Kal stumbled into his parents room clutching his ears like they were on fire. "What's wrong with them?" He whined, his voice rising as the noises got louder and louder. "Mother?"
His mother appeared before him, gently taking his hands off his ears. He tried to fight her even if it was useless. He'd seen the gesture used on the talking box, and before today it had worked in muffling sounds he didn't want to hear.
The noises grew in pitch again, so much that Kal could barely stand it. His mother wiped his cheeks the tears making him turn red. Only infants cried, and Kal had far outgrew his status of an infant.
Still, no matter how hard he tried he couldn't stop the tears. With every loud boom in his ear his body couldn't help but react by letting another salty drop of water escape his eye.
He clapped his hands over his ears again. Even his mothers voice, a voice that soothed the worst of his dreams away, was unbearable. It was like she was screaming in his ear, only louder, so much louder.
"Kal," she said again, forcing him to look at her. "You need to focus. Just focus on me. Block everything else out darling."
It took a while for him to sort out what she was saying in his mind. Even longer for him to figure out what she wanted him to do. She kept talking through it all, telling him to listen, and Kal tried. He tried so hard but she was just so loud.
He tried focusing on something else. Something that was quieter, not so near. He remembered what started it all. Kal had been asleep, or on the brink, when he heard quiet sobbing. He had thought for a moment it was himself before he recognised the tone. Kal looked for it now, the quiet whimpers and quick breaths, all of them too gentle to be made awake.
He found it and latched on to it like a lifeline. He focused on each pitch of voice and each gentler moment of silence.
It helped. After a while of listening Kal could no longer hear anything else. He knew it was waiting for him, not gone completely. But so long as he focused on something he could tune it out.
He listened to his mother, blocking out the crying to make sure it worked. It did. "It will get better Kal, I promise."
It did. Like his later powers his superhearing just needed to be trained into him. Something his father took on gladly. Within a week Kal had mastered control over his ears, able to tune in and out of places that were miles away. It was exhilarating, and not to mention helpful.
School became easier now he had his superhearing. He could listen in on terran conversations, sort out what was appropriate talk amongst these young humans. Of course, he didn't always get it right. There was one incident where he asked Matt from his science class if he too thought he had a nice butt. If Bruce hadn't chosen that moment to past Kal was sure he would have been punched. But, thankfully Bruce did walk past, and since he had an aura or 'don't touch me or I'll cut you,' as Cindy described it, Matt did nothing more than glare at him for the next few weeks.
There were also other drawbacks to his new power. He could hear what people said about him, and not all of their opinions were nice. Kal wasn't even talking about school, although they too were less than complimentary, no, Kal was tslking about the adults. The ones they passed on outings or in galas. The ones who called his family abnormal. It was frightening not knowing what made them abnormal. Mother had said they must blend in, and if they were being singled out, this couldn't be good.
But they called Bruce abnormal too. Which was odd since Bruce had nothing to be abnormal about.
It kept him up at night these questions. More than once he went a whole night without sleeping as he wondered what he could do to look normal to these people. Of course, that wasn't the only thing keeping him up.
Before, Kal could play ignorant to the fights his parents had. On Krypton, the walls had been thin, and there were no doors to block sound. Kal could hear his parents then when they fought over spaceship materials or how they were going to escape. On Earth however, the manor was just so large he had thought they had stopped fighting. They were safe after all, what did they need to argue about? Kal soon found out that they did fight. They fought a lot, and it was only the thicker walls and noise blocking doors that had kept Kals dull senses from noticing.
"I will not go through this again Jor! She is his cousin."
"She's the only prospect he has. Do you want him to dull our bloodline? Do you want hybrid monsters running around or full blooded Kryptonians? I know what you dream of when you think of Kals future Lara and you know I'm right!"
"Right or not, things have changed. We came here to survive. So let's survive! You are a scientist. You know the only way is for us to- merge."
"Do not speak of that again."
"Or what? You will cast me out? Fine. But know I will take Kal and I will gadly lie with a terran if it means I won't be cast away. And where will that leave you then Jor?"
