Dinner with the Kents
“Hey, Diana! Have you got a moment?”
Wonder Woman heard Superman coming well before he’d called out. One of the first things she’d learned about him, even before his secret identity, was that the unshakeable exterior was merely a front. He’d rarely let himself be seen worrying, but on the rare occasions where Superman’s mask slipped and the mild mannered Clark Kent peeked through, he’d often forget his own strength. This led to more than a few cracked buildings and broken windows. Or, in the case of, say, the jogging he was doing this moment, the entire foundation of the Hall of Justice bouncing. She turned and walked closer toward him, lest he accidentally cause the whole structure to fall.
“Good morning Clark. Is there trouble?”
The large man puffed a moment, drawing a smile from Wonder Woman. There was no possible way he was winded.
“Yeah I guess you could, uh, say there was an… incident?” Clark seemed at a loss for words. “Someone knows Batman’s, um, identity?”
Wonder Woman’s sword was out in a flash, the Amazonian steel glinting in the sunlight. “Then of course I shall aid you! Surely there is no danger to Batman that our combined might cannot vanquish! Which dastardly villain has obtained this information? We must stop them with all haste!”
Superman’s eyes widened suddenly and he shook his head, horror spreading across his face. “No! No swords! It wasn’t a villain who found out!”
“I do not understand,” Diana replied. “If not a villain then why seek my assistance? Batman can take care of these sorts of issues on his own. Why not simply go and tell him?”
“Uhm. I was kind of the one who... spilled the beans...” Superman seemed to shrink suddenly, something Diana had never seen, nor thought she would ever see, in her long life.
“By Zeus! Batman trusted you to keep his secrets! All the League has! What possessed you to do such a thing?” she nearly roared.
Clark actually fidgeted. It was mildly embarrassing.
“Clark, are you under the effects of some new sort of kryptonite?”
“No! I told… my... parents…” he mumbled.
“Your parents know Batman’s identity?”
Superman nodded meekly, which in turn caused Wonder Woman to burst out laughing.
“Is this one of your World of Men pranks?” she managed to get out between cackles. Superman seemed less than amused.
“Diana this is serious.”
This was met with even more laughter.
Wonder Woman had never felt such mirth before.
“Diana!” He’d put on his Superman voice for that one. Wiping away tears, the warrior princess stood up, trying (in vain) to compose herself.
“Clark, I do not think this is an issue. Your parents know each of our identities. We’ve all met at the farm. They can keep a secret better than anyone. They raised you, after all.”
“Yeah but… this is Bruce we’re talking about. He’s actively planning, right now, how to take each of us down in case any of us suddenly ‘goes bad.’ He knows more types of martial arts than I thought existed. He’s the most paranoid person I know. And to top it all off, I didn’t exactly get his permission to tell.”
“Ahh. How was this information discovered, exactly?”
“Mom wanted to invite him to dinner. When I argued she pulled on my ear.”
Wonder Woman nodded approvingly. “Your mother would have made a good Amazon. As much as I am against untruth, perhaps it’s best if we simply do not tell Batman that they know?”
“They’ve… already sent a care package…”
Wonder Woman sheathed her sword and placed a hand reassuringly on Clark’s shoulder, “Then it is lucky for you that you are nearly invulnerable.”
Bruce's eyes were on a sample under a microscope when Dick came hurtling down into the Batcave one Wednesday afternoon. Being focused on the microscopic did not stop Bruce from noting the details of his ward's typically energetic entrance, of course. Like the fact that Dick had a cookie in each hand and was heading straight for the chemistry workspace.
"Dick," Bruce said without looking up.
"I know, I know. Crumbs and chemicals don't mix," Dick said. Bruce could practically hear the eye-roll in the ten-year-old's tone.
"Not to mention dinner's in an hour," Bruce said, straightening. He rolled his shoulder slightly. It was still a little sore from where he'd been knocked off a building fighting Brainiac with the League a few days ago. Superman had caught him by the wrist and, while preferable to making forceful contact with the pavement, it hadn't done his all-too-human shoulder any favors. "I'll forgive you if one of those is for me."
Bruce turned to find Dick had perched himself on the edge of one of the server banks, his cheeks bulging with what was definitely both cookies. Bruce's eyebrows went up, but before he could guilt the boy with thoughts of Alfred's heart breaking if he spoiled his dinner, Dick swallowed, smiled, and back-flipped off of the console to land right in front of Bruce, producing one intact cookie from nowhere and offering it to him.
