Good news traveled fast. Lana had sent out a series of text messages when Kala returned, and she did so again when Lois woke up. Since she knew where everyone was, she only had to send four: to Martha, Perry, Maggie, and finally Sebast. The boy was grounded for his part in helping Elise and Jason stow away, but his parents were mercifully letting him keep his cell phone so he could stay in touch. After she’d sent the messages, Lana turned her phone off and went into the ICU. There would be time later to catch up on calls.
In Smallville, Martha told Lucy first. The two women hugged each other and danced around the kitchen in sheer exuberance, getting stares from the kids. Once they spread the news, everyone was hugging or high-fiving. Martha kissed Ben, Lucy kissed her daughters, Loueen kissed Bryan, and everyone kissed Kristin. No one could contain the joy; everyone had made it back to safety, the bad guy had lost, and that meant they could all go home soon.
In Metropolis, Perry read the message, then spent a few minutes figuring out how to send one back. Tell her to get off her tail and hurry back with the story, he slowly pecked out on the tiny keypad. Lois would know he had typed with his chin tilted up just a little, so that any possible tears of relief – not that he’d ever admit to them – wouldn’t fall. And then he went to tell Jimmy and Ron.
Meanwhile Maggie was plowing through administrative paperwork when the message came in. She read it over twice, making sure she wasn’t missing anything. But it was plain as day: Lois was awake. While the news that Kala was back had been a huge relief, Maggie had never seriously doubted that Superman would bring her in. Lois waking up, now that had been a matter for some debate, and this news was an immense relief. After giving the matter serious consideration for several long moments, Maggie came to a decision: the paperwork could wait. She left early, stopped by the liquor store for a bottle of champagne and one of sparkling cider for Cat, and headed back to the apartment to celebrate.
Sebast was staring at the ceiling when the message came in. He’d been thinking about when would be the best time to ask his parents about taking him to get a haircut. Right now his hair looked like an amateur had attacked it with kitchen scissors, which was precisely what had happened. He really didn’t want to go back to school like this, but making him do so might be his Dad’s way of teaching him a lesson. Thinking about that was better than thinking about the first message he’d gotten. Kala was home safe, but he couldn’t talk to her, couldn’t apologize to her. He didn’t even know if she was really okay, or if she was just putting up such a good front that no one else saw through it. He wouldn’t know, until he saw her himself. Worrying about a stupid haircut also kept him from worrying about Lois, who had always made him feel like a member of the family. Sebast couldn’t bear to think of her lying in a hospital bed. At least when he checked his phone, his worries were cut in half. Surely Lois and her snarky wit would be back in business soon.
With the infamous single-kidney reporter now awake, the room in the ICU quickly grew crowded. Doctors and nurses came to check Lois’ vital signs, plus all family members currently accounted for were now crowding into the room every chance they got. Clark had only left for moments at a time since Lois had awakened to Kala at her bedside. Also as was expected, Jason had rarely left her side since his return, Elise hovering nearby, so overjoyed by this proof of her recovery that he shed a few tears. As much as she loved him, his mother couldn’t help but smile with loving amusement. That said, Lois herself couldn’t resist kissing and hugging both her twins until she was absolutely certain this wasn’t yet another drug-induced hallucination.
She and Elise had even shared a hug, the girl squeezing her as tightly as she dared. “I’m so glad we both made it through okay,” Lois sighed.
Richard couldn’t resist remarking, “Yeah, fortunately Elise was smart enough to run away from danger instead of toward it like some reporters I know.”
Lois ignored him, giving herself license to hold Kal-El’s hand for as long as she possibly could, to revel in the relief that she had them all back and in one piece, which was more than she could say for herself. All the while, Richard was giving her his own devoted version of hell, even as Lana was telling him to hush. More than any drug, more than anything, she needed this. To be back amongst her family and be able to yet again thumb her nose at the reaper. Once again, she’d made it, if only just barely. The only drawback was that even as she consumed the attention, all of the excitement was quickly wearing her down and the pain was starting to seep back in. That, however, didn’t stop her from demanding, like a queen from her throne, a recap of everything she’d missed.
