by Starsky Hutch 76
Clark Kent listened sympathetically to his wife Lois Lane Kent, who he could hear all too well despite the fact that she’d left the shower running. Despite being a hard-edged reporter, there was still an old-fashioned air of modesty about her, especially when it came to matters like morning sickness.
The shower stopped, and she stepped out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around her wet hair. When she saw his face, she became downcast and slightly embarassed. “You heard me, didn’t you?”
“Sorry, honey. It’s hard to fool these ears. We’ve been living together for over thirty years. You don’t need to be embarassed in front of me,” he said, walking to her and taking her in his arms.
“This isn’t going to be easy,” Lois said. “I’m not a young woman anymore.”
“You’re looking younger all the time,” Clark said, pulling back the towel that covered her hair. It had much less gray than it had a month earlier when they had discovered her pregnancy. (*) He lightly used his super-breath to begin drying her hair as he ran his fingers through it.
[(*) Editor’s note: See Justice Society of America: Ragnarok Aftermath, Chapter 1: Taking Flight.]
“Mmmm,” she said, closing her eyes and shaking her blacker mane of hair. “I love when you do that.”
“If this keeps up, I’ll have to start dying my hair so people don’t accuse me of robbing the cradle.”
“That’s probably what people think I’ve been doing,” Lois said.
“It’s a good thing you were already so youthful-looking,” Clark said. “Otherwise, people might start asking questions.”
“If it means I’ll be able to carry the baby safely at my age, I’m willing to risk it.”
“I wouldn’t want you to have to sacrifice the paper. It’s come to mean a lot to you.”
“Not as much as this,” Lois said. “We’ve always dreamed of having a family, and it’s finally happening.”
“I know,” Clark said. “Even after all these weeks, I can hardly believe it.”
Jay Garrick felt uneasy as he stepped into the classroom of John’s A.P. Chemistry class. No matter how many years it had been since he was a student himself, he still felt like a kid in trouble whenever he was called to stand before a teacher. “Hi,” he said, walking up to greet the man behind the desk. “Mr. Stevens? You called me and asked me to come see you. I’m Jay Garrick.”
The man smiled as he rose from his chair and stepped out from behind the desk. “Call me Phil. Interesting name you have there. You’re not the Jay Garrick, are you?” he laughed, holding out his hand in greeting.
“No, just a Jay Garrick,” Jay said, shaking the man’s hand. “Frankly, my wife tells me I’ll probably be late to my own funeral.” He hoped he wouldn’t be struck by lightning from above for lying, but there was no reason to make John’s school life any more diffucult.
“My wife tells me the same thing,” the teacher laughed, stepping back behind his desk as he gestured to the chair in front of it for Jay. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I called you here.”
“I hope John hasn’t blown anything else up with one of his experiments,” Jay said jokingly.
“No, just the opposite, in fact!” the teacher exclaimed jubilantly. “His scores are excellent! Out of this world, in fact! In all my years of teaching, I’ve never seen anything like it. Frankly, I’m jealous as hell. I wish I’d been that good when I was his age. Heck, I wish I’d been that good when I was in college.”
“Well, that’s very flattering,” Jay said. “I know John will appreciate it.”
“I didn’t ask you here just so I could sing his praises, Jay. I’ve spoken to his other teacher. They all say the same thing. I’d like to recommend him for double promotion.”
An uneasy look came over Jay. “Phil, I don’t know if you’re aware of his age. He doesn’t just look young for his age. He is that young. If you double promote him, this will be his fourth time.”
“I’m aware he’ll be much younger than the rest of his classmates, Jay. I know that can be awkward for a kid. I went through the same thing myself when I was in school. Not to the extent your son will have…”
“I should hope not,” Jay said. “If this happens, he’ll be a thirteen-year-old senior! How is he supposed to have any kind of normal life? Every time this happens, there’s less of a chance of him getting one!”
“If it doesn’t happen, then the next few years of school will be a complete waste of his time,” Phil said bluntly.
“Don’t you think that’s a bit of an overstatement?” Jay said.
“Not at all. You haven’t seen the boy’s face every day in class. The poor kid’s bored out of his skull. He’s taking all advanced-level courses after already being promoted three times, and yet it’s still all too easy for him. There’s simply nothing left for us to offer him. If he’s to continue getting any sort of decent education at all, he needs this promotion so he can have the sort of challenges he needs. Otherwise, we’ve failed him.”
