By Robert Culpepper <email@example.com>
Submitted July 1998
Summary: Spider-Man returns to Metropolis on the trail of a deadly criminal genius just as Robin and Batgirl arrive looking for their own villain. Soon everyone is caught up in an epic of confusion that brings Clark face to face with some personal issues, while Jimmy fights for his life. A sequel to the author's fanfic, "The Spider and the Fly(boy)."
Back by popular demand, I bring FoLCs another team-up! This time around I decided to go for a larger scope story. Consequently, larger story. This time around we've got Spider-Man *and* Robin and Batgirl. The story line plays a little loose with the Batman chronology, but it makes for a good time. This would have taken place in the fourth season, and assumes most of what happened along the way with the exception of the Jimmy-Lucy relationship. It provides a little spice throughout the story. This story builds on events that first took place in my other story: "The Spider and the Fly(boy)". As always, the characters belong to their respective owners, but the story's mine. ENJOY!
* Denotes thoughts.
SPECIAL THANKS: Dana, James (and wife) and Joe
Comments go to firstname.lastname@example.org
Epic (Confusion) a follow-up to The Spider and the Fly(boy)
"I hope you can do this," the voice from the shadows said. "I tried to get someone a little more 'local' to do the job… but he was unavailable, I'm afraid."
The man who stood in front of the desk nodded. He wore a regular business suit, although the bright green color stood out. "Yes. I hear Dr. Crane is being rehabilitated… again. What a shame to have a man of his talents sitting in a mental ward. I should know."
"You haven't told me exactly how long this is going to take." The voice sounded more irritated. "I would like a time line before I give you access to over 100 million dollars of equipment and resources."
"Don't worry, Mr. Daggett. Everything will go fine. I've decided to relocate. Gotham isn't good for you, and New York is very bad for me. I thought we'd test out the product in Metropolis."
"Metropolis?!" Roland Daggett stood and looked angry. "Don't you think you'll run into Superman? You're a fool if you think he'll won't know what you're up to. Superman is not in the bargain, understand?"
The man laughed lightly first, then it turned into something demonic. "Superman will never suspect I'm there." Daggett didn't look convinced. "Listen, Mr. Daggett. Norman Osborne always keeps his word." Then the voice changed into something almost inhumanly evil that made even Daggett flinch. "So does the Green Goblin!"
Clark looked around the room. "That was real sneaky, Lois!" He continued to look. "That trail of clothes to the kitchen had me going for a minute. I'll admit it, you're pretty good at hide and seek." Clark could have searched each room in the house in a moment, but he decided not to. It was more fun this way. He and Lois had taken to playing hide and seek together at odd times when they just needed a little time to 'play'. "You know it's only a matter of time before I find you… I'm playing fair by the way. No super-hearing, no floating…" He smiled. If he could get her to crack up laughing, he wouldn't need any super powers. "Would you like me to tell you what I'll do when I find you?"
Just then he heard a giggle come from the bedroom. He quietly approached the room, and then quickly opened the door. "Oh.. you found me!" Lois said, pretending to pout. Clark knew better though. She'd planned the whole thing. "And you caught me without anything on!" Lois was curled up in the bed with blankets up to her chin.
Clark lowered his glasses and grinned. "I know."
"I'm really glad we don't have lead-lined sheets." Clark spun out of his clothes quickly and then climbed into the bed beside Lois. He took her into his arms. "You know, I like finding you this way."
Lois giggled as she cuddled closer to Clark. "I know. Why do you think I let you find me?" She raised her head and kissed him and he responded in kind. "You know, we're lucky Perry gave us a Friday afternoon off."
"We're lucky it's a slow news day," Clark said as he kissed her from her neck to her lips. "It gives us a chance to practice…"
"Trying to become parents," Lois finished the thought between breaths. "You know, this has got to be the most enjoyable practice two people can engage in." She turned and started nibbling on his ear, soft enough so that she wouldn't break her teeth. "Let's start practicing, now," she whispered heavily into his ear. Without hesitation, he embraced her and…
The doorbell rang. "GO AWAY!!!" Lois yelled in desperation. Both of them waited a moment, looking out toward the main townhouse door. Lois was saying "Please.. please…" quietly but it did no good. The doorbell rang again. She looked to Clark who was already starting to get up. "This isn't fair!"
Clark didn't look happy either. "We just can't catch a break." He spun around and was instantly dressed. Lois now pouted for real. "Relax, Lois. Remember, I can undress just as fast. I haven't said this to you in a while… but hold that thought and I'll be back… as soon as I can get rid of whoever's out there." The doorbell rang again, and Clark sprinted toward the door, leaving a very frustrated wife in bed.
Clark didn't even check the door before he opened it. What he found on the other side was a surprise. The woman leaped at him and embraced him in a quick hug. It was a moment before Clark recognized the woman. It was Mary Jane Watson-Parker and behind her stood Peter with his hand stretched out. "Congratulations, Clark!"
Clark shook Peter's hand and look confused. "Congratulations?"
"The wedding…" Peter reminded.
Clark shook his head clear. "Oh… thanks." He ran a hand through his hair and called to his wife. "Lois! It's Mary Jane and Peter Parker! From New York! MJ and Peter!" Clark smiled awkwardly, and then noticed MJ and Peter staring at him. "What?"
"Catch you at a bad time, Clark?" Peter asked with a raised eyebrow. Clark didn't quite understand. "Clark, your pants are inside out." Clark blushed a very deep red and excused himself for a moment. Peter turned to his wife. "I've got the feeling we interrupted something… private."
MJ smirked. "I don't even have spider-sense and I could tell that." She paused. "Maybe we should come back later."
"You will not." Lois made her way into the room, dressed in a blouse and blue jeans, with Clark behind her, now dressed correctly. She gave both of them a quick hug. "It's been forever since we've seen either of you!"
MJ hugged Lois back. "Congratulations on finally getting married, Lois. You and Clark have earned it."
"Why didn't you two show up for the wedding… I realize it didn't turn out the way we planned… the first time… the second time, but you did promise to come." Clark was curious. Both he and Lois had wondered why their New York friends hadn't shown up in town the week of the wedding. Either wedding for that case. "Let me guess, JJ wouldn't give you any time off?"
Peter shook his head. "No. I had to track down the Lizard who had somehow teamed up with Venom. It took me a week to get the Lizard back to normal." Clark and Lois looked lost and Peter sighed. "He's actually my old physics professor… the Lizard was an accident… the same way I became Spider-Man… neogenics."
Clark and Lois nodded, not understanding a word Peter had said. They didn't know if that had kept them from the first or second wedding, and they didn't want to ask. Clark managed to smile pleasantly. "So, what brings you to Metropolis? Last time you two were here, so was Fisk. Is something up?" Clark hoped it was nothing of the sort, but he had an uneasy feeling when other heroes turned up in town.
Peter and MJ exchanged a nervous glance. "No… we just wanted to drop by and visit. See how the two of you are getting along." Peter realized he wasn't convincing anyone, so he changed topics. "We stopped by the Daily Planet, and Mr. White told us you two had gone home. He was kind enough to tell us where that was now."
The two couples walked into the living room and took seats. MJ and Peter sat together of course, as did Lois and Clark. For a few minutes they exchanged agonizing small talk. Clark knew something was up. Peter would never leave New York unless he really had to. After having told the story of the weddings, the amnesia and everything else, Clark abandoned the pretense of playing along. "Okay, Peter… what's going on. Why are you here?"
Peter half-laughed. "That transparent, huh?" Clark nodded. "I should have figured you would 'see through' this little visit." At the mention of the bad pun MJ groaned and shook her head.
"He's been practicing his quips again. You have no idea how irritating it can be to hear your husband come up with catchy things to say to the crooks he comes across." MJ looked at Clark and then back to Lois. "Then again, maybe you do."
Lois giggled. "No. Clark saves his best quips for me. When he's with the crooks he's the 'strong' silent type." It was Clark's turn to shake his head.
"Back to the point at hand…" Clark said, trying to get the conversation back on course. "What brings you to Metropolis this time? Another Kingpin scheme?"
Peter shook his head and looked like a haunted man as he began to speak. "I wish it was as easy as Fisk. It's something… someone much, much worse." Lois and Clark waited in anticipation but they didn't have to for very long. "It's the Green Goblin."
Lois and Clark exchanged glances at each other. "The Goblin?! You think the Goblin's here in Metropolis?" Lois couldn't believe their luck, or rather their lack of it. "We have enough supervillains of our own. Why don't these people just stay home!?"
Clark was concerned now. The Green Goblin was a dangerous man. He had never come across him, but he had seen the press clippings. The Goblin was an evil genius who was so twisted few people even wanted to understand him. "What makes you think he's here?"
MJ looked to Peter, waiting for him to explain everything. After a moment's thought, Peter began. "To start it off, The Goblin has another identity too. He's really Norman Osborne." Lois and Clark looked at each other with disbelief. One of the country's premier chemical industrialists was the monstrous Green Goblin? "It all happened shortly after I was bitten by the radioactive spider and got my powers. I've told that story," Peter waved his hand, dismissively.
Peter continued. "Osborne was working on a chemical weapon for the Kingpin… they were partners, sort of. Osborne got careless and made a mistake. The lab blew up and the chemicals in the lab mixed. Osborne inhaled the chemical fumes and it gave him super strength… he's as strong as I am. It also drove him insane. He created the Goblin to get revenge on Fisk and then he went after random targets. I managed to stop him after several encounters, but it wasn't easy. We were in his old abandoned lab." Peter stopped, almost unable to continue. MJ took his hand and squeezed it gently, bringing him out of his daze.
Peter continued with the story. "Somehow he caught me and tied me up. He… unmasked me and found out who Spider-Man really was. In turn, Osborne revealed himself to me. Up to that time I had no idea who I was fighting. I broke free and in the fight a fire got started. The place was in bad shape already. It didn't take a lot to bring the roof down on us. It trapped Osborne underneath. I had no choice but to save him, even though he told me he planned to expose me to the world. When I got him out, I ripped the Goblin suit off of him. When he came to, he knew nothing of the Goblin." Peter shook his head as the memories came back to haunt him anew. "There's been times since then when he's become the Goblin. Times of personal stress I think. I sometimes wonder if Osborne really knows he's the Goblin and if he does… he knows who Spider-Man is."
Clark nodded as the story concluded. *Almost as good as the story about clones and Luthor.* "So, you think Osborne's here?"
Peter stood up and began to pace. Out of habit he leaped to the ceiling and continued pacing, upside down. "I try to keep track of Osborne… He disappeared from New York a few weeks ago, and now he's been seen here in Metropolis. I had to come and find out what he's up to." As Peter talked he had started walking in circles around the ceiling lamp.
Lois and Clark continued to watch Peter as he paced. Their life sometimes took some strange turns. MJ was a little embarrassed as her husband continued to walk on their friends' ceiling. "Please excuse Peter. When he gets worried, he does this… A LOT."
Lois laughed. "Okay. Just as long as he doesn't leave any… spiderwebs up there. We just finished dusting yesterday."
Peter jumped down from the ceiling with a sheepish smile on his face. "Sorry. I really am. We came here for a couple of reasons… We wanted to see you two… I also wanted you, Clark, to know that Spider-Man would be in town swinging around." A guilty expression crossed his face. "I'm not asking for your help. I have to take care of the Goblin. This is my fight. I just wanted to let you know."
They had made some small talk afterwards and then Peter and Mary Jane had left to unpack and get settled in their hotel room at the Metropolis-Renold. Lois looked over to the clock on her desk. "They were here for almost an hour!"
"I know," Clark said as he held his wife close to him. He shook his head. "I ALMOST forgot where we were."
"Really?" A playful glint came into Lois' eyes. She kissed him and began to rub her hands across his chest. Within moments they were exactly where they had left off. "The bed's in the bedroom," she reminded him, almost whispering.
Clark took Lois into his arms and laid her down on the floor by their fireplace. "Who cares about the bed?" he asked as he continued to kiss her. As they became more passionate, Clark began to remove Lois' blouse and she had already removed his shirt. Just as Clark reached the last button on her blouse… the doorbell rang again. "This isn't happening!!" Clark cried pathetically. "GO AWAY!!!!" The doorbell rang again. Still gasping for his breath, Clark looked to his wife who had closed her eyes and was shaking her head. Both of them seemed to be doing that today. "Maybe I should just pick you up and fly away… somewhere where there's no one who knows us… or wants to talk to us… or ask us for help!"
Lois giggled. "It would be a little hard to explain why Superman was flying Lois Kent out of her own house in the middle of the day, partially undressed as it is. Wouldn't it?" Clark reneged and nodded. The doorbell rang again. "You better get that, the way things are going today it might be our friendly neighborhood bat." Clark frowned instantly. "Sorry, I know he 'bugs' you." Clark groaned, Lois smiled. "I'll be good." Clark got up and headed for the door as Lois scrambled to button her blouse. As Clark reached for the door, Lois called to him. "Clark!" He looked over and Lois threw him his shirt, which he quickly put on.
Remembering to x-ray the door, Clark instantly knew who was on the other side. Clark's face looked like he had just seen kryptonite and Lois was concerned. "Oh, boy. Would you like to try for the bird?" Lois stood, wondering what could be on the other side of the door. The bell rang again and Clark opened the door to reveal their new visitor. "Come on in, Dick."
"Hey, Clark!! How's it going!" The young man stepped through. "Nice townhouse!" Dick Grayson looked from Clark to Lois and back again. With a shy smile on his face, he lowered his head and laughed. "Did I come at a bad time?" Clark looked to Lois who was trying her best to not make eye contact with anyone. "I mean… Lois' hair looks like she just got her head out of dryer and you have your shirt on backwards.." Clark looked down at himself and shut the door. He spun around and the shirt was on right. "If I didn't know any better, I would think…" The words died in his mouth as he realized exactly what he HAD interrupted. "Guys, I'm sorry… really, really sorry." Dick reached for the door. "I'll drop by later, when you're not… busy."
Clark was perfectly willing to let Dick leave. In fact he opened the door and was waiting for the young man to cross over when Lois stopped him. "Don't go, Dick. You're here, so you might as well stay for a while. Come on in and sit down." Dick made his way to the living room as Clark shut the door, giving his wife a questioning look.
Clark made his way in as well and sat beside Lois on the couch. "So, Dick, what brings you to Metropolis. You're a far piece away from Gotham." Clark wanted to act civil for as long as he could, but he knew something was going on.
Dick Grayson laughed nervously. "Just taking a vacation from Gotham… you know.. just getting out of the Batcave."
That was it. Clark couldn't be diplomatic anymore. He looked to his wife beside him and realized their time was slipping away. He had to get to the bottom of why Batman's Robin was in Metropolis. "Okay, Boy Wonder, the real reason… Why are you here?"
Dick began to explain the situation that had brought him to Metropolis. Lois and Clark exchanged concerned looks, again. "Let me get this right…" Lois tried her best to not let her face betray her. "Roland Daggett's been transferring huge sums of money to Metropolis banks and you're here because you think he's financing a mad scientist?"
Dick nodded. "Batman is sure of it. Daggett had tried to get Dr. Crane to work for him, but lucky for us the Scarecrow got locked up again. Daggett doesn't give up that easily though. He's found someone to cook up what he wants. We're sure he wanted Crane to work on some kind of mind control gas… We're positive. Daggett's probably picked Metropolis to get away from Batman and Robin. After all, why would Superman suspect anything?"
"So you're going after whoever Daggett has hired?" Clark asked briefly. "No offense, Dick, but I'm surprised that Bruce let you come on this one alone."
Dick looked down to the floor. "Actually he didn't. He asked me to bring Batgirl along for backup. He would have probably come himself if he wasn't chasing Catwoman across Europe right now." He looked up to see the confused looks on Lois and Clark's faces. "It's a long story. Suffice to say he has a thing for cats and she has a thing for bats."
Clark arched his eyebrows and Lois buried her head into Clark's chest laughing softly. "So, you brought Batgirl? She's the new bat in town, right?" Dick nodded. "Any idea who she is?" Lois asked.
Dick shook his head absently. "No. But that brings up my other problem… You two probably don't want to hear this, but… I don't really have anyone else to talk to this about. I can't talk to Bruce and Alfred's just…" Lois and Clark waited for him to continue. "You see, Robin, I mean I, have… feelings for Batgirl. There's an attraction there, but I don't even know who she is. I can't reveal myself to her. If she finds out who I am, then she'll figure out who Batman is. THEN Bruce would kill ME."
Lois had a feeling this wasn't the only problem in Dick Grayson's life. "Dick, there's something else, isn't there? Last time we talked, you were going out with… Oh, Clark. What was her name?"
"Barbara Gordon, the police commissioner daughter."
"I still am," Dick acknowledged. "I love her, but I can't share who I am with her. If she found out, then she might tell her father. If Gordon found out who Robin was, then he would KNOW who Batman was. Then we get back to the 'Bruce killing me thing' again." Dick was silent again. "That's not all though. Not only am I going to be teaming up with Batgirl here in Metropolis, but Barbara came along with me! I told her I was going for a small vacation, and when she found out it was Metropolis, she insisted on coming along. I couldn't say no."
"Oh, boy." Clark shook his head and smiled softly.
"You got problems, Dick." Lois patted Clark on the chest. "You have to ask yourself a question. Which person is more real to you? How much do you really know about this Batgirl? Does she like pizzas? Sure, she dresses in spandex, but what do you really know about her, Dick?" Clark was trying hard to suppress the urge to laugh. Lois looked at him, trying to look a little angry but it wasn't any use. What she had just said was funny, if one knew what they had gone through to be together. Not able to contain themselves, Lois and Clark held onto each other laughing. As the laughing subsided, Lois continued talking to Dick. "That's what I had to do. I realized that Clark was the real person in my life. Superman just came and went. I knew almost nothing about him. You can't build a future on a fantasy."
"I know, Lois. You haven't seen Batgirl in that suit though!"
Lois got to her feet. "Sometimes I think Earth men are totally hopeless." Shaking her head, she walked to the kitchen.
"What did I say?" Dick asked in a clueless tone.
Clark smiled briefly. "So, why did you come over, Dick? Did you come to ask for some more backup?"
Dick shook his head and had the same guilty look in his eyes as Peter had earlier. "No. I just wanted you to know I'd be in town. I'll try my best to keep things quiet. I know you and Lois have been through a lot, and you two do deserve time together." Dick got up and headed for the door. "I better be getting back. Barbara will be wondering where I got to. I'm staying at the Metropolis-Regent in case you need to contact me. Will I see you on patrol tonight?"
"Maybe," Clark said. He looked to the kitchen absently. "Then again, maybe not…" Clark followed Dick to the door, said good-bye and then locked it tight. He looked to the clock. "That's another hour gone." Clark walked into the kitchen. "He's gone. Want to try the table?" he asked jokingly. Lois turned away from the counter and shook her head. "I didn't think so."
"Does anything about receiving two super-visitors in the same day strike you as strange, Clark?" Lois moved to embrace her husband tenderly. "Peter comes looking for a man who is a genius at chemical engineering. Dick shows up looking for a mad scientist who's getting money from Daggett, Gotham's answer to Lex Luthor." She felt Clark wince at the mention of the name. A wave of despair washed over her as well. Luthor was gone for good. She could take comfort in that. She also had Clark. "He can't hurt us ever again, Clark. He's gone."
