Chapter 12



At Etta and Pieter's insistence, Lois didn't undergo her third IVF until July, four months after Gabriel's death. Within three weeks, Etta confirmed S.T.A.R.'s positive results. Lois was surprised at how much she liked Diana Prince's wife.

"I've never seen such a good track record for implantation," said Etta. "Despite the advances in assisted reproductive technology, most couples undergo several procedures before an egg implants. Yours hits the bulleye at every try."

"Never underestimate the power of Lane-determination and Kent's super-swimmers," said Lois. "Of course, I could do without throwing up every morning then sleeping away the afternoon."

"Whatever it is you're doing, keep doing it. I'm also going to prescribe a high carbohydrate, extra-high protein diet. Like we said in the last meeting, maybe the baby couldn't absorb enough nutrients from your blood alone and so the placenta widened in response; the bigger the placenta, the more blood flow," said Etta. "Hopefully, if you have high protein content in your body, we can discourage the same thing from happening."

"So you're saying I have to eat juicy hamburgers, steaks dripping with gravy and complex carbohydrates all the time for my own good?" said Lois.

Etta grinned. "Uh-huh. You love me, don't you?"

"I take back every bad thing I've ever said about Diana. She has excellent taste and married a very smart woman."

"I know but try reminding her of that." Etta rolled her eyes. "I don't know if I should blame her chronic slobbiness on her royal upbringing or hanging around a bunch of men, most of whom are either divorced or never married."

Lois gasped. "You too? Clark's the exact same and don't even get me started on Conner. I think it's because they've got the speed. It only takes them five seconds to clean up so they think it's perfectly all right to shed all over the condo. No joke, I found a two ties and a gym sock in the pantry. That can't be Food Safe."

"Girl, you ever woken up in the middle of the night and stubbed your toe on a bronze epaulette? I broke three toes and she still doesn't pick up after herself. And at least yours cook."

"True enough," said Lois. "We need a support group."

"Can we have pins?"

"And martinis." Scrunching her face up, Lois amended, "Virgin martinis."

"Make it extra-dry for me and I am there." Etta pulled two lollipops out from the treats jar. Giving one to Lois, she unwrapped hers and popped it in her mouth. "Do you think Sue Dibny has marital woes?"

"Pfft, Ralph probably irons her underwear and sprinkles it with vanilla water or something equally saccharine yet domestic. She's not invited to our club."

"Yeah, someone that put together doesn't need a support group."

"Whereas we, who suffer numerous trials and tribulations, do."

"Honey, you want tribulations? Try being a Asian military nurse so pudgy your callsign was Etta Candy."

Lois pursed her lips. "Hmm. Point. You win." She popped the candy in her mouth. A burst of intensely satisfying flavour burst on her tongue. Her lollipop was green apple flavoured and no apple taste-- real or artificial-- had ever tasted so completely complex and whole. She half-moaned in appreciation. "Where did you get these? They're fantastic!"

Etta stared at her. "They're normal bulk suckers."

"They can't be. It tastes too good to be cheap candy."

"I think you're going through a hormone rush," said Etta. "Some women get morning sickness all day long. Some retain water. And some become hypersensitive to any of the five senses."

Lois took another lick of the lollipop. "If everyday food tastes like this for the next nine months, it'll more than make up for the morning sickness."

"So they say. Really though, how are you doing?" At Lois' arched eyebrow, Etta said, "Former military nurse, remember? I know the signs of repression. Have you gone to see someone for grief counselling?"

"I'm dealing with it fine. This is hardly the first time I've lost someone. My denial phase is nonexistent. I've done the anger several times often segueing into the depression phase; that used to involve alcohol but I'm on ice cream and Jell-o pudding now. I figure I'll hit a few more anger jags, bargain something inconsequential like my addiction to chocolates and, wham! I'm in acceptance by the time this baby comes."

Etta looked unconvinced. "Want to see something?" She pulled up to blouse and pushed down her pants, revealing a short, uneven scar four o'clock of her navel. "This was a souvenir from my second tour. A strategic attack on the base blew a comm-pole through here and out the kidney. It completely wrecked my uterus, of course. The irony of a maternity nurse being barren was not lost on me."

Lois' eyes went glassy. "Mine's bigger."

"Mine's uglier."

"What can I say? You win again."

