Once everyone was preoccupied with coordination, Lois caught Elise’s shoulder and steered her away from the others. “C’mere, kiddo. You and I need to have a minute. There’s a couple of things I need to talk to you about.”
Elise’s eyes widened worriedly. “All right, Mrs. Lane-Kent.” By the nervousness of her voice, she expected a lecture.
Just glancing at her, Lois gave a short burst of laughter. Something had to be done about that before it drove her nuts. Grinning at her as they walked into the room next door, the reporter went to sit in the chair across from the bed. “Okay, first order of business. The name? I think we’ve done enough of that. Anyone who knows that I had Superman’s babies has earned the right to call me by my first name. Got me?”
Biting her lip, Elise looked distressed and amused at the same time while sitting down on the edge of the bed. There just didn’t seem a right answer to that. Especially when you were faced with the reality of who the woman in front of her actually was as a whole. How exactly did Jason’s mom think that she could simply first-name her? With an embarrassed shrug, Elise finally confessed, “I just … feel weird calling you Lois. Can we compromise with Mom, maybe? Sebast does it.”
The older woman gave a snort of amusement at that. “That brings me up to, what? Five kids now? Sure, why not?” The wide grin sobered a little then, her eyes honest and a little concerned when she searched Elise’s face. “So, now to the second topic for debate. Are you okay? With all of this, I mean. It’s a hell of a lot to take in; I know, I’ve been there. Especially under the circumstances that this got sprung on you. At least I had a little more heads-up when it happened to me.”
Still feeling a bit of trepidation, Elise sighed before answering. “I … yeah, it’s a lot to think about. I mean, I always knew Jason was weird – in a good way,” she hastened to add. “But knowing he’s, well, part alien… It explains a lot. He’s not like a lot of boys, and I always liked that about him, even when it was creeping me out. Not that he’s ever been creepy. He just always acted a lot older and more sure of himself and … a whole lot smarter than guys his age usually are. It was just too perfect, and with the way he won’t talk about some things, I wondered what he was hiding. Now I know.” She shrugged at then, trying to express how knowing the secret was more relief than burden to her.
Lois was nodding slowly, pausing for a moment before asking, “So it’s not weirding you out at all that he’s not just a normal, totally human boy?” It felt so strange to say this about her own son; she’d never herself considered them any different than other kids, but that was because they were hers. Everyone else’s perceptions might not be nearly as open.
Elise chuckled at that, the sound making Lois’ heart feel infinitely lighter. It seemed that she might just have found a kindred spirit in the girl. “C’mon, I always knew he wasn’t normal. He’d rather play chess than World of Warcraft. He never tries to bluff about how strong or how macho he is. I just couldn’t figure out why he was like that. And honestly? So he’s not fully human. Obviously Mr. Kent has got to be very, very close to human to be able to hybridize with us. The only differences I’ve noticed are actually improvements on typical teenage boy behavior.” She cast a look at the older woman that was smugly amused by that fact.
Lois couldn’t hold in the laughter on that. It had been a long worrisome road for her ever since the twins had become teenagers, fretting about the day when one of them would finally be forced to leak the truth about their parentage to someone. It hadn’t ever just been about the chance of discovery; what was even more terrifying was the possibility of rejection. There were no words for the relief that spread through her once she could see Elise had been completely serious. Obviously Fate actually was looking out for the lot of them in some way. Although it just figured it was someone fascinated with the heavens. Things might change at some point in the future, when the pressures of being with him got to her, but Elise was a perfect choice and Lois was grateful he had found her so early. “You’ll have to tell him that some time. He doesn’t hear it much from certain people,” she chuckled. “Since it’s a given that I’m going trust you, I have to say that we, and Jason, are lucky to have you. So, anything straining your brain? If there is, now’s the time to ask it. I’m not sure when we’ll have the time to talk about any of this again.”
Elise opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. The question that was on the tip of her tongue was How do you do it, how do you handle being a part of the heroes’ world; however, it just didn’t seem like the right time to pry into that sort of thing. Maybe when all of this was over she’d ask. For now she just laughed. “I’m sorry, Mom, it’s just that it’s so new, I haven’t figured out what to ask. Can I get a rain check?”
The grin reappeared, Lois shaking her head a little in amusement. “It’s going to take me a little while to get used to that, but I definitely prefer it over the full name.” Jason’s mother rose from the chair, walking over to set her hand on Elise’s shoulder. “I haven’t got a clue how things are going to turn out today, but I’ll say this. I’m glad that you and Jason have gotten things settled between you, at least a little. Hell, I’m glad you’re back.” Her grin grew into a conspiratorial smile when she added, “And you’ll never be alone in this. When the questions do start to come to mind, and they will, come talk to me. I’ll be here. Remember, I wrote the rulebook.”
Laying her hand over Lois’ and giving it a little squeeze, Elise beamed up at her. “Thanks. I’m glad that you’re glad – I was kinda worried you were going to warn me away from the future superhero there.”
