Rolling with the punches

Metropolis

Urban Dictionary: type in Courting …

Courting

Dating is for fun. Courting is for marriage.

'Traditionally Courting would include no sexual activity but today that is not usually followed.'

Dating-Relationship-Courting-Engaged-Married.

"Okay, that's not good." Clark mused as he sat in front of his computer. Certain words just seemed to jump out at him on the screen. He'd been trying to finish off an article for the Independent, but his mind was elsewhere. Specifically what did Diana mean when she said there were differences between dating and courting? She seemed to make a point about that and it had him wondering.

He was only 21 and she was just 18. Things had been moving at a nice leisurely mutually acceptable pace between them he'd thought. If he was reading things right, courting seemed like they were skipping a few steps ahead or more accurately, skipping a few leaps and bounds ahead.

Marriage, really?

Clark liked Diana, probably more than any other woman he'd ever met, but the idea of marrying her seemed a bit much at this point. He was just starting out, still getting his feet under him as a hero and a reporter. Hell, he lived in a one bedroom apartment he could barely afford. Marriage? Really?

Okay, let's not get ahead of ourselves and start freaking out about this, he counseled himself. It might just be semantics as to the differences between dating and courting. She was from a different culture after all. Maybe it was a language difference. Some words translate differently into different languages, he thought. Maybe it's like how in some parts of the country they call it soda and in others they call it pop.

Yeah, that seems pretty thin, he had to admit. Okay, what did he really know about Diana? Clark decided to make a list.

She was gorgeous, smart, funny and amazing to be with. Those were all positives.

She was a princess. Okay, that one might be a sticking point, he realized. While she was with him she might just be Diana or even Wonder Woman, but she was always a princess. No real getting away from that one.

He really didn't have a lot of experiences with princesses, other than Diana. Lana had been the Corn Queen their senior year, but that probably wasn't the same thing. Most of what Clark knew about princesses came from television. It always seemed like a big deal when a princess or prince for that matter got engaged. Was that courting? Were there all sorts of rituals and hoops he was going to have to jump through? The more he thought about it, the more Clark had to admit he was starting to freak out a bit about it all.

What the hell was wrong with just dating, he wondered? They were just getting to know each other. Things seemed to be going pretty well so far, why rush it? The image of Diana standing in his bedroom doorway wearing what appeared to be only his tee shirt popped into Clark's head. Okay, some progress forward wouldn't be bad at all in some areas he had to admit. Did she even know how sexy she looked that day, he wondered?

Think with your head, Clark, he chastised himself. Before anything like that can happen, you have to get this whole dating versus courting situation sorted out. Yes, the more time you spend with her the more you want her, but marriage?

Definitely have to get this sorted out.

Clark glanced at his watch and knew he was never going to finish the article. He had to be in Washington in an hour to meet Diana's mother, the Queen. Normally, that would have bothered him more than anything, but this whole courting situation kind of took the sting out of it.

He'd met women's mothers before. Sure not a princess's mother, who happened to be a Queen, but how much different could the process be? He'd be respectful and listen. He'd be honest with her about his feelings towards Diana. Other than that he'd let the chips fall where they may. If she didn't like him, she didn't like him. He wasn't going to try and B.S. her and wind up looking like some sort of douche in the process.

He knew something of the Amazons history, so being honest seemed like the only way to go. She might not believe him, but that was out of his hands. It wasn't like he was trying to date or court or whatever her, the Queen, so he would be straightforward with her. That was the best he could do given the circumstances.

He really needed to sit down with Diana and straighten this whole courting versus dating thing out, though, just so they were both clear on what was going on.


Washington – One Hour Later

Diana was on pins and needles as she paced in front of the back terrace doors. Worried, anxious and nervous were not the usual emotions she experienced. In most situations, Diana felt her success or failure always remained within her own hands. This was the opposite and she found it nerve wracking. She could almost hear the seconds slipping away until the time Clark was supposed to meet her mother, yet he still wasn't here! Diana had specifically asked him to show up fifteen minutes early so she could help him with what to say and not to say with her mother. This was too important and she wanted everything to go right.

If he's late I'm going to kill him, Diana grumbled to herself. She thought she'd made it clear how important this was and just how unusual it was. For the Queen of the Amazons to even want to speak with a man was out of the ordinary. She was doing this because of Diana, her daughter was involved, so he better get here!

