SPIFFY DISCLAIMER THINGIE!

Not mine, DC's! Don't sue! Yadda, yadda, yadda!:):)

Rated G for pure as the driven snow! No continuity to speak of, so don'tbe looking for it!

Little Boy Lost

An Early Bat Tale by Dannell Lites


See the little boy lost:
Walking through this world alone.
He ain't looking for a lover ...
He's just looking for a home.

He'll feed you're hungry ego,
'Til you think you're quite a man!
But you better count your fingers
When he turns loose of your hand!
You're just a game he's playing any way that he can win!
And you ain't allowed to touch him any deeper than his skin!
Oh that body that can't anybody hold -
But the Shadows got his soul!

But if you take him ...
Take him easy ...
Treat him gentle ...
He used to love me ...

adapted from "Little Girl Lost"
Kris Kristopherson


From the first minute I saw him, I knew he didn't belong in Smallville.

That was plain as the nose on your face. He stood there on the outskirts of town staring at old Mr. Milgram's Jersey milk cow Bessie as though he'd never seen anything like her before. She bawled once in alarm and moved off, herding her calf Elsie to safety with a swish of her tail. I had to smile at the look of astonishment on his tanned face. Then he glanced up at the sign. You know the one I mean. The one that says, "Welcome To Smallville! Home Town of Superboy!" in big cheerfully shining red letters. The picture of me in flight on the billboard is a pretty good one, I guess. But I still blush every time I see it.

At first I thought he might be a runaway. We get a couple or so of those through here every year. Big city kids, mostly from Kansas City or St.Louis, running away from it all, fleeing their parents and the nice, neat lives all properly laid out for them. They think there must be something better waiting for them out here under the blues skies and among the cornfields. Sometimes they're right. Most of the time they're wrong. I figured him for one of those.

Ocassionally, these kids aren't in really great shape by the time they make it this far. Boy, was I wrong about that. When I checked him out with my x-ray vision just to be on the safe side, you understand, he was in fantastic shape. Lord help,.I've seen *oxen* with frailer constitutions than this guy. Heart like a finely tuned engine, lungs like the bellows of a blacksmith's forge.

That's when I noticed the clothes he was wearing. The dark navy blue flannel shirt he was sporting came from Abercrombie and Fitch, according to the label.. I saw a shirt like that advertized in one of their catalogues once. For $350. The corduroy jeans hugging those long, muscular legs came to about $600 if I recalled correctly from that same catalogue. Which, like almost everything in Smallville, Kansas, was about five years out of date. They'd be more expensive now. The hiking boots shodding his feet were custom made by some English bootmaker I never heard of. But I figured they probably had to cost more than the Kent family spent on groceries in a month of Sundays. The unobtrusive navy and gold windbreaker he wore was All Weather Thermal Wear, specially developed by LexCorps for adventurous travelers. It would keep you warm at either Pole or on a simple blustery November day in Kansas like this one. I didn't even want to *think* about how much *that* cost. I whistled low between my teeth. By Smallville standards he was wearing a small fortune on his back. His dark, carefully styled and clipped hair was hidden under a brand new baseball cap with a team logo I'd never seen before. But, then, I'm not much into sports for obvious reasons. Hardly fair, right? I had no idea about the Knights or who they played for.

He was certainly no ordinary runaway and that's a fact. But he was trying really hard to blend in, in his own odd way. Would've worked, too, if it had been anyone but me.

But it wasn't. It was me.

He was still staring at the billboard, engrossed in the smiling image of Superboy, when I brought Pa's rickety old Chevy pick up truck to a skidding stop and leaned out the window, being sure to smile. I didn't want to scare him off, after all.

"Hey! Need a lift?"

He studied me carefully from out of narrow, hooded dark blue eyes. "I suppose that depends on where you're going," he said.

I threw open the pick up door and patted the seat beside me, trying hard to look harmless. "Hop in," I invited, grininng, playing the rural hayseed, "and we'll see where the wind takes us."

Lithely, he climbed wordlessly into the cab beside me. I popped the clutch and started for home, spying him cautiously out of the corner of one eye. I figured he had to be either very confident or very niave. And he didn't look all that niave to me, frankly. Up close, I could see that he was nearer my age than I'd first thought and I turned sixteen just last month. He was rather tall, so I suppose I thought he was older. Almost six feet, I judged. Very quiet. Muscular, but there was a sense of quickness about him. I didn't miss the easy way he'd jumped into the cab of Pa's ancient Chevy. He moved like Streaky, Ma's old tomcat. Even in those heavy hiking boots he moved swiftly and fluidly. Forward on the balls of his feet as if he never wanted to be caught off balance or with his guard down. He stored his backpack and bedroll under the seat and gazed out the window.

