It had taken a whole three minutes and 37 seconds, but Bart had finally come up with a system that worked. The Bart Allen Food-Crisis Matrix (TM) was probably - no, definitely - his best idea ever. Any problem that came up, any emotional crisis that his friends faced, he could now find the perfect baked good to present them with. Death of a loved one? Cake! Evil future clone? Scones! Learning the truth of one's parentage? Cookies!
"What if it's the death of your evil future girlfriend's clone, who you'd just learned was actually your mother?" Kon asked, when Bart had finished explaining this it him. Bart's hands flew to his mouth.
"Oh no! Your girlfriend's your Mom?"
"What? No, dude, no! Anyway, we broke up."
"Oh." Bart relaxed. "Anyway, I have planned for all eventualities. All you need to do is follow the arrows and -" he traced his fingers down the piece of paper, slowly, for Kon's benefit. "Apple turnovers!"
Kon didn't look convinced. "I don't know, man, I'm not sure that I'd want to eat an apple turnover if I'd just found out that the chick I'd been tapping was my mother's clone."
"It's fine," Bart replied testily. "It's perfect, in fact."
It wasn't perfect, Bart realized the next day. School had finished early so he'd gone for a jog and wound up in London. He'd run into Squire, who he didn't know that well, but she was chasing down a British speedster so naturally he'd offered to give her a hand. And afterwards he joined her for a coffee (even though he'd thought people in England only drank tea) and she'd mentioned that one of the "blokes" from her mentor's rogue's gallery had died.
"He'd given up crime in the end, more or less," she told Bart sadly. "Some of the young ones coming up now are complete tossers, but he was OK. Guess it's harder on Knight than on me."
Bart had excused himself for 56 seconds to run home and consult his chart, and that's when it had hit him. The Bart Allen Food-Crisis Matrix (TM) had only been focused on the needs of contemporary America! There was no way he could present a chocolate and raspberry pie (with toffee sauce) to a British hero! They put meat in pies over there! He clasped his own throat in horror. Was this a panic attack? What on earth was he going to give her?
Eventually he returned, five seconds late, and presented the bemused hero with a ham and asparagus quiche.
Bart and cell phones didn't get along. It was something about the Speed Force - he had no sooner to move and the devices would stop working. If anyone wanted to contact him they had to stick to a good old-fashioned landline - or, if they were someone with Khaji-Da imbedded deep under their skin, call the nearest cell phone that didn't belong to Bart.
"Dude, Beetle's on the phone for you." Kon sounded grumpy, but then he was pretty intense about other people using his iPhone. Bart made sure to cradle it very carefully as he asked Jaime how he was.
"Oh, you know," Jaime sighed. "Giant robot attacked the town the other day and it took me hours to beat it. Hours." Bart nodded. What were giant robots? Cupcakes, he was sure. Apple blossom cupcakes or orange cupcakes? He'd have to double-check. "- come over and give me some training practice, like you said. Bring Superboy too, if he wants."
"What?" asked Bart, and then his brain caught up to his ears. "Oh. Yeah! Training sounds fun! I'll be there in -" he dropped the phone, flew to the kitchen, grabbed his folder of recipes and checked the baking time for orange cupcakes, then was back to catch the phone before it hit the ground - "32 minutes. Approximately," he added, as a precaution.
"What was that all about?" Kon wanted to know.
"Giant robot cupcakes," Bart replied distractedly. "Jaime wants our help training this afternoon."
"Me and you?" Kon said, and his face brightened.
"What would you do if the one person you resented more than anything - but desperately wanted to impress - suddenly turned out to be not dead after all?" the new Batgirl demanded as they waited for the police to show. Bart had never fought a man in a giraffe mask before.
"Bagels," he told her firmly.
There was a pause. "No," she said eventually. "I don't think he's a bagels kind of guy."
Actually, Bart hadn't thought to include personal taste in the chart. Actually, he'd built it solely based on his admittedly limited notions of 21st century social constructs and the back-catalogue of Martha Stewart books at his local library. He was beginning to see he was going to have to rethink quite a lot of the Bart Allen Food-Crisis Matrix (TM)
"What about cheeseboards?"
"Dude, give it up."
Bart was back to square one, and even after 16 minutes of thinking really hard about it, he wasn't getting anywhere. And Kon wasn't being any help.
"How am I ever going to know the appropriate response in every - in any - situation if I can't figure this out?" he said, finally. Kon heaved a sigh.
"People don't talk to you 'cos they want food. I mean - it's meant to be a gesture, not a - I mean, Ma makes the most amazing lemon meringue pie when Kara comes over and she's being all sad about Krypton, but..." Kon looked uncomfortable.
"You mean, food is a tangible source of comfort, but sometimes people are looking for a more intangible, emotional support?"
"Uh, I guess. Yeah." Kon cleared his throat. "You couldn't plan for every eventuality anyway. Like, you couldn't plan for - um, for example - falling in love with your best friend. Even though he's never noticed it, and you totally always thought you were only into the ladies."
There was something about the way he said it, the way he wasn't looking at Bart as the words came tumbling out. He was talking about himself, Bart realized. "Oh my God. You're in love with Tim?"
"Dude, I'm in love with you."
"Oh," said Bart. And then, "Oh!"
Later, they went out for pizza. It wasn't on the Matrix at all, but it seemed like the right thing to do.