Clark knew that Lois had brought this argument upon the two of them on purpose. Lois liked putting Clark in these types of situations. The ones he could only escape if a rare opportunity presented itself. But somehow, the Daily Planet's star reporter managed to seal off any and all possible exits, especially if her prey had managed to slip away previously. She always learned from her mistakes.
There wasn't anything requiring Superman's attention this time. He couldn't just sneak out.
No. Lois Lane had personally locked herself in Clark's office demanding answers. "I can't believe Perry gave you the Wayne event and I got stuck covering a sewage spill! How'd you work that, Smallville?"
Clark pushed the brim of his glasses further up his nose as he typed delicately on his computer. He tried his best to ignore Lois' tone. She often got jealous when she wasn't covering the top story of the century. Not to mention, she had a thing for Bruce Wayne and was more than irritable now that a night of potential interviewing and drinks with Gotham's playboy had been snatched up by mild mannered Clark Kent.
Clark, however, was greatly relieved that she hadn't gone.
Lois was still chattering away. "Did you bribe him or something, Kent?"
Sighing, Clark peeled back from his work doing his best to sound humble. "Perry said that Mr. Wayne had asked for me personally. Said he really liked my last interview I covered at the Gotham's Children Hospital," Clark said softly and polity, hoping it would defuse Lois' already sky rocketing temper. "I asked if you could come Lois, but Perry insisted that someone needed to be here to cover that spill."
Lois scowled at the answer: "Marie could have covered it. Besides, you're such a stiff when it comes to parties. You probably didn't even had fun! I'm going to have a word with, Perry. I'll see you at lunch, Clark," Lois called out over her shoulder, her strong purple heels making stiff scrapes against the carpet as she trotted off, determined to make Perry White reconsider his choices in the reporting world.
With a sigh of relief, Clark leaned back in his chair. If he didn't love that woman, he probably would have requested a change in careers for all the grief she gave him.
And after last night, he really didn't need anymore grief.
The next few hours passed slowly for Clark as he finished up his article and, after a quick check of the police scanner and local news channels, decided he'd treat himself out to a nice, peaceful lunch with out Lois' constant questioning and criticism. He popped his hat on top of his head, grabbed his satchel, and headed quietly out of his office to avoid a certain raven haired vixen. Thankfully, Clark heard her bellowing out her opinions to Perry on the floor above him. Poor, Perry... the alien thought as he boarded the elevator.
"Hey, Mr. Kent! Hold that elevator!" came Jimmy Olsen's cheerful voice as he darted across the cubicles and desks towards the elevator. He nearly slipped in, his sneakers making an unpleasant sound against the tile inside, as Clark easily held the door back. "Whew! Thanks!"
"No problem, Jimmy." Clark smiled, making room for the red head. Clark had always (well, most of the time) enjoyed Jimmy's company. He was a good, ambitious kid. He also had a certain talent for capturing unique photos, especially those with Superman in them. Perry had seen the boy's potential and often teamed him up with Lois on hometown assignments.
Clark remembered Lois complaining for a good two weeks before she started going easy on the kid. "Perry give you a new assignment?" Clark asked, taking notice of the kid's camera and backpack stuffed to the brim with equipment.
"Sure did! Big show down town today. Lex Luthor is there cutting the ribbon for the grand re-opening of Metropolis Park," the cub reporter squeaked out with excitement. Clark beamed back a smile for Jimmy, but secretly cringed on the inside at the mention of Lex Luthor. Knowing Lex, Clark suspected there was some sort of gain for the man doing this. He never did anything with out a price...
Jimmy, oblivious to the harden glare forming on Clark's face, continued to chant on about the event. "I'm just hoping that the man himself shows up."
Clark, snapped out of his daze, raised an eyebrow behind his spectacles. "Who?"
"Superman!" Olsen cheered, his hands tightening around his backpack straps. "Wouldn't that be an awesome shot? Superman and Lex Luthor shaking hands right after the ribbon was cut?"
Kent stifled a grunt. "I, um... not so sure that will happen, Jimmy." Him, shaking hands with Lex? Not in a million years...
The kid looked almost offended. "Why not?"
Now, Jimmy wasn't as experienced as Lois was in the particular element of journalism and snooping, but he wasn't born yesterday. He looked up at the older man, slight confused as to why he would think differently. Clark quickly sputtered the first thing that came to his mind. "I heard that um, Superman is off world right now. In space," Clark lied, hoping that the boy would bite that excuse as the elevator dinged that they had arrived on the ground level.
