The click as the door unlatched went unheard, as did the quiet footsteps that followed. Lana approached the bed and looked at the three teenagers deeply asleep there. Kala and Jason were curled up in what had once been their typical symbiotic huddle, her face buried against his chest and his arms wrapped around her back. Elise was snuggled up to Jason, her arm around his waist, guarding his back while he protected his sister.
Smiling, the redhead smoothed a lock of Kala’s hair out of her face, then bent and kissed her cheek. She had always been careful not to usurp Lois’ privilege, and as a result the twins had never called her ‘mom’, but they were her kids too. And this one was the biggest challenge of the three. Jason was fine as long as you encouraged him and didn’t let him fool you into thinking he was the good twin; Kristin was a sweetheart and only needed to be disciplined occasionally to keep her from being absolutely spoiled rotten. Kala needed more finesse: firmness at some times, a feather-light touch at others, swinging between the bratty little firebrand made in her mother’s image and the worried little girl who was too well aware that she had very big shoes to fill.
After ten years of friendship with Lois, that particular mix of gutsy toughness and fragile vulnerability was very familiar to Lana. It was ironic – and a little sad – that being so alike made dealing with each other very difficult for Kala and Lois. The redhead resolved to do everything in her power to help the pair of them, even if that meant stepping on both of their toes.
Elise was blinking owlishly at her, and Lana patted her arm. “I’ll be in the next room if you need me,” she said, and left.
Almost. Lana couldn’t help stopping at the door for one last look. The three kids bathed in sunshine, each of them taking care of the others. And back in Metropolis was Sebast, who would have gladly guarded Kala’s back…
Lana sighed. Before she went to sleep, she needed to send some messages. Everyone back home needed to know that Kala was safe and that Luthor had been vanquished. And then there would be the inevitable questions, but she might be able to dodge most of those if she were lucky.
Surrounded by industrial gray concrete, her every footstep echoing, Kala fled down an endless corridor. Enemies behind her, danger ahead of her, and Luthor’s laughter ringing in her ears from all directions. Her heart raced, raw fear pulsing in her veins, but no matter how fast she ran Kala seem to move ever more slowly.
“It is preferable to drowning, is it not?” She froze at that voice. Zod. But no, he was dead by her hand. She remembered him dying, the way he’d faced the inevitable almost with relief. That memory, coupled with his words, made her realize she was just having a nightmare.
She stopped running; the laughter and sounds of pursuit disappeared. The corridors of Luthor’s lab were no longer threatening, just dull. “Well, this is boring,” Kala said aloud, laughing a little under her breath.
Then she realized this was her dream, she was the one in control here. She kicked the wall, shattering it into a million pieces. With that, she woke up. The sun had shifted and the back of her neck was uncomfortably warm.
Jason was still fast asleep, and Kala sat up, careful not to disturb him. He had to be exhausted – she was both surprised and a little grateful that he didn’t wake up as soon as she moved. She smiled at her brother, touched by his concern for her. At the moment Kala was floating along on the tide of relief, but she knew sooner or later the wave she was riding would cast her up on the shore of consequences. Still, she intended to enjoy this peace and comfort while she could.
And since she was now merely tired, no longer exhausted, she decided to go check on her mother. The way they’d last spoken to each other came back to wound her; what if those angry accusations had been the last words between them? What if she had never gotten this chance to apologize? Kala could no longer afford a typical teenager’s blindness; she knew the problems between herself and her mother weren’t all Lois’ fault. But she still loved her mom, and knew to the bottom of her heart that Lois loved her too. And furthermore, she had a necklace to return.
Stopping to write a note so Jason wouldn’t freak out – he was going to be even more overprotective from now on – Kala headed out of the room. She glanced into the other room of the suite and saw Lana there. The redhead was deeply asleep, and Kala left her alone for the time being. It was enough to see for herself that the headline had been fake; Lana was fine.
It felt weird to be walking around on her own, without having to look over her shoulder for thugs seeking revenge. She crossed the street to the hospital, and skirted the information desk. With the privacy laws these days, there was no way of knowing if they would tell her which room her mother was in, and her identification had been in her bag – which was still in the underground facility out in the desert somewhere.
No, it was much easier to read the directory posted on the wall, figure out where the ICU was, and then listen for her mother’s heartbeat. Kala soon found herself standing in a hallway, looking at a set of double doors. What she wanted to do was simply run toward her mother’s heartbeat, calling for mommy like the little girl she still was somewhere deep inside.
The uniformed police officer standing outside the door might have something to say about that, however. Kala approached him hesitantly. It made perfect sense to have the ICU guarded, especially considering the circumstances under which Lois had arrived here, but Kala hadn’t thought about that when she’d headed out.
