After the Lane-Kent marriage ended, Clark Kent took a job at the Gotham Gazette. This raised a lot of eyebrows among his close friends and most of them reached the foregone conclusion before the main parties figured it out for themselves.
Bruce Wayne had to have a public wedding. The society pages wouldn’t allow anything else. Bruce refused to risk his secret identity by allowing the Justice League to attend Bruce Wayne’s wedding and Clark refused to consider a wedding where they weren’t permitted, so they compromised and decided to hold two weddings. Superman and Batman would be married in a private ceremony on the Watchtower and Bruce Wayne would wed Clark Kent in Gotham Cathedral with friends, family and press. Vicki Vale got the exclusive for People, but she would be accompanied by several young photojournalists in order to get full coverage of the wedding party and attendees.
The private ceremony went off quietly and without incident. Clark even convinced Bruce to lower his cowl for the kiss. Diana officiated the ceremony.
The gossip shows went wild when Clark and Bruce’s engagement was announced. Several women went on TV to tell how they had known Bruce was gay all along, and told stories of playboy encounters and a pattern of timely interruptions. A couple of women also appeared on talk shows to say that Bruce couldn’t be gay, because they’d slept with him, and told tales of lurid romance. No one seemed to know the word “bisexual.” Speculation ran wild as to the parentage of Bruce’s illegitimate 10-year-son. One talk show produced a scientist who said a procedure had been developed which would allow two men to blend their DNA and clone a child, but this was dismissed by most as nonsense.
Clark invited Kon to live with them and Kon accepted. Bruce offered Martha a Gotham penthouse of her own (he wasn’t quite domesticated enough to live with his mother-in-law) but she refused gently and chose to remain on the farm in Smallville.
Kon moved into Wayne Manor two weeks before the wedding. Tim showed him his new room – suite – and Kon just sort of boggled at the space. “Dude. This is mine?”
“You’ve stayed over here before,” Tim pointed out.
“Yeah, camping out on your couch when Bat-daddy was out of town. This is mine!” Kon flopped down on the bed.
Damian stood in the doorway, arms crossed. “It’s not yours. You’re being permitted to live here until my father’s infatuation with the alien ends. Don’t damage any furniture.” Damian’s mother had officially disowned him, but she sent him a kryptonite ring when she heard about the engagement. Bruce locked up the ring in a lead-lined vault over Damian’s very vocal objections and promised the boy he could have it when he was sixteen.
Kon refused to let Damian’s crankiness ruin this. “Aw, don’t be jealous, little buddy. You’re not losing a dad, you’re gaining a dad and a brother.”
Tim twitched at this. Kon figured he was getting ready to pull Damian off him if knives got involved, but Kon wasn’t worried. The kryptonian ring was safely locked up, after all.
“I do not need any additional siblings,” Damian said stiffly.
“Sure you do!” Kon said. “You think Tim’s going to teach you how to pick up girls?” He considered this. “Okay, Nightwing’s probably got that one covered, but –“
“Any woman who is not impressed with my heritage and fighting prowess is not worth ‘picking up,’” Damian declared.
“Oh, little Bat, you have so much to learn,” Kon grinned.
“You will refrain from tagging me with any nicknames, clone,” Damian growled.
“Okay, I think Bruce is calling you,” Tim said. He closed the door in Damian’s face, locked it, and flopped down on the bed next to Kon.
“Boy, having a little brother is sure going to be fun,” Kon deadpanned.
“Welcome to my world,” Tim sighed.
Kon flipped over on his side and propped up his head on one hand. “It’s going to be awesome living with you, though. You start going into a Bat-brood and bam! I’ll be right there.”
“I can’t wait,” Tim said dryly. “You’re not going to miss Smallville?”
“Nah,” Kon said. “Well, Ma and the farm, and some of the guys, and I wouldn’t mind getting to know Lori better, though maybe I should tell her I’m her cousin, first. Which could be hard to explain. But Smallville High? Hell, no.”
Tim smiled. “You think Gotham Heights High is going to be any better?”
“Well, yeah,” Kon said. “You’ll be there.”
Tim’s cheeks turned slightly pink at this. He said, “And Clark’s going to be here.”
“Yeah,” Kon admitted. “That part doesn’t suck.” He was quiet for a moment, then added, “Though Bruce as a stepdad is going to be… interesting.”
“The rules about metas operating within the bounds of Gotham have not changed,” Bruce had informed Kon after Kon’s decision to to move to Gotham had been made. “If you want to patrol, you will do it in a mask and identity of my choice and you must pass a training regime which I will design. I do not want Superboy suddenly appearing in Gotham; that would risk too many secret identities. If you uncover a situation which needs immediate attention, you will alert one of my approved operatives”
Kon grinned as Tim squirmed, trying to defend Bruce without actually lying to Kon.
Tim finally settled on, “He’ll warm up to you.”
“He’s known me for years,” Kon pointed out.
“Yeah, but now you’re…”
“Family,” Kon finished for him.
Tim nodded. “Family’s important to him.”
* * *
Tim woke up the next morning at 6 am to the sound of video game gunfire and Kon swearing at the TV. Tim stumbled out of bed and into the living area of his suite. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”
Kon looked up at the atomic clock on the wall. “Six oh five a.m.,” he said sheepishly. “Sorry, dude, I didn’t think it was that loud.”
“What are you doing up?” Tim asked, stifling a yawn.
“Uh, well, on the farm, I’m up pretty early to get the chores done before school. I was gonna sleep in, but I woke up at five and couldn’t go back to sleep.”
Tim dropped down on the couch next to Kon. “We should get you your own TV and gamesystem,” he said.
“No,” Kon said, looking uncomfortable. “I don’t need one.”
“If you’re going to be using mine at six in the morning-“
“I don’t have to,” Kon said quickly. “I thought I could keep the volume down and not wake you.”
“As usual, you suck at stealth,” Tim said. “It’s no big deal. Bruce has an account for household stuff. This counts.”
Kon shook his head. “I don’t want stuff from Bruce’s money.”
Tim spread his hands in front of them, indicating the house.
“That’s just it, dude,” Kon said. “Living here is amazing. It’s too much already. I’ve got to earn my place here before I can ask for more.”
Tim gave him a long look. “This is some kind of farmboy work ethic, isn’t it?”
“Not really,” Kon said. He thought about it, ‘cause yeah, back in Hawaii, he would’ve take a free gamestation, no questions asked. Wouldn’t he? “Bruce has high expectations of everyone. I don’t want to start off my life here as a freeloader.”
“He doesn’t care about money,” Tim said.
“Well, I do,” Kon replied. “I know it’s dumb, but I wouldn’t feel right about it.”
Tim smiled. “I can respect that. But no more sunrise gaming sessions. I didn’t get back from patrol until after four.”
“Oh, man, I’m sorry,” Kon said. “But you’re up now, so wanna play co-op?”
Tim smacked him with a couch pillow. And then picked up a controller and proceeded to kick his ass.
* * *
And yet Tim was wide-awake at the gala - soirée - thingy - that night, while Kon had to make an effort to keep from yawning. This was Clark and Conner Kent’s introduction to society, and society? Not all that interesting.
“Aren’t you darling?” one lady said. She was about Ma Kent’s age, but wearing a slinky, dark red dress that Ma never would have left the house wearing. To be fair, this lady wore it well. Kon thought she was going to pinch his cheeks, but she just laid a hand on his chest. “How fabulous. Who are you wearing, dear?”
“Uh…” It took Kon a moment to realize that she was asking about the suit designer. “I’m not sure.” He unbuttoned his jacket and started to slide it off to check the label. A hand landed on his shoulder, stopping him.
“It’s a Giselle Giordano,” Tim said. “Conner, this is Ms. Grace Lauren. Ms. Lauren, Conner Kent.”
