By Nan Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted: July 2007
Summary: At the Kent family's barbecue, Velma Chow feels a little out of place. But Police Inspector Oliver Brent has his own ideas about Velma and her future relationship to his family.
This story is part of Nan Smith's "Home" series. See a list of all the stories in this series and get links.
Ready for the next story in this series? Read Home: An Evening to Remember. Need the previous story? Read Home: Vendetta,.
This is just a bit of fluff that I thought up after Home: Vendetta, which didn't quite fit in with the tempo of the other story, so I just decided to write it as a vignette. I thought the blossoming romance between Velma Chow and Oliver Brent ought to be followed up just a little. I hope you like it.
This story is part of the Home series, following Home: Vendetta. It is a Soulmates type of story where Lori Lyons is the next incarnation of Lois Lane at the end of the Twenty-first Century.
Disclaimer: Any familiar characters or settings of this story are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros, December 3rd Productions et al. The story is copyrighted to me.
Seated at the picnic table in the rear of John Olsen's home, Velma Chow worked on a chicken leg and looked around at the mob of people, mostly members of the Superman family, as she had begun to privately call them.
Oliver Brent, whom she had now known for a total of five days, was seated next to her and as she watched, he heaped someone's homemade potato salad onto his plate.
"I'm going to have to work out for a week to burn this meal off," he remarked, "but it's worth it."
Velma had to agree. She had never seen a family event like this one. The members of the Superman clan had come in from around the world and it was obvious that this was not an unusual occasion for them. In spite of the fact that many of its members resided in widely flung corners of the globe, they had come to the family barbecue to celebrate the birth of Lori Lyons' baby girl. Lori Lyons, who was Superman's wife.
She was beginning to absorb the fact, finally, as she watched them together. Lori had finished eating and was feeding her obviously ravenous baby — a baby that would grow up into a super-powered woman. The daughter of Superman. Clark Kent was watching her with what Velma would characterize as a definitely goofy smile on his face. There was no getting around it, she thought. Superman was a big softy — at least where it came to his wife and baby.
She looked back at Oliver, who was watching her. "Feeling better?" he asked.
Velma nodded. When he had invited her to come to this event as his date, she had felt a little like an intruder into the family's very private social occasion. Everyone she had met, however, had been very friendly and that had put her at her ease, if not quite at once then within a short time of her arrival. Oliver Brent's family had a great many members and not all of them were super-powered. In fact, most were not, although, considering that a large number of the "normal" ones weren't normal at all, she wasn't sure you could say that the super-powered ones were in the minority. Many of them had inherited the Kryptonian telepathic ability and could converse silently with each other, as both Oliver Brent and John Olsen had demonstrated for her a few days ago. And, of course, then she had met Oliver's three sisters, Lisa, Jacqueline and Alice Brent, who were respectively Falcon, Sparrow Hawk and Nova in their own cities. Once he'd introduced them, she'd adapted pretty quickly to the idea but she'd noticed that Oliver looked older than his three super-powered sisters. She'd met John Olsen's siblings and had noted the same phenomenon. No one had explained, of course, but it interested her and she thought it might be a secret almost as hot as the one that Superman had revealed to her five days ago. If things worked out, Velma had a strong suspicion that sooner or later she was going to find out a lot of things that might surprise her.
She and Oliver had gone to dinner twice since their first meeting, and then he had asked her to the family barbecue. She'd been a little doubtful at first but Oliver confidently assured her that she would be welcome, and so she'd accepted…
One hour ago:
Velma Chow and Oliver Brent walked up the broad, curving path to the home belonging to John Olsen, the Managing Editor of the Daily Planet. She glanced uncertainly at her companion. "I'm not so sure about this," she told him. "What's your family going to think of you, bringing me to a party like this?"
Oliver grinned. "They'll be saying, 'Wow, Oliver's bringing a date? I thought he was a confirmed bachelor.' I can just about hear it now."
Velma couldn't help but echo the grin. "That's your reputation?"
"Yeah," Oliver admitted. "It'll be fine. You'll see."
She laughed. "You should hear what the others are saying about me at the Precinct."
