By SkipD (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Summary: The third installment in the author's elseworld series begun in "Brothers" and continued in "Luthor's Legacy" that explores what might have happened if someone other than the Kents had found Kal-El.
Author's note: Hi. This is my third installment in my story, started with "Brothers," and continued in "Luthor's Legacy," of what would have happened if the Kents hadn't found Kal-El. I wanted to write this one last story to tie up the relationships that had been developed, and to show how different people would be affected by one change in history. I decided to call this story "Cousins." If you have read the two previous stories, then you can probably figure what this story line is. I hope you have enjoyed reading these stories as much as I have enjoyed coming up with this alternate reality and writing them.
Clark picked up the phone on the third ring. "Clark Kent speaking." He instantly recognized the voice on the other end.
"Clark, hi, this is Martha Kent. I don't know if you remember me."
"How could I forget my favorite aunt?" Clark teased.
Martha picked up on Clark's light mood and was relieved that he had remembered her and Jonathan. "Clark, Jonathan and I were wondering, if you weren't too busy, if you could come out here. We need your help with something, and we really need to speak to you about it face to face."
Clark thought for a minute. "I don't have anything planned for this weekend, I could probably be there in a couple of hours. Would you mind if I brought Lois with me? It's hard to go anywhere without her. I tried giving her excuses for my absences, but when the best I can do is picking up my cheese of the month club shipment, she gets really annoyed."
"Well, if you can trust Lois with your secret, I guess she can be trusted with what we have to tell you. Why don't you pick her up and then fly out here. We'll wait for you."
"OK, Aunt Martha, we'll be there as soon as I can get Lois ready."
Martha hung up the phone, still glowing from having Clark call her "Aunt Martha." She knew she could get used to that. "He'll be here in a couple of hours, and he's bringing that nice lady friend, Lois, with him."
Jonathan seemed as if a weight was being lifted off his shoulders. "I just hope that he's able to help us."
Once Clark had hung up the phone, he immediately hit the speed dial button for Lois' apartment.
"Hello." The voice on the other end sounded as if it was having problems breathing.
"Lois, it's me, Clark. Are you OK?"
Lois perked up hearing Clark's voice, "Oh Clark, yeah, I'm fine. I just got back from my morning run. I'm just a little winded."
"Oh good, I was afraid something was wrong. Listen, I just got a call from my Aunt Martha, out in Kansas. She asked if I could come out. It sounded like something might be wrong, so I agreed to go out there."
"Listen, just because you can fly out there without using a plane, don't think that you're leaving me — "
Before she could finish, Clark was trying to calm her down. "Lois, I've already gotten the OK from Aunt Martha to bring you along. Why don't you go take a shower and I'll be over there in half an hour to pick you up."
"OK," Lois conceded, "but I hope your aunt has been baking. She made the most wonderful apple pie. I wonder if she does anything with chocolate in it."
Clark hung up and decided that he had better prepare for the trip out to Kansas. He wasn't sure what Jonathan and Martha wanted, but he was pretty sure it wasn't a family reunion. He liked knowing that they knew about his secret identity. It was good having Lois to lean on, but he felt that he may need another sounding board at some time, and the Kents' Midwest farmland values would be welcome.
Exactly one half hour later, Clark was knocking on Lois' door. As Lois opened the door, it occurred to Clark that in his travels covering news all over the world, he had never met anyone that had the effect on him that Lois did.
"Well, Clark, do I look ready to travel 'Air Superman'?" Lois was dressed in tight-fitting leggings that showed off her gorgeous long legs. She had on her black Nikes and an oversized cable knit sweater.
Clark entered the apartment and closed the door behind him. He then took Lois in his arms and kissed her. The gentle kiss lingered and turned passionate as they were both carried away with the moment. When they came up for air Lois looked up into Clark's rich brown eyes. "Maybe we better get going, or we may never make it out the door, much less to Kansas."
