Chapter 11



"Superboy, do you have a few minutes to spare?"

Conner looked up from his glum study of the monitors. "Sure, Robin. I'm just about finished with monitor duty. What's up?"

"We can speak when you're finished," said Tim.

Materialising through the doors, J'Onn said, "Actually, I can take over from now on. Consider yourself dismissed, Kon-el."

Conner managed a weak smile as he stood to follow his team captain to the barracks. A few people like Arsenal lived here full time and had full suites. The rest of the rooms, basic as dorms, were available at a first-come-first-served basis. Tim went in first then positioned himself between the door and the narrow twin bed, his cape gathered around to completely cover his body. With no where else to go, Conner sat on the bed.

"How are things at home?" Tim asked.

What? Conner blinked. "What?"

"You don't seem very... happy." Tim's cape twitched. "Sorry. I'm not used to this part of leadership. Arrowette was better. She connected with people well."

"No, no, it's just weird going from You the Buddy to You the Team Leader. My head needs a little, y'know, wrench and twist and spinning of dials." Conner pantomimed doing just that. "I'm fine. Things are home are a little hand-wavy but copeable, I guess."

"Anything I can help with?"

"Unless you can figure out a way to convince Superman to let Batman train me, no."

Tim's eyes widened behind his Robin mask. "You want Batman to train you."



Grinning, Conner said, "You're his sidekick and you're asking why?"

"Because I'm his sidekick, I'm asking why," corrected Tim. "You and Batman would be worse than oil and water. You'd be Antarctica and a blowtorch; I'd have to sweep up the remains and tell your dad about it. Bringing bad news to a man who bench-presses skyscrapers is generally agreed to be hazardous to one's health."

"I got my reasons," Conner said. "Besides, you and Nightwing survived, yeah?"

Darkness flashed over Tim's face. If they hadn't gotten to be such good friends in the past year, he never would have noticed it. Clark entered the room however, before Conner could ask Tim about it.

"We have to talk, son." Clark put a hand on his shoulder.

With a brief nod, Tim settled into the Robin persona and slipped away. Clark led Conner into a small meeting room and gestured him to a seat. The younger man fought the urge to swing his legs.

"I've thought about your proposal to train under Batman," said Clark. "I'm still not convinced but--"

"Come on, Dad! I can--"

"But," he repeated with emphasis, "Someone is determined to get pregnant again. I want to be at home as much as possible if that happens which means I'm willing to be convinced. And before you ask, I've already tried talking her out of it. As expected, it didn't go over too well."

"You should've tried reverse psychology," said Conner.

Clark's lips twitched as he held back his smile. "You try it and see how far you get. Back to training with Batman-- you have three objectives to achieve before I even approach him to take you on as an apprentice."

"Totally. Anything!"

"First, I want at least four A's on your report card by this summer." Clark paused, presumably to gauge his reaction. Conner gamely nodded. "Second, I'll ask J'Onn for a recommendation regarding your telepathic training. If he doesn't give you an A, you don't go. Finally, I'll be taking verbal reports from three League members regarding your work ethic and abilities. You won't know who they are because I still don't know who they are. They won't all be Young Justice members though so don't think you'll coast on your friends' good words."

"I don't need to coast on anyone," said Conner. Following impulse, he rushed forward and squeezed his dad around the waist. Just as suddenly, the affectionate gesture embarrassed him. He stepped away and punched his dad's shoulder. "Thanks! You rock like granite."

"Don't thank me yet. I haven't said yes."

"But you will. I can totally feel it." If he had any rhythm, Conner would have danced out the room. As it was, he had to be satisfied to bopping his head to a victorious soundtrack playing in his head.

One uncomfortable conversation finished, two more to go. Clark adjusted his sleeves. Time to beard the lion. Or, more accurately, a bat. While Conner's request shocked him at first, he saw another, more political benefit. According to Dick, Bruce's loyalty was evenly split between Gotham and his family, the Robins and Batgirls he'd taken under his wing. If he trained Conner, it would be one more connection between Bruce and the League. It was a slim hope at best but Diana and Ollie were convinced of Batman's importance.