"Oh... who told you that?" Jimmy asked, looking nearly impressed as the duo exited, Jimmy tailing behind a hurried Clark. "Got an insider's scoop or something? Have you told Ms. Lane?"
"Listen, I have to meet someone and I'm late. Promise to fill you in when I get back." Clark pushed through the glass swivel doors, doing his best to keep his super strength intact as he did so. "See you later, Jimmy."
Usually, Clark didn't brush off his co-workers. And usually he didn't feed them lies like that either. But lately, Clark found himself running low on fuel, or perhaps tolerance. After last night, that conversation with Bruce was still as fresh in his mind as the second it began. He had been plagued with Bruce's cold, strong words all morning.
Maybe lunch would settle his nerves, let him refocus his energies instead of burning them on a conversation that was already done and over with.
"He took my purse! Someone stop him!"
Or maybe not.
Clark paused, assessing the situation. Young woman, no older then twenty, was flailing about as the thief, a scruffy and rough looking man, ducked into a near by alley with her purse. They were about thirty yards away. Easy stuff. He yanked his glasses off his face, running towards the culprit. It wasn't until he rounded the corner, his jacket half unbuttoned, that Clark heard a fit of familiar laughter.
The reporter stopped, mildly amused as he gently set his glasses back in place and re-buttoned his jacket. The robbery was under control. Before him, Robin, the Boy Wonder, was standing on top of the thief, a wicked grin plastered across his face. He held the woman's purse, the strap wrapped around his gloved fingers as the boy mocked the older.
"Talk about cliché," Robin commented, almost bored with such a common act of chivalry. "Not to mention down right rude. Didn't your mother ever teach you that it's wrong to steal?"
The man groaned, his hands rubbing a sore spot on the back of his head. "I'm going to take that as a 'no'. Well," the kid flipped himself off the thug, landing neatly besides him. Swinging the purse over his shoulder, he reached into one of the back satchels of his belt and pulled out a set of handcuffs. "Hopefully you've learned a thing or two on the finer points of society." He quickly cuffed the culprit to a near by side building fire escape, ignoring the curses and grumbles the man gave in protest.
With his spirits high, the acrobat began to head out of the alley, his masked hues narrowing in acknowledgment as he spotted Clark. "Hey! I was just on my way to see you."
Dumbfounded, the Kryptonian merely blinked as Bruce's protegé strolled up towards him. He had been on his way here? To see him? Well, at least that explained what Robin was doing in Metropolis... but now that opened another door of questions.
"Here you are, Miss," Robin politely chirped, the owner of the purse rushing up behind Clark and picking up her stolen property with sheer joy. The alien had almost forgotten she was there. Sheepishly rubbing the back of his head as the woman repeatedly thank Robin over and over, Clark cleared his throat and gave a feint nod towards the boy.
"Thanks again, so much," the woman peeped after Robin gave a final salute and pulled out his grapple gun. With in seconds he had fired the device, and seemingly soared up the top of the nearest buildings. Clark caught the faintest sounds of the kid's voice: "Meet me at your place."
Clark narrowed his eyes. What was Robin up to?
"Mr. Kent, long time no see."
Clark gave a half chuckle and confused grin as he rounded the corner of his apartment hallway and spotted a now civilian clad Boy Wonder, leaning against his door and tilting his shades off in the Kryptonian's direction. He tapped on Clark's door, silently signaling to the alien that he'd been waiting for a good while. "To what do I owe this visit, Dick?" the older man asked, curiously as he began to unlock his door, Dick right on his heels. "Shouldn't you be in school?"
"Right." Figures... the Man of Steel thought suspiciously, opening his door and allowing Dick to step in first. "Bruce isn't hiding in here, is he?"
Dick's face brightened at the possible thought of Batman jumping out from behind the couch to scare Superman. "Nah. He's with someone right now. You actually know her. It's just me. So, you're safe." Clark noticed the kid removed his shades as soon as the door had been shut and slipped off his shoes politely at the door. Clark shook his head; he was sure that sort of training had come from Alfred.
"I actually stopped by here to see you," Dick began softly, making his way over towards the blue couch. "I didn't get a chance to talk to you last night."
As soon as those words were uttered Clark felt his throat tighten and his eyes wide. He placed his satchel and jacket down near his side table before briskly making his way over towards the small kitchen. He could feel Dick's baby blues following his every movement, waiting for him to acknowledge his statement. Damn it, Bruce. You just couldn't drop it, Clark thought. You had to bring, Dick into now.
Nervously, Clark reached up and pulled out two mugs. He held them up, an unsure grin on his face. "Tea?"
"Kryptonian tea?" Dick asked hopefully.