With that, Clark lifted Lois and cradled her in his arms as she wrapped her arms around his neck. He then bent over and picked up the small overnight bag that Lois had sitting next to the door. He walked over to the window and leapt into the air.
Even after having flown with Clark this way for the past six months, Lois was still like a little girl on a Ferris Wheel when they flew together. She always got a rush when he lifted her into the air above Metropolis. Before she knew it, Clark was angling down toward the white farmhouse that they had visited several months ago while searching for Clark's origins. As he landed, Jonathan Kent stepped out onto the back porch. He approached Lois and Clark with his hand outstretched.
"Clark, Lois, thank you so much for coming." Even as Jonathan greeted them with his friendly Midwestern smile, they could both feel the tension that lay underneath it. As they reached the back porch, Martha appeared, wiping her hands on her apron.
"Lois, we're so glad you could come with Clark." Martha gave Lois then Clark a warm motherly hug.
"Why don't we go inside? I just finished making double fudge brownies, and Jonathan just brought fresh milk in from the barn."
Lois was in heaven. "Martha, can I live here? Your cooking is fabulous."
"Thanks, honey, maybe when you have some time, I can give you some cooking lessons. Listen, Clark, there was a reason for asking you to come out here. Jonathan, maybe you ought to tell them what's going on."
"Clark, you came to us and revealed your secret. Well, we have a secret of our own, and we need your help with it. You remember the young man who was here the first time you visited?"
"Yes, your adopted son, Bruce. He lives in Gotham City doesn't he?"
"That's right," Martha offered. "Well, I think we told you that Bruce's parents had been good friends of ours. Anyway, after they had been killed by a mugger, Bruce came to live with us. He was very quiet and withdrawn. We figured that he needed time to adjust to what had happened to his parents. We tried to be supportive of him and to love him as if he were our own son. After about six months, we weren't sure what to do. We had even considered taking him for counseling. Then one day, while Jonathan and I were in town picking up supplies, old Bessie went into labor. Bruce stood there as that calf came out, and he watched the miracle of birth. He saw Bessie clean that calf off with her tongue as it wobbled trying to stand on its legs."
Jonathan picked up the story, "When we got home, Bruce was so excited about what happened, he dragged Martha and me into the barn to see. I had Martha go call Doc Prichard, the vet, while I sat with Bruce and explained to him what had happened. That's when it all came out. Bruce started crying and he told me that he should have died with his parents that night. He had been there when they were gunned down. I guess we didn't realize the effect something like that would have on a boy his age. Seeing Bessie give birth and take care of that calf gave Bruce a new outlook. He realized that life goes on, and he was there to witness it. After that day, he started to take an interest in the farm. Life on the farm must have agreed with him, because he started growing and getting stronger. He grew to be a strapping young man. Now during this time he had been exploring up in the hay lofts, and he found the bats that roost up there. He startled them, and they all came flying out of there and scared the heck out of him. He told me what had happened, and I explained to him how the bats are the farmer's friend. I told him how they come out at night and feed on the insects and protect the crops."
Lois and Clark were listening to Jonathan go on about Bruce's upbringing, each wondering why it was important enough that the Kents had requested Superman's help.
"Anyway, Bruce grew up here and finally went off to college. He had been left a trust fund to pay for his college education, even though Martha and I would have gladly paid for it. But Bruce was so smart that he had several scholarship offers from some very prestigious universities. After he graduated college, he traveled around the world for a short time. After about a year, he came back here to the farm and had a talk with us. He was going to move to Gotham City. His father had been a successful physician, but he had also been a smart business man. He created Wayne Enterprises and left it in trust for Bruce. We already told you how Bruce started out as an intern there, so he could learn the company from the bottom up. Anyway, before he moved to Gotham, he came to Martha and me and revealed something that he had been keeping a secret since the night his parents were gunned down. Even though he accepted the fact that he had survived the attack on his parents, he felt that he still had responsibility to bring the mugger to justice. Even though Bruce was able to give the police a description of the gunman, they never did catch him. Bruce had been studying with some of the world's great detectives and trackers, as well as learning martial arts. His plan was to take an identity that would frighten the cowardly punks that prey on humanity. He remembered how he had been frightened by the bats in the barn before I explained to him how they were there to help us."