An aural scan of the Watchtower put Batman in an antechamber to the Council Room, pouring over field reports with Nightwing. Dick would probably thank him for the rescue. In less than a minute, he knocked at the door.

"Enter." Batman's voice was raspy and deep.

Clark slid the door open and took one step inside, his arms automatically crossing over his chest. "I would like to speak with you alone, Batman."

Nightwing's brows arched at his crisp pronunciation. He'd slipped into Formal Superman mode, Clark realised, the one who spoke to reporters and new Justice League members. In truth, he disliked it. It reminded him of Jor-el. However, around uncomfortable situations, he couldn't help himself. It was his version of a mask.

"We're busy," said Batman without turning around.

"It will only take five minutes."

"I need to stretch my legs anyway. I heard the cafeteria food's actually edible today; can't miss that," Nightwing said. He slapped Superman on the back as he left.

"I'm not interested in anything you say unless it's related to keeping your spawn out of Gotham," said Batman.

"Completely the opposite actually. I'd like you to train my spawn." Clark tried to keep his tone deliberately light. No sense in aggravating the psycho.

"That request doesn't warrant a response."

"But you did respond. If only to say it doesn't warrant a response."

Batman turned around to deliver a withering stare which Clark answered with an extra brilliant smile and to hell with aggravating the psycho.

"You're aware of Kon-el's growing pains," he continued. "Sometimes, it leaves him vulnerable. He would benefit from your type of training for those times and to increase his knowledge in general."

"I have a lot of things on my plate. Babysitting aliens is low on the list. Besides, he couldn't take my type of training." He turned his back on Clark again.

"He's determined it be you."

"Give him to your buddy, Green Arrow. I'm busy."

"At least consider it," said Clark, letting his exasperation show. "If kryptonians are as dangerous as you say, what better way ensure our ties to earth than to make one of us your protégé?"

Batman clicked around on the monitors. So, it was to be the silent treatment. Little did the Gothamite know-- Clark could out-brood every person he'd ever met.

"I've given Kon-el three evaluative objectives, among them, verbal recommendations from several individuals. I'd like one to come from you. Weigh his dedication and abilities fairly, ignoring whatever you have against me. If after four months, you honestly think he isn't fit for your regime, I'll never bother you about it again. If, however, he passes even your ridiculous standards, you'll train him for a year, well enough to replace me if need be."

Batman's computer clicking slowed. "What's happening in a year?"

Clark weighed his strategies. His standard answer had the advantage of being constant throughout the JL and the public. Only the Originals knew about Lois and they wouldn't talk should Batman snoop around which he undoubtedly would. He was Batman. He could tell the truth, names and all. League rules demanded first names but he knew Batman suspected he had another identity. Levelling the playing field by offering his civvie-ID could go a long way in earning his trust. But which one to use?

He circled the room, coming to a stop across from Batman. Clark sat and stared at him. Batman's vaunted patience lasted less than five minutes before he looked up to glower at him.

"Nightwing's a good detective," said Clark.

Pride, delight, acceptance and most importantly, love, flashed through Batman's eyes before he shuttered his expression back to grimness. Clark set his decision.

"My partner and I are trying to conceive. Because she's human, she's having a hard time being pregnant; in fact, we've gone through two miscarriages already." Clark's throat tightened. He coughed to clear it. "We're trying one last time and I want to be as available to her as possible both during the pregnancy and in raising the baby. However, I also know that there are situations where only my abilities can help. My compromise is to trim my time down with Kon-el taking half my duties."

"What did you do when the boy was growing up?" Batman demanded.

"His mother raised him; I wasn't around," said Clark. "I didn't know about him until recently."

"Two years ago."

He nodded.

"You make a habit of impregnating and leaving human females?"

