Admittedly, they rented in what some would call an up and coming neighborhood of Hell's Gate, which meant that it was far from chic and upscale. With the money Clark made from leasing the farm, they rented this office space, which was once upon time a fairly large two bedroom apartment. They occupied the first floor, while on the second floor an artist had his studio and lived on the third floor. The exclusive interview brought a lot of much needed eyes to their site. Cat was able to get a few new advertisers because of the interviewer, as well as the uptick in traffic, earned them some respect and money for a change. Now they had some success they had to keep it up.
Clark sat in in his office, which was nothing more than the smaller of the two bedrooms converted into an office. He was working on a story about slums lords and their use of cheap contracting, which was endangering families in the city. Also, he had an article on where the charity money Zatanna would be raising would go and the after effect of having Doomsday and Superman devastate part of the city on the attitude of regular citizens. The latter article was causing him the most trouble to write, especially since a high percentage of those he talked to blamed Superman equally, if not more, to Doomsday. Cat parlayed the Zatanna interview into another exclusive interview with a visiting famous actress.
Clark's phone rang. He answered.
"Clark Kent," he said.
"Do you own a tuxedo for the Charity performance tonight and gala afterwards?" Zatanna asked him.
"No, but I do own a nice black suit," he said trying to suppress a smile at hearing her voice.
It had been three days, days in which she rehearsed her act. Zatanna never used real magic in her act, at least, that was what she said. On stage she was a master of sleight of hand, misdirection, and good old fashion stage magic.
"There will be celebrities tonight, so you may want to bring Cat Grant and tell her to bring a date, too. I'll leave tickets at the ticket booth for them. It will help your blog," she said.
"Who will be there?" he asked.
"Bruce as Bruce not Batman, Princess Diana, Madame Xanadu if she remembers, Constantine, the mayor, the governor, Lex Luthor, and many, many more," she said.
"Luthor," Clark growled.
"You have a history with the mad billionaire, don't you?" asked Zatanna.
"When I first appeared on the scene as Superman, I was captured by the DOD. It was my mistake. I trusted too easily back then, and they didn't trust an alien performing good acts in the Metropolis. The DOD hired Luthor to torture me in order to see what I was made of," he told him. "He tried his damnedest to cut me open but was never able to draw blood. He's gotten more creative since then."
"God, Clark, did the bastard hurt you badly?" she asked.
"I hadn't come fully into my powers yet, so he hurt me, but he also underestimated me and I broke out of the facility they kept me in for four days using some sort of sedative gas. Once my body grew immune to the gas I made sure to scare Luthor before I left and he's been devising ways to kill Superman ever since," he explained.
"Well, at least, he doesn't find you attractive and want to take you out on a date," she sighed. "I'd rather be tortured than date him."
"You're my date tonight, right?" he asked hesitantly.
"Yes, Clark, I'm your date tonight, so you look as good as you can allow yourself and show up in my dressing room after the show, so I can hang on your arm and avoid those I want to avoid. It's your duty as my date and payment for the interview," she said.
"I'll be there, Zatanna," he replied. "I look forward to it."
"Good," she said then she hung up.
Clark stood up and walked over to his office door and opened it.
"Cat," he yelled in an excited voice.
It took a moment for her to get to her office door, another converted bedroom, and open the door. She looked at him with a mix anxiety and curiosity.
"Get a date for tonight," he said. "You are invited to the charity performance tonight. Zatanna will leave tickets for you at the ticket booth. You can cover the performance and the after performance gala at the Metro Museum where more money will be raised."
"Clark, I'm starting to think we might make it," Cat said with a smile on her face.
"I'm starting to think so, too," he replied. It hadn't been a bad week as Clark Kent so far.
The Grande Theatre
Steve wore his dress mess uniform, while Diana wore a black dress in Grecian style with her tiara and her ever present bracelets as her only jewelry. They arrived in her ambassadorial limousine. Pulling up in front of the Grande Theatre, Diana saw the red carpet was surrounded by a mix of paparazzi and people wanting to catch a glimpse of celebrities. On the red carpet were six entertainment correspondents with cameramen to interview the incoming celebrities.
