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  1. #61
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    Does they’re gonna create the justice league? Noce update.

  2. #62
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    Have been missing this so I re-read. Hope RL is treating you well and will be on the lookout for more.😊

  3. #63
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    Quote Originally Posted by whynot1993 View Post
    Does they’re gonna create the justice league? Noce update.
    The Justice League will eventually appear.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Have been missing this so I re-read. Hope RL is treating you well and will be on the lookout for more.
    Sorry, got caught up in another story, which I will post eventually, plus I finished the draft of my non-fiction project, but I will get back to this story soon.

  4. #64
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    Chapter Twenty

    Lois was loading the dishwasher as Clark finished clearing the table and cleaning up after their dinner.

    “You know,” she said. “I think maybe we’re approaching this Green Arrow guy thing from the wrong angle.”

    “What do you mean?” he asked, standing by as she added a capsule to the wash and closed up the machine. She straightened up and turned around to look at him.

    “Well, we’ve been trying to think of who would actually gain from Dr Loman’s defection from Luthorcorp, right?”

    “Right,” he said, wondering where she was going with this.

    “So, I’m thinking that we should be looking at who and what their motivation could be for forcing Dr Loman to leave.”

    He frowned at her. Wasn’t it the same thing? She shook her head when he questioned it.

    “No, honey, see, it’s not so much what they gain from it, but what Luthorcorp could be losing. Think about it.”

    He considered the question. “So, you think he’s actually trying to stop something at Luthorcorp?”

    She looked at him. “Exactly. Dr Loman has been doing these experiments on meteor freaks, sorry the meteor-infected, for years. What if there were more projects involving these people?”

    He bit his lip. She could be onto something, he thought, remembering when he’d helped A.C. get away from Lex. His friend had been strapped down, denied life-giving water, and had told him a researcher had taken blood samples. They had no idea if the samples had still been in the lab when they’d destroyed it, but given the timeframe, Clark had doubted the lab staff would have been able to do much with them.

    “How is that going to help us identify this Green Arrow character?” he asked.

    She shrugged, turning to wash the remaining dishes. “I don’t know. But it feels like it’s an important piece of the puzzle.”

    He grabbed the towel and began drying the dishes. “I guess so, but I don’t think we’re going to find the answer tonight.”

    He glanced over toward the living area where Kally was playing with the doll he’d won for her at the carnival. His daughter was looking sleepy.

    “I think it’s somebody’s bedtime,” he said.

    Lois nodded. “You sure she’s going to be okay in your dad’s study while we’re upstairs?”

    “It’s not like you haven’t spent a night away from her before,” he said.

    “Well, yeah, but that was the night of your dad’s party,” she replied.

    He took her hand. “Lois, I have super-hearing and I will be able to hear if she gets upset. She’s going to have to sleep in her own bedroom one day.”

    She nodded. “You’re right. I’m just being a worrywart.”

    “You’re being a mother. I think it’s in the job description.”

    She grinned at him. “You have this job description somewhere?” she asked.

    “Ask my mom,” he returned, making her laugh.

    “I just might do that.”

    He went into the living room and crouched down in front of his daughter. “Hey, sleepyhead, how about we give you a bath and put you in your jammies?”

    She looked at him sleepily and handed him her doll. He picked her up and she laid her head on his shoulder.

    Lois smiled at him. “You go ahead and give her her bath. I’ll go sort out her bed in the study.”

    Clark took the toddler upstairs and filled the bath before undressing her and sitting her in the warm water. There was an old rubber duck on the side. His mother had dug it out from his old toybox.

    “You want Ducky?” he asked, dipping the toy in the water and squeezing it so it made a half-hearted quacking noise. He’d probably squeezed it too hard when he was little and wrecked the squeaker. Not that Kally seemed to care.

    “This was Daddy’s when he was about your age,” he told her. She grabbed the duck and tried to put it in her mouth. Clark let her play a little as he washed her with the soft cloth. She cooed and babbled, splashing in the water.

    “Oh, you want to play splash Daddy now?” he said, dipping his hand in the water and splashing her a little. She giggled.

    He finished bathing her after a few minutes and ignored her protests when he lifted her out of the bath, standing her on the bathroom floor and wrapping a fluffy towel around her.

    “Let’s go see if Mommy’s got your bed ready, okay, munchkin?”

    Still wrapped in the towel, she remained happily in his arms as he carried her back downstairs. Lois had put a mattress down in the travel crib. She grinned at them.

    “Look at you, all wrapped up like a bunny. Let’s get your jammies on, sweetie.”

    Clark laid her down on the floor and unwrapped the towel. Kally began sucking her thumb as he grabbed the diaper and put it on. Lois chattered away to their daughter as they put the pyjamas on.

    “You’re such a good girl,” she said. Clark had heard some babies liked to wriggle around when they were being dressed for bed, but not Kally. Then again, she was already half-asleep, he thought, watching as her eyelids drooped.

    “Okay, munchkin, give Mommy a kiss goodnight,” he said.

    Lois wrapped her arms around the toddler and hugged her, before kissing her on the cheek. Clark did the same, laying the baby down in the crib and covering her with the blanket. Kally protested and held her arms out.

    Clark picked up the doll. Lois had retrieved it from the living room, knowing their daughter would want to sleep with it.

    “Here’s your dolly,” he said. “Goodnight, baby.”

    They crept out, leaving a small lamp going. Lois wanted to return to working on the laptop.

    “Don’t you think you’ve done enough research for one day?” he asked.

    “Aren’t you curious?” she asked.

    “Sure I am. But it’s not like Green Arrow’s going anywhere. And we can’t exactly go out looking for him either.”

    “I guess that’s true,” she said. She closed the laptop and left it on the table. “So, what do you want to do?”

    “We can watch a DVD or something,” he suggested.

    “And then what?” she asked with a sly look.

    “Are you suggesting what I think you’re suggesting, Ms Lane?”

    “Mayyybe!”

    He laughed and pushed her toward the living room, looking through the DVDs.

    You’ve Got Mail?”

    She rolled her eyes. “Ugh. Chick flick. Haven’t you got anything more …”

    “More what?”

    “Like action.”

    “We’re not watching a shark movie,” he told her. “Or Die Hard,” he added before she could suggest it.

    “Party pooper!” she returned. “Revenge of the Nerds?” she asked, clearly having spotted it in the collection.

    “Don’t ask me where that came from,” he said. “Maybe one of Pete’s brothers.”

    They eventually settled on a comedy-drama and sat together on the couch. It wasn’t long before Lois grew restless. She grasped his hand, lacing their fingers together.

    “How did you get so big?” she asked. “Is it a Kryptonian thing?”

    He frowned. “Huh?”

    “Your hand is like almost twice the size of mine,” she said. “Look.”

    He looked down at their joined hands. She was right. Her hand was almost dwarfed by his. Her fingers were long but slim. His fingers were slightly longer than hers and wider.

    “Why would you ask if it’s a Kryptonian thing? I mean, how would I know? I haven’t met any Kryptonians.”

    “Guess that’s true.” She turned back to the movie but it seemed she had lost all interest in it. She looked at him again.

    “How did you learn to control your strength? I mean, your mom told me you were always strong. How did you not break anything?”

    He shrugged. “I wish I knew. I mean, from what Jor-El told me, there was some kind of assimilation program in the ship and the journey took about three years. Or close to it.”

    She looked confused. “Assimilation?”

    “So I would be able to fit in, I guess. Maybe he taught me to control my strength.”

    “Do you think Kally will have your strength?” she asked.

    “I don’t know.” He frowned at her. “Honey, you know that. Not even Jor-El can be sure what powers she’ll have until she gets to be a teenager.”

    “Oh, yeah, I forgot. She just seems so, I don’t know, normal, I guess. It’s easy to forget that she’s actually half-alien.”

    “Yes, but my powers come from the yellow sun,” he reminded her. “I was born under a red sun. We’ve got no way of knowing how that’s going to affect Kally until it happens.”

    “And what will happen then?” she asked.

    “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” he said.

    She snorted. “That is such a cliché.”

    “But it still fits the situation. Lois, I know you worry about this stuff and to be honest with you, I worry too. We’re in this together. Okay?”

    She leaned back against him. “Okay,” she said. “Of course, we’re going to have to think about what to tell my dad, eventually. I mean, what happens if she’s with him when her powers develop?”

    Clark nodded. It had been the same situation with his parents. While there had been some enmity between his father and Grandad Clark, his parents had worried that he might not take the news of Clark’s alien heritage so well.

    “At least we know Kally’s not going to develop any abilities until puberty,” he said.

    “Whenever that will be,” Lois replied. She was quiet for a while. The movie continued in the background but her mind was clearly elsewhere.

    “What was it like? Growing up?”

    “With my powers, you mean? Well, my dad told me this story a couple of years ago. He’d sort of forgotten about it until this reporter tried to sell my story. Anyway, I’d only been with them a few weeks and he came looking for me. I don’t know what happened before, but in the attic there’s this big oak bedframe. My grandfather Hiram made it.” She hadn’t seen the attic, but she nodded, listening.

    “I lifted that thing over my head. I was barely three-years-old and this thing weighed, I don’t know, Dad said it was probably about five hundred pounds but I’m sure that’s an exaggeration. Anyway, Mom and Dad got so scared, not knowing what they’d brought into their lives, so they took me to this doctor in the city. Only, before they went inside, Mom told Dad that they couldn’t be sure the doctor wouldn’t call the government and then they’d lose me for good. So, my dad turned around and they left.”

    There had been times when, as a child, he’d seen his father looking at him with an odd expression and he’d wondered what he’d done wrong. Now that he knew the truth about who and what he was, he realised that his father had just been trying to figure him out. Probably wondering what would happen if the government did find out.

    “They were always so careful. Mom told me that she used to feel bad that they couldn’t give me these big birthday parties like other kids got. I mean, a few years ago, Lana’s aunt threw her this huge party at Lex’s mansion. I never really thought much about it. My dad and I did have a few arguments, especially about football. He was always worried I might slip up and use my abilities and someone would get hurt.”

    “That must have been hard.”

    “What was worse was the fact that everyone seemed to treat me like a loser because I wasn’t participating in any sports.”

    “That sounds so lonely,” she said sympathetically.

    “But you would have had it just as hard,” he said.

    “Well, I don’t have powers and my dad was never worried about the government taking me away.”

    “Still,” he said.

    She’d told him how hard it had been when her mother had passed away. The first few years, her father had barely even talked about her mother and had run the household like it was another of his commands. She knew now that he’d been so lost without Ella that he had just used whatever knowledge he had. Her mother had been the one to feed her girls and get them off to school and the one to discipline them. Sam had constantly been away on missions and had really had no idea how to raise two daughters.

    “Do you think we’ll be like that?” Lois asked.

    “Like what?”

    “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love my dad and Bubsy and I love your mom and dad, but they’re not perfect.”

    “At least in some respects we can learn from their mistakes,” he said.

    He had long ago realised that his parents had had good reason for being so over-protective. There had been times when he’d fought against such restrictions, but now that he was a parent, he understood them more.

    They returned to watching the movie but they’d missed so much of the action on screen during their conversation that again Lois grew bored. Clark had to admit he had lost interest in it long ago.

    He’d found himself thinking about how different his relationship was with Lana compared to how it was with Lois. There had been so much drama with the girl he’d grown up with. While some of it had been because of the various incidents where he’d needed to go help someone, it was the fact that Lana had seemed to hold that against him every time something else went wrong.

    He knew part of the problem had been their lack of maturity. For all outward appearances, Lana seemed to have dealt with the tragedy of her past, but there had been times when Clark had wondered if she was still feeling like the girl on the cover of Time Magazine.

    With all of the brunette’s relationships, she seemed to change to be what she thought was their ideal. With Whitney Fordman, she had been a cheerleader, until her streak of independence had won out, causing friction between her and the football jock. With Clark, she had tried to be the girl-next-door; only she wasn’t really anything like that. Then with Jason, she’d acted almost furtive, keeping secrets of her own – which was rather hypocritical when she had often accused Clark of letting secrets get between them.

    When he’d first started dating Lois, or even before they’d officially started dating, he’d found her so easy to be with. She didn’t ‘need’ him to define her. She was fiercely independent and wasn’t about to let him change her. Sure, she could be bossy, but in many ways that was part of her charm, he thought.

    “What are you thinking about?” Lois asked.

    He realised he’d been deep in thought for the last several minutes and hadn’t noticed she’d been watching him.

    “Hmm, how do I answer that?” he asked.

    She punched his shoulder. “Tell me.”

    He told her everything he’d been thinking. She was quiet for a few moments, looking down.

    “You think I’m bossy?” she said.

    “Um …”

    She looked up at him, her expression unreadable. “I’m bossy?”

    “Well …”

    She punched his shoulder again. “You take that back.” He looked at her. “Take it back, Clark Kent, or I swear …”

    He sent her a challenging look. “What’re you gonna do, Lane?”

    She moved, straddling his lap. He held her at the waist, wondering what she was planning on doing. She leaned forward as if she was going to kiss him but kept a teasing distance between them. He tried leaning toward her to capture her mouth but she pulled away.

    She had both hands on his shoulders and was trying to shove him. He laughed at her.

    “What did you think that was going to achieve?” he asked.

    She returned his challenging look with one of her own. “You think I’m bossy?” she repeated. “Well, you, Smallville, are incorrigible.”

    He cocked an eyebrow at her. “Is that the best you got?”

    He slipped his hands around to cup her backside, squeezing each cheek. She moaned.

    “You drive me crazy,” she said with another moan.

    She didn’t resist as he captured her lips with his own, kissing her deeply. He squeezed her butt cheeks again until she protested, her hands pulling his away from her body. She began to move, almost grinding against him, then squeaked when his grip tightened a little on her.

    “We should … take this … upstairs,” she said.

    She didn’t have to say another word. Clark had her upstairs before she could even blink.

    “Wow!” she said, looking around and clearly realising what had happened. “I forget how fast you are.”

    Clark pulled her to him to undo the buttons on her blouse. He kissed her.

    “Lo, do you really want to waste time talking?”

    “Hmm, nope.”

    “Good,” he said. “Neither do I.”

    “So, why are you still talking, when you should be doing, Smallville?”

    Good point, he thought.

  5. #65
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    Nice chapter here. Fluff and cute.