He wasn't much of a talker. I was searching awkwardly for something to say when he, at last, broke the silence springing up between us like a wall. As far as I knew he'd never been within a hundred miles of Smallville before, but he looked away from the truck's cracked windshield after a moment and studied me evenly.

"Where are we going?" he asked quietly. "This isn't the way into Smallville."

"No, it isn't," I admitted. "But, listen, you'll never find a place to stay in Smallville, okay? Not this late in the evening. They roll up the sidewalks around six PM. So I thought you might like to come home with me for tonight. I'll give you a lift into town tomorrow if you like. Deal?"

I waited, watching anxiously, but his brief acknowledgement was only a barely preceptible nod of his dark head. I surprised myself with just how good that trusting nod made me feel, though. Somehow I didn't think he trusted very many people at all. No, I'm not psychic or anything like that. Not among my powers. But I'm awfully good at reading even the subtlest of body language, thanks to my sensory powers. And his body gave me the definte impression of a cautious animal, crouching and waiting, sniffing the air; always alert for any danger.

I've tamed a few of those in my time.

"All right!" I enthused. "Ma's making chicken and dumplings tonight. You'll love her dumplings!" I made slurping noises. "Melt in your mouth! Good for what ails ya, too."

I swear, he almost smiled. He had to fight really hard not to and the corners of his mouth twitched. I felt kind of like I'd scored a hard won victory. I guess I was giddy with success or something. Or else I'd never have been bold enough to do what I did next.

"So what's your name?" I asked as casually as I could manage.

Silence.

"I mean," I scrambled hard to cover the awkwardness, "I can't just call you 'Stranger' or 'Hey you!', can I?"

More silence.

And then:

"Alfred," he said. "My name is Alfred."

His heart rate never varied by as much as a single beat. So at the time I thought he was telling me the truth.

"Well, Al," I said cheerfully, pushing my round glasses furthur back on my nose, "my name is Clark. Clark Kent. Great to meet you."

"The same here. You saved me quite a walk, it seems. And another night sleeping in the open."

That intrigued me. "What are you doing here in Smallville, anyway, Al? We're not exactly a tourist Mecca." I joked.

He stared out the window for many long moments. At first I thought he was going to ignore me and my face in the rearview mirror reflected the beginnings of an unhappy frown. 'And things were going so well, too,' I thought to myself.

Still staring out the window at the passing scenery, he finally replied, "I'm looking for someone."

"Anyone in particular?" I inquired, relief staining my voice despite my best efforts.
turned to look at me then. "Someone very particular," he admitted.

I raised one eybrow in silent inquiry.

"Superboy." he said.

I couldn't help myself. Before I could stop it I'd stomped on the brakes and almost spilled us like a ripe watermelon seed into the ditch yawning on both sides of the dusty country road we traveled. Alfred easily caught himself on the dash with one hand and threw out the other hand to brace me. I guess he thought that I might fly out the window or something. Well, not if I didn't *want* to. But he had no way of knowing that, of course.

Not a lot of conversation after that, sad to say. Coloring, I put the truck back in gear and headed once more for home, thinking hard. What was I going to do about this, I wondered? I could, of course, arrange for him to talk to Superboy as he wished. No problem there. Simplicity itself. And yet when I studied him, sitting silently, all drawn in on himself but still alert like a prickly porcupine, I knew that talking to Superboy wasn't the solution to his problem. Looking for Superboy, I sensed, as only one of the symptoms of a deeper concern. I frowned. Something was eating away at my new friend like a spreading cancer.

Something dark and awfully lonely.

I have the greatest parents in the known Universe. And since I've seen a lot of the known Universe, I should know. They never asked so much as a single question when I introduced Al. Pa shook his hand like he was a grown man and Ma smiled and fed him a slice of her award winning apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream. He actually smiled. I got the impression that he was used to folks looking out for him; seeing to him. But about half way through that piece of pie he got real sad, as if it reminded him somehow, of someone or maybe someone who wasn't there anymore.

He excused himself and thanked Ma very nicely. He spent most of the rest of the evening until dinner time traipsing after me while I finished my chores aound the place. He was glad to help, he said. It seemed to ease him, being able move and lift things, to see a job that needed to be done and then doing it. He was a pretty physical guy.

We relaxed on the sofa after supper. Ma's knitting seemed to fascinate him, watching her busy fingers fly with those needles as the garment took shape under her skilled attention. Found out Al's favorite color is midnight blue. The television was going but no one was paying much attention to the silly old sitcom with its canned laugh track. Pa was whittling away with his pocket knife. He's been promising Ma for a few years now that sooner or later he's going to finish that Nativity scene he's been working on. But he intends to do it right. Blowing the wood shavings away with a gentle puff of breath, he raised the tiny figure of the kneeling lamb to eye level and studied it critically, clearly unsatisfied.