Clark gave a large smile. "Only if Earl Grey was from Krypton."
Dick paused in thought before nodding. "Sure."
There was silence again, Clark's mind working a mile a minute, trying to comprehend this situation.
Bruce had to have put Dick up to this. It was bad enough that Bruce had dragged their conversation out last night, somewhere where those sort of conversations shouldn't be held, but now he put Dick up to talking with him. The thought alone tempted Clark to pull out his phone and blow Bruce's ears clean off his head for that. Dick was just a child; he didn't need to be burdened with two older men's quarrels.
"Bruce didn't put me up to this," Dick called over, relaxing comfortably on the couch, smiling like he was some sort of mind reader. He already had found the television remote and was currently blazing through channels. "I wanted to talk to you, y'know? As friends, not some agent."
Well, there went his ideas of bashing Bruce.
"Listen, Dick," Clark began, not really surprised that Dick had been aware of what transpired between him and Bruce. Sometimes Clark thought Bruce had trained his ward almost too well. His large fingers nervously fiddled with his packets of tea. "What happen between Bruce and I last night was—"
"—totally disastrous," the teenager finished for the Man of Steel. Clark's hues widen watching Bruce's boy lift himself up from the comfort of the couch and direct, what appeared to be, a practiced monologue towards him. "You're Superman. The guy more than half of the kids in the world want to be. The guy grown men look up to. That I... look up to..." the young hero added shyly. If one looked closely, you could see the slight pink edge rising in Dick's cheeks.
Setting down the mugs, Clark frowned, his fingers slowly wrapping around his glasses as he pulled them off and got a good view of the kid. There he was, unafraid that he was talking to Superman, sitting up right with a determined grin and a hopeful gleam in his eyes. No, Bruce hadn't put Dick up to this. The man could see that now. Standing before him wasn't just some kid. It was a young man with a mission, an honest goal: to have Superman hear him out.
Clark would grant him that.
"Look, I know that this whole Superboy this is... strange," Dick continued, his face expressing exhaustion on the subject. "It's strange for both of you. But, the Clark Kent I know, the man who taught me to always see the good in others, well, I haven't seen him around lately," the teenager pointed out, sad hues looking glazed up at the older. "And I know when I really needed help, he always offered. There's another kid that really needs it though, more than me now."
It was like a rocket had hit Superman in the face. Not even when he held his conversation Bruce had he felt the wind taken out of him quite like this. Bruce had attacked his responsibilities, his adulthood, but Dick right went to the heart. He attack Clark personally. He attacked the Kryptonian as a living symbol to this planet and to his friends and family; attacked what he stood for.
For a mere boy to have shaken such emotion in Clark, well, needless to say the alien was whelmed. Overwhelmed in fact.
It took Clark a few moments to regain his train of thoughts before Dick came crashing down on him verbally once more. He was sitting on the kitchen counter top now, his small frame so close to Clark's large one. It made the man uneasy. Up close he saw each frown line on Dick's young face, heard the hitch in his breathing, listened to his heart beat faster at the conflict.
"Don't tell me I don't understand, there's no point in it. Yea, I don't have my own clone and no, my privacy has never been violated like that. But, being the last one in my family, if I found out that there was another, from blood or not, I'd want to seek them out, not push them away." Clark saw how that tugged at the kid's heart. How Dick almost looked jealous that Clark's family had grown by one. He was familiar with Dick's background and how terrible it was. But he had seen the good that Bruce had done for the boy, how much the kid had grown through out the years. How the scary and sinister Batman had opened up that rickety old box he called a heart to let a child be spared from the same revenge filled rage he had been hunched over.
Clark envied Bruce's compassion. He truly did. While Superman showed his joy and love on his sleeve, Batman kept his hidden away. Clark Kent was just the opposite. A mild mannered, and often short and simple with people while Bruce Wayne, billionaire extraordinaire was always open and generous, not hiding his love for his ward as they attended charities and parties.
Ironic how their dual identities conflicted with each other like that. Always the opposite of each other.
After several minutes of silence, Clark having resorted back to making tea (his heat vision working nicely to make the tea), he struggled to come up with an answer for the Boy Wonder. But he couldn't. Everything just sounded to cookie-cutter or generic, things that Dick wouldn't fall for. But then it hit Clark; he didn't want to tell lies to the teenager. Not at all, but he wasn't sure how to answer to someone of Dick's caliber. Nothing he would say would allow peace between the two.