Bruce took it with a smile. Dick's sleight-of-hand was improving impressively. Bruce wasn't even sure where he'd hidden the spare cookie, a thought that only gave him a moment's hesitation before he bit into it.
"There's a whole box of them upstairs anyway," Dick said. "Someone sent them. Alfred won't notice a few missing."
Bruce stilled. "Someone… sent them?"
"Yeah, and yes, they already made it past Alfred's screening. Are we training or what?"
"Limber up. I'll be right back," Bruce said. Dick rolled his eyes. Batman was already in Bruce's voice and he was sweeping up the stairs like he was wearing a hundred pounds of Kevlar cape. Dick guessed "right back" would have a flexible definition and cheerfully went about setting up an obstacle course that would only require the most fun moves, since Bruce would never know.
Upstairs, Bruce was confronted with what was, unmistakably, a care package sitting on the kitchen counter. It had been mailed USPS ground rate to Bruce Wayne, at Wayne Manor’s address, and contained a few small jars of homemade preserves, a bag of caramels in wax-paper twists, another bag containing trail mix (with what Bruce suspected was homemade granola and farm-fresh kitchen-dehydrated apples and cherries), and a Rubbermaid container lined with plaid-printed napkins and filled to the top with shortbread cookies. This last had clearly been rifled through by tiny ten-year-old hands. Alfred won't notice, indeed.
Cast aside amidst the shredded-paper filler was a small card. Bruce plucked it up and scanned it.
Heard you took a fall. Hope you're feeling well. Take care of yourself. — The Kents
There was a little heart next to the signature.
He put the card down and pulled out his phone. Then he put the phone down and picked the card back up, holding it between pinched-white fingers as he stalked back down to the Batcave. This call would require the secure line.
Clark’s earpiece chirped suddenly, the tiny sound interrupting his otherwise quiet patrol. A single tap opened the secure com lines the League used. “Superman here, what’s the problem?”
“Clark.” Oh no. The Batman Voice. “Where are you.”
Desperate times called for desperate measures. “Kssshh, sor-ry Bruce. Ksssh.. in sp-ce,” Clark responded. He didn’t really think it would work, but he didn’t have many choices.
“You’re above Metropolis,” came the irritated reply. Superman made a sudden beeline straight into the atmosphere.
“I’m not now!”
“I take it your abrupt departure to low Earth orbit means you know why I’m calling,” Bruce growled. He was standing in front of the Batcomputer, hands braced on the desk, glaring at the tiny marker that showed Superman’s location. “Explain.”
The rush of air caught by the receiver indicated Clark’s descent back to Earth. “Look, Bruce—”
“I really hope you’re somewhere remote while you’re using that name,” Batman shot back.
“I am, calm down, please.” The response was measured, an attempt to deescalate the situation. It didn’t work. If Clark could have seen through the lead-lined walls of the Batcave, he would have seen Bruce’s fist slam into the steel of the desk. As it was, he heard the echo over the coms.
“You have endangered a child , Clark. Do not tell me to calm down.”
Clark’s eyes narrowed, and Bruce, for the first time, heard real anger rise in the Man of Steel’s voice. “Don’t you dare imply that my family is a threat. They’ve kept my secret for as long as I’ve been alive.”
Bruce took a deep breath and willed his emotions under control. They would get nowhere if they were both being defensive, and he needed to make Clark understand. “I know. I know they’re good people. But they aren’t in the life; I don’t think they understand how easy it is to expose information. They sent unsecured mail to my home with their return address on the package for anyone to see.”
Clark was silent for a moment. “You know,” he said, measuring his tone again, making sure he wasn’t going to agitate the Bat. “ Our identities aren’t the only ones they know. I don’t like to keep secrets from them; they have an uncanny ability of finding out anyway. Bruce, they know the entire League.”
“...And they want you to come to dinner.”
“ What? ”
"I shall be retiring shortly. I would not be so forward as to suggest you do the same, but I would remind you that you have been awake for thirty-two hours."