"I can guess. The only known quantity that moves faster than light is the office grapevine."
"That's for sure," Velma said. The funny thing was that she didn't care. The days since she had met Oliver had been astonishing and the happiest in her life for a long time. For one thing, Oliver had made no secret of the fact that he very much liked her company, and her cynical view of life seemed to be undergoing a sudden and dramatic change. The reason was Oliver Brent, she knew. Being with him made her want to smile and enjoy life once more. Maybe she'd just been a cop too long, she rationalized. Still, she'd been one for a large chunk of her life. She hadn't had much of a social life for a long time and had never been much of a social butterfly. Still, she found herself thinking that it was too bad Oliver didn't work in Metropolis. That was mitigated by the fact that most of the time he could hitch a faster-than-shuttle flight with one of his super-powered relatives and be in Metropolis within minutes. He'd spent a lot of time in Metropolis in the last few days.
They mounted the steps and Oliver rang the bell. The door swung open almost at once and the tiny, dark-haired woman standing in the entrance said, "Come on in. How are you these days, Oliver? You missed the last barbecue *and* the Christmas party!"
"It's nice to see you, too, Marilyn," Oliver said blandly. "I'm fine. This is Velma Chow. Velma, Marilyn Olsen, John's wife."
Velma found herself being candidly appraised. Marilyn Olsen smiled suddenly. "So, you're Lieutenant Chow. John's told me a lot about you. Come on in."
Velma resisted the impulse to raise her brows. Marilyn Olsen didn't sound a bit like a society hostess. She entered the house ahead of Oliver.
John Olsen's home was a nice one, she saw, spacious and quietly elegant, and at the moment it was full of people. She could hear the sound of dozens of voices coming from the living room, and she consciously bolstered her courage. Normally when she walked into homes like this it was as Lieutenant Chow of the Metropolis Police Department, not as a guest. It left her feeling very uncertain.
Oliver smiled reassuringly at her. "It'll be all right," he said. "Come on in and meet my family."
His family — the family that had resulted from the marriage of the first Superman to an Earth woman. Velma swallowed and stood up a little straighter. She had already met some of the people who were bound to be here, she reminded herself sternly, if only in their other identities. Clark Kent was the civilian identity of Superman, and Dr. Klein, Lori's obstetrician, the civilian identity of Ultra Woman, so it followed that the other supermen had civilian identities as well. The thought that one of the world's superheroes was actually a physician was a startling concept. It must mean something that the Superman family was willing to let her in on this very big secret, so perhaps she wouldn't find herself as out of place as she feared.
"Hey, Velma!" A tall, dark-haired man that she judged to be in his late twenties, and whom she had never seen before in her life, had appeared in the entranceway of the living room, a can of beer in one hand and a big smile on his face. "Come on in and be introduced! Hey there, Oliver! Nice to see you again."
"Hi, Aaron. From the look on her face, I don't think Velma recognizes you."
"That's probably a good thing," Aaron said. He held out his hand. "Aaron Olsen, Lieutenant. John's brother." He reached up to sweep the hair back from his forehead. "Does this ring a bell?"
"Blue Lightning?" she said, identifying him belatedly. She found herself shaking the hand of one of Metropolis's superheroes, with whom she had worked many times. "You're John's brother?"
"Right on the first guess," Aaron Olsen said. He stood aside to let her enter the living room. "Come on in. There's a lot of people who want to meet you."
She paused in the entrance, unexpectedly intimidated by the crowd of people in the big room. It seemed as if all of them had stopped whatever they were doing to look at her. Marilyn Olsen stepped into the room and held up a hand. "For those that don't know, this is Velma Chow. She's a police lieutenant here in Metropolis, and was coordinating the effort to find Lori a few days ago."
A vaguely familiar man, tall, dark and handsome, as seemed to be the rule for the majority of males in this group, got to his feet from his position on the carpet, from which he had been watching a baseball game on the wall-sized vid screen. "Hi, Velma."
Well, he seemed to recognize her, she thought, and surveyed him appraisingly. He grinned and waited while she did so. After a long moment, she was able to put a name to him. "Tan-El, right?"
