DISCLAIMER: The Justice League of America characters are the property of DC Comics. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2006 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG-13.
Kal hovered over the water. In the moonless Metropolis night, he knew he was damn near invisible. But the people he was watching weren't. The woman he loved. His son. And the man they lived with--the other part of their happy family. This could all have been Kal's, if he hadn't put his own needs over Lois's.
He hadn't even told her he was leaving. And it hadn't occurred to him to use his special vision to see if there was a reason he shouldn't leave. Why hadn't it occurred to him? They'd made love. Over and over and... He'd taken no precautions. He'd assumed she had.
Worst assumption of his whole life.
Kal heard their door open, looked to see who was coming out. It was Lois and Richard. He saw that Jason was asleep already. Lois was holding Richard's hand, her expression pensive. Then he smiled at her, and a slow smile crossed her face. A smile so radiant Kal thought he felt his heart split in two. She loved this man. And he was a good man. Worth loving. He'd even saved Kal's life.
"If you need some time...?" Kal heard Richard say. "I know this is hard."
"It is hard. I'm not going to lie to you." Lois snuggled against him. "And it's going to be hard for quite a while. But I don't need any time. I made my decision five years ago."
"He wasn't here when you made your decision."
"It doesn't matter."
"Maybe that's a hasty determination."
"Maybe I know my heart." She sighed. "Part of me will always love him. But it doesn't matter. Because I love you."
Richard didn't look convinced.
"You know me. You know I'm not the thoughtful type. I'm impulsive. I act. I push. I grab. I run. I don't...deliberate."
He laughed. "This is true."
"So, don't you think if I was going to go after him, I'd have done it by now?"
"That's a good argument."
"I know." She stared out at the sea. Seemed to be staring right into Kal's eyes, but he knew she couldn't see him. "I'm where I want to be."
"Even if it hurts?"
"Okay." Richard sighed, but when she started to nuzzle his neck, he smiled.
"It's a warm night," Lois murmured. "And a dark one."
He pulled her down onto the porch swing. "Think anyone would notice if we were to...misbehave?"
She laughed, was already climbing onto him. It was clear they'd made use of the swing in just that way many times. "I don't think anyone will notice."
Kal flew away fast, not wanting to make her a liar.
Not wanting to watch her leaving him behind.
Themyscira seemed especially peaceful this visit. Diana lay back in one of the hammocks along the beach, letting the sun warm her.
"Did you hear?"
She gazed over at the surf. Arthur stood in the waves, the water up to his waist.
She smiled lazily at him. He'd turned into a good friend, had never let the way their affair had ended affect how he treated her. "Did I hear what?"
She could feel her smile dying. "Who?" But she knew. There was only one man who could earn that level of enmity from Arthur. The man he felt had stolen her, even if Kal hadn't kept her. Even if Kal hadn't even had her. "Lois will--"
"Lois, in a stunning turn of events, is staying with her current beau." Arthur moved a little closer. "I'm surprised he hasn't been here already."
She looked up almost by instinct, scanning the skies for a trace of red and blue. There was nothing.
"He's free, Diana. He's finally free."
She shook her head, turned away, and closed her eyes. "He's far from free. He loves her. Always has, always will."
"You're wrong, I think."
She didn't answer, just let the sun warm her. She heard Arthur dive into the water, swimming back to his home. Leaving her behind the way he'd done when he ended their relationship.
Why had he told her this? Was it to warn her because he knew she wouldn't want to hear it?
Or because she would?
Diana was more beautiful than Kal remembered, and he just stared at her for a long time. It had always been that way. His heart had belonged to Lois, but every time he saw Diana after an absence, he'd be struck anew by her loveliness, by the sheer vitality of her being. She was riding hell bent down the beach, laughing as she raced another Amazon. He thought she was going to win, but the other's horse drew away.
Then he realized Diana was pulling up, staring up at the sky as her horse slowed. Staring directly at where he hovered--thirty thousand feet up.
"I know you're there," he heard her say.
She didn't sound particularly happy he was there.
He was about to fly away, when he heard her whisper, "Come down, then."
His heart beating so hard he was sure she'd be able to hear it, he let himself fall in a controlled dive. A Kryptonian peregrine, streaking blue and red through the sky.