  6. #66
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    Quote Originally Posted by whynot1993 View Post
    Nice chapter here. Fluff and cute.
    I love writing these family interactions.

    New chapter in the adult forum Chapter Twenty-One

  7. #67
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    Re-posting these chapters due to the server issue.

    Chapter Twenty-Two

    As dawn broke, Lex left the police station adopting the demeanour of someone who had just seen his world crashing around him. As soon as he got into the limousine parked by the roadside, he dropped the act. Lionel had been a thorn in his side for too long. His attempt at retaking Luthorcorp, getting in bed with what Lex assumed was the Chinese mafia, had caused huge problems, not only with the company but with the shareholders as well.

    If only I hadn’t had to waste all that money crushing Apex Consortium, Lex thought. He’d spent over $100 million blocking their efforts at every turn, using all his contacts out of Hong Kong to dig up everything about the consortium’s plans.

    Well, that scheme was well-and-truly done and dusted, he thought with a smirk. Lionel had failed spectacularly. Lex had offered his father a concession – a new position at Luthorcorp – something akin to the job the old man had once decided he would take up when he’d been released from Belle Reve – sharpening pencils. The old man probably wouldn’t have appreciated the irony.

    None of that mattered now that Lionel was dead. Lex still had no idea who had killed him but the police had assured him they would do everything they could to find the culprit. Whoever they were, Lex wanted to shake that person’s hand.

    He wondered if it had been one of those vigilantes he’d been decrying in the Daily Planet. Frankly, he wouldn’t have put it past the freak with the arrows. Then again, if it had been the archer, there should have been some evidence. It definitely wasn’t the one the people of Metropolis had dubbed the Blur. Lex was sure he knew the identity of that one, although he had no proof.

    That left the Bat and the woman the newspapers were now calling the Angel of Vengeance. Lex scoffed to himself. Angel, no. Definitely not. Vengeance, probably. If it had been her, what reason could she possibly have had to throw Lionel out the window?

    The limousine dropped him outside the main entrance of Luthorcorp Plaza and he paused for a moment, staring up toward the top of the tower. He could just see the tape across the broken window. Obviously the police were still treating it as a crime scene or else Maintenance would have done something about the window already.

    “Lex?”

    Frowning, he turned and looked at the young woman standing on the pavement a few yards from the front entrance to the Daily Planet. He quickly put on a sad smile.

    “Chloe.”

    She looked slightly uncomfortable. “Um, I heard about your dad. Are you okay?”

    He swiped a hand across his brow and sighed, making a show of looking exhausted and overwrought.

    “I’m fine,” he said, pretending to sound grieved. “I’ve just spent half the night with the police.”

    “Do they have any leads?” she asked.

    “No,” he replied, shaking his head. “Not yet.”

    “I’m so sorry,” she said sympathetically. “If there’s anything I can do …”

    He wanted to believe the sympathy was sincere. This was, after all, the girl he’d protected almost two summers ago. Kept her safe until she could testify against his father. For a while there, they’d actually started to build a friendship. Until Chloe, and by extension Clark, had begun to interfere in some of his schemes.

    “There isn’t, but thank you.”

    She nodded. “I should get to work.” She rolled her eyes. “Interns always get the worst shifts.”

    “I understand. Goodbye, Chloe.”

    He didn’t stick around to watch her walk away, entering the building and walking past the security desk. The guard was already on duty.

    “Mr Luthor, I …”

    Lex had intended to just keep walking but he stopped and did an about-face, glaring at the portly guard. He was one of those wanna-be cops who had never made the grade, forced to work a barely over minimum wage job.

    “Tell me something …” He paused to look at the name badge on the man’s shirt. “Myron. Where were you when my father was being thrown out the window last night?”

    “I wasn’t … I’ve only just …”

    “I don’t want to hear excuses,” Lex snapped. “I want a full review on my desk by noon. Are we clear?”

    The man’s skin was the colour of milk chocolate but Lex still saw the telltale signs of a flush.

    “Yes sir.”

    Lex continued on to the bank of elevators, pressing the button to call the car before taking out his security card. The doors slid smoothly open and he entered, turning to swipe the card through the reader so the lift would take him to the executive floor. He held the plastic card in his hand, hesitating, then pressed the button for the 20th floor.

    It was a reasonably short ride upwards. Lex stepped out of the elevator and used his keycard to unlock the doors, which opened automatically. A breeze blew through the office from the broken window. Shattered glass lay on the floor. Police tape guarded the hole where the glass had once been.

    Lex stood taking in the scene. He hadn’t had a chance to see it except for a brief moment the night before when the police had called him in. Even then he hadn’t been able to see much for the half-dozen cops taking evidential photographs of the scene.

    He huffed, turning and leaving the office which had been briefly his father’s.

    He went up to his own office and began going through some of Lionel’s files, thinking there might be some clue as to the identity of the killer. He was still at it when his assistant came in telling him a detective was there to talk to him.

    Lex didn’t even bother to look up and just gestured silently. The woman walked out again. Less than a minute later, Detective Maggie Sawyer walked in.

    Sawyer was an attractive brunette about twenty years older than Lex. She had questioned him over the incident with Clark’s daughter and hadn’t been satisfied when Lex had told her he’d had nothing to do with the kidnapping.

    “Detective? Have you learned anything new?”

    “Our forensics team did pick up some evidence,” she told him coolly. “The killer came in through the window.”

    Lex cocked an eyebrow. He’d already figured that much but wasn’t about to suggest the detective was stating the obvious.

    “Anything else?”

    “We won’t get DNA results for a few weeks, but we were able to get enough evidence to determine the killer was female.”

    That left only one possibility as far as he was concerned. As soon as the detective had left, he brought up a file from the Daily Planet. There were a couple of articles from Chloe Sullivan. One of particular interest was titled ‘Angel of Vengeance’. The woman had been seen in Suicide Slum, battling the local gangs. The fact that she had been targeting the 13th Street gang in particular suggested she had some sort of axe to grind.

    He made a call then went about normal business for the rest of the day. Despite the lack of sleep, he still stayed at the office until well after dark before heading out, taking one of the corporate sedans from the parking garage.

    He drove to the warehouse district on the edge of the slums, then waited. A man stepped out of the shadows and Lex got out. He handed the man a packet. The man looked inside, pulling out the printed article.

    “Find out everything you can about this woman,” Lex told him.

    “What do you want to do with her once I find her?”

    “Bring her to me.” He paused. “What about our other project?”

    “Loman skipped town. No forwarding address. Did find out something interesting though. Seems he was paid a visit. By that Arrow guy.”

    Interesting, Lex thought. Loman is visited by the archer and suddenly disappears. What was the archer trying to protect and was it connected in any way to Clark Kent?

    “If you’re thinking this might have something to do with the Kent kid, I doubt it. One of my, uh, associates has been following Kent and his girl. If there was any connection to the archer, they’d have met up with him by now.”

    So much for that theory, he decided. At least he still had his letter-writing campaign. He’d done his best to ensure all the local newspapers printed his letters condemning the vigilantes and so far the campaign seemed to be working. There had been a few editorials and responses from the local authorities also complaining about the actions of the vigilantes.

    He returned to work the next morning and was surprised to see a meeting with Bruce Wayne on his calendar. He knew the Gotham billionaire through company contacts although they rarely had any business in common. Wayne Enterprises had a few divisions, including Wayne Tech, but there was not much competition between the two multi-nationals.

    The last time he’d seen Bruce was at the party to introduce Jonathan Kent as the new Kansas Senator.

    Security announced Bruce’s arrival a short time before the appointment and Lex told them to send him up. He sat back in his chair, wondering what the man wanted to see him about.

    The dark-haired man entered the room, his hand outstretched. Lex got up to greet him and gestured toward the leather chairs in the centre of the room.

    “What can I do for you, Bruce?” he asked.

    “I heard about your father,” the other man replied.

    Was that really why he had come to see him? Bruce Wayne had never shown any concern before.

    “Yeah,” he responded. “Guess it’s big news.”

    “Do the police have any leads?”

    “Not really. It’s only been a day or so. I suppose it will take time to sort through the evidence.”

    “I imagine so. You know, Lionel approached me a few weeks ago wanting me to invest in some scheme of his. Seems he thought you’d got the company in some kind of trouble.”

    “Yeah, well, the old man never really did know how to let go.”

    “I find it interesting myself that he would choose such a tactic. Lionel was always rather proprietary when it came to his company.”

    Lex stared at the other man, wondering if he was fishing for something.

    “Is there a point to this?”

    “Well, I did hear that he had sought investment from other territories. The Chinese, for example. I can imagine they wouldn’t be too thrilled to know their ‘partner’ in an attempted coup failed so spectacularly.”

    “Are you suggesting the Chinese might have had something to do with his death?” Lex asked.

    Bruce smirked. “I spent a few years in Asia and I have a few contacts in that area. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was some kind of hit.”

    Was he really trying to divert Lex’s attention elsewhere?

    “I think Lionel managed to make plenty of enemies here,” he said.

    “True,” Bruce said, nodding.

    “Is there a point to your visit, Bruce? It’s not as if you and my father were friends.”

    “I was just curious. Well, that and I heard on the grapevine the publisher of the Daily Planet is thinking of selling.”

    Lex cocked an eyebrow at the other man.

    “Really? I hadn’t heard anything about that.”

    “Then again, I suppose it’s not something your company would be interested in. You’re an agricultural company.” He paused. “Oh, didn’t I hear something about a project with the Navy last summer?”

    Lex suppressed an angry retort. Project Leviathan had been working better than projections and somehow it had been sabotaged. He was sure the young man, Arthur Curry, had done something to it. He wouldn’t have been all that surprised if Clark had also had something to do with it. Not that he had any proof.

    What he wouldn’t do to get his hands on that man again. Curry had shown some interesting abilities. Trouble was, the other man had abandoned his studies at Miami University and disappeared off the radar. Lex had a feeling he would turn up again somewhere. He was known as somewhat of an activist. He would probably be found protesting whaling or some kind of fish farm somewhere.

    “Well, these days, companies have to diversify if they’re going to stay ahead of the market,” he told the other man. “Afraid I’m going to give Wayne Enterprises a run for its money?”

    “As if you could,” Wayne murmured.

    Lex realised the man had come here to, if not bait him, at least feel him out on his intentions on the direction of his company. Now fully his since Lionel was out of the picture. What he’d said was true. Luthorcorp would have to diversify if it was going to stay on top of its competitors.

    Owning something like the Daily Planet wouldn’t be a bad idea, he thought long after Bruce had left. The newspaper prided itself on a tradition of being non-partisan when it came to its political stance, despite the fact the current publisher had proclaimed himself staunchly Democrat, whereas Lex was and always had been Republican. If he owned the newspaper, he could not only subtly encourage a change of direction but he could also control the message. It would certainly help his campaign against the vigilantes in the city.

    He was sure Clark was one of them. Of course, he still had no proof. He had hoped that by testing the little girl, he might have found the proof he needed.

    It galled that for all the years they’d been friends, Clark had refused to divulge his secrets. There had been moments when he’d realised Clark had been lying to him. It had been as plain as the nose on his face. His former friend had always hated lying – that much was obvious.

    All the strange occurrences, the odd appearances and disappearances, the way Clark just seemed to know something that he couldn’t possibly have known if he were just a normal kid was the thing that bothered Lex the most. That and the fact that it was obvious that in spite of all Lex had done for him, he’d somehow never been able to earn the younger man’s trust.

    If only Clark had just been honest with him all the times he’d asked for the truth, he wouldn’t have done half the things he had. Like blackmailing Roger Nixon into working for him. Like hiring Stephen Hamilton to investigate the meteor rocks. All he’d wanted to know was how he had managed to cheat death that day on the bridge.

    The other things, like the mysterious stones – well, Lionel had started that.

    He didn’t know when the friendship had changed. Clark was the one who had redefined the boundaries of their friendship. Maybe part of it was the fact that he’d become a father. Lex supposed becoming a parent at such a young age did change one’s perspective on things. Maybe Clark had seen something in Lex that made him concerned for his daughter.

    Lex would never know. He could analyse the whole situation and still never come up with an answer as to why they’d gone from best friends or almost brothers, to enemies. The Kents had definitely closed ranks since Lois Lane had come into their lives.

    He’d once thought that if only he could convince Clark to his way of thinking, they could rule the world together. Now that their friendship was completely kaput, he realised he would have to approach it from another angle.

    Sun Tzu had once said: ‘To know your enemy you must become them’. Or maybe it was: ‘keep your friends close and your enemies closer’. Whatever, he thought. Since Clark seemed to have some special abilities, Lex figured the only way to ensure he won whatever war it was they appeared to be fighting, he had to have his own army of people with special abilities.

    He turned to his computer and accessed a file, inputting the password to open it. He began reading through the data on the file. So far, none of the subjects had even close to what he needed, but he figured if his scientists could work out how to reproduce those abilities and pool them together somehow, he might be able to create a super soldier.

    Not that he planned on using the super soldier in some kind of battle against Clark. No, he figured on a more subtle approach. If his plans worked, he could convince the government to use his soldiers while at the same time forcing the vigilantes into either hiding or working for him.

  8. #68
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Twenty-Three

    “Smallville, hurry up!”

    It was almost a week since Lionel’s death and they’d made plans to go to the city to talk with Chloe about the case and try to figure out what to do next, but Clark was dawdling over some chores. His father didn’t have to go to any meetings for another few days and Jonathan had taken the opportunity to do some odd jobs around the farm that Clark hadn’t got around to doing. That hadn’t stopped Clark from pitching in.

    “Mommy, Daddy’s not Smallville, he’s Daddy,” Kally admonished from the back seat of the car. Her words still came out a little garbled but she was well ahead of other toddlers her age with her language skills.

    Her father had had to go to Washington and he’d taken Bubsy with him. While Clark’s parents had offered to babysit for the day, Lois thought they deserved a break from grandparent duties.

    “Smallville!” Lois called again, pressing her hand on the horn.

    Clark finally appeared. “I just need to go wash my hands,” he told her.

    “Well, hurry up,” she scolded. “I’d like to get to Metropolis some time this week.”

    Her boyfriend shot her an aggrieved look before jogging over to the house. Her daughter again scolded her, saying she was being mean to ‘Daddy’.