Clark kissed Lois softly. "Daggett isn't though. You're right. It's obvious Peter and Dick are looking for the same person. The Green Goblin." He sighed as he thought to himself, his decision was made. He looked into Lois' eyes and saw concern there. "Don't worry, honey. This time they're on their own. There's no Metropolis connection, and I'm content to just let them handle this thing in their own way. I promise." He made the scout sign with his fingers.
Lois knew something was eating him inside. It had been since Peter had shown up. "Sure. Now, sweetheart, why don't you tell me what you're really thinking about. Something's bothering you."
"I just really hate getting interrupted when I'm with the most beautiful woman in the world."
"Nice try, Kent, but that isn't all."
It was no use. She knew him so well now. She knew something was wrong. "You really want to know, don't you?" With an encouraging nod, he told her. "I'm upset. Here these guys come into Metropolis and expect me to be alright with it… that's not really the point, though. Where were they when I needed them? Every time one of these superheroes get into a jam, who do they call? Me! With Batman it was the Joker. With Spider-Man it was the Kingpin. With the Flash it was Captain Cold. I've helped the likes of Green Lantern, Captain America, Iron Man…"
"Just as long as you stay away from Wonder Woman. I don't trust Amazons," Lois said with a smirk.
Clark leaned down and kissed her and pulled her closer to his chest. "You're the only wonder woman there will ever be for me, and you are pretty wonderful." He could feel her smile widen against his chest. "The point is, where were they when I needed them most? They weren't here. When the Kryptonians came to Smallville, they could have come and helped. So much destruction could have been avoided… so many lives could have been saved. I was on my own… the only people who stood by me were the ones I loved. People with more power in their hearts than all of the superheroes on this planet combined. I'm not willing to sacrifice my time with you to help them. You mean too much to me."
"I know that. I love you, Clark." As she stood there though, her reporter's instinct kicked in. "You know, I've got an idea." Clark moaned, having a good idea of what was coming next. "Superman should definitely stay out of this one, but it could be another award winning story for Lane and Kent. Imagine, we could expose a Gotham crime boss, something the Gotham Gazette's been trying to do for years, and we could even expose the Green Goblin… With a little help from you, we could even prove to the world that Spider-Man and Peter Parker are two different people. You could pretend to crawl and spin webs, just like he does. Sound like a plan?"
"Sounds like a plan, partner." He loved it when she latched onto a story. "This sounds like a job for Lane and Kent, the 'hottest' team in Metropolis. When do you want to start?"
Lois looked up and Clark saw the playful glint come back into her eyes. He smiled widely, unable to help it. "Tomorrow is soon enough. Right now, I can think of a situation that needs Kent and Kent, the hottest team in the townhouse… and it involves the table…"
Before long, the two of them were on the table, literally ripping each others clothes off. The door bell rang again, but this time there was no turning back. "GO AWAY!!!!" they yelled together. They soon forgot about the door and didn't hear it being opened and someone entering the house.
"Lois?? Clark??" a young voice called out emotionally. "Is anyone here?" The couple in the kitchen never heard a thing.
Lucy Lane looked around the living room but found no sign of her sister or brother-in-law. As she looked around she heard voices coming from the kitchen. She walked over to the door and listened closely.
"Lois," she could clearly hear Clark call softly.
"Clark," her sister called out in an equally soft tone. Then there was a series of giggles.
She imagined she would find them talking about something personal, so when she opened the door to the kitchen, she called out "Is anyone in here?" Lucy's gaze fell across the table. She quickly covered her eyes and yelled "Oh God, I'm sorry!!" as she hurriedly exited the room.
In a moment, Lois and Clark were back to reality. With a weak smile, Lois managed to talk to her husband as she caressed his face. "It's a good thing you weren't floating just then." She gave him a quick kiss. "Is she still out there?"
Clark looked down at Lois and smiled. "She's still here… I hear her out in the living room… she's crying." Clark kissed his wife. "I guess it's time to go to work partner. It looks like the love birds have had another falling out." Clark spun and was dressed in an instant. He adjusted his glasses. Lois began to get dressed, but Clark stopped her. "Just hold still and play along… relax your body." Lois smiled at his last words as Clark dashed around her.
Lois laughed and giggled as Clark dressed her. "That tickled," she cried as Clark finished. She looked down at herself and saw that she was completely dressed and her hair was laying down. "Nice job."
"Are my shirt and pants on right this time?" Clark asked checking himself. The last thing he needed was to enter the arena unprepared.
"This time," Lois said with a mischievous glint.
Clark helped his wife off of the table. He listened to his sister-in-law in the living room and cringed a little. "I think this calls for the rocky road / double fudge mix… the gallon container."
"That bad?" Lois asked as she retrieved the ice cream from the freezer and took a large spoon from a drawer. Clark nodded and the two of them entered the living room.
Lucy couldn't look either of them in the eyes, not after what she had just walked in on. Looking down at her feet, Lucy managed to finally speak as Clark and Lois sat down on either side of her. "I'm sorry. I know I interrupted something…"
"Actually," Lois said blushing, "we were almost finished when you came in. I hope we didn't scare or embarrass you… too much." Lois handed the ice cream and table spoon to Lucy who dived into the gallon tumbler on cue. "So, what's wrong with you and Jimmy… this time?"
"We had a huge fight," Lucy said between scoops of ice cream.
"I figured that much," Lois said putting a supportive arm around her sister. "What did you two fight about this time?" As Lucy was about to explain, the doorbell rang yet again.
Clark got up and headed for the door. "I'm going to check and and see if there's a 'ring Lois and Clark's doorbell' sign out there while I'm up," Clark said half-heartedly. He got to the door, x-rayed it and rolled his eyes as Lois watched him. She knew who was on the other side. Clark opened the door.
Jimmy bounced in. "CK, I need to talk to you. Luce and I…" Jimmy trailed off as he noticed Lucy in the living room. "Oh."
"Oh, boy," Lois said quickly. Jimmy was wide-eyed and quickly retraced his steps and headed out the door before Clark could stop him. Lucy started crying again. Lois was soon at her husband's side. "Okay, whose turn is it this time?"
Clark looked over to his sister-in-law. He sighed heavily. "It's my turn to talk to Lucy, yours to talk to Jimmy."
Lois nodded as she grabbed a light jacket. "Well, you're the expert on Lane women… you should have a better time than me."
Clark fluffed the jacket around her shoulders. "My dear, I could never be an expert on Lane women. The one I have consistently keeps surprising me."
"And that's a bad thing?" She reached up and gave him a quick kiss. "I better go after Jimmy." She looked over to her sister. "YOU have your hands full as it is." As Lois left, Clark headed back to the couch knowing how right his wife was.
"This has 'long day' written all over it."
It was 4:05 when the elevator doors opened and Lois and Clark headed into the newsroom, looking exhausted. As they reached their desks, Perry was upon them. "I thought I gave you two the day off," Perry said in a gruff voice. Actually he was worried something was wrong. Both of them looked bedraggled and worn out. Their normal teasing was now replaced by long faces. "You two didn't have a fight, did you, because I don't think I could take that." When Lois and Clark replied that they hadn't, Perry was relieved. "Okay, then. You two look dead tired. THIS is an order: go home and get some rest. I'll see you tomorrow."
A look of panic crossed both of their faces. "Perry, don't make us go home. Please!" Lois almost sounded like she was begging when Clark broke in.
"Chief, we would really like to spend some quality time here… at the Planet, where we can keep our sanity."
Perry was dumbstruck now. Usually they wanted time off to spend together. Something was definitely wrong here. "What's this about, you two?" As Perry completed his question, a dejected Jimmy Olsen entered the newsroom. He didn't look ahead, he just walked past everyone. "Oh." Perry had a better idea about what was going on now. "What is this, their fourth fight?"
"Fifth," Clark corrected.
"In two months." Lois added with a sigh.
"Great shades of Elvis, we could build a calendar around those two."
Lois looked over to the young photographer who was at his desk. "This time Jimmy's side is that she won't listen to him. He tries to talk to her and she finds something to change the subject." Lois looked at Clark playfully. "Don't you go saying it's a Lane trait, either, buster."
Clark laughed for the first time in hours. "Lucy's side is that she feels that Jimmy belongs more to the Planet than to her. She's tired of him having to run off in the middle of a conversation to photograph Superman or some crime." Lois was trying to keep from laughing. Clark looked at her and almost had trouble containing his own laughter.
Perry shook his head. If it wasn't one couple, it was another. First it had been Lois and Clark. THAT had taken care of itself. Now it was Jimmy and Lucy. "I'm an editor, not a matchmaker. That's now your job." Perry looked right at Lois and Clark. "I can't afford to have one of my better photographers moping around and not getting the pictures I need for the morning edition. Got it?" With a nod, they understood that they would have to do something. "Now, you two get to it. I'm not running the Love Connection around here."
"Actually…" Clark started.
"We've got a story to start on." Lois had that look in her eye that told Perry the pair was onto something.
"So, what is it?"
"We've been told that there's a Gotham crime boss that's trying to come up with a mind control gas. He's brought in this chemist from New York and set up shop here in Metropolis. Plus, we've got it on good authority that Spider-Man, Robin and Batgirl are in town to try to catch this guy too. It might be a tasty story."
Perry's eyes lit up like he had been handed a Christmas gift. "Great work you two!! GREAT! You get this story and I'll take care of Lucy and Jimmy!"
"Deal!" Lois and Clark said together.
Lois headed to her desk and started up her computer. "We're going to need some bank records."
"Transactions from Gotham to Metropolis in the excessive category? I got ya'. That means we're going to need Jimmy in on this. I hope he can get his mind off Lucy and on his computer." Clark looked around and waved Jimmy over. "Maybe a little work will do him good."
"What's up, guys?" Jimmy asked half-heartedly as he arrived.
"We need you to do some good 'ol fashioned hacking. We need bank records. Someone's been transferring a lot of money into Metropolis from Gotham. The guy it's coming to is some kind of evil genius… with Gotham mob ties." Clark smiled. "No problem for the Planet's resident hacker in good standing, right?"
Jimmy thought for a moment, happy to have Lucy off his mind for just a little bit. "Bank records I can get, I'm just not sure they can be any use to you. Whoever is transferring the money from Gotham's got to know that large amounts would tip someone off to something. It would help a lot if I had some names to work with."
Clark looked to Lois. They really hadn't wanted to involve Jimmy since this might get a little dangerous along the way, but they needed the information. "The money should be coming from a business man named Roland Daggett or one of his corporations. He's got a lot of 'em. The money might be going to a man named Norman Osborne," Lois finished.
After a moment of writing down the information, Jimmy stated back to his computer. "This Daggett sounds like some Lex Luthor wannabe." As soon as he had said it, he regretted the words. "Sorry, guys.. really."
"Go," Lois dismissed him. "Can't we erase that name from the lexicon of the world?"
Clark shook his head as he put his hands on his wife's shoulders. "I don't think so, but I'd like to give it a try. I'm going to go do some super-quick research on all of this. Batman's been after Daggett for a long time, there's got to be something on the man. As for the Goblin, I somehow suspect that Osborne has something up his sleeve. I don't know that much about him, but he's never seemed like a team player to me."
Lois nodded absently as she started her end of the research. "I tell you what. I'll take Daggett, you take Osborne. I've got some contacts in Gotham that owe me a favor or two."
Clark leaned down to whisper in her ear. "Why don't we contact Bobby while we're at it. We know Osborne's here. If anyone on the street knows where he is, Bobby will."
"Besides, it will be an excuse to not have to go home for supper." Clark chuckled. "This isn't funny. You know my sister. She drives everyone crazy! She drives ME crazy."
Clark leaned over and kissed her. "Remember, when I married you, I got your family."
Lois rolled her eyes. "In that case I'm surprised you married me."
"Lo-is." Clark shook his head as Lois smiled. She loved to tease him. "Why do you do this to me?"
"Because I can," she said with a sultry smile. "I know why I married you. I got your family. I think I got the better deal." Lois playfully swatted him away. "Now, you go do that research. I smell a Kerth in this."
As Clark moved away and Lois and Jimmy continued their own ends of the story, no one noticed one of the janitorial staff members drop what she was doing and leave the newsroom abruptly.
"Boss?" the young woman asked as she entered the massive laboratory. "Are you here? I've got some news for you."
"What news, Amber?" a voice asked from behind her.
The young woman jumped and quickly turned around. "Please, don't sneak up on me like that." After she caught her breath, she started to report what she had found out. "You told me to keep an eye out at the Daily Planet to see if Superman knew you were here. Right now I'd have to say yes, but he's the least of your problems, Mr. Osborne. Lois Lane and Clark Kent know you're here. They're trying to get evidence about what you're up to here in Metropolis."
"They will never figure that out."
"I wouldn't be so sure. Lane and Kent are the best reporters in this city. Maybe in the country. They're good, Mr. Osborne. They've got the Planet's hacker going after bank records, too."
Osborne turned to a table and retrieved a note pad. "Ah… the hacker for the Daily Planet is Jimmy Olsen." Amber looked surprised as Osborne told her this. "My dear, the first lesson to being a master supervillain is to know your enemies better than they know you."
"I'm not a hood in training," Amber protested. "I'm just a college student who needs some money to cover tuition."
Osborne nodded, ignoring her. "Let's see… Mr. Olsen is a close friend to Clark Kent, Lois Lane-Kent… and Superman. Right now he's dating Mrs. Lane-Kent's sister, Lucy. I think I know what to do. Thank you Ms. Rickson. I will make sure you are properly rewarded."
Amber began to leave, but Osborne stopped her. "Please, don't go so hastily." He reached over and grabbed a glass with a green fluid on it. "Here, try some of this. It's my personal beverage. It's filled with nutrients that give you plenty of energy." He handed her the glass. "Don't be afraid. It's perfectly safe."
Amber took a quick drink and then wrenched in disgust. "This stuff is awful!"
Osborne smiled. "Well, I guess it's an acquired taste." He took the glass back and Amber left. "Just a little more refining."
He walked to the wall and pushed the intercom switch. "Daggett insisted on you coming along, so you might as well earn your keep. Bane, I have a job for you."
Clark walked back to his desk. It was way past 5:00 p.m. and most of the day shift had headed home. Perry of course was in his office doing what he loved and Jimmy was busy hacking at the records he and Lois had requested. As he approached, he could tell Lois wasn't having a good time of it. "Trouble?"
She pushed herself away from the desk, dejected. "This Daggett's a paper ghost. Everything is nice and tidy. No loose ends anywhere."
"Which is an indication in itself that something is wrong," Clark said with a sigh. "Unfortunately, it proves nothing."
"Did you have any better luck?" Clark sat down beside her desk and had a thoughtful expression on his face. "I'll take that as a 'yes'."
"Neither the Goblin nor Osborne has ever worked on ANYTHING like a mind control gas before. It's always been more insidious than that. The last couple of times he's surfaced he's been trying a goblin formula… it's supposed to turn people into goblins… green goblins."
"He's trying to fashion a world in his own image??" Clark nodded. "Something tells me this is not what Daggett had in mind."
"I doubt it." Clark flipped through some of the papers he was holding. He looked worriedly at one piece of paper. "I ran across this, too." Clark handed the paper to Lois. "Dick said that Daggett wanted to use this stuff in Gotham, so I checked this out."
She read the paper quickly. "It looks like Daggett has sent a fleet of trucks to areas near Metropolis." She studied the document some more. "It would certainly make sense if he wanted to get whatever he's working on back to Gotham, wouldn't it?" Clark nodded. "What else has you worried, sweetheart?"
Clark shook his head. "Look at the type of trucks. There's beer trucks.. soda trucks. There are trucks that carry fruits and vegetables. Then there's the trucks that carry spring water."
Lois saw what Clark was saying. "Whatever he's trying to smuggle into Gotham would have to be fairly innocent looking, wouldn't it?" Clark nodded as Lois followed his line of thought. "This could be horrible. These trucks could go anywhere and look at home and if Osborne…"
"Decides to expand beyond Gotham there's little anyone can do." Clark nodded and produced another sheet of paper. "That is unless Superman has the vehicle ID numbers."
Lois smiled and then narrowed her eyes and pretended to be mad. "Show-off."
He loved it when she was playful. They had known each other for nearly four years, and she still took his breath away. He leaned forward until his face was inches from hers. "Only for you."
A pretend cough brought them back to the reality of the newsroom. Jimmy had now joined them with pages of printouts. "Got something, Jimmy?" Lois asked getting back to business.
"Do I!" Jimmy handed copies to both Clark and Lois. "Those names you gave me helped a lot. Almost all of Daggett's holdings have been transferring money to Metropolis… a lot of money. Osborne's another story. He had no personal accounts here, but his company does." Jimmy turned their copies to the last page of the printouts. "The amount his business accounts have increased is exactly the same amount as what Daggett's companies have transferred. How's that?"
Clark smiled and Lois followed suit. "Great work, Jimmy!! This is fantastic! This is the start we needed."
Before the trio could revel in the victory, Clark heard sirens approaching. Actually, they all heard them. Perry bolted from his office before Clark could escape. "Lois, Clark, Jimmy… get down to the street. There's a body in front of the Planet!"
Knowing there was nothing he could do to help, Clark went down with Lois, Jimmy and Perry. Outside the doors to the Planet, a group of people had gathered. The paramedics had arrived, and after they recovered from the sight, they began to work on the young woman. It was no use though. Jimmy looked horrified. "Lois, Perry, CK! That's Amber, she's one of the new cleaning people." He turned away, unable to look at her anymore. "What happened to her?"
Clark studied the dead woman momentarily. Her skin had turned a horrible green and her mouth was permanently deformed in a sick, twisted grin. He knew exactly what was wrong. He pulled Lois aside, away from the others, as the paramedics cleaned up the scene and prepared to take the body away. "Lois, that's the work of the Green Goblin. I saw pictures going through the archives. She looks exactly like the people the Goblin exposed to his goblin formula."
"You didn't say anything about those people dying."
"That's because they didn't," Clark said clearly worried. "It appears the Goblin has made a modification to his brew. It looks like Superman may not be able to stay out of this after all."
"Not with a psycho like this running around." Lois was now clearly worried. Clark hadn't wanted to help to begin with, and having this force his hand wouldn't help him with what he was feeling.
An alarm in the distance caught Clark's attention. The 'oh, no, not again' look crossed his face as he started fidgeting. "What is it?" Lois asked concerned. At this point it could be anything.
"STAR Labs," Clark said wearily. "Someone's broke in. I have to go." Lois gave him a quick kiss and in a moment, Clark was nowhere to be seen. Some days were just like this.
Perry and Jimmy approached Lois. "Where did CK go?" Jimmy looked puzzled. "He was just here a second ago."
"He had to go check something out," Lois said, quickly trying to come up with a cover. "He thinks that this might be connected to the story we're trying to get a handle on." *How did Clark ever manage to do this without me?*
Dr. Klein picked himself off the floor and brushed himself off. The lab looked like a small bomb had hit it. Before he knew it, Superman was standing in the midst of the confusion. "Dr. Klein, what happened here?" Superman asked with a very concerned expression. He surveyed the area and saw the destruction around him. "Who were they and what did they want?"
Klein shook his head and reached for a seat he hadn't noticed was broken. In an instant, Superman had replaced the seat and Klein sat down. The rest of the staff began the task of cleaning up important instruments. "I'm not sure who it was, Superman, or what he took."
Superman looked around, astounded. "You mean, one man did this?"