"That's right," he agreed, "but right now I'm CJ Kent. We'll be having a couple of guests arriving a little later that don't know the family secret, so be careful." He turned his head. "Ah, there she is." He indicated a short, slender, dark-haired woman who had just entered the room from what must be the kitchen. With a sense of surprise, she recognized Superwoman. "This is Lara Kent, my sister, and this —" he nudged another man, this one with reddish-brown hair who was grinning up at her from the rug, "is Henry Olsen. The kid over there —" He gestured casually to a handsome youth of about nineteen or twenty, "…Is Kamil Hamid. He's been a medical student at NTSU since January. You've worked with all of us at one time or another."
Metropolis's other superheroes, she thought. In their civilian guise she could have passed them on the street and not recognized them. Now she had the explanation for Typhoon's sudden relocation to Metropolis. The young superhero was going to college. How many others in this room were the super-powered humans that protected the planet? She looked around, trying to identify faces.
Well, that had to be Titan. Now that she knew more of what to look for, there was no mistaking the impressive superhero from Tanzanika who was nodding amiably at her from his spot on the sofa. An exotic dark-skinned beauty was seated next to him and Velma noted the wedding set on her left hand. So, Titan was married! That would break the hearts of millions of women, if they knew, she thought with amusement. As a matter of fact, it would do the same if anyone were to discover that same fact about Superman. And over there — could that be the Blue Djinn? There were so many people that it was going to be hard remembering them all.
Marilyn Olsen laughed. "Introduce her around," she told Oliver. "I have to get back to directing operations around here."
"I'll introduce you to as many as I can," Oliver said with a smile, as their hostess made her way across the living room. "Don't worry. Nobody expects you to be able to remember all the names. First let's go pick up something to drink in the kitchen."
Velma trailed him across the room. Many of the faces in the crowd were smiling at her in a friendly way, and she found herself relaxing.
In the hallway beyond the door on the other side of the living room, she found Lori Lyons, talking to a young man of about seventeen or so. Lori's face broke into a smile when she saw Velma. "Hi, Velma! Welcome to the party. Hello, Oliver."
Naturally Lori would know Oliver, she thought. Lori was indicating the teenager. "This is Barry Kent. Barry, I don't think you got to meet Lieutenant Chow at the Christmas party. Barry was one of the guys that helped take out the home invaders."
"Glad to meet you," Velma said. "That was a good job you did." She studied Barry Kent. For all his youth, he had a build that most teenage males would kill for. Ten to one this one would be flying around the skies of his home city, wherever that was, in a couple of years.
"Thanks," Barry said, moving courteously aside to let her pass. "Hi, Oliver."
"Hi, yourself," Oliver said. "How's life treating you these days?"
"Pretty good. I graduated from West Valley High in June and I'm starting college in the fall."
"What's your major?" Oliver inquired.
"Pre-med," Barry said.
"Great," Oliver said. "We can use a few more doctors in this batch."
The boy nodded. "Dad wanted me to go into Engineering like him, but I've wanted to be a doctor since I was six." He grinned. "Matt can be the engineer if he wants. And Uma says she's going to business school." He shrugged with big brotherly skepticism. "I'll believe it when I see it."
Velma saw Lori hide a smile.
"Where's your baby?" she inquired.
"Sleeping," Lori said. "I think my mother has her right now, or Marcy might — Marcy's my sister," she added. "Come on into the kitchen. There's sodas and stuff in there. Clark's in the back yard, getting one of the grills ready. He's got the hot dog detail this afternoon. We'll be eating lunch in a little while and then we'll be heading down to the ocean for the beach party." She beckoned and led the way into the kitchen.
Velma and Oliver followed.
There were several women in the kitchen. Mariann Lyons, whom she had met when Lori had still been at the hospital, was sitting at a big kitchen table, holding Lori's baby in her arms. Lara Kent looked around with a welcoming smile. "Hi, Velma." She turned to the others in her group. "This is Velma Chow, everybody. Velma, these are Rhonda Klein, Ann Kent, who has the dubious honor of being my sister, Carrie Olsen, who happens to be John's baby sister, Michelle and Lena Olsen and Lucy Frazier. And this," she added, indicating the tall, stunning blond woman who had just entered through the opposite door, "is Marcy Kent, Lori's big sister."
