Disclaimer: I own neither Smallville nor Superman nor Batman. They belong to people and companies far greater than I. The characters are just really fun to play with when borrowed. I stole the character Vanessa Abrams from Gossip Girl who belongs to The CW, but she is a couple years older in this fic because it is just more appropriate.
SPOILER ALERT: This story is loosely based on "Bride." If you haven't seen this episode yet, I wouldn't read this until you have, unless you don't care. This chapter takes place during the episode "Legion."
Summary: AU - What if Oliver had listened to Clark in "Bride" and stayed behind so Clark could go with him to track Lex after the wedding?
Rating: This chapter is rated T, though, as promised, eventually it will become M
**Author's Note: I just thought I should mention to everyone that Ollie has already taken over LuthorCorp even though this didn't happen until later on in the show's timeline. Thanks for all the wonderful feedback and encouragement! Especially to Superlc529 – you ROCK!!!
The Moment He Knew
Chapter 13 – Truce, Justice & the American Way
"It's nice to put a face to the voice," Clark admitted, smiling at the older man. Bruce wasn't old, but he was probably a couple years Clark's senior, and he was clutching an expansive black leather briefcase.
Bruce didn't smile back and said nothing in response to Clark's comment. He was already busy surveying the damage. His eyes took in the mass of oddly angled, upside down cars before sweeping his gaze across the barn that was barely standing up. There were so many holes in the walls and roof it looked like wooden Swiss cheese.
"How did you get here so fast and what on Earth managed to do all this damage in minutes?" Bruce demanded, frowning.
"Well," Clark began, the smile leaving his face after Bruce's failure to acknowledge his warm welcome, "the answer is a little out there," he threw an arm toward the sky and flung it in a circle so Bruce would get an idea as to how strange the answer really was, "which is why I wanted to wait for you to be here in person before I told you what happened."
"And you still haven't told me," Bruce said pertly, studying the damage again.
"You have to understand that this is difficult for me and you're not exactly personable which makes telling you what happened that much harder," Clark smoldered, his temper flaring again.
"How difficult could it be?" Bruce scoffed, leering at Clark briefly.
"You'd be surprised," Clark answered stonily, folding his arms across his chest, his face twisted in irritation. Bruce rubbed Clark the wrong way just the same as Dinah rubbed Lois the wrong way . . . maybe the two of them could work out in a relationship, that is, if Dinah survived. But Oliver had Bruce as a back up for a reason so he must have been trustworthy or else Green Arrow wouldn't have bothered with him.
"Nothing surprises me," Bruce smirked, looking Clark up and down for the first time since landing and emerging from his private jet. He noted the blood covering his suit jacket and dress shirt, "I don't think you'll get your deposit back for that."
"Are you trying to be funny?" Clark asked incredulously. "After looking at all this," he motioned to the chaos around him, "you're making a joke?"
"An observation," Bruce corrected, "and I'm trying to make conversation since you're so intent on stalling telling me the truth about what happened here last night. The sun is rising as we speak. I don't normally bother with idle chit chat, but I'm trying to figure out why Oliver Queen has so much faith in a farm boy from Nowheresville, Kansas, USA."
As the sun rose, Clark began to feel a very peculiar sensation ripple throughout his body and this time it was painful, unlike the initial introduction of the new forms of kryptonite the night before when John had pressed them to his chest. He fell to his knees, yelling out in agony, clawing deep gashes in the Earth and choking out gasping breaths as the final vestiges of the transformation of the night before took place. John Jones was at his side a few seconds later, coaching Clark, telling him that the pain would all be over soon. After a few minutes, as promised, the pain went away and John helped him to his feet, but Clark was still breathing heavily as he recovered from the pain. Bruce stood in the same place, studying him astutely from the start of the attack to the end, but Bruce didn't matter at the moment because he was right . . . the sun was up and the only thing Clark could think about was Kara.
"Kara," he whispered, still recovering from the pain. He wasn't up to super-speeding to the barn, especially since he had yet to tell Bruce his secret, so John clasped his forearm firmly with his and helped him there, not needing an explanation as to where he was headed.
His mother was still sitting beside Kara's table-cloth covered body, the yellow sun hadn't made any difference. Kara was still dead. He hung his head, recovering faster and faster until he felt like a whole different person. John had warned him of this, that exposure to the yellow sun might cause the transform to progress, but he hadn't actually expected it to happen, and though he knew he was changed for the better, mostly in ways he did not yet know, he still felt useless. If only Chloe was there and still had her healing meteor power, but she wasn't and she didn't have her power anymore. Kara was really gone, but for some reason he couldn't give up on her. Maybe it would take a few days worth of sunshine to heal her. He wouldn't give up hope so he would wait. Part of him knew he was being ridiculous and irrational, but the bigger part of him, the instinctual part, told him that this wasn't the end. It just couldn't be. He wouldn't let it.
"Who's Kara?" Bruce asked demurely, having made his way to the barn and positioned himself behind Clark and John, but in a spot where Martha could easily see him.
"Who are you?" Martha demanded, her voice had an edge to it that Clark had never heard before and he realized that she was grieving and angry, and Bruce's presence in her home, because to her it was still her true home, made her get defensive.
"Bruce Wayne," Bruce answered, not batting an eyelash at her harshness. "I've been on the waiting list to have a conference with you for a year now Senator Kent . . . usually money does the trick when I really want to see someone with political power at their fingertips, but not you."
"Damn right," Martha puffed up, her face still edgy. She wasn't sure she liked having this man on her property,
"Kara is my cousin," Clark answered, the first of the many questions Bruce had asked that he had answered so far, gesturing loosely to the covered figure on the bale of hay. He closed his eyes, tears threatening to fall, ". . . my dead cousin."
