Okay, this story was the result of a having far too much time on my hands. I've tried to make it accessible as possible. But, fair warning. This one is continuity heavy, with speculations on future events. Continuity wise, this fits in that area right after War Games, after Identity Crisis, after the Titans for Tomorrow arc, and the night of Game four of the Boston St. Louis World series. And, just to clear up any potential confusion with my pen name. I am a guy. This is my first time writing a story entirely from a woman's perspective. Go easy on me if you feel I didn't capture her personality very well. Hope you enjoy.
Consolation by default
by: Morgan Lewis
Lois Lane Kent was not in a good mood. This current state of affairs was not in and of itself unusual. Her husband had once jokingly mentioned that her default state seemed to be pissed off. What made this particular instance of anger unique was the fact that she was standing in an alley, in the lousy side of Metropolis, in the middle of a downpour that the weatherman had completely missed, ruining her new Pradas. Oh, and her contact had decided to bail on her as well, thank you very much.
The reporter gave a deep sigh and briefly toyed with the idea of forgoing journalistic ethics and revealing Tony Del'ano as her source in her next big headline. The image of the miserable little weasel doubling his already considerable sweat output while frantically tossing everything he owned into a suitcase gave her a moment of satisfaction. Unfortunately, the moment came crashing back down to reality when a poor abused drainage pipe finally gave up the ghost coating her in a spray of filthy rain water in the process.
A brief squeal of shock and disgust echoed through the alley as she frantically tried to sluice as much of the filth off of her person as possible. It only took a few moments for her to come to the conclusion that her new coat would be joining her shoes in the garbage bin tonight. That did it. The camel's back had not only been broken, it had now been shattered and was currently being ground into a fine powder.
She gave her coat one more disgusted swipe and began walking back towards the entrance of the alley. Tonight was definitely going merit an incredibly long bitch-session, back-rub, and bubble bath to get better. Unfortunately, her favorite bitch session audience, consummate back-rubber, and expert drawer of hot bubble baths was otherwise occupied tonight, and would continue to be so for the foreseeable future.
Lois sighed deeply. Clark had been running on fumes ever since Sue Dibny had been murdered. Her own little death threat hadn't really improved his disposition. As a result, she had been given another admonition to stay out of danger, on that they both knew she was going to ignore, and had seen very little of her husband since. Superman, definitely. Super-husband, mostly. Super-accessible, not lately.
And that was how Lois Lane Kent, expert investigative reporter, indulging in one of her rare moments of self-pity, walked right in on gang initiation in progress. Fortunately, she had enough presence of mind to quickly conceal herself behind a garbage bin before anyone noticed. Her investigative mind immediately kicked into gear, noting the number of gang members in the alley before her and the colors that they were wearing. Black and silver, the Torros. They had become increasingly more troublesome in Metropolis lately. And, with Superman currently occupied with more global concerns, they had taken advantage of his lax presence in Metropolis to expand their territory.
There were two members right in front of her, probably look outs though they weren't doing a very good job. Another two members flanked the final member of their group, who looked to be the Torro undergoing initiation. Said initiation generally consisted of brutally beating to death the member of a rival gang or, lacking that, anyone that they felt had sufficiently disrespected them. She wasn't sure which category their current victim fell into, but she could she that the young Torro had a raven-headed boy held against a rusted chain link fence while delivering a series of vicious jabs to his mid-section.
Lois could already here her husband's reprimands as she dug through her handbag for the mace sprits. In all likelihood, she was only going to be delaying the inevitable early death for a street vandal, but she just couldn't let the boy be beaten to death in front of her eyes. Well, at least she had decided to wear pants to her meeting with Tony.
The reporter whirled around the dumpster and before the first of the two gang members could even register her presence she had sent a spray of mace directly into his eyes. While the youth screamed with pain, she grabbed one of his flailing arms and sent him headlong into the nearby brick wall. By now, the other lookout had gathered his wits enough to throw a punch at her. Lois quickly side-stepped the blow and responded by delivering a vicious kick to his groin. The gang-member joined his comrade on the ground, groaning in pain.
