A/N: I really have no idea where this came from but I just thought it would be a fun piece showing the friendship between Batman and Superman. There's so little of it out there! This may turn into a series of one-shots depending on any inspiration and feedback/views...
Clark sighed and resisted the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose. At first, he thought he had won the battle – all the blood, sweat, and tears he poured into this – but now it seemed that there was another sneak attack.
He reached out his hand like he used to do as a child when he would find frightened, injured animals. "C'maaawn. We've made it this far."
Bruce stood rooted to ground a few feet from the steps of the front porch. Hands in the pockets of his long trench coat and sunglasses perched upon his head, he simply frowned. "I'm not a child, Kent."
"Well, hate to break it to you but you're acting like one."
He narrowed his eyes.
Darn it. Clark knew he was losing him. And they were so close, too. It took him weeks to persuade Bruce to finally take a break from monitor duty during the holidays and even more convincing to get him to actually come to his house for Christmas with his parents. Clark had known Bruce for years and understood that he could be resilient but, jeez, did he put up a good fight. He couldn't even count how many excuses the billionaire made up – patrol duty, Gotham needs me, Alfred would be lonely, who would look after Tim, Commissioner Gordon needed extra backup – but finally, finally, they were here.
"Bruce." Clark spun around and took a few steps down the porch. "It'll only be for a few hours. I wouldn't put you through anything I know you couldn't handle or anything. Right?"
He wasn't even sure Bruce was entirely listening. Clark noticed the man's calculating blue eyes taking in the chipped wood of the house and rusted roof panels. God only knew what he was thinking. Cows mooed in the distance and the Christmas lights glowed against Bruce's face, creating strange shadows. And while Clark was immensely annoyed at how Bruce was acting, weirder and grumpier than usual, he actually felt bad. He could sense the acceleration of Bruce's heart and noticed the rigidness of his stance. Bruce was nervous.
"Ma makes the best apple pie." He placed his hand over his heart. "Scout's honor."
Bruce's mouth twitched but suddenly the front door swung open.
"Well, goodness, how long are you two just going to stand there? It's freezing! Come in, come in." Mrs. Kent gestured the two inside with a kind smile but clucked her tongue in chastisement anyway.
Clark dusted his shoes on the mat before stepping inside the warm house. "Sorry, Ma. We were just admiring the lights. Pa did a good job without me this year, huh?"
"Please." Mrs. Kent pulled Bruce's arm as he meandered inside, clearly reluctant. "You're still a terrible liar, Clark, honey. Could never pull one over me."
He chuckled. "No, m'am."
Mrs. Kent stepped back and gave Bruce a once over. She wore a thick Christmas sweater with an apron and high-waisted Mom jeans. The house echoed Mrs. Kent's taste in every nook and cranny: miniature wooden animals perched anywhere with a flat surface, crocheted rugs and afghans, dainty wallpaper, and lots of old potpourri. Bruce dark clothing was a stark contrast.
"As for you…" she wiped her hands on the apron, "well don't just stand there. Aren't you going to give me a proper hug?"
Bruce's eyes flicked to Clark's for a brief moment. "Uh…"
"Come now, come now. No need to be a stranger!"
Clark had to stifle a laugh but it was truly a sight to see Bruce Wayne hugged by an older woman whose head came up to his chest. He wasn't even entirely sure what to do with his hands so they remained limp at his sides as Mrs. Kent gave him a squeeze, quickly rocking him from side to side. Clark thought he looked like a rag doll.
She patted his back a few times and finally let to go (to Bruce's relief).
"Ah, the man of the hour!" Mr. Kent emerged from the dimly lit hallway in an oversized plaid shirt and jeans. He shook Bruce's hand. "Clark's told us so much about you."
Bruce nodded. "Oh. It's a pleasure to meet you…both. As well. Thank you."
"Well, the food's almost done. I'm just finishing up my special beef soup." Mr. Kent grinned, eyes darting side to side for approval, which Clark gave with a gentle pat on the back.
"I love your special soup, Pa."
"You'll be asking for seconds!"
"Dear, microwaving canned soup and then adding a pinch of garlic salt isn't special." Mrs. Kent sighed but quickly turned her attention back to her son. "Why don't you give Bruce a proper tour and we'll call you boys down when everyone else is here."