Had he? There had been the board meeting yesterday morning, then interminable other meetings – brunch, lunch, coffee, dinner, cocktails, could no one in the business world accomplish anything without food? – then two muggings, a bank heist, and a would-be supervillain calling herself Miss Conduct attempting to burn down a restaurant that used identical forks for the salad course and the entrée, followed by a night of research into a suspicious plant he'd found growing on several different buildings over the course of the night (which he'd thought might have been a new plot by Poison Ivy but which turned out to be a regular old mint plant; apparently they just occasionally took root in concrete like that, who knew). Then came parent-teacher day at Gotham Academy, followed by another night spent forcibly convincing criminals that they had made bad life choices, and now… this.
Well. Thirty-two hours. That was fine. He was good for at least sixteen more. A few more swift keystrokes brought up a few more windows.
"Ah," said Alfred, eyeing the several monitors illuminated with Bruce's current research. "I take it this means you have accepted the invite."
"Yes. It's an opportunity for damage control."
The screens showed financial records for the Kent farm, personal bank accounts, browser history… Alfred thought he spotted Jonathan Kent's high school yearbook photo in one corner. He opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again. If doing all of this made Bruce feel better, then he might as well. He said his goodnights and left him to it.
When Alfred found Bruce's bed unslept-in the next morning, though, he began to have some concerns. He went down to the cave and sure enough, there was Bruce, still sitting in front of the computer, his hair standing on end from where he'd run his hands through it, the monitors littered with layer upon layer of windows.
"Sir? Shall I bring coffee?" Which was butler code for: If you listened to me you wouldn't be in this state, but here we are, best make do .
"There's nothing, Alfred," Bruce said. " Nothing ."
"I beg your pardon. There seems to be an awful lot of something on those screens."
"It's all… normal. Legal. Above reproach. Suspiciously so, except there's not a single loose thread or even a visible seam anywhere." He sat back forcefully, arms crossed, glaring at the screen. "This is impossible."
"Do you mean to tell me," Alfred asked primly. "That you've been up all night attempting to, ahem, dig up dirt ? On the Kents?"
Bruce swiveled the chair around to look at Alfred. "Of course. What did you think I was doing?"
"I had rather thought that you were attempting to reassure yourself that the kind couple who, after raising Superman , seem to have taken an interest in your own well-being, are trustworthy," Alfred said, realizing now how foolish it had been to hope Batman might trust someone based on something as simple as a reference from Superman. "But it would seem you have discovered that anyway."
"No, I haven't," Bruce said, turning back to the screens. "There has to be something. If not dirt, then some lever. Something they need, and would pay for. Everyone has their price. I need to know what theirs would be if someone decided to try to get information about me out of them. Or information about Dick."
Alfred, who had written an appropriate thank-you to the Kents for the care package and had received in return an invitation to email with Martha re: family recipes, and who was an expert at assessing people through their writing and the contents of their kitchens, and who had formed a very favorable opinion of the Kents, frowned. He frowned so hard that Bruce turned back around.
" What ," Bruce growled.
Alfred had already been standing ramrod straight, as was his habit. Now he stood straighter. "Nothing at all, sir."
"They sent a package, addressed to me, to the house," Bruce said, not a little defensively. "What business does some farm in Smallville have sending mail to Bruce Wayne? They've known less than a week and they're already a security risk."
"As you say, sir. It certainly could not be explained by the fact that Wayne Enterprises funded an animal research hospital near Smallville recently, the only one for miles around that services livestock. It is not as though other grateful farm and stable owners in the area have sent tokens as well, or anything so mundane as that."
"They sent it to the house ."
"Your address is quite publicly known, sir. You should see the mail I filter out on a daily basis."
Bruce sighed and rubbed his hand down his face.
Alfred scented victory and closed in for the kill. "I will go prepare breakfast, and a soothing tea to help you sleep—"
"I don't need—"
"—which you will surely want to do as you are leaving for Kansas tomorrow and will want to be at your best to uncover whatever dastardly machinations the Kents are hiding."
"Oh no, sir. Surely they are master villains, to be able to hide their misdeeds from the world, and to be, to all appearances, completely incorruptible."
"Why they've even fooled Superman for his entire life! Heavens. It's a good thing you're going to meet them in person, or who knows how long their devilry would continue."
"Oh, yes, sir? Did you need something?"
"Never mind about breakfast. I'm going to bed."
"Even so, sir."
