End of Summer
 
The Bodyguard Syl Francis Lois Lane and Dick Grayson
"That's Ms. Lane to you, Sergeant!"

"Sorry, Mrs. Lane. I mean, Ms. Kent! I mean--!"

"Is there a problem, Sergeant Jennings?" Captain MacCauley asked politely.

Jennings turned towards his superior, his gratitude obvious. "Captain! Ms., uh, Lane here is from The Daily Planet in Metropolis. She's here to do a story on--"

"--I'm here to do a story on Blockbuster, Captain," Lois interrupted. She held out her hand to MacCauley. "Hi. Lois Lane. I'm with the Planet."

"Yes, Ms. Lane, I'm quite aware of what paper you write for. Even here in Blüdhaven, we've heard of Lane and Kent, the Pulitzer Prize winning husband and wife team from Metropolis." MacCauley shook hands warmly with the beautiful reporter. "Please, Ms. Lane, won't you step into my office?" MacCauley turned to Jennings. "Sergeant, is there someone currently available who can escort Ms. Lane while she's in our fair city?"

"Oh, Captain MacCauley, I assure you. You needn't go to any trouble for me!" Lois protested.

"Oh, but Ms. Lane, I assure you that it's no trouble at all. What kind of a representative of my city would I be if I didn't extend the full level of courtesy to a VIP such as yourself? I mean, you're a celebrity in your own right, Ms. Lane. And Blüdhaven can be a very dangerous place for the newcomer. Especially one as beautiful as you."

As they stepped into MacCauley's office, they heard Jennings in the background, "Grayson! Officer Grayson! Report to the squad room, A.S.A.P.!"

A few minutes later, there was a confident knock on the door, and a young police officer stuck his head in.

"You wanted to see me, sir?" he asked politely.

"Grayson! Come in, please!" MacCauley invited. "Officer Grayson, I want you to meet--"

"Lois Lane!" Grayson said in sudden recognition. "We've met before!" he added with a smile.

"We have?" Lois asked uncertainly.

"Yes, ma'am. Although you probably don't remember me. I was only twelve at the time. And you were a little distracted, I guess." Grayson shrugged. "Most women are around my guardian." He laughed suddenly. "Mister Kent was sure fit to be tied, though. I thought he was gonna kill Bruce for sure!"

"Bruce?" Lois still couldn't place the young officer.

"Yes, ma'am. Bruce Wayne, my legal guardian when I was kid."

"Grayson? You're Dick Grayson? Why you were only this high--" Lois gestured with her hand indicating a much shorter height than this tall, straight, and impossibly handsome young man who stood before her. "I can't believe it! How long has it been? Ten years?"

Grayson nodded.

"But a police officer? Why would the heir to one of the largest fortunes on the East Coast join the police force? And in Blüdhaven? I don't understand." Lois shook her head. She'd come to Blüdhaven looking for a story on Blockbuster and the citywide corruption that he currently manipulated.

Instead, it looked like a different kind of story had suddenly landed itself smack dab on her lap. Unfortunately, Lois didn't have the time nor the inclination to pursue it at the moment.

"Kid, I'd love to spend some time talking to you, but I've got a deadline to make and some pretty nasty characters to meet. So, if you'll excuse me?"

"Uh, sorry, Ms. Lane," Captain MacCauley interrupted, "but I'm afraid that it's gonna be Officer Grayson's job to escort you around our fair city."

"Don't be ridiculous, Captain MacCauley. I'm a big girl and can take care of myself. I don't need a child tagging along after me!" Lois noticed Grayson's pained grimace at the word 'child'. "Sorry, kid, no offense intended."

"That's okay, ma'am. But I'm afraid that I have a job to do, too." Grayson looked at MacCauley for confirmation. At MacCauley's nod, Grayson added, "And don't worry, Mrs. Kent. I can take pretty good care of myself, too."

"That's Ms. Lane to you, kid!"