Diana turned towards the window and finally saw him land in the garden. He was wearing his cape, tee shirt, jeans and boots and while Diana found him very attractive in them, she sort of wished he'd gotten a little more dressed up. Don't Kryptonians have formal wear she couldn't help wondered? It couldn't be helped now, Diana lamented as she pushed open the doors and went to him.

"You're late, Kal!" Diana immediately said.

"There was a pile up on the interstate, so I stopped to lend a hand,' Clark replied. "Besides, I'm on time to meet your mother."

"Yes thank the Gods, but I wanted to talk to you before you meet her."

"I wanted to talk to you too, Diana,' Clark said. "I was sort of hoping you could explain in a little more detail the differences between…"

Diana was too nervous to wait, so she cut him off. Her hands had been fidgeting at her sides, so to give them something to do she began straightening his cape as she spoke.

"We'll hopefully have time to discuss everything afterwards, but right now you really need to focus on this meeting." Diana turned and saw her mother walking down the hallway towards the terrace and study. "She's coming. Oh, I had a whole list of things I wanted to warn you about, but there's not time. I'll just have to summarize for you, Kal. Don't, I mean don't try and be funny. Please, avoid starting any sentences with the phrases "Well, to be honest' or 'to tell the truth', those are dead giveaways that you're about to lie. Last, but just as important; don't mention sex or nudity, whatever you do. Got it?"

"Nudity? Yours or mine?" He joked. Diana gave him a look that told him she wasn't amused and of course a slap.

"Don't do that."

"Right, neither, got it,' Clark quickly said.

"Welcome to the Themysciran Embassy, Superman, you're right on time,' Hippolyta said as she walked up to them. She stopped and looked from her daughter to Clark.

"It's nice to meet you, your majesty." Clark replied.

"Why don't we go into the study and talk there?' Hippolyta suggested and then gestured for him to follow her. Diana walked along at Clark's side.

"Remember, don't be funny, I mean it,' she whispered.

Hippolyta opened the door and gestured for Clark to enter. Diana started to walk in with him, but her mother stopped her.

"I think Superman can speak for himself, don't you, daughter?" She asked.

"Yes, of course he can,' Diana replied, still trying to get past her mother and into the room. "I just thought since this does have to do with me, I could stay and listen."

"You can wait out in the hallway,' Hippolyta said with a smile.

"But …" Diana tried to protest, even as her mother was closing the door.

"Out in the hallway, Diana,' Hippolyta replied before closing the door all the way. Diana stood for just a moment with her nose pressed against the wood. She didn't swear much, but she had picked up one word from Clark and it came to her mind at this moment.

Shit.


Clark stood looking around at the study. It was obviously decorated with expensive, but good taste. When the door closed he turned to Hippolyta.

"Won't you sit down?' She said.

"Thank you, um, ah, I'm sorry, what am I supposed to call you, ma'am?' Clark asked. "You have several titles, I wasn't sure which one you preferred."

"I am and always have been Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, does that help?" She replied.

"Yes, ma'am." Clark said as he sat down. Okay, so not the best start, he thought.

Hippolyta took a moment to look at Clark. He was obviously a handsome young man, but she had met many young, handsome men since arriving in the outside world. His clothes had a certain utilitarian quality to them and she imagined they would be good for physical work, but overall they seemed rather ordinary. His hands weren't smooth like so many young men she had met, so that indicated he had done work in his life. That was a plus, but it would take more than that for her to be swayed.

Hippolyta had promised Diana she would give him a fair hearing and she would. At first glance she was not impressed. She would see if he had any metal to him or was ultimately just another pretty boy.

"What shall I call you?" She asked. "Superman?"

"If you like,' he offered. "My Kryptonian name is Kal-El."

"Yes, that's right you're not from this world, are you?"

"No, ma'am. I'm originally from the planet Krypton, but it's no more."

"What can you tell me about this planet Krypton?" She asked.

"I'm afraid not much,' Clark admitted. "I left it as an infant and have lived most of my life on Earth."

"And you biological parents?"

"Just their names, Lara and Jor-El,' Clark replied.

"So you're an orphan."

"Yes, ma'am."

"What of your adopted parents here on Earth?" she asked.

"They've passed away."

"And you want to court my daughter,' Hippolyta continued. "Why should I allow this, Kal-El?"

"How do you mean?" Clark asked.

"Let's speak bluntly, shall we?" Hippolyta said.

"By all means,' Clark replied.

