Chapter 3



Heaven knew Clark tried not to be an annoying father. He read all the teen parenting books. He kept up-to-date on all the teen parenting websites. He watched an occasional TiVo'd episode of Oprah. He dug through his extensive, detailed memory banks to recall What Would Jonathan Kent Do in certain matters. Even then his results were less than satisfactory; he delivered it all wrong. But then when your son returned from a mission in Krysybestan with his shirt soaked in dried blood, of course you'd have flashbacks from a scant eighteen months ago when a kryptonite-based laser bored a hole through his abdomen. He didn't think he over-reacted at all.

"Dad, I'm fine! Stop tucking me into bed!"

"If you would stay in bed, I wouldn't have to keep tucking you in," said Clark. "If your teammates hadn't subdued that woman, you could that been seriously hurt--"

"I'm fine. Look." Conner lifted his shirt up. "I'm healed. I don't even have scars any more. Please let me at least sit up to play a video game."

Clark considered it only for a second. "No, you could relapse."

"Relapse? From a scrape across my chest?" He covered his face with his arms. "I bet Robin doesn't have to put up with this bullshit."

"Robin works for a psychopath. A brilliant, mostly morally-correct psychopath but a psychopath nevertheless. And it wasn't a scrape, it was a gouge. I thought you'd like staying in bed all day."

"Yeah but usually I do something besides grow bed sores." Outside the room, the bathroom door clicked open. "Oh thank God. Save me, Aunt Lo! Dad's being crazy again."

Lois peered around the doorway. Her hair dripped on the floor. "You're complaining about staying at home?"

"He. Tucked. Me. In."

Clark crossed his arms. "I'm not going to take any chances on your health, Conner. This conversation is over. Schedule the renegotiations for dinner time."

"Fine. Want to pop a pacifier in my mouth while you're at it?" Conner huffed. He, too, crossed his arms.

Ten minutes later, three blocks from the Daily Planet, Clark still muttered in exasperatedly. "Just a recon. Ha! Remind me to maim Ollie the next time I see him. If that woman wasn't in UN custody, I'd... He thinks he's invulnerable! He's strong but there's no such thing as invulnerable. You think he'd know that after what happened two years ago."

"He's fifteen. We all thought we were invulnerable then," said Lois. "Of course, he has more of a reason than most to think that."

"Even I know when to rest-- what's that supposed to mean?"


Clark gestured with his coffee hand. "That snort. What does that snort mean?"

"That was karma-is-a-bitch snort," Lois said, primly sipping her coffee.

"I rest when I need it!"

"Ha! Don't make me start listing."

"When do I not rest?"

"You know, that's a great question. Ask me again if I ever actually see you sleep between your two jobs."

Clark reddened. "That's different. Conner's just a kid."

Softly, Lois said, "What were you doing when you at that age? And don't lie 'cause I can call your mom and verify."

He sighed and pushed at the Planet's revolving doors. "I was never that reckless."

"I call bullshit, Smallville." They waved at the receptionist and continued to the elevator, nodding to familiar strangers working on the other floors. "You can't punish him for doing the exact same stuff you did when you were his age. At least he's trained and he's got back-up."

"Fat lot that back-up did for him. I'm not punishing him; I'm looking out for him."

"To Conner, not being out of the house for three days is punishment, no matter how much he got to sleep in."

"He was bleeding!"

"He was bleeding three days ago. He's all right now. Thirty-three, please," Lois told the closest person to the panel.

Clark caught the eye of a woman who always reminded him of his mother and smiled in apology for their raised voices. "My son went out with his friends Friday and came home injured."

"He's fifteen. Fifteen year old boys get injured," Lois added.

The woman exhaled knowingly. "My boy's exactly the same way. I tell him there are kids his age out there fighting wars without helmets and he goes and skateboards down stairs without one!"

"My daughter does BMX," piped a balding man on the other corner. "She's broken her arm so many times, she might has well have a robotic one with all the rods and screws in there."

"I'm effectively letting him laze around in bed," said Clark, "and he's still complaining that it's unfair."