Faster than a speeding bullet didn’t begin to describe Superman cleaning up around the farm. The sound barrier did its best to resist being broken, but the poor thing was feeling the strain and, if it had a body, would have requested several glasses of water and a band-aid. Clark flew around, his flannel shirt and blue jeans miraculously not catching fire as he stacked hay bales one second and furiously swept the walk the next. Martha Kent walked out and with a single, motherly grunt was able to stop her son from physically lifting the barn to hide the dirt under it.
“Come have a drink sweetie,” she said as she placed a tray of freshly squeezed lemonade on the patio table. Clark was next to her in an instant, greedily gulping down his glass and refilling it before his mother had a chance to sit down. She placed a hand on her son’s arm before he could go rushing off again, a feat that Clark had never really been able to understand the physics of. Still, he stopped; he always did.
“I haven’t seen you this nervous since you took Lana to prom. Even that nice Princess Diana didn’t have you fretting about like a mother hen.”
“I wasn’t worried that Lana or Diana would make the farm disappear, to be honest. Of everyone in the League, Bruce is the only one that really worries me. Didn’t you see the movie they made about us fighting? Hell, Ma, half the internet has ideas on how he could defeat me one on one if he had to. He probably has all of them written down!”
“Watch your language, son, we raised you better than that,” Martha replied in a no-nonsense tone that Clark had heard few times in his youth but none-the-less dreaded. “And I highly doubt Bruce Wayne will suddenly decide to disappear our farm. It’s not like we’re whacked out criminals in clown make-up or something. He’s a philanthropist. He’s responsible for that lovely animal clinic your father takes the cattle to.”
“Oh no, the cows! The cows smell, Ma!”
“Oh fuff,” Martha barked dismissively. “Your father already took care of the cows earlier. They smell fine.”
“They don’t smell millionaire fine, Ma! I’ll wash them again!”
“Clark, you really don’t—”
“Ma, the cows!”
“Oh fine!” Martha said, throwing her hands up. “If busy work will help you relax then by all means, go be busy. Just don’t scrub Bessy raw again or I’ll find some way to tan your hide.” She pointed at him as threateningly as possible before standing and giving him a hug. “Just make sure you’re clean and presentable before he arrives. I need to go finish dinner anyway. And make sure your father isn’t sneaking bites of dessert!” she yelled playfully into the door. Jonathan poked his head around the kitchen wall and smiled mischievously.
Clark, who was about to leap back to work, suddenly froze, terrified. “Ma… what exactly are we serving?”
“Oh just some home fried chicken and corn casserole. The Family Recipe. You know, the one I don’t share.” She gave him a conspiratorial wink.
“We can’t serve a casserole! Millionaires eat filet mignon and caviar! Not sweet corn and tater tots!”
“Forbes says he’s a billionaire actually.”
Martha whacked Clark with a towel. “Keep speaking ill of my cooking and you won’t be getting any! Now get on with your work and leave me to mine!”
Clark stood there defeated as his mom walked back into the house. He found himself silently wishing that aliens would invade and get him out this mess for the hundredth time that day.
Bruce pulled into the Kent farm precisely on time, the Bugatti gliding to a halt amid a cloud of dust. He waited for it to settle before stepping out of the car.
Clark was already walking toward him, a familiar smile splayed across his features. “Bruce!” he said, extending a hand. “Welcome to the farm.”
Bruce looked down at the hand, then pointedly into Clark’s eyes. The intensity caused Clark to step back; that stare could spoil milk.
Without a word or another glance, Bruce stepped around the larger man. He strode confidently up to the walk, greeting the Kents courteously, if curtly, and disappeared into the house after Martha.
Clark looked to his father, indignant. Jonathan shrugged. “Guess money can’t buy manners,” the older Kent said with a chuckle.
“I guess not,” Clark said, squaring his shoulders and striding toward the steps. His father’s hand was suddenly on his shoulder.
“Listen, son, maybe it’s best if your ma and I take it from here for now.”
“What? Why?” Clark blustered.
“Well, let’s just say we don’t want a battle of titans goin’ in the living room if things were to somehow go bad. Why don’t you go see if you can fix the tractor for me? It’s been acting up since July." He gave Clark’s shoulder a pat and followed Bruce and Martha inside, leaving Clark staring after him, nonplussed.
