Chapter 2



Fridays were horrendous. As if Clark didn't have enough to catch up on with his Wednesday to Saturday shift at the Planet, he also worried about Conner's League shift. Telling the world about his weakness to kryptonite to ease fears seemed to be a good idea at the time. He knew the pain of kryptonite poisoning; what if someone used it against Conner again? Worse, what if no one could get him away in time? Memories of Luthor's attack choked him every weekend, rarely easing until he found Conner's voice or pulled duty beside him. This father business sucked sometimes. Clark wondered if kryptonians could have heart attacks.

Then there were the meetings. Not the Planet meetings, the Justice League meetings to update as many members as possible on scheduling conflicts, new business and an ever growing list of protocols. Not that Clark minded those either. He was glad for them; with the League's growing numbers and public fields of influence, it was important to have regulations. He just wished he didn't have to interact with certain members of the League, especially the ones who liked the colour black and lived with rodents.

To say he and Batman didn't get along would be optimistic. More accurately, the entire Watchtower held its collective breath when the two men were in the same room at the same time. Usually, Clark let it slide. He had plenty of practice ignoring rude, arrogant, borderline sociopaths when the Daily Planet coffee machine ran out of dark roast and Lois was on a deadline. He could even momentarily set aside his concerns about Batman's tactics which were quick but dangerous. What he really, really hated was how badly the man treated everyone else in the League. No one outside of his little clan of highly trained, highly disturbed operatives were worthy of anything more than a grunt. Clark himself warranted even less than that.

He slid into the meeting room, late as always, and grabbed the nearest seat. Smiling at Vixen, who looked shell-shocked, he asked, "What did I miss?"

"Erm, Diana needs an attaché if she's going to continue to serve as rep to the UN. Interviews start tomorrow. The, um, side damage we inflict is down five percent but Ollie wants it much lower so we're all, um, supposed to practice with that in mind. And, um, oh wow, I'm sorry. You must get this all the time but you're really quite good-looking. Can I have your autograph?" asked Vixen.

Clark blushed. "Oh. Uh, sure. I guess after the meeting?"

"If Vixen and the alien are talking, the rest of the meeting must be inconsequential." Batman stood up, throwing the words, "Send me a summary" over his shoulder as he left the room.

Diana sighed as Ollie rubbed his temples. "I'm sorry for interrupting," said Clark, now beet red.

"I think the rest can be sent on the messageboard," said Diana. "Let's adjourn and if anyone has any questions, just post it."

He stayed behind when everyone else departed. "I really am sorry. Vixen was just catching me up."

"I know," Ollie said. "Bruce is just being a dick, as always."

"Remind me why you nominated him into the League?"

"Because he's damned good at what he does."

"Because it's better to have him as an ally than an enemy," said Diana. "He has served for longer than I. The new ones who train with him are sharp on the battlefield and with investigations. I do not even wish to imagine how the League would function without Nightwing and Robin's contributions."

"He's usually just a cantankerous old fart with everyone else but I think he actively hates you," said Ollie.

"Joy. I'd like to thank the Academy, God and my mother for the privilege of his undiluted rancour." Clark finished off his coffee. "So, you need an attaché?"

Diana nodded. "I do not have the time for research if I am to work with the League as well. The best option would be a civilian, preferably one from a country as neutral as possible. However, he or she would have to be privy to at least some aspect of the League."

Ollie stroked his goatee thoughtfully. "Most of the members agreed we could arrange something similar to the suppliers' agreement. Are you okay with that?"

Sometimes, Clark felt guilty about his special circumstances. Everyone else in the League offered real first names at least. Diana didn't even bother with a secret identity. Then he remembered everything he grew up with, from Lex's obsessions to government agents and he knew there was no other way to protect his family. "I trust you two to come up with something agreeable. I noticed the kids aren't here today."

Chuckling, Ollie said, "Your boy's fine, Kal. I sent them on a recon in Central Asia. You can go home with your mind at ease. We'll call if we need you."

"I can follow them if they need support."

"Go home, Kal-el."

He did but he wasn't at ease. Lois, sitting beside him on the couch, said, "I can hear you worrying."

Clark snorted.