"I hate these dog and pony shows," said Diana then scrunched up her face in annoyance. "They make me feel like a commodity instead of human being."
"It's all part the role you play as a famous woman and hero who is part of the Justice League. People want to see you and read about you. On a good note there are a great many young girls out there who want to emulate you," said Steve.
"You are right, Steve; I should remain positive," she said.
Diana thought for a moment that she saw Kal enter the theatre without harassment. On the carpet right now was Bruce in an Armani tuxedo with a black tie instead of a black bow tie. He had a beautiful woman on his arm, who must have been a model. The limo stopped and the door was opened by someone paid by the theatre to do nothing but open limo doors all night.
Diana stepped out, while Steve exited from the other side and made his way around the limo. Besides being statuesque, Diana was easily the most beautiful woman there with black hair and sapphire eyes, striking cheekbones, and full lips. She was an aloof goddess and Colonel Trevor was the toy soldier at her side. As he was being interviewed Bruce noticed her and allowed himself a slight grin.
"Mr. Wayne, do you believe that Zatanna can perform real magic?" asked the correspondent.
"Hey, the way she looks, I'd believe anything," he smiled then he headed into the theatre.
Inside the theatre Clark had a seat on the side sixth row in the orchestra. The first five rows in the orchestra were filled with first responders and their spouses or significant others. They had worked hard that day putting their lives on the line to save people. He stared at them and the guilt he felt from that day made him sink deeper into his seat tying to melt into it and disappear.
"Hey, CK," he heard a familiar voice.
He turned his head to see Jimmy Olsen and Cat coming down the side aisle. Jimmy looked out of place in a tux with Cat on his arm.
"Jimmy, this is a surprise."
"Yeah, Cat invited me," he said.
Cat took the seat beside Clark and Jimmy took the seat beside her. She leaned in and whispered into ear, "I thought he could take some pictures for our site. He already has taken a few great shots for us."
"Great idea, Cat," he said then grinned.
He knew Jimmy didn't mind being used by Cat, especially if he got to spend the evening with her on his arm showing her off. Clark noticed that Bruce just took the aisle seat at the front of his row with his date sitting to his left. Bruce looked down the row and saw Clark and lifted an eyebrow. Clark adjusted his glasses and pretended he didn't see him. Next, he saw Diana and Steve Trevor coming down the main aisle. They had seat in the center. Clark couldn't help but stare at Diana. She was heartbreakingly beautiful as always.
The fact that they weren't on the best terms at the moment didn't lessen the fact that he cared greatly for her and thought of her as one of his best friends. He then noticed Dick Grayson escorting the red haired Barbara Gordon. Like Bruce, he observed that Dick was noticing everyone without looking like he was checking everyone out. Dick noticed Clark. The twenty-one year noticed the twenty-six year old. Clark had known Dick since he was seventeen and had been Robin for a year. Now he was Nightwing and almost completely independent of Bruce. Dick smiled and nodded slightly then he whispered under his breath knowing that Clark would be able to hear, "See you at the museum."
The audience slowly filled in. Clark sat quietly, mainly giving his attention to the first responders. Part of wanted to go up and each and every one of them and apologize for failing them. Clark knew some police and fire department died in a building collapse trying to rescue people. He should have thrown Doomsday into the sun instead of having them put him in the Phantom Zone.
The lights dimmed until they were finally in the dark. The curtain opened to a brightly lit stage. Music began to play and a puff of white smoke came out of nowhere. When the smoke cleared Zatanna, wearing the most sexy traditional magician costume that Clark had ever seen, was levitating crossed legged above the stage. From top hat to fishnet stockings, she was a mesmerizing presence on the stage. Almost forgetting about his guilt and his hatred of magic, Clark sat back and watched.
For the next ninety minutes, the audience was in the hands of a master performer. They laughed when she wanted them to laugh and were awed when it was called upon. Her magic act was so good that Clark was sure that she must be using real magic. At the end of her performance, the audience stood and applauded. She turned and looked in the direction of Clark and then whispered, "Come back to my dressing room now, Clark."