"My daughter is a beautiful young woman with her whole life ahead of her,' Hippolyta explained. "She is a princess, heir to the royal house of the Amazons and their champion. She is going to be an ambassador to the world. She has so much to offer and what do you offer in return, Kal-El? You're a penniless orphan from another world, who is feared and loathed by many on this world. I'm to understand you're a fugitive from the military and government of not just this country but wanted by others as well. Quite frankly, you're an anchor to my daughter and I see no reason to allow you to pull her down with you."

Clark sat and listened to every word. He had come here because it seemed like the thing to do if he was going to have a relationship with Diana. He was fully prepared to discuss why he liked Diana and his intentions towards her. What he wasn't expecting was what he'd just gotten. Diana's mother had just dismissed him in so many words as not good enough or even worthy of her daughter.

While Clark was born on Krypton, he was raised in the Midwest. He had many of the traits associated with that part of the United States. He could be amiable, easy going and a bit conservative, but like most people from that part of the country the things that he didn't stand for were being dismissed or talked down to. He could be just as blunt and plain spoken as the next man when he was challenged.

"Since we're being blunt, ma'am, I don't give a damn whether Diana is a princess or not,' Clark replied. "I know it's part of her heritage and I respect that, but that isn't why l care for her. You mentioned I'm penniless. Yes, I'm poor, but I work for the money I have. I proud of that and while I don't remember much of my Kryptonian heritage, I do remember everything about my Midwest upbringing. Both my Earth parents taught me I had to earn my way in this world. If what you want for your daughter is someone rich so she can live in the lap of luxury and never have to work for anything, you're right, I'm not the man for her."

Clark stopped at this point. He'd said more than he meant to, but he felt he needed to defend himself, not just for him but for those that raised him and everyone like them. He also realized he was going to have to fight for Diana if he wanted to be with her. He realized as he was talking that was something he wanted to do, fight for her.

"There's still the matter of you being a fugitive,' Hippolyta pointed out. She liked his rising to her challenge, but wasn't going to make it easy for him.

"Yes, there is,' Clark acknowledged. "Some believe I'm the first wave of an alien invasion. I'm not. The world I was born on is gone. The governments and especially the military believe I'm a threat. I've broken no laws, yet I've been imprisoned, tortured, experimented on and treated worse than any being should be. Again, I've broken no law, but I will defend myself. I hope the people will one day judge me by my acts and not by their fears, but that won't stop me from doing what I'm doing."

"Diana being associated with you could turn those same people against her,' Hippolyta stated.

"I would never wish that,' Clark admitted. "When she came to my rescue it was for her own reasons. I believe she chose to stand up against injustice when she saw it. I admire her for that and would never ask her not to do what she felt was right. Her moral compass is one of the many things I like about her."

"Yet you keep secrets, Kal-El, don't you? One has to wonder about a man that keeps secrets, whether what he says is the truth or just part of the truth,' Hippolyta said. "You have another name, another secret identity with which you hide in plain sight. Tell me who you are and perhaps I will agree to let you continue seeing my daughter."

Clark looked down at his hands, slowly rubbing them together. She was giving him a choice, but it was really no choice at all.

"I can't do that, ma'am."

"Why? You told Diana who you were, didn't you?"

"Yes, but she gave her word not to reveal it,' Clark replied. "I'm not keeping it a secret idly, ma'am, it's to protect those that know me. As you said I'm thought of as a fugitive. If it was known who I was, some might go after those that are close to me and have been good to me. I can't ask them to take risk."

"Diana gave her word, what if I gave you my word?" Hippolyta asked.

"Diana told me you taught her that a person's word is their bond and I believe that too, ma'am. That's what my adopted parents believed and taught me,' Clark said. "They also taught me that trust is a two way street. I care deeply for your daughter. I would never try to change her or force her to do something she wasn't ready for or didn't want to do. I like her for who she is and want to get to know all of her, good and bad and hopefully let her get to know me too. I'm not like the men that committed the crimes against the Amazons, ma'am. I give my word on all I have just said. Can you accept my word?"

Hippolyta sat back considering what he'd just said. He had been passionate in his own defense and his words rang truth about his feelings towards Diana. The problem was she had trusted men before and that had disastrous consequences. In many ways the stakes were even higher this time, as it involved her own flesh and blood, her only child, Diana. It was a dangerous road to navigate. It meant going against everything she had believed for all these years and taking this young man at his word. Hippolyta had been a diplomat of one sort or another most of her life so she knew she could take his word, yet still have an out. She could still forbid him from courting Diana. It wasn't exactly in the spirit, but more the letter that she would be agreeing to. It would also test him one more time.