"Getting there," he muttered.

"That's very good, Sir," Al praised him.

Pa grinned. "You whittle, son?" he asked.

A shake of that dark head. "No, Sir, but ... I ... "

"You do something else, then?"

For an answer Al picked up a discarded piece of writing paper and began to fold it intricately. Ma stopped her knitting in the midddle of a complex pearl stitch to watch, her eyes growing wide at the sight. Pa was nodding, enthralled.

Soon, Al held out his hand.

And there, centered in the palm of his hand, crouched as if ready to take wing, hunkered a tiny dragon. Ma reached for it and Al surrendered it gracefully under Ma's admiring blue eyes. Breathing quickly, she held the delicate thing with cautious hands, examining it.

"Goodness sakes!" she murmured, passing the tiny paper sculpture carefully to Pa, "where in the world did you learn to do that?"

"Japan," Al said. "One of my - ah - teachers taught me. It's called 'origami'. It works best with heavier paper," he apologised.

Ma fetched some of her personal stationary, the heavy satin paper she uses for special ocassions. Nothing would do her but she learn 'origami'. In fact, we all gave it a shot. I was suprised at how difficult it was; even for me. It takes patience and precision to truly master origami. The precise I've got. Bucket loads of precision. But I was almost ashamed at how little patience I could muster.

Suddenly, as if by magic, I knew *exactly* why Al's teacher had taught him origami.

Almost before we knew it the evening was gone and the time for bed loomed at us, staring into our reluctant eyes. I showed Al to the room that we would share and left him to unpack while I went down stairs to finish up the dishes. Ma and Pa were watching the late night news. I'm not easily startled, but I almost dropped the dumpling pot still soaking in the sink.

"Jonathan! Clark! Come quick!" Ma whispered urgently from the living room. "You'd better see this. I think it's about our young guest." I put the dishes aside and went scurrying for the spacious, comfortable living room of our ancient but well maintained farmhouse. Ma had the small black and white television set tuned to Superstation WLEX out of Metropolis for the Late Night News. This far out we get really bad reception, but despite the snow filled screen, like a Christmas-time blizzard, it was still possible to make out the solemn face of WLEX Anchorman Perry White.

"Today's top news story is still the mysterious disappearance earlier this week of youthful billionaire Bruce Wayne ... " The interference faded for a moment and it was possible to clearly see the photograph that momentarily filled the screen. The same dark hair, same intense eyes; dressed to the nines greeting a horde of phony smiling people in a room you could easily have fit the entire Kent home into and still had plenty of room to spare left over.

Yes, it was "Al" all right.

He didn't look very happy.

"Kidnapping is feared," White continued. "At this time, however, no ransom demands have been made, according to the Gotham City Police Department. Sixteen year old Bruce Wayne, heir to the Wayne fortune, estimated to be in excess of 1.5 billion dollars, left to him upon the tragic slaying of both his parents in a failed mugging attempt ten years ago, disappeared on Friday, September 27. Neither of the boys legal guardians, Alfred Pennyworth nor prominent Gotham physician Doctor Leslie Thompkins, could be reached for further comment."

Ma turned down right pale and covered her mouth with her hands. "Oh, that poor boy!" she cried. "He must have been terribly unhappy to run away from home like that!"

"Good Lord Almighty!" exclaimed Pa. "If that don't beat all!"

This should have put a new light on things. I mean, we'd known he was a runaway. No one much beleived his claims to be eighteen. But, good Lord. There was certainly a big difference between some middle class kid from Kansas City and the heir to 1.5 billion dollars.

I was almost ashamed of myself for thinking that. Well, of course there was no difference! They both needed help didn't they? And "Bruce" or "Al", whichever it pleased him to be, was going to get it right here from the Kent family. I glanced out of the corner of my eye at Ma and Pa. There was never any question about that.

Still, I guess it was somewhat comforting in a strange way to know just how *much* trouble we were going to be in if this thing blew up in our faces. And it easily could. Very easily. If nothing else the Police were likely to put a little more "ooomph" into the search for the missing Wayne heir than into looking for some kid named "Al". I knew that. Just because I was raised in Smallville, Kansas doesn't make me a fool. The Police were going to be hot after this one, all right.

And there he was, sleeping peacefully in our upstairs guest bedroom.

I was so darned proud of my folks I could've busted a blood vessal. If my blood vesssals weren't as invulnerable as the rest of me, that is. It never crossed anybody's mind to ask him to leave or to call the Police. Not once. What good would that do, anyway? He'd only run away again, most likely. We had to help him. That part was implicitly understood. The only question was how? The answer to that question was one commodity that the Kent family seemed to be fresh out of, unfortunately.