Bruce's eyes widened just a tiny bit, but if one wasn't looking at him or paying attention, one wouldn't have noticed the change, "Shouldn't she be in a morgue or something?"
Clark whirled around to face the dark billionaire, an angry scowl on his face, "Obviously tact isn't one of your super powers and no, she should not be in a morgue. She could still come back from this! She's a fighter! She will come back from this. It's not her time yet."
"How can a person come back from death?" Bruce asked, his voice derisive.
"Because she's special," Clark bit out impatiently, "She's different, like me."
"What does that mean?" Bruce asked, his voice inflected with incredulity for once.
"You asked me earlier what on Earth could have caused this much damage in only a few minutes," Clark stared at him, sizing him up, "What did this wasn't from Earth and neither am I."
"Are you honestly trying to tell me that an alien did this, that you are an alien?" Bruce almost mocked.
"Would you like proof?" Clark asked, his voice so sweet it was saccharine and clearly sarcastic.
"Considering I don't believe in little green men, proof would be nice," Bruce admitted, carefully concealing the shock he felt at Clark's revelation.
Clark squared his shoulders, a look of intensity clinging to his chiseled features as he picked up a stray piece of metal, a thicker piece, and twisted it into knots before tossing it away like a piece of balled up newspaper. Next, he concentrated his heat vision on the poster congratulating Chloe and Jimmy on their wedding and it set fire instantly, feeling it an appropriate metaphor considering the carnage surrounding them all and making Bruce jump around to see what had made the popping noise when the cloth and paint started to blaze orange with flames.
When Clark was sure he had Bruce's full attention again he super-sped all over the barn before returning to the exact spot he had inhabited only a second before. Then, he sucked in an enormous breath and blew frosty air on the dark billionaire, leaving snow flecked on his cashmere suit and a slightly blue tint to Bruce's skin. At last, he floated six feet into the air and levitated in Bruce's direction, landing directly in front of him before using his heat vision again – this time to warm the new billionaire in his life up from his chilled state.
Clark arched an eyebrow, "Now, I know that some people have fetishes and whatnot, and, of all things, I suppose a Bat fetish isn't all that bad or crazy even, but black silk boxers imported from Italy with bats all over them? That's just weird! And before you jump to any incorrect conclusions, the only reason I know what type of underwear you're wearing is because I have X-ray vision, and, believe me, I wasn't looking for the fun of it," Clark growled dangerously, daring Bruce to say something mouthy about him knowing the color and pattern of his underwear.
To alleviate any assumptions that Bruce might have come to about him liking to look at men in their boxer shorts and just for good measure, he added, "You're also wearing some kind of metallic alloy body armor thin enough to be concealed underneath a light-weight suit, you've got what appear to be Bat-shaped ninja stars spring-loaded up to the elbow in mechanisms of the same metal alloy as your body armor, and you've got pressure-released switchblades that come out of the toes of your dress shoes."
Bruce's face remained stoic despite Clark's pessimistic raillery as he took in every amazing and supernatural thing he'd just witnessed. After several moments, a slight smile quirked his lips, and he said wryly, "I can only imagine the comforts of the dizzying array of red and blue plaid flannel boxers you clearly own, Boy Scout . . . but I'll take my imported black silk bats over low-thread count flannel any day. As for the weaponry, not all of us are blessed with indestructibility from what humans consider the norm. Not all of us are preternaturally prepared."
Clark huffed in partial amusement and rolled his eyes at the older man, "Why don't we agree to disagree about our choice of underwear, Batman and get back to the important issues at hand, shall we?"
Bruce shrugged, the small smile lingering on his mouth just a bit longer before his face turned completely serious again. "The alien creature that did this – are you and it of the same origin?"
Clark rolled his eyes again, "Yes, we're from the same planet so I suppose that would make us of the same origin so to speak, but it is composed of life forms from my home planet with which Kara and I do not share a gene pool," he explained, still referring to his cousin as though she was alive, "though I suppose the genetic strain would be similar."
"I never thought I'd ever say this because nothing ever fazes me," Bruce began, "but I think I've finally found my threshold for 'tales of the weird and unexplained.'"
Clark visibly winced at the reminder of Chloe, the fact that she remained missing, and that he couldn't seem to do anything about it, "For such a hoity-toity jackass who seems to immensely enjoy choking on his own silver spoon, you're a real comedian," he spat contemptuously.
"Clark Joseph Kent," Martha seethed, loosing her anger on her unsuspecting son, "I raised you better than to be rude to a guest in our home, especially one who is here to help you with all the damage that has been done here today!"
Clark looked sheepishly at his mother but remained unrepentant for his comment . . . Bruce had hit a very sensitive nerve, and, for the moment, Clark simply could not turn off his emotions. It was one of the side effects of both the end of his transformation and the stress of the situation. Bruce, however, had no problem with Clark's barb and instead came up with his own calloused retort.
"And for a self-righteous farm boy from another planet with enough strength to pick up my private jet, I figured you'd have no problem removing the giant stick wedged up your ass, but hey, who am I to judge?" He sneered sarcastically, his lips curling up into that slight smile again.
This comment equally irked Martha, sending her on the warpath, and she marched up to Bruce with her chest puffed out and a snarl on her lips, her voice fierce with reproval, "Excuse me! Did I just hear you insult my son?" She asked, her eyes blazing with a fury that Clark had never seen before. "I don't know who you think you are, Mr. Wayne, but you are a guest in my home and you have only just met my son! Though I'm sure your life has been full of tragedy and loss to provoke and drive you to performing heroic acts and allying yourself with Oliver Queen, you have no idea what my son has been through growing up on a planet that is not his own. You do not know how he has struggled and how much he has lost and sacrificed to be the man standing before you. He watched most all of his friends and loved ones being ripped to shreds only hours ago! His only true family is lying dead before him and you make jokes and snide comments?! Make one more and I will personally kick your ass off my property!" She fumed dangerously at the man who towered above her, sending both superheroes into appropriate mortification and shame.