Kon held out his hand and Ms. Lauren shook it with an air of amusement that made Kon think he’d done something wrong. She and Tim chatted a bit about her children (Julia and Christopher; the former had just been accepted to Brown and Yale, the latter had just taken his GREs and was applying to business schools) while Kon fiddled with the stem of his glass and tried to look interested in the conversation.
When Ms. Lauren moved off to greet a couple who had just arrived, Kon whispered to Tim, “Was I supposed to kiss her hand or something?”
“You were supposed to keep your clothes on,” Tim whispered back. He kept a straight face, but the edges of his mouth were twitching.
“Hmph,” Kon said. He straightened his jacket and buttoned it up with one hand. “Well, she didn’t seem to mind.” He gave Tim a defiant smirk.
Tim rolled his eyes. “Come on, let’s get some canapés,” he said, and then walked away from the nearest table of food.
“Uh, Tim? Going the wrong way,” Kon said, but he followed anyway.
“The batch over here is much better,” Tim said, leading Kon to a small, round table with one elegant silver tray piled with fancy appetizers. It was stationed in an alcove with elegant wooden carvings in a pattern that reminded Kon of seashells. “Did you know we’ve got more guests from Metropolis? Lex Luthor has graced us with his presence.”
What the hell was Luthor doing here? Would Kon’s Conner Kent disguise hold up? Kon adjusted his glasses and tried to slouch, but it didn’t feel right in the suit. That’s probably why Tim had dragged him out of Luthor’s sight.
Tim picked up one of the snacks and popped it in his mouth, as if he’d just shared a bit of casual gossip.
“… glad you could make it, Mr. Luthor,” Clark said. Kon blinked. It sounded like Clark was right next to him, but Kon wasn’t even focusing his superhearing. He looked over at Tim, who gave a meaningful glance at the carvings in the alcove. Whoa, was this whole party suite acoustically designed so the Waynes could eavesdrop on their guests? Freaking Bats, man.
“I had business in Gotham,” Luthor said. “Thought I’d drop in and offer my congratulations to you. Bit of a surprise when I heard about your engagement, Kent. Can’t say I ever saw you as the gold-digging type.”
“Now, don’t be jealous, Luthor.” It took Kon a moment to recognize Bruce’s voice. It had a smooth, jovial tone that Kon would never have imagined coming from Bruce Wayne. “You had your chance all those years in Metropolis. He’s off the market now.”
Kon caught Tim’s eye and they exchanged grimaces. Bruce was flirting - or something - with Lex. That was just all kinds of wrong.
“Oh, Mr. Luthor, I should introduce you to my cousin. He’s a very bright young man,” Clark said.
Kon’s eyes widened in alarm. He really wasn’t sure his Conner Kent act was good enough to fool Lex face-to-face. Suppose Lex recognized him?
“No; can’t stay,” Lex said. “Wayne, tell your boy Tim that the internship offer is still open.”
“And have him spill company secrets? No chance, Lex,” Bruce said, still in that smooth, not-at-all-Batman voice. “Besides I think he’s planning to stay in Gotham.”
“Pass it along anyway,” Lex ordered. “Kid’s got a good mind. No point in wasting it on some WayneTech environmentally-safe doodads when he could be doing real work.” Lex’s phone buzzed. “Right, got to go. Make sure you get a pre-nuptial agreement, Wayne. I never get married without one.”
Kon eyed Tim. “Internship?”
Tim shrugged. “I did pretty well on some tests. Luthor’s trying to recruit me. He offered to let me do my senior year as a work/study program through LuthorCorp. I think it’s mostly to annoy Bruce.”
“But you’re not going to do it, right?” Kon asked.
Tim shook his head. “It’d be a good intelligence opportunity, but I want to stay in Gotham. Plus Bruce doesn’t think the info I’d gain is worth the risk.”
“Good,” Kon said. Tim in Luthor’s hands scared him. He wasn’t sure if he was worried about Luthor hurting him or corrupting him, but either way, it was bad news. Worse news if Luthor pinged to Tim’s real motives for working for LuthorCorp. “Hey, you think we can get that cute waitress to serve us champagne?”
* * *
The suit by "Giselle Giordano" is a shout-out to one of my favorite Kon fics, Close to Home by iesika.
“You actually signed a pre-nup?” Kon stared at Clark, over Alfred’s banana-chocolate chip pancakes. The Waynes hadn’t come down to breakfast yet (except for Bruce, who had an early board meeting) so the Kents got some time together. “What, he doesn’t trust you?”
Clark gave Kon a patient look. Right, Batman. But Clark was going to be his husband! “It’s not that simple,” Clark said. “It’s what someone with his assets would be expected to do. It also prevents his estate from falling into the hands of an impostor or if I’m taken over by an unfriendly intelligence.”
Sure, some evil thingy would gain the power of Superman and would… okay, maybe it’d go for Bruce Wayne’s cash, too. Whatever. Not like they couldn’t deal with that if it happened!
Upstairs, the sound of Kanye West’s Gold Digger blasted from Damian’s room. He seemed to have found a new favorite song, since he played it frequently and at high volume whenever Clark was in the house.
“It also provides assurance for people who think I have ulterior motives,” Clark said dryly.
“That little brat!” Kon scowled. “I’m taking his iPod away from him.”
Clark put a hand on Kon’s shoulder. “Go easy on him,” he said gently. “He’s finally accepting that his parents will never form the family he’s dreamed about and he’s having a rough time with it.”
“But Talia’s evil,” Kon protested. “He can’t seriously think Bruce would’ve married her!”
“People can change,” Clark said. “Bruce and Talia did have a strong connection at one time. It’s not unreasonable for Damian to hope for her redemption. Children often hope for their biological parents to reunite.”
Kon thought back to Bruce and Lex bantering at the party. “Did you – have you and Lex –“
Kon wished he had a camera to capture the look on Clark’s face, because it was kind of hilarious. “No,” Clark said, firmly. “That has never been an option. I’m sorry, Kon.”
“No, it’s cool!” Kon said, holding up his hands defensively. “I don’t want him as a dad. He’s freaking evil.”
“I know,” Clark said, with a note of sadness.
“Do you think Lex could ever change?” Kon asked, quietly.
Clark took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “I think it’s possible. No one is beyond the chance of redemption. But I doubt it’s a path that Lex would ever choose.” He poured himself a glass of milk from the pitcher on the table. “You’re not him, Kon. His life isn’t defined by his DNA, but by the choices he’s made.”
“I’m afraid I’ll make the wrong choices,” Kon blurted out. “I made lists, of what you would do and what Lex would do and I checked off the stuff I was doing to make sure I was on the right path.”
Clark smiled. “Kon, you were making choices long before you knew about your genetics and those choices made you a hero. It’s not bad to examine where your actions have lead you from time to time, but don’t turn it into an obsession. Your instincts are good.”
Kon felt a grin of pride spreading over his face and hastily looked down at his pancakes. “Thanks,” he said.
Tim shuffled blearily into the dining room, fully dressed, with his backpack over one shoulder. He filled a portable mug with coffee and wrapped a few pancakes in a napkin. “School?”
Kon shoveled his breakfast into his mouth. Alfred appeared in the doorway, ready to drive them to school. Kon wondered if he ever slept. That guy did everything around the place.
“You boys have a good day,” Clark said. He forked two more pancakes onto his plate.
Tim grunted something incomprehensible. Man, Tim before coffee was adorable. Kon had a strong urge to poke him, just to see how he’d react. He even lifted a hand to do just that, but Tim shot him an extra-strength death glare over the rim of his mug and Kon decided that poking an uncaffeinated Bat maybe wasn’t something he felt like doing just at that moment.
* * *
Gotham Heights High School was a lot bigger than Smallville High. Kon wore a flannel over his t-shirt, jeans and work boots. He’d combed his hair down neatly with a bit of hair gel - needed to get a trim soon - and wore a stylish pair of glasses with thick plastic lenses. Tim was wearing a freaking sweater vest and he wasn’t the only one. Flannel wasn’t all that common at GHHS. But a cute Latina girl in Econ told Kon she liked his “retro grunge look” so he supposed he didn’t look too freakishly hick.
