By Marnie Rowe <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Submitted August 2000
Summary: Spiders mate for life, and Spiderman a.k.a. Peter Parker is about to take that step. A wedding is never a simple matter and when Lois Lane, her partner, Clark Kent, and multi-billionaire Bruce Wayne are on the guest list, it's a sure bet that they are going to fall into Misadventures Again… A sequel to the author's "Misadventures."
Author's note: I have a couple of people to thank for helping me with this story.. One would be sjh on #loiscla who told me after hours of searching the name of Haley's circus where the Graysons had their terrible accident, and I would also like to acknowledge that the origin of Spidey that I used was the one done by… Writer: Gerry Conway, Artist: Alex Saviuk and Inker: Andy Mushynsky. This 62-page Graphic Novel explores the pasts of both Peter Parker and Mary-Jane Watson-Parker. It was the one that I liked the best… ***
Lois heard a strident beep on her monitor, the one that signaled that she had new mail. Looking up from the article that she was working on to see what it was that came in, she was surprised to see that the sender was the Daily Bugle from New York. She sat back and frowned as she reviewed in her mind who she knew in New York, let alone from a rival paper like the Daily Bugle. Then it clicked, Peter! In a hurry now to see what it was that the photographer friend and fellow moonlighter in tights wanted, she clicked the flashing icon to access the main body of the message.
And what a message! It turned out to be an informal invite to his wedding!! Earlier in the year, Lois and Clark had met Peter and Bruce in Gotham and since then they had kept in contact. Lois and Clark, Peter and Bruce. They had quite a bit in common with each other, not that the average Joe Blow on the street could understand it; they all had an overblown sense of responsibility and they all wore their skivvies out of doors!
Well, the important thing was that Peter a.k.a. Spiderman was getting married, just like she and Clark were in a few more months. Hmm…Lois wondered to herself if Bruce would be finding someone to share his burden of secrecy with soon as well? Then Lois wondered if the girl knew whom she was marrying? Probably, Lois decided, Peter wouldn't keep that type of information to himself if he was going to spend the rest of his life with the woman. They all were like that, Clark, Bruce and Peter, they all seemed to have this code that others would have some trouble understanding as it seemed a lot of the time to contradict itself.
Lois surveyed the newsroom to see if her fiancé was back on the premises after checking with a source—or at least that was what he had used as an excuse this time around. He was back, over by the coffee machine. Under her breath she said his name so that he would look over in her direction and then when her eyes caught his, she motioned for him to come over. Not wasting any words, she pointed to what she still had up on her screen.
He read through it and grinned. Then he said, "Well, he couldn't let us beat him to the punch, hon, now could he?"
Lois laughed as she got to her feet and together they walked over to the chief's office and Clark knocked. Then Lois just pushed the door open, not waiting for an invite. Clark frowned at her but his heart wasn't behind it so Lois ignored him. Sheesh, sometimes the man was so stuffy!
Perry looked up as his door opened, knowing who it was by the manner of their combined entry—Clark knocked and Lois just waltzed in. If they were coming in here that meant that they wanted something and since it wasn't a rush of words that started as soon as the door opened he knew it had nothing to do with a story. Perry just cocked his head to the side and waited for the explanation of this intrusion of his office.
The expressions on his top reporting team's faces wasn't tense in any way, so he thought that it might just be good news. Lois confirmed this when she started to explain with a wide smile. "Perry, Clark and I need some time off next week, we have been invited to a wedding of a good friend in New York."
'New York, hmm…' Perry thought to himself, why did that send off bells in his head? Oh yes, that was right.' He shuffled through the pile of papers that tended to accumulate on his desk to find one in particular. Yes, here it was… a notice of Wayne Industries sponsoring a circus in New York. He looked up with a smile of his own and was gratified to see the smile on Lois' face falter a bit.
Nonchalantly he said, "Well now, I am glad that you two are going to New York but you may not have any time off. You two will just have to make time for your friend's wedding I'm afraid. I had this delivered today." He waved the paper that he had found in front of their faces. "It seems that your friend Bruce Wayne is hosting a performance of a circus in the city and I was trying to figure out who to send and this just solves that little aggravation nicely."
Lois' grin came back full force as she heard what it was that Perry wanted, heck they could probably throw in an interview with Bruce himself to sweeten the deal, now they would be able to attend Peter's wedding with pay. That was a definite bonus, or it was until she realized that it would make it Perry's purview to get them to New York. And that meant that they had to take a commercial flight. Turning to Clark she saw that his face had taken on a greenish cast, the thought of flying on airplanes still made him ill.
That is when she had another brilliant idea to match Perry's! "Perry, our friend Peter, who is getting married, is a freelance photographer, he could take the pictures for us so you wouldn't have to send anyone else."
Then, as if saying the word photographer had summoned him, Jimmy popped up in the doorway and mentioned, "Lois, Clark, some guy on line 3 for you two, says his name is Alfred?" Then the young man hurried away on some other errand that made up his day at the Planet.
With a cock of his head to see if it was ok with Perry, Clark moved to pick up the phone on Perry's desk. After a quiet hello, then a pause as he listened to what the other party on the line had to say, his face brightened to nearly blinding again, he said a quick affirmative and hung up. With a grin he said, "That was the personal butler of Bruce Wayne. Bruce has offered us the use of the townhouse that his company keeps in New York as well as a ride on his personal jet! Needless to say I accepted."
This of course meant that if he wanted, Clark could get to New York under his own power, though he would probably try to use the jet at first. It also meant that Perry would be jumping for joy that his top reporting team would be able to corner their friend to get the personal interview that he hoped for. Furthermore, paper would not have to foot the bill for their accommodations or transport, and Perry could feel very magnanimous to be able to send them on their way with pay.
It also made Lois' suggestion of using Parker as the photographer a foregone conclusion, it wasn't like Perry could send anyone else to room and fly with them as it wasn't up to him to invite anybody else along. Which was kinda the idea, he guessed, as he saw the couple in front of him exchange secretive glances. 'Ah well,' he thought to himself, 'it's not like you could be too picky about what a gift horse gives you.'