After a few calming breaths, precipitated in part by soothing pats on the back from John Jones, she spoke again, but her voice was no longer wrathful, "Now, the two of you are both obviously very special men who have been brought together in a time of crisis by another very special man who has a higher purpose in life, which I know to also be true of you," she said, directing her calculating gaze at her son, "and since you bothered, Mr. Wayne, to make a six hour flight all the way from Gotham, I have to believe that you share a similar purpose, but I do not believe that that purpose is to stand here sniping at each other. The entire Justice League needs the two of you to work together, so get past your hostility and behave like the grown men you both are. Save lives! It's what you were meant to do!"
"Martha Kent is right, Kal-El," John Jones remarked solemnly, also eyeing the native Kryptonian with disdain. "Neither your Earth father nor your Kryptonian one would approve of your enmity. It is not befitting of a Kryptonian prince to act as such."
Clark gazed down at the ground briefly at these admonishments and was immediately remorseful for his harsh and hasty words. He looked up so that his blue eyes were level with Bruce's green ones, "Truce?" he offered, his voice neutral. He couldn't muster anything that sounded friendly since he was still wildly affected by Bruce's Tales of the Weird and Unexplained comment, but he at least made the effort.
"Truce," Bruce conceded, holding out his hand for Clark to shake.
Clark took the proffered hand and squeezed a little too hard just to let Bruce know he wasn't dealing with an "Average Joe," just in case the message wasn't received by his open demonstration of most of his Kryptonian abilities. Bruce squeezed back as hard as he could and for the first time since they'd met, a full-fledged smile graced his lips.
"Feisty one aren't you?" He remarked with approval. "I respect that trait in a person. Mix that in with all of your abilities and you'll go far." Bruce had no idea just how true that statement would become.
Clark returned the smile fleetingly before letting go of the older man's hand, "We should probably get to the hospital."
Bruce nodded, "That would be prudent. Is one of these cars yours?" He asked, gesturing to the sea of automobiles belonging to the wedding guests that were parked in the grazing pasture.
"The red Dodge Ram," Clark revealed, pointing at his untouched truck.
"I should have known," Bruce smirked, then frowned and shook his head, "That will never do."
Clark quirked an eyebrow at the dark man he'd just made a shaky alliance with, "Well, it didn't end up as a piece of cannon fodder in the Kryptonian Monster Truck Rally caused by the major throw-down between my cousin and Doomsday, and it runs well. I don't see any problem."
Bruce cocked his head to the side when Clark mentioned 'Doomsday,' filing the name away as that of the monster responsible for their current predicament as well as his reference to being Kryptonian which had to be Clark's home planet, since Boy Scout had not used that name for it before in his explanation while he searched the sea of sound cars for something more suitable.
"Oh, I don't doubt that it runs well, Kent," Bruce smirked at him, "but it lacks something."
"And what might that be?" Clark inquired haughtily, not pleased with his confusion over Bruce's actions.
"A certain elegance, a refinery," Bruce clarified, nodding pertly. "There's no finesse." He continued studying the untouched cars until he spotted one to his liking, "Now that," he said gesturing to Oliver's yellow Lamborghini and ignoring Clark's effusive eye roll, "that has finesse."
"You're kidding right?" Clark asked incredulously as he stared at Oliver's car.
Bruce narrowed his eyes at the younger man, "Do I look like the kind of man who would kid at a time like this?"
"All previous comedic experience since I've met you aside?" Clark raised his eyebrows.
Bruce huffed, "You're confusing snobbery with practicality, Kent."
It was Clark's turn to huff, "How so?"
"Well," Bruce started, his tone condescending, "I'm Bruce Wayne, and there are certain expectations that come along with being Bruce Wayne . . . like showing up anywhere, including a hospital, in a farm boy's truck. I'd say we could ride the Clark Kent Express, but I have a feeling you've been a little lax about keeping your ability to fly to yourself today, and though I'd prefer something black, this brightly colored Lamborghini will have to do."
"That's Oliver Queen's car," Clark informed the dark billionaire, conceding his point about his less than secret airborne deliveries to the hospital. "We don't have the keys, so how are we supposed to drive it to the medical center?"
Bruce smiled a secret, sneaky smile and reached his hand into his pocket to retrieve a very handy device that Lucius Fox had designed for him. All he had to do was press a little button and the car alarm would be rendered useless and the engine putty in his hands. He pressed the button and Ollie's Lamborghini roared to life before the two men.
"How did you do that? What is that thing?" Clark demanded, suddenly curious and, though he didn't want to admit it, envious.
"I have a tech guy," Bruce explained simply, opening the driver's side door and climbing in, "You coming?"
Clark didn't have to be asked twice. He threw open the passenger side door and hopped in. He didn't even have the door shut all the way before Bruce sped off toward the Smallville medical center.
"Please speak your destination for GPS coordination," a mechanical female voice requested benignly.
"Smallville Medical Center," Bruce and Clark said in unison.
"Thank you," the mechanical voice said pleasantly.
Clark glanced sidelong at Bruce, "So is grand theft auto just another one of your hobbies or do you get your kicks walking the line by fighting crime and breaking the law? Because from where I'm sitting, you can't rightly fight crime and be a criminal in unison."
Bruce didn't look at Clark as he responded, "One of the many perks of being a vigilante is that you get to be both a criminal and hero. Sometimes one needs to break the law in order to uphold it."
"I don't believe that," Clark said vehemently.
Bruce smirked again, his voice sardonic, "So you're telling me that in all the time you've been speeding around saving people's lives and averting countless natural and manmade disasters, you haven't found it necessary to bend even one little tiny rule to get the job done?"
