Pairings/Characters: (these chapters): Clark/Bruce (Clark does not appear in Ch. 1), Alfred Pennyworth, Ollie/Chloe (Chloe does not appear in Ch. 3, Ollie does not appear in Ch. 11-14), Martha Kent, Sam Cook, Alma Henderson, Rosa Marinetti, Clark/Lex, Bruce/Lex, Jenny Mallow, Lex Luthor, Adele Simmons, Tom Wilson, Cora Mallow
Continuity: Smallville & Batman Begins/The Dark Knight
Genres: Angst, Challenge, Drama,Mystery
Warnings: (Ch. 16: Violence)
Summary: An exhausted Clark and Bruce vacation in Smallville, where Clark’s sudden obsession over memories of his first love, Lex, causes insecurities to rise in Bruce. Meanwhile, and old enemy is preparing the way for a re-appearance for a final confrontation with the World’s Finest.
Beta: The fantastic me_ya_ri! :)
Artist: The marvelous ctbn60! :) Art can be found here on LJ and A03.
Dates Of Completion: September 11-18, 2011
Date Of Posting: October 25, 2013
Disclaimer: I don’t own ‘em, DC and Warner Brothers do, more’s the pity.
Word Count: 23,277
Feedback welcome and appreciated.
Author's Note: Originally written for tmelange's proposed A Dark Knight In Smallville fanzine.
All chapters can be found here.
IN THE EYE OF THE STORM
All is calm."
The wind swept down across the fields and prairies, leaves dancing wildly as they were stripped from the trees and dark clouds roiled on the horizon. The people of Smallville closed their shutters and doors and the hair on the backs of their necks prickled as they heard the whisper, “He’s coming.”
In the Kent farmhouse, the world’s most famous and powerful heroes and the cleverest computer expert played Monopoly, their voices hushed as their skin prickled with anticipation of what, they did not know.
Chloe was soundly beating the World’s Finest while eating pumpkin cookies and sipping mulled cider and Clark rose from the floor, going over to the window and using his X-ray vision to see through the shutters.
“I’m going outside for a minute.”
Chloe and Bruce exchanged a look as Clark went out to the porch. Chloe rolled the dice, counting out the spaces on the board. The Scottish dog token landed on Reading Railroad.
“Pay up,” Bruce said, glancing toward the porch.
Chloe sighed theatrically as she counted out the brightly-colored money. “Capitalist swine.”
Bruce smirked as he took the money and rolled the dice.
Fitting metaphor for our lives, she thought.
They played a few more turns, Bruce ending up on Park Place. Chloe crowed in triumph, holding out her hand as Bruce reluctantly counted out the money.
“I’m cleaned out,” he complained.
“Hey, you’re supposed to be the captain of industry.”
Bruce grimaced and stood stiffly. “I’m going outside.”
Chloe’s cell phone rang. “Hey, A.C. What’s up? Sure, I can do a search for you. Let me get my laptop.”
Bruce hobbled out to the front porch. Clark was staring out at the horizon, the sky a greenish tint as dark clouds roiled high above the fields and woods.
“It’s centered over the Castle,” Clark said quietly.
Bruce looked out at the horizon and sighed. “I’m not surprised.”
“I don’t know. I’ll have to investigate.”
Bruce gripped his lover’s arm. “Not without me.”
Clark nodded. “We’d better prepare.”
Bruce grinned. “You bet, Boy Scout.”
Clark smiled and kissed him, ushering Bruce inside.
Chloe was sitting at the dining room table as she talked to A.C. and worked the computer. Bruce went upstairs while Clark said to Chloe, “We’re going to investigate the weather. The epicenter seems to be the Castle.”
Chloe nodded. “Good luck. Keep in touch.”
Clark met Bruce at the foot of the stairs. “Ready?”
Bruce nodded. “Let’s go.”
Bruce and Clark got into the rental car, their commlinks on and Bruce clutching a bag of weaponry. Clark had left the top button of his flannel shirt undone, the blue shirt underneath peeking out against tanned skin. Bruce felt a thrill of excitement. They were back in the saddle again!
The journey to the Luthor estate was silent, Clark keeping his eyes focused on the increasingly-tumultuous storm clouds roiling over the remains of Castle Luthor.
