He'd returned from the Fortress feeling refreshed. Five days of resting his super powered senses and physical activity was just the medicine he needed in order to keep himself sharp and rested. He came back for the weekend knowing he could easily update the news section of the blog with news service feeds, so that their readers were to kept up-to-date on breaking and important news. It was a luxury that they now could afford.
He still hadn't made contact with Bruce or Diana, which he knew he needed to do. For different reasons he was putting off contacting them. In Bruce's case, he wasn't in the mood to have Bruce either lecture him or manipulate him. There was an eighty-six percent chance that Bruce wanted to talk to him about Zatanna again. This grated on him. The other fourteen percent possibilities were broken up evenly into league business he needed assistance with or his own crime fighting mission that he needed something from Clark for.
As for Diana, he wasn't sure what she wanted, though if it was another lecture or look of disappointment, he was going to ask her to spar and he wasn't going to hold back at all this time. Diana was important to him, but he wasn't ready to deal with her. She had her own standards that she lived up to and she expected him to live up to her standards. Well, he wasn't a demigod, like her, or an Amazon. His standards came from Jonathan and Martha Kent and Jor-El and Lara Jor-El. His own standards were hard enough for him to attain and live up to. No, he'd put off contacting either Bruce or Diana for now.
Suddenly, he heard a heartbeat in the hallway that was familiar. A grim smile crossed his lips. He should have known that Bruce wouldn't take no for an answer. There was a knock at his door. Clark walked over and opened the door. Dressed in black jeans, a black turtleneck, and a black leather jacket, Bruce had a bag tucked under his right arm.
"I brought lunch, Kent, are you going to invite me in?" he asked.
Clark used his super olfactory to sniff out the contents of the bag.
"Two pastrami sandwiches with spicy mustard on pumpernickel bread, two dill pickles, and two pieces of cheesecake," said Clark.
"From the best deli in Metropolis," added Bruce. "So, am I coming in?"
Clark motioned him to enter. Bruce slipped off the leather jacket and tossed it on the sofa then he sat down on the sofa and placed the bag on the coffee table.
"What do you have to drink?" asked Bruce.
"I've got root beer," smiled Clark.
"Farm boy," growled Bruce. "I'll have a root beer."
Clark went into the kitchen and got two root beers. When he came back Bruce had the sandwiches, pickles, and cheesecake put out on the table. After giving Bruce his root beer, he smiled at the huge size of the sandwiches. Clark sat down on the armchair and grabbed one of the sandwiches.
"I read your piece on the majority citizens of this city preferring if Superman never returns," started Bruce. "It must have been difficult for you to write it."
"I understood their feelings," said Clark. "The battle with Doomsday left a great many scars on the city."
"You should have mentioned that the crime rate in Metropolis is up six percent since Superman stopped doing his duty," stated Bruce.
"Why are you here, Bruce?" he asked.
"Because we need to talk as friends," he answered.
"Is this about Zatanna again?" Clark asked then took a bite of his sandwich.
"Partially, but it's also about you. I'm worried about you, Clark. Metropolis and the world need Superman. It's been over a month," said Bruce.
"I'm not ready yet to return to duty," said Clark.
He picked his sandwich and took another bite. Bruce picked up his dill pickle and started with that.
"Are you sure we can't just eat lunch and I don't have to hear the lecture you have for me?" asked Clark.
"How long have you known me, Clark?" asked Bruce.
"Okay, let's start with Zatanna," suggested Clark.
Bruce took a bite of his sandwich and chewed slowly. Once he swallowed he took a swig of his root beer then he was ready to talk.
"When Zatanna was nineteen Constantine taught her tantric sex," Bruce started.
He wasn't surprised to see Clark almost choke on his sandwich. Once he stopped coughing, Clark glared at Bruce. Bruce smirked.
"It's true and it's another bit of information to show how different the of you are," he said.
"Bruce, I admit that she is different," said Clark. "At the moment we are just enjoying each other's company and that is all."
"Zee has played on the wild side," he said. "I admit that I worry about her. I've wanted her to join my team…"
"You mean your family, Bruce. It is more than a team; it is a family," said Clark.
Bruce gave Clark one of his cold stares, but it didn't intimidate him. He smiled back at him.
