There be spoilers here. Spoilers of a big and heavy kind for the movie Superman Returns. I recommend you go see it. For it rocketh! This story definitely has spoilers galore.
Oh and this is not my normal attempt to wring SM/WW shippiness out of the more traditional canon pairing. This is more a look at what WW, BM, and the League members might have been doing during the movie. But still with the spoilers. In case I wasn't clear about that in the intro.
DISCLAIMER: The Justice League of America characters are the property of DC Comics, the movie Superman Returns is DC Comics and Warner Brothers. The story contents are the creation and property of Djinn and are copyright (c) 2006 by Djinn. This story is Rated PG.
The Return of a Friend
Diana watched the television screen, thrilled to see Kal back in action saving a plane from certain fiery doom. But why was she seeing it on TV? Why had no one called to tell her he was back? Or said anything at the last League meeting? Why the hell hadn't Kal called her? He'd just reappeared the same way he'd disappeared.
Poor Lois. Which was worse? Almost crashing or being saved by the man you'd said--in a Pulitzer-Prize-winning article--that the world didn't need?
Diana had made a habit of checking on Lois after Kal left. Stealthily--Lois wouldn't have appreciated the gesture. But she'd done it until it was clear Lois had moved on. And taken her child with her. Diana had seen Lois's belly start to grow not long after Kal left. Lois had been with Richard White by then. An easy relationship, from the look of it. Two people enjoying sex and each other. One of them still angry, no doubt, at the super-man who'd just left everything he knew behind.
Diana had been angry, too. And she hadn't been Kal's--what? Girlfriend? Lover? Diana couldn't imagine what Lois had been feeling. Alone. Pregnant--was it Richard's child? Or was Jason Kal's son?
Diana had always figured they'd find out if the boy suddenly started flying. Or burning through walls with a glare. Only...how would he learn to control his powers? But Clark had learned to control them with two normal humans for parents. And Lois was far from normal, even if she was completely human.
Diana's phone rang. She checked the caller ID and smiled. "You're watching this?"
"I am. When did he get back?" Bruce sounded like of course she'd know.
"Your guess is as good as mine."
"Is that a thoughtful 'hmmm'? Or a you-don't-believe-me-but-don't-want-to-call-me-a-liar 'hmmm'?"
"I'm not sure." He grew quiet, probably because he was watching the scene between Kal and Lois. Kal flew off and Lois fainted, managing to land very prettily on the emergency slide.
"She doesn't tend to faint," Bruce said.
"No?" Diana had never been sure just how well Bruce and Lois knew each other.
"No." He sighed, and Diana wondered if he was thinking about Jason. Bruce probably knew exactly whose father Jason was. Maybe from a surreptitious DNA test from blood captured at one of the child's routine appointments. Bruce would probably say he couldn't be too careful with a potential meta. Especially one that had Kal as a father.
Kal: the strongest of them all. The best of them all, in some ways. And he'd just...abandoned them.
"You still there?" Bruce had his old tone. The tone he hadn't used since Kal flew off to parts unknown.
"I'm here." The footage of Kal saving the day was replaying on TV. He looked good. He looked the same as ever.
"You should go talk to him," Bruce said.
"We both could...?"
She could hear the unsaid in his speech. If he wanted to lay claim to her in front of Kal. Not that Kal would care, but try telling that to the broodmeister.
"I could be there in a matter of minutes, Bruce."
"You could be in Metropolis just as fast. Tell me what you find out." The line went dead with a soft click.
She sighed. Life was always so much more complicated with Kal around.
It took her awhile to find Kal floating at the upper edges of the atmosphere, basking in the sun.
She used to be so good at finding him. Could almost sense him at a cellular level. But he'd gone away and she'd let that go. Let go of her good friend. Her comrade in arms. Her flying partner.
They'd been through so much, even without having been lovers--although they almost had been that once, long before Lois. And Lois had been jealous of their closeness. Bruce still was, only she didn't know why. Kal had left Diana just like he'd left the rest of them. With no goodbye. With no explanation.
Kal turned, was staring at her and smiling. "Hello."
That was it? Hello?
His smile faded. "I guess I owe you an explanation." He looked around as if expecting Bruce to be lurking, even way up past the clouds.
"You don't owe me anything, Kal."
He closed his eyes. "So nice to be called that again."
She didn't say anything, just watched him float.
"Lois found someone else," he finally said.
"I know. I looked in on her from time to time."
"Someone had to."