****

The two shadows moved stealthily, as one with the night. Lois was duly impressed by Grayson's natural athletic abilities and down home practical approach to protecting her. Rather than putting up a bunch of inane arguments that he was certain to lose, Grayson simply went along with each of her harebrained ideas.

This one was simply the latest scheme she'd concocted in the past twenty-four hours. They'd tailed Blockbuster's minions all day, taking breath-taking chances that would've gotten Clark's super-wrath turned on her in an instant. But this kid took it all in stride.

Lois made small talk during the long periods of waiting, and in the process, learned quite a bit about her BPD bodyguard. They were sitting on the rooftop adjoining Blockbuster's waterfront warehouse. Earlier that day, Grayson had successfully bugged the place.

To her chagrin, when Lois asked him "How?" Grayson gave her a heart-stopping smile but wouldn't elaborate.

"Sorry, Ms. Lane, but it's one of those highly technical cop-things that we sworn officers of the law aren't privy to reveal to civilians. You understand, of course." Grayson gave her such an intensely serious stare that Lois almost bit. Catching a sudden twinkle flit across his eyes, she snorted.

"You almost had me going there, kid," Lois said. "But I'm afraid you're talking to the master at deception here. You? Well, you're just too…innocent to pull it off successfully! No offense, intended!"

Grayson merely quirked an eyebrow and gave her an amused half-grin. Where had she seen that particular expression before, Lois wondered? Of course, she realized. Bruce Wayne! That half-smile, as if hiding some humorous secret from the world, was Bruce Wayne's signature smile seen plastered over countless magazine covers. Not a real smile, yet not a phony one either. Just pure Bruce Wayne.

And now it was young Officer Grayson's smile as well.

The heir to the Wayne fortune currently sat listening intently into a set of headphones, monitoring what was being said inside the warehouse. Simultaneously, he was trying to respond politely to Lois's questions.

"After the earthquake, Bruce basically forbade me from returning to Gotham City. Said it was too dangerous and that he didn't want to risk me. I decided that I could do more to help others as a police officer than as an indolent billionaire's heir. There are thousands of ex-Gothamites moving into Blüdhaven. The city's just about ready to explode with its sudden over-population. This is the least I can do, I guess."

"Just where is Bruce Wayne?" Lois asked. "Since the earthquake, and his testimony before Congress, he seems to have disappeared. Lucius Fox isn't talking, and neither is anyone else associated with Wayne Enterprises. It's funny, I guess, but why hasn't anyone even thought to ask you what you know?"

"It's not really surprising, Ms. Lane," Grayson replied quietly. "Bruce went to a lot of trouble to keep me out of the limelight when I was growing up. Sure, people knew that he'd adopted a kid, but he never paraded me in front of the cameras or tried to use me in some kind of publicity stunt." Grayson paused to listen into the headphones for a few seconds. After a few moments, he continued.

"Bruce refused to answer any questions about me during interviews, so eventually people sort of quit asking." Grayson gave her a small smile. "I was lucky in many ways, Ms. Lane. I lost my parents, but I gained a real father in Bruce. A lot of people dismiss him as some kind of a lightweight playboy, but--"

"--But you don't become the founder and CEO of a Fortune 500 company if you have fluff for brains!" Lois finished.

Grayson gave her a pleased smile. "You do understand! Whoa! Brains and beauty! Clark Kent is one helluva lucky guy, Ms. Lane." Grayson looked away momentarily. "As for where Bruce is--"

Before he could complete the sentence, Grayson suddenly gestured for quiet. He listened intently into his headphones, then nodded at Lois and whispered, "Let's go!"

****

Grayson unwound a grappling hook and nylon rope from his shoulder harness. This kid comes prepared, thought Lois admiringly. Stepping back, Grayson indicated that she stand clear. Then faster than the eye could follow, he twirled the grappling hook until it gained sufficient momentum to be thrown over the warehouse roof.

Grayson tested the rope. It held his weight. He began climbing, then turned to look behind him. "You can climb, can't you?" Grayson asked worriedly.

