Looking Glass Life
It wasn't entirely surprising that Kon and Bart had ended up together. They had been best friends almost their entire lives (short as they were), had similar interests, the same taste in movies (though not in music, clothes, or reading material), and a shared a love of video games and an addiction to rocky road ice cream and meat lovers' pizza.
What was surprising was that they were making out in the back of a darkened movie theater while a giant caterpillar was rampaging through downtown L.A. Instead of trying to stop the giant caterpillar from its rampaging.
Cassie squinted through the dimness of the room.
Kon looked awfully…pale. And since when was Bart a blond?
It took nearly an hour for the Teen Titans to figure out how to dispose of the giant caterpillar. It turned out that the caterpillar was of a nomadic species that spent most of its time traveling. It had gotten lost while migrating through their solar system; it only been looking for a large enough tree to spin its chrysalis on. Bart was the one to come up with the idea of moving the caterpillar to a remote area of Yellowstone National Forest and an appropriately sized redwood. Robin thought up with the way to implement Bart's plan by borrowing the JLAs transporter to move the giant bug. The plan was to have the caterpillar's soon-to-be-spun cocoon monitored by Oracle and when the 'Cosmic Lunar Moth' – according to Green Lantern's information – hatched, to transport it back into space so it could make its way back to its home planet on the moon of Betelgeuse 7, where it wouldn't bother anyone in the Milky Way ever again.
Until it was time for it to lay its eggs, at least.
Wonder Girl made sure to mention the Kon and Bart look-alikes she'd run into to the rest of the team, but by the time the giant caterpillar problem had been taken care of, they'd disappeared from the Bijou Theatre. Robin offered up several possibilities for who they were and where they'd gone. Who they were was obvious; where they were was, at least, restricted to the planet Earth, and most likely North America.
But they didn't even have to search for them, really. Match and Inertia were waiting for them at the dock for the ferry to Titans Isle. They were leaning up against the railing, and looking supremely unprepossessing.
Despite the fact that all of the Teen Titans had been somewhat expecting a confrontation, it still took each of them a moment to recognize the two. It wasn't the fact that they were in civilian clothes. No, it was the fact that the last time they'd all seen them, back in their Young Justice days, Match and Inertia had been doing their best to be 'new and improved' versions of Superboy and Impulse, albeit evil ones. Now, they looked almost nothing like them.
Inertia had grown his hair out and was wearing it in a ponytail, and he had at least four hoops in each ear. He was wearing faded, torn jeans and a T-shirt advertising Apple computers. He somehow managed to look sort of like a stereotypical surfer dude drifter and somewhat like a laid back college student. Match looked like he'd found a compromise between his natural albino form and the colored one, because while he was a whiter shade of pale, his platinum blond hair was dark at the roots and his eyes were a misty gray. His hair was shaved in the back and shaggy in front, hanging into his eyes, and he was wearing all black clothing with silver chains dangling from every conceivable place. He somehow managed to pull it off without looking like either a gangbanger or a cross between a beatnik poet and Michael Jackson, after he went white, but before he looked skeletal.
Thaddeus appeared completely unruffled by being found – or rather, found out – probably an advantage of subjective time, that. Match, on the other hand, appeared so worried that he couldn't keep himself from hovering in midair. They both, somehow, managed to look not all that dangerous. Which just made everyone more wary, and somewhat nervous. The former Young Justice members tensed for a fight, and the rest of them moved into back-up positions.
"So…is this the part where we make with the fighting?" Beast Boy joked weakly. Victor kept his cybernetic eye aimed towards the two of them, a menacing glare on his face.
"I'd rather not," Inertia, or rather, Thaddeus Thawne, said. And rather pleasantly at that.
Match just nodded, mouth tight and jaw clenched.
Bart's eyes narrowed, and in that moment, no one could doubt that he'd grown beyond Impulse. He was Kid Flash. "Why?" he asked suspiciously.
Thaddeus eyed his double with a condescending air. "Because there's no reason to," he stated loftily.
"But you're…bad guys. Right?" Raven asked, peeking hesitantly out from under her concealing hood.
She could be forgiven for not knowing the history of those two. After all, she'd still been dead – for the second time – back when Match and Inertia had terrorized Superboy and Impulse, respectively. And between trying to get her fixed up with a civilian identity, and everything else that had been going on with the team, no one had had time to fill her in on the villains that were currently MIA.