Velma was trying to mentally file all the names and tie them to faces, but Rhonda Klein laughed. "Don't worry about it," she advised. "If you come to many more of these things, you'll eventually start to remember who's who. And if you can't, just ask." She turned to Oliver. "The sodas are in that chest, the beer is in that one and there's wine coolers in the third. Help yourselves."
Lara turned her head. "Jon says he's got his two grills going. Somebody tell CJ to get out there and start grilling the chicken."
"I'll tell him." Lucy Frazier squeezed past Oliver and a few seconds later Velma heard her voice over the chatter of many voices and the cheers of the crowd from the vidscreen. "CJ, Jon says to get yourself out there right now and take over your grill!"
"Okay, okay," Tan-El's voice responded. "I'll be right there."
Another tall, brown-eyed man, who closely resembled Clark Kent, stuck his head in the opposite door. "Rob says his grill is ready. Where are the hamburger patties?"
"I'll get them," Carrie Olsen said. She turned to rummage in the big stasis unit on the wall behind her and withdrew a moment later, hefting a large, flat box. "Here you go."
"That's Ryan Kent," Oliver told her in an aside. "I think he's my second or third cousin."
There was something familiar about Ryan Kent besides his resemblance to Clark Kent, Velma thought. Chances were that he was one of the superheroes.
Ryan took the box of hamburger patties and spoke to someone behind him. "Just a minute, Sport. I promise I'll give you that ride in a little while, all right …?" His words grew fainter as he left the kitchen, trailed, Velma saw now, by a blond little boy somewhere around the age of two.
"Ryan is Marcy's husband," Lori said softly. "The little guy is their son, Robbie."
"Who is he?" Velma asked. "I'm sure I recognize him from somewhere."
"You probably do," Oliver said. "He's the Black Raptor."
The superhero from New York. Velma glanced back at Marcy Kent, who was appropriating a soda from the ice chest. "Your sister doesn't look much like you."
"I know," Lori said. "She takes after Mom. I look more like my dad."
Marcy straightened up, popping the top of the grape soda that she had acquired. Casually, she brushed a lock of shining golden hair back from her shoulder and Velma was stuck by a sense of familiarity. "Surely she doesn't have super-powers? She looks familiar."
"She should," Oliver said. "You see her in the fashion mags all the time. She's a super model."
The light dawned. "Marcy *Lyons*?"
Lori nodded. "That's her professional name," she said. "The rest of the time she's Marcy Kent."
"Are my ears burning?" Marcy asked, glancing around. She set the soda down on the kitchen table and looked inquiringly at Velma.
"Probably," Lori said with a grin. "This is Velma Chow. Velma, my big sister, Marcy. Velma was coordinating the search for me the other day."
Marcy's face lit up in the familiar dazzling smile that Velma had seen on magazine covers. "*You're* Lieutenant Chow? CJ was telling me about you!" Velma found Lori's sister grasping both her hands. "I'm *very* happy to meet you!"
Much to her surprise, Velma felt herself blushing. "You're welcome, Ms. Lyons," she almost stammered and Oliver squeezed her arm lightly.
"Call me Marcy," Marcy told her. "Why don't you and Oliver get something to drink and then come out back and sit in the fresh air? There's plenty of people who will want to meet you."
Oliver had gone to rummage in one of the ice chests. Marilyn Olsen was assembling some kind of salad, but at this point she glanced over her shoulder. "Carrie, will you take the ice chests outside for the people out there?"
"Sure." John Olsen's sister was a very pretty woman with reddish-blond hair and blue eyes. She resembled her brother in her facial bone structure, Velma noted, but her coloring was that of a strawberry blond. She casually stacked the three ice chests one atop the other, lifted them easily to balance on one hand and turned toward the door. "Could somebody get the door, please?"