It was Clark who told the story up to a point, but when he hesitated after they arrived at Luthor’s lab, Kala nodded to her father and leaned in to whisper the parts they couldn’t afford to have overheard. She started once, then paused to try to find the words. It really was the first time she was saying this aloud and found that they stuck in her throat. Thank God, she didn’t have to meet her mother’s eyes. Mom was ruthless when the situation demanded it, but what would she think of her afterward? Jason had been just a kid when it happened to him and he hadn’t known his own strength. What she had done had been totally different… “You … don’t have to worry about Zod ever again,” she murmured against Lois’ ear. “I … shot him. With Luthor’s kryptonite gun.”
That had been unexpected and Lois turned wide eyes on her daughter, a thousand things racing through her mind. Just that realization hurt more than any gunshot could. She didn’t want to even give the appearance of condemning her own child, but the fear of something like this happening had been the very thing that had convinced her to make the deal with Lex in the first place. To keep the twins out of his sick little games. It wounded her that both of her twins had blood on their hands now, and this young. She had tried, from their earliest days, to protect them from the harsher side of life. And in the end, this was Luthor’s revenge on her. No matter how she tried, she hadn’t been about to stop what had happened. She could only be there to help fix it as best they could. At a loss for words, she simply pulled Kala to her as tightly as she could and stroked her hair.
That had been the right thing to do, as Kala returned the hug with more whispered news. “I didn’t get Luthor, though. If we’re lucky he got caught in the self-destruct. Anyway, I was pretty sick from the kryptonite, so when Dad and Jase rescued me, Dad took us up for a sunbath. Higher than ever, Mom. It was incredible, the view, the sun… I can’t even describe it. You have to see it sometime. And on the way home…” She pulled back, beaming at Lois, her eyes dancing. Afraid to speak in case a hovering nurse should hear, she simply mouthed the words: I can fly.
Lois gasped, the tears of pain for her daughter that had been threatening changing to disbelief. Flight? She got flight? Never in a million years had she dreamed either of her children would inherit the most striking of their father’s powers. That Kala had achieved such a triumph, especially after all of this mess she had been through, put a tremble in Lois’ voice as she stroked Kala’s cheek and murmured, “My baby. I’m so proud of you.” Kala beamed at that, leaning into her hand with tears starting to fall. Lois could see past the blasé front she was putting up, and knew Kala was hiding a lot of pain and trauma. It seemed that the Lane tradition of Deal-With-It-Later was still alive and well. Thankfully, the original owner had the instruction manual for dismantling it. But for now, Kala was functioning and they had time to figure things out.
Once they wheedled the nurses into letting them have a phone in the ICU room, Richard took over message duty and gave the number out – with the warning that calls would have to be limited. As a result, much of that day was spent in phone calls. Now that the rest of the family had absorbed the news that Lois was awake, everyone wanted to speak to her personally. Getting a text was nothing like actually hearing Lois’ voice. However, her doctors had been very firm about not letting her get tired out, so Lana was fielding calls and offering reassurances to allow Lois a chance to rest. The reporter would doze off for a while only to wake and demand an update.
When Lana answered the room phone to find Lucy on the other end, she knew this one was going to require a little more finesse. And the compromise was a simple one. She just said, “Hold on a second,” and passed the phone over to Kala.
The girl was still manning the armchair closest to Mom on one side, and she had made it her duty to scrutinize every doctor and nurse who entered to make sure none of them were Luthor’s people in disguise. No one tried to dissuade her. Having a purpose – protecting her mother – seemed to be what was best for Kala at the moment, far safer than giving her time to reflect and brood.
Having a phone suddenly in her face startled her out of her groove, looking from the receiver to Lana with an puzzled look. The redhead gave her a very definite nod. With a silent command like that, Kala could only place the phone to her ear and say, “Hello?”
“Kala! Oh my God, Kala, I’m so glad you’re okay.” Lana’s gambit had worked, and Lucy had completely forgotten about her insistence on speaking to her big sister right this instant. That gave Lois a chance to wake up again, and allowed Lana to pester her into drinking some water.
Lucy’s delight swept Kala up and carried her along, a broad smile on her face. “Oh my God, hi! Aunt Lucy, yeah, I’m good. Is everyone else okay? How’s Little Red?”
“Oh yeah, we’re all in Smallville – well, all the women and children, I guess. Kristin is gonna have a field day when she hears this. I’d put her on the phone but she’d probably burst your eardrums screaming. She really missed you.”