    Martha came out with a basket of muffins and Kally’s favourite chocolate chip cookies.

    “Are you sure you want to take her with you?” Martha asked. “I really don’t mind babysitting.”

    Lois smiled at her. “You’re always babysitting. You deserve some time to yourselves.”

    “Well, you’re right, it has been rather a busy couple of weeks.” She leaned in to give her grand-daughter a cookie.

    “I don’t want that one, I want that one,” she said, pointing to another one in the basket.

    “It’s the same thing, sweetie,” her grandmother told her.

    “I want that one!” Kally insisted, screwing her face up. Lois glanced at her daughter in the rear vision mirror as the toddler became even more insistent, even when Martha assured her again that they were exactly the same.

    Lois looked at her future mother-in-law. “Uh oh, looks like somebody’s started the ‘terrible twos’.”

    “I’m not tewwible!” Kally replied. “You twewible.”

    Clark came out of the house as the toddler continued her meltdown. He raised his eyebrows.

    “Well, that’s new!”

    Martha grinned at her tall son. “Welcome to parenthood, sweetheart.”

    “I was never like that at her age.” He grimaced as Kally began to scream. His mother shot him a look. Like he would know, Lois thought.

    The redhead smirked at him. “No? I can show you a few places where we had to cover up holes in the walls thanks to a certain young man’s tantrums. At least you won’t have to worry about your daughter bringing the house down.” She smiled as she said it, but Lois knew from some of her conversations with the older woman that that had been a very real possibility given that Clark as a toddler wouldn’t have known his own strength.

    Kally began crying. Lois sighed. They had to nip this in the bud before it escalated even more. She turned to look at her daughter.

    “You stop that right now, missy, or you won’t get to see Aunt Chloe!”

    Kally was saying something Lois couldn’t quite make out, but it sounded a lot like she thought her mother was being mean because she wouldn’t be allowed to see her aunt.

    Clark opened the back door. “Hey, you know you can’t go see Chloe with your face all red.” He grabbed a box of Kleenex and began wiping her face. “Come on, pretty girl, show me that smile of yours.”

    Lois saw Kally give her father a watery sort of smile.

    “Now, don’t you think you should say sorry to Mommy and to Grandma? You know, Grandma made those cookies especially for you because she knows you love them so much.”

    “I sowwy Mommy, I sowwy Grandma.”

    “That’s okay, Kally,” Lois told her, knowing it wouldn’t be the last tantrum the toddler would have.

    Martha grinned knowingly at her. “You be on your best behaviour, sweetheart. That goes double for your daddy.”

    Clark just grinned innocently at his mother.

    The little tantrum resolved, Lois drove to the city. She couldn’t help thinking that maybe she had been a little too harsh with her daughter. She knew Kally was bound to have a tantrum once in a while but wondered if she should have spoken that way.

    They met Chloe at the Planet as she was working the afternoon shift. As soon as Kally saw her aunt she practically ran into her arms, squealing excitedly. While the pair were chattering, Clark caught her arm.

    “What’s wrong?” he asked. “You were very quiet in the car on the way up.”

    “I just … was I too harsh with her?”

    “With Kally?” Clark looked surprised. “No. What makes you think that?”

    “She said I was mean.”

    “Honey, she’s just testing boundaries. My parents talked to me about this a while ago. The thing we need to remember is that she’s going to try to test us, play one parent against the other. We just need to back each other up. Maybe this was her first but it’s not going to be her last. It’s good that you were firm with her.”

    “You were so good with her,” she said. “I mean, you did get her to apologise.”

    “Sure. And next time she’ll probably treat me as the bad guy and you as the good guy.”

    She grinned, feeling a little better about it. “Does that mean we get to play good cop, bad cop?” she asked.

    “Only if you’re very, very good,” he replied with a quick kiss.

    “Okay, you two better not be doing anything to corrupt my little niece,” Chloe interjected.

    “Us?” Clark said.

    “Perish the thought.”

    Chloe just smirked at them and sat down at the desk with Kally in her lap.

    “So, anyway, I talked to a couple of my sources within the police department. What they did tell me was that the person who killed Lionel was a woman and she broke in through the window.”

    Clark frowned. “How do you mean she broke in through the window?”

    “Well, maybe she … I don’t know … flew?” Lois suggested. She knew Clark would some day learn to fly but she didn’t think it was likely anyone human would be able to, special abilities or not.

    “I don’t think it’s flying,” Chloe said. “I’ve been following reports of this woman for a while. I called her the ‘Angel of Vengeance’.”

    “Catchy,” Lois commented.

    “Yeah, well, she’s been seen around the slums standing up for the little guy. Some of my sources claim she’s able to ‘leap tall buildings’.”

    “So you think she’s the one who killed Lionel?” Clark said.

    Chloe bit her lip. “I got a tip from another of my sources who said there were plans for some kind of urban renewal project. The trouble was, a lot of people were being bullied to sell up. Those who rented were evicted.”

    “Who was doing the bullying?” Lois asked.

    “Yeah, I’m glad you asked that question, Lo.” Chloe clicked a file on the computer. “Apex Consortium.”

    Clark glanced at Lois. “That’s the name on the paperwork I spotted in Lionel’s briefcase that time. He had some kind of partnership with these guys out of Hong Kong.”

    Chloe nodded. “I did some further searching and about six months ago, a woman was supposedly mugged. Her daughter was with her. They were both stabbed. The daughter survived. She didn’t.”

    “What’s the connection?” Clark asked.

    “She was part of this organisation called … Acrata. They were a small community group fighting to clean up the streets. They were battling pretty big odds. I mean, the gangs, the violent crimes, not to mention the suits. The police have never named a suspect but my contact in the police department told me they were pretty certain one of the 13th Street gang did it.”

    “I’m guessing the rest of the gang aren’t talking,” Lois responded.

    “You’d be right.”

    “Wasn’t one of the gang also killed the other night?” Clark asked.

    Chloe nodded. “Yeah.”

    “No way is that a coincidence,” Lois told her cousin.

    Kally, meanwhile, was looking at the pictures on the computer, putting her hands on the screen and babbling away to herself.

    “Okay, so, let’s recap. Apex Consortium starts to buy people out of their homes in some sort of urban renewal project, only things turn nasty when some of the residents refuse to sell up. This woman with Acrata comes along to speak out against the project and she’s killed in what looks like a mugging by one of the 13th Street gang. Six months later, a gang member is killed along with Lionel, who probably spearheaded the whole thing.”

    Lois nodded at her boyfriend. “Sounds about right.”

    He looked thoughtful. Lois wondered if he was trying to work out the patterns in his head. She glanced at her daughter. The toddler was frowning at her father’s expression.

    “Okay, here’s a theory. What if Apex, or why don’t we just say Lionel, was working with the gangs to escalate the gang violence in the slums? I mean, that would drive property prices down and the Consortium could have bought in at I guess fire sale prices?”

    Chloe looked at him. “That’s a good theory. And since we know Lionel grew up in the slums, he’d have a few contacts in that area.”

    “The question is, how do we prove it?” Lois asked. “I mean, if this Angel of Vengeance is the one that killed Lionel, then she must have put the pieces together already.”

    “That’s true,” Chloe said reasonably. “So, maybe we should look for her?”

    Clark bit his lip. “We could set something up. Like I could pretend to be mugging you,” he said.

    “That’s really lame, Smallville,” Lois said.

    Chloe nodded. “Yeah. I don’t think she’d buy it.”

    Lois chewed on her lower lip. If only her father hadn’t gone to Washington for a couple of days. She figured he might have a couple of contacts in either law enforcement or someone who lived in the slums.

    “Why don’t we go see if we can find someone in the 13th Street gang?” she asked.

    “And how exactly are you going to get them to talk to you, Lo?” Clark returned. “The Lane charm can only get you so far.”

    She smiled at her boyfriend. “Lane charm? You think I have charm?”

    Chloe rolled her eyes and grinned at her niece. “Oh brother,” she said. “Your parents are making goo-goo eyes at each other.”

    “Goo goo,” Kally repeated with a giggle.

    Lois ignored her cousin to turn back to Clark.

    “Besides, I think you could get more out of them than I can. What with your …”

    She was interrupted by the entry of none other than Bruce Wayne. He appeared to be looking for someone as his gaze swept across the room. He seemed surprised to see them.

    “Oh, hello. Mr Kent, Miss Lane. And …” He looked at Chloe. “You are?”

    “Chloe Sullivan. I’m Lois’ cousin.”

    “I see. And who is this?” he added, looking down at Kally.

    “That’s our daughter,” Clark told him coolly. “Kally.”

    Bruce shrugged. “Rather surprised you brought her here. To a newspaper.” As if it was a company rule that children weren’t allowed to visit family at the newspaper, Lois thought.

    “Well, my father’s in Washington and Clark’s parents needed a break. Not that it’s any of your concern.” Lois looked at him evenly. “What brings you to the Daily Planet?”

    “Oh, I was just talking to the advertising department,” he replied.

    Chloe frowned at him. “Well, the advertising department isn’t here,” she said. “This is the bullpen. In the basement.” She gazed steadily at him, making it clear she knew very well he was lying and wasn’t going to let him get away with it.

    The Gotham billionaire appeared completely unfazed. “Yes, of course. Excuse me.” He turned and went out.

    “That was interesting,” Chloe mused. “He’s, uh, shorter in person. I mean, not that he’s short. He just looks way taller on television.”

    “I wonder what he was really doing here,” Clark asked.

    “Yeah. Kind of shifty, if you ask me,” Lois replied. She decided to get back to the subject. “So, Smallville, are we gonna do this or what?”

    “Do what?” he asked, frowning.

    “Go talk to the gangs in Suicide Slums?”

    “Oh. That. You really think that’s safe, Lois?”

    “What are you suggesting, Smallville? That I’ll get myself into trouble?”

    “It wouldn’t be the first time, Lane.”

    She narrowed her eyes at him. “Oh, you are gonna be in so much trouble when I get hold of you, Kent.”

    He smirked. “You’d have to catch me first.”

    Chloe coughed. “Uh, aren’t you two forgetting something?” she said.

    Lois looked at her cousin, then smacked her forehead. They’d forgotten Kally. She turned back to Clark.

    “We can’t exactly …”

    Chloe again ‘ahemed’. “You know, you could just ask.”

    Clark looked at her. “Chloe, would you mind looking after Kally? It should only be a couple of hours.”

    “I’ll be finished up here in an hour, so I’ll take her back to Smallville with me.” She grinned down at the toddler. “What do you think, Kally? Want to stay here with me and play reporter?”

    Kally grinned back.

    Chloe had taken the apartment over the Talon when Lana had moved to New York. Her father had taken a job in Star City. Thanks to Lionel’s blacklisting, Gabe Sullivan hadn’t been able to get a decent paying job in Metropolis or Smallville and had been forced to take minimum wage jobs. When Chloe had started at Met U, he’d decided to get a fresh start somewhere else and had managed to find a good job and apartment in Oliver Queen’s hometown.

    Lois handed her the car key.

    “Why don’t you take my car instead of us swapping the booster seat?” she suggested. “Clark can just Speedy Gonzales us back to Smallville.”

    “Speedy Gonzales?” Clark asked, looking around with a nervous expression. Luckily there was no one else in the bullpen.

    “You know what I mean.”

    “Or you could take my car,” Chloe offered.

    Clark made a face. “Much as I appreciate the offer, Chloe, it’s a little small for me.” He paused. “No offence.”

    “None taken,” she replied. “Although I do reserve the right to make fun of you for it later. I had a great image of you all squashed up like a squeezebox.”

    Lois laughed. “Now that would be something to see.”

    Clark shook his head and shot her a look. “Don’t even think about it, Lane.”

    They left the Planet a short time later. Clark sped them to the Slums, close to where Chloe had told them the 13th Street gang hung out. While it was late March, it was still fairly cold once darkness fell and there were a few homeless people standing around fires lit in old oil drums.
    Clark clutched her hand. “Stay close to me,” he said.

    As much as she hated the idea of him being over-protective, she figured he had good reason. Her cousin had told her there were dozens of muggings each day and at least one homicide. The local police precinct was overwhelmed with the numbers of unsolved murders, although it was fairly clear they knew exactly who was behind the murders.

    She’d thought Chloe would have been all over this story, but figured her cousin already had enough chasing the numbers of stories on the vigilante she’d dubbed the Angel of Vengeance. Chloe had a lot to prove at the Daily Planet. Her history with covering the odd occurrences in the Smallville High Torch hadn’t done her any favours with the editor-in-chief. Not to mention her previous deal with Lionel when he’d persuaded the-then editor to hire her to write a column in exchange for information about Clark.

    They walked around the streets for an hour but no one approached them. Lois watched a car pull up outside the Sacred Heart Mission and a woman got out. She went around to the trunk and pulled out an old suitcase.

    Lois looked at Clark, who nodded. Together, they began to approach the woman. Before they could get there, two men approached from the other side. Clark stopped and pulled her aside before the men could see them.

    “One of them has the number 13 tattooed on his neck,” he whispered.

    They watched for a few moments, waiting to see what the men would do. The men shouted out to the woman, who shook her head. She shouted something in what Lois assumed was Spanish.

    Clark darted forward. Lois wondered what he was doing but then saw the glint of metal shining from the streetlight. One of the men appeared to be threatening the woman.

    “Get away from her!” Clark shouted.

    The two men turned on him. The next thing Lois knew, one of the men was on the ground and the other was clutching his hand, yelping in pain. The woman was staring, seeming a little freaked out by what had happened.

    Lois approached her. “It’s all right,” she said.

    Clark had grabbed the man and had lifted him up by the collar of his leather jacket. Lois quickly helped the woman with the suitcase, leaving it just inside the door of the mission. The woman nodded her thanks before driving away.

    “What are you, man?” the now panicking gang member was saying.

    “Someone you don’t want to mess with,” Clark told him.

    Lois studied the man. She guessed he was Hispanic – probably from Puerto Rico or Mexico.

    “What do you want from me?” the man asked.

    “We just want to know about the girl,” Lois said. “We know you know about her. The papers are calling her the Angel of Vengeance.”

    “I don’t know, lady. All I know is, she’s some kind of freak. She killed Snake.”

    “Who’s Snake?” Clark asked while Lois felt for the phone in her pocket. She’d already set it up to record with the press of one button.