Bruce ignored the nagging pain in his wrist, leg and ankle. He was hampered but not helpless. He also felt happy and proud that Clark had not objected to his coming along despite not being one hundred percent. He was no wounded flower. He was the Batman, damnit!
The clouds grew more ominous the closer they came to the estate, the wind rattling the windows of the car. It grew so strong that Clark had to exert his strength to keep the car on the road. He parked on the edge of the estate and they alighted from the car.
“This looks like a job for Superman!” Clark shouted over the wind.
Bruce grinned. Dressed in commando black, he pulled a knit cap over his hair. Without his Bat-costume, he had to improvise. He had a black domino mask in his jacket pocket, the leather creaking as he moved.
“And for Batman!” Clark laughed and Bruce said, “Go!”
Clark nodded, a blur of motion nearly knocking Bruce off his feet as farmboy turned into the World’s Greatest Hero in dazzling red-yellow-and-blue. No matter how many times he saw the transformation, it took his breath away.
All that power restrained by compassion. Damn, what a turn-on!
Clark walked toward the ruins, cape swirling out majestically behind him.
Superman was calm as he approached the ruins. He had the best partner in the world backing him up in the shadows and another great partner back at the house. He had walked into far more dangerous situations with less support.
Excitement coursed through his veins. It had been a long time since he had done the superhero thing, and his blood was ready.
He bypassed the front door, walking through the hole in the wall instead. He traversed the foyer and headed unerringly for the library. It was the heart of the house, and had once held his heart.
Superman entered the library, muted rainbow light streaming in through the stained-glass window as it pierced the gloom. He stood in the center of the ruins.
A slender figure dressed in black emerged from the shadows. A smile that chilled Superman’s blood stretched the once-beloved face.
“Lex,” he whispered.
“Not quite.” Lex stopped several feet away. “Welcome, Kal-El.” The gray-blue eyes hardened. “Kneel before Zod!”
ONCE UPON A TIME
I knew a man
Who was my heart.
I miss him.
"Long Ago And Far Away"
Bruce cursed silently in the shadows. He carefully watched Zod as he made his grand pronouncement. Obviously he had taken Lex over again.
Oh, Lex. It’s never easy for you, is it?
He could not afford to let his feelings for Lex color his reactions. Besides, the Lex he had known years ago was long gone. Now he was the enemy, especially when it came to Clark.
Unfortunately, Clark was always conflicted when he faced Lex. He always hoped for some of the old Lex to return, but he didn’t even remember Clark.
Clark’s vulnerable to Lex. Zod’s clever, taking over his body again.
Bruce was not sure if Zod already knew he was here. If the general could hear his heartbeat, it was all over as far as being Superman’s secret back-up but Bruce went into full Batman mode, anyway.
“I kneel to no man, Zod,” said Superman. Batman had to admire the haughty tone.
“Such arrogance, Kal-El.” Zod smiled using Lex’s face. It was disconcerting, to say the least. “You of the House of El always possessed that trait.”
“Then I proudly carry on the family tradition.” Batman watched his friend assume the classic ‘Superman pose’: fists on hips, chin up, chest out. It was surprisingly effective on most people.
Probably not so much on Zod.
Zod seemed more amused than impressed. He was clad in black pants, shirt, and boots, and wore a long, black coat that resembled the one that Clark had worn as the Blur.
Batman wanted to wipe that smug look off Zod’s face. The Kryptonian considered himself superior to humans but he was no different from the tyrants of human history, and that gave the good guys an edge, slim as it might be. Megalomaniacs always had a fatal flaw. You just had to be very good in finding it.
He remained in the shadows high above the library. Despite his pain he had made the climb up here to the remaining rafters because he wanted the vantage point.
Zod smirked at Superman. “You never learn, Kal-El. Your arrogance will be your undoing.”
“I could say the same.”
“Ah, but I have a good reason to be supremely confident. I am Zod…”
“…Czar of all the Russias!”
“Hmm, I am not familiar with that reference, but I like the sound of it.”
Superman cocked his head. “Why are you here, Zod? World conquest again? Been there, done that. How’d you escape the Phantom Zone, anyway?”
“Now why would I tell you that?” Amusement laced the suave voice.
“Well, you probably don’t expect to go back there, so tell me how you did it.”
Zod laughed, not a pleasant sound, Batman thought with a chill. He gripped his batarang tighter.
