Title: Till Death Do Us Part
Characters/Pairings: Kal/Bruce, Lex Luthor, Lara, Jor-El, Alfred
Summary: Nightwing and Flamebird discover Lex Luthor's evil plan and rush to stop him if possible. A continuation of the From This Day Forward series.
Word count: 2700
Note: This is technically the conclusion of the series (at least for now), but there will be an epilogue later this week!
Kal was sparring with a training robot in the middle of the crystal cave. He had stripped down to the waist and could feel sweat trickling down his back, over his collarbones. The cave was warm today; they hadn't been able to get the temperature controls just right. He dodged a blow from the robot, pivoting and bending.
On the far side of the cave, Bruce was poring over a discussion of Kryptonian and human DNA. Or rather, he had been: as Kal swung to counterattack he caught a glimpse of his husband watching him out of the corner of his eye.
The cave wasn't that warm, so Kal had to admit he might have had other reasons for practicing half-naked--reasons that were more than justified by the look Bruce was giving him.
He threw himself forward and landed a hit on one of the robot's sensors, bringing it to a halt. Bruce threw him a towel and Kal began to rub himself down, perhaps a bit more lasciviously than was strictly necessary. Bruce shook his head, clearly amused by his transparent ploy, but his eyes gleamed in the glimmering light of the cave.
"I'm getting concerned about Jhal Farad-Ko," said Bruce. "She hasn't been seen for a few days now. Not since the council with the Kryptonian Elders."
"That's not that unusual for Jhal when she's in the middle of something," Kal pointed out.
"But you said she seemed quite upset at the news from the council. I don't think she's likely to be thrilled at the news that genetic merging with Terrans is necessary to save Krypton."
"Nor is her husband," Kal said.
Bruce frowned. "I think it might be time for Nightwing and Flamebird to do a little reconaissance of the Ko household."
: : :
Nightwing landed lightly on the wall of the compound, his midnight-blue costume blending into the shadows. Flamebird followed, a splash of color in the dark, but as silent as his partner.
To their surprise, the laboratory was unlocked, the door open wide. They entered cautiously; only silence greeted them.
One of the intruments in Flamebird's belt started to make a whining noise. Flamebird looked surprised and pulled out a tiny crystal. "That's strange," he said. "This detects an unusual level of background radiation." He walked around the lab, gesturing with the crystal. "But nothing here seems to be causing it specifically."
"So...there was something radioactive here, but it's not here now."
Flamebird looked at his partner, his eyes wide beneath the scarlet domino mask. "Something else is missing. When I did an interview with Jhal a few months ago about her latest research, there were boxes right here--" he pointed to a corner of the lab, the floor still showing the marks of recent activity. "But they're gone now."
Bruce had an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Do you remember what the boxes were?"
Flamebird nodded. "They were explosives."
Bruce stood very still in the center of the room, his mind putting various things into place. "The Gates. They're going to try to shut down the Gates."
"But...Jhal would never allow that," said Kal. "She may hate Terra, but she would never doom Krypton to its fate in order to keep Terrans off it."
Bruce's mouth was grim as he roamed the laboratory. Eventually he found what he had feared and expected: bloodstains on the floor of the bathroom, faint but distinct. "I think she may have underestimated Luthor," he said.
"But if the explosives and the radioactive material are gone, that means..."
"--That he's making his move tonight. Right now."
As one, they bolted for the door.
"We've got two objectives," Nightwing said over the rush of wind as they flew toward the Gate. "One is to keep the Gate from being shut down, of course. But I know Luthor, and he would never destroy the Gates until he'd looted Kryptonian technology and safely fled to Earth. So our second objective is to keep him from getting through the Gate with his loot, or he'll be able to wreak havoc on Earth."
Flamebird's fists clenched. "I won't let him harm your home," he said.
Bruce looked down at the delicate fluting spires below them, elegant and angular. "We'll save both of them," he said.
: : :
Lex finished placing the final charges. Jhal's defection had actually made his job easier--instead of using anthrax he could just use the Luthorium here, seeding the Gate site with green radiation. What did he care if the land was made poisonous when the whole planet would be doomed soon enough? With this Gate gone, the Terran Gate would lead nowhere: success. He set the timer, giving himself enough time to pass through the Gate, then hoisted his backpack of precious crystal technology. It was a little snug over the power suit, but there was no way he was going through without that. It was crude, but he could perfect it back on Earth.
"Time to go, Prudence," he said, and the mastiff fell into heel as they headed for the Gate together.
"No!" yelled a voice behind him. He turned--and cursed aloud at the sight of the two damned jackanapes descending from the sky. Not now, now when he was so close!