"I'm not sure you could call him a man, Superman." Klein rubbed his forehead, trying to put off the headache he knew was coming. "This man was huge, muscles everywhere… he literally ripped the door off its hinges." Klein pointed to the lab's pure lead security door. "He ripped through here searching for something… he seemed to want something very specific. As for what he looked like? The devil himself. He had a mask on. A black mask with white highlights." A lab assistant rushed up to Dr. Klein with a worried expression that greatly disturbed Superman and handed Klein a computer printout. Klein shook his head and dismissed the assistant, sending him for a bottle or two of aspirin. "I'm getting a horrible headache."
"I'm sorry about that, Dr. Klein. Is that a list of the items this man took?"
Klein nodded. "He only took two things, but what things to take!" Klein wasn't sure how to proceed. "Superman, he took Metallo… and a piece of kryptonite to power him."
Superman felt a wave of uneasiness pass over him. *This is not turning out to be my ideal day off.* "What good will that do? Isn't Metallo, Johnny Corbin, dead? The body and the kryptonite won't do this man any good."
Klein shook his head, and Superman felt like he needed to sit down. "Corbin isn't dead. We've been running tests on him for the last few years, since you're last confrontation with him. We kept him here to try and figure out the robotics."
"I knew you were working on him on and off," Superman said. "What do you mean, 'he isn't dead'?"
"Apparently, his entire consciousness is stored in some type of perpetual memory device. It remains intact even when the power to the body is off. "
Superman's eyes widened. "Then if someone puts the kryptonite in Metallo's body…"
"He'll wake up and not know anything that's happened since he was 'turned off'. It would be like waking up years in the future with no idea how you got there. He's bound to be confused when he awakes, and with Metallo's strength… the consequences could be horrible."
Superman shook his head. "I really didn't need this today. Dr. Klein, I'm afraid I am going to need your help on something as well." Klein waited anxiously. "A criminal genius named the Green Goblin has come to Metropolis. He's working on something lethal. Whatever it is, it claimed its first victim outside the Daily Planet just minutes ago. I know of a scientist who's had experience with this man before. I will try to get him to come in and help you, if that would be alright?"
Klein nodded. "The Green Goblin? You must mean his infamous goblin formula. I've never heard of it being lethal?"
"It is quite lethal now, Dr. Klein. I've got to go. I will find Metallo and the kryptonite as soon as I can. The victim's body should be at the hospital by now. I'm sure if you contact Inspector Henderson he will help you with anything you need." Superman left very much concerned. He flew a quick patrol over the city, but he could find no trace of Metallo or the big brute that Clark felt sure was a visitor from Gotham.
Clark walked into the Planet newsroom and straightened his tie. Lois rushed over to meet him. "I contacted Bobby. We can meet him for breakfast tomorrow morning. He already had dinner plans." Her expression changed from playful to serious. "What was wrong at STAR Labs?"
"Plenty," Clark answered giving her a quick hug. "It isn't good news. Let's take this to the conference room… we'll need the privacy." The two retired to the room. By now the sun was beginning to set and it cast a glow over the conference room. "Have you ever heard of a criminal from Gotham called Bane?"
Lois nodded. "Don't tell me he's in town too?"
Clark nodded slowly. "He broke into STAR Labs. He ripped a lead door off its hinges! That's not the worst part. He took Metallo out of storage and a chunk of kryptonite!"
"My god! The kryptonite!"
"That's the least of our troubles. It appears that Johnny isn't quite as 'dead' as we thought. According to Dr. Klein, if that kryptonite gets put back in his chest, then he'll be reactivated, just like nothing happened. He'll remember up to the moment the kryptonite was removed."
"They didn't take him apart??!!" Lois shook her head. "You melted his legs though. He'll have to have major repairs before he can be a threat." Lois looked thoughtful and then worried. "This is too much of a coincidence. Daggett obviously got Bane to come here to help out Osborne. It's the only explanation."
"And Osborne's company works on robotics," Clark voiced. "The question is, why Metallo? Is the Goblin going to try to confront Superman? What part does Amber's death play in all of this? I don't see her as being a random victim."
"Neither do I." Lois thought for a moment and then a look of horror filled her face. "Clark!!! If Metallo wakes up, what's the first thing he's going to do???"
The answer appeared to Clark and he felt panicked. "Lucy!" they both said together.
"What about her?" Jimmy asked as he silently entered the conference room. "I hope I'm not interrupting something, but I heard you mention her name and I thought… well, I guess I really miss her." Jimmy looked depressed, and was about to become even more so.
"Jimmy, someone just broke Metallo out of STAR Labs, and he's still alive." Clark knew no other way to tell the young man than that. Judging by his reaction though, Clark wished there had been.
Jimmy ran up the steps to the town house. Lois and Clark weren't very far behind. Jimmy rushed through the first set of doors and then started pounding on the door the townhouse. Lois and Clark arrived just as Lucy opened the door. Her face immediately brightened, and a moment later she was back to her gloomy self. "Oh.. it's you."
Jimmy pushed his way through into the house. "Lucy, grab your things. I'm getting you out of here."
"What??!!??" Lucy demanded quite indignantly.
"Jimmy, this might not be the best idea," Clark said trying to defuse a potential blow-up.
"I said get your stuff. We'll make a quick drop by your place and pick up what you need from there. Then I'll take you to my place."
"I'm not going anywhere with you." Lucy turned to Lois. "What is wrong with this nut case?" she said, pointing to Jimmy.
"Someone broke Johnny Corbin out of STAR Labs this afternoon. Dr. Klein says Johnny's still alive. Whoever took him has the kryptonite to power him, and as soon as he gets his legs repaired…" Jimmy didn't get to finish.
"He's coming after me!!" Lucy screamed.
Jimmy embraced Lucy and tried to calm her. "That's why you're coming with me. You'll be safe at my place."
Lucy was frantic. "You can't protect me!!! I need Superman!!"
Clark and Lois exchanged expressions of humor laced with fear. "That's why you should stay here, Lucy. Superman's a good friend of ours. He'll look out after you." Lois tried to sound brave.
Jimmy shook his head adamantly. "That won't work, guys. Hear me out on this one. Metallo's going to try Lucy's old place first, right? After he tries there, he's going to find where her sister lives. That's here, if he thinks Lucy's still in town. You can't ask Superman to help either because of the kryptonite. It'll kill him. The only solution is to clear out Lucy's place, make it look like someone else lives there and have her crash with me until this is all over."
Jimmy had some good points, but his logic wasn't the best. Clark could understand his actions. When you're in love, you'll do anything to protect that special person, no matter how crazy it seems. Clark looked to Lois and shrugged in defeat. "Okay, Jimmy. We'll play it your way. You two better get going, though. We need all the head start we can get."
Jimmy whisked Lucy along and soon had her out the front door and on the back of his motorcycle. They left for Lucy's place across town.
"Why did you let them leave?" Lois asked picking up the bag of chips, ice cream bucket and a pizza box. "Look at all of this!!"
Clark helped Lois pick up the debris and followed her out to the kitchen. "I know Jimmy's plan has some flaws in it, but I also know that this will accomplish a few things. It gets Lucy out of here, it gets Lucy and Jimmy together to work things out and it gives us the freedom to come up with a solution to all of this. Osborne won't be able to fix Metallo that quickly. They'll be long gone before he's up."
Lois looked at the empty pizza box. "She could've at least left us a couple of pieces." She crumpled the box and tossed it in the trash. "I know what you're saying, sweetheart. This is BIG. We're going to need Peter and Dick in on this. So far we have the Goblin, Bane and Metallo. Who knows what else is going to happen before all of this is over?"
"Not a lot, I hope." Clark looked through the refrigerator, looking for something to make a proper supper. "The fridge is as barren as that old glacier I used to visit."
"Of course it is, Lucy's managed to eat us out of house and home in just one afternoon." Lois looked around. "I guess you'll be going on patrol tonight then, right?"
"It's the only way I'll be able to find the others." Clark sighed as he discovered another partially empty cabinet. "Do you feel like Italian or Chinese tonight?"
"Italian." Lois now crossed to her husband. "Got someplace in mind?"
"I know this little place…" He watched as Lois expected him to say someplace exotic. "Its right down the street from the Planet."
"Would you quit trying to move. I'm not finished yet!" Osborne was frustrated as he completed his work. "I should have waited until I was done to put the kryptonite in!"
"When I get out of here…" Corbin was obviously frustrated with his immobility.
"You will do exactly as I instruct you to do! Unlike your original creators, I have seen fit to install an 'off' switch in you. You have a tendency to be reckless, Mr. Corbin… or do you prefer Metallo?"
"Corbin's dead," the man / machine said coldly. "I am Metallo."
"Alright. I can understand split personalities. Believe me! Now, this is what I want you to do. You're going to go find your old girlfriend, Lucy Lane. You're going to kidnap her and take her to a place I've already set up for you. If Lois Lane and Clark Kent show up, capture them alive. If Superman shows up… kill him." Osborne finished a connection and Metallo suddenly sprang from the table. "I assume you are satisfied with your new legs?" Metallo nodded happily. "Mr. Bane has the address of your old girlfriend. Go do as you're told." Metallo began to leave. "Oh, by the way, take this along." He handed Metallo a small spray canister. "If anyone gets in your way, use this on them. You only have enough to use on one person, and do not use it on Ms. Lane unless you are tired of her company."
"Why are you doing this?" Metallo asked, not quite sure why this strange man had rescued him and was now offering him what he wanted.
"Because… I need to get Mr. and Mrs. Kent off my trail." Metallo looked curiously as he mentioned Mrs. Kent. "If you kidnap Mrs. Kent's sister, she and her husband will divert their resources to finding you, leaving me safe. Plus, they will bring in Superman to help them… thus eliminating him from my plans."
"What are you up to?"
"Trust me," Osborne said with a menace in his voice. "You don't want to know!" He began laughing, and the sheer evil of the laugh made even Metallo cringe.
Spider-Man stood on top of the Daily Planet. "Metropolis is nothing like New York." His spider-sense went off and he started to search for the source of the danger.
"It's nothing like Gotham, either." Robin dropped to the roof beside Spidey. "I guess this is the out-of-town-superhero meeting area, right, Spider-Man?"
Under the mask, Peter couldn't help but grin. He had met Superman on top of this building two years ago, and now he was meeting Robin. The world just kept getting smaller. "So, Robin, where's Batman? You two normally keep pretty close together, right."
Robin tried to not sound too excited. "I'm on my own this time. I'm here hunting down, well… it's a long story."
"Same here." Spider-Man was unwilling to share what he knew with an out-of-towner. His spider-sense went off again, and he looked around to see the source of the potential danger.
"I see the party has started early," Superman said as he landed beside Spider-Man. "I'd love to chat with both of you, but we've got bigger problems." He turned to Spider-Man. "Spider-Man, I know your identity and you know mine." He then turned to Robin. "And Robin, I know your identity and you know mine. Well, it's time for both of you to know who each other is." Superman sensed the hesitation on both of their parts. "Come on. We're grown superheroes here. We can trust each other, can't we?" As the two hesitated, Superman spun into Clark and then quickly back. "See, it's really painless."
Peter was determined not to be outdone by Robin. "Okay, Clark, you convinced me." He removed the mask. "My name is Peter Parker, photographer for the Daily Bugle. Not exactly a big revelation scene, huh? What's up?"
Robin reached to his face and removed the mask. "Name's Dick Grayson, college student."
"See," Superman smiled. "That wasn't so hard." The two men replaced their masks out of habit. "This is hard. Spidey, you came here looking for the Green Goblin. Robin, you came…"
Spider-Man looked up at the sky warily. "We're not alone here."
The three began to look around, but with his abilities, Superman was the one to find their visitor. "Our company's friendly. Come on down Batgirl." In a moment Batgirl was standing among them.
"Did I miss much? I've been trying to find the place where all the superheroes hang out." She looked at Spider-Man and smiled. "I didn't expect to see you here, Spider-Man. You know, I really like that outfit."
Peter could feel himself blushing under the mask and Superman found it hard to keep from laughing. "Save the savvy, he's a married spider," Robin said a little shortly.
Superman stepped back in to get to the point. "As I was saying, Spider-Man, you came here looking for the Goblin and Robin, you and Batgirl came looking for a chemist hired by Roland Daggett. Well, they're one and the same. The Goblin's your chemist, Robin."
"Holly crossovers, Superman!" Robin said almost smiling.
"You've been watching too many Saturday morning cartoons," Spider- Man admonished. He turned back to face Superman. "So, we're both after the same person?"
Superman nodded. "It gets worse though. STAR Labs was broken into today. There was only one perp, and the description matches Bane to the letter." Robin recoiled, suddenly worried at confronting BOTH the ruthless Green Goblin and the menacing Bane. "Bane stole an old enemy of mine. Metallo. The Kents believe that all of this is connected. It has to be. Metallo is the most dangerous to me. He's powered by kryptonite and he's almost as strong as I am." Superman looked toward the sky. "Add to all of this, the Goblin tried out his new goblin formula already." Spider-man looked wary even though he had on his mask.
"Goblin formula? I thought Daggett wanted a mind-control gas or something like that." Robin was confused.
"The Goblin doesn't do anything BUT his goblin formula." Spider-Man paced a little. "What change has he made to it this time?"
Superman looked worried as he answered. "Apparently, this new batch is lethal. It killed a young woman outside the Daily Planet this afternoon."
Spider-man leaped up and clung to the flagpole. "We're going to have to get together on this. We've got too much information to just talk about this on a roof. We'll never work like this."
"Spidey's got a point," Superman looked at the ensemble. "Well, we know everyone's identity… except for one of us." Superman looked to Batgirl. "Would you care to share?"
"NO!!" Batgirl protested immediately. Revealing herself was not what she had planned on doing during this trip.
"What's the matter, don't trust us?" Robin teased. *I'd love to find out who's under that mask. Wait! What am I thinking??? I want to be with Barbara, right? Great, Dick. Screw up even more.*
Before Superman could press her, he heard a cry coming in the distance. As he recognized the voices, his soul froze. A look of panic crossed his face. "What's wrong, Cl.. Superman?" Spider-Man asked, immediately jumping to his friend's side.
"It's Metallo!! He's activated, and he's gone after her!!!" As he prepared to zip off, he spoke again. "He's gone after Lois Lane's sister… Lucy!!!" In a flash, he was gone.
"We've got to go help him!" Spider-Man looked to the skyline. "If I only knew where!!??!!"
"Try the phone book," suggested Batgirl.
Jimmy sat on the couch, growing more restless by the minute. They had been at Lucy's place for hours. He couldn't believe it was taking her this long to get her stuff together. "Are you ready, yet!!??!" Jimmy asked, exasperated. "We should be getting out of here!"
"Don't be so impatient. Johnny doesn't have any legs, remember?"
"Someone can fix that quick," Jimmy shot back. He got up to help pack. "Tell me what to pack, and I'll get on it. The longer we stay here, the more you're in danger."
"You worry too much, Jimmy," Lucy shot back.
"Then you don't worry enough!" Jimmy turned and headed back to the couch. "There's no doubt about it, you're Lois' sister."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
Jimmy sighed and wondered what he had done to deserve this fate. "You leap before you look. At least Lois has the good sense to be scared from time to time." Jimmy laughed. There was no chance for them left, so why not just add some gas to the fire? "You know, Lois was right. She said you were even more headstrong than she was. She was so right about that."
Lucy was furious now. "Well, at least she has Clark!! At least he tries to understand her and he's there for her. Some people aren't like that, you know the type."
Jimmy looked skyward. *Maybe I should just let Metallo get her. It would probably serve him right.* Instead of acting on his thoughts, he just played along with the insult trading. "You're comparing me to Clark? Why not compare me to Superman while you're at it?"
Lucy threw another suitcase on the floor, bringing the total to five. "Okay. He's there for the city and his friends. Where are you Jimmy? Your beeper goes off and you run out. A bank gets held up, you run off. It can get annoying!"
Jimmy ran a hand through his hair. *Why am I even defending myself?* "Lucy, I'm a photographer and a cub reporter sometimes. When a story breaks, I gotta be there. Just like Lois and Clark. This is part of who I am, don't you understand that?"
Jimmy closed his eyes, trying to think of what to say next. After a moment, he had his answer. "Then Lois was right again, you're blind." He saw the protest swelling in her face. "You don't see that this is my job. This is part of me. This is how I pay my rent, how I afford gas for my bike and how I pay for the dinners we eat when we go out. If you can't see that, then it's no wonder you don't see how much I'm in love with you! Leaving you is the last thing I want to do, but when I have to do my job, I have to do my job!"
It looked like Lucy was about to say something when what sounded like a freight train hit the door to the apartment. As the door broke down, Jimmy instantly knew who it was. "Metallo!"
Metallo looked over Jimmy to Lucy. "Hey, sweets. I'm back!"
"Get out of here!" Lucy ordered. "I don't want to see you anymore Johnny. It's over for us. Just go and leave me alone, please."
"Not that easy." Metallo approached her but Jimmy blocked his way.
Jimmy stretched out his arms, and Lucy looked horrified as Jimmy proceeded to protect her. "You're not getting near her, Metallo. Not as long as I have something to say about it."
"If you insist." Metallo reached down and grabbed Jimmy, sending him sprawling into a nearby wall a moment later. He took another tentative step toward Lucy, but she stepped back as he approached.
"You haven't finished with me, yet," Jimmy said in a controlled voice. From the look on his face, it was obvious he was in pain. His face was bruised and he had a deep gash in his forehead. "Can't you manage to get your priorities straight for once?"
Metallo approached Jimmy, but as Jimmy tried an uppercut move his dad had taught him, Metallo seized him and threw him into a closet. He watched as the young man staggered back, not willing to give up the fight. It was obvious Jimmy's left arm was broken and from the way he grabbed his sides a couple of ribs were broken as well. Metallo grabbed the container that was magnetically adhered to his body. He gave it a brief squirt in Jimmy's direction, and the green gas hung in the air around Jimmy. Involuntarily, Jimmy gasped for breath, and inhaled a lungfull of the gas. In a moment he began to cough hard. As Jimmy tried to get more air, he inhaled more of the gas. Jimmy staggered back against the wall and began to slump down. "Jimmy!!" Lucy screamed as the young man collapsed to the floor. She turned her wrath on Metallo. "You killed him!!! You inhuman piece of metal, YOU KILLED HIM!!!"
"Probably." Metallo had a crooked smile on his face as he made a grab for Lucy. Before he knew it a 'whoosh' resounded through the room.
"Leave her alone, Metallo." Superman stood in the middle of the room. He hadn't seen Jimmy yet.
"He killed Jimmy!!" Lucy yelled at the top of her lungs and she pointed to the young man's body. "He sprayed him with some kind of gas!"
Superman looked ill when he saw Jimmy's crumpled body on the floor, he was already a pale green. He was too late for his friend. He was determined to not be too late for his sister-in-law. "You'll pay for this, Metallo!"
Metallo had grabbed Lucy with one hand and now opened up his chest compartment with the other. "I don't think so, Superman." Superman retreated, feeling the effects of the kryptonite. Before he knew it, Metallo had seized him and had thrown him through a wall.
"That wasn't smart, tin man," a voice said from behind. Spider-Man jumped at the thing that had thrown Superman around like a rag doll. Spider-Man hit him in the chest, but the cyborg didn't go anywhere. "Great!! Another robot. I HATE ROBOTS!!" Spider-Man picked himself up off the floor. "Your head has to be as hard as that armor on your chest."
"Who are you?!" Metallo demanded, maintaining his grip on Lucy.