Lois grabbed Clark by the hand and dragged him out of the office, presumably on their way to pack. Perry just shook his head at this display of exuberance from his normally sane top reporters. ***
Peter was sitting at the desk he had usurped to make some e- mails when he got a return ding. 'Wow that was fast,' he thought,'but hey, look who I sent messages to…Superman and the personal account of Bruce Wayne a.k.a. Batman.' There were lots of accounts that you could use to send to Bruce but only one that guaranteed that he would see it.
That was the one that indirectly led to the Bat computer. Needless to say that it wasn't an address that floated around, you had to given it by the man himself. Thinking of his friends brought back to Peter the circumstances that had led to them knowing each other as well as knowing about each other. It always brought a grin to his face to think of that fiasco, but not one to be regretted since it had resulted in some really good friends.
That in turn brought to mind when he had been recuperating from his battle with the Puma, MJ coming to visit and then him throwing her out his door just in time to confront the creature again, before he was even fully recovered—then to find that when he opened the door that she hadn't moved from the hallway. She then had floored him by telling him that she knew.
He had hedged and she had cut through his bull by finishing her sentence. "Peter, I know you are Spiderman, I have known since you climbed out of the window to catch the thief that shot your Uncle Ben when you were fifteen years old. It was what made me reject your first proposal, but now I know that I feel to strongly for you to let that get in my way." The look on her face had been what convinced him that she in fact did know what she was saying, it had been a mixture of trepidation and love. The trepidation was for his Spiderman persona and the love was for him, Peter.
He had dropped to one knee and proposed to her for the second time, still bruised from the recent battle. She had replied, "No, but I will move in with you and then try again in a month. After the month had barely passed he had asked her again and this time, wonder of wonders, she had accepted. He had leaped to the ceiling and did a little jig of joy up there in his happiness.
It was something he did absentmindedly on occasion, pace the ceiling and it generally showed that he was caught up in his emotions. Worried about something normally or when he was involved in thinking hard about some type of science experiment that he was caught up in that, he tended to forget his ability to defy the rules of physics. Very rarely had it been due to joy since he acquired his powers.
Mary-Jane had erupted into a bubbly laugh at the sight of her fiancé capering on the ceiling of their shared apartment and he had jumped down to swing her round in a bear hug at the same time that he gave her a huge kiss. Putting her down he asked her when they should aim for as a date for the wedding. Breathless from his exuberance she had replied "How about in two months?"
He had agreed, and now he was sitting in his usurped desk in the Daily Bugle getting the replies from three very unlikely friends. They all were coming to his moment of unalloyed joy.
'Hmm…' Peter thought, 'how do I get in touch with Matt again?' Then he smacked himself in the forehead. 'Duh, use the phone, Parker, he at least is local.' Swiveling in the chair he reached for his wallet to get at Matt Murdock's card, and once he had it in hand picked up the phone and started to dial. ***
The night was dark, but that didn't faze the man in the red skintight suit, it wasn't like he needed the light to see or anything. The target was still in the warehouse, Daredevil could sense that there were four others with the Kingpin but he didn't recognize them, so they were probably low on the totem and were there to receive their instructions from the boss. So Daredevil figured that if he cut out the cancer then the rest of the illness would falter enough to be eradicated by more normal means.
Daredevil took a few minutes to think on when he had first run into the Kingpin a.k.a. Wilson Fisk, not that the dual identity of Fisk was common knowledge. It had been due to his father that Daredevil had run afoul of the man the first time, it was when Fisk had just begun his foray into the worlds of high business and organized crime. One of his trucks full of toxic waste had run over the child that he had been and when he recovered he found that he was blind, but that his other senses more than made up for the lack. It had not taken him long to devise a way to keep an eye on Fisk in both sides of his world and fight him when ever possible.
Then something that Kingpin said rose through the white noise of the operating machinery to the red-suited man's ears, breaking him from his reverie. "Parker…Married…Perfect lure for…Spiderfool." Daredevil winced, he had been invited to that wedding…now he would have to wear two monkey suits! And it was getting too late in the year for that to be comfortable, ugh! Oh well, better to be safe than sorry.
Kingpin at that moment chose to leave the warehouse, leaving his goons to their own devices. Daredevil followed the big man home and knew that he would be able to rest for now, Kingpin never left his wife once he was home. Moving unerringly through the maze that made up the mid-level area of the streets of New York, the man was off to get some well-deserved rest. He had an early court in the morning. ***
The private jet taxied to a halt on the runway, and the gangway was extended so that the passengers could depart. Clark was the first off the plane, looking just a little green around the gills. With almost unseemly haste he scurried down the gangway to the ground. Lois and Bruce followed after him, laughing, with Alfred bringing up the rear of the little procession.
When Bruce and Lois met up with Clark on the ground, he muttered to them, "Well, flying that way wasn't anywhere near as bad as flying on a commercial airline, but thank you very much but I will find my own way back to Metropolis!" That was it. Lois couldn't hold it in any longer; she broke down and started to giggle with a vengeance.
The mental picture that she kept having of Superman in tights- wetting fear was just too much for her. Bruce seemed to be having a hard time keeping a straight face as well; Alfred was the only one who managed to keep his poker face of the group.
Clark looked a little miffed at first when they started to laugh at him but then he managed to see some of the humor in the situation and a little sheepish smile crossed his face as well. Then, as if to justify himself, he said, "Well, think of it, how many people do you know with a driver's license who like to have someone else do the driving, especially if they are considered a professional at what they do? And one other thing, how many doctors out there are good patients?"
Lois actually began to think of what it was that bothered Clark about flying in an airplane, and it made a surprising amount of sense. Bruce was nodding his own understanding of Clark's point as well. It was just the rather odd thought that someone who could catch the plane in mid-air being fearful of being inside was just too weird an idea on the surface, but if you thought about it, then…well, then it was robbed of much of the humor. But that was the case with many funny situations, wasn't it?
Alfred had walked ahead of them and reached the car that had been delivered from the estate earlier in the day. No one else was needed to drive Master Bruce anywhere as long as he was there, thank you very much. He loaded the cases that porters had brought from the plane into the boot of the car and made quiet arrangements for the rest of the luggage to be delivered in a matter of hours. Then he held open one of the back doors and cleared his throat imperiously.