The crowd murmured in sympathy as the doors slid open. Five people left, two entered.

"But, you know, they're just being teenagers," said the balding man. "They're testing their boundaries, trying to figure out what kind of adults they're going to be--"

"If my boy keeps going the way he is, he's going to be living in my basement eating Doritos until he's forty," said a newcomer. "How old is yours?"

"Fifteen," said Clark and five other elevator riders. They stopped on the twelfth floor; two passengers left.

"That's still young enough for the old parenting tricks to work," said the first woman.

"We don't have parenting tricks. We watch Dog Whisperer reruns though, does that count?" asked Lois.

"He's only started living with us a couple years ago," Clark explained.

Another chorus of knowing groans spread through the elevator. "Man, shared custody sucks."

"Well, his mom passed away and, coincidentally, I'm his mom's cousin so it kind of worked out." Twenty-four wide eyes stared at them. Lois grimaced. "We came from a small town."

"So you've never had your own babies?" asked the first woman.

"Nope. The timing was never right."

"Until now," Clark added as an after-thought.

Lois stared at him.


"So you admit it?"

"Admit what?"

"You." She poked his chest. "Want a baby."

Clark jaw dropped. "I... what? Where did that come from?"

"There was that call from the lab five days ago that you just happened to talk about at dinner and the random fertility research plus your frustrated nesting with Conner. Now, you're introducing it again into random conversation."

The elevator opened. This time, ten people left.

"I didn't introduce it; you did," said Clark. "And yes, I do want a baby--"


"-- but not at the risk of your health."

"You're just making an excuse. The lab said they might be able to--"

"Might doesn't mean can. Lois, we've talked about this before and I'm fine without having any more children, really."

"Your words aren't matching your tone."

"You sound like my mother."

"We talked about this after you came back from your world trip twenty years ago," Lois said.

"That doesn't meant the arguments are no longer valid."

"Let's see the arguments were as follows: we weren't together, we were both broke interns, we both juggled two jobs and it was all normal, platonic, best friend talk. Wow, look, that's all different now."

"This isn't about me wanting a baby. This is about you wanting a baby."

Lois gasped. "No way. You are not projecting your biological clock on me, bucko. You tucked a fifteen year old boy into bed."

"You brought it up, you're the one who's agitated."

"Because I hate it when you--" she waved her hands wildly, searching for the proper word. "--obfuscate. I'm the one who has to deal with you falling into the depths of despair every time you see a big yellow school bus."

Clark glared. "I do not mope--"

Lois jangled her cellphone in front of his nose. "I can call your mother about that, too. Now, now when they have the technology, after years of passive-aggressiveness you're not going to take advantage of it?"

Clark threw his hands up. "There's no guarantee."

"Life has no guarantee!"

The doors opened to the mid-level chatter of the bullpen. The balding man and Dorito boy's mother slunk out. Oblivious, Lois and Clark stomped out of the elevators and towards their desks.

"You're not going to let me win this argument no matter what happens so forget it. I refuse to let your weird brain mess with my day." Clark stomped out of the elevator. "And I do not obfuscate."

"You are the master of obfuscation. It's like this whole wooohoo - I'm - such - a - nice - guy - please - read - my - puppy - dog - eyes - and - magically - understand - what - it - is - I want - from - you - without - my - saying - a - word."

"As if your flailing denial is better? Maybe if you say it loudly enough, everyone else will believe whatever it is that you want them to believe because sometimes, you hate acknowledging a truth about yourself."

"I love the truth!" Lois yelled.

"Then just admit it," Clark said curtly. "You want a baby, too."

"Fine! I do!"

"Fine! Let's have one!"

"Fine! We will!"

"Congratulations," said Perry as he stood in front of the office doors. "It's only seven in the morning and you've both pissed me off. Lane, Kent, my office and, by God, if you two use it or any other room in this building to get started on that baby of yours, I will fire your asses so quickly, it'll take Superman to put it out."

"Wouldn't that be a shame," Clark muttered before entering the editor's office.

"I heard that, Smallville." Lois hollered as she followed him in but before she sat down, she winked at Perry. "God, I love my guy."