That was enough to close Kala’s eyes on sudden tears. Oh God, I didn’t even think of that. Jesus, what the hell was I thinking? “I missed her too,” the girl said, her heart contracting painfully. The relief in her aunt’s voice shamed her to hear. She hadn’t just hurt her parents and her brother by running away; she’d wounded everyone in the extended family. Idiot, how could you think no one loves you? They all love you, and you could’ve broken a lot of hearts if you hadn’t been lucky enough to live through that. Just because you’re a teenager doesn’t give you license to be a melodramatic little moron.
There was no time to dwell on that, because Lucy had a dozen questions, most of which Kala could actually answer. Most of them boiled down to the one Lucy kept coming back to: “Are you sure you’re okay?” Sometimes she asked it as, “How are you handling things?” and sometimes as “You’re not hurt at all?”
And Kala could answer yes to the last, because she’d been able to stop wearing the wrist brace that morning, and the sunbath had cleared up the last of the lingering ache. Sometimes it felt like a different Kala whose wrist had been fractured, some other girl who’d lived through the past few days in a state of near-constant mortal terror.
By the time Lucy had worn the edge off of her surprise at speaking to her niece, Lois was firing on all eight cylinders again and was making it abundantly clear that she was ready to talk. With a look of fond exasperation Lana caught Kala’s gaze and tilted her head toward Lois, holding up two fingers. “Hey, Aunt Lucy?” Kala laughed, shaking her head at her mother. “You’re my favorite aunt and everything, but there’s somebody here who wants to talk to you even more than I do. We’re not supposed to let her wear herself out, though, so you get two minutes to talk to her. Okay?”
She handed the phone to her mother, and the grin on Lois’ face was like sunlight when she heard Lucy’s voice. “Hey, Luce. Yeah, I’m getting there. I’m gonna have to learn how to shoot left-handed, maybe, but other than that… Hey, you know, that may not be the worst thing in the world. How many people can fire a gun with either hand? Yes, I consider that a good thing…”
Kala tipped Lana a wink for managing that so adroitly, and tilted her head back to relax the tension in her neck. It was getting close to time for her to get up and move around again, if she was getting stiff. After the initial rush to Lois’ bedside, the room had gotten very cramped, so the family was taking shifts to sit with Lois. The hospital had apparently given up trying to enforce policy around the time they’d learned the Kents’ attorney was in the building, and everyone was being very careful to keep quiet, stay out of the way, and be helpful whenever possible. Richard had called and ordered pizza for the nurses’ station, which certainly kept the family on everyone’s good side.
Thinking of taking a break, not wanting to leave Mom just yet, Kala closed her eyes for a moment. A wave of sound washed through her, each word, each sigh, each scuff of a shoe, each beep of a machine, all drops of water in the roar of that surf. It was pure madness to expect sense to come out of that, to isolate one particular drop in the ocean of noise.
But it still worked. Kala heard her father’s voice above her somewhere, and focused in that direction automatically. Not precisely eavesdropping, but the familiar cadence and timbre drew her attention as the rest of the noise couldn’t.
While she listened in that direction (and absolutely did not eavesdrop, no way), Kala heard her own name, and that was enough to make her focus all the way. It’s not eavesdropping if it’s about you after all. A woman was saying, “…a backpack and a suitcase. Not sure if everything’s there, but we brought it anyway.”
“Thank you,” her father was saying, but Kala’s mind was already whirling. They’d found her stuff? She wanted very badly to change out of these clothes, and she really needed to give back the money she’d taken – she cringed a little, hoping they’d found out already, hoping that she wouldn’t have to tell her father that she’d stolen three thousand dollars. If the family had discovered that while she was missing, it might be forgiven in the euphoria of having her back, but if Dad found out now, he’d be so disappointed in her…
And then she heard another name mentioned. Zod. The single syllable dropped into her mind like an icicle at first thaw, a cold and deadly spear. Her heart hesitated, then kicked up even faster. What if he wasn’t dead? Never mind that she’d been there when his breath stopped, never mind that it had been hours since then and his body had been lying in a kryptonite-irradiated room. Kala had been watching horror movies since she was old enough to separate fantasy from reality, and the bad guy was never really dead. There was always room for a sequel.