There was a slam, his fathers feet storming much louder than they had before on the wooden floors. Kal knew where he was going, where he always went when his father was frustrated. Kal listened to Bruce twisting on his sheets, another bad dream leaving him whining through the night.
There was another slam as his father opened the door, sounds of sheets being tossed and flesh hitting the floor. "Up! You're keeping us awake."
He heard Bruce find his footing, his still asleep mind not understanding why someone was grabbing him. There was a tussle as Bruce fought back, his instincts kicking in before another loud slam had Bruce shutting up, stop fighting and follow Jor as he led him down to the study where he kept his journals.
Kal had never really thought of those brusk awakenings as anything other than his father trying to help. He did get Bruce to be quiet after all, and when he focused on their terran host he wasn't fighting with Kal's mother. But Kal wasn't a child anymore. He could see how his father had transferred his anger from his mother to Bruce. He could see how stupid he was to ignore the bruises his father left dragging Bruce to one experiment or another.
Most importantly, he could see his father for what he truly was, and was anything from the hero that had saved him from a dying planet.
Bruce was still pacing when Kal tuned back in. He'd been doing that for a while, more to stretch his legs, Kal thought than to relieve stress. Jason was still crying into his pillow a few doors down, the reason, really, why Kal had remembered getting his superhearing.
He warred with himself only a moment before saying, "Jason's crying," watching as Bruce stopped his fretting and went to go check on him.
He was great with kids. Amazing really. Kal didn't think Bruce even knew he was. He just had a way with them, a way Jor never did. With Bruce, it wad like he couldn't see anything more important than them, than how they felt or how they thought. He didn't try and force them to his way of thinking. He was patient with them. He was able to stop them from crying without tearing them from their beds and keeping them awake half the night.
Bruce came back with Jason dozing in his arms. One little hand was clutched in Bruce's hair, pulling none too lightly from the look of it, but Bruce didn't complain. He didn't even flinch, just kept holding Jason close as the kid wiped away the last of his dream.
He didn't pace this time, just swayed gently. Terrans were much more hands on than Kal ever thought. On Krypton, only an infant unable to walk would be held like Bruce held Jason. Kal remembered lonely nights in his room, the red sun boiling him alive and wanting to go to his parents. He had, once. It was just near the end, a few weeks before they left. Kal thought the rumble, the buildings collapsing and earth breaking would allow a moment of comfort. He'd ran to them, his mother and father safe from the disaster site that was the city, and flung his arms around his father's middle. On Earth, that wouldn't be looked down on. Krypton however, and hugging his father while they were amongst some of the Elders, Kal had been scolded for a full hour when they got home.
He had hoped Earth would have softened his parents to show some affection. His mother it had, if even just slightly. But Kal still remembered Dick being left alone, his mother telling him to let him find his own peace.
Jason slept after a while, he had curled himself in Bruce's lap when they sat, and as far as Kal could see he was sleeping better than he had before. Dick had too whenever Bruce had went to comfort them. Kal had comfortef children too. As Superman it kind of came with the job. Yet, it seemed when it came to more than just patting them on the shoulder, actually trying to parent them, it looked like Kal was out of his depth. Yet Bruce, the boy that shied away from even talkig if he could help it, seemed to have that part of human behaviour ingrained into him.
Dick didn't like him. Jason was afraid of him. Bruce had ran away from him.
Something hit him on the head, the pillow bouncing until it landed in front of him. Bruce was glaring at him, the effect just as powerful with Jason in his lap. "No pity parties Kal. We need to find Dick."
Kal nodded. Right, Dick, he needed to focus. If Alfred had him it would be even harder to find them. Kal only knew what the man had told him about his past, and half of those stories Kal didn't know if they were true or not. "I've looked everywhere I could. England seems to be clear. I put an alert on the airports in case he tries flying anywhere."
Bruce scoffed. "No wonder you haven't found him." In under three seconds Bruce, once again, proved why Kal should have told him from the start. "He's not going to go to England. That's the first place you'll look and have. He's probably planned to hide out in America until he can get some aliases to take Dick to a foreign property. One your parents probably don't know the Waynes own." Kal could see Bruce thinking, his mind ticking off places Alfred would go. "He's probably going to go somewhere, even if your parents did know about, they wouldn't go to."
