Back to the "present" we go! With the exception of this prologue here, the rest of this Part takes place later on in the evening after the Epilogue/Prologue at the end of Part One. I apologize for this update taking so long—as I've already mentioned once back in Flashback #2, my medical situation has been a little more precarious over the last couple of weeks than we initially anticipated, and this Part has undergone some major reconstruction as I've edited it the last week or so. The story is still the exact same one that I had in mind when I initially wrote this; it's just been restructured for POV consistency and I've added this second prologue for a little more perspective on the story in general. I didn't intend on giving you guys access to the conversation in this Prologue until later on in the narrative, but given some of the feedback I've received on Flashback #1, I think it might help with my characterization to let you read it now.
The following two chapters of this piece still need to be proofread, but I've mostly finished the true "revising" and "editing", so hopefully they shouldn't take too long after this one to post!
Unfortunately, there is still a large amount of angst in this Part, due to Part One still being largely unresolved in regards to the news revealed in the Epilogue/Prologue, but the tension will be resolved in Chapter Two of this Part, and Part Three will mostly be back to "fluff". I don't want to say more than that at this point in time, because I would like to avoid spoilers, but I did want to warn you about that before you got into the thick of Chapters One and Two and were wondering why I made the decisions that I did.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read, and let me know what you think
Approximately a week and a half before Nesting: Part One.
"Yes, dear," Clark flashed a handsome grin across the deactivated robot at Diana and grinned even bigger when Diana huffed and rolled her eyes in response. A once strong attraction between the two of them had long since faded into what Clark could only describe as a sibling-like care and devotion to one another, and Clark enjoyed pushing all of the buttons that came with that station as often as he could. "We are in my city—"
"Spare me your sermon," one of Diana's hands waved carelessly through the air as the other rested atop her sword hilt, and Clark's lips pursed. He'd been on his way back from checking into some bogus small time story about some new kind of moss in the Park when Clock Frame or Clock Brain or whatever the guy's name was had attacked the city, and Clark had taken the opportunity to change into his cape and let off some of his pent up steam as he helped Diana wrestle the machine to the ground. The guy inside was just some revenge-obsessed human, hell bent on destroying everything he could find, so the police had taken him away almost immediately, but the robot was too big for the humans to lift without bringing in cranes—which would have taken weeks to acquire—so Clark had offered to stick around and help clean up as an excuse to stay away from the office and the troubles he knew were waiting for him as long as he could. "It is my month to run the League in conjunction with Green Arrow, and I will give all of the frivolous orders and explanations as I see fit, while you sit around and listen to them patiently. Hello, again, Superboy."
"Hey, Wonder Woman," Conner gave a lazy wave as he descended from the heavens above them. "The Stratosphere and the Mesosphere are all clear."
"Good to know," Diana relaxed ever so slightly, and Clark would never stop being thankful that she'd given up her grudge against the young alpha for breaking her protégée's heart when he went after his bond with Timothy all of those years ago. "That will make it easier to clean all of this up."
"I know what you mean," Conner flashed a much better natured grin at the older woman than Clark had as he reached down to grab his own piece of the destroyed robot on the ground, and this time, it was Clark rolling his eyes and murmuring underneath of his breath.
"I'm sorry, what was that?" Diana quirked an eyebrow at Clark as she turned her attention back to him, and Clark's shoulders dropped.
"Nothing, highness," he resisted the urge to roll his eyes or huff a sigh. "Anything else you need before you leave?"
"…No," Diana scrutinized him for a moment before she finally answered his question with a quirk to her lips, and Clark ignored the weight of her gaze in favor of grunting as he lifted the arm of the robot up off the ground. "That will be all. There's a minor disturbance down in Brazil I must assist with—will you be okay to stay and help Superman clean up, Superboy?"
"Sure," Conner nodded his head. "Call me if you need me down in Brazil, alright?"