"Can she join your clan without changing her code name so that Bat or some flying creature is in the name?" smiled Clark.
"Don't make fun of my people, Clark. I consider you one of them," warned Bruce.
Clark took another bite of his sandwich in order to hide his grin. He liked getting under Bruce's skin. Bruce ate his sandwich, also.
"You are an innocent compared to her," said Bruce.
"I'm not as innocent as you think, Bruce," said Clark then he smirked. "Anyways, I'm a fast learner. I bet all I have to do is read a book on tantric sex and I'd be caught up without a problem."
"You're in a better mood than you were at the museum," pointed out Bruce.
"I spent five quiet days at the Fortress. I'm always in a better mood after giving my senses a rest from the noise of the world," replied Clark.
"You're missed by that world, Clark. Last week the league did a rescue mission after an earthquake in China. Shazam has taken your lead. He's good, but he's not you and he'll never be you," stated Bruce.
"Shazam, huh?" smiled Clark.
"Okay, he's annoying and I wouldn't trust him with Guy Gardner's back, but he does have skills and powers," admitted Bruce then pause. "Like being annoying."
Both men laughed. As they did, Clark heard a new heartbeat in the hallway in front of his door. This one made his heart beat quicker. There was a knock on the door.
"Would you let Diana in, Bruce?" sighed Clark.
"Really?" Bruce said. "She's here."
"It's her. I have certain people's heartbeats memorized. You are one of them," said Clark.
Bruce got up and walked to the door and opened it. Standing there in an expensive black shirt, white silk shirt, and a black cashmere overcoat was Diana.
"Bruce," she said in surprise.
"Diana. It looks like we had the same idea," he said then bowed and motioned her into the apartment.
Diana came into the apartment. She had seen his old apartment, the one he lived in with Jimmy Olsen. This was her first time in Clark's new apartment. It was small, very small. Clark stood up to welcome her.
"Diana," he said.
"Kal," she said softly.
"Well, I should…," Bruce started.
"Sit down and finish your lunch," said Clark. "Diana, can we get you something to eat?"
"No, I ate before coming here. It was a business lunch," she said.
Clark walked over to her and helped her off with her overcoat. He then hung it up in the closet. Diana walked over to the sofa and sat down next to Bruce. Clark sat down and looked at Diana. With her ankles crossed and left arm resting on her knee, he was mesmerized as always by her beauty and grace, maybe too mesmerized by it. He was intimidated by it.
"So, why are you here, Diana?" Bruce asked.
"Why are you here, Bruce?" she countered.
"To tell Clark to be careful dating Zatanna and to tell him that he is missed," Bruce answered. "And you?"
Diana blushed for a moment then she looked at Clark.
"To apologize," she said. "I have been angry with you, Kal, and I have no right to be angry with you. Instead of understanding my friend, I have been judging you. I was wrong to do that."
Clark's face softened and a smile cracked his lips.
"Thank you, Diana. I don't think you realize how much what you just said means to me," said Clark.
For a moment Diana and Clark stared into each other's eyes, while Bruce sat there and smirked. Finally, he had enough.
"Should I leave you two alone?" he asked.
"Why would you do that, Bruce?" asked Diana. "That is a silly question."
Clark smirked and then answered for him.
"Maybe Bruce thinks we have catching up to do since we haven't been speaking to each other," said Clark.
"Yeah, that's it," deadpanned Bruce.
"We can catch up in front of Bruce," said Diana. "He has seen us talk before."
"Yeah, Bruce, we can catch up in front of you," said Clark, trying to hide a smirk.
"Okay, Kent, you want to play that game," growled Bruce. "When is you next date with Zatanna?"
"Yes, Clark, when are you going out with Zatanna again?" asked Diana in an overly controlled tone.
"Tomorrow," he mumbled.
"Really, where are you taking her?" asked Bruce.
"Dinner and a movie," he answered.
"Somewhere fancy I take it," said Bruce. "Zatanna likes fancy, at least, she used to like fancy."
"Yes, have you picked a nice restaurant?" asked Diana.
"Um, we are going to the Riverside Diner after the movie, which Zatanna picked out. She's likes the chili cheese hot dogs there," said Clark.
"You sure know how to show a woman a good time, Kent," smiled Bruce.
