I trudged into the lobby of my apartment building. Stopping to check the mail, I threw away the advertisements that were all I'd gotten in the convenient waste can. The creak of a door made me moan silently then smile when the apologetic whisper floated down the hall.
"Mr. Olson. If I could have a moment of your time?" Her voice wavered just a little.
"Hi, Mrs. Lambert. How are you this evening?" I resigned myself to another round of furniture moving.
"Just fine, thank you. But I decided the table in the front hall needs to go by the sofa." She smiled timidly and I grinned at her.
"Sure, Mrs. Lambert. Let me help you move it." Not that I'd let her really help. She was 82 last month and didn't weigh a hundred pounds.
I followed her into the stuffy apartment and hefted up the solid oak table. I could feel my muscles straining under the weight and I took little steps to make sure I didn't hit anything in the overcrowded apartment. She'd fit everything she could from the home she'd had to leave when her husband died, into this small apartment.
Each piece held treasured memories and she'd told me a few of them while I moved them around for her. It was a harmless pastime and did me no harm. Except for the occasional sore muscle. "How's that, Mrs. Lambert? I think it does look better here. Now the hall won't be so crowded."
Her answer was drowned by a dull roar from outside the front door. The whole building shook and plaster dust shook down on us. Instinctively, I pulled her close to me and put my hand over her white head. She cried out and tried to keep me from going into the hall but I had to. Looking up the stairs, I saw the first clouds of smoke.
Dashing back inside, I used her phone to call 911 and report an explosion. Hanging up from them, I hesitated only a moment before calling Keith on his private cell phone.
"Keith, its Jimmy. I think my apartment just got blown up. If I were you, I'd get someplace safe. Someplace where no one knows where you are."
"Got it. You okay?"
"So far. Fire department is on the way."
"Watch your back."
Then I bullied Mrs. Lambert out to the alley and left her with the janitor who was gaping at the smoking building. Going back in, I headed up the stairs to see if anybody else was home and needed help. Both tenants on the second floor were already on their way down and they shouted at me that they hadn't heard anything from third floor but that my apartment was on fire.
So, I followed them down and on out. The sirens were getting louder and I slumped back against the bricks of the building and watched my life go up in flames. I didn't have much except for my clothes and books in the furnished apartment. But I was going to miss them.
My hand went to my throat and the gold chain that hung there. Maybe I was getting psychic but for some reason, I had felt compelled to put it on this morning. It was all I had of my mother. Whoever she was. When they found me on the church steps, I was wrapped in a blanket with the locket tucked into the folds. The orphanage had kept it for me and given it to me when I'd left them eighteen years later.
The police were asking questions of us now and I was immediately singled out as the possessor of the burning apartment. But Mrs. Lambert, bless her heart, assured them that I was with her when the fire broke out. They were very polite when they asked me down to headquarters and I couldn't blame them. My luck, they thought I was running a meth lab or something in my rooms.
The questions came thick and fast at the precinct, while I answered as best I could. The FBI was back and they confirmed that it was a bomb. Hand triggered and that's where their questions centered. But I explained about the timer that turned on my lights at six every night. I really hate to come into a dark apartment. By the fifth hour, the interrogation was getting pretty old.
Perry showed up while I was answering the same question for the third time. He politely but briskly got me out of there and into his car. When we pulled away from the station, his wise eyes moved to me. "Jimmy, how are you? Really."
"Okay, I guess. Do you know if anything survived?"
"Jimmy, the rooms pretty much went up like a torch. The Fire Chief said the building was lucky that yours was the only one that burned. Nothing survived inside but the walls."
"I see. Guess I'll have to do some shopping. I'm going to get pretty tired of this suit." I felt curiously numb but I tried to smile when he cast another look at me.
"First, we need to find a safe place for you to stay tonight. I got a call from Clark's parents and they offered to take you in. It's probably the last place these people would think to look for you."
