. He will learn to live with all of that.

 

FIN

 

 

Author’s Notes:

Hope you guys enjoyed my latest AU on this yummy threesome. Kudos and comments are appreciated because it nourishes my writer soul. And of course I am sooooo hyped for the Aquaman movie so hopefully more inspiration is coming.