“You are amusing, Kal-El. You have your father’s sense of humor. Ah, those were good times, your father and I. The best of friends.”
Batman tensed. Superman’s vulnerability was always his emotions. He had experienced a rocky relationship with the A.I., which had been imprinted with Jor-El’s personality. Luckily, Clark had met the real Jor-El, who was nothing like the capricious, sometimes cruel A.I. Batman had always suspected that the A.I.’s programming had been defective, either from bugs or damage during the rocketship’s crash to Earth. The A.I. had been designed to reflect Jor-El’s personality, yet was nothing like the real Jor-El, for which he was grateful. Why saddle Clark with a rotten father like Lex had suffered? At least Clark could be proud of his biological father, just as he had been proud of his adoptive dad.
“Well, somehow that went awry,” said Superman.
”Just like you and Lex, huh?”
Batman flexed his hand. This was getting into dangerous territory.
Stay focused, Clark. Don’t let him get to you.
Superman did not allow his uneasiness to show to Zod. Men like the general were uncannily expert at sniffing out weakness. No, he would keep his expression neutral and verbally spar instead. He had certainly learned the art from both Lex and Bruce.
“My friendship with Lex Luthor is long over,” Superman said coolly. “He doesn’t even remember me.”
“Are you sure about that, Clark?”
Superman felt a shiver down his spine. That was Zod talking not Lex. Stay focused. He could hear Batman’s heartbeat high up in the rafters. His fellow hero and lover was his anchor.
“Of course I’m sure. His half-sister Tess made sure that Lex remembers nothing about Smallville.”
“She thought she did.”
Superman smiled even as his heart pounded. “Lex’s memories were erased, just enough to wipe out certain time periods of his life, though obviously he was left with enough memory to function.”
“Oh, Clark, you never could see what was beneath layers of deceit, now could you?”
Superman was unsettled. The inflection was more Lex than Zod.
“Lex is all about deceit, just like you, Zod.”
Zod’s smile was predatory. “Interesting how you often refer to him as ‘Lex’ instead of ‘Luthor’.”
Now that is Zod!
Superman kept his senses on high alert. Zod was extremely intelligent and played dirty like all villains.
“Going for shading and nuance, Zod?”
Zod smirked. “It’s all about the shades of gray, Kal-El.”
“No doubt.” Superman was not as fond of verbal sparring as Lex and Bruce were. He much preferred the direct approach, but super-villains were terribly fond of verbiage. “But let’s get down to brass tacks, Zod. You’re here to cause trouble. I’m here to stop you.”
Zod laughed. “So much for nuances, eh, Clark?”
Superman frowned. He knew that Zod knew his secret identity but the disliked the general’s use of his Earth name because it was his name, far more than Kal-El ever could be. It was nothing against his family name. It was just the way his life had gone, growing up as Clark Kent instead of as Kal-El.
“Well, you’re right about that, Clark. You’d better stop Zod, otherwise he’ll take over the world.”
Suuperman’s frown turned into a scowl. “You can stop the games, Zod. Stick to your own personality, such as it is.”
Zod smiled. “Really, Clark? You can’t recognize me?”
Superman kept his pose, projecting power and confidence, though he was really feeling off-balance.
“It really is me, Clark.”
“Lex doesn’t remember me.”
The other man smiled. It was not an arrogant Luthor smirk, but a gently fond Lex smile from their early days together.
</i>Or am I imagining it? Wish fulfillment?</i>
“You can stop the act, Zod.”
“I’m hurt, Clark.” Now that was Luthor arrogance. “You really don’t recognize me?”
“You act like Luthor, but he doesn’t remember me.”
“And that really upsets you, doesn’t it?” Again that gentle Lex tone.
Suddenly angry, Superman growled, “It’s better that he doesn’t remember me.”
“Yes, it probably is, considering.”
“Considering what?” Superman snapped.
“Considering that dealing with me is always difficult for you.”
“Difficult?” Superman laughed. “You’re so predictable.”
“Keep telling yourself that.”
“I will.” Superman stepped forward. “You should know by now, Zod, that I’ll never allow this planet to be taken over to be re-formed into New Krypton or whatever latest scheme you have cooked up.”
“I know, Clark. A part of me has always known.”
Annoyed at Zod still playing games, Superman started to reach for the general when Zod asked, “Why do you think that I never tried to kill you, Clark? Or that I let you play mousy, mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper when I could have exposed you to the world or killed you while you slept in the bedroom at the farm?”
