Standing in his kitchen pouring hot water into his French press that had an inch and half layer of coffee sitting on the bottom, Clark allowed the smell of the French roast to overwhelm his senses, as it sat in the steaming hot water. He stood there breathing in the familiar and comforting smell, while attempting to focus his hearing on something other than the whir of police sirens, the call for help from a woman, and many other noises of distress that he would usually react to before going to work in the morning. He needed to be Clark Kent right now and not Superman. It was time for him to truly figure out why he was Superman.
Taking a deep breath, he walked over to the refrigerator and took breakfast sandwiches out of the freezer and popped two into microwave then set the timer for 90 seconds. There was a knock on his door. From the heartbeat of the person behind the door, he knew who it was.
"Come in, Kara," he called out, "the door is open."
Kara Kent came into the apartment dressed in jeans, an old school Star Wars tee shirt that fit her a little too tightly in her cousin's opinion, and pea coat. Taking off the pea coat, she tossed it onto the sofa and walked towards the kitchen but instead of entering she stood at the open bar-like area that separated the kitchen and the living room.
"I'll have a coffee, Clark. I need the caffeine. It was a tough night last night," she mumbled. "What are you eating?"
"I have a couple of breakfast sandwiches in the microwave for me."
"I'll take them, too. You can make yourself new ones," she said.
"You're in a bratty mood," he said, as he served her a mug of coffee with half n' half and three sugars, just like he liked it, too. Maybe Kryptonians had a sweet tooth, he thought.
"Well, I had to hear from others that my cousin is taking a sabbatical and I'll have to take up the slack in Metropolis. You know that I'm in college, right?" she said.
"And getting straight A's, too," he smiled.
"Of course, I'm getting straight A's. I'm a Kryptonian, the daughter of Jor-El. Kryptonian grammar school was harder than this. I bet you got straight A's your whole life, even though you were raised on this planet," she bitched.
"No, I got the occasional B and C just to make sure that I didn't stand out too much," he smiled.
Kara rolled her eyes at this bit of information. In her opinion her cousin had worked too hard to fit in on this planet.
"That must have been difficult since you have the El eidetic memory and genius level intelligence," she pointed out to him.
"I didn't discover the Kryptonian ship until I was nineteen and it was then that Jor-El's intellectual essence downloaded all the Kryptonian knowledge I have into my cerebral cortex. Anyways, my dad, Jonathan Kent, would remind me of the importance of not standing out too much and I tended to do what he said. I never really was that rebellious, especially since he was right most of the time," he said.
Kara giggled at his admitting to never being a rebel. The microwave dinged and Clark took the two sandwiches out for Kara and put two new ones in for him. He gave her the sandwiches.
"I would have loved to have seen it when you went from earth smart to Kryptonian smart," she grinned. "Earth science must have seemed like kid's play."
"I suddenly knew how to fix a Kryptonian hyper drive and build a solar car engine from scratch at the same time," he chuckled.
She took a sip of coffee then a bite from one of her sandwiches.
"Why are you taking time off, Clark?" she asked with a full mouth of food.
"You know why, Kara," he answered quietly. "What happened with Doomsday was a travesty."
"Clark, you never grew up with stories about Doomsday. He was the equivalent of every horror story an earth child is told and he was real. Doomsday when he came to this planet he intended to kill everyone on it. It was what he was genetically designed to do. He was a killing machine, a doomsday weapon. All you could do was to contain the devastation and try to defeat him, which you did," she explained. "You should be proud of yourself."
"I could have done more than what I did. Too many died," he said.
"Clark, you may have god-like powers but you aren't Rao," she said.
He stared at his cousin for a moment and thought about what she said. She was right he wasn't God, but he was strong enough and smart enough to have found a better way to protect the people, otherwise why have the powers that he had. The microwave dinged letting him know that his sandwiches were ready. He turned and retrieved them.
"So, what are you going to do with your time off?" she asked.
"Turn the blog into a success, Cat deserves that, and live life like a normal man for several months, while I decide what role I want Superman to play in this world and in my life," he told her.
"Oh, is that all you're going to do?" she said with a laugh.
"Yes, that's all," he smiled.
"You know that I'm going to bug you a lot while you are taking time off," she threatened him. "I'm even going to bug you at the Fortress."