"Heaven help the ones you hate," said Perry. He slammed the door shut

Eleven whole minutes passed until Conner couldn't take it any more. He threw off his blanket, fired up his computer and tucked in his hands-free. Twelve alerts popped on his screen; he clicked on Tana and Roxy.

"Hey, cutesome," said Roxy. "I was just thinking of you."

"Is Roxy on the other end?" Tana asked.

Conner smiled at them. "I'm still bed-ridden," he said, making sure to round his vowels out into a British accent. "One small fall out of a bike and it's like the end of the world."

"Your dad hasn't stopped freaking out?" asked Roxy.

"He acts like I took on a whole gang of Trifists. I'm not even supposed to be out of bed. How's life out of incarceration?"

Roxy launched into a recitation of gossip while Tana rolled her eyes. Her attention was off to the left; she was probably doing homework. She wasn't the best student but she worked hard to get her grades; Conner found her determination unbelievably hot. Roxy was… well, she was Roxy. Also unbelievably hot and really sweet past the surface. She wasn't half as ditzy as she pretended to be when she had someone's full attention.

"-- so I was like totally blanched because who actually goes to VRaves any more? That retro's time has passed, y'know?" Roxy leaned into the camera. "You didn't hear a thing I said, did you?"

"Nope. I was too busy imagining being beside you right now."

Tana made gagging motions. "I'm going to skip this love-in for now. I've got a crapload of things due for the school newsblog."

"It's still summer!"

"The news goes ever on."

"Aw, hey, don't do that! I was thinking we could hangout at the bubble tea place."

"Dibs watermelon!" said Roxy.

Tana pursed her lips. "As utterly titillating as it is to participate in your royal harem, I'll have to pass this time."

"Taanaaa." Conner made his best puppy face.

Rosy sing-songed as well. "Yeah, Taanaaaa. Don't be such a hermit."

"I'm thinking of it as a strategic retreat," said Tana. "It's a good strategy to retreat into my room and not be grounded before school even starts. Besides, I want quality time with Conner, not quantity."

"Hey, I'm all about quantity." Roxy showed exactly which quantity she was willing to share.

Conner's breath caught. "Hoooly crap. I so wish I wasn't an indecisive jerk right now."

Smiling too sweetly, Tana said, "Give me a call when you get around to that." Her window faded away.

"Aw, Tana! Hey, I--" Conner peered meaningfully at his webcam. "Hold that thought, okay, Roxy?"

Roxy straightened out of her seductive pose. "Tana, Tana, Tana. I guess you get lit up by pouting."

"That's not--- Roxy, don't turn off--- poo." Conner stared at his empty monitor. Tilting his chair back away from the desk, he contemplated his options for all of two minutes before pulling on his shoes and heading out the door.

Tana lived with her dad in a townhouse just outside New Troy, close to their high school. He'd go over more often if he thought her dad would allow it. The man was totally medieval when it came to raising a girl. If Conner didn't come over right now while her dad was at work, he'd never get in to talk to her. If he didn't talk to her now and she was mad, he might not be able to do anything about it until after summer vacation and if she spent that long away from him... Well, the consequences didn't bear thinking.

He stopped by their favourite bubble tea place on the way to buy her favourite drink, an apology, he told himself, not a bribe. Still, his heart sped up a little when he rang the doorbell.

"Who is it?" Tana asked through the speaker.

"It's me," said Conner.

"I told you I was studying."

"Well, you need a study break. And I need to say sorry for being a jerk."

"You're a huge jerk," she said with a sigh. The door buzzed, the lock clicked and Conner let himself in.

Tana stood at the end of the hallway, her arms crossed. "If Roxy's quantity wasn't enough for you, I really don't think you'll find anything better here."

"If I wanted to be with Roxy, I'd be at her house not yours. Her dad doesn't give me scorching death glares from across the parking lot."

"If you're going to insult my dad--"

"I'm not-- Look, watermelon bubble tea." Conner held the peace offering out.

Reluctantly, she took it but he didn't let go, allowing himself to be pulled closer to her. "What are you doing here, Conner?"