Superman began to snap at Zod to stop his games but looked into the eyes of the man standing before him. “Lex?” he whispered.
Lex smiled. “That’s right, Clark.”
“You do remember me.”
“Of course I do.” Lex’s smile was warm and inviting, just as Clark remembered.
“No, you might be Lex,” he said, taking a step back, “But why should I trust you? You’ve become just what you said you never wanted to be: your father.”
“Haven’t you always wondered why, Clark? Why did I turn to the Dark Side, so to speak?”
“Of course I wondered! I’ve wondered every day for years.”
“And yet the answer is so simple.” At Superman’s frown, Lex said gently, “Have you forgotten that I’m a meteor mutant?”
“No, of course not.”
“And what usually happens to meteor mutants?”
“They develop a psychosis…” Superman’s eyes widened. “You developed it.”
Lex nodded. “When Zod took me over the first time, he triggered the latent psychosis in me. My meteor power, fast healing, prevented the psychosis from kicking in before that. But unfortunately, Zod’s madness triggered my own.” He cocked his head. “Interesting that his second possession has pushed it away, at least temporarily.”
Hope flared in Clark’s chest. “Hold on, Lex, stay with me.” He grabbed Lex’s arm. “Fight the darkness, Lex!”
Lex looked at Superman, seeing Clark, and was about to speak when Clark’s heart sank as he saw the glint of madness return to gray-blue eyes.
“Come out, Bruce! Stop skulking in the shadows and show yourself.” The darkness rippled as Lex laughed. “Of course I know who the Batman is. I’ve known almost since the beginning.”
Batman emerged from the shadows. “But you never told anyone.”
“Of course not.”
Batman stalked forward. Even without the cape, he was working the theatrics. If the situation wasn’t so dire, Clark would have laughed.
“He’s going to take over the world. My fear of invasion will finally come true.”
“Is that why you’ve hated Clark for being an alien?” Batman ground out, dropping all pretenses.
“And the other part?” Clark asked. He was no longer Superman, just Clark in a brightly-colored costume. His gaze was focused firmly on Lex.
“The other part was resentment, I suppose. Resentment at your suspicions and attitude that drove us apart.”
“That isn’t fair,” Batman growled. “You snooped into his life, jeopardizing him and his parents. You know what would’ve happened to him if the Government or your father had taken him? A lab rat’s life would have been merciful!”
“You can take the mask off, Bruce. There are no secrets here.” Lex looked at him meaningfully. “Or are there?”
Batman removed his domino mask. Clark said, “All right, Lex, what are you insinuating?”
“Bruce and I go way back. Right, Bruce?”
“I know that you were friends”
Bruce said quietly, “We slept together.”
Startled, Clark looked at his lover. “Bruce?”
“It’s true, Clark. I slept with Lex back in college. Several times.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I knew you had been in love with Lex. I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“It’s all right, Bruce. I know we all have our pasts.”
Bruce’s shoulder relaxed infinitesimally, but it was enough to assure Clark that Bruce wasn’t beating himself up over something that wasn’t important. Bruce had known Lex before Clark, long before Clark ever fell in love with a charming, enticing billionaire.
Or at least my first one.
“So what now, Lex?” Bruce asked. “Zod knows everything. We can’t hide anything from him, but we can learn from you. What’s his plan?”
Clark saw the change in Lex’s eyes even before Bruce had finished speaking. “Get down, Bruce!”
Zod brought out a gun at super-speed, Clark stepping in front of Bruce just as Zod discharged the weapon and the world exploded in green fire.
FORCE OF NATURE
Sarah Jean Swenson
"Tales Of Kansas"
It was incandescent heat, the world gone white, then green. Pain ripped through Clark and he screamed.
Bruce felt himself thrown back with the force of the explosion. He was slammed against the desk, gritting his teeth as the corner gouged his back. He could see brilliant white light even with his eyes tightly closed, startled and terrified when it turned green. Clark’s scream pierced his heart.
He opened his eyes, trying to see what was going on, but the lingering light was still too bright. He could barely make out Clark’s prone figure in the center of the ruins.
Bruce struggled to his feet, staggering over to Clark. He dropped to his knees beside his lover, the rubble all around them as they were bathed in the rainbow light from the stained-glass window.
