J'onn isn't sure how exactly M'gann thought he wouldn't find out. Yes, M'gann is capable of keeping secrets that are necessary to keep but that is in life or death situations. She has been managing keeping that one old secret, the one only J'onn knows about, from her friends. But that secret, in M'gann's scarred mind, is also a matter of life or death.
J'onn just knows that M'gann has a harder time keeping less important secrets like this new one from her friends. And, it is impossible to keep this type of secret from him. They touch minds all the time for H'ronmeer's sake. What is she thinking?
And, furthermore, what does she see in him? Conner is a hero, yes. He is...the human ideal of hansom, J'onn admits. But, he is also a little thick. J'onn had always thought of him as smart, easily adapting, curious even...but that was before Conner starting dating his niece. Now, J'onn has been more...focused on the boy and so, reasonably, he's picked up on some new aspects of Conner that he'd previously overlooked.
Conner has always been brave, but couldn't this just be because he doesn't see all the consequences of his actions? Conner has always been talented, but who wouldn't be with the powers of Superman? Conner has always been curious, but perhaps only because he has had to be with all the holes in the knowledge grafted onto his mind by the G-Gnomes?
And that is really the problem. What does the boy know about...relationships that makes him suitable for M'gann?
J'onn had watched M'gann and her boyfriend as they worked on his motorcycle. She offered him a rag when his hands got to dirty and let him clean himself up. She took the rag into her own hands and carefully wiped away the grease when Conner got it on his face or his chin or right there above his eyebrows. And then, she slowly backed away as she finished and admired his face as if it was a work of art. She double checked for spots and, when she didn't find any, leaned in as if to give him a kiss (his reward for letting her groom him without fussing) but, suddenly, she pulled back and her mind guards flared up and she'd pretend not to see J'onn behind her from the corner of her mind's eye.
Conner, on the other hand, squinted that way J'onn had seen Superman squint every day over the many years he'd known him. Conner squinted because he was sneakily looking right through M'gann, who blocked his view, to see J'onn. He'd frowned then and pretended like he also didn't know J'onn was there.
They didn't kiss, but J'onn knows that they both knew he was there. It's kind of hard to miss the six-foot four green alien in your wide open hanger. If these thickheaded teens hadn't realized that he had realized they were dating, then they're certainly thicker than J'onn initially thought they were...
No, M'gann could never be stupid. She could never be the problem. It has to be that boy; that boy with the holes in his learning. That boy who is just one ill-informed social cue away from using that same stupid squint to look straight through M'gann's bio-clothing to her bare body and then...and then J'onn doesn't want to know.
Logically, he realizes that a teenaged boy should know certain things from the oversexed media, and even more things from public school (normally J'onn was more liberal in policy, but now he suddenly dreads Rhode Island's non-abstinence based sex ed). Furthermore, those G-Gnomes had most likely only explained to Conner the biological workings of sex. They hadn't explained when it was appropriate to engage in or when you should just not touch at all because that girl you are touching is someone else's little girl and, by H'ronmeer, her uncle is not taking her back to her many sisters as a tarnished...woman.
J'onn gulps. Oh, H'ronmeer...this clueless boy is going to "knock her up" as they say, isn't he? J'onn isn't even sure if this is biologically possible, but he isn't about to use his niece as a test subject on the matter either. He needs a plan before something worrisome happens.
"So, what would you like then, J'onn?" Superman asks suddenly.
The Martian looks up, realizes he is still in the JL founder's meeting, and then realizes that he really needs to leave. He leaves without a word.
Superman, with his gaze dumbly fixed to the open air around J'onn now unoccupied seat, manages to not look like the most foolish of the stupefied Leaguers, but only since Barry was eating pizza and now a cheesy slice which he'd held inches above his mouth for too long had dropped all its toppings onto his lightning bolt insignia.
Barry regains his senses and uses the bare crust to wipe up all the cheesy and meaty goodness from his chest in one expert motion and then shovel it into his throat. He gulps as he swallows it all down. "Is it just me or is something wonky with J'onn?" Flash asks as he dabbed at his mouth with Diana's offered napkin.
Superman frowns at J'onn's still vacated chair. "I…think I'll go speak to him."
"Okay," Barry gives Superman a thumbs-up, "just ask him again what he wants while you're at it. I am definitely going to order more pizza."