Which was when it hit him. He couldn't believe he hadn't thought of it before. He tuned in his hearing, scouring the area until he heard Alfred's dry voice tell Dick to pick his socks up. "I know where they are."
Bruce didn't wait for him to finish, he stood, Jason and all, and walked over to Olivers room. He only grabbed Jason's book before he was standing in front of Kal saying, "Let's go then."
Bruce's glare was all the answer he needed.
"Right." Kal hurried around, grabbing the things he needed. A change of clothes was high on that list, one for Bruce and Jason too. Not to mention his wallet. Bruce would probably be welcome but Kal was an El. Alfred had left to get away not get dragged back.
It only took about five seconds in total, but the time felt like hours before he was back in front of Bruce wondering how he was going to carry both him and Jason without waking the kid.
It took a bit of manouvering. More than a bit before Jason ended up squashed between his and Bruce's chest. He had given his cape to Bruce, hoping the material would keep the wind off Jason's face while they flew. Lois had often complained about the wind when he took her flying, Kal doubted a human smaller than her liked it any more than she did.
It took them four hours at a good speed to get to Smallville. Kal set them down in a field not far from the farmhouse he knew Alfred was in, telling Bruce to stay while he changed into his civilian clothes.
When he met back up with Bruce, Jason was nice and cuddled up again. Kal was only slightly envious it wasn't him. Whether it was him that wasn't touched so easily by Bruce or still public enemy number one to Jason he wasn't too sure.
"It's just down here," he said, knowing he'd been heard by more than just Bruce. It was intentional, a warning so the people in the farmhouse could prepare themselves.
Sure enough, when the yellow paint came into view Kal could see a familiar figure on the porch. Well, he said familiar, he'd only ever met his cousin through holograms.
Bruce had stilled beside him, seeing the girl too that glared almost red into the shadowing fields. "She's one of you."
It wasn't a question, but Kal still nodded. "My cousin. Kara."
"I didn't know there were more of you." Kal caught the waver in Bruce's tone, the edge of fear that he was walking into a trap.
"Father doesn't like her very much. Her own father and mine... they were brothers. However, they didn't always see eye to eye."
He could see Bruce thinking that over, weighing whether to trust Kal when he said Dick was here or make a run for it. Kal didn't blame him if he ran, he hadn't exactly proved himself trustworthy lately.
Yet Bruce surprised him by walking forwards. Kal let him go, hanging back a bit in case Kara would only let one of them in.
She stayed sentry on the porch the whole walk up, Kal marvelling at her the closer he got. She looked a lot like her mother, Kal wondering if she knew that. According to his father Jor had said Mon stole the ship intended for Kal when it turned out they had more time on their hands. Kara was seven years older, and it only took a few modifications to make the ship suitable for a child. His father hadn't know until it was too late, the rocket breaking Kryton's atmosphere.
Kal had never met his uncle. He'd met his aunt. But sometimes, like now, Kal wondered if Mon was even the monster his father had made him out to be.
"Hello," Kal said, he didn't venture forward, but neither did Bruce, the two of them waiting on the drive.
Kara looked at him for a while, her eyes still glimmering red as she checked around him. She was looking for his parents he thought. He wondered if they had come around recently. He ccouldn't be certain, but it had to have been in the last few years, there was no other explanation for her hostile welcome otherwise.
The red slowly faded as no sign of his mother and father presented itself. Focusing back on Kal she held her hand out, surprising him by stepping down, "You must be Kal-El."
"Yes, and you are Kara." He shook her hand, the muscles in her arm relaxed.
"You look a lot like your father."
It wasn't a compliment per-se, but Kal had often heard socialites saying his father was good looking. If he had at least some of his fathers attributes his genetics were some of the more harmless thigs to inherit.