But unlike a falcon, he slowed as he approached. He landed gently, well away from her.
This wasn't an attack. Although, he wasn't completely sure what it was.
"So, you're back?"
"Seems like." He knew he was staring at her. "You look great. I mean...very relaxed and all." He gave her his best Clark Kent "aw shucks" grin.
All expression on her face disappeared. She stared at him hard.
"Clark Kent was never mine, Kal. He belonged to Lois, and you know that. If you want Lois, why are you here?"
"Uhhhh..." He knew how stupid he sounded. But her anger stunned him. She'd known he was leaving. She was his best friend. She and Bruce both. He'd told them he had to leave; they'd seemed to understand. "Why are you mad at me?"
"I guess a Kryptonian ball bounces all the way here?"
"You think I'm here to start something? On the rebound?"
She swung her leg over the horse's withers and slid off. "Well, I think if you wanted to have a friendly chat, there would have been better ways of doing it than stalking me from up there."
"I wasn't stalking you."
"Of course not." She leaned back against the horse, and it turned its head, nickering low and nuzzling her arm. "What do you want?"
"Diana, I'm your friend. Can't I just want to see you?"
"You've been back for a month, Kal. If you wanted to see your friend, you'd have come much earlier than this." She moved toward him. "I'm sorry she didn't wait for you. I'm sorry she found someone else. I'm sorry that another man is raising your s--"
"It's all right. I know Jason is my son." He moved closer to her. "How do you know?"
"I didn't know. I just guessed. The timing was awfully suspicious."
"Yeah." He swallowed hard. "I won't be in his life. Not the way my dad was in my life."
"You made a choice to leave. There are consequences to choices."
He sighed. "I'm not sure why you're so angry at me."
"I'm not angry. That was just the truth." She sighed heavily. "Kal, when Arthur told me you were back, I was..."
"Arthur told you?"
"Not Bruce?" Kal hadn't been to see him yet, either. He'd have to remedy that as soon as possible. But he'd been afraid of what he'd find if he went to the mansion.
He'd been afraid he'd find Diana in Bruce's bed.
She pulled the horse around and mounted. He grabbed the bridle, talking to the horse low and soft, the way he'd talked to horses on the farm.
"Not Bruce?" he asked again.
She couldn't seem to meet his eyes. "No. But there's not really a phone here."
"You have your communicator." He could hear the ultra-high-pitched pulse it sent out as it switched every so often to a new JLA comm satellite. He put his hand on Diana's knee, let it sit. "I thought you'd be with Bruce, Diana."
"Well, I'm obviously not." She kicked him away, surprising him with her strength.
He'd forgotten what it was like to spar with an equal. She wheeled the horse around and took off.
"Not even a challenge, Diana." He flew after her, picking her off the horse and carrying her into the air.
She went limp in his arms, and he turned her so that their bodies pressed together.
"I missed you," he whispered.
"I missed you, too." And then she head butted him so hard his eyes teared up.
He let go of her, and she fell like a stone, but it was a controlled fall, and he could tell she was in no danger. By the time he took off after her, she was already heading out over the open ocean, going very fast.
But not as fast as he could go. He caught up with her and grabbed her feet, flipping her hard. She cartwheeled through the air, heading toward the water. But she recovered nicely, and streaked back at him like a heat-seeking missile.
He tried to get out of her way. She wasn't having it. The impact probably sounded like a sonic boom to anyone who happened to be within range. They tumbled down together, like two blue and red and gold birds mating--or fighting to the death.
As they plummeted, he pulled her to him, expecting to see anger again. But she was laughing. "Damn you!" she said, but her eyes were sparkling.
He saw the water just below them, twisted so he'd hit first. He heard her take a breath, did the same thing. They hit hard, and their momentum carried them deep under water. She wasn't moving, so he held on to her tightly, kicking up as quickly as he could.
Breaking the surface, he looked over at her, expecting her to be unconscious since she'd been so quiet in his arms. But she wasn't. She was just watching him.
Then she smiled. "That was fun."
He knew he was grinning like a fool. "It was." He moved a strand of wet hair off her cheek. "I did miss you."
"You missed her, too. That's always been the nature of how things are between us."
"Well, I think things have changed. Lois has moved on."