Spider-Man leaped up and held onto the ceiling. "I'm your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man, just passing through."
"Spider-Man?" Corbin mocked.
"Yep. I do anything a spider can." Spidey made another tackle attempt at Metallo, but it was only a fake. With a blast from his web shooter, he knocked Lucy out of Metallo's grasp. "I even spin webs. Any size."
Metallo charged at Spider-Man screaming "You'll splat like a spider too!"
Before Spider-Man could get out of the way, Metallo had rammed him. Spidey went flying through the air and crashed into a wall, right beside where Superman was. Superman was just climbing out as Spider-Man smacked against the wall. Even without superhearing, Superman heard the cracking of bone. Blood washed down Superman's face from a cut above his eyes. All in all, he was pretty lucky considering it was Metallo he was up against. "You okay, Peter?" Clark asked in a whisper to Spider-Man who was shaking his head clear.
"Yeah, except for this pain in my shoulder where a bone used to be. It's broken, Clark." Metallo had gone back to grabbing at Lucy, who was managing to keep away from him by hiding and throwing things at the cyborg. "Can you use your heat vision to melt his legs?"
Superman shook his head. "My powers are gone. Like I said, that robot runs on kryptonite batteries… and that stuff wipes me out. I can't do anything as long as he's this near me."
Spider-Man glanced in the corner where Jimmy was lying, apparently dead. "That's Olsen, isn't it? I met him last time." Peter noticed the green complexion of the young man's skin. "Oh, no."
Superman couldn't stand it. "He's probably dead by now. Lucy said Metallo sprayed him with the Goblin's brew before I got here." Metallo had now grabbed Lucy again, and there was little the two heroes could do. "Where's our bat back-up?"
As Metallo prepared to escape with Lucy, two figures swung through the now often-traveled window. "Sorry we're late, but we got lost downtown." Robin climbed through the window and Batgirl followed. "Okay, shiny, put down the girl and we won't hurt you… much." Before Robin could smile, Metallo had smacked him into a corner.
"Bad move, bozo!" Batgirl brought out a batarang and let it go, aiming for Metallo's chest. As Metallo dodged the weapon, Batgirl used her grapple to snatch Lucy from Metallo's grasp. "Get out of here, Miss Lane. Call for help!" Lucy fled the apartment quickly, but not before taking a last look at Jimmy's lifeless form.
Metallo turned and focused his wrath on Batgirl, who he backhanded into a wall, leaving dents on the wall and the heroine. Robin was back on his feet now, and he took a swing at Metallo which left him with a sore fist. "Hey, guys… I need some help here."
Superman was back on his feet. He was shaky, but standing. He looked at a piece of fruit and concentrated. It soon began to smoke. "I have a plan," he said to Spider-Man. "My heat vision is back, not full, but I have it. If I can open his chest, can you pull that kryptonite heart out of him with your webs?"
Spider-Man nodded quietly. Robin was struggling with Metallo now. "Metallo! Come after me, if you want a real fight," Superman taunted the villain. Metallo let go of Robin and began his march toward Superman. With what power he had left, Superman burned a hole in Metallo's chest. The kryptonite was now fully uncovered, and Superman fell to the floor, once again overcome by the green rock.
"Smile!" Spider-Man commanded as he shot a web line at the kryptonite. It took hold, and in a quick movement, he tore it out of the hulking robot. As Metallo slowed down to a stop, a look of pure anger filled his face. "You should have smiled, it would have looked so much better." Spider-Man looked at the rock in his hand. "We've got to get rid of this."
"Over here!" Robin called. He was now on his feet. Spider-Man threw the rock over, and Robin quickly put the rock in a bag. "It's lead lined. I stopped off for it on the way over here."
Superman was back on his feet, and feeling much better. "Thank you. All of you. I guess you were here for me after all." The last comment brought some strange looks. In the distance, they heard sirens coming. Superman leaned over Jimmy's body, and made a discovery. "He's still alive!! I don't know how, but he is!"
Robin had scooped up Batgirl, who had apparently been badly hurt in the tussle. Blood trickled out from underneath her cowl. "She's hurt. I've got to get her out of here."
Spider-Man had been looking over Metallo and had retrieved the Goblin's gas canister. "I've got the canister." His spider-sense kicked in. "Guys, we've got trouble! Clark, can you x-ray our statue here?"
Superman x-rayed the now powerless villain. "We've got a problem! He's set to self-destruct. The Goblin must have set some sort of fail-safe."
"How long do we have?" Spider-Man looked around to see what could be done. "Can you fly this bucket of bolts out of here?"
"I think I can… and we don't have long." Superman grabbed the body and flew out the window as fast as he could. With all of the strength he had left, he flung the body into the air. Seconds later, an explosion sent debris flying everywhere. "I don't think he'll be coming back from that." Superman made his way back into the apartment. The police and paramedics had arrived. Lucy was with them, and they were working on Jimmy. Spider-Man was explaining the situation to them.
"Apparently Metallo used a gas on this young man. You had a young woman killed by the same substance earlier today, I understand."
Henderson looked to Spider-Man. "The young woman outside the Daily Planet? What is this stuff and why are you here, Spider-Man? It's a long way from New York."
Peter was happy to not have to run away from the police like he often had to in New York. "I'm afraid the two are connected. The Green Goblin has done this. He's developing some kind of new weapon."
The medics tried to take a look at Batgirl, but Robin stopped them. "I think she will be okay. We just need a first aid kit." Robin looked over to Spider-Man who was cradling his arm. "Or two."
Superman stepped over to Lucy who was watching the medics work on Jimmy. "Miss Lane?" Lucy looked up to see Superman, and it was obvious she had been crying. "I assume you will be going to the hospital too?" She nodded. "I will get in touch with your sister and brother-in- law. I'll have them meet you at the hospital." In a moment he retrieved the bag with the kryptonite in it. He handed it to Inspector Henderson. "Inspector Henderson, could you please get this to STAR Labs. It's green, and I really don't like it." Henderson took the bag and nodded knowingly.
Superman approached the heroes. "I can't stay long. Spidey, I'll drop you off at your hotel. Robin, I assume you can take care of Batgirl?" Robin nodded. In three quick trips, he had them all on the roof. "I've got to get to Lois and tell her what's happened. Peter, I'll drop you off at your hotel. I don't think you could swing there on your own right now." Spider-Man nodded and stepped to Superman.
"What should I do about her?" Robin asked about Batgirl. "It looks like she's hurt pretty bad."
"Do what you can, Dick. You can't really take her to a hospital in that outfit, now can you?" Having said that, Superman took off with Spider-Man, leaving Robin and Batgirl alone.
Robin looked down at Batgirl, who was still unconscious. There was a deep tear in her cowl, and he guessed that was where her wound was. He was torn. "Do I take the cowl off? Then I'll know who she is.. and if I know that…" He looked back to her. The wound was still bleeding. "Looks like I have no choice." With great hesitancy, he laid her out flat on the roof top, and put the cape under her head like a pillow. Slowly he reached for the mask, and gently removed it. The face that stared back at him was bruised, but he knew instantly who it was. "Barbara!!!"
His mind was in turmoil, but he couldn't allow himself to think about anything but cleaning the cut on her forehead. He proceeded to clean the wound and bandage it. It wasn't as bad as he feared it would be. It was just a deep scrape. She had been lucky. He thought about just putting the cowl back on her, but then thought better of it. *She would know I had taken it off.* He looked out toward the unfamiliar city skyline. "This is a perfect mess. How can something that answers so many questions cause so many problems." He shook his head slightly. "What do I do? Tell her who I am? Bruce would kill me! It is my life though, isn't it? Not really. This -costume- changes everything." He took another look at Barbara. "I guess so does hers." His mind felt like he'd just gone up against the Riddler, and lost.
He thought again, before continuing the conversation with himself. "The real question is do I trust her enough to keep my secret. I do. I've trusted her with my life and Bruce's life before. She's saved us more than a couple of times. Do I love her enough to share this with her? I do. I was just too afraid to tell her before… she's Gordon's daughter. What if she would have said something to him, or been angry at me for hiding this? That can't happen now. She's hiding this too. The most she can be mad for is me taking off her cowl." As he finished, he came to a decision. He reached up and removed his mask and placed it beside her cowl. "When she wakes up, she'll find me, not Robin."
Minutes passed. He wondered how Clark and this Peter Parker were doing. He also wondered about Olsen. He had only met the young man once, but the man had spirit. A slight moan brought him back to the real world. Barbara moaned again and tried to get up. He was at her side in a heartbeat. "Don't try to get up. You took a pretty bad bump on the head."
Barbara opened her eyes to see Dick Grayson, not Robin, looking at her. *How did he get here, wherever here is?* "Mr. Grayson, where am I?" She hadn't recognized that Dick Grayson was wearing Robin's costume. She put her hand up to her head as a reflex. Her head felt like it was splitting apart. She bolted upright in shock as her hand felt skin instead of cloth. She moved her hands to her head quickly and she felt her hair, not her cowl. Glancing down she knew she was still in her uniform. Fear and sadness gripped her heart as she realized that Dick knew. He knew she was Batgirl. "Oh, no!"
He couldn't help it. He grabbed her in his arms and held her close. She recoiled in fear for a moment, but he kept her from going anywhere. "It's okay, Barbara. It's okay. You're okay. That's all that matters." He had thought she would be mad, but here she was sad and more than a little scared. He had never seen her like this. "What's wrong?"
"How did you get here?" The last thing I remember was battling some kind of robot with Superman, Spider-Man and Robin… and now I'm here… and…"
*She doesn't realize I am Robin!* He held her to him, and worked up the courage to do what he had to do. "I came up here with you."
She pulled away from him, and he relented. She looked at him, and her eyes widened in recognition. "My God!! You ARE Robin!"
The way she said it made him cringe inside. He looked down at the roof. "I am," he said in a small voice.
*I can't deal with this right now!!* her mind screamed. *I can't believe he's been keeping this from me! What have I been keeping from him though? If he's Robin, that means that… OH GOD! I know who Batman is!! I can't deal with this!!* She decided to pursue a safe conversation. "What happened?"
"It took all of us but we took down Metallo. That lead-lined bag came in handy. Thanks for suggesting we pick it up."
"When I found out that thing was powered by kryptonite, I figured we'd need it. What happened next?"
"The Goblin had Metallo set to self-destruct if he got beat. We were lucky. Superman was strong enough to get him away before he blew up." Dick looked at her absently. There was so much to say, and yet he couldn't say anything. He had a bad feeling about all of this. He reached for his mask, and put it on as Barbara did the same with her cowl. "We better get back to the hotel and change. We need to stop by the hospital and check on some people."
They all waited in the room. The doctors had been working on Jimmy for a while now, and no one knew what was going to happen. Peter and Mary Jane had joined the group and Perry paced nervously. Clark stood by a wall, away from the rest. His strength had returned to him, but the feeling of helplessness wouldn't leave. "Are you okay?" Lois asked as she approached. She put her arms around him. She knew he was blaming himself for the events of the evening.
"Yeah. How are you and how's Lucy holding up?" Clark surveyed the room. Peter and MJ were standing close together. He was glad that Perry hadn't questioned the scrape on his head or Peter's arm in a cast. He didn't feel like making excuses tonight.
"I'm okay. Lucy's another story. I've tried to get her to open up, but she won't."
Clark wanted to see how things were going with Jimmy, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. He was afraid of what he would find. "Give her some time. She's had a rough time of it tonight. We all did."
Lois looked over to Peter and MJ. "I guess they were there for you this time, right?" Clark nodded. "Listen, I know you're beating yourself up over this. I am too. There are lots of things we could have done to keep them both out of trouble, but that didn't happen."
"I don't know what I'm feeling right now. It just seems like every time life starts going well, something happens. This time it was Metallo. Who's it going to be next week?" He shook his head. "Sometimes I think our life just a TV show with a villain of the week thrown in to add some spice because people wouldn't watch us without it."
Lois laughed softly. "Well, we could give them something else to watch other than supervillains. We would have to put the show on cable though."
Clark turned and kissed his wife. "How do you know the right thing to say when I need to hear it most?"
"Because I love the person I need to say it to. Not a man in tights, but my partner and best friend."
"There you go again."
"How's your arm, Tiger?" Mary Jane knew her husband wasn't very happy with himself right now. "You feel like talking?"
"The arm's feeling better, but I can't say the same for the rest of me." He lowered his voice so only she could hear him. "How could I let this happen?"
"Let what happen, Peter? You didn't let anything happen. From what Clark told me, if it hadn't been for you, then this 'Metallo' would have done a lot more than he did. Clark would be dead right now, Lois would be a widow and that young girl over there would be his prisoner." MJ held her husband in a tight embrace. "What more could you have done?"
"Taken care of the Green Goblin when I had a chance." Peter looked around absently. "How many opportunities have I had to take care of him once and for all? Each time I end up resetting everything. Each and every time things go back to square one."
"You could never do that, Peter. You are a good man. That's part of the reason I love you so much. You could never take a life. You could never sink to Osborne's."
"You're right. I know that, but that man's in there dying and there's not a thing I can do about it. I feel so helpless." Peter looked down at his left arm in the sling. "Look at me. I can't even swing around with a broken arm. It will be days before it heals. That will give the Green Goblin all the time he needs."
MJ reached up and stroked his cheek. "Well, Spider-Man may not be able to do anything, but Peter Parker can." At this, Peter was puzzled. "Listen to me, Tiger. Spider-Man may not be able to swing in and stop the Goblin, but you can stop him in your own way. You know the science behind the Goblin's formula. Superman and this Robin and Batgirl might be able to stop him, but you're going to have to find out how to neutralize this newest formula."
Peter nodded, deep in thought. "I guess you're right about that. I'll need lab equipment though. If we were in New York I'd use Doc Connor's stuff at ESU, but this is Metropolis…"
"STAR Labs," Mary Jane said quietly. "Have Superman take you there. Say that you've helped Spider-Man with this stuff before. They keep secrets for Superman, I'm sure they'd do the same for you." Her eyes glistened. She loved it when she was right.
"What a clever wife I have. Now I know why I married you."
"So, it wasn't the beautiful body after all, eh?"
"Well, that was part of the package."
Lois had left Clark for a bit to check in on her sister while Clark checked up on Perry. "Any news yet?" Perry asked as Clark approached.
Clark shook his head. "No."
"I can't understand how all of this happened. Why were they at her apartment if they knew Corbin was probably going to come after her?" Perry continued to pace.
"Jimmy had an idea to make it look like Lucy had left town. He thought it was the best way to protect everyone involved. According to Lucy, she spent too much time there and Metallo just arrived before they could leave." Clark thought back ruefully. "I shouldn't have let him go, Chief. I had a bad feeling about that plan from the start."
Perry stopped and sighed in resignation. "Clark, Jimmy's a man. We can't stop him from doing what he wants to do, no matter what the consequences are. Look at how many times the both of us couldn't keep Lois from getting into trouble."
Clark almost smiled. "Yeah, but even Superman wasn't much use tonight. He needed out of town help to stop that cyborg."
"We all need help some time, Clark. Even Superman." Perry began pacing again. "No matter what comes out of this, Clark… I want you and Lois to finish up this investigation. You told me about the connections. With the Green Goblin here in Metropolis and this Bane character on the loose… this is a BIG story. Not only that, but Superman's going to need help to find out exactly what's going on here. He may be a superhero, but he's not an investigative reporter."
Clark nodded, trying to hide a smile. "I understand, Chief."
Lois sat down next to Lucy and grabbed hold of her sister's hand. "Come on, talk to me, Lucy. I know you're worried about Jimmy, but I get the feeling that something else is wrong here."
Lucy fell into Lois and her sister grabbed hold of her. "I can't believe this is happening!" Lois waited for Lucy to continue, suddenly understanding how Clark had felt all those times she had cried on his shoulder and there was little he could do about what had her upset.
"I said some awful things to Jimmy, and now he's dying! I'll never get to tell him that I do love him." Lucy sobbed some more before continuing on. "I told him he couldn't protect me, and that's what he was doing when this happened. I didn't do anything. I just let him face Johnny alone and look what happened to him! The last conversation we had was a fight! He tried to tell me why he has to leave… that's it's his job, but I wouldn't listen to him. He tried to tell me that leaving me is the last thing he wanted to do… I didn't listen to him though." Lucy was quiet for a moment and then continued. Lois was crying softly now. She knew the pain her sister was feeling. How many times had she and Clark almost lost each other. "Why do I push away the people who care for me?"
"It's a family trait," Lois said absently. "Look at what I did to Clark. I kept pushing him away. I almost lost him forever because I couldn't face up to my own feelings." She thought back to the night she had gone over to tell Clark how she felt and seeing that he was ready to leave Metropolis, unable to go on without her in his life.
"You didn't lose Clark though. You told him how you felt. I never did tell Jimmy how I really feel. I don't know what I'm going to do if…" Her voice trailed off.
The doctor entered the room and was quickly besieged. After being asked variations of the same questions countless times, he started to answer the group. "He is in very critical condition. His physical injuries were not that severe. The gas I am told he inhaled does seem to be adversely affecting him. I'm not sure exactly what it is trying to do, but the effects are killing him."
The assembled group hung their heads in silence as Lucy asked the next question. "How long does he have?"
The doctor was quiet, and that unnerved them even more. "I would say no more than 24 hours, if that. I am truly sorry. Whatever that gas is, it is slowing down his heart and his circulation. Already he is in a deep coma. I must be honest that I have seen few people come out of a coma so deep."
"Can I see him?" Lucy asked in a small voice.
"I don't see what harm it would do," the doctor said with a sigh. "I will warn you that he is hooked up to a lot of machines. This won't be a pretty sight."
The doctor started to escort Lucy back. Lois put a hand on her sister's shoulder. Lucy turned to face the group. "This is something I have to do. I'm going to stay with him. It's the least I can do."
Realizing she would do the same thing for Clark, Lois relented. "We'll check in on you." The doctor whisked Lucy into the back.
Perry felt totally devastated. "Kids, I've got to get home. I'm not going to be of any use here. I'll keep in touch with the hospital here." Perry wandered out of the room without saying good night.
Lois, Clark, Peter and Mary Jane converged now that they were alone. "How is your arm doing, Peter?" Lois asked first.
"Better," Peter answered briefly. "It will heal fine in a few days, but I'm afraid I won't be able to do any swinging for a while."
"I was afraid of that." Clark looked deep in thought. "Peter, you once said that you were pretty good in science…"
"Pretty good? If it wasn't for a few things getting in his way, he could probably be a science professor!" Mary Jane smiled as she bragged about her husband. "I'd say he's more than just 'pretty good'."
"I stand corrected," Clark said with a smile.
"I know what you're getting at, Clark." Peter pulled the gas canister from his jacket pocket. "MJ was thinking that maybe you could get STAR Labs to let me use some of their equipment to analyze this new goblin's brew. If we're going to have any chance of saving your friend and whoever the Goblin sights next we'll need an antidote"
"Great minds think alike," Lois said with a smile. "It was my idea for Clark to ask."
"And what a wonderful idea it was, too."
"What was a wonderful idea?" The two couples looked up to see Dick Grayson and someone they hadn't seen before enter the room. "Sorry it took so long, but we got a little detained."
Lois and MJ looked at each other, and instantly knew who the young woman was. The bump on the head, the red hair… Clark and Peter were likewise putting the pieces together. "I smell a bat," Peter said low enough for only Clark to hear, who nodded his head.