Bruce heard the sound and winced a bit, Alfred still had the power to make him feel a little boy in trouble, but he took the hint and herded Lois and Clark in the direction of the car where Alfred waited. Clark was quick enough to see the humor in the way that Bruce had responded to the prod of his elderly butler and mentioned in an aside to his fiancée, "Now we know just who is in charge at the Wayne manor, eh?" Bruce overheard as he was meant to and just threw Clark a grin, changing his usual grim appearance to a surprisingly boyish one. "You got that right, Clark," was all he said in response, though, as he sat his guests first and then entered the vehicle himself. Alfred closed the door behind him and got into the driver's seat, where it seemed that he always was regardless if he was in a vehicle or not. ***
Peter reached over absently to pick up the phone as it rang shrilly for a second time. "Hello?" he inquired, not really listening he expected it to be another of MJ's modeling days friends. So when he heard the voice on the other end of the extension he sat bolt upright and a huge grin spread over his face.
MJ walked in to the living room just as her fiancé lit up like a lightbulb and guessed correctly that one of his friends had finally made it to the dubious haven of New York. He caught sight of her as he was hanging up the receiver, then he whooped and caught her up in one of those bone-crushing bear hugs that he was so fond of using, crowing all the while. "They're here, they're here, all of them together at the same time!"
Now, MJ was happy for Peter that they were here, but she was getting really dizzy, not something that was generally applied to the redheads in this world. She also wanted to ask a few questions but her man was effectively keeping her silent or, more appropriately, breathless.
Finally Peter calmed down enough to put her down, if not release her totally, and she had the opportunity to ask him, "Who? Is here Peter, and have I met them yet?" She had her hands resting on his chest so that when he went to hug her again she would have enough warning to get in a breath.
He linked his hands together loosely behind her back, and said like she should know, "Lois Lane, Clark Kent, who are in the same boat as us, engaged that is, and Bruce Wayne, who sadly to report is not." MJ looked confused, "What the heck do you mean is not? Not what?" She asked in a rather bewildered tone of voice. In one sentence, garbled as it was, he had totally lost her. That was the way of things normally, for when he started into talking about science but not people, that was her area of expertise!
Well, she knew that when he calmed down that he would start making sense again. All she had to do was wait, torture though it may feel like, but she would get him to make sense, hopefully sooner than later.
"Umm, what?" Peter asked his soon to be blushing bride. MJ smacked him in his chest to get his attention back from wherever it had wandered off to. "Tiger," she barked. "Pay attention. Lois Lane and Kent…wait a minute, did you say Bruce Wayne?! As in the huge multi-billionaire Bruce Wayne of Wayne Industries?" It had taken her a bit but she had finally made the connection to what he had said, it wasn't a name that she had expected to hear out of her fiancé's mouth, and not spoken with such familiarity as it had been. "Do you mean that you are friends with the head of a huge conglomerate like Wayne Industries and you still put up with Jamieson and his bull?" She was looking at him like he was out of his tree.
The same look, as a matter of fact, that he had pictured on her face when he imagined how he told her the truth about himself. He hadn't seen it when she had told him about knowing but he was seeing it now, and it was exactly the same as he had imagined. Very cute.
As she realized who else he had said, Lois Lane and Clark Kent? Those reporters from the Daily Planet that always got the exclusive Superman interviews! When had Peter met all these famous people? It wasn't like he was the head photographer at the Bugle…wait, that conference/awards ceremony that he had been sent to earlier this year in Gotham for some of his Spidey photos. That must have been when he met them all, Wayne had been the host of the thing if she remembered correctly and two great reporters like Lane & Kent had no doubt been up for a few awards at least. But what would have drawn them all together, where was the common thread? Peter's next words broke into her musings before she had much more than a niggling, "Hon, I told them that we would be there in a short time frame so that you could meet them."
"There? Where is there, tiger? Mind filling the old girl in on what is happening?" Peter's posture took on a sheepish cast. 'Ooops,' he thought to himself, 'got a little ahead of myself there.' He really should have mentioned to MJ who he had invited to their wedding. Well, he would remedy that. "On the way over to East Hampton, my lady, where we will be the personal guests of playboy/socialite, Bruce Wayne for dinner. We will be sharing this exclusive dining experience with the charming company of two intrepid reporters known by their shared by-line of Lois Lane and Clark Kent of the Daily Planet, the hottest team in Metropolis if not the world."
MJ started to giggle at this rendition of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous-style narrative. No matter what Peter did she could never stay peeved with him, he would always clown his way out of it.
Not what you would have thought of when you saw his grade point average from school. From studying that you would think that he had absolutely no sense of humor, or that he could effortlessly climb up sheer walls either, for that matter.
Escorting her to the driver's side of her convertible, he opened her door and handed her in, then after a quick peek to make sure that there was no-one watching, he bounced into the passenger side seat. He reclined after he had buckled in and gave a little wave of his hand as if to say, 'Well? We going or what?' Mary- Jane Watson-soon to be Parker thought to herself, ' Ooooh, I could just kick him sometimes!' ***
The next day at a late breakfast Clark turned to Lois with a look on his face that told her that he was trying to remember something and it was eluding him. "Lois, Hon, did you remember to tell Peter about the circus?" Lois looked up from her chocolate chip waffles and said, "No I thought that you talked to him about it. Why didn't you?" Clark wore a wry smile as he replied, "Nope, I thought that you were going to…" Lois rolled her eyes to the ceiling and muttered something so that even Clark couldn't hear what she had said. She shrugged and put her fork down as she stood up from the table, she walked over to where the phone was and dialed. She cocked her head to the side as she waited for the other end to be picked up.
"Mary-Jane? Do you mind if I call you that? No, oh ok then, MJ. No, nothing is wrong, but you know men, they jabber about sports and all that but tend to forget what is important." Lois' laugh pealed out in response to something that the other woman had said.
When she started to talk again you could hear the smile evident in her voice, "Oh, well it's just that we were able to get a story so that this would be a paid leave of absence and we need Peter and his camera." A distressed look crossed her features as she quickly said, "No, you are definitely welcome to come with us, it is just that the circus is in town, so we are supposed to be covering it."