    Slowly the whole story came out. Clark’s theory was right on the money. Snake and the rest of the gang had been paid by people working for Apex to drive down property values. The ‘suits’ as he called them, hadn’t cared how. The numbers of muggings, homicides, arsons and armed robberies had increased exponentially.

    When Acrata had begun its campaign of resistance, Snake had been hired by another ‘suit’ to take out the organisation’s loudest voice. Elena Rojas. Elena and her daughter Andrea had been coming back from somewhere one night when Snake and his friend had jumped them. Both women had put up a fight but Elena had died almost instantly from stab wounds while Andrea had been taken to hospital.

    “Who was the suit?” Lois asked.

    “I don’t know his name. But he was kind of bald. And he had an accent. Like, I dunno, English.”

    Lois looked at Clark. “Dominic,” she mouthed.

    “Do you know where Andrea is?” Clark asked.

    “No. I swear to you, man.”

    “What about the Angel? Do you know where she hangs out?”

    He shook his head.

    Lois knew they couldn’t let the guy go. He’d pretty much confessed to being an accessory to murder. Clark looked at her and seemed to guess what she was thinking. He disappeared, taking both men with him, but was back within seconds.

    “I left them tied up outside the precinct,” he said. “With a note for Maggie Sawyer.”

    “Good thinking, Smallville. That still doesn’t get us any closer to finding the girl, though.”

    “No, but …” He happened to look up and his eyes widened. “Uh, we have company.”

    Lois turned and followed his gaze. She could just make out the flapping of some kind of cape in the moonlight. The figure stood on the roof of a building overlooking the Mission.

    “Is that who I think it is?”

    “Batman,” Clark affirmed.

    They’d heard a few stories about the man in Gotham but while there was much speculation about him, no one seemed to know who he was or where he came from. All they knew was that he had declared war on criminals in his city. Metropolis was a little out of his territory, however.

    The Dark Knight turned away and seemed to disappear. Intent on continuing their mission to find the girl, they started walking again. They were forced to stop when a figure appeared in front of them.

    Lois opted for her usual snarkiness to hide her surprise.

    “Something we can help you with, Batman?” she said.

    The man stared at her, his expression cool through the cowl he wore covering most of his face.

    “It appears my reputation precedes me,” he replied, his voice husky.

    “What are you doing in Metropolis?” Clark asked.

    “The city is not exclusively the Blur’s territory,” the man responded. Lois sucked in a breath, surprised at his revelation. “Yes, I know who you are and what they are calling you.”

    “What is it you want from me?”

    “Nothing. Except to drop the Lionel Luthor matter.”

    “Why? What does Lionel have to do with you?”

    “The matter has been resolved,” was all he would say. “I suggest you go home and forget this meeting ever happened. I would hate to see something happen to either one of you and leave your beautiful daughter without a family.” He paused. “Cherish every moment you have with her.”

    Batman began to turn away. Lois was left wondering who the man was and how he knew about Kally. While the articles had been in the paper, they had always been careful never to allow her to be photographed, to protect her. Even at the rally, prior to the election, Jonathan had politely requested that any images of her not be published.

    Clark sped her back to the farm where Chloe had already arrived and was helping Kally eat her dinner. The toddler greeted them with ketchup all over her chubby cheeks. She was going through the difficult phase with food where she would only eat one thing. Which was chicken.

    After they’d eaten dinner and put their daughter to bed in the study, Clark suggested the three of them talk in the loft.

    “What is it, honey?” Lois asked.

    “I know who Batman is.”

    Chloe stared at him. “How would you know that?”

    “X-ray.”

    “Clark Kent, did you …”

    “Well, I kind of had to. I mean, I thought what he’d said about Kally was kind of odd, so …”

    “So, who is he?”

    “Bruce Wayne.”

    Lois stared at him in amazement. She thought about it for a few minutes while Clark told Chloe everything that had happened with the gang member and then the encounter with Batman. It all made an odd kind of sense, she thought.

    “Well, I did some more research of my own. Elena Rojas was stabbed but the police thought it was a mugging and Andrea ended up in hospital. When she recovered, she told police they had been coming back from a gymnastics meet.”

    “Gymnastics?” Lois asked. The pieces of the puzzle seemed to be coming together.

    Chloe nodded. “Andrea was on track to compete in the next Olympics. Anyway, her dreams were pretty much dashed with the mugging.”

    “Why?”

    “She had to have a heart transplant,” Chloe told Clark. “But get this. The heart came from someone who was killed in a car crash six months ago. The victim was from Smallville.”

    Lois sighed. “Let me guess. They had some kind of meteor power.”

    “Yup. You guessed it.”

    “So Andrea is the Angel of Vengeance?” Clark asked.

    “Looks like it. I’m guessing her gymnastics skills gave her the agility and the meteor rock gave her the extra strength.” Chloe sighed. “The worst part is, she was right under our noses the whole time. Andrea was another intern at the Planet.”

    She went on to explain that when she had discovered this, she had gone looking for Andrea, only to find the girl’s desk had been cleared out.

    Lois wondered if that was what Batman had meant when he’d said the matter had been resolved. Had he taken Andrea into his protection?

    Unless they actually confronted Bruce Wayne with what they knew, they would probably never learn the whole truth.

    ***

    “So, where is she?”

    “She’s safe.”

    Oliver Queen sat in the armchair opposite his Gotham rival. “What about what she did to Lionel?”

    “I can’t just turn her over to the police,” Bruce said. “I promised her. She’s not a bad kid. I think she was just blinded by grief. She will come to understand that what she did was wrong, but I can’t say that she wasn’t justified. The man did arrange to have her mother murdered.” The dark-haired man gazed at him, his expression unreadable. “I appreciate the heads-up.”

    “Yeah, well, I couldn’t exactly let her be a guinea pig for one of Lex’s experiments.”

    “Are you sure about this 33.1?”

    Oliver nodded. He had heard of the project through Dr Loman. Ever since he’d begun his campaign to clean up corruption in his city, he had been hearing rumours of Luthorcorp scientists performing dangerous and unethical experiments on people with unusual abilities. It was only when he’d confronted the good doctor about his part in the whole debacle with the Kent child that he’d learned the full extent of those experiments and what Lex had planned to do with the information he’d gathered on the child. Fortunately, the man had had a conscience and decided not to reveal what he’d seen in the tests he’d performed on the little girl.

    The doctor had been extremely co-operative since then, handing over everything he knew about the other experiments. Oliver supposed the man did have an incentive to co-operate, since he’d been offered a chance to start over in Star City with a job in a research lab set up to help children with incurable ailments.

    “What about Kent and his girl? You know they’ve been digging. So has Chloe Sullivan. Sooner or later they will figure you out.”

    “I don’t doubt it,” Oliver replied. “What about Batman?”

    Bruce smirked. “If Lois Lane is as astute as I think she is, she’ll have picked up the breadcrumbs I left.”

    “You better hope she doesn’t decide to beat your ass for that. From what I’ve heard about Lane, she’s not one to stand back when she’s annoyed about something.”

    “Oh, I think I can handle her. It’s Kent I’m more concerned about. Someone with that much power is someone to be very wary of.”

    Oliver shrugged. “I don’t know. An associate of mine seems to think Kent is an okay kid. A little naïve, perhaps, but seems like a decent guy.”

    “That remains to be seen.”

  9. #69
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Twenty-Four

    Clark wanted to keep an eye on Lex and his activities, which seemed to be growing more unethical by the day, but Lois wanted to keep digging into Bruce Wayne and Batman. They’d brought Clark’s parents up-to-date but none of them could really figure out what the Gotham billionaire’s agenda was.

    Chloe had done an in-depth search on Bruce, trying to get an idea of what he was up to. All she had managed to find out so far was that the man had disappeared some years ago, shortly after the man who had been convicted of killing his parents had come up for early parole. The Gotham D.A. had brokered a deal with the man to testify against the local mob in exchange for his early release. Instead, the man had been walking into the courthouse when he’d been shot.

    Chloe had told them that according to her sources, none of whom she would reveal, there were two rival mob families in Gotham. Each were fighting to control all of Gotham City’s businesses, including the local police, but Commissioner Jim Gordon was trying to stop the corruption. It had been a losing battle until Batman came along.

    Most of the city had conflicting stories on when Batman had first appeared on the scene, but since they knew Bruce Wayne was the man behind the mask, Chloe had managed to follow the trail. Bruce had returned to his city after five years away. At first, it had looked like he was just another playboy, unwilling to take his father’s place in the company his great-grandfather had built, but they now realised it was a smokescreen. As long as Gotham City saw Bruce Wayne as a rich kid living off his family’s money and being generally useless to society, they would never connect him with Batman.

    “I have to admit, it’s a good plan,” Chloe had said. “I mean, who’d even think that a notorious playboy is actually the dark knight?”

    Lois had looked thoughtfully at Clark. He had no idea what his girlfriend was thinking but there was no possible way such a disguise would work in his case. Besides, he thought, I hate the idea of wearing a mask.

    “The thing that gets me,” Lois said as they left the Central Kansas campus late after an afternoon of discussing the problem, “is why would he leave such obvious breadcrumbs?”

    “That’s one thing that’s bothering me too,” Clark admitted to her. “I mean, why did he come down to the bullpen that day.”

    “Unless he was looking for Andrea,” she replied.

    “Or else, he was trying to figure out what we knew.”

    She chewed on her lower lip. “I still don’t trust him.”

    “Me either.”

    They continued to talk it over on the way back to the farm but weren’t able to come up with any conclusions. Clark’s mother greeted them, looking a little flustered.

    “What’s wrong, Mom?” Clark asked.

    “We have to go to Topeka,” she said.

    “Again?” Lois asked.

    Clark’s dad appeared on the stairs with a suitcase in his hand. “Well, when you’re senator, unfortunately when the governor says jump, you ask ‘how high?’” he said with a sigh.

    “Kally’s in the study,” Mom told them. “She wouldn’t go down for her nap earlier and got a bit upset.”

    Dad cocked an eyebrow. “Upset is kind of an understatement.” He told them she’d been put in ‘time-out’ after throwing a tantrum. “In my day, she would have got a spanking for that kind of behaviour.”

    Lois sighed. “I’m sorry.” Mom shook her head.

    “No, honey, it’s not your fault. It’s just a phase she’s going through. You just need to remember to be firm with her.” She smiled. “Now, what were you two talking about?”

    “Bruce,” Clark replied. “We can’t figure out what he’s up to.”

    “Well, clearly talking about it between yourselves and Chloe isn’t helping, so why don’t you go and talk to him?”

    “Your mother’s right, Clark. Obviously, he wouldn’t have revealed his identity if he didn’t expect you to confront him with it.”

    Lois looked at him. “We’re dumb,” she said.

    Clark shrugged. They probably would have thought of it eventually, he assured her.

    Once his parents had left for the airport, Clark sat down with his girlfriend. They discussed a plan to visit Gotham the next day, since it was her day off. He figured they could stay overnight somewhere in Gotham and drive back on the Sunday.

    He’d just decided to make a start on dinner for them when Kally appeared. She’d obviously managed to get out of the crib again. Clark went to her but she pulled away.

    “Where Grandma and Grandpa?” she asked.

    “Grandpa had a meeting in Topeka,” he said.

    “Where’s that?”

    “A long way away,” he told her, reaching for her to pick her up. Again she avoided him.

    “Don’t want you, want Grandpa!” she said.

    “Well, Grandpa isn’t here,” he told her firmly. “And if you keep that up you’ll get put in time out again.”

    She stamped her foot and pouted, looking angry. Clark gazed sternly at his daughter, but she refused to even look at him. She began crying. Lois got up from her chair and went to her. As soon as Kally saw her mother she begged to be held, sobbing with her face against her mother’s shoulder.

    Lois looked at Clark and he shrugged. “Guess it’s my turn to be the bad guy,” he said.

    His girlfriend smiled and tried to comfort the crying toddler. “Hey, why don’t we go see if we can find Shelby,” she suggested. She looked again at Clark. He nodded, turning to start cutting up vegetables so Lois could take Kally outside to look for the dog.

    He knew she was going to sit her down and talk to her. As much as he tried not to eavesdrop on most things, he figured it couldn’t hurt to listen in on them.

    “What’s wrong, baby?” Lois was saying.

    “How come Grandpa had to go away?”

    “Well, Grandpa has a very important job for the government,” Lois explained gently.

    “Why come?”

    “Because it’s something he believes in.”

    It was obvious Kally didn’t understand. It became clear the toddler wanted her grandfather to be around all the time so she would have someone to play with.

    Lois seemed to be at a loss as to how to explain to their little girl about her grandfather’s job.

    “Why were you mad at Daddy?” she asked, changing the subject.

    “Cause Daddy goes away too.”

    Uh oh, Clark thought as she went on, mentioning something that had happened a couple of days earlier. He’d been working with his father out in the barn, with Kally ‘supervising’ when Chloe had called him, telling him there was a big fire at a plant in Granville and people were trapped. He’d thought Kally hadn’t noticed him leaving, and he was gone for about a minute, but it seemed she had realised he had left. A minute to a child could seem like a very long time.

    “So, you’re upset with Daddy because he went away?” Lois asked.

    “Yes.”

    “Honey, you know, your daddy has an important job to do too, right?”

    It didn’t seem to matter to the little girl, who was clearly at the stage where she wanted everyone’s attention and nothing else was more important than her.

    Lois and Kally came back in with Shelby following. Clark smiled as his girlfriend helped their daughter give Shelby his dinner. The pair then went out into the living room where Lois sat in the armchair to read Kally a story.

    Clark finished preparing dinner and left it to cook, going out to the living room. His girlfriend smiled up at him and put a finger to her lips.

    “She’s asleep,” she whispered. Clark looked down at the child sleeping in her lap. He carefully picked her up and laid her on the couch, covering her with a blanket.

    They went back out to the kitchen.

    “Houston, we have a problem,” Lois said.

    “I know,” he replied in hushed tones. “I was listening.”

    “If she’s noticing that stuff now …”

    “She’s too young to understand about my abilities,” Clark told her. “I’m not sure what to do.”

    “Maybe we need to talk this over with your parents. I mean, they’ve been there before. With you, I mean.”

