Chapter 17

Acknowledgements: This is the concluding chapter for "What Sacrifices for Survival of the Species." There are areas left open for development into a sequel. I'm also rating this chapter as "M" for violence and I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who read and enjoyed my first fanfic. The reviews and feedback was very stimulating to keep me on track. In addition it opened avenues of thought that I had not explored.

I have read many fanfiction stories over the past few years and have borrowed a few ideas. Unfortunately, I couldn't remember all of the authors so I couldn't always give due credit to that author. If you recognize an idea or theme that I borrowed, please let me know. I will make sure that due credit is given to the original author.

Again, I would like to thank JamesTKent for being the beta for this fiction. Your help James was invaluable.

Disclaimer: I don't own any DC Comics stock and get nothing for my writing. The owners would probably sue me for the damage I've done to their characters. Again, I only own a vivid imagination.

Clark's Home at 4:29AM (0429)

Clark barely slept through the night. The children now slept all night and his mother promised to feed them if they awoke. However he worried about the Presentation rite. Luthor had damaged the AI of Jor-El so much that its hostility toward him was palpable but Clark hoped that the Lara AI was unaffected. He prepared himself emotionally for the confrontation especially his concern about Jason. Kryptonians prided themselves on their 'racial purity' and elevated xenophobia to new heights. Clark was determined that Jason be accepted as his son, his first born despite warnings from both AIs that he would sacrifice dearly for that decision. Remembering back to that fateful evening, Clark pondered on the question he asked the Lara AI and her response.

"If you would live with a mortal, you must become one of them." The Lara AI was so distressed by his decision that she virtually reached across time and space to make sure that he understood the consequences. All he knew was that he loved Lois and willingly gave up his gifts for her. He soon learned the folly of a few nights of ecstasy against the fate of the world. General Zod, Ursa and Non made him realize that Earth needed a champion to protect its people against any agent with intentions to destroy and subjugate. Again he sacrificed to return to the Fortress to find a way to undo his decision. He begged the AI for a reversal of the deconstruction process and never thought that he would need to do it again. After defeating the renegade trio, Clark saw the effects of his dual life on Lois when she could no longer function in her working environment. Wiping her memories was his way to give her peace, a new beginning and prepare her for his exit.

It was then that he resigned himself to leave this planet to find his people. The 2.5 year journey in stasis weakened his body profoundly. Great was his disappointment to find only shattered fragments of his home world. His dreams of acceptance by his people were dashed as he examined the remnants of Rao, Krypton's sun. It was now a dim brown dwarf that shed a miserly poor amount of energy, not enough to re-energize his ship for the return flight. He located Argo City on an asteroid of pure Kryptonite orbiting the dwarf star's remains. With its protective dome shattered, he cried to see the faceless bodies of his people floating in independent orbits with their city. Clark knew without a doubt that he was alone. He mourned the loss of this great civilization as the legends of his people said he must.

He recalled the story of the exchange between the two eternal entities, Despair of the Endless and Rao:

"Think about it, Rao. Wouldn't bringing life onto a planet that is inherently unstable add to the beauty of the life? If at any moment, it could explode...Truly it would only be perfectly beautiful, a perfect piece of art, if one single life-form escaped. To remember, to mourn, to despair.(1)"

Unlike the legend, Clark would not despair. He knew that the ship would not be able to return to Earth since it expended most of its power in flight. So he harnessed the available radioactive Kryptonite to power the ship. The constant exposure for the next 2.5 years further weakened but also sustained him until he crash landed near his mother's farm. He naively thought that he could resume his life on Earth where he left off.

Unknown to him, however, Lois gave birth to a child that was thought to be Richard White's son. After the debacle known as New Krypton, he discovered that Jason White was actually his son. His son but part of another man's family. How could his life become such a mess? Today, he would make everything right. Clark realized that he violated the highest edict of his people when he interfered with human history to save Lois' life. There would be consequences for his actions and he gladly accepted them.