"You look a lot like your mother," he repaid, taking his hand back before things grew uncomfortable. Sometimes it was hard to judge how long a greeting should last. At the mention of her mother Kara's face fell. "She was a good woman. I wish my father could have saved her too."
Kara pursed her lips, looking like Bruce did when she was trying to keep herself from saying something that would hurt Kal's feelings. Whatver it was passed, Kara turning to Bruce, her greeting, again, fluid as she welcomed him.
"Do you know why we're here?" Kal asked, knowing Alfred had spun some tale to seek shelter with her.
"I know uncle Jor's a mad man. I know Alfred's been talking about visiting for a while." She laughed, clapping Kal on the arm, the motion strange since he could actually feel it wanting to bruise. "What, you thought I'd be out of the loop? Alfred's been sending me care packages since I turned seventeen." She turned back to Bruce, "He's had me looking for you, thought you should know that."
She motioned back, holding the screen door for them as they made the last few steps in. The house was not what he expected. After living in the manor he'd gotten quite used to wide open rooms and furniture mostly for show. Even when he moved out, his apartment had been spartan, his father teaching what was necessary to have to live early on in life.
This place, there was no other name for it except lived in. Everything was worn, cluttered or personalised. He could see Bruce relax next to him, the easy atmosphere that exuded from this place soothing his mind. It was a home. A real home.
Bruce set Jason down on one of the sofas, tucking the cape he still had on the boy around him until he was like a cocooned catapillar. Kal wanted to help, to do something as the voices in the kitchen leaked over to him.
There was a pause as a familiar greying head poked into view, Alfred not even sparing Kal a glance as he rushed over to Bruce. "You stupid boy," he said, holding Bruce even tighter.
"I'm so sorry," Bruce mumbled.
Kal just stood there watching them until Kara subtly dragged him over to the kitchen. There was a couple waiting for them, their heads arching over to try and sneak a peek as to what was happening in the living room.
"Seriously?" Kara scolded, Kal noticing for the first time the accent that twanged on the end. She really had intergrated well. He wondered vaguely if he had an accent too.
The couple made shushing motions at her, the womanwho had to be Kara's adoptive mother listening back in as her husband busied himself getting another mug out of the cupboard.
Kara caught him watching, smiling slightly at him as she introduced, "This is Jonathan and Martha Kent. The ones that found me. Ma, Pa, this is Kal. My cousin."
Martha pried herself away from the conversation in the living room to finally give him a once over. "You look a lot like your father," she said, not unkindly at all.
"Hope that's all," Jonathan piped in, yet he handed Kal the extra mug of orange anyway.
"You'll have to excuse Jonathan. I'm afraid the last time we met Jor he was..."
"A mad man?" Kal finished for her, knowing that was how Kara described him.
Martha sent a scolding look to Kara. "He wasn't exactly polite. But I wouldn't go as far to say he was a mad man either."
It dawned on him then that they were trying to spare his feelings. They didn't want to upset him by saying anything bad about his father. It was strange, Kal had grown up around blunt people. First there were Kryptonians who never dressed up how they felt. Then there was Bruce, who often didn't speak at all, but get him riled and Kal was looking at a spitting ball of fury for the next few months. Gotham, he didn't think had ever heard of a filter. Really, the first time he'd met genuinely nice people were when he joined the Justice League. Even then, it was usually himself hedging around his true thoughts.
"It's fine," Kal said eventually. "My father and I are not seeing eye to eye recently. I can understand why your opinions on him are not favourable."
"Still," Martha said with a warning to her husband and Kara, " that's no reason to call him names."
They stood around for a while, Martha edging slowly closer and closer to the living room door. Kal checked in to make sure everything was alright, hearing Alfred tell Bruce he'd just had enough before rejoining the silent party in the kitchen.
Kara seemed to be the only one not focused on the couple in the living room. In under ten minutes she said they were all being rude and herded them all around a dining room table. It was smaller than what Kal was used to, he could feel his knees knock into Kara's as she sat next to him. But he kind of liked it.