Or the fact that both Bart and Kon had something else in common – evil clones.
Thaddeus exchanged a look with Match, who once again nodded. "We've reformed," he said simply, turning back to the Teen Titans.
"And we're supposed to just believe that?" Kon asked sneeringly. He could be forgiven for doubting those two; he'd spent several months 'enjoying' the Agenda's 'hospitality,' after all. And more than that, he'd spent quite a few afternoons listening to Bart angst over his sort-of-but-not-really 'twin brother,' and how he'd temporarily stolen Bart's life and almost ended Max Mercury's. Thaddeus Thawne had a lot to answer for, to Kon's mind, starting and ending with upsetting his boyfriend.
Thaddeus's eyes flickered and he said, "I don't really care if you believe us or not. You haven't caught us breaking any laws – today – and without that, you have no reason to try and get us arrested."
Kon's sneer faded into a contemptuous snarl, and he growled under his breath. Inertia had a point. But that didn't mean that Kon had to like it.
"Give us one good reason to trust you two," Vic said, quiet voice rumbling, arms crossed over his chest in defiance.
Match and Thaddeus exchanged a long look, ending with a synchronous nod. "He rewrote my programming, and I rewrote his." Match shrugged. "And now we're not under anyone's control but our own. We have free will."
Robin's eyes narrowed. "With which you're going to do what?" he demanded, trying to figure out exactly what 'programming' the two were referring to. And how exactly they 'rewrote' it.
"Whatever the fuck we want," Thaddeus replied with uncommon flippancy, and vulgarity.
"I thought, when I saw you after Max…went away… You said you were going to try being a good guy now," Bart said, eyeing Thaddeus archly. "Last I heard, Match didn't really have much use for good guys."
Thaddeus shrugged, a flush coloring his cheeks. "Well, while that was originally true, it isn't anymore."
Kon sent his clone a hard look. "Oh, really?" he asked, disbelief practically dripping from his words, polling on the ground to form a coagulated creature of incredulity.
"It's how we met," Match said, completely ignoring Superboy's disdain. "I went looking for Thad because I'd thought maybe he could help me out with regards to my mental programming."
"And I did," Thaddeus said with a disdainful sniff.
Kon-El blinked, not quite able to understand why Match would have wanted his programming rewritten; wouldn't he have liked being the way he was? Wasn't that part of being a brain-washed bad guy? "Why would you do that?" he asked Thad.
"We exchanged the favor, actually, like I said before," Match replied for him. "We wanted to be in control of our own destinies. Not under the control of our…'families'."
Kon subsided, stewing in his own anger, yet unable to argue with those words. It was what both he and Bart wanted for themselves, after all, and their 'families' were good guys. Still, it was hard to believe; the number of bad guys that actually went straight was disturbingly small.
"Why haven't you committed any crimes?" Robin asked, wondering if they had, in fact, refrained; perhaps they'd just been discreet.
"Because we don't want to," Match said, exasperation overriding his previous concern. "Look, you can be Superboy. I am enjoying civilian life. Just because you don't like living in anonymity in Kansas, doesn't mean I feel the same way about Pasadena."
Dread dawned over Kon's face. "You know…"
"Who Superman is?" Thaddeus correctly guessed. "Yes. It wasn't all that difficult to deduce."
Kon flushed and set his jaw; he'd had to find out on a trip through Hypertime.
"And you haven't done anything about it," Raven said suspiciously. She didn't remember everything from her former life, but everyone knew Kon lived with Superman's parents in Kansas; he complained about living in 'Bumfuck, Nowhere' almost weekly.
"Like what?" Match asked pragmatically. "We're good guys now, what purpose would it serve to let you know we have blackmailable information on you guys?"
"The fact that you asked that question indicates that you're not as good as you would have us believe," Robin said, eyes narrowing in suspicion.
He could be forgiven for thinking in such black and white terms; he'd been trained by Batman, after all. And Lady Shiva. And if that was living in shades of gray, then Arkham Asylum was impossible to get out of.
Thaddeus rolled his eyes. "Whatever," he said in a reasonable approximation of a Valley ditz drawl.
"Totally, dude," Match agreed insouciantly. "We didn't tell you what we planned to do because it's none of your business."