The man gave her what aunt Maggie called the ‘default cop stare’. His expression seemed to say, ‘I could think of something to arrest you for right now, but I don’t feel like doing the paperwork to book you, so how about you move along?’
Kala cleared her throat. Under the officer’s eyes, she remembered that mere hours ago she’d killed a man. Cops can’t actually smell guilt, that’s a myth they perpetuate to make people nervous enough to confess. “Um, hi. I’m Kala Lane-Kent; I’d like to see my mom, Lois Lane-Kent. She’s in the third room on the left in there.” While her hearing could pinpoint the location, her vision couldn’t see through the thick doors to get the room number.
“Got ID?” he asked, not unfriendly but certainly not helpful.
“No, I left it in my room,” Kala said, telling herself it wasn’t quite a lie. “Please, I’m just a kid. And I’m really worried about my mom. The last time I saw her … I was kind of a jerk. Actually I was a lot of a jerk. And then this had to happen. Please?” Kala gave him her best soulful look, trying to seem innocent and harmless.
She’d forgotten she was wearing head-to-toe black, and after her nap her eyeliner was quite a lot more smudged than it had been. Innocent and harmless were pretty much beyond her reach at the moment. The cop shook his head. “Sorry, kid. I feel for you, but come back with a parent or some identification. You understand I can’t let anyone in to see her without knowing for sure who they are.”
Kala sighed sadly, trying to figure a way around this. Maybe if she hung out in the waiting room she could dart in when someone else opened the door … but what if the nurses threw her out? A part of her wanted to throw a tantrum worthy of her six-year-old self; Kala wanted her mommy, and every obstacle in her path was in danger of imminent destruction.
Her adorable pout turned surly, and she glared at the officer. “Do I look like some kind of assassin or something? I’m sixteen, officer, and if you’ve seen Mom, I also look just like her. Do I really have to go all the way back to my room to find my ID, or can we use a little common sense here instead of obeying the letter of the law?”
That was the wrong way to go, as the cop scowled at her. “Look, the rules are the rules. It isn’t worth my job to let you by on a sob story.”
Kala lifted her chin stubbornly, thinking, If only you knew who you were dealing with, pal. All I want is to see my mother! Is that so freaking hard? “Oh, yeah? Well…”
Before she could say anything ill-advised, a hand dropped onto her shoulder, startling her into silence. That was a Dad move, though he was probably out in the desert helping with cleanup … but when she turned and looked up, she found herself looking at a familiar profile. Oh, shit. When did she show up?
“Officer…” The woman glanced at his badge before continuing, and produced a business card of her own. “…Willis? Diana Prince, attorney at law. I’m the family’s legal representative. Let me commend you on your dedication to duty and your concern for Ms. Lane-Kent’s safety.”
While she continued speaking, stroking the cop’s ego so artfully he didn’t even realize he was being buttered up, Kala studied her. There weren’t many women over six feet tall, with black hair and blue eyes, who would know Kala on sight and attempt to present themselves as a family retainer. This was Wonder Woman, and unless that business card was fake, her day job was being a lawyer.
She’d invoked some complicated legalese as well as vouching for Kala’s identity and appealing to the cop’s softer side, and now continued, “Please forgive Kala her momentary lapse in manners…”
That was a cue, and Kala didn’t need the faint squeeze of her shoulder to tell her so. She gave the officer a mournful look to rival Bagel’s, and said, “I’m sorry, sir. I’ve been very worried about my mother, but that’s no excuse for my behavior.”
“Well, I guess I can let the both of you in,” the cop said, giving Kala a slight smile. “If it was my mom, I’d be pretty hot under the collar too.”
“Thank you, officer,” Kala said. With that, she and the Amazon were allowed into the ICU. The nurses looked up from their station a few yards away, but Diana gave a little wave and they ignored her as she pulled Kala aside into the alcove just behind the door. The girl noticed that. I wonder when she got clearance. Does Dad know she’s around? He kind of has to, doesn’t he?
For a moment, the two looked at each other, Kala’s gaze considering, Diana’s thoughtful. Perhaps Diana had intended to warn the girl about giving away her identity, but one glance into those intense hazel eyes made such concerns irrelevant. This was the daughter of the woman who’d kept Superman’s identity secret even when she’d had several very good reasons to reveal it, ambition and vengeance among them.
Kala saw a tall, self-confident, gorgeous woman with a hint of hesitation in her blue eyes. She crossed her arms, letting her skepticism show just a bit. Yeah, even his kids know you’re looking at my dad as more than a colleague. I’m grateful for what you just did, but I kinda hope you feel about an inch tall. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” Diana replied, and seemed about to say something else, but wasn’t sure how to phrase it.