"Of course," Diana spared a second to send him a small smile before she shot up into the air, taking one more look around the Metropolis intersection before she flew off South, and for as annoyed as Clark was with Conner's presence at times, Clark had to admit he was proud of how far he'd come. Things were quiet for a couple of minutes after that as Conner and Clark collected robot pieces from around the road and carried them over to the transport trucks that Diana had called in—or as quiet as it could get in the middle of a gigantic city—and Clark was thankful for that, until he moved on to the main control cavity of the robot and Conner floated down beside him.
"Need a hand with that, Old Man?"
"I will put you in a headlock and break all of your Wendy the Werewolf Stalker DVDs in half," Clark glared at him.
"No, you won't," Conner barked a laugh, and Clark could feel his eyes glow.
"Yes, I will—"
"B was the one who bought them for me," Conner sent another grin in Clark's direction—this one distinctly from the 'shit eating' category, based on Ma's old scale—and Clark was only able to hang onto his anger for approximately two and a half more seconds before his shoulders dropped.
"Yeah, you're right," he sighed, turning his gaze back to the robot. "Even I'm not stupid enough to do that, but…I will still put you in a headlock."
"I'd like to see you try," Conner's hand came down on his shoulder, and once again Clark ignored the urge to roll his eyes. "But anyway, you want a hand with this?"
"Sure," Clark nodded his head, studying the giant cockpit in front of them. "I was thinking about just ripping it in half so it's easier to manage."
"That sounds like a good enough plan to me—I don't think the trucks are big enough to hall of it at once, anyway. You want me to circle around to the other side?"
"Nah, I'll go," Clark shook his head as he pushed off of the ground and into the sky. "And to answer your question before you ask—relationship issues."
"Ah," Conner made a noncommittal noise that sounded more reluctant than sympathetic in response to Clark's explanation as to why he was so cranky, and Clark's eyebrows furrowed as he flew up over the giant sphere-like structure.
"You don't have to sound so surprised."
Clark knew that nobody particularly approved of the relationship he was in (hadn't for years), but—
"I'm…I'm not going to say anything either way on this one, Dad," it was rare that Conner pulled out the "Dad" card, but typically when he did, it was because he was trying to pacify Clark, and Clark knew that, too. "You know my opinions on the matter, but what you do with your life and where you stick your knot is up to you. As long as you aren't hurting anybody, I'm not going to question that."
"You know you sound like a high school textbook sometimes?" Clark grit back, instead of giving Kon a proper response to his words.
"Byproduct of being raised by Lex Luthor," Conner shot back, and yeah, okay.
"I deserved that, didn't I?" he spun in the air and regarded the robot in front of him—looking for rivets or hidden explosives that they needed to be careful of.
"Just a bit," Clark didn't need to look through the robot to know that Conner was nodding his head. "But it's all good… Are you busy after we're done here, or do you have somewhere you need to be?"
"I mean, I've got to get back to work eventually, but technically, I'm still out running down a scoop, so I've got some time," Clark answered, only half paying attention to Conner's words as his brain filtered through information about the robot that his body had ascertained through his various senses. "Why?"
"Oh, no reason—I was just wondering if maybe you had a minute we could talk?" Conner's voice tilted up in question, and while Clark couldn't put his finger on the emotion that underscored his tone, Clark's muscles tensed at the uncertainty in Conner's voice. "It's cool if you don't—I was just—"
"There's an ice cream stand over on third that I've been meaning to take you to," Clark cut Conner off calmly as he reached down to grab the robot, situating himself in the best place to rip the robot apart without causing any more damage to the asphalt it was lying on. "We could head over and check that out for a couple of minutes before I have to leave."
"I…I would like that," Conner's answer came a couple of seconds later as he positioned himself diagonally across from Clark, and Clark spared a moment to give an, "okay", before he got back to business with a loud snarl, and roughly fifteen minutes later found the two of them a couple of streets over—floating in the air with Clark's cape billowing out behind them as Clark handed a twenty dollar bill over to the owner of the cart.