"It might put them in danger. That wouldn't be fair." I sat up straighter. "Better if I just find a hotel room or something. Or sleep on the cot in the basement of the Daily Planet."
"We've got a cot?" Perry asked.
"Yeah. I found the janitor's back room when I got lost my first week here." I remembered the hectic time when I feared that I'd bitten off more than I could chew in my chosen profession. "That should be safe enough. Very few people know about it."
"Pretty uncomfortable though. I think we can do better than that. I've got a friend who owes me a favor. Sit back and relax." Perry headed the car downtown and I closed my eyes for a moment.
He woke me up in a dark garage and I flinched until a light beckoned us from across the sea of parked cars. We crossed quickly and a dark haired man led us down a flight of stairs and into a series of tunnels that had me hopelessly lost within moments. Then we were in an elevator that just kept going up and up until my ears popped.
We got off onto a plush carpet and a sea of muted colors. Wading across the hall, the dark haired man opened a door and ushered us inside. A soft voice welcomed us in and I watched Perry take the hand of a well-dressed woman.
He kissed it softly and she laughed. "Charming as ever, Perry. Young man, I hope you are all right. That was a terrible thing to happen."
"I'm fine, ma'am." I didn't have a clue who she was or why Perry had brought me here.
"This is Mrs. Kenyon, Jimmy. She has offered to put you up for a few days until we can do a little investigating of our own. Lois and Clark will be back in a couple of days and hopefully, they'll have a lead to the group who planned Senator Gibb's assassination."
"I appreciate it, Mrs. Kenyon. Are you sure?" I couldn't get over the richness of the room I was in. Far beyond anything I'd ever even seen before.
"Quite sure, Mr. Olson. I am determined to help find Dick's killer. His daughter, Stephanie, is my god-daughter and she is completely broken hearted by his death."
For just a moment, I saw a steel hard determination that I approved of, especially if she was going to be providing my safe haven. Perry set up a number where I could reach him and then left me alone with my hostess. She rang a bell and sent me off with the butler to my room. He took me up a short flight of stairs to a small suite of rooms above even the rooftop garden.
The place was plush and way too rich for my blood. But the shower was calling my name and Cransom, the butler, laid out a robe and pajamas for me then showed me where the buzzer was to summon him if I needed anything. I stood under the hot water for a good five minutes with my brain a complete blank.
It took all my strength to dry off and crawl under the covers that Cransom had turned back for me. I was asleep before I had any time to worry about what was going to happen tomorrow.
I woke up to the rattle of crockery and I unburied my head to squint at the butler.
"You have a phone call, Mr. Jimmy. And Mrs. Kenyon was afraid that if you slept any longer, you'd give yourself a headache. Were the pajamas not to your liking?"
"Um, no, they're fine, Cransom. I just don't use them." I sat up and accepted the tray across my lap.
"I brought coffee this morning but if another beverage would be better I can bring that instead."
"Uh, no. Coffee's fine." I looked in amazement at the laden tray. Eggs, bacon, toast, fresh fruit and the best smelling coffee I'd ever sniffed, filled it from side to side. "Did you say I had a phone call?"
"Yes, sir. It was Mr. White and he said there was no hurry. You may return the call after you've eaten. I've taken the liberty of procuring some replacement clothing. Your suit has been sent to the dry cleaners." He fussed a bit more before stepping back. "Just buzz me if anything else is needed."
"Thanks, Cransom. This looks great. Whatever you picked out will be fine. I'm not going anywhere for a while."
He permitted himself a brief smile before closing the door behind him. I started in on breakfast and wished, not for the first time, that I could share this with Clark. My last breakfast in bed had had a little more protein in it and come complete with sound effects. I missed him more than I should.
Arguing with myself was nothing new. I'd been doing a lot of that the last week. I just had to keep reminding myself of the really big gap between us. Then, I remembered the Kent's offer to put me up and I felt a little glow thinking about his folks. They were really extraordinary people. Taking in an alien baby and bringing him up with so much love. I couldn't even be jealous.
