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Revelations: Chapter Twenty-Four

October 11th, 2010 (12:50 am)
nervous

I'm feeling: nervous

A/N: Sorry for the lateness, for those that haven't heard, my city was recently hit by a large earthquake and the clean-up and repairs to our house have taken a while. Thankfully, through a combinations of luck, timing, luck, building codes, luck, readiness and more luck, no one was killed and everyone I know was unhurt though several of my neighbour lost their houses and our house was damaged too. If you want more info, this is the wiki entry on the quake and this is the post at ES.c with pictures of the damage to my house.

I have to apologise also, if this chapter seems strange, half was written pre-earthquake and half was written post-quake. As it was an incredibly stressful event I can't help be afraid my writing style changed slightly, in fact there were several things taken out of this chapter because I couldn't remember what had been happening. So I'm really sorry if it's noticeable, though my beta thinks it's post-worthy. Next chapter is entirely post-quake though, so it should be better.

I have also never gone to Harvard Law School and never been accused of cheating on any exam using x-ray vision so I must also ask for suspension of disbelief if I get something wrong in that respect- but I can imagine dealing with a situation like Sophie Kent's would be unique and therefore require a unique solution.

Chapter Twenty-Four: Never Again

--

"Andrew Summers?"

Andy barely glanced over his shoulder at whoever had spoken, continuing to check his e-mails on his phone and asking distractedly. "And what's it to you?"

"You work at the Daily Planet don't you?"

"Oh, look," he snapped, turning around, "I hardly worked with him, and yes, I do feel like and idiot, I was fooled by a pair of glasses, ha ha ha, now piss off," he said sharply, ignoring the fact that the smartly dressed man who'd spoken seemed wholly unaffected by his words.

"Oh, believe me, I know you're not an idiot," the man told him, looking understanding, "almost the whole world was fooled by those glasses. No, I just wanted to make you an offer."

Andy frowned. "An offer?"

"Let's sit down," the man said smoothly, smiling as he placed a hand on Andy's shoulder and directed them to a nearby café.

"I believe you're the one who's been providing the Inquisitor with what I believe, is very accurate information on the Kent family?" The man asked, after paying for the drinks and choosing a table far in the corner.

Andy's head snapped up and all of a sudden he felt very uncomfortable. "Did Lois send you?" he asked, pushing his chair back ever so slightly so that if he needed to he could be up and away faster.

"Lois? Lois Lane Kent?" the man looked surprised but he could have just been a good actor. "No, not at all," he assured him.

"Long black and a large flat white?" the waitress chimed in cheerfully, blissfully unaware of the tone of the conversation between the two men.

"Thank you," the suited man opposite Andy replied, giving the girl a charming smile that made her cheeks flush ever so slightly. "Now, Mr. Summers, we are going to cut straight to the chase- you have access to information about the Kent family that could be of… a certain use to me and I would like to request exclusive access to it."

"What sort of use?" Andy asked warily, "I know-"

"I wish no harm upon the Kent family," the man interrupted him smoothly, he seemed truthful but the wording seemed odd to a trained journalist like Andy. It wasn't that no harm would happen to them, only that he didn't want it. That left plenty of loopholes.

"Really?" he asked sceptically. "Look, I may not like Clark for what he did, and I may hide it well, but I was sorry to hear his daughter got attacked and I don't really want them to get hurt. I just…" he frowned, "believe that the public has a right to know certain things," he finished carefully.

"Oh, Mr. Summers, please." The man shook his head. "Don't insult my intelligence. We're both sensible men here. The more you give the public, the greater danger the Kents are in, and really, I'm well aware that there is one thing that-" he pulled out a roll of notes from his pocket and, with his arm obscuring them from anyone else's view proceeded to punctuate each word by laying a hundred dollar note in front of him "-holds. Sway. Over. Us. All."

Five hundred dollars, a hundred more than the Inquisitor was paying… and if he didn't tell his cousin about the little increase- perhaps he could be keeping a bit more than 50% for himself.

"Before you become concerned," the man, whose name Andy still didn't know, told him in a reassuring tone, "I won't be placing the Kents in any danger from the public with the information you provide. In fact, I'll be protecting them, wouldn't you say?"

"I…" Andy started, but the sentence hadn't really been going anyway and he was trying to count how many more notes were in the roll the other man was holding.