Clark wondered if Batman had anything in his utility belt against a kryptonian kick in the balls. "Not that it's any of your business but I've remained faithful to the same woman for ten years. Kon-el's mother raised him away from me because she believed she was protecting us but now that I have him, I love him more than you could possibly imagine. I loved him even before I knew he existed, like there'd been a place in my heart waiting for him to fill--" He cut the sentence off. "You know what? Forget it. I'll ask Nightwing to train him."

He stood and headed for the door. It slid open before Batman spoke, still gruffly. "I'm sorry for your loss."

"Thank you," said Clark, meaning it.

"I won't be easy on him because he's yours."

Clark turned around, showing his irritation. "Honestly, Batman, that's the last thing I expected from you. Have a nice day."

Talking to Pieter Cross was easy after that ordeal. Clark deliberately planned the conversations in that order; he knew he'd need someone to cool him down. As much as Clark trusted Patricia Swann and S.T.A.R. Labs, he wasn't naïve enough to believe they were all helping out with the pregnancy out of the goodness of their own hearts. Their first priority would be the child then Lois, Clark's was the opposite, as much as he would love to have their baby. Pieter would offer an objective second opinion on Lois' health. He wouldn't turn down the opportunity to help anyone in need. The head of the League's medical services had a very calming, friendly demeanour. After talking with Batman, Clark really needed to calm the hell down.

"I'd love to help," said Pieter after Clark explained the whole story, barring real names. "Thank you for trusting me with this."

"Thank you for accepting," said Clark. "I know you're already busy with your own practice and your hours here on top of that."

"It would be an honour to help out, really." Pieter's expression turned speculative. "I'm a general surgeon; I know a little bit of everything that goes through the OR. For something as unique as your partner's situation, I would feel much more comfortable with another Ob-Gyn to consult with."

"There's Chapel," Clark said. "If you put your heads together--"

"Yes, but there's the issue of objectivity which you're so worried about."

A cough sounded from the door. Clark turned around swiftly. Diana stood at the door, vaguely embarrassed. He'd been so concentrated on the conversation, he failed to hear her footsteps.

"I could not help but overhear," she said. "You say need an obstetrician for your wife."

Clark nodded.

"My partner is one. She has nearly seven years' experience with that specialty and before that, she was a nurse in a paediatric intensive care unit. If you do not mind opening your private sphere a little wider, I am certain she would be glad to help."

Something resembling a chuckle left Clark's lips. He leaned against the examination table and covered his face with one hand, trying to stifle the hysteria in his laughter. It didn't work too well; Pieter approached him with a cautious, "Kal-el?"

"It just occurred to me how much trouble we could have avoided if I'd told all of you this sooner," he said. "I'm sorry. I trust you both with my life; I should be able to trust you with who's best in my life."

"No apologies needed. None of us here are completely candid about our private life exactly for the safety of our loved ones," said Diana.

"Thank you," said Clark gravely. "Please let me know if your partner would be willing to help us and we can arrange a meeting in the near future."

All smiles, Diana grasped his arm in a warrior's clasp which easily transformed into friendly backslaps. "I am only too glad to return the kindness you once showed me. Although--" her nose wrinkled-- "we must take care to keep prying eyes away. Should the media interpret our meetings incorrectly, it will only fuel the tabloid fire. Strange how they persist in their belief of an intimate, romantic relationship between us despite all we have said to the contrary. Why, even Lois Lane from the Daily Planet interviewed me about it. I had always thought her too level-headed to stoop to such pandering."

Clark couldn't quite stop himself from chuckling.

A little less than a week after her return to work, Lois itched for something to occupy her mind.
No one at the Planet seemed to know what to do around her, not even her own team who really should have known better. Anna had taken to mothering. Combined with Clark's pre-existing protective tendencies, they drove Lois completely batshit. She yelled at them on a regular basis but they weren't even considerate enough to yell back. Satpal smiled all the damn time, like she could force Lois to be cheerful. Even Lombard, the ass, stayed out of her way or actually shut his Neanderthal mouth when she walked by. Ron was normal, kind of. Ron tried to act as normal as possible she still caught him throwing an occasional pitying glance at herself or Clark. If there was anything Lois hated more, it was pity.

