Ok, I’ll admit that there’s a certain amount of mystique and intrigue involving what we do. I’ll admit that in the absence of any real information regarding who we are and how we operate tends to lend itself to suspicion. We don’t tell the public the details of what happens on our missions for many reasons -- some I agree with and some I don’t -- but ultimately it’s for the public’s safety and best interest. If people knew even half the shit that went on in this universe, they'd probably curl up in a little ball and hide for the rest of their lives.
But recently the newspapers have resorted to half-truths, exaggerated details and out-right lies in the pursuit of a "good story." And it’s not just the JLA as a team anymore. They've been attacking all of us individually as well, writing things that are just patently untrue. I’m pretty sure the public at large knows better; they know to take everything they read in the tabloids with a grain of salt the size of Montana, but that still doesn’t give these people the right to lambaste us at every turn!
When I took the mantle of Green Lantern, I knew there would be some questioning, some concern and even some animosity. I expected a bit of backlash from the public at large. Most folks knew Hal Jordan as one of the world’s greatest heroes and that’s a hard shadow to come out from under. I like to think that I've done a pretty good job of it. People are starting to treat me as a hero in my own right, instead of "Hal’s Replacement."
Then the papers have to go and print shit like this. I mean, seeing this in the National Enquirer or the Weekly World News is one thing, but this is the fucking GOTHAM POST! I just want to sit down and explain it to these people! Just because a guy changes his costume doesn’t mean that he’s changed his powers or changed his attitude! It’s new threads, that’s it! But no, according to the Post, I have now achieved this incredible (and "dangerous") new level of power. They're calling me "God-like"! They're saying that I can change the universe with a wave of my hand!
They're calling me a threat.
It’s just a new outfit, people! Don’t get your panties in a bunch over a change of costume! I have a hard enough time programming my goddamn VCR; changing the universe is not in my Dayplanner!
The worst part is, I can tell it’s starting to affect the public at large. They may not read this crap, but they see the headlines at every corner newsstand in the city. They see the super-bold type as they stand in line at the supermarket. And now I’m noticing the sideways glances, the strange half-smiles like they’re all waiting for me to… I don’t even know what!
I understand why this stuff gets written about Batman. I mean, let’s face it: he thrives on it! A large part of his effectiveness is that no one knows anything about him. It’s like that bit from Usual Suspects: "The greatest trick The Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist." He revels in the fact that half the population thinks that he’s an Urban Legend. And because of that, the papers are left with nothing to write except lies, conjecture and suppositions. That works for him.
But I pretty much go out of my way to be public! I stick around for the reporters and do the photo ops. I kiss the hands and shake the babies. I try to keep the public as informed as possible about what I’m doing. But none of that seems to matter. The papers still insist that I’m something I’m not. It seems like no matter how much I do, no matter how many photo ops and press conferences and interviews I do, they still continue to second guess my motives and lie about my life! It’s like there’s nothing I can do to convince or please them!
Huh. Ok, so as Green Lantern, hero at large, there’s nothing I can do.
But as Kyle Rayner, published cartoonist…
Maybe it’s time for a little taste of their own medicine.
Lois’s laughter filled the apartment. Clark looked over the top of his Wall Street Journal at his wife, her head over a magazine she had laid out on the breakfast table.
"What’s so funny?" he asked with a warm smile.
"Rayner," she replied. "He’s at it again. Man, I don’t know what the Post did to piss him off, but it’s made for some great strips."
Lois passed the "Glitz" magazine over to Clark, opened to one of the pages near the back. The bottom half of the page was filled with a 2-line, 6-panel comic strip called "Glitzy Life." Even if Lois had said nothing about who wrote it, Clark knew it was Kyle’s strip. He had long suspected that "Glitzy Life" was 90% of the reason Lois even bothered getting the magazine in the first place.
The first panel showed two men, one obviously a photographer and the other looked like a producer or director of some kind. Both men were looking off to the left hand side of the panel, the photographer smirking and the producer-type with a look of shock on his face. A giant, grotesquely written "Blech!" filled the top left corner of the panel.
The second panel had the two men looking at each other. The producer-type asked: 'What is she doing?!" and the photographer replied: "She said she wanted to lose 5 pounds before the shoot."
In the third panel, a gorgeous female model walked past the two men, one hand thrusting what looked like a newspaper to the photographer and the other hand wiping her mouth.
The fourth panel showed the photographer handing the paper to the producer as he walked off following the model. The word balloon over the departing photographer read: "Works every time."
The producer stood alone in the fifth panel, holding the paper and reading it with a quizzical look on his face. "The Gotham Post? I don’t get it. What so bad abou…"
The strip concluded with the producer, very obviously running off to the left, his cheeks puffed out and his hand over his mouth.