"It's a little late to ask, don't you think?" Lois replied sardonically. She took the rope firmly in hand, and proceeded to climb like the pro that she was. "Kids!" She tsked under her breath.

After Grayson pulled himself onto the roof, Lois saw him turn and reach down. Grayson clasped his hand firmly around her wrist and easily hauled Lois up next to him. As she came up to Grayson, Lois stumbled momentarily and, crying out, fell on him. Lois instinctively grabbed Grayson by the waist and held on.

Lois suddenly felt Grayson's arms tighten around her. She looked up at him, startled. Grayson was nose-to-nose with Lois, his amused half-smile back in force.

"Not that I mind, Ms. Lane," Grayson whispered suggestively, "but wouldn't your husband be just a little upset if he saw us like this?" Holding her closer, his smile broadened, his eyes dancing with laughter. "Of course, if you don't tell him, I sure won't!"

Lois brought both of her hands up and chopped down suddenly on Grayson's ears. Or, at least, that was what she intended. To her surprise, Grayson did some fancy footwork and somehow managed not be where he'd been just a second ago!

Lois felt a light tap between her shoulder blades. She whirled around, assuming a defensive stance. Grayson stood before her, relaxed. He held his arms out at his sides.

"I surrender, ma'am! Please…I thought we were on the same team!"

"Yeah? Well, you keep your hands to yourself, buster!" Lois growled. "If you try anything funny again, believe me, you won't need to worry about my husband. You'll have me to deal with!"

"Yes, ma'am!" Grayson replied. To Lois the young officer looked like he was enjoying her discomfiture entirely too much. It seemed that she was going to have to teach him a little lesson.

Without warning, Lois leaped and struck out at Grayson's head with the heel of her boot. She'd no intention of connecting, of course. She only wanted to give the kid a warning shot. Again, to her stunned surprise, Grayson didn't cooperate and play the part of a practice dummy.

Instead, he easily countered her move, and before she knew what was happening, Lois found herself expertly held in an arm and headlock. Somehow, Grayson had managed to once again turn the tables on her.

"Ms. Lane," Grayson said, his voice rasping. "We are on the same team, aren't we?"

Lois managed to nod, yes.

"Promise me that you'll be a good little reporter, and that you won't try to take my head off again?"

Another nod.

"Okay." Grayson released Lois. They stood eyeing one another warily.

Rubbing her neck and arm ruefully, Lois asked, "Where did you learn that move?"

Grayson flashed her that half-grin again. "Really, Ms. Lane. I'm a highly trained member of the BPD!" At her skeptical look, Grayson admitted, "Okay, you don't grow up as the heir to a vast fortune without learning a little self-defense!" Smiling proudly, he added, "Bruce taught me most of what I know."

Lois returned his smile. Grayson really was a nice kid, she thought. Wayne did a fine job raising him.

Getting back to the business at hand, Grayson led the way to the nearest rooftop access. Approaching with caution, he gestured to Lois that he wanted her to stand back. Taking out a palm-sized electronic unit, Grayson ran the instrument carefully around the entranceway. Satisfied that there were no booby-traps, he quickly placed the gadget on the lock and punched a few buttons.

Lois watched, fascinated. She'd seen photographs of the instrument that Grayson was holding. It was not the typical police issue. In fact, it wasn't any issue! The instrument in Grayson's hands hadn't even been released for production, yet. It wasn't due to come out for another six months!

Lois saw stamped very faintly on the upper left-hand corner, the letters W.E.! Wayne Enterprises, Lois surmised. It must be nice to be a kid with access to all of the latest toys developed by WayneTech!

The unit blinked red in a semi-circular pattern, then went green. Grayson carefully returned it to his upper breast pocket, then turned to Lois. He nodded towards the door. "We're in!"

Lois nodded.

****

As the pair made their way silently through the labyrinthine catwalks suspended over the cavernous open bay of the warehouse, Lois suddenly pulled up short.