Clark coughed, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly, as Bruce flinched.
"Here, Bruce, I'll show you the upstairs," the words spilled out of his mouth as the reporter basically ran up the stairs without a second glance.
Mr. Kent dawdled only for a moment before heading back to the kitchen while his wife stayed put, inspecting Bruce with a perceptive motherly look. After a few seconds of uncomfortable silence (at least for him) she finally spoke.
"He didn't tell you, dear, did he?"
Bruce forced a chuckle. It came out more as a strained hiccup. "Thank you for inviting me to your home. It's…nice?"
Her eyes softened and she really couldn't help but give him another hug. Clearly, he didn't like being touched (it was like hugging a block of ice) but it wasn't every day that a billionaire-masked-crime-fighter showed up at your house and bumbled like a shy school girl.
"Make yourself at home, hon."
"Of course. I mean, yes, thank you."
He headed up the steps but paused when Clark's mother called his name.
"Don't be too upset with him, honey." Mrs. Kent wiped her glasses. "He just really wanted you to come."
She left before he could answer – probably with another incoherent response – and joined her husband in the kitchen. Bruce's eyes wandered as he made his way up the rickety steps, observing the old carpet and family photos aligning the wall. It was vastly different from the large painted portraits of the Wayne family tree they had back in the manor. He stopped by the railing and leaned forward, peering into an old photo of Clark's fifth grade class. It was easy to spot the dark-haired kid with a goofy grin placing bunny ears on his classmate.
If Bruce normally laughed, he would have had that moment. Clark always had to be so corny.
"You can stop hiding, Kent," Bruce said not turning around. "This is a pretty small house."
"It's not that small." Clark emerged from a room. He had changed into more comfortable clothes: an old baseball t-shirt and sweatpants. It was always strange to see Superman, or Clark Kent, dressed so casually. "I mean, I grew up here and I'm pretty big."
"And an asshole."
"C'mon, I didn't" –
"Bring me here under false pretenses?"
"Look," Clark sighed. He was sure he was slowly developing a headache. "We normally have just dinner between us but this year Aunt Kathy got a divorce and she, well, she wanted to…with the kids…" He shook his head. "If you want to leave, I understand. I just thought it'd be better than monitor duty."
Clark often thought that sometimes his relationship with Bruce was like befriending a wild animal: one second they're relatively calm and kind, and then the next they're tearing at your arm. The members of the League, particularly Wally, often joked saying the only person Batman tolerated was Superman. He never understood why exactly. It wasn't as if he had put a gun to Bruce's head and forced him into whatever standing they were in now. But it spoke volumes that Bruce was actually here at his house. He met his parents. He wasn't the brooding, sarcastic jerk the entire time.
Bruce finally faced him, a small frown toying at the corner of his mouth.
But he was trying.
"Well? Aren't you going to give me a grand tour of this not-small-house?"
"You done look really familiar though. Y'sure we haven't met?" Aunt Kathy's eyes bored into Bruce's.
They were all seated at the round dining table. The warm scent of mashed potatoes, roast beef, apple pie, biscuits, buttered vegetables, and soup wafted in the air while Christmas tunes softly rang in the background from an old radio. Bruce was used to a healthy diet – nothing too high in sodium, sugar, or calories – so he was out of his element. Then again, he had been out of his element for the past ninety-two minutes. He was itching to leave but one glance at Clark's dopey smile made him inwardly groan. This man.
"I'm sure I would have remembered you," Bruce said, trying not to grit his teeth in annoyance. Although he must've failed because Clark elbowed him in the ribs.
However, coming from Superman, it was like a blow to the ribcage.
Bruce gasped, coughing up his water, as Clark talked over him like it was nothing. "I guess he just has one of those faces, Aunt Kathy. More soup?"
Clark had barely seen Aunt Kathy since he was a teenager. His father's younger sister was the type who flitted in and out of people's lives like a dream. But somehow her two kids had managed to stay unaffected: they were your typical uninterested, cynical teenagers. The young boy, Max, fiddled with his cellphone as his sister, Piper, stared unabashed at Bruce.