The reporter cocked her head, looking all too knowing. “Elise, I was your age once. I know that warning either of you off won’t do any good. Didn’t work when my mother tried to talk sense to me about relationships. All I can say is that it’s not going to be easy, sweetheart. He’s my son and I love him very much, but that doesn’t change the reality of things. It wasn’t always easy for me and I was about ten years older than you and a lot more experienced with the ways relationships work in the real world when I started up with Clark. But if you can hold on, the moments you have are worth all of the BS you deal with. And I really hope you can.”
Taking that for the honest advice it was, Elise only nodded. “All I can do is try. He’s worth it.”
That earned her a nod in return, the smile starting to brighten again. “All right. I think we can leave it at that. C’mon, let’s see what the final plans are, shall we? If all goes well, we’ll be back in Metropolis by evening and we’ll get you in before your parents call to check up on you tonight.”
The cheer in her words was forced now with her mind changing tracks, the difference clear to Elise, but they both pretended that they didn’t hear the anxiety underneath as they rejoined the others.
Perry knew trouble when he smelled it. It traveled in a cloud of Polo cologne, and it had just arrived in his office.
The Editor-in-Chief didn’t bother to look up from the spreadsheets he was reading. “Mr. Graff,” he said by way of greeting. This particular investor was one of his least favorites, a corporate swine who valued only profit. At the end of the day, journalistic integrity and the Planet’s traditions meant less to him than the dirt on the soles of his Italian loafers.
“Perry White,” the investor grunted, and took a seat without waiting for invitation. “You had better wise up, Perry.”
“Didn’t know we were on first-name terms, Kingston.” Perry paid him only marginal attention. He had bigger fish to fry; but still, it wouldn’t do to forget that this man was heavily invested with ECI and other capital firms. Rumors were that he had less-than-savory connections as well, but if Intergang was using him, it was only for his money. The gangsters had no respect for a man who was, at heart, little more than a boot-licker for stronger, more ruthless, and richer masters.
“Don’t get smart, Perry,” Graff growled.
“Thought that was a valued quality in the head of a company you’re invested in,” Perry replied, still not looking up. The threatening tone had his attention, however, and as he spoke he casually brushed the intercom button on his phone. In Lois’ office, Laurel looked up in confusion. At least he had a witness to this conversation now. He trusted Laurel to have the sense to keep quiet and listen.
Graff smacked the spreadsheet flat onto the desk, tearing it from Perry’s hands. “You think you’re funny, huh? You’re wrong, Perry. Right now is no time to get smart. What you want to do is smile and play dumb.”
The editor looked at him scornfully. It helped that in his long journalistic career he’d heard speeches like this delivered by men who were armed with more than nasty attitudes. Graff couldn’t really harm him, so he could be as rude as he wanted. And right now, he wanted to be very rude. “Sorry, Kingston, that’s not in my plans at the moment. I’m pretty busy, so why don’t you take your half-assed threats out of my office before I call security and have you thrown out?”
Graff’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t think you understand. This is your last warning, White. We’ve noticed that you’re buying up the stock. You may as well quit. This deal is going down whether you like it or not, and if you cooperate we…”
Perry scoffed, interrupting him. “Once you start with the first-name business, it’s not intimidating to go back to surnames. Don’t you have any idea what you’re doing? Great Caesar’s ghost, is it that hard being the messenger?” When Graff didn’t have an immediate reply, blinking in surprise, Perry’s voice rose. “Let me help you out here, since you’re even incompetent at delivering a threat. I already know who you work for. I already know how far the conniving bastard will go to get what he wants. And I already know I’m not going to give it to him.”
Heads were turning in the bullpen as Perry rose from his seat and ratcheted up to his full Monday Morning Massacre volume of scathing disdain. “You can crawl back to Luthor on your belly like the snake you are, Graff, and tell him he will not get this paper. He can threaten me all he wants. He’s already taken a shot at my nephew and my niece-in-law. I’m not going to forgive that and play nice. Not now, not ever.”
A couple of the senior reporters were sidling near the door as Perry continued to roar at the bewildered investor. “Luthor wouldn’t have bothered sending you unless we were damn close to beating him. You let him know we’re going to fight to the end, and he’s going to lose – just like every time he tangles with us.”
Graff finally stood up. “Remember that I tried to warn you. You can keep your bluster, old man, if it’ll help you keep warm when you’re on the street and out of a job. The simple fact is, this war is going to be fought by money, and our side’s got much deeper pockets than you do.”
Perry barked laughter. “You idiot, you think I’m going it alone? We already own thirty percent of the company – between myself and the employees, none of whom will work for Luthor. Now get out of my office. Go tell your boss we wouldn’t take his deal if he sent it on a silver platter.”
The Planet staff broke into applause, startling Graff. When he turned around to see all of them staring hard-eyed at him, he quickly left. Perry only nodded; he’d wanted them to hear that. The confrontation and the sight of their foe scurrying away would hearten them. The truth was, they were still in a great deal of danger.
Ignoring the triumphant mêlée in the bullpen, Laurel took out her cell phone and dialed a familiar number.