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.
Chapter Six: Clark & Conner Revisited
They had not stayed at the pub long, just long enough to sit down and eat while Robin, Kid Flash and Aqualad explained to Mrs. Superman about how they had discovered Superboy back in July, and how Superman had been ignoring him for over eight months. Lois had sad patiently and listened with rapped attention, as if this were any normal interview with a source for a story she was following.
When their meal was done, they moved the conversation into Miss Martian's bio-ship and returned to Mt. Justice where, against Robin's better judgment they admitted Mrs. Superman to the base and allowed her the use of one of the computers…
Superman was doing his usual evening circuit of the city when his phone rang. Not his JLA comm, just his ordinary civilian cell phone. A quick glance at the caller ID showed it to be Lois and he answered it quickly, hoping she hadn't taken another long jog off a short roof (as she often tended to do).
"Lois, is everything okay?"
"Smallville, I have just met the most interesting person." Her voice came through, crisp, fresh and dripping with something that he could have sworn was forced sweetness. "In fact, he's so interesting that I wrote up a story on him. But you know how I am with typos; I need you to look over it for me. I sent it to your email… I suggest you check your email within the very near future. Say, before this call is ended."
"I'm kinda in the middle of a patrol right now, sweetheart." He reminded her.
"Clark, if you do not go home and read what I've written right now, I'm filling for divorce and telling everyone you're Superman!"
That was a rather jarring threat. He knew she never would, but the fact that she have made the threat in the first place, empty as it was, had him suddenly worried. What could she have written that was so important she'd blackmail him to read it?
Clark was back in their apartment and booting up the home computer in an instant. "Okay, I'm logging into my email…" He narrated for her. "Okay, I've got Facebook updates, spam, spam, latest updates from Apple and… 'Nobody's Child', is that it?"
"That's the one."
With a sigh, the Man of Steel opened the message, downloaded the attached document and read. He froze. Reread it just to make sure. Then in a very serious voice he asked, "Where are you right now?"
Her tone was light and sing-song when she answered, "Oh, the Cave."
…Recognize: Superman 01
"Well, that certainly didn't take him long to get here."
Wolf lifted his head from when he lay reclining at Alpha's feet as a gust of air ruffled his fur. The Superman, one of Alpha's sires, now stood behind the couch at his mate's shoulder. The rest of the Pack tensed ever so slightly, not nearly enough for it to be noticed by the eyes, but Wolf could smell it. The air suddenly turned thick when the Two-Legger of Steel arrived. He glared reproachfully at Alpha whom seemed to shrink into the couch at the intensity of the gaze.
"What in the name of Rao's flaming pits do you think you're doing?"
Superman's mate, on the other paw, seemed unperturbed. She smiled up at him. "Oh, I was just getting acquainted with my step-son."
Wolf watched as his Alpha recoiled at the sound of his sire's voice. He didn't understand. Alpha wasn't meeting his sire's hostility with a challenge of his own, yet he didn't seem to be offering his submission either. Maybe that was the real problem, neither knew where the other stood within the pack hierarchy because Alpha wouldn't meet his sire's challenge for dominance but he wouldn't offer his submission either.
"You heard me." Continued Sueprman's mate. "Imagine how shocked I was to not only learn that you had a teenaged clone, but that he'd been around for almost a year now and you never even mentioned him." She stood. "I'm livid, Smallville. Now you have a choice, you can either sit here and get to know Conner or I email that lovely article you've already read to Perry for the morning edition. Your choice."
She crossed the common room to where Miss Martian stood trying to look casual and failing miserably at it. "M'gann, would you mind giving me a ride home? I'll need to make up the couch for him. And you and I need to share some girl-talk about kryptonian boys, there are some moves I think you might find interesting."
"Wha-? Buh-" The martian girl said inarticulately.
Superman's mate linked paws with her and steered them both out of the room.
Alpha and his sire glanced at each other and then looked away quickly.
The Zatanna-pup bolted to her feet. "Lets all get a snack."
"I love to snack." The red-furred speedster agreed.
The Zatanna-pup, red-furred speedster, squirrel-tailed archer and two-legged fish all stood from their seats and likewise headed for the door. But the Robin did not move.
"Pst, Rob." The speedster hissed.
"I'm good." The Robin watched Alpha and his sire with wrapped attention.
The two-legged fish came over, picked the Robin up and threw him over his shoulders. They all left. There was now only Alpha and his sire left. Well, Alpha, his sire, Krypto and himself. But Wolf had long since learned the two-leggers didn't tend to count pets or animal companions when wanting privacy.
The two remained in an awkward silence, neither willing to meet the other's eyes. Alpha on the couch, one paw thrown over the seat's arm, his gaze affixed to the wall. The Superman standing with his paws crossed over his chest, eyes down studying his bright red boots. For all intents and purposes they might as well have been on separate planets. Wolf glanced to Krypto for guidance.