"And you want to also?"
"My feelings for you...they've always been complicated." Hell, Arthur thought Kal had gone out of his way to sabotage her relationship with him. Kal didn't entirely disagree with that assessment. He had been madly jealous. Even if he'd had Lois.
Would he be madly jealous of Lois if he had Diana?
"I know. My feelings are complicated, too." She relaxed in his arms, and they floated gently.
He studied her face, how she wasn't looking at him exactly. "Lois didn't wait for me. But...did you?"
"Diana, if you say yes, it doesn't mean I'm going to...attack you." His smile this time was soft, but not Clark's. He knew he was giving her Kal's sheepish smile. The smile that was for her alone.
And she seemed to respond. Her expression became more open. "I have feelings for Bruce, Kal. But he's never going to let me in. I discovered that while you were gone."
"I think he's an idiot, then."
"Well, I sort of do, too, but that's not the point. He doesn't think he can be with me, and he has his own reasons. And they're not stupid ones. I just wish..."
"I know. I just wish, too..." He let her go, but she didn't push away. "Maybe you just leveled the playing field?"
"Why? Because neither of us are each other's first choice? Nice, Kal. Very romantic." And this time she did push away and took off out of the water, leaving him alone in seconds.
"Way to go, Smallville." Kal sighed. Maybe he should take charm lessons from Bruce?
As the JLA meeting broke up, members breaking off into small groups to catch up or rehash the latest mission, Diana wandered away from the table.
A red blur passed her, then headed back, materializing into the Flash. "You look like a woman who could use a pick-me-up."
She took the iced mocha he handed her and downed half of it.
"Careful, Princess. You're going to get brain freeze."
She already had it. "But you taught me how to stop it." She pushed just below the middle of her eyebrow like he'd showed her. The pain intensified but localized, under her finger. Then it was gone. "Ahhhh."
"I know. It's like magic, huh?"
"Better than Circe's."
He grinned. Then his grin grew into a pensive expression as he looked over at where Kal was talking with Bruce. "So, Big Blue's back. How you doing with that?"
"Fine. Why wouldn't I be? He's my friend. My very good friend."
"You're very, very good friend." He waggled his eyebrows.
She slugged him. But not too hard.
"Owww." He moved closer. "Seriously, Diana. Lois is not in his life anymore."
"Yes, she is. They work together."
"You know what I mean."
She patted him on the arm. "Just because you only think about sex, doesn't mean that the rest of us are so afflicted."
"It doesn't mean that you're not, either." He grinned at her and sped off in the direction of the mocha machine.
She considered going to join Bruce and Kal, but that seemed too awkward. Bruce was avoiding her these days when the interaction wasn't professional. She suspected it was easier on him that way. And she hadn't seen Kal since their impromptu romp-fight in the sea.
Some things were just better left alone.
She passed Flash coming in with refills, and he circled back and handed her another one.
She waved it off. "I'm tired. I'll see you in the morning."
She nodded, and he touched her arm and then was gone.
Goddess help her, she was tired. Bone tired. Too many fights. Too little sleep. Themyscira was tempting, much more appealing then her room at the embassy. Or maybe she'd just sleep in the Watchtower.
She hadn't even heard Kal come up.
"Yes. I'm beat."
"I'm tired, too."
They stood in the corridor, staring. She finally turned to go.
She glanced back at him.
"I was thinking that--"
"I said I was tired, Kal."
"I know, but--" When she started to turn away, he grabbed her arm, spun her around to face him. "Look. Everything's hard right now. Working with Lois and not having her. Working with you and knowing you're mad at me. My son..." He stopped, and his eyes looked suspiciously bright.
"I'm sorry, Kal." And she was. But she didn't know what he wanted her to do.
"I need my friend back."
"I can't make your life better. You just have to...go through this."
"I know. And I'm not asking you to fix it. But...could you just have dinner with me tonight?"
He sounded different. Not like he was wooing. Or playing the "is it romance or isn't it?" games the way they used to. He sounded...defeated.
"Anywhere you want--any dish you want. We'll fly there. As us. Superheroes. We'll make some restaurateur's day." He was talking fast, moving closer. "I'm lonely, Diana."
She swallowed hard.
"Don't you ever get lonely?"