Home was no better. During Lois and Clark's bereavement leave, Martha had taken one look at the royal mess of the condo and led the charge to a massive clean up. She understood that Lois needed activity to deal with... with everything. But that plan had backfired; what would have taken a week to scour, polish and re-arrange finished in four days, thanks to Lois' zeal. She had cleaned past midnight when Clark literally carried her to bed then woke up just after dawn to do it all over again.

She sat at home right now, hands cupped around disgustingly healthy and alarmingly green drink. A recommendation from Bart, of all people, her junk food compatriot. He'd brought it over with so much big-eyed earnestness her snark died on her lips. No one could snark at Bart when he used that big-eyed, lost orphan expression even if he was in his thirties. It was probably why he got away with everything. But it was yet another example of how different everyone was now when she desperately needed them to be the same.

Lois sat at home because being a managing editor meant not having to chase after leads or shake down sources. It meant keeping normal hours, doling out the dangerous (read: exciting) stories to underlings in exchange for an extra zero on her paycheque. True, that extra zero would have been helpful with another kid--

She pinched the bridge of her nose. It would be helpful. They would have another kid.

If she actually had a life outside of work, she wouldn't be so bored, Lois reflected. If you weren't so pissed off at everyone, you'd have a life right now.

Where did that inner voice come from? It sounded a lot like Chloe. And that thought made Lois emotional all over again, dammit. Of course she'd think about her cousin these days. After her mom died, Lois and Lucy had stayed with their Uncle Gabe. Chloe, with her sharp mind running a hundred miles a minute, helped Lois start to slowly work through her grief. They talked through the first night and halfway through the next day before passing out from exhaustion. As much as she loved Clark, she needed Chloe's voice.

"Damn stupid... argh!" Lois put down her mug. "This place is too empty."

The condo echoed.

Lois muttered, "Of course. I guess I can play another rousing re-enactment of the Karate Kid's training montage. Dust the house. Sand the floor. Wax on, wax off. Even though the only room you haven't turned into Martha Stewart's condo away from home is the n-nursery. Shit." She pressed a hand to her forehead.

Three soft raps sounded at the door. "Lois, dear? It's Mom."

Company! Thank God! Lois leapt out of the couch to let Martha in. "I didn't know you were coming over. How was the drive?"

"I didn't see any twisters so I consider that a good April. Ben Hubbard-- remember him the next farm over?-- had some fresh poultry so I thought I'd bring them over along with the new peppercorn sausages I experimented with last fall." Martha rolled in her goodies. "You all could use better protein in your diet anyway."

"Thanks Mom." Lois gave into the urge and hugged Martha tight.

She reciprocated immediately. "Is... is everything all right dear?"

"It's fine," she said. "I'm just always glad you're around. It means we don't have to waste money buying food."

Martha laughed. "I thought Conner cooked most nights."

"The way that kid eats, that's fortunate or else he'd spend all his money on take-out like his wastrel guardians."

"It might also help him feel more useful. You know how he's been going on about that."

"He totally gets that from Clark." They shared a laugh. "He's a sweet kid," Lois continued. "He tries so hard to be grown up all the time and it just... he's got that same sense of responsibility for the world that Clark did at that age, remember?"

"Oh, yes."

"Just with a less visible moping and a lot more dating."

Martha laughed again. "I don't envy you that. We only worried that he'd get married too soon and for all the wrong reasons."

"God, I remember teasing the hell out of him when we were kids. All he ever wanted then was Lana, a picket fence and two-point-five kids. And look what he has now-- a condo in one of biggest urban sprawls in the country, spandex and me." Lois snorted.

"And he couldn't be happier," said Martha. When Lois would have looked away, the older woman patted her cheek and tucked a lock of chestnut hair behind her ear. "Let's get these put away in the freezer. By the way, I can't find my brown-reading glasses anywhere. Fordman's has a few in the same prescription but, oh, I suppose I'm getting vain in my old age. I really like the way the brown ones look."