    Clark didn’t even remember what his parents had told him about his abilities. He just remembered being told that he couldn’t show the other kids what he could do. When he’d asked why, his mom and dad had just said he might be taken away from them. The fear of someone taking him away from the two people he depended on had been enough to make him keep quiet about his abilities.

    As cautious as his parents had been, however, he realised that the warning had given him a few hang-ups about his differences.

    “I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, their intentions were good and all that, but I was afraid for a long, long time. When I was about seven, I was afraid to go to school because I was worried that my mom wouldn’t be there when I got home. It was right around that time they told me I was adopted.” He glanced over toward the living room. “I don’t want her to ever feel that way.”

    “You know, I had a lot of questions when you first told me about your abilities. Like, how do you handle being in a car when you can run so fast? Do you even need sleep? I mean, obviously you do because I’ve seen you, but … Now, it’s like I can imagine how frightening it must have been for you. A young kid, not knowing who you really are and having all these things you can do, knowing you’re different but you don’t know why. And then having your parents tell you stuff that would give you nightmares.”

    Clark did have nightmares for a while. Terrifying visions in which he’d done something that revealed himself to the wrong person and men in black uniforms – they were always in black – would come and take him away from the farm.

    “The thing is, you can’t not go out to these emergencies. I mean, as much as I hate the idea of it taking you away from family stuff, I knew what I was signing up for.” She chewed on her lip. “I really used to hate it when Dad had to go off on missions, but mostly I think because I was afraid he would never come back. I still worry about you, but not in the same way.”

    “Lois, you know I will always put you and Kally and anyone else who comes along first.”

    “We just have to get used to having to share you with the rest of the world.”

    He sighed. The trouble was, a two-year-old didn’t understand that. She was yet to learn about why her grandparents had to go away a lot. She’d been spoiled for much of the first two years of her life. Not that she was a brat by any means, but being surrounded by her family wouldn’t have helped her understand that in the real world, parents and grandparents had jobs and couldn’t always be there for her when she wanted them.

    The problem wasn’t going to be easily solved.

    Lois left after dinner, taking Kally home so she could work her shift at the Inn. Clark promised to pick her up the next morning for the drive to Gotham. Since they would be staying overnight, they’d already arranged to leave Kally with her grandparents at the Inn.

    When Clark arrived, the toddler was demanding to go with them. She saw her father and ran to him, babbling something about not wanting them to go without her. He picked her up.

    “Sweetheart, Mommy and I are going to be away all day and all night. But I promise we’ll be back by tomorrow afternoon.”

    “No! Wanna go with you!”

    Sam came out. “Sweetheart, we talked about this. You know your grandma wants you to help her with your dress.” Kally was going to be flower girl at the wedding. Even if it was only going to be a simple civil ceremony, Bubsy had wanted the toddler to have a job.

    Lois joined her father. “I’m sorry, Daddy. She’s going through a phase.”

    “Oh, I know only too well.” He smiled at his grand-daughter. “You’re just like your mommy was at your age. She didn’t want me to go away either.” He snickered, turning back to Lois, telling her when she was two she’d had a tantrum refusing to let go of her father and he’d lost his temper. “I don’t know who screamed the loudest. You or me.”

    “What did you do when I did that, Dad?”

    “Believe me, it broke my heart when I had to go away, seeing your little face looking so sad. Your mom didn’t really know how to explain it either.”

    “I’m sorry I was such a troublemaker,” Lois said with a sigh.

    “No, don’t ever think that. You were always my little soldier. Your mom used to find it funny that you would follow me everywhere when I was home. Like you were my shadow.”

    Lois gently stroked Kally’s hair. “Well, with this one, we seem to take it in turns being the bad guy.”

    “That will happen. Once she learns she can’t wrap Mommy or Daddy around her little finger she will start to figure things out. You just have to present a united front and don’t let her play one off against the other.”

    Which was similar to the advice Clark’s parents had given them.

    Clark handed his daughter over to her grandfather. Sam began chattering to her, distracting her so she wouldn’t have another tantrum. Clark heard him telling her all about her ‘Uncle Will’ who was going to be coming to the wedding.

    Bubsy and Sam had gone to Metropolis to meet her son who, it turned out, had been desperate to meet her as well. Having lost both of his adopted parents, he was eager to learn more about his heritage. Mother and son had begun to build a good relationship. It was slow and would probably take time for them to be comfortable with each other, but it was a good start.

    Lois was quiet as they set off for Gotham. Clark glanced at her.

    “What’s wrong?”

    “I don’t know. I can’t help thinking there’s something else going on with Kally.”

    “I don’t think there’s anything necessarily wrong. I mean, yeah, there’s been a bit of change in her life in the past couple of months, but I just think she’s just trying to get some level of control, that’s all.” He’d done a little reading on the ‘net the night before, hoping to find something that might explain why Kally was acting up. He realised through his reading that her grandparents leaving the farm so often, and his own brief absences hadn’t helped her sense of security.

    “I guess so.”

    “Your dad’s right. She’s just upset that she can’t get her own way all the time. I think instead of punishing her when she’s bad, we should praise her when she’s done something good.”

    “You mean like positive reinforcement?”

    “Something like that.”

    The drive to Gotham took a few hours. They stopped off at a diner for something to eat and Lois took over the driving for a while. It was mid-afternoon by the time they arrived. Clark had looked up directions to Wayne Manor and guided Lois through the city streets.

    Gotham was not like Metropolis. There appeared to be a grittiness about the streets that wasn’t so obvious in their own city. Metropolis seemed brighter, the buildings less monotone, whereas Gotham looked like a city that was struggling with its own darkness. Given what they knew of the corruption within the city’s police and the ongoing mob wars, it was little wonder it seemed that way.

    Wayne Manor was several miles south of the city centre, near the outskirts of the city. Suburban developments had taken up much of the farmland but the estate itself appeared untouched. The main house was high on a hill, overlooking acres of dense forest. Lois stopped the truck outside wrought iron gates.

    “There’s an intercom,” Clark told her, pointing out the small box.

    Lois leaned out of the window and pressed the button. An accented voice answered.

    “Yes?”

    “Uh, we’ve come to see Mr Wayne.”

    “May I have your name, Miss?”

    “Lois. Lois Lane. I’m with Clark Kent.”

    There was a brief silence, then the man answered. “Ah, yes, Miss Lane. Drive on through. Follow the road up to the main house. I shall await your arrival.”

    She turned and looked at Clark, raising an eyebrow. “He sounds, um, nice. I guess.”

    Clark looked around as she drove through the now open gates and up the hill toward the house. There was nothing but dense bush but he still felt a little uneasy. It wasn’t just the fact they were going to meet Batman. It almost felt as if they were expected by the man who had answered the intercom.

    The double doors marking the entry to the house were open and two men were standing outside. One of them was aged in his sixties while the other was about forty or so.

    Lois pulled the truck to a stop beside the two men and got out. Clark joined her, taking her hand. She squeezed it.

    The older man smiled at them. “Miss Lane, Mr Kent, I am Alfred Pennyworth. Mr Wayne’s butler. This is Brendan. He will take your truck to the garage.”

    “Uh, we were going to stay …”

    “Nonsense,” Alfred interjected before Clark could tell him they’d already planned to stay in a motel. “There is plenty of room.”

    They had no choice but to hand over the key to the truck and follow Alfred inside.

    “Master Wayne will see you in the library,” Alfred told them. “He is most pleased you accepted his invitation.”

    “But we …” Lois began. Clark squeezed her hand and shook his head before she could say any more. Obviously, Bruce had been expecting them. Clark was sure the man had some ulterior motive for revealing his ‘other identity’.

    Alfred left them in the library, which was curiously empty. Aside from the massive bookshelves which lined two of the walls, there was a grand piano near the fireplace. A comfortable-looking leather suite was placed in the centre of the room.

    Lois made as if she was going to sit down on the couch but turned to the piano, gently stroking the keys. She pressed down on the white keys. Clark frowned, wondering why one of the notes appeared to be off slightly. He squinted, using x-ray to check out the instrument. There appeared to be some kind of electronic mechanism inside.

    Curiouser and curiouser, he thought, his gaze sweeping around the room. His eyes widened and he stepped back in surprise. Behind one of the bookcases was what looked like some kind of doorway.

    Lois must have seen his movement. “What is it?”

    “There’s some kind of doorway behind the bookshelf,” he told her.

    “Interesting, Mr Kent. I wonder how you managed to see that.”

    Clark whirled and stared at Bruce Wayne. “I …”

    The older man waved his hand. “Oh, don’t apologise. I find it rather tiresome, myself.”

    Lois looked at him. “So, what do we call you? Mr Wayne, or Batman?”

    He smirked. “Straight for the jugular. That’s one thing I admire about you, Miss Lane. I take it that’s an inherited trait. I hear your father isn’t one to beat about the bush either.”

    “Yet you haven’t answered my question,” she returned.

    “Forgive me,” he said with an affected bow. “You can call me Bruce. At least, in this persona.”

    “You make it sound like Batman is another identity,” Clark pointed out.

    “Touche, Mr Kent. Or perhaps I should just call you, The Blur?”

    “What do you know about it?” Lois asked.

    “Enough.”

    “Please, do enlighten us,” Clark said coolly. “You’re the one who left the breadcrumbs. Why would you out yourself like that?”

    “Maybe I was curious to see what you would do with the information,” Bruce replied.

    “So this was, what, some kind of test?” Lois accused. “You manipulated us.”

    “A test? Hmm, yes, I suppose it was. If it’s any consolation, you both passed with flying colours. I was half-expecting to see my name plastered all over the Daily Planet.”

    Clark huffed. “You’re really full of yourself, aren’t you?”

    “And you’re not?”

    “At least he doesn’t go around dressed like a bat,” Lois pointed out.

    “No, but then, from what I hear, he doesn’t need to.”

    “I have to ask. Why a bat?” Clark said.

    “Why not? Bats are, shall we say, rather unappealing creatures. People generally avoid them. At worst, fear them. There is a reason bats are connected to vampires after all.”

    “I don’t think you did this out of curiosity at all,” Clark told him.

    “And what do you really think I was doing? Inviting you for tea and scones?”

    Lois huffed. “We don’t have to stay here and play his game. Come on, Smallville.” She turned to leave. The door opened before she could get there and Alfred came in carrying a tray loaded with what looked like a coffee pot.

    “Some coffee for your guests, Master Wayne. Unless you would both prefer tea?”

    “Actually, Mr Pennyworth …”

    “Coffee’s fine, Alfred,” Bruce said dismissively. The older man shot him a look but placed the tray on the table in front of the couch before leaving the room.

    Bruce waved toward the furniture. “Sit, please.”

    Clark shook his head. “Not until you tell us what you really want from us.”

    “Not you, plural. Just you, Mr Kent. Although I have it on good authority you and Miss Lane are practically engaged.”

    “Could you just stop pussyfooting around?” Lois practically exploded.

    “All right. If you insist. Frankly, I’m concerned. I’ve done quite a bit of research since I learned about the Blur and what I’ve heard worries me a great deal. A man with your level of superhuman abilities is capable of pretty much anything he sets his mind to. I needed to reassure myself that you are who you appear to be.”

    Clark frowned at him. What kind of things could the man have discovered? Had he connected Clark with the crimes he’d committed in Metropolis while on Red K? It seemed more than likely.

    “Look, I admit, I’ve done some things I’m not proud of, but I’m not a threat to you. Or to Batman.”

    “Smallville, you don’t have to explain anything to him.”

    Bruce looked at her then at Clark with a sly smirk. “Does your girlfriend always speak for you?”

    “Lois supports me. And yes, we are planning on getting married in the future. Just not yet.”

    “I see.”

    “Not that it’s any of your business,” Lois told him.

    “It is when I have to consider the possibility I may have to one day protect the rest of the world from him.” Bruce looked at Clark again. “Like I said, a man with your abilities is capable of anything. Even destruction.”

    It occurred to Clark to wonder how Bruce knew about his abilities. There weren’t that many people who had seen him in action.

    “How exactly did you find out about my abilities?” he asked. “I think I’d know if someone had been following me.”

    Lois looked at him, then back at Bruce. “Yeah, how did you know?”

    Bruce regarded them silently before sitting down and pouring himself a coffee.

    “Who have you been talking to?” Clark prodded. He watched the man carefully. “Pete Ross?” The man’s expression didn’t change.

    “Lana Lang?” Lois asked. Again the expression didn’t change.

    Clark sighed. There were only two other people that he knew of and he asked again.

    “What about Bart Allen? Or Arthur Curry?”

    Still no reaction.

    “Those names mean nothing to me. All I will tell you is the information came via a fellow, well, as the papers are calling us, vigilante.”

    “Green Arrow,” Lois blurted. “It has to be him.”

    Clark nodded. He’d had a run-in with the man clad in green leather over a month earlier. He’d caught him breaking into a mansion and stealing a valuable piece of jewellery. The other man had seen his face but hadn’t stuck around long enough for Clark to learn his identity.

    “So, who is he?” Clark asked.

    Bruce shook his head. He obviously wasn’t going to give away the man’s identity. It seemed hypocritical considering it was Green Arrow who had exposed Clark. The question was, why? What could Green Arrow hope to gain?

  10. #70
    aka EB phoenixnz's Avatar
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    Chapter Twenty-Five

    Lois lay in bed next to Clark but while he was out like a light, she was unable to sleep. Everything Bruce had said to them kept going around and around in her head.

    He obviously wasn’t going to give away the identify of Green Arrow, which seemed like a double-standard to her, since Green Arrow must have outed Clark to him, but she wondered if he had kept the truth from them as yet another test.

    Maybe they were supposed to figure out Green Arrow’s identity on their own. Which to her meant that the clues were there. They just needed to put the pieces together.

    She rolled over and tried to relax, but sleep wouldn’t come. Deciding there was no use fighting it, she got up, putting on her bathrobe, and went downstairs. There was a light underneath a door off the dining room and she assumed it was the kitchen. She gently pushed the door open.

    “Oh,” she said. Alfred was at the stove, stirring something in a saucepan. “I’m sorry.”

    He smiled up at her. “Quite all right, Miss Lane.” He took the pan off the stovetop. “Hot cocoa. I find it helps me sleep. Would you care for some?”

    “Um, yes, please.”

    She sat at the small table as he found another mug and poured a cup for each of them.

    “Sugar, Miss Lane?”