Clark isn't sure why J'onn thought he could keep this from him. Yes, J'onn can tend towards the quiet side sometimes, but only because he's lost deep in thought. He has been the peacemaker, the abstainer, for the League on multiple occasions; this usually means he only offers nudging questions to help the discussion along. But, even then J'onn isn't so completely withdrawn.
Clark knows his Martian friend can read minds, but doesn't like to intrude on his friends' private thoughts. Nevertheless, J'onn has always been intuitive even without his mind-reading abilities. Clark doesn't believe that J'onn could be ignorant of his friend's worry about his new behavior, especially now that he's just up and left in the middle of a meeting. They were ordering dinner for Rao's sake! How is Barry supposed to know if he wants a Choco Blizzard from DQ or not?
Clark finds Martian Manhunter in one of the large observatories that look down on Earth. Normally, J'onn can be found by the telescope looking at Mars; this is just another suspicious action that sets Clark on guard. He coughs to announce his presence. "J'onn, is there something on your mind?" he asks.
J'onn closes his eyes and keeps them closed even as he turns to face Superman. He chooses to not speak out loud. Instead, he opens his mind to Superman and lets his thought speak for themselves.
Superman feels like he is swimming in J'onn's emotions. He wades through concern and apprehension. He is warmed by a bubbling hot spring of pride. He is drowned under a forceful tidal wave of guilt. He should be concerned for her. He has a right to be worried. He has a right to take pride in her. He still feels guilty for taking it out on that boy.
As soon as Superman wonders what boy he sees them. He sees blushing and sweet M'gann holding onto that boy's waist as they take out a bike for a test ride. He hears her laugh as her scarf tosses in the wind; she shifts and the scarf is suddenly a black and red kite which she directs into the windy sky. It soars up and shows off its 'S' insignia to the seagulls flying above.
Superman gets it now. "They're dating?" he says in awe. "I had no idea J'onn. I swear."
J'onn purses his lips. "You do seem to be…distancing yourself from the boy. I can see why you've been caught unawares."
"He's his own person," Superman draws his arms into his chest, "I prefer to let him manage himself."
"That isn't enough," J'onn admonishes. "He needs guidance. He needs a father right now. I cannot, objectively at least, be the one to have this discussion with him."
"What discus…" Clark drops his folded arms. "You can't be serious—"
"In Martian ceremonies," J'onn interrupts, "the father walks the groom down the aisle. You are not ruining my niece's perfect wedding, Clark."
"What? Wedding?" Clark's eyes try to leap out from his sockets. "J'onn, don't you think you're getting ahead of yours—"
"I am not being unreasonable, Kal-El. I need your help here and I don't think I'm going to be getting any," J'onn says. He folds his hands behind his back. "Superboy is a job for Superman," he declares. "Explain the rules of this delicate situation to him before I force you too. I'm not growing any gray hairs over this if I don't have to."
Clark wants to point out that J'onn is bald and therefore doesn't have any hairs to go gray, but thinks better of it; Luther certainly hadn't appreciated Superman's correction when he'd used the same expression. He lets J'onn leave without another word.
Superman looks down to the big, blue globe below the Watchtower.
His supervision lets him make out different people all across the world. There's a young couple in Prague eating a picnic by the Vltava. The boy spills sparkling cider on his girlfriend's blouse and she blushes as he hastily tries to rub it clean. They meet eyes suddenly and Clark decides it's best for him to look away.
He finds another young couple at the top of the Eiffel Tower who are mostly likely about to French kiss; he looks away.
He sets his gaze on an average looking empty parking lot where an average looking boy tries to move from second to third base with the more than average looking girl in the back of his car. Superman stops looking at all because he's seriously seen enough.
He passes Barry on his way to the zeta tube.
"Supes, where you going?" Flash balances a dozen pizzas in one hand and two sets of two litters in the other. "I already got the food," he says quite unnecessarily.
As Superman leaves in a beam of yellow light, Barry shrugs. "I guess J'onn did want that Choco Blizzard."
Conner can't figure out how nobody's realized Meg and him are dating.
Three days ago, he'd managed to convince Wally that he and M'gann were only closer because they're classmates. Two days ago, Wally had accepted that Rolly was only following him because he wanted Wally to give him more attention, not because of any ulterior motive. Yesterday, Wally had agreed that everyone on the team really should hug more often; he'd looked to Conner's embrace with Megan and smiled. He'd even given Conner a long squeeze that was so exuberant it would have left a non-meta gasping for breath.
Today, Megan had convinced their friend that they were not kissing over dinner, they were just myth busting.