By now the remaining three members of the initiation group had become aware of her interference. The hapless victim lay forgotten, slumped over at the feet of the young initiate. They were staring at her with glares that altered from outright astonishment to pure rage rather quickly.
"A'right bitch. You wanna mess with the Torros," the largest one finally managed to slur out. "We'll take that lil ass if you're offerin'."
"Hells yeah," the second one agreed revealing a row of gold-capped teeth. "Been a long time since I's had a chance ta' taste som'thin' that fine."
Lois's own retort died on her lips when she saw booth gold tooth and the behemoth reach into their coats. She cursed herself for her own foolishness in assuming that none of the members would be carrying fire-arms. The reporter was about to make a dash for the relative safety of the dumpster again when something quite remarkable happened. What it was exactly she couldn't entirely say, primarily because it just happened too quickly for even her eyes to follow. But somehow, the hapless victim that had moments ago been lying on the ground suddenly appeared behind Gold tooth hitting a dozen different nerve points along his arm and neck. As the gang member collapsed Lois wondered what had become of the initiate that had previously been abusing this 'victim', then noticed his unconscious form on the ground behind gold tooth's now inert body.
The behemoth, sensing that something was amiss, whirled his gun around searching for the new assailant. He didn't even have time to react before the dark-haired boy was upon him. Difference in size, not withstanding, the gun was quickly pulled from nerveless fingers as the final Torro joined his fellow members on the ground. Lois now looked on in horror as the young man leveled the pistol at the frozen Torro's face. Even from her position twenty feet away, Lois could see the look of barely controlled anger and rage in the young man's features. The next few moments stretched to an eternity.
Finally, the young man lowered the gun. "Get out of here. All of you."
The remaining Torros snarled obscenities and revenge but quickly withdrew into the raining night. Once the last of the gang members had left, the boy calmly ejected the clip, disassembled the weapon then dropped its various pieces in the alley. Lois slowly approached her young acquaintance, much the same way she would have approached a wild and skittish animal. One of his eyes was almost swelled shut and blood bathed the entire left side of his face. Other cuts and bruises crisscrossed his face and neck and disappeared underneath his torn jersey. A Gotham Whalers jersey she noted.
"You know, next time you should consider trying that before they beat you within an inch of your life," she noted sardonically.
"I'll keep that in mind," he responded in a voice that she could only describe as broken.
Lois took a long moment to really look at this young enigma. Slowly her eyes began to pick up on the thinks she had missed earlier. The anger and despair evident in his eyes could do nothing to disguise the fierce intellect she saw lurking behind those blue orbs. And, despite the fact that every exposed part of his skin was covered in bruises cuts and scars and that he had dismantled three men in the time it took her to complete a thought, he didn't strike her as a naturally violent person. His clothing appeared to be of the more expensive variety, but lacked the stylistic quirks of a street player. And…..there was something strangely familiar about this young boy, as if she had met him previously.
She could see that he was turning to leave and impulsively offered, "I can give you a ride to the hospital. Or…" she paused for a moment to search through her hand bag, "I have a cell phone. You could call for an ambulance if you prefer?"
He hadn't even paused to reply. Instead the boy continued walking off into the darkness. A gust of rain momentarily caught his black jersey and set it fluttering in the wind, just like a cape. It was in that moment that everything clicked in her mind.
"Are you sure? Everyone has been looking for you, Robin." To the boy's credit, he didn't react in anyway that would confirm or deny her suspicions, he simply kept on walking. Unfortunately, Lois was a tenacious creature and was certain in this particular instance that she was on the right track. "They are all worried, especially Superboy."
That did manage to get a reaction out of him. He stopped in his tracks for a moment allowing her to catch up with him. "Ten years of not being able to make the Clark Kent Superman connection and now you are suddenly the expert, unbelievable."
Lois reddened slightly. "Okay, I may have deserved that. But your friends and family don't deserve it. They are worried about you."
The boy wonder finally turned and met her gaze with eyes that were empty. "Tell them I'm sorry," he barely whispered. "But, I just can't handle it right now. I just…..I just need some time to think this out on my own….please?"