Clark sighed in frustration because he didn't even have to think about it to know that Bruce was right.
Bruce snorted in victory, "That's what I thought, farm boy. I believe Machiavelli phrased it best when he coined the theory that 'the end justifies the means'."
Clark turned to stare at Bruce in the driver's seat and narrowed his eyes, "First, talk like that makes you sound like Lex Luthor, and second – you may call me one of three things: Boy Scout, Red-Blue Blur, or Clark Kent, but you may not refer to me as farm boy."
"Fine, fine," Bruce said flippantly, raising his hand off the steering wheel with a passive hand wave, "Whatever you want, Smallville."
Clark's eyes blazed with fury and pain, "And you most definitely may not call me Smallville! There's only one person who can call me that and you are definitely not her! And is it some sort of billionaire prerequisite to drive like you're navigating the freaking Indy-500? Because every billionaire I've ever ridden with, including Lex Luthor, drives like a madman!"
Bruce chuckled, "Hit a nerve did I, Clarkie?"
"God!" Clark screeched, his heart clenching excruciatingly as he heard Lois' velvety voice whispering Smallville and Clarkie in his ear, "You just know exactly where to hit and once you've found that Achilles Heel you just keep on flicking it don't you?! You just don't know when to quit do you? You cannot call me Clarkie either, and while you're at it, slow the hell down or did you not pick up on my not so subtle hint about channeling Speed Racer?"
Bruce rolled his eyes, "Surely you've spent enough time in Metropolis by now to realize that city life moves a lot faster than way out here in the boonies, and that statement is more than a tad ironic coming from an individual who can move faster than a speeding bullet."
"You're a mean disrespectful cuss aren't you, Mr. Wayne?" Clark bickered rigidly.
Bruce shrugged, unapologetic, "I only respect people who have earned it, Mr. Kent. So far you have yet to prove your salt with me. In the eight odd hours I've known of your existence you've managed to let the entire Justice League plus countless others end up in the hospital near death, not to mention the fact that you let your cousin die, because you couldn't hold your own against this Doomsday character."
Clark's vision went red with rage, "Achilles Heel, Batcrack!" He punctuated each syllable, "and I did not let anyone get hurt! If it hadn't been for that damn piece of kryptonite I could have prevented most of the carnage! But you wouldn't know that would you? Because you don't seem to ask questions, you just assume, which just makes you an ass!"
"Well, you don't provide all of the important information one needs not to make those assumptions, and you forgot about the part where assuming makes an ass out of you as well," Bruce retorted.
The red clouding Clark's vision deepened to a bloody scarlet and he was almost certain his eyes were no longer their vivid blue, but the glowing orange color they usually turned when he was about to use his heat vision. His face twisted into an ugly snarl and he growled fiercely, "First of all, don't talk about things you know nothing about! You weren't there so you haven't a clue as to how quickly things got out of control. It wasn't my fault that this happened! Second, you're playing with fire, Batcrack! You seem to be forgetting that you are a mere human, while I am much much more. I am stressed out beyond belief and I have to figure out not only how to save everyone from dying, but to try and find a friend who was kidnapped by that monster. Watch your words because I'm just far gone enough to do something I'd never normally do, and the pain I could cause you would make you wish you were dead!"
Bruce's lips quirked up slightly, triumphantly, "What are you feeling right now?"
Clark looked at Bruce like he was crazy. His change in tone and attitude had nearly given him whiplash. He was no longer cocky and sneering, but calm, cool, collected. Clark was completely stymied, "What?"
"What are you feeling right now?" Bruce repeated, his voice more meaningful.
Clark furrowed his brows, "Rage, annoyance, the need for revenge," he answered thoughtfully.
Bruce nodded, "That's a good start, Boy Scout. Now tell me what you don't feel."
It didn't seem possible, but Clark's brows furrowed even further, "I don't understand what you mean."
"During you're angry tirade you mentioned something really important, so think about what you said and think hard, then tell me what you come up with," Bruce told him with a stoic voice.
Clark thought about everything he'd said for a good long while before an epiphany struck him and he realized the point that Bruce was trying to make, "I don't feel guilty. This wasn't my fault."
Bruce's smile widened, "Exactly, Kent. What happened wasn't your fault but you were so busy internalizing everything that happened that you couldn't see it, and it was hindering your ability to use your heroic side to fix the problems at hand. What do you feel now?"
"My feelings haven't changed," Clark admitted, "I still feel rage and annoyance, and I still want revenge. I just don't feel guilty anymore, for the most part," he added thinking of Lois and Kara.
"That's good Clark," Bruce told him, a hint of a smile in his voice. Then his tone turned deadly serious, "Focus on those emotions, Boy Scout. The rage, the annoyance, the thirst for revenge, those emotions can make you powerful. You can use them to be a better hero until this situation is resolved, but don't think for one minute that you should hold on to those feelings forever because they'll eat at you, make you a shell of the man you should be. I know this from experience and it's not easy to come back from."
Clark shook his head and humphed in amazement, "So all this time, all the barbs and snarky comments – you were just saying all of that stuff to teach me a lesson?"
"Well, not all of it was for that purpose, but, for the most part, yes," Bruce answered, before changing the subject like what had just occurred between the two men was nothing, "Now tell me, under normal circumstances, why you fight as The Red-Blue Blur."
Clark frowned and furrowed his brows, running a hand through his hair as he thought about this. It was a moment before he could answer, "I don't know . . . Truth, justice,, and . . . other stuff."
"Other stuff?" Bruce chuckled both at Clark's wording and his uncertain tone, "Could you be a little more specific?"
Clark's frown deepened, "The American way I suppose."
