The flight to Kansas was annoying, Kala trying not to fidget and not quite succeeding. Dustin, at least, was happy; the lines didn’t bother him, and the flight itself didn’t seem slow. But then, he didn’t have super-powered flight to compare it with. Kala could’ve covered the distance solo just during the time they waited to go through the x-ray machine at the airport!
It was no better once they took off. The view from the airplane window was far too limited for her taste. What was flying without the whole glorious Earth spread out below her, the warmth of the sun on her skin and the coolness of the clouds as she burst through them, and the ability to swoop down and take a closer look whenever she wanted? Not to mention, her solo flights never included a snoring business reclining his seat in front of her, and someone a row or two back who was vigorously chewing gum so loudly that even Dustin looked around in disbelief.
Still, Smallville was ahead, and Jason, who had sounded much more peaceful in his messages of late. Kala sighed and leaned on Dustin’s shoulder. “I never knew you hated flying this much,” he murmured.
She managed to chortle. “I don’t hate flying. I love it. I hate everything around it. Weighing and measuring my bags, and taking off my shoes, and how four three-ounce containers are okay but one ten-ounce container is dangerous, and all the people who don’t know those things and complain about them and hold up the line. And then the in-flight meal that’s some nuts and half a soda, the bathrooms that I don’t even wanna go near, and generally being jammed up like this with a bunch of people who don’t really like being here either. All that, plus there could always be delays or whatever. It’s just a negative experience.” Kala sighed. “But you know, here we are sixty thousand feet up, and I’m annoyed with all that when I should be thinking how amazing it is that we take the whole thing for granted.”
Dustin nodded. “I thought a rock star would be used to it by now, though.” He was teasing her, gently as always, and Kala grinned right back.
“Nope, this rock star and her band mostly travel by van. The instruments are all too heavy to check as baggage, plus most of our shows have either been within driving distance of home or of the last show.” Kala stretched her legs and glanced out the window again; they were getting close to Kansas City. “And when we hit the big time, we’ll have one of those fancy tour bus rigs to travel in.”
“See, I love that about you,” Dustin pointed out. “You said when we hit the big time, not if.”
“Nice to know you appreciate my enormous ego and unfailing self-esteem,” Kala teased.
“Nah, I like your willpower and your guts,” he replied easily. “If you’d been born a hundred and fifty years ago, Kala, you would’ve been one of those women going, ‘Heck yeah, I’ll take fifty acres a week’s journey from everyone and everything I know, and I’ll build a house on land I’ve never seen before and make a farm and a life out of it. Free land? Sign me up!’ Stuff like that doesn’t scare you. You just dive in.”
A slow smile curved her mouth. It was funny, for all her city-born and city-bred sophistication, Kala could see herself as a pioneer woman. The call of the frontier, the vast wilderness awaiting her discovery? It would’ve been irresistible. “I probably would’ve disguised myself as a boy and run away to get there sooner,” she chuckled.
The ‘Fasten Seatbelt’ sign came on, and the pilot announced their descent. Kala and Dustin waited patiently through landing and disembarking, finally free to find the baggage carousel.
And waiting for them there were Jason and Wade, Dustin’s older brother. At the sight of her twin, Kala beamed. He grinned too, throwing his arms wide, and called out, “Mothra!”
“Godzilla!” Kala yelled back, and pelted toward him. She leaped at him before remembering that might not be such a good idea without his super-strength, but Jason caught her and spun her around anyway.
“Hey now, who d’ya think you are, manhandling my girl?” Dustin said gruffly, thumping Jason’s arm. His own brother hugged him and tousled his hair, and Jason let go of Kala long enough to return the punch on the shoulder.
The twins had only been apart a few days, but it felt like worry had stretched the time. Kala laughed now to see Jason. “You got a tan! And you have hay in your hair, you know. What’re you, going native?”
“Might be,” he said, and tweaked her nose. “C’mon, let’s get the bags and get rolling, it’s a long drive to town even in Wade’s car.”
Kala glanced over at her boyfriend’s brother. “Wade, please tell me you didn’t bring that Karmann Ghia you were driving when we were out here last year.”
“Nah, I sold that one,” Wade said. “You’ll like the car I’ve got now. She’s a beauty.”
That earned him a skeptical look. Wade had always favored sports cars or muscle cars, which made his current career as a stock car racing mechanic unsurprising, and his favorite cars generally weren’t the thing for moving four people and luggage any significant distance. But when they walked out to the parking lot, the car he lead them to was a Cadillac. “Holy shit, you bought a caddy?”
“Came into Dad’s shop with a shot-out transmission,” Wade explained, popping the trunk. “The guy didn’t wanna put that much money into it, so he offered to sell it, and I bought it. Rebuilt the tranny on my weekends, and now I’ve got a touring car. Gonna need the extra space, anyway.”
“Oh yeah?” Kala asked, raising an eyebrow. Something was up with that statement. She could almost guess….
Wade grinned broadly, the exact same grin as Dustin when he had good news. “Jenny’s pregnant. She thought she might be, but she just found out for sure last week at the doctor’s. We’re gonna have a baby!”
“I’m gonna be an uncle?” Dustin said, as Jason and Kala both congratulated his brother. “Why didn’t you call me!”
“I did, little bro, and before I could give you the news, you told me you were coming home for the weekend, so I figured I’d tell you in person.” Wade was beaming still, and Dustin hugged him joyfully. “Jenny’s folks back in Pennsylvania are thrilled. We always spend a couple weeks with them while I’m at Pocono in the summer, but this year we’re thinking we do the baby shower while we’re there, with all her relatives back east. And maybe I’ll bring the folks out, too. What’s the point of making good money if you don’t spend it a little?”
