"This was a fantastic meal," Xander said, as they finished eating.
"The fortress has a really great kitchen," Ma said, "it makes it easy to cook nearly anything."
"Still, you have my compliments," Xander said, "it's been forever since I've had a good home cooked meal."
"Thanks, it's good to hear," Ma said with a smile.
"Almost good enough to distract me from my parental duties," Pa said. "Since you seem… rather enthusiastic about avoiding some topics, how about I ask if a topic is okay to ask about?"
Xander considered it. "I was going a bit overboard. Really, there aren't a lot of topics I'd consider off limits as long as you keep in mind that you shouldn't ask any questions you don't want the answer to."
Pa nodded. "Fair enough."
"Do you have any plans for the future?" Ma asked.
"Short term plans sure, long term? Not so much," Xander replied. "My life is far too chaotic to make long term plans, which is an improvement over my former life where I didn't have a future."
"You didn't have a future?" Kara asked.
"My home dimension is a Hell dimension," Xander reminded her, "and I was a demon hunter guarding a gate to Hell. The Slayers, with all their powers, had an average lifespan of six months before they were killed. As an unpowered human I managed to survive over ten times as long, so it was a good bet I was going to go out one night and not make it back. If I was lucky I'd die rather than get turned or replaced by something."
"I can see why you haven't tried to go back," Kara said grabbing his hand.
"Oh, that's not the reason," Xander said, "I have no problem dying fighting the good fight. No, opening a portal home would give certain forces a foothold in this world and I have no intention of allowing that. Just mentioning the names of certain demons I have personally encountered causes physical effects here, so not opening a gate is a no brainer."
"Speaking for myself, I'm glad you're here," Kara told him leaning over and hugging him.
"So am I," Xander said. "I may miss my friends, but as an unpowered human, who they didn't even involve in all their battles, I'm replaceable, so I'm sure they're doing just fine without me."
"I can see why you live in Gotham," Pa said, "probably feels closer to home."
"It kinda does, but it also feels like it's trying too hard," Xander said, "I mean it's like a goth kid at a prep school who goes way overboard."
"Seriously though," Xander said, "I saw a construction crew putting up a new building and they actually took the time to rub dirt and grime into the sides of the building to make it match its neighbors."
"I prefer Metropolis," Kara said, "the glass and chrome construction feels more like home to me."
"Yeah, but you have Lex Luthor and he's a bit of a dick, pardon my French," Xander said. "At least in Gotham they have the courage to dress the part they're playing."
"You may have a point there," Ma agreed amused.
"How do you get along so well with all the villains?" Pa asked.
"People are people," Xander said with a shrug, "it's a big game to everyone involved if I'm being honest. Nearly everyone could make more money going legit, but the lifestyle draws them in. People look up to villains almost as much as the heroes, just ask the toy companies."
Kara frowned. "I think it's more about doing what's right."
Xander nodded. "And just about every villain believes they are right to do what they do. A number become criminals to get justice for wrongs committed against them, real or imagined. Let's face it, putting on a costume and running off into the night to do things according to a theme isn't the sanest thing in the world, so don't expect it all to make sense, but for the most part all capes are trying to bring order to the world, even the villains."
"I hadn't thought of it that way," Kara said, as she considered it.
"You know as well as I do that you can occasionally rely on villains in a crisis and even they have lines they won't cross, policing the criminals themselves," Xander pointed out. "I've seen evil and fought demons, villains… not that bad. I've been trying to get some of them to channel their energies into more productive endeavors and it seems to be making a difference."
"You have at that," Pa said recalling some of the things Clark had told him.
"Ever think of having kids?" Ma asked with a grin.
"Ninja vanish!" Xander called out, two small balls dropping out of his sleeve and into his hand only to vanish as Kara quickly snatched them.
"Not at the table," Kara said, making Xander pout at her, and Ma and Pa burst out laughing.
"Xander!" the rogues called out.
"Guys!" Xander fired back as he entered the bar.
"Got a full house tonight," Mary told him as he joined her behind the bar.
"I see them," Xander replied making her blink and look over the room and spotting the card themed group.
"I meant we have a lot of people, not that the Royal Flush Gang was here," she told him.
Xander shrugged and picked up a tray of drinks, recognizing who they were for as no one else ordered Martinis with fish in them. "Here you go," Xander said as he passed the drinks to Penguin and his henchpins.
"And here you go," The Penguin said, passing Xander some cash and a small leather bag. Xander opened the bag and found it was filled with a number of small glowing green gems.
Xander slipped the bag into his pouch. "I'll drop them off tonight," he said. "Do you know where I can get my hands on a hand held kryptonite blaster? I just need the internals."
The Penguin looked surprised for a moment and then intrigued. "I should be able to, if you wouldn't mind assuaging my curiosity as to why you needed one."
