Disclaimer: I do not own either Young Justice or its related characters. Such are the property of DC Comics, Warner Bros. Entertainment and Cartoon Network. I'm just borrowing them for some non-profit entertainment.
(A/N: This is for Blue Eyes Angle 2's challenge, "We all know how Superman doesn't want to accept Conner at all. Well what if it's the other way around… (and) Superboy rejects him." Full details can be found here – http :/forum. fanfiction. net/ topic/ 86355/ 54617625/ 1/# 55515870 )
Clark watched Bruce with his new ward. The two worked well together, better than one would have expected a newly orphaned nine-year-old circus boy to work with a still unfamiliar adult and far better than one would have ever expected the Dark Knight to work with… well anyone. Even the teamwork of the World's Finest would be hard-pressed in a comparison.
The Man of Steel hung back as he used his telescopic vision to observe Gotham's hero and his new protégé take down a small-time roof-hopper that Clark didn't recognize. The Batman was fiercely territorial about his city and Superman wasn't looking to step on his toes, he just had to see this for himself. He knew Bruce Wayne had adopted an orphaned circus acrobat a few weeks ago. The young billionaire bachelor and his flavor-of-the-week date for that week had been in attendance as spectators the day of the accident that had killed all but two of the Flying Graysons, leaving the youngest son orphaned and his only surviving uncle to injured to care for himself let alone the nine-year-old boy. That was note-worthy news for the gossip columns. But what brought Clark to Gotham tonight, almost a month since, were the rumors that the Batman was now being seen with a young boy by his side.
It was no surprise to the reporter that Bruce would take in a young boy whom had also witnessed the brutal death of his parents. He probably saw a bit of himself in the boy, felt a sort of comradery through their shared tragedy. But what the Man of Steel found hard to believe was that the Dark Knight would place such a young child in harms way by taking him out on patrols and cases every night. But there they were, a duo that seemed to be developing a very effective dynamic for fighting crime.
He waited until they had dispatched their quarry and finished their circuit of the city and returned to the Batcave. Bruce had just shifted the Batmobile into park and cut the engine when Superman entered the cave.
"I was wondering when you'd finally stop hovering and say 'hi'." The Dark Knight commented dryly as he hopped out of the driver's seat, cape swishing behind him. "Spying doesn't become you."
Before Clark had the chance to respond, he was cut off by the excited exclamation of the Wonder Boy, "Oh wow! You do know him!"
He did a forward flip out of his seat and landed, feet first, on the hood of the Batmobile. A second flip landed him directly in front of the Man of Steel. He beamed up at the famed hero with an almost worshipful grin on his face. But before the boy had the chance to say more, his legal guardian cut him off.
"Don't you have school tomorrow?"
"Right, right." The boy groaned and then was cartwheeling towards the stairs that lead into the mansion proper. Clark waited until the faux grandfather clock had shut firmly before turning his attention back to the Dark Knight.
"I must say, I'm surprised."
"What are you doing here, Clark?"
The Man of Steel suppressed a smile. He might have adopted a son and become a parent, but Batman was still the same blunt and sometimes abrasive Batman. "Honestly, I had to see it for myself. Bruce Wayne adopting a kid I can totally see, Batman taking a kid out on cases is just so out of character and plain irresponsible, to me."
Bruce pulled his cowl off and ran his fingers through sweat matted hair. "Since you're new to the whole spy thing I'm guessing you didn't see that he's more than capable of holding his own on cases."
Clark had noticed that the boy was rather talented, but he was so young and Batman's cases were usually so dangerous… "I just don't see why you'd want to get you're adopted son involved in this part of your life."
Bruce flopped down in the swivel chair in front of his monitors and said with a shrug, "Its our version of father-son quality time."
Clark thought about that for a long time after leaving Gotham. Father-son quality time, huh. If Clark Kent were to ever adopt a child he would never be able to include his hypothetical ward in his… extracurricular activities. Not unless the boy (or girl, he supposed) could also fly, had super-strength, and was invulnerable. His villain gallery may not be as mentally unbalanced or creative as Bruce's but that didn't mean they were any less dangerous. In fact, in many instances, his gallery was much, much more dangerous than the Dark Knight's, he could never in good conscience involve a child in that. If he were ever to have a sidekick or a protégé, they'd have to be a kryptonian like himself, with the same abilities he had. But that was something that would never happen. Kryptonian physiology wasn't compatible with humans'; no matter how much the two races resembled each other, they could not procreate. He would never have any progeny by normal means.
He could never include an adopted son in the 'Superman' part of his life and he could never have a son of his own. Clark supposed he'd never be able to relate to Bruce where that aspect of his life was concerned.
Barry was the second member of the League to take on a sidekick. His newly wedded wife, Iris, apparently had a nephew whom was blessed (cursed) with a keenly inquisitive mind and a pre-inclination towards science. He had not only discovered his newly acquired uncle's identity, but also managed to reproduce the experiment (accident) that had given him his super-speed. Now the Flash had a 'Kid Flash' underfoot trying to be a hero like his uncle.
