Greetings, all. Sorry that the delivery is so late on this one, but it's been a crazy last little while for ourselves and our betas. Hopefully we're back on track now, as the next chapter has already been started and we have a planning meeting at The Loop (or some other such sit-down food) as soon as I get this posted.
I'm planning to set up the next fanmix in the next little while. Anyone have any songs that make you think of Heirs? Let me know and I might be able to include it. :D
And now, without further ado, the chapter!
Lois knew she had to have said it about a thousand different nights before this, but she could never remember being as exhausted as she currently found herself. Carrying Kristin toward her room after taking her back from Elise, it felt as if the little girl’s warm weight was the only thing tethering her to reality. It had been years since she had been so tightly on her guard, the foundations of her life and the world around her shaken to the core. A part of her just simply wanted to back herself into a corner with her gun out and wait to see what happened next. But the kids needed her to keep her head, especially since she was the only parent here right now.
Kristin had been quiet, and Lois thought she was asleep as she laid the little girl down in her own bed. But as she smoothed the blanket and bent to offer a good-night kiss, Kristin wound her little hand around Lois’ hair. Who could blame her for not wanting to be let go of right now? The redhead opened her bleary eyes and whimpered, “I want my Mommy.” She sounded so much like a cranky baby Kala that the reporter’s heart lurched. Kristin continued, “I want Kala too, an’ I wanna go home and go to sleep and wake up and not be sick and everything be okay again!”
Oh, that was far too close to what was in Lois’ heart at the moment. Picking her up again, Lois snuggled Kristin close. “Hush, baby,” she whispered, and told what she hoped wasn’t a lie. “Everything’s gonna be okay. Your mommy’s fine, you can go see her tomorrow, and Kala will be home soon.” That wasn’t enough, Kristin still sniffling, so Lois broke out her failsafe method of getting kids to sleep: she hummed Wildest Dreams, the lullaby that had worked so well on the twins, and which they had passed on to Kristin.
The little one had finally calmed her tears, Lois still holding her tightly, humming softly near Kristin’s ear, her lips against the bright auburn of her hair. Her poor little Dormouse; too many scares in one day on top of this cold and her mother, father, and Kala missing. Since it was clear that she only remembered parts of the last hour, Lois found herself grateful to the pediatrician for choosing a cold medication that induced grogginess. The sniffles slowly quieted to tiny whimpers before her deep breathing finally evened out. Taking her time sitting up, Lois carefully adjusted the Kristin’s head so that she could lower her down to the bed. Watching her apprehensively, Lois heaved a sigh of relief when the little girl snuggled down between the pillows on her own.
She had just stroked a hand through the child’s hair when she realized that someone was at the door. Seeing as how her thoughts had been creeping toward Kala this whole time, it should have been no surprise to find Jason peeking in the doorway. His voice was a bare whisper, seeing that his little sister was sleeping. “Mom? Can I talk to you again?” Even in the half-light of the door, his agitation was like a beacon. Just glancing at that conflicted expression on his face told her something else had happened to get him riled up again; a few minutes ago on the balcony, Jason had seemed calmer and more in control.
The smile Lois felt on her lips was dangerously close to false. There had been times over the years that she had regretted the deal she had made for their safety, but never more than now. Were the stolen years worth all of this? For a moment, she felt the frustrated tears start, and ruthlessly shoved it away. Now was not the time. Feeling sorry for herself wouldn’t get her daughter back, it wouldn’t help Lana or Richard, and it sure as hell wouldn’t help her. Taking a deep breath to ground herself again, Lois nodded to her son. “Just a minute, sweetheart,” she murmured back, leaning down to give Kristin a kiss on the forehead. The little redhead never stirred and Lois had another moment of pure gratefulness. Let at least one of them have a respite from this and for as long as possible.
Leaving the dimness of the bedroom, Lois blinked when she and Jason passed into the living room. Maggie was still getting Elise’s statement, the girl starting to look calmer now that Maggie no longer considered her a suspect. Bagel was currently curled up at her feet and watching all passers-by wearily despite her sleepy eyes, only looking a little worse for wear. Fortunately the beagle hadn’t been injured by Giselle’s kick. As they made their way to the study, Elise glanced up at them when they passed, the distress there making Lois’ heart ache. Make that three kids that need me right now. And one that had no reason to be involved. She fought the sigh she felt coming and comforted herself with giving Elise a fond, encouraging nod. That was enough to provoke a small smile before Elise nodded back. With Jason behind her, she couldn’t be sure, but it seemed as though he had to have made a gesture as well from the fact that she had actually managed a smile. It was something encouraging in a day of chaos.