    “No, thank you. This will be fine.”

    He sat down opposite her.

    “I understand you have a child.”

    Lois didn’t think it was really any of his business, but nodded.

    “Yes. She just turned two.”

    “Forgive me, but you are awfully young.”

    “I’m not sure that it’s really any of your concern, Mr Pennyworth.”

    “I apologise, Miss Lane. And please, call me Alfred.”

    “What exactly do you do here?”

    “Officially, I was Mr Thomas and Miss Martha’s butler.”

    Lois frowned at him. “Bruce’s mother was named Martha?” she asked. She hadn’t read that far in the articles about Bruce. “So is Clark’s mom.”

    “Yes, so I hear. I believe the name is derived from the Aramaic word for mistress, or the feminine of master. She is also, I believe a biblical figure. However it came about, it is a name for a woman of great strength of character. Mrs Wayne was indeed such a woman. As well, I believe, is Martha Kent.”

    “She is that,” Lois agreed. “But you were explaining your position here.”

    “Indeed. When Mr Thomas and Miss Martha died, may they rest in peace, their wills stated that I should assume guardianship of the young master and guide him until he was old enough to choose his own path in life.” He sighed. “Sadly, Master Wayne does not always take my advice to heart.”

    “In what way?” she asked.

    “I believe you know of his, uh, occupation?”

    “As Batman?” The older man nodded.

    “As much as I applaud his desire to end corruption in Gotham, I would have preferred he choose something … safer.”

    “I know the feeling. I mean, my dad’s a general in the army. When I was a kid, he was always going off on missions. I worried he wouldn’t come home.”

    “Your concerns are justified. I spent time in the British military myself, many years ago.”

    “How did you come to work for the Waynes, then?”

    “My father was the Wayne family butler before his death. I chose to retire from the military.”

    “Oh, I see.”

    “Again, please do not think I am, as you Americans like to say, poking my nose into something that is not my business, but … your child. Where is she tonight?”

    She liked the older man. It was patently obvious his query was of a fatherly nature, given his own surrogate father relationship with Bruce.

    “With her grandparents. Well, my dad and stepmom. Bubsy.”

    He looked confused at the name. “Bubsy?”

    “Her name’s Annie, but she’s always preferred me to call her Bubsy. She owns the Smallville Inn. That’s where I met her when …”

    In spite of her initial reticence, she found herself telling the older man how she had come to Smallville and how Clark had found out about his daughter and began helping her raise Kally but at the same time encouraging Lois to further her education.

    “I must say, Master Clark seems like a remarkable young man,” Alfred observed with admiration in his tone. “As remarkable as you, Miss Lois. Not every teenager would …”

    “Yes, remarkable indeed,” Bruce interjected.

    Lois started and turned to look at him. He’d apparently entered the kitchen without either of them noticing.

    “How long have you been there?”

    “Long enough,” the man replied. “Shouldn’t you be in bed? It’s two in the morning.”

    “Shouldn’t you?” she returned snarkily.

    “Bats are nocturnal,” he responded. He went to make his own drink.

    “And on that note, Miss Lois, I shall bid you good night,” Alfred said, getting up to put his mug in the sink. He winked at her as he left.

    Lois got up to put her own mug in the sink, doing her best to ignore the urge to tell the dark-haired man off for his behaviour.

    “Was it something I said?” Bruce asked.

    “Well, you’d know,” she replied.

    Bruce grasped her arm, stopping her from leaving. “If you have a problem with me, Lois, then say so.”

    She pulled her arm out of his grip. “First of all, it’s Miss Lane. You haven’t earned the right to call me by my first name. Second, what the hell is your malfunction?”

    “Excuse me?”

    “You basically lured us here … well, not us, more Clark, and for what? Testing him? Studying him?”

    “Clark is dangerous.”

    “So is a man with a gun. So are you, given the right tools. I mean, who the hell are you to stand there and judge Smallville for his abilities? If you actually got your head out of your ass and took the time to get to know him, you might find he’s a pretty good guy.”

    “Right. So good he runs away to Metropolis and commits any number of felonies.”

    Lois glared at him. Clark had explained everything to her about the red K and what he’d done the summer they’d met, but it didn’t mean he owed this man the same explanation.

    “Yeah? Well, from what I hear, you were doing the same thing in Asia.” Chloe had managed to uncover an arrest record. The details had been incomplete, but there had been enough for them to figure out it was Bruce and what he’d been doing.

    “Merely educating myself on the minds of criminals,” Bruce responded mildly.

    “Clark doesn’t need to explain himself to you.”

    “Well, he should.”

    “Why? So you can stand there on your high horse and pretend you’re better than him? At least he can own up to his mistakes and learn from them.”

    He regarded her coolly. “What is it about Clark Kent that demands such loyalty?”

    She huffed. “I love him. And he’s the father of my child. That’s all you need to know.”

    He appeared amused. “I’ve heard it said to never get between a mama bear and her cub. I can see it’s true.”

    “You’re damn right it’s true! You want to know more about us? Then stop with the games! If you want to know anything, just ask instead of going around in circles. Oh, and FYI, if you ever do anything to hurt Clark or my daughter, I will make you regret it. Am I clear?”

    “As crystal, Miss Lane.”

    She went back up to bed and curled up next to her boyfriend. He rolled over and spooned against her, nuzzling her neck.

    “So, I guess I should be glad you’re on my side, Mama Bear,” he murmured.

    She pushed him away and rolled over to face him. “You were listening? Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s rude to eavesdrop, Smallville?”

    “I don’t know,” he drawled. “You can hear interesting things when you do.”

    She pushed him onto his back and straddled him. He cupped her face, caressing her cheek and tucking her hair behind her ear. She kissed him, laughing down at him.

    He looked up at her. “Thank you.”

    “For what?”

    “For defending me. Loving me.”

    She smiled. “That part’s easy,” she said. “You love me. Even trade.”

    He pulled her down so she could lay her head on his chest. The steady rhythm of his heartbeat and the warmth and love she felt from him soon lulled her to sleep.

    They were roused for breakfast around nine by a gentle knock on the door by Alfred. Lois quickly dressed, giggling a little as Clark super-sped into his clothes.

    “You know, sometimes I wish I had super-speed,” she said. “Cleaning the Inn would be a breeze.”

    He grinned. “Yeah, it would be. I had this party at the farm once. Well, it wasn’t really meant to be a party, just a few people over for drinks and snacks and maybe some movies. About a hundred kids showed up and it all got out of hand. You should have seen the mess. It took me about a minute to clean it all.”

    “Where were your parents when this party was going on?”

    “They were in Metropolis for their anniversary. Anyway, Mom tried calling a couple of times and when they couldn’t get me they came home. I was grounded for about a month for that.”

    “You better hope Kally doesn’t do that when she becomes a teenager,” Lois replied, just picturing the chaos.

    Clark looked at her. “You’re kidding, right? There is no way she’ll be going to any parties.”

    “And who’s going to stop her, Smallville? You? She’ll have you wrapped around her little finger.”

    “She will not!” he told her vehemently.

    Lois wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him. “Yes, she will. Because you’re just a big softy when it comes to our little girl.”

    They went downstairs to breakfast. Bruce was sitting at the dining table reading a newspaper. Lois shot her boyfriend a look, telling him silently not to say anything about what he’d overheard the night before. She wanted to see whether Bruce had actually taken anything away from their conversation.

    Alfred came out of the kitchen with a platter of pancakes. They quickly helped themselves, pouring maple syrup over them.

    “These are great, Alfred,” Lois told him.

    “Almost as good as Mom’s,” Clark said. Lois kicked him under the table and he shot her a confused look.

    “I shall take that as a compliment, Master Clark,” Alfred replied. “From what Miss Lois tells me, your mother is an excellent cook.”

    Bruce rustled the paper. Clark frowned at him. “Aren’t you eating, Bruce?”

    “I don’t usually …” He paused, then leaned forward. “I suppose I can have a pancake.”

    Alfred left the room again. The dark-haired man helped himself to something to eat then looked at Clark.

    “I owe you an apology, Clark,” he said. “I may have been out of line with some of the things I said yesterday.”

    Clark looked surprised at the other man’s apparent change of tack.

    “And what exactly are you apologising for?” Lois asked, wondering if he was still trying to manipulate them.

    He gazed at her for a long moment before continuing.

    “I should never have judged you on what little information I had.”

    “So, what are you suggesting?” Clark asked.

    “I believe we can help each other. I think we should take the time to get to know one another.”

    Clark nodded. “All right. But there’s something we need to know.”

    “As long as it’s not about Green Arrow …”

    “Why not?” Lois asked. “He didn’t have any qualms about telling you about Clark.”

    “He didn’t tell me much more than I already knew. Perhaps he shouldn’t have revealed Clark’s identity. That’s on him. But I can understand why. I’ve already explained my feelings about your ability, Clark. Put it this way. If you were in my place, finding out about someone with incredible powers, wouldn’t you be a little worried?”

    “Maybe I would,” Clark admitted. “But you still went about it the wrong way.”

    “I’ve already been read the riot act, thank you.” Bruce looked calmly at Lois. “I have to admit, I admire a woman who has the strength to stand by her partner.”

    “Lois is certainly one of a kind,” Clark told him, with a smile at Lois. She smiled back at him. “Anyway, I’m not asking about Green Arrow. What were you doing at the Daily Planet that day? In the bullpen?”

    “As if we couldn’t guess.”

    “I knew you were too astute not to. Yes, I was there to see Andrea Rojas. She’s fine, by the way. Under my protection.”

    “You’re just going to let her get away with two murders?” Lois asked.

    “Andrea knows what she did was wrong. She’s a rather headstrong young woman. Not unlike yourself, L … Miss Lane. It would be hypocritical of me to take her to task over what she did when I was about to commit the same crime over the man who killed my parents. It was just fortunate, or unfortunate, however you want to look at it, that Carmine Falcone’s people got there first.”

    “Falcone?” Lois remembered him as the leader of one of the mob families which currently ruled Gotham’s organised crime.

    Bruce nodded. “I believe he was the man responsible for the murders of my parents.”

    “So, what are you planning on doing with Andrea?” Clark asked.

    “What do you think I should do?”

    Lois frowned at him, wondering if he genuinely did want to hear their opinion.

    “Well, I think she should at least face some sort of punishment,” Lois said.

    Clark nodded in agreement. “Killing someone, no matter what they’ve done, shouldn’t be the answer.”

    “Are you suggesting she should be put in prison among the very people she was fighting against? At the very least, she could be seriously hurt. Worst case scenario, she could become one of them. While I agree there needs to be some kind of penalty, placing her among criminals solves nothing.”

    “Isn’t that what you did in Asia?” Clark asked.

    “Yes, but I was there for a reason.”

    “Oh, please, enlighten us,” Lois told him. “I’m very curious to know how you went from committing crimes in Asia to becoming Batman.”

    “All in good time. We were talking about Andrea. I think she can be rehabilitated but not through the prison system. You’re right. Killing isn’t the answer. As bad as Lionel Luthor was, he didn’t deserve to be murdered. Nor did our gang member. I sent her to stay at a retreat. She will be working with a psychotherapist. Once I’m satisfied she has dealt with her issues over what happened to her and her mother, I’ll bring her back and begin training her on how to use her abilities. For good.”

    He paused for a moment before continuing. “That wasn’t the only reason I was at the Daily Planet. Are you aware the publisher is considering selling?”

    Lois frowned. She hadn’t heard anything and was sure Chloe would have known.

    “No, we weren’t.”

    “I was there that day to talk to the publisher. To try and discover if there had been any other parties interested in buying out the newspaper.”

    “And is there?”

    He nodded. “Our old friend, Lex. He has recently been wooing the publisher. I’m afraid I might have had a hand in that. I visited Lex the day after Lionel was killed and mentioned the rumour.”

    “So, if Lex manages to buy the Daily Planet, we can blame you for that?” Lois asked.

    “Let’s hope it doesn’t get that far,” Bruce replied. “I can’t imagine anything worse than someone like Lex owning a newspaper and being able to quash any negative press about Luthorcorp.”

    The conversation eventually moved on to how Bruce had become Batman. After witnessing the murder of Joe Chill, the man who had been convicted of murdering his parents, and realising it had been engineered by Carmine Falcone, Bruce had confronted the man. Falcone had practically laughed him out of the club, calling him a naïve rich kid who knew nothing of the real world. Deciding the man had a point, Bruce had bought his way onto a freighter to Hong Kong. From there, he’d managed to join a criminal gang. He’d been caught by authorities and sent to prison, only to be released by the Chinese government after Amnesty International had caught wind of an American being imprisoned in inhumane conditions.

    Bruce had returned to Gotham, older and much, much wiser. He’d already begun forming a plan while in prison on how he was going to avenge his parents’ murders and end the corruption in his city. It was an ambitious plan but he knew enough about the criminal world to be able to use their own tactics of threats and intimidation against them.

    Knowing they had to get back to Smallville, Clark and Lois left shortly before noon but made Bruce promise to keep in contact. Lois was satisfied that he’d actually listened to everything she’d said to him but was also prepared to follow through on his promise to really get to know Clark. He wasn’t completely assured that Clark wasn’t dangerous to him, but he was at least open-minded.

    Lois was glad to get home, eager to see her daughter. The few hours they’d spent with Bruce had been difficult. He was a taciturn man, not given to humour and he didn’t seem to understand the gentle teasing she would give Clark.

    She’d been left alone with him for a few minutes while Clark was exploring the grounds. She had begged off, pleading tiredness and Alfred had offered to show her boyfriend around.

    “I have to admit, I still don’t get you two,” Bruce said.

    “Like what?”

    “An army brat and a farmboy. You just don’t seem the type to fall for someone like him.”

    “Well, people can surprise you. Clark is a lot more than the farm.”

    “That I get.” They hadn’t told him everything about Clark’s heritage, figuring that was one of the things he would learn eventually in the process of getting to know them. The right way, instead of practically ambushing them.

    They had told the man the circumstances of their meeting in Metropolis and how Kally had come to be. He had said little about the way they’d chosen to raise their daughter, or of their plans for the future.

    He still didn’t seem to understand how she could support her boyfriend, especially after the way they’d met. She explained that it had taken time for the feelings to grow.

    “Having a child together doesn’t automatically mean you instantly fall in love with someone. I mean, a lot of people make that mistake.”