Clark was lying on his side, his costume dirty and torn, his cape in tatters. Blood ran down from a cut on his temple, smearing his costume.
Bruce gently cradled him and looked down worriedly at Clark, whose pain-filled gaze was directed toward Zod as the green glow shimmered around him.
“You know what having a human body means, Kal-El? That you needn’t worry about Kryptonite. Convenient, isn’t it?”
Bruce glared at Zod. He and Clark were in deep trouble.
“Ah, the patented Bat-glare. I’m privileged to see it.”
Bruce wanted to say that Zod would see more than just a glare, but he had learned that silence could sometimes be better than words.
Zod’s smile was still unpleasant. He caressed the gun, which looked like something out of Star Trek. It was more like a phaser rifle than any Earth-style shotgun or rifle. How he had managed to craft a weapon like that in the Phantom Zone was a question, though the answer could simply be that he had escaped and then found or made the weapon.
Still questions, but right now we’ve got bigger worries.
“So what’s your plan, Zod? Take over Smallville and then spread your tentacles out?”
“Oh, Batman, you are a conversationalist, aren’t you? Let’s get down to brass tacks as the saying goes?”
Bruce could hear Clark’s struggle to breath but focused on Zod. Emotions could cloud the clear thinking he needed against a wily villain like Zod.
“All right, Zod, let’s get down to brass tacks. Do you think that your world conquest is going to be easy? There are more heroes out there than just Clark and me. If you know anything about humans, you know that we just don’t roll over for the first dictator that comes along.”
“Really?” Amusement glittered in Zod’s eyes. “Your people have done just that. From Genghis Khan to Hitler to Stalin and down to Pol Pot, you line up and say ‘Sieg Heil!’ and glory in what the tyrants give you.”
“And there are always people who oppose them.”
The whisper startled both Bruce and Zod and they looked down at Clark.
Clark’s eyes were pain-glazed but looking directly at Zod. “I know you’re in there, Lex. Fight! The man I knew would fight and claw his way to survival. You had strength of character, Lex, and enthralled a sheltered farmboy with your wit and sophistication.”
Something glinted in Zod’s eyes. At first Bruce thought it was derision, but for a second he was sure he saw the man he had known in college.
“Lex, come back to us.” This time Bruce was the one to plead. Lex had been his friend, too.
“Please, Lex,” Clark said.
Zod frowned. “Your little tricks won’t work, Kal-El. Luthor may be a formidable intellect on your planet, but he’s like a gnat to me.”
“If that’s so, why are you so perturbed, Zod?” asked Bruce.
“I’m not perturbed!”
“Really?” Bruce stood, putting himself between Zod and Clark as he faced the general. “Then why are you so nervous?”
Zod aimed the gun at Clark. “Back off, Wayne.”
Bruce reluctantly complied, but he kept himself between Zod and Clark. That green glow was still radiating outward, causing Clark pain.
“Now it’s time for me to begin my campaign.” Zod preened with confidence, his body straight and tall as he assumed the prospective mantle of emperor. “First the people of Smallville will know my benevolent rule, and then the world!”
“All you need is a mustache to twirl, Snidely.”
Zod’s retort was cut off as his eyes sparked and Lex said, “Now, Bruce! The gun!”
Bruce leaped forward, adrenaline propelling him despite his injuries as he grabbed the gun, struggling with Zod. Behind him, Clark crawled on the ground as he tried to reach them. Something clattered to the ground and Lex’s eyes looked out at Bruce.
“Grab it! It’s the crystal that will send Zod back to the Phantom Zone!”
Bruce started to reach down for the crystal but Zod roared and shoved Bruce back, causing him to lose his balance. His injuries made him unable to regain it and he crashed into the rubble.
Zod lunged for the crystal but Clark reached it first. Closing his fist around it, he rolled away but Zod grabbed his arm and pulled him back.
Clark looked up. “Help me, Lex.”
“Lex isn’t here,” snarled Zod.
“You’re wrong.” Clark grabbed the lapel of Zod’s coat as the Kryptonian leaned down. “I know you’re in there, Lex. I’m sorry I couldn’t help you before but I’ll help you now. Help me defeat Zod!”
Zod smiled a cruel smile as he suddenly brought his boot down on Clark’s hand, Clark crying out. He still held the crystal but Zod grabbed the gun and aimed it at his nemesis.