Between bites of pizza and popcorn, Barry would regal anyone willing to listen with tales of his adventures and misadventures with the boy. He would whine and kvetch and complain about his youth and his inexperience, but behind the grousing and grumblings, Clark could hear amusement, affection and even pride in his voice. For all his complaining, Barry was happy to have a partner to help-out with keeping his own little rouge gallery in check.
"There is one good thing about having the Kid around." Flash gave a dramatic sigh, waving his arms wide before slumping his shoulders in defeat. He waited for someone to follow his cue. After a prolonged pause Clark decided to bite.
"Alright, Berry, and what's that?"
"Its good practice!" He answered with a smile. "Ya know, for when Iris and I have little speedsters of our own."
Clark had muttered something non-committal to that, feeling suddenly uncomfortable. He made his excuses to the Flash and exited the mess hall. Barry could have little speedsters; the accident that had given him his powers had not robbed him of his potential to become a parent. But Clark would never have little boy scouts of his own; he wasn't human and so did not have the potential to ever become a parent with a human woman.
Ollie had been the next one, another adoption case. Clark had been rather busy with an off-world mission at the time and so didn't get to hear the full story of young Roy Harper from Green Arrow himself. Instead receiving the cliff-notes version from Aquaman upon his return.
"Batman seems to have set a trend." The Atlantian king joked. "What about you, Supes, any plans to become the next 'Justice-daddy'."
"The next what?"
"Its what Berry's started calling the members with sidekicks recently." He shrugged. "I'm not fond of the term, but I must admit that the idea of having a partner on certain missions would be advantageous. So, what about you?"
Clark answered with an uncharacteristically short and sober, "No."
A few months after that had been Aquaman's faithful battle with Ocean Master in which two students of the Academy in Poseidonis aided him; and Orin suddenly got himself a sidekick of his own. Maybe Batman really had set a trend that the rest of the League was slowly following by one means or anther. But it was a trend Clark could never follow himself.
He had long since resigned himself that he would never have any progeny, he also knew that no one born on Earth would be able to keep up with him and his villain gallery. He now began resigning himself to the belief that he would also have no one to pass on all the knowledge Jor-El had left him with. The legacy of Krypton would die with him.
Not for the first time, but the first time in a long time, the full weight of his title hit him. He really was the Last Son of Krypton.
Independence Day had been a shock to his system.
Superboy's existence gave him a great deal of food-for-thought. Upon later reflection, the usually-Boy Scout had to decide that his handling of the news and the boy himself had been less than admirable. But personal feelings (on both sides) aside, the boy's existence meant two things to the Man of Steel: first, there were very few places where Cadmus could have gotten a viable sample of his DNA which meant that one (or more) of the people on the short list of those he trusted were compromised, and secondly, grooming the boy as a weapon to destroy him so carefully and concealing his existence from the League so completely implied some greater and deeper plot than their standard run-of-the-mill Big Bad's quest for world domination. Before he claimed any sort of personal responsibility for the boy he had to get those two questions sorted out.
He had told the boy that the League would figure something out for him, and the League had. He was living at Mt. Justice, he was working on a Team under Batman's careful observation, he was surrounded by friends… the boy didn't really need him. Clark pushed the boy out of his mind.
Besides, it wasn't like the Superboy was his son. Superman couldn't have children.
Clark had all but forgotten about the boy until August when he showed up in Metropolis to help with a collapsing bridge.
At first he'd been annoyed. The clone's landing had been rough and shook the bridge enough to make the Man of Steel to a double take. He floated up totake hold of the bus that Superboy was trying (and failing) to pull back from plunging nose first into the bay.
"I had that!" The boy snarled at him.
Clark met the hostility with some blunt harshness of his own. "I didn't want to take the chance. As it is, your landing could have destabilized the whole bridge."
"But it didn't!" He argued.
"But it could have." Superman shot back deciding that he didn't have much patience for the boy right now. "As it is, we don't yet know the limits of your powers."
He had expected the boy to snap back with defensive anger, or lash out with an insult or maybe just shout that the Man of Steel didn't know what he was talking about and to take his advice and tell him where he could shove it. Instead, the Superboy gave him the same hopeful but vulnerable expression he's worn back in July.
"Maybe… you could, ya know, help me with that…?" The boy gazed up at him pleadingly.
Clark was assailed by a sudden stabbing of guilt. He hadn't seen the kid since July, hadn't thought of him in two months and when he did think of his clone, it was as the living weapon he'd been created to be, a tool made by a nefarious organization for an ambiguous purpose with no real mind or will of its own. 'He doesn't like to be called an "it".' Kid Flash's words echoed through his head momentarily.
"Batman's got that covered." Clark suddenly felt extremely uncomfortable. He wanted to get away.
Luckily, Green Arrow happened to call just at that moment and he was gifted with an excuse to leave.
Let it never be said that metas were never saved by norms.
Perhaps his outburst at the diner had been a bit of an overreaction. But Bruce was pushing. If their rolls had been reversed and it was the Man of Steel pressuring the Dark Knight to take on an unexpected responsibility he'd have punched him in the jaw (there was some question as to with or without his kryptonite ring). So, yes, his public outburst might have been a little unreasonable given the setting, but it wasn't an overreaction. No.