Velma determinedly kept herself from staring at the unconscious display of power. Carrie Olsen, like her brother Aaron, was super-powered. Oliver pushed open the door and Carrie went out, carrying the ice chests. Marcy Kent followed, soda in hand, and after a moment Velma did as well. Oliver and Lori brought up the rear.
Several barbecue grills had been set up in the back yard and Velma saw that a brick barbecue pit was only one of a number of grills, some powered and some utilizing charcoal, that were set up in a roughly circular pattern around it. Clark Kent, wearing jeans, a T-shirt and a chef's apron and hat, was expertly grilling hot dogs over the flames of one. Several other men were engaged in similar tasks. Oliver handed her a soda and gestured to a spot where a dozen or so lawn chairs were set up in the shade of a large tree. "Let's sit down and relax. The wind's blowing the other way, so we won't get charcoal smoke in our faces." He nodded toward the grills. "Grilling is men's territory. It's an old family tradition."
"Do you grill?" Velma couldn't resist asking.
"Sometimes," Oliver said. "Not today. I've got a more important project in mind."
"Entertaining you," Oliver said innocently. "You're going to let me use you as an excuse, aren't you?"
Velma fought the urge to giggle self-consciously and settled for a laugh instead. "Sure. I'll be your excuse."
"Good." He led the way to the chairs and let her choose before taking one beside her. "So, do you approve of my family so far?"
"I'm still making up my mind," Velma told him. "All these celebrities — it's a recipe for trouble. You know how they're always making the news these days. You can't turn around without finding some vid star in rehab for some problem or other."
"True," Oliver said, straight-faced. "Still, we've only got one vid star in the group and she's very well adjusted."
"Oh? Who would that be?"
"Ann Kent," Oliver told her. "Lara's sister. You met her in the kitchen, sort of in passing. Her stage name is Annabelle Reyes — I'm sure you've heard of her."
"Really?" Velma said.
"Oh, sure. Don't let her official biography fool you, though. Annie's a happily married woman. The guy over there doing the barbecued wings is her husband, George."
Velma glanced in the direction of one of the grills where a somewhat older man was splashing barbecue sauce liberally over several rows of chicken wings spread out before him. Clouds of white smoke filled the air. "So is she super-powered or a telepath or just ordinary, like me?"
Oliver's face turned serious. "Ann is Shooting Star — and she's a telepath, too. But Vel —" He paused and Velma thought he was selecting his words carefully. "You're anything but ordinary."
Velma felt heat flooding her face. She focused on her hands where they lay folded in her lap. She could deal with the abuse shouted at her by the criminals she caught and with the sarcasm of defense lawyers who tried to trip her up on the witness stand as they endeavored to find a way to save their guilty clients from justice but it was a long time since someone had given her an honest and direct compliment. How was she supposed to answer?
"You don't need to try to flatter me," she said in a low voice. "I'm nothing special."
Oliver was silent for a moment. "Why do you say that?" he finally asked. "I've spoken to your co-workers. They have a lot of respect for you. Clark would never have told you about himself if he didn't respect and trust you. John Olsen does, too. And so do I."
Velma looked up at him. Oliver was watching her soberly and the look in his eyes was one that she had never seen before — at least turned on her. "I'm a forty year old cop," she said. "That's all I've ever been or will ever be. I wanted to make a difference. But so have a million other cops."
Oliver's hand slipped over hers. "Suppose that's all true. That doesn't mean you're ordinary." He hesitated. "I told you what people would say when I brought a date to the barbecue. Do you know why?"
"You're a confirmed bachelor?"
"Not really. But I'm part Kryptonian. Superman was my great grandfather. He was twenty-seven when he met Lois Lane — an investigative journalist for the Daily Planet here in Metropolis. You read about her in school. The reporter who first met Superman. She was part of the reporting team of Lane and Kent." He paused significantly. "She was driven, obsessive, aggressive, and had no time for a greenhorn partner. For him it was love at first sight but it took him nearly two years to get her to realize that he was the right man for her." He smiled ruefully. "My great grandmother is a family legend. She was constantly escaping death by a hair. She nearly gave him heart failure more times than you can imagine because of the things she did — but she was the only woman on Earth that he wanted."