"I can. You're thinking 'How will my kid survive if I'm not there to hold his hand?' whereas I'm thinking 'Why the heck should I care about the phenomenal death rate of the common honeybee when I have my hot hick boyfriend in an empty apartment?'"

"Not hold his hand, per se, maybe just hover over-protectively and slip a leash over his head. We are talking about the boy who has Batman boxers."

"Maybe he's wearing them ironically." She peeked over his shoulder and read the title off his screen. "'Tetragenic transfer of kryptonite-generated mutations: health and well-being of second-generation metahumans.' I thought you finished your meteor-gifted manuscript."

"It's not for the book. I was just interested."

"Because everyone reads Ph.D. dissertations for fun."

Clark grinned. "Well, I do."

"Nerd." She climbed over the backrest so her chin rested on the crown on his head and her arms and legs draped over his shoulders. The Kawatche soulmate bracelet pressed against his collarbone. He'd given it to her the third time he proposed.

"There's plenty of couch."

"But I want my squishy." She squishied briefly. "So they think kids with one meta parent have a greater chance of being healthier and having more stable powers than kids with two meta parents."

"That's the theory. The baseline genes from the non-meta parent seem to normalise the child's chromosomes. However, a concurrent study shows a decrease in incidence of mortality in infants of two metahuman parents compared to those that only have one meta parent."

"So the kids are physically more stable but only if they make it past their first birthday." Lois whistled. "That's a tiny sample size, although I guess it would be hard to find people who'd admit to being meta, anonymous interview or not. Pretty dark entertainment reading."

Clark shrugged. "Strange the things you google, huh?"

He read the incredulity in her eyes but she only slid off the backrest. "Get back to work, Smallville. I don't care how hot you are, I'm still your boss and you're on the clock."





He lowered his glasses. "So, I'm hot, huh?"

"But also a hick. Never forget that part. It gets me all randy-like."

"I thought I had to be wearing plaid for you to get hot and bothered."

"You had a plaid tie on at work this morning. I kept thinking about it." She kneed his computer away so she could climb into his lap. "And the things I wanted to do with it especially with the kid away for the weekend."

Clark slid his hands from her waist to her hips, his thumbs stroking the crease where her pelvis met her thighs. "Are you talking about noisy sex?"

"Yes! Remember that?"

"Vaguely. As I recall there was a lot of moaning, swearing, the odd kick at the wall and an occasional plea to God."

Lois meaningfully stared into his eyes. "Which, in my benevolence, I answe-- aaah! Clark! No tickling!"

But he was merciless. "Laughing counts as noise."

"So do crotch farts! Not the armpits, not the---" Lois screeched, curled into a defensive ball and promptly fell off the couch, howling with laughter.

Crawling on top of her, he said, "I like our crotch farts."

"You would, you crazy alien pervert." She began to uncurl. "No tickling."

"No more, I promise." He kissed her to seal the vow. Her arms and legs came around his neck and waist. Heat flashed through his body, his fingertips and toes tingled with it. He loved kissing Lois. He loved her breath on his cheek. He loved how she hummed right before settling in his arms the same way she hummed on that first bite of roast beef before digging in. He loved how every stroke of her tongue on the roof of his mouth sent goosebumps across his shoulders and down his arms. "Sing for me, sweetheart?"

Groaning, Lois buried her head in Clark's neck. "You have a fetish."

"It's only fair. You know one of my deepest, darkest secrets. I like hearing yours." Light as silk, he drew whorls around her back. "Sing me something."

"You are mah suuunshiiine, mah only suuunhiiine. You make me haaappyyy when skies are greeeey," Lois warbled in a nasal parody of country music.

He dumped her off his lap. "Not like that!"

"You didn't specify."

"I'll show you specific," he said, zeroing in on her ribs.

Lois squirmed and screamed. "You promised no more tickling!"

"Only if you sing properly."

"That wasn't in the negotiatio--aaahhh! Stop tickling!" She pummelled him with her hands and feet but Clark pinned her down well and he wasn't going to let up until she gave in. "I h-h-hate you, Smallville!"

"No, you don't. You think I'm hot." He paused. "Sing for me now?" When her eyes narrowed, he said, "I've made you pee your pants before, Sailor."

Slugging his arm, she said, "I can't sing with you sitting on top of me."

Clark immediately rolled off, carrying her up to sit on his lap. "Well?"