"I haven't seen it but it's probably stuck in a drawer somewhere," Lois said. "if we can't find it, I'll ask Clark to look."

"Thank you, dear." She stood in the middle of the kitchen, still perturbed. "You know, now that I think about it, I may have left it in the nursery."

Lois was very proud of the fact that she caught herself in mid-stumble. "Go ahead and have a look then. We haven't really changed... I mean, not that we aren't going to... We just didn't know how..." Realising how she sounded, she shut up. There was meat to be shelved in the freezer.

Martha gently placed her hands on Lois' shoulders. "After Jonathan died, I couldn't look at his side of the bed for months. I did everything short of putting up a sheet to avoid looking at it."

She gave her head a little shake. "I can go in. I just haven't had reason to."

"Come here then. Hold my hand and we'll go together."

A shudder went down Lois' spine. "O-okay, let me just... um, I think I need to go to the bathroom and, um..."

"Lois, it's okay if you can't go in the nursery yet. It's only been two weeks."

"I can go!" Lois snapped. She took a deep breath and accepted Martha's hand. They made it all the way down the hall before her breathing quickened. Sweat broke out on her forehead. Her feet refused to go any further. "Clark goes in there a lot," she whispered. "I don't know how he can stand it. I can't even look at the door too long."

Martha rubbed her back, staying silent.

"I hate being at home because it means I have to pass by his room. We're making plans for another baby but in my head, it's still his room."

They stood outside the closed door for a few minutes before Martha squeezed Lois' shoulders. "I'm going to go in there and look for my glasses. If you can't, just stay out here, okay?"

At that moment, Lois hated herself. She hated the sick feeling in her stomach. She hated how she couldn't quite let go of Martha's hand. How she couldn't even look at the emptiness of the nursery without having to hold on to the wall to steady her trembling legs. How, despite all the lies she would continue to tell herself, she wasn't fine and she doubted she'd ever really be fine ever again.

Martha pressed a mug of something herbal into her hands. Lois blinked down at it; she hadn't even noticed her mother-in-law leaving the room.

"Clark thinks I'm okay now," she said.

Smiling kindly, Martha said, "Do you really believe that he believes you?"

Lois pouted. "He fakes it well enough. We're going to have a health team. He thinks-- I think it'll be better that way. Lots of eyes, lots of brains." Her hands only shook for half a second as she sipped from the cup. "I hate this. I wish there was a quicker way for this whole process of--" She gulped down more of the drink. "And it just never gets easier. No matter how many people you lose and how well you know your issues, you can't fast forward to the part where it stops being a knife twisting in your stomach and, instead, just kind of becomes this background ache with occasional, excruciating flare-ups."

"No, it doesn't get easier." Martha handed her a couple sheets of tissue paper.

"I mean, I can't even go in there!" She flung her arm out to gesture at the nursery door. "I need to get over this, Mom. I need to be okay again."

"Sweetie, you've experienced such a major loss. No one expects you to jump back from something like that."

"I expect it from myself."


"Because Clark needs me." If she thought she could have gotten away with it, Lois would have thrown the mug. In fact, she felt a tantrum was long overdue. "He's strong for the whole world. I'm strong for him. It's our thing. It's my... no one else can do that for him. He needs me to be one hundred percent for him to be able to do all his stuff and if he knows that I don't have it all together, it's one more thing that he has to pile on his shoulders."

Was that a smirk on Martha Kent's face? "Lois, he'd put it on his shoulders anyway."

"I know! the ass." But she was starting to smile, too.

"Smallville, will you just sit? Geez, you'd think we were planning a wedding."

Clark tossed a half-hearted glare at Lois. "I'm getting second thoughts."

"Of course you are. You're you. If someone gives away your secret identity, you'd have angst about the morality of erasing their memory or hiring an assassin."

"Whereas you wouldn't?"