"Keep the change," he flashed the man a "Superman" smile, before he turned and looked over at Conner. An unspoken agreement passed between the two of them as their eyes met, and barely a heartbeat later they were taking off in tandem, rising through the air, only to land on the roof of an apartment building somewhere across the way. They sat there in silence for about a half of a minute, licking at their respective cones as Clark watched the birds flying below and Conner seemingly got lost in his own thoughts, before Clark spoke back up, again. "So, what do you think?"
"What?" Conner furrowed his eyebrows as he looked over at Clark, and Clark suddenly realized how Diana must have felt dealing with his antics earlier.
"The ice cream, Conner."
"Oh, that—right—it's good!" Conner stumbled over his words as he looked back to the cone in his hand and Clark found himself looking down at the chocolate dessert, too. "It's a little strong for my liking, but its nice and thick—would probably pair well with some strawberry!"
"I prefer the mint chocolate chip my self, but they didn't have any today," Clark rambled, taking another lick of his own. As Conner had said, the stuff was nice and thick and Clark was thinking about nabbing the recipe that the owner used and taking it back to Jason so the omega could try to replicate it. "I stumbled upon the place a couple of weeks ago. I was out doing some shopping, and they were having a sale for their 'Grand Opening' of the year, and I decided to grab myself some—I'm glad now that I did because I've been there just about every day since, but…the ice cream wasn't the only reason you stuck around, was it?"
"No," Conner shook his head, giving a small sigh as he did so. "No, it wasn't."
Clark expected Conner to say something after that, to go on and explain why he'd asked Clark to hang around or ask about whatever it was that he had on his mind, but he just went back to absently licking at his ice cream as he watched the sun on the horizon until Clark was finally forced to speak up again.
"Is there something wrong?" he asked impatiently, if not a little cautiously.
"No…no, everything's fine—it's just…have you noticed anything different about Tim, recently?" Conner asked tentatively, his heels kicking back against the concrete of the building as he did so, and Clark immediately stiffened the same way that he did whenever anybody mentioned one of the Wayne Boys being in trouble. "Physically, I mean. It's just—does he seem different to you?"
"No," Clark shook his head slowly, thinking back over the last couple of times he'd seen Tim as he answered. A handful of times on various League Missions as Red Robin over the previous month; once or twice down in the Cave as Clark brought evidence of some kind to Bruce for analysis while Tim was half-out of uniform at the Computer in the last fortnight; the Sunday previous at Church with Ma… "I haven't noticed anything wrong with him the last couple of times I've seen him…why? Is everything okay between the two of you? Are you fighting?"
"No—not at all," Conner shook his head emphatically, and Clark relaxed a little bit as Conner cut off in order to duck down and lick a melting bit of his ice cream from the edge of his cone. "Tim and I are fine—better than fine, actually!"
Conner struggled with his ice cream for moment, but Clark watched as his face lit up and his lips stretched out into a love sick smile after he'd righted himself, and Clark couldn't help but smile, too, as he watched Conner pick absently at a frayed thread of his jeans.
Even though he'd had been a full time member of the League for over two years, Conner refused to give up his old codename and his old uniform, and Clark would be lying if he said he didn't envy him the ease and comfort of that sometimes.
"You know he's planning on taking a couple of weekends off of work this summer so he can come out to the farm with me?" Conner's gaze flicked over to Clark out of the corners of his eyes, and Clark sometimes wondered if that was how humans felt looking into other humans' eyes all of the time. Mesmerized by all of the blending colors and the depth of joy he could practically feel radiating off of Conner. There had only ever been one other being's gaze who had enraptured him so—pulled Clark in until he was drowning is swirling shades of deep blue and gray and could hardly breathe anymore and—
"No, I didn't," Clark shook his head, smiling in spite of the pain he felt spiking up through his chest at his latest train of smothered thought. "Does Ma know about them, yet?"