He winced a little. She'd sounded like Bruce, probably. And Bruce could be harsh, but at least he stuck around--except for the time he'd left home and wandered the world for years, but that was pre-Batman and pre-League. He didn't leave now. Pushed her away every time they got too close, but didn't leave.
"She has a son," Kal said. "But then you know that, too, don't you, Diana?"
"I was here."
"Right. And I wasn't."
"You said it, not me."
He sighed again. "The last five years have not been good to you, Diana. You've grown...sharp."
"Maybe I've just grown up. A lot has happened in the last five years."
"Yeah, I know. Mom caught me up."
Now, she understood why Bruce hadn't wanted to come. This was going nowhere. "Why did you come back?"
"Don't you want to know where I went?"
"No. I should have known that when you left, Kal. We all should have."
"My mom knew. You could have asked her."
"I wasn't going to bother her." And she and Kal's mother were hardly on "drop-in and have pie" terms. But Diana had checked on her, too, to make sure she was all right. And it had been the way Martha had stared up at the night sky that had told Diana that Kal had flown off, and not just to get take-out. He was gone for good.
"I came back because I didn't find what I was looking for." He floated over toward her. "I didn't find what I expected when I came home, either."
"Five years, Kal. What did you expect? That she'd wait? Just tread water until you came back?"
His expression told her he kind of had expected that. "Richard seems like a really decent guy."
"I wouldn't expect her to be with anyone else. She fell for you, after all."
"And you? Are you with Bruce?"
"That's none of your business."
He shut down, right in front of her, and she knew she'd been too harsh.
"Kal. I'm sorry. But you went away. I don't feel close to you, anymore." And it would take hours to try to make sense of what was going on with Bruce. Hours she didn't think Kal would give her, or that she'd ask him for anymore.
"League meetings are still on the same day, right?" He laughed bitterly. "I am still a member, aren't I?"
"Of course you are." She moved closer, pulled him in for a quick hug.
He seemed startled. Then he hugged her back, shocking her--she'd forgotten how strong he was.
"Does she still love me?" he asked, his voice forlorn. He buried his face in her hair.
"Ask her that, Kal. Not me."
"I can't ask her that. She's happy."
"Then move on. It's what we've all had to do."
He let her go. "Gee, thanks for the pep talk, Diana."
"Kal..." She was uncertain what he expected her to say. "I am glad you're back."
"I'm not sure I am." He shook his head, staring down at the Earth he'd just come back to.
Then he was gone, faster than she remembered.
It was a testament to whatever her relationship with Bruce was that his security devices let her pass unchallenged into the back entrance of the Batcave.
"Have a nice reunion?" He didn't turn to look at her as he worked on one of his gizmos.
"I don't know that I'd go that far."
"Why's that?" He held his hand out, sort of pointed to the table next to her. "Those gears. In the blue dish."
"And here I thought Amazons had given up being slaves." But she got the dish and handed it to him.
"Thanks." He started putting the gears into his little contraption. "How does he seem?"
"Lost." She made a face. Not the right answer to tell someone as paranoid as Bruce.
"Lost as in 'I have no purpose for living and will soon run amok?' Or lost as in 'My best girl and my kid are living with another guy, but I'll learn to cope'?"
"So Jason is Kal's son?"
"I'm not going to ask how you know that."
"Good." He reached over, she thought for a tool or more bits for his toy, but he settled his hand on top of her own. "I'm worried about them all. I've known Richard White since I was a kid. Same circles and all, if different towns."
"I didn't realize."
"He's a good man. And you know I don't say that easily."
"I know." She turned her hand, letting her fingers twine with his for a minute.
His tightened on hers suddenly, as if in a spasm he couldn't control. "So, Clark's essentially a free man, isn't he?"
"His heart is taken."
He let go of her. "Not the answer I was hoping for, Princess."
"And so is my heart."
"Getting warmer." He snapped the gizmo shut, held it up. She had no idea what he planned to do with it. He might not, either. He had a whole trunk full of gadgets he might need someday.
She took a deep breath and asked the question she didn't want to ask. "Does Lois know Jason is Kal's?"
"Do you know this because you've talked to her?"
He turned to look at her--his expression one she hated because it made her feel like she'd asked something idiotic. "Yes. Batman has talked to her. The League had Clark's DNA samples; she didn't. I felt that she needed to know the truth. When Jason's powers kick in...she could be in danger. They all could."
"Were you sorry when she hooked up with Richard?"
"No. Why would I be sorry?" Again the look.
"I've heard rumors that you and Lois might have been close at one time."
"Ah. Like those rumors about you and Clark." He grinned at her. Bruce's goofy grin that could still manage to be mean.