Etta patted her hand. "Talk to someone. Hell, talk to me. That support group can extend to childlessness woes."

Five years ago, if someone had told Lois her best girl friend would be Wonder Woman's wife, she would have laughed them out of the continent. But there she was, one part acridity to one part motherly and everything Lois had missed since Chloe disappeared from her life. Lois began to feel as if this time, this pregnancy would turn out all right. That night, she was able to open the nursery door herself.

At the same time in the Watchtower, it was another Friday and another monthly meeting. Clark tapped his fingers on his lap, waiting for it to end.

"And so on Scott and Barda's recommendation, we buried The Ultimate's pod ten miles underground," Ollie said. "Hopefully, this will contain The Ultimate until such a time when we can figure out how to remove him from the planet."

Ted Kord raised his hand. "Any ideas why they were all sent here?"

In reply, Ollie turned to Barda and Scott Free. Scott bowed slightly before answering. "Barda and I have long discussed this. I was leader of the rebellion, Barda, my general. She, I and the Ultimate are possibly the only people capable of removing Darkseid from his throne. Perhaps he has banished us to protect his reign."

"Great, so we're his dumping ground, no offence to you two," Ted quickly amended.

Clark spoke up. "Maybe when we find a way to return you to your planet, we can shoot The Ultimate off in another direction using the same technology."

"One can hope," said Barda.

"Why would you want to go back?" Ted asked. "From what you tell me, it's a twenty-four-seven war on Apokalips."

"While we are here, more Lowlies are crushed underfoot. I cannot leave them to that fate," said Scott.

Ollie rapped the table. "Well said. We also have to thank Scott and Barda for partially solving the planet's landfill problem. We melted down almost all the wrecked cars in North America to fill that hole."

"Superman slept for a week," Conner added, nudging his dad's side.

"Let the secretary note this for the record: For finally forcing Superman to sleep, Scott and Barda get a medal," said Ollie.

The group burst into laughter. The meeting adjourned on a high note. Clark grabbed Conner by the collar before he could disappear with YJ. Conner's eyebrows rose. What is it?" his expression asked.

He lifted his chin in the direction of an ante-chamber. Let's talk in private, was his nonverbal reply. Immediately, he heard Conner's heart speed up. When Clark shut the door, the tempo went through the roof.

"Before you say anything, I want to tell you that even if I don't train with the Bat this year, I'm going to try again next year. I totally took everyone's suggestions and applied them the best I could and sure, maybe I wasn't perfect at everything but no one's perfect at everything. I think the fact that I tried my best should count for something." Conner crossed his arms and spread his legs slightly in a defensive stance.

"Actually, the fact that you tried your hardest only counts if your hardest passes the minimum requirements. Which it did." Clark smiled as Conner shot out of his slump into a leaping, hooting mess.

"You mean it? Really? Really? Even with that A- in Asian History?"

"Arsenal's glowing review of your comportment during the Mississippi flooding cancelled the minus sign," said Clark. "Batman himself said you're doing well."

"Batman said that?" Conner was star-struck.

"Well, his actual words were 'He could be worse' which Nightwing assures me is high praise. It must be true because he told me you could start training next week." The part he hated was coming up. "However, Batman also insisted on your full time and attention for your training, meaning he wants you to live with him for a year."

Conner went nuts with joy. "Dad, you are awesome! You're better than awesome; you're a gazillion awesomes compressed into an atom of awesome to make a blackhole of awesome that sucks all the awesome of the universe into itself to become the epicentre of universal awesome!"

"If I'd known leaving home would make you this happy, I'd've kicked you out sooner," said Clark, joking to hide the genuine sting at his son's excitement.

It worked. Conner squeezed him, still laughing, and asked, "What should I pack? Is it like ninja-- bring nothing but the clothes on your back?"

"He didn't specify. I assume it's something slightly more than ninja but slightly less than the Hilton."

"This rocks so damn hard." Conner whooped again and this time, his jump stayed in mid-air for a full minute. "I've got to tell Robbie. Thanks again, Dad! Training with Batman! That's so friggin' badass. Hey Robbie!" he hollered as he ran down the hall.

Ollie wandered into the room. "You told him?"


"You know, he isn't going to be easy on him just because he's your son."

"Why does everyone say that? I don't expect anyone to treat Conn any differently; I actually appreciate how everyone makes him feel like any other person."

