Disclaimer: The superheroes aren't mine; I don't really want them. But I'll take their secret identities.
Notes: for Slodwick, because I've broken her heart enough. And we all need to squee on our birthday, even belatedly.
Feedback: tells Nicky that he's loved.
Summary: But now I am Six, I'm as clever as clever/So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever. - A.A. Milne
Six is a big year, Nicholas told them. A week before his birthday, he came downstairs, sat down at the table and announced his plans.
"I want a bouncy castle for my party."
"No, Papa, I do. Because I'm not gonna get a pony, so why can't I have this instead?"
Nicky was up on his knees on the chair, matching Lex's height. The Luthors learn their negotiating skills at a young age. Lex put his paper down and drew himself straight up to meet his son. He could see Clark watching them, trying to hide the grin.
"Is there anything else you require, Master Luthor?"
"Well, Papa, I'm, glad you asked."
The days that followed the discussion were wet, but the morning of Nicky's sixth birthday was bright and warm. December birthdays are often spent indoors. Last year they had done Chuck E. Cheese. Nicholas and his friends had a blast but Lex needed the rest of the weekend to recover. Today there was a bouncy castle in the backyard, guests arriving in a few hours, and a sun in the sky, as if nature dared not disturb a Luthor's day.
In every other way, this day was just the same. Clark heard the door open, he heard the tiny footsteps, and managed to pull Lex out of the way just before Nicholas landed on the bed with a shout.
"Good morning, Geronimo."
"Morning, Daddy," Nicky answered, innocently.
He was up on his feet, jumping on the bed like every parent told their child not to.
"Do you know what day it is?" Hyper words. He had already got into the cereal.
Lex reached up and pulled the giggling boy to the bed. A struggle, then Nicky wriggled out of Lex's grip and ran out the door, taking his laughter with him.
Lex lay back on the bed, exhausted.
"My god," he said, turning to face Clark. "We have a six year old."
The superhero theme was obvious, Bruce thought, if not a little tacky. Half the Justice League eating hot dogs in Superman's backyard. But, as Dick had reminded him earlier, Lex Luthor was never one for subtlety.
Nicholas had their pictures decorating his walls, but it didn't matter to him. They were his heroes when Nicky wanted them to be. Most of the time, they were his parents' friends that he had known since he was a baby. Wally was right in the middle of the kids; he was the only one who could keep up. Diana and Lois had become good friends; they had promised to teach Nicky about 'the girlie stuff'. Lionel stood at the barbecue with Jonathan and John, laughing, not knowing that it was the Green Lantern who had saved him from last month's explosion.
The kids played 'Pin the Wings on Hawkgirl', they let Wally be It, and fought over who got to play with the Batman and Robin figures that decorated the birthday cake.
Bruce turned his head as the laughter caught his attention, just in time to see The Flash being tackled to the ground by a pack of six-year-olds. Clark and Dick sat together, watching from the sidelines. Lex beside Clark. They held hands, but Lex stayed out of the conversation. All his attention was on his son.
The rest of the League used to tease Clark in the early days - the first superhero to be outed. But then we were jealous. All the attention and somehow, secret identities didn't seem necessary anymore. Clark stood firm, said no to all the offers. They wanted to put his face on t-shirts and bedsheets, his story up on screen. Nicholas was still a baby and the Luthor name brought enough attention as it was.
They couldn't get the rights to Superman, but it turned out that when it came to playing the hero for a new generation of kids, Batman wasn't as stoic as the world thought.
Bruce turned at another burst of laughter. Wally had finally escaped, hid behind the girls until Lois gave up his position. Nicky's giggling rose above the crowds as he was carried and unceremoniously dumped in the bouncy castle. The rest of the kids followed. The party was just getting started.
Grandma says there's a rule. You have to get clothes for your birthday, for Christmas. She says it makes the other presents seem that much better. Grandma always buys the coolest clothes. This year, I got sneakers with flames on them. Grandma thinks that I go through more shoes than Daddy did when he was a kid and Daddy runs a whole lot faster than me. Wally wants to race later, try them out.
Grandpa wanted to get me a pony, but he said they don't belong in the city. Papa probably got to him already. Grandpa's gonna teach me to ride the next time we stay in Smallville. Daddy said we could go next weekend.
I got lots of Batman stuff. Judy bought me Catwoman so she can be a girl the next time we play. She thinks that Batman and Catwoman are in love, but I know she's wrong. Daddy and Papa are always kissing. Bruce doesn't kiss Dick a lot, but I think that's just because I'm around. Judy didn't know what gay people were when she first came over to my house to play. Daddy explained it and then I told her that Daddy and Papa were like Batman and Robin. She still doesn't believe me.
Bruce wanted to give me a utility belt. Daddy said I'm too young. Bruce said he was just jealous of Batman's gadgets. I got slippers instead. Papa thought they were funny.
"You're a billionaire, Bruce. That's the best you can do for your godson." Papa wasn't being serious and everyone laughed. He was being sarcastic. Daddy taught me that word so I can tell Papa every time he does it.
He was being sarcastic when he said I wasn't getting presents this year.
"You got your castle, Nicky. Isn't that what you wanted?" He picked me up into his lap. "Isn't it enough to know that I love you, that your Dad loves you? Do you need presents too?"
Papa always says that we have more than a lot of people in the world and that when I'm older I should try to do good things. Granddad bought me a globe so I can see where all those other people are.
I've always known when Papa was being sarcastic, even if I didn't know what to call it. And I was still surprised when Daddy put the cage on my lap.
"What do you want to call him?" Papa asked me next.
It's late, dark. The kids have gone, but everyone else is still here. Mom and Dad decided that they could stay after all. Dad still doesn't like being too far away from the farm, but he's promised the entire day tomorrow to Nicholas to show them all his favourite places.
Lois is staying the night too. She's got a seven o'clock flight to China in the morning and wants to spend as much time being Lolo as possible. But she's already put a ban on having the guinea pig staying at her apartment. Lex thinks she's afraid she's going to kill it. She didn't trust herself alone with Nicky until he was talking and able to tell her what he needed.
Bruce and Dick had to fly back early to take care of business. Lionel and Lex have been trying to avoid business all night. They're sitting at the table talking now. Lionel laughs; I want to listen in, just to know what makes him laugh like that.
The rest of the League is trying to take the bouncy castle down, while Nicky and I watch. Giggles come from my lap every time Wally swears, then tries to pretend he didn't. Nicholas is holding the guinea pig, stroking gently so as not to wake him up. He hasn't decided on a name. He's black with white patches, so we're calling him Spot right now and Lex is scared that it's going to stick.
A cheer goes up and we both lift our heads to watch the bouncy castle collapse as the air hisses out. Nicky slides off my lap to put Spot back in his cage. It's not the warmth I miss, but the body wrapped up in my arms. I watch Lionel help Nicholas carry the cage inside. Lex is walking over to me. He pulls a chair close, takes my hand and presses a kiss in the palm.
"Feeling old?" he teases.
"Well, you're not, so shut up."
I'm laughing when Lex turns my head and kisses me. He gets a hand around my neck and holds me there, pushing his tongue into my mouth with an insistence that always makes me groan.
Nicky is climbing back into my lap and Lex's hand falls from my hair to our son's, pulling at the red curls with a different kind of love.
"Daddy?" Nicky asks when neither of us say anything.
"How long before I'm seven?"
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