Envious maybe. I mopped up the last of my eggs over easy with the last piece of toast. Pushing the tray carefully to one side, I got out of bed and headed for the bathroom again. This time, I really noticed my surroundings. Everything was white and black from the marble tiles to the faux marble wall covering. The sinks were white with black anodized steel fixtures. Even the soap was black and white checked.
I shook my head and shaved carefully before brushing my teeth with the new toothbrush laid out for me. It was the only spot of color in the place except for me. Bright red, it felt cheerful in this rather tomblike place. But the water was hot and plentiful, so my shower lasted a good deal longer that the night before.
The clothes laid out for me fit perfectly. Khaki dockers and a navy blue polo shirt with all the proper underwear made me look like a college preppie. But once I slipped on the leather loafers, I decided there was something to being rich. They felt like I'd worn them forever. Threading the leather belt through the belt loops, I fastened the dragon's head buckle and chuckled at the darting tongue that poked through the fifth hole.
Suddenly, I wasn't sure what to do. For once I didn't have a job and a timetable. Remembering I needed to call Perry, I found the slip of paper where I'd written down his cell phone number. Venturing into the sitting room portion of the suite, I found the phone on the desk. It only rang twice before being picked up.
"White." He barked.
"Yes, sir. It's Jimmy."
"Ah, good. You're awake. And wanted by just about everybody this morning. Have you seen the paper yet?" His voice dropped to a whisper.
"No, sir. I just got up and had breakfast."
"Well, get a paper or watch the news on TV. You are the lead story. Stay safe and don't call anyone else." He sounded deadly serious and I told him I wouldn't. "Oh, Clark asked me to tell you that they'd be back tomorrow. Of course, I didn't tell him where you were. He asked me if we'd seen Superman about and I had to tell him no."
My heart leapt just a bit and I cleared my throat before saying casually. "I know Superman is working on this as well. If he should stop and see you, wouldn't it be okay to tell him where I am? In case he wants to question me?"
"Hm-m-m. You might be right, Jimmy. He could fly . . . uh, over to you if he needs to know more."
"Yes, sir. Is there anything I can do while I'm waiting? It feels funny not working." I admitted.
"Not today, lad. Just stay protected for now. Your time will come, never fear." He reassured me and rung off.
I hung up slowly and thought about what hadn't been said. Clark was coming back. Tomorrow. But if I was really lucky, I'd see Superman tonight. Suddenly, I needed to do something. Anything to get rid of this excess energy. So, I headed down to the main floor to see if I could talk Cransom into finding work for me.
Mrs. Kenyon greeted me at the living room door and took me in hand. She was working on sorting family papers from an old aunt who had just died and she sat me down with a box of several hundred letters from the last seventy years. She needed them sorted into family or business and gave me a free hand to label them as I wished.
They were absolutely fascinating. Family is an interesting phenomenon to me since I don't have any. It was cool seeing cousins go from children to adults. There were very few business letters so I started categorizing them into family names. They were all to the aunt from her many nieces and nephews along with a few from her own generation and even from her mother. I found one from 1899 from her grandmother and it truly brought the past alive for the long moments it took to read it.
I didn't want to break for lunch but she sternly ordered me into her dining room where Cransom served us a delicious meal while she gently quizzed me about my life. It doesn't bother me to talk about it so I was pretty cheerful while I told her about the orphanage where I grew up and the scholarship from Perry that brought me to the Daily Planet.
She looked sad for a moment then asked if there was anything I needed right now, beside a new wardrobe. I thought for a moment and shook my head. "I'm pretty self sufficient, ma'am. I am a little worried about the others in the apartment building. Everything that Mrs. Lambert owns is in there and she's too old to take change very well."
Perking up at that, she asked me questions that I answered for the rest of lunch. By the gleam in her eye, Mrs. Lambert was in safe hands. I was ready to go back to the letters after watching the noon news with her. A bank robbery had crowded my bombing off the lead story and I was just as glad to see it. Visitation for Senator Gibbs was tonight and the funeral tomorrow so I wouldn't be seeing much of my hostess for awhile.