"I've been lonely for years, Kal." There, she'd said it. All these men who supposedly wanted her, and she was lonely.
"Just dinner." He held out his hand.
She didn't stop to think, just said, "Let's go to Bangkok."
"Mmmm. I love Pad Thai."
His smile was luminous as she took his hand. He didn't seem to want to walk, flew with her to the teleporter. As if he thought she'd change her mind if she had too much time to think about it.
Bangkok was steamy and hot. Exhaust fumes filled the air as traffic backed up into the distance.
"I always forget that it's like this," she said.
"It's good. It's different."
"Different than Metropolis?"
He nodded as he tucked her arm under his and started walking.
"What do you do there when you aren't working?" she asked.
"I, uh...I don't really spend much time there. I go home--my mom's alone now, you know?"
She nodded. "So you spend all your time in Smallville?"
"Or at the Watchtower."
"I saw you'd picked up a lot of extra shifts."
"You noticed that?" He grinned. "I trade monitor duty with people who actually have a life."
Which left her and Bruce safely out. She pulled her arm away from his. At his look, she said, "It's hot. Too hot to...do that."
"You've never minded the heat."
"It's been five years, Kal. I'm not sure you have any idea what I mind anymore."
He looked down. All the energy seemed to go out of him, and he slowed, looking around. Up. Down.
Anywhere but at her.
"I'm sorry," she murmured. How many times had they said that since he got back? More than they'd said it in all the years she'd known him.
"Sure. No. You're right. It's too hot." He stopped. "You know, this was probably a mistake."
"No, it's just--"
"No, Diana. This was definitely a mistake."
"What about the Pad Thai?"
He shrugged. "Guess it wasn't meant to be." And then he was airborne and speeding away so fast he was nothing more than a blur.
She took off after him, flying much more slowly. "I guess not."
The battle had been fierce. Kal saw Diana limping off the field, heading for a downed tree. She leaned against it, and he listened in--she seemed to be having a hard time catching her breath. He changed to the vision that would let him see how badly she was injured and gasped. Her leg was broken in at least four places, that last final charge had done it, no doubt.
Kal had thought he'd heard some dire-sounding snaps from her direction. He'd assumed she was dishing them out, not taking that much abuse.
"Watchtower," she said. "Take me home."
"Me, too," Kal said, tapping his communicator. He came in right behind her.
She whirled, seemingly startled to see him. He saw her wince, and her leg almost buckled, but she corrected well.
"It's broken," he said as he walked to her and swept her up.
"Put me down."
She looked startled at his tone. To say it had not been a good few months for him would be missing the point of what suckfest meant.
"I can walk."
"I said shut up."
She shut up, but she didn't relax in his arms the way she had when they'd been floating in the ocean. The way she'd used to relax when he'd carry her off the field back before he left.
J'onn looked up as he carried her into the infirmary. "What happened?"
"Her leg's broken. She was making it worse by walking on it, and she's too tired to fly."
"I can fly."
"Then why were you limping off the battlefield?" He looked at J'onn. "It's bad."
"It's not that--" She shut up when he glared at her.
He had to bite back a smile. He'd always envied Bruce's ability to silence someone--especially her--with a glance. Now he knew the secret. Just embrace the pain. Or wallow in it. Whichever.
Kal put Diana down gently on the bed, checked her out for other injuries as J'onn went to work on her leg with the healing ray. Her ribs were cracked. Her wrist wrenched. But those were normal injuries that would heal in no time. The leg was the problem.
"Are you done with your inspection?" she said very softly.
"And does the great alien think I'm going to live?"
He wasn't sure he'd ever heard quite so much sarcasm in her voice. "Looks like."
"Well, thanks. Go away now."
"Why? Are you injured?" The sarcasm gave way to something that sounded like worry. She seemed to be checking out his uniform. Looking for tears, punctures.
"Oh. Well...good." She didn't meet his eyes.
"Okay," he said, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I don't need you here, Kal. Looming over me."
"I'm not looming."
"Hulking then. Or how about towering?"
"It's nice to know you read the thesaurus while I was gone."
J'onn straightened up and thrust the ray into Kal's hands.
"What are you doing?" Kal asked.