"So," Kara started, fixing her eyes on Kal, "What exactly are you doing here? I mean, I get Bruce since, you know, that is his butler and his kid upstairs. But you Kal? Thought you would've been reaping the benefits back in Gotham. They are talking about declaring Bruce dead again aren't they?"
"Why would I be reaping the rewards? What rewards are there to reap?"
Kara arched an eyebrow, "Oh, I don't know, how about because Bruce came back uncle dearest would have had to sign everything over to Bruce. I mean, by law, everything you own is his, your dad was just looking after it until he turned of age."
Kara frowned but went on, "Well, I mean, with Bruce back he could've kicked you guys out. You know just because you're 'family' doesn't mean you get his stuff. Right?" Her eyes widened, "Wow. Jor really screwed you over."
Kal couldn't wrap his head around this. He didn't think he wanted to. He knew his parents were stopping the search for Bruce along with Dick. His father had told him last time Bruce had probably bled out in an alley if he did manage to make it out of his own free will. At the time, Kal was thinking they were just letting Bruce be Bruce again. That his father was finally going to leave Bruce alone if he was away from Kal. He thought of the first time Bruce had went missing, how they hadn't looked for him then as well.
"You didn't know?"
Kal shook his head, "I didn't really question it. I just wanted to find Bruce."
"Well," Kara hedged, "It might not be that. I mean, Jor was twisted even when I was a kid. Did you hear what he wanted us to do? He might not have even spent a thought about the money."
It was a long shot. Especially because, the more Kal thought about it the more it made sense. His father loved W.E. He loved that he got to enlighten people that would think him a God in his field. He wouldn't want to give that up, and with how much Bruce hated him he probably would have known that there was no way he would keep his position if Bruce took control.
So, when things went sideways with Bruce's revenge scheme, his father had come up with a new plan. The cage made so much more sense now. His father had dealt with criminals on Krypton, he knew how to break them, how to keep them contained. He made a cage for Bruce he couldn't escape, kept him isolated, dangled Dick on a string to get him to behave, to cooperate. When he was nice and docile, ready to do anything to keep Dick close to him, his father had moved on. Kal didn't understand why his father had been angry about Kal notifying people of Bruce's return. Not until now. With press and speculation Jor couldn't deny Bruce's existence. He would have to introduce him into society eventually. So he moved him back into the manor, gave him rules and consequences so when Bruce met someone was allowed outside, he would behave. He wouldn't go asking questions about his rights.
Of course, Kal didn't believe everything had been to keep Bruce under control. He knew some of it was just because Jor could do it. Some of it was petty revenge because Bruce, if given the chance, could probably outsmart his father. He knew some of it was because Kal loved Bruce. His father had never liked the idea of Kal intermingling. He definitely ddidn't like Kal intermingling with a defected terran like Bruce.
Kal didn't even know what that meant, defective. Bruce seemed normal to him. A bit odd maybe, but not to the extreme his father seemed to think.
"Kal, I didn't mean to say-"
"No. It's fine," he said. He didn't want to talk about it. Not until he could think.
Kara understood, getting her parents instead to fill Kal in on all he had missed about Kara.
It was an experience with these people. He didn't think he'd ever heard someone speak with so much passion about their kid before. The only thing he'd seen come close was maybe Alfred about Bruce or Bruce about Dick. But this, these people seemed to find everything Kara did something to be proud of.
They caught him up school plays, dances, friends, boyfriends, which Kal had marvelled at were all terrans. They told him about the job she'd gotten working for Smallville High.
"I wanted to go into publishing. Maybe reporting like you, but I thought it might give Jor more reason to hate me."
"That's no reason not to do it," Kal said. "Maybe even more so. This earth is so different to ours. The reason I wanted to become a reporter was so I could show them just how much better they are, and maybe help them on their way if they do something wrong."
Kara beamed at him, "Exactly."
Kara went on about the kids she taught anyway, telling him how it wasn't journalism but she definitely felt like she wad making a difference. She had been talking to Alfred about tutors, maybe even enrolling Dick for a semester. Kal didn't know Alfred had been thinking about staying so long. He wondered how Bruce would take it. He supposed he would ask in the morning.