Seriously, y'all crack me up. The suspense of another cliffhanger chapter was a bit much, methinks. Sorry I didn't update last night...I was busy writing the prequel ;)
Claire saw Mayor Leonard point his gun at her head. She was too terrified to move.
"No!" Dad shouted.
"BOOM!" went Mayor Leonard's gun.
"BANG!" went Mom's pistol.
Claire felt the bullet zip through her damp curls, stirred by a breeze away from her head. She saw Leonard press his hand to his chest. Lights were coming on all down the street; the people living in the townhouses all around them were waking up, startled by the gunshots and brawling. In the growing light, Claire saw something dark and wet trickle through Leonard's fingers.
Dad, within inches of slamming into Leonard by the time Mom fired, caught the mayor and carefully lowered him to the street. Mom pulled Claire against her and held her close, turning her away from the sight. Claire realized her mother trembled from head to foot.
"Are you all right?" Mom asked shakily, pressing her hands against Claire's head as if searching for any wounds.
"I'm okay," Claire whispered. She tried to look over her shoulder. Dad was standing up; Leonard was very still. Closer to the Cadillac, Mr. Wayne gave one of the ruffians a hard kick in the stomach and surveyed his captives-all alive, but either unconscious, stunned, or cowering.
He and Dad exchanged a single look. Dad nodded, and Mr. Wayne pulled a length of slender, strong rope from one of the compartments in his belt. He began tying the conscious men together, even collecting the quaking DiMaggio from behind his trashcan and pairing him up with one of the groggy suited men.
From the surrounding homes, men and women in their pajamas hurried to investigate and, once they'd taken in the situation, to help or call the police. Dad quickly moved towards Mom and Claire. He still looked pale, Claire thought, and he was breathing hard-unusual for him-but he looked so much better than he did the last time she saw him.
"He's dead," he whispered, pulling both of them. "Are you all right?"
Mom drew a shuddering breath; she was trying hard not to cry. "I thought you were dead . . ."
"No, I'm going to be fine. Claire saw to that."
"I didn't know what to do! I had to protect her-I had to-"
"And any mother would've done what you did," Dad said, looking her in the eye. "He had to have seen you aim at him, he knew he was pushing his luck. It's all right, I promise."
Claire grabbed his hand. "How did you get better so fast?"
Dad smiled. "The sun. I told you it was the only antidote."
"You went into space?"
"No, I just went and found the dawn." Dad glanced around at the wakening neighborhood and turned to Mom. "Wait until the police get here and you can tell them everything that happened. I may be here a while. When you get free, take Claire back to your mother's-"
"My mother's?" Mom asked, shocked.
"-and stay there until I can pick you up," Dad finished. He drew away from them, giving Mom's hand a squeeze and Claire a gentle ruffle of her curls, then turned back to face the now-quiet battlefield.
Before long, the National Guard and state police-but not Leonard's corrupt city police-arrived. The sight of the two leaders of the famed Justice League standing guard over the bruised, bloodied ruffians was good enough for them; the sight of a dead Leonard, however, was a shock.
Claire, exhausted by this point and only half-aware of her surroundings, sat on the curb while the police took Mom's story. Mom spoke confidently and gave the facts as concisely as if she'd observed it all from a safe vantage point, and not as one of the victims.
One of the officers even came to Claire, squatting down to her level with a notepad, and questioned her for a few minutes. She didn't like it; her heart pounded the whole time and she spoke slowly, trying not give away anything about her dad and yet sure the officer must think her an idiot. She was glad when he smiled, thanked her, and offered to give her and Mom a ride away from the scene.
By dawn, the mayor's home was surrounded. Leonard's study was raided and the contents delivered to the FBI. His plot with DiMaggio to take over the city was discovered and thoroughly investigated; Leonard's cronies were removed and replaced, eventually, by honest men. Thanks to Superman's efforts at the State Capitol before his attention was diverted by Lois Lane's kidnapping, the governor and many members of the legislature were indeed rescued from the ruins of the State Capitol. Some semblance of stability slowly returned to Metropolis.
Adrienne Leonard was questioned by the state police, though she really had no information to give other than a description of what she'd witnessed in the basement. No friend was there to comfort her when they told her that her father was dead, or how he died. An aunt was sent for; she picked Adrienne up and took her to her own home not far from the Leonards'.