The drive to Smallville was full of laughter and excited talk, which Kala appreciated—but it didn’t give her a chance to pick her brother’s brain. On the phone last night he’d mentioned seeing Cassie and her sister, but Kala hadn’t been able to press for details because the boys were hovering around her like a pack of starving dogs outside a butcher shop. Sebast wasn’t the only one who was going to miss her fiercely, even if it was just a weekend. And of course there were a thousand questions that had to be answered before she could break away to pack. Thank God they hadn’t had to cancel a show.
Dustin mentioned being hungry, so Wade pulled in at the diner in Smallville proper on the way to the Kent farm. The four kids sat down at a booth, and the waitress took their orders for burgers and fries and milkshakes. “Fell off the vegetarian wagon, huh?” Wade asked Kala. “You know they do a veggie patty now.”
She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, and those veggie patties are okay, but they don’t taste like burgers. I’d rather take a whole portabello mushroom and grill that and stick it in a bun.”
Eventually the talk drifted around to family, and Wade asked after Jason’s girlfriend. “I just spoke to her yesterday,” he said. “Her sister wants to meet me.”
“So we’re at that meeting-the-family stage, huh?” Wade asked, with a wink at Kala. “You know the next thing is picking out a ring, right?”
Jason predictably blushed, and Kala snickered. “Yeah, meeting her dad might be a problem. I hear he’s kind of … overwhelming.” Considering that Cassie’s father was the Greek god Zeus, that was understatement, and Jason chipped her ankle for it.
“No rings yet. And I already met her mom. The sister, Donna, well, I’ve been having to make some decisions lately, and she wants to talk to me about them.”
From that statement, Kala quickly drew some parallels. She wasn’t privy to Titans gossip, but everyone remotely connected to the caped community had heard of some kind of tragedy in the former Wonder Girl’s life that had led to her early retirement. Had she, too, lost her powers? It drove Kala nuts not to be able to ask, but then, even if Dustin and Wade had been in on the family secrets, there were too many other people in the diner.
Like the two guys sitting at the counter, who kept looking at their table. At first Kala bristled with suspicion. She’d never quite forgotten what she’d learned from Nevada: their enemies could be hiding in plain sight at any time.
After a watchful moment, though, Kala figured out that they were just giving her the same disapproving, disbelieving look she was quite accustomed to. Not Smallville regulars, she didn’t think, or they’d know her. But they were from somewhere around here. She tried to ignore them and focus on the pleasant chatter at the table, and the bacon cheeseburger that had just been set down in front of her.
Until her hearing caught a whisper, something about kids who dressed like witches for attention. And that was the final straw. “Excuse me, guys,” Kala said pleasantly, and got up. None of them thought anything of it, probably expecting her to head for the restroom—and then Jason groaned when he realized her destination.
Kala hopped up on the bar stool next to the two men. “Hi,” she said brightly, holding out her hand. Good old-fashioned country courtesy prompted the first man to shake with her, though he looked startled, and when she leaned across him to reach the other guy, he shook her hand, too. Now both of them were staring exactly like the deer in the front yard at the farm when the porch light came on.
“You guys aren’t from Smallville, are you? Somewhere up the road apiece, right?” The right rhythm and diction came to her naturally, as if the air in Smallville was pre-loaded with it, and Kala kept the sunny smile on even while she wanted to growl. But no, she could be her father’s daughter as much as her mother’s. Besides, Lana was living proof that kindness was as effective a weapon as cruelty.
Not that a smack across the face wasn’t warranted at times, but then, people here were still talking about the time Lana had slapped Jane Lutter for what she’d said about Lois bringing her two out-of-wedlock children to their father’s hometown.
The two men were from Hartwell, not far away at all, and one volunteered that they were visiting relatives. “Cool,” Kala said, leaning one elbow on the counter. “That’s what brings me to Smallville, too. See, my dad’s from here. You know the Kents, out on 129 just outside town? Clark Kent is my father. And my mother is Lois Lane, better known as ‘that Eastern gal’ even now. Anybody in town can tell you stories about her, but they’ll also tell you she’s a real firecracker, and everybody who’s anybody likes Ma Kent’s daughter-in-law. Oh, and Lana Lang is sort of my stepmom, too. She’s a Smallville girl through and through.”
The name-dropping had worked, recognition in both men’s eyes, and Kala grinned mostly to bare her teeth. “I’m not a witch, by the way. I’m a singer, and I happen to like black. Where I come from, we care more about who people are than how they dress. Which is why the guy in the plaid over there, looking like Farmer Ted Jr.? He’s majoring in cosmology at Johns Hopkins—that’s the same specialty as Stephen Hawking. He does astrophysics in his sleep—I mean he literally recites equations while he’s asleep sometimes—though you wouldn’t know it to look at him right now. Oh, and he’s also my twin brother, but I didn’t have a choice in that.”
And you wouldn’t know I’m Superman’s daughter to look at me, but that’s half the reason why I’m Goth. No one suspects a legacy based on sunshine from someone who dresses like a vampire, and not one of the sparkly ones, either. The thought brought genuine warmth to Kala’s smile, and she caught the short-order cook smirking from the kitchen. “So yeah. Don’t worry, I won’t hex you. I may have been born in Paris and grew up in Metropolis, but I’m a Smallville girl by blood, too, and damn proud of it.”
With that she hopped off the bar stool, sauntered back to the table, and dropped into her seat with a kiss on Dustin’s cheek. “Sorry, just had to clear something up,” she said innocently, and promptly stole one of Jason’s fries even though she hadn’t finished her own yet.
There was definitely something to be said for being the ‘wild one’ of her generation, and Kala was proud to be living up to Mom’s legacy.