Who do you need…?
Who do you love…?
When you come undone?
~Duran Duran, ‘Come Undone’
“You almost hit me!” Kala wailed, her eyes huge and accusing as she looked from the piano to Jason and back again.
Jason couldn’t reply, fumbling his inhaler out of his pocket. But when he held it up to his mouth, he realized his breath was coming freely now. Weird. “I didn’t hit you!” His voice was wounded.
“But you almost!” Kala replied, still anxious. She ran to her brother’s side, and then he could see she was shivering. Jason just hugged her, and they clung together for a long moment.
At last Kala got herself under some kind of control and stepped back. “You saved me,” she said quietly.
Jason just nodded. “Did he hurt you?”
Kala looked at her wrist, where the faint red marks of Brutus’ hands were fading. “No … he was scary. Creepy-scary.”
“Yeah,” Jason replied, looking nervously at the wreck of the piano. At any moment he expected the big man to push it off him and come toward them again.
Just then, the door opened, and the twins leaped back, Jason putting a protective arm around Kala. Kitty stepped in, and gave them her usual too-bright smile…
… which quickly faded. “What happened to the … piano … oh.” The dark-haired woman saw it now, on the other side of the room, and her eyes grew very wide when she saw Brutus’ feet sticking out from underneath it. “How … what happened?”
“He tried to hurt my sister,” Jason said, and his tone carried a hint of belligerence. “I knocked him down.”
“Yeah, you certainly did,” Kitty muttered. She finally tore her eyes away from the piano, and returning her full attention to the twins, she asked, “Do you two know who your daddy is?” It was a dangerous question to ask, perhaps, but with that display of superhuman strength…
Jason and Kala both looked shocked by it, and they glanced at each other for an instant before answering nervously, “Richard.”
Kitty nodded slowly. Any normal kid would’ve looked puzzled and replied Daddy. But these were clearly not normal kids. Just as clearly, they were hiding whatever they knew about their true parentage.
The kids were still eyeing her warily, and she seemed to come to some kind of decision. “You know, you guys were never supposed to be in here. They had a nice room all set up for you, but Grant and Riley were such chickens they dumped you here. How about we go to your room so we can get the piano fixed?”
“Nuh-uh,” Jason said sternly. “We’re not going anywhere with you.”
Kitty looked at their accusatory glares, and asked, “Why not? I’m not like Brutus.”
“No, but you’re the bad guy’s girlfriend,” Jason shot back. For once Kala was being quiet, just giving Kitty a withering stare of disappointment and betrayal.
“Wha…” Kitty shut her mouth before she said something foolish. Obviously Brutus had been trying to alienate them from her – why, she could guess, and the thought sickened her. She came toward them, but the kids backed up, and Jason tried to look as menacing as possible.
Kitty stopped, sighing. “Listen… I didn’t know how bad Lex was when we started going out.”
“So break up,” Kala retorted. “Suzie broke up with two boyfriends in one day, and she’s only in second grade.”
“Things are complicated for grownups,” Kitty told them, unaware that she was echoing Lois’ own words to them. “It’s kinda like … why doesn’t your Mommy break up with Richard to be with your father?”
Kala bit her lip in sudden realization, and Jason started to nod before catching himself. “Richard is our daddy,” he said, a little too loudly.
“I mean your father,” Kitty said gently. “Superman.”
The looks of panic that crossed their faces wounded her, but Kitty just kept her questioning gaze on them. There was no other way a little boy could throw a grand piano, after all. Especially not one as frail as Jason seemed to be.
The strain of the secret was too much for Kala on top of everything else that had happened in the last few minutes. Not only had Brutus scared her, but then Kitty made her realize for the first time that she couldn’t have her real father and the daddy she loved at the same time. Leaning against Jason’s shoulder, she started to sniffle.
He hugged her protectively and cut Kitty a look that could’ve been Lois in miniature, full of anger and frustration. “Leave us alone – you’re mean.”
