Bruce felt himself shaken awake. Clark Kent, fatigued and windblown stood over him. The younger man smiled and put a finger to his lips for silence. Chloe slept in the bed next to her cousin's, who was also fast asleep. Clark bobbed his head in the direction of the door and the two men moved silently out of the room.
"Mission accomplished?" Bruce asked when they got out into the hall. Clark nodded and with a careful glance through the window at the sleeping girls, led Bruce down the hall to an empty waiting room.
"For now." Clark said finally, folding his arms over his chest. "I don't think Fine is going to be a threat for awhile."
Bruce frowned. "I haven't been back to the missle silo. The sheriffs department said there was nothing left of him after the explosion. That's odd, because the explosion happened behind the blast shield inside the silo. There should have been something, anything."
"He wasn't human." Clark reminded Bruce, with a sidelong look to see if they were being overheard. "He was Kryptonian technology. Any evidence the sheriff found wouldn't be easily identifiable. Chloe saw him dissolve into a puddle of goo at the Fortress." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a large clear cylinder, filled with a thick, metallic fluid. "I scooped up what I could while Chloe was unconscious."
Clark handed the cylinder to Bruce. It was remarkably heavy, heavier than Bruce would have thought at first. He could feel the liquid metal moving inside the cylinder, alive.
"What should we do with it?" Bruce looked from the cylinder to Clark. "I'm a little at a loss, Clark. An insane human, I can figure out. A corrupt man I can read like a book. This." Bruce raised the container. "Is a little out of my league."
"If we can somehow keep what was left of him in the silo and this sample here from getting together, maybe that will buy us some time." Clark shrugged. "Keep it safe for now, Bruce. I'd keep it at the Fortress, but I think that's probably the last place it belongs."
"I'll take it back to Gotham City. Figure out some sort of containment field or something. I'll take some of that Kryptonite ore with me. " Bruce studied the container again. "Can't hurt." He eyed Clark studiously. "What about Zod?"
"Back in the Phantom Zone." Clark replied. He sighed deeply and shook his head. "Keeping him there is going to be my life's work, I think. Time will tell, I guess."
"You can count on me, if he should make another attempt." Bruce said, clapping a hand on Clark's shoulder. "I want you to remember that."
Clark smiled. "I'm counting on it."
"Chloe…" Lois opened her eyes and smiled, seeing Chloe asleep in the next bed. "Cuz…"
"Lois." Chloe sprang awake, and sat up. Lois was none the worse for the wear and Chloe laughed to see her smile brightly. "Well, you don't look like someone who was the hostage of a dangerous meteor freak yesterday." Chloe told her, and Lois grinned proudly. "And you made a new friend, too." Chloe eyed Lois knowingly, surpressing a small laugh.
"Oh, I have the battle scars to prove I was a hostage don't you worry." Lois replied crisply, holding out her uninjured arm to hug her cousin. "And my new 'friend' is a big pain who is either brooding, tapping away on his little computer or looking for new ways to irritate me." Lois released Chloe from the hug and looked her in the eye. "Smallville has some weird friends." The older girl rolled her eyes. "Casanova Surfboard, the Incredible Vanishing Psycho and now Captain Trust Fund out there. Really, Chloe, doesn't Clark have friends that he tips cows with on Saturday nights or something? You know, someone normal, who doesn't wear Armani to just hang out in?"
Chloe gasped, laughing. "You like him…."
"Yeah, right. I didn't get konked on the head, Chloe." Lois sniffed haughtily, but Chloe saw right through her.
"You REALLY like him." Chloe grinned widely, punching Lois lightly on her injured arm.
"Don't say anything, Chloe. I mean it." Lois sighed, looking down at the blanket. "If it goes anywhere other than down the crapper, I'll be surprised. You are one of the lucky ones. You found your knight in shining armor. I don't think I'll ever find mine."
Chloe looked out the window. Clark and Bruce had returned, and had stopped to finish their conversation. They were like two sides of the same coin, Chloe thought watching them. And she had a feeling that Lois' knight in shining armor was right in front of them, wearing Armani instead of chain mail. Chloe smiled, and waved at them, and the men waved back, a small crease of worry flickering across Bruce's face as he made eye contact with her through the window. Chloe gave him a thumbs up, and his expression lightened, his eyes moving to Lois, who stuck her tongue out at him in reply, causing them all to laugh. That was Lois' special gift. Clark winked at Chloe, and she smiled at him, blowing him a kiss. Imagine her surprise, when she heard his voice in her mind, next to her heart, where even though the crystal was gone now, he still could touch her. "I love you too, Chloe."
Lex and Lana boarded the private jet, heading back to Smallville. Lionel had already been brought onboard, not ranting now, but in a deep, deep medically induced coma. All of his vital signs had mysteriously stabilized and the team of doctors cleared him for supervised transport back to the U.S. Lana was exhausted. She had not slept in days. The feeling of foreboding she'd felt when flying to Geneva had returned, leaving her restless and on edge. Too much had happened, she'd seen too many things that made her question everything. Involved in her own thoughts, Lana opened her book and began to read. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo's masterpiece, had held her enthralled from the moment she'd opened the cover. She sighed and began to read, wanting to lose herself in the story of Jean Valjean and Inspector Javert.