Clark finally climbed out of bed, resigned to do whatever was necessary to get through the day. He heard the babies beginning to awaken. The sun was just rising as he entered the nursery. Brightly colored mobiles hung over each crib and he moved to the first where Karala kicked joyfully, greeting the morning. "Good morning little Miss. How are you this fine morning? It's your Presentation Day. Today, you and your brother will meet your grandfather and grandmother." He picked her up as she gurgled, squealed and kicked in happy anticipation of being fed. Her brother, Jordan was just awakening but he occupied himself with poking a stuffed animal. "Good morning young Master," Clark said to his son. "You're going to be presented too. Both of you will look your best for Jor-El and Lara. So will your big brother, Jason." A shadow passed over his face as he thought about Jason. "Don't worry. I'll protect the three of you." He sat back in his rocking chair as Karala greedily latched on to his breast.

Two hours later

"Clark, are you ready?" Martha called up the stairs. "Ben and I plan to meet Lois, Richard and the children." She carried her winter clothing since it was the height of summer in Metropolis. Ben had pulled the SUV out of the garage and loaded his winter gear. They planned to park the SUV in STAR Labs' underground garage and meet the rest of the party in the lobby. They would be transported to the Watchtower then on to the Fortress.

Clark walked down the steps with a baby carrier in each hand. He was dressed in his altered "suit." "Mom could you and Ben take the children with you? I plan to fly to the Fortress with Batman to make some final preparations.

"Okay son. Take care and we'll see you in a few hours. She kissed his cheek and they placed the children into the SUV. As they drove down the driveway, Bruce drove up. Clark let Bruce into the house and ran back upstairs to finish dressing.

Bruce paced in the living room, wondering how the Fortress AI would react to such a large crowd today. "Come on Boy Scout. You're as slow as can be today I thought that you'd be happy to have this over?"

Clark returned to the living room dressed in heavy winter clothing covering his "suit." He turned grimly to Bruce. "I'm counting on you to keep order today. No matter what happens today, keep everyone in their places. Don't react and don't help me under any circumstances."

"Whoa Big Blue! I thought this would be like a Christening. You make it sound like an execution. You're scaring me and I don't scare easily.

Clark sat down in a chair opposite his friend. "Bruce, I'm telling you this now because it will come out during the Presentation rite. I reached age of majority as reckoned on Krypton. It is my time to claim leadership of the House of El, the major house of Krypton.

"Earth to Clark! Krypton is gone; it no longer exists therefore no great houses, nothing. So what's the problem?"

"To the AI, I am the House of El along with my children. The House of El is alive and well, living on Earth.

"Then we'll celebrate your survival. After all you beat the odds giving birth to the twins. Clark was exasperated. How would he be able to explain to his friend the difference in Kryptonian logic? "Remember when Luthor stole those two nuclear devices?'

"Of course I remember. That loon tried to sink a major portion of California into the Pacific by detonating a nuclear device in the San Andreas Fault. It's a good thing you got there in time to reverse the damage before there were millions of fatalities."

Clark ran his hand through his hair and stood up. "That's what you and everyone on the planet remember but it's not what happened the first time."

Bruce looked at him curiously. "What do you mean the first time? Was there another time?"

Clark knew that he had to explain this quickly and clearly. "I…I.. changed history because I didn't make it in time to rescue Lois. She died in the desert during the earthquake. I didn't accept her death so I willfully violated the prime edict and reversed time so that she survive.

Bruce looked at him incredulously. "If I didn't know what you're capable of doing, I would say that you had lost your mind. But I have seen you use some incredible powers so I believe you. What does that have to do with today?"

"Under Kryptonian law, this violation was a capital offense, punishable by banishment to the Phantom Zone except when certain extenuating life and death conditions existed. The Kryptonians were logical, cold and cerebral. The Jor-El AI is the quintessential Kryptonian. I must seek forgiveness from him and all those affected by my actions. Then I must perform penance before the AI so that I can assume my place as the head of the House of El.

"That doesn't sound so bad. Public confession? What will it make you do, five Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys?"

"Not funny Bruce. It wouldn't be a problem if it was that easy. It could demand that Jason be banished to the Phantom Zone because he should not exist. I just don't know."