The moment he was over the threshold, Bruce brushed a deliberate finger over the button at his shirt cuff under the pretext of undoing it to roll up his sleeves slightly. He'd been planning on talking to the Kents alone, of course, but the fact that Jonathan seemed to have had the same idea surprised him. He had assumed they would want their son present and the fact that they didn't told Bruce that the Kents were not afraid of him.
It's because they have no reason to fear , said an inner voice that sounded suspiciously like Alfred. Or they're just that good at playing nice. That one sounded like Batman, but even Bruce would admit that was a bit paranoid. Well, either way, the button activated a localized broadcast at a frequency only Kryptonians could hear. Clark could listen in all he wanted, but all he would get was an aggressively cheerful polka playing on a loop.
"Mr. and Mrs. Kent," Bruce began.
Martha waved a tea towel at him. "Please, Martha and Jonathan." She used the towel to pull a massive casserole dish out of the oven. Jonathan shook his head and gestured at one of the four chairs around the old, scarred table.
"Best sit, Bruce. She won't let you lift a finger."
"The same doesn't go for you, Jonathan Kent," Martha said. "Get that lemonade out of the fridge and find my serving spoons."
"Yes ma'am," Jonathan said with a wry look at Bruce.
Bruce watched them hurry around the kitchen, bringing last-minute additions to the table before finally settling down themselves. It was a strange feeling. Everything about the Kents – from their worn but scrubbed kitchen, to the lingering, mingling smells of apple pie and corn casserole, to their easy conversation, seemed calculated to put him at ease. Then again, Bruce didn't have much experience with parents. Maybe this was just how it was.
"Take what you want, Bruce, I don't know what you like," Martha said, nudging a serving spoon in his direction.
"Mrs— Martha, Jonathan," Bruce said, not quite willing to eat their food if he might have to break the unwritten laws of hospitality later. "We do need to talk." After a sleepless night, Bruce had finally decided to approach this the way he approached his board when they started eyeing tempting weapons contracts: a gentle reminder of who was really in charge followed up with a firm but subtle threat to remind them why he was in charge.
"Straight to business. I told you so, Martha," Jonathan said.
"Hush, dear. Bruce, Clark has told us so much about you – well, not about you , about, you know." She used her fingers to mimic pointy ears on either side of her head. "So we know you must have some concerns. Questions. Feel free to speak your mind, you won't offend us."
"But for the love of God, man, do it while we eat," Jonathan said, grabbing a roll out of the basket.
His board had never been this straightforward. Bruce recalculated.
And then he said exactly what he was thinking.
“Go see if you can fix the tractor,” Clark said, not entirely mockingly, under his breath. He hadn’t felt this frustrated with his parents since he was a teenager. Bruce Wayne had marched right into his childhood home without even a hello and Pa decided that was completely fine! And, to top it off, Pa gave him busy work? Clark didn’t like it, but he knew better than to argue with his parents when they set their mind to something. He grumbled his way to the barn where he lifted the old green tractor up with one hand while the other grabbed a wrench. He’d be the dutiful son, just like he knew he was supposed to.
But that didn’t mean the Man of Steel was going to just let them talk about him behind his back all they wanted.
Clark focused, peeling away the constant cacophony of sounds that he listened to every day. It had taken a lot of practice, but he’d eventually learned to just tune out specific things as necessary.
Conversations about dinner half the world away.
He paused, as always, at the ‘Cries for help’ section on his mental checklist, just to be sure. Satisfied, he moved on.
Finally, he had it. There were the heartbeats of his parents: Strong and familiar and comforting. Next to them, Bruce’s own heart beat its slow, stoic rhythm. If anything ever got to that man, he’d never been able to tell. He let his brain pull back out a bit, waiting for their conversation to start…
And when he was greeted by the loud and rip-roaring chorus of the Central City Yodelmeisters (National Oompah Band Champions three years running) he nearly flew through the roof in surprise. As quickly as he could, he blocked the offending accordion players and scowled back at the house.
Of course Bruce had thought of that. But polka ? Couldn’t he have picked something more pleasant? This was like being stuck on late night monitor duty with the Flash all over again. Clark was suddenly very aware that he’d clenched his hands into fists when the music had started. The wrench he was holding had become a useless hunk of metal in his grip.
Then realization hit him.
And he really didn’t want to look up at the tractor now...