"It's so cool you guys like that show," Wally exclaims. "I mean, Myth Busters doesn't tackle magic ruses enough, but it's still awesome."
M'gann nods along. "Conner, nod along too," she insists telepathically. Conner follows her lead.
Wally keeps smiling. "So, do you think that," he grabs a fork and wraps it around some strands of Megan's spaghetti, "I could test it out this time? You know, for science?"
Conner's eye flash to Megan; she slowly stops nodding. She manages to keep up a somewhat convincing smile.
Wally's smile looks more biting the longer it's plastered over his face. "It's just that, well, I'm not only the biggest fan of Myth Busters, but I've got a major soft spot for Lady and the Tramp. Testing whether you can accidentally kiss while eating spaghetti is really a myth just made for me…" He places a strand of spaghetti in his mouth. "Ready whenever you are," he sing-songs.
Megan bites her lip. Conner makes a impulsive decision. He takes up the other end in his mouth and chomps down on it until he's mouth to mouth with Wally.
Wally drops his side of the pasta. "Eruhm, I think that…it's proven?" he says while stumbling backwards. "Yay, science," he says less than cheerfully.
Conner nods. "Yeah. Megan, write that test down in your scientific journal."
M'gann picks up a pencil and scribbles on the back of a take-out menu for the Italian restaurant they'd ordered from. She writes in Martian.
When Wally looks over her shoulder to read her notes, he huffs. "Okay, Conner was thinking on his feet there, but, jeez, you guys cannot expect me to not know that you're dating!" he shouts.
The zeta tube flashes and announces the new guest. "Recognized: A01, Superman."
Superman approaches Superboy with a confidence stride. "Superboy," he addresses, "I need to talk to you about…your relationship with M'gann."
Wally quickly finds both Conner's blue eyes and Megan's amber ones glued to his personage; somehow, he knows neither one of them is just admiring the pasta sauce splattered across his face. He holds up his hands in retreat. "I didn't tell him! Don't look at me," Wally jumps behind the counter and crouches, "I'm not even here."
Conner glares at Superman instead. "Since when do you care what I do?" he says snidely.
"Do you want me to make him leave?" M'gann asks over her mind-link.
"No, I'm going to talk to him. I can handle it," he insists, "maybe you and Wally should go."
M'gann slowly gives in. "If you're sure, Conner." She squeezes Conner's shoulder as she walks behind the counter and pulls Wally out of the room. "Come on Wally, let's go find Rolly."
Conner and Superman, finding themselves alone, wait for the other to speak.
Conner's temper gets the best of him. "Our relationship won't upset our missions. We have it under control."
"I don't think…that you've thought about all the ramifications of your actions."
Conner holds his ground. "Like what? Wally's not going to speak to me for…maybe thirty minutes? Oh, no. My life is ruined," he says flatly.
The corners of Superman's lips twitch. He gets Conner's point; like Wally, getting Barry to be quiet for any length of time for any reason is a miracle. Clark wonders where Conner picked up that dry wit. Well, Ma had always been that way. He chokes at the memory of his Ma teasing Barry last time he'd come over for her famous apple pie. Martha Kent doesn't put up with eating with your mouthful at her table.
Conner frowns as he notices that Superman looks like he just might laugh. He retreats into anger because he doesn't know how to deal with this new emotion on Superman's face. "She's my girlfriend and that isn't going to change just because of you," he snarls.
Clark blinks and turns to Conner. He remembers that he's not on the farm with his Ma, but at Mount Justice for a purpose which has nothing to do with laughing at Barry behind his back. "Superboy," he says the name forcefully, as if it is an order all in itself. He doesn't add anything after this one word.
Conner quirks a brow. "Yes?" he prompts.
Superman clears his throat. "I think we should…have a seat." He moves to take one of the stools beside the island, but finds someone (most likely Wally) has spilled pasta sauce onto it. He sits on the first clean stool he reaches. "Be careful for that one," he mentions with a wave towards the dirty seat.
Conner watches as Superman re-positions his cape so that he's not resting on top of its tail end. Superman's long legs bang against the island's lip; he stands up and pulls the stool further away. When he sits back down, his cape balls up beneath him again.
Conner, despite himself, laughs. Superman looks up to him sharply and Conner stops laughing. "Uh, I'm fine," Conner says as he passes up the stool beside Superman.
Superman nods. "Martian Manhunter and I were talking about the new developments between you and M'gann. He made me aware of some of his concerns about this relationship. J'onn," Clark pushes his spit curl out of his eyes, "seems to think himself unfit for discussing this with you."