Kala turned on the pressure a little. With a calculating glance that took in everything from the perfectly-coiffed hair to the pricey shoes, she said, “I can see why Mom worries.”
To her surprise, Diana scoffed. “Your father only has eyes for Lois – and everyone but her knows it. Trust me, all of us know his heart belongs to her.”
“Too bad she’s not the only one eyeing him,” Kala said, watching carefully for an involuntary reaction.
She got what she was looking for when Diana startled slightly, then the Amazon just smiled a trifle sadly. “Can you blame anyone? He is the greatest of us all. Believe me, no one would be foolish enough to try and split them apart. They are the love story we all wish we could have in our own lives. And all of us respect your mother for her knowledge, her discretion, and her courage.”
Kala accepted that, nodding. “Thank you for watching over her.”
“I’m not the only one,” Diana told her. “Go to your mother, Kala. I believe she has woken up once or twice already. Nothing could speed her recovery more than seeing you safe beside her.”
“All right.” There seemed to be nothing else to say, so Kala turned and walked into her mother’s room.
For the moment, Lois was unattended, sleeping peacefully despite the various tubes and wires connected to her. A monitor beeped softly, tracking her pulse and breathing, and an IV hung beside the bed. Lois herself was pale and fragile, for once looking smaller than she actually was. Kala sniffled, remembering how it had taken her so long to realize she was taller than her mother. Her charisma made her seem her husband’s height.
“I love you, Mom,” Kala whispered, but there was no answer, not even a flicker of Lois’ eyelids. That was understandable – she had to rest to heal. Kala took off the necklace she was wearing and kissed it. She had carefully cleaned off the bloodstains, and luckily the pictures inside hadn’t been damaged. Gently, Kala put the locket around Lois’ neck where it belonged.
With that, exhaustion threatened to claim her again. Her determination to see her mother had gotten her this far, but now that she was reassured, all she wanted was to sleep. Still, she wasn’t going to leave right after she’d gotten here.
After a moment’s consideration, Kala pulled one of the chairs up to the bedside and sat down. She was able to rest her head right beside Lois’, and that was all the comfort she needed. In seconds Kala was asleep.
“Thank you, doctor,” Clark said, and shook the man’s hand. Lois’ prognosis was good; people could function perfectly well with just one kidney, and if she hadn’t developed any more internal bleeding by now, she likely wouldn’t. Recovery was going to be a long process, especially to restore the use of her injured shoulder, but Lois was more than determined enough.
Richard sighed happily as they headed back to Lois’ room. “Told you so. Once she’s awake, I bet they can’t get rid of her fast enough. She’ll be on her feet harassing the hell out of the nurses in no time.”
“That’s Lois,” Clark said with a smile. The two men stopped suddenly in the doorway. Kala had somehow gotten in, and was sleeping awkwardly in the chair at Lois’ bedside. In silent accord, Richard and Clark backed out and left the two women in peace.
“Well, that’s exactly what I needed to see,” Richard said. “Clark, I’m just about beat – I’m heading back to the hotel. Are you going to stick around here?”
“I really should be helping…” Clark trailed off, and Richard rolled his eyes.
“For the love of… Clark, how many people are on that team? They can do without you for once. They haven’t called, have they?”
“No,” Clark admitted. That worried him a bit. Whatever was going on in the desert was going to be a sizeable operation, and they normally called him in on all of those. His powers made such tasks so much easier.
“They probably haven’t called because they know your wife is in the ICU,” Richard pointed out, lowering his voice. “Let it go, Clark. Sometimes you have to be the husband instead of the hero, and if they’re smart, they know that. You really have an epic guilt complex, you know that?”
Clark laughed a little, and let him go. He watched over Lois and Kala from the doorway for a few more moments, then decided to get something to drink. Kala was more than capable of protecting Lois, and the officer at the door was doing his duty conscientiously.
On his way out to the vending machine, he stopped to thank the man. Officer Willis replied, “You’re welcome. Your daughter was a bit feisty, but your lawyer convinced me to let her in anyway. I hope there haven’t been any problems?”
“No, she’s sleeping now; she just needed to see her mother. I didn’t know she’d woken up yet or I would have brought her in myself,” Clark replied, and then the rest of the officer’s statement caught up with him. “Wait, our lawyer…?”
“I know you weren’t expecting me, Mr. Kent,” Diana said smoothly from right beside him. Clark managed not to startle too obviously as she continued speaking. “When I received the news I decided to be here in person in case any of you needed legal representation. Your family’s case is … sometimes a little confusing to hospital bureaucracies.”
“Thank you, Ms. Prince,” Clark said, eyeing his colleague. What exactly was Wonder Woman doing on guard duty?