Another laugh and Lois sallied, "What, you afraid of the animals? Oh those animals, well I promise that if you come I will protect you. Ok then, we will see you both this afternoon." After making the arrangements to meet them at the box office she hung up the phone and sat down at the table again.
Then she looked up from her plate, surprised; her old plate had been removed and a fresh one had been placed at her seat just as she had sat down. Alfred caught her eye and quipped in his dry form of humor, "Not all men, Ms Lane, are devoid of certain…courtesies." She grinned and said to the room in general, "Wow, so this is how the upper-half lives. I could definitely get used to this full time!"
Clark knew that she was just joking but still felt a pang in his heart at her comment. If he received all the benefits that he was given as Superman then they could afford all this too, but he thought that she agreed to what he had done when he set up the Superman Foundation. She had, he saw when he glanced in her direction she had been waiting for him to look her way so that she could assure him that what they had was just fine. That she didn't feel the need to live like this.
The little remaining of the morning they spent lazing around just talking about silly aimless things, until Alfred came into the room and announced, "Master Bruce, there is a phone call for you from the ringmaster of Haley's circus." Bruce had a puzzled expression on his face but nevertheless got up, after making his apologies to his guests, to take his phone call.
Lois knew that there was something up, her trouble bump was itching like mad. She motioned for Clark to listen in to what the ringmaster was saying, he listened on the surface, ready to break off his eavesdropping at a moment's notice if it was just a personal discussion.
But that wasn't the case, he began to speak as he listened, paraphrasing as he went along. "Hmm, it seems that someone thinks that because Bruce has sponsored the circus to the city and offered to match the proceeds at the gate that someone thinks that this circus is an easy mark for a protection racket." Hearing this, Lois sat straight up, nothing like an investigation in the offing to get her juices flowing.
Clark just grinned as he saw his beloved go into 'Mad Dog Lane' mode, then he thought of something and his grin faded, he hoped that this would not scare Bruce away, this was a new face of Lois' that he had not seen as yet. Then his grin came back full force as he thought, 'Nah…she would probably be a compliment to his personal style of snooping.'
Bruce came back into the room and opened his mouth to say something but Lois beat him to the punch. "We are going early? To look around for a bit, right?" she rapped out, excitement glowing from her eyes. Bruce did a wonderful imitation of a fish then, as he looked over at Clark understanding dawned as to what had happened.
His mouth curved into a wry grin as he said, "I still am not used to that, and yes, Lois, we will head out as soon as you are ready to go, ok?" The words had barely left Bruce's lips and Lois was already up and brushing past him to go to her room to freshen up. Clark hadn't moved so Bruce looked at him and just said, "And you want me to find someone??" ***
Peter and Mary-Jane were a bit early so when they saw that the three that they were supposed to be meeting already in front of the box office they were surprised. MJ moved forward a bit quicker till she was in range to comfortably ask, "What, did I misunderstand the time? Have you been here long?"
Bruce stepped closer and said in a comforting tone, "No, no, it was my business that brings us early, I had some things to do that I didn't think that I had to do."
Peter heard the undercurrent in Bruce's voice and wondered whose business had brought them here early, Wayne Industries or Batman. Studying the face of the other super hero in the party he deduced that it was a combination of both. Clark tended to be very affable but then when Superman was needed his jaw assumed this rigid aspect, which happened to be in evidence at the moment.
Peter hung back a bit as Bruce and Clark stayed behind Lois, who like the tornado that Clark lovingly referred to her as swept MJ up in her wake and away. Bruce began to fill Peter in so that he was up to date on the threats uttered for protection, and what little snooping they had managed until the circus' security had kicked them out.
But they had not been able to get anything more, not even with the advantages that Clark had since he had no idea what to look for. Clark was doing his best bifocal wearing impersonation as they wandered to get to their box seats, scanning over his glasses as they walked.
Peter heard the Man of Steel sigh in frustration as he kept coming up empty; they knew that the thugs who had uttered the threats were going to use the first performance to show their hand. But even as the lights dimmed under the tent canvas, he had still not seen anything amiss.
Then the ringmaster stepped out as the spotlight shone down into the center ring. His top hat glistened in the bright light beaming down, the lapels of his old-fashioned tails coat matched, his white jodhpurs reflected the light almost blindingly when he strutted around as his voice boomed out to the crowd.
He was a consummate showman, that was for sure, this particular ringmaster. Peter managed to get a few action shots as he was making his remarks about Wayne Industries and the generous offer made by Bruce Wayne himself, to match the box office funds that were garnered to donate to a series of charities.
The first act was nothing out of the ordinary, funny because it was the first of the clown appearances, and then each successive act was just as normal or as close to normal that you could get when watching a circus performance.
Everything was going so smoothly that all the super heroes were lulled into a feeling of security. If it hadn't happened by now then maybe it wouldn't happen at all. But there was something that they hadn't considered, if you want to make a point you try to make it a big one. But that hardly mattered as Clark's head snapped up in the way that most of his fellow box seat companions knew meant trouble.
Clark leaned closer to Peter and asked in an undertone, "Power Transformer 58…It's about to overload, they have emergency crews on the way but…" Peter's face blanched, and he whispered under his breath loud enough that Clark could hear him though, "That is right beside a school and a major shopping strip, it will be absolutely swarming with people." They stood up as one and made discreet signals to the third hero present. Lois and MJ knew something was up by the agitation of the guys, and the one woman knew, and the other one suspected.
Bruce was not too happy but he knew that in the situation that they were heading in he was not too much more than any other ordinary Joe on the street. His suits were not bomb proof, and he did not have the built-in danger signals that the other two men had, Peter had his agility and his spider-sense and Clark had his hearing and invulnerability.
Bruce and Lois were listening for the sonic boom that signaled Clark in a hurry, and were not disappointed. They sat back and began to scan the area around them, hoping that they would be able to help in the forewarned danger at the circus itself.
