Disclaimer: DC Comics owns all rights to the characters within. They are used without permission and not meant to infringe on copyrights or meant to generate income.

Also, if you have not read my other stories, it would be helpful to do so before reading this one. The chronology goes: Brothers in Arms, Where Do We Go From Here, Tragedies of the Past, Betrayal From Within, Future Sins, Reestablishing Bonds, Parents and Children, New Allies, Rivals or Friends, Public Enemy Number One, Double Date, Mind Games, Solar Complications, Mentors and Pupils, Brother Against Brother, Calm Before the Storm, Opening Moves, Isolation, The Great Father and Son Contest, and Fugue State.

Fallout, chapter 1

Location: the JLA Watchtower, medical bay

Max was restless. They insisted on keeping him overnight for observation even though it was highly unlikely that Desaad would immediately attempt another telepathic assault. Even if he did, Max had reinforced him mental shields with the Martian Manhunter's assistance.

No, he knew the real reason he was being held here. He didn't blame them for doing it; it made more sense to keep him in an accessible place for everyone to come to, rather than force everyone to trek out to the Kent's farm.

A shadow fell over him, and he looked up.

"Hello, Batman," Match said. "I've been expecting you."

Location: the Kent's farm

"Thanks for helping me clean up," Conner told Dan. "I wasn't really trying to keep everything spotless with what happened to Max."

"It's okay," Dan said. "I want him to be happy when he comes back, and he'd just quietly clean if he came back. Let's save him some work, right?"

"Yeah," Conner said.

There was a pause.

"What's on your mind?" Dan asked. "I know you want to ask me something; you've got that look on your face."

"Are you okay with everything you saw? It was a lot for me to take in, and I was there for a good portion of those events. I know Max can be kind of hard to deal with."

"Why do you say that?" Dan asked. "How's he difficult, other than being serious all the time?"

"Maybe it's because I live with him. He insists on keeping this room super clean and wakes up every morning at 3 AM to do his exercise routine. He's very quiet, but sometimes my super-hearing kicks in and I hear him get out of bed."

"So, you want your own room."

Conner frowned. "When you put it that way...yes. I think having my own room would be great."

"I thought your complaints were going to be something other than sharing a room. I thought there was going to be some deep emotional thing that was bothering you."

"You make it sound so silly. Also, nice try on avoiding my question. Max has rubbed off on you."

Dan chuckled. "Yeah. I know he had stuff he didn't want to talk about. I also knew he used to be a bad guy so there were things he did that he wasn't proud of."

Location: the JLA Watchtower, medical bay

"We need to talk," Batman said.

"Yes," Match agreed. "What do you want to know?"

"How many?"

"Thirty-eight. Four under the Agenda, and thirty-four under the Groups."

"That's high."

"It's very low given the types of missions I was assigned."

"Were there any civilians?"

Match looked away. "There was one, under the Agenda. Tana Moon."

"I've read the reports; they indicated that Amanda Spence was responsible."

"She was the one who pushed the button, but I was involved in the operation."

"How many if you remove ones you weren't directly responsible for?"

"Twenty-three."

"I see."

There was a pause.

Match gave Batman a wan smile. "This is where you fire me as a candidate to succeed you. It's expected."

"I'm withdrawing my offer to train you for that until I've fully digested the new information I have."

"I don't think that this is really a surprise to you."

"It's not, but you're being the End is."

"Ah. You're worried that power corrupts."

"Your own personal power and skills coupled with the End's resources is a matter for concern. Adding it to my own resources before ascertaining that would be unwise."

Location: the Kent's farm

"Does seeing it change anything?" Conner repeated.

"It doesn't change the way I feel," Dan said. "I may treat him a bit differently. It'd be hard not to."

"I'm going to have to give you more personal time together, aren't I?"

"I wouldn't mind it, but I think we'll still spend a lot of time with each other. Why the concern?"

Conner made a face. "Even though I complain about the little things, it's been really great having Max here. I get to have one of my best friends and a brother at the same time. I was kind of aimless before he got here, and I'm a lot more focused."

"You make it sound like he's going to run off at any time."

"I knew he didn't have a pleasant upbringing, but I didn't realize how bad it was. I don't want him to get hurt anymore."

"So you're the protective big brother, and I'm the guy who's all wrong for your little brother?" Dan clenched his fists.

Conner laughed. "It isn't like that. I know you and how you're good for him. It's just that I don't know what he wants or expects. I'm still relatively new to being an older brother, and I want to look out for him."

Location: the JLA Watchtower, medical bay

"Tim does make more sense for you as a successor," Match told Batman. "Richard, as well. I think at least one of them could be persuaded if you tried."

"If I have to persuade them, then they don't want the job," Batman said.

"Don't be foolish. Laying out the benefits and drawbacks for them isn't forcing them into something against their will."

"If I did that, they'd feel pressured to accept."

"Is it any better than having them feel resentful over your choice of me?"

"They were merely surprised."

"Surprise passes. You should have discussed it with them."

"It would be unfair to put the burden of my mantle on them."

"Unfair for you or them?"

There was a pause.

"I believe that Clark would like to talk to you," Batman said.

"I'm ready to see him. Hopefully, he won't be too annoyed with me."

Location: the Kent's farm

"I'm glad that you're looking out for Max," Dan said. "I'm doing that too."

"There's a big difference between him on a mission and him not on one," Conner said. "He's tough as nails in the field, but almost fragile off of it."

"How so?"

"He was terrified that the Kents were going to throw him out when he first came to live here."

"What? He thought the Kents would do that?"

"Yeah."

"He's not used to being loved."

"You're...right. He doesn't understand that some people will unconditionally accept him."

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