hey guess who has two thumbs and just spent 5 hours straight writing another batman AU?
Batman wasn’t a person.
He faked it very well. When the League gathered, the line of his mask against pale skin looked natural and human, a little more perfectly fitted than the Flash’s but not quite as perfect as Green Lantern’s, which was an energy projection and not a real object and thus lay against his face flawlessly, without shift or gap.
His mouth didn’t bend into many expressions and his body language wasn’t voluble, but the emotive gestures that he did make were pretty normal. The rare smile seemed honest. He had a heartbeat, perfectly steady. His shadow (almost) always matched the shape that was blocking the light.
The stories that came out of Gotham, about the Bat—those could be exaggerations, born of terror and manipulated perception. Clark, of all people, knew how much you could convince people to believe things that weren’t real, because they made a better story. Even the scraps of photography and film showing a towering thing of black fog and long fangs could have been some clever trick with projectors.
The fact that Superman couldn’t see through his suit just meant it was well made.
He’d had to pool his observations with Diana and J’onn before he’d been sure he wasn’t imagining things. But Martian Manhunter knew shapeshifting, and said the block against his mind when he tried to touch Batman’s thoughts did not feel quite human. And Superman knew what posing as human looked like. And Wonder Woman knew truth, and its absence.
Batman wasn’t human. Which wasn’t the problem, of course.
The problem was that he was pretending he was. Pretending it rigorously in a situation where there shouldn’t be any need, unless he had something worse to hide. Pretending it in a way that overlaid on a certain inhuman predatory grace began to look very dangerous indeed.
Superman could see both things in him now, watching narrow-eyed through a roof into the room where Batman bent over a child’s bed, cape swirling up larger and darker than he let it get around them. The man and the hungry creature, flipping in and out of focus, neither ever gone but superimposed, like a trick picture that was two things at once.
Knuckles ghosted over the boy’s cheek, claws turned inward, and the child sighed softly, and sunk deeper into sleep. Batman’s heart wasn’t beating, but Clark could monitor the child’s vitals easily from here.
Batman drew his hand back, and tipped his head up—looking back at Superman as though the roof was no more a barrier to his perceptions than to Clark’s. Waited a beat, as if making sure his attention had been noticed, and then passed soundlessly between the other beds to the window, slid it open, and launched himself out through it and up onto the roof.
He didn’t bother to restrain himself to even a plausible approximation of human limits, now. The arm he reached up to the edge of the roof to pivot himself up by was too long, and his shoulder rotated further than it should have been able to, and he landed with impossible soundlessness in a billow of cape that was far, far larger than any cape that only reached to his heels should have managed, and which faded out at the edges into shadow. He knew he was found out.
Superman took the obvious invitation, and sunk down to join him. It was better, sitting like this, facing the same way on the ridgepole of a two-story building. Batman hadn’t hurt that child, that he could tell. There was no need to make this a confrontation.
“I don’t understand why,” he said at last. Out of deference for sleeping children, he kept his voice soft—he would have worried about a human being able to hear it, but now he knew he didn’t have to worry about that with Batman. “Why go to so much trouble to deceive us? We haven’t kept secret what we are. Not from you.”
Alien, alien, user of alien weapon, magical princess…
Batman sighed. He spoke almost as softly as Clark had, and his voice sounded the same as ever, except for the fact that a human voice couldn’t get this quiet without falling into a whisper. “I’m not like you.” He turned.
He’d let some of the details of his human mask fall away—what must have been the exhaustively rendered texture of skin, the flakes of dry skin on chapping lips, a crease at the corner of his mouth that had suggested he scowled or smiled more, outside of his costume. There was no pretense of a jawbone, under the skin, though the jawline externally hadn’t changed. The cowl still looked like something he was wearing, but Clark knew it was not. It flexed like skin when Batman narrowed his blank white eyes and said, “I can see you know that.”
“You’ve visited that kid every day for weeks,” Clark said. “Why?”
Batman stared at him. “How long have you known?”
“You’re confronting me now because you’re worried about my intentions toward Dick. He changed your mind about something. Ergo, you’ve been sitting on this for a while. How long have you known I wasn’t real?”