"The conditions are these," the man continued, "I pay a sum of your choosing for each piece of information your cousin is able to provide, and no paper in Metropolis gets to see any of it before I say so. That way, if any information would put the Kents in danger, they'll be no way for your average thief, like the one who attacked dear Eleanor Kent, to get his hands on it and you still get to keep making money."

"My cousin?" Andy felt his heart quicken again, ignoring the very tempting deal being proposed for the moment, his mind overridden by fear for his family, this man was obviously dangerous. "How-"

"I had to make sure your source really did know one of the children," the man cut across him smoothly, "but I came to you because within the next month I will require several specific pieces of information, and I do believe you'd be better suited to asking her to procure those than a complete stranger of the street, wouldn't you say?"

"What do you need specific pieces of information for?" Andy asked warily.

The man responded by placing a further fifteen bills on the table. Two thousand dollars. "A token of good faith," he explained, "for the information we've already got from your contribution to the Inquisitor." Andy picked it up and put it inside his jacket before anyone else saw.

"If we're going to be doing business," he said, "I should at least know your name."

"Call me Smith," the other man said, smiling. "Now, how much did you say you wanted for each piece of information?" he asked, pulling out another roll of hundreds.

--

"Honey, I'm home," Sophie called, stepping though the window of her apartment and joining Dani in the living room.

She didn't seem startled, which somewhat impressed her. Instead she just turned around and raised an eyebrow at her roommate who'd just dropped from the sky in black leggings, old green combat boots, red skirt and a blue T-shirt with the symbol for the House of El on it.

"You look like a twelve year old cosplaying as your Dad," Dani informed her, before returning to whatever it was she was doing at her laptop.

Sophie laughed. "This is how I used to imagine my super-suit would look like when I was twelve," she admitted, "I lost the red towel I'd tie around my neck though. Until I find something proper that doesn't rip every time I break the sound barrier, this will have to do."

Dani laughed, "Towel or no, you can't meet the Dean like that."

"I wasn't going to," Sophie assured her, rolling her eyes, going into her room and coming out a second later dressed far more sharply and appropriately. She quickly put her hair up and scanned the apartment to locate her shoes, finding them under the sofa. "Besides," she added, "once I graduate, there's no way anyone will take me seriously as a lawyer if I fly around like this."

"Oh, and speaking of you needing a proper superhero outfit- I might have something, well someone, who could help," Dani told her, not even blinking as Sophie lifted up the sofa with one hand and slipped on the heels.

"You do?"

"Remember my cousin, Wolfgang?"

Sophie raised an eyebrow, "How could I forget?"

"That name's not as funny in Germany," Dani told her, attempting to frown disapprovingly but not quite managing it. "And he called me last night, turns out the lab he works in is in the process of developing some type of super-strong fabric or something. Lightweight, flame resistant and practically bullet-proof- not that you need it- but at least it wouldn't rip."

Sophie straightened up slowly. "You know, that does sound interesting. What's the catch?"

"Field testing," Dani told her simply. "They can run all the lab tests the want but until they have someone actually using it in real situations there's never absolute certainty about what it can and can't do."

"So: marketing," Sophie summarised for her. There was always a catch.

"You won't be wearing a logo or anything," her friend assured her, "but they will probably want people to know it was their lab that made it."

Sophie frowned, adjusting her hair in the mirror. She'd have to ask her Dad how he managed to keep his so perfect looking after super-sonic flights. "I just don't think we're ready to jump into endorsement deals right now."

"It's not really endorsement," Dani tried to assure her, "maybe I put it wrong. Look, you need some sort of superhero suit if you're going to keep doing this… hero-y stuff," she said, waving her hand at the muted TV, showing pictures of Jason lifting up the wall of a collapsed building to help a man out of the rubble. "It's going to get very expensive otherwise."

Sophie couldn't argue there, she'd lost two perfectly good jackets in the past week and three pairs of shoes, until she'd stumbled across the old, but surprisingly durable combat boots her Grandpa Lane had given her before his death, those she might keep flying in. "I don't know," she said again, "we haven't really talked about this kinda of stuff yet."

"I spoke to him for like five minutes," Dani said, "so maybe I did get a bit of the wrong idea. Besides, Jason does tons of endorsements," she added as an afterthought.

"No, Jason Kent, TV star and host of BreakOut does endorsements," Sophie corrected her, "Jason Kent, son of Superman doesn't."