The Superdog hopped up onto the couch next to Alpha, looked at the Superman and gave a short "arf" to draw the two-leggers' attention. They both looked at him. Alpha reached out a hand and scratched the dog behind the ears. Then, after a hesitant glance at his sire, lowered his hand and drew back into his corner of the couch.
The silence dragged on…
Then, long after the silence had surpassed 'uncomfortably long' and was approaching 'just give up and run away with your tail between your legs and cry' long, the Superman finally spoke.
"Do you…" He paused, hesitated, glanced cautiously at their furry four-legged companions. "Do you wanna go for a W-A-L-K?"
Alpha looked at him confused. "Why can't you just say 'walk'?"
Krypto reacted instantly. At the mention of the word 'walk' he leapt up off the couch and zoomed circles and figure-eights around both two-leggers, barking and yipping in excitement. He licked their faces, and pawed at their shoulders, and pulled at their clothing to try and get them moving. They said 'walk', that meant it was walkies! Walkies! Walkies! Walkies!
The Superman heaved a sigh. "That's why."
Every dog own knows there are three sounds you never make around furry friend and those are, the sound of keys jingling, the word 'treat' and the word 'walk'. Sometimes the words 'car ride' and 'out' were added to the list, but they were slightly less universal than keys, 'treat' and 'walk'.
Krypto bounded happily over the woods that covered Mt. Justice, hopping from treetop to treetop, shaking braches, startling birds and squirrels and raining early-evening dew down on Master and his puppy whom walked with Wolf below. Walkies were good. Of course, a proper walkies included a jaunt through space and at least a few minuets of chasing comets. But Master's puppy couldn't fly and so could not get to space and Wolf wouldn't be able to survive in space, so the Superdog had to content himself with just flying of the canopy and tormenting the squirrels.
Under the forest cover, Superman and Conner walked. In silence. Neither had said a word since Superman's suggestion of a walk. They had exchanged one uncomfortable silence indoors for an equally uncomfortable silence outside.
Conner kicked a stone.
Superman watched expressionlessly as it went sailing through the air ahead of them and imbedded itself in a tree. But he did not comment.
Wolf looked from the now tree-born rock to Alpha and back again. Then, deciding it was safer to walk behind the pair of two-leggers, fell back a few steps.
They continued walking.
The silence dragged on.
Then, quite suddenly, Superman stopped. Just stopped. His feet freezing, his body going ridged, his shoulders shaking just visibly to a kryptonian eye. He voice was low, but calm, firm without a hint of denial.
"I'm not your father."
Conner stopped to look at him. He raised his eyes from here they had been fixed on the ground in front of him and met his genetic donor's eyes. "I know that."
Conner said nothing.
"Because ever since you showed up that's the only thing anyone ever thinks of us –father and son." He continued without need for the boy to respond. "Batman, Martian Manhunter, Professor Ivo… and now my own wife!"
"Its not like I sought her out and tattled on you or anything." The boy snapped suddenly. "And I didn't ask Batman or J'onn to pressure you either, so don't try and pin it on me! Look, I'm sorry I've disturbed your perfect life so much! Really, I am. Trust me, if I could go back in time and stop myself from ever being created in the first place I would! But I can't! Sorry, but I'm here now and I'm not going anywhere."
He paused when he realized he had raised his voice to Superman and lowered his eyes back to the ground. His tone was more subdued when he continued. "Look, I never asked you to be a father-figure to me. I know what I am and my sort don't have 'parents', but it would have been nice –especially earlier on- if you had just coached me a little. On how to use my powers, I mean. To control them."
His words hung in the air for a moment, and then…
"That was irresponsible of me. I admit it." Superman sighed. "I never imagined Bats would send you to school with other children. If I had known ahead of time, I probably would have trained you a little, if for no other reason then to protect the other kids. By the time I found out, you didn't need my help. You're control is fine."
"But it's not perfect."
Wolf caught the scent of a rabbit and vanished into the underbrush to begin the hunt.
"I guess you've got kids of your own." Conner said, forlornly. "Real kids, I mean. Not clones."
"Oh. I just assumed- since you're married… That's what married people do, right? Have kids."
"Do you not like kids?"
From some meters off, the two kryptonians heard the unmistakable death-wail of a doomed bunny-rabbit.
"I guess I won't have to worry about feeding Wolf tonight." Conner said, absentmindedly.
Clark thought about his short conversation with the Superboy all the way home. He supposed he could have zetta'd back to Metropolis, but he wanted to flight and the air and the extra time to think.
There was a blanked and pillow waiting for him on the couch when he got home. Wonderful. Lois had sent him to the doghouse without bothering to hear his side of the story. Admittedly, she was probably more upset on the fact that he has hidden the Superboy from her rather than his actual treatment of the boy.
The boy… He had spent the entire flight home reflecting on the issue of the boy…
He ignored the couch for the moment and waltzed right into the bedroom. Lois was still awake, her lap-top propped up on her knees, proofreading an article. A real article. Not the quick smear-job she'd done to get his attention and force him to confront the boy. She looked up when he entered, the silent question of, 'So, how did it go?' in here eyes. Would she be accepting him back into her bed, or was he just coming in to change into Pjs?
