Rating: Adult. If you're under eighteen, please go elsewhere now.
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Read Chapter 2 here.
Read the story from the beginning here.
Wayne Manor was impressive, in a scary way.
She'd seen pictures, of course. Everyone had. The place looked gothic, a dark pile of stone and brick lost in a wild tangle of forest, like something straight out of a horror movie. Like Gotham itself, it gave the appearance of being gloomy and unwelcoming.
To put it bluntly, the place was creepy.
After she'd agreed to go with him, Wayne had helped her into a stretch limo that rode so smoothly it might as well have been floating. Once ensconced inside the car's luxurious interior, she'd been aware of him watching her. He was an infamous playboy, of course, and every time she'd glanced directly at him, he'd winked at her and offered a cheeky, almost lascivious smile.
And yet she had the feeling that he wasn't watching her because of any sort of sexual interest. There was something wary in his gaze, something cautious, as if he saw her as an adversary. As if he were sizing her up.
If he knew about her longstanding friendship with Clark, she thought, then he must almost certainly know "Kal's" real name. She wondered exactly how much he knew, and exactly what he wanted from Kal.
She didn't believe for a moment that "friendship" might be Wayne's motivating factor in developing a relationship with Clark. She'd learned over the years to be wary of billionaires with an interest in Clark. Oliver Queen she trusted with her life, as well as Clark's. But Lex Luthor's interest in Clark had turned out to be far less innocent.
As far as she'd ever heard, Wayne had no special interest in the superpowered, the way Lex Luthor had. But Wayne Enterprises was a technology firm that specialized in military applications, so it wasn't a stretch to think that Wayne might be interested in Clark's abilities. If he thought Clark's powers could be replicated somehow, it made sense that he might want to study them.
She'd wondered if Bruce Wayne, with his bland smile and cool gray eyes, might be keeping Kal in a lab somewhere.
But after a short ride through Gotham's better neighborhoods, they'd turned in at a long iron fence. And now Wayne Manor rose ahead of them, a dark, ominous mass all but hidden within thickly wooded grounds.
The limo glided up a long, curving driveway and drifted to a halt, and the driver came around to Chloe's side. She climbed out, thanked him politely, and looked up at the massive gray structure.
"Welcome to Wayne Manor," Wayne's voice said at her elbow.
She jumped slightly, because she hadn't heard him come up behind her. The man moved like a cat. Trying to cover the reaction, she turned her head and looked up at him.
"Kal is here?"
"Yes." His mouth curved in a patently artificial smile that offered no hint of his real thoughts. "I don't usually take in long-term guests, but I found Kal interesting enough that I was willing to make an exception."
Clark and his habit of befriending billionaires, she thought wryly. Apparently nothing had changed.
No, she thought. Everything had changed. Because he was Kal, not Clark. She wondered exactly what he'd been up to over the past month. Nothing good, she imagined.
She had to protect him. She had to take him home.
The door opened as they approached the stone front steps, and a tall, ascetic-looking man with a fringe of gray hair and a darker mustache inclined his head, speaking in clipped British tones. "Welcome home, sir."
"Hello, Alfred." Wayne bounded up the long stretch of steps remarkably easily, for a guy who was reputed to spend most of his nights partying. Then again, a guy this rich could afford a personal trainer to help him work off the effects of too many parties. "This is Miss Chloe Sullivan. She's a friend of Kal's."
Alfred Pennyworth, the Wayne family's lifelong retainer, her reporter's memory helpfully informed her. Alfred inclined his head to Chloe as well, but at the mention of Kal's name, she thought she detected a glint of disapproval in his eyes. "Mr. Ell," he said, slightly more frostily than before, "is in the media room, playing video games."
In Smallville, Clark worked almost constantly, keeping his mom's hundred-acre farm afloat, and he very rarely sat down to play video games except at night. But Kal was different. Kal had never been into work. Unfortunately, he had ways of obtaining money that were less aboveboard.
Wayne grasped her by the elbow and steered her toward the back of the house. As they moved through the vast structure, which was filled with old marble statues and oil paintings and antique furniture, she heard the sounds of gunfire and screams and screeching tires.
They paused at a closed mahogany door, and Wayne pushed it open, exposing a huge, dark, windowless room, which featured the largest plasma TV Chloe had ever seen. The raucous sounds of death and destruction suddenly became much louder, almost ear-splitting.
She stood at the door a moment, watching as Kal's character onscreen blasted down everyone in his path with a machine gun.
At least, she thought, he was channeling his violent tendencies through a video game. It was better than having him actually out on the streets, committing crimes. Although for all she knew, he was doing that, too. With Clark and red K, you never knew.
She raised her voice to be heard over the racket. "I guess this explains why you haven't called in a month. Too busy playing video games."
At the sound of her voice, Kal looked around, and a smile curved his mouth. Not the warm, friendly, welcoming smile she would have expected from Clark when he hadn't seen her for a month, but the humorless, snarling grin that Kal always affected.
"Figures," he said, his voice dripping with disdain. "I knew you'd snoop into my business and track me down, sooner or later. It's like having a private detective for a friend."
"Hello to you too." She shook off Wayne's hand, which was still on her elbow, and walked into the room. Behind her, Wayne flipped a switch, and the darkened room was suddenly flooded with light. She blinked against the brightness, and looked Kal over.
He was clad in black from head to toe, a look that Clark hated but that his alter ego seemed to prefer. His hair had grown out a bit, and it fell in loose waves around his face. There was a hardness in his eyes, a cruel set to his mouth, that Clark never showed unless he was on red K.
She glanced down, and saw the red K ring, firmly on his finger.
"Kal," she said, more gently. "I want you to come home."
She thought she saw a flicker of longing beneath the tough, indifferent look in his eyes, but maybe it was just wishful thinking. "Forget it," he said coolly, turning back to his video game. "I'm having a good time here in Gotham."
"Yeah," she drawled. "I see you found yourself a sugar daddy."
Kal's broad back stiffened, and she knew she'd offended him with the implications of her remark. She realized it wasn't safe to offend Kal, that the fact that she was Clark's best friend didn't necessarily protect her. But she also knew that she wouldn't get anywhere pleading with Kal to come home. He only respected snark and bad attitude.
Beside her, she saw Wayne's shoulders begin to shake with laughter, and knew that he, at least, was not offended. "Miss Sullivan," he said, "Kal hasn't been spending all his time playing video games."
"I'm sure." She rolled her eyes. "I bet he's been playing pool, too."
"He's been doing more than that." Wayne smiled, and it wasn't a pleasant expression. "You see... Kal isn't my guest. He's my employee."
Read Chapter 4 here.