Not wanting to interfere and fairly certain that the girl felt a little better, Lois and Jason continued on to the upstairs study for privacy. Before she even opened the door, the reporter had already started gearing up to tell her son it wasn’t his fault he’d dated the enemy. It would be the first words out of his mouth, she was sure, because that was the only thing they hadn’t covered just a minute ago. Yet another one of those things that occasionally wounded her where her son was concerned, and something she should have anticipated. Clark’s guilt complex had definitely bred true…
The moment the door was closed, Jason blurted out what he had been keeping bottled up. “Mom, I need to know how Dad does it.”
That threw Lois for a loop, looking at the boy with wide-eyed surprise. Well, that was unanticipated. “What do you mean?” Lois asked carefully, immediately changing her line of thinking.
Jason gave a huge, heavy sigh then, his shoulders slumping in a way that indicated that he had expected this response. Walking away from her, he dropped onto the couch and rubbed his hands over his face before looking up at Lois. The bewildered look on his face was one she had seen so many times when he was a child. The one that said that he knew he had to know the answer, but it was just out of his reach. And there was no feeling that Jason hated more. He was silent for a moment as he groped for the words to explain, then said, “Giselle- … I was so mad at her, Mom. She kicked Bagel.”
Lois had been told; the little dog was obviously fine now, apparently more startled than hurt. She couldn’t help but find it rather ironic that Jason was angrier over Giselle kicking Bagel than he was over her turning a gun on him. Leaning back against the door, she crossed her arms over her chest and looked at him with affection. “All things considered, I’d say that’s a perfectly justifiable reason to be mad,” the reporter told her son.
The look on his face told her that hadn’t been the answer he wanted. “Mom, it’s not that,” Jason said earnestly, shaking his head. Whatever was the exact problem, it was obviously disturbing him pretty badly. And it hurt to watch him struggle with it. “It’s … I saw her when they led her out, and she’s already got bruises on her arms. One of the cops commented on it. I hurt her – I could’ve hurt her bad. Really bad. When I first went after her, I could’ve really, really hurt her – and not been upset about it at all.”
Oh, so that’s what this is all about. Being ashamed of himself for not being able to control his anger. Not a huge surprise, after all. That was so like him; as usual, torn between her inherited traits and Kal-El’s. “Jason,” Lois said gently, really thinking about how to lead him to the response he needed, then decided to take a slightly different track. “So why didn’t you? You’re more than strong enough.”
Again, that heavy sigh, his hands clenched as he looked down. “It wasn’t right. And see, that’s the problem – it wouldn’t be right to hurt her, even though she probably deserves it, and now I feel guilty for having bruised her up and I still want to punch her for threatening us. So I was trying not to hurt her, and I should’ve been able to take her down like Dad does, one move and wham, the fight’s over.”
Lois sat down next to him, considering. As was typical of her son, Jason had several different issues going on at once. One of them was the fact that the little pit-viper had been his girlfriend, which was a whole other song and dance. She was fairly certain that he was shoving aside his feelings at the moment to deal with the fallout. Biting her lip, she had to admit that that particular trait came from her. Another was the heroic ideals that Jor-El was drumming into him; Lois herself had dealt out a little vengeance in her time, and felt perfectly justified in doing so. Wherever Steve Lombard was working these days, his hand probably still ached when it rained.
But Jason wanted to be more like Clark, one of those turn-the-other-cheek types, and Lois couldn’t fault him for it. With his strength, if he started to think violence was justified- … well, witness Clark in Nick’s dorm room, flipping the bed with one hand because what he really wanted to do was punch the college boy for fooling around with his sixteen-year-old daughter.
“I don’t fight,” Jason was saying. “I’ve always been afraid I’d hurt someone, ever since…” He had to swallow before he could continue. “Ever since I killed that guy on Luthor’s yacht.”
Oh God, is he always going to beat himself up over that? Lois overrode him immediately, shaking her head, “Jason, you were just a kid. The guy tried to mess with Kala and you were just trying to protect her. You didn’t know that…”
But Jason pulled the same trick to take the conversation back. “I know that, Mom, but it doesn’t change the fact. The thing is, the only person I ever fight with is Kala, and we don’t even really fight fight, you know?”
“I know.” Lois was reminded of the time a couple of years ago when Jason had annoyed his sister one too many times. He’d burst into her room, trying to startle her, and Kala had reacted so quickly she’d actually thrown him into the door. Fortunately, the door hinges had given out and Jason wasn’t hurt, but that had been the definitive end to any physical squabbling between the twins. They might muss each other’s hair, but neither raised a hand to the other.
“All those karate classes helped,” Jason continued, his brow furrowed in thought, “but we had to quit when I was like eleven and stronger than the instructor. And now- … and now I can’t even hold Giselle down and wait for the cops to get here without having to worry about killing her.” Those blue eyes were full of recrimination and pain when his gaze met hers. “And the worst is that a part of me wanted to. Because I really, really wanted to just smash her, just once, but if I did that I’d probably break her neck or something. God, I really could have hurt her and I didn’t care, Mom. I really didn’t. She’s the reason Kala’s gone and all of this craziness is going on.”