"You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy, when skies are grey." Lois sang with a husky alto, the type of voice best suited for intimate pubs in a fireside performance with only one or two instruments maximum to harmonise. The first time he heard her, they were only housemates and she'd thought their apartment had been empty. Even through the bathroom door, he'd been entranced. "You'll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away."

"You're so beautiful," he said, pulling her shirt over her head. "You make everything perfect, you know that, Lane?"

"Damn straight. You're not too nasty yourself, ET."

"You know, there are advantages to having a child."

Lois stopped singing to ask, "Hmm?"

"With some people, spontaneous sex is special. With us, it's a way of life."

"Only until Conner's hearing kicks in; then we'll have to give up sex forever."

Clark snorted. "Not an option. He'll have to learn to unhear us."

"Kinky, perverted, alien hick."

"Kinky, perverted alien hick lover."

"Damn straight."

She rubbed her knuckles down the groove of his spine. Clark's eyes rolled to the back of his head. His elbows trembled.

"I love Fridays."

Occasionally, the JL actually let them work big jobs. Conner even threw punches. But most of the time, they did security detail, soft recons and other mild missions. Their ages were factors, true, but some people had been training for this for years. Arrowette owned her first real bow in kindergarten. Robin was a freakishly smart detective type like all Bats. Wondergirl channelled Olympian gods. Their qualifications deserved better than staring at giant holes in the Asian countryside.

Then again, occasionally, giant holes in Asian countrysides had alien-looking pods inside.

Conner rappelled down the side of the hole. Who knew where they found three-mile long steel cables? Secret floated slowly down with him. They were the least likely to be hurt and thus almost always scouted. "See anything yet?" he asked her.

"Nothing," she said. "It really smells though."

"Ghosts can smell?"

"When it's this bad, we can. Whew! You're going to have to burn your clothes after this."

"At least I didn't wear my jacket. No dry-cleaner on earth could get this smell out."

The sulphuric, slightly rotten-egg smell increase with every flash of the mysterious light. The time between flashes had grown shorter since they entered the hole. Luckily, only this one had any activity or, Conner thought, the entire country would have to be quarantined and Febreezed.

At two miles, Conner had to put on a mask to keep from retching. Not much later, he finally spotted the source of the flashes.

"I hope that's not a coffin."

Secret drifted down faster. "Maybe I can help whatever it is to go across."

"If aliens go to the same afterworld. That is totally not human made. The materials are off-world."

"You can see that clearly from there?"

"I've been practicing. The shape is very, very weird. Roswell weird. Hang on, let me catch up."

He landed with a thump on the pod-like object. It sounded solid under his feet; the impact only produced a dent six inches deep. The flashing light came from an open seam along one rounded side. The opening creaked wider with every flash and, squinting, Conner thought he saw a shadowy figure inside.

"Can you see anything in there?" Conner asked Secret.

"I'll dip a toe in," she said. Her toe, then her leg and eventually her entire body melted into a diffuse mist which crept into the pod's opening. Conner stepped to one side, keeping a hand out to shade his eyes from the light.

His commelink buzzed. "What's going on in there?" asked Arrowette.

"Secret's scouting the pod. We thought we saw moving shadows in there," Conner replied. "She hasn't come up yet so--"

Secret burst through the side of the pod, screaming, "Run!" as she rocketed out of the pit so fast she lost all solidity. Conner took half a second to look back at the pod. In that half-second, a powerful yellow-orange bolt shot him in the shoulder. Surprised, he wheeled back against the wall.

"Superboy, report!" Arrowette's voice crackled over the commelink as a large-knuckled, long-nailed hand gripped the edge of the pod's opening.

"It's alive," said Conner. "It's aliiive!"

"What's alive? Report properly for the-- just get up here already before Secret pops an ectoplasmic blood vessel!"

Another hand reached out to grasp at the edge of the pod's lip. The fingers shook. Curious, Conner took a half-second more to study the figure. In that half second, it-- she-- popped out of the pod like a jack-in-the-box, wielding a rod-shaped weapon. This time, Conner dodged the bolt. He sprang half-way out of the sinkhole.

"Whoever's in there is armed," he told Arrowette. "I think there's only one though."

"You had visual contact?" asked Arrowette.