“No, no,” Kitty tried to soothe. “Listen. I didn’t mean to upset you guys. It’s just – I can’t break up with Lex. He wouldn’t let me. Plus we’re on a boat and I can’t get away. I’d never hurt you.”
“Don’t believe you.” Kala’s voice was muffled against Jason’s shirt.
“Your mommy knows who has you,” Kitty whispered, glancing over her shoulder. If Lex walked in and heard her telling them something like that, she wouldn’t have to worry about breaking up with him. “Your mommy’s going to come get you. And then Superman will come too and rescue you. Lex thinks he’s a lot smarter than he is … the bad guy doesn’t ever get to win, does he?”
Jason looked over at the piano. Brutus hadn’t moved, but he really didn’t want to be in this room when the big man finally woke up. “Fine. But if you try anything funny…”
“I’d never hurt you,” Kitty repeated, shivering a little at the thought of being threatened by a six-year-old with superpowers. She held out her hands, and after a minute, the twins came toward her cautiously.
Kitty took a deep breath of relief. Now all she had to do was get them to the stateroom without anyone seeing them, and then tell Lex about the piano.
“Dammit,” Richard muttered, glaring at the airport clock. “What are we gonna do now?”
“Richard,” Lana said, with a little force in her words. “You can’t fly anymore today – you’re over the amount of time you can legally – safely – pilot the plane. Furthermore, you’re exhausted. We have to stop for the night.”
“I know, but Perry says Lois is running a lead out toward Buzzard’s Bay in Massachusetts. If she called to check in with him, then she reserved us rooms out there, and I’ve got no way to get there without leaving the seaplane here.” His voice was full of frustration, and he paced the lobby of the private airport incessantly.
“I can cancel my room,” Lana said. “Or heck, I’ll pay for it. Whatever. This was a bust, but it needed to be checked out. We’ll meet Lois and Clark there tomorrow, and we can survey from the air while they cover surface streets.”
Richard smacked his palm down on the table. “Dammit! Lana, I didn’t want the kids to spend another night away from us!”
Lana caught his wrist, held it until he turned to face her. “Richard, we’re going to get them back. There’s just nothing else we can do tonight, okay? C’mon, let’s get a cab. Gotham’s only a half-hour away.”
“Gotham?” His blue eyes were faintly puzzled, still troubled by his worries over the kids.
“Gotham City,” Lana explained patiently. “Where I have an apartment and a sleeper sofa. I don’t trust you to stay in some hotel and actually sleep.”
Richard’s eyebrows lifted in surprise. He’d never expected Lana to invite him home … even if she was prominently mentioning the sofa. “Lana…”
“Oh, knock it off, Richard,” she said. “The way you are now, someone has to be around to slip you a Mickey.”
A little chagrined, Richard finally allowed himself a chuckle. What was he worrying about, anyway? Lana probably wasn’t interested in him as anything more than a friend, no matter what he tried to read into her intentions. “All right. Just let me try Lois’ cell phone one more time, so she at least knows where we are.” Not that he would mention just where they would stay tonight…
Lois flipped her phone shut and sighed heavily. “Isn’t that fantastic,” she muttered.
“What?” Clark was watching the weather; a cold front was moving through the area, hampering their search with high winds and icy rain.
“Richard can’t fly out to meet us tonight. After we choreographed everything through Perry, he’s stuck out somewhere near Gotham City and can’t fly until morning. Worse, they didn’t find anything in the lake islands.”
“Another red herring,” Clark said glumly. “Luthor’s got more layers than an onion. And every one smells as pungent.”
Lois couldn’t help chuckling tiredly. “Well, I guess we can go look at another of the islands before we turn in. There’s still time…” Her voice trailed off into a forcibly stifled yawn, and Clark touched her shoulder.
“Lois, you need some rest. C’mon, let’s go to the hotel.”