"He does now that they're the same person," Dani informed her, a tad more sharply than her usual tone before shrugging. "You know, we're either going to have to move or get another roommate," she said, changing the subject, seemingly accepting that although her last statement was very, uncomfortably true, the matter was better left for another time, "Natalie may have been a lying, stealing whore whose first instinct when something happens to a friend is to see how she can get money out of it, but," she sighed, doing up her own hair, "she did pay a third of the rent and I can't afford half a week anymore."

"I thought dear old Uncle Hans would take care of that," Sophie teased lightly, trying to dispel some of the seriousness and her nerves about the impending discussions regarding her future.

"I wish," Dani sighed, pouting, "but apparently just because he worked his own way out of nothing to become a multi-freaking-millionaire bank owner he thinks I need experience at paying my own way for a while."

"Well, it does build character."

"Shut up little Miss scholarship," Dani grumbled, "but anyway I say we move. I'm getting sick of random calls from TV stations and people we haven't seen for years just deciding to drop by."

"Sounds like the best idea," Sophie agreed, "but I'd like to get this over and done with before we start stressing about that."

"Are we going to talk about Natalie at all though?" Dani asked. "I thought you liked her and now she went and kinda stabbed you in the back."

Sophie frowned. "I don't know…" she admitted, "I liked Natalie well enough but you know how you and I just clicked?" She shrugged, "it wasn't like that with Nat at all."

"That's not an answer," Dani told her, crossing her arms and raising her eyebrows.

"Oh, what are you, the police?" Sophie asked exasperatedly. "I don't know," she repeated, "yeah, I guess I feel kinda hurt that her first instinct was to sell me out but… there's too much else to think about right now, okay?"

"This doesn't mean we're not talking about it at some point though," Dani warned her, picking up her bag.

"Since when were you the 'let's talk about our feelings' girl?" Sophie asked.

"Since my best friend needed it," Dani said firmly, locking the door behind them.

Luckily the weather was grey and drizzly as they walked to the Dean's office so anyone they did encounter didn't look up and the one person Sophie thought had recognised her decided no the brave the cold for longer than necessary to stop and chat.

The walked in comfortable silence until they arrived at the Dean's office. "Want me to come in?" Dani asked, once again surprising Sophie with her uncharacteristically open kindness. Dani was a nice person but she usually tried to hide it.

"I think I'm okay," Sophie told her, "I can call you when we're done."

"Don't be stupid," Dani sighed, rolling her eyes, "of course I'll wait for you. Harvard's hard enough without losing my best friend. Tell the Dean if you're going I am too."

"I'm sure that'll make a difference," Sophie muttered sarcastically, just loud enough for Dani to hear as she knocked on the Dean's door and entered.

"Miss Kent," Dean Chambers greeted her with a smile. "Right on time, please sit down."

"Thank you," Sophie said politely, nervously taking a seat opposite him.

"How is your sister?" he asked sincerely, "Miss Green informed me she was recovering?"

"Yes," Sophie confirmed, "she's getting better, back to school today in fact."

"Good, good." He nodded. "Now let's just jump right in, shall we? Of course you know why you're here."

"Yes," she replied, "and I believe I'm entitled to know what evidence you have against me?" Sophie asked, taking his advice and heading straight to the point.

"Of course," the Dean replied, pulling some photocopies of past exam papers from the folder. "These were marked by the same person and flagged as possible cheating at the time."

"At the time?" Sophie asked recognising the paper as one she's sat almost a year ago. An A+ one too, she'd been proud of that. "I've never heard about an allegation before."

"No," Dean Chambers agreed. "The answer to your essay question and the answer to the same question on the paper of the student sitting in front of you were very similar, but it was also very similar to the textbook. It was put down to you both using the same book."

"It was," Sophie told him, recognising the handwriting on the other paper, even though the name was blacked out. "That's Tim's paper, we're in the same study group." She frowned as she looked up. "Why is us using the same textbook suddenly a problem now?"

She didn't miss the Dean's heartbeat increasing slightly or the way he shifted uncomfortably in his chair and a disapproving frown creased his forehead. "Officially the complaint has been renewed because we're now aware of previously unknown evidence- namely that you did have the means to cheat."

The daughter of Lois Lane couldn't miss something that glaring. "Officially?"

"Unofficially," he continued, "a lot of important people have heard about this and are making a fuss and while none of them have any…" he frowned, "direct influence, they are putting pressure on those that do. We want to show them that you are here because of your intelligence and abilities as a trainee lawyer, not the abilities you have because you are Superman's daughter."