Tim’s friends were on the geeky side of normal and Kon got into an intense argument with a blond guy named Ives over whether the Wendy the Werewolf Stalker comics counted as canon or not. (Ives said no, Kon said yes.) They finally had to agree to disagree. Ives invited Kon to play in the Wendy roleplaying game he ran every Thursday. Tim observed all this with bemusement, until Ives started telling stories about Tim’s roleplaying days - apparently they used to game together - at which point Tim changed the subject. Kon made a mental note to ask Ives more about Tim’s civilian past when Tim wasn’t in earshot.
On the drive home from school, Kon took off his glasses and dug his hands into his hair, ruffling up his nicely gelled hair until it stuck out wildly in all directions. How on earth did Clark spend so much of his time playing the mild-mannered reporter? One school day and Kon was tired of the disguise. Tim lifted an eyebrow and looked smug. Kon held up a finger. “Don’t. I don’t want to hear it.”
Tim shrugged. “Masks are useful.”
Kon scowled. “Yours gives you cowl-hair.” And before Tim could point out anything stupid, like how domino masks didn’t touch the hair, Kon added, “Supers don’t wear masks.”
“You’ll have to come up with something if you’re going to operate in Gotham,” Tim pointed out.
Kon had decided to accept Bruce’s restrictions because he knew if something happened, there was no way he could just stand back and let Tim or someone do all the work, and take all the risk. And what if no “approved operatives” were around? “That’s different. I’ll have to be some kind of Bat, then.”
“We’ve got a bit of a bird theme going,” Tim said with a sly smile. “You could be Tweety.”
Kon stared at him. “Okay, that’s it. You’re getting a noogie.” He grabbed for Tim, who ducked. Alfred coughed politely from the driver’s seat and a small, polite sign lit up in the back of the town car. NOOGIES NOT PERMITTED IN VEHICLE.
“Oh, no fair! How is that a rule?” Kon exclaimed.
“I find it an unfortunate necessity when Master Dick travels with his younger siblings,” Alfred said.
“Fine.” Kon folded his arms across his chest. “You’re owed a noogie,” he told Tim.
Tim’s grin showed teeth. “Try.”
* * *
In the great hallway of the manor, they passed a really attractive Italian-American woman on her way out. Kon’s brain belatedly cried “CIVILIAN”. He ran a quick hand through his hair and fumbled for his glasses.
The woman smiled devilishly. “Don’t fuss on my account. You look super.”
Kon looked at Tim in wild panic. He’d already blown his secret identity! Batman was going to kill him.
Tim sighed. “Don’t tease him. Kon, she’s one of us. This is Huntress.”
“Ms. Bertinelli in my day job, but you can call me Helena,” she smiled, and offered Kon a hand.
Kon shook it. “Conner Kent. Kon-El. What’s your day job?”
“Teacher,” she said, and Kon remembered that Damian was home-schooled.
“Oh, man, I’m sorry,” he said.
Helena laughed. “I’ve wrangled worse.”
“Really.” Tim didn’t seem to believe her. Kon was skeptical himself.
“He’s a very bright child and there’s only one of him,” Helena said. “Plus Alfred checks him for knives before each lesson.”
“Man,” Kon said. “I’d love to have a teacher who looked as good as you.”
“Must be your lucky day, then,” Helena’s smile was downright wicked as she looked past Kon and Tim to someone who had just arrived.
Kon turned around. The blonde woman removed her sunglasses. “Hello, Kon. Bruce said you wanted lessons in unarmed combat.”
Black Canary. She was in jeans instead of her signature fishnet tights, but Kon recognized her instantly. “You’re going to teach me?” It sunk in. Black Canary was going to be teaching him combat. “Oh, no!” he groaned. She was totally going to kick his ass!
Canary and Helena exchanged smirks and Kon heard Tim snicker.
Kon turned on him. “Ha! I can’t be Tweety! You already have a Canary!”
There was a long moment of silence as Kon realized he’d just referred to one of the greatest martial artists in the world as “Tweety”. And she already had permission from Batman to beat him up. Kon turned slowly back to her. She put her hands on her hips and gave him an evaluating look.
“I’ll meet you downstairs in ten minutes,” she said finally, and walked off toward the office with the Batcave entrance.
“Good luck, kid,” Helena said, and headed for the exit.
Tim patted him on the shoulder. “You’re pretty much invulnerable, right?” He headed up the staircase without waiting for an answer.
Kon groaned. No, she probably couldn’t hurt his body without kryptonite, but he was going to end up on his ass on the mat a lot. Kryptonian genetics did nothing to prevent him from getting a severely sprained dignity.
* * *
Kon balanced on the edge of the rooftop, trying not to use his TTK to keep himself upright. His power was such a part of him that it was nearly impossible not to use it, but he pulled back on it anyway, until he couldn’t feel the touch of anything except the stone under his feet. Look, Ma, no powers!
How did they do it? How did they fling themselves around the Gotham skyscrapers without any kind of levitation or even the ability to feel the world around them? Relying only on gadgets and physics and their own fragile human muscles to keep them from falling to their deaths? Kon thought of physics class, and acceleration at 9.8 meters per second squared. A freefall from the top of one of these buildings would accelerate to the point where humans could no longer handle the g-force and the brain would literally burst even before the body smashed against the ground.
Kon looked down and suddenly understood why people had a fear of heights.
He walked along the rooftop wall, one foot placed carefully in front of the other. He saw movement out of the corner of his eye and readied his grappling hook, determined to keep up with the Bats on their own terms. A figure in red leapt from a nearby building with one arm outstretched in a movement that Kon recognized as the firing of a grapple gun. Kon grinned, ready to pounce, when he saw the figure’s movement stutter. The grapple had latched onto a loose stone and pulled free when Tim put his weight - his life - on it.
Tim was falling.
Kon dove, forgetting about the game, his mind filled with images of exploding balloons and smashed watermelons. He caught Tim around the waist and flew to the nearest rooftop, where panic caused him to stumble on the landing and they both fell, skidding for a few feet in the loose gravel and soot and ending up with Tim sprawled on the ground and Kon laying on top of him, one arm still around his waist.
Tim stared up at him through the white lenses of his mask. “Kon, what the hell?!”
“Uh,” Kon said, taken aback. “You were falling?”
Tim lifted a hand to show Kon his grapple gun.
“Yeah, I saw the hook come loose!” Kon said.
Tim lifted his other hand and Kon realized he had two grapple guns. “It’s one of the risks,” he said. “We keep a couple of backups, plus there’s a parachute in my belt that’ll deploy if I’m accelerating at a rate equivalent to Earth’s gravitational pull and reach 6 Gs.”
Tim gave Kon a small smile. Their faces were so close he could feel Tim’s breath on his chin and inhale the mix of Kevlar, sweat and hair gel that he’d come to think of as Robin smell. Red Robin smell now, he supposed. Not a bad smell; something familiar that reminded him of comfort and safety and having a backup plan and nearly always knowing what to do.
“I was worried,” Kon said weakly, because saying he’d just now realized that “falling would be bad” sounded dumb.
“Never hurts to have you watching my back,” Tim said, and he must’ve put his grapple guns down because Kon could feel Tim’s hands on his waist and Tim’s mouth was really close to his and —
Gravel sprayed them both as Batgirl and Black Bat landed on the rooftop next to them.
“Cheating!” Batgirl exclaimed. “You flew!”
Tim and Kon pulled abruptly apart and scrambled to their feet.
“You lose,” Black Bat agreed with a smug smile.
“Habit!” Kon protested. He didn’t want to explain. “I forgot I couldn’t use my powers. C’mon, gimme a rematch?”
“So you can lose again?” Batgirl smirked. She and Black Bat looked at each other and came to a silent agreement. “Okay, just ‘cause you’re in training, we’ll give you another chance. You’re It. Count to ten and come after us. You ready?” she asked Tim.