"Then cancel everything. You don't need to go through this process if there is a possibility of danger. We could make up some excuse."

"No my friend. The Fortress AI would eventually locate me or Jason and exact its punishment. I must face it but I do have a plan. Let's go and I'll explain it to you along the way." They proceeded to Bruce's car and discussed the strategy to defeat the Jor-El AI on the way to the Bat Jet.

Over The Arctic Circle in the Bat Jet

"Okay pal. You still want to go through with this? said Batman as he maneuvered the Bat Jet toward the Fortress.

"Yes, I must. Open the communication link and I'll transmit the passwords" responded Clark as he looked out the window toward the fast looming Fortress. Once he transmitted the passwords, the Fortress sprang to life; the apex folded back onto itself to allow the Bat Jet to vertically descend to the lowest level.

They climbed out of the jet and ascended long winding stairs to the main level. As Clark approached the dais, the control panel rose from the center granting him access to the Fortress' heating and lighting units.

"Fortress, create four rows of pews in the center hall to duplicate the pews in the Temple of Rao in Kandor." Immediately, the fortress manipulated its crystal technology to create two semi-circular sections of pews each containing two rows that could hold up to forty congregants. A wide aisle divided the two sections, culminating at a wide three step dais. "Next, create two bassinettes, and a high back chair to accommodate a seven-year-old." As requested, three translucent items meeting his request grew from crystals jutting from the walls. He positioned the three items on the first of the three steps leading to the dais.

"Nice, nice. Did the Temple really look like this?" asked Batman as he surveyed the additions that Clark made to the Fortress. He touched the seats and noticed that the crystal was soft and pliable. "The fortress can alter the consistency of the crystals? These pews are soft and warm. It's nothing like anything I've seen in terrestrial churches."

Clark chuckled. "Chalk it up to the comforts of an advanced civilization. According to my mother's archival records, this is a scaled down replica of the temple. My Presentation rite included all the major Houses in Krypton. The assembled congregants numbered in the hundreds. But, getting back to business, I'll signal Watchtower to begin teleportation." It took fifteen minutes for the Watchtower to teleport all of the twenty five invited guests to the Fortress.

The six Justice League representatives surveyed some of the weaponry that Kal-El confiscated and sequestered in the Fortress to prevent its use on vulnerable populations. Professor Hamilton and Dr. Klein occupied themselves with asking complex scientific questions of the Archive. Maria, Ceci and the STAR Labs medical consultants examined some of the exotic Kryptonian medical equipment located in the Fortress. Fr. Leone inspected the layout of the temple replica, comparing it to some of the churches, temples and mosques that he visited across the years. He then located Martha and Ben as they took the twins to the nursery to dress them in their ceremonial garb. Clark found Lois and Richard in the group and asked them to change Jason into his Kryptonian garb for the ceremony. Jason was overjoyed to participate in the ceremony. He skipped to the rooms that replicated the home of Jor-El on Krypton. Clark showed Jason the Nursery and gave him a one-piece translucent silvery white jumpsuit to wear for the ceremony. It was embossed with the crest of the El family. Martha, Ben and Fr. Leone used that room to change Jordan and Karala into two small replicas of the silvery-white jumpsuit both embossed with the El crest. Finally Clark also changed into his equivalent one-piece outfit. He took deep breaths attempting to control his anxiety.

"Ready?" asked the Batman as he eyed Clark in his regal attire. "You look okay but it could use a little black" he smirked.

"I'm as ready as I'll ever be Darth. Let's do this." replied Clark as he walked out of the room. "Fortress, change the lighting to Krypton-red spectrum" he announced.

All of the guests looked at each other as they each glowed with a faint yellow light. The only exception was J'onn J'onzz who glowed green. Wonder Woman stood next to him and was about to say something about his glow. He just smirked, "different DNA."

As the light reddened, Jason glowed faintly orange. "Wow, why am I glowing orange Father?" He asked surveying his hands. Clark replied "it's the Light of Life Jason which indicates your Kryptonian and human heritage. You are very special Jason; your glow is orange because human light is yellow like the sun while the Kryptonian light is red. Jordan, Karala and I will glow red.