"I want to spend time with you. Just you."

He didn't know how they went from kissing on the foyer to making out in her room. Being around Tana did that, made him totally lose all sense of time and place even when it didn't directly involve his dick. She felt like kitten fur and smelled like the ocean; when she stroked the back of his neck, his eyes throbbed with heat.

A few minutes more and they were both in their underwear. Conner tore the elastic of Tana's panties as he slid his fingers around the slickness of her vaj. She rubbed him through his underwear, her touch too tentative to really be effective except it was Tana and this was farther than he'd ever gone with her. He thrust his hips at her hand. His heart thumped so hard he thought his ribs would crack. He'd had sex but it was... well, it was Wondergirl was what it was, after a really harsh battle when everyone was high and horny about surviving. She'd known what she was doing being because she channelled Aphrodite. He had just followed along. This was different. This was Tana and she expected him to know what to do.

"Tana, baby." He kissed her sweetly this time. "You're so pretty. But we have to stop now, baby, or I'm not going to be able to stop at all."

Shyly, she peered down at him. "You don't want to?"

"Of course I do! You can't fake this." Conner gestured to his erection. "It just... Oh, jeez, I feel stupid but it just doesn't feel right that we're doing this when I haven't told Roxy my decision."

She smiled. "It's not stupid. It's sweet." She kissed his cheek. "You're a really nice guy under all that leather and ink."

"Yeah, I'm a regular boyscout," he said. "So... what do we do now?"

Tana tapped her chin with a finger. "I have a metric crapload of movies we can watch over some delicious bubble tea."

So he was still resting but, Conner reflected, at least he had company he liked.

Thanks to conflicting schedules and a robbing spree, Lois and Clark couldn't fly up to New York City until July two weeks later. It wasn't Lois' first visit to S.T.A.R. Labs; she saw Patricia Swann at least once a year for a check-up Lois half-jokingly called the ET's Lover's Physical. She didn't know what they looked for-- maybe they thought sexing up an alien transferred powers or gave off radiation or something. No pelvic she'd had pre-Clark required a Geiger counter. Whatever the case, she didn't mind too much because the same nurse practitioner examined her for the past ten years and the woman knew well enough to warm the ducklips and put plenty of lube before the inspection.

Clark squeezed her shoulders as they landed. "Nervous?"

"Nah, you?"


They grinned at each other.

S.T.A.R. Labs hadn't changed venues since Clark first contacted the founder, Dr. Virgil Swann, in his sophomore year. His daughter, the current Dr. Swann, didn't want to risk losing any material in a move so she simply bought more and more floors in the skyscraper. Clark trusted her as much as he trusted the Original JL but then, that was Clark. Lois reserved judgement. No one was that altruistic. Swann reminded her of someone she interviewed for a piece on Superman fan club culture-- freakishly dedicated due to of a sense of special-by-association. That was another reason she always visited in a wig and shades, calling herself Cir.

Swann met them on the roof. "Kal-el, Cir, we're so pleased you could visit again." She shook their hands as they touched down. The usual chit-chat followed while they made their way to one of the meeting rooms where a scientist and a projector already waited. He stood up quickly as soon as Clark entered.

"This is Emmet. He's head of the genetics research you gave us from Lexcorp." Patricia sat down and everyone followed. "Please, explain what your team accomplished."

Emmet nodded and turned the projector on. A vid appeared on screen, translucent blobs and bubbles on an off-white background. "I'm not one for big reveals so here it is: human-kryptonian zygotes, human eggs fertilized by kryptonian sperm."

"Whose eggs are they?" asked Lois.

"They're discards from fertility clinics, either deemed unviable or frozen but the donors no longer required them."

"That is so weird," she whispered to Clark. He flicked his thumb across her palm but continued to listen.

"The difference between Lexcorp's project and this one is that Lexcorp cloned a kryptonian and only inserted a few human genomes as stabilisers. Genomes are only pieces of DNA that code for specific proteins. To make an imperfect analogy-- just because a man receives a heart transplant from a woman, it doesn't make him a woman. The egg, in the Lexcorp projects, was merely the packaging and the food source. The individual within that egg was ninety-nine percent kryptonian.