"I'm going to say this once, Bruce. And then never again. I kissed him. A few times. On our first and only date. Which was interrupted by a Greek god. Okay?"
He made a sound that she wasn't sure how to interpret.
"Your turn to share."
"Is it?" he asked.
"I know her because she thought I was running guns once upon a time, and was determined to bring me to justice single handedly. I know her now because of Richard. Other than that, Bruce hasn't spent any time with her. And Batman is like some kind of creepy big brother who brings news she probably would rather have not known. Got it?"
"You never dated her?"
"No. You're one up on me with that gem." Again the grin that hurt.
"Why do you this? We get close and then you try to push me away."
"We're not that close, lover." He got up and put the little toy in his trunk.
"I think you're lying, Bruce. You only hurt those of us who actually own real estate in your heart. If I was just a fling, you'd spare me your acid."
He turned to look at her. "Okay, here's something I'm only going to say once. I don't intend to share you."
"Kind of a leap from not being that close, isn't it?"
"Keep up with me, Diana. I know you can. You and Clark: not what I want to think about when I'm with you."
"Then don't. I won't be thinking about him." She moved closer. "Okay?"
He reached out and stroked her hair back, sighing as he pulled her close. "I hate that I feel so strongly for you."
"I know you do."
His glare was very harsh, but his lips were warm and welcoming.
It was what kept her coming back. Goddess help her, she loved a challenge.
Diana stood in the crowd surrounding the hospital, trying to blend as much as she could. Even out of uniform, she was recognized. Her face was too well known to just fade away like Bruce and Kal did. She saw Lois go in, holding Jason in her arms.
They weren't inside very long before they were coming out again, the cameras clicking madly as they made the walk back. Lois took the barrage of questions in stride, but Jason started to look afraid, then he began to squirm.
Diana saw Lois look at him, her expression changing to worry. No, more than that.
"Oh, Hera, no." Diana pushed through the crowd, nearly throwing people out of her way to get to Lois.
The newsmen saw her and only pressed in more.
Jason began to push on his mom. Diana saw Lois wince.
"Need a lift?" Diana asked, grimacing at how badly Flash was rubbing off on her. Then she wrapped her arms around Lois and took off.
Jason looked afraid, so Diana laughed. The laugh of a young Amazon. Fearless. On a charging horse racing the waves. Or flying through the air for the first time. A laugh that conveyed delight in the daring thing they were doing, not fear.
Jason looked over at her. She gave him her best smile. Men within a forty-mile radius had been known to lose all willpower at that smile. Kal's son was no different. He giggled.
"Great," Lois muttered. "His son has to be in love with you, too?"
"Kal was never in love with me, Lois. He loves you."
"That's not good." And Lois buried her face in Diana's hair and started to cry.
Diana wasn't sure what to do. She couldn't let go of them, but she did tighten her grip and sort of tilted her chin down on Lois's head, trying to give some kind of physical comfort. "Kal will be okay. He's strong. He'll be okay."
"If he is, then I can't be with him. If he dies, then he'll never know that--" Lois pulled away, searching Diana's face. "You know, don't you? That's why you just helped us."
"I saw your face. I know powers can manifest for the first time when a person is under severe stress. And Jason looked afraid."
Jason was watching them, staying so quiet Diana had almost forgotten he was there.
She set them down far away from the hospital and took Jason in her arms while Lois tried to clean up her makeup with Kleenex and a pocket mirror.
"So Richard won't know what happened," Lois said softly.
"Why don't you go inside?" She pointed to the deli across the street. "They have a bathroom. Soap and running water. Big mirror."
"But Jason will--I guess he'll be safer with you than anyone but Superman, won't he?"
Diana nodded, then she walked down the row of windows, trying to distract Jason while his mother walked away and left him with a virtual stranger. "Everything will be all right, sweetheart."
"You're Wonder Woman, aren't you?"
She smiled. "My name's Diana, Jason. Call me Diana."
"Is Mommy okay, Diana?"
"She'll be fine. She's just worried about Superman."
"I know." She needed to see Kal. But she'd wanted Lois to see him first. And Bruce needed to be with her when she saw Kal. This was not something she could do alone and keep what was, at best, a tenuous trust on his part.
"I killed someone," Jason whispered. "He was hurting Mommy."
Kal never killed. There were times Diana wished he would.
"How did you do it?"
"I pushed a piano. It went really fast."
And hard--she could imagine what a human would be reduced to when struck by something that big pushed by someone with super strength.
"You did what you had to, Jason. You protected your mother." Diana only wished she could have protected her mother as well.