But she gave me a tour of the place first and showed me the alarm system that protected the whole three top floors of the building. I explained about the potential visit from Superman and she just nodded, accepting the explanation calmly. She was one formidable lady and I really respected her strength. I knew that the next day would be a strain on her but she simply spoke of the arrangements to be made.
She joined me for a while and approved my method of sorting. Reading the letter from her great-grandmother, she directed me to a small daguerreotype that hung on a nearby wall. A rather fierce old lady of the 1880's peered back at me. Her white hair was smoothed back from a face that seemed as wrinkled as a dried apple. She sat in a high backed chair with a book in one hand and her fan in the other.
Mrs. Kenyon spoke of her coming across the prairie to join her husband and their work to raise a family off the land. Luckily, a test oil rig had proved out and they'd retired rich. I enjoyed the stories and I think they helped both of us get through the hours until she left for the visitation.
Cransom fed me out on the roof garden and told me to ring if I needed anything. Otherwise, he would just leave me to my own devices. I told him thanks and began to pace the quiet garden paths, hoping against hope that Superman would show up soon. I needed a hug in the worst way.
The sky slowly darkened and I watched the first star appear over the horizon. I was so high up not even the lights of the city could dim it. Gazing intently at the twinkling light, I muttered under my breath.
"Star light, star bright. First star I see tonight. Wish I may, wish I might. Have the wish I wish tonight."
Then I closed my eyes and wished for a little more time with Clark before he left me. A few months would give me a lot of memories to store up and pull out as I grew older. My eyes opened and I grinned at myself derisively. That's always providing I got the chance to grow older. For the first time, I wondered just why I'd been singled out for death.
Lots of men had seen the assassins in the club. So why me? Suddenly I shivered but not with cold. "Somebody just walked over my grave. That's all. Don't start getting paranoid, Jimmy. You're too young for that. I hope Keith is okay."
I hugged myself and started walking again around the garden. The sound of gurgling water led me to an alcove where a small fountain sat. The water came out of a frog's mouth where he sat on a bronze lily pad high above the basin of polished stones. It masked the sound of the wind and I sat down on the bench nearby to just pretend I was at the beach.
A whisper of sound turned my head in time to see Superman touch down lightly on the flagstones by the balcony. I stood and watched his eyes light up when he saw me. Then we were in each other's arms and I still don't know how we got there. He crushed me to him, one hand at my waist and the other behind my head. I breathed in his clean scent and felt truly safe for the first time in two days.
"Are you all right? Really all right?" He finally spoke, his hot breath gusting in my ear and sending a shiver through me. "I'm never there when you need me. What good am I if I can't protect you?"
"I'm fine. Homeless and wearing borrowed clothes but otherwise okay. And I don't need to be protected. Just ..." I caught back my words. The last thing I needed to do was beg for him to love me. "Hold me. Tight."
"I like doing that. Part of me wants to hold you all the time. But I think they might notice something at work if we tried it." His warm hands were stroking me gently and I felt myself arch into them while my own hands were busy petting his trim waist and wishing it were bare skin.
Then his lips were covering mine and it felt like he was trying to seal himself to me. I breathed in his scent like one of the roses on the trellis while I parted his lips with my tongue and dipped inside his hot mouth. He groaned and I almost laughed out loud at the feeling of power that gave me. The strongest man in the world and he trembled at my touch. Amazing.
My hands smoothed over the material on his back under his cape. I was content to just stand there and absorb him through my skin. But he wanted more and his hands were lifting me up and up until I could no longer feel the ground beneath me. Opening my eyes, I watched the windows of my suite sink below his shoulder.
By now, I had a death grip on his waist. He broke the kiss and settled us back down on the garden path. "Sorry. Got carried away."