Tim retrieved his grapple guns and nodded. The three of them ran to the edge of the roof and leapt off in different directions. Kon watched them go, zipping through the air and leaping rooftop to gargoyle to rooftop again. Then he fired off his own grapple gun and started the chase.
* * *
A few nights of Bat-training and Kon wasn’t waking up at five am anymore. He groaned when his alarm went off, smacked it off and rolled over so he could sprawl in the beam of sunlight from the windows. He let out a long sigh and closed his eyes, letting the sun wash over his skin.
His thoughts drifted back to last night, when he’d landed on top of Tim and he savored the memory; the scent and feel of Tim beneath him. Funny - it should’ve been a humiliating moment, and yet it was something else… Bits of an idea started to pull themselves together.
The thoughts scattered like dandelion fluff in the wind. Kon scratched at the stubble on his cheeks. “Come in!” he called, not moving from his spot in the sun.
Alfred entered, carrying a covered silver tray and a garment bag. “I’ve brought your suit for the garden party, Master Kon,” he said.
“You don’t have to call me that,” Kon said. He sat up in bed and stretched, throwing both arms over his head with a loud yawn.
“Yes, sir,” Alfred said. He lifted the cover off the silver tray. “I brought you breakfast as well. I thought you might like to have a bit of food before the guests arrive and,” his eyes flickered to the clock, “it is getting quite late.”
Kon looked at the clock as well. “Oh, crap!” He’d dozed a little too long in the sun. He flung himself out of bed, snatched up a handful of pancakes from the tray and dove toward the bathroom. “Thanks, Alfred!” he called out before slamming the door and switching on the shower.
* * *
Nightwing launched himself off the trapeze, spun through the air and threw out his hands just in time for Damian to catch him by the forearms.
“I am never going to be able to do that,” Kon muttered.
“Obviously,” Damian sniffed.
Nightwing let go and dropped down into the net. He bounced and somersaulted out of the net and landed on the mat in the training room. “Damian, remember that talk we had about constructive criticism?”
Damian flipped off the trapeze he’d been hanging from and landed on the far platform. “What? I was agreeing!”
Nightwing sighed. “You’re the spotter,” he said to Damian.
Kon watched Damian swing down from the platform and grab the end of the rope that was attached to the harness that Kon was wearing. “I don’t really need this,” Kon said. “If I fall, I can just fly.”
“The point is to get you moving without relying on your powers,” Nightwing pointed out. “Plus it’s teamwork practice. Trust your partner to catch you.”
Kon gave Damian a dubious look. Damian glared back. “I don’t have to like you to catch you.”
“You once cut Tim’s jumpline when he was midair!” Kon said.
“I knew Drake could compensate,” Damian said. “You can’t, so I’ll go easy on you.”
Nightwing swung himself up to the trapeze platform. “Damian and Tim have trust issues, but we’re working through them,” he said. “Damian’s a good spotter.”
Kon took a deep breath. He jumped up, caught the first trapeze bar, swung out, then let go of the bar and felt the momentum carry him forward. He stretched out his arms, kept his feet together and twisted his body so he caught the next bar with his hands, flipped his body up to loop his legs over it and let his hands fall free.
“Excellent!” Nightwing said. “Now swing forward. You’re going to catch me.”
“This is unacceptable!” Clark bellowed, following Bruce down the stairs into the Batcave.
Nightwing’s eyes met Kon’s and Nightwing nodded. “Time for a break, I think.”
“You’ve made your objections quite clear,” Bruce said. “But Kon-El has already agreed to use it.”
Kon floated down from the trapeze, prepared to make a hasty, unobtrusive retreat, but Bruce headed straight for him.
“Your inhibitor collar has arrived,” Bruce said. He offered Kon a box. Kon took it and held it out in front of himself as if it held three weeks’ worth of Kid Flash’s dirty underwear. Granted, it didn’t have that smell, but it did have that same aura of something horribly unpleasant.
“Great,” Kon said, keeping the box at arms’ length.
“He’s a minor and I’m his guardian and he is not going to do this.” Clark said.
“Why not?” Kon asked. “I’ve been training for it.”
“Training to work without powers isn’t the same as having them taken from you,” Clark said.
“But that’s happened to me before, and I survived,” Kon said. “If Bruce wants to run a test-“
“That’s just it - Bruce, you can run your boys and girls through whatever ridiculous nonsense you like, but Kon is my boy and you will leave him alone!”
“I am?” Kon said in surprise.
“He’s nearly an adult and can make his own choices,” Bruce said.
“It’s dangerous and I’m not letting it happen,” Clark said.
Nightwing stepped forward. “What if you spotted him the whole way?” he suggested to Clark.
“Hn,” Bruce said.
“What do you mean?” Clark asked Nightwing.
“You fly alongside him the whole test,” Nightwing suggested. “Anything goes wrong, you can easily move in and catch him in plenty of time. No one has to get hurt.”
“Would you do that?” Kon asked.
Clark looked at the boy. “Is this something you really want to do?”
“Yeah,” Kon said. “I can play by their rules if they want me to. It’s not so hard.” Damian snorted. Kon ignored him. “Besides, sometimes we do fight people who can take away our powers. It’s good practice.”
Clark looked at Bruce. “I think it’s sadistic.”
“You think I’m sadistic,” Bruce said.
“I said what I meant,” Clark replied.
“It’s not intended to cause pain or discomfort,” Bruce said. “It merely counteracts the yellow sun’s energy for a few hours.”
“Fine,” Clark said. “Kon may try the collar. If it causes him pain or other discomfort, this experiment is over.” The tone of his voice suggested that other things might be over as well.
Kon really did not want to be in the center of this. He shoved the box back at Bruce. “I don’t have to-“
Bruce folded his arms across his chest. “You made a decision, stick with it.” He wasn’t looking at Kon.
“There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind if your conscience tells you something isn’t going to work,” Clark said. Also not looking at Kon.
“Sometimes things aren’t as big a deal as people make them out to be,” Kon said desperately. He looked over at Nightwing for help.
Nightwing stepped up behind Kon and clapped his hand on Kon’s shoulder. “I think if we all work together-“
“I’m going on patrol,” Bruce said. He pulled up his cowl and stalked off to a Batmobile.
“I’ve got to pick up Ma at the airport,” Clark said. He flew up the stairs to the mansion.
“Well,” Kon said, after they’d both left. “That went well.”
“They’ll come around,” Nightwing said.
Damian snorted. “My father doesn’t trust you. Nothing’s going to fix that. A meta, with Luthor’s genes?”
“Oh, you’re one to talk, with your mother,” Kon snapped.
Nightwing held up both hands. “Okay, stop there, both of you.”
Damian ignored him. “Even Drake doesn’t want you in the family,” he said gleefully.
Kon rolled his eyes. “You’re full of it.”
“Am not,” Damian gloated. “I heard him tell Grayson he doesn’t want you to be his brother.”
“That’s a total lie.” Kon looked at Nightwing. “Isn’t it?”
Nightwing looked uncomfortable. “I think that’s something you should discuss with Tim.”
Kon stared at him. “Why? What’d he say?”
“I just told you!” Damian said.
“Okay, ENOUGH!” Nightwing yelled. “Both of you, get suited up. Separately. Damian, you’re patrolling with me tonight. Kon, you’re with Batgirl and Black Bat. If either of you speak one more word before you’re ready to go out, I am knocking both your heads together. Do you understand?”
Damian opened his mouth.
Nightwing jabbed a finger in his direction. “Suit. Up.”
Damian scowled and stalked off.
Once the boy was out of earshot, Kon began, “But-“
Nightwing shook his head sharply. “Talk to Tim. I’m not getting in the middle here. Now suit up. If you can’t obey orders, I’m not giving Bruce the okay for your trial run.”
Kon gave up and headed for the locker that held his patrol suit, wondering if it would be so bad if he just quit right now.