Dammit, using the beaten puppy dog look was not playing fair. This wasn't even supposed to be happening to her anyway. Clark, Bruce, Connor and the Titans were the ones currently combing the globe for this boy, why hadn't one of them found him first.
"Look, why don't you just come back to my place?" she began tentatively. "I have some bandages and disinfectant. I could at least have a look at that eye?"
He quickly shook his head. "That won't be necessary."
"Look," Lois assumed her authoritative stance, complete with hands on hips and a 'don't even think of disagreeing with me' tone. "You are not just going to sit here is this alley and bleed to death."
"It's a just a scalp wound. They always bleed more seriously then they really are." Obviously, her authoritative stance had a much better effect on Kryptonians than adolescents, particularly, adolescents brainwashed by Bruce.
Well, if he could use the beaten puppy dog look, then she was well in her rights to retaliate in kind. "Please Robin. You know how Bruce would react if he found out that I just left you in the streets, wounded and bleeding from the head."
The boy knew very well how Bruce would react. She just hoped those stories regarding the young man's innate nobility were true enough to prevent him from putting her through the Batman styled disapproval. He hesitated again, looking up at the sky that was currently pouring its abundance down upon them. "I…don't think….now is not the…I don't want to see any of them right now," he finally blurted out.
"Don't worry. Clark's out saving the world tonight. No one has to know that you're there."
The boy wonder nodded slowly, the tension leaving his shoulders. "I could use a shower," he quietly conceded.
"And a meal probably wouldn't hurt you either," she added cheerfully.
The boy gazed at her with a strangely intense look that she couldn't place. For a moment she feared that he might try to run on her. Then he slowly lowered his head and whispered, "You remind me of Dana."
Lois beckoned to her car and he sullenly followed, but despite her best efforts she couldn't get him to further respond beyond a grunt, sigh, or shrug. Undeterred, she kept a steady stream of chatter going as they both loaded into her Honda Civic and set off towards her apartment.
Ten minutes into the trip, she decided it was time to switch tactics. Despite her attempts to strike up any kind of a conversation, he had just continued to huddle in his seat, forehead pressed against the glass of the passenger window sightlessly staring at the passing city. All while dripping a combination of blood, rainwater and miscellaneous filth on her leather interior. Bruce would be receiving an upholstery bill and he had better not complain about it.
"So Robin, was that name your dad's Idea or your mom's?"
She saw him flinch slightly at her words, the first reaction she had gotten from him since the alley. A few moments passed and she assumed that was all she was going to get from the boy when he finally responded, "You can call me Tim. Tim Drake."
Lois tried to keep the stunned look off of her face. "Well Tim Drake, it's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Lois…"
"Lois Lane, age thirty-five, veteran of the Daily planet for just over eleven years now, during which time you've amassed four Pulitzers, one congressional commendation and dozens of other literary awards. You enjoy hiking and hang-gliding, harbor a secret passion for trashy romance novels and, according to reports from several past neighbors, are a very ardent and vocal lover."
Lois felt her face turning bright red. She knew Bruce's intelligence was always thorough; she just had never really wanted to give much thought as to what exactly went into those reports. Still, she knew exactly what this young twerp was trying to pull. Mainly because it was the exact same kind of distraction tactic that Bruce would employ so often.
"You know, I'm surprised," she continued. "Superboy complained that it took some kind of cosmic interference before you let anyone in Young Justice know your real name."
Tim shrugged. "Seemed rather important at the time."
"Now, I'm not sure anything really matters anymore," he seemed to huddle in closer to himself, effectively signaling that the conversation was over.
Lois made a few more token attempts at conversation before simply letting it go. The last twenty minutes of the ride concluded in silence. It didn't take them much longer to reach her apartment from the garage.
"The bathroom is the second door on the left," she called over her shoulder. "There should be bandages and disinfectant in the medicine cabinet."
The young man nodded mutely in response and she tried not to wonder if he already knew the complete schematics and inventory of her home. He quickly disappeared into the restroom while Lois wondered if there were any clothes in the apartment that he would be able to wear. She dug through Clark's drawers briefly and found an old Kansas City Chiefs shirt that her husband had apparently kept from his younger days. It would be a little large on younger boy's smaller frame, but it was dry. There really wasn't much she could do as far as jeans or pants were concerned, so she just grabbed a pair of shorts. She approached the bathroom and heard the sound of the shower running.