"The two of you are giving me a headache." J'onn gestured to the ray. "You know how to use that. Get to it." He phased through the floor and was gone.
"He usually uses the door." Diana looked up at Kal, her mouth set in a tight line.
"We gave him a headache?" He sat down on the bed, aiming the ray at the parts of her leg that still needed healing.
Silence fell in the room, and he shifted so he wouldn't have to see her face when he said, "We used to be so good together, Diana."
"Yes, so good they all thought we were involved."
He sighed. Glancing over at her, he saw her try to hide a yawn. "Lie down, Diana."
"You're exhausted. Lie down. I can do this when you're asleep."
"In fact, you'd probably prefer it."
"Don't put words in my mouth."
"Fine." She was still sitting up, arms folded over her chest now.
"Diana, lie down or I will put you down."
"I'd like to see you try."
He shut off the ray, turned as slowly and deliberately as he could, and put his hand on her shoulders. He pushed. She resisted. He pushed harder. She resisted more, her hands behind her on the bed, bracing her. Then she seemed to forget her injury, brought up her leg as if to kick him away.
But she'd already done it and her small sound of surprised pain hit him deeper than if she'd cried out loudly. Her eyes filled with tears, and she let her leg drop, suddenly breathing deeply.
"I'm sorry," he said. And he pulled her to him and held her. He expected her to push him away, but her arms came around him and she pressed herself against him, shuddering. He thought she was crying, and pulled back enough to see. She wasn't, and he remembered that she didn't cry very often, and when she did, it was usually not for herself.
She stared up at him, a look he couldn't read in her eyes. Then she pulled his head down, met his lips with her own.
He thought he was ready for it. He thought he remembered what kissing her was like. But when her mouth opened, he felt a shock of pure electricity run through him. She was kissing him as if they were wild things. And he was kissing her back the same way, while still trying not to hurt her leg again.
There was a cough at the door, and Flash said, "I guess now would not be a good time to ask for a Band-Aid, huh?"
"Get out." Kal thought it was a creditable copy of Bruce's voice. And he hadn't even been trying.
"Color me gone." The door shut behind him.
"Don't push me away, Diana," Kal said, afraid that she would come to her senses now that they'd stopped kissing.
But she just lay back slowly. Then she looked up at him, unsmiling but not hostile, either, and said, "Just finish my leg so we can get out of here."
He worked very, very fast.
They walked out of the infirmary. Diana tested her leg, couldn't feel any pain. But Kal was probably better with the ray than J'onn was--he could actually see what was happening as he used it.
As they made their way to the teleporter, their pace was slow. Kal grabbed her hand, and she thought she could feel his pulse racing where their skin touched.
"Your place or mine?" she whispered.
He smiled and seemed about to answer. But then he pulled her close and just hugged her, his mouth on her hair, murmuring things she couldn't make out but that sounded sweet anyway.
Then he pulled away and said, "Bangkok."
He nodded. "We never got our Pad Thai."
"Well, actually, I picked some up on the way home. I had my taste buds set on it..."
He laughed. "I grabbed some in Metropolis when I got home, too. But it didn't taste very good." He pulled her into the teleporter, held her as he said, "Bangkok."
It was still hot and steamy. The traffic was still backed up for miles.
"Got a favorite place?" Kal asked.
"The Golden Orchid."
"That's my favorite place, too."
"I know. You took me there, remember?"
He nodded. And suddenly he seemed a little awkward and shy. But not in that practiced Clark Kent way. In a Kal way. And she had to pull him to her and kiss him, right there in the middle of the sidewalk on one of the busiest streets in Bangkok.
She heard the sound of cameras. Heard Kal giggle. And she didn't care, just kept kissing him. Then she pulled away and assessed the crowd that had gathered around them. Most holding cameras or snapping away with their cell phones.
"So much for a low-key romance," Kal whispered so softly only she could hear it. And then he grabbed her hand, and they launched into the sky, not coming down until they reached the Golden Orchid. He looked down. "Maybe we should have come in civvies?"
"It's safer this way. I can't very well be seen with Clark Kent if you want to keep your identity secret. Although if Clark is never around, won't Lois be suspicious?"