And what did it mean that Tim didn’t want him to be part of the family?
* * *
“It’s just a fight,” Batgirl said. Black Bat nodded.
Kon decided this was his favorite part of patrol - the part where they hit a 24-hour taco shop and munched on burritos on a Gotham rooftop while chatting. Tim never talked about that part of patrolling, but Batgirl - Steph - said it was mandatory. Well, the burritos were optional - sometimes it was pizza.
“A big fight,” Kon said over a mouthful of carne asada. “About me. I gotta fix it.”
“It’s their relationship, not yours. You can’t fix your parents. Trust me,” Steph said darkly.
“They’re not exactly my parents,” Kon said.
“Close enough,” Black Bat - Cass - said.
“Have we mentioned that Bruce is really bad at expressing stuff?” Steph asked. “This is probably a thing you should know.”
“Please, I’ve known Tim practically my whole life,” Kon pointed out. “And now he doesn’t even want me around!” Kon flung up a hand and only his TTK saved his burrito from flying off the rooftop. He figured that didn’t count as cheating since it wasn’t a patrol thing.
Cass and Steph exchanged a look.
“Oh, great, you know about it, too,” Kon said. “Is it the Luthor thing? I thought he didn’t care about that.”
“Talk to Tim,” Cass suggested.
“Fine,” Kon sighed. “Maybe he’ll give me a straight answer.”
* * *
Tim sniffed them disapprovingly when they returned from to the Batcave. “Burritos on the rooftop? That is not part of training procedure.”
“Oh, don’t be a crankypants,” Steph said. She dangled a takeout bag in front of Tim’s face. “We brought you some.”
Tim pushed his cowl back, ran a hand through his hair - he really did get cowl-hair in that thing - and accepted the bag with a slightly sheepish expression. “I just don’t want Kon to get the wrong idea about patrol,” he said.
“We saved the food until the end, jeez,” Steph sighed. “Nobody was going to smell us sneaking up on them.”
“Also, emergency toothbrushes,” added Cass, patting a pouch on her belt.
“Gotta say, utility belts are pretty handy,” Kon said.
“Shall I add one to your design?” Alfred asked. Kon jumped. He hadn’t seen the older man come downstairs. The guy had probably taught Batman how to sneak up on people. “I understood you wanted to take the Nightwing approach to equipment storage.”
“Did you decide on a costume?” Steph asked eagerly. “Can we see?”
“As it happens, I have completed the prototype. Master Kon, would you like a private viewing or shall I bring it out for all to see?” Alfred asked.
“Bring it out,” Kon said. “They’re all going to see it anyway.” And if he looked like a total dork, at least his friends would tell him before he ran all over Gotham in the outfit.
Alfred slipped away and Tim hopped up on a medical table to eat his burrito. “Oh, man, you went to Dos Burritos Locos.”
“Duh,” Steph said. “They’re the best.”
Alfred returned, pushing a small clothing rack covered with a black cloth. He whipped the cloth off with a dramatic flair. “Your uniform, sir.”
The suit was black, lightly armored and had dark red stripes running up the sides and down the arms, all the way to the fingertips on the gauntlets. It had a dark red cape that ended just above the hips and fastened to the wrists of the gauntlets. The cape gathered to a point on the left shoulder and hooked to the suit underneath a stylized sunburst with an “S” in the center. Red boots and a red domino mask completed the outfit.
Tim raised his eyebrows. “A cape? That’s new for you.”
“That’s the point, right?” Kon asked. “So I don’t look like Superboy.”
“What’s the ’S’ stand for, then?” Steph asked. She peered at the logo. “It doesn’t look like a Super ’S’.”
“‘Sunbird,’” Kon said, and waited for their reactions.
Cass nodded. “Fits you. Fits us.”
“I like,” Steph said.
“You’ve got fingerstripes,” Tim said, studying the costume. “Is that an old set of Nightwing’s gauntlets?”
“The pattern is quite similar, but the cut is made to fit Master Kon,” Alfred said. “The cape, also, is modeled after an old ‘wing’ design of one of Master Richard’s early Nightwing suits, though with a bit more length.”
“Hm,” Tim said, and took a bite of his burrito.
“Yeah, but what do you think?” Kon asked. It wasn’t like he needed fashion approval from someone with cowl-hair, but it was a Bat-outfit and Tim was the Battiest person he knew, not counting the original model.
“No garters?” Tim asked innocently.
Alfred coughed discreetly and unhooked something from the back of the rack. “The thigh pouch is, of course, optional,” he said, holding out a red garter pouch.
“I’m in favor of it,” Steph said, patting her own yellow thigh pouch. “Very handy.”
“Any Oreos left?” Cass asked eagerly.
“Hm, lemme see - yep, it’s your lucky evening!” Steph offered Cass a rumpled package of cookies from her garter pouch.
“We’ll see how it works in the field,” Tim said. “‘Sunbird.’” He seemed to be trying out how the name felt in his mouth. “You know we work at night, right?”
“Because robins are known for their midnight flights?” Kon shot back.
“Why armor?” Cass asked, studying the outfit. “You don’t need it.”
“Yeah, but people don’t need to know that,” Kon said. “Tim, you’re killin’ me here. Thumbs up or thumbs down?”
Tim, still holding half a burrito in one hand, held out his other, thumb out sideways. He wiggled it a little, watching Kon’s face, then turned his thumb slowly upward. “Looks good, man.”
Maybe this was a good time to have that Talk. Kon glanced over at Steph and Cass. Cass caught on immediately and whispered into Steph’s ear. Steph nodded.
“Alfred! Did you happen to bake any of your fabulous cookies tonight?” Steph asked. Cass wiped Oreo crumbs off her own chin and tilted her head at Alfred as well.
“I’m afraid I’ve only got some pie,” Alfred said. “Would that do?”
“Totally!” Steph said.
“Totally,” Cass agreed. The girls and Alfred went upstairs.
“You don’t want pie?” Tim asked Kon.
“Later, maybe,” Kon said. "Did you tell Dick you don't want me to be in the family?”
Tim froze. "That's not... exactly what I said."
"What did you say, then?" Kon asked, folding his arms across his chest.
"I said I don't want you to be my brother," Tim said, putting emphasis on the last word.
Kon didn't see the difference. "Why not? You don't have a problem with Clark being your stepdad? What's wrong with me? Is it Luthor?”
"Nothing is wrong with you. You are not Luthor,” Tim said sharply. He pulled the edges of his cape together. "Just... forget it, Kon. It was a dumb thing to say."
"Yeah, it was," Kon said. "Tell me why you said it."
But the Batmobile pulled into the cave and Tim turned to face Bruce, who swept out of the car as grandly as if he were stepping onto a ballroom floor. Kon wondered if the cape ever got hung up on the gear shift. Probably it didn’t dare.
“Red Robin. Kon-El,” Batman said in greeting. “I heard your evening patrols went well. I look forward to seeing the reports.”
Right. Patrol had homework. Between that and regular schoolwork, Kon wished he had Bart’s ability to study at superspeed.
“Did you get burritos?” Batman asked, sniffing the air.
“After patrol,” Kon said quickly.
“Dos Burritos Locos,” Tim admitted. “There’s none left, though.”
Batman’s “Hn,” had a touch of disappointment.
“Alfred made pie,” Tim offered. “You coming upstairs or should I ask him to bring you some?”
“You may advise him I’ll be working down here for quite some time,” Batman said.
“Are he and Clark still mad at each other?” Kon whispered to Tim as they walked up the stairs to the house. Kon wanted to ask Tim about the other thing, but that wouldn’t even matter if Clark and Bruce split up.
Tim chewed his lip and didn’t answer.
“What?” Kon asked. “Tim, why are you shutting me out?”
“I don’t know anything about Clark and Bruce,” Tim said. “But when they fight, they kinda remind me of my parents before my mom died.”
“Is that bad?”
