The desk was covered in papers, some she recognized from when Roy had taken similar classes; some she doesn’t (so, probably homework from Batman). Conner and M’gann had been constantly on the run, studying for their SAT’s, studying with one group and then another and then another. She can’t recall how many times she’d had to wake Conner and M’gann up for training since exam fever set in. It seemed that he hadn’t had time to clean up.
She shuffled the papers, separating American Lit from Pre-Cal; U.S. History from Physics. It was a mindless action, something she had done for Roy back when he was younger; and she almost doesn’t notice when she stumbles on something that’s not school work. It’s a picture of her; she doesn’t quite recognize a portrait of herself, smiling softly at something just beyond the edge of the paper.
She set it aside carefully, surprised to see how Conner views her, and discovered more pictures, Kaldur, M’gann, Robin, Artemis, Wally, and even Roy, dozens of drawings, all incredibly detailed. But it’s not just that. There’s real emotion behind them, and some of the most life-like eyes she’s ever seen. She sorted through all of the pictures and noticed that there’s almost everyone in the League in them, except Superman.
She took a seat at the newly-organized desk and looked through the drawings one more time; which made the comparison even more startling. She saw pictures of Captain Cold, the Terror Twins, an older Snapper Carr than she’s used to seeing (and isn’t that a surprise), Icicle Jr., and even Lex Luthor, but nowhere, in the dozens of drawings that she sorts through does she see the Man of Steel.
It’s disconcerting. She knows that Conner and Superman don’t talk, even after a year, but there’s been no evidence to suggest that Conner doesn’t, at the very least, admire him. But there’s nothing, nothing there.
She frowned and made a split-second decision, she took the stack of drawings with her.
She knew that something wasn’t right but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. She would show them to Batman, to see if the World’s Greatest Detective could put to words what was wrong with this picture.
She took the entire stack, but kept the drawing of her separate from the rest.
She’s sure that she has an extra frame lying around her apartment somewhere.
Batman scans all the pictures before leaving them on Conner’s desk, Conner doesn’t even realize that they’re missing, and Bruce makes a notice to himself to start leaving brochures for the premier art colleges and Wayne Foundation Scholarships around Mount Justice.
He steeples his fingers and takes a closer look at the pictures on the screen. There are quite a few pictures of the team among the pile, Batman tells himself that he will scold Superboy for potentially blowing his cover, there are also pictures of himself, Black Canary, and Red Tornado, there are even a few of Icicle Jr. Speaking of which, Bruce needs to remind Conner that visiting hours are on Sunday.
He does notice what Canary had though, it’d be impossible not to. There are no pictures of Superman in the entire collection.
There are a few pictures of Superboy, Conner, himself, but none of the man who was by all rights was his father.
That could prove troubling.
The last thing they needed was a super strong teenage boy, who could possibly grow to be as strong as Superman, to have a father complex.
Not knowing what to do now with him now, a year of Superboy’s discovery.
He’ll let the matter lie for now, but he’ll wait to see what happens.
He left the pictures up just in case a little bird might want to look in on it.
Robin, to be quite honest, was not that surprised to find that Superboy had some sort of hidden talent. Ever since he’d started school he’d calmed down; drawing was obviously something that had helped him. He actually thought it was pretty asterous. Robin himself was quite the little songbird.
He really couldn’t see what Batman was freaking out about. So what if Conner hadn’t drawn the Big Blue Boy Scout?
No one on the team was particularly happy with him. Besides it’s not like Conner was going around talking about how he wanted to kill Superman, if was something like that he’d be worried, but it wasn’t, so he wasn’t worried.
“This is really good, Conner!” M’gann didn’t know much about drawing or painting, there was little need for things like that on Mars (where images could just be put into your mind), but there was no doubt, even to her untrained eyes that Conner had talent, and lots of it.
"Where'd you learn how to do this?" She sifted through the papers, her estimation of her boyfriend's talent getting higher and higher with each drawing.
He blushed. Unused to this kind of praise for something outside of missions or training. "I just, draw what I see, it's not that hard, I could, um, show you if you want me to." Even after they'd been dating for so long he still got shy around her sometimes.
"No thank you, I think my handwriting is an indicator of how badly that would turn out." (It was true, M'gann's handwriting was kind of bad, even if only because before she'd come to Earth, there'd been little need for her to learn how to write or use any form of writing on Mars, that kind of work was saved for Scribes)
"It's not that bad." He muttered.