“This will be their second night in his clutches,” she whispered in wounded frustration. This was tearing her apart, the not knowing, the instinctive fear for them. “I can’t. I have to keep looking. There might be something we missed…
So very gently, Clark caught her chin and made her look at him. “Lois, I’ll keep looking. I don’t need sleep, really, as long as I can get sunlight. You have to get some rest.”
“I slept last night,” Lois began, and her voice trailed off into another yawn that she couldn’t hide. Clark just looked at her steadily, and in the face of her body’s betrayal, she had to relent and drive to the hotel. But when she parked the rented car, she turned to Clark and said with guilty misery, “I want them home. I need them home. God, Kal-El… ”
Clark squeezed her shoulder, his blue eyes as melancholy as hers. “We’ll get them home, Lois. I swear it.” Nodding, she got out of the rented car and grabbed the overnight bag she had hastily packed that morning, then headed for the hotel they’d reserved earlier in the day.
Lois walked into the lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn with none of her usual sense of purpose, exhaustion weighing heavily on her even as she fought to keep her eyes open. The dreary overcast day had been as dark and threatening as her emotions, as her outlook. Clark followed her, with more energy but the same weary look. Frustration had gnawed at both of them all day, and the news about Richard being stuck in the lakes region did nothing for their morale. The thought tolled through both their minds: Another night away from home. Another day trapped somewhere with Luthor.
Silence reigned as they checked in and then took the elevator up to their floor. Lois trudged to her door and flicked the key card through the little scanner, but there was no welcoming click of the door unlocking, just a flashing red light. “Damn,” she muttered, and tried it again a little slower. Still nothing. Maybe it was too slow … nope. “Goddamn piece of…”
Clark reached around her, took the card, reversed it, and scanned it. The green light blinked and the lock clicked open. “Dammit,” Lois groaned, leaning back slightly against his chest to look up at him. “I hate you.”
“No, you don’t,” he said gently, opening the door for her. “You sure you’re going to be okay by yourself?”
“As long as I can remember not to stick quarters in the electrical outlets, Kal-El, I’ll be fine,” Lois answered in a quiet but cranky tone not too unlike Kala’s after a long day. “And I swear I won’t play with the plastic garment bag in the closet that has ‘DANGER OF SUFFOCATION – NOT A TOY’ printed on it.”
“Okay, okay. I just worry about you. This is … it’s hard on all of us, but you most of all.”
“I’ll be fine; I’m a big girl,” Lois told him, trying to keep her mind straight enough to not start bawling yet again. The twins needed her to be strong, not ringing her hands like a hysterical mother. The only thing that was keeping her from continuing the search even now was the fact that the man beside her was clucking at her like a mother hen – and would be going out again to look for them. Moving forward to hold the door for herself, she arched an eyebrow as she glanced up at him again. The exhaustion she had denied was starting to take its toll, and his concerned look was starting to get on her nerves. She’d gotten along without him for more than six years; she could survive one night alone. “You’re not going to have stay in here to keep guard, or keep me distracted, so don’t get any ideas.”
He looked down at her, dark eyebrows raised. “That was the furthest thing from my mind. Who do you not trust, Lois? Me or you?”
In spite of her fear for her children, the deep-down truth of his statement hit a little too close to home. There had not been a moment the entire day that she hadn’t felt their attraction stronger than ever and knew that the steel walls she had built were in ruins. That she hadn’t just wanted to break down and just confess all…
Calling herself a fool, her hazel eyes narrowed. “Doesn’t matter. I’m going to take a bath.” She seemed to think on that for a moment before almost teasingly adding, with a tiny smile, “And no x-ray vision or I’ll kick your butt.”
“Lois!” Clark realized how tired she was with that remark; her smart-aleck attitude had been wired directly to her mouth, without passing through the brain first. “Anyway, I’m not going to my room yet. One more flyover, remember.”
“Yeah, you promised, despite the rain. Maybe there will be something else, anything else. When you get back, come in and tell me what you find.” Lois held the door open and handed him her key card.
“I think you’d better just go to sleep,” Clark said, trying to refuse the key, but Lois caught him with that steely glare.