At this rate, Clark would have preferred the conversation with Bruce. Dick was far more fickle went it came to things he cherished as important. The silence was finally broken, just as the tea had finished cooling, two gently, steaming, hot mugs resting between the pair of heroes. "Dick... things are complicated," he finally settled on, displeased with how empty it sounded, how 'it's-none-of-your-business' it sounded.
Luckily for the Man of Steel, his conversationalist wasn't easily intimidated by such answers. "Selfishness isn't complicated, Clark," Dick retorted sharply, his fingers delicately grabbing his mug. "It's just fear."
"Who said I was afraid?" the older demanded, arms crossed over his broad chest. It was rather pointless to try and intimidate Dick. He did live with the Batman after all.
"You did every time you pushed Superboy away. He's trying to adjust too," Dick reminded Clark. "And if there's one person on this planet that could really help him, it'd be you."
Clark sighed, nervously picking up his lone glasses and putting them gently in his pocket. "I don't know how to explain this to you, Dick... this whole thing with Superboy—"
"Conner," Dick interrupted, a slick grin on his face. "His name is Conner. He has a secret identity now."
Superboy. No, Conner. Dick had just called the clone Conner. The kid had a name. When had that happened? How did it happen? I mean, Clark wasn't upset that Superboy now had another, more proper name, but why or how or even when had this transpired? Not that it mattered but, there was a small part of the alien that would have liked to have known about that...
A smirk crawled up Dick's face watching Clark's brows twitch. "You would have known if you saw him off on his first day of school."
"He's going to school?" There was no way that would work. The whole school would be in jeopardy with that kid's powers and his often hot-headed temper. Clark knew first hand. Though he had never been as angry as Sup— Conner was, there were times when he had trouble concealing his Kryptonian abilities, especially when he was upset, angered or nervous. Times where he'd ask his mother if he could stay home for the day so others wouldn't be at risk.
"Yup," Dick said briskly, sipping on his tea. "He started just last month. He's doing real well too. Do you have an sugar?" Dick suddenly asked, as if their conversation was as simple as talking about last night's football game.
"He... um, sugar? Yes, one moment." Clark seemed bewildered, reaching behind him and grabbing his container of sugar. He gently handed it over to Dick, who smiled in response, before returning his conversation back towards Conner. "So, he's successfully attending school? I thought you said you were worried about him..."
"I am. I'm worried because he can't control himself," Dick explained flatly. "He's gotten better with Canary's sessions, but those are for combat purposes. Teaching someone how to not break people's faces when ramming your fist into them and how to act completely normal in public are two different courses. Dinah is only really excelling at one of those. I'm sure you can figure out which one," the acrobat added dryly.
"Dinah is a decent teacher. I'm sure she's—"
"—Miss Martian says on Conner's first day she had to mentally remind him to not use his powers several times. He broke a few seats in the bleachers, but she doesn't think anyone thought anything odd of it. Apparently those seats are fragile. But strange things keep happening around him. Eventually people will notice, Clark."
The Kryptonian frowned, his fingers delicately holding onto his mug with ease. That sort of training, of discipline, had taken a lot of hard work. He remembered when his father had to buy new glasses or plates every other month because Clark would break one every now and again. And those types of accidents can only be covered up so easily before people grow suspicious. He recalled accidentally breaking the water fountain once when he was drinking because someone had bumped into him, during gym he broke the basketball just by dribbling it and during a school dance his x-ray vision decided it wanted to work more efficiently... Thank goodness he played most of those off as dumb luck and clumsiness. Most people just rolled their eyes at silly Clark Kent.
"Clark, he's so angry. He needs you to help him. I'd do it myself but I can't reliably bend a truck in half, so, my demonstrations might not have the same effect. I can't really tell him I know how he feels and what I did to manage."
Clark feigned a smile at Dick's light attempt at humor, but his thoughts were drifting elsewhere. Despite his fears of Sup— Conner, if he didn't teach the kid how to handle his powers then innocent people could be hurt in his learning process. But when he had been young, there had been no one to help him. Though the Kents had done their best to help their adoptive son control and contain his gifts, they never truly understood what it was like to wield such power and responsibility.
Just like Bruce. Bruce had no one to comfort him after his parents murder so he turned his life into a crusade to see that no one else suffered. Though Alfred had been at his side, he didn't understand that feeling. And sitting before Clark now was a child Bruce had believed he had failed by not keeping his parents safe and was doing his best to save. Clark thought he had done a good job. Dick, though he would never have a normal childhood, was happy, all things considered. Bruce had given Dick a chance, the chance he was never given.
All Bruce and Dick were asking of Clark was to give Conner that chance.
And all Clark could do was come up with reasons to avoid giving Conner that chance. In reality, it wasn't too much to ask for. But...