But what had really set him off was not the fact that Bruce was asking him to take responsibility for the boy, but that Bruce had dropped the F-bomb. 'Father'. He had called Clark the boy's father and that was something the Superman had not been prepared to hear. Something he had not been ready to think about. He had lived almost his entire adult life under the belief that he could never and would never have any children of his own. Superman might be many things, but 'father' had never been one of the possibilities. …And now Bruce was implying it was not a possibility but his reality.
Clark lay awake chewing on that little tidbit.
He thought about how much Bruce's life seemed to have improved after he adopted Dick. How he seemed less angry, less hostile, more casual, more comfortable; overall the Dark Knight seemed just generally happier since the boy appeared in his life. Clark had never thought he would have children so he had never given the idea much thought, but now that he actually was thinking about it he began to wonder if another reason why he never gave the idea much attention was because he might have (on some level) been a little jealous. Jealous because Bruce had something that he believed he would never have and he saw how happy it made him.
But then he thought about Oliver and all the grief Roy gave him, not just with their falling-out and the boy's subsequent solo act, but grief over the boy's short heroin addiction a few years prior. Clark saw the strain it put on not only Green Arrow but Black Canary as well.
The decision to adopt the boy as his son and take all the emotional baggage that when with it would not affect solely him; the decision did not rest solely with him. The boy would be Lois' son too, she should have a say in the decision as well.
Clark rolled over and gently shook his wife awake.
"Wha'…?" She slurred drowsily. "Wha's goin' on?"
"Lois," he whispered. "Are you awake?"
"No." She groaned and rolled over… and was back asleep before Superman could say 'Great Scott!'
"Lois…" He gave her another gentle shake and rolled her back over to face him.
She moaned in irritation. "You can do whatever you want to me, just don't wake me up."
"Sweetheart, I want to talk."
"Okay, I'm listening." Her eyes fluttered and then closed and she began to snore. Clark shook her awake for a third time. "Damn it, Clark! What!"
He recoiled at her ire but still asked what he wanted to ask. "Have you… have you ever thought about us having a kid?"
She yawned and ran a hand through her sleep-matted hair. "Why? Are you pregnant?"
"What! No! Why would you even…"
Maybe she was still asleep and this really was a conversation best left until morning. But he had been avoiding the subject of Superboy for so long, he wanted to stop procrastinating. The boy was on his mind right now, there was no guarantee he'd give a care about him in the morning.
"Well, you're an alien, Clark, for all I know on Krypton men could have babies." She stretched and cuddled up close to him.
"No." He said flatly. Then, before the conversation could swing off into a bizarre tangent he said, "Lets start over: Do you remember a couple months back when I told you that the League had found a clone of me?"
"I remember the incident at the bridge today a lot more clearly than I remember you telling me about him."
Clark suppressed a wince. Lois hadn't been anywhere near the Hobb's Bay at the time, but the emergency and his and the boy's response to it had been televised. Thankfully the cameras had been far enough away not to catch their conversation, but their body language had been just as telling. It was a far more accurate summary of their relationship (or lack there of) than the short, 'Lois, the League discovered a clone of me tonight,' he'd given her back in July.
"How would… um, how would you feel if I invited him to live with us?"
She missed one… two… three beats before saying, "Sure. But I think the rest of this conversation is best left for when I'm awake."
Unfortunately they did not discuss the subject of Superboy the following morning. A hurricane drifted unseasonably high up the eastern seaboard and Superman rushed off to offer his assistance in any way he could while Lois rushed off to cover the story. When they finally found a few minuets to once again be alone together, they were wet, dirty and in Lois' case exhausted, certainly in no mood to discuss a new addition to their household. The subject of Superboy went undiscussed for some time after that.
In mid-September he and J'onn helped defeat the pair known as the 'Terror Twins' in New Orleans. Bruce, in semi-classical Batman fashion, had a plan to sneak two members of the Team into Belle Reve as undercover operatives. Clark had stood silently in the Cave's briefing room while the Dark Knight explained the mission, but he had really only been partially listening. Seeing Superboy again had reminded him that he and Lois still were yet to discuss the possibility of his coming to live with them.
Standing behind Bruce and trying to stay out of the way, Clark watched the boy's expression shift from the blank stare of a soldier awaiting orders, to sharp attention as Batman began to speak, to fierce determination when he singled the boy out as one of the operatives. The Man of Steel was quickly reminded that, while he resembled a sullen teenager and Bruce insisted the boy was his 'son', he was actually a living weapon, a weapon created to kill him. Did he really want to bring something like that into his home? Expose it to his family?
He did not speak with the boy at all either after the briefing nor at any point during their brief jaunt in New Orleans. After he'd neutralized Terror and sent him and his sister plummeting towards the 'switch-point' he had prepared to leave. His portion of the mission was over; Bruce could handle everything from there. Before flying away his super-human hearing couldn't help but pick-up a brief exchange of dialogue.
"But I don just gone toe-to-toe wit' Superman!" That would be Tommy Terror, his grammatically challenged southern drawl was rather distinctive. What surprised Clark was the person who answered him and their reply.
"Congratulations. That's more quality time than he's ever given me."