"Grayson!" she hissed. Grayson turned to her, question marks in his eyes. "Look!" Lois pointed. Below them was something huge covered by a tarpaulin. Lois couldn't make out what was outlined underneath the large canvas. "Boy, could I use x-ray vision just about now," she muttered.

"What?" Grayson asked.

"I said, let's take a peek," Lois replied, taking off at a run.

"No!" Grayson called out in a whisper. "Are you crazy?" But she was already gone. Grayson followed Lois at a run. "Bruce warned me about her," he muttered as he ran after her. "Said she drives Kent nuts with her foolish stunts. Man, how does Kent put up with her, anyway?"

Lois found a ladder in the darkened recesses of the warehouse leading down to the open bay. She was halfway down by the time Grayson saw what she was doing. He shook his head in exasperation. Instead of following at her heels, Grayson looked around the endless rafters, and got a sudden idea…

****

Reaching the bay floor, Lois stuck to the shadows, blending in easily. There were several crates scattered about, which made maneuvering towards the mysteriously covered object that much simpler. Reaching her objective, Lois quickly rolled under the tarpaulin and found herself in pitch darkness.

Taking out a mini penlight, Lois proceeded to feel her way around the gigantic object. What she saw made her gasp in horror. At the same time, her reporter's adrenaline kicked in. "I see a second Pulitzer Prize!" Lois whispered excitedly. She quickly took out her micro-video camera and began recording.

In low tones, Lois reported, "This is Lois Lane, _Daily Planet_ reporter. The time is…" she paused and checked her watch, "…two-fifteen a.m., the date…" Lois continued recording her astounding findings.

"Sitting before me, primed and ready to take over some small country, or perhaps to hold the USA hostage for unaccountable billions…is a thermo-nuclear device. No doubt it is one of the numerous unaccounted nuclear devices stolen from several of the former Soviet Union's satellite countries. It was probably acquired for a song from some disaffected general officer or a corrupt high government official."

Lois paused, the implications of the device before her almost overcoming her professionalism. "If the underworld figure known as, Blockbuster, is not stopped, he could easily--"

"--I could easily destroy an entire city!"

Lois whirled around. The tarpaulin had been lifted, revealing both Lois and the terrorist weapon. "Blockbuster!" she gasped. He was even larger than Lois could've believed possible. The man was a mountain! His hulking, monstrous form loomed threateningly before her.

"I'll take that camcorder. Ms. Lane, isn't it?" Blockbuster's tone was surprisingly polite, in direct opposition to his appearance. He sounded exceptionally soft-spoken and acted quite well mannered. Lois swallowed, but stood her ground defiantly.

"Sorry, you'll get this recorder over my dead body!"

"That, too, can be easily arranged, Ms. Lane. Unfortunately for you, I am not adverse to killing those who would oppose me in my business endeavors."

"Is that what you call killing millions of people, Blockhead? A business endeavor?"

They all turned simultaneously towards the sound of the new voice. There was no one there. Instantly, Blockbuster was hit on the head by an object with the force of a Mack truck! Lois moved as soon as the figure in black distracted Blockbuster and his cohorts. She began running towards the nearest exit.

"Nightwing!" Blockbuster cried out, outraged that his plans were being foiled yet again by that pajama-clad whelp! "Stop them!" He roared. "Do not let either of them escape!"

Before she could reach an exit, Lois was tackled from behind. As she fell, she lost her handhold on the mini-recorder. It went flying through air, only to land somewhere in the shadows with a resounding crash!

Furious, Lois turned on her attacker. Using every dirty trick she knew, Lois dispatched the hapless mook in a few seconds. The coup de grace she gave him would have him singing in the high ranges for a few days!

Lois didn't wait around. She ran in the direction that she'd last seen her camera flying. Taking out her penlight, Lois searched the area, her sense of urgency overwhelming her. Spotting it wedged between two crates, Lois quickly made her way towards the camera.