Lois tapped lower lip. "Well, I guess I'd kind of feel bad if it was the JL medic. It can't be easy to find doctors willing to work at the Watchtower."

Not surprisingly, when Lois approached him with the idea of having a health team, he resisted. Bad enough Chapel and all the STAR Labs were witnesses to his failure as a father. Now his JL troop would, too? But the years had mellowed him somewhat and if Clark still moved heaven and hell to get what her wanted, at least these days, he willingly admitted he couldn't do everything himself.

Unsurprisingly, Lois now sat, on an oversized old couch in Ollie's Cape Cod cabin, iced tea in hand, waiting for the health team while Clark paced.

"I'm glad we didn't bring Conner," he said.

"Like they wouldn't be able to connect the dots once they google our names? Chloe's death was kind of a huge deal."

"I know, but they wouldn't have a true visual--" Clark tilted his head to one side. "They're here."

"Smallville, are you sweating?"

He didn't answer. The doorknob was already turning. Every cell in Clark's body screamed for him to pick Lois up and hide. Instead, he forced himself to sit on the couch beside her and oh-so-casually sling an arm around her shoulders. She rubbed his leg. Everything's going to be fine was her message.

Ollie entered first, followed by Pieter Cross in his dark glasses then Beth Chapel with her white cane and finally Etta Khang. Diana brought up the rear. Clark heard Lois' heart speed up the slightest bit. Now it was his turn to comfort her. He stroked her ear with his thumb.

"Welcome everybody," said Ollie. "Make yourselves comfortable while Diana and I pretend we know how to make tea and set out cookies."

Seeing Lois, Diana halted in mid-step. "She is your wife, Kal-el? She is a reporter."

"So am I," said Clark.

"Where is the rest of your disguise?"

"This is it" Clark spread his arms. "Hiding in plaid sight."

The Amazon shook her head. "I do not believe it."

"You should see him in full Clark-mode," said Lois. "It's a pretty scary transformation: Attack of the Dorks."

After the awkwardness of introductions ("You needed a second and third opinion?") and institution of secret identity rules ("Speak it and we cut you." "Lois!" "Kindly."), the three doctors opened Lois' health case. They bonded better through medicalese.

"I'm no immunology expert but these labs look like acute tissue rejection," said Pieter.

"It makes sense," Chapel said. "Human fetal tissues have a multitude of inhibitory mechanisms that have evolved in response to the maternal immune system. Our interventions strengthened the fetus but, as a consequence, it may have triggered an acute response."

"My body's attacking my baby?" Lois translated.

"It happens with all human pregnancies; hell, all mammalian ones," Etta hurried to assure her. "No one really knows how the mom's body keeps from rejecting every fetus. There are a handful of viable theories mostly to do with something in the fetal cells that inhibit the maternal immune system or render it invisible."

"Look at pregnancy as an organ transplant except with built-in immunosuppressants," Pieter simplified. "Kal's-- Clark's-- unique genetic contribution means we're dealing with xenografts not allografts; a cross-species transplant not a cross-human."

"Are we actually contemplating medical immunosuppression?" asked Chapel.

"I don't think we should dismiss the possibility."

Clark sank into the couch. He thought having more doctors would increase his confidence in Lois' safety. Instead, their combined knowledge increased the possible complications. He searched for Lois' hand and, finding it, traced the pattern on her Kawatche bracelet. No matter what, her health came first. He only hoped she would agree. "Won't those drugs make her more vulnerable to illness?"

"Yes, of course," said Pieter. "If-- and this is still a big 'if,' folks-- we prescribe immunosuppressants, you'll have to be vigilant about keeping clean. You may even have to avoid large crowded areas like malls and public transit. Sure, you may only catch the flu but if your body's fighting responses are reduced, the symptoms of the illness will be stronger and last longer. A flu can easily turn into pneumonia."

Just as all the blood left Clark's head, Chapel added, "Should we go that route, I'm opposed to prescribing transplant-level immunosuppression therapy. Too much medication and Lois won't be able to make antibodies to pass to the child. For all we know, those will be vital to the child's health once it's out into the world. We don't want to chance any congenital immunodeficiency disorders."