“If you find anything – anything – or nothing at all, I want to know,” she said, rallying her strength. Her will had always been indomitable, and determined as she was now, the fatigue barely showed. “And when I hear you come in without coming over here, which I will, I’ll find a way to get over to your room. I mean it. I want to know the minute you find something out. Understood?”
“All right, Lois, I’ll let you know,” he said gently. “Try to get some rest, okay?” Impulsively, he hugged her tight to his chest and rested his cheek on her hair.
For an instant, she stiffened in surprise, and then her resistance melted. Lois all but slumped against him, all of the snappishness drained from her, only fatigue in its wake. This had been something she had needed for hours now, something no one else had seemed to think mattered. She sighed heavily, gratefully, luxuriating in the relief of finally letting down her façade. Unable to help it after all this time, Lois simply let herself surrender to the one she had always been safest with and snuggled closer with the relief of simply being able to finally do so. “I’m starting to worry…” she whispered with a tone of bitter amusement.
“Lois, we’ll find them,” he murmured, trying to envelop her in his warmth and strength. She was so small, so fragile, and it was only when she was in his arms that he remembered it. She’s practically a force of nature when she’s angry, but like this… I’d give anything to protect her. Anything. “I promise we’ll rescue them.”
“Good,” she said softly against the fabric of his shirt, “because you can’t lie to me… If you say we’ll get them back … has to be true…” For the second time in as many days, she was struck with how absolutely right it felt to be so close to him. Home. It feels like home.
There was no reply, no words for how much he treasured her renewed faith in him. All he could do was hold her, letting his arms around her waist and his heart beating beneath her ear speak for him.
After a long moment, Lois forced herself to pull away and headed into her hotel room reluctantly. Just before she stepped over the threshold, their eyes met long enough for her to say softly, “Thank you. For being here … for me…” Her gaze, so full of mixed emotions, held his for a heartbeat longer before she slipped through the doorway, closing it behind her.
Clark watched her go, and then went into his own room to change. As he flew off the balcony, he prayed as he had been praying for the last two days: Please, let me find them. Let me find the twins safe and sound. Let them still be okay.
Kitty rarely came into the galley when the men were playing cards, so her appearance today drew notice. She didn’t look at them, however; her eyes were only for Lex, in the formal dining room just off the kitchen. “We had a problem,” Kitty told him, “but I handled it.”
Grant snorted, and Riley guffawed, but Lex just turned to look up at her, his eyes somehow flat and reptilian. “What kind of problem?” His voice was silky and dangerous.
“Brutus,” she replied succinctly. “I don’t know what he was doing around the kids all the time, but it wasn’t good. He pushed them too far, and one of them threw the piano at him.”
“Threw the piano?” Lex repeated, his eyebrows rising. Kitty could almost see the gears in his mind suddenly whirring to new speed as he came to the galley door.
“Told him they were vicious,” Riley said under his breath. Louder, he continued, “Boss, what do you wanna do?”
Kitty was faster. “You don’t have to do anything,” she said with mock sweetness. “I already moved the incredibly dangerous six-year-olds into the room they were supposed to be in all along. They’re fine, so you brutes don’t have to go dragging them around and scaring them all over again, and getting someone else killed.”
“Thank you, Katherine,” Lex said. “That was very neatly done. Stanford, the surveillance equipment is in place?”
“Yes, sir,” he replied.
“Excellent,” Lex said. “Grant, Riley, I want Brutus’ body removed. Just put him overboard. The piano too – I doubt it’s repairable.”
The two men were a bit nonplussed, and glanced at each other. At last Grant said cautiously, “That’s it? Just chuck Brutus over the side?”
“You can have a funeral service if you want,” Lex said sarcastically. His dark eyes bored into the men’s before he added, “Of course, you do realize why they killed him, don’t you? He never told anyone why he was sentenced, never complained about the lack of women in Nevada. I suppose we know why, now. Throw him to the sharks, gentlemen. They’re not so choosy.”