    “So, Kally is a mistake then.”

    “No, she’s not,” Lois told him firmly. “She will never be a mistake!”

    He frowned, looking confused. “I still don’t get it. You both made a mistake, but your child is not a mistake? How does that work exactly?”

    He would clearly never understand her feelings for her daughter and just how special she was. It was nothing to do with her being half-Kryptonian. Just as it had nothing to do with the circumstances of her conception.

    “Did you ever meet someone and feel like somehow you were always destined to meet?”

    He laughed hollowly and shook his head. “I don’t believe in that nonsense.”

    “I didn’t either, until I fell in love with Smallville. It’s not just because of what he can do. It’s who he is. He’s kind and thoughtful and we’re partners in every way that matters.”

    “But you don’t have any abilities,” he pointed out. “How can you be equal?”

    “You don’t have to have powers to be equal,” she told him. “My mom wasn’t a soldier, but she saw it as her job to be there for my dad when he had to go away on missions. They were in it together. And when he came home, she represented a normal life. Made his burdens easier to bear.”

    “And you think that’s your responsibility with Clark?”

    “It is,” she said, nodding assuredly.

    “Are you sure this isn’t just because of Kally?” Bruce asked.

    “Even if there were no Kally, I’d love him.” The man scoffed. She glared at him. “You don’t believe in love, do you?”

    “I’ve loved only three people in my life, Lois … sorry, Miss Lane. Two of them are dead and one … he doesn’t believe in what I’m doing.”

    “He worries about you. He wishes you’d try to fight the corruption another way, maybe through the business world, instead of hand-to-hand combat. I get it,” she said before he could respond. “Guys like Falcone – they’re way too powerful for honest businessmen to fight. You go about town pretending to be this spoiled rich kid, trying to make out you’re no threat to them. Especially in business. It’s a good strategy, but it’s lonely. I mean, what happens when you meet someone who could potentially be the love of your life, but the act you put on just pushes her away? What then? No one should go through life alone.”

    She gazed at him. His expression was unreadable. She had no idea if what she had said had got through to him.

    “I have to admit, I didn’t like you at first. I still don’t like you very much, but at least you listened to what I had to say and you’re willing to do things our way. If you’re really interested in joining forces with Clark, so to speak, then I’m willing to help you build if not a friendship with Clark, then at least something that’s less adversarial.”

    He smiled suddenly, his mask of indifference cracking just a little.

    “I was right about you, Lois Lane. You’re not just very astute, you’re bright, beautiful and brilliant. And may I see, more than a match for Clark. Powers or no. I can see why he loves you.”

    “Hey, you awake?” Lois looked up at Clark, pulled out of her reverie. She realised they were reaching the Smallville city limits.

    “I was miles away,” she said.

    “Yeah, I could tell. What were you and Bruce talking about when I was out with Alfred?”

    “You mean, you didn’t eavesdrop?” she asked.

    “I figured he was safe enough since you didn’t go all Mama Bear on him.”

    She snorted. “You’re not going to let me hear the end of that, are you?”

    “I have to get my kicks in somehow, since you seem to love yanking my chain.”

    “Well, that’s my job.” She sighed. “Bruce was asking about our relationship. He couldn’t seem to get how we can be partners when I don’t have powers.”

    “It’s not about having powers,” he said, repeating what she’d told the Gotham billionaire. “You’re my partner because you’re by my side.”

    She chewed on her lower lip. “What if something bad happens and you don’t get there in time because you’re with me or Kally?” It was something that had been worrying her, despite what she’d said to Bruce.

    “Lois, I don’t think one of my powers is going to be omniscience. The thing is, we can’t predict what’s going to happen at any given moment. I mean, anything could have happened in Metropolis this weekend, which meant I would have had to leave you in Gotham, but it didn’t. Does that mean it’s never going to happen when we’re together? No. But part of having these abilities is knowing when to let go. If I went out to every emergency – especially something that the local emergency services can handle, that would only make them resent me. The one thing I’ve had to learn the hard way, especially after Ryan, is that I can’t save everyone.”

    She nodded, remembering the story he’d told her about the young boy he’d saved from his stepfather only for him to die a year later from a brain tumour.

    “I guess it’s like being a cop. I mean, even when they’re off duty they’re still a cop, but sometimes bad things happen with or without them.”

    “It doesn’t mean they don’t wish they could have been there and done something about it. I mean, there could be a massive earthquake in say, New Zealand, and people could still die before I get there. Does that mean I should feel bad because I didn’t get there in time to stop it?”

    “Well, no. Even you can’t stop an earthquake from happening.”

    “That’s what I mean. Bad things are going to happen, Lois, with or without me. The best thing I can do is help those who can be saved and try to prevent what I can. If I ran around trying to stop every crime from happening, I wouldn’t have time for anything else.”

    “Even superheroes need their rest,” she put in, finally getting the gist of what he was saying. It was as she had said to Bruce. Her mother had done it and now it was her job to make Clark’s burden easier to bear.

    The Inn was quiet when Clark pulled up outside. They’d had no guests booked for the weekend so it was no surprise it was quiet.

    Lois got out of the truck, moving to grab her overnight bag. Clark got there before her.

    “I got it,” he said. “Go on in. I’m sure you’re missing Kally.”

    She grinned at him. He might not be telepathic, but he always seemed to know what she was thinking. She went inside, frowning as the front desk appeared just as quiet. She heard voices in the kitchen and followed the sound. Bubsy, her father, Lucy, Jenny, who was the chef and a couple of boys from the base were cleaning the kitchen. Even Kally was doing her bit, ‘helping’ her grandmother scrub the grout.

    A tall man was also working alongside her father. He spotted her and nudged the older man, who looked up and smiled.

    “Hello, sweetheart. Since the Inn was quiet, we thought it was a good time to rally the troops for a spring clean.”

    The tall man smiled and wiped his hand on a towel before approaching her.

    “Hi, I’m Will. I’m guessing you’re Lois.” She realised from the photograph she had seen that this was Bubsy’s son.

    She had no chance to respond as Kally rushed to her. “Mommy! I missed you, Mommy!”

    She picked up her daughter. “Aww, I missed you too, baby.” She looked around. “Wow! You’ve had everybody working hard, Dad.”

    Her father grinned, giving his grand-daughter a nudge. “Yep, even Kally’s been helping. Haven’t you sweetheart.”

    Clark came in from the back. He’d obviously already taken Lois’ bag to the cabin.

    “Wow! The place looks even cleaner than the farmhouse.”

    “And we know how particular your mom is about cleaning,” the general teased, reminding Lois of the last annual clean of the farmhouse where Martha had basically cracked the whip and set everyone a task. Even the general had been ordered to work, which had prompted him to salute her as he would a superior officer. Martha’s nickname from then on had been General Kent.

    If the farmhouse hadn’t passed the white glove inspection, they were made to do the task again until it passed muster.

    When the troops had finished cleaning the Inn, Bubsy ordered takeout for them all. Clark volunteered to pick it up.

    Lois noticed Will and his mother talking quietly on the loveseat in the dining room while sharing some lemonade. Jenny was chatting to the two soldiers.

    She bounced Kally on her knee. The little girl giggled, clearly loving her mother playing with her. Lucy sat beside her, teasing the toddler.

    “So, how did it go in Gotham, sweetheart?” her father asked. They’d told him they’d gone to see if they could get an interview with Bruce for an article they were working on.

    “It was good,” she said. “I think we got what we needed.”

    “That’s great.”

    “So, how has Kally been this weekend?” she asked, worrying that her little girl might have had another tantrum after they’d left.

    “She was fine, sweetheart.” He admitted she’d had a couple of moments, especially when it had grown dark and her mother wasn’t home. “You just have to remember that she’s still learning about how the world works and it’s all just a bit confusing for her. She’ll settle down. You just have to be patient with her, that’s all.”

    She nodded, hugging her daughter, grateful for her father’s wisdom.

  11. #71
    Forum Regular Sykobee's Avatar
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    Thanks for taking the time to repost. It's a scary time on the world right now, unprecedented in this age. Hope you and yours are safe and stay that way. Greatly appreciate the window to a wonderfully crafted world, offering a little safe escapism😊

  12. #72
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sykobee View Post
    Thanks for taking the time to repost. It's a scary time on the world right now, unprecedented in this age. Hope you and yours are safe and stay that way. Greatly appreciate the window to a wonderfully crafted world, offering a little safe escapism
    No worries. You're right, it is a little bit scary but it does give you time to reflect on things a little, if you're one of those who are in lockdown/quarantine, as we are down under. We're playing it safe, anyway. Only going out if we really need to.

  13. #73
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    Chapter Twenty-Six

    With finals coming up, Clark knew they wouldn’t have much time to devote to their efforts to unmask Green Arrow. As much as Lois wanted to do some more digging, even she had to admit that their studies were more important. Now that she had got the journalism bug, as she called it, she was determined to get a good job at a good newspaper, rather than a rag like the Metropolis Inquisitor.

    The Inn was going to be busy for a couple of days with the wedding. The General and Bubsy had a few friends they wanted to invite and most of them had opted to stay at the Inn. Lois tried not to complain, but Clark could tell she was getting a bit frazzled with trying to divide her time between her studies, their daughter and helping with preparations for the wedding. Even if it was going to be a small, informal affair, there was still much to do.

    Kally was learning fast. She still tried to play one parent off against the other and thought it was a great game, but Clark and Lois had quickly learned not to take their daughter’s tantrums to heart. She was merely testing her boundaries and as long as they remained firm and didn’t give in to her demands, it was fine.

    It wasn’t easy for them, since Lois still lived behind the Inn and Clark lived on the farm, but they had made the decision together that they would not move in together until they were both able to earn enough money to support their family. That sometimes made it difficult making sure that their decisions for their daughter were on the same wavelength but she was a happy child all the same and didn’t seem to notice anything unusual about the way she was being brought up. That would most likely change when she started school, Clark thought. She would most likely see the way other families were and start to ask questions. That was still at least three years away.

    Clark was sitting on one of the couches in the parlour when Kally came in, chewing on a banana, which he figured his mother had left out for her before she and his father had gone to the town meeting. He’d brought his daughter to the farm for a couple of hours so Lois could study for a final which was the next day.

    “Hi, sweetheart. What you got there?”

    “’Nana,” she said. She approached him, holding the fruit out. Clark quickly moved his books out of the way before the little girl could get her sticky hands on them. He lifted her into his lap and she ate the rest of the banana. Once she was done, she leaned over the coffee table.

    “What’s that, Daddy?”

    “Books, sweetie. I’m studying for finals.” He knew she wouldn’t understand but it didn’t matter.

    “Why?”

    “Why am I studying? It’s so I can get a degree and a good job.”

    “Why?”

    “Well, because I need to earn money to help your mom support you.” He jabbed her lightly in the ribs. “’Cause you keep growing out of your clothes.”

    She squealed. “Daddy! Tickles.”

    “You’re ticklish, huh?” He continued to tickle her, making her giggle, before lifting her top and blowing a raspberry on her stomach.

    She tried to tickle him in return but of course it didn’t work. They continued to play until Shelby came in, wondering what the noise was. Kally wriggled off his lap and got down on her knees to wrap her arms around the dog’s neck. She looked pleadingly up at her father.

    “Play horsie, Daddy?”

    He could never resist when she looked up at him with those big blue eyes, so like his own. Hoping none of his friends dropped by, he got down on all fours and Kally climbed onto his back. She kicked her little legs and uttered something that sounded a little like ‘giddy up’. He’d taken Lois out on one of the horses for a ride and had let the two-year-old sit in front of him. That must have been where she’d learned the command.

    He did his best to pretend to be a horse, even trying to make the horse sounds while Kally babbled commands. As weird as it felt to pretend to be an animal, he loved doing anything to make his daughter happy. Shelby got in on the game, wuffing happily.

    He wasn’t expecting a pair of feet encased in very expensive loafers to appear in front of him. Startled, he almost tossed his daughter off his back in his haste to look up at the visitor. Bruce Wayne grabbed the toddler and held her awkwardly.

    Clark got to his feet. “Uh, Bruce.” He took the little girl from the man and held her in his arms. Kally peered at the newcomer, her forehead creased in a frown.

    “Don’t you keep your doors locked around here?” Bruce asked.

    He shrugged. “Small town. It’s not like anyone’s going to try to break in, anyway. Not while I’m here.”

    “I see.”

    “What brings you to Smallville?” he asked, going to the kitchen to put some milk in a sippy cup for his daughter.

    “Well, I had to talk to your dad about something and I figured I’d take you and Lois up on your invitation.”

    What invitation? Clark thought, then remembered Lois had told the Gotham billionaire he needed to take the time to get to know them. He sat Kally down on her chair at the table. It had a booster seat so she could eat with the grown-ups. The toddler whimpered, clearly wanting to sit on his lap. He sat down and let her sit with him. She continued to stare at the visitor while drinking her milk.

    “Cute kid,” Bruce said. “How old is she?”

    “She just turned two last month.” While he was glad Bruce had actually listened to his girlfriend, his visit was rather bad timing. Clark didn’t know how to say so without being rude.

    The other man didn’t seem to notice, keeping up a casual conversation for a few minutes until Clark heard a car pull up.

    His mother smiled at the visitor as she came in.

    “Mr Wayne, it’s nice to see you. Are you here for the wedding?”

    Bruce cocked an eyebrow. “Wedding?”

    The redhead nodded. “Lois’ father is getting married on Saturday.”

    “Oh, of course. The lovely lady at the Smallville Inn. Good lord, is it really this weekend? I had no idea.”

    Clark’s father came in. “Hey Clark,” he said, “whose car is …” He noticed the visitor. “Oh. Mr Wayne.”

    Bruce got up and went to shake the older man’s hand. The blond farmer took the proffered hand.

    “Mr Kent, or I should say, Senator.”

    “Jonathan is fine. What brings you here?”

    “I actually had something I wanted to discuss with you. It’s to do with some business deals in Metropolis.”

    “I’m not sure I’m the right person.”

    “Actually, sir, you are. It’s a project that would benefit the community and an endorsement from yourself would go a long way to seeing it to fruition.”

    “I see. Well, of course I’ll do what I can to help. If, as you say, it’s of benefit to the community.”