Krypto trotted past his Master and hopped onto the bed, bold as you please.
Lois glared at the dog, he knew her opinion of furry creatures that shed profusely lounging on her furniture. That applied doubly so for her bed. The Superdog slunk off, looking chastised, though Lois had made no move or sound. She was queen of her household and they all knew it.
Finally, tired of waiting, she asked, "Well?"
Clark paused. Sighed. Crossed the room. Sat on the edge of the bed. Her side, not his.
"We can't have children." He told her.
Lois stared at him for a moment. Then, moving her computer off her lap, leaned over to open a drawer in her bedside table. From this the pulled a plastic novelty badge that said 'Honorary Captain Obvious' and handed it to Clark.
It had been a conversation visited and revisited many times in the Kent household about kryptonian and homo-sapian incompatibility when it came to propagation. The two races might look the same, they might have similar enough parts to enjoy a physical relationship, but that was where it stopped. Lois and Clark would never have any children of their own by natural means. Clark had never thought it really bothered Lois much, seeing as how she was always so focused on her career… It had bothered him a little in the beginning, but he told himself that it was probably for the best. After all, he lived a dangerous life and until their powers fully developed, any child of his would be a target for his enemies.
But the boy –his clone, was already mostly grown. While his powers were not yet fully developed he was adept enough at using them to be able to take care of himself… What had been the problem…? The boy had been a shock, but after the shock wore off, why hadn't he…
"I was angry." He finally continued. "You and I can't have children, but I… I have a clone that's young enough to be considered my 'child', but he's not yours. He didn't come from you. I… wanted him to be from you and I… Cadmus had no right to do this to us. Its not fair."
She closed her computer. "Imagine how unfair he must think it is."
Clark was quiet.
The next morning, while the Pack was watching DC Nation, Alpha got a call from his sire. An offering of peace between two-leggers called an 'apology'. The Pack had stopped and stared, the animated entertainment on the light-and-sound-box forgotten. All eyes turned to stare at Alpha whom had his hand to his ear, adjusting his comm as if the thing had malfunctioned somehow.
As if that were strange enough, his sire then went on to invite Alpha on an outing!
The Robin had then jumped on Alpha and ripped the comm out of his ear. "Who are you! What have you done with Superman? I hope you know all calls to or from JLA comms are recorded and we have the best voice analysis software in the world!"
The Superman then said something that convinced the Robin he was really Alpha's sire and he passed the comm back, looking chastised.
That had been almost one month ago.
Wolf felt like they had finally come full circle. He had just finished a bath the night he first met Krypto and not here he was, once again enduring an awful bath with hateful soap! Only this time Krypto was here to share it with him (assuming Alpha's sire ever actually got him in the tub), and rather than standing under the warm indoor rain of the Den's shower room, he was in the bathroom of Superman's Den. Well, one of his Dens, apparently he had three. This Den was called the 'Fortress of Solitude'.
The kobra-venom enhanced predator sat quietly and watched Alpha's sire wrestle with the uncooperative dog, while Alpha himself scrubbed the soap into his fur and worked it up into a lather. Did Krypto not understand that the whole ordeal would be over much more quickly if he just cooperated? Or did he think that by making a nuisance of himself he could avoid being bathed forever?
Finally, Alpha's sire managed to get him in the tub next to Wolf and, holding him by the scruff of the neck with one hand, began wetting his fur with the other.
"I'm jealous." Said the Superman. "Your dog's so well behaved."
Alpha shrugged. "Its not that hard, Clark, you just gotta show them who's boss."
Krypto looked like he was about to make another dash for the door and Clark-person tightened his hold on the dog's neck. "How'd you do that?"
"Me?" Alpha shrugged. "I just beat the ever-living crap out of him. Isn't that right boy? Yes it is. I totally kicked your tail and the tails of your entire pack!"
Wolf gave an "arf" or affirmative. Alpha was strong.
Clark looked from the Wolf to Alpha, then to his own dog. "Yeah… that's not gonna happen."
Alpha merely shrugged. "Okay. Now you tell a story."
"Huh?" Admittedly, that had been a rather abrupt subject change.
"I told you how I met Wolf and why he listens when I ask him to do stuff. Now you tell me something."
"Okay, well… there was this one time…" Clark and Conner spent the entirety of the dogs' bath talking, swapping stories, sharing jokes (although, Alpha had fewer of those) and just generally enjoying each other's company.
"…so then he says to me-" Clark dove to grab Krypto before he could go dashing off through the Fortress soaking wet. He continued as he toweled the dog off, "…he says we should start a Junior Lifeguard Association. And then I say, 'I'm not sure I'm ready to start a JLA yet.'"
Alpha snorted, snickered behind his hand, then laughed.
Clark let Krypto go. "C'mon kiddo."
As they exited the bathroom after their dogs, Clark ruffled Conner's hair. It was a friendly gesture brimming with affection.