Jason smiled and grasped his father's hand. "You have yellow spots in your light Father." Clark looked at his hands; Jason was right. "It's from a gift you gave to me Jason, thank you" as he kissed his son's forehead. "A gift from me?" Jason just looked perplexed.

Martha carried Jordan and Ben carried Karala directly behind Clark and Jason. Both adults wore short yellow capes embossed with a glowing yellow sun. Richard and Lois followed them into the hallway from the Nursery with Richard carrying his sleeping daughter. Lois glanced to the right while egressing through the corridor and caught sight of the room that Clark had just exited. She stopped abruptly and took a deep breath, her eyes blinking in shock.

"This room, I remember this room! Oh my God, I remember!" gasped Lois as suppressed memories returned to her. "It was here. It wasn't a dream." Richard looked confused.

Clark heard her and returned quickly to her side. "Lois, I didn't mean for you to see this place, I'm so very sorry. Do you want to return to Metropolis? I can have Watchtower return you."

"No" she gulped. "I'm okay; I can do this but we need to have a long talk after the ceremony.

"Okay, we're going to move out into the main hall. Are you sure you'll be alright?

"Yes Clark, let's get started." They advanced into the main hall with Clark and Jason at the head of the group.

Clark called out to the AIs, "Father, Mother it is I, Kal-El. I have come as demanded by tradition to present the heirs to the House of El in the presence of the most important people in my life." The lighting of the Fortress dimmed slightly and glowed intensely on the dais. From the glow emerged a man and woman. They wore clothing that appeared to be identical to Kal-El's.

Smiling, the Lara AI stepped forward. "Greetings my son. We are pleased that you survived the births. You must record your experiences for the archive.

"Yes Mother, I will do as you request" responded Kal-El. He then turned to the Jor-El AI. "Father, as you required, I bore two children. My son is Jord-El and my daughter is Rāla Kal-El. They will be raised as siblings." Martha and Ben advanced to the front of the procession placing the infants into the crystal bassinettes.

"Father, I present to you also my elder son, Jos-El." He and Jason bowed deeply to the AIs. Lara smiled but Jor-El scowled. Lara responded, "Welcome my grandson to the House of El.

The Jor-El AI stepped forward. "Kal-El, you were instructed that it is forbidden to interfere with Earth history. Your actions changed history and created this abomination! He should not have life."

Lois stood up prepared to interrupt the exchange but she was stopped by Batman. "Don't" was the only word he uttered so that she alone would hear him. She visibly stiffened but backed down from the confrontation.

Jason tensed but his father squeezed his hand lightly to reassure him. "It's okay son, just sit quietly." Kal-El alone stood before the dais. "Yes Father, Mother and all guests. I violated the prime edict by interfering with human history nine years ago. I reversed time by ten minutes to save the life of my chosen one.

"Where is she, your chosen, my son?" asked Lara gently.

He bowed his head as he answered. "She chose another when I left Earth to locate Krypton. For that I am eternally sorry."

A murmur rose from the guests and Lois could be heard sobbing. Martha buried her face in Ben's shoulder, unable to look at her son in his anguish. Jason looked at his father sadly aware that his mother was upset and things were not going well.

"Kal-El, you are aware of the punishment for this egregious offense. Your life will be forfeit to the Phantom Zone.

"Father, I know I deserve capital punishment for my deeds but my children, your grandchildren, would die from lack of Kryptonian nourishment, the milk my body produces which they need to survive. I request the severest corporal punishment for my transgression.

"My son" said the Lara AI advancing toward him. "Do you know what you ask? Corporal punishment was cruel and barbaric, degrading and humiliating. It was not used for thousands of years before your birth."

"I will bear the punishment to absolve myself, my children and the House of El from the stain of this offense.

"The punishment is thirty lashes with the ionic whip. Are you prepared to accept punishment Kal-El?" said Jor-El dispassionately.

At this point, Kal-El unfastened his jumpsuit and stepped out of it. He was stark naked. The guests responded with a collective gasp. "I stand before you naked and helpless as the day you sent me to Earth. I bare my body to your just punishment."