Sophie nodded, it didn't make it any less annoying that people thought she was a cheater but she was feeling better now she knew the school was on her side. "I can't prove conclusively I didn't cheat," she admitted after a moment, "but I can prove I didn't need to. If I eliminate motive that's one less thing they have against me."

"That's what we've been thinking too," Dean Chambers told her, "your situation is quite unique so it calls for a unique resolution. If you're willing to resit a test in a controlled environment composed of random questions taken from the subjects you have already studied then we should be able to clear your name to most people's satisfaction. There are some people it will never be enough for but you'll hardly be the first person in the world who's enrolment here is a source of debate."

"So, what kind of controlled environment and how soon can I do this?" Sophie asked. She was confident in her abilities but she knew she wouldn't be completely relaxed until her name was cleared.

"Within the next month," the Dean promised her, "we have access to a completely soundproof room developed by someone at MIT, they've agreed to let you use it for a few hours. Probably one of the more unusual uses for it but it seems who ever decides these things is a fan of your father."

"When can you let me know?" Sophie asked.

"We'll definitely let you know by the end of the week," the Dean assured her. He opened his mouth again, as if he was going to say something more but then just nodded.

Sophie looked at him and raised her eyebrows questioningly, it was her future at stake, she didn't like that he might be keeping something from her. "Is there a problem?"

"No," the Dean said a bit too quickly then he sighed and shook his head. "It's not a problem," he assured her, "we were hoping to allow you to resit today but the lab's had a few issues over the weekend and they're not letting people in for a few days. They wouldn't tell me what but they insist everything will be okay."

"Okay," Sophie nodded again, feeling slightly nervous now she knew exactly what was going on. Normal pre-exam nerves, she told herself.

"In the meantime," the Dean continued, "I'd recommend attending your usual classes and completing all work. That way, when this is all behind us, you won't be behind in your work."

"So?" Dani asked, jumping up as soon as Sophie exited the office.

"It's pretty much what you guessed," Sophie told her, "some geniuses over at MIT have what they claim is a completely soundproof room and they're going to let me retake some tests in it to prove I'm not a cheater."

"That's brilliant, and why does MIT need a random soundproof room?"

"I duuno." Sophie shrugged, checking her phone and relived to see there we no messages. "They're MIT, for science?"

Dani nodded slowly, picking up her bag and leading the way out of the building. "I guess, they must love your Dad though, remember that time the whole place almost burned down? Your Dad saved them so much rebuilding."

"No," Sophie said, frowning as she searched her memory. It made sense though, she doubted just anyone could book a special soundproof room to do a test in.

"It was, like, fifteen years ago or something," Dani continued.

"When I was six?"

"Yeah," Dani laughed, "I suppose you wouldn't- my cousin told me about it. Sooo, wanna go get some coffee? Or are you going to study?"

Sophie considered for a moment. She didn't quite feel like going to their usual café and facing a whole lot of people who now knew who she was, but on the other hand she still felt too nervous to study properly and she wasn't sure how she felt about getting special treatment.

So she was accused of cheating using her abilities because some people had a grudge against her father then, because of who her father was and what he'd done she was given access to super-high-tech secret soundproof rooms to re-sit her exams. It was like the world couldn't make up their mind whether being Superman's daughter was a good thing or not.

"Coffee," she decided, before she got lost in her thoughts, she was confident about re-sitting her exams and she had time to study and refresh her mind tomorrow, "but let's go somewhere else."

"Okay," Dani said, checking her watch, "we haven't got class for another hour, where do you want to go?"

Sophie thought for a moment then smiled. "You know, I know this great little place in Paris…"

"No way." Dani's mouth dropped open and Sophie heard her heart rate spike with excitement, "really?"

"I did promise," Sophie reminded her, holding out her hand, "come on, and hold tight."

--

"Clark Kent, Daily Planet. Can I have a few moments of your time?"

Commissioner Henderson looked up from his notes to see a familiar, yet unexpected, press badge being held up in front of his nose. He couldn't help raising his eyebrows as he focused his vision on the man holding it. "Are you serious?"

Clark shrugged, putting the badge back in his pocket and sitting down. "The Planet's still paying me so I guess I'm still supposed to work and there really is only one story right now isn't there?"

"So you're working on your own story?" Henderson asked, unable to keep the amusement out of his voice.

Clark smiled and shrugged. "Wouldn't be the first time," he reminded his old friend, his hand going to his face but stopping and falling away again before it got there.