Clark screamed as the beam of green light hit him squarely in the chest. He writhed as the setting was ratcheted up to its full intensity as Zod’s eyes burned with zealous fire.
Bruce sent a volley of batarangs toward Zod, who batted them away. Bruce took a coil of rope from the back of his belt and looped it over Zod’s wrist and yanked.
Zod snarled at Bruce, ready to attack him when he began to shake violently. He grabbed his head as he doubled over, wind blowing up from every corner of the ruins.
Bruce struggled against the gale force, picking up the gun and making his way to Clark, gathering his lover up into his arms. Clark was gasping, his muscles shuddering from the aftereffects of the Green Kryptonite as his tattered cape whipped around. Zod’s shuddering grew more intense as he howled to match the wind.
“We’re here, Lex” Clark called, his voice week but Lex heard it despite the roar of the gale. Lex fell to his knees and stared at Clark. “Clark,” he whispered, reaching out a hand before he gave one final shudder and collapsed.
“The crystal!” Bruce cried.
Clark aimed it at Lex’s body, the light pulsing and then shooting out to lift his body like a rag doll, screams spilling out to meld with the howl of the wind.
The shrieking pierced through Bruce’s skull as Zod was driven out of Lex’s body, the crystal sucking him inside and floating off into endless space. Lex’s body crumpled to the ground.
“Lex?” Bruce asked, worry lacing ever word. He turned the other man over, gently tapping his cheek. “Lex?”
Clark was too exhausted to move, but he watched as Bruce pleaded with Lex to wake up.
Sunlight started to stream in through the broken roof as the dust began to settle, silence draping over them like a shroud.
LOOK TO THE FUTURE
But fondly remembered,
The future is before us
Like a shining ribbon
Leading us to
Our lives together.
"The Once And
Clark gently tucked the afghan around Lex’s legs as the empty eyes stared back at him. Biting his lip, Clark forced a cheerful smile.
“I’ll be back next week, Lex. So will Bruce when he can get away from Gotham. You know him and that city. It’s like me and Smallville. They’re in our blood.” His heart broke at the lack of response, but continued on. “Mom’s going to bake you some apple pie, just the way you like it, dusted on top with cinnamon and with a hint of the same in the filling. Mmm, my mouth’s watering just thinking about it. She better make one for me, too.” Clark’s smile faded and he leaned down, kissing Lex on the temple. “I love you,” he whispered, then turned and left the bedroom.
Out in the hall, Bruce was waiting for him. Clark smiled a little. “Thanks for letting me have a few minutes alone with him.”
Bruce took his hand and squeezed. “You both needed it.” He studied Clark’s face. “Don’t despair, Clark. The A.I. says it’ll take time, but Lex’s mind will heal. And if he still has the meteor psychosis, there may be a way to cure that, too.”
“Who would’ve thought that his mind would have been burned out by the fight against Zod’s possession?” Clark and Bruce started walking down the hall. “It didn’t happen the last time.”
Sunlight streamed in through the windows as Bruce said, “That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen this time.”
“I suppose.” A nurse passed them and smiled as she nodded. “It was soon after Zod’s first possession that Lex really began to act erratically, getting involved with 33.1, obsessing over alien invasions…he must have seen Zod’s plans while possessed. Unfortunately, as he said, the possession triggered his meteor psychosis so he became secretive and paranoid and told no one the reasons that he was so assertive about training an army of meteor mutants.”
They walked through the lobby and emerged out into a gorgeous autumn day. The venerable old maple trees were just starting to turn, other trees like elm and locus already in the full blaze of golden glory. A gust of wind blew the fallen leaves at their feet around in wild swirls.
“Don’t feel guilty, Clark.”
“I can’t help it, Bruce.” Clark looked down at the leaves. “If I had paid better attention instead of letting my fear and anger cloud my thinking…”
Bruce grasped his arm. “Don’t, Clark. We’ve discussed this. You were young and despite your powers, vulnerable. Lex investigated you and that scared you, and with good reason. Things happened. And when Lex comes out of his coma, we’ll help him become whole again.”
Clark raised his head and smiled. “Thanks, Bruce.”
Bruce kissed him. “This is the best private hospital in Greater Metropolis. Emil will keep his eye on Lex. He’ll recover.”
“I love you,” Clark whispered.
