Just a Cup of Coffee
As Clark and I walked into the coffee shop, he warned me again. "Let me handle this informant. He scares easy. Please just be your normal 'pleasant' self, and let me ask the questions." I rolled my eyes. Come on. You scare off a few little informants, and suddenly you've got yourself a reputation. Brother.
I quickly scanned the room. I found him in the very back corner in a booth, in the shadows. Typical. I just prayed Lois didn't say or do anything stupid. Weather I wanted to admit it or not, Bruce was sort of like the older brother that you brought girls to for approval before you asked them the question. I was probably going to tell her my secret anyway. After I asked her. After that last kidnapping, it just wasn't fair to put her in danger because she was "my girl" without telling her who I really was. But if Bruce approved it just sealed the deal. I already knew my parents liked and approved of her, but before I asked her to be part of my "family", I wanted the rest of the members to like her. I decided to start (and maybe finish) with Bruce. Maybe have a casual dinner with some of the other JLA members, and not tell her who anyone was. I mean, she didn't need the burden of all of the secret identities, did she?
I walked over to Bruce. Today he was dressed as the homeless hobo "Jacob". I had explained to Lois on the way over that Jacob had come from a wealthy and prominent family, and had inherited his father's fortune when he died, several million dollars. But he gambled most of it away, and what he had left had been lost though bad investments.
Bruce had explained all of this to me last night. I had used him as a "reliable informant" before, but had never had Lois meet him, for obvious reasons. One of them being that I didn't think that having either Bruce Wayne or Batman as an informant would go over very big with Lois. So when I told Bruce that she insisted to meet this wonderful informant that I had, Bruce said that he wouldn't mind meeting her anyway, and that he would use an alternate identity. Last night he called me and said he would come as Jacob. We weren't working on anything in particular, but Lois wanted to see what Luthor was doing in the underworld lately.
As we got closer, I noticed that he had brought Dick with him. That was strange. We walked up to his booth and said hello. "Jacob," I said. "This is my partner, Lois."
I had done my research, and had Barbara double check for anything I might have missed. I hadn't. She seemed legit. Military background, reputation for a tough reporter, good at her job, kidnapped thirty nine times, some of those because of her job, but many of them because of her close association with Superman.
I knew that she and Clark were getting pretty close, and this was Clark's way of introducing us, partly because the information that he had asked for was nothing he couldn't find out by himself. I had chosen Jacob as my cover ID. Jacob was the closest to my real personality that I allowed my alternate identities to get. I also decided to bring Dick so that he could meet her as well. Even though he didn't say anything, I could tell he was excited. He had Barbara do the same research I had asked her to do, and I'm fairly certain that Dick had also told her what was up.
I saw that Clark was startled that I had brought Dick. I hadn't told Clark last night that I was going to bring him, mostly because I hadn't known myself. Last night, after we got in from a special case in Bludhaven, I had extended the invitation to him after it occurred to me that he might enjoy meeting Clark's "girl". Dick had always had a fascination with Superman, wanting to know every detail about him. Later, when he met Clark, Dick had immediately recognized him. Dick had enjoyed reading Clark and Lois's articles on Superman, and when I offered him the chance to meet Clark Kent through my "connections", he jumped at the chance. In preparation he did some research, and learned everything that was public knowledge (and some things that weren't) about Clark. When they met, Dick was straight through him. Dick walked up to Clark and said " Hi Mr. Superman! I'm Dick Grayson. Sometimes I'm Robin, too." He was nine at the time. Fortunately, we were in a private conference room, and no one but Clark and myself heard him. Clark was amazed and amused, and I was - and still am - proud of him.
Now, as Clark and Lois walked up to the table, I saw Dick look up and grin at them. Clark grinned back. "Hi Jacob. This is my partner, Lois. Who's your friend?"
I looked at him with what I called the "Jacob look". It was a combination of sadness, anger, malnutrition, and dirt. I said slowly "Hi Clark. Lois. Actually, this is my son, Jay."
Lois spoke up. "Is that short for Jason?"
I notice Clark's smile freeze, and I'm sure Dick's smile dimmed a bit, even if just for a second. My face did nothing, as I had the Jacob look on my face. But the name still brought bittersweet memories. We had thought of him when we came up with the name, but decided that it was time to try to get over the feelings, even when we knew that wasn't going to happen.
"No," I answered slowly. "Just Jay."
There was an awkward pause for a minute, while Dick, Clark, and I were all lost in our own thoughts. Clark, never one to appreciate silence in a conversation, spoke up.
"Well, Jacob, what did you find out this time?"
"There's not much going on, far as we can tell. But Luthor may be up to something. It may be innocent research, but it also may be more. Nobody's saying much, the most Jay and I've been able to get out of anybody is that Mercy has been looking for somebody strong to join Lex's employ. At first we thought he was looking to find somebody to . . .
As I listened to him drone on and on and ON, I amused myself by writing an upcoming article in my head. This guy may have some information, but mostly he was just talking in circles. Probably just wanted more coffee.
Jay said something that amused them all. I forced myself to look up and laugh like I was paying attention. Jacob was grinning. I looked back down. I silently screamed in my head. THIS IS SO BORING! Then, all of a sudden, my brain seemed to catch up to my eyes.