He looked so much like his father when a rescue went wrong, that wounded disappointment in one’s self, that Lois’ façade of strength slipped just a little. With a sigh, she pulled his head to her shoulder. The boy came willingly. He was so young to be having to deal with this. His father had at least been an adult when he had first really dealt with having to control himself and his impulses. “Oh, Jason,” Lois murmured, ruffling his hair gently. “I think you’re already pretty much doing what your father does. You didn’t hurt her, you know, and you stopped her from hurting anyone else.”
“Yeah, but I was a total klutz about it,” she heard him mumble against her shoulder. “I really have to get going on this stuff. Dad wouldn’t have made a mistake like that.”
Your dad was also over twice your age when he started doing this, Lois started to say, but had to bite her tongue. She had tried, in vain, to stop Jor-El from pressuring her kids onto the hero path, but Clark had told her numerous times that no one was pressuring Jason. He was pushing himself to that high standard, and it was all Clark and Jor-El could do to hold him back a little. And in spite of how much his legacy was on his mind, here was her sweet boy worrying that he didn’t do enough. In the end, she only said, “I’m proud of you, Jason. I really don’t think your dad could have done any better under the circumstances. There’s plenty of time to learn, sweetheart. Stop beating yourself up.”
And even though Jason stayed silent afterwards, taking the comfort she wanted so badly to give, she wondered if he would take it to heart. Or if he truly would be allowed to take his time.
“How the hell does he do that?” Luthor snarled, pulling the headphones off and tossing them onto the table in front of him.
“What do you mean?” Mercy asked, even though she knew the answer. While she listened, she scanned the large bank of monitors on the wall before them. Some showed locations in the facility, others brought in the news feed from Metropolis, still others were dedicated to showing the sound waves being digitally recorded in twenty locations, and one displayed the results from the search program installed on the computers at the Daily Planet.
“The damned alien outmaneuvered me again,” Luthor muttered bitterly. “I can’t figure out how he always manages to pull it off. We were so close…”
“He hasn’t outmaneuvered you,” Mercy said quietly. That got her Lex’s full attention, and she continued in the same subdued tone, “He wasn’t even present for two of the attacks. He stopped the sniper, but his son and the designer had to defend themselves. No, he was just lucky.” She shrugged. “It happens. You can never eliminate random chance from real-world equations.”
“So we fail completely, and you’d blame luck?” Luthor’s voice had gone soft and dangerous, but Mercy met his gaze steadily.
“What makes you think we failed?” she asked, raising one blonde eyebrow and leaning back in her chair.
Luthor stared at her. “They’re still alive.”
“The objective wasn’t to kill them,” Mercy said, leaning back in her chair and crossing her ankles.
Luthor looked at her with raised eyebrows, waiting for an explanation for this seeming nonsense. Mercy knew that anyone else would likely have been disciplined for contradicting the boss, but she had certain privileges. Not for nothing was she the only employee who could call him by his first name.
The blonde smiled. “Lex. The objective all along was to cause fear and panic, and to sow distrust and dissension amongst our enemies. I’d say we’ve achieved that, haven’t we?” She looked pointedly at one of the screens, where the evening news in Metropolis showed a visibly upset Cat Grant reporting on the attack on Lana.
“True,” Luthor said. “But you said you wanted a gory, shocking crime scene, something that would scar them all for life.”
“And I got one,” she replied. “At Hope’s expense, true, but if she can’t defend herself against a terrified designer we don’t need her working for us. In fact, this may even work more to our advantage than the original plan. Instead of having to cope with the grisly death of his childhood friend, Superman now has to see her as a killer.”
Luthor smiled. “I like it,” he said. “You’re right, it’s worse than killing her; we’ve made her into something he despises.”
“Precisely,” Mercy said. “Furthermore, we should stop now. We’ve frightened them all, and with Giselle’s unsuccessful attempt on the boy’s life, they’re suspicious of everyone and everything. They’ll be jumping at shadows. Now is the time for us to fall back, conserve our strength, and focus on our real goals. Namely, the girl.”
Luthor nodded slowly, and Mercy continued, “This is your strategy, Lex. You were the one who, ten years ago, deliberately threatened the Lane woman when you had no plans of acting on it for several months. While they’re trying to decipher where our next attack will strike, we can move unfettered, and let the havoc we’ve begun continue under its own power.”
“A brilliant plan – if I do say so myself,” Luthor replied. Mercy knew perfectly well how vain he was about his own intelligence, and reminding him that this was one of his own successful ploys guaranteed he’d be swayed. Now for the coup de grace…
“And since we have the downtime while the girl sleeps,” Mercy purred, “I have a few suggestions as to how we might celebrate our success…”
Maggie was on the offensive; the angry policewoman was a sight to behold. She’d already gotten police protection onto every member of the family, as well as the close friends, since Luthor had shown he was willing to target anyone whose loss would wound Lois. Even now, Perry White was grumbling about the squad car in his driveway, and Cat Grant was in the back of another, on her way to Maggie’s apartment. Safety in numbers; no one would be alone tonight.