As if coming out of a trance, Lois spoke up, "Are you saying that Bruce Wayne is Gotham City's Batman."
"That's right," Martha spoke up. "In fact, I created his costume. He put together his 'utility belt' but I did the rest, including the 'bat signal' on the chest."
"Maybe she could make a new costume for you, Clark. I mean that black suit is kind of boring," Lois joked.
"Lois, I get the feeling that Bruce's being Batman has something to do with why Jonathan and Martha asked us to come out here." Clark seemed to be concerned.
"That's right, Clark," Jonathan said. "We called Bruce's mansion this morning and spoke to his butler, Alfred. Alfred has been with the Wayne family for over forty years, and not only does he know about our son's secret identity, he helped him set up his headquarters in a cave below the family home. He told us that 'Master Bruce' had received word that the Joker had escaped from Arkham Asylum, and had gone out to investigate. When Alfred went to wake him this morning, he found that Bruce hadn't returned. We're afraid that awful Joker may have caught Bruce in a trap and done something awful to him."
Clark could see that his aunt and uncle were shaken knowing that the son they had adopted could be dead. "I'll fly to Gotham and scan every nook and cranny until I locate Bruce."
"What do you mean 'you'll' fly to Gotham? Don't you mean 'we'll' fly to Gotham?" Lois protested.
Clark knew that tone of voice but decided to try and discourage her anyway. "Lois, if the Joker has Bruce captive, it will be dangerous enough. I won't be able to watch out for the Joker and you too."
Lois smacked Clark on the arm (one of her favorite ways to get his attention). "Listen 'Mr. Faster Than A Speeding Bullet', I am a top-flight investigative reporter, and I was taking care of myself while you were resting in Bosnian foxholes. If you go, I go. End of discussion"
Clark was right, there was no arguing with her when she was like this. "OK, you can come, but only so we can write the story for the Planet. You 'will' stay back and watch, got it?" Clark set his jaw as if that would make Lois take him more seriously.
"All right. We should probably start at Arkham, that would probably have been Bruce's first stop." Clark turned to his relatives, "I promise you that one way or another, I will find Bruce, and if the Joker has done anything to him, he will pay." Before Jonathan or Martha could say anything, Clark walked outside with Lois, picked her up and leapt into the Kansas sky and headed toward Gotham City.
Clark came to a landing next to a group of police officers gathered in the courtyard of Arkham Asylum. They all turned to look as he and Lois started walking toward them. Some had their hands on the butts of their 9mm hand guns, that were standard issue for the Gotham Police force. From the middle of the circle came a man with gray hair and mustache. He held his hand up to the officers, motioning them to stand down. He walked over to meet Lois and Clark.
"Hello, I'm police commissioner James Gordon. And you must be Superman." Clark had gone into his Superman mode and was vibrating slightly so that no one would be able to get a good look at his features. He also changed the tone a pitch of his voice, so that voice analysis would not be able to tell that Superman and Clark Kent were the same person.
"Yes," Clark took the commissioners hand, "And this is Lois Lane, a reporter for the Daily Planet."
Commissioner Gordon took Lois' hand. "Miss Lane, I enjoy reading your work. I suppose that you heard about the breakout."
"Yes, we were informed that the Joker escaped. Can you give us any more information?"
Gordon didn't know either Superman or Lois, and normally would not have trusted them with information on a case like this. But ever since Batman entered his life, James Gordon found that having a superhero around could be helpful now and then. After all, it was Batman that had put the Joker in Arkham in the first place.