He turned and leaned over and spoke to Cat.
"I have to go backstage. I'll see you at the museum," he told her.
"Okay," she said sounding disappointed.
Clark slipped away and headed off to the backstage area. Jimmy watched him go.
"Where's CK going?" he asked.
"He has a date with the star of the show," she said.
"Way to go, CK."
Clark arrived at her backstage dressing room just as she arrived. Before he could congratulate her, she jumped up into his arms and kissed him. It was both unexpected and not unwanted. Slowly, but deliberately, she left his arms. Clark touched his lips. He had felt that kiss and she didn't even do the red sun trick.
"I completely felt that kiss," he said. "How?"
She stood on her tiptoes and whispered in his ear, "I enchanted my lipstick so that you'd be able to feel it. I thought you feel magical weapons, so you'll feel magical lipstick."
"Thank you. I definitely felt it," he said softly.
She moved back and looked up into his eyes and smiled. He looked into her violet eyes and returned the smile.
"Come on into the dressing room. I have to change for the museum," she said.
"I should wait out here," he said apprehensively.
"No, you should come in," she insisted. "Remember being my date means that you are also my body guard for the night."
She entered the dressing room and first tossed her top hat onto a coat rack then took off her tuxedo jacket. Clark hadn't really realized before just what a lithe and enticing figure she had until now. She stepped behind a screen and started to undress. Clark just stood there not knowing what to do with himself.
"Did you like the show?" she asked.
"It was amazing. It actually made me like magic just a little," he said.
"Oh, we'll have to do better than just like magic a little," she replied from behind the screen.
There was a knock on the door and Zatanna came out from behind the screen dressed in a white silk robe.
"That was a fast," Clark remarked.
"When you are a performer you learn to undress and dress quickly," she said then headed to the door and opened it.
Bruce was standing there with his date. He had a dozen yellow roses in his arms which he handed to her.
"Wonderful performance, Zatanna," he said with his most charming smile on his lips.
"Come on in," she said.
As Bruce entered with his date, Clark looked at him and Bruce looked at him and his smile turned to an expression of deep, grim curiosity.
"Bruce, this is my date Clark Kent. Clark, this is Bruce Wayne and his date," said Zatanna, who headed back behind the screen. The little introduction was for the sake of the date, as everyone there already knew each other.
"Mr. Kent," said Bruce, who now glared at Clark.
"Mr. Wayne," said Clark. "How long have you known Zatanna?"
"Since she was twelve," he answered. "I knew her father very well."
"He spent a few months with us when Bruce was seventeen," Zatanna said from behind the screen.
"I think of her as a sister in many ways," said Bruce.
"Oh," replied Clark suddenly feeling very uncomfortable. He knew how protective Bruce could be.
Bruce moved over to Clark until they were almost nose to nose then he said in a voice so low only Clark could hear him, "I thought you were spending time dealing with regrets, Clark, not out dating famous magicians. Shouldn't you be soul searching?"
Clark didn't respond. Zatanna stepped from behind the screen. She was now wearing black leather boots, black leather pants, and a white silk shirt. Her hair was pulled back and she was glaring at Bruce.
"I guess Clark and I will see you and your date at the museum then, Bruce," she said in a tone that told Bruce that she was wanted him to leave.
"We should talk, Kent," said Bruce.
"Maybe I can schedule you for an interview, Mr. Wayne?" smiled Clark.
"Maybe," said Bruce, who then proceeded to give Zatanna a kiss on the cheek.
"We need to talk, also," Bruce told her.
"See you at the museum, Bruce," she said.
Bruce and his date exited leaving Clark and Zatanna. Clark turned his head and looked at Zatanna.
"That was awkward," said Clark.
"I thought Bruce and you were friends," she said.
"We are, but Bruce is Bruce," said Clark.
Zatanna smiled knowingly at his remark. She grabbed a black leather jacket and handed it to Clark then waited for him to help her put it on.
"Let's go," she smiled.