She knocked briefly on the door and called out, "I'm going to leave some dry clothes outside the door. They are a little large but should work."
After depositing the clothing, she wandered into the kitchen. Clark had brought back some of his mother's vegetable lasagna the other day and there was still some left in the fridge. She pulled dished out two portions and loaded them into the microwave. She heard a polite cough behind her and turned to see that Tim had apparently finished with the bathroom.
She took another moment to study him now that he had cleaned up. He was right, the scalp cut had looked a lot worse than it really was, but his left eye had now almost finished swelling shut. He was wearing Clark's old shirt and it hung half-way down his thighs. He had forgone the shorts, as it appeared he had been wearing the green bottoms of his Robin suit underneath the baggy pants.
"Thanks for the shirt," he said sheepishly.
The microwave dinged in response. "Dinner's served."
He started slowly enough but within moments had completely devoured the food she placed in front of him. Lois decided to queue up another slice for the young vigilante. While moving from the kitchen she grabbed the remote from the counter and switched the TV on to the evening news, as was her habit. Tim seemed to barely notice the additional noise and didn't even look up from his plate.
According to the newscaster, it was a fairly quiet evening in the Northeast. Even Gotham had settled into an eerie silence after the recent gang war had finally subsided. The anchor quickly moved on from the main news segment and after a few minutes she decided to turn the TV off when the young man snapped his head up from his plate.
"What did they just say?" the boy demanded urgently.
"Oh," she awkwardly fumbled with the remote, switching back to the news station they had been watching. Apparently they had moved onto the sports segment. "Looks like it's an update on the World Series. Guess Boston took it in four games."
The young hero was now looking at her with a wild and confused expression. "But, how is that possible. I thought they had been eliminated by the Yankees already."
"Oh, that." Lois racked her mind briefly, trying to remember all the hoopla that Jimmy and Clark had apparently put on that series. "I think they came back and won it after being down to the Yankees. Clark mentioned something about it being the greatest comeback in post-season history, what-ever that means."
Tim stared at her for a few more minute then unexpectedly began to laugh. "You know, that just makes so much sense."
Okay, now Lois was beyond concerned and just outright worried. But, the boy seemed talkative finally, so why not let him talk.
"My…dad…" he paused for a second and drew a breath. "My dad is a huge Red Sox fan. I mean he was hard-core. You know Bill Simmons, that guy that writes articles for ESPN and at least one out of four of them somehow relate to the Red Sox. My dad would joke that they were each others emotional support after the 1986 World Series.
"That was before my time. But I guess it convinced my dad that it would just be an act of cruelty to raise his son as a Boston fan when they would just keep breaking my heart. He didn't want me to have to worry about the baggage of the curse or something like that." The laughter was coming out a little bit more unevenly now.
"Every spring it was the same thing; this is the year they are going to finally bring it home. Then every fall he would moan how he was afraid that he would never see the Sox bring home a championship during his lifetime." A ragged edge was entering into the young boy's voice now.
"And he was right about not seeing it in his lifetime. He was right…by…five…fucking…days!" The choking laughs had now transformed into sobs. Tears mingled with blood flowed freely from the corners of his eyes.
Lois simply stood in shock at the transformation that had overcome the boy. Unfortunately, her journalistic instincts really gave her no clue as to what she was supposed to do next. How was it that she, Lois Lane, the one woman that didn't have a single maternal instinct in her body had ended up with the job of consoling the most emotional distraught teenage superhero on the planet.
Not being one to ever back down from a challenge, Lois slowly took the sobbing boy into her arms and let him soak her already ruined blazer with blood and tears. She tried whispering the same soft reassuring words that she remembered her own mother using on her as a child.
The tactic seemed to work as in a few moments the boy had managed to calm down. He slowly pulled away from her and then moved to take his plate to the sink. Lois may have not been the best choice for emotional support, but she was an ace investigator and thus new how to listen. Hopefully, that was all this young man needed for now.