"Yes, I will accept your word,' she finally said.

"My name is Clark Kent,' he replied.

It suddenly all fell into place before her eyes. Hippolyta couldn't believe she'd missed it. That a pair of glasses could fool so many was almost beyond belief but then she realized people weren't looking for Superman down among them, but above and it all made some sort of sense.

"The young man at the party,' she said. "You danced with Diana."

"Yes."

"You have my word, Kal-El, I will not reveal your secret."


The time seemed to drag on forever, as Diana paced the hallway outside the study. She couldn't bring herself to listen; afraid of hearing something she didn't want to hear. She thought she heard Clark raise his voice and inwardly groaned, taking that as a bad sign. She finally finds someone she wants to have a relationship with and he screws it up. He probably tried being funny, she fumed.

The door to the study opened and Diana held her breath. Hippolyta came out followed by Clark.

"Well?" Diana asked.

Hippolyta looked at Clark and then turned back to her daughter.

"I will allow you two to continue,' she said. "For now."

"Thank you, mother!" Diana happily said, hugging her mother.

"I said for now, Diana,' Hippolyta replied, but she returned her daughter's embrace.

When they finally pulled apart, Hippolyta turned to Clark.

"Don't make me regret this decision, Kal-El, or I promise you will regret it for the rest of your life."

"Yes ma'am."

With a long look into his eyes, Hippolyta finally turned and went back into the study, closing the door behind her. It had barely closed when Diana launched herself into Clark's arms and kissed him.

"Oh, I was so worried," she gasped between kisses. "I was sure you'd blown it."

"Gee, thanks, Diana,' Clark said with a chuckle. He didn't stop kissing her though.

They finally pulled apart and Diana was beaming.

"So it's official, we're courting!" She happily said.

"Um, about that,' Clark ventured. "I wanted to talk to you earlier about it, but there wasn't time. You said there were some differences between courting and dating earlier. I looked up courting and just so we're clear, courting doesn't mean we're getting married does it?"

Diana took a step back from him and gave him a confused look.

"Married? I'm 18, Kal, who said anything about getting married?"

"The Urban Dictionary? Ah, just so we're clear, what did you mean, Diana?"

He felt more nervous now than he had with Hippolyta.

"Courting means we're in a relationship now," Diana explained. "We've already been on some dates, so we're moving on. Why would you jump straight to getting married?"

"Your Amazon culture? I don't know, it's just what I read,' he lamely offered.

"What does my culture have to do with it? Look, it just means we're in a relationship, an exclusive relationship so no being a wingman for anyone, understood?"

"Got it,' He quickly replied.

Diana blushed a little as she spoke the next sentence.

"it also means we get to know each other better and perhaps even … sex."

"Oh really?" Now Clark was smiling. He took a step towards her, but Diana put her hand up to stop him.

"Not here, Kal! We're in the middle of the Embassy and my mother is in the next room!"

"Right, right, sorry, I got carried away there for a second," Clark offered as he took a step back. For some reason the image of himself in a car came to mind. The light turned green and hit the gas pedal, it immediately turned red again and he was forced to slam on the brakes. He gave his head a shake to get rid of the image and turned his focus back to Diana. "I'm sorry, you were saying?"

"I need to deal with a situation first before anything can happen," she said.

"Trevor,' he ventured.

"Yes. I care about Steve and he's been a very good friend to me,' Diana explained. "I want to talk to him and explain things before, well, you know."

"Okay, I understand, no problem."

Diana smiled and moved a little closer to Clark.

"It won't be that long a wait, Kal,' she whispered. He smiled, but didn't reply. In his mind he was thinking that depends on your point of view, but he would give her the time she needed.


Metropolis – Later

Clark had flown home and changed. He was walking back to his apartment still going over everything that had happened. Frankly it had gone much better than he'd imagined it would. Maybe things were turning up for him, he thought with a smile as he headed up the stairs to his apartment. He turned the key in his lock and as he opened the door he immediately knew someone was in his room.

"Come in, close the door,' a voice said from the shadows.

Clark slowly closed the door and stood waiting.

"You and your girlfriend were in Gotham recently, Mr. Kent or should I say Superman? Why?"

Batman, Clark immediately realized as he looked at the dark figure in his room.

"Well?" Batman demanded. "What do you have to say?"

Clark smiled and held out his hand.

"Hi."

At first Batman didn't seem to know what to do, but hesitantly he took Clark's hand and shook it.

"Um, hi."