“Same here,” Bruce said, twining his fingers with Clark’s. He glanced at his watch. “Hey, my star pupil is going to be doing her routine at the fairgrounds at one o’clock.”
Clark hugged him. “Don’t worry, you’ll make it.”
They disappeared in a whirl of leaves.
“Over here, guys!”
Clark and Bruce saw Chloe waving from the top of the bleachers. Ollie was smiling next to her.
Clark helped Bruce up to the top bleacher. “What are you doing here?” Bruce asked Ollie. “Is everything all right in Gotham?”
“Just fine ‘n’ dandy. Relax. J’onn’s got the duty. I paid him in Chocos.”
“Ha, ha.” Bruce settled on the end of the bleacher while Clark sat next to Chloe. The crowd was festive, many people waving and smiling at Clark and Bruce, and the smell of sizzling sausages, fried dough, and popcorn wafted from the booths on the midway. “So, no problems?”
Ollie waved his hand airily. “None. I slapped the Penguin and Riddler in the hoosegow and even got an assist from Catwoman.”
“Oh?” Chloe said, arching an eyebrow.
“Yes, darling.” Ollie put his arm around Chloe’s shoulders and kissed her temple. “No need for jealousy, my dear. You’re the one I’m starting a family with.”
“A family?” Bruce asked. “Chloe, you’re…?”
“We’re adopting,” Chloe said.
“That’s great!” Bruce leaned over and poked Ollie. “Though you’ll have to train this one to be a father.”
“He’ll be a great father, won’t you, dear?”
Bruce rolled his eyes as the Queens laughed. Ollie said, “C’mon, Clark, let’s get some food before the show.”
Clark and Ollie scrambled down the bleachers, Chloe calling after them, “I want a sausage! And a bag of peanuts!”
“Yes, my love!”
Chloe grinned as Ollie and Clark headed for the booths. She looked at Bruce. “How’s Lex?”
Bruce sighed. “The same. I hope the A.I.’s right.”
“About this? I think so. Lex is pretty strong. And if his psychosis can be cured, we’ll have ourselves a good man.” She saw something flicker in Bruce’s eyes. “Bruce, you aren’t worried about Clark’s feelings for Lex?” She laughed at his startlement. “What, you think I can’t read you like a book?” Her tone softened. “Clark loves you, Bruce.”
”He still loves Lex.”
She nodded. “And if he and Lex had never broken up, they might be the world’s most famous power couple today. But that wasn’t in the stars.” She squeezed his hand. “You were.”
Bruce smiled almost shyly. “Yeah.” He squeezed her hand back. “That really is great about the adoption, Chloe.”
Chloe smiled. “Thanks. Ollie and I felt it was the right time to start a family. He lost his parents when he was just a child, and my mom had to go away when I was a kid. I had a good childhood with my dad, though, and I want to recreate that with Ollie. He wants the same, remembering the happy times before his parents died.”
Bruce looked out over the midway, his face shadowed, and he located Clark and Ollie at the sausage stand. “Ollie will make a good father,” he said softly. He turned to Chloe. “You’ll be a fantastic mother.”
Clark and Ollie returned with food and drinks, Chloe delighted with her sausage and peanuts while Ollie and Clark both had fried dough and pizza slices. Bruce stuck with pizza, enjoying the rich tomato, cheese, and onion flavors. All food bad for you, but Bruce wanted to let loose for once.
He drank his Coke and watched as Jenny arrived and bowed to applause, wearing a sequined green leotard with yellow and red accents. She wore a yellow feather in her hair and climbed up the pole, grasping the trapeze bar. She saw Bruce and winked at him.
Bruce applauded as Jenny sparkled like a star.
As Chloe and Ollie walked ahead of them as they left the fairgrounds, Clark slipped his hand into Bruce’s.
“You did a good job tutoring Jenny, Impresario.”
Bruce laughed. “She’s a talented kid.”
Clark pulled two tickets out of his jacket pocket and handed them to Bruce.
“What are these?”
“Tickets to the circus.”
“Haly’s Circus is coming to Gotham next spring. The Flying Graysons are the star attraction.”
Bruce took the tickets with delight. “I’ve always wanted to see them in person.” He hugged Clark, giving him a kiss. “Thank you.”
Smiling, Clark and Bruce hurried to catch up with Chloe and Ollie as they left the fairgrounds and headed for home.