"Truth, justice, and the American way," Bruce repeated to himself, adding this to his analysis of the intergalactic traveler sitting not a foot from his right side. "I like it," he concluded, pleased, but then he switched topics again, "Tell me about kryptonite."
Clark sucked in a deep breath, "Kryptonite is the meteors that came down during the first meteor shower in Smallville, when I came to Earth as a child. It's irradiated shards of my home planet, Krypton, and it's the only thing I'm vulnerable to . . . well besides magic."
Bruce looked away from the road at Clark, his eyebrows nearly disappearing into his hairline in skepticism, "Magic?"
Clark sighed at Bruce's scathing tone, "Yes, magic."
Still doubtful, Bruce frowned and put up his thumb and pointer finger as he continued, "So you're trying to tell me that one magic is real and two that a being as indestructible as yourself is allergic to a few card tricks?"
"That's exactly what I'm trying to tell you, Captain Obvious," Clark rolled his eyes, "or is repeating what people say another one of your unsavory hobbies? And I wasn't referring to card tricks."
"I don't buy it," Bruce argued, voice neutral but serious as a heart attack.
Clark rotated his neck so that his head and eyes were tilted at the ceiling of the Lamborghini, "Let me guess, you're one of those 'I have to see it to believe it' type of people?"
Bruce shrugged, "What can I say? I'm a pragmatist."
"I lost that personality trait when I hit five and started bench pressing tractors, and again when I was fifteen and I learned I'm not even from this planet and that exposure to meteor rock gives people insane super powers that comes with the tendency to go from zero to crazy like this," Clark snapped his fingers. "Guess that's one of the drawbacks of living in Smallville your whole life."
"I've dealt with a lot of crazy people myself," Bruce shared stoically, "but not one of them has ever displayed any type of pagan magical ability, just your typical metahuman ones."
"I wouldn't believe it either if a witch from the 16th century hadn't zapped my powers back when I was a senior in high school," Clark sighed, thinking back to when Lana had been possessed by Countess Margaret Isabelle Thoreaux. "Obviously the spell didn't do any lasting damage, but it wasn't a fun thing to experience."
"I still don't believe you," Bruce insisted, shaking his head.
"Twenty minutes ago you didn't believe that little green men exist," Clark pointed out.
"I still don't believe in little green men," Bruce retorted with a smirk.
"Well, you're only sitting a foot away from one," Clark reminded him.
"I may be sitting next to a being from another planet, but you are neither little nor green, so my disbelief in their existence still has yet to be disproved," Bruce explained.
Clark rolled his eyes, "Do you always have to be so literal?"
Bruce shrugged, "It's a gift."
"Sure it is," Clark told him sarcastically.
Bruce grinned a tiny bit at Clark's frustration, before promptly changing the subject to something more important, "So the creature responsible for this gory wedding debacle is called Doomsday?"
"Yes," Clark said heavily, "It was Doomsday."
"What is Doomsday exactly?" Bruce asked gravely.
"According to my Kryptonian father, Jor-El, and John Jones, the man back at the farm with my mother, Doomsday was created by the man responsible for destroying our planet, General Zod. My entire planet is gone, Bruce. Doomsday is supposed to be an ultimate destroyer and I am its intended target. Most of the time he looks like a man until he transforms into the beast who ruined Chloe and Jimmy's wedding, but other than that, I don't know much else," Clark responded, still irked by his lack of knowledge about his current foe de force.
"When will I get to meet this father of yours?" Bruce inquired curiously. "Since it seems he knows more about this situation than you do, don't you think we ought to include him in our investigations?"
Clark laughed ruefully, "Both my adoptive and birth fathers are dead, Bruce. I can speak to my Kryptonian father because he created a magnificent fortress full of all the knowledge spanning the twenty-eight known galaxies and fashioned it after my home planet's terrain. When I say that I speak to him," Clark clarified, "I mean that I speak with an artificially intelligent form of his living memory. He's just a voice, he has no tangibility. The only blood family I have left is lying dead on a bale of hay covered up with a ratty tablecloth back in that sorry excuse for a barn."
Bruce looked down at the steering wheel and frowned in sadness. Martha Kent had been correct when she'd told him that Clark had suffered and lost much on the way to becoming the Red-Blue Blur. Bruce knew the pain of losing one's parents, but Clark had lost not only his birth parents but an entire civilization, his adoptive father, and probably countless others along the way.
"I'm sorry," Bruce told him in the most sincere of tones he'd ever used in the short while he'd known Clark Kent.
"For what?" Clark questioned suspiciously. Bruce's genuineness didn't jive with the image of the older man he'd formed since their introduction and it threw him for a loop.
Bruce bit the inside of his cheek, wary of sharing their mutual pain since he was a very private person who rarely ever shared this tale with anyone, but he knew it must be done, "I too know the pain of losing parents. My mother and father were killed in front of me as a boy. They were being mugged and the criminal went after my mother. My father tried to protect her and the next thing I knew I was a sobbing orphan in my finest clothes while my parents bled to death in their expensive opera wear in the middle of the street."
"I'm sorry for your loss," Clark told his new comrade authentically. "That's why you do what you do now, isn't it?"
Bruce paused, "It didn't start out that way. Like many I began a treacherous path that could have led to total self-destruction, but someone took an interest in me. That person helped me turn all my anger and desire for revenge into something productive both for me and society."
"This is probably rude," Clark said candidly, "but why Batman?"
Bruce's eyes got a far away look in them as he remembered that fateful day he and Rachel had been playing together, "As a boy my greatest fear was of the dark. One day I was playing with a childhood friend on our property and the ground caved in. I fell into the blackness and was greeted by a swarm of bats. From that day on bats replaced darkness as my greatest fear. When I made the decision to bring my own unique sense of justice to Gotham, I decided I would strike fear into the hearts of the criminals I hunted using the same thing that I feared for so many years of my life, so I became Batman."