Clark chuckled, then tried to disguise it with a cough. It was a funny strip, but somewhat inappropriate. And certainly inappropriate for Superman to laugh at. Lois, Oh she of the knowing smirk and cocked eyebrow, knew better. She knew Clark just wanted to let loose and fill the room with peals of laughter, but his insane notions of "appropriate and inappropriate humor" wouldn’t allow for it. She snatched the magazine back from him and continued to flip through the end of the magazine.
Clark sat in silence, his head slightly down in concentration.
"Don’t" Lois’s voice interrupted his thoughts.
"Hmm?" Clark questioned, now broken from his thoughts. He glanced up at her.
"I said: Don’t"
"Don’t what, dear."
"Don’t 'have a little talk' with Kyle."
Clark shook his head slightly, staring at his wife in confusion. Had he said that out loud? Had he actually spoken that phrase without realizing it?
"You're thinking too loud again, Smallville," Lois said with another customary smirk. "I know what you're thinking. You're thinking that Kyle has gone too far. You're thinking that someone needs to say something to him about it. And, you're thinking that instead of talking to him as one 'normal' human being to another, you would stand in front of him with that big red ’s' on your chest and tell him that 'heroes should be above all of this pettiness.' "
"Well, tthhhhhbbbbttt! on that!" Lois continued, adding the raspberry for greater effect. "He’s smarting from the treatment the POST has been giving Green Lantern and he’s taking this opportunity to strike back. Is it petty? Yes! Is it fair? Probably not! Is it funny? Hell, yes! Leave it alone and let the boy do his job!"
Clark just stared at his wife across the breakfast table, too dumbfounded by her little outburst to speak. His brow furrowed slightly as he looked at her, then he relaxed as he noticed that look. That all too familiar look on his darling wife’s face. That "C'mon-Smallville! Plead-your-side-of-the-case-to-me! I-dare-you!" look that Clark had seen too many times in their relationship. He knew she was fired up. He knew she was wired and ready for a few rounds of good-natured bantering.
Clark simply slipped into a smirk of his own, wiped his mouth with his napkin and slowly stood, coming around behind Lois in her chair and kneeling behind her. He leaned forward, resting his chin on her shoulder so that they were cheek to cheek.
"Actually, I wasn’t thinking that at all." His smirk widened to a grin that his wife couldn’t see, but could feel pressing against her cheek.
"Oh no?" She replied, sighing softly as his large arms wrapped around her lovingly.
"No," he answered, giving her a light hug. "Actually, I was thinking how lucky I am to have such a lovely, talented, opinionated, strong-willed woman in my life." He punctuated the sentence with a small, soft kiss at the corner of her jaw line, just below the earlobe.
"Ooo. Nice recovery, Smallville." Lois chuckled, then sighed again as he moved down her neck and placed another soft kiss against her tingling skin.
"Why, Mistah Kent," Lois drawled, adopting her best Scarlet O'Hara. "Ah do believe you are tryin' to seduce me…"
Clark moaned a soft chuckle, sending another shiver across her skin, as his expert fingers began sliding the silken robe from her shoulder.
"Hey, Arthur. What’s going on?"
"Well, I’m sitting Monitor Duty and I just got a call from Clark…"
"Lemme guess. We need to reschedule the meeting this week."
"Yup. Bruce’s big shindig is this Friday…"
"Arthur, I’d hardly call the Wayne Foundation League of Nations Charity Event a 'Bruce Shindig'."
"Hey, it’s got the Wayne name on it. It’s a Bruce Shindig. Besides, I’m willing to bet that he purposefully plans these damn things on Fridays just to screw with our meeting schedules…"
"C'mon Arthur. This is a joint charity event between the Wayne Foundation and the League of Nations. I seriously doubt Bruce has any say so whatsoever about when it actually occurs."
"If you say so. Anyway, Diana and I have to be there on behalf of our respective Nations, Bruce (obviously) has to be there and now apparently Clark is going to have to cover it for the Planet. So considering half the League will be out…"
"No point in trying to have the meeting. That’s fine. I’ll call the others and let them know were pushing it back to Saturday. Oh, speaking of which: you know the boys are still pissed at you, right?"
"Pissed at me? Why?"
"Why?! Because you cheated them out of their money at the poker game, that’s why!"
"Cheated?! What do you mean 'cheated'?!"
"We told you at the beginning. There’s a strict 'No Powers' rule regarding the poker games!"
"Hey, my aquatic telepathy isn’t really a 'power'. It’s just a gift. Besides, I can’t help it if Kyle’s goldfish are chatty."
"Yeah, 'chatty' my green Martian butt."
"Besides, I gave all the money back."
"Wrapped in seaweed and floating in each of our toilets! I’m still not sure I want to know how you did that one! Kyle still insists that it’s like that whole ’snakes climbing up the sewer pipes and into your toilet' thing…"
"Hey, c'mon J'onn. That’s just an Urban Legend."