"You have your own Fortress," Clark teased her.
"Which you never come to, even though I've invited you hundreds of times," she said.
"Because you have yours in the Yucatan in an underwater cave," he said. "I find that far too public for my taste."
"But no one will ever be able to enter it, even if they find it," she countered. "Plus I move too fast to be seen when I visit my fortress."
"I'd rather not have someone find my Fortress," he told her.
Kara finished her coffee and first sandwich then held her mug up to Clark for more coffee.
"More please," she smiled sweetly.
"You really are a brat, aren't you?" he said.
"But you love me because I'm your cousin," she smiled.
Clark laughed and took her mug then poured her another cup of coffee.
Diana was dressed in a charcoal grey skirt with Italian black leather high heels and white silk blouse with Themysciran pearls around her neck. It was her ambassadorial armor. Seated behind a mahogany desk, she reviewed her schedule for the next few days, including her roster time with the Justice League, while trying not to think of Kal. Her intercom buzzed.
"Yes, Delia," she pressed the talk button.
"Colonel Trevor is here for lunch, ma'am," she told Diana.
"Tell Ferdinand to get lunch ready and then show Steve to my private dining room. Tell him I'll be there in a few minutes," she said.
"Yes, ma'am," said Delia.
Steve was escorted into the private dining room, which was decorated with Themysciran vases and statues. He sat, picked up the Waterford crystal water pitcher, and poured himself some water into a crystal glass.
"Pour me some water, Steve," said Diana.
He poured some water into another crystal glass, while Diana sat at the head of the table. She took the linen napkin and placed it in her lap then she took a sip of cool water.
"It's been three weeks since we've seen each other, Diana. Too long if you ask me," he said. "I've missed you."
"I've been busy both as Wonder Woman and an ambassador, Steve," she said.
"You weren't part of the catastrophe that happened in Metropolis, at least, right?" he inquired.
"No, I was home during that. I arrived late for it," she said.
"Thank God, you could have been hurt. The creature almost killed Superman. The damned thing had us at ARGUS concerned," he stated.
Her nostril's flared at his statement. He knew her warrior ethos meant that she would have wanted to be there for the battle. Amazon didn't like to miss a good fight.
"I should have been there. As a warrior I could have helped, maybe ended things sooner saving lives," she said.
"What was that thing?" he asked knowing to change the topic. He had known Diana long enough to know when he was pushing her buttons and it was best not to push her buttons.
"Its name was Doomsday and he was a Doomsday weapon genetically engineered by some alien race to kill and leave nothing living in his wake. Kal said he had been subdued after doing great damage on Kryptonian, but was unfortunately released from the same prison as Zod had been released. If it wasn't stopped it would have killed every living being on the planet before finding a way to find another planet to destroy," she explained.
"Good thing Superman stopped him," he said. "How is he doing?"
Steve knew it was best to prod gently with Diana when looking for information about Superman. They were close friends, too close in his opinion.
"Upset. He is taking time away from his duties. The death of all those innocent people weigh on him," she sighed. "Superman won't be seen for now. He'll be taking some time off."
"Really, you'll miss him," said Steve. He needed to tell Amanda Waller that Superman would be on the bench for the time being and it was his own call. She find that interesting.
"I trust him," she said defensively. "He is a good partner to have in a fight."
"Di, I'm not trying to start a fight. I know you trust him and I know the importance of trusting the person who has your back in a battle," said Steve. "Why don't we see a movie tonight?"
Diana sighed. She had no interest in a movie. Actually, she had no interest in being with Steve tonight, either. What she wanted was in Metropolis and that was to talk to Kal.
"You pick the movie, Steve," she said.
Clark arrived five minutes late, which was part of the character he had developed for Clark Kent. Clark was never on time: he was either early or he was late. He sat down at the table where Cat already sat enjoying fresh bread, which she dipped in a dish of olive oil.
"I'm going to pay for all these carbs I'm eating today," she said with a grin.
"Indulge yourself, Cat. Remember this is an apology meal, so don't worry about the calories," he said.
"Good to see you, Clark. I thought you were dead for a minute there," she said.
"Me, too," he smiled. "Thank God I have a hard head."
"Are you feeling better?" she asked with great concern.
