The Alphabet of Feeling

Prologue

"Here are the reports you asked for, Mr. Wayne."

"Thank you, Cady."

Bruce opened the folder handed to him before glancing back up as his Secretary of PR turned to leave. "Cady?"

"Yes?"

"I hear your cousin just got a job with the Daily Planet. That's great. I'm sure your family is very proud."

Cady smiled a little before looking down at the report in her hands. "Yes. Yes, they are. I spoke with aunt Martha last night, as a matter of fact. His first story, on that alien... er, Superman... was just published."

Her boss nodded, eyes narrowing for just a moment before he flashed a quick smile. "I'm surprised you haven't requested vacation time to go visit," Bruce commented, steepling his fingers in front of him as he regarded her thoughtfully. "It's been, what? Five years since you've seen your family?"

"Almost six," Cady replied with a nod. "But we're... I mean, we keep in touch through email and such."

Bruce's gaze narrowed slightly for a moment, before raising an eyebrow at her. "Cady, ever since you first showed up in my office five years ago and applied for the position as my assistant, I've never seen you go to visit anyone for the holidays. Or take off on weekend jaunts with friends. You come to work and you go home, with very little in between. Even a single mother needs some time to herself."

"I didn't know my personal life was so interesting to you, Mr. Wayne," she remarked stiffly, shifting slightly under his expression.

"It is when it comes to a valued employee." He stood and walked over to her, setting his hands on her shoulders. "Take a few days off, Cady. Even if it's just for you and Logan to go on a road trip to visit your aunt and uncle."

Cady smiled a little and shook her head. "Thank you for the offer. But I'm fine. We're fine. There's a lot to do around here. When my family is ready to see me, then I'll know. But for now... " Shaking her head again, she stepped back and cradled the files in her arms close to her, almost defensively. "If I could though, I would like to take you up on your offer at least to leave early. Logan's class is holding their 'Back to School' recital this afternoon."

"Go," Bruce told her with a smile, waving toward the door. "Enjoy yourself. And if you feel the need to take tomorrow off – "

Cady laughed. "Have a good evening, Mr. Wayne."

Stepping outside the office, Cady closed the door and sighed as she leaned back against it. In her five years working for Wayne Enterprises, her employer had never shown any interest in her personal life. Sure, she knew he'd run a background check and probably knew more about her than her aunt and uncle did. And she was okay with that. For someone in Bruce Wayne's position, he had to know about the people who worked closely with him. But she couldn't help but wonder if he knew everything about her background. Did he know, for instance, that her last name wasn't really Parker? She had a feeling that he did, and the reasons for it as well.

She let out a deep breath and pushed away, moving back to her office. Putting the files away, Cady shut down her computer and grabbed her purse. As she walked out of the office, she nodded to her assistant. "I'll see you in the morning, Jody," she commented with a smile.

"Give that adorable little boy of yours a kiss for me," Jody called out.

"Will do!" Cady flashed a quick wave at her co-workers before catching the elevator to the lobby.

The rain was coming down hard as she stepped outside, and she took a quick moment to slip the hood of her raincoat over her head before moving toward the edge of the sidewalk to hail a cab. Peering down the street through the downpour, Cady didn't notice the person coming up behind her until a hand clamped down over her mouth and another snaked around her waist, holding on to her tight. She struggled in the grip, attempting to bite through her assailant's hand, but the leather glove prevented her from breaking into the skin. Only seconds passed when a black limousine pulled up and she was pushed inside, out of the rain and apparently trapped.

Splaying across the seat, Cady caught her breath before flipping over, preparing to lash out at her assailant as they followed her inside, but a hand on heavy hand on her arm stalled her.

"Don't. I assure you, Mercy wouldn't take well to being kicked."

Cady spun around, gasping in shock at the blue eyes that regarded her angrily. "Lex!"

"You remember me," he remarked smoothly, nodding to the woman on the seat beside her, prompting her to tap on the glass.

Cady felt the car lurch into motion, causing the butterflies in her stomach to flutter around madly. She placed her hands against the seat, gripping it tightly. "Lex, what are you doing here?"

"Did you really think you could hide from me forever?"

"Lex, I wasn't – "She stopped herself from admitting to a lie. She had been hiding from him. And really, she was surprised it had lasted this long. "What do you want?"

"What do I want?" Lex repeated in apparent disbelief. "What do I – "

Before Cady could blink, he threw himself at her, hand wrapping around her throat in a vise-like grip. "What I want is to snap your neck, you deceptive, lying little bitch! What I want is to choke the very life out of you! What I want is the five fucking years of life with my son that you stole from me! That's what I want!"

Cady rasped for air as the hand around her neck continued to close. Tears stung her eyes as she stared up into the face of the man she once loved, a face she hardly recognized now as he snarled down at her. Reaching up, she placed her hands on his arm, tugged slightly, attempting to get him to let go, pleading at him with her eyes.