A couple of days later-a Saturday-her aunt's doorbell rang. Adrienne was in the living room, sitting on a window seat with her leg propped up, thinking long and hard about her father's betrayal-because what else could you call it when your father pretended to be one kind of person and then died because he tried to be a murderer?-when her aunt walked in and said, "Adrienne, you have a visitor."
Adrienne almost fell off the seat. There, dressed in a baby-pink shirt and neat blue jeans, her dark curls pulled up in a bouncy ponytail, stood Claire Kent. Adrienne's aunt left them alone and Claire stepped forward.
She looked-and felt-very unsure of herself, so different from the urgent black-clad figure that had startled Adrienne in the hallway the other night. Her hands clasped and unclasped nervously.
"Adrienne? I-I couldn't stay away-we found out where you'd gone-I had to come and see you."
Adrienne took a deep breath. Part of her-the part that still clung to her old ways-knew she should hate Claire Kent. Lois Lane had killed Adrienne's father, after all. But if what the police said was true-and after what she'd seen in the basement, how could she doubt it?-then her father had tried to kill Claire herself . . . and Miss Lane . . . and Superman . . . and everybody in the State Capitol.
How could she hate Claire Kent?
Adrienne choked and held out her hand. Claire gently took it.
"I'm sorry," Adrienne whispered. "You don't know how sorry I am. They told me everything about my father . . . you could've been killed . . ."
"Don't go there, Adrienne," Claire begged. "I really didn't come here to talk about that part of it. I wanted to thank you for helping me in the basement. You didn't have to. Even if you didn't want to turn me in you could've left me to fend for myself. I couldn't have gotten my mom free if it hadn't been for you."
Adrienne tried to smile and wiped her eyes. "I was so scared when Mr. DiMaggio saw you sneaking out. I was afraid they'd catch you. I don't think my dad realized I'd been distracting him on purpose. I'm glad now that he didn't."
Claire patted her shoulder, and Adrienne found that more comforting than any of the awkward things her aunt and uncle had said to her since she came here.
"I'll come visit you again, if you'd like," Claire said softly. "My mom wants to see you at some point, too. It doesn't have to be anytime soon-she'd understand-"
Adrienne gulped, shook her head. "No, no, I want her to come. If you're anything like her, she must be lovely. I-I don't hold it against her, if you know what I mean."
Claire nodded. "I can't stay long today. My grandmother brought me here, but she has another appointment and has to bring me back to my parents' office before she goes. She's parked outside."
Adrienne's eyes widened. "Your grandmother's Ms. Sarkowski, right? I've met her before. She and-and my dad-they knew each other."
"Yes, I met your dad for the first time at Grandmother's. Last Thanksgiving. That seems like a long time ago."
Adrienne sighed. "Well, anyway . . . what's it like having her for a grandmother?"
Claire lifted one dark eyebrow with a smirk. "I think it just might start getting easier. She and my Mom are, well . . . I think they might get along a little better now that Mom knows Grandmother let me help Superman and Grandmother knows Superman isn't so bad after all."
Adrienne smiled. "I could've told her that."
Claire giggled. She glanced out the window, must've seen her grandmother signalling for her to hurry. "I'd better go. I'll come and see you next week, okay? And I'll bring my mom, if your aunt and uncle don't mind."
"They won't, and neither will I," Adrienne said quietly. "And bring your dad. I'd like to meet him, too."
Claire, giving her a sideways hug, laughed-a merry, tinkling sound. "Oh, I don't know . . . you might find him kind of boring."
"I'd still like to meet him," Adrienne said in earnest. "Be thankful you have a daddy, Claire-and a nice one."
Claire's pretty little face softened. She nodded, rubbed Adrienne's arm without a word, and with a parting smile hurried outside. Adrienne watched her skipping down the front walk towards her grandmother's car and found herself eager for the day when she could run and jump and play with Claire Kent.
"How was Adrienne?" Grandmother asked when Claire got into the car.
"Much better than I'd expected," Claire said, buckling her seat belt. "She's not mad at me and she's not mad at Mom. In fact, she wants to meet Mom. I figure that's a good sign. Mom could really cheer her up, don't you think?"
"As much as the woman who killed her father could possibly cheer her," Grandmother said dryly. "Not that I fault Lois for it-I'd rip off the head of any man who tried to harm you, Martha Claire-but I still can hardly believe a man like William Leonard was capable of trying to take over Metropolis."