Rubbing his injured shoulder, he said, "You could say that."

He frog-jumped the rest of he way up, punching handholds into the walls as he leapt. Below him, the pod shifted, the light a steady beam now.

Beastboy, in snake form, wrapped his body around Conner. Someone else pulled and they all popped out of the sinkhole, scrabbling for purchase on the ground. "Is it close?" asked Beastboy.

"Unless she can jump as good as me, no."

A black and olive blur popped out of the hole and rolled to a ready stance.

"Okay, she can jump as good as me."

"YJ scramble into formation!" Arrowette yelled. She and Wondergirl swung around to surround their mark. Secret spread herself into a wide fog before her. Conner and Beastboy froze. Robin faltered. "Formation!" Arrowette repeated, louder.

"Uh, she's nekkid," Beastboy pointed out.

"That just means she doesn't have armour!" Wondergirl said. She threw her lasso. Ordinarily, it would have looped easily around her target's shoulders and, as she gave it a pull, blasted fifty-thousand volts, the equivalent of a taser. But the woman was fast; she ducked to one side. The rope flopped uselessly on the ground.

Frustrated, Wondergirl pulled her throwing arm back. Before she reeled the entire length in, Robin performed a perfect base-stealing skid, catching the rope and looping it around Nekkid Woman's ankle in one smooth move. Nekkid Woman failed to notice the rope. Instead, she swung a muscle-bound leg at Robin's throat. He tried to dodge the kick but it caught him in the ribs, sending him arcing ten feet up. Conner leapt and caught him in mid-air.

"Thank you for flying Air El. Would you like some complimentary peanuts?" he asked.

"If we can take her weapon away, we can slow her down," said Robin. "Do you think you can whiz close enough for me to grab her rod?"

Conner raised an eyebrow. "Robbie, my man, when you grow up, you'll find out that girls' wee-wees are different from boys' wee-wees and--"


Conner should have landed with his knees bent, pounding a dip into the hard-packed earth. It should have been relatively uneventful; he'd made similar landings for three years now. This time, as the ground gave way under his boots, he felt a thick, slick something tear away from his shoulders and slip down around his ankles. He threw Robin off prematurely as the sensation made goosebumps rise on his skin. He'd never had goosebumps before either. He glanced at his arms. Nothing there. He swiped at it. Still nothing.

Arrowette ran towards Nekkid Woman, nocking and releasing arrows with near-meta speed and accuracy. The woman batted each one away, much to Arrowette's frustration, and dodged Robin's pellets as well. Yards away, Wondergirl shook the dust off her thighs and charged again, lasso over her head. Conner ran in, forcing himself to ignore the strange sensation all over his body. Now it felt like he had blobs of thick, slick stuff trailing behind him even as he tried to swat it away. Whatever it was, he either dreamed it up or it was invisible because there was simply nothing there!

He looked over his shoulder-- Beastboy was at his five o'clock, morphed into a green elephant. The other boy drew close. And tripped.

Beastboy the elephant trumpeted a swear word as he tilted towards Arrowette. Wondergirl changed her throw; her lasso looped around Arrowette, pulling her out of the way in the nick of time. "What the hell, Beastboy?"

"I tripped!"

"Over wha-aaat!" Wondergirl's flight path jerked to a stop. A small spark scraped her middle then she was tossed out the same direction she came from.

The thick, slick thing crawled up Conner's spine as he continued to plough towards Nekkid Lady.

Robin held his hand up. "Stop. Her weapon must have repulsive beam. We can't charge her or the same will happen with-- cut that out, Kon!"

"I'm not doing anything," Conner said.

Glaring, Robin said, "Now is not the time to smack me upside the head.

"But I didn't." The thick slick thing now seemed to bounce on and off his body. "I think she's got me in the beam thingy."

"She's not even pointing it at you."

"Then what the hell-- I can't get rid of this feeling like my skin's made of silly putty and someone's yanking on it." He shrugged his shoulders.

An explosion blew Robin off his feet. Fortunately, the younger boy tucked into a roll in mid air and landed without injury. Conner didn't see the Nekkid Woman point her weapon at him but he did see a brilliant white flash.

His entire body screamed. He may have actually screamed too but not for long. He was unconscious before he even hit the ground.

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