But no, they’d found his body, so he was well and truly dead, and with that confirmation came an unexpected sting of sorrow. A moment ago she’d been terrified that he might still be alive, so why did it wound her to know he was dead? Why should she grieve for him?
Hell, why shouldn’t she? She had turned on him because she believed in the freedom to royally screw up as many times as it took to get something right, but he had protected her, taught her, guided her, all to the best of his ability and with what were, for someone like him, the best of intentions.
“Dad’s on the roof,” she told Lana, standing up, as Lois rolled her eyes at something Lucy was saying. “I need to go talk to him.”
The redhead’s first reaction was clearly to veto this, but she paused for a moment before changing her mind. “Fine, but not alone,” Lana said firmly.
“I’ll get Jase then. He and Elise can separate for two seconds.” With that, she hurried out before she could be countermanded. Just hopefully she could get up there before a second set of things could hit the fan.
Jason was in the waiting room with Elise, close enough if his mother needed him but far enough not to be underfoot. The pair were currently snuggled up in one of the small couches, Elise’s head on Jason’s shoulder, his arm around her. “So about this ‘getting back together’ thing,” he began, then didn’t know what else to say.
“Don’t ask me to marry you,” Elise said, not bothering to look up. “We’re sixteen, Jason. The answer’s gonna be ‘hell no’ and my parents would move to New Zealand permanently to keep me away from the crazy.”
“That’s not what I was going to say.” Jason protested with an annoyed frown at her, but Elise only smirked.
Before he could ask his question, Kala appeared. With only the briefest hello to Elise, she unceremoniously grabbed his hand and dragged him up off the sofa and toward the stairs.
“Kal, what the…?” he complained, but she didn’t let him get too far with it.
“Dad’s on the roof with some people from the League, and I need to talk to them, and Lana told me not to go alone so I’m bringing you,” she said, and ran up the stairs towing Jason behind her.
Bemused, Jason burst out on the roof to see his father standing with a group of what had to be superheroes, even though they were all in plainclothes. He was most definitely not trying to match them up with the League’s roster in his head; there were things he wasn’t supposed to know yet, and it would be better if he didn’t find out prematurely.
Kala, meanwhile, was walking up to them as if she had every right to do so. “I’m sorry for interrupting, Dad, everyone, but there’s something I need to say.”
“So say it,” said the blonde woman of the group, watching Kala with an interested eye.
His sister looked at each of them in turn, her gaze level and serious, before speaking again. “You all know who I am, and you probably know some of the things I can do. One of those things is the ability to hear my name mentioned pretty much anywhere within fifty miles. Which is why I listened to what you were saying.” She managed not to look embarrassed as she said it, while Jason was wondering what kind of costume you wore if your superhero name was The Eavesdropper.
Since no one had commented on that, either to absolve her of guilt or to scold her, Kala continued. “First of all, thank you for finding my stuff. I really appreciate it. And second, I have a request to make.”
She hesitated again, and Dad said, “What’s that, Kala?”
Kala took a deep breath. “I don’t know what the Kryptonian funeral traditions are, but I would like Dru-Zod to have the full funeral honors to which he is entitled.”
Into the deafening silence that answered that sentence, Jason exploded. “Kal, why? He’s not entitled to a damn thing! He tried to kill me, he tried to kill Mom and Dad back in the day, he tried to take over the world! He doesn’t deserve honors! Cremate him and chuck the ashes in a freakin’ landfill, good riddance to bad rubbish!”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Dad stir, as if about to say something, and the tall dark-haired woman lifted her chin. But Bruce Wayne – whom they’d known since childhood as an associate of Dad’s, the one they were supposed to go to if something happened and they couldn’t stay with family – simply lifted a hand and they both kept quiet.
“I’m not saying he was one of the good guys,” Kala said quietly. “I don’t have Stockholm Syndrome, I’m not blind to what Dru-Zod was. But you are, Jase. You only know our side of the story. You never heard his. You never spoke with him. And if he had actually reformed the way he said he did, you wouldn’t have given him a chance to prove it. You would’ve attacked him right off, because he was General Zod, and because you thought he was part of the plan to kidnap me.”
Jason’s expression wasn’t friendly and it made his position all too obvious. “Wasn’t he?”