It was soon after two of the super heroes had left when the disaster which they wanted to prevent started happening. The female Grayson was leaping to be caught by the male, their young son waiting for his brief highlight in the act up on the platform. The added weight of the woman when her husband caught her took its toll on the weakened rope and it snapped. Just one side, though, so they were not thrown into the net but off to the side where there was absolutely nothing to save them. His heart was in his mouth he saw it, he could do nothing and the two that might have been able to were off fighting another disaster that had many more lives at stake.
Bruce had seen the slight off-key catch and knew with a sinking heart that with the trajectory the two performers were listing at, that there was no hope, he looked up to the platform where the child could see everything that was happening to his parents in unmerciful detail. Bruce felt a kindred spirit with the boy, one that made him see his own life again in stark detail. His parents too had been brutally and stupidly murdered in front of his eyes, when he was just about the same age as the youngster on the platform.
Bruce had known deep down where the biggest tragedy could be, and he had let it slip his mind. The guilt that he felt over his slip-up was almost too much for him to bear and it was just as well he was pinned in the public eye, he could not have done anything but stare the way that this hit so close to home. ***
Police had swarmed at the 911 call and now the only people left at the scene of the tragedy were the circus personnel, police, and Bruce and his guests. Clark and Peter had rushed in after everything was done, they arrived at the same time as the police smelling very faintly of smoke. The mission of mercy that they had taken care of was a success but that did not make them feel less about the disaster here, since they had known that something was going to happen at the circus.
That two of the personal guests of Bruce Wayne were notable reporters was a fact that raised a few eyebrows in the police attending to the crime scene, though they really didn't pay much attention to his other two guests, the photographer and the fashion model. The police wondered, though, why they were off to the side and not harassing them while they tried to work. That was what award-winning reporters did, get underfoot at tragedies. But they were there and not getting into the nitty gritty of it all, they were off conferring quietly with Bruce Wayne, trying to stay out of the limelight.
But Lois and Clark certainly drew quite an amount even though they were trying not to. They were famous investigative reporters, why else would they be here unless Wayne had known in advance what might go wrong? But most of them saw that if he had known then why would he seem so shell-shocked by the tragedy? Then finally someone noticed the other two individuals standing with their arms locked together also with Wayne and guessed, correctly amazingly enough, that the profession of his friends was not what they were there for.
There had been a big spread in several of the local papers and even on the TV about the supermodel Mary-Jane Watson and her approaching wedding. So the officer guessed and rightly that Bruce Wayne and the team of Lois Lane and Clark Kent were there only as an aside to the main event, the wedding of their friends.
Finally it was beginning to get dark and the police had done what they could, but there was still a loose end that they felt needed to be taken care of. The Grayson boy.
He was welcome to stay on the grounds, many had already offered a bunk in their trailers but the Police psychiatrist who had been called in to question the boy felt that what he needed was a total change of location. That if he was left in the circus surroundings that he would have a worse time of it adjusting to the deaths of his parents.
The man approached Bruce with this information and left it hanging; Bruce automatically volunteered to take the boy in as a temporary ward, for two reasons. One was that he could provide better protection than the police could since the boy had witnessed the saboteur, and two, that if he could help someone that was so much like him he would. Just like Alfred had raised him, he knew that this boy needed a sympathetic hand to raise him, but also one that wouldn't let the past get in the way of true discipline. Besides, what could be more different than going from a circus performer to the ward of a multi- billionaire? Furthermore, with the rigorous questioning that the detectives had put the young man through, it had been uncovered that he had seen the saboteur, and the personal guilt was likely to need some very pricey head doctor.
The other two couples shared some speaking glances, hmm…not what they had thought of when they had thought that Bruce needed someone to share his life with but it was a start. There was all that common ground for them to build a relationship from and the boy could do worse than to channel his emotions in the same way that Bruce did. It would be better if he could be guided though and that was something that Bruce could help with. Bruce turned from the policewoman that had brought the boy over to be introduced to who he was going to be staying with, caught them in the midst of the surplus of speaking looks and glared suspiciously.
With his hand on the shoulder of his new ward to guide him, Bruce led the boy over to where his friends were standing "Richard, these are some of my friends..Lois Lane and Clark Kent of the Daily Planet in Metropolis." The boy was still deep in shock and denial so he looked like an automaton. He did react to outside stimuli, but it was almost too exuberant when he did. Lois was taken by a feeling that it was like he was trying his best not to have the present intrude on his carefully balanced reality. If anything did intrude too far then he would have to face up to the truth, and that was something that he did not need at the moment.
Richard's eyes grew round as he latched onto the fact that he knew the names. He was an avid reader and newspapers were plentiful and ever changing. And then this type of thing was exactly what he wanted to keep his mind off what he had seen earlier. Anything was preferable to making it real, that if he did not think about his parents being dead that then it could be a dream. He blurted out, "Oh wow, you guys always get the Superman interviews don't you?" Bruce laughed inwardly as he saw Clark wince, before he replied, "Umm, yes, that would be us."
Then he turned the boy to the other couple who had been standing in the shadows; they stepped forward as Bruce began to introduce them. He didn't even get the chance; it seemed that the newspaper spread that the one investigator had seen, so this boy had as well. His eyes grew even rounder as he recognized the buxom red-haired lady and then even wider as he gazed upon Peter. "You are Mary-Jane Watson and you fiancé is Peter Parker!! He's the guy that gets all those totally cool shots of Spiderman!"
Then suddenly something must have registered, not what concerned him really but of the people around him, because his face fell, "Oh, I am so sorry that I have wrecked your wedding, this must not be what you had in mind at all for the occasion." Not what the assembled adults would have expected, it was eerie the way that young Grayson was so worried about what would hurt others. He had just suffered a huge tragedy and the only part that he seemed to find real was that it was going to impact negatively on the celebrations of his new guardian's friends. Not a healthy reaction and the group standing around the boy all worried.
Peter seemed to know what to say, and not in any way joking even though he was making light. "Well, Richard, you are in the company of your peers for the most part…Both MJ and I are orphans, so is Bruce and Clark was adopted as a baby." Dick's head snapped up to gaze around at the famous people that he admired so much. They were all orphans, like him now? But…All of a sudden, it was too much for him to take in, Dick had become more than numb, and he began to crash. As a hand, he didn't know or really care whose, was used to gently steer him in the direction they were going, he followed docilely as a lamb.