"Exactly," Thaddeus agreed. "We are who we are and neither of us saw any reason to inform any of you of our plans."
Bart started to object. "But you're our–"
"Clones?" Match finished. "We may have started out that way, but we aren't any longer. I am my own person, and so is Thad." Turning to Kon, he added, "You of all people should understand that."
Kon flushed, whether from anger or embarrassment wasn't not immediately apparent.
Thaddeus nodded. "It isn't as if any of you gave us much thought after we stopped being villains. Truthfully, no one did. We were like, afterthoughts. Tools to be used and then thrown away when we didn't perform up to spec." He waved a hand expressively, countenance growing ever more angered as the seconds ticked by. "And no one paid any nevermind to us when our purpose was ended, or bothered to see if we were okay." Teeth gritted in a snarl, he said, "Well, screw them!"
"Yeah!" Match chimed in. "I'm not gonna take second place to Superboy for the rest of my life. I'm my own man now."
"Your own man doing what?" Kon demanded, venom lacing his voice only to cover his jealousy. It galled him that his clone – his evil clone – might have finally gained the independence away from Superman's shadow that he'd been searching for ever since he was decanted.
"Living," Match replied. "Learning…loving." With this last, he grasped Thad's left hand in his right one and sent him a glance full of muted affection.
The entire group of Titans could be forgiven for going cross-eyed. Kon and Bart, they'd gotten used to. Their irregular reflections sharing a similar affection for each other? Not so much.
Kon also found it too weird that his and Bart's clones appeared to be…dating.
Apparently, so did Bart. He turned to Thad with a questioning look. "You and Match–" Bart waved a hand at their joined ones.
"Matt. Short for Matthew," Match interrupted.
"–Matt are…together?" Bart asked, completely and utterly boggled.
Bart and Kon exchanged bemused glances, before simultaneously practicing synchronized shrugging. "Huh. I guess some things are genetic," Bart said.
"I prefer to think of it as a case of like calling to like," Matt said loftily.
"Whatever," Kon said, and then, deciding that there had been enough glaring and macho male (and female) posturing, inwardly grinned a very very mischievous, if not outright evil, grin. "You guys want to be reserve Titans?"
Bart blinked at the conversational train of thought that left the station with three of their teammates on board, and turned to eye his erstwhile significant other. "Sometimes I wonder why it is you seem to switch topics faster than me." He sounded almost peevish at that.
"We could restart up Titans East," Beast Boy said musingly. "With Ravager and Flamebird."
"And Spoiler and the new Catwoman," Robin added, before shaking his head and setting a scowl on his face. "Or maybe just Red Hood, and no Flamebird; that way the entire team could be composed of former villains," he said with sarcastic venom, arms folding across his chest in a gesture of implacability. Just because the others seemed willing to believe that Inertia and Match were good guys, didn't mean he was.
Neither Kon nor Bart had enough self-preservation, to his mind, and as their best friend, it was his job to look out for them when they wouldn't do it for themselves (or each other).
Cyborg rolled his eyes and sighed, tugging his boyfriend and their de factor team leader away from the two twosomes before their heated argument encroached on the shaky conversation with the former villains. Robin would obviously not be swayed, and Gar really could only make things worse.
"Keep wondering; even I don't know." Kon turned back to Matt and Thad. "So?"
The half-clones exchanged another speaking glance. "We'll think about," Thaddeus said, though he still appeared skeptical of the idea. "But we're in college, and we generally try and work the superhero thing around our classes."
"College?" Bart's eyes lit up with envy, and he zipped over to invade Thad's personal space. "Cool… What courses are you taking?"
"Well, of course there's physics, and boy was it a trial to test out of the prerequisites." Thad snorted, discreetly inching far enough away from Bart so that he could breathe his own supply of oxygen. "You wouldn't believe some of the banal basics they teach in the 101 course; purely trivial. Who hasn't memorized the laws of thermodynamics?"
"Oh, I know," Bart replied, drawling the last word out.
As the two speedsters talked rapidly back and forth, only just slow enough for non-speedsters to hear a buzzing noise instead of them talking, Matt and Kon looked at each other.
"So…" Kon said slowly, casting about for something to talk about with his clone. "How 'bout them Knights?" Not that he even knew how Gotham's basketball team was doing, though Robin probably did.
Match snorted. "They suck, like always."
At least some things never changed.