Brainy thought it would be easy.
From what he understood, baking was a science. The combination of chemicals in various forms, treated in certain ways to produce something that could have a positive or negative reaction, depending on what was added and how long it was exposed to heat.
Brainy knew this kind of thing, so why was it so difficult?
(That wasn’t even mentioning how messy it was. He hated that. Hated even more that it was one of the few traits he and Brainiac 1 shared- the aversion to organic messes. Something that Superman had used to his advantage, defeating Brainiac with Kara's help at one point in the history files)
Brainy ended up having to search tutorial videos online, which he found humiliating at first. But he was willing to accept indignity if it meant Clark being happy on his birthday.
He thought about calling someone, anyone, to help him outside of that, but he ultimately came to the conclusion that nobody else would be allowed to know about it. They, after all, might expose the secret to Clark- which would ruin the surprise. Which was the very last thing that Brainy wanted.
He’d put it into his mind that this was going to be the best cake ever. It was for Clark, and Clark deserved the best, given who he was- thus, his high standards. He also knew that Clark was going to be judging his baking skills, as he’d grown up cooking. He would easily be able to tell the difference between something good and something bad, and Brainy only hoped his cake would lean towards the former.
But then again, who knew? Clark’s standards could be softened with Brainy. He was Clark’s best friend, and Clark knew from previous attempts that Brainy was not experienced with cooking- and what little experience he did have, those tries had all ended in disaster until Clark cleaned everything up and finished things for him.
That in itself was embarrassing, but Brainy had to admit he was grateful for the help.
This time, though, Clark was far away, and wasn’t going to help him. Brainy wouldn’t have allowed it, not on the day where he was supposed to do nothing but relax and enjoy being alive for one more rotation of the sun.
He ignored the mess he’d made, focusing only on finishing the cake and making it look presentable for Clark’s consumption once he came back. And no sooner than he’d put it on the serving tray and started to light the candles that Clark appeared, kissing him on the forehead and leaving an empty space where flour had been caked before.
Clark wiped the flour off of his lips, and smiled at Brainy, kissing him in full.
“You made this for me?” he asked, after pulling away.
Brainy wordlessly nodded, as Clark grabbed a washcloth and started wiping off the flour and sweat on Brainy’s face, before sitting down and examining the cake properly.
Brainy brought him a fork and knife, as well as a napkin and a plate, as he carefully cut a large piece of the cake and placed it in front of him.
“Wow, thanks.” Clark said, smiling again. “I bet this took you a long time.”
“Mmm-hmm.” Brainy answered. He was biting his lower lip, glancing over at Clark as he started eating. He only hoped Clark wouldn’t notice how nervous he was.
“You know, Brainy…” he said, swallowing. “I don’t mention this to anyone, usually, but I kinda hate my birthday.”
That was the last thing he was expecting.
“It’s February 29th, you know? I mean, in terms of what day it was here on Earth when I was born on Krypton. And my family usually says it’s the 28th, just so I can have a party every year, but… I don’t know. It’s weird. Like, I was already different from everyone else. But I get an additional reminder of that every time I look at my birth certificate, or driver’s license. It would be nice to just have a normal birthday, like everyone else. Like you, probably. Right?”
Brainy nodded. “In Earth terms, I believe mine would be considered to be on December 30th.”
“See? My point exactly. That’s perfectly normal. I’m- well…”
Brainy doesn’t have to be a genius to know what word Clark would say next.
“I know.” Brainy said, covering his hand with his own. “But you’re in good company here. You’re among friends, who each come from different planets. I know for certain that all of us have felt alienated here on Earth, due to our abilities, but we have found our place here, in the Legion. And so have you.”
Clark smiled, trying to eat more of the cake. “I know.”
“Thanks, for everything.” Clark answered. “It’s nice to feel welcome here. I didn’t get enough of that at home.”
“Oh, trust me.” Brainy said. “Neither did I.”
Now, Clark wanted to hug Brainy, but he decided to do so after he finished eating.
“There’s… there’s another reason, why I hate my birthday.” He said slowly.
“And what is that?”
Brainy felt like he had a good idea, but he still wanted to hear it from him.
“My parents… my real parents, they can’t be here to celebrate with me. And even my adoptive parents, they’re all the way in the past. I know time travel works so I can come back the moment I left… but it still feels like I’m spending so much time here that I’m abandoning them. And they’re going to worry about me.”
Brainy squeezed Clark’s hand.
“I believe both of your sets of parents would be proud to see how you’ve grown up.” He said. “Even though you haven’t physically aged here, while training with us.”
Clark gave him a stronger smile.
“Thank you, again.”
Besides, your parents could have just abandoned you, with no clue as to their current locations, Brainy thought about adding. But he left it out. He couldn’t ruin Clark’s special day.
“If you would like, I can take you in the time bubble to Krypton.” He said. “Before it met its final fate. You would have to adhere to the rules of time travel- no interfering with anything, of course, and you would not be able to tell anyone who you were, and interacting with physical objects would be prohibited- but you could at least talk to your parents.”
Clark stared at him, tempted for a split second. Then he shook his head.
“No.” he said, finally. “I mean, I want to. I really do. But… I’d rather just sit here, and eat cake with my best friend in the whole universe.”
He stood up, and cut a much smaller slice from the cake, handing it to Brainy, who also had to get up to receive it.
“You eat cake, don’t you?”
“Well, I am human.”
Both of them laughed at that, and sat down again to enjoy themselves, all negative emotions replaced by pure, unadulterated happiness.