"Yes," Conner beamed, his eyes returning to the horizon. "We'll have to head back to Gotham for his heat, because the last time Ma let us use the barn I almost killed that delivery guy, but…the plan is for him to come out basically every weekend in July and August, so I don't lose so much time with the cows and the gardens. He's going to come out for Fair, too."
"That's wonderful, Conner," Clark reached over to lay a hand on Conner's shoulder, and Clark didn't think it was possible, but Conner's smile grew even bigger. "Really—it is."
"Thanks, C," Conner leaned into the hand on his shoulder. "I'm really looking forward to it. It's just…you haven't noticed anything different about him?"
Conner's joy quickly faded into a quiet kind of worry, and Clark was reminded of where their conversation had started.
"He doesn't seem, I don't know…more stressed or tired or something?" Conner's eyebrows furrowed as he looked back over at Clark. "Kind of like he hasn't been sleeping or something? I was looking the other day, and I thought I saw something weird about his uterine cavity, but I'm not sure—"
"I'm sorry, Conner, but no—I haven't noticed anything," Clark squeezed Conner's shoulder with the hand still resting there. "You know that I run preliminary checks on each of them whenever I see them, just to make sure that B hasn't missed anything, but I'm afraid I only look at the most at-risk areas, and typically uterine cavities don't fall under that category—at least not when it comes to injuries. Now that I know you're concerned, I can take a look at him the next time I see him or pull him aside and ask…?"
"No, you don't have to talk to him," Conner shook his head before he took another distracted lick of his ice cream cone, and Clark watched the pinch of his face with concern. "I'm probably just overreacting, but…would you mind taking a look the next time you see him to make sure I'm not missing something?"
"Sure thing, son," Clark found himself nodding his head. "Ma and I are planning on coming out to the Manor the night after tomorrow for dinner—you feel comfortable waiting that long?"
"Yeah, of course," Conner nodded his head. "That's fine! I'm not in any real rush—I know nothing bad is going on, just…if you get a minute?"
"Not a problem," Clark dismissed his concern with a firm nod of his head, and gave Conner's shoulder another squeeze. "But that concern aside—I should really get going—"
"Me, too," Conner gave a gruff sigh as he shifted to slip his phone out of his pocket. "It's getting on 4:30, and I still have a three hour shift before I can head back to Gotham, and Aunt Diana's calling for back up down in Brazil."
"Earthquake?" Clark quirked an eyebrow, having missed whatever the commotion was.
"Close," Conner hummed distractedly as he tip-tapped away at his keyboard, and Clark resisted the urge to peek over his shoulder when he realized that Conner was texting his mate in between checking for updates from the League. "Bane's running a Venom outpost off of the coast."
"Ah," Clark nodded his head in a way that he hoped came off looking wise and sage (but probably didn't). "I see. Isn't Brazil a little far south for Bane?"
"Little bit," Conner shrugged, that love sick smile taking over his face once again as he responded to whatever Tim's response was before he turned his phone off and slipped it back down into his pocket with another sigh. "But that's the job, isn't it? You mind checking in with the lab to make sure that those trucks arrived on time, for me?"
"You and Diana do realize I've been doing this whole superhero thing longer than one of you has been alive, right?" Clark was less than amused.
"Yeah, yeah," Conner more or less ignored his indignation, and Clark fought the urge to freeze him with his Blizzard Breath as Conner clapped him on the shoulder and squeezed again. "See you the night after tomorrow, then?"
"Tell Alfred Ma's bringing mashed potatoes," Clark's face had contorted itself into something between a glare and a pout.
"Will do," Conner nodded his head once in acknowledgment before he dropped his hand from Clark's shoulder and pushed himself away from the building with half of his ice cream cone still in his hand. "And, hey, C?"
"Yeah?" Clark asked as the boy looked back over his shoulder and hesitated.