The crowd erupted in shouts of disbelief to convince Kal-El to refuse the punishment. They all felt that Kal-El was being unjustly punished for an act of love, kindness and compassion. Batman calmed the crowd. "Listen everyone. This must happen. Calm down. If you feel that you cannot witness this event, the Watchtower will teleport you back to Metropolis." The crowd, like an organic being, slowly regained control. Sporadic sobs could be heard from some of the women. Tears rolled down Wonder Woman's cheeks.

Maria Prenden and Ceci sat together in a front pew clenching each other's hands in fear, their eyes filled with unshed tears. Maria whispered to Ceci, "He's going to mess up all the hard work we did to repair him after the births. Ceci nodded in agreement. "Just wait, I'll threaten him with another catheter if this goes badly.

Kal-El knelt on the dais as Jor-El stepped forward with an ionic whip which instantly materialized in his hand. He stood above Kal-El with the whip raised high above his head to lash his son's bare skin. There was a slow count as the whip made connection to Kal-El's skin. The whip did not draw blood until it reached six. Kal-El clenched his teeth and groaned with each blow. He collapsed when the count reached sixteen.

"Jor-El, stop" screamed the Lara AI. "He was already weakened from the births; he no longer has his gifts. Stop this torture now."

"No Mother, Jor-El is correct because I disobeyed the prime edict and the head of the House of El. This must happen" gasped Kal-El between clenched teeth. "Proceed Father."

Jor-El delivered the last fourteen stripes and finally exclaimed "your punishment is complete my son." Kal-El's skin was ripped from his back and bled heavily. By then he lay semi-conscious and motionless with his blood dripping in shallow pools onto the crystal dais.

"Stop you bully" screamed Jason as he ran up to Kal-El and encircled his neck with his arms attempting to protect his father. "Grandparents are good people. They protect children and grandchildren. You're just a mean old bad man." Kal-El looked up weakly at his son with pride.

"Thank you Jason" he mumbled as he shivered with cold and shock.

"I'll help you up" responded Jason exerting strength much greater than a seven-year-old should have. Kal-El stood with Jason's assistance. Holding his clothing in front of him in a vain attempt at modesty, he confronted the AI.

"Father, you delivered your justice now I will mete out my justice. You violated the prime edict the day you sent me to Earth. You interfered with human history the moment my ship landed on this planet. You never thought that anyone would hold you responsible for your actions. I should have died in my mother's arms as millions of Kryptonian children did but you were determined to fulfill the Rao legends. You imposed on me the responsibilities to fulfill the prophecies. I did that and more. Since I have reached the age of majority and purged myself of the offense against the prime edict, I claim my rightful place as the head of the House of El. Now I exact my punishment as the head of the family. You will preserve all memories of my mother's, but you will wipe from your memory knowledge of all events that have occurred since initial activation on Krypton."

The Jor-El AI responded dispassionately. "Your logic was flawless my son. The original offense was mine and cannot be denied or excused. It was done in love but also as an obligation to the people of Rao. You expunged your discretion today by freely accepting the punishment. You can now take your place not only as the head of the House of El and but as titular chancellor of Krypton. I will execute my punishment immediately." The Jor-El stood perfectly still for thirty seconds. No one moved or spoke. "It is done my son. Farewell." The Jor-El AI vanished without a trace leaving the image of Lara standing alone on the dais.

Lara turned to her son. "Your logic was impeccable my son and I am proud of you. Since Jor-El's memory was purged, you are not required to endure any further punishment for violating the prime edict. You are now the head of the House of El but you are also bonded to humanity by your love for your chosen and your children. Your father and I watched as your ship lifted into space and I prayed that you would survive your journey. You have done so and more. Now I wish to join your father. My image will always be with you as a teacher and guide for you and you offspring. Continue to blend the best of Kryptonian DNA with the best of human DNA. You will bring forth a whole new and unique species better than the two species separately. I love you and your offspring forever. " She smiled and extended her hands to her son. Where she touched his head, a thin gold diadem circled his brow. "I bestow on you the badge of office as the head of the House of El and chancellor of Krypton. Farewell." She also vanished without a trace.