The first floor of the museum was turned into a giant party with waiters and waitresses carrying finger foods and champagne on silver platters offering guests food and drink. A quartet played music to talk by, while Cat and Jimmy worked the room. Diana spoke to the mayor and governor, who tried to convince her to open a Themysciran embassy in Metropolis, as Steve watched on feeling like he was more bodyguard than date.
It was then that Zatanna and her date made an entrance. As she entered the guests stopped talking and applauded her. Zatanna made a dramatic bow then she took Clark by the arm and walked into the fray. Diana's conversation with the mayor and governor ended with the applause. She turned her head and saw Zatanna with Kal. Her heart sped up seeing the two of them together and she could feel her temper coming to the surface. For some reason no one could get her temper up more than Kal.
Without making an excuse, Diana walked away from the governor and mayor and towards Zatanna and Kal. Clark noticed her coming and could only think how beautiful she looked instead of noticing the flash of temper in her eyes.
"Zatanna, it was a very entertaining show you put on," said Diana.
"Thank you, Princess Diana," said Zatanna. "Let me introduce my date. This is Clark Kent."
"I've read Mr. Kent's work," said Diana, the she offered her right hand for a handshake.
"Princess," Clark said and shook her hand.
Diana didn't hold back any of her strength and squeezed Clark's hand as hard as she could. He smiled even though he wasn't expecting the hand breaking handshake. When she let go, Clark just continued to grin.
"It was good to meet you, Clark," Diana said.
"And you, too, Princess," Clark replied, knowing how much she hated when he called her princess.
Diana moved away and Dick and Barbara Gordon took her place.
"Clark, good to see you," Dick said.
"It has been at least a year since I last saw you, Clark," added Barbara.
"Always a pleasure, Barbara. Dick," he said then nodded.
"Zatanna, that was a great show. I'm glad Bruce convinced to come," said Dick.
"I enjoyed it immensely," added Barbara.
"Complements, just what a performer hates to receive," teased Zatanna. "Have either of you seen Constantine or Madame Xanadu?"
"No," said Dick for both of them.
"You can always count on magical friends," sighed Zatanna.
"I hope I can keep you company," said Clark.
A sly, sexy smile crossed Zatanna's lips then she said, "You'll do, Clark."
She looked about the museum then added, "Let's mingle and get people to start pulling out their checkbooks for Metropolis."
Pulling Clark by the hand she headed into the next room, which was a gallery of Impressionists and Neo-Impressionists. As they entered Clark saw Bruce, who immediately made eye contact. Bruce whispered to his date then headed their way.
"Clark, can we talk?" asked Bruce.
"Bruce, don't play big brother, it doesn't suit you," said Zatanna.
"I just want a conversation with a friend," said Bruce.
"Don't worry, Zatanna, I can handle myself," said Clark.
He was Superman, thought Zatanna, so he should be able to handle Bruce. Well, just as long as Bruce didn't have kryptonite, which might be a possibility knowing Bruce. He always did the damned unexpected.
The two men walked away from Zatanna. She watched them go.
"What is going on between you and Zatanna?" asked Bruce almost dropping into his Batman voice.
"Bruce, I know you feel you have the right to question and boss whoever you want to because of some patrician since of noblesse oblige, but the reality is that I don't have to answer any of your questions," replied Clark.
Bruce raised his right eyebrow and then said, "I see. Well, as I said before, Clark, I've known Zatanna a long time. I think of her as family. I recommend that you don't hurt her."
"Bruce, we are friends, so I won't get angry at you implication that I somehow am a womanizer," said Clark.
"You are more a clueless fool than womanizer, Clark, which is more dangerous. I've watched you and Diana for years. When it comes to women you don't hurt them because you are a womanizer but because you can't read the signs they are sending you. Either as Superman or as intellectual farm boy Clark Kent, women fall for you, but you either don't notice or are so overly cautious you never act. How many girlfriends have you had, Clark?" asked Bruce.
"Not many and you know why," Clark answered coldly.
The Kryptonian in him was coming out. Bruce was pushing all of his buttons. Usually, he did this for a purpose like getting him to open up to another point of view, but this time Clark felt as if he was just manipulating him. He didn't like it.