I swallowed hard and managed a smile. "I think that's my line. Can you stay for a while? We could go up to the rooms, Mrs. Kenyon gave me." I nodded over his shoulder and watched the look of indecision on his face. My stomach sank and I bit my tongue until it hurt. Well, that was stupid, Jimmy, my man. Why not just come out and beg him while you're at it? He's here on business. The kiss was just his way of being kind. Get a grip, idiot.
"I'm afraid I'd feel a little awkward here." His deep voice poured over me like honey. "Would you mind coming with me for a couple of hours? I've got a place I'd like to share with you."
Nodding, I was afraid to trust my voice just then. He smiled and picked me up and we took off from the balcony. I had a tight grip on him but even though we were going pretty fast, I couldn't feel the wind at all. I risked a look down but only once. My stomach rebelled at the thought of how high we were and how far I'd fall if he let go. The short flight from a few days ago in daylight hadn't seemed so frightening.
But he held me securely and I soon grew accustomed to the flight. I don't know how long it lasted but I'd managed to doze a bit before realizing that he was upright and we were touching down on solid ground. He steadied me and I clutched his hand while he led me through the dark into an even darker place.
"Stay right here and shut your eyes. I need to get the lights."
"Okay. Hurry back." I let him go reluctantly and waited for something to happen. My eyelids registered the change, light blooming across them in a heartbeat. Then he was behind me, encircling me with his long arms.
"Open them and tell me what you think." His soft whisper in my ear made me shiver but I obeyed the gentle command.
My eyes widened at the magnificent room. Soft fabric hung in a tentlike fashion over what I could see were stone walls. Bookcases lined the perimeter and comfortable furniture was scattered over the floor of many carpets. The light came from a series of panels that peeked out from behind the fabric and shone from the ends of several of the bookcases.
"Wow. Where are we?" I rubbed my hands over his at my waist and he captured one to bring to his lips.
"My home away from home. I call it the Cave of Silence. Usually, I come here to get some rest when the world gets too hectic." He licked my finger and I felt need shiver through me. "I can be myself here. And I've never, ever been tempted to bring anyone else home. Until you."
I turned in his arms and saw the need in his eyes. It was probably in mine as well but I was beyond caring at that point. "Take me to bed and make love to me. I need a reminder that I survived."
He shuddered and picked me up in his strong arms. A few steps and we were on a wide platform bed. He stood back and whirled himself naked while I watched in fascination. Then with a grin, he pounced and began slowly teasing my clothes off. Each bit of flesh revealed was kissed and tongued until I was writhing on the flannel sheets.
But when his warm lips first enveloped my cock, I began to pant and then to moan. He lovingly tormented me with his tongue and just a little suction. I wanted it to go on forever and I wanted to come so hard he wouldn't be able to swallow it. He read my body completely and by the time he slipped a finger inside of me and found my prostate, I was on the fine edge between passion and pain.
Stroking me with his finger, he stepped up the suction and I finally erupted with a shout. He drank me down like he'd been doing this all his life. I shuddered through two aftershocks while he licked my groin clean, the edge of his tongue rough against my overly sensitive skin. My hands were still in his hair, only now I was massaging his scalp and listening to him purr.
Tugging him up to me, I opened my eyes and saw that shy look in his eyes that turned me on so much. "Was it all right? I think you enjoyed it."
"You were perfect and if I'd enjoyed it anymore, I'd have passed out again." I kissed him and licked his lips, enjoying the taste of myself on him.
I could feel his cock poking into my leg and I snaked a hand down to give it a rub. He groaned into my mouth and I pushed him onto his back so I could slither over his body. My chest hair tickled him into laughing through our kiss. What a turn-on! Leaving his lips for the moment, I moved down to kiss his nipples. Pert doesn't begin to describe the brown peaks.
They responded to my mouth and really shot up when I worried them with my teeth gently. He was the one panting now and I snaked down his body, leaving a wet trail with my tongue. His strong hands were stroking my shoulders and massaging my neck. They felt great and this time I just stroked his cock lightly with my fingertips, feathering little caresses up and down the sides.