"I didn't think about doing it. It just happened."
She could tell he was frightened. She also thought he probably would not talk to Lois about this. Maybe Bruce was right to have been worried? Especially if Kal died. Who would teach this boy?
Jason cuddled against her, and she knew that if Kal died, she would teach this child anything he needed to learn.
"Jason? Ready to go?" Lois hurried up, mascara streaks eradicated. "Richard's coming. I called him while I was in there."
"Good." Diana handed Jason back to her. "He's a fine boy."
"Yes, he is." Lois took a deep, ragged breath. "Thank you. I'm not sure what would have happened if--" She closed her eyes, hugging Jason close to her. "Thank you."
"You don't have to thank me. Can I have your phone?"
Lois laughed a little uncomfortably but handed it to her.
Diana programmed in her number. "If you ever need help. If any of you ever need help?"
Lois nodded. She understood. "Thank you, Wonder Woman."
"Diana." Lois closed her eyes. "I don't know his name. How odd is that?"
"His name is Kal-El."
"It doesn't feel right to call him that. He's never told me to call him that."
Kal had always wanted Lois to love him as Clark. Because, at the heart of him, Clark was who Kal really wanted to be. Even if he'd had to run to whatever was left of Krypton to find that out.
A blue car pulled up. Diana saw Richard inside. "Your ride's here."
She could tell by the desperately grateful look Lois shot her fiance that the man was far more than just her ride.
Kal was in for a hell of a time.
If he survived what he'd just been through.
Bruce strode up to the hospital entrance, his Batcape billowing, bat-persona on more tightly than ever. Diana followed him, marveling at how none of the reporters tried to stop them for questions the way they had when she'd been alone. No one messed with the Batman.
Unless they were a crazy Amazon.
He reached back for her, moving her ahead of him as they walked in. She wondered if he thought she'd been here already on her own, wanted to see if she could lead him to Kal's room. She turned around in disappointment, but he wasn't even looking at her. He was talking to one of the guards, and she heard him point out a man in the crowd that was picking the pockets of those gathered to wish Superman well.
The Batman never slept.
Or maybe Bruce was just pissed off that a criminal would seek to profit from his friend's misfortune? She liked that interpretation better.
"Scum," Bruce said with a final glare outside. He took her elbow and led her down the corridor. He didn't stop to ask directions. He didn't seem to be looking at any of the signs.
"You've been here before? To see Kal?"
His mouth ticked up slightly. "J'onn and I came when he was first brought in. We thought...we thought some of our technology from the watchtower would help."
"No. When have we ever been able to do much for him? He falls hard and then he gets up. In his own time." It sounded great. Very much the unflappable Batman.
But then Bruce swallowed. Hard. And Diana blinked back tears. She hadn't been afraid up to now.
"Is he going to be okay?"
"I don't know, Diana." And Bruce took her hand, holding it so tightly that if she'd been human, he'd have broken it.
She realized she'd have to be the one who was sure. Who could hope for both of them. "He'll be okay." She moved closer and he didn't push her away. "I know it. He will."
Bruce just nodded. And she remembered that in his life, people weren't okay. His parents. Jason. In his life, people died.
Just like her mother had, giving her life to save others. Kal had been doing the same thing. Just like he always did.
"I give him such crap, Diana. But he's the purest of us."
"He's my friend. He's one of my...best friends. And he left without a word."
Bruce had never said this. Kal had gone. End of story. He'd never shared his pain.
He swallowed, then coughed softly. A sniff and a few sharp blinks and the Batman was back.
But he'd showed her this. He'd shared this with her.
"I love you," she said, the words coming out before she could stop them.
He turned to look at her. She didn't think she'd ever seen his eyes so gentle. Even the mask couldn't make him look fierce.
"My Diana." And he smiled tenderly. "Come on."
She expected Kal to be bruised and bloody. But he wasn't. He looked like himself. Perfect. Young. Not someone who had given everything he had to stop a madman.
"Clark?" Bruce's voice was gentle.
Kal's eyes opened. He smiled, a little woozily. "Was Lois here?"
Diana couldn't stop the brilliant smile. He was awake. "She was, Kal. She was here."
Bruce nodded. Diana had told him everything that had happened.
"My son," Kal said with a voice so full of wonder it made her heart hurt. His son--a son he would not raise. A son who thought of him only as Superman. But someday Jason would put two and two together and it would equal superhero father. And Lois, if she hadn't already told him, would have some serious explaining to do.
Kal sat up, then nearly fell off the bed. Bruce was immediately at his side, steadying him.