“I’m pretty sure they would’ve gotten divorced,” Tim said.
* * *
Kon dragged himself out of bed the next morning a little after seven. He slogged his way through the day, dozing off twice during classes and nearly faceplanting into his mashed potatoes at lunch. He gave up trying to eat and went outside to the quad where he took a nap in the sun for the rest of his lunch break. That revived him enough to get through the rest of the day, though he fell asleep in the car ride home.
“You don’t have to patrol tonight, if you’re not up to it,” Nightwing told him when he came down to the Batcave to suit up.
“Tim told you I fell asleep?” Kon asked sheepishly.
“Alfred, actually,” Nightwing said. He hopped up on a set of parallel bars and swung through an exercise. “He’s concerned.”
“I’ll be fine,” Kon said. “I used to stay up playing video games and then get up early to milk the cows. I just gotta adjust, that’s all.”
Nightwing gave him a critical look, then nodded. “Bruce’ll push you as far as he can, then push a little more. It’s okay to push back. He needs that sometimes.”
Kon blinked at the idea of “pushing back” at Batman, but he guessed that made sense. Tim stood up to Batman plenty of times and Nightwing had even intervened in a fight between the Teen Titans and the Justice League. “He respects that?” Kon guessed.
Nightwing snorted. “In his own way.”
“He’s not the easiest guy to live with, is he?” Kon glanced upwards.
Nightwing followed his glance. “Are you worried about Bruce and Clark?”
Kon nodded. “Tim said his parents used to fight like that and he thought they were going to get divorced.”
“My parents used to fight like that sometimes, too,” Nightwing said. He swung himself up into a handstand. “We lived in this tiny train car. I couldn’t help overhearing. Once my dad stomped off and crashed with the roustabouts for two nights.”
“Would they have split up?” Kon asked.
Nightwing walked along the parallel bars on his hands. “Nah.” He flipped himself down, did a little twist and landed neatly on his feet. “Couples fight. Especially strong-willed, independent types - and you don’t get much stronger-willed than these guys.” He jerked a thumb toward the manor upstairs. “They’ll sort it out. They always have before.”
“They weren’t getting married before.”
“Nope,” Nightwing said. “Before, they could pretend they didn’t care. Now they’ve admitted they do, in front of everyone. Can’t go back from that.”
“People get divorced all the time. Clark got divorced,” Kon said.
“Because he’s in love with Bruce,” Nightwing said.
“And Lois is in love with-“
“Yeah, I know,” Nightwing waved a hand. “The point is, they’re not splitting up. There are going to be a lot of fights in their marriage.” He hopped back up on the parallel bars and did another handstand. “And they won’t be your fault either.”
“They’re fighting about me,” Kon said.
“They’re fighting about their own issues and you got caught in the crossfire,” Nightwing corrected. He folded himself over and sat down on the bar, feet swinging. “Now, are you going to show me your Sunbird costume or do I have to sneak a look at Alfred’s sketches?”
“I’m not supposed to wear it in the field yet,” Kon said.
Nightwing spread his arms. “We’re still in the cave. C’mon, model it for me.”
Kon grinned and went to get the costume.
* * *
Four nights later, Kon stood on one of the highest rooftops in Gotham with an inhibitor collar in his hands. He wore a black, unmarked patrol suit.
“It’s not too late to back out,” Clark said quietly. He was in costume, his red cape flapping in the filthy Gotham wind.
“I can do this,” Kon said.
“I know you can,” Clark said, resigned. He and Bruce had been tense with each other all week. Kon hoped Nightwing was right about them. It had been a long time for a fight. Of course, Tim still wasn’t telling Kon what was wrong, so things had been off with them all week, too. At least Kon hadn’t fallen asleep in his lunch again.
Clark took the collar from Kon’s hands. “This switch deactivates it. And it’s breakaway, too. You can remove it with normal human strength, just yank it off if you have to. And I’ll be right beside you, just in case.”
Kon’s hand closed over the collar. “Clark. I can do this. I’ve been training. It’s just a run through the city on jumplines. No big.”
“All right.” Clark let out a soft sigh and stepped back.
Kon clipped the collar around his neck and felt his TTK aura cut off abruptly. He felt numb, disconnected and he had to take a deep breath to center himself. Right. He still had his other five senses. He spat out the smoke from a nearby chimney and decided that maybe he could skip “taste” just for this exercise.
Batman gestured for Kon to approach. “Follow Red Robin,” he said. He gave an abrupt wave to Nightwing and they both leapt off the roof. Clark took to the air and hovered about a block away.
“You ready for this?” Tim asked quietly.
“Yes, I’m ready,” Kon snapped, tired of people fussing over him.
“Fine,” Tim said. He yanked his cowl on and his eyes disappeared behind white lenses.
Crap. “Tim-“ Kon began, but Tim had already stepped up to the edge. He fired off a jumpline and disappeared off the rooftop. Kon had no choice but to follow.
* * *
Flying with the Bats wasn’t like flying properly. You’d jump, have a moment of freefall, a jerk at the bottom of the arc and then swing upward. Change ziplines and back into freefall, over and over again. At first, Kon had found it frustrating, but he’d gotten into the rhythm of it and he could see why Tim loved it so much. Not true flying, no, but there was a grace and athleticism of taking merely human muscles, flinging them through the air and somehow landing in one piece.
Batman hadn’t told Kon the course he’d be taking. Kon’s job was to follow Tim’s lead and “use your best judgement.” Kon figured that meant that he’d be getting some visitors along the way, so he wasn’t surprised when he landed on a rooftop and came face-to-face with a masked thug.
Or at least, a masked person. A person less than five feet tall, wielding a wooden stick and yelling, “Die, foul defender of justice!” Kon was pretty sure he knew who was under the mask.
But the kid had major skills and had been training longer than Kon had been alive (give or take a thousand years of being only mostly dead). Kon had the inhibitor collar blocking his superhuman abilities, so he had only his meager combat training to help him. Still, fighting a ten-year-old assassin when he didn’t have superstrength wasn’t that different, proportionally speaking, from fighting a giant robot when he had his powers. He’d already learned that raw power couldn’t win everything.
Kon brought up his forearm to block a blow coming at his face and ow ow OW that really stung!
“Had I been permitted to use a real sword, you would have lost that arm, clone,” Damian said.
“I’m sure you would have felt very bad about it,” Kon said. He dodged Damian’s next swing, but he instinctively reached for his tactile telekinesis to catch his balance and stumbled to his knees. Great. He was going to fail the test and the squirt would never let Kon forget that Damian had beaten him.
The kid brought the sword down, aiming for the back of Kon’s neck, but Kon had trained with Black Canary and his muscles remembered what to do. He dropped flat and rolled to the side, coming up on his knees between Damian and his sword. Kon grabbed the boy’s wrists and twisted, forcing him to drop the weapon. Now Kon’s greater strength and size served him well. He tackled the boy in a bear hug and shoved him to the ground. Pulling a zip tie from his gauntlet, he bound the boy’s hands behind his back.
“I went easy on you, clone,” Damian said through clenched teeth.
“You underestimated me,” Kon said. “You were certain you’d won, so you left yourself open and off-balance.”
Red Robin dropped down beside Kon. “Good job,” Tim said. “Now we deliver your assailant to the police and continue on the night’s patrol.” He bent over and cut Damian loose. The boy grumbled and rubbed his wrists.
“I want a rematch,” Damian said.
“Not tonight,” Tim said.
“We can spar whenever you like, little brother,” Kon said cheerfully. “You should probably work on that vulnerability I exploited.”
Kon heard a click and something whizzed over his shoulder and splattered on the wall. Red Robin and Robin both took off in different directions. Another shot nearly clipped Kon’s ear and the word GUN flashed through his head. He dropped flat on the ground and glanced at the wall behind him. Purple paint was spattered in two spots. Paintball gun, then.