He began slowly, his back turned to her so she had to strain to hear his soft voice. "He hadn't even known about my double-life for that long. He didn't take it very well at first either, pulled a gun on Bruce. I don't have to tell you how foolish that was."
Lois snorted in agreement. The Bat's hatred of guns was near legendary. "He made me quit for a while and that actually wasn't so bad. Sure, I missed Bruce and Dick and Babs, but I had time to hang out with Darla and Bernard and my biggest worry was getting my homework done on time.
"Then…they killed Darla. Shot her right in front of me." The boy's voice threatened to crack again, but he managed to compose himself. "She bled to death because I couldn't get her to a hospital in time. I couldn't save her. I could just sit there and watch the life leak out of her body.
"I knew that I had to get back into the game then. I knew I couldn't continue to sit by the sidelines while my friends were attacked and killed. So, I put the suit back on, pitched in where I could to restore order in Gotham…" Tim slumped over the sink. He seemed to be on the verge of completely breaking down again.
Lois moved behind him and laid a supporting hand on his shoulder. The young hero drew a deep breath and continued. "But I still couldn't save the people I cared about. That…monster…tortured her…tormented her…he probably got some sick thrill from killing Stephanie. I don't think it once occurred to him that there were people who cared about her…people who loved…"
He turned and looked at her then, eyes filled with pleading, "what's the point in being a hero when you can't save the ones you love?"
Lois simply took the young boy into her arms again, letting fresh tears fall on her shoulder. She was on the verge of tears herself. She had heard through Clark and Conner small pieces of the event in Gotham and the superhero community in general. Very few had come through the recent crisis unscathed. But it just didn't seem fair that so much had been placed on this young man's shoulders in such a short time. She now understood more clearly why Bruce and the Titans had been frantic to locate him after his disappearance.
"Life isn't always kind or fair, is it Tim?" she whispered softly.
"Then…you understand why…I can't face the others right now?" he questioned back.
"Your father wouldn't want you carrying around this guilt by yourself," she began. "They are your friends, your family. And they are worried. None of them thinks less of you or that you failed anyone."
He slowly pulled away from her again, moving back over to the table. "No…I can't be around them. If I am…I'll be pulled back into the game. I'll be wearing the suit again and I can't…I don't think I should do that right now."
"Tim," Lois said emphatically, "none of this was your fault. You didn't do anything wrong. And I say this from experience, tragedy sometimes just happens and not even Supermen can stop it."
The teen quickly shook his head. "It's not that. I just…don't think…that it's a good idea for me to be a vigilante anymore. I just…I see all the people that I have to deal with, the gang bangers, the mob bosses, the criminal mastermind, and the costumed super-villains. I see what they are doing now, the people they are hurting with their little games and…I…get…so…angry." Lois noticed that he was now gripping the edge of the kitchen table to hard that it was warping along the edges.
"I…just…hate them. I hate them so much that I can't see a misguided youth that could be put back on the right path. I just see a stupid bad guy. And when I start hitting them…I don't want to stop now. I don't want to let them go with a few bruises and crushed egos. I want to keep hitting them…and hitting them until there is nothing left."
He looked up at her and there was a haunted look in his eyes now. "I've seen where that leads. I've met that monster that it would turn me into to and I can't ever let that happen."
His words were spoken with such a combination of desperation and determination that Lois was simply left speechless. Some part of her cynical mind was informing her that ten years with a professional therapist would probably hardly make a dent in this kid's issues. So, how was she supposed to help him? What could a woman that he barely knew by anything more than association say to make even a small part of the pain and suffering this boy was feeling disappear?
"Listen, I can't say whether or not you should continue being a superhero," Lois stated frankly. "I do know that it will be a personal choice and one that all of your friends will respect." Superboy might have a little problem with it, but she would deal with that.
"What you really need to understand right now is that though the pain will probably never completely fade, your anger will, if you let it."
He looked at her incredulously and she hurried to elaborate. "I know, I know. Sounds like some second year college psycho-babble; I felt the exact same way when my father first told me. Like, I want to keep feeling this way.