Clark recognized that voice, it was his own voice only two decades younger, it was Superboy. The boy wanted to spend 'quality time' with him? Why? They'd only ever been in the same room together a handful of times; they'd only ever spoken to each other twice. What reason could the boy have to expect any sort of 'quality time' from him?
He remembered the pleading gaze the boy had given him back in Metropolis the previous month. It wasn't that the boy expected anything from him, but he did want certain things from him. Namely, just some of his time. He might be a living weapon, he might have been created to kill and replace the Man of Steel, he might be just a clone, but he was still also just a boy and like all boys, he wanted the time and attention of a parent. Bruce had called him the boy's 'father'; did the boy view him in the same way? Was that the boy's only interest in him?
The kid might be a weapon, but what was a weapon but a tool? And what were the merits of a tool but the way it was used? 'He doesn't like to be called an "it".' Kid Flash's words once again echoed through his mind. If he didn't like being called an 'it' he probably wouldn't appreciate being compared to weapons and tools either.
Clark sighed. Bruce thought that him claiming the boy was what was best for him, but was that really what was best for the kid? Would it really be healthy to have the boy live with a person whom still viewed him, not as a fully formed individual, but rather a boy-shaped tool? A weapon that could be turned against the hand the wielded it just as easily as any other. If it was just him, he wouldn't have to think so hard about it, he could take care of himself, but would he be putting Lois in danger by inviting the boy into their home? Or, would he be avoiding danger by reaching his hand out to the boy and offering him the guidance and 'quality time' he seemed to crave so much?
He chewed on that question for a while, too.
"Lois, c'mon we're gonna be late." Clark paced the living room of their apartment with impatience. While their two year anniversary had actually been two weeks prior, this was the first night that both of them had actually managed to find the time to celebrate and he wanted to celebrate before some cookie-cutter baddie decided it was a nice night to try to take over the world.
"Oh, you actually made reservations somewhere?" His blushing bride emerged from the bathroom looking radiant in a blue silk gown with yellow trim. It hugged her figure, showing off the delicious curve of her hips to their best advantage while still concealing their creamy flesh to his eyes (well, to a normal man's eyes, if Clark wanted to see her creamy flesh all he had to do was…). She threw her arms around him and waggled a finger in his face. "Ah, ah, ah. There'll be none of that, you naughty boy."
"Lois, I'm insulted that you think I'd be so lewd as to-"
"Uh-huh." She crossed her arms over her chest, the action pressing her breast together in a way that was thoroughly pleasing to look upon. "So, what are we gonna do?"
Clark helped her into a heavy coat before handing her her purse and lifting her up, carrying her bridal-style to the window. "I was thinking we'd do a little dancing." He said. "Maybe make a little love… generally just get down tonight."
She gave a snort. "Smallville, you are probably the corniest person I know."
He waited to see if she would follow that up with a crack about corn farming in Kansas but she did not. Instead she changed the subject.
"But I meant, what are we gonna do about the Superboy?"
His happy-playful mood deflated at the mention of the boy and he backed them away from the window and put her down. "Lois, its our anniversary, do we have to talk about this now?"
"Its just that its been a couple months since you last mentioned anything about him." She said. "The last time we talked about him, you woke me up in the middle of the night to ask if he could live with us, you haven't mentioned him since. I would kinda like to know what's going on…"
"But do we have to talk about him tonight?"
"No, I suppose we don't." She admitted. It was hard enough finding time when the two of them could spend a romantic evening together. She didn't want to spoil it any more than he did, but his lack of mention about the clone had begun to bother her. "Just know that I haven't forgotten and I expect to have that talk some time soonish."
It would be late November before the subject of Superboy came up again in the Kent household.
Lois and Clark had flown to Kansas to spend Thanksgiving with Martha on the Kent Farm. They sat around the table laughing and joking about the latest antics of the Smallville townsfolk, the misadventures of the Daily Planet in Metropolis and the latest exploits of the Superman. It was a perfect evening; the only thing that would make it more perfect was if Jonathan Kent were still alive to share it.
…But then Ma shattered the mood with the kind of calm command that only a mother could wield.
"I've been thinking." She said, folding her hands daintily in her lap. "You should convert the guest room in your apartment into a bedroom for the boy."
"What boy?" Clark had blinked in confusion only to realize what his mother must be talking about all to late.
"Lois and I have been talking, Clark." Neither her voice nor her posture changed, there was no outward indication that she was suddenly mad, but the Man of Steel had lived with his mother long enough to know when he had upset her. Forgetting about the boy had been his second mistake, but thinking that his wife wouldn't discuss a possible addition to the family with his mother had been his first (and bigger) mistake. "She told me that you mentioned an interest in taking in the Superboy I've been hearing so little about recently. I want to know why you haven't yet."
"I've been… thinking about it…" He answered her lamely.
"Well, its time to stop thinking and start doing." Martha Kent's eyes narrowed at her son. "You'll start by making a space livable for him, a teenage boy needs a room that's all his own. The next time Lucy or the General come by for an extended visit, I'm sure they can make do with your couch. You will invite the boy to live with you and you will make darn sure he feels welcomed, Clark, like he belongs. When he's settled, you'll bring him here for a visit. Have I made myself clear?"