Claire decided to keep her mouth shut. Grandmother kept talking.
"I suppose Superman and Catman-"
"Batman, Grandmother, Batman," Claire corrected.
"Batman, Fatman, Catman-it all runs together," Grandmother muttered-but she laughed a little at herself. "Anyway, I suppose they do come in handy-sometimes."
"Oh come on, Grandmother, where's your sense of adventure?" Claire teased.
"Smothered in my sense of practicality," Grandmother retorted.
Claire just threw her head back and laughed, and to her delight, Grandmother's prim mouth with its bright-red lipstick puckered in a suppressed smile.
Grandmother dropped her off at the Daily Planet office; for the thousandth time in her life, with her laptop bag slung over her shoulder, Claire made the familiar trek up to the bull-pen. She found her parents in Dad's cubicle; Mom leaned over Dad's shoulder, pointing at something on his laptop screen and half-scolding him.
"No, no, no, you've got to download this driver, not that one, and you've got to make sure . . . hold on a minute, Clark, what operating system do you even have on this dinosaur?"
"I don't know-some kind of cat. Lion? Mountain Lion?" Dad turned his laptop over with genuine confusion. He wasn't playing a part right now, that was for sure. "I hate computers."
"Hi there!" Claire said, peeking over the top of the cubicle. "You've got Lion, Dad."
He grinned at her. "Thanks, Smarty-Pants."
"Did you see Adrienne?" Mom asked, pushing Dad's hands off the keyboard and doing the technical work herself.
"Yes, ma'am," Claire said with a cheerful nod. "She's going to be all right. She wants to see both of you."
"Wonderful," Mom said, smiling with clear relief. She pressed a button and drew back from the computer with her hands on her hips. "There you go, Mr. Kent. Now plug in that printer and you're all set."
"Just a minute," Dad said. He reached into his pocket and handed a slip of paper to Claire. "A little something for you, Miss Claire. Go read it in your mother's cubicle."
Claire took it, puzzled, caught a flicker merriment in his blue eyes. She held the folded paper in her palm until she and Mom got to the cubicle, then sat down in her usual corner and unfolded the paper.
To Miss Martha C. Kent,
In recognition for your outstanding bravery this past week, your relationship with our leader, and your interesting potential, you are invited to our next meeting-provided you don't breathe a WORD about it to ANYBODY (except the greatly-respected Mrs. Clark Kent AKA Ms. Lois Lane) and you don't reveal the location of the Bat Cave. EVER. I'm very particular about that last detail.
Senior Member of the JLA
P.S. Tell your father he's not allowed to brag on you EXCESSIVELY, or we'll kick him out.
Claire let out a squeal and quickly clapped both hands over her mouth. Mom slowly turned in her swivel chair and dropped her chin in her hand with a look of fake nonchalance.
"What are you yelping about?" she asked, smiling mischievously.
"Nothing," Claire whispered, giggling behind her hands. "Nothing at all."
"Mm-hmm." Mom scooted her chair forward and snatched the paper out of Claire's hand. She skimmed it, eyebrows raised. A real, warm smile washed over her face.
"Well, the girl of two worlds deserves no less," she whispered.
And there you have it! Whooo-hooo! I went back and forth with possible scenarios for the battle's end, but finally decided Lois needed her heroic moment in defending her daughter. She found herself in the same place as Clark did with General Zod. And as you can see I left a little room for a possible sequel! Who knows . . . it's an idea I might fiddle with in the future.
But for now, I'm hard at work on the prequel. Some fun things I'm exploring: Lois' relationship with her mother, Clark's first meeting with Bruce Wayne (though I'm not going very deep at all into Batman vs. Superman territory, I'll leave that to Snyder and Co.), Martha and Lois' friendship, and, of course, Baby Claire. And I thought of something else the other day that sent the plot bunnies on a rampage: what ever ended up happening to that creep Woodburn? You know, the journalist who threw Lois under the bus and told the whole world she probably knew who Kal-El really was? What if Woodburn (with his nosy ways) posed a threat to Clark's secret? Not a threat like Leonard, of course, but snoops like him could make Clark and Lois' life very difficult, don't you think? Hmmm...
Anyway, thank y'all soooooo much for all the reviews and kind words, and I hope to start posting here again very soon!