The sheer pain in the eyes of Richard Grayson made even big tough policemen who got themselves caught in his gaze shrink away. It was too raw, the agony ran too deep for the men to deal with. They dealt with the inner city gang wars all the time and it never seemed to lessen. The stronger the love, the worse the pain. It made them wonder if their jobs were really worth the trouble. ***
Later that evening the men were all sitting around in the den after they had put the boy to bed, with a sedative slipped into the snack that he had been given by Alfred to insure that he slept untroubled by any hint of dreams. It was the one thing that they could do for him. It was not enough, they should have been able to do something else.
The atmosphere in the room was thick with guilt, thick enough to cut with a knife. Clark was obsessing over the fact that he and Peter had both left when they had been forewarned. They had blithely assumed that Bruce could handle whatever might happen. There was an almost tangible air of desperation in the den, almost as if they were trying too hard to relax. Things were not working out, as they should have been. They were gathered for a happy occasion, not to deal with yet another tragedy.
MJ and Lois had retired to the apartment that the model and Peter shared, since the superstition that the bride be seen by the groom before the ceremony was bad luck, unanimously they had decided not to tempt fate any more than they already had. The guys were not the best company at the moment anyway.
So that left just the guys hanging around. But the way they were doing that very normal thing—well, if anyone had witnessed the manner that the three friends were trying to relax in, they would have been in for the heart stopping moment of their life. Clark was hanging in the air and reclining like he was in the most comfortable chair in the world. Peter was hanging, literally, off the mantle that he seemed to find anytime that he was the presence of his fellow heroes. Bruce looked very mundane and down to earth sitting in the posh leather rocker recliner that dominated the room regularly, if you overlooked what he had in his hands, which was a batarang. He was absently fiddling with it, spinning it as students spin a pencil in an exam, the deadly blade side whistling as it sliced through the air. He was frowning also, they all were. It was not like they hadn't had any warning, but they had still failed.
Clark frowned as he thought of something, "Hey," he said. "Aren't you supposed to be having a party? A stag, to celebrate the last night that you are single, Peter?"
Peter looked confused and then over in Clark's direction and said, "Nope, I am not supposed to throw myself a party, that is the job of my best man, and since I don't have one of those then how was I going to have the party?" He shrugged to show how much he was bothered by the fact, which wasn't very, and continued. "I think being able to be entirely myself definitely beats a party hands down any day of the year."
Clark could definitely agree with that and did not press the issue further. Except that he could not resist voicing the bitter dig that sprang full-blown into his mind, his eyes snapping he said in a self-mocking voice. "Yeah, you are buggy, Peter. Bruce there is Batty, and I, my friends, am Super…" Clark ducked as he became the target for pillow projectiles snatched of the matching leather sofa that he knew were going to be heading his way after making a crack like that. He caught the two fluffy assault weapons at superspeed and whumped the other two men up side their heads respectively. They were still groaning at his punning and that was it, things degenerated rather quickly at that point.
No matter how old you get there is something that appeals to the inner child and the sheer silliness of mock fighting was something that was very easy to slip into as a release for tensions built up from other times. So it was that Alfred with his usual aplomb walked in on a very strange scene without even batting an eye.
Bruce was hanging onto Peter's ankle, the only part of his wall- crawling friend that he could reach without any of his more technical gadgets. Peter was more than halfway up the wall, relentlessly tickling the floating Clark in one of the PG-rated places that the Man of Steel wasn't impervious, Peter was attacking the weakness he had discovered, unmercifully. The release of the mock fight was something that was only made better by the lack of any need to hide what they all could do.
Alfred cleared his throat to announce his presence to the occupants of the room, and startled all three of the men. Clark lost altitude and dragged Peter down at the same time, so Peter was hanging upside down with his feet close to the ceiling. Bruce was more practiced at being surprised by his butler, he just let go of the ankle that he had been using as a piton and dropped almost noiselessly to the floor. When Alfred addressed them they all felt sheepish, just like the little boys that they had regressed into would have felt being caught at their shenanigans. They even shuffled their feet and straightened their clothing, as if erasing the evidence would erase the scene that Alfred had witnessed.
"Master Bruce, I think that it is time that you and your guests retired for the night. You all have a rather big day tomorrow." The wind taken out of their collective sails, the menfolk regained the last shreds of dignity they had left, which was not all that much, around themselves. "Thank you, Alfred, we will retire now," Clark said, trying to keep himself from blushing. O Lordy, if his mom had seen him acting like that, she woulda had his ear in that pincer grip so fast… ***
"So, Lois…" Mary-Jane said as she was sitting across the table from the reporter, a breed that MJ normally had no use for but strangely enough, she had taken a real shine to the woman from Metropolis. Maybe it was because of the link they had through their menfolk. "You and I have a bit more in common than you would think?"
Lois examined the other woman's face closely to try to determine what she meant by her comment. But MJ having made her living off her face and her mastery over it was able to project a very good front to the public eye even though that might not be how she felt inside. Literally a poker face that many a gambler would die for.
MJ laughed inside as she saw the other woman trying to determine what she had not said. Mary-Jane got up from the table and said to Lois, "Come on, I could wiggle into my dress all on my lonesome but I think that it will be more fun if I have some help." Lois still was worrying over what MJ had said earlier but she allowed herself to be distracted by the prospect of playing dress up. ***
Meanwhile the guys were at the club already, waiting for the other guest that had yet to show his face in the area—Matt Murdock, a lawyer friend of Peter's. Bruce had insisted that the boy, Richard, accompany them and neither of the other guys had objected, in fact Bruce had just beat them to the punch.
Since neither Peter nor MJ had a lot of family or close friends the attendance list was mostly made up of co-workers and the like. But the man that they were waiting upon was on par with Clark and Bruce to Peter, or only to a very lesser degree anyway, if anything.