Tim had drilled him in gun defense over and over after he’d come back from the dead. Tim had preemptive guilt issues regarding his future self and a Kryptonite bullet.
Find the shooter. Another shot hit the ground beside Kon. He did a quick estimate of the angle of the shot and looked in that direction to see a flash of blonde hair under a purple hood. She pointed the gun and Kon rolled to one side, a purple paint puddle blossoming in the spot where he’d just been.
Use your cover. Kon rolled away from another shot and this time came up on his feet. He sprinted for the nearest cover: a smokestack about ten feet away.
“You don’t want to do this,” he called out. See if the enemy can be reasoned with.
“I really do,” Batgirl said. “I’ve just broken out of Arkham Asylum and I’m going to score major baddie points if I kill Sunbird.” A paintball smacked the smokestack.
“A gun, though?” Kon asked. “Wouldn’t you get even more points if you killed me in hand to hand combat?”
“I’ve read the Evil Overlord list,” she said. Another paintball smacked the smokestack, this one much closer to Kon. Kon inched sideways, keeping the smokestack at his back. “I’ll keep my gun. You’re going to have to disarm me.”
Kon waited for the sound of another paintball hitting the smokestack and then rushed toward the shooter. She pointed the gun at his face, but he zig-zagged as he ran and the shot she fired went to his left. Don’t give them a chance to aim. He grabbed her gun arm and pinched the spot Tim had showed him. Her arm twitched and she lost her grip on the gun. Kon hopped just in time to keep from getting purple-spattered ankles.
“Do you surrender?” he asked.
“I surrender,” she said. “Without my gun I am impotent and powerless.”
Red Robin reappeared. “Good job,” he said to Kon.
“Tim taught you that nerve pinch, didn’t he?” she asked.
“I’m surprised he remembered it,” Tim said. “That was a while ago.”
“Hey, I can listen and learn,” Kon said.
“Good luck with the rest of the run,” Steph said, with a mischievous grin. She ran toward the edge of the roof and leapt off, firing her grapple gun as she went.
Kon looked over at Tim. “You can’t tell me what’s coming, can you?”
“I don’t even know myself,” Tim said. “I just got enough intel to be your tour guide. Batman didn’t want me giving anything away.”
“Guide away,” Kon said, readying his grapple gun.
Tim fired off his jumpline and swung up, up and away. Kon followed. Kon tried to count the number of gargoyles they landed on, but lost track when an angry pigeon flew in his face and knocked Kon back onto the rooftop behind him. Tim used his cowl camera to snap photos and refused to delete them.
They left the high-rise downtown buildings behind and dropped down on one of the warehouses by the docks. Kon was about to ask if the run was over when a tiny black shape swooped in, slapped him on the chest, said, “Tag! You’re It,” and ran off.
Kon ran after her, his feet feeling heavy and clumsy, sticking to the ground like lumps of brick. It would have been so easy to follow her if he could just glide a bit, but that’d mean breaking free of the collar and that was an automatic fail.
She leapt gracefully between buildings and the distance between them grew. Out of the corner of his eye, Kon could see Tim keeping pace with them, following a bit behind Kon.
Without his powers, he was too heavy and too slow to catch up with her - Black Bat, he assumed. If only he could fly, just a little ways, just enough to catch up. Kon paused. He could fly under Bat-rules if he flew Bat-style. She’d lead him away from the harbor and they were moving into downtown and Kon saw a handy gargoyle just up ahead.
He fired his jumpline, swung in a grand arc and flung himself onto the next rooftop, right in front of Black Bat. He clapped her on the shoulder. “You’re It,” he said.
Kon could see her smile under the ski mask and black hoodie she wore. “Good job,” she said. “You win. This time.”
“Rematch when this is done?” she asked.
“Anytime,” he grinned.
Tim landed on the rooftop a moment later. “Did he get you?” he asked Black Bat.
“Fair and square,” she said.
Nightwing landed on the roof behind him. “Up for another game of tag?” he asked Kon. “Because you’re it.” He didn’t wait for an answer, but fired off his jumpline and ascended into the skyline.
Kon followed. Chasing Nightwing wasn’t like following Tim or Black Bat. Tim had an economy of motion, each move planned and executed without extraneous movement. Cass had a lightfooted grace that reminded Kon of a cat. Nightwing danced and tumbled through the air. Kon wasn’t sure how he could catch Dick. It was like trying to catch a hummingbird. But he kept up. If he lost sight of Dick, he’d lose his chance.
They were back among the gothic buildings and the gargoyles of Old Gotham, and Kon thought he might finally be gaining on Dick, when his line caught an old gargoyle that crumbled beneath his weight, bits of masonry falling into the open space a mile over Gotham. Kon was falling over Gotham.
He tried to fire at another gargoyle, but he was tumbling through the air and the line flew out sideways, uselessly.
He saw red out of the corner of his eye and then warm arms wrapped around him. He expected the lift of Clark’s flight, but instead, they continued to fall. Kon smelled sweat and Kevlar and realized that Tim had grabbed him. But Tim had been too far away for his jumpline to reach. The only way he’d have been able to grab Kon was if…
… If he let go of his jumpline.
Tim’s fingers dug under the collar and yanked. Kon’s powers flooded back. He wrapped an arm around Tim’s waist and flew them upwards and landed on the nearest roof.
Batman and Superman landed there a moment later, and Nightwing just after that.
Kon let out a long breath, waiting for the admonishment that was sure to come.
Batman looked at both Kon and Tim, still with their arms around each other’s waists. He turned to Kon, “You pass,” he said. He looked at Tim. “You fail.”
* * *
“You will continue to train, of course,” Batman said to Kon. “Nightwing will work with you on emergency grappling techniques and Black Canary will go over your fights tonight-“
“Wait, hold up.” Kon held up a hand. “Why does Tim fail? It’s not even his test.”
“It’s okay, Kon,” Tim said. He finally let Kon go and stepped away to put some space between himself and his friend.
“No, I want to know!” Kon said.
“He put emotion before reason,” Batman said.
“He failed because he was worried about me? Isn’t that a plus?” Kon asked.
“I risked myself, and you didn’t need saving,” Tim said quietly. “You could have removed the collar yourself or Clark could have caught you.”
“But-,” Kon began.
“It is not open for discussion,” Batman said. “Kon-El, you are now free to patrol as Sunbird in Gotham.”
“Uh, thanks,” Kon said.
“Do you want a ride home?” Clark asked Batman.
“I don’t need-“
“I know you don’t need a ride. I’m offering one anyway,” Clark said. “We could talk.”
“Fine,” Batman said. “Red Robin, Sunbird, I want full written reports on tonight’s run. Tell me how you would improve your performance.” He let Clark wrap his arm around his waist and the two men flew up into the air.
Kon stretched out his hearing to listen in.
“I’m sorry,” Clark said.
“Really,” Bruce replied dryly. “You don’t find my methods ‘sadistic’ anymore?”
Clark paused for a moment, as if collecting his thoughts, and finally said, “Your kids are so competent, I rarely think about how they became that way. But seeing Kon, powerless and so very vulnerable, made me realize how you must feel every day. I can’t blame you for wanting him to be ready.”
“Lack of superhuman abilities doesn’t make him powerless,” Bruce said.
“I know,” Clark said. “And that’s another thing you’re teaching him. He’s lucky to have you. We both are.”
Kon heard them kiss, clapped his hands over his ears and yanked his hearing back quickly. Nightwing and Red Robin were both looking at him.
“Did they make up?” Tim asked.
Kon looked up into the sky, where Batman and Superman embraced each other, silhouetted against a nearly-full moon.
“See? I knew they couldn’t stay mad for long,” Dick grinned. “Kon, you did a great job tonight. We’ll train on jumplines some more. If you’re going to keep your meta abilities under wraps in Gotham, you’re going to need to learn how to recover from a fall without flying. And Tim,” he turned to his brother. “Good work.”
Tim shook his head. “I screwed up.”