"Get the bombs," said Nightwing, "I'll deal with Luthor." The orange-clad vigilante nodded, slinging his bronze quarterstaff over his shoulder, and pulled a crystal from his belt that sparked and whined, honing in on the first of the bombs.
"Sic him, Prudence," said Lex, and the mastiff took off after Flamebird, barking and snapping. A distraction, but maybe enough--
Nightwing landed in front of him. "Give it up, Luthor. You can't succeed."
Luthor felt a grin stretching his face as he grabbed the little ray gun from his belt. Field-testing wasn't exactly his favorite thing, but this would be satisfying. Nightwing froze for just a moment as Lex leveled the gun. "What you aliens fail to remember is that human ingenuity and willpower can defeat you every time," he snarled. "Taste your death, Kryptonian!" And he turned the blistering green ray on Nightwing.
His satisfaction fell away into shock as Nightwing stepped forward through the green light and slapped the gun out of his hand contemptuously. "You'll have to do better than that," he said. "And in the name of the High Council, I arrest you for the murder of--"
"Yes, yes," Luthor drawled, determined not to allow the alien the satisfaction of seeing him gape in astonishment at the failure of his Luthorium. "The murder of my dear departed wife. I confess. And I confess to setting the bombs your confederate will never figure out soon enough to disarm, and to stranding your planet in space. In fact, I might as well confess to destroying your whole damned planet, since you'll all be doomed after this." He waved to a floating security camera. "Remember this face, Krypton. Your nemesis, Lex Luthor." Nightwing made a growling sound in his throat. "Nice suit," Lex said tauntingly. "Is it made of some special Kryptonian alloy weave?" He laughed. "That's the problem with you Kryptonians. You worship science, but blindly. You never see the full opportunities for power in what you have. Does your suit have bionics like this?"
He lunged forward with a swing that could have taken the man's head off, but the vigilante dodged , catching at Luthor's armored shoulders. "No, but it does have retractable crystal blades embedded in the gloves," Nightwing said conversationally.
Luthor couldn't help but laugh as the edges shrieked along his suit, leaving him untouched. "Pathetic," he sneered. "What good will those do you against a repulsor-ray?" He placed a hand on Nightwing's chest and released a blast of good old-fashioned force directly at the other man, sending the vigilante tumbling limply through the air to slam into the ground meters away. Luthor felt a fierce satisfaction, undermined only slightly by the slight smile on Nightwing's face before he had been thrown away. Why--
To his horror, he felt the straps of his backpack give way. Retractable crystal--
He heard the howl of rage just before Flamebird slammed into him, the metal quarterstaff fracturing the power pack on the back of the suit with a thud and a shower of sparks. The suit made a sad whining noise, and Luthor could feel the limbs losing power. As Flamebird picked him up bodily and shook him, Luthor saw the bag with its precious cargo fall to the ground. Then Flamebird threw him through the Gate, to sprawl helpless at the very feet of the astonished guards.
: : :
The security cameras picked up the whole thing in dramatic three-d color, and the climax was replayed almost constantly on the news and entertainment holochannels for weeks after, the stuff of legends.
Flamebird's frantic defusing of the last bomb was only the prelude for the moment that galvanized the planet.
Everyone saw it, everyone talked about it, an endless loop, an eternal moment:
Flamebird flies to his wounded partner and puts his arms around him, lifting him from the ground, tatters of dark blue fabric falling away from abraided flesh. "No!" Flamebird cries, anguish in his voice, bending over Nightwing, holding him close, protective arms curling around him.
Everyone remembers the moment where Nightwing's stern mouth twitches slightly, how his eyes open behind the mask. "The bombs..." he says in his low, melodious Kryptonian with the strange lilt to it that everyone is trying to imitate now, "Is Krypton safe?"
"Yes," says Flamebird. "Yes, love." And then he bends his face close to his partner's and brings his lips to the other man's in a long, breathless kiss, their arms around each other, their bodies close together. "We're safe."
: : :
The Kiss That Rocked the Planet, said the byline, leading into another replay of the moment. "For heaven's sake, Lara, turn that thing off," said Jor-El irritably as the doorbell rang.
Kal was on his way upstairs with a glass of water abut paused to watch his father open the door. "Dal-Zee with the Argo City Examiner," said the brisk young man as it opened. "You're Jor-El?" At Jor's nod he went on, "I had heard your son-in-law went to school with Lex Luthor and I was hoping to interview him about it."