Reaching it, Lois was dismayed to find that the camera was wedged in tightly. How could she get it out?

"Where's Superman when you need him?" she asked no one in particular.

"Will I do?" A new voice asked her from above.

The dark figure who'd earlier slammed into Blockbuster landed lightly before her. He had a dark, midnight blue stylized wing that crossed his chest and seemed to keep going, outlining the outside of his arms towards his heavy gauntlets. Lois also noticed that he wore a bat-like mask. Bat-like, she wondered?

"The name's Nightwing," he said by way of introduction. The young vigilante turned an incredibly charming smile on her, then becoming all business, he ordered coldly, "Step back!" Taking out a handful of pellets, he tossed them at the crates, then grabbing Lois, he threw himself on top of her.

Behind them, a hot magnesium flash burned brightly, let out a soft whumpf, then fizzled. Nightwing quickly recovered the slightly singed, and melted recorder, and handed it to Lois.

"Be careful. It's hot," he warned. Not waiting to see if she'd heeded his advice, Nightwing looked up, raised his right fist, and to Lois's amazement, shot out a grappling line from his gauntlet.

"Let's go!" Before she could protest, Nightwing grabbed her and swung her to safety. When he had her back on one of the catwalks, he released her. "I've got to go back," he said quietly. "I need you to contact the BPD…Captain MacCauley or Sergeant Jennings--no one else, and let them know what's going down here. Will you do that?"

Lois wanted to nod and agree to do what this young, handsome daredevil had asked, but she was a reporter and this was the hottest story she'd ever stumbled on.

"I'm sorry, Nightwing, but I've got a story to write. And it's down there…not in some safe place outside."

"I was afraid you'd say that, Ms. Lane. I'm sorry, but I can't be responsible for your safety, so I'm afraid that I'm going to have to force the issue." Nightwing quickly sprayed a cool, soothing mist on Lois's face. "Pleasant dreams, Ms. Lane," he said softly.

As the earth reeled around her, Lois felt a pair of strong arms carefully enfold her…

****

"Ms. Lane! Ms. Lane! Wake up!" The worried voice was young and insistent. She felt light taps across both of her cheeks. "Ms. Lane--!"

Lois moved her face in protest. "Uhhnnn…" she heard someone groaning. Was that her, she wondered? "Water," she swallowed dryly. "Please--"

Lois instantly felt something cold being held against her lips. The soothing, wet liquid was a balm to her dry throat. Lois swallowed slowly and painfully at first, then greedily.

"Whoa! Ms. Lane, I think that you've had enough," the voice said. Then obviously speaking to someone else, he added, "Thanks, Kelp! No, I think she's going to be all right. She seems to be coming to."

Lois blinked her eyes open. There was crazy kaleidoscope of multi-colored lights flashing around her. Emergency vehicles, Lois realized. She was lying on…Lois explored tentatively with her hand. An EMT stretcher. She looked up at the young, concerned pair of dark blue eyes that were gazing down at her.

"Welcome back, Ms. Lane," Grayson said quietly. "You really had me worried there for a while."

"What happened?" Lois asked.

"Well, after you took off," Grayson explained, "I went back outside to the roof and called for backup. By the time I returned, you and some character in black pajamas were in the middle of a full-blown melee with Blockbuster and his men. After the two of you got away, pajama-guy waved something in front of your face, and next thing I knew you were passed out. It must've been some kind of gas. He carried you out here, but by the time I arrived, he was already gone. I checked you out to make sure that you were okay, then I went back into the warehouse."

Grayson paused in his recitation. "By then, I heard sirens. The BPD once again arrived in the nick of time! Anyway, whoever that guy was who knocked you out did something to that thermo-nuclear device. According to the reps from the local S.T.A.R. Labs, he actually removed whatever thingamagigee critical part that's necessary to set the bomb off. The US Army's sending an Ordinance Company to recover what's left. They should be here within the hour."