The crowd broke out in pandemonium overwhelming the dais. Dr. Foreman yelled "Can we get some blankets for him and I need some antiseptic cleansers and gauze" as he ran to Kal-El's side. "I still have an available room for you if you need it" he whispered. Kal-El smiled weakly.

Ceci looked after the babies while Lois and Richard hugged Jason. Wonder Woman and Martha tried to wrap Clark in blankets they found in the apartment. "Son, at this rate you're going to give me a heart attack with these shenanigans. My life has never been boring since the day I found you but you make me so proud." She kissed his cheek.

Maria exclaimed to him with mock seriousness, "You really know how to make us work. I have half a mind to have you teleported back to STAR Labs." Dr. Foreman made Kal sit while he cleansed his back. He hissed as the antiseptic stung his broken skin.

"J'onn J'onzz kindly had the people at Watchtower teleport some first aid supplies up here. I couldn't find anything in your apartments.

Kal just laughed. "I never thought to keep any of that stuff here. Hopefully I'll never need to do this again."

Batman approached Kal as he received first aid. "Watchtower is ready to bring the guests back. I don't think anyone's up to partying this evening but we can at least feed this crowd. I'll start moving everyone out."

Kal-El replied weakly, "thanks pal. As usual, I owe you."

"Attention everyone, we moving this event to the Watchtower so I'm going to start teleporting in groups of five." Within minutes, the Fortress emptied except for Clark, Batman, Richard, and Lois.

Her face was puffy and tear stained. Richard looked stoic but knew that his relationship with Lois had just taken a whole new turn. Batman initiated the conversation. "Should I stay here with you guys as a referee?"

Richard replied first. "I'll return to the Watchtower and look after the children. I think you two," looking at Lois and Clark, "need to have that conversation."

"I agree," said Batman. "I'll return with Richard. Don't take too long or I'll come back looking for you. Come on Richard, we'll take the Bat Jet. I've added a rocket booster it. We'll get to Watchtower in no time at all" as they walked toward the winding steps leading to the lower levels of the Fortress.

A long silence passed between Lois and Clark. She paced like a caged animal in front of the pews. Clark didn't know what to say but he knew he needed to initiate the conversation. He stood up heavily from the first step of the dais wrapped in three blankets. "I…I guess I should go get dressed" he stuttered.

"You reversed time to save my life? You have that kind of power? I never knew…"

"But that was the point Lois. You were never supposed to know. When I acted I knew it would have consequences. How many people died because of my actions, I'll never know but I do know the good that came from my actions. For two beautiful days and nights I loved you with all of my being and from that love, Jason came into the world." She turned and looked at him with pleading eyes. He walked slowly toward his room. "I'll dress and return in a few minutes.

Lois sat in the first pew waiting for Clark to return. True to his word, he returned fully dressed in heavy winter clothing. It was now her turn. "Please, before we return, we need to talk this through." Lois recounted everything she remembered. They both laughed but they also cried. They were interrupted once by Batman on his communicator who worried about them.

"Come on guys, come back now. Everyone on Watchtower is beginning to wonder about you."

"Okay Darth." Clark uttered the necessary passwords to secure the Fortress. "We're ready. Teleport us back." Within seconds they reappeared in the Watchtower.

They were greeted by the Justice League and most of the Fortress guests. Clark looked and located his children including Jason with Martha, Ben, Fr. Daniel, Maria and Ceci. Wonder Woman conducted herself as the perfect hostess, assuring that everyone ate and was comfortable. Lois looked for Richard who sat by himself in a corner with Joanne. He looked up at her as she approached.

"I'm glad you packed an extra bottle for her. I wasn't sure when you would be back." He busied himself with caring for the baby. Lois sat next to him.

"Nothing happened, Richard. We talked about many things, that's all," Lois replied with downcast eyes.

"I didn't worry about that Lois. After all he was only whipped within an inch of his life less than an hour ago. I can see that as a deterrent to any passionate behavior."