Matt was a blind lawyer that Peter had met when he had been framed for something a while back. Matt had defended him, believing him correctly to be innocent. This was something that the other two men found to be a bit odd, that Matt Murdock had decided to defend someone he did not know. Why did he do it? And he did it for no pay, in fact he had paid the bail for Peter to get out of jail, so you could say that he had gone into the red for Peter, when he did not know who had done the crime, just that the accuser was suspect to him. . When Matt was introduced to Clark he did a bit of a backstep, his senses were telling him something rather amazing about the man standing in front of him, he was denser than steel molecularly. He was then introduced to Bruce and again his senses told him that this was not your average millionaire; the long underwear in the summer was a bit of a giveaway.
So it was a very odd collection of men, and boy, that were gathered in the sitting room at the exclusive club that only a few were members of, waiting for the ladies to arrive. But the club wasn't one of those snooty type ones, so they all began to get comfy as they got to know each other better. Not that they were going to be best friends after one afternoon and evening but they at least could get better acquainted for Peter's sake if no other reason.
So it was when Clark and Bruce had tired of the strained mingling and had moved off into a corner and were talking about what had happened the day before at the circus, that they saw Matt, on his return from the men's room. They saw the blind lawyer move out of the way of a falling floor lamp so adroitly that you could have sworn that he was able to see it. The two men looked at each other with questioning looks but then with neither feeling up to investigating a friend of Peter's too much, they left it alone.
But the reaction that the other man had displayed was very familiar to both of the crimefighters; it was ingrained in them due to their second lives. What, or more accurately, 'who' was Matt Murdock at other times? Bruce, or his alter ego of the dark detective of course already had some suspicions but that was how he worked, he was the Dark Knight, after all. He had had a number of possibilities pop into his head instantly. And Clark being half of the top reporting team that sniffed out corruption in Metropolis, a city that was teeming with various varieties of nasties, was no slouch in the investigative department either.
Matt was unaware that he had been observed, he was too busy taking the unfamiliar surroundings in 'not' stride, he was supposed to be blind after all; it would not do for him to wander about like a fully sighted man. Not something that your average blind man would have to worry about. But then not much of this whole thing was average, was it?
Peter Parker, little gopher/freelance photographer/researcher, getting married to Mary-Jane Watson, supermodel, the ceremony attended by multi-billionaire Bruce Wayne and two star reporters, Lois Lane and Clark Kent of the Daily Planet, a rival newspaper from another city, who were Peter's guests. Then there were all the other people, various guests and members of the club that were not denied entrance even on this day.
Matt stopped dead as he sensed a familiar bulk in the room, Fisk. He was here already… now Matt knew that Wilson Fisk, the rich philanthropist, was a member of this club but it was not one of his usual haunts. Normally he only showed up on the nights where there was a charity event being held to look gracious. Making sure that he was blundering more than usual, Matt wandered closer to his archenemy. He wanted to see if he could overhear a few hints of what the man was planning for the day. Forewarned was forearmed after all, any hints that he could glean would help him plan his strategy.
Since Bruce and Clark had seen the quick dodge that Matt had pulled they went on alert when he was observed to get clumsier and blundered nearer to a huge man that neither of them had seen before. Bruce leaned over and pointed the fellow out to a gossiping older man who, flattered by the attention of Bruce Wayne, was very forthcoming with information about the man that he had been queried about.
"That is Wilson Fisk." The gossip seemed to puff up as he realized that he knew more about a person in the room than a visiting multi-billionaire. "He is one of the richest men in the world, the richest in New York, not quite in your league, sir, but well enough off that you might have met him before." Bruce thanked the garrulous oldster gracefully and turned back to his discussion cover with Clark. Now that they knew who the man was they both knew enough of double-sided people to recognize the air of menace that hung around the huge figure of Wilson Fisk. Clark compared it to the air that had been always around Luthor; the understated menace was about the same, the raw power was much more evident, though.
Through the combined attentions of the interest of Matt and the hunch that something was going to happen, they knew to pay good attention to what the man was doing. It still surprised them when it did, much sooner than they thought. They had to give Fisk credit though, his act of surprise when the huge machines burst in through the old fashioned double doors followed by a very odd looking contrivance of a wheelchair holding a blond man, was very well played. Not quite good enough, but very well played.
The entrance of the Spider slayers was not enough to distract the two heroes from the hasty disappearance of Matt Murdock into a closet either. Clark made a sign for Bruce to hang around, to see what the man in the hover chair wanted first before they decided that they were needed.
As in the make-up of most villains that they had encountered, this one was not an exception to the rule. He started to explain his reasons in a pompous and overbearing voice as soon as the screaming had quieted down.
"My name, good people, is Alistair Smythe, I am here to ask that pesky murdering wall crawler to show himself. If he does no one has to be hurt. But if he does not…" The undertone of threat in his voice was unmistakable, "One by one you will be eliminated to show him how serious I am." One of his Spider- slayers shot out a rapid-fire laser burst setting a priceless chair on fire. A quick-thinking employee trained a fire extinguisher on the blaze before it set off the sprinkler system but the aroma of the chemicals used hung in the air with the unwholesome odor of the charred silk.
Bruce looked over to see what Peter thought of this new development, he was surprised to see that Mary-Jane had a death grip on the arm of her intended, while she was whispering intently into his ear. What on earth was she doing here? She was not supposed to put in an appearance until the wedding march had started. But it seemed that she had caught a glimpse of the machines before they had reached the building and had come out to restrain her intended before she would be widowed before the wedding.
Lois was standing behind the couple trying to catch the eyes of her fiancé. Clark had seen her and she was motioning for him to take off, she moved forward to mutter something in Peter's other ear and MJ actually had the nerve to wink in their direction.
This of course set him off balance slightly, but it was not enough to really divert his attention from the more immediate plight. He saw that Lois had managed to calm Peter enough that MJ's grip on his arm was more decorous then actually restraining him. He took that as a sign to gather Bruce up at superspeed to a place a bit more secluded so that they could assume their other identities. The identities would be more helpful, but by keeping an eye on things in the main room with his x-ray advantage, he was able to see Daredevil make his appearance. So that was who Matt was in his skivvies—as Lois would say, interesting.
Superman and Batman appeared from opposite ends of the room, they each took out a spider slayer in their own unique way and moved on to another each. Alistair Smythe saw them and his face turned magenta with rage. The possibility of these two showing up was not something that had appeared in his briefing of the events. Daredevil was always a possibility, he was native to the city.