Lois sat up slowly. Reaching next to her, she felt around for her purse. Panicking, she began searching frantically. "Where is it?" Lois cried. "Where's my purse? My purse? Where is it?"

Lois grabbed Grayson by the lapels! "What did you do with my purse?" she demanded.

"Your purse?" he asked. "I don't know what you're--?" Grayson looked down at his feet. "Oh, here it is. It must've fallen off the stretcher." Grayson reached down and picked up Lois's handbag. Simultaneously, Lois reached for it, and somehow the two once again ended up nose to nose.

Grayson slowly handed Lois her purse, a small quizzical smile in his eyes. "Are you okay, Ms. Lane?"

Lois felt her breath catch in her throat. The kid had the most incredibly blue eyes, she thought. Don't be crazy, Lois Lane. You're a married woman! Feeling suddenly mischievous, Lois grabbed Grayson by the lapels once more and kissed him fully and passionately.

Releasing him finally, Lois saw the poor, hapless boy collapse on the stretcher next to her in a daze.

Lois quirked her eyebrow at the befuddled, young police officer and gave him a half-smile. There, she thought dusting off her hands in a satisfied manner! That'll show him not to mess around with Lois Lane!

"I'm feeling fine, Officer Grayson!" she said in answer to his question. "Of course, I can't seem to say the same about you! You don't look so good!" Lois smirked.

Then, looking down at the purse in her hands, Lois brought it up to her chest and held it tightly to her. Closing her eyes, Lois took a deep breath and slowly opened the pocketbook. Almost reluctantly, she looked inside, and a slow blissful smile worked its way across her smudged, but still lovely features.

"It's here," Lois said in low, awed tones. "I didn't dream it." Lois pulled out the singed and slightly melted recorder. It would never work again, but it had done its job this time. It would be a relatively simple job for the technicians over at the Metropolis S.T.A.R. Labs to help her recover her tapes.

After all, she'd done S.T.A.R. Labs many a good turn in her time, and besides, she knew someone, a Super-someone, who was on exceptionally good terms with the S.T.A.R. Labs staff.

"Is that what you were looking for, Ms. Lane?" Grayson asked. Lois nodded distractedly, her mind already on her Pulitzer Prize acceptance speech.

****

"I can't believe you don't know who he is," Lois protested. "He called himself, 'Nightwing'!"

Grayson and MacCauley exchanged derisive looks and snorted almost simultaneously. "Oh, we've heard rumors, mind you," MacCauley acknowledged, "but we really haven't taken 'em seriously. I mean some vigilante dressed up in black tights operating out of Blüdhaven? Why? We're not exactly Metropolis! What could possibly attract someone who's trying to make a superhero name for himself to our town?"

"Maybe that's exactly why he's here, Captain MacCauley," Lois mused. "After all, in Metropolis all of the local heroes are sort of eclipsed by Superman. In other cities where there's already an established hero, there's little chance for a newcomer to make a name for himself. Maybe Nightwing feels that he can do the most good, help the most people in a town without heroes." Lois looked at the two dedicated police officers.

"Relatively speaking, of course. I was wrong in my initial assessment of the BPD and the City of Blüdhaven. I still believe that there is an underlying corruption that needs to be uncovered, but I don't believe anymore that the same stain of corruption taints everyone associated with the city. I see that there are many hard-working and dedicated individuals who are just as heroic in their struggles against evil as Superman has ever been…or as this new hero, Nightwing, is striving to become."

Lois stood up. She thanked MacCauley for his help, and then turned to Grayson. "It's been a pleasure and an honor to work with you, Officer Grayson. And may I add that I've never had such a high-priced bodyguard before? I'll have to tell Clark that his old friend Bruce Wayne's little boy has grown up. Of course, beneath that mild-mannered exterior of Clark's lies an extremely, Super-jealous husband."

Grayson's blue eyes widened. "But--" he protested.

"If I were you, kid," Lois said smiling wickedly, "I'd hire me a bodyguard!"

The End
 
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