He squirmed a little so I sucked on my index finger and went back to tormenting him with wet caresses. "Jimmy-y-y-y."
"Yes, Clark? Is there something you'd like me to do?" I teased him by blowing some air on his balls and watched them tighten up. On second thought, I licked the red knob clean of the clear fluid that he'd begun to secrete.
"Please!" His eyes were on me and I couldn't bear to see him pleading. So, I got down to serious business and proceeded to tongue him into complete arousal.
I pulled out every trick I'd ever been taught and I knew quite a few. The taffy-pull was very popular after lights out at the orphanage and I rather enjoyed seeing his eyes roll back in his head when I pulled down on his balls and scratched them gently with one hand while the other was pulling up on his penis. I was busy sucking him steadily and he groaned while his head thrashed back and forth.
There was no warning but when the sweet taste of his essence filled my mouth, I increased the suction so I wouldn't miss a drop. He'd gone completely silent and I risked a look up to be sure he hadn't passed out on me. His eyes were closed and he'd gone limp. I carefully cleaned his groin with my tongue and crawled up to his side, resting on one elbow and just watching him breathe.
"Thank you." Those beautiful eyes opened for me.
"You're welcome." I leaned over and kissed him gently. "We need to talk."
"I know." His eyes looked sadly into mine. "Keith's car was found abandoned near the quarry. It had several bullet holes in it. They're dragging the pit now. I'm sorry."
Oh, God. Not Keith. My warning came too late. I closed my eyes and huddled in Clark's arms. "He was my first friend in Metropolis. I met him in the pool room and he took me in hand to show me the ropes of surviving in the big city."
"Were you ... more than friends?"
"Just friendly blow jobs. But when we sat down and talked about what we both wanted out of life, we decided that our friendship was more important then sex that didn't mean enough. Then he fell in love with Andy and I kept on looking."
"For Mr. Right." His warm hand was stroking the back of my neck while he brought up my throw-away line from Perry's office.
"Yeah. We both just wanted a lover and a place we could call home. My apartment wasn't really home but I am going to miss my books." I put the worry that Keith was dead out of my mind. Grieving could come later when I knew for sure.
"I'm going to miss your black jacket and those boots you were wearing at the Solitary Cyclist. Lois whistled when she saw you and I just had to grit my teeth to keep from drooling." Clark confessed his reaction with down cast eyes.
I propped myself up again and looked at him affectionately. "Then they did their job. I wore them for you. To see if I could get a response. I have very little control when it comes to you."
He beamed at me and I felt my heart melt even more. Damn, it's just not fair that he should be so very, very right for me. And at the same time be so horribly wrong. My face must have changed because he sobered quickly and brushed a finger between my eyebrows.
"We both get the same worry line when something goes wrong. I know you're probably thinking that there's a leak in the police department or maybe even the FBI. Otherwise, how could they have known to go after you and Keith? The only two who could testify against them."
I hadn't had time to worry about that yet, but I could start now. "I got a call off to Keith right after the bomb went off. Hopefully, he set up the whole scenario so he could go undercover. Until we know otherwise, that's what I'm going to believe. What did you and Lois find out in Senator Gibb's hometown?"
"He's a pool shark from way back. And he played at the Solitary Cyclist at least once a month when he was in town doing fundraising or town meetings. Not gay. Not even in the closet. But very tolerant and accepting of gays and lesbians since his sister, Anne brought her life partner Greta into the family. I spoke with her significant other since Anne was busy with funeral arrangements." Clark had pulled me completely on top of him like a blanket and I pillowed my head on my arms so I could watch him.
"She's a lovely woman. Very tall with long brown hair in a chignon. Calm and quiet like a deep pool in a sheltered glade. Anne's a bouncy redhead with energy to burn. Not even grief could quench her fire. But instead of being opposites, they came across as two halves of a whole." I watched his eyes flicker with wonder and ached inside with envy of two women I'd never met.