But we'd think of something.

Looking at one another in wordless comfort and support, we all nodded. "Don't worry," I told Ma, hugging her tightly. "Everything's going to be okay, I promise." She kissed my cheek. I guess most guys sixteen years old would've been embaressed when their Ma kissed them. Not me. The love and the trust I could read in both their eyes raised a lump in my tight throat.

Lord, what did I ever do to earn such unreserved love, such total trust?

I suppose I'll never really know. But without it I'd be lost. So completely lost.

Al (or I guess it was Bruce, wasn't it?) was fast asleep when I eased into the room. The light was still on and the book lying abandoned on his chest was ample evidence of what he'd been doing just before he fell asleep. I peeked at the title.

'The Psychology Of The Criminal Mind' by some psychiatrist, a Doctor Cyrus Arkham, M.D..

I shook my head. Pretty heavy stuff for the average sixteen year old.

But then, I realized, 'average' was hardly a word I'd ever use to describe Bruce.

I read through the book in about ten minutes before I placed it carefully on the bedside table and turned out the light.

This Arkham guy has some pretty radical ideas about aberrant behavior. Some very radical ideas.

I thought about that for a long time before I slipped out the window and began my nightly patrol of Smallville.


**********************************************************************************


I was waiting for "Al" to come out of the office of the Smallville Gazette, when it happened. I never meant for it to, believe me. True to my word, I had taken "Al" into Smallville as promised. For a moment I was startled whne he asked me to drop him off at the offices of the Gazette. When I realized that he intended to track down Superboy if at all possible, it sent a frozen shiver crawling up my spine. So I was pretty preoccupied, okay? Usually I just avoid Buzz Thackery and his friends. Every school has a bully, I guess and Buz is it for Smallville High. Meek and mild Clark Kent is a natural target for the likes of Buzz. And if I were to fight back ....

Well, I don't let myself think about that very much. There's no point to it, really. I *can't* fight back. Buzz could really injure himself just trying to hurt me. So, I generally let him have his fun, his little jokes, brush myself off and forget about it.

But most of the time, I just make sure that I stay as far away from Buzz as possible. When you can move at superspeed it's not that hard to do, actually. But I was distracted, today; worrying about what I was going to do about "Al". Should I tell him I knew who he was? Should I let him talk to Superboy? To tell you the truth I was dying of curiosity to know what he had to say to Superboy.

So Buzz and his gang caught me by surprise which they wouldn't ordinarily have been able to do. By then it was too late, of course. We were in plain sight of just about everybody in Smallville and all I could do was curse myself for my own stupidity.

"Hey, Four Eyes!" Buzz sneered. "How's things hangin' down on the farm, huh?"

Buzz likes to think he's hip. I've never had the heart to tell him that his slang is a least ten years out of date. He shoved me forward and I let myself go sprawling while my glasses went flying to land on the hard concrete. As expected, I go plunging frantically after them with a small cry of distress. Almost as if I really needed them. I've gotten very good at this over the years.

"And the Oscar for Best Portrayal Of A Wimp goes to .... Superboy for Clark Kent!" *thunderous applause from the audience*

'It's for the best Clark,' I tell myself for the thousanth time between gritted teeth. 'It's all for the best. Being Superboy all the time is your only other option.' I shudder visibly at the thought. I'm sure it was all very satisfying for Buzz since he undoubtedly thought I'm shuddering because of him. But no. Being Clark may be no picnic at times like these but there *are* worse things, I remind myself. I'm still reaching for the glasses when Buzz brings down his foot down hard upon them, grinding them into the concrete.

Great. Now, if he just doesn't notice that although the frames shatter nicely that the lenses are still intact ... Cut and shaped by my heat vision from the clear plasti-steel viewport of the rocket that brought me to Earth as a two year old, they're as invulnerable as I am.

I needn't have worried, though, as it turns out. Buzz is much too busy playing the bully to notice anything else.

"Ooo, I'm sorry Clarkie," he croons. "Look what I've gone and done, now! Mercy me! I'm soooo clumsy." He draws one long leg back to kick me in the ribs as I kneel on the sidewalk.

I'm still trying desperately to decide the best way to keep Mr. Macho from breaking his foot with that blow when another voice intrudes. At first I didn't recognize that voice. Maybe because it was a little deeper, more ominious than I was used to. Rather dark and forbiding to tell the honest truth.

"How many ways can I hurt you?" Bruce hissed. "Let me count the ways."

Buzz looked up and glared.

End, Part One

Part 2