"Yeah, well, so is the Batman."
Both men chuckled.
"Ok, Arthur. I’ll call the boys and let 'em know about the meeting. Have fun at the Charity Event."
"Yeah, right. A room full of politicians, businessmen, gossip-hounds, and the "cultural elite" of Gotham City, combined with Bruce in Fop mode, Clark as the Nerdy Reporter and The Princess being all regal. I’m sure I’ll have a blast…"
There were many things about the "surface world" that Arthur could never quite understand. Particularly, there were many English phrases or cliches that, hard as he tried, he just couldn’t quite grasp their meaning. Two of the more vexing of these phrases, coming from someone who lives 4 miles under the ocean, were "in over your head" and "out of your depth".
Every once in a while, however, something would happen while he was on the surface that would help put a particular turn of phrase in perspective. That Friday, at the Wayne Foundation League of Nations Charity Event, Arthur was finally beginning to understand the meaning of those two particular phrases.
"I-I’m sorry, ma'am… Who?"
"Sebastian!" Gladys Ashton-Larraby reiterated, looking at the King of the Seven Seas as if she fully expected him to know who she was talking about.
"Uh, no. I don’t believe I know any crab named ’sebastian'…" Arthur replied, still smiling the best that he could. "However, there are literally millions of miles of undersea area and billions of undersea creatures, so there are places I still have not been and creatures I have still never met," Arthur lied. He had been to every square inch of his undersea realm during his lifetime, but he found that the "It’s too big for any one person…" excuse usually worked wonders in instances like this. Almost immediately, however, he recognized the error of applying "normal instances" against the upper-crust whirlwind known as Gladys Ashton-Larraby.
"But, you are the ruler of the entire undersea kingdom, are you not?" she probed, as her unbelievably inebriated husband appeared to be more interested in Arthur’s harpoon hand than the actual conversation.
"Yes, ma'am" Arthur replied questioningly.
"Do you mean that you are a King who does not know his entire Kingdom? How can you make laws and regulations over areas that you know nothing about?" She wasn’t condescending or accusatory, simply curious. Fascinated, more like it. She stared at him, a wide smile on her face as he attempted to work his way out of his own lie.
"W-well, there are local constables in every section that report to me directly," Arthur offered, hoping that to be sufficient. It seemed to be, as her eyes started to glaze a bit at the word "constables". "It is not unlike this League of Nations. Very similar…" he desperately attempted to change the subject.
She leaned in, undeterred. "So, Your Majesty, is it true?" She glanced around conspiratorially while he simply stared at her in confusion. She leaned in even farther, Arthur suddenly keenly aware that her dress was seemingly failing in its job of trying to keep her more-than-ample bosom from tumbling out. "Can you really talk to the fish?"
Arthur leaned back a bit, partly in exasperation on receiving the all too common question and partly for self-preservation. If that dress finally gave way, he wanted to be as for from the impending explosion of flesh as possible. "Uh… Yes. It is true."
She leaned back, her bosom safely tucking itself back into the normal confines of the already-strained dress. She was beaming, her whole face contorted into a surprised and fascinated smile. "So… what do they say!?"
Arthur’s brow furrowed and his mouth opened to respond, but suddenly no words came out. He was flabbergasted at the question, unsure of how to even begin a response.
"King Orin!" came the call, rescuing him from the bowels of, quite easily, the strangest conversation he had ever been involved in. He turned to see who had addressed him and he let out a small sigh of relief as a bespectacled man approached, notepad and pen in hand. The reporter approached the trio. "King Orin, I was hoping I could get that interview you promised earlier."
"Yes!" Arthur replied, almost too eagerly, then clamed a bit. "Yes, of course." He turned to the couple in front of him. "This is Mr. Kent from the Daily Planet. Mr. Kent, allow me to introduce Mr. And Mrs. Larraby…"
"Ashton-Larraby, dear" Gladys corrected with a bit too much emphasis as she smiled and shook Clark’s hand. She nudged Randolph slightly, breaking him from his drunken stupor long enough for him to instinctively pop his hand out to shake Clark’s.
"Yes, sorry," Arthur corrected himself. "I had agreed earlier this evening to do an exclusive interview with Mr. Kent here, so if you two could please excuse me…"
"Of course, Dear," Gladys gushed. "Believe me, we know all too well about dealing with the… press." Clark was amazed with how much venom and spite one woman could put into one word and still pass as socially polite. Thankfully (for him, anyway) she returned her attention to Arthur. She reached up, gently touching his upper arm, unable to prevent the slight gasp from escaping her lips upon feeling the powerful muscle under his tuxedo jacket.
"Anyway, Your Majesty, you simply must come and find us before you leave tonight. There is so much more I’d like to hear about…"
"Of course," Arthur lied, "I will. Thank you both very much."