"What we've done is combine a kryptonian gamete-- that is, a reproductive cell containing half of the chromosomes necessary to make a new being-- with a human gamete. A near perfect hybrid." Emmet quickly and nervously grinned as the slideshow behind him animated his science lesson.

"Kryptonians have ten more chromosomes than humans resulting in a fertilised cell with fifty-one chromosomes. It shouldn't work but with a little genetic tweaking, we made it work. Of the one thousand trials, only twelve survived past the blastocyst stage-- that's the level where it becomes a hollow ball of thousands of slightly differentiated cells. Those are phenomenal odds," he told Lois and Clark. "The difference in gamete chromosomes is akin to... to… horses and grasshoppers. It really shouldn't happen. Any case, usually at this stage, the blastocyst travels down the oviducts until it arrives in the uterus and it burrows in, nice and cuddly, and latches on. This is all in the first week of pregnancy. Because we don't have anyone to implant the blastocyst in, we created an artificial womb."

"Even experimental wombs only work with extremely premature babies," said Clark. "I've never heard of artificial wombs for zygotes."

Emmet glanced at Swann who took up the narrative. "Birthing matrices are among the technological experiments we've attempted using Jor-el's notes. It's not perfect, the materials we have are in no way comparable to those found on Krypton but we managed to make a small version for the surviving blastocysts. Viability ceased after two weeks, of course, but it was either that or implantation in a different animal."

Lois and Clark made a face.

"I thought you'd react that way." Swann waved Emmet down onto his seat. "The fact is, we're not even mid-way through research for this particular avenue. Implantation is one of the most important parts of gestation, if not the most important. This is all meaningless if a half-kryptonian zygote can't recognize and implant in a human womb."

Clark's shoulders drooped visibly. Lois stroked his knuckles. "If we do this, what could be the side-effects on the mother?"

Again, Swann looked to Emmet. He paled, fidgeting more with his lapels. "Well, the least risky in terms of health is the zygote doesn't implant. You'd have your menstrual period which would flush it away and that's that. The zygote could plant ectopically-- in the wrong place-- such as the oviducts themselves, the outer uterus walls, even the walls of the abdomen which could cause spontaneous abortion or lead to rupturing of the reproductive organs or a relatively normal pregnancy. If the implantation occurs in the uterus, it result in a misformed placenta which can break off, causing haemorrhage; it could implant too deeply and puncture the uterus; it could implant too widely which can result in bleeding, punctures, excess growth which can hamper the amount of space in which the fetus grows. If the placenta implants properly, your body may attack it, thinking it's a parasite. Or it could effectively act as a parasite, draining great amounts of nutrients and energy from your body. Or--"

"Please stop," Clark said, holding a shaky hand up. "Thank you, Emmet, Patricia, but I think it holds too many risks at this time to even contemplate."

"I'm contemplating it," said Lois. Clark gaped at her. Lois peered around his shoulder. "Could you give us a second alone?"

"Of course."

"Are you completely insane?" Clark hissed after making sure they'd gone far enough. "If you want a baby so badly, we can adopt one."

"But it wouldn't be like you." He started to protest again but Lois pinched his mouth closed. "Look, all these years that I've known you, you've been a little lonely. I know, I know, we're always around and you've got a support system enviable only to Jesus when he had his disciples but I know you, Smallville. I know when you found out about Conner, this... light came in your eyes. I can't explain it. It was like you felt found."

He pulled her closer. "I love you. I have all the family, all the belonging I need in you, Mom and Conn. I don't need anything else."

"I know you don't need it but this time, I want a chance to give you something you want." Lois traced the line of his lower lip then down to the barest cleft in his chin. "Let's give it two or three tries. I'm not getting any younger; by the time the technology's perfected to the point where you're satisfied, my womb will have shrivelled into a raisin. Besides with your looks and my brain's, the little guy's going to be perfect."

"He could be a she."

"We can only be so lucky." She smiled. "So. Deal?"

Clark nodded and called their hosts back in.

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