She giggled. "Don't worry, Conner, it's that bad, and nowhere near as nice as yours or even Artemis'."
"But really," She got back onto the topic of his artwork. "Have you thought about going to school for Art? Like getting a degree in Art?"
"I'm not that good, M'gann. They're kind of bad. I mean, there are so many people better than I am. Like, there's this guy named Marcus To who does the artwork for this comic called-” He trailed off, as if he was just realizing how much of himself he was giving away.
"I didn't know that you read comics, Conner."
"Well, not really, I just like looking at the art and-"
"Well maybe you could be an artist for a comic book company."
"I'm not that good, really, M'gann believe me."
She nodded, not quite understanding what he had against his drawing.
Artemis took the pile of drawings that had been left out on the counter and started flipping through them. Hm, these are really good. Maybe she could get whoever drew these to help her in her art class, which she was failing, badly. Very badly.
Conner walked into the living room, obviously searching for something. She watched him for a moment, appreciating his very good looks for a moment (hey, she wasn't blind), before calling out to him.
"Hey, Supes, you looking for something?"
He stood up and looked at her, immediately zooming in on the stack of drawings in her hands.
She rolled her eyes; he was obviously looking at what was in her hands. She looked down at the sketches, and the next second her brain made the connection. "Did you draw these? They're really good."
He blushed. "Yes… They're not that good."
"Yeah," She snorted. "And I'm the queen of England. Look, I really need the help in Art, and these are at the very least decent, so would you mind giving me a hand?"
He gave a long-suffering sigh, something she was going to assume that he'd learned from Kaldur, and sat down at the counter next to her. "What do you need help with?" She pulled out her sketchbook.
"Perspective, mostly; shading, definitely."
"Well, let me see."
“So, what’s up with the lack of Superman?”
He shrugged not commenting on it, too focused on figuring out the weak points of her art.
She repeated the question.
He stopped looking briefly. “Huh? What’d you say?”
He obviously didn’t want to answer the question, so she didn’t press anymore. After all, she understood Daddy issues better than most people.
Batman hadn’t meant to leave the pictures up on the Batcomputer, really, he hadn’t. Also, just because Clark could technically access the Batcave at any moment, doesn’t mean he had to.
“Who drew these?” Superman asked, and Batman was almost surprised by his voice.
“Superboy.” Batman deadpanned and not-so secretly enjoyed the wince it brought out of Superman. The name of his clone only seemed to make Superman withdraw his eyes for a few seconds. After that, his eyes were unexplainably drawn back to the screen.
“Where am I?” Superman muttered, almost too quiet to hear.
“He didn’t draw you.” Batman stated.
“But why?” Superman asked.
“Why do care Clark?” Batman asked.
“Keep telling yourself that, now, what do you want, Clark?”
Batman and Superman got down to business, but all the while, those pictures hung in the back of Clark’s mind, taunting him, about what he didn’t know, but they taunted him all the same.
Clark sat at his desk, thinking about the sketches he’d been looking at earlier.
He’d never been one for any of the arts. Journalism was, after a fashion, one. But it wasn’t the same as music or cinema or art. Those things he’d never had the aptitude or talent for. Superboy did.
He opened a new tab in Google Chrome, and typed in “the ethics of cloning”.
He clicked on the first link.
“If we’re going to clone people (which is something I hope we never do), we have to acknowledge the fact that by virtue of them being alive, they are a real person, with thoughts, ideas, and feelings…” -René Auberjonois
He closed the tab; he didn’t think that he needed to read the rest.
Conner scowled down at his paper, glaring at it like it had done him some personal harm, before crumpling it up and throwing behind him.
He started on a fresh piece of paper, taking great care to start out lightly.
There was the outline of the face, one well-defined cheekbone, and then two. With short strokes he drew the slicked back hair, before finally making the signature curl. He drew the outline of lips and a nose. Finally, he attempted the eyes.
First the shape, the easiest part; then the outline of the iris. The eyelashes are drawn long, but not too long and not too thick (so that he doesn’t look too feminine); just long enough to display the iris in between them.
Then comes the shading of the iris, and, as usual, the drawing falls apart.
The eyes were always what killed him. He looked at what his hands had shown him, harsh lines filled the iris. Their harshness misplaced among the soft, cheerful lines of the face.