"I don't think I've been to a diner," said Diana.
"Well, it has great cheeseburgers and spic curly fries and milkshakes," said Clark.
"Oh, I like milkshakes," said Diana. "Chocolate milkshakes are my favorite."
"Maybe Clark could bring you to the Riverside Diner sometime to get a chocolate milkshake," said Bruce.
"That would be nice, Kal," replied Diana.
"It looks like I owe you a milkshake then, Diana, at the diner," said Clark.
ARGUS NEVEDA DESERT FACILITY
Amanda Waller, Colonel Trevor, and Lex Luthor stood behind a concrete barrier, as six men in EXO-suits designed by Luthor readied to attack Captain Atom. The suits were designed with the concept of taking Superman down. They included sonic weapons, missiles, lasers, increased strength, and even Kryptonite laced throwing knives, which cost more than the suits themselves to find and purchase the Kryptonite.
"Why are we testing these suits now?" asked Trevor.
"Because Superman isn't the only threat," said Waller.
"The Justice League itself is a threat to us," said Luthor.
"Is it government policy to consider the Justice League a threat, Director?" asked Trevor.
"It is government policy to be prepared, Colonel," said Waller. "I believe in being prepared."
Luthor signaled for the men in his exo-suits to attack Captain Atom. Using an array of their weapons, they went after Captain Atom. He took to the sky to avoid them, but three of the six used jet boots and packs to take to the air in order to attack.
"Captain Atom seems to be doing well against your exo-suits," observed Trevor.
"That's the point, Colonel," said Luthor. "I'll analyze how the suits perform against Atom then I'll upgrade them and work on their weaknesses so that they can take on a stronger opponent. The next time we test them then Captain Atom will not stand a chance against them."
"I look forward to seeing that, Luthor," said Waller.
"Just because they can defeat Captain Atom, it doesn't mean they can defeat Supergirl or Shazam," said Trevor.
"They'll be ready," smiled Luthor. "And then you'll pay for a platoon of them."
"I see that you are a patriot and a capitalist, Luthor," said Waller.
"I don't trust these super powered freaks and I fear alien invasion and subjugation, but I also like to live well, Amanda," said Luthor. "I have a high overhead and you are going to help pay for it."
"Perfect these suits and I see to it that a billion dollar contract comes your way, Luthor," said Waller.
"I'll expect it," said Luthor.
Trevor watched the soldiers in the exo-suits attack Captain Atom. Luthor was using Amanda's dislike of the Justice League against her. He wanted these suits made and perfected regardless of ARGUS and a billion contract.
The Grande Hotel
Clark took a deep breath before knocking on her hotel door. Bruce was right about one thing and that was he wasn't overly experienced at dating. There was Lana, Lori, a forced dalliance with Maxima, and a crush on Lois Lane and that was it. For a man who was twenty-six it wasn't much. He knocked on the door.
"Rood eht nepo," he heard Zatanna say.
The door opened and Clark saw Zatanna standing in the middle of the living area dressed in black jeans, a tight fitting Clash tee shirt and knee high black leather boots. She was talking on her cell phone.
"Come on in, Clark," she said.
Clark walked into the hotel room and shut the door. He wore jeans, a red hoodie, and a brown leather jacket. Three uh hums and Zatanna was done with her cell phone conversation. She hung up and looked at Clark.
"Did you listen?" she asked.
"No. I've learned to block out people's private conversations," he said.
"It was Constantine. He said he needs me to talk to someone. It appears that John is hunting down a vampire named Cain and he needs the assistance of Jason Blood, but Blood won't speak to him. It appears that he pissed off Blood. He asked me to act as a go between," she explained.
"What do you need, Zee?" he asked.
"I need to meet with Jason," she said.
"A private club here in Metropolis. It's in Hell's Gate. Do you know where Hell's gate got its name?" she asked.
He shook his head no.
"It is believed that one of hell's seven gates to this realm can be found there," she said. "Long ago a group of occultists and magicians built a private club there in order to guard against the hell's gate being opened. It's called the Babel Club. Jason is staying there right now."
"Do you mind company?" he asked.
"Clark, it is filled with the occult, supernatural, and real magic. I think you'll find it uncomfortable going there," she said.
"Will you be with me?" asked Clark.