He always feared that Cat quit the Daily Planet and started the blog with him because she had feelings towards him that were more than friendship. While Lois had a crush on Superman from the first day he appeared, Cat always preferred Clark Kent. Clark reached across the table and gently patted her hand. A moment of tenderness was ended as the waiter came over.
"May I tell you what our specials are today?" he asked.
"Cat, do you want to hear them? I know what I want," Clark told her.
"I want the linguine in clam sauce," she said.
"I'll have the lasagna and can we also get a bottle of Chianti," he ordered.
"Very good, sir," said the waiter.
The waiter left them alone. Clark decided to give her the good news about Zatanna.
"I have an exclusive for our blog. Zatanna is doing a charity performance for Metropolis Lost Citizens Charity. Well, I have an exclusive interview with her," he announced.
Cat smiled but the smile didn't reach her eyes. She didn't like the idea of Clark interviewing the sexy Zatanna.
"How did you get this exclusive, Clark?" she asked.
"I've met her once when I worked at the Planet and she remembered me and decided to give me the exclusive," he lied.
"Since you are doing an entertainment piece, I guess I should do a hard news piece," she teased then she offered him a flirtatious smile.
"Are you upset that I'm interviewing her?" Clark asked with concern.
"Clark, I'm thrilled that we have an exclusive. It'll bring more eyes to our blog. This is exactly what we need," she said. "I'm just being a bit catty. My name is Cat."
"Let's make sure that the next exclusive is all yours," Clark smiled.
The Metro Hotel
Good to her word Zatanna called Clark and told him to meet at her hotel room at seven. It was going on seven in the evening when Clark arrived at Zatanna's hotel door. From behind the door he could hear the Dum Dum Girls singing Rimbaud's Eyes. But then again he could hear two doors down the couple were listening to Blurred Lines and all the way down the hall listening to the man was listening to Sinatra sing Drinking Again. Of course, in the office building across the street someone was listening to Aloe Bacc singing Busking. Then again, he could hear gunfire coming from the Suicide Slums, an alarm going off in the Jewelry District, a drunk yelling for another drink outside of a bar, and too many other noises and distractions. Clark knocked on the door.
Zatanna opened the door in a white silk robe. She took one look at Clark and a big grin crack her full lips.
"And they call me an illusionist," she said. "Come on in, Clark."
Clark entered the hotel room. He walked to the middle of the living room area and turned to see her staring at him.
"I always thought Bruce was pulling my leg when he told me about your disguise. Let's see, baggy chinos, a white baggy oxford shirt un-tucked, leather bomber jacket, and messenger bag slung across the shoulder is your uniform. Next, your slumped shoulders taking two inches off your height so that you six foot one instead of six foot three or four, unruly black hair, and those glasses, which somehow slightly change the color of your eyes. Gone is Superman and in his place is Clark Kent," she laughed.
"You approve?" he asked.
"I bow to someone of skill," she said then she bowed making sure to show off one of her shapely legs.
Clark felt some heat come to his cheeks. He hoped that he wasn't blushing. Zatanna offered him a smile. He enjoyed making one of the most powerful beings on earth, if not the most powerful, slightly uncomfortable. It didn't hurt that even in his Clark Kent guise; he was handsome, if not sexy in a sort of intellectual nerdy chic way.
"I need to get dressed. I thought we could order room service, you can interview me, and then we can relax afterwards," she said.
Zatanna didn't wait for Clark's answer but she walked past him and into the bedroom. Clark took off his bag then his leather jacket. He dropped them beside the sofa and then sat down to wait for Zatanna.
She didn't take long exiting the bedroom with her hair pulled back wearing black jeans, a black tank top, which showed some black lace bra underneath, and no shoes. With her legs curled up underneath her, she sat down on the opposite end of the sofa from Clark and then she grabbed the telephone from the table beside the sofa.
"I was thinking cheeseburgers and curly fries for dinner with cold beers," she said.
"Sounds good to me," he said.
She smiled, "I hope you are this agreeable all night."
Dinner and the interview went well. In between bites of their burgers, Clark asked questions and Zatanna answered them. Clark was able to focus on their interview ignore hearing Kara dealing with a situation involving Solomon Grundy in the Business District. The Justice League would back her up, even if it was his cousin. She should be able to handle Grundy, though. God knows, he thought, Diana could handle Grundy, if Kara couldn't.