"Still getting used to not wearing them?" Henderson asked, unable to smile as he thought of the other consequences that had arisen from Clark's secret being revealed.

"Yeah," Clark replied, sighing deeply and slumping slightly in his chair. "I kinda feel naked without them."

"I know what you mean," Henderson said, nodding. Clark gave him a strange look. "Just about the glasses," he explained, "I remember the first few weeks after I got my eyes done a few years back. Strange getting used to he absence of something that's been with you for so long."

"Yeah," Clark agreed, "it's weird not seeing the frames now when I'm not… you know," he finished, shrugging as if unsure how he was supposed to refer to his activities as Superman now everyone knew they were one in the same.

"Very true, I won't even pretend to understand what the rest of it's been like though."

Clark shook his head. "I… It's been hard on the whole family," he said, instead of looking at his own feelings. He couldn't afford to bring them to the surface now.

"I'll say," Henderson agreed, "your older lot seem to be making the most of it. Spent a while on the phone last night talking to New York on how to actually deal with a bank robbery that's prevented by a flying man who can catch bullets."

"I've dealt with the police in New York before," Clark said, frowning, "I assume my son would fall under the same rules my action as Superman do- or did," he added, wondering if the fact Superman was really Clark Kent would change anything.

"Yeah, I'd think so too," the Commissioner agreed, "but apparently there's a legal nightmare on the horizon if we don't deal with it properly now."

"You should talk to my daughter, Sophie," Clark suggested, "she'd love going through the legal intricacies of this situation with you."

"I'll give her a call the next time I get a spare moment," Henderson muttered, somewhat sarcastically as his phone buzzed for the eighth time in ten seconds. "Let me tell you though, your boy in Oz is keeping his head down nicely, although, suppose it's easier without a job or college every day," he added.

Clark frowned. "Dean had a full-time job all last year- he saved for that trip and he's just taking some time off before heading to college," he explained, perhaps more sharply than he meant to.

"Hey, I didn't mean it like that," Henderson sighed, holding up his hands, "don't get all defensive, I meant it's nice. I told you Cambridge PD's been calling me all day and the NYPD was pestering us all weekend. For some reason they think we're the experts on how to handle this situation when really," he sighed again, heavier this time, "I'm just as stressed and confused as they are."

"Sorry," Clark apologised, wincing at his friend's tone, "people just tend to judge Dean by Jason and Sophie and now that they're front page news…" he trailed off, shrugging when he could find the words to finish the sentence.

He just didn't know how to complete it properly. There were really no words to describe how he felt about what the media had been saying about his children. It wasn't anger, it was almost beyond that, he knew how to react when his children were physically hurt, every father did. When people started attacking their character though, their intelligence and their reputations- he didn't know what to do.

Everyone, Lois, Richard, Jimmy, the kids, even Perry when he'd visited on Saturday, had told him not to pay attention to it, that no one who mattered cared, to ignore it and just focus on spending time with his family and helping Ella recover.

He really should have listened but he couldn't help himself, the Planet was the only paper that hadn't had something unfavourable to say about his second eldest son. In a way he couldn't blame them, even Dean had told him he didn't care on Sunday, that they hadn't meet him so they were just going on what they knew.

His older brother and three sisters all attended one of the best high schools in the city, Jason had flown through college and was now a TV star, Sophie had a scholarship to a college in the Ivy League. Dean had gone to a public school, maintained an average grade and left a year early to work full time in a coffee shop and save for a world trip with his friends.

They didn't know him, they didn't know how good he was at drawing, or what a fantastic, caring brother he was to his younger siblings (and the older two for that matter), they didn't know he had a knack for languages or that most people who actually meet him thought he was far older because he was so mature.

And it wasn't just Dean, although the teenager seemed to be the most harshly judged so far, if any of the journalists who were reporting that Sophie was a cheater had known her like Clark did, they would know it was utter nonsense. They'd know how much she was like her mother. How determined she was, and how her mother's stubbornness would have made the even the idea of cheating ridiculous. How Sophie had to prove above all to herself that she deserved and truly earned what she had.

"Clark?" Henderson called softly and Clark jumped, drawing his attention back to the office and away from his children's schools. So far they were doing fine but Clark knew better than to let his attention slip like it had when Chris called for him.

"Sorry," he apologised.

"Maybe you should take some more time off," Henderson suggested, before Clark could start talking again.