"You're welcome," Clark gave a genuine—if not small—smile, before he gestured with his head towards the general direction of south. "Now go—before Diana comes back and castrates me for keeping you from your job."
"Sure thing, boss," Conner flashed him a grin, and Clark watched as he floated up and away, until Conner wrapped a shield of TTK around himself and shot off towards the horizon.
Clark counted his heartbeats until Conner was out of relative ear and eyeshot—or at least far enough away that he wouldn't notice Clark's actions, seventeen slow thumps in all—and promptly slumped down in his makeshift-seat and furrowed his eyebrows as he digested all of the things that Conner had revealed to him. It wasn't common for the Bats to get sick—not even with the impossible schedules that they kept—and if Conner was worried enough that he came to Clark for reassurance, whatever was wrong with Tim couldn't be good. Bruce ran more than enough blood work on all of his boys to rule out any kind of an external pathogen, and in spite of what Clark had led Conner to believe, Clark noticed every single change that each of the boys' bodies went through, and Clark hadn't seen anything that would cause the types of changes in Tim's stamina or endurance that Conner was describing, and he'd just seen the omega three days previous, which probably meant that Tim was working himself too hard again, and Conner was just too polite to speak up and voice his concerns to his mate. Clark knew he shouldn't say anything, knew it probably wasn't his place, but Tim already had so much on his plate with the company and the hero-ing and Bruce…
Clark regarded the cone in his hand with a glare for a moment before he just shoved it into his mouth and swallowed all of it down in one go. Usually, he tried to act more human than that—tried to slow down and take proper bites like a civilized member of society—but the ice cream was melting something fierce in the uninhibited spring sun, and Clark had lost his appetite anyway.
The napkin crumpled in his fist, the paper tearing against the strength of Clark's skin and his muscles as Clark continued to contemplate what he was supposed to do about the whole Tim-thing, and not for the first time, Clark just wished there was something around that he could punch without risking the obliteration of a small continent.
"Why do you do this to me?"
As always, the sun gave no answer to Clark's whispered question, but it kept shining warmth and light down onto him, and Clark slowly relaxed back down against the concrete underneath of his legs.
"Thank you, for doing this to me," the words were sighed and fatigued as Clark reached up to run a tired hand over his face, but he meant them nonetheless, and that was what mattered. Misunderstand as people might sometimes, Clark's life on Earth was the only one he'd ever known, and he wouldn't trade it for anything. Not even having Krypton back. Not when Earth had the Justice League and the Sun and the Moon and Clark's half-human son and ice cream and Bruce Wayne and all of Bruce's complicated children.
Clark stayed up on the roof for another minute, just soaking in the sun and listening to the one heartbeat that could calm even the worst of the fears inside of himself before he pushed himself up off of the building with a small grunt.
"Back to work we go," he hummed un-amusedly to himself as he felt his phone vibrate underneath of his suit.
"Yeah, yeah," he grumbled as he fished the little metal device out. "I hear you… Hello—"
"Clark Kent, where the hell are you?" a very angry woman hissed the second that Clark had the phone up to his ear. "You were supposed to be here ten minutes ago, and we've got a meeting with White in fifteen—"
"Yes, dear," Clark sighed and rolled his eyes as he propelled himself in the direction of the Daily Planet. "I'm just down the street—I'll be up in a couple of minutes."
Superboy arrives fifteen minutes late to a drug bust with a chocolate ice cream cone.
Bane is offended that Superboy didn't bring him any, while basically everybody else in confused and Wonder Woman rolls her eyes.
A note on codenames: Kon has very-little-to-no reputation outside of Smallville as Conner Kent, whereas Clark Kent, Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson etc. are basically "household" names, so they're a little freer with his name in public than they are with the others—which is why Clark feels comfortable referring to him as Conner in this, but Kon refrains from returning the favor. Similarly, Diana has no public persona, and neither one of the Kryptonians give any context clues as to who "Tim" is.