Clark nodded several times, letting the information soak in, "It was a woman wasn't it?"
"A woman?" Bruce queried, cocking an eyebrow even though he knew what Clark was referring to.
Clark studied Bruce's face thoughtfully, "A woman who helped you turn all that anger into something productive; who gave you back your humanity?"
Bruce closed his eyes briefly, feeling a pang in his heart at the thought of Rachel, "It wasn't a woman who helped me hone the skills I needed to become Batman, but it was a very special woman who made me realize that I was fighting for the wrong things, and yes, she did give me back my humanity."
Clark looked down at his hands, "You're lucky to have someone like that."
Bruce's gaze became distant again, "I was lucky."
"Was?" Clark asked, wondering if all heroes had to suffer endless loss to keep them motivated for their humanitarian endeavors.
"She's dead now," Bruce said hollowly, "I failed her. They say that you can never feel the love that you felt for you first love with anyone else. I hope to God that that isn't true. You don't want to become like me, Clark – a lonely, despondent vigilante."
"I have someone," Clark admitted, thinking of Lois and feeling his stomach clench painfully, "a woman who I love. I had someone before her, another woman I loved but my first never inspired me to be a better hero or person – I had to be a hero for her because she was so often in need of rescuing, but Lois . . . Lois doesn't just make me want to be a better hero, she makes me want to be a better man. She's dying right now because of something I did, a mistake I made. I can't imagine what I'd do without her. All I know is it wouldn't be living."
Bruce shook his head, "No, it wouldn't be, but I can tell you what you would do if she weren't here anymore – you would keep fighting, for her you would keep fighting because that's what she would want."
Clark nodded grimly, "She doesn't even know my secret. I was going to tell her, but Doomsday attacked before I could, and now . . ."
"It doesn't matter that she doesn't know, Clark, on a conscious level anyway," Bruce reassured him. "Deep down she knows who you really are and she would encourage you to follow your destiny."
Clark remained silent, letting his thoughts churn violently inside his head.
"She's the reason I can't call you Clarkie or Smallville isn't she?" Bruce presumed rather simply.
Clark sighed, temporarily letting go of his frustrations, "You are a brilliant master of deduction Batcrack. If I'd known this earlier I would have come to you straight away to solve all of my intergalactic issues."
"Thin ice, farm boy," Bruce growled, somewhat jokingly, "thin ice."
Clark suddenly flashed his brilliant Kent grin, "I'm not afraid of you, Batboy and I'm impervious to the cold."
"You may be impervious to the cold, but you're IQ's not too high," Bruce jabbed, serving to furrow Clark's brows, which led to Bruce's sarcastic retort, "You already told me what you aren't impervious to and you just met me – smooth move brain trust."
Clark rolled his eyes, "Ha ha."
"It isn't funny, Clark," Bruce insisted, "Just because Oliver trusts me doesn't mean you should be so quick to extend me the same courtesy. I could really be evil or a self-serving bastard that would lock you up for the rest of your life and dissect you."
"Not unlike another billionaire I used to know," Clark laughed bitterly, thinking of Lex.
"See," Bruce pounced on the open opportunity, "you have a pattern of putting your trust in the wrong people."
"You may be older than me by a few years, but I didn't sign up to be lectured and bent over Old Pappy's knee for a good spanking, so keep your opinions to yourself, Batwad," Clark jeered, annoyed by Bruce's ability to peg him straight on.
"And I didn't sign up to be subjected to the juvenile dramatics of a whining, sniveling intergalactic illegal alien on the verge of a mental breakdown, Red-Blue Jerk. Cry me a river then get your act together because we have a job to do," Bruce indicated that they had finally arrived at the Smallville Medical Center.
"You have arrived at your destination: Smallville Medical Center," the mechanical female voice announced, breaking the flow of their banter.
Clark huffed and praised whatever higher deity there was, before mumbling, "Longest car ride ever."
"Feeling's mutual kid," Bruce quipped, "Now let's get down to business." He swept out of the illegally parked Lamborghini and strode purposefully through the emergency room entrance with Clark on his heels.
Before Bruce could reach his intended targets, however, Clark was bombarded by a still distraught Lucy, Pete, Vanessa, and Moira Sullivan. The women came at him from all sides, quite literally like he was the last man on Earth and they were ready to fight for their claim on him, and pelted him with questions.
"Did you find Chloe?" Lucy and Moira echoed in unison.
"Where's Victor?" Vanessa demanded at the same time.
"Who is he?" All three women, plus Pete fired away, looking to Bruce, before Clark had a chance to answer any of the other questions.
Bruce didn't wait for Clark to introduce him. He stepped confidently forward and stuck out his hand to each of the four people crowding around Clark, "Bruce Wayne, Wayne Enterprises."
Moira turned on Clark with wrathful eyes, and a tone of voice that could kill, "He's who you disappeared for? That was your business? Meeting billionaires?"
Clark squeezed his eyes shut and clenched his teeth as Moira screeched at him, his super-hearing extra sensitive since the final transformation not even an hour before, "Bruce is here to help. He's friends with Oliver Queen."
"From where I'm sitting that only helps Oliver Queen," Lucy bit into him next, sassy a total understatement as an adjective for her attitude. "How does he help my sister and my cousin?"
Clark rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck, suddenly feeling very tired as the many hours it had been since he'd slept started to take their toll. Even though he didn't require as much sleep as a human, he still was feeling the exhaustion that comes from lack of sleep. The transformation wasn't helping matters either. It was meant to make him stronger, but it was having the opposite effect on him right now. The pain of the final metamorphosis had completely wiped him out; not to mention the physical and emotional strain he was under.