"But right now, I think you need to be this angry. You need to feel genuine wrath. I think you may even need to go to a very dark place emotionally to cope with these feelings. And, if you think its best that you are not out there pounding bad guys during this period, I'm not going to disagree with you." It looked like she had his full attention now. Good, because she was getting to the make or break part of this little speech and really needed him to listen.
"What-ever dark place you have to go to, go there. But don't linger. Finish what you need to do and then come back to us Robin. The world has too few heroes as it is and I don't know if we can afford to lose another one like you."
A silence descended upon the kitchen and she could see that the young hero was still digesting everything she had said. She just hoped that some part of her own father's advice would be useful to him. Finally he looked back up at her, genuine concern reflecting in his eyes. "How will I know when I've let myself linger in the darkness for too long?"
"Well, if your fashion taste starts to tend towards black and gray spandex with bat motifs, that should be your first clue."
They stared at each other for a few minutes before Tim finally began cracking first. A slight chuckle escaped from his lips. Soon they we both laughing so hard there sides hurt. In her opinion, it was far more preferable than another extended crying jag.
It didn't take much additional effort on her part to convince the boy wonder to crash in their guest bedroom for the night. Within moments of his head touching the pillow, he had already fallen into a fitful sleep. It appeared that for now, his demons would continue chasing him, even in his dreams. Hopefully, they had managed to get him started along the healing process tonight.
A few hours and a long bubble bath later, Lois was snuggled up on couch in her favorite robe and with her favorite laptop. She was about to put the finishing touches on her piece for tomorrow when she felt a gentle breeze enter in through the balcony window.
"I thought you would be out saving the world tonight, how."
A strong gentle hand rested on her shoulder and Lois instinctively curled into it. "The League decided by mutual consent that the threat had sufficiently passed and that we should all spend some more time with our families."
"Mutual consent, huh?" she questioned playfully as he floated over to join her on the couch.
"Well, there were a few dissenting voice initially," Clark grinned at her, his blue eyes sparkling as he pulled her onto his lap. "But I am nothing if not the consummate diplomat."
He moved in for a kiss and she gladly complied, but broke it off before it could go too much farther. "Easy Smallville, we have company tonight."
That slightly confused expression that she always found so adorable crossed his features briefly. "I didn't know that we were expecting anyone." He glanced over at the door to the guest bedroom and his eyes seemed to un-focus briefly as he activated his x-ray vision.
The look of confusion was quickly replaced by one of astonishment. "Is that who I think it is?"
Lois nodded in into her husband's broad chest. "Found him on the street picking a fight with the Torros, who by the way are long overdue for a visit from you, oh Super one."
"I'm not seeing any serious injuries and despite that ugly black eye he doesn't appear to have a concussion. The Torros did this to him?"
"Lets just say that he has picked up on some of Bruce's more nihilistic tendencies," she responded blithely. "That man really should not be allowed near children."
Clark slowly settled back onto the couch. "I'm surprised Bruce didn't beat me here."
"Bruce doesn't know he is here," she hurried to cut off any protest from her husband. "And you are not going to tell him he's here either."
"Lois," he started in that warning tone of his. "Bruce, Dick, even Connor are all frantic with worry right now. I have no doubt that Batman is in the Tower, scouring the face of the earth for that boy."
"Clark, he just needs some time alone to work things out for himself," she countered. "I'm certain that sometime soon he will be more than willing to face the rest of his family. They are all he has left now aren't they?"
The world's most powerful man gave what could only be described as a sad, helpless sigh. "Yes, they are all he really has now."
"Then you already know that as dysfunctional as it seems to you and me, this family needs to work out its issues on their own terms."
Her husband sighed one last time. "All right, honey. You're right. You're right."
"Aren't I always?" she smiled settling back onto his broad chest.
They settled into a comfortable silence for a few more minutes, the sound of his heartbeat slowly lulling her to sleep. She had just about made it to dreamland when he husband shifted slightly. "Lois, honey?"
"Is he wearing my lucky Joe Montanna Jersey?"-fine
-una scimmia mangia una banana ogni mezz'ora