"Les Miserables." Lex looked at the cover of her book and smiled. "Not one of my personal favorites, but to each his or her own." He tipped his head to make eye contact with her. "I've been trying to talk to you since you got to Geneva, Lana."
"I'm sorry, Lex." Lana closed her book, holding her place with a finger. "This reading has to be done. I have a paper to write on it." Her fatigue made her voice brittle and tense.
"Oh." Lex sat back, and fixed her with a questioning glare. "I thought maybe you were having second thoughts about us."
She sighed. Second, third and fourth thoughts, she mused inwardly. Collecting herself, Lana put the lavender ribbon back in the book and took Lex's hand.
"I'm not going anywhere, Lex. I'm not having any regrets. It's just been a real roller coaster lately. I'm glad to be going back to my regular life. " A lie. One of necessity and survival. Because Lana realized that she had finally learned the main lesson of being involved with a Luthor. She'd learned it when Lex had taken her to the bank and showed her his father's treasure trove. Lionel had hidden away the most precious things to him, the things that hurt him too deeply to part with. Lana resolved to do the same, but with her emotions. Don't give them everything. Hold back. The game had turned and the ball was now in her court. If she was going to stay with Lex, and she intended to stay with him forever, whether he asked her or not, there had to be something of her that was entirely her own. And this little lie of omission was the first deposit in that vault of preservation. With an overwhelming sense of relief, Lana found herself truly forgiving Clark for everything. Things would never be as they had been, and that was okay. Lana smiled at Lex and opened her book again. Valjean and Javert were familiar to her. She knew them better than she could have ever imagined. Instead of loving Valjean, Lana had fallen in love with Javert – but until she knew the ending of the story, Lana would not know if Javert could be saved. Her life with Lex would be the same – there'd be no knowing if she could keep him from the darkness she saw behind his eyes until the end of her story. And this was just the beginning.
A small silver puddle had formed at the bottom of the missle bay. It pulsed and shimmered with a kind of life that no one on Earth would have ever understood. The hazmat people had already gone for a mercury disposal kit but the metal had a different plan. Slipping under a piece of debris, it mirrored it's surroundings, becoming virtually undetectable. It was formulating a plan. There was plenty of time. All the time in the world.
Journal Entry – Twenty – years later:
"It's evening on the Kent farm. The sun is shining low in the western sky, I'm alone on the porch with a pitcher of fresh lemonade and the spring breeze on my bare feet. It's Friday, pizza and movies tonight. Lara and Jonathan have been bickering over the choices, but I think that their father will actually get the final say. It's been a month since he's been able to be with us, pressing matters of business keep him away long stretches. We keep in touch, and I sometimes go with him. It's easy in my line of work to be mobile, the kids love visiting him at 'the office'. They are always confused on career day at school when he comes to their class in a sedate blue suit and red tie to talk about journalism. We'll explain it all in time. But now we're all home together. Which is just the way I like it. I watch Lara jump into the air, her long red hair shining like fire in the sun. Like every other girl, she lands on her feet, and laughs, ready to jump again. Jonathan, tall for his age, leaps after her, spinning through the air. He is weightless, perfect in flight. It has come naturally to Jonathan, to fly. But he takes after his father that way.
I see them now, two tall, broad figures coming from the barn. One so dark and somber, the other so full of a light I can't begin to define, and I'm a writer, for God's sake. The world knows them both better than either of them likes. One is a captain of industry, a tycoon and philanthropist. The other, an award winning, mild mannered journalist, wearing glasses he'll never really need. Both of them are known for bigger things, heroic things. But I often tease that I remember them when, and we all laugh, because they say the same of me.
If I had set out to put the pieces of our lives together back when we were all younger, I'd have never come to this. At one time, I'd have believed that this life was never destined to be mine, that someone else, someone sweeter or prettier than me would be on this porch now. I'm glad I was wrong.
The men stop and watch the children play, joining in. Soon we will all be together, my cousin and her adopted son, are on their way with my mother in law and the pizza.. Lara loves this boy, follows him like a puppy, and Tim is kind to her in the way that all boys not yet fourteen are to girls of ten. Lara does not falter in her devotion, though. Poor girl. She takes after her mother that way.
The pieces have all come together. We are all who we were meant to be. They say every journey begins with a single step. Mine began when my dad and I moved to Smallville. It began when I met a boy named Clark Kent. "
She closed her laptop with a gentle snap, and stood, feeling the wind in her hair tossing the chin length chocolate strands around her face. A fragment of a opalescent crystal hung suspended around her neck, a silver bracelet with a similar stone glowed on her wrist. Putting a hand over her eyes, she could see that a car had turned into the driveway. Time for dinner.
"Hey!" She called, waving. "If you all don't hurry, I'm picking the movie."
"Aw, MOM!" the boy turned, his black hair and green eyes as rebellious as his tone. "Not that stupid black and white movie AGAIN!"
She and her husband smiled at each other across the yard. "Gaslight" it was.