The man continued without pause: "And we were hoping to talk to you about the plans to allow human immigration to Krypton, combined with the purchasing of human genetic material. As a member of the High Council, do you condone this dilution of Kryptonian genetic stock?"
Jor-El smiled politely at the reporter. "I'm afraid my son-in-law has been deeply rattled by recent events and has a bad case of the vapours. He's very delicate."
Lara chimed in: "He's like a fragile little snowflake, come down from the heavens to be with us."
Her husband shot her a look: You're pushing it.
"Oh, I get it," said Dal-Zee in disgust. "Your son's going to get exclusive rights to the interview, of course. Don't think I don't see right through you people."
He started to turn away, but Jor-El's voice stopped him. "Oh, and on the topic of 'genetic dilution': I think this development is not only necessary, but potentially highly beneficial to Krypton. We've been mired in the past, insular and closed for too long." His smile was frigid. "You may quote me on that."
The door swung shut on the reporter's astonished face.
"Thank you," said Kal.
Jor-El grunted as they went back to the living room. "I assume you're going upstairs to check on my oh-so-sensitive son-in-law."
"Well. Tell him to hurry up and get better, I'm getting tired of running interference for him." Jor-El waved an irritable hand at the hologram on the table, frozen at the moment where Nightwing's body lay on the ground. "I ask you, why didn't I get a hero like that Nightwing for my son-in-law, someone willing to give his life for the safety of Krypton? That's an alliance I could be proud of."
"Thank you," Kal said again, but Jor-El merely picked up a book and started reading it. Lara shot him a smile as he headed up the stairs.
"I'm fine, Alfred." Kal could hear Bruce's annoyed voice as he approached their room. "Stop fussing over me."
"I will if you promise not to push yourself, sir," said Alfred as Kal entered the room. "I know you."
"It isn't like I can move with these damn mutts pinning me down." Bruce was lying in bed, looking disgruntled, his chest still wrapped in bandages. Ace was lying across his left leg, Krypto across his right. When the dogs spotted Kal, their tails thumped the bed briefly in unison, and even Bruce looked like he wanted to smile for a moment.
Alfred sighed melodramatically and turned to Kal. "See that he doesn't get out of bed, Master Kal," he said as he left the room.
Kal handed Bruce the glass of water. "My father said to tell you thank you."
"I doubt he phrased it that way."
"No, but that's what he meant." Kal sat down carefully on the edge of the bed, careful neither to jar Bruce or disarrange their dogs. "I think I may have underestimated them." He smoothed back Bruce's hair. "Luthor's in jail on Earth, empty-handed. There was some conflict over whether the Terrans would extradite him to Krypton to stand trial, but it seems the Kryptonians are willing to relinquish their claim on him in return for increased traffic between the two planets."
Bruce nodded, looking satisfied. "Pragmatism wins out over ideology. That's a happy ending I can get behind."
"There'll still be problems and setbacks," said Kal.
"Isn't being the pessimist generally my job?"
"Someone's got to pick up the slack when you're in a relatively good mood."
Bruce snorted, but looked preoccupied as Alfred cleaned up and left the room. Then he cleared his throat. "Seeing as I am in a relatively good mood, this might be the time to talk about...offspring."
Kal frowned. "We don't have to have any. There should be enough to keep the planet stable as a result of the increased cultural exchange. And Nightwing and Flamebird will still be busy."
Bruce rubbed his forehead. "The logistics alone are a nightmare, Kal. There's no way I'm letting a child of mine be raised in a communal creche for the first three years of its life like Kryptonian kids. I'm not the cuddly type, but I'd want to be in my child's life. But even if we could re-work the terms of the contract, I know you'd have a conniption at the Terran school systems. I wouldn't even blame you. We'd have to work out some kind of time-sharing between the planets. And any time we spent on Terra...raising super-powered kids would be a nightmare I couldn't even begin to imagine. I never saw myself raising any kind of kids! And we'd need new identities if we wanted to continue the crime-fighting on Terra, Nightwing and Flamebird are too well-known here--assuming--"
"Of course," said Kal.
"And then what if they were sensitive to magic as well?" Bruce shook his head. "A super-powered magician baby, that would be no trouble at all, I'm sure. I don't think even Alfred could keep a magic-using Kryptonian in line. It would take a genius-level strategist to run a household like that," he said, throwing his hands in the air.
At his movement, Ace and Krypto jumped up to try and lick his face; Kal tried to pull them off his injured husband, and they ended up in a pile of dog and Kryptonian on the floor. Bruce peered down at the wriggling, barking, cursing tangle. "You can't even keep our dogs in line," he said.
But he was smiling.