"Sure," Xander replied. "If I understand how it works it can be used with any type of radioactive element and… it's a good precaution in case I have to deal with a Kryptonian."
"Always best to be prepared," The Penguin agreed. "I'll see what I can do, shouldn't be too difficult."
"Thanks, I appreciate it," Xander said, before heading up to the bar and grabbing the next tray. "Need another root beer," he said as he checked the order, feeling the touch of Ace's mind on his own. He added the bottle to his order and walked over to the Royal Flush's table.
"I saw the tape of you chasing Grundy," The one eyed Jack said as Xander passed out their drinks, funny stuff."
"Thanks," Xander said, "for a zombie he's surprisingly fast."
"Why do you have such a hard on for that guy?" Jack asked. "I mean, he's not one to rob poor people or hurt children, on purpose anyway."
"It's my knee jerk reaction to the undead," Xander replied. "Zombies, vampires, and ghosts need to be put down for their own good, if not ours. You can't escape death forever and annoying her is just plain dumb."
"Her?" King asked.
"Death is a she," Ace said, picking up some images from Xander's mind, "and he thinks she's cute."
Xander grinned and waggled a finger at her. "No poking in my head, some of the things I know are dangerous."
"Sorry," Ace apologized, "it's just your thoughts are a lot stronger than most people."
"Enough about that," King waved it off. "You've met Death?"
"Not personally, but I've seen her," Xander said, "she looks like she's in her early twenties, dressed like a goth and has a tattoo of an ankh surrounding her right eye. She's very nice and guides souls onto their final destination, she isn't the cause of death, except conceptually."
The rest of the gang turned to Ace, who nodded, letting them know he was being truthful.
"You really get around," Jack said impressed.
Xander shrugged. "The world is a weird place and I'm a weird guy," He saw Ace wince as she picked up her drink.
"I hurt my wrist practicing gymnastics," she said at his unasked question.
Xander took a blue pendant from around his neck and handed it to her.
Ace smiled and put it on.
"If you guys are good?" Xander asked.
The King and Queen exchanged glances and looked at Ace who nodded.
"I was wondering if you'd mind doing us a little favor," The King said. "We have a job coming up and… it's a bit more dangerous than our usual caper, so we were wondering if you'd mind watching Ace for a week or two."
Xander considered that. Ace was a sweet kid and it was nice to see that The Royal Flush Gang was treating her right and not like a disposable asset as others might. "As long as you don't mind me corrupting her with my decadent lifestyle."
"He means heroing and annoying stuffy people," Ace said, before anyone could get the wrong idea.
King and Jack laughed while Queen and Ten smirked.
"That's not a problem," King assured him.
"Then no, I don't mind," Xander replied.
"Excellent, we'll owe you one," The King said seriously.
"You good till the end of shift?" Xander asked Ace.
Ace nodded with a bright smile.
"Back to work," Xander said, heading back to the bar.
"Ready to go?" Xander asked Ace as he put on his mask.
"Ready," Ace said grabbing his hand.
"Two to port," Xander said, tapping his ear piece.
The pair of them vanished in a burst of light only to appear on the teleporter pad aboard the Justice League satellite.
Ace looked around eagerly and they both felt a curious mind touch their own, making the young telepath giggle.
"That's Martian Manhunter," Xander said, "our resident telepath. He's pretty good at teaching shielding. I'll see if he has time to give you some lessons later."
"He feels nice," Ace said as they stepped off the pad.
Flash was suddenly in front of them. "Made a collar?"he asked as he took in her black and white unitard.
"Picked up a sidekick," Xander corrected him. "We're just going to get her outfitted now."
"She's a bit young," Flash noted, scratching his head and wondering what Xander was up to as he recognized Ace from League files.
"She'll grow out of it," Xander assured him as they started down the hall.
"They start younger and younger," Flash said, shaking his head and vanishing in a blur of speed.
"His thoughts feel like Livewire's but faster," Ace noted.
"Not surprising," Xander said, nodding to Black Canary as they passed her.
"Because of the lightning," Ace guessed.
"Both empowered by the same element but in different ways," Xander agreed. "And here we are."
The door slid open and they stepped into The League's costume lab, where half a dozen civilian employees were working on replacement outfits for League members.
"They'll take your measurements and then we can get you outfitted," Xander said.
A young woman with dark hair and thick glasses, wearing a white lab coat approached the pair, her name tag read Dr. White. "Greetings Flannel Man, here for a replacement outfit? We have some new materials that are more fire resistant that could use some testing."
"I'm good for the moment, though when Firefly gets out on parole, I'll probably see about testing them," Xander said. "No, I'm here to get a proper costume for my new sidekick… Lumber Jane."
"Lumber Jane?" Ace asked in disbelief before bursting out laughing.
"Lumber Jane," Xander said firmly. "You get to take up the Flannel of Justice and knock out miscreants with an axe handle," he said grandly causing a wave of laughter.