"You are afraid of hurting them because you are so damned strong. It's an excuse, Clark, but that isn't the point I am making. What just might be fun and games to Zatanna, you might mistake for something more serious. You tend to misread the situation, Clark, when it comes to women," snapped Bruce.
"We can't all be charming billionaires, Bruce, who have no serious intentions when it comes to women," countered Clark.
Bruce could see that he may have pushed Clark too far this time. He decided to back off for now.
"We are friends, Clark, so we'll end this conversation here for now. We don't want both of us to speak in anger and say too much that we regret," said Bruce then he walked away.
Instead of rejoining Zatanna, Clark stood where he was. He stared at an impressionist painting for a moment not really taking in the colors or shapes, but using it as an excuse for his lack of movement. He focused on the painting shutting the world out, shutting all sounds and smells out, just as his mother had taught him.
Bruce walked over to Zatanna and pulled aside, as she was talking to a couple of fans.
"I don't know what you are up to, Zee, but be careful with Clark," he rasped.
"I'm not up to anything, except to see what it is like maybe to date a nice guy for a change, Bruce, instead of some the creeps I've dated. Maybe I'm tired of guys like Constantine and Doctor Thirteen. Maybe I want someone who is one of the really good guys for a change and I'm talking Clark Kent, not his other self," she said.
"He's more than that, Zee, you know it," said Bruce, "and he's my friend. You could end up hurting him and he doesn't need that. I hope to God he isn't listening right now, but I left him angry enough that he's probably too busy stewing to listen in on conversations."
"I don't want to hurt him," she told him. "I like him, Bruce, and by him I mean Clark Kent."
"Remember, that he is more than that," he said again then left.
Zatanna looked over at Clark. He was staring at a painting. She walked over to him and gently placed her right hand his large strong left hand. He gently enveloped her hand.
"Do you want to leave?" she asked.
"I'd like that."
"I know a great place to go," she said.
They ended up in a dinner on the river in a less than fashionable part of time. Clark ate a double cheeseburger with spicy curly fries and a strawberry milkshake, while Zatanna had chili cheese dog with curly fries and a chocolate milkshake. They both ate heartily and happily.
"I've lived in Metropolis for years and I've never been here," said Clark.
"As a performer, I'm an expert in twenty-four hour dinners, especially ones with great chili cheese dogs," she grinned. "There is a Magicians Club not too far from here. Only those who practice real magic know it. I bet Constantine ended up there instead of my show getting drunk and getting laid."
"Constantine is important to you," Clark stated.
"His an ex and I'm glad he is an ex, believe when I say that. Constantine taught me things that served him more than they served me, but he's also one of the most knowledgeable there is that I know in the occult," she said.
"And the best con man I've ever met," added Clark and Zatanna laughed.
"He really is," she said.
"Thank you for this," he said.
"It was my pleasure to introduce you to this place," she replied.
"No, I mean thank you for understanding I needed to leave," Clark said.
"Clark, I'd rather be here with you than at a gala with finger foods and decent champagne. Anyway, Bruce can be a jerk," Zatanna replied.
"Usually not without a reason," Clark defended his friend, even though he didn't have to do so.
Zatanna smiled at this. She honestly liked his need to be fair and to try to see the best of people. For someone who was an alien he was the most human person she had ever met.
"I would have loved to have met your parents, Clark. They raised you right," she said.
Any compliment of Jonathan and Martha Kent softened Clark's heart. He loved his adoptive parents. His Kryptonian parents would always be a symbol, if not a mystery, to him, but Ma and Pa Kent were the best any world had to offer in his opinion.
"I wish that they were still alive so that you could meet them. They were special," he smiled.
"Tell me about them," she said.
"Only if you tell me about Giovanni Zatara," he smiled.
Tears formed in Zatanna's eyes.
"I'd like that," she said. "I don't get to talk about my father much."
"Ladies first," he smiled.
Zatanna smiled then leaned over the table and kissed his cheek. Sitting back down, she said, "I could really fall for you, Clark Kent."