"Why don't we go check on Lucy," Lois suggested taking MJ's hand and leading her away. "I'm sure these four have some talking to do."
Dick didn't look too good. *They've figured it out already.* "Ah.. what's up with your friend, Clark? Is he going to make it?"
"They don't think so." Clark had a far-away look on his face. "We need to talk. I'll take the bat, you take the bird," he said looking at Peter. "We've got to get some things straight."
Barbara gulped. It hadn't hit her until now. Maybe it was the bump on the head, the splitting headache or the lateness of the night, but whatever it was she hadn't seen it. She hadn't noticed the one man's arm in a sling. The exact same arm that Spider-Man had broken. She didn't notice the slight bruises on the other man's face. Once she really did look though, she saw past the glasses. She was standing in the same room with Superman and Spider-Man. "I guess I have a lot of explaining to do, don't I?" the young woman asked. Clark only nodded in response.
"What's up?" Dick asked, trying to figure out what was going on.
"Nothing really, I just want to ask you some questions. For starters, how about the 'married spider' crack on the roof. How do you know I'm married?" Peter really wanted to know the answer to this.
Dick didn't look well. He was about to say more than he planned to this entire trip. "Well, Batman keeps files on almost anyone news worthy. He has quite an extensive Spider-Man collection. He isn't quite sure what to make of you really… good guy or bad buy? Most of the pictures were done by a guy named Peter Parker, so we got a file on you too… and your wife Mary Jane."
Peter's face drew into a frown. *Well, two can play at this.* "It's nice to know that Bruce Wayne has enough free time to investigate a free-lance photographer." Dick looked like he was going to be sick. "Well, you know I'm not galactically stupid. I do work for a news paper. I was a little curious about why a man would dress up like a bat. At least I have an excuse for being a spider… long story, maybe next time. Anyway, when I started looking I came to one conclusion. Batman has a taste for high tech weapons. He only works in Gotham… well most of the time… and that means who ever Batman is lives in Gotham. The only person in Gotham with enough money to support that habit is Bruce Wayne. When I found out Robin was really Dick Grayson, Wayne's ward, I knew for a fact Wayne was Batman."
"Bruce is going to kill me," Dick said in a small voice.
"You took her mask off, didn't you?" Dick nodded slowly. "Think about what he's going to do when he finds out you revealed his and your identity to Commissioner Gordon's daughter. She's bound to put the pieces together… even faster than I did." Dick lowered his head, and wished he could be anywhere else. "Okay, now let's talk about the rough stuff. We still have the Goblin and Bane to deal with."
Clark took Barbara to a secluded corner of the room. He saw the fear in her eyes. *She must be in overload. She's probably been exposed to more secrets tonight than she ever expected too.* "First of all, relax. You're among friends. You know who I am, right?"
Barbara nodded. "Yes, Superman."
Clark shook his head. "No. I am Clark Kent, reporter for the Daily Planet. Superman's just the costume I put on. If you remember anything from tonight, remember that you are who you are, no costume can change that. Now… I assume you know who Robin is, right?" She nodded slowly. "That means you know who Spider-Man is, right?" She nodded again. "His name is really Peter Parker. You'll get to talk to him in a minute. I'm assuming by the look on your face that you've also figured out who Batman is." She nodded. "Listen, everything is going to work out for the best. I'm sure you and Dick have a lot to talk about, but right now we have to stop the Green Goblin"
Clark motioned for Peter and Dick to join him just as Lois and MJ came back out. "How are they doing?" Clark asked his wife as he broke away to be with her. Lois looked very pale, and not in very good emotional shape.
"Not good, either of them. Lucy's in there doing nothing but crying, and Jimmy's heartbeat is growing weaker every moment. We've got to find an antidote."
Clark held his wife close to him. "We will. We will." The others stood, not quite sure what to say. "Listen, we've got to get on this right away. The Goblin already has used his new brew on two people. We don't know how close he is to whatever he wants to do." He thought for a moment about what to do. He didn't want to leave Lois, but if the city was going to have a chance to survive, everyone would need to sacrifice. "Lois, would you take MJ, Dick and Barbara here back to the house? I'm going to take Peter to STAR Labs so he can get started." With nods of approval, the group broke up to go their separate ways.
Superman swooped into STAR Labs with Peter. Much to his surprise, Dr. Klein was still at work in the lab. "Dr. Klein? I hadn't expected you to be here so late."
"I wasn't," Dr. Klein explained looking up from his instruments and glancing at the visitor Superman had brought with him. "Inspector Henderson contacted me when he brought the kryptonite back here. It is secured again. After he told me about Metallo, he told me about your friend Mr. Olsen being exposed to the that same agent that killed the young woman earlier today. I'm very sorry. I thought I had better start analyzing my findings. I have come up with some preliminary findings, would you be interested in looking at them?"
Superman tried to hide an embarrassed grin. "I would love to Dr. Klein, but I'm afraid I have to go out and hunt down some leads. I did bring you someone to help though." Superman motioned for Peter to step up. "This is Peter Parker. He's helped Spider-Man in the past when the Green Goblin has used his goblin formula. I understand he's real science wiz."
"I'd be happy to get all the help I can, especially if he's familiar with this particular formula." Klein motioned Peter over to take a look at the findings he had mentioned. As the two men became engrossed in the research notes, neither noticed Superman leave.
Back at the townhouse, Clark came through the front door and noticed that Lois was already organizing the troops. "Reporting for duty, General," he said softly as he gave her a quick kiss.
"How's Peter doing?" MJ asked immediately.
"I don't think I've ever seen him happier. He's really at home in a lab, isn't he?" MJ nodded and Clark made a mental note for later.
Lois rose from the table and approached Clark. "Can I see you in the kitchen?"
Clark nodded. "This will only take a minute," Clark said as he was led into the kitchen. "I don't really think this is the time for this, sweetheart," he said with a grin.
"Clark Kent, you are impossible!" Lois said in mock anger. "This is serious. Barbara and Dick haven't said a thing to one another since they got here. I've seen ice cubes with more personality."
"I imagine its something to do with finding out that each of them has been keeping a secret from the other. They're probably hurt and scared. I believe you have experience in this area." Clark added the last statement softly.
Lois cringed thinking about how she had reacted when she found out her friend / partner / love-of-her-life had been keeping Superman from her. "At least I talked to you. We worked it out… it took a while, but we did. They're not even talking to one another. They're going to be of no use to us like this."
Clark nodded. "I know what you mean. We can't take the time to counsel them though. I mean, these kids follow Bruce Wayne around. THAT alone should provide Dr. Friskin with a few years of work… then add the costumes into the equation, and we're talking life-time membership."
"He's a strange one… even stranger than I thought you were."
"I'll try to take that as a compliment." Clark looked out toward the dining room. He watched and listened to Mary Jane telling a story to Dick and Barbara, who looked as if there minds were back in Gotham. "MJ's almost talked out. She's going over the Hydro-Man story… again. What plan have you come up with?"
Lois turned to her husband and he could see the wheels turning in her head even without x-ray vision. "Well, you and I have to track down Osborne. Lois Lane and Clark Kent will get closer than Superman. We need to make Osborne think someone is out there looking for him though so… we use Dick and Barbara as decoys. I'm going to ask MJ to look after Luce while all of this is going on."
Clark nodded, and he had a plan of his own to add. "I'll be right back." Clark walked to the kitchen door and called for Mary Jane to join them.
Soon MJ was in the kitchen with Lois and Clark. "Thank you!" she said, grabbing the two of them in a hug. "I can't stand those two anymore! They won't talk to anyone. I'm down to the story about how I helped Peter stop the Lizard and a group of mutated sewer lizards." She grabbed Clark forcefully by the collar. "YOU'VE GOT TO GET THEM AWAY FROM ME! YOU'RE SUPERMAN, DO SOMETHING FLYBOY!"
Clark wasn't sure what to do: laugh or be scared. "If you think this is bad, you should be happy Batman isn't here. He's REALLY strange."
"Yeah, I heard Wayne can be pretty weird at times." She noted the surprise on Lois' and Clark's faces. "What? I may be a model and actress but I'm not dumb. Peter and I figured out Wayne a while ago. Peter likes to take the credit, but I was the one who figured out that Wayne was the only person in Gotham with enough money to bankroll Batman's toys." She smiled and Clark and Lois grinned. "Why did you call me in? I know it wasn't just to give me a break."
"Actually, we need your help. Do you have any of Peter's spider-tracers?" Clark looked to Lois who had cocked an eyebrow.
"Sure," MJ said retrieving a batch from her pants pocket. "Why?"
"I only need two." Clark reached out and took two of the small spiders. "Here's the plan. We'll send Dick and Barbara out to find the Goblin. If they do, great. But, Batman's always has complained that Robin can get caught by stepping out on the street. With both of them in their condition I'm not going to count on them being too successful." Clark held up the tracers. "These are for their protection. If we don't give them something to do, they'll go out and try to find Osborne on their own. With these, I'll be able to track them." Clark looked over to Mary Jane. "I'll need Peter's tracker."
"Okay." Mary Jane nodded. "What do you want me to do? I imagine the two of you will be playing reporter tomorrow."
"Tonight," Lois corrected. "MJ, I have a special favor to ask you. Could you go over to the hospital and see if you can help my sister any… I know this is a lot to ask, but…"
"Lois, I'd be happy to do it. I'll head over there as soon as I get the tracker for Clark." The trio discussed other ideas and eventually returned to a silent duo. After everyone had their assignments, and Clark had attached the spider-tracers to Robin and Batgirl, Lois and Clark set to work.
"I set up another appointment with Bobby while you were out." Lois had explained to Bobby Bigmouth what had happened and he had been surprisingly understanding, after Lois had promised him some 'genuine' Italian food. "All you have to do is get him some Italian food."
Clark grinned knowing what was up. "Exactly how 'Italian'?"
"You know that little place in Rome we like to go to?"
Clark nodded while laughing a little. "Where and when are we meeting Bobby? I can't believe you got him to meet us at…" Clark looked at his watch and was amazed at how much time had passed. "… at two in the morning!"
"That's why you're getting the 'genuine' Italian food, remember?"
"I can't believe that fool failed!!" Osborne threw a beaker at a defenseless wall. "Metallo failed to even slow down Superman, much less those pesky reporters. Now according to the news we have bigger troubles. Not only is there Superman, but now there's Spider-Man, Robin and this Batgirl." Osborne turned to the table and felt a dizzy spell come over him. As he braced himself against the table he began to laugh demonically. "Actually, this might work to my advantage!"
Bane stepped forward. "What do you want me to do, Mr. Osborne?"
"I have a plan, my steroid-enhanced friend. YOU are going to go bat hunting. Go out into the city and do as much damage as you can. You're bound to run into that bunch of do-gooders. Do as much damage to THEM as you can."
Bane wasn't very happy with his new orders. "Mr. Osborne, I'm not sure that's what Mr. Daggett had in mind. I thought we were to keep out of sight?"
Osborne began to laugh again. This time though it was a slow, bone-chilling, demonic laugh that made even Bane's blood freeze. As Osborne turned around, it was evident something was happening. There was a crazed look in Osborne's eyes that Bane couldn't even remember the Joker having. Osborne continued to laugh. The eyes shifted into a menacing posture and the slowly Osborne reduced his laugh to a chuckle. "You're no longer taking orders from that fool, Osborne. No, no. You will take them from me now. I am unleashed and back again. Osborne thought he could keep me hidden, tap my devious knowledge but keep control for himself. He was SO wrong!! NO ONE CONTROLS THE GREEN GOBLIN!!!" The laughing started again, but stopped abruptly when the Goblin realized Bane was still there. "GET GOING!!!!"
Bane was soon gone. The Goblin returned his attention to his new formula. "Almost done. A few more hours, and Metropolis will wake up to a new age. With Daggett's distribution, I will be able to have my formula in major cities within days. No one will stop me this time. Not even you, Spider-Man. Not even you, Peter Parker."
Osborne reached over to a box and retrieved a green mask and put it on. "This time, no one will stop the Green Goblin!!"
Clark landed in the back alley, in back of the address that Lois had given him. He spun back into his normal clothes. He picked up the package and carried it with him to the jeep. He could tell that Bobby had already showed up and Lois was pumping him for information. By the way Bobby was holding out, it was evident to Clark that he knew something. Clark reached the jeep and opened the passenger side door and got in. He dangled the package of food in front of Bobby. "Okay, Bobby, what do you know about this poisonous gas and Norman Osborne and anything else you think might be important while you're at it."
"How Italian is that food? It smells great!" Bobby took the package from Clark and started to examine the contents.
"How about Rome?" Lois asked. Bobby got a curious look on his face. "Superman owed us a favor, so don't get used to this."
"You two are the greatest!" Bobby exclaimed as he started in on the bread sticks. "Nothing beats ITALIAN bread." After he ate the first one and was satisfied with his reward, he clued the reporters in on what he knew. "You were right to suspect Osborne. I'm told he has a lab set up in the warehouse district. He's getting bankrolled by Roland Daggett from Gotham. I did some digging on that too. It looks like Daggett wanted a mild mind control formula to use in Gotham. He's planning on running for mayor. The guy's a regular Lex Luthor…" The words died on his tongue as he said them. "Sorry about that. Anyway, Daggett sent some muscle along. A guy called Bane. Well, to make the long story short, Osborne is working on something a little more deadly than a mind control formula. That girl, Amber, she was the first trial yesterday. She was one of Osborne's informants. She was just doing it to pay off some college loans, or that's what I'm told. I'm also told that she told Osborne you two were on to him before he gave her the formula in a drink. That's when he got the idea of using Metallo to occupy you two with looking for your sister, Lois. He didn't count on Superman and the others coming to the rescue. MY source tells me that this Osborne guy is seriously deranged, so you two please be careful."
Bobby left the jeep and disappeared into the shadows. "Well, at least we have an idea where to look now." Clark looked out into the night wondering what to expect next. "I can't believe that Amber was working for Osborne."
Lois started the jeep and pulled out into the street. "She seemed like such a nice girl." She was quiet for a moment before she spoke. "We're going to have to find Osborne quickly."
"We?" Clark asked in a shaky voice. "As in you and me?"
She nodded. "We don't have that long to find Osborne and get an antidote… if he has one."
Clark relented. "Okay, but we better get hold of Dick and Barbara and tell Peter. He might have some ideas." Clark stiffened, and Lois knew he was hearing something. The concentration on his face showed he was listening intently. "There's something going down on the east side." He listened more carefully. "Police cars… lots of them. Uh, oh. I think I better go, honey. I'll meet you at STAR Labs." Clark pulled the tracker from his pocket and rolled his eyes at what he saw. "I think Robin and Batgirl just found Bane!"
Robin held his cape close to him to keep it from moving in the wind. He surveyed the streets, looking for some clue. He knew he wasn't going to find any though. "This is a waste of time," he moaned.
Batgirl was crouched, looking into the street too. Robin's words were few tonight, so she immediately pounced on what he had said. "Why?"
Robin turned away and moved away from the roof edge. "They sent us out here to get us out of the way. Don't you realize that?"
Batgirl was right behind him. "Why would they want us out of the way? We took care of Metallo… with a little help. I know Spider-Man and Superman are the BIG heroes, but we can take care of ourselves."
"When we're not fighting."
"We're not fighting!" Batgirl sounded wounded.
"Right. We're just not talking to each other very much."
"And we're not talking about what's important when we do." Batgirl put a hand on Robin's shoulder. "Maybe it's time we did." She pulled back her cowl. "Talk to me, Dick."
Robin turned around and saw Barbara looking at him… without her disguise. He took off his mask. "I guess I should go first, huh?" Barbara nodded and sat down on the roof followed by Dick. "I guess… no, I know what I have to say to you. Barbara Gordon, I love you. Nothing that's happened has changed that. We've been friends since Bruce took me in after my parents were killed. As we grew up… well that friendship changed. Then we started dating, just for fun at first and then… I realized I was in love with you. But there was something in the way… This." Dick gestured at his costume.
"Being Robin complicated everything. How could I get close to you and not tell you? But how could I tell you? What would you say? What would Batman say. What would Bruce say? I know you've figured out that part by now." Barbara nodded slowly. "Would you say anything to your father? 'Dad, guess what? I'm dating Robin!' Then things got really complex. Batgirl came along, and I found myself attracted to her! I couldn't figure out what was happening to me!!" Dick shook his head. "Maybe it was the fact that Batgirl shared the life I was living… and I knew she could relate. I just couldn't get close to her though… I was in love with you… I just didn't know how to handle what I was feeling."
Barbara sat and digested what Dick was saying. After he had finished, she continued to sit silently. Just as Dick was beginning to become REALLY nervous, afraid that he had said TOO much, she decided to talk. "The first thing I have to say is… I love you too. I guess the next thing I need to tell you is why I became Batgirl." She took a deep breath, and continued. "Well, you pretty much know the circumstances. You and Batman.. Bruce.. had been kidnaped and Two-Face was after my father. I knew the police couldn't totally protect Dad, so this was my only option. I'm a police officer's daughter… I knew enough to do what I had to. I took the equipment I needed from the evidence room. They had some batarangs and the grapple. That was enough. I managed to find both of you, and together we stopped Two Face before he could get Dad. I had never really thought about police work before, but after putting on the outfit, I was kinda hooked. Besides, I got to hang around with Batman and Robin… and I had a crush on Robin from when I was still a teenager." Dick smiled nervously.
Barbara took a deep breath. "We were close, but after I became Batgirl, everything changed. How could I tell you? What would you think? I think you got a pretty good idea of where I'm going with this." She looked to Dick who nodded silently. "I guess what's bothering both of us is the way all of this came out. I wasn't ready to tell you. If the wrong people found out, my Dad could be in real trouble. I mean his daughter is a vigilante! The Gotham police commissioner's daughter is Batgirl. Can you imagine what it would do to him?" She was silent again for a minute, thinking about the effects her secret would have on her father. "I know there had to be a point down the road where we would've either had to tell each other our secrets, or we couldn't be together." Both of them were silent, considering what she had just said. "I'm just happy that you chose to take your mask off tonight. You could have put my cowl back on, or you could have just kept the mask on. I wouldn't have known."
"After I knew it was you, I wanted you to know. I was still scared though. I knew you'd understand, but would you… could you forgive me for keeping this from you? I guess you got the same question." Dick looked into her eyes, looking for an answer.
"I'm not sure there's anything to forgive. That would mean we did something wrong. Was keeping our secrets wrong? I guess the real question is: do we understand the reasons each of us did this? I know I do."
"I do, too. There was just too much at stake… for both of us." Dick continued to look into her eyes. "So, now that this is out of the way, where do we go from here?"
Barbara looked away from his eyes. "I really don't know, Dick. I mean, things should be so much simpler now, but that's not how I feel. I'm confused. I feel like we're starting all over again. I shouldn't though. I mean, I know you better than just about anyone now, don't I? You know ME better than anyone else." Again, she was silent. "I guess at the best we're one step along in our relationship. At worst, we're still friends… I guess."
Dick stood and helped Barbara up. "That's better than what I was expecting. I guess we need some time to just be okay with what's happened to us. Who knows, maybe it was for the best. For what its worth, I did want to tell you."
"I wanted to tell you, too."
He slipped his mask back on, and she replaced her cowl. "We can't let this interfere with our work here though. Not only is Batman counting on us, but so is Clark."
"How long have you known them? Lois and Clark that is? I have to admit, I would have never imagined Superman pretending to be a reporter." Batgirl looked back out to the city.