"Trust me. Lois won't notice whether Clark is there or not." He sounded bitter, but it wasn't a raw, new bitterness. It was an old pain. The way she felt when she thought of Bruce. It hurt--but it wouldn't kill her.
"Come on," he said, pulling her into the restaurant.
There was a gasp as they walked in. Then many people came scurrying to them. A man hurried out of an office, making much of them. They were led to a very private table, near a fountain. Big, frothy drinks were placed in front of them, the actual liquid obscured by huge chunks of tropical fruit on plastic skewers and very bright paper umbrellas.
"Drinks are on the house," the waitress said with a very sweet smile, then she left them alone.
Diana leaned toward Kal, smiling when he took her hand. "So, no your place or mine tonight?"
"We're not about that."
"Well, not yet."
"Oh. Not yet." How long did he want to wait?
"I mean. Not right this minute yet. But...later. Tonight. If you want...?" He sounded like a teenager on his first date.
The teenager gave way to the man she'd loved for far too long. She'd been pushing that love away for so many years that it felt strange to let it in. To let it fly.
"I've loved you for years, Diana," Kal said, his fingers doing things to her palm that made her shiver. He didn't qualify the statement, and for the first time she didn't feel like bringing Lois up.
Kal had loved her for a long time. And that was enough.
"And I've loved you." And she had been waiting. Even if she'd never admit it to him. She'd been willing to wait a lifetime--Lois's and Bruce's, if necessary.
But it hadn't been necessary. Fate had a strange sense of humor.
The waitress came back. "Do you know what you want?"
Kal smiled at Diana. "Oh, yes." He was not looking at the menu.
Diana smiled, too, then looked up at the waitress. "We'll both have the Pad Thai."
"Extra spicy," he said with a mischievous grin. When the waitress left, he leaned in and kissed her.
As he pulled away, she said, "Extra spicy or extra strong?" She was thinking about their romp in the sea and the sky. What would it be like to make love to someone she wouldn't hurt if she let go?
He seemed to be thinking the same thing. He was gripping her hand tightly. And he seemed very far away.
"Earth to Kal."
"I'm here." He brought her hand up, kissed it, then let his lips just rest against it. "Although right then, I was drifting off to our little swim the other day."
"Somehow, I knew that." She was meeting his gaze, knew that her expression had to be naughty.
"No holding back now," he said, his eyes very serious.
"I'm not talking just about the sex, Diana. You were right to push me away."
"Or run away?"
"That, too. I wasn't ready. And maybe you weren't, either."
"And now we are."
"Yes. And now we are." He let go of her hand, and they talked--the way they used to, with no lack of topics, laughter creeping in slowly as they recalled the ease they'd once had.
They talked nonstop until the food came. And when the meal was over, they took off for Paris and sat next to a gargoyle on the roof of Notre Dame. They talked some more. And they kissed. And finally, they flew back to New York.
She led him into the Embassy, smiling at the warm welcome from the staff. Superman was beloved, and not just by her.
There were some surprised looks when she drew him away, taking his hand and leading him up the stairs. She imagined there would be even more surprised looks when he led her back down them in the morning to breakfast.
He smiled at her as she closed the door. "Nervous?"
"I am." And she showed him that her normally steady hands were trembling.
That seemed to make him melt, and he pulled her to him, and was easing her uniform off, and she realized he was far too familiar with how to do that than a man she'd never made love to should be. And she got his uniform off just as quickly. And then they were falling onto the bed, and she had the momentary fear that he wouldn't be worth the wait--or that she wouldn't be. But that thought lasted about ten seconds, and then she didn't worry anymore.
No holding back was amazing. No holding back was better than amazing.
He laughed at her expression, kissed her tenderly. And she kissed him back just as sweetly.
"Life will get better," she whispered to him, as he fell asleep in her arms.
He tightened his hold on her, pulled her close, his deep, even breathing a soothing counterpoint to the strong beat of his heart. He moaned, and then he started to talk in his sleep, and she tensed, afraid of what she was going to hear.
But it was just nonsense words. And none of them sounded like Lois. And one of them did sound a bit like Diana.
She kissed him and he smiled in his sleep. An easy, boyish smile that she hoped he'd never stop showing her.
She realized she wasn't lonely. With a last gentle kiss on his forehead, she cuddled into him and fell asleep in his arms.