"Yes," she smiled.
"Then I'm coming with you. We have a date, don't we?" he asked.
"Yes, we do," she said. "Let me get my jacket."
Amongst the tenements of the Hell's Gate neighborhood there stood a pristine Victorian House. The taxi let Clark and Zatanna off in front of the Victorian house. Clark followed Zatanna up the stairs. She stood in front of the front door then said, "Factum fieri infectum non potest."
"It is impossible for a deed to be undone," Clark whispered in her ear.
"You speak Latin?" she said.
"I can speak any language with a little study," said Clark.
Zatanna suddenly remembered the conversation Kara had in the cafeteria with them about Kal-El. It appeared that he really was a genius.
The door opened. Zatanna and Clark entered the house. It was decorated with antique furniture, paintings that belonged on museum walls, and statues. Zatanna stood in the front hall and waited. Soon a man in a butler's grab came walking down the stairs. He had white hair and skin so pale it was almost translucent allowing you to see his blue, green veins. When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he bowed slightly.
"Madame Zatara," he said then he looked at Clark, "and Kal-El."
Clark tried not to react to having someone use his Kryptonian name. He stared at the man.
"Myrddin," said Zatanna then gave him a sincere smile.
The old man smiled back.
"You wish to see Master Blood," he said.
"Yes, Myrddin," she said.
"He is on the second floor in the library reading some arcana if I'm not mistaken. He is expecting you," Myrddin said.
"How does he know we are coming?" asked Clark.
"I told him several hours ago," smiled Myrddin then he walked away.
Clark looked at Zatanna. A smile played on her lips.
"He's ancient," she said.
"Myrddin as in Myrddin Emrys, or should I call him Merlin," said Clark.
"Just call him Myrddin for now," she said. "Follow me."
Up the stairs they went. Clark was fascinated by some of the artwork. One painting appeared to be a Rembrandt, but one never seen before, and there were several Goya's that appeared to be from his Black paintings period. They came to the top of the stairs and Zatanna walked down the hallway and stopped at the third door. She opened it and they entered.
The room was the library. It was wall to wall leather and vellum bound books. There were several leather armchairs and seated in one of them was a handsome man with a distinctive white streak in his hair. He was reading a book.
"Jason," said Zatanna.
He put the book down on the table beside his chair and looked at her. His expression was one of a bored human being.
"What is it now, Zatanna?" he asked.
His accent was British. Clark knew about Jason Blood. Jason Blood was a knight of the Round Table who was bonded with the half demon Etrigan. Etrigan's human half made him the half-brother of Merlin, which meant he was homo magi, druid, and demon.
"Constantine called me. He says he needs you in order to track down and deal with Cain," said Zatanna.
"Not my fight, Zatanna," said Blood. "It isn't Constantine's fight either."
"Whose fight is it then?" she asked.
"Yours and," he said then pointed at Clark, "his."
"Me, really?" said Clark.
"He is not involved in this, Jason and neither am I," she said.
"Yes, you are. This is Cain we are talking about, slayer of Able and cursed by God and embraced by Lucifer. He is a first. Kal-El trusts you, so you can protect him from Cain's magic, and he is not human, so Cain cannot feed on him," said Jason. "Together you can end him."
"We've been set up, haven't we?" said Clark.
"If you mean that Constantine sent you to me, so that I can tell the two of you where Cain is hiding, then yes, you have been set up," said Jason.
"I'm not acting as Superman now," said Clark.
"You don't need to be him. You just need to be you," said Jason. "Cain cannot feed off you. You can stop him with the assistance of Zatanna."
"When I get my hands on Constantine for mucking up my date with Clark, I'll make him regret it," said Zatanna.
Jason smiled, "Constantine told me to tell you that just because the tosser helps you that you don't have to polish his knob."
"Well, I can Constantine is pleasant person," remarked Clark.
"To use slang that Constantine can understand, he is a wanker, but he is a talented wanker," said Jason. "Do you want to know where to find Cain?"
Zatanna looked at Clark, who nodded yes.
"Where can we find him, Jason?" she said.