"Don't let Clark hear you say that, or you'll get the lecture of your life. Clark's not like Batman. Bruce puts on the suit and there's Batman… a whole other personality. Clark's the real person. Superman is the disguise. Whether he's in the suit or not, he's still Clark Kent. For him and Lois, that was their biggest obstacle. He wanted her to love Kent, not Superman. So, please, never say Clark Kent is the disguise. It really bothers him."
"How long have I known them? I've known Clark about three years. I've known Lois for about two years." Dick laughed at a memory. "I met her a few months after she found out he was Superman. Clark was tired of keeping things from Lois, so he decided to tell her 'everything' he knew. He phoned Bruce and told him he was going to tell Lois. Bruce really flipped out… and then Clark brought Lois to visit the Bat Cave. There was an instant hostility there. Bruce started in on Clark. He berated him and that was all it took for Lois to get mad. She loves Clark a lot and she's very protective of him."
"Couldn't he stand up for himself?"
"I guess he could," Dick mused. "You don't know Clark well though. He's a quiet guy. Outside of his close circle of friends, he's reserved. He tries his best to avoid a confrontation when he can." Barbara nodded. Her preconceptions about Superman were rapidly being blown to bits. "The first time I met him was when Superman came to Gotham. He helped Batman and me capture the Joker. Clark really helped us out on that." Dick was quiet for a moment, deep in thought. "It's more than we've done for him. I'm determined to make up for that too." Batgirl looked at Robin curiously. "Remember when the Kryptonians and Lord Nor came and took over Smallville, Kansas? That's Clark's hometown. I wanted to go and help, but Batman insisted that we stay and protect Gotham… I'm not sure what we could have done, but we should have done something. No one showed up to help the man who saved the world. Isn't that a sad commentary? Everyone fell back and readied their own cities for the onslaught. If we would have stood together, maybe we could have pushed them away before all that damage took place."
Robin now looked out toward the city too. "I know he's sore about the subject too. Tonight, after we took care of Metallo he made an offhand comment about being there when he needed us. You know, sometimes I wonder where some of the heroes went during that time. Spider-Man, Captain America, The Fantastic Four, Iron Man… they all vanished for a couple of weeks. I wonder…"
Robin didn't get a chance to wonder for long. "Look over there!" Batgirl pointed to an alley. Coming out of the shadows was a hulking form. They both knew who it was instantly. As the figure reached the street they could see it clearly in the light provided by the street lamps. "Bane!" Robin cried as he saw the hulk. "He can't be out to do shopping. Not at this hour." He looked to his partner. "We've got to stop him."
He was talking to himself. Batgirl had already taken off. Robin swooped down to street level and landed beside of Batgirl. "What took you so long?" she asked with a wink.
*This is definitely going to make work interesting.* Bane had noticed them and now stood in the middle of the street. It was early in the morning, and the street was deserted. "You should have stayed in Gotham, Bane. You know we'll send you back in one of those isolation tubes." Robin laughed. "You know, I thought Daggett would have sent someone smart for this!"
That was it. Bane charged and the fight was on. Bane was quick and was on top of Robin before he knew it. Bane had Robin in a squeeze, and the Boy Wonder felt his consciousness drifting away. Suddenly, Bane lurched forward and let go of Robin. Batgirl had kicked the villain in the back. Now Bane turned his attention on her. "Good!" Batgirl said mockingly. "It's nice to know you didn't forget about me."
Before Bane could charge her, Batgirl had used her grapple launcher and had hoisted herself to the top of a street lamp. Bane grabbed the lamp post and pulled it from the sidewalk. He twirled it around in the air and on the second time around Batgirl went flying off. Just as she was about to hit the pavement, Robin caught her. "Nice catch," she said with a smile. "Got any ideas?"
Robin launched a grapple and swung them out of the way as Bane threw the lamp post at them. Instead the post hit a parked car, smashing it and setting off numerous car alarms. "So much for just the three of us," Robin said with a sigh as they came to rest on the roof top they had left minutes before. "Only two things stop Bane: brute strength and cutting off his supply of that chemical."
"Well, Superman isn't here."
"That leaves option two." The building shook and they looked down to see Bane smashing at the building with what was left of the lamp post. "He's not going to give up, and now there are people starting to come out to see what's going on!"
"I've got an idea." Batgirl looked up at some power lines and then down to the street below. "How do you feel about being a squeeze toy again?" After a bemused comment from Robin, she told him her plan.
Bane had continued to hit the building in the absence of the heroes. "Come down and fight me!!" demanded Bane. The residents of the street had come out to see, but most had retreated to their houses. The sounds of sirens filled the air. "Are you scared?"
"Not hardly," Robin said from behind him. "I just like to take my time with some things." Bane now charged him again. *Please be on time, Barbara!*
Bane grabbed Robin and began to squeeze. "My face is the last thing you will ever see, bird boy. I'm surprised the big bad bat didn't come himself." Bane laughed as he squeezed Robin harder. Robin saw his vision began to blur and dim. He hoped his partner's timing was good. "Where's the little girl bat? I wanted a try at her too."
"Go for it then," challenged Batgirl. Bane tossed aside Robin like a rag doll. Batgirl winced as Robin hit the side of a building and slumped over. Before Bane could react, Batgirl set her plan into motion. Bane hadn't noticed her work while he had been taunting Robin. With a tug on her grapple line, the fire hydrant began to spew water out and it soon covered a great deal of the street.
"You're not smart, girl bat. I'm not like that robot you took care of last night. Water doesn't effect me."
"This does though." Batgirl threw a batarang and cut loose a power line. Bane watched mesmerized as the line came down. The lights on the street went dead all around them. Batgirl ran out of the water and tried to drag Robin away. The line hit the water before she got him out though. As the line hit, Batgirl felt herself pushed away. A scream pierced the night and it soon died away.
She remembered not being able to get herself or Robin away from the area in time. By all standards she and Robin should be fried along with Bane right about now. Robin! Bane! She opened her eyes and found that Robin was lying on top of her. That had been the heavy weight she had felt. She shook her head and looked around. Bane was lying still in the water. The flow of water had stopped, and somehow the lights were back on. "That was a mighty brave stunt," a voice complimented.
She looked up to see the owner of the voice. "Superman?"
"I came as fast as I could. I see you managed to take care of Bane by yourself… mostly." Superman helped the young heroine up to her feet. "That was very brave."
"It was the only thing I could think of," she said meekly. She looked to Robin with concern. "He will be alright, right?"
Superman smiled after he checked Robin over. "He'll be okay. Sore, yes, but he's alright."
She smiled with relief. "I'm so glad. We've just started to work some things out."
Superman smiled and for a moment, she could see Clark Kent there instead of Superman. "Before you two go, I want to have a talk with you. You two are on a wonderful road, but… I'll explain later." Police cars pulled up, along with a STAR Labs van in back. "Hold on for a minute." Superman sped away and talked to the officers and explained what had happened. Batgirl continued to look after Robin, who still had not come to. Superman hurried back. "I think the two of you should get back to your hotel," he said in a low voice. "The two of you look like you've been through a lot… which you have." When Batgirl didn't protest, he picked both of them up.
As they flew, Superman asked which floor they were on. He wasn't surprised that Dick had chosen rooms on the top floor of the hotel. As he approached he wasn't surprised to see that his was a secluded room. No one would notice ANYONE leaving the room. As he looked ahead, he was again not surprised to find the window open. In a moment, they were in the room. Superman placed Batgirl down and then put Dick down on the bed. The first thing Batgirl did was to take off the cowl. "Clark, thank you for tonight. We would have been fried if you wouldn't have shown up." Barbara looked away. "I'll take care of Dick. We'll be okay"
Superman nodded with a smile. "I understand. I just need to use the phone first." He excused himself to use the phone on the night stand and dialed up STAR Labs. After directing his call, he reached Dr. Klein's office. Peter picked up the phone. "Peter, it's Clark. How's the battle coming?"
"Not too good," Peter replied. "Even between Dr. Klein and myself we seem to be hitting dead ends. So far I've come up with one thing. This isn't your normal goblin's brew. This is more insidious. It actually is genetic dependent. I'm not sure, but I'm starting to think that is some kind of virus…" Peter's voice trailed off and Clark could hear commotion in the background. Moment's later, Peter was back. "That's it, Clark! That was the key. It all makes sense now. Osborne didn't give up on making people Goblins, he decided to make it more specific. Only a certain gene type is left untouched. The more divergent a person's genes is from that type, the quicker they die. The more like the genes are, the more that person turns into a goblin! That batch he gave that girl must have been a field test. I compared the sample and what was used on Jimmy is way more refined." He sighed. "Would you care to make a bet on who's gene type is the master for this?"
"Right on." Peter was silent again. "I'm not going to be able to reverse engineer this one in enough time, pal. I need a sample of Osborne's blood to do it. Lois told me you discovered where he is."
"General area. I'm going right over. Is Lois still there with you?" Clark was a little uneasy. The Goblin was a maniac. He could sure use some reassurance from his wife about now.
"Hey there, sweetheart." Lois' voice reduced Clark to jello. "Did you get Bane? How are the kids?"
Clark smiled. "They're okay Barbara had managed to get Bane taken care of before I got there. I just needed to help clean up. Dick's out cold, but I'm sure he'll be okay. Just as long as he doesn't get amnesia." There was silence on the other end. "Sorry about that."
He could hear her sigh over the phone and he could only imagine the look on her face. "It's okay. One day we'll laugh about all of this, right? You're on your way to take out the Goblin?"
"Yes. Wish me luck, I'm going to need it." He was quiet for a moment. "I'll bring back Osborne and enough computer files to win ourselves a Kerth… or better." He was quiet again. "Honey, I love you. I'll see you soon. Oh, tell Dr. Klein that Bane will be coming in soon. He just needs to be stored until he can be transported somewhere other than Metropolis." A few more words were exchanged, and then Clark forced himself to hang up.
He turned to Barbara who was still in her outfit. "I guess I'll have to stay like this until he comes to. I can't exactly go out in this outfit, now can I?"
"Take care of both of you," Superman instructed as he flew out.
"I will," Barbara said as she formulated a plan.
Lois typed quickly on the computer, making sure Dr. Klein was nowhere to be seen. She kept searching, and finally found what she was looking for. She laughed in extreme pleasure. Peter noticed and walked over to her. "What did you find that made you laugh like that?"
Few people understood her zeal for uncovering the truth or her spirit of adventure. Clark had been the only one to ever really understand her. She smiled briefly, thankful for the day he came into her life. "Oh, nothing much. I just found the address for the lab Osborne's using. I'll just call the police and send Superman a little help."
Just as she reached for the phone, Dr. Klein came in looking ashen. "Dr. Klein, what's wrong?" Peter asked as he approached the scientist. Lois had seen this look too many times. Something was wrong.
Klein just sat down. "You did say Superman was going to find this Green Goblin fellow, right?" Peter and Lois nodded. "We have to get in contact with him. We must!"
"Dr. Klein, what's wrong!?" Lois demanded. She didn't like the direction this was going in.
"I just finished examining the kryptonite that was taken along with Metallo. There's a small chunk missing off of it. The Goblin must still have it."
Lois thought she would scream out loud in anguish, but instead she stayed calm. She had to. "How big is the piece." Dr. Klein demonstrated with his hands. Apparently the piece was larger than a large pebble, but that was still enough to weaken Clark. "Dr. Klein, I'll need a one of the lead-lined containers." Klein began to protest, but decided it was no use arguing with Lois Lane. He got up and went to retrieve the container. Lois moved to Peter. "I know you have one, so hand it over." Peter looked confused. "A web shooter. Give me one."
Peter shook his head emphatically. "You're not going. I am!"
"Look at your arm!" Lois demanded. "You can only swing on one arm. The Goblin will be expecting you." She looked at Peter and made one last plea. "Peter, I've got to do this. I've got to be there for him. Now either give me a web shooter, or I go in unarmed."
Peter looked around and sighed. She had won. He untucked his shirt and reached into a belt under the costume. He pulled out a very delicate looking instrument and what looked like a small plastic tube. He inserted the tube into the device and then wrapped the shooter around her right wrist. "Press here," he said indicating the pad, "to shoot a web. Light touch for a light stream, longer for a more heavy stream. This has only one cartridge, so use sparingly. I didn't think I'd need it so I didn't restock at the hotel. You understand how to use it?"
Lois nodded and tried to get used to the device on her wrist. "Too bad I don't have a chance to practice." She was interrupted as Dr. Klein returned with a small canister. Before anyone could say much, she was gone and on her way to the address she found in the computer.
Peter went over to the computer to see the address. He would call the police. A lab tech was working on the station now, and the information was long gone. "Good luck, Lois."
It didn't take long. A little x-ray vision helped Superman to find Osborne's lab quickly. He crashed down through the roof and tied up the few lab people he found. In a flash, he flew the lab people outside and quickly returned. "Okay, Osborne. I know you're here. Make it easy, come out peacefully." Superman scanned the area with his vision and couldn't see much. "I really hate lead," he muttered.
"Osborne's not here, Superman." The demonic voice chuckled. Superman turned and was not entirely surprised at what he saw. The Green Goblin stood before him. The evil looking mask served to drive the point home that Superman was dealing with a very evil creature. "There's only me!! THE GREEN GOBLIN!!!!!"
"Give it up, Goblin. I know you have super strength, but it's no match for mine. You can fly on your glider, but I'm faster. Why don't you just give up right now?"
"I don't think you can do what you say," the Goblin goaded with a bone piercing laugh.
Something about this guy made Superman feel nauseated. It was probably the knowledge of what this madman was planning and knowing he could quite possibly carry it out. He wasn't going to allow that though. He stepped forward and instantly felt weakened. The pain started in his head and he quickly put his hands to his forehead trying to block the pain that was taking over his body. "NO!"
"Yes," the Goblin said with a large grin as he produced the nugget of kryptonite. As Superman fell to his knees, the Goblin approached and kicked him squarely in the chest. Superman crumpled to the floor. The kryptonite was too close and its effects were taking their toll. As the hero gasped for air, the Goblin sprayed a gas in Superman's face. "That should take care of you!"
"I wouldn't count on it," Superman chided. "I'm not from around here, my gene type is probably too different to work with your Goblin formula." Superman struggled to try to stand, but the Goblin and the kryptonite were too close. "I know all about your little plan."
"Good for you," the maniac laughed. "Too bad that wasn't Goblin gas though. It actually doesn't even belong to me. I knew coming to Metropolis that I would probably run into you at some point, so I decided to get some help from a colleague. That was Professor Crane's patented fear potion… his strongest yet! Oh, the Scarecrow does send his regards! Too bad I had to turn him over to the police so I could take his place. The fool has straw for brains!! He never saw the double cross coming." The Goblin laughed again, more joyous this time. "In moments your worst fears will come to haunt you. Meanwhile, I'll be making sure that everything is set to go with my plan." The Goblin looked down and examined Superman's face closely. "It's a shame you don't wear a mask. I could have found out the identity of another one of my enemies. You would have probably been a disappointment too. Spider-Man turned out to be a kid photographer. My luck you would turn out to be a reporter. Bookends so to speak." The Green Goblin put the green rock just out of Superman's reach. "Enjoy the glow, and pleasant NIGHTMARES!!!"
The Goblin jumped onto his Goblin Glider and sailed out of the warehouse to parts unknown. Meanwhile, Clark let the Superman persona drop from him. He had enough trouble without trying to pretend to be the hero right now. His head started to cloud and he noticed his thoughts were blurring together. *The fear potion must be working. I've got to get that kryptonite out of here!* Those were his last coherent thoughts.
Clark awoke. He looked around himself. "What a dream," he mumbled as he relaxed his body. "The Goblin, Spider-Man… I gotta remember not to eat the ENTIRE pizza before I go to bed." He turned over and pulled his wife close to him. Lois turned and flashed a smile at him. "Good morning, beautiful."
"Good morning, Kal," she said with a sultry smile as she kissed him. Clark recoiled and she was shocked. "What's wrong?"
"What did you just call me?"
"Kal… you know Kal El? That is your name, or do you prefer Superman? After last night, I know how much that REALLY suits you."
Clark looked around him. It was their house. "Lois, why not call me by my real name, Clark?"
She smiled as she ran her hand across his chest and for the first time he noticed he was wearing the suit. "Because we both know that's not your real name. You just pretend to be Clark Kent. You're really Superman. Why do you think I married you? You finally realized that Clark Kent didn't have a chance with me! That's why you told me who you really were, don't you remember? I had just dumped Clark after he, well you, proposed to me. I just couldn't love Clark the way I love you, Kal. I mean, Clark was nice, but he was a hack from nowheresville. How could a refined woman like me ever fall for someone that different? You on the other hand, your powers, I just couldn't help but love you. What's that look on your face? We had this discussion years ago, remember? I know you miss the Kents, but we agreed to cut loose your old life. Why, no one even misses Clark Kent at the Daily Planet anymore. He was such a bore!! Jimmy's even a better writer than he ever was. We're no good when we pretend to be something else. You know that, Kal."
The tears ran down from Clark's eyes. He couldn't see very well. His vision was blurred. The scene continued to play out in his mind. "It's true. Lois doesn't love me… She loves SUPERMAN!!" As he looked around him he spotted the kryptonite. "I've got to reach it…" he said as he crawled forward. "Got to!" He finally grabbed the piece of glowing crystal. He didn't throw it away, instead he held it tight to his chest. "I've got to stop the pain. How can I live? She doesn't love me!"
Lois pulled up in the jeep and instantly knew she was in the right place. Six people in lab coats were laying on the ground, held together by a steel beam. Another deposit by Superman. She couldn't hear anything coming from inside. That worried her. She knew the kryptonite was there, that was all she could concentrate on. "Hey!! Give us some help here!" demanded a woman who was bundled with the others. Lois turned and shot a wad of webbing at the woman's mouth, shutting her up.
"I could get used to this," Lois said with a mischievous smile.
As Lois entered the lab in the warehouse, she couldn't see anyone around. Her ears soon picked up the ominous hum that she well knew was associated with kryptonite. As she rounded a corner, she saw Clark, dressed as Superman, on the floor and he was holding the kryptonite to his chest. She rushed to his side. "It's okay, Clark. I'm here. Give me the kryptonite. I have a canister for it." She tried to budge the piece from his hands but he was still a little stronger than she was. "Give it to me!" she ordered. "It'll kill you!"
"I want to die" was all Clark said. "I can't go on."
"What??" Something was wrong here, green kryptonite never did THIS to him. "What's wrong, Clark? Tell me."
"She doesn't love me," he repeated over and over again.
Lois was confused. "Who doesn't love you?"
"Lois. She's in love with Superman, not me!!"
Lois couldn't believe her ears. "What are you talking about?! I do love you, Clark!" She could see she wasn't getting through to him. *What's happened to him?* Once more, she tried to grab the kryptonite away. This time she managed to wrestle it away from him. She quickly put the small piece in the container. Clark seemed to look better almost immediately. He started to stand. She knew he was going to try to get away, and right now she couldn't allow that. "Not this time, sweetheart." She pointed and webbed him to the floor. "You're not going anywhere until I get to the bottom of this."
Clark struggled against the webbing, but his depleted strength had him at a disadvantage. He was crying, and Lois wanted to comfort him, but she had to find out what had happened. She noticed a discarded container. "What was in this?" she asked Clark, who had calmed down now but still seemed despondent.