"So," Mr. Kent balled up a napkin, "Clark tells me that you're into chess?"
"I play it in my spare time."
"And what else do you do in your spare time, Mr. Wayne?" Piper batted her lashes.
Bruce's eyebrows were going to become permanently raised on his forehead if he didn't leave the Kents' soon. "Come again?"
Clark cleared his throat.
"Goodness there's barely anything on your plate!" Mrs. Kent piled a load of potatoes in front of the billionaire, all the while clucking her tongue. "It's a wonder you're not all skin and bones."
Clark nudged his friend's elbow. "Bruce is pretty good at chess, Pa. I mean I can handle myself pretty well but he can be crafty."
"We can play a game after the ladies clear up the table?" Mr. Kent leaned back in his chair. "My treat."
"I call Bruce's team!"
Clark sighed. "There aren't any teams, Piper."
She stuck out her tongue.
"Better use that tongue to finish your food." Aunt Kathy prodded her daughter with a fork. "'Nough flirting."
"More corn, Pa?" Clark passed the bowl to his father, nudging Bruce in the process as he gave him a sympathetic crooked smile. "Pass me the butter, too."
The billionaire slowly ate his food, glancing from time to time to watch the spectacle before him. Clark made sure to include him in the bits of drifting conversations – "Bruce likes that, too!" or "he has something just like that." It was odd. Sure, Bruce should have been used to Clark doing the talking for him – he knew members of the League normally went to the Man in Blue if they had a question about his unorthodox methods of obtaining information and justice. But without Bruce's cowl on or Clark's cape, it was simply a friend trying to include his antisocial friend into his normal life.
Bruce set back down his cup at the thought. Friends. The more he thought about it…it didn't sound too bad.
"Ready for that game of chess?" Mr. Kent stretched in his seat, a grin toying at his mouth.
"I can help with that, Ma," Clark said, pushing back his chair and grabbing the dishes from his mother's hands. "Bruce, I can meet you guys in the den in a few minutes."
"Actually, I think I should be going. I have a few things that I need to take care of back in Go – home. It's been a pleasure." He made sure to avoid looking at Clark. The last thing he needed was Clark's Letdown Face.
"Oh, so soon! Y'sure?"
"You're always welcomed here, son."
Piper tried not to look too upset as Clark silently walked Bruce to the door but her pout was an obvious giveaway.
"And how exactly are you planning on getting back?" Clark hissed.
"Don't worry about it."
"Wait one minute, honey." Mrs. Kent emerged cradling wrapped plastic bowls in her arms. "Wouldn't want you to leave empty handed."
Bruce blinked. "Oh. I…"
"Now, they're all labeled, but they're pretty hot so be careful." Mrs. Kent smiled as she placed everything into Bruce's hands. "It was a real treat having you here. Don't be a stranger!"
Clark tried to remain cheery and optimistic for the sake of politeness in front of his mother but inside he was nothing but. Sure, Bruce had actually stayed for the entire dinner, and he did make some small talk but…
"Stop sulking. It's unbecoming."
He had walked Bruce out to the front porch and for a while the two didn't say anything. It was silent – the snow blanketing the night encompassed the winter tranquility of it all. Clark should count his blessings but he couldn't help but be somewhat disappointed. It wasn't like he was asking for much.
"I'm not sulking."
He snorted. "You're almost as bad as Piper."
"Oh, yeesh." Clark winced. "I'm truly sorry about that. If it makes you feel better, we were all uncomfortable."
Bruce shook his head and stared at the night sky. "Other than that…this wasn't horrible. The whole Christmas dinner thing."
"We should make it a tradition. Once every four years?"
"So," Clark smirked and folded his arms, "if I just turn around or close my eyes, are you going to pull that Batman vanishing act on me? You said you didn't need a ride."
Bruce took a few steps down the porch. "Like I said, don't worry about it."
"Sure." He leaned against the railing. "You know I'm going to double check on you in, like, ten minutes to make sure you're okay."
"Good." Clark headed back inside not before glancing behind him once more. Unsurprisingly, he couldn't see the billionaire in the winter darkness anymore. "Merry Christmas, Bruce."