"Come with me." Gordon started walking into the building that the police were gathered around. Inside was a sight that made even Clark gasp. "That's the work of the Joker," said Gordon as they looked down at the corpses of two orderlies, with their faces frozen in exaggerated grins. "Somehow the Joker was able to smuggle in some of his deadly 'Laughing Gas.' Once he had taken care of the orderlies, it was easy for him to escape. Batman has already been here and is out looking for that homicidal lunatic right now."
Clark decided to ask the police commissioner if he knew where Batman might have gone. "Did Batman say anything about where the Joker might have gone once he escaped?"
Gordon thought for a moment, "Actually, he did mention a warehouse down by the Gotham Bay Bridge. It used to be owned by Barnum's Animal Crackers Company."
Superman extended his hand as Lois put her pen and notepad back in her purse. "Thank you, Commissioner Gordon. I promise to do everything in my power to bring the Joker back to justice." Lois and Clark walked outside, and as the officers standing around watched, he picked her up, and leapt into the sky.
"All right, you'd think you never saw a superhero before. We happen to have a homicide to investigate here, gentlemen," Gordon barked. Of course, most of the policemen were as impressed with Lois as they were with Superman.
As Superman and Lois approached the area that Commissioner Gordon had directed them to, Clark started to scan the area with his x-ray vision. He landed next to a large warehouse that sported a faded picture of a lion tamer wielding a whip, and a lion jumping through a ring of fire.
"Lois, there are several warehouses in this area that my x-ray vision couldn't scan. This one that Gordon mentioned is one of them. Until I have the chance to go in and check it out, I want you to stay here."
"What if you get in trouble, and you need me?" Lois didn't want to let Clark go in alone.
"Look, if I'm not back in five minutes, get out your cell phone and call 911 and tell them to send Gordon and his men here." Clark ran to the building and entered through a door that had been painted to look like the entrance to the lion's cage. Lois of course had no intention of staying put.
Clark made his way through the large warehouse, unable to use his vision powers. He tried focusing his hearing to see if he could detect anything, but the proximity to the Gotham International Airport made that impossible. He entered a large open area and gasped at what he saw. There, suspended by his wrists, was Bruce. He was naked except for the cowl over his face, and his body was covered with bruises and burns. Whoever had trapped him had intended for him to suffer before killing him. Clark could see the faint rise and fall of Bruce's chest that told him he was still alive.
Checking carefully for traps, Clark approached Batman's battered body. He easily reached up and freed Bruce's hands, laying him down next to the pile that was his costume. "Bruce, it's me, Clark. Who did this to you?"
Bruce's voice was weak, "Be careful, it's the Joker. He's a homicidal maniac."
"Come on, Bruce, let's get you out of here. Lois is waiting outside for us." Clark noticed Bruce tense.
"You left Lois alone outside? The Joker's henchmen are all over the place."
As if on cue, the Joker appeared on a large video screen that Clark hadn't noticed before. "Oh, HaHaHaHaHa. I am in the presence of the great Stuperman. As the camera moved away from the Joker, Clark could see that he had Lois captive, and he was holding what looked like a joy buzzer next to her throat. "It appears that you know the young lady that I am entertaining."
Bruce whispered so that only Superman could hear him. "Clark, that joy buzzer he is holding to Lois' neck is probably laced with his laughing poison. All he needs to do is scratch her, and she will die a horrible death."
"Leave Miss Lane out of this, Joker. Let her go. She's just a reporter, she can't hurt you." Clark was in a panic. He didn't know what to do. If he rushed out of there, the Joker could infect Lois with his poison before he could reach him.
"Sorry, Supes, no can do. This lovely specimen of womanhood is the only thing keeping you from tearing my limbs off while reciting she loves me she loves me not."
"All right, Joker, what do you want?" Clark knew he had to wait until the Joker made a mistake.
"I want you to come outside, the same way you came in. And, oh, by the way, I'm sure that I don't have to warn you not to do anything stupid. HooHaHaHa."