"The Scarecrow's fear gas."
The pieces fit together. The Green Goblin must have weakened him with the kryptonite and then used the gas on him. She knew from stories that the formula would eventually wear off, but she and the rest of the city didn't have that long. The Goblin was nowhere to be seen and that had to mean he'd left. She kneeled beside of him and brushed away the stray tears. "Clark, I'm here. Do you recognize me?" He nodded. Apparently the gas was beginning to wear off already with the kryptonite gone. "I need to make you understand something I thought you already knew. I'm in love with Clark Kent. I was infatuated with Superman, but I felt something for Clark from the very beginning. I couldn't describe what I was feeling, and it scared me. I need you to feel what I feel for you." She reached down and kissed him and held the kiss for a long time. "You are Clark Kent. Nothing can ever change that, and I wouldn't want it to."
Clark could feel himself rejecting the hopelessness. He knew Lois loved him for Clark. He could remember their talks, and how she had reassured him. Why was he concentrating on this now? As his mind cleared, he realized it had to be the fear gas. Lois' kiss had been the linchpin. As he felt her against him he knew it was Clark Kent she loved. As she pulled away from him, he felt his mind return to normal. "I know," he said in relief. "You just saved my life, again. I do love you." He looked at himself covered in the webbing. "Did you have to use so much?"
She laughed. "I wasn't going to let you get away from me in the condition you were in. I'll probably have to buy Peter a new cartridge or something. Are you feeling okay?"
He nodded as best he could. "I'm still a little weak, but I think most of my powers are back. Stand back." She did and Clark ripped the webs off of himself. "That's better. I better go get the Goblin. He took off from here while I was out of it." He reached over and kissed her.
"We have to talk, but not right now. Go get that psycho!" He saluted and in a flash he was gone. Lois looked around. She hadn't called the police, so they weren't coming. She had erased the information on the computer before she left. She couldn't allow anyone to follow her. She made her way to a computer at one of the workstations. A smile came to her face as she found what she was hunting. She reached into her pocket and took out some disks. As she started copying files, she grabbed her cell phone and made a call. "Inspector Henderson, I've got something here in the warehouse district I think you'd like to see."
Above Metropolis the Green Goblin surveyed the city. "Superman's gone by now, and no Spider-Man. By this time tomorrow, Metropolis and most of the east coast will be just like me!"
"I wouldn't count on that." The Goblin turned to see Superman floating behind him. In an instant the Goblin threw a pumpkin bomb that exploded as it hit Superman. Superman felt the pain of the blast, and he did fall briefly, but quickly returned to where he had been. "Nice try… Next?" The Goblin hurled more pumpkin bombs at Superman as he charged on the glider. Superman took hits from the bombs before he started using his heat vision to blast them in the air. The Goblin flew right over him, and he somersaulted in mid air and followed the psycho. Before the Goblin could make another move Superman knocked the Goblin off of the glider. As the Goblin fell, Superman broke the glider in half and threw the pieces into space. He swooped down and caught the Goblin before he smacked into the pavement. As he flew the Goblin back to the lab, the Goblin taunted him and revealed he had already sent several trucks on their way with the Goblin formula on board.
Superman dropped back into the warehouse. Lois was still there and the police had joined her. Henderson was trying to find out exactly how much Lois knew when Superman dropped in. "I'll tell the whole world who Spider-Man is!!" the Goblin threatened.
"Lois, can you shut him up?" Superman asked with a smile. It only took a second for Lois to use the remaining webbing to tie up the Green Goblin and plaster his mouth shut. "Thank you." Superman looked around and smiled. Lois had scoured the place and from the look in her eyes he could smell a Kerth award in the air. "Inspector, I have to take our friend here to STAR Labs so he can donate some blood. It's probably the basis for an antidote to his new formula." Superman looked menacingly at the Goblin. "Then he'll be all yours."
"Who is this Goblin, really?" Henderson asked as he approached.
"Norman Osborne." Henderson raised an eyebrow. "Ms. Lane, I believe you have something you'd like me to take back?"
Lois handed him the container and then took off the web shooter. "I was just getting used to it, too. If you see my husband over there, would you tell him I'll be at the hospital."
"I will," Superman said with a smile. "After I drop our friend here off, I've got to stop a shipment of goblin brew he sent out." Lois passed by and kneed the Green Goblin in the groin. Osborne moaned in pain since the web over his mouth prevented him from screaming. "That's gotta hurt," Superman said with a smile. In a flash he and the Goblin disappeared.
Mary Jane emerged from the ICU doors into the waiting room and was surprised to find Perry White sitting there. She came over and sat beside him. "Mr. White, how long have you been here?"
"Oh, a couple hours I think. What time is it, anyway?"
MJ looked at her watch. "It's 6 a.m."
Perry shook his head. "It's been a long night. I've been here since… well I never left the hospital to tell you the truth. I came back up here around two and no one was here so I decided to wait. The nurses have been kind enough to tell me how he's doing." Perry was quiet for a minute. "How is he doing, Mrs. Parker?"
"He just keeps getting weaker," MJ said softly. "I don't know any of you all that well, but for what it's worth, I'm sorry." She sighed. "Miss Lane isn't really doing any better. She alternates between being totally quiet and wailing. To be honest, she's getting on my nerves." Perry laughed. "Have you heard anything from Lois and Clark yet? I know they were going after the Green Goblin."
"And they got him too," Lois said as she entered the room.
"With a little help from Superman," Clark added as he followed. "We managed to track down Osborne's lab… and yes Perry, we've got the proof. Osborne, the Green Goblin, Roland Daggett… everything!"
"Right now Peter's working on putting together an antidote for the Goblin's potion," Lois said. Perry raised an eyebrow. "Relax, Perry, Peter Parker is an ace chemist. He even impressed Dr. Klein."
"Superman took care of the rest of the Goblin's brew. Osborne had already dispatched the trucks carrying the stuff. He had it disguised as cola, beer, you name it, he had it in there. Superman told us he saved some products for Peter to work on and sent the rest into the sun."
They were all quiet again. Lois asked the question she and Clark were afraid to ask. "How's Jimmy?" MJ repeated the story over again.
Lois came out of the ICU ward and flung her hands in the air. "I can't deal with her anymore, Clark! She's more stubborn than I EVER could hope to be." Clark would have smiled if things would have been different. "She's impossible. She won't say what she's feeling! Don't you dare laugh, Kent." Clark raised his hands in surrender. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. She just gets to me. Was I ever that bad?" Clark was ready to answer but she cut him off. "Don't answer that."
"Would you like me to talk to her?"
"Would you try?" Clark nodded. "Give it a try. The nurses won't say anything as long as you try to keep her under control. They can't do much to help Jimmy with her around like this."
Clark headed back, dreading what he was going to come up against. Lois came over and sat by MJ. "Where did Perry go?"
"He went to go get something to eat. I think he just really needed to get out of here." Lois nodded silently. "He just told me that he hasn't left the hospital since this all started." MJ was quiet for a moment. "He cares for you all a lot. He's really a very sweet guy, isn't he?"
"He is." Lois felt emotionally drained. It had been a long, long night. "We know how he feels. He doesn't hide it very well. I know he was delighted when Clark and I finally got together. He couldn't stop smiling for three days." She was quiet for another moment. "We try to never let him down."
"I don't think any of you could do that. He's a bit different from JJ back home."
Lois laughed softly. "Mary Jane, would you mind changing the topic to something more… personal?" MJ nodded and Lois continued. "You and Peter have been married for a few more years than Clark and I, so I imagine you've crossed this bridge already… What about kids? Clark and I are trying right now… you know what I mean. But we're both kind of… wary. What kind of child could we bring into the world?"
MJ held Lois' hand supportively. "A very good one, Lois." Lois glanced up and MJ knew what she was talking about. "Okay, I don't really know. Neither do Peter and I. Would our baby have any of his powers? None of them? New powers? It's an unknown. I imagine it will be the same for you and Clark. I can only give the advice we're using right now. Just let it happen, Lois."
"Just let what happen?" Perry asked as he entered.
"Ahh…" Lois began but was saved by Clark's entrance.
"Lois, you're right. She is worse than you."
"Any change with Jimmy?" Perry asked concerned. "I've been trying to get hold of Jack, but the NIA won't give us any help."
"Well, Chief, there's change, but it's not good. His heartbeat just keeps getting weaker." Perry looked crestfallen. "We still got time though. Peter will come up with something."
"Peter did come up with something." Peter Parker entered the room. MJ rushed up to embrace him. After a brief hug and some hand shakes Peter pulled a vial from his coat pocket. Dr. Klein and I worked all morning on this. It's a derivative of Osborne's blood. It's quite potent though. Depending on how weak he is, he might not survive the cure."
"It's a chance we didn't have before, son. Good job." Perry couldn't help but feel optimistic.
"Let's get this serum to the doctors," Clark said ushering Peter into the ICU. The others waited outside.
They waited, and a while later Peter emerged from the ICU. Before anyone could ask a question, he brought them up to speed. "Clark even offered to get Superman to freeze Jimmy until we could find something better, but the doctors think this is his best chance. He's weak though, and they told us to expect the worse. Ms. Lane almost broke down when they said that." Peter sadly shook his head. "Lucy insisted on staying in there and Clark decided to stay and comfort her. They were almost ready to administer the serum when I left. They're going to give him the full dose at one time."
The group broke apart. Lois comforted Perry and MJ and Peter headed for a corner. "Hey, Tiger. You just gave that man a chance to live. Don't be so hard on yourself."
Peter sighed. "It's just that I feel helpless… I have these powers and none of them can do any good. I've said that already, haven't I? It's just how I feel though."
Mary Jane held her husband close. "That's not true. YOU did come through. Peter Parker is a hero today, not Spider-Man. You were the one who came up with that serum. You used your greatest power, your knowledge and dedication. Don't go guilting yourself. We all do the best we can. That's all we can ever do."
Just then it sounded like all hell broke loose in the ICU. They could hear calls for crash carts and the doors burst open. Lucy ran out past them and into the hall and soon was out of sight. They could all hear the flatline in the background. Every heart in the room sank. Lois rose to follow her sister, but Perry stopped her. "Give her some room, honey. She needs some time alone." Lois sat back down and waited for the inevitable.
She didn't have to wait long. Clark slowly emerged from the ICU looking more tired and drained than Lois could ever remember seeing him. "It's over, he's…"
Lucy Lane looked out the giant window at the city and considered what she had lost. She felt so guilty… Jimmy was dead. He had died trying to save her from Johnny Corbin… Metallo. If she has just moved a little faster… if she wouldn't have been so stubborn. What shamed her the most was that their last conversation had been an argument. The last memories he had of her were of her yelling at him and comparing him to her brother-in-law. *Why do I do this? I always push people away. Then I try to hurt them. Why?* She hadn't realized it, but she had said her thoughts aloud.
"I think it's a Lane family trait," Lois said softly behind her sister. Lucy didn't turn around.
Lucy didn't need to turn around to know that Clark was with Lois. He just seemed to have this presence that you always recognized. "Just what I need, the perfect couple."
"Trust me, Lucy. We're far from perfect." Clark spoke up to reassure his sister-in-law.
Lucy turned and they could see how hard she had been crying, and she still was. "Oh, no? Look at the two of you!! Clark, you ran out on Lois for over two years, and she forgave you! Lois, you rejected him for two years and he never stopped loving you! You made it through amnesia and Lex Luthor and crazed psychiatrists and Lex Luthor's son and the Prankster and all that other stuff. Lois, Clark got killed protecting your life and you got him back!!! You got a second chance!!" Lois took her sister into her arms. "Where's my second chance!!?!??!?" Lucy's crying intensified, and Lois and Clark didn't know exactly what to say next.
"Sometimes we don't get second chances," Clark said softly as he put a supportive hand on Lucy's shoulder. "Lois and I are lucky. We've been through a lot, but deep down we never gave up on each other. Lucy, it's important when you find love to embrace it… not walk or push it away. Lois and I almost lost each other because of so many misunderstandings. When you find someone to love you have to tell them. You have to show them."
The three of them were quiet. "We're not easy to love, are we, sis?" Lois shook her head as she released her sister. "Jimmy tried, but look where it got him! He's dead! He died trying to protect me! The worst part is I spent all that time with him in that room." Lucy stopped and turned from them again. "All last night and all this morning I spent with him, and I couldn't even tell him I loved him."
"It was hard for me to tell Clark how I felt about him. I was so lucky he didn't just fly off and find someone else." Clark rolled his eyes at his wife's comment. "Lucy, did you love Jimmy?"
"Yes. I just couldn't believe that he could really love me. I mean, sometimes I'm so… was so crude to him. How could he love me? But he died trying to protect me. He did love me didn't he?"
"He did, Lucy." Clark said softly. "Some days you were the only thing he would talk about."
"Those days the only thing Perry could talk about was how much Jimmy talked about you." Lois couldn't help but smile. "He even started quoting Elvis stories to Jimmy."
Lucy smiled a little, and realized she couldn't cry anymore. "I'm so tired. I just have to get out of here."
Lois and Clark escorted Lucy back to the waiting room. Her things were still in a chair from the night before. "Lucy, I think you should say good-bye to Jimmy before you leave."
"You think so?" Lois nodded to her sister.
They walked into the ICU and no one stopped them. As they neared the room, Lucy could see Perry standing at the end of the bed. Peter and Mary Jane stood in the corner. Lucy entered first and looked at Jimmy. He looked so peaceful. Perry, Peter and MJ filed out and headed back to the waiting room. As Peter left, he pulled Lois and Clark out with him. Lucy was left in the room alone with Jimmy.
Lucy moved to the side of the bed. "Oh, Jimmy…" She brushed back the hair from his forehead. "Why couldn't I ever tell you how much you meant to me? Why couldn't I tell you I loved you."
Lois and Clark hurried back into the room, hand in hand. "Lucy," Lois called as they entered. "Luce…"
Lucy cut Lois off. "I've got to finish this, sis," Lucy said looking from her sister and brother-in-law back to Jimmy. "I have to say this. I love you, Jimmy Olsen. I love you."
"I love you too," a weak voice said.
Lucy jumped back, but Clark was waiting for her and cut off her escape. "Lucy! Relax! Jimmy's going to be fine. He's still weak, but he'll make it. Peter's serum worked. That's what Peter was just telling us. I'm sorry. We didn't know either. Lois and I came after you and… Well, we're as surprised as you are." Clark and Lois looked over to Jimmy. "Pleasantly surprised… and very relieved." Jimmy smiled.
Lucy turned back to see Jimmy looking at her with that smile of his. "Here's your second chance, Lucy," Clark whispered to her. "Be true to your heart… the rest comes naturally." Lois and Clark left with the image of Lucy holding onto Jimmy's hand, as tight as she could, etched in their minds.
"My husband, the romantic," Lois sighed as she took her husband's arm. "I think it's time to put our lives back to sub-normal."
Clark laughed. "I wouldn't have it any other way."
He felt sore. Every part of him hurt. Dick tried to remember what had happened last night. The last thing he remembered was being pummeled by Bane and then… nothing. He looked to his side. He was in his hotel room. As he became more aware, he realized he was in the bed. Another observation came to him. He wasn't in his costume. He blinked and then looked over to his left. *THIS I would have remembered.*
"Good morning," Barbara said as she cuddled closer to him.
"If something happened last night, I really wish you would tell me, because I'd like to remember."
Barbara related the story of the night before. "So, I had nowhere to go. I couldn't go out in my costume, and yours was pretty beaten up. So, well… here we are. I hope you're not mad."
"Not really," Dick said with a smile. "Just kinda disappointed. Any word from Clark?"
As if on cue, the phone began to ring. Dick answered and soon broke into a smile. After a moment or two, he hung up and returned to his companion. "Good news?" Barbara asked with a grin.
"The best. Their friend is going to be okay, they took care of the Green Goblin and Lois and Clark got enough on Daggett to bring him down for good!" Dick smiled and then began to laugh. "Bruce is going to be so mad! He's been after Daggett all of these years, and then two reporters manage to crack the case."
"He's not going to be much happier about us."
"Us?" Dick turned to look at her directly in the face. "After our talk last night I wondered if there would ever be an US again."
"Well, things got pretty hectic last night. There was a moment where I thought neither of us would see this morning. Then there was all of this stuff about the Green Goblin and people going to die." Barbara shifted her eyes away. "I realized that life, especially our lives, are too short to not take advantage of what we have. I've told you this before, but this morning I mean it with all of my heart." She again looked deep into his eyes. "Dick Grayson, I love you."
Dick closed his eyes and sighed… in relief. "And I love you, Barbara Gordon… and I don't give a damn what Bruce Wayne has to say about it. How's that?"
She pulled him closer. "How's this?"
With police guards around him, and unmasked, the Green Goblin made his way to a waiting escort back to New York. The press was out in force, yelling questions. Lois stood among them, shouting out questions she didn't really expect to be answered. With a sudden jerk, Osborne stopped and turned to the press. "I have one thing to say before you drag me back to good old New York! For the benefit of the press, I will give you the secret identity of Spider-Man!!" The crowd hushed and cameras rolled and snapped photos. "The amazing Spider-Man is none other than Peter Parker, a photographer for New York's own Daily Bugle!" A gasp went through the crowd. "Now you wonder how he got all those pictures?" Osborne was in a rare, sane, mood but still retained the memories of the Green Goblin… he still was the Green Goblin.
"I'm Spider-Man?" asked a voice from the crowd. Peter took another shot of Osborne. Heads turned to look at Peter.
"That's him! He's Spider-Man!!"
"Who am I then?" asked a voice from above. All eyes looked up to see Spider-Man crouched on a lamp post. With a twirl he landed on the sidewalk in from of Osborne. "Really, Goby, you should really get your facts right. If you got them any more wrong you could go to work for Jameson as a reporter." The crowd laughed. Osborne was outraged, and began struggling with the police. "Don't make it harder on yourself Osborne. You've reached the end of your line." With a sudden surge of strength, Osborne broke free. Spider-Man quickly webbed the villain and presented him back to the police. "Compliments of your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man. See you in New York, Norm!" Spider-Man shot a webline and quickly swung away.
A heartbeat later, Superman zipped in. "I thought I heard trouble, here, but I guess you have everything under control." The police assured him that the Goblin was secure, and Superman took off again.
As the Goblin was driven away, the assembled press began to leave. Lois and Peter walked back to the jeep and found Clark waiting there for them. "Thanks, Clark. I don't think anyone will believe that Peter Parker is Spider-Man after that." Peter smiled broadly. "I really owe you for this one."
Lois stood by Clark's side and gave him a quick hug. "It was no problem. What are friends for?" He grinned sheepishly. "I did get the 'hanging' and swinging part right, didn't I? It's kind of hard to do when you're really floating."
"You did great, Clark." The group was quiet again, and soon they were in the jeep headed back to the Planet. "I also owe both of you for convincing Mr. White to use some of my pictures for the Daily Planet. It will really help offset the cost of this trip."
Lois briefly looked back at Peter. "Little work was involved in that. We needed a photographer while Jimmy's recovering, and we just happen to have one of New York's best right here."
"JJ would scream if he heard you say that." Peter laughed softly. "I really owe the two of you a lot. I've got something to tell you… both of you." Peter was quiet, trying to decide how to put tell his story best. "When Lord Nor and the other Kryptonians came, no one came to help you, and I know that rubbed both of you the wrong way. It would have me, too. Here's Superman who helps everyone, no matter where they are, and when he needs help where are the other heroes of the world? Nowhere to be seen." Clark started to interrupt, but Peter cut him off. "Clark, don't try to deny it. That little gaffe at your sister-in-law's place the other night spoke volumes." Lois looked to Clark who assumed the 'I'll explain later' look. "I do want you to know something. Help was coming."