"W- won't," she gasped.

Lex's eyes narrowed as he lessened his grip. "What?"

"You w-won't," she ground out, throat hurting as she spoke. "If you wanted me dead, I'd be dead."

Almost instantaneously, Lex's expression vanished. His entire visage seemed to shut down, going blank, and he released his hand from her throat, returning to his seat as he straightened his jacket. It was an expression that Cady knew well; it meant that she had touched on something, upset him. And he didn't want her to know that.

"If you truly believe that... "Lex trailed off, jaw flexing a moment before he looked out the window, silent and brooding.

Cady shifted in her seat, glanced over at the blonde sitting beside her. Mercy was her name, apparently, and she was watching Cady like she was the enemy, like she was the one here prepared to completely destroy someone's life. She doubted that if she tried for the door, she'd make it very far. While Mercy looked like a model, Cady had already felt her strength. This then must be one of Lex's two bodyguards she'd read about.

Worrying her lower lip nervously, Cady turned her gaze back to Lex. "What... what are you going to do?"

Lex brought his gaze back to her, hating that she was so afraid of him, that she actually believed he had the capacity within him to hurt her. Just the realization made him want to hurt her, or at least shake some goddamn sense into her.

"I'm going to get to know my son, Cady."

She stiffened at his words, panic seizing her. "No! I'm not going to let you drag him into your world! I've protected him from all of that, from – "

"You don't have a choice," he replied smoothly, cutting her off as the limousine rolled to a stop. He turned his attention to Mercy. "Go with her. Don't let her out of your sight."

Cady glanced out the window to see that they were in front of Logan's school. She bit her lip, wondering if she might be able to get word to someone to call the police. She wasn't going to let him take her son away from her – not in a million years! She'd kill Lex first.

"Go get Logan, Cady," Lex told her. "Don't try anything. Don't make a scene. Or I guarantee, I will make certain you never see your son again."

"Please don't do this," Cady pleaded softly, hoping to touch some part of the Lex she once knew within the man before her. "Logan has his first recital today. And he was so excited about it. And – "

"The plane will leave in an hour to take us back to Metropolis," he replied, leaning back in his seat. "I can either take Logan, or you can join us. The choice is yours."

Biting her lip to keep from screaming, Cady resorted to glaring at Lex as Mercy exited the car and stood, waiting for Cady to join her. He was leaving her with no choice; she wasn't about to abandon her son. Not to the world of the Luthors. She had every intention of fighting Lex tooth and nail with this one. She had to force back her tears as she climbed out of the limousine and started in to the building, Mercy close on her heels.

Entering the classroom, Cady watched as Logan's teacher, Mrs. Brommer, directed the children into their places for the recital. There were a few homemade costumes among them, including a couple of ballerinas, two princes and a bear. Logan, dressed as one of the princes, noticed her entrance and broke away from his group to run over to her.

"Mommy! Mommy! Did you come to see me sing?"

Unable to answer, Cady reached down and lifted him into her arms, hugging him close as she fought back the tears that threatened.

"Miss Parker," his teacher greeted as she walked over to join them. "I'm glad you could make it."

Now! Cady thought. Now was the time to scream out that they needed help and to call the police! But Mercy was standing close to her, and she knew that if she said anything, gave any indication, it would be reported to Lex. And Cady knew he could make certain, with his money and his lawyers, that she never saw her son again.

"Unfortunately, Logan and I need to leave."

"Mommy, no!" Logan protested, wriggling in her arms to get down. "I'm going to sing! And tell the story of the Little Prince."

"Is there something wrong?" Mrs. Brommer asked as she glanced over at Mercy.

"Er... there's been a family emergency. This is, uh, my cousin's wife," Cady lied lamely. "I need to get to Metropolis as soon as possible."

"Oh, I hope it's nothing too bad." Logan's teacher moved over to wall to grab his jacket from the hook and his backpack. "Please call and let me know when Logan will be back."

"I will," Cady replied with a forced smile as she set Logan to his feet to put his coat on him.

"Mommy, I don't want to go!"

"I'm sorry, pumpkin. But we have to. Mommy will make it up to you. I promise."

He pouted as she slipped his coat on his arms. "Do I have to give up my crown?"

Cady swallowed back more tears and shook her head. "No, honey. You can keep the crown."

Taking his hand, Cady waited while he waved to his classmates, and then turned and led him out the door. She hesitated just beneath the building overhang, staring through the rain at the limousine that waited for them. Glancing down, she noticed Logan looking up at Mercy curiously as he shifted the crown on that was perched on his red hair. She squeezed his hand, and glared at the woman for a moment until Mercy stepped out into the rain and over to the car to open the door for them. Taking a deep breath, Cady tugged Logan along with her and slipped into the back of the limousine.