The inspector was fighting the urge to haul all of them to some central, safe location and hover around them like a broody hen. Realistically, that just wasn’t possible. With cops at the hospital and surrounding the Lane-Kent apartment, though, it felt a little safer.
Still something gnawed at her. She’d had Giselle taken downtown, and officers were searching the girl’s known address. Maggie wasn’t looking forward to interviewing the little snake; she had known Jason and Kala since they were two and half years old, and she’d found it difficult to resist smacking the sneer off the girl’s face. Not professional, and not exactly just, either. Meanwhile, the background check continued, and the crime scene at the Whites’ apartment was top priority for the forensics department. Plus she’d placed a few other calls that would soon bear fruit.
“And what about the Troupes?” she said into her cell phone.
“Covered. Even got a retired detective with a boat sitting in the river, covering that approach.”
In spite of the seriousness of their current situation, Maggie couldn’t help her smile. “Nice touch, Dan.”
“Least we caught our mole.” Turpin sounded as discouraged as she felt. There should have been so much more they could do besides just sit around, waiting for the other shoe to drop. It was too bad you couldn’t arrest people for the crimes they were going to commit.
That thought in mind, she glanced around the apartment warily. “Yeah,” she finally agreed, not willing to say more. She hung up with Dan and moved on to her next priority.
Knowing that Lois was still upstairs with Jason, she made her way up to the study, knocking on the closed door. At Lois’ called greeting, she opened it to find them both on the couch, Jason looking exceptionally wrung-out. Maggie’s heart went out to the boy; this whole situation had to be like a nightmare for him. A nightmare they could quickly end if they could just find out for sure just who these attacks were being ordered by. Giving an apologetic smile, she told Lois, “I know you two needed some time to talk, but I need to talk to you, Lois. Something about the case.” Remembering the sniper, she stopped to consider before adding thoughtfully, “And not outside, either. Isn’t there a laundry room in the basement?”
Jason and Lois traded a curious look before Lois nodded. “Yeah, of course there is,” Lois said with an eyebrow raised, clearly not getting what she was up to, “but why there, Mags?”
It bothered her to pull them away from each other at a time like this, but minutes might count. “You’ll see,” the inspector replied reluctantly. “C’mon.”
Seeing that this had to be important, Lois rose, squeezing her son’s hand one more time. Jason gave her a little smile, looking determined, and let her go. The two women headed down alone, Maggie on her guard, scanning every inch of hallway with one hand on her gun. Once she’d checked out the laundry room, she turned to find Lois leaning against a coin-operated washer and staring at her. “What’s with the spook routine?” the reporter asked.
Maggie sighed. God, she hated to even hint at her suspicions, but not saying anything could prove utterly disastrous. “Okay, here’s the thing. I can’t get a team out to check over your apartment until tomorrow,” she said with obvious caution, “so I don’t want to say anything important up there, okay?”
Already the puzzled look on Lois’ face was quickly giving way to a wary frown. “Why not?” Then it seemed to sink in and Lois’ expression went beyond wrathful as she answered her own question. “Shit. The place is bugged, isn’t it?”
“Almost has to be,” Maggie replied, running a hand through her hair. “That’s the only way they could know exactly when Kala left. We’ll take care of it first thing in the morning, but that team’s on a government case and they can’t get loose until then. For now, don’t talk about it in the apartment – and try not to let Luthor know you know about the bugs.”
Lois swore under her breath, ending with, “Luthor’s like a goddamn spider, his webs stick to everything.”
Maggie’s tone was bitter when she added, “Yeah, if only we could swat him with a newspaper and never have to worry again. About that- … I’ll know more in the morning, but I doubt this is the end of his involvement. Get ready, Lois. I get the feeling Luthor’s not playing games this time. He’ll do his worst, and he’ll do it soon.”
The reporter closed her eyes in exhaustion and frustration. I need to talk to Clark, she thought as they both headed back to the apartment.
Somewhere up above, the sun had set, and perfect darkness cloaked the few buildings that were situated above ground. But down here, the lights always burned, throwing off their imitation sunlight. Zod sat quietly beneath them, feeling his powers slowly recharge. So slowly – how he wished he could get out into true sunlight, fly once more, and soar up above the atmosphere into the yellow sun’s glory…
Patience. It was a hard-won skill, but he had learned it. And so he waited, soaked in the light, and kept watch over the corridor outside. If he was to have any hope of subverting Luthor’s plan for the girl, he would have to show himself to be her vigilant protector. She had to trust him; all his plans depended on it.