"I don't think that's a good idea-" Clark started.

"You are under a hell of a lot of stress," Henderson cut him off, "I know the paramedics appreciated your help with that crash this morning but are you sure you don't need to take more time off?"

"I'm fine," Clark told him, waving away his concern.

The Commissioner wasn't buying it. "If any of my men had been through what you had they'd be on leave, from all jobs they might have," he told Clark.

"They would have people to replace them," Clark replied.

"From the looks of it you do too," Henderson replied, "we do need to talk to them about how to limit our paperwork and avoid legal loopholes and such but the three of them can cover for the one of you-"

"That's not the point," Clark muttered, wondering when this conversation had become between friends rather than the Commissioner and a journalist.

Henderson looked confused for a moment but he wasn't Commissioner of Police for nothing. He sighed, "Look, just because everyone knows what you do in your off-time now, doesn't mean you don't have a right to have off-time."

"Try telling that to my son's future father-in-law," Clark sighed, unable to stop the frustration and guilt he felt as he remembered the angry man on CNN who's brother he had apparently failed to save.

"That asshole?" Henderson asked, surprising Clark with his disgusted tone and harsh words. "Don't listen to him, and tell Jason not to either, I've seen his types before, coming in, blaming everyone else for something that was nobody's fault. Why don't we get this interview underway then?"

Clark briefly considered trying to make the Commissioner see his point of view but decided to take the change of subject as the offer it was. "Let's start with the reason I'm not wearing my glasses anymore," he decided, pulling out his notepad and wishing he had glasses to adjust. "Those men last Monday and the rockets or whatever it was they had. What were they and why did they have them?"

"To be honest, I can't tell you too much," Henderson explained, slipping just as easily as Clark into the familiar interview tone, "some government types showed up last Monday with all the paperwork and took them off our hands. Didn't answer any questions but told us to thank you for containing the situation."

"They didn't mention who the men were or how they go the weapons?"

"Nope," Henderson sighed, "not for lack of trying though, I've never seen anything like those. Fully-loaded ready to go rocket launchers? If you ask me it's something new and something the military wouldn't be keen to admit they'd had stolen."

"Illegal arms dealers?" Clark guessed, taking notes.

"That's what the smart money's on," Henderson agreed, "none of the men we arrested are talking but we guess it was supposed to be a quick in and out operation. They were obviously panicking after the fire, pity they didn't take the time to do psych tests though, could have avoided a lot of trouble with that revenge bent one."

"Yeah," Clark agreed with a sigh. If only things had been different, Clark Kent would have remained a name only known in journalistic circles, Sophie would still be securely enrolled at Harvard, Ella wouldn't have been in hospital and Chris wouldn't be scared of leaving the apartment.

"No point thinking of what could have happened though," Henderson told him, "what's done is done. You saved a lot of lives last Monday, these were serious weapons, we're lucky we didn't just end up with a crater in the ground."

"What about the arsonists from the Inquisitor?" Clark asked, moving on before he could start wondering if it had been worth it. Those kinds of thoughts never lead anywhere good.

"The Inquisitor's denying all knowledge, the reporters were freelancers but all have written extensively for the Inquisitor in the past. However we can't do anything to the paper, but the three who set the fire are looking at doing some hard time. Several residents were treated in hospital for smoke inhalation and if it wasn't for you and your kids there would have been deaths."

Clark nodded. "They did good didn't they?" he said quietly, smiling with pride as he remembered their insistence on helping and the speed with which the fire had been contained thanks to them.

"That they did," Henderson agreed, "I'm looking forward to working with them."

Clark asked a few more questions, and Henderson let him, thankfully not pushing the idea of taking more time off or trying to get him to discuss the events of last Monday again.

"I think that's all I need," he said, checking his notepad again.

"Do you want to talk to anyone else?" Henderson asked, as someone knocked on his office door. "I'm busy," he yelled, not taking his eyes off his friend.

"Sorry, sir, it's-" The young officer who's ignored Henderson's yell stopped suddenly when he saw Clark.

It took Clark less than a second to recognise the man, even though he'd only seen him briefly on the most stressful day of his life. It was the officer who'd arrested the brother of the masked man who'd fired the rocket and caused Clark to jump in front of it without changing and blow his secret.

"Oh, sorry, sir," he repeated, and this time it took Clark a moment to realise that 'sir' was directed at him.

"It's alright." He nodded a farewell to Commissioner Henderson, "I was just leaving."