"Then it has to be something political. We need to find out what bills he's working on and who is the opposition." I subdued my feelings and went straight into investigation mode. "I don't suppose you've got an Internet connection here?"
"Um, yes, I do. I've got a direct satellite feed. I made a deal with NASA a few years back. They keep me supplied with the newest equipment in return for help when they have a problem in space. Not that I wouldn't help them anyway." He looked up at me so earnestly that I couldn't help but laugh.
My Clark is, without a doubt, a real innocent. And I wouldn't change him for the world. Leaning up a bit, I kiss the dimple in his chin. "Good thinking, love. Care to help me do some surfing?"
He just smiled and pulled me in for a real kiss. When my toes went numb, he finally let go and pulled me from the bed. After dressing again, he showed me where his desk was and I caressed the computer keyboard as lovingly as I'd ever stroked him. He wasn't kidding when he said he had the new stuff. I thought the Kitaro 9000 was still on the drawing board.
Clark laid his palm down on the plate beneath the mouse pad. Within three seconds, the computer acknowledged him.
"Working." It was a computer generated voice with a hint of femininity in it.
"SARA, I need you to add someone to the priority list. Here's his palm print." Clark took my hand and laid it on the cold metal. I felt a tickle and the whole plate changed color from silver to purple then back again.
"Working. James Harris Olson. 24 year old male. Currently working at the Daily Planet. He has a slight sugar imbalance." I could swear that the voice sounded worried for a moment. "He needs to eat something."
"Thank you, SARA. I'll see what we can do. Give him an Alpha 1 priority, please."
"Working... . Complete. What would you like to do, James?"
"Um, thanks SARA." I felt a little flustered. This computer was so far beyond anything I'd ever worked on before that it kind of threw me. "I need to know the status of all legislation that Senator Richard Gibbs was working on at the moment of his death. Bills that he was co-sponsoring or had written an opinion on or ..."
"Working. Results in approximately nine minutes."
I sat back in the comfortable leather desk chair and shook my head. A bowl of steaming soup appeared over my shoulder and Clark dropped a kiss on my head. "Eat while she's working."
"What does SARA stand for?" I took the bowl and spoon, beginning to eat immediately. I'd been too nervous to eat much dinner.
"Standard Archival Retrieval Application. A friend of mine has been working on her for the last decade. He wanted a nice innocuous acronym that wouldn't clue anyone what she really is. His mom needed a good program for her genealogy so he told everyone that's what SARA does." Clark had pulled up a footstool and was watching me eat.
I choked a little on the vegetable soup, thinking about this advanced program being used to construct a family tree. "Good thing we're not using her for my family. It would last a nanosecond."
"You don't talk about growing up much." Clark's hand was rubbing my knee.
"I had some bad luck with the families that took me. The first couple had me from my second month to a little over two. She had a nervous breakdown and he brought me back to the orphanage. That one was hard. I thought I'd been really bad and I kept asking where Mom and Dad were. Tim Baker became my protector then. He'd sneak in after lights out and hold me so I wouldn't be afraid of the dark." I looked back into the past. I'd come to terms with what had happened but somewhere inside, I guess that little boy would always be there wondering when he was going home.
Looking over at Clark, I surprised him brushing away a tear. "Hey, it's okay, big guy. I just grew up faster than I might have other wise. My second family was my last family. After them, I stayed at the orphanage until I turned 18. Tim stayed my protector until he left. He was five years older than I and he's the one who introduced me to my sexuality. I was twelve and heading full speed into puberty but girls didn't do anything for me. When I talked to him about it, he just smiled and tousled my hair. He explained that as long as you loved the person, it didn't matter if it was a guy or a girl."
"So, he was your first?" Clark asked hesitantly.