"He doesn't," Clark answered wearily, ignoring the fire in the eyes of the three women. "He helps me," he sighed, rubbing his eyes, "With Bruce here he can help me deal with everything including Lois and Chloe. Two heads are better than one and right now I need two heads. I can't be everywhere at once and I'm already stretched way too thin."
"So you haven't even tried to find Chloe yet, have you?" Moira accused, her once loving gaze turning accusatory in her turmoil over her daughter and niece.
Clark looked down at the linoleum of the hospital floor regretfully, before meeting his best friend's mother's eyes, "No, I haven't, but finding her is still a priority for me and I expect you not to forget that. I'm only a man, Mrs. Sullivan and you were an eye-witness to what that monster can do. I'm putting my life on the line for your family going after that thing, and I'm not doing it because I feel responsible. I'm doing it because they are as much my family as they are yours. I love them too and I expect you not to forget that either."
The expression on Moira's face softened and she looked appropriately abashed. She sighed and so did Lucy, "I apologize for being so disrespectful and rude, Clark. It's just . . . I just got them back. After all the time I lost, I can't lose them now."
"I'm sorry too, Clark," Lucy whispered, seeming a little horrified at her behavior. Pete squeezed her hand.
"I understand why you are both upset and after all the time I've spent with Lois, I know that some of this is just the Lane genes, but I'm doing the best that I can here and I know it's not enough. With Bruce here, my best effort only gets better and better, so please respect me and him."
Vanessa gazed at Clark defiantly, and he noticed that she was still clutching the blood-stained, scratched up digital video camera that had been used to record the wedding and unfortunate reception so hard her knuckles were white, "I won't respect you until you tell me where Victor is. I've asked every nurse, doctor and administrator I could find, and no one has any record of a Victor Stone being admitted to any part of this hospital."
Clark swallowed hugely, "Victor is in Metropolis."
Vanessa cocked her head at him in confusion, "Metropolis?"
Clark blew out a breath, trying to figure out how to explain Victor's situation to his new love interest without giving away his secret, "Victor has special needs, Vanessa. Needs that Smallville Medical Center is simply not equipped to deal with. I contacted someone from Queen Industries and he was transported to a facility that could take care of his unique situation. The doctors there have been periodically briefing me on his condition, and though he's hurt badly, they say he will make a brilliant recovery."
Vanessa breathed a sighed of relief and, thankfully, didn't question Clark any further, merely saying, "Thank you."
Clark nodded at her and gave her a slight smile, "I'm just glad I can give someone some good news. Would it be alright if I borrowed that, Vanessa?" He asked, moving his eyes to the camera. "It may help me find Chloe. I promise I'll give it back."
Vanessa nodded, sinking into the waiting room seat directly behind her and receiving a reassuring squeeze from the hand of Pete's that wasn't encased in Lucy's.
Clark looked to Lucy and Moira, "I'm going to try and get an update on Lois' condition. I'll let you know if there's anything new to report."
"I'll accompany you," Bruce asserted, not seeming bothered by the bloody mass of people awaiting treatment in the E.R.
"Whatever floats your boat," Clark grunted in resignation. He searched the room for doctors and nurses but Dr. Welling wasn't anywhere in sight. He focused his hearing, listening for her bright and shiny but all business voice and followed the sound, not caring who he bumped into or stepped on in his wake.
When he finally found her, she was working on a trauma patient whose heart wasn't responding to epinephrine or the crash cart paddles. Deciding to flex some of his new metaphoric muscles, he sent three short bursts of heat energy from his eyes directly at the patient's heart. Almost immediately, the strong muscle started pumping again and Dr. Welling jumped back in surprise with the crash cart paddles in her hands as though a police officer had just ordered her to put her hands up.
"Whoa!" She cried in shock, but she recovered quickly, "Close him up and get him to the I.C.U. I'll be in Trauma 2."
"Dr. Welling?" Clark asked tentatively, causing the doctor to start again.
She scurried around to face him, her expression fierce but when she saw who it was she relaxed minutely, "Mr. Kent! You shouldn't be in here," she admonished him half-heartedly.
Clark nodded apologetically, "I know," he agreed, "and I'm sorry," he rushed out, trying to sound fittingly remorseful for his intrusion, "I just . . . I need to know if there is anything new on Lois."
Dr. Welling bit her lip, "I've only had the chance to check in on her once since you left, Clark, and she's fighting, but her condition is critical. I know this isn't what you want to hear, but she's fighting a losing battle. The surgeons on her case won't give up until it's certain that she's definitely starting to lose. Unfortunately, I can't give you a proper estimate of when that might be. It could be hours, it could be minutes. If it's the former, and I really hope that it is, there's still a chance she won't make it because all of the blood that we had stored for situations like this one is fading fast. It's lucky that Ms. Lane has a rare blood type, but eventually that too will run out. We're trying to rally all of the neighboring hospitals to give any excess blood they can do without, but stuff like that takes time and paperwork."
Tears formed in Clark's eyes at this news and he nodded bereftly, momentarily unable to speak.
"Dr. Welling," Bruce said formally, offering his hand the way he had when he'd introduced himself to Pete, Vanessa, Lucy, and Moira, "Bruce Wayne."
Dr. Welling looked as though she didn't know how to react to Bruce's preamble, looking reluctantly toward Trauma 2 before taking his hand and shaking it. "Mr. Wayne, what can I do for you?"
"It's not really what you can do for me," Bruce informed her, "I need immediate conference with this hospital's Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery on the matter of the care of Oliver Queen and several other patients who were admitted around the same time as he was."
"I'm needed in Trauma 2, Mr. Wayne," Dr. Welling informed the billionaire abruptly, "Right now, the size of a patient's bank account is completely irrelevant, everyone is the same, and they all get the same care." She turned on her heel and headed off in the direction of Trauma 2.