"Hey, Bruce. I'm back." Kal smiled at him a little sheepishly.
"Yes. Nice of you to tell me that yourself."
"I already got the lecture from your girlfriend." Kal grinned at Bruce as he said "girlfriend."
And Bruce grinned back at him. Clearly too happy to have his friend awake to deliver more Batman snark.
"How are you feeling?" Diana asked.
"Like I got run over by a Lexcorp Truck. Speaking of Lex...?"
Bruce shook his head. "We're looking, though. He can't hide forever."
"He has before."
"He won't this time, Kal," she said. "We'll all look for him."
"Well, I need to start now--" Kal swung his legs off the bed, stood up, and promptly crumpled into a heap, out cold.
It took both of them to get him back on the bed.
Diana leaned down, whispering--but loudly enough that Bruce could hear every word--"Go to Lois. And your son. Luthor can wait."
"Diana..." Bruce shook his head.
She straightened up and took his hand, leading him from the room. "He won't ruin things for her. Or for his son. You know he won't. But he needs closure. And so does Lois."
Bruce nodded. Which was quite a concession for a man from whom closure generally fled in terror.
Diana looked across the League's conference table, unable to stop smiling at seeing Kal sitting where he was supposed to. His seat had sat empty for a year, until Bruce had stood up at the beginning of one of their meetings, picked up Kal's chair, and carried it out of the room. They'd all sort of filled in the space since then.
The chair had shown back up when Kal first appeared on TV. Diana wasn't sure who'd done it, and she looked around the table, trying to see who looked guilty--or overly self-satisfied.
Flash winked at her.
"You?" she mouthed.
He speeded around to her chair, whispered, "You thought it was your bat-boy, perhaps?" and was back in his seat with only a slight breeze to mark his passage.
Diana saw J'onn look down, hiding a grin.
Her smile grew broader.
"Something you want to share with the class, Diana?" Bruce asked.
"Busted," Flash mouthed.
"No. I'm good."
Kal grinned at her.
"You may notice something new in the room?" Bruce wasn't looking at Kal as he spoke, but he seemed to be having a hard time keeping a straight face.
"New curtains?" Flash asked. "Or is that a new cape, Bats?"
"Very funny." Bruce turned to Kal. "Welcome back, Superman."
"Thanks, Batman." Kal stood up. He looked around the table, making eye contact with each of them, his smile changing a little as he made each moment personal. "I shouldn't have just left. You're my friends--or you were. I wouldn't blame you for being mad at me."
"I'm so mad the next round of mochas is definitely on you." Flash winked at him.
Kal grinned like a little boy. "You're on." His smile faded. "I probably could have used some help with Luthor, too. If I'd asked, I know you'd have all been there."
There was a chorus of "We would have," and "You know it."
Kal swallowed hard, and Diana thought his eyes looked a little bright. "I went away to find my home. And all along, I was leaving it. I wasn't born here, but this is where I need to be. Where I belong. I'm sorry. I won't leave again."
"Well, you won't leave again without warning us first," Bruce said.
Flash nodded. "Who the hell knows what's going to happen in the future?"
"True. Okay. Without telling you first." Kal sat down.
Bruce kept the meeting short. For once actually caring that no one was interested in what was on the agenda.
As the others swarmed around Kal, Diana walked to Bruce's chair, leaned back on the table, and said, "I think we set a record for shortest meeting. Mighty human of you."
"No one was listening to me, anyway, Diana."
"Well, that normally doesn't bother you."
"I normally don't let them get away with it." Which was true. One or two good glares were usually all it took to get the group to order.
Bruce looked over at Kal's chair, his eyes drinking it in. As if the absence of it had hurt him. Then he looked up at her. "It's good he's back. There has to be light to balance the dark."
"You're not dark, Bruce."
"Well..." she leaned in, her mouth dangerously close to his.
He didn't push her away. "Well?"
"Well, you, my dark friend, have the nice house, the great job, several young people who love you like a dad, a wonderful man you love as a father, and...you have me."
"That's true." He glanced over at the others, then pulled her close and kissed her hard.
"Mmm. Why, Mister Wayne, you do know how to sweep a girl off her feet." Her smile faded. "Your exemplar of light, I'm afraid, has a long, hard road ahead of him. Mending fences."
"But not with us."
"No, not with us."
Their fences were mended. In fact, Kal's return may have just cemented Bruce's and hers.
Kal looked back at them. "Come on, you guys. Join the fun."
Bruce got up, smiling, for once, like a normal human. "Wouldn't miss it, Superman. Wouldn't miss it for the world."