"I'm not sure if you're aware of this but everyone, even the long-timers, can't help but be awed by you. Not me, of course. It's kind of hard to see you as an all-powerful symbol of morality and goodness when I've seen you in plaid and overalls, mucking horse shit."

Clark's blush faded. He stifled the urge to snatch at his hair. "Even so, why is he the badass?"

"It's the car."

"I have a vintage Harley."

"Maybe it's the batarangs, too."

Clark huffed. "That's a stupid name. They're not even like boomerangs; they're more like throwing stars. Throwing bats, for Pete's sake. He throws little logos around. He might as well throw Nike swooshes or Ralph Lauren polo players on horseback."

Ollie couldn't stop grinning. "Are you jealous of Batman?"

"No." He crossed his arms. "I just can't see the appeal of dressing up as a giant flying rodent with matching accoutrements."

"You're jealous of Batman. Man, wait 'til I tell the rest of the guys. Hey, Bart, guess what?" Sniggering, Ollie left the room to flag the speedster down.

For the sake of leaving a paper trail, Bruce Wayne (Conner still couldn't believe the most infamous socialite airhead was the goddamn Batman!) sent Ellsworth High School a scholarship package for Conner from Wayne Enterprises. The package came with an urgent query on the lack of response from Ellsworth when they had sent the initial email and hardcopy two months ago. In the ensuing scramble for paperwork, Batman's computer-whiz, Oracle, hacked into the school district database for Metropolis and Gotham, leaving "evidence" of inter-district communication for the past three months. In the end, one Conner Kent officially enrolled at Brentwood Academy for the 2025-2026 school year.

Conner celebrated moving-out day by preparing a five-course meal for Lois, Clark and Martha made almost entirely from scratch. His only cheat was the bread for his bread pudding. While marinated ribs grilled on the barbeque, he served up spinach and squash soup and a salad of field greens, papaya, avocado and dried cranberries. With the ribs, he made roasted parsnips and carrots and corn-on-the-cob. By the time the bread pudding came out, everyone had to walk around for a while to make room.

"You can't cook like this and move away," said Lois. "Your dad and I can't go back to ordering take-out. You've spoiled us for life!"

Unable to hide his pleasure at the words, Conner said, "Grandma's going to live here, right? And I'll visit on the weekends."

"Make sure you do," said Clark. "I don't want you absorbing too much Bat-ness."


"Why is it that all billionaires name their houses after themselves? Queen Towers. Wayne Manor. You don't see us calling it the Lane-Kent Floor."

"Dad, stop! Promise me you won't say things like that when we're actually in Gotham."

"I'm just making an observation. Mom, Lois, back me up."

To Conner's relief, the women in his family didn't contribute to the embarrassing conversation. "I doubt Bruce Wayne came up with the idea of naming his house any more than your father had a hand in naming the farm," Martha said. Yet another reason why his grandma was so cool.

At the crack of dawn the next morning, Martha prepared breakfast as Lois, Clark and Conner packed two suitcases and three boxes into the back of the family hatchback and made for Metropolis Downtown Airport. The flight to Gotham, New Jersey was two hours. An old gentleman-- really, Conner knew no other words to describe him-- led them to a shiny black Roll's Royce.

"I hope your trip was not too tedious," said the gentleman, who had introduced himself as Alfred.

"It was great!" Clark said. "Business class really treats you well, huh?"

Alfred sighed. "Had Master Bruce given me adequate time to prepare, I could have sent the jet. Airport line-ups and rude co-passengers do make a trip rather tiring especially for someone in your condition, Ms. Lane."

A jet? Conner mouthed. To his disgust, his dad rolled his eyes. At least Aunt Lo winked.

Wayne Manor rose majestically behind the thin veil of Gotham smog. Fittingly gothic in architecture, it resembled Gotham City Proper in the same way of grandparents and grandchildren. The manor had the same intricate statuary and neo-deco flares as the buildings downtown but in stone and glass instead of acrylic and steel. The grounds had to be at least as extensive as the Kent Farm at its height, before Martha sold off acres to neighbours and Metropolis U.

"The Wayne Estate has some of the oldest forests existing on the east coast," Alfred narrated as they drove through the winding driveway. "They aren't first growth, by any means, but some trees do date back to the late nineteenth century. Universities regularly request permission to do research in the forests."