“You made a risky call and you pulled it off,” Dick said. He clapped Tim on the shoulder. “I’m calling it a win.”
Tim gave Nightwing a small smile. “Thanks.”
“Better rest up tonight,” Dick said. “Tomorrow’s the big day.” He fired off his jumpline and swung out into the night.
“Do you want a ride home?” Kon asked Tim.
Tim shook his head. “I’ve got to retrieve my bike. See you in the morning.” He took off as well, leaving Kon alone on the rooftop.
* * *
The next morning was a flurry of fancy clothes, coffee, pastries and Alfred herding the entire family to get them to the church on time. A fleet of cars showed up and in the chaos, Kon didn’t realize which car Alfred was waving him into until the door closed and Kon and Tim found themselves alone in the limo’s backseat.
“Hi,” Kon said.
“Hey,” Tim replied.
They sat in awkward silence for a few minutes, until finally, Tim cleared his throat. “Kon,” he said, the words spilling out quickly, as if he’d rehearsed them. “You’re my best friend and I’d be honored to have you as a brother.”
“But what you said-“
Tim shook his head. “It didn’t mean anything. You know, I was an only child, growing up. Kind of wild how I’ve got this huge family now. But I’m so glad you’re a part of it.”
“You’ve always been like family to me,” Kon said. “I can’t imagine my life without you in it.”
“So we’re cool?” Tim asked.
“Completely, totally cool,” Kon said. “Bro.”
Something flashed across Tim’s face, but it was gone before Kon could identify it. Tim pulled his face into a smile. “Cool… bro.” he said.
They arrived at the church and Tim got out of the limo first. Kon scooted to the edge of the seat and as he watched Tim walk up the steps, Kon noticed Tim's ass looked really nice in a tuxedo. Too bad he always had it covered with that damn cape of his. Though maybe Kon needed to stop thinking this kind of thing if he and Tim were going to be broth-- oh. OH. That's what Tim meant.
He ran after Tim and caught up with him just outside the Wayne pre-nuptial gathering area. "Hey!" he said. "Hey! Tim! I changed my mind! I don't want to be your brother!"
Tim spun around. “What? Why not?”
Kon grinned. He put his hands on Tim's waist and pulled the other boy close to him. Tim didn't resist and his expression softened. "I mean, we don't have to be related just 'cause Clark and Bruce are getting married, right?" And then he kissed Tim.
Tim's lips parted under his and Tim's body pressed against his, warm and tight. And then Tim pulled away. "You," he said, "are a dumbass."
"I know!" Kon said, still grinning. "But I figured it out!"
"Dumb. Ass," Tim repeated. He touched his forehead to Kon's. "I thought I'd ruined everything with us."
"Well," Kon said. He kissed Tim again. "You could have just, y'know, told me how you felt. You didn't have to be all freaking mysterious and batty about it."
"I didn't know how you felt," Tim protested. "I didn't want things to be weird."
"Things are always weird with you," Kon said. "Freaking weirdo secretive Bat." He kissed Tim again, his arms around Tim’s waist, feeling supple muscles flex under the crisp tuxedo shirt. Kon slipped his thigh between Tim’s legs -
A shadow dropped over them. Windows on three walls and a freaking skylight and he still managed to cast a threatening shadow. And how the hell did he give his shadow bat ears when he wasn’t even wearing a cowl? "Don't you have somewhere to be?" Bruce asked.
“Um. Yes,” Kon said. He untangled his limbs from Tim’s. “We can continue this conversation later, right?” he asked Tim.
Tim’s cheeks were bright pink. “Absolutely.”
“Legally, you’ll be first cousins, once removed, by marriage,” Bruce said. He didn’t smile, but Kon thought he heard amusement in Bruce’s voice. “Not brothers.”
Tim flushed deeper. “It wasn’t the law I was worried about.”
“Nevertheless,” Bruce said. “We can discuss your intentions toward each other at a later date.” He gave Kon a meaningful look and Kon suspected he had a Bat-interrogation ahead of him. “Kon, you’d better get to the Kent staging area.”
Kon nodded. “Yes, sir,” he said, and fled.
* * *
The ceremony went off without any major incidents, possibly helped by the Justice League members who kept watch on the outside of the church to prevent unwanted intrusions.
Kon stood with the Kent attendants and kept sneaking looks over at Tim, who was standing with the Wayne attendants. Tim had a silly little smile on his face that he kept trying to hide.
Bruce and Clark joined hands at the front of the church, both wearing designer tuxedos and looking incredibly handsome. During the procession, Bruce had smiled and winked at the guests, but now he had eyes for no one but Clark. Clark hadn’t looked at anyone but Bruce since they entered the church.
Kon wasn’t one to get all weepy at weddings, but he did feel his eyes prickle a bit when Clark read a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit. The grooms swore to love each other until death did they part. When they kissed, it was as if the world had gone away and Clark and Bruce could only see each other. Kon looked away at that point. It was too private a moment to watch. He saw Tim watching him and grinned. Dick looked at both of them speculatively and then smiled.
In the reception hall, blue and white flowers adorned each table. A string quartet played at one end of the room and at the other, a table was piled high with gifts. Kon hoped Clark would tell him what was in the odd-shaped box that Lois and Babs had sent.
Tim and Kon were seated next to each other and Kon was just going to pretend he hadn’t seen Dick swap the namecards. Across the table, Cass whispered in Steph’s ear and then both of them gave Tim and Kon a thumbs up, grinning. Tim blushed and stared at his plate. Kon reached under the table and found Tim’s hand. He wove their fingers together and squeezed lightly.
Damian stared at them. “Why are you two acting so weird?”
Cass leaned over and whispered in his ear.
“Drake?! And the cl-, er, Kent?” Damian gave Tim and Kon disappointed looks. “I thought both of you would have had better taste.”
Dick slung an arm around Damian’s shoulder. “Be nice, little D. One day you may fall for someone.”
Damian snorted. “I’d never do something so foolish.”
The string quartet struck up a waltz and Clark and Bruce took to the dance floor for the first dance. The reception hall fell silent as everyone watched the two of them, center of attention and center of each others’ worlds.
Then the music shifted and other couples joined the grooms.
Tim squeezed Kon’s hand. “Dance with me?” he asked.
“Anything you like,” Kon said. Tim lead him out to the dance floor and held him close and the rest of the world faded away.
* * *
“… the young misters Drake-Wayne and Kent only had eyes for each other and spent the night dancing cheek-to-cheek. Can another Wayne-Kent wedding be in the cards?” Tim read at breakfast the next morning.
“Oh, my god,” Kon said. He snatched the newspaper from Tim. “Marriage?!” he asked, eyes wide and horrified. “I’m not- we’re not-“ He looked at Tim. “Not that I’m saying never, it’s just- we just-“
Tim laughed and pulled Kon in for a light kiss. “I’m not ready to think about that stuff either,” he assured Kon. “How about we date for four or five years and see how it goes?”
Kon relaxed and picked up one of Alfred’s fresh-baked cranberry muffins. “Man. It is so weird to have Conner Kent be in the gossip pages.”
“Welcome to the family,” Tim said dryly. “Speaking of, do you want to compare notes on your trial run? I want to get my report in to Bruce before the end of the day.”
“He’s on his honeymoon!” Kon protested. “You think he’s going to be reading reports?”
Tim just raised an eyebrow.
“Right. Batman.” Kon sighed. “You people are freaky.”
“We people are freaky, Sunbird,” Tim corrected with a grin.
“I think I’ll be Superboy today,” Kon said. “That guy is awesome. Want to head to Titans Tower after breakfast?”
In answer, Tim pulled Kon down for another kiss; a long, slow kiss. When they broke apart, Tim said in a low voice, “Maybe after lunch.”
“After lunch,” Kon agreed, when he’d caught his breath. When they headed back upstairs, Kon brought the muffin basket with him. Perhaps they wouldn’t make it to the Tower until after dinner.
* * *