"What was so special about her?"
"The Kryptonian telepathic bond," Oliver said quietly. "When a telepath meets his — or her — soul mate, it happens. It happened to Clark Kent, over a hundred years ago. It happened to me for the first time in my life when I met you."
She stared at him, her heart pounding so hard that it threatened to suffocate her. "*Me?*"
He nodded slowly. "Do you mind?"
Numbly she shook her head. "No. Why should I mind?"
"Well, I was afraid it might scare you a little."
She could feel her face growing warm again. What was the matter with her, anyway? "Just as long as you don't expect me to rush off with you to Las Vegas right after the party."
He grinned faintly. "I don't — but I'd like it if you and I could — well — date for a while and see how things work out."
She could hardly believe what she was hearing. She'd heard about Superman's bond with Lori Lyons and wondered how such a thing would feel — and it had happened to her that very day. She had been attracted to Oliver Brent from the beginning and the idea wasn't repugnant to her by a long shot. If she threw it away she could truly call herself a fool. Didn't she owe it to both of them to take a chance?
"I think we should give it a try," she said slowly.
"So do I," Oliver said.
Lori stepped out of the cloud of charcoal and hot dog scented smoke and poked her husband in the ribs. "So, what's going on?" she asked.
"I'm cooking hot dogs," Clark said. He turned a hot dog carefully with the tongs, making sure that the dog was evenly heated on all sides. "We'll be ready for the mob in a few minutes."
"I know that, and so does Marilyn," Lori said. "I meant what's going on with Oliver and Velma?"
"You know I don't listen in on private conversations," Clark told her reprovingly but Lori saw the corners of his mouth twitch. He often did things like that, which told her he wasn't as serious as he was trying to look. "And they're definitely having a private conversation. It's none of my business. Or yours," he added pointedly.
"Yes?" she asked with false affability. "How would you know it's a private conversation if you aren't listening?"
"Because of the way he's holding her hand," Clark said. "And don't tell me you didn't notice."
"Of course I did," Lori said. "That was why I asked."
Again the faint quiver at the corners of his mouth. "What are you laughing about?" she demanded.
"I'm not laughing," Clark said innocently.
"Yes you are. Come on, Superman, give!" she said. "It's not as if I'm going to gossip about it, after all. I'm just curious. Besides, it's a reporter's business to strip away —"
"'—The veil of secrecy and reveal the naked truth,'" Clark said. "But only in cases of wrongdoing and you know it, Ms. Lyons. This is Oliver and Velma's personal business."
"Oh come on, Clark," she said. "You know I'm not going to tell anybody. I just —"
He grinned and relented slightly. "Well, let's say we might have a new granddaughter-in-law in a few months. But if you let on to anybody that I told you, I'll deny I said anything."
Lori glanced at Oliver, who was leaning toward Velma and holding one of her hands between both of his. "I could have told you that," she said, but she was smiling. "And I can't super-hear a thing."
"Neither did I," Clark said. "But if I couldn't read the signs by this time I'd be in real trouble, wouldn't I?"
"I guess," Lori said. "I suppose I can forgive you just this once."
"That's a relief," Clark said. "Even if I don't know what I'm being forgiven for." He turned his head. "I hear Mary starting to fuss. She sounds hungry."
"She's always hungry — or asleep," Lori said. "I'd better go get her." She cast a last glance at Velma Chow and Oliver. "I get to host the shower," she added. "And you're the witness that I have first dibs."
Ready for the next story in this series? Read Home: An Evening to Remember. Need the previous story? Read Home: Vendetta,.
Stories in Nan Smith's "Home" series, in order: Home, Home II: Beginnings, Home III: Memories, Home IV: Honeymoon, Home 4a: A Valentine Vignette, Home: A Christmas story, Home: On the Fourth Day of Christmas, Home: New Year's Wishes, Home V: Obsession, Home: Circle of Fate, Home: Vendetta, Home: Family Party, Home: An Evening to Remember, and Home: Murder by Earthlight