In between chasing stories as Clark Kent, saving the planet as Superman and one very awkward Christmas dinner with the Lanes, the Man of Steel found himself spending his free time going through, rearranging and moving things out of the guest bedroom. He and Lois had been using it as a sort of home office-slash-storage room for evidence they might have collected on their cases, copies of old articles, photos (both personal and work related), etc.
Clark had been willing to shred or burn most of it, but Lois refused to destroy a single page. And so he had spent almost all of December and the first week of January flying copy-boxes from their apartment in Metropolis to either the Kent farm to be stored in the attic or the Fortress of Solitude to be copied into his archives at a later date. When that was done, Lois put him to work rearranging the furniture a bit.
The second bookcase had to be taken out; it took up to much space and made the room feel cramped. Lois made him move it into the living room and then stood back and gave orders as to how the rest of the living room furniture was to be rearranged due to the addition of the new piece. Clark spent two obnoxiously long hours doing that, it would have been longer, but to his unexpected relief, Intergang decided to rob the Federal Exchange with a tank, and that sounded like a job for Superman! Their adventures in moving would have to wait a bit.
When Clark returned later that evening it was to find that Lois had acquired a new dresser for the boy. (Because, apparently, she felt a closet wasn't enough.) The movers had left the solid wood chest of drawers in the middle of the living room floor and guess who she asked to move it into the bedroom for her. They then repeated the furniture dance for the bedroom just as they had the living room until Lois was satisfied with the arrangement and thought the boy would be likewise satisfied.
The desk stayed. She said the boy would need a place to put his computer and when Clark asked why couldn't he just put it in the living room where they had moved theirs she told him that she didn't want the boy doing what teenage boys usually did with their computers in the living room. At that Clark had politely blushed and dropped the subject.
It was towards the end of January and the boy's room was all ready.
Clark stood back and surveyed the room that he had made for his clone, the boy that Bruce kept insisting was his 'son'. For a moment the farm-grown alien hero had the insane idea that this must be what it was like for normal expecting fathers when making up a nursery for their child. He squished that thought back down very quickly, however. He was not an expecting father, Superboy was not his son, this room was not a nursery. He was asking the boy to move in with them, he wasn't yet ready to officially adopt him like Bruce had adopted Dick or Oliver had adopted Roy. And he certainly wasn't ready to start calling the boy 'son'.
Still, the boy was going to move in. All that was left was to actually speak with Superboy about the prospect. But once again, Clark found himself hesitant.
Lois entered behind him, her arms encircling his waist. "Are you excited?"
'Excited' was not the right word. 'Nervous' was more accurate.
Superman did not go strait to Mount Justice. Instead he flew to Gotham, he wanted to talk to the original 'Justice-daddy', he wanted to revisit their conversation from Bibbo's back in August.
The Dark Knight was reclining in his swivel chair, watching his monitors, his black booted feet resting up on the consol, his cowl down, a bowl of cereal in his hands. He seemed so casual and laid-back. Four years ago Clark never would have imagined he'd walk into the Batcave one day and find Gotham's Hero with his feet up enjoying a bowl of… what was that, Apple Jacks? Fruit Loops? All the brightly colored ones looked the same.
"Something wrong with your JLA comm. or did your farm-boy upbringing never teach you to call before dropping by uninvited?"
"I was kinda hopping we could talk." He cast his eyes about for the Boy Wonder and found him nowhere in sight. "Where's Robin?"
"School." Bruce answered flatly.
Right… that was another thing Clark would have to think about. Superboy was still a minor and would need to receive some version of schooling. With his powers it would be a little to dangerous for him to attend public school with other children, he ran the risk of easily hurting or even killing another student. But he and Lois lead such busy lives, neither of them would have the time to home-school the boy. He supposed they could hire a tutor, but on reporters' salaries they'd have to tighten their belts and budget carefully. Good educations didn't come cheap and unlike Bruce he wasn't made of money.
How was the Dark Knight handling the boy's schooling? Someone as careful and paranoid as Batman would never allow a civilian tutor to come to the boy at Mt. Justice. Was he having different Leaguers teach the boy different subjects, maybe?
"Listen… I, uh, I want to talk about Superboy."
Bruce set his bowl of cereal aside, lowered his feet down from the consol and turned his chair to face the Man of Steel. He folded his hands and waited for Clark to continue.
"I, uh, Lois and I were thinking… um…" Not for the first time the Superman found himself at a loss as to what to say on the subject of the Superboy. Perhaps it was because he himself hadn't quite yet sorted out his thoughts and feelings about the boy. He was firm in his decision to take the boy in, but that didn't mean he was sure of his view of the boy. Recently, he had been imagining him as a lost relation of his that had somehow managed to find him from across the cosmos. It was a nice fantasy, but Clark knew it wasn't true. But it was also the best explanation for how his perceptions of the boy were changing and how that change was starting to make him feel. "How's Superboy been doing?"
Bruce raised one quizzical eyebrow at the Man of Steel. "Lois wants to know this?"