"About?" asked Lois.

"All sorts of topics, Ms. Lane. Ecology, botany, agricultural-history."

"Dude." Conner pressed his face up to the glass.

At the same time that the Rolls cleared the wooded area, a huge black horse burst through the forests. Its rider, also in black, leaned low over the horse's neck, his body nearly indistinguishable from the animal.

"There's Master Bruce now," said Alfred. "I daresay he'll try to beat us to the Manor."

"Oh, for Pete's sake," Clark grumbled, causing Lois to chuckle. "He's riding a black horse across what are effectively moors. What the heck?"

"Smallville, you're hot when you're jealous," said Lois.

"I'm not jealous! Why does everyone say that?"

As Alfred predicted, Bruce waited for them at the top of the entrance way, one fist on his hip, one leg propped on a low stone hedge. Conner really had to stare to find Batman under that perfectly white smile and the vacant amber eyes. He knew how his dad turned into Metropolis-Clark-- he slouched, never made eye-contact and wore clothes two sizes too big, always fading into the background. Bruce seemed to want the opposite. With his blinding smile, flashy clothes and twitchy gesticulations, Bruce Wayne begged for attention even at the advanced age of forty-seven.

"Conner!" Bruce spread his arms wide and engulfed Conner in an embrace. "You have no idea how pleased I am you accepted my offer to stay in the manor during your scholarship. We'll have fun, partying up the town, eh, chum? Whoops, forget you heard that, Mr and Mrs. Kent." He beamed and winked. Conner thought he saw his dad flinch.

"Ms Lane," Lois corrected automatically.

"Whoops! Sorry. Mr and Mrs Lane."

"No, she's Ms. Lane and I'm Mr. Kent," said Clark.

Bruce looked perturbed. "What if I just call you Louise and Clyde?"

"Lois and Clark."

"That's what I said! Alfred, their luggage. I have the perfect room set up for you already. It's fully decked with a sixty-inch TV, speakers built into the walls and access to the central harddrive for computer access. Did I tell you about the satellite dishes? It gets everything, if you know what I mean. Whoops! Forget you heard that again, Lisa and Claude!"

Conner sniggered. Okay, the dude even played the airhead well. As soon as the manor doors closed, however, Bruce transformed. "Your schedule is in your room. I expect you to follow it explicitly. If you manage to keep up with summer training, you may survive the school year."

"That's enough, Bruce," Clark started to say but Conner interrupted before he could ruin everything.

"Yessir! Do we start tonight?"

Bruce turned around slowly. It may have been a trick of the light, but Conner swore his eyes flashed. "You're eager."

Conner nodded.

"You won't be." He turned his back to them once more and headed at a clipping pace down a darkened hallway. Over his shoulder, he said, "Alfred will show you to your room. There are books there. I'll quiz you after dinner."

Wow. That was so kung fu. Training with him was going to be so cool.

Training with Batman was so uncool. Conner rolled his neck. After eight days of living in Gotham, he regrettably understood the phrase "kink in the neck" at last. His felt bent in three places. Who knew Batman read all his training logs? He knew how to distract Conner so his E-field weakened during attacks. And the guy never let up with the criticism!

"You project your hits. No doubt your father never taught you subtlety."

"Stop using your powers as a crutch."

"Congratulations, you memorised those books. Do you actually understand them?"

"Rookie mistake, Superboy. All your mistakes are rookie."

Conner could frickin' twist his neck. But if he did, his dad would be disappointed, Aunt Lo would scream and Tim would probably feel obligated to avenge his death. Or become Batman. Neither option was healthy.

The icing on the rotten cake was Brentwood Academy for Boys. Meaning no girls. Located in Bristol between the Palisades and Gotham Heights, it was five whole miles away from any female life like Little Flower All-Girl's Prep or South Gotham Heights Secondary. Sure Tim went to the same school and even had a lot of the same classes but it was all boys. Conner liked to mess around with guys but he preferred girls. A lot. Between the scholarship program in Brentwood and the Little Batcave of Horrors, he had zero time to go out.