Wait a minute. I looked back up. No way! Oh, this was WAY better than the story we were working on! I could see the headline now - "Bruce Wayne - Criminal Informant!" It couldn't be! How did he have criminal info? And who was - no! Richard Grayson! His ward - no, now his son! Oh . . . That was what was up with the reactions when I said Jason. I remembered to look on Clark's face. Clark knew who "Jacob" really was, didn't' he? Oh, I'm going to kill Clark later. But right now, I want to talk to "Jacob" alone. Maybe I could pass him a note on a napkin . . .
I became even less impressed with her as time went on. She obviously was not paying attention to anything that was being said. That much became especially obvious when Dick made a joke about her not paying attention, and she looked up and pretended to laugh, thus making the rest of up laugh harder. I really think Clark could find somebody better.
Right when Dick was entertaining Clark with another corny joke, I felt a soft brush on my leg. Lois was holding a small napkin with a note on it. It said:
"Come outside with me please, away from Clark and Jay's earshot. I'll explain in a minute."
I looked up at her, but I couldn't read her face, which was unusual. I had noticed a strange look on her face a few moments ago, and I couldn't understand that one, either.
Lois spoke. "Clark, I'm going outside for a smoke. Jacob, would you like to come along?"
"Sure" I said in my nasal Jacob voice. I could see the worry on Clark's face, probably for two reasons. One, he didn't like her to smoke; I had heard him complain about it before. Two, he was afraid she would say something stupid and blow it with me.
"Lois, I really wish you wouldn't smoke," he said nervously, pushing up his glasses. Check. There's reason number one.
"That's why I'm smoking outside. That way you can't see me. Well, that and the "No Smoking" signs." Dick snickered, probably about the "can't see me" part.
Clark sighed. "Fine, Lois. But don't say anything to scare Jacob off." Ha. Check. Reason number two.
I walked outside with Lois, careful to keep my slump as I walked. She took out a cigarette, put it in her mouth, and offered me one.
"I don't smoke." I said 'nervously' "It's really bad for your health. Did you know secondhand smoke can be dangerous as well?"
She gave me a half glare, but put her's out. "So, uh, why did you want to talk to me?" I inconspicuously flicked an invisible switch in my pocket that made it impossible for Clark to be able to hear what we were saying. I figure if she wanted to talk to me out of Clark and Dicks' earshot, that's fine with me. If she's planning on killing me, I think I'm capable of taking her down.
Lois was silent for a moment, contemplating, what, I don't know. So I decided to play "nervous Jacob" some more, and fill the blissful silence with more vexatious words.
"Did you have another story you wanted me to help you with, or get some info about? 'Cause Clark usually gives me a week or two to work on it, and then we meet for coffee again, and he gives me -"
She cut me off. "No, Jacob. I don't need you for another story. I'm not working on any others that you would be able to help me with."
I already knew this, of course (I had checked - hacked into, actually - the Daily Planet website and checked both Clark and Lois's accounts to see what else they were working on) but I needed, once again, to fill the sublime silence with something. So again I started Jacob babbling.
"Well, I don't know how else I can help you, 'cause there's not much going on in the streets, and I don't have much money, actually NO money -" She started laughing, cutting me off again. That's. Interesting. Ugh. This filling silence with Jacob's nervousness thing is NOT an enjoyable pastime.
"I don't see what's so funny, 'cause all I said was -" she cut me off again.
"Mr. Wayne, let's just be honest. I see through your guise. I just don't understand why you are pretending to be an underworld character, or how you and your son know this information. But I will find out. And when I do, it will make a really good headline."
I smiled. Looks like Dick won that bet after all. Maybe she was smarter then I thought. Certainly more impressive then I thought. It was clear now that she no doubt had been coached by Clark not to say anything on our "interview".
I took off several of the most obvious and easily removable pieces of the disguise and stood up straight. "Nice, Ms. Lane." I said.
She merely looked at me. I had heard that her gaze made people flinch. Now I saw why. She wasn't as good as the Batman, but she was pretty good. I matched her glare, and we stood like that for several minutes, neither one of us wanting to be the one to break eye contact. She finally got enough and looked away.
"Perhaps I can get a few more answers for you soon later," she said.
"Perhaps." I answered, allowing a hint of amusement to show in my voice.
She stalked back inside. I followed her, replacing several pieces of my disguise, but not bothering to do it as carefully as before. As we approached the table, I unobtrusively flicked the switch in my pocket back off, and we sat back down. Clark and Dick continued to make small talk for a few minutes more before we all stood up to leave.
I 'tripped' over a chair, nearly landing on Lois, and righted myself.
"Sorry, Ms. Lane." I said. She just stood there and looked at me like the awkward turtle, sort of the way playboy Bruce looks sometimes.
We finally made it to the door and all shook hands.
"Nice meeting you, Miss Lane." Dick said.
"Likewise, Richard. I hope we meet again soon."
She waved and they walked away, leaving both Clark and Dick in stunned silence. Dick turned to me. "What-?" He started to ask.
"I'll explain in the car." I said as we headed to the parking lot. I contemplated for a moment.
"Maybe I should put a file on her in my protocols."