"Well, no." Clark fidgeted under the Dark Knight's questioning gaze. "I was just wondering how he's doing… and stuff." 'Great, real eloquent, Kent!' "Its, um, its been a while since he and I last spoke… I just wanted to touch base and see if he's adjusting alright…"
It had been almost six months since the Man of Steel actually exchanged words with the Superboy and they both knew it. Bruce's eyes narrowed suspiciously at his sudden interest in the boy he'd been ignoring for almost half a year.
"Also…" Clark continued with increasing unease. He hated it when Bruce gave him that look. It was the same look he'd often seen the Knight give criminals from his gallery during interrogations, it made Clark feel as if he were being given the third degree when he was the one to come to Batman, not the other way around. "Also, I was wondering if you still wanted me to take the boy. Lois and I… we've made up a room for him and… and well, I… I, uh, I can take the boy for you."
Those narrowed eyes and questioning gaze did not change, but Clark could detect the slightest bit of surprise from the man. It was subtle, a slight shift in posture, he probably only detected it because of his superior senses and the fact they they'd been friends for so long. He had managed to shock the World's Greatest Detective! Great Scott!
"Do you want to take the boy in?"
Clark paused to consider his answer. The boy had been a great shock to him at first and that had been his reason for not claiming responsibility for him in the first place. Then, after the shock had worn off he had viewed the boy as a possible danger, he had been created to kill the Man of Steel and so would have no problems harming or killing his wife or mother. It had been for their protection that he'd continued to refuse to take the boy. But at the bridge he had seen, not a living weapon, but a lost and lonely child reaching out to him for guidance.
That had altered his perceptions of the boy greatly. It had also heaped onto him a great deal of guilt. And because of that guilt he became afraid of facing the boy for a different reason. That guilt had latter been compounded in New Orleans when he'd heard the boy's comment about 'quality time'. The boy wanted him, needed him and for the first time in his life, the Man of Steel, the Boy Scout, the Superman had turned his back on someone in need. Clark had spent four months chewing on that realization and come to the conclusion that he'd behaved in a despicable manner. The boy was blood of his blood. Even since he learned that he had been adopted, Clark had wished to find another living blood-relative of his, the boy wasn't a blood-relative in the conventional sense, but there was no denying that they were, indeed, related.
"Yes." He said at length. "Yes, I want to take the boy."
This time the Dark Knight's surprise did show on his face and Clark found the image of a shock-faced Batman sans his mask a little disturbing. The World's Greatest Detective wasn't supposed to be taken by surprise, especially not twice in one conversation. It took the man some time to find his voice again.
When he did, the Dark Knight said, "You've missed allot."
And so, they spent the next few hours going over the mission reports for the last six months. Bruce noting things of importance while Clark nodded his recognition. He was a little ashamed that the job of naming the boy had fallen on the Martians, naming a boy was supposed to be his father's job and Clark hadn't bothered to- Hold on a minuet! The Man of Steel brought his train of thought to a screeching halt. He was not the boy's father! He reminded himself firmly. He was taking responsibility for a clone he hadn't known about, not an illegitimate son he hadn't known about. Big difference! He was willing to admit to the boy being related to him, it would be difficult to deny anyway. He was taking the boy into his home and integrating him into his household. He would guide and support the boy as he grew into his powers. But he was not the boy's father.
He hoped none of his sudden internal turmoil showed on his face. Thinking the F-bomb in his head was one thing, but he didn't want to hear it from Bruce a second time.
Then they got to the botched training simulation, the psychic no-win scenario, and Clark halted his friend's narrative with an exclamation of, "Why didn't you tell me!"
The quizzical look was back on the Dark Knight's face and the Man of Steel regretted his strong emotional outburst.
"The situation had been dealt with before the day was even over." He explained. "There didn't seem to be any reason to worry the other mentors or parents over it. After they woke up, their families and mentors were briefed on what happened so they could look for and recognize any lasting effects."
"But why wasn't I told?"
"Honestly? After our conversation at Bebbo's, I didn't think you'd care." The Dark Knight answered flatly.
"His coma could have been permanent!"
"I was aware of that." Bruce raised an eyebrow. "I still didn't think you'd care."
"What kind of monster do you think I am?" Clark had no idea why he felt so strongly about this. It had happened back in October, the boy was obviously fine. There was no reason to get so worked up. "Of course I would care! He's my- !"
For a second time in the conversation Clark found himself slamming the breaks on his train of thought. His speech abruptly cutting off before the particular word that had almost escaped his lips.
" –clone." He finished lamely. "He's my clone."
When he returned home that evening Clark gave the boy's room another critical look. He stood in the doorway, arms crossed, leaning against the doorframe.
Maybe this was how normal expecting fathers felt; nervous, apprehensive, wary, unsure –overall conflicted. Maybe, somewhere between his conversation with Bruce at the diner and today he had come to view himself as the boy's 'father'. He had always known that he'd never have any children though normal means, but the boy –Conner- hadn't come into the world through 'normal means'. Perhaps a clone was the closest thing to a son he'd ever have, and perhaps on some level he recognized that fact early on. It had just taken his conscious mind a bit more time to catch up.