Bruce grabbed her upper arm and spun her back around to face him, "I don't mean to be rude, doctor, and I certainly don't enjoy manhandling a woman, but if my conference is granted as soon as possible, this hospital will receive hefty donations from both myself and Queen Industries," he said smoothly, releasing her upper arm and oozing charm, "and about that waning blood supply you were talking about earlier, I can help you fix that faster than bureaucracy will ever be able to."
"Nurse Case Manager Ashmore is the woman you want to talk to about that," Dr. Welling conceded. "She's in the east wing, admitting patients into the hospital. She can arrange a meeting."
"Thank you," Bruce said sweetly, "and I do hope you'll forgive me for the manhandling."
Dr. Welling didn't respond and finally hurried off to Trauma 2.
"That was a lot easier than I thought," Bruce said lightly as he headed toward the east wing of the hospital.
"Did you really have to grab her like that?" Clark seethed, protective of the doctor who had saved Lois' life earlier that day.
"I do what's necessary," Bruce said simply, "Not all of it is enjoyable."
"Well, I'm coming with you," Clark avowed, wary of leaving Bruce alone with any of the other hospital staff. "Just in case you have to do anything else that's 'necessary'."
"Oh," Bruce said, slightly taken aback with himself, "didn't I tell you?"
Clark raised his eyebrows, and answered pertly, "Obviously not."
"You're to come with me," Bruce told him.
Clark sighed, and waved Bruce ahead, "You lead, I'll follow."
"I hope that's not a typical response for you, Boy Scout," Bruce observed, "That would be rather disappointing."
"Whatever, Batcrack," Clark shrugged, not in the mood to react to Bruce's taunts after hearing Dr. Welling's report on Lois, "Just do what needs to be done because, honestly, I don't know anymore."
The East Wing
Smallville Medical Center
Nurse Case Manager Ashmore was a hardy woman, tall with ample bone structure. She wasn't fat but sturdy and had a serious look about her, one that seemed to extend beyond the crisis situation, like she was a hardass even on a slow day. Her brown curly hair was pulled back into a severe bun and she wore the standard issue blue hospital scrubs. Her eyes were dark and keen as though she could look right through you.
"Nurse Ashmore," Bruce greeted amiably, "I was told you are the woman to talk to about setting up a meeting with this hospital's Chief of Staff and Chief of Surgery."
She rolled her eyes, "It's Nurse Case Manager Ashmore, and our Chiefs of Staff and Surgery have their hands full at the moment Mr.?"
"Wayne," Bruce supplied, his tone still genial, "Bruce Wayne, and trust me, Nurse Case Manager Ashmore, they'll want to hear what I have to say."
"Bruce Wayne of Wayne Enterprises?" She questioned, her eyebrows raised.
Bruce nodded and smiled, and she smiled back, "Sorry, we don't have time for billionaires right now. We're busy saving lives."
"I understand that," Bruce nodded accommodatingly, reaching his hand inside his suit jacket and pulling out a large stack of bills. "That's $100,000. One of many sizeable donations Wayne Enterprises will make to this hospital if you can manage to get me, your Chiefs of Staff and Surgery, and Mr. Kent in the same room together for a minimum of ten minutes," he haggled with ease, "and this," he added, pulling out a tiny silver cell phone and placing his thumb on the send button, "one push of this button gets you all the blood you need to keep your overabundance of patients alive for the next year."
Nurse Case Manager Ashmore sighed in defeat and awe, "You certainly know how to fight to win your battles, Mr. Wayne. I'll get them on the phone and arrange a meeting."
"Thank you," Bruce said sincerely.
Ten minutes later, Bruce, Clark and Dr. Vandervoort, Chief of Surgery, were sitting comfortably in leather arm chairs in Dr. Witwer's, the Chief of Staff's, office.
Dr. Witwer began the conversation, "Tell me Mr. Wayne, what is it that you want in exchange for the donation and access to the blood?"
"You are currently treating some patients that are of interest to me," Bruce answered, his voice a monotone. He placed his expansive briefcase on Dr. Witwer's fine oak desk. He bent forward so he was eye level with a red LED light that scanned his retina.
"Identity confirmed: Bruce Wayne," a mechanical female voice announced to the room before a popping noise signifying the case's lock opening echoed throughout the room.
Bruce pulled out a stack of files, the first of which had 'CLASSIFIED' stamped in red letters on the cover and Oliver's picture paper clipped to the top, "Oliver Queen," he said, laying the file down on the desk, "Dinah Lance," he placed an identical folder except with Dinah's picture paper clipped to the front on top of Oliver's file so that they were the beginnings of a fanned out display, "Bart Allen," he laid down another file, "Arthur Currie," he laid down another file, "Lana Lang," he laid down another file, "Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen," their files did not have 'CLASSIFIED' stamped on them, but they did have their pictures paper clipped to it like all the others.
Dr. Witwer began typing swiftly at her computer keyboard, giving Bruce a quick once over that went unnoticed by Clark as she keyed in the information she needed, and a few seconds later she confirmed, "We are treating all of those people here, but you already knew that, so what do you want from us, Mr. Wayne? I am incredibly taxed at the moment. My time, as well as Dr. Vandervoort's, is precious and I will not ask again."
"Oliver Queen and I are the co-chairs of some very important projects going on in the United States government at the moment. Those patients, in one way or another, have ties to those projects. Continued treatment of those patients here at the Smallville Medical Center would reveal information to you and your staff that is classified, so I'm requesting that you let their caretaker make plans for their transfer."
"I would assume," Dr. Vandervoort spoke for the first time, his voice deep and rich, "that you would be their caretaker and responsible for all of their medical decisions. Or am I incorrect?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact," Bruce enlightened them all. "The only person authorized to make any medical decisions regarding these specific patients is Clark Kent."