The three super heroes were making short work of Smythe's spider slayers, they were designed with weapons particular to countering the special abilities of one hero that had not arrived as yet. What Smythe did not realize was that he was not going to show at all if his friends had any say in the matter. And it soon became apparent that he was not going to be needed, most of the great wheels had been reduced to rubble already.
Fisk was finding it more difficult to conceal his anger at the way that events had unfolded, he had been prepared for the arrival of the villain but not the extra dollop of heroes. Smythe's eyes sought out new orders from his boss and Fisk made a very brief slashing motion across his throat as if to say cut the losses now, and get out. Since that was what Smythe had wanted to see, he did not waste any time in hightailing the high-tech chair out of there.
Daredevil, Superman and Batman had taken out the last of the slayers as their owner had made his escape, now they all stood in the midst and looked around to make sure that no one was hurt. The tension in the air was very thick, the fright that the assembled guests had felt still hung heavy in the air and had not dissipated with the exit of the villain. Then one of the employees moved forward a few steps to see the extent of the mess and groaned loudly. It was heartfelt, he was one of the janitors for the club, he said aloud to no-one in particular, "Nowhere, and I mean nowhere, was this in my contract."
The laughter that shook the room was a bit hysterical but it broke the deadlock of fear. Superman began to pick up the largest pieces and was compacting them into manageable sizes. Daredevil walked about finding pieces that were not readily visible and taking them to the center of the floor and Batman was making a few phone calls to get disposal vehicles to come and get the refuse.
It did not take long to get everything cleaned up, the wedding proceeded then with many quips about it being one to tell the grandkids about. And as if the fates were apologizing for what had happened already the rest of the wedding went off without a hitch, the supper and reception included. ***
Later on in the evening the friends were all gathered again at Bruce's townhouse, accompanied by Matt Murdock. The new Mr. and Mrs. Parker, not being scheduled to leave for their honeymoon until the next day, had decided to spend time with their friends before everyone had to scatter again. They were again in the den and Peter and MJ were cuddled together on the floor in front of the fireplace, Lois and Clark were sitting close on the leather sofa, Dick was curled up in the opposite corner looking like he was asleep. Bruce was again ensconced in his recliner, nothing in his hands this time, though the batarang was tucked into the side pocket because it had been left lying on the chair after the horseplay the night before. Matt was leaning against the wall.
MJ broke the silence that had fallen as they watched the flickering of the small fire that Alfred had lit. She checked to see if Dick was asleep and then said quietly said, "You know," her green eyes glittered with amusement, "it's a wonder that you all have not given yourselves away before to anyone that knows you." Lois just shared the other woman's grin, she knew that MJ was a good one. And it really did not take much to figure it out if you knew who one was.
MJ and Lois had a very enlightening little chat in the back room after all the fuss had died down between the wedding and the supper. One reason being that MJ had whispered fiercely to Lois when she had seen the spider slayers that she was not letting Peter out in that mess when there was someone here that was much better equipped to handle them, namely Clark in his Super garb.
She had not yet connected Bruce to Batman but when she did not see either of her future husband's friends she had tossed together the pieces relatively quickly. Matt and Daredevil were something that she had suspected for a while, there was no way that he could hide the fact that he could move better than any other blind person that she had ever seen in action. But it had been clinched tonight when she saw him sprint for a closet as everyone else was screaming. Sprinting around people and objects with ease made her suspicions a bit academic at that point.
Dick did not open his eyes or shift at all but piped up all of a sudden, "Mrs. Parker is right you know." he opened his eyes when he felt every gaze on him including Matt's supposedly non- existent one. "I guess I could call her Mrs. Spiderman too right?" At the incredulous faces around him Dick just frowned and said with the prickly pride of all teenagers, "I may be young but I am not stupid, I had already made some of the connections yesterday at the circus." His voice broke a bit on saying where his parents had died in front of him. He got himself back under control and continued, "I did not register them until today though. I found the batarang that Bruce had left hanging around this morning, nearly sat on it in fact, that would have really hurt." There were winces from everyone except Clark for that sentiment, but Dick was going strong now, it was like MJ had broken the dam that kept the boy quiet when she had teased about their laxness.
"That was the first clue, then at the club I was forgotten in all the excitement, there are advantages to being small at times, and I saw a whole bunch of interesting things. See I had put together that Clark and Lois got most of the Superman exclusives, and that Peter got for the most part all the Spiderman in action shots, that told me that you had to have some form of edge. The foot prints on the wall up there in the corner just confirmed that part of my hypothesis and the idea that I had but what clinched it all for me was seeing Matt dashing pell-mell for that closet and then Lois making this gesture to Clark." He did the little handwavy thing that denoted flying to the reporting couple.
Dick wore a tired grin, they always said to keep your mind busy to help you deal with grief, and this was a good way as any to do it. The hardest part had been deciding if he should let them know that he had figured them out. MJ had thrown him a line that he could not ignore though. And after being almost totally ignored at the wedding it was nice to be the center of attention here for a bit.
Matt decided that he was not going to be left out of this either, he strode forward with no more pretensions that he was not fully aware of what was around him and said quietly. "I knew when I was introduced to the two of you and I have known about Peter for a long time." Peter looked at his friend with a bit of surprise, he had not figured it out about Matt, that had been the eye opener for him tonight. Matt laughed aloud at his photographer friend's stunned ox look. All he said was, "you can't wear long underwear and not have me know about it due to my special abilities." Bruce laughed as he realized that they all had been wearing two suits to the wedding, in the summer, their body temperatures must have been dead giveaways, let alone the actual suits.
"And for Clark, you do have a bit of a different way of presenting yourself to radar images you know. You are too incredibly dense on the molecular level for you to be human." Clark just hrrumphed while everyone else giggled at his discomfiture. It was always funny to see the Man of Steel that bullets bounced off of with no real sensation getting all wriggley over being teased.
Alfred walked in at that moment, he said in a totally bland voice, "Now that you have all chewed over the obvious in your dashing and brilliant manners, would anyone care for a bedtime snack or a nightcap?"