30/30 - The Challenge

by Darklady and Chicago

Disclaimers and other information in "part 0"

Bruce paused in the doorway of his bedroom, surprised for a moment. He hadn't imagined the smirk in Alfred's eyes; the old man had been hiding something from him. Or rather, not mentioning something. Or more to the point, not mentioning someone.

The huge bed was a spacious playground for the beauty lounging there now. Wisps of fabric that might have passed for a robe draped over her, a flutter of chiffon with a line of feathers that rested just at the juncture where ass met thigh. Slim legs kicked up at the knee, stirring the air lazily with matching feathered mules. She hadn't looked up, apparently engrossed by the printer's galleys that spread over the bed around her. A sweet touch, playing unaware. Letting him clear his throat and purr, "To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?" as he entered the room and closed the door.

Light green eyes lifted, lit by the lazy smile that curled the lips beneath them. "Chapter 2," she answered, gesturing at the pages around her. "Remind your lover that you can surprise him."

Bruce smiled and sat on an unpapered edge of the bed, leaning down to the pale pink lips she raised to him. "You needed a book to inspire you?" he asked teasingly when they broke apart, tracing a hand down her cheek and along the line of her jaw.

Lavender closed her eyes at the contact. "Never," she answered throatily, leaning her cheek into his palm, "but I had to do something while I waited for you to come home."

Bruce lifted an eyebrow and pulled over a stack of pages. "'Chapter 5: Spicing Things Up,'" he read. "A romance help book?"

Lavender stretched indulgently and shifted to her side. "I figure if I am going to have to tour this book, I should know what I wrote."

A corner of Bruce's mouth curled into a smirk. "This is Clark's latest opus?"

Lavender reached out a finger and placed it firmly over Bruce's lips. "Don't you dare laugh."

Bruce shook his head and kissed the stilling finger. "Don't tell me you think there's something to this advice?"

Lavender shrugged. "I have no idea. I am still rather mystified at human mating practices. Maybe an instruction manual is needed."

Bruce snorted. "Please. And people are going to take advice from a romance novelist? Who gets his facts wrong to boot?"

Lavender pouted and flounced into a sitting position. "Bru-uce," she protested, tossing her honey blonde tresses. "People believe in my work. My public needs me."

"Your public," he reminded her, sweeping an arm around her and pushing her back among the papers with a kiss, "is being duped by a pair of aliens." His lips moved lower down her throat, playing with whisper touches across the soft skin there. He felt her swallow hard, then her hands were at his shoulders, pushing him up.

"Bruce, at least let's not crumple the galleys."

"Fine," Bruce agreed amiably, helping her gather up the papers. He turned one stack over to find the cover page. "'Revive your Romance: Tips for Putting Zest Back in Your Love Life collected by Lavender Larkspur.'" He looked up at his lover incredulously. "He didn't even write this? He collected it?"

"He wrote parts of it, I think," Lavender answered, holding out her hands to add Bruce's stack of pages to her own.

"What did he - no, never mind. I don't want to know."

"Good." Lavender stretched out to set the galleys on an end table, the gesture causing her "robe" to drape in very... interesting ways. She turned back to him with half-lidded eyes. "Because I don't want to talk romance."

Bruce nodded, reaching his fingers out to the edge of the robe, pushing it back from where the feathered edge rested across Lavender's pert breast. The brush of the feathers stiffened her nipple to attention, and Bruce caught the rising flesh between his thumb and forefinger. "Duly noted," he murmured, then set his lips to more appreciated work.

The door to the monitor womb whisked open, and Superman looked up to see Batman stalking toward him, a portfolio binder in his hands. "J'onn asked me to return this to you," the Dark Knight stated without inflection.

Superman accepted it with a slight smirk. "So'd you read it?" he asked.

"Cl.. Kal." The dark knight stiffened ever so slightly, covered in the Watchtower's programed shadows. "I hardly think that some... housewife in Coast City... is the best advisor for my romantic life."

"You're right. Not enough imagination." Superman's trademark farm boy smile spread farther, taking a puckish edge. "So...? Lets see what a more...venturesome...group can come up with." Broad hands merged into a general blur over the touch-pad keyboard. "Oraclenet/meta/socialchat/alt."

"You d..." Black gloved hands reach out.

"Relax, Br...Batman." Both Superman and the keyboard moved wisely out of range. "I didn't use your name." The raised eyebrow added 'either of them'. One flawless nail underlined the single line of text.



Bruce Wayne sat easily in the high-backed chair, flipping though the fan pleated list that had just been - quite literally - dropped in his lap. "Why..."

Clark Kent settled lightly into a second chair, brushing back the single curl that had fallen forward during his flight. "I believe in my work."

"Even..." The wave to the bookshelf was almost general, but both men knew Bruce meant the row of Lavender Larkspur paperbacks. The thin volumes filled most of a row, the bright spines and curled covers contrasted with the gold-edged bindings of the more mint volumes above and below.

Clark thumbed the pages of his newest applicant to their ranks. "This advice book may not be exactly my next best Pulitzer hope - but-" His voice dropped down, almost imperceptibly. "I would not have put my name on it..." At a look from the fragile blonde sipping hot chocolate on the sofa, Clark corrected. "Well, her name on it." He shrugged the detail off. "What I'm saying is...I wouldn't just put something out if I didn't think it had some merit."

"Which in this case is...?" One raised eyebrow added the question mark.

"To break couples out of their ruts." Clark looked over to 'Lavender,' obviously seeking support. "To help them see... the possibilities."

Bruce leaned forward. He had caught the look, and the Bat had long past broken any impulse to pull the blows when an opponent weakened. "By..."

Clark rallied. "By doing something new. Something they might not have had the courage to suggest on their own. Something that might help them learn more about their partners - about themselves." Blue eyes met darker blue, confident now. "Aren't you the one who is always insisting we must exceed what we believe we can do?"

"One does not train for one's ... love life." The revived ghost of Solomon Wayne - and countless other Wayne patriarchs since and before - echoed in that shocked sentence.

This time it was Clark Kent with the raised eyebrow - and Bruce Wayne that called for help. "J'onn... you would never..."

"Actually, Bruce." A tall green male was now holding Lavender's chocolate. "I do not know enough about humans to make a definitive statement." He nibbled the edge of a fudge-dripped strawberry. "However, on Mars there was a period of transformative contemplation when..."

"Deal, Bruce." Clark shifted again - into his editor persona. "You try it. Thirty days. Nights." His eyes moved from Bruce to J'onn then back to Bruce. "If both of you say you learned nothing? Nothing at all? I pull the book."

"But my publishers!" Lavender Larkspur pressed one delicate hand to her throat. "The book is practically..."

"It's not on the press yet. If I... you... say they pull it? It's dead. I can give them a cook book instead. " Clark stood, holding out his hand. "Do we have a deal?"

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