“I believe you were headed for the cafeteria?” she said, clearly trying to draw him away from the cop.
Clark assented, and they headed down the hallway together, his mind spinning. “When did you get here?” he asked.
“Right after she was brought in. Barb asked for volunteers; Wally and I were the first to respond.”
“But what about…?”
“The situation’s under control, Clark. The facility was mostly empty, so casualties were light. Most of the survivors appear to be ex-convicts who were hired to provide security. So far they don’t seem to know much about what was going on, but Bruce is investigating.”
“I should be out there,” Clark said fretfully.
“No, you should be here with your wife,” Diana replied firmly, stopping to face him. As he turned startled blue eyes on her, she continued, “Dinah was going to speak to you later, but I may as well say it now and save you the worry. Clark, the last few days have shown us all that we’ve been abusing your generosity. Whenever something goes wrong, whenever a situation looks close to going out of control, we call you. And you always answer, night or day, no matter what else you’re supposed to be doing. Having you unavailable for a while … well, it proved we can handle some of the situations we were calling you for. We have enough members now, enough variety of skills, to take on virtually anything. But we never allowed some of the newer members to reach their full potential because we constantly relied on you – and some of us other founders – to take the pressure from them.”
Clark just blinked. He should have seen this coming in Lois’ twin editorials so many years ago. She had made the point that Superman often wound up doing things people could do themselves, but knowing they had a savior made them complacent. The JLA itself had begun to rely too heavily on him – and he had allowed it to happen, had encouraged it, by putting the League first above all his other responsibilities.
“It’s not that we don’t need you,” Diana said quickly, seeing his surprise. “We always will. You were the first to go public, you were the inspiration for so many of us, and you remain the most powerful of all. But you have other obligations, and it isn’t fair that we take you from them so often. Your family needs you right now, Clark. Stay with them. If we truly need you, we’ll call you in, but otherwise, take some time. You’ve earned it.”
“Thank you,” he said, feeling as though a weight had lifted from his shoulders. “Diana, I… Let me get things right at home, and I’ll be back to business as usual.”
“You do that. And since you’re going to stay here, Wally and I can go help out at the facility.” On that note, they parted, and a very bemused Clark decided to just get some juice from a vending machine. Who could ever have foreseen the day when the JLA told him to take care of business at home while they mopped up the aftermath of one of his villains’ plots?
Lois wavered toward consciousness again, shrugging free of the lassitude that kept claiming her. She opened her eyes slowly, feeling as though her lashes were weighted. It would be so easy to go back to sleep again, but she had the sense that she’d been out for a while, and she needed to know what was going on around her. That intense curiosity – not the desire to know but the need – had driven her throughout childhood and into her career. An observant child could catch the clues that another move was impending, another military command for her father in another faraway base, and she could prepare for the inevitable loss of friends and favorite places.
The quest for knowledge had never ended for Lois. As a reporter, she had to be the first to break a story – or to decide to hold it back, keeping a few well-chosen secrets from the public. It was nearly intolerable for her to think that important events might have occurred while she was sleeping, the third most useless activity for a reporter.
Finally her eyes were open all the way, and Lois blinked to clear her blurry vision. For a moment she thought she was looking into a mirror, but her reflection’s eyes couldn’t be closed if hers were open. And she never wore that much eyeliner.
Kala. The truth hit her like a hammer to the chest, her heart racing. She was looking into her daughter’s face from mere inches away, Kala sleeping peacefully, those long dark lashes and the ironic sweep of brows almost identical to Lois’ own. Lois tried to say her name, but all that came out was a rusty croak.
No matter, Lois was almost frantic with the need to prove this was real, not a hallucination to taunt her. Ignoring the IV line in her arm, she brought her hand up and brushed it across Kala’s hair. The texture of heavy silk was true to life, and at the touch Kala’s eyes opened. “Mom?”
“Kala?” There, she finally said it, and both of them broke into mingled tears and laughter. Kala flung her arms around Lois’ neck and hugged her as tightly as she dared, both of them thinking the same thing: she’s okay, thank God, she’s okay.
When Clark rushed into the room at the sudden acceleration of Lois’ heart, he found them holding each other, Lois kissing Kala’s forehead repeatedly, both of them crying and smiling at the same time. “I love you, Mommy, I love you so much, I’m so sorry,” Kala was whimpering, while Lois replied in the same broken tone, “I love you, baby, I’m so glad you’re safe, I love you, too.”
*Author’s Footnote: Since there has not yet been a Wonder Woman movie, no movieverse canon exists for the character. We preferred not to use any of the comics or TV canon occupations given for her alter ego, and instead went with a law career, at which she excels. Both of the coauthors thought we’d heard it was canon somewhere, and were surprised to realize we had both independently come up with the idea.