“No. He didn’t know who I was until Luthor told him. Luthor took me – it was supposed to be you, Jase, they knew more about your powers – to be competition for Dru-Zod. Luthor wanted the knowledge in the crystals, and he figured out that Dru-Zod was holding back. He thought he might get further if there was someone else who could speak Kryptonese and unlock that information. Luthor planned for me and Dru-Zod to hate each other on sight, to work against each other, and if I’d had my way we would have.”
Silence except for the sigh of the desert wind. “So what happened?” Jason finally asked. That was the one thing no one had yet dared to ask Kala. What happened, how bad was it, what did you have to do to survive – what had turned a fairly ordinary half-alien teenager into someone who would kill an enemy?
Kala’s voice stayed low. “He rescued me. He protected me. He gave me advice that, while it was designed to alienate me from you and the rest of the family, also kept me from going insane. Dru-Zod had plans for me, and it would have been terrible if he’d gotten what he wanted, but he was my ally. If not for him, I would’ve been gang-raped the first day.”
Those words, and the bald, flat tone in which she said them, hit Jason like a speeding semi, and he could only stare as shock filled him. In a few seconds the rage would come, he could feel it gathering like a storm … and then he heard his father growl. “I need a moment. I will be right back.” With those hoarse and wrathful words, he was gone.
All of them looked up. Far above the earth, Superman punched a meteor so hard it dissolved into dust. To those that could see it, the meteor seemed atomized by sheer rage. And then he sought out another. And another. The Quarantid meteor shower was going to be a lot sparser than normal tonight.
Jason could see, and it allowed him to stuff his rage down tight somewhere in the depths of his heart. It hadn’t happened. Zod had saved her – that was Jason’s job, but he could be grateful to the General. Now if he found one of those men Kala was talking about, oh, then they’d find out how hard he could strike…
“Are you all right?” the blonde woman asked gently.
“I’m fine,” Kala said, but her voice was brittle and her arms were crossed tightly. When no one spoke, she filled the silence. “Luthor had some of his goons carry me in. You noticed there weren’t many women down there, right? I was doing okay for myself, even though I’d been drugged, but one of them broke my wrist with a police baton. After that I would’ve been in trouble, but Dru-Zod saved me before they could actually do anything.”
Jason swallowed, not knowing what to say. Kala was being blasé about this, but he could tell she had been terrified. She was still terrified. About then, Dad returned, back in civilian clothes and adjusting the collar of his shirt. “I’m officially taking myself off of this one. You understand why.”
“Perfectly,” the blonde said. No one had to say, Because any sane man would want to kill the men who tried to rape his daughter. And Dad was one of the few people for whom not killing someone was actually harder than killing them. Jason knew he would be tempted, if he was out there. Just one punch for vengeance’s sake, but it could too easily be a punch like the ones that had turned meteors to dust.
“And you also understand why I’m asking for full funeral honors. Please.” Kala said it calmly, but Jason knew how tightly she was wound up. He had always been able to read her, and right now her shoulders were so tense she probably had one hell of a headache.
“It would be wise,” said Bruce. “Get back to me with the specifics and we’ll arrange it. None of you can be present, however, due to the radiation, unless we use a lead-lined coffin.”
“Thank you,” Kala and Dad said in unison. She continued, “I’m sorry for interfering. I need to get back downstairs – they’re talking about moving Mom to a regular room now that she’s awake.”
“And making a pest of herself,” Dad said with a smile that managed to be harassed and adoring at the same time.
Diana frowned slightly at this news, rather surprised. “Is it safe to move her this soon?”
Bruce scoffed. “This is Lois Lane we’re talking about. There should’ve been a public service announcement on the day she was born.”
Dad gave him a skeptical look, trying to decide if that was complimentary or critical. Bruce only looked back at him, and after a moment of silent communication Dad smiled. “Sometimes I do think she should have a warning label.”
“Caution: Contents Under Pressure,” Kala quipped quickly, and grinned.
“Danger: High Explosive,” was Jason’s snickering contribution.
“Beware of Attack Journalist,” Bruce said, and they all shared a laugh that cleared the air. Mom would be fine. She had to be. She was indestructible, a force of nature, a woman whom every superhero in the nation knew and respected. Just after being shot, she was already awake, and Jason had overheard her asking when she could get back to work. If they had allowed her to use the phone as much as she wanted, she would’ve been calling Perry for details about the paper.
On that relieved note, Kala and Jason headed back down to Mom’s room.