As the Joker's image faded, Clark turned to Bruce. "Batman, are you going to be all right?"
"Just go out there, and don't let the Joker get to you. He'll slip up, he always does. It's in his psychological profile." Bruce mad a waving motion, letting Clark know that he needed to get going.
As Clark stepped back out into the sunlight, he saw Lois tied up and hanging from the arm of a crane, over Gotham Bay. "Did you know that the recent hurricane drove a group of Tiger Sharks into the bay looking for safety, Supes?" The Joker was at the controls of the crane. "All I have to do is hit this button right here, and your lovely little reporter becomes fish bait. HaHaHaHaHa."
Clark wasn't sure what to do until he noticed a shadow out of the corner of his eye. Without hesitating, he headed toward the Joker. True to his word, the Joker hit the control that released Lois. As she plummeted towards the shark-infested water, the shadow that Clark had spotted came swinging down from the roof of the warehouse and caught her in mid fall. As Batman set Lois on the ground and started to untie her, Superman landed, holding the Joker by his collar.
"This isn't fair. It's two against one." The Joker thrashed, trying to break free from Clark's grip.
"Oh, and you call throwing an innocent woman to the sharks fair?" Lois retorted.
As the three of them stood there, police cars came screaming in, and Commissioner Gordon jumped from the lead car. "I'm sorry, Miss Lane, but I just got your message to come here. Looks like you didn't need my help after all. OK, someone get a straightjacket on this clown and get him out of here." Gordon followed his men as they carried the Joker away.
"So, Clark, how did you know to go after the Joker, instead of saving me."
Clark gave one of those sheepish grins that Lois was becoming very fond of. "I noticed Batman up on top of the warehouse. I knew he had a better chance to get to you than he did of getting the Joker. Once I knew that you would be all right, I knew what I had to do. I couldn't have lived with myself if I let that murderer get away." Clark looked at Batman. "You look like you've been through a war, Bruce. Why don't Lois and I give you a lift home so you can get some rest?" Bruce didn't even bother to protest as Clark lifted him and Lois and headed off in the direction of Wayne Manor.
"What I don't understand is why the Joker never removed your cowl to find out who you were?" Lois was sitting next to Clark on a Louis the XIV love seat.
"It's all part of the Joker's sick mind. Batman is his enemy. If he were to remove the mask and see the man beneath it, it would ruin the game for him."
"Some game. Those two attendants at Arkham probably didn't think it was a game." Lois still couldn't understand why Bruce didn't hate the Joker.
Bruce had already had all of these arguments in his own mind. Maybe it was because he knew that the Joker wasn't responsible for his actions, or maybe it was the values that all life was precious, that Jonathan and Martha Kent had instilled in him. He had already called his adopted parents and let him know that he, Clark and Lois were all OK.
"Listen, Clark, Lois, I haven't slept in about 48 hours, and I have a meeting with the Board of Directors at Wayne Enterprises tomorrow morning. Alfred will show you to your rooms when you are ready to retire." With that, Bruce Wayne left the room, and Lois and Clark were left alone.
"Lois, when I saw you in danger today, my mind went blank. I didn't know what to do. I only knew that if the Joker killed you, nothing would have saved him from me. What I'm trying to say is that I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you."
Lois looked at Clark, dumbfounded, "Clark, are you asking me to marry you?"
Again, that sheepish grin that she now knew she loved, came to Clark's face, "Yeah I guess I am. Lois Lane, you are the most intelligent, sweet, sexy, caring woman I have ever known, and if you will have me, I would love to have you as my wife. Lois, will you marry me?"
Lois didn't hesitate. She threw her arms around Clark's neck and pulled him to her. "Oh, Clark, I love you too. I don't care what powers you have or where you were born, I only know that I want to be with you. Yes, I will marry you."
As they kissed, tears of joy rolled down Lois' eyes. Having heard the two of them, Alfred decided that the tea he had made could wait, as he closed the door to the study and left them alone.