After begging for this for so long, he couldn't just quit. He was supposed to be the new, improved, mature Conner Kent. When he felt like throwing the Batmobile down the cave trough with Batman still in it, he remembered his weekend visits to Metropolis. Aunt Lo, sick as a dog half the time carrying the baby and his dad sleeping an hour a night to cover all of Superman's shifts, Clark Kent's office hours and caring for Lois.

Conner gritted his teeth. He had to get better. He had to be the best.

Bruce met him in the training gym with a smirk threatening crack his face. "Tonight, we're covering juijitsu."

"Okay." Conner bowed and took position. He was cool with martial arts. It took a while for Bruce to wear down his guard.

Then Bruce flipped his cape back. A ring on his hand faintly glowed green.

Oh shit.

Four weeks into this pregnancy, Lois' morning sickness began, spanning from breakfast to lunch. Coincidentally (or not), Martha showed up that night with two suitcases and a box of produce. She would stay at the condo, she announced, and take care of everyone until the baby arrived. Maybe even afterward. After a token protest each, Clark and Lois cheerfully accepted her help. Soon, the smells of home-cooking and the buzz of Martha's old-fashioned cell-phone imbued the condo with a touch of Smallville, bringing back pleasant memories of high school when they all lived together on the farm.

On Week Ten, Chapel took a blood test; found Lois severely anaemic and prescribed even higher doses of iron, folic acid supplements and B-12 injections. She was not impressed with the injections. Etta told her to eat more berries and dark, leafy vegetables and nap as often as she needed to, preferably in the sun. Lois was not impressed with kale.

The absolute limit, however, was when Chapel re-recommended a cease-and-desist on sex. For the past month, Lois had been too sick to muster anything more energetic than heavy make-out sessions on the couch. Her most favourite part about past pregnancies had been the hormones. Supersex was so much better when she could keep up with her hubby.

"Please tell me you're kidding," Lois said.

"Considering how high-risk your pregnancies have been, I'd prefer to err on the side if caution," said Chapel.

"No offence, doc, but I'm going to get a second opinion."

So Lois went to Etta who agreed. Then to Pieter who also agreed, albeit with a blush. Lois Lane was very unimpressed with the whole damn world.

At Week Sixteen, anxious despite her best efforts, she fainted on the way from her office to Perry's. Clark caught her as the rest of her team, already wise to her condition, jumped to help. Ron ran to the kitchen for ice water, Anna set up the small futon in the office and Satpal speed-dialled Etta, leaving Perry with nothing to do but vent his fear by hollering: "What is that damn fool doing at work? She's got a year's worth of sick leave; she should take it!"

Lois came to as Clark lifted her. "Please tell me I didn't faint."

"You didn't faint," he said. "You very suddenly felt sleepy."

To prove his excuse, she yawned. "Argh! I'm already napping all the time. If I go home, it'll be my fifth sick day in a row. I never get sick days."

"You've never not-fainted at work," Clark said. He laid her on the futon. Ron handed the water over and excused everyone else, shutting the door behind him. "I could act as your assistant. I'm sure I can get an extension for my manuscript."

"What about the second job?"

Clark frowned. "The original plan was to have Conner taking over when you're at six months. I can see if we can move it up a little."

"I still can't believe you let him train with the Grim and Grumpy for a year. He even lives with him; he'll probably come back listening to screamo music and carving crap like 'Death, you are my bitch lover' on his arm."

"Conner writing. Huh."

Lois punched his arm. "Hey, Smallville, guess what I realised."


"This is the third time your turkey-baster's knocked me up and you still haven't married me. At least not Earth-legal." She jiggled her Kawatche bracelet.

With a long-suffering sigh, he said, "I've asked you to marry me. I asked several times early in our relationship but after five years of no response, I gave up. We're registered common-law anyway."

Acting affronted, she said, "So that's it? Common-law is good enough for you?"

"Well, you'd be horrific in a bridal gown shop. Nothing would satisfy you. You'd probably make everyone cry and we'll have to travel to Gotham or L.A. where your reputation hasn't preceded you to find a dress. Then there's the cake, the bouquet, the cars..."

She punched him again. "Well, if you aren't going to propose, I am."

"Aren't you supposed to be on one knee?" Lois rolled off the futon. Clark's eyes widened. "Wait. Hang on. Really?"

When she kneeled, they were almost eye to eye. "Yes, really. Clark Jerome Kent, I love you to bits and pieces. Will you marry me?"