Martha and Jonathan listened politely, even sympathetically to Bruce’s concerns. They talked about how they had, in fact, taken care to send the care package in such a way that it might be construed as a thank-you for funding the animal hospital; in fact, they had coordinated with several of their neighbors in sending appreciation cards and letters all together so that it would look even less suspicious. Bruce was impressed (and was going to have to see about what happened to those other pieces of mail when he got home, though he suspected Dick's cookie-radar was responsible for the Kents' getting priority).
All in all, the Kents were not some bumbling farm couple who kept Clark's identity safe sheerly through virtue of their insignificance. That made Bruce feel a little better, but not completely. For one thing, this farm was probably the least secure place he'd ever set foot in. How could Clark stand to leave his parents out in the open like this? If anyone ever figured out who Clark Kent really was, his parents would be an easy target. And then all sorts of other secrets might come out. The thought that Dick's safety hinged on a pair of fake glasses made Bruce want to hit things.
He pushed his food around his plate, mind whirling through contingency plans even as his mouth continued to make more polite conversation.
"…Diana's coming by next week for the Blueberry Festival, and of course you're welcome to join us," Jonathan was saying.
"Oh, please do, Bruce," Martha put in. "If you have time, that is. And we'll tell you the same thing we told the others: you can drop by any time. We're just glad we finally got to meet you. We do worry about Clark, you know."
"He's pretty much invulnerable, Martha," Bruce said wryly. Martha waved a hand, batting away Clark's invincibility as though it was nothing of consequence. "Not that. I mean we worry about him making friends."
Bruce's eyebrows went up. "Clark? You worry about Superman making friends?"
"We know he's got the League and all," Jonathan said. "And of course the whole world loves him – at the moment – but we didn't always know he was going to be Superman, you know."
"The League are all wonderful," Martha continued. "But you and Diana, you're real friends. We worried when we adopted him that he'd never have that because of his… unique situation."
"I know that feeling," Bruce said without even thinking about it. They both nodded like they knew , and of course they did. It was only because of that that Bruce elaborated. "Dick's training, his… extracurricular activities. After what happened to his parents, he needed it. Still does. But I don't think I did him any favors in the friends department."
"It'll come," said Jonathan with such complete confidence that Bruce almost believed him. "He'll find his people. Clark did. Though for a while there…" he trailed off and chuckled. "Martha, you remember those motorhead fellas he was hanging out with when he was young?"
"How could I forget?" She turned to Bruce. "Clark was quite taken with drag racing for a bit in his high school days. He tried to soup up the old Ford. Oh, it did not end well."
The next thing Bruce knew, he was laughing with the Kents and his plate was quite clean. At some point Martha had pulled out an album, looking for a specific picture to illustrate a specific story and now they were gleefully flipping through the whole thing and stocking Bruce's petty vengeance arsenal for years to come. But finally, Bruce stood and made his excuses.
"I really do need to go. And anyway, we've probably let Clark suffer for long enough. Do me a favor?" he asked.
"What is it?" Jonathan returned, and Bruce nodded approvingly that he hadn't simply agreed. Clark would have.
"Don't tell him what we talked about," Bruce said, letting a slow smile pull at his mouth. "Let him wonder."
"You're so bad!" Martha said, eyes twinkling as she swatted at him.
"Well I'd say he deserves it, keeping you from us for so long." Jonathan put out his hand for Bruce to shake, which he did gladly. "Your secret's safe with us."
"I believe that," Bruce said. Martha opened the door for him and he flicked the button on his sleeve again, eliminating the Kryptonian broadcast as he stepped onto the porch. The sky was just greying into early twilight and the air smelled like there wasn't a city around for miles. Clark was coming up the drive, looking slightly haggard. Bruce rolled his sleeves down and strode off the porch, giving Clark a small smile and extending the offer of a handshake as he approached. Clark, bewildered, took it, shaking Bruce’s hand and searching his face for clues as to what he’d missed. As usual, Bruce gave nothing away. He slid into his car and sped off without a word.
"You know," Martha said as Clark turned slightly wild eyes on them. "Doesn't that nice Barry have a nephew about Dick's age?"
"You know he does, Martha. Let me guess. We're going to be having a picnic soon and the kids are all invited."
"What a wonderful idea, dear."