    Bruce smiled. “Great. If it’s all right with you, I can come by tomorrow morning. I’m sure Clark still has college finals he needs to take.”

    “Only a couple more,” Clark told him, wondering why the man was acting so jovial.

    “All right, Mr Wayne … Bruce. How about you come about nine-thirty? That’s not too early for you, is it? With your, uh, night … job.”

    Bruce smiled. “Oh, don’t worry. Batman isn’t planning on making any appearance in Metropolis. I’ll leave that to the Blur.” He turned to leave.

    “Oh, why don’t you stay for dinner?” Clark’s mother suggested.

    “Thank you, Mrs Kent. I appreciate the hospitality but I must decline. I don’t want to impose.”

    “Nonsense. You’re not imposing at all.” She frowned. “Oh, but then I suppose you are used to, uh …”

    “The finer things in life?” he replied with a smile. “Actually, Alfred is rather good at making sure I’m not too spoiled by cooking simple fare. I do eat out, but only when I’m trying to cultivate a certain image.” He smirked. It was clear he enjoyed the game of creating a public persona of an empty-headed playboy.

    “Then I insist you stay for dinner. It’s no bother. Lois and her family will be here for dinner as well.”

    Clark shot him a look. If there was one thing he knew it was that his mother could be persistent. Bruce studied him for a moment before turning back to her.

    “Then how can I refuse such a gracious invitation. I’d be delighted, Mrs Kent.”

    “Please, call me Martha.”

    He smiled. “Martha was my mother’s name,” he said. “She was the kindest, most wonderful woman, but I suppose I’m biased.”

    “Nothing wrong with that,” Clark told him.

    He looked down at his daughter. She’d fallen asleep in his arms. “Excuse me. I just need to go put her down.”

    He carried her into the study and laid her down in the crib, making sure her teddy bear was close by. He tiptoed out, pulling the door to until it was just slightly ajar.

    Bruce was standing by the table, clearly waiting for him. Clark’s parents were in the kitchen.

    “So, why don’t you show me around the farm? Or is that going to cut into your study time?”

    “No, it’s fine,” Clark said. “I pretty much have a photographic memory.” He smiled ruefully. “Remembering facts are easy. Rearranging them into some sort of cohesive structure, that’s hard.” At least one of his exams included essays.

    He showed the man a little of the farm before leading him to the barn. Shelby followed. They went upstairs to the loft.

    “This is usually where I study, but I figured Lois needed the quiet time today, so I took Kally for the afternoon.” There were too many implements and hazards for the little girl to be allowed to wander the farm unsupervised.

    “I have to admit, I admire the fact that you didn’t shy away from your responsibilities. I mean, raising a child … especially when you’re both so young.”

    Clark shrugged. “There are a lot of people like us doing the same thing.”

    “Of course, but none have your rather unique circumstances. Your abilities, I mean. If Kally had been adopted out …”

    Clark nodded, knowing what the man was getting at. It was something that had worried him when the General had come looking for his daughter. It would have been terrible if someone had adopted her and then given her to the government once she started showing her abilities. Lois had mentioned it once and had told him the thought had terrified her.

    “Does she have any abilities?” Bruce asked curiously.

    “Other than a slightly higher-than-normal metabolism, no. My birth father doesn’t think they’ll start to show up until she reaches puberty.”

    “Whenever that is,” Bruce added. “It must be difficult for you. Especially after what Lex did. You don’t want to be over-protective but at the same time you know that if your enemies were to learn you have a family …”

    “They could target them,” Clark finished. “Yeah, that thought occurred to me. But Lois reminded me that it’s the same as being a cop. It doesn’t stop them from having families.”

    “I suppose. I doubt I will ever walk that side of the street.”

    “Why?” Clark asked.

    “I lost someone. Someone I thought I loved. I would have given up being Batman for her. But she chose someone else. And she died because of me.”

    “You can’t blame yourself for that,” Clark told him.

    “You don’t understand. The Joker … he was after me. After the Batman. He had her kidnapped. If I had just listened to Alfred in the first place …”

    “There probably wouldn’t be a Gotham left.” Clark had heard enough to know that until the Batman had come along, the Mob had controlled the streets. Then another group had decided the city wasn’t worth saving and had plunged the streets into chaos.

    As sympathetic as he was to Bruce’s loss, he knew it was no reason to stop doing what he did. Lois knew and understood the risks perfectly well. She had chosen him in spite of those risks telling him that she would rather risk everything than risk nothing and lose the love of her life. He felt the same way.

    After everything that had happened with Lana, he had often wondered if he was meant to be alone. Then Lois and Kally had come along and he’d finally felt he’d found something worth holding onto.

    “You can’t help who you fall in love with,” he said. “I used to date this girl. Lana. I thought I loved her but there were so many things that kept cropping up between us. It wasn’t just my secrets. It was a lot of things. Even when I was with her, I still felt … alone.”

    “Well, of course. I can only imagine how it feels to know that you’re the only survivor of a distant planet.” Clark had initially decided not to tell the other man about his heritage, but it had slipped out during one of their brief 'get to know you' conversations. At least Bruce had learned enough from his talk with Lois to hear him out with an open mind and Clark felt he could be a little less guarded with the other man.

    “Then I met Lois and I didn’t feel so alone. Even before she knew my secret I felt there was something different about her. I guess in many ways, because of her dad, she understood what it was like to feel … I don’t know … like an alien. I mean, they were always moving and she’d have to start at a new school just about every year. Even if the other kids at the school were also army brats, they at least had someone they could talk to about things. She never felt that way with her dad. It’s different now – I mean, they’re really close now.”

    Bruce nodded. “I can remember going back to school after my parents had died and the kids just looking at me like I’d suddenly grown another head. So, I can understand from that angle.”

    Clark realised the other man put up walls to protect himself. Much the same as Lois had put up walls. Even in the beginning, when he’d first found out about Kally, she had been wary of him. Only by showing her that he was prepared to do his share had she learned to trust him and let her guard down.

    “Is there anyone you really trust in your life?” Clark asked.

    “Alfred,” he replied. “And Commissioner Gordon, I guess. As Batman, anyway.”

    Clark nodded. He could understand why Bruce trusted so few people. Having lost his parents at a young age, it would have been difficult for him to know who was trustworthy. It seemed a shame, though, that he didn’t have any friends.

    When he asked about friendships, the older man just sighed.

    “You and I come from such different worlds. And I don’t mean the fact that you’re from some planet I’ve never heard of. You were raised on a farm, with loving parents.”

    “That doesn’t mean I’m naïve,” Clark told him. “If anything, having my abilities made it twice as hard for me to trust anyone. Right from when I was young, my parents told me to always be careful about using my abilities in case someone saw.”

    He told the other man about his friendship with Lex and the reporter and police detective who had tried to exploit his abilities.

    “And these men were connected to Lex?”

    Clark nodded. “Phalen helped Lex’s father cover up some of his worst offences and I think he hired Nixon to investigate the accident. The thing about Lex is, he just couldn’t accept what had happened and had to dig deeper. Even when he said he’d stopped digging, he hadn’t. He just got better at covering it up, I guess.”

    “I, of course, know Lex through various circles. The Luthors have always been known as ruthless in business and in their personal lives. Lex has got worse in the past few years. You’d do well to steer clear of him.”

    “As much as I want to, I can’t. Someone has to keep him in check. Besides, I’m sure he thinks he knows something about me and I have to protect Lois and Kally. My daughter might not be showing abilities now, but that doctor did tell Lois he saw something unusual in her bloodwork. If Lex were to discover the truth, he’d come after her again.”

    “I have my own concerns about Lex,” Bruce told him. “I can understand your worries. I still think you need to stay away. The more you try to interfere in his schemes, the more he’ll want revenge.”

    “If not us, then who?” Clark said.

    Bruce offered a knowing smile. Clark gazed at him.

    “Green Arrow? What is he doing? Why is he doing it?”

    “Because, like you, he believes in justice.”

    “That isn’t enough of an answer.”

    “You’ll have to ask him then. Speaking of whom …”

    “If you’re asking if we know, no. We’ve been kind of busy. What with studying for finals and Lois’ dad’s wedding coming up.”

    Bruce nodded. “I see. What do you plan to do with your degree?”

    “We both decided to major in journalism.”

    The other man didn’t seem so certain. “How are you going to juggle your Blur duties and write articles at the same time?”

    “Well, that’s the beauty of having a partner who knows everything about me,” Clark said. “Lois can cover for me.”

    “Is she going to write about your Blur exploits as well? Isn’t that a conflict of interest?”

    “Only if there’s some kind of monetary gain or if there’s politics involved,” Clark told him. He had come across the same issue in his Ethics 101 paper. His professor had even included his father’s job as a senator as an object lesson. Since Clark knew very well he couldn’t cover anything his father was involved in, the point was moot.

    Where the Blur was concerned, he felt it was a completely different situation. The Blur was out stopping muggings, or helping people in accidents. Any stories covering that would be the same as someone covering any other crime story.

    “It would be different if Lois was asked to do a human-interest piece interviewing the Blur,” he said. “She wouldn’t be able to do that because she’d run the risk of exposing something personal about me that any other reporter wouldn’t know. She gets that.”

    “I see. Well, you’ve certainly given me something to think about, Clark.”

    “Smallville?”

    Clark looked over the railing down to the floor of the barn. Lois stood at the bottom of the stairs with Kally in her arms. He had been so busy talking to Bruce that he hadn’t heard the car, or realised how late it was.

    “Lois,” he said with a smile.

    She grinned and started up the stairs. He stood at the top of the steps and kissed her in greeting.

    “Hey you,” she said. “Hope the munchkin didn’t distract you too much from studying.”

    “Daddy played horsie,” Kally told her mother. She looked as if she’d only just awoken from her nap. Lois smiled down at her.

    “Did he now? I wish I could have seen that.”

    “It was rather cute,” Bruce said. Clark frowned. ‘Cute’ wasn’t a word he expected to hear from the billionaire’s mouth.

    “I bet. Hello, Bruce. Martha told me you were here visiting.”

    “Just for a couple of days. Clark and I were just chatting.”

    “Oh?” Lois raised an eyebrow at him before looking down at the sleepy-eyed toddler who was reaching her arms out for her father. Clark took his daughter, glancing between his girlfriend and the older man. Lois was doing her best to sound friendly but she was still a little guarded in her tone.

    “How is the study going?” Bruce asked politely. “I hear you have an exam tomorrow.”

    She nodded. “Psych 101.” They had had to take a science subject for their first year as part of their major requirements. Clark had chosen geography as well as maths while Lois had decided on Psychology, saying studying maps wasn’t really her cup of tea. He’d tried to tell his girlfriend it was more than studying maps, but she had still refused. He’d figured the subject would help him when he had to travel further afield to help in other incidents.

    Clark’s father called up to tell them dinner would be ready in a few minutes and to go in the house to wash up. They made their way to the yellow farmhouse where Clark helped his mother set the table.

    Lucy offered to take Kally and play with her for a few minutes. Clark watched Lois’ sister babble to her niece before he turned back to the kitchen. He heard Lois quietly explaining to their visitor that her father didn’t know about Clark. Bruce murmured an agreement not to mention anything.

    Finally, they all sat down to dinner. The General and Bruce began a discussion about some deal the army was doing with Wayne Tech. For all his efforts at trying to portray himself to the rest of the world as an empty-headed playboy, Bruce showed nothing of that in his conversation with Lois’ father. He clearly knew exactly what was going on in his own company.

    Clark wondered how the Gotham billionaire was able to create all the tools Batman used when apprehending criminals in his city, but guessed it had to be developed by someone in the company.

    He asked the man about it later that evening as Lois sat in the parlour with her father and stepmother as they talked about the weekend.

    “Well, yes, you’re right. Most of it was developed in my research division. Why do you ask?”

    “Wouldn’t they know it’s company property? I mean, how do you stop them from working out you’re Batman?”

    “We have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” Bruce said, looking a little uncomfortable with the line of questioning.

    “In other words, they know, but they pretend they don’t? How can you trust them, then? I thought you trusted only Alfred and the commissioner?”

    “All right, so maybe there is one other person I trust. Believe me, I did my due diligence.”

    “That doesn’t answer the question.”

    “Well, let me put it this way. You have a few people you trust with your secret. Like Lois. Chloe. Why do you trust them and not others? How did you know Lois wouldn’t tell her father?”

    Clark nodded. He was right. Sure, when he’d told Lois, he’d also made her realise there was much more at stake than his secret. There was Kally as well. But from the moment they’d met, he’d instinctively felt like she was someone he could eventually trust with everything he kept hidden. As for Chloe, she’d learned the truth, or at least part of it, and kept it secret for months. She’d earned his trust.

    “Because they earned it,” he said.

    A short time later, Lois came out to the porch with their daughter. Kally was sound asleep, her cheek pressed against her mother’s shoulder, mouth slightly open. The look was adorable.

    “What have you two been talking about?” she asked.

    “Oh, nothing much.”

    Lois shot him a look as if to say she didn’t believe a word of it. She sighed.

    “Well, we have to get the munchkin home to bed. I have to be up early for my exam tomorrow.”

    Bruce smiled at her. “I wish you luck for your exam. I’m sure you’ve worked very hard.”

    She had, Clark thought. Juggling her studies with work and taking care of a toddler wasn’t easy but she was determined to do well.

    He rubbed her arm. “You’ll do great,” he said. “I have faith in you.”

    “Rightbackatcha, farmboy,” she said fondly.

    Bubsy and her father came out, followed by Lucy. “Thanks for the hospitality, Martha, Jonathan. We’ll see you both on Saturday.”

    “We’re looking forward to it, Sam,” Clark’s mother told him.

    The General smiled and put an arm around his fiancée. “Come on, sweetheart. Let’s get the girls home before a certain young lady wakes up and raises a ruckus.”

    Clark kissed his girlfriend and watched her follow her family down the steps and into the car. He noticed Bruce watching as well.

    “I have to say, you’re a lucky man, Clark Kent. Lois is one-in-a-million.”

    “Yes, she is,” Clark replied. “Yes, she is.”

  14. #74
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    Nice to see a new update here!
    I really like this story.

  15. #75
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    Quote Originally Posted by whynot1993 View Post
    Nice to see a new update here!
    I really like this story.
    Thanks hon. New chapter coming up.

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