And Conner was already mostly grown. He could take care of himself in a fight. Clark wouldn't need to worry about the boy being in danger if (when?) he took him out with him as a sidekick. The Man of Steel smiled to the empty room. He'd also always said that if he were to ever have a sidekick it would have to be another kryptonian, someone with the same powers he had (or in the boy's case, someone who'll develop the same powers he has). It all seemed so clear and simple now. Like some missing pieces of a puzzle had been found and put in place. All was suddenly right with the world. He may not be the boy's 'father' in the conventional sense of the word, but since when was he a conventional person? Since when was his family ever a conventional family?
Behind him, Clark heard the door to their apartment open and the lights flicked on. He turned to find Lois in the doorway juggling groceries and he rushed forward to help her.
"Thanks." She smiled as she passed custody of the bags over to him and took off her coat. She scanned the apartment with her reporter's critical eye. "I can't help but notice that Superboy still isn't here."
"Conner." Clark corrected her. She looked at him in confusion. "Superboy's name, its Conner, Conner Kent."
"I see." It figured he'd end up with the same initials as Clark. "And where is the young Mr. Kent?"
Here Clark turned shamefaced. "Still in JLA custody. I haven't spoken with him yet."
Lois crossed her arm over her chest, planted her feet and dropped one him in a pose that Clark recognized as her 'annoyed' stance. "Well, you better step on it, Smallville." She said. "He might not be willing to wait around for you forever."
"I know." He replied soberly. "I already missed my chance at naming him."
"His civilian name, yeah, you really dropped the ball on that one." She agreed. Oh, Lois, you were so empathetic sometimes you could apply for Sainthood. "But I doubt anyone in your League would have given him a kryptonian name."
That perked him up. "Lois, you are beautiful!"
She smiled a sultry smile and crossed the small distance between them to press her body against his. "Hm, flattery will get you everywhere."
Clark spent the first week of February sifting through kryptonian boys names. He had narrowed his choices down to three, Jor-El III, Kon-El and Erok-El. Jor-El in honor of his father and grandfather, Erok-El after his ancestor, the first Bethgar of Urrika and Kon-El just because he liked the sound of it. Clark had written his final three choices out in Kryptonese to see how they looked aesthetically, hoping to break the three-way tie between them. He sat in the Watchtower's mess hall, tapping his Daily Planet pen on the stainless steel table in thought.
"Hey, Supes, what'cha' doing?" The Flash plunked his tray laden with food down next to the Man of Steel. "Some kryptonian word game or something?"
"No." Clark shook his head and allowed a tentative smile to creep onto his lips when he explained, "I'm trying to decide on a kryptonian name for Superboy."
Berry paused in his meal to stare shock-faced at the Superman. "For Conner?" He gaped. "Are you and he speaking now?"
"Well, no…" Clark had to admit. "But I will soon. Lois and I are gonna take the boy in and I just thought it might be nice to have a name for him, to show the boy that I'm serious."
"I… see…" The Flash fidgeted, suddenly very awkward. "Supes, um, a bit of advice from a 'Justice-daddy', you shouldn't take so long when dealing with children. They're young and impressionable and impatient. Its better to do things sooner rather than latter. Otherwise they'll decide that they can't depend on you."
"I understand that." Clark assured him. "I just needed some time to get my own feelings sorted out. I'm going to see Conner soon."
Berry patted Clark's red-caped shoulder with something the Man of Steel would have sworn was preemptive sympathy. "Good luck, Big Guy."
'Soon' for the Man of Steel turned out to me the first week in March. Shortly after he and Lois had celebrated Valentines Day there had been a call for some off-world aid and that sounded like a job for Superman. Clark had been gone two weeks, returning just in time for the months to change. He was frustrated with all the delays, but now finally seemed to have found the time and opportunity to speak with Conner.
It had been nine months since Independence Day.
Conner leaned most of his weight on Kaldur as he limped down the boarding ramp of M'gann's bio-ship. To spite a twisted ankle, an injury of his own making, the Boy of Slightly-Less-Durable-Than-Steel (apparently) couldn't help but grin with satisfaction.
"Best. Mission. Ever!" He declared. Then paused when he saw who was waiting in the hangar with Red Tornado. What was he doing here?
"Dude, are you mental?" Kid Flash zipped out of the ship only to skid to a halt in front of their unexpected visitor. "Whoa! You're not Batman!"
Well spotted, Wallace. Clark shook his head at Berry's nephew before turning his full attention to Superboy –his clone, Conner –his son. "How did you injure your foot?"
Conner glared at the Man of Steel with eyes full of distrust and guarded emotion. He missed, one… two… three beats before saying, "Its nothing for you to worry about." He lifted his arm from where he'd slung it over Aqualad's shoulders and limped over to Tornado. "Is Batman in the briefing room?"
The android gave his affirmative and the Boy of Steel began to limp out of the hangar. Miss Martian followed after him, insisting that they put some ice on it before Batman debriefed them. One by one the teens filed out of the hangar, each giving him a questioning or even suspicious look at they passed the Superman. Robin was the only one to stop and speak with him.
"His super-speed kicked-in in the middle of the mission." He said.
"That's great." Clark nodded. "That'll be one of the first things I'll work with him on."