"Uh, sir?" the young man said nervously, and Clark could hear his heart beating rapidly in his chest. "I wanted to say thank you, for last week."

"It was nothing," Clark half-lied. The actual act of containing the explosion had been nothing to him, but the consequences weren't.

"No it wasn't," the officer insisted, "I mean, you had your kids to protect and you didn't have to help me but you did. I don't know if I would have."

"Nonsense," Henderson interrupted, "Officer Fields here is one of the finest officer on the force," he told Clark. "And you saw the power of that thing," he said, turning to Officer Fields, "it wasn't just your neck he was saving, don't feel special."

"Sorry about your daughter, sir," Officer Fields said, not looking away from Clark.

"It's okay," Clark assured him, "she's recovering. I'll see you later, officers," he said, ducking out of the office before anyone could start talking again.

Luckily he didn't encounter anyone else on the way out, exiting through the back and taking to the sky unnoticed. He didn't return straight to the Planet to write the story up like he usually would, he headed back to the apartment instead, taking an indirect route over Lucy and Ella's school. He checked to make sure they were safe and made a mental note to ask who the strange boy making Ella laugh was, then over Chris's school before going home.

The tarpaulin over the shattered window Sophie had smashed though had come loose again and he moved to secure it. He knew he really should be getting it fixed, but it was the last thing on his mind right now.

It seemed such a mundane task, like the dishes that were piled up by the sink because no one had thought to do them since last week. Who thought of doing the dishes while their world was falling apart around them?

They should have kept Jimmy over for longer on Sunday, he thought with a small smile. Jimmy's response to stress was to clean like anything. Pity no one in their family had that trait, he thought, almost tripping over a toy truck outside Chris' room.

He picked it up and opened the door, placing it on top of the boy's toy chest and looked around the room, remembering last night when he'd rushed in to comfort his son after his nightmare. He could still hear the boy's terrified screams as he relived the moments surrounding the attack. It was strange but he almost physically hurt for his son, no seven year old should have to know what that kind of fear was like.

When he thought about carrying Ella's unconscious body into the ER and trying to comfort Chris after his nightmares it was hard to keep to his non-violent morals and not go instil the same kind of fear in Mike Baker that the kryptonite wielding man had put in his children.

Thankfully a knock on the door pulled him form his thoughts and he nervously went to open it.

"Tina," he said, opening the door, and relieved it was his neighbour and not another resident. He hadn't seen anyone else from the building since last Monday but he had overheard bits and pieces of them talking. He supposed he should have x-rayed first to make sure it was someone he wanted to talk to but he'd spent so long trying to respect other's privacy it hadn't occurred to him. Another habit he'd have to break.

"I thought I heard someone in there," she said, smiling at him, "I was worried someone had broken in or something. I didn't expect to see you though. It's all over the news you were back at the Planet."

"I was," he told her, "for a bit- but I needed a break before going back."

"I get that. How are you holding up?" she asked, giving him a familiar sympathetic head-tilt. Her tone was genuine though and Clark decided to answer honestly.

"I really don't know," he told her. "Half the world thinks I just did it to laugh at them, the other half still likes me but feels betrayed."

"Well neither of those halves are parents then," Tina stated, shaking her head. "I'll admit it took me a while but I'd do anything to protect Kathy and after what happened to Ella." She just shook her head again. "Obviously no one in the media has kids either," she added, glancing behind her through her open door to various newspapers spread out on the table. "They'll come around though," she assured him, "next time you or the kids save- Clark?"

Only New Kryptonite Harmful To Kent Children

He brushed past Tina to pick up the copy of the Inquisitor on the table. The article was frighteningly accurate, describing how the kryptonite grown on Earth by Lex Luthor almost two decades ago was the best bet for any criminals looking to get revenge on Superman through his family.

Didn't these people realise how much danger they were putting his kids in by printing this information? Even when the Inquisitor wasn't considered a good source of reliable news there would be people who wanted to hurt him who would see this and listen.

What had he been thinking sending the kids back to school? Telling them to try and get back to normal again. They would never have normal lives again. They were the children of an alien.

Because they were his.

"Clark?" Tina called, her voice sounding far away. "I'm sorry, I thought you'd seen it."

"I have to go," he told her suddenly, folding the newspaper. "Tell Lois I'm sorry."