He could never get the face to fit with the eyes. The face was always open and welcoming, but the eyes were always harsh and judging. He scowled, crossing out the entire picture with a giant X before crumpling it up and throwing it behind him.
He grabbed a new sheet of paper, intent on trying again, but Wally knocked on his door. “Conner, it’s time to go!”
He sighed and grabbed his wallet; maybe a movie would make him feel better.
Superman is surprised to he find himself at Mount Justice. It’s rare that he gets the time to fly around aimlessly, what with natural disasters and crimes constantly going on, but today he had the time and his idle flying had led him to the base of Young Justice.
The base is empty, quiet. He lets his feet guide him around the base, inevitably bringing him back to his old room. He wonders who stays in there now. The door opens with a light push, and he finds himself walking into what is undoubtedly a teenager’s room.
The floor, at least, is mostly clean, but the walls are covered in pictures, posters, and other assorted knick knacks. He goes further into the room and steps on a crumpled piece of paper.
Without thinking he unfurls it, only to see a picture of himself. It’s a good picture, not finished, but his face had been crossed out angrily, the dark X standing out harshly against the light pencil marks of the sketch. A connection is made somewhere in his brain and he realizes whose room he’s in. Superboy’s room.
“Can he really not draw me without getting angry?” His chest aches at the thought, and he doesn’t quite understand why. He had no responsibility to the boy, no matter what Batman said. He’d never had any choice in the boy’s birth. Then he had shown up in the rubble of CADMUS and Clark—Superman had been at a loss of what to do.
He was still at a loss of what to do now.
He was so lost in his thoughts he didn’t notice when the door to the room opened behind him.
He turned around, and looked Superboy straight in the eye.
They stood there, just staring at each other for a few long seconds before Superboy pushed past him, threw his stuff down on his bed, and stormed out of the room.
Conner couldn’t remember the last time he’d been so angry. Sure, he was glad Superman had come to visit him, ecstatic even, but where did he get off showing up in his room and invading his privacy, after ignoring him for damn near a year?
Superman could do this to him, it wasn’t fair.
He ran past everyone in the common room, intent on getting as far away as possible from his asshole of a genetic donor.
“Hey Supey! What’s wrong?” He heard Wally’s question but ignored it, only focused on making it to the door.
Superman came rushing out of the room, “Wait, Superboy!”
The rev of a motorcycle leaving the mountain was louder than it should have been.
Superman sighed, looked at the drawing in his hand and left Mount Justice, to see if he could convince Superboy to talk to him.
He followed Superboy through cloud cover, watching him break all sorts of traffic laws until he finally came to a stop in an abandoned corn field somewhere just west of Metropolis.
He flew down, Superboy scowled at him. “What do you want?”
“I wanted to talk to you.”
“Well that’s new.” It was muttered under his breath, like Superman wasn’t supposed to hear it, but they both knew that he had super-hearing.
“I just wanted to tell you that…” He trailed off, not quite sure what he wanted to tell the young boy. That he was a great artist, that he was sorry, that he didn’t deserve the way Super—Clark had been treating him, just something, anything.
“You don’t need to tell me anything. I’ve gotten what you haven’t said so far loud and clear.”
Superman wanted to protest; to yell at Superboy because he wasn’t listening, that he needed to give him a chance. But then a little voice in the back of his head spoke, ‘you mean, like the chance you gave him?’
“I’m sorry, Super…boy, I’m sorry that I didn’t know what to do before.”
The younger Kryptonian turned to look at his elder, surprise written all over his face.
“Maybe… Maybe we could try again?”
He didn’t reply for a minute; the bottom of Superman’s stomach fell out.
“My name isn’t Superboy, its Conner, Conner Kent.” If Superman was surprised by his last name, he didn’t show it.
“My name’s Clark. Clark Kent. It’s nice to meet you, Conner.” He smiled at Conner then, his eyes bright and approving.
Conner didn’t quite smile back, still guarded from months of neglect, but it was close enough.
“It’s nice to meet you, Clark.”
The next day, when he was on monitor duty at the Watchtower, Batman handed him a manila envelope.
Neatly in the middle was written. ‘To: Superman, From: Superboy’
He opened it and found a picture of himself, smiling and majestic in bright colors against the Metropolis skyline. Later that night, he framed it and set it next to his computer at the Daily Planet.