As they finished up the interview, Zatanna asked Clark if he'd like to join her for coffee on the sofa. Kara had defeated Grundy and she was cleaning up her mess, while Simon Baz took Grundy away. He smiled and agreed to coffee. Zatanna ordered coffee from room service than she sat down on the sofa. He joined her.
"Do you mind if I ask you some questions now, Clark?" she asked.
"Sure, ask away," he said.
"Why are you taking time off? I know the reason that is given. Everyone in the Watchtower was told about you needing time after fighting that Doomsday creature, but I'm asking you for the real reason," she said.
Clark moved uncomfortable on the sofa. He thought about telling her that the question was too personal, but decided to answer her instead. At another time under different conditions, he would have talked to Diana about his real reason, but Diana seemed disappointed in him and he was tired of living up to her standard at the moment.
"Do you know what it is like to be different?" he asked.
"Yes, I do. I'm a homo magi, Clark. I was born different. I always have been different. There aren't too many of us homo magi," she said.
"I'm Kryptonian. There are two of us and Connor, who is a clone of me with human DNA mixed in. I go through life looking normal. But I'm not. If I kissed you and I didn't pay attention to how much pressure I used or got lost in the kiss and let my control slip a little, I could hurt you, if not kill you," he said. "Every day for me is living life as a bull in a proverbial china ship, except I'm a self-aware bull with incredible control that I can't afford to lose because the china is living and I can't afford to break it."
"It sounds exhausting to live your life that way," she said.
"It can be," he said then he went silent for a moment. "When I fought Doomsday, I let lose. I didn't hold back and it felt freeing. Zee, it felt great for a moment. I could have ripped this planet apart, but instead I hit Doomsday so hard that I lifted him off the ground and sent him speeding into a fifty floor building which collapsed from the force of my punch and the damaged Doomsday did. I'm afraid to lose control again. Being Superman at times puts me in the position to lose some control. I'm afraid to be him right now. I'm afraid of losing control again and innocent people dying, Zee."
Zatanna could see the anguish and sadness in his eyes. She was moved by what he said, but she was also excited at how he called her Zee.
"Can I give you a gift, Clark?" she asked.
"A gift?" he asked.
"Yes, a gift. Just say yes to it and don't think too much," she told him.
"Okay, yes," he replied.
Zatanna formed a small ball of light the size of a softball in her hand and sent it so that it floated above them. She then spoke, "Nus der a fo rewop eht."
The small white ball of light turned red and Clark could feel his body weaken under its influence. Before he could say a word, she moved close to him and kissed him passionately and hard on the lips. At first, he was afraid to react then he gave into the kiss and reciprocated with passion and strength. And he didn't hurt her. The kiss turned from one kiss to another and another. Clark found himself with Zatanna in his lap holding her without restraint and without hurting her. It was intoxicating.
He was still Kryptonian, which made him stronger than a human, but she was far from a normal human. She was homo magi, which was tougher than a homo sapiens. With her right hand behind his neck and her left hand on his face, his hands roamed her body enjoying the journey of discovery without fear of hurting her. Another kiss, this time their tongues warred for dominance and then it stopped as they came up for air and Zatanna rested her forehead against his forehead. Both of them were out of breath and breathing heavily.
"Why did you do that?" he asked her.
"Because I wanted to and because I like you, Clark Kent," she said.
"Not Superman?" he asked.
"I admire Superman. He's pretty awesome and kind of intimidating, not the same way as Bruce, but in an aloof, powerful, and above everyone he is. But Clark Kent, I really like," she said.
"Thank you for the gift," he said. "We should slow down here."
"I understand and agree, but can I share something with you, Clark?" she asked.
"Sure," he said.
Zatanna moved slightly in his lap then broke out in a beautiful smile. Clark finally realized that he was fully aroused and blushed.
"I'm afraid of getting out of your lap at the moment, Clark," she said with a sly smile.
"Good I'm embarrassed," he said.
She chuckled and whispered in his ear, "Trust me, you have no reason to be embarrassed, Superman."
Clark' blush deepened but then he laughed.