Clark stood stunned, still staring at his hand. He wracked his brain, going back through all of the various fights he’d had alongside the League, and all the joyous moments afterwards and in between. He couldn’t think of a single time he’d seen Batman smile. And yet... as Bruce walked cheerfully to some souped up Italian ride that would likely not be on the market for another three years, he was grinning. It was small, but it was genuine and it lingered well past the time he’d pulled out of the driveway and sped off down the road.
“What do you think, Clark?” Martha asked, though to Superman she may as well have been on another planet. He didn’t hear her, even with his abilities.
“A picnic, honey. For all the little ones that hang around the League.”
“Sure mom... uh, sounds great,” Clark replied, running a hand through his hair. “What, um, what’d you guys talk about?”
“Oh nothing you need to worry about, son,” Jonathan said with a smile as he clapped his boy on the back. “Just what you’d expect Batman and a couple of villainous ne’er-do-wells to talk about.” He and Martha both put their hands up in claws mockingly before breaking down into chuckles.
“You’re not going to tell me are you?” Clark said, suddenly feeling very tired.
“It’s not for you to worry about,” Martha stated matter-of-factly. “Now come inside and fix yourself a plate before it gets cold,” she said as she shuffled her way back in the house.
Jonathan wrapped his arm around his son’s shoulders. “I could use some seconds myself! C’mon Clark, you’ve earned a good meal.”
Clark stiffened under his father’s arm. “Oh my gosh, Pa! The tractor!”
The older man waved him off. “There’s nothing wrong with it. I just wanted you to stop fretting so much. If you didn’t find anything it’s because there was nothing to find.”
“Uh… Pa, about that…”
The rest of autumn was, arguably, less problematic for Clark. Sure, the Starro invasion had been a bit of an issue. And the tussle with Mongul had been difficult, to say the least. At least he could punch those issues away, though. But that dinner nagged at the back of his mind every once in awhile.
He kept expecting Bruce to act differently, and to thereby be able to pick up some clue as to what had passed between Bruce and his parents. But… he didn’t. Bruce acted exactly the same as he always had, almost mathematically so, submitting himself grudgingly to team-ups when necessary and executing missions with his usual brooding efficiency. It was like the dinner had never happened. And since his parents still hadn’t told him what they’d talked about, Clark’s frustration grew. He kept expecting the other shoe to drop.
Which it did, on Thanksgiving morning.
The usual bustle of the holiday was interrupted by the doorbell ringing.
“Strange,” said Jonathan, peering out the window. “It’s UPS. Didn’t think they’d be delivering today.” He opened the door gingerly to a young woman in the familiar brown uniform, struggling with a package as large as her torso.
“Afternoon Mr. Kent,” the courier grunted. “Special delivery.”
“What in blazes is that thing?”
“Can’t say for sure, no return address. But it’s heavy as all get out. Do ya mind?”
Clark strode forward and took the package out of her hands with a theatrical grunt. “Thanks Beth, sorry you had to work on a holiday.”
“No problem, Clark. It’s just the one delivery, and some British guy paid me a pretty penny to do it. Said it had to get here early. Happy Thanksgiving!” she said with a smile as she left.
“How curious,” Martha stated. “Be a dear, son, and see what’s inside.”
Clark was already x-raying before she’d asked. “You guys aren’t going to believe this,” he said as he started to tear into the packaging. “It’s a turkey.”
“Never seen a turkey nearly that big before. Nearly gave Beth back problems.”
There was a small note tied to the leg with a bit of twine. Clark plucked it off carefully and read it aloud. “Thanks, —B.” It was from Bruce. Bruce had sent them a thank you turkey.
Bruce never said thank you...
“There’s a novel on the back of that thing, give it here, boy,” Martha scolded, snatching the note away from her distracted son. “Oh! Mr. Wayne and Mr. Pennyworth send their regards. How thoughtful!”
Jonathan laughed. “That friend of yours is something else, Clark.”
Clark gave his dad a small smile. A thank-you turkey was a pretty clear message about where he and Bruce stood, and he was more relieved than he had expected. “Yeah, Pa. He really is.”
Martha was already writing out a reply to Alfred when she suddenly stopped. “John, dear, don’t you think it’s about time we had a young one at Christmas again?”
“Ma, c’mon…” Clark started, fearing she’d be bringing up grandkids... again.
“Not you, sweetie. I think that Mr. Wayne and Mr. Pennyworth ought to bring that nice Grayson boy with them for Christmas dinner.”