"I don't…"

"I just- I can't do this anymore," he said, shaking his head, "tell Lois I'm sorry but I can't do this and…" he shook his head, backing out of the apartment as Tina just stared at him in confusion.

"I'm sorry," he said one last time before turning and running out the door. He sped to the roof and was in the air before his neighbour had registered he'd even moved.

He shot up as fast as he could, coming to a halt just above the clouds.

He was shaking. He tried to stop but his body wouldn't listen. Funny, such a human reaction to shock- he'd never really thought about it before, never really needed to.

Superman was an alien and free to act like one, but everyone knew his father had sent him to Earth because he was similar to them so when he acted human it was accepted too. Clark 'klutz' Kent was human and expected to act like one. And he, the real him, Clark Kent who didn't need to wear glasses… he'd never been either to those who knew him, he'd just always been Clark. Granted they knew he wasn't from Earth but he was their friend and they just expected him to be Clark. Now he didn't know who to be.

He did know one thing though: he was stupid. Just a big dumb, stupid alien.

Trying to get the kids back to school so they could be normal again. What had he been thinking? They weren't just the Kents now, they were Superman's kids, their lives would never be normal again. Ever.

What kind of a parent was he that less than a week after three of his children had been viciously attacked and his daughter almost killed, he'd insisted they go back to school? He'd promised his seven-year-old son he'd be fine.

He couldn't pretend anymore. He had to stop lying to himself and the kids. He had to make Lois see as well. They couldn't live the same lives they'd been living before. Things had to change, they were going to change whether they liked it or not, Clark just had to make sure he stayed a step ahead.

The attack on Ella wasn't just a one-off, it was a warning shot fired over his head.

It was hard not to speed down and grab Lois and the kids, to fly them and hide them somewhere safe, somewhere no one who wanted to hurt Superman would ever find them.

Somewhere they'd be lonely and unhappy.

Could he do that? Sacrifice their happiness for their safety? There were plenty of places he could take them when no one else could go. A week ago the mere thought of something like this would have made him laugh but a week ago Ella had never been in hospital and Chris's nightmares were about threats that weren't real.

They would never go though, he reminded himself. Sure, camping trips in remote mountain cabins hardly anyone else could get to were fine, but living there would be too much.

He had to think, he had to really think this through, without the distractions of anyone else telling him it would all be okay. He didn't need any more lies, he needed quiet.

It was too loud above the city, all the people down below, talking, moving, the cars, the trains, everything making some sort of noise.

There was nowhere he could land and be sure not to be disturbed. Nowhere he wanted to land at any rate. He needed peace, he needed quiet. He had to think but he couldn't leave the city. What if the kids needed him? The knife Ella had been stabbed with was hardly the only one around, the schools had tightened security but he couldn't take that chance.

Maybe he should get them out now, right now. They had said they would try and go on as normally as possible but he hadn't anticipated that papers like the Inquisitor would almost be encouraging criminals to take their revenge on Superman through his children. School wasn't safe. He'd have to take them out sooner or later, they could hire private tutors or maybe he could quit his job and home-school them. From overheard conversations in the bullpen he knew the Planet hadn't yet decided on whether or not he was worth keeping on.

He heard Dean long before he arrived. Another life he'd ruined. For the last nine months almost every Sunday had been filled with stories from around the globe with his friends, now the trip he'd worked so hard towards was going to be cut short.

"Mrs Taylor called Mom," his son said by way of greeting as he arrived and hovered beside him.

"I need to think," Clark told him, not wanting to insult him by lying and trying to pretend it everything was alright. "Somewhere quiet."

"Okay," Dean said after a moment, nodding and not asking for any more information. "I'll look after things here."

Clark hated himself right then, he was the father, he was supposed to be the one looking out for his son, he was supposed to be the strong one who would take over when Dean needed a break. But since Monday nothing had been as it should.

He turned and headed north.

--

Reviews are love!

Comments

Posted by: love_is_my_goal (love_is_my_goal)
Posted at: October 12th, 2010 01:49 am (UTC)

I can't believe people would actually publish that article! I know it's just a story but it doesn't feel like it! I can't wait to read the next chapter! This story has me thoroughly hooked!

Posted by: Grace (repmetsyrrah)
Posted at: October 16th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
SR; The Daily Planet

Not everyone in Metropolis is as nice as the Daily Planet. But they might not get away with it as easily as they thought, wait a bit and see :P

Thanks for commenting! As you can probably tell the next chapter's a big one but I'm working on it as fast as I can!

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