In response, Clark stood, pulled her up and ran out of her office, towards the elevators.

"Where the hell do you think you two are going?" Perry yelled.

"She proposed to me, Chief," Clark called out. "I'm taking her to the courthouse before she changes her mind."

Anna, Ron and Satpal's standing ovation heralded the elevator. "Catch them before eleven if you don't want to wait through lunch," was Ron's advice.

"My dress!" Lois protested. "You promised I could be horribly bitchy about finding a dress. We can probably write a story about the manipulation inherent in the wedding industry, allowing exorbitant prices for--"

Clark leaned down, touching his forehead to hers. "You're beautiful. Right now. Every day."

Lois went up on tip-toe to kiss him. The elevator ride was too short.

"We've been together so long a wedding really shouldn't matter. Why now?" Clark asked as they exited the building.

Almost shyly, she pressed a hand to her still-flat stomach. "I want to do it when we're all here."

"Oh Lois." He covered her hand with his own. "We'll all be here; I know it. We can wait until the baby's born."

"But how do you--"

"I know. I'm so sure, I'm willing to postpone the wedding until after the baby's born. He can be the ring bearer."

"Or she'll be the flowergirl."

He smiled and nodded. "Or she could be the flowergirl. I don't care, you know that. Boy or girl, as long as you're both healthy, I'm happy."

"I know." That let to another extended kiss. When, flushed, they separated, Lois said, "Let's go back inside before they follow us to the courtroom."

Mischievousness settled over Clark's face. "Let's go somewhere they can't follow us. I hear Oahu's great this time of the year."

In less than an hour, Conner would arrive for the League meeting with Robin and Batman. Clark quick-stepped down the halls, his mind occupied by his announcement. Public speaking still discomfited Clark, no matter that most of the people in the meeting knew him personally now.
News like this would spread quickly through the very short grapevine.

As he passed medbay, Pieter poked his head out the doors. "Do you have a minute, Kal-el?" Clark opened to mouth to make his excuses but Pieter added, "It concerns the topic of your announcement."

His heart thudded. Quickly, he entered the medbay and closed the door firmly. "Did someone call you? Is everyone okay?"

Pieter looked surprised then sheepish. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to-- It's not an emergency. I just need an update on your physical health for my records and I thought I'd flag you down while I had a chance."

"My health?"

"Observing kryptonian physiology systemically and microscopically can help us help the baby," Pieter said. "I want to duplicate some of S.T.A.R. Labs' findings on the effect of childhood diseases on kryptonian systems. Consider me your redundancy tester."

"Oh. Um. All right. Do you need blood?" Clark mentally calculated the time required to draw his blood. It was an involved process requiring incremental kryptonite exposure and diamond-tipped needles.

Pieter shook his head. "Maybe later, swabs should be all right for now. I understand you have quite prominent lymph nodes in your mouth."

Clark opened his mouth and lifted his tongue. He recognised the fascinated delight on Pieter's face; no researcher he'd met so far could disguise their delight at his xenobiology, marvelling in the parallel evolution between Krypton and Earth that resulted in superficially similar species.

"This is enough. I'd like to take a blood sample from you and Kon-el but that can wait."

"Half that time is me gathering the nerve to let kryptonite near my system," Clark joked. "Kon just dives in there."

Pieter's awed expression reverted to a more open one. "May I ask you a personal question?"

"You're my doctor; it's your job to ask personal questions."

The doctor gestured to a stool, taking one for himself and fiddling with his pen as he shifted to a comfortable position. "My parents adopted me when I was eighteen months," he began slowly. Shaking his head, he stared at the ceiling. "Give me a second. I'm not really sure how to phrase this."

"Take your time," said Clark.

Pieter twirled his pen for a few more seconds before speaking. "I guess what I'm getting at is I understand why this child and Kon are so important to you. I don't remember anything about my life before my parents adopted my older brother and me. They're great parents; they tried to teach us as much about our heritage as they could. But there's always that weird pause when you realise you don't quite fit the mould."

Nodding, Clark said, "You feel like something's missing."

"Exactly. A lot of adoptees see their own children as a way of filling that missing piece. They may not know their roots but through their children, they'll retroactively gain roots. It's very common and normal to feel this way. There are a lot of support groups for adopting parents and adoptees themselves but, understandably--" here the doctor smiled wryly-- "you probably didn't have much exposure to them."