He couldn't risk it. He couldn't do it. And though Dick had surely placed a heavy layer of self-condemnation upon the guilty cake Bruce had smothered him with last night, Clark still had to stick by his guns. Superboy hadn't been created to help Superman, not if Cadmus had their sticky fingers involved. No, there was some underlying plot. Clark would not take part in Cadmus' game.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
The soft rap at the door jutted Clark from his thoughts. He looked over towards his door, blinking slowly before he heard Dick slide off the counter top, nimbly running over towards the door. "That's alright, Dick. I'll get it—"
Dick didn't seem to pay any mind to the alien, swiftly opening the door, his youthful smirk dancing back onto his face. Clark raised a brow, tilting over his shoulder to get a better look at who the kid was grinning widely at. Dick greeted them cheerfully, his small form being pulled into a warm embrace by—
"Ma?" Clark stammered out, his eyes wide with confusion and near shock. He nearly dropped his mug, his hues blinking rapidly as his mother, Ma Kent herself, entered his apartment, Dick holding onto her purse and what appeared to be one of her famous (and nicely wrapped) apple pies. And behind her, looking sleek and slick in his designer suit was Bruce himself, taking his sunglasses off casually and slipping them into his breast pocket of his jacket. He, like Dick had done earlier, slipped his shoes off at the door immediately upon entering the house.
"You look a bit taller," Mrs. Kent commented towards Dick, her old but warm smile causing Dick to look hopeful. He was often picked on at school (and occasionally from Wally) about his height. "You'll be as tall as Bruce in no time, dear."
"Hear that?" Dick grinned wickedly towards Bruce who returned his ward's enthusiasm with a sly smile of his own. Bruce kept his face still as Dick scampered over next to him, gently balancing on his tip toes to feel just a bit taller.
Mrs. Kent, after getting her cardigan hung up properly by the door and her suit case delivered to Clark's spare bedroom (Bruce insisted he'd take it), soon beamed towards her son. "Clark!" Ma said happily, her frail frame wrapping around Clark with a layer of love. Clark (who had set down his mug now) returned the hug, his eyes darting up and over towards a returning Bruce and silently demanding a look that read as: 'Why on Earth is my mother here?' Bruce shrewdly glanced back towards his teammate as Dick gave a impish smirk and shook his head.
The Leaguer scowled back at the Dynamic Duo, knowing that he wouldn't get any sort of reasonable answer from them. He'd have to approach this carefully. "Ma," Clark began, pulling back from his hug and politely smiling at his mother. "I didn't know you were coming into town. I didn't get a chance to get anything ready."
"Oh, that's okay," the older woman insisted, patting Clark on the shoulder as she made her way towards the couch. "It was meant to be a surprise. I figured with all the recent surprises I've been getting lately that I could add one to your lap instead."
"Surprises?" the alien inquired, unsure of just what Bruce had told his mother. If only looks could stun... Bruce Wayne would be the very definition of a living statue, Clark grimly thought.
Nodding, Mrs. Kent quickly turned the television off, her wise eyes setting their sights upon the Man of Steel himself, something most villains didn't have the nerve to even dream of. "Yes. I've been waiting for you to tell me about the young man I've seen on the news. The boy calling himself Superboy."
The color in Clark's face seemed to drain.
"I'd like to meet my grandson sometime this century, Clark."
Dick glanced up at Bruce. This was just the beginning.
Author's Note: So, I originally had something totally different for this chapter. But I hated it and rewrote the whole thing and instead had Dick put in his two cents from a friend's point of view. I like to imagine that Dick and Clark have a close friendship or nephew/uncle type of relationship. I often feel that kids can get across things stronger than adults because they're not really worried about hiding their true intentions or trying to argue about different politics among friends. They tell it like it is and how they feel the situation should be handled. They're fickle. All together, I like that better than what I had before, which was Bruce and Dick bring Ma Kent to the Daily Planet and having Clark being super awkward.
The part with Clark asking Dick about tea is actually a four sentence quote from Nightwing #102, page 13, panel 3 between a much older Clark and Dick. I don't own those words, but I love some good Clark and Dick bonding and really thought that would fit in well. :3 Hopefully you guys agree.
And I promise, next chapter is full of Ma Kent picking apart Clark piece by piece in only the way a mother can. If Clark thought Dick and Bruce were bad, sheesh, Ma is a champ. I already started that chapter so hopefully it doesn't take me quite as long to put up. Kinda excited. My first multi-chapter story (that I've actually updated). Can't get the creative juices flowing for Ravaged.
If you could, let me know what you think in a review!