“I had no idea it was this serious,” Jay said.
“It is, but look on the bright side. With the program he’ll be on as a senior, he’ll also have the opportunity to earn college credit.”
“More promotions,” Jay sighed. “The kid’ll be earning his Ph.D. before he’s even learned to drive. You’ve given me a lot to think about. This is something my wife and I will have to discuss.”
“I understand. Let me know when you’ve reached your decision.”
Jay’s head was swimming as he left the school and headed back to his house. It was true what they said about parenting being one surprise after another. For some reason, he had always expected the hardest decisions about John’s future would have to do with the powers he had inherited. He would have been prepared for that. Instead, he found himself upset, confused, and feeling powerless to do anything about it, as if he were any normal father.
A weary Diana Prince Trevor walked over to answer the phone, which continued to ring without any signs of the caller giving up. “Wello?” she said groggily, having just been awoken from a nap.
“Princess?” the person at the other end said.
“Steve?” Wonder Woman said, shocked into sudden alertness. She could hear traffic noises in the background.
“It’s me, darling,” said Steve Trevor.
“Where are you calling from?” she said. “I can hear cars!”
“I’m on a pay phone. I didn’t feel comfortable using the phones at Belle Reve.”
“What’s happened? Lyta told me you’d been arrested.” (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See The Suicide Squad: The Price of Redemption, Chapter 1: Formations.]
“I had,” Steve said. “I caused quite a bit of damage while my head was all screwed up. But that’s all over now. I’ve got my freedom again, and I’ll be coming home soon… for a little while.”
“For a little while? What do you mean?” Diana said.
“Steel’s turning me loose, because he doesn’t think he could hold me against my will, but he still has his hooks into these other poor kids. I can’t just leave them to his mercy.”
“Munro… Agent Liberty’s a good guy, but I’m not sure if he can handle Steel and Waller by himself. I’m going to volunteer for another hitch so I can watch everyone’s back… help look after things.”
“That’s the Steve Trevor I remember,” Diana said. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Princess,” Steve said. “And I can’t wait to get home.”
Clark Kent walked over to the phone in the kitchen of his Smallville farmhouse and began dialing. After a few rings, someone answered at the other end.
“Dick Grayson,” the voice at the other end said.
“You still answer like you work in an office,” Clark laughed. “I do the same thing, too.”
“Old habits die hard,” Dick laughed. “What can I do for you, Clark?”
“It’s about Kara,” Clark said. “She and I still haven’t had a chance to talk since the Ragnarok incident interrupted things.”
“She still needs time to cool off,” Dick said.
“So much time has already passed,” Clark said.
“You should have let her know you were OK sooner, Clark. She may try to act tough all the time, but inside she’s still very vulnerable.”
“I know that,” Clark said. “Believe me. And I never would have done anything to hurt her. If my own life hadn’t been going through so many changes, I never would’ve acted so thoughtlessly. I just want her and I to clear the air before too much distance grows between us.”
“I’ll talk to her,” Dick promised.
“How are things with the two of you?” Clark asked.
“Great,” Dick said. “I’m trying to get her to move here. There’s no sense in her constantly having to trek back and forth all the time.”
“Really?” Clark said. “How does Kara feel about that?”
“She’s not as eager as I had hoped. She’s mentioned her job as a roadblock.”
“I can see that,” Clark said. She’s proud of the life she’s made for herself here. She’s probably cautious of tampering with that.”
“I made a call to Chuck Grayson at STAR Labs.”
“How is old Chuck?” Clark said.
“Different,” Dick said. “Not nearly as severe as he was in the old days.”
“A little humanity’ll do that for you.”
“Anyway, he’s going to talk to some people there and mention her name for me,” Dick said. (*)
[(*) Editor’s note: See Red Robin: Auld Lang Syne, Chapter 1: The Right Offer.]
“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Clark cautioned. “Bruce used to use his money and position to pull strings. It didn’t always get him the gratitude he’d hoped for. People don’t like to feel like they’ve been manipulated.”
“All I’m doing is opening a door for her,” Dick said.
“These days, many women prefer to open the door themselves,” Clark said.