"I think I did when I was really little. I remember having a special playgroup called Chosen Children," said Clark. "I didn't last long; I'm guessing something 'special' came up."

"There are actually a few of us, adoptees and adopters, in the League but I know you value your privacy so that may not be an option for you. Should you need me, I'm very open to questions outside of the medical-surgical."

Swallowing down the tightness in his throat, Clark said, "You've already done so much for us. I don't want to impose."

"Etta's probably saying the same thing to Lois," Pieter assured him. "We talked it over the other day. Her training involves a lot more interdisciplinary involvement; my personal experience inclines me towards the same. And, let's face it, everyone in this place could use a shrink."

Clark let out a laugh. After promising to contact Pieter or Etta at least once a month, he headed for the hangar, arriving there just as the Batwing landed. Conner jumped out before it even landed, his grin wide and infectious. "It's a relief to know after three months with Batman, you can still smile."

"I can be serious." Conner schooled his face into a blank mask. It lasted for all of four seconds.

"Good thing a north wind didn't blow or your face would have frozen." Clark leaned down to whisper, "I have it on good authority that his face is like that because of all the bat guano on the floor of the Cave."

"Dad!" Shaking his head, both embarrassed and amused, Conner headed for the entrance with Robin at his side.

As Batman passed by, he said, "I heard that, alien."

"I know you did, Grim-- Batman." Clark held a hand out, blocking Batman's way. "Thanks again for agreeing to train him as well as coming for this meeting. My announcement will probably require reshuffling of duties and as Conn's mentor, you'll have to make a even more of a contribution than you're used to."

"You knew this would happen."

Clark didn't reply.

"Occasionally, you're almost smarter than you look which isn't saying much."

Clark felt the intense need to key the Batwing.

"Regretting your invitation to train him yet?"

"Ask me again when Conner finally gets bored," Clark shot back. "I give it another month. Do you have expensive, breakable heirlooms in your house?"

A minute pause interrupted the smoothness of Batman's stride. Clark passed him, mentally tallying: Superman = 1, Batman = 1 and the meeting hadn't even started.

Only the members present in the Watchtower came, leaving half the chairs empty. Ollie slid one seat away, yanking Conner between himself and Clark. The rest of the members spread around the oblong table with the exception of J'Onn who stayed on monitor duty.

"What's up, Supes?" asked Dinah. "You look like you're about to announce the death of Santa Claus."

He smiled tightly, took a deep breath, then tried for a more natural expression. "Nothing that serious. I just wanted to officially announce my semi-retirement."

Arsenal entered at that moment and tripped on the doorjamb.

Dinah cracked a laugh. "Oh, no, not at all serious. Just a founding member and one-person deployment team going part-time. What's really happening?" She looked to Ollie as well. Ollie shrugged and lifted his hands helplessly.

"My reasons are personal." That came out wrong, stiff and formal again. Clark tried again. "I want to spend more time with my family. My... my wife is pregnant and having a very hard time with it."

At the word "pregnant," the most of the members discretely and not-so-discretely peeked at Diana's abdomen, searching for a baby bump. Arsenal fell out of his seat.

Batman whirled around on his chair and glared at him. "Control yourself."

"Sorry! I just hear pregnant and Superman then my brain went to a weird place." Arsenal shuddered. "It's like learning your grandparents had sex."

"I hope you don't mind my calling you often," Clark told him. "You're more experienced with this whole baby business than I am."

"I... uh... well, sure I, guess." His ears blushed to match his hair.

Grace raised her hand. "We'll be out the equivalent of three members with you away. How are we going to arrange the schedules?"

"Superboy will share my calls. Batman has kindly agreed to give him further training on top of J'Onn's telepathic exercises. I'm very confident he'll be more than capable for the job." He placed a hand on Conner's shoulder. His son sent him a beaming sideways glance and for five whole seconds, he was cool in his teenager son's eyes. Eat that, Batman.

Etta Khang is played by Margaret Cho. I've taken her character from Etta Candy, a long-time secondary character in the Wonder Woman mythos. There, she has been Diana classmate and her co-worker, filling in roles such as Wonder Woman's peppy sidekick, her self-consicous roommate, a career Air Force officer, a counsellor and an intelligence officer.

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