"Rich…" He interrupted her. "How can I hold a candle next to a man who changed history for you? Can't you see that I'll always be second best?"

"Richard, you are my husband, not Clark. When will you finally get that fact through your thick skull? He was then. You are now unless you want to change that situation."

"Lois, Clark is such a gentleman he would not even try to woo you away from me. You were his chosen one and always will be to the day he dies. He'll never have another." Richard looked at Lois intently as tears rolled down her face.

Lois recomposed herself as she saw Jason approach her. "Mommy, Daddy can I stay at Father's house tonight? Grandma Martha and Mr. Ben will be there. I won't be any trouble. Pleaseee?"

Clark approached the couple at the same time. "I told him that he had to ask his parents if he could stay the weekend."

"Of course Clark after all you are more his father than I am," replied Richard as he packed up the baby's bag.

Clark turned to Richard stiffly because of the pain in his back. "Please Richard, Jason has Kryptonian blood from birth but you are the man who wiped his tears as he was growing up. You will always be his daddy." Richard looked up at Clark.

"You're a decent man Clark, thank you. Have a good weekend munchkin. Mommy and I will see you on Monday." Lois got up, kissed Jason and told him to be a good boy.

"If he gives you any problem Clark, we'll come and get him." Lois took Joanne from Richard.

"I think I can handle him" Clark grinned rumpling Jason's hair. "After all, I'd better get used to having three children around." He watched as Lois and Richard teleported back to Metropolis with Joanne.

The party was over and most of the guests returned to Metropolis. Batman and Wonder Woman planned to remain at Watchtower for their scheduled shifts. "I guess everything worked out after all. How do you feel Boy Scout?" Batman asked his friend who carried a sleeping Jason on his shoulder.

"It's a good thing Jor-El aimed for the back; if he aimed for my shoulders I wouldn't be able to carry Jason. I might feel differently tomorrow when I try to sit down.

Martha approached Clark. "Don't worry son. We'll work on that back when we get home. Dr. Foreman gave me some gauze and antiseptic so I can change the dressings tonight. By the way, he said that if you need, you can always return to the rehab for a few days."

"Thanks Mom. I'll rely on you and Ben to get me back in shape to return to work on Monday." They teleported into the STAR Labs garage and secured the children into their car seats. Within thirty minutes the adults carried three sleepy children into the house. As usual Martha and Ben cleaned and dressed the babies in their sleepers. Clark got Jason into a pair of pajamas and settled him into a bed in his own room. He then got out of own clothes and decided to shower. His back stung intensely as the water struck the still raw wounds. Getting out quickly, dried himself and put on a pair of sweat pants with a tee shirt. By time he got downstairs, the tee shirt adhered to his raw wounds.

"Mom, Ben can you put some more of that antiseptic on my back." As usual, Martha was there to help him. She applied the antiseptic and antibiotic cream Dr. Foreman gave to her from the Watchtower's Infirmary and secured the non-adhering dressings with silk tape. When finished, Martha and Ben decided to retire early leaving Clark awake with his thoughts. Preparing a cup of herbal tea, he sat on his back porch looking out at the stars. His back smarted so he took two Acetaminophen tablets, not knowing if they would help. Thoughts raced through his mind.

Sighing, he realized that he was the only one of his species to survive the cataclysm that destroyed his civilization and his father tasked him with the responsibility to lead the people of Earth in the ways of Krypton. However, he was now the master of his fate. Jor-El would no longer influence his decision making. At the behest of the AIs, he sacrificed his gifts to preserve his species without knowing if his powers would ever return. His old way of life vanished the day his children were born. Furthermore, he now had a cadre of friends and supporters willing to preserve his secret and assist him in time of need. He would return to work as a single parent of twins in two days. That would definitely be an adventure he willingly accepted. What other sacrifices would he face, he didn't know but he would do the best he could with or without powers. Time alone would tell.

The End?.. Or maybe a New Beginning

Please review. I have some ideas for a sequel. Let me know if you are interested.

1 Rao in Wikipedia, Sandman: Endless Nights. wiki/Rao_(comics)