Dick opened his mouth to speak. Thought better about it then closed it again. There was a prolonged pause, then the Boy Wonder said, "Wait until after the debriefing."
Clark did not attend Bruce's debriefing of the Team. He waited patiently outside for them to finish, leaning against the wall, his eyes focused on the lead-lined, sound proof, door of the briefing room. Ah, Bruce, your paranoia would be amusing if it weren't so damnably frustrating.
From the floor below in the hangar, Clark heard the computer register Black Carany's arrival on the base and sure enough, the blond bombshell appeared in the hall with him a few moments later.
"Hello, Dinah." The Man of Steel offered her a friendly smile.
"Clark?" She all but froze in surprise at seeing him in the Cave. "What are you doing here?"
"I've come to pick up Conner." He said as if it were the most natural thing in the world, and he had to marvel at just how natural it felt to him. He felt an almost nervous pride whenever he mentioned the boy by name nowadays. Was this how normal fathers felt?
"Oh, I… I, uh, didn't know you two were speaking now." Dinah said awkwardly, suddenly avoiding eye contact with the Man of Steel.
"Well, we're not really." Clark admitted. "But I'm going to change that."
"That's… nice…" The fem fatal fidgeted, uncomfortable.
She was quickly saved from the awkward moment, however, when the door to the briefing room slid open, the meeting over. Upon seeing her, Conner rushed out, hopping on his good leg.
"Canary!" He beamed and threw his arms around her in an affectionate hug. "Guess what!"
"You're practicing for a hop-scotch tournament." She guessed in reference to his hopping on one foot.
Clark stood and gaped at the pair.
"I got super-speed!" The boy announced. "Do you know what that means!"
"That we've exchanged a bending forks and breaking glasses problem for a running into walls and melting shoes problem."
"No." The boy shook his head. "It means I'm not flawed!"
"That's great, Conner!" She stroked the boy's hair with motherly affection and then cast an apologetic smile to Clark from over the boy's head.
The others gave the three awkward glances as they filed out of the briefing room on their separate ways, all trying to escape their notice and avoid becoming involved in what would undoubtedly become a train wreck. Batman was last to exit. He look one look at Clark, glaring jealously at another mentor embracing his son with maternal warmth.
"Room's free." He said and stood back for the three of them.
"What for?" Conner blinked in confusion.
Dinah offered him a strained smile. "Conner, Superman has an offer for you."
The boy glanced between them, the guarded suspicion back in his eyes.
Bruce took that as his cue to leave, the Dark Knight slipping away with the slightest notice, as was his fashion, leaving the trio alone in the hall. They ignored the empty open room, Clark diving right into the conversation.
"Conner, I'd like you to come live with me." He said.
He had hoped that the declaration would melt some of the guarded suspicion from the boy's eyes, instead it only intensified the expression. He took a step back from the Man of Steel and asked, "Why?"
Clark supposed he deserved that, his distrust. He had been missing in action in regards to the boy almost since his first appearance nine months ago. He was ashamed of his behavior and sorry that it had taken him this long to get his feelings sorted out, but he was here now. He was reaching his hand out to the boy, ready and willing and wanting to give the boy the guidance and attention he's asked for back in August.
"Well, it would be a heck of a lot easier for you to be my sidekick if you're also in Metropolis."
Silence followed that statement.
Dinah placed her hands on Conner's shoulders, a silent statement that she would support him in whatever decision he made. Clark's eyes focused on the action and he couldn't help but feel a sudden stab of territorialism that was not in his usual character.
"And…" He added, now glaring a challenge at Black Canary. "I also wanted to give you a kryptonian name and officially adopt you into the House of El." A pause. "Conner, I want you to be my son."
Then Dinah patted Conner on the shoulder and took a step back, ceding to Clark. "I'll leave you to alone."
The boy turned, a silent protest on his lips but he said nothing. Turning back to Superman, he glared up at the man whom looked so much like himself only two decades older. The Man of Steel expected an answer.
The silence dragged on.
"Conner?" Superman finally ventured.
"Don't." The boy said at last. "Don't call me by my Earth name. I'm sure you learned it from Batman, but I haven't given you permission."
Clark paused, thought, began again. "Last summer you asked me to help you figure out your powers. I'm ready to do that now."
"Batman's got that covered." The boy said, throwing his own words back at him, verbatim.
"Stop. I've already asked you not to use my name once. If it happens again I'll report you to Batman for harassment. That is the word applied to the action of continuing an unwelcome behavior after being asked to stop."
Superboy crossed his arms over his chest. "There's an old axiom Green Arrow told me not to long ago, 'if you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a night; teach a man to fish and he'll never starve', as a companion to that one, Aqualad also told me that people either 'sink or swim'. Both are metaphors for coping with trials in life. After you rejected me last summer I was forced to 'sink or swim', I chose to swim and I learned how to fish. I don't need you anymore, Superman and, frankly, I'm not really sure I want a person like you close to me."
Clark was shocked speechless.
"If there's nothing else, you can go now."
The boy turned to leave.
Clark found his voice again. "Don't… don't you at least want to know your kryptonian name?"
The boy paused but he did not turn to face the Man of Steel. "No, I don't."