"I think we should've skipped this part and just let them talk amongst themselves," Clark whispered to Lois.

"Speak for yourself, Smallville. I like the info-dump." Lois patted his leg but kept her attention on the doctors.

Ollie and Diana re-entered with food as promised: a tray overflowing with assorted finger food, another with sliced fruit, and several carafes of hot drinks. Clark smiled at Diana as they both filled their plates. "Thanks again for contacting Etta."

"Think nothing of it, Kal-el. I only repay the kindness you showed me when I was new come to this world," said Diana. To his surprise, she then took her plate to Lois who was still rapt by the doctors' conversation. "This is quince and pomegranate tart," she said. "They are both foods of fertility. These mezedes have figs and onions which are also Hera's."

Lois politely took a slice of bread. "And the dip?"

"Oh that." Diana coughed. "I confess disliking what you call Greek salads but Etta loves it and makes the dish by the bucketful. We never finish it and she hates waste so she turns the leftovers into dip. It is more edible than the salad."

"Um. Thanks." Lois took a bite. "Hey, not half bad."

"Etta suggested I dabble in hobbies that do not relate to fighting or diplomacy. She likes cooking and so I attempt it." Diana made a face.

Lois beamed. "Hey, welcome to the club, sister. I burn water."

"Several times," said Clark.

"So I bet you're a fighting geek, right? Your hobby is learning more fighting skills or driving a plane?"

Shaking her head, Diana said, "Actually, I enjoy clothes-shopping."

Clark laughed out-loud at Lois' expression.

A month into his evaluation period, Conner still couldn't attend most of the YJ's heavy contact missions. Instead, he helped out with both the League and YJ for the soft stuff-- clean up, missing persons and the like. Today, they were back in Krysybestan to bury the final pod. With him were Grace and Barda as his fellow heavy-lifters as well as Impulse. Where Barda went so did Prince Free who had taken the name, Scott Free, as a pun on his ability to escape from almost any holding cell or restraining device. Conner really wasn't sure why Impulse was there but any mission with Bart was a party even when he ordered them around.

"Nice job making a big damn hole" said Impulse. "High fives all around!"

"Like you did anything while we spent the whole weekend digging a twenty-mile hole," Grace muttered.

"Hey, supervising you big lugs is hard work. And it's not twenty miles, only ten. Now let's pour in concrete for that first half mile at the bottom of the pod--"

"Let's?" Grace repeated.

Impulse put his hands on his hips. "Superman never gets this kind of insubordination."

"Superman didn't sing Besa Me Mucho in the last company party. Badly."

"So if I sang it well--"

Barda threw a boulder into the pit. "Will we bury this pod or talk the rest of the day?"

"Talk," said Conner. "Those two love to bait each other."

Scott Free nudged his wife. "They are comrades-in-arms, my love. They fight and play with equal strength."

"A strange custom but one which I will learn for the sake of our new home," Barda said grudgingly. "I will research jokes and puns to insert into casual conversation."

"I'm awesome at jokes," said Conner. Helpfulness in all its aspects had to count towards his evaluation, right?

"Then I shall expect training from you as soon as possible."

"Okay people! Back to work!" Impulse clapped his hands. "This hole has to have a one mile perimeter surrounding it with packed rock-fill held in place by poured concrete. Over that, we've got to put in another mile of concrete, two miles of steel and another half a mile of concrete before we top off with soil, grass and all that other stuff. The weekend is only half over."

Digging. Conner was digging for Batman. This was so ninja.

Pieter Cross, known in DCU as Dr. Mid-Nite, is played by Daniel Dae Kim. Cross, the third Dr. Mid-Nite, can only see in pitch-black and so has special black-out glasses. Beth Chapel was the second Dr. Mid-Nite but for the sake of variety, I changed her powers slightly.
Greek dishes are from Kalofagas by Peter Minakis.

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