Even though Conner doesn't say anything, Superman hears the unspoken I can't believe he thinks you're a better choice. "Listen, Superboy. I just need to know that you're not," Clark tongue rolls into his cheek, "moving too fast."
Conner folds his arms. "I don't have super-speed," he says in a monotone.
Clark pauses before he responds. He isn't sure if Conner misunderstood him, is being purposefully obtuse…or is making a sexual innuendo. He hopes it's anything but the last. "Don't worry about that; I didn't start superspeeding until I was seventeen. Ma had to replant a stretch of the cornfield. The importa—"
"What?" Conner exclaims with a roughness Clark didn't expect. "Repeat that again."
"Ma had to replant the cornfield?" Superman replies.
"No, the other part," Conner says impatiently.
Clark furrows his brows. "I was seventeen? Yes, I guess that has some relevance here; I've gone through this stage of my life—"
Conner stomps his foot. His balled fists unwind so that he can cover his face. "Oh, my god."
"It's not that embarrassing, Superboy. Everyone's par…everyone was a kid once."
"No," Conner shakes his head, "you're powers. I didn't realize I shouldn't have superspeed yet."
"Oh," Clark says dumbly. "You…have most of the powers I had at your age."
"What don't I have?"
"Heat-vision." Superman quickly adds, "Which brings me back to my point. This relationship is really ill-advised. You know how Martians are around fire. One step too far and your heat-vision could kick in. Then where would you be? You're like her living Kryptonite."
"What?" Conner, in the past, had only wanted Superman to talk to him for real for once. Now, he only wonders if anything this man says ever makes sense.
Clark latches on to his metaphor; he mistakes Conner's confusion for a breakthrough in communication. "Yes, like Kryptonite. Whenever you want to be near her, just think that you are the worst thing that could ever happen to her. Whenever you want to touch her, imagine that it stings and burns. Whenever you want to talk to her, remember that your very presence makes her sick."
"Uh…" Conner doesn't know what to say to any of this so he doesn't speak.
Superman stands up abruptly which topples the stool over and breaks it. "In fact, whenever you see her green skin just remember green equals Kryptonite. It's not that hard. It's just training your mind. It's like reversion therapy…" Clark glances at the broken stool. "I'll get that later," he mumbles.
Conner waves him off. "It's okay. Wally brakes one every other day. We have a stockpile of them in the back."
Conner starts cleaning up the pieces. "Reversion therapy…isn't that for convincing gay people to not be gay?"
"Well, yes. I guess that's not the best term to use. I'm not doing so well with the analogies…" Clark frowns and helps Conner clean. "I have no idea why J'onn thought I'd be the best one to talk to you," he admits as he places one broken chair leg into the wastebasket.
Conner finishes cleaning. "Yeah, I noticed. In my experience, if there's something I have to say, then I just say what I think flat out."
"How does that work out for you?"
Conner shrugs. "When I don't know how to explain myself, M'gann helps me find the words."
Clark absentmindedly sits on another stool. His red cape squishes into the splatters of red tomato sauce. He stands back up. "Uh, I came because…"
"Yes?" Conner nudges.
"J'onn wants to make sure your relationship doesn't get physical…"
Conner squints. "How physical?"
"Well," Superman runs a hand through his hair, "possibly creating a brand new species kind of physical."
"Tell him we don't plan on it," Conner replies. He hands Superman a paper towel for his cape. "We don't need our relationship to get too messy. We are both new to this."
Superman takes the paper towel. "Good," he says. "So we have an understanding?"
"M'gann is Kryptonite…whenever J'onn's around. I've got it."
"Good," Superman replies. He makes his way to the zeta tube. "Oh, and Conner?"
Conner grunts in response.
Superman continues. "It still wouldn't be a bad idea to get on J'onn's good side." As Conner frowns, Superman hears the unspoken ibut how would I do thati. Clark laughs. "Try getting him a Choco Blizzard. He really likes those."
Superman leaves Conner without another word.
M'gann, sensing that Superman has left, returns and brings Wally and Rolly with her. "How did it go?" she asks.
"He said we're Kryptonite to each other," Conner says slowly.
Wally's eyes sparkle with mischief. "So..."
"Recognized: M16, Martian Manhunter," the Cave declares as J'onn enters.
Wally continues anyways, "Does that mean you bring her to her knees?"
Conner coughs. "Who wants to go get some Blizzards?" he asks for a stunned J'onn's benefit.