Lois and Clark looked confused, and Peter continued. "For that period of time, a lot of heroes disappeared. Me, Captain America, Iron Man, the Fantastic Four, Flash, … even some of those uncanny X-Men. We had teamed up with S.H.I.E.L.D. to stop the Lord Nor before he could do any REAL damage."
"Shield?" Clark asked with a raised eyebrow.
"It's an international crime fighting organization. I think you may have heard of it's leader. Colonel Nick Fury."
"THE Nick Fury?" Lois asked breathlessly. "I thought he was dead! He was supposed to have been killed in action years ago!"
"And that's the way he'd like it to stay." Peter said with a smile. "We were on our way when Lord Nor was defeated. I'm sorry we weren't there when you needed us."
Clark smiled. Some of the world's finest had been coming to help. It made him feel a little better about all of it. "It's okay, Peter. A wise person once told me we can't always be everywhere at once. We just have to do our best." Clark looked to his wife and stole a quick kiss.
Peter relaxed back in the seat. "Well, this has sure been a day to remember. I finally feel free again. Osborne can't link me and Spider-Man, and to make things better, the whole world finally knows that Norman Osborne IS the Green Goblin."
"Add to that, Roland Daggett will soon taking up accommodations in Gotham State Prison." Clark smiled. "As soon as we write up the story, I want to call Bruce Wayne. He's going to be SO ticked off." Clark hesitated, and then spoke again. "Imagine what the rest of the day has in store."
Peter wandered around the newsroom as Lois and Clark set to work on the story. He was fascinated by how the place was so different from the Bugle back home. As he walked back to Clark's desk, he noticed his friend was on the phone and laughing. He had a pretty good idea of who was on the other end. As Clark hung up, Perry made his way out of his office. "Clark, how's Jimmy?"
Clark tried his best not to laugh. Sometimes Perry hid his concern for them well, but at times like this… "He's getting stronger all the time, Chief. Lucy says the doctors think he might be out by Wednesday at the latest."
"That's just great!" Perry said with a smile. He hurried back to his office and they could hear the Elvis music start.
Clark moved over to Lois' desk. "Lucy wants to know if we'll bring her some fresh clothes when we come to visit this evening." Clark pulled a slip of paper from his jacket pocket. "They moved him out of ICU to 354… single bed room. They can't get Lucy to leave him."
"I hope it works out between them," Lois said absently. "You know, she was right this morning… we are incredibly lucky."
"I think the same thing every morning and every night."
"We still have to talk about what happened in the lab, Clark. I need to tell you some things." Clark got an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. She could see the fear building in his eyes. "I promise, everything I say WILL be good for us."
Clark nodded just as Perry opened his door. "Lane, Kent, Parker! My office."
The trio headed up to the editor's office. "He enjoys calling us in like this," Lois told Peter as she entered the office first. Clark followed and Peter brought up the rear. "What's up, Perry?" Lois asked a bit puzzled. "We can only write as fast as we can, you know?"
Perry waved the last comment off. "It's not about the story. That's going to be a Kerth if I've ever seen one. No, I asked you three in here for another reason. Until Jimmy gets back on his feet, and that looks like it's going to take a couple of weeks, we need a new photographer." Perry looked right at Peter. "Mr. Parker, I was hoping you'd fill in for Mr. Olsen until he can rejoin us."
Peter was ecstatic. "I'd love to! I mean, I'd REALLY enjoy that. I think Jameson might even be glad to be rid of me for a while."
Perry smiled and then looked to Lois and Clark. "Now, you two, you need to convince this young man here to join us full time." Both of their faces dropped in shock. "Jeff's going to go back to school full time, so that mean's we'll still be a staff photographer short. No freelance, STAFF. Mr. Parker, I'd like you to take the place." Peter started to say something, but Perry held up his hand to stop the young man. "Peter, I like your work. It has a certain style to it. Who knows, maybe you could even convince Spider-Man to swing into Metropolis to stay. We take care of our heroes most of the time. You can tell him I promise not to call him a thief or hood in the editorial pages." Peter smiled and Perry continued. "Just think it over."
As the group left, Peter was still shell-shocked. "Me? Work for the Daily Planet?"
"That was the offer." Lois sat down and shook her head. "This is way too weird, sweetheart." Lois grabbed Clark's hand and they exchanged a 'what now?' expression.
A silly grin came on Peter's face. "Is this what you two were talking about on the way back here?"
"No," Clark said quietly. "This was a surprise to us too."
"Not that we don't think you'd be great here at the Planet…" Lois tried to make Peter feel more comfortable.
"We think you'd be wonderful…" Clark chimed in.
"It's just that, well…" Lois looked to see who was entering the newsroom. "Uh, oh."
Clark followed her gaze. "Oh, boy."
Dr. Klein made his way down to Lois and Clark. "Hi, Dr. Klein." Peter said with a smile.
Klein nodded and then started with Lois and Clark. "You said you would bring him by the lab when you were done with him."
Peter was starting to feel at home… New York as it were. *Just when things look good, I some how manage to screw something up.* "Dr. Klein, I'm sorry if I busted anything or…"
Dr. Klein looked to Peter with a perplexed expression. "They didn't tell you?" Lois and Clark shook their heads and looked away to each other. "Peter, you didn't do anything wrong. In fact, you did everything right." Dr. Klein approached Peter. "I must say, Mr. Parker, I was impressed with you. Few people have a talent for scientific research. You're one of those few people, Peter. Mr. Kent mentioned to me how much you enjoy scientific work, and I just happen to have a position open at STAR Labs right now. It's as a personal assistant, but I'm sure with your abilities you could be a full staff member within the year. A lot of people are very impressed with what you've done."
Klein and Peter talked for a while as Lois and Clark finished up their story for the late edition. As they came out of Perry's office, Dr. Klein was just leaving. Peter was sitting in the chair next to Clark's desk. The young man looked dazed and confused. "So?" Clark asked as he sat down at his desk. Lois hopped up and took a seat on the desk. Clark grinned, seeing her playful.
Peter shook his head. "I'm not sure what to say. I'm not sure what I'm feeling. I mean first Mr. White offers me a job at THE Daily Planet. Then Dr. Klein comes in and offers me a post at STAR Labs? All of this and the people of Metropolis actually LIKE Spider-Man! It would be so nice to be someplace where I don't have to try to stay ahead of the police as well as the crooks." Peter looked up to see Clark smiling. "That is, if it would be okay with you two?"
Clark smiled. "Peter, I'm sure Superman would enjoy the help, if Spider-Man chose to come to Metropolis."
"I've got a lot of thinking to do. I mean… I've got to talk to MJ about all of this. Her career comes first. She's already sacrificed too much for me." Peter shook his head clear. "I think I better get going. Mr. White wanted me to grab some shots of the downtown area for the Sunday cover. Would you mind if MJ and I drop by your house tonight?" Clark shook his head and Peter disappeared.
"You think he'll take it?" Lois asked as she made her way back to her desk. "Either of them, that is?"
Clark considered the question. "I really don't know."
"It's a shame that you two have to leave so soon. You just got here. Are you sure you can't stay?" Lois elbowed Clark's side and he got the point quickly. "But I guess when you have to go, you have to go." Alfred came back and picked up the last of the bags.
"Until next time, Mr. Kent." Alfred smiled. "You know, I never thought the two of them would get together. You DO work miracles, sir." Alfred retreated to the limo as Bruce Wayne approached.
Lois took this as her cue to head back inside. "She doesn't like me, does she?" Bruce asked as he approached.
"Probably because you don't like her," Clark observed. "Bruce, you're too suspicious… you've got to find someone to trust. How about that woman who likes the cats?"
Bruce grunted. "You trust too much."
"I'll plead guilty, and I won't change." Clark turned his attention back to Barbara and Dick. "I never did get to talk to you two. You have a rough ride ahead of you. If you need any advice, just call us. Lois and I have been through a lot of this before." He shook Dick's hand and gave Barbara a brief hug. The two headed to the limo. Alfred flashed another smile as he closed the doors on the vehicle and returned to the driver's side. "They make a cute couple."
"Don't try to downplay the impact of this, Kent. This is a disaster of epic proportions."
"How about this has all been an epic of confusion. We had Daggett, The Green Goblin, Bane, Metallo… and between all of us we took care of them. Teamwork is something you should investigate, Bruce."
"Don't remind me. I don't feel comfortable knowing that Gordon's daughter knows who I am… add to that… that spider-thing knows who I really am."
Clark rolled his eyes and looked to see who was around. "Bruce! Listen to yourself. Who you REALLY are? You're Bruce Wayne. The bat is just a costume. I thought I needed counseling?! You need help. As for SPIDER-MAN, he saved us all. I don't remember you being here to stop the Goblin's deadly brew."
"That was his problem."
"It was OUR problem," Clark corrected. He was tired. This guy always wore him out. "Anyway, I'm surprised you didn't bring your plane down. Gotham's a long drive."
"It gives us a long time to talk." Bruce was quiet. "I thought you of all people would understand not sharing our secrets. Just think about what you and your spider friend did. If you really feel like telling the people around you these secrets, why don't you tell your in-laws… or even your sister-in-law." Bruce saw Clark flinch. He headed back to the limo.
"Bruce!" The man looked up and Clark threw him a newspaper. Wayne opened the folder paper to read the boldface headline. "DOOMSDAY AVERTED: Gotham Businessman Linked to the Green Goblin" by Lois Lane and Clark Kent. "Something to remember your trip to Metropolis by." Bruce Wayne neatly folded the paper and entered the limousine. It drove off. "I love getting him like that."
"So do I." Clark turned to see his wife waiting for him. "He's much weirder than you ever hoped of being."
"I'll try to take that as a compliment."
"Come on in. It's time we talked." Clark walked up to the house, not knowing what to expect next. Considering that this was his life, it could literally be anything.
"Are you ever going to move from there?"
"Eventually." Lucy continued to look into Jimmy's eyes. "I thought I had lost you this morning."
"Yeah? I thought I lost you last night. The way you were acting, I was pretty sure there was nothing left between us."
Lucy looked away, and began to cry. "I'm sorry I said those things to you. I didn't really mean them. When I get upset, I say things that hurt other people. Can you forgive me for all of that?"
"I think I can," Jimmy said with a smile. He reached out for her hand. "You know, I didn't think you loved me."
She had been treating him like a china doll all day, but now she totally forgot herself and threw her arms around him. "I do love you, Jimmy! You've got to believe that!!"
She realized what she had done and quickly retreated. He quickly grabbed her hand. "I do believe you, and I love you too. Sometimes you drive me nuts, but I still love you. I'm feeling a lot stronger now, so you can hold me again if you want." Lucy Lane didn't waste any time taking advantage of her second chance.
Lois and Clark sat on the couch together in their living room. Lois knew she had to talk to Clark without interruptions. "I asked Peter to cover for you for a while. No interruptions, understand?" Clark nodded, not liking the direction the conversation was heading. The Scarecrow's fear gas had faded from his system long ago, but it had brought his old worries back to the surface. She could tell by looking into his eyes that he was scared.
"I know that the fear gas brought some old fears back to the surface for you. You once told me the only way to get through our fears was to face them head on, so that's what we're going to do tonight." She could see the fear in Clark's eyes intensify. He was scared of losing her… to Superman. "Clark, I need you to answer this first… for both of us. Since we've been together, seriously together, have I ever lied to you?" Clark shook his head. "Okay. That's out of the way. What I have to tell you, I thought you already knew. What happened with the Goblin, though, tells me you need reminding."
She was quiet again and took his hands into hers. "I thought you knew, otherwise you wouldn't have stayed interested… After I finally let you into my heart I realized I had been in love with you for a long time, Clark. I've told you it was you that kept me from marrying Luthor. Not Superman, it was Clark Kent I was thinking about. I'm babbling again, right?" Clark nodded. "I had this all planned out, sweetheart. I had this wonderful line of evidence to tell you… but… OH!! This is so frustrating."
Clark pulled her to him. No matter what she had to tell him, he still loved her. "Clark, I do love you. I had feelings for you from the beginning. I was afraid to open up to anyone, but it was you who opened me up. The person who broke down the walls I put up around myself didn't wear a cape, he wore strange ties and he put up with me for over a year and half before I could reciprocate his feelings. I had really wanted to Clark. There were times when I'd try to see my future, and you were always there. I was so confused. I was afraid. I could look at you and see how you felt about me. It was the way you acted, how you cared. No one had ever been like that to me before. No one. It scared me. I couldn't figure out what I had done to deserve someone so kind and caring. I kept trying to push you away though… even after I knew about Superman. Did you know that I wanted to accept your proposal that first night?" Clark shook his head. "I did, but I distanced myself again. Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I would have said 'yes' the first time. Would we have gone through half the hell we did to get here?" She was quiet again and Clark held her close. Without even looking he knew she was crying, and so was he. "I do love you Clark Kent."
Clark wiped the tears from Lois' eyes. "I love you, too." He kissed her gently. "I am the luckiest man in the world. I never thought I would find someone to love me. There were days I almost gave up on us. Sometimes you would look at Superman so adoringly only to blow me off when I came back to help you. I wondered if you would ever see me as anything else but a friend. I'm glad you did. You've completed my life in ways I never imagined. My fears were irrational. Whenever you're near me I can feel your love for me. It's the most powerful feeling I have ever experienced outside of my love for you… and I DO love you Lois Lane."
"Kent," Lois said softly. "Lois Kent." They held onto each other for what seemed like forever, and that was alright with them. "Now I need your help," Lois said softly. "I told you I didn't know what I had done to deserve you. Well, sometimes I still feel like that. I'm afraid that one day one of our playful discussions will get out of hand and I'll push you away… and that time you won't look back. Before you, I was alone. Clark, I don't want to be alone ever again."
Clark wasn't sure what to say. With this woman in his arms, he was so often at a loss for words. "Honey, you will never lose me. You will never be alone again. I'm here, and I'm here," he said pointing to her heart. "Just like you are in mine. H.G. Wells didn't have to tell us we were soulmates for me to believe it. We belong together, and after everything the universe has thrown at us, we have survived. I'll admit that some of our discussions used to hurt me, but that was before I got used to them and before I got to REALLY know you. I promise you this Lois, I will never leave you. I will always be here with you." They continued to hold onto each other.
"I heard what Bruce said this evening." Lois looked into his eyes. "He really tries to get to you, doesn't he?"
Clark nodded. "We don't exactly get along. Did you hear him say he was REALLY Batman." He chuckled. "Mom thought I had problems?" The two shared another laugh. "You know, Lois… I would understand if you wanted to tell your parents and sister about me. I've been selfish. Here you are, keeping this huge secret from YOUR parents and the only other people you can talk to are MY parents."
Clark would have continued, but Lois stopped him. "Clark, you kept this secret for a long time. I know you tried to tell me, but we kept getting interrupted. I also know what a big choice that was for you. WE have a secret to keep now. WE have to worry about OUR parents… and when I say our parents I mean Martha and Jonathan Kent. They have been so wonderful to me, so supportive… for the first time in my life I belong to a real family. Look at my family, Clark. If we told my mother, she'd go into the bottle… again. It would be hard to tell Dad considering he disappears faster than even you used to. Look at Lucy. She's even more screwed up than me! If we were to tell anyone it would probably be Perry and Jimmy." They were quiet again. "I do appreciate the offer though. As long as we're together though, I will never need anyone else, partner."
Later that evening, Mary Jane and Peter talked with Lois and Clark about Peter's job offers. Mary Jane was quite excited by all of this. "This is Peter's chance to have some of his dreams come true. He's constantly thinking about me first. I'm sure I could find some work here in Metropolis, and I can always fly up to New York for shoots and casting calls."
"Whatever WE decide, we'll decide it together though." Peter gave his wife a quick kiss. "Right now, I don't know exactly what to think. There's not much really in New York for us anymore. Since my Aunt May died, MJ is the only person I have." Mary Jane tightened her grip on his hand. "There are enough superheroes in the Big Apple to cover it, and it would be nice to be in a city that appreciates Spider-Man."
"It would be nice to have you here." Clark took a sip of his drink. "I'm sure you'd be great at either job you chose."
"So, what do you THINK you're going to do?" Clark looked to his wife and grinned. "What? So I'm curious. Just think, I'd have two heroes to write about." Clark and Peter groaned.
After another pause, Peter had an answer. "I'm going to stay here in Metropolis… at least until Jimmy can come back to work. After that… who knows. That gives Metropolis two weeks to get under my skin. I can tell you though, I'm going to give it every chance I can. I talked with Dr. Klein and Mr. White before we came over. I get to play photographer part of the day and lab tech the other part." The four grinned and Lois and Clark congratulated Peter. "We'll make the decision when the time comes. Until then, I'm just going to enjoy this."
The discussion went on into the late night. Clark rose to excuse himself and gave Lois a quick kiss on the cheek. "Where are you going, Clark?" MJ asked as it appeared that Clark was leaving.
"Patrol time," Lois answered.
Peter now stood. "Clark, take the night off. I know it will be hard, but I'd like to do the 'patrol' tonight. After all both of you have done for us, it's the least I can do."
"What about your arm?" Clark asked, a little concerned.
Peter moved his arm in wide motions to demonstrate it was indeed much better. "I heal really fast," Pete explained. "I guess it wasn't as bad as I first thought. I really am okay."
Clark looked to Lois who had one of her breath-taking smiles on her face. "Well… it looks like my wife has other plans for me for the evening. If you want to, the city is yours tonight." Clark sat down and couldn't help but notice Peter was smiling.
"I won't let you down, Clark," Peter promised with a smile.
"You never could."
Tourists and citizens of Metropolis knew the spot well. All you would have to do was look up there at times during the night, and he'd be there. Standing on the top of the Daily Planet building, looking over his city… protecting it from what might come. That night everyone got a surprise. When people looked up to see Superman, they didn't see him. Instead they saw another blue and red costumed hero.
A cry for help rose from the streets below, and like a streak of light, Spider-Man rushed into action. The mugger had half way expected to run into Superman, but wasn't ready for Spidey. After a brief tussle, the mugger found himself webbed up and hanging upside down from a street lamp. Spider-Man picked up the old woman's purse and returned it to her. "Thank you, young man."
Underneath the mask, Peter Parker smiled. Then the police came, and just as he was about to retreat out of force of habit, the officers asked to talk with him. With the discussion of the incident over, Spider-Man decided to swing off and continue the patrol. "Hey, Spider-Man!" an officer called. "There's been a rumor going around. Is it true you're going to come to Metropolis?"
"Maybe." Spider-Man shot a web and hoisted himself to the top of a street lamp. "I just might stay."
The officers smiled. "We'd welcome your help." The officer couldn't tell of course, but Peter's smile widened.
"Who was that nice young man?" the woman asked as Spider-Man swung away into the night.
"He's our friendly neighborhood Spider-Man."
Spider-Man stood on top of the old LexCorp towers and appreciated the view. He took off his mask to see the city below for himself. "I could really get used to this place."
Superman and Spider-Man will return in Flash(back) - coming soon
Welcome to a new universe where Clark Kent and Peter Parker live and work side-by-side. Special thanks to all of those who have encouraged me to do this. I guarantee good stories in the future.