"You're serious," Ace said, a bit surprised.
"I'm serious about not taking all this too seriously," Xander said. "We run around in silly outfits beating people up, you'd have to be crazy to take it seriously."
"I'm not sure many people would agree with you," Dr. White said, looking thoughtful. "But enough about that, let's get you measured," she told Ace and lead her off.
The door slid open and Superman entered. "Flannel Man," he said, "I wanted to thank you for what you did for my parents."
"They're good people and your Mom is a great cook," Xander told him, "plus it got me out of a very uncomfortable conversation, win-win."
"Nonetheless, you have my thanks," Superman said, "family is important to me and I really do appreciate it."
"Yeah well, compliments make me uncomfortable," Xander said as Ace returned with Dr. White. "Ace, this is Superman. Superman this is Ace, my new sidekick."
"She's a bit young," Superman blurted out without thinking about it.
"And a supervillain," Ace added proudly.
"Well it is take your supervillain daughter to work day," Xander fired back. "Have you thought about what you want your outfit to look like?"
"Can I have pants?" Ace asked hopefully. "I know Batman has Robin in tights and I've gotten used to this unitard, but Gotham is cold this time of year."
"Of course you can have pants," Xander told her, "and a nice warm flannel shirt."
"And boots," Ace decided as she looked over Xander's outfit.
"And boots," he agreed, "steel toed so you can kick people.."
Superman just stared as Dr. White whisked Ace away to put together her outfit. "How?" he finally asked, not quite sure what question to ask first.
"Her gang is going to be busy so they asked me to babysit," Xander replied. "I figure she should get a chance to see what being a hero is like."
"That's not a bad idea," Superman said thoughtfully. "The Royal Flush Gang doesn't mind?"
"I gave them a heads up and they said it was fine," Xander assured him.
"That's surprising," Superman said.
"Not really," Xander disagreed, "capes are generally the most loyal of any group, at least to those they consider their equals, henchmen usually don't count, and it's still part of the cape life."
"How do I look?" Ace asked as she returned wearing a plaid flannel long sleeved shirt and blue jeans with heavy black steel toed boots and a black Dread Pirate Roberts mask that matched Xander's.
"Just about perfect," Xander said with a grin as he had an idea. "We'll need to get you a tool belt."
"A tool belt?" she asked.
"Anything special on it?" Dr. White asked.
"Fit a couple of holsters on it as well as a spot for an axe handle," Xander said.
"Be right back," the scientist said.
"Gun holsters?" Superman asked doubtfully.
"Ray guns," Xander replied, "and some finger-less work gloves."
"I'm almost tempted to peak," Ace said, not wanting to ruin the surprise and enjoying the warm armored costume she has on, which was a big step up over her unitard as far as she was concerned.
"Can't have you fighting crime unarmed," Xander said, "so we'll have to stop by Central City and get you a couple of ray guns as well as modifying your boots."
"I'm a decent fighter," Ace said. "I've never had a problem dealing with mooks."
"I know, but you're not strong enough to do minimal damage yet," he explained. "Minimal damage means bruises and strains, rather than broken bones and dislocated limbs."
"But that's how you fight," she pointed out.
Xander shrugged. "I'm working on it."
"Try this on," Dr. White said, returning with a brown tool belt with a gun holster on either side.
Ace tried it on. "It fits."
"She needs finger-less work gloves with reinforced knuckles," he said.
"Black to match your mask?" Dr. White asked.
"Yes, please." Ace replied politely.
"Ray gun?" Superman asked pointedly.
"Freeze rays are non-lethal and a good way to slow down crooks," Xander replied.
Superman nodded. He straightened up as he felt Martian Manhunter send him a message. "I've got to go. Xander, thanks again and Ace, it was very nice to meet you."
"Where are we going to get a freeze gun?" Ace asked as Dr. White returned with a pair of gloves which Ace put on and flexed her hands to get a feel for them.
"We could probably put one together, but it might take a few days," Dr. White offered.
Xander shook his head. "We'll buy one from Captain Cold."
Ace tilted her head. "You could probably get one from The Flash, pretty sure he has dozens of them by now."
"Never steal another villains shtick," Xander said, "it's rude. Besides, Captain Cold has probably improved the design a dozen times in the last couple of years and this way we get the latest one."
Ace nodded and yawned.
"But that's for tomorrow, for now let's go home and get some sleep," he decided. "Dr. White, thank you for your help."
"It's what I'm here for," she assured him before the two vanished. "I wonder if he'd let me get a look at it," she wondered aloud, before returning to work.
Typing by: fyrewolf5
TN: Since Murphy's been taunted about not being needed in his home dimension, when do we get a cut back to his home dimension where they've finally realized they need him for more than donut runs, and boosting Buffy's ego?
AN: This is a lighthearted romp, so… never or as soon as I figure out a way to make it funny.