Arthur realized to some degree of horror that, had it been socially acceptable, Mrs. Ashton-Larraby would most likely have pinched his cheek before dragging her stumbling husband away and into the crowd.
Arthur and Clark moved to a relatively remote corner of the room, Clark continually scribbling doodles on his pad, keeping up the appearance of an interview.
"Thanks, Clark," Arthur sighed, "Dear Poseidon, I thought that woman would be the death of me."
Clark chuckled. "Don’t thank me, Arthur. Thank Bruce. He saw that you were cornered by that couple and sent me to rescue you."
Arthur looked around the gathered partygoers. "Where is our esteemed host, anyway?"
"Hmm. I don’t know," Clark replied. "The last I saw him, he was pontificating to Mayor Dickerson about the differences in various squash rackets."
"Ah, so 'Fop Mode' is wholeheartedly engaged, I take it?"
"Hey, speaking of Bruce," Arthur probed, "Is his date really who I think it is?"
Clark looked at Arthur over the rim of his glasses, a condescending look in his eyes. "Arthur, this is neither the time nor the place…"
"So it is her!" Arthur beamed, before letting out an elongated "Wow!"
"What?! You can’t tell me you're not the least bit curious about that…"
"Actually, Bruce’s private life is just that: Private."
"Yeah, but considering who he is and who she is…"
"Arthur, drop it."
They both remained silent for a few minutes, both scanning the crowd. Finally, Arthur leaned over and half-whispered "So, do you think they know!?"
"Arthur," Clark chided in a harsh whisper, unable to hide his own grin even as he did so.
"Hey, I’m just saying! I mean, if they don’t, it’s like a giant Shakespearean Farce just waiting to happen!"
Clark chuckled, trying again (unsuccessfully) to cover it with a cough. He tried desperately to keep his laughter contained as Arthur continued.
"Seriously! I mean think about it. What if he knows and she doesn’t! Or visa-versa…"
"They both know." The steady, monotone voice behind them jerked both of the two heroes upright. They immediately turned and found a young waiter, one hand behind his back the other holding aloft a tray of filled champagne flutes.
"Champagne?" the waiter offered as both Clark and Arthur stared at him, then at each other, then back to the waiter. After a second or two of completely stunned silence, Clark was the first to regain his composure long enough to speak.
"Excuse me? Wh-what did you say?"
"Would either of you two care for some champagne?" the waiter offered in explanation.
"No, no" Arthur interrupted. "Before that. When you first came up behind us. What did you say?"
"Oh, that," the waiter confirmed. "I said 'They both know'."
Clark assumed his own version of the BatStare. "They both know what, exactly"
"He knows that she’s Catwoman and she knows that he’s Batman," the young man stated matter-of-factly.
Clark and Arthur both immediately looked at each other, each one making sure that the other had heard exactly what he had. Simultaneously, they did a double, then triple, then quadruple take at the waiter, who simply stood there smiling, glancing around the room looking for other patrons who’s glasses were in need of refilling. As Clark stared intently at the young waiter, Arthur dropped his eyes slowly, his face relaxing in recognition. He sent a mental message he knew the waiter would receive.
::J'onn! You scared the shit out of us!::
::Heh heh heh::
::Okay, you’d better confess to Clark. He looks like he’s about to have an aneurysm::
Clark stood, still staring intently at the waiter, sweat collecting on his brow. J’onn opened the telepathic link to Clark and chuckled in his head. ::Gotcha, Flyboy!::
Clark’s eyes widened, then his entire face relaxed. He figured a Daily Planet reporter punching a waiter at a charity event wouldn’t be a good idea. He mentally reminded himself of Perry’s first rule of journalism: "Report the Story, Do Not Become the Story!"
After a few minutes (in which Clark collected himself, even chuckling a bit at the ruse) the three men continued the conversation orally.
"How long has it been going on?" Clark asked J'onn, who seemed to be more "in the know" than anyone else at the moment.
"Best I can gather, a couple of months."
"Why now?" Arthur voiced his main question. "I mean, we've all hinted at it for years. We've all kidded him -- to no avail, I might add -- for years about their supposed relationship. So why now, after all this time, have they actually gotten together?"
"Who knows for sure," J'onn offered. "I first started noticing it just after… Hmm…"
"What?" Arthur prompted.
"I didn’t even think of that before. I first became aware of it just after Cat-Tails closed…"
"Wait," Clark interjected, "you 'first became aware of it'? What does that mean? And how is it that you know so much about it?"
J'onn smirked in that way that only J'onn could. "Clark, stop asking questions you really don’t want the answers for…"
Arthur and J'onn chuckled. Clark did not look very amused. J'onn decided to shift the conversation a bit out of the dangerous territory. "Look, it doesn’t really matter how or why at this point. It just is. It is a reality. The question now is: what, if anything, do we need to do about it?"
To be continued...