"Oh yeah! He taught me about my body and what felt good. We took care of each other until he turned 18 and left. He went straight to his Aunt Millie, who was single and not allowed to adopt him. She put him through college and I got to spend holidays with them until I went to college myself with the Daily Planet scholarship. We still keep in touch but Tim fell in love in college and they're still together. His SO, Mark writes mysteries and Tim teaches college history. Someday, I'd like to have someone I can introduce to them as my significant other." I smiled at the memory of the couple who welcomed me once a year in the summer for a long weekend at their place on Lake Michigan.
"What about college?"
"Let's just say, I experimented ... a lot." I grinned at the memories. "But I guess I'm kind of old fashioned. I look at Tim and Mark and I see two people who love each other, making a life and a home together. That's what I want."
Clark had that little frown line back so I set the empty bowl aside and gave him a hug. "Hey, it's okay, Clark..."
"Working. Results are printing now. Both of his terms bring a total of 1,363 bills in which he had an interest."
"Oh boy, we've got our work cut out for us. We'll need two copies, SARA. So Clark and I can both work on it."
"Working. Agreed, James."
Clark sighed and stood up. "It's getting late, Jimmy. I'll need to fly you home so I can get back to Lois and become Clark Kent again."
The next hour was hectic and the backpack that held the computer readouts made me feel off balance on the trip back. So, I probably held him tighter than I had going. We touched down on the roof a little after midnight and he took the backpack and his half of the paper. Clutching the fifty sheets to my chest, I watched him get ready to leave and couldn't think of anything to say.
I didn't want him to feel trapped in an experiment that he would probably decide wasn't worth it. But I didn't want him to think I was just using him. While I was dithering, he touched my cheek and brought my chin up.
"Don't give up on me just yet, Jimmy. We need time to explore the possibilities."
"I know. Maybe some calm would be good too."
"Nobody trying to kill us and no mystery to solve." He sighed and stepped back.
"Take care, Superman. See you tomorrow?"
"Count on it." And he lifted off and swooped away.
I watched him until I couldn't see him anymore. Turning towards the dim lights of the living room, I saw Mrs. Kenyon silhouetted in the patio doors. Oh god, had we done anything that would shock her?
"Hi, Mrs. Kenyon. I've got my homework laid out for me. Superman got me a list of all the bills that the Senator was involved in." I could feel myself babbling.
"Perhaps I could help you go over them. I worked with him on some of them. I'm glad you are all right. When I got back and you weren't here, I feared the worst, until I checked with the security tape and saw you leave with Superman."
"Oh." I tried frantically to recall what we'd done before we took off. I remembered at least one kiss. Had it been visible?
"Don't worry, Jimmy. I'm not a very judgmental person. I got that knocked out of me a long time ago. My daughter took up with someone we didn't consider very desirable. The fights we had seemed never ending. Until she ran away with him. We searched for her for two years." She closed her eyes and sighed. "We found her grave two hundred miles south of here. We had her exhumed and brought back to the family plot, very near where Richard will be buried tomorrow. I kept thinking to myself, if I'd only been more loving and accepting, she might have stayed. We could have weaned her away from him eventually."
"You can't always choose who you love, Mrs. Kenyon. Even when you know there's no hope at all for a happy ending, sometimes you just have to take the love where you find it and make a lot of memories for later." I wished I could soothe away some of the pain she still obviously felt.
"I know that now." She smiled at me and held out her hand. "But right this moment, I'm about to have some hot chocolate and some wonderful little tea cakes that our cook makes. Would you like to join me?"
"Sure. I could eat." I took her thin hand in mine and let her lead me into the living room. Somehow, I knew that even after this whole fiasco was over, we would remain friends. It's funny how people come into your life and you just feel right away that you've known them forever.
Even in hiding, I'd come upon a new friend. I really was a lucky man. Now, I needed to find who was behind all this so I could go back to helping Clark explore his sexuality. Maybe I'd be like Tim had been for me. A teacher. A guide. A friend. I might wish for more but I could live with that.
End chapter four