The Old Unused Train Tunnels of Metropolis
After stopping off and getting a flashlight and a stake of wood made from a thorn tree. Zatanna and Clark headed into the sewage system and with the help of Clark knocking down a wall that connected to the old unused tunnels. Clark needed neither a flashlight nor a stake. As they walked through the grime and dirt of the tunnel, Clark could hear Zatanna's cursing under her breath.
"Ruining my damned boots," she mumbled.
"Do you want me to carry you?" Clark asked her.
"You can hear me complaining, can't you?"
"Like you're yelling in my ear," he smiled.
"Some date this is, huh?" she said.
"Believe it or not I've been on worse dates," Clark remarked.
Clark stopped walking. The smells of the tunnel were nauseating to begin with for him, but now he smelled death. It was a distinctive smell that involved the decay of the human body.
"I smell death," he said.
"Cain," said Zatanna.
"Or his victims," said Clark.
With his telescopic and x-ray vision he searched the tunnel ahead of them. He could see buried under the muck of the tunnel eight decomposing bodies. They were mainly the homeless of Metropolis and one working girl. Clark was sickened to his stomach. This would have happened even if he was on duty as Superman because he avoided the occult.
"Eight dead and buried ten yards ahead of us," he told Zatanna.
"This must be his feeding area," she said. "We have two choices: one, we wait for him to bring his night food down here or we hunt him above ground. What is above us?"
Clark used his x-ray vision.
"Centennial Park is above us," he said. "I say we go upside because it really smells in here."
"I agree and my nose doesn't work as well as yours," she said.
"But it is a pretty nose," remarked Clark.
"Let's get out of here," she said.
"Fifteen yards there is ladder that leads to covered over exit. Follow me," he said.
Zatanna took two steps and her foot got caught on some old train track. She yelped and dropped her flashlights. Clark suddenly appeared at her side.
"I really liked these boots, too," she complained.
He bent down, bent the track back, and then picked her up in his arms. Instead of complaining, she wrapped her arms around his neck then kissed his cheek.
"Thank you, Clark," she said. "You know I could have bent that track with magic."
"It was my pleasure, though," he said.
They came to the ladder and he put her down.
"I'll go up first and move whatever is in our way," he said.
"Be careful, Clark. Cain is a vampire, but he also has magic. He'll probably be able to hurt you," she said.
"I'll be careful," he said.
Clark headed up the ladder. When he got to the top he pushed and moved dirt, grass, and a large rock out of the way then he exited. Zatanna made her way up the ladder and joined him.
"What do you do next?" asked Clark.
"Eripmav dnif," she chanted then waved her hand which produced a small ball of light.
They followed the light as he made its way through the park. Because of the coolness of the weather and the lateness of the hour, there were many people in the park. It was filled mainly with those cruising for drugs or sex. The ball of light picked up speed. Clark picked up speed, too, leaving Zatanna behind.
"Clark," she called.
The ball disappeared up a tree. Clark stopped under the tree. He scanned it quickly and at the top saw a white skinned, yellow fanged, red eyed, white haired vampire staring down at him. The vampire dropped out of the tree.
Zatanna was pissed at Clark. She did the only thing she was sure would work.
"KralC ot em ekat," she cast her spell then she teleported from the spot she was standing and reappeared near Clark and Cain.
Clark held Cain up in the air by his throat. His eyes were burning red. Cain was kicking and struggling. She had never seen one of the older vampires look so scared in her life. Clark and his power scared him.
"I should turn you to ash," growled Clark.
Cain growled and moaned his response, as he continued to struggle. Slowly, Clark's eyes returned to their normal cerulean blue. Zatanna knew enough about Superman and Clark to know that he didn't kill unless he had to do so. She noticed that his glasses were on the grass. Zatanna walked over to his glasses, picked them up, and put them back on his face.
"I'll take care of this, Clark," she said.
Zatanna then took the stake out of her jacket and drove it through Cain's heart. Clark dropped his quickly decomposing body. Within minutes Cain would be turned to nothing more than dust. Cain was gone. Clark stared at the almost turned to dust body of Cain then he looked at Zatanna.
"It had to be done. He was a vampire, Clark, not a criminal. There are only one way to deal with them," she said.
"I know," he mumbled.
Zatanna walked up to him and kissed his cheek.
"I'm starved and it's been a long night so far. Let's skip the movie," she said.
He smiled, "Riverside Diner?"